Early this morning, while it was still dark, I woke up with the Carly Simon song “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” in my head. That song is almost 50 years old, but I’d heard it recently on XM radio when I went to get my hair done. The lyrics are about married couples who do not live happily ever after.


Usually songs don’t get to me that much, but it seemed like I was lying awake for over an hour, feeling profoundly saddened by the lines “Their children hate them for the things they’re not. They hate themselves for what they are…”

According to my Fitbit, which I regularly wear at night to track my sleep, I was dreaming most of that time and wasn’t in fact awake for more than a few minutes. But, however long I was really awake before morning (another dark and chilly almost-November day) arrived, the song left me brooding about how harshly our culture teaches us to judge both others and ourselves.

Maybe it’s the political situation right now that has my thoughts running along such paths. When so many people feel that they are always being judged and falling short of expectations, no matter how much effort they put into doing what they “should,” then it’s no wonder they feel angry about life being unfair.

I am not going to judge anyone for being angry, as doing so only compounds the problem. Still—from my own perspective on the way things should be—I’d like to believe that most of us, both when voting and more generally, can set aside that anger and instead look toward what’s needed to heal.

September 17, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

For the past few weeks I’ve been saying an “infinite possibilities” mantra while working out on my rowing machine with video of a river or lake quietly going by. Also, I usually display peaceful landscapes on the digital art display in my dining room, like this image from Hausjärvi, Finland.

Lake in Finland

(Photo credit: Tero Laakso)

But I might have overdone it, just a bit, with all those possibilities. I dreamed that I had three boyfriends, all at the same time! Because this was a dream, they all knew about each other, had no problem with it, and treated me wonderfully.

In real life, figuring out how to deal with one husband always has been quite sufficient. I can say with assurance that I definitely have no secret longing for extra guys! So I’m interpreting the dream as a creative exercise by my subconscious in pushing the boundaries of possibility. The message (to the extent there is one) probably has to do with the world being full of abundance.

August 26, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I had a dream on Tuesday that I found somewhat disturbing, so I decided to write it down and try to make some sense of it. In this dream, my husband and I were wealthy, and we lived on an estate with a lovely view and many large, majestic evergreen trees.

Tall conifers overlooking a valley.

Some of the trees had grown so large that they were starting to encroach on a concrete parking area for visitors. I said something to my husband about needing to get that taken care of, and then I left for the day. When I returned, two trees nearest the parking area had been totally cut to the ground. There was nothing left of them but logs waiting to be hauled away. I was furious that my husband had decided to have the trees cut down, without even discussing it with me, when I only wanted to hire someone to trim a few branches. Then I woke up, still feeling angry.

In real life, we don’t have any large trees in our yard, and my husband doesn’t do much landscaping beyond mowing the lawn. He hasn’t gotten rid of anything around the house that I wanted to keep, either. So I am interpreting the trees not as referring to actual trees or things, but more generally as symbols of stability, being grounded, having strong roots, and so forth.

Apparently, there are some worries lurking in my subconscious mind that if I am not constantly on my guard, I’ll be undercut, and whatever I rely on to be grounded and rooted in my life might suddenly be taken away. The villain of the story wouldn’t necessarily be my husband or anyone in particular; I’m guessing that this dream was mainly a reaction to all the instability in the world this year. Perhaps being wealthy in the dream was a reminder that we still have many reasons to be thankful.

August 12, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When my daughter and her husband come to visit, sometimes we cook out on our backyard grill. This summer, as people are traveling less, they haven’t visited recently. Maybe that had something to do with why I dreamed we had another young couple visiting our home for a backyard picnic. They weren’t real people, just dream characters. The most memorable part of the dream was that they had a pet miniature pig that was well trained and walked on a leash.

Miniature pig on a leash.

(Photo credit: Alan Levine)

While we sat in lounge chairs on the grass, the pig enjoyed exploring the backyard. It behaved very much like a dog, coming over to its owners and wanting to be petted and played with.

