I had this dream last week. I was in a house with my grandson, and the time frame ranged from when he was little until he was a grown man – although he still looked like a little boy when he was grown. Throughout the course of him growing up, I was always coming downstairs and seeing him at the bottom with buttons in his hands. He collected them from me and other people – when a button popped off our clothes. He always had them in his hands and eventually he had carried them in a white bowl.
Every time I came down the stairs – a button would pop off and he would pick it up with glee and save it. Finally when he was a young man – still looking like a little boy – he came to me with a small house he had built out of buttons! He gave it to me and I was marveling at the intricate workmanship.
Then I was at a bar and ordering many glasses of cider – one of them was filled to the brim. When I took the full one over to different people – trying to give it to them – they said “No thanks.” Eventually I went back to my table and realized that I would have to drink them.
Then I was in some kind of space station – very futuristic – and I was a soldier, preparing to go out and fight a war. The dominant color in this part of the dream was sepia and variations of light brown and beige.
When I went out to the war – it was a mix of desert and abandoned or ruined cities. A young woman met me there and told me that I had to go through the city to fight the enemy and complete the mission.
Once there, I was walking through some dilapidated buildings – at ground level – when an angry Sergeant came up to me and started yelling in my face – but he was also seeming to be having fun – dropping back occasionally and watching for my reaction. I disregarded him, but every time I went to walk off – he came back and started yelling and mocking me.
THEMES: Family, giving and receiving, growth, childhood, social persona, adversity, self-doubt.
SYMBOLS: Buttons, stairs, house, alcohol – full glass, pub, futuristic city, war.
EMOTIONS: Happiness, generosity, annoyance, difficulty, anger, ridicule, self-doubt.
ARCHETYPES: Young boy, Female soldier, Sergeant – Angry and annoying.
INTERPRETATION: The young boy/grandson was collecting buttons – coming from my clothes (as well as others’ clothes – although I didn’t see them) which symbolizes lessons taken from me and others. He was happy to have them – which makes me wonder if the buttons also symbolized characteristics he has inherited from me – including my sense of humor and delight in knowledge. Presenting as a young boy – even though he was supposed to be fully grown – could indicate that he hasn’t arrived there yet – but denotes how the things I teach and give him will help with his evolution.
When he gave me the little house he’d built – I felt that it symbolized the idea of giving and receiving, like knowledge and/or the circle of life and how the way you treat others comes back to you. He was showing me how the things I give him will be used in his life.
Being in a pub symbolizes a public arena – the social setting. Glasses being filled to the brim showed how I try to give everything away – or give too much – or even, how extravagant I am. (I always go overboard – for fear of doing too little and being considered stingy. Also – doing too much or even being greedy, but then – trying to share it with everybody.) When I tried to give the full glasses to people (friends and acquaintances) – they were smiling and polite – waving me away. Going back to the table with the full glasses could indicate how I feel with the promotion of my work and that no one seems to want what I have to offer.
This feels right to me – as I have been promoting and marketing my novel and my Numerology business – with little return. While everyone is happy to follow me, like my posts, give positive feedback etc – I feel like it’s “much ado about nothing.” Of course – this is just my subconscious throwing up imagery of how I feel sometimes – I understand on a conscious level that these things take time and that I should be grateful that people are being so supportive. I now understand that it was telling me to ease down (as I’ve mentioned before!) and hone my approach – so that I don’t become annoying or overdo it.
The futuristic war was the second part of my dream – and it was so strange that I feel it was quite a different scenario and message from my subconscious. It could indicate what will happen in the future – or how I feel about the future. The weird space station could symbolize the fact that I feel out of sorts with where I’m heading – uncertainty, etc. Being sent out to war could represent the way I view the world and the community I am associating with. Constantly trying to promote myself has become like a battle – trying to keep ahead of the game, seeing what other’s are doing and striving to do the best I can to be noticed and therefore – selling my wares.
Maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me to be more aggressive – which isn’t really in my nature (unless it’s a physical attack against myself or my family!) The young female soldier was directing me to the abandoned city – like my younger self guiding me – telling me to go to a place that I might normally avoid. The fact that the city was abandoned might indicate that I am overlooking uncharted territory – that I need to focus more on what audience I’m trying to target – rather than ‘blowing in the wind’, or wasting my time spruiking to the wrong audience.
