Two nights ago, I had a stressful dream that my purse was stolen. I was with my boss, at a restaurant, and realized it was gone. I was so upset! It had EVERYTHING in it- my ID, my credit cards, my makeup, my money! I didn’t know what to do. And then I realized it had my car keys in it, too, and now the thieves could steal my car. What a nightmare. Literally. But, I woke up, chalked it up to another one of my weird stress dreams and moved on.
Last night I dreamed that my car was stolen. It was a new Nissan Pathfinder (in my dream) with leather interior and all the bells and whistles. I was extremely proud of that dream car. I went down the coast to see my sister in law, and I asked her if she wanted to see my new car, which, of course, she did. We went outside, but there were suddenly so many cars, and I couldn’t seem to find mine. So I thought, hey, I’ll just click the alarm button and listen for the sound, but…my keys were gone. Eventually, I realized my car was gone. I knew who stole it, but there was nothing I could do. I freaked out. I woke up, again, very stressed out.
A single dream like this would be par for the course for me- but two? Two in a row? I know what is happening here. As my trip grows closer, I am spending my waking hours planning and being excited, and for God’s sake, not imagining every single thing that could possibly go wrong while I am an entire continent away from my children. But deep in the dark and morbid recesses of my brain, the “what-ifs” are hatching, like terrible gremlins on a gremlin-hatching conveyor belt in the fear factory of my mind. If I refuse to give them any space in my waking-hours mind, they will come out wherever they can.
This morning, as I desperately googled “stolen car dream meaning”, seeking to reassure myself that my dreams weren’t a harbinger of crashing planes and imminent death, I realized that my anxiety had me right where it wanted me. Alone, afraid, and miserable at five in the morning. Wondering how mad my friend would be if I cancelled on her two days before our trip. Hoping I came down with strep throat so I had no choice but to stay home. My anxiety is so ridiculous that I wished illness upon myself to avoid doing something fun and wonderful. Let that sink in for a minute.
So, I took a deep breath, and made a plan. When my anxiety asks “What if something happens?” I will say, “Something will happen! I am going to have fun, and see a new part of the world, and expand my horizons a little bit.” And when my anxiety insists, “Yes, but what if something BAD happens?!” I am going to say “Something BAD could happen just as easily with me here as it could with me gone- something bad could happen at any moment of any day, but mostly, it doesn’t. So stop it.” And when my anxiety continues to pester me with thoughts and images too awful to transcribe for you, I am going to fight fire with fire, by reading and remembering all the wonderful posts about women who travel all the time and make it home safe, happy, and healthy. Other people do it every single day. I am no different.
My anxiety will tell me I should just stay home. But my therapist, who I happen to have at least a bit more faith in than my own anxious brain, told me that my anxiety is dishonest…but that I will never know that if I don’t stop listening to it all the time. The only way to combat anxiety is to do the thing it tells you not to do. I mean, unless it’s telling you not to kill someone. In that scenario, your anxiety is 100% correct, and you should definitely listen.
Because my anxiety doesn’t just want me to stay home. My anxiety wants me to stay home, keep everyone I love in the house with me, close the blinds, and board up the windows. If we leave, we leave in a group. My anxiety wants not only me as a prisoner, it wants everyone I care for imprisoned as well. My anxiety calls it “being safe”, but even I know that’s not honest. That’s not living. So I will take my trip, and I will not let anxiety win this one.
And if something happens? Well…what if something wonderful happens? You can’t stop living because you are afraid. You can, actually. You can stop living because you are afraid. But I have no intention of living that way.