Isn’t it funny how, even though a period of time was one of the most painful ones of your life, later on you can look at it as one of the most fortunate?
It’s January, 1999. After returning from visiting a friend back east, I’ve been homeless for months because I can’t afford to rent a place to live. I have but one suitcase and my dog. My thin, worn sleeping bag is woefully inadequate. Trying to sleep in your little uninsulated Kia? Not fun — nights in Santa Fe, New Mexico at 7000′ elevation are colder than you want to imagine.
Out of the blue, a friend asked me to house-sit as she and her husband went visiting relatives in another state.
What a relief! However, I was told not to set the heater higher than 65 degrees. Even so, it was better than sleeping in my car. I absolutely hated the cold — I’d lived the bulk of my life in Hawaii, for crying out loud! — it was 60 degrees less than what was normal for me!
On one exceedingly frigid day, the dawn cold drilled its icy fingers right into me, penetrating deep into my bones.
I considered getting up, but I knew my frozen hands would be unable to even hold a paint brush or carving chisel, much less create with them. I felt useless. Hunkering down and huddling with my dog, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t bear it anymore.
I couldn’t stop thinking that my life was draining out of me. I wondered why I was here on earth.
I cried out in fear — would I ever adapt? Would I die like this? Was this all there was to my life?
Sobbing helplessly, I gathered the blankets over my head, and sank further into my nest, my dog whining, ‘what’s the matter, mom?’ as she tried to wriggle her body closer to mine.
A narrow, swirling vortex of despair seemed to suck me down into a relentless black hole. I was too weak to fight it. As I laid there shivering and clattering my teeth, my mind invented every possible horrible scenario, with me not even surviving the rest of the day.
I couldn’t bear my life the way it was. Not for one more second. I started to plan how I would Do The Bad Thing, visualizing driving out into the arid hills, intentionally not making one of the sharp curves, flying my van off the highest cliff I could find.
Suddenly, a man’s deep voice said — loudly — in my ear, “With thinking like that, Angela, you might as well already be dead. Why don’t you think about the fun things you could do with the days you have left, instead?”
Immediately, all the despair and desperation I had been saturated with evaporated *poof!* like morning mist on a hot day. Gone! It was stunning — like someone had miraculously swept their Magic Wand over me.
All the horrific images were swept away by a glittering, shining, blindingly beautiful new cosmos.
Instead of hundreds of cloying, clinging, grasping black imaginings, myriads of brilliant ideas and delicious thoughts and beautiful scenes took over my brain.
It was like watching a film on fast-forward. I saw a rolling, heaving, richly colored, vibrating primal landscape, filled with tall, lanky people of all ages. They were surrounded with fantastical birds and lizards and other strange creatures, odd leaping fish in rushing ribboned rivers under impossibly pointy snow-capped mountains.
These people were clad only in decorative beads — not a practical covering on any one of them. They were all dancing, singing, celebrating and glorying their lives, radiating love and fun and joy the likes of which I’d never experienced.
Their utter delight filled me beyond capacity.
I spent hours just watching them, feeling them, my eyes continually spurting cascades of joy-tears, my heart bursting within my chest.
I forgot the cold. Sixty-five degrees became my blessed new normal. A friend gave me some blankets. Another brought me food. Another warm boots and clothing.
The contrast between the cold, weak, starving, suicidal Before, and the blessed, warm, creation-filled Now, was viscerally shocking. Astounding.
Phenomenal, in the most literal sense.
I did my best to paint what I saw. Hour after hour, every day, I focused on bringing this new land inside my mind out into the world, cold hands be damned.
It turned out to be one of my most favorite series of images I’ve ever created. I call it the Land of Ammaze.
By the time I was finished hauling all the images and stories out of my head and into the world, thoughts of ending my life had vaporized, disappearing back into the dark murky depths.
Who was that Voice?
I don’t know. I’m of a mind to say it’s a divine voice. Maybe god, or an angel. Or perhaps my higher self, or my self in another dimension, my own inner knowing — I just don’t know.
In the end, who cares?
I just call it the Voice of Dreaming.
I’ve heard it a few times since that day, and it’s always calm, kind, and most times, even funny.
All I do know is that it saved my life that morning, and ushered me into a new rich cosmos.
What could be better than that?
Thanks for reading my story!
This period of time was, indeed, one of the most painful ones of my life, with other deeply harrowing experiences and events that seemed to roller-coaster through my weeks.
But as I now see it, I was just a rough stone, being thrown around in the polishing machine of Life. I hope I shine more now than I did then.
How the Voice of Dreaming Saved My Life
© Angela Treat Lyon 2023
from the Land of Ammaze series — prints available
© Angela Treat Lyon 1999