Category Archives: Spirituality

Delving into the Psyche, Edumacation, New Year New Me, Onwards, Philosophy, Spirituality, Wheel of the year, Witchy

The Darkness

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Yule – the Winter Solstice – is an ancient holiday dedicated to honoring the sun. For ancient people, this was the darkest time of the year (in the Northern Hemispehere, anyway). It was cold, people survived with food stored from the harvests, preserved by drying, curing, or fermenting. More dark means more danger, for a human is a daytime animal with poor eyesight for night movement. The Winter Solstice is the longest night, but within that lengthy pitch black time is a message that brighter days are to come. After all, if you’re in the longest night, logic follows that the next will be shorter, and science proves that each night after that will be shorter and shorter until the sun is back with a warm presence and the ability to see one’s work and one’s path for the majority of an Earth rotation.

The ancient people were, after all, scientists. We tend to forget that because we have had the benefit of millennia of collective human knowledge to build on and we consider our knowledge superior because it is more correct in the details, but in some ways this is a privileged point of view and it dishonors our ancestors by implying that they are less intelligent than we are. They were not. Their science might not look like ours, but they didn’t have the benefits we do of all the hard work that’s gone before us. They were the first. They marked the seasons and noted the calendar both on earth and in the skies. They learned how to cultivate gardens and farmland, how to breed animals to more fully nourish themselves. Tell me that’s not scientific genius. To take this planet, entirely from scratch, and to use it to sustain life, to eventually create civilization (and, yes, modern life has SO. MANY. PROBLEMS. but when you step back from that and realize that even the “synthetic” things in our life have all come from the genius of humans learning how to use the resources on the planet and nothing else, you can see how remarkable our species truly is).

I digress, but the point here is that these dudes knew their shit. Maybe not as completely as we know it, and maybe in different terms with different meanings, but they knew it.

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So. I graduated.

It is dark in my life right now, but life doesn’t operate as predictably as the seasons and I don’t know whether this day is my shortest one, and income is about to lift me out of poverty, or whether I am still early in the fall and I must wait for my darkest night still. That thought is terrifying. There is, of course, also the possibility that spring will never come back into my life. It sounds dark, but I say it without emotion: sometimes, terrible things happen to good people and that’s just how it is. The American Dream, the Bootstrap Myth—none of that shit is real. Capitalism is toxic and most do not thrive in it.

I am not really as pessimistic as that makes me sound. But I am humble enough to recognize that against the forces of fate and capitalism I am no more special than those who do not survive these systems. Just plain and simple: sometimes shit happens. *shrug*

I know it’s a couple of weeks on beyond the winter solstice now, but to face this time in my life – to graduate at the winter solstice – seems particularly apt. I am comforted by the knowledge that the Universe has a rhythm for this. It doesn’t ease my anxiety completely by any means, but it does comfort me to know that darkness is cyclical. Night ends, winter ends, and life changes take effect and the new normal becomes the expected and the comfortable.

I don’t know what my new normal will look like and if I am being honest, I truly hate that part of all this. But I am taking one blind step after another and eventually I will come out of the darkness into the day and I will see my way back to Summer again.

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Where I will hopefully stay for ever and ever with no more darkness or poverty ever again. Right? Yep. We’re just gonna go ahead and go with that.

Delving into the Psyche, Political, Social Justice, Spirituality

Women’s March on Washington (San Diego), January 21, 2017

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I am Pagan and I call myself a witch, but I don’t do spells. Not the usual spells Wiccans do, anyway, with an athame or crystals or candles. I’m simply not called to them in any way. I think I’m a little too Atheist for them to speak to me. I have a need to be grounded in a spirituality which is very tangible.

But last night I took sharpies and poster board and did magick with them. I sat with my friend Sofia and made all these signs. I think this is magick. When you create some kind of art, any kind, even if it’s just markers and poster board, you’re constantly thinking about what you are doing. This is a prayer. Knitting a baby blanket is like a prayer for that baby. It is mind work. It is magick. It is spellwork.

