Saturday, July 25, 2015

Letters Not Sent: Seeing and Hearing

My Dear,

It has been so very long since I have spoken to you.  It has been so very long since I have looked into your eyes and heard your words.  I can't say that it makes me sad, though.  I have grown in that time.  I realize now, that you are an expert at a great many things: telling people what they want to hear, being mysterious for no reason, taking advantage of folks, manipulation, but not being honest, unless it serves your purpose of manipulation.

You see the game coming to an end and it terrifies you. You look around at your crumbling little fiefdom and wonder what happened.  You wonder at all of the work you have done.  You gaze out, into the world, at what used to be and you want it back, but there is no going back.  Kali, The Great Destroyer, comes knocking.  She is no longer Mother Kali.  No, She comes forth in Her garland of skulls and skirt of human
 arms, dancing Her terrifying dance.  For some time now She has been working toward this.  You have ignored Her, even tried to work against Her.  Nothing can stop Her from destroying the illusions you have created, not even you.  Like all things in their due time, She will destroy everything without guilt and without prejudice.  You just see that your time has come due and you are scared.

Fear is a rational response, though.  We all want to believe that we have made a difference with our lives.  We all want to believe that we have done something everlasting.  Some people do, some don't, however, the brutal truth is, our own immortality depends solely upon how many lives we touch.  Whether we are the hero or villain in our immortality depends upon whether we helped or hurt those lives we touched.  We, as the liver of that life, don't get to decide our own hero or villain status after we are gone.  We are simply tasked with living and doing as our gods bid.

I learned a great many things from watching and actually hearing you.  You say all of the right words, but your actions speak a different story.  There was a time when that made me angry.  Now, though, it makes sense.  You say you choose some form of altruism.  Your actions speak the opposite.  Your entire life has been about Power.  It has been about Power over, now Power from within.  Now you are learning that you have no power.  Now you are learning that you never have had power and that's okay.

Mostly, I want to say this:  I have seen the road you are on.  I have watched it through to its culmination, which you will not get to see.  You will move on before it is done.  It will be what is best for you.  You do not want to see this.  It's kind of like the scene in Harry Potter where he meets Fawks for the first time just before he bursts into flames and Dumbledore remarks that he's sorry Harry met his phoenix on a burning day.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, all will ultimately be well, but getting past that burning day and being reborn is going to hurt like hell and you don't want to see it.  I want you to know that we will all be alright and some of us will even flourish after you leave.  Some of us will embody your best and carry that with us.  Some will carry that shadow and work from it, too, but so it is with Humanity.

For now, go on doing what it is that you do.  I watch your manipulations and shake my head.  You surround yourself with those who would boost your ego and tell you what you want to hear.  If that gives you the peace you need, then may the rest of your life be full of peace.

Blessings,
Me


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cultural Appropriation in America or Oh! The Butthurt!

I don't often write on topics so inflammatory as something like this simply because it's rarely worth the energy to write about it and then deal with flamers and the, in general, butthurt, however, the notion of cultural appropriation in America (and, to an extent, the Western world) is something that sticks in my proverbial craw.  Why?  Because it is something we all do in one way or another, whether or not we realize it.  This is a topic that goes beyond being pagan, too, and is something that happens in regular life.  It's part of our *gasp* culture, as Americans.

If you don't believe me, here is a prime example:
 

Side-by-side, we have white Jesus and we have black Jesus.  If we are to believe what we read in the Bible, this was a man born in the middle east during Roman occupation.  He was neither black, nor was he white.  So, this means that not only did Europeans, but also Africans appropriated the image of a neither white, nor black, but olive skinned man who may or may not have existed in the latter part of pre-history and remade him in each culture's own image.  And they did so using the same book.

Want more cultural appropriation?  Yoga.  Have you seen the YouTube of Ghandi in the yoga studio?  If you haven't, it's here.  It's pretty funny, but it also shows the really generic white chick not even remotely recognizing that she's taken Ghandi's religion and, essentially, blasphemed it.  Here, yoga is simply breathing and exercise to most people.

Want another appropriation?  Bellydance.  All these cute white women doing bellydance, but where did it originate?  Oh, that's right, the middle east.  How about everything Michael Harner wrote about shamanism?  That's appropriating another spiritual practice from... Well, from native peoples all around the world.  What about that Chinese chick with dreadlocks?  Well, you know, Rastafarians? Yep!  Even farther back than that, though, yogis.  Why? Because they renounced all of their worldly possessions, including the comb. (Despite the name 'dreadlock' coming from Jamaica.)  Oh, one more bit of cultural appropriation!  That white woman who is a Voudon priestess.  It's not a 'white' religion, is it?  No.  It's Afro-Caribbean.  What about Cinco de Mayo?  Did you get fucked up in remembrance of the Battle of Puebla?  Are you even Mexican?!?!

