I was researching someone online and came across a so-called motivational site urging young people to get up and do something… to make something of themselves… to stand out from the crowd or risk sinking into obscurity… fate that appeared to be almost ‘worse than death’ to the site’s author.
For a motivational piece, I found it rather counterproductive. All that I could see that it was doing was reinforcing, in the minds of the young and as yet uncertain, that they obviously were not good enough as they were. In order to have value within their society, they were being told, they would need to change… become something ‘other’ than they are. Different… and by implication, better.
That we are all works in progress, no matter what our age, and that we all need to continue to learn from our lives should go without saying. I doubt we would…
Three simple words hitting the head of the nail with precision. Driving the thought I had been avoiding bringing into articulation into the stark light of truth. “She’s a hater.” Even though she touts herself as an influencer of positive change.
I had been following her for longer than was comfortable. To be honest, I lost comfort from the first post I saw, but since I was trying to open up more of my awareness to BIPOC issues, I kept following. And, to make it worse, I kept liking her posts. I even responded to one. That’s when the hammer finally hit the head of the nail. Bang. Reality check.
Although my post was not hostile by any means, it was immediately returned with a hostile response based upon unfounded assumptions about the white writer who had written it. That would be me. I went further with one more response, again devoid of hostility, but with a slight bent towards defense. Another flurry of hostility came my way.
I liked the response anyway, but declined comment while I made the decision to wait for one more of her posts on Instagram before I decided whether to unfollow her. Three swipes through a barrage of hate memes, ending with a literal “f-you” to all the folks who did not see life the exact same way the influencer thought they should (aka just like her, I sealed my decision. Goodbye.
I am sharing this experience not for pity or defensive purposes, but to hopefully bring some awareness to the damage that can be caused by people who place themselves (or are elevated by others) into a position of influential power. In this particular case, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the former POTOUS, who managed to amass a huge (cult) following of sheep-like followers drunk on his power. Drunk on his hate.
Hate=Hate. It’s simple math. Even when you are trying to be an influential voice of positive change. I can’t help but thinking about Amanda Gorman in comparison. A bold, strong, beautiful voice of truth spoken with poise, compassion, and grace. A voice of light.
There is a huge difference between an individual who is working to bring the light of enlightment to the world, and one who becomes drunk on his/her own power while thinking that being angry and judgemental is a path towards the better good. One is living from the place of the heart, while the other is trying to thrive through the self-righteous ego. The divide could not be wider, even though the mind might think the goal is the same.
I find it deeply disturbing that these types of people rise to positions of power by others blindly lifting them up. Liking their posts. Sharing. Applauding. While not taking the time to pause and say, “Is this really such a good thing?” “Am I really contributing to a cause that feels authentic and true?” More disturbing, of course, is the lack of self-examination by the person who is in that position of such incredible influence…
Anger is okay for short time. It spurs action. It is a yang force to drive the latent yin into doing rather than just thinking. Yet, anger becoming the constant driving force is never a force of good. Anger begets more anger. Hostility begets more hostility. To be a true influencer of positive change, one most inspire through a voice of truth and love. One most model the change one hopes to see, but from the place of empathy and compassion, and the knowing that there are as many experiences and viewpoints in the world as there are people.
When we close our ears to all voices but those who echo our own words, we only hear ourselves. That, in essence, is living in a vacuum. It is not opening our hearts to light. So, while I am now following the beautiful voice of Amanda Gorman, whom I had regretfully not heard before the inauguration, I am no longer following the influencer pumped up on her own myopic power. And, I feel good about that. I’ve given myself permission to leave the room of the bully. I’ve given myself permission to find further enlightenment not in the voice of hatred, but in the voice of beautiful, powerful, compassionate truth.
It’s that time of year, again. At the end of the driveway, the machine is parked. The man who drives it has had to move it twice. First for my daughter on her way to class, then for my husband on his way to work. Each time the bucket descends and the engine roars back to life. It’s now blocking the entrance and exit, again. Parked at the end of the driveway it has better access to the maple whose branches are threading the electric wires.
