I was deep in visualization – facing him cross-legged, my palms lying upturned on his. The familiar legion appeared dark, silhouetted in turquoise with ribbons of deep blue and flecks of magenta. He said people often saw those colors inside of him. Then I felt a presence arise, as if someone was standing with their nose right in front of mine, and all went dark. I felt a weight come into the space between us, almost resting on my forearms. Then I saw the shoulders of a figure appear, its back turned to me, head bent down, reaching outward as if wings stretched beyond my sight, covered with tiny scales like a snake’s back, reflecting that blue and green and then ruby. As I described this aloud, I felt him pulling away and we came back to ourselves.
“It was my dragon,” he said. “I felt something dark coming that I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to expose you to it. You were shielded.” I protested, saying it felt as though the dark presence that had come between us was legitimate in itself, was facing me. Then realized I had stood behind the scaled figure, that it was in a protective stance. That was the last time we shared a visualization. The next day another cycle began. He tried to give me space for my side projects, but I could again feel his wish that I spend the day with him. I recoiled from his need to connect, and I criticized myself for my need for space. I badly phrased question about an old boyfriend coming to visit and our best week yet dissolved into jealousy, defensiveness, and accusations. We took our space as we always did. We resolved our inner tensions, admitted our short-comings, and reconfirmed our bond, but this time, my heart wouldn’t open. I found myself in front of my spiritual counselor, seeking advice on a conflict with another director, and instead began sobbing about how much I needed to end this relationship and just couldn’t. I was immobilized with grief over months of an inner knowing that we should not be bonding in such an intimate way colliding with my determination to endure the cycles of rupture and repair, to open my heart no matter what, to remain unattached, to protect this opportunity to hold and be held.
I thought I couldn’t stand up to my coworker. I need to be respected for setting my boundaries and liked for it, and felt I had to choose one or the other. I just didn’t feel strong enough to battle her anymore. But when I went to her office, she said herself everything I wanted to say to her and our bond deepened. In my relief, my heart opened, and I wanted nothing more than to hold him. But hours later, I had withdrawn again. Instead of going to him, I told him I felt like there was a dragon curled up inside that needed to rest in stillness. I went to the hills and found myself grumbling and growling as I walked, heat rising up in me, my arms flung out to my sides arching backwards like claw-tipped wings of skin. The dragon was not resting, it was awake and snorting like a bull, powerful and steaming in my core.
The ancients say not to look at an eclipse. It is a time when our inner darkness blocks our light, allowing all of our habitual tendencies to express unchecked. Do not start businesses. Do not have crucial conversations with loved ones. Stay indoors and chant for protection. When the solar eclipse hit Oregon, I started out going deep inside, feeling the energy surging within me, but a strong impulse rose to meditate with him, so I went out two minutes before it hit its peak to find him. We meditated together as the moon crossed over and I felt my energy fall heavy. I felt the urge to kiss him followed by a familiar sense of recoiling from his gravity. I left him to meditate with a group on the hill. He and I worked side-by-side that afternoon, but it all felt strained, choreographed. All the uneasiness I had felt in my own skin so often was unbearably undeniable. I cried. I questioned for the third time in two weeks whether we really could heal together when our demons triggered each other so severely. And in between my sobs, I finally gave voice to that need to let him go.
The lightness I felt the next day at following my inner guidance, despite the pain of separation, dissolved when I read an article about not reacting to the emotions stirred up by an eclipse. I was overcome by a desperate regret. I woke the following day feeling like the grill of a semi truck was wedged in my chest. All my plans to work on projects dissolved in a barrel of sobs that gathered into wailing, punching the wall of my room, feeling the guilt and regret lodging in my lower back, where I feared they would remain. I wanted to release it, but couldn’t deny its truth. I fled out of the building and charged up the hill. I felt the dragon within tearing me apart, beastial wails flooding out of my throat. I flung rocks. I threw my water bottle back and forth across the mown wheat field, which just served as a reminder of all the life that had been decimated. I knew anger was a part of grief, and that my anger was always directed inward, but I couldn’t bear the memory of him approached me for a hug, knowing it would never happen again, knowing I had ended our bond in a moment of intense emotion, fearing that because of that the friendship we had always pledged would be ruptured. I hated myself for blocking what was trying to happen between us, for preventing its further unfolding. And there was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do about it. It was done. And I couldn’t stomach going forward.
I prostrated myself beneath an oak tree, watching the thin pale clouds pass between the gnarled mossy branches. I was a white marble slab washed cleaned between the storms. I sobbed to a friend who tried to help me understand there are no mistakes, that everything that happens is supposed to happen, even if we don’t understand why, and that a legion of divine beings are there to help us if we are willing to ask. I was convinced of my wrongness, and refused to ask for help from beings who knew I suffered because I had ignored their guidance. I sobbed to another friend who said now might be the time to return to therapy, and I clung to that notion for freedom.
Of course a large part of me could have handled this with more grace, could have loved and accepted him for all he was and wasn’t, could have recognized my limitations and stayed determined to be friends from the beginning. But the stronger, far more wounded part of me just wanted to be held, and was willing to risk anything for it. It was the same part of me that curled up with the last man, that stayed unhappy with my husband because I believed I couldn’t face the world without a daily hug, who let the drunkards do what they liked because they might hold me afterward, who entertained that weird guy in high school because he would hold me in an abandoned classroom, who begged for my mom to pick me up and all she said was I aaaaalways wanted to be held. To my mom, my need for touch and comfort were inconvenient, unnatural, insatiable. And here I am 35 years later completely unhinged by my own choice to leave a man that isn’t right for me because he was willing to hold me. My integrity was only a millimeter higher than that enduring need. And it took the intense power of a solar eclipse to make it so. Perhaps all this pain, and the pain of whatever lies in store for me as a result, was worth it just to finally see how this pattern has crippled me relationally and professionally my whole life, and find the right help.
Last night, my dreams were sweet, a balm to the rawness of the day. Except for one. I walked up to a large aquarium filled with exotic, beautiful life. But something dark beneath the surface was devouring the animals, swallowing the fish and biting the shells off the turtles. I saw a gnarled brown head rise from the water, crumbled wings of skin emerge, and realized there were dragons in the water. I woke disturbed, anxious that the darkness he tried to shield me from during that final visualization had indeed entered me as this dragon that tore me apart and destroyed our bond. I was disturbed by the idea that I had been infected by something that isn’t mine and I must now carry it. But I have encountered fierce animals before who became my protectors.
As I meditated that morning in preparation for whatever the day might bring, I held my bunny close to my heart to keep it soft and open no matter what, and I felt that red and gold dragon sprout from my solar plexus, right where it all twists and burns, stretching its wings up over my chest in protection. The two of them accompanied me all day. I felt soft and strong. I revealed threads of my story. I held my sadness out for all to see. The pain still came in periodic waves, but I did not need to sob. I napped. I did yoga. I supported and spoke up for people who needed it. And I gradually felt more moments of lightness. When I saw him for the first time in days, I stayed open. I am ready to meet his gaze the moment he decides to meet mine. I can receive whatever his eyes hold, for my fear of feeling has loosened just a little bit more. And with this distance comes the hope that I can accept him now in a way I never could when he had the power to take from me the one thing I hunger for beyond reason. I hope he can watch me take my own next steps in healing what my bond with him revealed to me, so that I may find someone I adore to hold and be held by without push and pull. And I hope I can see someone take his hand and dive with him into the abyss I was unwilling to enter.