My son recently told me that the reason he doesn’t like his dreams is because he’s alone in them.
I didn’t know what to tell him.
The world’s big enough as it is, moreso when you’re four and a half.
And then you add a burgeoning subconscious that you’re only starting to navigate, and how do you come to understand who you are and process what this thing called living is when by no choice of yours, a hungry sasquatch comes into your house looking for snacks? And while that in itself is enough to cause you to question things, on top of that, the family that tends to always be there, isn’t; it’s just you, a four and a half year old kid, left alone to deal with this unprecedented situation.
What do you do as that kid?
Go hide in your bed, and find a sword.
…At least that’s what he said he did in the dream.
But more than just that one dream, what do you do as that kid having to face a reality where things seem normal until they’re not, and when you most need reassurance, comfort even, none can be found? Because you’re dreaming. And you’re alone. And you don’t know it’s a dream.
I think if I were being honest, I didn’t know what to tell him because experience has only really served to actually drive this point home. It seems like shit advice from an emotionally uninvested parent.
“Guess what kid, it’s only going to get worse in the real (waking) world. You’ll find yourself facing questionable, unprecedented situation after questionable, unprecedented situation as you get older, that’ll all seem just as jarring as a bad dream, and there will be countless of those situations where you’ll look around for comfort and reassurance, only to find yourself alone.”
Harsh… But true?
Just how much of life are you not alone in? And the more you experience life, the more it could feel like that child-like oscillation between being asleep and not knowing it, and being awake.
Between being alone, and being connected.
Being apart from.
And being a part of.
When you’re awake, you know you’re awake. Everything’s normal. But that’s only because you’ve experienced waking.
When you’re dreaming, and don’t know you’re dreaming, it feels like everything’s normal. It’s only after you awake, that you realize the experience you had prior that felt so normal (no matter how strange it got), wasn’t normal, and was the dream.
And how often in life does something feel normal (no matter how strange it gets), only for you to find out it isn’t?
How often in our lives does it feel, effectively, like we wake up?
So is it so strange that some people begin to feel like my kid does right now, and begin to despise the “dream”? But it’s not dreaming, is it, it’s an aspect of reality—the world—itself.
Ever had someone in your dream tell you it’s real life, not a dream?
How is that any different than telling someone who feels alone, that they’re not alone?
And if you can’t tell you’re dreaming when you’re dreaming, so much so that you begin to hate sleep itself because of that fact, how do you begin feeling about life after those situations where you look around for that comfort and reassurance, only to find yourself alone…again.
I think at this point, there may be a tendency to differentiate between solitude and isolation. And it’s true. They’re different things.
Growing up, there was a lot of circumstances in my life that left me to my own devices. Family of five that grew up moving around regularly; with sisters that were not only just enough older than me that there was rarely any scholastic overlap, but are also twins. This solitude was further perpetrated by having an immune deficiency disorder, one which required plenty of self reflection if only to get the help I needed, because I rarely would show signs of being sick outwardly until it was INCREDIBLY bad.
Throw in experiences and trauma in my life that further left me feeling unrelatable, and the solitude I never really minded, turned to isolation. And it never mattered how many people I connected with, or how often I was told I wasn’t alone (cue the Christians with their “but God is always with you” rhetoric), didn’t change how often I felt like a four and a half year old discovering a sasquatch in his house, hungry for snacks, and no one else at home to comfort him in this scary, unprecedented situation.
We have moments of solitude. We FEEL isolation.
And that’s the point. My kid’s not afraid of solitude. He’s afraid of being alone when he’s really scared. He’s afraid of being alone when he really shouldn’t be alone.
Being afraid of solitude is one thing. Being afraid of isolation, of being alone, that’s something else.
The Bard put it best, “If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time, then lonesome would mean nothing to me at all.”
Sometimes tomorrow is such a long time, and the dream when you’re alone—unknown to be a dream—seems to stretch on forever.
Sometimes you’re so alone, you can’t remember the sound of your own name.
I originally planned on titling this “One and Done.” Because maybe one isn’t the loneliest number, maybe it’s just the most solitary. Which would make it more prone to bouts of loneliness.
How often, do you think, has “One” struggled to find another “One”? How many suicide notes has “One” written in its lifetime?
How many suicides prayed to God for SOMETHING to wake them up only for their prayers to go unanswered. Or maybe thought the answer—the “wake up”—lay at the end of the rope, or down the barrel of the gun, or the razors edge, or the bottom of the pill container.
I can’t enter my son’s dreams and make it so he’s not alone there, but I can make damn sure I’m there for him when he needs me in waking life (yes, my daughter too…not leaving her out to dry).
I recently spent one hell of a weekend where I almost wasn’t, because I didn’t want to be. I almost wasn’t here, because I was going to choose not to be.
And…those were some of the toughest words I’ve ever written out. To admit to that truth.
And see, one of the worst parts of being in a dream that you can’t wake up from, and don’t know is a dream, is that you don’t wake up unless someone wakes you.
It may very well be that Alonzo Quijano is awake, and Don Quixote is the dream. And Alonzo Quijano MAY have “friends” and “family” around; but the truth is, Alonzo Quijano is alone.
His existence might as well be a dream.
Don Quixote may be the dream, but the dream isn’t alone. Even if the dream requires being awoken TO it.
Alonzo was ready to die. And die alone.
Don Quixote was ready to live. And adventure.
Even though he dies shortly after.
The thing is, Alonzo would’ve died alone. Don Quixote didn’t die alone.
It’s probably crazy. Crazy to to be alive. Crazy to hope. Crazy to dream. Crazy to keep believing in a Dulcinea that WILL return and sing your song back to you.
But I’m done with the lie that we are alone. I’m done with “life as it is…”
And you know what?
I’d rather be crazy, than dead.
And I’ll joyfully die a crazy madman who dreams he’s not alone, among other crazy madmen who dream with me.
Time to wake up, Darling.
Time to wake up. And keep dreaming the Impossible Dream.
->and the world WILL be better for this…