When I was pregnant with our first child, I had a recurring dream. I floated in the ocean on a slab of ice that seemed to be melting. I wasn’t cold, but balanced there, looking around at the other floes of ice nearby. I needed to choose one to jump over to, before mine crumbled into the water. I made the leap just in time, and turned around to watch the remains of my former perch disappear beneath the waves.
As my pregnancy progressed, the dream became frenzied. Earlier, it was just an exercise of choosing carefully where to jump. Later, my options became smaller, and the one I jumped onto began to crumble immediately. By my last trimester It was like a video game, and I was not scoring well.
I’m not one to analyze my dreams much, but this one was comically symbolic. There was no turning back from my current condition, and the changes ahead felt scary and nebulous to me. In my waking hours I was thrilled and excited, but my subconscious was not so assured. It knew that our life was speeding toward colossal change with no brakes or power steering. Part of me felt unready for parenthood.
Another metaphor I see retrospectively in that dream is more meaningful than the frantic leap into the unknown: where I was standing fell away and disappeared. My life as I knew it was ending, as a new life was being born. For something new to come into existence, something else must die. For my daughter to come into the world, the selfish, old me needed to check out and give in to motherhood.
Today I am experiencing this truth on another level. Last year I was not a writer. Today, I am. The self I kept under wraps, carefully guarding my privacy, no longer exists. I have had to speak up where I used to be silent, and open my confidential files. I’ve had to be more honest about what I value and believe, even when it conflicts with the values and beliefs of some near and dear familiars. The perfectionistic people-pleaser in me has met a timely death.
For years I denied the mortality of that person. She would live forever! Her means of survival were precise, including necessary justifications and omissions. After all, I didn’t want to offend anyone, or rudely contradict them, or worse, bore them to death. Better to just sit back and read what others had to say about the things that were important to me.
It has taken me until middle age to pay my respects. My dreams these days process lesser anxieties, with some really good flying episodes. In them, I step off cliffs and rise up over tree tops, or take flight after running and jumping into the air. It takes a few attempts, but with focus and effort, I am soaring.