Throughout my life my dreams have helped me solve problems.
In high school, I remember several instances when I struggled with a math problem for hours. I would sit on my bed, handy-dandy pencil in hand, writing and rewriting, figuring and re-figuring, struggling to understand what mistake I was making that kept the solution out of my reach. Frustrated and tired, I would finally give up and go to bed, disgusted with my failure.
I guess my brain did not like failing, because it would continue to struggle with the problem while my tired body got much needed rest. Invariably, I would awake in the morning able to easily complete the math problem.
The same would happen with sports. I was a gymnast, and I remember often falling to sleep with the routines playing and replaying in my head. The next day, after a full night of dream-practice, moves that had been difficult would become miraculously easy.
But the other night, the oddest thing happened. I awoke in the middle of the night, sat up in bed, and started mumbling to myself. I knew, I just knew, that it was vitally important that I spell the word symmetrical. Only, in my groggy state, I did not know how.
“Cen…no that’s not right, that’s how central is spelled,” I said shaking my head, “it must be sen. Yes, that’s it–s-e-n-i-t-r-i-c-a-l.”
I lay back down, but the word floating in my head looked funny. “I must still have it wrong. I need to get it right, but I think the beginning is all wrong, it starts with a C. Cim. Yeah. Cimitrical. Good, now I can go back to sleep.”
Closing my eyes, the letters c-i-m-i-t-r-i-c-a-l floated across my mind’s landscape, disrupting any possibility of a relaxing dream. It floated across fields and through cities, and even followed me up in a hot air balloon. It would not go away. It tortured me with its wrongness.
“Okay, okay, so I’ve got it wrong. How about Sim, that’s about all that is left. S-i-m-i-t-r-i-c-a-l. Now I don’t want to think about it anymore, I just want to sleep. Go away word!”
After telling the word to go away, I drifted back off to sleep.
Only, I guess the word did not really go away, because my first thought when I awoke in the morning were the letters S-y-m-m-e-t-r-i-c-a-l. Symmetrical.
I still don’t know why that particular word, or why it was so important to spell at 3 in the morning.