Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stress Dreams

Recently, I've had conversations with two friends about stress dreams. A friend used the term and it's the first time I've really heard these kind of dreams categorized. Suffocating dreams, late to an important meeting dreams, and some others. (I may fill this in later.) At that moment, I realized that I have suffocating dreams all the time! but never thought of them as such. It's usually when I fall asleep in the middle of the day or when it's morning and sometime close to the time I should be awake. I dream that I am trying to wake up but I can't move. There's a weight on me that's keeping me from getting up and doing the things I need to do. This is one of those weird dreams where the dream life and reality intersect. Sometimes, in the dream, my thoughts are a list of things I need to do in real life. Sometimes when I am having these dreams, I believe I am awake and it is very hard for me to believe that I'm not. It's when I try to move and nothing happens that I tell myself, "This is a dream. It's that heavy weight dream again. Stop trying to fight it. Just try to sleep and you'll be able to wake up."

When my friend listed the stress dreams, I said that I'd been having them too, but that I wasn't stressed out about anything! She told me that yes I was, and what I realized in that moment was that these stress dreams are the way that stress manifests itself when you are trying to ignore it. In real life you--well, here I mean me and not you. In real life, I will act happy and try to be loud and funny; I will either ignore stress or, when I bring it up, I will turn it into a joke. In dreams, the real stress comes out.

Tonight, I was driving to a movie in North Portland. As an aside, North Portland used to confuse the heck out of me. My understanding of Portland geography was that the city was divided into four quadrants - NW and SW on one side of the Willamette (where "downtown" is), and NE and SE across that river. When I heard, "North Portland," I thought it meant "NE or NW" and did not realize it was its own fifth section of the city. To be honest, North Portland still confuses me, because I am used to navigating the city based on the numbered avenues. I know which cardinal direction I am facing based on whether or not I am on a numbered street. I know how far I need to go based on that numbered street. In North Portland, the streets all have "N" in front of them and they all have a word name, not a number name. I've been in Portland long enough to feel that a word-name street should always intersect with a number-name-avenue.

Anyway, I had to take I-5 to get to North Portland, and this reminded me of the other type of stress dream. This is definitely a category of stress dream for me. Does anyone else have these? Are they common, or am I weird?

In Portland, I-5 hugs the Willamette River. Even if you don't have to cross it on one of those dreadfully high bridges, you will probably find yourself, at some point, in a high place looking down at water. It's quite beautiful actually - the water reflecting the dark sky and the dark buildings speckled with lit-up windows like the stars the clouds hide from us. Whenever I go near the river at night, I look across at the city and get a little excited. Portland is a small city, compared to what I'm used to (New York) and on my side of the river, it hardly looks like a city at all. But the West side is exciting! When I see its lights, I think, "This is a real city, and I live here!"

Anyway, because of my slightly irrational fear of bridges, those high-up over-water entrance and exit ramps to I's 5 and 84 scare the crap out of me. I drive irritatingly slow over them. And then I realize that the slower I drive, the more time I have to spend in this scary place, so I speed up. New Jersey, be thankful I changed my plates, so that I am not giving you a bad name. Tonight, merging from the Morrison Bridge onto I-5, I remembered my other stress dream - more frequent and more terrifying than the Suffocating Nap dream. I frequently dream that I am driving the wrong way on an exit or entrance ramp from a highway. Usually it's NJ-15, the highway closest to where I grew up. Sometimes it's I-80 in New Jersey. Since I've moved to Portland, I-5 has joined in the mix. Driving the wrong way on a highway ramp over a river.

The funny thing is that there are never other cars in this dream. There is never any real danger, just the thought of it.

Does anyone else have this dream? Or--here's where I reveal my true craziness--does anyone else, when merging onto an unfamiliar highway, experience a fleeting concern that they've just gotten onto the ramp the wrong way?

Lest you believe I am sitting here in the damp Northwest biting my nails, gritting my teeth, and typing away in the grip of incurable stress, I will tell you about a dream I had on Tuesday night.

Tuesday was the day of my job interview. In the nights leading up to Tuesday, I of course experienced stress dreams. Especially Monday night. I remember none of them, not even into which category they fell. But on Tuesday night, when I fell asleep on the couch watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show (more on that later), I sank into a long, peaceful sleep, and when I did dream, it was long, leisurely, and peaceful.

I dreamed about baking.

I dreamed I was making puff pastry for the first time. In the dream, I spent time fussing about whether or not I had used the whole wheat flour in our cabinet and the whole wheat pastry flour in the fridge, or if I had just gone out and bought Evil White Flour like a normal person. I wondered if Julia Child would approve of whole wheat pastry flour or not. I thought about Julia Child as I mixed dough, slowly, first with a wooden spoon in a heavy ceramic mixing bowl, and then with my hands. The last thoughts I had were about laying the dough on the counter, "careful to use the heels of your hands which create less heat than your palms...", as the dream ended, calmly making way for the sunny morning like waves departing from a beach's shore.

1 comment:

Julianna said...

I think it was suffocation, drowning, computer crach, forgot an appointment, and late for a plane. that was the worst nap ever.