I had the most horrible dream a few weeks ago, one of those dreams that you have a tough time shaking.
In this dream I was on a late-night flight, sparsely populated, and flying by myself back home from a conference. I was excited to see Eric and the girls. In the dream I could see through the cockpit of the plane and directly out the windshield. The lights of the city were spread out before us, twinkling, as we descended.
All of a sudden, the plane lost power. I remember being struck by the amazing silence of this descent, the quickness of it, its subtlety. There was a surreal contradiction between this quiet speed and the panicky realization that if that power didn't come back on immediately, I would die. I began to panic, to hyperventilate, when all of a sudden something else in me took over. I just said (prayed?) that I wanted to see my family again, and that if that was in my destiny, I hoped it would happen.
The strange thing is, as soon as I said this in the dream, I knew it would be true. But I woke up before I could see the power come back on, so the disquietude of those terrifying, dark, silent moments persists some. The intensity of my desire to see my little family was also completely overwhelming, and a little surprising. I mean, I'm not the most other-centered person I've ever met. But the switch from me freaking out over my death to focusing on wanting to see them again was strangely intentional and powerful in the dream.
I was thinking about this last night after Eric and I had a doozy of a fight over putting Addie to bed. I have to work tonight and tomorrow night, so he was hoping I would undertake the occasionally arduous process of helping Addie go to sleep so he could have a break. I, on the other hand, needed to balance the checkbook (also arduous) and prep for class today, and was looking at a late night anyway. If I took the hour to put Addie to bed, I wouldn't get to bed until midnight. And today is my twelve-hour day, so I needed some sleep.
[Note: The irony is that Addie woke up at midnight and I ended up hanging out with her for an hour and a half while we dissected the "scary noises" in her room, including a roar that she continually demonstrated for me. "But Addie," I kept saying, "That's you roaring."]
The gist, really, is that Eric and I weren't very nice to each other in this particular interaction, nor in the follow-up conversation after Addie went down. It was the sort of argument that makes one understand phrases like "seeing red." It was the sort of argument that makes me imagine moving into an apartment of my own.
But the paradox is this: it wasn't a big fight. It was just a frustrating one. When Eric and I fight, it's always over this same unresolvable conflict, the conflict of neither of us having enough time to relax. I feel overworked and underappreciated; he wants me to leave the dishes in the sink and the laptop off. I feel like he doesn't understand the unique demands of my job, the fact that I never have enough time to succeed because I have too many competing obligations; he feels like I'm taking advantage of him by using him as the obvious babysitter.
We make little strides at solving this dilemma now and then, and I think as the kids grow older, it is getting a little easier. Still, it's hard not to let resentment take over, to count how many hours one person works, to justify every little minute of the day. We deny each other small kindnesses because we feel stretched and deprived ourselves.
So, I was lying on the couch after the fight, trying to calm down enough to focus on feminist film theory for my class today, when the airplane dream came back to me. I didn't welcome it. I wanted to stay mad. But the vivid specter of loss floated there in front of me, demanding to be acknowledged, demanding that I give up my anger and value my spouse and kids above all else.
Man, that's hard sometimes. It shouldn't be, but it is. I don't know why it takes such fearful fantasies for me to recognize how much I love my family, but it does. This being split all the time is difficult, and I think these disaster fantasies serve to unify me in some way, to bring me back to myself. They are painful and useful all at once, but a temporary and unfulfilling fix at best.
Such fantasies and dreams, which plagued me terribly after Addie was born, started to fade when she turned two (before we had Nolie) and Eric and I felt a little relief from the demands of babyhood. I'm sure the same will happen as Nolie gets older. For now, though, we struggle, each falling through the air like maniac parachutists, occasionally catching hands and holding on, sometimes tumbling off into our own erratic cartwheels, the ground approaching ever faster. Where will we land, I wonder? How will we fare? Will we come back together, make a soft landing for one another? I hope so. I think so. We fall for now, but won't forever, I think.