Last night, I had a lucid dream. It was quite terrifying, given that I was fully aware that I was dreaming but could not wake up. In my dream, I was being driven in a car to the airport. At some point, we are carjacked, and the carjackers kick the driver out but keep me in the car. I ask if I, too, should leave—they say no.
Instead, we meander around the streets of Chicago, as they go back and forth about what to do with me. I chime in, asking if they plan on harming me, and the two carjackers are at odds about what to do with me. It seems one wants to sexually assault me; the other thinks they should dispose of me. I strip off my clothes and offer my body to the attackers in hopes they will not kill me. In the dream, I am scared, but I refuse to show it. Instead, I act as if this were all normal. By the end of the dream, they are convinced that my willingness to give them my body is a trick and that if they enter my body, harm will come to them.
I woke up as they continued bickering over what to do with me. My last memory of the dream was laying in the back seat of this sedan, legs splayed open, praying that my ancestors help guide me and keep me alive.
I am not one to give much stock to dreams, though in the almost two decades since my mother’s death, I have had dreams where Mom appears. Since my Dad’s death, I have had a few dreams where both my parents appear. When my parents have appeared in my dreams, it has always been when I am trying to figure something out or need guidance.
This dream, though, was different; I was overwhelmed and scared and needed to keep going to stay alive. No matter what. Which I guess is why the idea of willingly offering my physical body to these carjackers made sense. It was also different, of course, because my parents did not appear in this dream. The reason I bring them up is that the dream still felt significant to me in a way that my parental dreams have—like it was trying to tell me something or serving as a means to process something specific.
When I was fully awake, I looked up the meaning of dreams and, apparently—while dreams of being kidnapped can have many different meanings—one very common interpretation is they reflect feelings of being trapped, powerless, or overwhelmed by external circumstances, and the dream mirrors the emotions you are experiencing in your waking life.
Well, I’ll be damned if that doesn’t encapsulate much of how I have been feeling as of late. Overwhelmed, but at the same time needing to try to have some level of control; not a complete surrendering.
The only problem with not surrendering to how one is really feeling, however, is that it doesn’t make things go away. It only buries them deeper and, well, you can only stuff the shit down so long before it comes out. Sideways, if necessary.
That is an apt description of the last several months, and really the last few years, for me—and I suspect for many of us.
2020 was the year our collective lives exploded, but there was never a space created to process and get those feelings out. Instead, we were eventually instructed to get back to normal.
But what the fuck is normal? How do you even get to normal after living through the grossly abnormal?
You don’t. Instead, everything becomes a macabre version of a distorted fun house mirror that you don’t dare peer too deeply into, because the ruse of normal has been drilled into your head and god forbid you see some kind of truth in the reflections.
What follows is a world that feels like riding a bike when the wheels are getting loose. It feel like they can come off at any time but you always have somewhere you have to be. It’s wobbly but you keep going. Until you can’t. That’s when you fall or crash. In our case, we are collectively riding on wobbly wheels, but there is no bike repair shop in sight. Nor a source for new wheels.
While I have written extensively in the last few months about my deep exhaustion and finally hitting the wall, I think most of us are there. And, just like in my dream—where I didn’t show fear—we are trying to stay alive by connecting with our kidnappers or placating them. We are each doing our own version of staying alive and negotiating with those who have abducted and are threatening us.
In this case, we have all been kidnapped by a society that lacks humanity and compassion. A society that is unsure if it will allow us to live, and so we do the best we can to stay alive. Except that it is tiring and we feel alone. But we aren’t alone.
We may not have the ability to overcome our captors completely, but we can outmaneuver them. Even if we have to do unpleasant things to survive, we have to be careful that we don’t completely surrender simply to stay alive.
How? We cultivate deep positive feelings within ourselves—we find that core of light and purpose—and we fight to find the spaciousness to connect with others and lay our burdens down. We fight the hijackers and kidnappers by allowing softness, vulnerability, and fear to be named. We fight our abductors by seeing the humanity of others, regardless of location or place of origin or whatever else seems to set those similarly trapped people apart from us.
As we enter this winter holiday season, the lack of holiday cheer is palpable. Most of what is present has been manufactured and designed to entice us to consume—to stay caught up in the machinery of crumbling empires. But we have choices. What little free will we have left can be spent tapping into our authenticity. Our truths. Bearing witness to our shared existence, our fears, and our hopes—and, ultimately, planning for and building something better. We are all that we have, and we cannot let them destroy us for the preservation of the empire.
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