The Indoor-Outdoor Place, Part Two

copper-pots-001Part Two: The Rest of the Story

The final part of this dream, which I deliberately didn’t include in the first post, adds an interesting layer of meaning:

Then I turn toward the rest of the house and there are piles of odds and ends, including lots of old and beat-up copper cooking pots that are flimsy and not usable, but could be attractive as part of the décor. I realize that I’m going to want to get rid of them, though, because there’s just too much junk here. The feeling in this dream is of moving into a new area and renovating it or updating it, though I’m somewhat tentative about it.

Cooking pots and kitchen images always make me think of alchemy—the process of heating the elements in order to purify them. Copper, in alchemical terms, is often associated with Venus and the feminine, and in the waking world is easily deformed, bent, and destroyed. These old, battered cooking pots—here likely symbolizing the internalized aspects of womanhood and the Feminine,  are “not usable,” but only decorative at this point. The dream suggests that I may need to get rid of those concepts and understandings and replace them with something more serviceable as I renovate this area of my life.

In fact, that’s what’s happening now in my life, as I finally begin to deal with my internalized mother (who is not capable of providing the support and nurturance that I need) and replace those internal images.

At the time of this dream, more than ten years ago, I had no idea of any of this. The information in this dream has become even more relevant than it was at the time it came to me, because it’s only now that I understand enough, and have become strong enough, to do the difficult work that’s required.

The Indoor-Outdoor Place, Part One

20170402_205034

Dream: I’m in a space that seems simultaneously an indoor room, perhaps a library in a house, and an outdoor garden area. As I walk down one side, there are flowers blooming very early, way out of season, and I worry that they’ll be nipped by the frost. They’re lovely and surprising, but I notice they have no fragrance. Back the other way, toward the rest of the house, there are shelves where the previous owner has kept irises, bulb and all, growing in flasks of water. These irises are also blooming, but pale and faded because they haven’t gotten sunlight. I move them off the lower shelves where they’ve been and put them in the “windows” of the garden where they’ll get more light, and think about adding some fertilizer to their water. The feeling in this dream is of moving into a new area and renovating it or updating it, though I’m somewhat tentative about it.

This dream occurred at a time when I was just beginning the real work of my dissertation.

I remember it well: the sense of surprise that the space was both indoors and outdoors at the same time; the beauty of the flowers, blooming in winter; the concern about them being killed by frost; the odd fact that, beautiful though they were, they had no fragrance at all. And those irises! In vases of water?

I remember being puzzled by the dream, trying to make sense of it, trying very hard to give it a positive spin: renovating something, making it new again; protecting precious blooming things; correcting “mistakes” from previous generations. But it’s only recently, fifteen or so years later, that the real meaning of the dream has emerged for me, and I’ve understood why I could never feel completely positive about it.

My interpretation at the time was this: I know the dangers that are involved here. By carefully protecting these lovely flowers, I can keep them safe, give them light and fertilizer, and renovate the “room.” Yes! A very positive dream! Right?

Carl Jung was a keen observer of the natural world. When we come across images from nature in our dreams, it’s always a good idea to look at them from a naturalist’s perspective as we search for their meaning. In this little dream, what do we notice?

These flowers are blooming out of season, “very early,” in a space that is not protected from winter’s chill. They are in danger of being killed by frost because it’s not yet time for them to bloom. The irises are struggling to grow in vases of water on shelves that receive insufficient light. If you’ve ever grown irises, you’ll know two important things about them: First, they require plenty of sunlight to thrive. Without it, they have a hard time. And second, they can’t tolerate wet feet. The irises in the dream are doomed.

What do these images tell us about the “renovation” that’s being attempted? The time is wrong, and the conditions are wrong! It’s highly unlikely, says Psyche, that the work will be successfully accomplished at this moment. Later, perhaps, and with different conditions. No matter how much I want the psychic changes to occur, “now” is not the time.

And in fact, “now” was not the time for the psychic renovation that I was undertaking. It would be four long, agonizing years before I finished the dissertation—before I managed to renovate my psychic structure sufficiently that I was able to provide a suitable “space” for the material to survive. And it’s only now, another nine years later, that the dissertation is beginning to transform itself into a book.

Interpreting the dream in that way at the time, had I been able to understand it correctly, might have saved me a lot of heartache along the way. I might have been more compassionate with myself. But maybe it’s better that it remained a mystery for so long, and only now gives up its meaning, when I can better understand the reasons for the long, drawn-out process. I’m now much better able to provide the structure and conditions for those flowers to thrive!

Nevada is gone.

