I went through a pretty challenging time awhile back, and as I was coming out of it, I had a dream.  It took me months to figure out, but in the dream, I was hacking my way through a jungle with a huge machete.  It was like boring a hole through a wall of green, but doing it with a large knife.  Each hack would make it possible to clear out a little bit, then step forward into that cleared area.

It went like this for, in the case of this challenging time, months.

Hack… Slash… Step.

Hack… Slash… Step.

Sometimes it took a lot more hacking than stepping, but I did step.

Hack… Slash… Step.

Sometimes the ground was uneven, and treacherous.

Hack… Slash… Step.

Sometimes it was like mud, trying to suck me down, or suck my shoes off.

Hack… Splash… Step.

Sometimes the jungle had those “wait-a-minute” vines you might have heard about.  The ones with the sharp thorns you don’t see until you think you’re past them, then they reach out and snag you, and you’re stuck till you can rip them off or away.

And it hurts when you have to do that.

The thing is, for long stretches, one step didn’t look any different from the next one or the one that came before.  In spite of all the danger, there was almost a routine to it, and to be honest, there were times when it didn’t look like I was making any progress at all.

It felt, in this dream, like I’d been sentenced to a monotonous, yet terrifying lifetime of hacking and slashing.

I was able, at times, to stop, and it was then that I took a breather and looked back.  What was interesting is that when I stopped and looked back, I could see where I’d been, I could see what I’d hacked through.

I could see progress.

But I couldn’t see progress when I was hacking.  I could only see it when I took a breather and turned around.

But the day to day stuff, the hour to hour stuff, sometimes minute to minute stuff, was the same.

Hack… Slash… Step.

My world at the time consisted of nothing further away than what I could reach with the machete, and sometimes it got even smaller than that.

Hack… Slash… Step.

There were times when it felt like I couldn’t go on.

There were times when I wanted to just let go of the machete.

There were times when I just wanted to drop it, but it was the only thing I had to hold onto.  If I let go, the jungle would swallow me up, and besides, I had to find out what was on the other side of the next leaf.

This went on, in the dream, for a long, long time, until one day, I hacked my way out of what had become my little green hacking box and found myself in a clearing.

By this time words were totally inadequate to describe the weariness I was feeling.

Tired beyond reason, I collapsed against a tree, struggled to stand, and fought to comprehend what I was seeing.

In the middle of this clearing was a white helicopter.  It was so pure, so clean, and inside it was a silhouette of someone, beckoning me to come to it.

I pushed away from the tree and started walking, then stumbling as I ran toward this thing that made no sense.

The rotor was turning, and strong arms pulled me up and in.

The door slid closed, the engine whined to a crescendo and the rotor blades turned faster, becoming almost invisible.  The grass in the clearing flattened out as the  blades blasted a hurricane of air down.

As it did, it blew leaves away, and branches, and I could see, for a split second, people standing there in the jungle.  Cheering me on.  They’d been there, but I hadn’t seen how many of them there were because the jungle was so thick.

We didn’t seem to climb as much as the ground just seemed to fall away, and it was only then, as we got higher, as I started to see the jungle that I’d fought through for the entire dream (and in reality, for the last 10 months) that I began to comprehend the magnitude of the size of the jungle.

I’d only seen what I could hack and slash.

I hadn’t realized how big it was.

I hadn’t realized how much it had taken out of me.

On the other hand, I hadn’t realized how much I had grown as a result of facing, and overcoming that jungle.

As we flew, I was able to look down and see where certain events had happened, and see them from a totally different perspective.

I was able to understand a bit more.

What if I’d turned left there instead of right? Would I have seen the helicopter I was in?

And it got me thinking…

In having this dream, in putting these images in front of me, my mind was trying to process the whole thing I was going through.

I was trudging through a jungle in the dream, but I was plugging through the challenging realities in real life.  And the weird thing about the dream was that not only was the dream vivid, and clear, but it was also broad enough to fit any challenges someone might be facing.

Right now I know of an old friend who passed away recently.  The wife lost a husband, the children lost their father, the siblings lost a brother, and his parents lost a son.

And they’ve each either entered or are continuing through a jungle of their own.

Hack… Slash… Step…

I know of a number of families going through crises of a different sort, related to employment, lack thereof, and all the financial ramifications involved in that, to the point where even just making ends meet is a struggle.

Hack… Slash… Step…

I know of several families where an elderly parent is ill, in the hospital, or in a nursing home, and the children are making endless trips to try to help, to try to take care of those who took care of them, or simply to hold their mom or dad’s hand for all the times they did the same for them.

Hack… Slash… Step…

The challenges could be emotional, could be related to health or relationships or your parents, kids, or siblings, or all of the above… but bottom line, you get through it one step at a time.   Sometimes you get through it with the help of friends.  Sometimes you get through it with the help of strangers.

But you will get through it.

Hack… Slash… Step.

I didn’t know all that as I sat in the helicopter, lost in my thoughts, lost in seeing things so differently, finally, it seemed, able to see “the big picture” .

I allowed myself to relax, and in my dream, drifted off to sleep, not hearing the change in the pitch of the rotors that signaled we’d started to descend and would be landing soon, to start another journey, through another jungle…

But this time, I had the experience of the last journey to help me through.

© 2012 Tom Roush