Let me start by saying that I don’t believe in certain things. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in astrology. And I don’t believe that dreams mean anything. I think dreams are the brain’s way of cleaning house, sort of sweeping dust bunnies out from under the chairs in your mind. At least I don’t believe the specific images you see in your dreams mean anything. I should really clarify here–there may be a “God” (or Gods for all I know) and astrology may really work. I just don’t believe in them, and don’t guide my life by either one. As for dreams, the images themselves don’t matter, I think, but I think the brain organizes your anxieties into manageable bits and dumps them in your sleep.
So, last night I had a nightmare, which I define as “a scary dream that wakes you up”. I began to wonder where the word “nightmare” came from. I mean, does it have something to do with a female horse? Well no. “Mare” is the Old English word for an incubus, a male demon which visits sleeping women for the purpose of having sex, but apparently sits on your chest for a while–not sure whether it does that first or later.
For the record, a female demon who visits sleeping men is called a succubus. No crude jokes here, please.
So, a little background on my nightmare of last night. Many (many, many) years ago, my friend Art had his own plane, a two-seater single engine Cessna–I want to say it was a 172–and we used to go flying almost every weekend. Sometimes we would “go somewhere”, but more often than not, we would simply fly around locally and touch down at little nondescript airports so he could add to his quota of landings and takeoffs.
And he taught me to fly the plane. We started with keeping the plane level in the air. Which isn’t as easy as it might sound. Given its druthers, the plane would really prefer to nosedive into the ground. So you have to keep the nose up–but not too far up, or you’ll climb. Then there is airspeed. You have to maintain a certain amount of it or the plane will start to lose altitude anyway. All that stuff about keeping it level won’t make much difference. You’ll crash into the ground…but at least you’re level, right?
Once I got those two parts down, then I had to pay attention to the course, like I had to watch where I was going. What? Now I have to do three things at once? This is stretching the limit for a blond. As if that weren’t enough, then I had to start looking out the windshield for other planes. Mostly I kept on doing my three things and hoped that the other pilot was smart enough to avoid me.
Then we moved on to takeoff. Takeoffs are the most fun you can have in a small plane. Your foot is smashed to the floor on the right rudder to counteract the torque of the propeller until the muscles in your leg start to quiver and you don’t think you can do it anymore. The plane is gaining speed. You learn to pull back at the right time–you can almost feel it–and voila! The plane is airborne. You can relax your leg, which is instant relief, but even that is overshadowed by the complete rush of the moment. You are flying!
Obviously, the most important part of flying a plane is landing it. And sadly, that was my worst performance. I managed to do it successfully maybe twice, but most of the time we would approach the runway and Art would be screaming “Pull up! Pull up!” So my plan, if I ever am in control of a small plane by myself again (highly unlikely) is to head directly for the White House. That way I can be guided to land by a bunch of F-16 pilots.
In my nightmare, I’m in that little plane again, only I look over and no one else is in the other seat. Worse, I can’t remember anything about how to control the plane. I instantly woke up. So what sort of anxiety was my brain trying to clear away? I have no idea. Personally, I think it was an incubus.