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When she first woke up, she felt the bed moving, like it was rolling on top of some waves. Was it an earthquake? None of the lamps were moving, so that couldn’t be it. Then she realized what it was. Her heart. It was pounding so hard in her chest, the bed was pounding along with each beat. She took deep breaths, hoping her heart would slow down and she’d feel less agitated.

A few minutes later, her heart was back to normal, but her psyche wasn’t. She had the dream again. She hated it. She always woke up from it feeling agitated and depressed. The characters weren’t always the same, but the themes and feelings were. This particular dream had a way of messing with her head that other dreams didn’t.

She couldn’t remember exactly when the dreams had started. It might have been in high school. But she’d been having them for decades now. They never started the same. They never played out the same. But the ending never changed. In the end, she was always alone.

She got up for work and started to get ready, which never took long. It was like being on autopilot for her. Dress, brush teeth, brush hair, put on minimal makeup so as to not look quite as bad, put on shoes, walk out door. She could have taken more time to get ready, and sometimes did, but most mornings she just didn’t care. What was the point really? She was in her office alone most of the day. When she did have meetings, it was with people whose opinion didn’t mean shit to her.

She should have cared more, if only for herself. Her partner told her she’d feel better if she took the time to fix her hair and put on more makeup. Maybe her partner was right. But  it still wasn’t enough when she woke up each morning feeling like none of it would make a difference. There were times when she did fix her hair and made herself look more polished, but it didn’t seem to change how people perceived her. Nobody said, “Oh, you look nice today.” Sometimes, that’s what she needed. A little carrot of confidence or hope to get her through the day. Every logical part of her being told her it shouldn’t matter, that the confidence needed to come from inside. But logic didn’t always win out when it came to this issue.

As she drove to work, she kept thinking about the dream. She wished she could expel whatever demons were causing her to have this dream for so many decades. In it, she was always with a group of friends or loved ones. They were usually someplace public and crowded. One minute, they were all together having a good time, the next, her friends were pointing at her and mocking her. Then they’d all walk away, leaving her humiliated and alone. Always alone.

When she was married, it was her husband leaving her alone, usually to go off with some other woman. Now, it was her partner making an appearance in the dreams. In some, she’d go off with some other person, laughing as she walked away and saying how she just didn’t care anymore. This last one, they were together at an airport. They were in the middle of some overseas trip. Her partner was in a hurry and she had stopped to look for her passport. When she looked up, her partner was gone. Vanished. She searched all over the place looking for her and never found her. Worse, she was stranded without a ticket home or any way to pay for a ticket. She felt completely abandoned and heartbroken. How could she do that to her? That’s when she woke up.

In many ways, she knew these dreams were just a manifestation of her fears and insecurities. It wasn’t being alone that necessarily bothered her. It was being abandoned, dropped like an old shoe that was worn or out of style. That was her real fear. She had felt it so many times before. Friends stopped calling her. Boyfriends stopped calling and essentially disappeared.

All her life, she had never felt like she really belonged anywhere. She spent much of her teen years alone, wishing she’d had friends that really understood her, liked her. Not friends that just hung out with her because they felt sorry for her. She even felt that way in college to some degree. Some of it was probably her fault. She didn’t open up to people much. Get burned enough times when you make yourself vulnerable to others and you learn to stop. If people know your fears, your insecurities, they’ll use them against you at some point. That’s what she had learned over the years. Don’t tell people your dreams because they’ll just mock you or tell you why it will never happen.

She had become too cynical and closed off. She knew she needed to be more open but it was too hard to break old habits that had been decades in the making. And she was too easily discouraged. She’d open up to someone, get burned, and the walls went right back up. These dreams were part of that. The dreams were feeding off her fears and insecurities and she had to find a way to turn the tables.

She had to make the conscious decision to be more open, to be more vulnerable. She had to make the decision to take chances and pursue dreams. There would be failures along the way and she needed to learn to be ok with that. Failure was a part of life. Learn from it, move on. She needed to stop worrying about being abandoned, but that would be more difficult. She needed to do this before the fears took over completely and left her an empty shell of a person.

As she got out of the car and made her way to her office, she felt a little better. But just as she unlocked the door to her office, a voice in her head said “But what if these dreams are showing you the inevitable.”

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