Soured Showers

I remember the day several months ago it really hit me that I was the mother of a toddler and that my "baby" was gone. There I am in a steaming hot shower, lathering my hair with my eyes closed, and yelling out through the glass shower door "I think Elmo wants to ride in the bulldozer!"

The shower used to be a private place to get lost in thought and get away from the demands of others. Even with a baby in the bouncy seat on the bathroom floor, it was often still a pleasant and relaxing little part of the day in which to focus on myself.

But, alas, toddlerhood came. And now I have to grab a handful of toys to set my son up with in the corral I create with a baby gate just outside the open bathroom door. The cold air rushes in and I try to frantically yell out suggestions for play to keep him from sliding the glass shower door open and closed when he bores of the toys.

Or, I take him in the shower with me, where he commands me to get out of the stream of water because he wants it all to land on his back without sharing. So, I dance around between freezing my butt off while scrubbing to keep the peace and trying to rinse while he's crying that I've stolen his water.

If I had a time machine, I'd visit my former self and try to make her understand to never take a nice, hot shower alone for granted!


The Interpretation of Hippos

The other night a small hippo swam up to me and I found myself reaching into the wrinkly folds of its neck to clean it.  There was the usual dirt and even whole rocks I was able to pull out and discard.  When I was done, it swam away and a little while later transformed itself into a purple, gold, and red dinosaur that was running around all over the place. There was more to the dream, but those are the parts I vividly remember. 
Freud and his progeny would say that my hidden strengths were exploring my unconscious mind OR looking for emotional support and that I was removing obstacles/disappointments/stability from my hidden strengths which then became either my outdated attitude OR old issues coming back to me OR my feeling of no longer being useful.  Clearly!  

I would say that before I went to bed I was putting my son's wooden hippo puzzle away in the closet.  Earlier that evening I was bathing him and had to make a bid deal out of tricking him into leaning his head back so I could clean his neck, which tends to accumulate gunk.  And, the toy I pulled him away from to take that bath - a multi-colored plastic dinosaur.  Before that, we were out front, where he was loading rocks into a push toy and transporting them down the sidewalk. 

Interpreting dreams is fun, but the fact is that most of the time, I can sit and think about all of the key elements of a dream I had and identify which people, objects, events, and worries of my day have inspired them.  So the really fascinating thing is how our brains work at night processing all of the external and internal stimuli of our days and the fact that the brain seems to "need" to weave these stimuli into a narrative.  Dreams are the cool and freaky byproduct of filtering and filing away, destroying and creating neuronal connections and pathways.  

Okay, now for my nod to the dream interpreters.  Infrequently over the years I have dreamt of clutching my bleeding mouth, trying to prevent multiple teeth from dropping out, panicking and begging others for help.  Because I was never having any actual dental problems, I gave in and looked it up. Losing teeth symbolizes a feeling of loss of control and being overwhelmed. Bingo! Each time I have had this dream it has been when I had significant anxiety about a situation in life that I felt was getting seriously out of hand.  

So, I guess sometimes it IS your subconscious that your dreams reveal, but sometimes it's just the minutiae (and hippos) of your day.  

What's your interpretation of your dreams?  Have you had recurring dreams? 


Return Carts Here

Last night we were talking to some other couples new to Silicon Valley and comparing notes on whether or not we knew our neighbors and felt people were generally friendlier here or where we came from. A woman from NY said that moving from there to here was like switching channels from watching the Sopranos to a Yoga show. Coming from LA, we could relate. We've been struck at how open, friendly, courteous and mellow people are here. After 6 months, we're actually getting used to smiles and hellos from strangers on the street, chatting with neighbors at the curb, and talkative counter clerks. But at first it was freaky. Suspect. An invasion of our personal space. Nosiness. Which is really sad. Self-awareness of our reactions opened our eyes to just how "LA" we had become after 19 years there. I'm happy that my son won't be internalizing that disconnectedness and paranoia as he grows up.

I can't ever use a shopping cart again without thinking about this issue. My friend from Dallas was shocked when she moved here that people did not put their shopping carts in the cart return area when they were done. The idea of leaving shopping carts all over the parking lot is rude and abhorrent to her. She pledged to take the higher road and model proper shopping cart return behavior to the rest of us unrefined Californians. I'm sure she is absolutely right, but what amused both of us is the difference in our perspective on this. My feeling is A) Hey, they pay high school kids and retirees to gather up the carts and bring them in, so it's my civic duty to provide this employment opportunity, and B) especially as a new mom, it was utterly convenient and helpful to find a shopping cart right there on the edge of nearly any parking stall you select so that you can transfer baby into it and immediately use it rather than abandon baby in the car to go find one or carry baby with you to get one and bring it back, and that C) when you leave yours in the corner of your parking spot as you go, you are providing the next person with that same convenience. Apparently, many people agree with me because it is completely accepted culture to not put your cart back as long as you nicely push it to the edge of the parking spot so as not to block the space or hook one wheel in the flower bed so it won't roll away or hit any cars.

