Saturday, 24 January 2009


It’s been awhile now since I have had a dream that stayed with me in such a visceral way. Apparently, we all dream in some form or another during that phase called REM sleep, the deep, consolidating, replenishing phase that occurs in the later hours of sleep. Or as WS put it,"sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care." (Or not!). Perhaps that is why those dreams can appear so vivid, and we sometimes awaken still feeling disoriented. This type of confused awakening happened to me this morning.

In this particular dream I had discovered that I was one course short of completing or qualifying for some sort of designation. It obviously had to do with writing, because the workbooks and the test itself were all about language. I felt annoyed, confused, and frustrated. How could this be possible, with an honours degree, a specialist certificate in English, and two graduate degrees, where exactly was the gap, and how had I missed it?

One of the things that fascinates me about dreams is not so much the panorama of events, or the sideshow of images, but more the strong, intense feelings that the body generates. The heart beats faster, or so it seems; the brow furrows; fists clench; the body moans, groans, laughs, mutters. We are in another world, a parallel universe, living or reliving through memories, challenges, past or present problems.

So coming back to my dream, I began to wonder about its relevance or symbolism. Certainly, throughout my early adult life I was always taking one course or another. Teachers do that. But I also loved the world of academia. So while my children paddled in the water with their friends on a summer’s day, I enjoyed a lawn chair in the shade, with a text on whatever topic of literature I was currently pursuing. One of the motivating elements of those summer courses was that I got the reward of a grade that could accumulate into another category in my teaching grid, or another degree. I called it disciplined hedonism. It always felt good.

With this dream in mind, I could also venture into the deep, dark abyss of motherhood, and realize how inadequate my qualifications were in that department. I kept hoping that hugs, hot chocolate and warm cookies would do the trick. It seems to be working with my grandchildren. But one’s own progeny are more complex than that. I am sure, in fact I know, that I missed the grade, so to speak, on more than a few occasions in their young lives. And yet they have emerged as successful adults, by any reasonable standards. So I stand proud of them alone for being who they are.

A person can take full credit for a test score or a job well done. Those are measureable achievements. Children are not. Perhaps my dream was all about the feeling that I am missing a motherhood credential. One of the challenges of the second half of our lives is focusing on what we can change and what we can’t (thank you Reinhold Niebuhr), putting aside the self absorbed activities of youth and focusing on a more selfless approach to sharing our wisdom, experience, and energy with others, especially Grandchildren. Gosh I am trying my best in that department.

While I was chatting with my son last night to wish him Happy Birthday, he asked the usual, “What’s new?” I said that I was trying to complete the final draft of my novel (“You know; the one I have been working on for the past three years!”), by the end of this month in order to have it ready to send to a publisher for consideration. He said, “What novel?”

Now, he knows that I love to write, that I am always dabbling in something, and I have referenced my novel numerous times in the past. But he is living the life of the young, career oriented adult (husband and father), hearing words that don’t register, because his mind is so full of all the challenges and exigencies of his own day-to-day life. (Oh yes, that was me, not so long ago. Okay, I understand. )

I said one more thing to him. “Yes, I want to finish this first novel (with emphasis on first) so that I can legitimately call myself a writer (with emphasis on writer). His mortgaged mind immediately responded, “Yes, it would be good to get an income stream out of it.”

I didn’t choose motherhood, or take courses, for monetary gain. Nor am I under any delusions about making a fortune with my writing. We give birth, get an education, and do whatever else we do, garden, sculpt, paint, write, because it is in our bones, our hearts ,our visceral selves to do so. I write for the same reason that I love, because it is part of who I am. To misquote Jerry Maguire, “It completes me.” And obviously, as my dream reminded me, there is still some "completing" to do.


Wisewebwoman said...

Or perhaps, Marylou, that you are hard on yourself, always running 'short'. Maybe the message was to be more gentle with yourself.
Isn't it odd how some equate writing to revenue stream when we write simply because we have to?
I've never had a choice.

Darlene said...

I wandered over from Time Goes By and am so glad that I did. Your writing is so professional that it inspires me to improve my feeble attempts.

I was especially interested in your dream analogies. "A parallel universe" spoke to me because I have had that feeling when first awakening from a vivid dream. It's as if I live another life when I am sleeping.

I was also interested in your analysis of your dream. I took a psychology class one time and one assignment was to keep a dream journal. It's interesting what you can learn from your dreams. I don't think one dream gives you the insight into what message you receive, but if you write down your dreams over a period of time, a message emerges.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a perfectionist's dream to me. The bar is always held high! Or, perhaps, the "responsibility dream." Lord, I hate them.
Your conversation with your son ("what book") sounds familiar. They are so wrapped up in their world (as we were) but I still hope that I won't entirely morph into a mere grandparent however much I love being one.

Marylou said...

We are in sync on both the way, I am still eagerly waiting for your earlier article...I sent my email address. Did you not receive it?...

Marylou said...

Thank you, Darlene. Lovely, generous words. I will "wander over" to your site as well, and leave comments on the articles of interest to me (I suspect many)...What a wonderful process this is, allowing us to connect with like minds and similar interests, "to listen", and be "listened to", from all over the world. I hope we well connect often.

Marylou said...

Dear Anonymous. I wish I knew who you were, to congratulate you on your insightfulness directly...enough to say, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. And yes, I agree with the morphing temptations. My grandchildren (like all others!!!) are so precious, and I am increasingly aware of how quickly time passes, that I hate to miss a precious minute of their lives...and yet, I must remind myself to pay more attention to my own writing life as well...
I hope you will connect again, this time unmasked...

Midlife Slices said...

Ahh...dreams. I'm having a slight problem with too many "bad" dreams lately and I'm sure it's because my laundry list of stressful situations is as long as my right leg. Do we ever really complete or achieve our goals? I say....not unless we've set the bar too low and then what is the glory in that? Good luck with the novel, and please let us know when you are published so we can all run out and buy our very own copy.

Marylou said...

Hello MlS...thanks for the marketing overtures for my pending magnum all I have to do is find someone to publish it!!!
As for your NMs...I have left a comment on your blog...I am sure you have had lots of suggestions, advice, interpretations, etc...hope things settle soon...I will be dropping by your site to check up on your progress...