Dream a little dream

 

Last night I had a vivid dream that has stayed with me all morning. I’ve been trying to determine what it was trying to convey to me, cuz it was so clear and memorable. I don’t usually remember dreams. I wake most often with heart-clenching anxiety over dreams I can’t remember. So this one was unusual.

I had just moved into a new house – a mobile home, one that I lived in for 12 years, actually – and I was so happy! I was unpacking and setting all my stuff up just so, just the way I wanted it to be in my new home and feeling so lucky to have this great place.

I was in the bedroom putting clothes in the closet and singing, when I became aware of voices in the back yard. I looked out and there were 10 or so people out there, kind of rough, backwoods kind of people, mostly men. Two of them were starting to cut down a tree and another one was digging a hole.

I ran outside and on my way to the backyard around the front of the house, I could see that they had laid traps – the kind that are like jaws with big teeth – on chains all across the front lawn. I ran around to the back and yelled, “Stop! What are you doing? This is my house!” They all turned to look at me with blank stares for a couple seconds, and then went back to what they were doing.

I ran over to one of the men who had a long white beard and a huge halo of messy white hair and asked him what they were doing there. It took him a long time to answer, and then he said, “You can’t have this all to yourself. This is for everyone.”

I was devastated. I had been so happy! Then I had the thought that I have had quite often in my life – whatever I want, whatever I love, whenever I’m happy, if I enjoy it too much I’ll lose it.

Then, still in the dream, I relaxed. Not in a defeated way, but in an accepting way. I went back in the house.

Okay.

What they were doing outside was not really affecting me inside. I had not lost anything, as long as I was in the house. I had been happy inside, doing my thing. Singing. My space, my stuff, my voice, my self. Outside was a bunch of stuff that I don’t like or approve of or support, but that I have absolutely no control over. I was fine until I looked outside. The traps were right outside the door of my house.

And it isn’t true that I lose everything that makes me happy. Sometimes it true, yes. Cuz that’s just life. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. But I’m learning that the more something I want is based on something that someone else is doing, or being, or having, the less likely it’s going to work out for me the way I would like it to

Sometimes I let myself down and that’s heartbreaking, but it’s also something I have control over, for the most part, and something I can change. I can stop doing that. I can show up for myself.

What I can’t do – THE THING THAT GETS ME IN TROUBLE ALL THE TIME – is count on other people to show up for me. Thinking that it’s necessary for other people to behave as I want them to for me to be happy or safe or whatever sets me up for disappointment EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Cuz other people aren’t me. They have different desires and goals and paths to happiness or fulfillment. Sometimes their desires and goals and paths will coincide with mine. We can be together, work together for a common purpose, support each other. Human life is a communal experience and finding common ground is crucial to our survival and purpose.

However, we can’t be each other. We’re all entitled to our own stuff. Ultimately, we all have to follow our own path, do what’s right for us alone, show up for ourselves, stand in our own integrity. And  I think what the dream was trying to teach me was that it’s not up to me to decide if someone else’s sense of who they are or what they should be doing in this life is right or wrong. I can look at them and decide that who they are or what they’re doing is not who or what I want to be or do, but beyond that, it has nothing to do with me, even if it affects me.

You can’t have this all for yourself. This is for everyone.

The only thing I can do is take care of myself if I’m hurt, look away or leave if what they’re doing is too painful to watch, express my view if I really feel I need to do that, while being fully mindful that it probably won’t change anything, even though it might make me feel better.

So really being happy comes down to minding my own business. That seems easy, but it’s not, is it? Simple, but not easy, as is true of so many things in this wonderful and interesting life. This is not the same as self-absorption – quite the opposite – it’s simply the realization that it’s not all about me, except for what is inside me.

I’ve been circling around this concept for a while now. It’s a theme in what I’m reading and thinking about and experiencing, and I think this dream was my mind’s way of tying it all up with a little bow and handing it to me. I love it when things work out like that. Helps me to feel supported, even though I don’t have a clear sense of where that support comes from. It’s still good to know it’s there.

So a good day in Earth School. Of course, the final exam is the next time I encounter someone who’s doing something that bugs me.

I wonder how I’ll do?

The space between

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Disappointment

I was feeling pretty religious
standing on the bridge in my winter coat
looking down at the gray water:
the sharp little waves dusted with snow,
fish in their tin armor.

That`s what I like about disappointment:
the way it slows you down,
when the querulous insistent chatter of desire
goes dead calm

and the minor roadside flowers
pronounce their quiet colors,
and the red dirt of the hillside glows.

She played the flute, he played the fiddle
and the moon came up over the barn.
Then he didn’t get the job, —
or her father died before she told him
that one, most important thing—

and everything got still.

It was February or October
It was July
I remember it so clear
You don`t have to pursue anything ever again
It`s over
You`re free
You`re unemployed

You just have to stand there
looking out on the water
in your trench coat of solitude
with your scarf of resignation
lifting in the wind.

-Tony Hoagland, from What Narcissism Means to Me (Graywolf Press)



I love this poem. You have to just stand there. That`s just it, isn’t it? There`s nothing you can do with disappointment, but just stand there. Stand in the middle of it, watch it go by, over, around you, with only resignation to buffer its effects.

I’ve been thinking about disappointment a bit lately. I am often disappointed – in myself, in other people, in the way things turn out in life. Who isn’t? Right or wrong, we all have expectations and hopes. I try not to have those expectations, but some small part of my brain, or heart, or left calf muscle, harbors secret ambitions – secret even to me, until the querulous insistent chatter of desire goes dead calm.

Disappointed. Again.

Disappointment fills in the space between What Is and What Could Be. I love What Could Be. I want to live there. My spirit does live there, or at least spends most of its time there. My spirit believes that everything is possible, and soars at the prospect of my potential, the potential of human beings, and this earth, and the mysteries beyond this earth.

But I’m always brought back to What Is, and all I can do is just stand there. Who I Am, Who Other People Are, The Way the World Works Now…What Is. That’s all there there is, really. All the rest or it lives only in my head. Just a dream. Not real. Not here. What Isn’t. And Won’t Be.

Can’t be?

But that’s the danger of disappointment–the excuse it gives you, the scarf of resignation–to give up, never to pursue anything ever again. What’s the point? I’m always tempted to wrap myself up in that scarf and just say, “No more.” Standing here on the bridge, I think, why not just give it up?

And the answer echoes off the water: Because that’s not how it works. Life is hard. People are hard, growing is hard, keeping going is hard. But there’s so much more: beauty and love and joy and music and poetry. And sometimes I am who I need to be, and the world is what it seems to be. It’s all mixed up; disappointment and joy, pain and love.

What Is is What Is Now, and What Could Be may be What Is someday. We don’t know. I don’t know. It’s that not knowing that is the other side of disappointment; the other side of resignation.

In the space between; that’s where we live.