Saturday, June 30, 2007

Journal Assignment VII: Recurring Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that kept returning night after night or once in a while? Was it disturbing, frustrating, interesting, explainable? According to recent TV sleep aid commercials featuring Abe Lincoln and a small talking animal, your dreams may miss you if you don't sleep well, but some of us sleep well and don't appreciate our dreams very much.

What, if anything, is your recurring dream trying to tell you? Sometimes putting it down on paper helps you figure that out.

My "Lost" Dream

For many years, I've had a recurring dream. I call it my "lost" dream. It comes in many versions, with different settings and participants, and it has become more complicated over the years. Still, it's the same basic dream. No matter where I am in my dream, or with whom, I'm lost and vainly struggling to get somewhere, a place I never reach. When I awaken, I have feelings of deep despair and hopelessness, and it's always a great relief to realize that it was only a dream.

My dream began sometime while I was in elementary school; I can't remember exactly when it started. In early versions of the dream, I was usually trying to find a classroom in a school resembling the one I was attending at the time, but the scene was always different enough to be confusing. I was always alone and late for an important test or activity, and I just couldn't find the room. In reality, I was always the good student, the one who never missed a class or came late.

As a teacher, I continued to have the same dream. Then, my class was waiting for me, but I couldn't seem to find the right building or the right room. The dream expanded to huge museum-sized buildings, far larger than any I ever taught in. I walked for miles down seemingly endless corridors, and then up or down stairs to repeat the process again on another floor, and sometimes in other buildings. In reality, I can't remember any serious difficulty finding my classrooms anywhere.

In later years, the scene shifted to Chicago or a similar large city, where I found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood, sometimes with my husband or a friend or acquaintance I hadn't seen in years, trying to get home. Sometimes I didn't remember where I lived. Sometimes there was no means of transportation available, and I was unable to walk. Sometimes I had no money. Sometimes I was stranded in a cavernous building with no visible exits, where I wandered about in a state of panic. The surroundings were always mysterious and threatening, and if anyone was with me, he or she remained strangely passive and unable or unwilling to help.

I remember one "lost" dream in which I was at a six-corner street intersection where three streets, one diagonal and the other two at right angles to each other, crossed. I found myself trying first one street, then another to get to some unknown destination. I always seemed to be going the wrong way on the wrong street. In reality, I seldom get lost, and I ask for help if I do.

After my retirement and my husband's death, my dreams became more disturbing. I woke up sad that my husband was not really with me any more, or that I had no classroom or students to find.

My recurring "lost" dream obviously reflects my basic insecurity, my depression, and my compulsive desire to be dependable and prompt, and yet in real life, I've never felt as frustrated and hopeless as I've felt in my dream. In general, my life has been a happy and successful one. Of course I miss my husband, but he's been gone for seven years now, and I've gone on with my life. I live comfortably, and I think I've found myself by writing and encouraging others to write.

I haven't had my dream lately. I hope it's gone, but if it comes back to haunt me, I'll try to laugh it off as a relic from the past and think positive thoughts. I'll also try to remember all the details and write them down. Maybe there's a good story lurking somewhere in my subconscious mind.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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