These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

The Dream (or Nightmare) Inside of us all

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Naomi Bilmes

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From my blog:

Last week, I had a very odd dream.

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As the dream wound to a close, I remember thinking, I should write a blog post about this. When I woke up, I thought that I had a great blog post to write…then remembered that the blog-worthy events had occurred only in a dream. Alas, I have no (true) story to share with you today. The dream, however, felt unmistakably like an elbow nudging Judith to pull something out of that room of hers.

As the first order of business, Judith deems it acceptable to share with you the dream that so inspired her present writing. Here it is (as accurately as her memory can reconstruct it):

I was in New Haven, Connecticut with my dad and little brother. We were attending a very small wedding-ish celebration with family members whom I did not enjoy being around. When it came time to leave, I had to take the bus home by myself. However, I could not take just one bus. There were three connecting buses, and I had to remember to get a transfer ticket when boarding the first bus. After I rode and alighted, I thought I knew where to catch the second bus. I decided to take a short cut through the hallway of a building, but it ended up being someone’s apartment – not a hallway. Everyone in the apartment was asleep, so naturally I read a fantasy book on a treadmill-like chair (however, I had a difficult time comprehending the book because, due to the treadmill-like quality of the chair, I had to constantly maneuver my body while reading). Then I decided to leave the apartment, but of course a once-dormant resident stirred as soon as I was about to open the door. I heard him call, “Who’s there?” and then he walked up behind me. Of course, I was naked. I do not know how this happened.

An umbrella would have solved a few of my problems

An umbrella would have solved a few of my problems

Oh, wait a moment, I do recall something. It was raining outside so my clothes had become quite sodden when I perambulated from the bus to the building. Naturally, I would rather have taken my clothes off than be wet (I admit that dream-Naomi has a potential need to sort out her priorities). Nevertheless, I attempted to introduce myself while putting my clothes back on. Then two other residents emerged: a female and another male. Apparently this was a collegiate co-ed apartment complex (I admit that this plot point may have emerged from the fact that I indulged in two episodes of the sixth season of Gilmore Girls yesterday). They had another roommate, but he was out. Where, I do not know.

They were of Jewish descent, and surprisingly kind and amiable: they allowed me to “hang out” for a while, experiment further with the tread-mill chair, and make use of their restroom.

Soon enough, the fourth roommate came home (he was just as pleasant as the other three), and then some black people and their children arrived (I read a short story yesterday entitled Angel Levine, by Bernard Malamud, in which a Jewish tailor named Manishevitz encounters a black, Jewish angel who lives in Harlem.)

After enjoying my new acquaintances and being barged in on twice (by children) while using the restroom, I decided to take my leave and find the next bus. Just as I was ascending the stairs to street level (the apartment building was built into a hill), my eyes unexpectedly alighted upon my most cherished childhood companion, Gabriella. After a jubilant reunion, we walked a bit through the rain. Just as the raindrops were starting to distract and annoy, Gabriella’s fiance miraculously appeared and drove me to the last bus station, entirely eliminating my need for the second bus! After thanking him profusely, I got out to wait at the bus stop with five black people (a situation perhaps provoked by my waiting for a bus in Washington Heights last Sunday). When the bus came, a few passengers boarded. I was not one of them. Then the doors closed and I was left outside, gazing sadly on the rain-spattered glass. Alas, I was not meant to go home that night.

But then my mother arrived! I hopped into the passenger seat and she drove me home. In the car, I remember thinking, “I should write a blog post about this,” and, well, here we are.

Now you know of many things that have not, in fact, happened to me. You also received a rare glimpse into my subconscious.

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Now, I believe that dreams often have significance – but not necessarily significance for the future. Dreams are a great indication of what you see, read, hear, feel, think, or say and how strongly it is stored in your subconscious. For example, if you spend a few minutes one day pondering someone you stumbled upon five months ago, and then that person shows up in your dream, it probably means that you want to give this person more thought during your conscious hours. It does not mean, however, that you should immediately seek him out and pursue contact. Nor does it mean that he has something to tell you that will drastically alter your future. And neither does it mean that he will show up on your doorstep tomorrow bearing such future-altering information. It simply means that your brain wants to explore further in this direction. Think more during your waking hours, andthen┬átake action – if it’s fitting. But don’t do something rash just because you had a dream about it.

Dreams can also take your worries and twist them, turn them, multiply them, or mock them. For example, one of my recurring worries is letting someone down or hurting his or her feelings. A few days ago, I woke up and immediately jotted down in my diary how I had just had two bad dreams in which I disappointed or hurt other people. Returning to the psychological type theory of my previous post, this worry is very fitting of the “F” in my INFJ psychological type. The “F” stands for “Feeling” (rather than Thinking), and indicates that I make decisions based on my own and others’ feelings; I decide based on values and emotions rather than analyses and practicality. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

My bad dreams consist of me hurting other people’s feelings. Wow, that’s so “F” of me (INFJ). But seriously, though, those are the problems I fear the most. Not Iran’s nuclear weapons. Not death. Not poverty; rather, hurting other people and having them not like me anymore.”

When people talk about their “night-mares,” they often involve global destruction or their own deaths. Not mine. Mine are more likely to involve the death of a friendship or a personal failure that turns into a source of embarrassment when shared with others (missing a deadline, breaking Shabbat). I treasure my relationships and, obviously, my level of esteem in others’ eyes. Losing either one could be considered a legitimate nightmare.

0w___What are your nightmares? What do they say about you? What do you, in response, say about them?
Are all your dreams nightmares?
Are all your nightmares dreams?
What do you have to face right here, right now, in your conscious life?
Do you face it?
Or do you turn away, lapsing back into your dreams, leaving life for another day?