In my dream I was supposed to meet someone, he was going to come pick me up at my hotel room and we were going to go out. I knew him somewhat well, not very well.
I mean, clearly it was someone I felt comfortable with, because otherwise I would have arranged to meet him in the lobby or at the place we were going.
There was time left before he was scheduled to arrive. I was taking a shower, it was a very leisurely dream, and then I stepped out of the shower, wrapped in a soft white towel, and he was in the hotel room.
Inside of the dream, a backstory for how he had been able to do this was immediately supplied, the details of which now seem hazy to me: he was a magician? Something like that?
Somehow, it now seemed, I had known in advance that he had this ability to get through locked doors. And I had either forgotten this rather vital piece of intel, or I had trusted that he wouldn’t, because, well, because that’s creepy and obnoxious and not okay.
At any rate, I was taken aback that he was inside my room, but he seemed to think this shouldn’t surprise or alarm me at all.
The mystery, part I.
Okay, and now I have to step out of the story of the dream for a moment to talk about how weird this part is.
I’ve been through a wide variety of not particularly fun things in life, and sometimes I have night terrors, awful dreams about being attacked, and sometimes I wake up screaming.
This is enough of a thing that I can’t share hotel rooms at dance conventions, and that I have a fairly long document which I wrote a few years ago called How A Bell Works, given to anyone I trust enough to share space with me, detailing what might happen during the night and what to do when that happens. Well, mainly what not to do.
So I would have expected — and here “I” refers to both awake-me and dream-me — that this dream would have taken a turn for the traumatic, given how it started.
But it didn’t. I mean, not in that way.
[As I was typing this, my lover, who has the superpower of reading emotional undercurrents inside of my quiet, spontaneously came over and wrapped his arms around me. He stayed there for a while and whispered “beautiful girl” in my ear, and then I felt wonderfully peaceful again. He is, as one of my friends likes to say, very good.]
Back to the dream.
Here’s what happened.
This guy I was meeting went on the offensive (or is that the defensive?), and immediately went into a very vocal panic about how he felt uncomfortable hanging out with me.
Like, he hadn’t thought this was a date, and why was I making it seem like a date, and who showers right before going out unless it’s a date, and why had I invited him to my room, and he wasn’t ready for this level of intimacy, and obviously I wanted sex, and how could I make this kind of assumption and he didn’t know what he wanted, etc.
So here I am in the dream, trying to be calm and reasonable and steady.
Making rational points:
I had no such intention. This is not a date. Showering is a thing people do for a variety of reasons, like getting clean or washing off stress hormones or just because it is comforting, or as a transition between the work day and going out. Of course if I were ever to become interested in him, I would communicate that clearly because that’s what I do, and that isn’t the case at the moment, and this is all a misunderstanding.
And then I woke up. It was Tuesday morning, and I was laughing.
Yes, I woke up laughing. It was kind of a bitter laugh, but laughing is still infinitely preferable to screaming, so here’s to laughing.
This dream is very much related to one of the biggest mysteries in my life at present, which is the mystery of why I don’t respond to a crossed boundary, even though someone has just crossed that boundary in an absolutely egregious way.
Why would dream-me even bother trying to reassure this guy of her intentions, when he’s the creep who just used trickery to enter her hotel room without permission?
Why is she so invested in demonstrating what a good, trustworthy person she is when this guy just did something shockingly inappropriate?
Why isn’t she responding to — or even mentioning — what a horrifying breach of basic human decency it is to unlawfully let yourself into someone’s space just because you can?
Why isn’t she pointing out that entering someone’s private space without consent is unthinkable.
That’s where the laughter comes in. How is it that I am so dedicated to protecting myself from being misunderstood, and often so completely disastrous at the kind of self-protection that is enforcing boundaries when other people are being wildly inappropriate.
That’s the mystery. Well, that’s one of the mysteries.
The dream is an excellent parallel to a current situation, where someone recently did something completely uncalled-for, and I didn’t react at all, other than to remove myself from the person’s company.
My usual theory on this mystery is self-defense: I go into placating mode when I perceive that someone is (potentially) dangerous. This is child mode, really: Please like me. Please don’t hurt me. I’m not going to make trouble. Just leave me alone.
Ever since this latest situation last week, I have been remembering other situations in my life that followed this formula of Someone Does Something That Is Intensely Not Okay and I Act Like It’s No Big Deal, either because I don’t want to be misunderstood, or because I think I will be safer if I don’t react.
Dani and Havi had known each other for a few years, can we say that there was intimacy without closeness? They got along very well, and had been through some shared experiences which brought them together, and there was trust, but it wasn’t like they were really friends.
Havi ran into Dani and he let her stay at his place that night because she had nowhere to sleep. And then he took fifty shekels from her wallet which was sitting on his table with her phone while she was in the other room, and went out and bought a thing which was kind-of sort-of for both of them but really for him, and assumed she would be okay with it.
She didn’t want to say how not okay with it she was.
