Dream A Little Dream

To clarify yesterday’s post, I should confess right now that this backward dreaming started after 9/11 and was at first a VERY BAD reaction, though better than the immediate one.

The immediate one was truly weird.  Normally as I’m falling asleep, I tell myself stories.  These are usually in the world of my stories.  This is going to sound very weird, but I check in on how Kyrie and Tom are doing, or look into Eden, or…  They’re plotless little snippets that sort of go nowhere, though some of it later finds its way as an incident into the novels – like Tom’s obsession with the new fryer.  In a way that “daydreaming” about other people/places is the source of my writing, I think, insofar as it can be said to have a source.

You see, I was a very sickly child.  How sickly?  Well, I think I attended about three months of most of my elementary school grades, because the rest of the time I was sick in bed.  This lasted from as far back as I can remember till about age 13.  It wasn’t anything major – well except TB, but other than that – normally, but just whatever childhood ailments were going around amped up to eleven by the fact I had chronic asthma (fortunately it went away at puberty and – knock on wood — hasn’t come back) massive eczema, and a generally depleted immune system due to being born very premature.

There is only so much you can lay in bed – my room (actually for half of that time, my parents’ room.  Dad worked out of town during the week until I was seven, so during the week I slept in their room so mom could keep a closer eye on my breathing, etc.  On the weekend, I slept with my cousin, at grandma’s next door.) until I was 7 didn’t even have a window.  Other kids weren’t allowed to come visit, because much of what I had was at least possibly contagious.  I could read – sort of – but mom believed it was bad for me to strain my eyesight while I had a fever.  So I was often left to build vast lego cities and invent stories about the people living in them.  From that to daydreaming about these people as I was falling asleep was a small step, and the habit sort of stuck.

HOWEVER after 9/11, and no, I can’t explain WHY except that it was a weird shock to the system, those dreams shut down.  Just slammed shut.  For the worlds that share ours, I didn’t know how to deal with it.  I couldn’t go into those worlds, without finding them dealing with 9/11.  So I started having these weird day dreams where I was someone else altogether different.  I don’t know how to explain it.  My … consciousness was mine, but it belonged to someone completely different, someone younger, with a different background, for whom 9/11 didn’t matter as much.  These were never very coherent.  It was more going out somewhere, having dinner with friends, snatches and scenes.

From there on, and because I was worried about what came next (yes, I’ve been worried for many years) I started daydreaming backwards – projecting myself into the past “What if Dan and I had got married at eighteen.”  The only way to overcome the obstacles which kept us from getting married then (mostly being strongly young and stupid.  The stoopid was strong in the two of us) was to imagine a “by his bootstraps” scenario – from the Heinlein short story in which the man who has come to a dead end sends his mind back in time to his younger self…. And changes everything.  Of course, I ain’t going anywhere without Dan, so it meant two minds back… but… you know…

Those dreams were I think somewhat pathological.  Not really, because I didn’t allow them to take over, but a retreat from reality that was necessary at the time to… heal?  I think.

But then I realized I was bringing things back from those dreams.  Okay, the first was absolutely trivial.  These are pie-in-the-sky alternate timelines, of course, and if I were doing that, then for instance, I decided we’d live in Denver – near the museum – by now.  And that brought about a stray thought of “but busy street” and I was thinking the house would have half curtains – enough to let the light in, but not to let anyone look in.  This is when the lightbulb went on, since in our current house we’d sacrificed light for privacy.  I found the curtains I’d imagined as a solution – and they were affordable too… and voila.  I ported the dream into the present.

There are other things too.  If I could go back, I’d absolutely tell my younger self to stop ignoring art.  Start taking classes now, and working on that at the same time as writing because… multiple streams of income.  And then of course I thought “But why can’t I do it now?  Okay, I’m older, but I come from a long lived family… so why not?”

And now to the extent those day dreams exist, (and except for being sick, I haven’t been shell shocked enough to indulge in them MUCH) they are sort of porting devices.  I’ll envision my perfect life now if we’d done this or that… and then I think “but wait a minute.  We could do/have/be that now.”  Most of the time it’s not even anything that demands a lot of money, it’s just “how we spend our time/what we do.”

Then there is that corollary, too “What would I tell my younger self?”  Most of it is stupid stuff: Work harder.  Don’t get discouraged.  Persevere.  Those months of black depression because you think you’ll never get anywhere?  Forget them.  Things get better.  And enjoy your husband, you utter idiot, instead of worrying all the time about how he is working too much, or…

But you know, part of that advice is UNUSABLE.  I mean, there were reasons I didn’t work harder.  Partly time.  And the months of black depression thing is just as applicable now.

And then that turned into “what would I do differently now?”  “What would I do if myself from twenty years in the future came back and said…”

The advice would be the same: worker harder.  Diversify.  Enjoy the guys, while all four of you still live together.  Prepare for a future where things are different.