The angry and annoying Sergeant could represent my fear of being ridiculed, as I often feel embarrassed with the level of promotion I’m doing – or at least – the methods and avenues I’m choosing. As my animus – it could simply be my masculine side – once again – sniggering at me and my feeble attempts to get recognized and make a living from what I love doing.
SUMMARY: I have to be wary about what I’m teaching my grandsons and how I present to them and the world. I have to lead by example – and be grateful for the little things. I should not waste energy in futile attempts and projects that don’t advance my profile and become more savvy re: promoting and marketing my book and my business. I must not be duped – or dupe others. (Hence – the alcohol.) I need to hone my abilities and be smarter with my career and preparations for the future. Last – but not least – I have to stop listening to the inner, negative voice that keeps telling me that I’m wasting my time. I have to scale back, take stock, regroup, assess and review my methods in order to streamline an effective pathway to a happy future! (Maybe the Sergeant was doing me a favor!)
Looking over my lists of memories that I’d like to write about, I realized that I hadn’t included things such as items I loved, or food I enjoyed, music I got into, my heroes and so on. Then I thought – I don’t want this memoir to become the written version of a hoarders show! However – I can’t resist ‘cataloging’ these things, along with the events and people in my life, as they do contribute to the building blocks of who I have become. (My brain is weary after a long week at my tiresome job – so please forgive my grammar slippings and stunted creativity! I will endeavor to polish these turds when I end up actually putting this memoir together!)
The above picture is of a Scandinavian Elf that was hanging up in the lounge room when I was a child. You can see the name ‘Sassi’ down the bottom, and that’s what I called him. Of course, when I was young, I thought he was real and for some reason assumed he was related to my mystical mountain that I always dreamed about. Through the divorces of my parents, growing up etc, Sassi disappeared, but one day, I was shopping online (Etsy) and found him! Naturally, I paid the minimal price they were asking and received the wall hanging in the mail a week later. I’m such a child – but I had to have it! Getting older means harking back to the old days and reminiscing (which I’m doing a hell of a lot of these days), and yearning for the things that meant a lot to you. I don’t need lots of expensive jewelry or ugly over-priced handbags! Give me books, music, movies and nostalgia and I’m as happy as a pig in shit!
What with political correctness and health officials (rightfully so, I suppose) doing their best to keep children safe and healthy, candy cigarettes are a no-no these days. But when I was a kid they were all the rage and they had little red tips at the end to make it look like you were actually smoking a lit cigarette. I remember walking around like Lady Muck with my friends, talking like what we thought were grown women, saying things like “Oh yes, you know..I agree..!” and so on, with haughty voices and tapping the imaginary ash.
If I had a daughter I would never have bought her toys like this! Sexist horror – but I do remember my little iron with the cord and the suction cup at the end, which would stick on the wall. When mum ironed I would set mine up and do the dolls clothes alongside her.
It was always special to find a nest – and even more special to find an egg! The adults would always tell us to stay away from them in case we got ‘bird lice’. I never got ‘bird lice’. I also collected feathers, leaves, gum nuts, seed pods, skulls, rocks, shells and anything else I could get my hands on.
We all loved butter! This memory goes hand in hand with blowing the dandelions and making wishes, making daisy chains, looking for fairy rings made out of toadstools, playing in sticklegrass and so on.
Everyone’s breath smelled like licorice. They were hard but after a while they would get chewy and gooey.
Where did Strawberry Pops go?! I loved having these for breakfast.
You never saw her face.
I wanted the Bionic Woman to be my mother! I fantasized about it all the time. Those were the years when things at home were getting worse. I either wanted to run away and live with Lindsay Wagner or be her!
I loved her music and loved her. I wanted to be her too!
Like most youngsters in the seventies – especially in Australia – I was smitten by ABBA. My friends and I would pretend to be them and mime their songs. Everyone fought over who would be Agnetha and I was always supposed to be Frida! (She was just as good though!)
I made so many of these. So ironic that the answers were deliberately written according to the desired results!
