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All my life I have been the “unique one” in my family. At the age of 5 I was determined to be the next Reba McEntire, and it didn’t get any more normal for me from there. I don’t think it was any surprise to my family that I chose some sort of alternative lifestyle. I think the main question was which one I would pick and when. That being said, I never really came out to my family about any of it. If anything they outed me to themselves.
I have been a decidedly practicing pagan since before I moved out on my own, and my daily practices before that all had pagan flavour no matter what I called it. I never hid my alter, my tools, or my jewelry. No one asked. My dad did ask me once to light a candle for something for him, but beyond that no one mentioned it until I was wedding planning. No one had heard of a handfasting, and my mother-in-law had been telling people we were having a “traditional Celtic wedding”. With a guest list of Catholics, Lutherans, Protestants, Jews, and a few others thrown in for good measure, we expected some questions, and we worked hard to put together a ceremony that was both true to our spirituality and not alienating for our guests. In the end we heard nothing but good about our ceremony, and it was everything we’d dreamed of. I guess, in a way, it was our coming out, and we did so my showing how beautiful our spirituality can be.
I’ve felt my sexuality from a very young age. I don’t think there was ever a question in my mind or heart that I was Pansexual, even if I didn’t have the words for any of it. My mother never told me I was wrong, and it was just who I was. I never felt the need to have a “coming out”. I did try to talk about it a few times, but it never resulted in anything memorable. Though he had heard me use the word “girlfriend”, the first time my father and I ever discussed it he had met my girlfriend and was more concerned about the trappings of polyamory than anything else. That was the same weekend Hubby and took him to his first Pride festival. He wasn’t particularly comfortable, but he went along with us and did what he has always done as my dad. He watched and listened and didn’t judge or protest.
Our talks with our respective families about polyamory was as close as I have ever come to “coming out”. Hubby just up and mentioned our girlfriend in conversation one day. My dad asked me on a visit from California because my grandmother had taken to reading my blog and had given it her own twist. In each case the conversation was calm and pretty well received. Both parents met our partners at the time, and once they were sure we were being safe and that we were both happy with the arrangement they were fine.
A lot of my lazy “coming out” process can be attributed to social media. I only have the energy and time for one Facebook, so all my friends and family get to see the same online persona. I have had cousins I didn’t know paid that much attention tell me they think it’s really positive how I live. This past summer I had a really relaxed conversation about polyamory with my grandmother, dad, and a cousin, and no one seemed weirded out about it.
This has been my experience more often than not in my family, and for that I can be grateful, because I know it isn’t the case for everyone. I am in constant awe and appreciation that I can discuss men who are not my husband with my mother-in-law and she doesn’t even bat an eye. I feel like I could tell my dad I like to paint myself purple and roll in marshmallows and he wouldn’t judge me unless it led to some kind of jail time. I’ve never felt the need to make a grand gesture of “coming out” because I’ve never felt like I wouldn’t be accepted for being who I am and acting accordingly.
There is a saying that “coming out” is something we do every time we meet someone new, and it’s true. I do it whenever I mention my husband and my girlfriend in casual conversation. I do it whenever our whole family goes somewhere together and I don’t introduce our partners as “friends”. I do it when I wear rainbow or pentagram jewelry or someone sees my poly heart tattoo. I do it by how I live, because I refuse to censor myself for strangers. If you ask about my family, my holidays, or my home I will tell you the truth. This is just the way it is for me, no matter what day it is.
I was once told during a Mabon divination ritual to plant my seeds in the winter instead of the spring like most, and it has rang true that I am generally more inspired and fruitful in the darker half of the year. Maybe it comes from the introspection that comes in the colder seasons. I am less distracted by the light energy and vibrating dance of the spring and summer. It could also be that I find my inspiration in the darker portions of myself, those places that we often try to ignore or change.
In the story of Persephone we see an eventual balance of light and dark. In embracing the darkness and joining Hades, Persephone sets in motion the events that create a separation between the light and dark times of the year. It is her journey that brings the world balance.
It is important that we too have this balance in our lives to reach our full potential. Persephone doesn’t just travel to the darkness, she loved it. She takes it in and tastes it, and in the end she returns to it again and again as a part of her self. We too must learn to experience and love our darkness as a part of who we are.
When we use the word “darkness” we think of frightening and unwelcome things. We think of violence and negativity. We think of anything dark as a blight, but true darkness can be a thing of beauty. The dark is “scary” because that’s when our imaginations take over, but some of life’s most magical things come from the imagination. The dark is the unknown, but the unknown gives us endless possibilities if we can get over our fear of it. From the dark we pull courage, strength, and inner calm. If we use what the darkness can give us to create and grow as much as we use the light we can be unstoppable.
