Chaos in the hallways

golden-collageI am in an insane asylum. It is large and labyrinthine with many hallways and rooms and rooms within rooms.
It seems I am a doctor of sorts, a healer.
There are many sweet sweet patients – interesting artists and creative types – lovely people.
But there are also many angry people walking the hallways. Angry men especially.
On closer observation, some of the angriest figures turn out to be animals walking on their hind legs.
There is a lion walking upright in one hallway with a sign around his neck, “You will die if you get too close”.
lion-covers-face-oil-and-grahite-on-terraskinIt’s difficult to figure out how to manoeuvre within this dangerous place.
One room is a large blue-hued glowing-glass high-tech sci-fi X-ray kinda room.
A young man is in there – he is my patient. His head sits above what is like a skin sack – a shapeless sheet of a body.
I tell him to remember to feel his bones.
Feel the bones – remember the feeling of bones.
As I speak, his bones are wheeled in from where they’ve been kept in storage.
His whole skeleton will be reassembled.
skeletal-armBut while this is happening, the angry people and animals in the hallways are becoming more agitated – it is getting increasingly violent and dangerous.
I run through hallways and through rooms into even tinier rooms until I find mine, a small, well-hidden room where I dive under the cot bed against the wall, trembling like a coward, to wait out the violence.
Am I perhaps a patient after all?

Weekly Photo Challenge – Chaos

Unexpected Angels

Last weekend I saw a Medicine Woman / healer.
A friend in Owen Sound had called me up and insisted I needed to come see this super-talented, up-and-coming, currently bargain-basement healer from the local reserve, quick, while the getting was good, before she becomes famous and unaffordable.
She was indeed magnificent – fun and funny and the most radiant, loving human being.
At the end of a long and powerful session, back upstairs in the kitchen, she asked me to pick a card from a divination deck. The one I chose said something about the protection of angels – a soft pale image, yellows and pinks, an image of light, illumination and feathers. As gentle and delicate and full of light and love as the image was, I felt resistance – I’m just not into angels. They have never appealed to my sensibility – they feel to me like princesses and unicorns and other girly fantasy-land entities. My own inexplicable prejudices – I try to hide it, but there it is.
So the Medicine Woman wrestled with me a bit over just accepting the concept, the idea of the angel image, as protective gentleness, as divine serendipitous light, synchronistic interventions, then had me do a 9-card spread from Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards deck – all animal cards, much more my speed.
Of course I got a whack of cats – no surprise there, I am KAT, after all…
3 cat cardsThe next day I took the bus back to Toronto and, loaded down with many heavy bags, grabbed a cab at the corner. I had this idea of killing 2 taxi birds with one stone, and before going home, asked the driver to take me out to the art supplies store, the really big one with lots of cheap deals on paints and the big sizes of watercolour paper, cause when I go there I always have to take a cab home anyway.
When I explained to him, First I want to go here and then I want to go there, he pressed down hard on the gas, and called out, Whatever you want to do, we will do it! I laughed and glanced at his eyes in the mirror – they were small with the years, not a young man. Accent African, English not first language. As his face turned slightly with a right turn, I could see several thin scars on his cheek, as if he’d been slashed across the face by a very large cat.
He was a chatty fellow, and we talked about this and that on the way to the art supplies store – Why did I only have one child, for example? Why did I not move close to my husband to get more? As we pulled into the small parking lot, he wanted to know, What is this place?
An art supplies store! Well, he was very excited by this news, but I was out the door of the cab and up the stairs and moving fast through the aisles and my list of paints and round the back to where they keep the big pads of paper. Coming back out to the front again, thinking I should have a quick look at the mediums, a man opened up his arms and waved at me. Here I am! he said with his grin.
It was the taxi driver. Looking a bit like actor Robert Wisdom –
r wisdomBut now I could see the long tribal scars patterned on both cheeks, kind of like a cat’s whiskers –
black_panther_spainI’ve never been in an art store before!
He was thrilled, delighted, in love with this newfound world.
I was so surprised to see him there, the moment was so disorienting, in my confusion I forgot about looking for mediums and simply lined up to pay for what I had in my arms. My driver was now in deep serious discussion with one of the store clerks.
Standing, waiting for the cashier I wondered, What was it that felt so disorienting, so unusual? That he seemed so open, so free, so un-servile? That in spite of being for hire he didn’t feel obliged to sit waiting in the car if his curiosity was strong?
We went back out to the car together, and driving away his delight with this world of wonder turned to concern – They have all those things out on the shelves where anyone can just grab them and put them in their bag or under their clothes!
This upset him quite a bit, the enormous quantities of goods lying out on open shelves, and he went on about it for a while, driving slowly up the street, now nearing my house, inching along at about 10km/hr, waving his hands, both of them frequently lifting off the steering wheel altogether. But soon this worry, this loose tooth troubling him was put to rest with the summing up, This would never work in the third world – in the third world, you would go up to the counter and ask for what you want, and they go back and get it for you.
This little exchange caught my attention somehow – that he had been so troubled by something I didn’t think twice about, and had had to settle himself down quite deliberately, reminding himself that the context was different. Some lesson about the importance of the need for adaptation felt nestled in the moment.
In front of my house, he practically clucked with dismay at the disarray, the strewn collection of chairs, old bicycles, unraked leaves and crumbling porch. God will help you settle down eventually, was his last fix-it pronouncement on my life.
We said our goodbyes and I trundled into the house, arms full of stuff, head full of the uniqueness of this man.
Somewhere in all of the twists and turns of the encounter I felt the hint of magic, the reminder to remain open to the possible variations on what angelic presences might look like…

