Friday, September 4, 2009

Ride That Horse!

It's 6AM right now. I've been up for over an hour, had a shower, dragged myself downstairs, made a cup of tea, some toast, started the laundry. I didn't get to bed the night before until almost midnight, and I hate that I've had only five hours of sleep (less, if you subtract the time I spent tossing and turning). But that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Sleep gets short shrift when I'm busy, and I am busy these days.

I've been thinking ever since I stepped out of the shower about what I could add to this week's topic. Not much, really. Like Lisabet, I dream and I remember my dreams. In fact, last night's dreams are still fresh in my mind, a confused jumble about me attending a science fiction convention and trying to find someone, maybe horror writer Matt F'n Wallace, to hold my purse (since when did I start carrying a fucking purse?!) while I run off to dance or chase aliens or go home because nobody at the convention likes me anymore. I dream a lot about science fiction conventions these days, probably because they've become so important to my writing career. I've attended five this year.

Of course, like Jenna, I've also had my bouts of insomnia, but unlike Jenna, I'm loathe to take anything for it. I guess I don't have insomnia that often, nor do I have a husband who's a light sleeper. I will say, however that for me, insomnia is the true nightmare. Every minute of sleep counts in my world.

Like Jude, I do have a tendency to work on stories while I sleep, though I don't recall dreaming about my writing when this happens. I just wake up and have a solution ready to go. Funny how that works.

Garce mentioned writers as people who live in a waking dream, bringing it to reality through the written word. Many of my stories come from vivid daydreams. In fact, the best stories are the ones that seize me while I'm awake, and I can't stop playing them over and over in my head, like a favorite movie, only I'm rehearsing the dialog and action and perfecting the scenery and plot with each pass through. I never get tired of doing that, either.

I obviously don't have Ashley's problem, since I remember my dreams, but I do sympathize with his wife. I woke up one morning and nearly punched Hubster's lights out because I dreamt he had kissed my sister. To this day, he gets into more trouble for things he's done in my dreams than for any actual transgressions he's committed in the real world. In fact, I think the worst recent nightmare I've had was about him divorcing me and refusing to give a reason why. I can't recall ever having woken up so angry and upset before.

I'm a vivid dreamer. I frequently recall my dreams. I usually post snippets of the more memorable ones on Twitter first thing after I get up. I've never used a specific night-dream (as opposed to day-dream) for any story, but somehow stories do manage to get written or edited while I'm off in Slumber Land. As for day-dreams, I'd be lost without them.

And all this has been covered by everyone else so far this week. So what do I have to add to this discussion that's unique, original, not yet mentioned?

Only myself, and my own weird dreams.

The first nightmare I can recall having happened was when I was five or six. It was about Flat Stanley. I dreamt he was shot and killed in the art museum robbery. I would never again let my parents read Flat Stanley to me, and in fact hid the book so I would never have to look at it again. To this day, I will not read Flat Stanley.

I dreamt once about a skull headed woman driving a horse-drawn cart. Her face and hair had been burned off in a fire, though the rest of her was untouched. I don't know why that one snippet of dream still hangs with me to this day.

In college, I dreamt about being on a search for a magical talisman. The search always took place in the same weird, endless underground city, in a rather seedy market place. That same year, I was taking a class on creativity. We had to pick a "talisman," an object to journal about (this was looooooooong before the days of blogging), think about, dream about. I dreamt about my object all right. My talisman was a piece of moss agate. I finally dreamt one night that I found my talisman in a dusty shop in the underground city. I broke it open and drank the milky fluid inside of it. It tasted flat, stale, salty, metallic. Nothing magical whatsoever happened as a result of that drink.

I dreamt once that Batman and Robin were hosting a news cast. Robin told a joke about the Marine Corps, and it was so funny, I woke up laughing. I startled the hell out of the Hubster, who asked, "What's so funny?" He says I told him, "It wouldn't translate well in real time." I spent the rest of the day walking around with a smile on my face that nothing could wipe off.

