Monday, December 14, 2015

My Nightmare Before Christmas (that has nothing to do with Christmas)

Have you ever wanted vacation time (with vacation in the particular sense I'm using it referring to time off from work or school as opposed to a specific trip or travel agenda) so intensely that you could barely make it through the remaining days of work or school, only to have it arrive and to find yourself almost unable to function without the usual rigors of work or school? Is this something that happens to ordinary people, or am I even more abnormal than I previously thought?

Final exams came and went. I did well and maintained my average, and managed not to freak out during any of the finals. I've had nightmares about totally losing my composure during exams, but so far haven't even become upset (except perhaps for the time the professor asked an arbitrary and irrelevant question for which he'd never divulged his bogus answer, and even then I was highly irritated but very much in control of myself). I talked to my shrink (for the record, I was under the care of a psychiatrist when I was sorting out PTSD issues following a physical and sexual assault, but I'm not under continued psychiatric care, not that there would be anything wrong with it if I were still seeing a shrink) on the phone earlier this evening. He's a family friend, so I can call him whenever I want to talk to him. I don't abuse the privilege, and he doesn't charge me. 

My former shrink said my dreams are the rough equivalent to the ones lots of people have, often persisting for many years after they've completed the formal education process, in which they either cannot locate the classroom for a course in which they've been enrolled for an entire term or they walk into the classroom to take an exam either never having attended a single class session or perhaps having shown up once or twice in an entire term. In any event, the common thread is that people who are ordinarily relatively diligent students find themselves thoroughly ill-prepared for a mid-term or final exam in their dreams, often long after whatever degrees they'll ever have were long since awarded. Maybe I'll have those dreams someday, or maybe I'll just continue to have the dreams where I scream at the top of my lungs in a crowded auditorium because something about the test cause me to lose all sensibilities.

It has never been clear in my dreams just what it is about any of the the exams that caused me to come unglued. It just happens. My former shrink said if I could ever discover in any particular dream what it was that caused me to flip out, I might be able to address it in some way, but that in the meantime, worrying about it will only make it worse. He said that dreams are basically just dreams and aren't necessarily of any significance. He says I do not ever have to actually go bananas during an exam and have an all-out screamfest. I can choose not to scream no matter how daunting the circumstance of any exam if it is important to me not to carry on while both humiliating myself and disrupting the testing process for my fellow students. If I've studied, the exam probably will not be intimidating to me in the first place, but even if something about it were to be, it is within my power to control my reaction. Just because I've had a nightmare in which I've behaved a particular way when faced with a circumstance does not dictate that such is the way I must react if I'm ever faced with such a circumstance in a conscious setting.

Still I wish that particular dream theme with its slight variations would stop haunting me during my sleep. I've had and continue to have recurring nightmares of a more disturbing nature than is that particular one. I'd take that one any day over three other recurring nightmares that I would prefer not to share and that I'm reasonably certain my readers would just as soon not  read about.

So now vacation is upon me a week earlier than most of academia has started vacation, which is nice except that I'm not quite sure what to do with myself in my leisure. My brother and I, along with several of our high school friends, spent the weekend with my late friend Claire's family. It was time very well spent, but the weekend is now over. 

I'm now in a particular nook of California's vast Central Valley. My friend Raoul from medical school wanted me to visit him at his brother's home in the southern or San Joaquin portion of the Central Valley. We hung out at the emergency room where his brother works as an MD earlier in the evening. Tomorrow we're going to do whatever it is that people in this place normally do to entertain themselves except that we won't be using any methamphetamines, which is probably the number one form of recreation in this valley. One of the people we observed in the E. R. had gotten his hands on some especially toxic meth. The results were not pretty. In place of meth, we will visit my aunt's preschool classroom. One of her special needs preschoolers has just discovered the "MF" word, so it might be mildly amusing. We won't stay for too long, as there's a limit to the potential entertainment value of a three-year-old hurling expletives. Following our preschool encounter, we will drive into the nearby mountains. El Nino is in effect this season, so the drought is temporarily on hold. We may even see snow.

One nice aspect to living in this valley is that it's such an utter slum that property values are low. Nice housing is extremely affordable. Of course it's only nice housing as long as one is inside the walls of the house, but sometimes one would do well to make lemonade of the unbelievably sour lemons one has been given. Even though Raoul's brother is only in his first year out of his residency, he owns in a home that is both larger and nicer than the one in which my parents presently live. The area surrounding Raoul's brother's house looks somewhat like what I would imagine Kuwait to look minus the roaming camels, but the inside of the house looks like something Martha Stewart would own. The guest room in which I'm spending tonight and tomorrow night (without Raoul in case you're wonderinghas its own fireplace. Unfortunately, the air quality here is so utterly abysmal that the EPA only allows people here to have fires for maybe twenty or so days out of the year. Fortunately, tonight is attached to one of those twenty days. Even if I'm wide awake, I'm at least toasty and warm inside the bedroom-with-a-fireplace.


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  5. Sounds like a nice break, though the nightmares don't sound fun at all!