The Meaning of Dreams

Normally not one to have elaborate dreams, this morning I awoke from an intense, emotionally-gripping one. 

The setting was my maternal grandparents’ house in suburban Kansas City.  Many different family members were there along with a few friends.  We were getting ready for a party and in order to make enough space for guests, I disassembled my grandparents’ bedroom furniture and moved it to another room.  The guests, strangely, were for the most part young Thais who were looking for jobs, as if at some sort of career center.  While at the party they were preparing resumes, practicing interviewing skills, etc.

When it came time for everyone to go home, I scrambled to get things cleaned up and organized.  The bedroom furniture had not yet been correctly reassembled and there were loads of dishes soaking in the sink.  My grandparents returned and my grandfather was very upset, fuming that things had been disturbed and I had not fulfilled my promise to put everything back in order.  My grandmother was calmer, yet I sensed that she was unhappy with the mess in her kitchen.

Suddenly I was outside the house, in their large front yard with huge old trees.  The yard had become a cemetery, though, and I was struggling to get back inside and finish my duties before a group of oddly Victorian mourners approached.

That was the dream.

I would generally describe myself as a person who faces life with equanimity.  Many times, friends and acquaintances have remarked about the “calm under pressure” with which I handle the challenges that life presents.  Whether managing an oversold film festival event or helping someone through the rigors of relationships, I consider myself a steady rock to which people can cling.

But beneath this veneer of calm detachment, I wonder if I’m not deeply afraid of letting those about whom I care, down.  Two themes about which I think this dream may have spoken:

The first is my relationship with my grandparents, vis-a-vis my coming out.  When I came out to my family more than 18 years ago, my grandfather was particularly disapproving and there was, for several years, a rift between us.  He was never mean, but I come from a very religious family and he and my grandmother are the root of our faith, so he saw the issue in the context of “I love you because you’re my grandson, but the Bible tells us that you are also a sinner.” 

(Let’s not get caught up in the religious back-and-forth of believers versus non-believers for the purposes of this post…)

My grandmother was more accepting of the situation and over time, thanks to I don’t know what conversations between them and also my parents, my grandfather’s view moderated.  In 2004, when Tawn and I held our commitment ceremony, both my grandparents were there.  And while they were not able to drive up to Iowa for our recent marriage, due to the discomfort of a long overnight road trip at their age, they were a part of the reception and a mention of our “civil ceremony” even made it into my grandfather’s weekly email missive to extended family members.

When I invited my grandparents to the wedding, I couched the invitation in terms of, “I don’t know if this is something you would be comfortable with, but it would mean a lot to us for you to attend.”  While often preferring to avoid the confrontational issues rather than addressing them, my grandfather acknowledged that his thinking on the topic had “evolved” (his word) over time.

I think it is safe to say that with regards to the first theme in the dream, there is still an unresolved question in my mind of letting my family down, wondering whether I am not the person they expected me to be, even though they have been and become a very wonderful source of support in my life.

A second, related theme emerges from the dream: Recently, a number of friends have shared their troubles.  From relationship problems to medical ones, from aging parents to one friend being infected with HIV by a psychopathic partner in the partner’s desperate attempt to force them to stay together, I have received more stories in the past week than I have in a long time.

For each of these people, I want to provide the very best support I can.  I want to be a good friend.  I want to be there in whatever way I can when they need me. 

And I’m worried that I may not be able to.

I know what you’re going to say.  There isn’t enough time in this life for us to help everyone or to fix everything.  We need to have the serenity to accept the things we can’t change, the strength to change the things we can, and the wisdom to tell them apart.  That’s the Serenity Prayer familiar to those in A.A. and other support groups and undoubtedly applicable to each of our lives.

Yes, I know that.  And generally that’s what I believe.  But if my dreams this morning were any indication, maybe I don’t believe it fully.

0 thoughts on “The Meaning of Dreams

  1. I have never been a very good interpretter of dreams but I do think maybe you are on the right track with what you are thinking. Before I read your interpretation I was thinking to myself “sounds like Chris is overwhelmed, trying to be all things to all people” As an aside…concerning your Grandfathers “evolution”…a lot of us have “evolved” as the reality of our childrens lives crash head on into what we EXPECTED!!!  My eldest was married a year ago, as I bounced their precious 8 month old boy on my knee in the front row!!! My middle daughter has returned home to live with us, expecting a little bundle of joy in late December…I found myself assuring her that being a single parent was NOT the end of the world!! I guess it is a  classic example of the old saying about “the tree that doesn’t bend is in constant danger of breaking”!!! Have a wonderful weekend…I am off to Kansas City to spend some time with my grandbaby!!!! Ruth Ann

  2. My dreams tend to be a place for my emotions, logic and daily experiences to duke it out and come to a reasonable truce. Could your viewing of “My Sister’s Keeper” have triggered your dream mixing death and mourning with the sense of obligation and responsibility… maybe? Hope your dreams are all sweeter from now on.

  3. I’d say there’s a good reason there are professional therapists. One can only offer so much support or guidance to friends so that it does not become emotionally draining. It is also tough to say “no” to a friend in a time of need but you may want to help steer those with truly serious issues to a professional.I am glad your grandparents have found their way to accept you (for the most part) as you are. It shows a lot of love considering their age.

  4. Interpreting a dream is often very complicated… but you seem to have a certain clarity with regard to this particular one. I see dreams as some sort of coping/defense mechanism; perhaps your subconscious mind it telling you to relax and not drain your energy over things which you can’t control.

