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These past few months have been an extremely eye-opening experience for me, and the past week has turned all of that into yet another set of lessons to be learned. Now that the dust is starting to settle, and I am beginning to see my way out of it all, I can take a little time to reflect and decide where my next steps take me and how I proceed.
A few months ago I met someone who really challenged how I’ve let myself open up emotionally to new partners. I’ve generally been a pretty closed off person. While I’ve let myself love to a point I have not made myself completely emotionally available. I have not taken down the defenses that have been in place for many many years, and that has worked fine for me. I’ve always considered Hubby a fluke. He was the first to find a way in that didn’t mean total devastation and the first to stay even when things got rough. Because of this he has been the only one to have access to all of me.
That is, until this summer. Suddenly there was this presence in my life, and I didn’t know how to react. I resisted at first, but by the time I realized how much he had managed to bring down my defenses they were gone. The feeling was both terrifying and liberating, but I didn’t really know how to process what I was feeling or integrate it into how I was operating at the time.
My need for past tense writing started about a week ago when the presence that had so suddenly appeared in my life just as suddenly vanished. Texts, phone calls, emails all went unanswered, and I had a choice to either assume something terrible had happened or assume he’d written me off for some reason.
It is no secret to anyone, and definitely was no secret to him, that I have some pretty strong abandonment issues. Years ago someone I cared very strongly for was sent to Afghanistan. Unfortunately he was ashamed of me, and his family didn’t know I existed. If anything had happened to him no one would have called me. I spent a few months reading lists of dead soldiers before really facing the fact at I had to give it up and move on or I’d drive myself crazy. Incidentally he came home alive, he just never called me when he did. It wasn’t the first time someone had up and vanished on me, and it wouldn’t be the last, but it seemed to happen that every time I really invested myself in someone he either disappeared or caused some other kind of serious upheaval of my life. When Hubby and I decided to be poly it gave me an outlet for my capacity to love but let me stay safeguarded.
I never imagined this is how this particular relationship would end, no matter how young it was. We’d had these talks, he knew I could accept that this just wasn’t for him. I’m pretty sure he knew I’d rather go through anything than a vanishing act, not just because of my issues with abandonment but also because until I accept that that’s what has happened I worry. There’s even an interim where I can’t even think “there better be a good explanation for this” because I care too much to think of something that serious happening to him. The caveat with that is that if nothing happened and I really have just been left hanging, why should I care? I do. Usually to a fault. It is this lack of certainty and the abruptness of it that leaves me more confused and hurt than angry. My mother in law tells me all the time that I don’t get angry enough, but what good does that do anyone? None.
In any case, I am left with a couple of options now. I can either revert to old patterns, and this was all for nothing, or I can garner some lessons and a chance to grow from it. Hubby has challenged me to move on without putting my walls back up, and I have promised to try. I am now learning to use the resources and support I have, the tools the last several years have added to my kit, and the people around me to develop more healthy coping mechanisms than I had when I was monogamous or single.
My first instinct is to shut down emotionally and throw myself into as many meaningless sexual relationships as present themselves. My next instinct is to stop taking care of myself and shack up with depression for a while. This is no longer an option in my life. My family counts on me, Hubby still needs me to be emotionally available, and I owe it to myself to stay focused and stable. My goals, my focus, and my drive will not suffer because I feel like burying myself. I will not let myself believe I am broken or unlovable. I will not let this completely disintegrate all the confidence and self-worth I have managed to build, which was pretty non-existent until a few years ago. This may mean I actually have to face, fight, and overcome the mountain that is my fear of abandonment, and I have to do this without putting any extra dependence on my support system. Whew! This is a lot of unexpected personal work, but I feel like it’s been a long time coming and will really help me move forward in many areas of my life.
