Livin’ the Dream


Livin’ the Dream


Lew spooned out fruit cocktail from a can as he sat in front of the TV. The fruit squished in his gums. The sweet syrup dribbled down from the corners of mouth. A chunk of cherry flew into the air when he yelled “Those corporate fat cats! There’s nothing left for us!” The cat lapped up the sticky red dot and looked up.

“Scoot!”  Lew shoved a foot under the cat’s belly and picked it up. The cat yowled and leaped forward onto its front paws. The hind legs followed, scrambling for footing on the wet vinyl floor.

The can of hot plate-warmed chili and two cold beers for his dinner had made Lew drowsy. He struggled to keep his eyes open to watch the cable news program. He rubbed his eyes twice and yawned each time. As he put his head back on the chair his eyelids came down. Another program came on…


I was Lew’s armored car route partner before he retired ten years ago. Here is what Lew told me about his dream the night before:

“A big cat was sitting in my chair. The cat looked all pleased with itself. It was licking its fir and purring like our truck’s diesel engine. The cat took a bite of a cheese sandwich and mice ran up to eat the crumbs. I was looking up at the cat waiting for food to drop. When it did the mice ate it up before I could get any.

The cat then handed me a plaque. It said, “Thanks for piling on 40 Years with Us”. Then I saw the front door open and you poked your head in. You said, “You’ve always been in the driver’s seat, pal.”

Then, I saw my dad on TV. He was in a Stockpile Self-storage commercial. He was sitting in his recliner smoking a pipe inside a storage unit full of his stuff. There was an auction going on and he was in buying and storing mode, like when he was alive. He said to me, “As a man thinketh in his chair so he is. And I think it’s no crime to have more than you want.”

Then, a stray cat walked in and read a fortune cookie fortune: “If continually give, continually have.” And that’s when I woke up.”

Lew, speaking through his screen door as I stood on the “Welcome” mat, then asked me “What do make of that crazy dream?”hoarders

I told him “Pal, I was lucky to get into your dream since I can’t get into your house to check on you. There is so much stuff in there. You’ve kept everything and now everything is keeping you in that chair.” I told Lew to lay off the cans of chili and fruit cocktail which I saw strewn in the yard and to enjoy his big fat pension. “Get out of this house.” I told him. “C’mon, buy yourself and your old partner a good meal in town before there’s nothing left of you to hold on to.”


© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2018, All Rights Reserved

The Boy in the Tent

Last night I found myself in a van, my ex driving us to a familiar campground in the next state.  We wanted to get there as fast as we could.  We urgently wanted to get to our seven year-old son.

 We drove through the darkness panting and leaning forward in our seats. Just before sunrise we entered the campground.  We drove over to the campsite where we had camped many times before. There in the middle of a grassy opening surrounded by oak trees was a lone pup tent.

 I jumped out of the van and ran over to the tent. Down on my knees I lifted the tent flap and looked into the dimly lit tent.  My son was sitting in the middle of the otherwise empty tent.  He was facing the other way.

 There was nothing in front of him. He sat dead still.

 I crawled over to him.  As I did so he turned his head to look at me. He then got up, jumped into my arms and hugged me tightly.

 After a while we released our hug and I put him down.  He returned to sit in the same place in the tent. He sat down facing away from me.

 I went out of the tent.  My ex had been yelling from the car that we had to leave.

 I called back to my son and told him that we were going, that he must come along. There was no reply.


 I opened my eyes and winced them shut again.  The pit of my stomach felt as if it had been carved out of me while I slept.  When the silent sobbing began I tried to cover the wound.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved


At the first bleep of alarm clock’s tirade my cinema head pops out of the rabbit hole. 3:38 am. I shut off the one-sided conversation and let myself fall back into a nest of pillows. I close my eyes. Inside my eyelids there’s an x-ray showing me the last scene of a dream. Mr. Dream State is looking good until anxiety’s screen saver pops up. Then my heart starts pumping adrenalin to somewhere outside of my body and I get out of bed. In the dark I fumble for the switch I need to start the day.

