For most of my life, and for as long as I can remember, I have been a dreamer. That word conjures up a lot of stereotypes, which aren’t really me (although I have aspirations). If you met me in person, the idea that you would probably walk away with is not the dreamer-type but one of intensity (so I’ve been told). It would take a little while to know that the intensity is a quality of everything about me. I listen with intensity. I act with intensity. I dream with intensity.
The dreaming has come in the form of night dreams and day dreams and stories told to myself while waiting in line, on airplanes, and as I go to sleep. My conscious dreams are stories that maybe I’ll write down one day, or that play with a moment over and over and over again, until some part of my brain figures something out about it, letting me move on to the next one. My favorite way to go to sleep is to insert myself into movies or shows as a new character, and see how I (or whatever version of “I” I’m playing) changes the story. Dreaming, imagining, storytelling: these are the things that I consider essential to the who of me.
About a year or so into my current job, I started to struggle with dreaming. My night dreams largely went away. I had no more time for day dreams. And I couldn’t muster the strength to find my way into a story to send me off to sleep. I was struggling. I know now that I was in the first stages of a burnout. I was being and feeling drained by the money work I was doing. Slowly, everything else became difficult. Including, in the end, the job. This was nothing I have ever experienced. It was all encompassing, a burnout so bad that even though I knew I had to change things, I couldn’t see a way out. Not a real way out. I was trapped.
Finally, this pandemic started and about a month in, I had two weeks of devastating news after devastating news after devastating news. It felt like the universe was making this personal, shoving me into taking action in my life, promising that the devastation would continue if I didn’t do something about it. So I made a change. Not as big a one as I thought I would make, but enough of one to allow me to heal, to find myself again.
My night dreams started coming back. I love those kinds of dreams. I love going on whatever adventure your brain wishes to take you on, waking up still in their shadows. I love the idea that they might sometimes function as a way to communicate with yourself. My nighttime stories are starting to happen again. I’m still waiting for my day dreams, but they are coming.
And I feel so much more myself. So much more capable of being me; the me that full of intense joy. All it takes is dreams.
How about you? What is something you do that seems essential to who you are? Have you ever experienced burn out? How did you get out of it? When did you know you were healed? Drop a comment!