Who was there first? It doesn’t matter. We humans have taken over time and place to claim them both as our own. I have been reading a lot of nonfiction these days. Books about the land and our relationship to it. Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer took much longer than its short length would insinuate. It was not an easy read, just like Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass was not. The words both beautiful and heart-wrenching, reminding us that we are a part of this living land. Stewards, if we choose to be, but always Earth’s children.
I can see the workers outside the dining room window. They lay their tools on the snow bank. A red metal can holding gasoline lifts to fill the chainsaw. I can hear its whine getting ready to work. I recall Sue Vincent once remarking, “I like to think of it as a haircut” when trees and bushes are being trimmed. Her comment was filled with empathy, but also reason. When we take away the guilt and the sorrow, we can move into the space of gratitude and abundance. Limbs grow back, just as hair does.
Yet, we also know that plants, in their own way sense pain. They send out warning signals to their neighbors when they are in danger. Their energy spikes into a wavelength that indicates panic. We cannot truly know what a tree feels. We can only guess. We can take scientific readings of chemical reactions. Infuse our own emotions upon their bodies.
And, we can always move into the space of gratitude and love. Science has shown us what we already know, that all life responds to love. And so I find myself residing with intention while the maple outside my window is getting its branches trimmed. I am thinking of the tree, but also of those tasked to trim it. They are both worthy of my love and gratitude. Working, in their individual ways, to support life. I am grateful it is winter here. The live force within the maple less active than during the growing season. Hibernation, I hope, is a type of anesthetic to the cut. And, perhaps, so is my love.
The last star reader was called down from the hills to prophecy the outcome of the divide. He stood on the cusp of the morning, more sure of where he was going than all who stood below. To understand the language of the stars was a gift seeded into the womb and those who received it could not pass it along. Only their words carried forth the song of the light. A light to which he longed to return.
Yet it was his duty to translate when beckoned. How weary he was of trying to reduce the vast into the limited. Minds trapped inside longing were not easily opened, and for the star reader this was another futile effort.
“I see it!” hollered a tiny voice. “I see the dragon!”
“What is she talking about?”
“Shush the child.”
“What insolence. Put her back to bed!”
The crowd below grew angry together, feeding upon the rise of their wrath bestowed upon a wee child who spoke only the truth. The last star reader watched and waited. He listened to the rise and fall of dissonance and sighed.
“See what I mean?” he muttered up to the sky.
“What are you waiting for?” the sky replied.
“It will not work. It never does.”
“Speak to the girl then.”
“Come here,” he beckoned in the softest of whispers, yet she heard him.
Softly she crawled the tangled roots, grabbling hold of the grasses for support until she reach the last star reader. He said nothing, just nudged the staff towards her waiting hand. One finger and then another curled the weathered wood.
No one knew she was missing. No one knew she had left their masses. Filled with their wrath, they had forgotten all meaning.
“Why don’t they see it?” she asked the reader as she peered at the angry mob below.
“Because their eyes have turned blind.”
“But it’s so beautiful.”
“Those who cannot see truth cannot see beauty.”
So the wee child turned her head back to the sky and the dragon, every-so-gently, swooped down to receive her.
The rain must have started in the wee hours of the morning. I can’t say for sure because I was asleep. It must have been magnificent. The entire heavens above our house letting loose in great balls of moisture to pound the rooftop and release the icy skins of snow that still lingered. It must have been magnificent because the small-to-medium-sized dog called Zelda who is not very brave broke through three barriers to wake me up.
It was not quite 4am. Despite ears plugged with foam, I heard the ruckus downstairs and in my half-awake state knew what was coming. First the door to the crate was pried loose. Next, the wooden gate at the end of the stairs, followed by a mad stampede of feet rushing to the second floor to shove open the bedroom door and catapult the said dog onto the bed.
Just in case I had somehow slept through her breakout, the not-very-brave-dog then promptly proceeded to nudge her nose in my face a dozen times before she settled down beside me. Safe at last. Within fifteen seconds she was snoring. Full-tilt. Out like a light. Naturally, I was not.
I checked the earplugs, only to find they were still snugly in place. There was no escaping the snoring of the dog unless I got up. So, I decided to relieve my bladder, checking the clock on the way to the bathroom to ensure I was not remiss about the time. Sure enough, it was just past 4am.
