Dreams of lots of rooms

by Rachel Creager Ireland

For many years I’ve dreamt of houses, of looking at a house I might purchase (even when I knew I had no money), living in a new house, discovering new rooms in a house I was about to move out of. Most often it’s dilapidated and cluttered with junk, but as I wander from room to room, I find great potential, and am enthusiastic and hopeful that I will get this place cleaned up, fixed up, and enjoy the wondrous pleasure of having so many rooms that I can choose what I want to do in each. This one will be my sewing room. Here I’ll sit and drink tea and read. This room with its trough sink and windows all along the wall would be ideal for starting seedlings and keeping the garden tools. Across the hall will be where the kids study.

I grew up in a house where there were more rooms than people, but, inexplicably, I never felt I could find space or privacy. The house never seemed big enough. I sometimes went into the attic to hide away and read. That was the biggest residence I’ve ever lived in (unless you count college dormitories, and the dorm-like coop I lived in in Madison, Wisconsin). Every place I’ve lived had a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom or two, perhaps a dining room. Every room was designated to an obvious purpose, and to use it for another was always a sacrifice of some kind. There was also a loft for a while, which, naturally, had no rooms at all. At that place I set up a tent of sorts, to carve a massage room out of my designated space. But always, I had the dream. Always I would wake from it and wonder, will I ever have that place, the one with so many rooms I get to decide what I want to do in every one?

I don’t mean to imply that it is something I, or anyone, particularly deserves. I’m well aware that most people in the world have smaller homes than we have here in the US, that in many places, the sizeable room I hated sharing with my sister would have been occupied by a large and grateful family. I do believe that dreams, especially those with repeated themes, can be a guide to a person’s highest purposes. The key, however, may not be to recreate the dream physically, but rather to find what actions and choices lead a person into the ineffable feelings present in the dream. While the physical conditions are more often than not simply impossible, the feelings are always present within us, sometimes waiting to be awakened, when the moment is right.

About eight years ago, we bought a motel. The house on the property was bigger than anyplace Kevin and I had ever shared, with good-sized rooms and a big kitchen. But, it didn’t take long for things to get cluttered, and Rowan was born before the end of the first year, followed two years later by Kiran. As with all our Chicago apartments, we ended up habitually putting excess stuff in an unofficially designated room, which becomes too full of stuff to use. Then I cleaned out my parents’ house (remember that one that was never big enough?), and moved a lot of stuff into the motel rooms that hadn’t been renovated yet. Our house no longer seems big, or to have enough rooms.

A few months ago I woke from that dream, and thought, will I ever have that house, with so many rooms? Shouldn’t I already have the key to whatever that dream means? Where is it? Then I thought, I own a motel. There is no shortage of rooms.

We have all these rooms, and more. Room 1 is at the far right.

I made it my goal for the year to clear enough stuff to make a room for myself. It won’t be all those rooms of the mansion of my dreams, but it will be my space, and big enough to do the things I want more of in my life, to keep some crafting supplies, set up my sewing machine, and to have a good desk for writing. Motel room 1 has no shower (can’t be rented), and it’s full of stuff. That’s my job for the year.

But New Year’s resolutions rarely make it through the end of February, the cruelest month. Dar Williams was spot on when she wrote that song. “The night is long and cold and scary/ Will we live through February?” Besides my getting overwhelmed with massages, writing, being the art lady at school, and being a mom, feeding and clothing everyone every day; the motel business screeches to a standstill, the checks begin bouncing, bills come in faster than I can keep track of. I actively manage my serotonin level. My Clearing and Creating My Space Journal has been on the shelf for weeks.

But the dream comes back, reminding me not to give up. This morning I woke from a dream of exploring all those rooms, finding so much stuff left by the previous owner. A surprising amount of it appeared useful or even valuable, if not to me, then to someone who would like to buy it. It was collected by someone with a neurotic attachment to material things, who then left it for me to deal with. This is raw material for me to transform, alchemically, into what serves my current purposes.

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