On Dreams, Wholeness and the Wisdom of our Sleeping-Selves

When I was very young, I had a recurring dream about sharks. In this dream, I was standing on a very high bridge, and below me in the water I could see sharks swimming, circling. The sharks knew I was up there, and they were waiting for me. One night, the sharks started jumping out of the water. At first they jumped a few inches, barely making a splash. My bridge was very high, but I couldn’t walk away. I was stuck there, watching the sharks jump, and each night they jumped higher, and higher. As they jumped, I could see their teeth, and the deep red of their mouths, and each night they got closer and closer. The last dream I remember, they were inches from my face, and I knew that the next night, they would eat me.

This dream created an intense phobia of bridges in my waking life. I’ve mostly gotten over it (living in a city that is divided by a river, one must), but when I was younger crossing any bridge would send me into a muscle clenching, hard pounding, absolute panic of terror. My little brother loved to exploit this fear, and I have a vivid memory of a road trip to visit an Aunt in Virginia that involved crossing a 20-something mile long bridge. My brother and my family thought this phobia was hilarious, but to me it was very, very real. I still get the old fear, on occasion, if I am crossing an unfamiliar bridge that is very high and narrow.

My dreams have always been this real to me. They have always been vivid, and full of emotion. I remember a nightmare I had when I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old in which I was riding in the school bus, and there was a giant earthquake, and the land all around us started to fall away, leaving only hot magma, until the school bus stood on a tiny sliver of land and I knew that next we would fall into the lava and be burned to death, like that terrible scene from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. I still can’t watch that scene. I remember a dream when I was a teenager, and in love for the first time, and part of a very close-knit group of friends. I dreamt that we were all in a house, and we’d been shot, and we were dying and we knew it, and we had the night to say goodbye to each other. Just the other night I dreamt that my ex-husband and all of his cousins were trapped when a highway tunnel collapsed, and myself and another cousin managed to dig them out, alive, but my ex-husband’s head had been crushed by a falling rock. In the dream I was in hysterics, and I woke up crying.

My dreams have often felt mystical. I’ve had lucid dreams. I’ve had prophetic dreams, in which I dreamt something (always something simple and apparently meaningless) and the next day it came true. I only have one person close to me that has ever died, but I’ve dreamt of him many times, and in these dreams we’ve often had conversations about his death, as if I am actually talking to him from the other side. I’ve dreamt about the gods, and about ancestors of my spiritual tradition, and in these dreams I’ve felt that I was being guided and instructed. I guess it is an easier medium for them, since it bypasses the talking, logical day-mind that immediately tries to rationalize everything that happens.

I’ve always felt extremely grateful for my dream life. It truly feels like another life, one that is more magical and fantastic than I can experience with my physical body, though no less real. In my dreams there has been learning, healing, pleasure, joy, confrontation, sorrow, love, and reunion. I know that this dream-life is not something everyone needs or would appreciate, but I always feel a little bit sorry for people who tell me they don’t remember their dreams.

I’ve been writing a lot about my childhood the past few weeks, and a lot of dark and sad things have been coming up. It is nothing new to me, and while I am pleased to finally be able to write and process these things, I am tired of trying to deal with the things that happened to me. I’ve been trying to deal for a long time. I’ve specifically been wondering if trying to communicate with the person that was a primary cause of this trauma would be useful at all. She’s been out of my life for a long time and I really want to keep her that way.

And then last night, I dreamt of my childhood tormentor. In the dream, I was the age I am now, 31, and she was the age she was when I was a child – late 20’s. We sat on the front porch of a house, somewhere in the South, and talked. She was always very funny, and charming, and in the dream it came back to me how often I enjoyed her company. In the dream I was angry, and I demanded that she tell me why she’d done the things she’d done. She’d laughed, and with the wisdom of a dream-person – partly her 27-year-old self, but with the wisdom of divinity coming through to talk to ME there, in the dream – had told me that she had done the things she’d done because she hadn’t known any better, or hadn’t had the tools to be any better, and therefore, even though it is hard to acknowledge this, she’d done the best she could. We talked some more, about childhood things, and I found a deep hunger to be close to her and through allowing myself to be close to her, to have connection to my childhood again. To remember the good parts, of living in the South, of being a child, of being raised by her, even. We laughed and told stories and sat there, two women, drinking beers with our bare feet up on the porch railing, in short shorts, both of us funny, and quick-witted, and sarcastic and bright and alive. I remembered that she was all of those things, and I had wanted to be like her in all of those things – and now I find that I am. She turned and asked me how my life is now, and I told her about writing, about starting an astrology practice, about being a witch, about my dog, about my struggles to understand love and relationships, about finding peace and happiness, about my hopes and dreams. She listened, and commiserated, and laughed, and told me she was proud of me. And then we continued to sit, there on the porch, together, as the dream faded out.

