In my dreams


On Holy Saturday night, I dreamed that we were all on a ship that was slowly passing into another dimension. And as it went, I watched my family die. I specifically remember Alex, who was, on the one hand, lying in a bed beside me, but in the other dimension, he was drowning. And knowing that death was inevitable, I took his hand and whispered, “It’s okay, honey. Let go.”

After I was alone, I ran around, frantic, terrified, trying to pack the contents of the room I grew up in–to ready them to be given away. Things as banal as a bottle of contact solution reduced me to tears—the ordinary, mundane things that make life so breathtakingly beautiful. And my heart broke for missing my husband.

When I woke up, the warmth of the bed felt overpowering. I lay there, tense, thanking God with a passion and fervor that I haven’t experienced in a long time for the family I have been given.

A dream so vivid surely must hold a message from Heaven. But I couldn’t lie in bed trying to process it. Nothing would settle me down  until I got up and went from room to room, touching lips to cheek and hand to hand, covering small bodies and reassuring myself by those wonderful deep breaths a child takes when he is disturbed from sleep.

Still, I laid awake the rest of the night, and instead of greeting Easter morning with appropriate joy, I instead spent an hour and fifteen minutes shouting at Alex for not moving fast enough. Even at the time, I knew it was ridiculous. How could I treat my family like this after lying awake for three hours, unable to shake the horror of being deprived of them?

I know that images in dreams are supposed to mean something. Losing a baby, I once read, means that there is some dream that you have been ignoring. So what am I to take away from this experience? Is it a lesson in gratitude, or in balance, or a reminder that the synopses and queries of recent obsession are not nearly as important as I think they are? Do I draw from this that it’s not just time that I must balance, but what I spend time thinking about? That spending time with my kids wishing I could finish said synopsis or query is itself a form of ingratitude? That I need to live in the moment?

On Monday, I exchanged emails with a valued colleague who told me she thought I was being asked to fill a role that is “too small” for me—to “amputate pieces of self.” She didn’t specify parenthood, but that was how it registered in my mind.

It made me think of an interview I read with Elizabeth Gilbert.  The essence of motherhood, she said, is that you “take the thing that is most precious to you, and you cut it up and give it to somebody else who you love more than you love the thing. And we tend to idealize that, and I’m not sure we should.”

In case you’re wondering, Gilbert is not a mother. Has no desire to be—obviously. Looking at that statement again this morning, it’s so patently ridiculous that I wonder why I took such offense at it in the first place. Of course, you love a person more than a thing! How screwed up is it to suggest that any other order of priorities is appropriate?

I think the reason that quote struck me is that I often feel guilty for not sacrificing my own interests. This is a perennial topic on the blogosphere. In fact, one mother went so far as to say that selfish=good.

I guess the answer lies, as always, in balance. For me—and this is not a reflection on anyone else’s choices, only mine, with my unique situation as a person with a “job” that can be done from home—it would be unhealthy to go all the way to one extreme or the other. I could “amputate pieces of myself,” as my friend said, and devote my every moment to motherhood—to set aside all my other dreams, aspirations and gifts. Or I could stick the kids in day care and hit the writing full-time. Instead, I choose a middle course, which in some ways is harder, because it means that the choices have to be thought out and made every hour, every day, instead of being made once and then simply lived.

But the difficulty of my life is also what is so beautiful about it. In exchange for the constant inner tug-of-war, I get to have the best of both worlds.



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14 thoughts on “In my dreams

  1. What you have said here echoes my own life and mindset and choices so vividly… well, all except for the dream part.
    There’s no perfection – that’s the conclusion I’ve come to about life. It isn’t here, perfection, and the elusive search for it keeps us tweaking our lives when we should be just living them. I want what’s best for my children : but the best I can give is ME, and that me is someone who shrivels up on the inside without something besides Mommy stuff going on.
    (30 minute mom)

  2. grrr. I just wrote this long comment and then somehow deleted it. suffice it to say: I echo your thoughts and, in many ways, your choices. (except no vivid dreams lately). And it might not be perfect, but it is BEST for us. Thanks for sharing this!
    (30 minute mom)

  3. Hello, I like your blog. I came across it at Holy Experience. Will return and I think I’m going to participate in Chatting at the sky. I’m headed over there now.

  4. Dreams like that can really stick with you for awhile. Glad you shared it with us today. Finding balance is so hard because it is shifts daily. But like you said, we do get the enjoyment of both sides. Blessings to you.

  5. Aaaah balance. Yes, we remind each other, writers, bloggers, speakers, seasoned moms remind us and not often enough sometimes. That giving up of oneself and aspects of our lives is so natural and remembering to take time for ourselves can come with guilt.

    You remind me that one thing I don’t ever want to do is make my daughter feel like she owes me somehow for all the sacrifices I’ve made for her. They were my choice and she doesn’t need to take that into consideration as she lives her life. I don’t suppose thats something we all think about, but its something I think about.

  6. Dottie Sowash

    I’ve had those dreams too. I call them nightmares. I’m afraid to find out what they mean. If God is trying to tell me something, I hope He finds a gentler way. Those dreams are scary!

  7. This post really resonated with me today, Kathleen. I, too, am constantly struggling in the “middle ground.” You’ve given me something to think about here.

    BTW, did you change your blog layout — I haven’t been here for a bit (took a social media hiatus during Lent), and then when I bopped over from Holy Experience, I thought for a second that I was in the wrong place! But I like it — it’s clean and simple. Always good for a frenetic mind such as mine!

  8. Yes, they are nightmares. No doubt about it. I think I always wonder if they are a sign of me doing something I shouldn’t, or NOT doing something I should…

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