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?

Frugal living

wine + cheese night

A couple of years ago a friend and I were in an antique shop. She collects miniature tea sets, and they had a couple; one in particular that she really liked. I suggested she should buy it, and she said, no, it’s not good to get everything you want.

I think of that statement quite often. It’s one of two things in my life that someone said to me that changed the way I thought about something instantly. It’s not good to get everything you want. Wow. I came across a quote by Bertrand Russell this week, in which he claimed pretty much the same thing: “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

I think it`s absolutely true about stuff. It is human nature to become spoiled by instant material gratification. I think much of what is wrong with American capitalist culture stems from consumerism, and the ease with which those with money can get stuff. We lack appreciation for the way things are made, and for the people who made them. I definitely see it in young people in my small, generally quite well-off community, and the way they take for granted easy access to instant communication, computers, cars, clothes, etc. If material needs are met too easily, human beings tend to become bored and unappreciative of the stuff they have; always wanting more, more, more.

What about less touchable things, like how you’d like something to play out, or how you’d like someone to treat you? Those kinds of expectations trip me up all the time. I find my mind wandering off into the future, conjuring up scenarios about an event or situation. How I think it’ll all go and how wonderful (or not) I expect it to be. Or I think I know how someone will react to something, or what they’ll do, or even who they are.

It’s silly, really, that I would still be allowing myself to indulge in these little fantasies. Certainly if life has taught me anything, it’s been that I can expect nothing. Nothing ever turns out the way I think it will (for better or worse). People are hardly ever who I think they are (for better or worse). In fact, the more I expect a certain outcome or action, the less likely it is to be anything even remotely resembling what I was expecting or hoping for.

All situations teach us. What we learn is sometimes dubious, but we learn, nonetheless. Have I been made stronger by my unmet expectations, or do they debilitate me? I think the answer is: both. I have been forced to look within myself for what I need to keep going, and that’s a good thing. I can take care of myself, and I’ve learned to be a person I can count on. Definitely good.

And sometimes I am surprised. Several wonderfully surprising things happened in the last few days; things I wasn’t expecting, or even imagining. Four people went out their way to do nice things for me. It made up for the myriad ways my expectations fell short, and then some.

So, an indispensable part of happiness? Yes, I think so. I aspire to live frugally on surprise. Expect nothing. I think ultimately all I can hope for is keep striving to be the person I needSituations change, people change. Nothing in this life is static. I can count on nothing but my own ability to adapt, so that had better keep getting stronger. Counting on anything external – including other people – for one’s own well-being is certain disappointment.

I’d rather be surprised! It’s not easy to let go of those expectations. It requires staying in the moment – being fully with what’s happening now – with no thought of what’s past or expectation of the future. No small thing. It’s an arduous journey, but worth the effort.

Note to self: Go slow. Take snacks. Rest when necessary. Pay attention. Welcome everything.

We’ll get there sooner or later. All is well.