It seems that I have a mental quirk that causes me to have nightmares on the night before I give a speech or teach a big class or otherwise perform any other important obligation.
It’s not that I dread these obligations. Even when I’m looking like a mushroom, I’m pretty comfortable with public focus, having experienced this to a greater or less degree for 25 years.
I think it’s more in the nature of having plans.
If I have an early flight to catch, I’ll generally have two nightmares.
And they really are dillies.
My most recurrent nightmare is of showing up for some obligation (!) only to find that I don’t know where it is. I’m in the right building; I can hear people laughing and the clink and bell of glasses and silverware. But I can’t find the door. I hear myself being introduced. I still can’t find the door. I start running up and down stairs and escalators. (“Jacquelyn? Jacquelyn? Has anyone seen Jacquelyn?” says the host.)
Or I have a key, but the key doesn’t have the number of the room on it. Sweating, I scan floor after floor. I have no idea where my “go to meeting” clothes are. I can’t brush my teeth.
Medical appointments bring their own series of nightmares. I dreamed my dog was covered in large yellow bugs. I dreamed that my feet dissolved. I dreamed that I stood before the mirror one morning only to observe that all my teeth had fallen out during the night.
On the night before a journey, I dreamed that I was on a train with no engineer steering it. I had to steer the train, while, all around me, groups of men (only men) shouted at me for steering it the wrong way. (“I could walk there faster!” one yelled.)
The comedian John Mulaney once said that there was no greater feeling than canceling plans – even if the plans were something you actually were looking forward to. I couldn’t agree more with this. Perhaps it is only being freed from obligation.
I like to do things. I just don’t like being expected to. -JM