Night visitor

garage doorHe came to me in a dream again – jealous, cruel.
In the dream I’d been snuggling happily in the arms of his best friend, feeling content and nurtured in the embrace of a simple, comforting uncomplicated love, a warm supportive, not-totally-fucked-up-and-dysfunctional-and-impossible love, when he appeared.
“I thought you were dead”, I told him, startled, not really feeling guilty enough – I’d been, momentarily, so peacefully happy.
He ignored me. Cold shoulder.  Off in a huff.
instamanAccording to many ancient belief systems, and to dream teachers like Robert Moss, when the dead appear in dreams, it’s probably not the thinly veiled symbolism of unfulfilled wishes or the projections of aspects of our own personality, but is in fact an actual visit from the dead.
Seen this way, my friend C’s visit was not surprising, I suppose, as it was the anniversary of his death and I’d meant to do something – go out to the bridge where he leapt, or at least do a smudge in the house, say a prayer – but it was a busy week and I didn’t get it together.
So he found a way to make sure he wasn’t forgotten – he just showed up.
Typical really – he always needed so much attention…
It’s been years now since C jumped to his death, and although the first year was devastating – a swamp of guilt and suffocating grief and the complicated mix of loss and relief – once that first year passed, it wasn’t so bad.  It was if I always knew he was gonna leave us early, someway, somehow.
Recently I’d been thinking about C as I was poking around on some of the excellent sites dedicated to blogging about mental illness, and I’m struck by how many of them are deeply engaged with discussing pharmaceuticals.  Of course it makes sense, and I have nothing against pharmaceuticals – in fact, in the 90’s when it seemed like half my friends were on Prozac and raving about it, I tried to convince the shrink I was seeing that really I should be on something.  She didn’t bite – never gave me any pills.  Complex PTSD is not a problem of organic origin, she argued, so there was no need to meet the problem with organic tampering.
But my friend, C, what was it he had?  Maybe paranoid schizophrenia?  Perhaps pharmaceuticals would have saved him.The Bistro
I remember a night, a bunch of us drinking beer down in the grimy Bistro 422 where C spent so much of his time “self-medicating” with booze and weed – I can’t remember how it came up, but there was that moment when he suddenly turned to me and Jeff and said, “Don’t ever ever ever let them give me electroshock therapy – Promise?  Promise?”, he said, shaking my leg under the table to make sure I heard him over the loud music, the drunken conversations pressing in all around us, the terror and mistrust of psychiatry desperate in his voice.
He’d majored in psychiatry in university, had an inkling of the things they might do to him if ever he were to cross the threshold into a psychiatric institution.
And aside from the paranoia, both justified and psychotically induced, as a Chipewyan, it was as if he had a sense of, had heard of or maybe read of shamanic ways of dealing with the crisis of psychosis, and was perhaps holding out a hope that he would find someone, stumble across the right person before it was too late….
But then it was too late.
The night before he jumped, he sent me an email –

Vicious Cycle (A Prayer)*

I am the circle
and I will embrace everything (within it) as my birthright.

I will be like the circle – an out-turning one, opening
myself to the universe.

I will never fear the circle or anything (within it).
I am the circle.

*(In response to threats)

church overcastThe obvious descent into unliveable paranoia breaks my heart to this day.
I still see him walking out to the bridge alone with these “threats” in his mind.
So one more time – a few weeks late – I send out a prayer for him.


PS – just happened upon this stunning video –