"The Shoes" - Photo by Meredith Eastwood

Soles and Soul: An Active Dreamer Imagines Her Last Lecture


“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life…if you lead your life in the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe that suits all cases.” – Carl Jung

Recently my book club read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  The author had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and his real last lecture was entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” His lecture and his book, is about “living”, because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think.

The members of the book group were asked to create a personal “last lecture” and present it to the group. During the time I was considering how to write a “last lecture” that reflected achieving my childhood dreams in life, I had a strange dream.

The DREAM:  I am exiting the door of my house barefoot, when I notice a large pile of shoes on the front porch. I feel like Cinderella as I gaze at the navy career pumps, pointed-toed stilettos, sandals, ballet flats, sneakers, hiking boots and jewel-studded flip flops.

I realize I am dreaming. I think to myself, “I’ve worn shoes like these at one time or another during my lifetime.”  I also know in the dream that the shoes stacked at my door step do not fit my feet at this time.

“Oh what the heck,” I murmur to myself, “I’ll just go barefoot.  I‘ll not waste time trying to wearing shoes meant for someone else or ones that no longer fit.” 

I am not distressed by the prospect of being without “soles.” I reason to myself, my tough feet need no rubber tread, arch support or toe protection. Besides I see a Walmart in the distance where one might buy a pair of new shoes.

I woke up feeling puzzled, wondering if I would really buy shoes at Walmart.

As the sun rose over the clouds outside my bedroom window, I closed my eyes and tried to return to the dream. Viewing the pile of shoes had been like revisiting my life, its stages, the roles I’d played, and the experiences I was fortunate to have.  In the liminal state between sleep and waking, images flashed before me…child, student, lover, wife, teacher, counselor, friend, traveler, hiker, kayaker, tennis player, mountain climber, scuba diver, writer, and forever a dreamer. More importantly, I realized what the dream was asking me to think about. What do all the shoes really mean? What was the metaphor in the dream message? I took solace in giving voice to the question rather than pretending to know the answer.

When I recorded the dream, I gave it a title, “Soles and Soul.” Then I added my feelings to the journal summary, amused and curious. To process how my dream might relate to my waking reality, first I recorded any associations I had with the dream. During this step I pulled Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss off my library shelf. I was reminded that dreams about shoes (soles) may be a clue to the condition and location of the aspects of a Soul. I also read in one of his blogs, “Soul recovery, in the fullest sense, is not only about reclaiming our younger selves. It is about meeting and integrating all our personality aspects, including much of the energy and insight of the larger or Higher Self as we can manage to contain at this stage in our life journey.” I felt that the pile of shoes at my door step in the dream symbolized my effort at integration.

I called a friend from my Active Dreaming circle. When I shared my dream, she said, “If it were my dream, I might be reminded that in small ways I have defined myself by the shoes I’ve worn in different stages of life, and for different activities.  And I might be questioning what my life has really been based upon, and how I have resisted the tendency to wear shoes defined by the expectations of others or meant for someone else. I might wonder if there is a pair of shoes in the pile that I need to recover and take a closer look at in terms of soul recovery. Then I might ask how this dream helps me determine my path forward…sole and soul.”

So, what did I deduct about my life from this dream? In addition to the life roles that my shoes might represent, there are times when I have been influenced by others in my choices of footwear.  From the time we are born our parents have expectations for our behaviors and accomplishments, in a symbolic way the types of shoes we will wear. In addition, our teachers, mentors and peers often influence our decisions about accepted style, standards, and appropriate appearance. Many times we are judged by how well we adapt to the attitudes and values of others. We may try to squeeze into soles that are not truly of our own making. And in the process we may leave more authentic ones behind, stored in a closet or in grandma’s attic.

On the other hand, throughout my life it has been clear to me that I’ve had to wear suitable shoes for a specific activity in which I was engaged. After all no one can climb a mountain in flip flops. As a child I never seemed to wear the same shoes as the other kids, always preferring something akin to bare feet. As a young adult I searched for the right shoes to wear, ones that either fit the special occasion, met a specific need, or satisfied the image I wanted to portray. As a middle-aged woman I’ve desired more comfort and simplicity in life, including preferences for my footwear.  As I’ve aged, I have thrown some soles away when they no longer served a purpose, and I have imagined other versions of myself in other times wearing different shoes. Most importantly, as I look back upon my life, I have tried to stay authentic to the Higher Self, recovering and honoring the parts of Soul that are the brightest parts of myself.

Pausch states in his last lecture that, “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how you lead your life. If you lead your life in the right way, the dreams will come to you.”  As I ponder this statement by Pausch, I realize it’s the Soul that treads through the soils of gratitude, compassion, service, and love. And along the thorny paths of forgiveness.  These are the universal Soul lessons for humans everywhere, no matter what footwear a person wears. How do I want to be remembered with a last lecture? Hopefully not by the shoes I wore and the roles I played, but for how well I’ve walked through life wearing the lessons of Soul.

My End of Life Bumper Sticker:
When the Soles Don’t Fit, Go Bare Foot.  But Don’t Forget Some Boots Are Made for Playing.


"Those Boots" - Photo by Meredith Eastwood


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