I am a recurring nightmare kind of person. Always have been.
They come in waves, depending on what my stress du jour is, where I am in life. I remember my first recurring dream well:
I am running from someone, something, bad. I do not know what it is but I know that I can’t let it catch me. I run along the side of the house, bright in the midday sun, and my feet turn to lead, sticking into the tall summer grass as though it were quicksand. I open my mouth to scream, and nothing comes out. I stand there, perplexed at the idea that bad things were about to happen to me not in the chill damp dark of a New England basement, but out here, in the open, under a scorching, angry summer sun. This does not appeal to my childlike sense of justice. I turn to face my assailant. And then I wake.
I was five years old.
I’ve had variations of the chase dream come in and out of my life depending on what movies were in vogue. For a while, I was being chased by a Great White shark that could sprout legs and take off after me down the beach. OK, that one was kind of funny. The one that came later after a series of disturbing, threatening phone calls- the man playing hide and seek with me in my house, tossing out taunts as I looked at the empty butcher block on the kitchen counter, not so much.
The chase dreams are terrible, bubbling up motes of security concerns. Fortunately, they are rare in my world.
Even rarer are those “Oh, I seem to be naked here in the middle of the common area” dreams. I had those mostly in high school. They were appalling in their own terrible way, a comedy of errors, of trying to play off a silly oversight in the hopes no one would notice. The Empress Has No Clothes. I don’t know which was worse: those where people noticed, or those where they didn’t.
As I got older and my life coalesced into a form of my own making, my fears changed from the frightful stalking of threats I had no control over, to those failures entirely of my own making. In college, it was always the same: I arrive to class on a midterm day, realizing I had ditched class the entire time up to that point. It was usually a math test of some sort, differential equations or one of those where every day built upon the one before, so hopelessly lost it was pointless to even make the attempt. Doomed by my own ineptitude.
It’s funny how long those dreams have persisted, past school and into my early career, fears about my inadequacy at work transforming into an anxiety riddled physics test, waking with a sigh of relief yet wishing I had paid more attention in neurology.
I had a new one last night.
I was doing a cat spay, the easiest of the spays. Cats are small, their organs easy to identify. I have progressed way past my ginger early days and dive right into a cat spay, the kind of surgery you can do while carrying on a conversation about the weather and rocking out to Motley Crue, your muscle memory so refined that you no longer need to think about what you are doing, your fingers intuitively sensing the small currant that is an ovary and going from there.
But in this dream, I am all thumbs. The organs fight me, an ovary encased in fat, suture breaking off beneath my fingers. Frustrated, I bumble through as other people by my side breeze in and out, wondering what is taking me so long. I remove the uterus, then look down to realize in horror that I have sliced through the colon. The cat’s bladder, distended to gothic proportions, is in my way; I express it, and the contents squirt upwards and into the exposed abdomen. (Which, if you’ve ever expressed a cat bladder, doesn’t even make sense. But I guess that is why this is a dream.)
I stand there, looking at the mess before me, mentally calculating how long it will take me to fix the damage I’ve just wrought. And I’m beyond confused, because this isn’t me fumbling something I am still learning, this is me royally screwing up something I have done routinely hundreds of times, and I can’t figure out how I messed this up so badly.
I take a deep breath and tell the tech I am going to need a tub of saline, and a new pack of suture.
And then I wake up.
I’m not going to lie, I am definitely in the middle of some stress. Our house still hasn’t sold. I decided VERY last minute to pull my kids out of their previous school and put them into a new charter school. I am still, three and a half years into this experiment, struggling to define exactly what it is I do here on the website- “Pet blogger” is so easily dismissed, a sideshow diversion. It’s more than that, yet it’s not on its own a self sustaining career, either.
And my birthday is this weekend, something which has finally turned the corner from a joyous event to a dreaded reminder that my aging carcass is one step closer to the grave. Yesterday, a bagger at the grocery store made a comment about YOLO, and when I laughed, he looked startled that I knew what he was referring to. “Do you, like, have a kid who says that or something?” he asked suspiciously. If I had a cane, I would have smacked him with it.
So maybe my bungled dream-spay was the sulphurous eructation of my subconscious angrily demanding why, on the anniversary of yet another year gone by, I still don’t seem to have it all figured out. I don’t know. I’ve never been good at dream analysis.
Oh, to go back to those days when I was being chased around by a land shark in the dead of night. Life was so much simpler then.
Anyone else still have those annoying recurring dreams?