Tag Archives: Dreams

Looping Back

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. Recently, my laptop died – something had gone wrong with a start-up program and, lacking a CD drive, the machine had to be sent back to the manufacturer for re-installation of the faulty program. Alas, this meant that many files and programs were wiped away, cast into oblivion. The “customer service” person I spoke to in some faraway foreign land read to me from her script:

“Before sending in the computer, Ma’am, we recommend that you back up all files.”

“Well,” I replied, “I can’t start the bloody computer, so how could I possibly back up my files?”

“Oh, well – nevertheless, we recommend that you do that. It’s what we recommend.”

Sigh.

Anyway, one of the lost programs was Microsoft Word; since my computer runs Windows 8, I have no choice but to pay about a hundred bucks every year just to write and to save what I’ve written, assuming that I continue to use Word. One hundred smackers! Well, it turns out that there are other options. After much grumbling about corporate greed, I downloaded OpenOffice. Allow me to sing their praises for a moment – huzzah for OpenOffice! A free word-processing program that can open Word files that would otherwise be denied to me by the Microsoft gatekeepers – what a lovely gift!

Anyway, realizing that I’d been foolish and lazy about securing backup copies of my writing, I set about recovering many bits of a novel in progress, some of which I’d written out longhand in various journals throughout the last five years.

I’m a great believer in the therapeutic value of keeping a journal. The kind of grumbling, grousing, musing, imagining and navel-gazing that goes on in my journal would bore the most loving and patient listener. But I’ve had so many “Ah-ha!”moments while reflecting in writing, especially during difficult times. People pay a therapist good money for the kind of insight that we can get from writing out our thoughts, dreams and troubles, with no audience in mind but ourselves. Patterns emerge, vital questions arise, and we can try out answer after answer until one finally rings true.

And I truly believe that there’s a power in declaring one’s intentions, in detail and in writing – “putting it out there in the universe” so that our heart’s desires can begin to manifest in our lives. Yes, it sounds a bit woo-woo, but in my experience, writing about my goals is a big step toward achieving them. For example, during the last, unhappy years of my previous marriage, I wrote in detail about the kind of life I wanted and the partner I wanted to share it with. Et voilà! I now have the freedom I longed for, the time I need, and the most wonderful partner to share this new life with. Is there some cause and effect at work here? Well, knowing what I want and where I’m headed certainly helps.

But I digress. In order to piece together the missing bits of this novel in progress, I looked back into my old journals, going back to the last few years of the aforementioned unhappy marriage. I skimmed through three volumes of determined declarations, tearful regrets, and then reread the joyful beginning of my current relationship with my now-husband. Wow! Even more than photos ever could, the words scrawled in hurried, careless cursive on those pages took me right back to my sunny backyard in Germany, to hotel rooms and waiting rooms and train compartments where I planned a better future. Reading those pages, I relived those painful endings and joyful beginnings. A lot of what I wrote was repetitious, and a lot was bluster, a way of propping myself up with firm declarations at a time when my life was resting on a wobbly foundation. It did me good to revisit that not-so-long-ago version of myself. I wish I’d been a better journal-keeper back in my 20s and 30s, but my 40s and 50s (so far) are well documented.

An important part of this journey of reinvention, of crafting a new life after retirement, is remembering who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do – long ago, and recently. There are threads running throughout the narrative of my life, and reading through those old journals reveals the strongest, brightest threads (dance, the joy of movement, the importance of creative self-expression, the love of reading), as well as the tangled threads that have tripped me up again and again (impatience, being judgmental, procrastination).

How about you? Do you keep a journal? Has recording your life’s journey helped you? Do you ever revisit those pages you wrote long ago?

The Musings of a Late-Blooming Rose

Last night’s dream left me with clammy, sweat-soaked sheets and a heavy ball of nausea in my gut.  I was chained to a mule train, but we weren’t mules – we were matrons. An endless train of lumpy women with bowed backs, flabby butts, and thick ankles, we shuffled forward along a narrow dusty path, hauling heavy loads on our backs. We were so many that our plodding had worn a rut deep into the earth, and walls of gray clay rose on either side, hemming us in.  It was cool and damp down in there, but up above the sun shone. I paused to look up, but the women behind me jostled me back into line.

