I’m in Europe somewhere, possibly Germany. The grass is impossibly tall, up to the horses’ eyes. There are wolves in pens with sheep. The wolves have black spots spray-painted on their sides. They are guardians. I walk up a path, past tiny cattle. One of the wolves walks up next to me, beside me, rubs against me, like a friendly dog. I try not to be afraid.
We arrive at a clearing. There is a large stage, and a patio table. My mother is at the table, saving seats. The light is dim, but a spotlight shines on the stage, only then it dips and shines on my mother. She is displeased. They fix the spotlight and continue with the somber event.
A curtain is drawn back. A portion of a bus, or is it a boat? is revealed, with an old man sitting, telling his story. Another old man joins him. The stories are sad. War stories. Stories of loss. I listen although part of me doesn’t want to hear.
A woman I know silently passes me a packet of her craft projects, small beaded items, along with their packaging. She wants me to package her wares as I listen. I can’t. My hands won’t work correctly while I am hearing these stories and watching my mother. I have to be in the moment. I look for the wolves but they are missing. I can only save myself.
What frightens you? Just about everything frightens me. I credit that to growing up in a household where my mother was just sure that everyone and everything was out to get us. As the old saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”
When I was a kid I would memorize shifty-looking people’s faces in line at the bank, in case the sketch artist needed my information after they robbed the place. In restaurants I would scope out the exits and calculate the path to the kitchen from our table. I even had a plan for a home invasion- I would hide under my bed. Clever, right?
As I grew up, I outgrew a lot of these fears, but I still startle easily and I still have no problem envisioning worst case scenarios. I don’t dwell on these things, though, at least not during the daylight hours. In my sleep, though, sometimes my fears get the best of me.
Last night, for example, I woke up sweating, with my heart pounding. What was the source of this terror? A bad dream, of course. But it wasn’t just bad, it was terrifying. When I think about it, I’m not sure why it was so scary. Let me tell you the dream, or what I remember of it.
I was someplace semi-public (the synagogue I visited last weekend comes to mind) and I was in a restroom stall there. I saw a pair of legs and feet on the other side of the door that I recognized as one of my nephews. I asked him what he was doing in the ladies room, but he didn’t answer. Instead he walked out and turned off the light. I was plunged into complete darkness. I kept calling his name for him to come back and turn on the light, but he didn’t come. That was it. That was what woke me up terrified. Crazy, right?
In real life I’m not afraid of my nephew, and I’ve been in a restroom where someone has turned off the light. It didn’t incite panic in me. I’m sure I had my purse with me in the dream and could have used my phone to light the way, or even if not I could have figured out how to get out or even waited a few minutes until someone else came in and turned the light on. By the light of the day, my rational mind doesn’t see this scenario as too big of a deal, but in my dream state it was terrifying.
What do you think? Have I lost my mind? Am I afraid of being left in the dark? What does this dream, and my extreme reaction to it, mean about me? Any guesses are welcome. Also, I’m curious to know, what scares you when you turn out the lights?
I don’t know where we get the “all or nothing” attitude. I suppose it stems from perfectionism. If we can’t do it all, why bother doing anything? But that thinking is flawed, and it keeps us stuck.
I’ve been thinking about this as a negative, but let me turn it to the positive for a moment. I’m a “big picture” kind of person. A while back I had a principal who provided the whole staff with Strengthsfinder 2.0 books, and we all took the test to find our strengths. I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that my strongest came out as “ideation.”
According to the Strengthsfinder folks, “People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.” In other words, I see things as part of a whole, and can envision how they all connect together. This is very helpful when I’m planning lessons and units in school, when I’m renovating parts of my home, or when I’m designing a quilt.
The flip side of this, for me anyway, is that I sometimes get lost in the details. I know what I want the whole thing to look like and how I want it to function, but all the little bits and pieces of making it happen sometimes trip me up. That’s where I get stuck.
Instead of writing a whole novel, I need to start with an outline. Instead of cleaning the whole house, I need to wash the dishes. Instead of losing 100 pounds, I need to go for a walk. Breaking down these big goals into smaller, more manageable ones, isn’t hard, it just doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. I want to do it all, and I want to do it now. I know that’s not realistic for large goals, so I tend to do nothing instead. How crazy is that?
I have to stop myself and make myself hear how ridiculous I’m being. I would never expect a student to get an idea for a research paper then turn in that finished paper the same morning. I wouldn’t expect my son to take up a new sport and be and expert at it in the same week. I wouldn’t expect my dog to master a new behavior the first time she tries it. So why do I expect so much of myself?
I CAN lose a hundred pounds. It will take a long time and I will get tripped up along the way, but I have to expect that and forgive myself and keep moving forward. I CAN be a published author, but not if I don’t hone my craft and submit my writing to publishers. I CAN keep my home neat and tidy, but not if I don’t spend 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there to keep up with it.
Many imperfect steps in the correct direction will lead me far further down the path I wish to travel than just a few perfect steps. I have to keep this in mind and just keep moving. Living in a state of inertia, while easy, holds no rewards. With risk comes reward, and with work comes success. Wish me success and I try to learn this lesson over and over again.