A Streetcar Named Anxiety

Friday, April 9th, 2004

I seem to dream about streetcars a lot.

This is a relatively new occurrence. For years, my most frequently recurring dream - well, nightmare - was about tornados. The dream usually involved lots of tornados coming to get me all at the same time. I probably had this dream because I am petrified of tornados in real life (thanks to a childhood spent in "Tornado Alley" - Indiana, Oklahoma and Kansas).

I would have an occasional tidal wave dream thrown in for good measure, the scenario here usually being that a tidal wave was coming and I was desperately trying to warn people, but no one believed me. But now, public transportation seems to be my anxiety dream of choice - and while I’ll admit that public transportation can be a nightmare, I can’t really figure out what so many streetcars are doing in my dreams.

These dreams I have feel like your classic anxiety dreams: either I’m lost and I can’t figure out which streetcar to take to get me someplace I’m familiar with, or I miss the streetcar or train I need and another one never comes along, or I have a specific destination in mind but none of the streetcars go there, or I take the wrong streetcar and wind up on the top of a mountain (seriously) or in the middle of a strange city, or in some bleak, terrible suburb of nowhere in particular. The dreams can be quite disturbing, and they’re probably the reason that that whole train station/limbo thing in the Matrix Revolutions creeped me out so much. But I digress…

It would be all too easy to interpret these dreams as having something to do with being lost in real life - like, I don’t know where my life is going, or I know where I want my life to go but I don’t know how to get there, or I feel like I’ve missed some opportunity and now I’m stuck where I am. Maybe at certain points in my life this has been the case (at least, the "I don’t know where I’m going" bit), but I definitely wouldn’t say that it’s the case now. I know what I’m doing now, I have a vague idea of where I’m headed, and I’m perfectly happy to go with the flow at the moment and see what life throws my way. I’m not really into the whole five-year plan thing; I can’t plan much beyond next month, but I kind of like it that way, because then the future’s always full of surprises. So I don’t feel "lost" and I don’t need any form of transportation to whisk me away to anywhere else.

Maybe the dreams have a much more prosaic cause. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that I have absolutely no sense of physical direction in real life - meaning that I could probably get lost in my own house (and in fact, I have been known to insist that we live on the floor above our neighbors when we actually live downstairs from them. Don’t ask.). I get "all turned around" very easily. I’ll walk along the street, step into a shop, look around, step out again and not know which direction I was headed in before stopping to browse. Thank goodness I basically only have to move back and forth along one axis in Brighton (east and west), because I have only the vaguest idea of how the city is laid out "inland". As for the surrounding towns and villages - forget it.

So I suppose sometimes I do get a bit anxious about getting lost or not being able to find my way to - or back from - somewhere in the real world. But I can’t say that I sit around thinking about this a lot, or that I’m afraid to go out of my house for fear of getting lost. I’ve found my way around London all by myself, for pity’s sake. I’ve found my way out of Charles de Gaulle airport (a feat of navigation by anyone’s standards). Armed with a good map, I’d be willing to take on just about any city in the world.

So what’s up with the streetcar dreams? And why do they always seem to be set in Germany? And why do I keep having them at times when I feel completely calm about life, the universe and everything? I had one last night, and while I do have a lot going on at the moment (term papers, work, concerts in London and trips to Ireland - and that’s just in the next two weeks), I feel like I have things under control, and I’m quite pleased with that feeling. But then I have a weird, anxious dream about missing a tram and getting somewhere too late, and I wake up feeling the need to scour my psyche for some hidden source of unease that I might have been suppressing.

Or maybe I’m just taking this all way too seriously (it has been known to happen, you know). Maybe the dreams aren’t significant at all, and I’m making them significant by waking up and mulling them over in my mind and writing stuff about them on my website. Maybe, in the end, it’s all just a dream



Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar …

Posted by Michael


Precisely. :-)

Posted by Jessica

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