I head to the kitchen in my underwear. I flip on the TV and turn the volume down with the remote. In the kitchen I grab a pouch of oatmeal and start swinging it back and forth to settle its contents. I blink. Mr Dream State appears for a second. He is sitting in his cube facing pictures of his grandchildren. His wife smiles back from a shelf. I nuke the oatmeal, feed my parrolet Henry and make coffee. I head for the shower where the hot water is blazing hot. I’m the first contestant today. After the shower, a lobster looking woman is seen in a rain-forest video.

In the bedroom I throw on some pants and head for the kitchen for hot coffee and cooled oatmeal. On TV the weatherwoman is talking about wind speeds, precipitation levels and the temperature in May of 1952. I imagine that when I am ninety-two I might like to know those things.

Mr. Dream State shows up on my radar again. He and I are seated watching the weather together. I pour coffee and sip gazing at him on the inside of my eyelids. In my dreams he is always facing away from me. We are looking at the same things.

“Today will be mostly cloudy with a chance of…” It didn’t take long for me to realize that Duffy Adkins weather forecasts were recorded the night before and then replayed while she slept. There were just too many days when the actual weather was plus or minus ten degrees and plus or minus rain. The rain falls on the just and the unjust so I get dressed based on intuition and then suffer the consequences of humidity, wind chill and stormy weather. Isn’t that a song?

Outside my car is waiting for its cue. I crank the engine, turn on the fan and zip out of the parking lot of my apartment building. It will be a good day in Chicago if the weather and intuition hold up.

At the train station I stuff two dollars into the parking fee slot and walk over to the yellow line that divides me from the commuter. I wait. People gather. Gum chewing, smoking, dream people with large coffees and huge handbags. We wait. Soon the cyclopean search light of the train pokes out around the distant curve and heads straight for us. We wait. Clang. Clang. Clang. My head looks for another rabbit hole.

Two conductors get off the train and both say “Good morning.” I say “Good morning.” while my arthritic knee decides if it’s going to move. When it does I find my seat near the door where two women sit juxtaposed. The older one speaks with a hoarse guttural voice to the younger one who chews her gum in rabbit fashion. They know each other. They sit, chew and talk with the two conductors about the Bull’s chances in the playoffs. I read my Bible and then the latest copy of Vanity Fair. Mr. Dream State is sitting next to me reading what I am reading. I see him nod silently, appreciatively.

After an hour and ten minutes of the train’s stop and go lurching we arrive at the downtown station. We are on time today, plus ten minutes. Weather forecasts. Train schedules. Dreams?

I walk five blocks to my building and push the “34” plastic square which needs a push. I am shuttled up to my floor and find my cube as I left it – draped with drawings, spreadsheets and cut sheets. I push aside a set of schematics and place my tote bag in the vacated space. Coffee. I scrounge my purse for a few dollar bills and head back down the elevator to the cafeteria.

Veronica greets me. “Hola, amiga!” “Hola, Veronica.” “Como estas?” “Estoy bien. Y tu?” Bien, gracious.” Veronica hands me a small coffee and I say “Feliz Viernes.” She chirps, “Oh yeah, Feliz Viernes.” I walk the corridor to the elevator. I push “34” sipping black coffee, smelling Mr. Dream State. Notes of Havana.

I get off the elevator and at the receptionist’s desk I can only see the black octopus hair of Flor above the counter. Mr. Dream State used to have black hair but it turned grey. Flor is coughing again. Flor coughs loudly every day. Her sneezes are not for the faint of heart. I say “Good morning, Flor. Happy Friday.” She says “Happy Friday, Jennifer.” and coughs. I worry. My cube is within viral range.

Ahhh. Coffee, email and work to do. Mr. Dream State is happy for me. I smile back at him. Soon I will be in his arms (if he ever turns towards me). I lay out the displaced schematics and dive in.

