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Episode #18: Finding My Voice in My Dreams and in My Life

Last week, I had another one of those dreams where I can’t speak or scream. I’m trying to use my voice – trying to speak or LASH OUT AT some person I perceive of as an authority figure and my lips won’t even part. I’m PARALYZED and all I can do is make *UMMMM* sounds as if my mouth is taped shut. I try and try to open my mouth – and there IS no tape, there is NOTHING holding my mouth shut – and yet I can’t OPEN it to say or scream any words. It’s like I can’t open my mouth to say or scream any words because – although there is NOTHING PHYSICALLY preventing me from doing so, I am the one holding myself back. HOW or WHY am I in these dreams like the one last week – and the ones several times a year – HOW or WHY am I FORCING my OWN mouth shut? WHAT is the significance of these people of AUTHORITY in my dreams? Usually they are older men or other people I don’t know. I want to tell them, “NO!” or “FUCK OFF!” and I can only make the *UMMMM* sound with my closed mouth. Usually there is a point in my dream – like the one last week – where I become CONSCIOUS in my dream – that I know I am dreaming – and I realize that if I CONCENTRATE hard enough, I CAN open my mouth and scream. I often wake myself up, yelling OUT LOUD, “FUCK YOU!” in what by this time is usually over-the-top , excessive even for the reason I wanted to tell the person in my dream to fuck off. This time – last week – my daughter who tends to join me in the middle of the night from her own bed – asked me as I had woken her up with my, “FUCK YOU!”, “Mom, are you okay?” “Yeah, Baby. It was just a dream.” Curious, she asked, “Do you want to tell me about it? Do you want to try to remember it?” “No, Baby, I’m tired. I just want to go back to sleep.” My daughter and I have this thing where we both tend to have weird dreams and we do our best to remember them and to tell each other about them in the morning. Let me tell you, listeners something, MY KID is funny in her WAKING moments AND she’s funny even in her dreams. Often, I see and hear her laugh in her sleep and that brings me so much joy, because MY DREAMS – MY dreams are either THIS kind of dream where I’ve LOST my voice or where everything around us – in our home and life – is very messy, chaotic and out of control. I’m relieved that my daughter is spared from THOSE kinds of dreams. SHE dreams things like THIS one she told me about a year or two ago – probably one of my all-time FAVORITES: “SO, Mom”, she said, “I dreamed that the earth split into two planets. One was called ‘Ear’ and the other ‘Th’. Get it? The E-A-R-T-H split into two planets and one was named after the FIRST 3 letters of the word ‘Earth’ and the other one was named after the LAST 2 letters of the word ‘earth’.” “Okay,” I said, “let me get this STRAIGHT. When planet EARTH split into 2 planets, one planet was called ‘Ear’ and the other one ‘The’?” “No,” she said, “ONE was called ‘EAR’ and the other one ‘Th’.” “Ohhh!”, I said – not sure I could quite hear the difference between ‘the’ and ‘th’. “And then who went to live on what planet?”, I asked. “I went to live on ‘Ear’,” she said, “and YOU and ‘Bob’ – for anyone who has never been to our home – my daughter named the tree outside of our dining room window BOB….”YOU and BOB and Bogie went to live on ‘Th’.” God, how I wish I could be funny in life AND in my DREAMS as my daughter is. Instead, I”m trapped in my own mouth and can’t say what I think, can’t be MAD AT someone. Maybe it’s no surprise I have found my voice now, in Audacious Freedom, the podcast. Where I can WRITE OUT what I’d like to say – WRITE OUT MY STORY – without knowing where the story is going or even what its POINT is going to be. And if I were to try to TELL the story without WRITING it first – either TELL it to another person or directly into a microphone – the story wouldn’t come out at all. A couple of thoughts or ideas might come out before the other person would comment or react and if talking into a mic without any notes, I’d lose my train of thought. Plus, I need time for my stories to unfold and to get up and pace around in between. Maybe even a day or two will go by before I can get my emotions and thoughts and story together. Maybe I need time to cry or to HOLD my own face in disbelief about what is coming into my thoughts and being written down on paper. AS if the thoughts and the writing aren’t coming from me at all. Except they ARE. They just FEEL like they’re coming from someone else because