Life and Times
I was working out at the gym today and I became overwhelmed by a palpable sense of stress and anxiety. Analytical being that I am I tried to deconstruct these feelings. I was working out, which normally decreases my stress, so these feelings really caught me off guard. First, I went through a checklist in my mind of potential causes. 1) Hormones–since my hormones are controlled by science, I felt confident in ruling out this cause 2) Moving to Kentucky in 2 months– maybe, I’m definitely stressed about the move, leaving my friends and family behind, assimilating favorably into Kentucky culture, and the list goes on, but realistically, these are thoughts and feelings I’ve been dealing with for months, so they are not necessarily good candidates to explain my current specific feelings 3) Unemployment stress—this could be the cause, I am working as hard as the U.S Postal Service will allow me to get certified in KY and apply to every district within a 51 mile radius of the farm 4) The persistent and mysterious crick I have had in my neck for four days—I think we might be getting warmer. I woke up on Wednesday morning with a debilitating crick in my neck. At the time I blamed the problem on an unexpected drop in temperature the night before that rendered our window unit superfluous and caused me to shiver and roll up in a ball all night for warmth (one thing to know about me, I am stubborn in my commitment to staying in bed once I have fallen asleep even if getting up would alleviate some problem and actually make my sleep better. I should probably work on this issue). Wednesday night I added extra blankets, turned off the window unit, and assumed all would be well. Not so. Thursday my neck hurt so badly I almost threw up after school. I vowed Thursday night that if my neck did not get significantly better I would go to the doctor—I even pledged my vow out loud to Geoff so we could all comprehend the seriousness of this matter. Fortunately, Friday morning I awoke with a mostly better feeling neck, which saved me from a trip to the hospital (although I had long ago ruled our meningitis), but did not save me from the annoying, not completely gone, slightly cricky feeling.
So, I left the gym reasonably confident that the crick was the stress-inducing factor. I arrived home to thunderous a-paws (that was for you, Randy) from Bailey and Scooter. They’ve had a little bit of cabin fever lately so we went out into the back yard and I threw them everything in sight—bones, rubber throw toys, a tennis ball, bamboo sticks. We played until they were sufficiently worn out. After I watered the garden we all came back inside. Bailey and Scooter headed straight for the kitchen tile to pant and flail, and I headed for the shower. The warm water and white noise of the shower really began to lower my stress level. Then it hit me. I realized one of the biggest underlying causes of my recent stress. Every single time I have attempted to take a shower in this rental house, be it at 7:00 AM or 7:00 PM, Bailey and Scooter choose the exact moment when I am most vulnerable—head full of shampoo, eyes full of soap—to behave as if the house is being attacked by monsters and rapists. It always starts with Bailey’s Sophisticated Older Lady Dog Baritone, and is usually immediately followed by Scooter’s Youthfully Exuberant Soprano. The barking gets louder and more frenetic, furniture and household items are toppled over in Scooter’s panicked frenzy, all the while I am still naked and covered in soap in the shower. I have no choice but to wait for the monsters, or rapists, or kitty-cats, or whatever it is they are barking at to overtake the house and destroy us all. Bailey and Scooter might choose to put up a fight, but I just hope I’ll be able to get a towel on.
Considering the fact that a warm relaxing shower has always been a crucial component to my daily serenity regimen, the constant stress I feel is starting to make more sense.
Today when the “Screaming and Defense of House Against Monsters and Rapists” ceremony began, it induced the same level of stress in me as usual, but somehow it also made me remember what I dreamed last night, which in turn provided me with a little relief from the howls of furry.
Last night I had the most magical and significant dream I think it was spurred on by the fact that I have been reading the book Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya with my students. The book is a coming of age novel and the young male protagonist has multiple, vivid, symbolic dreams throughout the book. Yesterday we finished it in class and it had a visceral, emotional impact on me. I have this habit of getting book amnesia. Even if I’ve read a book like twenty times, the stirring emotional scenes have the same effect on me as they did the first time. The book ends in a very dramatic, suspense–filled, touching way. I think the day residue of that experience influenced my dream as well.
So in my dream we are already in Kentucky. The house is unpacked, and everything is in its place. I get up early as the sun is rising to check on the garden. In my dream the garden is twenty times bigger than it is in real life. It is filled with healthy, luscious vegetables of every kind, and they are all ready to be harvested. I walk around picking root vegetables and greens and am overwhelmed by the precise feeling of being home, being settled. The dream ended there. I must have woken up a little or drifted into dreamless sleep. I didn’t remember the dream when I got up, but the memory of the dream came to me like a bolt of lightning in that moment of frustrating stress in the shower.
As my mother will tell you I do not typically put much credence in signs. But I do believe in God and in the tremendous sense of peace that comes with giving up on the idea that we have ultimate control over everything that happens in our lives. So I am going to accept the divine gift of a few moments of peace and the memory of a dream that will hopefully be my reality in a few short months.