My bladder now empty, I reclaimed the tiny corner of the bed that remained, giving the snoring dog the slightest of nudges 😉 as I did so. Within seconds the snoring had resumed to its most robust tempo. My mind wandered over the day and the dreams I had already dreamt before my rude awaking, which didn’t help me drift into sleep, as keeping the mind busy never does. It sailed over the snoring dog to contemplate the husband on the other side, still as a monk in meditation, presumably asleep. Lucky bloke.
That’s about the time the cat-named-Millie decided to join the slumber party. Never one to miss an event, Millie also made a (more graceful) leap onto the bed and somehow landed, like the dog, nearest me. After checking out the dog, she began trotting around my side of the bed to find the most optimal place to spend the remainder of her night. Apparently the crook in my bent legs was not good enough, and she was soon on my pillow.
“Oh good,” I thought, “At least she’s settling in.”
Mille, like many felines do, has an uncanny ability to read minds and this evening was no exception. As soon as my thought had been released, she captured it like she would a mouse. I can only be grateful my eyes were closed.
The paw stretched past my hairline to tap my face, claws extended. Then retracted.
I took a breath and willed myself to focus on sleep.
There it was again, the paw, ever-so-slightly tapping the tender skin of my check bones.
Sighing, I reached my own arm out of the covers to stroke the feline’s head.
It wasn’t enough. Our little charade continued about five more times until Mille won the battle. Up went the covers and in went Millie.
There are dreams that you wish you never woke from and those that leave you grateful for the exit from a nightmarish realm. I’m not sure one is more valuable than the other if you seek to learn from their teachings.
Our hidden, or not so hidden, terrors often take the form of nightmares. They can adopt fantastical and gruesome visages, leaving us breathless for want of air when we wake. Sometimes our voices scream us out of their grasp, and sometimes our words strangle our voice into silence. The voice, then, becomes our key to opening their mysteries.
Although it can be equally terrifying to journey through the dream realm, as it is to unravel its symbolism, it’s well-worth the effort. Even the seemingly nonsensical dreams can make sense if we are willing to look into why our minds chose to play their forms.
If you don’t tend to remember your dreams, there are techniques you can use to train your brain to recover them. One of which is simply telling yourself before you wander into sleep to remember what you have dreamt. When you do this, you may find you start to wake up after each dream. I tend to do that a lot, which can be both an inconvenience and a blessing.
Instead of transcribing my dreams after I wake from them, I’ll often spend some time mulling over a dream I have woken from before my mind succumbs to a new one. Although perhaps not has valuable in some ways as having a written log of the dream, this allows me to observe patterns, themes and symbols, as well as gage my emotional response.
Symbols in our dreams often reoccur over and over again. For example I quite often dream about water and stones, both of which hold a lot of interest for me in the literal sense, but also quite often teach me about where I am residing on an emotional level. I also dream quite often about bathrooms, and going to the bathroom, which inevitably leads me down the exploration of what I am holding onto or seeking to release, as well as personal struggles with exposure and privacy.
Themes, patterns, and symbols in dreams are important to notice if you want to learn from them. Equally important, I believe, is how you feel during and after you wake from your dreams. As well as how you felt before you fell into the dream. For example, I can go to bed feeling pretty good about the day I have experienced, only to find myself falling into a fitful dream world. When I wake, I feel significantly more unsettled than when I fell asleep. Unpleasant, yet revealing. When I examine the dream I find the clues to why. Although I had thought I was feeling emotionally balanced, there was a hidden aspect of my self that was calling to be revealed. What our dreams unearth for us are often opportunities for self-examination that can lead to both healing and release of the emotion tucked away inside of us.
Some people believe we can dream other people’s dreams and travel to other dimensions and realms. I tend to agree with these theories based upon my own experiences. If this is the case, and we feel we have dreamt a dream that is a bit “outside” of us, what does it mean? Perhaps we have traveled into a past of future life memory to retrieve valuable insight. Perhaps we have dreamt another person’s dream because our energies are too intimately intertwined. Or, perhaps we have traveled to another realm to learn something about “Life” on a larger scale.
