There is nothing natural about a dam. A dam, whether man-made or built by beavers, is a deliberate barrier intended to obstruct and control. Some dams are magnificent works of stone and steel architecture; others are innocuous mounds of grass laden dirt. Almost everyone agrees dams are useful. On another day, I might argue that point, but not today; but a general point of consensus is the fact that when dams are breached, they have the capacity to unleash untold grief on anyone and everything standing downstream.
Consider this: we are all dams to one extent or another, you, me, your great-great-grandmother, and the bully down the street. We are emotionally bound by the secrets we keep.
Because we are dams, it is important to understand that we are never completely honest with ourselves, rendering us unable to be fully honest with others. Every perception we hold as a personal truth is tainted because you cannot build a strong, balanced house on blemished soil. Secrets limit our potential to realize the full extent of our purpose; they restrict the natural evolution of trust, self-confidence and a healthy sense of interdependence with others.
Secrets separate us from each other, but even more alarming, they separate us from ourselves, resulting in inner conflict, the war against the interior world of our humanly being, often with catastrophic results. If we can learn to accept that each secret we keep is a stone in the structure of our dam, then we can learn how to safely repair the vulnerable spots that will be left once deception is removed.
This past week has been tumultuous for me; I’ve been bombarded by secret armies inside secret battles raging within. And the feelings and emotions that have surfaced have left me shaky and raw. It began with an unfortunate response from a weak man who is a powerful politician. The tone of his response washed over me like acid rain.
Of course, I did not agree with what he had to say; I rarely do. I’ve had an ongoing email discourse with his office for several years, and have yet to feel my voice has actually been heard. So I am well acquainted with feeling powerless in the context of a political environment; but what I felt, this time, was not rage or disbelief, but something guttural, something rancid inside, beginning to churn.
I was operating on two levels of my brain, timidly consciously, and boldly subconsciously; the subconscious reaction was causing physical discomfort. But I’d not yet figured that out, so to connect the two, conscious perception with subconscious instinct, I began taking steps, making decisions without knowing why, or what I believed doing so might achieve.
One of the things I decided to do was to share the senator’s response with a feminist activist I admire. The senator’s mindset is dangerously narrow; his presentation of misinformation as fact and his personal beliefs presented as law, was worthy of sharing with a writer of her experience. I put it all in her capable hands, believing I’d feel relief; but none came, actually, quite the opposite, as suddenly I began to chew my nails and lose sleep.
I was very anxious without obvious reason. When my friend asked if she could publish my correspondence with the senator, I immediately agreed; unleashing an internal sort of terror that left me nauseous. I retired to my favorite chair in the corner of my bedroom where I do most of my writing, my comfort zone, for lack of a better description, and began to focus, setting a clear intention to get to the bottom of the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing.
Absolutely nothing happened. I sat mute with a flat-lining brain until ultimately deciding I’d done enough for one day. Sleep that night was restless; my dreams were filled with barren or bloody landscapes. In one, my husband bought all new furniture and rearranged our house. He bought new clothes for himself. He bought himself a modern car, trying to pawn the old work truck off on me.
When I woke, I was as calm as a clam: the subconscious-conscious connection had been made.
Richard and Morgan were both working; the house was quiet. Midway through the afternoon, the letters were published. Within the first two hours, 3,000 people had read them. Middle Aged Woman Talking had done a good job of furthering the fight for a more balanced government. And I’d done my part, sharing my story. The day passed uneventfully, emotions in check. Early evening found Richard and me on a date, dinner and Latte’, easy conversation and a long, slow drive home over the mountain. Naked tree branches casts shadows in the full moon’s light, creating interesting but frightening patterns across lonely back roads. There was complete silence in the air. My ears searched for the slightest sound, but none was there.
1 o’clock in the morning; I am sitting on the couch in front of a roaring orange fire. Richard is waiting for me in bed. Morgan is singing downstairs. Suddenly a dam bursts, flooding the living room. I tread water as best I can, but it keeps filling my mouth and lungs. Suddenly I realize the choking sounds are gasps I am making as I cry from a pit of hell buried so deep inside, it feels as if I am dying as it erupts.
Suddenly I am 7 again, and feelings of utter emptiness are so overwhelming, I want to run away from them, but it too late. I realize I’ve been running from this moment for 57 years. Now it is on me, a fire burning my skin…water filling my lungs…rabid dogs eating my legs. The secret I’d kept, a stone in the dam, had loosened. When I broke the rule, telling one story to a journalist, all the other old stories rattled their dark bones, begging for a proper burial.
It was a long night of revelation. It was a child coming to terms with brutality, and the woman she’d grown into, acknowledging injustice and vowing to protect the child who had survived.
The world looks different this morning. The sun is even more beautiful than yesterday. The naked branches cast uncompromising shadows in the forest. Raw earth from the missing stone’s bruise begins to fill with fresh soil. Invisible seeds from the garden filter through the air, some landing in the empty space. By summer, the dam will be much stronger. And the distance between the child and I will narrow, and the miles between us and the past will lengthen as the old ones come to terms with their private demons while passing from this test, here on earth, to the next place.