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There is a saying:
It’s not about the years in the life but the life in the years.
Nana had both. At 100 years old she had seen, done, and lived through more than any of us can imagine. How different life and the world have become in the past 100 years, yet this tiny woman faced it all with enough spirit, love, strength, and faith to carry five generations of family on two coasts for most of that time without missing a birthday, holiday, or special event in any of our lives. Many of the things we learned in school as history, these things were her life, and she could tell you where much of it was wrong. To really sit and have a conversation with her, even recently, was to take a journey through time. You might not learn about the Great Depression or her days as a Rosie the Riveter, but you would hear about a lifetime of love and joy.
This is not to say she didn’t have heartache or problems, but she rode the waves and kept going. I won’t say she never said a bad word to anyone, because we always knew what was on Nana’s mind. She was stubborn, like most of the women in our family, but she was strong, and there is not a single picture of her that shows her doing anything but enjoying life, because she knew that the secret to life is to live it and leave the rest to…well, life.
Life. Nana’s attitude on life can be summed up in one sentence she said to me right before I left for college in 2001. While the advice I got was mainly about taking care of myself and calling home to check in, Nana’s words were short and sweet. “Be safe, but have fun.” Those words have come back to me every time erring on the side of caution turns to limiting myself with worry or insecurity. Every time I’ve thought things hopeless or finite, I’ve heard her voice saying “eh, we shall see” or what would eventually become her catch phrase, “God willing”.
Life. Nana imbued life into our family like a vein. Her house, and later her rooms, were wallpapered in pictures of family, both old and new. The last things she asked for were her cross and a picture of her family.
Life. Even towards the end she was still asking about my family and my life, because to Nana life was what mattered. All of ours. People she met. People she loved. People she believed in. People with whom she shared her life, all 100 years of it.
Life. It is because of Nana that I continue to choose the beauty, joy, and love of life over the struggles we face daily. It is because of Nana that I am not afraid to stand my ground and make my voice heard no matter how small I feel. It is because of Nana that every birthday song I sing is followed in my head by a tiny voice adding “and many more”.
And many more.
Go now, Nana. Safe crossing. Thank you for sharing your life with us all.
I know this is a couple of weeks late, but life has a way of getting chaotic around Lammas every year.
As with any harvest festival, at Lughnasad we tend to focus on celebration and gratitude for bounty. Indeed, we should be extremely grateful for the boons bestowed upon us and celebrate the rewards of hard work. There is, however, a much more important side to this harvest. This is where we begin to tear up the plants that are no longer producing fruit in order to plant late summer crops. This is where we sort the unusable from the produce worth keeping. This is where we make decisions about what we can store and what needs to be thrown away.
We tend to be a modern culture of acquisition and fear of loss, which leads to hoarding, surplus, and waste. We do it with physical possessions, people, and emotions that no longer have a place in our lives. It’s hard to let go for fear of starving, but holding on to everything indiscriminately means risking the whole lot being spoiled or there not being enough room for what’s good and healthy. This can be a painful process. The wrong choice can be devastating, but even the right call can be tough at first.
This year has been one of, quite frankly, too many goodbyes. What started as a fruitful year all too quickly fell fallow and began to rot, and the only way to survive has been to make some terrifying sacrifices. I pared down my commitments, simplified a lot of my personal life, and cut ties with people who were detrimental to my growth. There have been deaths that touched me personally and a second chance that blossomed into a beautiful friendship only to be pulled from the ground like a weed and left for dead.
All of these things have weighed me down when there are so many things for which I should be grateful. All of these things have cast a shadow on a season that should be full of light, music, and celebration. There is too much rain, too little sunshine, and no way to know what will survive enough to see me through the dark season. I imagine this is how Lugh felt throwing a funereal feast for his mother who became an agricultural goddess. Imagine mourning the loss of a parent while exalting her gift to the Mother Earth and her people.
