“When you comin’ home, dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, son, you know we’ll have a good time then.” From our gone too soon, Harry Chapin, The Cat’s in the Cradle
Some years ago, I dreamt I was on a long, leisurely walk in a lovely park filled with beautiful trees and flowers, long, walking trails and picnic tables atop concrete slabs shielded from the elements by makeshift roofs.
A mother and her daughter, about nine years old, were out strolling, too. Upon seeing me, the daughter left her mother and ran to me. I smiled politely, shook my head to discourage her, and continued my walk as she scurried back to her mother who appeared completely uninterested. After a few moments, the daughter’s footsteps raced rapidly up behind me again and she invited me to play. I said no, and when she persisted, I said, no, more firmly and wondered why the mother would not call the daughter away from me. Finally, the daughter pleaded with me tearfully. “Please,” she cajoled me, “Please play with me.” In my dream, I looked down at her and said, “I will not let you dominate my life anymore,” whereupon she returned sadly to her mother’s side.
I have often thought about that dream. It has spoken to me about the inner craving we have to be nurtured ourselves. Many times, we overlook the worthy child who resides inside us today. That child, I believe, has much to teach us – to help us remember who we really are – who we were before the world came in and told us who we are. And we need to explore those gifts that we have yet to discover about ourselves that are of great value and needed in the world today. We can only revere that child when we take the time to love, nurture and listen to its insistent and wise voice.
Some people say the people in our dreams are each a representation of some part of the dreamer. If so, in the dream, I was the distant mother who would not play with the child (representing a part of me that distracted by other things). I was the child herself (representing my little girl inside who just wanted to play and be loved) and I was the woman whose walk was being disturbed and interrupted by a precocious child who simply wished to revel and enjoy the beautiful world we all share. As that adult, I was being offered a special and significant opportunity, which I was staunchly rejecting, to nurture and spend time with the extraordinary child that resides inside all of us.
In our very adult worlds with so many demanding responsibilities, staunch (and often, self-imposed) deadlines, disturbing misunderstandings that cause great damage to both parties and serious over-commitments, we often choose to ignore that inner voice which implores us to slow down.
But sometimes the child has the courage to be persistent even while being rejected. To urge us to love ourselves enough to indulge ourselves sometimes. Take me to the zoo, she begs. You know how I love to look at the orangutans, especially how the mommy plays peek-a-boo under a blanket with her baby. “Are you kidding?” I respond. “I have important work to do for my clients, a household to run, places to go, people to see, things to do.”
Well, then, what about just a quick trip downtown for a chocolate nut sundae? she inquires hopefully. That will not take too long. “A chocolate nut sundae!” I scream aghast at such a thought. “ Do you know how many calories would be in that?”
Okay, but maybe we could just play in your makeup a little bit? Maybe try on some different shades of lipstick. Please, she begs and again I turn her down for the quite obviously more urgent, if not truly meaningful, things I must accomplish that day.
And the strange yet, always predictable, thing is, at the end of the day, I can barely remember why it was that I did not have time to try on a different lipstick. And by the end of the week, I am completely exhausted as I realize (that yet again) I have not nurtured my inner self and she is beginning to die for lack of attention.
On this cold evening in February – my little girl craves a warm fireplace, needs to drink some hot, Chai tea and be still. She has been busy too long, has worried too much, has felt the need to accomplish (what?), has suffered the pain of the times too acutely, has barely dealt with the brunt of words that have stung sharply without responding these past few days. So it is time to indulge her, love her, adore her and honor her. She has the power to make me feel well and stable – if only I will allow her. She has the insight to open doors to new ways of living life zestfully, restfully, lovingly and kindly.
I promise her also that next weekend, after yoga, breathing, meditation and a long walk, I will sit down with the love of my life and indulge her secret desire to watch the 13 episodes of the next season of Netflick’s House of Cards straight through. Along with a little chocolate and a glass of red wine, my little, big girl is going to be totally spoiled for a while. As well she should be.
May the Divine bless my little girl and yours, too, on this day and always. And by the way, in case you are not getting the message clearly, the men (and their boys) in the world need this, too.