Dreams can be powerful, especially when they inspire or encourage us to act in ways that give meaning and purpose to our lives.
Before I knew that I was pregnant with my first child I had a dream that I was in the delivery room. A baby boy was lying on my belly and we were having a great conversation about how we could help one another during this lifetime. We both agreed that it would be difficult, but that the lessons we could learn from the experience of living this life together would make it worthwhile. We also agreed to forget the details of the conversation in order for the lessons to take hold. Soon after the dream I found out I was pregnant and nine months later, the baby boy in my dream was born.
I could not remember the details of the conversation but I never forgot the dream. And when things got rough I’d always ask him to try to remember why he was here, why we were in this life together and what it was we needed to learn.
His life was plagued with difficulties; he was talented, intelligent, and had a delightful sense of humor, but he had a seizure disorder and mental/emotional illnesses that made his time on earth painful and lonely. He died 4 months ago.
It is remembering that dream that comforts me during this time of terrible grief. If I knew him before he was born then maybe I can know him now that he has passed on. Maybe there is more to life than what we can see, hear, touch, taste and feel.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
That is what I couldn’t figure out. What point was there to living if we were just going to die anyway? What purpose was there to living?
I didn’t feel depressed per se. I was grieving, certainly. I was very, very sad. But I have been clinically depressed before and it was not depression that I was experiencing. Not yet, anyway. Not in full force.
Before Nick died I had quit taking an antidepressant medication that I’d been on for more than 20 years. I quit by accident. It was a matter of running out while I was out of town. A pharmacy was unable to fill the script right away and when all was said and done I had been without it for more than a month. Since I was doing fine at the time, I decided to give it a try on no meds. I cleared it with the doctor and that was that.
The depression didn’t hit until three months after Nick’s death. I went from a grieving mother to a grieving mother with clinical depression.
I cried all day, every day. I couldn’t get the idea of suicide out of my head. The thought that suicide was the only answer was intrusive and persistent.
I had been this depressed before. I’d attempted suicide (more than once) at other times in my life when I firmly believed that I was bad for people and that my presence in the world caused too much suffering. It wasn’t that I wanted to die. It was that I thought I had to die to rid the world of one of its problems. As soon as I recognized the dark state of mind I’d fallen into I started seeking help.
I tried working with the therapist I had been seeing for two years but she was accusing me of trying to sabotage and retraumatize myself. She wasn’t helping. So I looked elsewhere.
Needless to say, I started taking the medicine again as soon as I realized I was in trouble.
I got workbooks for al-anon and other self-help programs and tried hard to work them, but I could not concentrate.
I talked to my doctor, to my friends, to my 12 step groups.
I talked to my mother and to others who cared about me.
I called a therapist I had seen (and love dearly) who lives 2000 miles away. (You will hear more about her later.)
I called a good friend who said she would be my accountability coach. (You will hear more about her as well. )
And I started an online meditation class with Ram Dass.
All of these things helped.
Also, I had been working very diligently to improve my relationship with Mildred who is like my own mother. I love her so much.
We have a long history of hurt between us but I have made it one of my life’s goals to save the love. It is worth it to me. I am not willing to throw that away. There are many precious and hilarious memories, just as many, if not more than the bad ones and since I am the one living my life I get to choose what is important. My relationship with Mildred is one of the things I choose.
So as the depression worsened I tried to ward it off and I tried to hide the tears, but that only made me feel more desolate and isolated.
I kept working with the tools I had at my disposal. Painting, music, chanting, meditation, prayer, 12-step meetings, phone calls, and the knowledge that the pain I was feeling would surely pass. Knowledge from past experience that suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression as common as sneezing is a symptom of a cold. I had to wait it out.
Then something shifted.
The day I carried out the trash was a turning point; it was my first day of real hope.
The night before I had made up my mind. I said to myself: “In the morning, before it gets too hot, I am going to take out the trash.”
The dumpsters are pretty far from our house, and I was recovering from two broken feet and an autoimmune disease. (Another story.) But I’d decided that I would take the trash out no matter how many times I had to stop and rest along the way.
I was beginning to feel focused enough to make a plan and I went into self- rescue mode.
Before I went to sleep I looked up Kundalini yoga exercises to do to treat depression and found one that I was familiar with, one that didn’t seem to hard or too taxing. I planned to do it as soon as I woke up. I had had good results with Kundalini before. I knew it worked and I knew I needed it.
I was doing the Solstice Meditation Renewal class with Ram Dass online, so I looked up the lesson plan for that day. We were into week two and I loved the mantra: “The power of God is within me; the grace of God surrounds me.” I said it over and over until I could feel it in my body.
Processing things through my senses is a skill I learned from Elaine, the therapist that is 2,000 miles away. She trained me in the art of mindfulness and I was using it to absorb as much of the mantra as possible.
