July 29, 2019
On my way out of the Unitarian Church this morning, a place that still doesn’t feel in alignment with my deeper self, a woman I barely know stops me to talk. She is old and infirm and she saw me as psychologist a few times for pain management many years ago. She tells me she still uses the hypnotic suggestion I gave her. And then, she says, “Please say hello to your husband, Michael.”
“He died last year,” I say, and all at once I find tears in my eyes, sudden and insistent, tears that I didn’t know were there. She sees them and says, “Oh, I didn’t know.” And of course, I understand. I offer her words of comfort for she is feeling bad for me and I don’t want to burden this good woman with my grief. I try not to break down completely but I can feel it coming. A long hard sob wants to escape from my throat and my heart, and I rush down the aisle to escape out the back door of the church.
It’s been a difficult several weeks, and I feel besieged by tasks, small and large, tasks that demand my attention, an attention that is feeling tired and overwhelmed.
For the past month I’ve had a systemic staph infection. My left eye is infected, and though it’s mild, and mostly without symptoms, it still speaks to my immune system being compromised. It speaks to things being out of balance. My doctor really wants this cleared up so now I’m on my third round of eye drops and my second round of oral antibiotics. Ugh.
Also, my dog has fleas. I hear the piano notes in my head as I think this phrase. And really, I’m hoping my dog had fleas. But she had them for the fourth time in three weeks, and I’m not feeling up to dealing with it again.
Flea treatment requires a complete vacuuming of everything. Everything! The carpets, the floors, the baseboards, the furniture. Then there is the washing of the dog with flea bath. It’s arduous and it hurts my back. She hates these baths and I don’t blame her. God only knows what the shampoo is doing to her skin. This is followed by washing all the bedding, hers and mine, and three days ago, spraying everything with some poison given to me by the vet. It takes an entire day to complete, and I feel overwhelmed just writing about it. We’ve had four flea-free days now, and I’m praying this is it.
Five nights ago, I came up from the basement after watching some kind of mindless TV. My basement is still a mess from the flooding that occurred almost three months ago. The new flooring I ordered has been perpetually on back-order and my basement, though finally dry, is still covered only by cold, gray cement, neither welcoming nor beautiful. My sister and her family helped me move most of the furniture out of the finished basement and into the unfinished part so that the old damp carpet could be removed. Now there is only a couch and the TV, and as unwelcoming as the environment is, it’s the only place I can watch movies – a distraction that has been my way of avoiding my long and sometimes lonely evenings.
As I climb the basement stairs, I hear a loud buzzing sound and I find a swarm of flies in my kitchen. A swarm! I’ve never seen anything like this in my clean Virgoan home. There are at least 40 or 50 flies, droning, and incessant, and actually a little frightening, circling endlessly around my kitchen light. I spend over an hour killing them. It is gross and nerve-wracking. In frustration, I wildly swing the fly swatter in the air at times, because they do not land. After awhile, I realize that this is useless, so I wait for them to settle on the window, and then I smash at them. I am Fly Killer, an identity I’ve never had before, and it feels odd and brutal. Eventually, their little blood-filled bodies are all over my countertops and floor, and always when I think I’ve killed the last one, another buzzes toward my head, scattering my nervous system and setting me ajar once again.
At the end, there was still one fly alive but I couldn’t kill it. It was small and quick and it knew I wanted its death. I finally gave up, turned off all the lights and shut my bedroom door so that it couldn’t find me in my sleep.
That night I had a dream: I am standing on the ground floor of my white house and there are cars at the curb. Medical personnel are unloading two men on stretchers who are ill and have come to me for healing. As they unload a third stretcher, I see that the third male figure is the gray color of the Death card in the tarot, and I realize that he is, in fact, dead. I close the door before he can be brought into my living room, vehemently saying over and over, “He can’t come in. He can’t come in!”
Clearly this is a dream about healing the Masculine self and about Michael. Yet another in the long round of dreams that are trying to help me come to terms with his loss. I’d had a “clearing” a few days before from a friend who is a master of Applied Kinesiology. In it, we’d discovered that I have been holding a belief that I am somehow responsible for Michael’s death, that I could have done more to save him.
This belief is replaced during our session by giving Michael “full responsibility for his choices and his spiritual path,” and by taking full responsibility for my own choices and spiritual path. I have no trouble taking responsibility for my own, but there is the niggling sense that if I hadn’t started to pull away from Michael some six years ago, if I hadn’t stopped letting him feed off of my heart, he wouldn’t have died.
