Something real?

I’ve always been a good dreamer, but lately, it’s off the charts. I reckon it’s probably because of the medication I’m on. There’s some cookey stuff.

I had two dreams seemingly related, one after the other. In the first, I was an Australian student at an American university. Most of the other students were American, obviously, but there was also a heap of Canadians who had a healthy rivalry with the Yanks. I was the cool kid on campus. Everyone wanted to know the laid back Aussie, and they competed for my attention. I was invited to everything, and every girl loved my accent. I was tall and athletic, a handsome guy but with a relaxed, fun attitude – almost the archetypal Aussie.

Anyway, there was some contest between the Yanks and the Canucks, and I had to judge it. It was pretty rambunctious, but ultimately I gave the prize to the Yanks. Nobody took it too seriously, but there was a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’. Finally, I stood up before everyone, and with a big smile on my face, told the winning team, “I’m just like a Canadian…only interesting.”

They went off at that, all of them, the Yanks cheering and the Canucks playfully booing. A great time was had by all, and no doubt a few bevies consumed.

I’m this impossibly handsome, charming, confident and super-cool dude who has everything in the next dream. I’m a member of one of those families you sometimes see on American TV shows, all beautiful to look at and decent as all-heck. Too good to be true, in other words, and generally enough to make an Aussie stick their fingers down their throat. In that golden family, I’m the golden boy, shiny teeth, great hair, and all – all Hollywood.

Anyway, I’m out somewhere watching some celebrity environmentalist or something give a presentation. He’s young and cool too, though pretty earnest, and I’m impressed. Afterwards, I offer to give him a lift home.

Instead, I take him back to the family house, which seems to have people everywhere. I walk in with my new friend and loudly present him – he’s here just in time for your interviews, I tell the crowd, and by that, I mean radio and TV. He’s a tad surprised but goes along with it and the crowd, as always, goes wild.

The place is rocking, someone’s tapped a keg, and everyone is looking good. Then my father shows. He’s a big, good-looking man with the sort of head you expect God to have – regal and grand. Think – for those who can remember that far back – the Michael Landon character in The Little House on the Prairie. The noble patriarch. I go to introduce him to my new friend, but instead, my father apologises and tells him he has to have a word with me first.

He takes me aside, sincere and concerned. You can’t go on acting like this, he tells me, doing whatever you want without telling anyone. He scolds me gently, his eyes never leaving my face, then welcomes the visitor with a smile, shaking his hand.

I mingle with the crowd, troubled and considering what my father has told me. I realise he is right. I’m not a bad person – in fact, I’m a decent soul – but I get carried away with myself. I return to my guest and apologise. “I think I need to give you something real,” I tell him.

He understands but interrupts before I go further. “I have something real for you,” he says and then invites me on a trip with him into the wilderness. Dream ends.

What does that mean?

Day to day

Last week, when my worst fears became possible once more, I dreamt that I was abducted by the sort of terrorists who film the act of cutting your head off. I was in the process of escaping their clutches when I woke. Did I get away clean? Or did they re-capture me?

It seemed obvious to me once my mind was clear that the dream was a metaphor for my situation. The abductors are Cancer. I am trying to escape from it but don’t know yet what the prognosis will tell me. I choose to believe that I eluded them and found my way to freedom.

Last night I had another interesting dream, and more complex.

I am part of an expedition that has travelled to a faraway planet. An earlier expedition had built a great building to house them and where they would conduct their scientific experiments. Every one of them has disappeared, however, which is one reason we have come.

The planet is inhospitable but safe. We can breathe the air, and gravity is as we know it. It’s dim, though, and for most of every day, a wild wind blows. It’s not somewhere you go for a vacation.

There’s a scene involving lifts and precarious footing leading to a great fall and death with one misstep. All that is vague to me. What remains clear is how members of our own party begin disappearing without a trace. There’s fear in the air and great uncertainty. None of us knows what is going on.

