My ability to push against fatigue and check new projects off the endless to-do list ran away from home. I’ve looked for her everywhere. Believe me. I have. The Muse refuses to answer my calls.
In a dream last week, I growl at a fragile young girl who hides her hurt feelings behind a frozen smile. Filled with impatience and scorn, I growl louder.
I see dream characters as parts of myself that need to be reconsidered or become more conscious. In this dream, I’m impatient and unkind to the wounded defenseless feminine. I connect her to the fragile fatigue I’ve felt the last few months. I know. I forgot how to spell the word vacation. I translate the word rest into “T-R-Y-H-A-R-D-E-R.”
I growl at my limitations, but I can’t force a spring flower to open in the snow. Sometimes it’s best to wait, to rest rather than push. Since the Muse took a hike with my energy in her backpack, I don’t have much choice. She’ll return when she’s ready. She always does.
A few days after the growling dream, I had a second dream: a woman who is a disciplined achiever is dying. I sit in the dark beside her sick bed and whisper, “The work you did in this life will help many children after you’re gone.”
The dying woman reminds me of my mother–and myself. Mom was the Queen of Pushing. I remember her staying up all night to study for graduate school classes after teaching all day. Only an A was acceptable in her world. Anything less was a defeat. Even as she sank into senility in her 80s, she carried around Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. I didn’t miss the irony of the title as she tried to conceal her confusion and inability to read.
I inherited my mother’s craving for excellence, the same never-enough gene many women share.
I get it. I’m standing in my own way. The death of the inner achiever is needed for something new to emerge. The way the waning moon darkens and disappears before the new moon can appear. The way, ever so slowly, light returns in January and warms the earth. The way trout lilies, yellow and brave, rise out of brown leaves on the April forest floor.
I trust nature to grow, produce, mature, slow down, and pause before re-emerging on her own time like a bright trout lily. I trust the pause of Winter Solstice, the darkness and cold before the return of Light. I trust warmth will come again along with green shoots and fragrant blossoms, followed by bluebirds and butterflies.
So why don’t I trust the rhythms of my body and allow rest before a new cycle begins?
Do I dare let the never-enough woman die? Can I shower my wounded self with warm care and tenderness instead of scorn?
You’ve worked hard for years to make a new life for yourself, I tell my tired body. You had a busy autumn with writing, presentations, and family. Don’t scold yourself for enjoying the bright jigsaw puzzle that calls you to the card table to play. Friends gave you this puzzle as a gift. They gave you winter butterflies!
These same friends and I worked on a puzzle with my brother when he was ill.
“I’m wasting time with this damned puzzle,” my brother said then. He was sick. Unrelenting cancer sick. To him, being sick was a waste of time, too.
“Jim, you aren’t wasting time,” I said. “You’re working with color and a beautiful image. You’re playing with people you love and giving yourself a rest. You’re not working or reading news or worrying about the future. You’re taking a break. You need it.”
My brother inherited my mother’s never-enough gene, too. It wounded him the way it wounds me.
Nature teaches us to pause at Winter Solstice. Time to rest and wait for the Muse to come again. Time to allow the inner fire to rekindle. Time to trust that whatever dies will nurture creative life, fresh and new.
Do you struggle with pushing for the birth of something new before it’s time? How do you rest and recuperate? After these dreams, I bought plane tickets to visit friends in Arizona. I look forward to winter sun, desert wildflowers, long mountain hikes, and a vacation. I need to repeat that word. Vacation.
For an article about doing a jigsaw puzzle with my brother, see The Missing Edge. I wrote about the joy of raising and releasing butterflies in Mothering Monarchs, Mothering My Soul. Like the Muse, I look forward to their return.