In one of my visually intense EMDR sessions, a childhood memory of a disturbing dream bubbled up. It was one I had twice as a child.
In the dream a baker was pounding and molding a heap of dough across a flour strewn wooden table. Next to the baker stood a little child of ambiguous gender. The baker then lifts his arm, plucks the little boy up, and shoves him into the dough as if he were an ingredient. He then begins to smash him into the mass and as he does the boy’s bones protrude from the dough. There is no blood, no intestines, no disgusting soft tissue to mar the baker’s progress. Just dry bones sticking out at obtuse angles.
That image has been snagged in my unconscious for over three decades. I hadn’t thought about it for years until Wednesday. Then it popped up. Afterward, I grappled with its meaning until finally it hit me yesterday during my morning drive at 6am before the sun even dares to peak out of its bed.
The baker is my mother trying to mold me into a box regardless of my own uniqueness. It is symbolic of the destruction of self, a passionless and commonplace exercise.
I didn’t fit in and she tried with coercion, manipulation, threats and abuse to make me, but I still flowed out. I couldn’t be what she wanted me to be.
Then this morning I realized she struggled to order everyone into boxes. Her world was a darkness riddled with boxes. And, if people, places and things didn’t fit into her pre-programmed requirements, then she exerted more effort. Her extreme control didn’t work. It riddled her with anxiety, rage and irrationality.
The real world isn’t a dark place filled with limiting boxes. Nature doesn’t operate that way. Nature is operatic, complex and simple, astoundingly beautiful and vast. Wild and untamable. Consequently, so is human nature. We are splendid, complex beings and none of us is the master creator and has the right to be force anyone into a box.
My mother didn’t know better. She was trying to do the best she could with her own box. Because in order for her to try to fit people into her boxes, someone lied to her first and put her in her own. She probably hated that box, didn’t even know it existed, but it was all she knew and that is all she could teach.
I don’t fit in her box. Heck, I don’t fit well into a lot of other people’s boxes and certain society’s boxes. Some people fit nicely into some boxes and they find their place in them. But, my spirit is a little wilder, a little freer, a little more esoteric than the common fare.
I can see and feel the boxes. I can imagine them in a dark space and walk up to them, lay my finger tips across their black edges and diminish them into the size of a tiny middle schoolers note. And then throw them in the trash. Then I can transport myself to a place of unhinged natural beautify.
I don’t do well in boxes. She knew that but still tried and tired to mold me. That’s where my anxiety comes from. Not fitting into her boxes. But, now I know what they are. That they are hers. Not mine.
I live in a vast universe filled with color, complexity and wonder and my only task is to enjoy God’s creation and walk with peace, love, and joy. Not fit into others’ boxes.