Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Symbols and dreams and the life within

It’s no secret that my mother and I had a poor relationship…toxic, in fact. But I spent five years in therapy and she has been dead for at least ten years now, so you’d think it would be over, right? At least I thought it was over. But last night I had a disturbing dream and this morning I am struggling to puzzle it out.

Some facts from my childhood that have bearing on the dream:

My parents were divorced (for the second time) when I was ten years old. My mother made my brother and I choose which parent we wanted to live with. My younger brother chose her, I chose our father. My mother insisted we make this choice even though she knew the court would give custody of both of us to her. This labelled me a traitor and my brother the fair-haired boy.

In our post-divorce household, the only alarm clock in the house was in my room. I was designated the one to awaken first, figure out ways to get my sluggard brother out of bed, make breakfast and pack lunches for the two of us and, as my last act before walking out the door to school, awaken my mother and make sure she was out of bed before my brother and I left. We had to be quiet…waking her before it was time for her to get up was an offence punishable by a beating (quite literally), so I was thrown upon my own devices for solving problems or risk a beating if Mother did not think the problem was sufficient to awaken her early.

Mother was capricious, but not in a good way. What she considered funny and cute on Monday was, inexplicably, worthy of a beating on Wednesday, and fodder for complaining to her friends about how difficult her life was on Saturday. I seldom knew what was acceptable or not, especially when it came to approaching her. I considered my mother completely random, so bringing a problem to her had equal chances of being perceived as something worthy of her attention and worthy of a beating for bothering her with stuff I should be handling myself. Going to my mother for anything was fraught with peril. I got a beating for outgrowing my dresses, I got a beating for having holes in the bottoms on my only pair of shoes, I got a beating when my brother misbehaved because I, as the oldest one, was expected to make him behave (never mind he was bigger than I was). I was afraid of my mother and avoided her as much as possible.

I never talked back to my mother. I was terrified of her, and to say anything that she might interpret as a criticism or retort was to invite punishment. While a thin leather dog leash…“the strap”…was the most popular instrument of discipline, other things would unexpectedly turn up as punishment…giving my pet animals away, giving my toys away, refusing to allow me to go to a Girl Scout meeting (I was eventually dropped for poor attendance), rescinding permission to attend a school choir performance in which I was the featured soloist… I was very careful to keep my mouth shut around her and stay as much out of sight as possible, lest I inadvertently open the door to new and more devastating retribution.

I married at 17 and left home, never to return. Mother and I often went years without speaking to each other, sometimes not even knowing where the other one was. We never shared a roof after I moved out, nor did we ever share any possessions…my mother did not share, she simply took from me what she wanted and handed down to me what she did not. My needs were immaterial in the face of what she wanted me to have…or not have.

And so I found myself dreaming that I was going to be late for work because I couldn’t find the keys to my car. I searched the whole house until I happened to look out a window and saw them hanging on the branch of the tree that was growing outside the window.

I reached out the window, straining to grab them, but they were just out of reach. They were hung on a new shoot, fairly green and tender, and I surmised they would just fall into my hand, if only I could reach them.

I went outside, but it was quickly apparent that they were even further out of reach from outside the house.

I went back inside and asked my brother if he could reach them. He looked out the window and shrugged “Why should I?” he asked.

“Because I’ll be late for work,” I replied.

“Not my problem,” he said with a shrug and walked away.

I was standing at the door to a bedroom, pondering if I should open it or not. I really needed those keys, but waking my mother up was always a risky thing. She had had the car last and she had somehow been able to put those keys on the tree limb, so she should be able to get them back down. My reasoning was impeccable, but it didn’t assuage the cold knot of terror that choked off my breath. Slowly I opened the door.

Mother was asleep on her side, a white blanket pulled up to her chin. I gently shook her shoulder. “Mother, I need your help.”

One green eye flicked open. “What it so important that you’re waking me up?” she asked sharply.

I started to hyperventilate. “The car keys…you left them on a branch and I can’t reach them. I need them or I’ll be late for work.”

“Oh, for crying in the apple orchard,” she said with a sneer, her eyes rolling. “Can’t you do anything yourself?”

