I think it was Carl Jung who said there were dreams and then there were Big Dreams, but it doesn’t matter; what is important is that I had a Big Dream. After countless nights of dreaming and not remembering anything but the fleeting sensation of having dreamt, I had an important dream. Important dreams are important not only because they reflect something outstanding or fundamental to the personal life of the dreamer, but because they take from and add to the underlying myths and stories of humanity itself. It was through such dreams that Jung realized most of his analysis of patients, and created what is considered one of his major contributions to psychology today: the theory of the Collective Unconscious. Anyway, what I dreamt the other night was the following:
My grown daughter and I were on our way by bus to pay some sort of fine that she had incurred. At some point the bus turned around and started going back the way it had come before having reached the police station where the fine was to be paid. Strangely enough, this change of plans did not distress me, as I thought we would be able at some point to make the trip back again. I remember noticing out the window that we were driving through very beautiful countryside. I was saying something to my daughter that was meaningful and the feeling was one of plenitude. A few rows behind us, an indistinct man was listening to what I said, and I knew automatically that he admired my ideas. This was very pleasing to me.
Soon we arrived at a place, resembling either a hotel or a convent, which was high up on a hill surrounded by rolling hills, and valleys. We were greeted by a middle-aged woman dressed in a dull grey blouse and skirt; the skirt reached down to her ankles. She wore her hair drawn back but not severely and her countenance was kind, although it gave the impression that she was in charge. I informed her that we had to return on the bus to pay my daughter’s fine. She smiled, threw some sort of whitish cloth over my daughter’s shoulders and said that she herself could solve the problem of the fine immediately after she had watched the moon have its baby.
I felt very excited about this unheard of event and, pulling my daughter after me, rushed to follow our hostess. Outside it was nighttime on the top of the hill where we stood although the hilly countryside around was still visible and green. I looked up and there they were: the full moon and, beside it, a newly born baby moon.
As I emerged from the dream world filled with awe, the image of mother and baby moons remained strongly in my mind. I immediately realized that the lysis, or intended message of the dream, had to do with the feminine, but with a new kind of feminine as the moon is giving birth; it is no longer the passive, infertile moon of menstruation, dependent for its light on the creative masculine sun. Looking at the dream as a whole, one sees a journey from the masculine (the voyage out to pay a fine to the masculine authority) towards the feminine (the return, the convent, the hostess who will take care of the fine, but gives it little importance). The men in the dream (the bus driver and the indistinct passenger in the back) are but shadow figures that do not participate. The protagonist, on the other hand, is interacting importantly with her own daughter, who might represent her anima or feminine self. In the dream, however, the protagonist has also integrated the masculine as her discourse is of an intellectual kind and approved of by the male spectator.
Seen this way, the dream could very well represent my own life which began with absolute emulation of the masculine (father) and rejection of the feminine (mother) and gradually (very, very gradually) began moving towards embodying the feminine, without giving up the masculine traits developed during the first half of life. At the same time, the dream may well represent society’s shift towards the feminine as we seem to be living it presently.
My story. Ever since I can remember, I adored, admired and longed to emulate my father. It was much more than what Freud talks about, because the love of father, or Electra complex, was complicated by a desire to be father, be a man like my father. Basic conflict: to have or to be, that was the dilemma. Of course, I couldn’t really be for obvious reasons, but I don’t really think that I worried too much about it until the day my mother said it was time to buy me a bra. I wanted to die. But the truth is that the bra didn’t change much. I continued to be a tomboy, continued to accompany my father fishing and hunting, kept on climbing trees and have more male friends than female.
