Last week I had a dream that I was flying, like Peter Pan, over water. With me, were two nonsensical child inflatables—a small pink flamingo I somehow secured under my arm and another positioned around my waist. I flew over a small-boat regatta, helping me realize, to my relief, that I was close to land. Turning toward the beach, I then flew along the shoreline when the wind suddenly died, eventually lowering me, despite my resistance, into the water. This scared me, as I felt safer flying above whatever seemed to be disturbing me from below.
After a few minutes of drifting in the water, I decided to muster my strength and try to take flight from the water’s grip. I eventually caught the power of the wind again and lifted myself back into the air past a magnificent tree. It’s spectacular size and beauty awed me. I wanted to take pictures, but I didn’t want to lower myself again after exerting so much energy to rise. I took a mental note to remember where the tree was located so I could return another day. At that time, a woman yelled up, “Those inflatables are ridiculous!” And she was right. Neither served a purpose beyond false security.
I chose to release both.
It was time for me to fly.
from flying to writing
I have had flying dreams since I was a child. I rarely have them now. But when I do, I know what they mean: I feel safer flying above whatever is disturbing me from below. In other words, something in my life is troubling and I need to pay close attention.
Last week, I was scheduled to write about mental health, a topic in which I have much to say, so much so that I was struggling to sort through all of it, not sure where to begin. I don’t like waiting until the last minute to write my posts, but I have learned the value in allowing room in the plotting and planning for extemporaneous inspiration. To not force content.
Thursday morning, I awoke ready to write.
ditching computer programming
At the beginning of this new year, I set off with the mantra, “Rockin’ Our Rhythm!”—that sweet spot that balances too little and too much, that lives a unique purpose supporting a better self and a better world. And just weeks into it, I faced my first test that questioned how often I should post content.
As I contemplated an answer, I remembered a story from my freshman year in college when I asked my guidance counselor if I could drop a computer programming class, a topic I had zero interest in. Regardless, I still felt like a quitter. In hindsight, I can see that I had quickly identified (bravo to me) that computer programming was not my cup of tea. My guidance counselor looked at me as tears welled up in my eyes and said something to the effect of, “Students drop/add classes all the time. This may be your first, but it will not be your last.” I stopped crying and said, “Really?” In my young freshman mind, I thought I was the only student in the whole wide world who had ever “quit” a class. I probably dropped/added a class every semester thereafter, adjusting my schedule until it worked best.
self-awareness and -understanding
Since college and probably mostly in my 40s, I have worked hard at gaining more self-awareness and -understanding, ultimately paying attention to my mental health. Because of this I got up last Thursday knowing I needed to make adjustments in this new year, after only being in it for barely two weeks.
A difficult situation with no clear solution or ending shed doubt on my 2022 framework, a situation that triggered my flying dream. Maybe someday I’ll share more details, but for now, know that what I was/am experiencing is not exclusive to me. Life guarantees similar moments/seasons for all. And there will be questioning and doubting and decisions to be made. There might even be a crossroads.
In the past I too often viewed life as black and white, making decisions based on either/or, often leaving me anxious about my decision and its outcome as if I were in a human chess game while everyone watched in anticipation of my next move. Will she drop the class? Or won’t she? That is a hefty load to carry on one’s shoulders.
I no longer do this. I map out an itinerary and allow for adjustments, knowing that I will sometimes need to wonder off the chosen path or take a break at a rest stop—adjusting and remaining open to the mystery and possibilities of what is beyond my control. This can be uncomfortable, but I have learned if I listen to my head, body, and heart, and trust the Holy Spirit to make sense of it all, I’ll find my way.
Last week I set aside content—to not just write about mental health, but to live it, to take extra care of myself as I worked through a difficult situation. During my down time, I decided to shift, starting in February, from weekly posts to fewer more substantial posts, accompanied by relevant supplemental material. I believe this rhythm will serve me better, and ultimately you, as it will allow more room for life outside of predictability, while providing more time to create my best content.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
As far as today’s topic of mental health, I will be devoting more to this in May to support Mental Health Awareness Month. But for now, did you know?
- 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in the United States.
- 1 in 4 people with a serious mental illness has been arrested by the police at some point in their lifetime—leading to over 2 million jail bookings of people with serious mental illness each year.
- 7 in 10 youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition.
It seems most of us are affected in some way by mental illness. But when things go astray in our heads, not only does our culture attach shame, but our healthcare system makes it extremely difficult to find quick, sustainable, and affordable solutions. Not that I advocate including health histories with introductions and identities, but I do advocate elevating mental health to equal status as physical health. I believe one crucial step toward doing this is to first start talking about it, as mental health affects the well-being of our homes, our communities, our country, our world. Mental health plays a key part in the health of all.
time for us to fly
Last week’s flying dream reminded me to shift gears during a time that required I exert more energy toward a difficult situation. Thursday morning, I got up, released some nonsensical false comforts, and chose to write. And then I adjusted my “Rockin’ Our Rhythm!” mantra to find a better balance between too little and too much in support of a better self and a better world.
It’s time for me, for you, for all of us to take flight.
Stay tuned next week for contemplations about Spiritual Health.
If you or someone you know are dealing with mental health issues, here’s an online resource that provides an easy way to quickly get educated and work toward affordable solutions. MedCircle.com