For twelve years, I was haunted by dreams of my ex. In these imaginary worlds, him and I would stumble into each other on the street and end up talking for hours. He would forgive me, tell me he understood. Sometimes, we would hug. Sometimes, we would cry together. They were dreams of closure, resolution.

I had these more often than I cared to admit to anyone. In those twelve years, I had two long-term relationships with other people. One of those lasted almost seven years. And the whole time, the dreams. The longing for closure. The magnetic pull of the distant past.

At the end of the twelve years, something surprising happened: the dreams changed form. While I’d love to give you all the details, this isn’t that kind of blog. Let’s suffice it to say that I would wake up sweating, longing for more than just closure, and feeling guilty at the sight of my partner at the time sleeping next to me.

In one of these dreams, my ex said to me: “No one else has ever made you feel this way.” It was true. I had my explanations. He was my first (and everyone says there’s no one like your first). We were teenagers (and those hormones must have helped). I had some serious unacknowledged mental health issues at the time (and there’s nothing like the addictive pull of disappearing into a person). But no matter how much I tried to explain it all away, the dreams kept coming.

It became obvious to me that not only was time inefficient at healing this wound, but somehow time had actually added more pressure, more confusion, and more uncertainty. I needed another way to process it all.

I began writing poetry as a child whose parents could not, would not, and did not listen to my voice, which they considered strange, unfamiliar, and much too emotional. During the relationship I was in when I began getting these dreams, I wrote some poetry about self-love and whole notebooks of angry, frustrated poems that I burned, hid, and destroyed.

Poetry had been coming into my life to help me express the truth, and there I was actively avoiding and destroying it. But I could only ignore myself for so long.

I decided to write a poem every time I thought about my past lover. Every time I had a dream. Every time I thought about one of the dreams. Every time I smelled something that catapulted me into the past. Every time.

I would sneak these poems in, afraid of anyone finding out what I was doing. I remember writing a poem while stretching with my legs up the wall, and when my partner asked me what I was doing, I told him I was just checking my email. I didn’t feel good about lying, but I also felt liberated by this private relationship I was developing with my art—this space I had where I could be honest about what I was experiencing without worrying about being judged or misunderstood.

The more I wrote, the more I unravelled the knot inside me. What I discovered was not what I had expected. In retrospect, however, what I discovered was exactly what I needed to find.

Four unexpected things happened:

  1. I began to miss someone else: a former best friend (perhaps it’s safe to safe girlfriend) whom I had hurt and pushed away the same way my ex had pushed me away. The depth of her affection for me became clear as I acknowledged the depth of my unhealed, unprocessed affection for my ex. Because I hadn’t healed those wounds, I could not receive the love she had tried so hard to give me.
  1. I began to have new feelings, new thoughts that hadn’t occurred to me in the previous twelve years. For example, one time, I was signing a book when a song came on that reminded me of my ex. But instead of missing him, I became aware of just how much I had grown, how much I had accomplished. I realized how little I had used my voice while I was with him and that, although I loved him, I loved who I was without him more.
  1. I began to question the relationship I was in more critically than I had before. I took off my benefit-of-the-doubt-giving-glasses and looked objectively at the problems between us. I acknowledged, once and for all, that I wasn’t comfortable being myself around him, particularly in sharing all the shades of my passion (the whole gradient from lust to anger). These dreams were symptom of a bigger issue. For years, I had one foot out the door. These poems helped me walk out for good, and I have not looked back since.
  1. I began to develop a daily relationship with my passion. Poetry became not only a way to process uncomfortable, unwelcome emotions, but also a way for me to dive into the ocean of experiences available to me in any given moment. I started dancing again. I picked up my guitar. I started singing. I regained my ability to feel attracted to people (and was surprised that many of the people I was attracted to weren’t actually men). My response to “No one else has made you feel this way” changed. It became, “Yes, they have. And I have made myself feel it too.”

These discoveries changed everything. They changed the direction of my career, my personality, my relationships, and my daily routines. It wasn’t easy to allow these changes. I had become comfortable in the life I had built for myself. But once I had glimpsed the truth, how could I look away?

What I’ve learned from this experience is that the healing process is full of surprises. If I had known, before I started writing those poems, just how many uncomfortable changes they would require, I would have hesitated to begin. All I knew was that there was a journey waiting for me. I didn’t know what it would involve. And I didn’t have to. My job was to begin. Everything else wasn’t up to me.

I’ve learned that creativity is a powerful way to unlock the secrets we keep in our unconscious minds. It is also an underground passageway that leads us around our fears and insecurities directly to the heart of the matter. When something cannot be handled face-to-face, it might need to be approached from another less intrusive, less obvious passageway. Art is a back door.

I’ve learned that our consciousness, as human beings, is constantly trying to evolve, to heal our wounds and bring us closer to our potential. This is what the dreams were: invitations to grow, to learn, to look reality straight into both eyes without blinking.

I realize now that those twelve years of closure dreams were subtle invitations for me to explore the unhealed wounds of my past. The reason the invitations strengthened was because my relationship with myself and my passion had eroded over the years. I was becoming more and more unbalanced over time because of my unaddressed feelings. So, my inner wisdom screamed louder to match the volume of my self-avoidance.

Most of all, I’ve learned to trust myself, trust my journey, and trust the universe even deeper than before. There are magic seeds inside each of us waiting to be watered with faith and small acts of surrender. Magic is supposed to be unexpected, unpredictable, uncertain. That is the beauty of it.

When we allow ourselves to lose the illusion of control, we give ourselves the opportunity to access more abundance, more love, and more self-awareness. And when we allow ourselves to create beauty out of our pain, we give ourselves the opportunity to heal our wounds even deeper than we could have imagined. 

All we have to do is take tiny steps forward. The road materializes in front of us as we walk it. All we have to do is keep on walking. Keep on trusting. And I do.