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This past weekend was a hard lesson for me in healing. I let anxiety win, and it was……quite the spectacle. What happened behind the scenes was even worse. I convinced myself I was a fraud. I convinced myself I was worthless. I convinced myself there never had been hope for me. I looked back at the work I’ve done over the past two years and felt like I’d been lying to myself. Then I removed myself from the situation and remembered what it felt like standing on that stage by myself without anyone there to help me. The power I felt in telling a part of my story. The shift I felt inside me when I stopped fearing the unforeseeable and took hold of what’s mine. My life. That was not a lie. That could not have been false.
I’ve written a lot about healing and the way my life has changed since my experience with Good Girl. What I have not written about is the backsliding. What I haven’t written about is the doubt and the fear that the healing was some delusional fantasy that anything has changed. What I haven’t written about are the mistakes we make, because after decades of making the same ones over and over again, these are new, terrifying mistakes. It’s so easy to wonder if the change was worth it, because the demons we’re accustomed too are much easier to quell than new ones that might try to manifest in our lives. The answer is yes, it’s worth it. All of it, and the mistakes don’t unravel a single bit of it.
We’re told healing is hard. We’re told it’s a process. We’re told it’s painful. We’re never told how much maintenance it requires and how much of an adjustment it is to our daily lives. We have this idea that healing makes everything better, filling our lives with sunshine and rainbows and cute little kittens. What we don’t realize is that healing is NOT a panacea. It doesn’t make anything go away, it just gives us the resources to deal with it and to navigate new challenges that arise in a healthy manner. It doesn’t change learned behaviours. It doesn’t erase anxiety, depression, PTSD, or physical illness. It merely gives us better moves with which to fight and an understanding of how to fix what we break. Healing is not curing. Healing is taking something we once let run our lives into the ground and use it instead to fuel us to keep thriving.
The reality is that while healing is an internal process it requires external maintenance in ways we never experience when the stakes are low. My lesson wasn’t just painful for me; I hurt someone I love. It’s up to me to face that, do what I can to repair it, and do the internal work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. In the past it either wouldn’t have been healthy enough to matter or I would have just logged it with the other good things I let myself ruin. In the past few months it’s become more apparent where the healing could not help me because the problems I have are biological, so I’ve had to bite the bullet and admit there are things I can’t fix without medical help…then actually seek it. These things are no longer buried under me. They’re out in the open, they’re manageable, and they’re in the way of the life I want to live. Lastly, I have recognized things in my life that I was once passionate about but no longer serve that quick fix need in my life. There’s been a twinge of nostalgic panic as I begin to let those things go to focus on what’s really important in my life, but I’m decluttering and setting new goals.
You see, healing is a battle cry that screams “you no longer have power over me”. You won’t win the battle just because you’ve healed, but it will give you a fighting chance.
The first baby I lost, I was very young.
The second, I wasn’t ready.
By the third, I was frantic. I was ready. I was prepared. I was ecstatic that he or she and my newborn godson would grow up together. I am constantly told Baby #3 doesn’t count. I had a blighted ovum, and to this day I still get funny looks when I mention it, because there’s technically no baby in the sac. Technically. In reality, that baby existed to me, and the loss was just as hard. Just as real as any fertilized egg.
That was 10 years and 2 more known miscarriages ago, and it seemed like another life. I still had time. I still had options. I still had hope. I still believed in my rainbow baby, the child that comes after the storm of loss.
My godson turned 10 today, just days before the anniversary of the D&C that would remove the blighted ovum. He’s such an amazing little man, and I am proud to have him in my life. To think of myself with a 13 year old, a 12 year old, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, or an 8 year old is unreal to me as I begin to accept that the choices I’ve made to keep my family afloat mean I’m not even home enough to take care of a child, and my household support system is not equipped or willing to do so. My rainbow baby is fading.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, with the 15th being a day of remembrance, but there is not a day I am not aware, not a day I don’t remember those babies and the one I’ve given up. My rainbow baby is in the eyes of every new baby that graces our family, every tiny hand I hold, every small laugh that catches my attention in public.