Then, walking between buildings one day, I see a distant moving shape come in my direction. In the dim light, it’s hard to make it out. I pause, not knowing if I should be afraid but curious also. There should be nothing outside of our cluster.

From behind me, I hear a cry. A guard of some description has spotted the shape also and is raising his rifle to shoot it. I call to him to stop. Then, the shape emerges, and I can see it is a dog. It runs to me, as dogs will, full of energy and affection, and leaps harmlessly into my arms.

It’s a huge relief, obviously, but the mystery deepens. Where has this dog come from? Then we realise that it was brought on the first expedition and that it has not changed or aged a day since then. Then I wake.

I am in a pattern now. I try to balance the discomfort of my head pain against the fogginess induced by the tablets I take to reduce it. Unfortunately, there’s little give in the equation, and I feel I have few options. I try to hold off as long as possible, but by mid-afternoon, I must take something – today, it was the first thing.

I take one of the painkillers prescribed by the doctor to start with. They are safer apparently and are made for chronic pain. I have two versions, the more intense lasting 6 hours or the 12 version that more subtly blunts the worst of the pain. Neither of them removes the pain by themselves, and neither last long as claimed. They are the background medication I take.

I’ve worked out the best I can do is hold until the afternoon, when I’ll take a 6-hour tablet, before taking a 12-hour tablet in the evening as I prepare for bed. Today, I had to take a 12-hour tablet at 9.30am.

These are what I’d call defensive measures. When the pain begins to amp up regardless, as the day goes on, I take a different tablet – a frontline tablet.

Most effective is Neurofen, but I have to be mindful not to take them every day. Panadol is much less effective but much safer also. Whichever it is, I try to hold until the evening before I must take one, though more often it’s late afternoon. If it’s a Neurofen, I take only a single tablet.

They last for a while, but eventually fade. I resist taking another in the evening, though sometimes I will.

By now, I feel pretty foggy. I’m slow and distant. I’ve noticed that I’m talking with a slur, and occasionally I’m unsteady on my feet. These are all unwelcome side effects. I may sit on the couch and watch TV, but I know it will be an early night. I try to last until 10pm, which is an hour sooner than normal, but half the time, I’m in bed shortly after 9pm.

It’s strange, but it embarrasses me that I’m reduced to such an unmanly state. I feel useless and helpless and as if my life is not my own and my body and health the plaything of malicious fate. I feel time differently and, once more, as if I’m outside of regular convention. I hate the sense of being used and, as much as the pain discomforts me, the psychological disruption is difficult to manage.

Once I’m in bed, I might try and read for a while, energy permitting, and more often lately, I will listen to an audiobook as I drift off to sleep.

I welcome sleep. It’s when I feel most safe. I’ve learnt, though, that unless I take the necessary precautions, I’ll wake in the middle of the night with my face and head in pain. So before I turn the light out, I take a Voltaren. I sleep well with that, without disturbance, and wake about 9 and up to 10 hours later.

As an adult, I’ve always woke up pretty clean. Open my eyes, and I’m completely switched on. Not now. Now I wake like I did when I was a growing teenager and couldn’t get enough sleep. Mostly it’s Rigby who prompts me to wakefulness, an hour or so after normal. Then I am groggy as if walking from a heavy dose of sleeping pills. I suppose I am.

My inclination is to roll over and go back to sleep. Often I will. But then, sometimes, I stagger out of bed to feed Rigby and even make a coffee. I go back to bed, and half the time will go back to sleep. I’m never quickly out of bed by choice. It’s where I feel most comfortable. Today, I didn’t get out of bed until 10.30.

I’m at my best, approximately, between 10.30am and 1pm. Then the cycle continues.

Through this, I must still function. I’ve given up work temporarily, though I’ve done a few things. As I must soon shift home, I force myself to pack boxes and to go out and check out properties (I applied for one yesterday, in Black Rock, out of necessity).