I'm sure that by now I have listed something to offend everyone.  I bet that if we all don't do at least one of these things, then we know people who do.  The point is, we are becoming a global community with each passing year.  Many Americans, like myself, have had family on this continent for centuries, no matter where they may have come from and no matter what their genetic makeup may be now.  My own heritage in America began somewhere around a century before the founding of the nation.  I have documented family in the Revolutionary War and family that fought on both sides of the Civil War.  I have documented Cherokee and, on my mother's side of the family, undocumented Ojibway or, maybe Apache or, maybe something else.  It was not told to my grandmother that she was 1/4 Native until her sister was on her deathbed.

Society borrows from other societies.  It claims and discards traditions to suit the times.  Christmas?  Taken from the pagans by the Christians.  Halloween?  Taken from the pagans and made secular.  Dancing and chanting to induce trance? Taken from various indigenous cultures around the world and still used by them today, as well as by modern pagans.

The point I make with all of this over-the-top 'everyone is a thief' is that if someone takes something that is culturally 'yours' and makes it 'theirs', it's not the end of the world.  It doesn't make your own practice or tradition 'less pure'.  It makes what they are doing 'theirs'.  Do you really think that the sages and yogis of India are upset that Sally Mae in BFE, America is using yoga as a way to stay in shape and to stay strong?  Probably not.  Another point I want to make is, in modern day America, unless you live in Little China, Little Italy, or a pure Jewish neighborhood, whatever traditions you may practice have probably been taken from another time and place, stripped of their meaning (because life 100 years ago was different than life today is), and has been rewritten in a whole new context now.  So, don't be so butthurt.  Remember that everything you do had to be taken from someone, somewhere.  Maybe it was taken from people who were, culturally, the same as you, but maybe it wasn't.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Letters Not Sent: A Thank You

This is a series I have been mulling over for some time.  The concept is that sometimes in relationships, there are things left unsaid before the person crosses over, you lose touch, or the relationship is shattered in an irreparable way.  Occasionally, the emotions attached to the words are so strong that they keep us from moving forward in that aspect of life, whether it is the sudden loss of a beloved grandparent, parent, or friend, the crumbling of a marriage, or even being picked up by that person who refused to leave your side and saved you from doing something stupid.  

All of these people have left an indelible mark on your soul and whether it is a 'thank you' or a 'fuck you' writing a letter with no intention of sending it is great catharsis.  It is just another way to get closure to a situation that there may never, actually, be a way to get closure.  

If anyone reading this is also a blogger and would like to do a blog ring type thing with this concept, please, feel free to contact me via the form to the right or at lightgoddess(at)gmail(dot)com and I will be happy to add a link to this and future blogs for my own readers.  I will also be happy to post links on my Facebook.

And so, on to the Letter...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Dear,

This is a letter more than half of a decade in the making.  I have spent this time learning and living.  I have spent this time yearning for you.  Part of me died with you.  That part of me walks with you in the Great Beyond, yes, but it has left an empty space.  I often hear you sardonic laughter.  I hear your bitchy retorts when I say something stupid.  I feel your hand in mine when I need a friend.  You taught me many, many things in our short time together, but mostly, you taught me how to live.

From you I learned the subtle Art of Bitchcraft.  If you have a smiling face and soft words, you can tell anyone to go to Hell in a way that they will look forward to the ride.  I learned that with the proper amounts of sarcasm and honey sweetness turning someone down romantically could be enjoyable for both parties.  In the same vein, I learned that some amount of vanity was always needed.  A Lady isn't a Lady without it.

From you I learned the Art of Loving.  I'm not talking sex and relationships.  I mean Love.  You sat in a place where you were accepting of your own brokenness and from that acceptance you gauged others and you loved them through their own brokenness.  You looked at my own brokenness and you loved me when I wasn't very lovable.

From you I learned the Art of Touch.  Something you said to me when we were in our early twenties, when I came to visit has stuck with me through the years.  You said, "Don't think I'm weird, but will you hold my hand?"  The question in your eyes, the doubt that said 'please don't reject me', reminded me that you, too, were human, despite your confidence.  It was that moment when I crawled into your hospital bed with you and held your hand like we were 10 year old kids again.  After that visit, I never hesitated to hold your hand or sleep next to you or pet your hair.  It goes back to Loving.  In those quiet moments, we allowed ourselves to be kids again.  You reminded me that Love cranked up to 10 is as potent as Love at 5.  You reminded me that Love is a mutual thing.  You reminded me that it's only weird if you think it is.