Reaching out her bedroom window she snatched the keys from the limb and clapped them forcefully into my hand. “Now, can I get some sleep, for god’s sake?” she asked and stomped huffily back to bed.

I stood there holding the keys, looking at the branch, and suddenly realized that the house keys were on the rings as well as the car keys. And the peril we had been in…anybody could have climbed that tree and had access not only to the car, but to the house as well, while we slept obliviously through the invasion.

A rage came over me…how dare she endanger us all in such a cavalier fashion? My fear of her falling away with this realisation, I clutched the keys tightly and shouted at her sleeping form.

“Don’t you ever leave these keys outside again! We could all have been killed! If this ever happens again, I won’t let you use my car, you’ll have to get your own!”

She did not stir.

Still furious, I ran down the hall, snatched up my handbag and ran to the front door. Snatching it open, I came to an abrupt halt. There, at the curb where my car should be, was a car I didn’t recognize. It was an old…perhaps a mid-1980s model…Ford Grenada. The paint, an almost iridescent purplish midnight blue, looked new but the rest of the car was a mess. Excesses of chrome hung off the body, flashing brightly in the morning light but dented and falling off the car. The seats were sagging and soiled and when I sat behind the wheel, I could barely see over it. The car was old and dented, tarnished and tawdry, and it wasn’t mine…but when I fit the key into the ignition and turned it, the car started with a mighty roar.

I put the car in gear and drove away without a look backwards.

Dream Symbol Definitions from

automobile The means by which you move forward in your life, the context within which you grow personally and learn your life lessons;Your personal integrity and the "sum of all our parts" (our knowledge, intentions, abilities, etc.) at the time of the dream. Your car being stolen can represent a feeling that someone or something is trying to compromise your integrity, take advantage of you, or take something that belongs to you—in a dishonest, sneaky, or manipulative way.

blaming Blaming someone can represent an effort to understand a situation or identify the cause, or an unwillingness to take responsibility for events in your own life. Suing someone would be an extreme example of blaming.

blue Royalty or distinction, honesty or sincerity (as in "true blue"), average or "regular" (as in "blue jeans" or "blue collar"), relaxation, or spirituality

broken object A broken or damaged object can represent a less than perfect, impaired, less effective, ineffective, or useless version of whatever the object represents. For example, a broken steering wheel in a your car could mean you're feeling less than effective at staying on track in your life right now. A broken or damaged wedding ring could mean you're feeling that your marriage is going through challenges and could use some "repair."

keys Your self-identity and personal power. Losing your keys can represent compromising yourself or giving away your personal power somehow in your life, or possibly shirking responsibility for yourself.

late Arriving late for something can mean: Whatever you are late for in the dream represents something very important to you in real life; You're neglecting a responsibility; You'd like to avoid the thing you're late for, you're dreading it, or you're afraid of failure; You're feeling passive-aggression towards an authority that is represented by whatever you're late for; You feel you have too much on your mind or on your schedule, or that you're feeling disorganized; Being late and feeling bad about it can mean you are experiencing or fearing a loss of control, or of being controlled by outside circumstances, somehow in your life.

midnight The end of one time period or beginning of a new one

Mother Your real-life mother, an authority or caretaker figure (such as your employer), or your spiritual parent (God); The idea of motherhood, motherly qualities, or parenthood in general

purple The color purple can mean a sense of royalty or distinction, fun, richness of life, or a sense of individuality and not afraid to be yourself and express yourself.

reaching for Reaching for an object or person can represent: Wanting or needing the object or person; Wanting to achieve something that object or person represents; Thoughts or intent of certain actions (kindness, aggression, etc.)—consider the intention behind the act of reaching

tree Life. A tall, healthy tree is often a symbol of a flourishing, vibrant life. Consider also what comes to mind when you think of the particular tree, and the state and setting of the tree.

window Your view of the world around you, or how you view or perceive people, events, and situations in your life.

workplace Your work or job, even if the dream workplace doesn't represent real life. The idea of working, being productive, being forced to do work, or the idea of a job in general (having or not having one, needing one, getting one)

1 comment:

  1. So, do you think this was your "third" car incident? Interesting how we continue to process stuff even after we think it is resolved. I do understand.

    N in Modesto


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