I’ve had the same nightmare for as long as I can remember.
The details have changed over the years, but the basics remain the same. I am in a car. The car starts moving. And I can’t stop it.
I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21. I was married before I learned how to drive. The dreams were a big part of why I waited so long to get my license. But I had friends that drove, I dated boys that drove, and I lived in a small enough city that I could get anywhere I needed with a short bus ride or a walk. I didn’t need a license.
Before I drove, the dreams always started with me in the passenger’s seat. For whatever reason, the driver would get out of the car. The reasons varied: they forgot their wallet inside, they just needed to run into the convenience store quickly, or they were going to run up to the dropbox at Blockbuster. (Yes, Blockbuster. Yes, dropbox had a different meaning. I’m old. Get over it.)
With the driver out of the car, it would start to move. Slowly at first, but it would quickly pick up speed. I would unbuckle my seatbelt and try to move across to the driver’s side while the car sped out of control. Once I got to the other side of the car, the brakes wouldn’t work and I would steer helplessly as the car went faster and faster and faster. I would press the brake pedal again and again, hoping for a different result, speeding through intersections and quiet residential streets.
Eventually I did get my driver’s license. I thought that maybe once I had my license, the dreams would stop. I would be able to take control of the vehicle. But the dreams didn’t stop; they just changed. Now, I’m the one driving. It always starts with my brakes failing just a little bit. It’s a regular day, I’m on a regular drive to work, or to the grocery store, or to a friend’s house. I’m coming up to a stop sign or a red light and I need to pump my brakes a few times to get them to work. Weird, I think to myself in the dream. I should probably get that looked at.
But then of course they eventually fail altogether. And I’m speeding down roads faster and faster, blasting through red lights and traffic and lines of Canadian Geese. Okay, that last one hasn’t happened yet but I feel like it’s only a matter of time before that makes it into a dream. Those geese are EVERYWHERE.
Since I’ve become more aware of these dreams, I try to talk myself out of them. Lucid dreaming, it’s called. My brakes fail and I tell myself that this must just be another driving dream. But in the dream, I can remember everything I’ve done on that day. I can recall every detail, like what I did at work, or what I bought at the grocery store, or what kind of coffee my friend made me. So it CAN’T be a dream.
As I go faster and faster, I run out of places to go. There are no more side streets to turn down. The roads are busier now, and I’m in a more populated area. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing I can do. It’s happening…
And then I wake up.
I did tell a therapist about these dreams at one point. It was suggested that I have these dreams because I feel like my life is out of control. This seems true. They are much more frequent when I don’t have a firm plan in my life. I like control; I like planning; I like knowing what is going to happen and when. And when I don’t know, I feel like a car spinning out of control. My brakes are failing and I don’t know where I will end up. I don’t know if I’ll come out alive.
All I know is that I can’t stop.