From you I learned the Art of Life and Death.  Live with abandon.  If you want it, take it.  If you can't get it, well, it probably isn't worth it.  You charmed Death many times through the years, shooing him away as though he were a moth.  So enamored with you was he that he let you stay with us on your promise that you'd go with him one day.  When you left us, it wasn't with a melodramatic flare.  You slipped away like a whisper in the deepest of snowy nights, despite the fact that it was August and so hot that even the Devil was begging for a sip of water.

I know that you know how sorry I am that I couldn't make it to the funeral.  I know that you know that I never really mourned you.  I know that you know I haven't spoken to anyone in your family since just after your funeral.  I know that you know how much it hurts me that they scapegoated me, but I also remember our conversation some 10 years before when you told me that they would.  I promised you that when they did, I'd be able to shoulder it.  It's better they turn their pain toward me than one of the others.

It's still unfathomable to me that you could have been born into such a cruel group of people.  It stands to your character that you didn't let them dim your shine.  Even more so, it stands to your character that you loved me enough to warn me years in advance.  I never forgot that, either.

I miss you every day.  Some days I miss you more than others.  You are the barometer that I do my to strive for every day.  If I can be half as good to those around me as you were to me, then my life will have meaning.  I will have touched someone.  My only regrets in this earthly realm revolve around you, but ironically, you wouldn't want me to regret anything in regards to what I did or didn't do by you.

Thank you.  Thank you for showing me how to live.  Thank you for showing me how to love.  Thank you for being you and letting me be me.  Thank you for loving me and giving me the privilege to walk this earth with you, even if it was for less than two decades.  I am all the better for it.  

Rest in that place with Kurt, God, and the Angels.

Until we meet again...




Saturday, May 23, 2015

Weirdo!! That Place Where Our Weirds Meet: Where is it?

We have all been there, standing on the outside and looking in on which ever group we wanted to be a part of at that moment.  We stood there longing, listening, yearning to 'fit in', wishing we could just change this one thing to make us more 'desirable' to this crowd we want so badly to fit into.  Then again, what happens when we push aside that desire and decide to just be who we are?  What happens when we put aside our own insecurities and our need fit in?  What happens when we embrace our own uniqueness and use it as a source of personal power instead of something to be changed?

As that weird person who is the weirdo among the weird, I can tell you all kinds of stories about watching through the looking glass and begging to fit in.  I can tell you all about changing myself, watching my words, doing what 'normal' people do, instead of embracing my own weirdness.  'Normal' people find it offensive when I say things like, "I don't come to work to make friends.  I come to work to make money.  If I make a friend in the process, then I'm all the better for it."  I have worked, literally for years, with people I didn't like.  They knew how to be grown-ups and it was a nice environment, but I was too weird and they were too normal.

Those things said, I have come to a point in my life where I have trouble relating to people, except on the most superficial level (at least it feels superficial to me...).I am not sure if my own perception has changed and this is actually, to the other person, some really insightful exchange and I am just missing it or if it really is just some weird, superficial interaction.  I must add that, while some part of me obviously feels like it is superficial, the emotions I equate with this are more neutral, than anything.  I don't feel negative after interacting with other people, but it isn't necessarily positive, either.  It simply is.

I think that I may be losing part of my own humanity on this journey.  Of course, I could be gaining a part of it back that others (i.e the general public) simply lack, too.  I'm not sure.  One thing I do know is that more people than ever are reaching out to me.  I know that I enjoy chatting with them.  I know that I enjoy their company, real or virtual.  I know that these people are amazing beings in their own right and their light shines with the intensity of a thousand suns.  I just can't figure out where my own awesomeness meets their awesomeness.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Practicals: The Element of Water





Since the lewdness with the fire elemental I had been doing everything in my power to avoid water.  It finally occurred to me that the elementals could manifest whenever they wanted to and it didn't matter when I called them or not.  The last thing I wanted was to be pulled from this world while working or something of the like.  So, I had been avoiding water in all forms at all costs.

I carried tea or coffee with me to work.  There was no sense in me being pulled into a water bottle.  If I drank water, it was in an eight ounce shot and all at once.  I simply couldn't chance being pulled into that realm.  

My days rolled on and summer turned into autumn.  I hadn't seen any of the guys whom I'd had my first elemental experience with in a few months now.  I just didn't couldn't face them knowing that our experiences were so different.  Kim had recently emailed me and told me that he'd been pulled into the realm of water on a scuba excursion.  I wasn't surprised like he was and I certainly didn't want to get in touch with my emotional side like he had.