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And then we took those signs and joined I-don’t-even-know-how-many other people on the streets of San Diego to show the world that we exist, that we are taking back our power, that we are here and not going anywhere. And we were answering the call of marchers on the other side of this country, this continent. And they were answered by marchers in countries around the world, on every continent, even Antarctica.

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This is spellwork, this is magick, this is a prayer that we all, of every religion and culture, can do together. We raise our voices together and send messages of hope and power together. Of course it’s magickal; of course it’s prayer.

But it won’t fix anything, said my inner voice. It’s not enough.

Of course not. Prayer is not the world’s work. It’s the spirit’s work. As Bethany says, prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer changes the pray-er. We still have to make the phone calls. We still have to vote. We still have to be aware and educate ourselves. We still have to stay conscious.

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But I came home today and, after napping for two solid hours, I watched a White House video and read some news stories without having to scroll past them before I could allow that horror, our new reality, to sink in. This sounds simple enough, but I’ve not been able to do it for weeks now. My mind’s eye is purposely not making eye contact with the concept of this new president, of his inauguration.

So that’s what the spell did: it gave me renewed strength. Where before I was too weak to do the work of the world that needs to be done, when surrounded by my sisters and brothers in that March today, and throughout the world, I was recharged. The spirit’s work lifts a person up to get the world’s work done.

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This is spellwork. This is magick. This is prayer.

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, Depression/Anxiety, Onwards, Spirituality, The Zebra

It’s like that Greek myth where Pandora cracked open Zeus’ brain and all the crazy came out, leaving him refreshed and way less assholey.

The sunbeams were crazy awesome tonight.  Like the sun was grasping desperately before being dragged down into the underworld against his will. Or something less demonic. Whichever.  Adjusted in #snapseed

I’m in the midst of cracking shit open right now. The cauldron of my psyche is boiling and shit’s bubbling up to the surface that I never knew or consciously realized. I feel like I’ve been in that dark forest that a hero is supposed to head into to fight the monsters and I’m finally finding my way to the caves where the monsters live instead of just hiding in the darkness, too overwhelmed with all the new sensations to move.

I think my writing style is to throw as many metaphors into as small a space as possible with the intent to dizzy my prey readers into thinking I’m a better writer than I am?

Ahem.

As a child, I definitely had perfection issues. If I created something and didn’t like it, I considered it a failure. More often, if I created something and never finished it, I considered myself a failure. But when I was around middle school-age I started noticing imperfections in others around me and I saw that they could be beautiful. Messy handwriting, a botched-then-fixed art project, an unconventionally-beautiful body shape. And the more I began to notice imperfections, the more I began to realize that perfectness is bullshit. So I let all that shit go.

Except. Just a few weeks ago I realized that for the past few years I have been clearly and consciously, and very seriously, trying to choose what my character flaw will be. Will it be my flakiness? That’s adorable and forgivable. Maybe it’ll be my various superstitions – eccentricity is quirky and cute. It could even be my anxiety. I fucking love my anxiety. It defines me and I don’t even know who I’d be without it. The anxiety has to stay. (To be clear – there is actually zero sarcasm in that last point. Which is probably super fucked up.) But I cannot allow my other flaws – my desperate need for constant approval, my inability to be there for people when they need me sometimes, the fact that I sometimes miss jokes if they are too dry – those things have got to go.

So. Um. Maybe I still have perfection issues after all?

I have a fear of failure that I have been unknowingly nurturing and nourishing in the dark recesses of my mind. Coddling it and encouraging it to grow by secretly promoting this perfect me I wanted to create. The more I focused on becoming perfect in all the ways I felt needed to be perfect, the more anxious I became. Trying to hold it all together like a 1960’s Tonight Show guest with a few too many spinning plates, running more and more frantically between them. It’s exhausting.

I imagine that perfection is a goal that my Child of a Hoarder self set for me. From one extreme, I believed I needed the other.

