On letting new people in

I don’t know too much about Jungian dream interpretation, but I do know that if I knew more, my mom would love me more. She’s obsessed. She’ll only see Jungian therapists. She’s always having these textbook dreams, perfectly interpretable. She’ll be faced with a tough decision in her real life, and she’ll reach an actual, literal fork in the road in her dreams. “It’s like one path was one I’d taken before, and I knew where it would take me. And the other path was brand-new to me, but part of me was intrigued. What do you think it all means?!”


Well, one thing it means is that I probably didn’t need to go to graduate school to be a therapist.

My mom’s dreams often take place in houses. Sometimes these houses are big, sprawling, and unfamiliar, and other times they’re cozy, more like a home. And in Jungian therapy, the house represents the mind. So whatever the state of the home in your dream - well, it may well reflect the state of your mind.

My dreams are not usually so symbolic. For example, the other night I fell asleep at around 7.45pm, and I had a dream that I woke up at 1am because of how early I’d fallen asleep. But I didn’t wake up at 1am -- I slept until 6am. It was just a dream. Literally my dreams are just the second- or third- most probable outcomes. Or this morning, for example, I woke with a start wondering if a meeting scheduled for a week from now could be canceled. I guess you could say my unconscious propels me to some pretty great heights.

Lately, if I were blessed with the sort of richly symbolic dreams of my mom, it would look something like this: I’ve recently undergone some home renovations, and I’m considering throwing a house party to show off the new place. However, I’m really concerned that my guests are not going to take their shoes off when they get to the entryway, and I’ll be too accommodating to ask them to, and so then they’ll stomp mud through the house. First hurdle.

Second hurdle is that I’m irrationally attached to the idea that each guest should bring a housewarming gift. I want everyone to leave my home better than they found it, and I’m afraid some people are just showing up for the free La Croix, or because it was the best option for a Tuesday night. (Which it wouldn’t be, because movie theaters offer significant discounts on Tuesdays, but dreams are mysterious like that.) I’m so concerned that I cancel the house party. Sorry folks - guests are messy. And I just cleaned house.

If this were my mom’s dream, she’d relay it to me over the phone on a Saturday morning, and my extravagantly linear brain would have a field day detailing the one and only possible interpretation: Independence versus interdependence. You want to invite people into your life, but people are messy. You are growing and you are proud of yourself, but you aware aware your current state is fragile, easy subject to disruption. Do you invite people into your life, knowing they’ll get mud on the floor, knowing that people under 30 don’t really give gifts anymore?

(The other day, I spent 90 minutes trying to help my 30-year-old brother pick the perfect housewarming gift, and we settled on a candle that smells like fish. So I mean, case in point.)

So, what do I do with that? Independence versus interdependence. I recently got coffee with an old friend; we were discussing the age-old problem of values, and how to “lean in” to one without ignoring - or worse, sabotaging - the others. To say that I don’t believe in balance is an understatement. That’s some tooth fairy shit. Here’s what I told him: “Hey, you’re under 30. You’re not supposed to be balancing stuff. You’re supposed to be totally overdoing it in one area, and then abruptly switching over to another value in two years." Maybe forty years from now he can say "Hey, what about balance?" And someone will hand him a walker.

Vision board, top right

Same thing for me. There was a while where I leaned in to interdependence, and now I’m hurtling back the other way. I’m making vision boards and new workout plans and trying to figure out how many micronutrients (read: fibrous vegetables) I can eat without serious digestive discomfort. (Short answer: less than I thought.) In forty years, I’ll wonder why I overestimated the value of the gym and why I ever gave celery a second chance. But not for now; for now, I’m doing home renovations, and if anyone knocks unexpectedly they better take off their shoes, and I’m covering the furniture in plastic.

Tread lightly: your girl is under construction.