A dream interpreted
Unlike many people during the last several months, I haven’t been keen on deep cleaning, or reorganizing, or new hobbies, or cooking, or much of anything constructive. I’ve spent a great deal of my time reading fiction — my historical escape mechanism.
Last week, that suddenly changed, and I found myself deep cleaning like mad on Tuesday. Why?
Several things happened simultaneously at the beginning of the week: my husband’s paycheck from his new job came, my health insurance issues finally got settled for the time being, and some lessons from a Zoom class on transforming negative thoughts and fears from stumbling blocks into positive actions all started to come together in my mind. How do I know these were involved? I had a dream.
The location was in Seattle, but not a Seattle any current or former resident would recognize aside from a few landmarks and place names. There was a fire in a forested area of Queen Anne (!), then rains caused a flood over the roads, and the downtown sector was very dark at night due to construction.
I was in a socially-distanced meeting in the courtyard of a downtown high-rise, where the ownership of forest lands, an estate deed and other property were being debated politically and legally. We suddenly got word that everything in storage in the building had to be moved out immediately before it was destroyed.
(Remember, it’s a dream; things don’t have to make sense.)
Turns out, I had a lot of stuff stored there, as did others. Some of mine went back to my college days decades ago! I worked at getting boxes and bags down from the 44th floor to the ground to be loaded into a moving van. But as the guys loaded the stuff, little things kept falling out of the bags and such: jewelry that was my grandmother’s, keepsakes from my travels, cosmetics that I had planned to leave behind but someone else thought I’d want and packed.
Someone had kitchen garbage they had brought down, and rats were in it. The guy in charge brought rat dogs to catch them but ended up having to catch them himself with towels.
I went back up to see if I got everything and discovered some small antiques and collectibles that had been left on furniture hiding behind the other stuff. Things I hadn’t seen in years. I started grabbing some of the fragile, shell-sized pottery and ceramic figurines, trying to keep from damaging them, when an antiques dealer said, “Why bother with that little stuff? They’re outdated and not worth anything now.”
I replied, “But they’re my memories! I want them.” Yet, when I started grabbing, it was more because I felt I ought to than because I wanted to.
Jim Parsons and a friend appeared, looking to see what they could scavenge and found some textiles in an old dresser. We seemed to be in competition, although I can’t figure out why. I waited anxiously to get on the elevator to go back down (the stairs would take too long), and as I stepped on, there was an announcement that the van had left. When I reached the bottom, people were milling about. Someone said that certain people with influence would have to make the request for another van sooner than 24 hours, but no one seemed to know who that was, nor was anyone really interested. And I woke up.
I’m not going to get all Freudian or Jungian or anything like that. When I have a dream that I feel is important, I simply ask myself, “What is my brain trying to tell me?”
First of all, a setting that is/isn’t Seattle is common for me. That’s where I lived for most of my life. Fires, floods, land use disputes, politics and dark cities are common themes of the news recently. Easy enough.
The fun stuff comes with “moving things out of storage”.
I’ve moved several times in my life, so downsizing isn’t new. In fact, my preferred travel souvenirs used to be Christmas ornaments from the locales I visited, as they were generally inexpensive, small and easy to pack. Until my Christmas box was stolen, but that’s another story.
At any rate, I still have ended up with a lot of stuff. But much of that stuff is internal: old ideas, thought patterns, and memories that don’t necessarily serve me well now. But they are still there.
In the class I mentioned above, we have talked about changing the stories that cause us fear and keep us from growing, and how to re-tell them in ways to defang their power. Here are some examples:
“If you can’t do it right, don’t bother,” becomes:
“You never know what will happen until you try it,” and “Anything worth doing takes practice anyway.”
“What will parent/teacher/boss/spouse/neighbors think?” becomes:
“I don’t know what they’ll think, and it doesn’t really matter. It is important to me to get free of my fear.”
“It’s not my fault X happened to me, I can’t do anything to change it,” becomes:
“X happened, but I don’t have to let that rule my life. I can choose how to react in a given situation and not let old emotions take control.”
You get the idea.
So, my dream tells me that, while I have a lot of internal stuff, I don’t need to carry it all around or store all of it anymore. Even many of the “precious keepsakes” are past their usefulness and can be left behind or actively thrown away. They don’t help me grow and may even try to hold me back from becoming my best self. I don’t have to keep any of them.
How did this translate to house cleaning?
With the immediate stress of money and health relieved, my mind could look at the internal stuff. And that became reflected in cutting emotional ties to external objects.
On Tuesday, I spent several hours trying to get the wick in one of my oil lamps to move. Three blisters later, I got it out, but it wouldn’t go back in. What’s significant about this lamp? It’s just like one my grandmother once gave me, except it doesn’t have a chimney and is all scratched up. It’s not even what I would call antique. But it was tied to my grandmother’s memory. It has now gone in the trash.
After that, instead of sitting down to read, I wanted to stay standing. So, I cleared off the kitchen counter — I was tired of the clutter. The same went for the microwave stand. I put some fall accents on a wall. I rearranged some of the cabinets. It felt good!
Growing up, my bedroom was my sanctuary. I was constantly being nagged to clean it, and I hated that. The chaos was both a reflection of my emotional state and my most overt attempt of trying to control something in my life. But that kind of chaos doesn’t serve me well anymore.
Now, I feel better when things are less chaotic and less cluttered. I want my home to look nice so I can enjoy it. Who cares about anyone else? And as I’ve begun purging both the mental and physical stuff in my life this week, I’m establishing healthy boundaries on emotions, fears and memories.
No, I won’t give up reading. (I read a whole book just yesterday.) But I don’t feel the overwhelming need to escape. I feel energized in a way I haven’t felt in months. I’ve been given tools to both identify my anxieties and fears and to shoot them down with questions that drain their power over me.
And those same tools are helping to put “things” into their rightful places — they may be reminders, but they aren’t the people or places or events that I have attached to them. And if their purpose no longer serves mine, I can gracefully let them go. And that is good.
I’m still not sure about the rats, but if I find some, all else stops until they are gone!
Grace, Peace and Hugs to you!