Monday, September 30, 2019

Of dreams and final exams

There it was again, that dream that I’ve had so often. It hasn’t come for quite some time, but last night it came again. I’m in college, but I haven’t been going to class—indeed, don’t know how to find the classroom for whatever subject is involved. Of course, I haven’t been studying or keeping up. The dream takes several forms—sometimes I’m taking a class I despise, like paleontology. Sometimes it’s a subject I’m fairly good at but would still need to do the assignments. It always ends with my assuring myself that I already have a college degree, and I don’t need these credits. I’m told it’s the almost the most common recurring dream for many adults.

Last night’s version was a bit different. I knew I had a doctorate in English, but I wanted to teach, so I was back in school taking philosophy, English and French. I had to spend all my time on a thick, dense philosophy book, so I ignored English and French, subjects I’ve always been good at. There are several flaws in this dream: I never wanted to teach, because while I’m pretty good at leading workshops, I’m lousy at regular classroom presentations. I’ve done enough teaching at the college level in my day to know that I don’t shine in the classroom. But I wouldn’t need to go back to school if I wanted to teach—I have the qualifications already. So where did this come from?

Psychologists are reluctant to offer firm theories about dream interpretation, but off the record some suggest that this dream is typical of type A personalities, people with strong ambition and drive who like to be in control, feel a sense of urgency, and value success (guilty!). The dream is likely to come in times of stress, when the dreamer is afraid of not meeting a certain goal (guilty again!).

I would tell you there’s no stress in my life, but that’s not true. I suspect I live in a state of perpetual stress. Right now, the fact that I’m not enjoying driving my car and dread outings where I must drive alone is stressing me, but I can push that to the back of my mind. More prominent, and I recognize it, is stress over my current work-in-progress, the history of a major Texas ranch and the family who owned it for 165 years.

I finished a first draft, getting all the facts, the chronology, the timeline in order. The result is a manuscript that is much shorter than my editor wants, and when I read it, all I could think was “vanilla, it’s plain vanilla.” I know, from working with this editor before, what I must do—I have to go back and interject my storytelling skills, insert fictional scenes and dialogue to make it lively and readable. Of course, that horrifies historians, so I’m caught betwixt and between. But I will go back and begin editing all over again. I just keep procrastinating, and it weighs on my mind. Right now, I’m doing the easy stuff—reading for typos and repetition (gosh, there’s a lot of that) and stylistic inconsistencies. But I’m going to have to buckle down and get serious.

It’s easy to procrastinate these days, what with the national turmoil. I would say I spent a large portion of the morning reading about the latest developments, the latest intrigue—and posting responses online. Last night, a friend who is a political activist said to me, “Keep your opinions coming. They’re valuable.” I hope she’s happy today, because so many things I read about trump and Barr and Giuliani cried out to be shared, information that any intelligent voter needs to know. We live in perilous times, and I think the most important factor is an informed public—some will scoff and cry “fake news,” but the tide has turned.

Tomorrow I’ll get serious about that book.

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