The Wall Wants to Know: What Keeps You Awake at Night?
on May 7th, 2020
At the origin of the United by COVID virtual wall, our RTC community was asked the question, “What has hold of you during this time of uncertainty?” Of course, the context around the question was concerning COVID-19, including our anxieties, our fears, our guilty joys or relief. But the question begged for more than just the act of resurfacing thoughts, and I began to think deeper on the idea.
What keeps you awake at night, has hold of you, and won’t let go?
I have talked to multiple people during this pandemic who say that they are dreaming vividly right now. It is as if their subconscious was trying to tell them something: trying—it seems—to wake them up. From post-apocalyptic nightmares to dreams of forever interacting with others six feet apart, vivid dreams brought on by coronavirus have been documented by Time magazine, National Geographic, Good Housekeeping, and the New York Times, to name a few. And these collective, pandemic-induced dreams haven’t gone away! It seems our subconscious still has a lot left to say that’s keeping us awake at night.
Some of these thoughts that keep us awake have been turned into hand-drawn images on the United by COVID virtual wall. These images are a blend of both confession and validation. One goes to the wall to anonymously confess what has a hold of them. Some of these thoughts are nightmarish: I was sick. I’m scared to hug and kiss my family when I get to see them again in person. Some thoughts are battling the shame that comes with helplessness: Having so much while so many have so little. Some thoughts are defiantly joyous: I actually feel more connected than ever! Some are relieved: I needed this time to rest.
The validation comes from the looking glass—the computer screens of others also contributing to the virtual wall. When I go to unitedbycovid.com, I can see myself—my friends and family—reflected back at me in another’s words:
I feel so helpless sitting in my house while society collapses around me.
I’m thinking of my family; the ones that are close, the ones that have moved away & those that are a memory.
When this is over, what if we learned nothing?
Universally, to confess is to be cleansed. And I find this instance to be no different—when I read these confessions on the wall, I feel cleansed of my own fears. My anxieties. My thoughts. My bad dreams.
Instead, I am comforted by voices of strangers, who in turn are no longer strangers but united as friends. And though the wall has dark thoughts, guilty thoughts, kind thoughts, and thoughts of rage, the wall also holds a space for comfort and hope. If you browse the wall, you’ll often find that our collective thoughts are advocating for a change, a cleansing, a transformation of both society and self.
This too shall pass, and I will be better for it.
Recently, my friend and I sat around the glass-top kitchen table on a weeknight. Drinks in hand, we chatted about our days in quarantine. We had both had been quarantined safely among our separate houses, only visiting with each other.
The conversation bounced around a bit, landing—interestingly enough—on the concept of dreams influencing our actions. My friend mentioned that she used to sleep naked, until she began to have these reoccurring dreams of being naked in public places. Suddenly, in dreamscape, she’d look down and notice she was completely naked in front of everyone. These dreams were silly, obviously, but they happened over and over again, so often that they bothered her. She began to dread going to sleep because of the dreams.
Finally, the constant dreams became too much. She found herself naked in the grocery store. Naked at work. Naked at the movies, standing in line to buy a bucket of popcorn! She had to stop these dreams from happening—she was desperate to change her current state of mind. And so, simply enough, she changed her old ways and started wearing modest pajamas to bed.
If you can believe it—the very night she wore clothes while sleeping, her subconscious was comforted, and the dreams ceased.
Moral of the story: it is often the simplest things that bring us immeasurable comfort.
It might seem silly as a dream to go to the wall and give up your thoughts. But trust this process of confession. Let go of this thing that’s held you down for days or weeks or months—your own naked dream—and unleash a vast sense of relief.
Look forward to the next time you arrive at the wall and see your words transformed. You might be surprised at the comfort you find in the voices you are surrounded by. The simple fact that you are not alone.