As we proceed with building a corpus of MyStory tales, our most memorable and thematic life stories, I am reminded of Carl Jung’s significant record of his own ‘depth’ MyStory explorations in The Red Book. Jung used active imagination (contemplation) techniques to sink deeply into his personal unconscious realm, to explore and interact with his internal archetypal personae. After engaging with each archetype long enough to glean its message for Jung’s emerging, more fully integrated Self, he artistically created a colorful Mandala image and wrote in his Red Book (journal) about what he had learned. Jung recommended that anyone likewise interested in actively promoting their own individuation and integration of Self would do well to create their own ‘red book’: their own journal about their archetypal parts of Self, their own exploration of the Life Themes and character shards of their ever-emerging Self.
So that is what your MyStory is intended to be: your compilation of meaningful life stories that reveals the deep character of your dynamic Self.
For my part I find myself moving forward with my MyStory reflections to the Life Theme of personal relationships, which is a key theme for me, as it is for many. My most significant Relationship theme stories are rather too personal to write much about in a public blog, but some of the most transformative of these are fodder for deep excavation and I can share at least some shards here which I will explore more deeply in my private MyStory journal. In the process of exploring Life Theme lessons and insights, it is vital to detangle the curious web of relationships that have emerged and developed over a lifetime (at least!), to date.
To know me at all deeply is to know something of my relationship with Donna (pseudonym here). This relationship has evolved since I was 17 and continues even after this dear friend’s passing around six months ago. I will share some of what I can here, embellishing further in my private MyStory logs, seeking to unravel through layers of import to better glean kernel messages from this relationship for my Soul journey going forward.
I met Donna when I was 17. A good high-school friend, Larry, himself a budding poet and close comrade in our drama club (the actor who played the soldier dying under a tree in Viet Nam as recalled in the previous post), approached me in the hall one day at school, and with his signature panache said:
“Yes,” I responded faithfully. “What did I just agree to?”
Thus began a journey that has woven through my life ever since, both in terms of wonderful adventures with fencing throughout my college years and into my life overall, and through my relationship with a dynamic, uniquely gifted lifelong friend, Donna. She was the instructor for a ten-week class in fencing at an arts center in my home-town (where I have returned to live recently, in part for the sake of reflecting on this deep relation).
So, Donna, and fencing (the latter a theme I will explore separately down the road). Donna is one of the most dynamic persons I have ever known. I feel most fortunate that after the ten weeks of our fencing class, she invited the students to order some equipment and I ventured to her apartment one Thursday after school to pick up a mask, glove and foil that would launch my later fencing career (on a college fencing squad), and that would initiate one of my most influential friendships. We began a conversation that afternoon that developed and evolved such that even in my current active contemplations and dreams, I still visit with this dear Soul friend.
Donna became a mentor and friend over several years throughout my last two years of high-school and through my college years in Buffalo, continuing by phone and letters after that. She took interest in helping me explore and develop my own creative and spiritual awareness. I shared my journals with her and she gave me lists of books to read and discuss, as we met weekly for the next two years, every Thursday after school. As Avatar portrays for a close connection, Donna “saw me,” and in turn, I now realize, I saw her, as Soul, too.
Some shards of memory from those initial several years of my connection with Donna
- Books and poetry, including: Camus’ notebooks and The Stranger; Schopenhauer’s Either/ Or; Yeats’ Selected Poetry of W. B. Yeats (much of which I memorized) and The Vision; Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (whom Donna knew in NYC while an actress there); The Moveable Feast by Hemingway; Anais Nin’s diaries and Seduction of the Minotaur; The Chalk Garden play (the first work we discussed); and The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (the second). (These and others set me up very well for my English major studies to come in college.)
- “Who is the real LW?”
- Fencing: Donna’s visit to my fencing club, where my early coach was also one of her friends; Our team’s (and my own) placing 9th (by 2 pts from 7th) of 125 or so university fencing teams in intercollegiate nationals, 1975
- Visits to Donna over college breaks and over summers
- Visiting Donna at a hospital’s mental health ward when she was in for ‘nervous breakdown’ and MPD was diagnosed (see below)
- My own poetry about our friendship through the years; her mentorship continuing through my undergraduate and Masters study college years
Flash forward: to my early doctoral study times in Arizona, some ten years or so into our friendship. One night I felt a clear inner call to communicate with Donna. We had long shared an unusually ‘psychic’ connection. The next morning I dialed her number (she by then living in Florida) from a pay phone at the Anthropology building at ASU:
LW: “Hello. Is Donna there?” (her housemate/ partner had answered)
K: “Who is this? Yes, Just a minute…”
D: “Hello?” (a deep voice at the other end of the line;
was this a friend who was to tell me
of Donna’s recent passing?)