I know that I certainly wasn’t the first, and probably not the last, generation of women who sincerely believed that they wanted to be men. Everything I had learned everywhere, from my grandmother’s house to the media, from kindergarten to college convinced me that it was much, much better to be a man. It was kinder, more intelligent, more admirable, more loving, more powerful, more spiritual, more capable and bigger and better in every thinkable way to be like my father. And I wasn’t the only one to think that way. My mother thought so too, although she wasn’t very verbal about it, but above all, my grandmother to whom I was very close, never missed an opportunity to emphasize the belief that men were much better than women. “Women are devious” she would say a propos of nothing in particular and in spite of the fact that she wasn’t all that enthusiastic about her own husband. My father was a “saint” (something he himself agreed with on every possible occasion) and my mother definitely didn’t deserve him (something with which I absolutely agreed). My mother, according to my grandmother and my father, was not intelligent –to put it diplomatically. My grandmother always said that she had gotten the looks but her sister had gotten the brains, whereas my father often referred to her as being “tontita” (which is softer than “dumb”, but still means not having much intelligence). My mother, far from contradicting this assessment, underlined it time and again and, upon getting a license plate with the initials BDT, said that the “t” stood for “tonta”. My mother, however, was anything but dumb as I should have suspected the day she took me into her confidence and whispered in my ear that “men prefer dumb women” and that “the way to get a man interested in you is to ask him questions about himself and then listen to him as if everything he says is fascinating”. Looking back I can see now that she got pretty much everything she ever wanted in life and, to me, that sounds pretty smart. I believe I began to suspect this one day, long after I myself had gotten married, when I discovered that my mother had not taken a course in Mexican History that she was interested in and attributed the reason to the fact that “your father didn’t want me to because he could never stand me knowing more about something than he does”. Yet, exactly how much she had actually cultivated this image of being dumb as a way to keep my father interested, I’ll never know for sure.
Most people who knew my father probably would not have considered him a sexist. I certainly didn’t. He was a man who professed to adore my mother on every possible occasion, and he certainly struggled to give her everything she wanted. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard the word “sexist” or “machista” until the seventies. By that time, I was married and a mother of two, and harboring such a deep-seated resentment because of my allotted role in life that I ended up in psychoanalysis with what in those days was called a “nervous breakdown”. It was then I began to become conscious of things my father said or did that were not exactly complimentary to women. For one, he classified women in two categories: those that had big bosoms and those that had big butts, my mother belonging to the first and me to the second. In restaurants or walking down a street he would sometimes jokingly make lewd comments about a woman’s physique, calling her “una hermosa codorniz” (a magnificent quail), something I had often laughed at as a young girl. Another frequent remark was about his son from a previous marriage who had procreated three daughters. He referred to him as being a “picha pobre” (sort of like saying he was a second-class dick because he had only female off-spring). This had always sounded funny until the day he said it in front of my 11 year old daughter and I understood its derogatory implications. Of course, once the door was open I went on to discover just how sexist and anti-feminine my upbringing had been. There was little wonder I had had no desire to be a woman. The fact was, however, that I was a woman and the anger (repressed) frustration and despair that that was causing me had led me on a path of self-destruction. The road back, obviously, meant turning towards the feminine.
It did not mean, however, turning away from that which I had developed in imitation of my father, but rather making it my own. I went back to the University to get my degree and I began writing. It wasn’t long before I realized that a woman’s struggle to be a whole person was the underlying theme in my stories and later in my novels. After finishing my studies, I turned from the traditional curriculum of 99% male literature and began delving into what women in my time and country were writing. Upon being invited to contribute a column a week to the cultural section of Mexico’s leading newspaper, I naturally focused it on women’s writing and studies. A few years later, I decided to open a publishing company dedicated solely to publishing or reediting books by or about women. It was a short lived enterprise but offered me the satisfaction of printing 10 books by my contemporaries and two volumes of Mexican women’s short stories compiled by me, titled: “Through her eyes”.
