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Stress? What Story?

Blockers and other annoying things

By Meredith HarmonPublished 3 months ago 7 min read
The Dreaded Finger of Bang Bang, coming soon to a stalker thriller near you.

Are you an overthinker?

I certainly am. If I wake up in the middle of the night, facilitate, and curl up in the magical nest of my warm, soft, covers, I can kiss the second half of my sleep cycle goodbye.


Brain. Will. Not. Shut. Off!

It drives me nuts. I know, I know, short trip, as Mom always says. Have you seen some of the stories I come up with? She's not wrong. A good half of the stories you've been reading are dreams I've had, and the need to write them down is a powerful one. I'm just a frantic bard wannabe, frenetically scribbling while riding on a character's shoulder as they go off and have adventures.

It's a weird feeling.

I dream all the time. In full color, audio, even scent. Full immersion. All night, segueing from one story line to another to another. Sometimes I've dreamed in other languges I don't speak, and I honestly wonder if I'm having someone else's dream, or am living a part of someone else's life. I wake, and I can't remember the Japanese or Russian or... Luganda, I think, that I was speaking and understanding. And that's just in the last year or two.

Of course, there's always a dark side to the muse. The nightmares are just as vivid. I have a list, numbered one through sixteen, with sub-headings, of the recurrent ones. Of course Number One is the being in public naked, and Number Two is having to go back to high school and redo some dumb classes the secretary-bursar didn't properly record the first time. It gets fun when they try to cross breed, like when you're naked and rushing to get to class and miss the bus but I can drive myself but no my husband took the car and I'm living with my parents for the time being and glargh! Or Number Three-A, when the river floods so badly it turns into an inland sea, and all these huge creatures (whales, giant sea turtles, once an ichthyosaur masquerading as the Loch Ness Monster) are swimming upstream, then the deck that overlooks the river but is now floating on it and I'm standing on breaks loose and I'm floating downstream with all these monster creatures below me...

Never a dull moment.

The main annoyance is when I'm being stalked by some deranged murderer, and I've been collecting weapons, and I draw a gun... and it's my finger. Bang, bang. Seriously. I can't shoot a person in my dreams with anything other than my finger. Half the time I have to convince them they're dead, Monty Python-style. I'm suuuure my “persuasion skillz” will help me in real life if I were to ever meet a serial killer. “Eh, just lay down there, you'll be dead in a minute, my finger Uzi was sooo much faster than your whatchacallit and experience.” Mmm-hmm.

What's even more precious is that most people in my dreams used to have all the intelligence of freeze-dried kumquats. Makes the turnips look downright sagacious, let me tell you. They would make the dumbest decisions, and I either went along with the stupid, or was trying with all my willpower to yank the kumquats back to sanity and reason.

I'll still take the nightmares over not sleeping at all.

But once that first sleep cycle's over, my stoopid brain wants to fixate on a problem, any problem – then blow it out of proportion, make it an earth-shattering issue that must be fixed RIGHT NOW, and not let me sleep until it's resolved. Notice, that's not “until I come up with a game plan I can implement when the world wakes up and I can start making phone calls,” oh no, it must be fixed RIGHT FREAKING NOW, or the world ends!

No, not really, though it feels that way. I've been known to have adrenaline jolts because apparently I'm not taking the seriousness of the serious nature, seriously enough. Really? Really, brain?

It's a fight. I usually lose, because I'm fighting myself, I'm gonna win one way or another. Which means, I also lose no matter what.

Some days I wake up logy, discombulated, and rather ticked off at such a colossal waste of time and adrenaline and electronic synapses.

But the worst part?

It gets in the way of my creativity!

The best dreams, the most colorful dreams, the ones that makes the most awesome stories? They're the ones that come to me in the second sleep cycle. If I'm fixated on problems I can't fix in the (checks clock) oh COME ON BRAIN, you've been on my case about WHAT picayune problem I have? Why not give me a real problem- ah, I shoulda kept my brain shut, now THERE'S a serious problem I have that I STILL can't do anything about at freaking dark o'clock WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP AND LET ME SLEEP ALREADY??