This was magic to me! I preferred playing with this, rather than going to real ballet lessons. I was no good and later, when I went to Jazz ballet, I realized I was no good at that either. I like Homer Simpson’s response to dancing “It’s the lowest form of communication!” Ha ha! I remember when my cousin and I would be dropped off to the lessons and the sign said “Private Road”. We used to giggle, imagining girls’ private parts jumping around everywhere. I also remember the snobby girls and their equally snobby mothers, who would stick their noses up in the air when we’d walk in. The snobby girls would walk like Charlie Chaplin and I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get why they thought they were so good.
These dolls were great fun, as they had a button in their backs that you pushed to make their hair grow. Then you’d wind it back up.
Simple – but they would keep me out of trouble for a long time!
I had a heap of them. My mother still collects them! You’d swap between your friends and collect series of them.
I have a lot of fun memories of drive ins – as a child as well as a teenager! The ones I would go to had swings and playgrounds down the front and it was safe enough for us kids to go and play before the movie started, or if we got bored and the parents kicked us out of the car!
Loved him – for a while.
There are far too many more but I’ll attempt them at another time.
I’ve been spreading myself thin lately – the usual juggling act that is particularly annoying for writers, what with the day job, daily ministrations, working on other writing projects and so on. A novel I’m currently toying with (a surreal, Young adult story) is growing arms and legs, so it’s taking center stage at the moment, however – last night I had one of my flashes as I tossed and turned, in regards to my memoir.
I wondered how it would be to write about some of my stories along the theme of water – or any other theme. I assume we all have these themes in our lives. For example, we all have tree stories, beach stories, holiday stories, school stories etc. The flash I had included all the memories that involved water, for some reason, and I decided that when I got up this morning, I would write them out and see how they panned out. So here they are, in random order, for me to organize at a later date, when I decide to actually put all this into a book!
The two most profound water memories I have involve saving both my brothers from drowning, at two separate incidents. The first one was when I was twelve years old and my brother Lucas was ten. We were at Seaspray which is known as the Ninety mile beach in Victoria, Australia. My Aunty Doris (who was the lady who kind of adopted my mum for holidays when she was a child, being brought up in the home) owned the holiday house there and had rented it to my mother for two weeks. I discovered later that mum had taken my brothers and I there after a fight with my stepfather.
There was no television but there was a radio and a ping pong table as well as the beautiful beach across the road. Mum thought that we were going to drive her nuts without a t.v. (I was twelve, Lucas was ten and Peter was eight) – but we spent most of our time exploring the beach, playing ping pong and catching blue tongue lizards. When you came out the front door you could see the hummocks (or hills) that were at least fifteen feet high and covered with long grasses. Every now and then there are tracks leading to the beach and once you get to the top you hear the roar of the ocean.
I spent a lot of time on my own writing and this particular day, I was sitting on the beach writing as Lucas went out into the water on an inner tube from a truck. He was sitting in the middle of it, slowly drifting further out. After a while I stood up and yelled at him “Lucas, you’re too far out!” He yelled back “Far out, far out!” doing peace signs in the air with his hands. I yelled again to come back, more urgent now as he was fast becoming a dot on the horizon. “You’re too far out, come back!” I strained my eyes to see him and realized that I could only see the inner tube floating to the right, without him on it. All of a sudden I saw him burst up from the water in the distance and I heard a blood curdling scream.
I froze for a split second but then it was like my primal brain took over. I dove into the water and started making my way towards him. The waves were at least four feet so I had to stop every now and then to see where he was. He was still struggling and dipping below the surface, his arms flailing wildly and then disappearing every now and then. After what seemed like an eternity I reached him and of course he latched onto me, grabbing at me frantically. I remembered something I had seen on t.v. about drowning people who ended up drowning the people who were trying to save them and that was definitely what nearly happened to me. He kept grabbing me around my neck and climbing over me, pushing me under the water.
