“You didn’t sleep well last night, did you?” said my husband during his usual lunch break phone call home. I hadn’t realized it was so obvious, and apologized for any loss of sleep my restless tossing had caused him. “I had a nightmare. Sorry.” It seemed like so little to say considering the depth of my reaction the night before. Dreams…so mysterious…so powerful.
I’ve been reading a book by author Peggy Tabor Millin called, Women, Writing, and Soul-Making. She offers many tips and tools for honing the craft of writing, but more importantly she inspires women to take back their creative fire. Allow me to quote a bit of wisdom that I found powerful:
“Claiming the fullness of the feminine requires fully exploring and integrating all the feminine archetypes as parts of ourselves. Without the power and wisdom they bring us, without their insight into both our darkness and our light, we cannot stand alone on our own terms. As long as we shrink from their challenge to be totally ourselves, we will not have the freedom to create.”—Millin page 95
As a woman who loves to write I found her words bothersome. Was I being authentic as a writer? Do I pull from the depths inside of me or do I write from a place of comfort alone? I wasn’t sure.
Another of the author’s suggestions was to ask a question—mentally—before going to sleep at night and see where the subconscious takes you. Then, pay attention and try to remember your dreams. That seemed like an easy enough project, so I asked how I might go deeper inside of my thoughts to become a better writer. After shutting off the lamp near our bed, I focused on the soft music drifting from the CD player and allowed sleep to take me.
In my dream I was in my childhood home. I was young, but ageless at the same time. I had fallen into the basement of our house, and there was no way to get out. Only a tiny bit of brown light filtered through the glass brick that substituted as a window near the ceiling. The air was cold, damp, and thick as I breathed my fear. Turning in small circles I felt the blackness consuming me. I screamed for my mother, but the more I tried to find my voice the less sound came forth.
I woke from my dream and found I was trembling… a thousand miniature earthquakes moving through my being. Sorting through the layers, I suddenly remembered that event had happened, but I’d forgotten about it.
Great-Aunt Margaret owned acreage and intended to build a retirement home on the property at some future date. With the basement foundation put in, Margaret’s husband passed away before their home was built. My parents, newly relocated from Kansas, purchased the land from Margaret and started a farm.
The timing and details are sketchy, but I remember them buying a house and moving it onto the basement’s foundation. Mom and Dad were slowly remodeling the house before we took up residence. In those early days there were no fixed stairs leading into the basement, but my brothers often went down there, so I thought I should see what was so interesting. I was four years old.
In my memory there is a moment when I stood looking into the black hole and believing there would be something to catch me when I took that first step. There wasn’t. I fell to the basement floor where fortunately a number of burlap sacks were stacked. With no stairs, I was trapped, and nobody knew where I was.
The odd thing is, once the memory came back it flooded me. Nonetheless, as I laid in bed trying to pull back the pieces of the childhood moment, there was no lingering sense of fear or recollection of that moment scarring me emotionally as I went forward.
I do remember that my mother eventually found me, and that she lowered a ladder and a flashlight into the darkness. She scolded me for being so stupid and said I was lucky I hadn’t broken my neck. I also remember there was an odd look on her face as I came off the ladder. The look said she was mad at me, yes, but also a bit scared. And maybe, in the grey fire of her eyes, a tiny bit proud that I was that fearless.
I don’t know why the dream uncovered that forgotten episode of my youth. Did I invite it with my pre-sleep question? Will it help me be a better writer knowing I was once a brave, or perhaps foolish, child? The subconscious is open to interpretation.
After having a little time to ponder the dream, and the event, I have decided something. I’ve decided I wish I still had the guts to step into the unknown and believe to my soul’s core that I will be just fine when I land.
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