Sunday, July 31, 2016

Taught by My Dreams . . . or, RB is Really Me!

A looong time ago, I visited a therapist who felt that our lives could be healed by understanding
After the Storm
ourselves in relation to the people and entities that visit us in our dreams.  Bruce, the therapist, encouraged me to look at my dreams (okay, they were actually nightmares) subjectively rather than objectively.*  Working with Bruce actually gave me the first glimpse of the most important lesson I'd eventually learn.

In the past two weeks, I've had a dream that has included a person from my past, I'll call him RB.  The relationship with RB was professional and appropriate, but personally I admired him for his confidence in assuming that his opinion was as valid as anyone else. (I still struggle with that a bit.)  RB was in a role that called for him to support me in my position, and he did so assiduously.  Unlike all my previous chairpersons, he listened to a situation, asked clarifying questions, then moved the committee away from superfluous conversations once the matter was understood.  He would then communicate to the board what our committee needed or planned to do. He also defined for the board what would happen if those needs or plans were not supported by the larger body we were working with.  He was open to clarification from the board, could change his mind if that change still supported our committee's work, dismissed it if the information and clarification treated our committee's work as less than any other shared goals of the organization.  He was dependable, took responsibility for his actions.

For example . . . when I'd begun my work with this organization where RB would become my committee chair, two classrooms were not provided heat or cooling. The furnaces/air conditioners that serviced this area were not working.  Prior to my arrival, the previous director worked with the committee to communicate to parents that their children needed boots, winter jackets, scarves, gloves, OR light weight summer clothes when attending class.  The boards lack of action was not questioned or re-visited, so the committee accepted sub par treatment for the program.  The unfair and disingenuous solution served to treat some members of the community as less than.  I accepted this situation as policy when I arrived - with occasional changes on the coldest days.

I would combine the children from these classrooms with children in rooms that were appropriately heated and cooled, but this was causing problems for the volunteer teachers.  When RB came to his first meeting as committee chair and heard of this long-time quandary, he was shocked.  "Does the board know the furnaces need repair?"  Yes.  I mention it in every monthly report to the board. "What are the parent's response to the situation."  They accept it.  "What have we tried to remedy this?"  The committee offered to use our budget to fix the furnaces rather than use it for supplies, curriculum, etc., but then the board just lowered our budget because we found extra funds. "Okay.  I'll take next steps."  He wrote a few quick notes on the legal pad in front of him and we moved on to the next agenda item.

The next day RB copied me on a letter he sent to the board president and the minister:  Dear BP & PP,  It has come to my attention as committee chair that classrooms 5 & 6 in the lower level, south hallway are completely void of heating or cooling.  As our committee is not responsible for overall building maintenance, we will be suspending  programming for Grades ** and ** until such time the heating and cooling is restored in their classrooms to the same level of comfort enjoyed in the rest of the spaces. We will instruct families before next Sunday that their children should attend services until further notice.   Please direct all communication of this matter back to me.  Sincerely yours, RB

As I read the letter, I had an aha moment - quit being so nice!  Set some boundaries!  I was a bit embarrassed, but none the less delighted, that RB had swooped in with such a simply stated and implemented solution.  It probably goes without saying that monies were found and the furnaces were repaired before the next scheduled classes occurred.
My Tent Home

Back to last night's (and last week's) dream.  In it, I am camping, which is what I was doing when I first had the dream.  There is a storm, also true last week.  My tent is taking water on through the floor.  Every time I try to put a tarp or tape over the leaks, I get poked by something sharp.  Whatever this is pokes a hole in the tape or tarp as I apply them to the floor.  The sharp pokes make my knees, hands, and fingers bleed and now blood and water are making a small, swirling stream in my tent. I feel that this tortuous exercise is how I will spend the last few moments of my life.

Behind me a hear the zipper of my tent.  In one effortless motion, RB opens the zipper, steps in the tent, then closes the zipper with his arm stretched out behind him.  He bends over to see the swirling water and blood and asks, "Do you know what's causing this?"  I tell him that I know there is something sharp making the holes in the floor and causing the bleeding, but I don't know what the sharp things are. "How long have they been under the tent?"  As I pause to think, it occurs to me that this tent has always had sharp pokes that need to be avoided.  Now, during the storm I am trying to cover them over as water pours through the holes the sharp objects have made.  Usually, I step softly, avoiding being poked.

