On our way to Arizona

Our life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately. Four weeks ago, we were thrown both an extraordinary gift and a curve ball with our son’s college plans, and we had to move into high-gear to figure out a Plan B.

I was thrown off-kilter; we didn’t see this coming, and it’s been painful to watch our son’s dreams both materialize in front of his eyes and, in another way, possibly require him to make a sharp, 90-degree pivot.

I’ve cried. I’ve questioned myself. I don’t often beat myself up but, in the aftermath of plans going awry, I did plenty of kicking myself: Why didn’t I insist on a more solid Plan B and C? How could I have let this happen? I have failed my son. As if life is entirely in my hands, which, of course, it is not…

Once the critic and part that thinks it can control everything quieted down, I was left with grief. And when the grief passed through, I arrived at acceptance and a knowing that our son is resilient and would be okay no matter how this unfolded.

So for the past several weeks, we’ve both forged ahead with an emergency Plan B while also holding out hope that Plan A would still come through. At times it felt like grasping at silk threads, but we still held on.

Throughout this time, I had several dreams about where he would go to college. Some of the dreams were concerning. Others seemed precognitive. Reaching into my decades-old treasure chest of tools for working with dreams, I spiraled into this current layer of seeking to decipher their messages.

Leaning Into Paradox

As I often teach with dreams, it’s not one, singular message. Dreams, like the unconscious from which they originate, are multi-layered, mysterious and kaleidoscopic. Two seemingly contradictory meanings can be true at the same time.

As I inch further into my fifties, I find myself more and more enamored by paradox: a way of both relying on dreams as a bedrock, and also holding them as lightly as butterfly wings with a fractal awareness that dreams can be both prescient and have nothing to do with the future. It’s a lighter way of holding the contents of the unconscious, one that allows for more mystery, and, I believe, ultimately more peace.

When we were in Arizona last weekend on a 24-hour reconnaissance mission for a possible Plan B, I had a dream:

We missed our flight home from Queensland, Australia (this is a recurring dream theme – being trapped in Australia and trying to get home). I’m trying to get another flight but then we end up in the cafeteria at Embry-Riddle [our son’s Plan A college] and the man behind the counter who has worked there for years tells me on the sly that it’s going to be okay – don’t worry.

He explains everything that’s happening behind the scenes, that it’s complicated but assures me that it’s going to be okay. I’m trying to relay this to Everest but things keep preventing me from telling him. But I still manage to relay the most important part of the message. Robin Williams was also in the dream at some point. And ice cream.

Every part of me wanted to take that dream at face value and lean into it as a source of comfort and reassurance. And I did. But I also held out for the possibility that it could be another sort of gift: that there are people in all realms working behind the scenes working to make sure that Everest is being taken care of, and that he will be nourished (by the “kitchen folks”) no matter where he goes.

In the midst of my heartache, as I watched my son’s soul try to reconcile this turn of events, the dream lit like a three-dimensional star whispering: it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. It’s not that the dream eliminated worry and anxiety; I’ve had plenty of worry the past several weeks. It’s that it gave me a foothold and a pillar, and, when I remembered to go there, a better place to place my worry than spinning around in my mind.

Gift Dreams

I’ve had a handful of gift dreams in my life: dreams that arrive during particularly intense times that offer a way to hold the intensity. Or, rather, that offer me an image that makes me feel held. For at the core of it all this is what we’re all longing for amidst life’s curves and challenges: to be accompanied. To be held by a wise and loving source greater than ourselves. To be nourished by the person behind the counter who has worked here for years and is telling us, “It’s okay.”

When we hold our dreams lightly and with reverence, they hold us in return. And the holding extends beyond the current challenge. As I’ve done with all of my gift dreams, when we return to them, draw them, write them, dance them, they continue to work with us and through us, shining their light and showing the way through the darker forests of life.

By the way… any associations to the ice cream?  Share in the comments! And if you’re interested in learning more about working with dreams, I highly recommend Jeremy Taylor’s work.

P.S.: At the 11th hour, on Friday morning, Plan A came through. We are overjoyed and deeply grateful. Everest received a 4-year National Scholarship for Navy ROTC, and he’ll be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall as an Aerospace Engineering major. At the end of these four years, he’ll be commissioned as a Naval Officer and, hopefully, be selected as a naval aviator, then apply to NASA to be an astronaut. His path of service begins. His mission, in his words, is “To explore, inspire others, and protect freedom.”

And me? I will to continue bolster all of my practices and supports so that I can find the steadiness the allows me to fully embrace his path and encourage him to fly as far and high as his soul carries him.


This is the last week to sign up for Healing the Mother Wound: A 40-day course for daughters. The course starts on Saturday May 6th, 2023, and I look forward to connection with you there. 

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