In my September 7 post titled Working forever for free, or, why I’m so tired, I wrote about a particularly disturbing work-related dream motif. My brain has a whole library of recurring dream motifs, and I assumed everyone else’s brain did too, until I asked a friend of mine. He looked at me as if there were something wrong with me. Hmmm.
In my post I mentioned that I’d never had a tooth dream. Having written that, I promptly had my first one ever. It hasn’t repeated, and I suspect it won’t.
One oddity about my dreams is this: I never have pleasant ones. They’re all at least somewhat disturbing and they tend to involve a lot of work. Elevators and entire buildings are never where I thought they were, staircases turn into ledges and ladders, offices turn out to be unfindable, and so forth. On the other hand, I don’t have full-out nightmares very often, the kind with monsters or gunfire. Is that a good tradeoff? I’m not sure.
At any rate, I sort of promised readers that I’d share more of my dream motifs. Some of these are quite common. Others…who knows? By sharing them I may be unwittingly revealing embarrassing things about my character or personality. Alternatively, I may be revealing how thoroughly boring I am. But here goes:
- The dissertation dream: I need to get going on my doctoral program, but I can’t think of what I want to specialize in or what I’d like to write my dissertation on. If I can’t figure it out, how am I going to eventually get a job and make a living? (No, I have no plans to enter a doctoral program.)
- The elusive-master’s-degree dream: I’m not absolutely certain that I’ve finished my master’s degree, and try as I might, I can’t find the proper office on campus that could answer this question for me. (I finished my master’s degree 31 years ago. I have the damn diploma.)
- The forgotten-class dream: I realize I’ve been enrolled in a class that I haven’t attended since the beginning of the semester. I can’t locate my course schedule and don’t know the time or location of the class. Help! (This is a very common dream, I understand. I have it a lot. For some reason, it’s usually a French class that I’ve ignored. Sometimes, in a horrifyingly clean sweep, I’ve ignored all of my classes.)
- The gone-too-far dream: I’ve traveled hundreds of miles across country and suddenly realize I need to retrace all of that territory in one day in order to get back to work. I’ve never gone east, always west (my favorite direction). Usually I’m in some remote location in the far Great Plains.
- The can’t-get-home dream: I’ve walked or bicycled a long distance to a neighboring town and realize I probably don’t have the stamina to get back. Sometimes instead of walking I’m riding a funny, quirky little electric scooter-type thing in these dreams. Let’s just say it isn’t reliable transportation.
- The bad-legs dream: I’m trying to walk on campus, but my legs will scarcely move. It’s like trying to walk through molasses. Sometimes I try hopping or walking sideways, but I still can’t make much progress. These dreams were so convincing that sometimes I still have to stop and ponder whether I ever had this physical problem. (This dream motif hasn’t recurred since I retired.)
- The tornado dream: I’ve never seen a tornado, and for years I frequently had dreams in which I saw one for the first time. The tornado never would get close enough to be really threatening, and I was never really scared. Always in these dreams I thought to myself, “I really have seen one this time! It isn’t a dream!” Oddly enough, since I moved into a house without a basement (and thus little tornado protection), this dream hasn’t made a single appearance.
- The horrible-bathroom dream: Every toilet in a public restroom is dirty or is constructed in some bizarre, virtually unusable configuration. (My mother had this dream a lot too.) I’ve read some interpretations of this common dream that seem pretty far-fetched—for example, that it indicates you need to eliminate a relationship from your life. Other interpretations cast aspersions on one’s character and hang-ups. I prefer my Occam’s Razor explanation: this dream prevents you from wetting the bed when you really, really have to pee but you’re asleep.
- The horrible-laundromat dream: I’ve got to do laundry, but the only open washers I can find have something wrong with them. (I haven’t had to use a laundromat since 1984. Back when I needed and used laundromats, I never had this dream.)
- The weird-apartment dream: I must find a place to live, but where I end up, or where I’m staying in the interim, has certain physical peculiarities that make getting into it an exercise in acrobatics and/or detective work.
- The leaky-roof dream: Sometimes there isn’t much left of the roof at all in these dreams. Sometimes the entire house has been saturated and is about to fall down. This motif may simply derive from too much real-life traumatic experience with leaky roofs. Thankfully, I’m having this dream somewhat less often since I moved from a leaky-roof house that bore me a massive grudge into a non-leaky-roof house that seems to like me okay.
My late husband and I once had an incredibly lucky break with a leaky roof. The room with the leak housed our computer and printer. In between those two pieces of equipment was a big stack of copy paper—and that’s where the water dripped, with near-surgical precision. There wasn’t even anything to mop up, since the paper simply absorbed all the water.
- The unshaved-legs dream: In real life I can no longer wear dresses or skirts or shorts or swimsuits, so there isn’t much incentive to shave. In this dream, I simply realize with a shock of embarrassment that whatever I’m wearing reveals my hairy legs.
I think I occasionally have this dream because this happened to me when I began my freshman year of high school. I had been attending a public school in the city, where dress codes were still in play. (Girls weren’t allowed to wear pants until I was in the 7th grade, for example.) The ’70s were happening down the street at the high school, where there were bomb threats, but the city elementary schools were stuck in the early ’60s.
The summer after 8th grade my family moved to an apartment in the farthest reaches of the suburbs. I showed up at the bus stop on the first day in a goody-two-shoes polyester dress, my legs white and hairy and pantyhose-less. As soon as kids started getting on the bus, I realized I was in a different world where nothing was off-limits: hot pants, jeans shorts, bell bottoms, halter tops, absolutely nothing polyester. Uh oh. Out here it was the ’70s full-blown (the smell of pot perfumed the school bathrooms), and every girl’s legs were neatly shaved.
That morning on the bus my heart crumpled into something the size and consistency of a spitball and tumbled into my stomach. Bullying commenced almost immediately and continued every day of freshman year, even though I scrambled to conform. Mom didn’t want me to shave my legs. She warned me, “Once you start doing it, you can never stop.” Well, as an adult, I’ve proved that wrong. Hey Mom! It grows back, just as thick and ugly as ever!
- The mangled-clown dream. Actually, I don’t have mangled-clown dreams. I just made that up because the rest of the list seems pretty unremarkable, now that I read it over. It is true, however, that I dislike clowns and never have seen the point of them. My sister detests clowns. I’m sure she would happily mangle any number of them if she could get away with it. If she could, she’d probably stomp out the entire clown tradition all the way back to its origins in—what?—jester figures, I suppose, which perhaps grew out of the trickster figures that seem to be common to all aboriginal cultures. (This is all speculation. I don’t want to Google it because I don’t even want to read about clowns.)
It’ll be interesting to see if I have a mangled-clown dream now that I’ve made it up. If so, I hope it won’t be too graphic. I don’t want to start getting into nightmare territory.