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This Ostara comes on the heels of an extremely trying winter. A breakup, health issues, household stress, and the constant feeling that nothing I attempted to nurture would ever thrive made it almost impossible to focus on much of anything at a time of year that is generally when I’m the most productive. As we approached Imbolc things began to lighten just a bit, but it was enough to give me enough hope to ride the waves that seemed to be carrying me way deeper than I thought I could find my way back from.
Then I was asked to be a voice. I was invited to speak to a small group of women about my experience and the lessons learned doing Good Girl and how my life has been changed by it all. I talked for a long time, and I’m sure I said a lot of useful things, but the one thing that stuck out in my mind was the very first bullet point.
Healing is not a one time event.
Let me repeat that. Healing is NOT a one time event.
Well, hell, guys. For a year I’ve been beating myself up because I thought I was failing, convinced that all the progress I thought I’d made was a lie, when really I was learning how to live again in a whole new way. I needed to cut myself a little slack and acknowledge how far I’d actually come, even if it seemed like I’d been stumbling and bumbling my way through most of it.
I tried to keep that in mind as Ostara approached, and yesterday as the sun rose around my plane I felt it filling me with a new energy I’ve never felt before, and it dawned on me. I haven’t been failing all winter. I haven’t been fallow. I haven’t neglected my seeds. For the first time in my life I went deeper into the dark season than ever before, and when I emerged I was truly transformed. I was taken to the brink, and yeah, I had to die a little to really complete my chrysalis. What Ostara brought me this year was not just new light or new growth but new life, new eyes, and new breath.
Is all the stress and pain gone? No, that’s real life. Healing and lessons and growth don’t wait until it’s convenient for mundane life, but the choice is mine to focus behind me on the cold darkness of winter or look ahead of me to the bright warmth of the coming seasons. The dark will return as the wheel turns, but I know I can not only survive it but pull from it the lessons of my deepest fathoms.
No, healing is not a one time event, and I don’t in any way believe it’s all over, but along with that healing I have grown to a new level of awareness and empathy, of intuition and intensity, of passion and power. I have claimed my place in the universe. I am ready to use the stardust with which I was born.
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.
A year ago I thought I was at the end of a process. The road to Good Girl had been full of obstacles to overcome and cliffs to jump from, but I had done it, and it felt fantastic. I remember feeling the weight being lifted from me as I threw all the pain and rage the months of work has dredged from deep inside me into the words coming out of my mouth, and no matter how many nerves I felt or mistakes I made, none of it mattered. In the end, no one remembered the missed words or the fact that I buttoned my blazer all crooked. What they remembered was the victory in my eyes at the end.
I’ve written a few times about the healing process and the lessons I’ve learned since the show. The work healing leaves behind. The illness still to heal. The tools yet to learn. I made mistakes. I lost people. Love. Friends. Trust. I tried to do what I thought was best, but I wasn’t yet equipped. So, I got sick.
Hollywood lies to us about nervous breakdowns. They’re not always a single moment of complete self-destruction and devastation. Sometimes it’s months of standing outside yourself screaming “why are you doing this?!?” Sometimes it’s knowing you’re pushing people away and watching them go and not knowing how to make it stop. Sometimes it’s losing yourself, because while purging the parts that no longer served me I failed to care for the budding parts of me that were genuine and healthy, and they were dying. I was dying.
The first time I shared my video was hard. “It’s heavy,” I warned people before they watched it. It was the same feeling I had when found me at the theatre to tell me how strong I was or how much they liked it. I know I had done something big, but I didn’t know how to accept that I may have caused an emotional reaction in others. I didn’t want pity, I didn’t want sadness, I didn’t want anyone to look at me differently. I avoided the video for a long time. It was one thing for me to be performing it, focused on the audience and the words and the stage positions. It was quite another to watch it without distractions.
