Most of my “dark and stormy” takes form as reoccurring anxiety dreams, independent of the actual weather. Adding flavor to the nightmarish experience are sleep apnea and teeth gnashing. Like everything else, these dreams have evolved.
My earliest recollection of a reoccurring anxiety dream was when I was a child prior to being school age. I’d dream that one of my grandmothers lie supine on a circular metal slab that rotated. As it began to move, sharp automated synchronous blades sliced her like a pie. I’d wake up, run to the bathroom and vomit. One time, I took control of the nightmare and stopped the blades from chopping her up. That was the last time I dreamed about it.
When I was a young child, I had a funny digestive track and couldn’t mix my food while eating. I had to eat all of one thing on my plate, then the other or else I’d throw up. Eventually, I outgrew that digestive problem.
Then as a Peace Corps Volunteer in my early twenties, my reoccurring nightmares involved my teeth falling out. The worst one was when my teeth had fallen out and a variety of bugs swarmed out of the sockets. Those ended as soon as I finished my Peace Corps service after nearly two and half years. In addition to stress, the malarial prophylaxis I took contributed to “changes in sleep,” as warned on the label.
The latest and most long-lasting genre of anxiety nightmares involve me frantically looking for something: my car keys, my car, a missing shoe. In those dreams where I’m looking for my keys or a shoe, I’m usually in some fancy hotel, going down an endless series of hallways, never quite retracing my steps to find what I’m looking for.
Now, you’d think in those dreams where I’m looking for my car, the setting would be a parking lot, but I’ve yet to have that dream. Instead, I’ve parked my car on some sketchy street and the farther I walk, the more apocalyptic the neighborhood becomes. And it’s always nighttime. Sometimes, I’m walking down a craggy hill or through the forest. Other times, there were some not so friendly-looking clowns walking all around me or chain-wielding thugs.
Occasionally, I even find my car, but I’ve never been able to get in it and drive away. It’s always in some visible state of disrepair where I have to get a tow truck at that time of night, in the middle of an apocalyptic event and my cellphone doesn’t have reception, so one of those sketchy-rapey thug-clowns volunteer to escort me to a bar, but when we get to there, it’s one of those darkened out, dilapidated places with broken out/boarded up windows, no one inside for apparently years as evidenced by all the cobwebs and dust, but allegedly has a working phone.
So, that was the worst of those looking-for-my-car nightmares since during that dream, I declared, “Fuck this!” and not dreamt it since.
Obviously, the moral of these nightmarish anxiety dreams is that once I face the fear in the dream, they no longer reoccur in the same fashion, but there’s always something for me to worry about. The week before I quit my latest dead-end job, I had a beautiful baby girl in my arms and I was frantically looking around for her parents. Clearly, that little girl did not represent any maternal instincts on my part since I’ve never desired having children and I’m blissfully past child-bearing age. I believe she was a metaphor, either representing my inner child or creativity.
Since I resigned from teaching, I’ve had a series of jobs where I’ve enthusiastically thrown myself into and hit a dead end within a year since none of them have held the intellectual challenge and creative outlet that teaching allowed me until the combination of oppressive high-stakes testing and asshole administrators, ie the anti-educational Texas two-step, motivated me out of the classroom.
I remember years ago when one of my friends declared that people just needed to do their self-actualization on their own time and when they’re on the job, just work. After all, she reiterated, that’s why it’s called “work.” This is the same friend who’d also confessed in an unrelated conversation that her inner child was dead.
Well, my inner child is alive and still creatively curious and energetic about the world. At times, my mind is so stimulated about pursuing a new project or worried about something that I need to strategize my way out of, I can hardly sleep or when I do, I pick up on a new genre of anxiety nightmares like tuning into a new season of American Horror Story.
Here’s the latest one since starting my new job: the setting is one of those big multilevel houses horror movies just love. For some inexplicable reason, I’m one of the chaperones of a children’s birthday party in this dimly lit house. The woman of the house, who’s also the only other adult besides this creepy-looking maid, comes to me in a panic about some of the children having wandered off and she wants me to go find them since she suspects they’ve gone upstairs unsupervised.
I recruit four kids to go with me and we all hold hands as we walk upstairs where the lighting is even dimmer. As we get to the middle of the staircase, I notice a doll version of the creepy maid with her back against the wall, slowly sliding down just above the banister. Before she goes past us, I quickly grab her and run to the kitchen. I have the doll by her throat and I partially wake up at this point to slow down the progression of the nightmare to consider my options.
Then I go back into the dream. I still have the doll, clutched by the throat in my left hand, and I use a kitchen torch burner to set it on fire, but then I rewind the dream. Instead have the doll clutched by the throat with metal tongs so I don’t burn my hand when I light it on fire. I rewind the dream again. I have the doll clutched by the throat with metal tongs, but before I set it on fire, I gesture a cross with my right hand over the sink full of dishwater, saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I bless this water.” Then I set the doll on fire, burn it to a crisp and plunge it into the water I just blessed. I was determined not to have that demonic doll return in another anxiety dream! She represented the doubts I had whether I’d make enough money as an independent health insurance agent.
Why, it was absolutely delightful the next week when I dreamed that my sandals had disappeared when I’d slipped them off while attending a meeting. That anxiety dream was joyfully clown-, thug-, and demonic doll-free. I did the prerequisite searching under skirted tables, looking for my sandals before I took control of the dream. I declared during that dream, “I’m going to reach into this bin, pull out my sandals, put them on and walk out of here.” And so I did.