Stepping In

A frequent motif in my dreams is where I step into a life I am (or someone else is) currently living elsewhere, to taste what that life is like. It’s the experience of that “stepping in” that has made me consider that the notion of alternate realities or parallel universes might not be such a crackpot idea.

In these dreams, I visit an ongoing life. Sometimes the person is me, but a few of the circumstances of my life are different (Mom is healthy, Dad is alive, I’m in a different profession, I live someplace else). At other times I seem to be visiting someone else’s life, and the dream is peopled with characters I’ve never met before.

What distinguishes this type of dream for me is that nothing that happens in them seems remotely dreamlike. Nothing happens out of normal time, scenes don’t shift suddenly, no one can fly, the sky isn’t green, there’s nothing that would say, “This is a dream.” It feels very much like waking reality, everyday life, a few normal hours—in someone else’s world, or in a parallel reality.

So in last night’s dream I was part of a group of writers who met weekly to really dig into each others’ writing and offer extremely constructive criticism. It felt like we all respected one another tremendously and liked each others’ work, and so didn’t feel the need to give praise or encouragement but say, “This doesn’t work, change that, that image is great but that other one isn’t.” Apparently we would take go home and work on each others’ pieces. When I arrived at the meeting, a woman who (in the dream) was a widely published and greatly respected novelist had taken my story—the beginning of a spy novel or murder mystery, I think—and had restructured it, and given me a cool acronym for an evil organization that was in the book.

The dreaming part of me thought that writers’ group would be a really great thing to do in this parallel reality.

After the meeting I went down to the basement—I was part of some sort of cooperative home arrangement in a large house, where some of us cooked for the whole group, some did laundry, some took care of the outside work, etc.—to see if my laundry was done. They had pressed my suit and gotten other clothes washed, but my vestments were not ready. Apparently I served as a part-time ministerial type at various functions, some religious, some decidedly not: I saw a home movie projected on a screen in the basement in which a thinner, younger me was on a football field but wearing clerical garb, including—absurdly—a full chasuble.

I told the launderers, rather sternly, that the vestments were a top priority, that because they went over the suit and the suit was pretty much hidden, the suit was much less important in the priority ranking. Someone very distinctly called the vestment in question an alb, which is the plain white floor-length garment that priests wear under other vestments, next to the skin, and the home movie showed me in a suit, not an alb, with a chasuble on top of the suit, so that tidbit was perplexing.

I can look at the whole laundry / clerical garb / business suit thing as dream imagery, and I get the message it has for me. Certainly the scene with the launderers watching this home movie of me down in the laundry room seemed the most dreamlike. But it still had the weight of real life somehow. There was nothing surreal or hallucinogenic about it; I assumed they were looking at the home movie to make sure the clothes for the upcoming event looked the same as they did for the one on the football field. They were just doing due diligence.

There rest of that day-in-my-life was so utterly mundane that I can no longer recall the details. I ate, I worked, I talked with people. Very boring, normal stuff. And that is precisely what makes this category of dreams for me (I have a number of different categories of dream-types, each with their unique characteristics) so interesting: nothing terribly unusual ever happens. It’s just someone’s life I’ve stepped into for the span of a few hours.

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Categories: Brain, Dreams, Writing | Leave a comment

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