First published in July 2017
I read Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s book Big Magic, about creativity. In it she mentions ‘those dreams where you dream you suddenly find another room or rooms in your house that you didn’t know you had’, and I thought, really, that’s a thing? I have those dreams regularly. I usually dream about the same flat, not one I have ever had in real life, but in my dreams I return to the same one over and over. It’s one of those old terraced houses divided into flats; messy, lots of other flats around. Each time I dream it, I rediscover a whole other set of rooms that are a bit neglected and that I have simply forgotten about. In the dream I wonder what to do with them, which room to sleep in, what to use the rooms for; I suddenly have all this extra space I don’t know what to do with.
I also have other dreams, where I open a bag of rubbish or I open a drawer and it’s filled with old cat food tins that haven’t been washed and have gone off and are filled with maggots. I have to somehow make myself quickly pick them up and get rid of them without looking at them otherwise I would be unable to do it. And I’ve let all the other rubbish pile up as well, I can’t understand it, the cat food tins or the rubbish, and I am appalled.
In real life I can let my car get very messy, tissues, wrappers, dust and stones. I am somewhat ashamed even though I still do it. So I thought the dream was about that, that I was ashamed of myself.
Worse still, I sometimes dream about caged animals that I have forgotten to look after, that I somehow inexplicably forgotten I had and that are mercifully still alive despite no food or water. I thought all these dreams were about shame, or at the very least, clattiness.
So when I continued reading and Elizabeth Gilbert went on to say that those dreams are all about ‘expansiveness and your life having more possibilities than you previously realised’, that was very pleasing to me. Especially as this was exactly what I had been feeling: the evening before I had gone out for dinner with two people that used to work in my team, young women on their first jobs, with me the manager of the team and their supervisor. I had the sweet and rare experience of hearing about what I was like (it had echoes of a child asking its mother what was I like tell me what I was like when I was little…) That was a few years ago so I have probably changed a lot but still, no one really tells you what you are like, you can only guess.
When I said that I thought that senior management preferred a man in my team to me because he’s always the same, always unemotional, always smartly dressed, and his car is neat and clean and mine is always messy they looked horrified. Your leadership, your direction, your care, you’re amazing how you get it all done, we were so lucky we had you for support, they both said. They reminded me of all the different tasks I do and the skills I have, and said that if I ever wanted or needed another job I’d have no problem getting one with the agency they work for. The agency pays more so I could work fewer hours. Listening to them, I felt all the possibilities, being able to do healing as well, expansiveness… When I used to just think about all the bad stuff- I am messy, senior management probably disapprove of me, without realising, I actually have skills! One of the women invited me to visit her in Sweden, a genuine invite, and hearing about her life there, how she’d moved there from Suffolk, was so interesting and inspiring and made it sound so easy.
It made it sound so easy to change your life.
On a more down to earth level, it took away my fear of redundancy, knowing there are plenty of jobs and the world is more than just my current workplace. It’s such an amazing gift, the gift of peace of mind, and a sign that I am in tune with the universe.
I realised I had it wrong: those dreams weren’t about my clattiness or my buried shames, they were about the hithererto unknown expansiveness and potential of my own life. I have nothing to be ashamed of. At worst, the unfed animals were a gentle chide or reminder about my sometimes neglected creative work…
Because although I am where I want to be writing wise anyway really, in terms of where I was this time last year and where I am now, undoubtedly I am an inconsistent and unfaithful bride to creativity. I certainly don’t have Liz Gilbert’s dedication and approach; I have other things, true, an absorbing career which is practically a vocation- can you have two vocations, can you have them at the same time? I suppose so, look at Nick Hornby and countless others.
This time last year (Christmas), I did a little review of life and I had an idea for something to write this year. Then I got waylaid in Buddhism and other seeking and beyond seeking, even considering that writing was behind me along with all the different religions I had burned through, because, I had decided: I am to cease all seeking behaviour, and writing is a seeking behaviour. And maybe it was, maybe it is, but isn’t talking, isn’t breathing, isn’t yoga, and who makes up the rules anyway?
The thing that got me writing again after I had abandoned it, was writing a spoken word piece for a friend’s 50th Birthday party, (a night of anything goes performance.) She said it could be about anything, so I wrote a‘my spiritual journey’ thing,the only thing I felt able to write about. I wrote it while listening to Rufus Wainright’s song Go or go ahead on repeat, which he wrote after a crystal meth binge.
Liz G says creative inspiration can either come in a skin tingling rush or it can be quiet and you just get there by following your curiosity and clues and it leads you there. Or it can be like this… I read a book, it mentioned a dream, I listen to a song at just the right moment, I recall a dream, I write it down. And now I am in such a clear eyed clear minded place, isn’t this the perfect place from which to write a book?
Thank you very much for reading
About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia. I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year.
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill