August 16, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Do you ever dream that you are in school and didn’t do your homework? I have this recurring dream where I find myself in high school with no idea of how to do the math assignments, so I don’t even try. This is not based on anything that ever happened in real life. I generally got my homework done, even if I rushed through it sometimes. As for math, although I wasn’t the top student, I did reasonably well.

I’m guessing that the dream could reflect a general fear of finding myself in situations where I am clueless—unable to “do the math” not literally, but in the sense of figuring out how things fit together. As far as I know, there haven’t been any specific problems triggering this dream. Readers, any suggestions?

For those who like math puzzles, I’ve posted one here. There are nine squares, all of different sizes, within the rectangle shown below. The smallest square measures 1 along each side. How long are the sides of all the other squares?

Math puzzle with squares of different sizes. 

My husband, who is an engineer, sent this to me in an email from work about a decade ago. I solved it pretty quickly, with one variable. Meanwhile, the engineers were devising convoluted solutions with multiple variables—which goes to show, there are times when simpler can be better. With that hint, I leave you to have fun with the puzzle!

Last month I dreamed about a coffin, as I blogged about here. I thought the dream probably meant I had something in my subconscious that needed to get buried. But, what might it be, and how to go about it? Then I decided that I really didn’t have to be so exact about finding one particular issue from the past. After all, everybody has lots of failed expectations wandering around in the dark depths of the subconscious. Giving myself permission to lay them to rest, generally, ought to be good enough.

So I put together an imaginary funeral service for the poor tragic character, Ms. Failed Expectations, burying her in the coffin from my dream in a beautiful but never-worn party dress. My various younger selves were in attendance as the mourners, bringing lovely bouquets and recalling their memories of the dearly departed. It was a dark and stormy afternoon straight out of a bad novel. No rain had started to fall yet, but lightning flashed all around. The air smelled of ozone and melodrama. The casket, piled high with bright flowers, rested beside the open grave.

Casket covered in flowers.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

My 20-year-old self, wearing a dark gray suit because she didn’t own a black one, brushed away her tears with one hand while straightening her 1980s floppy bowtie with the other. Her lower lip quivered as she began to speak. “I’m so very sorry for how much I stressed you out by expecting to have a fabulously successful career just as soon as I got through school. I never gave you a moment’s peace, but just kept on reminding you of all the ways you didn’t match up to my fantasies. I’m so sorry.”

Then my inner 25-year-old stepped forward, with windblown hair, slightly uneven lipstick, and a corner of a romance novel sticking out of her handbag. “I’m also to blame for sending you to your grave. If I’d had any clue about how much work goes into building a marriage, then you wouldn’t have felt like everything was about to fall apart if it wasn’t totally perfect.”

Mourners of all different ages spoke a few words to pay their final respects, ending with my 45-year-old self, who looked tired and frazzled. “I thought that I could save the world before breakfast, work a regular schedule, spend quality time with my husband, never miss any of my kids’ sporting events, and still have boundless creative energy left over for stories and fun projects. Well, maybe I did for a while, but…”

The gravediggers slowly lowered the casket into place and began shoveling the dirt over the bright flowers, while my grieving past selves wailed and a cold rain began to fall.

July 16, 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Here’s a puzzling post for readers who enjoy dream interpretation! A few days ago, I dreamed that I had a large box, which looked like a coffin. The police were investigating me because they suspected I might murder someone and put the corpse in the box. I thought that was ridiculous because if I had any plans to commit a murder, I wouldn’t get a coffin ready first, like Clint Eastwood…


Now I’m left wondering why my subconscious mind wanted to give me a coffin-shaped box. Maybe it’s telling me that there is something in my life that needs to get buried, or boxed up and put away, such as old habits or ways of thinking that no longer serve me well.

The investigation could mean that whatever might get buried or put away is unknown. Maybe the police are there to stop me from going too far and “murdering” some part of my life that is good and healthy. The dream could have been telling me not to worry because it wouldn’t actually happen.

If any readers have more suggestions, feel free to post them—I’m curious!

June 18, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Just before waking up this morning, I was dreaming about time travel. In the dream it felt like I could step out of bed and then I’d be in another time and place. Maybe I’d find myself in a place where I lived as a teenager. I could end up anywhere!

When I finally woke up, I wondered for a moment if I had somehow chosen this time and place from many possibilities. It didn’t seem farfetched that I might be able to wander freely from one timeline to another, like a child discovering the magical entrance to fairyland in a storybook garden.

Trumpet vine on my backyard fence. 

And then I realized that it’s a fact—we really do choose the time and place where each day begins. We can start the morning with happy memories of good times. Or, we can “wake up on the wrong side of the bed,” full of grouchy thoughts and old stale grudges!

We revisit the past whenever we look at memories in light of new experiences, sorting them into more useful patterns and updating our mental maps. Sometimes that can be hard to do, but it’s better than getting stuck in outdated thought loops like a computer with obsolete software!

November 24, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Last night I dreamed that I went on a road trip with my husband. We had to cross a bridge that was so high it reached up into the clouds. Once we got up there, we couldn’t see anything at all besides the thick fog—no lane markers, no other cars.

Cars crossing a bridge on a foggy day.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Then all of a sudden we went over the side of the bridge and started falling! At first I panicked, but then I thought, “Hey, wait a minute, this has to be a dream because bridges have guardrails.” After that I woke up, found myself in my own cozy bed, and all was well.

So—maybe my subconscious mind was telling me not to worry about the unknown future because it’s not really as scary as it might look. No matter where I go, there will always be guardrails keeping me safe, whether or not I can see them.

