“Courage, dear heart.”
― spoken by Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
I have been thinking about the story The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis these last few weeks because of a dream I am working with right now:
I am a young girl, arriving after a long journey to a large field of grass, that is divided into two. On one side, is an enormous lion, stretched out luxoriously, being combed by two other girls. On the other side, is my father, around 30ish, standing by a lawn mower. He has on a white hat and it is covered by fleas. I say, “Dad, there are fleas on the hat.” He does not move or look at me. I kiss him on the cheek and he is like a statue, frozen. I turn from him and go to the Lion.
I love CS Lewis’ story, a retelling of the Christian mythology of Christ. Raised Catholic, in a very loose sense, all of the stories of Christ held me and resonated in me – still do in some way, even though I have long abandoned the structure of Catholicism and Christianity.
It is the story of dying and resurrection, it is the story of a wild love, it is a story of tenderness and trauma.
My dream brings that larger mythology into my personal mythology, into the personal mythology of where I am in my work right now.
The moment in my dream is an echo of the moment of story when Aslan, who was killed by the White Witch, returns to life. The moment of redemption, the moment of the Christian story of how Christ was the sacrifice.
I do not believe in the mythology that Christ died for “our sins”. For me, instead, the story is about the dying to self, the moment in the spiritual journey where we let what is not true in us die so that what is true in us can live, thrive, manifest.
The lion is back – there has been a death in me of a pattern I have had with my father which has echoed through out my life. When I was younger, I wanted my father to wake up. Wanted him to see what I saw in him, underneath the shame and rage he carried and still carries. If he would wake up, then he would see me, too. If only he could see me. But when I tell him in the dream that he has fleas on him, he does not hear. He is a statue, like in Narnia, frozen in time. It is not my job to awaken him. It is not my breath that can melt the stone that encases him.
Of course, I have been like my father. With my hat covered in shame, cold and unmoving. Silent. Blaming myself, then others, for not being awake. Earlier in my life, I did blame my father, my mother. In my first marriage, I blamed my husband. There are still moments, of course, when I want to blame my husband, Bill, now.
I do not live that blame now. I do not blame my beloved, I do not blame my friends, I do not blame teachers or circumstances. I also do not live the responsibility to be the one to awaken my father or to awaken any one. In the dream, I kiss my father goodbye and leave him, in his frozen stance. I leave that part of me, too, that has been frozen, cold. Covered with shame about who I am and who I have not been.
In my relationship with my father, I have not spoken to him in many years. The last time we spoke, he yelled at me to stop calling him, as he had done many times before. He yelled and said, “Every time I hear your voice, I feel what a terrible father I was. Stop calling me, for god’s sake. Just stop calling me.”
I finally did stop calling. I stopped trying to convince him of anything. I stopped making it my job as well.
What is redemption? Is it the lion dying for me? Or is it my willingness to let myself be led through the process of dying to self. For me, it is this. The power of the story of dying to be reborn again, of dying so that the newness can be opened up in me.
Not as in “born again”. The work of the dream is a long journey. The process of dying to self is first to see and acknowledge, take responsibility, for what needs to die. The dreams have shown me what is not me and what is, has shown me how I have been like my father. This dream is showing me that I am not my father anymore. Nor am I entranced by being the good daughter, the good wife, the good student anymore.
After this dream, I had another:
Again, I am a girl and have arrived after a long journey. I am exhausted in both body and heart. My friend Therese is there. I go and sit with her at a table under a shade tent. She immediately gives me chocolate and says, “Eat this, quick.” Like it is medicine and I need it. The chocolate is wonderful and I feel the exhaustion of my heart begin to lift.
Another story infiltrates this dream, from another favorite book series. In the Harry Potter books, by JK Rowling, the cure for the hopelessness that descends from the dark figures of the Dementors is chocolate. From the land of shame, from the land of being frozen, from the land of believing I will never be redeemed, never be whole, my old and dear friend Therese, gives me exactly what I need.
For the voice that shamed and is still shaming my father, is the voice that shamed me. It is a voice that is not mine, but that I have carried. Like being haunted every step by a Dementor. This is what shame can do to us, until we are beaten down into only a fraction of the light that we truly are. Even if we hide our shame.
In my dream, the archetypal feminine comes as my dear old friend Therese, who has been that kind of friend for me, even though we do not see each other much these days. In our college years and the years of our 20s, we were with each other through all of our changes and all of our openings to our lives. Always seeing and loving each other. Without judgment. I have never felt that shame with Therese, which is why she is in my dream as I am healing.
I love how story lives in us and how dreams work with us with story. The mythology that lives deeply in me – the Christ mythology of my youth and of my heritage – and how the retelling of those stories in stories I love – both CS Lewis’ Narnia books and the Harry Potter books – work to teach me about where I am in my journey.
Where will be the next chapter of my story? I am healing from the hopelessness of the shame, the hopelessness of the Dementor voice that has lived inside of me. I am healing with the help of the divine feminine who comes as my dear friend Therese. I am walking away from the dark male energy and the responsibility I have carried as I carried it with my father.
I am a young teenager, standing with a man, who feels wild to me. We watch an enormous bonfire as it burns at the structure of the wood it burns. I feel exuberant in the burning, standing with this man, who I know is the Divine. As the fire burns, he turns to me and says, with a sly grin, “What now?” I feel a rush of fear and excitement.
I am with the lion, who is a wild lion. Never tame. In this moment, with this wild lion, though, it is the time of rest, of lying in the grass together. Of healing after the process of letting something in me die.
It is a time of healing and of stepping into the fire, into the blaze and burn. Into the fire so that it runs in my veins. So that I can step into my wildness, too, like the wild lion/man who leads me.
How this, too, is part of the healing.