Tag Archives: dreams

Dream Work In Action

A dream is the subconscious trying to communicate. After reading a few books about dreams and hunting around online, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I think I’ve always believed that to some degree, but I used to think nightmares were demonic, and I didn’t want to pay attention to them. Now, I’m trying to look at the dreams that scare me as messages from my own soul. There are two recurring dreams I’ve had for years, and I think I’ve finally figured them out.

The book “Inner Work: Using Dreams And Active Imagination for Personal Growth” by Robert A. Johnson has really helped. It taught me the interpretation method I used for my dreams, and maybe it can help you. The first step is to simply list all the symbols in the dreams. Why? Dream language isn’t literal, it uses symbols. That means even if you dream about a person you know, the dream probably isn’t about that person. That person represents something else, most likely within yourself. A symbol can be an object, event, action, color, sensation, etc. Basically anything you can identify.

So, here are my two recurring dreams: 

  1. I can feel something in my throat and mouth. I reach in, and find a long strand or clump of hair. I keep trying to pull it out, but it keeps going on and on. Sometimes it will get stuck and it feels like I’m choking.
  2. I’m covered in pieces of glass, they’re in my ears, eyes, nose, everything. I can’t go on with whatever I was doing in the dream, I have to keep stopping and picking out the pieces.

The symbols I identify in the first dream are: hair, pulling out, choking, and getting stuck. In the second dream, it’s pieces of glass, picking out glass, and getting interrupted. After identifying the symbols, I drew associations from them. According to “Inner Work,” it’s important not to free associate, but keep going back to the original symbol. I made a mind map, with each symbol at the center, and branches for my associations. The purpose of this part of dream interpretation is to come up with as many as you can. My associations for “hair” included identity, sexuality, vanity, and beauty.

How do you know which association is the “right” one? The book talks a lot about following the energy or “the click.” Basically, when you bump up against the correct association, the correct translation for the symbol, your body will react. You’ll feel an energy or gut reaction. For me, with the “hair” symbol, I resonated most with “identity.” I’ve had a lot of different hair cuts and styles over the years, and used my hair to express my identity. That’s true for a lot of people, and even though another important part of dream interpretation is to figure out what a symbol means to you personally, a lot of symbols and their translations are universal. In my case, with “hair,” the association was both personal and more universal.

I did the same process with the rest of the symbols in the first dream and the second one. Here’s a summary of what I translated, with the association I must resonated with in bold:

Pulling out (the hair): Escaping, freeing

Choking: Getting stuck, pausing, voiceless, muted, dying

Glass: Broken mirror, window, reflective, fractured

Picking out glass: Healing, painful healing, preventing infection

Getting interrupted: Getting stuck, pausing, halting

Once the associations are made, it’s time to put everything together. At this point, at least for me, the meaning of the dreams was already pretty clear. This isn’t always the case, and the book actually recommends writing a few possible interpretations. Like the symbols, the “right” one will click.

My two recurring dreams are telling me the same thing. Hair and glass both represent identity. The connection with hair and identity is obvious upon a closer look, while the broken glass is a little more complex. Broken glass, which is closely associated with a broken mirror and fracturing, means my identity is broken into pieces. It’s not whole. As for the hair dream, the hair getting caught in my throat means I’m not able to free my identity. It keeps getting stuck, and it feels like I’m choking on it. With the glass dream, my broken identity is causing me pain and makes me stop going about my life, because I keep pausing and trying to free it. 

How does this apply to my real life? How do I feel about my identity? Pretty lost, honestly, and I have for years, which is why these dreams keep coming up. I’ve never really felt like part of a community. I did for a while in a church, but it collapsed and everyone scattered, the relationships gone forever. Looking back, the community also wasn’t healthy. Ever since then, I’ve been searching, but afraid. I also don’t feel like I have a identity in my work. What I write for work doesn’t represent me in any way, it’s just work, and it doesn’t let me be very creative. The big thing I realized recently, though, is that the novel I’m writing isn’t really “me.” I’ve been working on it for like six years straight, but it’s not actually something I would want to read. I don’t read mysteries or detective thrillers. Why am I writing one?

