On Sat 1/30 from 2-4 pm Bridges of Wellness in Ft. Lauderdale Presents Deborah DeNicola,
author of the Amazon best-selling memoir, The Future That Brought Her Here in a special event.
Deborah DeNicola is the winner of the 2013 Carol Bly Short Story Contest sponsored by Writers Rising Up with her story “Come Alone to the Alone.” http://www.writersrisingup.org/carol-bly-short-story-contest/essay-winners/carol-bly-short-story-contest/deborah-denicola-2013-winner-carol-bly-short-story-contest
Come Alone to the Alone
Come, True light.
Come Life Eternal,
Come, Treasure without Name.
Come, Alone to the Alone . . .
—An Invocation to the Holy Spirit by Saint Symeon
It was hard to tell if it was morning or afternoon from Anastasia’s view. Out the sliding glass doors, a world of pink-lined clouds and reflecting water. She used to know the time instinctively by the light, where it fell, where it failed to fall, where it shadowed. There was such confusion now, she dreaded appearing foolish, best to be quiet, keep her noise inside, keep anxiety from detonating into livewire energy. Cling to that growing sense that she was lightly tethered to the earth. And here beside her wheelchair was the same scattering of women, always there, or so it seemed, as she remembered. Back when she could remember.
They came and went interchangeably. What did it matter if their skin color was black or white or something in between? She was alone with The Alone inside a great, floating bubble. And when she spoke or seemed to speak, the bubble swelled its membrane, voices rocking through like the ocean down the street. When they spoke, she felt they were all under water. These faces, wide-angled and drifting in and out of her own, were indecipherable, untranslatable.
One face, she knew, belonged to her oldest daughter, the one who could never find a decent job, preferring to hide in her room painting flowers. Those of the darker complexion were more familiar. They held her hands, fed her, dressed her each day, gently lifted her thin arms, her crooked elbows, through the armholes of sweaters and blouses. They spoke in a language of lilting music and their sounds reverberated, bouncing about her brain without meaning. She would smile and nod but mostly she was too tired to play along when memories swam into underworld craters, never clear enough to turn a corner. She couldn’t completely follow their chatter, a kind of birdscat comprehensible only by its rhythm and lull that sang her in and out of a cradle-like sleep.
Where she was, why and how she got there fit together in her mind like mis-matched puzzle pieces or frames with no interior landscape. Had it always been so? She thought she recognized those green gauzy drapes, hadn’t they forever veiled her world? Sometimes, one of the black-faced girls (was she a girl or a boy?) doused Anastasia’s mouth in lipstick, powdered her nose and plunked a mirror down in front of her. She couldn’t refuse her own reflection but it was not the self she recalled. When did my hair go silver? Why am I no longer blonde? What is that mushrooming growth on my forehead? Sometimes her very self was enclosed in the glass—just another weird capsule she swallowed and found herself inside of. Anastasia of Wonderland, that’s who she was now.
Other times the faces fed her flavored applesauce, colors like iodine. “Where is the boy?” She once questioned when her mind could still bully words into a sentence. “Anastasia, I am a woman, I have breasts, look!” the so-called boy protested, lifting her scrubs to expose a lace brassiere and two plump bosoms fully in their prime. “Why you can solve any problem!” Anastasia replied aloud, amazed this boy could also be a girl. But that was months ago. Now she no longer spoke. Now her pills were crushed; now she no longer fed herself. But when she forgot—and she so easily forgot—the dominant thought roaring haywire down her neuron runways was always a plea to be left alone.
And always the daughter’s pale, freckled face, those stone-washed eyes hidden behind large glasses. When had she aged? She was not as Anastasia remembered. The adolescent doll she’d dressed up for years. And wasn’t there another daughter’s face occasionally buoying up and down? Were there really two? If she could only count, she might recall.
