Exposed? Vulnerable? That's good, because that's how we connect.
I had to go to the bathroom so badly. I might have a very embarrassing situation in the next few moments. As I moved through the restaurant to find the women's restroom, I could feel my face warming, blushing.
I couldn't find the bathroom and started walking much faster, a feeling of desperation washing over me. The building was huge, with twists and hallways and lots of tables and guests. Finally, there it was, the entrance was hidden in a dark corner. I walked through - none of the stalls had doors.
It was weird. People (men and women) just walking by these open stalls like there was nothing awkward about it. I went into a stall to find a big mess on the floor and around the toilet. It was filthy. I couldn't even think about going to the bathroom there. I tried to find another stall, looking for some semblance of privacy. I felt totally exposed. But no one seemed to notice; not one person looked at me or acknowledged the odd situation. I didn't know what to do.
And then I woke up, perspiring and shaking.
It took me all day to get my tremors to calm down.
It was the night before a gig. I would be performing on stage that evening; singing songs I knew well, with musicians I knew would competently back me up. And yet, clearly my subconscious mind was telling me I was nervous.
I’m a big believer that our dreams can help us identify issues that are buried in our subconscious minds. When we can interpret a recurring dream, we can start to address the concerns we have that aren’t as straightforward or obvious as we might hope.
I have this exposure dream or something similar to it, pretty consistently before gigs, presentations, and other events where I know I’ll be putting myself out there – working outside my comfort zone.
Sometimes the dream involves me looking for a shower, or taking a shower and realizing there are no curtains and people can see me. Sometimes I care and get embarrassed, trying to cover up. Once in a while in my dream, I decide it doesn't matter if people can see me naked in the shower, I feel proud and free and not at all embarrassed. That doesn't happen often.
My dreams have always been vivid and generally easy to translate and interpret. The two described above are the easiest to figure out. It's simply a matter of feeling naked, vulnerable, and exposed. The fact that I have these dreams before a gig or presentation isn't surprising; after all, singing & performing for an audience is like being naked in public - if you're doing it right.
Being authentic is easier for some people than it is for others. It's probably the most important aspect of public speaking and performance. Read any book on public speaking, including one of my favorites, Talk Like TED, and you'll read the same concept:
Be authentic because any audience can tell when you aren't, and they will simply dismiss you and your message.
There’s another important side of the discussion of dreams: The ones you have in your waking hours. You know - the dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, being a rock star, having a successful career, writing a book, and on and on. The question about those dreams is whether you have to monetize them to make them relevant, valid, and successful. I don’t think so.
It started with Craig’s list. My husband responded to someone looking for a musician to play with, just for kicks. Ryan came over one night while I was out with friends and when I arrived home, he was putting his guitar back into his car. I introduced myself and asked him about his music, about his family. That’s when he told me about his wife, Twila. She used to sing with a couple of gospel choirs. Instinct kicked in and I invited him to bring his wife and daughter for dinner the following week.
We had a lovely meal, and while our boys and their daughter watched anime movies in the other room; I pulled Twila into our music room and picked a song for us to try together. Neither of us had been singing for a while, for me it had been about 20 years since I had done anything more than sing to our children. It was magical. Our voices blended and wrapped around one another in an extraordinary resonance. We had chills up our spines, the hairs on our necks rose as we sang together. There were moments when our voices were so well balanced, so completely joined, it sounded like there was an organ behind us.
One music night turned into a music night each week, which turned into two music nights some weeks. More musicians were invited to join us, friends came by for dinner and to listen to us practice. Our house developed an incredible reputation for good food and great music. Ryan and Bob learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses and challenged each other to practice and improve their guitar playing. Twila and I were so inspired; we would begin a song and could feel our voices taking it to a different dimension. We experimented with songs that we had never heard performed with harmonies, magical is an understatement. We eventually realized that we had about a dozen songs down well enough to perform them and took the first step to creating a band – open mic night at a local coffee shop. We had such positive feedback, we needed a band name. The Perfect Jones was born.
I had no idea that performing – singing – was my dream.
I never dreamed I would be a professional musician. I never dreamed that people would pay to hear me sing. Now that it’s happening I realize it is a wonderful dream and one I am not willing to give up any time soon. When I talk about our band and performing, my grin shows all of my teeth.
Singing is my part-time job, and it doesn’t pay well.
But it’s my dream.
Do I have to monetize it to make it real or valid?
Does my dream have to get bigger; do I have to want more from it? No.
I just have to keep wanting it, despite my sleep-time dreams of vulnerability and exposure.
If your dreams are trying to tell you that you're stressed, anxious, and feeling exposed, listen to them.
Acknowledge the fear and find tools to work through it. When I wake up from one of these dreams, I take time to assess my fears in a clear, strategic way.
What am I really afraid of?
What's the worst thing that could happen?
How likely is it that the audience will be as critical of me as I am of myself?
What steps will you take to realize your dream, even if it scares you?