As anyone who suffers from depression knows, there’s a constant dichotomy at play. We must try to keep pushing forward, We must try to keep finding joy in the every day. We must feel our sorrows, move on from them, and keep looking for sunshine. On Lughnasad I am reminded that this is only the first harvest. There is more to come. There is more to eschew, but there is also more to grow and store in my heart and spirit. Not everything is lost. Not everything has dies. Not everything is gone, and that which is probably needs to be. These fields will not be fallow forever unless I stop cultivating.
Go now, cultivate and know the sun is shining, even if you can’t see it.
There are words that push me over a precipice when I’m upset. Mainly “It’s OK”.
It’s OK. Wait, it’s OK? Well, then, I guess all this snot and crying is for nothing! I might as well just stop this instant.
No, friends. It’s not OK, hence all the snot and crying, and it makes me livid to hear these words used to comfort me.
When did we become a society that devalues being upset? Why are we so afraid of raw emotion? What makes us say anything just to make it stop? When women are upset they’re hysterical or histrionic. When men are upset they’re unstable or weak. Why should human emotion make one a pariah?
It has always been stressed during group rituals that there is a serious rule about interjecting when someone gets emotional unless there is an obvious emergency. Why? Because to interrupt is to rob someone of an integral part of the experience. Granted, being sad and going to someone for emotional support isn’t a ritual experience, but it is still very important to see it out. I’ve told Hubby in the past that I don’t ever expect him to fix my problems, I just want to know I’m not alone while I process them.
Being upset is a sign. It means something in our life is important enough to be upset over. It’s an impetus for change and growth. It’s a push to rid ourselves of what’s holding us back so that life can heal us the way it’s meant to.
I know most people mean well when they say “it’s OK”, and most of the time what they mean is “it’s going to be OK”, but it’s a cop-out to the obvious. Instead, what anyone who is upset and reaching out for comfort needs to remember is, “it’s not OK, and that’s alright”.
Eighteen years ago tomorrow I melted into the couch trying to disappear while I processed the fact that my mother was dead. I didn’t want everyone gathered around me. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to react in front of anyone. I just wanted to soak into the beige cushions and have my moment, but at 12 years old everyone expected something different, something extravagant and wild that required taming and tending. I didn’t. I absorbed the information and took a shower, because it was the only place I could go and not be followed. I spent the next several days trying to gauge what was expected of me. I helped plan a funeral for the first time. I went with my best friend and her mom to buy something nice to wear with no idea what acceptable mourning attire for someone in my position could possibly be. I settled on a navy blue skirt with flowers on it. My goth stage wouldn’t flood my life with black until a year or so later.
Eighteen years ago today, however, was a very different experience. One of life.
You always remember the last time you heard someone’s voice before they leave your world. I remember her laughter and her words. I remember mine. I have since had to uproot my guilt over not going to visit as I had promised and how nonchalantly I threw in that last “love you, bye” as only adolescence can cast. She was coming home the next day. I was excited, but I didn’t feel any particular need to drag it out over the phone. This would change how I handle phone calls, I-love-yous, and anticipation for the rest of my life, because the next day she simply didn’t come home.
Yesterday I took a walk around the cemetery to clear my head. Eighteen years after the last time I hugged her my mom is still the best friend I go to for guidance, as I’ve developed a habit of laying on the grass under the tree she’s buried near and telling her all the things I can’t articulate anywhere else. It’s the only place I can reach the voice inside me that has answers, because the part of her that lives within me is something I wasn’t capable of recognizing as a preteen.
One of the things I inherited from my mother was her capacity to see the good in people. Whatever she called it, that woman embraced the spirit of Aloha in the very air she breathed. No one was ever turned away from her heart, and to those she gave pieces of it too she gave everything. For a long time I tried to run from that part of myself. I tried to cage it up, wall it in, and silence it for good. I hated it. I hated myself for it. I struggled for years with the very thing that makes me who I am, because I had let it shine only to have it ripped out, held in front of me, and tortured before my very eyes. I had watched something beautiful be eviscerated in the name of love, and I couldn’t fathom anything worth experiencing that again. The lesson from my mother’s last day had not yet sunk in.