Eventually I slapped his face and screamed at him to stop it and to turn on his back and go limp so I could take us both back to the shore. Luckily he did as he was told and I was able to wrap my arm around his face and under his arm. Using my other arm I swam us both back, carefully, telling him to help by kicking his legs. When we got back, a final wave dumped him thunderously onto the sand, as though to punish him for being an idiot. It made his tank top come up over his head and he just sat there for a while, crying. I was so mad I wanted to kick him, but all he could think about was the missing tire tube and how our Uncle would be pissed!
The other time was a few years later when I was fifteen and my younger brother Peter was eleven. We were visiting my mother’s boyfriend at Wonga Park and decided to go for a swim at the Yarra River. Being older, I was a stronger swimmer so I got to the other side first and waited for him, sitting on a rock. As soon as he made it he said “Let’s go again!” and I said “No, wait, you need to catch your breath!” He just laughed and said ‘No I don’t. I’ll beat ya!” With that he jumped back in and started swimming, so I followed. When I got to the other side I turned around and realized that I couldn’t see him. I looked up and down the banks and at the water but couldn’t see him anywhere.
Just like Lucas at the beach, all of a sudden I saw the water break, in the middle of the river and heard an awful scream, with Peter’s arms thrashing about, trying to grab onto something – anything! My guts jumped! Here we go again! So I swam out to him and realized that I had to tell him to calm down so I could get him back to the edge of the river, but he was so panicked that he climbed onto me as soon as I got to him. He got onto my shoulders and pinned me down under the water. Both of his feet were on both of my shoulders! The water was at least ten feet deep and when I tried to buckle my knees to get out from under him, he kept balancing himself and pinning me to the spot.
Every time I got out from under him, and tried to swim back to the surface, he found me and stood back on my shoulders. By this time I was out of air so all I could do was punch and dig my fingers into his ankles with all the strength I had left. This worked and he jumped off. When I got to the surface and caught my breath I had to grab and throw him, swimming up to him and continuing the process until we made it to the banks. I was so mad as he was laughing hysterically and I didn’t know about hysterical laughter so I started slapping and punching him. A couple who had stood by and watched the whole scene pulled me off him and explained that he couldn’t help it but I turned on them, yelling “Why didn’t you help us!?” They just stood there dumbstruck, then walked away quickly.
One more time where I saved someone was my beautiful son Zack, when he was two years old. We were living in the Buddhist commune and one of my duties was cleaning the swimming pool. I had him situated in a section away from the water, playing with his toys. As I walked around the pool, scooping leaves, I turned around to keep an eye on him. Every time I looked at him he was in his little section, playing with his toys. The one time I wasn’t looking, he slipped into the shallow end, without even a ‘plop’. I turned around and didn’t see him. I called his name and he didn’t answer.
I ran back to the section and he wasn’t there. By this time I was hysterical, screaming his name when my eyes were drawn to the water. He was under the surface, his arms and legs outstretched, not moving. I jumped in, my heart frozen, and snatched him up. He laughed and said “I was swimming!” I couldn’t help yelling at him, even though it was my fault. “I told you to stay away from the water!” Then he started crying and I felt like a bag of dog shit. I cried too as I realized what could have happened if I’d been daydreaming or distracted. Needless to say that I watched him like a hawk after that.
One time, at seaspray, when I was around six years old, I nearly drowned in the dip, or what they called ‘the washing machine’. It was a dip about six feet into the water where you could easily get caught if you didn’t know how to swim through it. The waves would tumble in a circle and you could get caught and not know which side was up or down. When it happened to me I thought I was going to die. I remember trying to use my brain and every time my hands felt the sand I’d push upwards but the waves pushed me back down. My equilibrium was in chaos and I was churning around and around.
The adults were oblivious to my plight and by the time I got myself out of it and back onto the shore, vomiting up wet sand and sea water, they laughed and said “You’ll know better next time!” I remember being furious for a long time, feeling uncared for and abandoned, as though I had no-one to rely on when things got dangerous. How ironic, as there were times later on, where I would have to be the one who would save the day!
When I was fifteen, we had a swimming pool in our backyard and had many pool parties over the years. I learned how all of a sudden people would be your friend when summer came and magically they disappeared when it was over, at least until the next summer. One of my mother’s boyfriend’s friends, Lucien, who was an older man, tried to pay me $5 to get in the pool with him and give him a kiss under water. Of course I declined. He was always after me, giving me strange gifts of chocolate or 4711 perfume. Whenever I climbed out of the pool I could feel his eyes on me and it made me uncomfortable, but the other adults respected him as he had lived a charmed life and used to be a strong man in the circus many years before and had met Laurel and Hardy.
