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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Anatomy of a Dream

I have dreams a lot, several a night that I actually remember.  Many of them are strange dreams, some of them are very psychedelic, beautiful, complex, and unclear in their message if there is a message or meaning at all.  Some dreams are really funny and make great anecdotes.  Some would make some really impressive novel or movie plots.  However, some of them are fraught with emotion, the kind that are demanding my attention to something with which I need to address in my subconscious.

Last night’s dream is even difficult for me to write out- it wants to stay stuck in my throat and keeps my chest tight and protected.  Therefore, it needs to come out, but I'll keep it short.

Let me start by explaining that I had been watching Grey’s Anatomy up until about two weeks ago when I realized that I was getting way to emotionally invested in these people that aren’t even real, and it was draining me.  After all, I could be using all of that wasted empathy on real people.  I was watching for so long because much of Grey’s feels very comforting to me.  I love hospitals, I spent a significant amount of time in them growing up and the medical drama of it all feels so familiar.  As comforting as it may seem at first, it is also not healthy for me.  So I stopped seeking comfort in the medical drama drug two weeks ago.  Hello, my name is Ashley and I'm addicted to medical drama.  Hi, Ashley.

The Dream
I dreamed that I was pregnant (gasp!), even though I had an IUD.  There was something very wrong that would kill me if I didn’t have surgery immediately.  However, I needed to decide if I wanted to keep the fetus or have it terminated during surgery.  I chose to terminate it. 

My parents were there in the hospital with me for little bit, and I remember that I kept asking my mom to call Andy to tell him what was happening.  She did, but she told me he was busy and couldn't come.  I tried to text him, but the nurses kept taking my phone away and giving my IVs.  This theme continued for what seemed like hours before the surgery.

I was absolutely terrified and alone- I had never had surgery of any kind before.  The doctors were very kind and one of them was particularly comforting and funny.  Just before he put me under, I remember thinking, “I’m sorry potential human, but this is the right thing to do.  I’m not your mom.”

When I woke from the surgery, I was both sad and relieved.  (*Note:  in real life, I’ve never had to make that choice, my heart goes out to all the women who have had or will have to make that choice.)  The very handsome doctor was there, and Andy never showed up, so when the handsome doctor told me he’d fallen in love with me (that happens all the time, right?) I naturally decided I was in love with him too, but I needed to “take it slow.” (Oh brain, even in the most serious of circumstances, you make me laugh.)  The next thing I know, the director yells, “CUT!”  And we wrapped up filming.  Apparently, this was all just acting.  The entire cast walked through the parking lot near the filming location to what appeared to be an amusement park, where we then celebrated finishing up with filming.  

“In real life,” the ladies on the cast told me, “the handsome doctor is an ass but he has a great British accent.”  I said, “I lived in Britain and I’m pretty much immune to the accent.  Also, I made out with him for two days filming and he’s a really good kisser.  So, he's cool in my book.”

I’m a bit with Jung in that I think dreams can point to a greater evolution of the relationship between the ego and the unconscious and attempt to create a better balance within the brain, but I don’t think dreams are always necessarily this.  Sometimes I think it’s just neurons firing.  However, there are dreams that are so obvious once I describe them out loud or in writing, I don’t need a psychoanalyst to get the meaning behind them.  This one was like that for me.

This dream has several levels to it that I want to go over and each theme has different levels of meaning behind them.  How do I know what they mean?  It’s an individual process and when you hit upon a meaning, you know because it resonates.

The Terminated Fetus:
The death of a dream.  Yesterday, I spent some time talking with an old friend about her health and how it’s causing her to cease to be able to do what she loves, something she has spent her entire life creating.  The life she’s created, as well as a future dream of what would have been, is being killed.  I’ve had similar experiences (for example, moving back from Wales) although not to the same intensity as she is experiencing.  It is a long, painful, confusing, and continuing grieving process.  My heart is with her and this is fresh on my mind.
The childfree choice.  At the same time, this is also about my choice not to have children (for which I have many reasons including simply… I don’t wanna.).  This is a stance in which I sadly need to constantly defend.  It has hit me, since turning 35, that it really is not going to happen for me.  I really haven’t “changed my mind” nor am I even creeping towards a life where a child would fit.  I’m almost actually relieved that I might just “get away” without having one, as though I actually hadn't let myself recognize how powerful it is to really have a choice.
Tying these together.  What I have been recognizing is how powerful my body is, how powerful I am, and how much potential my life has.  We do not have to use absolutely all of our potential and turn it into reality - good Dog that sounds exhausting anyway!  I personally need to give myself permission to have the right to exist knowing that I will never, nor can anyone ever, live out his/her/their full potential in this one lifetime as an individual.  So I hereby say to myself, "Dear one, stop feeling bad, guilty, defensive, and ashamed about the things you'll never do."  If I need to grieve for it because it's something I've carried with me for so long, by all means, I'll grieve my little heart out, but I'm giving myself permission to NOT "have it all" - whatever the fuck that even means.

