The stare- a recurring nightmare

Amulya Cherukumudi

It was a tiring day, loaded with personal turmoil and physical activity. It had been several months since I had cried myself to sleep this way, and before long I slipped into a deep slumber. It was still dark when I opened my heavy eyelids and looked around the room with blurred vision. Something felt eerie, nothing like I had felt before. It felt like someone was in the room, watching me, observing my breath. My heart beat hastened, my breath was now rapid and shallow, as I frantically searched my room for what had stirred my anxiety. Suddenly, I turned my eyes to the bathroom door, and I saw a glow in the distance. It seemed like several meters away, although the bathroom door was just a few steps from my bed. With trembling feet, I reluctantly walked towards the glow. When I got closer, I realised what it was, the yellow hue of a pair of eyes. It seemed alien, unfamiliar, and terribly frightening. The gaze was fixed on me, with no visible movement. I searched for a silhouette, a shape or even a figure, anything that could tell me what it was. I reached my hand out, and suddenly those piercing eyes got closer to me, and I let out a scream.
My eyelids flew open- it was a nightmare!
I sat up on my bed, sweating profusely, while I tried to analyse my surroundings. I was in the safe confines of my room, and all I could see in my bathroom, was my own reflection in the mirror. The dream was too real for my own belief and for a moment I had lost all sense of reality. As the pace of my frightened heart settled, I was convinced that it was nothing but a terrible dream. To pacify the part of me that believed it might have been real, I searched my room thoroughly. Nothing! I even looked out the window into the wilderness and could not find anything to account for my fear.
Convinced I was truly alone, I went back to bed and lay my weary head on the pillow. The moment I closed my eyes, there it was, those eyes staring at me, into my soul. Never had I encountered anxiety and fear this crippling that it disturbed my sleep. Finally, the sun shown in my eyes, I was determined to move on with my day.
However, the thought kept gnawing at me the whole day- why did I have such a nightmare? Was it the fight with a loved one and the incessant crying? Or was it stress induced by my upcoming examinations. I just could not find a valid reason for that nightmare. It was then that I began to wonder about the meaning of dreams. I had come across several interpretations of dreams, easily accessible through a lazy internet search. The logical me wanted to find an explanation for my dream- a Google search was in order! The search revealed many possible explanations for my dream, and I was intrigued. Eyes in my dream represent my own soul, an insight if you will, into my integrity and aspirations. Someone rightly said “our eyes are the windows to our soul”- they represent our dreams, our love for our family etc. That seemed like a wonderful and warm interpretation of a frightful experience!
I could not help but wonder, why was it so frightening? Perhaps, subconsciously I was afraid of my future, or worried about a family member. My brain was interpreting those feelings in whichever way it could.
Another interesting find on my internet search- seeing eyes in your dreams means you are discovering a sense of spirituality. The all seeing third eye, as Lord Shiva is said to possess. This seemed a befitting explanation, as this dream occurred during lockdown, when our examinations was postponed indefinitely and our future was uncertain, to say the least. It had been months since we had held a scalpel, and that was a crippling feeling for a budding surgeon such as me. However, I also remember secretly thanking my stars for being in the safe confines of my home, with food in my belly and a bed to lie on. There were countless people fighting for their lives in the COVID 19 pandemic, risking their lives whilst being away from their loved ones. Although we were away from our loved ones, stuck in a limbo, we were still alive and well. That is where the spirituality probably stemmed in my heart!
My anxiety was slowly settling as I continued to browse through a myriad of dream interpretations. Seeing eyes in a dream is a way to see ourselves in a different light, a realization of sorts. There are times in life when we are struggling with problems, or issues that never seem to settle. One fine day, like a flash of lightening, we find a solution or an answer. I realised then, that I had been struggling with my own self, doubting my own abilities as a surgeon. I spent the better half of my life being discouraged from entering the medical field, and my decision to become a surgeon. Having your dreams and aspirations crushed by the society takes a huge blow on your own self-esteem, becoming an ongoing battle with oneself.
After having educated myself in the interpretation of ‘the stare’, I breathed a sigh of relief and lay my head down for the night. Within minutes, I was startled up from my sleep after seeing the same eyes boring into me. I had never been so wound up and hysterical, and I spent yet another night staring at the ceiling, afraid to close my eyes.
Paranoia set in, as I dragged myself out of bed at dawn, and sat down next to my roommate with a cup of piping coffee. I needed some insight into this scary dream, some explanation to what unresolved issues were bothering me through the night. I have had nightmares before, of falling from a cliff, being hit by a car, or even being stabbed to death. None of them ever undid me to this extent, and none of them recurred.
I realised then, that I was simply worried about my family, their health mainly, as COVID 19 surrounded every inch of our lives. Being away from them and unable to care for them was really gnawing at my heart, keeping me wide awake at night. My mind was blaming me for not stepping up to my responsibilities, as a daughter and as a doctor, during the Pandemic. I felt guilty for sitting locked up in lockdown, twiddling my thumbs and contributing nothing to the situation. Everyday we saw the count go up, of those affected and those perishing because of this deadly virus.
Our hands were tied, as we could not contribute to this occurrence even if we wanted to.
After much discussion with my loved ones, I decided to let myself off the hook for this one. As much as I wanted to step up and do my due diligence, it was just not possible. If called to do my duty, I would readily jump at the opportunity, and that thought was enough to pacify me. Everyone plays a certain role in such situations, and my role at present was to wait in the side-lines to be called upon when the need arose. About the health of my family during the pandemic, that was not in my control either. I did my best in educating them about the pandemic and about the importance of a healthy life. About my own uncertain future, I just decided to go with the flow, and let things fall as they may.
Shakespeare once said “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”- this was befitting for my situation.
That night, I slept in peace, with no eyes piercing into my soul.
Our dreams are more than just a goal towards our future, but also an interpretation of our present actions and their consequences. The mind works in funny ways, and our dreams are a gateway to that. Sometimes our dreams show us things about ourselves that we never imagined to be true. Dreams establish a heightened sense of awareness of oneself, our loved ones, and our surroundings as well as how to tackle any problem we may face. We must not write off our dreams as a random association of thoughts by our brain; it often offers us profound insight into our lives.
If you ever find yourself rudely awoken by piercing eyes in your dream, take a moment and analyse why that is. You may even find a solution to a long-standing issue or problem, or attain a sense of spirituality!

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