never stops teaching.
Journaling for awareness. Growing for life.
I had a dream that I was a bear. I often have vivid dreams, but I’d never experienced myself as an animal before. I was running from hunters in a wooded camping site—scaring everyone with my bear-ness. I saw my husband Kevin (still human), and he said, “Get behind me and I’ll hide you.” I tried to make myself small behind him, but the hunters saw me and chased me further into the woods. Again I saw Kevin, and he said, “Get behind me.” It felt hopeless; it would never work. But then I saw my grandmother—my beloved grandmother who’s been dead for two years—and she said, “Chris, get behind us both.” And with that she linked arms with Kevin and they made a protective barrier that I could hide behind. The hunters did not see me. I woke moments later, very happy not to be a bear.
The dream stayed with me for a few days. I decided it made sense that my husband, my protector, and my grandmother, my angel, would be the ones to keep me from harm. But then a wise friend reminded me that the people in our dreams all represent an aspect of the self. And I began to wonder if there was something more to consider. Was there a quality within Kevin and within my Grandmother that I needed to own in myself in order to feel safe, not hunted? I chewed on that one for a while.
Kevin and I have been married fifteen years now, and I’ve been reflecting on that journey quite a lot this month. It still blows my mind that at such a young age I found a man that I could be compatible with for the long haul. Of course, as with most couples, it took us a little dancing before we found a steady groove. In the first month of marriage, I came home from work one day, ran to jump into Kevin’s arms, accidently kneed him in the crotch, and got dropped on my tailbone. Painful. Metaphoric. We knew we wanted to take a leap into love. We just hadn’t mastered the grace in which to connect.
We grew. Unevenly at times, but overall, more closely together. Perhaps the beauty in getting married young was that there were no great discussions of compromise. Neither of us had to ask the other to give something up. (There was no wagon wheel coffee table to try to put out to the trash.) We simply started from scratch. We had nothing to build on other than the things we loved and respected in each other—things we needed from each other in order to find balance. When one of us had a surplus of intensity, the other was overflowing with gentleness, and so on. And when we stumbled and felt deficient, there was the other to help us recall our strengths.
When I chose Kevin to co-author this life with me, I had no idea what our story would hold. In many ways it has already surpassed dreams, but it has also presented challenges we couldn’t have possibly anticipated. Those moments become some of the most important—the times that force us to deepen when we want to stay above the edge of change, that require us to stay strong when we want to fall apart. They are the times that invite us to connect with grace. They teach us who we are and just who we can be.
I have learned a lot about who I am and who I can be over the last fifteen years. I have grown wildly into awareness and grown madly more in love with life. I have recognized where I’ve fallen short and have put in work to become more balanced as a person. One quality that I have felt deficient in at times is a quality my husband has never seemed to have a shortage of: resilience. The definition I like for this word is from Webster: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc. Let’s just say that Kevin can bounce back to his original shape in no time at all. He brushes himself off and moves on. My grandmother also knew resilience; she weathered many storms in her life as a single mother. Perhaps she and Kevin are some of my greatest teachers of resilience. It seems perfect that they would have been the ones helping me in my dream—one male and one female (the anima and animus) collecting me into a state of consciousness, inviting me to step into my own great capacity for resilience. When I feel like a scared bear—strong in character, but perhaps a bit too vulnerable—I can draw from the strength of those who love me in order to find my own strength. The dream reminds me that in my marriage, I can stand in my own vulnerability and be invited to find the strength within that. And what a gift that is.
There are going to be bumps and bruised tailbones occasionally as we go along. But we continue to take great leaps, because the other has made it safe to do so. We continue to reach out and catch, because everyone feels like a scared bear at some point. We continue to deepen, reminding each other how beautifully resilient we are together. That is love. That is the grace. That is the story we can write with every day of our lives.