How I know I was born to FREAK: A Guest Post by Diane MacKinnon
Almost 10 years ago now, I lived in a 200-year-old house, and I was having some real trouble with bats, among other things.
Around that time, I was at a coach training with Martha Beck and six others and I told my most recent bat story. The one about the bat flying silently but sinisterly through my living room and finally camping out in my bedroom. I snuck into the room, quietly pulled the comforter off my bed, and backed out of the room, never taking my eyes off the bat hanging by its toes from my window. I shut the door and slept downstairs.
In the morning, I put on my yellow rain slicker, pulled the hood up, drew on a pair of oven mitts, grabbed the broom, marched up the stairs, walked into the room—and totally lost my nerve.
I scuttled back downstairs and called my dad. He’s an old farmer and didn’t think much of my bat problem. His first suggestion was that I bash the sucker with my broom. I told him I thought that was illegal in Maine. He didn’t think much of that, either.
His second suggestion was closer to what I’d been trying to do: “Just knock it off the window and wrap it in a towel, then bring it outside.”
“Okay, I can do this,” I told myself. I was hot as hell in my yellow slicker on this sun-soaked July morning, but I wasn’t taking any chances with rabies. I pulled the hood back up, and yanked the oven mitts on again. I grabbed the broom and went back up the stairs. I went into the room and shivered at the sight of the bat. I went over to it and tapped at the blinds next to the bat. Nothing happened. I tried to tap the bat itself, but I couldn’t seem to do it.
I ran out of the room, took a few deep breaths, and tried again. This time I actually touched the bat (with the broom) and it fell off the window and lay on the floor. I threw the biggest bathroom towel I had over it, wrapped it up and carried it down the stairs and out the front door. I burst out onto the lawn and hucked that towel onto the lawn as hard as I could. Then I did a heebie-jeebie dance and went back in the house. When I went out later to retrieve the towel, the bat was gone.
While I told this story only to entertain my fellow coaches, I was surprised at what came out of it. The next morning Susan, one of the other participants, brought me a photocopied page from the book Animal Cards.
It turns out Bat signifies Rebirth, and having bats in your life could mean that you are going through a rebirth of some kind.
As I read the pages on Bat, I felt tears well up. This was about me. The second paragraph talked about the “ritual death of the healer” and the fact that “shaman death is the symbolic death of the initiate to the old ways of life and personal identity.”
At that time, I was a family physician and my whole identity was wrapped up in my profession. But I had been unhappy with my work for some time and had reluctantly started to explore other options.
The first thing the shaman does when a person comes to her for healing is to ask the following questions: When did you stop telling stories? When did you stop singing? When did you stop dancing?
For me, the answer to those questions is: during my residency. That’s when the responsibilities of being a doctor began to overshadow every part of my life. I remember spending a weekend with my siblings at my cousin Charlie’s lake-side cabin during my first year of residency. It was a great weekend but I spent much of it feeling as if I was an outsider. My siblings were laughing and joking and I just watched them, wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t participate.
By the time I went to Martha Beck’s coach training, I knew I had to make some changes. But it was only after reading about Bat in Animal Cards that I realized I was going through a rebirth: I was in the process of losing my identity as a physician and embracing a more expansive view of myself.
Bat helped me see that rebirth is not easy, that it involves loss as well as gains, but that ultimately it is for the best. In my rebirth I discovered that I am more than just a physician: I am a joyous, creative person and a healer. Realizing that healed me.