Too Much to Dream Last Night

Last night I dreamed I was with Jonathan again.*

Aggghh! Why is he appearing in my dream? I haven’t even thought of him in years. We were married in 1968 and divorced in ’73.

The dream dissolved instantly when I woke up, feeling distraught and confused, thrashing in the sheets. I tried to think, why was I so rattled?

Leibniz said that mortals can't see the full picture.

Leibniz, the 17th century philosopher, said that mortals can’t see the full picture.

Then I remembered. The dream. I couldn’t recall what Jonathan and I had been wrangling about, but I remembered that he had two briefcases with him, a fat one and a slim one. The slim one looked like the wine-colored leather attaché case he’d given me, but the initials engraved on it were: “A.D.”  Not mine or my ex husband’s.

What the…?


My mother’s initials. Alice Davidson.

My mother and my husband.  Can’t we have a different cast, already?

I felt pissed and frustrated as I started my morning ablutions.  Why, in 2014, are these people still disturbing my sleep? I enjoyed a loving, reconciliatory time with my mother before she passed. As for Jonathan, I used to think that if I’d known, in my twenties, what I’d learned by my fifties, we could have made a go of it.

Ahhh… I don’t think so. He’s on his fourth wife now and I’ve had two marriages and divorces. Neither Jonathan nor I had come equipped for or received the gift of a long-lasting, nurturing partnership.  As he often said, paraphrasing Leibniz,  “Life is a bitter mystery.”

Moving through the five stages of grief, I arrived pretty quickly at acceptance.  My ex and my mom are pieces of my custom made puzzle, the pieces I’ll keep working and reworking, trying to reach that satisfying moment when the pieces snap together, fitting perfectly on all sides, aligned with all the other pieces so the full picture is revealed.

These are my pieces, it seems, for the duration, as you have yours. Can we come to love them, to handle them with tenderness, until it’s time to put them all back in the box?

And I’m wondering, what the hell are dreams anyway?  I’m astonished that in a few seconds, there are characters, plot, settings, props, and speeches, fully formed. If I were to write such a scene, it might take me all day.  How does that instantaneous creation happen?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below.

* Can you recite the famous first line of the novel I’m parodying in my first line?  
And do you remember who had the hit single of “Too Much to Dream?”

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33 thoughts on “Too Much to Dream Last Night

  1. JoAnn Richi

    I frequently had dreams of my ex-husband too. We were married for only seven years, and divorced almost thirty years ago. And yet there he is, as young and handsome as he was when we were together, showing up, uninvited into my dreams. They were always the same; he would smile at me, take me in his arms and for a brief moment of pure bliss I thought, I knew, we were back together again. Then his face would turn hard and he would say to me; “You didn’t really think I wanted to go back to you, did you?”.

    I would awake distraught, the pain of the divorce and all the years of lost hopes crashing in around me. This continued until one night I literally changed the dream. In the last one when he took me in his arms I said; “No. Not this time.” I awoke refreshed, free and I’ve never dreamed about him again.

    I know exactly what you mean about ‘if I only knew in my 20’s what I learned…..”. I’d like to think that I could have held that marriage together. But, like your ex, mine is also on his 4th wife, so perhaps I had more power over that relationship in my dreams than I ever did in real life.

    I love your writing, and read everything you produce. Keep it coming.


  2. Bob Prinsky

    Well, Sara, what can I tell you. My wife Carlo — to whom I was already married when you and I were at Columbia J-school — are about to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 1, we should live so long and be healthy. The majority of our close friends have been married for decades also. Like you, we have difficulty understanding how the other half (or so) lives. I too have dreams, but none of them are about my ex-es (obviously) though some are about my mother. They all have convoluted plots that neither you nor I could have come up with if we tried. And I can’t remember any of them for more than a few minutes.

