A dream of power

June 5, 2011

This week I had a nightmare that was triggered by some work we’re doing in therapy regarding power: What it is, who in my life has it, and how it’s exercised.

When I was growing up, I saw only two kinds of people: Victimizer and victim. The victimizer had all the power; the victim had none. “Power” was defined as the ability to come and go as one pleased, to do as one pleased, and to experience no consequences for any deed. Ultimate freedom.

I once dated a man who, when he broke up with me, said, “Last night I was at a club and this girl was coming on to me. And I realized I couldn’t sleep with her because I was dating you!” He said this as if it were the most preposterous thing he’d ever heard. It was a real insight to his character. Danny wanted to live a life without consequences; therefore, he lived a life of no consequence. “Power” had been redefined for me. Those who came and went without being touched by the lives of others were the ones who suffered. “Freedom” = loneliness, detachment, and a lost place in the world. The inability to develop fully as a human being.

I’m very familiar with Starhawk’s concepts of “power-from-within” and “power-with,” which seem much more salient to me than “power-over.” Yet I’m still haunted by my childhood experiences of dominance and submission. This week’s dream shows that I still struggle with it, as well as my experiences of abandonment and minimizing of my emotions.


Had a really terrible dream this morn that I was in “my house” with a lot of my family and some of my friends and a Bad Guy came. I saw him thru the back window (yesterday I was  at work and was startled to hear the back gate open and watch this guy walk in as bold as you please—turned out to be the meter reader). He was huge, like Hulk Hogan huge. I knew there was no way to stop him. He had a gun, though it was an ungainly, boxy thing made of thick plastic. He also had a small penknife. But I made everyone drop their weapons (did we have guns or knives? I can’t recall) and offer no resistance as he went thru the house. My brother-in-law was there, and a sister was in one of the rooms, and maybe two of my brothers or at least men who stood in for them. But there was the feeling of a lot of people in the house.

I went with the guy as he went thru the house to make sure no one resisted, lest they be shot. He seemed to be taking inventory—there was this smug sense that he had total power to come and go as he pleased, and to take what he pleased. I just kept watching him and watching him. Finally we were back by the back door of this house and he was distracted and I grabbed his gun. He tried to snatch it back but I already had it and I shot him. My aim was bad (I’ve never shot a gun) , so it hit him in his right shoulder. I tried to figure out how to cock the gun while he stood there, almost disbelieving that I would think that I could stop him. I wasn’t panicked or anything—I was super-focused like I get in emergencies. This time I shot him squarely in the chest—but the “bullets” were like Nerf balls. There was the shock of impact but no actual damage. But it did seem to indicate some kind of power, as in I had power over him and could now somehow stop him.

He seemed sort of disgusted with the inconvenience of the situation. So he came over and stabbed me in the throat, right where my voicebox is. I totally deflated and felt real fear for the first time. I can’t remember if I gave the gun back—no, I kept it, but its power was gone. He walked out. I watched him go thru the mudroom area, then down the back stairs and outside. And he seemed a little annoyed by the whole situation but it was clear he would be back and would do whatever he wanted.

I then started crying and was vulnerable—the need to be focused had passed. The people there told me to ring 911. I’d dropped my cell phone (one of my “weapons”/power items) when he’d come in, so I took my sister’s land line phone.

Cut to some highway where I’m walking along with this ungainly phone pressed to one ear, desperately trying to get reception and hear over all the noise, with the other hand pressed tightly over my voicebox to stop all the bleeding. I rang 911 and got cut off. Rang them back and the dispatcher was all bored and wouldn’t do anything. I kept begging and begging for help, both that the police find the guy before he left my neighborhood and that they come and help me, but she just kept saying it wasn’t an emergency and they weren’t going to come. Shades of the toboganning accident.

Then I rang J. It was the only number I could remember and I had to dial it 2 or 3 times to get it right because my fingers were so slippery with blood. Oh wait—before that—2 guys—they were also Bad Men and they knew what their compatriot had done. They met me on the path and were sort of leering at me, totally holding their power over me. I had to think fast and be very lucky to get out of there unscathed. But nothing was going to really faze them because they had all the power.

So then I rang J and by then I was really small and scared and vulnerable and I just asked him to come and pick me up and take me to the hospital. I kept walking and walking towards town as we talked. At first he pretended like he couldn’t understand what I was saying, then he tried to steamroll my experience and say it was nothing to be worried about, and then he finally admitted he didn’t want to get involved. By this point I was really just flat-out begging—I was so scared and tired and dirty and just desperately needed a clean, safe space where people would tend to my needs. I was worried about losing my voice forever, and it was my singing voice, not my talking voice. But he refused. We hung up and then I was “downtown” so I knew I was somewhat close to home but somehow it was still a ways away.

