Today’s guest post is from Happy Hubby.
When Angela C / Hawkgrrrl did her post a few weeks ago on “Time Travel: Christian Identity Loss” where she talked about her trip back to where she served her mission and the emotions it brought up. I noticed that almost a third of the comments included mentioned about having nightmares about being asked to go again on a mission.
This reminded me of when I read the book “Way below The Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled But Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary” by Craig Harline. His book is really enjoyable and quite funny. Even in his day job he seems to keep it quite funny (see about 10-15 minutes of this example.)
He talks about how the missionaries in his mission wore “stainless Steel” suits and he often refers to missionaries as “businessmen.” He also gets quite philosophical when discussing the great moral issue of “are you allowed to kiss your girlfriend at the SLC airport when on your way from the MTC to your mission.
The book brought back many mission memories. As far as my mission I didn’t have any big popping of my overly-optimistic bubble. I had enough doubts about myself and why others would want to join my hard religion that I didn’t have any expectation of having a specific number like 87 that Craig had. So no disillusion since my expectations were so low. I generally enjoyed my mission and only really had one companion that I really had a hard time with. But the baptisms were few and far between and I remember it mainly being knocking on doors for weeks on end. I guess this was one area that my bubble eventually was popped – that of assuming the sacrifice of knocking all day long was going to equal blessed baptisms at some point. I certainly had a few companions that seemed to cling on to the “every rejection means my wife will be that much better looking.” I had never heard of this before and those that hung on to this belief to me seemed to be those that probably “needed a bit more help.” I didn’t think about it until now, but I certainly married up in the looks department. I am not sure if thinking that now is confirmation bias or not thinking about it now is ignoring how many doorstep rejections I encountered. Water under the bridge for me now. I do see now that I equated everything to either “bad = must be the devil out to get us missionaries” or “good = blessings – sometimes predicated on keeping the rules” (I was an obedient Elder).
What made me remember the book is that he mentions in the prologue in his book about having a dream about being asked to go on a mission again.
Instead it’s the dread that doesn’t show up until a few years after you’re back from your mission, but then has the nerve to hang on for about 30 years more.
It’s the tread so skin-touchingly read that even while you’re in the middle of it you actually tell yourself this is not a dream but the real genuine-article things, so don’t think you’re going to get out of it by waking up or something.
It’s the dream so Madame-Tussaud’s lifelike that when you wake up anyway in the usual hear-tracing panic you have to pinch yourself to make sure it didn’t really happen.
It’s the dream so epidemic among former Mormon missionaries that it make you a big believer in Jung’s collective unconscious.
It’s the dream that says you have to go on another mission.
So how many of you have had at least disturbing thoughts, if not nightmares, about being asked to go on your mission again? Going with your spouse later in life doesn’t count.
My brother and I were just talking about this! It is by far my realest and most recurring nightmare. It’s his only recurring nightmare. We’re both in our early thirties, and he’s married with kids. For me, the real terror of the dream is that I’m in the MTC because I’ve resigned myself to accepting this second mission call, and I’m surrounded by all these happy, peppy, full of missionary enthusiasm 20 year olds. I ethically can’t crush their spirit and enthusiasm by telling them my veteran war stories of what it’s really like (and dear heavens how much harder it’s going to be in this body that’s a decade more tired and run down), but I also feel unethical playing along with their doe eyed naivete. And I’m trapped in this place where everyone is gleefully looking forward to what’s about to happen to them, and I’m the only one who knows it’s a trap, but I’ll literally be damned if I drop a truth bomb on them.
I feel like my MTC nightmare is oddly specific. I’d love to hear what part of the mission is at the center of each of y’all’s anxiety dreams!
I haven’t had one of these for probably over a decade, so . . . it gets better. But when I used to have the dream, it was usually that I was out on my (second) mission, doing the work, when suddenly I remembered that back home I had a husband and kids. There’s a dawning feeling of panic, like “Crap, I forgot I have a family and obligations and a life at home!” and even a little panic at the idea that I shouldn’t be there because I’m not celibate / single / a Mormon nun.
