I had a dream about a hanging. And instead of being shocked at what my brain conjured up, I stared it in the face. What business does each generation of elders have, teaching us to sanitize our thoughts, when our religious stories are full of worse violence? At least our psyches are speaking directly to us, shouting at us to pay attention to what we keep papering over when we are awake. Some nights, we dream of cute babies laughing and playing, and some nights, the babies get eaten by lions.
I am angry in a way that could light a match some days. And it would light the next match, and the next, till a whole box of them was finished. And what then? Would my anger also sputter out finally? I hope so. I hope not.
Brain, I pray you can dream up a conflagration that is productive, where systems that harm people I love will burn away, and the cold, indifferent eyes of bystanders will change to become as fierce and determined as the blaze reflected in them. Then maybe I would not lose heart as much as I do. I would wake up in a haze of vindicated triumph, and rush to dig out the baby that the lions and the fire spared.
That baby would be me. Adult me would cradle her, and make a world so full of moonlight and silk and whispered words of courage that she would never forget that she was made from healing fire, and blessed by Durga on the lion that spared her, and that she need never waste her breath on reviving herself from self hatred, the pit where a mother like me falls when systems fail my children.
Because this is the rupture that stops my heart and lungs from functioning. Every time, I am taken back to a dream of an origin story, and I see how people and communities look to me before deciding how to act towards my children, and it revives fears that go back to when I might have been found in a field, except that no one thought my cries were urgent enough.
I have never known a motherhood journey that wasn’t about revisiting the moment when the lion gazed down at me. You can view it as my weakness if this makes you uncomfortable. I don’t want to pretend anymore. The fear people have of opening doors for kids like mine–they want me to make it my fear too. And I don’t want to play with that destructive fire ever again.
Now, when I revisit that origin story, it has to be because I will be growing stronger. One day, it will be me on the lion, my hair rippling behind me like a sea of stars, and in dreams, I will pick up the quiet, frightened, barely breathing baby, and teach her to believe in her own rage, and limitless love, and gleaming, victorious, peace filled destiny.