My grandmother was a dreamer. She used to tell me about our Native American heritage and how the people believed that the answers to life, to all of our questions, and problems lay hidden in our dreams. She told me the importance of keeping a dream journal and encouraged me and at times urged me to keep one. That started my habit of keeping journals in every room of the house. Usually when I wake up, if a dream was just crazy and insignificant I would forget it almost instantly, upon opening my eyes. But if there was a message in it for me, it would stick with me for days and most of the time, years. So I took to writing out as much as I could of my dreams whenever I had the chance to. Ever since I can remember they have always been more prophetic in terms of my own life and have acted as therapist guiding me through situations that feel outside of my own control. The most recent one came with answers, but not before terrifying me to no end.

For over a year now, I have had dreams of snakes. And for the past many months, I’ve had them every single night. They are usually accompanied by the same people that have played prime role in our family’s dysfunction – Which for a while I brushed off as just part of what has been weighing on my subconscious for the past couple of years. Needless to say, through this ongoing dream I have acquired this unhealthy fear of snakes that I never used to have. As a teen and even a child, I wasn’t afraid of them. I remember being in fifth grade and a snake man came to our class with the largest boa constrictor I had ever seen. He lined up the class along the length of the room and placed the boa in each of our hands. Even then I wasn’t frightened, but more stoked at the fact that I was helping to hold this enormous reptile. As a teenager I had friends who kept pythons as pets and I remember asking to feed them whenever I would come over, again unafraid and wishing I could have one as a pet in my own home. Once I moved to the country a few years back, and started seeing huge rattle snakes in the yard and hearing about the copperheads that my lawn guy dismembered with the lawn mower in our backyard, my fear really kicked in. But it was still not all that bad… Until the dreams started. Then this fear went from 1 to 100 in a matter of months. I worked hard on creating an herb garden in my yard that is ever-expanding and takes a good deal of work to keep it up, each day. It’s something that brings me a crazy amount of peace though, so I don’t see it as a chore but something I look forward to doing. Lately, this snake phobia has been causing me to second guess putting my hands in the soil. When I’m in the pool out back, the moment I hear a semblance of hissing or something moving in the grass or trees, I start to panic inside. Usually it winds up being frogs jumping through the grass or cicadas softly singing. The trees… I’m going to chalk that up to the owl who has made himself a home in our magnolia tree.

Each of these snake dreams has a common denominator, my mother-in-law is in them and the first person to show up. (*insert laughter here*) In my dream, as soon as the snakes start circling, there she is – skinnin’ and grinnin’ and slowly moving towards me as though floating on air with a look that says she is truly loving the terror in my eyes for what is surrounding me. But then, all of these other people appear. Some of which I would expect given her talons that are dug so deeply into their minds, and others that I thought I would never see there. In fact, the shock at seeing the faces of the ones that I wouldn’t expect to see, is what always sidetracks me each time in my dreams from the impending attack. They appear at her side smiling that same conniving smile, and just as I stop dead in my tracks to warn them all to back away — The snakes lunge towards me and sink their fangs in. This is the point where I typically wake up in complete panic and not realizing that I’m just dreaming.

It has had my mind racing for answers as to what it means and disrupting my ability to sleep for too many months to even count. I get enough sleep each night to have the dream and then I wake up, heart racing and unable to go back to sleep for hours, if at all. We disconnected from my mother-in-law a few years back, as well as anyone still actively relating to her. So the only conclusion I could possibly draw from the reason for having these dreams, is that I have never gotten the chance to say what all needed to be said to her, during her reign of chaos. And that just trickled down into my dream state. True to form, after doing deplorable things she hid out like a rat allowing everyone else around her to become bodyguards. Protecting her from having to hear the truth and face the consequences of her actions. With the news of what she has spread about my children as of late, that mama bear instinct in me naturally has wanted to rip her apart. And I hate feeling this way. I don’t want to have anger or hatred for anyone. I especially do not want to be consumed by it. So each time anything she has done comes to mind – I suppress those feelings of anger and go about my day.

I’ve kept these dreams to myself for over a year, but a few nights ago before going to bed I got some of my frustration for what was haunting my every sleep, out of my system by talking it through with my husband. He’s so freakishly calm, cool and collected that it’s unnerving at times. I know how much this situation with his mother affects him because I have witnessed it, but you could never tell it when he’s just talking about it. In his cool as a cucumber demeanor and infinite wisdom, he said something so logical and from a place of common sense that it lulled me to sleep. He said, “She has to hide, because she can’t face what all she’s done. She has to pretend it isn’t true, because she’s too narcissistic to look at herself as flawed. She will never let either of us get the chance to tell her how we feel, because then she’ll have to acknowledge it.” I started to fall asleep quickly after that and as I did, I prayed to the Universe, angels and even lost loved ones to come and help me move through this. The whole Talladega Nights – Will Ferrell moment of, “help me Jesus! Help me Tom Cruise!” comes to mind here – I was desperate to not have to face any more of these dreams and quiet my anxiety over snakes. I asked that I be shown the reality of these dreams and that this time they would guide me in finding the answers to this anger that was becoming all-consuming. 