Determined to not have any more elemental experiences, I focused my life solely on the mundane.  There was no room for baths, only showers.  No pasta to boil, vegetables, or hand-washing dishes.  No water.  I even let flowers I'd received go unwatered.  

So, my life becomes isolated and I'm pretty okay with that.  I'm not so much okay with not drinking a lot of water, but I can deal with it.  Then, it starts raining one Saturday morning as I am out on my run.  Of course, I panic.  It isn't supposed to be raining.  The weather guy got it all wrong.

In my panic, I step through a puddle and into the realm of water.  Of course, I panic harder because I can't breathe under water.  Then, large hydra unfurls itself and its seven arms.  In my panic, I freeze and, dimwittedly, begin to breathe.  "Oh," the hydra says, "it seems that you can breathe?"

If I had eyelids, I would blink.  Instead, I touch my neck and find gills.  "Yes, you have gills." The hydra speaks again.  "Before you try to leave or panic again, you should know by now that you do not get to choose.  You do not get to decide when we bring you into our realm.  Now, sit."

Not knowing what else to do, I obey.  I sit in the sediment.  "Kim got a mermaid," I said stupidly, still not believing any of this.  

"You aren't Kim," the hydra replies.  "I am the many-headed creature who is the keeper of humanity's righteousness and lack thereof.  Upon my heads are the sins and virtues of your kind.  This is what you will come to know."

I'm no longer scared or worried.  I'm pissed off.  "Sins and virtues?  Water Elemental, you sound like my mother after she has had a rousing conversation with her priest.  It's hogwash."

The Water Elemental replies, a bit surprised.  "Hogwash?  Upon my heads sit the actions of your kind which are killing the Mother and the actions needed to heal the Mother."

One of its heads comes down, close to my face and it leers at me.  "I am Lust," it whispers seductively, baring sharp teeth twisted in a devilish grin.  "I don't just want to fuck every beautiful creature upon the face of creation, I want to take everything it has.  I want its home.  I want its food supply.  I want its children.  I want its life!  Only taking more will satisfy me!  Only having everything will satisfy me!"

The head then abruptly turns 90 degrees.  "I am Altruism," it whispers innocently.  "I look around me and I see the interconnectedness.  I see that every creature depends upon every other creature.  I want to help it see its highest potential.  I want to help it evolve into what it is meant to be.  Only giving will satisfy me."

It pulls away just as suddenly as it came down, but a second head quickly takes its place.  "I am Indifference," it says, obviously bored.  "Unlike Lust, who wants more, I just don't care.  If it doesn't take away from me, then it isn't my problem.  If it doesn't hurt me, then it isn't my problem.  I look out only for me and for my own benefit."

That head then turns ninety degrees and says, "I am Temperance.  Where Altruism needs to help one and all, I recognize that not everyone wants help.  I recognize that self-restraint is always needed.  I do what I can, when I can, but if it isn't appreciated or wanted then I move on and I do so without guilt."

The next head dips toward my face. “I am Selfishness,” it says.  “I see the world for what it is.  I recognize that everyone is out for themselves.  Some people eat themselves into an early grave because they grew up hungry.  Others starve themselves into an early grave because they were overweight.   Do not be fooled by those who give away their money and possessions.  For some of those, it is easier to feed the greed of others with material things than it is to open their hearts.  That is selfishness of spirit.  It is still selfishness.”

The head turns ninety degrees. “I am generosity. I feed the homeless man, not because I pity him, but because he is hungry. I reach out to the lonely, because no man is an island. That girl, sitting alone crying that everyone else just walks by?  I stop and ask her if she is okay.  I do this not out of some sense of duty, but because she may not be okay and she may just need to know that someone cares without wanting anything in return. Generosity is not just giving money or time.  It is giving of the Self without thought of receiving.”

Then came sloth.  “I am Sloth,” he head tells me.  “I look around me and I see many tasks that need to be taken care of.  Someone else can do them.  I look around and see that my own life is in shambles.  I do nothing.  Maybe I am also procrastination and hoplessness.  It is simply easier to do nothing.”

Once again, the head turns.  “I am diligence,” it says softly.  “I see everything as an opportunity.  I want more money, so I work harder.  I want more free time, so I get up earlier or go to bed later.  I see a friend struggling, so I offer assistance.  Diligence is carrying on despite overwhelming odds.  Does it mean I don’t, occasionally, give into my slothful Self?  No.  I do give in, however, once I have rested I go right back to the work I have set out to do. 

