Dreaming of Cars: Driving from the Backseat

Last night, I dreamed I was driving to a friend’s house. The roads were hard to navigate and hard to see. When I was about to make a turn, I realized I was in the back seat. So I pulled over–I’d wound up in this situation before–and carefully climbed into the front. Only after that did I discover I’d already reached my destination.

Dreaming of Long Dead Cats

I dream of my childhood cats, Kate and Daisy, on a regular basis. I have no idea why. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say my subconscious obsession with them has to do with making sure they’re adequately taken care of. When I was growing up, we had many, many rules about how to treat the cats. And since we adopted Kate when I was seven and Daisy when I was ten, I felt as much personal responsibility for their welfare as my mother did, because so much of the time, it was just my mother and me.

The biggest rule was that we couldn’t let the cats go outside. We lived on a busy street, and my mother, who had raised her first cat in a trailer park, didn’t know how to go about keeping the new kittens out of danger. So they were officially indoor cats, except when we took them out on harnesses and leads and let them play in the backyard. This created the added complication that the cats knew what the outdoors were like, and they wanted to go out at all times. So there was always the danger that they would rush the front door and slip out when no one was looking. And when they weren’t rushing the door, they meowled plaintively whenever the sun shone, and they were so trained by the words “go outside” that you couldn’t use those two words together in any other context. If you forgot, you’d have the two of them queued up by the back door in seconds, meowling plaintively, forcing you to do what they wanted. (And if you’re saying to yourself, “They were just cats,” you have no idea of the emotional pull of a cat’s desire, or its effect on an anxious human mother.)

In most of my recent cat dreams, my mother has adopted a vast array of cats and kittens and keeps them in some hidden part of her house, like the basement. I don’t remember where all these cats came from, but I’m always a little irked that she has so many, and she’s not paying enough attention to them like she should. Inevitably, I’ll come across Kate and/or Daisy (usually it’s Kate, the one who came to us first and died last). I’ll realize I myself forgot that one or both of them are still around, and often they’ll be remote, like they don’t know me anymore, and that will be my fault. Sometimes I get mad at my mother, as if she’s been keeping Kate away from me, making me forget, making me neglect her.

Last night, my dream was a little different. I was in my first house, a duplex with 70s-green low-pile carpet and a kitchen that, size-wise, was more like a glorified hallway. I had a young stepfather, who was going around trying to take care of the place, stacking things up on top of the fridge when the pile fell over, repairing things that broke. I noticed some water on the carpet and told my stepdad that the fridge needed help again. Then I found four huge, wet dents in the carpet by the wall. They were muddy, like the mossy pools you might find in a cave. My stepfather took a knife and tried to cut the carpet away, but with the first tear the floor started collapsing. My mother shouted. I shouted. He managed not to fall, but now there was a giant hole in the floor, and that hole led into our garage, where the door was open. I mentioned something about blocking off the hole so the cats couldn’t get out, and as soon as the words left my mouth Daisy leaped through the floor, onto the concrete below, and scurried out to freedom. I yelled even louder, Daisy got out!, and off my mother and I went to find her. Across the street, there was a park with all kinds of calico cats and brown-and-white dogs, but we couldn’t find Daisy. She was so dumb. She couldn’t take care of herself. And I couldn’t find her. All I knew how to do was search and call her name, Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! But my voice was muffled, and my words didn’t go anywhere.

I wish I knew what this dream is supposed to be telling me. If it’s about neglecting my physical health–in dreams, the body is often represented by houses–or if it’s about having too much to do, starting too many projects to keep up with, letting things slip away undone–which is often how I live my life these days. I suppose the dream could also be showing how my current life is tapping into old ways of thinking and being that don’t work anymore. I’ve simplified my life a great deal since I was younger. I don’t have a cat, mostly because my husband is allergic, but I don’t know that I would want the responsibility of taking care of one, anyway. I remember the sickening smell of their food, the hyperanxious focus on the door (Come in! Don’t just stand in the doorway! You’ll LET THE CATS OUT!!!), and I want nothing of it. Maybe that means I’m lazy or not a cat person after all. Or maybe I just like to organize my life around the principle of stasis as much as time and reality will allow. There are piles of junk all over my house. Some have been there for many years. I should clean them up one day, but there’s no rush. There’s nothing rotting, nothing dangerous, nothing that needs immediate attention in any of these accumulations of stuff. It’s not pretty, but it’s not forcing me to chase after it, either.

My Life on Lupus: Dreaming of Mice

Boy, how do I describe a set of days with lupus? Despite the fact that there are a lot of bloggers out there talking about a lot of chronic conditions, I have a hard time focusing on a storyline or a metaphor. Not even the wolf or Christine Miserandino’s spoon analogy does it for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a hardened loner and would rather come up with my own metaphors, thank you very much. (Although the spoons are really as good as anything I’ve found to explain the ups and downs of trying to manage an illness like lupus.) Maybe on bad days I’d rather be escaping my fatigue and aches and gloomy moods than trying to craft them into an overriding conceit that can help me weather things out. When I feel crappy, knowing why I feel crappy doesn’t help much. I want away from all the dreariness. I want constant entertainment and mental stimulation to keep my mind off things. I don’t want to feel like I’m stuck indefinitely at home, even when I am.