Sure enough as soon as I closed my eyes, I was immediately brought to another dream of snakes. This time I was in the wilderness somewhere, with only the forest around me. It was serene and majestic in its natural beauty. A place where I would find solace had I actually been there. The trees were huge, the width of their trunks alone the size of a car. With branches reaching so high up into the sky that I couldn’t see where they ended, and some so low that their large dark green foliage were only a few feet from lightly sweeping the ground. I wanted to touch the lush leaves of this tree, and lay my hands on its trunk, to feel connected to the wisdom and life force of a thousand years it carried within its roots. But instead I found myself unable to move in any direction. The snakes this time were king cobras, at least fifteen feet long, with heads the size of two adult fists put together, and swarming towards me. Sure enough, my mother-in-law shows up with the other people who always appear, following her. Smiling and waiting for my take down. As with all the other dreams there are the people that I expect to see and then there are ones that I had not expected, that appear. I’m as unmovable as a stone column as this massive cobra approaches. It was solid black as if its scales were made of gently tumbled onyx with eyes glowing red and bright, like polished sapphires, slithering towards me. Its eyes fixed on mine. I screamed for all of the people around me smiling, to snap out of it and run – Yelling that we would all die if these snakes got ahold of us. They continued to move closer, as if they knew this attack was only meant for me. A man was standing next to me, his face appeared to be blurry and fogged over. Judging by his uniformly beige attire, he looked to be some sort of game keeper.

The man leaned his face towards my ear and says quiet, but sternly,

“You have to pick that snake up, and hold it in your hands if you’re going to survive. You have to take command over it.”

I felt every ounce of fear and anxiety imaginable. With my voice trembling, I told him that if I tried to pick it up, it would surely kill me.

He just kept repeating,

“You have to pick it up. You have to command control and take away its power.”

I reached down as this snake looked up at me like it was ready to devour me whole and raised it in both hands, over my head. I felt sheer panic as my blood was rushing through my veins, my heart pounding in my temples. The fear of death engulfed me for a split second until I resolved myself to the will of whatever was to come next. In that instant within my dream I had a flashback to all of the years as a teenager that I loved snakes and had no fear of them. I saw a scene of me feeding one of my friend’s pythons without a solitary twinge of panic, and all of the sudden the fear of what this reptile could do to me, was gone. I held it above my head with a look of unsure victory and relief on my face. Just as I did, each spectator’s smile began to turn to a look of bewilderment that I was holding this giant snake above me, so proudly. In sequence, they each backed away, drifting further off into the woods as if they were ghosts. They were gone and so was the man.

Thanks to the jerks popping off fire crackers at 4 o’clock in the morning, I abruptly woke out of my dream. But this time even that was different too. As tired as I was, I felt completely collected and rested. I could breathe. That fear of snakes that was consuming me, had vanished and with it, went the anger and frustration.

I woke up understanding what it all meant. The snakes represented the engulfing darkness, the pain, lies, and overwhelming anger that had been dictating my peace. My fear was from the powerlessness that I felt inside, to stop it or even stand up against it. The anxiety that it would consume me and I would be bound to it. My mother-in-law was center stage of this impending attack, just as she has always been in my waking life. Masterminding and rallying the troops together to play party to it, with deceit. The unexpected people that appeared were the people I had this abounding need to save from her, but couldn’t. My concern prioritized on saving them from their foreseeable danger, over saving myself from my current danger was what kept me in the line of attack and unprotected. Seeing their lack of concern, was a close resemblance to their current lack of concern for their own vulnerability to her malice and the ones she uses to operate through. I realized that being bound to anyone playing impartial spectator, keeps me effectively bound to her, her operatives and to the pain that was caused. Like the tree, it has kept my senses on high alert of when the next time will be that I realize someone close to me is disloyal or untrustworthy. It keeps my guard up so high, that I could never see where it ends. My intentions to save them over myself, was what cost me in each dream before. In this dream, the fear to take control over these snakes because of what it could mean to my own existence, was keeping me shackled to the very thing I needed to take command over instead of letting it control me. And once I took power over it, it no longer had me. The threats disappeared, the frightening snake became manageable and I was finally free.

For two years I have been in and out of this inner turmoil. I could not break my mind from this trap. It was as if every good or bad thing that happened was being filtered through this sieve of uncertainty. All coming out discolored and stained in the shades of her. But since this dream, I have slept every night, soundly and through the night for the first time in years. There is a clarity where there hasn’t been for quite a while. Now I just feel peace. Something that I have begged the Universe to bring me into remembrance of for what feels like forever and a day. Through my dream I was able to take control of this in a way that I never thought I would be able to.   

None of this has been easy for my family. To so many of those sideline spectators at the end of the day it’s all just words. Opinions. But that’s all wrong. It was lies and attacks that hurt us all in such a tremendously painful way. It was lies that destroyed two families who didn’t deserve it. It was lies that separated people from all those whom they loved and needed in their lives. It was lies that sought to break up a marriage, a home, and a happy existence — And for that, it wasn’t just words. It was pain that kept me locked in a stalemate against myself, my thoughts and my peace. It wasn’t just the opinions of others. It was calculated destruction that those we loved allowed themselves to stay impartial to by telling themselves it was just words. It was wounds so deeply penetrable that to heal from it has required a lot of time and great effort within that time. 

My grandmother passed away not that long ago, but ever since her passing she has come to me either through my dreams or through me feeling her presence in my dreams, as if she’s guiding me. I believe in this, she was helping me to see the answers that my own fear was blocking me from. I owe a true thank you to her for showing me the way. Tonight, I will thoroughly enjoy another night of sound sleep and thank the Universe for answering me through my dreams.