“You should remember, though, that sloth can take on my face. If one sets out to find someone else to do the work instead of doing it ones self, sloth has begun to wear a mask.  If you seek out people who do your work in an effort to please you, then that is just as destructive as selfishness, anger, and lust.  If you do your own work, those with the same goals as you will come along and help you on your journey.”

 On the fifth head, a face contorted with lines and aged beyond its years looks at me.  “I am anger,” it says, barely containing its wrath.  “You, Child, in your avoidance of the water realm, nearly raised my ire.  You were not acting in the way we Elementals expected you to.  That is one of my responses, though, to have unvoiced expectations and when they aren’t followed to the letter, I appear.  Then again, there is virtue in anger, sometimes.  Properly used, I can be a catalyst for great and enduring change.”

“I am kindness,” an enduringly young face says gently.  “When you can be nothing else, be kind.  Kindness costs nothing.  It is linked to compassion and love.  It is a great strength.  Asking for kindness when feeling down is an easy way to be lifted up.  Kindness is prized, in most all realms, above any of the other active emotions.  Always do your best to be kind.  You will receive kindness in return.”  

The sixth head to speak was beautiful to gaze upon, and it knew it.  "Who are you?" I asked.

"I am Pride," it told me.  "I am the greatest motivator of men aside from lust.  I convince men to take more than they need.  I assure men that lust is okay.  I demonstrate time and again how bad it feels to fail."

Before the face of Pride could finish, the head turned.  Looking upon this face was less beautiful, but certainly more peaceful.  The voice was like a melody as it spoke, "I am humility.  I sit quietly in the hearts of men and urge them into service.  Where my brother Pride is forceful, I am playful.  When he screams, I sing.  Where he stomps, I dance.  It is not pride, but humility, that coaxes the mighty oak from the tiny acorn."

As the face of humility moved away, I was touched to the very core of my being.  The humble face was so peaceful.  I could not imagine anything lovelier to behold.  That feeling was soon stripped from me as the final head dipped down.  "I am sorrow," it said.  "Things are born, they live, and then they die.  If, when they die, men are attached, I am what they feel.  I am the ultimate disconnect for the world of men.  Anger, like pride, motivates.  Sorrow creates emptiness.  Emptiness creates isolation.  Isolation creates fear.  Fear kills on so very many levels.  Remember me, Child.  Never forget who I am."

Then, Sorrow turned away and revealed a radiant face, one almost as beautiful as humility.  "Who are you?" I asked.

"I am Love," the final face replied.  "I am that place from where we all come.  Some call it God, others Nirvana, but it is simply a place of perfection.  Men can reach that place of perfection, though much of society has now forgotten how.  It is now only seen in glimpses.  Humanity must move from sorrow and back into love to survive.  Man must do so and take all of creation with it in the process.  Remember these words, Child.  Do not be afraid to become one of the elements.  Do not be afraid to walk with us in our individual perfections."

As the final arm of the hydra pulled away, I stood there quite numb.  I wanted to speak, but I could not make the words come.  I wanted... Anything.  Finally, the hydra spoke, "Now, you see just a fraction of the reasons why you were pulled here today.  You are charged with finding all of these things within yourself and showing them to the world.  You are charged with finding a way to channel these things in a constructive way and teaching others.  The oak tree begins as a single acorn.  Change begins inside and with you.  Go.  Be well."

With those three words, I found myself back on solid ground and still running.  The rain had stopped and when I looked back, I noticed that I'd only ran another half of a block.  So, I finished my run.  When I made it safely to my couch, I collapsed in a heap.  I cried.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Element of Water is about emotions, endings, sunset, and being fluid.  It is about improvising and having the grit to keep going once the passion of fire has been cooled.   As an element, it is typically seated in the West part of the quarter.  Much in the same way Fire can burn us physically and spiritually, Water can drown us.  Water can, quickly, get overwhelming.  We all 'get in over our heads' sometimes.  Those things said, Water is also playful.  It's the light spring rain and the cold, clear creek.

As an element, water sits in the west.  It governs all emotions, death, healing, psychism and the season of Autumn. It is the Will of the magical practitioner.  When we think of water, we think of deities like Aphrodite or Neptune, maybe Lir or Njord, but we may not think of the animals who live within the depths as being able to teach us much (or maybe we do). Aside from the Great Salmon of Wisdom from Celtic mythology, have you ever meditated with or upon another sea creature?  Have you ever talked to the Lion Fish in the aquarium?  Ever swam with bass or crappie?  Have you ever thought about sitting on the bottom of the lake with the Catfish or maybe hoisted your home upon your back and traveled with crab or turtle?  Maybe a chat with Giant Squid or Hammerhead Shark is in order?

