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That dream

November 13, 2018

I suspect everyone has a recurring dream. When I was a kid I had the very common dream that I could fly, which was very exhilarating – until I had problems coming back down. Then it got a bit scary, but I always managed somehow to plant my feet back on the ground.

I haven’t had that dream for a long time. My recurring dream now is about getting lost. When I say it’s recurring, it’s not always the exact same dream nor are the same people involved, but getting lost is always the central theme. Sometimes I get lost trying desperately to find someone. I do fairly clearly remember when in which Idris Elba appeared, which was pretty damn sweet until I got lost trying to find him again. As far as I can recall that’s the only time a famous person whom I do not know appeared in one of these dreams. (That said, I seem to remember Phil Glenister appearing in one, but I have actually met the man.)

I get lost in hotels. I get lost trying to find my way out of giant shopping malls – and when I do finally find an exit, it’s the wrong one and I have no idea where I am, so I have to go back in to try to find the right exit. I get lost in cities that I’m supposed to know well. Suddenly a building or a park will appear where it shouldn’t be and I completely lose my bearings.

The first time I clearly remember having the dream was several years ago, although I suspect I’d had it before, as, even as I was dreaming it, some sliver of my conscious mind was saying Oh, no, not this again. In this particular dream, I was trying to find Mike. This one was set in the back alleys of Vancouver. I kept seeing him going around a corner, but when I got to the alley there was no sign of him, so I’d run around blindly until I spotted him turning another corner. Given that I had the dream soon after he died suddenly in 2011, it wasn’t difficult to work out the subconscious dream.

In last night’s variation, my mission was to get to the doctor’s appointment I actually do have today. My friend Rowan, who in the dream lived around the corner (despite her actually living in London and me living on Gabriola) rang me with some news that was so exciting I immediately left my flat (carrying my favourite coffee mug) to go round to congratulate her. When I got back to my flat I realised I’d left my mug at hers. I could, of course, have made a cappuccino in another mug, but, no, that wouldn’t do, so I turned around and went back. Except Rowan was no longer home, so I had to climb in through a window to retrieve my mug. When I got back to my building (which bore a striking resemblance to the building of flats in which I grew up with my mum) I couldn’t find the door to my flat.

It all gets a bit fuzzy there. Somehow I ended up in the centre of a city (which was a mishmash of London and Toronto), knowing I was missing a morning of work at some unspecified job, determined to make it to my doctor’s appointment. I kept heading down streets I thought I knew only to end up somewhere I didn’t recognise. This went on and on. At one point, as I was walking down a cobbled street, I passed an ambulance. The back doors opened and a woman inside the ambulance called my name. I walked back to the ambulance.

“I’m trying to get to my doctor’s appointment,” I said.

“I know,” she said.

“Can you take me there?” I asked.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You’re not sick enough.”

“Can you tell me how to get there?” I asked.

“You already know,” she said. “You just have to concentrate.” Then she pulled out a large purple pill and held it out towards me. “Your doctor called. He said you should take this.”

“What is it?” I asked.

She just shook her head and held out the pill. I took it from her hand, although I don’t remember if I actually swallowed it. The ambulance drove off and I wandered off, still hopelessly lost.

I think this might have been the point when I woke myself up. That always happens with this particular dream. The panic I’m feeling gets so bad my conscious mind takes pity and wakes me up. (I’m surprised it’s never occurred to me before what an Alice in Wonderland quality these dreams have.)

Quite often this dream is attached to an actual event: catching or meeting a plane, going to a concert or a funeral. Normally nothing as mundane as a doctor’s appointment. There is always a huge sense of relief when I wake myself up. Not only is the damn dream over, but I haven’t actually missed the event in question.

Why this dream last night? There is nothing crucial about this doctor’s appointment. It’s my regular monthly check in to see how the black dog is treating me.

It’s not all that difficult to figure out what this dream is about: I’m feeling lost. Duh.

Nevertheless, I’ve just googled “dreams about getting lost”. The first thing to appear was a Huffington Post (that renowned medical journal) interview with Cathleen O’Connor, PhD (doctor of what, I wonder?).

According to O’Connor: “Dreams about being lost or searching for something that is lost usually denote anxiety. They evoke feelings of confusion and frustration, or even a sense of feeling you don’t fit in.”

Oh, okay, that makes sense. I am currently rather anxious and extremely frustrated in my efforts to learn my nonsensical panto lines. That explains why I might have had the dream last night, substituting the doctor’s appointment for learning lines. It doesn’t explain all the other times. Nor does it explain Idris Elba’s appearance.

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