by Angeliska on November 11, 2015
I woke this morning of November the 11th to strange dreams again. My subconscious likes to dredge them up for me on this day, make me face them in the wavering dawn light, parse their dark meanings, sit with their harsh truths. I dreamt that I was pregnant, with a stillborn baby. This is the second dream I’ve had like this. I’m always wearing black in these dreams, smoothing the soft jersey over my roundness, a glass alembic flask, churning a nigredo. Last time, my belly was too small, the child unformed, not ready to be born yet. The crones, grey wise women are gathered around me in the dim center of my unfinished house, listening to my belly with a long funnel, shaking their heads sadly, saying “Her heart’s stopped beating… She was too little to live. A partial birth.” I know I will have to still give birth to what’s left, and I am distraught and howling, banging my head and hands into the wall – making a hole there in the rotted wood through which bright sunlight and cobalt blue beams break through. I feel like that was my last chance: that what I had will never come again. This time, there are many doctors are there to guide me through. Maybe it’s the wise crones again, but in white scrubs, their long grey hair tied up, wrinkled faces hidden behind white face masks. I have to expel the baby, give birth to what’s dead. I am squatting over the kitchen table, crying. Blood, sweat, and tears. All for nothing. Earlier in the dream, I helped a fearful woman give birth in just this way – successfully. These dreams are fraught with anxiety and sorrow, wrought in themes of birth, sex and death. I wake thinking: well, of course. Today is the New Moon in Scorpio, the sign that is all about just those very things. I scroll through the morning’s pages, and it’s all there: friends dying, their babies born, terrible tragedies, miraculous blessings, all at once, on the same day. Just like always, but sometimes it feels like it comes in these big black rainbow waves, these monumental tsunamis of birth/sex/death/life/love/tears/loss/joy rolling over you so fast and so hard you can barely see straight. What’s what? Which is which? It’s all together, all the time: this life. I’ve been having these birth dreams for a while, and I think I understand them better now – even as they get more and more complex.
For a long time, I dreamt I’d given birth to babies that ended up misplaced or neglected. I’d suddenly remember the infant I left on the sideboard and guiltily go hunt for where they might have gotten to. It was a self-abandonment, because the babies were always me! Then I started to have lots of raw and bloody labor dreams. These often felt full of trials and triumphs, I suppose the way most births go. Giving birth to myself. It’s almost as if I’m going forwards by falling backwards: into my own symbolic death. You see, I thought for a long time that these dreams were about motherhood – about this long held wish I had to be a mother, to nurture a tiny life inside my body, to feed my child from my breast. If it’s still possible one day, I hope to have the opportunity to experience that. If I can, if it’s right. But there are no guarantees, and I don’t have too much time left for it to suddenly be even a little bit closer to right than it is now. I’ve realized that until I really and truly get a firm grip on this whole self-love and self-care thing, I have no business trying to love and care for a small person who requires so much of that. I believe that goes for everyone, though I realize we are often forced to figure it out along the way. There’s no perfectly right time, and no one is ever really ready. But I am doing my work, and we’ll see what happens. One of my teachers said to me recently, “Do your work, and all things will come.” He keeps telling me this, so I keep trying, keep working. I know this dying into life is part of it. Being willing to let the old dreams, the dead dreams go. Flushing out what’s left, what’s stagnated. Clearing the air, the space for something new. I do not know what this newness looks like, so I just have to trust. Grieving the death of the old me: the tragedy of the sloughed selves, the old shades, cast off aspects of who we once were. I know in dreams I’ll likely continue for a while to be pregnant with myself, with possibility – learning how to carry those dreams to term. Finding the right ways to make the new dreams stick, to nourish them into being.
Room Eleven at the Eleven Inn for a girl born on the 10th day of the first month at 11:11am. Luckiest number. A month and a half ago, I was celebrating the full moon at the Eleven Inn in Balmorhea with a group of amazing friends. I felt that night that a part of all of us would be frozen in amber that night, watching the eclipse through a telescope, laying in the grass under the cottonwood tree, telling stories and secrets and wishes. Forever.
