One day, Tim was making coffee in the morning when he got a text: his DJ friend was creating a mashup album, and he wanted to use Tim’s tambourine demos for the mix. There was one problem: Tim was so behind on everything that he didn’t have any tambourine demos ready to go. His DJ friend was disappointed, but not as disappointed as Tim.
To help himself feel better, Tim decided to make a peanut butter and raspberry-jam sandwich, but then he realized the only peanut butter he owned was that organic stuff that you need to keep in the refrigerator, where it gets really hard and you can’t spread it, unless you microwave it a little. Tim microwaved his peanut butter and spread it on his sandwich, but the truth was, it didn’t help that much.
“I knew I needed to get my tambo demos ready!” he muttered to himself angrily. “This is important to me! How could I forget? What’s wrong with me?” Eating the sandwich made it hard to mutter to himself, so he made mumbling sounds instead.
I need to turn things around. I can’t let this happen again.
His decided to make a firm commitment to practice tambourine every day.
“If I keep this simple, I can’t go wrong,” he told himself. He’d have those demo tapes cut in no time. Hell, maybe he’d release an EP!
That day, he jammed in his practice room, and before he knew it, he’d spent an hour rocking out. He truly loved making music, that was for sure!
The next day, his friend Wanda called him. Her aunt was ill, and she was lonely from the quarantine, and Tim immediately felt a wave of compassion for her. Was he really selfish enough to practice tambourine instead of helping Wanda when she was in need?
So, Tim began spending an hour a night on the phone with Wanda, instead of practising tambourine. He visited her on the weekends, too. In the month that followed, he practised a grand total of twenty minutes of tambourine, because he was spending all of his practice time with Wanda instead.
One month later, his DJ friend texted him.
You got any tambo?
Tim regretfully replied:
Feeling inadequate, he sent another message:
I'm dealing with a lot of personal stuff lately.
The DJ replied:
Ok man, I understand if you’ve got other priorities.
Tim wandered into his bedroom and laid down on the floor. Why did he lie on the floor, instead of the bed? Because it’s Tim, that’s why.
I messed up. But wait, I helped Wanda. Doesn't that matter? I made her feel better!
He wasn’t sure. This situation was making him feel terrible about himself, and that didn’t make sense. He wanted to take his solo tambourine act to the next level and play at local coffee shops someday, but he felt a long way from his goal.
Tim decided to make an all-new, BIG, ambitious plan to help reach his potential and escape from the slump he felt trapped in.
Shuffling through his calendars and day planners, searching for a blank page where he could write his plan, he discovered something: his old diary.
He casually flipped it open. He found himself reading about a day from the previous summer. Hey, the day I made friends with a seagull! I forgot all about that! Tim flipped through more pages. He read some of his entries from last year, and then from the year before.
At first, reading about these memories brought a smile to Tim’s face.
But as he read, his smile began to fade away, replaced by disbelief...and horror.
Tim dropped the diary. Lying there on the floor, surrounded by day planners and calendars, he stared silently upwards at the ceiling.
Then he fell asleep.
He began to dream. It was a recurring dream, a dream he forgot every time he woke up. In the dream, he was walking down a shaded forest path next to a giant lake. Rounding a bend in the path, he found himself confronted by an enormous snake (a.k.a. “The Serpent”). It was coiled in the path to block his way, and its head was raised to the same level as his. Its neck was as thick as a street lamp.
The Serpent stared at him. There was an awkward pause.
“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” Tim asked.
“You are dreaming,” the Serpent replied. “But this is real.”
“I feel like I’ve been here before.”
“You’re right. We’ve had this talk before."
Tim felt tears of shame burn his eyes. Why couldn’t he remember? The Serpent watched him mockingly.
“Wait, you said this is real. What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re being a little slow. We’ve met so many times in the real world, and I didn’t see you crying then.”
“I would remember if I’d seen you before!”
Was the Serpent smirking? It was hard to tell, with the way its mouth curved. Tim was pretty sure there was some kind of dream symbolism happening right now, but he couldn’t put it together.
This is real?
“Are you Satan?” Tim asked suddenly. He wanted the dream to be over.
The Serpent tilted its head to one side. “That’s a bit on the nose.”
Tim wished he had a copy of Wanda’s dream dictionary.
“You’re not Satan?”
“How would Satan answer that?”
Tim decided to try a different approach. “Can we be friends?”
“Yes, we can be friends.”
Tim was speechless for a moment. He thought of the mixtape he wasn’t on. He thought of the tambourine practices he’d blown off. He thought of his disappointment with himself.
“We can’t be friends. You love to see me fail.”
“That’s true,” the Serpent said. “But everyone has a few friends like that.”
What an asshole, Tim thought. “I was reading my diary this morning. I read things I’d completely forgotten about: dates I went on, big adventures I had, big plans, big hopes.”