The last part of dream interpretation is asking the question, “What now?” What do I do about it?” For a community, it’s always a work in process, and it’s slow. I’m sort of going to church again and small group just started, so that will just take time. The biggest change I’m going to make, however, is pausing my novel and adjusting to the possibility that it’s time to put it away. I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year and write something  I actually want to read. I already have a sci-fi/speculative fiction idea, and I’m really going to let my imagination go wild. That isn’t something I’ve been able to do in my writing before, so I’m excited.

Dreams are powerful, friends. Pay attention to them. They are always speaking.

 

 

 

Advertisement

Location, Location, Location

Broken glass, pins, nails…these are the items that litter my dreams at night. They start growing from beneath my skin, they fill my ears, eyes, and nose, and they coat me like a suit of armor. When I told my spiritual director that these are the sorts of reoccurring dreams I have frequently, she looked taken aback. She asked if I had ever seen a Jungian therapist, or one who specialized in dream interpretation. Um, nope. That sounds…odd. Her concern did prompt me to start researching dreams, though. They are symbols of the subconscious. If something is bothering a person, it will eventually emerge in their dreams. There’s no escape.

That all makes sense to me. It’s how I know that I’m still not over my fears about witches, demons, and the trauma inflicted by charismatic, evil-obsessed spirituality. In my dreams, I’ll frequently get attacked by a witch or start getting possessed, and the language I learned from the old days comes spilling out, in an attempt to fight. It never works.

I can do work when I’m awake to try and decipher the dreams, to deal with what understanding I can glean from them, but while I’m in the dream, I feel powerless. I started looking into how dreams could be controlled, and “lucid dreaming” came up. It’s when you know you’re in a dream and gain a heightened sense of awareness and control. You can effectively create objects, conjure specific people, and perform actions from thin air, just like you would if you were awake and writing a story. This time, though, you’re living the story within the dream world.

I read “A Field Guide To Lucid Dreaming,” and learned that I mostly dream in the second tier of dreaming: I know I’m dreaming, but I have very limited control. In nearly every dream I have, I know it isn’t real, but I can’t do the things I want to, like fly or make nightmares go away. In order to get more lucid and improve my control, I’ve had to start keeping a dream journal again. It’s an overwhelming process, because I remember my dreams in great detail, and I dream pretty much every time I go to sleep. If I take a nap during the day, I’ll dream, so that’s two dreams per 24-hour period.

I’ve written down about ten dreams since I started my new dream journal, and I have dozens of dreams written down from a few years back. In going through them, there are patterns that emerge. The first one I’m going to take a look at is where the dreams are set. One of the most frequent locales? High school.

High school was really hard. Making friends was like trying to tame a wild animal, when the roles of wild animal and human switch frequently. The strict adherence to conservative evangelicalism and policing of thought ground me down to an angry, throbbing pencil nub that felt like it couldn’t be useful anywhere else. I loved a boy who couldn’t love me back the way I needed, and when he left me, I realized I had poured all my energy into that relationship and I had nothing left for healing. Depression hit hard and the medication trials hit harder, so both my mind and body were exhausted.

It’s been so many years since that time and I tell myself I’m over it, but when I go to sleep, I’m back in those hallways, and things are a little bit stranger. My uniform shrinks and grows, transforming its shape, so I can’t focus on anything else. I get lost and panicked that I’ll be late for class. I try taking a math test, only to suddenly collapse with blurred vision while the teacher remains uninterested and unconcerned in what’s happening. I get into fights with classmates from my past, screaming at them, but their faces are blank and they move like shadows past me.

In those dreams, I feel a handful of emotions depending on what’s going on, plot-wise, but there are trends: abandoned, voiceless, trapped, neglected, alone. These are all feelings I had in high school, and they all came to a peak when I was so depressed, I wasn’t going to school. I don’t even know how many days I missed. During that time, I don’t recall maybe more than one person reaching out and asking if I was okay. Some would ask my brother if I was coming to school when he showed up alone in the morning, but eventually, after getting the same answer every time, they just stopped asking. If I had gotten mono or something other longer physical illness, I might have gotten get-well cards, or flowers, or a visitor or two. For depression, dead silence.  

