We're not in Kansas anymore

Do you ever have one of those dreams?…you know, the dream that feels so real and so threatening, that when you wake up sweaty and out of breath, your heart thumping, the feeling of relief that it was only a dream is so overwhelming it brings tears to your eyes?

Lots of people have recurring nightmares - of falling or being chased or stabbing someone (although the latter probably only applies to Bethany!). I have this fear of being lost. Ironic, I know, considering I've spent a good chunk of my 31 years being lost. But, I've always managed to un-lose myself. The recurring theme of my nightmares (nightmares I've had since I was a kid) is being hopelessly lost. And I'm not talking about 'lost' as in "oh shit!, I took a wrong turn back there". I mean 'lost' as in being utterly alone and having no sense of where I am or how to get where I'm going if I even know where I'm going, which is rarely the case anyway.

So, in my nightmare that woke me out of a sound sleep last night, I was in a strange city - it was hilly and it must've been by the sea because I could hear seagulls and ships' horns (like I said, it was a very detailed and intense nightmare). I was walking at a hurrying pace and frantic that I didn't know where I was and couldn't find anyone to ask directions. Panic set in because I knew I had to get to work (hmm…an indication I've been working too much lately?) and didn't know where work was or where I was or how to get there. And then in dream-like fashion, I suddenly found myself inside a big, old house (my nightmares of being lost almost always involve a house at some point). In my dream the house felt familiar in a foreboding kind of way, although in my waking state I couldn't place it as somewhere I've ever been.

There were no windows in the house and it was dimly illuminated with artificial lighting. There was dingy, old-fashioned flowered wallpaper on most of the walls and it was alarmingly quiet. Quiet, except that I thought I kept hearing scuffling as if there were other people directly ahead of me or directly behind me just out of my sight. At some point I frantically realized I needed to get out of the house if I was to become un-lost. And I couldn't. I tried, but it became labyrinth-esque with strange, tight corridors, still air, and no way to tell where I was going. The panic and anxiety was palpable. But even in my frantic dream state, I told myself "just retrace your steps, stop trying to find the way out and just go back the way you came".

Apparently I took my own advice because I tried going back the way I came, my fear enveloping me as the environment seemed to become less and less recognizable. But then I entered a room and there was a man. A big man with dark hair and a handle-bar moustache who was dressed as an old-fashioned circus ringleader. In my dream I knew without a doubt that the man wasn't there to help me, but I pleaded with him anyway, begging for some kind of direction. My panicked desperation at being lost became wild . . . and that's when I woke up in sweat-dampened sheets with my heart pounding against my ribcage and fear-laced adrenaline raging through my veins

As a kid, my sister's favorite story was Alice In Wonderland. While it completely fascinated and delighted her, it scared the bejeezuz out of me! Seriously, my child's brain could not fathom anything more terrifying than being lost like that - alone in a strange, menacing, and more often than not, hostile environment with no clear indication of how to get un-lost. As an adult I've come to love the fanciful imagination of Lewis Carroll, but back then I just wished Alice would've had a yellow brick road to follow. At least in Dorothy's case of being lost, she not only had friends to help her become un-lost, but she had a definitive path to follow. Sometimes I wonder if somehow I've strayed from my yellow brick road or if, like Alice, I don't even have a path to follow.

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