I just woke up in my New Orleans hotel room from a dream in which another writer told me that I was horrible on the book tour circuit and had alienated a bookseller so much that he’d taken to the Internet to spread the word about my awfulness. Instead of heeding the other writer’s warning, I proceeded to argue with her. My editor finally had to step in to say I was ruining her party. When I looked online, it turned out the warning had been true. The manager of a Borders in Michigan had filled the interwebs with his anti-Alafair rants.
Now, to be clear: the writer in my dream was not anyone I know. I made her up. Ditto with the bookstore manager. Same with the gorgeous house that served as backdrop to the party. And yet it was all so vivid. I can picture the writer. Still feel my seething hatred as she gloated at my promotional failures. The negative postings about me were fully formed sentences that my subconscious apparently wrote before I read them on that computer screen in my dream.
So I woke up thinking about dreams.
I have friends who insist they don’t dream, but apparently sleep researchers say we all dream. Some of us just don’t remember. I’m not one of those people. In my dreams, I live entire days and months that feel in some ways more real to me than my waking life. I wake up, like today, angry or hurt about things that never happened. I’ll confess that I’ve felt love in dreams only to wake up and realize the people I loved don’t even exist. I’ve had dreams that I’ve finished writing a kickass novel, then open my eyes to reflect on what was really just a bunch of nonsense.
And sometimes I believe these dreams have to mean something.
I mentioned I’m in New Orleans. What I didn’t tell you is that, two hours from now, I’m presenting an academic paper in front of a large conference of law professors. Or that last night at the bar a professor friend shared some concerns about an essay I’m currently writing. Is it pure coincidence that I dreamed my work was scorned and ridiculed? As Harry Bosch says, “There are no coincidences.”
Carl Jung would agree. How, other than through a collective unconscious, can we all share so many of the same dream images? In my post-dream online perusing this morning, I came not across anti-Alafair rantings from a Borders manager (thank God!), but a blog post purporting to compile the ten most common dreams.
I searched for mine and found them all: chases, paralysis (those two often go together), being late or lost (often I’ve started school again but didn’t prepare), and, the worst and most common of all, the falling out of the teeth.
Supposedly these are all signs of stress, indications that we feel we’ve lost control of something in our lives. The link is a little too literal for my preferences. Wouldn’t it be terrific if a sense of insecurity or chaos made us dream we were eating a room full of french fries or sipping wine at a villa in Tuscany? Much more fun than broken teeth and unplanned public nudity.
So how do you dream? Do you remember your dreams? Do your dreams feel real or fantastical? What are your most frequent recurring dreams and what do you think they mean?