Thursday, September 30, 2010

Confessions in Dreamland

In the last post, I wrote that I thought to give the boy a BMX bike for his birthday because he was enjoying practicing jumps on the ramps at the local skate park. I did not write that I knew one of the things he wanted most was a laptop, a netbook to be exact, nor that the reason that I wanted to offer the BMX was that I judged it healthier than a laptop. I didn't write those things because they didn't reflect who I want to be as a parent - even though they are who I sometimes am as a parent.

These past two months have found me in the midst of frequent darkness, even as I traverse the magnificent light of my daily life. This darkness has been seen most vividly in my dream life. You see, recently, Cutter, my son, went through about three weeks of what felt like intense sickness.

He developed a cough that went into double ear and eye infections as well as some pretty wicked lung congestion. This came at the tail end of a couple months of busy-ness and travel the likes of which we don't often experience at our house. He developed a high fever and became sluggish. His breathing became quite rapid and I became quite concerned. We spent a few days on homeopathic and herbal remedies before we landed at the pediatrician's and antibiotics. I morphed into mainstream (albeit creative) mom. I designed menus full of healthy, vegetarian menus from which he could order. I pushed outside time. I pushed a BMX bike instead of a laptop. I started having bad dreams. About Isaiah. Our son who died 3 1/2 years ago from complex congenital defects.

You see, I know what life-threatening illness looks like. I know how fast, and for how long, a heart can manage to beat and still sustain a life. I know what the last slow breaths, the last slow beats, sound like. I listened to them. And so, when I dreamed of being unable to "play" with friends at the health club because Isaiah was sick, when I dreamt of refusing to visit Isaiah in the hospital while he was sick, well, I listened to that, too. And when I found myself freaking out because my husband fed our still sick son, Cutter, a plain bagel, I listened to that, too.

And what I heard was fear. Irrational, yes, but real fear nonetheless. I could see and know the fear was irrational, know that by trying to control my loved ones in their eating and their actions, I was not only expressing my fear, but hurting our relationships (refer back to The Hidden Child.) But I also needed to honor that mourning Isaiah and hurting from that loss is not a one-shot deal. Sure, I did a year of counseling with an amazing woman. Sure, I live an amazing life full of love and adventure and growth. But I still suffer. I still want to hold my son to my chest. And I sure as hell don't want to lose my other son. There, I said it.

Enter a good friend. One versed in dream work and Jungian psychology. A friend I went to with one of my latest dreams. The first dream found me in an art class that I'd enrolled in to "find myself." The professor gave us our first assignment: go home and draw your house. Don't focus on details. Just get the basic shapes down. How easy, I thought. At home, I tried to get the basic shapes of home down and found I couldn't. I could sketch the corner of the couch, the curve of the curtain, the dirty spoon on the sink's edge, but the whole escaped me. I returned to the class the next day, abashed in front of the professor, in tears explaining that I could not find my home.

To me, this dream represented part of my darkest self, the self caught up in trying to control minute details, the plain bagels and the day of video games, rather than being able to see the whole of where my life is, the whole of who my amazing child is. My friend offered something else, something more hopeful in the dark - that my psyche, through the dream, is letting me know that part of me knows that the whole is there, is visible, when I am ready, even if it means I have to go through all the details first.

Dream two, two nights ago, after I again attempted to assert control over my loved ones. During a moment that I was writing a book review on my laptop, my dh was watching a t.v. show and Cutter was playing a game on his laptop, I heard one click too many and said, "O.K., this is all wrong. Let's all shut down our media and talk about our day." I forced it. It was ugly. Cutter cried. Joe looked at me in bemusement. I don't like writing this - I'm often looked at as someone for whom this parenting is easy, but it's sometimes hard as hell, folks, and sometimes I am ugly. It's ironic - even as I forced it, I remembered a time in my youth when my siblings and I were forced to watch a t.v. show, for family time, for reasons I will never know, but which surely felt as powerful to my father. As a child, I hated it. And I hated it two nights ago. I apologized to Cutter, to Joe, to myself. I allowed that it was actually the noise that put me over the edge and not the fact that my family members were engaged in activities they loved. Since, I have made sure to have the space I need to write, to avoid noise when needed.

But the dream that night - I dreamt that Cutter was engaged in several activities that parents frequently dread. Sex, drugs, alcohol, stealing. I dreamt that he was engaged in a lot of ugliness, and still, I knew that I loved him, that he was deserving of love. And to think, the most I've been so hyped up about is food and video games. One day, my dh was kind enough to ask, "You know, if he sat on the couch all day reading books, would you be as concerned?" You see, I know, in my deepest heart, that my son is well, that he is rounded and healthy. He rides horses, he plays video games, he eats a variety of foods, he cooks sushi, he plays pretend, he builds dioramas, he swims, he does so much - and I know this and I love him. I just sometimes forget that I am fearful, fearful of loss, fearful of illness and death, and instead of allowing that, allowing it to open me up, make me vulnerable, well, I forget and I let it shut me down, shut my son down, shut my husband down, shut life down.

Here's to opening up again, to dreaming new dreams, come what may.


Rachel said...

Jen, this is beautiful, painful, honest, hopeful. Thank you for writing it. And thank you for posting it. And maybe you can feel the hug that I am imagining that I am giving you right now. I still barely know you, but I love you all the same.

lisa said...

Jen...I admire your honesty...with yourself and your family and for publishing it to the world.

First, let me say that I completely relate to the desires to control, the desires to not be controlling, the fears (although experience in that area sets us apart) biggest red flag is around food, especially pop (B would have it *alot*) and I can't quite release all of my fears in that I do what I can to mitigate my unwillingness to buy it frequently or keep it in the house (bake for them, choose what groceries are coming in the house, talk to them about my thoughts on nutrition and indulge with them too)...blah, blah, blah...
my point, really, is that in terms of my 'electronic' conversations with friends et al...I have been feeling the need to stay positive, focus on the amazing, funny, peaceful moments in our lives, both for me (because it helps me 'rewrite' my story, ala Anna at 2009 conference) and because I know that some/many don't want to hear that I was yelling or exhausted or crying or ready to quit in that moment or I don't share that...I know it is also about my desire to be liked/accepted, etc.,, thank you for having the courage to be authentic, in front of us...I appreciate and love you for exactly who you are today.XO Lisa