Monday, September 7, 2009

Finding inspiration in my bed?

When I was little, I spent most of a year plagued with nightmares. I was a nine-year-old with dark circles under my eyes. My parents were worried sick, I became terrified to sleep. We finally traced it to my classroom, which was in a portable behind the main school building and had a water cooler. My mom told me to stop drinking from the water cooler and eventually the nightmares slipped away. There must have been some chemical added to the water which didn't agree with me. I experienced something very similar in my twenties when Phil and I moved to Chicago. It wasn't just a new city, a new home--I had regular nightmares. A water filter on the kitchen tap solved the problem (that's why I've avidly followed the Chicago Tribune's reports on what's in Chicago's water)

But as a very desperate and tired nine-year-old, I discovered a trick to cope with my dreams. I realized everything I dreamed was a repeat of my day. But it wasn't the big parts of my day I remembered. It was the little things I barely considered; a sparkly bug on the side of the road, a kid with a funny laugh in the hallway. So when I got into bed I would repeat my entire day in my mind. Before I fell asleep, I tried to recount every small thing in great detail so I wouldn't need to dream it. This must have coincided with the water cooler discovery, but it worked, and I fell asleep this way for many years to come.

Now nightmares are much rarer for me. But I still dream every night. And I've come to realize how unusual my dreams are. Apparently most people dream in black and white, they can't read, and they frequently forget their dreams. That's not true for me. Well, the reading thing is sort of true. I can read a few sentences in my dreams and understand what I'm reading, but when I awake I realize the language didn't make any sense and the meaning is gibberish. But otherwise, my dreams are vivid, with full colors and casts of characters. And I almost always remember them. Because of this I've always loved my dreams. I used to drive my family nuts recounting them over breakfast, but to me they were brand new adventures every night.

So I've come to think of my dreams as a gift. I find them massively entertaining, and now that they're not terrifying me, I love sorting through them, trying to figure out what bits and pieces evolved from the previous day. Lately I've started wondering if I should make better use of them. I read that Stephenie Meyer developed the plot for her bestselling TWILIGHT series in a dream. And I've been given another gift recently, too, the gift of time. So I've started recording my dreams each morning using DreamDiary, a free Mac program. It also allows me to tag them so I can keep track of each date I dream I'm in a fantasy story (fairly frequently) and each date I'm back at work (thankfully infrequently).

But even 10-15 minutes at the beginning of each day is beginning to seem a bit time consuming. I've started to wonder if it's worth it. I can see the patterns to my dreams, how frequently I dream about certain people, places and anxieties, but I could have done that before. However, I do appreciate giving myself a chunk of time every day to think about my dreams, since I do enjoy them. And I can't imagine I'll ever use it as a resource, but I like knowing that my dreams for the past month are all logged and tagged (and I should give a shout-out to Joni here, at the Blueboards. I stupidly nearly lost all of my data last week and she talked me through finding it again. THANK YOU!).

But is it worth my time? Will I discover my next plot in my dream? I'm not sure. I guess I'll see how long I keep it up once school starts up and my life gets increasingly busy.

What about you? Are you a vivid dreamer? Do you remember your dreams? Are they ever inspirational? Have you ever recorded them?

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