Thursday, March 8, 2012

The bus to Paradise Island

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
It was an excursion — a specially arranged trip — for those attending the convention, and the arrangements for and cost of this event were paid well in advance.  The time of the meeting place for the luxury buses that were to transport us to the ferry that would take us across the water to Paradise Island was clarified and continually reinforced by the tour directors (and the convention hosts) who had arranged for this adventure, so nobody could claim (or complain) after the fact, that they did not know where to meet.
I was outside on the sidewalk in front of our convention hotel as the people who were going on the tour passed me by to get to the meeting place.  Many of those who passed even greeted me as they hurried on so as not to be late getting to the meeting place and the buses.
Knowing that tour buses seldom leave on time, I decided to go back to the hotel room to pick up some last-minute items (a hat, snacks, and some suntan lotion) to take with me to the Island.  I moved quickly even though I had a short wait for the elevator, and my room was at the end of the hallway on floor nine, but I knew I had plenty of time for seldom do tours begin exactly on time.
I picked up what I needed from the room knowing that time was ticking away now, decided to go down the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator, then ran rapidly toward the meeting place.  I had to wait for two traffic lights, but the wait in each case was short, and I still believed I had plenty of time to spare.
When I arrived at the meeting place, a bit out of breath I have to admit, there was noone there except one woman in uniform.  I approached her, my chest heaving slightly from the run, and I asked her where the busses were located.  She looked at me with shock on her face, and her reply was short and to the point: “I’m sorry, they have all left.  You’re ten minutes late.”
I missed the bus.  I couldn’t believe it, because I had never missed a bus in my life.  As-a-matter-of-fact, my tendency throughout my life was to arrive early.  Often, I was the first one at the meeting place.  I was surprised, to say the very least.
This wasn’t the first dream I had like that — especially when I was teaching at the university.  More on those in a moment.
In college, as a student, I would have nightmares about not showing up for an examination.  They were especially vivid and convincing around final-exam time.  It was that I would oversleep, get the location or time wrong, or just go along with my daily activities without even thinking I had an exam.  I think these nightmares occurred for three reasons.  First, in school I was always under a great deal of stress.  Most of this was self-inflicted.  Second, I have always been extremely time conscious, and being places on time was always a high, and important priority.  Third, I always did well in school; thus, I was grade-oriented, grade-conscious, even grade-obsessed.  Anything that might interfere, interrupt, or otherwise disrupt my quest for outstanding grades was of grave concern to me.
Panic over missing a final exam (even being late for one) created enormous emotions and stirred up fierce nightmares.
When I became a large-group lecturer at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), I took the job of teaching thousands of first- and second-year students incredibly seriously. Over my 22 years in that position I taught nearly 80,000 students.  Because BGSU did not have a lecture venue for the number of students enrolled in my course in any given term, I gave the same lecture 5 times to approximately 300 students per lecture.  This, as you might expect, added increased pressure to my job since I had to keep all students current with both the information and with the syllabus.
Talk about adding stress to my large-group lecturing responsibilities, there was nobody who could substitute, replace, or stand-in for me in my absence.  Besides directing the course, lectures were my sole duty.  For this reason alone, I never missed or was even late to one of them.  Nightmares about missing one increased substantially.
In an Ezine article, by Trevor Johnson titled, “What are the effects of nightmares?”  Johnson mentions five negative effects: 1) It makes you lack sleep.  2) It leaves a very heavy feeling.  3) It brings you back to the past.  4) It can cause heart attack.  5) It may cause anxiety attack.
Fortunately, for me, the fourth and fifth effects never occurred, but the vividness and intensity of the nightmares suggested that that potential was always present.
There were solutions even though my nightmare experiences have never been chronic.  The best solutions I discovered on the Internet were at WebMD-Sleep Disorders Guide, in an essay titled, “Nightmares in Adults,” that reported; “There are a number of . . . steps you can take on your own that may help reduce your nightmare frequency. Keeping a regular wake-sleep schedule is important. So is engaging in regular exercise, which will help alleviate nightmare-causing anxiety and stress. You may find that yoga and meditation are also helpful.
“Remember to practice good sleep hygiene, which will help prevent the sleep deprivation that can bring on nightmares in adults. Make your bedroom a relaxing, tranquil place that is reserved for sleep and sex, so that you don't associate it with stressful activities. Also, be cautious about the use of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which can remain in your system for more than 12 hours and often disrupt sleep patterns.”  Most of these are precisely the solutions I used.
Looking back at the nightmare that I described at the beginning of this essay, “The bus to Paradise Island,” I decided that it was more like a dream than a nightmare, even though it mimicked in many respects those I had as a large-group lecturer.

 It occurred on January 22, 2011 — recently — so I did some self-analysis.  What I discovered was that I was putting a great deal of stress on myself just as I had done in college.  In this case, however, it was trying to produce a large number of these essays in the free time I had between finishing proofreading the tenth edition of my textbook, Communicating Effectively, and beginning work on the instructor’s manual and test bank for the book — which was likely to begin soon after.  For me, pressure/stress produces these vivid, intense nightmares/dreams that disturb my sleep and cause heaviness the following day.  My workaholic schedule, of course, isn’t a positive contributor!
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At, the essay, “Nightmares,” (October 21, 2005), by Donald R. Townsend, PhD, is excellent, thorough, and informative.  Among the many other things in the essay, Townsend says, “Managing stress in your life is an important way to help manage nightmares. Relaxation training may also help. It can assist you when the nightmares keep you from being able to go back to sleep. This method helps you reduce the anxiety or tension that keeps you from falling asleep.”

At, Rebecca Turner has a terrific essay, “How to Stop Nightmares: Two Easy Ways to End Nightmares in Children and Adults,” (July 28, 2008), in which Turner says, “To look beyond fear, there needs to be some kind of conscious recognition of the dream state. As it happens, people already practice this state of awareness all over the world. It is known as lucid dreaming.
“Lucid dreams occur when the dreamer recognizes they are in a dream. This causes the conscious brain to wake up in the dream and all sensory systems are switched on. The dream becomes as vivid as real life, in the complete control of the dreamer.”  To interrupt/stop a nightmare, either wake up or look beyond fear.
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Copyright March, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

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