Entire books, poems, inventions, and scientific discoveries have been gleamed from the realm of dreams. I find it nothing short of remarkable how our minds can form such complex and vivid scenes in the dream world which always, I believe, point to a deeper truth that begs to be explored.
Each dream, when examined, becomes a puzzle of the hidden, or not so hidden, self. Some, I admit, are so crazy at first glance that I cast them aside for later, hoping that their cryptic nature will reveal themselves overtime. For those of us who enjoy a good mystery, there’s no better place to explore than the world of our dreams.
At the moment, I’m still mulling over last night’s dreams, and dreams that I dreamt many nights ago. Through them I thread the lines that join symbols and take note of the patterns that are formed from them. Sometimes I chuckle at themes captured from TV shows or lines I have recently read, wondering why until the emotional symbolism is revealed. I marvel at fantastic forms and how far the mind can stretch reality until I realize that the limits are always self-imposed. Anything, absolutely anything, is possible in our dreams.
Today I met her guardian. The falcon stood in wait over her sleeping form, holding the liminal space. Waiting. Watching. Guarding. When I asked to see more, I was brought to the sands of time. Golden specks slipping through the hours, reminding me that I can get stuck inside the glass. Made up of the same elemental substrate that holds that ephemeral symbol of life, it is also an illusion of the mind. “You have seen the expanse,” he reminded me as the sand became that golden light forming a bridge to the stars, expanding out of the false container to spiral into infinity. Yes, I have seen it, but still I resist.
I am not good at Death. It is not a subject I have come close to mastering. I’ve got a history of stumbling through its lessons. When experienced the loss of my first grandparent to death (aside from the one that died before I was old enough to remember), I didn’t cry. Instead I felt the torment of our troubled past. Rocked into my armor, I listened to my mother announce the news through the corded phone like it was an annoying aside she had to pass on before she could talk about better things. Beside me, my college roommate looked worried, and later shocked when I told her it wasn’t a big deal. I would be fine.
Well I wasn’t.
A year before, my husband’s (at that time boyfriend’s) own grandmother had passed away and when I told my mother the news, she gave me a funny look. “You really cared about her, didn’t you?” Surprised by the tears stealing into my eyes. I couldn’t explain it if I had wanted to. We experienced only a handful of brief encounters together before her passing, yet in that brief time my husband’s grandmother had seen a truth inside of me that some who knew me since birth would never see.
Years later, death found me sitting in my office chair at work. Once again, the news was passed on by my mother, who was sitting beside death at her father’s bedside. Weeks before I let her convinced me I didn’t need to go with her. I wouldn’t recommend saying good-bye to a beloved grandfather from an office chair at work inside a cubicle that offers no escape into sorrow. That day there was no avoiding tears or pain. Or regret.
Years later, my grandfather tried to show me the impermanence of death’s form. Coming to me in spectral form, just once, to part the veil of dreams. It was enough, but it wasn’t.
When my beloved Daisy died on the 11th of February six years ago, I knew it was coming, but it didn’t make it any easier. Six months before, while walking together in the woods she told me she would soon be moving on. Wrapped in aura of violet light, my canine guide’s spirit shined strong and true. It still does. Two days ago, during a tough night, I saw her curled at the end of my son’s bed. Rarely now do I feel into her presence, yet she is still there for us when we need her. I have gradually loosened my hold over the years since her passing, but I resisted her leaving the corporeal world with a hold so tight I knew she lingered longer than she should have.
No, I am not good at the subject of death. I have fought with its teachings. I have failed its tests, and I have struggled to embrace its release. Now I find myself counting, once again, those false hours. Wondering if time will allow me a real goodbye. Horus turns his head to stare at me with eyes the color of night. His wings ruffle annoyance. “Why,” he asks, “after all we have shown you?”
For a moment time slips away and we fly back to that sacred chamber that holds a bridge to Earth. Wrapped in a copse of guardian trees, the light filters from the beyond. Once again, I see the white horse, waiting. Memory weaves light into my cells. “Was this not enough?” he asks me.
