There’s a song from the musical Les Misérables called “I Dreamed a Dream“. The final line, “now life has killed the dream I dreamed” resonates so deeply in my soul I’m left heartbroken each time I hear it.
I told you about my childhood dream of being a mom. How everything would be perfect. My children would get good grades, have wonderful friends, be respectful and loving. I would receive glowing reports from their teachers saying what a pleasure it was to have one of my children in their class. My house would ring with laughter. We would bake cookies together and go on picnics. I dreamed of a white-picket fence life – “now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”
I have had to let the “white-picket fence” dream die and I have had to mourn its death publicly – in front of my family, my friends, health care professionals, teachers, principals, co-workers and bosses. Each time I have to describe my children’s mental health issues, every time I share their diagnoses with someone new, every question I answer and every “look” I stare down, is one more moment of public grieving. Yes, I have been wearing black for a long time, mourning the loss of the idyllic life I once held so dear.
Last year I had a falling out with a family member who told me how disappointed he was that he couldn’t do all the things he wanted to do with my children because of their mental health diagnoses. He went on to say that he couldn’t take them places and couldn’t trust them to behave themselves. I was enraged. The black mourning clothes became the black uniform of a ninja and I went on the offensive, attacking this brazen transgressor with as much verbal ammunition as I could muster.
It was during this tirade that I discovered a truth that has helped me bury the white-picket fence dream at long last. Yes, my dream did die, but that’s ok because something more beautiful has grown in its place. My new dream is this – that by the time my children have reached the age of 25 they will have all the necessary coping tools in place to lead productive lives. They will have accepted themselves – flaws and all. They will be healthy, happy individuals who appreciate the world around them and the people in it.
Yes, my friends, that is my new dream. It is a dream worth nurturing, a dream worth fighting for, a dream worth keeping.