I am pretty open about my various traumas, but I am seeing now that there are things I am still unwilling to talk about, at least until I feel I have a more perfect understanding of them, or a more perfect control of them, or a more perfect acceptance of how imperfect they are. I’m afraid to talk about dating in case a guy might not like me and my friends realize that I’m unlikeable, I’m afraid to show my personal creative writings to friends in case they find out I’m no good at it. I’m afraid to ask too much of people in case I become a burden and they stop loving me.

But obviously this keeps me imprisoned with only myself as cellmate, and I’m not always nice to me, or reliable in the things I tell to myself. And I don’t want that life. So I am forcing myself to write about things and talk about things. Transparency keeps me sane.

Those character flaws I considered keeping grew bigger and stronger, became my jailers, pacing back and forth in front of my cell all night long (and all my days were nights). I remember at one point last summer, in my deeply religious fear of Murphy’s Law, I nearly panicked when I dropped something and commented, “Dammit, gravity!” For a moment, I was literally afraid gravity would hear me and, just to prove a point, stop working and everything would float away. I immediately caught the ridiculousness of the thought and laughed it off. Mostly. A kernel of that fear lingered.

It is because of that general thought process, I think, that my entire spirituality has been shattered. Caught between the atheistic beauty of the tangible world and the metaphysical mysteries that also ring true for me, I couldn’t orient myself. And I was afraid to publicly stand for something that might not be understood by everyone. So I turned to science because no matter what science is unfailingly there and real and right. But in the process I lost my faith. After all, if there is no bigger message in the world, than what are the gifts I have been given? Why was I granted sanity when my mom wasn’t? If there’s no ultimate purpose, then maybe I am just a spoiled child? I still don’t know any more than I did before about what my spiritual thoughts and leanings are, but at least I can now see the pieces on the floor for what they are and I can take time to put them together in new ways to see what fits for me.

But I honed the good traits until I was crazy, too. My desire to see all sides of every story is a beautiful and important trait to have, but it grew so strong that I could no longer see which side was my side. Like a tulip made of glass mirrors, each petal was broken and on the floor, reflecting every thought I might have on a subject. I had no sense of north, again with no way to orient myself. I couldn’t find me anymore, lost in a sea of concern for balance and justice that was more important than having an identity of my own.

Over the last couple of years I’ve stopped talking and writing. All of these things were growing like weeds and muzzling me. Sometimes I was too afraid to speak, but sometimes I just didn’t know where to begin. Interestingly, over the last year, I’ve become physically weaker, I’m in more pain, I hardly sleep, my depression and anxiety are through the roof, I’ve been sicker, and I’ve gotten fatter. By coincidence (or divine intervention?), I got the chance to participate in an interview for an upcoming series on NPR about the ACE study. I met with the doctor here who has been working on this for close to 30 years, and we talked about how childhood emotional trauma can affect our physical selves as adults. Science has found a link. It’s there. It’s clear. But because it’s so intangible, I tend to discount it. I feel like it’s crazy to find connections like that, despite the fact that, apparently, they are there. Despite the fact that I have seen connections like that over and over in my own life and body, I still wonder if I’m making up excuses (probably, hilariously, a leftover trait of my childhood trauma. How appropriate).

I don’t know what science might have to say about Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body, but I looked up “feet” because I’ve been having various problems with mine – from internal pains to the fact that I cannot stop dropping things on them. The suggestion was that feet problems can mean that you are standing, or lingering, in grief. AND HOLY FUCKING HELL AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH.

All of this has come up in the past few weeks. And a lot of these words came out of my fingers tonight in the past tense, suggesting that I am healed from this Crazy. The truth is that I probably have more to travel on this particular trip into the dark corners of my psyche. Hell, the last few days have been a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows. But I do feel like a major shift has happened. Like I’ve got a map, or a flashlight, or like at least I know the monsters I have to fight on this journey.