Days stretched along the finger canals, stretched under the bridges where geckos were hidden, stretched down from these dark waters into the Intercoastal and farther into the sea where they backed up on themselves repetitiously in foamy waves. But she herself was damaged, an oily spillage blackening her mind like a swarming army conquering a country. There were fewer synapses firing and deeper neuron ditches. Days were redundant. Nights, impossible. The long dream moving into evening blurred with her disturbed perceptions. Still there were meals to consume. Pasta or baked potatoes. Lucia fed her each day as the daughter alternately hovered and hid. But lately she had clamped her lips, the taste was so stale, the texture, beyond heavy. So much effort to chew and then she had to remember to swallow.
They studied her and Anastasia was annoyed with the vigil. She could not admit it but her own daughter made her nervous, the way she gaggled about, always on the phone or fussing with money in her wallet or looking into that small TV she carried around. Kids and their toy gadgets. Spoiled brats, all. And her daughter talked to everyone about her, even in front of her blank face. Just because she didn’t respond to their silly stimuli, their baby talk and baby toys, didn’t mean she missed the entire gist of the conversation.
Denial was comfortable, a beautiful thing. But a voice within insisted, you are trapped in a body that no longer responds to commands from a mind with cracks and gaps and sticky tar balls. Come alone, come alone to the alone . . . The voice scared her. It was as if she was outside the three dimensions, crossing back and forth into some floating world with transparent specters swimming about. The long gone husband, the seven siblings who had slipped gracefully into the heaven she couldn’t find. Her elderly parents appeared in doorways smiling, reaching their hands toward her. From one spongy moment to the next, shapes grew large and then dissolved.
All of them, the flesh and blood ones, were watching her now. A nurse had come and wrapped her arms in the pressure of measures. Anastasia knew enough to pretend she understood procedures; she recognized white lab coats from some clouded place far back in her brain. She still wanted to be seen as agreeable and aware. For all her disdain at the boring reportage, she tried to listen. Half of someone’s sentence might make sense then the latter part would cut the cord to understanding, clauses became loose words with no foundation, their roots would rise and float among the other dirigibles, spitting alphabets of doubt. Time itself had time-outs.
She’d lift into the ethers for an extended stay like the big balloons the elder daughter brought in on her birthday. Anastasia was helium clinging to the ceiling. Round shapes gaped above the heads of grandchildren. She didn’t know the names of these smiling boys but knew they were babies yesterday, and today, almost men. She rode the moments that replayed themselves over and over. Weren’t these same people in the room yesterday? What déjà vu keeps rewinding? Why do they look at me with such urgency, like starving puppies?
It had become too busy. Doors opening and closing, people to and fro, trays of food, bright packages on the armchair. A new bed that moved magically up and down. Anastasia suspected that someone was at the helm of this confusion, and she looked quietly for her aide. She couldn’t remember when she’d ever had a black girl in her house but just the same, she wanted Lucia to feed her and Lucia to take her away into the bedroom, to lift her atrophied legs onto the bed, tuck her stiff arms into a nightgown, remove her from the din of language. Her favorite moments were sitting alone with Lucia, each of them with her respective magazine. She tried to read, even though it was all pretense and lost its meaning soon enough.
In her head she spoke to God. After a lifetime of praying, this? Anger arose though she couldn’t articulate it. Sometimes she was insulted seeing her daughter fawning over her, the others cooing. Embarrassed by this much attention, she felt a stone would go hard in her stomach. When it tightened, she closed her eyes, kept them shut through journeys to different daylight. This intense focus streaming all around her. Too much. All she’d ever asked was not to become a burden. And now they’d made of her a burden. How could she ever forgive them?
She expected to expire, but how? How to die when the sun came through the curtains each morning with some figure standing over the bed ready to bathe her? Life with no memory—no regrets—what was the point of death when she had all she needed with these patient girls who came and went? She had once loved her daughter, though, of course, she had proven an inept caretaker, and definitely now she preferred Lucia.
