My parents established a rule when we kids were young that one could not tell their dreams before they had eaten breakfast. By the time we’d eaten breakfast we’d forgotten our dreams or had found more entertainment in the wide-awake world. We grew up thinking that it was rude to tell one’s dreams, that it was an imposition to bore others with what was real only in our imagination. So now when someone wants to tell me about a dream, especially if they have just had it, I recoil as if someone is being rude to me.
This morning I woke up with the phrase “complex dream” in my head. As I tottered to the loo, I decided “complicated dream” was a better phrase. I noted the words as something I’d want to be using in my novel, words that would be fresh and far from cliche, words that would be useful. As the day went on, the phrase lost most of its charm. It wasn’t a cliché but it didn’t pack a punch either (to use a cliché).
So now I’m not only rethinking the phrase but rethinking my policy of not listening to others’ dreams. If dreams are truly experiences, as much as experiences are in the “real’ world , and I’m happy to listen to someone’s experience even those that have nothing to do with me, then I can listen to the dreams of someone else. Since I live alone, I can assume that the dreams I hear about will usually be after breakfast. Although I think the last time someone tried to tell me a dream it was my sister who was sharing a hotel room with me. My sister was always more oblivious to family norms than I was.
I grew up so sensitive to family rules that I probably imagined some of them. I was a lover of rules. I probably still am, which explains why I enjoy third graders so much. They are “ruly” kindred spirits. Knowing and following the rules has a certain security. People who know me would probably be startled to hear me say I’m attached to rules. I talk too much and too loudly, I sing too much and too often, I resort to sarcasm more than what is socially acceptable.
Here’s another rule, which was given to me by my grandmother: when you write, avoid using the word “I”. People who use “I” a lot are selfish and self centered. Stands to reason. The reader does not want to hear all about me, the reader wants me to indicate that I’m interested in them. So I’ve come to believe that I’m hopelessly selfish and self centered. Even a sentence indicating my avid interest in you begins with “I”. I’d love to hear what you think about such and such. I wonder how you are doing.
An unspoken rule of my upbringing was that the bathroom was a fantastic world, fresh from Science Fiction adjacent to your world. Once you step into the bathroom chamber and close the door, you leave the home world behind. You don’t communicate through that door. Conversations do not continue through a bathroom door. I did not realize this was a rule until I visited other people who did not have this rule. My friend Judy continued conversations in her bathroom and I was expected to join her. It was a culture shock.