I don’t actually know anyone in real life who has a miniature pig, but I’m guessing that the reason I dreamed about a pet pig is because everyone’s social lives got so disrupted this year. Pets, in general, represent companionship and fun. My subconscious mind probably was telling me that it is okay to have different social experiences. We’ll get back to normal sometime.

July 30, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Res judicata is a Latin phrase that means “a thing adjudicated.” It refers to the legal doctrine that after the final judgment in a case, the parties are bound by that judgment and are not allowed to keep on arguing the same issue against the same opponent by filing a new case. If they try, the judge will promptly dismiss the new case on the opponent’s request.

I work in legal publishing, and although I don’t often dream about my work, last night I dreamed that I was using legal terminology to write about my personal life. The only thing I remember about what I wrote in that dream was “No res judicata.” While still in the dream, I took a moment to reflect on that observation about my life, and then—just before waking up—I said to myself “Hey, this is really good!” And I woke up feeling remarkably cheerful.

The meaning of that dream seemed plain enough—I am not bound by the past. No matter what problems might have stressed me before, today’s issues are different enough that it’s not the same case. I am free to grow and flourish in new and better circumstances.

My backyard willow hedge, bright and green in summer.

The photo illustrating this post isn’t new; it shows my backyard willow hedge five years ago, and it was posted on this blog then. I reposted it because the hedge started dying back the year after the photo was taken, stressed by hot and dry summers after two unusually cold winters. A casualty of climate change, perhaps. It had more dead branches this year, and I finally decided to cut off all the old growth and let the willows grow back from the base, giving the hedge a fresh start without the burden of its past stress. I am hopeful that in another five years, the hedge will be tall and healthy again. No res judicata.

April 28, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

In the “definitely going stir crazy by now” category: Last night, I was looking online for good photos to put on my digital art display. I particularly liked this one, showing Beaver Creek, Alaska, which was posted by the United States Bureau of Land Management.


But I probably shouldn’t have been on the computer so soon before going to bed. Apparently as a result of seeing the photo, I had a wacky dream in which my family played a game of touch football in our backyard—against a team of giant beavers.

Their coach was using hand signals to tell them what plays to run, and they were pretty good at the game. In fact, the beavers were winning. I was getting pretty frustrated when I woke up and was thankfully restored to sanity—such as it is nowadays.

January 16, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve been feeling pretty good since Monday morning, as if old subconscious tension lifted away overnight. When I went to bed Sunday night, I was asking myself what I should do to bring more energy into my life. Sometimes I get interesting answers in my dreams when I go to sleep with a question in mind.

The dream that I had Monday morning wasn’t what anyone would call realistic. I saw myself going back to college to change careers, and I was on the rowing team. In effect, I became a teenager all over again—except that I was never a college athlete in real life.

College women rowing a four.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Then I woke up and bounced out of bed, feeling healthy and full of energy like a teenager. Some amount of physical tightness and stiffness, which seemed to reflect adult worries and expectations, had gone away.

I don’t foresee myself literally starting all over again as a college student, and of course there are some benefits to having a broader adult perspective. Even so, that dream certainly was telling me that the way to get more energy is by learning and doing new things. Maybe, sometime this year, I’ll discover an interesting opportunity that feels like a fresh start in life. I’m going to stay on the lookout for it!

January 7, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve been having odd dreams this week, and they didn’t seem to be about anything happening in real life, so I decided to write about them in my blog and see if I could make better sense of them. Putting things into written words usually helps to give me more perspective.

Photo of mountains behind hills.

First, I dreamed that I had been a prisoner. After my release, I was talking with a kind woman who sold nutritional supplements. She told me that I needed to take especially good care of myself.

In the next dream, I was standing in a parking lot next to a pile of junky machinery. An older man wanted me to take it away because he didn’t need it anymore. I told him that it wouldn’t fit in my car.

Then I dreamed that I was pregnant and was told at the doctor’s office that everything was going well.

Putting all of that together, I’d say that the first dream was straightforward advice from my subconscious to take good care of myself—not because of literal imprisonment, but to recover from past feelings of being stuck. The second dream probably had something to do with speaking up for myself and not letting people impose on me. As for the last dream, although I definitely am not pregnant in real life, I’ll interpret it as telling me that whatever I might be creating would go well. All helpful and encouraging messages!

