Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And the bad dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Just after Holocaust Remembrance Day last week I had a tense dream that I was hiding from someone. I had to slip through a disguised patch in the drywall, through the frames the hold up the wall, and behind some pipes that went through the floor to the hot-water heater below anytime I wanted to leave our home. It was urgent that I went undetected, and then I had to drive somewhere, and not be noticed there, and get back safely, and not be noticed returning, and get inside safely, and behind the pipes and through the wall and in the disguised drywall patch. I don't know who we were hiding from or why, only that I needed to come back with something to ensure our continued safety. And for some other reason related to the danger we were in, I had to go alone, and say goodbye to my lovely husband at the pipes, and hold my breath and hope I'd make it back.

I don't know if talking about the Holocaust was what prompted the dream, or some general anxiety, or something else. It might not have been a Holocaust dream. But I almost never have bad dreams, and this was terrible, and left me unsettled all the next day.

They're just dreams. They aren't real.

We've been talking about the Holocaust a little because now that E is in kindergarten, and at a Jewish school, she's learning a little about it for the first time. But she didn't seem unsettled, only I did. Why am I having the bad dreams?  She and I actually talked about it the next morning. They're just dreams, we agreed. They aren't real.


The next night E woke up screaming. It wasn't her usual wordless cry. Instead, very clearly: help! Help! She couldn't explain, just that she felt she was being pulled somewhere. I couldn't get her calm. Finally I brought her back to our room and she fell asleep in my arms.

The next morning I got out of the shower to find the lovely husband calming a still-jittery girl. "Do you want to talk about it?" I asked. She said she had a bad dream about her new earrings. A bad guy pulled them out of her head. "Sweetie," I said, as I went to soothe her.

The lovely husband leaned over me as I bent over her. "The dream was real," he whispered. "Look at her left ear. The earring is gone." Then he squeezed my arm and left the room.

Yellow-tailed secessionist traitor. The girl was going to freak and he left the room.

We found her earring snagged on the weave of her blanket. We sterilized it and hoped hopedhoped that it would go back in, that her new piercing wouldn't have closed in the hours she slept unknowingly without it.

I poked it partway through. She was shaky and hated the sensation. I couldn't get the stud through her ear. I decided to try the other direction, hoping to open the back of the hole.

I poked the earring through backward, slowly, slowly, slowly. And it went through!

And then I couldn't get it out and her earring was backward and she was crying and we were all going to be late and I was still in a towel, arranged awkwardly so she could lean against me and I had no idea how we were going to make this okay.

And you know that feeling, the one where you split down the middle and your body displays a completely different set of emotions from what you feel inside? We were well into my own panic attack, inside, but I kept saying calmly, "it's okay, let's try again, hold still, sweetie."

We got it, eventually. And I've changed the blanket on her bed. And everything is okay. But sometimes that feeling just lingers, and it's been hard to shake. And it wasn't about something as small as an earring or about as big as the Holocaust, but about the in-between, about how precious my life, and how little control I have over anything, and how to stay calm in the powerlessness.

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