20150225 Nevada 2 (a4)Nevada is gone.

I can’t even imagine it, but Nevada is gone. We had to let her go—help her across the Rainbow Bridge—two weeks ago yesterday.

The plain details: I found her in the pasture that Wednesday afternoon unable to stand solidly or to walk without wobbling. At first we thought it was a viral thing, but she showed no evidence of illness. She managed to stagger with me all the way to a stall in the barn—the bravest and most trusting little horse ever—and made it through the first night (with LOTS of drugs) standing. We left her about 8:30 that evening, and went back at 3 in the morning and spent an hour with her. She was propped in the corner, miserable but still standing. But by the next morning she was down and never got up again—a progressive paralysis of the legs. She experienced no pain, as far as we could tell, just an increasing fatigue from struggling to stand. By afternoon she was getting more uncomfortable—horses are not designed to stay down for very long—and her breathing was getting labored.

Because she wasn’t sick or feverish, and was behaving normally other than being unable to stand, we and our wonderful vet finally figured that she must have had a bad fall in the mud, or gotten kicked, and injured her spinal cord. That’s the only thing that would account for the entire range of symptoms.

The “good” news about that final day is that she got to eat all the cookies she wanted—she never lost her appetite—and had fresh, hand-picked grass to eat all day long. And she got to be a “lap pony,” which she’s always wanted to do. My partner and I took turns sitting on the floor of the stall with her head on our lap. OMG.

I would love to write more, but I still can’t do it. I’d love to explain how I nearly didn’t go check on her on that afternoon, in the dreadful cold and wind; how I found her completely covered in mud—this horse who almost never rolled in the dirt. I wish I could talk about how she staggered to follow me; about how hungry she was. I don’t think she’d been able to get her head down to eat without falling over. About how she made her way over to the herd when they left for the west pasture, rather than stay alone; how she struggled with me down the lane to the barn and an isolation stall, helped by the promise of hay from a friend in front and strategic shoves from behind by the vet. It took us almost an hour to go those few hundred yards.

I wish I could tell you how the entire herd ran to see her go, and how the mares’ screams could be heard for miles; she was a leader among them. How happy she was to see us come back to her in the dark hours of that next morning; how she rumbled at us each time she heard us, and especially once I started bringing her fresh-cut grass and cookies, all through the last hours of her life.

How my sweet Galahad tried to understand the news of her passing, and how confused he was over what to do with and for me: Shall I bite? Shall I shove? Shall I hover? Shall I hug? Shall I walk with her back to the gate and try to do all these things at once? How I felt Nevada from the other side, running freely, happy and surprised, but wanting her herd and her friends, including my partner and me. (I feel her there now, but she’s distant from me, of course.) How so many friends on Facebook and email sent words of comfort, including one who sent this prayer:

We Remember Them (Jewish Prayer)

In the rising of the sun, and in its going down, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

For so long as we live, they, too, shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

OMG. How can it be that I will never see her again, never see her soft nose, never feel her breath and her lips on my hand? How can that be?

Wow….

Well, life goes on. It will never be the same, and though I am eternally grateful to feel her presence with me often, what I really want is the warmth of her breath on my hand….

Thank you for spending your brief life with me, my sweet friend. I remember you.

 

(cross-posted on It’s An Alchemical LIfe)

Locked in….

20161228_125814You can’t make this stuff up. Or at least I can’t.

I’ve tried a couple of times to write fiction. Does NOT work. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination, though I like to think it’s just an endearing personality defect: I can’t seem to make things up. I can’t lie; I can’t even equivocate any more. Used to be that if I felt like hiding something, you had to ask me a focused, direct question to be sure you were actually getting the truth from me and not some carefully crafted weasel-words. Now, I can’t even do that. Seriously inconvenient, let me tell you.

But I digress.

So I told you all recently that I’m working on “mother issues,” which I most assuredly have. It’s not been easy to see them, but they’re finally sneaking out into the light, in some very odd ways.

The last few weeks I’ve been trying to focus on the part of my psyche that represents my first year or two of life. That little infant is terrified! And understandably so. I spent a couple of months of my first year in the hospital, for seizures or something that no one was ever able to explain to me. And Mom was depressed during most of my childhood. So it’s no wonder that poor little Baby Kay has issues.

So I’ve been “carrying around” Baby Kay during my daily routine—just holding her, talking to her, trying to make up for some of the mothering she didn’t get. It seems she holds in her tiny fists some of the answers to my painful jaw. What does she want and need? She has no words, and I have zero experience with babies….

