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The Resurrection of HannahA novel inspired by true events
By Kathryne Arnold
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Kathryne Arnold
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI woke to the sharp snap of a dry branch as it broke against the living room window. On nights when sleep evaded my grasp, I sought refuge on the couch. Last night my eyes refused to close until many hours after midnight, despite the various attempts to lull myself to sleep. I had been preoccupied with the demands of the holiday season and all that was upon me, doubting whether my energy would last through the next few weeks. Brushing the hair out of my face, I grudgingly opened my eyes to face the new day.
It was a balmy Saturday morning and I was thankful the workweek was behind me. At times I enjoyed my occupation as a psychotherapist, but it could often be emotionally and mentally draining. In November I had made plans to meet early in the afternoon with a group I participated in that discussed metaphysics. At this point in time, however, the last thing I wanted to do was use my brain in any capacity. It would have thrilled me to no end if my biggest decision was whether to cook my morning eggs sunny-side up or poached. Not that I didn't love this group of six that met faithfully every month. I just wasn't in the mood to open my mind expansively or engage in any group experience. An uneasy feeling had begun to develop, the seed of it taking root during the night.
As I abandoned my comfy couch and stumbled toward the bathroom, I slammed a big toe against the doorframe. Collapsing into a ball and muttering obscenities, I managed to hobble to the tub. Working the faucets, I cautiously stepped in and lowered myself into the rapidly rising warm water, willing myself to relax. Lately, it was obvious that my nerves were shaky, and I was lacking in the concentration department as well. But what troubled me more were the increasing bouts of insomnia and fatigue.
My reverie evaporated the moment the phone rang. I scrambled out of the tub and checked the nearest handset, the Caller ID displaying the name of my friend hosting our one o'clock group. My association with Rebecca ran deep, beginning as colleagues ten years ago and building into a relationship steeped in mutual trust and respect. I had noticed immediately that she had a curious mix of traditional male and female characteristics. She had thick, naturally wavy blond hair that I could not help but envy, and strong, attractive features with premature wrinkles around her thirty-six-year-old eyes, mostly from spending half of her life outdoors. Rebecca was vertically challenged, five feet was a stretch, with a compact, muscular build. She was a naturally gifted sailor, runner, and tennis player, so much so that I questioned whether she had sprinted out of her mother's womb with crosstrainers on her feet. I scooped up the receiver and imparted a cheery hello.
"Hi Sammi. I am so glad you're home," she said, her voice tinged with anxiety.
"What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I just got in from jogging and checked my machine. I'm worried about Julie. You know, my friend from New York. She left a message about a mass or something on her ovary. I'm not sure, and I'm having a hard time getting ahold of her."
Rebecca was most surely clutching the phone, her face contorted as she revealed this information. She was easily excitable and at times given to histrionic behavior. She was born into a privileged background by parents who were known to be generous with the bucks but tight with the love. You know, poor-little-rich-girl syndrome. Her mother's moodiness and insecurity were definitely visited upon the child. Right now I knew it was my "job" to step in and offer reassuring, sensible advice. After she calmed down, we made plans to go out that night for dinner. I added that I needed some objective insight into a recent disturbingly vivid dream that was haunting me.
"I'm really looking forward to the two of us just relaxing and talking, but as usual, I'm putting the cart before the horse. Guess I'd better get some cleaning done before the gang gets here. Thanks again for listening."
"Anytime, you know that. It'll be good to go out and have some fun. Anyway, I'll see you soon," I said, antsy to get going. I needed to tackle some errands before going to Rebecca's. I grabbed my to-do list, and headed out the door.
My first stop was Nature's Health Market. I shopped there weekly because of its eclectic clientele and earthy-smelling produce. I got on the organic bandwagon many moons before it became popular, enduring shit from my friends for doing so, figuring I'd live a few more years in which to kick their collective butts. When I entered the place, the smell of rich, exotic coffee overwhelmed me. Allowing the aroma to fill my lungs, a feeling of familiarity inundated me, but I had no idea why. Suddenly, my body jolted upright. I grabbed onto the nearest shelf to catch myself, sensing I was going to faint. This was followed by a tremendous rush of lightheadedness, accompanied with the sensation of butterflies in my stomach. Todd, the manager of the store with whom I was acquainted, rushed to my side as my legs gave way to the floor. Once Todd was able to steady me, he placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. "Samantha, are you all right?"
