Wordy Wednesday: I thought dream interpretation was supposed to be subtle and nuanced

This would be a Wordless Wednesday post, but I didn’t get the camera I wanted for Christmas. Instead, welcome to the first Wordy Wednesday post, where I celebrate by spewing out a longer post, with “longer” arbitrarily defined as “over 1,000 words.” This whopper clocks in at an uncomfortably long 2,009. I should probably have saved it for a Therapy Thursday instead.

The tl;dr: 

I had some nightmares. I looked up what they might mean. They meant exactly what I imagined they might. Failure sucks.

The last few months, I’ve been dreaming up a storm. Good, bad, and otherwise — they’ve been more vivid, more frequent, and more memorable.

I slept horribly last night, which means lots of being awake alternating with nightmares. The deluxe package!

"A perturbed young woman fast asleep with a devil sitting on her chest; symbolizing her nightmare." Stipple engraving by J.P. Simon, 1810, after himself. From the Wellcome Library, London
“A perturbed young woman fast asleep with a devil sitting on her chest; symbolizing her nightmare.” Stipple engraving by J.P. Simon, 1810, after himself. From the Wellcome Library, London

Nightmare 1: Waiting to board a flight at an Iraqi airport. Me, a shifty Iraq-ish au pair-slash-suspected-secret agent, and identical twin baby girls who (mostly peacefully) suck on pacifiers the whole time. Our flight number was four digits and mostly made of 3s and 4s, like 3343, and so were most of the other flight numbers I saw while looking for ours.

The airport walls were made of pine paneling, which felt dated, cheap, and not exactly confidence inspiring.

I was most upset because I didn’t have my flight drugs, Valium or similar — in real life, more necessary than my boarding pass!

The babies never cried at the same time, or for more than a few seconds at all. They didn’t have much hair. They weren’t obviously mine or not mine or anybody else’s. They didn’t require any care, and the au pair was one in name only. Nothing happened, nothing resolved.

Nightmare 2: In a big commercial airplane, getting ready to either land or crash. I’m more uncomfortable than the people around me. Some terrifying ups and downs, and engine noises. I squinch my eyes shut and wait for it to be over, come what may. Just be over already.

Lots of spacious sleek silver modernity in the plane and at the airport I can glimpse through the plane window. We finally land, surprisingly smoothly, but nobody claps or even acts like it had been a big deal at all.

Presumably life went on and people deplaned, etc, but I woke up for the last time before anything notable happened.

My favorite interpreters weigh in

AuntyFlo says:

Sitting in an airport: suggests that changes will [be] imminent. You have a desire or need for adventure.”

“If you are waiting for a plane it means you are not being direct enough in your approach, and that you know sometimes in life people walk over you….Being in a waiting room indicates your uncertainty about a project in your waking life. ”

“To dream of a crying baby indicates that it is time to heal your inner self.”

“When one dreams of a Pacifier there is an energy of needing to be taken care of, to have someone giving you something which is going to feel like sustenance, which is going to bring you comfort….the world has become too complicated and you must find a way back to peace. You have put too much on your plate and you need a break.”

“For Women: When Numbers appear in the dream for a woman, this is a sign that she has become overly organized and that has made her world a difficult place to live. ”

In a dream state the airplane means that you may need to take off a new project, it can also be a symbol of fear.”

Landing at the airport: representation of feeling lonely around others.”

Tony Crisp, meanwhile:

Airports: “Refers to making new departures; changes, hoped for or real; desire or need for adventure.”

Abroad [Iraq]: “Your feelings about that country, or the view or associated feelings you have of it; being in or moving toward a new or changed life situation.”

Brown: “As a mood this can depict gloominess, dullness or even depression….Brown in regard to objects can show them as being old or worn.”

“In general [drugs] relate to whatever you associate with the particular drug. For instance aspirin would connect with your attempts to deal with pain.”

Three:  “is symbolised by the triangle, and represents a unity of the positive and negative to create a new condition. Thus we see it as mother and father bringing forth child, which is a mixture of both but different from either. So it might represent family. Creativity out of opposites or opposition. …A perfect number according to Chinese….Also a favourable number associated to the childbirth and to the birth. A sacred number of the woman in the Mayas.”

Four: “The symbol of four is the square or cube, representing stability, materialisation, earthiness, strength of a physical nature, permanency. It is the symbol of the four points of the compass; four elements…four functions….Four often, perhaps in the form of a square, depicts a sort of physical harmony, a wholeness.”

Twins: “several possibilities when you dream of a twin or twins…The first one is that it is part of you that has got split off from your main development….Twins can also represent duality, conflict, or two sides of an issue, but also the emergence of something new, something that was denied, that you were born with, but never acknowledged as part of yourself.”

Spy [the shifty au pair]: “Suspicion; underhandedness; secrecy; something you could be in trouble about if you were found out.”

Difficulty landing: “Difficulty achieving goal or making it real in a down to earth way; anxiety about where life events are taking you; feeling out of control or not being in control; difficulties or fears about being in someone else’s hands.”

My take

I agree with the consensus that it feels like my life is going nowhere, as indicated by all the waiting and airport imagery and difficulty landing.

