Living In A Dream World

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Lately a recurring dream jolts me awake at least once a week in the early morning darkness. I am trying to get out a newspaper, usually in one of the shops in which I toiled over the past three decades. Sometimes the venue isn’t recognizable. Deadline is fast approaching. Everything is going awry. Reporters aren’t filing their stories where they can be found. Computers are crashing.

Unexpected and unwanted visitors — rodeo clowns, sheriff candidates, bill collectors to whom I don’t owe money — keep interrupting and sidetracking me as I try to lay out the pages of a newspaper. I feel as if I am walking through molasses as the clock inexorably advances toward the deadline beyond which the newspaper will be late getting on the press — a serious sin from the perspective of an old newspaper guy. Still, I make little or no progress. I haven’t managed to get a single story on a page in what feels like hours.

Then I awake to realize once again I was dreaming.

The most likely reason for this becoming my latest internal Technicolor rerun is that now I actually help get out a newspaper most weeks as part of my journalism instructor duties. I don’t unduly worry about this responsibility, so I’m not sure why this has become the dream world my brain chooses to visit. Ironically, I didn’t have nightmares about missing newspaper deadlines when it was something I either personally helped accomplish or oversaw every day.

Instead, my recurring dream for many years is an old standard. I am back in college, though sadly in a middle-aged body. It seems hardly fair if one is going to dream about being in college that the physical self stays mired in the post-AARP era. At least mine does.

Anyway, the semester is nearly over at either SFA or UT, the two institutions kind enough to present me with diplomas. I suddenly realize that I have completely forgotten to attend one of my courses, which I will now fail and thus put into jeopardy my chances of graduating and bollixing my grade-point average. (I never came close to failing any college course because I wisely steered away from all math and science courses and stuck with liberal arts. Hence, the newspaper career.) I frantically seek out the professor to throw myself upon her mercy. It is too late to drop the course. The professor is a stranger — naturally, since I forgot to attend — who resembles Theodora the Wicked Witch. She is unsympathetic.

Again, I awake. I kept having this dream 20 years after leaving graduate school, though it finally faded back into whatever recess of the mind it arose, now to be replaced with the newspaper nightmare.

I decided to research recurring dreams, which led me to the website of Dr. Oz, the television personality and cardiothoracic surgeon. That is not surprising. Dr. Oz is ubiquitous these days; a constant media presence. He says the five most common recurring dreams that patients tell him about are:

• Teeth falling out.

• Being chased.

• Filthy, clogged toilets.

• A cheating mate.

• And yes, being back at school.

It comes as a relief that I have never dreamed my teeth were falling out, or that I was stuck in a bathroom with a nasty toilet, or had a cheating mate. I have had the occasional nightmares about being chased, though not nearly as often as that dratted back-in-college scenario.

This piece of intensive research (I had to scroll halfway down the Google screen) led me to wonder if our dogs Sam and Rosie dream. They sure act like they’re dreaming, sprawled on the floor or couch, whimpering weirdly while snoozing — squirming around, even an occasional yap. A new search brought up a “Psychology Today” article from 2010 that concluded dogs indeed dream. Like humans, their dreams often are woven from the fabrics of their daily activities, the article said.

OK, so Sam and Rosie essentially are dreaming about going for a walk in the early morning, getting fed, and then lying around the house all day until the humans show back up. An occasional wrestling match with each other breaks the monotony, but that rarely lasts more than a couple minutes. I had hoped Sam was dreaming of rescuing a little boy from a swollen creek. Considering he’s a poodle-mix scared of just about everything, I thought it would be nice if his dreams were a bit more, well, heroic. Of course, he could say the same about me.

My favorite dream of all time, because it felt so realistic and is just flat wacky, involves learning I have just been elected governor of Oklahoma. That was quite a feat since I have never lived there, let alone run for office. But there I was, accepting congratulations from well-wishers and wondering just what the heck I was going to do as governor of Oklahoma.

I wish I could repeat that dream. It was a lot more fun than worrying about getting out a newspaper, over and over. But you can’t pick your dreams, I suppose.

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