So ultimately what happens is, I sense my lupus in little bits and fragments, lonely and discontinuous from my functioning life. For example, starting Friday of last week, for about 36 hours, I was sleeping off some sort of bug I caught at my therapist’s office. (No, really, I started feeling dizzy and strange as I sat in the chair with my therapist. I’m guessing the germs found their way there because she and her group charge an exorbitant late cancellation fee, so any sick people show up rather than pay. I myself was charged said fee because the week before, I was also sick. Ironically, as the receptionist is telling me I owe them a huge sum of money for not bringing my germs to their office, she’s also asking me if I’ve been to West Africa recently. I wonder if I’d said yes, they would have charged me a late cancellation fee.)

Sleeping for two days is actually kind of nice, because you can just drift away and not worry about the usual concerns, the laundry, the appointments, the house falling to pieces around you. On Sunday, though, you’re starting to move around again, going back to normal life. And like a diver returning to the surface, who has to move through layers of water pressure to get acclimated, I move through waves of anxiety and crabbiness as I realize everything I have to deal with is still there waiting, even though I never quite have enough physical or mental energy to engage with it. I guess that would be a difference between lupus and deep-sea diving: when you go back to Life on the Surface from the midnight zone, you’re never 100% ready for the light.

So Sunday was a halfway-crappy day. There was sunshine I missed. There was work I had to stay up late to do. Then Monday rolled around, with 70-degree temperatures–real collegiate weather, and likely the last of the warm stuff for quite a while. Even though Sunday night’s sleep wasn’t long, I’d banked a lot of shuteye already, and I felt amazing. I had errands to run, but I decided, screw it, I feel like exploring. Recently, I’ve been looking at a lot of old pictures online, so I thought, why not try to find some old postcards? I hit the local antique stores and thrift shops. Didn’t find any postcards, but I did collect a whole bunch of lovely little knickknacks: a set of Tupperware cups, in neon colors, that looked like the kind I used to drink from when I was a kid; a watch that runs on old-fashioned winding; two Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books from the 1980s; an old British version of Monopoly Jr. I went to four stores and spent about $10 total. Felt awesome. Picked up my six-year-old from school, where he’d just had his science-club class and was full of stories. Life seemed tremendous. I couldn’t see how I’d ever be blue again.

Then today arrives. The temperature drops. I don’t get any sleep last night, either, so I have to nap so I can function. Wake up in a sludgy fog. Can’t get going. Don’t like being cold and stiff. Have to go to the drug store and explain for the umpteenth time how to fill one of my prescriptions, which comes in a nonstandard dose but which I’ve taken since 1998 (and have been filling at this same pharmacy since 2003). I get things done, but not as much as I want. (It’s never as much as I want, except for yesterday, when the sun was shining and I felt like I had infinite time on my hands.) Feel depressed. I know it’s because of the winter coming on, and I can’t really fight that.

Either during the night or during the morning nap, I have a terrible mouse dream. I have these off and on, even when the little bastards aren’t sneaking into the house to get warm and shooting across our floors. In the dream, a mouse pops into our well-lit living room–the first mouse I’ve seen in several days. I tell my husband, I try to show him. Then I realize there’s a hole in the wall that the mouse is not only escaping through, but building as I watch. It exits out another hole, one that I haven’t seen. Then, a huge swarm of mice starts pouring out of the second hole, more than I’ve ever seen in our house, more than I’ve seen anywhere. I’m sick to my stomach. I can’t even look at them. I’m yelling for my husband to do something, but I’ve willed myself not to see anything. I can’t help. I can’t do anything besides squirm.

Honestly, I don’t know what the mouse dreams mean. This latest dream was unusual, in that my husband was there with me. Most of the time, I have to go up into a room on a higher floor, in our decrepit house (sometimes it’s a rental), and I know the mice will be in there, everywhere, and I’ll barely be able to walk. I don’t know if this is some sort of subconscious commentary on my physical state, my chronic illness, my overall lunacy, or none of the above. I doubt if I can use mice in a metaphor for lupus. Seems important, but the whole mouse thing disgusts me so much I refuse to consider considering it.

Today, in the mail, I got a light therapy box, something that my psychiatrist (who works in the same office as my therapist) has been pushing me to get for a while. We’ll see if I can stave off the gloominess this winter. Otherwise, it’s going to be another long one.

Those Fickle Dreams from Fairyland…

Had a dream last night that I was in a pastor in charge of a small children’s Halloween party.  I was obsessed with writing down party instructions on every possible surface, including the passenger door of my car.  DO NOT forget a flashlight! I kept scrawling over and over in fluorescent yellow marker.  Suddenly I realized I probably shouldn’t write the private details of my life on my car.  I started erasing words and lines and then whole sentences, and discovered that if I erased in one place the same words disappeared everywhere else.  But erasing anything also took away the car’s identity.  The chrome letters that spelled out make and model vanished.  What was that information again?  Where did I get this car?  Was it my grandmother’s Buick, the one with the mushy steering that my friends and I had navigated through a snowstorm?  The old man’s Chrysler, acquired through my father, that had its stereo stolen twice and then was spirited away whole one night, only to wind up totaled in another part of the city?  I couldn’t tell.  Both cars were boxy and a sort of brownish maroon, like the covers of 1950s encyclopedias.  They were hand-me-downs that I never wanted, but I learned to make do.  The words, though.  The words kept adding up and blowing away and I could never tell what was important and what wasn’t.

So what does this mean?  Is it an anxiety dream about writing in general?  About the “vehicle” that sends my work out into the world?  Is it just my Mommy side unable to quiet itself, continuously generating lists for my son’s teachers to consult?  I’m not sure.  I will say, though, that this dream filled me with unspeakable dread, and I’d love to know where that awful feeling of terror came from.

Ideas?  Insights?  Analysis?  Want to share a dream of your own?  The comments page awaits…