And now there were all these people between me and it, all curious and loud and self-involved. They kept asking me what had happened and it briefly made an interesting story for them but then they would start talking and laughing amongst themselves and merrily move along.  I was so bereft. Just no help to be found. I felt so young and vulnerable and tired, that I was doing all the right things but no one was responding the way they were supposed to.

It was at that point that my conscious mind intruded and said, “C’mon, you don’t have to dream this,” and I woke myself up. I tried to cry a little but couldn’t, so I just whimpered for a while. Talk about needing a hug! I finally fell back into very uneasy sleep but kept replaying the dream until finally the alarm went off. I know I need to get up and get the Sun into my veins but I also just want to curl up and mourn.


When I was growing up, aside from the nightmares of nuclear holocaust, my worst dreams were of pursuit—a monster or Bad Man was coming after me and I had to try to get away. I often flew by flapping my arms strenuously (though once I was in a precarious ejection seat). I knew I couldn’t get away—no matter how fast or clever or resourceful I was, the Bad Man would get me. I was alone in the universe and even Nature was impassive or turned against me.

In my twenties more people started showing up in my dreams, usually family, and we were all victims together. Often I was tasked with protecting them—they were usually completely useless. Into my thirties the Bad Man morphed into other forces, such as tornadoes or tsunamis. Now, in my forties, the Bad Man has returned, but I am surrounded by many more people. It’s still usually my family, but there are often friends thrown in. They are getting more useful in the fight. This dream was the first I’ve had where they actually participated and made suggestions, such as telling me to take my sister’s phone. I hope this indicates that I feel more woven into the world. It’s my first dream example of power-with.

In this dream, the conflict over the gun and the actions of the Bad Man clearly show a struggle over power. The power I was searching for was that of freedom of my tribe to live peaceably. It was a power of defense and assertion. His power was of the old kind—that ability to walk in, devastate the environment, and then walk away. No questions asked. The tyrant.

The struggle over the gun was clearly a literal power struggle—I knew that even in the dream. And when he flicked that knife across my throat, he cut off my access to my power: The access to my singing voice. My song is intertwined with my soul, twisted together like strands of DNA, pulsing up from the great green Earth around my spinal chord and up through the crown of my head.

The rest of the dream is like some version of Demeter’s travails as she wanders the Earth seeking help in finding her daughter—finding her way home. My encounter with the two additional Bad Men made it clear that I was going to be a victim in a world populated by strongmen willing to exercise their power-over. The one bright spot is that I was able to get away by the power of my wits. But still, as in the dreams when I was young, I knew some Bad Man would eventually catch up to me and I would, at some point, fall.

Unsuccessfully seeking help from apathetic people has been a common theme in my dreams for about the last 10 years. I often ring 911 in my dreams and can’t get through or find that the dispatcher or police don’t think my problem is worth responding to. Usually it’s in those horrible dreams where hordes of maddened people are trying to break down my flimsy front door and I am in absolute terror.

I thought it was amusing that, aside from 911, the only number I could think of was J’s. That’s because I can’t remember my parents’ phone number when I’m awake, much less when I’m asleep! Aside from my parents, J and A are my default emergency contact number. So I was still trying to go thru “official” channels.

After both official channels failed, I reached out to random people in the hopes of getting help based on our common humanity. But once again this venture failed.

And all the while my blood drained from my voice, my song, my ability to be heard and express my song of Gaia. My power-from-within diminishing like a light dimming.

Waking up is one of my least favorite experiences. The emptiness of my tiny bed stretches out like a Russian steppe. It echoes the emptiness inside. The loneliness is like a sea with no end, and I am in a tiny coracle, at any moment to be dashed to my doom. It’s the worst after a nightmare, when I crave the very human need to be held and told everything’s all right.

I thought it was interesting that, upon waking, I didn’t want to cry in terror or sadness but that I wanted to mourn. I wanted to sink into this sea of grief and let it flow through every part of my being. Grieving is something I’m very afraid of. I fear that if I start I will never stop. It is one of my fears that, when my parents die, I will not be able to grieve properly and I will become even more of an emotional cripple.

The brightest spot in this grim dream experience is my conscious mind’s compassionate ending of the dream. “C’mon,” it said. Just gently leading me by the hand away from the nightmare. Like Anubis leading the newly deceased through the Land of the Dead. At least some part of me is an adult, capable of administering to my fundamental needs. I long for the day when I am fully capable. I long for the day when it’s more than I—when there’s at least one other person willing to hold my hand or embrace me in comfort and love.