Watching the baby, I have realized that the dreadful, crippling anxiety that I experience more often that I’d like to admit is also linked to her.

Any time I try to make a decision, even something insignificant, or any time anything—even the tiniest thing—changes or shifts in my world, or even in my daily schedule, Baby Kay starts to fuss and cry and get panicky. It’s so bad that just trying to figure out what time of day I should go see the horses is a frightening event for that baby.

I’m not kidding.

I don’t know enough about the psychological “why” of this to talk about it at this point. What I do understand is that it’s a really good metaphor for the way I am in the world—that internalized baby is terrified! She is so scared. Any time the mother (my adult self, at this point, or the internalized mother, my image of the mother, the baby’s image of the mother…) tries to do anything at all, any time anything shifts and the baby feels the least bit insecure, then panic sets in. Sometimes actual panic—and a terrible, gripping anxiety in my gut that just freezes me in my tracks.

Well. That explains a lot.

And then there’s this morning’s events. This is the part that you just can’t make up … and it’s the real wonder of working with the imaginal the way that I do. I love being able to feel the connection with ancestral figures and images, and to be able to “see” the dialogue taking shape in outer events.

So on the way home from the Metrolink stop this morning, I recorded some thoughts (thank goodness for the app on my cell phone!). What follows is edited down from the transcription:

I’ve been holding Baby Kay (who is, as always, anxious and fussy) and bouncing her around, talking to her, playing with her a little, getting her to at least look around instead of just squinching up her eyes and screaming. And all the while, I’m aware that my mother is nearby—my actual mom, Mary Ellen, not just my internalized mother. I can sense her with me in the car, and as I drive I’m able to feel at least part of what my mom must have felt when she held me….

Mom, as a teenager and young woman, was vibrant, serious, and determined; she had ambitions for her future, though she never told me what they were. Then she fell in love and married…and, I think, still believed her dreams could come true. But suddenly, holding her first-born in her arms, the realization must have hit home: the realization that nothing else was now possible. All her dreams and ambitions had come to an end. In the fifties, cultural expectations for women did not include motherhood AND a career. Mom and Dad both were conservative and cared very much about living up to the cultural norms.

How ambivalent she must have felt about that baby, my infant self.

I know my mother loved me—loves me still. But it wasn’t an easy, free, happy and joyful thing. A lot of the time, at least, it was mixed in with grief and anger, which moved into depression (which always follows when you can’t do anything about the anger, when there’s no action you can take). So here she’s got this screaming infant—and a sickly one, to boot!—and she’s trapped. There’s no way out…

At this moment in the recording, I’m sitting on the driveway. The car engine shuts down and you can hear the sound of the door handle…which does NOT open.

…and all of her dreams are gone, and … I’m not sure what’s going on here…. What’s my car doing? [Sound of car being turned on and off again, twice….]

“I’ve got to go. My car has locked me in. I’m not sure why my car has locked me in.” [half-jokingly:] “I’m trapped! Oh no!” and the recording ends.

What happened, apparently, was that I had inadvertently hit the “lock all doors” button … and for an instant, I was truly terrified because I couldn’t get out—I was trapped. Wow….

Transcribing this, I found tears very close. Mom, thanks for this graphic demonstration, or reminder. I love you, and I’m grateful for your help as we—yes, WE—work through this….

And as I type that, the sun comes out weakly, briefly, from under the clouds. Wow…. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Mother Wound?

Mom in the 40sThis is a rather rambling, stream-of-consciousness post, but that fact just reflects how new this stuff is to me.

I went to get some energy work today to help with the pain (which is better but still problematic this week). So much information is held in the body, and if we’re lucky, this kind of work releases some of it to consciousness.

One major realization from today’s session is just how much I’ve ignored my body over the years. Back in my professional-speaker days, I used to teach a class in avoiding burnout for overworked corporate types. And we all know that we teach what we need to learn, right?

Well, I’m apparently a VERY slow learner, because twenty years later, I’ve finally realized, once and for all, just why it is that you have to put your OWN oxygen mask on first if your plane springs a leak. Yup. Took me that long to actually get the message.

Can we all say, “self-care”?

So a lot of things suddenly make sense: why, for instance, the pain goes away when I dance, or when I’m hanging out in the pasture with my horses, doing “nothing.” Those are about the only times when I’m actually IN MY BODY, working with it, and not in my head. So much for what I thought was going on.

I think that’s maybe what my study group was trying to tell me last Saturday, when they were talking about how the inferior function of an intuitive is the “sensate” part—the information that comes from the body itself. Maybe, with practice, I might re-learn to trust my body, instead of viewing it as a source of fear and vulnerability. Anyway—interesting. Interesting….