On the rare occasion when I was in at school, I was so lifeless, I just fell asleep during class. I couldn’t fight it; I had no energy for fighting. Someone trying to keep me awake wouldn’t have been helpful, but I can’t even imagine what a pat on the back or squeeze of the hand from a girl sitting next to me would have done for my motivation to keep trying to live. It felt like people were just watching me slowly die. I have no idea what they thought of it. Pity, probably.

The dreams I keep having tell me I’m not fully-healed from the feelings of abandonment and neglect high school spawned. Those emotions are a refrain in a song that will play in my head whenever my soul aligns a current experience with the past, and they send me right back in time. All the years of learning and maturity and recovery crumble, and it’s like I never left that building.

I’m not quite sure what to do about it. Well, that’s not true. My spiritual director recommends writing letters to myself as if I was back in the moment of trauma. I would be sending my own get-well cards into the past. That sounds like a good enough plan as any, especially since I’m a writer, it’s my strongest love language, but it’s also kind of scary. It seems so emotionally overwhelming and painful, like tearing the scab off a wound that never really healed. This is the year of wild emotions, though, so I have to start somewhere.

Christmas Season 2017

The holiday season thus far has consisted mostly of baking. I’ve made apple cider caramels, applesauce donuts, chai cookies, toffee-chocolate puddle oatmeal cookies, and milk chocolate cookies with orange zest. The process of baking and producing something really delicious makes me feel productive, and I always have Chris take them to work, so it’s something I can do to share, too.

I’ve also made a lot of biscuits and gravy, which I’ve decided is my best meal.  Christmas menu will consist of some kind of pasta dish (possibly salmon or shrimp alfredo), green beans with a miso dressing, crispy potato stacks, and for dessert, an almond-jam chocolate cake I’m super excited about.

We’re at home for Christmas for the first time, which means we actually have to decorate and get a tree. Because we’re in Oregon, that means getting a fresh one. For music, I’ve made a Spotify list of the old standbys: Sarah McLachlan, Avalon, Enya, and Pentatonix. Joining them this year are Johnnyswim,  Tyrone Wells, Dia Frampton, Sia, and Penny and Sparrow.

I’m almost done with Christmas shopping, which is always more expensive than I expect, but that’s because I pride myself on my gift-giving. Chris and I both have birthdays right after Christmas, too, and then it’s Valentine’s Day.

On the less happy side of things, the lack of sunlight is starting to get to me already. I need to get vitamin D. In the last three days, I’ve had naps that are much too long, and they’re those depression naps where I can tell my body is not actually tired, but my brain is so foggy I can’t do anything else. Those naps almost come with strange dreams, too, like Chris getting abducted by aliens and me trapped in another person’s body. I’m still grieving for Baxter. Haven’t cleaned his room yet, though now it’s more just because I don’t want to go to all the effort. I still miss him the most at night when I can’t sleep, and I don’t have anywhere else to go and lie down to calm down.

What else, what else…still grinding away on my novel. I write about 3-4 pages a day in my moleskin. Still writing cookbooks and food books for work. My Gildshire book hopefully comes out soon. That’s about it right now.

 

Dreams Of The Witch-House

*trigger warning* Contains descriptions of dreams involving needles

I’ve always had a weird thing about witches. By “weird thing,” I mean legitimate fear that one would cast a spell on me and manipulate my actions. When I was involved in really extreme, charismatic spirituality, a few authority figures told me I was vulnerable to the spirit of witchcraft. I didn’t really know what that meant. They said it was about the need to control everything, because a witch’s power is all about controlling the elements. Looking back, I feel like “spirit of witchcraft” is just a really bizarre and terrifying way of saying “control freak.”

In college, I wasn’t really as scared of witches as when I was younger, but there was a new fear creeping in. A fear of my sexuality. I became more scared of men and drawn to women, and even though I didn’t believe being gay or bisexual was a sin, or even that the lifestyle was, I was afraid I was wrong. I would dream about a dark-haired woman a lot, and became convinced an evil spirit was visiting me. I abandoned the hyper-spiritual, casting-out-of-demons-constantly lifestyle soon after, simply because I was so exhausted, but I never really “deprogrammed” myself from it.

