The Elisabeth Shue Stage of Sleep

A few days ago, Callaghan listened to a documentary and then informed me that sleep scientists have made a discovery: dreams we have during the R.E.M. stage of sleep tend to be negative or unhappy, and when we frequently dream during this stage, we are more likely to be depressed.

It was like setting my mind down where the path branches off every which way. I immediately barraged Callaghan with questions. (Being married to me, he gets to put up with my questions. He’s doing a pretty good job so far. Meaning, he’s still here.)

“I thought we only dream during R.E.M. – ?”

“Well, I don’t know, the scientists said that we dream at different stages.”

“What stages?”

“I’m not sure, but that was a part of the discovery… that there are different dream stages.”

“What if the dream isn’t good or bad, but just weird? Did the scientists say if there’s a weird-dream stage?”

“I don’t remember. I was working as I was listening, so my attention wasn’t all there during some of it.”

“…what about those dreams where they’re good, but when you wake up and realize it was just a dream, you get depressed? How do those fit into the theory? Are all ‘good’ dreams really good if they make you feel terrible afterward? How can we know what’s really a good dream? Did they say?”

Poor Callaghan.

I had this suspicion that the scientists purposefully side-stepped the weird-dream issue because they didn’t want to end up with an awkward obligation to admit that some dreams are just neutral, dreams that can’t be quantified by absolutes like “good” and “bad.” “Weird” opens up a whole new sub-category of the theory that wouldn’t fit into the 90-minute time restraint of the documentary.

Two nights later, I dreamed about Elisabeth Shue, an actress I hadn’t recently seen, heard of, or thought about. She’s not a celebrity who turns up in Who Wore It Best or photographed going to Starbucks or rumored to be hiding a baby bump or anything like that. She’s not a chased-by-the-Paparazzi celebrity. I’ve never held a particular admiration of her. I have no opinion of her as being especially beautiful or talented. I just fell asleep, and there she was:

Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue was presenting at a major awards ceremony, wearing a sleek, dark gown. Her hair was lifted into an upsweep. She looked elegant, and she exuded delight… not in presenting awards, but in anticipation of something that was about to happen. Next thing, she was hang-gliding over a vast canyon. The night was inky black, and she was lit up like a comet on her hang-glider, leaving a trail of light as she went smoothly back and forth, high and low, occasionally looping upside down. The form of Elisabeth Shue was lost; I could only see that sleek, bright light. But I knew it was her, and I knew that hang-gliding had been the main part of her agenda all along.

“What do you think the scientists would say about that?” I asked Callaghan as we drank our coffee in bed. The dream had been neither good nor bad. The only thing I felt was Elisabeth Shue’s emotion, not mine. “Would this land in the weird-dream stage of sleep that the scientists didn’t address, if such a stage even exists? Maybe there’s a black hole stage of sleep where we dream in-between dreams.”

Since then, Callaghan hasn’t told me about any documentaries he’s listened to. I can’t imagine why not….