Inner darkness is a place of deep emotion, sensuality, and survival. A place of transformation and rebirth. Each of these aspects of our personality holds immense power and potential that can be tapped into if we can take the steps to make our own journey to our own Underworld. I won’t say it’s not a little daunting. Steps are unsure and footing is loose. At first it can be terrifying, but once you’ve mapped the route and made peace with the darkness it can be a place of solace and quiet comfort.
Loving your darkness is about balance, but it is also about releasing fear. Once you are fearless you are free.
Go now, embrace your darkness.
(This post is a little later than I wanted it to be, but it fits with the overall theme of the topic. See, I’m not a procrastinator; I’m a demonstrator.)
We live in a world of five year plans and college prep pre-schools, a world where, at 30, I am considered too old to make new plans or pursue unmet dreams and goals. Now, were it my dream to be an Olympic gymnast I’d agree with that sentiment, but I believe those things to be the exception, not the rule.
At Mabon we celebrate the late harvest and the beginning of Autumn. This brings two very important things our way.
The late harvest is our last chance to stock up for the coming cold seasons. We must decide what we can and cannot use and rid our valuable space of anything that isn’t useful or that takes up too much room in order to keep what will help us thrive through the winter months. Setting goals and following our passions can sometimes require sacrifice and tough decisions. There may be people who don’t support us and hold us back. There may be other activities we have to miss and other interests that must be set aside to focus on those goals. Dreams take time, money, and effort to be viable. In the meantime we must be able to feed, clothe, and house ourselves. This generally leaves little room for anything else. What are you willing to give up to store your dreams?
The beginning of Autumn is also the beginning of the dark half of the year, which is generally a time where we turn inward. Introspection is always my first step when reaching for a goal. Why is it something I want? Is it really what I want, or am I trying to fill some other void? Is it something that can actually be accomplished? What will it take to get me there? I cannot begin to make real plans until my head and heart are in the right place to do so. Imagine trying to write a novel with a litany of other things on your mind. You will most likely end up distracted, frustrated, and incoherent. Clearing your thoughts and structuring your life to be conducive to writing a novel before you begin is going to give you the clearest path to that end result, and your novel is more likely to reach its full potential. When you are strong and healthy so are your dreams. The same is true when you are cluttered and not in top form. Take the time if you need it to prepare during this time of introspection so that you’ll be fresh and vibrant when the light returns and it’s time to plant again.
The key components here are dedication and optimism. In today’s disheartening economy it can sometimes be hard to imagine having the opportunity to reach out of the rut of keeping ourselves alive to even attempt to touch our dreams. Many people my age are still looking ahead to owning our first homes or having a family simply because it is not yet feasible to do so. Many more who have attempted it are struggling to keep it all afloat or have given up. We take jobs that pay some of the bills, and we work ourselves to exhaustion to pay a few more. We have become accustomed to debt and failed credit checks, because we simply don’t have a choice. It’s hard to see past the daily struggle sometimes and imagine being able to do something that makes us passionate, and the idea that we have missed our chance at a good life is prevalent. I’m here proposing the alternative that while the conditions might not be ideal, and while it won’t be an easy task, it’s not too late to keep trying. It’s not too late to make plans and set goals.
It’s Mabon, and it’s time to embrace the late harvest!
Go now, set a new goal!
At 10 years old I was already painfully aware that I was different. I had braces, wore glasses, and was already an outcast. At 13 I had lost my mother and was frantically trying to form an identity that wasn’t awkward. I was completely lost. With very few female role models in my life, my teenage years were a mix of trial and error and what knowledge I could glean from friends who hadn’t figured it out any more than I had. At 18 I had just had my first kiss and was beginning to become the person I am today. I just didn’t know it yet, and I fought against it for many years. At 20 I had my first serious relationship, but I still struggled with the person I was and how I behaved with those I loved. I had left school and had had some pretty deep scars to begin to heal. By 25 I had made some drastic changes in my life. I had begun to embrace all the aspects of myself, but I had only just begun. I fluctuated wildly between self loathing and self empowerment, and I constantly questioned whether or not the one person who said he loved me, desired me, and accepted me for all of who I was could be trusted. I was just beginning my battle with Fibromyalgia, and I constantly struggled with depression. I had a very long road ahead of me. My childhood and the bullying I had received from all sides about my weight, my personality, my mental and physical health issues, and my past mistakes had done a lot of damage. I was still very broken.
