Goodbyes are seldom easy. Goodbyes mean change. Change means you are plugging along in a certain direction, following (what you thought was) a solid plan, and are caught off guard, catapulted off course, or worse, immobilized by uncertainty. I am aware that change is inevitable. I understand the concept of life’s impermanence, but still change feels difficult.
September was a month of goodbyes that I knew were coming, but try as I may to brace myself I wasn’t prepared for the change. (I wonder if I will ever be prepared for change. I picture myself someday content with what is in every moment, confidently handling each turn of events, and no longer stunned by potholes in my path. I see a wiser self who accepts change with grace, but I secretly wonder if the days will creep by and I might find myself still the same person, not really embracing change at all.)
One of the inevitable changes that happen every September is my son’s return to school. Simple as it may sound going back to school is never simple. It requires great change; it requires a supernatural flexibility to deal with the changes that come on an often daily basis. The incumbent adaptions come in a variety of categories, including inverting daily routines and handling new, and unpredictable, responsibilities. Some responsibilities might take on a crisis mode like an auto-pay lunch money account gone awry when you forget to enter your new credit card number online, thus leaving your child unfed at school for the day. Other times the responsibilities are relentlessly mundane like filling out upward of a dozen documents and contracts from emergency numbers for school, and then for bus, to permission slips so the school nurse can medicate your child so he or she can continue to plug away even when they don’t feel well, to field trip forms with varying fees, to school picture forms with background and package choices, to PTO fundraiser forms including walkathon pledges and Christmas present orders…I could go on but you get the idea. And my least favorite responsibility--homework monitor, which requires constant pestering, sometimes in up to four subjects at once, nightly and on weekends and holidays because home is now considered “the extended school day.”
How does all of this relate to goodbye? It’s probably pretty evident that September signals goodbye to leisure, and goodbye to freedom from deadlines, to say the least.
September also brings about more natural changes like saying goodbye to hummingbirds for instance. And saying goodbye to hummingbirds represents change—the changing season brings about changing weather that requires one’s outdoor activities to change as well as a change in what to wear. That’s lots of change.
One might deduce why I would find it hard to say goodbye to hummingbirds, but understanding the pang of sadness I feel as I watch them, fewer and fewer coming to my feeder, as days darken and temperatures cool, might be more elusive. Watching the diminutive flying jewels hover on their last days here causes a little stitch that seems to sew itself in my heart where it remains for many months to come, until one day it can be clipped and once again my heart can be free.
So how have I dealt with all the change September has brought to me? Well, the change in routine with school has definitely thrust me out of my comfort zone against my will, and saying good-bye to the hummingbirds has left me reflective. I think the rapid fire changes of the new school year have had a strangely soporific effect. Change seems to be demanding me to stop and turn inward. Perhaps the sleep induced state I have experienced for the past four weeks came so that I can preserve myself, and maybe even store up energy for the to-be-anticipated-yet-unknown changes that are lurking just far enough ahead that I cannot quite grasp them yet.
Feeling dulled and somewhat ill-equipped to handle the recent changes, I have turned to my dreams for acumen. This is what I received last night:
My neighbor takes me in her car to a sheep farm to collect shed sheep’s wool remnants from the ground to plug a hole I have in my garden where a little animal is getting in. When we arrive I begin to look for the wool remnants but she starts collecting snake skin tails. Presenting me with a handful of tails, she tells me to use them to plug the hole.
I am outside in my garden and I see a hummingbird flutter in my bird's nest spruce, there is a web in it and he appears to be caught. I rationalize that I know how to get him safely from the web, but he frees himself and flies upward hovering in front of me and allows me to catch him in my palms. I see his ruby throat. I want to keep him but I know I must set him free. He is looking for food so I go inside to make fresh nectar to put in the feeder. I let go of him with the hope he will return.
Then I am riding in the passenger's seat of a car my son is driving. A squirrel jumps in through the back window and I fear it will wreak havoc with the car's interior, I open my window and attempt to guide him out, at first he gets stuck, the space I have provided is not large enough. I roll the window down further and successfully give him a shove out. I am relieved he is out and glad that no damage was done.
Finally, I am with my son in some industrial building, we are going down on an elevator without walls, he is holding something we had intended to bring downstairs together, but I don't make it onto the elevator in time before it descends and have to wait for the next one. I see three older teenagers acting suspiciously, while waiting to go down. When I arrive in the basement, the teenagers are there and acting even more suspiciously and I panic, knowing he has been abducted and it is up to me to rescue him. I know it will take a careful plan to do so...
I am always astounded by how dreams provide answers. Reexamining this dream, I can see the little male [hummingbird] is not as fragile as he appears. He doesn’t really need my help, though he allows me to hold him and there is a good chance I will still feed him. I like that he rises up on his own, and is determined.
If the little hummingbird were to represent my son, I can rest assured he will be fine, he is in no real danger. Then my son does appear and he is in control, in the driver’s seat, and if something unexpected appears (like a frenzied squirrel) I need only provide enough space and let go of the frenzy.
All is not going to be perfect; sometimes I’ll probably feel worried that my son goes ahead without me. Sometimes I may have to be vigilant about shady characters and exercise my suspicions. Some situations may require careful planning but I can probably
bury old tales (tails) and allow myself some space to begin anew.
In loving memory of my neighbor Ruth who passed on September 28. She was a wonderful woman who touched my heart in so many ways, I'll miss her.