It’s my birthday,1989, the eve before the final decree of dissolution of my 9-year, 201-day marriage. I didn’t know it was going to be this hard. We separated a year ago, but as the hour gets closer all my defense mechanisms are breaking. I’ve put my 6-year-old son to bed. He’s asked me one more time, “Are you sure it’s not my fault that Dad left?” No, no, no son. You did nothing wrong. It’s Daddy and Mommy…we had problems with each other that we couldn’t solve. I’m so sorry about how you feel, but it’s not true, don’t believe it. We both love you very much.
In my bed I feel so alone. All night I toss and turn in anguish over the grief, the pain, the humiliation, the loss. I heave into my pillow releasing a torrent of tears. I’m up and down all night. I pray. I read my Bible. I beg for peace. I can’t believe it’s over. Please, God, don’t let me hear the judge’s final decree without knowing that I was truly loved, even if just for a short while. Where are you, God. Do even you love me?” I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of utter rejection and abandonment. My eyes now puffy, red and dry as there are no more tears. My lyrical soprano voice now husky and raw. My utter brokenness ushering me into the chasm of deep sleep. “DIDN’T I SAY I WOULD TAKE CARE OF IT!?” An impetuous basso voice, 15 octaves below the deepest, jolts me out of sleep into sitting position. I’m terrified believing that someone is in my room. PHEW!…I must have been dreaming! I am thankful as my pounding heart calms and I sink into peaceful sleep until the morning comes.
The divorce hearing takes place. I’m fatigued, but surprisingly feel grounded inside. Soon after the divorce, the dreams begin to pour in night after night…I suppose my heart is more open and less defended, so the messaging can through. I don’t know what to do with these dreams except interpret them from my wounded ego. The dreams become more difficult to decipher, so I finally just leave them alone, but I continue writing them…each and every time, as soon as I’m aware that I’m dreaming, I record in my journal and go back to sleep. Somewhere along the way I instinctively begin to index my dreams…it becomes a ritual practice five times a year…on New Year’s Day, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox, and Winter Solstice. I log the dreams from my journal onto my computer: date, time, central themes and figures. One day I have a particularly troublesome dream. It grips me in my gut as I ask, is this a déjà vu? Have I dreamed this before? I open my computer and search my index, only to discover that I’ve had the identical dream, recorded three consecutive years, on the same date, at the same time. I fly into counseling! I’m blessed to find a wonderful father-like figure, a highly regarded psychotherapist and pastoral counselor who is also a shaman…his name was Mwalimu Imara. One day during a session I ask, “Can dreams heal?” He bellows in his booming basso, like the voice in my inaugural dream, “Hell yes!” His answer propels me on my personal journey to discover the healing power of dreams.
Mwalimu helps me tremendously from his Gestalt perspective and I’m always bringing him my dreams. While admitting that dreamwork is not his forte, he urges me to learn as much as I can, to explore the gift I have been given to its very end. I continue to work with him and begin to search for dreamworkers to no avail. Everyone says, “Your dreams are very rich…you have something, a calling…it’s rich, but I’m not the best fit for you.” I’m going from person to person, place to place. I begin to self-study, spending a lot of money on books and workshops. I enroll in seminary and after seven years of wandering through almost every concentration available, I finally settle on psychology of religion and pastoral care. It comes a little close to my interest. I move to New York to further engage in Clinical Pastoral Education at a prestigious hospital and school of medicine. I enroll in and eventually drop out of a unique experientially based doctoral program in San Francisco. I drop out and decide, no more formal education! I travel abroad to experience various traditional cultures and search for their understanding of dreamwork as a form of healing. I begin researching my family genealogy and work with traditional African spiritualists to get a sense of who I am and who I come from, and what in the world is driving me.
My colleagues, family and friends are asking me why I’m not doing more with my ministry, with “ALL of your qualifications.” It’s a parched, seemingly endless circuitous journey through my dream life. I can’t put my finger on exactly what I’m wanting. I’m learning new and interesting things, but I’m having difficulty landing.
I have more powerful dreams and can feel there’s something sacredly important about them, but I’m afraid to open another dream book or do another internet search. Finally, I vow to surrender my quest and let the answers find me. Then one day after a long spell (1-2 years) of not reading any books or searching on the web for information about dreams, I fortuitously stumble upon a website called North of Eden (NOE) Center for Archetypal Dreamwork. I submit a dream, wondering if someone will really respond as they promise. Holy Cow, someone responds! The response is other-wordly…different than I have ever experienced, and it speaks directly to my life, both inner and outer. It resonates with something deeply inside of me. Maybe that’s just luck. Skeptic, as I am, I create a new name and a different email address and submit a second dream. OMG, the response is equally moving. I know I have found something. I begin working with one of the analysts, Christa, who is the Co-Founder. We work via phone…the process is miraculous as it reveals things that resonate deeply, yet they have been hidden from conscious awareness. Shortly afterwards, I attend my first retreat—in cold-Cold-COLD, lily white-White-WHITE Lowell, Vermont, less than 20 miles from the Canadian border. I’m the only person of color there, retreat after retreat. Look, God, I’m an African American from the South…are you playing some kind of cosmic trick on me? Over and over, I would question what in the world am I doing…what have I gotten myself into? I sometimes quiver at what my pro-African liberationist community would make of it. I never reconcile it in my mind, maybe there is nothing to be reconciled, because I know I’m connecting to a deep and sacred part of myself. Nothing can be said or done to stop me or become a stumbling block in my process of becoming. I know I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right people to help guide me to the next step.
2 thoughts on “Beginnings”
Wow, Cheptu! Thanks for sharing all this.
You’re so welcome. Thanks for being a witness to my story of becoming!