The Map

I am always surprised when things happen to me that show that my life is still in transition, even though I finished school a couple of years ago and retired about four years ago. But I had the most interesting dream recently that woke me up to the reality that I am still in transition.

 You know those “You Are Here” signs on maps in malls? In the dream, I was looking at a large map – not one like a mall map, but a regular map, more like the ones you get from Triple A, only this map was large and softly tinted and seemed to be part of the wall I was looking at. The details on the map were in a range of very pretty muted blues, and it had lots of roads and towns and lakes and highways. I was kind of standing outside of the dream, but I was clearly agitated and impatient with what I wasn’t seeing. What my map didn’t have was a “You Are Here” sign. (Or so I thought.)

It was revealed to me during the dream (I have no idea how) that there was a huge “You Are Here” sign after all but I just couldn’t see it at first. The sign wasn’t one of those square bubble things that point to the intersection between Sears and the Lady Foot Locker. I’m not sure what the sign looked like, exactly, but I do have a vague recollection that it was amorphous and translucent. The important thing is that I didn’t see the You Are Here sign because I expected it to conform to my mental picture of what You Are Here signs are supposed to look like.

I am still energized by this dream! First, it was refreshing to have such a pleasant dream, one that actually made sense to me. Second, I feel that God revealed Godself to me in this dream. I believe God was helping me to see that I do know Where I Am just now, if I will only look beyond what I expect to see on my map.

The dream also reminded me that I do have a lot going on right now – not the least of which is dealing with the fact that Retiree Julia just received a Medicare Card in the mail (two months early by the way!). “Where the heck am I?” was a good and appropriate question for my dream, only I didn’t even know I needed to ask that question before I had the dream.
Normally, a dream like this would propel me to the place where I begin questioning my decisions and direction and Who I Am. But this dream wasn’t about Who I Am. The dream was about looking more broadly at Where I Am just now. It was about the need to see beyond my self-set definitions and designs for interpreting Where I Am. And until I give more time and depth to figuring out Where I Am, I will not be able to see which way to go and to realize with enough gratitude how many directions are open to me.

The dream I had this week revealed to me what I know to be true intellectually but have not embraced emotionally, and that is that life’s transitions are often slow for a reason. I am such a person of action that many, many times I don’t slow down long enough to really look at where I am before I rush on to where I think I should be (or where others think I should be). In my change and transition coaching work, I always tell people that the time in-between endings and new beginnings (what William Bridges calls the Neutral Zone ) is not to be rushed through but savored. Although the Neutral Zone can be a time of disruption and turmoil that anyone would want to escape from as soon as possible, the Neutral Zone can also be a time for great creativity, redefinition, and personal growth, if we allow ourselves to fly through the air of the Neutral Zone’s uncertainty. Bill Bridges shows a cartoon in his transition workshops of a person who has let go of one trapeze bar and is in mid-flight before he catches the second trapeze bar. The guy in the cartoon is not a professional aerialist but someone dressed in street clothes. His face is contorted with panic. His arms are flailing. He looks like you and me. But the cartoon also includes this jazzy safety-net just far enough below the trapeze artist to give him reassurance and safety without confinement, if he will only realize that it the net is there.

One of the things that the Neutral Zone is good for is taking time to recall what makes up our personal safety net. Mine is finely woven of family, friends, and faith. But sometimes I forget who’s helping to hold up my safety net, espcially God. My dream was like getting a message from God that I need to slow down, take a breath or two, don’t be afraid to let go of the bar, and really, really look around at Where I Am. It may be somewhat confounding and frustrating just now, but because of my safety net, it’s a pretty great place to try to figure it all out. Maybe my “You Are Here” sign is not so clear right now because it is so filled with blessings. Thanks be to God.

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