Um, I haven't thought about that person in a decade or more, or thanks ever so much for reminding me of that cringe thing I said, just what I needed. Oh, even better, now you've replaced it with some derpy thing I did when I was a teenager! I was a freaking teenager, that's what those years are for! Can't you come up with something more recent? Oh, gee, thanks, you just did...


I used to have some specific fantasies that I could snuggle into, to help facilitate sleep. Just as some of my dreams had to cross-breed and come up with scarier and more bizarre scenarios to get me worked up, the old fantasies sometimes just don't work any more to get me back to sleep. I can only save Ed Sheeran's life so many times, run away with my Roman lover to explore the sea and dodge pirates and grumpy godlets, or avoid stalkers on a magical train while saving people from train robbers.

If the nightmares have to fight harder, so do the daydreams.

I can't wake from an intense dream that I can write down into an awesome story to publish, if I can't quiet my annoyingly insistent brain enough to get to sleep in the first place.

Stress directly blocks my creativity.


Sometimes I just lay there until the alarm sounds. Sometimes I decide I've had enough, and throw on some warm clothing and go downstairs and read quietly online till sunup. Sometimes I'll try to wrestle my problems back in a box... yeah, good luck with that. Others sneak out the sides while I'm trying to wrangle this tentacled monster in, like Pandora's Sieve.

And, if by some miracle I do happen to fall asleep, guaranteed my husband will wake me up mid-adventure, and now I don't know how the story ends. Then I'm grumpy and discombobulated all day.


Well, when I wrote the above, my next line was, “If I ever do find a solution, you can bet your bippy I'll be updating this story with them.”

And then I went to sleep.

And I got back to sleep! And dreamed! Nothing story-worthy, though the last image I had before waking up will certainly work its way into a story somehow – we were on an archeological dig, and had just uneartherd a golden double statue. (You heard it here first!)

What was different?

I did a few things:

1) Drank extra right before bed. Room temp herbal tea, in case anyone's wondering.

2) Had a bit of cereal. I'm diabetic, and part of the not-falling-asleep, I suspect, is that I'm having blood sugar lows in the middle of the night.

3) Finally got to sleep on my right side for the first sleep cycle. I sleep better all around if I stay there, but I usually roll over onto my left, and for some reason I always smoosh my temple into the pillow, and wake up with a sore jaw or headache.

4) After facilitating in the middle of the night – not at dawn, like has been happening recently – I made a concerted effort to freaking get back to sleep. Like, concentrated really hard on finding something new in the Roman pirate story, writing a new chapter. Any time thoughts of some stressor showed up, they were immediately turned into ocean monsters and got the “trident treatment.” Gig-gity! Sorry, really bad pun. Redirecting thoughts when you're trying to fall asleep is HARD.

5) Instead of flopping back and forth, trying to find a comfortable nesting position, I tried some new positions. Comfy, but different. And gentle leg stretches.

6) I'm getting a new very small pillow to use sometimes when my head angle is wrong for whatever reason.

Bedtime is fast approaching, and I wonder which pseudopod I'll attempt to wrestle by morning. I'm eating my cereal as I type one-handed.

Sweet dreams, people.

But if you can't, may they be interesting enough to turn into a story.


About the Creator

Meredith Harmon

Mix equal parts anthropologist, biologist, geologist, and artisan, stir and heat in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, sprinkle with a heaping pile of odd life experiences. Half-baked.

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Comments (4)

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  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Outstanding!!! Loved your advice!!!💕❤️❤️

  • L.C. Schäfer3 months ago

    "Short trip" had me laughing an unreasonable amount, sorry 😁

  • Andrei Z.3 months ago

    I can't recall my dreams ever being a source of inspiration for any stories, and then, I almost always forget what they were about by the time I wake up on my two legs. But the overthinking thing hits hard; lately, I've been uncovering new levels in this wikkid game. Welcome to the club, eh?

  • Aggravatingly delightful.

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