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This year Imbolc was very quiet and subtle.  I’ve been sick and healing from several setbacks, but I’ve also met an unmatched capacity for love and serendipity, creeping in from the balance of solstice.  I chose not to do a set ritual this year.  I didn’t even journey, I merely put on some music and began to dance and stretch.  I had originally felt that the aspect of Brighid that would come to me would be the poet or the smith, as I’ve finally started writing again, and I’ve felt forged by the events of the last several months.  What I was not expecting was Brighid the warrior.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m strong; I’m a survivor.  However, I’ve never been known to be on the frontline.  I’m the healer that comes in afterwards.  I’m the strategist who finds ways to avoid the fight.  I’m the wife who stays at home and supports her soldier, and I always have been, but in this moment it was just me.

Our family is facing some tough choices, and I’ve felt like nothing I can do will protect us from failure.  For the first time in a long time I don’t have any answers, and it’s not just me surviving this time; it’s us.  Our country is under attack from within, not for the first time, but people are coming together and marching and making our voices heard as a country.  I’ve felt bad that I’ve been sick or working when these big events happen.  I want to stand up.  I want to shout.  I wanted to speak up against the men who stood in my workplace spouting hateful words, but my family depends on me to keep this job, so I kept quiet and wrote poetry in my head.  I felt defeated, so when Brighid the warrior came to me and called me her child I felt like a disappointment to my goddess.  For years she’s provided for me, and in this aspect I have not given everything I could have, but she wrapped me in her warmth and gave me a very important lesson.

There is a time and place for action, and this is going to be a long fight.  It’s ok to let the people who are out there raising their voices now stand for me, and when they need to rest and recharge, those of us who have watched on the sidelines will be able to take over and keep the momentum going.  Sometimes the loudest voices are the ones who whisper quietly on pages and surreptitious pipelines while the fires and the crowds distract attention.   The quiet warriors are powerful, like a silent rage that flows under the surface of this resistance.  We are the veins of the revolution, keeping the blood pumping and the tides churning.  We are the spirit of America.  We are Brighid the warrior.

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Imbolc was weeks ago, but it’s lesson took a while to sink in. This winter has been exceptionally hard for our family, and every time we seem to pull ourselves from the ashes another fire starts. Firefighting is exhausting, so on Imbolc I tried to find a silver lining. Were the fires guiding? Clearing? Healing? No. They were just fires. Were they a message? A lesson? An admonition? No. Still just fires. I was done.
Over the last two weeks we’ve had more fires, and forget any plans we’d made to work around them, they demanded our attention daily. All I could do was run from place to place hoping to control the damage. Still, if there was somewhere we needed to be, we were there.
At Pantheacon this past weekend there was a Brighid healing ritual I really wanted to attend, but there was another class at the same time that called to me incessantly. Could I miss it? After asking for help and healing, could I really eschew the ritual designed to do just that? I did. I cringed as I watched the doors close and lock, but I skipped it and went to the other class.
What came of that has me sitting here, in the midst of another fire, waiting two hours without anywhere else to go, for a workshop given by the same woman who ran the class I skipped ritual for, a workshop about Ireland and Journeying to the Otherworld, a workshop with a slide that told me to do the exact thing my mind has been telling me to do since Imbolc; go see Brighid. Go to Ireland. Connect. See. Feel. Sing. Summer 2017. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. All I know is yes, I’ll be there, no matter how many fires need to be put out along the way.
This year I started wearing a semi-colon bracelet from the Semicolon Project, a depression and suicide awareness project that reminds us that these fires are not period or stops, but merely pauses. I’ve thought about forcing the period a lot on the last year when the fires seemed to get too close for comfort. While part of me had hoped for some kind of respite, I know better than to expect immediate change, so I’ve made a deal with Brighid to not let the fires win; not this year.

From time to time I will be posting #AYearofHere images on my Instagram and Twitter to remind myself not only why I’m here and what I’d be missing if I weren’t, but also when things are rough, the fires I’ve survived, and how strong I’ve been to fight them.

You see, the fires are nothing special. Next Imbolc I don’t really expect less fires, because they’re a part of anyone’s life, but I do expect to have a pretty good record of how she’s stood by me fighting them and how she’s healed my spirit in between. Sometimes fires are just fires, and it’s the life we live despite them that matters most.

It has never been planned this way, but between Yule and Brighid every year the seeds are planted for what will become the focal point of that year.  Last year I interviewed for the opportunity of a lifetime, a flight attendant position with the airline I have worked for for almost a decade. I got my acceptance call on Brighid in the middle of a blizzard.

