Stormy dreams in the mak­ing

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Bad locker com­bi­na­tions. Tor­na­does. Classes down hall­ways that abruptly dead-end.

My anx­i­ety dreams have made a comeback.

At least once a week, I dream about my fail­ure to ar­rive at the right place at the right time. As a de­voted cal­en­dar-keeper, the idea of be­ing off-sched­ule makes me itchy. The set­ting of th­ese dreams of­ten ro­tates be­tween schools, of­fices, old farm­houses . . . but the re­sults are the same: I’m be­hind. In dan­ger. Con­fused.

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, I woke to my son whim­per­ing in his sleep. It was 4:30 a.m., a time I’d be happy to never see again, and I was dis­ori­ented. Af­ter cov­er­ing Oliver with the blan­ket he in­evitably kicks off 47 times a night, I couldn’t shake the lu­cid dream I’d been sucked into just mo­ments be­fore. It of­ten starts with a locker. If you’re any­thing like me, you spent the sum­mer lead­ing up to sixth grade try­ing — and fail­ing — to master a com­bi­na­tion lock. Like the idea of hav­ing to change clothes for gym class, the hor­ror sto­ries of kids fail­ing to open their lock­ers be­fore the hiss of the late bell made me sweat. My dad gave me a lock to prac­tice with early in the sum­mer, and I stud­ied its black-and-white face like it held the se­cret to get­ting Matt, my epic and aloof crush, to fall in love with me.

Or, you know, to glance in my di­rec­tion. I wasn’t in a po­si­tion to be picky.

Maybe stu­dents to­day open lock­ers by tex­ting or Snapchat­ting or zap­ping them with brain­waves or some­thing, but back then? We used good old-fash­ioned di­als. And if you for­got those cru­cial num­bers, there was no one to save you. No bail­ing you out.

I’m sure I’ve writ­ten be­fore about the anx­i­ety those mon­sters caused, but it can­not be over­stated. More than a decade later, my palms still get clammy think­ing about hav­ing min­utes — sec­onds? — to en­ter a com­bi­na­tion, pull out my stuff and get to class on time. In my ner­vous­ness, I would in­evitably fum­ble and have to start over. And over. And over.

It didn’t end af­ter school. At my book­store job, we had per­sonal lock­ers to use dur­ing shifts for phones, purses and the like. I had a com­bi­na­tion lock as­signed to me on day one, its code scrawled on a scrap of pa­per by a man­ager.

In my dreams, I’m of­ten back at Borders fight­ing to re­trieve my keys with the wrong com­bi­na­tion in hand. I can’t de­ci­pher Colleen’s hand­writ­ing and I’m stuck there, locked in the store overnight. Or I’m strug­gling to part a sea of stu­dents, hop­ing to reach my locker be­fore I’m be­hind for math class. Or I ar­rive at work only to find the of­fice has moved, and I’m lost.

I don’t nec­es­sar­ily know what th­ese dreams are try­ing to tell me, but I al­ways wake with that un­com­fort­able feel­ing of hav­ing missed an im­por­tant ap­point­ment: a sense of hav­ing slipped be­hind.

Hav­ing a baby doesn’t help this. Since Oliver came home last May, I’ve slept the shat­tered, shal­low sleep of new par­ents every­where. And be­cause I’m fre­quently yanked away mid-dream by a child’s cry­ing, those mem­o­ries linger well into the day. They’re hard to shake.

Dreams are in­ter­est­ing, aren’t they? There’s a rea­son thick books and web­sites are de­voted to in­ter­pret­ing them, and I of­ten find my­self Googling the re­cur­ring sym­bols for hints.

Of course, I don’t need a “dream dic­tionary” to tell me I’m stressed. The tor­nado night­mares do that.

Oh — did I not men­tion the tor­na­does? I’d pre­fer rain­bows, trust me. But af­ter one too many child­hood view­ings of “Twis­ter,” the storm dreams be­came a main­stay in my noc­tur­nal life. Th­ese are eas­ier to trace: the tor­na­does ap­pear when I’m feel­ing un­set­tled. I’m usu­ally stuck in place, left only to watch from an up­stairs win­dow as a fun­nel bar­rels to­ward me. The win­dows are open with gauzy cur­tains bil­low­ing. I’m al­ways alone.

Wrong num­bers, churn­ing thun­der­storms, hall­ways lead­ing nowhere: I’m get­ting it, brain. With Oliver’s birth­day and all the mem­o­ries of last spring flood­ing back to me, I guess I’m feel­ing more “un­set­tled” than I thought.

I’ll fight through that. I al­ways do.

But in the mean­time? I’ll try to chan­nel rain­bows.

When your eyes are open, I hear they of­ten ap­pear.

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