Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Of Wrestling Snakes

I think I've mentioned my dreams here before once or twice, so it probably comes as no surprise that my subconscious is a truly weird place.  Most of the time I don't dream, or don't remember dreaming.  But when I do, this is the kind of thing that happens...

I was at the camp where I volunteer in the summer, but it looked a lot more like the Minnesota Zoo - animals behind glass partitions, display rooms and outdoor areas resembling those I remember from childhood.  I had a very clear sense, however, that I was doing what I usually do at camp: being the chaplain.

As will happen in dreams, a couple of peculiar things happened.  One of my favorite bands showed up, and conveniently, we were already BFFs, so they asked me to get up and play guitar and sing with them.  Then I decided it would be a good idea to set up a giant rope swing from the top of the orangutan cage, so I was merrily swinging around in impossible directions and much higher than the cage, while people watched from the ground.  After a moment of panic about how I was going to get down, I managed to stop the swing and land lightly on the ground.  All is well and good so far.

Then, as I took the rope down, it turned into a hose.  It was really difficult to coil, and when I looked at the end of the hose, I noticed the tail half of a large boa constrictor hanging out the end.  The snake was stretching out the hose, writhing around and hissing (as I suppose anyone would be if they had gotten themselves trapped in a hose), and I decided to grab the snake's head - because that is how I learned to handle snakes at the Minnesota Zoo - but gently holding a snake's head to guide it away from potentially biting you is somewhat different from squeezing its head in a frantic attempt to keep it from killing you.  So, I'm walking across the camp with this boa constrictor trying to wrap itself around me, break through the hose, and bite me, and  no one is paying the slightest amount of attention.  It seemed like I should find the camp director, who is a Woods Guy who generally knows what to do in wildlife emergencies, so I did, but while he was concerned, he didn't attempt to actually do anything about the situation.

The snake kept growing in size and rage, and finally broke through the hose and bit my hands repeatedly.  Someone tried to help at throwing a pail of boiling water at the snake...and my hand.  My hand was blistered and being bitten by this snake, I was screaming my fool head off and trying to crush the snake's head, and everyone else was just going about their business, except for the camp director, who was patiently watching and encouraging me to keep holding on.

(Warning: this is about to get kind of gross) There was blood everywhere from my hands and the snake, and finally I succeeded in crushing the snake's head.  Its jaw cracked and its teeth fell out, and I was just sitting there, holding this stupid bloody snake jaw bone and watching giant blisters form on my hands, and trying to remember whether boa constrictors have absolutely no venom or just a much weaker venom than snakes that are considered poisonous (they are non-venomous, in case you wanted to know).    I decided to take the jaw bone as a souvenir, wondered how I was going to explain the blisters and fang marks to the Complicated Non-Relationship, and then woke up.

So, that was weird, but not exactly subtle, since just yesterday I was talking about my paralyzing fear of failure, desperate sense of being alone, and series of things going terribly awry.  Wrestling a snake, screaming for help but having no one come, getting bloody and bruised, but finally managing to crush the snake's head: yep, sounds about right for my current mental state.  At least my psyche seems to be trying to tell me that I can overcome.  Or something.

I like to think that beneath the recent near-crippling anxiety, I still have that sense of myself, that I actually am not a total wreck, that I am capable of accomplishing great things.  My sense of self has been a bit messed up in the last year.  Slogging away in a position where I'm considered "junior minister," with a senior minister who is great in many ways but for whom nothing ever seems to be quite enough, continuing to struggle to manage my finances and home life, and utterly failing in my relational life has not been great for my usually more than adequate self-esteem.  It's kind of nice to have my subconscious remind me that, yes, I'm a bit beaten up, but I can still manage.

I'm entertained by the fact that the camp director, who is sort of a model in my life of capability and success, showed up, cared what was happening, but just kept insisting that I could do it myself.  He would never actually refuse to help that way, but it's a dream, and I enjoy him representing the part of my subconscious that has to tell another part of my subconscious to buck up and do what needs to be done.  I also kind of like how the CNR shows up in a completely casual thought at the end of all of this, like, "Oh yeah, that guy...wonder what he's going to say when I tell him about this?"  Apparently, while I care what he thinks, I'm not expecting him to save me from giant snakes (or whatever).  Which is a relief, because I don't get the idea that he's really the rescuing type.  And it's good to know that I'm still not the getting rescued type.  I was starting to wonder.

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