The Power of Darkness

During the course of my entire pregnancy, I had a grand total of one anxiety dream. In it, I dreamt that I dropped my infant daughter on the steps outside, and when I picked her back up, she was horribly disfigured. It was awful, and of course I woke up in a cold sweat.

I never had another anxiety dream about my daughter again, in the course of the rest of my pregnancy or the entire 2 and a half years of her life.

This week, since Friday’s inauguration, I’ve had an anxiety dream every night. In each of them, I’ve either lost my daughter in a crowd or she has died. This is every mother’s worst waking nightmare, obviously.

Why would this be happening? The surface answer is fear over our current political and social circumstances. It’s had me scared and worried about our collective future, which for me is embodied in my daughter.

Then I came across an article about anxiety dreams which pointed out they are actually good for us to have. They are an opportunity for our subconscious selves to send messages to our waking selves, messages that are meant to communicate actual answers to things.

What this means: we already have the solutions to our problems in the darker recesses of our minds.

This realization was quickly followed by another article that a dear friend shared about Kali, the Goddess of Darkness. Kali’s divine presence means that we are being entreated to explore the darker side of our lives right now, to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. We are going to be cast down into something we don’t like, but it’s going to give us the opportunity to explore the things that truly, genuinely matter by forcing us to confront our faults and complicities.

I’ll take the first shot at myself. I am righteously angry that the rest of my life will now be a push back against hate and bigotry, instead of a happy forward trajectory. Except for the huge elephant in front of me: other people’s lives already were a push back against hate and bigotry. I just didn’t have to experience it that way. I’ve been a passionate activist for years, but this is my first experience with the most profound kind of empathy on this front. Part of me is so pissed off, and if I’m truly honest with you, it’s because the worst parts of it are happening to me now.

(I am reminded of a conversation I had the other day with an empathy researcher, who pointed out that even people with the best of intentions will not be able to genuinely empathize with a war survivor, say, unless they have also experienced a war firsthand.)

Which brings me back to Kali. I need to live in this discomfort. I need to admit how utterly silly and petty and privileged I am to be annoyed that my life isn’t going to be easy under this political regime. That I’ll have to work all the harder even though I’ve already worked so hard for progression. If the cause is worth it, the effort will never be “too much” — it’ll be just what is necessary.

My righteous anger is going to serve me well, of course. I’m a survivor, of violence and abuse, and of being financially and socially marginalized as a single mother. My dad told me two nights ago that he’s proud that my whole life has been about overcoming obstacles and trying to empower others. Kali’s wisdom will continue to inform my efforts, because they should not be about winning, they should be about being and doing better with integrity.

Guess what? Not a single anxiety dream since Kali spoke to me.