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Don't look down

December 26th, 2016 at 07:25 am

Do you remember high school gym class, where they’d have those ropes you could shinny up and climb? On Christmas night I dreamt I was climbing a rope like that, way high up into the clouds. I was as high up as a jumbo jetliner, and at that height, looking down made me weak in the knees.

I was at the top of the rope, and any further passage upward was blocked by a broad ledge. The ledge was actually a picture window without the glass, like the cut-out between a dining room and kitchen, through which I could see some food on a counter and people walking around, going about their normal routines.

I’m clinging to this rope, so high in the stratosphere with nowhere else to go, and I knew I had to get onto that ledge before my strength gave out and I lost my grasp of the rope.

But I didn’t have the strength in my arms to hoist myself up. I remained suspended, hugging the rope, unable to move up and afraid to look down. I wondered how long I could hang on. Then I found that by rocking gently back and forth, I could generate enough momentum so that on an upward swing, I could lift my right leg just over the ledge. Once I’d done that, I slowly, laboriously, pulled my body up and safely over the ledge, through the picture window instead of under it.

I rested there quietly on the edge hunched on all fours, not wanting to move away because I knew that eventually I would have to get back on that rope to return to safety down below, from whence I came. I was afraid I wouldn’t remember the sequence of where to put my hands and what to grasp, to get back on that rope. And looking down was making me very, very scared. I wondered how I would ever be able to get back onto that rope without losing my grip.

Later, a woman whom I did not know offered to help me get back on the rope. That, I knew, was the hardest part. Once I’d done that, I could slowly inch my way down. But the hardest part were those critical few moments when I would have to let go of that ledge and grab hold of the rope without tumbling headfirst to the ground. That was the hard part, and I gratefully accepted the woman’s offer.

Soon after, I woke up, and immediately the dream struck me as such a powerful metaphor for my life right now. I knew that Christmas would be tough this year because at this time a year ago, mom was in hospice and rapidly declining. She died three days after Christmas. My dream reminded me (as if I needed reminding) that getting over my mother’s death and moving on has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. That, and wondering how I will face my advanced years alone, something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about lately. The future, at times, looks incredibly frightening. Just like in the dream, where I wondered how, as I hung suspended up high in a silent world, clinging to a rope without a safety net, I would ever feel safe again.

The dream also reminded me that the help of others can do wonders. I look back over the year and remember the many small kindnesses of others, others who probably didn’t realize the significance of their actions to me. If we are judged at the end of our lives, I don’t think it will be for big things. “I saved a woman from being hit by a car” or “I dove into a lake to rescue a drowning swimmer.” No, the truly heroic actions of most ordinary people will be the smallest acts of kindness: rendering aid when one sees a need, doing something thoughtful when there’s no one around to notice, offering a helping hand to someone having a tough time. These are the actions never counted or recorded. They are often overlooked and soon forgotten, yet together they add up to a whole lot of goodness.

Just a few of my thoughts for the day, all triggered by a vivid dream.

5 Responses to “Don't look down”

  1. Carol Says:

    What a powerful story... I know you have been in mourning this year, but I have also noticed your reaching out more to others, for ex. hosting your cousins, hosting a holiday get together...being open may trigger more small acts of kindness. I truly agree that they are so important. Wishing the best for you in 2017!

  2. CB in the City Says:

    Dreams are so interesting. I have had powerful dreams like that at difficult times in my life. Last night I dreamed that I was living in my car (but I wasn't upset about it, just matter of fact). Hope it wasn't prophetic!

    I agree that it is the small kindnesses that matter, not heroics.

  3. alice4now Says:

    Thanks for sharing your dream, It reminded me that we are all on this journey together, whether we know it or not!

  4. Dido Says:

    What an amazing dream and inspiration. I totally agree that it is the small acts of kindness that have the biggest opportunities to make a difference. I hope that the inspiration of the dream lingers with you to light your way into the new year.

  5. rob62521 Says:

    What a dream. I think you are so smart in connecting things with your life and your dream...perhaps your subconscious working things out in your head.

    You are right, people remember the little things and those little things mean so much more than we often would consider.

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