Relationship wise this has really taught me how polyamory can feel. Up until that bit at the end I was unbelievably happy. Something about it had that piece I’d been missing. I just need to identify what it was and learn to see it in future partners. It also showed me how I want to be treated by new people in my life and how good it can feel to have a relationship that doesn’t start with sex. You wouldn’t think that at the age of 29 this would be an unknown anomaly to me, but it was. I have never had a serious relationship that didn’t start with sex an develop into connection. Having it grow this way instead was a huge awakening for me, and something I’d like to reproduce. Maybe a part of me has felt that without that element I couldn’t hold someone’s attention enough for him to stick around. I’m ignoring he voice inside me that says I still haven’t, but seriously, I have settled a lot in the past because of the false pretense that anything comfortable was better than nothing. I think this experience will make me less likely to settle now that I know I am capable of opening myself up so much.
The biggest lesson to come out of this will be how to heal under the surface while getting on with the rest of my life. This is something I have never mastered, but something I’m prepared to take on if it means a more healthy me coming out of this. I had my core rocked pretty hard. Yes, I am still a bit shaken and shattered. I still expect to have my moments, but I’m learning to have them, let them out when I can, and move forward. Next time I will be better equipped and better able to handle this kind of situation. The alternative is to stop falling in love, and I don’t intend to ever try to harness that animal. It’s just who I am to love, and once someone gets that from me it’s complete. That won’t change.
I am fully aware that this will not be an overnight healing process. It will take a lot of time and work to be able to put myself in this position again, and I cannot just shutdown and turn all my focus inward. I have to accept that he will not be the one to give me my closure. There will be no explanations, and I have to accept that and actually be ok with it. In a way I’ve already changed how I deal with feeling hurt. I haven’t burned any bridges, and I have let him know that he can fix this if he wants to. Other than that there’s not much I can do except move forward and take the lessons I have learned with me.
One little word with all the power in the world. The word love has the power to grant gifts of flight and healing. It can help us cope with loss and distance and overcome addiction and fear.
One syllable that acts like a Pandora’s box. It enfolds passion, compassion, and value. It becomes synonymous with desire, need, and cherish. It encompasses so much, yet leaves just as much unable to describe or speak.
Love also holds great capacity for hurt. It can enslave and obsess. It can be used to cut down or to allow ourselves to be cut down. For love people make themselves vulnerable and blind. For love we withstand abuse and isolation. Love gives us the ability to look past anything and accept anything from those to whom we give it. Love can be a drug and a poison, and one that makes us do and say awful things to one another because we find it justified.
Can love alone sustain a marriage? Can love help one see past loneliness and feelings of inadequacy? Can love exist where there is not a common goal?
These are questions I find myself asking. Am I a failure? Is my love enough? Am I loving properly and to my fullest potential or have I confused it with something else? After five years of persevering and surviving with love in my holster, is it still strong enough? If so, why is it that we are so easily able to hurt one another? How is it that the man who knows me the best, inside and out, could hold it against me?
I keep trying because I love him. I do whatever I can, become whatever I can, and hope I don’t lose everything good I have managed to become in the process. Because of his love I am a better person and a better woman, at least that’s how I felt.
I’ve talked a lot about changing. People change. Sometimes we change together, and sometimes we move very far apart. In moving apart, especially with the aspects of polyamory that allow me to make other connections and bonds, can we still exist as a family? How do we redefine ourselves? Is it possible to do so without losing who we are as a couple?
I refuse to give up so easily, but he has told me to prepare to face the fact that this may no longer be good for either of us, that what I need is not him, that my life could be happier without him. I’ve heard this a few times in the past few years, and it has always hurt to hear, even if some parts of it resonate with my own thoughts at times.
Am I being stubborn? Am I giving up? Can he still love me with the changes we’ve both made?
Friends, I have no idea. I’m terrified of the possibilities. In the last seven months my entire family structure has disintegrated, but I never thought it would rupture like this. We’ve had our moments, but we’ve always seen them through. Can we again? He’s never left before. Tonight I sit alone…for love.
“Please be a traveler,not a tourist.
Try new things,
meet new people,
and look beyond
what’s right in front of you.
Those are the keys to understanding
this amazing world we live in.”
I’m officially home from a month working and living in New York City with a flash card full of pictures, a head full of memories, and a severe plague from living in a hotel full of piped air for a month.
When I got there I was a little nervous. I used to do new things all the time. I used to be really adept at navigating new cities and never shied from experiencing something new on my own. Since meeting Hubby, however, the solo missions have slowed to a trickle, but if I was going to see anything but LaGuardia Airport I needed to reclaim that adventurous spirit.
