My Recurring Nightmare, Literally.

posted in: Day In The Life 13
A terrifying image which is hopefully composed for effect. Courtesy Wikipedia, as usual.
A terrifying image hopefully composed for effect. Courtesy Wikipedia, as usual.


Let’s begin with a note on the title of this post.

As a general rule, I refuse to wag my finger at changes in the English language, even when they vex me alot.* Language is a living, shape-shifting thing — a cruel mistress, even. All the proof you need lies in that copy of Hamlet on your coffee table. But even as I am understanding, wise, and patient about language (and everything else), I swear, the bastardization of the word “literally” still kills me. Kills me dead, though of not literally, because to say “the bastardization of the word ‘literally’ literally kills me dead” would mean that what I see as the word’s misuse would cause me to cease to live. To me, still, “literally” means “exactly”, as in “What I’m saying is literally X is exactly what I mean, without nuance or metaphor.”

Fewer and fewer people mean “literally” the way it was used in the good ol’ days. I am losing this battle. I am not, incidentally, “loosing” this battle, which is a new threat to the current “verbiage”, which is, incidentally, the threat after that. I can’t talk about it.

Where was I? Oh, right: My recurring nightmare. When I say I literally have a recurring nightmare, I mean that I actually have had roughly the same nightmare multiple times and that I expect it shall continue to visit me in future sleep cycles.

My recurring nightmare is one in which I crack open my laptop to find I have been attacked by a computer virus, courtesy a ring of Russian hackers, who systematically take over my computer and drain my data as I watch. (My nightmare predates all the Russian stuff in the news, for the record, though all of our records are being eaten by robots as we speak, so does it matter?)

I had the nightmare again a few nights ago. What can it mean? Am I anxious? Scared about an upcoming meeting? Feeling pressure at work? Troubled by tuition costs? Crushed, perhaps, by the weight of my own existence and/or worn down by the agonizing tedium wrought by the everyday? Me? All those things, definitely? Nah.

Whatever it is, I wake up in a cold sweat. You got a nightmare that comes back and back? Maybe if we talk about it, it’ll go away.


13 Responses

  1. Lauren
    | Reply

    I suspect that you, like most of us, consider your value to be measured by the body of your work. If someone drains your data they are strippong away the proof of your work, thus the bastion of your value.
    Or it’s a subconscious reminder to renew your antivirus software. That’s an easier interpretation.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      STRIPPONG?! Bwahahaha! Stupid mini touchscreen.
      (you know what kills me? Compounds that shouldn’t be, like workout vs work out. The sins you mention I assume are those of idiots who don’t read, so I can ignore them amd their content entirely. It’s the more subtle stuff that catches me unawares and makes me doubt the future of literacy as an institution.)

  2. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I used to dream that all my teeth fell out–back when I was in college & shortly after. Now that I’m at an age where that might happen, I no longer have the dream…
    I still sometimes dream that I’m back in college & it’s the end of the semester, & I suddenly realize that I have totally forgotten about one of my classes–I haven’t attended class, I haven’t done any of the reading, & yet, I need to take the final in order to graduate! It doesn’t upset me as much now as it used to!

  3. Kerry Leach
    | Reply

    My recurring dreams ages ago were of tornadoes. Now we rarely get them here doing major damage, damage yes, but not like in the US. So why tornadoes? We did like watching Storm Chasers, but the dreams started long before the programmes were aired here. Sometimes big ones, sometimes multiple ones. Sometimes we are in a car trying to avoid, other times I’m in high building looking out over a city with multiple tornadoes. Another dream consists of a variety of tidal waves. Some I’m floating in and trying to reach the shoreline and other times climbing stairs. Sometimes I’m on my own and other times my children are with me, but they are little in my dreams. So maybe they foretell something or just maybe it’s subconscious mind tricks about being concerned about what is happening and how you suppress it during the day. For me perhaps the need to escape?

    My mum’s recurring dream was that all her teeth would fall out one by one while she was holding a plate in front of her to catch them!

  4. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I’ve had a couple recurring nightmares since I was little. In one, my brother, mom & I are whooshing through a haunted house on broomsticks, fleeing witches as pieces of the house move. Avoiding running into walls is dependent upon pulling the right statue just so, so the bookcase will spin. As a kid, this was terrifying. Now, there’s some nostalgia & enjoyment of a flying dream (wheeee!) whenever it comes back.
    In the other, I’m outside the public pool where I had childhood swim lessons. I’m on a platform miraculously balanced on the edge of a 40′ tall chain link fence. At the bottom, there’s a snarling, leaping, slavering tiger. My mom & brother are on the ground, calling for me to come to the car so we can go home. I’m clinging to my swim bag & my security blanket, hoping the tiger won’t hear them and change prey or climb the fence .
    No idea why my dad’s not in my recurring dreams. I also don’t have any from adulthood. Plausible ones are so much more terrifying!
    Get some rest, Mary! Dream of fluffy puppies frolicking on a quilt.

    Btw, I’m literally afraid that about 1/4 of the people of my state think it’s “mute point” not “moot point.”

  5. Lori
    | Reply

    For six months as a child, I was Wendy in Peter Pan. Lots of flying adventures always ended with a frantic escape to my childhood home, only to hide behind the console TV (!) with the tic-toc of the crocodile coming closer and closer. Every single night! Finally one day I just didn’t go back to Neverland…it was a relief.

  6. Kathy Patterson
    | Reply

    I have a recurring, very unsettling dream that it’s the end of a school year and I am suddenly aware that I’ve neglected to attend any of the classes or do any of the work. It’s accompanied by an intense feeling of being found out and being a fraud. I interpret it as a late mid-life fear of not having gotten life “right”, of not learning what I was meant to learn or doing what I was meant to do.

  7. Elizabeth Brown
    | Reply

    Check out the Sesquiotic blog online. I love it, and I’m sure he has written something on the “literally” battle.

    As for the nightmare, an offsite backup might not hurt! I always think dreams have some footing in reality. You don’t know me, but have a good, no Great, week Mary.

  8. Debbie Holley
    | Reply

    First, I agree about “literally”. Second my recurring nightmares are all work related and since I retired two years ago, I’m am so frustrated that I can’t think of something better to dream! I wish you well.

  9. Lindsey
    | Reply

    Somewhere around fifty-five years ago I had a nightmare that included a scary man sitting in a chair in my house who said, as I appeared in the doorway, “I’ve been waiting for you.” For decades I remembered it now and then. In the last few years it has returned from some dark cranny in my mind and whenever I open the bathroom door after a shower I hope he isn’t sitting in my room. It’s a brief thought, but it haunts me in that moment.
    I’m pretty good at run on sentences, eh?

  10. Patty Mack
    | Reply

    At least you did not say you literally are having a REoccuring nightmare.
    As for the nightmare, maybe you should just backup your data. Genius, hah? Go buy and external hard drive and do a Copy of everything in your Documents folder. That’s it. You’ll feel better. Amazon has a My Passport Ultra, 1 terabyte for $99. Priceless. 🙂

  11. Neame
    | Reply

    “There”, “they’re”, “their”, “your”, “you’re” – that’s my bugboo. Nowadays, hardly ever used correctly.
    I think dreams are the way my mind takes out the trash, and like the trash, not worth much. But maybe those are just my dreams.

  12. Sarah
    | Reply

    This is not an unreasonable worry. Do you have all your most cherished data backed up on thumb drives?

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