She stared at “The Madonna of Fatima” framed on the wall and she used to like it when the daughter prayed with her, but now words were just so much dust brushed off the knick- knacks. Whatever happened to her purse, her money? How lovely to no longer care. Perhaps living was not so bad. The aides handled her like glass, and her daughter meant well. She wanted to see her succeed at whatever it was she did that appeared to drive her crazy. But living, even now, in this condition, had to have some purpose. She sought understanding as if she could trace it out of the photographs she barely recognized. Sometimes a space would clear in her mind like a camera brings angles into focus, and for a short time she would remember years back, her grandmother, cornflowers in a field on the farm. The butter churn. Her brothers herding the cows.
Later it had been a life of comfort and travel, children, graduations, vacations. But no one would know how she suffered when her husband passed away so suddenly, so young. How something shifted inside her, as if she’d swallowed a rat and it slowly chewed through her abdominals. Only now it had reached the nodules in her brain, the dense matter, like meat one cuts open to assess temperature and toughness.
After the tragedy something inside shut tight and never opened again. She housed a home for a rodent within her body. Still, she became an actress, a gracious hostess, the matriarchal monument whom all seemed content to believe in. She’d given parties, backyard barbecues, a drunken neighbor fell once into the privet hedge . . . She nearly smiled now, remembering. The children laughed. The children grew.
But why were they all speaking at once in another language in a register she’d never heard? If she closed her eyes maybe the sounds could clear. Still one would imagine the bubbles above their heads with words in them, and she couldn’t depend on those designs entertaining her as the dramatic daughter emoted loudly, like her husband always had, often on the verge of manic-panic. How could she die in the midst of the repressed hysteria tightening around her? How could she leave when she was so obviously needed?
No one had known. Stoic, and proud of herself for that, even as she saw the life she’d had as the Doctor’s wife, the parties, country clubs, new cars, family photos . . . drain into an abyss of disappointment. There had been so much hope. He’d been a good man until the end, but no one in his family would help when she’d asked, each one turning away. In those days there were no ”twelve steps,” no support groups, just the elephant squatting in the living room. She needed to spare her kids the truth, save them from what no one was strong enough to bear—no one but herself. Yet without the adequate time allocated to grieving, she never recovered her own ebullience and life lost its luster.
Still, she’d stood up tall and raised those children, dammit, watching every penny. She’d put them through college, into cars and marriages—until she could sell everything and move to Florida, then travel the world on her own . . . Eventually the lies she told them about their father’s death took hold and stuck. The picture she painted could have hung in the hall next to his own self-portrait. A few martinis and Johnny Carson mixed the facts up and made it all go away.
Wasn’t it bed time now? Why wouldn’t they undress her? She tore at buttons, rustled material through her fingers . . . why did they snap her back up? She sat rigid in her wheelchair and after a minute or two, the irritation in her brain snagged and pulled until she was back at it, all thumbs . . .
Before bed, she must check the house. The daughter would leave lights on, doors unlocked, windows open. She rocked the wheelchair back and forward, got it up on one wheel until her aide stood and forcefully straightened her, pinning her foot. A nursing home wouldn’t allow the much-needed restraining belt that continually saved her from a fall.
But she thought she could buck right up out of the wheelchair unharmed on her own. And she was too angry to be grateful when forcefully stopped from a dangerous fall. She looked around the room at all of them. How could she leave the chores to others, how to sleep without double-locking the patio doors? Would they remember to close off the porch, turn on the alarms, set the thermostat, check faucets? How to sleep, how to ever let go into eternal sleep when her daughter might burn down the house?’
Something exploded in her head. Not pain, but a cacophony in color as if a flower truck smacked a building head-on. They surrounded her now, wringing her arms as she heard words of a prayer all askew, skidding over the air. The girl must have laid her in her bed. The priest’s finger on her forehead. Hail Mary Full of Grace . . . She couldn’t find the lines . . . something . . . something . . . and . . . “the hour of death.” She pleated the sheets with her marbled fingers as if shifting her rosary beads. Pear-shaped tears pooled in the daughter’s eyes.
