25: The Curious Riddle of the Codpiece

25: The Curious Riddle of the Codpiece

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions

The Curious Riddle of the Codpiece

If you put yourself in a position where you have to stretch outside your comfort zone, then you are forced to expand your consciousness.

~Les Brown

Codpiece. What an odd word. I didn’t remember anything else from the dream. Just that one strange word: Codpiece.

I’d be lying if I told you I knew what it meant. If we were in casual conversation I might have fibbed and claimed I did. But on that morning about two years ago I was drawing a blank. All I knew was that it had entered my mind during the night, and that it was there for a reason.

As soon as I could I looked up the word on Wikipedia. The codpiece dated back to the fifteenth century, when some clever tailor invented a leather device to be worn as a flap over a man’s genital area — an early athletic cup. Cod actually was the Middle English word for scrotum. The codpiece fell out of fashion in the sixteenth century, but made a modern-day comeback on the groins of 1980’s heavy metal rockers.

As a history buff I found all of this fascinating. But it begged the more obvious question: What did a codpiece have to do with me, a woman years past my rock-star fan girl days?

My first answer was a big fat “I don’t know.”

Well, at least I would have something to talk about. Several months earlier, I had started attending a weekly dream circle. I had a hunch that learning how to understand my dreams would help me figure out why I was feeling so stuck and uneasy in my life. Sure, it would have been nice if I’d remembered the entire dream, which would have yielded more clues to this mystery. But this was typical for me. In preceding weeks I’d had so many petite dreams consisting of a single incident or a few disjointed thoughts that the leader of the dream circle dubbed me “the Queen of the Snippets.”

It was a dubious honor, to be sure. I longed for the epic, mind-altering dreams others in the group were sharing, dreams that were long and meandering and filled to the brim with deep, profound symbology. My poor little snippets were no match for them.

Well, this one was the shortest yet — just one word. I could have simply dismissed it. Yet something within me told me I had to examine it.

I turned the question, “What does a codpiece mean to me?” into a game. I never really was a fan of heavy metal, so I dismissed that as a clue. I had no interest in living during the Renaissance, so I saw no connections there. The codpiece had to be a symbol, I concluded. It was something tough, something that was used as protection, to keep something precious safe. How did that relate to my life? What did I have that was hard on the outside and soft and important on the inside? If I could figure out what was behind the codpiece, I’d have been on my way to solving this curious riddle.

Then it hit me. It really was a very simple concept. But often it’s the simple things that hold the deepest truths.

The codpiece represented the wall that separated me from the rest of the world.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Little by little I had spent huge chunks of my life holding back, keeping my thoughts and ideas to myself. The labels “quiet” and “shy” were comfortable explanations that seemed to satisfy others, and when they kept their distances I grew comfortable with that too.

Over time I had unconsciously talked myself into believing that I was a boring, uninteresting, even shallow person. Was I really? No, that was fear talking. I was so afraid that anything I said would be met with ridicule or, even worse, be totally dismissed, that I said nothing. The result was that I was often ignored, passed over, and simply not included in things I might have enjoyed. No wonder I had this vague feeling of unease in my day-to-day life.

I was at a crossroad. I could dismiss the dream and continue living in fear. Or I could take action on the meaning of the dream. The codpiece protected something that men hold precious. That meant that if the codpiece was protecting me then I was something precious.

As if I needed further proof, two days later I had another one-word dream: almond. As I wrote that word in my dream journal I started to laugh. What was an almond, after all, but something with a hard shell that protected something good inside? I was making progress. The almond’s shell is a lot thinner than a codpiece. That means it’s possible to break through it.

This is where you might expect me to say that uncovering the meaning of the dream made me come out of my shell, and that resulted in newfound riches, friends, money, success and all that. But, hey, this is real life, not a fairy tale. No, the understanding was just that, an understanding. The real hard work started after that, the realization that I chose to live my life the way I did, and that it would take further choices on my part to change its trajectory.

Honestly, there was no rational reason to hide myself. But for me to un-hide I first had to come face to face with the ridiculous things that had been so embedded in the deep recesses of my mind I didn’t even know they were there. These were self-limiting beliefs that were true only because I said they were true: things like I didn’t matter, I wasn’t important, I wasn’t to be taken seriously, and even the thought that I was invisible.

Once I became consciously aware of those beliefs, I could see not only that they weren’t true but that I had the power to replace them with more empowering thoughts: I am smart, I have a brain, I am creative, and I can make a difference to myself and others.

When I started looking at myself in a new light, I could see that I mattered. What I had to say and do was important. I started to believe in myself again.

I did see changes, little ones. They came in the moments when I did things like complain to a server that my food was delivered cold or when I asked the manicurist to redo my nail because it got smudged. These sound insignificant when I write them, but for me speaking up to strangers was truly new and different; in the past I would have suffered in silence and cursed myself for my reticence.

There were larger things, too. I furthered my interest in dream work and finished a program that certified me as a dream coach. I started a coaching business. I created a website. I even wrote a book.

Because of this dream, I found the courage to be comfortable with myself. Indeed, the very act of writing this would have been unthinkable if I were still living behind the codpiece.

~Debbie Spector Weisman

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