Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dream On

You never know how you’re going to react when told your cheese has cancer. Oh, sure, you try to plan for these things, imagining yourself taking the news with dignity, perhaps closing your eyes and rocking back slightly on your heels to demonstrate what a blow this has been. But then you breathe deeply, and with hardly a quiver to your voice you ask, “What kind of cancer? Should we plan for the worst?”

But when it really does happen to you, it mostly leaves you feeling numb. Numb and shocked and angry at whatever god can just snatch your curdled dairy products right out of your life without so much as a warning or a chance to say a proper goodbye.

This terrible news was delivered to me last night, by none other than that most empathetic of oncologists, Dr. James Wilson. His technician had performed the tests by putting several chunks of fresh mozzarella into tiny paper cups and micro-cooking them for twenty seconds.

I recognized the tech as the gal with a forehead seemingly woven from other people’s eyebrows, who supervises the self-checkout at Home Depot. The cancer testing job must have been a part-time thing, but she seemed very capable, very professional. She certainly knew her way around a microwave.

However, as good as each of them were at their work, neither could describe just what type of cancer my cheese had contracted. They just looked at each other, and at the floor, neither one wanting to deal the final card in this already devastating hand.

Eventually I found myself losing a grip on my composure and screaming, “Tell me! What are we talking about? Non-gouda Questicular Lymphoma? Fetanoma? What??”

I mean, yes, I know a little something about bovine-extrusion-related health issues. I read Web MD. But they still needed to get me to the ballpark for crying out loud. What was my insurance company paying them for, anyway?

The best Dr. Wilson could do was hand me a “Far Side” collection and point to a picture of a cow standing on its hind legs, delivering the eulogy at what I inferred was a memorial service for a half-pound of provolone.

“That. Your cheese has that one. There’s nothing more I can do. Go home and make it as comfortable as possible. Wrap it in a damp towel and place it in the window, perhaps with a view of the pasture. The end will come soon enough.”

Frustrated and impotent, determined not to cry but already blinded by tears, I collected my little cups of nuked mozzarella and left the office. Waiting for the elevator, I whimpered to myself, “This must be a dream. I can hardly believe this is happening. This has GOT to be some kind of freaking nightmare.”

Which, of course, it was.

There is something about waking from a vivid dream that is the one great human unifier. Forget putting your pants on one leg at a time, forget the common denominator of everyone eventually dying. That semi-lucid moment of “What the heck was THAT all about??” connects us with the rest of our species in a way few experiences can.

Ever had the flying dream? How about the one where you’re naked in school / church / Denny’s? Or that dream where you forget your locker combination, or the vocab for a Spanish test you flunked 30 years ago, or the fact that you’re married so you feel no guilt making out with Curtis Olenslager behind the metal shop?

I imagine that even people as far removed from humanity as Kim Jong Il and Brittney Spears still wake up gasping for air and wondering how they made it all the way to the Lone River Mall wearing nothing but a 'Hello Kitty' shower curtain. Gosh, who hasn’t?

What I don’t understand, however, is the need to share our dreams with others. What is the point, exactly? It’s not like we’re reporting on something real, like our trip to Colonial Williamsburg or the time we ran over a raccoon because we were distributing Happy Meals to the back seat instead of watching the road.

There is no logic in relating our dreams to someone who couldn't possibly have been there, since “there” was merely a burst of truant chemicals roaming the otherwise peaceful streets of our minds, spray-painting retaining walls and pipe bombing the mailboxes. We might as well start a conversation with, “The following is a list of things that didn’t really happen to me over the last 24 hours. One: I did not grow a tail…”

I have to admit that, as a mother, I have little patience with listening to my kids talk about their dreams. “Last night, I dreamed…” are four syllables guaranteed to put my lights out faster than a toaster in the bathtub. I feel like a hostage, forced to take an interest in the endless tales my captors are spinning for fear that otherwise I’ll be branded heartless and unsympathetic. It’s like “Stockholm Syndrome: The Home Game.”

I don’t mean to sound cruel, but honestly, how am I supposed to respond to these stories? “Wow. You sure were brave. You know, in your head and stuff.” Somehow that just seems condescending but let’s face it, the choices are limited.

I’m not a whole lot better about nightmares. I wouldn’t mind them so much if they happened during the day, when I’m already conscious. But I don’t do well being awakened in the middle of the night for any reason. I pity the unfortunate home invader who thinks he’ll get anything other than a screeching, ten-clawed nightmare of his own for waltzing into my bedroom uninvited.

