August 31, 2010


When I was in my 50s and at the height of my political life, I began to have a reoccurring dream that was so disturbing, I sometimes awoke with tears in my eyes. The dream revolved around a pet — a cat or a dog or many cats and dogs — which I had abandoned only to find the animal(s) staring at me with hollow, accusing eyes. Each time my guilt was profound and carried into my waking life.  Naturally, I gave the dream much thought. I had no pets. My allergy to dander made it impossible to take on another after my two cats died, having lived pampered lives. Was my unconscious telling me that despite my allergy I needed another pet? Was that the longing behind these dreams?

I felt it wasn’t and continued to struggle for an interpretation. One morning, after another pet dream, I awoke to a voice in my head. “Be like a butterfly.Create beauty and do no harm,” it said.  

The moment I heard those words, I understood the dream. I needed to get out of politics, which is no place to create beauty, and return to the writing I had abandoned in favor of financial security. After I finished my term of office and returned to writing, the dreams stopped.

Scientists who study the subject have concluded dreams probably don’t have much meaning, that they are the shuffling and filing of each day’s activities. My personal experience doesn’t support that. Not every dream is important but reoccurring ones are.

Since I am older and wiser now, I’d like to encourage anyone at a crossroad who might be reading this blog to follow one’s heart. It will require sacrifice and risk and moments of disappointment. But I’m pretty sure at the end of life, the person who follows the current of his dream won’t ask “What if?”

It took me a while to discover what my dream meant. It would have been easier if someone older and wiser had sat me down and said, “You have a duty to follow your heart.” Then I might not have spent all those early years falling into one profession or another simply because the opportunity presented itself. I admit having no plan gave me a varied life. I don’t regret my path, but I can’t resist wondering, “what if.” What if I had begun my writing career earlier? Would I be rich? Would I be famous? Que Sera Sera. I do know the years I spent in politics might have been better spent at the computer. Dreams are, after all, stories written by the unconscious about one’s life. A person would  do well to listen.