But that daydream is what has led me to take the plunge with indie with everything but Baen.  Because life is too short to have nervous breakdowns about the other companies.  And hey, I haven’t had the time to WRITE for indie right now, but I can bring shorts out, right?

It’s what has led me to actually come out of the political closet.  It’s what has led me to somehow find the time to work around the edges – even when I run out of spoons and everything stops, it has given me the courage to go on in these very bewildering times.  To make it “not scary” to be unagented.  To make it “okay” to go indie even if it involves a loss of “prestige”, to strategize on how to survive a possible crash.

That’s the power of the dream.  That it allows me to turn the same look I turn on the past when I think “How do I optimize this?” towards the future, towards now.  Sometimes your circumstances are so familiar you don’t see what’s right in front of your eyes, or how it could be made better.  Going away in your mind for a while brings you back with fresher eyes.

And you know, working hard, persevering and not getting discouraged seem to work in just about any circumstances and at any age.  As is diversifying and being creative.

If you dream, dream with your eyes open – dream knowing it’s a day dream, dream of the best and prepare for the worst.  But let the times never be so bad you can’t dream at all.

55 responses to “Dream A Little Dream

  1. Yeah, there’s very little advice I’d give my younger self, that my current self can’t use. And in fact, that’s why I’m indie publishing. Boot to rear. Don’t be a scaredy cat. Just step out there and start doing it.

  2. I don’t know as “work harder” is the advice I’d give; perhaps “enjoy your work more.” Life got much easier for me once I learned the knack of enjoying my work and committing to it more fully.

    Of course, the Beloved Spouse suggests I tell myself some medical things should not be allowed to develop but want attention at their first sign. Catching the knee before surgery was necessary, treating the sleep apnea more aggressively, catching the Diabetes before the neuropathy became permanent. But really — I didn’t listen to Beloved Spouse, why would I listen to me?

  3. That is the paradox isn’t it? The more you think you have things to tell your younger self the more your actual advice is be someone else entirely. Hard work and pushing yourself may also be the key to happiness but its also a great way to trigger the very depressions that destroy entire years for the afflicted. Moderation is a hard thing to learn and often means accepting ourselves and why we are consistently so screwed up in different areas of our lives.

  4. Sarah,

    Just do it!

    Hurry up and finish more books and stories. I want to read them all and am quite willing to pay for them. Put them out there and I will buy them. And if my small $$$s are not enough, hopefully there will be enough who find you and feel the way I do about your writing.


  5. Years ago I told my wife you write about things you have experienced or things you’re going to experience. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but I find it to be true. I had written about things that I had no experience with, but a couple of years later found myself experiencing. Maybe there is something to Heinlein’s Lifeline? When my wife wrote a story with her main character ending up in the hospital on July 4, and the next year found herself in that very situation, I told her I didn’t mean it that literally!

    • well, considering how my characters keep saving the world, I hope that’s not true of me. I’m not sure I CAN.

      • Now I’m trying to imagine a scenario where your skills as a writer lead to the salvation of the material world. Nothing so far, but it’s still ticking there…

        • I’m fairly useless. All I have are words.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I read a story where this reporter for a small community newspaper kept getting called by an alien, but she thought he was just a crank, and never reported his story, resulting in him missing a deadline for contacting the indigenes before he could conquer the planet. I can imagine a modification of that story where Sarah tells the alien stories until the deadline is missed. 😉

  6. I’ve had dreams that have come true, and a lot that haven’t – thank the Lord! I’ve learned to listen to my subconscious, which is what usually “speaks” to us in our dreams. That’s not the part of my brain that comes up with stories — most of the time. My problem now is dealing with all the health issues so I can continue to write. I’m with RES as far as having multiple problems, and few solutions. I spent most of yesterday frustrated. I could NOT come up with the right words I wanted to use in my writing. I knew the word, I just could NOT bring it to mind. Frustrating! Today is much better, but now my back is giving me fits as the new weather system moves through… RES – email me (mike.weatherford@gmail.com) and we can compare notes on diabetes, sleep apnea, and neuropathy. I’m there with you, brother!

  7. Sorry for no comments today. I have been dealing with a migraine caused by the atmospherics. It plays tic-tac-toe with my brain.

    • Some migraine problems here too. I’m fortunate in one way, what I got is what seems to be called ‘silent’ migraines. Most times I get all the other symptoms, the most noticeable, and what first told me what it was, being the auras. But usually I don’t get the actual headache. Seeing bright spots and distortions and the widening zigzag auras can be a bother, though. Especially those times when that keeps going for hours, and sometimes then repeats the next day, and perhaps the next… and then, of course, even discounting the auras you do feel kind of weird, before and after.

      This time probably the vengeance of the mulled red wine (bought as ready made glögg, and one bottle bought after Christmas – a small glass or two in the evenings and I only ran out two days ago). I rarely drink red wine except during the Christmas season, and pretty often it does seem to give me these problems. But I really like red wine glögg. And it’s not always quite this bad.

