About a month ago, I had this dream. I was in a parking lot. On the other end of the lot, pacing back and forth, was a large bull, with giant heavy horns, like a Texas longhorn.

I was afraid that it would see me. I was watching it without making eye contact. Trying to figure out my next move. Frozen. And then it did see me. And I saw it seeing me.

I panicked, turned, and started running away. I remember thinking, Don’t run. Running is wrong. It will chase you. And it did.

I was running at full force. I could hear it behind me. I could feel it gaining on me. I knew I was about to be trampled, when I decided to stop, abruptly.

I turned around, faced the oncoming bull and screamed with the full force of my lungs, NO! To my surprise, the bull also stopped, and then it laid down on the ground like a scolded puppy.

Without turning around, I began to step away slowly, and the bull rose up and started coming toward me. I shouted NO! again, and it laid down, again. This happened several times. Starting, stopping, yelling NO, the bull lying down, and then advancing once more.

It continued until I felt a wall behind me. I had nowhere else to go. With my back up against the bricks, I felt around for a way out of the predicament, but there was none. The bull, seeing that I was cornered, slowly walked up to me, snorting and kicking up dirt with its hind legs. Soon its face was within inches of mine.

I looked straight into the swirling browns of the bull’s eyes. I decided that I had nothing left to lose. I reached my hand up and started to gently pet the bull on its nose. It seemed receptive to my touch. I began to rub its head. It softened, and nuzzled up against my hand, like a purring kitten.

After a few moments I began to walk away. The bull followed me. As I walked along the road the bull walked closely alongside me, occasionally nudging my hand to pet it again. And I obliged.

I woke up breathing heavily, in a rush of adrenaline. I felt like I had actually tamed a savage beast. I also felt like the dream was telling me something important. So I wrote it all down right away.

I don’t remember what was going on in my head in the days right before the dream, or what kind of snacks I had that night. I do know that the bull can symbolize so many things. It can be an emotion, a fear, an illness, the future, the past, a thought process, a task, or even a person. I have interpreted the dream 100 different ways over the past month.

Whatever the bull may be, it is too big to fight, and angry screams can only keep it at bay for so long. I could try to outrun it, but it will catch up with me, and eventually it will pin me to a wall.

I might not ever be able to put it completely behind me, but that’s all right. I can choose to allow it to travel alongside me. And I can treat it respectfully whenever it calls for my attention. Perhaps reluctantly at first.

My ultimate understanding is that no matter what metaphorical bull is out there, waiting in the proverbial parking lot of life, it can be handled. With compassion, and with kindness, and with love.

Don’t grab the bull by the horns. Scratch it behind its ears.

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