There are times in life when your life circumstances are so trying that you just want to return to the comfort of home. In my adult life, there have been moments in the midst of crises when I wanted to just return to the past. I wanted to return to a time when things seemed more normal, simpler and there were people I trusted who were guarding my health and well-being.
As an example of these trying circumstances, there was the period when we watched my father succumb slowly to Alzheimer’s disease. He suffered from an early onset of the disease and started to exhibit unusual behavior in his late 50s. He would become angry about the most normal occurrences. Now I realize he was feeling disoriented and scared, and this triggered these puzzling episodes.
At the time, he had not yet been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There were other complications with his health, including back and hip issues that resulted in some unsuccessful surgeries. Around the time that he was 60 or so, he was bedridden which may have been a good thing. He was not able to wander around the neighborhood and get lost, or wander around the house and leave the stove on, or take some other action that could hurt him or others.
My mother kept my father at home for as long as possible. But by the time he was 64, the family doctor advised that my father had Alzheimer’s disease. My father was placed in a care facility so that he could get proper medical and mental health attention. He lived there for 10 more years. During those years, we watched him slip away from us inch by inch, a very painful process. I longed to be able to remember the Dad from my younger days.
I remember a recurring dream that I had during the time he was in the care facility. I would dream that there had been a cure for the disease, or some other miracle that would restore my father’s mind. He would have these wonderful and wise conversations with me and everything in the dream seemed normal. I would wake up disoriented, and for a groggy minute or so I would have a hard time determining what was dream and what was reality. But then I would fully awaken and return to the grim reality that my father was only going to get worse. He would not be able to celebrate any joys that might occur in my life. That would only happen in my dreams. Or perhaps once he passed, he would be able to view them from the afterlife.
I have had similar dreams about myself in the last five years. In those dreams, I am back to the Melanie who had a normal life and ran around like the Tasmanian devil on No-Doz (okay – maybe a not so normal life!). I see many of my federal government work friends in these dreams, and it is like I haven’t missed a beat with what is going on in the work world. But when I wake up, I realize that I no longer have the energy and my heart is too weak to be able to return to the stressful work environment. I miss my work friends each day. Of course, on days that the federal government is shut down, it seems that being an exile from the office like is indeed a great blessing.
Now that my Mom has passed away, I have started to have dreams where she is present as well. The funny thing about these dreams is that they are not as vivid as my dreams of old. Since I have had heart failure, I have come to realize that dreams are perhaps our way of evolving and learning how to cope with the new set of circumstances life has sent our way. They are very definitely a way to help us navigate through the stages of grief as we learn to reconcile the loss of a loved one. The dreams reinforce my faith that there is indeed a God in heaven, and despite my loss, all will be right with the world. So this is why I would like the dreams that feature my Mom to be a clearer to facilitate the reconciliation process.
Is there any merit to my idea that dreams have any connection to faith? I found an interesting article on the blog page of Psychology Today. It was called “Religion and Dreams”, by Patrick McNamara, and involved the concept that many religious ideas and rituals come from dreams. For example, the article said:
In addition to immortality of the soul, the dreams in the Bible often featured angels who were sent to provide notice from God to mortals who would play a significant role in the world of faith. So for example, angels appeared to Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth and gave them comforting and prophetic advice about the babies that would soon come into their world. These babies, of course, grew up to be Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.
Knowing the importance of dreams in our lives is the reason that I really regret that I cannot seem to remember details about what my Mother is saying in my recent dreams. With respect to these dreams, I do not believe that she is “warning” me of things in my world. But I do believe she is providing comforting yet firm guidance on how to deal with the pressing problems with my health, I also think she is assuring me that I still have a productive life span and providing encouragement as to what I need to do with my life going forward.
I think back now on some of the advice she gave me when I was younger, at a time when I probably rolled my eyes because I felt that obviously she just did not understand what I was experiencing. Now as an adult, I know that the woman saw a lot of demanding times in her long life. She understood completely hard times like the ones I have confronted. But she also knew that giving into the problem was never the appropriate solution. You don’t know how much I miss her wise advice now, and so much wish that I could recall the content of the dreams she has appeared in so I could decipher the wisdom.
I think back to one of my favorite movies when I was a child – The Wizard of Oz. Maybe what I really need is a dream with a journey to Oz with three misfits. We need a Wizard who can just cast a spell and solve the problems that are plaguing us. Or in modern terms, but not nearly as fun, maybe I need a Siri, Alexis or Google Assistant to give me an answer or tell me what to do.
But I guess what I am missing is that just like Dorothy, I’m on a long and sometimes taxing journey. Not only am I tired, but the path I need to follow is not always clearly marked. And like Dorothy, it is the journey itself that I need to endure so that I can grow and learn. But it would be so nice and so insightful to have trusted sources in my dreams to advise me where to find the detour.
If you recall the movie, Dorothy's 3 magical companions who accompanied her on her journey were the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man. They seemed silly when you first met them, but at key points in the story they provided good advice and protected Dorothy. But at the end we realize those characters had many similarities to three workmen on her aunt and uncle’s farm who had been her protectors for years.
But while seemingly familiar are we reading to much into the dream? Maybe we are presented with characters we are comfortable with because of who they resemble, but in reality, they are angels who help us find the inner truth, and help us realize that the answer always is right there within us. That answer will enable us to cope with any one of the many challenges we are faced with throughout our lives so that things are bearable.
So I need to recall all the blessings I have experienced to date. And I need to remember that the power to get beyond any challenge I have in life, resides in me if God is willing. The dreams help me realize what he is willing me to do. So what I need to do is go back to analyzing my dreams to see if there is a message for a problem I am trying to work through. I need to disregard who the messenger may be in the dream and just try to discern the message.
In reaching this conclusion, I went back to an earlier post I wrote on dreams. At that time, I had just finished reading a book by Robert A. Johnson called Inner Work about using dreams and active imagination for personal growth. In that book, the author says that sometimes family, friends and colleagues may show up in your dream. When someone you know shows up in a dream, the natural reaction is to think that the dream is about that person or your relationship to that person.
Johnson indicates that this is usually not the case. Instead, the image of that person is being used to represent a quality in the dreamer a conflict in the dreamer, or something evolving in the dreamer that has little to do directly with that other person. So we should bear that in mind if we are going to analyze our dreams for a meaning. I would also warn that we should not let the analysis of the dream overwhelm us. We want to get some meaning out of the dream that will help us deal with something in our lives, but we should not become obsessive.
I haven’t analyzed my dreams for a while because it takes discipline, plus I didn’t’ feel like there was something changing in my life or challenging me in my life. But as I travel into another phase of my heart failure treatment, and as I manage the loss of a loved one, my inner soul is probably trying to communicate with me. It is trying to grab attention from the anxiety or sorrow that I feel so that it can help me learn to constructively deal with all the emotions. Perhaps the best way to do that is when I am still and my mind is not going a thousand miles an hour. That time would only be when I am asleep.
So I just have to apply discipline once again to another sector of my life. I just need to remember to jot down notes as soon as I wake up so that I can remember the incidents in each dream. Then I can analyze those incidents at my leisure to determine if there is some meaning there that can guide me. And I should always remember that just like there is no place like home, there is no better life than the one that God is willing me to have on this earth. Sorry Siri and Alexa - but I have found something even better than a voice assistant.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.