It was a new love who finally got me to watch it. We watched together, and it took all of my willpower not to talk over it or give it the Mystery Science Theater treatment. He had wanted to know that part of me, and it was not my place to ruin that experience for him, so we sat on the couch together one night and watched the girl on the screen pour her heart out to us both. This love told me he admired me for the work I’d done, for the strength I possessed, for all the things I had not yet learned to acknowledge. He saw the things that were dying, and as I began to lose my grasp on them I lost him, too, and I questioned all the work I had done.
Yesterday marked a year since opening night. I wrote a post to commemorate the anniversary, and at the last moment I linked the video. There was no warning, no worry, and no way to know what would come of it, but by the end of the day I had no less than five message from people who had never seen the video before telling me how much they needed it. No pity, no praise, just thanks for being a guide on a road they were just beginning.
Good Girl gave me a new chance to live my life and to develop new tools, but it also gave me the responsibility to share my stories and help those who feel alone on their paths. Hearing from peers how inspired they were to find their strength and take a stand in their own lives reminded me that I am a warrior, a healer, and a teacher, and while I have a lot of work yet to do I’ve also come a long way on my journey.
Good Girl wasn’t the end of a process, it was the beginning of a revolution. Again, my story is not unique but that’s why I must keep telling it. Together our stories will set us free.
Go now, be free.
Mabon, the second and middle harvest, is a day of balance, sharing, and “reaping what we sow”. It’s the time for contemplation and awareness of the thin line between light and dark. It’s a time for valuing and conserving.
We celebrate, but we also start to look towards what needs to be completed. What is reaching a natural end? What projects need to be wrapped up? What ones have run fallow and need to be let go so that we have enough to make it through the winter?
Quite often our rituals focus on celebrations to fuel us as we wrap up the tasks of our fruitful seasons. In my case, I’ve always planted my seeds at Mabon, and the dark season has become my fruitful season.
This year Mabon hits us at the tail end of what has been an extremely rough Mercury Retrograde for most people close to me, heightening the need for balance and contemplation. It’s hurt a lot, even by my standards, and I’ve felt all week like many of us are being set up for some pretty serious trials, but out of it I can feel the rich soil I’m cultivating for the months ahead.
As always, my Mabon solitary celebration takes a closer look at balance. This time it’s opening me up to just how much the dark side of that light/dark balance affects me. I’ve been meditating on how it can aid me instead of holding me back and how to go about using it properly. Because of the retrograde I’ve been extremely raw and emotional. Miscommunication is rampant. Relationships are teetering. Plans are failing. My world is burning to the ground, and while it took more than one match, I’m holding one of them. There’s very little light left to cling to for the season, and what there is is blinded by the conflagration. Fire. What is fire but light in the darkness? What is fire if not the transformation we started at Lughnassad. What is fire if not a chance for rebuilding. Still, there has to be balance. I cannot just let uncontrolled fires rage, and while the ones on the outside might be out of my control, the ones on the inside are my power and passion, and the key to not being consumed by them is to use their light to create that balance.
I decided weeks ago that the period between Mabon and Samhain would be a period of stepping back and contemplating my life and all the questions Mabon asks of us. The results of retrograde may have shouted them in my face, but the quiet creeping darkness of the days to follow will help be find the dark places I need to reconcile myself with. The fading light I feel around me gives me just enough to see the outline of the trials before me, but not enough to know where they’ll lead me, and that’s part of the lesson.
Mabon is a twilight. It will help me let go where I need to in order to preserve my energy for the storms worth weathering this winter, because they’re coming. The twilight reminds us that the deep dark is coming, and we can’t avoid it. We must embrace the chaos of the storm to survive it, and we must embrace the unseen in the darkness to navigate it. I have to have faith that I can.
Go now, find your balance.