  3. Lucy Marlett

    Hi Sara– I’ve been a fan of yours since Leap. (Which I have read over and over). I was 48 when I read it, and going nowhere. Flash forward 5 years, and I own my own 4 bedroom house, my own business, and indulge in every musical and artistic thing that comes to mind–along with a gorgeous bi-black Shetland sheepdog named Minuet. I believe your book helped me on this journey.
    Your message today kind of hit me where I live. My singular bad marriage ended exactly 20 years ago, last week. Interestingly, in the same last week I officially arrived “in” menopause. I’ve been wandering in the desert for 20 years, relationship-wise (haven’t dated in 5 years) But on the anniversary of the end I could only say thank you to the ex. Because life without him was ALWAYS better! The next day, I met a very nice man and we are meeting this weekend for our second date! None of that stopped the dreams from coming. I guess the Ex is stuck in my consciousness forever. Suffice to say, that SUCKS. I don’t know what the message is for me, because I moved on YEARS ago!
    Unfortunately, you’ve got me dreaming of Manderley again. I cant read that book again. I cant!
    But I am going to go read Leap again. It’s been awhile.
    Have a great day!
    Lucy Marlett

  4. Terri Shaw

    “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.” Rebecca
    If you have not thought of Jonathan in “years” now do you know he has been married four times?
    I’m enjoying your blog and have told many people about the bear in your house.

  5. James Angleton

    The most disturbing incidents in Loose Change consists of your husband’s two physical attacks–his hitting you two different times. I think that you have forgiven him. But after each physical attack, you suffered and he suffered. After the first time he hit you you stayed in bed and he sat near you and investigated himself to try to find out how he got this way and he thought of his time on “the high seas”–boarding schools. He may never have received training in being sensitive to others. By training I mean the discipline that one acquires from concerned parents. But hurting you certainly disturbed him. When you wrote about meeting him after your divorce you revealed details that to me suggested you remained angry. But I do not see them here.
    Best Wishes, Brave Spirit,

  6. Karen Sperling

    In my first movie, the first line is, “dreams are more real than reality. In the day it’s quiet”. And I still live like that no matter what is happening. My nights are movies ( a DNA inherited trait, perhaps)…so complex. People, places, experiences from crime to passion unravel. I, too, dream about my ex often and I am astonished each time. He always is there to be with and not able to be with me. In reality, we are comrades in still supporting our adopted grown children with difficulties and we are opposites in our attitude toward pretty much everything. After the tragedy of losing our daughter and surviving the ups and downs, he wishes he’d married his childhood sweetheart and not me. I am amused by him now as he is a good person and still doing his best to help our community. As for my Mother…she is still alive at 93 and remarkable. I can’t be a total grown up with her still available as my “mommy”…yet I have now become the one who cheers her up with stories of my escapades (drumming on the Venice Boardwalk weekends, doing cookie runs in the streets, and so on) and nurturing her with little veggie dishes of foods I make for my band. On my own, Living many lives these days without one particular role or identity, it’s all a dreamlike existence…can’t tell which is Realer than the other…in the night or in the day. I have chosen to be AMUSED by it all.

  7. Judi Bachrach Turner

    Dreams were always keys that I used in my work with an especially talented therapist. For me, they served to clarify my thoughts and beliefs. They were the most fascinating part of therapy. But SHE was the one who translated the dreams. I knew she was right. I always wondered why my subconscious would keep secrets from me.
    Will the puzzle ever fit? Well, even if we begin to see the solution to the puzzle, it’s for the most part too late. As you said, if you had known at 20 what you knew at fifty, things might have worked. My mom used to always say, “If I knew then what I know now.” I guess no one gets to take the easy road. We all pay our dues through experience. And then we get to live with or mistakes, for better or worse. I guess it’s the same for everyone.
    Judi Bachrach Turner

  8. Silvia

    Dear Sarah,
    Your ability to laser in to word out some of my most intimate thoughts always baffle me. I loved my first husband with all the strength that a woman in her 20s can muster. But my love was not reciprocated and after 10 years we divorced. He is now happily (I think) married to the woman he left me for 35 years ago.
    I remarried 15 years ago to a man who is the epitome of a supportive and loving husband. My love for him is totally different than the love I had for my first husband. Our life together is peaceful, and loving. I’m now in what I believe is the last stage of my life, but even though I still miss the vibrancy I felt in my first marriage, I would not change the mature love I now have in my life for the world.
    I think that we’re meant to miss happiness in some of our relationships. Hopefully, our hearts and minds will learn that we can’t everything in every one of our meaningful relationships and must decide what’s most important and forget about the rest. For me, it was that I needed to feel loved and supported all the time, as I never had that growing up, and embraced the idea of giving up excitement in exchange for love. I know I got the better bargain in the end.
    Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts with me. Silvia

