Unlocking the Key to a Meaningful Life

What do you dream about?

Minutes spent in adventurous boot camp class today: 60

New arm and rib muscles located and made sore: 43

Words written in novel so far: 44,521

When I was in second or third grade, I used to dream I was flying.

I would be hanging out on the playground near the big, domed climbing thing, then I would start running. The liftoff was the best part: there would be a moment when I wasn’t sure it was going to work. Then, empty of the awkwardness of a jet plane takeoff, my body would lift into the air. I would survey the playground and leave for parts unknown. Especially parts where there was no math class or warm boxed milk.

I don’t have those dreams anymore.

Instead, I was particularly fond of a butterscotch-colored horse in one dream recently and was shopping in another. I end up in school a lot when I’m asleep, the very place I was trying to escape, even as early as second grade.

I went through a period when I tried to access those thoughts, the world beyond my ken.

My freshman year in college, one of the girls in my suite took out a Ouija Board before we headed out on the town.

I was wandering back and forth between my room and theirs, brushing my hair and becoming glamorous. Well, presentable.

And I lost my dorm key.

It was there, and then it was gone. It was on a Tarheel key chain. When I discovered it was missing, I realized maybe this was not the best plan: every student at the school had a Tarheel key chain.

Eight girls scoured the rooms, the beds, the bathroom, the floor. We spent 20 minutes looking. Nothing. No key.

I knew I couldn’t go out without it.

So two of the girls asked the Ouija Board. “Where is Anne’s key?”

It spelled out P-O-C-K-E-T.

It most definitely was not in my pocket. I didn’t have pockets. I was peeved and working my way to annoyed.

My suitemate yelled, “Okay, everyone empty out your pockets!”

Inside one of the girl’s pockets was my key.

When I went home that summer, my good friend and I would spend hours in a large, musty, wooden-floored, wooden-shelved bookstore in Atlanta. We read everything we could about numerology and astrology and dream analysis and life after death. I guess we kept hoping we would learn something about the mind-body-spirit connection that would help us in life. Or at least help us get men.

Then we would have coffee and huge slabs of cake at a local coffee shop.

We never unlocked the key to a meaningful life. But I can tell you a lot about why I shouldn’t date a Cancer.

What is the meaning of life? The older I get, I think it’s either lots of love, lots of time or lots of sleep.

For years, my kids would wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me their weird dreams. Then they would lie beside me in bed, and just as I was drifting off, they would stage-whisper:


There were whole weeks when I was not a very nice person.

Just last night, my 11-year-old woke me up to tell me he thought there was a snake in his room.

After I get some more sleep, maybe it’s time for me to head back to an old, musty bookstore to research the mind-body-spirit connection again. If I can’t figure out life, at least I can analyze all of our dreams.

34 thoughts on “Unlocking the Key to a Meaningful Life

  1. Daryl says:

    I wish I was flying in my dreams, gravity always gets in the way. I’m usually headed toward the ground at terminal velocity and always out of control. It doesn’t take a dreampretist to figure out what’s going on inside my crazy head. And yes, I just made up a new word.

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Should I be embarrassed I don’t know what a “Tarheel” keychain is?

    If one of my sons woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me he thought there was a snake in his room, I’d slip into a fright-induced coma and never wake up. I guess at least I’d be well-rested.

  3. I believe the guitarist, Joe Walsh said after coming out of rehab for the final time said, “I had a revelation in there. Life is a game to be played and not a puzzle to be figured out.” Interesting thought.

    This is an interesting topic that could consume several lifetimes discussing. Sleep tight.

  4. I occasionally dream that I am flying, and when I’m doing it, it’s not completely effortless, it feels like there’s a trick to it and that I’ve only just figured out the trick. It’s always one of those dreams which feels so real that when I wake up I continue thinking I can fly for a couple of minutes – I don’t jump out of the window or anything thankfully, but I keep thinking that I just have to remember the trick for it from my dream and then I’ll be able to do it in real. I’m really quite convinced of it at the time. If I’m honest there’s a little part of me that’s still convinced that all I have to do is remember the trick!

    Also, I don’t want to diss your ouija board story, but if the girl who eventually found it in her pocket was one of the ones on the board, then may I suggest she knew it was in her pocket and made it spell out pocket to freak you all out?

    • annewoodman says:

      Ooooh! Cool! Sounds like your brain is trying to tell you that you have the knowledge you need, kind of like Dorothy’s “There’s no place like home.” I want to learn the trick!

      Yes, something I’ve thought, too, but part of me wants to suspend disbelief on that one. It was pretty creepy (and fun!).

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Oh, I was thinking similar thoughts to Vanessa with the key chain—the girl knew she had it and spelled it out.