It has taken nearly a tear for me to adjust to the lifestyle change.  The traveling and the service were easy.  The hard lesson was one of isolation.  Accustomed to the support system around me, I had to learn to get over my own inertia and face the intimidating silence of being alone.

I’ve had to handle my frustration, my sadness, my fear, and even my happiness on my own, and though it’s been one of the most difficult periods of growth I’ve ever faced, it’s given me more faith in myself as a result.  Last week, after a round of cancelled plans, I walked into a poetry slam not knowing a soul and got on stage as a stranger.  Taking up a chair at a table for four was a bit painful, but as the room filled people would sit and chat for a moment or two between poets, and by the time I knew it the night was over.  I had done it.  I had gone out alone.

From that experience came a voice from within echoing a push I’ve felt since the beginning of the year to take some big strides with my creative work.  Now that I feel fulfilled and content with my career and confident in my abilities to hold my dreams in my hands and know what they feel like, I feel inspired to pursue other goals with the same passion.

Passion.  The one thing that has always driven me no atter what held me back.  When I’ve been sick, broke, broken, and desperate.  When I’ve been fallow and lost.  When I’ve been alone.  Passion has always kept me pressing forward, and it is that passion that I find when I call for Brighid this Imbolc.  As her fire burns within me, it fuels the passion that dries me.  Her flame gives heat to my words, movement to my music, and life to my art.  Last year was my year of water and fluidity.  This year is my year of fire.  My year of Passion.

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Let me be clear before I start posting these stories that the point of this little Lessons in Love experiment was not to rehash old wounds or dredge up old drama.  I had a few reasons, the main one being that we don’t always see how these things change our lives until those wounds have healed and we have seen what something better looks like.  Some of these experiences were the same lesson, but sometimes you have to repeat a mistake to realize what it was that was wrong.  Another reason for this series was to show that there’s nothing wrong with faith, because there’s always a new lesson out there, but there’s also always a new adventure.

After any one of these relationships, or any others I’ve had, I could have stopped trying.  I could have buried myself in work, friends, life, and never let another person into my heart.  Why didn’t I?  Because I have faith in love.  Because I enjoy the act and emotions of loving.  Because even if the love isn’t real there’s still something to be gained from the experience.  Likewise, I have applied for the same job thrice.  Even though I felt like giving up, I tried again and got it on the third try.  I start training in two weeks.

As the new growth of Imbolc begins to take root we begin to feel cabin fever and a need to emerge from the hibernation of the dark season.  We have taken the time for introspection, and our soul searching and demon dancing is done.  We are ready to emerge from the darkness renewed and ready to test the lessons we have learned from our time inside.

This year Brighid has taught me many lessons.  She has taught me how to be strong enough to be patient, but how to be strong enough to walk away when the optimism that fueled that patience has run dry.  She has taught me when to be calm and when to speak up for what I need.  She has taught me when to be a caregiver and when to say no in situations where the burden has simply become too heavy.  She has taught me to stand tall and be confident no matter how ugly, stupid, foolish, or hopeless I fee.  She has taught me when to sit still and listen to the darkness and when to light a candle and push through it.  She has taught me to dream when the world tells me that dreaming is illogical.

At Yule we celebrated the return of the light and the faith that the spring would return.  At Imbolc we begin to see signs that our faith has not been wasted.  So it is with life and love.  The dark is never permanent unless we believe it is so.  There is always light on the other side. That has been the point of this experiment.  Yes,  have had some rough relationships and some serious heartbreak, some that were even my fault, but I have come out of every single one of them with some amazing stories to tell.  It is these stories that make me who I am, these stories that make my life wonderful, and these stories that will sustain me in the dark as I await the sun.

Aloha

Go now, light a candle.

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“You’re too smart for that.”

 

I have heard these words since I was a child.  As females, my generation was taught at an early age  that any show of emotion is irrational behaviour, and that if we want to be taken seriously in any area we must only rely on intellect.  As adults we are accused of histrionics at the slightest hint of emotion and as silly idiots if we follow anything out of pure intuition.  In fact, none of us is trained how to use our intuition as a resource.  We are told instead to ignore one of our most useful navigational tools.  Why is it hard to grasp a well-rounded life in which emotions and intellect don’t need to be mutually exclusive?