Suddenly Anastasia sent forth a breath, and with effort, the smallest bud of a smile—while the rest of her, what was left of her—tumbled—tossed like a bridal bouquet into the open sun—then broke— into fresh blooming petals for them all to scatter. For them to catch as catch can where they may.
Free-writing in a journal about dreams is another way to access the unconscious. Just the kinesthetic movement of writing longhand can help unexpected material to arise. I title my dreams to zero-in on the theme. One example of discovering healing through a dream can be found in my dream notes entitled “Tim and Arlene’s Daughter.” Tim and Arlene are longtime, Jungian-oriented, friends of mine, they are married but never had children. Still, my dream centered on a visit I pay them where I meet their adolescent daughter, just beginning to get her bearings.
In my notes I think about Tim and Arlene’s salient characteristics and what features, passed down by each of them, a daughter might inherit. Though I very much loved both of my parents, I must imagine Tim and Arlene as my parents to see what the dream’s saying. The dream tells me that I am consciously and unconsciously re-parenting myself.
Tim & Arlene’s Daughter
Who are Tim and Arlene? Married soul mates who met in a junior high chemistry class in Orlando, Florida, where I’m planning to attend a conference in a few weeks. Tim and Arlene’s long marriage has outlasted other attractions. They’ve stayed loyal to the idealized version of one another. In actuality they have no children; in the dream they have a daughter, an adolescent, smart, sweet, polite . . . Who would she be, Tim and Arlene’s adolescent daughter? Tim’s brilliant exuberance, his lightning-quick, serpentine, mind—A wordsmith, professor, carpenter, who like Odysseus, literally built a marriage bed. A self-taught musician on the piano, flute, didgeridoo—And who is Arlene? I think of her internal intensity, her ephemeral presence, her sharp, philosophical thought, analytical mind, introverted love of the dark—Yes, indeedy, easy for me to see parts of myself in both of them! Isn’t that why we’re friends? I’ve got both their poles, so their daughter would be an interesting amalgam . . . The dream is set in Maine where we’ve all lived. Tim has a sailfish. I’m leaving after a wonderful visit sailing with them, “crossing the waters,” indicating psychic transition. The weather is overcast, rain will fall. The daughter of Tim and Arlene would have a stable foundation to sail off from . . . My adolescent self has been wounded but this young girl wouldn’t have suffered so. It seems I have progressed to showing great potential launched as a new daughter of creativity and dreamwork.
And although “rain” can be interpreted several ways, I see it here as a self-cleansing, the washing away of guilt and fear. The more courageous, balanced woman I am awakening into, come clean.
Another dream was simply this: I was wrapping a present for my friend Jennifer. I went to college with her and we are still friends many many years later, though I don’t live near her. She has had an interesting life as will come out in my sample. I admire Jennifer, so the dream is telling me that I have an inner Jennifer. My job is to get in touch with her, make her conscious. In this case she is a positive shadow figure.
A Present for Jennifer
I’m wrapping a present for Jennifer, that’s the whole dream. Okay, so who is Jennifer—lovely, beautiful, generous, competent, wealthy , corporate Jennifer. Or Jennifer in college, the Mademoiselle model, her silken long blonde hair. Jennifer the first one of our girl group to marry, her husband, Handsome Harold, and the first one of us to have a child. Earth Mother Jennifer, Hippie Jennifer. Capricorn Jennifer, like me. She who struck out against her parent’s approval, she who moved to Canada to make the best of the little she had while Harold when to grad school. Jennifer, mother of Elizabeth and Lindsay, look-alike daughters, triple Jennifers. She who left emotionally abusive Hank and returned, daughters in tow, to NYC. Jennifer who lived in a commune with other families, and fell in love with Ted. Jennifer of the secreatarial job, that grew and grew, administrator to corporate PR for a media company. Jennifer of Southern Connecticut, hostesse of huge house parties and Thanksgiving dinners, mother of two more children with ted, and all along working. Jennifer at the center of an infinite ring of family and friends. Open house Jennifer. Jennifer who suddenly lost Ted after twenty years of fun and wonder. Lost him in a ten minute heart attack in his sleep, in their bed, Ted gone and the children watching. Jennifer orchestrator of the Mother-of-all-Funerals, Jennifer sad on the steps of her front porch. Then a few months later, Motherless Jennifer, her mom taken all at once. Jennifer who sent two young children off to college in the shadow of these two huge deaths. Jennifer with the best boss, best job, golden-parachute Jennifer, and yet another man appears for her, widow and widower in perfect timing, gifts-to-each-other, heaven sent.
