Oftentimes I wake-up with a lingering scene, hazy behind my eyes, my last dream like a cerebral hangover. The character’s lines are spent, the drama unfolded, yet the cast idles about. No one seems ready to call it a wrap. It’s a rather wonderful bestowment, those few minutes when the subconscious passes the torch back to the frontman, my conscious self. Usually, I wonder if the dream was a memory revisited, or more likely, an imagined playlet, sometimes in the form of perceived karmic retribution, and other times, karma narrowly avoided. Either way, my dreams always seem to work out, even if it means waking up just before the disaster completely emerges. I appreciate my dreams for having the sincerity to deliver a conclusion, even a thin one, on a regular basis.
What do dreams even mean?
Maybe they are nothing more than the dark crevices of your mind creeping to the surface when filters aren’t present to lash them in place. Maybe they are repressed creativity gone amuck. Maybe they are admissions of desires too potent to discuss, even with ourselves. Whatever they are, boring is not one of them.
This morning, I found myself frantic in the lobby of a hotel. The lobby was big, more like an atrium, dark and rather sultry. The guest rooms lined the perimeter of the building all the way to the ceiling. The top of the doors were visible above the railings that stretched around the lobby. like they were taping the building together from the inside out. I was searching for Cracker. Someone had stolen him. My eyes peeled the dim lobby for signs of fast-moving, short little dog-legs trotting across the marble floor. I glimpsed a black dog at the end of a leash, headed out the sliding glass doors to the portico. I ran after the dog, only to realise he was too tall and didn’t have tan points.
Once in the parking lot, I noticed a crowd of people were walking to and from their cars with their dogs on leashes. It appeared there was a dog show in the parking lot that day, not for a specific breed, but for small black dogs with tan points. There were a lot of them. I realised this was both good and bad, as he had to be here, but would be more difficult to find. I ran through the parking lot, between the cars, calling for Cracker, asking anyone along the way if they had seen a very small black dog with tan points. Finally, a young couple leaning against the trunk of their car waiting for things to begin, pointed at the car across the row from them. They said, “Well the girl who owns that car has one inside there who sounds a lot like the dog you are describing.”
I peered in the tinted windows, but I could only see boxes piled in the back. I pried the hatchback open anyway, and sure enough, I pulled the lid off a shoebox and found Cracker stuffed inside. He was shaking, dehydrated, and visibly upset. I scooped him under my arm, relieved to have found him, but as I headed in the direction of home, the girl saw me as she headed toward her car. With a face twisted in rage, she ran after me wielding a coat hanger that she had bent into a hook. She wanted to kill me. I swung Cracker behind me, defending myself with my one free hand, now equally as enraged as her.
Then I woke up.
I didn’t recognize her, or anyone else, as someone from my past. It’s possible the hotel was one from a single-night stay in Frankfurt, but that was many years ago, and there have been many hotels visited since. Where the details come from and how they manifest is truly a mystery sometimes. I dream about Cracker every now and then, and it usually revolves around rescuing him from impending doom.
I’ve often wondered if our lost loved ones come back to visit through our dreams, but I can’t recall ever feeling “a presence” of someone passed. This is a little disappointing since I’m open to the idea, in the same way it was disappointing, for decades, when no stray dog ever materialised on any one of the multiple farms I frequented, because secretly, how would I ever say no to that? If it showed up, I considered it meant to be. Actively pursuing one for adoption, well, that would have been irresponsibly egregious.
But fate never intervened.
Only once, for maybe a month, did I have a feeling of a “presence” around me. It happened when I first started running after my accident ten years ago. (Addendum: Ten years feels like a different lifetime.) I heard footsteps behind me, keeping tempo, as I continued down the gravel road. The faint sound sent a chill up my spine. My legs turned to rubber. I kept running, considering what I should do next. Keep running? Run faster? Turn and look and assess? I opted for the third choice, stopping short and whirling.
No one was there. I backtracked a bit, to convince myself I was indeed alone, before continuing on my way. Soon I heard the same scuffing of footfalls, the soft swing of movement. I stopped and turned, braced for a confrontation, but there was only stillness, an empty road. This happened several times. I finished that initial run with the hair standing up on the back of my neck. It didn’t happen every run after, but it did for most of them. It was very disconcerting. I wanted to believe it must be JB following me, protecting me, saying his good-bye. I was still recovering from a pretty good concussion then, but sometimes believing your version of the truth is far more lovely than what the truth probably is.
I read a funny meme recently. It said, “Lockdown can only go 4 ways: you’ll come out a monk, a hunk, a chunk or a drunk. Choose wisely.” Humor is an elixir, and so are dreams and imagination, if you can rope them into lingering for just long enough. It has truly been a struggle for the last six months. My thoughts feel censored and stripped before they ever land in print. I can only attribute this to a persistent nagging sense of impatience, like standing at the start line, stretching, waiting for the bell to ring, but not sure what race I’ve actually signed up for, or if there is even a race to begin with, but waiting for it to ring anyway, just in case. My mind is a hummingbird’s wings, flitting endlessly between the past, the present, and the future, but not landing long enough anywhere to embrace them with any modicum of fidelity.
So I’m going to suggest you stop reading any further. It’s probably wise advice for the rest of the year too. I sense I’m headed toward a pit of sludge, knee deep in the shit, with nothing more than a rusty trowel and the tears of my frustration to fuel the monumental effort of digging myself out. It could take a while, and like pushing past a comfort zone of any kind, the process is usually ugly and at times embarrassing, when you easily miss the mark, despite your due diligence. Humility is the personal pain of our ego, the one we don’t even know we have until it shows up, usually in front of witnesses, and at the most inopportune times.
On a brighter note, I just wrapped up a three-week Brand Strategy Sprint with Section4, aka Scott Galloway’s ed-tech branding house. This was my third one this year, except this time, I wasn’t a student. I acted as a TA. I loved the first two sprints I took, and I learned a lot in both. Just as valuable however, was the community I met and collaborated with, in the Sprint. The footprint was global, which lent incredible perspective to the course. As a TA, helping others with the intense process I had experienced myself was incredibly rewarding. I forgot how much I really love to teach, assist and mentor others, made even sweeter by the fact the cohort was comprised of incredibly talented, intelligent people already accomplished in their own careers, or on track to make it so.
I find it surprising, during a pandemic, I met and collaborated with people from all over the world, while also levelling up my skillset. It was another reminder how priceless an opportunity it is to view the world from another person’s lens, from someone who lives in a very different way than you, or your friends and family. Doing that over and over again in a short period of time was such a gift, even if it did wake my wanderlust from its dormancy where it’s been stashed all year.
I was hoping the spark Sprinting ignited would lend to a revival of my creativity and imagination within my writing. It seems an even more potent prescription must be necessary. Maybe a travel pass next year will do, somewhere new in the world, to help shake the fruit loose from my proverbial tree.
In the meantime, my new favorite word I recently learned is Mozartkugel.
It is on the bucket list when visiting Salzburg!