Learning from Dreams

Dreams are important. They are more than just random processing of the day’s events. Sure,  some parts of dreams are recycled parts of experience. But dreams are also our very personal stories, given meaning by our deep personal connections.

In a dream, we recognize the yellow tricycle we passed on the sidewalk earlier in the day. That doesn’t strip it of meaning. To wrangle meaning out of dreams, we have to sit with the ideas our dreams give us and untangle the complicated links to ourselves.

Put down the book that “explains” dream images. You create the message and you can understand it. It’s yours to explore for meaning. A few nights ago I had a dream about a toaster cozy. Unlikely, yes. At first.

A handmade toaster cozy, sadly no longer available on Etsy.

The Dream I was in a class of women, and we were all making kitchen-appliance cozies. You may remember those–covers for toasters, blenders, coffee grinders. Cozies were very popular in the 1950s and early 60s. I think the purpose was to unify the look of the kitchen, although it’s possible women wanted to “hide” the machines that did the work for them while they wore pearls and shirtwaist dresses.  There was a lot of conflict in housewives’ minds about having “women’s work” made easier. It was more noble to do everything by hand, but a lot faster to use a machine to help.

In my dream, I was in a sewing class, learning to make a toaster cozy. The other  women in the class were making their cozies really fast, sewing machines humming. Most of the cozies in my dream were crayon-colored prints, with contrasting piping. (In my waking life I’m not attracted to crayon-colored prints and piping.) Some women were quilting theirs in traditional quilting patterns.

My toaster model was a vintage, rounded, 2-slicer with the big bakelite black handle. The instructor kept stopping by, fretting. I was making a cozy out of Tyvek,  the material FedEx envelopes are made from, and was adding a stuffed sculpture on top. The instructor was worried, and said, “This isn’t really the shape everyone is working with.” I nodded, but kept working.

The instructor, who in my dream was a home ec teacher, asked to see it on the toaster, but I shook my head. I didn’t speak, just kept working. Finally, when other women were putting their neat, tidy, perfectly sewn toaster cozies over their toasters, I put mine on the toaster–it used the toaster as a base, and the whole cozy was about two feet high.

  On the top of the cozy was a tiger, rearing up on two hind feet, claws out, snarling. The teacher was horrified and asked me why I did that. I said, “Because I needed to.”

The interpretation: Here is what I knew but didn’t say to the teacher–the toaster was fear and the cozy was anger,  a reaction to fear. I was covering fear with a show of anger. Tyvek can’t be torn or ripped. It would stand up to a lot of angry treatment.

Showing strength and anger keeps people from seeing we are just a toaster. Because being a toaster is not enough, in our heads. And yet, we buy toasters just for that ability–to toast bread.

The question: What cozy do you put on to appear to be something else? What are you hiding from the world?

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling. She has a strange attraction to Tyvek.

17 thoughts on “Learning from Dreams

  1. What an entertaining dream to hear about! And I am interested in the reasons for appliance cozies in the 1950s; I never thought about it like that before! I have paid NO attention to my dreams lately, though I used to remember them quite frequently, and consider their interpretations. I used to dream quite frequently of having lockjaw, or having my teeth fall out…really awful dreams. I did pay attention to those “dream interpretation” references, and found that I was probably feeling silenced, not being listened to. It suited my circumstances at the time (and happily I’ve had no such dreams in years), and I find it fascinating that there are these “universal symbols” that show up in our dreams.

    • There are universal symbols, but no universal interpretation. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, another time, it’s a warning to quit smoking. I’ve taken several classes in interpreting your own dreams and have found fascinating connections in universal symbols and private experience.

  2. Quinn,
    This was quite the fascinating entry! I am an avid dream journal keeper, so the details of your dream were very interesting. And your interpretation was insightful.
    I encourage folks to keep a dream journal; you never know what insight you can derive from your sleep.

    Be refreshed,

  3. I admire you for remembering the details of your dreams and for finding constructive meaning in them. I barely remember anything from my dreams.

  4. My latest dream was amazing. I dreamed I had cancer in my kidneys and I was making the rounds to all of my friends and relatives letting them know that I had only two months to live.

    This was pretty unsettling at first but then I thought about the function of my kidneys. I think there is some really good stuff about the current “me” dying and maybe being “born” to a new “me”.

    I’ve had a lot of epiphanies in my art world and my work world has gone through some wild changes.

    I’m thinking I’m in for a remarkable 2012. Maybe a new cozy???

  5. Im not sure I understand the comment about “how this job is creating me everyday”. Can you explain more? It all boils down to fear and how are we going to make it. I have endured alot….see there is that word again. And I am known for “enduring” alot. This is not the definition of me, nor do I wish it to be. I wish to be living and thus defined in my terms and simply no others. I want to be realistic. Yet I wonder if my view of reality is created from experiencing things in a certain manner for a very long time. Sometimes it is hard to create a new world for oneself when one is alone. It is discouraging and we all need support.

    • We see ourselves in a certain way–one we think we portray to the world. Often, our co-workers, clients, friends see us differently than we see ourselves. That disconnect can be caused by a number of things. One way is that the demands of a job, whether the demands are physically, emotionally or mentally draining, bring out a side of us that copes with those demands. Our job then “creates you anew everyday”–and people sometimes seem different at work than the way they think of themselves. It’s a struggle to be authentic under those circumstances, particularly if fear is involved.

      • Thank you very much. That really explains it. I feel like I spend my time off from work trying to find that person. She is here and feels wht she feels, whether good or bad. I still feel it. But then I think I must be what I am at work. This person who handles everything. And some days when not at work I just want to sit on the couch and eat ice cream. Even though there are things I want to do or some of them I think I must do by a “certain” time become this hurdle I must overcome. Part of this boils down to self care and bringing out that authentic self even in the workplace. I think I need to be gentler with myself.

  6. Funny, I read the article and a few lines from it over and over again. I just couldn’t get what I was covering up and not wanting others to see I was. I thought if they saw it they would think I was weak. Funny huh. I face 3 diseases which are dismantaling me. The last two weeks have been hard. I hurt and ache and some days I just cant go on. I have been working hard. Im in retail and the holiday season is always one of my favorites…just kidding. I do this great show of I can handle long hours. I can handle what is happening to my body just so I can make enough to pay my bills, sort of.

    And spend any free time in recovery. I thought, I cover myself up with this endurance and pretense that I am superwoman and that none of this is hurting me and neither is the fact that I am being taken for granted. And I

    am remeinded daily over our headsets(which everyone can hear) that I am not signing up enough people for the coupon mailers. No praise for a good job and thanks for doing this or that. Just crap. I cover myself with endurance to hide the fact I am hurting and my body is failing and I do not do a good job of taking care of myself. I also tell my employers that really I am worthless and I have no value. Im scared becuase the economy does not take kindly to someone walking out on a job. And I have no clue how I would feed myself if I left. Even though leaving

    • It’s amazing how our dreams set us free to think about who we really are, and how we need to show up in the world. You have a hard job, but you are also doing a lot of thinking to see how this job creates you every day.

  7. my dreams are unusually vivid and seem to foretell events. not a comfortable gift! I get this deja vu thing as I’m talking then I recall a dream with the same situation. better I dream about toaster cosies (grin)

    • Dreams do often help you figure out the future. In dreams, our sense of time is suspended. Einstein had a lot to say about that. The toaster cozy dream wasn’t all that calming, just revealing.

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