The next morning, I sat at my computer, getting into the heartfelt teachings of Ram Dass. Then I switched gears into Kundalini. I was trying to change my body/brain chemistry and energy to that of a person fully engaged with the business of living instead of the zombie I’d become. I’d texted my sponsor, L.A. and told her that I was choosing to look for things to be grateful for. It wasn’t easy because I wasn’t really in the mood, but I had some kind of new force inside of me, a willingness to exercise my will to live. Like any muscle that is not used, my will to live had atrophied and it took gentle effort and loving kindness to bring it back.
Time to carry out the trash.
I had to force myself out there. I complained about it by telling my mother we need to invest in a little trailer for the riding mower so we can haul trash to the dumpster instead of trying to carry it out. But out the door I went.
At the halfway point we have a chair so we can sit if we need to rest before going on. I did need to rest. I was out of breath and my feet hurt. But I was ok after a few minutes. In fact, the birds were singing and the trees were green. There was a very pleasant breeze. “Nice.” I thought.
After taking a few deliberate, deep breaths, I got up and walked out to the dumpster and then back again to the halfway point.
Sitting there, enjoying the shade and sounds of an early morning in summer I began to calculate the distance from the chair to the house as opposed to the chair to my vehicle, which still had not been unpacked since Nick died. I had the wheelbarrow already and the distance was about the same. It was still cool enough. I decided to go to unpack Nick’s paintings, to bring them into the house.
Please understand that all the steps up to this point were monumental and extremely difficult for me! It may seem simple but it was like climbing Mount Everest while wearing a lead coat. Such is the nature of depression.
So the decision to make a detour and go to my vehicle to unpack Nick’s paintings instead of going straight into the house was a significant sign of progress.
But wait, it gets better. It may not sound better at first but bear with me.
When I got inside there was a phone call from a cousin who had just had knee surgery.
Her husband had fallen onto her surgery knee so thdey were both in the emergency room.
Mom and I didn’t hesitate. We went straight to the hospital and then to their house so that we could be of assistance in whatever way we were needed. We cleaned and washed dishes, we cooked and ran errands, we listened and visited. I even got to do a little Reiki. We were there with them for the entire day. (It all turned out well by the way.)
Remember that my feet were just healing from broken bones and I still have an autoimmune disease, but I was able to do all that work and I enjoyed doing it. I felt needed. I was useful. For the first time in a long time, I was able to be of service to someone. That day my depression lifted!
I could hardly wait to tell my doctor, who I was going to see the next day. This was big news. I knew that service was going to have to be part of my recovery.
It was still a struggle to keep my feet on solid ground and If I was going to make it out of the pit of utter despair I knew I’d have to be of service to someone who needed me every single day.
Here is the place in the story where we have to switch to present tense because this is an ongoing process.
I cling to the mantras from the Ram Dass meditation course. I keep in touch with the online group of fellow meditators.
I keep in touch with Elaine, my friend and former therapist from NJ, who taught me so much about how to stay alive, how to thrive in a world where cruelty is the norm. She sees something of value in me. She is teaching me to believe that there is still a reason to be alive. This is Elaine:
I am glad I stopped seeing the counselor who was holding me back, who was actually causing more harm than good. I’m glad I started seeing someone who wants to work with me in a creative way, honoring the fact that creativity is useful, that using art and music to recover is not a waste of time. It was hard for me to stand up for what I believe and choose a better way; I’m glad I did it.
And every night I call my friend, Wendy, who has agreed to be my accountability coach. She wants to talk to me at the end of every day to hear how I have done my share to make the day a good one, to see how I used my energy for that day. She very gently, but firmly kicks my butt if I fail to see my good qualities or opportunities for growth and progress. What a blessing to have a friend like that!
Of course, I have not told you everything. How could I? I didn’t tell you much about L.A. who is my 12- step sponsor and a bright light in the world. She has helped me in so many ways.
She is also part of a kind of magical thing: the Convergence of Lions, which is a story I will tell you soon, I promise.
First let’s talk about this other thing—this phenomenon that I might understand better if I were a quantum physicist. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I will try.
As I said, I have always had a stormy, painful relationship with Mildred.
Well, I have a similar relationship with a girl named Penny, only the roles are reversed. She can barely tolerate me. She cringes when she sees me coming. Yet we are bound together by love that is deeper than the rage that roils on the surface, but you’d never know it by our interactions. I grovel and she holds me at arms’ length.
The interesting thing is that when I started working on my part of the relationship with Mildred, taking responsibility for my actions and my attitudes without having expectations of her, not only did things get better between us, but things got a little better between Penny and I as well!
These two people never see or speak to one another, but somehow the progress in one is affecting the other! It is kind of like one particle affecting another particle even though they are separated from one another. Einstein called this phenomenon Spooky Action, but is it really so spooky? Think of it more in terms of harmonics. When one tone is active it causes another to be active. I believe that is what is happening with Mildred and Penny. My inner work is the activating force. I’d better not slack off. But I don’t have to go crazy either.
It is wonderful to know that a little bit of honest work in myself goes a long way toward mending things in the world –out there. Progress in the way I relate to my own needs and feelings, hopes and dreams improve the way I relate to others and the goodness goes on from there.