    The flying dreams for me are usually a good sign I’m over-stressed. I think my subconscious is telling me I want to escape the pressure somehow. Fortunately I don’t have them too often.

    After a week of less-than-quality sleep, I’d really like to dream the night away tonight. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Sleep tight, JM! Wow–you have flying dreams when you’re stressed? I thought they were because you felt you’d succeeded at something. Shows how dream analysis is different for everyone.

  6. Subtlekate says:

    The skeptic in my thought the girl always had the key in the pocket but then the esoteric in me wanted that not to be the case. Either way, that is a very fun thing. I keep having dreams of my teeth falling out. No idea what that means.

    • annewoodman says:

      I remember reading about the teeth thing… in a general sense, it’s supposed to mean that you’re worried about your overall health. Whether that’s true for you or not, I don’t know.

      I know–I feel the same about the key and the pocket! Sometimes it’s fun to take the less scientific explanation. ; )

  7. David Gentry says:

    On dreams and the meaning of life, I don’t think one can do better than Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. I know you are thinking, “I bet it is really boring.” I found it quite readable, but that is as treacherous as recommending a movie or song.

  8. Amy Mak says:

    I am most definitely NOT a nice person when my dreams are interrupted repeatedly. For years. Dreams are better now because we are all in dreamland, not interrupting each other. I often dream about my husband and I before we were married and one of us does something horrible..okay, I’m oversharing, but I wonder about those – do dreams reveal our biggest fears and then make us more careful in the daylight? I also used to try and trick my brother by saying, “This is only a dream and when you go to sleep at night, that’s your REAL life.” Wicked. It still kind of freaks me out if I think about it for too long!

    • annewoodman says:

      When my sister was 3 years old, she hated having her hair brushed. It looked like a rat’s nest. So I told her that if she brushed her hair every night before bed, she could go visit the fairies like I did. Then she would wake up in the morning, and I would say, “Did you visit the fairies?” And she would say, “No!” I would smile and say, “I did. Maybe you need to brush your hair more.”

      Not very sweet, huh?

      • Holly says:

        Meanie!! 😛 You told me that the fairy you met was named Mary. I thought I wasn’t dreaming hard enough or something because I didn’t see them.

      • annewoodman says:

        Yes, it was totally your fault. ; ) I think I really wanted to believe it myself… I was getting to the age where everything magical was turning out to be proven wrong by the scientific and unreal in the cold light of day. You were still so young and naive! It was fun.

  9. Melissa says:

    It appears you have a very skeptic group of readers…she had it in her pocket the whole time…just saying.

    I’m afraid that I am such a sound sleeper (when I do sleep) that I don’t remember my dreams – except when I’m pregnant and have really bizarre dreams.

    Sometimes I think we spend to much time reasoning out the meaning of life that, if we aren’t careful, it will pass us right by.

  10. Holly says:

    I had a dream last night that Mom and I were in the larger part of my bathroom, using each of the sinks, and I started hallucinating. The sink started changing shape and color….freaky. It was scary. It wasn’t Mom’s fault, though–she was just an innocent bystander.

    WHY do the school dreams never end?? Awful.

  11. I don’t fly in my dreams. I do fall a lot, which is not nearly as pleasant.

  12. Ravena Guron says:

    My dreams are… not normal dreams. I tried telling my mum about one once, but it was so weird I trailed off halfway. Your little stories about your kids coming into your room made me smile. When I was younger I would wake up at around 6am on a Saturday, and go into my mum’s room and ask her if I was allowed to read. She always said yes. (It took me quite a while to realise I didn’t need permission to read in the early hours of the morning.) 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! Yes, I figure my kids will still be doing it when they’re getting ready to leave for college. At least now I get quite a few days of peace in between the illness/nightmare/storm visits to my room.

  13. 4amWriter says:

    I had a scary experience with the Ouji board that I can’t share on your site as I’m sure it’s G rated. Anyway, I definitely figured the girl knew she had the key and spelled it out. But I also believe in the spirit world, so who knows.

    I don’t usually have good or nice dreams. They are usually unfriendly dreams, and if I ever wake up from a dream and then try to go back to sleep, it ends up turning into a worse dream.

    That would have been ultra cool if there really had been a snake in his room. But inconvenient, too. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      If there had been a snake in his room, I would have called you. ; )

      ERrrrgh. My bad dreams are usually anxiety dreams, like where I can’t get out the door to get to a very important appointment… and then, sometimes, it happens in real life, which is even worse.

  14. Just had a dream the other night I was back in college with no idea how I was going to pay my tuition. Have that dream A LOT. Gald I’m not the only one dreaming about school!

    • annewoodman says:

      I’m not sure that some of us will ever get over the school anxiety dreams! Because I write about teachers and schools for work and still have kids in school, I think my mind is never far from those hallowed halls. ; ) Thanks for stopping by.

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