I suppose most of us spend a certain amount of our consciousness inside our own heads. I know I do, and sometimes I seem to get stuck there and the outside world becomes as blurry and remote as a half-remembered dream. I don’t know why this happens to me. It could be physical, brought on by high blood pressure, lack of sleep, or an iron deficiency; or if it’s psychological and caused by stress, unfamiliarity, or too many things going on at once.
When I was in college, I was like most young adults– trying to balance school, work, and a social life with little money, never enough time, and way too many new things I was eager to experience. I forgot appointments, stayed up half the night studying, and often rushed to early classes half asleep and with no breakfast. I often felt that I was living inside a bubble that prevented me from making contact with the rest of the world, or the rest of the world from quite reaching me. I suppose that, if I’d heard of Alzheimer’s Disease at the time, I’d have been worried that I’d come down with it. Fortunately, I just laughed and apologized for being forgetful and hoped I didn’t forget the things that really mattered. Things like the classes I was taking.
I felt fortunate to have the chance to attend the university and I was pretty conscientious about my classes and assignments. As a liberal arts student, I had to take a wide variety of classes in all the disciplines of the human mind. And as I was an art education major, an assortment of all sorts of arts, from painting and sculpture to pottery and silversmithing, was required. Not that I attained any great proficiency at most of them, but I had to know a little about all of them in order to qualify to teach art in grades K-12. With a minor in English, I was required to take a lot of literature classes, including poetry, Chaucer and the modern short story. There were science labs and psychology classes, and the required foreign language and physical education classes. I scampered across campus from one side of the river to the other and often had to stop and check my schedule to be sure I was heading to the right classroom for the right subject on the right day at the right time. That, I suspect, is the reason for my recurring dream which has recently achieved nightmare status.
I have suffered that dream for nearly sixty years and, although I can laugh about it in broad daylight, it causes tremors of real fear in the middle of the night. In the dream, I am trying to find the classroom for an important class that I have missed far too many days because I couldn’t remember the time, the place, the day I was supposed to be there, or because I couldn’t find the room or the right building, or I’d simply forgotten that I was taking such a class and without it I would not be allowed to graduate. As I dash frantically across the Pentacrest, hoping I’m headed in the right direction, I try to find the copy of my schedule that is tucked somewhere in my large, cluttered notebook. I give up in frustration and storm through the building, peeking into classrooms, searching for familiar faces. I ask for directions from helpful students and annoyed teachers and am misdirected time and time again until people begin leaving the classes and it’s too late to continue my search. I have the feeling that the semester is nearly over and that it may already be too late to earn credit for taking the class, even if I should finally locate the classroom. I can’t even remember the name of the teacher or any of my fellow students.
Strangely enough, I never had that actual experience. I managed to make it to most of my classes on time and I seldom missed a class, a lab or a lecture. I liked school as much in college as I had loved going to kindergarten. It was a privilege and an adventure I was reluctant to miss, for even one day. So, why is this dream so persistent? Why should it have survived for all these years? And why does it wake me and frighten me wide-awake on nights when my mind has been focused on other things for weeks, even months?
Is it my imagination gone wild, or is it caused by some unrelated anxiety that manifests itself in what is a totally fictitious scenario? A halfway logical explanation might be that I write a lot of fiction because I’ve always enjoyed reading fiction and escaping into the world of imagination. Thus, I suppose I spend more time living in a make-believe place than the average person does. That still doesn’t completely explain why I have my head in the clouds (or is it that I have clouds in my head?) or why, at this late date, I travel back to the early 1950s in my sleep.