I had a dream last night that present-day-me somehow (as a spirit? a thought? a memory but also premonition?) was able to supernaturally visit myself as a 10-year-old. I appeared at a gathering with my mom’s extended family at my grandparent’s bay house in Galveston: a get together I vaguely remember.
10-year-old me was in their kitchen helping my cousins with the dishes; some of us bickering about the chore, others being silly. I was hand drying a pot when today me approached young me and she, with giant eyes looked up.
“You can see me?” I whispered.
Very slightly, she nodded.
The cousins bustled around her, none of them seeming to notice me. Looking around my grandparent’s kitchen, the smell of the gulf, the caws of the seagulls outside and honks of geese on the canal: it was overwhelming. I looked back at young me who had tears pooling in her eyes.
“I can see you too,” I said.
Her hands were already shaky, not because she saw a ghost; I remember being shaky. I remember being insecure of it, even that young. I was insecure about everything really because when you’re relentlessly bullied as a child, you learn to hate everything about yourself.
Standing in front of her glossy eyes, remembering her pain, I wanted so bad to give her a solid piece of grown-up advice. Something to make her see that she mattered. That it would be okay. That she would blossom one day and the bullies wouldn’t matter. But I couldn’t because you know how sometimes in dreams, you want scream but nothing comes out? That was this. Me, standing in front of me, wanting to embrace myself but instead feeling more and more overwhelmed by the environment. Overstimulated even in a dream—how apropos.
Things became fuzzy and something woke me up. For a while, I laid in bed imagining my 10-year-old self, trying to remember if there was a time in my youth that I imagined seeing an older version of myself because how cool would that be. How meta. But I couldn’t remember. I don’t remember a lot of things. An anxious mind has a blurry memory about the things it isn’t obsessed over.
For the rest of the night, I teeter-tottered in and out of sleep. I was in high school at one point, a moment I remember being scared to say something to a boy I liked. I was in my twenties at another point when I drank too much wine not knowing that I was using alcohol as an attempt to suppress my nerves, insecurities, and ultimately my anxiety (thus unknowingly fueling it and creating a forever feedback loop). And somewhere completely unknown where there were lots of buildings and black, shiny cars, and I was trying to say something to somebody who wouldn’t stop talking long enough for me to get any words out. When I finally woke up for good, I was dizzy, strained, and stressed and as I partook in my morning routine of critter-care, I struggled to find meaning in this self-conscious-themed dream-walk. As I type this now, I come to this:
I am afraid. Here, in real-time, mid-thirties me: I am afraid. I am afraid because in a handful of days, I’m supposed to send my small child off to school in a state where they are not allowed—by ugly politics—to enforce any kind of mask mandate or reporting of COVID cases that may pop up in the school. I am afraid that I am sending my child into a wild fire and that he will get sick. I’m done hearing that “children don’t get it as bad,” because when it comes to my son, bad or not bad, it’s my job to protect him with my whole self and I will ferociously.
I am afraid because I am one those people with underlying conditions which makes me more susceptible to severe reactions from COVID. I am in that group that could be the 1% those politicians are willing to sacrifice in order to keep the economy going. I am afraid my child will lose his mother. And I think a part of me is looking for the grown up in the room to tell me it’s going to be okay.
Will it *probably* be okay? Maybe. But isn’t that what everyone says before it very much isn’t okay?
It does feel like I’m trying to scream into a room where I’m not seen or heard. Where I’m not saying what I want to say because I’m afraid someone louder and more confident will bully me and make me feel small and ashamed. Where I’m desperately looking for ways to self-soothe so that I don’t absolutely lose it. Where I want to tell myself it’s going to be okay but the truth is, no one can say that.
—All while maintaining calm, collected composure (no matter how close the pot is to boiling over inside) for my son who needs to feel safe. Ferocious, indeed.
I’m shaking with fear and I truly don’t believe it’s my anxiety, being overly dramatic, or having an overreaction. I think it’s being a parent. It’s also being a parent who has those underlying health issues that many people throw around as statements and safe-guards as to why *their* family will be okay. “It only affects people with underlying health conditions” really seems to help some people sleep better at night.
And that hurts. Hear me. That hurts.
It’s been 5 straight minutes where I’ve been watching the cursor blink on my computer under that last line. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t believe I’m looking for advice, but instead, camaraderie from anyone who might be feeling even an iota of what I’m feeling. Validation in this unknown. A pause and consideration about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. A moment to recognize each other and the depth in which our lives matter.
Also, just please be safe. Be kind. Be gentle. Be considerate. Love yourself and imagine everyone around you needing love too, because I promise you, they do. Send someone a text or a message today to let them know you’re thinking of them before the moment passes and it’s too late. Think of what you’d tell your young self and tell your grown-up self that, too. You might need to hear it just as much
I love you,