I had a horrible nightmare last night.
I have a lot of bad dreams, and this wasn’t any of the usual suspects: being chased by evil demons down dark alleys, falling from great heights, realising I’m topless at a 40th birthday party, or being rejected by Josh Goldenbum at school.
No, this nightmare was about making sandwiches.
It was awful. In the dream, I was standing in my kitchen, desperately trying to cut the crusts off slices of bread for my children’s lunches. It was morning, and we were running very late for school, but despite my best efforts, the knife kept slipping out of my hand, and the slices of bread kept crumbling. In desperation, I went to the fridge to find tuna and sliced cheese to put in my kids' lunchboxes, but all I could find was broccoli and peanut butter, neither of which they like (besides, they’re not allowed to take nuts to school, but I wasn’t actually thinking about that in the dream).
I woke as I wake from any nightmare, in a cold sweat, with my heart pounding. And, as normal, I had to go through a mental reality check to calm myself down. Usually this checklist consists of things like ‘there are no evil demons’, ‘I’m not falling from anywhere’ and ‘I really will find a top to wear to the party’. (Sadly, though, I actually was rejected by Josh Goldenbum, so I can’t talk myself out of that one.)
In this case, however, the checklist was a bit different. I had to remind myself that the bread was fresh and the knives were sharp, so a crumbling loaf was highly unlikely. The fridge was well stocked with tuna and cheese, there was no broccoli to speak of, and the peanut butter was almost finished, after I got stuck into it with a spoon the previous day. I always make school lunches the night before so the whole dream was redundant anyway, and what’s more, the dream took place in the school holidays.
I finished my checklist and felt better. It was just a dream!
And then I felt worse. Much worse. Because it hit me.
I was dreaming about school lunches.
Not demons. Not nudity. Not even Josh Goldenbum. No, I was dreaming about sandwiches. Yes, this is my horror now. This is what wakes me, sweaty and panicked in the middle of the night. The fear of sending my kids to school without a nutritious, suitably non-allergenic meal. The terror of not being able to cut the crusts off.
I realised that I have turned a significant corner in my (inner) life. My subconscious - once a proud receptacle for all sorts of complex existential fears – is now completely empty, except for a couple of plastic lunchboxes and a pile of crustless bread.
So what does this all mean? Is it good news or bad? Have I become a simpler, less angst-ridden person? Or have I merely repressed my true existential anxieties (“Who am I?” “What is the meaning of life?” “Do I exist if Josh Goldenbum doesn’t know I do?”) and replaced them with metaphorical anxieties about lunch?
I don’t know. I do know, however, that the fear of a sandwich unmade is every bit as scary as thinking about death, or contemplating the nature of infinity, or pondering the meaninglessness of the universe.
And from now, I’m going to sleep with a lunchbox under my pillow.