As it happened, this was her LAST fifty shekels in the world, and she had so much shame about this part of it that it didn’t even occur to her to say, dude you can’t just take my money without asking me if it’s okay.
She wanted to be someone who had enough money that it didn’t matter if someone took some.
And she wanted this so badly that it didn’t occur to her that even if she had endless money, it is never okay to just go through someone’s wallet and take their money.
(Unless you have already obtained consent, or your relationship has already established blanket consent about sharing money all the time without asking, I’m not sure why this would ever be a good idea, but people vary, and I can imagine this as a theoretical construct.)
So it’s a pretty good mystery.
An ongoing mystery, which showed up again last week in the form of someone crossing a big boundary, and then again in this wonderfully problematic dream.
Here’s something I know about mysteries, and about recurring themes.
If something keeps showing up in my life, it wants resolution.
It’s like life is trying to support me in getting through the next level of the video game, which means it’s time to try things I haven’t tried before, and react in the ways I’ve never reacted before.
Solving for X.
During the Alphabet Rallies, X was, of course, the Week of Mystery.
We solved for X.
We let X be the variable. The unknown.
Whenever we didn’t know what to do or say, we named an X, and then started investigating the mysteries.
Here’s how you might investigate a mystery.
Or at least, here’s how I do it.
- Safety First! This might mean a proxy, a new metaphor, a Negotiator, using a coloring book, creating safe rooms, whatever helps. We play at the edges. Anyone who tells you the only way out is through doesn’t know about the magic in the deep work of intentionally mapping around, above and under, or the wonderful art of sneaking past. Which, okay, is another form of through, but the point is, there are always less painful options of through.
- Permission to take care of myself.
- Gathering intel in the safest ways possible. Skipping stones. Talking to Slightly Wiser Me. Using third-person.
- Acknowledgement and Legitimacy: the things I am feeling are normal and understandable! Even if I don’t know why! The patterns I am following make sense! There is nothing wrong with me for automatically going down familiar neural pathways.
- Looking for clues.
- Mapping the patterns.
- Noting the points where it’s easiest to make One Tiny Change.
- Making One Tiny Change. And observing a pattern counts as a change to the pattern, so even if I can’t do anything else differently right now, I’m still making progress.
- Taking notes about what worked.
- High-fives! Good work, team! Bath time!
Note! If/when stuff feels stuck, always go back back to Item #1: Safety First. Anyway, there are lots of good ways to work on a mystery in secret. Intentional Naps are a great way to approach mysteries. Looking for clues while watching a movie is another one. Getting down on the floor and closing eyes and breathing until you feel better is pretty much always a good strategy.
These are the mysteries in my life.
These are the mysteries I have focusing on since I discovered them during Rally X…
The Mystery of Bridges: How do I get from Point A to Point B?
And the mystery of not this and not that: What does it look like when I am not avoiding a situation or a pattern but I am also not feeding it anymore…
And the mystery which used to be called Quitting Grad School Even Though I’m Not In Grad School, and is now called Getting Out Of Berlin — the solution to which was really just the realization that I want to quit everything. Teaching, leading, directing, being in charge. I want to play with people. Not be at the front of the room. I want to rendezvous with other agents, not run an Agency.
And the Mystery of Crowns: Why do I put up with WUSIT situations. WUSIT stands for What unsovereign shit is this?! This is the mystery of how I forget about sovereignty over and over again.
Hilariously, I just did this right now, when I started worrying that maybe people won’t like it if if I change the format of the alphabet posts. Sweetie, it’s your blog. You can do whatever you want here. Oh right. I forgot.
The mystery of this amnesia, and the mystery of learning how to remember again.
What else do I know about X?
- X marks the spot, on the treasure map. It shows you where to go.
- X is extreme self care.
- X is the crux. Or: X is in the crux.
- X hides in words like exist and exit.
- X is kisses. And everything can be made better by blowing kisses. Try it.
- X is ten.
- X is the unknown.
- X is two halves of a diamond. Or a V on top of an upside down V.
- X is ex, what is done.
It starts with X and doesn’t…
In The Thirteen Clocks, one of my very favorite books, there was a prophecy about a man whose name begins with X, and doesn’t. Everyone thinks there isn’t such a man because it cannot be, but there is, and now you will have to read the book.
“Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive duke and his niece, the princess Saralinda…”
Oh, and another clue from that book: “It always takes my father three and thirty days to make decisions.” Yes, that is one way to solve for X.
And…”I wish you every strangest kind of luck.”
What did I learn during the week of X?
The week of X was a marvelous week, full of existential crises and resolutions, exits and beginnings, things that began with X and didn’t.
Here is what I learned:
The answer to all the mysteries is taking exquisite care of myself, doing things that support me or help me follow my yes (or hear it).
Being well-rested, and attending to the wells. Scents. Flowers. Color. Texture. Bodywork. Bath time. Napping. Breathing. Garments. Beauty. Being outdoors.
Basically, everything that feels good and is pleasurable is not just good for that (which would be enough of a legitimate reason anyway, monsters), it is good for helping me get to my new yes, my new intel.
