Dream Believer

I was re-reading The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker, and the character, Lissie, talks about her mother starting to have dreams for the first time (or at least to remember them)  when her physical health improved. So here I am writing about my dreams. Because if I’m not waking up remembering a dream, then things are not going well. When the dreams come, some part of me is relieved and affirmed and joyful.

I have dreams that contain glimpses of the future, and I have dreams of impossible things and places – though not impossible people, I just realized. They are almost always full of the real people in my life (and famous people I adore like James Hetfield and Neil Gaiman).

I was writing all my dreams down for awhile, after talking with a friend about his dream journal and lucid dreaming. And while I love that I have those notes to look back on, feeling obligated to write the dreams down made them less joyful somehow, so I stopped. I do sometimes feel like I need to write about a particular dream, but if they need to be remembered, then I will remember them. And lucid dreaming – which seems awesome – was wrong for me. My dreams are messages I’m receiving, that I want to receive, and controlling them would mean not receiving what was sent.

And the dreams often feel ‘sent,’ not imagined or created by me or my sub-conscious or what have you. And I’m not sure I’ve ever articulated it as such, but my dreams are a big part of my spiritual understanding of the world. They are why I can’t give that presence any name that I’ve heard in the world. I say Goddess or Cosmos or Universe… but it’s really the DreamWriter I believe in.

I occasionally navigate my life by my dreams, though not in a “I dreamed about the beach, so I need to go to the beach” sort of way. The meaning lies underneath the story and I would be hard-pressed to explain how they mean anything at all based on the plot/summary/theme. I was practically haunted by a dream (the details of which I have no memory of now) for almost two days until a co-worker said he was driving to Oregon when we got laid off in a few days… and suddenly I was supposed to ask if I could go with him. So I did, and I got a virtually free trip to visit my best friend.

Mostly I get non-narrative stories that amaze and delight or amaze and require introspection. I finally forgave my shitty friend because the dreams would not leave me alone.

Sometimes I dream a clear, tiny sliver of the future –though until that future becomes the present, I have no idea. I dreamed about a particular moment in a particular room I’d never seen before, and in the dream I knew that the house belonged to Jerry, who was my boss at that time – and married to a dear friend. When I had the dream, they were planning to move to Colorado, and I was planning to move to Montana. But three or four years later, they had bought the place in my dream and I was living in their spare room.

I’ve had dozens of these in my life. The moments themselves are super-boring and virtually meaningless, (I’m walking to the copy room at work, I’m standing outside the bathroom at home) but a huge part of my belief system is that when I intersect with one of my dream-memories, I am on the right path in my life. So whenever they show up, I’ve a bit knocked out and overjoyed.

In the last 4-5 years, they’ve become more frequent and less intense. And I really miss that intensity – partly because it helps me be certain I’m not imagining them. But I can only guess that following the right path diligently has made them less necessary. Which is… good? But I miss that bolt from the blue.

That day in the shower when I realized I could never have a real job again – clearly not accurate in sentiment, but concrete in world-view – was maybe the first ‘bolt’ that wasn’t an actual dream fragment remembered but a fully awake message from the DreamWeaver that shot through my whole being – brain and body and whatever else there is to me. And after that it was so simple to figure out what I wanted to do, because if it didn’t resonate with that joy it couldn’t be the right choice.

But this idea that people who are unhealthy or lost to themselves never remember their dreams is so interesting to me. It’s so good. It seems so ripe for storytelling. So profound for life-building. We all know how sleep deprivation can fuck with your cognitive skills, this is only a tiny step farther on that path. It doesn’t even have to be spiritual. The presence of dream memories as an indication of being well-rested doesn’t really seem all that fanciful.

But for me, that dream life –and it almost always feels like an actual life being lived elsewhere/ when – is proof/ evidence/ corroboration of the existence of a spiritual being/ place/ dimension.

I’ve met one other person who glimpses the future in their dreams. I have friends who believe that they can visit real places in their dreams (astral projection). And I also have plenty of friends who believe that their dreams are meaningless.

What do you believe?

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For- Alice Walker

It’s one of those things that reminds me that there is mystery in the universe.  One of two epigrams in We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For?  “It was the best of times , it was the worst of times, etc. ”  A Tale of Two Cities. Now, I understand that AToTC is a popular, widely quoted book. But what are the odds that a book of essays published in 2006 by an African-American woman would quote a Victorian white guy’s book from the mid-1800s that I just finished reading?  Not a scary coincidence, but still strange.

This book is a collection of essays. The title refers to a theme that runs thru this book (the line is from a poem written by June Jordan, the other epigram) that we may be the generation that has all of the skills and tools to put an end to the horrors still left on Earth – war, poverty, ignorance, discrimination and the like.  And that is where the to connection to AToTC lies.  There was war, death and upheaval all around, but it was the result of a desire to end oppression and suffering.  Alice Walker sees our generation as uniquely qualified to end them once and for all.

Alice Walker is skilled at finding unusual metaphors for common themes, mostly those dealing with race and caring for the planet.  When giving a commencement speech, she refers to the I Ching.  In a talk given to an alliance of midwives, she invokes a Vietnamese poet, Native American poetry, the work of an M.D., some of her own poetry and essays, and discussions of Osama bin Laden and the war in Iraq. And somehow everything comes together as a whole that is new and illuminating.

One of the reasons I love Walker is because she believes in things powerfully and is not afraid to express an unpopular opinion. And many of the things she believes in are things I believe in, and it seems that in each new book I find something new that we have in common.  In this collection, she talks about honoring ‘the pause’ – those times in life when something big has  been accomplished or is changing, and the need to sit still with that change rather than just reacting (my paraphrasing).  Apparently a part of the I Ching encourages this as well – so it’s not just me and her.  I used to be a very reactive person, and as a result I did things that didn’t really make me happy, and people who knew me could easily push me into doing what they wanted by telling me not to do it.  I’ve mostly gotten rid of this button in my life, but it still pops up in times of stress.  If you can’t pause and reflect on your decision, then it is difficult to figure out what all the choices are and which one is right for you at any particular moment in your life.  These are the reasons I read Walker, to remind me that the choice is always mine, and the results are mine as well.

I read her daughter’s memoir Black White Jewish, also well-written. It does not gloss over how her mother’s preoccupations were not always a good thing for her young daughter.  But I still find comfort and inspiration from Alice’s words – maybe because she doesn’t always make the right decision any more than I do.  I used to read Living By the Word regularly to help me remember that I was not the only person trying to live by the guidance of the voice in the back of her head.  My favorite novel of hers is The Temple of My Familiar, a book about people trying to live a life that feels true to themselves and the interconnected nature of human life.

When I read Walker, I have to remind myself occasionally that, when she speaks at length of the horrors visited on the underprivileged in the past and present, that she is not just speaking of displaced Africans and their descendents, but also Native Americans, women and, yes, poor Caucasians.    Her focus is often on the African-American experience – understandably so – but she was also poor, and is still a woman and has experienced discrimination because of all of them.

For me, it’s clear that her writing is as much therapy for her as anything else, and the fact that the rest of us want to read it or hear her speak about her life is just a bonus. It allows her to live a life that makes her happy and support herself at the same time. And isn’t that what we all want?