I will never forget those dreams of
sleeping by the cliff, and the layers of consciousness, of waking to the cliff
brink, then departing and seeing the sun-monster, then waking up on the cliff
brink again, then waking a much safer distance from the cliff, then waking up
in this world on the floor of the Holy Spirit chapel of Newman Hall in
Berkeley, in the middle of a women's group meditation on the Women of the
Rosary. I only changed the order of the
wake-ups slightly for the story.
The overlaps of worlds, again, helped
to convinced me, against much reluctance, to combine the two tales because I
knew it directly caused (at least in dream-logic) by Deirdre's link with Jake,
however frayed, in the Toulin mission.
That the boy's school mattered precisely because what the kids messed
with had begun to rip reality.
And what caused it on this side of
reality? Maybe that was, unbeknownst to
me, the first rip to separate me from that woman's group: the exposure of my
narcolepsy, as if I'd used up my allotted measure of strangeness and one more
rip from normal would sunder me entirely.
The dream-deity with a reptilian underside might have warned me of
something cold and sneaky in the underbelly of my church community—something borne
on many legs indeed.
The Women's Spirituality Group claimed
that nothing could sever any of us. To prove it, these Catholic matrons gathered
one night so that we should each confide our secrets in turn and learn to trust
each other. So one woman admitted to a
divorce in her past, another to an abortion, another a realization of
lesbianism, another an affair, another that she no longer believed in Jesus but
secretly worshiped a goddess instead.
Each one received from the group unconditional love and acceptance.
Then a woman confided her secret
distress at her job, dealing with patients who had Dissociative Identity
Disorder, how their tragedy broke her heart and how this stressed her out when
she was supposed to be the strong one.
And I, naïve fool that I was, used my turn to try and reassure her by
revealing my own DID, saying that her patients could have a happy future, each
separate personality contributing distinctly developed skills, once they
integrated. But even mentioning it
cheerfully, with kind intentions and as something overcome, crossed a line that
nobody warned me about. Nobody could
deviate that much. I lived in too many worlds for their
They treated me like someone
dangerously not quite human after that—a noticeable change in women who had
previously seemed warm and accepting.
Faces fell to see me coming.
Normally articulate women would stutter if I addressed them, and grasp
at straws to escape the conversation. No
one at church, in fact, would talk to me voluntarily at all except for others
also labeled mentally ill. past or present.
Except for one rebel.
Word must have gotten around. My favorite priest, too, went from greeting
me with a friendly smile and amiable banter to staring at me like the devil had
walked into the room. He also stuttered
when I spoke to him and did his best to get away. I guess in his book a history of mental
illness counted as worse than sin.
Soon after, the women's group went out
of their way to schedule meetings at times that I couldn't attend. They almost concealed it as inevitable, too,
though the reasons given seemed a stretch.
Except that that one rebel told me privately, while giving me a ride to
the scheduling meeting, "If they don't
appreciate what they have in you, it's their loss!"—a cryptic statement till I
saw how every single compromise I offered got shot down on the flimsiest
excuses. With the scheduling done, the
one who had done the most arguing against every alternative looked directly at
me and (with frightened eyes) said, "Sorry, Dolores."
The rest of the women who had confessed
their secrets remained in good standing among their peers. Yet it didn't take long for this
"inseparable" group to fall apart completely, to cease to meet at all. One faction backed a leader who liked to
create elaborately gorgeous, precisely orchestrated, soul-elevating
events. The other leader liked to create
creatively spontaneous, liberating, warm and homey events. Had they kept me, I might have done my
mockingbird-medicine thing and helped them see how the group needed both, how
we could have achieved much balance and blessing from these two working
together, or at least alternating who ran which meeting. After all, what task better suits a woman
recovering from DID than to integrate disparate parts? Maybe the group would still exist if they had
Come to think of it, maybe that's what
they feared, on an unconscious level, at least—not so much my DID as my
recovering. Because nothing feeds
self-righteousness in Berkeley like a pitched eternal battle with an
ideological foe, however contrived the rivalry. People there pretend to strive to change hearts
and minds, but they don't really want it, they sabotage their own efforts with contempt
for all who are not them—whichever clique they happen to belong to. They want the designated Bad Guys to stay Bad
Guys, to reinforce their own self-images as Good Guys, while giving themselves
permission to engage in screaming hatred and feeling downright holy about it.
I also dreamed about hiding from the
antique airplane. I wrote the parts set