I woke up and felt as if the dream had actually happened. I mean that, in my body, where it counts, the dream DID happen. I feel more resolved and at peace about the things that happened in my past than I ever have. I feel understanding and empathy towards her, and to my surprise I feel an affinity and connection with her that I didn’t realize I needed.

In a workshop this past weekend on Nonviolent Communication, my teacher said off-hand, as we were getting ready for a practice exercise, that sometimes when you bring a real-life conflict to a practice session, you are able to work things out for yourself in such a way that you don’t need to have the confrontation with the actual person. I found the truth in this last night. I give thanks again, as I always have, to my dream-life, and to my subconscious  and to the parts of my spirit that long for wholeness, and know better what I need to get there than my waking self ever will.

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All Trails Challenge, cont’d: ALMOST HALFWAY THERE!

Bear and I have gone hiking twice this past month.  A few weeks ago we went out on a frigidly cold, but sunny day, and I got to play with the new camera my amazing family got me for Christmas.  This post will be mostly pictures.

Frozen waterfall on Bridge Ave.

Steps to the Ridge Trail

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Honey Bear greets the Sun

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Wildwood Trail

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HB needed a rest

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green.

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Coming down from Firelane 7, we found this guy in a tree off the Leif Erikson Trail.  I took about 100 pictures, trying to get a good one. This is the best I could do.

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Brrr!  Honey Bear says, let’s go let’s go!

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Coming down the end of Firelane 7 back towards Bridge Ave. and Highway 30, we found this sweet little meadow.  There was a box of chocolate milk abandoned in the grass, must be a hideaway for schoolkids.  Or one of the residents of the park just really like chocolate milk.

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And finally… some Advice.

We did over 5 miles hiking yesterday, but it was pure sweat-until-you-don’t-feel-anxiety-anymore hiking.  No pictures and nothing much to write about.  But we’ve now logged 39 miles, which means we are just under halfway towards completing all 80 miles of trail in the park.  Yeah!!

Don’t forget, I’m trying to raise money for Forest Parkhere’s where you can donate!!

Kirsten and Honey Bear’s All Trails Challenge

On Imbolc, Sadness, Being Gentle with Yourself, the Kindness of Strangers, and Getting the F^#$ Out of the House

I’ve been having a hard time getting out of bed this week.

This is nothing new for me.  I spent a really long time being depressed.  Like, most of 20 years.  The mornings are still a rough time.  I wake up feeling sad, or lonely, or anxious for no apparent reason, or worried about whatever ‘thing’ is going on in my life at that time.  I have vivid dreams most nights and they often color my mood in the morning.  It’s great when I have a sexy dream about Dax Shepard (this actually happened a few weeks ago, THANK YOU subconscious) or something, but more often it’s dark and scary like scenes from a horror movie, or I’m visiting a place I love and can’t get to (the house we lived in when I was a teenager, and the cannery I work at in the summers in Alaska being the most common), or dead loved ones are coming to visit and then I wake up and have to get used to them being dead all over again.  Point is, having a hard time getting out of bed is not, for me, unusual or a big deal.  The big deal is that I DO get out of bed, and that I am usually able to shake off the sadness after a few hours or a few days.  During all those years of depression, just a hint of sadness or anxiety would send me into a very fast and very intense spiral of, “oh shit, I’m getting depressed, oh no, it’s all going to fall apart, I’m not going to be able to get anything done, it’s just going to get worse and worse, everyone is going to hate me, oh god, what if this is the time that I kill myself…” etc etc, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I would jump up and start wildly running around trying to distract myself from the sadness, and it would just make it worse and then there I was, down the deep dark well, watching TV for weeks at a time, crying in the bathtub, and eating Wendy’s because I didn’t have the energy to cook anything.

