a certain shrewdness upon the return of dreaming

Posted by on September 14, 2007

So, it isn’t just a fluke. Esme slept through the night again last night. Well…she did wake up at 10:30 p.m. for a small snack, but that hardly counts since I was still awake at that point, having just returned from a late night run to the grocery store, where I took the above picture.

I went to bed last night on the late-ish side, and slept without interruption until 7:00 this morning. The biggest difference I noticed upon waking was that I had been dreaming, and I could remember my dream. This has not happened for as long as I can remember– I’ll venture to say it hasn’t happened since Esme was born last September. I may have had a few paltry dreams here and there, but not the kind that follow a single narrative, an adventure. Last night, my brain put together a story which had its obvious roots in several random elements of the day and evening leading up to bedtime. I was out running an errand while Esme was asleep at home. I was nervous about the prospect of her waking up while I wasn’t there to go get her, but somehow I was encumbered by my huge blue suitcase, and I couldn’t head home until I had everything I needed. This is rooted in the fact that every time I try to go anywhere these days, I have to go through a mental check list for Esme and run around the apartment gathering her diaper, a cloth to lay her on for changing, a sippy cup, a toy, a pacifier, and on and on, throwing them into my bag. It was night and I was somewhere outdoors, in a place artificially lit and with very green grass, strikingly similar to the way Notre Dame campus looks at night. There was a locked, high fence blocking my way from getting home, where I was vividly imagining Esme sitting in her crib, crying crocodile tears and wondering why no one was coming into her dark room. I had just decided to climb over the fence (this is rooted in a conversation I had earlier with my friend Manuela about the strength of mother instincts) when a security officer got out of his vehicle and walked up to me (security officers are a common sight around here). When he learned that I was trying to get home to my baby, he acted friendly. “It’s not the only way home for me,” I said, “but it’s the quickest.” So he took out his official bundle of keys and unlocked the gate for me. Oh, and my sister (who I had just been on the phone with that evening) was standing next to me by the gate at that point, for no particular reason.

So…my first full-length dream in a year. When I woke up, I blinked up at the ceiling and mentally reviewed the colorful sequence of my dream, signifying nothing. The only thing I can report is that I felt a certain shrewdness returning to my brain, like a surgeon had peeled back one layer of cobweb that has been nesting there all year.

I’m not boasting, just reporting an experience. I’ve known for a while that all of this interrupted sleep was affecting me in some way I couldn’t explain. The amazing part of it is that life without dreams (or at least the high caliber kind) is not really a big deal. It would appear that human beings can adapt and learn to live without the extravagent variety of dreaming. Granted, this past year I have found myself saying a bit too many non sequiturs in social situations than is personally flattering, and I wouldn’t have trusted myself with say, a political office. But beyond that, I can still pray, wash dishes, drive, and read board books out loud to Esme– most of the tasks that are necessary to my life– all without dreaming. I am not claiming to say this from personal experience, but I would even argue that a person could become holy, and more like the person God wants them to be, without dreaming. Maybe that’s why monastics schedule prayer services at night. So what am I going to do with this newfound psychological rested-ness?

  1. Lucy
    September 14, 2007

    I just wish I’d been around to hear some of those non sequiturs. This is really fascinating, Julia, to realize you’ve gone without dreams all this time. I sometimes feel like I can’t really sort things out unless I dream, I really can’t imagine giving it up! I’m glad you’re dreaming again, though.af

  2. Julia
    September 14, 2007

    Lucy, and anyone who’s interested:

    On the NPR show Radio Lab, they did an episode on sleep, and it is really interesting. They talk about the way the brain uses dreams to synthesize experience…and a lot of other aspects of sleep.

    Here’s the URL:


  3. Jenny
    September 17, 2007

    I’m so happy for you–and I LOVE the photo and the description of your dream.

    Three cheers for Esme and the return of dreams!