even the strongest sometimes ‘can’t’

I woke up this morning from a devastating dream.

I dream every night.

Some dreams are so real, and so vivid, that I wonder if I should pen to paper all that I saw and churn out a series of books, or novels a la Twilight. Typically, I have to give my head a solid shake before I start on my morning wake up routine, casting the cobwebs of my nightly stories back into the corners of my mind.

This morning, though, after I woke up and regaled the story of what happened during this particular dream to Jan, he sort of laughed. And I said – don’t laugh! It’s not funny, my subconscious is really screwed up about this. And he said – I’m not, I just feel bad for the things that are bothering you that you never talk about when you’re awake. And he got up, and went to make a coffee and I was left thinking about what he’d said.

Do we ever consider those around us before we lay our shit bare before them? Have we given second glance to how they may feel, or react to the enormity of what we’re about to say? Are our transgressions so important that it voids respecting the emotional boundaries of the audience?

In this dream, I was working at a restaurant that I had years ago. And I was living in an apartment, alone. I was struggling to make ends meet, and was very much by myself. My former high school had emailed to say I’d been invited to a special ceremony to finally receive my diploma – I’d earned it, now it was time to walk to the stage and receive it.

And I didn’t have enough money for a new dress, so I’d just slipped an old one from the closet, and did my face with the make up I’d always had. I did a split shift at the restaurant, because I had no family to watch me graduate, anyway, so what did it matter if I was working on the day I was finally going to make it to the podium.

When the restaurant staff caught wind that I was headed to convocation after the dinner rush, they rallied to pour a line of “family members” along the front row, to take pictures and cheer, just how I’d always imagined it really would have looked like all those years ago had I really been afforded the chance to see my high school career right through to the finish.

I awoke with this dream fresh in my mind. And I spilled it out to Jan before he was even conscious enough to know his own name.

And sometimes our dreams are strange, and wonky, and make zero sense. And delivering them with gusto, and reverence to our partners or the next person who listens is nothing more than a mumbled jumbo of silliness and shared laughter over the insanity that our nightly visions can drum up.

But other times, we drop emotional bombshells onto the people around us in haphazard manners, without trigger warnings – and even the strong can sometimes fall. Sometimes even the strong can’t.

When did we stop respecting the boundaries of those around us? When did we decide that our pain and suffrage equates to the permission of listening ears around us? When did we let the pendulum swing from – “we don’t talk about that” to “we’ll talk to whoever will listen”? It’s time to find a centre.

I was reminded of this very sentiment through a post I saw this morning.

“I have a friend who always asks me before venting/sharing concerns, if I ‘have the mental space for it right now’ and I gotta say, that willingness to respect boundaries and not demand a loved one dedicate emotional energy they may not have that day – that’s the healthiest shit ever.”


I’ve been reading this over and over.

Perhaps Jan has no trouble hearing about my emotional hangups that get tied in the wires of my brain – begging to be told through dreams, and night terrors. This morning, like every morning, I have carte blanche to talk to him about whatever it might be that’s on my heart.

But my cross is my burden to carry. And while he’s there to lift the load on the days that he’s emotionally available, simply assuming that our partners, loved ones, siblings and best friends have the bank on the ready for your spiritual deposits, seems like a privilege many of us are exploiting. As much as it is necessary to cross-examine what makes us feel worthless, or awful, or hanging low on our souls, it’s also just as important to ensure that we’re not burying our nearest and dearest under the sand of emotional toll.

Boundaries don’t have to be barbed-wire fences. And Jan has told me many, many times that which weighs on me he wants to help me carry. But not infringing on his charity, not taking advantage of his, or anyone else’s emotional capacity is just as significant as having the courage to share the load at all.

Here’s to the dreamers. Wishing you peaceful sleeps.

— c ☆

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul O'Brien says:

    My PTSD meds had me and Rowan Atkinson (in full Mr Bean regalia) rehearsing a soft show routine in one of my dreams last night….I’m not sure what to do with that.

  2. Nik says:

    Husband pointed that out to me on LinkedIn the other day. It’s an interesting thought. Sometimes the “is it convenient for you to listen to me now?” is important too.

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