I read a lot from different spiritual authors like Rachel Held Evans, and went to regular counseling where some of my sexuality issues were resolved. I was able to acknowledge that I was bisexual, but because I was engaged to Chris, I never had to unpack it more than that.

My spiritual life is nothing like it used to be, where every panic attack was treated like an expression of demonic forces or reading the Bible was a desperate attempt to defend myself. But I still dream. I think dreams are the soul’s way of remembering things we wish we could forget.

This week, I dreamed that a witch attempted to take over my body by sewing a long line of thread through my ankle and earlobe. Every time I pulled out the thread to free myself, she would patiently start again. I kept repeating buzz words and phrases I had learned from charismatic teachers back in the day, but nothing worked. Finally, the spiritual counselor who had the biggest influence on me (and who was the one told me I had been molested and then offered no guidance as to how to deal with that revelation), showed up, and the witch went away. She would be back, though, and I was suddenly in one of my old houses lying in bed, in the dark, with tiny needles embedded in my skin. I couldn’t move, but I could hear people outside. They were preparing for the witch’s arrival, and said that I had to let her partially into my body before they could get rid of her. There was a lot more to the dream, but the most notable part was when I was able to see into the witch’s past and see her. I remember really worrying that she would look like one of the actresses I’ve had a crush on for a while.

There’s that whole bisexual fear again. In my head, I’m totally comfortable with it, but underneath is a different story. As soon as I really confront it, it freaks me out. If I wasn’t married to Chris, and the possibility of being in a relationship with a woman was more of a reality, I would need some serious counseling. Now, I don’t know how much it matters. The dreams never bother me, and I know they’re not real. I think it might just take time. I just assumed I was over all that stuff with casting out demons and being stalked by a witch spirit who was making me like girls, but maybe not. I figure the farther away from it I get, time-wise, the less it will affect me.

Sleep Reality

I am a sleep expert. I know light sleep, deep sleep, sleep in cars, sleep in planes, sleep in my own bed, in hotels, on the floors of friends’, in classrooms, on fountains in Europe, in a museum…in the latter, I was awoken by a curator who asked if I was ok, and then told me to not sleep there. I awkwardly sat up and did my best to stare at a painting like I was interested in it. The struggle was real. 

I’ve heard voices while I slept and felt sleep paralysis. I’ve slept through alarms and phone calls and knocks on the door. Sleep and I have been good friends and bitter enemies.

I dream A LOT. Like, more than normal people, at least in terms of how much I remember. I used to keep a dream journal but I stopped because I was recording two dreams every day and I couldn’t keep up. I dream at night and whenever I take a nap, even if it’s really short. Dreams have provided the inspiration for more than one story. 

I see friends in dreams, friends who with whom there’s been a kind of tension, or conflict, and it hasn’t been resolved. Friends who are no longer friends. Even if I don’t actively think about them very much, they make their way into my dreams. Sometimes there is actually a resolution, where we talk about what happened between us. Other times, they are just there. The dream is either set in the past when they were in my life, or we’re in a bizarre situation like fighting a war against vampires or what not. 

What’s weird and unsettling about these dreams is how vivid they are. Having vivid dreams in general is an effect of the antidepressant I’m on, so the people in my dreams are always very clear, look like themselves, have the right voices, and everything. It is like they are really there. The dreams have gotten more vivid, so I’m at the point now where I hesitate before acting in a dream because I am not sure if I’m dreaming or not. Even if the dream is set in an impossible reality, in the moment, the dream world is very real.

In the dreams, I’m always happy to have some kind of resolution. With some of them, I tell them how much I miss them. How I wish things were different. When I wake and realize none of it was real, disappointment follows me the rest of the day. Sometimes longer. Because with some of these people, I know resolution will never happen. Except in a sleep reality. 

Embracing the Ordinary

For a long time, I was restless with where I was in life. So much of it felt like a waiting game. Waiting to go to college, waiting to find someone to spend my life with, waiting for a job….it felt like I was in the lobby of life. If only something would happen, something exciting, something significant. 

The thing with always waiting is that there is always something to wait for. When I focused on the waiting, that was all I was ever doing. When I started counseling again last year, a big part of it was learning to set goals. 