It should be. But I’m having a hard to accepting it. There are things I’d still like to say. Arms that still want to hold a temporary form. So many adventures that won’t be shared.
“Ridiculous human sentiment,” he scoffs at me and turns back to his guard. “Your perception is clouded by those human eyes.”
So I allow the salted waters to bathe them in their warmth. Cleanse, I urge. Clear my clouded sight.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J.M. Barrie
When I was a girl we often spent New Year’s Eve with my great grandparents. Unless a neighbour could be relied upon to spontaneously perform the service, the tallest, darkest man of the company would be ushered outside via the back door at five to midnight and the door locked behind them… Heaven forefend that a woman should enter first by accident!
Duly armed with a silver sixpence, a piece of coal and a slice of the rich, dark fruit cake to make sure the conditions for first footing were met… that there would always be wealth, food, and warmth in the home throughout the year…. They would be welcomed back in through the front door, not able to speak until the gifts were distributed. These first footers were called…
We wear two faces: the “light” and the “dark.” As well as everything in between. What face we choose to show to the world matters, as well as what face we show to ourselves. What we refuse to show, or repress also matters.
I’ve been thinking about the Jekyll and Hyde inside of myself, and inside of others, a lot these days. We are living in triggering times, and both the “light” and the “dark” side of ourselves, and humanity as a whole, are being exposed. Our extremes are rising to the surface to show their faces, whether we label them as “good” or “bad.” Sometimes the terms “good” and “bad” are subjective, or filled with layers that deserve to be unpacked.
The other day I found myself remembering the first moment the Hyde inside reared its ugly face and shocked me into a deeper knowing of my shadow-side. I must have been around thirteen-years-old. I was babysitting two little girls that day, and we were playing a game of hide-and-seek. It was my turn to seek, and as I approached the youngest child, I decided I’d scare her a bit. Now here’s the thing. I’d never done anything like that before. People in town often sought me out for babysitting services, and I was known as a responsible and kind sitter. In that moment, though, as I approached that little girl, an unfamiliar, and dare I say, evil delight filled me.
“Boo!” I yelled, watching as her little body shook with a genuine fear.
Tears steamed down her face.
And in the seconds before regret took over, a feeling of grotesque power took hold of me.
It is one of those moments one never forgets, even tough it was mere seconds in length. The light inside took over that monster of darkness soon after I realized the ramifications of what I had done and I consoled my fearful charge, but the shock of the appearance of my shadow-self temporarily taking hold of me left its imprint.
I’m not sure I knew at the time what it meant, except that I had the capacity to do harm, as well as good, and there was a feeling of euphoric power in that moment of knowing. It scared the heck out of me.
It’s hard to admit that we all have the extremes inside of us, and it is also easy, sometimes to shun or condemn those extremes in others. Anger is often frowned upon or feared. Aggression seen as unkind. And, directed in harmful ways to the self or others, there’s few who would argue the truth in these judgements. Yet, what is the essence of these displays of self?
When I think of that thirteen-year-old babysitter now I feel empathy for her shadow-self’s reaction. She had inside of her a team of repressed “demons” waiting to be heard. Her voice, used to being silenced, felt in that moment its power.
Today, on her blog Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore, Sally Cronin featured her post “#NewAuthor Marketing Tips – Making the most of Twitter,” and I found myself thinking once again about the Jekyll and Hyde inside of us. I will confess I don’t care for Twitter, just as I don’t care all that much for GoodReads, even though as an author I should be using them both as a marketing tool. There is kindness and light to be found on each platform, but also a full exploration of the shadow-self.
It takes nearly no time at all to Tweet kindness, just as it does to Tweet hate, and inevitably when I, on the rare occasion, scroll through my Twitter feed, I find a both. But somehow, my eye tends to linger on the various faces of hate, anger, and fear. Any political post is rife with responses that make me recoil and reaffirm my unhappiness with social media’s darker side.
Herein lies the dilemma for me. It is okay to feel. In fact, it is a healthy aspect of knowing the self — this feeling into our emotional responses— but is it healthy to stream vitriol, unchecked? When we react with anger and hostility on a regular basis, we are feeding the shadow-self without actually listening to what it has to say to us.