My first day was a little rough. I almost boarded a bus in the wrong direction, and I got off at the wrong stop. I ended up in a Duane Reade in Jackson Heights. I hadn’t yet had the chance to get a MetroCard, and I had spent all my coins on the bus that had just left me on the curb on the verge of tears. Under the guise of grabbing a bottle of water, I let out a sob, pulled myself together, and chastised myself for being ridiculous. This was not my first time in NYC, let alone on a bus, and I had not just spent my last $2.25 ever. I was not trapped. I was not lost. I was not in trouble. I was letting myself panic.
I remember my first trip to NYC. I fell directly into the Big City Panic, forgetting I had navigated cities before. NYC is really no different. It may be a little bigger, but because of that it may actually be a little better prepared for the chaos. It is well mapped, well canvassed with mass transit that runs 24-hours a day, and crowded enough that you can always find someone to ask if you really have to. I have never been “lost” for more than five minutes in NYC, which is nothing compared to the amount of time I have spent completely turned around in Philadelphia, where I’ve lived for over ten years. It’s really not as complicated as it seems. It’s big, yes. It’s complex, definitely, but neither of those things has to equal complicated.
By my next trip anywhere I had figured out the websites, the apps, the maps, and my own directional calibration to the way the city is laid out. I bused and trained through Astoria, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and by the time Hubby drove in to visit I knew not only how to get where he wanted to go by car but where to find free parking. That’s right, free parking in Manhattan, friends.
And there you have it, the lesson of the day. Oh please, you saw it coming. How often do we do this, friends? In love, in life, in anything? Since this is a blog about poly, pagan householding I’ll funnel it there, but this can apply to any new venture in life. How many times have I heard, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t even know where to start”? I know I’ve done it. Hell, I know I did it with polyamory, with most of our big hobbies, even with my writing.
They keys are not to panic and to break it down into pieces that make sense. We didn’t start this open marriage with a dozen serious partners. We started with one, and believe me, that one brought out enough issues and points in our marriage that needed work. That one lead to enough discussions and changes in how we did things and interacted with each other and those around us, how we dealt with conflict and negativity. That one seemed like our Big City Panic enough to make us run for the hills, but we didn’t. We learned the maps. We stuck together, used our heads and our hearts, and we found that it did make sense if we looked at it calmly.
We have tried to take this approach to the big changes that life has thrown at us: my illness, moving, changes in our family. Sometimes we realize somewhere along the line that we’ve fallen into the Panic. Ok, so sometimes he realizes it for me. It’s then that we have to reel ourselves in and remind ourselves that it’s really not that complicated.
As Hubby likes to remind me:
“Step 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“Step 2: It’s all small stuff.”
Go now, uncomplicate.
SO, friends, it’s been a while. Tonight is not about a lesson, personal gnosis, or experience. There’s no big moral to find in the end. Tonight is just about staying connected. After all, I’m not a textbook. I’m not a doctor. I’m not some kind of oddly specialized robot. I’m a real person trying to share my life experiences, and with that real person life comes real person life issues that get in front of the things I’d like to be doing.
For weeks I didn’t write because I felt I had nothing special to say, so I didn’t say anything. I was stressed beyond the point of writing anything coherent. I found myself as close to single as I can get as a married poly woman, all my relationships aside from that with Hubby fading away, and the stress of our living situation finally starting to crack me. I felt distant from my faith and powerless in my life. Normal life goals, the American Dream, seemed lost and unattainable.
So what did I do? I got a tattoo. Now, before you close the browser and assume I got some sissy hip tattoo that I decided on at the last minute, think again. That’s what Hubby did as I was sitting in a chair being inked by one of my best friends, but never mind that. The design I now have permanently inked on my left shoulder was one I thought about for a long time, and one that ended up being extremely significant and personal. Here it is, friends.