My tongue felt thick, making it difficult to form words. I reached out for assistance, but my arms were dead weight. "Please, help me up," I said, overcome with embarrassment for causing an unseemly ruckus in the midst of the gluten-free aisle.
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Not really ... I feel queasy."
"Just be careful getting up," he said, offering me a hand. "What happened?"
"I have no idea. If you hadn't rescued me, I probably would've split my head open." Perspiration clung to my brow as we walked to the café. Todd fetched his poor patron some Evian, then excused himself after urging me to rest for a few minutes. What the heck was that all about? It couldn't be my hypoglycemia acting up; breakfast was just two hours ago. I'm probably more stressed than I realized. I'm forever running around – trying to do too much in too little time. After taking a minute to regroup and feeling more like my old self, I set about mindfully finishing my errands on the way to Rebecca's. I still felt a bit wobbly as I rounded the corner to my friend's house, but tried to forget my perplexing spill, pushing aside the feeling of spacey detachment that was increasing daily. Bursts of sunlight were beginning to poke through the thinning layer of gray clouds. It's going to be another beautiful day.
Two scruffy tabby cats greeted me as I approached her front door. I surveyed the browning lawn and unruly vines that had choked the life out of several potted plants. The porch was lined with cracked bricks that had lost their color from countless years in the sun. The front door burst open as I stood there observing my friend's lack of housekeeping skills, one of the several traits we had in common.
"Hello, Missy," Rebecca said, using the fond nickname we shared only with each other. "You're here! Give me a hug, now." The sheer force of Rebecca's energy nearly knocked me over. "It is so good to see you. It seems like ages since you've been here."
"Hi, there," I said, hugging her close, "I've missed you, too. I'm glad to see you're in better spirits."
Rebecca ushered me inside her cozy living room. "Yeah, I am. I've decided to lighten up." She picked up her hair and flicked it to the side. "I need to start taking things, as they say, one day at a time."
"Sounds like a good idea ... for both of us," I said.
"Hey Sammi, before I forget. I want to hear about that dream you mentioned earlier on the phone. You know I'm into that stuff."
"We don't have time now to get into it, but I'll tell you over dinner. It was so unbelievably powerful, it unnerved the hell out of me."
"Sounds perfect for analyzing," Rebecca said, peering out the front window when she heard the slamming of a car door, bringing our conversation to a halt. "Great. Kelly is here. Let the fun begin."
I immediately plopped onto the midnight blue leather sofa to claim half of it as mine. Kelly, Thomas, and Melissa arrived in quick succession, the latter two carpooling to save on gas. Rebecca busied herself pouring herbal raspberry iced tea into crystal goblets. We chattered away, catching up with the recent events in one another's lives. Melissa started telling one of her bawdy jokes, something she often did, more for the shock value than for the course subject matter. She's a big girl with some extra meat on her pretty bones, but manages to carry her weight effortlessly. Maybe this is more due to the creative outfitting that so well disguises her pounds. Melissa's porcelain face is punctuated by large eyes the color of emeralds and perfectly framed by a voluminous head of red hair. She is all too aware of her angelic appearance, and takes advantage of her entrancing looks and bubbly personality on many occasion, but not in a corrupt or hurtful manner. She simply uses them to get want she wants, and it works.
After Jason rambled in last, around quarter past one, everyone found a spot in which to get comfortable. We were pleased that all were able to make it today, for often there was one or two who couldn't attend, leaving us with a feeling of incompleteness within our little circle. The smell of lavender oil from the aromatherapy heater permeated the air. Thomas took it upon himself to light the candles that had been placed strategically throughout the room. The soft trickling of the indoor fountain was especially calming, causing my stress to melt away as I kicked off my shoes, curling my feet beneath me.
Having found myself in the role of ringleader, I spoke up first. "Okay everybody, let's begin. Last time Kelly touched on dream reentry and conscious, or lucid, dreaming. We were supposed to read up on them and then practice on our own. Did everybody get to do this?"
Jason shifted in his chair. He was the youngest, and the least intellectual of the bunch. His tousled blond hair and boyish good looks kept my sluggish hormones limping along. "I'm still confused by the whole thing. I tried controlling my dreams for three nights in a row, but couldn't stay focused long enough to get anywhere. It's frustrating." Others shook their heads in agreement.
