By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I had that same, weird dream again last night. I was back in college, running late for a football game halftime show. I was a baton twirler with the marching band back then, so I was dressed in my red, sequined uniform and white canvas tennis shoes. In the dream, not only am I running late, I’ve also forgotten to bring my baton – a fairly important piece of equipment for baton twirlers.
I manage to borrow an extra baton from a fellow twirler, but then, just as the music begins to play at halftime, I realize I have no idea what routine I’m supposed to do. I don’t know the moves. I don’t know where to go. There’s no time to learn. It’s showtime. There are 70,000 people in the stadium watching, and I’m toast. Completely unprepared and panicked.
I’ve had this same, stupid dream more times than I can count. And when I wake up, I’m irritated for two reasons. First, this never actually happened to me in college. Not even close. I was one of those annoyingly over-prepared students, so I was never late for a half-time performance and I always knew the routines. Second, I spend at least half the night, when I should be sleeping peacefully, feeling totally uptight and anxious. For nothing.
I’m sure this recurring dream could indicate I’ve got deep-seated anxiety issues or something. But then again it could also mean I ate too many chocolate-covered raisins past 9 p.m. It’s hard to tell.
But just for kicks, I looked up my dream on the Internet because everybody knows that the Internet is always right about everything. I found out I’m not the only one dreaming the same kinds of things over and over. In fact, I found one website called “TopTenz.net” that listed the Top 10 most common recurring dreams, and mine was on the list! (Apparently I’m not all that original in my sleep.)
In addition to “being lost or unprepared” like my dream, the other recurring dreams that made the list include the following: Being trapped, searching for the bathroom, drowning, flying, being stuck or paralyzed, having your teeth fall out, public exposure or nudity, falling, and being chased.
The “experts” say that recurring dreams mean our subconscious is trying to tell us something. When we’re resistant to getting the message, it shows up again and again to shout the same things at us until we finally figure it out.
According to my non-scientific research using an online dream dictionary called Smartgirl.org, my dream about being late might indicate a “fear of change and anxiety about seizing an opportunity. You may feel unready or unworthy in your current circumstances.”
As for being unprepared, that part of the dream indicates “a fear of messing something up and failing. You may be worried and insecure that you don’t have what it takes to accomplish a particular task coming your way.”
I was just about to chalk the whole thing up as a bunch of Internet hooey and blame it on the late-night Raisinets when I remembered something I’d been worrying about the day before that recurring dream happened again. It was my book project.
I’ve been hoping, planning and dreaming of writing a book – a compilation of my best newspaper columns over the past 15 years – for a long time now and have always found a gazillion good reasons to put it off: not enough time, not enough good material, not enough publishing know-how, etc. But this January, I promised myself I’d stop day-dreaming about it and do it. Really do it.
The day before the baton-twirling dream, I realized I was mid-way through March and still hadn’t started the book project. I promised myself I’d get going on it soon. But maybe my recurring dream is saying something about my professional dream – that I’m just plain scared and don’t feel quite up to the challenge. Maybe it knows I’m more comfortable reserving that professional dream for a far-off “someday” that might never happen. Like most writers, I have such a deep reverence for books that it feels far too presumptuous to think I could have one with my name on it.
But presumptuous or not, it’s got to be done. Because I’d much rather live out a real dream – regardless of whether it fails or not – than keep recycling a nighttime one that lands me on the 50-yard-line wearing red sequins, not knowing what to do next. The thing to do next is hard but simple: Be fearless.