If I’m lucid enough I try to spare my kids the nuclear option, but even then it’s only by degrees. As far as I’m concerned, if your dream was bad enough to wake me up any time before seven a.m., that monster better still be clinging to your backside, visible to the naked eye and braced for a whooping.

My favorite, of course, is when helpful folks try to interpret your dreams for you. These people are so earnest and sincere, so absolutely convinced there is something profoundly revealing and life altering about this stuff, they’re practically begging you to mess with them.

I knew a girl in college who based her entire life plan on her dreams. She was the only person I’ve known to actually keep a dream journal, and she carried it with her everywhere she went in case she, I don’t know, nodded off in the ladies’ room or something.

She always had some new puzzle to solve, handed to her by a vindictive subconscious which clearly hated her guts and hoped she wound up working swing shift at the AM / PM.

“So last night I dreamed I quit school and married one of Barry Manilow’s roadies,” she would tell me, genuinely concerned about this new and unexpected turn of events. “What do you think that means?” My answer was always the same. “Well, Janine, I think it means you should sit with the sopranos today.”

But she was so intent on finding meaning in her and everyone else’s dreams, I couldn’t help but toss her the occasional juicy work of unapologetic cow poo.

I’d look deep into her eyes, then look away as though I was mustering the nerve to finally break the chains of silence and confusion that had imprisoned my psyche for years. Taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly, I’d begin, “Well, it always starts out the same. I’m drowning in human saliva, and I can’t find the watch my dad gave me when I was paroled…”

That probably wasn’t very nice of me, but she asked for it.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the significance of most dreams. Take the “naked-in-public” one. Near as I can tell, it demonstrates a deep-seated fear of being naked in public. What more is there to say? It’s sublime in its efficiency. “Don’t ever be naked in public. You'll hate it.” There you go, mystery solved.

Dreaming you can fly all by yourself? Well, that means you have a fear of taking your shoes off in airports. Duh.

And what would these experts have to say about my cheese’s cancer scare? Does it speak to abandonment issues? Am I only afraid of losing the mozzarella, or does the fear extend to all pizza toppings? Will I, for example, ever be able to have a healthy relationship with Italian sausage? Canadian bacon? Mediterranean olives? Good heavens, is this a racism thing?

All I can say for certain is, if Cinderella was right and “a dream is a wish your heart makes”, then my heart really needs to get a life. In the last week alone, it has evidently 'wished' for a house fire, a tornado, and a dirigible occupied by every gay man I ever dated to crash into the University of Utah football stadium. In flames, of course. That one was easy.

And what are we thinking, telling kids that the reward for hard work and righteous living is the realization of all their dreams? Who came up with that sadistic promise?

“Remember the one where you’re being chased by tigers and your legs won’t work and although daddy is standing right there holding a rifle he’s too busy chatting up the waitress from IHOP to even notice you're about to be devoured?

“Well guess what, punkin? Dreams really DO come true!”


Karen said...

I have to say that I share my dreams sometimes. But usually only to ones that are really funny. And usually only if they involve the people that I'm telling.

But it does kind of drive me crazy when people try to interpret them. Yeah, sometimes dreams do mean something, but most of the time they are just dreams.

I hope your cheese can recover!

myimaginaryblog said...

I think in Britney Spears' nightmares, she's wearing too much clothing.

Hel said...

A collective groan was heard from the breakfast table any time anyone from my family began the conversation with "You know what I dreamed last night?" As a member of the C family, I knew that those words marked the beginning of your own death. Usually someone reached across the table and slowly strangled the perpetrator (mostly that was me).

But other times it was a slow and painful death where we only used sharp words.

My worst type of dream telling.... my brother used to tell his "funny" dreams, but couldn't get the words out properly for all the fits of giggles. While we all sat there staring at him in a sleepy stupor.

Sarah said...

AMEN!!!I hate hearing other peoples dreams. I rarely talk about mine to anyone and even if I do it is just "hey you were in my dream last night". I have very little patience with listening to my children's dreams too. Thank you for echoing my feelings!

Bonnie said...

What I want you to do is explain the phenomenon of dreaming the doorbell or the phone rings 2 seconds BEFORE it really does...just happened to me this morning. True story.

InkMom said...

PLEASE tell me you never made out with someone named Curtis Olenslager. Really, DeNae, have some standards. Even in a dream.