Lughnasadh always brings an interesting energy with it. While Lugh won a lot of trials in his life through sheer skill, some of that skill was humour and wit, and there is never a shortage of humour or wit in the messages that come through this time of year. But what else? In honouring Lugh we remember the funerary games he organized for his foster mother, Tailtiu. We play games of skill and celebrate our respective talents. We dance, sing, enjoy the life energy of summer thriving around us. Now let’s incorporate the celebration of Lamas, the first harvest. Traditionally the first grains would be used to make bread to bless the occasion as the community came together to enjoy the bounty of harvest. Sometimes bread was baked in the shape of the Green Man in honour of the sacrifice he gives so that we may thrive. In all of this there is a theme of both celebration of the light and recognition of the dark as we begin to notice the days shortening, reminding us to be thankful for the harvest that will sustain us in the coming winter.
In my practice I’ve used it as a time to cleanse and bless my hearth and home, fortifying our household for the year to come with the rich energies of summer. This year I took a deeper look at that practice. Yes, I will probably still cleanse our home and reinforce our crystal grids, but the more meditation I’ve done the more thought I’ve given to the “hearth” in my life. While my tangible household is a brick and mortar place, my home is transient, my family scattered between the coasts, farther once I incorporate metamours. So what of this tribe? What of our hearth? How can we be cleansed and fortified for the year to come?
The beautiful thing about our Ohana is that everyone, no matter how far away or how little involved, brings something to the tribe. We each have our strengths, skills and talents that enrich the energy of the whole. There is not a single one of us who doesn’t work hard and strive to really experience life in their own way, and this energy finds its way to the core of what makes us strong as a unit. Those skills and strengths become our grains, and with some nurturing and encouraging, those talents flourish. Through their harvest we begin to manifest our best selves, and we become the bread men of Lamas, ingested to feel the blessings of the very earth that grounds and holds us. So, the hearth? The hearth is community, fired with our dedication to each other. It’s love, support, and solidarity, but it’s also sacrifice. We each give at one point or another so that the others may thrive. When each of my partners’ family becomes my family, and we weave a web of compassion and love, we become a strong tribe. Through that web we feel each other’s joy and pain. Through that web none of us can starve no matter how cold the winter might get, and because we’ve got Lugh on our side we do it with the flare of laughter and maybe some smartassery. Ok, a lot of smartassery.
Aloha, and Blessed Lughnasadh
Go now, celebrate your talents!
Twenty years ago I learned a veritable tome of lessons, some of which I’m just learning now, and it seems unbelievable to me that I can look back at anything in my life knowing it happened twenty years ago. My mom taught me a lot about life while she was alive, and I’ve mentioned that before. She taught me compassion, strength, and determination. She taught me to seek adventure and levity in everything, to make people laugh whenever you can, and to live and love with all your heart no matter how scary the world feels. She taught me to trust my instinct and eschew advice that doesn’t feel right. She taught me to be myself.
What my mother’s death taught me was open honesty. You never know when the last time you say “I love you” or “good morning” or “good night” will be the last. It’s made me vulnerable at times, and I’ve had to learn to accept when it’s not reciprocated, but hey, another lesson, right?
But you see, it also taught me some less than positive lessons. At twelve years old I was already well aware that I was different. I didn’t have many friends, my anxiety and depression were already in full swing, and I’d already thought about suicide more times than I can remember now. I needed help, and I was constantly told I was wrong, broken, or worse…that I was fine. I was fat, I was slow, and I was constantly missing the mark. At twelve I had already had at least one nervous breakdown, I was scared of losing everyone I loved, and I had been proven correct. At twelve I discovered my intuition and empathy in the worst way, and I hated it, so at twelve I learned to hide. I learned to expect the worst. I learned to expect to be alone. I learned that change is terrifying. I learned to build walls, and forgot all those lessons about love and life and laughter.
