Dreaming

Edith here, in the chilly northeast corner of Massachusetts, gearing up to spend Thanksgiving with only a single loved one instead of ten or more <sniff>.

I’ve been thinking about dreams lately, and of stories. Of course I’m dreaming of the day the world opens up safely again. Dreaming of hugging my son and his wife; traveling to see my other son in Puerto Rico; scooping my favorite three year old girl into my arms, maskless; going to mystery conferences again and hugging all my author pals; hanging out with the Wickeds in person (and hugging). Can you tell I’m feeling hug-deprived?

Edith’s son Allan and Miss C, Edith’s great-goddaughter (both masked)

But those aren’t the kinds of dreams I mean.

I often wake up at three or four in the morning and usually manage to get back to sleep. The dreams that arise after that are the vivid ones I remember after I awake for the day.

Some have pretty obvious meanings. Earlier this week, I dreamed that a local Quaker friend urgently told me a caravan of white supremacists was rolling into town and what were the details of the vigil I was supposed to have organized? I knew in the dream that I felt guilty about having to tell her I hadn’t set one up . I’m sure I’m still feeling bad about not volunteering to do more in the recent election.

In another, I was carrying someone else’s tiny baby AND sweeping up someone else’s cake and sandwich crumbs in someone else’s church. As an author, I often wonder if I’m doing enough to get the word out about my books. But when I accept lots of invitations to appearances or set them up myself, I easily feel overwhelmed with obligations.

I find it interesting that during the pandemic I haven’t had any of my long-time recurrent nightmares of something going terribly wrong while I’m traveling. Maybe my subconscious knows there’s no way I’m traveling anywhere for quite a while.

But what do dreams have to do with my writing? I still vividly remember a dream I had a decade ago. I was visiting with the King of Norway and his American wife (I have never been to Norway). I knew their young adult daughter had been murdered, and at one point spied her bloodied body being carried away beyond where the King and Queen sat. They didn’t see and didn’t seem to know of the death. The people carrying the body signaled to me to keep quiet. I did.

SO many questions! Who killed her, and why? Why did I stay mum about it? What happened when her parents discovered the crime?

I’ve always meant to write a short story incorporating that scene, and I might still. But I think mining the images and feelings from my remembered dreams can be of great use in my writing. Everyone’s subconscious is tuned into areas of our being that are both important and unknown. Dream life is daring and crazy and scrambled.

I know there are many ways to make sense of dreams. When I was in college, I studied Fritz Perls’ Gestalt Therapy a bit (he explains it here). What I remember about his approach to analyzing dreams is this: all parts of your dream are parts of you. You might think you are the little girl cowering before the dragon, but you also have the strength of the dragon. I might be terrified in my dream while flying the jetliner full of people (usually to China) even as I know full well I don’t know how to fly, but when I awake I can also integrate the…oh. Never mind. It’s not always easy.

Still, can I be as daring in my writing? Can I let my subconscious/muse/intuition lead me into new and unusual stories, no matter what they mean? Can I give my characters the complexity, the flights of fancy, the astonishing newness of dreams?

Tune in next year, same time, and I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I wish you all a safe and delicious Thanksgiving.

Readers, what have your dreamed about that came true? What daring or wild or unusual thing have you done?

26 Thoughts

  1. Most of the dreams that I remember lately have been nightmares actually. Some might be seen as funny because of the situation in the dream. Like the one where I was getting married. But while having a nightmare about that might seem funny, it was how the dream developed that made it a nightmare (besides the horror of me getting married at all). But then there were other dreams that could only be seen as nightmares. I had one last week that I woke up like a shot out of it and couldn’t get back to sleep. Which kind of stunk because I was awake from about 4 am that day.

    One time I dreamt I was in the middle of a war, but the dream only occurred with a setup like the Donkey Kong game screen. I was leading a group trying to make it to the top of the screen but we had to fight zombie Nazis firing at us with rotten apples. Thankfully that nightmare didn’t come true, although the way this year has been going, I wouldn’t rule this one out from becoming real.

    A few times I’ve had dreams that came true. Once I dreamed I was at youth basketball game and suddenly the game that was being played ended and I was trying to figure out why. One of the coaches walked over to me and told me why. A few months later, this exact scenario with the same coach actually happened.

    Also, the idea of getting the girl in dreamland eludes me because I don’t even improve my luck then either. I once dreamed of the Swedish bikini team only to have them all in business suits talking about macroeconomics.

    I’d be happy to just have regular dreams that fade from memory once I wake up.

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  2. The dreams I have are usually nonsense. Buying tires for my car from the McDonald’s drive-through window, and the sales guy is one of my son’s tae-kwon-do instructors. That sort of thing.

