Overnight lessons

I had a dream last night that I lived in a big house with many rooms (when I dream, the house always symbolizes myself - the multifaceted being that I am!), and as a surprise, friends from my life showed up to spend some days with me. The funny thing was that a few of them I didn’t remember ever meeting before, and they only stayed one night, but some more familiar faces stayed several days and beyond. Unfortunately, as delighted as I was, I spent the whole time rushing around cleaning and straightening (as I had had no warning that they were coming) and never spent time with my visitors.

When I awoke, I started thinking of all the people who have come in and out of my life; some have only stayed for a few moments, and others for decades. No matter how short or long their interactions with me, they have affected me in some way. Former neighbors, fellow students, the friends of my children, teachers from official school and “the school of life,” parishioners from past churches were Ed was the pastor, choirs I have sung with - all have left their mark, no matter how superficial or transient my association was them may have been. Of course, those are people I physically encountered. Then there are the people that I have never met in person, but whose life situations, personalities, generosity or lack thereof, wisdom or foolishness, taught me things that made me a better person - the patients I transcribe about, people I see or read about in the news, authors of books that changed my life. There are even people who have skills that inspire or teach me - such as Sylvia Woods (the Celtic harpist), Caroline’s violin teacher whom I never met, and even the anonymous folks who post videos on You-Tube - such as the one I saw the other day which showed very clearly the technique of putting in an invisible zipper!

All the people mentioned above and many others apparently come to visit me throughout my life. Some faces I recognize, some are strangers, some are friends I haven’t seen for years, and some are friends and relatives I saw yesterday. They are all a part of me. I have learned from them what to do or what not to do. I have received from some of them inspiration and reassurance that maybe I can learn something new. I have received from others a warning about how greed or power can warp my priorities. I have learned from some how to deal with grief and loss, or how to bear up under unimaginable circumstances.

The second lesson from the dream, of course, is that I need to live in the present. I couldn’t enjoy my visitors because I had my mind on other things. The other day I was driving home from work and I had the discomforting experience of seeing the rising moon in the sky in front of me and the setting sun in back of me. I had the feeling that I was caught between two worlds - the future and the past. Somehow the whole drive made me feel in limbo - that whatever I was doing in the present was not real. It’s the time of year again when we think about, as Scrooge had to, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future, and you can add Thanksgiving to those time delineations as well. Planning and scheduling - are we having Thanksgiving on Thursday or Friday in our family this year? Who is hosting? What should I bake? Do Matt and Sarah plan on having us out for Christmas Eve this year? If so, should we try to spend the night with Rachel’s family so we don’t have to drive back to Hancock at night? Should we even buy a Christmas tree this year? What presents should I buy and when? What should I wear for the family Christmas picture we take on Thanksgiving?......and on and on. And each of these questions is matched with “Well, what did we do LAST year?”

I have always had a difficulty living in the present, not just living, but being fully and wholly engaged in the present moment. I’m a great planner and list-maker. I haven’t finished sewing my blouse, but already I’ve bought fabric for the next thing to sew. Last night’s dream just reminded me once again of what I need to work on. Of all the teachers in my life, my dreams (where my mind processes my life experiences) have been exceedingly important. The insights they provide have been invaluable on my journey.