Sometimes, I’m too busy or focused on my life and work to realize I’m stressed out – more than normal, that is. Often during these periods, my brain decides it has had enough and gifts me with a stress dream in order to make me so uncomfortable and tense that I’m forced to take a mental step back and say, “What the FUCK!?”
One of my stress dreams is my radio dream, which I mentioned in my last post. This one hit a lot while I was still in the radio business – but even today I get them occasionally. I’m always in the radio studio, on the air, when things go horribly wrong. Usually it’s a malfunction with the equipment, so my microphone doesn’t work or the song I have ready to go doesn’t play when I hit the button. Often it is a malfunction with ME – I attempt to speak and nothing comes out, or I can’t find the next song I’m supposed to play and I’m forced to grab the first available song I come across – and even then, I don’t get it cued up and ready to go before the inevitable happens…DEAD AIR. Dead air is the bane of disc jockeys everywhere. It is the thing you never want to happen, but always manages to happen – usually when the boss is listening at home, which then triggers the next dreadful thing – the blinking of the “hotline” light. The hotline light usually means you are in trouble and it is the phone call that you can never ignore (not like the listener lines – and I will clue you into a well-kept secret here – disc jockeys often ignore the listener line, because sometimes we just can’t take another 12-year-old telling us their entire life story in the process of requesting a song that we will never play for them).
AGAIN I am sidetracked!!! And unfortunately I’m not going to get back on track right away, because I have to tell you about something that happened the other day (in real life – not a dream). I promise, it actually DOES have something to with the subject of this post and, if all goes well, it will tie everything together nicely in the end. We can always hope, right?
We own a 1994 Geo Tracker, which is well used. My parents purchased the car and my brother learned to drive in it. My son (when he was small) dubbed it “The coolest car in the world!” because it has a soft top and can be converted into a “sporty” jeep-like transportation device. My parents gave us the Tracker when Doc had to transfer to a new military base halfway across the country several months before the end of a school term. We didn’t want to disrupt the kid’s lives any more than we had to, so Doc went ahead of the family – and he needed something to drive. He was teased mercilessly about the Tracker by his coworkers, who proclaimed it the “Barbie car” – I’m not sure quite why, since it is clearly red and NOT pink!
The Tracker has now been passed to our daughter, who uses it to get to and from work. A few nights ago, she called us at 11pm to inform us that the Tracker was not starting. Doc went to fetch her, leaving the Tracker at her work because he couldn’t get it to respond either. The next day, we returned and after testing the battery (which was fine) and tinkering with the engine (which apparently wasn’t), Doc hooked up a line to my car and asked me to tow him (in the Tracker – because towing just HIM would have just been awkward and probably illegal) to the mechanic. Things went fine, although there were a few bone-jarring jerks as we turned corners and started up after stopping at red lights. I made the final turn – which was a hard right, followed by an immediate hard left – and I noticed something strange. While I was turning left, Doc was still going straight! About the time I noticed this, I heard him scream, “Stop!! Stop!!!!! STOP!!!!!!!” through the open window and I slammed on my brakes. I sat for a moment, wondering what the hell was going on when a police officer (who I hadn’t realized had been following us) came up to my window and asked me to back up a bit to put some slack on the tow rope. There was some discussion between him and Doc and eventually we were on our way again and we made it the two blocks to the mechanics without further incident. The nice policeman even helped to unhook the tow line when we got there and pushed the car into one of the parking spaces.
When Doc joined me in my car, his hands were shaking. I asked what had happened and he explained that while he had managed that first turn fine, when he attempted to follow me on the second turn, the steering wheel of the Tracker had locked up. He then attempted to honk at me to alert me to the situation, but the horn was not functioning! He explained the moment of panic that had set in as he realized he was in a car that had totally turned on him and he had no way (other than screaming out the window) to prevent certain disaster.
I knew that feeling well – TOO well! That situation could have happened in ANY of my other stress dreams – the car dreams. In a car dream, I’m usually enjoying a country drive or on my way to an important function. All is well, until the inevitable happens – I go to brake, and the brake pedal sinks to the floor, but the car doesn’t slow down. Or, I’ll be driving up a hill and suddenly lose power – and I will begin to roll backwards down the hill, gaining speed – because again, my brakes are not working! Or I’ll try to turn the wheel (usually while hurtling backwards down a steep hill at an ever-increasing speed) and my frantic pulling on the wheel has no effect. I usually wake before I plunge off a cliff (somehow there is ALWAYS a cliff involved). Sometimes in the car dream, I will hit something because I cannot stop or turn – not hard enough to hurt me, but hard enough to dent the car – and no amount of pounding or pulling will repair the dents.
My brain gives me the radio or car dream when it wants to make absolutely certain I get the message: Your life is OUT OF CONTROL and IN NEED OF REPAIR! While I still usually wake in a panic, with my heart beating out of my chest and a feeling of impending doom pressing down on me, I usually am able to calm myself fairly quickly. I know it is my brain’s way of telling me to take a good look at what is going on in my life and address it before I really go crazy (thanks, brain!). Just like with the Tracker, my life can get dysfunctional and out of control without obvious warning signs (or, when I choose to ignore obvious warning signs). As with the Tracker, regular maintenance is required to make sure things stay running smoothly. And just like the Tracker, sometimes I require a few new parts or a visit (or several) to a life mechanic to help me put things back into correct working order. I’m happy to report that I haven’t had a stress dream in nearly a year, so I must be doing something right!
PS – I told you that this would all tie nicely together at the end!