I was trying to edit in less-than-ideal conditions when this show called Booze Traveler came on TV (like I said, less-than-ideal conditions). Cute Dude and his crew were in Spain, land of my birth, so instead of focusing on the one act play that I need to rework, I watched Cute Dude knock back a combination of red wine and Coca-Cola, which offers a heady blend of alcohol and caffeine, a local favorite in Barcelona according to the Spanish lady showing Cute Dude around town. As they walked, she smoked, and it reminded me of a dream I had the other night. In this dream, this time, I didn’t actually light the cigarette; instead I told my dream self, “I don’t need this now.”
But I didn’t toss the cigarette either; I wiped the smooth sides clean of the bits of tobacco leaf that cling to the paper when one slides a smoke out of a fresh pack. I laid the cigarette on the table where I sat, placing it beside an orange Bic lighter (I dream in color) to save it for later. As I looked up, I realized I sat in the conference room at the company where I worked right out of college. Several engineers, men, sat with me at the table working on schematics and puffing away. A mushroom tobacco cloud filled the conference room, and I thought to myself, no need to light another cigarette in here – just breathe deeply. Then my alarm clock went off, and the shame of what I dreamt swept over me.
Smoking dreams go like that – longing, restraint, mortification, and disgust all combine into a powerful reminder of why I quit. I awoke feeling off-balance and grumpy, the hangover of some unfulfilled nicotine fit that only my brain experienced. The dream felt like backsliding, even though I remain a former smoker. I think it is a metaphor for all the other things that I once had a handle on that now feel slippery and uncertain: goals, friendships, raison d’êtres. I miss the clarity. I miss feeling, if not relevant, at least not frivolous. I’ve lost confidence; my muse is sick of my shit; the words are in my head, but my head sees no need to bother my fingers with the drivel.
I should be editing the one act or figuring out where I was on the unfinished novel. I should be working out every day; I could sleep less, focus more, so much to do, seeds to plant, stories to tell. But other stuff has gotten into my head – disappointments, frustrations, realizations of fruitlessness, relationships I valued falling apart*, the gut-wrenching process that comes with accepting that no matter how many lumps of sugar one spoons in, one will not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea.
The wet blanket weight of it has smothered my creative fire. In its ash, a gritty mean voice inside my head has taken shape, recalling for me in vivid detail all of my prior failures and embarrassments – all the foolish things I wanted and arrogantly believed I could have and all the ways those things were denied or taken away from me. I’m trying to silence this mental monster, but so far, only clichés and pop songs come to mind: shake it off, let it go, carry on, carry on. I still have no sense that any energy I invest on any front will be well-spent, which makes it challenging to muster motivation.
It will pass, this feeling. I'm pretty sure -- it always has before. But it scares me worse than a smoking dream.
*My relationship with G. is not among them.