Insights from Ireland: Getting the Human Thing Down


A snake/dragon for Maeve
A snake/dragon for Maeve

I love the humanness of the dream I’ve been sharing. It’s so “lower chakra” with its symbolism of a possum and its excrement. Why do I love that? Andi sent me this quote in which Catholic priest Richard Rohr explains: “History has revealed too many people who have tried to be spiritual before they have learned how to be human! It is a major problem. Maybe this is why Jesus came to model humanity for us—much more than divinity….Get the ordinary human thing down, and you will have all the spirituality that you can handle.”
Kundalini yoga and Jung say the same thing. The colors of the rainbow represent the entire spectrum of human experience, from the infra-red of instinct and emotion to the ultraviolet of spiritual transcendence. We can devote our lives to spiritual strivings in the heady, upper chakra realms, but if we ignore our earthy roots we’ll still be plagued by issues related to self-esteem, security, physical identity, survival, fear, power, sex, pleasure, anxiety and relationships.
Ideally, the first half of life is for getting the human thing down, but life is rarely ideal. My parents were ill-suited to each other and when I was born my hard-working mother’s emotional health was precarious. Mom had just learned of my father’s infidelity and her mother-in-law blamed her for his moral lapse. Only now do the puzzle pieces, vague hints about family secrets, fall into place.  Deeply sensitive and intuitive from birth, I absorbed the crisis-laden atmosphere into which I was born. I see it now. My mother’s deep pain. The profound anxiety of a little girl who did not receive the nurturing she needed and assumed the fault was hers. The shameful secret I have borne since childhood:
I am unlovable.
Seeing this belief at the root of my personality is the biggest insight of all. So this is why I’ve always been so hard on myself!  Guided by the high-minded spirituality of my family, I responded to my unworthiness with self-consciousness, perfectionism and self-blame. I hid my anxiety beneath a smooth persona of stoic calm and poise. I tried to kill strong emotions. I played dead.  X, the shadow animus in my dream who also has a deep mother wound, wants me to maintain this persona. Acting reasonable, calm and cool can be a survival strategy for an insecure child who fears the emotional abandonment of its mother.
At the start of the conference the strain of playing dead was wearing me down. Dream Mother wanted me to know I’ve grown strong enough to deal with my lower chakra realities. So she let the possum out from her hiding place and she let my dream ego have the temper tantrum I was never secure enough to have as a child: “I’m not cleaning up this shit!” I yelled with no trace of a perfectionist persona in sight.
The alchemical detail of electric blue possum excrement suggests spiritual transformation. Am I getting the human thing down? The dream said I knew cleaning up after the possum was my responsibility and I would deal with it. Dream Mother was right. I’m cooking my inner contents in a sturdy golden vessel of writing and dreamwork. And now I have a new shadow to learn to love.
Hi, Little Possum. Welcome to my conscious world. Your mother may not have been able to carry you, but I can. You won’t need to play dead any more.
About the picture: On Monday’s hike I found a stick that looked half-dragon, half-snake. Meaningful symbols are keys to hidden chambers of the unconscious. Dragon represents difficulties that must be overcome before an important goal can be reached; snake is a symbol of transformation. I brought my stick to Maeve’s Tomb on Tuesday to leave as an offering on her special hazel bush. When Fred found a swatch of red (root chakra and Maeve’s color) cloth, I tied it to the dragon-snake’s back with dental floss. The red scarf tied to the trunk below is Monika’s.
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12 Responses

  1. I love the way you have worked through this dream. Perhaps it is painful and certainly revealing but I detect a bit of fun in the process! Aha!

  2. Thank you, Que. Yes, it was a bit sad for a moment or two when I finally got my big “Aha!”, but mostly it’s been enormously fun and rewarding, as I know you know. This is an amazing process. I feel like I’ve finally solved a mystery that’s been haunting me all my life, and I’m rather proud of myself! Just call me Sherlock!! 🙂
    From now on whenever I start feeling self-critical of a strong emotion, I’ll know Little Miss Possum has arrived so I’ll tell her how much I love her and ask her to come out from her hiding place. In a nice way, of course! I won’t have her running through the house leaving more messes for me to clean up!

