My dreams the last two nights have been a mess.  I wake myself up in an anxiety-riddled panic, unable to go back to sleep for fear of jumping right back into the narrative I just left.  I roll over and grab my sleeping husband, hoping he’ll sense my fear and put reassuring, positive thoughts in my head, but I am too considerate of his sleep to wake him up. 

When I was a child, I had no such qualms.  My brother and I went through a period of regular night-time visitations to my parents’ bed.  It’s a wonder they got any sleep at all.  Mostly I think we just felt safe and secure there.  While I did have some night terrors (specifically a witch in my walk-in closet, and, the usual, dying), I just found myself able to fall asleep easier when between my parents.  (It’s also a wonder my sister was ever born.)  Mom theorized it was the foam egg-crate on their bed, so she bought me one.  It’s still not the same. 

But my current bed should be all right.  We just changed the sheets and have calculated minimal friction coefficients in the current sheets.  We had on the knit jersey kind that has become fashionable for its t-shirt-like softness.  Unfortunately, the sheets twist and turn with every movement, and the top sheet becomes a tangled mess around my legs or stuffed at the foot of the bed.  Flannel pajamas with flannel sheets = a nightmare waiting to happen.  I need to be able to climb into bed without the sheets adhering themselves to my body.  I can’t have my pant legs pushed up or twisted.  I can’t have the waistband too constrictive.  And for the love of all that is pure and chaste, my shirt cannot be riding up, scrunching and bunching around my midsection. 

I need those pajamas that kids used to wear pre-zip-up footies, where the top snapped into the bottoms so nothing fell down or rode up.  Too bad they went out in the 1950s. 

Last weekend, we changed the sheets, putting on crisp, clean ones.  Woven cotton only, none of this knit nonsense.  And still I slept fitfully, my unconscious feasting on terrors I can only begin to fathom. 

Two nights ago, my family was on their way home.  They decided to stay at a fictional hotel “right off route 59, the way Harold and Maude drove” near our house, near the entrance to an expressway that does actually exist.  Somehow it was waterfront (despite my living in a land-locked state with no lakes of any size nearby).  My family tried to check in.  The office was across a narrow bridge covered in sand, and could be accessed either via this bridge, or by going under it, and submerging the car in 12 feet of water.  Not sure why walking across wasn’t an option.  My family wisely chose to drive over the bridge to check in.  No sooner did they check in, than the tide began coming in, quickly and fiercely.  As we sat on a grassy/sandy knoll by the shore, the water began lapping closer and closer, and we watched in passive terror as the family’s PT Cruiser was taken out to sea.  It didn’t sink much as it was dragged further and further into the surf, so I surmised it must have been on a sand dune.  Yet no one attempted to swim out to it, so intimidating was the water.

Across the bay was a beautiful house, which had put out a distress flag.  It was a tiny blue flag with an upside-down yellow triangle in the middle of it.  The whole thing was strung across the front of the house, looking rather fussy and ineffectual. 

But back to the car.  The PT Cruiser is a vehicle my family once owned 2 of.  Mom reserved one as soon as they were available for pre-order, an automatic transmission, since she was told that was all that was available.  Two months later, they suddenly decided to make a manual transmission, so she ordered one of those, too.  Finally, in February of 2001, the first one came in.  Then in April, the 2nd one arrived.  They had planned to sell the first, since at the time the PT was a hot commodity, with wait lists and high resale value (really!).  Yet there were no takers.

Except me. I took the car as my graduation present and drove it out to Pittsburgh to start my new life as a grown up in 2002.  I never specifically wanted that car, but it was there, it was almost new, and who am I to look a gift car in the mouth?  I had been told growing up that I could have my choice (within reason) of a new(ish) car for my college graduation.  I pined after a new beetle in yellow or green.  But here this was; who was I to argue?

We finally ditched the PT Cruiser last year so Mr. Apron could have his choice of cars, a 2002 Volvo S40.  Neither of us loved the PT, and I barely drove it anymore, as the driving position had gradually become intolerable for my short-statured self.  By the time I cranked the seat high enough that I could see over the dashboard, my feet were dangling above the pedals.   My heels never had a chance to touch the floor, and I drove using my toes.  For almost 7 years. 

