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February 10, 2005 - 11:00 am


Iíve been dreaming in cryptic symbols again.

Last week, I had this dream that I was creating a terrarium in a 20-gallon tall fish tank by combining elements of two others and adding some new stuff. In it, I had plenty of black dirt and some smallish, leafy plants as home to a giant, green and yellow caterpillar and a big, colorful butterfly. I put a few worms and a couple of rocks in there for good measure, too, and set it on the table to have a look at it.

But it was difficult to get the tank to stay firmly on the table. At one point it seemed to be sitting on a large marble, and another time it nearly slid off the side of the table. Finally I got it balanced, although somewhat precariously since it was partly hanging off the table, but I was happy enough with it and left it to settle in and grow.

The next morning I woke up to find the tank turned upside down in the sink, completely empty, save for tracks of mud on the glass, all the plants and insects having been scraped out into the sink, which was still slightly dirty but showed no signs of life. I was completely devastated.

John walked in as I was crying and trying to right the tank, and he asked me what was wrong. I told him what had happened but was inconsolable. He said he was the one who had emptied out the terrarium because it was just too dangerous. He said it was under suspicion of being infiltrated by a Japanese U-boat, and we may not have survived the attack had he not dumped it, which made no more sense to me in the dream than it would if heíd said it in real life. And he was angry that I didnít appreciate what heíd done for us.

Well, that was the proverbial straw. I was seized by uncontrollable rage and frustration and laid into him (in my sleep, of course) for a good twenty minutes and woke up crying and sweating, my heart pounding.

John wasnít even in the bed.

So I started thinking. Hard. What was this dream really about, and why was I so upset by it?

I came to the conclusion that my dream could be analyzed Ė hypothetically, of course Ė as someone at the end of their rope deciding to give up. This can be a difficult thing for the hypothetical dreamer who is determined, persistent, and hopeful by nature.

[Dons white coat and thick, black rimmed glasses, affecting a German accent.]

Success has always come to me whenever Iíve kept trying and finally accomplished what I set out to do, or simply because I persisted when others had long since given up; my hopeful outlook even seems to inspire those less sanguine. I'm the kind of person who gets through the epic, gets the lid off the jar, meets my deadlines, and finishes the race.

Determination gives me the will and the drive to do what needs to be done. For some people, motivation can be difficult to maintain when times get hard, but because what drives me comes mostly from inside, the promise of physical reward carries very little weight with me, and so cannot be held as leverage. My successes are internal, and I am my own barometer, for better or worse.

Persistence allows me to plow through the boring details, repeating steps over and over if necessary. Itís getting through this drudgery and boredom that gets some people down and kills the spirit, but I can handle that part. Necessary repetition is a means to an end and can even be Zen and calming in its regularity. Itís not difficult, it just takes time.

Hopefulness is the light at the end of my tunnel. It gives me an air of calm when things around me are crazy because I can imagine the full grown tree when looking at the acorn. I enjoy the merest idea of the fruit long before the tree gets out of the ground, but I also tend to hold to that idea even if the tree never comes up. Not so good.

So hereís where my dream comes in: there comes a time when my determination becomes self-destructive, my persistence ceases being heroic and becomes both comic and tragic at the same time, and everyone but me sees how hopeless and futile the situation is. Theyíve all stopped rooting for me and have begun to worry about me and talk to each other about me, saying things Iíd rather not hear. My determination comes across as martyrdom, my persistence appears to be self-abuse, and my calmness looks like blind foolishness.

So then, letís say for argumentís sake that I finally see my situation as the people who really love me see it. How do I feel about that? Has my whole life been as foolish as it seems to be at this moment? Have I been arrogant and proud all those times I thought I was being strong and brave? So, what do I do then? Do I just abandon the modus operandi that has served me so well up to now?

Well, actually, maybe for now I do. For a little while anyway, maybe I do suspend the determination, the persistence, and the hope, and just give up. Let it go. There really is no personal reward for hanging on, is there? Thereís no reason for the drudgery; thereís nothing at the end of this tunnel, and deep down know it.

Letís just see what happens when I give up. Just for a while. In the meantime, I'll keep dreaming. Maybe I'll plant a new garden Ė only this time in the ground.

Oh, and thatíll be $150, please.


reading -The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences by Michele Foucault
viewing - The Accidental Tourist
listening -ďHearts and BonesĒ by Paul Simon

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