they’ve been bottled up so deep inside of me for so long I hardly recognize them as my own thoughts and stories. How did this happen that I have so much to say and yet I’ve kept it inside for so long? I remember being shy and quiet as a kid and painfully afraid to speak up in class, even though I usually knew the answers. By the time I got to junior high, high school and college, I had to learn to tough it out and push down my shyness, especially in front of an entire classroom. I was fine 1:1 or in maybe a SMALL group of friends, but I had a hard time with all eyes on me. Even when I got married at 24 years old, I was SOOO nervous to walk down the LOOOOONG aisle at the church in front of 150 people and to say my vows. I played off my nervousness with some SASSY SMILES to the guests and by WILLING my hands to stop shaking so hard that the bouquet was practically vibrating. Interestingly, it turns out I LOVE public speaking and facilitating discussion and workshops. I’ve done this professionally throughout my career for decades now. And I’m good at it. I’m good at it because I’m prepared with a SCRIPT – often including my STORIES – and I rehearse rehearse rehearse. Prepare prepare prepare. I use my notes/script and each time I learn where every word is on each page, I just need the reminders of where I want to go next in my speech or presentation. And I FUCKING LOVE IT. I love it when the audience is engaged and when I make them laugh. I love when I inspire them and they come up to me afterwards to tell me so. It’s also really HARD to be that vulnerable and to stretch outside of – I don’t want to say my NATURAL ABILITIES, because in my bones I feel called to speak in front of a room – it’s STRETCHING beyond my ANXIETY. I guess I don’t THINK I appear anxious to my audiences though BOY, do I have to work at it to appear calm and confident. Because WITHOUT the audience, I AM calm and confident in my THOUGHTS and stories. I get nervous about all the eyes on me and what they might think. OF ME. Because my voice is so UNIQUE and I’m not going to DO and SAY the things that everyone else is going to DO and SAY, especially some of the people I have known and loved the longest. I WANT to be LOVED BACK, but NOT if it means I have to do or say some things I don’t care to do or say. I NEED freedom and independence and a lot of DOWN TIME. I’m an introvert at heart and often need *recovery* time after work and interaction with others. ANYWAY, why was I given this UNIQUE VOICE with my UNIQUE STORIES when I obviously have cared what other people think about me? I have cared so much about what other people think that I can’t speak up to some asshole in my dreams? It doesn’t make sense. These random characters in my dreams of this recurring theme are just being jerks and deserve to be told to fuck off. Why can’t I tell a jerk to fuck off in my dreams? Why wouldn’t I want my voice to be heard if someone deserved it? Does this theme apply in my waking life when I want to use my voice? Well maybe not when someone is being a DICK. I did recently tell an old white guy he was a FUCKING DICK when he elbowed his way in between me and his wife at one of our recently re-opened bars now that COVID restrictions are being lifted. He had wedged a bar stool half-way into the space that DIDN’T exist for a “seat” at the bar and even managed to force his forearms onto the bar while leaning awkwardly forward just an inch or so from my elbow. Much as he deserved it actually, it was still something I had to remind myself I didn’t have to sit there, twisting my back sideways to lean away from his INTRUSION. I have to say I rarely come across rude people or have any reason to tell someone off in real life. I pride myself on a DRAMA FREE life, so I’m NOT going to choose or stay friends with people who are jerks. I TYPICALLY don’t go to a crowded bar and I think this particular Friday early evening was an anomaly in that it was crowded because it was within the first week that we could go back into bars without any spacing and tables between customers and the bar. Boy, did this old guy MAXIMIZE the rule for no more spacing at the fucking bar! SO, anyway I did some research about dreams, about dreams where you can’t talk or scream. And I found a lot of what you’d EXPECT to read and hear: you can’t find your voice in your dreams because you have something to say in your waking life in your relationships – or something along those lines. So, I wondered if that rang true for me. Is there someone I want to say something to in my life? OH YEAH, there’s