I’ve heard it said that dreams reveal a person’s deepest desires and their deepest wounds, so in theory, by investigating the “stuff” of dreams, a person can gain a deeper understanding of their lives.
To which I’ve always said, “Meh!” Usually my dreams do nothing, but confuse me. They’re my own personal “Magical Mystery Tour.” Emphasis on the word mystery. That’s perfectly okay with me though. I’m of the opinion, some things just aren’t meant to be understood. However, last night my subconscious, determined to be heard, delivered a not so subtle wake-up call.
In my dream, I found myself trekking through a pristine jungle surrounded by hundreds of species of trees, plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and the occasional marauding dinosaur, but I remained unflappable and poised. I traipsed through the undergrowth like a modern day Jane of the Jungle looking for water. Every jungle movie has a tranquil waterfall and a pool of refreshing water just waiting to be discovered. I was sure there had to be one here as well.
Try as I might though, I couldn’t locate a single jungle waterfall, or one drop of water. As evening fell, along with the mosquitoes, I wandered across a cave inhabited by a small group of Neanderthals who invited me to join their tribe.
Oh, why not? I was alone. Everyone needs a tribe, and a place to belong. So what if we were from different worlds? I love a good challenge. I’m in! (Besides I was thirsty and they had water.)
I set about adapting to my new tribe, determined to be a valuable, contributing member of the group. It didn’t go smoothly at first, but I have a strong streak of Pollyanna running through me, and I knew I could make it work!
While everyone else in the tribe painted animals on the cave walls, I drew a swirling and starry Van Gogh-esque night sky, which was met by disdainful guffaws from the men and scornful looks from the women, for what they regarded as my deliberate ineptitude for cave painting. I found myself banished to a very dimly lit portion of the cave to practice my “modern” art all on my own … but yay for me! At least I had my very own spot in the cave.
Having some musical ability, I tried to participate in the men’s nightly drum circle, but they refused to let me have a drum. There is more to music than just rhythm, so I made up a catchy tune and belted it out while they pounded on their drums. The tribe scowled and shook their heads to silence me, but I persisted until they wrestled me to the ground and covered my mouth with their hands to shut me up, but on the upside, they did allow me to hum, if I did so quietly. Another success! The tribe had met me halfway.
I possessed some ability as a storyteller, however, most, if not all, of my tales lost their sparkle when translated into the grunts and tongue clicks of my tribe’s Neanderthal language. Undeterred, I regaled the tribe with stories told in my own native language, complete with ridiculous pantomimes. They didn’t understand a blessed word I said, but I amused them, and that made me happy.
It didn’t take long for me to develop serious issues with the way Neanderthal men treated the women of our tribe. I’ve never been one to suffer mean, ungrateful, disrespectful men quietly, and I particularly resented the men telling me what contributions I’d be making to the tribe. I wanted to hunt, fish and do all the things the men did, but instead I was forced to cook, gather firewood, fetch water, sew furs together, and gather edible plants and berries. Uck! Boring!
I felt rebellion stir and rise up inside me. This would never do. I had no problem talking the Neanderthal women into a work strike until the men agreed to treat us with a modicum of dignity and kindness. To my surprise, the cavemen caved. I had expected them to beat down the rebellion with their clubs, but the cavemen were much smarter than they looked. Who would do the work they didn’t want to do if all the women were incapacitated? They saw the wisdom in change, and their newfound kindness worked like a healing salve on the hearts of the Neanderthal women. Another victory!
Although, I still wasn’t happy with the position women had been relegated to in our tribe and I lamented the sad lack of choices in our lives, my life was far more desirable than the life of the tiny, crying newborn infant by the fire that everyone totally ignored. I had joined the tribe several years ago, and couldn’t recall seeing the infant ever being held or fed. As impossible as it sounds, the baby remained a newborn, occasionally crying in a muted, pathetic tone. Every so often I’d try to pick the child up and comfort her, but the tribe would not allow it. My heart ached for the poor little thing.
One day when I could no longer stand it, I snatched the child and fled up a set of wooden stairs that had miraculously appeared. As I ran, each step disappeared after me so the Neanderthals couldn’t follow.
I found myself in a spectacular room of glass walls with modern conveniences, high up in the clouds looking down over the jungle canopy. Everything I needed to care for the baby and myself was contained in the spacious room. Here in this cloud fortress, I knew we were untouchable.
Delighted, I bathed and and dressed the baby in clothes for the first time in her life. The baby hadn’t made a sound since I picked her up off the cave floor, and I guess I thought she’d cry during her bath, but she seemed to love it. As I fed her a bottle and snuggled her close to me, she gazed at me, her eyes full of gratitude. I placed her in the middle of a kingsize bed to sleep and walked away to admire her from a distance as I had done with my own children years ago.
Right in front of my eyes the girl suddenly grew to about six months size and sat up by herself. Gaping in surprise, I watched as she continued to grow to the size of a one year old. She smiled at me and waved. Then she stood up, tottered over the bed, and off the edge before I could stop her.
By the time she reached the floor and walloped her head, she looked to be about two years of age. To my amazement, she didn’t cry when she cracked her head on the floor. She merely looked surprised and sat up with a smile on her face. What an unusual child!
She continued to grow at breakneck speed and was soon ready to begin Kindergarten. She’d disappear from the room in the clouds for a few hours each day to go to school and come back another year older each time she returned.
