Last night I dreamt I couldn’t sleep. That’s what you call a good news/bad news scenario. This is what crawled through my subconsciousness:
I was in my same bed, lying next to the same man, struggling to fall asleep. Hours dragged on; I tossed blankets, kicked cats, repeated the Lord’s prayer – the usual thing. As the sun rose, so did my dread of starting the day on empty. When the light entered my room I caught movement outside the window. I sat up and discovered a family of bears playing in the morning dew, just outside my bedroom window. Renewed – happy even – I rushed downstairs to get my camera. Hand-over-hand I dusted the shelf where my camera should be, finally landing on my zoom lens. I pulled it down only to discover it snapped in half, rendered blind. I suddenly heard children playing outside – had the day started? Frantic, I grabbed the next lens I could find, connected it to the camera and returned upstairs. Quick vs. quiet. The bears had been replaced by a family of foxes, all in profile, motionless. I couldn’t believe my luck! I pointed the camera on a kit but the lens wouldn’t focus, the shutter wouldn’t even click. “I am losing this moment deargodwhywon’tanythingwork!” I look down at the camera and see that it’s not even mine. It’s not my camera. It’s weirdly white and on the screen it reads “TWIST” as if that’s a normal camera setting. I look back at the foxes holding their position and I realize they’re motionless for a reason. I step to the side and see the biggest coyote I have ever seen, (and I’ve never seen a coyote so … Wile E. Coyote). What was the window in my bedroom has become the outdoors itself and there is no longer anything between me and it. Instinct tells me I’m an easier target than a baby fox, so I run. I find a cabin, bolt through the door, turn around and brace it with my feet.
I wake up. I realize I am in my same bed lying next to the same man but there’s no coyote. I was dreaming. I was sleeping. Sweet relief, I had slept after all! But now I am awake. I woke myself to reassure myself I had slept. Goddamnit. Now I have to start all over again.
I first heard this quote on Six Feet Under, long before I had kids:
Now that I have children I wish it was just my heart because I feel like my entire nervous system is outside of my body, day and night. Outside I’m like, “Yeah, I got two kids now and he’s already six and she’s three so yeah, I got this. I know this.” But then my head hits the pillow and I realize, “HOW DID YOU EVEN DO THAT? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED? LET’S MAKE A LIST.” And then I play the day’s film: the traffic we biked in, the food they could have choked on, the slippery bathroom floor, swim class, all the chances I took. This is motherhood, right? Yes, they now sleep through the night but I’ll never really sleep again. And if I am lucky enough to fall asleep my dreams are peppered with fear.
With my heart and nervous system outside of my body, two giggling conspirators hand-in-hand, I feel tingly all the time. The exposure, vulnerability and unrelenting hyper-vigilence requires a sort of amplified consciousness; I now exist on another plane (and I can’t sleep there either). It’s neither higher nor lower, it’s just deeper, but that’s made all the difference. Parenting, not so coincidentally, reminds me so much of labor and birth; I’ve never felt more capable yet terrified, but also never more exquisitely awake.
Sleep on that, Dear Readers, if you can. I’ll be up if you want to talk.