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Rat in me kitchen

Friends Meeting: the B sides

Track #4


Good morning friends, I had a dream this past week which troubled me.

There’s a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do?

There’s a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do?

I’m gonna fix that rat that’s what I’m gonna do

I’m gonna fix that rat.

I was at home, not sure which home that was, because I’ve lived in so many places by now. And there was a familiar female presence just “off-screen” over my right shoulder who pointed out a problem in our kitchen.

She said there was a rat, a large and dangerous rat under the sink, and we needed to get rid of it.

As it often is in dreams, the scenery was somewhat non-sensical, in that below the kitchen sink the cupboard doors were missing and the far side of the cabinetry around the bottom of the sink was also missing. But dreams know what they are doing, because in this way I was able to see clearly, with natural lighting coming in from the kitchen windows above, everything below the sink.

There was a worn out green scrubbing pad and other miscellaneous grungy things, but there were also a couple cereal boxes, which seem out of place.  No one in our family would put food under the sink because we all know that’s where the cleaning supplies go.  Again, the dream scenery mixes things up, but what can you do?

As I stooped down to look more closely a very small mouse appeared, but a voice told me that was not quite it.

Then before I knew it a large rat was before me, and furthermore, I was almost in position to grab it with my bare hands.  My left hand was poised over the scruff of its neck and my right hand was ready to take its tail. I was afraid, but I moved deliberately. I started to pick it up by the neck and tail, and as I lifted the rat it watched me steadily the entire time.

I carried the rat up against my right hip and got ready to walk towards the front door of the house.  I was trying to ask the woman in my dream for help to open the front door so I could toss out the rat with both hands. I definitely needed her help.

But there was another connection I felt just before the dream ended. Somehow, in ways which only dreams can tell you, as the rat and I looked at each other intently, I just knew that there was part of me in that rat. We knew each other. 

There was an uneasy tension between us.  I did not grip too tightly nor move suddenly towards killing it which I could easily do, and it did not bite me, although it’s head was next to my hip.

In order to understand my dreams I need to understand myself, I need to be aware of what has been happening emotionally recently in my life.  Typically ‘recently‘ means one or two days at most, and ‘happening’ means I’ve had strong feelings about something.  Time frames do jump around a bit in dreams, but then again my memory might bring up some related events and feelings from two different past episodes today while I’m awake.  Connections of two past events can occur in my mind today.

Ever since a Friend suggested reading the Bible because of its historical importance to Quakers during his class on Quaker history, I’ve pondered this assignment for about one month, while finishing up other suggested readings, such as John Woolman’s journal.

Coincidentally, my mother strongly urged me to read the Bible recently.  My parents and I were having lunch when she tried to convince me that although I had read the Bible before, I needed to read it as an adult.  This was one of our last meals together before she and my father moved to Texas to be closer to my brother and sister-in-law’s family, which is tacitly understood to be their final home as they are getting on in years.

I have much ambivalence towards the Christian Bible.

Nevertheless, this past weekend I just started reading it with the intention of completing it in about one year.  Most importantly I decided to take notes on how I feel about the whole thing. Whenever feelings and reactions arise I note them in the margins, because after all it’s my Bible, I bought it.

Someone close to me, a woman, recently shared some painful feelings which arose from rejection, callousness, and judgment on the part of a man she loved.  As we conversed together I reacted aloud incredulously “where is the love?!”

“There isn’t any!” she replied in tears.

I gave her a hug and told her that I was very sorry that this had happened, but I was very grateful that she could share this with me.

I shared with her some feelings of self-doubt and harsh self-judgment which my therapist challenged me to drop like a bad habit.  Nevertheless, I have persistent feelings that I am just not good enough and I will never be good enough. This woman whom I care about could identify with these feelings, and connected the feelings of fear, inadequacy, of being unloved and not accepted to lifelong patterns of quitting, giving up on herself.  I told her that I had just written in my journal about the very same patterns and feelings.

The summer of my 21st birthday, I worked as an intern at the Marine Bio Labs in Woods Hole. One Friday one of my supervisors, a research assistant, drove me to Boston where I vaguely recall I was going to catch a train to see friends on the north shore for the weekend.  But first we needed to drive with her sister by the museum of fine arts.

My supervisor and friend warned me ahead of time that her sister had just gotten a divorce, and that I may want to be sensitive to that in case her sister seemed a bit “off”.  Perhaps because I was paying more attention than usual, one statement from my friend’s sister made quite an impression on me.  Somehow the topic of religion arose and the sister said adamantly that Christianity was very destructive to people’s self esteem because of its doctrines of original sin and total depravity. She emphasized that telling children that they are sinful and can never be good enough is very damaging, with effects lasting years and years into adulthood.

By that point in my journey I was just then ready to start incorporating new views into my mind.

Seventeen years later I agree wholeheartedly with that sister and am wary of religious doctrines and dogmas.  Indeed, it is precisely the lack of doctrines which has allowed me to stay around a bit longer and explore spirituality at Friends Meeting in Cambridge.

More importantly it is the Love of Friends which draws me back!

So now I ponder my dream.

Recently there have been quite a few females speaking to me. But in this particular dream the identity of that woman “off-camera” remains quite concealed.

The small mouse may be the Bible. It may not really be such a problem.  It is not mine, I did not write it.  We – the family or house residents in the dream can safely ignore the tiny mouse for now.

The rat, on the other hand, was definitely part of me and large enough to hurt.

I suppose that’s the chronic low self-esteem, my relentless harsh judgment of myself which stops me from trying or persevering.  Fear of failure stops me from trying.  Fear of success also stops me. If I succeed at a given task or goal, then someone may expect  me to repeat that  success.  It’s as if I have raised the bar on myself.  Or as my first sponsor sucker-punched me with: “Failure is easy to live up to.”  The negative self-talk really does take its toll.

Where exactly the negative self-talk comes from is not nearly as important as the willingness and practice to let it go.  It may come from the Bible, from peculiar interpretations of the Bible such as Calvinism, or perhaps from a genetic predisposition to hear negatives and overlook positives. But regardless of source, like all shortcomings, no Higher Power, whether I believe in One or not, can remove my negative self-talk if I never let it go!

Give me what I need, and please take away what I don’t need.  (got that recently from another recovering preacher’s kid).

I was speaking with another Friend recently and we both warmed up to the idea of a need for positive alternatives.

I feel the need for a vision of what else I can be.

There’s something about my obsessive-compulsive tendencies that I can not – not do something. For example, I now chew sugarless gum the way I used to smoke cigarettes: constantly!

So instead of telling myself that I should not think negatively, I need to redirect that freight train somehow.  Otherwise I can imagine myself berating myself for berating myself!

I wonder about who is supposed to help open the door in my dream.  Is that another part of myself? Is that friends around me who can give me opportunities – such as listening?

Thank you for listening!





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