I can’t wait for all this to be over. I have an MRI tomorrow and the specialist again on Wednesday. I assume the most positive outcome, but it still leaves me with huge questions to be answered. This episode has shaken me out of my complacency. When I’m right again, I must seek answers. I know now, everything has an end date.

More fun

I had a dream last night that I was young, and I had a gang of friends who were cool but who were also all into science. I was smart and resourceful, funny and determined. There was a girl I liked I wanted to get the attention of, so I contrived situations where we would encounter each other that would show me to advantage. She was elusive, though, the type that appreciates her own worth and wants you to work to get her. I was up for the challenge, and the dream was all about that, like a fun TV show from the seventies or eighties, with a bit of a Ferris Bueller vibe.

The whole vibe was fun and over the top – episodic adventures and a laugh track. The character I was, you just knew I’d eventually win out. The rest of it was about books and music – I was into that, and so was my desire. And my hip friends had that geeky touch that made them interesting. In one scene, they’re watching an old Barbra Streisand movie set in an earlier era. Throughout, they’re busily searching a college equivalent of Google looking up historical and cultural references – which is the sort of thing I do.

Afterwards, I realised that’s the very thing I miss most: fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt it. And, it seemed, in its absence, I had sold myself short. The Bueller character was in me, and maybe it’d been me in an earlier incarnation, but in recent times I’ve been bogged down in the here and now.

It’s not as if times are particularly fun these days. Covid, and repeated lockdowns, tends to take the edge off anything whimsical. The inability to travel doesn’t help, on top of which we live in an era of dreadful governments and politics, and I find it hard not to be wound up by injustice and corruption. Then there’s work.

The answer, it seems, is to let go of some of those things. I’ll always be politically and culturally engaged, but I can take it less personally. I can’t do much about Covid, but it will end. Then there’s work, and that’s something I can act on.

Work has been a problem for a while, and in the last few days – since my scare – it’s just seemed wrong, though I couldn’t explain why. Then it became clear: there’s no fun in it. And how can there be when you feel undervalued and exploited? Even the work I do, which I do competently, isn’t the sort of work I like best. I like to create and build, but all I’m doing is managing. I take an intellectual approach to problem-solving, which is out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy – just do it. The result is half-arsed results that drive me crazy.

After wondering all this time, I decided that all I need to do is find something that fits my definition of fun – challenging, creative, expansive, engaging. It’s not as easy as all that, but at least I have a sense of what’s gone wrong. That’s something to aim for because I’m not going to get it in my current workplace.

It might sound a funny thing, but I think I need to believe in myself as that person. Be bold again, be adventurous, don’t set limits and, as I always did before, bite off more than I can chew. I lost a lot of that going through the dire years of struggle, and ever since (though many still think me just as strident and confident as ever). I’ve become a lot more serious and solemn when I want to be light-hearted and charming again.

Get healthy. Get fit and beautiful. Don’t get bogged down in the negatives, go out and find some positives. Have fun. That’s the goal from here on in.

The garden path…

I have patches like this when my dreams are fertile and vivid. They resonate through me and provoke wonder and thought. Mostly I don’t remember my dreams, but at these times they come fresh to me every morning.

I had at least two interesting dreams last night, one of which I want to describe for you.

We live in a futuristic, utopian society, a feature of which is that men can carry children, though not to term. By some medical wizardry, men can carry the growing babe in their stomach for the first two months of pregnancy before somehow it is transferred to the mother.

I have carried one child like this before, and it was a happy, joyous experience. Now I have another. The wife, mother, whatever you wish to call her, doesn’t feature in the dream at all. I am light-hearted as I make my way towards the medical clinic for a check-up, stopping on the way to take in a beautiful vista.

In the clinic, a doctor takes me aside and explains all is not as should be. Something has gone wrong, and it appears that I have misinterpreted some earlier advice that has led to this. The pregnancy appears doomed.