It’s funny how, when you’re young and going through puberty, you don’t mind certain people noticing, but others make you self conscious or even worse, they sicken you! Again, at Seaspray – during the time I had saved Lucas from drowning, I was swimming, wearing my red one piece bathing suit, that happened to be see through when wet! A dune buggy came tearing along the beach with three guys in it and they stopped, yelling for me to come out of the water to talk to them. I was scared as I was only twelve years old and had a faint idea what they might’ve wanted. My brothers were being rambunctious, yelling at them to “Fuck off!” but they ignored them and continued asking me to come over and talk to them.
I was polite and said no thanks, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Secretly – I was excited, but fear got the better of me, and I continued to shy away and stayed in the water. In the meantime my brothers had ran back to the house and told my Aunty Doris, who was probably in her sixties at the time. She came over the hummocks, waving her walking stick and yelling angrily, telling them “Leave her alone, she’s only a child!” I was humiliated, but also relieved. As they drove off, yelling obscenities over their shoulders, I stared after them ruefully, thinking to myself that if I’d been older, I might’ve had to guts to talk to them.
One of my favorite pastimes as a child (like most children, I expect) was to play in creeks, causeways, drains etc. There was a lot of exploring to be done and adventures to be had. As my mother and her friends were drinking, we were able to slink away and pretty much do what we wanted, as long as we were back before dark. I especially loved the ones where willow trees hung over them. I would take my notebooks and sit, writing dreamily for hours, as the boys played pirates and so on.
One time, Lucas climbed to the top of one of the willow trees at my stepfather’s place, in Ivanhoe, and jumped onto one of the branches, swinging like an idiot. He yelled out “Look at me! I’m Tarzan!” He did the Tarzan “victory cry of the bull ape” when suddenly there was a “CRACK” and the branch broke, bringing him slamming into the creek! We all laughed so hard. We didn’t dare take him home, drenched and muddy. He just took off his outer clothes and draped them across the grass to dry and continued to play.
Sometimes we would follow the creeks for hours, walking barefoot through the water, pretending we were on a mission to find something elusive. If it got too deep we’d find an old piece of corrugated iron or fiberglass and use it as a raft, or walk along the sides. I’d find pretty rocks, feathers, leaves and flowers and take them home. I remember some days mum would pack us a picnic for the whole day and we’d have a wonderful time, exploring, getting filthy, climbing trees, making friends with random dogs and goats here and there.
I could go on and on but I think I’ll save it for another time.
I had taken a week off work to write and for two days I procrastinated with fits and starts, but pretty much only produced the beginning of a poem regarding my mother and her life. Only a page and a third so far! Inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ I used interesting language and it was all going well when I just stopped. I just wasn’t feeling it.
Then I got sidetracked by music, t.v., the internet and naps. When I went back to it – it wasn’t there. Not so much writer’s block – I just didn’t feel it. The thoughts of delving back into her life seemed unappetizing. I’m not sure if it’s the guilt of being so far away from her and my family or fear of the painful memories.
I keep oscillating between projects, genres and formats, not being able to make up my mind. I’m very good at making lists and organizing my writing. I have spreadsheets and notes that make it very clear as to what is to be written and how. The hard part is actually sitting down and writing them out – fleshing them out.
It takes me so long to finally pick a genre that by the time I’ve decided what to write, I sit down and instantly find myself dissatisfied with my choice and end up staring at a blank page. Again, it’s not necessarily writer’s block. There’s an unsettling feeling that it might not work or that I’ve made a wrong decision in terms of format or topic.
Then I think about not writing in long hand whilst sitting on the couch and ponder writing at my computer. The issue with my shoulder freezing stops that idea in it’s tracks, so I think about going to my other desk that looks out over our lovely back yard. But then I’d spend too much time gazing out the window daydreaming and the cats would want to join in and disrupt everything.
