Dreams and Nightmares

Dreams and Nightmares

I have this recurring nightmare. If you know me—I am a runner and I am a planner. I’ve loved running my entire life. I was in track and cross country throughout my school years. To this day, I continue to run and do races. I plan. I train. I want to be prepared and I love it.

Back to the nightmare. I arrive at the track for my quarter mile race, just one fast loop around the track. But as I set my feet, I realize I have on really really tight jeans. They are constricting. I can hardly move. And then, instead of my ground gripping spikes on my feet, I have on high heels. Then, as I am realizing I am not prepared for this run, I also realize, I have not trained for this race. I try to think of the runs, the repeats, anything I have been doing to help me through this event. Although it can be done in less than a minute, I realize this race is going to hurt like hell. And I have this nightmare frequently. Sometimes I am wearing the right gear, racing spikes on my feet and my breathable running attire; but in THAT nightmare, I am smoking cigarettes right before the starting gun goes off. Then, as I run, my heart feels constricted, like it will burst, and my lungs feel like thorns are being sucked into them, and they’re heavy like a boulder is crushing my chest. And I have had this nightmare over and over and over again. It’s awful.

I recently have had a different dream. I show up at the state cross country meet and I have been training for this race all season. I feel great, I am dressed appropriately and as my feet travel by muscle memory across the terrain, the time flies by. In some of my best days/races, I can do this 3.1 miles in about 22 minutes; a much longer time than the quarter mile sprint nightmare, but this race flies by. My feet are quick like a deer, I am light as a feather, my breathing is rhythmic and my heart is strong. I love this dream. It is utter JOY. 

I am wishing for more of this dream, but I know that the nightmare will come.

My husband and I are training for the Bolder Boulder, a 10 K race that happens over Memorial Day weekend in Colorado.

So, even though I didn’t want to go today, I laced up my shoes, donned my breathable running attire and set out on my run. As I was huffing and puffing up the one hill on my route, I got to thinking about the nightmares and dreams we have. I wondered what my subconscious was trying to tell me…

You can prepare for something—plan, train, put in the miles and it goes smoothly—effortlessly. But also there are things in life, that you love, you show up for, you think you’re prepared for, but in reality, when it comes down to it, right before that starting gun goes off, you’re NOT prepared for the pain that awaits you.

As I went out for my run today, I felt like a boulder was on my chest. 

February 14th, 22 years ago, someone found four pounds of white fur left behind in a field and took the tiny creature to the shelter. This is where little Dempsey found her way into my heart. I went there looking for a dog to run with me, and came home with this tiny creature that has covered me in her fur  and has covered me with comfort in life. She has been with me through a marriage, a divorce, countless moves, ups and downs and all the in betweens. She would  sleep draped across my head when it was cold or curled up on my belly. She loved rice krispies, edamame and bacon. She even licked away my tears and would put her paw on my arm when I was sick. She greeted me at the door every day when I arrived home for 22+ years. And Friday, we said good-bye to Dempsey. I had 22 years to love this little creature, so you’d think I was prepared. But the sadness constricts my throat and feels like I am breathing in thorns, and the emptiness of where her little white fur body was, feels like a gaping black hole.

Maybe the nightmare, my subconscious, was trying to prepare me for the pain of this life event.

But, Is there really anything that can help prepare you for the emptiness felt when something you love deeply is gone?

Dempsey in a box


Dempsey would “help” me every time I was on the computer. She “helped” me make the bed by trying to sneak in under the sheets. She let me know how much she loved whatever I bought and had delivered by hanging out in the boxes left behind. She was a gift. Twenty-two years flew by and there was so much joy.

But Friday… and the tiny amount of time it took to say goodbye; it sears like a hot iron on my skin and is a boulder weighing on my chest. 

And I know it will be recurring. There will be more times of saying good-bye to something that, even if it seems like it’s planned for, will be painful. Good-byes to parents, friends, jobs, health, beautiful things. 

