The discipline of the writing life can be tough. So many ideas rattle around in my head. I tell myself I must write every day. But often I can’t decide which project to work on or which direction to go next. I stumble, lose track, start over. And sometimes, I just find it hard to keep my butt in the chair. My thoughts simply get too tangled up. I get stuck.
But every once in a while, I get lucky. That all-knowing, ever wise and mostly unconscious part of myself cuts through the clutter and comes to my rescue. Sometimes it’s a sudden insight as I practice yoga – isn’t it amazing how important things just seem to pop into your head while you practice? – and other times, it’s a dream. For most of my life in fact, dreams have guided me. Just when I can’t figure things out for myself, my dreams step in to give me a clearer picture. Not always a pretty picture, but at least a clearer one. In fact, sometimes so clear it almost hurts.
Dreams, for me, have always been provocative. Either they’re mysterious and exciting. Or they’re pointed, stark and brutal in their honesty. I linger over the beautiful mysterious ones of course. And cringe at the others. But always, I try to pay attention.
But this most recent one was a combination of both. Funny, puzzling, and then upon reflection quite eloquent. It was one of those haunting dreams that always seems to be some sort of sign post. Here’s how it went.
It was a dream without action, more like a “dream-situation”. Just me with a group of friends. The single most important thing in the dream was that I found myself, of all things, pregnant! It wasn’t an earlier me or a younger me or even a different me. It was this me, right now, today, age 67 and PREGNANT. The strangeness of this didn’t hit me too quickly in the dream. No, I was busy seriously debating with myself about keeping this baby. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I was totally and somewhat stunningly on the fence. I asked around a bit for others’ opinions but no one had any thoughts for me. Finally, just before I awoke, I blurted out, “My God! What am I thinking? I’m 67!!”
I awoke with that odd confusion one often has emerging from a vivid dream. Not sure what’s real and what isn’t. It was a relief to realize that no, of course I wasn’t pregnant. But I was also a bit disoriented by this particularly disturbing image.
What Was That About?
At first, it seemed to me that this was a silly dream about sex. Yes, I’ll admit this, I thought it was about sex. But there wasn’t any sex in this dream at all. This was a dream about pregnancy and my own indecision. It was decidedly unsexy! But why on earth would pregnancy be slipping into my dreams at this stage of my life? I’m long past that! OK then, I had to let that idea go. That’s not what this dream was about.
And then it seemed so clear. Isn’t giving birth one of the most creative things a woman can do? Isn’t pregnancy the essence of creativity? Perhaps we foster all of our creative dreams there in our bellies where they grow and develop. “Now I’m on to something.” I thought to myself. This was a dream about creativity and my own writing life. Oh, and indecision. This wasn’t a beautiful image of me creating and giving birth to something special. It was a scene of me being on the fence about my own ability to create.
This whole writing life that I have been trying to build, that I fantasize about, but that requires of us such a special type of discipline – is this not what I’m trying to birth? Is this creation not alive and well in my gut? Do I not as a woman, an artist, a writer, know how to “make this baby”? Of course I do. And yet I linger on the damn fence. And why? Is it really because I’m 67? Because if it is, that’s a crazy thought.
Birthing a baby is for when you’re in your 20’s and your 30’s of course. But a memoir? Oh yes. The memoir is the territory of the 67-year-old. In fact, 67 might just be the perfect age for a memoir. At least now, having lived a few years, I have some things to say. And even more important than that, I might just have the guts to say them!
So thank you to my dream self for this picture of me on the fence. But here’s the thing. The important and beautiful part of this dream isn’t that I got to experience my indecision on a whole new level. It’s that I got a sense of the growing creation within. The burgeoning voice within that longs to be expressed. This was a dream about the writer within. In fact, I take it now as her plea to be given space and time and nourishment to grow. This womb may be old and past it baby-making prime. But it’s ripe for the growth of a voice. The voice of the unlikely seeker always on the path.