When Waking Life Feels Like a Dream


Welcome. I’ve been thinking lately about the tension between dreams and waking life. So much of the recent months has felt uncharted, unreal — how many times have we compared what’s happening to the plot of a movie, to fiction? When a dream feels particularly “big” or poignant, I examine it, marveling at the creativity of my sleeping brain to traffic in metaphor, to make connections, to rifle through the contents of my subconscious and arrange it into something coherent. There’s clarity to be found, often, in observing what the brain is mulling over while the narrator is off duty.

When waking life seems particularly inscrutable or troubling or extraordinary, I have a wise friend whose first question is always, “How would you look at this if it were a dream?” It’s a useful tool, not for identifying evidence of “messages from the universe,” but for taking a step back from events that seem unwieldy and, for a moment, looking at them dispassionately. How are things connected? What is happening in the world, around me, right now, and what has my brain seized on as significant?”

I’ve heard from many people how their dreams are more vivid these past few months, about their first dreams in which masks made an appearance. One friend dreamed she was on her way to the airport, laden with a kayak under one arm, a pair of skis under the other, prepared to take the first plane to anywhere. Like living abroad and beginning to dream in a new language, we’re assimilating the new facts of our surroundings. It’s all grist for the dreaming brain.

I looked up the quotation “Nothing is as boring as other people’s dreams,” and found it attributed to the author John Green, but something tells me he’s not the first to note this. So without telling us the plot of your dreams, tell us how they’ve changed in the past several months. Are they more vivid, or less? Do they seem like an escape from waking life, or a reflection of it? What do you notice? Tell us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your name, age and location. (And if you like hearing about others’s dreams, you can see a lovely depiction of some here.)



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