I can’t ever stop talking or writing, you guys. It’s dangerous, both psychologically and physically. Now here’s hoping that pain in my foot goes away. You hear that, Psyche? I’m leaving the grief behind.

7 Days, Philosophy, Spirituality, This Shit is Thursday as Fuck

Yule Blessings

sunrise

O HAI.

(I think I’m dating myself by speaking in lolcat. I mean. That was SO four years ago. All the cool kids these days speak doge. Basically I’m internet-ancient.)

The world just will not let up. As soon as I was finished with my finals I had to do holiday shopping (so far I’ve only done my kids. have not even begun to think about other people yet. oy). Then a water filter sort of exploded under my kitchen sink which – in the grand scheme of plumbing issues – wasn’t THAT big of a deal, but it left me without water in the kitchen for a few days while I learned how to fix it (almost) myself (a friend helped by replacing the waterlogged wood for me). THEN. I got a mysterious pain in my side which I still don’t really know what to do with, but it was briefly accompanied by a fever so I had to decide whether to go to the ER or not. The pain is still around, the fever is gone and the pain is very different now, but I’m still not really sure how to handle this. In between all these things I’ve had two fairly major paperwork things to accomplish which took up a lot of time and energy.

I know. This is the most boring kind of entry ever. (Does it help to know that I nearly just wrote “the most borking entry”?) I just can’t help myself because I MEAN REALLY WITH THE NEVERENDING STUFF NEVER ENDING WHAT EVEN THE HELL ALREADY? Someday when I look back and think to myself, “GOD why was I such a big whiner in 2013?” I will have these entries to remind me that 2013 was, indeed, a fucking motherfucker.

But this is the longest night. Figuratively (DEAR GOD I HOPE) and literally. The sun is reborn today and the Northern Hemisphere heads back towards summertime.

I think there are two aspects of Paganism that really speak to my soul. The holidays that coincide with the beginnings of each season are the most powerful to me spiritually because they mark a literal cosmic moment in which the Earth’s position in the solar system and on its axis cause an effect on Earth’s seasons. This morning, at 9:11 in my time zone, the Earth was tilted at its farthest from the sun and began to wobble back the other direction. To know that, to picture it, to meditate on it, connects me to the Universe like nothing else. This is how I feel the glory of Nature on Earth and beyond – through science. It is humbling and exhilarating all at once. Connecting with nature, Earth, the Universe, in every way from a simple hike to a holiday celebration is what feeds my soul.

The other aspect is the spiritual and psychological work. This is where metaphor and myth come in. Gods and goddesses, I believe, are as real as you need them to be. In mythology they are facets of the human psyche and the stories are the keys to understanding who we are. To say a prayer, to burn some sage, to participate in any ceremony is holy because it is stating an intention. An intention to connect with the Universe (or any name you choose to call your Source), to cleanse your energy, to focus on the past, present, and future. This is how I do my work to grow emotionally and spiritually.

night before

My life has been chaotic so my ceremonies have been simple. We watched the sun rise on his birthday; this year Bethany’s family joined us. We feasted on bacon and sausage, biscuits with clotted cream, coffee, and cherry cider. I find prayer in every little action. In decorating the tree. In taking pictures of the sun rise or of our breakfast. In wrapping gifts and setting them under our artificial tree. In walking around at night with the neighborhood, looking at all the festive lights, guiding humanity through this dark time of year. But simple ceremonies are no less valid than elaborate ones, and, in fact, I find that looking for prayers in my every day actions increases the meanings of the prayers themselves. Looking for prayers is another prayer.

Whoa. Meta.

breakfast at dawn

And so the days grow longer, even though we won’t notice that right away. I am hoping this will apply metaphorically to my life as well. Because I am tired. And I have a break from school right now, but it is only for a few weeks and I am afraid that won’t be as much time as I need to finally catch up. Or to, you know, stop my body from developing a new problem every week. And if not, I guess we can just give in to my elderliness and celebrate my 80th birthday in February.

Happy Solstice! Here’s to sunny days and celebrations (and quiet moments) with friends!

