Kind of Like a Dance


I had this weird dream.  I dreamt I had been away from my home.  And when I went back, everything had changed.  Not change like you’d expect — a gradual evolution, some adjustments here and there.  It was more like I thought I had been gone a couple of years, but I was wrong:  I had been away for a lifetime.

I didn’t get a sense that there was any magic about it.  It was more like a distortion, like I was looking through a curved piece of glass and seeing these twisted images.  Things weren’t the way they were supposed to be.  Buildings that I thought would last forever were boarded up, or gone completely.  New roads and buildings had gone up — some done well, some rather hideous.

The main thing was the people.  In place of one of my family members or old neighbors or childhood friends, I was seeing a tombstone; in place of another, there was a wrecked shell of a human being.  It felt like everybody who had ever been important to me had become an addict or got sent to prison, or had joined a cult or become bitter and reclusive.  They had medical problems and mental problems and brain damage.  They didn’t talk the same; they didn’t seem to think the same.

Meanwhile, unlike my old friends, there were other prior acquaintances who seemed to be doing pretty well.  But these people had been peripheral to my life.  I had hardly known them.  They hadn’t been popular in school; they were the cousins twice removed; they were the younger sisters of people a year behind me.

In the dream, it felt like we were in a sort of dance, when I would engage with one of these peripheral individuals.  When dancing, you’re not supposed to stop in the middle and say, “This is ridiculous.  I don’t even know you.”  You’re supposed to carry on, make the other person feel appreciated, try to enjoy yourself.

So I did.  I remember that, in the dream, I had a conversation with the elder brother of one of my childhood friends, someone whom I’d never really talked to before, and I was surprised to discover that he was such a thoughtful, friendly guy.  I saw this girl I had vaguely known in junior high, and now she had bloomed into a kindhearted, volunteering type of adult.  There seemed to be lots of people like this.  The feeling — and dreams are often long on feelings, even if they’re short on details — was that that there were all these potential success stories, in the people I had not bothered to include in my life when I was young.

I don’t normally assume that dreams have any kind of larger meaning.  But this one was spooky.  It gave me the distinct sense that there could be a connection between friendship and misfortune.  Was the dream (or, more to the point, my own conscience) telling me that I had somehow brought a curse on people?  Or maybe the curse was on me.  Did it mean that I had chosen the wrong friends when I was a kid?  Or was this a glimpse of what it would be like after I died?  You know, that the things connected with me were going to shrivel up and blow away, while the rest of the world would just sail merrily along, in ways that I might not approve.

Maybe the dream meant that I was on to something new but unpredictable.  It had that kind of feel to it — like when you go ahead and persevere through that ridiculous dance, and then find yourself unexpectedly spending the rest of the evening partying with your new dance partner.  The next morning, you awaken from your dreaming, and there is this muddle of guilt and uncertainty and curiosity — that maybe you’re abandoning your old dance partner, that maybe this new one is just as messed-up.

I didn’t know if the dream had any meaning at all.  It was nice to have the sense of possibility — that maybe I should be looking more closely at people and things in my life.  But I didn’t like the residual reminder that life could depart so radically from expectations — that a person probably could spend a whole lifetime looking at things one way, and then discover that everything was actually progressing in a very different direction.  I guessed that it would take a while to decide whether any of this seemed to apply to me directly.


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