Good-bye, sweet Lorraine

July 7, 2010

Tonight Kaia had our farewell pitch-in for Lorraine, who is moving to NC this weekend. As usual, we had a delectable spread with yummy desserts. Wonderful conversation. Jane is recently back from her month of research in Algeria and had good stories about that.

Our gift to Lorraine was a crystal that I received from Janiece when I was taking lessons from her. She had had it for a long time. I always felt that I was a steward for it, and that the right person would come along in time. That person is Lorraine. Each of us held the crystal and sang into it. We improv’d on two versions of Shule Agra/Shule Aroon. It was a lovely little improv and a chance to hear Lorraine sing one more time.

We wound up singing Woyaya for our last piece with her. That’s been a mainstay of the Kaia repertoire, though we never perform it anymore. Lorraine just started in singing it and we fell right into its comfortable grooves.

I wish these damn meds let me fully cry. My heart hurts and I can’t seem to let out. I teared up when we had our last hug and Shared the Love.

Now my mind is just spinning with all the faces and names and memories of different people I’ve sung with over the years. There’s an intimacy that builds between singers, and once you’ve touched another singer with your voice, your relationship is never the same. You may not even like them, but you have a connection that cannot be denied.

I’m now remembering walking the Ridgeway with Cam in England all those years ago. She was afraid to sing with me because she didn’t think she was good enough. We settled on Beatles tunes, after failing miserably at Simon & Garfunkel.

And Ardas—bright, brilliant Ardas—her sweet voice and shining spirit remain a great inspiration. I miss terribly being able to sing with her. She’s happily ensconced on the West Coast. And Sara! How I miss her wit as well as her song.

I even think of Allison tonight, who, with all her faults, had a good R&B voice that was fun to listen to.

Is there space, in the night, for all these whirling memories, all these singing voices? I hear so many tuneful sounds and see the lights of so many who have gone on from me. All the way back to Annette Havran sitting on “the green thing” in grade school and singing our lungs out. Back to singing in church with Paula, with her stock church harmony ending that still cracks us up. Singing I Sing the Body Electric with Corey Risden at our high school graduation.

So much music. So many lives. Dancing in and out of memory tonight.

SoM closes

January 5, 2010

I’d hoped to have time to blog while the show was running, but I spent my time actually doing the show instead! It’s now over—Sunday afternoon was our closing show—and I find myself sad because of it. While I appreciate the swathes of free time that have opened up in my schedule, I miss the camaraderie of working towards a shared goal.

The run of the show was great fun. We had terrific audiences—very warm and appreciative. Backstage was fun, too, though we always had to be mindful to keep the noise down! Mary, Philippa, Phil, and I made up the “adults’ table” out in the stairwell off stage right during the party scene, swapping stories and trying not to laugh while we waited for our next cue.

I ended up grateful for my nun’s habit because it kept me warm! The weather was frigid and, with two outside entrances/exits, I appreciated the scads of wool! People loved my party dress; the little girls in the cast would tell me so with their eyes shining.

One day/night stands out in particular for me: my birthday. I was standing in the wings before the evening show, talking to my sister who was 200 miles away. It was a bit of a lonely birthday (I turned 42) but I was very glad to have the show to fill the time. I don’t know why that image sticks with me so clearly, but I can practically feel the cell phone in my hand now.

Presents were abundant throughout the run. We had yellow roses and pink carnations on opening night. Lynne Schwartzberg (or “Cookie Lynne,” as Esther called her) kept us stocked up on incredible sugar creations throughout. Philippa gave everyone tiny plastic “flying nuns.” Caroline Dowd-Higgins handmade photo greeting cards for us and gave us them along with cookies from Vienna (she played the baroness from Vienna). Mary gave all the nuns candles as a memento of our pyrotechnics. Nick, who played Friedrich, gave everyone a can of Vienna sausage and a bit of Swiss chocolate along with a clever Von Trapp limerick he invented. Philippa very kindly gave me a cool little handmade dish for a birthday present. Perhaps the cleverest gift was from the ever-gracious Melissa Bohun, who made candies that looked like stained glass window panes. She delivered them in “brown paper packages tied up with string.” What a generous company!

We struck the set Sunday night, carrying big pieces of wood through the freezing wind from one building to the next, taking down lights, and stuffing a piece of pizza in where we could! I feel sorry for the Cardinal staff that has to go through all the costumes and debris to organize everything!

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to perform in this show. I hope to be able to do another Cardinal show in future. The show was good, the experience rewarding, and the people outstanding. I am thankful.