Pregnancy usually makes my dreams go absolutely wild in every imaginable way. This one is no different. Every morning I wake up convinced that reality has somehow morphed into a really freaky alternate universe and it takes a minute or so for me to actually recognize my bedroom again.

Our office manager (who is also the primary president in our ward) has been having a recurring dream about babysitting a little girl that's not hers. She thinks it's mine, and can't wait until tomorrow when I finally find out what I'm having so she can get some sleep again.

MommyJ said...

Um, for the first four paragraphs of this post, I really, really wondered what the heck was wrong with Denae... then you told me it was all a dream.

And I felt much better.

Last night I dreamed about Twilight.

Yeah. I know.

I did read the books, and thought the story was good, but none of this team edward stuff for me. But seriously, after my dream last night... I had no idea vampires could be so intense.

Oh dear. Did I just share too much?

tammy said...

Oh yes, the forgotten locker combo...I dream that all the time.

I also dream about outrunning tornadoes when I'm stressed or overly scheduled. And they're usually in UT. Which I take as a sign that I'm never supposed to live in UT ever again. And I'm okay with that.

Brooke said...

Coincidentally, I just happen to be taking a Cheese-Making Class today. So, should your cheese cancer dream actually come to fruition, I just may be able to step in and save the day for you. Perhaps I could perform a brie-bypass surgery. Or a mozzarella transplant.

All for a nominal fee, of course. Quality medical, I mean, cheese care comes with a cost.

Melanie J said...

You're a freaking genius.

And I either must never, ever drink something while reading your blog, or be drinking something very, very strong when I do.

Kristina P. said...

I usually don't remember my dreams. And when I do, it usually involves naked men. Is it really so wrong to dream about Christian Bale all the time?

Jessica said...

Yard Sales...I have been selling everything lately. The dreams must mean that I am going to move soon... like within the month.

I am good at the dream interpretation stuff.

Let me see.. Cheese... cancer...
You have an upcoming (sometime within the year) Dr. appt. and you are going to be running out of cheese within the week.
Good Luck.

Shantel said...

Just listen to this: Its my daughter Ella:

DeNae said...

Bonnie, your guess is as good as mine, but if I find out it's Satan, I am SO kicking his butt before they haul him off at the millennium.

InkMom, I think we have the baby's dreams for them. Crazy stuff, huh? And I made up the name Curtis Olenslager. His real name was Myron.

Mommy J, that's what you get.

Tammy, my mom came out of the SL temple just after that tornado sailed through town a few years back, and had no idea why everyone was looking up. I'm thinking that's the place to run, next time you're dreaming.

Shantel, that video is so cute and so sad. Get that child into therapy, tout suite.

wendy said...

Yay DeNae, you are back in my blog!! that was a funny story ---I wanna tell you about a DREAM I HAD (j/k) I am heading home to see my family, so I'll check on you when I get back.

The Garden of Egan said...

Wow DaNae! Did you forget to take your Ritalin????????? Or did you NOT go to the shrink this week? You are going to be OK...Ok?

Hugs coming your direction...and I shall pray for you as well....


SCP said...

They say that dreams last only 3 minutes. Others say that they are desires of the heart. Freud says they are all about sex. So that being said why do all my dreams that involve the blonde 5'10" babe happen two minutes before my alarm goes off and the ones involving farm animals and plastic sheets last all night?

Lee said...

I think that really would be a nightmare.
Cheese, with cancer?

I've had some weird dreams recently. It's funny how terrifying they are until you wake up and realize they aren't real.
Especially something like cheese cancer.
Come visit my blog sometime. :)

AS Amber said...

"Don't ever be naked in public. You'll hate it." Are you freaking kidding me??? That's one of the funniest thing I've read on here!

The worst thing my kids can say to me: "there's this episode of Spongebob..." Just kill me, please.

This is one of my faves, sister. Seriously, top five. Oh my hell, too funny.

Jen said...

I have naked dreams ALL the time, they are the worst...I'm always teaching my classes NAKED, wondering where my cloths went, hoping I can find them before the parents come pick up their kids...HATE THOSE DREAMS!

Debbie said...

Oh good I'm not the only mom that sometimes zones out when I hear, "Last night I dreamed...."

I think for a while (read 1 week) I was really into interpreting my dreams.

Sher said...

