Last night’s dream left me with clammy, sweat-soaked sheets and a heavy ball of nausea in my gut. I was chained to a mule train, but we weren’t mules – we were matrons. An endless train of lumpy women with bowed backs, flabby butts, and thick ankles, we shuffled forward along a narrow dusty path, hauling heavy loads on our backs. We were so many that our plodding had worn a rut deep into the earth, and walls of gray clay rose on either side, hemming us in. It was cool and damp down in there, but up above the sun shone. I paused to look up, but the women behind me jostled me back into line.
“We’ve got work to do.”
“Gotta pick the kids up from soccer practice.”
“Repairman’s coming at five.”
“Get back into line, sister.”
“Whatta ya think you are, special?”
And so I fell into line, too tired to look up at the sun, too weighted down with backpacks, diaper bags, and – Oh dear God, a mini-van !
Well, the mini-van’s been gone for a while now, replaced with a sleek VW station wagon, and …wait a minute, hold the phone! Can a station wagon be sleek? See, I thought I was making a more stylish choice, but it seems I’m back on the chain gang, shuffling through the dust. And here’s the thing: I only had one child, and now she’s off at college. So why is it so hard to shake off this mommy self-image? Why is it so hard to make choices in car, clothes, comportment, activities that reflect the fascinating, mature, worldly woman I really am? Is it, perhaps, that this fascinating woman got trampled in the dust of that endless train of trudging matrons?
You know how sometimes you wake up mid-dream, vivid images still spinning around your befuddled head, frustrated because you want to finish the scenario, bring the story to a close? And, once in a great while, you’re able to go back to sleep, rejoin the dream, bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Here’s how I’d end this one:
I glance up once more at the tantalizing sunshine high above me. The unthinking, unfeeling women behind me give me a shove, this time to the side, out of the line of trudging drudges.
“Get out of the way, dreamer.”
“Yeah, you’re holding up the line. Move it.”
And, befuddled, I set down my load. From high above me, I hear a musical sound – was that laughter? I look up and see faces looking down at me. Merry faces, laughing eyes, and a pointing hand.
“Looks like they lost one.”
“Hey, you down there. Want to come up?”
I glance around, feeling a little panicked.
“Can I do that?”
“Sure you can! Come on!”
And a hand reaches down toward me, then another. Someone dangles a long, sparkling scarf. I reach up, but those helping hands are just out of reach; the end of the scarf tickles my fingertips. Well then, there’s nothing for it but to climb. I dig my fingertips into the cool clay of the canyon walls and find that I can grip, can lift myself inch by inch above the plodders, closer and closer to the sunlight. Words of encouragement rain down from above.
“Look, she’s climbing! You can do it! Come on!”
I slip once, nearly falling back into the abyss, but I haul myself up, exhausted, to the lip of the canyon, where soft, strong hands reach down to grasp me. Hands with sparkly rings, brilliantly polished nails, dangly-bangly bracelets that tinkle. And up, up, up they pull me until I’m rolling onto the soft, springy grass. I blink into the sunlight and see myself surrounded by women – lovely, colorful, fascinating women – and all of them smiling at me.
“We’ve been expecting you. Come on – let’s have some fun.” And off they go, dancing, strolling, swaying, striding across the lawn, toward what seems to be a party, a wild, outdoor festival.
Now that’s where I want to wake up.
And, in fact, I am waking up. And, upon further reflection on this dream, I realize that the women trudging in their rut all looked an awful lot like me. You see, there isn’t any one particular person who encouraged me to be a mommy drudge, a drone, a drab, duty-bound automaton – not friends, not my child, not even my ex-spouse. (Well, he didn’t exactly encourage me to shine, but still…)
And there’s no one who’s going to lift me up to the next phase of my life, not even my dear friends, nor my amazing boyfriend. I have to make that climb on my own. But I’ll bet I’ll have lots of company on the way – other women my age who are waking up from a dream to find that the sunshine’s just out of reach – but reachable. Let’s climb up out of our rut together, toward the sunshine. I want to see what that party is, just over the horizon. I’ll bet there are lots of fascinating, fabulous women over there, and I’m going to be one of them. How about you?