Andy Didn’t Show Up:
Fear of abandonment.  Seriously just my standard, cliche, "oh it's you again" fear of abandonment - alive and kicking since 1981.

The Handsome Doctor:
The hero.  Again, I think this has to do with unused, forgotten potential.  If I’m sticking with Jung, the handsome doctor is really an aspect of myself- a recognition of my own hero/savior/healer inside of me. 
A bit of grieving.  It is also potential love that will never be fully realized.  By choosing Andy as a partner, I am actively NOT choosing all the other potential loves that could be in my future.

Or it could be that sometimes a handsome doctor is just a handsome doctor.

The Film
An illusion.  Maybe I think all of life is just an illusion anyway?  Maybe we’re all just sort of souls wearing meat sacks?  I don’t know, but there are many times in my life, whether right or wrong, I feel like a performer. 

Dissecting the really vivid dreams can be extremely helpful for me.  Sometimes, I cannot figure them out either because I’m not really ready to see the meaning, or they just plain don’t have one.  Other times, like in this dream, I feel like I know myself on a deeper level. I get in touch with some inner wisdom that I need to hear or it reveals deeper wants, needs, healing or balance that I having been paying attention to.  The moment where I recognized that "I can't do everything in this one life and that's okay" was, and is still, extremely liberating.  I didn't even know that this was bobbing around in my subconscious, subtly contributing to feelings of guilt every single day.  Whew, glad that's been brought into the light!

And sometimes, my dreams just pure creative, entertaining energy.
I mean, really, the only handsome doctor I want to make out with in real life is Dr. Andy, PhD.  :)

Do you dissect your dreams?  Do you find any clarity or meaning in them?  

Friday, May 20, 2016

PMS: Pretty Much Sucks

Yesterday, I had a bit of a mental Shit Storm.  There were some really good things to come out of it, but as it was happening, I felt like I was in a warzone in my own head, cowering from the rapid shrapnel of stinging thoughts.

It so happens that every month around this time in my cycle I struggle with PMS.  (Yes, it’s real and anyone who says we’re making it up (and I know some that do) is automatically setting himself up to receive its wrath and rightly deserves it.)  This change in hormones, just like any drastic change in body chemistry, is Your Body On Drugs.  Mostly for me, this means my depression (and sometimes anxiety) flares up.  Sometimes, it presents itself as anger.  No not anger:  RAGE.  I mean the kind of rage that actually scares me, that could do real damage, where I feel a thunderstorm of destructive energy take control of my mind and body.  I can usually keep it at bay, conscious that the anger is a result of hormonal cold front creating an energy surge.  The anger is sometimes directed outwardly.  For example, I have been the closest to breaking up with Andy during this time of the month, nearly convinced of our absolute wrongness for each other, only to come back into the light after a few days and realize just how off my perception had been.  I have definitely lashed out at friends, most of whom thought I was incapable of lashing out, but usually the rage is directed at myself.  This month the roulette wheel of destruction landed on me.
I’m not exactly sure what the trigger was, but I think it was the moment JT (I only wish he were Justin Timberlake) came into my office, interrupted me in the middle of something requiring great concentration, and asked me to do a huge list of things.  Seeing things through the PMS filter, I took that to mean he thought I didn’t have enough work to do, that he thought I was just sitting around wasting tax dollars because he also clearly doesn’t know all that my job entails (that last bit is actually true).  I’ve gotten angry at JT in the past but it never results in anything productive, so I think my brain automatically directed that anger inward.  That’s when my inner Abuser got really loud.

This Abusive Voice turned on me, viciously declaring my worthlessness, my laziness, my stupidity, my absolute Brokenness Beyond Any Repair. 


It was LOUD.  And I believed it for a few hours and I struggled to hold myself together.  Until I pealed myself away from it far enough to recognize it as not who I am, it is not speaking the truth, but merely one voice.  I cried walking back from lunch, feeling the pain as though someone I love deeply and desperately just betrayed me, punching me in the gut.

I felt wounded all afternoon, but I knew I could hold it together until 5:30 when I would be at the barn and find comfort and quiet in the horses.  And I did.  As I walked out to get the horse I was riding, a huge mare with a giant head and kind eyes, I could feel my chest expand to take in full, easy breaths again.  Her massive shod feet clomping on the driveway slowed my heart rate and calmed my mind.  I had a workout of a lesson that was more like a meditation because I was concentrating so much on my present tasks that the rest of the world, and that Abusive Voice, fell away.  The little things stood out more to me then.  I gave the mare peppermint treats and I focused all of my attention on the softness of the mare's velvet nose, her sweet peppermint horse breath, and giant stomping hooves.