“Keep going.”

“We’ve got work to do.”

“Gotta pick the kids up from soccer practice.”

“PTA tonight.”

“Repairman’s coming at five.”

“Get back into line, sister.”

“Whatta ya think you are, special?”

And so I fell into line, too tired to look up at the sun, too weighted down with backpacks, diaper bags, and – Oh dear God, a mini-van !

Well, the mini-van’s been gone for a while now, replaced with a sleek VW station wagon, and …wait a minute, hold the phone! Can a station wagon be sleek? See, I thought I was making a more stylish choice, but it seems I’m back on the chain gang, shuffling through the dust. And here’s the thing: I only had one child, and now she’s off at college. So why is it so hard to shake off this mommy self-image? Why is it so hard to make choices in car, clothes, comportment, activities that reflect the fascinating, mature, worldly woman I really am? Is it, perhaps, that this fascinating woman got trampled in the dust of that endless train of trudging matrons?

You know how sometimes you wake up mid-dream, vivid images still spinning around your befuddled head, frustrated because you want to finish the scenario, bring the story to a close? And, once in a great while, you’re able to go back to sleep, rejoin the dream, bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Here’s how I’d end this one:

I glance up once more at the tantalizing sunshine high above me. The unthinking, unfeeling women behind me give me a shove, this time to the side, out of the line of trudging drudges.

“Get out of the way, dreamer.”

“Yeah, you’re holding up the line. Move it.”

And, befuddled, I set down my load. From high above me, I hear a musical sound – was that laughter? I look up and see faces looking down at me. Merry faces, laughing eyes, and a pointing hand.

“Looks like they lost one.”

“Hey, you down there. Want to come up?”

I glance around, feeling a little panicked.

“Can I do that?”

“Sure you can! Come on!”

And a hand reaches down toward me, then another. Someone dangles a long, sparkling scarf. I reach up, but those helping hands are just out of reach; the end of the scarf tickles my fingertips. Well then, there’s nothing for it but to climb. I dig my fingertips into the cool clay of the canyon walls and find that I can grip, can lift myself inch by inch above the plodders, closer and closer to the sunlight. Words of encouragement rain down from above.

“Look, she’s climbing! You can do it! Come on!”

I slip once, nearly falling back into the abyss, but I haul myself up, exhausted, to the lip of the canyon, where soft, strong hands reach down to grasp me. Hands with sparkly rings, brilliantly polished nails, dangly-bangly bracelets that tinkle. And up, up, up they pull me until I’m rolling onto the soft, springy grass. I blink into the sunlight and see myself surrounded by women – lovely, colorful, fascinating women – and all of them smiling at me.

“We’ve been expecting you. Come on – let’s have some fun.” And off they go, dancing, strolling, swaying, striding across the lawn, toward what seems to be a party, a wild, outdoor festival.

Now that’s where I want to wake up.

And, in fact, I am waking up. And, upon further reflection on this dream, I realize that the women trudging in their rut all looked an awful lot like me. You see, there isn’t any one particular person who encouraged me to be a mommy drudge, a drone, a drab, duty-bound automaton – not friends, not my child, not even my ex-spouse. (Well, he didn’t exactly encourage me to shine, but still…)

And there’s no one who’s going to lift me up to the next phase of my life, not even my dear friends, nor my amazing boyfriend. I have to make that climb on my own. But I’ll bet I’ll have lots of company on the way – other women my age who are waking up from a dream to find that the sunshine’s just out of reach – but reachable. Let’s climb up out of our rut together, toward the sunshine. I want to see what that party is, just over the horizon. I’ll bet there are lots of fascinating, fabulous women over there, and I’m going to be one of them. How about you?