The second insight that I had was that I’m dealing with “the mother wound,” or “the Dark Mother.” Yeah, you say. You’ve been saying that already….

I’ve been saying it, but apparently not understanding it.

Two blog posts from friends today turned my attention to it, and the light bulb went on. The first one, by my friend Angela Dunning (“Equine Reflections” on Facebook), references Bethany Webster’s blog  post “Bringing the Dark Mother Into the Light.” Angela says,

I see this in many clients who, at first, can only speak positively of their experiences of their mother and/or speak in platitudes such as: “I know she did her best for me…”

Taking the next very brave step to add: “And yet, this IS how I feel about what happened…” though, is when healing begins.

We all have a dark side, all our mothers had a dark side. The need to suppress it and to be seen as only a good mother is massive in our society. Yet when we take off our rose-tinted glasses and see how we weren’t well-mothered, THEN we can begin to make up these deficits in ourselves by learning to be a good but honest mother to ourselves.

It’s not about blame – it’s about honesty and really healing…

(Bethany’s site, “Womb Of Light: The Power of the Awakened Feminine,” contains much interesting and insightful information and is well worth checking out.)

How interesting! I really had no idea! But apparently that’s pretty typical. You either hate your mom or idolize her. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but I’m definitely one of those women who always said, “I don’t have a problem with my mother,” but then would go on to say how she never told me anything about my body, how I have her pain in my jaw, and so on.

But I’m ready—oh, so ready!—to heal.

Been thinking about how this has played out in my life: My body is and always has been “bad.” Look at all the things that “went wrong” around my sexuality, for instance! And look at how I was always “not good” at physical things, when in fact I’m graceful and connected to an unusually high degree. And there’s likely more, much more.

I wonder if this is part of why I have not become aware of the meaning of my bodily sensations—that “inferior function.” It may not be just the function I’m least conscious of, but in fact, it may have been deliberately discouraged. I wasn’t supposed to have bodily sensations—certainly not lusty, erotic ones—and so I suppressed them even more than might have been expected, given my personality type.

Dunno….

But there’s another thing: I’m very much in touch with my body, but I don’t usually attempt to “make sense” of it—is that what they’re talking about? And I tend to ignore it—like when I’m uncomfortable around someone. I feel it, but I don’t analyze it, and I generally force myself to stay put because it’s polite. That kind of thing? Dunno….

Hmmm…..

And suddenly the weird thing that my dear Aunt Margie (my mom’s sister) and I have always done makes perfect sense: We don’t write, don’t call, for months on end, and then have these long, wonderful, intimate chats when one of us finally breaks down and picks up the phone or the pen.

It feels like, “If you really loved me you’d call me.” I sense that from her—I’ve always felt that the communication was largely from me to her, at least in the last decade or two, and I’ve actually resented it…and then felt guilty for resenting it. That’s how she was raised; that’s how I was raised, that’s how my mom was raised; that’s probably how her mother Hazel was raised, and on back through the generations. It’s all we know. And we do love each other, very much….

All of this is has been mostly unconscious, of course. Add to that the genuine doubt that we are, in fact, loveable…so if the other one doesn’t write, or call, or whatever, then maybe they actually don’t love us. Maybe we actually do not deserve to be loved.

Well. Onwards and upwards, I guess. Onwards to the next phase of the learning.

Trigger Warning

Alchemy 2This pain has been ramping up, slowly, for a few weeks now. But it’s like boiling a frog: Start him in a pot of cold water and he’ll never notice. Yeah, it’s like that. What I was conscious of, early this month, was an increasing sense of “upset” about the Presidential campaign.

I didn’t see the connection.

On Sunday the 9th, I watched the second presidential debate, even though my intuition told me it wasn’t a good idea. Watching it wouldn’t change things, obviously, and I was already upset. But it’s like gawking at a car wreck—so very hard to look away as you drive past.

Sunday night I went to bed full of the image of Donald Trump lurking behind Hillary Clinton, glaring intensely at her in the most physically threatening manner imaginable. I do not know how she managed to stand there and continue calmly to speak; I was cowering, unable to sit down and watch. Even now, typing this, my heart rate goes up at the memory.

Less than an hour after going to bed, I was awakened by an agonizing jolt to the nerve in my jaw. Then another, and another—the assault continued most of the night, let up for an hour or so, and then resumed as soon as I woke up.

Nearly two weeks later, the pain has finally relented enough for me to function again, though I’m exhausted and not thinking very clearly. I can speak, cautiously, at least a few words at a time again; I can eat without much pain provided I run everything through a blender and water it down first.