Last year, I dreamt of a botched wedding, a stranger bridegroom, and how it all went wrong. That cherished wish I had so much wanted to go right. I was willing to go through with anything, put up with anything, to be married at the end of the day. To finally belong. To have someone say to me: I choose you – forever. But that was in the dream only – in waking life, I called it off. It’s such a powerful thing, to be brave enough to do. To say: “I’m not ready.” or, “I’m not sure this is right. This may not be really what I want.” Or, for me – “I want this more than anything, I want you, us – forever. But not like this. If it stays like this is won’t end well.” And so it was done. I speak with so many people in my line of work who tell me how they knew, knew the awful truth while their maid of honor zipped them up in a sheath of white silk, knew it wasn’t right sitting in the limo holding their mama’s hand, knew it was too late as they walked down the aisle. But it’s never too late to say, “Stop! I am not sure I can go through with this. I’m sorry for disappointing you all.” No caterer or venue deposit or plane tickets or ring is worth getting married when you know you’re not ready for all that a marriage can bring. It is a real thing. I know this now. And now I can’t imagine sharing my life with someone again in quite that same way. Signing my name on the dotted line. Joining forces so completely. It would have to be so, so right. I don’t even know what that looks like anymore – and I’ve fought so hard to get my footing back as an independent person, a whole person who is doing all the things in life without a partner to lean on, to consider, to deal with. All the good things, and all the bad things. I heard a thought recently, that in a relationship, you’re either a project, or an ally. I don’t want to be anyone else’s project, and I have no time or will to think of fixing another person. But an ally – what would that be like, I wonder? The idea of partnership has taken on a whole new form and meaning for me. I respect the depths that two people can go to in each other when trust and desire are matched. The mysteries of relationship continue to unfold for me even though I’m choosing (mostly) to observe from the sidelines. The dance goes on around me while I practice the steps. I’d like to have a dance partner one day – a travel companion, someone to go on adventures with. Someone who will sleep out under the stars next to me, walk up the mountain with me.
She lives, the bird says, and means nothing
silly. She is dead and available,
the fox says, knowing about the spirits.
Not the picture at the funeral,
not the object of grieving. She is dead
and you can have that, he says. If you can
love without politeness or delicacy,
the fox says, love her with your wolf heart.
As the dead are to be desired.
Not the way long marriages are,
nothing happening again and again.
Not in the woods or the fields.
Not in the cities. The painful love of being
permanently unhoused. Not the color, but the stain.
– HOW TO LOVE THE DEAD, Jack Gilbert
Despite the heavy themes of my subconscious dreamtime wanderings, I had a very nice day. This day for me is reclaimed now. It’s mine again. Sometimes mine to spend wrestling with the old things, the things that happened, and the things that did not happen. Those things are mine, too. I don’t mind. I can claim it all. I let go of my blame, my resentment, my anger. I let go of the story of hurt, and being fucked over, and lost. I released my victimhood into the wild, and it was the kindest thing I ever did for myself. It happened when I was ready, and not before. The time I spent in the bottomless pit was entirely necessary. We can learn a lot in the abyss, in our own oubliettes. When I was down there, I would hear friend’s voices calling down to me, “You’re strong, you’re strong, you’re so strong! You can do this, you’ll make it through this!” I knew they were right, but I resented it – having to be so strong all my life, having to muscle through all the loss, keep a stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on. I wanted just one person to tell me that it was okay to be weak and broken and lost for a while. I needed someone to tell me that it was okay to fall apart, to grieve. Luckily, I had those friends too.
