Last week, I had a dream that brought back to the surface some deep seated insecurities and fears. To tell it, the dream is silly and not even all that interesting. I was at the home of one of Amira’s friends from school. Amira, for some reason, wasn’t there. Her friend and her mom were. The dream began to stick with me as the mom was showing me what she had built while our kids had been at school that day. It was a foldable staircase that was attached to her balcony. As it unfolded, it opened up and down into an adirondack chair. It was physically improbable and likely an impossible real-world creation. She had used what looked like spare portions and bits of wood. They were raw wood, weathered and painted wood intermixed, as though she had culled the building materials from other things. She was so proud of it. I remember feeling two things at once. First, ashamed that I had nothing to show for my time that Amira had been at school that day. And second, that it was a really shitty piece of construction. She folded it back up and walked me behind her home. She had a massive home and property and she needed to tend to something in the outbuilding behind the house. She asked me to go on into her home and wait for her there. And so I did.
Once inside, my mind lost control of itself. A tidal wave of thoughts washed me over and knocked me down. “I wish I was better. I wish I wasn’t so overweight. I wish I had better clothes and a better sense of style. I wish I wasn’t missing teeth. I wish my skin was clear. I wish I knew what would make her like me. I wish, I wish. I wish…” I steadied myself against my mental tsunami and starting casting about. Surely there was something I could do to endear myself to her. I wanted to her to like me, really like me. I saw there were dishes in the sink. That’s it, I thought! I can do the dishes. At least, I can do the dishes. I set my course and headed to the kitchen. I started washing dishes and sense of relief flooded me. I open the dishwasher to load the plate in my hand and my relief sunk and gave way to despair. The dishwasher was filled with Ball canning jars – only they were filled with lids (which isn’t possible and was so confusing, but dreams…). I looked at them trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Was she cleaning them like this, and if so why? Were they clean, or were they dirty? I couldn’t tell. I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t want to pull them out if they weren’t clean. And I didn’t want to add the dirty dishes in among the jars if they were, in fact, clean. And that was it. There was nothing I could do. I dropped down to the floor, my head in my hands.
My alarm rang, I woke up and felt sick to my stomach.
I know what happened to trigger this dream. It didn’t happen to me. I was startled by how much emotion I felt as I woke up out of the dream. Trying to be enough, do enough to be accepted and wanted was a life-long theme of mine. I thought I had grown up and past most of it. But, to be hit so viscerally by this dream showed me that I have more room to grow.
The day it happened, I took time to journal the dream. I learned a lot from doing that. And, as I’m writing now, I just realized something more. I’m in early stages of moving my artwork and writing from hobby to who I am and what I do for a living. My artwork and my writing are personal expressions of me. It’s a vulnerable thing, putting your artwork for sale. I’m working on books that I will publish and sell. I couldn’t have chosen two more personal kinds of work to build my career with. It’s not a big surprise then that, while triggered by someone else’s experience, my own dream psyche would pluck that emotion from the seabed of my subconscious and bring it back to the now roiling surface. And the way it came up so unexpectedly and quickly, I was feeling emotional decompression sickness.
That morning, I couldn’t have been luckier to have pre-arranged plans to meet with my friend, Kellie. I felt emotionally fetal. I wanted to curl up and hide. I couldn’t because Kellie was on her way. For a split second, I thought about asking for a raincheck. And in the other half of that second, I knew going out with her was exactly what I needed to do. And it was. (Thank you again, Kellie!)
Now, 3-4 days out from that dream, I’m feeling better. As I continue to unpack what I felt and what’s happening circumstantially that brought that emotion back to vividly and vitally back to life, I’m becoming more and more grateful for the dream. What I’m doing… building a business to support my family using personal forms of self-expression isn’t easy. Being clear now that, under the surface of my knowing, fear was building. I’m grateful it is now topside and I can see it for what it is. I can chart my course, batten down the hatches, secure my lifelines and navigate my way safely through my stormy seas.
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