A. To regular readers (I’m incredibly honored to now have some regulars that I don’t call “Dad”), I apologize for not writing for a while. It’s been a funky few weeks, leaving my creative juice box a bit dry.

B. How is it already February 9th, 2015? Just let that sink in for a second.

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They say that how you really feel reveals itself in dreams and/or five shots of Jameson. I don’t think either is true. First of all, the only thing that reveals itself after five shots of Jameson is the amount of steel in the lining of one’s stomach. Not that I’d know. Second, if dreams are to be interpreted, then I am an absolute insane person, which I refuse to believe is true. Which, scarily, is the sign of an insane person. But let’s not harp on that possibility.

I have weird dreams. And although most of my friends laugh in a half judgey/half concerned way when I tell them my dreams, I really don’t think I am alone in experiencing strange things while asleep. I’d like to review with you two of the most recent scenarios my brain came up with when snoozing. Please keep in mind that I have no control over these things. Both happened last night:

  • Two great white sharks attacked me in the ocean. They weren’t chomping down on my limbs, rather they head-butted me until Rufus Humphry (from Gossip Girl) came and saved my life. He put me into a Houdini box that magically transported me back to the beach, but both my legs were severely damaged from the knee down. Apparently the sharks had really intense head-butting techniques. While I was in the Houdini box, I switched from being the victim to being a witness, so it was actually my coworker Meghan (hey, girl, I know you’re reading this right now) who had the torn-up legs. Everyone thought she was not going to make it because she was losing so much blood, but I wasn’t worried because I somehow already knew she would survive. Then I woke up. [Let it be known that I’m not proud of what my mind does without my permission.]
  • A guy I was seeing in real life recently, plus a few of his friends and I, went to Paul’s Deli- the bar in Williamsburg, VA where I spent nearly every night of summer 2009. When we walked in, the guy I was dating- let’s call him Pete- spotted a huge cockroach on the fireplace. (Note: there is no fireplace in the real Paul’s Deli.) He proceeded to kill it, then made sure it was dead by putting it in his mouth. STOP JUDGING ME RIGHT NOW. Pete spit it out (it was still moving a little bit), but then we reasoned, “Well, we have to stay at this bar even though it’s dirty, because it’s raining outside.” Seemed valid in my dream. That’s when things took a turn for the worse. From behind the lamp (again, not one lamp exists in the real Paul’s Deli) came an army of cockroaches. They were all about two inches long and had tan-colored wings. Not weird enough yet? Read on. Do you remember that scene in The Lion King when all of Scar’s hyenas did the Hitler walk? Well, these cockroaches started doing that. They were Hitler cockroaches. In a disgusting, perfectly uniform march, they swarmed the room while I tried to tell everyone else what was happening. Sadly, no one seemed to notice, even though I was having a mild to medium panic attack. [Have I mentioned that I am not proud of what my mind does without my permission??] lion king hitler hyenas

These sort of dreams are not something most people would share on the interwebs for fear of possibly being torn away from their families and enrolled in a psychiatric center. I’m banking on this not happening because it’s a Monday morning and hopefully most of you are too busy catching up on work or recovering from the weekend to bother picking up the phone on my behalf. In all seriousness, though, these dreams can’t possibly reveal much. I think I can break them down, if we must:

  • Sharks and cockroaches are my two biggest fears
  • The guy I used to see (in dream 2) was in an accident a few years back that left his legs in the same condition the sharks left mine/Meghan’s (dream 1)
  • I’ve been binge-watching Gossip Girl

I honestly don’t think the dreams meant anything more than I’m still scared of sharks and cockroaches, that the guy I used to see was on my mind because we had an intense talk recently, and that I need to find better things to do with my time than watch a show about rich high schoolers in Manhattan. I’m 26. That’s no longer cool.

Although I don’t believe dreams about losing teeth reflect unstable finances, or that dreams about a recent significant other mean you’re obsessed with that person, I do think dreams are wildly interesting. Not telling, but interesting. How do our minds come up with such intricate scenarios? If we can’t control what our minds do when we are asleep, then really- how much of our minds do we control when we’re awake?

I’ve said and written time and again that happiness is a choice. That we control our own thoughts and attitudes. I believe this- I do. But even as someone who actively tries to monitor the path of my feelings, I’m often left somewhere completely different than I’d intended. No matter how hard I try at times, my mind and heart do their own thing. This doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to choose healthy perspectives and courses of action, but it does reveal the paradox that is human existence: We are in control of our lives, while still having almost no say in anything that happens. We can work extremely hard to behave certain ways and train our minds to think certain things, but ultimately, nature will have its say. The conscientious decision to make good choices and to see the positive in tough times should never be underrated, for it definitely helps make life a whole lot better, but dreams are a good reminder of just how little of this world we control. Even our own brains get the better of us at times. Challenging ourselves to be our best selves, while not getting too frustrated when we can’t manage to consistently reside in the ideal mental or emotional state, is no easy balance. I’ve found that life is a never-ending push and pull, where we have to be simultaneously invested in our decisions and surroundings, while maintaining an overarching sense of surrender to outside forces.

So when you have dreams about great white sharks or exes or flying or long hikes with a pack of wolves, rather than continuing to try and find control through interpretation that can never be proven, instead let those sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes depressing made-up mental scenarios remind you that all you can do is do your best. All you can do is control what you can (in a positive, not manic way), and chalk the rest up to being an odd little human in this blip of a life on this tiny little planet within this one galaxy in a giant universe. Each of us is important, yes (and I say this because I believe in God), but really- if a shark is going to head butt you to the ground while you sleep, aren’t we taking ourselves a wee bit too seriously?