I am devastated by the news. I’ve gone from being buoyant with joy to terribly sad in the blink of an eye. I shake my head and wander away before being called back by the manager of the clinic. He leads me into a room out the back, and we sit down. He expresses his condolences at the news and apologises for it. I explain to him that I think it was my fault; I didn’t listen as I should have, distracted by the happy news that we were to have a second child.

He is kind and sympathetic. He has a gruff but compassionate manner. He looks like the undercover cop from Hill Street Blues, if you can believe that. He assures me I did nothing wrong. The responsibility is all theirs, and he can’t possibly express how sorry they are for my tragedy.

His kind manner does me good. For a moment, the sense of personal tragedy lifts and I feel grateful to him. The dream ends.

The dream follows from the news yesterday afternoon that the long-mooted promotion and pay rise due to me come July is no longer. I suspect it never was. Instead, I believe they were happy to give me vague assurances hoping to string along because they needed me onside.

This was revealed to me by my direct manager, who shared a cab with the head of the section on Wednesday night when they discussed me. It seems nothing is in the budget for me, and there was no indication that anything more would come my way. It’s not definite or confirmed – surely, they must give me something? – but I trust it to be generally accurate. I need more than a token gesture.

We were on a Teams call when he told me. I didn’t quite explode at the news, but something bubbled over in me. As I explained to him, as I had before, I was disinterested in titles, though the title they had mooted is something I have been doing for a year in all but name. To grant me the title would force a substantial pay rise to go with it, and so they refuse to give me the title. Fine, just give me the money.

I was furious. No, it wasn’t about the title. And though the money was bloody important, it wasn’t entirely about that either. It was trust and respect and loyalty and the brazen disregard of it that stuck in my craw.

I’m an old-fashioned guy, I told my manager, I believe in these things. I’m happy to give them but expect to have that reciprocated. When it’s not – when they lead me down to garden path with honeyed words, leading me nowhere – then all bets are off.

This is a trigger event for me, for complex reasons I’ll write about another time. I’ve realised that my future lies elsewhere.

And it was this event that led to the dream last night. The promise of a promotion and pay rise was the child in my belly – something grand, latent and yet due to be. Then, naturally, the news that the baby was no more – and was it my fault? Had I got it wrong? But the kindly doctor at the end set me straight – I had every right to expect better. I’ve been failed.

That’s what I think, Freud.

The man of my dreams

I had this dream not last night, but the night before, that left me mildly disturbed when I woke.

The details of the dream mean little. Basically, I was on my way to a wedding, somehow got dunked in the surf, and then met an attractive blonde woman in a bikini I utterly charmed. What seemed meaningful was the man I appeared to be in the dream.

He was me; I was him…but he was an optimised version of me. He was handsome and witty and very charming. He was fit and tanned and well-groomed, even after taking a dunk. He was supremely confident and in control, and people clamoured to him. He had a great presence, and everyone loved him for being a fun guy and a good man.

He had all the attributes I possess, but dialled up to the max, as if I had spent a month being prepared to become this person – primped and preened, tailored and groomed, made fit and healthy, and all my worries disposed of.

If I was ever that man, then we parted company about 20 years ago. I still have many of those qualities, but the years have diluted them. I was a 10 on every measure in the dream, but in life now, most have been dialled back to about 6, and my pre-eminent quality – self-possession – is now a fragile thing.

Still, I could see myself in him, especially in his wit. After he got bowled over in the surf, he absolutely wowed the woman who came to his assistance – witty and smart and very alluring. It was my style of wit, words I could easily have spoken – but without the force or confidence of the man in the dream. It was no wonder the woman fell for him – I thought him a rum fellow myself.

What disturbed me is that the dream seemed to taunt me: this is what you could have been. It felt as if it was rubbing my face into my middling existence. It was a pointed finger – how did you manage to lose this possibility?

I choose to believe that man is in me now – not lost, but dormant. That’s how I turned it in my mind. Not as something that might have been, but something that still could be. That was my challenge. Be the man in your own dreams.

It’s my birthday today, and it seems an apt occasion to set myself. If not now, then when?