Now, about the Convergence of Lions and the need to be rescued.
I was five years old when I had the lion dream and I was living in Hawaii.
The Lion Dream
It was the end of the world. The ocean was flooding the streets and pushing the sidewalks up into little pyramids. Everything was falling apart except for the house I was in. I was hiding in a kitchen and had somehow split myself into a bunch of little “me’s.” Each of me was in a different cabinet. Two giant lions were padding through the house. I can still the sound of their pads, soft and strong thrump, thrump, all through the house, checking every room to make sure I was safe. They were checking to see if I was hidden, to see that none of my toes were sticking out.
I love those lions.
Well, one week I wanted to paint a lion for a friend who is a Leo. I was mesmerized with the task of painting this lion and didn’t stop till it was finished and delivered.
L.A. had no idea I’d painted a lion, yet she gave me a little stone lion at a meeting that night with a card about the lion’s strength and courage. I thought it was interesting that two lions had shown up together.
That same night, before I went to sleep, I looked up from a book I was reading to turn off Youtube, and there was a picture on the screen of a kitten looking into a mirror and seeing a majestic lion instead of his own reflection. I said, “OK God! I am listening now!”
The convergence of lions happened before I was feeling suicidal. It was as if they came to warn me that things were going to get bad –that perhaps the end of my world was coming and I needed to have courage.
I have always been blessed with vivid dreams and premonitions and I treasure them. I love to see how they unfold and see what mysteries they hold.
I don’t know how I knew it was the end of the world when I was five, but the message to have courage during a time of great upheaval came through with the convergence of Lions precisely because the Lion Dream had made such an impression on me back then. Those dream lions have walked with me through all these years, only showing up when things were getting really bad.
The world I am living in now is not like the one I lived in before Nick died. It has changed.
I have changed. The world came to an end and nobody saved me.
Here’s the thing:
I have always wanted someone to save me, to rescue me, to discover me, to sweep me off my feet and take me to the magic kingdom where real life happens.
I have wanted that since I was a little girl; it probably has something to do with all those fairy tales and knights on white horses.
When the knight didn’t show up, I wanted a husband. When that didn’t work, I wanted relationships, then doctors and therapists and religion and books and herbs and yoga and this cure and that cure—always something outside of myself.
I was always grasping.
Now I wanted someone to save me from suicide.
But this time I knew that I was the only one who could save me after all because every other thing had been stripped away.
I had to do it myself. But I didn’t have to do it alone.
Let me say it another way. There is no one who can enjoy taking a nice deep breath for me. I have to experience that for myself. In the same way, no one can save my life or give my life meaning and purpose except my innermost self because no one fits in my skin like I do. No one can give a big sigh of relief when I fall into bed at the end of the day—I have to experience that for myself. No one else can make me understand what it feels like to have water on my skin or taste an apple or run or laugh or cry or sing. I have to discover these things first hand. And that is how I have to save myself too.
Step by step, task by task, one experience at a time, grace upon grace.
I am responsible for me. I get to decide what is important to me and what I want my life to be about. I get to decide what is valuable to me, what matters most. And I don’t have to figure it all out at one time. I get to trust my instincts and know as I go. I get to make mistakes and start over as many times as it takes. And I get to include other people in my life, people to cherish and serve, to laugh and play and work with. I get to have a sense of community and to build it up, nurture it with kindness and solidarity.
Yes, I have to save myself, but I never have to do it alone.
And who knows, saving myself just might have a ripple effect.
May there be
And dreams of lions to protect you, to remind you to tuck in your toes.
Now this is where the story ended BEFORE Nick connected with me on his birthday.
That is right.
You see, I had been working on the story for quite some time, trying to save my life, but the story didn’t have a heartbeat. It just didn’t have life. But on July 5th, 2018, Nick’s birthday, I woke up and sat at the computer, fingers flying. All of a sudden, the story came together in a way that made me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nick was nearby. I felt his energy. It seemed like he was right there in the room with me. And not in a creepy way at all, but in a wonderful, happy way.
My friend wanted to go to lunch, so we went to La Paz, Nick’s favorite place. I had not been there since he died. But it was a joy to be there. I felt him there too. I tried to tell my friend that it was Nick’s birthday and that as luck would have it I finally finished the story, but I accidently said “breathday” and I thought, “Yes! It is his breath day.!” Because I felt like somehow, somewhere, he was taking a new breath.
L.A. said she felt him too and the energy was good.
When I went home, after lunch, I was finally able to finish unpacking his boxes. I got to the very last box. When I opened it, there on top was a copy of the book Journey of Awakening by Ram Dass!!! I felt the whole universe wink.
I just wanted to let you know that I do feel connected to Nick and I do feel a continuation of life. Life does go on. And that does NOT mean that life goes on without the ones we love, but that it goes on with them. They go on too, with us, but in a different way. And if we are open to their love, they are able to share it with us, and we can certainly share our love and prayers with them.
Nick was born July 5th 1981 and died March 15, 2018. His Breathday was July 5th, 2018.His spirit lives on in light.