There’s something quite wondrous about the way dreams take the issues of your life and spit them back at you as symbols. How, if you take the time to remember them, write them down, and wade through their nutty, illogical plots, you find wondrous gifts there.
I don’t know why everybody doesn’t try to remember their dreams. How can people wake up in the morning without trying to catch that last wisp of unconsciousness and reel it in? It would be like having a birthday and not opening your presents.
So my dream last night is all about money. In the dream, I realize that Institutional Investor, a magazine that I freelanced joylessly for through much of my 30’s, owes me $5,000. They don’t intend to pay it because I did such a lackluster job on my last few assignments for them. I feel cheated. Later in the dream, I realize I’m carrying around two $5,000 bills. It’s just crazy and heedless to be carrying so much money. All I want to do is get to the bank to deposit it. But even though I get to the bank, I only remember to deposit one of the bills. I’m still carrying $5,000 around and feeling terribly vulnerable.
I wake up, write my morning pages, record the dream, and think about it. The two $5,000 bills, I decide, represent my twin successes: starting Baristanet and being a published novelist. I’ve succeeded not just in one sphere, but in two. Metaphorically, I’m carrying around two $5,000 bills. Yet I’m terrified that they’re going to be snatched away at any moment. I just want to bank them.
Which, of course, is how I’ve been living this first month of having a second novel. As if it were a loss on the ledger sheet. I am acting as if someone is going to come along and pull that feather out of my cap, tell me I’m no longer a novelist. It doesn’t matter how many people say they enjoyed the book, or how proud they are for me, or how proud I must be for myself. All I believe is the bad stuff. My Amazon numbers are lackluster. My press isn’t as spectacular as last time. Where is my New York Times review? Why doesn’t my editor return my calls? Even my father, who sold “Rattled” to strangers in elevators, isn’t getting out there and hawking this one.
I am experiencing the $5,000 in my pocket as a loss, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
It’s a profound insight. I am rich and don’t even know it. It’s time to relax, to put down the coins, to stop worrying about what I have to lose. To go with the flow again.
Today, though I worked mightily to cross the things off my to-do list, I wound up being diverted by a two-hour visit with the tax assessor of Glen Ridge. An interesting guy, Bill Merdinger, a true curmudgeon, who takes pride in the number of people he pisses off. We started out sparring. I read him an anonymous tip from someone who thought he was jerk. He bristled, declared his critic an asshole and a troublemaker. But by the end of the two hours, Merdinger was going off the record every five minutes with one juicy morsel after another about the secret lives of property tax assessors, and complimenting me for being his “best pupil.”
If you’d told me in the morning that I was going to spend two hours of my nonexistent time talking to Bill Merdinger, I’d have groaned. But it turned out to be fun. I got some tips for fighting my tax assessment, got a good story for Baristanet — maybe even found a character for a future novel. But the best part? I went with the flow. Here’s a man who doesn’t have e-mail! He doesn’t make appointments! He sits in his office and lets people waiting outside get more and more pissed. But if you get into the inner sanctum it’s, I don’t know, like meeting Rumplestiltskin. Like some kind of weird fairy tale or dream involving large sums of money.