As a child, I had a recurring dream about a house in our neighborhood. The house itself wasn’t all that interesting from the outside, but I would dream about it once a week or so.
In the dream, I would be in the house and find secret rooms and hidden passageways and I specifically remember finding a library once. There was always a sense of surprise and wonder as I would discover a new room in the house.
Apparently, this kind of dream is common. It’s about self-exploration, learning about ourselves and about hidden potential, if you believe that kind of thing.
And also, if you believe that kind of thing, it is significant that in the dream, the feelings of surprise and wonder accompanied the discovery (as opposed, I imagine, to terror or sadness or shame).
You may have noticed, but in real life, I love to self-examine, I love to self-analyze. I love to listen to my thoughts and take apart the ones that seem to get stuck. I am not always successful at breaking through, but I have found great pleasure and meaning in this kind of endeavor.
There is a woman in my entourage who is pointedly opposed to self-reflection in regards to her own life. She is, on the other hand, intrigued when I tell her about my Ideal Life Exercise, and will often start a conversation with, “So what is your theory today?” (She asks it in a nice way, not in a mocking way.)
She is incredibly lucid as to why she does not want to self-reflect: she readily admits that she experienced debilitating rejection as a small child and this has gotten in her way in many ways. Sometimes, we will scratch the surface of her discomfort and she gets teary, returning immediately to her justification that, “well, anyway, I was rejected and no one cares about me anyway.”
It always comes back to that same thing, and this blockage of grief in her life, while something she has learned to live with, seems like the kind of thing that no one should have to live with. “One day,” she says. “One day I’ll deal with it.”
I know first hand that self-reflection can be painful. But I also know the freedom it can bring. It can feel like discovering a secret passageway or a library that you didn’t know was there.
Number my days
My eldest’s birthday is coming up next week, and for the last 45 days he has been asking every single morning, “How many days until my birthday?”
This excitement for some future date gets me thinking. If I knew exactly when I would breathe my last, how differently would I be living my life? Would I spend twenty minutes every single day for two weeks trying on glasses virtually? Would I painstakingly sort out my different colored buttons for a craft project? Would I mindlessly click through every single article in the New York Times on a specific topic?
I think about this for my friend who refuses to examine her rejection issues: if she knew when she would breathe her last, would she want to keep dragging this weight around with her?
Wouldn’t it be easier for all of us to make the most out of our lives if we had some kind of hourglass sitting on the nightstand showing us just how much longer we had to live?
I came across this verse in my reading:
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.Psalm 90:12
If I want to make my days count, I need to deal with the easy stuff first. The low-hanging fruit. Even with regular, daily self-examination, there are new thoughts to take apart, new untrusting impulses. But there is also joy and progress.
If you are carrying around some uncomfortable burden, some load that you know is holding you back, I challenge you to take a few minutes today, and safely, carefully, prayerfully, start examining it. Stop ignoring it as though it could ever go away on its own. Be willing. Be curious
Being willing and curious will take you far as you learn to understand yourself. We may not have an hourglass to tell us how many more days we have till our expiration date, but we can make those days count.