Freedom. All the struggles and setbacks aside, this is what keeps me going ever day. I have a husband who loves me and allows me to love unconditionally and without boundaries. I can love however and whomever I wish to let into my heart, and that’s an extremely powerful thing. The lovebirds are a symbol of our choice to be life mates, no matter who or what enters our lives. Live, Laugh, Love. We’ve all seen this somewhere. My first time seeing them together like this was the week of my mother’s funeral. She had ordered me a tea set for my birthday, and it had those words painted on the teapot. Any time I feel a need to reconnect with her spirit inside me it comes through in those words, as they emanated from her like a beacon. She taught me how to live, laugh, and love no matter what I was experiencing in life, and that has given me the freedom to be myself, be strong, and be faithful to my spirit and my family through adversity and hardship. We won’t focus on the fact that the font used on a tattoo bearing a recognized symbol of polyamory is called “Wedding Nightmare”.
So there it is. I can choose to give up and live in the attic of a smoke-filled house forever. I can forget ever having a place of our own or being financially stable enough to start a family. I can live my life afraid to love because it might end and I might be sad. I can lie down and admit defeat, or I can choose to be free, and in choosing to be free I can be empowered to change it. I can choose to live, laugh, and love and never let my faith or spirit go sour.
That’s what I choose, friends. I’ve now got a permanent mark on my body to prove it.
Go now; live, laugh, love.
My tradition’s yearly installment of a ritual honouring Cernnunos always hits me somewhere deeper than I walk in expecting, but this year his message may as well have come with a gift tag with my name on it. It was one I wish I’d been able to hear a week sooner, but one I may have needed a little pain with to really absorb and appreciate.
He spoke of hard times, both ones we’ve endured in the past year and those yet to come. He spoke of the fight we must be willing to put up to keep our spirits alive. He spoke of enjoying life despite hard times, using the light and energy from those memories to recharge us when life seems bleak. Sometimes it’s not the moment of the belly laugh we need as we’re short of breath with tears streaming from our eyes. Sometimes it’s the memory of that laugh, with whom it was shared, or how it felt not to care who heard or saw us or what they thought about it that inspires us in the moments when we most want to scream, cry, and give up on life. It’s these moments that make that laugh a beautiful gift. Our ability to remember and relive is magickal and transformative, but only if we use it.
My four-year old stepson is in crisis mode every time he leaves our house. In his mind the world is ending. He’s leaving us, and that thought takes over his young mind. It’s a heartbreaking routine, but every week we remind him of all the fin we shared that day and assure him he’ll be back to do it all again before he knows it.
Oh, how we adults have convinced ourselves we have grown past this type of behaviour. Frankly, we haven’t. In fact, we have made it all even more complicated with “complexes”, excuses, addictions, and people who enable and feed our negative outlook. The four-year old moves on with life. The :mature adults” dwell, hold grudges, and give up on those “fun” moments. We forget how to live and begin to merely survive, or worse, give in to self-defeat and stop worrying about survival altogether. I won’t let the four-year old handle my “good china”, but I will take a lesson from him on what’s really valuable.
This leads me to wonder why adults tend to use our ability to remember only to dwell in the negative past. Why do we readily dig up abuses and even the most petty arguments we had as children but not remember the hug or kind word we received just yesterday? Furthermore, why do we forget how far this fight to keep the spirit alive has brought each one of us?
Yesterday I stopped myself short of complaining about lugging my overnight bag to and from work everyday. Merely two years ago I would not have picked the bag up, let alone carried it for 20 minutes. I realized then how much I fall prey to this mentality. Had I forgotten the long road I’ve taken to get here? Had I forgotten that I could not walk to the bathroom let alone the thirty blocks I walked today to run errands? Had I forgotten the days I spent bracing myself against counters so my customers would not notice I was unable to stand on my own? Had I forgotten that up until recently I had been one sick day away from derailing my career path? I am not functional, working overtime, planning a wedding, and thriving. I found the fuel to learn, research, and execute a plan, all while stuck in a constant fog of confusion and exhaustion.
