Sunday, March 11, 2007

A wandering soul

this week's Sunday Scribblings has really given me cause to think. The subject is Dream Journey. For someone whose wanderlust has been starved, I have a virtual banquet of dream journeys in mind.

I want to swim along the shore of a Greek Island. I want to eat olives in a Tuscan market and walk the tragic, triumphant trail leading to Golgotha. Can I lose myself and find my peace at Chartres, tremble at Stonehenge, feel small at Ayers Rock, and stand struck mute on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I want to shiver in the mists of the Scottish isles where my ancestors lived and drink dark ale in an Irish pub. I want to pant as I climb the steps at Chichinitza and puzzle the Sphinx's riddles while looking her in the eye, ride a San Francisco street car, mourn the ferocity of science and humanity at Nagasaki, weep at the gates of Auschwitz, take in a Broadway play, feel my tension sink into ocean with the setting sun at Key West, devour deep dish pizza in Chicago and always, always come back to sweat stained nights of gumbo, jazz and cafe au lait in New Orleans.

There are thousands of dream journeys I long to take and millions of country roads to travel. As a writing theme for me though, this is just too easy. It's a toss off, and I want to push myself a little more today. So I return to the theme and am pulled to the world of my subconscious: Dream. Journey.

That's what a dream feels like to me -- a journey. Though I may enjoy them, they're not pleasure trips. They're more like pilgrimages, no, odysseys, because what's more important than the destination is that I travel. In dreams, I just have to trust that I am being led to where I need to be. Even in sleep, this is not easy for me. I've destroyed dreams in that limbo between sleep and wakefulness, when I tried to control where they led. The dreams rebelled and disappeared to come back another night when sleep claimed me so fully that I could only follow where my subconscious led.

Dream journeys have this in common with real life travel. They're best when you pay attention to your surroundings and bring home souvenirs. If I ever wake from a dream clutching a tangible object that came from my mind's journey, I'd probably scream and let my mind shatter. However, the images and sensations I retain from dreams are what keep me intact now. Having some dream symbol finally make sense to my logical brain often leads me to a plan of action or helps me clarify a goal.

As a child, I had a terrible repeating nightmare. People thought I was dead, and my body had been placed in a coffin in an old fashioned living room. I had only a limited amount of time to convince people that I was really alive and that what had happened to me would happen to others. Small creatures with bizarre weapons kept me from being able to communicate. This dream repeated itself for years, and I aged in the dream as I did in real life. Never, ever was I able to conquer the paralysis that would lead to my my dream.

The souvenir from that horrible trip was this: My voice is important, and I must and will speak. To do otherwise is to die. What I have to say must be heard not just for my own sake. I may not know what message of import I carry, but I know it will mean something to somebody. In real life, this isn't as dramatic as it is in dreams, but it helped me realize who I am. The horror of my childhood sleep prepared me for the me I am still becoming and wouldn't let the writer in me die even when life said it had no place in my practical world.

Other dreams guide me on my real life journey still. In my years of caregiving, my time was divided between my father's home and my own. My sister and I wanted our father to have the comfort and familiarity of his home as long as possible. To do that, I would spend several weeks with him, and then he would spend a few weeks with my sister. This time was rewarding and challenging. The schedule was never mine to control though, and one night I dreamed that I was unpacking my bag after returning from my childhood home. In it were only watches, and none of them were mine. It was only through this dream that I was able to recognize some of the stress that I was feeling. In many ways that dream was a serious turning point. It was then that I started making time for myself again, even if it was stolen in moments, regardless of what other responsibilities I held. It was then that I started using my voice not just to explain but to say no.

Saying no may sound like a simple thing, but it's a wonderful moment of self-definition. By letting my dreams guide me, I began recreating a life that was more truly mine. I do have thousands of dreams in which I travel to my more sophisticated self, my sassier self, my more saintly self...the million different selves within I so far only glimpse in dreams. I have journeys of wisdom and rib shaking merriment, journeys of heart trembling fear and tremendous courage and strength.

In a way I'm glad I don't know the destination to which they're leading me. It makes me pay more attention. It makes both my sleeping and waking worlds sharper as I look for symbols and gasp with delight when I find them. I can't take an atlas and point to everywhere I want dreams to take me as I can other mappable journeys with tourist guides and currency exchanges. I love though where they've led me so far. I also believe that they'll help set this temporarily grounded would be gypsy roaming again one day.

Sunday Scribblings, dreams, travel, growth


Blogger Kimberley McGill said...

I love the relationship you have to your dreams: I agree, they can be great teachers. And NO has never been simple for me - though I have learned to say it more for the sake of my own sanity!

March 11, 2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger Nelle said...

Dreams are so fascinating and I never tire of thinking about them. I am often frustrated at remembering only tidbits of them or waking before the ending.

March 12, 2007 7:22 AM  

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