Baby on the Doghouse
Dreams can be so weird. Other times so meaningful. And occasionally, both at the same time.
A number of years ago, I had a vivid dream. I was in my house, doing the dishes, and my baby was outside on top of a doghouse. Just sitting there on the doghouse roof. In my dream, this was perfectly normal, like that was the proper place for babies, sort of like my grandmother’s rule about no pets in the house. Then it began to rain. It was a cold day, and my baby began to cry. As I gazed at her out the kitchen window, I suddenly felt sorry for her. I brought her inside, dried her in a fluffy bath towel, warmed and comforted her in my arms. Then I woke up.
It only took a few moments of thinking about that dream for me to know what it meant. That child was my own neglected, hurting self. I was raised mostly by my grandmother, a stern and upright soul who had basically inherited me and my five brothers and sisters after our parents’ divorce, and who attempted to whip us all into shape with strict discipline devoid of affection. I had internalized all my grandmother’s harsh and rigid “rules,” (some spoken, simply understood) and basically treated myself with the same grim and determined disregard for feelings and needs in favor of hard working, obedient behavior.
I spoke about this dream to one spiritual director repeatedly until she encouraged me to draw a picture of it, and to represent my grandmother in the drawing. The way I accomplished that was to post in the kitchen a long sign of the emotional “rules” of Grandmother’s household.
HOUSE RULES1. No children or other animals in the house.
2. Disrespectful thoughts and feelings will not be tolerated.
3. Nothing is ever good enough.
4. Good children take care of themselves and never need anything.
5. Be grateful for scraps.
6. Feel guilty for being such a burden.
7. A person’s worth is measured by how much work they accomplish.
8. The only way to measure up is to be just like Grandmother.
Years later, I was still talking about it, so a new spiritual director encouraged me to make a collage of the dream. Being a good, obedient girl, I did so — ha! (That’s it on the top of the page.)
And then a third time this image was an inspiration, this time for a poem, though in this case, the moral of the story is somewhat evolved, and the baby has morphed into a newborn puppy:
Like a blinded newborn pup my world was small and bounded by us and them here and elsewhere the in and the out Only a specific pattern of hopscotch moves could transform the outcast into the accepted the lost into the found the damned into the saved Then I dreamed of a compassion that ignored the list of rules to embrace a blind pup helpless, hurting and frightened to bring her in from the cold
And somehow that love began to grow to seep outwards and embrace others Wherever they are whoever they are For don't we all hold that pup in our hearts whining in the darkness Till the touch of grace on our squinting eyes reveals a wider world than we had yet imagined by Celeste Boudreaux, July 2019
In this poem, I reflect on the spiritual truth that, as we begin to have compassion on our own wounded and vulnerable parts, that love tends to eventually start to spill over onto others. If we recognize our own brokenness and pain, and begin to consider ourselves as worthy of mercy and understanding, then we start to recognize how others act out of their own hidden pain, and our hearts go out to them as well. How our world needs more compassion all around!