That must be it. My mother’s stroke this week. I must make myself a model of Jennifer whose confidence and courage goes unshaken. I’m wrapping her a present. I’m to give the Jennifer in myself some kind of credit, kudos, a present in the present moment, to be there and accept, and move on, taking care of my children, my books, my work. Congratulate myself, gift myself. I’m not her but I am her, my so different soul-sister, even our birthdays, one day apart.
Just the free-writing exercise alone produces much without necessary analysis. In writing, the unconscious mind gains momentum and rises. It’s almost ahead of us, we can’t write fast enough to discover what we’ll say next. When the mind is relaxed as it is in sleep, as it is when involved in a creative process, truth will reveal itself.
Experience the dream image process with Deborah@intuitivegateways.com
This is the second part of a 3 part essay on Healing Dream Image Work
We are sometimes gifted with healing dreams to compensate for our sorrows. Throughout the years I have been following my dreams, both sad and celebratory scenarios would appear alternately and sometimes simultaneously depending upon what was happening psychically in my life. C.G. Jung referred to some dreams as “numinous” because they appear other-worldly, often implanted vividly in our memory, carrying an emotional charge of mystery, beauty and wonder. Trees glowing with fruit, discoveries of fascinating objects, archetypal religious figures, deceased friends and relatives close to the dreamer’s heart, dreams of weddings, pregnancies and babies all fall into this category.
For all the troubling dreams I’ve had, others were numinous. Sometimes dark and light elements would be in the same dream. One dream presented an attack dog that transformed to a Pegasus. Another of a snakebite ended with gorgeous crystals growing out of my fingers. In fact, dreams are often born of the tension between oppositional attitudes, judgments or opinions. Everything in the dream is an aspect of ourselves and we hold within us multiple subjectivities. We are indeed multi-dimensional beings and some dreams can even contain what we might call “bleed-throughs” of a previous life.
Numinous dreams can be recognized by the strength of their imprint on the dreamer. I still recall a dream I had when I was twelve where I was dancing in a forest with exquisite light to Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.” At the time I remember drawing the dream to try and recapture the euphoria I felt. I don’t recall what might have provoked the dream but as a child I wanted to be a ballerina and must have remembered myself in the freedom of the dance many times. In later years, I held onto it by preserving it in a prose poem.
A hedge of trees fences me in sleep. An aisle of cypresses, young woman dancing between them, celebrating her serpentine shadow inward and outward above fairies’ lairs. The sky waxes creamsicle-tangerine, not quite titian, and the cypresses, so green they’re black. They have no arms, though legs hold up their skirts and all too human feet tramp down the continent of chartreuse grass. We are up to our crowns in Tchaikovsky’s strings—I am twelve years old and so grateful to be dreaming, grateful for the loving animal in my lap, one wrist strung with Aunt Adeline’s rosary, the other hand on Grandma Clementine’s tiara, the old world songs stroking my hair.
The dream is the most direct route to unconscious wounds. And it will gauge how much progress or regression is going on in daily living. But dreams are not solely composed of past emotional experiences, trauma and the like. We have “numinous” dreams, as well as “prescient” or “prospective” dreams that will indicate the future, and moreover, we can “incubate” these dreams. We can ask for dreams to help us make decisions, solve problems, and resolve issues. Our dreams also compensate for an egoic position that is too strongly held, especially in victimization. We can think too highly of ourselves and/or too lowly, and the dream will help us find balance by showing the opposite of what we think is true about ourselves. The reason Jung referred to these dreams as “compensatory” was because they compensated for the conscious viewpoint.