  9. Dr Peter Lim

    Hi Sara,
    I am really glad you have written to me via LI-
    you write so well and I have enjoyed this reading.
    With 400 books in iPad another 200 in my study, I no longer buy new ones but make very extensive use of library facilities in Melbourne.
    Good writing is not just about style, techniques and language but what is written should throb with life
    and set the reader thinking….I have a good command of English but am not a good writer.
    Sartre–to write is another way of wanting freedom…how is short, often a lacuna, we laugh, we cry,
    we misunderstand or others misunderstand us, we succeed or we fail, we blame yourself …we wish things were different…..ah how complex is life–some people say’ but I am such a simple person’–believe me–no such thing–man is a convoluted being–he does not even understand himself …we all very complex.
    But I have been happy as I don’t want too much from life—I am lucky, I love my wife (married for 50 years) and my family-I have a few good friends. I sam content and know what I want, My interests bear some resemblance to yours–I write occasionally, mainly poetry–can send you some over time if you like; I compose a lot and some has been performed, I play the violin and…..I sing a lot….some opera, some art songs, folk, old ones…..I like photography. I am a stoic, a pessimist and an existentialist and humanist…
    Oh no, I have been carried away and written too much and should not prattle –
    have read your bio and I admire you and you creativity.
    YOUTUBE—ELIZABETHAN ROMANCE, world premiere in Melb-2012.
    EBOOK- WHAT IS LOVE? (AN EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT) visit website of Blurb–by Peter Lim and 2 others. 2012
    Please write–I shall be delighted.
    With my deep esteem and sincere wishes


    Hello Sara,
    It has been awhile since you have posted, and since I have heard from you. (I have written to you several times in the past.)
    I just finished reading “Vow,” by Wendy Plump, which – based on your blog – I think you would like to read too. She writes of her various relationships, especially her marriage and divorce (both had affairs during their marriage). She has two sons, and is a writer/blogger career woman.
    I read it on my Kindle reader. If you get it and read it, I would love to hear your comments.
    Best regards,

  11. Liz Quigley

    It was too weird to receive your blog notice right after my second reading of the Kumare. Love your writing and on my second reading of my reply, I loved that, too!

  12. Carrie Aulenbacher

    “These are my pieces, it seems, for the duration, as you have yours. Can we come to love them, to handle them with tenderness, until it’s time to put them all back in the box?”

    This sentence interested me the most out of your post. ‘back in the box’…
    Perhaps the memory of your ex doesn’t appreciate being put in a box? I don’t presume to know your circumstances or experiences, so please don’t be offended, but I’ve been plagued with unpleasant dreams in the past and, whenever I tried to ‘box them up’ to get rid of them, they only got worse. Once I threw the box away and delved inside myself and found the true cause of the dream, and worked through the issue, the dream ceased. Sometimes, I got it on the first try; sometimes, it took decades.

    My take on this is that…you might not necessarily have been dreaming of your ex…he could have come to you in a dream. Briefcases in dreams can refer to concerns or worries (think in terms of emotional baggage) and initials often have a more literal translation than an inferred meaning. If you saw him carrying a briefcase he had once given to you, but now he has it back, and it says ‘A.D.’ it could be that he has a new worry or concern that has been ‘added’ to whatever he is already carrying. (To me, I’d see this as your subconscious showing you that you have given old baggage back to him, which is good!) If his other briefcase was fat, that could possibly be all his old baggage (which, from what you mentioned, sounds like a lot!). Although the color is usually a positive one, that could simply mean that he has started something that seems positive in his life, but that will just end up being more baggage in his life.

    This was a person you had a connection with, and, though it was not a recent one, connections can be forever. You simply could have been tuning into something because of your past. You never know!

    1. Sara Davidson Post author

      I was using “put back in the box” metaphorically, to suggest: when we die, the game’s over and it’s time to put the playing pieces back in the box. Thackeray says something similar in Vanity Fair, which made a great impression on me when I read it in high school.

