Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: Rosalyn Bruyere

Interpreting Dreams, Life, and the Big Story

When I was at a point in writing my novel,  Post Rock Limestone Caryatids, that I had more behind me than in front, I had a dream that I was sort of a motherly person to a band of runaway kids. They had no one else to look after them; I did what I could. We had a bond of loyalty and mutual trust that comes of surviving difficulty together. There was a teenage boy who I felt particularly close to. He had maybe had some trouble in the past, maybe not all that serious. He had yet to demonstrate any outstanding talents or gifts. But he was a good kid, attentive, quiet, sensitive in ways that you would only notice if you were paying attention, which no one ever had, to this kid. What kind of chance did he have in life? I was going to do everything I could to help him, not just to survive, but to establish a life for himself, to create opportunities for himself to realize whatever potentials he had yet to discover, whatever dreams he might one day allow to blossom in his spirit.

Conflict arose when his abusive father re-entered his life. The father was a surly, bitter man, whose sole way of getting his needs met was to extract them from the people around him, by any means that he could. He located his son and demanded that he come home with him, because it was the son’s responsibility to provide for his father, regardless of any future sacrifices he might have to make in order to take up menial labor and start bringing in paychecks immediately. Wielding the power that only parents have, he took his son home.

I was infuriated. What a shameful twist of logic, to require the son to support the father, instead of the father nurturing and supporting the son. What an ugly, hateful way to raise a child, to thwart any potential before it had been discovered, to extract whatever monetary profit could be gleaned from the relationship. Parenting ought always to be managed with an eye to the day when the child will stretch his wings and leave the nest, to start his own life, to make a way that he owns, free to become what he will become.

But there was nothing I could do for this boy. He had chosen, uncomplaining, to follow his father, and really, what did I have to offer but some kindness and undreamed dreams? He really was a good kid. That was the end of the dream.

There’s a method of interpreting dreams in which everyone and everything in a dream is understood to be a part of the dreamer. It’s not an original idea, but I have no idea what famous psychologist or psychoanalyst presented it. I think I got it from Rosalyn Bruyere, but last time I quoted her, I made a huge gaffe, so don’t go blaming her for anything I say. In this dream, I am the mother, of course; I am the boy; but do I have to claim the father? That hateful, petty man, whose only goal in life was to get his due from other people? Oh, it makes me shiver to think that he is part of me.

Here’s how I interpret this dream. The boy was my novel in progress. I was both mother and father, encouraging, discovering, nurturing; but also wanting to make this creation of mine work for me, to bring me money. Was I willing to thwart its potential to that end? I’m not sure, but I can say that to date, it hasn’t provided any profit, and I don’t hold that against the book. If anything, it’s my fault for not nurturing it adequately, not helping it to find its wings. Don’t ask me what that would mean in practical terms; I honestly have no idea.

I read the Hunger Games trilogy this week, and I was so impressed, much more than I expected. There’s a Big Story in it, not just a dystopian teenage love triangle or a heroic warrior girl leading an army. Like life and dreams, the Big Story can be interpreted by the “I am everything and everyone” method. I haven’t untangled it all yet, but for some reason this dream inserted itself into my musings. So here it is, and tomorrow I’ll write about Hunger Games.

Wildfire dozes in the inbox while I write.

Wildfire dozes in the inbox while I write.

Sunday evenings, (not) reliving my twenties, excuses

There’s a show that keeps coming on HBO whenever I want to watch Trueblood. It’s called Girls. It’s about twentysomething urban women who obsess about their problems and feelings. Every time I turn it on, the lead is speculating about who gave her HPV. You might think that would be right up my alley, but it turns out that reliving my twenties is about the last thing I want to do in the evening when I’ve given up on doing anything useful with the day, and am ready to zone out and enjoy a good story.

I guess the story of my twenties isn’t one I relish. I’ve changed it repeatedly, and the most recent version involves a lot of self-medication, fear of commitment and responsibility, and unconscious rage. I’m in the process of rewriting it again, but I haven’t decided what I want it to be.

There’s a photo that’s been going around Facebook of a man without arms, standing on one foot and holding a paintbrush between the toes of the other foot, painting a wall with extraordinarily fine detail. The caption of the picture is something like, “Whatever your excuse is, it’s time to give it up.” I didn’t get worked up about it because, honestly, I spend many of my waking and sleeping moments looking for those excuses, and trying to root them out of my psyche. If you had shown me that picture when I was twenty-six, how would I have reacted? Well, I think my first thought would have been, yeah, he can do whatever he wants, no one expects anything of him, he probably has no responsibilities. Then I probably would have covered that by going into a rant about how some excuses might actually be valid in a fucked-up world in which most of the power and wealth are held in the hands of a tiny percentage of people in the world, who wield it without care for the consequences to everyone else. What’s their excuse? I might have asked if the painter was a meat-eater, and, if so, what was his excuse for that. You can see how the first reaction, especially, says much more about me and my state of mind than about the people I went on to rant about. It wasn’t until along about the time my second decade was rolling over into my third that I finally began to understand how the walls that held me back were all in my mind, and that I, and only I, had the power to remove them.

What would I tell the women of Girls? I might start with healing.  Rosalyn Bruyere conceptualizes the whole person as a circle, divided into four quarters. Each quarter is associated with a part of the whole person: the physical, the mental, the emotional, the spiritual. In order for there to be healing, it must take place in at least two of these four quarters. Notice we don’t necessarily have to address all four at a particular time; we get off easy. Two are enough. So treat the physical manifestation of your disease, but don’t stop there. Go on and ask yourself,  what thoughts am I holding about this condition? What feelings does it evoke? What does this tell me about what it is to be human, and my relationship with the rest of the universe? Pick the answer that surprises you most, and explore that.

When will there be a TV show about healing and freeing oneself from the self-perpetuated lie of sickness, powerlessness, and victimization? Tell me when you find one. Till then, leave me alone on Sunday evening, there’s a funny vampire story I can zone out to.

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