Back To School – Time to Panic


So last night I had the strangest dream. It was a combination of all my anxieties and stress about the end of summer and impending beginning of the new school year rolled up into one big mind mess. And it was kind of fun.  I am a vivid dreamer, and my dreams are usually just chock full of stuff for armchair analysts to dissect and explore. This one may have you busy for a while.

First, the dream started off with me still in college, which is hilarious because that was so twenty years ago. I mean, truly, two decades. Sheesh.  Usually my stress dreams involving school are of me in high school, trying to read a schedule and not being able to find my way through the hallways to find my class. Sometimes I don’t have a schedule and I’m trying to remember where I’m supposed to go next – always in between classes in long hallways – and I’m lost and confused. Sometimes I am trying to open my locker and can’t remember the combination and I’m wondering “why didn’t I write this down? Why can’t I find what I need? Where am I supposed to be now?” Typical dream stuff. Pretty easy to analyze. I’m generally a Type A personality and nightmares about being lost and not knowing where to go make a lot of sense. Lack of control, anxiety, check.  The hubby has dreams where he goes to class and it’s the last day of the semester and he realizes he forgot to go to class all year and now he has to take the final exam and has no idea what the content of the class is. I never have that dream. I always went to class (unless it was cold/raining/really early in the morning) and I always studied and I always did well on my tests. The hubby, however, actually did have a class in college (I think it was called “Math for Liberal Arts Majors”) that he did not attend, and then needed to pass the final in order to graduate, and begged his roommate to teach him everything he needed to know about math the day before the exam. That was an actual event that occurred in his life, so no wonder he has recurring nightmares about that two decades later.

But this was my dream. And in this dream I was in college, which made me think it wasn’t going to be an anxiety dream. I loved college. I loved the people I went to school with, I loved my dozen different part-time jobs, my internships, my friends, I loved my classes – required, elective, everything.  High school hallways and feelings of being lost? Anxiety dream. Makes sense. College? Should be a good dream. Maybe I’ll dream of Ashley, my best friend who died a few years back from brain cancer. She appears in my dreams every now and then. Usually she’s giving me a lecture, telling me to stop messing around and get back to writing. She was always one of my biggest fans. She used to ask me over and over again when she could read something I was working on for class. Then when she was done reading it she would walk around and read out loud parts that she really loved and enjoyed to anyone she could find. My biggest cheerleader in life often comes to me in dreams to give me a swift kick in the butt. It’s nice that way.

In this dream, I had finished three years of college and had one left, and school was starting next week, and I hadn’t registered for any classes. I was panicked. I knew I needed certain classes and certain credits in order to graduate and I couldn’t believe I had been so incredibly irresponsible and forgotten to register. I was trying to use the phone (a landline, because apparently I dream of the late nineties) to call the administrative offices to see if I could get an appointment with my guidance counselor (so there was a bit of high school leaking in, since Mr. Tatti and his sharp brown suit were also making an appearance).  Then as I was trying to schedule the meeting, I realized in looking at my calendar, that I was going to have a hard time fitting the meeting in, because my kids had really important rehearsals with their animal shelter volunteer dog walking singing performance.

Yes, let’s review that. In real life, my son really does volunteer walking dogs at the animal shelter. My younger daughter is immensely jealous that she isn’t old enough to do so as well, but we let her tag along sometimes to snuggle puppies and pet the cats. So that part is real. But the singing performance was a complete fabrication of something completely new – and bizarre.  In the dream I didn’t actually SEE my kids singing with dogs, but I knew how it worked. The dogs were extremely talented. This wasn’t simple howling, this was experienced, high-level dog singing. Not with words, but mostly lots of back-up, harmony kind of vocals. The best I can explain it is to think of Muppets, singing, but dogs, in real life. But in my dream. Not for real. And I knew that my kids needed to be at rehearsals, because they had a really important performance at the old people home coming up, and they were going to be graded on their performance.  So, it counted.