In the worst days of my illness I had never given up, but a little stress was going to break me? Why? How? The memories flood back to me even now. On my darkest days, when I was tired and weak, I was reminded by everyone around me that the sun was still shining, I was still loved, and there was still joy to be found in life. Every time Hubby tried, with tears of helpless frustration in his eyes, to make me smile and laugh, every time a friend took me to the mall or sent me a silly text message, or every time I had a rare good day and was able to forget the pain gave me fuel to keep going, keep fighting, and keep growing. I never lost faith, and I never let the spirit die.
That fact, above all else, is what hit me when I heard Cernnunos speak to me. I had forgotten the long arduous road behind me. I had forgotten the scars, the landmarks,a nd the victories that were no small feat to overcome. I had forgotten every moment I had been a warrior, and I had dismissed the belly laugh, the sunny day, and the touch of a lover for insignificant everyday hassles and annoyances. I was throwing a tantrum over a broken crayon. I certainly would never accept this behaviour from the four-year old. Why on earth was I accepting it from myself? It certainly wasn’t helping my in any way? Help, not hinder, Autumn!
The message Cernnunos gave was not a bubble wrapped, candy coated assurance that everything will be copacetic as long as we think happy thoughts and keep a firm hand on the pixie dust. It was to remind us of the reality that bad things will happen, probably to you and me, and we will be miserable and strained if we refuse to find some reminder that those bad things do not rule our lives, nor can we relinquish our responsibility to the earth because we’re tired of the bad days. The message was, you might as well find some enjoyment in it and let that enjoyment get you through the rough spots.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many more of these recharging moments you begin to recognize once you start to acknowledge and appreciate them. They’ve always been there. You’ve just been too wrapped up in a tantrum to notice.
Go now, whistle while you work.
Something happened this week that stirred up some pretty serious issues inside me and caused a few new ones. In the past I have had a few ways of dealing with these types of situations, and none of them were healthy.
I learned at a young age to shove my problems down until I had a private moment to feel them. This allowed me to do so in private with no one realizing there was anything tumultuous happening in my life. It also allowed me to continue to fulfil my obligations and satisfy my responsibilities before I let my world stop for a moment, thereby avoiding a serious rift in relationships, jobs, or school. My mom taught me that breakdowns happen when life gives us a spare moment, and not a minute sooner. We don’t stop our lives or expect anyone else to stop his or hers because we’re int he middle of a personal tragedy. We don’t let it affect the world around us, and in no way is it ever acceptable to give up on our day-to-day lives. Life goes on, and it’s an injustice to hold back a moment of levity because we feel hurt or scared. It the chance to laugh or smile arises, no matter how brief, we owe it to ourselves to let it happen. The tears will be there when we get to them.
A couple times this lesson has failed, which ultimately lead to my leaving Drexel University or quitting a job I desperately needed. I have yet to return to school, and I returned to the job a year later. My life will never be the same because of the choices I made. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I’d better handled those rifts, but I was young. Hell, I’m still young, and while I don’t pretend to have all the answers the events of the past few days have shown me how much I’ve grown.
Yesterday was a rough day for me emotionally, physically, and mentally. To top it all off I was at work and the few people within reach were not available. I had my moments in private and let myself give in once my work was finished. After a long night of talking with Hubby, sleep that extended hours longer than usual, and a piece of cheesecake waiting for me when I finally emerged from the bedroom I knew I wasn’t past the internal storm, but outwardly I could be strong again. I also knew I could learn from this experience.
While my typical strategy is to shut down and refuse to let anyone or anything beyond the intricate walls I’ve built since childhood, it doesn’t serve me. In fact, it’s generally a detriment. I’ve lost friends, love, and memories. I’ve hurt myself and those around me. No, this time I am determined not to let this happen. I may still have weak spots and tender wounds, but they don’t need to spread to take over my entire self. I will not let one event tear down all the progress I’ve made. Instead, I will fight the urge to run and hide.
My new plan? Levity. While it is imperative to deal with my injured psyche and spirit internally, because to ignore it would be extremely unhealthy and counterproductive, I will immerse my self in an environment of levity, adventure, and learning. To avoid letting myself become numb I will stimulate and energize myself with new experiences and old joys. I will surround myself with people who love me, people who make me laugh, and people who intrigue me. I will fight the darkness with a brilliant light show that only I can provide.
