Last night I had the dream again.
I wish I could say that my recurring dreams involve a high-speed chase or two in a Mini Cooper (The Italian Job), in and through downtown Paris, complete with a cute pixie-hair cut and short bangs (Amelie’). The Eurostar then transports me over to London, where simultaneous time change occurs in the underground tunnel; I arrive at Downton Abbey, and I’m found to be the long lost niece of the Dowager Countess. Maggie Smith and I wittily banter back and forth, and in my perfect British accent, our family bond is solidified and the writers can’t come up with the quips fast enough.
“Age knows no bounds for a couple of old hoots like us!” I cackle, and we kindred spirits clink our crystal, Dom Perignon bubbling over.
But instead, the lusted Mini Cooper is actually a small SUV covered in spit up, and my dreams of short hair are thwarted by a hairstylist who threatens a 4th-grade “mushroom head” haircut if I keep trying to tame my thick mane into a fine-haired Meg Ryan copycat. And I’m not exactly the rising star of Masterpiece Theatre. Yet. Ever.
The dream I’m talking about is actually set back in the undergrad days: it’s my last semester, senior year, and I’ve decided to take combined econ and micro-biology class, just for kicks (which, in case you’re wondering, are a bit of a far cry for an English-Education major). So I attend the first week of classes, but soon I forget to go to class altogether. I’d rather sleep and hang out with my friends. Beyond that, I know that I’m just too damn smart for my own good – who needs to show up and write papers and take pop quizzes anyway? Finally, it’s the last week of class, and I have an 8% in the class.
“Yeah, I think I’m flunking the class,” I tell my parents, emphasizing the “think” part of the sentence. Was I hoping for a curve, with the rest of the class at a meaty 10% of an F? We realize that it’s too late for me to drop the class, and that I’ll have an F on my transcript.
But I’m determined: I buy the book (finally), and begin cramming, pulling four all-nighters in a row. I do all my missed homework, and I study for the test, and I cross-my-fingers, hope-to-die that I’ll pass the final exam.
And then I wake up.
Now what the Joseph and Technicolor Dreamcoat is that all about?
I’m really not one to read into dreams, but this I do note: it’s about a fear of failure.
I spent some time awhile back getting to know myself in the presence of a therapist (which, if you haven’t already, is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Go, find that couch). Among other things, she helped me identify that I’m not necessarily a perfectionist, but an overachiever.
I tend to take on the world, getting A+’s in every so-called subject.
And I then succeed at all I do – because I’m not about to do something that puts me at a risk of failing. Why try out for the cheerleading squad if I know I’m not the most bendy, flexible person the high school gymnasium has ever seen?
So when my own perceived failure in the workplace hit a couple years ago, I was paralyzed. I didn’t know how to move forward. The imminent, pending “F” on the report card loomed in front of me, clouding my every move. And finally, Miss Margo (the therapist) said this to me:
“Cara, you can’t fail at that which isn’t communicated to you.”
For my particular situation, that was exactly what I needed to hear.
And I suppose for the present day, I need to name and claim the lies, and stomp them out like the embers of an expired campfire pit. Shoo! Be gone! For I’m not failing, and that what I’m doing is enough:
Caring for your son is holy work in and of itself.
Not bringing in a paycheck doesn’t make you any less of a person.
Writing and learning to tell your story (even if your name and future book aren’t being prominently featured on the front displays of Barnes and Noble) is enough.
Operating out of a place of being instead of a position of doing is a good, good thing.
This, if you can’t tell, is the lesson I’m learning right now, so if you hear me saying it over and over again, week after week, maybe – just maybe – it’s because I’m still in the throws of learning it.
And if this today is also what you need to hear, then wrap your arms around yourself, and repeat over and over again: I am enough, just as I am.
What about you? What lies do you need to stomp out?0