|image from airinisbomb.deviantart.com|
A week ago I had one of those dreams. You know, the kind that sticks with you for hours after you wake up and, like a C. S. Lewis masterpiece, pierces you with its truth and vivid images. This is what I dreamed:
I was in a dressing room in a fashionable and rather expensive clothing store. I tried on several beautiful dresses; some I liked more than others. I wasn't really thinking about buying a dress that day but I thought there was no harm in trying on a few. The salesperson did her job well, bringing me numerous outfits, all quite interesting and lovely, so I just kept trying them on. The last item she brought me was a pair of shorts which were priced over $400. At that point I made a decision: I was not going to pay that much for a pair of shorts so there was no point in trying them on, no matter how nice they were.
After I made that decision, I suddenly noticed several things around me that I had not been aware of before. First, there was a small kitten sitting in the dressing room. It was a bit on the skinny side and seemed quite lethargic. Apparently it had not been fed for quite some time. Second, a person called out to me, reminding me that I had documents that needed signing and work that was waiting for me in my office. Third, I realized that days had gone by while I was in the dressing room trying on pretty clothes. I said, "I've kind of made my home here." Then I left the dressing room, fed the kitten and got to work.
Let me provide some background: We have been considering moving from our lovely condo to a place perhaps a bit bigger and a bit closer to downtown. With those two features come a substantial jump in price, so for the past few months I have been researching properties a fair bit and we even visited a few open houses, trying to find something in our price range. This dream brought me up short. In a good way. It made me aware that I was starting to get really at home in a sort of fantasy-land, a place where I dreamed about what could be, where I tried on lovely things just to see what it would feel like, where I let myself pretend for just a moment that I lived in a new, modern loft, that it was all real, even though it was beyond my means. The titillating world of "trying-on" can become so mesmerizing that we end up neglecting our responsibilities in the real world. We forget to care for the people and the things we love. We forget about the work that has been entrusted to us. We forget about the real and the mundane because the unreal and the fantastical feels better. But this is a dangerous place to make our home. It is the breeding ground for addiction and escapism.
I love my imagination and my research abilities; reading and writing projects can transport me to worlds that beg to be explored. However, they are not usually places where I learn the difficult skills of selfless love, of generosity, of service and sacrifice and humility. The dressing room of fantasy requires nothing of me. It allows me to float above everything real as if it doesn't matter, and that is a lie. The mundane tasks matter to someone. Whether or not I pay the bills or wash the clothes or feed the cat or answer the phone matter to someone. Whether I buy a new house or not matters very little. What matters is whether I am hospitable in my present home, whether I speak kindly to my present neighbours, and whether love and laughter and gratitude live here now, no matter how small or inconvenient the place might seem.
Time to get out of the dressing room, put on some work clothes, and joyfully engage in the life I now have.