Noon arrives as usual and I eat my now defrosted leftovers. After lunch I head out of the building for a walk in Millenium Park but Rahm Emmanuel is taking his oath of office under the Pritzker Pavilion so I head toward north toward the river. I walk slowly like the peg-legged woman I see all around. Arthritis is getting it digs at me. Mr. Dream State takes my arm. He’s my right side, my right leg. He is quiet, stable, there for me.

I push “34” thinking of my leg, his leg. I get off the elevator and see the flouncy-bounce of blonde curls called Carol. Carol subs for Flor during the lunch hour. “Hi, Jennifer.” ‘Hi, Carol. How are you?” As I walk past the desk I see that Carol is using a large paper cutter to slice rather small labels. I wince when she tells me that she uses the paper cutter on anyone who does not sign the registration book and then I smile. Mr. Dream State is scary-funny like that.

Back at my desk I read emails and pour over schematics until my eyes hurt and it is four o’clock. I gather my things and head out. On the way to the elevator I say “Have a great weekend, Flor.” Flor smiles her teeth out, takes in big gasp of air, coughs and says, “Have a great weekend, Jennifer.” I flee to the elevator and push”1”.

I walk the five blocks to the train station and I am early. I stand waiting (with Mr. Dream State who’s handsome and serenely confident) and some train buddies, regulars who ride in the same car. At some unknown time driven by some unknown force the big burly black conductor inside the coach turns on the coach car lights and opens the door for us clucking hens. He descends his throne room stairs like the king of Khartoum. He greets his passengers under his heavy breath.

I sit in an upper row of single seats. I begin to float away but arthritis doesn’t let me get too far. I find my place in the magazine and settle back, aching for a massage. Mr. Dream State, the conductor, doesn’t need to see my ticket. He just smiles and lets me ride.

One hour and fifteen minutes later we arrive at Friday night, the weekend and sleeping in. I’ll soon be sucking desire’s thumb and clutching the sateen edge of twilight to my breast. Mr. Dream State will be unrobed. And with him, R.E.M., just a few blocks from here.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved


Sisterhood of the Traveling Ya-Ya

Dreams serve to help us resolve day-to-day problems while we sleep. Upon waking, dreams most often vanish into cerebral thin air while the effect of the dream, the mind’s resolution, goes on with the person into their day. It is also known that vivid dreaming will often happen during periods of personal emotional upheaval and stress. They have for me. One dream in particular stands out. I am living it.

In 1995 I struggled with the issue of gender-dysphoria. I had struggled with this issue since my early childhood. But that year, the question had become the pea in the princess’s bed: I could no longer sleep, eat or work properly. I was deeply unsettled about the matter. Being in a relationship with someone at that time made the issue all the more acute. When I finally did sleep I had many dreams. One dream stands out as being clearly prophetic in all of its symbolism.

The dream: I am standing at the end of a long dark tunnel, a tunnel deep underground. My sense is that I have been on a subway train for a long ride. I get off the train and was face the exit. Looking up (since I am way below street level) I see light coming through a long rectangular opening. I start walking up the slightly pitched exit ramp towards the light. As I walk I notice, appearing directly in front of me, a tall chest of drawers. I open the top drawer and inside there are women’s things and jewelry. I close the drawer. I feel good.

The closer I walk to the entrance, the better I feel. At last I stand at the large rectangular opening. The dark tunnel is behind me and a bright sunny day is out in front of me. I see tall buildings and behind them I see Lake Michigan. I see myself working in trenches along the shore of Lake Michigan. Unlike the tunnel I just came from, the trenches are open to the blue sky and warm sunshine. I sense that I am extremely happy working in these trenches. I feel a sense of peace. Then I see myself lying in a lounge chair on a sandy Chicago beach. I am looking out at the water, a great open expanse before me. My journey has ended and I have reached my final destination.

This dream, of course, is rich with symbolism. Carl Jung would call it an “archetypal dream” – it is mythic and grand, completely vivid. Within the dream I seek to integrate my feminine and masculine qualities – the anima and animus. Compared to my life at hand, it was the impossible dream.