      • I have been advised that this is a rather common reaction to tannin in red wines, and may be treated by antihistamines. I forego red wine because a glass of it takes me straight to hangover without ever passing tipsy, but cannot confirm the therapeutic value of the recommended solution.

        • Thanks. I have to try that antihistamine treatment. That is if I still remember it next time. I hope I do, even if I were not to drink red wine before next Christmas I will probably buy that glögg again then. Christmas just doesn’t feel quite right without it.

      • I found that cheese was one of my triggers so I quit eating it (especially aged cheese which I really like). This time it was triggered by an inversion. We had an inversion that gave me a headache, but this one was like someone stabbed me in the left eye through my brain. When that settled, I had a stab through the right eye through the brain.

        Today I can feel the after affects. I get vomiting. At least this time the pain wasn’t in both sides at the same time. There have been times when I lie with my head lifted, and trying not to think with a ice pack on my face. It wasn’t that bad this time. Still painful though.

      • Also my left arm was weak. Usually on a really bad migraine I first get a weakness in one side of my body, then vomiting, and then pain in my head. I don’t get the silent migraines (I wish). I had my first migraine at 22 when we thought that I was having a stroke. Nothing helps — except some prevention i.e. no cow cheese.

        • I have had the actual headache only a few times (four or five times last decade, I think), and yes, I’m very, very happy that usually doesn’t happen. Only, very minor, problem with that is that since I get it so very rarely I usually treat the other symptoms as ‘will pass, no need for pain meds’, so those rare times it has come I haven’t taken them early enough for them to be useful.

          • Well – I can’t use pain meds so I have a few ways of enduring it– 😉

            • Ouch! Mine have been, beside taking the meds after the pain starts (I have three friends who get the headaches, and they all say you should take the meds before it gets bad or they don’t help much, although I suppose they might still help some) just ‘curl up in the bed, grit your teeth and wait’. And turning the phone off. And possibly putting a bucket beside the bed, the only times I have gotten nauseous were with the headache, although I think I have actually thrown up only once.

                • I don’t have “migraines”. My headaches are caused by the pinched nerves in my neck. As long as the nerve is irritated, I have the headache. Sometimes the pain medication works, sometimes it doesn’t. I just got back from an hour’s nap because I had one, and it’s still too early to take the pain medication again. NOT FUN. I know what you ladies are going through, and wish I could suggest something that would help.

  8. I came up about ten things to tell my younger self. I do think she’d have benefitted. There were some serious problems that could have been solved simply, with better information.

    Other problems … no, I had to change to get through them, slowly. The only useful thing I could tell my younger self is that I do get through them. Amazingly, in one case, because you never hear about anybody beating that.

    I had also thought of saying to myself, “Such-and-such never happened — who are you if it never was? How do you think?” as a technique to shake some counterproductive habits and attitudes.

  9. “Of course, I ain’t going anywhere without Dan, so it meant two minds back…”

    Aw. That’s true love, that is.

  10. All asthma is chronic – the airways are constantly inflamed but not always badly swollen. Asthma is not in remission when the swelling goes down and breathing is easier the inflammation remains – there’s been some good research with fiber optics and such for viewing and treatment of the inflammation with monitoring by peak flow meters and such – doesn’t hurt to track peak flow for a some period of time and keep a diary.

    Tiptree/Sheldon suggests a couple of places that contact between the young and older self is perilous (Backward Turn Backward). Myself I’m inclined to think that time travel is space travel as suggested by White IIRC – given the motion of the spheres it’s hard to imagine displacing in time discretely that is discontinuously and being any place even remotely convenient at the end of the trip – C.S. Lewis of course had characters outside the frame racing like mad to stay in one place in the observor’s frame. Any useful message I might send my younger self would duplicate messages that were in the environment anyway or of course would be an effort to tinker with causality by making foresight 20:20.

  11. DA#$&%, another story idea! Suppose we have it backwards, and the time dilation is real, but NEGATIVE? The first faster-than-light vehicle takes off in the 24th century, and comes back just in time for the Thirty Year’s War! This one’s all yours, Sarah! 8^)

    • Robert started writing this. It was called “the minotaur does not bleed” and it involved the minotaur being a robot traveling in a faster than light ship, which ends up in ancient Greece, and…

      He was twelve, and he never finished it. HOWEVER maybe he’ll do it now.

      • Might need to check that before writing it; I think it may have been a Dr. Who serial during Tom Baker’s reign.

        • uh. That’s the one thing no one watches in this house. Odd.

        • Doctor Who (Tom Baker) did do an episode about the Minotaur, “The Horns of Nimon”. It was not, however, a robot but an alien; it was in outer space, not ancient Greece; and the only time travelers involved were the Doctor and Romana. The Doctor made plentiful cracks about the parallels, including, at the end, how the Theseus’s equivalent’s Love Interest will ensure that it’s told with him as the hero despite his best efforts to set the record straight.