So what does my reaction to these forms of social media say about me? It’s probably quite obvious to the reader. I tend to crave harmony and have conflict aversion. Although I can be a tough critic, I don’t like to be judged, especially when it feels “unfair.” This tells me if I want to explore the benefits of these writer’s resources, I also need to explore and unravel that shadowed self inside of me. Although these aspects of self, in essence, can be traced back to the wounded inner child. I think the same can safely be said for most of our “inner demons.”
In this time of pandemic challenges combined with political strife the likes of which many of us have never experienced before these last four years, it is not surprising that we are facing a battle with our inner Jekyll and Hydes. I know I often find myself lying in bed on restless nights examining the subconscious mind through my dreams and analyzing the wounded self instead of sleeping peacefully through the dark night.
Who am I, really? I ask myself. What do I want? What do I need? What can I give to others? What can I not give right now? How can I heal the wounds that shout to be heard?
The Hyde inside does not, by nature, turn us into criminals. Instead, it offers us perspectives of self to examine, hopefully inwardly, before we cast that “darker” side of our face out to the world. It is as much of a gift, albeit usually an uncomfortable one, as much as it can be a curse.
The choice is always ours as to what we repress, what we “face,” and what we choose to express outwardly.
Just one week prior to the big day, we received two feet of snow here in New Hampshire. Even the dogs weren’t sure what to do with such a sudden dumping, and naturally the cat-called-Mille chose to stay indoors in protest.
By Christmas Eve, the weather warmed to near balmy temps and rain started to drizzle down. Overnight, it turned into torrents of “hooves,” prancing on the rooftop like, well, reindeer, but without the magical fanfare of the holiday. We did our best to ignore it, until we couldn’t, by watching “The Polar Express” and gorging on popcorn and homemade cookies. It was, due to the nature of the times, just the four of us humans, plus our four furred companions.
It should have been a restful night for sleep considering there are no longer wee ones in the house but two full-fledged teenagers who cherish their sleep like they do their devices. Instead, Zelda-the-not-very-brave-canine, insisted on nestling into bed with her “parents” because nothing is more scary than hourly avalanches of snow crashing off the roof-made-slippery-from-the-pouring-rain. Surely, the sky was falling…
Despite a fitful night for the shaking dog and her “parents,” morning dawned bright gray and, well, rainy. Fog cast the false shadow of white on the land until it lifted and all that remained was an increasingly soggy and brown earth.
It couldn’t be more fitting. After all, it was Christmas 2020, and we had nowhere to go, and no one to come to visit. Presents (at least those that had arrived in the mail in time for the big day) and stockings were opened without much fanfare after a breakfast of french toast casserole and tiny bowls of pomegranate seeds (the fifteen-year-old left his bowl untouched). Then the day loomed before us. What to do?
In “normal” times, we’d have made a rather quick show of the morning at home before we hastened back upstairs to shower and dress for part 2 of the day. Another pile of wrapped gifts would be loaded into the car and off we would go to celebrate with an extension of relatives. Not this year.
So while the teenagers talked to their friends on their devices, the husband and I broke out the scrabble board and settled in for a “friendly” game. At noon, I retrieved the Christmas Eve lasagna from the fridge, fed the dog, and got ready for our after-lunch-walkie when the seventeen-year-old made a sudden appearance from her room to request Chinese food for lunch. Why not?
“Get me an egg roll,” I hollered up the stairs before we set out with the dogs, my stomach still quite full with lasagna.
The afternoon rolled by to the tunes of carols piped through the Bluetooth speaker as my daughter and I assembled the fixings for a dinner that could easily feed double our party, but you never can have too many leftover, right?
After a quiet, but delicious meal accompanied by more Christmas carols, we settled down to Zoom with a few extended members of our family. It was not ideal, a bit awkward at times, but it was the best we could all do to celebrate the day together. Although we had just lost a beloved member of the family (from the natural decline of age), I think we were all counting our blessings that day.
Here’s hoping and fervently praying that 2021 brings a year filled with an abundance of joy and health for all.