those ain’t my shirts

I dream that the art teacher is unexpectedly leaving the school where we’ve taught. I’m not teaching there any longer, but I’m there when she is gathering her things to go.

She tells me that the students were working on tie-dying t-shirts. She asks me to find the bins of shirts and make sure the next teacher knows what to do. She hugs me and walks out the door.

After that, friends come and go from the room, asking me questions and trying to engage in meaningful conversation. All the while, I am searching for the bins of t-shirts. I put up my best performance of listening, but I feel anxious to complete the task I’ve been assigned.

When I finally find the shirts, I am struck by a strange dissatisfaction. The new teacher may or may not decide to carry the project forward. I can show her the shirts, but my “help” is as likely to stress her out as it is to benefit her.

As I wake up in the morning, I realize that I often live my life anxiously attending to someone else’s priority. People I care about come and go, eager to connect with me, and I barely see or hear them. I think that accomplishing the urgent task will prove my worth – or at least lend me a brief feeling of triumph – but it never does.

I let the dream sink in. The image remains vivid in my mind: plastic bins filled with t-shirts. It will take time and it will take pausing, but I want to come back to that image again and again, until I’ve had ample practice. I want to look at those bins and think, Those ain’t my shirts.

okay, this is not the image from my dream. it’s just the only picture I have of shirts. at least they’re David’s shirts, so it’s true that they ain’t mine.