The Rest is Silence

I lost a member of my flock last week. Dotty was a budgerigar which is more commonly known as a parakeet. I adopted her from a foster mom back at the height of COVID in 2020 as a companion for my bird Blu. Blu had lost his mate, Fluffy, a few years before and as social birds I thought having a companion would be good for him. Blu, sadly passed away a year or so later at the beginning of 2021. Dotty lost her mate as well and came from a home where human/bird interaction wasn’t very high on the young families list. I’m a hands on kinda bird owner but I learned to respect her boundaries. She was never let out of her cage before and I’m a big believer in free flight in the house. She smacked into the sliding glass door a few times and resented me having to hunt her down behind furniture to put her back in her cage. Sammy, the macaw, kinda wanted to see how comfortably she could fit the little ones head in her beak so I never let them play together. She liked to be sung to. I used to sing “Hello Dotty” to Hello Dolly. The most remarkable thing about this little feather-ball was she was always trying to talk and master the sounds around her. She always sang, chattered, and made vocalizations which were solid attempts to talk. I should have spent more time with her to aid her speaking ability but shoulda/woulda/coulda seems to be the refrain which serenaded her life.

When I lifted the cage cover to check on her after she had been making odd noises I found her with her wing caught in one of the slats on the bottom of her cage. I extricated her and moved her over to my bed to observe her. She was breathless from the struggle with the bars, both wings drooped in exhaustion but she wasn’t fighting my hold on her, and when I uncurled my fingers from around her she didn’t try to fly away. In fact, she held fiercely onto one finger. She started having some sort of fit where she would try and bend her head all the way back to her tail and fly. The first time this happened she landed on the floor. I got her back on the bed and made a nest in the blankets for her but the fitting kept coming over her and she would get dislodged. I had never seen this kind of behavior before and I was terrified she was dying. Frantic, I found a site that connects people with questions with experts with answers and paid the $1 sign-up fee and was passed off to a vet who wanted to look over the techs notes before she continued. I never heard back from the vet. By this time I had Dotty blocked on the bed with my leg, she was still fighting the seizures but she was getting tired. I took a video of an episode and sent it to the vet. She was against my leg a little on her side when I saw her wing quiver; then she was still. I informed the vet she was gone and put my phone down and picked her up and gently held her to my chest and sobbed. I cried harder over that small bird than I did for my mother or my two brothers deaths. It’s taken me almost a full week to clean out her cage and move her out of my life. I miss her singing.

I wish I could say my mind allowed me to make this all about her. Recriminations rained down on me like a flight of arrows calling to mind every mistake I made, when I didn’t keep her cage clean, when I didn’t let her exercise, when I kept her in front of the window on a hot day, how I never took her to the vet, how I shouldn’t have let her suffer and I should have just rung her neck and put her out of her misery. Then a shield came up and deflected the arrows with comforting words (which has never happened before, at least not this consciously); You didn’t know her age, birds hide their illnesses, budgies don’t have a long life in a cage. You loved her, you took care of her and you were with her up until the very end. I don’t know which voice is true. I know which one I want to believe and for the first time in my life, it isn’t the negative telling me it’s all my fault. The self talk I’ve been practicing in my daily life, when it doesn’t seem important, has built up the muscles of support when I was to weak to block the old ingrained mantra of self loathing and disappointment.

The emotions of mourning have unsettled me, tho. I spoke to my sister about it briefly because I’ve not been able to talk to anyone about it without tearing up, and she speculated it might be an accumulation of all the changes, deaths if you will, I have experienced in the last five or six months. She might be right, I’ll have to talk to Ellen about it at our next session, but having these emotions so close to the surface is troubling for me, well, emotionally. Crying is so foreign to me, I feel like I’m forcing the emotions so I try to stop it and it comes back up to the surface in the most inopportune moments. I’m trying, on one side of my brain, to allow myself to cry when I’m alone and where I’m supposedly safe and the other side decided it wants to watch TV, write a journal entry or a blog, play with Sammy, crochet or do anything other than the needful. I guess I will cry when I cry. Maybe once the tears are all dry I will find the peace which comes with silence.

Doing the Needful

Boxes have been dancing around my head like cubed sugar plum fairies. In my first attempt at therapy with a Jungian therapist she diagnosed me with past sexual trauma based on an image in a dream she made me draw out (it was a doozy of a dream). I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO MEMORY OF THAT KIND OF TRAUMA. She told me it didn’t matter if I remember it or not, the dream image was proof. So I’ve been carrying around this idea in my head and dreading the day I would have to unbox it and deal with something I couldn’t remember. Ellen and I talked about this. No memory means no memory. The dream image is just a dream. There are survivor behaviors I exhibit (behaviors defined by talk-shows and internet articles), but it’s still not proof of abuse. We discussed my childhood and some of the frugal techniques my parents employed could explain a lot of those issues. Something which needs reframing further down the road.