"I see," says RB as I explain everything.  He turns around and unzips the tent, holding the flap open. "You step out and I'll fix this." I think he's crazy to suggest that I go out in the storm . . . until I peek past him and see the sun rising and beautiful day dawning outside the tent.  Without asking how this can be, I step out of the tent, followed by RB. "Go wash up," he instructs me. I walk toward the tenter's shower house, still puzzled by the weather, or lack there of.  As I glance past my shoulder back at RB to see him grabbing my tent by the poles that crisscross the top and lifting it up.

As I walk past a row of tents on my way to the shower house I can hear chaos and see motion in other tents as I pass them. I understand that they, too, are dealing with a storm something like the one that I was just in.  There are weird things that happen, odd interactions as the dream progresses, but the summary of the dream finds me returning to my campsite to find RB in my tent putting things in order - sleep mat, lanterns, books.  I'm reminded of the Bedouin tents that are lavishly decorated with pillows, carpets, and beautifully colored scarves. I step into the tent tentatively, waiting to feel a sharp poke underfoot. Nothing.
Unknown dangers lurk . . . .
There is still a bit of a storm in the tent, evidenced by a gust of wind that turns pages on a book and makes the colorful scarves dance.  I hear a faint clap of thunder rattling in a corner of the tent. I look at RB as if to ask, "how did you do that?" I recognize this as my tent, but there have been some extra amenities added, including a door on the opposite side of the door I just entered.  RB guides me to the new door, unzips it and holds the door with one hand as he gently guides me out with the other.  When I'm standing safely outside, he lets the door drop and goes back to his decorating and tidying anything that gets blown over or askew.

Outside I see the space, vegetation flattened, where my tent had been before RB moved it. I can see little glimmers of the sharp, poky things popping up through and under the flattened plants.  I know exactly why I got injured.  I feel tears welling up as I begin to understand that all the sharp objects are things that represent pain from past encounters -  a shard of of a wedding ring, a pane from a home no longer mine, contracts, letters, fabric from that 1980s matching couch and love seat - things that are both my responsibility and things that I did nothing to earn.  There is an artsy looking stake in the middle of the square that holds this note:  This space is not suitable for tents.  Responsible parties must please remove the sharp and dangerous materials or build a 12 x 10 foot wood platform over them so others can safely use this space.  Thank you.  RB

As my gaze focused past that square, I could see other previously inhabited tent spaces with flattened vegetation and notes staked in the middle of glimmering, probably sharp shards of one sort or another. There were also a smattering of tents on platforms and the ground as far as I could see along the shore and into the woods.

I returned to the tent to watch RB closing the zipper on the other entrance as he stepped out.  By the time I unzipped the door he'd left through to beg him to stay and talk with me, he was at another of the stormy tents that I'd passed down the path.  He unzipped a door part way and as he ducked to enter, he was shot in the arm.  I screamed in horror and he looked over at me.  "This one is for you when you're ready," he called to me through his cupped hands, blood dripping from his upper arm off his elbow.  He re-zipped the tent, marking it with his blood like the the angel of Passover.  Then he turned and walked toward the next tent. In one sweeping motion, he simultaneously brushed the blood from his arm and healed the gunshot wound.  I watched him enter another tent, it's interior storm revealed as he unzipped the door and disappeared inside.  Then I woke up.

Simple lesson learned from this dream?  I think RB is a part of me.  It is the part of myself that knows it is not my responsibility to put up with the sharp, probably dangerous, objects that frighten and harm me.  The tent is a metaphor for me. When I allow the shards to remain in the space I am, internally I become a storm.

When I am a storm, I am distracted.  I focus on where the immediate pain and damage that I think I don't control.  Instead of calming myself, stepping out of the tent for a moment, so I can see what is causing the pain, I stay in that pain and fear trying to fix each little poke.  I am going to try to post more notes when I begin to feel those shard minefields, when the storms begin growing within.  I will be clear and concise in notifying people who have left shards in my life that I am moving to a safer place.

Now my dilemma is discerning if I am brave enough to go back to sleep and face what is in the tent that RB assigned to me after he was shot . . . .
Full Moon after the Storm

*Objective dream interpretation = mom is mom, old man is old man, dog is dog, tree is tree, monster is monster, etc. It is what it is.  
 *Subjective dream interpretation = all beings, maybe even objects, are a representation of some part of the dreamer. Universal symbols are gifts/messages from the collective consciousness to be used to see dream expediences in cultural and geographical perspectives.