The dreams I have

I dreamt last night that I was a contestant on MasterChef. I had been entered into the competition by friends and wasn’t happy about it. I felt out of place. Everyone was younger, and most appeared to be exhibitionists, rowdy with exhortations and positive vibes. There were a couple I’d become friendly with, but otherwise, it was foreign to me. No-one seemed capable of a meaningful conversation that didn’t involve food, and that left me feeling sour.

There was a food challenge – concoct a finger food involving chicken. Pretty simple. While everyone whirled about me coming up with their fantastic concoctions, I stood there like a shag on a rock. Since I was there, I had to come up with something good, but not just good – novel. That was the crux of it.

Then I started. On reflection, the recipe isn’t as novel as I hoped, but – given it was a dream – not nearly as ridiculous as it might have been.

I cut pieces of chicken into long fingers and then marinated them in lime juice and chilli. In the meantime, I crushed some cruskits and seasoned with chilli. Then I coated the marinated chicken in the cruskit crumbs and fried until they were crispy – the cruskits gave it a distinct crunch. That was the novelty angle. Then I served with a dipping sauce of sour cream with pomegranate and lime rind.

Don’t know how I got on with the judges. By this time, I had become fascinated by the recipe. I might try it some time – crunchy lime spiced chicken fingers.

PS I may as well record this in the same place – my dream the next night, which is unusual enough to be worthy of recording.

It’s in the last days of WW2, and I’m a German commanding a King Tiger (II) tank. The war has come to Germany and we’re stuck behind enemy lines trying to make our way to the relative safety of the west.

Though we are without support and against the might of the Russian army, for a warrior such as me, there’s a kind of exhilaration as we battle against them. Our tank is the most mighty weapon on the battlefield. Any opponent we strike is destroyed, but they seem unable to inflict serious danger upon us. Our major threat is being overwhelmed by numbers, which is a real possibility.

We shelter in the ruins of a village one night. Around dawn, I sense the enemy approaching. I rouse the crew so that we can make a quick exit. Unfortunately, it takes minutes longer than it should for us to get underway. By the time we do, the enemy is behind us and, as we roll towards the outskirts of the village, we can see a dozen Russian tanks coming in the other direction. We appear trapped between two forces.

I curse and change direction. I’m defiant, but years of battle, of death, have left me bitter.

The enemy has not spotted us as yet, and we hide in the ruined streets of the village edging our way towards a potential escape route between them. Finally, we make it through, our engine’s noise and crashing through the ruins unheard over the massed engines of the Russian tanks.

When it appears we have reached some safety, I turn on my 2IC. He had been slow to pack up when I commanded it. He had doubted that the Russians had closed so near. He is a good man, capable and compassionate. He cares for the men, as I do, but in a different way.

I am a tough leader. I know to be compassionate means sometimes being harsh. My sole objective is to lead the crew to safety, and there are no compromises. I remind him that next time I give an order, he is to follow it without question – they can come later. I suggest that he trust my judgement and instinct, my experience, which is far greater than his. And I give him the very practical instruction that for everything he unloads from the tank he must put something back, and that we must be ready to break camp within a maximum of two minutes, that’s the rule.

I don’t know if we make it to safety – the odds are against us – but I’m a believer it can be done. I won’t surrender or give in. The dream ends there.

Losing control

I had a dream last night that I was a part of a paramilitary type unit. I was in command of a small troop patrolling a city when race riots broke out. My unit and I fought to protect the vulnerable, ushering them to safety. Outnumbered, it was a bruising experience both physically and mentally. We fought hard and long, but we couldn’t protect everyone and watched as some we couldn’t save set upon by the mob and beaten.

Eventually, the riots died down, and reinforcements were sent to the city. It was in the aftermath, and we were sitting in a room sore and reflective when one of the replacements pipes up. There’s one like this in every group. He’s had a look around, and everything has become quiet, and with a mocking tone to his voice, he wonders aloud what the big deal is about? He goes onto to say it’s all an exaggeration and probably political anyway. And what does he care about the victims of this – they’re not his people.