Ellen pointed out the issues are in boxes and neatly put away. They are safe and secure and they don’t need to be dealt with right now, if ever. Not avoiding. Not ignoring. JUST NOT NOW. I can adjust their position on the shelves, but I don’t have to do anything right now. Right now is just too busy to be opening a possible cobra-in-the-box to scare me back into the void. I don’t need that right now. Relief doesn’t even describe what I felt at this realization.

Then why have the dream? Why would my subconscious bring this to my attention? One of the ideas which came to mind is I am starting to reduce my dependance on Ellen. It’s nice to have someone help you sort out the threats from the paranoia, if you will and it’s easier to have her on my calendar then to deal with things as they happen. I am doing okay on my own but I’m always afraid I’m going to mess up. When I start spinning on that fear I eventually stop myself and correct it with: “So what? You mess up. It’s not the end of the world.” Considering how many time I’ve found myself at the equivalent of square one due to mis-calculations and didn’t die or get arrested proves messing up isn’t the horror my brain has always made it out to be. Though the tool doesn’t present itself at the start of the spin, it does work once I get my hands on it. As long as I don’t stop trying I will succeed. As long as I get up every time I fall, I will cross the finish line. Right now, doing the needful is enough.

Dream a Little Dream

I have always had vivid dreams. I think of it as the wellspring of my creativity and imagination. You know, if you dream it you can do it. Unfortunately flying is still only capable in a plane, but I love flying in my dreams. It means you’re happy. I haven’t flown in months. What I don’t normally have are nightmares. Dreams where you are so relieved when you wake up and realize it isn’t true, when you have to repeatedly assure yourself ‘the monsters aren’t real’. I realize now that writing in my journal on Saturday defining my current mental state and having a frustrating conversation about my mother and brother with my sister the night before might have been enough to crack open the door of darkness.

The Dream

I was with my mother again and she was ordering me around like a five year old. I felt compelled to move around boxes, like wood shipping cartons, in a storeroom to “straighten things up”. The containers were too heavy, too over my head and the utter helplessness made me feel too weak to tell the monster of my dream “No, I don’t want to”. I was plotting to let one of the oversized vessel fall carelessly on my forearm and I could vividly envision the ulna and radius shattering about one third of the way up my right arm; essentially hurting myself to escape the situation I was in. I was successful at talking myself out of it because there was the an urgency of having to have to move in a set amount of time oppressing the whole psychodrama. I felt as trapped as I was when she was alive. Back at the time I didn’t realize I was feeling trapped because I committed to taking care of her, I just felt tired and drained. Not knowing I was trapped it never occured to me to gnaw off my leg to get away because it would be better than to be dead. I was trapped again, I was terrified and I couldn’t find a way out. Then I woke up.

My Interpretation

  • The boxes: Boxes that are out of the way, tucked high on shelves in a dark warehouse-y environment I see as the major issues I still need to address in therapy. They were on huge gorilla racks and I needed an industrial step-ladder on wheels to reach them. The shelves below were empty. There was trash on the top shelves around the boxes I was able to remove but trying to get my arms around these sharp edged monstrosities was not really an option. I’m not sure I was able to even shift them on the shelf much less navigate them to break just my arm, I did try. Luckily unsuccessfully.
  • The Warehouse: This is rather obvious, but the portion of my subconscious where I store all the things I don’t/can’t deal with right now.
  • The Shelves: The lower shelves were empty. To me, that is a confirmation of the work I have completed. I have done a lot of work. However, I have done the stuff that was in reach, the more recent trauma/drama of the last, I dunno, fifteen years or so. Having made the room, maybe that means I can move the bigger boxes down to the lower shelves and spread out the items in the box one by one. This would negate the need to accidentally lose control of the box and break something in an act of defiance and avoidance.
  • The Trash Around the Boxes: I’m not completely unaware of the storage facility in my subconscious. I know there are big things in there that need to be addressed. Since the lower shelves are clean I keep making a superficial attempt at moving the boxes around to make it look like I am working on it. Its like I can’t open those boxes until everything in my life is perfect. I need to stop studying the trees with a magnifying-glass and take in the scope of the forest ahead of me. I have tools, whether they are strong enough to fell trees we will see.
  • Mom: Other than being the general dragon in my dreams, trapping me and stripping me of all power, I don’t think she has any more weight in my dream than that. I believe your subconscious pulls the best characters in your mind to put on the scariest, freakiest and most unsettling drama it can to both scare you away from what it’s protecting and yet to encourage you slay the dragon.

what’s Next

I don’t know if it needs to be said, but I need to slay the dragon, (overcome my fear), bring the boxes down to a safe and comfortable working height (figure out and deconstruct the hidden trauma) and then store it in the light and close down the hidden place where only trauma dares to tread (bravely confront the past injuries, resolve the confusion, and end the subconscious suffering to move forward).