I have always believed in the phrase, know thyself. It’s been a challenge for me to find her in the darkness, let alone know her, but this time I feel like I’m a step closer. There is a me who shines. A me who is strong and resilient, and always has been. A me who doesn’t just survive, but lives. I may not know her intimately yet, but I’m starting to see her in a new light, and she is shimmering like stardust in the night sky. It’s time to let her take over for a while and see what she can do. What better time than the darkest?
Go now, shine.
In the past few weeks there have been more suicides in the young LGBT community than I can count on one hand. As a teacher, a mother, a member of the queer community, and a citizen of the country that is doing nothing to protect these young people from harassment, abuse, and humiliation, I find this trend unacceptable on a violently angry level. We’re talking the type of anger that makes my pupils twitch and my hands shake. These kids, like many in our community, were treated in ways that would make anyone feel helpless and hopeless, especially at a point in their lives where they are vividly aware of their differences and want nothing more than to be accepted.
All across the country gay adolescents are told they’re just confused, that they’re broken or sick, and that they should be ashamed of how they feel, think, and love. At best they are ignored by their parents, but often they are punished, chastised, or beaten. They are cast away, kicked out of their homes, and shunned by their families. Their spiritual leaders tell t hem they’re damned, their peers ostracize or bully them, and there is generally little to no support or protection from schools or the community.
But what about those of us who could help them? What about those of us who have been in their shoes and could guide them through one of the most trying and confusing points in their lives? We’re kept away from them in hopes they’ll grow out of it and in fear that we’ll encourage them to be themselves. Instead of being seen as a support system or valuable resource, queer adults are considered a detriment in a youth’s life. Why is this ok? At what point do we stop telling our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and giving them the mentors and environment to nurture whatever that might entail? When do we instead start limiting and judging them? More importantly, why is any of this treatment allowed to happen? Why were these young people pushed to a point at such a young age that they felt it would never get better?
In his September 22 article Dan Savage speaks of how the first of the recently publicized suicides touched him. Like many of us he was heartbroken. Like many of us he has been where these kids were and are today. Like many of us he knows that something needs to be done. It’s time the people who can give these young people a little hope stopped being stuck in a closet and spoke out to them.
“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids?”, he says. “We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”
So, Dan and his partner made a video. Then they made a channel on YouTube and encouraged members of the community to make and post their own videos to encourage these kids and share our stories to show that it does get better. To find the instructions and post your own video, you can go to youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject . As soon as I figure out how to use the camcorder function on my new smartphone I’ll be posting my own. If I can get over my technophobia and do this, you should all be making videos!
My life as a bisexual teen (and at the time there was only gay or bisexual in my world…no pansexuals, homoflexibles, heteroflexibles or otherwise) was fairly quiet. I kept it that way purposefully. It had its rough moments, but for the most part I’ve forgotten the trappings. Yes, I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that’s not always as free-thinking and forward as it sounds. I went to an all girls catholic school, and had several strikes against me already. I had friends who knew I was pagan, but it wasn’t until I was extremely close that I admitted to my sexuality.
I knew at a very early age I loved everyone equally, but never expressed any of it. I was told it was a phase, that I just didn’t know how to express my feelings towards friends, and that I’d get over it someday. My mother passed before I could try to talk to her about it, and the rest of my family was all about not making waves. My confusion and fear caused me to withdraw completely. I didn’t go on dates. I didn’t socialize much. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was almost eighteen, and that one defining moment started a revolution inside me. I could no longer be quiet.
I can’t imagine my life being any different. It took moving to Philadelphia, a place most consider a lot more conservative that Berkeley, CA, to find “my people”. I am never ashamed to talk about my husband and my girlfriend. I am never ashamed to be poly, pagan, or pansexual. I wish nothing more for these young people than to know how good life can be when you find where you belong. We owe them that optimism as people who have laid the path.
Today begins LGBT History Month, and what better way to start than with each of our own personal histories. Those who came before us gave us a wonderful foundation, and we have built the beginnings of a wonderful world, but these kids are the ones who will be in charge of finishing the job. We need to invest in them the pride and freedom we know is possible. Our goal isn’t just for them to survive, but to live. Like a good bra, we must not just support but uplift.