Kelly jumped right in. "We can go over it again, Jason." Kelly thought of herself as the resident dream expert, eager to expound on the intricacies of these topics, usually sounding like a scientist when she did so. When watching her, I noticed a broad face splattered with freckles of varying dimensions, with eyes set quite close to a fairly prominent nose. Her body was to die for, and she had the habit of sticking her ample chest out whenever she talked, almost in an attempt to divert attention from her face. "I've read various definitions about these techniques, so I'm going to present my own interpretation that hopefully makes sense. Dream reentry and lucid dreaming are two well-known methods of actively participating in our dreams. To me they're both kind of connected. Dream reentry is just that, wanting to re-enter a dream for whatever reason, and a desire to relive it or alter its content. Conscious dreaming involves the act of increased awareness during the dream state in order to control your dream, or taking a fantasy from your conscious mind and then willing yourself to dream that experience. For example, my mother died three years ago, but I recently dreamt we were back in my childhood home, baking chocolate chip cookies. It was so emotionally satisfying that I became obsessed with reenacting the dream. I eventually realized that it was my intense motivation that made it possible to develop this skill. But it can take months, even years, to learn how to control them."
"I've had emotionally charged dreams and to some degree, was able to go back into them after I woke up. I've re-experienced similar dream content, but haven't been successful in going back to the exact same dream," Melissa said.
Kelly and Thomas acted as de facto teachers of the group, and to a lesser degree, so did Rebecca. The rest of us felt like freshmen wrestling with such profound constructs and hoping someday to utilize them in our simple lives. "Personally, I need some help in figuring out how to tap into this wellspring of emotions," I said. "I'd love to manipulate my dreams, and I understand that the strength of emotions plays a vital role. What I'd like to know is what we stand to gain from learning to control our dreams, other than it's a cool thing to do." Melissa snickered in response.
Kelly went on. "Well, people usually want to continue the original dream where it left off to see where it takes them, or they liked it so much that they want to re-experience the entire dream. The more of an emotional investment that exists, the higher the probability that this can occur. There is a mind-body-spirit element to dreaming that involves memory on both a cellular and soul level. To connect to your emotional self, you first have to identify your feelings, which are often just below the surface, and then you need to tap into them. But trying to tap into certain desirable feelings or dream states at will, that's what is so difficult. These methods of dream control are fascinating because we have free license to do what we wish without social sanction, guilt or fear. Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent, sorry," Kelly said, turning toward me and continuing with her discourse, "So Sammi, to answer your question about what you have to gain. I'd say self-empowerment, for one thing. You can reconnect with your higher self, or gain increased knowledge of the landscape of the unconscious. Some people do it to discover their intrinsic healing abilities, or to find out what's sucking the life force out of them. I began because of a strong drive toward self-actualization. I wanted a heightened sense of spirit."
Thomas added his two cents. He reminded me of a wise old owl and was the elder of our clan, with a puff of white hair springing from a six-foot frame. He had the disheveled appearance of an egghead professor, his clothes never quite right, ill-fitting and out of style. Thomas still wore his favorite jacket on chilly days, a thirty-year- old checked thing with worn patches on the elbows. And he didn't walk, he loped, with shoulders hunched, usually lost in some lofty thought. "I have a couple of things to say. First, I believe that events, mindfulness, and emotionality are all important aspects of dreaming. But we must be aware of the state between being awake and asleep, when our ego boundaries are looser and humans are more willing to explore whatever paths they stumble upon. That is when we are more able to focus inwardly since there is less personal attachment to everything in our world. Another thing to remember is to pay special attention to dreams that have unusual types or degrees of emotional content, or dreams that tend to reoccur spontaneously. This is when your dreams, or perhaps your higher self, wants you to sit up and take notice. Pay close attention to your heart, for it will set you free," he said, with a hint of a smile on his craggy face.
It became glaringly obvious to Rebecca that some of us needed guidance on how to set our hearts free. "Semantics sometimes just confuses the issue. I think we need to do more and talk less. We should probably practice how to relax through meditation, as a group. Do you guys agree?" There was a chorus of nods. Rebecca was in her element. "Good. This will help to provide direction in order to better practice this individually at night. Let's do an exercise that will help focus your energy and quiet your mind as you fall asleep. Everybody get in a comfortable position, and try to relax your body as much as possible." She then walked us deftly through a sequence of steps, allowing the group to move into a state of total relaxation.
Excerpted from The Resurrection of Hannah by Kathryne Arnold Copyright © 2011 by Kathryne Arnold. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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