Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Putting My Dreams on Hold

Dare I hope that I've turned the corner? We'll see in the morning. At least the black-and-blue hasn't gotten any worse, and I'm taking the pain pills less often.

And I've been thinking about dreams. A lot of people thought that yesterday's entry described a dream made up for the sake of a funny story, but it wasn't—the dream was real and unfolded precisely as described. I had another dream last night with the same odd characteristic in common: No outlandish elements. I dreamed that I was at my godfather's dairy farm near Green Bay, Wisconsin, standing in the open doorway of the farmhouse watching the cows champ grass in the pasture, like I did when I was there in the 50s and 60s. They were ordinary cows eating ordinary grass, and the house was precisely as I remember it, even though the farm was sold and the house razed over thirty years ago.

I think that's the key: My dreams for the last few nights have been composed entirely out of things remembered, not things made up from whole cloth, as they so often are. I've never met Hilary Clinton, but lord knows I see her enough on TV, and she did grow up a scant couple of miles from where I did. And the outlines of the situation were familiar: I used to visit a lot of offices when I was a Xerox tech rep back in 1974-76, and for the most part I was treated well by the office managers and secretaries who were in charge of keeping their cranky copiers running. I was generally offered coffee or sodas, often with doughnuts or chips, occasionally sandwiches, and sometimes odd things like taffy apples. (I went home once with a zucchini in my coat pocket, though I dislike them and eventually had to throw it out.) More surprisingly, these people (almost always women) generally liked me and had the wisdom not to blame me for their malfunctioning machines, many of which were ancient limping electromechanical clunkers that desperately needed scrapping. I tried to be helpful in return: I was sometimes asked to “look at this damned telephone” or see if I could make a balky radio work. My record there was spotty, but I did what I could and they appreciated it.

I think that Hilary Clinton was standing in here for the archetype of the Good Customer, the ones who knew that I did my best to help them. I enjoyed being a tech rep, even though I knew I wouldn't be doing it for long, just as I enjoyed my visits to Uncle Joey's farm in the early 60s. The Xerox job was peculiarly rewarding—I'm still not quite sure why—and I'm guessing that my dream-maker mechanism was reaching for “comfort memories” and gluing them together with the same abandon that it often glues together weird creatures and impossible architecture and machinery.

So where did the weird creatures go? I have a theory that I tested today: I think that the pain pills anaesthetize the machinery in my subconscious mind that creates brand new things. I tried working on two of my numerous “hanging fire” SF projects, and it was startling how completely incapable I was of making progress. I did a little better on Old Catholics, which is a contemporary mainstream novel about people in Chicago, not an adventure set far in the future on peculiar worlds. Still, I had a great deal of trouble being truly creative today, in any way at all—and I think I'm doing as well as I am on this entry right now simply because I'm due for another pill in an hour or so, and my gums are starting to hurt. I think it's telling that I have taken a pain pill (two of them, actually, of two different kinds) right before bed every night since Monday, so that the chemicals have had their greatest effect while I sleep. (Which is the idea—otherwise I wouldn't sleep.)

I'm starting to miss the weirdly creative theater of the mind that I have always experienced, even though it sometimes disturbs me. I have fair confidence that it will return once the pill bottle is empty. I'll let you know.

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