When I got my Honda Fit, we traded in Mr. Apron’s Ford Focus, as neither of us had any attachment to it (emotional or otherwise), and we still owed money on the Ford.  Because the PT was ours, we kept it.  I was a little sad to let it go, as I had affection for it in theory if not in drivability, but I am more in love with my new Fit than I ever was with the PT.  

As the PT Cruiser rode out to sea, we also noted my mother’s pink scarf adrift in the water.  She seemed more upset about losing the scarf.  With the loss of both, though, there was a sense of inevitability.  

Last night’s dream was far most disturbing, with a hazier narrative.  At one point Mr. Apron and I were visiting with our jeweler, who was showing us an antique toaster that was embossed and studded with diamonds.  He had picked it up as part of an estate; we oohed and aahed appropriately.  Later, I was at someone’s home daycare (not unlike my former job), and I recognized some children I had known previously.  They were apparently in the foster care system, and moved around frequently.  I felt an attachment to one little girl specifically.  The day care worker told me she was a bit undersized and underfed, but that she’d recently taken a shine to bagels, toasted and buttered.  I sat with her on my lap as I fed her bit after bite, bonding with the kiddo.  At one point, a cafeteria worker came in with the last of the food.  She said she was preparing to pitch the leftovers, unless we wanted anything else.  I asked for another bagel bit.  She mentioned something about leaving bagels out for the firefighters. 

It’s not so clear what happened next, but the firefighters were a link to some other scene.  Some other person and I were waiting for the firefighters to clear out of their lounge so we could rescue some injured girl.  We made ourselves invisible (one of my favorite superpowers), and lay in wait under what was a sort of stage with a curtained front.  We knew a maintenance man would come to mop the lounge, then leave, giving us our chance to save/find the girl.  Unfortunately, we realize that she was squirreled away with the mop, and that the maintenance man wouldn’t be able to do his job without it.  As he searched for the mop, someone (Him?  Someone else?) came into our hiding place.  Though we were invisible, he still stumbled around and found me by touch.  I clawed and struggled, though stopped short of actually trying to harm him.  He tried to undress me, pulling down my bra strap.  As he continued to feel around, he came to a hand, a dismembered hand, which could only have come from the girl who was now assumed to be dead.  As he couldn’t see, he must have assumed it was me.  

At this point, I think I made a break for it, and somehow was in a department store or a mall, reliving my most recurrent dream: the Chasing Dream.  My invisibility didn’t seem to work on my pursuers, all of whom seemed to be wearing enormous black t-shirts. 

I think I woke myself up, recognizing the Chasing Dream in situ. 

I’m trying to think of real-life stressors that could have prompted these dreams, events or fears in my waking life that could have contributed in some small way.  Mostly, though, I’m just stunned by the dreams themselves. 

I’m beginning to recognize myself as an anxious person.  While my anxieties are not as obvious as my husband’s are (to me), they’re definitely becoming clearer.  Usually I can “logic” them away.  Oh, I don’t like to be thrown off my morning routine (by a phone call, extra task, or a kink in the schedule) because I have so little time in the morning.  I can’t be late to work because it’s disrespectful.  I’m afraid of initiating contact with our neighbors to ask them to dinner because I’m afraid of rejection.  Or acceptance.  I’m socially awkward, so it’s only natural.  I don’t like making phone calls because I’m concerned people judge me when I hesitate, or don’t have answers.  I dislike that the visual component of communication is compromised, that people might be impatient with me, or misinterpret my words.  That I might say the wrong thing.  I constantly fear I’ve said the taboo thing when we’re at my in-laws’.  Never mind that there’s a rotating list of 47 topics that are currently off-limits.  Never mind that I’ve been a part of their son’s life for 8 years and they do accept and love me, and even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t matter.  I worry about my students. Try as I might to push them from my mind and “leave them at school”, the ones I identify with strongly follow me home. 

Are all these anxieties following me into my dreams?  I feel like I’m back in bed with flannel pajamas and flannel sheets, with the bedclothes twisting around my legs, over-heating me as I try to extricate myself and sort the sheets out so I can make some sense of it all.  The worries are all muddled, twisted up, and overwhelming.  I can’t get a decent look at it all from the middle of the mess.

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