I’m respected by my team because I’m calm and measured, and I’ll always make the right call. They know I’ll do everything to protect them. They understand that I lead with a moral imperative, but I’ll always have their back. They’re shocked then, by what comes next.

I’m exhausted. Though we’ve fought hard, I’m dismayed at the thought of those we couldn’t save, some of whom were friends. I hear this man’s words, and I sit there reflecting on them, then I get up. I walk across to him, and though I know it’s probably the wrong thing and counter to my image of self-control, I feel great satisfaction as I swing with my fist and knock the man down.

I’m disciplined for this, obviously. I’m stripped of my command locked away for a few days. My team is shattered at what’s happened. Though they understand my feelings, they wonder what got into me. Is the old man cracking up?

I’m released and return to the unit. My 2IC has now taken over the team. She’s someone I have an intimate relationship, and she looks at me with tenderness and pity. The rest of the team are happy to have me back but uncertain given my present status. It doesn’t feel right that I’m not out in front.

Also, there is the man I struck, as well as some of the top brass. There’s trouble brewing again, and we’re about to be thrown into the cauldron. The new skipper, my lover, is angry at how I’ve been treated. She wants to protest and demand that I’m reinstated. I smile at her and with a gesture as if releasing something from my hand, I tell her to let it go.

One of the top brass has observed the interaction. He chuckles, makes a comment about wise words, and then proclaims that in light of the coming troubles it’s been decided that I will re-assume command of the team.

The whole team is thrilled. They come to me, one by one, to let me know how relieved they are that I’m in charge again and how much they’ve missed me. One or two admonish me gently, but even the recruit is happy to have me back.

They feel safe with me, and it’s an obligation I’m happy to shoulder. I look at them knowing we have a job to do. They look back, waiting on my command. The world has righted; there are things to do – and our mission to do them.

Thus ends the dream.

As always, I wondered what all this meant. It seemed to me that once upon a time, I was once that person known for calm and unflappable judgement. I used to thrive when the pressure was on. There was an edge to me, and I was more inclined to go my own my way than the character in the dream, but he’s recognisably similar – at least in my mind – to who I was.

That I’m not that man now is something I’ve come to accept, though most of the elements remain – they’ve just combined in a different way. Funnily enough, a work friend told me a couple of weeks ago that I was the wisest person she knew. I felt uncomfortable with the praise and made light of it, remembering how much I’d fucked up in my life.

I like that man in the dream and wish I was he. That I dream this now is a reflection of recent times I think. I’ve been off the last few months, as many have been. In that time, I’ve been managing what I’ve described as the most unpleasant project of my life.

Much of it is just plain difficult – an incompetent vendor, a tricky brief, everyone working remotely, and perceived pressure from board level. What’s made it more challenging is that the team drafted in for this – unlike the dream – are unwilling to be part of it. They don’t believe in the value or purpose of the project and question it. I share some of their reservations but, as I tell them, our job is not to question the validity of the project but to deliver it. (Unfortunately, all of this plays into the general malaise I feel, doubting the value and purpose of every task.)

For me, it’s been difficult because I’ve got little practical support but from one, and so have to shoulder much of the burden myself. Like the character in the dream, I feel like snapping sometimes. I look at them occasionally and think how nice it is to have the luxury of an opinion when you don’t have to put anything on the line.

But how does the dream reflect all this? And what is it telling me?

Uncle Don

I dreamt last night that I was Donald Trump’s ‘nephew from Australia’. I went to visit him, and we went on a road trip together and hit it off fine. At one stage we’re walking side by side along a busy road with a lake on the far side of it. It’s pretty, and we’re talking and as we go along, he takes my hand in his. Though I’m in my early twenties, I accept it as a fond gesture. And in fact, all through my dream my experience of Donald is that he’s a friendly, generous and fun to be around sort of guy. And actually, quite a basic character when you strip away all the bullshit – which is an awful lot.

