A.S. Face 0319: Betsy Baker

My Dream Catcher Support System
The Lakota Tribe is just one group that incorporated into their heritage the Dream Catcher.  Their story is a little different on how the Dream Catcher came about.  Here is their version as written in the book American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) by Zitkala-Sa, Cathy N. Davidson, Ada Norris Published by: Penguin Books; (February 25, 2003).
Long ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision.  In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider.  Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language that only the spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand.
As he spoke Iktomi, the spider, took the elder’s willow hoop which had feathers, horse hair, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web.  He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life…and how we begin our lives as infants and we move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.
“But,” Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, “in each time of life there are many forces — some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But if you listen to the bad forces, they will hurt you and steer you in the wrong direction.”
He continued, “There are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with the harmony of nature, and also with the Great Spirit and all of his wonderful teachings.”
All the while the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web starting from the outside and working towards the center.
When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the Lakota elder the web and said….”See, the web is a perfect circle but there is a hole in the center of the circle.”
He said, “Use the web to help yourself and your people to reach your goals and make good use of your people’s ideas, dreams and visions.  If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good ideas — and the bad ones will go through the hole.”
The Lakota elder passed on his vision to his people and now the Sioux Indians use the dream catcher as the web of their life.
It is hung above their beds or in their home to sift their dreams and visions.
The good in their dreams are captured in the web of life and carried with them…but the evil in their dreams escapes through the hole in the center of the web and are no longer a part of them.
They believe that the dream catcher holds the destiny of their future.
Maya recently asked if I would ask someone in my life to participate in her new initiative, “Spotlights On Those Who Love Us.” After much thought, I realized that I have a unique support system. It consists mostly of my friends and sometimes my family when they are able to offer help.  My support system is like a safety net made up of so many loving and generous people.
It is quite different than Maya’s support system. I often find myself telling her how lucky she is to have the support she does. Her parents will come to her infusions. She describes John as the “best medicine out there” in her March post entitled “Love As A Painkiller.” Her brother got a tattoo in support of her. Sometimes I long for that.
It is not my reality, but I have a different one and am learning that, mine too, is one to be proud of.  Last month, I had to have an emergency appendectomy and, while I did not have family with me as I was prepped for surgery, I had another gift. My friend’s gentle and sweet hubby came to be with me in the emergency room, reassuring me and said he would speak with his colleagues assigned to my case. When I was brought down to the operating room, there he was talking to the team, holding my hand and talking to me as I went to sleep. How beautiful! I have such a great friend that her husband came to be with me as I drifted away. Not many of us are that lucky to have an empathetic and caring doctor and friend with them as they go under, but I did. He brought me such comfort and I can’t thank him enough.

This last month I realized that I do have a “village” of mothers that can and will jump in. I just need to learn to accept the help. This group is helping me achieve my dreams. Instead of thinking of my support as a safety net, I decided to view it as a dream catcher.  Instead of dwelling on specific relationships that may let me down, I have the beauty of having so many generous people woven together in my life. Not only do they catch me when I fall; they help my family achieve its dreams. Between my playgroup mommy friends, friends I’ve made through my children’s schools and neighbors, I’ve had so many offers of help. Meals were brought to my home, my children were driven to school and to their activities, and many play dates were offered. Even though their dad had to go to New York City two days after I was released from the hospital, I know my boys were cared for and loved by so many.
And yes, it hurts that I don’t receive the unconditional love and support I once expected from some people, but it hurts more to dwell on it. In this last month, I learned to be grateful for any help offered, instead of feeling let down by those I once hoped would help me unconditionally. I’m learning to accept that sometimes people can’t handle your illness and can’t support you. But that’s okay because there are so many others woven into my support system that can. I’ve learned that love – not just biology – make a family. With this new outlook, I can now see the beauty in my created dream catcher family.
Although much time has past since our high school days, John Horton (who was spotlighted in this February post) has become an active part of my support system.  In this last month we have ended up having nightly Facebook chats. He reminds me that I am not alone; that we are united in our pain and understanding. John not only reminds me that I can carry on, but that giving up is not an option. He is another reed woven into my dream catcher; another silver lining.
When I was newly diagnosed with Spondylitis, I joined the Spondylitis Association of America (SAA) and via their Facebook page, I was directed to Maya’s blog. I was instantly attracted to her writing because I felt as if I was reading my own thoughts. I was not alone and I found it so cathartic. Maya and I began a relationship outside of her blog. The common ties seemed endless—our desire to pursue masters in social work, our Jewish heritage, our travels to Ecuador, and our love of poetry and music. She has a heart and mind that I fell in love with. This past summer, I made a trip to New York City and met Maya for the first time. She is the first friend I have made exclusively online, so this was new, yet exciting territory. Upon our first real hug, I knew that our friendship was real. She is as beautiful inside and out as she came across in our communications. I think of her as one of my many silver linings to this disease.  Maya is a great friend and significant part of my support system. Spondylitis is what brought us together, but it is not what unites us; instead, it is our mutual empathy and kindness that will keep us strong. The entire A.S. online community, along with my dear Maya, complete my dream catcher.
Whether you’re chronically ill or not, life rarely goes as planned. Accepting reality and making the most out of it, has led me to pursue a life of gratitude.

3 Responses to “A.S. Face 0319: Betsy Baker”

  1. Dear Betsy,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. This one especially touched me deep inside my soul. Dream catchers hold a special place in my heart.

    Sincerely Cookie

  2. Beautiful.

  3. This IS beautifull. Another wonderfull example of “out of darkness comes light.” I’m starting to feel sorry for all the non- AS’ers out there agin.

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