A Dream of Genes


           I woke up early this morning after a dream. It was about escape. My need to escape. Usually, I muster the energy to switch on the light and write down the dream fragments still swirling around. When I do this, often the dream takes shape and I am able to piece together a vague if haphazard story. This morning, however, I felt reluctant to pursue my dream. It was too threatening.

            Maybe I had this dream because I am reading a book by Stephen Grosz. He is a psychotherapist. The book is a series of short descriptions of his patients’ issues. Some of them are fascinating, but sometimes I close the book with a snap and a sigh, wondering at the narcissism and self obsession of people…maybe they have too much time and money.

          (Am I beginning to sound cranky?)

          Ironically, being cranky brings me back to my point. Grosz lays many of the troubles of his patients squarely at the feet of their parents. As a doting, responsible, loving mother, I find I want to scoff at this. As a daughter who has just spent a week with a mother and brother, I want to nod wisely for, terrifyingly, I saw in my mother and brother familiar traits, behaviour, rationalisations zipping around as if there were no tomorrow. I feel sure my own daughter and son would agree with Stephen Grosz…relieved to blame myself and their father for their own angst and issues. (Though I am sure they will take responsibility for their generous, good natured, intelligent characteristics – as indeed we all do).

          So maybe my dream originated in my week with my mother and brother who both stared back at me, like a mirror.

          Last week, I finished reading Kate Atkinson’s, Life After Life. I loved it. She tackled rebirth and the different lives that we each lead, embedded in the social and environmental layers that make up a person. I snuggled down happily in that thought, in the layers of Kate in the world, dressed up in the period clothes of time. It is scary to have those stripped away and see the skin and flesh of family with all its flaws, shivering at my feet.

          I love my family and recognise much of their familiar across the gene pool. Sometimes it is a delight to see my mother’s intelligence shine through my children, my brother’s meticulousness, my father’s good nature in their and my own make up. But, other times I dream of escaping.

 A quick poem came to mind:


I have a list of what not to do.

It’s long.

Don’t criticise. Avoid sarcasm.

‘How not to be like Mother’

But already I am doing it wrong

For already I see flashes




of family in me, in mine.


I need a list of what to do

to achieve

the person I want to be

in spite of what I am.


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