A few weeks ago I began having stress dreams. I was never a particularly active dreamer until last year, and I still find them disconcerting. Recently they have reflected reality to a degree they never did before. Now my anxieties follow me from wakefulness into sleep, which can be exhausting. The silver lining, I guess, is that I get up some mornings with a certain clarity about how to prioritize my work.
For example, last night I dreamed that I was in Washington Heights. I was sitting in a swiveling desk chair at the corner of 181st St. and St. Nicholas, by the entrance to the 1 train, and I was eating cold french fries out of a plastic bag. I found the fries underneath the chair when I sat down. I swiveled the chair back and forth, to the left and to the right, watching New Yorkers walk by on their way to work and school. It was obviously morning, which makes my choice of breakfast seem even more peculiar and suspect.
All of a sudden my friend walked by and we greeted each other. I politely extended the bag I was eating from and offered him some cold fries. He wisely declined. I asked him what he planned to do on this fine day. I can't recall what he answered but he did mention it was Thursday.
I jumped up. Thursday!? If it was Thursday it meant I had a 9 AM appointment to do a follow-up oral history interview. I demanded that my friend tell me the time. It was already 9:48 AM! I had to get uptown!
I thanked my friend and ran down into the subway station. I only had to go two stops and I silently prayed that I could get there by 10:00 AM. I saw a train in the station, but I couldn't dig my Metrocard out of my bag fast enough and so I watched it pull away. I knew that if I walked to the furthest end of the platform and got in the first car of the next train, it would get me closer to the exit at my destination. As can only happen in dreams, bookshelves and tables and racks appeared as I walked farther along. Obviously the northernmost section of the uptown platform was a bookstore. There are worse places to wait for the train, I guess.
That's when I realized that I was going to the oral history interview without my digital audio recorder. I decided that the recorder app on my phone would suffice. Once I resolved that problem, I remembered that I had not written any questions for this interview. Why not? I hadn't finished transcribing the past one, and so had not decided on my follow-up questions. As I contemplated my situation, a train finally pulled into the station. I somehow had the gumption to get onboard, convinced that I could wing it without my interviewee noticing.
My alarm went off about then, and I immediately advanced transcription to the top of my to-do list. Unlike Dream Me, Awake Me is not denial. I cannot wing anything.