I woke up today with a really bad cramp in my leg, one of those horrible spasms where your toe points down like a ballerina's, and the only way to regain control of the rebellious muscle and stop the excruciating pain is to force yourself to stand on it. As much as a I hate alarm clocks (and I have what must be the most innocuous-sounding alarm there is), I’d rather be awakened by the most grating alarm imaginable than to have to be thrust out of a sound sleep feeling like my calf is in a vice. After surviving that rude awakening, and after having taken care of a few morning necessities, I zombie-stumbled into the kitchen in search of coffee, ready to begin my work day. (I like working from home for a variety of reasons, but lack of a morning commute and the relaxed dress code are definitely high on the list.)
Once I’d logged onto my computer, I started checking a few things. Then, I became very busy, very suddenly. Between the phone calls, e-mails, work-related reading and research, and caffeine, I entered a state where I was almost hyper-alert. My brain synapses were really crackling. I was just cruising along, thinking about nothing but work. Then, when I had finished working out the particulars of some assignments that I was working on, I relaxed, confident that I had everything under control.
Some images flashed in my head. I don’t know what triggered the memory. Maybe, because of the way I had woken up, and then plunged headlong into my work, I just hadn’t allowed myself the luxury. Whatever it was, when I relaxed, I found myself revisiting, quite clearly, some of the dream I had been having just before I woke.
Now, this is not an altogether unusual occurrence for me. I often have moments where images will just come to me, and I will have this realization that, “Hey, I dreamed that last night.” I seldom can remember very much of the dreams, but what I do remember, I remember very clearly. It’s rather disorienting, because it is literally like remembering something, while at the same time knowing that it never really happened. Also, most times the images make little sense, and I find myself wondering why my subconscious would conjure them.
I know that there was a lot more to the dream than I can remember, but this is the part that I can recall, like it just happened:
I am at a beach, standing in the water. The water comes up to about the bottom of my rib cage, and it rises and falls slightly with the gentle waves. Several people I know are at the beach with me, I think, though the only one I can remember for certain is my wife, Jaime. I am the only one in the water. I am just standing in the water. It is very peaceful.
Very suddenly, things change. I see fins in the water. Dark shapes are moving toward me. Jaime is screaming behind me. I don’t look back. I don’t move. I’m not afraid. They’re coming. I see them. I know that they are sharks, but I can’t recall the work “shark” actually being spoken. And so it goes: the shapes move closer, Jaime screams, I don’t move. I am not afraid.
Something hits me hard in my midsection. I feel the impact, as real as anything I have ever felt. I am off my feet now and moving backwards. My eyes close instinctively, my hands up from my sides and onto the thing that has hit me and is pushing me back towards the shore. I open my eyes and look down at the great, black head of a seal. The seal is driving me back towards the beach, away from danger. I can’t even process what is happening.
I’m on my back, in the sand. Jaime is kneeling beside me. The seal sits a few paces away, watching. My leg cramps.
Would it surprise you if I said I understood, at least partially, why I dreamt what I did?
Last weekend, Jaime and I went to Brier Island for our anniversary. We went to this beach that we walked on six years ago, and just like then, we were the only ones there. We had a nice peaceful walk. We talked. We looked at interesting rocks. We relaxed. We existed, together.
After we had been there for a while, we noticed that we were being watched. A short distance from the shore, the black head of a seal appeared in the water. I have no doubt that he was curious about us, and was observing our movements. After a few minutes, we moved further up the beach, away from the water, and he moved closer to shore. He watched us for a bit more. We didn’t pay too much attention to him, and eventually he went on his way.
Fast-forward to Friday evening, and I am watching TV with my daughter Mairi. She puts on “The Simpsons.” In this particular episode, a storm causes a blue whale to become trapped on a Springfield beach. The whale eventually dies, but her calves appear offshore. The calves are then threatened by a group of approaching sharks. Homer goes out in a small boat to try to save the calves, but falls overboard, and is in danger as the sharks approach him. At the last second, he is saved by another blue whale (said to be the calves’ father).
I know that there’s no way of telling for sure, but I believe that somehow, the images from my trip to Brier Island and from watching that episode of “The Simpsons” got jumbled together to provide the impetus for the dream I had. It explains the seal, the sharks, the rescue, the beach. What I’m not entirely sure about is the lack of fear part. The thought of being in water with sharks absolutely terrifies me. Usually, when I encounter something frightening in my dreams, I am afraid in the dream. In this dream, I wasn’t afraid.
I have a theory. These past couple of months have been very interesting ones for me. I have had to face some of my biggest fears, and I am extremely pleased and satisfied with how I have handled them. I feel better about myself now than I have in a very long time. I have discovered things about myself that I never knew, or wasn’t sure about. I am more confident, and deservedly so. I have this feeling that my lack of fear in the dream has something to do with this. I can’t say exactly why. I have no evidence. It would be impossible to prove.
What I can say is that I am at a point in my life where the person I have been for the past several years would be paralysed with fear and doubt, but I am not. I am looking forward into a future where there is a whole lot of unknown, and I am not afraid. I haven’t felt like this in so long, I can’t remember. It feels good. It feels, normal.