Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasies
Somewhere just beyond my reach
Is someone reaching back for me
Racing in the thunder
And rising with the heat
It's going to take a Superman
To sweep me off my feet
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero
'Til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
(Steinman/Pitchford: Holding Out For A Hero)
"Lois Lane?" they'd ask, with eyebrows raised, eyes sparkling, voices full
"No, Linda Lane," I'd reply emphatically. Cripes, did I look like a Lois
Lane? Same dark hair, maybe, but the woman was a wimp. No super powers at
all. Linda Lane was my maiden name. Being misidentified as "Lois" while a
child was the start of my affinity with the Superman mythos. Reading the DC
comics had left me intrigued, but not any more than my contemporaries.
Superman came to television about the same year my family purchased our
first black-and-white TV. I vividly remember the impact the program had on
me. Suddenly, Superman was no frozen snapshot of a flying person, but a
living, moving being. It didn't matter that, when she went to Los Angeles
for a convention and movie studio tour, my mother reported that the special
effects were just an optical illusion. For me, the visual image was real.
With a rush of emotion, I was no longer watching an image on the screen. I
could reach out and feel my feet hit the floor. One, two, three steps, feet
together, bend knees, bring arms up, push off legs, throw arms out and
stretch into the infinity of sky.
The feeling propelled me forward in a huge wave, sending my heart soaring
just as surely as Superman launched himself out the open window of the Daily
Planet. Each time I watched the program, energy would course through me like
an electric current. I would grit my teeth, grip the chair or drive my
fingernails into the palms of my hands, hoping against hope that my brothers
and parents would not see what was happening to me.
Sometimes the experience was too much to keep in. On the pretext of going to
the bathroom, I'd get up and leave the living room. But I'd soon sneak back
and peek around the corner to watch the rest of the show, at least until
another flying scene occurred. Then I'd twist from the doorway and lean
against the wall until my breathing and heartbeat had returned to normal.
The most opaque sharing of my interest in flying or super heroes brought
blank looks and, if pushed, derision. I was quite convinced that if I really
let people know my experience, I would have been laughed at, ridiculed,
ex-communicated, bound and taken in a straight-jacket by white-clothed men
to be tossed into a deep, dark dungeon with the key thrown away. Given what
I know now about the rigidities of the psychology, religion and culture of
the 1950's, I was probably smart to keep my mouth shut. Given the dynamics
of my birth family, I felt I had no choice.
Sympathy springs from the desire to put oneself into someone else's shoes,
to be drawn into their world. This happened to me when I watched movies or
TV. It could also happen in daily life. First hand, I would experience the
wrath and disdain of my parents. But second hand, I could identify with my
younger siblings every time they bore the brunt of parental anger and
emotional manipulation. My brothers and I recall being
in tears most every day. Feelings of painful anguish and utter helplessness
were common to all of us. They welled up and overflowed into the land of
dreams. As a result, my dreaming world was a nocturnal hell. My sleeping
repertoire included not a single positive or uplifting example. Instead, I
had a chilling number of Titanic nightmares, including the repetitious
I am running, running, pushing, forcing, faster, faster. It's so hard to
move myself! I am pursued by the Mafioso. The Men In Black are running,
leering after me. As I press my head and torso ahead, my legs lift behind
me. In time, I become airborne. I am
spread flat on the air, trying to get ahead through the thick atmosphere.
But it's like pressing my body through molasses. I can never get higher than
the Mafioso's outstretched arms. They grab for my ankles...
Yes, in dreams I could fly, but this super power did me no good. I was
neither fast enough nor high enough to avoid the Mafioso. Sometimes the Men
in Black actually managed to grasp my feet. More often, the nightmare ended
before they could do so. Now I realize that I had dreamt a perfect symbol of
criminal family energy, times two. These Italian godfathers with black
clothes and dark hats represented double trouble: my birth family and the
Roman Catholic Church. Many years later my sisters would tell me that each
had the same nightmare. But I didn't know this while we were children.
Sharing dreams just wasn't done. So, each of us suffered in sleep, alone.
When I left my abused childhood behind, I became partner to my husband and
mother to my own two children. After more than a decade of home-bound child
care, night school and part-time jobs, I had achieved an advanced academic
degree and begun a full time career. This newfound activity gave me the
confidence to consider divorcing my parents and leaving the religion of my
youth. But whatever success I experienced in waking life made zero impact on
my dreams. There, the Titanic themes were just as alive and terrifying as
they had been when I was young. They kept up an unrelenting pounding on my
psyche. I tried my best to avoid them. A successful night was when I
remembered no dreams.
