I had a dream last night. It was the first night being home from my trip to Ohio. The first night where I can start processing through everything that happened while I was there.
I woke up after it happened. Groggy. Fuzzy. I should have gotten up and written then, but I didn’t. Instead, I went back to sleep. I should have written as soon as I woke up again instead of showering or having coffee. But I didn’t.
I’m ok with that because I still remember the feelings at the end and the conclusions I have come to.
In the dream, my dad and I were in school together. I think it was high school. I don’t remember all of the details anymore but there was a group project going on. I think there were a lot of people in our group. I think it was more than just me and dad, but that detail I’m honestly not sure on, either.
I remember just like most of the projects I’ve ever had to work on, school or otherwise, I was the one doing most of the work. I was making sure things were done properly and that nothing slipped through the cracks. I remember feeling frustrated and used and continuing to work despite the tears running down my face. It felt like no one cared about what I was doing.
No one cared that I was tired or that I wanted a break. No one cared that I wanted, needed, help to get it all done in time. No one was there to make me feel like what I was doing was worth it.
I wasn’t doing the work because I wanted to. I was doing it because I cared, about them, about their grades, but no one cared back.
I was just a background drone, working away while everyone else did whatever they wanted to do, whatever they felt was more important and offering me help.
It sucked. I remember feeling like that a lot in high school, in my relationships, in college. I’ve felt that feeling a lot in life and in the past I would silently accept it like I had in the dream. I would keep doing what I was doing hoping one day someone would care enough to see me. To see my effort and to let me know it meant something to them.
I’m not sure what happened in the dream. I don’t know if there was an event I can’t recall but somehow dad noticed I was doing all the work. He looked at me from where he was across the room and saw I was alone and he wasn’t ok with that.
I think he came over and started helping but that detail I’m fuzzy on, too. I do remember his acknowledgment of the situation, his dislike for it, and his resolve to change it so it became fairer.
I remember there was another scene. Maybe another dream since there’s really no connection to the first one. I was in a hallway. It felt like I was younger. Teenage maybe.
My dad was at the end of the hallway in a large room. I was huddled against the wall because I was scared. I was next to a picture frame though I don’t remember what was in the frame. I don’t think I ever looked at it. I was too worried about leaving the hall. It was dark, sort of shadowed. Dad was in the lit room. He wanted me to come to him but I was scared.
I don’t know if I understood the fear in the dream, but being awake and conscious I can say it was probably fear of rejection. What if I left the hall and he didn’t want me there? What if he didn’t hug me or he told me to go away. It was safer in the dark hall, alone. It was safer to not put myself in that situation. It was safer to not know.
I looked at him. I looked down as I searched within myself, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I bit my lip as I thought because I have a habit of doing that. I looked back at him as I pushed myself closer against the wall. The wall was solid, real, safe. I wanted to be part of the wall and not have to make this decision.
I knew deep down, really deep down, wanted to be with my dad, though. I didn’t want to be alone with the cold wall that wouldn’t hug me back. I wanted to be with my Superman who always hugged me, who carried me home when I fell off my bike and scraped both of my knees so bad I couldn’t walk, who used to braid my hair, who taught me how to put puzzles together, who taught me how to color inside the lines.
I wanted to be with my dad even if it was scary. I wanted to be with him even if it meant I had to leave the safety of the dark hall and the solid wall.
So I pushed away from the wall. I walked past the picture with my arms wrapped around myself. I walked each painful step while looking at the ground because I was terrified of what I would see if I looked at my dad. I didn’t know how I would survive if I saw anger or disappointment or rejection.
It was already hard enough to breathe through the emotions I was feeling. I already had those infamous silent tears on my cheeks. I was already terrified what I was doing was wrong. How would I be able to keep going if I had confirmation, if I knew, that I was wrong? That I had always been wrong? That I would ALWAYS be wrong?
I stopped when I saw his shoes in front of mine. I stood in front of him, still holding myself, still too terrified to look up. I just wanted all of it to go away. All the thoughts. All the fear. Everything. I just wanted him to hug me and for things to be ok.
And he did. He wrapped his arms around me and I hugged him back as I cried into his shoulder. I cried as I felt love and forgiveness and acceptance and sorrow for all of the past hurts that we had caused each other.
That’s when I woke up. I woke up feeling love and acceptance and I really don’t care what happens in the future. I’m grateful I had my dream. I’m grateful for the time I spent alone with him this trip in the basement where we played darts and talked. I’m grateful for the conversations he had with Jon and me while we drank Not Your Father’s Rootbeer while everyone else was asleep.
I’m grateful that he hugged me goodbye at the airport and that he said he loved me.
I think the picture in the dream represents the past. That’s what pictures are. Past moments. Things we look back on. Moments that have happened and can’t be changed.
I feel like the picture reaffirms my realization from last week. The one about mom’s death and that it’s ok to not want to trade the life I have now to have her back.
We can’t go backward. Life doesn’t work like that.
We can only forward.
I have to leave the past where it is. The hurt, the pain, the fear and uncertainty of my teenage and young adult years… I have to walk through and away from all of it if I’m going to move forward and have any sort of relationship with my dad and half sisters.
This trip made me realize I want to be there for them. I want to be the mentor and role model I wish I had had while trying to navigate life. I want them to be able to talk to me when things are scary and uncertain, or when they need advice but don’t want to talk to their parents about it. I want to be a safe person for them.
And I want my dad and me to move forward from where we are. We can’t go back and change events. We can’t undo the divorce. We can’t undo the hurt. But we can understand this is where we’re at and that we still love each other and that I’m still his daughter and he’s still my dad.
I’m happy I had my dream. It makes me feel like I did the right thing. It makes me feel like I’m headed in the right direction.