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Oh, The Places I Go!

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 “Tell a dream / lose a reader,” is one of the rare pieces of writing dogma with which I agree. As a reader, I skip right over any dreams plunked down in the midst of some engaging story, even when the author is Doris Lessing—and that’s saying something! You’ll never catch a dream in any of my fiction, and I’m  bored by friend’s dreams, even if I’m in them. The only time I listened was in a Dream Group, because we worked on them. (More on this later.)

I can’t figure out why I’m bored, even hostile towardsdreams, when my own have loomed so large in my life. During one period of life I had prophetic dreams; one or two were verifiably so. I’ve gone  through phases of consulting my dreams to make decisions, and periods of keeping dream journals. And then there was that Dream Group.

It’s not easy to get into ongoing dream groups in these here parts: the Bay Area is a hotbed of dream analysis, and there’s competition to get in. This was a woman’s group in Berkeley that Joani Blank got me into when 2 members left. The way they worked was: someone told her dream, giving it a name and including as much detail as possible. If she had specific questions or concerns she said them at the end. Anyone with something to say began with, “If it were my dream…” This is so as to not dictate to the dreamer or project one’s own views onto the dream, but to share whatever resonated, which may or may not ring a bell for the dreamer.

I loved playing with everyone’s dreams, and the things people came up with as interpretations. I loved telling my own; to this day I still remember their interpretations of  “All My Horses Turn to Poodles.” I didn’t know these women, other than Joani, outside the group, and didn’t really care to. Maybe that was the weakness that brought the group down—or rather, my participation in it.

Joani Blank, for those who don’t know, is the founder of Good Vibrations. Her first store was a closet on a side street in the Mission 35 years ago; today it’s an empire stretching from the Bay Area to Boston. Because she’s so used to being a sex educator, Joani tends to take on that role in any group, and people, feeling they’re being condescended to, frequently resent it. That’s what happened in the Dream Group: Joani analyzed every image as sexual; people got bristly and annoyed. But the last straw actually came from me, from my dream of a bloody penis. It was an actual dream, I did not make it up, and not for a moment did I hesitate to share  it. The women were appalled, every one of them. Their freaked-out body language said it all. When I finished, one of the women said she had no interest in talking about the dream and wished I hadn’t shared it. She spoke and behaved as if I’d brought a bloody penis in on a silver platter. Joani stuck up for me, and the talk turned into a fight. I kept pointing out, thinking I was being logical, that it was a dream.  Ms. Uptight’s response was, “I don’t want to be in a group with someone who would have a dream like that.” (I wrote this down; I swear I am quoting her verbatim.)

“Someone who’d have a dream like that?!” I was stunned.  “But we’re not in charge of our subconscious!” Didn’t matter. I was persona non grata. Or so I thought.

At the next meeting one of the women announced they had an issue to address: they’d decided to throw Joani out of the group. I with my bloody penis was getting off scot free while Joani, who they claimed had created a toxic atmosphere leading up to my dream, had to go. In the end, of course, I walked out with Joani, never to work with a dream group again.

Damn! Here I’d planned on blogging about the magical realm of dreams this morning, and I’ve ended up writing about the mundane, problematic, and non-magical realm of people and the nasty ways they treat one another. But I began writing this because last night I had two extraordinary adventures.

A Visit From Marco and A Trip to France

In the first dream I was with Marco, now dead 23 years. We kissed forever, and now I’m having trouble remembering his real lips, his dream lips having replaced them so vividly. Most of what I remember is the atmosphere, which Doris Lessing says is the essential aspect of a dream. It’s what I’ve learned to pay attention to but it’s almost impossible to describe. Anyone who dreams of their departed knows these dreams are rare and precious gifts.

After seeing Marco I left for France, where I studied women’s history with an old man in monk’s robes. So in one night I visited both the world across the ocean and the one behind the veil. Only in dreams can we be transported from everyday existence; only in dreams can we transcend the laws of gravity, of time and space, the limitations of life on earth, and fly off to places where even death is no barrier. In dreams I’ve spent time with my kids at every stage of their lives. I’ve been every age myself. I’m truly grateful that I’ve always had such a rich and vivid dream life.

To those readers I haven’t lost by now: I promise, there’ll be no more dream indulgence for another six years or so.

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