I’m exhausted this morning.
All night I had dreams that woke me up just long enough to realize that they had been dreams before dozing off into yet another ridiculous dream.
Maybe it was the Chinese food I ate for dinner, but more likely it was that my brain bubbles over with too many thoughts and emotions. The minute I fall asleep, my subconscious says, “Hey we shouldn’t waste all these leftovers!” and all the scraps and remnants of the day are tossed together like a zesty chow mein.
There’s the usual “running/hiding from the bad guy” dream which is all tense and involves me trying to dial 911 on my cell phone which doesn’t have any number keys.
There’s the one where the whole family is going about a normal day except we’re in a house I’ve never seen in my life and the family somehow includes total strangers that I’m cheerfully making lunch for.
I haven’t had the one where I can fly for a while now, but it used to be one of my favorites.
When my kids had nightmares, we talked them over. They have their own recurring ones, too, and it can be frustrating.
It’s not like you don’t know how it ends.
You just want to dream something else for a change, thank you.
My daughters tell me they wake up in the morning sometimes, having had a volcanic argument with me in a dream. Apparently I was quite terrible, so even though they realize it was just a dream, they stay mad at me all day and I have no idea why.
My sons will tell me about a dream where I was killed which is only slightly better for my reputation, as they seem sincerely upset about it. But with all the violence their dream contained, we’re lucky anyone escaped. Even the T Rex.
Although they make for animated conversations, figments are unwelcome to a good nights’ sleep.
Especially when things like bedwetting, sleepwalking or wall punching were involved.
And so we practiced changing the channel.
Your brain isn’t an old school TV with three channels stuck on “re-runs”. It’s faster and more diverse than the internet. You’ve got Cable in there with limitless channels and they air 24/7.
You just need to get your hands on the remote.
I asked my kids to try an experiment.
“Just as you’re about to fall asleep at night,” I said, “deliberately choose a channel you want to watch. Tell yourself you are only interested in the Cooking Channel and that if something else plays, like an old western, that you’ll stop on mid-horseback and tune back into a cake contest. With gold frosting and sprinkles on it. Visualize it for a moment. Taste it.”
Your brain will remember this, even in your sleep.
It has to be a fun, wonderful, even imaginary thing. Something warm or safe or quiet; whatever is the opposite of the dream that’s bugging you.
Why watch ‘CSI’ when you can watch the symphony on KPBS?
Maybe you’ve always wanted a pet panda.
Here’s your big chance, tune in to Animal Planet.
Maybe you want your brain to come up with a solution to a puzzle. Punch in the MythBusters.
You may just wake up with the right idea.
If your brain is going to spend some time at night goofing off in your head, it certainly doesn’t care what it plays with. So give it some happy bits and tell it to behave in there.
The remote may have some static interference now and then.
Be gentle on yourself.
I would suggest chamomile tea and a teddy bear to hug for emergency back-ups.
And stay away from the chow mein.