When I started the Power of One it was immediately pointed out to me that when I’m uncomfortable or anxious I smile. It’s a skill I developed at a very young age, but I imagine I perfected it at my mother’s funeral. Since then it became a crutch I used to get me through parts of my life I felt I could not navigate, and it began to cloud the genuine me. I’ve been lucky enough to have people in my life who could see through the fog and find that genuine me, but for most of my life I haven’t been able to see her myself. I’ve merely been relying on the testaments of others who tell me they see her, like a fairy tale buried deep inside me. As the lessons from my mother started to actually take root and as my intuition and empathy refused to be ignored, life got harder, and the more I stayed inside my walls the more the fires outside tried to cook me out. I tried to let myself be vulnerable…to the wrong people at the wrong times. I tried to be happy…all the time, and ended up holding in the pain and sadness until I couldn’t, resulting in some pretty spectacular meltdowns. I tried to be strong and independent…and all I did was feel more like a failure.
In the year since I seriously started putting effort into my transformation, I’ve worked on being open without being overbearing, happy without using it to cover up when I’m not, and to know when I can be strong alone and when I need to reach out for help. Not all has gone according to plan, but if my mom’s death taught me none of this other bullshit, it taught me that life doesn’t care about your plans, and unpredictability brings as much serendipity as it does tragedy, and the only control I really have is how I choose to react to it, process it, and move on with my life. Losing my mother was not the first tragedy I’d faced in my life, but it was the first one I felt like I was facing alone. The truth is, every situation we face in life we face alone, even if we have the strongest support system on earth, because we’re the only ones who can do the internal work it takes for real survival…and real living.
Love you, Mom. Thanks for still teaching me. after all these years.
Go now, keep learning..keep living….
I was told to write out what I would say to you if I could tell you how to make a relationship work with someone with BPD, someone like me. For some of you it’s too late. The damage is done. I’ve hurt you irreparably, broken trust, and shattered security. We’ve already reprogrammed our relationship to be what it can despite those things, and I deal with the wave of sadness that hits to think of all the things I lost by not being able to tell you what I needed, by not knowing myself. Each and every one of you has asked me what I need from a partner, but even as much as I’ve grown in the last couple of years, I couldn’t put them into words until they were worded as advice for someone else. If that isn’t just the portrait of BPD, I don’t know what is. My hope is that this can clarify some things, maybe starts some dialogues, and definitely give us some blueprints on how to move forward and forge stronger, healthier bonds.
Sometimes I need reassurance that I’m important, and I have said this over and over again. I don’t need to be your top priority, but I do need to be one of them if you’re going to call me a partner. Sometimes I need a little extra attention. Nothing grandiose. Just a reminder that I’m loved. It’s never that I don’t believe I am, but it’s nice to hear, see, feel it from you. I need random messages and occasional outpourings of emotion from you, not constantly, but I need it not to vanish for weeks at a time.
I need you to hear my words not my tone or body language. I need you to believe my words not take them as passive aggression or sass.
I need to feel secure, and when i ask for clarification on what seemed like a small action to you, I need you to not take it as malice or suspicion. I’m just trying to understand. Sudden changes in tone, behaviour, or levels of interaction will be internalized if I can’t mention them to you and get them out of my head, which is running through every reason why it’s all a sign you’re about to leave me. I’m not saying these changes aren’t natural or understood, especially when something is happening in your life. I’m just saying I might ask.
I need you to talk to me. I need you to let me talk. This all boils down to communication. I’m going to overthink things, and getting it out helps. Weird things cut deep sometimes, and all I need is to mention it so it doesn’t fester. I need to know we can have an open dialogue without you lashing out at me. It helps me stay calm and rational.
I need you to know I worry about pushing you away. I worry about being too complicated. I worry about being misunderstood. I worry. Mostly I worry about whether or not you’re happy with me, whether you’re still happy with me, whether you stay because it’s become routine.
I need honesty, even when I might not like it, because I need to trust that you will tell me the bad things along with the good so I don’t constantly wonder what you’re thinking but not saying.
I need balance. I need you to trust me to handle my issues on my own first before you swipe in to try and fix it, but I also need you to know that if I’m reaching out to you I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t want to add to your stress, and I’m doing what I can and taking steps every day to do it better, but I can’t always do it alone. It took me a long time to be able to ask for help, and if I do it means I trust you with my life and my heart. Please understand this.
