Several years ago, I had a dream that was one of those rare, lucid messages directly from Spirit. I felt myself change during that dream, and the dream has continued to have relevance in my life.
Something makes us alive. Several times I've held a pet as s/he died by euthanasia. I witnessed and felt the startling change when the life force left my pet's body. The body felt empty and surprisingly different from the being I had known. I had the same experience after my father died. I went up to the casket to see him one last time, and was startled to sense that he wasn't there. His absence was so complete that, for a moment, grief left and I looked at his discarded body with pure curiosity. This body, that I had grown up thinking was my dad, was not. So, for the purposes of this post, I'm calling whatever it is that lives in us and makes us alive, Spirit.
Back to my dream. I was shown a video game scene, like the versions my son played in the mid-90s. There was a platform suspended in space, like a floating island. A large hand reached down from above and slowly nudged a marble on the platform towards the edge, and then pushed it off. The marble defied gravity and simply rolled up and over the hand, landing back on the platform and continuing on with its activities. This scene repeated itself several times, with the question being asked of me, "Do you understand?"
I was also becoming more awake. Suddenly I woke up enough to think, "Please tell me this isn't about my son!" Alarm swept through me, coupled with huge resistance. Almost in the same instant, this alarm and resistance miraculously dissolved into acceptance. At which point, I apparently had gotten the message. The dream ended and I fell back into a peaceful sleep.
For weeks afterwards, I half expected someone to die. I realized that could include my son. While that thought would normally have driven me crazy, during the dream I had accepted that no one dies before their time and I can't do a darn thing about the timing of someone's death, so I didn't waste energy worrying about it.
Fast forward to about a month ago. I went on a fulfilling and life-enhancing trip to visit my son, and meet many of the loving, delightful people in his life. I stayed on his campus, walking around far more than I'd been doing at home. I was getting stronger. I returned home determined to stay active, without the benefit of living in a community designed for walking most of the places I want to go.
I had returned home to a slew of medical visits. It was hard to feel healthy when I going into a medical setting every day. Finally, those were over and all I had left for the weeks ahead were two routine, see-how-I'm-doing doctor visits. I finally was getting out to the park twice a day to walk. The holes poked in my body healed and I got back into the rec center pool. I was harvesting food from my garden and spending time in the kitchen making healthy meals for myself. Then my doctor's office called to say my doctor wanted another test, even though we'd just done that test 6 weeks prior, since the tumor markers had gone in the wrong direction the last time she checked them. I felt fear grip me - fear that cancer might win and I would die.
That's when I remembered: no one dies before their time. Relief flowed through me. I got it! I don't need to be afraid of cancer, it has no power over when I die. It does have an impact on how I live, though. The vital question for me to face is, what quality of life do I want until I die? More accurately, how do I want to live?
In hindsight, the dream was telling me, "Look. You're not going to be able to just give up on your life and die from cancer. Accept who you are and what you need to thrive and go for that - no matter who you think disapproves. And, deal with this lump now, while it's small and easily handled. Ask for help." I didn't do any of that. I've been courageous at various times in my life. For some reason I don't yet understand, I didn't muster up the courage to step out in the world as me and thrive. So here I am, still having to deal with my defeating self-talk that takes courage to overcome, and I have to reclaim my health.
For me, quality of life means summoning trust and following my joy. Without any guarantees that it will "work out." Trusting joy means:
- Accepting my interests as valid and worthy of my time and energy.
- Accepting my needs as valid and finding ways to meet those. Because, when I'm filled up, I am generous, kind, creative and productive. Telling myself I shouldn't need what I need has repeatedly failed to motivate me, and has failed to result in fulfilling work and relationships.
- Accepting that what feels good to me is good for me. (Minus things like sugar, caffeine and drugs that only feel good for the short run.) My dream told me that I can't kill myself off before my time, but I can shrink from really living. Or I can trust what lights me up and act on that.
How crazy is this? To be afraid to trust what feels good to me? After all, I'm attracted to people who are happy and feel good. We've learned to distrust our interests and our inner guidance system - I'm not alone in this. I know exactly when I caved and gave up on following my joy. It was when I was in my late teens. Fortunately, Life is for me, and that life force in me is constantly nudging me towards living a full-out, trust-in-joy life. Every time I have gone forward and done what felt best to me, I can say in hindsight, I've not regretted it.
Do I actively use my imagination to rehearse scenarios as I prefer them to happen? Do I rehearse responding to people and situations in ways that feel good to me? Practice takes commitment and effort. I have to value my quality of life - as I live it today - enough to actually stop and DO these things that help me live joyfully. (I don't have to be perfect at this. Just stop and reclaim my thinking more and more often, until habit takes over for me.)
Living the quality of life that lights me up requires encouraging myself. I love encouraging people. It's natural and genuine for me to do so. Yet I rarely encourage myself. It clearly hasn't worked to beat myself up. So am I willing to be fair to myself? To notice what I'm doing that is in alignment with my values, and complement myself for that? Here's the big one: am I willing to feel towards myself the way I feel towards those I love?
Are you? It's not necessary to lose your health to get a message from my dream. May we all accept what we need, do our best to meet those needs (instead of fight those needs), and be guided by what lights us up. May we all courageously trust our joy, and live fulfilling lives while we're here.
© Vicki Nelson, Text and photos. TrustingJoy.com. Please share this post with anyone you'd like.