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The Backache Dialogues

Dreamed 1993/12/10 by Chris Wayan


My back hurts; I can't figure out why. It creeps up from my lower-middle back to just below the shoulderblades. Like overused muscles, yet I did nothing unusual yesterday. Cartoon of me in bed wondering why my back hurts.

So I ask my dreams for advice about this backache.

Man, do I get it! Eleven dreams in a row, many pages of them.

And yes, several address my question.



I have a kangaroo pouch. Or someone else does. They feed me, or I feed them, out of the pouch. Or is there something sexual going on with that pouch? Confusing, but whichever it is, food or sex, it feels good. But then... someone hurts me because of the pouch. Shoots me! Not fatal, but wow, does it hurt! And they threaten to hurt me again--to keep me from using marsupial pouches.

So much for that myth that you can't feel pain in dreams!


I'm in a modern dance troupe. I'm a shortish muscular woman with olive skin and long straight dark brown hair. Not the classic dancer's body--especially now. I'm weeks overdue. Abdomen tight as a cantaloupe, back aching. Our choreographer is using my pregnancy--I'm one of three pregnant dancers, all of us huge, in maroon or plum colored leotards, dancing as well as we can.

We look like big beans.

Behind us is a line of willowy non-pregnant dancers led by the choreographer, who's a fertility goddess, or so she says. Our dance is being shot for a video.

I like my fellow dancers, but the goddess is too bossy. I don't plan to obey her, let alone worship her.

Not that she's personally horrible--I hate being subordinate, that's all. She doesn't even care if I worship her, just hopes I'll look the part on the video, be a symbol of her fertility. But it's MY body with the backache! I'M the one doing the work! She wants to make me her symbol.

And I will not be an abstraction.

I'm a very pregnant dancer

I asked about the backache. Definitely not an illness--a natural process! The annoying goddess may symbolize my mom's antimale bias, and clearly that bothers me... but it isn't causing the pains. They're from some internal gestation, and have nothing to do with her, despite her claims to regulate fertility.

So the pains are birth-pangs of some new behavior?


I wake up--into a long series of dreams. I remember the dream of the marsupial pouch, and keep finding elements of it through my a whole "waking" day. And so I conclude that the pouch dream was psychic, predictive! Quite a logical conclusion, if I were awake--but the dream really predicted just more dreams! Here's one example...

THE BREAST RITE Dream: a nurse bares her breast to show a green circuitboard clamped to her nipple.

Upstairs room in a big university. Several people try to enact the ritual of the nourishing marsupial pouch! This convinces me my dream must have been precognitive.

But none of us have pouches. So we transfer the focus of the ritual to a breast. A young nurse volunteers, and takes her shirt off. Her breasts are small, high, like a teenager's--surprising, since she's a mom, and says "I breastfed my child." Her nipples are erect; she's excited at the attention!

A man with a moustache starts nursing at her breast? At first it's just ceremonial, but he lingers and she strokes his hair, prolonging the contact because they both enjoy it... though she has no actual milk of course.

Now my friend Li comes up and ritually hangs a pendant or earring from the nurse's nipple. It's made of a tiny circuit board, gold and green... I wince. The nurse laughs "It doesn't hurt, these boards don't weigh anything. The clip doesn't have to pinch hard."


I bike across town to my house. It's now on a low hill facing east, near Japantown and my therapist's office. As I park my bike, a six-inch pet tortoise scurries across the yard at lightning speed. I'm wary--it's a snapping turtle. But it's not after me--I turn around and see its target, a HUGE tortoise, two feet long at least. It too is scuttling at a speed I should find shocking. But I'm distracted by the fight--the big turtle is heading straight for our house, and the little one is enraged. Territorial!

The small one, filled with righteous anger, on its home turf, defeats the giant... who backs off, and looks round for someone or something to take its anger out on.

Guess who. Dream: a snapping turtle bites my big toe.

It zooms up and bites my left big toe. Hard, and it won't let go.

"OWWWWW!" I roar, angry now myself. I yell at it, shake it, whack it. But whacking turtles never helps (is that a rule in life?)--I just hurt my hand. Finally I roll up a magazine so tight it looks like a stick, and slap its face and wave the stick till the turtle decides it's the enemy. The snapper snaps, I'm free, and I back away. The giant turtle stalks off down the side of our house.

Well, that explains the dream of the pouch, at least. The pain in that dream was warning me I'd be facing this painful injury in real life... Not that it helped me PREVENT it... Still, a vivid predictive dream is worth a little pain, isn't it?

And then I wake. Oops. So much for that interpretation!

All pain, no gain. Unless of course you discount both my pains--they're just dream pains.

But let me tell you, dream-pain hurts just like waking pain.

What can I conclude from all this? First, my dreams disagree. Several sides of my personality checked in with different explanations--all of them plausible!

No, they agree about one thing. My back pain's not a simple physical ailment. It's a casualty of war! Civil war. A war over dreams themselves--is it okay to sell art based on my private visions, my private pain?

There's a nurse who doesn't mind--she likes showing off. But the pregnant dancer does mind--and the turtle's so mad it's ready to draw blood.

Not a very whole-hearted business plan, is it?

LISTS AND LINKS: I'm Just Not Myself Today - cross-species dreams - marsupiality - pain in dreams - oops! dreams of mistakes - cross-gender dreams - gods and goddesses - pregnancy and nursing - dance - TV dreams - false awakening - false psychic dreams - dreams on dreams - exhibitionism - breasts - reptiles - shells - You Are Lunch - diagnostic dreams

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