A couple years ago, I had an encounter with a mountain lion. It was not a gruesome experience; I simply ran into one with a friend as we descended a hiking trail at dusk. We stared. It stared. It took a few steps toward us with a flicking tail. We threw our hands up and shouted as loud as we could. It disappeared. Despite how easy that confrontation was, it terrified me beyond belief. Thus began the dreams about the mountain lion.
At first the dreams seemed to be mental replications of the actual experience. They gradually grew to be more violent, however, with the mountain lion attacking first other people, then me, and most often succeeding. I've had dreams in which the lion attacked in houses I felt comfortable in, thus destroying their serenity. I've had dreams where I attempted to fight the lion to little avail. Very often, I would shout at the lion in my dream, only to wake myself with strange half-hollers trying to escape my sleep-paralyzed body. I would encounter the lion every few weeks. This has been happening for about two years now.
Last night, though, the dream finally changed. This time, the scenario was that I had lost everything and had to live outside in the woods with a sleeping bag and a hammock. I couldn't find anywhere safe to hang the hammock, so I discovered a tiny cave with just enough room for a person to sleep. I didn't want to be attacked while asleep, so I left the cave to find something with which to block the entrance. When I returned, the mountain lion had taken over my cave. Instead of fleeing—it hadn't seen me yet—I started growling at it, loudly. I growled and growled, and the lion crouched, tail flicking, eyes flashing, just as it did in the true encounter. Suddenly, the lion sprinted out of the cave. This time (be warned; the dream gets a bit Chuck Norris here) the lion did not win. Right as it lunged for me, I swung a fist around and punched its muzzle, then managed to swing an arm around its neck and snap it (sorry PETA). I had finally defeated the lion.
I still woke with those strange hollers in my throat. Fortunately, I don't think I woke my roommate, but this has happened before and I warned her about it, so she shouldn't be worried either way. This time, though, I woke with a sort of astonishment. So much of this dream was different. I had never been completely alone when the lion attacked before. I had never had to face the lion dead-on, eye to eye. Most importantly, the lion had always won. This time, in a face-to-face deadlock, I succeeded.
Some part of me feels this dream is significant somehow. Recurring dreams don't just drastically alter their endings that way. Yes, the setting and specifics of my mountain lion dreams have changed in the past, but the main plot was always the same: Amy vs. mountain lion. Mountain lion wins. Defeating the lion woke me with the feeling that something in my waking life has also changed. I can't imagine what it would be—I can only think of minor "victories," and even those are grasping for straws—but it feels strong. There's a sense of relief in my spine today. I feel as if defeating the lion has brought me over a nasty ravine, a wild crevice, something large that I could not have thought of crossing before, but here I am on the other side. I feel like there is another part of my life waiting for me, and I am finally able to face it.