These are all meditations or journeys that can be undertaken to help a practitioner get in touch with the water element.  However, what happens when water is out of balance?  A person can be weepy, indecisive.  That person can be lackadaisical or even emotionless in extreme cases.

Activities to do to balance Water include bathing or swimming, dancing in the rain, and even having a good cry.  The important thing is to know which way one is out of balance.  Is it too much or not enough?

Spring is here in the Mid-West, so there is an abundance of physical water in the form of storms and rain showers.  When thinking about the water element, remember that water is also a conductor of electricity.

Have a blessed Spring, Friends!! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Burn Out, Everyone Gets it

As of late, well, actually for the last nine or so months, things have felt. . . Off.  They have gotten progressively worse for me internally and that has manifested in various way injecting a great deal of chaos into my life.  The weekend of Ostara, I realized that I was experiencing burnout.  Now, I'm not talking about 'run-of-the-mill-x-y-and-z-have-to-change-in-my-life' burnout.  I'm talking 'screw-responsibility-quit-everything-and-be-a-gypsy' burnout.  I was literally so tired of being sick and tired that I was ready to sell what I could, give away what I couldn't sell, and hit the road to wherever.

However, there was this little niggling voice seated somewhere around my heart.  It said, "Yes, you could sell everything you own and see where life takes you, but what then?  Haven't you been searching for stability and a place to put down your roots? Haven't you been looking for a family and a community?  Instead of throwing a tantrum, what do you really want to do?"

Of course, my response to that little voice was, "Shut up Little Voice!  I want to see things I haven't seen before.  I want spend the next year of my life not doing what is expected of me!"

With a laugh, it responded, "Of course you do, but instead of taking the road you already know is going to be fraught with obstacles and pain, why don't you really sit down and think about what you want and what you need.  So, what is it that you want?"

"Okay," I respond, honestly a bit sullenly, but there might be a bit of hope growing as I speak this truth to the Universe. "I want a good, safe place.  I want to not have other people so dependent upon me.  I want to not worry too much about other people.  I want a lovely place to be able to take my computer to write.  I want to finally have something of my own published this year, not just put essays into anthologies and watch other people make money off of my time and effort."

This conversation with myself hasn't stopped the burnout.  It hasn't stopped me from getting up every morning dreading the day because 'I have to do it'.  What it has done, though, is given me something else to think about, contemplate, and focus on.  I recognize that I give too much.  I recognize that I rarely turn people down when they need me.  I recognize that I need 'me' time that doesn't involve other people and four walls just as much as I recognize that I need 'me' time that does involve other people and some much needed shenanigans.

Another thing I recognize is that I allow others to tell me one thing and do another.  As my burnout has increased, that has become a source of great irritation.  Why do I go out of my way to do for others and not expect to be treated the same way?  Isn't that what friends do for each other?  Don't they go out of the way to be there for each other because they care?  So, does it mean that you only care when other things don't get in the way?  Do you only care when I am saying and doing things that you find emotionally and spiritually palatable? What about those other times?  What about the times I'm spinning out of control and don't realize it yet?  When I'm 'not myself' is it too much for you to handle so you back away slowly?  Or, are you just self-absorbed and you are so glad to see me so you can tell me how your life has been?  I'm pretty sure that's some form of narcissism.

Then again, I've been told repeatedly, "Expectations lead to disappointment."  Really?  No shit.  It's really fucking disappointing to hear how much I am loved by someone, but only to be acknowledged when they need me, but when I need them, nothing.  It's really fucking disappointing to be told that I should keep giving to someone who constantly takes from me because I'm going to get my return from someone else.  No.  I treat people how I expect and deserve to be treated.  If you are such an arrogant dick that you think you can treat me however you feel like, then you don't deserve to have me in your life. Maybe this makes me an arrogant bitch, to think that I deserve to be treated with respect, but you know what?  I am worth just that.

The last several months have shown me just who my friends are.  I have been surprised again and again by the fact that those I expect to be able to count on are too busy, so there are others who are standing in their place, genuinely ready help me when I need it.  At first, I was mad that the people I wanted to be there weren't.  Then, I realized that the people who were there were worth their weight in gold for their love and loyalty.  Every time I reach out to any of them, there they are, taking my hand and holding it, if need be.

So, I'm still burned the fuck out.  As of a week ago, I consider myself to be on a sabbatical.  I am going to focus on myself and on my wants and needs for a while.  That said, I do have some obligations this year, including some workshops and rituals, that I will still be doing.  It is less a case of my doing a disappearing trick and more a case of my being very selective about what activities I do participate in or facilitate.  I may shift gears from facilitation to simply writing the material and handing it off to another to facilitate.  I may choose to be a participant instead of a planner.

