This morning I had a dream that was profound, really profound, and its residue is still seeping into my consciousness. In this dream, I was with someone I have known since I was a girl, someone who still holds a special place in my heart. We were driving a truck down the backroads, deep into the heart of the woods. The truck suddenly stopped moving forward. The engine was still running, but the only gear it would go into, was reverse. We decided that in order to go the way we wanted to go, we would need to turn the truck around and head down the road by driving in reverse. That’s exactly what we did. We ended up moving forward while looking backward.
The more I mull this over, the more I turn it over in my mind, I see that that is one of the most profound lessons this life has to offer. In order to move forward, we need to see where we have been, who we have been, who we have been with on the journey. We take everything that we have been through, all our triumphs and losses, all our wounds and broken bones and scars, all our moments of shining in the spotlight, all our moments of grace…. We take all of the richness that this life has offered us, and we pack it up carefully into boxes and suitcases and hope chests. I hesitate to call it our baggage, preferring to think of it as our personal treasure chests. We take all this stuff, we load it into a vehicle that we steer through this life, and we set off down the road... There may be some things that we leave at the side of the road, as they no longer serve us. Others, we guard for life.
Artists spend a lot of time sifting through those treasure chests, looking for raw materials that they can transform into something golden. Since my surgery last July, this is exactly what I have been doing. The trauma of that experience is something that scratched the scabs off old wounds, leading me to give attention and care to the places that were hurting once again. It’s not been an easy process. I have cried a lot in the past several months. I have been angry, probably for the first time in my life, at my biological father who essentially dumped me when I was 5 years old. That was the last time I ever saw him. Really, who does that to a kid? He started a new family with his new wife, and left my brother and I out in the cold, kicked to the curb like a pair of worn out shoes.
Do you know what kind of message that sends to a child? It tells her that she is unworthy of love, not important, not good enough, unlovable even. Can you imagine telling that to a five year old ? Luckily, there was the constant, loving presence of my mom and my grandmother, and later, the man who would become my dad when he married my mom, to help counteract those messages. A little girl needs to have a man in her life who is a good role model, who is kind and loving and emotionally strong. She needs to know that there are good men in this world. A child needs to feel protected, to know that no matter what monsters lurk under the bed, the adults in her world will take care of everything. The world is a scary place. Adults are supposed to keep children safe from all of the dangers that lurk in and outside of the home. Children who are abandoned by one or both of their parents do not feel safe or completely loved. In their propensity for magical thinking, they internalize the message that there is something inherently wrong with them. If not, why else would a parent desert them? They become easy prey for those who would do them harm. Predators are many. I have known more than my share.
In my looking back while moving forward, all of these thing are coming to the fore, driving me to go deeper when making art, to seek out my more authentic truths. It’s scary work. It leaves me feeling vulnerable and unsure how it will be treated by others. I don’t so much care whether they like it or not, but worry more about whether it will be seen through a lens of sensitivity and empathy. Any artist who bares her soul in the process of creating will know what I am talking about, how tender this work leaves us feeling, how exposed.
So, the day after the Solstice, the day after my dad’s birthday, where we all feel the hope that comes with the renewed light, I leave you with this image, one from a series I am working on that is an hommage to the sacred feminine. When I look at this image, I see both strength and fragility here. And, yes, a certain vulnerability too. That’s perfect. It’s exactly where I find myself to be at this moment.
Here’s to longer days and the return of the light.
Until next time…