“…and then we were sitting in the bleachers and the baseball coach, a young guy, we had a baby together. And my sister was sitting next to me, but she wasn’t really my sister. She kind of looked like that girl from 7th Heaven. The pretty one with the mouth. Jessica Biel. But it wasn’t Jessica Biel. And what was the guy’s name? The coach I had a baby with.”
“He was short, I think. Was it Mark?”
No no no. I don’t care. Who cares. Ohhhhh…
“…damn…what was his name? It wasn’t Mark, was it?”
Please no. Nothing matters less than this. Please stop.
“…was it Carl? No…it’s…shoot. What…was…his…name.”
Why is this happening to me? I can’t even—
“Mark! His name was Mark. Okay, so Mark is standing there or whatever and all of a sudden my middle school assistant principal comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder…”
This happened to me today. Today, someone (and I’m not naming names, but she gave birth to me once) told me her dream for 8 minutes. I love this person. A lot. I probably even love her as much as she loves me. And yet, there is nothing I would rather do less than listen to the recounting of her dreams. The discomfort of listening to a person’s dream manifests itself physically, making me feel like I’m sitting on the tarmac, waiting for takeoff. There’s nowhere to go and the air is stale and I’m trapped and all wiggly but there’s nothing I can do and I don’t want to be complainy, but, incidentally, that’s all I am. It’s just the worst.
Unfortunately, this very specific panic feeling is induced too regularly. Listen, you can’t see it right now, but I have an inviting face. I do my best to grab that eye contact and not let go until you feel like we’re one boundless Being. Or, like I’m going to murder you and it’s going to be the most boring thing I’ve done all day. I smile a lot, I’m a pretty good listener, etc. Great. Fine. What all of this means for me is, I am the inadvertent community dream receptacle, where co-mingling is required.
You might be wondering why I don’t just tell people how much I hate listening to their dreams. I am an adult after all. This is what we do.
“Blah blah blahblah blah.” “I feel bored and uncomfortable when you arrange those words together in your chosen verbal pattern. I would like to change the topic of conversation, effective immediately.” “Blaaaahhhhhhhhh.”
HA. Have you ever actually had a dream, you unfeeling jerk? They’re awesome. What, I’m going to deprive a person of recounting the craziest, most nonsensical experience of their day in which they defied every single natural law in a consciousness where there was no time or space and they entered wildly altered states of awareness? My reoccurring dream is that I’m a California Raisin on a Ferris wheel. Where would I be with that mess still clanging around in my head? Horrifying.
Listen, I find dreams, as a concept, to be absolutely fascinating. I really do. I have no idea what or why they are and neither does anyone else and I love that. What’s going on in there, guy? I also happen to care deeply about the experiences of my loved ones. Had any of the dream stuff I’ve been told actually happened to the person, I would flip my damn wig because one of my friends would have birthed a litter of dog-cats by now and another would have pulled radioactive lettuce out of her bellybutton.
So why does the absence of truth make dreams so unbearable for the listener and so thrilling to the dreamer? For those of us that hate hearing them, why is it so difficult to bridge the gap and transcend with fellow dreamers? Maybe it’s because it’s a plane of reality that seems so out of reach in waking life, it’s impossible for two people to connect through it. They haven’t traveled there together and never will. It’s too outrageous to keep inside; too outrageous to be relatable.
But, listen. This could be a lesson in empathy for us dream-haters out there. The next time someone tells you a dream, don’t be a jerk and at least try to imagine its you standing in a spaghetti robe at your ex-neighbor’s bar mitzvah. Your mom will really appreciate it.
You can read more from Stephanie Dinkmeyer on her blog.