Veronica's Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland on writing, living, the Flint Hills, and the Post Rock Limestone Caryatids

Tag: Melora Creager

Witches, Nightmares, Memes, and Dreamwork

I wanted a picture of cuddling with Rowan, but could only find this one of my Mom, Leona Creager, my sister Melora, and myself. Sometimes when I see this picture, for a split second I think I’m Rowan.

Rowan dreamt of a witch, trying to get all the children. She told me while we were cuddling in bed in the morning. I told her, if she dreams of the witch again, to ask her what she wants. Rowan said she can’t talk to the witch because, if she stops trying to get away, the witch will get her. I had to tell her about a witch dream I had years ago.

A witch was chasing me for a long time, over many places. I knew she would kill me if she caught me. I ran and ran and when I was trapped, in a dirty, windowless, basement room, I fought for my life. It was violent and brutal. I beat her with all my strength, but she kept getting back up. Finally I woke, exhausted. I reviewed the horrible dream I’d had, trying to remember all the details. What did the witch look like? She was little, a girl, and she had brown hair and brown eyes. In fact, she looked like me.

“You were fighting yourself!” Rowan was smiling, enjoying the discovery.

“Yes, that’s why I couldn’t kill her. I was afraid of my magical self, afraid to be powerful.” I went on to tell her how I’d had so many years of nightmares, and about the box of journals I still have, filled with page after page of terrifying, violent dreams, recorded in minute detail. Rowan has nightmares, too, though she often has joyful dreams as well. I told her how there was a time when all my dreams were about running for my life, then I decided to start fighting back, then I decided to find other means than violence to do what I have to do.

It wasn’t until I was well into A Course In Miracles that I stopped having nightmares, so I had to tell her about that. “A Course In Miracles teaches that God is love. You know that, though, right?”

“Of course!”

“And God is eternal, which means there can be no limit on God. Right?”

“Yes.”

“So there can’t be anything that’s not God, because that would mean that there’s a line, God is here, but not there, so there can’t be that. Right?”

“Mama, are you God?”

“Yes, and so are you. Can God be hurt?”

“If I can’t be hurt, then why did it hurt when I got a scratch?”

It gets tricky in here. The best I could tell her is that we have a bigger self, one that is one with God and all the universe, and that, by comparison, the hurts of the little self are insignificant. But the big self can’t be hurt, so we are safe as long as we identify with the big self. A Course In Miracles teaches that there is nothing to fear. When I came to understand this, I stopped having nightmares.

Rowan thought for a moment, then said, “Okay, let’s get up now.”

I don’t expect Rowan to grasp all this easily or instantly, and I don’t want to take away what is hers to learn on her own. I hope, though, that these things I tell her will help when she needs them.

There’s something else that this conversation brought to my attention. We got up and went into the living room, where Kiran was watching a tv show about some kids who were trying to protect their computer world against their eternal villain, a hacker. We are inundated with stories, images, and rhetoric about the evil villain or the criminal who is Other and must be vanquished. These memes lie. The scary bad figure of your dreams is part of you. He or she is not the villain of children’s television shows, who must be disempowered; nor the criminal on the cop show whose very existence threatens everyone’s safety until he or she is either locked up or put to death. Sure, there are probably exceptions, but you’ll never really know if you are one of them until you take a risk. The answer is not to run, or fight, not to separate yourself from what you fear, but to open to every self that you are. Talk to yourself. Make friends with yourself. If you can’t be friends, make alliances to serve your mutual interests, because they can’t be that disparate, if you are one person, can they? Take a risk and see what happens if you let the intruder in, turn around and face your pursuer, listen to the demands of your attacker. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Sometimes you even receive a gift –but I’ll save that thought for another post.

Loss and letting go

A little over a year ago, I was introduced to a healing technique called Faster EFT, or Emotionally Focused Transformations. I went to a short workshop because a friend had been raving about this technique, also called tapping, and the workshop was free, so I figured I had nothing to lose. B. Grace Jones http://tinyurl.com/7xw6gay teaches that all disease and discomfort is ultimately rooted in fear and/or anger. The emotions are released by tapping five points on the body while talking one’s way from the unhappy state to releasing those emotions, then replacing the associated thoughts with something more desirable. The points fall on the meridians in Chinese medicine which correspond to the organs activated by the fight or flight response. Nothing radical there, to one who’s been hanging around the new age scene for fifteen years, though it was all put together nicely in one simple package.

So skip the details, I’ve been using this technique occasionally since then. This past week I decided to observe the turning over of the year by tapping every day. I was agitated because I’d been spent much of the day looking for a part to a toy that I was supposed to send to my sister. We had some kind of misunderstanding and she was waiting for me to send it to her daughter for years, and now wants it for her younger daughter. If you have a sister you can see here how this kind of thing triggers every sisterly anxiety in the book. She never approved of me, she thinks I’m a fuck-up, I was the spoiled youngest who never had to pull my weight, etc etc etc. I don’t actually know she thinks all these things, but, well, I’m sure she does, and lots more.

First I sat down and had a little talk with my inner child, whom I suspected of hiding this thing because she didn’t want to give it away. She reluctantly let go. Then I tried dowsing with a pendulum, which resolutely refused to move. I went looking for a different pendulum which might work better, but all I found was a wingnut on my dresser. It was after that that I decided to use the EFT.

