I could spend all morning looking for a fitting image for this missive, because I do try to do that, with varying degrees of success. My emotions this morning are feeling Edward Hopper but even his collected works fail my needs for this one. That's a first. Hopper usually fits the bill for anything in my repertoire of feelings, which is admittedly pretty limited and is bookended by melancholy and despair.
Sleep came down like a beast last night, and what does that mean? Bad choice of words. It came on like a seizure. My chest and neck tightened and a dull ache crept up the back of my head and across the top of my skull. It was two strong hands pulling me downwards by the hair. I remember closing the laptop and putting it aside on the nightstand. I had just enough strength to roll over and half reach for the lamp, but couldn't quite manage the distance so it remained on. A jolt of electricity ran from my hip down through my leg and out my right big toe. Then another, and one more. The next thing I recall I was dreaming, and I knew it was a dream as it was happening.
There are common interpretations of shaving one's own head in a dream. Most of them involve deep feelings of vulnerability and self-revelation and that would make sense, given all the waking circumstances. Another less common view is that shaving one's own head in a dream is about feeling a need to make penance. That could very well be the case too. Hell, I've felt the need to make penance for as long as I can remember. Penance not so much for deeds I've committed as penance simply for existing. I'm not saying it makes sense, but it is what it is.
What throws a monkeywrench in any of the interpretations though is that I was not shaving my head of my own accord. It wasn't a case of being told to do it but it felt like my hands were being forced. They were moving under some "other" power. I could feel the buzz of the clippers in my hands but it was... just happening. My hands were moving and the hair was falling on the floor. Hours later now, fully awake, I recall the same feeling years ago, when I actually shaved my head. Once I made the initial cut up the side of my head, there was no turning back. It was no longer in my power. I also know now that it was a form of self-mutilation I was acting out when I did it. Take from that what you will but that's what it was. It was penance, now that I think about it. It was my own mark of Cain.
The other oddity, or perhaps not so odd for any dream but especially not my dream-life lately, is that my ex-wife was present as I was shaving my head. We were in the house on 17th Street again in the dream. Some part of me feels there is unfinished business in that house, with her, as I continue to revisit it in my dreams. Was this dream about guilt? Still? After all this time? Something to consider. It's more likely to be unresolved anger and resentment, also connected to feelings I've had lately that nothing I've ever done has been enough for people around me. No efforts to impress or validate myself in the eyes of other people has been... or rather I feel that it's never been enough to... to what?
Just thinking aloud here, really. The answers are right there but it's going to take a bit more to compel me to lay them out here in the dissection pan. It's enough to say that it's been me choosing the difficult path through people with whom I feel I need to prove myself. It's enough to say that it goes far back into childhood, isn't it. Has the pattern been broken? I thought so.
So why the penance now? What am I feeling guilty for? Is it past transgressions, or current? Or both?
And maybe Edward Hopper didn't fail me after all. This came to mind, The Tramp Steamer. It's always seemed out of character with the body of his work, the nautical theme and such. Then I consider it with other paintings that often include a solitary human figure. This isn't so different. It's riding low in rough sea as if heavily laden. There is an outcropping of rocky cliffs, indicating that the boat is headed toward the shore, but it doesn't seem particularly welcoming. There is only enough of the shoreline to make the viewer wonder what else is there, but it doesn't look... safe.
No safe harbor. It might be better to turn back around and take one's chances out on the water for a while.