I dreamt that I went to visit my grandmother in a nursing home. I was sitting at her feet, chatting, when she suddenly said, "You know your old grandma is dying." I hugged her knees and said, "It's okay, Grandma." A month or so later, she did die, though that wasn't unexpected. That dream was the last time I really saw her.

I dreamt I was in my favorite aunt's house, being hunted by my other aunt, the one who had estranged herself from my family years before. The lights were all out, and I slipped from room to room, silently as I could, sticking close to the walls because even though I couldn't see it in the dark, I knew the floors had all collapsed in the middle of each room. My estranged aunt was always just a room behind me, hunting for me in the dark...

I dreamt once about the lousy part-time job I had as a cashier in a craft store. The dream was a nightmare, with nothing going right. In the midst of it, a man took me by the hand and suddenly I was standing in my yard with him. He asked me, "If you could be a goddess, what kind of goddess would you be?" I said, "I'd be a goddess of cats, and art, and creativity." "Then why aren't you that goddess now?" he asked me. I'm still trying to figure out the answer to that one.

When I really, really want to have a nightmare, I dream I'm back in college and I'm a cadet again. Either I can't find my dorm room, or I have to live in an apartment off campus but there's something wrong with the apartment or else I can't find it, and I know I'm going to get in trouble because of this. I hate dreaming I'm back in college. I really, really hate it.

I dreamt once I had a flying carpet and I rode it through my neighborhood. It was the neatest thing in the world!

I dreamt once that I stood in a train station, waiting for someone important to show up. A gorgeous young man stepped off the train and greeted me with a kiss. It's the only time I can recall having an orgasm in my sleep.

I dreamt once that I was the only person in a giant Barnes and Noble bookstore. It had millions upon millions of books, and the world's best cafe filled with all sorts of culinary delights. The second floor of the store was an endless series of baths, each one modeled in a different style, including a Roman bath and a Polynesian hot spring. Apparently the whole place had been built for me and me alone. It was my dream of Paradise. Then one of the tubs upstairs overflowed and the water rotted the floor until the top story fell into the bottom story and the whole place collapsed on itself. I woke up devastated.

During my second pregnancy, I dreamt I was a dominatrix, dressed form head to toe in a black vinyl bodysuit and thigh high boots. I was having strap-on sex with a friend, a woman I knew in real life. She wore a harness and nothing else. I was cruel and indifferent to her struggles against me. I woke up from that dream so disoriented and confused, for a while I wasn't sure if it had happened in reality or not.

Last week, I dreamt someone tried to mug me for my knitting. Yes, my knitting! I beat the crap out of the guy, but did not feel good about it afterwords.

And those are just a few of my nighttime dreams. The daydreams run the gamut from blisteringly hot sexual fantasy to the more mundane things like being on the New York Times best-seller list. And of course, I have those moments of waking lucid dreaming where I'm working on a story, and have become so possessed by the characters that I stand there, lips moving, mumbling dialog and narrative to myself like some sort of lunatic (do not let Garce and I sit in a cafe together; I'm certain someone would call the men in white jackets if they saw us both babbling and have us locked away).

Piers Anthony once wrote a book called "Nightmare" in which a jet black horse named Mare Imbrium delivered bad dreams to people. At the time I read that, I thought it was the coolest idea I'd ever heard of. Not surprisingly, I have dreamed of riding that horse.


  1. Helen (and everyone else reading this),

    I've stated that I don't dream. And I don't consider that a handicap.

    However, in a couple of weeks I'm taking a class where I'm going to be discussing dream-journaling as a potential way of finding inspiration for fiction.

    Thank you to everyone this week for providing me with firsthand accounts of how truly inspiring dreams can really be.

    And, Helen, I do like the idea of riding that horse :-)


  2. Dreaming is an odd thing. I've had dreams that were completely mundane, just the recycled junk left in my mind at the end of the day. Others have almost seemed prophetic.

    I know there are a slew of systems for dream interpretation, none of which I've ever bothered with. I'm more fascinated to see what my brain churns out that I am to assign any meaning to it. I think when you take this course, you'll discover that you do dream, and you may find some very interesting, very bizarre stuff there!