It seems like I’m making excuses but in truth I lack the discipline, because I don’t do it enough. I’m great at planning but doing is another thing entirely. I know that usually once I get into it, pages start flying and I’m in the zone. I can meet publishers deadlines. I have had articles published in three of Llewellyn’s Almanacs and every time I submitted my writing way before the deadline, without any need of revision, I’m proud to say.
But that was then, this is now, as it’s more personal as I’m attempting to write a very personal memoir. (What memoir isn’t personal!?) Part of the problem is censoring as I go. I can’t help it. I can feel my family peering over my shoulders. I find my eyes wandering up the page, making mental notes or crossing out what I’ve written, revising and mutilating.
I remember the Beats – particularly Kerouac saying something about rewriting being censorship and to go with your original, raw and true thought. I guess I’m a little more like Ginsberg (Oh how I wish!) in that, although the idea of not censoring is delicious, it seems sloppy and messy. Then I hear Burroughs say ‘Exterminate all rational thought’ and I’m back at square one!
I’ve been working on a non fiction self help book (yawn!) for the past few years. It started out with the idea of life mapping, using techniques such as self analysis, ritual, dream interpretation and researching your background through the trials and tribulations of your parents and what they brought to the table – in terms of psychological influences, parenting skills (or lack thereof), experiences, events, backgrounds, circumstances and so on.
I’ve got it all worked out re: synopsis, sample chapters, permissions and citations, research, formats etc. But I just can’t seem to get back into it. Ever since I received feedback from Urbis (a writing site that disappeared without so much as a ‘thank your mother for the rabbits’!) – I’ve been stuck. Mind you, the feedback was constructive, important and relevant (and so terribly obvious that I was disgusted for not thinking of it myself).
The advice was – why don’t you use yourself as a case study? Readers like to know that the writer knows something about the subject because they’ve experienced it, or in that book’s case – that the writer has gone through the steps put forth. I had thought that I could get away with using other people as case studies – namely Jack Kerouac and Vali Myers.
I was such an idiot. How could I have laid out an action plan for others to follow when I hadn’t tested it out on myself? How could I claim that my processes worked if I hadn’t gone through them myself? (Even though I had dabbled in ritual, dream interpretation etc – I hadn’t done so in the formalized way that my book was suggesting.)
Then I realized that I had the daunting task of ‘unraveling’ myself and my history. How horrible to relive the experiences I’ve been hiding from my whole life. How laborious to wade through all the crap that bubbles under the surface of my shining, smiling facade! People have always told me that I seem perpetually happy and content; that I’m helpful, kind, dependable – almost zen like. Hilarious! Made me want to punch them in the face.
I’v always been viewed as carefree, strong and capable. Not so hilarious. Every time someone told me so, the anger started rising in my throat. I should have been thankful that others viewed me in such a positive light. But that’s always been the problem. It suited them to do so. It was in their best interests to think of me like that – then they could keep heaping it on me! I would be stoic and brave and they could continue to lean on me, depend on me to be there for them.
Woe betide me if I ever leaned back. I was supposed to be strong. I was told to snap out of it and keep everything kicking along. Or they’d make excuses and hasty retreats, not contacting me again until the storm had passed. When I failed, let things go, became a mess – their anger knew no bounds. I was never allowed to be anything less than strong, capable, dependable.
Digging up all those memories and repressed feelings seemed akin to letting the zombies run wild! I wondered if I could still keep it all together whilst recording all that flotsam and jetsam. Just writing those previous paragraphs had me gnashing my teeth, fighting back tears and wanting to punch my teddy bears!
Mind you, it wasn’t all that bad. Like most people, I’ve had just as many good things happen to and around me, if not more. It’s just the concept of unearthing everything, warts and all, at the same time trying to maintain order, that boggles my mind. Then of course, there’s the guilt of hanging out dirty laundry. (An old boyfriend told me once that I was more Catholic than him, when it came to guilt – and I’m not Catholic!).
Writers have to deal with the guilt of hanging out the dirty laundry, in the most skillful way, however – in one sense, no-one owns events, or has control over your emotions or memories of those events. The trick is to try to be reasonable and philosophical.
(To be continued)