another brilliant dream

OMG, this morning I woke from another incredibly vivid and brilliant dream, this one vastly different in nature from the last. It was about revenge:

I heard strange noises early in the morning and heard a key in the lock — someone was entering my house. I was petrified; I couldn’t move. I gathered the strength to get out of bed and then went to the window and looked out. Trucks were dropping large lumpy bundles, like big canvas bales onto the yard.

I watched as my ex carried my sleeping daughter in his arms to a waiting minivan. It was her birthday, and I think I saw her cousin with them in the van. As I watched from the window with curiosity, wondering what was going on, the truck drivers began unrolling the enormous bales, revealing generators and inflating a veritable carnival of jumping, climbing and sliding attractions in the front yard. (This of course, could not be really my front yard — it doesn’t have the room. Rather, my “dream” home was the house in which I grew up as child.)

I ventured downstairs, still in pajamas, bed head and bad breath, and saw several large envelopes with notes in my ex’s handwriting displayed on the dining table. Each contained a rental agreement for the inflatable circus of which I’d just been thrust into the center, all charged to my credit card. Worse, there were already dozens of strangers wandering throughout my house and yard.

THIS is a positively brilliant example of what hell might well be like (if it exists at all) and, in my dream, my ex was genius enough to create it. I actually remember feeling a certain amount of awe before the overwhelming irritation at some complete stranger with small children looking around my house for a bathroom took over. Something like that should never happen before 8am!

At any rate, I then woke up, awed at my second incredibly vivid dream in only a couple of days. In my dream, I had given my ex the ability and initiative to make something spectacular happen — perhaps even turned him into the kind of man I could respect, the kind of man who might have proven equal to me in marriage. Even while dreaming, I had been impressed with what he’d done, presumably to simultaneously surprise my daughter and peeve me.

Even now, more than 12 hours after waking, I still feel lingering amusement, a bit of (perhaps unearned) respect for my ex and, yes, maybe even a deeper level of forgiveness.

acts of forgiveness

One of the lessons I’ve learned along the way is that forgiveness, like love, is expressed through action.

Witnessing acts of forgiveness is incredibly powerful and life-affirming. We know we have forgiven ourselves when we break a self-destructive habit, such as addiction, or form new, life-affirming ones. We know we’ve forgiven others when we stop doing things to make them angry.

A divorced male friend recently shared this story with me:  He and his ex see a child development specialist every couple of weeks to understand and try to mitigate the effects of their break-up on their five-year-old child (which I think is a very mature approach on their part). My friend’s ex had introduced her boyfriend to their daughter, a man with whom she had recently broken up. She was asking the specialist how to handle it when their daughter asked for her boyfriend by name.

My friend, meanwhile, was fuming. He sat in his chair, gripping its arms with his hands until his knuckles were white. He had been upset with her decision to introduce this man to their child, questioned her normally sound judgment and, though he desperately wanted to seethe, “I told you so!,” he held his tongue and calmly asked the child development specialist, “Is it possible that our daughter associates this man with Mommy’s happiness? and that, rather than the ex boyfriend, our daughter simply misses seeing Mommy happy?”

The child development specialist agreed that this was likely, and suggested the ex-wife ignore any of their daughter’s references to the ex boyfriend. My friend, meanwhile, was quite proud of his restraint. It even earned him a positive email from his ex-wife. But I wonder if he even recognized his action for what it was:  an act of forgiveness.

I recently experienced such an incredibly generous act of forgiveness that I want to share it here. I requested a networking coffee with a man whose company for which I had done some work (more than a decade ago). This man has seen my highs and lows, including me in the midst of my most morally bereft phase (I think a lot us were there in the late 90s).

Simply meeting me was a generous gift of his time. Then he told me that he had always seen my talent, appreciated my personality and was thrilled to see the light inside me shining brightly again. I actually teared up. Even knowing the lowest points in my personal history, he sat across from me, looked into my eyes and uttered these warm and positive words. After an hour, we embraced and parted.

Every moment and every word was, to me, an act of forgiveness. And it was painfully humbling. I confess, I questioned my worthiness. How could I possibly deserve such grace? Yet every religion on Earth makes allowances that we might all be forgiven, healed and made whole.

Now if only I could learn to forgive myself and others with such grace and generosity!