Friday, October 14, 2005

An Exercise in Exorcism

All that sleep and yet I don’t feel rested. Sleep is full of dreams with high octane emotion and high voltage images in colors so intense they seam to sear my retinas so that the colors of waking life are grayed out, no more than a watermarked backdrop for the dramas playing out in my mind. More real than real, these dreams intrude themselves into every moment. The images haunt and the emotions harass me throughout my days and nights. I could write several pages a day for a year on the themes and intricate plots and the archetypes of those dreams of just the last ten days.

The one I woke from Wednesday afternoon still has me in its grip. The entire dream, comprising dozens of scenes, took place on the property of the Bible Chapel (the non-denominational, fundamentalist, church I was raised in) and the houses to either side of it (one which my Aunt and Uncle, as caretakers of the property, lived in for nearly forty years, the other which my husband and I lived in between 1993 and 1999--after I had stopped attending and during the slow-motion collapse of the church under doctrinal dispute which culminated in the selling of the property.)

This dream began with me setting up a crib in a small fenced in yard that existed only before 1977 when the construction of a kitchen-equipped fellowship room and Sunday school rooms began. My reasons for setting up this crib were vague but I seemed to be expecting to watch a baby for someone--something I was well known for before, during and after any events held at the church, but also family get-togethers held at my Aunt and Uncle’s house.

After setting up the crib I went inside the church building to get something. Toys or diapers or blankets or possibly the baby? Once in there the scenes of the dream shifted often and arbitrarily and all of them were a whirl of motion and color and activity. The themes of each were some mixture of looking for something, sorting collections of items, a variety of housecleaning tasks. The scenes took place in rooms in all three buildings mentioned plus the three garages on the properties and these rooms and the landscaping outside could contain objects and configurations from any time between the late fifties and late nineties mixed together.

Also present throughout were the people from my past in any way associated with any areas or eras of those properties--and they too could be as they were from any of those forty-odd years without chronological logic. Or any other logic for that matter as they could also be in two or more places or times at once. By which I mean that I could leave the presence of someone only to have them appear again in the same or another area or era, at the same or another age.

I never worked so hard and was never so exhausted in waking life as in this dream. It seemed endless. It seemed that in these few minutes of real-time that dreams are known to be limited to that I had lived (or relived) a lifetime with all of its angst compacted and focused like a laser beam.

The one figure noticeably absent from any of these scenes was my Dad. There was no sense that it was he that I was looking for or expecting to encounter either. There was possibly a sense that he was observing my quest or that the errand I was on was at his behest or that I was going to have to explain or report my activity to him. But that wasn’t clear. What became clear to my dream self near the end of the dream was that I was not going to find what I was looking for on or near this property and I needed to go elsewhere to fetch it back there.

In the final scene I was preparing to get in a car to leave when someone asked me about the baby. And it was then that I ‘remembered’ that I had put the baby down for a nap in that crib and had left it unattended as I searched. Frantic with fear and self-recrimination, I went running to the crib which was not where I had left it but was now setting in the middle of the exit driveway which ran between the church and the house in which I once lived. The crib was empty and I was nearly abject with despair.

Then someone led me to a sliding glass patio door in the side of the church which never existed in any era of waking reality. This door opened on a room which also had never existed. In this room a woman with long flowing hair sat in a rocking chair holding an infant. The baby, a girl about six months old, saw me and squirmed with exuberance and reached out for me. It was then that I realized that this baby was my own, not one that I had been watching for someone else. With that realization all the emotions of guilt and shame for abandoning her intensified.

I could not meet the eyes of the woman as she handed the baby over. But I caught a glimpse out of the side of my eyes (something I can only do in dreams now) and knew that she was full of doubt and regret at the need to release the baby back to me and a deep yearning to keep--in the sense of protecting, nurturing and taking responsibility for--her. I realized that she had no confidence in me, nor should she, and I was filled with a shame as viscous and as suffocating as quicksand.

This shame has clung to me waking and sleeping for over forty hours. Writing this has been an exercise in exorcism in hopes that clothing it in words would tame it and sharing it will diffuse some of the intensity of feeling. Hoping also that the act of confessing is in some sense taking responsibility for that baby--meaning whatever aspect of my psyche she symbolizes.

0 tell me a story:

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