I have long been fascinated by dreams and their interpretations. A global pandemic and quarantine has brought my dreaming life to a whole new level.
I dream a lot about traveling now, almost every night. Sometimes I’m by myself, other times with friends or family or a mix of people. The travel is a mix, too – planes, walking, trains, cities, natural wonders, overseas, America. Visual snapshots of places I’ve never been, with people from different seasons of my life. Best friends with friends from high school with long ago coworkers with family members. We’re navigating the middle of China or England or the East Coast or one of many unnamed places.
I’ve not been sure how I feel about traveling for awhile now. As an Army brat, I’ve traveled my whole life. My first plane ride was at six weeks old. I’ve crossed the US by car and plane several times, as well as the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
My trip to Kenya (20 years ago now) was my first conscious clue that being “well-traveled” and “enjoying traveling” are not the same. I didn’t yet have a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – that came in 2006 – and looking back, I can see the triggers I was not prepared for.
In the last few years, I’ve noticed how PTSD makes traveling difficult. Emotional dysregulation, time changes, lack of geographical context – all leave me feeling raw and vulnerable. Before the quarantine hit, I was supposed to be in Europe for three weeks starting in April. I was seriously considering not going on that trip at all, and I’ve wanted to go to Paris for as long as I can remember.
I often remind myself that more than one thing can be true at the same time. I can enjoy traveling *and* it can be challenging – maybe the challenge is partly what I like about it.
The Meaning of Travel Dreams
Spoiler alert: a quick internet search regarding dreams about travel reveals that they are all about chaos in daily life and a desire to escape a current life situation. To dream about being on vacation represents a desire to break out of a daily routine and do something different, and that the dreamer needs a break.
Well, duh. But there are more specific dream interpretations, too. To be American and dream of traveling in America symbolizes the freedom to do what the dreamer wants. To dream of Europe indicates old ways of thinking, and dreaming of Asia means a desire to adjust to a current situation. Dreaming about being a tourist suggests that the dreamer is unsure about the state of the world and feels a little lost.
There’s good news, too. There was no obvious baggage in my dreams. I never seemed to feel panic or even difficulty. I was enjoying myself and making the most of the time with the people who were with me. Also I dreamt of really fun places that I’ve been wanting to visit. To dream of Europe also means the desire to take more time for leisure and artistic pursuits and the need to be more expressive (considering how dramatic I am, this is hard to imagine, but okay). Being overseas in a dream represents life changes, and the desire to experience a new sense of spirituality and transformation.
Obviously, these meanings apply to my life right now, with a global pandemic and quarantine. I have been feeling lost, restless, unsure, wanting to escape, and an unrelenting sense of grief for the way the world has been and is now.
But I’ve also been feeling a metamorphosis, a movement into radical acceptance that only happens through the discomfort of grief and growth.
Choosing Radical Acceptance
Many mornings when I wake from these dreams, I feel tender. Expansive. Filled with love for myself and others.
I look at my grief – at all of the things I’m grieving. The loss of “normal” life. Time with my best friends. Travel adventures to anywhere, even close by, hiking or camping in state parks. All of the rites of passage that go along with my oldest child graduating from high school. That my youngest child turned fifteen and can’t yet get his driver’s permit. I especially grieve the deaths around the world. The illnesses and alone-ness and fear that people experience. The raw nerves and heightened emotions and lack of coping skills. I grieve the feeling of not being afraid of physical proximity to other people in the grocery store, and taking for granted that shelves will be stocked with dry fettuccine (they aren’t, by the way, as of this article’s publication) and other common items.
This is a lot to fit in (that’s what she said). Seriously, though, we are all processing a lot. And in the middle of it all, our nervous systems are taking a beating.
Through these acknowledgements, I am able to let go of the restlessness. To understand that my nervous system and my brain are exhausted. To listen to my body about water and sleep and food and movement. To accept without judgement.
This is a radical concept for me, to accept without judgement. To not pressure myself to “just deal with it” or “be strong.” Instead, to see, to acknowledge, to feel, to express. I have become more sensitive, more loving, more open, and more grateful. I have become more of a whole person, with more of the qualities that I’ve always said that I value.
This time of quarantine has laid the groundwork for radical acceptance that soothes my grief. For accepting operating in the now, in this moment. For accepting my strengths *and* my challenges, without judgment. For accepting and giving life to my grief and joy, at the same time. For accepting my body, in its lush curves and more relaxed level of fitness.
Radical acceptance of the harsh reality that we control nothing, we have always controlled nothing. That peace can hold hands with fear.
Radical acceptance for my brain and heart and soul, reminding me that adventure will return, while I sleep.