Reframing nightmares.

A six year old houseguest of ours walked into the kitchen clutching her newly built lego dragon that slept alongside her last night.  I knelt down to say hello only to learn that her night hung thick with the dark cloud of a nightmare.  A fear filled awe filled the space in between us, as she explained her dreams with big, wide eyes and not a hint of a smile.

I listened to the play-by-play, which honestly, was kinda boring the way other people’s dreams usually are.  While I nodded in understanding, I pondered the juxtaposition of her fear with my experience of her very passionate relay.  From my seat, there was obviously nothing to truly fear.  It was a dream, one.  And two, it was actually kinda funny when you hear it in the morning.  But, not to her.  To her, it was very, very real, and I felt for her.  And, I understood that trap.

Inspiration struck, and once she finished with the flourish of the monster locking her friend in the bathroom, I asked her what she would do if she could return to her dream right now.  She immediately said she’d punch the monster.  I saw her eyes perk up, so I kept going.  Then what would you do?  She’d run out the side door into the town and tell everyone.  Great idea!  Then what?  I’d go back with the police and find my friend, then we’d all throw a party!  Hooray!

With that, she was over it.  She and her lego dragon bounced out of the room and into the rest of her day.

Emotional understanding.

Surprisingly, I have learned as much about myself these past nine months of raising Beauden, as I have about my rapidly growing son.  More than anything, I learned that I have pockets of emotion that I wasn’t willing to experience before having a kid.  They didn’t seem to be a problem, which is almost unbelievable to me now.  Looking back, there they were, and I can clearly see how hard, much, much too hard I worked to avoid them, deny them and sadly, even punish myself because they simply existed.  But, I wasn’t even aware that I could simply feel that thing that felt like a neck ache, a bad mood or a problem with someone else.  It still amazes me a little bit.  There is literally a way out of those traps, and it isn’t simply pretending that they don’t exist.  The catch is, the gateway out is blocked by an enormous, seemingly immobile bodyguard named Fear.  But the secret is, Fear is actually extremely insecure and often even childlike, when you are willing to look squarely in its deformed, terrifying face.  The process of turning towards Fear can feel like you are going crazy, outside your body, buzzing with a strange, unnamable energy or sick – a mere second from throwing up or dying of an unnamed disease.

The beginning of the baby was filled with Fear’s presence for me.  A Fear that I had never quite known, because I couldn’t escape it, push it aside and pretend it didn’t exist because I was never, ever going to stop loving the thing that was triggering the fear – my beautiful baby boy.  And, to tame Fear, I had to begin looking in all those pockets of emotion just beyond Fear’s doorway that I was unable to witness up until my 36th year of life, which seems so horribly old to begin facing this process.  Grief, sadness, insecurity, creativity, joy – they felt larger than life.  Thoughts like, “I can’t do this,” went through my head.  I couldn’t sleep.  The only thing that felt better was holding my baby and learning about my emotions.  So, I did those two things, every day.  For months.

I had no idea when I was picking out colors for my son’s nursery that I was actually creating a sanctuary for this process.  He plopped in this world as a teacher before he could even talk.  He wasn’t teaching me with his words, he was teaching me with his unflappable presence that provided a mirror into my soul and a light into the dark cavities of my spirit.  I wanted the process to stop immediately and to never, ever stop.  And now, as I sit here 9 months in, I am certain.  This is the only way.  It’s not easy, but I grow softer and stronger through the process.  And for that, all I can say is, thank you.