Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Emotionally Disturbing Dream, Part 2 of 3

It's high time I pick up with describing some of the strange dreams I've had recently as I've been mourning the loss of my Mom. If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here.

A fair warning: there's some real personal stuff in here. If you're uneasy with people getting sort of "emotionally naked," then you might just wanna stop reading now and move on to something else.



It's been awhile since I dreamed this dream. Anyhow, here's a summary from my previous entry about the major events of this dream:

I had this dream where Mom was coming to visit me for a week. She was coming down from Alabama with her mother & her sister. The first day she came, she and I reconnected in affectionate ways that are normal for mothers & their sons (and as was normal for us). I always enjoyed it when Mom scratched my head & played with my hair; so I would oftentimes lean against her shoulder & let her play with my hair. In this dream, Mom & I were doing this on our first day together. I didn't have an awareness of the strangeness of this encounter because of Mom's death; I was simply enjoying the rich, full amount of time we had together after recognizing that we had been apart for some time. The best way to describe this part of the dream was that Mom & I were reconnecting both physically and emotionally.

This was a very comforting experience for me. But what happened next was an emotional jolt of another kind.

Within the dream, the very next day, Mom surprised me with the news that she, her sister, and her mother were going to cut their visit with me short & head up to Atlanta, GA for some shopping. They had to go abruptly, seemingly after having planned to spend time with me for a week.

My immediate reaction? First shock (What?! Why? Why NOW?), and then anger. But it wasn't an enraged anger; it was a calm, thoughtful anger, if such a thing exists.

Before I describe what happened next, I have to provide some context. My Mom left our family in the middle of my Senior year in high school. She met another man who flattered her. She didn't have any improper relations with him while still with my Dad. But she felt that her relationship with Dad had grown cold, and she was eager to experience the warmth of love again.

This is going to sound odd -- because it was -- but Mom actually consulted me on her decision to leave us & move away to Alabama. I specifically remember how in early December 1998 Mom told me that she had rekindled a friendship with an old pal, she didn't know if it would ever become anything more, but that she felt trapped & wanted to be set free to pursue a better relationship with him or whoever else might come along. She asked me what I thought about that. So, I told her that I thought that was her choice. I calmly, rationally told her that I wanted her to stay with Dad, but I understood how she felt & appreciated her desire to be happy. I explained that I thought her decision wouldn't much affect me, because I would in just 9 months time be moving away for college. But I urged her to consider my sister, who was just entering adolescence.

Mom made the decision to go pretty quickly after that conversation. The month between that conversation & the day she left was one of the dreariest, depressing periods of my life. I kind of chuckle about it now, but I literally sat in my room and listened to Simon & Garfunkel that whole month. That's how sad *I* was! ;)

I didn't think Mom's leaving our family would affect me that much, but it did. I don't think I ever really expressed it to Mom, either, because part of her decision to leave was based on me saying, "I think I'll be alright."

So back to the dream. Mom has up & decided she's going to cut her visit (and MY time) short to go off on some flighty, selfish shopping journey. And so I tried to rationally explain to Mom why I didn't appreciate it. I started to explain how she wasn't considering me, and how this was hurting my feelings. I remember saying repetitively, "Mom... ... You KNOW why I'm upset about this." With this line of conversation, I was connecting her cutting her visit short with her leaving the family a decade ago. I was turning the screws to try to get her to stay. And she'd act dumb, and I'd interrupt saying, "MOM -- I know you KNOW why I'm upset."

And that was it. That's when I woke up. So comforting, and yet so disturbing.

For the first time, I think, I've realized how much Mom's departure from my family actually did affect me. Like the stereotypical "hero child," I wanted to pretend that I was above mere feelings -- that I was an impregnable fortress that couldn't be touched by pain or hurt. And yet I was still feeling it all. And here I am NOW -- almost TEN years later -- STILL feeling it because I never really dealt with it.

You wanna know what song I listened to most during that dreadful "Simon & Garfunkel" period? It's called "I Am a Rock." Until just a few weeks ago, right after I dreamed this dream, I hadn't realized how much this song conditioned my response to those events in my life until I randomly heard this song on the radio -- the first time I'd given it a listen almost TEN years.



The first & last lines are so revealing...

"A winter's day
In a deep & dark December
I am alone..."

"...And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries."

Dreams can shake us up because sometimes they make us deal with emotional issues that we've tried to sweep under the rug. For me, my response to the intense emotional turmoil in my life at that time was to retreat into myself & shut others out of my life. To this day, my personality still resonates with figures & characters who can be strong, self-reliant people without the need of supporting friends or family.

Listen to something I wrote but never published on the blog when I was trying to clear my mind about an infatuation with a particular girl a couple of years ago. I was pontificating about my own romance with being like a cowboy:

Cowboys don't need girls -- it's just them, their horse, & the frontier. It's what I love about the movie "Jeremiah Johnson."

And yet still he learned to settle down with his wife & adopted boy.

[Sigh]

So part of me likes the independence of singleness. The cowboy-esque "I'm satisfied on my own" attitude that doesn't need anyone else.

You know, it didn't take long for God to figure out in Scripture that "it is not good for man to be alone." We were not created to be Christian Cowboys wild & roaming the frontier all by ourselves. I wasn't created for that. I, and we all, were created for community.

I suppose I'm writing this for the benefit of my friends, or for anyone who might stumble across this while doing a Google Search. In life, there are going to be unique times where we face intense grief or disappointment. It's not a matter of if, but when. When you do, I encourage you to do the courageous thing and face your grief or disappointment head-on. You will not be able to put it off forever. Someday your feelings will find you; perhaps long after it's too late to deal with the person who helped produce those feelings.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

Philip,

I continue to be amazed at your transparency. This kind of openness and honesty is a gift from God and serves you and others well, because it breeds close relationships full of understanding. Sometimes we just don't know what's going on in the lives of our brothers who are hurting until they speak up.

This kind of emotional nudity--as you so eloquently put it--is what's missing in most corners of the Kingdom. Thank you for your honesty.

Directly related to your post, the old AVB song "Where is my Father?" kept popping into my head:


A little girl, she seems grown-up, who's only four
She's so confused without a father anymore
And if you listen as she's on her knees to pray
Each night so preciously her broken heart will say:

Where is my father? Has he gone away?
Why can't he always be here to stay?
Where is my father? Does he still care?
I need a father who's always there

He left their family and he headed for the coast
He left a time when they needed him the most
The emptiness is even worse than if he'd died
Caught in confusion you can hear this young girl cry

Where is my father? Has he gone away?
Why can't he always be here to stay?
Where is my father? Does he still care?
I need a father who's always there

He's never coming back, she wished that he would
It hurt's cause he doesn't care
But she has another, a Father who's good
A Father who will always be there

You are my Father; never go away
I know you'll always be here to stay
You are my Father; I know you care
I need a Father who's always there

You are my Father who's always there.



It's obvious to me that you know you're identity and fully embrace being a child of God, in spite of all that you've endured in your life.

I love you, brother. God bless you.

Lloyd said...

I echo Jeff's sentiments here; I'm really proud of you for sharing your thought process and a formative event in your life that is so personal.

Not only does it demonstrate that you've undertaken introspection, but that you want to use your own experience to help people.

I think all guys can identify with the island/cowboy/batman/etc. mentality. It's easy to do so and even convince ourselves of the maxim: "All I need is God." Even Jesus did not jettison community as a fulfillment of his own needs and he sought out close friendships, yet I've adopted this line of thinking myself at times. Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with listening to S&G... they rocked. :)

Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to reading your concluding remarks. Love you, brother.