Posts Tagged dreams

Dreams and Stories

An early one today. I’ve not long woken from a very engrossing and interesting dream, in which I became aware enough to properly take note of what was happening. It inspired me enough that I want to share.

In the dream, I was in a place similar to an American-style shopping mall… but it was clearly a little different. I went into a bookstore (naturally), which seemed like Borders. Except that every book was a Horror title. And not just ‘Horror’ in genre, but I could feel the dark energy flowing from the book, with blackness seeping from the pages. These were Horror books where the full origins and consequences of the story were very, very real. The terror was tangible, with that heartfelt (stomach-clenching) truth felt in dreams.

I looked around. The other customers were monsters. And not just simple cutesy monsters, in a nice, manageable sense – proper evil, roaming around me.

They looked at me, the tiny human standing among them. They acknowledged me, like any other person in the regular world while shopping. And they moved on.

Was I in a nightmare? The familiar world of the bookstore, which used to be a haven for me in the bustling corporate nastiness of a shopping centre, transformed into a trap? Should I start running?

I found my way outside and asked someone. He smiled at me.

“Well, it’s you, isn’t it. I mean, look at you!”

I looked at myself. Seemed normal. I explained that I couldn’t see what he saw in me. He smiled again, and showed me.

Slowly, a vision appeared, of myself… clad in smooth black armour, almost like an insectile carapace, flowing around me, holding gracefully around my limbs as I moved. It was as impossible as the rest of the surroundings – but I was fearsome. I felt strong.

The monsters left me alone, because I was prepared.

The lucid nature of the dream leads me to believe that it was rather more of a shamanic experience than I thought, at first. I woke feeling refreshed but also inspired, to investigate what I had learned.

I’ve always loved horror books. Even those that aren’t ostensibly horror, when I first started to explore the library – Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, or the slightly more subversive children’s books (before Young Adult became a genre). Roald Dahl knew that kids like to scare themselves silly. When you’re young, you’re in a world that seems insane, with irrational rules and unknowns around every corner. You learn to survive, a fact reflected in all of those stories of brave young heroes doing their best. Look at the Narnia stories, with each of the four children facing their own challenge (I was also disappointed that poor Susan finally succumbed in the last book, to boring adulthood).

At University, my dissertation thesis was on the American Horror Novel. I haven’t been able to read a Stephen King novel since, but that’s due to overload. I still love seeing where the genre goes, as it reaches out into the fears of a new generation. The exploration of how we can survive.

My knowledge of Horror as a ‘type’ seems to have armoured me – but it wasn’t a preventative, a physical block. My armour flowed with me, so that I could deal with what was to come on my terms. I was the reader; I was prepared (as best I could be). But there was also a certain advantage gained from the knowledge that I deeply, truly love the stories that I’m engaging with.

Those folk who want to ban or censor so-called ‘dangerous’ books have always rather misunderstood what they’re dealing with. If your favourite book is ‘Carrie’, you’re not going to emulate the events of the novel – the book is a catharsis, helping you to deal with bullying, for example, through the extreme conclusion of the story. It’s relatively simple, but still a fairytale (unless any readers have telekinesis, in which case we might be in trouble).

The man who shot John Lennon had been reading ‘Carrie’. What does that mean? Not a great deal, I’d say. Based on sales, he was one among many millions.

Genre fiction is often sneered at. ‘Horror’ is sidelined, never receiving any mainstream awards. As if we’re scared of it? Or we just don’t know what to do with it, in its extreme, fantastic nature? A little like ‘Metal’ music, if you don’t understand its passion, it’s easy to denigrate.

Stephen King knows this. In his wonderful book about horror, ‘Danse Macabre’, he suggests that each of us have our fears, genetically carried through our human/animal line from our ancestors since their cave days (I’ve seen this in psychological books as well, interestingly). That fear is like a gorilla – it can run rampant, sending us into rage or madness as we lash out. Most of us have learned to cage the gorilla, so we can function in society. Some haven’t, and they’re the ones who get locked away.

The danger, King says, is those people whose cage has become rusted shut. They haven’t let the gorilla out to play enough, or even acknowledged it, in a conscious manner. Those people believe that they have conquered their fears. They haven’t. The gorilla is just waiting for the right moment… but the sad thing is that by locking it away, they are missing out on – hiding – a part of themselves.

Whether you deal with your fears by imagination (books, movies, video games) or extreme physical action (rollercoasters, bungee jumping), we have to face our fears sooner or later in life. And chances are, we’ll actually be able to manage. The fear of the fear is usually worse than the fear itself – so many stories tell us that. ‘Alien’ showed that the monster we couldn’t see was scarier than the physical creature that we could. Once the baddie appears in front of us, we can deal with it (somehow). Even if it seems insurmountable, we can do something, once we confront it with eyes open.

The baddies in story are often more interesting than the heroes – because there’s more to explore, more that we want to know. The recent Joker depiction by Heath Ledger was terrifying because his motivation was pretty much nil – that’s not a horror device, that’s sociological. That character could have existed in any genre of tale. The Destructive Force of Nature… who looks like one of us.

Our love of story is a very human trait, almost a need. We carry it from our ancestors, and use it to tell tales that would be familiar to them. The Vampire, the Werewolf, the Thing without a Name – each generation carries these on, finding its own Bards. But also the Hero and the Heroine (not at all in a submissive sense)… and Us. The reader, outside the tale looking in, but also so very much engaged with what’s going on. It’s just a matter of how we relate and understand.

