I thought I left this repetitive dream behind in 2018 because since the new year, I haven’t dreamt of it again. Until this morning.
The dream always had an old feel to it. Nostalgia, perhaps, in a wretched way that was both a wish for things to have stayed as they were and for things to have irrevocably changed. I’ve dreamt it so many times that being in the space of it, it was almost like greeting a friend and an adversary in the same breath.
At the heart of the dream was one of my old pets. A small parrot whose name was Birdie. In the dreamscape, I was always at home because of course that’s where he lived too. I kept him company believing he needs me. And partially that was true, for I was his main caretaker and means of socialization. Yet at times I resent his dependency on me, his screaming fits and habitual feather plucking, that no matter how many wooden toys and bead toys or nutritious foods or hours spent trying to deter his attention from picking himself, I cannot heal him.
His anxiety heightens my own anxiety. My life became revolved around his. The belief I could help him get better was a hope that hangs over me, shining dimly.
So many times I was stuck within the reality of the dream, feeling so weighed down and helpless. I loved that bird so much. I pitied him for the state he was in and felt so very responsible for him getting worse.
Very often in the dream, he was perched on my shoulder or on my arm. His eyes, full of observation and clarity, watched me. If he could talk, what would he say? I looked back at him and in those moments I could feel the soul, the spirit, the life in his animal body connecting with mine. Sometimes I reached out a welcoming hand and gently ruffled the feathers on his head. He always liked to be pet there.
It was also in this state of dreaming those first couple of times I became aware the situation was all wrong, that none of it was real and everything was happening inside my head while I was asleep. Several emotions hit me at once. Remorse, for all the years I held onto him when it was clear to me even earlier that I should have let him go a long time ago. Regret, for still having lingering what-ifs and should-have-beens. Disdain, for what seemed like my subconscious inability to move on and instead I am reliving the angst of days gone by.
A few times mid-dream when I transitioned from being unaware to aware, it never ceased to surprise me every time just how well-fabricated my own dream world was. Birdie was still with me even after the shift, but how I perceived the dream version of him completely changed. Moments earlier I was still looking at him fondly and petting him. The affection was real. Then I was woken up inside the dream to realize he was fake and just a projection of my memories of him. What a relief knowing the real bird was elsewhere in the real world with a better person.