My therapists in the past were never goal-driven, it was more about exploring feelings and explaining why I thought about certain things the way I did. It got exhausting. I was rehashing my past over and over again and there was no way out. I had one counselor in high school who was a listener, not a talker, so I felt pressured to just talk the whole time. It was helpful for a while, I was able to unearth what I thought myself and the world around me, but I’ve always been very self-aware, so I started wishing she would just tell me how to change what I thought. My counselor my firsts year of college was better, she provided more insights of her own. The depression was really bad that year, I was involved in a lot of dramatic and intense spiritual activities, and my medication was erratic, so we focused mostly on keeping me from having night terrors and being terrified of boys. When I left for Macalester, I had to leave that counselor behind. My next counselor I only saw for a few months. I stopped seeing her when I tried to talk through my confusion about my sexuality and I felt like she was arguing with me. When I decided to go back into counseling and start afresh with someone new, I knew I had to have goals. 

Therapy is not supposed to go on forever. It is not only expensive, but it is ineffective if you have to keep going back to the same person over and over again for the same problems. And I mean consistent counseling. Clearly, some of us will just need to check in with a therapist once and while to get back on track, but one session per week therapy should not go on for years at a time. I was going to have to set goals.

I’ve always had big dreams. When I was a little kid, I asked my parents what the first day of college would be like. I had dreams about being a pop singer in 5th grade. I wanted to be a mermaid when I was thirteen. I wanted to be marine biologist. I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a writer. For me, it is easy to be motivated about the big stuff, the important stuff. It has always been the ordinary things that brought me down.

When I started counseling last year, my goals were simple: 

Go to the grocery store alone.

Get dressed everyday. 

Do the laundry. 

I was terrified of leaving the apartment. I had this constant anxiety and fear of meeting people and being seen. I wasn’t afraid that they would hurt me. Just being looked at was enough to make my skin feel hot and my eyes dry out. It was like other people could see through my outside and read my mind, see all my fears, all my failures. I was terrified of looking stupid. Being told I was beautiful by Chris and my therapist even made me nervous, because it meant that other people would think that too, and my appearance would draw their attention to me and then I would be exposed. I just wanted to be invisible. 

I didn’t care about achieving the big dreams anymore. I just wanted to be able to walk down three flights of stairs to do laundry. 

I can do that now. Over the past year, I’ve been freed from my agoraphobia and go the store once every two weeks, do laundry, and even drive myself to places I’ve never been to before. Doing the ordinary things used to mean very little to me. Ordinary things are the bare minimum, the expected, the “easy” things in life. Everyone can do those.

Hitting rock bottom told me that is not true. I found victory in walking up and down three flights of stairs with a basket of warm laundry. I can appreciate the elegance of pumping my own gas for the car and going to the grocery store. Embracing the ordinary has helped calm my restless spirit and brought me from my fantasy land to the real world, where anything can be hard and everything is significant. 

 

The Cost of Existing

Image

I feel rather blue today.

Because of the color green.

Money.

Everything has a price.

Education, mental health, transportation, bodily health.

I made a stupid mistake and misjudged how much my class cost this semester and now there’s this ugly chunk of money that we need to pay and don’t really know how to pay. It’s not like we absolutely cannot pay it. We’re still privileged. But we also can’t save any money. I feel like I just eat up money by existing. My pills, my appointments with the psychiatrist that I need to have to get my pills, my therapist, any fees that I have to pay if I can’t see my therapist when we were scheduled, my insanely expensive school (which is also part of my privilege, both in that I can go and that my parents are incredibly generous), and anything else that I might require to live, such as girl things and what have you, like getting a cavity filled.

I haven’t worked in a while. I don’t know what it’s like to really contribute financially. Right now, I’m trying to find a job at Macalester since they gave me work study. They also don’t help me find a job, which is awkward. That’s frustrating.

I’m trying to figure out how to do a budget. Groceries are really difficult, since the stuff that’s cheap is also the stuff that makes me sick. The cheapest foods are pasta and bread, which literally cause depression to worsen. Most types of nitrates and artificial sweeteners are off the table. I used to eat a lot of canned soup, which was economical, but now I have terrible allergic reactions to just about every brand. We live on those frozen chicken breasts or tenders in the big(ish) bags. Since I started making meals for myself and Chris, I have never bought beef. I almost never buy anything fresh, because it’s going to have to last for a while. If I buy a zucchini or anything, we have to eat it all that night. I worry about my vegetable intake. Frozen peas are only going to go so far, health-wise. I’m starting to put off grocery shopping until our meals start to get a little weird.