But here I am having completely neglected any good that has happened in my life. I have had a family who loves me even if he don’t always understand me or my decisions. Though she passed just as I was coming into my own and forming a more mature mother-daughter relationship, I had a fantastic role model and inspiration in my mother. I may have only had a handful of friends, but they were some of the best friends I could have ever asked for and the reason I pulled though so many rough patches. At 19 I was a member of an art gallery and on my way to running poetry readings and open mics. Albeit on a very small scale, I was living my dreams. I have had amazing jobs at portrait studios, the zoo, and now at an airline working fantastic people every day. I have thrived despite my medical issues and come out stronger. I have built an amazing tribe of friends and chosen family, and my life is moving forward every day. In this past year I have worked towards getting a license an completed my first mud run.
Last week I turned 30. I still have moments of self doubt, but I have started to see my life and who I am for what it is, beautiful and unique. I am starting to accept my body for how it is not how I think it should be. I have begun to believe people when they call me beautiful or sexy. My faith grows only stronger as I mature. I have begun to fully experience my sexuality and sexual identity. I am loving the way I choose to love and make no apologies for being different. I have fully embraced the parts of me that are quirky, geeky, an spontaneous. I have simply stopped letting people tell me I can’t, stopped letting them tell me I won’t, and stopped letting them tell me to grow up. There are goals I wish I’d have met by this point in my life and plans I’ve had to change as life has flowed in different directions, but I have had amazing adventures and grabbed a opportunities I never would have dreamed imaginable. I am embracing 30 with renewed spirit and a better understanding of who I am and what I want from life. The things I hid, shunned, and tried to eschew at 20 are the things that make me dazzle at 30. I feel like this past year has given me a new life, and I fully intend to live every last minute of it…at 30.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been training for a mud run. This weekend that day finally came, and my teammate and I geared up and prepared ourselves to face a pretty big unknown. Where we ready? Had we trained enough? Had we trained for the right things? What on earth had we signed up for?
As I tied my shoes and watched the crowd gather at the starting line I began to lose my grip on the childlike “fun in the mud” motto I had developed during training, and reality threatened my confidence. I am not a child. I’m almost 30. I’ve been overweight my entire life and have battled Fibromyalgia for the last five years. What was I thinking? Too proud to back out, I took a deep breath and tried to not look like I wanted to vomit.
The horn sounded, and we dashed up the first hill only to wait in line for the crawl to the first obstacle, The Mud Pit. I trudged in about two steps before the mud sucked me in like something out of a cartoon. My shoe was gone. My only recourse was to dig it out, remove the other one, and clamor through the pit barefoot. I did, and rather ungracefully I might add. Then I pulled myself from the muck as the image of the mammoth at the La Brea Tar Pits came to mind. I laughed, fell back in the pit, laughed again, scraped my way to relatively dry ground, and put my shoes back on. We were going to do this thing if it killed us, and I was not so convinced it wouldn’t.
For 3 miles we slipped, climbed, sprinted, and limped our way through mud, water, foam, and rocks. We cheered each other on and offered encouragement when it looked like one of us might give up and go home early. We laughed, we danced, and we put on the most convincing smiles we could for each other, but when we saw the 2 miles checkpoint we knew we had it in the bag. Then we came to it, the obstacle that had been on my mind since we registered for the run.
The Death Drop. A 40 ft inflatable slide. I don’t handle heights well. I handle falling from those heights even less well. The panic hit me about half way up the ladder. My knees buckled. I shook all over. I froze for a second, my teammate cheering my on from the top. The world silenced as I slowly edged my way to the top. I didn’t want to look over the side, but I did, after which I promptly told the attendant that he could call the helicopter any time, because there was no way I was going over the side. Well, there was no helicopter, and there wasn’t going to be any helicopter. My only option was to let go and plummet to the bottom.
I am happy to report that I survived the fall. I have pictures and clean pants to prove it! We finished the race, and I have seldom felt such a sense of accomplishment and power within myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve trusted myself to find my own strength and help a teammate find hers. It’s been a long time since I was able to feel like there’s a lot of life left in me.
To me it’s not a coincidence that this run took place on Litha, a day of power and fruition. All our hard work and preparation, the seeds we have sown for months, was worth it. People thought we were crazy, and maybe we are for rolling around in three miles of mud, but not for thinking we could do it in the first place.
Go now, do something crazy!