Last night I dreamed that my computer was infected with an insanely ugly and aggressive virus that completely wiped out my entire system, and after being told by the fix it guys that it would be an easy fix to recover all of my files and fix my computer, I had to wait over a week to find out my computer was unfixable, and then I had to spend mondo bucks on a new computer, where they installed my "back up" files, only to discover that everything, including 5 years worth of memories of my children, and ALL MY MUSIC had been lost.
I woke up in a cold sweat, heart pounding, in complete panic mode.

What do you think it means?

Oh wait. That wasn't a dream. It was real live nightmare.

And it really sucks.

DeNae said...

SHERRIE!! Say it isn't true!! I'm backing up my Finale files RIGHT THIS SECOND!!

Anonymous said...

My analysis: Never, EVER eat microwave pizza!! -Ken

Qait said...

Now that you've mentioned it, I think my mom didn't enjoy our dream tales as much, either! She told me once that they're just so hard to follow--because unlike her dreams, mine are twisted all over the place with unexpecteds and the ultimate Random happenings. Her dreams are logical and flow in perfect sequence of events.
Still, dreams have always made my family laugh because of their ridiculousness. So we share them. (But we agree translating them is worthless).
I thought -I- had crazy dreams---yours beat most of them!
Sometimes I think it would be fun to take my dreams to an Interpreter just to see what pooh they come up with.
My word verification is "aintst." Ain't angst? In the South, my mother heard a woman say "Ai not I tol' you??" Who would have thought!

Lara said...

As much as I love my husband, he has this need to share every single thing he ever dreams with me. Boooo-ring!

I think most dreams are just weird, and shouldn't be interpreted. I have had a few that I felt strongly were messages from a higher power...but in each of those cases the interpretation was fairly obvious.

And, perhaps you'd better check your fridge: I think your Mozzarella may be moldy.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Don't take this the wrong way since I've never seen you before, but I thought you were for real talking about that cancer thing and that you were just affectionately calling your cellulite or breast sample or whatever "cheese." It seemed really creepy if you were serious. :)

I'm dead serious when I say I don't think I've ever had any kind of naked dreams (about myself or anyone else). I'm actually glad.

But as a child my recurring dream (besides the one with the purple transparent witch who lived in the basement and ate my family because I was the only one who could see her) was about going to school with my footie-pajamas on, wearing jeans over the top and nervously hoping that no one would notice. Funny, I grew up to be a mom who goes out in public in my pajamas alot, and I usually do hope no one will notice.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

p.s. I don't think that Britney Spears story was a dream. There are probably pictures of that in tabloids.

Melissa said...

1. I have a recurring nightmare that I have had since I was a little girl. I wonder what it means.

2. I worked for a doctor who felt compelled to interpret every dream anyone ever mentioned. He bugged

charrette said...

Melanie J recommended I stop by. And oh, my...

First of all, new to the blog, I thought maybe your cheese is what you call your know, like The Big Cheese. Yeah, I'm a bit slow, but eventually I catch on.

Second, I really did have a lemon tree in Pasadena that I was convinced had cancer. About 20% of the fruit was misshapen beyond recognition...these strange, bulbous, alien lemons...and that was real life!

Third, I'm guilty of listening earnestly to other people's dreams on occasion...and thinking I can interpret. But not to the extent of your wack-o friend Janine, thank heaven!

And last, you are hilarious. I'm glad I stopped by.

Brillig said...

Oh. Mygosh. So glad I surfed in today. (I saw you hanging out at some of my faves, so I figured you'd be cool. I did not, however, expect cheese with cancer. No, in fact, I RARELY expect cheese with cancer, if you can believe that.)

This has got to be the most deliciously random dream post I've ever read. Lovely to meet you...

Debi (Dubs2007) said...

My interpretation: You are too funny to take cancer seriously, so rather then dream you have it you dream cheese has it.... Seriously. I wish I could do that with things I stress about, find something funny to help relieve the stress. Ya know kinda like that wizard movie/book where they had to make the thing they most feared into something funny? harry potter I think....

I think to an extent you can interpret dreams, I notice that when I am "spiritual" and scared in a dream I pray. When not spiritual I just run... It seems to be a good gauge of where I am internally.

THen there are my silly pregnant dreams right now that make absolutely no sense and freak me out.....

Ali said...

Denae... I will never look at any type of cheese the same. This is now a common question in my language, "How would you react if you found out your cheese had cancer?" Most of them just shake their little not humerous heads and walk away. One of my friends said "Well I guess it depends on the type of cheese..." and really I guess it does! I guess you really care about your mozzarella.