This month, as I honour all of the babies I’ve lost, I dream of the little men or women who would be in my life now, and they are with me.
Go now, hug your children
2014. The year that changed everything. It all sounds very serious, doesn’t it. Well, it is. I know, I know, every year is about change, but 2014 brought transformative change.
With Brighid came the catalyst for the biggest career change I have ever made, and the biggest risk. The training alone was a challenge, but I rose to it, and on Ostara I earned my wings and held a star I’d been reaching for for 6 years.
WIth the change in jobs came a huge change for our household. I was based 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast, and the adjustment in all my relationships was a blow that some of them wouldn’t survive. Routines were uprooted, and we had to find complex solutions to even more complex problems. I suddenly felt very alone, and Hubby felt abandoned. As he strove for stability and reached for his other partners, I felt more and more isolated from my family, which strained an already stressful period as I adjusted to a new job that is very much a lifestyle.
By summer there were storms raging. Hubby and A split, I had completely pulled out of our D/s dynamic, and there were talks of separation. Things were seriously strained, compounded by the re-emergence of The Vanishing Act. My emotions were shot, and I withdrew. When my birthday rolled through in August I was sure I was bound to be moving on alone. Hubby seemed unwilling to see anything from my perspective and immersed in a new relationship, The Vanishing Act had done what he does best, and I felt suffocated by the weight of everything falling apart at once.
For the first time in a long time I felt helpless, hopeless, and ready to go. There’s a soul-shaking moment that passes when you no longer feel a desperate need to end your life, but have accepted it as the next step. It’s not a rash decision you can recover from just as quickly, it’s a concession that the darkness has won, and this is just what happens when you lose. I was gone. My spirit was dead for a long time, and I had no one to blame for it but myself.
Enter Autumn and a big push from the universe to be in charge of my life. I embarked on a last-ditch effort to save myself, and I began living my own life. Hubby pushed against it, but what resulted was both of us giving the ultimate ultimatum. Love me for who I am, or let me go live my life.
The season also brought a whole crew of new people to my life. Friends, love interests, and everyone in between. 2014 has brought me more new connections and strengthened connections with people I already had than I could have asked for. These wonderful souls are the reason I’m here in as close to one piece as I am. They are my tribe, my Ohana, and I would be incomplete without them.
As I pulled out of the fall with hope and optimism, 2014 gave me one last reminder that there is still a lot of work to do. A few lives connected to mine were suddenly torn apart. We had medical scares and heartbreaking developments. In addition, several of my partners also had some deep rivers to cross. Once again I felt out of my depth and drowning, but the tools I had acquired and the people who had gathered around me throughout the year had given me the strength and will to keep moving forward.
Things are still rocky. Things are still changing. 2014 was a year of questions without answer and answers spawning new questions. I still feel terribly ill-equipped to handle the war that fights, not in violent flashes like they do in the movies, but quietly under the surface of the mundane as war is apt to do. I don’t have all the information. I don’t have all the tools. I don’t have all the magic words. What I do have is Ohana. What I do have is people who love me and believe in me, who have y back no matter what happens. What I have, as i mentioned at Yule, is hope.
This year I have learned to adapt. I have learned to be away but still present. I have learned to be alone but not lost. I have learned to love and not question. At midnight tonight I won’t be with any of my loves. I won’t have a single person to kiss, but I shall be kissing each and every one of them in my heart.
2015…a year started with hope in my heart.
Go now, kiss somebody at midnight, even if it’s just in your heart.
I took on an extremely ambitious piece of writing this year for NaNoWriMo. After having to stop just short of my goal the first year due to a broken arm Thanksgiving Weekend and finishing with a product coherent enough to be in the editing process now, this year I took on an extremely heavy task. Half fiction, half non-fiction, the piece chronicled the rocky path of a crumbling marriage in a woman’s mind during her final moments. For those of you who don’t know, my marriage has been a little stressed recently as Hubby and I inventory our issues like LEGOs in attempt to put them back together in a way that works for us both, so taking on this project wa extremely personal and a bit harshly timed. I made it to almost 12,000 words before the emotional weight made it impossible to keep going, but I don’t consider this experiment a complete loss.