  5. I have been very happy to see Gma and Gpa’s feelings “evolve” over the years. Sounds like an excellent interpretation of your dream. I can see how a whole lot of issues cropping up in a relatively short period of time could become overwhelming, especially on a subconscious level. It’s not easy being the rock. I’m curious why the mourners were Victorian though? Read any Dickens lately? How did you like My Sister’s Keeper? I really loved the book and have been very reluctant to see the film.

  6. You are the first gay person I personally come into contact with. I have heard about gay persons before but I’ve not met one personally. It is through Xanga that I befriended you. So, Xanga really broadens my horizon. Given the statistics that about 10% of people are either gay or lesbian, it is strange that I had not come into contact with one all of my life to date (except you). May be some of my friends are really gay or lesbian, only that they have not come out yet. I am supportive of people who have different sexual inclination. They should be protected by an open society such as that of Hong Kong.

  7. As the Chinese saying goes,”Whatever you thought about during the daytime, you’ll dream about it later during the night.” Nowadays, I just “enjoy” what I had experienced in my dreams, without trying too hard to decode the finer points. But strangely, during a few instances, I feel some sort of déjà vu as if I have done that in my dreams beforehand. I guess we have to be receptive of what people are, and not being too judgmental at times.

  8. We all know intellectually that we can’t possibly be everything to everyone but our hearts sometimes forget. And our dreams reflect that. It has been good to see the evolution in your grandparents. I know how important that is to you.

  9. I believe you did great, trying to interpret that dream Chris. You have the kind of ability in you to help others and make others feel comfortable and loved. Subconsciously you were acting out your emotions, to make all ‘wrong’, right it seems.

  10. You are really idealistic I’ve stopped feeling like I want to do everything I can to help everyone close to me since the end of early 20’s. Not because I don’t want to, but keep reminding myself of that is a huge burden on its own.I try not to think about it and help with people close to me still. This way, it’s a lot less pressure when I do things, and by not thinking about the need to be there for everyone always makes things easier. I think I’ve helped out just as much anyway.

  11. Perhaps this signifies that long held ideas/emotions, having been challenged, have died. Let me reassure you that in no way have you let any of us down or been a disappointment. A serious challenge for parents is this issue of “expectation” of what their child(ren) will be. For myself, I tried to model my parenting on the words of Kahlil Gibran’s poem, “On Children,” in his book, The Prophet. It’s worth reading.

  12. @yang1815 –  Does effort really count more than results?@Redlegsix –  I hope you have fun with your grandbaby. Remember, no spoiling! Well, not too much, at least…@murisopsis –  The movie might have had some effect, although I didn’t find it to be all that powerful a film. Maybe subconsciously it provided the “umph” for my dreams.@TheLatinObserver –  Certainly, there are times when a professional is the right person to go to. Other times, the friend is just looking for support, something I’m generally not well-suited to provide as I’m not a very empathetic person.@AppsScraps –  Thanks for the recommendation. Sounds like a handy resource.@Dezinerdreams –  That may be the correct interpretation, or maybe I’m looking hard to read something into a place where no inherent meaning lies.@choyshinglin – When I worked in HKG from 98-99, I kept my sexuality very much in the closet at work, knowing that it wasn’t a society that was generally tolerant and also figuring it wasn’t of much relevance. It was only after returning to the US and subsequently befriending a few of the former colleagues that I discovered that one was gay and the others had many gay friends. It would have been a perfectly okay place to be open, at least for the most part.@CurryPuffy –  Yes, I assume that dreams are really just the mind’s way of clearing out the RAM to get ready for a new day. The meaning we attribute to it is only of our own making.@stebow –  No grandparent left behind! =)@ZSA_MD –  Very nice of you to say, thanks.@Wangium –  You’re quite the jaded young man, Jason. =D@jandsschultz –  That’s an interesting poem. I’ve never read it before but perhaps I should include it when writing cards to new parents.

  13. I have that same problem; I’m always afraid that I’m going to let people down somehow. I think in both yours and my cases, it comes out of the need to make others feel good. I definitely get that you care a lot about your loved ones from all of your posts and I think that the two go hand in hand.

  14. You’re a great guy to be a source of comfort, help, a confidante and just by being there for your friends. Sometimes like a social worker, you can get burnt out and maybe the burden got a bit overwhelming. Take care Chris.

  15. @alextebow – Forgot to respond, sorry!  The movie had its moments but I found it lacked cohesiveness.  More like a series of vignettes.  The frequent montage sequences set to music got annoying after a while.  Strong acting, though, and I liked that ever character, even the secondary ones, were well-developed.

  16. It is a beautiful dream you had.You tried your best, but somehowit seems not enough, and you feel thatdeeply. I think it is healthy to feel thatand acknowledge those emotion.Embrace the dream! ^^I cried after watching SAVE ME.I hope you watched it before so you’d knowwhat I was feeling. Anyways, I criedwhen the deeply religious lady said”God be with you” when the gay young mandecided to leave the ex-gay camp to live a life of his own.It is not easy for a devout Christian who believesI am a sinner to let go and say that… that God is with me or bless me.I hope you will have the chance to talk with your grandparentsespecially about their “evolved” view of the matter!I hope you can hear from them that you have not let them down. HUGAll those recent news about friends and closed onescan be saddening and hard to the heart.I wish you well as you try your best to be of support and help.Make sure you take care of yourself as well!

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