By Dolores J. Nurss

Volume IV: Braided Paths

Chapter 12




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 comfort-zone.

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 kept me.

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 in Toulin.

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