For one thing, what I have so far is an amazing piece. I have been adding to it here and there when I can, and when I have the time and energy to put the entire puzzle back together, I believe it will be a beautiful mosaic of words and emotions. I believe in this project, or I wouldn’t have taken it on the way I did.
Next, it was amazing therapy in some ways and an amazing awakening in others. It allowed me to get words out that I felt lost trying to express before, which meant I was able to keep a logical calm tone when dealing with Hubby in emotionally charged situations. It allowed me somewhere to put the often irrational feelings and insecurities that are mine to deal with, things that often cloud our ability to fix the shared problems. It allowed me a story board to map out my experience throughout this marriage and showed me where my own behaviour and thinking may have been the problem without a tone of blame or guilt to get in the way of resolution.
Finally, it reminded me of what I have to fight for, everything we have already fought through, and the strength we have when we fight together for something not against each other. Killing a marriage that didn’t exist helped me see the ways to save the one that does.
So, no, I don’t get the fancy winner badge, which is a shame, because I loved the graphics NaNoWriMo used this year. However, I don’t consider this a loss. Sometimes you need to both something to be able to think outside the box a little. Sometimes you need to fall to change your perspective.
Thank you , NaNoWriMo. I’ll see you next year!
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”.
“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 former coven used to do a Yule ritual that involved keening. It was extremely powerful and emotionally intimate. We are at our most vulnerable and unhidden when we are keening, because once it starts it’s uncontrollable. As soon as one deeply buried emotion makes its way to the surface to be released there is no way of knowing what will follow it. Unresolved, unhelpful, and unhealthy thoughts and feelings tend to travel in flocks, and there is no way to sugar coat or disguise them in front of others when they’re pouring from us in waves. We are raw. We are authentic. We are healing in one of the most violent and explicit ways possible.
So yes, this is much more of a Yule lesson for cleansing and renewal than it is a Samhain lesson, but after years of repeating this ritual at Yule I felt it begin to build as the veils thinned and the dark half of the Wheel of the Year began its final turn. It seems that around this time of year many lives change in very eruptive ways, and by the time the light returns at Yule we either release the residue from this change or find it very hard to feel the sun.
I’ve chosen to write this now because I’ve noticed an unusual density around me. Several people in my life are experiencing this painful change all at once, including myself. Some of us are coming through it embracing new opportunities, and some of us have simply stopped trying to move forward. I fall somewhere in the middle, but deep inside I know I can’t just stop where I am and give up.
Here is a very short meditation for your consideration as it came to me in this time of change:
You’re on a path that you believe is The path. It’s been the only path you’ve followed and believed could lead you to fulfillment. Maybe for months, maybe for years, or maybe for your entire life you have struggled with the obstacles and setbacks that come with any journey. Then one day the path ends with no divergent path and no way to go back. Everything you’ve invested, all the time and energy you’ve spent, and all the sacrifices you’ve made on this path are gone. The only way to go is forward, and in front of you is a cliff into a dark abyss. Your only choices are to sit and stop moving forward or jump and have faith that you will survive the fall. You may fall to a new path, or you may have to seek one out once you’ve landed and put yourself back together.
Your decision in this case is not for me to judge or push one way or another. In some cases you may be perfectly content to climb a tree and make a life here at the end of this path. You may not feel like the risk of facing another cliff is worth seeking a new path. You may also get to the tree, sit there for a while, and decide you have to move forward to feel like the path you were on wasn’t for nothing. I wish I could say the risk was always worth the fall, but that’s for you to decide.
