Anyone who says “Live your dreams” hasn’t had dreams like mine…

Well, it’s been a hectic last 3 weeks or so, which is why there’s only been one update on here the whole time. Hopefully things will calm down now that (a) I am no longer solely responsible for looking after Ancient Kitten and (b) I am no longer in full-on rehearsal mode for The Voice UK.

Yesterday, I travelled to London (always in my mind an epic journey – country boy/gyrl at heart, not at home in the Big City!) to audition for The Voice. This is not the auditions they show on telly, this is the pre-audition auditions to screen the candidates for who will make the best television. 2 hours queuing for a 90 second shot in front of a vocal coach and a casting director. And a 3 hour round trip. And an early morning start that… bleurgh.

Did I get through? Well, but it this way: I got as far in the competition as Jimi Hendrix would have done (that is to say, the vocal coach told us that Jimi Hendrix would not have got past the first stage of audition, so just because we didn’t was no reason to give up performing).

So, 90 seconds of singing and I was on my way home again.

10 contestants in a room together. The vocal coach warms you up, getting you ready to sing. Then they pick a name at random to go first. “Valery, please.”

Actually, I was ready. More than ready, I was eager. I wanted to go first. I was bold, I was confident, I knew I was great. “Step up to the mark in the middle,” they said. I smiled, my arms back, my chest open, my voice ready. I stepped forwards. My feet touched the mark on the floor, I faced my audience.

And started shaking. People talk about ants under the skin or insects on the skin, but it wasn’t really like that. It was more like eels, or maybe tadpoles. Not a crawling sensation, but a wriggling sensation. My heart felt like the clichéd butterflies (not in the stomach, though) and my breath shivered as though the room was at 5ºC. In one step, I went from “the zone” to “prone” (figuratively – I didn’t actually collapse on the floor!)

Some would call this a disaster, but I didn’t and don’t. You see, those may have been the sensations, but they were mild, muted, almost one could say “calm”. I have felt them before, in performance situations – for example, when I want to talk to a person I’m attracted to (or indeed, anyone I don’t know very well): a situation where it’s known as “approach anxiety”. (And the last times I’ve tried out for talent shows, or played on stage, or anything.) I have a benchmark to work from. This performance was not like those other times. I have, for want a better word, improved.

So what if my assiduously-rehearsed presentation went out the window, and it was all I could do to get through the song with the right words and notes in the right order? I was in control enough to do that. (Heck, one guy forgot the words to his song!) And I was good. Failure is not in my vocabulary – a saying that normally annoys me greatly, but here, it makes sense: victory is only ever coming away with more than you started with, and I did that.

All of which is a preamble to what has inspired me to sit and write.

You see, this is a post about dreams. Not the wishes that we express during waking hours, but the realm of Morpheus. Last night, after my success (if you look at it the right way) I came home and did what every soldier does arriving at a new base: “where do I eat, where do I sleep, and where’s the bog?” I ate, pissed, and went to bed (going to bed had to come last, unlike the saying, because otherwise it would have been messy and uncomfortable…) I slept. And, sleeping, I dreamed.

I was back at the auditions. This dream was the sort that is so vivid that on waking, one wonders for a moment why things are not in waking life as they were left at the end of the dream. In my dream, things were slightly different after we performers had done our turns. The rejected candidates, instead of being sent straight home, were asked to stay and, in twos and threes, invited back to see the vocal coach and the casting director. The vocal coach gave us feedback.

It’s not hard to understand what this dream was doing, which is better than can be said for most of my dreams (they are usually either mysterious or disturbing in content, or both. This was neither). Of course, I have no way of knowing what the vocal coach would really have told me had I been given this opportunity in real life. Anything that she said in my dream comes not from her objective vantage point and her experience, but it must come from something inside me. Any criticisms she made must, on some level, have been stuff that my own mind had conjured, assessments that it had made about my own performance. The vocal coach in my dream was therefore my critical self, the part of me that always marks me down.

Which meant that my replies in the dream came from the place that builds me up, that says it’s okay to be the way I am. While VC (“very critical” – or “vocal coach”) clearly had some valid points, this was not about tearing down. Supportive Me (SM – ooh, see what I did there, with the kink reference?) was all about what I was aiming for, the reasons why I was right to do what I did. SM may have accepted “it didn’t always work the way I hoped”, but was also, “I did it well.” And VC had to accept that.

The dream was closure, a debrief from the day and the experience. That’s pretty obvious. It satisfied and fulfilled that need. Another victory.

I woke up after that, spent a few hours unwinding consciously, then went back to bed.

This time the dream was familiar territory: weird, and disturbing. Yay!

There was not a great amount of narrative to this, at least, not that I recall. I suppose it was inspired by the day to some extent. And by some of the media I’ve been taking in. For this, all I can really do is give you a flavour of what my mind concocted.

Imagine, if you will (I mean, I already did, that’s how I dreamed it!), a near-future society. Young people are sent to do deadly battle with one another. Yup, this dream had a “Hunger Games” set-up. Only in this dream, it wasn’t in a wilderness with deadly traps and deadly weapons (although in my dream, I as one of these young people, had shown off some mad skilz with sword and archery, it had nothing to do with the actual combat). No, the battle took the form of duels (initially, anyway). These duels were in the form of…

Tennis matches.

Yup, the other influence on my dream was the fact that Wimbledon is on the telly currently, and inescapable it seems. (It’s possible that the claymation series “Celebrity Deathmatch” may have had an influence as well, though it’s been a couple of years since I watched it last.)

So I was a teenager pitted against other teenagers in a series of tennis matches, the losers of which would die. (Did I mention, “disturbing”?) Maybe I have just seen one too many movies in which “eliminate” is a euphemism for “murder”, so when commentators talk about competitors being “eliminated” from the competition, my mind conjures an unfortunate association.

But the final match was not a duel: those who had survived thus far were all on the same court together. The rules were not clear, but it was somehow going to be that everyone was playing at once until only one person survived. We were split into two groups, one on either side of the net.

A tall, slender man with pale hair (blond or white, isn’t clear in my memory) asked my group, “Who’s up first?”

Some muttering amongst us, but soon voices echoing one another, “Valery.” “Valery is!” “Valery can go first!” Somehow, we would rotate through the group, but I was first in the firing line. (So now you know why I think that the day at the auditions influenced this dream – the relief everyone else felt when i was picked first had been apparent in that audition room.)

I woke up before the winner was determined, to my best recollection, I was still alive at that point. I don’t recall if I even finished playing the first point of the match. I do remember, though, that as I stepped up to the baseline I was feeling calm and confident in my ability to survive. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up this morning. And deciding to share with you guys.


About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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