Thursday, February 10, 2011

Relax Your Mental Spam Filter (and Contemplate a Dream)

Last night I had the most vivid dream. I had been selected as a grant winner to write a children’s book. It was enough money to take a month or two off of freelance work and just be immersed in the creative process. Other than that the book had something to do with the ocean and ships -- I don’t remember too many more details, but I remember how I felt.

I felt as though I was being recognized for a talent I knew I had but had been afraid to engage. Nearly everyone was effusive in their praise (except someone shadowy, but I’ll get to that). More than anything, I felt like in acknowledging this award and accepting it, I was at home. More at peace and more serene than at any other time in my life. Like I was a key finding my lock, a puzzle piece clicking into the final empty space. Like I was being allowed to fulfill my potential.

As for that shadowy figure: I was aware of jealous, critical eyes, too. Surrounded by happiness and supportive people, I felt a dark presence that dismissed the award. “What, she got it? Oh, please!” it seemed to say. This person was full of unkindness toward the award and toward me, and essentially told me I didn’t deserve it. That someone else had been robbed, and that it seemed to be fixed. That I hadn’t earned it.

Upon reflection, I’m certain that sneering person was me. My inner critic. The one who keeps me afraid and holding back and procrastinating on all my big dream projects. The one who tells me to not shoot too high, and to stick with what I can get. With what people will just give me. Don’t ask for anything too good, she says, you don’t deserve it. And if some good thing should come your way? Don’t get too proud, you aren’t that special. And if you’re too good at something, watch out -- you’ll alienate people, and no one will like you.

I think dreams often have vital information. They’re the e-mails our subconscious is desperately trying to send to the already stuffed inbox of the conscious self. Could you dismiss them as spam from the wacky boiler room of your head? I suppose so. And sometimes they certainly seem to be undecipherable weirdness. But this one (and a few others I’ve listened to over the years) have had such resonant, lingering feelings that they are impossible to dismiss, even if they are hard to tease out.

The dream above is not one of those, obviously. It did take a little bit of reflection to know that the negative presence wasn’t someone external, but the critic and negative self-talker that takes up way too much space in my head.

Does that mean I’m going to start writing a book now? (I’m actually surprised by the fact that it indicated a children’s book, since I’ve never seriously contemplated writing one. Or maybe I have – subconsciously!)

Actually, maybe I will. Something tells me this is one of those dreams you listen to. I had a dream about starting this blog—even the name came to me in a dream—and it’s been a vital project in my life, even with my occasional sabbaticals.

I had a dream about knowing it was time to have a baby, and while I have never been busier or more sleep deprived, I can say without a doubt that he is the greatest blessing of my entire life. I was ready for a baby, and I’m so very, very glad he’s here.

I know that one doesn’t eject the nasty inner critic in one evening, but something about the dream above clarified things for me. I may have intellectually known that I had a destructive, sabotaging inner voice, but the dream was the only way I could have felt how damaging the voice is, and how right and perfect I am when I’m engaging my talents to their fullest potential.

Since I can’t know whether this dream will steer me in a new path until some time has passed, I don’t have too much advice. Just a suggestion to allow your most vivid dreams a chance to open up and show you something important that you might be missing.

If nothing else, maybe it’s a good idea to loosen up the mental spam filter and let something that seems kind of wacky or out there into a space where it can gain a bit of traction and legitimacy. And hey, who knows? Maybe it’ll be the newest priority on your to-do list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dreams are not timid. An insightful screenplay writer would be hailed as visionary to depict truths with the memorable and exacting symbolism that dreams serve up. It's an amazing mechanism and one that has always fascinated me.

If you see me in the morning, be prepared for my standard question: "What did you dream last night?"

One of my favorite responses came from my three year old nephew. He said he dreamed that he was at the library, and all of the books turned into ghosts. He wasn't scared, though, because they were good ghosts. I love that interpretation of the lasting power and effect of books. He may not remember the dream, but I know I will never forget it.

Not all dreams feature good ghosts. Your shadowy figure is an example. Which is where the 'not timid' comes in, and also where the real, difficult truths can be found.

I read this post a few days ago, but I didn't have time to write a (worthy!) comment. The night after reading this post, I had a very vivid dream. Not the same one where I'm on an access road, driving too fast to who-knows-where and I get distracted and the next time I look up I'm about to hit another car. That one's been all too common and not all that inexplicable.

The one I had after reading your post took place at work. I was told that the CEO was feeling weak and he needed a transfusion. We were connected together by these very long and painful needles and I could see my blood flowing through a clear tube into him. I couldn't move very far from him without tugging the needles, which hurt. I was getting weaker, but didn't want to disconnect because it seemed wrong to leave someone who said they needed me.

I've been struggling with a lot of doubt about my present path and the choices I've made, but I thought it was just a minor restlessness. This dream is warning me that the symptoms are much deeper than just spring-time wanderlust. My very lifeforce was being drained; melodramatic, yes, but probably not something I should ignore.

As far as your dream goes, I do think you should write a children's book! The bits I've read of your recent blog entries indicate you are deeply and perfectly aligned with motherhood, and I can't imagine that combining that with your writing talent wouldn't produce a joyful, wonderful story. If you're looking to read about another writer who was surprised when she discovered her calling (YA instead of adult), look up Nova Ren Suma. Nova talks about her journey - both the struggle and the subsequent success - with great candor.


Disclaimer: In real life, the CEO in question is in mega-good shape!!