“That sounds nice,” said the Serpent.
“I found something else in there too. I found you.”
A ripple passed down the Serpent’s long neck. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” it said.
“You’ve always been out to get me,” Tim protested, “You’ve been sabotaging me for years. Every time I set a goal, you stop me.”
“Everyone has goals. What’s so special about yours?”
“You have no right to do this to me!”
“I’m just lying here,” the Serpent said.
“Don’t give me that!”
“You’re boring me now.”
“You think you can do this to me?” Tim shouted. He lunged toward the creature, straining, reaching, and for a moment he thought he had its neck in his grasp...but then his eyes opened.
He realized he was lying on the floor. His back ached. He was cold. And this time, he remembered his dream. The details were fading fast.
After he put on a hoodie, he decided to call Wanda. Wanda would have some answers about his disturbing dream. She was in to this stuff.
“Hey,” he said groggily. “It’s me. I have a question for you. It’s, uh, about a dream I had.”
“Are you okay?” Wanda asked.
“Yeah, I just had a really, really weird dream.”
Tim struggled to remember it. Bits and pieces of the dream hung in his consciousness like windblown confetti: an argument; a path in the forest; a talking snake. An actual talking snake.
“What does it mean if I saw a snake?”
“Snakes symbolize one’s subconscious. They can be good or bad.”
“I think it was bad, because I was arguing with it.”
"Snakes can represent your deepest fears," Wanda said.
“I’m not afraid of snakes.”
“No, not phobias. Your fears. Existential stuff.”
“The snake can represent things you’re not facing in your life. Do you remember anything else about the dream?”
“Maybe I don't need to. Listen, I found my diary today. I was looking back at the things I wrote. Do you know what I found? Lots of good memories, lots of bad ones, but something else too, and it’s really bothering me.
“I see that I keep reliving the same cycle, over and over again. I create chaos or stupidity in my life, then I decide to do something about it, and maybe I fix it and maybe I don’t.
“Then, six months later I realize I’m back to making the same old mistakes. And then I come up with the same solutions, all over again. It’s like Groundhog Day. It’s like insanity.
“Why don’t I have a band or a record contract? Why don’t I have a mixtape? It’s because I’m trapped in a circle. I’m like a lab rat. I’m like a goldfish realizing it’s in a bowl every two minutes, then forgetting, then remembering…”
“Tim, please take a breath.”
“Am I a zombie?”
“I messed up again. Allen asked me for some recordings, but I don’t have any.”
“The DJ. I know it sounds like I’m freaking out, but I’m furious with myself.”
“Okay, here’s the deal,” Wanda said. “Nothing I say is going to change the world. Nothing I say will change your life. Let me get this straight: you feel like your life is moving froward, and then six months have go by, and you feel like you’re still in the same place. That’s what you’re telling me?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
“You are having these dreams because you know deep down that you’re screwing yourself over.”
“If every day feels the same, then focus on the only day you can control: today. Set a goal for today, and don’t let anything stop you. Then do it again tomorrow. Act like it’s the same day, because in a way, it is.”
“What do I do if stuff comes up? Something always comes up!”
“When that stuff comes up, I’m here to tell you that ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s bullshit. It’s not important. It’s your bad habits. It’s your inner toddler. It’s the snake.”
“It’s the snake?”
“Whatever you want to call it. You have to slay that dragon to get to the next level. You have to get over yourself.”
“Yeah,” Tim agreed glumly.
“This is not easy to do. I’m going to make a bet with you, Tim. Tomorrow, pick a time of the day you want to play tambourine. Any time. Do it now.”
“Did you pick a time?”
“Tell me what time you picked.”
“You don’t have any other plans for five p.m.?”
“Okay, good. I guarantee you, between now and 5 p.m. tomorrow evening, something will come up. Someone will call you. You’ll get gassy. You’ll feel tired. You’ll want to masturbate. Something. And it will stop you from practising at 5 p.m.”
“You sound pretty sure of that.”
“I am. And if by some miracle it doesn’t happen, it will definitely happen the day after that. One hundred percent. If you decide to practice two days in a row, you will find out that there's something out there trying to stop you.”
“I guarantee you, you’ll meet that snake again. Try doing something productive for two days in a row, at the same time. That snake will be back.”
“I’m not saying you’re wrong, but this all sounds nuts.”
“Maybe it does, but look on the bright side. If you stick with your plans, you eventually grow out of sabotaging yourself. It’s like the snake gets bored of bothering you. Same thing.”
“I want to say this sounds like a bunch of crap, but then again, today I learned I’m basically a goldfish that wears jeans.”
Despite this damning opinion of himself, Tim now had a powerful tool to become the tambourine player he knew he could be. Wanda would help him get there.