I see lots of people around my age having babies, and I’m just like “Whaaaaaat?” We have a hedgehog and had to give away our dog as a foster pet to Chris’ parents, that’s about as family-minded as we are right now. What is even happening? But everyone lives differently, I guess.

I don’t know, I guess I’m just being kind of dreamy about the future. I was looking at houses a few weeks ago, foreclosures specifically, and was thinking, “Hey, houses aren’t so expensive…” Hmm, yeah, there’s probably a reason for that. I was just wishing we had a little more space so I didn’t feel like I was always surrounded by stuff if I left out my painting supplies, that we could have a dishwasher, that we could have Yoshi and not worry about him barking. It hurts a little to let go of that dream for now.

But we’re happy. We’re blessed. We have people who support us and would help if we needed them to. Everything is good.

A New Year

Sometimes the reason we keep secrets isn’t because we’re ashamed of them, but because we’ve been conditioned to believe that we are supposed to be ashamed. Sometimes certain things seem like a big deal not because they play a large role in our lives, but because others will inflate what the thing really means and draw conclusions beyond the reality.

For as long as I can remember, I have been more drawn to girls than to boys. With the exception of Chris and a few others, all of my intimate interests have been women. I was never satisfied with my female friendships and always felt confused about why. Was I expecting too much? Demanding too much attention and affection? When I started having best friends, I devoted myself to them like a lovesick puppy. Every love song meant more. I couldn’t imagine life without that particular person at that particular time. When the friendship inevitably ran its course, I felt crushed, like a person does when they go through a breakup. I always seemed more hurt and lost than the object of my affection and it troubled me.

When hormones made their grand entrance, I rarely fantasized about men. When I did, it was always in a situation where I was being rescued by, or rescuing, a woman from an assault committed by a male. Even when I was in my first relationship and had more sensual feelings towards him, the fantasies about women never lessened. I was confused. When I went to a spiritual counselor, she led me to believe that these fantasies were driven by a fear of men, not a predisposition for women. I accepted it. She also told me that the fantasies were a demonic manifestation. I was afraid of my thoughts. And my dreams. I couldn’t control my dreams. It was exhausting.

When I had addressed the reason behind my fear of men (a negative childhood experience) and became interested in having a relationship again, I expected the “lesbian spirit” to go away. It did not. It was becoming increasingly sexual in nature. Hadn’t I done everything right? I had gone to various deliverance ministries and prayed against demons till my head ached. What was left?

When I left my hyper-spiritual ministries and backed away from long, exhausting prayer sessions, I started to feel more at peace with myself. Maybe it was time to just accept my sexual feelings as a part of me that wasn’t going to change, and that wasn’t some spiritual oppression polluting my soul. It wasn’t like my desire was hindering me in any way. I wasn’t even actively pursuing a relationship with a woman, rarely did my sexual thoughts even lean towards girls that I knew, it was all actresses, musicians, or people who have passed quickly through my life.

The reason I’m opening up about this isn’t because I feel like it’s some big revelation that shatters my current life. Sexuality is not composed as simply “straight” or “homosexual.” Most people fall somewhere in a spectrum, and it isn’t always the same for each individual person either. I definitely don’t fall in the straight category and I don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t “struggle” with homosexual desire, because I’m perfectly fine with it. I’ve chosen the person I’m going to stay faithful to, and I’m just as likely to leave him for a woman as I am to leave him for a man (not likely at all). I happened to fall in love with a man. I could have just as easily fallen in love with a woman. Honestly, the thought of that possibility kind of terrifies me, because the consequences of that happening are unimaginable to me, in terms of how people would react. It was very convenient that Chris is a man.

I’m opening up because I’ve been open about a lot of things, and keeping this back made me feel like I was ashamed of it, or at least, that I should be ashamed. It’s a part of my life, so why should I censor it out? Why should I just sit back and stay quiet about my personal experience with homosexual desires while people argue about it in a purely theoretical fashion, treating it like something that can be prayed away, or like a bad habit that if ignored or fought against, will fade away? People cannot control their desires. What we can control is our actions, and that is a uniquely personal journey. This has been mine.

