I just woke up from a dream I’m calling putting together what I no longer want. The majority of the dream takes place in an ex-friend’s home. I’m dealing with a kid she decided to raise, who shoots salted sprinklers inside her house. My husband Fred and I are trying to maintain the situation, waiting for my ex-friend to return home from her new marriage.
What’s interesting is that we are no longer friends in waking life. She divorced her second husband two years ago, and found a third husband who lives in another state. She doesn’t want to continue our friendship. Apparently, I am part of past memories she wants to forget.
In my dream, it’s her daughter who asked us to help keep the situation under control while my ex-friend is away. So, we’re unwillingly in the drama of a kid with a salting sprinkler when my friend returns with her new husband, completely absorbed with new changes and her new marriage. She doesn’t thank us for helping with the sprinkler kid, because he isn’t real to her. When we were friends, my ex-friend only saw what she wanted to see, and was not a listener. Her new husband seems pre-occupied with a newly designed photo album that looks the same as old hippie pictures from the past. He has new pictures of their marriage, paisley drawings drawn over photographs decoupaged onto paper. I get the impression they want to be kids again, to ‘redo’ their twenties, but now they are in their fifties. It feels fake to me, but I’m quietly observant, because her daughter’s the one who invited me over. Funny thing, the daughter isn’t even in the dream.
My ex-friend shows me her redone apartment located beside a freeway familiar to me as a child. She’s excited about new plantation shutters with wide spaces at eye level so she can look outside at the road, but during the tour, she shows me no eye contact. I notice I’m keeping quiet, and looking for a way for Fred and I to get out as soon as possible.
My friend holds a six month-old baby that’s stopped breathing. She and her new husband are trying to keep the child alive, like it’s going to be a project for them in their new marriage. I’m horrified, because it reminds me of long ago, when my little boy had febrile seizures, and I don’t want responsibility like that anymore. The baby looks almost dead. Then my ex-friend gleefully announces she’s pregnant! I look at her and sincerely congratulate her, but really want to leave. The situation feels unmanageable.
Fred and I finally get out the front door, while my happy ex-friend and her new husband stand around in their apartment. I’m over the whole situation, and realize my boundaries no longer extend to her direction. What a relief.
I wake up from the dream, and lay with my eyes closed, thinking about what it means. I think it’s about the effort I’ve lately put into rearranging my manuscript, which could be seen as trying to revive a sick baby. In my latest revision, I’ve pulled together three stories, trying to weave three plots. The stories seem very ordinary. For years, I thought there was value in them, but it’s clear the stories may no longer be worth telling.
When I first started writing down these stories fifteen years ago, I felt thrilled to think people would want to read it. Several versions later, one version being 450 pages long, I intertwined so many stories with my relatives that my part is small. Some of it is interesting. When I fill the story with other people’s stories, it gets larger, but also grows vague. Another friend recently read my last version and truthfully told me she thought the version was too vague, and she would have stopped reading if she hadn’t known me.
I’m sure she is right.
The dream helped me understand that small moments in my life matter to me, but may not matter to other people. Like when I was a kid running down a railroad track behind my house without falling off the shiny metal rail, feeling joyful to ‘stay on the beam’ for so long. That story stands more like philosophy to someone else, than trying to share my true experience. I’ve tried to stay on the beam my whole life, through relationships, friendships, dealing with substances, going to work. When my children were small, they loved to hear stories of olden days. They are grown up now, and my stories seem far, far away.
I’ve reached the bottom of myself. I’m sober and facing the truth. This is not a sad bottom for me, more like touching the bottom of a swimming pool and realizing I can’t go any deeper. I’m calling it a boundary. I have enough energy to get back to the top and breathe awhile longer.
It’s a relief to have energy to keep my life going forward, rather than trying to go deeper into the past. Last night’s dream illustrated the silliness of hanging onto memories of friends and stories from my youth that I don’t really care about anymore, and I can see my past for what it is. I draw no more conclusions, but simply want to finish a very long process of self-discovery.
Pru, you are growing so much as you edit this manuscript. The past is interesting and we can learn from it, but you can’t live in the past. We are both learning to live in the present and move forward instead of living in the past. I am proud of you.