Friday, September 20, 2019

Inadequacy Dreams

I spent a couple of days sick this past week. I took an afternoon off one day, and a couple of hours out of the next afternoon, to get a little extra sleep during the day. I think it did me good. But it also did a number on my head, to judge by the weird dreams I had, both during those naps and toward the end of both nights’ sleep.

I’ve referred to some of my past, recurring types of dreams as frustration dreams, job stress dreams, embarrassment dreams and so on. There were the entertaining dreams, inspired by whatever I’ve been reading or watching onscreen. There were the “get up and pee, stupid” dreams, in which I find myself searching in vain for bladder relief. But these last few dreams are in a class by themselves. Let’s call them inadequacy dreams.

They’re the sort of plot-heavy scenarios in which everything I do falls short of the expectation. They’re full of characters who are continually turning to look at me with pity, exasperation or (my least favorite of all) a smug little smile. Triumph. Schadenfreude. You name it, eyefuls of it were hurled my way, often because of mistakes I could only have avoided if someone had given me better information before I acted.

Literally everything I did, large or small, was inadequate. In some episodes, it might be merely reaching for the wrong taco on a platterful of them and taking a bite out of it before anyone told me that, on the side of the wrappers facing away from me, they had specific people’s names written on them. At other times, it was due to my capacity for getting lost in a weirdly laid out four-story building in which, for some reason, I was supposed to run a line of garden hose up from the ground floor to the roof – possibly (but don’t quote me on this) to fight off a dragon attack. Nobody was there to guide me through floorplans that were different on each level, and no stairwell went straight up all four levels, and one stairwell ended in thin air, and by the time I got there the show was over because some other guy with a line of hose had come up the other end of the building and did the job himself. Is it not enough that I must endure a dream about being lost in a labyrinthine building, but I must then go on to dream about people staring at me incredulously, clearly amazed at my uselessness, and (in one guy’s case) even lying about where he saw me and when?

Another vignette I remember from those dreams is one where I come home to find my front door wide open. Someone has been inside and looked around, but nothing has been taken. The house is a mess, but only its usual mess. I feel judged, ashamed, exposed, caught in the act of being an abject slob who couldn’t decorate an interior if his eternal soul depended on it. Upon waking, it actually takes me a few moments to sort out the dream from real life – the last indignity.

Maybe inadequacy is on my mind. Disappointment with my life. Unease about the future. But really – can’t a guy get some rest from these things, at least in sleep? What ever happened to those dreams where I was Jack Aubrey on the quarterdeck of the H.M.S. Surprise? Fighting off dragon attacks might be good – if only I got there on time to see the dragon! But sneering looks, eye-rolls and a little blond girl giving me that “you’re in for it now” smirk? Not my thing!

These dreams seem designed to crush the spirit out of me. I don’t know why my subconscious chose those sick-day naptimes and morning lie-ins to afflict me this way. Maybe it was a combination of the drugs I was on. Or maybe I was having a premonition of a book I started reading after the illness broke, which is totally about the kind of hopeless bloke I kept dreaming I was. Or am. It can be funny when it’s somebody else, someone fictional. But boy, does that kind of storyline take the fun out of being sick.

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