The girl displayed everything a mother could wish to see in her own child. She was compassionate, loving, thoughtful, genuine and honest. She had an innate curiosity about the world and her fearlessness scared me and delighted me at the same time.
As the years flew by, (and by years, I mean hours) I found her remarkably intuitive. She followed her gut, instead of her head and it never let her down. She remained positive and focused. She owned her successes and her mistakes. She didn’t see her mistakes as failures, but rather as chances to get things right the next time. If she didn’t like the direction she’d chosen for herself, she’d reverse course in a heartbeat and change it.
God knows the child did have her faults. She was a nervous little worrywart, and quite impatient at times. Not to mention, she was far too sensitive a soul for my tastes. The day her friend, Chelsea, had called her “A Miss Goody Two-Shoes” for not wanting to play a mean joke on another friend, she had cried all night long. I have to admit, my ears and I were happy to see her go to school the next day just to be rid of the sniffling. The girl would someday find out there were far worse things to be called in a lifetime than “A Miss Goody Two-Shoes.”
In a matter of two weeks, she stood before me as a young lady ready to go out into the world.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something for a long time now,” she said, winding a long dark lock of hair around her finger. “I’ve been having a problem with one of my friends. It’s been going on for as long as I can remember. When we were younger, Chelsea told me that I needed to stop entering the contests and competitions at school because I was hogging all the awards and winning everything. She said I was taking opportunities away from her. Every year, things just kept getting worse and worse between us. Now she gossips about me, talks behind my back, spreads rumors about me, and even tells outright lies about me. This week she told everyone that I have stolen every boy she has ever liked away from her. I can’t understand what is going on with her. I love her. I’d never treat her the way she treats me. What’s wrong with her? Why is she acting like this?”
“Ahhh, yes,” I said, wishing I wasn’t familiar with what was causing the problem between the two girls. “You’re talking about the two-headed green-eyed monster that some people learn to wield as weapons, called jealousy and envy. Two closely related words which carry different meanings … well at least to a writer, but other people use them interchangeably.”
She puckered her brow. “They’re not interchangeable?”
“No, not at all. Jealousy is about relationships. If you feel jealous of someone, it’s because you think they are taking away the attention or affections of someone who belongs to you, or someone you think should belong to you. On the other hand, if you are envious, you want something someone else has. Envy can be felt for material possessions as well as someone else’s achievements or stature. Everybody experiences jealousy and envy from time to time in varying degrees, especially if they compare themselves to others and come up short. Haven’t you ever felt jealous or envious of someone?”
“Not jealous, because I don’t have a boyfriend, and I don’t want one, but I’ve felt envious plenty of times. Last week, I wanted a pair of jeans like Miranda Peabody’s in the worst way.”
“That type of envy is fleeting and harmless,” I said, “but the type of envy that causes somebody to recruit people to participate in their anger and resentment of you … that is malicious and it is not okay. Inflicting pain on others because you’re in pain yourself is never okay. Do you understand me?”
The girl shook her head and scowled. “Of course, I do, and I wouldn’t do that to anybody. If you ask me, jealousy and envy seems like such a waste of time and energy. Nobody has it all. Nobody. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t sit around comparing myself to others all day. I’m not competing with anyone in life either … except maybe myself.”
“That’s a good philosophy to have, and I’m proud of you. People are all talented, gifted and unique in different ways. I don’t view life as a competition either.”
“I still don’t get it though,” said the girl. “When Chelsea does well, I’m happy for her. I celebrate her accomplishments. Why can’t she do the same for me? Instead of being happy for me, she makes me feel sad and ashamed for being smart, working hard, and winning things.”
“Many times girls outgrow this sort of thing, and its best to ignore it … unless their jealousy and envy become a pattern.”
“By now, I’m fairly confident Chelsea’s not going to outgrow it,” the girl said in a sad tone. “I’ve talked to her about how this makes me feel, but she’s more focused on how I make her feel. She thinks I need to be a better friend by not doing things or entering contests and competitions that she’s interested in, and if I want to continue to be her friend, I’m not even allowed to speak to any boy that she is remotely interested in either.”
“Well then,” I said. “You have a very difficult decision ahead of you. A true friend respects and celebrates your accomplishments with you. Instead of being discouraged by your successes, a true friend is motivated and inspired by them.”
The girl nodded her head. She seemed pleased that I understood.
I placed my hand on her shoulder and looked straight into her brown eyes and continued, “If you allow a friend like Chelsea to stay in your life, she’ll continue to diminish the quality of yours. You can’t allow her to erode your sense of self-worth. Forgive her, wish her well, let her go, and move on with your life.”
“It won’t be easy,” she said, “but I know I have to do it.
I pulled her close to me and hugged her tightly. “I know you can, and now you’re ready get out there in the real world.” I whispered. “I’ll miss you.”
The girl grabbed me, hugging me back so fiercely her body melted into mine, and she was gone. What? That was impossible! Wasn’t it?
I heard the girl’s familiar laugh and her voice was now inside my head. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “It seems you’d forgotten who I was, so I stopped by to remind you.”
My whole body jerked and I was suddenly wide awake. For once, I didn’t need anyone to decode the dream for me. I woke up remembering who I really am. I woke up knowing that no one should ever, ever have to tolerate feeling bad about themselves, in order to make someone else feel better about themselves. I had forgotten that, too, but I never will again. The truth really can set you free.