So let’s go back to that week.
My mother’s funeral was the first I had ever planned. The first at which I had ever spoken. The first I had ever attended. The first time I had personally shaken Death’s hand had taken from me the most important person in my life, and the seeds of this lesson were planted. Since then I have been to more funerals than I can count, spoken at many of them, and helped plan seven. Family, friends, children. Old, young, unborn. Sick, sudden, at their own hands. Loss. Loss is something you never get used to and something you can never truly plan for no matter how hard you try. Loss is where the seeds Death planted the day my mother said, “if you’re not coming today, don’t bother, because I’m going home tomorrow” and I chose to stay home instead begin to sprout. Loss is where those sprouts blossom into regret and sadness every time one of those last conversations is replayed in the back of my mind. Loss is where I gained the strength and courage to let the part of me which my mother tried so hard to cultivate within me finally be free, because the only thing that can grow taller than Death’s crops in my soul is love.
There are times when I doubt. There are times when I’m told that opening myself up to love this way makes me weak and vulnerable. There are times when I’m told it’s ignorant and ugly to let my heart be naked this way. Not everyone appreciates it. I’m called crazy, overwhelming, and naive every time I put my heart at risk, but to me this risk is far more acceptable that the one that someone I love never knew it. In this lesson my mother’s voice lives on. In this way her heart continues to love. In this way I am showing her every day how much I loved her and how important she was to me, not just as my mother but as the fire that burns within me.
I’ve written about it before, the reasons I love the way I do. What it all boils down to is that love is something you can’t do halfway or there’s no point in doing it at all. It can hurt. It can burn. It can tear you apart when you least expect it, but so can regret, fear, and doubt. At least my way I also run the risk of being happy and loved in return, and that’s the secret my mom knew.
“What would you say,” a friend posed to me as I sat at his table, “to a friend who had just told you what you just told me?” We had been discussing certain decisions coming up in my life and what I should consider when making them. He was right. If I took the sentiment and nostalgia out of the situation the answer I was looking for was right in front of my face. I just didn’t want to accept it. I tried to take what he had said to heart, and in the following days I gained such a powerful sense of clarity that I felt foolish for not having seen it before. I knew what I had to do, but I also knew that this meant fortifying my relationship with myself.
Then there came this night. A night when all the love and support in the world was gone, and everything was quiet. A night when loneliness took over, and my only option was to learn to stand up in the darkness by myself. You know what? In that moment I learned what it was like to become my own best friend, to really trust myself to be available for me when I needed a little extra strength and love, and to actually do so.
Don’t get me wrong, my outer support circle is fantastic, but they can’t be with me all the time. I cannot allow myself to become dependent. I also cannot allow myself to become self-destructive when left to my own devices. I must learn to thrive and enjoy being alone, and this is a very fresh lesson. I must learn to do this myself or it will overpower me. The darkness, the silence, the solitude. It all comes from within, so it is from within that it must be overcome.
What would I say to a friend? Nothing. She already knows the answers. She already has the seeds of change within her. She just needs a friend. It’s up to me to be that friend.
My last post, quite aptly the one about patience, was my 200th post for Pearls and Pentagrams. Wow, has life changed since the very first. It was 2009. My health was in shambles, and my goal was strengthening my body. Through the years I have met and exceeded everybody’s expectations where it comes to my health and life in general. I have ignored everyone who told me to give up, to go on disability, and to forsake the life I have already wanted. Since that first post I have gone through transitions I never thought I’d pull through and made changes I never thought possible. I’ve healed wounds from my past, I’ve acquired some new scars, and I continue to grow and change. It seems only fitting that 201 would come in a season full of game changers. It also seems fitting that today I encountered the Star Trek TNG episode “11001001”, which if you don’t know is 201 in binary , which wraps up with the comment “some relationships just can’t work” (An interesting tidbit about the number 201..it’s binary sequence with a period added after the second digit is an approximation of Pi, which is also an important number in my life.)