For me the fall isn’t what scares me, it’s the possibility of not finding a new path at all. My choice to move on was made because I have a lot of journey left before me. There is no way of knowing what will come next, but I want to see what could come next. The only way for me to do that is to shed the excess weight and grime left behind by the obstacles of a path that just…ended. I don’t want to sit in a tree with only my emotional baggage for company. I don’t want to spent my entire life resenting the cliff. I want to be rid of the hurt and blame that I have collected on this dead-end path. I want to feel my mortality and know what it feels like to come out of it alive. I want to be able to know that the abyss did not claim me.
So, the keening. It took me a long time to be able to let go enough to actually let it all go. In order for it to be keening, rather than your run of the mill wailing and carrying on in front of a bonfire in the cold in the middle of the night, you must be willing and able to let it all go. It was a fall that taught me how, a fall that taught me to stop holding on to old pain for fear of what future pain might entail. My lesson? Don’t fear the fall because of what you might lose on the way down. Embrace it. Sometimes you need the fall to be able to walk away from a path that is obviously no longer leading you anywhere. Sometimes you need the fall to find the path in the abyss. Sometimes you need the fall to keen and release all the things that are holding you back. Go ahead. Fall, scream, cry, face your demons, and let it all go. Then find the path that gives you a new purpose, or even just a new way to get to your original purpose.
Go now, fall or stand still.
October is well-known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it is also designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th marks a day of remembrance and support. A few months ago I wrote a post as a letter to my unborn child, and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to put on paper.
I have felt a calling all my life to be a mother, a teacher, and a nurturer. Decisions I made very early on in my life made a career in such things unfeasible, but I made those decisions confidently as I tried to navigate a situation I was unprepared to face alone, but alone I was. I didn’t feel like I could tell my family, and most of the friends I did tell thought I was making a terrible mistake. Still, no matter how terrified I was of what I was about to face, I gave my future, and my heart to a child that many would have cast away as a reminder of violence and hurt. In fact, it may have been that unborn child that kept me alive long enough to work through the emotional and psychological damage caused by the experience. When I lost that first baby I lost the focus of all my attention and energy . Worse were constant comments like “it was probably for the best” and “you’ll be relieved someday when you have a child out of love”. I didn’t care. It was still a loss.
A few years later I would be faced with the same fear. I was in a loving relationship with the father at the time, but we were barely feeding ourselves, and I knew at the time my health was in terrible shape. At our first appointment there was no detectable heartbeat, and I almost blacked out in the office. Repeated attempts yielded no results, and the final consensus was that I had a blighted ovum, an empty sack that the body treats as if it’s a viable pregnancy. For days before my surgery to have it removed I had nightmares of babies wailing, and in the days that followed I got the same ignorant comments as I’d gotten the first time combined with everyone’s refusal to let me grieve a baby that technically never existed. I still have a tiny pair of booties in a box. It existed in my heart.
All in all I’ve had this experience five times, and when Hubby and I talk about children there’s a little sting in the back of my heart that knows it might only be a dream. Our reasons for not trying yet are numerous and mostly logistical, and when we do try we will have a lot to deal with emotionally and physically. Since the wedding I feel like people are constantly asking if we want children or when we’re going to have them. My answer is always the same, “when and if it’s possible”. I keep it short, because my past is generally ignored, and my future as a mother is a rather sensitive and questionable subject.
I don’t write any of this to drag out old wounds or evoke sympathy. I write it because for many years I felt like I didn’t deserve to go through any kind of grieving process. Every time I felt sad I pushed it down. Every time someone told me “it’ll happen when the time is right” I pushed it down. Every time I felt like it was my fault for one reason or another I pushed it down. Any chance I had to work through my emotions turned in to a chance to push them to a place where I didn’t have to feel them, and society wholeheartedly supported that behaviour. It wasn’t until much later when I eschewed that the notion that my feelings of loss were silly or unfounded that I was able to release that weight and really move forward. So I write this to tell any one, man or woman, who has been in place that it’s alright to grieve. It doesn’t matter whether or not the situation was ideal or the timing was right. You have every right to feel your emotions and work through them in a healthy manner.