It was the pattern we’d established to deal with his Asperger’s, and it had worked for a long time. Essentially, he supplied the logical, and I supplied the emotional in our connection. Thankfully, we both had the spiritual as well. But we had made a deal, an unconscious one, but a deal nonetheless: He would heal my physical self, and I would heal his emotional void. It’s the contract we made, and I truly do accept it. It’s taken me this long since his death to see it so clearly, and then I realize that this is exactly what happens as the death of a loved one begins to dissolve into memory.
The time since Michael’s death has been full of layer after layer of meaning and depth. I see who I was with him in a way I could not have seen while he was alive. At some level, I think we both knew that we had come to a natural ending between us. As one of my good friends said, “The only way the two of you could end was through death.” I see now she was right and that our end wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
And I can look back and realize we had a great time of remarkable growth between us, and then later, a time of stagnation and difficulty. And finally, during his dying, we were close again. We needed the seriousness and tragedy of a long death between us because we didn’t know how else to say goodbye. I find myself feeling deeply heartened to say this.
At a spiritual level, I know this belief I’ve been holding, is nonsense. I know I’m not responsible for his death. I was part of the dance around his death, but I was not the dance. I know that Michael felt loved by me, and I know how deeply I loved him. It was our karma, both his and mine, to play out this particular drama. But still, the sense of guilt has been there, lying quietly underground, waiting like a spider for me to discover it.
The following night I awakened with a hard, fast shock. It was as if a nuclear explosion had gone off and I was annihilated in a flash of light. I lay awake for hours, and for only the second time, I was enraged by Michael’s dying. I felt the intensity of the trauma I had endured “at his hands,” and I couldn’t let it go. The trauma of watching him die, of watching his body decay, of witnessing the savagery of his illness and its effect on me, is more than I can encapsulate in words. I know it’s still haunting my dreams and my body in ways that I cannot yet fathom.
Two weeks ago, I had a vision in a meditation. It was of The Lady, for this is what she called herself. She came as a thick green vine and she grew around me in a spiral from feet to head and up into the heavens – a beautiful green vine calling me to come find her.
I’m struggling with how to make sense of all this – the pestilence suggested by the flies and the fleas, the endless and exhausting cleaning of my home, the flooding of my basement, the undigested rage, and finally, the vision of The Lady.
I’m well-versed in the symbolic and metaphorical world, and I look for the meaning in these symbols. Clearly, the basement flooding is the manifestation of the feelings I’ve pushed down around Michael’s death, and around facing the world alone.
Flies have multiple meanings – from Beelzebub to the quick manifestation of desires, and maybe it’s both. The Devil is here in the distortion of ideas that arise around Michael’s dying. I’m hoping that the “quick manifestation of desires” is something positive, but this remains to be seen.
Fleas are globally identified as negative, though one site talks about the idea of rebirth. But fleas are the purveyors of the plague. They also represent “accumulative damage,” and god knows there’s enough of that in my life. One site talks about a representation of sensitivity to the environment, and another speaks of hurting the ones you love. A third one mentions vampirism, and I wonder if I’m the vampire or whether Michael was the vampire. Of course, he is dead, so it has to be more about my feelings toward Michael who unwittingly lived off of my heart. And about me, who unwittingly, let him.
The Lady is clearly the Goddess, and she is attempting to guide me. I have never been “called” like this before. And now, I’m listening more intently, looking for signs from her, trusting I will be shown. I’m waiting to see what it means to be called.
I keep being told I look “so strong” to the outside world, and I guess I am being strong. I’m getting through the worst three years of my life and I’m still functioning. I’m doing my work as a psychologist while running Eastwind, and I’m receiving visions of how to improve our healing center. I’m reinventing myself through a new program in psychedelic medicine. I’m meeting wonderful people and becoming involved in two groups of community singing. And for the first time in years, I’m starting to enjoy my life again.
But these difficult outer events are taking a toll. I see that they are showing me things in my inner landscape that I would just as soon forget. These are potent symbols, and for me to ignore them would go against the very foundation of my spiritual practice. This is Life trying to teach me something, and it’s all still a bit opaque. But this is the redemption. It is seeing and acknowledging the symbols as they arise, allowing them to have their sway within the psyche, and finally, opening to learn what they are trying to teach.
So, for now, I gather the meaning of these symbols and I’m cleaning up the messes. I’m hopeful that my newest medication will clear my infection. The flies are gone, I think the fleas are gone, and in two days I will have flooring in my basement. I can finally manifest new light and new life into the underground realm. I know that the underground is one of the realms of the Lady, and perhaps all of these events have been messages from Her. I am trying to listen.
Oh, let it be enough, I pray. Let it be.