This morning I woke sweating and shaking from what felt like the most drastic nightmare of my life. I threw on my robe and staggered downstairs, dizzy and wobbly, and sat down on the floor in the corner of the kitchen and asked the cats to help me ground. I’ve never had a bad acid trip, but this would have been a good stand-in.
All during my childhood, through my teens and into my twenties, I was plagued by nightmares. Eventually I learned some powerful dreamwork techniques, and gradually hauled myself out. It was a relief not to be afraid of sleep.
Now for the last year or so, they’ve made a comeback, usually in the last sleep-shift before morning. Often I’m in a position of responsibility and I find myself unable to cope, or I get lost on the city, or the building I’m in is suddenly huge and unfamiliar. And just for variety, I have some of these complex group-dreams where everything works just fine and I wake with a warm feeling. Not this time.
Conrad and I were preparing for a performance of Descent of the Goddess Inanna, a huge, complex production with a big set and masks and puppets. It was on tour, and we arrived on the day before to unload and set up in a city space I’d never seen before. Instead, the space was filled by some other theatre company, a big bunch of very self-assured and aggressively cutting-edge people, and they didn’t understand our wanting to prepare for the next day’s matinee.
Conrad went off to try to find who was in charge of the facility, and I did likewise. The building was mammoth and complex, many performance spaces on many floors, all thick white stone walls and elaborate curving staircases, old and musty-smelling and not in very good shape. At one point I was going up a back stairs and the whole bannister crumbled and took the handrail with it.
There seemed to be dozens of theatre troupes there, and it was every man for himself. I tried to retrace my steps to the entrance and find a phone to call Conrad, but when I found him, he was staggering and incoherent. Many of the people around us were deformed or disabled. We got out into the street and couldn’t find our van, and eventually we were running up and down endless curved streets lined with metal-front warehouses. Then I woke up. Jesus.
This was a different kind of terror. Not a tiger chasing me down the basement stairs (a childhood classic) or fearing that something happened to the children, or trying to run with my feet stuck in mud. This was being in an incomprehensible and incoherent situation without the skills to push through, and without anyone to help.
This tangled skein is rife with threads to pull. We were for many years part of a vibrant theatre community, but in recent years we’ve been pretty much on the fringes. We’re not in the fast-running current now, we’re at the margins. And we’re not only focusing on the solitary life of writing fiction, we’ve fallen off the edge of the youth culture.
But I think the truly hideous part of the nightmare was finding myself in an uncaring, carnivorous “community,” and I think this is totally a reflection of what our national political structure has become. And it doesn’t take much to find where the deteriorating buildings and deformed people came from. Our national bannisters and railings are falling off.
But we’re in Sebastopol. We have dear friends and kind neighbors here. I will invite them to become my dream allies.