Dear Cynthia: In a recurring dream, I am back in college. A final is coming up and I haven't studied or been to class. I don't even know what period the class is or where it meets. In my second recurring dream, I suddenly remember, to my horror, that I have a baby and haven't fed it in a day or so.
Dear Reader: The test theme, common in dreams, refers to the many ways we are tested in life. Whenever we are in a situation where we know our abilities and efforts will be judged, we feel some anxiety. We want to pass the test and get a good grade. When you had this dream, you probably felt insecure and/or unprepared for something in real life. (I have had this dream, too; most adults have. It can be very frustrating.)
The second dream, in which you've neglected your baby, indicates that you have neglected a new creative project.
Both dreams indicate that you are a caring and concerned person. If the test dream continues to recur, take all necessary steps to prepare for whatever you are involved in. If the neglected baby dream returns, look to any important project or endeavor in your life and be sure it is getting the attention it deserves.
Dear Cynthia: My wife died seven months ago. For a year before she died, she could not walk and used a wheelchair to get around. Since she died, I have had this dream at least twice a month:
I arrive home and find her standing in the hallway. "You've come back," I say. "Yes," she answers. She runs to me and hugs and kisses me, and asks: "Do you want to know what happened to me when I died?" And that's when I wake up.
It is great seeing her so happy and healthy, but I wonder what it all means.
Dear Reader: Your dream is a beautiful evocation of the concept that the soul survives the death of the physical body. Many people report having similar "visitations" after the loss of a loved one.
In "Talking to Heaven" (Dutton, 1997), James Van Praagh writes that these are real opportunities to reconnect with the departed. Seeing your wife happy and well adjusted can help you deal with your grief.
Try to stay in the dream long enough to hear her answer: What did she go through when she died? You can help yourself do this by giving yourself a suggestion before you go to sleep. Repeat to yourself: "Tonight I request a dream of my wife. I want to know what she experienced when her body died." By inviting such information, you can clear a path for receiving it.
Please write back and tell me what happens!
Dear Cynthia: I am driving. The sun is shining after days of rain. I am listening happily to music when a sharp curve appears and I hit my brakes. I hear the wheels screech--and slide over a cliff.
It is completely silent. I think to myself, "This is it. It's my time." I verbalize "I love you's" to my family and think how blue the water below me looks. I see it getting closer, but I tell myself the fall won't hurt.
When I woke up from this dream, I was out of breath, my teeth were numb and I was unable to move for a moment.
Two earlier dreams, trivial but vivid, have come true. This one is disturbing to me. Could it be a premonition?
AMY JOY FRY
Dear Reader: The spiritual nature of this dream assures me that it is not a premonition. My bet is that if you think back to the dreams that have come true, you will remember that they felt different from this one. They probably were shorter and more literal.
What this dream involves is the symbolic road of life. The dream urges that you not become complacent, that you remain alert to sudden changes and be ready to react.
Actually, the dream is quite beautiful: It tells you that when your "time" does come, "after days of rain" or many emotional experiences, you will be ready for it and there will be a cleansing.
Sharing love with family is the most urgent request of dying patients: You manage to accomplish this. And the ocean is associated with a return to God. It can be seen as the spawning ground of life. Each of us is a small portion of it--say, a pail full of water. When we die, we are returned to the source.
The color blue, which you remarked on, often is associated with spirituality. Your dream indicates that when you leave this life, all your affairs will be in order and you will feel content.
Behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond's column appears every other Tuesday. To contact her, write to "In Your Dreams," Life & Style, the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; send a fax to (213) 237-0732, or e-mail her at email@example.com. Please include the name of the city where you live and a daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 100 words and cannot be returned. "In Your Dreams" should be read for entertainment purposes only.