In The Middle Of The Night

A really smart person told me that if you suffer from excessive nightmares you either have too much fear and anxiety in your life or not enough.  By not enough, he was referring to people who take tons of daily risks and rarely think about potential consequences.

Given my aversion to risk-taking, I’d say my nightmares come from the “too much fear” category.

Over the last year a specific bad dream keeps pestering me.

Here’s how it unfolds: I’m in college and have one class left before I can graduate.  In all my previous courses I was fortunate enough to receive an all-important “A” as my final grade.  But in this last class (usually some type of art course, for some reason) I’m failing, thus putting my quest for a 4.0 grade point average in jeopardy.

I never find out if I raise my low mark and earn “perfection,” though.  The power of this recurring nightmare is the fear and anxiety caused by thinking I might pass Art 101 but not get another “A.”

On the surface it appears I’m deathly afraid of failure.  After all, I did procure a 4.0 in college, having convinced myself for four long years that anything less than the best would not suffice.

But why I am dreaming about this—over and over again—today, nine years after earning my Bachelor’s degree?

It’s because success, not failure, is my biggest fear right now.

Any decision that helps me out of the rut I’ve called home since heading into the “real world” nine years ago, frightens me today because, god forbid, I might actually accomplish something worthwhile.

Good outcomes, positive results, steps forward—success creates ripple effects for which I’m unprepared.  

My failure nightmare, then, is not about how I might have messed up in the past—it’s about how I might succeed today.  It’s about wondering if I’m ready to cope with moving beyond college and finally tackling—at 30 years old—my fear of being an adult.


A Poem About The Lasting Effects Of Trauma


On dry land I emerge
Forever anchored to the sea
A captain of despair
Tidal waves rage on in me

It’s not the truth that hurts
But fear of the unknown
Wondering when the curtain falls
If I played my part alone

There’s no fleeing infernos
Without a touch of pain
No rising from the ashes
When you kindled the flame

It’s not the truth that hurts
But fear of the unknown
Wondering when the curtain falls
If I played my part alone