Not fun, folks.

Here’s the interesting part: I am far from the only person suffering in this way at this time. The viciousness, anger, and misogyny of this election campaign has affected many, many of us.

Donald Trump, in that debate setting, in his statements, and in the recordings that have surfaced, displays the kind of physical and emotional threat behavior that so many women have experienced all our lives. Trump embodies the abuser. I’m not going to try to say more about that: Just attempting to describe his behavior, and the effect on my own psyche, raises my heart rate and drives most coherent thought right out of my head. I just want to run somewhere and hide.

Not just me. A therapist friend of mine said, “You wouldn’t believe how many of my clients are reporting having trouble with this!” Clearly, I’m not alone—it’s triggering trauma survivors all over. All over social media, people are posting and tweeting responses.There was even a post in the Washington Times offering suggestions on how to cope.

One brave woman got a million tweets after asking other women to tweet their first sexual assault. “Harrowing” is one of the words she uses to describe the responses. Mine? Minor, by comparison to some, but significant: Fifth grade, one of my male classmates snapped my bra strap. He was followed by a few of his companions. I was afraid to cry for help; the teacher looked away.

“I was afraid to cry for help.” That tells me that it was not, in fact, the first time; just the first time that I can now remember.

I can’t write much more now—I risk the return of the pain, which I can feel lurking in the background. But as the ability to think and understand returns, I’m working on making sense of this. For now, though, let me just post a “dialogue,” facilitated by a shaman friend of mine, from the beginning of this month. I was addressing the pain itself:

Kay to the pain: Why will you not leave?

Pain: I am anger! I am rage!

Kay: You frighten me! How can I help? This anger and rage—it’s hurting me! How can I help?

Pain: Stop! No words! Fire. Tears. No breath. Help me!

Kay: I understand; I hear you. I feel that rage! Is there something I can do to help?

Pain: [Long silence] I’m afraid too.

Emily’s Paper: An Archetypal Exploration of a Painful Symptom

Concrete, medically diagnosed illness … is not only a clinical event.  It is also, if not first and foremost, a psychological event whose physical aspects require a psychological examination. … Everything matters to soul and expresses its fantasies, whether ideas in the head or bones in the body…. The components of any illness–affected organ or system, causal agent, style of disease process–all have their significances in the language of pathologizing fantasy as well as that of pathological facts.  – James Hillman

10557189_10152163740116441_9004527298024650714_n[This is a version of a paper I did fifteen or so years ago for a class at Pacifica. It’s a story amplified by material from James Hillman’s writings (you can check out the bibliography at the end if you want). The story itself is worth reading—I’ve got that in bold italics. You can read just that part, but if you want more of of the background, read the parts in between. Long, but fun to read!]

Archetypal psychology, as James Hillman talks about it, introduces a different way of thinking about our lives and about psyche.  Rather than just looking at an image, an event, or a symbol, Hillman suggests we approach it by means of imagination, and look for the deeper, wider, richer meanings.  Each thing is given an importance beyond what is seen on the surface.  “The archetypal perspective offers the advantage of organizing into clusters or constellations a host of events from different areas of life.” No longer is behavior just behavior, distinct from our style of consciousness; no longer is our consciousness distinct from our images.  Rather, each “category” enriches the others, and we begin to sense, or imagine, the depth of psyche.

It’s a Friday evening, and I’m visiting with an unusually intuitive friend of mine, someone who knows me well and whom I trust.  We’re talking about a job interview I had this afternoon—it looks like within a couple of weeks I’ll have a part-time job that will help pay my school and travel expenses, plus give me much-needed health insurance.  This is an exciting turn of events. 

This particular night, however, I am in tremendous pain from a several-year-old injury to my lingual nerve. It usually affects just my tongue, but tonight the entire side of my face is throbbing.   My friend says, “Interesting that it’s so much worse today.  Could there be a connection with the job thing?” 

The pain is incredible. Oh great, I think to myself, I sure hope there’s no connection—I’ve been looking for this kind of job for months!  But I have too much experience with this kind of synchronicity to discount the possibility. “Well, maybe, but I sure don’t know what it might be.  It hurts too much to think.  Any suggestions?”

My friend is quiet for a minute, tuning in.  Finally she says, “You’re not listening to your body.  Hmmm—this is interesting: I get the sense that somebody in there has some stories to tell.  Wonder what that’s about?” 

 The pain is on the left side; I try to pay attention to the left side of my body, but nothing comes to me at first. Continue reading