What could possibly be going through a person’s mind?
What could possibly be going through a person’s mind?
As far as stress dreams go, this one has no rival. Lacking any gory death or bloodshed or tormented screams or shrieks, or ravenous, carnivorous animals chasing me and rapidly gaining on me, it still attained nightmare status.
What a mystery these dreams are. Are they therapeutic? A celebration of the wondrous unknown? Or a legitimate reason to ponder a more safe and secure future in a padded room, where sleep-related efforts are helped along by copious amounts of pharmaceuticals?
People schooled on how the mind works when we're sleeping...you have to wonder they're just guessing because they're as puzzled about the reasons behind our dreams as the average guy on the street who walks into a light pole while staring, head down, at his phone.
Sure, I deal with stress like anyone else for the most part. But it’s summer. There’s golf, the lake, long weekends. Birds in the backyard.
But, no matter, something deep inside my brain in the middle of a recent night decided that my foundation needed to be shaken a bit by a blood-curdling stress dream.
No, my teeth didn't crumble into tiny bits and fall out of my mouth as I in shocked, horrified fashion tried to collect all the shards with my hands before they fell to the ground. I haven't had the dreaded "dental dream" for some time now, so my life overall must not be entirely off the rails when it comes to the twisted ways our minds work when we drift off to dream land.
This was the other stress dream that haunts me every couple years, the one where I'm either in high school or college and the school year is almost over and I for whatever reason have skipped many, many classes or otherwise blown off my studies, and now all the consequences of my irresponsible behavior are coming home to roost.
This stress dream was particularly persistent. I woke up around 2:30 in the morning, perspiring and breathing heavily. I checked the clock on the bedside table, still not able to determine dream from real life. Then, that beautiful sigh of relief...it was just a dream. So I rolled over, and it fired back up right at the same moment I had paused it by gasping myself awake a few minutes earlier. The ominous, uncomfortable scenes of my dream continued to unfold. I jolted myself awake once again, with the morning sun coming through the window and birds chirping in the bushes outside. I checked the clock and it was 5:45 a.m., around 15 minutes before I'd be getting up. So I rolled over, thinking I'd just collect myself for a few minutes before exiting the bed to start my day, but instead I fell fast asleep and I found myself right back in a gut-twisting scene from my school-slacker stress dream.
The details that I can so easily recall set this stress dream apart. I was in college. I had two classes that I'd largely blown off for an entire semester. Now, with only a couple days before graduation, I found myself in the two cavernous lecture halls, where the female professors were getting everyone up to speed on the final exams and final projects, the latter of which were due in two days. The final exams and final projects in both courses were based on two massive books that everyone had apparently read, but I had yet to even start. In one course, we had to write a lengthy paper on a certain piece of subject matter from the book. In the other, we had to create some elaborate art project that related to the book somehow. Me having to create art of any kind should have been enough to give me a massive coronary in my sleep.
In the dream, I had resigned myself to the fact that I had to spend 24 hours or so on a reading binge, which would have to be followed by a 24-hour writing binge, and, far more challenging, a daylong creative artistic binge. But then, in another twisted detail, a female student in the class that had it in for me for some reason foreign to me raised her hand and reminded the professor that our full outline in advance of the enormous paper was due by the end of that day. The professor enthusiastically thanked the student for reminding her, and the student then turned her attention to me, glaring first and then offering a sly, you’re-so-epically-busted grin.
Then, a brief sliver of hope. There was a template in the school-issued electronic tablet provided to every student that would make not only the outline easier to complete, the professor said, but the paper itself, too.
I nervously raised my hand, in a panicked sweat. “Tablet?” I stammered to the professor.
Of course, she replied. My tablet.
I told her I didn’t think I had a tablet, and if I did, I didn’t know where it was. I should maybe check my locker, she replied. I didn’t think I had a locker, I told her, and if I did, I didn’t know where it was. And if I happened to find my locker, I continued, whether it was secured by a key or combination lock, I was simply going to assume at this point that I lacked the resources or knowledge to unlock it.
Then, she dropped the hammer, which must have kicked my heart rate into a high enough gear to wake me up once and for all: “Well, then,” the professor said in particularly cold, monotone fashion, “I guess you’re S.O.L.”
Was I stressed out by the female gender? After all, other than me, nary a single role in my stress dream was occupied by a dude. Had I somehow recently offended a woman? I jogged my brain for answers, without success, as I stumbled into the kitchen, where my wife was waiting with the newspaper and a hot cup of coffee.
Well, at least I was still on good terms with her.