“Behind every flinch is a fear or an anxiety - sometimes rational, sometimes not. Without the fear, there is no flinch. But wiping out the fear isn't what's important - facing it is.”
a few nights ago, i had a dream.
the fact that i can still remember it in detail is nothing short of miraculous. i've been so sleep-deprived lately that the second my eyes hit the pillow i'm out and don't recall a thing that goes on between the hours of being still and when my eyes are forced awake by my children and daylight. with this one, i could almost hear my subconscious whispering to me that there was an actual point of it, and i needed to focus and find its significance.
it was the same scene, over and over again. i was walking down a dark street with two loved ones who continually changed throughout the dream, but each time i felt comforted by their presence. we turned toward a small building, climbed a few stairs, and i unlocked the door. i can still hear the keys jingling as i type. inside was a small, dark foyer, with a short hallway that led to another door, obviously to another person's apartment. to the left was a long staircase, leading up to where i knew the door to my apartment would be.
at first glance the dark foyer looked empty, but when i began to walk toward the stairs, i saw movement come out of the shadows of the small hallway on the right. it was a grey wolf, lean with hunger, its shoulder blades protruding as it steadily walked toward me, yellow eyes glowing and never leaving my face, its mouth open in a snarl.
i was terrified. and so, it seemed, were the two with me. we ran screaming from the building, slamming the door behind us just as the wolf lunged for the doorknob.
suddenly i was transported back to the beginning on the street, walking again toward the apartment building. this time i knew the wolf was there waiting for me.
each time i relived the scene in my dream, i would try something new. i'd pick up a stick along the way before i reached for my keys to open the door, prepared for a fight. or make a break for it and run for the stairs as fast as i could to escape the wolf. the scene would play out to just before the wolf could catch and devour me, then it would immediately cut, and start over again.
each time, i was abandoned by the two people accompanying me, fleeing out the door to leave me to my own devices. sometimes they were friends, sometimes they were family members, sometimes they were ben and another, sometimes they were my own children. i changed roles; cowering to be protected, then wrapping my arms around to be the protector, then searching for an ally to team with me. the emotions i felt with the scene vacillated depending upon who i was with, but there were two that remained constant, regardless of the changing details:
fear, and panic.
have you ever been able to watch other parts of your dream continue, even though you're not physically there, like you're watching a movie and you've just become a character in it?
as the dream went along, i could see myself and the two people with me enter the apartment building, then see them run screaming out of the front door, leaving me standing inside. they would scream all the way down the front steps, stop, turn around, and silently wait.
without my character in the dream knowing, i realized they were part of a plan--a test, for me. they walked through the door knowing the wolf was there waiting. they also knew the wolf was actually someone in disguise. in fact, it was someone i loved deeply.
i didn't know this, however, and became increasingly frustrated as time and again i found myself back out on the dark street, approaching what seemed to be my apparent doom with the wolf. i couldn't find a way out of the puzzle and started to suspect, even while still in the dream, that there was a lesson i was supposed to be learning. a way out of the repetitive.
after opening the door time and again, finally something clicked and i knew what i needed to do.
i walked up the stairs, this time with one of my nieces on one side and a nephew on the other. my hand trembled as i turned the keys. the door creaked as it opened, spilling a small patch of light from the street lamp outside onto the dark floor. as i took a step inside, i told my niece and nephew they needed to leave, i needed to do this alone. they silently turned and walked out the door.
i was so afraid that my breathing became shallow, my heart beating so loudly i could feel the pulse in my head. i took another step toward the darkness where i knew the wolf was waiting for me, my legs shaking as i walked. i could hear the sound of the its paws scraping lightly on the floor and the low growl from its chest as it approached. two yellow eyes were only a foot away from me, staring. i wanted to scream, run, or do something besides stand there, but i couldn't. i was paralyzed in fear, knowing it was going to kill me.
the wolf opened its mouth again in a snarl, and leaned back into its hind legs as if it were preparing to spring. i winced, but my feet did not budge. instead, i slowly raised a trembling arm up toward its open mouth. it was not done as a surrender, it was an offering. i knew i was going to face pain like i had never experienced before, and as terrified as i was of it, i knew i needed to lean into it instead of run away or try to fight it. i knew there was no other way.
the wolf looked at me one more time before focusing its gaze on my extended arm, widening its mouth and chomping down. in the dream, i screamed.
as it bit me, the wolf's form suddenly changed. the hair on its body disappeared, turning to peach colored flesh. paws became hands and feet, legs and arms lengthened. and a human face began to appear while still sinking its teeth into my arm.
i realized as i watched this transformation happen that i couldn't feel pain. i gasped as i began to recognize who had been disguising themselves as the wolf. the lights in the apartment foyer turned on, and all around me i heard applause and cheering. i looked around and saw my loved ones there with me, smiling at me as they clapped.
once the wolf was completely gone, the person stood and embraced me, wrapping their arms tightly as they said softly in my ears, "you did it! i knew you could. i'm so proud of you." i smiled and leaned into them, hugging them back.
i had passed the test.
then, i woke up.