Back when I was Barbie-on-the-job, I worked with a woman who, unlike the rest of us twenty-something girls-about-town, was solemn and quiet and industrious and frankly, a little unnerving. She had very dark hair, an angular too-white face, and huge, dark eyes that always looked too hard at everyone. While my Barbie co-workers and I wore sweaters with belts around the middle, Frye boots and long straight skirts that we hoped made us look like Pam Dawber from Mork and Mindy, the gloomy one wore frumpy jumpers and turtlenecks and clogs and looked like Wednesday Adams. She was pleasant enough and we never talked about her in her absence but you also didn’t want to make eye contact or have a lengthy conversation with her, because she gave you that therapist stare while you spoke and then nodded when she should have been responding. She was more than unnerving. She was spooky. Her name was Merle.
One day I was holding court, talking about a dream I had which featured me and a runaway elevator. While everyone was saying things like, “Oh, I have that dream all the time, and the one about yelling but nothing comes out, and the other one about running away but not moving,” Merle stood off to the side making copies, nodding her spooky nod. When we all went back to work, she came over to my desk and stood there noiselessly until I sensed a “presence” and turned around.
“I interpret dreams,” she said.
“Okay?” I said, hoping the phone would ring.
“I know what your elevator dream means.”
“Oh,that,” I Barbie-said. “ I always wake up, it’s no problem.”
“You have it often then?”
“Only when I sleep on my back. Really, it’s fine.”
She left and went back to her dimly lit fortune-tellery office which I had been avoiding like eye contact.
But my curiosity took over. About an hour later, armed with a document which doubled for an excuse to visit, I went in and said awkward-cheerfully, “So! How long have you been interpreting dreams?” She got right to the point. “People make the mistake of thinking literally about their dreams,” she said. “Dreams aren’t television shows. They are symbolic. You were not in the elevator. You were the elevator. How long have you been feeling like someone cut your cables?”
“Oh,” I said, “No, it wasn’t like that. That was definitely me in the elevator. I was wearing my beige corduroy skirt with the flaps over the pockets, and these boots. It was definitely me.” She nodded and I nodded and then I praised her “gift” and went to find Hansel on the path.
But it stayed with me that day, and later into the week, and then beyond. Whether it was insight, or an uncanny “read,” it was accurate. In life, I was in exactly the position she described, trying to be all things, for all people, all the time. Afraid that the smallest of wrong moves would send me in all directions. Frayed cables. It worked at my outlook like a splinter under the skin until I made Serious changes in my perspective. I calmed my life and I didn’t have the elevator dream again.
If you are lucky enough to dream, pay attention. You might be the traffic jam, or the lightening in the sky, or the crowd that wanders the street. But there are answers in there and we’re never too old to need answers about Everything. We’re old when we run out of questions.
Now go and check your own cables. Make sure they’re good and tight and if not, get them serviced.