Or, as I bawled at dinner last night, “My scenery never changes!”

Oops. I hope KK tipped the waiter extra. (PMS was part of it, but still…)

The context: I set two big creative projects for myself last year, and neither one came to anything. At all.

The smaller project failed because I knowingly gave away, to someone else’s project, the time and energy it would have taken to complete my own. Their project was mostly successful, I think, but because it wasn’t my project, it ended up being hollow and unrewarding (to me). On top of which, of course, I didn’t get my own project done either. Lose/lose.

The big one has failed to fruit for absolutely no good reason, due to no one’s fault whatsoever, and that’s supposed to make me feel better.

It doesn’t.

But having these two big go-out-on-a-limb, try-something-new things fail, Fail, FAIL has made my life “a difficult place to live.”

The deadline for completing the smaller project has passed, but the bigger project will limp along for a little longer. My sticking with it for over a year now is nearly unprecedented. I’d like to see something for my considerable efforts.

For everyone’s considerable efforts.


I’m a naturally careful person. I don’t like surprises, and I’m comfortable taking only very calculated risks.

And that’s worked fine in the past, to create a string of accomplishments (however mundane) and achievements (however modest) that equal “not a failure at life by most objective standards.”

I’ll take it.

Stylistically, I was a born generalist. Even as a kid, I’d pick a new hobby every few months — learn about it, get proficient, and move on. Here are a few I remember:

  • entomology
  • magic
  • clowning
  • mapping and beating The Legend of Zelda (on the first Nintendo)
  • beating Tetris on the Gameboy
  • playing piano
  • trying to rollerskate backwards
  • assembling my little sister’s “some assembly required” Christmas presents on Christmas Eve after she went to bed
  • reading many, many different book series
  • working my way through the adult non-fiction collection at the big public library downtown, starting at the Dewey 000s [I didn’t read them all, but I skimmed most of them]
  • building a notable antique toy collection
  • researching, analyzing, and compiling product and service reviews so I could advise family members on prospective purchases (back in the WAY pre-Amazon and Yelp days)
  • many, many different arts and crafts
  • going through the trash at the Post Office to read other people’s junk mail, trade publications, and newspapers from far-off places
  • memorizing poetry
  • building houses of cards (3×5, not playing)
  • taking apart and reassembling small appliances and electronics
  • learning to score baseball
  • learning all the rules of major league baseball so I could become the first woman MLB umpire
  • climbing trees
  • teaching the squirrels in the backyard to take peanuts from my hand
  • building better tadpole catching tools
  • babysitting
  • cooking
  • any many others that I can’t think of right now.

All told, a steady self-directed stream of projects. (Where’s my Nobel?)

In the process, I left a lot of unfinished projects, and my mom always bitched about it: “Why should I buy you this kit? You only made 3 of the 10 from the last one!”

But I knew intuitively that learning enough about most things was, usually, enough. Had I finished the last kit, my 10th thingamajig would not have been any better than the 3rd. So why beat your head against the wall when there are so many other things to learn and do?

This translated into my adult life when I struggled to hold out through entire semesters in college — getting an overview in a month or two was usually enough.

Pushing through a whole four years’ worth of semesters? I barely made it.

For my first 4 or 5 years’ of working after college, I couldn’t stay anywhere more than 9 or 10 months (range = 6 weeks to barely-10-months). Never fired, whatever that’s worth, but I learned each job in a few weeks, and when there weren’t more challenges coming down the pike, I had to pick up and leave or wallow in eventually-suicidal stuckness.


So with my innate need for a good balance of novelty and achievement, you might be able to see how this stuck-in-a-failure-rut-ness is really wearing on me.

I’ve been reading about buddhism some, about the slippery, sad slope that is attachment to outcomes.

Rationally, it makes sense, and I’ve seen it play out with my MS experience. If I expect to feel great (normal) and I don’t, I double the feeling-bad burden when I cling to the belief that “no, really, I SHOULD be feeling fine.”

Better to accept the reality that I hurt/tingle/crawl/collapse, step up the self-care, and move on/be still. Simple, not always easy, but it’s another tool in my coping toolbox.

But as much as I’d like to, I’m having a helluva hard time applying the same benign detachment to This Big Project (TBP) and its string of failures.

Because the nature of TBP, the primary metric, includes a very specific outcome.

To get semantic, I do not want to try to do TBP. (If I did, I could have successfully hung up my spurs after a few months.)

Instead, I want to do TBP.

It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

And so far, it’s been 100% nothing.

And even my dreams are noticing.

My 2013 game face:



It doesn’t help that I spent exactly the first two full weeks of the year convalescing with the flu, where every day’s agenda was: meds, rest, fluids, rest, repeat.

I’m finally feeling better enough to trade “meds and fluids” for “a little work and some writing.”

But I’m still kind of miffed that being sidelined kept me from taking advantage of the forward-looking momentum that a new year can bring.

A fresh start, however real or imagined or arbitrary.

Instead, this month, this year, has been more like Extended 2012 Failure Purgatory, and I can’t advance until…what? I don’t even know.

I still don’t know.

Do YOU know?

Tell us in the comments.

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