But when I sat down to tap, those sisterly feelings weren’t the strongest. I felt drawn to look at a memory, one of my earliest, of which I had been reminded multiple times in the last couple days. In the memory, I guess we were eating lunch, my mom, brother, sister, and myself in a room of a house we moved out of when I was three. I thought of someone, two people, I think, whom I could see as silhouettes in a small patch of light in darkness, as if I were in a dark room, being watched over by these people who were standing in the doorway, light shining from behind them. I felt safe and loved. But on the day I remembered this moment, I realized that I would never see these people again. I began to cry, and my baffled mom offered me a slice of bread with butter, which she had just handed to my brother. I took it because it was easier than trying to explain what I was really crying about.

It wasn’t until about thirty years later that I recalled this memory, and after some thought I’ve concluded that those people looking in on me lovingly were the foster parents who cared for me between birth and adoption when I was six months old. I don’t know their names, or anything about them, but I think once my Dad told me that the man in particular had been so attached to me that it was difficult for him to turn me over to my new parents. At thirty-seven, I had my first child, and as I watched this little baby grow, I realized that there was not a single person in my life who had known me in those precious early months. I’m very grateful to have a relationship with my birthmom and her family, but who watched me turn over, smile, and crawl for the first time? Who smiled back?

I began to tap the grief of loss, the fear of letting go. I expressed it, I released it. But what to replace it with? I embraced change, I welcomed new experiences. And as I tapped, it occurred to me that if I have lived fully in the moment, I won’t feel a need to go back to it. If I suck every last bit of living out of every minute I get, when it’s done, I’ll be over it. The preventive against suffering loss of the past is to be, to be present, totally in the moment, to gulp it in like fresh air after a stale small room, as if I’ve never been alive and breathed before. It seems hard. Can I do it? What else is there? What choice do I have?

And now that I’ve found the answer, where is that thing I was looking for? I thought it would suddenly appear after all the clearing I’ve been doing, but it hasn’t. Yet.

 

 

Eat Half: Thoughts About My Grandma

The veil is supposed to be thin this time of year, the memories come strong. Today I performed a ritual honoring the dead, my ancestors, and my Grandma has been in my thoughts. She’s the one I got my name from, Rachel Bicknell Creager. It was always easy to remember her age, because she was born in 1900, so her age was the same as the year. She made the best chocolate chip cookies, and she gave the best hugs. She was sometimes stern, a good Baptist, who once said fondly to me, “You’re a pretty girl. But pretty is as pretty does.” I didn’t even know what that meant.

Once my sister Melora and I for some reason wanted her to write us a poem. I think we were putting poems to music that day. We handed her a piece of paper and a pen, and she hesitated. We didn’t think it ought to be hard, to write a poem on demand. After a moment of thought, she began to write. “I wandered lonely as a cloud . . .” It didn’t take us long to discover that the poem fit well with the song Greensleeves. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized that that poem hadn’t been authored by my grandmother.

By the time I was in my 20s, she had been long widowed, and had stubbornly, capriciously, resisted the attempts of her grown children to convince her to move near any of them. She would rather live alone in the house in the country that she and her husband had built in the 50s, in the town where she’d lived all her adult life, where her roots were. Eventually one day she packed a suitcase and drove herself to the local nursing home and moved in, and called everyone later to tell them.

Seems like it took me a couple years before I managed to visit her there.  Southern Indiana wasn’t near or on the way to anyplace I might ever have reason to go, other than to visit my Grandma. I didn’t have a car, and I was chronically underemployed, busy struggling to get by. Eventually, though, my parents decided to go see her, and came to Illinois to pick me up. I believe it was Mother’s Day, 1991.

It was a typical nursing home visit, which had always been unbearably depressing to me. I couldn’t see why anyone would want to live that way, what would make their last days worth living. The winding down of life looked to me, at that time, like a tragic, hopeless diminuendo. My parents had dragged me to nursing homes as a child, to visit my grandpa, and to play music together for the residents. Everything about nursing home life seemed a hateful compromise.

Grandma was very pleased to see us, especially my Dad. It meant a lot to her that he had come to see her on Mother’s Day. She kept saying she was tired, though, and we came at lunch time, when a nurse was cajoling her into eating. “I don’t want to eat, I’m tired,” she kept saying. I felt sad for her. There had been an issue regarding her living will, which stated that she didn’t want any kind of resuscitation, but the state of Indiana no longer recognized such a preference. If she didn’t eat at least half of her meals, the nursing home would be required to insert a feeding tube.

“Will you eat half?” the nurse asked.

“I’m tired.” When the nurse wasn’t looking, Grandma spit food into her napkin.

The nurse pretended not to notice. She let Grandma get away with eating what looked like quite a bit less than half the hearty meal on the tray, but got her to eat half the ice cream. I felt sorry for anyone who would have to do her job, but, interestingly, she didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she was quite pleasant, and not fakey. She told us she really enjoyed Grandma, and at one point I even saw her share a long, loving look with her. The nurse had a beautiful, full smile. “Will you eat half?”

How could she do this job, loving her patients, knowing they were pretty much all going to die, sooner or later? It was new to me, the idea that someone could find genuine satisfaction from any facet of being in a nursing home. This was a person who had no connection to Grandma other than that she probably wiped Grandma’s behind, and gave her baths, while I was too busy partying and avoiding work to pay her more than the rarest visit, the woman who gave birth to my father. It was humbling to see such love in the eyes of the nurse.

That was the last time I saw Grandma, and the only time I ever met that nurse, whose name I didn’t bother to register. It was a beautiful moment, and today it occurred to me that I probably never spoke of it with another person. The only others present were my mom and dad, who are both gone now. But I still remember, today, when the veil is thin. I am grateful to the anonymous nurse for opening her heart to bring love to my grandma’s last days.

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