I don't know when I've had a good dream. Lately, it seems, my dreams feature the usual Freudian messes: insecurity (I'm in a classroom; things are out of hand), incompetence (I'm in the outfield; I pick up the ball; I can't throw it), lack of preparation (I'm in a play; I don't know my lines). Or I'm involved in something vaguely--or patently--felonious. Even homicidal. (I know, I know--but we're being honest here.)
I had no dreams like that when I was younger--even the baseball dreams came later, after my "career" was over. I remember, when I was younger, that I sometimes (often?) felt regret when I woke up. Damn, it wasn't real!
But now? It's relief I feel--sometimes unspeakable relief--when I wake up and discover that I've not just thrown a kid off the roof of the school (I exaggerate), or killed a guy because he was trying to kill me, or committed some other outrage that I will not confess to, even in a snarky blog post.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the term nightmare back to about 1300:
a. A female spirit or monster supposed to settle on and produce a feeling of suffocation in a sleeping person or animal.
Female, eh? Oh, those guys who make up words and dictionaries--same sort of guys who blamed it all on a woman with an apple? Anyway, I can't say that I've ever felt suffocated in a nightmare. Just, you know, terrified? Heart-pounding, BP-soaring, sweat-soaking terrified.
Link) It was sort of a daffy song (the words gee whiz are in the lyrics!), a young man's lament about lying around all day thinking about his girlfriend. (I can make you mine, taste your lips of wine, any time, night or day.) In 1958, I thought that the wine part was a little naughty, you now? Alcohol, I'd been taught, was the Sweat of Satan. Though--I guess it wouldn't have been too bad to have a girlfriend, in 1958, who was, you know, a little naughty ... Still, it's a young man's song about a young man's dreams. Old men don't have gee whiz in their dream songs; they have what-the-*#*##*#*?
Everyone knows that dreams have figured prominently in religious history--we remember all the Joseph in Egypt stuff. Hamlet confessed to his "friends" Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he has bad dreams. Seems to me the whole play is one helluva nightmare: Dad murdered, Mom marries murderer, Hamlet kills girlfriend's father by accident, girlfriend commits suicide, school friends betray Hamlet, who arranges for them to die, Mom drinks deadly poison intended for Hamlet, Hamlet kills Stepdad, bodies all over the stage, invaders arrive at the end to take over the kingdom.)
As I think about it, Hamlet and I would have a lot to talk about, to share--though, obviously, his nightmares had a better script. He might like to hear about mine, though, just for fun. Of course, it would take me awhile to explain baseball to him ...