Beltane Bash Snapshots

May 3, 2009


Raising the power

Raising the power

I’ve just woken up on Sunday morning after a late night at the Webtor Beltane Bash and my head is filled with little video snapshots. In no particular order:


  • Krista in her red sequined gown with slit up the front and black top hat, looking like a particularly sexy lion tamer
  • Amy holding out her white hand to me while we sang Travelers Prayer
  • Mike Redman looking like The Hermit from tarot
  • Amanda Biggs singing an aria from Tosca in true diva style
  • Tristra’s husband Ian, who we thought was just coming along for the ride, working the bonfire like a demon
  • About twenty-five people trying to figure out how the hell to wrap a maypole, with Krista, Ian, and others all shouting directions at once
  • Meryl in her little black skirt and high spiked black leather boots
  • Green George doing his totally unselfconscious, raucous version of The Doors’ Light My Fire
  • Grooving in front of the hot bonfire, flames shooting up 15 feet, sparks and debris showering down on me from 30 feet above, while hearing the message again and again: “It’s time”
  • Resisting the impulse to scarf down every single deviled egg in a five-mile radius
  • Not resisting the impulse to scarf down every dessert within snatching distance
  • Talking to “Dave” over the food table, his googly eyes pushed back on his head and the red of his shirt drenching the aura around him
  • Gentle Jana as a combination Robin Hood and dryad
  • Faith with her luna moth wings, mirrored sunglass “bug eyes,” and adorable pipe cleaner antennae 
  • Tristra’s beaming face as she danced the maypole, pregnant belly bulging fecundly
  • Dancing to Curtis and Janiece’s I Can See Clearly Now, wishing I wore something more nimble than Doc Martens!
  • The incredibly scary clown on stage right that would occasionally not just slowly nod its head, but move its shoulders up and down—I kept expecting a peal of diabolical laughter
  • Glancing up, surprised to see the moon for the first time in weeks, admiring her waxing self amid the watery clouds
  • Ned with his kitty nose mask, dark glasses, and especially his Spock ears, reciting his fabulously lascivious poem
  • The roller derby dancers
  • The roller derby pole dancers—voof!
  • Dana in her sex toy tent, a huge pouf of red of red tulle surrounding a small white face covered by a huge round red metallic wig
  • Janiece gently gliding on the tree swing
  • Robert in his wild man make-up, perfectly toned body ready to dominate the stage at any moment
  • Nell laughing continually at the latest outrageous joke and contributing plenty herself
  • Laughing our way through the 5/4 Full Moonlight Dance, falling apart every time we tried to listen to each other—every other lyric was “fassa fassa”
  • Steve Mascari in his fur pimp coat and zoot hat
  • Trying get a groove going with Janiece and Amy Roche around the fire
  • Amy Roche drawing out her groove, slim silhouette against the fire, graceful body matching liquid voice
  • The silence surrounding Travelers Prayer as we sang praise to Sister Moon
  • Remembering My People all night long as I basked in the scent of Lily of the Valley and re-kindled the fire in my heart
  • Stopping at evil McDonald’s on the way home for chicken McNuggets because I knew I’d fall asleep before I made my own—BBQ, mmm….

A fabulous evening under the clouds, surrounded by glittering stars of our earthly firmament.


Tristra, Cairril, Amy sing "The Farmer" (photo by Michael Redman)

Tristra, Cairril, Amy sing "The Farmer" (photo by Michael Redman)

First audition in 23 years

April 26, 2009

Today I auditioned for Cardinal Stage Company. It’s a general audition for the season rather than for a particular show. I’ve been rehearsing non-stop for 6 weeks in preparation. 

I did the last 25 bars or so of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar for my song. For my monologue, I used a short piece entitled Tatiana that was written back in about 2004 by a playwright at the BPP—a playwright who neglected to put her name on the manuscript.

I worked with the lovely and talented Mr Richard Perez to go in with the best possible delivery I could within the time constraints I had. Rich is a great director—he hints at broader ideas or asks questions that lead you to a deeper understanding of the character. Many directors just focus on blocking and line delivery.

We had a breakthrough on Wednesday when I made a new connection with my character’s motivation and ended up sobbing for an hour afterwards. 🙂 I just worked on the song and the monologue lightly after that, knowing I wanted to keep that emotional connection raw.

So of course I went in there and couldn’t establish a connection at all. If I could have paused for about seven or 89 minutes mid-monologue, it would’ve been fine! But alas, alack, and Alaska, the show must go on.

Beforehand, I kept sliding back and forth between terrible nerves and a kind of steely calm. By the time I got in I was trembling all over. Fortunately both my audition pieces are intense, so the trembling worked in my favor!