probably a LONG list I could come up with, for sure! Do I WANT to make that list of everyone who recently – or even a long time ago – DID or SAID something that I had a reaction to, but didn’t ever TELL them my reaction? No, I really don’t want to go on an AFTER-THE-FACT SPREE of “remember when you did or said THIS THING to me? Well, I need to tell you NOW what I thought about THAT THEN…. No, I really don’t want to do that and it’s not where I want to put my energy. I DO want to think about the common thread or threads in those moments – in those memories – of times when I didn’t like what someone did or said to me and the first – and maybe the only – thing that comes to me is that I was caught off guard in every case. I was caught off guard in every case because my default assumption about people is GOOD INTENTION and KINDNESS. That’s really my default assumption about everyone – family, friends, colleagues – even strangers in the community while shopping, at a bar – ANYWHERE. And that’s my DEFAULT for myself: to have good intentions and to be KIND to everyone. I LOVE LANGUAGE and I have a NERDY HABIT of looking up the definitions of words. Here’s the definition of KIND: “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person: a kind and loving person having, showing or peceedeing from benevolence: kind words, indulgent, considerate or helpful; humane.” And the definition of benevolence is: “the quality of being well meaning, kindness.” And for the record, ANTONYMS of KIND are: “cruel, nasty”. So OF COURSE my default is to have GOOD INTENTIONS and to be KIND to everyone and I think everyone around me also wants to have good intentions and to be kind. And when I am on the receiving end of someone’s LACK of KINDNESS, of their CRUELTY or NASTINESS, well, I’m fucking caught off guard. I’m KNOCKED over or DOUBLED over trying to breathe because the wind has been knocked out of me. And I lose my voice. Sometimes I can recover quickly enough to stand my ground in the moment, though the “how the thing that person said to me made me FEEL”, can stay with me for DAYS – or I won’t LIE – sometimes HOW they made me FEEL can stay with me for YEARS or in at least the case of ONE friend – for over a decade. That brings me to the famous quote from the inspirational Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Oh my god, YES, people – I will never forget how you made me FEEL. How the wind was knocked out of me because I expect good intentions and kindness from you and I was blind-sided by your cruelty and nastiness. How could your INTENTION be cruelty and nastiness? Even if that wasn’t your INTENTION and it just *slipped out*, now that you’ve said or done this cruel or nasty thing, how have you lived with yourself? How have you not EXPRESSED REGRET and even SHAME? And, Maya, you were an AMAZING poet, memoirist and civil rights activist and I have experienced so much joy from your work and I have so much RESPECT for you. But it I could sit down with you to chat – because you would be on the top of my list of people I’d like to sit down and chat with who have passed on – I gotta tell you that I not only NEVER FORGET how someone made me FEEL, I also do NOT FORGET what some people SAID or what some people DID to make me feel SHITTY. I realize that this is probably a CURSE rather than a blessing that I can remember it all – HOW someone made me feel, what they SAID AND what they DID – RIGHT? Is it a CURSE or is it something I can turn OFF instead of turn ON? I’m not sure. I DO know that I’m NOT going to make that list of people and the shitty feelings they left me with and go out on a ROAD SHOW confronting everyone, even if I CAN remember exactly how they made me FEEL AND what they SAID and DID. I AM going to continue to expect good intentions and kindness from everyone, though I am ALSO going to think about how I can NOT be so caught off guard if someone acts UNKINDLY. I DON’T want to become cynical or JADED, but I MUST be prepared for, I must proactively protect myself from being so easily – even naively – getting the wind knocked out of me. I must also continue to do my best to maintain my own good intentions and to be kind to everyone, because I want people to remember how I made THEM feel – and I want that to be that they felt loved and supported by me, which is what I want most to feel from others. And if I have chosen you as part of my inner circle – and you KNOW who you are! – I want to say thank you. Thank you for loving and supporting me. I love you.

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