  13. Peter Simon

    The song to which you refer is by the Electric Prunes. I’m sorry your relationship never worked. Having said that, it is best not to let your time with him torture you. Not worth the time or energy. Dreams often dwell upon unresolved issues during our lifetime. I dream about Nancy Hazan every month or two.., less so about people or events with which I have some sort of closure. I wish us both well I’m our ongoing self promotional activities. Much love as always..,. Peter.

  14. Gini Maddocks

    Kinks? I remember the song–but the names and faces are lost in the 60’s and 70’s where they belong. But alas! we are going through the 60’s again, aren’t we? And maybe these dreams are delivering the unsaid and unsolved to a wiser version now–in this present.

    The Course in Miracles would say we are all part of a dream. And so, the dream characters in our night-time dreams may be as real as we are– with a self-consciousness that we observe and interact with.

    It’s as good an explanation as any.

  15. Roger

    For many years when I’d have a dream involving women and sex, I’d visualize my first wife, even though that was many relationships and a long second marriage. When I got divorced from my second wife, and only then, did those dreams change to be my second wife.
    Not sure what that means. Maybe I’m always a wife behind.
    Great to visit with you when you were in Hawaii.
    aloha, roger

  16. John Barbuto

    The first part is easy: “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night”, Electric Prunes.

    The second part – the parody – is mystifying.

    The third part – how your brain does it – is complex. The pivot point is this: the limbic system of the brain oversees both emotions and memory access. The logic of this cohesion is evolutionary. Emotions evolved to serve a progressive need to set a broad response state in increasingly complex bodies for reactions to situations. Activation of the response was contingent on memory of similar experience and the consequences of action in similar experience. Memory is stored in two ways: declarative and implicit. The declarative is facts and specifics. The implicit is more vague as abstractions. But, it is the implicit that has greater utility for reaction to situations that are “like” other situations. Thus, now, our emotions trigger connections to conceptual representations of situations. The details of these situations are apparently often filled in by “imagined” factuals. Thus we dream. Of course, this is the short story. There is much more if you are interested.

  17. Joey Bortnick

    The Electric Prunes!
    As far as the dream, perhaps something jogged your memory, a sound, a person you met, the quality of light in a room you entered, a piece of music or some article you wrote when you were with him that reappeared. My guess is that this was a gift, another opportunity for growth. After all, he was a very important part of your life, and maybe what you got from him is something you are being called to look at once again. Perhaps it’s because you’re heading back to NY for your book. That’s where it started with him, in NY. You were getting famous for your writing. You were exploring world religions, spirituality etc… and look what you’re doing with Reb Zelman! Life is a circle, or, a spiral. Love, Respect and Blessings, Joey

    1. Sarah Ragsdale

      I think of all the characters and message in my dreams as parts of myself that need expression. Sometimes they are the very opposite of my day time emotions, as if left over fears and darkness. Your mother’s initials seem to be offering you her support. Your ex? He may be an expression of the darkness, and maybe those feelings surfaced because you have grown and changed so much – and yet, when one pays attention to their dreams as you are, there always seems to be a reminder of the yin and yang of life, no matter how blissful or successful you are and maybe especially when you are facing wonderful events!

      Mazel Tov,
      SaraH ( the one with an H )

  18. Charles Horowitz, Ph.D.

    You go, Sara! Great video; yes, you can and you did!
    ….The Narrows can come at anytime. For me it was age 29 when I was permanently partly disabled by an accident. I lead a free group in Boulder for those with chronic pain, and they’re all in their Narrows. It can be a great wakeup. And yes, we Boomers are thereabouts.
    Yes to Leibniz, NOT that life is bitter (it’s also sweet) but to how it’s a mystery–dreams are an example– and “mortals can’t see the full picture.” The Buddha said the same; the mind too limited a tool to embrace the paradoxes of ultimate reality, as physics confirms.
    See you at your Boulder Reading! Charles

  19. Tom Prezioso

    Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

    Frank Sinatra had a beautiful version of that song. Oops, I had the Prunes’ song confused with a Johnny Mercer tune entitled “I Had a Little Too Much To Dream Last Night”.

    Dreams: I have trouble interpreting my own.

  20. Dr.Barbra Rubin

    I think that you are still trying to work through the parts of those relationships that you have not finished yet.

    Another theory about dreams is that everyone in your dream is an aspect of you.

    That;s my professional opinion.
    Keep writing, I love it!

