Meanwhile, in another life...

There is something really disturbing about entering a dream world that feels very familiar, but your subconscious hasn't been there in so long, that you have lost the connection to it. I was there, this morning. It was one of those dreams where you are you, but your life is completely different. Like visiting a parallel universe where a series of decisions led to a different path.

In this case, I am a divorced woman hyper focused on her career. I work for a company that designs...advertising? No, that's not right. We are more like consultants that help companies stream line and focus their corporate vision. We help them realized untapped potential. We take companies that are doing "ok" but are stuck and bring them (sometimes kicking and screaming) into the modern world.

I live in a home that feels like I was living with someone else, but they recently moved out. There are gaps in drawers and on shelves. Voids where I know something should be, but I can't remember what. Or who.

The dream started with me waking up in bed (ironically) and I have the sense I am late for work. I know I need to be somewhere, but I'm not sure where. Moving through my home on auto-pilot, I shower, dress in something that feels inappropriate, throw on a coat and head out the door.

I jump on a moped and buzz off down the street, hoping my mental autopilot will get me where I need to be. It works. I pull into a familiar parking lot just as several vehicles are exiting. A few other cars pull in at the same time. I pick a parking spot that feels wrong, somehow, and overhear a conversation between two coworkers discussing the parking situation. One says "Naw. Thought I'd park over by the university spots this morning. See you in a minute."  There is a school nearby?

I address the other male with "Just saw the night shift pulling out." He grins and says "Yep! I always wonder what those guys do here at night."  I have no idea. Our company is located in an old industrial brick building that still has peeling signage painted on the walls. There is a covered driveway and a single dirty window set high in the wall with an old loading dock further down. I realize now, as I am thinking about these details, that the window is up high because it was designed for someone interacting with people driving big trucks. It is obviously no longer in use. There is another ad that looks more recent painted closer to the main entrance. It says something about pets and video. I comment to my co-worker about it and get a confused and grinning "What?!" Then I understand that it's real-world me asking a curious question and not dream-world me (who should already know the answer.)

We climb some well worn stairs to the second level and enter what used to be a large loft area. It has undergone major and recent renovations that are still in progress. Stark white walls surround an open reception area. There is a stylish receptionist who greets us with a familiar smile but then she looks at me oddly and with concern. I wave and breeze past her quickly. I have the feeling that I usually stop and chat, but not today.

We arrive at an open conference area with a large, round meeting table. It looks and feels new. There are several people taking seats on what are obviously new chairs and bantering about the changes. A man in a very nice suit enters the space through some frosted double glass doors and sits down with us to start the morning briefing. We go around the table and share progress reports. I feel myself sinking into my chair and feeling VERY awkward. I have no idea what to say. The guy next to me pipes up with a report about a recent trip to Milan. He sounds uncertain about how the presentation went and whether the company will sign with us. The man in the suit turns to me and asks "How do YOU think it went in Milan?"  I swallow hard. I was in Milan for this meeting too? That's news to me. "Um. I don't think our message clicked with them as well as it could, but I don't think we bombed either. It's going to take some follow up?"  The man nodded, seemingly satisfied, and said "Get on that." And the meeting was concluded.

We all hesitantly moved further into the space around a new wall and into a corridor in the back. I stopped at a set of swinging doors, feeling like that was the best place to enter, while a few others used a different door further down. The doors I used had a group title painted on them, but I only recall the word "Strategy" now. There is a row of desks pushed up against some windows with more signs of construction. The other "door" just took my coworkers into the same space and we all grinned and shrugged at each other. It was a game of find your desk, because workers had obviously moved everything around the night before.

I sat down at a desk that felt familiar but wrong at the same time. Things were missing, I think. I fished a pile of papers and mail off the floor and opened  the middle drawer to retrieve a tablet. On autopilot once again, I turned it on and scanned my email and contacts. I had a strong feeling that there was something important I needed to do, but I had no idea what. Then I noticed some shopping bags next to my desk. Dream me snatched them up with an "Oh, thank God!" and I ran into the ladies room. It was the only place I'd encountered, so far, that felt finished. There was a nice big lighted mirror, a comfortable changing area with showers, generously sized bathroom stalls and a sort of spa-like feel to the space. I rapidly changed out of the frumpy coat and dress I'd thrown on earlier that morning and put on an outfit from one of the shopping bags. I had the feeling I'd done a fair amount of shopping on my recent trip to Milan. This outfit was NOT something I would wear in my waking life. I felt exposed but weirdly confident at the same time.

Back at my desk, the receptionist walked up with a steaming mug in hand. She placed it gingerly on my desk and exclaimed "Well! That's a big improvement over earlier!" I smiled and mumbled something about oversleeping and jet lag. That seemed the right thing to say because she looked sympathetic and let me get back to work.

Flipping through the contents of my tablet and looking over the papers and mail I'd found on the floor was really disturbing. It was bringing back pieces of previous dreams that took place in this world. An item I was supposed to have hand-delivered to someone important. Contacts for people I knew I hadn't called in too long. And an overwhelming feeling like I was missing something HUGELY important.

Then I woke up. I wasn't OK when I woke up. In that life I had the feeling I was successful. Or nearly so. I had a career I really enjoyed but it felt like my personal life was in shambles. I was left with a feeling of longing for that sensation of "usefulness" but also deeply sad that this other me seemed to have no real love in her life. It left me wondering which life was better. Purposeless but deeply loved or independently successful but lacking connection.

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