Several weeks ago I had a dream. Dave and I were on a road trip. We stopped at a hotel and got a nice room for a good deal because we had a coupon and they didn’t have many guests that evening. We took ourselves and the stuff we were carrying at the time to the room and let ourselves in. We liked it and confirmed that we wanted that room, so we got one key. Dave promptly took with him to the car to get the rest of our luggage.
While I was waiting for him to come back, a lady walked into our room as if she were evaluating it as her room for the night. I told her that it was mine. I think the hotel owner was there and I told him, too. Neither of them said much to me. They sort-of vaguely nodded no matter how vehemently I gestured. After she gave the place a cursory once-over, she left. I thought everything was ok and kept waiting for Dave.
A few minutes later, the woman let herself in, along with three other people who were in her party. They brought all their luggage and started setting it down and talking about the room as if I wasn’t there. I said, and maybe even yelled, at the lady several times that it was my room, that we were here first. Finally, she acknowledged me, though coldly and as if I were some sort of pesky buzzing noise that just wouldn’t stop. She asked me if I had a key, because that would prove I belonged in the room. I told her that my husband had it, that he was getting our things from the car, and would that he would bring it up in a few minutes. She told me to go get it. I didn’t want to leave, because I knew inside that I would come back to all of our stuff outside the room and the door closed and locked.
I stood at the door. She was holding it open, telling me to leave, and I was desperate and angry. I did all I could think of to do without seriously hurting her–I kicked her as hard as I could in the shins. Over and over.
After several kicks, I woke up. (Doing anything related to karate in my sleep always wakes me up because I want to move but the whole “sleep” thing keeps me paralyzed and my body gets confused.) When I woke up, I was angry, more angry than I remember having ever been. This anger was also different from what I usually experience. I get angry as much as the next person, but it’s not usually pure. I can get upset at someone for something they’ve done to me, but there’s almost always a part of that turned inward. I secretly wonder if they were justified in the actions that hurt me, or if most of the situation was actually, somehow, my fault. This wasn’t like that. The lady in my dream had wronged me and I hadn’t done anything. I didn’t deserve that and hadn’t done anything to provoke it, and so I was furious.
I felt like this dream was important. I thought about it, but it didn’t tie to anything. The feelings were real, but there wasn’t a situation in my life that mirrored the one in the dream and there wasn’t anything going on that made me angry. I chalked it up to a strangely vivid dream (I have those sometimes) and didn’t think much more about it.
Almost a week later, I found out that there was a possibility of my job not panning out as planned. I changed jobs in September not only because the program I’m working for now is one I care about, but because they are restructuring and were planning to make me a salaried employee. This would give me all sorts of benefits like added flexibility so I can teach some classes and do more spiritual direction. In two sentences of conversation, I discovered that this all might not happen, that my job might remain exactly the same as it is now. I was stunned.
I spent most of that day (it was a Tuesday) feeling anxious about my job. It’s not that I don’t like it the way it is, but I changed departments for the opportunity to more closely align my work with my training in spiritual formation. The next morning, I talked to my boss to clarify where I stood: if things didn’t work out as we’d planned them, I would stay for the next semester because I committed that when I signed on, but then I would look for something else. She agreed that there wasn’t a future for me in the position if the changes didn’t happen and said she would do everything she could to make them happen.
After that, I went to a friend’s office to get some perspective. I needed to share with someone who wasn’t directly involved but who would understand. As we talked, I began to realize exactly how unjust the whole situation was. These decisions were being made about me based on factors that were out of my control and mistaken opinions about who I am and what I’m good at. I had sensed this before but hadn’t articulated it, and articulating it made me even more angry. In fact, it made me just about as angry as I had been at the lady in my dream.
I went back to my office but I couldn’t work. I surfed the net but didn’t read more than a couple of words on any page. As if I were coming upon myself like you come upon another person, I realized what I was looking up. I was looking for jobs. Writing jobs. Any writing jobs. Something in me had changed; in less time than it takes to say, “Booyah Baby!” I had decided to be a writer. I had realized that the worst day spent writing the most frustrating crap would be better than being in situations like I was in at that moment.
After I calmed down, I began to fear that I was basing my entire future as a writer, whatever that looks like, on anger. But then I realized that writing was what I’ve always wanted and the anger just helped me there. It took the force of that anger to help me blast past the fears that have held me back from writing. I needed to get angry, and to have it directed at someone else, to have the internal energy to overcome these things that had held me back in the past. My dream had been important because my anger was important, and because it told me the future, though on an emotional level and not a physical one.
I took that decision that was made before I was even fully aware of it very seriously. When I found out the next day that it looked like things were going to work out with my job after all, I was actually a little disappointed.
In the end, though, things working out gave me some space to think. The job is good for me right now. It gives me structure and income, as well as the chance to develop some awesome skills and a strong resume. It gives us a good discount for Dave’s continuing education. My co-workers are people I value and who I know value me. It also gives me enough space so I can start writing and see what happens.
With things structured this way, I don’t get to do as much writing as I would if I didn’t work, but I get to do more than I’ve ever done before. I also get to focus on writing the things I care about instead of having to slog through articles and promotional materials that I don’t care about. In the end, I find that I can say Yes! to taking writing seriously, to the process and to the projects I have before me right now, and that’s enough for this moment.
So I’m writing, here and there. I have the two blogs (here and Wisebread), which I intend to keep at least for the time being, several article ideas, a non-fiction book in something like a one-and-a-half draft form, and a novel in pre-writing. Clearly, I can’t work on it all, but it’s all there, waiting for me.
I feel like a whole new world is waiting for me.
PS Please pray–some things have to be discussed and questions raised and answered before things can truly work out with my job. Since I’ve decided it would be good for me to be there, I’d like those things to work out…though Dave and I have decided we’ll just figure something else out if they don’t.