My Nightmare

I’m not prone to nightmares, so the fact that I had one last spring that continues to haunt me is reason to write.

I was driving. An unfamiliar car, but I’m not sure that matters. Ben was with me. That definitely matters. It was night and my lights were on, but I’m not sure where we were or where we were headed or whether any of that matters. Suddenly we were in an uncontrollable spin. I don’t know what caused it, but I couldn’t stop it and I had the very distinct feeling, a very certain feeling that this was it for me. I was going to die. The driver’s-side door, a door for a coupe — larger and longer than those on my Honda Accord — flew open and the force of the spin propelled me out of the car with it. Was I wearing a seatbelt? I don’t know. In real life, I always wear my seatbelt. But this was a nightmare.

I grabbed a hold of the door as the car continued to spin. The headlights shone on trees and gravel in flashes. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on and I was sure that this was it. I couldn’t see Ben, but I just needed him to know I loved him. That was all that mattered. I started yelling, “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!” over and over and over again.

Then Ben woke me up. I was mid-scream when I realized I was in our bed next to him. I was sobbing, tears streaming down my face, and all I could do was hug him. I couldn’t explain, didn’t want to explain.

And I still can’t. Well, not completely. The lack of control, I get. Surely we’ve all felt that many things are out of our control over the past year and a half. Long before the pandemic, loss or lack of control was a regular topic in discussions with my counselor, thanks to the trials and tribulations of stepparenthood. Teaching through a pandemic has made it a staple in our meetings. But the fact that this nightmare still haunts me, the fact that I still dissolve into a puddle of tears each time I think about it (and definitely when I sat down to write about it)…well, there must be something more to it.

I can’t help but wonder if the whole thing is a metaphor for everything — especially everything we’re dealing with right now in the School District of Waukesha. Administrative directive to remove all safe space signage has left many of us reeling. We’re worried about our students in underserved populations, students who already don’t feel connected to and/or safe in our communities, students who need every sign of support we can give them, literal and otherwise.

Right now, per administrative directive, I cannot put this sign up in my classroom:

I could have this sign up at the start of the year, but have since been told to take it down.

Administrators assure my colleagues and me that they know we can build strong relationships with all students and ensure all students do, in fact, feel welcome without such signage. I’m not so sure.

But as the world continues to spin out of control, I continue screaming, “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!”

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