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Snow hits the windshield wipers on an April night. The passenger seat is warm.

I turn to my husband Jake.

“Remember those nightmares in which I couldn’t find my voice to yell for help? Startled and gasping, I would wake myself up? I haven’t had one of those in a long time.”

Jake nods at the wheel.

We are returning from the first night of our dream analysis course.

Jake, who is repeating this course taught by a friend and psychotherapist, is now a total convert; a dream fundamentalist. Jake swims ocean deep; daily attention to his subterranean messages with pen in hand, deep listening.

Personally, I consider dream analysis as much fun as digging trenches in rocky gardens.

However, if freedom lies on the far shore, if I can give birth on all fours with an audience, if I can navigate being an artist for a living or learn to like exercise or the humility involved in real psychotherapy, I have the capacity to swim through my awkwardness.

I can put one reluctant toe in the dream wading pool, we will see how it goes.

Our dream coach (thankfully he doesn’t call himself that) reminds the group that dreams fit squarely in the “Unsettling” data file; things we can’t control and therefore marginalize.

In the same folder: silence, stillness, the world of symbols. Haunting heartaches we try to wish away. Poetry, emotive children. Vulnerability, true intimacy. Skipping on the sidewalk (Do it M).

Daring to cry in a friend’s arms.

The messy parts of life make tricky inventory to graph or grasp; better to turn away.

At considerable expense, some might argue.

However, we can bear witness to this messiness, begin to name things, invest.

My file folder thickens, there are bigger toe holds for climbing, the information becomes less tightly tangled.


Tears well up in Sandra’s eyes.

She is grieving. She wipes her tears, assessing the validity of her grief.

“I’m always too much, I’m sorry.”.

What stresses me out isn’t people crying, I explain.

What does stress me out is someone smiling, “It’s all good!”, when beside their foot there appears to be something painful writhing under the rug. No, no I am assured, you don’t see anything. I leave uneasy, splintered, doubting my senses.

That leaves me distinctly uneasy, splintered.

I try to swallow the optimism pill but do so with a furrowed brow.

When will this feel…optimistic?

Sandra your tears leave me unafraid. On the contrary, I know where I am; welcoming in all our sorrows, giving them a cushion.

From there we emerge whole, breathing fully. My capacity for joy widens and deepens, the load lightened.

That unmarked trail through the woods beckons again. I get out my sharpie and label this file “Hard to Categorize, But The Stuff I Actually Care About”, slipping in the dreams page. Knowing better now what regenerates the sparkle in the eye. Filling my cup with those animating forces we are (increasingly) starving for.

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