So not only are these things not frivolous because they just aren’t, they are ESPECIALLY not-frivolous because they get me to my next indicated steps.
In other words, the answer to X is YES.
One of the Agents at Rally X put on an only somewhat-metaphorical power point presentation called GALLIVANTING FOR FUN AND PROFIT, and this is such a good mission that I instantly decided this is what I want to do with my life too.
That is to say, joyful exits (another x word, sort of), and the kind of eccentric play-filled retirement that makes for peaceful adventures.
I also decided I wanted to be a fashion consultant (proxy), and — speaking of grand adventures — that is what led me to solve the Mystery of The Missing Panache.
So this is all very mysterious, and yet, so it must be when you are solving for X.
May it be so! And come play with me.
Usually my alphabet posts are a quiet, playful meditation on words that begin with that special letter. We whisper words or sound effects, and I suppose we can still delight in things that are X-rated, engage in xenophilia (which is kind of what happens when we love each other across a blog), and invoke Xena, warrior princess.
This time though, X has been more of a door for me into the mysteries, and that was what I wanted to share with you today.
So you are welcome to come up with new names for some of the mysteries in your own life, or share something sparked for you, or come up with some more X words, or leave flowers and pebbles. And we can all blow kisses, because blowing kisses is magic.
I am leaving some extra superpowers here for us, including the superpowers of I Don’t Need To Solve This Right Now, and Insight Comes (Safely) While I Sleep, and All The Exits I Need Are Here For Me, and Endless Do-Overs, and Wonderful Healing Under The Surface, and I Have Everything I Need For This, and Extra Comfort and the Best Room of Requirement Ever.
Whispering loving spells that begin with X (and don’t), for all of us, and blowing kisses for everyone who reads. Thank you.
Solving for X! This makes me think of the aspects of algebra that I have always liked. Express something a little differently, and even though essentially nothing has changed, suddenly everything is easier.
I am also softly singing a love song to a toy xylophone, possibly the first musical instrument I ever played (not counting my voice, of course), one of the first keys to unlock some of my very favorite superpowers.
Thank you for this post, Havi. Reading it was a wonderful way to begin my day. I wonder what other mysteries it will contain!
Silent retreat on why this is perfect but *blows kisses and shares tea for all*
<3 x X
“the superpowers of I Don’t Need To Solve This Right Now, and Insight Comes (Safely) While I Sleep, and All The Exits I Need Are Here For Me, and Endless Do-Overs, and Wonderful Healing Under The Surface, and I Have Everything I Need For This”
What an especially glorious cornucopia of calming and grounding superpowers!! Yay!
So perfect. I was just reading a post about the myriad ways in which women are expected to be the caretakers of everyone else’s feelings—even (especially?) when the person who wants caring for has just trampled all over a woman’s sovereignty. Hearts and pebbles for you while you unwind this skein.
Somehow, this led me down a fractal rabbit hole of processing my own stuff. Lately I’ve been trying to Steer the Ship onto a different course. I know this will take time, because Ships are harder to steer than, say, Bicycles. Yet I have my course plotted, all the maps laid out before me, and this feels right. One part of plotting the new course has been trusting my No and following my Yes; it has involved erecting beautiful boundaries and stringing velvet ropes. I felt good about all of this until yesterday, when a friend said, “Aren’t you going to slow down at all?” I recognized that this was friend’s Stuff talking, but I was angry and hurt and bewildered, not least because aren’t I the one with the deciding vote on when, where and IF my Ship’s trajectory is not right to the point that it needs slowing or otherwise altering? Instead of wearing my crown and stating that I felt that question was Not Okay, I just shugged and made some self-deprecating remark about how I never seem to know what’s good for me. Which made me more angry and hurt, because not only do I know what’s good for me, I know it better than anyone who is not me could possibly know. And then I was sad, because I realized I do this All. The. Time.
A breath for putting easing somebody else’s LFP ahead of my own sovereignty. A wish for for finding clues to the mystery. A pebble in gratitude, once again, for you writing your own process for us to read. May the X you solve for be discovered in a bouquet of beautiful flowers.
Thank you for this, Havi, and especially for showing us how you solve for X.
I have an X to solve that is tangled because it is my No, but it is my husband’s Yes and he will be happy with this, and him being happy is my Yes. So how to balance these things — maybe that is the X that I need to solve for, or maybe what I need to do first is to find out what X stands for. Because if X stands for new shoes and I’m thinking about cold drinks, I won’t find it…
Hugs to all who read!
Thank you for this post, and especially for that lovely collection of superpowers, which happens to be all the superpowers I need most right now. The next week (and the week after that, and the next few months) hold a lot of unknowns. And I feel like I myself am an unknown right now. There will be lots of solving for X happening soon. Many things to figure out and untangle and find solutions to. But at least in a couple weeks I’ll have some time to devote to resting and detangling myself and finding solutions. May we all solve for all of our X’s, eventually, when the time is right!