I am not sure what this year is going to hold for me, but I do know that it is going to put me back at equilibrium.  There will be solitude and shenanigans.  There will be happiness and sadness.  There will be joy.  I will come back to center and be all the better for it.

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Die and Be Reborn Again: Suicide in the Longest Winter

I'd like to preface this blog by giving you all this message:

Today, my soul is laid bare.  I am in a comfortable place writing this, but the exquisite discomfort I feel putting it out here can not be articulated.  I expect hate mail as well as words of comfort.  As a warning for those who might decide to send hate mail, I have no problem whatsoever exposing you as the bully you are for all in internet land. 

That said, I'm not writing this looking for attention.  I'm not writing it looking for sympathy.  I'm writing this for those who may also need it.  I'm writing it because it needs to be said.  I'm writing it because I so rarely open up and share the tattered and mended remains of my heart.  I am writing it because I can.  I am writing it because.

Trigger warning for talk of suicide and other scary, self-inflicted, and abusive things.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I sit here on this beautifully snowy day in the Mid-West.  It's just after 7am and nothing is moving.  No one is out.  There is a white blanket of silence covering everything, muting even the scarce birdsong. As for me, well, I have all of the blinds open and I am taking it all in.  The cat sits in front of the space heater, waiting to pounce as soon as it clicks off.  It's just us, as my partner is at work.  However, I think about the winter past and all of the changes that have happened.  Some of them good, many of them not-so-much, but a lesson learned anyway.

More times than I like to count over the past few months, I found myself cooped up in my house and unwilling to go anywhere aside from my normal weekend errands.  I could not bear the thought of interacting with people.  I could not bear the thought of actually going out in public.  Being forced to go out five days a week to work was just about all of the energy I could muster.  So, I would invite people over.  My thinking was, "If I can't go and be around people, then maybe I can have someone over."  As is my usual luck, that didn't work out, usually.  Ah, well, shit happens, right?

Well...

Instead of thinking of it like that, this began a downward spiral for me.  The days grew darker and so did my internal dialogue.  My relationship had been on the rocks.  I didn't seem to have any friends.  I was a days drive from my family.  I was in a strange city with absolutely zero support... aside from myself.  So, for a time, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and marched on determined to will my way through this.


I don't know at what point it was that my will broke, but it did.  It broke and the facade began to crumble.  I looked around, grasped for some kind of hand hold, something solid and found nothing.  So, I did what my pride told me was a stupid thing to do and I started reaching out to people.  (If you are reading this and I didn't reach out to you, don't take it personally.  Few people get to see me vulnerable and broken.)  When that didn't work, I withdrew.  I pretended as best I could that things were okay.  I pretended at work.  I pretended at home.

The darkness crept in.  It enfolded me.  Caressed me with its velvety nothingness.  That's what I began to feel.  Nothing.  Then, those dark and dangerous tendrils made their way to my heart.  That nothingness within me became something.  It became anger.  Rage, really.  Every day became a clench-your-teeth-and-bite-your-tongue kind of day.  It wasn't their fault. (They being anyone who wasn't me at the time.)  They had their own issues.  They had their own problems, triumphs, dramas, whatever that they were dealing with and it was pretty obvious to me that there was no room for my self pity at their table.

Ultimately, I gave in to the darkness, at least a small measure.  I started thinking about how death was preferable to my partner going out of his way to be passive-aggressive toward me.  I started thinking about how death was preferable to having to go to work and pretend to be some vapid consumeristic doormat.  I started thinking about how pushing the reset button would give me five or ten years of ignorant bliss before having to do this all over again.  (Don't you like how I call contemplating suicide 'pushing the reset button'?  I mean, we do believe in reincarnation.)  However, I didn't make a plan, at least not one worthy of writing down.

Instead, I tried reaching out again.  I found someone to talk to, someone who understood the rage.  I found someone who knew, intimately, the path I was walking and, without a question,  helped me limp along, in this darkness.  This person helped me shoulder this burden, the rage, and helped me see the obstacles in front of me for what they were.  This person wasn't afraid to piss me off, but also didn't think twice about handing me a heaping helping of the brutal truth.  Of course, I laughing accepted this truth.  I laughed because it is something I would say to someone else.  It assuaged my rage.  It soothed me because I knew it to be the truth universal and I paused long enough to ask questions.  The tempest with my soul calmed.  I didn't want to kill myself as much any more.  I didn't hate myself as much any more.