My maiden name is Italian, and the red highlights that grace my hair in the summertime could have come from anywhere, but I married an Irish boy who takes his corned beef and cabbage very seriously. St Patrick’s Day has become an imperative celebration in our household, and there is no shame about it. I will gladly patronize my local Five Below for all the obnoxious green, blinking, sparkly accessories I can muster, dress like a fool for a night, and have a good time with my family.
With it currently being trendy to be cynical, sarcastic, and non-participatory with every day set aside to be special (ie. Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day) I get hassled a lot by anyone from hipsters thinking they’re ironic to geeks giving me a diatribe about historical accuracy and political correctness like it’s new information. I’ve learned not to take it personally and asked them all not to be offended when I celebrate anyway just because it’s a tradition. St Patrick’s Day has as much to do with St Patrick as Cinco de Mayo has with Mexico. Nothing. It’s a traditional celebration that brings people together and begs them to pull the stick from their backsides.
For me it’s not about the drinking, as I’ve had plenty of dry St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Honestly, if you need alcohol to have a good time you’re doing something wrong. For me it’s about letting loose and not worrying about a single thing for a few hours.
Our society has lost a lot of it’s ability to have fun for no good reason, to be silly and unplanned, to look ridiculous as a crowd. There is nothing wrong with looking like a fool for a day. As long as my responsibilities are being taken care of I have earned the privilege to put on a green wig and dance like a fool, and I’d like to see anyone try and stop me.
At Imbolc we prepare for and rejoice in the coming spring. It’s a time of clearing away, planning, and preparations. It’s a time of promise and hope. There is still cold to be endured, but the darkest parts of winter are over.
Over the last year our family has been through Hell more than once. While it has fortifies us, it has also left us with a thick layer of ash and detritus of things that no longer serve us, those things we had to burn before we could move forward. A few weeks ago Hubby and I began the process of cleaning out not only the emotional litter and clutter, but the physical as well, and it really has made a lot of difference in our strength as a team.
One of the deities most associated with Imbolc is Brighid. I have dedicated myself Brighid for many years now. I have made offerings and called to her in times of celebration and need, and she has become a very important aspect of my spirit, but lately I have felt the need for a better connection to my inner Brighid, the part of me that has seen me through the times of greatest fire. This year my Imbolc celebration and personal work centered on making this connection. I have a litany of ambitious goals for the coming year, and if there is to be any progress then I will need her with me in all her forms.
The maiden to keep a creative, whimsical optimism to lead me through the most mundane tasks with the knowledge that something magical and truly happy awaits at the end.
The mother and midwife to help me give birth to my ideas and passions and nurture all my undertakings, and to help those around me do the same for theirs.
The crone to have the wisdom to succeed where I can and let go of what just can’t be done.
The warrior to be strong even when I am weary and outnumbered.
The blacksmith to fortify those around me who may feel weak.
The healer to keep myself and my family healthy and tend to them when sickness or uneasiness settles upon us.
The poet to keep the words flowing, the inspiration lighted, and communication smooth.
Never before have I felt the heat of Brighid’s dancing flame and the depth of her healing waters, and never before have I felt so empowered. I spent this Imbolc alone with my thoughts, my soul, and my words, and I was able to finally make a connection to the goddess that has been waiting inside me. All she needed was a spark.
When you plant a seed you have an idea of what it will grow into. You hold that picture in your mind as you watch the seed sprout and move through all the crucial stages of development, until one day it is right there in front of you in full bloom. Sometimes the end result is exactly what you expected. Sometimes you get something completely different, and you can choose to either appreciate it for what it is or feel disappointed. Either way you have invested time, energy, and patience to watch your seed grow.
That’s what it takes to be the farmer, but what does it take to be the seed? What does it take to possibly have no idea what you will become or how long it will take? What does it take to have faith that you will grow into a boon not a burden and trust the one or ones tending to you to know what you need and keep you safe and healthy? What does it take to truly know that all the stages of your growth are important and that the end result is exactly where and what you should be? What does it take to be confident in your knowledge of how to grow and be strong, when to push that growth, and when to let nature take its course?
At Mabon we celebrate the harvest as we reap the rewards of patient tending and take a lesson from the patience and dedication it took to sustain that which will sustain us through the cold season. This year my message has been a hard and heavy one about no longer looking at myself as the farmer and instead accepting my place as the seed. Where I would generally shape I must let myself be shaped. Where I would guide I must let myself be lead. This doesn’t mean I stop trying, it simply means I try differently. Patience, intuition, and introspection. Only then can I grow into something that will sustain and reach its full potential. Only then can I nourish the world.