  3. Hi there Jeanie, thanks so much for sharing so many of your rich insights from your Ireland trip.I’ve been very busy with things here, but I enjoy the rich reflections on your journey into your deeper humanity you have shared. It resonates with my own quest to heal the inner mother within, and as I engage it in the lives of other women as well. Tricky business, this deep healing of our feminine souls to claim the whole-mess as good and generative for our great lights to shine forth from within, without apology and with the truth and grace of our native Beingness. I so appreciate Richard Rohr’s Franciscan soul and deep teachings that also confirm what we have found as the truth and grace in our own journeys as well. Blessings on your deeper inclusion of your Mother soul with your Father Spirit….as your light grows brighter and brighter as it continues to call our own forth ever more as well! Love to you, Sister! Julie

    1. Hi Julie,
      You’re right. It is a tricky business indeed to heal our feminine souls, as well as our inner mother and outer bodies. Yet if we women can’t manage it, how can we expect men to respect and heal their own feminine sides, not to mention us? Thank goodness for men like Richard Rohr and others who aren’t afraid to talk about these things. I very much like your framing of my recent posts as my “journey into my deeper humanity” and your affirmation that my light is growing brighter and brighter. May it be so. I especially hope that revealing my soul in this way is of help to others. Love, Jeanie

  4. Jeanie, I am at last compelled to post, because your comments about your family resonate so strongly with me. I too felt the need to be perfect, accomplished, yet still feeling, I now realize, “not enough.” Thank you for articulating your insights. I am reading a wonderful book entitled MY BRIGHT ABYSS, by the poet Christian Wiman. What brought me back to your blog was an excerpt he quotes in a poem by Wordsworth, “The Prelude”:
    How strange, that all
    The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
    Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
    Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
    And that a needful part, in making up
    The calm existence that is mine when I
    Am worthy of myself!

  5. Oh, Phyllis, how beautiful is this! I loved Wordsworth in high school and even wrote a poem based on one of his poems. I think I called mine, “Intimations of Immortality.” Or was that his title? Anyway, I don’t remember “The Prelude,” but I must have known even then that he and I were kindred souls! It’s true. Life is exquisitely calm and beautiful when I am worthy of myself, but when I’m not, it’s vexatious to say the least!
    But you are an artist, and I think that’s why you resonate with what I write about! People who are compelled to express their inner struggles creatively do so because sometimes it’s the only thing that eases the…let’s just call it, ‘discomfort’… that comes from intimate knowledge of the abyss.
    It’s so lovely to know that you understand. Thank you for writing, dear lady. I will check out Wiman’s book.

    1. Check out my website, and you will find a series called “Intimations,” the title of which is taken from Wordsworth’s poem. Thanks for your response, dear friend.

      1. So that was his title! You loved his poetry too! I’ve just checked out your site and your photography is exquisite! That series is well named with its shadows….very Jungian! 🙂

  6. Is there not something more than the possum playing dead to which you relate? We relate to animals (or hopefully we do) and some resonate more than others as being kin. For me it is birds of prey or birds generally. More recently the raven or crows. I could go on with my thoughts about me but back to you. A possum is a unique North American animal. It births it children at a stage that there is absolutely no hope they survive unless they latch on to a tit in this special pouch, cling to it, constantly nourished by the mother until they are able to crawl out on her back (as illustrated by your photo). Not sure when they try their own legs on Mother Earth. They are not beautiful creatures but have managed to survive when others have become extinct by adapting to their surroundings yet continuing to rear their off-springs in this almost pre-historical way. All hail the possum!

  7. Hi Eufrona, These are wonderful associations. I haven’t thought about these aspects of possum at all. Frankly, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever given a moment of thought to a possum! Now I could go on and on about horse and bear….but back to possum! Hmmm….. I like the tough-survivor-and-adapter part and can definitely relate that to my mother’s people. They were adventuresome, free-thinking Calvinists (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron but they sought religious freedom…Aha!…as do I!) from the Netherlands who settled and adapted to the wilderness around Holland, Michigan a long time back. And yes, my mother was a strong person, a real survivor, and so am I. She was a nurse, and she nursed my brother and me, and raised us all on her own, yet was a very humble person…. So this definitely does add more meaning. Thank you for encouraging me to think deeper, Eufrona. You’ve given me a few more “Aha’s” this morning! All hail the humble possum, indeed.” 🙂

  8. Dear Jeanie, thank you for sharing more of your story, dream and wisdom with us. What a wealth of insights you offer! Greatly encouraging me to continue learning, studying and engaging with my own dream work. Jung’s quote, ‘Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes’ comes to mind in this moment. Blessings, Deborah.

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