Everyone occasionally dreams about themselves in a monumentally awkward position — naked at work; wandering by accident into your ex’s wedding; driving too fast through an insane intersection — and then awakens wondering what the dream means.
Last night I fell asleep ruminating about complaints after using social media to force Lowe’s to admit that their driver had broken the law by parking in the handicapped space in front of my house. Friends tell me that our job requires complaint on behalf of clients. Others say that we all have an obligation to complain about companies who abuse consumers. By their logic, my complaint against Lowe’s gets a pass on this quest of mine to live complaint-free. But should I accept that logic? That question haunted me all weekend.
I fell into a cloudy sleep and dreamed that I left the house this morning for work still clad in the sweat pants and baggy shirt that I’d worn to bed. Instead of going to the office, I headed for my old high school and started looking for my Algebra class. I had called out a greeting to a neighbor who lived upstairs from me during graduate school so clearly my dream self lived in a time warp.
Once I got to school, I pulled a shawl from my car to wrap around myself as I scurried into the building. I realized I had neither books nor paper on which to write. I found a classroom that I thought looked familiar and peered into it, seeing both boys and girls which troubled me because my high school admitted only girls. I saw Joe Schilligo, from elementary school, and realized that I had the right place but the wrong building. Or the wrong year.
Scurrying down the hall, I went into the office to ask the secretary what classroom held my English class, having abandoned my search for Math. But I felt that I needed to give the woman something so I rummaged in a handbag that materialized all of a sudden. My fingers curled around a cylindrical object which I held out for her. She took it, thanking me with a quizzical glance. I had given her a bottle of eye drops. Very useful, I’m sure, she murmured while pulling the class roster from a shelf to her left.
She eyed me and said, You’ve got ten minutes to get there before it ends, young lady, so you had better scurry. I borrowed a legal pad and pencil from her, muttered a hasty thanks, and ran from the room. When I got downstairs, I stood outside the classroom breathing very deeply, preparing to enter. But I had arrived too late. The bell rang just as I summoned the courage to open the door.
A flood of students emerged from rooms around me. I cried out, I can’t do this!! and someone said, Quit complaining! We all have to do it and so do you! The bell continued to ring, long, loud, and melodic.
But then of course, I awakened. The cell phone’s alarm continued to sound as I struggled to reach its screen. My heart beat wildly.
Quit complaining. We all have to do it. And so do you.
Even in dreams my brain admonishes me.
It’s the thirteenth day of the thirty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.