This dream occurred during a time in the 90’s when I attended a church in the Chicago area. The church was, at that time, coupled with two local para-church organizations. One of the organizations is a ministry directed toward helping homosexuals leave the gay life style. It is led by a former homosexual. The other church ministry is dedicated to the “healing of the soul”. “Healing Prayer” teaching seminars were led, at that time, by a Kathryn Kulhman type figure – a self-styled prophetess.

The prophetess wrote books which were filled with quotes from notable Christians such as C.S. Lewis. Her writings spun off into different directions using her own spiritual experiences to formulate a point. After reading several of her books, I wasn’t exactly sure what her point was. It seemed to me that she tried very hard to appear intellectual and bookish and to be taken seriously. An aura of mystery surrounded her person. This invoked an image of a feminized Elijah who was often whisked away by her crew to pray in the Spirit out in the wings.

To give you an idea of the confusion that was wrought when she spoke I’ll share with you a conversation I had with someone in the lobby of Wheaton College’s Edman Chapel where she spoke. I was there attending a healing prayer seminar given by this woman. I was seeking some kind of resolution to the gender issue in my life.

During one of the healing seminar sessions, I got up to stand in the lobby. I was tired after sitting for several hours. Out in the lobby I met the doctor who was also attending the session. This doctor had delivered my son. We struck up a conversation.

Like me, he had been sitting and listening and he had also decided to get up and stand in the lobby. Standing in the lobby together, he asked me directly if I knew what the prophetess was talking about and I said, “She keeps saying it will make sense later, but I don’t know. It hasn’t made sense yet” The doctor looked puzzled. He was hoping that I could bring some meaning to the mishmash of words spoken in the auditorium that morning but I couldn’t. In fact, my own confusion was becoming deeper. I gave her the benefit of the doubt because she talked about gender issues and self-image issues, applying healing prayer to wounded-ness.

The soul healing seminars (and books) offered by this ‘prophetess’ would deal with a host of psycho-sexual issues including homosexuality. Many of the people who came to the seminars had been wounded in their youth. The wounding would include rape, abandonment, neglect, beating, mistreatment and even a possible traumatic birth (breach births, cord wrapped around neck, etc.). In essence the seminars were like spiritual LSD. Through healing of memory prayers, the attendees would relive some of the painful memories and then have those memories prayed over and then supposedly vanquished, leaving the person to go on with their life without the burden of the past. At least that was the idea.

Having been around this woman for many years while attending the afore-named church I can say that she is a wonderful person with discernible good motives. She seeks to help others who had been wounded as she had been early in her life. Her seminars bring many hurting people together including homosexuals who desperately want to leave the gay lifestyle. The healing prayers offer a place to start looking at the core issues of homosexuality, issues born out of deep neurosis and family life situations.

Her seminars would talk about the re-symbolizing. Re-symbolizing is important when a person wants to leave a bad pattern or life style behind. It helps someone, with a ‘healed’ imagination, to focus on what is good, pure, noble and true. In this process, re-symbolizing replaces the image previously fixated on and even idolized and gives the person the image of the cross – the suffering Servant, arms open, who seeks to embrace you. This message was always abundantly clear from her talks and writings.

Misogyny, the hatred of women, was one driving motive behind the origin of the ‘prophetess’ healing prayer seminars. As she recalled in one seminar, the prophetess had endured misogyny early in her life. Her mission, she felt, grew out of a need to help others who had endured oppression, hatred and worse from misogynistic people, mostly men, but women could also be misogynistic to other women and to themselves. This calling was made clear from the beginning of her writings and talks. When she related in one of her talks that she considers her misogynistic uncle an “Ass” you knew she has an axe to grind and a hatchet that needed a burial.

What wasn’t clear to me and to others are her words about the “true self”, the “true masculine” and the “true feminine”. She pointed to God as having “the True masculine and the True feminine”. What was the “True self”? What was the True Masculine? The True Feminine? And, why parse things so finely?

