What Those Naked Nightmares Teach You About Anxiety and Fear
Got your attention didn’t I? Remember those nightmares from high school and college, the ones that came up right before the big class presentation or the “it’s-worth-80%-of-your-grade” test? You know the ones. All of a sudden you are at the front of the class, and three sentences into the presentation you go completely blank. Then you realize that everyone is staring at you. And the reason everyone is staring is because you forgot to put clothes on this morning! Suddenly you wake up sweating, shaking, breathing hard, and scared to death. Then you realize it’s nowhere near the presentation or test date, and you are so relieved that it was only a dream. But that dream was so, so very real.
When was the last time that happened to you? For me, the last time was a couple of weeks ago. And it shook me to my core. Most of my nightly dabbles into the dream world are quickly forgotten upon opening my eyes to a new day. But this seemly real movie-in-my-head stayed vivid after the credits rolled by. Imagine you are there with me, watching this production from somewhere off stage. I am center stage, facing two beautiful people in front of me. There is a very large audience of family and friends behind this couple. I am conducting a public ceremony. The ceremony is one of the most important experiences this couple will do together in their lifetimes. It is also one of the most important things I will ever do in my lifetime. Everything is perfect. It’s time to start. I take in a deep breath, open my mouth to speak, and suddenly my mind erases all memory of what I was to say. I look at my notes and they are blank. All that was practiced before hand has disappeared. I may be naked, too. I don’t know. Luckily for everyone watching this production, that part is a bit fuzzy. AHHHHH! (That’s a scream.)
So why would this throwback dreamscape return to me and invade my nightly slumber? That question wasn’t hard for me to answer. You see, a few days after experiencing this jolting dream, I would conduct the marriage ceremony for my niece and her fiancé. I have done many important things in my lifetime. I have successfully finished both high school and college. I have married. I have been witness to the birth of my children. In my profession, I have helped deliver other people’s children and been present at death. I have saved lives. I have spoken to national audiences. I have taken oaths to serve my country and community. But I had NEVER, ever married anyone.
So, how did this dream preamble occur? About eight months ago, my niece asked me to marry her and her fiancé. This request came out of the blue. I was stunned, and I was honored. What I was not: a minister, Justice of the Peace, or the captain of an ocean-going ship authorized to marry anyone!
What was I to do? No way in hell was I going to disappoint such a lovely couple. It was time for a big shout-out and thank you to Al Gore for “inventing the Internet.” You can find anything on the Internet. You can even find instructions to become a legally-ordained minister with the right to solemnize a marriage! After a bit more research I was able to find a church that would ordain even the spiritual-loving agnostic that I call “me.” After confirming the church was recognized by my state, it was time to leap to the cause. My niece was ecstatic. And so was I – now that I knew I could do this.
But could I? Could I really pull this off? Could I look into the loving eyes of my beautiful niece on her special day and actually pull it off? The question was moot. It didn’t matter. It had to be done. It was going to happen. It was time for a cleansing breath. Thank you, Yoga.
After that cleansing breath, and maybe a few more, and maybe a sip or two of some liquid courage, the temporary anxiety left my head and “got down to it”. I wrote and rewrote the sermon (probably 50 times) and I started practicing its delivery anywhere I could speak out loud and where no one could hear me. I found myself talking to the tools on the garage wall, the pots in the kitchen, and even to wild horses while backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. And all went fine until the night the “naked nightmare” returned from high school and college. And it shook me to my core. I woke up sweating, panting, and panicking. For the next two or three nights, the nightmare scenario would repeat itself. However, each night it did not seem near as frightening as the night previous. By the last night, even standing naked in front of this anxiety-inspiring crowd seemed rather OK. Why? Confidence and acceptance. The love of my niece and her confidence in me led to my own acceptance of the possible. Those nightmares were nothing but brief challenges of the mind.
I am happy to report that on May 29th, 2016 I watched my niece and her fiancé look into the eyes of the love of their lives as I pronounced them wife and husband.
Oh, just so you are informed – no one was naked in the real life movie!
What’s the latest fear you’ve overcome? Namaste, friends!