This is my promise to the queer youth of America…You can always come to me. You can share with me. You can talk to me. You can be safe with me. You have all my love, support, and optimism. You have my arms for hugging and my shoulder for crying. I will help in whatever ways I can, and I will never abandon you. I will never stop trying to show you that it does get better if you can promise me that you’ll never give up being you.
The festival of Mabon marks the beginning of the dark part of the year. The leaves are falling, the days are shortening, and the air is starting to chill. It is not yet winter, but a fair part of the bounty has come and gone. To our ancestors it was a lot more scary and unstable of a season than it is now, but we still carry that inherent link within us. Yes, we can go to a grocery store for food, and we have electric and gas heaters whenever we need them, but there is still that intuitive feeling of darkness for those of us who feel the seasons.
This isn’t a bad thing. The darkness is imperative to growth and change. The darkness challenges us to look deeper within and rid ourselves of impediments and weakness. The darkness forces us to face our fears and uncertainties head-on and learn from them.
I admit for much of my life I either lived in the darkness or ignored it. The constant state of imbalance meant I was spinning my wheels when it came to any progress in my life. Living in darkness I missed a lot of opportunities and lost my way a few times. Avoiding it I not only neglected an important part of myself but allowed myself to be comfortable and what I thought was content. In reality all it did was let the darkness grow, until it demanded attention. At that point I was back at living in the darkness. It’s a detrimental cycle to be sure.
I am still learning to not fear the darkness, to take it as it comes, and to let it go. I am still learning to understand that in order for there to be light there must also be dark. I am still learning to not consider darkness “bad” or “evil”. I am still learning to accept that the path is not always well-lit, well-worn, or easily travelled. If it were I would be getting nowhere.
This year we’ve been blessed with a lot of light, but it took us a long trudge through the darkness to get there. Issues with partners and our marriage made us recognize things we needed to resolve to be a stronger couple. Those same issues brought up individual insecurities and resentments from our respective pasts that needed to be addressed before we could progress in our life together. Losing jobs and our house brought us closer to family. On my end it bolstered me to work harder to provide for my household and forced us to learn to save and budget. It also gave us the opportunity to pay off debts that have been blights on our credit for years. Health problems have given me a better look at where and how I need to take better care of my body, spirit, and self in general.
It’s been a rough step in our lives together and separate, but it’s been necessary and in a positive direction. There’s still work to be done, and as we enter another dark season I wonder what it will bring, but I’m learning not to fear it but to embrace and learn from it knowing I will come out a better me on the other side. I know things will come to me as I am ready and able to handle them, and I know that my faith will get me through with a little support and love from my community and my family.
Welcome to the dark time, my friends. What will you learn about yourself this year?
I used to get depressed a lot. It’s a fact that there are different types of depression. I get both physiological depression caused by chemical and hormonal imbalances and your every day, run of the mill, emotional depression. I get panic attacks, I get crying fits, I have temper issues, and I get withdrawn. I have been on medication for it, but the result is never good. I end up a doped up Pollyanna with those thoughts of suicide the commercials warn us about, so when I try to kill myself at least I’m bubbly and smiling when I do. I have stopped trying new drugs. It’s really not worth the risk to me. Instead, I have learned to control my temper and stop throwing things at Hubby, have my emotional release at the appropriate time in the privacy of my own home instead of the supermarket, and try not to take out my depression on those around me. I do not perpetuate the “Misery loves company” motto, and I certainly don’t need to own any more black clothing than I already do.
In all seriousness, I have worked really hard to harness these episodes and let them pass. I learned a long time ago that suppressing them makes them worse and sometimes permanent. This is, however, in no way a cure. It’s a coping mechanism at best. Meditation and some heavy soul-searching can only take me so far. There are times I just have to let myself be depressed and get past it. I also have no control over the timing of these events. They do not always hit me when it’s convenient or helpful to a current situation.