I had an odd dream Friday morning in which people started wishing each other “Good baby steps!” That meant making slow and steady progress, without time pressure or worries. When I woke up, I realized it was just a dream and our busy, fast paced culture had not really changed. But it left me thinking—what if people really did expect to go through life in a spirit of adventure, with plenty of time to do anything we might want, as if we were babies just learning to walk?

Toddler taking steps on a brick walkway.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Instead of rushing to get through our projects, we would see them as fun opportunities to create and explore. We wouldn’t obsess about money and status, but would simply trust that the world was full of abundance and that we’d always have enough to meet our needs. If something didn’t work out, we would pick ourselves right back up again and keep on going, without any self-judging thoughts about failure or whether we should have done better.

If we wanted a toy, we would just think about how to get it, rather than worrying that we might not be good enough to deserve it. And when we got it, we wouldn’t be self-conscious about being happy in the moment. We would feel comfortable with taking breaks when we needed them, napping when we got sleepy, and looking around when a pretty bird or an interesting idea flew by.

Yes, it was just a dream; but I’d like to believe that it gave me a tiny peek into a more joyful future. So I’ll say to all my readers today: Wishing you good baby steps!

April 1, 2015 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Last night I had a very vivid dream in which I was driving along a narrow country road in the dark of winter. It was a lonely road and I wasn’t sure where I was going. After a while I felt sure that I had gone the wrong way and should be on a different road, so I turned my car around.

Car on a lonely road on a winter night.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

When I woke up, it felt like my subconscious mind had sent me some kind of message about changing direction, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I didn’t know whether the dream was telling me that it’s time to change something I am doing in the present, or whether it was reflecting anxiety about possibly making a wrong choice in the future. So I decided to turn it into a blog post and ask for suggestions in the comments.

Readers, have you ever had a wrong-way dream, and what did you feel that it was telling you? How did things turn out afterward? Did you realize that you had made a wrong choice somewhere and then make a change of direction in your real life? Or did you decide that you’d had the dream because of worrying about a future choice you would have to make?

Even in a time of tremendous cultural flux, when many of the historical reasons for marriage have become outdated, there are still people getting married. One might wonder why, given the advantages of staying single in today’s world. Children are very expensive, unlike in the past when they worked on their parents’ farm. Having a family restricts the career opportunities available to modern parents, both because of the time involved in caring for children and because of the expectation that a responsible parent should bring home a steady paycheck, rather than being free to take chances and follow passions when building a career. Marriage has economic pitfalls even for childless couples, who may not want to pursue promising job opportunities in other cities because it would be hard for the tag-along spouse to find a good position. And there’s always the risk of divorce, which can be messy both emotionally and financially, even when a couple has no children.

Some people simply dismiss the whole idea of marriage as an antiquated relic of primitive times, which continues to exist only because traditional society has conditioned us to want it. But I think those who opt for marriage often do so based on the perception that it is a promise of stability in a rapidly changing world. Even when we don’t feel confident about navigating the huge cultural shifts going on around us, marriage (if all goes well) gives us a constant, predictable home environment. The family unit becomes a micro-culture with its own comforting traditions and rituals.

I recently had a dream that dealt with these themes. Although dream interpretation based on cultural archetypes mostly fell out of fashion along with psychoanalysis a few decades ago, it can sometimes prove interesting. In this particular dream, I was assembling a four-poster bed by putting on the posts. After that, I was on a dock at the river, putting oars in a boat (a double scull) that my husband and I had rowed over the summer.

In dream interpretation, the number four can represent symmetry and stability. Both pairs of oars must be rowed in a synchronized motion to make forward progress along a river, which is a symbol often interpreted to mean the river of life. Losing one’s grip on the oar handles, or bumping an oar into a submerged log or other hazard, can easily cause a scull to tip over—it’s a very narrow boat that needs the oars for balance.

When not in use, oars are stored separately from the boat. They must be put into the oarlocks each time the boat is rowed, and the rowers must carefully check to make sure the oars are fastened securely. This can be seen as an assembly process, much as the four-poster bed in my dream had to be assembled. Both a double scull and a bed are places where a couple would be. So I would interpret the dream as referring to the stability provided by marriage, which requires careful assembly.

Of course, not everyone looks upon marriage as a source of stability. Some take a very different view and consider marriage a luxury reserved for those who already are financially stable. Even though today’s families are much smaller than in the past and women usually work outside the home, raising children in the modern world can be very costly. With so much uncertainty in the global economy, some young adults feel that they should wait until they have well-established careers and substantial savings before they even consider marriage. Depending on the extent of their financial anxiety, they may never reach a point where they feel comfortable with it.

There’s no disputing the fact that it is stressful to get married and start a family while living paycheck to paycheck. But it’s important to keep things in perspective, rather than letting financial anxiety take over one’s life to the extent that everything seems too much of a risk. Way back when our ancestors were raising their families in tiny villages, they had very few material possessions, and their lives were far more perilous than ours. Children often died in infancy, women often died in childbirth, and men often died in war. Still, our ancestors did their best to cope with whatever happened to come their way. Because nothing in their society ever seemed to change much, they didn’t have our worries about living in an unstable world.

Unlike our ancestors, we can’t reasonably expect to lead simple and unchanging lives. Some degree of anxiety about the unknown is inevitable. We deal with it by seeking stability in our relationships, our finances, our daily habits and rituals, and whatever else we may feel gives us more control over our environment. Choices that work well for some people, such as marriage, are not necessarily going to suit others. And with all the options available in today’s society, it may take some time to discover what works and what doesn’t. In any event, when pursuing our goals, I believe it’s helpful to keep in mind both that we have more personal power than we may realize and that, as we go through life, some assembly is required.