Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dreaming of Italy

Eureka! I got a gift this week. While I slept, I had an “ah HA moment.”

We’re all so wise when we sleep. Our dreams show us all sorts of wisdom that we didn’t even know we had. Somehow, our unconscious mind holds answers that we just can’t see in our waking lives. In fact, one might say that our dreams channel our unconscious, speaking directly, trying to communicate that which we need to see or to learn. Because my dreams have been so magical and instructive, enlightening and sometimes surprising, I’ve learned to listen to this knowing inner voice.

The other night, I dreamt that my husband Andy and I had a trip to Italy planned. Italy – the intended destination in the Welcome to Holland piece! The conflict in the dream arose when we couldn’t get there. Hmmmm… couldn’t get to Italy… no surprise there. Most of the dream involved our trying desperately to make it to the airport in time for our flight. We miscalculated the time. Our transportation didn’t show. We got lost. It was one thing after the next… until a phone call. Someone explained that we could get there immediately as long as we LEFT OUR BAGGAGE behind. And so we did, and I awoke as our plane was taking off for Italy. Wow. But, what does it mean? What’s the message I’m supposed to learn?

Unlike the couple in Welcome to Holland, I wasn’t moving to Italy in the dream, just trying to vacation there. In fact, I DO escape to Italy from time. For me, I am in Italy when I am free of the stress associated with being Jukie’s mom. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that trips to Italy for parents of kids with special needs don’t just happen. Rather, we have to actively manage our lives in order to travel there. And what does that mean? Self-care – we have to learn to take care of ourselves. We so lovingly and expertly care for our children. But we need care too. When I take care of myself, I’m in Italy.

For me, this realization is one of the secret gifts from Jukie. He has taught me the importance of taking care of myself. If I didn’t, I fear I’d be swallowed up by all of his needs, completely consumed by his need for 24-hour supervision, patience and energetic mothering. If he were a “typical” kid, I’m not sure I would have understood this. But, he’s far from typical; I HAVE to reach for the lifesaver.

But what was the dream trying to tell me that I was missing? What’s the baggage that I’m supposed to leave behind? That’s easy: it’s guilt. Remember that in the dream I could not even GET to Italy with my baggage, let alone enjoy the trip. Most mothers experience some amount of “mom guilt.” I’d say that mothers of special kids take on more guilt than others. Our kids need a lot of intervention (therapies, medical visits, school accommodations) which requires huge amounts of time and Herculean patience and energy. Life so often feels overwhelmingly difficult. Naturally, we fear that we’re not doing enough to help our kids. We’re afraid that if we’re not enjoying our role on a particular day, we’re not good moms. Do you know what I think my wise little redhead would say if he could? “Get over it, Mommy.” For Jukie knows that Mommy is happier when Mommy has had some time for herself. And I know that in order to be the best mother I can be, I need to focus on myself in addition to my kids. Seems obvious, right? Then why do so few mothers carve out the time that they need? That mom guilt is a bitch.

I’ve learned to take care of myself in all sorts of fabulous and fun ways. Several times a week, I share a meal with a girlfriend. I see every good movie in the theater, and have season tickets to my favorite theatre company. I get pedicures because it feels like a wonderful small luxury. Most importantly, I give myself the gift of time. Whereas I used to feel I should do everything for/with Jukie, now I’m able to step back and let others help. Of course, I don’t completely have it down. I still feel that guilty twinge now and then. The dream surfaced to remind me that I’m not in Italy if my mind is elsewhere. It’s OK to put down that baggage and get on the plane.

Thank you, Jukie.

Now it’s time to book another flight!


  1. Kate you are an inspiration. Seriously this blogs it's home for me! I am going into teaching. My job is caregiving. I am noticing that in the last few weeks I haven't taken anytime for myself. As I learned how to be a teacher I must also practice self-care. Thank you for your wise words as always.

  2. Awww, thank you, Cara. You're fortunate to be learning this important lesson early in life. : )