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What if?

It’s the first question I ask myself when developing a new story idea but it’s also a question I find myself asking as I prepare to write this post.

Like what if maybe somewhere, in a parallel universe, America has already taken action to save our home instead of destroying it.

Maybe in that parallel universe, actions were taken decades ago when the first alarm bells started to ring, and we were all wise enough to heed the dire warnings and do something about it so that future generations would inherit a planet healthy enough to sustain them.

“Parallels are not what we think. They do not really exist except in a mathematical sense and except as an idea to play off.” – David Whyte Consolations

While it might be fun to imagine a utopian parallel universe, the reality is this is our reality.

“In the human imagination a parallel world is not a world that replicates the one in which we live or its exact opposite, but one that turns and flows through many other possibilities and dimensionalities; all the while keeping company and somehow referencing the one it shadows.” – David Whyte Consolations

Thinking of parallels in this way makes me think about my dreams. How my dreams often parallel my waking life, often in some very strange ways.

No matter who we are or where we’re born, we all share one thing in common; we all dream.

Ever since I was a very young child, I have always enjoyed having a strong connection to my dreams. I can remember them in great detail, even dreams that dovetail from one into the next, and I can usually reliably recall them without much difficulty upon waking. Also, every night just as I’m about to fall asleep, I remember the last dream I had the night/morning before. Often, if it was a really good dream, I can crawl back inside of it, and if I wish for it to continue, I can sometimes pick up where I left off.

I can still remember many of the dreams I had when I was a child, especially every dream that I ever had that involved flying. Whether it be from a standing position at the top of the stairs and soaring down them and out the front door to go for a spin around my neighborhood or flying my helicopter over tornadoes simply by sitting down on the seat and saying “Up!”

Many of the themes in this parallel universe are universal, occurring across cultures and genders. Like an inability to find a toilet when desperate, or discovering a new, beautiful room full of floor to ceiling windows in a house I’ve lived in for years but had somehow never noticed it was there before. Or another universal favorite, dreaming about water.

As a child, I often dreamt that I lived underwater among huge sea creatures that I had no fear of, and upon waking, be disappointed that this parallel universe didn’t really exist.

Other times when dreaming about water, a pleasant day at the beach might suddenly turn into a nightmare when out of nowhere an enormous tidal wave heads straight for me. I might wake up feeling panicked just as I am being tossed under then feel relieved that I was able to come up for air.

Then there are the dreams where I am driving from the back seat. Usually, in dreams such as these, I am driving very fast around treacherous winding roads and have no idea where I am going and no ability to slow down or pull over. These are the dreams that most closely parallel my life during times when I’ve given over control to someone or something else.

I also dream about animals, a lot.

When I was very young, I used to have a recurring dream about a polar bear that would come to our back door when everyone else was still asleep, and I would climb on its back and off we’d go for a jaunt around my neighborhood.

But the older I got, the more my dreams about bears changed.

Instead of riding my polar bear around the block I was now being chased by grizzlies and black bears. I would be outside playing at my childhood home (even though I had long since moved out) and would spot an enormous bear coming towards me in the distance. Before I could even register what was happening I’d be running for the door, the bear hot on my heels, somehow making it inside just in the nick of time, but always having to fumble with the lock first.

In another dream about a grizzly, I am in a huge plastic hamster wheel/ball and am the size of a hamster, and I am trying to roll the ball towards the front door of my childhood home without drawing attention to myself from a giant grizzly bear that is sleeping in the middle of the road right next to me.

Every time I try to make a “run” for it and roll myself over to the door, the bear wakes and starts batting me around inside this plastic ball, toying with me. In the dream, this goes on for what feels like hours until something finally wakes me, though even after I’m awake, the panicked feeling resides in my body a little too long.

It’s not unusual for me to feel panicked in this parallel universe. For whatever reason, every time I dream that I’m urgently calling 911, I can never get through. Never.

It is also not unusual to experience pain there either. Emotional as well as physical.

Like when I dream that I’ve just watched someone I love die and wake up feeling broken as if I’ve been sobbing for hours.

Other times, I realize that I’m dreaming – while I’m dreaming. In a recent dream, I picked up what I believed to be a small empty wasp’s nest. Only it wasn’t empty. A wasp flew out and straight into my face. When I pulled it from my cheek, I was aware that I didn’t feel any pain which in turn made me aware (inside the dream) that I was dreaming, so I shrugged it off.

But the worst dream I have ever had in my life was when I dreamt I was someone else.

I had just returned home (early) from a five-day silent meditation retreat. It was late afternoon on the last day when we were permitted to speak again that I decided to call home and check in. When I did, I learned that a dear friend of mine had just died.

After meditating for ten or more hours every day for five days, I was empty. Scrubbed clean of any and all thoughts if you will. I remember hanging up with my husband and nearly bursting into tears in front of everybody. But I somehow kept my composure and excused myself telling everyone I needed to take one last walk in the woods alone before we’d all be leaving the next morning.

As soon as I reached my favorite spot (above) and sat down on the bench, I began sobbing uncontrollably. The shock of her death felt like I’d been hit by a truck and before I knew it, I was hyperventilating and had to put my head between my legs.

By the time I made my way out of the woods, the bell calling us to our last group mediation had already rung, so everyone should have already been inside, but I saw that my very concerned roommate (whom I had only just spoken to for the first time in almost a week) was standing outside the doors waiting for me. She knew something was wrong and wanted to be sure that I was okay.

I was not okay. I asked if she could find the course manager, which she did, then said my goodbyes, knowing that I couldn’t stay another minute. I needed to go home. I needed very much to be with my family.

That night I had a dream unlike any I’ve ever had before or since.

After returning home and having another good cry after seeing everyone again, my kids went out for the night, and my husband and his cousin went out to have a few beers, so I had the house to myself and was thankful for the time alone to decompress.

It’s always a challenge coming back to reality after being in silent meditation for days, so my choice to go online and catch up on the news was not a good one. I should have known better. I should have grabbed a good book and taken a bath then gone to bed.

Instead, I watched in horror as Lara Logan relived her violent sexual assault during a 60 Minutes interview.

I remembered hearing about what had happened to her while reporting from Eygpt, but to hear her speak and watch her live through it all over again, was a devastatingly hard to do. By the time it was over I was emotionally and physically spent and wanted nothing more than for the day to be over, so I went to bed.

At some point in the middle of the night, I woke up screaming at the top of my lungs while crying out for help, scaring my husband half to death in the process.

I remember him trying desperately to console me as I described what I’d been dreaming about to him in detail.

In my dream, I was Lara, and I was the one being assaulted in precisely the same way she was. It was terrifying and felt terrifyingly real.

After a few minutes, once I could accept that it was only a nightmare paralleling what I had just watched earlier that night, I was able to calm down, until seconds later another wave of grief washed over me, this time taking me under with more force than any tidal wave I’d ever dreamt of.

My husband held me in his arms as I cried my eyes out, for Lara and what she had experienced and somehow survived, but also for every single woman on this planet who has ever experienced rape or sexual assault. Their overwhelming pain and suffering was all I could think about, all I could feel, and being that I felt so open after emptying my mind in meditation, it allowed me to feel their pain in every square inch of my body.

It is a dream that I suspect will stay with me forever and turned out to be a catalyst for me becoming more involved with women’s rights and speaking out about violence against women.

This parallel universe of my dreams has been telling me stories for as long as I’ve been alive. I am grateful to have always paid attention to them.



About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

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