    I don’t know as I’ve done anything daring lately. Going outside? Does that count?

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  3. I have had some dreams that have come true. Years ago and well before the event, I dreamed of a woman surviving Hurricane Marilyn in St. Maarten by taking shelter in the bucket of an earth-mover. Imagine my surprise when I read the story in the Times. Another was the cataclysmic flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Again, this was before Hurricane Katrina was spawned. Why hurricanes? I don’t know. 30 years in Florida, I guess. The dreams that come true have a different quality to everyday dreams. Sharper, more in focus and they are linear not scattered from image to image. I am also able to restart them where they left off if I wake.

    What have I done that’s daring lately? Hum…nothing comes to mind. Life is calm.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all. Our will also be limited to my husband and I, the cats, and the birds.

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  4. I have had warning dreams that I heeded. One was of someone breaking into the apartment I’d just put a deposit on; the building manager returned my check to me when I said I couldn’t get out of my lease (I didn’t want to admit to the dream). Months later, the new tenants had a break-in.
    A recurring dream of driving dangerously fast down a snowy, winding road never recurred after I backed away from a dark steep hill my GPS sent me to during a snow storm . . . and I got home safely by another route.
    UMSL professor and author Howard Schwartz advised us to keep dream journals beside our beds to gather the jewels our unconscious would bring up.

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  5. Most of my dreams are me as a much younger person and able to run and do all the things I can’t do now! In most dreams I’m walking around the city where I went to college or walking around the many towns where we have lived. Now that I am barely able to walk and with so much pain when I do, I think my dreams are my frustration giving me that much needed activity even if only in my restless sleep.

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  6. I’ve had lots of covid dreams over the last months. I’m in a parking garage, or a shopping mall, or an office building and I just cannot reach the exit. Every time I spot it, something or someone interferes with me reaching it and a lot of the time I’m wandering corridors, lost. My husband had the funniest one. He was on a submarine (he’s claustrophobic) and he’d gained 100 pounds while he was on it and when it came time to leave, he couldn’t fit through any of the exits. Yikes!

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  7. Happy Thanksgiving Edith, to you and yours and all of the Wickeds.
    Your post about dreams was very interesting and timely. My dreams have been particularly weird and chaotic the last few nights. The kinds of stuff where you wake up saying to yourself… What the Hell?!?!? Where did that come from?!? Generally speaking, I can identify what triggers my dreams. I’ve read that many people are having more vivid and strange dreams since the pandemic started. My personal theory is it’s because our everyday experience are less varied. There’s less interpersonal contact, so the mind has to compensate. I would like to know if extrovert people who are used to lots of contact are having more vivid dreams than the introverts. Although the situation is hard on everyone.
    Thanksgiving won’t be much different for us this year. My 98 yr old Father doesn’t care to go out anywhere anymore, so it Holiday for 2. Which is better than the Holiday for 1 I did for many years.
    It’s really hard on my older brother. He’s used to those 24 lb turkey gatherings. So he is missing his extended family. Ah well, next year or later this spring. I recently read a very profound idea. A therapist told a debilitatedly depressed patient who just couldn’t do the prewash to load the dishwasher, to just load the dishwasher and run it twice. To which the patient objected, but your not supposed to do that. He replied, there are no “rules”. Do it however You need to. So, have Thanksgiving or Christmas in April or May or whenever you are able. This is my new moto. Sorry, I kind of got off topic a bit. Have a joyous holiday.

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    1. So often we feel we have to obey the “rules” when there aren’t any except what we conjure up or what we told by someone who had not right to make the rules to begin with. Make your own rules for your own personal use. Enjoy life. Who cares if you eat lasagna by yourself on Thanksgiving and turkey with all the trimmings with your family in June? Be safe.

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  8. Both my husband and I had jobs most of our lives that required we worked on holidays. So, holidays were just another day to us. But we celebrated! We just did it on other days.

    I have very vivid dreams in technicolor and surround sound. But that doesn’t mean that they necessarily make sense. In the dream, they seem to be in realistic places, and seem to make sense at the time, but upon waking, they seldom do. The one exception is I dream a lot about bathrooms – the product of getting old and needing to get up several times a night! I get a good laugh at the variations of these dreams.

    In the past, I did a lot of very daring things in my travels. Now, I dare to walk to the top of the hill in my back yard and hope to get back down safely. I love getting old, but there are drawbacks. 🙂

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  9. I do not remember most of my dreams. A lot of times, I will dream scenes from books that I have read. There are many times in life that I wish I was dreaming when tough things are happening. I know everyone feels the same way.

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