Bad Dreams and Better Habits

December 22, 2008 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

I had a horrifying dream last week. It was all about my hands. They were gnarled, my fingers curled under themselves like dead petals, and for the life of me I could not prise them apart. They hurt, too. In the dream, I was painfully aware of the ache in my hands, so much so that when memories of the dream returned to me as I was running last week, I wondered for a second if the sensation was real. Had I fallen asleep awkwardly? Was it pins and needles in the dead of night, in the real world, and not a dream at all? But then I remembered the way they looked, and I knew this was something my mind made up as the rest of me was sleeping.

When I told Llew about the dream the other night, the first thing he said was “Did you Google it?”

I laughed.

“No,” I said, “but I thought about it.”

Which brings me to my Google snobberies. As I pondered the dream, running, running, it was almost immediately clear to me that it was an anxiety dream about not being able to write. I had the dream after last week’s blog hoopla, so perhaps it was about the censure and censor issues that experience threw my way. But more generally, the dream was so terrifying because I could not write or type or do anything with these balled fists of fire. They were useless, and suddenly, so was I. It sends ice belting down my spine to think of it, it really does. But did I Google ‘dream interpretations’? No. I didn’t. And not because I thought I’d already cracked the code of my own REMs, a kind of mortal Morse. No, it was because I am a Google snob.

I stopped myself from searching ‘dream interpretations: hands’ or something similar because I think such generalised interpretations of individual dreams are bogus along the lines of tabloid astrology. What, so every single Virgo is obsessive-compulsive and can look forward to a brilliant day Thursday? Come on! I don’t take it seriously, so whilst I will admit to the temptation to turn to the web for a sly spot of self-diagnosis, I resisted. 

“I couldn’t bear seeing myself do it,” I admitted to Llew. “I was embarrassed even to have thought of  doing it. I stopped myself.”

I stop myself from many Google searches. It’s partly intellectual snobbery – I don’t say I like it about myself, but I know it when I see it, and it’s all over me like a rash sometimes – but it’s partly a discipline issue. I’m confident I could send my entire life up the river if I just gave in to every Google urge. It would take many lifetimes to scroll the results of all the random, banal, curious things that cross my mind at one time or another. Where do all the dead birds go? How do ants always know? Seriously. How do they? We accidentally left the lid to the sweet chilli sauce on top of a side table the other night, and in the morning, the entire thing was black with ants. I picked up the lid, carried it to the kitchen, and threw it out, and by the time I returned, the ants were marching down the side of the table leg. Somehow they knew the lid was there; somehow they immediately grasped the change in circumstances. “Oh well,” I imagined them saying down the line, “it was good while it lasted.” I watched (and this is really Changeling’s doing – just four months ago I would have sentenced them to Death by Hot Water), utterly fascinated, as they moved in an orderly and surprisingly brisk fashion from the table to the floor, before marching through two rooms and straight out the courtyard bi-fold doors. It was all over in under fifteen minutes. Not one ant remained. So I ask you: how do they know?

Oh, I could Google it, I could Google it and a million other things I constantly stop myself from Googling. I could Google recipes. I could Google old schoolmates. Ex-boyfriends. Girls I never liked. I could Google exercise programs and laser treatments and Where Are They Now? celebrity sites. I could Google movie trivia. I could Google myself. But I don’t do it. I don’t do it because I am a peculiarly, probably excessively self-disciplined person. I’m too self-aware – and too proud. Pride prevents me from doing many things that get quite tempting when you’re working at home alone every day. For instance, I never, ever, ever watch DVDs in the middle of the day when I’m supposed to be working (a rainy Sunday afternoon with Llew? Different story). I never, ever, ever swing in the hammock reading a book if it’s during work hours. I never, ever, ever leave the bed unmade. In short, I self-monitor. I’m too proud to be slothful, too proud to be lazy. Too proud to ever need to lie about how I spend my time. And too motivated, actually, too excited and grateful and alive and full of words that flood my mind and flow out my fingers. My dear, precious fingers, my own two hands. Oh shit, I could cry just thinking about the possibility of their failing me one day. And so in the end I didn’t Google my dream – there was nothing Google could tell me that I didn’t already know.



  1. Jenny said,

    I love the ant story and your evolving attitude towards life in all its forms. Many thanks for your compassion. And about the dream – does your grandmother have arthritic hands? Could it be some subconscious empathy?

  2. doctordi said,

    Well, it’s all thanks to you, actually. But I am starting to understand your own interest in their world, because it was really something to see. They were impressively efficient about their departure. I’ve had visitors with much worse manners than that.

    Yes, Nana has difficulty with her right hand in particular. Perhaps it’s related – I have certainly been having Nana dreams too.

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