So now that I’ve gone off on that tangent about numbers and such, what does it all mean. I won’t go over the whole episode or what’s happening in my life currently, but what it boils down to is that sometimes how life looks and acts changes in one moment of clarity. The last five years have made me a completely different person, and it has changed the basic makeup of my life. I’ve tried my best to make it stay certain ways, and I’ve tried my best to change it in certain ways, but I cannot change fundamental programming.
This is where I ask you all for patience. Look for huge shifts coming down the line friends. Not all of them are positive, but all of them are for the best, even if I don’t know what that end result looks like yet. I went through some of this last year, and I found excuses why it wasn’t right. It wasn’t. But now is. Life, friends, cannot always be calculated, nor can we hold on to parts of it we wished would hang on forever if they’re just not there anymore.
I can’t tell you how the blog will change. I can’t tell you how I will change. I can only promise this is how growth happens.
Go now…look back over 5 years. How have you changed?
In years past, Litha has been about pure celebration. Love, revelry, and the raw power of the sun god filling us with waves of blessing. If you’ve ever smiled up at the sun and felt completely whole and happy, you know the feeling I’m describing. This year is a little different for me. There are some big changes coming my way, and I’m finding it extremely difficult to feel the sun in any aspect but burning. That strength and blessing I generally get this time of year is shadowed, and I feel myself weakening. I’ve begun to lose my spirit and the energy to keep pushing forward.
I don’t usually keen for Litha. It’s not generally a happy summer solstice activity, but it felt necessary. I didn’t go into the woods like I normally do. I went to the beach. If you’re not all aware, the beaches of Northern California do not warm. The moment the icy cold hit my toes I wanted to turn back and give up, but if I couldn’t do this how could I begin to claim my life back from the edge of the long night that loomed over me? I trudged forward, tears coming to my eyes as I remember why I was there and what stakes were at hand. I got as far as my knees before the screaming started, not the releasing wail of keening but the angry screams of someone who suddenly realized she couldn’t breathe. Friends, I’ve been drowning in my own life. For years. I’ve allowed myself to fight for enough air to keep sinking, but not much more. So I screamed. I screamed until the water knocked me off balance and straight into the sand of the undertow. I had not intended to go in. My clothes were soaked, my butt was cold, and my mouth was full of salt. I felt scolded by the ocean that has always lead me, and right well I should have been. I’ve let myself be dragged by the undercurrent for so long I’ve forgotten how to swim. I laid back and let the water rush over me. I stopped screaming, and I began to laugh. I laughed until the taste of salt once again assaulted my senses. The ocean wanted me to listen. To be quiet for once in my life…and listen.
I had forgotten that I carry the sun within me. I had forgotten the strength that has carried me through more hardship and darkness than I care to think about. I had forgotten the brightness that has always kept a smile on my face and my spirit alive despite that darkness. I had forgotten what it means to channel it all and become a force of nature. These are things I must hold on to if I am to come out of this alive. Alive. Not survived. Alive. Heart, soul, and spirit intact. This is a crossroads, not a dead end. This is the harvest of the seeds I planted when I asked for progress and the life meant for me, and if I let it all die on the vine I have wasted it all. I’ve fought too hard to be weak now. Wherever this road goes, and it will go through some thick, dark, places, I will carry the sun within, and it will guide me if I let it.
Aloha and a Blessed Litha
Go now, be strong. Be Alive.
It was the day I saw the internet meme that read expressed to me that love could always save the day, and anything else was giving up. This friends, is a very pretty thought, but untrue. Yes, there are a lot of people who give up on love too soon. There are relationships that end merely because people don’t want to put the effort in to keep it alive. There are also situations where the love exists but the relationship is unhealthy, and there is only so much compromise one can do. This is where serious change needs to occur.
My biggest hurdle in the past week has been the doubt instilled in me by this very concept. For years I have fought. For years I have worked. For years I have sacrificed and compromised. All for love. All with a smile on my face. All knowing my heart was strong and my love was true. That love hasn’t changed. It hasn’t diminished. It hasn’t quieted. I don’t even feel like it’s less mutual. It’s the only reason I am hurt by the idea that maybe even the strongest love in the world can’t fix everything. And maybe worse, that it shouldn’t.