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(PS. This was actually a 7 Days post. It’s the last run. Ever. *sniff* That last picture there is my official 7 Days post today.)

Spirituality

Dinnertime Conversation

As a Pagan, I follow the wheel of the year, and so do the kids. As Americans, we’re exposed to the idea of god everywhere (which is mostly totally fine, I’m not complaining. It’s just a fact). I’ve brought the kids to the Universalist church on occasion, and Margie and I have had a lot of conversations about various religions before. Their dad is an atheist, and celebrates the major holidays like Christmas and Easter secularly with the kids. Just on a whim I asked Elliott some questions about god and religion to see what he’d say.

(And, no, I’m not capitalizing god, because, even though it sounds like it, I am actually not specifically referring to the Judeo-Christian one. Rather I’m asking about a general idea of god where he might be a personal god, or an impersonal spirit. What SoulCollage refers to as “Source” I guess. Sorta.)

Me: Elliott, what is a soul?
Elliott: It’s the thing that keeps you alive. Like if you don’t have it then you die.
Me: Who’s god?
Elliott: A soul
Me: What’s Heaven?
Elliott: It’s one of the places you live when you die.
Me: And Hell?
Elliott: Same thing.
Margie: But COOLER.
Me: Who’s Jesus?
Elliott: The guy who lives in Hell.
Me: *snorting and spitting out my drink*
Margie: No, he lives in Heaven.
Me: And who’s Buddha?
Elliott: I don’t know.
Elliott: Jesus is like the prince. But instead of being next to be king, he’s next to be God.
Me: Is God real?
Elliott: Yes. Because if he wasn’t it would just be (motions toward the sky) *boop boop boop boop* there would just be darkness.
Margie: *INTENSE SHRUG* Mmmmmmm?

The conversation was hilarious and insightful and mildly horrifying and the idea of god as a soul is kind of beautiful, I think. But it also highlights the differences in my children. My daughter is inherently an atheist like her dad, my son, I think, is a more spiritual person like I am. The cool thing about Paganism is that it works for both beliefs. Not that my kids have to be Pagan, of course. It’s just a nice one-size-fits-all religion for my family. Because who doesn’t love appreciating nature?

Spirituality, Wheel of the year

How I Spent the Summer Solstice

photo of the year

Tonight we went with some friends to the beach to watch the sunset. It is Litha, the summer solstice. The reason I am Pagan is because I feel closest to God (Source/The Universe/Mother Nature/whatever you want to call it) when I’m connected to the Earth. I know. A lot of people say that; it’s cliche. That’s OK. It can be cliche and also legitimate. There are some Pagan holidays in the wheel of the year that I don’t connect with as much – Imbolc and Lughnasadh, for instance are harder for me to relate to (possibly because I’m not a farmer or connected with the harvest in that way). It’s the equinoxes and solstices that I particularly connect with, I think, in part because they are very clear astronomical events. When I stop and think about the fact that today my part of the Earth is at the point where it’s the closest to the sun that it will be all year I get a small sense of just how small I am and where I am in this Universe. And then I bury my feet in the sand and I feel like life is perfect. The Earth is perfect, it’s passage through space is perfect, the way the seas rise to meet the moon is perfect, my feet covered in sand are perfect, the smell of the ocean is perfect. Nothing is perfect and that is perfect.

toes in the sand

In past years we’d have a big to do with an altar and a feast and a circle with friends at the Pagan holidays. We haven’t been very formal about anything recently. Because life is hard, man. And sometimes I guilt myself for not being better about planning things, but honestly, that’s bullshit. I love ceremony and ritual and I love when I do those, but sometimes it’s just as meaningful to bury your feet in the sand and find perfection. Who says ceremony and ritual have to be ceremonious and ritualistic? (I mean besides dictionaries.)

sunset

So it was a very short night, with very little ceremony, but it was full of laughter and friends and these weird kids (and that MOON!).

a bunch of weird kids

Happy Solstice!