I had an aid to this repression of nocturnal stress. It was fantasy. Fantasy
served as a buffer between the chaos of the day and the desired dreamless
sleep. I discovered I could "change channels," distract myself from the
residue of mundane conflict and anxiety by substituting a more pleasing
scenario for my mind to view as I drifted into stupor.
There was one special fantasy that had been playing in my mind theater for
decades. Each night was a new chapter or, more likely, a rerun of a favorite
scene. When I became an adult, I was so embarrassed about this childish
pastime that I tried to repress it, too. Unfortunately, as soon as I did,
the nightmares erupted again, full blast. Eventually, I gave up and decided
to enjoy the reverie as a respite unrelated to waking life. It was okay, as
long as I told no one. You see, my fantasy had its genesis in that Superman
Of course, it grew and changed as I did. The super crime fighter was
discarded first. I was more interested in the simple thrill and finesse of
flight. A solitary hero didn't appeal, either.
I liked the idea of a league of compatriots. Each decade of my waking life
made its contribution. For instance, the civil rights movement of the 60's
ensured our organization would be multiethnic. It soon became multinational
and, then, multigalactic. Simple comic stories gave way to sophisticated
science fiction. My characters used teleportation gates to visit other
planets, ruled by transplanted humans who were dominated by an alien species
that wanted to re-conquer Earth. My own character, who I named Casey, was
intensely involved in liberating dictatorship in favor of democracy.
It would be with amazement and a chilling sense of deja vu that I watched
the Star Gate series appear on TV. I discovered that my private reveries
weren't so personal after all. Evidently, on the edge of sleep, I had tapped
into some sort of group unconscious.
However, there was an important difference. Instead of war technology, the
emphasis in my fantasy was on psychic skills. No space ships, but super
flying. No electronic communication, but telepathy between companions. These
skills were but beginning to appear among humans, a harbinger of
evolutionary progress. Or so the story went. Much of the plot was
incorporated from other people's books, movie screenplays and television
shows, although I contributed my own ideas, too. Nighttime would come and
I'd trade in my waking persona for Casey, then teleport out of physical
reality into the domain of high ideals. And hope thereby I wouldn't be
pulled down by the Men In Black into the depths of disturbed dreams.
It was as if I lived 3 separate lives: waking state, imagination...and
nightmare. And then, one night, the barriers between all three crumbled. A
character from the fantasy crossed over and showed up in my dreams. No, not
Superman nor even his updated fantasy version. It was a black female I'd
named Willie who delivered me from the nightmare, because she had the same
capabilities as her fantasy counterpart: super strength and the ability to
fly. She carried me away from danger, soaring through the sky. Fantasy was
born into dream, quickly followed by waking consciousness. Because I
recognized my rescuer as Willie of the fantasy, I went lucid. For the first
time in my life.
Furthermore, Willie addressed me, not as Linda, but my fantasy name, Casey.
Even though I'd become aware of the fact that I was dreaming, I did not
conclude that an invitation was being extended for my waking consciousness
to enter the dream: that was just a serendipitous side effect. Rather, it
was my fantasy self who was being called to manifest in the dream state. She
could be a super hero in her own domain, but what about the me-in-the-dream?
I already knew my dreaming self could fly sluggishly and slow. Could she do
better? Did she secretly have the super ability to stand up to nightmares?
Did she actually have the potential to become Casey in the world of dreams?
And, if so, could I join in her triumphs first hand? Live out my fantasy in
a way much more compelling and immediate than in imagination?
The breakthrough dream was so powerful, I went out and bought a spiral
notebook to record it. After reviewing what I had written, I thought,
"Flying with Willie is neat, but I wish I could fly by myself." A few nights
later my wish was granted. Now I was the flyer, soaring over a Spanish
monastery, city streets, sea cliffs, marshlands and a beautiful valley
colored in brilliant greens. Now I was the rescuer, transporting a young boy
to a vividly red brick hospital. My nightmares had been in black and while,
with rarely a tinge of color to relieve the monotony. Even in my
breakthrough dream, the colors had been grayed out. But this dream! The
colors and details were as sharp as any lucid dream I've had since then.
Although I wasn't aware I was dreaming, I really felt like I was there,
flying through a world as brilliant as the sunniest day in physical reality.
Of course, I was there. Not as Linda, though. As Casey.
Manifesting as a strong and sturdy flyer had produced a bonus benefit: a
change in the dreamscape. Not only was my dreaming self becoming more super,
so was the entire dream. Flying had opened up a whole new vista in sleep.
Just as Dorothy's cyclone had flown her from dull grey Kansas into
multicolored Oz, so my body soaring through the air had transported me into
a Technicolored land. But in the dream I had far more control than a house
in a hurricane. No ruby red slippers for me -- I had super red boots.