33: Waking Up

33: Waking Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Waking Up

A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.

~The Talmud

I was thirty-three years old and living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I’d spent the last four years of my life building a dream house that had proven to be more of a nightmare than a dream. My contractor, the friend of a friend, had agreed on a very good price for my house, with the understanding that I would pay for the house as it was being built. He would have lumber, concrete, shingles, appliances, and flooring delivered to my job site. And as the bills were presented for them, I would pay them — up to the limits of the agreed-upon price of my house.

After a year, every other house on my side of the block had been completed, but mine, which had been started first, was still only three-quarters finished. Something started to look fishy. Finally, one of the subcontractors told me the ugly truth. My contractor had had material for all of the other houses delivered to my site, and I had been paying not only for my house materials, but for many of the others. Then the big news came. My contractor said that although I’d paid the agreed-upon price, materials had gone up, so he was going to have to raise the price of my house!

At this point, I got a lawyer. I discovered that the contractor’s claim was that although I’d agreed to pay a certain amount for the house to be built, there was nothing in the contract that stated I would own the house once built! To add insult to injury, he got a restraining order forbidding me from entering my own house and started installing in other houses the material I had researched and gone to great lengths to find while he put substandard material in my own. The time leading up to the court case and the eventual trial meant there was a period of almost a year when I could not enter my own house!

It was agony, but I finally won my case. I could not recover the money I’d lost paying for the material of other houses or sue him for legal fees without going back to court, and my attorney suggested I just finish the house and enjoy it.

I was out $12,000 in attorney’s fees. In addition, when the contractor realized he would probably lose the case, he took a chainsaw to the kitchen countertop, drove deep tire tracks through my sod, splashed varnish over the walls, and dumped trails of concrete all over the floors. In addition, it was not until someone saw in the paper that my house was about to be sold for taxes that I discovered he hadn’t been paying any of the property tax on the land — which, up until the time of the court judgment, he had owned!

It took approximately four more months to fix the damage he’d done, to carpet the house, install kitchen flooring, and move in. Then it took an additional two years to replace material he’d chosen with material I’d ordered, build the shoji screen drapes and a wet bar, and furnish the house.

Finally, after two years, the house was perfect — just the way I’d wanted it. And it was then that I had the dream.

I was sitting in a bar or restaurant with a man when a woman approached us from across the room. When she got to our table, she threw a drink in my face, hit me on the top of the head with the glass, and shouted “Just wake up!”

I woke up to the sound of myself screaming “Just wake up!” I was soaking wet and had a bump on my head. I realized that I had picked the glass of water off my bedside table, poured it on my own face, hit myself over the head with it, and shouted to myself to wake up!

It was a Saturday morning when this astonishing act occurred. Needless to say, I had some big thinking to do. Just what was I supposed to wake up to? I then did something I hadn’t done for ten years. I sat down and wrote a very long story, pretty much based on my own life. When I finished it, I knew what my dream was trying to tell me.

At the end of that school year, I would have been teaching for ten years. In that time, I had taken ten thousand or more student stories, essays, and compositions home to grade, edited a teen anthology, and been sponsor of a creative writing club for students — but I had not written one thing myself. In spite of a master’s degree in creative writing, I had been exhausting all of my creative energy in instructing kids to write — and living vicariously through them, while any additional time and effort had gone into planning, designing, and decorating the house.

Now I understood that I needed to create something myself. I needed to write.

At the end of the year, I put my things in storage and rented out the house. I resigned from my job, and I moved first to Oregon and then California to write. I’ve been writing ever since. Eventually, I sold that dream house and used the money to live my dream rather than live in it.

For two years, I stayed with a college friend in Orange County, California, going to the beach every day to write. I then moved to Los Angeles to study screenwriting and film production, and got a job with a TV production company. I became involved in a poetry workshop and gave numerous readings in the L.A. area, eventually marrying and moving to the Santa Cruz area where I made my living by art for the next fourteen years. I continued to write, give readings, and publish in a few literary journals.

Since moving to Mexico fifteen years ago, I have published a number of poems and articles in various English language print and online magazines. I’ve published one book in conjunction with my women’s writing group and gone on to publish three of my own. Four more children’s books and a book of humorous poetry await formatting, as blogging has more or less taken over my life for the past year and a half.

And this is why, ever since, when my dreams speak to me, I listen. No longer am I going to make it necessary to hit myself over the head with a good idea — as I had to do to force myself to recognize the best idea I ever had!

~Judy Dykstra-Brown

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