Learning to Dream Again

I didn’t remember a single dream I had since the age of 8 until this last year.

Seriously – the last dream I remembered until recently was when I was 8 and I needed to learn judo in order to prevent being taken over by the evil people.  And I tried to convince my mom I needed to learn judo – especially since I was sandwiched between twin brothers on the elder end and a larger than average younger brother on the other end.  Apparently, the argument of a scrawny and scrappy 8-year-old boy wasn’t very convincing to my peace-loving mom.

So when people describe their dreams, I was always interested because it was like describing a different country or a different language of sorts.  I just didn’t have the receptors to understand.

How did I figure this out?  Well, my current line of work often times means communal sleeping arrangements with students.  Cabins, bunkhouses, floors, etc.  And my friends told me I had a weird snoring problem.  Not like a rhythmic snore – like a “whoa, are you gonna die dude?” snore.

It did have it’s benefits.  If I had to tell students that I wanted them to go to sleep, I often told them that I would give them a 10 minute head start before I went to sleep.  I advised them to take it.  They laughed the first night.  Then I turned on the snoring jets.

They stopped laughing and went to sleep the next night.

So I scheduled a sleep study and a couple nights before my then housemate and I were watching Top Gun one night, watching Maverick & Goose and dreaming of we joked about my snoring.  The idea of a sleep study was kinda funny, but also just weird.

Eventually, I went to the doctor to have a sleep study where they hooked me up with 20-some wires and told me they would probably wake me in the middle of the night and put what looked like a pilot’s gas mask on my face.  I went back to sleep.

The next morning I awoke, and the nurse was laughing under her breath.  I said, “What’s so funny?”

She said, “Well, you seem to be the kind of guy who can laugh at himself.  When I woke you up this morning to put on the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) you looked at me confused and said, ‘but Goose is dead?'”

I laughed.  I asked if she thought I had sleep apnea, and she responded, “Well, that would be me interpeting the results of the test before they are analyzed by the doctor.  But here,” and she handed me a sleep apnea support group brochure.

I got the subtle hint.

The doctor later told me in a consultation that I typically got 10 minutes of REM sleep a night, which was well short of average.  When describing my condition over the course of the last 10 years, he said, “Andy, you have a sleep debt the size of a the national debt of a small African nation.”

Dreaming typically happens in REM sleep, and I didn’t get much for most of my teens and twenties.  I talked with my housemate about this, who has very active dreams.  We typically talk about them over breakfast.  He would describe this amazing dream with multiple recurring plotlines, irony, humor, color, action, etc.  He says that dreams are the mind’s way of processing our unprocessed thoughts and emotions.

Mine aren’t that exciting.  I told him I had a dream one night – it was of a cell phone under my bed.

“That’s it?”

“Yep, that’s it.  Dude, I’m like a baby dreamer.  Still life is all I got.  I didn’t dream for 10 years.  What do you think that did with all of my unprocessed stuff?”

“It probably altered your brain chemistry.”

Gasp.  That night I had a dream of playing Connect Four with Hurley from LOST in a mental institution.  Perhaps I was making up for lost time processing emotional baggage.

But I have been dreaming more lately – they are quite pleasant.  But I’m not sharing…they are too revealing for the internet. 🙂

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people lately about difficult things in life.  Divorce, break-ups, lost jobs, disillusionment – all are really shattered dreams.  Having my fair share over the years, they don’t seem to get easier.  You’d think that persevering gets easier with age. No way.  Because at first we persevere because we think it’s just a fluke we didn’t get what we wanted.  But after the second, third, or tenth times…you begin to question whether the dreams and desires will ever become reality.

I’m at a point in life where I’m beginning to dream again – both literally and figuratively.  Dreaming literally as an adult after not having so many for so long means that the images are fresh and new, and perhaps some day may come true.  It’s been freeing to dream figuratively again as well – to consider what opportunities might be out there, to dream of what the next 10 years could be like.

Daring to dream means destined to be disillusioned as well.  It’s not safe to dream.  But it’s good.

At least I hope so.  Hope is what keeps disillusionment from becoming despair, and perseverance is the way in which faith is refined. Love from our loved ones who remind us of our dreams is what keeps us going along the way.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Psalm 126

1 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”

3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.

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3 Responses to “Learning to Dream Again”


  1. 1 Robert February 15, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Hey man, glad you finally got that diagnosed and are sleeping better. Makes the sleepovers ackward in a different way now huh?

    It is hard work dreaming and stiving. It is like training for a marathon – the more you do it the better condition you are to keep doing it. But it helps to do it every day and to have group around that can help to keep you motivated and practice it on those days you might not want to.

    Unfortunatly, it is also hard to get started again if you stop. So now that you are deaming again – keep dreaming…

  2. 2 andybilhorn February 15, 2009 at 4:53 am

    i call my CPAP my “sexy mask.” i have alternate lyrics that coincide nicely with “sexy back” by justin timberlake. i’ll sing them for you when if you ever come back in the country. 🙂


  1. 1 Lenten Reflection: Peeling Paint. Bureaucracy. Nasal Blockage. Carefully Taught. Bathroom Tours. Rent Free. « Less is More Trackback on February 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm

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