I get these “2nd mission dreams” when I am stressed. I use to get them often when I was Bishop, but in the 10 years since I was released, they are very infrequent !
I also get the back-to-the-mission dreams when I’m under too much stress. And then the nightmare turns into a ‘and you will have to keep serving one mission after another without ever going home’ thing.
Yes, I sometimes get the second mission dream. Something about the crummy job I did the first time.
Yes!!! All the time until about ten years ago. I think missions can be minitraumas for some of us.
It has been almost 20 years, and I still have this dream at least a couple of times a year. In mine, it’s suddenly 10 am on a really hot morning, I’m proceeding methodically through a doorbell board on a nondescript apartment building, hoping to get through the first sentence before the faceless voice on the other side hangs up, and realizing that this is what I’ll be doing for the next 10 hours or so, and fighting back the realization that I’ll be doing the same thing, without any result at all, for the better part of the next year or so. And then I just want to sit on a park bench and be do something interesting or even just relax for a moment, but then I remember that that’s against mission rules. So I keep hitting buttons until I finally wake up and realize (happily) that I get to go to work.
Thanks for the comments. I think the one thing that made the dreams stop is when I had already determined that I would turn down such a “calling” at this time and I felt comfortable doing so.
I’ve been home from my mission for nearly 17 years, and I still have this dream once or twice a year. It’s usually like Angela C describes–I’m out on a second mission and suddenly I realize I’m in my late 30s, I have been on a mission already, I am married and have kids, and oh, also, (wait for it)… I’m not even Mormon anymore, but have been a staunch evangelical Presbyterian for years. So then I evilly decide to go along with it, but to sabotage the missionary effort with teaching the Biblical gospel and undermining Mormonism. But then I usually wake up before it gets really good.
(I also have moderately frequent dreams about being back in the Army.)
I have this kind of dream on occasion, both one being in the MTC and being in the field. Like dreams of several other time periods in my life (high school, time with friends, college) it seems to reflect more the wish that I could do it again, but with the maturity I didn’t have at the time. Despite the continuing physical issues that made my mission difficult (and short), I think I could do it better.
Like many here my mission dreams usually begin with me realizing that I have a husband and kids back home, but then they devolve into me telling everyone that I need to get home to my family and no one will let me leave. They all talk like it’s fine if I go home whenever I want, but I can’t seem to actually make it happen no matter how hard I try.
EBK: Mission as Hotel California!
Happy Hubby –
Now that you mention it, I have noticed a decreased frequency in the dream since I decided to be active in church on my own terms. I wonder if external locus of control plays a part in these dreams? Angela, since you mentioned that your dreams eventually stopped, did you notice any changes in your conscious relationship with the church that influenced that?
Elizabeth: I hadn’t really thought of it before, but it was probably around when I started blogging, but it could just be age and phases of life. I also was traveling a lot for business starting around then. Maybe I just had other things going on.
Someone pointed this thread out to me, and I have found it most interesting. I have to say that all the variations here I heard during my long years of asking people about the dream. I found that about half the people I talked to had had it, and the common denominator wasn’t where they went on a mission (because high-baptizing people had it too) but more their personality. Those who fit well into mission culture, without hardly trying, didn’t have it, and neither did really easy-going types. It was always the sincere, sensitive, introverted types who didn’t fit easily at all, and yes who had high expectations of themselves. Hardly a scientific study, or sample, but it’s held up pretty well! And I’ve heard only one person tell the story who said “no” during the dream! which made me laugh. Like A Happy Hubby said above, and also Elizabeth St Dunstan in a slightly different way. Yes, it’s trying to fit into expectations that are real or perceived, rather than just being who you are.
I’ve had many of the second mission dreams. Some have just been receiving the second call and then slowly figuring out that I am at another point in life. Some have been associated with a call to serve in a different foreign language mission, the learning of which I really dreaded. Some have involved going back to the same country an serving again–with not very much success. In most of the dreams I have reverted in time to the pre-married student state rather than having to leave my family–though I will often start to remember in the midst of the dream that I do have a wife and family that I will have to leave for a mission. I haven’t had one of these for awhile either, so, knock on wood, I am hoping my time for these has passed.