October 8, 2019 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming about zombies. I was walking along a street when it suddenly seemed to tilt upward into a steep hill. All at once, the sunlight looked much brighter, and I got dizzy and began to feel very strange.

Street going up a steep hill.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I knew that meant I had caught the zombie virus, and I was trying to convince my husband not to give up hope. After all, I told him, we didn’t know for sure that everyone who caught the virus always became a zombie, so we shouldn’t assume it. Maybe some people were able to recover; or even if not, it was possible that a cure might be found soon.

Then I started to wake up. Unlike other dreams I’ve written about on this blog, I didn’t have to guess at the meaning of this one because it helpfully told me, just before I was fully awake. “The meaning of this dream,” a voice murmured in the back of my mind, “is to avoid assumptions and leave space for improvement.”

After a while I fell back to sleep and had more dreams, which I can’t remember. As each dream faded, I heard the same voice saying, “Don’t forget—avoid assumptions, leave space for improvement.”

That seemed strange enough in itself, but it got even weirder after I woke up. While I was getting a cup of coffee, the nagging voice in my head made an appearance once more. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before, and I couldn’t guess what was so urgent about the dream’s message.

When it showed up again mid-morning while I was sitting at my desk doing my usual work, I decided that I’d better do something about it. I wrote myself a note in all caps: AVOID ASSUMPTIONS, LEAVE SPACE FOR IMPROVEMENT. Then I put it prominently in the middle of my desk.

“There, subconscious mind, I won’t forget,” I said. “Are you happy now?”

Apparently it was, because I didn’t hear anything more from it after that. I was still left wondering, though, what exactly my nagging subconscious wanted me to do about the mysterious message. It seemed like reasonable advice, but what was so important about keeping it in my thoughts right now?

As far as I knew, there wasn’t anything going on in my life that put me at risk of turning into a zombie in some figurative sense of the word. Sometimes traveling to rowing races on the weekends with my husband left me feeling tired on Mondays, but not to the extent of being zombified, and I didn’t feel that I was making negative assumptions—or at least, none of which I was aware.

But of course, if people knew they were making assumptions, they wouldn’t be doing it. So I concluded that the nagging voice wanted me to watch out for harmful assumptions that might be holding me back from some kind of improvement. While it would have been much easier if my subconscious mind had given me any clues as to what those assumptions were, I suspected it probably thought I’d benefit from reflecting on the question for a while.

August 1, 2019 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I was putting things away in the basement of an apartment building. What they were I can’t remember, but getting them tidied up felt like something I needed to do.

Then it occurred to me that I had left my purse upstairs in a common area. I started to hurry back and get it before a thief noticed it was there.

“Wait a minute,” I thought, “this is just a dream. That means I can finish what I’m doing, and the purse won’t have gone anywhere.”

So I got everything put away neatly, in its proper place, before I went upstairs. Sure enough, the purse was exactly where I had left it.

Purse on a rug next to a white wall.

But as I got closer, I saw that the purse was open and my wallet was empty. A thief had gotten to it after all.

“It’s a dream,” I declared in exasperation, giving a nasty glare to what appeared to be nothing but a blank white wall. “When I look down again, that money had better show up back in my wallet where it belongs.”

I gave it a moment and then looked down. The small amount of money I’d had in my wallet was still gone—but instead, my purse now held a big wad of 50-dollar bills.

“Well, that’s more like it,” I said, as the dream faded.

Then I spent some time afterward sorting out the symbolism. An apartment building is a place where many people live. A basement is where old things are stored. So, perhaps the dream’s setting had to do with tidying up memories of past relationships and social interactions.

The forgotten purse likely represented anxiety about leaving behind something of value. Realizing that it was just a dream could have been my subconscious mind’s way of reassuring me that I am in control of my circumstances. Even when I feel vulnerable, I don’t need to worry about losing small stuff; instead, I can feel confident that there are better things coming my way in the not-so-distant future.