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What Are Dreams?

“What are dreams?”

This was the first question I asked my therapist yesterday. I could have asked him about the three appointments that I had had this week. About the conflicting opinions from my doctors over the meaning of my scans. I could have shared with him my worries about the Amazon rain forest burning and how the world wide right wing nationalist movement seems hell bent on destroying the Earth on which we live.

But no. I asked him about dreams.

There was a reason for the question. The night before I had a dream about him and my radiation oncologist. They’re guys about my age, and I have a friendly, informal relationship with both of them. Like I text my radiation doc. Not like funny memes and shit. But if I have a quick question or need an appointment, I hit him up instead of calling the office. My psychiatrist, in addition to being a great analyst, is also in a punk bad that plays around town. I don’t know if we would be friends in regular life, but we would certainly have run in similar circles.

I told my therapist about the dream as I was walking into his office and he said, “Did we have our clothes on?”

They did. In the dream my radiation oncologist was making fun of my therapist for not being a real doctor. They were pals, and it was a friendly exchange. I seem to remember my radiation oncologist scratching out the word “doctor” on my the business card of my therapist.

I’m sure hilarity ensued but I woke up soon after.

“Huh,” said my therapist. “I wonder what you were picking up on. Because we do have a back and forth relationship.”

That’s when I asked him the question. “What are dreams?”

“Day residue mixed with some sort of fear.” He explained it better than that, but that was the gist of what he said.

I got the residue part. I had just seen my radiation doc the day before and I was seeing my therapist the next day so of course they were both on my mind.

But the fear? What was I afraid of? The two of them being friends?

“Think about it,” he said. “Here we are in your dream joking around, having fun, not a care in the world. And the only reason you know the two of us is because of this thing you’re dealing with.”

His words hit me between the eyes. “That’s so crazy, because a part of me is super jealous of the two of you. You guys get to come and go, make lots of money, leave all this shit at the end of the day, but I can’t.”


I sat in silence for a minute. Not an entire minute because therapy is expensive.

“But think about us,” he continued. “We have these roles of doctors, which comes with lots of pressure to know things. But we’re also humans and there are limits to our knowledge. We see a guy our age in here and it scares the shit out of us.”

“I guess it’s different seeing someone at 75, 80 than at 40, 41.”


We moved on from there, and talked about the roller coaster week I had. Trying to make sense of what my doctors have been telling me. Sorting through what is true, and what are stories my brain is making up. I left feeling better. As I always do. Aware that life can be good even at its most confusing. I spent the rest of the day teaching my writing students and playing golf with friends. Then after Jaimie got home from rehearsal we had dinner and went to bed early.

And last night I didn’t dream at all.

What was there to be afraid of?

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