    Have fun with your course!

  3. Hi Helen!

    I'm glad to know that other people move their lips and mumble when they daydream. I thought i was the only one.

    The Roman bath dream is especially interesting. I've found over time that when I dream of being in a specific house or building, that this is my subconscious's symbol for whatever is happening inside of my head. Do you find that too?


  4. I just amazed that you can remember so many of your dreams. I'm lucky to remember what I had for breakfast some days.

    The dream where you were having strap on sex with a friend is the type that leaves you feeling strange the next day--and embarrassed to see that friend for the first time, like she might know about it. LOL

    Very interesting stuff!


  5. Hey, Helen,

    Your dreams sound a lot like mine, in their vivid quality and in the emotional mix (and I'm not just talking about the dominatrix one).

    Last night I dreamed that my mother (who has been dead for twenty years) and I were on a cruise, in separate cabins. At six AM she knocked on my door, in her underwear, followed by a mostly naked middle aged guy who was obviously her lover, and asked me if I wanted to go with them to the breakfast buffet...I told her I wanted to sleep. T

    That was just a snippet of the dream...!

    Thanks for sharing your inner worlds!


  6. Yup, the woman is nuts!


    Seriously, I identify with much of what you said here. And when you said you'd be lost without your daydreams, it gave me a chill. I think I could make it without my night dreams. I don't recall them all, but do love them when they 'fix' things for me. But, the daydreams, those are when I really find stories. I've no idea if I mouth what I'm seeing, but I really would be horrified if they never happened again.

    Great post, Helen.


  7. Garce,

    You will be happy to know that not only do I move my lips and mutter to myself while day dreaming, so does my father. He's done it for as long as I can remember. I have no idea if this trait was passed on to me genetically, or if I simply absorbed it through so many years of observation, but I do it nonetheless, and he does too, to this very day!

    I'm fairly certain the places I revist in my dreams do hold some sort of meaning for me. I did not enjoy much of my college years. That was a stressful and vastly frustrating time for me. Conventions are also stressful, given the amount of work I pour into them each year. It may just be when I'm stressed, these are the things I go back to. Beyond that, I can't say too much.

    As for the bookstore/bath house dream, that setting encompassed the three luxuries I love the most - coffee, books, and a hot bath. Seeing it destroyed was very upsetting to me.

  8. Jenna,

    Off and on over the years, I've kept diaries of my dreams, which makes it easier to remember them. I'm considering blogging about my dreams, since it would be interesting to see other people's reactions to what goes on inside my head when I'm asleep.

    As for the dream about the strap-on sex, the friend in that dream was fortunately not someone I saw very often. It was about 3 years later before I saw her, and by then the discomfort had **mostly** worn off.

  9. Lisabet, we do seem to have that dreaming thing in common. I've had the most vivid dreams while I was pregnant, including the one where I was kissed by the stranger getting off the train, and the strap-on sex one. Something about pregnancy hormones increases the intensity of dreams, I've been told. I'm not surprised, considering pregnancy was also when I suffered the worst bouts of insomnia I've ever had.

    We should compare dreams sometimes, and see if anything else comes up in common. Do you know if any other women in your family dream like this? It seems to be a strongly inherited trait in my mother's side of the family. We ALL have these dreams.

  10. Jude,

    Some days I live for my day dreams. I've got some ideas for novels that I want to write, based on a few day dreams I've had over the last few years. I feel such a thrill when I revisit these day dreams. I'm hoping to clear some time from my calendar this year to work on one series of day dreams in particular.

  11. I once had a dream so intense I woke up sobbing. It was something about my father, but I can't remember more than that.

    My mother had a recurring dream that she'd been a member of the fated Donner Pass party who cannibalized each other in the 1800's. It freaked her out so badly, that when she was traveling from Nebraska to Northern California for my wedding, she refused to drive with my step-dad and she flew over it instead.

    I've read a couple dream interpretation books but they have different ways to interpret that I'm not sure any is correct.


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