I don’t often dream of my mother. Last night, however, she appeared prominently. Chuck and I go to her house, a high-ceilinged dream house, the rooms dark, draped in thick white cobwebs. Looking up to the top of the refrigerator in the kitchen I notice a mother cat lying with her babies. Further up I notice more cats giving birth, kittens spilling out of every cupboard. I notice that they are everywhere, covering every available counter space, falling onto the floor. “Wow,” I say. “I didn’t know you had so many cats!” My mother waves her hand at them. “Oh those,” she says flippantly, “they’re nothing.” I look at her in astonishment, wondering how she can ignore what is right in front of her face. It’s then that a large spider, fat and round, about the size of a soccer ball swings over her head, trails of long white webbing blurring her face from view. “What’s that?” I say, again quite disturbed. “Oh that,” she says nonchalantly, “yes, that’s here too. It’s nothing.” I can see that she’s ignoring this massive spider in her midst as much as she’s ignoring the proliferation of kittens. Her house feels heavy and dark, the air stuffy, toxic with the smell of a hundred cats, cobwebs draped like linens over everything.
Upon awakening I am at first disturbed by this dream. The shiver that chilled me as I watched the huge spider leap over my mother’s head reverberates through me as I wonder at her nonchalance, her almost total inattentiveness to what is going on in her world. It blows my mind, until I remember that this is how she has always lived her life, ignoring what is right in front of her. If you have read my books, even the first one, you will know that this is the mother I got, a mother who carefully chose what to attach to and what to turn a blind eye to.
In my dream world cats and kittens have always represented feelings. According to Hopi myth Spider Woman was the weaver of the world, the creator of all things upon earth. In Animal Speak Ted Andrews writes that Grandmother Spider “kept and taught the mysteries of the past and how they were affecting the future.” Reading this I am able to view my dream in a different light.
Chuck wrote in his own blog this week of Mother Unconscious. He writes: “Mother is the most powerful being; she gives life yet in her wrath she might take it as well. Every child instinctively shudders at the dark side of the moon, Mother’s bad moods.” I take up the challenge of addressing that side of Mother Moon, her dark side, her bad side, her hidden side, and what it might mean to us her children.
I believe we all get the mother we need. Just how we figure out what she means to us is our challenge. I wanted a different mother, but here I am in my sixties and I still have the same mother I got. Now she is in her nineties and little has changed with her, but I have changed drastically. For the most part I am no longer her child. I don’t react to her the way I used to react, with fear and even loathing. When in her presence I am, for the most part, the mature compassionate woman that I have grown into, able to give to her in ways that I never thought would be possible. In fact, she sometimes calls me up and in a little girl voice declares: It’s your daughter calling! And then I know that, underneath it all, she really does know who I really am. At other times she calls up grouchy and angry. I never know which mother I will get when I talk to her, the light Mother Moon or the dark Mother Moon. Lately the dark side of Mother Moon has been showing up more frequently, and so I am not surprised by my dream. My unconscious has given me some fodder to mull over and work with.
In the context of mother daughter relationships perhaps what my dream world is pointing out will be helpful. I got the mother that was able to nurture her children for only a brief time. Soon I was pushed out into the world, perhaps too soon, but such hindsight is unhelpful, for the truth of my reality was that I had to learn how to be in that world at a very young age. It was not a friendly world but the world of the sexual predator that I walked innocently into, as many young children do. With nothing to go on except my own wits and a spirit that refused to be broken, I survived, just as many others do, the same basic strengths in place.
My mother had far greater knowledge of what was happening to me than she ever let onto. She made decisions to ignore certain things. My dream points this out. She ignores even her own feelings, the proliferation of kittens birthing right and left out of every available cupboard in her kitchen of my dream. She taught me how to keep my emotions and feelings hidden; they had no use in the world I grew up in. In her own way she was a supreme teacher; by her example I learned to be stoic.
It has taken me some maturity and a good deal of recapitulating of my relationship with my mother to realize just who she is and just what she has challenged herself with in her own life. Yes, I had to deal with the dark side of Mother Moon, but she did the same thing to herself and continues to do so to this day. My dream points out her true reality; she still does not allow feelings and emotions into her life. Though her house is flooded with kittens needing attention she is still the withholding mother, even to herself.
I know all this about my mother, but in her company or when she calls me on the phone I try not to forget that she too is human and that once I was like her, ignoring my own feelings, pushing them away as if they were my worst enemies rather than my saving grace. I now see her as humanly fallible and as frightened as anyone, unable to deal with her own deepest core issues. I see the spider leaping over her head, weaving her white webs over my mother’s face as underscoring this truth. My mother will go into the next world, to her death, without resolving them. Her defenses are superior to mine, her dedication to protecting her child self in the way she always has is firmly planted, unshakeable. I know personally the great pain of bearing the tension of such decisions.
I turn to the idea that Ted Andrews poses, that Grandmother Spider is keeping the mysteries of the past. Perhaps the spider in my dream is pointing this out to me and yes, I see this in my mother too, she has been the bearer of the secrets of the past, hers and mine. Perhaps she has been holding mine for me, holding what I could only find out for myself. Perhaps it was not her story to tell, to me or to anyone else; it is only my story to discover and resolve. Perhaps she is a good mother after all.
It is not my duty to point out her story to her either. It is my greatest challenge and singular compassionate duty to see her through this life, sometimes as her daughter, sometimes as her mother; whichever suits her is okay with me. I know she holds within her the seeds of her own transformation and that perhaps in her next life she will be able to plant them and let them take her on the transformative journey that will free her feelings and emotions to fuller life. I stand on the threshold with her at the end of her life, deeply amazed.
Fascinated by it all,
Here is Chuck’s blog that I refer to: Mother Unconscious