Many of the seminar prayers (and writings) included prayers prevailing upon God to bring a person out of their wounded past and into their true self, into a true masculine or true feminine identity. I have since learned that there is no true masculine or true feminine identity, only the sexed body, male or female, that you were born with. Gender identity, though rooted in the sexed body, is fluid and mostly a social construct. Consider these words from Miroslav Volf, a Christian theologian and currently the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School:

“Nothing in God is specifically feminine; nothing in God is specifically masculine; therefore nothing in our notions of God entails duties or prerogatives specific to one gender; all duties and prerogatives entailed in our notions of God are duties and prerogatives of both genders…”
Men and women share maleness and femaleness not with God but with animals. They image God in their common humanity. Hence we ought to resist every construction of the relation between God and femininity or masculinity that privileges one gender, say by claiming that men on account of their maleness represent God more adequately than women or by insisting that women, being by nature more relational, are closer to the divine as the power of connectedness and love.”
Miroslav Volf from Exclusion and Embrace, 1995

I attended many of these healing seminars. I did so because I was desirous of walking in the Spirit and hopefully finding a reason for the gender disconnect within. The teaching/healing prayer seminars were described as praying the soul into well-being. The prayers were not a one-shot fix but a starting point from which the soul which had been wounded or cut off from its “true self” would bring God’s touch to a place of deep wounding. Then, the process of healing could begin.

Back to the dream. During the healing prayer seminars participants were prayed over by the ‘prophetess’ and her prayer team. I was prayed over several times with prayers spoken in tongues using holy water and a crucifix. It was during this week of healing prayer sessions that my lucid dream occurred. I considered the dream, at that time, to be symbolic and nothing more. Recently, I now understand the dream to be a prophetic dream. I’ll explain.

Several years ago I made the decision to live as woman. When I did, I understood that God had given me the grace to do this and to be in a relationship with Him. God was willing to embrace me as a woman. God was not threatened or put off by my change. In fact, I have certainly been blessed throughout the process.

Recently, while riding the train to work, my tunnel dream and its fullfillment came to mind: I am a ‘new’ woman; I work (in the trenches) in Chicago near the lake front; I am settled and laid back (as the dream’s lounge chair would symbolize). I am at rest. A dream come true.

But, my dream is used as a nightmare by my ex. In my ex’s hands, my change has become a wedge between me and my children, a way of alienating the children from me. It is my ex’s ‘normalcy’ argument that hammers the wedge deeper and deeper: my ex’s position is that she is normal and that I am not. She tells my children this in so many ways on a regular basis. I know. I hear back from them. Children will learn prejudice from their parent/s over time. This is true wherever there is any off-putting’ of people and groups throughout our world.

My change, by the way, never absolved me from responsibility to my children. I continue to parent my children and give them what they need.

While the attempt to heal the soul is a massive undertaking, I see any desire to heal the soul as laudable. At the same time I am concerned about the specific ideation of the true self, the true masculine and the true feminine identities. These definitions could drive people into further confusion and perhaps into more despair. Perhaps, it would cause a return to a bad or broken symbolization because her teaching embraces the new idols of the masculine and feminine: her teaching identified the “True masculine as the man being the initiator (thrusting, pushing forward, aggressive) while the True feminine is the woman receiving (actively passive), relational and integrating life.” More mishmash. Each of us has masculine and feminine qualities and their amounts are negotiated within the society each of us live in.

On closer examination, the true self, not seduced and influenced by TV and the media, is the person who finds his or her identity in a relationship embrace with Jesus Christ. Gender identity, anchored in a sexed body, free-floats. It can be active and passive, giving and forgiving (think marriage of a male and a female, an Adam and Eve narrative). Harbored in Christ this identity is able to be open to others. It is known for its ability to accept changes in the other and to do justice.

A prophetess, a dream and a reality. The Divine Secret of the Traveling Ya-Ya finally makes sense.

“Now you can understand the quantity of love that warms me toward you, so that I forget our vanity, and treat the shades as the solid thing.” Dante’s Purgatorio 21.132-135