I have since learned a few things.  First and foremost, that sadness is just an emotion like any other.  It has its place, and you have to honor it and give it space.  I’ve learned to be gentle with myself at these times, and go easy.  To not expect so much from myself.  To not label my feelings as anything or meaning anything, but just let them come.  Sadness manifests physically in me (maybe it does for everyone?) and I have learned to just let the big dark weight in my chest and the low energy and the drooping shoulders have their time in my body.  This morning, instead of getting up and exercising and walking Bear and making a big breakfast and cleaning up, I got straight into the shower and listened to music and sat on the floor of the tub while the water ran over my head (a habit I picked up at the cannery, where there are no bathtubs).  I stared into space and fiddled with my toes and sang along to ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ and just FELT SAD.

At the same time, I’ve learned that energy can get stuck easily, and I have to push through this desire to just lay in one place and not move for an entire day, and GENTLY get some energy moving.  We had a lot of sunshine early this week, and so I took Honey Bear for walks in the morning.  Long, meandering walks with no route and no intention of ‘exercising’ or burning calories.  Just wandering.  The first day, I was in such a terrible mood that I was probably scowling as we walked.  Bear had stopped to poo and an old man was walking toward us on the sidewalk while she squatted.  People are weird about dogs, and I have been glared at or yelled at for Honey Bear’s waste enough times (even though I always pick it up!) that I am a bit defensive anyway, much less on this day when I hated the world and everything in it.  So when this man yelled something at Bear, I whipped around and said “excuse me?!” in my most severe, don’t fuck with the cabbie or I’ll cut you, voice.  I still am unclear on what he was trying to say to her, something funny that didn’t translate, but he came up and started petting her, cooing at her that she is such a good dog, so pretty, etc etc while vigorously scratching her butt and patting her belly.  He was a very tall, slender, wrinkled man in his 70s or 80s with longish blonde/white hair under a hat, plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers.  He looked like what I imagine my dear friend Eric would have looked like if he’d lived to be that old.  I think that about all tall, thin, light-haired old men.  It gave me the same bittersweet, painful but welcome pang of grief that it always does.  He finished loving on Bear, smiled at me and walked off slowly, grinning into the sunshine.  We walked around a corner and came upon one of those rings in the sidewalk that someone once told me were meant to tie up horses, which I totally don’t believe, but why are they there?!  You sometimes see little plastic horses tied up to them around Portland, and on this one was a plastic Triceratops with a plastic T-Rex riding on his back.  My sadness was not gone, but how can you stay wrapped up in your own worries with sweet old men that look like your dead friend, crazy dogs pooping in the grass, plastic dinosaurs tied to the sidewalk, and the sun shining and the air feeling like Spring at the beginning of February?

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The next day we walked to Laurelhurst Park, where I took pictures of the ducks and Bear was admired by everyone we passed, including a sweet old white-haired couple who spent 5 minutes exclaiming over her.  The woman had once had an Akita (Bear is part Akita).  The man ‘didn’t like dogs’ but just couldn’t stop petting Bear and repeating how darling she was, in his English accent.  She accepted this worship as just dues for a Queen such as herself.  On the way back from the park, we passed the house of a sweet old mother/daughter pair (mother, at least 95, daughter in her 60’s) who I’d given a cab ride to.  They’d insisted on letting me borrow all of their Chelsea Cain books and left them on the front porch for me to pick up on my way home.  The daughter was in the yard when I passed and I reminded her of who I was and we chatted about the books and TV shows and the sunshine and how our dogs were barking at each other over the fence.

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I say thank you to all of these people.  The dinosaurs on the sidewalk and whoever put them there.  The ducks and the sunshine and the birds.  The little girl ‘fishing’ in the pond with a stick.  All the people running with that terrible look of pain and concentration on their face.  The people standing in a clump near the off-leash section of the park, watching their dogs play and awkwardly avoiding eye contact with each other.  The old man and the white-haired couple and the book lady.  None of this ‘fixed’ my sadness or made it go away, but it moved some energy, gave me perspective, and made me feel a little less isolated.

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The day of the dinosaur toys and the sweet old man was Imbolc/Brighid.  As a pagan, this is one of our 8 big holidays of the year.  It is one that I have never felt much of a connection to.  It is a time for spring cleaning, initiations, pledges and dedications.  It is halfway between Yule and the Spring Equinox… halfway to Spring.  I really felt Imbolc for the first time as I walked around the neighborhood with Bear that morning.  Spring is in the air, but it’s not quite time yet.  Everything is waiting, conserving energy, doing the quiet work of getting ready.  And so I say to you all, and myself:

Happy Imbolc.  The light is coming.  The seeds are there.  They are sleeping.  Give them the space and time they need to blossom.

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