LW: “This is Linda…”
D: “Yes, hello!” (It was Donna; as I listened more closely
I recognized my Friend)
D: “I have changed my name, Linda.”
LW: “Okay.” (I took out pen and paper, ready to write down
Donna’s new married name.)
D: “It is Donald. You have called on the very day
before I am going for my final operation.”
I had not communicated with Donna for nearly a year, so this conversation brought quite a surprising revelation about my dear mentor and friend. Lots had developed that I have mostly not recorded above that led Donna to this transformational choice. She had experienced several years of eventually successful therapy after a diagnosis of Multiple Personality Syndrome. A highly talented actress and theater director, Donna had developed a panoply of at least eleven distinct personalities since around the time of my sophomore year in college. She had first been diagnosed with ‘nervous breakdown’ episodes, then her MPD condition fully emerged. She underwent a successful hypnotherapy program, but it revealed that Donna’s core personality was actually, at least after the integrational therapy, Donald. So, after the requisite year of transgender living and hormone therapy–during which it was discovered Donna had had a blue bracelet applied after birth, with a surgical “correction” such as more babies than most of us realize still receive—doctors unanimously approved Gender Congruence Surgery, and Donna transitioned ‘in place’ in Florida, to Donald. This baby then, raised as Donna, had never been fully comfortable in that persona. Donald was central to this Soul’s outlook and personal consciousness.
Okay, so the first time I met Donald in person was the summer after that revelatory phone call. When I saw him (as him) for the first time, at the airport when He came to greet me, inwardly I felt myself stating over and over: “That’s it!” There had always been a sense of something mysterious and unusual about Donna’s persona—like there was always something hidden, something so unique that other than her amazing intelligence and creative virtuosity, I could never pinpoint. But seeing Donna as Donald ‘made sense’ of some of that mysterious quality.
My connection with Donald continued though not at the level of closeness I had shared with Donna. Yet I found through the many years to follow something unexpected in my own internal, spiritual life: dreams of visiting Donna, as Donna, developed into a frequent feature of my very active dream life. (I have long felt there should be a clinical interest in such dreams of the friends and allies of ‘sex-change’ cases.)
The first dream: I go to a house and knock on the door. A man opens the door, and I ask if I can visit with Donna. He says no, but I can see her if I go to the patio. I am then on a patio that reminds me of a classical Greek villa (a courtyard surrounded on at least three sides by its house). Looking up to the top of a small knoll just beyond the house, I see Donna standing there, and she sees me. She sends like a girl scout down to give me a message. (Later I realized the other residents of the house included Donald—who had answered the door—and Donna’s other MPD personae. She had been sort of expelled from the assemblage.)
Another significant early dream: I see Donna at an intersection, a crossroads. I could tell she was in some pain; that something had been ripped out from her right shoulder. Around the same time a dream of seeing Donna at another crossroads, where two pathways were to diverge. Her path was binary, one person (Donald) moving off to the right, and Donna herself to the left. She held up a placard (like in a a Brecht play I had recently read, Mother Courage), with one word: Eternellement. (I felt she showed me this as a sign of our enduring spiritual connection.)
images aare from pixabay.com
Then over decades, similar dreams of Visiting Donna: I would visit her at an apartment overlooking a pond with a walkway around it. We would talk as we had in our earlier year visits. We would sometimes play Scrabble or some sort of game while overlooking the pond. (I felt that this apartment setting was like a “purgatory” sort of existence that Donna had to endure so long as Donald continued in his occupation of their erst shared body; that Donna would not be able to “move on” until Donald’s passing.
NOW: I maintained a connection with Donald through nearly forty years, visiting with him twice and more regularly (though not so deeply) after he invited me to play Words with Friends with him, where we sometimes would Chat, for around 15 years.
Donald had an excellent life experience, as a behavioral health liaison and eventually a director there, still active as an actor and director in local theater productions, and with a long-term partner for over twenty years. He experienced a lot of physical health hardships, as do many on long-term hormonal treatment. He dealt with joint problems then also cancer over a long duration until finally he transpired, some six months or so ago.
Yet my dreams of visiting with Donna continue. Only once so far, shortly after his passing, Donald communicated. He said there was something he had wanted to tell me. (I hope that would have been that he had always remembered the depth of our friendship.) I went to visit Donna recently at another apartment setting, but she was in a car in a garage with several people attending to her (it felt like she was in distress because she was still not being allowed yet to move on.) And last week, a sweet though brief visitation with Donna in the dream state, to suggest we will continue to be in touch…eternellement.
And you? What have been some of the deepest, most transformative relatioonships in your life? I invite you to write in your MyStory journal, to explore and plumb the depths of your core relations.