In the dream, I decided that I couldn’t wait for the appointment I had made, which was in ten days, so I decided to just go down to the office and see if I could find the printed book of course offerings (remember, this is the nineties, and printed course offerings was an actual THING back then. We’d wait for the list to be printed, it would be stacked outside an office for five minutes until they ran out of copies, and then we’d have to wait two days for them to print more. Then there would be five million copies available and no one needed it anymore because we had all figured out what we were going to register for anyway). So there I am, in dream world, in a maze of cubicles looking on shelf after shelf for the right printed bulletin of course offerings, and trying to explain to cranky middle-aged women that I really need to take these classes because I need to graduate, and they are all being mean to me and telling me I should have planned better, and my unconscious / subconscious cranky middle-aged woman self is saying the same thing to my younger irresponsible dream self.

Then, a friend is suddenly there, and she’s sitting at a desk doing her work-study hours (another fabulous government program that I desperately needed in order to make it through school), and she says to all the older women, “Oh, no, this is Colleen, she’s worth it,” and everyone softens and agrees and helps me.  And I knew I was going to get the classes I needed. But at that exact moment, I realized I had left my children home, and that no one was taking care of their schedule, and they had probably missed dog singing rehearsal and they were going to suffer the consequences. So I took off from the admin offices with my new schedule in hand (and I had really boring classes – none of which required me to write – because I was trying to make sure I didn’t have too much homework because my kids needed my attention) and I had to literally walk through snow uphill to get home. I don’t think I had any shoes. And my feet were freezing, and it was dark, and I was trying to find my kids, and dog singing rehearsal, which had been moved from one location to another, because of flooding.

Now, a couple of things.

I most likely had the air conditioning turned too low, because I woke up with very cold feet. It was probably also raining, again.

I have not yet input my children’s school calendars into my actual calendar. I think this might be stressing me out.

I track my own calendar, both my kids, my husband, and both dogs. The dogs don’t have a lot going on calendar-wise, but we are on the same grooming schedule, as next week I am dropping them off at the dog groomer and heading directly to get my hair dyed, because apparently roots are now a thing, see above, cranky middle-aged woman.

And the rest? Yes, I know. I used to love the idea Virginia Woolf had about a room of one’s own. A place to write. Now I think part of that space needs to include head space. There’s a lot in my head and it’s not easy to keep it all together. I recognize that I write from a place of privilege, where my bills will be paid whether I sell a book or not. I’m grateful for that. But I would also be grateful for a personal assistant, who can keep the kids calendars and keep me updated and let meknow what is happening and when.  But I am the personal assistant for my family.  I will be the one to read the website, the emails, the reminders, and then remind everyone else. I will be the one to know if it’s dress up/dress down/pajama day. I will be the one to know when there are soccer games, whether they are home or away, and what time pick up will be. I will be the one to know when permission slips are due, when there are delayed openings, when there are in-service teacher development days or teacher conferences. I will be the one to know when the school concerts and performances will be, and whether or not the kids need to wear blue or black pants and a white shirt. I will always be the one to know.

I am the memory keeper of really boring things. It’s apparently making me feel like I’m forgetting the important stuff. My kids and I are a little obsessed with Sherlock on Netflix. We have binge watched all but the last two episodes this summer (no spoilers please) and we love this grand idea of Sherlock’s Mind Palace. He remembers everything that’s ever happened or been read or experienced, and can sort through his brain for essential information like he’s walking through a grand library of ideas. I joked with my kids that my mind palace has been boarded up and vacant ever since I gave birth to them. They laughed and thought it was funny. I did too. And then I made a confused furrowed eyebrow face and thought, huh, I think that might actually be true. It’s funny because it’s true?

I am sure somewhere someone is reading this and saying “Oh be grateful for when you are such a part of your kids’ lives. Some day they will be grown and not need you and you will miss this.”  No. I will not miss this. I will miss them, not their scheduling. I will miss hanging out in the summer and binge watching Netflix when it rains. I will miss taste-testing the best almond / coconut gluten-free dairy-free what is this ice cream flavors and crushing up gluten free cookies to make a perfect individual ice cream cake. I will miss plenty of things about my kids when they are grown.  But this eviction from my mind palace to make room for knowing things of inconsequence in the grand scheme of life? I will not miss that.

Or maybe I just need to hire an assistant. Maybe we all need to hire an assistant. Maybe that’s why my dream friend was there, sitting at her desk to vouch for me. “This is Colleen, she’s worth it.”  Maybe we’re all worth our mind palaces again.



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