I woke with this dream in me and didn’t know what to make of it. Then I thought some more and it didn’t seem so strange.

Like much of the world, I despise Donald Trump, but I also pity him. It seems a generous position given all the terrible things he’s done, but when I look at him, I see a man terribly out of his depth. He’s not smart enough to know it, and certainly not to admit it, and so he blusters and pontificates to hide his ignorance and to supposedly portray the sort of character he wants to be. Unfortunately, the real tragedy in this is that he’s been allowed to get away with. He’s a prime analog for the emperor with no clothes, and so he swans around naked while his cronies and the corrupt and imbecilic who follow him fall over themselves to exclaim what a splendid suit of clothes he’s wearing.

This is one of the diabolical aspects of these times. I don’t know of any other era when someone so profoundly incapable would attain such a position of power, and maintain such power throughout. It says a lot about the fierce polarisation of ideology these days when someone so inadequate and dangerous is preferable to the power-brokers behind him than some liberal alternative. And it says a lot about the usual checks and balances in society that have allowed this – a critical media and an educated electorate.

I wonder sometimes in his reflective moments – if he has them – if Donald suspects he might be such a strawman? Does he ever look in the mirror and realise he’s a terrible fraud?

I think the truth about Donald Trump is that he’s not very bright (and has probably some form of Alzheimer’s), was badly brought up, and learned early it was more important to bullshit and bully and barge your way through than to get your hands dirty. I suspect he’s a man without any real values or convictions.

He certainly has a history of bigotry, but I suspect little of it is firmly held. It’s more a matter of convenience or some perverted sense of being cool, which I think is important to him. He’s a populist carried away on the tide of his own narcissism. Everything is status for him, and he can’t bear to be seen wrong or ignorant, which is why he invents such fantastic tales and why everything is always the best or biggest. He’s really a child who somehow has become the most powerful man in the most powerful country on earth.

That’s just my opinion and none of it excuses his behaviour, though it might explain some of it. If not for all the bullshit he might be a reasonable guy – but then, there’s a lot of bullshit.

Dreams and long hair

I think the hardest thing for me being in lockdown is the utter sameness of life, from one day to the next, and from week to week. There’s nothing that disrupts the monotony because the opportunities for variety are so limited. You could do a time-lapse of my life right now, and it would be a suite of scenes repeated again and again. For me, it makes the routine of life close to meaningless because you recognise in its sheer repetition. It’s no different from life before – except that before there was padding in our life to hide the fact, and enough variety to make it less critical.

The other thing, obviously, is the lack of human connection. I see Cheeseboy every Saturday morning when we walk our dogs, but other than that it’s incidental contact with people in shops, and through remote meetings – if you can call that a connection at all.

As I’ve expressed before, I accept it, but I don’t have to like it.

I had a dream last night, which, when I woke up, left me feeling more positive. The details are blurry, but I remember I did a lot of moving around in the dream and that a lot of it was work-related. There was an incident when I’d been called away to do some urgent work and had to briefly relocate. I was returning with all my stuff under my arm. As I passed by a woman said: “you’re a good looking man, man”. Then I was joined by a friend who helped me with my stuff – in actual fact an Essendon footballer, Michael Hurley. When I got back to my (company allocated) apartment, I found someone else had moved there. He’d pulled rank and taken over the vacant property when they were short of space. He said I’d have to find somewhere else. I knew better.

I didn’t make a fuss, I just dumped my stuff on the floor and made a quick call. A moment later he got a call from the top asking him to vacate and leave the place to me. He was bitter and complained about my ‘friends in high places.’ I just shrugged. I knew my work was essential, and it was valued, which is why I knew this would happen. Then I woke.

It felt like the old me in the dream. A me I used to take for granted. And I woke still feeling that sense of being valued.