I wonder what the unwritten rules are on this in other places and whether anyone else besides my friend has strong feelings about it. BTW, she is living proof that one person can make a difference, because now that she raised my awareness, I have actually taken the time to return my cart properly on many occasions in honor of her (of course, when it was convenient for me). Which brings us to the more serious issue of cart abandonment. In my own defense, I must say that at least I have never removed the cart from the premises and left it out on the streets to
fend for itself. T, a Dallas cowgirl like you should appreciate the tireless work of the Cart Wranglers,the "Loraxes" of the shopping cart world!


Hypnogogic & Hypnopompic

I was listening to a podcast of James Lipton playing "Not My Job" on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (12/2/07). He said some of his best writing inspirations come during the hypnogogic and hypnopompic states.  The huh? I'm a physiological psych major and amateur neuro-geek and had never heard these terms, which he said referred to the zones between waking and falling asleep and sleeping and waking up, respectively.  But, I immediately related to what he said.  I often get my best creative ideas and experience a vivid feeling of mental clarity regarding problems I am trying to solve during these times.  Being a congenital Type A, my mind also tends to spontaneously create well-ordered to do lists and new project self-assignments.  I often am jumping out of bed just as I got in or before I'd really like to get up in order to run into the office and write these fleeting thoughts on a post-it before I lose them.  (Yes, I know I could keep post-its by the bed.) 
This morning I jumped out of bed to write a reminder to look up these two words and learn more about them and write this post.  But upon researching the terms in depth (Okay, upon a quick glance at Wikipedia and a few other sites), I found that the terms are specifically used to describe a series of physiological and psychological phenomena that certain individuals experience during this transitional time between sleep and wakefulness, such as temporary paralysis and sensory hallucinations.  (Lipton wasn't describing any such phenomena, so I'm not sure if his use of the terms is strictly correct, but it would take research I don't have time for right now to answer that.)  This led me to websites devoted to "sleep inertia" -the technical term for morning grogginess, which is scientifically verified to possibly last up to 4 hrs, which explains some people I know.  And to lucid dreaming, a concept I first learned about from the movie Waking Life.  Which, by the way, is a beautifully uniquely animated film that is great eye- and mind-candy.  I loved it so much I had to buy it, and I own less than 10 DVDs.  I also loved enough to own Spirited Away.  Check them out next time you're renting.  

So, here's to the transitions between sleeping and waking and to hoping that I've benefitted even more from hypnogogic and hypnopompic creativity than normal in the past 21 months as I've had to wake up and fall back asleep with a much higher frequency since becoming a mom!  

What kinds of hynogogic/hypnopompic weirdness have you experienced?  When and how does inspiration strike you?  Have you seen these movies and what did you think of them?  Do you podcast?  Podcasting NPR shows is awesome, because otherwise I would never hear them!  


New Year's Predictions

We enjoyed staying up past toddler bed time on New Year's Eve with my sister and a new group of friends and got to be a part of a fun tradition they started last year- New Year's Predictions.  On New Year's Eve last year they all wrote down predictions for the coming year regarding the lives of everyone at the gathering, kept them secret from each other, sealed them in a Sees candy box, and hid them away.  This year we broke out the box and opened it to reveal last year's predictions.  We laughed, we cried.  There were hilarious ones, obvious ones, many many that did not come true, and some of those were a shame, and a few surprises for the ones that did come true.  Then everyone sat and wrote down new predictions for 2008 and sealed them away again.  It was a fun thing to do and it led to some great conversation about how everyone's lives change so much in a year, often mostly unexpectedly.  Probably the biggest thing I took away from the experience was that reminder that what you think on January 1 about yourself and your life and relationships and professional role and what you want or expect to experience in the coming year can change radically and unpredictably by Dec 31.  So, it's great to make plans, goals, and resolutions, but you really never know where life is taking you...  
Do you have any cool New Year's traditions?  Are you making resolutions?  

It gets worse...

Update on the holiday cards:  One recipient got the unstamped card along with a special IOU envelope so that they can send back the cost of postage to the post office.  I didn't even know the post office did this!  Now I feel like someone making collect calls to my family and friends by sending these cards out.  Another person got the envelope, opened it, and found no card inside.  Really nice to know I managed to screw up that part, too.  Perhaps a New Year's resolution regarding postage?