I need you to know my triggers. I’ll never ask that you avoid them, because part of learning to cope with them is getting used to processing them, but I do need you to be a little sensitive to the aftercare if you’re going to trigger issues. I need to know I’m safe having a reaction to things with you.
I need you to give me some control. I need to feel competent. I need to feel like you believe I’m competent. I need you to not be condescending. I’m an adult, and I’m fully aware of what’s happening and what I need. When I feel like I’m being coddled, babied, or invalidated it triggers everything, and I forget I’m strong and stop trying. I need to not stop trying.
I need you to be clear, patient, and observant at times. Especially when it comes to your needs and issues.
I need you to trust me to adjust my behaviour when I am wrong. I need you to trust me to understand when you need a little space, but I need you to eventually come back from that space. I need you to trust that nothing I do is malicious, and help me be a better partner. Lastly, I need you to trust me to be doing everything I can to be a better version of me every day. I’m not happy being this difficult to live with. I’m not complacent in it. I’m not making excuses.
This is not a list of things you have to learn to do for me. This is a list of things we can learn to navigate together.
I don’t believe we are stuck. I believe things can be improved even after years of unhealthy habits. No, you can never really start over, and there will always be old wounds, but healing is a powerful thing, and all of my relationships are strong, or we wouldn’t be in them.
I’ve done a lot of my own reading and research, but maybe it’s more helpful from a voice that’s not mine…
Which is why I’m here. I was asked whay advice I would give to a partner of someone with BPD. This is what I said.
Go now, feel.
The past few months have been rough, and I haven’t been alone in my struggles. It seems like everyone around me has gone through family problems, major depression, personal crisis, medical or financial hardships, or some combination of those things since Beltane, enough that I had to stop and wonder if there was any significance to it. Today I started to get the whispers of an answer.
This Litha is particularly strong, as it coincides with the full moon. This is the day of the Sun. It’s the time for harvesting the herbs we’ll use for healing and rituals, making it an auspicious day for work yet to come. That raw, masculine energy is high, and we are full of powerful potential.
At Ostara the world was bright, and we watched each other build cocoons with visions of being beautiful butterflies, looking forward to the day we would spread our wings and soar on the sunlight. We waited patiently, and little by little we began to change. This is where the transformation began, and we needed that time to be at full strength for what came next.
As I’ve written several times, transformation is painful. In the second half of this process, our entire form changes, and the cocoon has to be broken. Our safe little world has to be opened up to an exciting, but terrifying, sky. It’s bloody. It’s traumatic. Everything about us must change. The caterpillars we were, and the cocoon we used to shield ourselves during our transformation must be cast aside in order to become what we are meant to be. Those cocoons may have felt safe, but they were dark and restricting. We weren’t meant to live there.
These battles we’ve been fighting for months are necessary for the transformation we’re each undertaking. They’re making us stronger, moving us towards who we really are instead of the mere possibilities we have been, but only if we’re willing to let go of the caterpillars and the temporary shells they built around us.
So, back to Litha and the sun we meet as we emerge. Sun means fire, and the fires of Litha burn hot, hotter this year than I have ever felt. For many of us that fire has raged internally. It purifies and transforms us, but it can be destructive if we fear it instead of dancing with it. I’m feeling change I set in motion years ago, and I have felt it in every cell in my body for the past three months. It has tested my faith in myself. It has tested my relationships. It has tested my ability to function at mundane tasks while every part of me feels torn apart, but in the end I…in the end we all…will emerge from the darkness that has surrounded us. I feel it happening a little more every day. I see it happening around me. It may not be over for some, but it will get better. I know we will all pull through this and fly together in the sunlight.