Almost to the point of not wanting to say hello to those things, just to spare the pain of the good-bye. 


I read that deep grief is evidence of great love. I guess that’s why it hurts so much now. 

I’ve also read that life is more of an endurance race than a sprint.

It’s almost been a week. And it hasn’t been that much easier. However, even with the physical pain of missing, remembering and wanting one more day, I wouldn’t trade all those years of love, comfort and “help” with her just to escape this heartache. I’m going to pray and wish for more of those endurance dreams—the joy, the stuff that keeps a heart strong—I believe its these events that count the most; the memories, the effortless, joyful, daily beautiful things in life that give us the endurance to withstand the pain of saying the next good-bye.










RIP Dempsey 2/14/1998- 4/19/19

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1



I am on the last few chapters of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I have been losing sleep the last three nights due to the intense action at the end of “Mockingjay”. I have fallen in love with the characters – Peeta and his “hijacked” love; Gale and his angry loyalty; Katniss and her flawed altruism and Prim’s purity. I am drawn like a moth to the flame or an addict to the needle. Each night, way past my bedtime, I try to hold off picking it up, but I plunge right back in. Hours later I am devouring the words and the world around me has morphed into the Capitol. I don’t want it finished. — I don’t want to say good bye to Peeta. I will miss Katniss’s valor and spunk. Even as I fly through these last pages of mounting action, I am savoring every last word like Katniss with the loaf of burnt bread outside of Peeta’s bakery.
I don’t think I am alone in this. Not wanting to say good-bye to something, even if the next trilogy, the next job, the next relationship, or next whatever is even better. It might even exceed our wildest dreams and could be “the one;” good-byes are tough. I believe this is part of what keeps people locked in abusive relationships or dead end jobs and missing out on what’s around the corner, or what could be if you just let go…
Yet nothing and no one in this life is permanent.
Emerson Hart wrote a song for a friend who described to him the conflicting emotions he felt while divorcing his wife. The song’s called “I wish the best for you.” Check out a few lines:
“How long can we wait here
To say goodbye?

The words once they’re spoken
Are words that we can’t take
Back to where we were, before
Things got in the way

Life gets so confusing
When you know what you’re losing

Why can’t we see that there’s
More to love than we’ll ever know

Sometimes you’re closer when you’re
Letting go

I wish the best for you”

This song gets me because of the truth in it.
I know. I’ve walked in those shoes – The ache of saying good-bye, even if you know it is the right thing. You have to let go.
This song reminds me that I am not alone. I also find comfort in The Bible—Even people who spent time with The Almighty had a tough time with this. The followers of Jesus had just said what they thought was their final good-bye to Him as He hung on the cross and took His last breath. Good Friday.
John 19:30 records Jesus: “’It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.”
But after the Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene sees Him just after she came upon the empty tomb, she cannot let go: “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
The story doesn’t end on Good Friday. This was part of His plan. It had to happen. Jesus knew they would struggle with letting go of Him and even tried to give them a “heads-up”:
“I am leaving you with a gift; peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you; I am going away, but I will come back to you again.”…. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.” (John 14:27)
He knew what He had to do. There was a purpose to the pain He would endure. He said His good-byes but He also assured His followers that He would always be with them (John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”)
Because I know Jesus and because I believe, I have found that there is something beyond “good-byes” and beyond this life that is permanent – God’s love. “For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.” (Psalm103:11)
“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
As each of us faces the pain of whatever it is we have to let go of, whether it be a relationship, an addiction, a loved one, a job or a decision, I hope you grasp firmly to the peace that Jesus left us with. I pray that you know that there is a plan and a purpose in the pain and that purpose might just be around the next corner.
As I prepare myself to say good-bye to Gale, Katniss, Prim and Peeta, I remind myself – there is always the movie. And I ready myself with my waterproof mascara for the Good Friday services, I focus my heart on the joy of Easter –Resurrection Sunday.
And remember, even though it is finished, it is not the end.