The first thing I reach for when I wake up is my phone. The wispy half-formed characters of my dreams are fighting for my attention, but they are no match for the blaring likes and loves and angry faces that fill up my screen and invade my brain.
I scroll through my FB feed once, twice, checking the notifications that have accumulated overnight. On a slow morning, there are only 2 or 3. On a good morning, a cheerful red 9+ welcomes me to a new day.
Someone liked my selfie. Someone is sad about my dead bird story. Someone is mad about my nostalgia for Obama. Someone said something, someone said something else, someone clicked, someone thumbs upped, someone angry faced me. Someone sent a gif of a unicorn puking rainbows. Someone is happy for me. Someone is disappointed in me. Someone is worried about me.
Phone in hand, I go find my daughter to tell her it’s time for school. Even as I kiss her forehead, I feel the notification vibrations in my hand.
Someone liked my new dress. Someone loved my new hairstyle. Someone is sad that I had a cold.
I resist the urge to respond.
30 minutes till the bus and my daughter is crouched on the floor in her pajamas, her long auburn hair hiding her face. I don’t need to lift her head up to see her expression. It’s one I know well. Mouth half open, eyes squinting, cheeks sucked in. Her lips are moving as she writes, the pencil no match for her racing thoughts.
I rub her shoulders gently.
“Time for school, baby.”
“Five more minutes, Mama. I’m almost done with this section.”
I sigh and take a quick peek at my phone.
Someone was surprised at my deli story. Someone laughed at my pink hat. Someone liked my chicken salad recipe.
I sit down beside my daughter. As she writes, I scroll.
Someone is sad at the injured kitten picture. Someone is angry about the new immigration policy. Someone is laughing at the malfunctioning robot videos.
Only 20 minutes left until the bus gets here and my daughter is still writing. The pencil flies across the page as she fills in dialogue bubbles, shades in the heroine’s dress, draws sharply angled lightning bolt streaks.
“Really, Honey. You gotta get dressed. You’ll be late.”
“Almost done, Mama. Promise. I don’t want to lose my ideas. It’s important.”
I sigh again. It is important. I know that feeling. That compulsion to write it all down, even if it will make you late, even if it’s the middle of the night, even if a thousand other things are waiting for you. How long has it been since I had that feeling? How long have I looked to my phone for inspiration instead of my own heart?
I sit for a moment watching her, the intensity of her expression, the fire in her eyes. I can almost see the thoughts hovering over her head as she writes.
I imagine it, then. A cloud over her head. The cloud begins to break up into smaller fragments that reassemble themselves into vaguely familiar characters. The willowy man with the black hat, the girl with mismatched eyes, the dog that walked with a limp. They are familiar, these characters. I remember then, they were the forms in my dream, the half-shaped images my mind had begun to conjure up before….
My phone vibrates again.
Someone liked my new shoes. Someone is angry about the Pride Parade. Someone is sad about a lost turtle.
I turn off the notifications and close my eyes, trying to piece back together the bits and pieces of my OWN stories, my OWN dreams. But, they are lost between the likes and the buzzes and the millions of other someone’s.
I open my eyes again. My daughter is still writing. And the bus is long gone.