I drove home, walked up the stairs to my apartment, and opened the door to let Abby out when Andy came bounding up the stairs, his long legs skipping steps, excited in the most Andy-ish way.  When he hugged me, I let his hug smother what remained of the Abusive Voice.

As we sat on my couch later last night, each of us reading our books, I sank into a deep relaxed state of calm that earlier yesterday I would never have believed I could feel again.  Andy’s presence calms me, it has from the first time we ever cuddled on his giant green chair.  His presence feels like respite, peace, and safety.  All that intense pain I had experienced earlier in the day transformed into gratitude for the horses, for the people in my life who make the horses possible (especially Jenn), and for Andy for loving me so thoroughly in the ways that truly matter.  He reminds me, when I forget on my own, that I am loveable.  He reminds me what love looks like, love for another and love for oneself.  Through this I remember how to release myself from my own pain.  No, having a person doesn’t prove that I am loveable nor does it make me any less responsible for my pain (I could argue it makes me more responsible for dealing with it), but Andy is my person and as such is the co-creator of my life and my future.  Andy’s presence matters; his thoughts, his feelings, and his life philosophy get intertwined with my own in ways that have made me more balanced and more solid within myself.  I am so proud of myself for shaking off the Abuser yesterday and I will remind myself, the next time it begins to shout, that I pulled myself out of a potential trench of depression and that it’s okay to need guidance in the form of horses, dogs, friends, great loves, whatever I need to climb out of it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Please, Please Me

I've had a rollercoaster of a six months.  I quit my well-paying job, I travelled in Europe for a month and enjoyed the presence of Bettina, I moved to Indiana to be with Andy, I started a part time job just to quit and take a better one, and I've been at that new job for just over three months now.  

Throughout that time, I tried really hard (and usually failed) not to feel bad about doing what’s best for me.  Quitting my safe job to travel and nourish my relationship with my partner was wracking me with guilt for a very long time.  How dare I be happy and choose fulfillment over safety.  Oh that voice is such a drag.

It’s not just that I feel bad about doing what’s best for me necessarily, but a lot of it is that I think a lot about the other people this affects.  For example, after quitting that part time job, I thought about the new people I'd met and what they do, how they’d ordered my business cards, introduced me to groups of people, and the work I’d already taken over from others.  I think about how their days were going to be inconvenienced because of me.  I am grateful that I’m considerate of others, but there must be a balance.  

“Do you just walk around all day thinking about other people’s feelings? How do you get anything done?” 
- Schmidt

There is still a big part of me that is also concerned about what the others will think of me, although that part of me is shrinking almost daily.  Bettina and I have talked a lot about this because we both tend to go about our days people-pleasing, usually subconsciously.

Now HOLD ON.  Please don’t take this as some sort of “I’m a martyr, poor me” talk.  I’m not a victim and neither is anyone else who is a people-pleaser.  It is a CHOICE, however, sometimes we’re not aware that it is which is why it’s really important to talk about these things and point them out in yourselves and in your close friends who also struggle.  Here is a quick rundown about the habit of people pleasing:

People-pleasing isn’t…
about you caring truly about the well-being of others.
making you a martyr.
other people’s fault.

People-pleasing is…
poor boundary setting.
about yourself, your need to be loved and accepted, your codependence (if that’s what you want to call it), or whatever else you discuss with your therapist or dog.

People-pleasing results in resentment and pain.  Even though I know this, it’s difficult to stop in the moment.  In the past, I have changed many habits that no longer served me with awareness and intention and I know this is no different, however, that does not mean it is easy.  

Awareness helps.  If I’m in the middle of icky resentment, pain, or beating myself up, I try to remember to ask myself, “Hey tired little lovely bunny, are you doing this to please others, or out of respect and consideration for others?”  I really do talk to myself like this.  The more rotten I’m feeling, the more sweetly (sometimes ridiculously so) I try to consciously speak to myself, although it’s not always easy.  And I’ve noticed that when I’m involved in a romantic relationship, I often replace this voice with a very mean one, but that's another post. 

I also have really supportive friends, like Bettina, Ashlee, and Katherine who all experience this, talk about it, and most importantly LAUGH about it.  Making fun of ourselves in a lovingly teasing manner is the best way for me to lighten it all up and put it into perspective.  

Feel free to share your people-pleasing addiction tendencies below and share any ways you help yourself through it.

Snail Steps

Snail Steps