In the three decades I had the privilege of teaching middle school and high school I too often found myself sitting on the steps in a stairwell with a teen who was struggling with something. It could be the angst that takes up residence in us during our teens. It could be a difficult and challenging friendships, an at risk home life. It could be any of the myriad reasons that leave us feeling alone and unseen…alone and not understood…alone.
Once in a while there was something particular that I could help them with, some specific advice, some different perspective, some vital support or resource whose reach was beyond what I could offer.
Most times, however, these young people needed what we all need. They needed someone to listen to them, to truly hear them, to give them space to speak and not rush in to fix the problem or fix them. They needed honest reflection. We all need to be heard…truly heard. So most times I would not offer advice and simply listen…be present and witness to their raw and tender hearts speaking what needed to be spoken.
And then as words were spent and fears and pain were spoken into the quiet space I would say something that startled them (startled me the first time I said it.) I would say with a wave of my arm, “You know, if I had the power to wave a magic wand and take all this away from you…I wouldn’t.”
These unexpected words were always met with the wide eyes of bewilderment.
After a pause I would add, “No, I wouldn’t do it. For all I know this is the very experience in your life that you were born for. These are the moments that help us decide who we are and how we want to be in the world. Right now in the middle of it, it can seem that there is no way out. I get that, but this will be over some day; it will be over. When you get to the other side of this and look back you will know that this is what made you who you are, where you found your strength, what matters to you, where you discovered who you truly are. And while it can seem you are on your own, you aren’t. Find the ones who can be with you through this. It is yours to experience but you don’t have to go through this alone.”
Hearing these words I could see their bodies change, sitting up a bit, an exhalation, the slight nod of something inside of them awakening…a remembering and acknowledgment of who they are at core.
I shared that there were those who sat on steps with me, up in tree branches, in vegetable stands and other places. There weren’t a whole lot but we don’t need a whole lot. Often all we need is one or two people who see us, recognize us and who remind us of who are and that we are not alone and that can make the very difference of how and who we emerge on the other side. And then quite naturally we become that person for someone else.
I am grateful that back then not much older than my students myself…one who had come out the other side wounded yet intact…that I was able to be with young people in this way, this ground zero of what relationship is. Over these past years of working with dreams and dreamers this has been validated time and again.
Our dreams come not as symbols but cries of what our soul needs. Soul needs to see and be seen. Soul needs to listen and be listened to. Soul needs to speak and be spoken to.
Soul needs to love and to be loved…
Mary Jo Heyen is a certified Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients in person, phone or video conference. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com.