I have a dream that has been recurring since I retired. It is so vivid and realistic that I often awake in a confused, distressed state. It takes me a minute to realize that it has been a dream and not reality. I retired nearly seven years ago, but the dream keeps on coming several times a year. I do not understand it.
I dream that I retired, as I did, in 2014. However, in my dream, I decide to go back to my job shortly after retiring. I have the sense that it is supposed to be a temporary thing. It is not a financial decision. I am not sure why I go back to work. It does not feel like a completely voluntary thing. I feel like I go back to the job because someone asked me to return “for a little while” to help with something. The big problem is that I seem to forget that I am retired and, suddenly- months or years later- I realize I do not have to work anymore and forgot to retire again.
My feelings about the dream mystify me. Even typing these words sends a wave of terror surfing over my gut. None of this, in the big scheme of things, is so terrible. Say I really did go back to work for a “little while” and then kept working. It could not have been that bad a situation because, if it was, how could I forget that I did not have to continue doing it? All the same, the dread, grief, and fear associated with the dream are visceral. I actually become a little sick to my stomach after the nights I dream of this scenario.
I do enjoy my retired life. I feel liberated to be my most authentic self, warts and all. Because I feel that liberty, I am free to acknowledge the weaker parts of myself (as well as to celebrate my own brand of joy in who I am). What one can acknowledge, one can explore and change. I believe I have grown more emotionally in the seven years since my retirement than in nearly any period of my life. I am active physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am gradually finding ways to express my creativity and pursue the activities that I really enjoyed in my old job. There is certainly a deep fulfillment that I have found in retirement that I do not think I ever experienced. It is not that I disliked my job or felt that my years of employment were wasted. There were certainly aspects of my job that I found richly rewarding. I believe my natural talents were well-used. I learned a lot about nearly every aspect of life. I met people who have been friends for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime. I have no regrets. Still, it is sort of like my work life was a long on-the-job training for the real work of my life- becoming the person God always intended me to be.
I wish it had not taken so long for me to get to the place I am now, but it did. I often think it would have been so much easier if I had been able to employ some of the skills and traits that have blossomed since retirement while I was still working. My job was hard. Objectively, my job was hard. Subjectively, though, it was harder because of who I was and how I reacted to the world in which I worked. For some reason, I never realized that I could change the way I reacted to the world in which I worked while I was working in it. Today, I think I have nurtured some of the skills that I had budding deep within me but that I never had the time or energy to cultivate while I was earning a living. Maybe I’m just a slow learner. Or maybe God just intended that I build my spirit and my relationship with Him at the speed that I have. Whatever the answer, I am grateful for the building.
So, going back to my dream… can anyone take a crack at what it means? I think that, if I can figure out what is prompting me to have this recurring nightmare, I can get it to stop. I have thought and thought. Nothing I come up with quite rings the bell for me. Maybe one of you can offer an explanation that will make sense.
One of the principles I’ve tried to develop in my later life is to ask for help when I need it. It occurred to me today that I can definitely use some help with this and that I have a perfect platform to ask for it. So, I’m asking… what do you think my dream means?
Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a dreamy day!