Get to the coastline before sunrise to save your sister. My heart is beating out of my chest and my legs can’t run any faster, sweat is pouring from every orifice and it feels like I’m not getting any closer to the coast. I’m starting to panic. What’s going to happen if I can’t save her? I can’t even think it, there’s no question; I must save her.
Dangerous obstacles slow my pace, a few moments ago I had to outrun a gang of dudes and it sent me in the wrong direction. I fear I’m going to be late. An orange hue has started to paint the sky, time is running out. “Must run faster,” is on repeat in my head. I can’t breathe but I don’t care. Where is my sister?!
Yellow has begun to mix with the orange, at any moment the sun will crack the horizon; I lay eyes on my sister. She’s in a deep pit and our fingers brush at the tips. She’s just out of my reach. I’m as far over the ledge as possible, any further and I’d fall in with her. “Jump! Jump!” I scream. She’s drained, eyes sunken in, she gave up hope long ago. “Please!” I beg, “Jump, I’m here, I’ve got you!”
She makes a runner’s lunge and throws herself up. My feet are dug deep into the earth, my stance wide and strong. I grab for her hands, prepared to lock on tight. We catch each other’s eyes just as the sun hits her face. “I’ve got her, I can catch her. She’s going to be safe,” I say to myself.
As the sun rises higher, the bottom of the pit slowly crumbles and shows the sky. How did this happen? We’re high up, too high up. Just as our fingertips are about to lock the sun shifts and momentarily blinds her which makes us miss hands. One of us screams, everything slows down, and I watch her fall.
My recurring nightmare has the same theme. I’m in a desperate situation frantically trying to rescue someone (it’s been my dogs sometimes, too) and miss saving them by a fingertip every time. No one else is ever with me in these dreams, it’s only me.
I never really read much into it. Chalked it up to an active imagination. Then I read this book written by a psychologist who shares one of her patient’s reoccurring nightmares that sounds an awful lot like mine and shares this explanation:
“*Natalie’s dream captures what it feels like to be emotionally alone. She has to deal with everything by herself and doesn’t consider asking anyone for help. This is how children of emotionally immature parents feel. Their parents may technically be present, but they offer little help, protection, or comfort.
Children like Natalie often grow up like little adults, helping their parents, giving them no trouble, and appearing to need practically nothing. These capable kids may seem like they can parent themselves, but they can’t. No child can. They just learn to cling to whatever emotional scraps they get because any connection is better than none at all.
Natalie is a successful adult and has created a rewarding life both personally and professionally, so who would guess the powerful woman walking into business meetings with a great marriage, successful children, and close friendships because she knows how to relate to people from every walk of life is carrying this deep sense of loneliness with her in every aspect of her life? Her dreams pull back the curtain to reveal that loneliness.”
She goes on to ask Natalie if she ever wondered why she was always alone in her dreams. Before my eyes finished reading the sentence my heart had lurched to my throat. I’m alone every single time, too, and I couldn’t stop those tears no matter how hard I tried to look up.
And her explanation felt really familiar. I never considered the amount of emotional loneliness I carry around or what that feeling I’ve always felt had a name. Therapy is helping. I’m unwinding the patterns and being aware is lightening my load. I haven’t had this nightmare in a few months, so maybe I’m getting somewhere quicker than it feels.