House in Field watercolor by David Phillips.
I have these recurring dreams, always centered around a house. When I was younger, it was the house I grew up in. The past few years, it’s been a house I’ve just made up. The house I dream of now is bigger, more elaborate and complex, unsettling in its unfamiliarity. But always the house is dark, sinister. It doesn’t like me, but it also won’t let me go. It makes me feel afraid and powerless. I want to get out, but I can never find a way.
In the most recent version, there are rooms that I know don’t belong to me, neglected rooms that are gross and stuffed to the gills with someone else’s stuff. But always I try to rearrange and renovate. I tell myself that if I just clean and make a few adjustments to the floor plan, it will all work. I’ll be able to fit everything and maybe I can even get the space to look like it’s mine. Somehow I’ll get rid of the eery juju, too.
Of course, that never happens. The house never gets cleaned or fixed. And it never feels like a place I want to be in. I just wake up disoriented and anxious.
But last night was different. Last night I dreamed of the same house–with its unfamiliar, cluttered rooms, creepy hallways, and secret doors that are always, weirdly, too small for me to fit through. This time, though, I wasn’t scared. I walked everywhere in that house. I went deeper into it than I ever have before. I even discovered an outdoor area. I explored the whole thing–all while feeling pleasantly detached, calmly observant.
When I finally made it out of the house completely–because I did make it out this time–it became crystal clear to me that I didn’t want to try to fix the broken parts anymore. I didn’t want to try to clean or renovate or rebuild. I knew with all certainty that I only wanted to keep the small part in front that I liked (the part that looks a lot like the house my family and I live in now) and demolish the rest. I would raze it to the ground, and then, afterward, there would be so much space. So much air! I could live in my small house with this family I’ve created. A simple house full of love and warmth and safety–completely surrounded by a wide, wide expanse of calm and peace.
I woke up this morning feeling the best I’ve felt in a long while. It was a good dream.