It took a little while, but I found my true strength there after nothing else was left. I learned how to call upon reserves of inner resilience that helped me keep my head down and persevere through the tangled woods. Not to give up, but to keep walking through my own nightmare, until I came out the other end. I know my own strength now. It’s not a buttoned up toughness, it’s not machismo, or empty bad-assery. It’s all the times I cried in front of strangers, it’s in all the ways I asked for help, and it’s in being willing to take responsibility for all the ways I participated in creating this mess for myself. Now I know how strong I am. Nothing can take that away from me now. I mark this day with writing again this year, because it helps me to see and understand how far I’ve come. How much I’ve grown, learned, healed. I’m not the same person that I was. I am and I’m not. That’s part of it, part of the process, and what happens after big traumas, big life changes. You’re a different creature, after. You have to learn how to work your wings, how to dance in your new skin.
Sitting with these memories today, what strikes me most are the kind, true, wise words from so many friends – ones I know, and some I’ve not yet met: bearing witness, sending love, encouragements and blessings for where this journey might someday bring me. I remember reading them at the time, and trying to take them to heart – but I was so numbed with pain then. Blind, deaf and dumb in the face of so much brutal change. I nodded at these good words, and tried hard to absorb them, to believe in them. I know many of them made their way in. I am so grateful for all the ways I’ve been held, guided and supported by my family of friends. They are the ones who can truly see how far I’ve come, and imagine how much more I could grow. Today, it’s all of the friends who read and who reached out, who were with me on that journey all along that I appreciate most – because I see that I was never really so alone. I had to go it on my own – forge the rough waters, and cry in darkened rooms. I had to feel the full breadth of that terrible aloneness – to know its dimensions, its limits. And now I know. The descent into the underworld is necessary. It cannot be contrived, or planned for, or orchestrated. It plunges you straight into the depths before you have a chance to catch your breath or get your bearings. And once you get down there, you have to face yourself. That wounded, betrayed, abandoned, forgotten about self. The dark sister who took all your pain for you, who now will make you pay. Hag-self, a lone Fury – terrible to reckon with. I wrestled with her for a long time, until our battle became an embrace. Ereshkigal and Inanna in the underworld. The monsters I ran from were in me all along, and only needed to be shown love, tenderness, compassion. Mercy. Forgiveness. Peace.
What did I do today? I woke up and meditated and wrote my stillbirth dream down. I drank tea and ate homemade tacos with my sweet friend. I played with my wonderful dogs, and they made me laugh with their antics. I wrote and wrote at my kitchen table and the golden afternoon light poured in. It was a gorgeous day. I went out into it and took myself shopping for incense and candles and aromatherapy gadgets and moon calendars. I treated myself nice and took my time and found a quiet corner to nibble salmon tartines, drink mint lemonade and write about The Lovers. Ironic, in a way, that today’s the day I needed to write about that particular tarot card. I’d been dreading it, really. But it felt good to write about what love is, and what it’s not. The consuming fantasy of romantic love, and the magic of unconditional love. I still have so much to learn about it, to understand about this card, and this subject. The union of opposites, the powerful alchemy that comes from joining them. That’s heartening in a way, and I hope I get the chance. No one has ever figured this shit out, in the whole goddamned history of humanity. It confounds us all, and yet – we know it’s everything. Love is all there is. I found a beautiful golden hoop with garnet (my birthstone) and rose quartz for self-love, made by a friend. I asked another friend re-pierce my septum and now I have this little adornment again. It was originally pierced when I was 15 by my friend who died this year. Full circle, that little golden loop. That it came with some pain feels right somehow, like the tattoos I got to mark my passage through this wild and strange valley. Owning the pain of that transformation, the rebirth, constant regeneration. Afterwards, I took one of my dearest friends out to dinner for her birthday, and we talked and laughed and I drove home through windy streets alone, to my place, the place where I belong. My home. I lit the candles and ate a pistachio eclair, and now I sit here, writing. My dog keeps putting her toy in my lap and gazing at me poignantly, patiently. I am not alone, actually. In a little while, I’ll crawl into my big bed and rest. Most nights, I dream of animal spirits, guides: horses with very distinct personalities, little brown bats trapped in my house, giant condors that let me fly on their broad backs over the Andes.
