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After 6 Years of Sleep Deprivation, I Finally Started Dreaming Again

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The past few mornings, I’ve woken up with the feeling that I’ve forgotten something. I wracked my brain today, trying to figure out what needed to be done. It came to me: packing. I need to pack. Relieved, I sat up, only to remember that I’m not actually going anywhere. None of us are.

Packing?!? Why was I convinced that I needed to immediately start packing?

I was so sure that I needed to pack. So very sure. (Weird. So very weird.)

When I thought about it a little more, a little longer and a little harder (a luxury in the morning; somehow I wasn’t surrounded by two kids needing help while the toddler was waking up), I realized that I had been dreaming about taking a trip. Relief again: It all made sense.

READ: You Can’t Have Sleep Training Without the Sleep

But…dreaming? Or more precisely, remembering my dream with such intensity that it filled my first waking moments? That hadn’t happened in…when had that last happened?

Six years ago. I hadn’t remembered my dreams in any meaningful way in six years. Not since my oldest was born. I hadn’t had deep enough sleep to dream, or for my dreams to linger, in six years.

Now that I’ve recaptured my dreams, I’m savoring them. A part of me has come back, one that I didn’t even know was missing. Because the thing about losing your dreams is that you don’t notice they are gone. You’re too tired, first of all, and it happens so gradually that unless someone points it out, it doesn’t register. At least it didn’t for me.

And I wonder, a little, what other pieces of me have fallen by the wayside these past six years? Don’t get me wrong: It’s been a wonderful, glorious, exhausting, and challenging ride. One that I am endlessly grateful to be on. Really. But there have been losses. Some of these I’ve consciously chosen; others have been forced upon me. These are the ones I know about, and can accommodate for. But what startles and maybe even scares me, a little, are the ones that I never realized had happened.

Like dreaming.

READ: A Lifetime Spent Driving, But Where Am I Going?

I mean, I know that I was (am?) seriously sleep-deprived, and that’s OK. I chose to parent the way that I do, and to have the number of kids that I have, and I chose to accept the loss of sleep that has resulted. And I have known that I have had about one solid hour a day when I’ve been myself, and the rest has been a question of just making it through sometimes. And that was OK, too. But what I never quite realized is that I’d also given up dreaming. I’d given up that gloriously rich other world, the one where I can go anywhere and be anything and do everything.

That other world, the world of dreams (the world I’d given up, the world in which I can fly) sounds a lot like the world we (some of us, those of us who still believe in the future, who are still able to believe in the future) tell our children (with special emphasis to our daughters) they live in already. But they don’t. We don’t. Not yet, anyway. If we did, I probably wouldn’t have stopped dreaming for six years. I wouldn’t have been quite that tired.

Because actually, we can’t do everything, not without giving anything up. Sometimes more than we realize. Often more than we want to.

READ: 9 Things About Motherhood That Took Me by Surprise

But now that I’m dreaming again, I’m reminded that I want this world for my children, a world where doing anything doesn’t mean doing everything. And even if I’d given up dreaming because of my children, I haven’t given up dreaming for them. Or for myself. I haven’t given up dreaming of, and working towards, a world in which we don’t have to either do it all or make some very hard choices. I think, with the right support, that world doesn’t have to be only a fantasy. I think we can make it there.

I’m ready for that world. I’m already packing.

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