When you awake, will you really?

When you awake, you will remember everything;
You will be hanging on a string, from your…
When you believe, You will relieve the only soul
That you were born with to grow old and never know.
— The Band

Had one of those dreams yesterday where you wake up, but you’re still in the dream. I hadn’t had one of those for years. This one was amazingly vivid. I wonder whether the cold medicine I had taken had anything to do with it.

The remarkable thing about it was that I managed to get into such a deep sleep in my recliner in the middle of the day. That seldom happens.

I had stayed home from Mass because of my coughing. I’d finally caught the cold the grandchildren had been passing around the last couple of weeks. My wife went to Mass, and planned to go to Trader Joe’s after. So I tilted back in the chair only slightly (if I went back too far, I started coughing), and went way, way down into sleep.

Normally, in a nap, I’d halfway wake up multiple times. I thought that’s what I was doing. But when I opened my eyes and saw my hands lying one atop the other on my belly, I tried to move them and couldn’t. It was very frustrating, and a little scary. After this happened once or twice, I got to hoping my wife would come soon and wake me up. I knew I was napping in the chair, and that she had gone to church and to shop.

I heard her open the front door, only she didn’t come into the room I was in. I looked at my hands, realized I still couldn’t move them, and tried to call out to her to tell her about it, but I couldn’t make more than a muffled, strangled sort of sound that couldn’t possibly be heard in the next room.

Then I heard my wife come in the front door, and the process repeated. Finally, either this time or a third one, she came into the room, somehow realized my difficulty and helped me move my hand. Then I was able to get up. I was so relieved. Then she told me that she needed to have a meeting with someone named Ann who was coming to the house. She said it like I’d know who “Ann” was. I had no idea, but I didn’t want to admit that. I just said I’d leave the room to them, and went into the kitchen. Only it was no kitchen I’d ever been in before. I peered into the fridge, and there was nothing in it but those cups of pre-made Jello you can buy in the supermarket, in a wide variety of colors. The colors really stood out against the brightly-lit whiteness of the inside of the fridge.

Then I heard my wife come in the front door, and I opened my eyes. She didn’t come straight into the room where I was. Looking at my hands yet again, I decided to try to move them. It worked. I was amazed. But I was still really dopey. I’d pick up my hand, put it back down, and again doubt that I could pick it back up, but when I tried I succeeded. But now that I could move, I had no interest in doing so. At some point in this, I said “hey,” and my wife came in, and I told her about my dream, and she said she’d had dreams like that, too.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, I was awake enough to feel like getting up, so I did. It was for real this time.

The wild thing about this was that my hands and the room around me, in the dream, looked exactly as they did when I finally woke up. The sound of my wife coming in the door, in the dream, was exactly as it was when she finally did.

My cold’s some better today, and I came in to the office. Beats lying around the house. Dreams such as that one are tiring.

11 thoughts on “When you awake, will you really?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Anyone ever read Mark Twain’s incomplete piece, “The Great Dark”? The creepiest, most sinister thing I’ve ever encountered about being trapped in a dream.

    My dream wasn’t nearly that bad. Nevertheless, I would have welcomed a visit from a person from Porlock.

  2. Norm Ivey

    It’s called sleep paralysis, and it may be an evolutionary development that keeps us from actually acting out our dreams while still asleep and possibly injuring ourselves. Sleep paralysis occurs during REM sleep, and your REM sleep was interrupted. So while your the Dream Police kept your body on lockdown, your eyes were seeing things as they are. It happens to most of us at some point, but it can be considered a disorder if it occurs frequently.

    Another common dream event is the sensation of falling. Years ago, I grew so tired of this event that I resolved that the next time I fell, I would teach myself to fly in my dream. I did, and it worked! I found myself racing an owl at one point, and flying through the chains holding a swing. I have not had another falling dream in probably 25 years or so. But neither have I had another flying dream, which I kinda enjoyed.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Interesting… “sleep paralysis.”

    But I wonder — was I actually opening my eyes while asleep and seeing my hands and the rest of the room? Because they looked exactly the way they did when I finally woke up….

  4. Norm Ivey

    I think that yes, your eyes were open. Somebody seeing you would probably have wondered why you didn’t move or acknowledge them when they walked into the room.

    About 30 years ago I was working a night shift at John Harland Check printers, and I was frustrated by my inability to sleep during the day. I did a bunch of reading about sleep (and dreams), and that’s how I remember it, or how I remember understanding it. Dreams are fascinating not so much because of what they mean, but because of what they may be able to reveal about our brains. Dreams, I think, could be the key to unlock our full human potential if we could figure out how to access our brains they way that they do.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    As for flying — I do that occasionally. Not to avoid falling, though. Just to fly.

    I’ll think, “I wonder if I can make myself fly, for real, the way I do in dreams?”

    It takes concentration. I THINK my feet off the ground, and then start moving forward…

    Weirdly, I’m usually indoors. I’ll go swooping along, just below the ceiling. It’s actually more of a challenge than flying in the open.

    I’ll think, “I KNEW I could do it for real!” Then I wake up.

  6. Kiki

    … But how much would your hands and room really have changed from the time you closed your eyes? …

    My most terrifying version of this is when I conclude, mid-dream, that the reason I can’t make myself move is carbon monoxide poisoning, so then I (in the dream) try to flip myself off the bed and crawl along to the kids room to save them but I am paralyzed and can’t get to them.

  7. Scout

    I have experienced this. Not in a long time though. When I was in my early twenties, it happened to me a few times and I read about it too. I also came up with Sleep Paralysis. I think I remember reading that it happens in narcoleptics a lot.

    I remember one dream kind of like yours here where I was taking a nap and knew my roommate was supposed to be home soon and I kept thinking I was awake and heard her in the kitchen and kept trying to get up and go talk to her and I couldn’t move, which freaked me out, and then I just tried to yell to her to come help me since I couldn’t move, and this happened several times in waves, except the last time, she really was home and I really could get up. It was weird and frustrating.

    That’s the only time it really happened with dream elements. The few other times I was either waking up or falling asleep and was completely conscious while not being able to move anything but my eyes and the harder I tried to move the louder this strange electrical chain saw like buzz in my head got. I didn’t like that at all. Not any. I’m glad it hasn’t happened recently.

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    A week after this incident (this past weekend), while still fighting the cold (with the added factor of fever), I had another intense, deep-sleep dream lying back in that same chair.

    I would have written about it — even if it bores y’all, I enjoy the mental exercise of trying to sort out and put into words the details of a dream before it all fades — but it was just too involved, and I was too sick. There was a lot of work I should have gotten done over the weekend, but I just felt too bad to sit and write. In fact, I majorly let a friend down in that regard, and have been in the throes of guilt all week — I would have done THAT long before writing about a dream.

    But if I get time this weekend, and if I still remember enough details, I might write it down. As I say, I like the exercise


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *