It is so rare that I remember my dreams, but I had one this week that jolted me awake. I was relaxing on a balcony in Lower Manhattan, engaged in conversation with author Elizabeth Gilbert. Both of us were in lounge chairs. Our view was the Hudson River, looking southwest, so facing the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey.
At one point, amused, I pointed to a darkness that started coming over the river a bit north of where we were. Then, suddenly, the darkness stretched way down past Ellis Island and we realized it was caused by an immense wall of water coming our way. I woke up before the tsunami had its way with us.
Holy mackerel. What was that?
Well, I knew immediately it was a pretty classic anxiety dream. That’s natural given I’m in a transition phase, isn’t it? Being an optimist the majority of the time doesn’t mean life’s challenges aren’t scary.
But why Liz Gilbert? That requires a little more thought. Hold on, I’m going in. Stream of consciousness, here we go.
Eat, Pray, Love is one of my favorite books. Committed also affected me deeply, as it is rare to have someone so eloquently express the same view I hold about motherhood – wonderful for the majority, but it simply doesn’t interest me. Hmmmm. What else? I had, in fact, just watched the Eat, Pray, Love movie prior to the dream.
Interestingly, I’d already seen it a few times, the first at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York sitting right in front of Gilbert and her friends and family. This most recent viewing came on a night when I had spent the day remembering a man I loved who had died just one year ago. It was late on March 2, 2012, that I received the startling news and so on this one-year marker I was restlessly channel surfing when I came across the movie.
As is often the case when we reread books or watch movies a second and third time, I heard something I hadn’t ‘heard’ before. Javier Bardem, playing Felipe, is responding to Julia Roberts’ – Gilbert’s – fearful declaration that she doesn’t need to love him in order to prove she loves herself. He tells her she doesn’t need a man, she needs a champion.
Wham. It hit me. The man I mourned for a year was most certainly my champion and I miss that so much. Especially now as I write the next phase of my story. And yes, it would be really beneficial to open myself to that idea now, not just by better appreciating the champions I already have, but potentially attracting a romantic one who is among the living.
Thoughtful enough, but this still didn’t explain Gilbert’s presence in my startling tsunami dream. Even with all these ripples of her work swirling around me, there had to be more to it.
Ah, wait. I have it.
Those aforementioned are examples of how I experienced her work from the standpoint of reader/viewer. However, I believe it’s the writer in me who was sitting on that balcony with an author of memoir who took a plunge and shared her intimate thoughts and feelings for all the world to see. I know what kind of courage that takes. As a journalist I’ve been putting myself out there for the better part of 25 years. I’ve been called an idiot. I’ve been told my columns change people’s lives. All of that. My readers, whether in agreement or disagreement, write me as if they know me and that is a precious gift.
And yet, the idea of my published memoir-in-progress simultaneously scares the bejesus out of me and delights me beyond measure. I am in the process of selling it. Selling isn’t my strong suit. In the dream, Gilbert represents all those writers – and creatives in so many other disciplines – who laid themselves bare in their art. She is – they are – staring down my fear with me in my ever-fascinating subconscious.
So is it a little weird going public with a dream that includes a very well-known fellow writer? Yeah. But she gets it. We all do. Without vulnerability we’re forgettable and mediocre. With it, we’re teachers and kindred spirits sharing a human experience.
I’ll take the latter any day. Come to think of it, I’ll be the latter any day.
Thanks for playing, Liz.