  21. Ellen Alterman

    When I dream about my ex husband, the dream takes place in the sun-drenched, fun life that we projected out to the world at large. It is the enviable, public face of my marriage that my dream wants to live in. My dreams never visit the dark side of the marriage.

  22. Candace Howard

    …..Sara, it is “Last night I dreamed I was at Manderly again.” However, I’m sorry, it’s late and I’m tired and will have to think about title and author….Oh, I’m remembering, it is “Rebecca” and that is Dauphne (sp) DuMaurier (sorry, pleading fatigue again…) Nice to hear from you, been awhile….I truly hope all is well with you in — Boulder?? Not sure I caught that correctly. Glad you found me, I was hacked late last year (you don’t want to hear about it.) My dear husband just wandered in, I mentioned you, he had a Southernism, “well, how’s her momma n’em?” Hope you are well and your tour is successful, post as you can. O, I also remember the song but not the group….
    Candace Howard
    Baton Rouge, La.

  23. Michael

    Kindred souls, Sara. I’ve been watching/living/writing the same screenplay in my mind almost every night since I was nine years old. One of these days I’ll get around to writing it all down, the great 20th-21st Century Gilgamesh. In the meantime, I’m busy.

  24. Harriet Kimble Wrye Ph.D.

    Sara, you were in OUR dreams last night! Here in Salvador De Bahia on the coast of Brazil finally with two welcome days “at leisure” before our 30+ punishing hour flights home after five peripatetic weeks on the road (and foot and on horseback ) in South America.
    Jim had finished reading Isabelle Allende’s wonderful “Maya’s Notebook” and I ‘d finished Vargas Llosa’s magical mystery tour, “Aunt Julia And the Screenwriter” . We scoured my Kindle Library for something he would enjoy and voila, up popped Loose Change. Perfect!
    He couldn’t put it down! My 1960s always intrigued him as pretty wild, but YOURS blew his mind! He kept stopping, marveling, to tell me who was doing what with whom and why! As my next trip is to Cuba in two weeks, he told me you’d even turned down interviewing Fidel! He seemed so genuinely disappointed when he finished the book, that I told him a new blog had just come in from you, so we read that aloud, while the sounds of Samba, Reggae, Bossa Nova and African drums compete in the streets below our balcony.
    Then we rushed to check your book tour calendar hoping for a chance to get together again, and Woe, you are in San Francisco , close enough to our Santa Cruz, when I am in Cuba. Please do keep in touch and by the way, you make a model psychoanalyst with your dream work! Freely associating, exploring ever more deeply the labyrinthine pathways of your unconscious. Great blog!
    Xxx Harriet and Jim
    Looking forward to hearing from you and good luck on the book tour

  25. Robert Skeist

    I learned of your book through an inquiry to the Aleph sage- ing program and ordered it through indie bound. The timing is perfect for me.

  26. Marianne Green

    The line is from Rebecca by Du Maurier: Last night I dreamed I was at Manderly again. (or something to that effect).

    Thanks for your insights: I really like the puzzle pieces analogy.

  27. Candace Howard

    ….’last night I dreamed I was at Manderley again….’ Of course, this is the beginning sentence of Dauphne DuMaurier’s transcendent novel, made into a Hollywood movie (is that redundant??)….this ruminating has allowed me to arrive at the correct title, which is of course “Rebecca”……………
    Good to hear from you, Sara Davidson, get in touch if you ever plan to visit the Baton Rouge-New Orleans area…my life cannot hold the proverbial candle to yours and still it has been lively and interesting. I wish you well.

  28. Simcha Elizabeth Hirshfeld

    I bought the book at your Aquarian Minyan presentation. I found it to be a page turner. The night of the first shiva for Reb Zalman I or someone got the idea of doing the exercizes at the back of the book in a series of evening gatherings. I was particularly touched by the quotation from Fiddler, “would it spoil some part of your eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?” when I read the book. I came home from the shiva and turned on the TV blindly only to hear exactly that quote “would it spoil……” in a showing of Fiddler which I had not expected to see. I thought to myself that I had better make sure we did them.
    Although I bought the book when you were in Berkeley I did not get the bonus and I would llke it.
    I am honored to be on your Blog. Blessings,
    Simcha (Elizabeth) Hirshfeld

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