It puts a different spin on these sterile days. I’ve been growing my hair long – haven’t had it cut since before started in lockdown back in March. I started off curious and without any great need to get my hair cut since I was working from home. It had a symbolic element to it also. This was reverting to type, I thought, to my natural and untamed self. It was an assertion of independence in a way, of individuality. Isn’t it strange where we search for symbolism, and where we find it?

I feel almost the opposite now, and it’s been coming for a few weeks. I now look forward to getting my hair cut (I can’t until we’re out of lockdown). Besides looking a bit tidier, it would signify a brighter future – a redo, a start again, a let’s get out of this lockdown and live once more vibe. There’s the symbolism I’m reaching for.

It’s all probably a bit strange and empty, but in times like these, the vague meaning of dreams and invented symbolism take on a greater significance. If it feels good, I’ll take it.


And what does the prang mean?

I was in a dream where I was a consultant as part of a team pitching for a new job with a client. The pitch was a joint effort between two different entities partnering for the work, and I was engaged by one separately to assist with the proposal and presentation.

The dream begins when we’re all returning after the pitch. We’re all jammed into the one car. I’m in a smart suit and am content I’ve done my bit well. It’s me in an earlier guise when I was younger and more ambitious and at the cutting edge of things.

Next to me is a woman who is a member of the other entity. She’s in her early thirties perhaps, professional and attractive. A lawyer, I think. We strike up a conversation. She tells me a little about her work, then refers to the blue University of Melbourne clipboard sitting in my lip (which I possess), assuming that I graduated from there.

In the dream, I only did a semester (just as in real life), and I have an internal debate whether to admit to that and go down the long-winded and uninteresting path to explain it. I figure I’m never going to see her again – my job is done – and so I basically nod my head without making any comment. It’s an omission of convenience, though it troubles me instinctively.

The next thing is we’re in a minor prang. We all get out of the car and find it’s undrivable. We mill about waiting for a taxi or something, and while we’re waiting I go with the woman to a nearby cafe for a coffee.

We get talking some more and we find ourselves warming to each other. We’re more than just acquaintances thrown together making polite conversation. We’re now genuinely interested in what the other has to say, and I find myself drawn to her, as she seems to me. She’s warm and smart and kind, just the sort of person I want to know, and perhaps get close to – and it feels as if the same feelings are dawning on her.

We laugh easily as it goes along, but in the back of my mind, there’s my faux pas about Melbourne University. It’s a small thing really, and something that can be easily explained without embarrassment, but I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ve lied to her. I feel because of that, she might have the wrong idea of me and that our warm relations are based upon something false. It’s an over the top appraisal of the situation, but you know what it’s like? Everything has more meaning and greater bearing when you figure you might like someone.

It plays on me still when we get news from the others waiting outside that word has come through: we got the job! Everyone is festive. We decide to have a drink together. It becomes clear now that I have some sort of personal relationship with the principle of the entity that engaged me. He’s a kind of father figure, and clearly very fond of me. He starts praising me to the group in general, but particularly to the woman. They’ve all cottoned on that the woman and I have become friendly and the mood is of amused encouragement – let the young ‘uns go!

Not surprisingly, I become a tad embarrassed by his effusive commendation, especially when he gets things wrong, or exaggerates my achievements. All of this seems to pile on top of my original lie. The woman smiles. She’s enjoying it. There’s a teasing affection in her as she observes my discomfort, and it feels as if we’ve achieved some kind of casual intimacy. It’s great, but what am I going to say?

That’s the dream. There are a few things in here to unpack, but I won’t do a public analysis. The key elements, to me, is that this is a previous version of me – a long way from where I am today. And the lie, if you want to call it that, which could be symbolic of many things, but perhaps alludes to not belonging, or perhaps to an embarrassment I’m unwilling to admit to. There’s plenty of those. Then there’s the father figure – it harks back to earlier days also, and to relationships and affection long gone. And the woman? I suspect she’s more generic, though representative of a deeper desire. But what do I know?