JIM:

Everybody dreams. At least I've never met anybody who denied dreaming. But I have met a few people - all around my age - who report being unable to recall what they dreamed. I believe them, because I've had the same experience. For at least a few years I'd wake in the morning, well aware that I'd been dreaming but darned if I could conjure up those dreams. They seemed to be floating right on the edge of consciousness, receding relentlessly from my memory.

Had I known what the next phase would be like, I would have counted myself lucky. Not long ago, I started once again remembering my dreams, much as I did when I was a kid. Let me report right now that I look back fondly on those middle years when my dreams faded with the morning light.

Why, I wondered, have I begun recalling them again?

With little reflection, one reason was obvious. It involves a recurrent dream of being unable to find a restroom. That dream, although it varies as to locale and circumstances, invariably ends with a leap from the bed and a dash to you-know-where. Ah, the joys of an aging body!

The meaning and messages of other dreams are more elusive. The other night I dreamed I was flying naked. (You see what I mean about wishing I could forget?) Baffled, I Googled "The Meaning of Dreams." No surprise that I got multiple hits. In case you think I'm making this up, I invite you to visit my first Google hit: http://www.dreammoods.com/dreamdictionary/

If you go there, you'll discover, as I did, that no "flying naked" category exists. But, hey, I'm a part-time prof. I can research… I can synthesize. So I started with "Naked Dreams." Such a dream, I learned, may express a repressed fear of being ridiculed or disgraced. Really? Nah… that ain't me, babe.

But, aha, the other possibility is: "Nudity also symbolizes being caught off guard. Finding yourself naked at work or in a classroom, suggests that you are unprepared for a project at work or school. You may be unprepared in making a well informed decision." That hits closer to home. I'm referring to my retirement funds. Yup, after being stripped darned near naked by the "Great Recession," I'm unprepared to make any kind of an informed decision about retirement.

So what about the flying part? "If you are flying with ease and are enjoying the scene and landscape below, then it suggests that you are on top of a situation." But… "Having difficulties staying in flight indicates a lack of power in controlling your own circumstances. You may be struggling to stay aloft or stay on set course. Things like power lines, trees, or mountains may be obstacles that you encounter in flight." NOW I get it.

I'll bet you youngsters out there never suffer such terror and humiliation in your dreams. Am I right?

CLAIRE:

There's this claim being bandied about that people my age are part of "the most narcissistic generation ever." Apparently social networking websites and too much parental adoration - all those participation trophies and "you are a special snowflake" speeches that have become the stuff of urban legends, passed around by those of the older generations - have not only made us soft, but shockingly vain and self-centered. According to Harvard.

To those perpetuating the idea of the overconfident college braggart, the "special snowflake syndrome" sufferer, I beg to differ. Maybe vanity is a more common sin than it used to be, but in my personal experience, a lack of self-confidence is the far bigger problem within my circle of friends. And it shows up not only in daily life - after all, who wouldn't be discouraged by the barrage of rejection letters most of us receive day after day in today's economy - but also in our dreams.

The other day over lunch with friends I brought up some strange dreams I'd been having. I'd dreamt that my teeth were fusing together, grinding and scraping into each other until they crumbled into dust. I dreamt of collecting teeth in my pockets. Weird. But weirder still, when I mentioned this to my friends, three of them had had nearly identical dreams.

A trip to the dentist confirmed what I'd already suspected: I am a stress-related tooth grinder.

Great.

Not only am I stressed out during 98 percent of my waking hours, worrying that I may never make enough money to move out of my parents' house (if that doesn't give you heart palpitations, nothing will); now I have the pleasure of being stressed when I'm supposed to be resting. And then I get stressed about my stress, because evidently I'm slowly but surely grinding my teeth into nubs - and who wants to hire that? It's an endless cycle.

It all culminated the other night in a truly horrifying dream, something worse than any of my previous nightmares. All I can say is that it involved tooth decay, plus the added bonus of a murderous Olsen twin hell-bent on my destruction. Seriously. But then I woke up and realized I had nothing to fear now that I have my new, enormous rubber mouth guard. Proven to keep your teeth protected and guarantee your place in entry-level employment! Forever!

And you thought you had it rough.