At the dawn of the seventies, one of the first things I did was form a women’s study group with the wives of my husband’s colleagues. We read and discussed feminism, proclaiming ours to be of the “evolutionary” type as opposed to the “revolutionary, bra-burning” type (we were all married and had children, of course, so bra burning was a bit out of the question). I found the journey fascinating, became enamored of what women had borne and how they had struggled against it. The tone of the times suggested that “patriarchy” was the evil of mankind against womankind and it wasn’t hard to find justification for this idea. Believing it, of course, freed me to be at peace with my husband but make war on patriarchy and thus avoid my real deep down conflicts in this matter. Years later, when I was once again pulling myself out of an emotional and mental hole with therapy, the therapist suggested that I might be interested in combatting the patriarchal thinking in my own head first. Little by little, she helped me identify my own sexist, patriarchal thinking which would have me still believe deep down that a man was superior to a woman, becoming –at the same time- the strong mother role model that I needed to build my new feminine self.
As soon as I was well enough to stand on my own again, I began working with other women who found themselves in mental and emotional situations similar to mine, founding two women’s twelve-step groups for codependents in Mexico City and later another one in Madrid, Spain. Listening to other women’s stories and sharing my own made me feel proud not only of myself but of my gender in general. I began liking the fact of being a woman, and actually enjoying the new found freedom that assuming responsibility for my own life had given me.
Ten years ago, after eight years in a second relationship, I stepped out on my own. I do believe that the feminine had integrated completely enough for me to be a whole person, my own person and as my companion prepared to leave, more than sorrow, I felt a deep gratitude for all that we had lived together that allowed me to work through my issues. I felt so whole, that I wasn’t expecting the crisis that ensued the day he left. Suddenly I was seized by panic and began sobbing hysterically. Remembering the advice of one of my mentors, I began to breathe, long and slowly, taking the air to the knot of pain and bringing it out from there again. Slowly the panic subsided and suddenly a thought, no, a belief that had been deeply hidden in the subconscious, surfaced: “My life is worth nothing without a man,” were its exact words. I smiled as I contemplated the egg my mind had borne. It wasn’t mine. Perhaps it had been my mother’s or my grandmother’s, but it certainly had nothing to do with me anymore; for heaven’s sake, it didn’t even have a name! My tears dried as I realized that all my panic, all my pain and all my sorrow had nothing to do with the person leaving, but rather with a belief that was no longer true for me: I was free at last.
The dream. So now the dream becomes at once a fulfillment of the past and a vision of the future, the path traveled and the path to be traveled. Now it is possible to see that the dream starts with the feminine being driven (guided) by the masculine in life (the bus, the journey), as my daughter and I set off so that she may repeat what I so innocently did: pay her “fine” (her dues, be it) to the “male authority” (police, father) for something not mentioned (with which I am free to suppose it is just being… a woman). However, the journey does not reach its destination, the bus turns around and the scenery becomes more beautiful as the mother-guide begins to voice “wise” considerations (the daughter is taught what the mother has learned in her life journey); interestingly enough, these thoughts-considerations are being overheard by the masculine, albeit, a masculine diminished in its ego-identity (the man is definitely indistinct and has nothing that would make him attractive to the mother and daughter) who in turn approves and admires the feminine wisdom. Upon arrival to the convent-hospital (feminine-healing place), the mother and daughter are received by a woman who is both kind and wielding of authority, embodying both the feminine and the masculine. This woman promises to solve the daughter’s problem (without her having to go to the masculine authority) and proceeds to drape a whitish cloth over her shoulders (protection, warmth?), but says that first she must witness the moon giving birth. The moon, symbol of all that is feminine, yet up till this moment passive in its reception of the sun’s light, now becomes active by birthing a baby.
To me, however, the dream ultimately is an expression of my dedicated and continuing immersion in this process of feminization, and the contribution my personal journey has made to this collective shifting of consciousness, which is why it begins with my personal Mother-Daughter story and ends with an eternal symbol of the feminine in a Mother-Daughter situation: the personal transcends itself in the collective.
Perhaps this is the end of the world that is announced, the end of a world divided between sexes, with a passive feminine supposedly submitted to an active masculine, and the beginning of a world where the moon (feminine) comes into her own, both in women and in men.