I have these crazy anxiety inspired dreams sometimes. They come whenever I find myself in an emotional clearing in the woods. After a long couple of months of emotional ups and downs, conferences, workshops, projects kicking up, projects winding down, kids puking and people visiting, this weekend is the first open space in my schedule. No place to go, nothing to do.
I probably should have expected that my unconscious would choose last night to fire off the free floating angst I’ve been stuffing away for the last 8 weeks.
I dreamt I was in a grocery store with my daughter and I was making waffles. I was making really amazing waffles. The belgian waffle maker was placed on the floor near an inflatable mattress. Riley and I had slept on that mattress the night before, it seems. I was groggy, well in need of a shower and a cup of coffee and I was wearing a poofy skirt that was much poofy-er on than it looked on the hanger moments earlier. Somewhere in my dream I knew that my husband had 2 of my sons with him on a trip but I was struck with panic when I remembered that my middle son, Henry didn’t know where Riley and I had gone and that he had been home alone all night.
In my waking hours I develop a story that we were trapped in the store, that I had not intended to leave Henry home by himself but in the dream I was just panicked. I looked for my phone and could not find it. The waffle maker burned a hole in the inflatable mattress as I watched. The waffles burned to a crisp. The customers were entering the store and I had no idea what to do. In the dream I felt as though I could not get air into my lungs, they deflated like the air mattress against the hot waffle maker. I looked for Riley but could not see her. I asked store employees to help me but they were all busy. I grabbed random customers to help me find my phone and just as I reached my breaking point I saw Henry, sitting on a counter, playing a game on my phone.
I grabbed him and hugged him close. “Are you alright? Were you scared by yourself at home?” He shrugged and then handed my phone to me. “Yes. I tried to call you a lot of times.” I looked at the phone and saw that he had called 53 times. My “parental confidence” shrank to nothing and I apologized over and over.
Then I woke up.
This morning I told Henry about my dream. I harbored an awful lot of guilt for a person who did not actually leave her 9 yr old son home alone in real life overnight in favor of burnt waffles. He thought the dream was funny and frightening. I just thought it was frightening.
I have these angst ridden, guilt dreams more than I care to count, I guess. They almost always involve me leaving a child somewhere, forgetting someone important or missing some big event. It’s possible that dreaming is just a random firing of unconnected thoughts, unexpressed desires or simply showing our anxiety-ridden slip, so to speak. It’s possible that dreams mean nothing, that we should be able to laugh and shake off nightmares, pizza dreams, poignant images that come to us in the night.
But I pay attention to the dreams I cannot shake the next day. The ones I cannot shake always seem to be the ones in which I am failing as a parent, the ones in which I have made a terrible error where my kids are concerned. Maybe it’s important for me to wear those around a little, to not shake that free of my pajamas so quickly. Maybe letting my unconscious have a voice in the night is precisely the cure for the anxiety I carry around during the day.
Keeping anxiety and fear locked up in my skin cells means it cannot help but come out through my pores. Dreaming is the purge. Giving the anxiety a moment in me during the day is important then; a moment where I admit that life is difficult and dangerous, parenting is difficult and dangerous, breathing is difficult and dangerous. Admitting this, knowing this, I come then to the conclusion that overall, this difficulty and danger is more than worthwhile, it is vital. It is the reason we get out of bed in the morning after a rough night, a rough week, a rough couple of months. In the end, the point of anxiety dreams isn’t to make me feel guilty when I wake up but simply to bring what is unspoken but felt into the realm of waking life.
The reality is that we’re all ok- Henry didn’t spend the night by himself, Riley isn’t lost in a supermarket, the waffles are not burnt and the mattress still has air. As those dreamt images cling to my clothing today though they do remind me that I am afraid and that I want to do this well and it reminds me to pay attention, to keep track of my self, to listen to my children and to never place the waffle maker close to an air mattress.