A Requiem of Dreams

Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor...

Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor with Alzheimer’s disease. Notable is the “shrink” that has occurred in Alzheimer’s disease; the brain was decreased in size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us dream while we sleep. For some, it’s reason to speculate on the possibility of spiritual communication, a type of assisted second sight. Others interpret dreams like tea leaves, hoping to divine the future. Some consider dreaming a process where our brains exercise, while others suppose it’s a cleaning of memories.

For not a few people, dreams can become haunting, troubling, and even terrifying. We’ve all probably witnessed friends, spouses and children twitch and turn, kick and jerk, and occasionally scream out in their sleep. We wonder what they could be seeing, and who – or what – might be visiting them in the night. Perhaps we’ve woken in panic ourselves, screaming as we open our eyes.

Dreams remain a mystery, nightmares the most mysterious. But some think nightmares are no mystery at all.

In research published in 2010 in the Journal of Neurology, nightmares were, in many cases, found to be warning signs. In many ways they are premonitions. The researchers asserted that violent dreams were often a precursor to dementia.

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s don’t necessarily sneak up on a person, but can begin decades before the most obvious symptoms appear. The scientists are convinced that violent nightmares are sometimes the beginnings of brain disorders.

This may itself be an exercise in speculation, but many doctors and researchers have associated dreams with medical conditions.

If this research holds true, some of us are carrying a little future insanity around inside.

The Beauty of Pain

I often wonder why the writing, films, and music I love best are often the darkest. I stumbled upon this quote from a 19th century essayist. For me, it’s an adequate explanation.

English: Despair

English: Despair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Works of genius have this in common, that even when they vividly capture the nothingness of things, when they clearly show and make us feel the inevitable unhappiness of life, and when they express the most terrible despair, nonetheless to a great soul – though he find himself in a state of extreme duress, disillusion, nothingness, noia, and despair of life, or in the bitterest and deadliest misfortunes (caused by deep feelings of whatever) – these works always console and rekindle enthusiasm; and though they treat or represent only death, they give back to him, at least temporarily, that life which he had lost.”

— Giacomo Liapardi (1798-1837) from his diary called Zibaldone 

Something Extraordinary

fork in the path

“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.” – Khaled Hosseini, And The Mountains Echoed

Sometimes we aren’t aware of our own greatness. Perhaps someone told us long ago that it was no so, that we weren’t special. Maybe our belief in ourselves was lost somewhere on the long road of life, torn away by lovers as they left, by dreams as they disappeared. For many, as in my case, our belief in our abilities to be great were worried and withered away in illness.

Whatever the case, we often find ourselves at a place in life much different than the place we’d imagined we would arrive. This is what is nostalgically called “life,” as in “that’s life,” or “life sucks.” But does it really? Can we honestly say that life is bad? We see our circumstances, but we forgot how we got here. We don’t realize that the insurmountable odds we are waiting against for something extraordinary to happen… is ourself.

I’ve had many dreams in my life, and I’ve seen most of them relinquished for a moment of security, or a choice I thought was one well made. As I look back now, I often wonder how different my life would be had I made my choices based on a dream, on a moral ground, on what I knew was the right thing to do. While I’m grateful for the wonderful people in my life, I also realize that I chose them to be there. They are the victories I’ve had along the way. But so many people on that same journey were lost to me.

But mostly, I think I lost myself.

There are times in life when we are faced with setback, struggle or sickness. Of those three setback is the easiest to overcome. It means we’ve lost ground, but have not lost the prize. Perhaps with hard work, with a change of heart, or with a new direction, setback can become victory. Our choices guide us.

Then there is struggle. This is by far more challenging, because struggle is when the road disappears. We don’t know if we are going in the right direction, only that the way is incredibly hard. Struggle lasts, struggle steals hope and heart, and puts us in a shell where our thoughts turn from the good we can do, do the very least we must do. The only way through is perseverance. And we know that those who persevere finally reach their destination, scarred, but safe. But not everyone perseveres.

And then there is sickness. I’ve familiar with them all, but most familiar with this one. This is when the darkness comes. In an instant, we are transformed into mortal beings, and faced with the many days we wasted doing things that made no difference, and also faced with the few days that remain and the choices they hold.

But there is a gift there. There is a gift in knowing your days are fleeting. For you see something more valuable than money, more valuable than all the wealth in the world. The only thing this insight is not more valuable than is time.

The insight is this: we are the obstacles in our own lives. Every struggle, every setback, every challenge can and will pass. It only takes a choice. It takes no more energy to destroy than it does to build. It takes no more risk to do something safe as it does to do something brave. You can’t add days to your life either way. It takes no more thought to think you can’t than it does to think you can. Something extraordinary can happen to you. But you must choose it.

It would be so easy now, to go back in time and change the things I wished I’d done. It takes no more energy to live with regrets, than it does to live without regrets.

To Save a Dream

Endless road

Endless road (Photo credit: BuBcSek)

How do you save a dream?

You know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t had the moment, you will, someday. You might find yourself on the edge of a failed relationship, and all of the hopes you had for the future feel like they are dying. All of the unrealized things you will never be, all of the forever you planned your life around.

You may be facing the loss of a job, a job that gave you your identity, provided stability to your family, and allowed you to be who you’ve become.

You may even be facing the loss of your health, knowing that there’s no turning back to the way things used to be. No rescue from the suffering that has come, and will come.

Or, you could have that moment, that realization, that your possibilities are still farther away than you’d hoped they’d be by now. You look into the distance, and see only miles of road, when you’ve already walked for endless miles. And you know other’s have already made it to their destination. You begin to wonder if you’re on the wrong path.

It would be so easy to stop, and begin the walk back home. So easy to sit down on the roadside, and wait for the first car to take you back to where you started.

What do you do then? There are as many answers as there are people, and I’m interested in yours. How do you save a dream?