Dreaming of your exes and crushes
Last week, I went out to dinner with my co-worker, Eve*.
We were seated outdoors at a Soho Italian Restaurant, twirling some incredibly decadent pasta when I turned the conversation to my favorite topic: romance and relationships.
“So,” I started, waving our waiter over for some more parmesan, “How has your love life been? Are you still seeing that guy?”
She both nodded and shrugged, in the middle of a bite.
“Well, he moved,” she said. “And I knew for a while that he was moving, so it’s no big deal. Our entire thing was pretty casual.”
I nodded, waiting for something juicier.
“But last night…” she started.
I scooted forward in my chair, ready to hear something dramatic.
“He showed up…” she said in between bites.
I was practically vibrating at this point. Eve has a stalker! He showed up at her house! Or he showed up at work! Was I there to see it? What time did he go crazy at? Was it during lunch and that’s why I missed it?
“He showed up in my dream,” she finished. “I was just dreaming about something, and then there he was. I forget what happened, really, but it was annoying.”
I sat there, stupefied.
“He showed up in your dream?” I asked her. “Who says it like that? Normally people say ‘I had a dream and he was in it’ or ‘I dreamt of him last night’” I started laughing. “I actually love that you said it that way. It takes all responsibility away! He appeared in your dream!”
“I don’t know!” Eve laughed. “I mean, I didn’t want to dream of him. He was just there. I think it means that I’m more hung up on him than I thought, because he’s in my subconscious. So I’m going to stop talking to him.”
We ate in silence for a bit.
“I thought he was stalking you,” I admitted, “I was ready to order us a bottle.”
I have insanely vivid dreams, and people I’m crushing on, or hung up on, or wildly attracted to, and even sometimes people I’m terrified of, are usually the main characters.
I used to sit in bed at night as a kid, and chant Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas for a full minute before falling asleep, in an attempt to persuade a dream-like version of him to visit my subconscious. I remember sleeping in the same bed as my sister during family trips, and when I would hear her sleep talking I would lean over and whisper the name of her high school boyfriend in her ear.
This, of course, was followed by me asking her, “soooo what did you dream of last night?” incessantly over breakfast to see if the experiment worked.
I just think dreams are incredible. No one truly understands how they work, or why they work, and the idea of lucid dreaming is something that people would pay millions for….if it was possible to bottle it up and sell it.
One of my best dreams of all time was in high school, when I dreamt that my crush, Vishy from the cross country team, came up to me and said he liked me. I woke up on Cloud 10. I texted Bridget while still in my pajamas. I sang during breakfast, and while brushing my teeth. And then…you know…I came back down to earth when later at cross country practice Vishy didn’t in fact come over and plant one on me. Sigh, reality.
But I’ve also had dreams so horrible that I wished the ability to dream at all could be turned off.
Last year I had something ‘not so chill’ happen, and the dreams that came from it were atrocious.
I dreamt that the nuns I work with in Tanzania came into my studio apartment and painted “Slut” on my walls. I dreamed that my family admitted that I made them sick, and voted that I couldn’t be in the family anymore. I dreamed that the guy from that situation was having sex with his partner in front of me, I dreamed that everyone at my workplace started to shun me, and as classic as it is, I really did have a lot of dreams during that time of my teeth falling out, haha.
I started taking melatonin gummies at night, edibles, Xanax, certain types of teas, really anything I could to turn off the dreams. It got to the point where I would wake up in tears, exhausted after 8 hours of sleep, and just so tired of never having a break from the thoughts in my head.
I would go out to happy hour with friends and subtly ask them about their dreaming habits. Some of them would admit that they never remember their dreams, or even dream at all, and I would stifle the urge to throw my drink in their face.
“Damn, you’re lucky,” I would say, and we would go back and forth on whether or not it’s better to have the ability to dream.
And now, a year after all the dust has settled, I still wonder if it’s better to dream or better not to.
In the best dream of my life, I lucid dreamt and had the ability to fly. It was like all the drugs I had ever taken came together for the best experience of my life. And the worst nightmare I ever had, was my mom sacrificing herself to be raped so my family and I could cross over a railroad in war, which was the only way we could survive.
Yeah, I know, I’m super fucked up, okay?! That dream really did a number on me. I had it as a teenager and I was like, sickly sweet to my mom for a month after it.
So does the good outweigh the bad? Is the preference to dream just determined by the types of dreams you usually have?
Or is it like mixing a palette of paint? You put just one drop of black in there, and suddenly the cups of white paint don’t matter, because everything is 5 shades darker from that one drop.
There’s also the camp that believe dreams are premonitions, or something that matter in a way we can’t fathom. And if that’s true, should we be checking in more with our dreams? Writing them down after they happen so we can gleam the most insight from them?
It’s interesting to think about, because no one will ever know the answer.
Although, most people would probably fall into the camp of “it’s just a dream, they don’t matter!”.
At any rate, I’m currently in a place still where I wish you could turn dreams off. I think they can do more harm than they do good, and if you ever want a really crazy, imaginative experience - you can always close your eyes and give it to yourself with a good old fashioned day dream.
What do you think? Are dreams usually a tool for helping, or for hurting?
Also, if anyone has successfully turned off their dreams via pills or vitamins or anything of the kind, please let me know! I’d be interested to try it.