I had the worst dream ever last night. The kind that you wake up from sobbing and gasping for air. The kind that when you wake up you are beyond grateful that your subconscious just totally fucked you over and that you are lying in your bed, surrounded by family, everyone safe and sound. The kind that forces you to get out of bed, check on everyone, go to the bathroom, drink water, completely waking yourself up to ensure you do not fall back into the grips of the nightmare. Does that ever happen to you? Waking from a dream only to fall right back into it, picking up where it left off? It happens to me all too often, sometimes even picking up dreams from the night before.
Mothers have two very real deep-seated, inconsolable fears. One: that something horrible will happen to their children. And two: that something horrible will happen to them so that they can no longer mother their kids. Usually, we are thinking about something horrible, we are talking about death. If we really go there. To the deepest darkest fear.
I have studied (in a very cursory but interested way) dream analysis since high school. It first made an impact on me when describing a dream to my high school senior philosophy classmates . A dream in which a great white shark violently pushed its head through the floorboards of my room demanding to eat me. Subtle stuff. Dwight, our beloved, semi-cukoo/brilliant teacher, asked me if I might prefer discussing the dream privately, with a strong suggestion that something very sexual in nature was afoot. He did so in a way that I was not at all ashamed, but intrigued by the shifting of the subconscious to create these stories to work things out of which we may not even be even slightly aware.
So last night. I snuggled up with Luna, our ten year old, promising to sleep all night long with her, her last night before entering her first full day of fifth grade. I fully and unapologetically admit that sleeping with her is one of my life’s greatest pleasures. The snuggle factor is high, and we fit like a puzzle in a way that makes me feel like all is right in the world. She was particularly tired, so we actually turned the lights out before nine and both quickly fell asleep.
In the dream, Luna, Dylan (my thirteen year old daughter) and I were old driving in a large SUV-like car. Somehow we were all in the way back and the car was working on some kind of navigation system. Then the super shittiness began. I was wasted. Or unable to control the car. I wasn’t actively drinking or using anything in the dream, but I was definitely altered and worried about being able to control the car. From the back seat. My awake reality is that I am almost twenty years clean and sober so this is already a nightmare because I had already somehow fucked all that up.
Cut to dream analysis 101 as I understand it. The car represents me. And clearly I was out of control and jeopardizing my kids.
Then, as dreams will do, I was no longer wasted. That part was over. But I was still in the back seat and the navigation system failed. The car careened off the road, and from what I perveived, flew through the sky.
Time. Slowed. Down. To. A. Snail’s. Pace.
As we flew through the air, as all mothers are so ridiculously good at, I began to multi-task. I screamed at the girls to check their seat belts and tighten them. I told them to brace for an impact. I TOLD THEM I LOVED THEM. I screamed it. I interlaced hands with both of them. Luna in my left. My artist. Dylan in my right. My academic. I saw that Dylan’s head was too close to the back window, so in true yoga teacher fashion, I contorted my leg to place my thigh behind her head so that her head wouldn’t smash glass on the impact.
Here’s the thing. I knew I was going to die. I thought they might. I prayed that they wouldn’t and that they would survive. But my final moments in that dream were trying to save them so that could lives their lives. Without me. Like a motherfucking punch to the gut in the deepest, most primal, painful way.
Then I woke up.
Thank god or whoever. I woke up. I’ve been shaking this dream all day. I cannot begin to analyze what it means. Them slipping through my fingers as they grow up. Me releasing control. Careening out of control into a new school year. Everything unmanageable. FEAR DRIVING THE MOTHERF$CKING CAR!!! Elizabeth Gilbert, help me!!!!
But here’s what I know. I woke up. We are alive. I will not sweat the small stuff for at least the next twenty four hours.