Life breaks everyone’s heart somehow, somewhere in time. Betrayal or death or illness or failure or war or most any tragedy can do the deed. The question is what happens then? In that dark night of the spirit, how do we live till morning? How do we resilient, courageous, fragile, faltering humans take our licks and still survive? Or even prevail, and manage to live or love again?
When I was thrust into the Crucible, that dark drowning pool of soul that makes or breaks us, I wasn’t at all sure I’d make it to the other side. Divorce and the deaths of those I loved nearly undid me. My career faltered. My spirit flagged. My heart and spirit broken, I didn’t think I had the guts to go on.
I’d thought dreams were indestructible, until the death of mine. After my divorce, my father’s death, my daughters illnesses and deaths, I realized to my horror that I’d somehow lost the capacity for dreams. Rebellious and confused, I wandered an internal landscape that was barren and moribund.
I’ll dream new dreams, I told myself defiantly, as if dreams were responsive puppies that would answer my call and come running from wherever they’d hidden.
They aren’t. They didn’t.
I’d lie in bed at night and try to fabricate the future, but I couldn’t find myself in it. Reality had flattened me, frightened me, wounded me and my dream world bore the strangling scars. I would fantasize love, but I no longer believed in it. I’d fantasize a joyous future, only to feel desperate loss. I missed my marriage and the cocoon of imagined love it had provided. I missed the comfort of my father’s wisdom and the sound of his good natured laughter. When your final parent dies there’s no longer a bulwark between you and eternity. I missed my daughters indomitable defiance of unjust Fate.
These tragedies had left a chasm in my world. Dreams were like amorphous butterflies… I’d catch a glimpse, only to have them flutter beyond my grasp.
So I prayed. And wept. And struggled with despair. And wandered the gray and barren plain within, in search of salvation. In the worst of times, I railed at God, demanding justice, answers, anything that could allow me the space to live with all that had come undone. And eventually answers came… answers that changed me, winnowed me out. And finally, after a time, lent me the space to live again.
It took me years to dream again – and when new dreams were born it wasn’t because I knew how to make them happen, but because life has the astounding capacity to reseed itself, even in fallow ground.
That’s what I want to say to you: that dreams re-seed themselves. They poke new shoots of green up where you least expect them. Through desert or debris heap, through rivers of tears, or the solid rock of fear, they’ll grow again in ways you can’t conceive. They’ll do it despite you, if they have to, and they’ll lure you back to life.
I wonder where do they come from in the midst of work and bills and illness and hardship and despair? Is it God who opens some eternal wellspring that pours out hope as clear and vast and beautiful as sunrise, inexorable as tides, unexpected as love, to get us through? Or is it merely that the future dies hard in us. Something in us lusts to live, to resurrect, to beat the odds. The DNA of dreams? A cosmic implant in our matrix that wills us into joy, even in pockets of despair? The same plucky gene, perhaps, that lets us spit in the face of tyrants, laugh at death, and hope, even as life ebbs, for a better dawn.
I’m not at all sure how it happens, I only know that when you are reborn to dreaming, you can see that some of what is gone had found completion. See, too, that you’ve grown through loss to be larger, softer, fiercer, more compassionate than you were… that your internal landscape, by the grace of God or your own wise soul, was quiet for a time, not merely with death but with regeneration.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2011