I dreamed there was debris everywhere. What a mess! I had the hugest clean-up I had ever had to do. What had happened? A party? A catastrophe? I could not make it out. Just that I had so much to clean up and put away. Amongst all the stuff lying around, and after I had pulled from the sink or sewer (I couldn't quite make out which) a large blanket and some clothes, a white shirt, pants, and other items I can't remember, I noticed a child, about the age of eight or ten years old. She lay asleep. Her head was shrouded with pale curls, and her eyes and nose were crusted with dry mucus from crying too much perhaps. I thought to myself, I will get to her after I have cleaned up. The cleaning seemed almost done when I decided to turn my attention to the sleeping child. I looked at her intently, and decided I would need the shower hose to wash away the crusted eyes and nose, and pale tangled curls on her head. "How will I wake her up?" I said to myself. "She has been through so much, I will have to be very gentle."
And then I awoke. Suddenly. Upright in my bed. With the image of that young child in my mind, I slipped on my vibrams and wrapped my black shawl-like cardigan around my shoulders as I went down to make coffee and feed the cats. As I was in the middle of my early morning routine, almost sleep walking as I was still pondering my dream, uncontrollably I suddenly said out loud, "The child is me!" I repeated out loud what I had thought in my dream as I stared at the sorrowful, neglected child: "She has been through so much, I will have to be very gentle."
It made perfect sense, because the day before in my therapy session, we had talked about my childhood in more depth than I had ever allowed previously. In fact, I had started the discussion because feelings and experiences during some recent events in my life had become clear to me. Indeed, I had felt like I had touched the very core, the essence of my childhood pain. At one point in the session, my therapist and I fell silent. He looked at me intently and said, "You are a survivor." I wept for a few moments, feeling validated and pride at the same time.
As soon as I had completed my chores, I donned my sneakers and went out for a long morning walk. As I strode out into the crisp fall air, the sun shone in my face and through the tops of the almost bare trees. Leaves were swirling around my feet as I went. I could smell autumn in my nostrils – the pungent scent of soaked, fallen leaves. I began to imagine waking up that tormented, neglected child. Remembering how I had thought in the dream, "… She has been through so much," I slipped my arm under her head ever so gently and whispered kindly, "It's time to wake up." And then I stroked her curls and took a warm, damp cloth to wipe away the crust around her eyes and nose – all the time taking care to be as gentle as possible. I took her small hands in mine and looked into her eyes with compassion. I said, "Everything is going to be all right. You are safe now. We will take our time. I won't leave you." As I imagined the scenario, I wept as I walked. It felt like a weight was lifting, and deep healing was occurring.
Turning the corner out of the woods and up the road leading toward home, the air seemed clearer and sun brighter. I smiled to myself and thought: "Count down. Today I am grateful for survival."