Dreams don’t have to make sense, do they?
It was still pitch dark when I opened my eyes. I was coming out of a dream that had been a grand and confusing opera. There were snippets of obscure music. There were scenes from my real life. There were flashes of people from the past. And they were all mixed into something surreal by a frenzied film director in my head.
But what did it all mean?
I was walking through a long and dark tunnel, where I saw different people along the way, like different scenes and lessons from my life. But why these people? Why these scenes?
There was an unhappy young woman — someone I barely know in real life — and she was alone in a round iron cage. She was crying bitterly. She wasn’t begging for someone to let her out of the cage. She was begging for someone to simply listen to her heart.
I tried to speak to her — to say that I would listen — but she didn’t know I was there. She couldn’t see or hear anyone. She was dying from loneliness and unhappiness. And I felt guilt and doubt about myself that I couldn’t save her.
Then she was gone.
After I walked on in the tunnel’s darkness, I came to something which looked like a glass cylinder. Inside was what appeared to be a woman I used to know. Someone who used to love me. Her face was dull with pain and disappointment, nothing like what I’ve ever seen from her.
As I watched her silent and anguished face move, I heard words from an old song — and I knew it was about her.
I see you, now and then, in dreams
Your voice sounds just like it used to
I believe I will hear it again
God how I love you
I didn’t hear her voice, but the words said I did. Her image inside the glass cylinder remained silent, but the words of the song said I still knew her voice. They said I love her, even though I don’t even know her anymore. The contradiction made no sense, but I felt doubt about myself — once again — because I couldn’t break through to connect with her.
The next scene — much farther down the dark tunnel — was something that really happened to me several days ago. I was with two young men in an office when one of them mentioned he had just broken up with his girlfriend because she was “high maintenance.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked. “How was she ‘high maintenance’”?
“Dude, she constantly needed attention from me,” he said, as I smiled inwardly that someone still talked that way. “I didn’t want to see her but a couple of times a week — max — but she wanted to see me all the time and talk to me every day. I didn’t have time for that.”
The other man with us — also a young guy — nodded in agreement.
I couldn’t tell them what I really thought, because it would hurt too much to share it with men who couldn’t appreciate what I felt.
I wanted to tell them that I would give anything for the right woman to love me and want time with me in that sort of way. That’s not “high maintenance.” That’s sharing your life with someone who you love — someone who you see as an equal partner. But they were too immature to understand any of that. They wanted playthings, not partners. So I didn’t say it.
As that real-life scene ended and I walked on, the musical commentary in my operatic dream started again.
As we walk the wire
Across desperate times
Will tomorrow find us
Will you still be mine
Will we hold our child
Will he have a place
Is there a hope for the human race?
I continued walking down the dark tunnel as I heard this song. I felt more alone than ever before. Then I felt bitter tears on my cheeks.
Before I knew it, there was a lighted portion of the tunnel again, where I found another woman — seated in a chair — who I know in real life. She lives near me and I’ve gotten to know her when she’s been sitting on her porch when I’d walk by her house with Lucy at night. She’s about 55 years old and she’s unhappy with her life.
About a week ago, I stopped at her porch to say hello, but I could tell something was wrong. She said it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. She was just unhappy with her life, but she said nobody else would understand.
I told her that I did understand and I explained why.
She lost her job almost a year ago because of economic problems related to the pandemic. She’s had trouble finding work and she’s struggling financially. She’s let her ex-husband back in to her life — as she tries to figure out whether to take him back long term.
I told her that I do understand the way she feels. I told her I could tell that she got her self-worth from the job she had been so good at — and she feels worthless right now because that’s been taken away from her. I told her that her need to feel valued and needed was the only reason she was seeing her ex-husband right now. I told her she was looking for validation — and that she was willing to do almost anything to find it.
She started crying softly.
“How did you do that?” she asked through her tears. “You hardly know me and you just summed up my whole life. Everything my family doesn’t understand. Nobody understands. Not my friends or my children. But you just said it so casually like you looked right through me.”
I told her it was obvious — to anybody who was listening to her. She just stared out into space as she cried softly, but she told me it felt so good to be understood for once.
And then that scene was over and I was walking the tunnel again.
Eventually, I saw a faint bit of light in the distance ahead of me — and there was singing. This was more like the singing of a choir, but I imagined it was angels singing. The music was coming from the light ahead.
I realized I was coming to the end of the tunnel and the light was coming from outside. It wasn’t bright, but since I was in complete darkness, it was easy to see the sunrise. The choir — angels or whatever it was supposed to be — sang a hymn which I knew well from childhood.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
As I reviewed all this in my mind, I realized it wasn’t quite so dark outside my window. Lucy was surprised to see me out of bed so early, but I left the bedroom and went to the back of the house, where I opened the kitchen door leading to the back yard.
Through the branches of the trees, I saw the colors of sunrise breaking. In my mind, the words of the hymn still rang clearly as I stepped into the grass.
I felt as though everything I had just come through in the dream represented a journey — and it was structured that way as a lesson to me. What’s more, I was standing out here in my back yard on a crisp autumn morning watching the sunrise that seemed to promise a new beginning.
But standing there and watching the colors alone felt incomplete. It felt lonely. And the apparent meaning of the scenes I’d just watched — about listening and connecting with others — made me feel the strong need to be sharing it with someone else. It made me feel the need — again — to not be alone.
Maybe it means nothing. But it felt meaningful.
I just know that every element of the dream was about listening to someone — and the pain it causes when people don’t feel someone is listening, as well as the doubt I feel when I can’t connect with those who need me. If that’s the right lesson I need to draw, who do I need to listen to?
Who is it who needs to connect with me just as much as I need to connect with her? I honestly don’t know where she is. Or who she is.
Note: The first song I heard was “Treasure of the Broken Land,” which was written by the late Christian artist Mark Heard, but the version I know best was recorded by Chagall Guevara for a Mark Heard tribute album. The second song was written and recorded by Chagall Guevara for the band’s self-titled debut album. “If It All Comes True” was the last track on the album. “Holy Holy Holy” is a common hymn. It was Hymn No. 2 in the older Baptist Hymnal when I was a child.