The audition panel consisted of Mike Price (in whose talent I stand in awe), Randy White (in whose artistic abilities I stand in awe) and two other Cardinal Stage official-types that I’ve seen before but could not place. There was about 5 feet between me and them. I’d been expecting just Randy and maybe one other volunteer hanging out in the audience, with me 25 feet away on stage (this was at the MCPL auditorium). Let’s amp up that tension, shall we?? 🙂 

I did fine on the vocal side of Gethsemane but didn’t communicate the message as deeply as I wanted to. The monologue was the real heartbreaker, though, since I’d been able to play through the sobbing with Rich but had nary a tear in the audition. So while my mouth and body keep going, my brain is spinning at a zillion miles an hour, saying, “Remember, Rich said to just try to re-connect with that trigger” and “Should I fake the crying?” and so forth. Not conducive to calm delivery, but this sort of thing happens all the time in live performance. I thank all the people who taught me “the show must go on” in all its forms!

Talking with BryBry today, I realized it’s been about 23 years since my first “real” audition. Previous to that I auditioned all the time for school and community theatre, but my last high-pressure audition was at the IU music school. I had made the cut to get in, but this audition was with Robert Porco, head of the choral department.

I often think of that audition because he took the time to work with me. My audition piece was Care Selve, a gorgeous Italian aria. He had me go back and sing it again, this time singing the second half “as if you are singing to your beloved.” I knew immediately what he meant—my delivery had been technically flawless but emotionally void. I fell into the song and he nodded yes, yes. 

When we finished, he leaned hard on me to join The Singing Hoosiers (IU’s premiere choral group) but I had a class conflict that couldn’t be avoided. He kept at me again and again. I suppose it’s a sign of my idiocy that I couldn’t find a way to get where he thought I should go. The first of many “bad career moves” in the music school.

As I walked home today, my mind was racing with a deconstruction of every single note, word, and gesture from the audition. I just kept telling myself, “I did the best I could.” That was true. I wish I could’ve done better. But, as I told myself, the only way to get better is to do a lot more auditions! I had no idea until tonight that it had been as long as it had. No wonder I was a wreck!

All I want is to be good enough to make it into the chorus or to get a bit part. I know if I’m given a chance, I’ll get better from there. Each audition was one at a time so I have no idea how others did or how I stacked up. Since it was a general audition, I won’t even hear anything back from them regarding callbacks or rejections for some time. How’s that for I-Hate-Ambiguity Lass?? 🙂

I thank Brighid and Grandpa for sustaining me, and especially Rich for opening up whole new creative vistas! I pray for more opportunities—successful ones!

Songs for May Day

April 5, 2009

Krista Detor is hosting a Beltain bash at her posh estate in the Hamptons. Er, make that “backwoods Bloomington.” I offered to help and, lo and behold, she’s asked me to put together a small band of wandering minstrels who periodically burst into song (just like in Monty Python & The Holy Grail!).

Plus we’ll sing a small set onstage and (hopefully) sing as the May Queens are crowned.

I sent out the call immediately, hoping to get a mix of Kaia and non-Kaia, but only heard yeses from two of my Kaiasistahs! (Thank you, Amy and Tristra!) So I am now frantically trying to find music that will be suitable. Here’s a shortlist, but I’m still doing research:

Lovely Joan
Fise Faise Fo
Hin Hin Haradala
Bando Ribinean
In The Gloaming
Shule Agra
The Farmer (by Wicked Tinkers)
Maids, When You’re Young, Never Wed An Old Man
Lullay, My Liking
The Young May Moon
May Day Carol
Hey, Ho To The Greenwood
Travelers’ Prayer (Susanna & Georgia Rose)
A Czech round that I changed the lyrics to
I Will Give My Love An Apple (19th c. version)

I’m hoping to choose songs next week, so any suggestions in the meantime (fast!) are welcome! 🙂

Acupressure for phlegm reduction

January 31, 2009

Now there’s a title to make you sit up & take notice. 

It’s not uncommon for singers to accumulate nasty phlegm in their throats and then have to sing. Janiece Jaffe shared this nifty acupressure trick to help.

The point you want to stimulate is halfway between your shin and your calf, and halfway between your knee and your ankle.

An easy way to find it is to place your right thumb on the little nub on bone on the lower bottom of your right kneecap. Bend forward and place your left thumb on your right ankle bone.

Then extend your fingers to the sides so your left pinkie and your right thumb meet in the middle of your outside lower leg. The pressure point is right in that area.

Start pressing in/near that spot and soon you’ll feel a place that’s tender. Press on it firmly. You should be able to feel the drainage start.

This technique works on both legs. It’s a good substitute if you don’t have citrus or hot water handy!