Our minds file the images of our cultural icons and project them into new archetypes. I’ve had numerous dreams about performing with Madonna. I love dancing but as an introvert, I need to find and courageously identify my brazen, inner Rock Star. These dreams are fun and healing in that they show me I can achieve more success by putting myself out there dancing on stage, bringing down the house. I recall my Madonna dreams having many costume changes. They come at times when I am trying on new attitudes, expanding ideas about who I am.
Many of my healing dreams have had spiritual themes, especially when I was involved in a spiritual writing project or research. I’ve also dreamt of hanging out with Jesus! I remember a dream when I was walking with St. Paul and Jesus as if I’d just joined their club, as if I were struck by lightning and illumined. A medium once told me that particular dream concerned the faith I’d had in past lives. I awoke feeling blessed. In my memoir I’ve written about dreams relating to the Feminine Goddess, the rejected Black Madonna who exemplifies the beneficent, powerful, archetypal feminine which had been excised from Patriarchal Christianity and is now emerging in many powerful women worldwide. The 21st century has been deemed the century of women, although I think it’s as much about the feminine qualities becoming empowered, the power of compassion and nurturing and kindness. Not that only women have these characteristics, but men who have developed their so-called “feminine side.”
In a dream the point of view we take is almost always that of the ego. We see the projections around us, people, landscapes, objects, animals as having objective reality. But we don’t identify with the projections. Most of the time we would flat out deny that the angry tsunami about to break over our head, the terrorist pistol-whipping the airline pilot, the black Doberman with jaws like a shark, the homeless street-person picking through trash, the lewd-looking, busty waitress . . . has anything to do with a part of ourselves. Yet an experienced dream guide can move us in slow motion out of the ego’s position and into the bodies of these characters, and with careful questioning sudden realizations occur. Not only is the shadowy aspect recognized, we often discover where the trigger, the parallel of that emotion, is showing up in our lives now.
When we know which projection has been activated, we can see the whole situation from a new perspective. We will identify the feeling from a past situation that may still have a strong hold over us. The dream stretches, opening a back office onto the past, showing the door we’ve just stepped through again in the present. Once we can consciously experience these realizations within the imaginative dreamscape, the dream can be taken onward. Once we know the reason we had the dream, we may even stay imaginatively in the dreamscape and watch alternative scenarios arise.
As we change old synaptic pathways by instilling new imagery, our unconscious mind also changes and may deliver up those special dream gifts that tell us we’re making progress. Although there will be regressions, and the unconscious keeps serving up new areas that “need work,” we do shift. The body’s field of energy works in mysterious ways attracting new experiences. And who’s to say our life in the dream dimensions isn’t part of some unfolding, divine plan?
One healing dream I had was auditory, quite simply a song. This dream, once again, came in response to a difficult, emotional period. I could barely recall anything of the dream except that I was singing, or listening to the Beatles’ song “Blackbird.” When I awoke I didn’t remember the lyrics except the first line. Fortunately we live in the age of the internet and I could easily access the lyrics that go on to speak about broken wings healing, learning to fly, looking forward to a rising moment when I’ll see light in place of darkness.
It was as if The Beatles were singing to me, encouraging optimism and renewal, forward movement and freedom at a moment I needed those very attributes. The broken wings were mending, would have to mend in order to soar fearlessly into the black night. The reference to “broken” helps me accept the time in the past that left me paralyzed and shows me my mindset is a key to actualization. I took it as a challenge and a boon to my prevailing mood.
Another adjacent fact is that I was fifteen when my father died and had just turned sixteen when I went to the Beatles’ first concert in the United States at Carnegie Hall in February 1964. The decade of Beatles years paralleled my formative years. Although the song “Blackbird” comes later in their career, I credit my unconscious mind for stringing together the pertinent symbols found in the lyrics of The Fab Four. Since my father’s death was the seminal event of my life, the one that marked my unconscious, I consider this a very healing dream.
Check in for Part 3 on Creative Ways to Work with Dreams