| Musings |

Dreams Deferred

But today and yesterday, five years after burying them, in my nightly half-sleep, those dreams came to me, taunting, “What will be with you, Bracha?”


have this recurring dream.

In it, my husband writes books filled with elucidations on the Torah. In the dream, he walks into a lecture hall and speaks in front of a large audience. They listen to his derashah and call him “the Rav.” But the more famous he becomes, the more I become irritable and stressed, until I tell him that I just can’t handle his newfound success and I want a divorce.

It’s a weird dream, because in reality, I’m so proud of my husband, so thankful we found each other.

I told my husband about the dream. His response was painful. He said my dream is really about me, about my fear of not fulfilling my own dreams, about my internal anxiety, how I feel like a tension rod all day, stretched between two opposing places.

On the one hand, I want to be like my mother, at home and emotionally available for the kids, day and night.

On the other hand, I’d like to be like my father, a master teacher who was able to teach both Hebrew and English studies without losing a student’s attention. His desk was always plastered with awards, and he was held in tremendous respect by both secular and religious students.

I grew up with these two paradigms: one parent who looks after the family, one parent who supports the family with dignity. It was entrenched in my family system and reflected what my parents stood for. And I thank them for the stability and love it provided me so that I could dream...

But I have these big dreams. Well, at least I used to have them. I was going to be something great. A pillar of strength like Batsheva or a hero like Yehudis. I wanted to change the world, to bring Mashiach with my good deeds.

I tried when I was single. I thought if only I could teach like my amazingly inspiring rebbeim, then I would affect the world in every realm.

So I learned Torah intensely for seven years. Then I tried to teach, and people liked my lessons, my style of teaching. But it’s hard to get a steady job in that field. It’s one of those positions so many people want, and I have no connections, no pull.

I davened many tear-filled tefillos to become a teacher, but so many times my attempts to teach were thwarted. It’s almost funny how many times the Eibeshter said no while I kept plugging away.

But I couldn’t wreak havoc on my family once I got married, so I stopped teaching Torah, the heilige Torah. Instead I put my efforts into raising children who earnestly yearn for a connection with their Father in Heaven.

I guess you could say I gave up, or gave in, or whatever. I buried my dreams. At least I thought they were buried and dead, or lost like my daughter’s old shoes, neglected beneath the couch.

But today and yesterday, five years after burying them, in my nightly half-sleep, those dreams came to me, taunting, “What will be with you, Bracha?”

And now, as I clean up my living room, I can’t stop crying and asking myself, What will be with you, Bracha? Sometimes I try to tell myself that my distress isn’t real, it’s only hormones and sleep deprivation. But I know I’m just fooling myself.

Remember the poem by Langston Hughes?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

I want to know: does it shrivel up and die?

I know it doesn’t go away completely. Even if it does die, it still haunts you like a ghost.

I want to be all that I can be. But how?

I have so little time looking after three small children. Even now, as I type, I’m interrupted by my eldest: her tooth is falling out, it hurts!

I have so many responsibilities that my dreams, once at the forefront, pulsating in my conscience day and night, are now relegated to the back corner of a dusty shelf. Sometimes I glance over at them, but I have more pressing responsibilities — three to be exact.

I can’t do it all, so maybe one day I’ll live out my dreams. But not right now.

Perhaps I didn’t bury my dreams. Maybe I just deferred them?

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 662)

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Tagged: Musings