How we tell our own stories. And how prepared we are to deal with the events that are yet to come – not hiding, but engaging, seeking understanding, and taking right action. On our own terms.

Sometimes we do need to hide, like our scared animal ancestors. But sooner or later, we have to stand. It’s good to know your own self, your strengths and your fears, when that time comes.

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Wishes and Work

This week has been busy. I’m working (as in bill-paying work) full-time again for the next few months, but I’ve spent so long spent writing, teaching and generally Druiding semi-professionally since Spring that it’s pretty much combined with whatever else I’m doing. As I found when I was asked in the space of two days about preparing a public talk/rite for the Winter Solstice, and also an as-yet-unspecified activity for the Spring Equinox. Both requests from my workplace…

Plus, the inevitable chat with new colleagues about exactly what I do as a ‘Multifaith volunteer’, gently answering their (wonderfully¬† curious) questions. And the still-unbelievable fact of my book as a reality (now in the editing stages, after a mad rush to finish it on my last ‘free’ week before Proper Employment).

The madness of the working world has been brought home to me again forcibly, however. The 9-5, the insanity of so many meetings, there’s no time to do any actual work. Policies that appear to bear no resemblance to reality, nor those expected to enforce and be enforced by such doctrine. The frankly mad questions, demands and ways of spending the day that make me want to write a version of ‘Catch 22’ set in an office. I keep expecting a small elf to step out from behind a filing cabinet, scribbling notes and asking me to repeat something I’d just said, because I’m actually in a Terry Pratchett novel. Absurdity abounds.

It’s teaching me to value my time all over again. The icy mornings walking the dog as the sun rises, before returning home to put on smart clothes and makeup. The tired evenings, stuck in traffic as I watch the moon rise over the river, returning home to a few brief hours of nourishing food and company. before falling into bed… only to repeat the process again daily until the weekend.

But whereas before I knew no different, having been a commuter for most of my adult life, now I’ve experienced my time as truly my own for too long. And with that comes the realization that it still is. I’ve made the active choice to spent 7.5 hours a day in an office, plus travel, with everything that entails – so I can whinge about it, wishing myself somewhere else, or I can do it in my own way.

I’ve felt the battle between the ‘masked’ persona – the suited office professional, who knows the buzz-words and has a fixed smile on standby – and the ‘real’ person – the leafy tattoos that sneak an appearance from up my sleeve, the unusual knowledge that creeps into conversation… and the real, genuine smile that seems to be the most surprising thing of all. I’m living my truth, and people are seeing it. And liking it.

I was caught staring out of the window in the middle of transcribing a recorded conversation (so headphones on, full concentration on screen and keyboard, huge tiredness afterwards). But outside were the rolling hills that border Derby, leading away into the Peaks beyond Ashbourne, remote and wind-swept, birds soaring above, clouds threatening snow… and a workmate sighs next to me. “Lovely, isn’t it?”

But she’s not sighing because it’s unreachable – she’s happy that I’ve noticed it as well. We talk a little about how lucky we are to have such a beautiful view, moving on to the stories of how we came to live here. Her face lights up as she talks of her love for the land, the community, her friends here. And my smile can’t be anything but genuine.

That’s my Druidry, active and relevant amid the busy working landscape that we’ve built for ourselves, and which is considered the ultimate in ‘normal life’. I didn’t mention the word ‘Druid’, nor ‘pagan’, nor ‘faith’. I’m simply listening, responding, allowing the tale to unfold and bearing witness. Not from politeness (or concealed boredom), but genuine pleasure in what that other person had to say. Because they’re telling their truth as well, from inside, often a little shyly because it’s not the ‘cool’ thing to be talking about. But they’re clearly glad that they can. I do my best to set the space for us to really be ourselves – and that counts for a lot.

When I tell others what I do, some of the experiences that I’ve had, I quite often get the response of: “Oh, I wish I could do that. You do such amazing things with your life.”

I do know what they mean… and I want to laugh, to tell them about the sheer amount of (unseen) work that goes into those tasks well. But what I want to say is: “Why can you NOT? What’s stopping you?”

Because I know there’d be a list of excuses, reasons that act as walls to their dreams, insurmountable barriers put up to make the 9-5 into the entire reason for living. It’s that old story of “Why did you do/say that?” “Because I should.” Or “I have no choice.”

I know it sounds unbelievable but… there is always a choice.

Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for the opportunity – but you can still move pieces into place to make your life more your own, setting things up in line with where you want to be. Simply waiting for goals to manifest won’t result in anything. I’ve found that you get back exactly what you put in.

And yes, it’s difficult. I’ve fallen lots of times, and have had to be picked up and put back to rights. I have to remind myself daily why I’m doing my tasks. Often, it’s simply perspective. Something small will happen to remind me, and I have to be aware enough to recognise it. Which quite often results in a smile as I realize how daft I’ve been.

Remember what’s important. Be curious as to the reasons for things. Try to know your truth and live it as best you can. Not in a flighty, ‘New Age’ way – but in the sense of you, yourself, really knowing what’s true in your everyday actions, and what’s (frankly) bullshit. Why are you doing that? How can you change it into something better?

And are you brave enough to?

Step forward. You’re not alone.

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