Jennifer Ginsberg: It's been a while since she's visited me in my dreams. Her appearances come in waves -- I'll see her every night for a week or two, then she'll disappear for a month or more. She always seems to show up when I need her the most.
In my dream, we were in the house where I grew up, the house where I watched my mom die of cancer two weeks before I gave birth to Kiana, my daughter.
The memories of being there with her during that time are still in my body. I feel a deep pang, from my heart to the pit of my stomach. In my last lucid conversation with my mom, she told me that she knew that she was never going to meet her granddaughter, the baby in my belly who was almost ready to be born.
Over the past few days, I have felt my familiar and uncomfortable angst begin to well up. So many projects -- so little time. I've questioned if I'm just spinning my wheels. My list is piling up, but at times I'm not even sure what I'm trying to accomplish.
I woke up in the middle of the night with that clenching 3 AM dread -- every latent anxiety surfaces and is magnified without the distractions of my daytime routine. My mind raced from topic to topic -- I thought about the upcoming play I will be performing in and the book that I'm working on, and quickly convinced myself that I would fail miserably at both endeavors.
I ruminated about my husband being out of town, and wondered how I would possibly get through the next few weeks without him. I contemplated my grocery list and realized that I had nothing to pack in Shane's lunchbox. I thought about the audition I'd had the day before and counted all the ways I f*cked it up. Then I chastised myself for being a sh*tty friend because of all the phone calls I hadn't yet returned.
Everything got clumped together into a mosh pit until I convinced myself that my entire life was out of control. I wondered why I couldn't be one of those people who actually sleeps soundly at night. A person who has the capacity to feel some peace. By now I should know better than to try to solve "The Problem of My Life" at three in the morning!
"The goal is not inner peace!" I heard the words of my favorite rabbi, Mark Borovitz. "The goal is to struggle with dignity."
The problem is, my struggles haven't felt very dignified lately. I've been snappy with my children and unable to live in the moment. I've been feeling a bit sorry for myself with my husband out of town. I can't find a good song on my iPod or a decent outfit in my closet. I've been procrastinating some challenging writing assignments and waiting for inspiration (which never works), rather than being disciplined and working my way through the creative blocks.
Why so much angst, I wondered again. My life is blessed. My children are healthy, my husband is employed, I can walk to the ocean from my house. I should have the capacity to enjoy my life and stop trying to manage and control everything.
There I go again -- now it's 3:17 AM and all I've managed to do is beat myself up for how I think I "should" be feeling ... and, oh yeah, note to self -- I'm out of bananas and string cheese!
I thought about my children again. I wondered if I was doing enough or doing too much. I feel incredibly responsible for their physical and emotional well-being, as I should! But being solely responsible for them when my husband is out of town (as he often is) freaks me out, because in those moments it seems like the power to f*ck them up completely rests in my hands.
I remembered the breathing exercise my yoga teacher taught me. "Breath in so, breath out hum." I'm generally not a fan of chanting mantras, but I was so desperate to shut my brain off that I was willing to try anything. I tossed and turned and breathed.
After what felt like hours, I fell back asleep. My mom quickly appeared in my dream. She looked just like she did before she went into hospice care, with her cute, highlighted haircut and soft makeup. She was wearing a flowing linen dress. In other dreams, she is the mom of my childhood with long, bouncy, dark hair, lots of eyeliner, and blue jeans.
While the details of my mom-dreams are different, the theme is always the same. We're spending time together and I suddenly realize that she hasn't really been dead for the past two and a half years, rather she has been on vacation, or even weirder, she's been staying in her friend's basement. I'm so relieved that it was all a misunderstanding, and I feel such joy and gratitude to have her back in my life.
I love our relationship in these dreams -- free of any inherent mother/daughter conflict. Perfectly simple and easy. I can talk to her about anything, and she is wise and nonjudgmental.
My mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table in the home I grew up in. I kept marveling at how she was finally back in my life, and how horribly mistaken I had been over the past few years. I told her, "I knew you weren't really dead!"
Then, we were walking up a hill in my hometown and she was holding my hand. She smelled like her favorite perfume, White Musk from the Body Shop. I told her how much I loved her and missed her. She was smiling and very calm. I had a moment of feeling completely connected to her before she began to fade. She told me she loved me so much, but she had to go. She said she was just visiting me again -- just making sure I was OK.
When I awoke, I wasn't sure if she was dead, alive, or somewhere in between. The early morning sun filtered through the ficus trees outside my bedroom window, and I heard Shane's little feet padding into my bedroom.
And for one moment, I felt something that maybe, just maybe, resembled peace.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles mother, writer, and addiction specialist with over 15 years of experience in the fields of alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. After receiving her MSW from the USC School Of Social Work and MAJCS from Hebrew Union College, Jennifer served as the clinical director of a 120 bed drug and alcohol treatment facility. She also co-developed an addiction prevention program for Jewish youth, which has been implemented in synagogues nationally. Jennifer now works privately with people who are impacted by the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol and writes about all topics related to motherhood, addiction, and women in politics. Read more about her life at angstmom.com|