the official name is, apparently, WHAC-a-mole.

I’m not the heaviest of sleepers. Surely this is due in part to Danny. He’s what I call an active sleeper, a phrase that does not begin to describe the way he sometimes violently flings his limbs across the bed. In his sleep he wrestles hyenas, or fends off hordes of zombies hungry for braaaaaains, or maybe competes in the World Championship Whack-a-Mole competition. (I would totally kick ass at that competition. I love Whack-a-Mole.) Unfortunately, Danny does not remember his dreams, so in the morning we’re left to wonder what all the fuss was about.

But these days I’m a light sleeper because I’m imagining my job application materials being filed away by English department office administrators across the country — applications that, perhaps, contain typos that I cannot fix. I’m imagining a search committee chair happening upon that stray letter or rogue comma in line three of a cover letter and, in a rage, tossing the whole packet in a wastebasket. Or, more likely, a recycling bin.

Us academics. We’re eco-friendly.

Of course, typos are the least of my worries. Job market season can breed feelings of inadequacy that have nothing to do with typing skills and everything to do with What I’ve Done With My Life for the Past Seven Years. So sleeping, some nights, can be difficult to come by. I snooze or doze or nap instead.

But, as stated in an earlier post, I’m looking for ways to stay positive this fall, even as search committees exert their weighty yea or nay votes into the wee hours of the night. I can find a way to tackle this. I am a running carrot, after all. (Speeeeeeeeedycarrot!)

Danny has suggested imagining myself in a soothing landscape. Design an imaginary place that banishes job market worries and eases me to sleep. It’s like Inception, but without the movie popcorn and, unfortunately, without Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This place cannot be noisy or rowdy, so my initial idea of a dark room, a single Whack-a-Mole board, an over-sized mallet… that was a no-go.

Danny will not reveal his secret location, which I respect. I suspect describing it is the subconscious equivalent of writing up a dive bar in a tourist magazine. Soon uninvited troubled sleepers are rambling up in their minivans and campers, ruining the vibe with their tourist sunburns and requests for souvenir tee-shirts. But I have friends who use a similar sort of meditation, and I’ve found that many of these friends imagine strikingly similar scenes. A winter landscape, almost polar: something with slanting snow and disappearing footprints and that whistle of wind bending around nothing but itself. Snow covers everything, after all. Houses and cars and mailboxes holding potential rejection letters. I like this idea, but imagining snow when it’s still 85 degrees in late October is a challenge.

The snow scene also reminds me of my visit to the Titanic museum exhibit when I lived in Raleigh. One room contained a block of ice supposedly maintained at the temperature of the water those on board floated in while waiting for rescue. I remember pressing my palm against the ice — so cold it ached — while opening the fake passport I’d been allotted at the beginning of the exhibit only to discover that my avatar, an Irish immigrant in steerage, wouldn’t leave the water alive.

Not exactly a happy place.

I’m thinking, instead, a lake — a salt lake, so it’s easy to float. It’s about to rain, and clouds are low and fast, purple-gray and that strange yellow. High hills on each side, in deep green. A shore of polished pebbles. Now and then a raindrop hits the water and echoes outward in dimming circles.

Do you have a place you go to during moments of stress or insomnia, carrots readers? If you describe it, I promise I won’t show up in an RV with a cooler and ugly lawn chairs.

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8 thoughts on “the official name is, apparently, WHAC-a-mole.

    • Laurie, I need to move to Ohio. And when I move there, you and I will pool our money and buy a Whac-a-mole machine. We will have crazy Whac-a-mole parties. We will leave said parties invigorated and ready for whatever life throws at us.

  1. I enjoy lucid dreaming. While I’m asleep I can control what happens if I don’t like the way the story is going. This is very useful for those “you failed 12th grade English and have to go back to Ms. Henry’s class or your college degree doesn’t count anymore” dreams. I often start thinking about a beautiful place I’d like to visit, and the trip continues after I fall asleep. The most relaxing place for me to go is to fly up into the clouds. I take a deep breath and flap my arms until I’m up above the trees, then I “swim” through the air using the breaststroke. The world looks beautiful from up in the fluffy clouds, and I always wake up feeling refreshed and alive. Nick thinks this sounds crazy because he never remembers any of his dreams, but interestingly my Mom and I both “swim” through the air in the same style.

    • Oh, how I wish I could master lucid dreaming. Instead I have many, many school shooting dreams, no matter how I try to control my pre-sleep thoughts.

      On a side note, Danny never remembers his dreams, either!

  2. Like Allison, I have the gift of lucid dreaming… sometimes… a skill my mother taught me.

    My relaxation vision is a ripe wheat field with the wind bending the heads and making the ripe wheat sing. (It’s one of my favorite memories.) The warm afternoon moves to sunset with a long, twilight. As the sky turns indigo, the stars come out one by one until there is a starry, starry night of a West Texas sky. Sometimes I remember Daddy carrying me in his arms and to bed.

  3. My relaxation routine is generally reclining on the sofa with jazz and a book of some sort – usually a history tome tangentially related to either food or science.

    Also, what sort of Google search yielded the Carrots in evening dress image in your banner? That is awesomely random.

    • You know, I can’t seem to recreate the Google search that gave me that image. It’s a vintage Wesson cooking oil ad. But it must be public domain, because I chose it in an effort to make my blog more, well, law-abiding.

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