At this juncture, I want to stop and assure you all, dear readers, that there won't be any reset button pushing.  I'm not, necessarily, out of the proverbial woods just yet, but the mere act of writing this out, putting my private thoughts into those words is prevention enough.  Those closest to me will be looking for signs now, ready to swoop in and rescue me from myself.  I'm okay.

So, instead of letting the pressure build up again, I resolved to find one thing of beauty a day.  If I could find one beautiful thing, then life had to be worth living.  I only needed one thing.  If I couldn't find it, well, it was lights out for me.  If I laughed, I'd found that beautiful thing.  If I talked to that person who saved me from myself, then I found some hope in the world.  It got easier, by the day, to not succumb to the rage and, instead, look at the lessons within these dark times.  It got easier to draw boundaries and not feel guilty.  It got easier to allow myself to be myself without compromise.

The things I have learned from this whole personal Hellish ordeal are pretty astounding.  One thing I have discovered is that I know just who my friends are.  They were there for me when I really needed them.  Not just that, but as I raged angrily at my gods for this enduring despair, they were the ones who reminded me to open my fucking eyes.  They were the ones who showed me just who I needed and why and I was astounded.  I tend to need the people around me just because.  I don't want them to be anything they aren't, but I also expect them to be truthful with me and to be authentically who they are, warts and all.  I tend to need the people around me because they are people, not because they can give me something.  Well, occasionally I need their compassion and their ear, like I have recently needed, but it has never been something I have demanded from others.

Another thing I have learned is that many people just simply don't know how to take me.  That is part of what is uniquely me, I suppose.  People don't know what to do with me when I am at my worst.  They don't know what to do with me when I am drowning in my own insecurities and self hate.  They also don't know how to speak to me when I am like this.  They don't know how to ask, "Are you okay?" or "Have you really spiraled that far down?" That, though, goes back to being honest with me.  If you are too scared to look at me and say, "I'm not sure what to say right now with you being so *fill in the blank with some behavior or emotion*," then why do you consider yourself to be my friend?  Why do you think that honesty is going to push me away?  If your honesty pushes me away, then I wasn't your friend to begin with.  If my rawness triggers your own insecurities, what aren't you telling me?  If I trust you enough to be a sobbing raw nerve, the only thing I ask in return is for your concern.  If you can't give me that, can you call me your friend?



A third thing I have learned is that sometimes, just sometimes, boundaries need to be set and it needs to be said that there are no more chances to be given for the boundaries to be adhered to.  Basically, don't fuck up again or I will walk.  If you want me to walk, I'm out, but you better think real fucking hard before you say it because you don't get to take it back when it isn't what you want.  Sometimes, giving up is okay.  Sometimes, dropping all of the balls and refusing to play any more is okay.  Sometimes, it's okay to be unconventional.  Sometimes, stepping outside of convention is what is necessary.

The fourth lesson I learned in this is that using the 'positive/down line, negative/up line' system doesn't always work.  There were people I wanted so much to reach out to, but couldn't because they were 'down line' and I didn't want to give them ore than they could handle, or damage them in any way.  Even more than that, there were people up line from me who I didn't feel I could take these things to, either.

As one who is trying to find her leadership niche in the pagan community, I find the up line/down line system to be important, but I'm not so sure what to think after having this experience.  Who the fuck do our clergy go to when they are having troubles?  As one who isn't clergy, who the fuck am I to ask my clergy to put aside their woes because I need them?  Then again, our clergy understand that part of the job description is putting others above self, in service to gods and community.  I think this is pretty fucked up.  Even if I do want to kill myself, it does not trump and it is not more important than something happening in the family of my clergy.  Sorry, I'm not going to reach out to clergy who are divorcing, dealing with the death of a family member, coping with loss of some kind, or in general, having a shitty week or month.  I think that's pretty fucking selfish.

So, my dear readers, if you know someone who seems to be struggling, talk to them.  Even if they tell you they are okay, they may not be.  Even if they tell you they don't want to talk about it, just hang out in silence.  Sometimes, that warm body sitting across the room is what saves a life.  Sometimes, that phone call at daylight saves a life.  Sometimes, just sometimes, that compassionate meme on Facebook prompts a cascade of emotion that breaks up whatever has been dammed up for months or years.  If you are lonely and depressed, reach out to someone you trust.  If you are contemplating suicide, take a moment to look at things from a different perspective and then decide.



In the US, the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255.  You can find their web site here. If you suspect you have a friend or family member who is suicidal, don't ignore that suspicion, but don't be accusatory with them, either.  Be kind and compassionate with them, even if it frustrates you that they won't open up.  Just let them know someone cares.  Let them know by listening if they want to talk.  Let them know by just hanging out.  Be present.

Brightest of blessings, friends.