I used to have very elaborate, vivid dreams on a regular basis. They were mostly quite entertaining, except for the ones that made me feel like I was going to die or wake up with various organs in the wrong place. I often knew I was dreaming, and the only time this would be bothersome was when I was trying to wake myself up and instead ended up surfacing through several layers of dream, like continuously changing tv channels -- I'd keep closing my eyes and opening them and seeing some damned fifties living room arm chair and lamp or battle arena instead of my bedroom. I would write these down and let my husband read them and he would say they could be made into Batman movies. I can still remember some of them very clearly, without reading the written accounts. There's one image of a burned, blind man weeping on a long stone staircase with his face in his hands that I can't shake. Also, standing humiliated on a public street while a policeman cites me for improper grooming, even though I explained that I spent hours on my hair -- that one still stings.
Since I had the kids, I don't seem to have or remember those types of dreams. What I wake up with are remnants -- words, phrases, scraps of music, feelings that aren't connected to anything that happened the day before. After humming the same six notes in the shower over and over sometimes I have to go turn on some other music to chase them away. Often I have to look up definitions of words that are floating indelibly in my mind -- once it was trocar (' A sharp-pointed surgical instrument, used with a cannula to puncture a body cavity for fluid aspiration'.) More recently, hemolytic converter (hemolytic has something to do with the destruction of red blood cells, and it's not usually used in conjunction with the word converter -- maybe I was trying to invent one?)
I find this sort of fascinating. I know, I know, it's really just junk that my subconscious is throwing into the garbage disposal of my dreams. But I like to think that maybe my dreaming self is different from my waking self. Maybe she's physician or research scientist material. Maybe she gazes unflinchingly into the mysteries of the human body, wielding her trocar fearlessly.
I've never been a big one for dream interpretation -- I've read some of the Freudian stuff and it seemed laughable. Sometimes the underlying meaning won't allow me not to see it, though. When I had stopped going to church and was struggling with the whole crisis of faith thing, I kept having one of those dreams where I realize I've been going to school for a term but missed one entire class, which means a zero on my record, which if you know anything about me you understand is a REALLY BAD THING. After I had the dream several times, I finally figured out what the class was. It was religion. Very subtle, subconscious.