I am no stranger to the terms “follow your heart” or “follow your gut“.  These, and many other “do what feels right” adages are all ways of explaining the same thing: intuition.  One of intuition’s easiest languages to learn to read is emotions.  Can you see the pretzel beginning to form here?

The problem here is that we cannot learn to feel and process our emotions while we’re suppressing them.  We make mistakes.  As children we throw tantrums, and at some point we are all emotional, hormonal adolescents, but what society overlooks is a chance in those moments to not only teach us how to cope with emotions, rather than avoiding them, but to read them in others in order to better interact with other emotional humans. Enter: Customer Service.  I have gotten quite adept in my years of teaching, working with children with special needs, and working in Customer Service to know how to identify emotions in others and mold my approach to them accordingly.  I’ve made a sort of side hobby out of observing those around me and figuring out how people communicate their emotions without even knowing it. Imagine what a world we could live in if we were all taught these skills.

With Imbolc approaching the unnecessary disconnect between emotions and intellect has played heavily in my personal meditation.  Intuition might make me more likely to take risks, but even if those dice don’t fall where I want them to I gain something from rolling them.  This is also not a blind science.  Intuition and emotions may draw my attention to a specific area, and from there I can calculate the risks and decide whether the best case scenario is worth the worst.  Being a wife, a friend, a girlfriend, a businesswoman, a lady, and an adult all at once is a juggling act.  One can’t be too cold, too distant, too expressive, too whimsical, to caring, or too trusting of one’s intuition.    Brighid, however, shows us exactly how to juggle all those things without dropping anything or sacrificing quality.

Brighid is healer, midwife, poet, warrior, and smith, among other things.  When I evoke her in rituals I often speak to one of these facets, but I have found recently that calling out to one, powerful, multifaceted Brighid has made me stronger and more focused as a practitioner and as a woman.  Why?  Because Brighid’s complexity is what makes her powerful.  While each of her elements has its unique properties, it is putting them together that makes her Brighid.  She is the light of hope to make it through the rest of the winter because she is not just a single ray of light, she is the dazzling sunlight of dawn.  She is not just a single flame, she is every flame that has sparked from her torch.  She is intellect, art, and intuition, which is what makes her unstoppable.

Looking at Brighid this way has taught me volumes about myself.  I am not either a writer or a photographer.  I am not either a wife or a woman with a career goal.  I am not driven either by my intellect or my emotions.  I am all of these things, and I am stronger and more beautiful because of it.

 

Go now, feel your complexity.

Aloha

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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.

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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.

Blessed Be.

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Brighid (Imbolc) this year was unusual for me.  On a day where we celebrated the signs of spring emerging from the harsh winter crust I was in a skirt and sandals in 75 degree weather.  Still, at home the snow and ice were making it very clear that their season had not passed.

I didn’t notice the signs of seasonal depression or the changes within myself until a few years ago.  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where all my seasons were internal and symbolic, and by the time I encountered the winters of the Northeast I was in such a constant state of depression and emotional flux that the lack of sun never had much of a noticeable effect.  All the trials of life seemed to naturally take hold in the winter.  Again my seasons were internal.

This year I fell into a seasonal depression like a dark well.  It was then piled on top of a wanderlust that became physically painful and the blessing of health well enough to work myself to death.  The darkness enfolded me, and all my introspection turned negative.  The light within me began to flicker and fade.

A few weeks ago I started to feel my spirit again as some of the ice thawed and Imbolc approached.  No, the darkness isn’t over yet, but the light is returning.  I started being inspired and creative again, as new ideas and strategies emerge, and I was able to open both mind and heart to embrace life and energy all around me.  The dark well in which I had fallen became instead refreshing, quenching, and healing, as once again I felt embraced by Brighid.  She had never really left me.  She had just been waiting for me to see past my own flickering flame to reconnect with hers.

As Imbolc passed under the brilliant Florida sun I planned the landscape of the beautiful garden that is the coming season of light.  I set my goals and began directing energy their way.  I cleaned out unnecessary clutter and prepared space for new growth.  In the coming season I will forge new bonds, be inspired, and use my gifts to heal myself and the world around me.

Most importantly I will learn to embrace Brighid’s light.  I will hear her words and drink from her well, and there is no doubt in my mind that the coming year will be beautiful, powerful, and profound.

As i sat enjoying the Florida sun, I was refueled and ready to face the second half of winter.  I found solace int he forest, but I carried its life back to Philadelphia to light my way from the dark.

Go now, find light in your darkness.

Blessed Be.

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