February 11, 2009
For years now, I have had what I call “Inability Dreams.” I tend to be a vivid dreamer at night anyway, and this brand of dream is frustratingly memorable come morning. The settings change, but basically the theme of the dream is
1. I am trying to do something.
2. I am unable to do it.
This has manifested in trying to make a phone call, and being unable to dial the right number. And, after dialing wrong, failing to get a dial tone for a very long time as my dream self grows increasingly frustrated and agitated. Then the dial tones comes, and wham! I dial wrong again.
It’s also manifested in needing to leave to go somewhere, but being unable to find a shoe, and my dream self looks tirelessly in all possible places, but that shoe remains elusive. And again, the mounting anxiety.
Or trying to do an art project, and try as I may, my dream self cannot make that piece stick to that other piece, regardless of the quantity of glue.
Another manifestation: running and running and going nowhere. I think most people have experienced this one.
Years ago, after the birth of our first daughter and I was plunged into a deep post-partum depression, I found myself in front of a shrink – I mean therapist – trying to figure out why my life didn’t make sense. I remember explaining these dreams to my therapist and having her explain that some schools of thought interpret dreams like this: everything in the dream is representative of me. The phone, not functioning correctly = me. The shoe, missing in action = me. The unsticky glue = me. All the obstacles that frustrated my dream self = me. I am unable. I am not in control of everything. The ability to see this and to begin grieving what I am unable to do was a huge part of climbing out of the pit of depression I’d fallen in, and also in repairing some of the faulty thinking I’d built up in mind until that time.
Of course, the many people in my life who love me no matter what my inabilities, and the deep sense of God’s grace and love for me were huge factors in allowing me to begin that grief work, which I continue to this day. Now it’s not debilitating depression, but a daily sense of knowing that there’s a difference between the Ideal Me and the Real Me. Grief. And acceptance.
And through the years, the Inability Dreams have become more scarce. In times of difficult circumstances they’ll crop up in my night time playlist of dreams. When they do, it’s a good reminder to slow down, take it easy, pay attention to my heart and mind.
Which leads to last night’s dream. It was an Inability Dream, but with a twist that I think my old shrink would have been pleased with.
In the dream, I was back in my college days at Wheaton College, and came to realize it was finals week. The problem was, I had forgotten what classes I was taking that semester, so I didn’t know what to study or when to show up for the exams. The familiar cycle of “Oh no! I can’t remember!” began in my dream self’s mind. But then an interesting thing happened. I thought, “Shoot. I can’t remember what classes I’m in, but the Registrar will know.” So I went to ask for help. The Registrar looked disdainful when I arrived and handed me a piece of paper after I explained my dilemma. As I walked away, though, I noticed that it was just a random piece of paper from her desk that did not have my class schedule on it. And instead of despair and anxiety, my dream self got a little irritated. I went back and explained. She handed me another piece of paper that sure enough, was not my schedule. And I started getting angry. When I went back and demanded that she get it right, the dream ended.
I think this is good progress. Okay, I’ve got some stuff I can’t handle perfectly. Oh, well! I can ask for help. And the wonderful triumph of this dream was: I deserve help when I ask for it!
I am wondering if this dream and my interpretation of it qualify me as officially cuckoo in some people’s minds. Well, maybe I am! But I am growing and getting better every day – and every night.