Go now,be who you were meant to be
New relationships give us all sorts of opportunities. A new partner means all these new frontiers to explore, don’t they? Suddenly we’re interested in couples Wii bowling tournaments and Faberge egg painting, and we make all these plans like they’re blueprints for this new relationship. Then reality sets in. Wii bowling happens on a work night, and neither of you can paint a fence let alone a hollowed out egg. Instantly there are all these unmet expectations. Now throw in the fact that this is a new person you’re learning, and no matter how many times you’ve dreamily cooed the phrase “it feels like I’ve known you forever” it’s been two months, and you’re still learning to communicate and exist on this planet together. This is where hopes get let down, miscommunication runs rampant, and because NRE has the happy gauge turned up to High Octane, these small disappointments feel world ending. Sometimes they feel relationship ending.
This is where real life has to interfere for the relationship to survive, and as comfort levels are established we must be willing to let some of those expectations be set aside for a rainy day, reshaped a little, ot even just released back into the wild. Maybe you buy a Wii and bowl at home. Maybe you take a Vino and Van Gogh class one weekend, get smashed, and paint nothing put stick figures and butts. Maybe you find something else that excites you. The key is to adapt, because at some point the letdowns get bigger; it’s a fact of life that no relationship, yes even yours, is perfect. If you can’t handle the reality that your partner hated the recipe you learned because she said she likes lasagna, how are you going to survive when you find out she whistles in her sleep and keeps you awake, when the perfect night out you planned in your head ends up on the couch in pj’s because one of you had an awful day, when tears are in her eyes because you weren’t even aware you’d done something hurtful? These things will happen, and these little compromises on expectations build the foundation for a relationship that can sustain them.
I’ve said it before. NRE is a roller-coaster, friends, and sometimes one partner gets off the ride before the other. What then? You will never survive this blow if you’ve let every other changed expectation tear at you. This is where the true strength of a relationship is tested. This is where you find out what you can do together, and once again you adapt. This is where love and compassion can mean everything. This is where reaching out and the little things that define your relationship are imperative, because they’re so easily left behind when the ride is over.
There is no other message here. Just let that one sink in a bit.
Go now. Hold on tight.
When I was a kid there was a portrait collage on the wall of my grandparent’s home. My grandfather lost most of his brothers to war, and they spent many meals with us in stories from his childhood. These are the uncles I never got to meet, but men I felt connected to through my grandfather’s words. Who he never mentioned was the brother who survived in body but lost his mind, but I knew the story, and it haunted me for a long time.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m on an Honor Flight with a man named Georgie who spends three hours telling me about his life experiences. I’m in awe and humbled that of all the things he could be doing, he’s talking to me. He tells me about the loves of his life, of his kids, his jobs vacations and friends he’s lost. He talks little of war or service until we’re less than an hour out, but when he does his words are powerful. He speaks to me of honor and compassion. He speaks to me of the decades he’s spent watching strong men eventually defeat themselves. In the end he tells me to remember those whose sacrifice has been forgotten, and I think of that forgotten brother on my grandparents’ wall.
In my life I have known so many of those “forgotten brothers”, and I have felt the loss of each and every one of them. Yes, there were friends and family members who never came home, but there were also those who did only to kill themselves shortly afterwards, to never quite find a way to grasp life again, to lose everything to one addiction or another. Then there was love I didn’t know how to handle, a decision I couldn’t make, and my future forever changed by the loss of my own “forgotten brother”.
So, this morning I took a walk through the part of my past I don’t generally see these days. It’s not that I avoid it, but it’s become a part of a life that doesn’t even seem like mine anymore, so I let it quietly lurk in the background of my memories. But today I took a walk, and the images became vivid enough to touch. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a dark place, or maybe it’s fresh loss. Maybe it’s just life’s way of reminding me where I’ve been in my life and why I keep moving forward, that these moments in time, and yes, these people, are still very much a part of me and each and every one of them is fighting for me.
I don’t tell his story often, and it’s not one I’m prepared to tell today, but today I honor him and all the forgotten brothers and sisters.
Go now, reflect and remember.