It’s 2014 in two days, and I’m done keeping this secret.

What Is Started, Must Be Finished

ImageWhen I was in high school, I signed up for a jazz camp at the store where I took guitar lessons. My teacher had given me the info and I was pretty excited about it. I liked learning blues chords and the improv exercises we had done, so a day camp-type of environment would be cool. Plus, I could meet other musicians. I had always wanted to be part of a band and spent a lot of time day-dreaming about meeting my music kindred spirits, writing songs, and becoming superstars. I was pretty nervous the first day, but I clenched my jaw and carried my white Fender into the store as confidently as possible.

Everyone there was at least four years younger than me. Most of them knew each other. I was the only guitarist. During our lunch break, some of the kids talked about walking to Target and when I came back from the bathroom, I was met with an empty room and saw that “some” had turned into “everyone but me.” I knew it wasn’t because they were actively rejecting me. They just forgot I was there. Like I was invisible.

When my mom came to pick me up, she asked me how it went. I burst into tears.

All my life, it seems like I’m always starting things I don’t finish. Jazz camp, law/mock trial camp, track, voice lessons, guitar lessons…it takes a lot of guts to just walk into something new and most of the time, just doing something for a few days is enough. When I was younger, I would dread waking up for something and even more dread telling my parents I wanted to stop. I hated being thought of as a quitter. I hated losing the money spent paying for things a lot of kids never would get to do. I hated the emotional pattern I was developing of starting and stopping.

That’s probably why the thought of delaying school is so terrifying to me. That feeling of failure, of weakness, the fear of facing my parents, my husband, the world, and saying, “I can’t do it,” has been haunting me childhood. I hear the mantra chant of “good people don’t quit.” Protestant work ethic and the American way. Good people face challenges and push through the anxiety and fear, and they’re better of for it. I went to gymnastics, piano lessons, recitals, talent shows, plays, horseback riding camp, sports, German language camp, and I grit my teeth and pushed through everything I could because that’s what people are supposed to do. Except I never felt better. It never got easier. It’s gotten worse.

I don’t blame anyone. I don’t blame my parents. They were doing what parents do and most of the time, these were things that I wanted to do. I just couldn’t do it and that hurt everyone. It still hurts me. I know it’s not good to linger on the past, and I really don’t, but sometimes, one of the ghosts of a dream flutters in and I wonder what could have been if I had kept singing, if I had kept playing guitar, if I had played softball. It’s agonizingly difficult to not despise the people whose dreams come so easily to them. I know people who have the talent and the opportunity and they just waltz into whatever it is they’ve always wanted. Their brains aren’t rattling their bones with fear, their lungs aren’t deflating like slashed balloons, their blood isn’t freezing in their veins. They don’t know. They will never know. That is what is the hardest for me to accept right now.

My Grown-Up Wish List

ImageI’m looking at my intake sheet for my new counselor and it is eleven pages long. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This should be thorough. I’m asking this person to help me learn how to live. They should know just about everything about what’s up with me. I’m looking at the section where it asks, “What do you hope to get out of counseling?” Hmm. I’ve only recently developed a more concrete idea of what I want my life to look like. I’m starting simple.

  • Keep the apartment clean
  • Go to the grocery store alone
  • Cook more
  • Read more
  • Socialize more
  • Go outside and exercise

These things may seem basic, and that’s because they are. It’s been pretty difficult to admit to myself that I can’t do the basic stuff. I tried to jump right into school, work, etc and I couldn’t even vacuum a room. Ya gotta start from the bottom rung of the ladder and climb up. Jumping around on a ladder usually results in falling right off. Some people can do it (like those insanely smart 13-year old kids who go to college and they can’t even start driver’s ed), but those people are the minority, and there’s probably a lot they missed out on, too. The world looks a little different from each rung, and I want to take my time enjoying the view. Or at least learning from it. Some rungs are harder than others, especially since I’m afraid of heights. It’ll be ok though. I’ve got a safety harness – people who support and love me. They’re helping me climb and they’ll be there if I fall.