Anne Notations

Monday, February 09, 2009

Onward and upward

We all know the archetypal anxiety dream: the one where you're back in college and on your way to class, and you realize you haven't even begun the semester's reading but it's already midterm. Or where you're in class and realize you're naked. (Exposed as a fraud!)

My unconscious mind in its dreaming state has specialized in a combination frustration/anxiety dream. I am usually in another city – New York, perhaps – and trying to get back home. But I can't read the train schedules, or the trains/busses aren't running. I'm in Arizona and suddenly find myself boarding a plane, my worst phobia, and am scrambling through my purse to find some Xanax but the bottle isn't there. Or, speaking of phobias, I'm driving on a highway and, as I round a sharp curve past a hillside, I realize the road is headed straight toward an enormous, steep suspension bridge, a nightmare bridge five times higher than any in real life and shaped like an upside-down U; I'm paralyzed with fear. Talk about waking up in a sweat. (A Google image search for "nightmare bridge" led me to this poor woman's Flickr photo, which pretty much embodies what I've just described.)

Last night I had another sort of dream, a revelatory one I'm grateful for. My handful of faithful readers know that the past year and a half have been stressful for us, for me. Aside from the usual complications of raising teenagers (Melinda's college application process, Kevin's stomach problems, failing grades, and ADD), we seem to have walked unknowingly into a perfect economic storm. It began in 2007 with Michael's unforeseen unemployment, the failure to sell our Providence house for over a year from the time we listed it, carrying two mortgages on one salary, Michael's many job interviews and zero offers, and now the national recession that has slid into a depression, with the very real possibility that we will have to default on our mortgage (we're upside-down given the decline in real-estate values and the glutted market). Everything is uncertain, and I am afraid. During the week my work routine happily distracts me. My schedule is go-go-go from the time I leave the house with Kevin at 7 a.m. until I sink into my blessed recliner with the newspaper or a novel after supper.

On weekends, though, it all catches up with me and I crash. Hard. I sink into sleep whenever I sit down somewhere comfortable. I despair at my lack of energy for doing anything besides puttering in the kitchen, taking care of the parakeets, refilling the outdoor feeders, and maybe taking some sunset photos. Rare is the Saturday when Michael can entice me to go out for a movie. (I'd rather stay in and watch a Netflix video, or NCIS and Friday Night Lights re-runs.) Sometimes I think I have a physical problem that makes me sluggish. I've come to believe, though, that I'm simply exhausted by worry and bad news. I ache, I yawn, I crash.

Back to last night's dream. In it, I was bicycling around New Hampshire by myself, having found my way there easily from Rhode Island. Unlike in real life, where I am currently unfit and torpid, in the dream I pedaled without undue effort up and down hills, past farms and golden fields. I shopped at a glorified country store on a back road, and met kind people who wished me well. As I turned around to head back to Rhode Island, the sun was beginning to set. I knew I could get home but worried about the temperatures, which were falling.

In one of those unreal dream developments, I was instantly back at home to grab my brown zip-up hoody before resuming my ride. But wait: Michael said, "You can't go back – who will take care of the baby?" And he handed Caroline to me – a much younger Caroline, tiny and chubby and in diapers, a beloved bundle of responsibilities. I felt my goal begin to recede. Then I returned Caroline to Michael and said, "No, I'm going back. You'll have to deal with her." And *poof* I was back on my bicycle in New Hampshire, cycling easily toward home. I didn't know the way, exactly, but I wasn't afraid; I was confident that road signs would lead me to where I wanted to go.

Capable. Confident. Fit. Free. That was me, in my dream last night. My life felt spacious with possibility. The future opened before me and I was up to its challenges. I said "no thanks" to Michael's burdens – not unkindly, but firmly and with the knowledge that to progress, I had to disengage for a while.

Today the sun is shining and, like Caroline's beloved Little Engine, I say to myself: I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.


  • Sorry for your anxious dreams, Anne. I've been having a lot of those myself. I do hope everything works out for you and your family.
    Wishing you sweet dreams.


    By Blogger Monarchdancer's Cozy Cottage, at Mon Feb 09, 06:11:00 PM EST  

  • Beautiful, Anne, as always. I'm so sorry you're having anxious dreams too. I am also sleeping WAY too much and cannot seem to muster the energy to leave the house. I haven't been out in...well, too long. I think your dream is wonderfully symbolic and healing.


    By Blogger Gone Crazy, at Mon Feb 09, 10:23:00 PM EST  

  • This was an evocative and accesable piece. I have dreams so real about being in high school/college and owing credits, missing one course to graduate, or some other school set stress. I relate to your nightmares and also to your happy dream. I have had in recent months, not a dream - but a waking experience - in which I've seen sailboats over and over again, for real. Like your dream, I take it as a sign of hope. I bless you to bring the freedom and strength from the dream into your life full force and to be blessed to propel forward speedily in these days. (PS - I've also had dreams of going over roller coaster like bridges, and I don't drive at all in real life. Yeah. Talk about scary, sweaty wake ups.

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Tue Feb 10, 01:00:00 AM EST  

  • I'm often riding my bicycle in my dreams, and it's usually very pleasant. There is something so self-contained and confident about riding a bike. Sounds like something inside is reassuring you that you have more strength than you may realize.

    By Blogger Miriam L, at Tue Feb 10, 01:39:00 PM EST  

  • Amazing post as always, I nodded along with many parts (I still don't know if I prefer having a quiet moment to myself.)

    If only we had the power over our minds we've got in dreams, to just say no thanks, I'm not going that way, and it's cool.

    I don't like bridges at all, no siree ma'am at all. I guess it boils down to not having a safe place to pull over, but I don't have to tell you.

    I know you can, I know you can. ;)

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Thu Feb 12, 08:30:00 PM EST  

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