Let’s take a look at this recent down-swing I’m in. Hubby’s last girlfriend and I had a few issues and emotional clashes. Since I couldn’t express a lot of my frustration to her directly, he ended up taking a brunt of the backlash. It wasn’t fair to him, and I handled it poorly. As a result, he’s a little gun-shy. My current depression hit the day before he was set to go on a first date with a new interest. He’s really optimistic, not only about the two of them but about the two of us really getting along well. I’m happy for him. I’m optimistic. He doesn’t believe me though, because the two nights he’s gone to see her I’ve been bawling when he left. He tried to stay home the first night, because I was bawling so hard I couldn’t breathe. I finally convinced him to go, but he’s still not convinced I’m comfortable with this situation.
Once I’m out of this funk I’m going to have some serious damage control to take care of. We’ll get through it, and I really do wish him the best. *sniffle*
Fourteen years ago I lost my best friend, my mother. I immediately felt guilty for all the things I had not done. I was sure I missed an “I love you” somewhere, sure she was mad at me for not visiting her in the hospital, sure I could have somehow been a better child. I went through all the stages of grief at once. I was angry with her for leaving me, but I was sure at times she wasn’t dead and that she’d come back to get me at any minute. I kept a packed bag just in case we had to run. I avoided all memories of her as sick or weak, and instead envisioned her as a secret agent forced to fake her own death. When I wasn’t blaming myself I blamed my stepfather, who was on a different drug every week and stealing from her on a regular basis. I tried to bargain with every deity I could think of. I promised to be a better daughter. I wanted to make sure I had done everything I could to make her come back. I was sure that if she were alive my room had been bugged by whatever government entity had taken her from me.
I went through all the stages established by the Kubler-Ross model, and I acknowledged in my logical brain that they were all happening in my psyche. I knew she was dead. I knew she wasn’t coming back. I knew it was silly, but I was a child. I was a child who had made most of the decisions for her own mother’s funeral because no one else seemed capable. I was a child who had not cried at that funeral, and refused to let anyone see me cry at all, because I didn’t want to seem fragile. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.
Some people simply believed I was not allowing myself to grieve, but children process things differently than adults do. I had a lot of adjusting to do. Not only had I lost my mother right before my thirteenth birthday, but I had lost my home, my spiritual guidance, and anything familiar in my life. I moved in with my father and his parents, who did everything they could to make the transition smooth, but it was still a drastic change. To top it all off I hit puberty that summer. I had hit the time in my life when a girl needs her mother the most, and for the first time in my life I didn’t have one.
Children not only process things differently, but they develop their own way of coping with and understanding tragedy or loss. I did what I had always done. I made myself busy. I dug myself into school and extracurricular activities. I got a job. I made it impossible to have any alone time in my head. Unfortunately, my thoughts are a force to be reckoned with. Eventually all the feelings and thoughts I was trying to avoid caught up with me. It was the day I found out one of my best friends had killed himself. A week later a friend of mine’s mother lost her battle with cancer. A week after that I lost my mind in the midst of a computer malfunction that resulted in writing the same paper five times and having it rejected because I could not get it to print properly.
It is during these times when we develop the skills that will carry us through life in one piece. After a full day of wandering around in a cloud, I cleared my head and began to put the pieces back together. I started writing, something that has gotten me through every time I think I just can’t go any further. I also pulled my friends around me, and even though the years have parted us they were my strongest asset at the time. I taught myself to actually deal with loss instead of running from it with fantasies or aversion. I learned to face my emotions head on, to embrace them, and to let them happen.
Sometimes I still have moments of survivor guilt. My mother sacrificed her health and her very being for me. She gave me everything she could, and I can only hope I was worth it. I’m learning to accept that this life was her gift to me. Who I am was her gift to me. Her faith in me and her encouragement to believe in myself are things that will never die. This year I’m having a rougher time than I have in the last several years. There’s a lot of stress in my life, and there have been a lot of close calls and personal losses in the past year. I have been planning a wedding, a time generally spent with excitement between a bride and her mother. There have been times when I have simply wanted my mommy. I know it won’t defeat me. It might not make me the most pleasant person to be around for a few days, but I know the people who matter most to me won’t judge or mock me for it. They know the storm will pass, and the old sunny Autumn will be back soon.
And I will be back….soon.