What if this love is what’s holding me in a place that’s unhealthy for the rest of me? What if this love is detrimental? What if it’s taken the place of the love I should have for myself? These are very real things. This is not an abuse situation, friends, but it is unhealthy. If we can’t find a way to change the foundation of what’s wrong in our life together, no amount of love in the world can change that. I can’t let myself feel like I’m giving up or failing, because that’s what has always made me stick around in the past regardless of my mental or emotional health.
Love can conquer many things. Fear, insecurity, doubt. Love cannot conquer all things, because a relationship needs air to breathe and sun to grow. It needs a good balance of calm and passion. It needs the right environment, and if that environment no longer exists between two people, it doesn’t mean we’ve or love has failed. It merely means our landscape has evolved. It’s time to decide if that landscape can still sustain this relationship.
There’s a point where you make a decision. There’s a point where the only thing left to do is move forward and act on that decision. There’s a point where you know it’s not quite the time yet, and all you can do is stand there like a horse at a starting gate. This, friends, is where I find myself today. I’ve been through all the doubts and fears. I’ve been through all the options and best courses of action. I’ve deliberated and debated, and the only thing there is to do now is throw it all out there and let life sort it out trusting in the guidance I’ve been given. All I can do, however, is wait.
Patience, as I’ve mentioned before, is not really a virtue I possess, but right this moment I am my own lesson. If I jump the gun I lose before I even have a chance. If I wait too long I lose by the nature of the race. If I trust the strategy of the game I have a chance, but that requires me to be still. Patience is not merely waiting; it’s listening and paying attention to the cues and behaviour of the environment around me. It means being quiet. It means being focused. It means freezing everything else around me and being…patient.
Go now, smirk at the visual pun.
We are the artists, the healers, and the teachers. We are those who feel, and sometimes we don’t know why until we have learned to acknowledge and process them. We are the empaths, and our journey is unique. It’s not always easy, but it can be highly rewarding and fulfilling.
As an empath I am generally at least aware of my environment on a very intimate level. I can get a feel for people pretty quickly in ways they might not even be in touch with themselves. I can tell when people are hurting, sick, or frustrated, but I can also see their capacity for love and joy when they might not be able to. It makes me a caretaker by nature. I am generally that friend answering her phone at some odd hour of the night because I’ve never turned down a request for help I was available to give.
The flip side of all this is that it makes me a lover, which in and of itself is not a negative thing. I’ve expressed before that being vulnerable doesn’t make me weak. It makes me stronger every time it backfires, but when it doesn’t I am reminded why I live and love as openly as I do. It also makes me stubborn and persistent. I can see past all the verbal armor people use on a daily basis, excuses that we think protect us from our own fears and insecurities. I promise you, they protect you from nothing. If anything you become a victim of yourself, and eventually those things become who you are instead of the things inside that actually define you. These are the things I see as an empath.
This also means I can tell when I’m being lied to or set aside. I can tell when a relationship has become about sentimental nostalgia instead of new refreshed emotion. I don’t like it, and at times I’ve tried to fight it, but I can always feel it. It’s at these times where I have a choice, just as I have a choice whether or not to speak up when I see these things affecting others. Do I speak up? Do I keep trying to fool myself with the same sentimentality? Do I force a change or do I wait for the inevitable?
Being an empath has taught me to throw everything I have to the surface, to give all of myself to those I feel won’t abuse it, and to see doors most people would generally walk past. It’s also taught me to identify other empaths, because they are generally the people I can communicate with on an unspoken level. There’s an amazing bond between two people who can feel everything happening in each other. My world is full of them. We laugh together, we hurt together, and we experience love together, and it’s extremely painful when someone starts to distance.
This. This is what I fear. This is my biggest concern coming true. Distance from someone who once knew me so well. So what do I do? This, friends, is where my soul is.
Go now, get in touch with yourself.