I had a dream last night that my car was stolen. I was at a stop sign, and I turned the car off but left the key in the ignition as I got out and ran to give my brother Kelly an Alicia Keys CD. When I turned around the car was in someone else’s possession. Panic set in, I screamed. I may have ran a short distance after the car but knew that I would never catch a Corolla on foot nor would it be returned to me. I knew I shouldn’t have left the key in the car.
Simultaneously I was thinking about the fact that I could not afford to buy another car, and there I had just had one that was in perfect condition to last several more years and now it was gone. I think it was my brother Riley who showed up in the dream next and I lectured him, heatedly and with some meanness, telling him how lucky he is to have a car paid for by our parents, or something, and how he should be grateful. This doesn’t make sense – of course not, it’s a dream – because I don’t think anyone but he and his wife have actually paid for the cars they own in real life. But nonetheless I was berating him for having something in his life that I also had had and had now lost due to no fault of his.
OK, dream sequence over. I’ve found that it’s important to tell people when you’ve finished telling them about a dream – and for that matter, when you’ve begun – because otherwise they get really confused and sometimes horrifically appalled if they can’t decipher the difference between what actually happened to you and what happened only in a dream. If you can imagine, I’ve come across this type of miscommunication several times thanks to my Chatty Cathy tendencies, talking way too fast and not always chronologically.
So, just so everyone is clear, from here forward in this post I will be discussing real life, not my dream involving a car and an Alicia Keys CD (although I might reference the dream for comparison purposes).
In real life, my Corolla is still sitting in the driveway, messy trunk and backseat intact and undisturbed. The bottle of conditioner I bought two days ago but was too lazy to bring inside is still on the floorboard of the front passenger seat.
I woke up this morning so grateful that my car was not actually stolen. If it had been stolen, I don’t know how exactly I would react. I’m not sure I would cry, because I’ve felt in shock and on edge these days and thus I don’t cry very often but rather just kind of pulse, numbly. My thoughts are like a dog’s panting, except that on the exterior I’m sure I look normal. (This, by the way, is the nature of someone with an anxious mind, so if you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to have constant racing thoughts or wonder why people who say they’re anxious don’t seem to have any reason to say so, now you know just a tiny smidgen of what we’re getting at.) If my car were actually stolen, I would eventually call my parents, and then I would most likely cry. I can cry on my own, but usually what gets me finally to perspire from the eyeballs is when I start saying out loud what it is that has happened or what I am feeling. Then crybaby mode sets in. Vulnerability in its nature requires the connection of other people.
So in this dream I felt this crazy panic, thinking, “I don’t have money for another car.” I felt this crazy panic that reminded me how dependent I am. My parents pay for my car insurance, my cell phone. Dad just wired me money this week. I can hardly listen, due to raging jealousy, to a word about friends’ vacations that are supplemented by their parents’ money, but I live off my parents’ dime, too. I live off the generosity of my surrogate family in Los Angeles. I have a roof over my head thanks to generosity. Friends have bought meals for me. I do not stand on my own two feet without hundreds of hands holding my limbs to keep me steady and upright.
My mind was racing yesterday morning. Racing, racing, racing. I was working, making some pay thanks to my temporary placement agency who found me a place to help with filing for two or three days. I am grateful for the work, for the really nice staff there who put me at ease and thanked me for helping to get the file cabinets back in order. I was wearing heels one day and the jokester of the office said to me as I clicked along a hardwood hallway, “You’re noisy.” I told him he’ll always know it’s me coming around the corner. Yesterday he was wearing a star spangled top hat.
I am grateful for the work, for a touch with humanity, for an office clown. But as I was making labels and alphabetizing folders I was thinking so clearly: “I need sanctuary.” I need to go home, for a time. I have some obligations here still, including some work next week, but later this summer I need to give in and fully lean on the people and the financial support at home.
Los Angeles has been a breath. Its size and its many sushi restaurants have given me the chance, for the first time in my adult life, to feel like I truly have my own space. I went after something I wanted, something that was not someone else’s suggestion or idea. This is so huge for me.
When a woman grows up with all male siblings she becomes both strong and, at least in my experience, a little self-conscious later on in life. As a teenager, learning the lingo for football was power to me. I knew something other girls my age didn’t know. I could talk and play with boys, naturally. Mimicking my brother’s sarcasm made me funny. It also earned me an award for “Most Sarcastic” at after school care during elementary school – no joke. I walked into adolescence with a confidence that not all of my peers had. This was not due to my brothers’ influence only. My parents have always been extremely supportive with daily verbal reminders of how and why they love me; this will serve a person for miles and years.
But, in my experience, which I will speak for here, as I’ve gotten older I’ve watched my brothers do things more boldly than I have done. My brothers decide they want to do something and they do it. When there is push back, they push back. As I have gotten older and seen the amazing and ambitious things that people around me everywhere are capable of doing, I back down. On rare occasions when I join them – get into a certain school, get a certain job – my reaction is surprise. I wave off compliments in recognition of my accomplishment, because to me it is an exception not a rule.
Los Angeles was a city I had admired as a tourist. I loved the sunshine and the beach. I had my eye on this place and wanted to come here and amazingly I did. Several months in to my stay, I was driving down the Hollywood Freeway, maneuvering my way around a giant place with mountains to my left and November fog in front of me and I said to myself, “I love it here.” It has been a breath to be here. A stretching of my arms outward. A thought: I did it. I got here, I did something I didn’t think I would have the guts to do, and I was right in thinking that it might very well be a good fit.
Right now LA is not a breath. People are still here showing me in very clear gestures that they support me. I still love them very much. It saddens me to think I might move away from them and not come back. But I’m not breathing easy right now. So I need to go, for a time, and see if it’s right for me to come back. I might get a job offer very soon and then I may very well come back after a visit home. I just need to see.
I have two grandmothers at home who are getting on in age. I want to see them. I want to see my cat. I want to see my parents, my siblings. I want to connect with old friends. I want to hold that nephew of mine and read stories to my niece. I need sanctuary.
I have the mind of a panting dog. It goes and goes and goes. The calm presence of people I love on a steady basis can sometimes aid in slowing it down. Every time the panting comes back I get reactive. Angry. No one understands me. I wish that I had a person to sit near to as I wait for my breath to slow. Ultimately this is just the mind I have, though, and I am trying not to curse it but rather harness the thoughts that are meant to be used to serve and hold really close to God as I breathe through the panting.
I feel like my faith has been taking a shift in the last several weeks. It has felt like an accessory for a long time. I keep after it, because I don’t want the peace that surpasses understanding to be fake. I want it to be real, so I don’t deny that it’s there just because I can’t feel it. I so desperately need that peace.
When I am panting, I cannot feel the calm. But I am trying to feel, as I drive and my mind races, that God is in the car with me. I want to believe with all of my being that I can have sanctuary everywhere, because He is everywhere. And He will put me where I need to be with the people who can help me breathe.