A Dog, a Descent, a Dream

I always write down my dreams–they’re signposts, they’re gifts, they’re the straight talk I can’t hear during the day, they’re the littlest part of me asking for help, they’re the biggest part describing more than I can consciously conceive. By writing down my dreams I am giving all this a voice, and charting a progression that is as clear if not as linear as the growth pencilled on a door jamb.

Last night I had a dream that yanked me so hard that I am sharing it here. It is silly and it is strong, as all the best dreams are. Some find sharing dreams to be an indulgence. I consider it an unveiling of the underbelly, unfamiliar and soft–an act of trust, really. I don’t do it often.

Here is the dream.

I am at Jennifer Aniston’s house, with a ton of other people whom I don’t know. We are helping her pack. Stripped of its possessions, her house is surprisingly shabby, depressing even, though Jen does not seem to recognize that. She has many, many dogs—-small, fluffy little yippers. A type I don’t normally like though I find myself liking one of them very much. He is black and scared and neglected, and I spend a lot of time snuggling him instead of packing. Jen doesn’t notice; she doesn’t notice anything. She sweeps into rooms and then leaves them without acknowledging us. I find myself developing a serious antipathy for her. Oh, Jen. While I am moving one bag of her clothes, a blouse catches in a door and rips. I just leave it, don’t even bother to hide my tracks. She should have left that blouse on the set of Friends, anyway. I duck into another room and see a very tiny, oddbot kitten, stuck in a glass cabinet. On display, so unhappily. She will suffocate if she’s not released. Aniston seems to be trying to put this problem child away a little too literally. I open the cabinet and glide out of the room. I hear the cat mewing joyously, confusedly behind me.

By now I know this small black dog is mine; Jen will not notice if he comes home to snuggle with Grace and me permanently. The big problem is how to smuggle the two of us out of the house. Even before waking I recognize I’m in another one of my dreams in which getting out entails descending a very precarious structure that could kill me. This house is located at the edge of a very high cliff, and to exit I must edge down a staircase made of rusted, rickety metal that has been erected at an almost 90 degree angle. There is even a section that is comprised of very worn drawbridge: ripped-up wood flapping over a mile-high abyss. Fuck that. I explain to someone else—Brad Pitt, who is as nonplussed by this environment as I am—that I have to find a different way out. He nods. Then I find a backdoor leading out to a secret driveway. The dog and I slip out that way, and catch a ride from someone heading down that winding road. We are free.

For about 10 years I have been having dreams in which I will fall to my death if I leave an unhealthy situation. In which I am trapped, as the departure entails too dangerous a decline. I’ve never understood those dreams, have been too overwhelmed by their physical power and scope. Dwarfed by those terrible structures. But this morning, for the first time, I could see the architecture quite clearly, on every level.

Fears are not rational, which is why we can’t reason with them or even see them for what they are. Fears bring us back to the worst part of childhood. The part in which the world is unimaginable and therefore unmanageable. But when the dreams come into focus, so do the fears, which means they are ready to be managed. More, we are ready to manage them. This morning I could see it: By helping that small puppy, whom I was sure would not upset Gracie–I also was helping the part of myself still stuck in that house, impoverished and murderously hierarchical. The part being slowly suffocated for all to see, though no one was looking.

I will not fall to my death as I depart this madness for real. I will not die if I write my book, will not die if I help others to escape, will not die if I defy people who do not deserve their clout. I will not be killed for moving on.

Note: It’s been pointed out to me since posting that this dream took place on the even of National Dog Day. Suffice it to say I had no idea. Score another point for the collective unconscious.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy