Last month I dreamed about a coffin, as I blogged about here. I thought the dream probably meant I had something in my subconscious that needed to get buried. But, what might it be, and how to go about it? Then I decided that I really didn’t have to be so exact about finding one particular issue from the past. After all, everybody has lots of failed expectations wandering around in the dark depths of the subconscious. Giving myself permission to lay them to rest, generally, ought to be good enough.
So I put together an imaginary funeral service for the poor tragic character, Ms. Failed Expectations, burying her in the coffin from my dream in a beautiful but never-worn party dress. My various younger selves were in attendance as the mourners, bringing lovely bouquets and recalling their memories of the dearly departed. It was a dark and stormy afternoon straight out of a bad novel. No rain had started to fall yet, but lightning flashed all around. The air smelled of ozone and melodrama. The casket, piled high with bright flowers, rested beside the open grave.
My 20-year-old self, wearing a dark gray suit because she didn’t own a black one, brushed away her tears with one hand while straightening her 1980s floppy bowtie with the other. Her lower lip quivered as she began to speak. “I’m so very sorry for how much I stressed you out by expecting to have a fabulously successful career just as soon as I got through school. I never gave you a moment’s peace, but just kept on reminding you of all the ways you didn’t match up to my fantasies. I’m so sorry.”
Then my inner 25-year-old stepped forward, with windblown hair, slightly uneven lipstick, and a corner of a romance novel sticking out of her handbag. “I’m also to blame for sending you to your grave. If I’d had any clue about how much work goes into building a marriage, then you wouldn’t have felt like everything was about to fall apart if it wasn’t totally perfect.”
Mourners of all different ages spoke a few words to pay their final respects, ending with my 45-year-old self, who looked tired and frazzled. “I thought that I could save the world before breakfast, work a regular schedule, spend quality time with my husband, never miss any of my kids’ sporting events, and still have boundless creative energy left over for stories and fun projects. Well, maybe I did for a while, but…”
The gravediggers slowly lowered the casket into place and began shoveling the dirt over the bright flowers, while my grieving past selves wailed and a cold rain began to fall.