Today is my birthday. My first awareness of the day came at 3:55 a.m. when I awoke from a dream.

I was a therapist (something I have not been for 8 years) meeting with a university student client. The client is someone I do not know in my waking life. She is unique to this dream. We were meeting for our final session. We were not meeting in my office where comfort and privacy were guaranteed. Instead we met in a classroom with tables and chairs. An instructor was sitting at the desk making final notes before leaving the room to us.

The young woman had brought three friends with her to the session, two young women and a young man. I noted the three guests and then directed my attention to the client. I asked her to tell me who her friends were and why she had brought them with her. She proceeded to introduce them one at a time and tell me about each one and what each meant to her.

The theme of her presentation of her friends was that as she and I had met together, and as she had gotten to know and appreciate herself more, she had also gotten to know and appreciate these three people more. She used the phrase “peeling off one layer at a time.” As she had peeled away one layer at a time in her life, her relationship with each of these people had deepened accordingly.

Of course, the dream was not about the client. The dream is about the dreamer, me.

It is up to me to continue to peel away layers, no matter my age.

To me, that means continue to unlearn the life lessons that no longer serve me well. It means to allow painful moments, disappointing moments, all moments that upset me to be my teachers. It means to see those people I wish to avoid as the ones I can learn the most from. It means that when life does not wait for me to peel away a layer, but instead rips a layer off, it is still up to me to be open to the lesson of the moment.

Carl Sandburg said it well. “Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”