My life looks so, so different from how it once did, and yet I’m here, in the same place. My perspective has shifted radically, and I for once, am becoming the agent of my own changes – taking charge of what needs to be let go of, rather than always waiting too long and letting it just happen to me without my consent. No longer staying past the time where it made any sense to linger. Trying to hold on to what is falling apart. I’ve always been good at loyally loving the ones who don’t want to be with me, not really. And for some reason, not loving the ones who might love to be with me. I want to change this pattern, so much. I’m working on being okay with receiving. Working on wanting, but not needing. Taking action, embracing the transitions, and hopefully getting a little more graceful about it. These are the big lessons. A cold front is blowing in tonight, and the gales are tossing the trees, making the candles by the open window gutter. More change is coming. Count on it, because it’s the only thing that’s for sure.
I have abandoned the dream kitchens for a low fire
and a prescriptive literature of the spirit;
a storm snores on the desolate sea.
The nearest shop is four miles away –
when I walk there through the shambles
of the morning for tea and firelighters
the mountain paces me in a snow-lit silence.
My days are spent in conversation
with deer and blackbirds;
at night fox and badger gather at my door.
I have stood for hours
watching a salmon doze in the tea-gold dark,
for months listening to the sob story
of a stone in the road, the best,
most monotonous sob story I have ever heard.
I am an expert on frost crystals
and the silence of crickets, a confidant
of the stinking shore, the stars in the mud –
there is an immanence in these things
which drives me, despite my scepticism,
almost to the point of speech,
like sunlight cleaving the lake mist at morning
or when tepid water
runs cold at last from the tap.
I have been working for years
on a four-line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.
– The Mayo Tao by Derek Mahon
A part of me is living in this poem, walking alone on a rocky cliff by the sea. Pitching pebbles and humming a tune. A lighthouse rises out of the crags, the waves smashing around it, the air full of seaweed and salt. One day, I will be ready, and someone will be ready for me. We might go to the little warm place, a small cottage where the kettle is on and the bed is warm and waiting for us. I think that there is some kind of love waiting for me on the other side of this. I wonder what that will be like? We shall see.
A Small Love Letter
Will you meet me on the lava by the copper fire shore?
Will you find the fallow field & call it under-dreaming door?
When I find the broken button, when I cast the streaming line,
it’s your name I’ll thread so lightly through lithography & brine.
Will you keep the salvage open, heat & hold a running joke,
fish for peace & urchins, carve a gourd into a boat?
I will answer when you call me. I’ll ring hammers in the fog.
I’ll keep nightfall clairvoyant; build a bed from wheat & awe.
When you meet me on the lava, I’ll meet you on the ancient shore,
& we can sing to the dark center, paddle down with one long oar.
– Abe Louise Young
[Published in Borderlands]
This year has been filled with opportunities for me to work on doing lots of things that have intimidated me in the past. One of the biggest things for me is singing in front of other people. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I would break out into a sweat even attempting it. I’m feeling far more comfortable & confident lately (though I still get nervous!) and have learned so much in the past year. I was raised with traditional Irish folk music being played around me constantly by my parents and their friends, and it’s definitely in my blood and my heart. I remember way back 2011, when the wish began burning in me to sing. It’s taken me until now to really make it happen, but I’m doing it, and it feels good.
Here are two songs. The first one, Slow Moving Clouds, captures where I’m at pretty perfectly. And Lorraine’s Waltz was playing on the radio while I was writing this piece, and I think compliments the other song nicely. Both feel right for me right now.
This is something else that has been resonating with me very deeply, words of wisdom from an Irish poet who I adore:
JOHN O’DONOHUE — The Inner Landscape of Beauty – from On Being, With Krista Tippett
And all the words from before: