Every moment is an opportunity to learn, every step is a chance to walk a new path.

What path will you choose?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Epiphany

I have a difficult truth to admit.

It's been 17 years since I was 19 years old. (Yes, I am old... but that's not the truth I'm talking about) When I was 19, I was introduced to the world. Many get this introduction much earlier, but I lived somewhat of a sheltered life. It started when I was 17; I started to see parts of the world hidden underneath the one I knew and I wanted to peel back the plastic and see what was underneath. I met a new kind of person, the kind that lives in the fringe, outside the natural order of common society and I, puzzled, stared in awe as they paved roads I'd never seen before- full of wonder and magic. I often wonder what would have become of me had I never started doing the renaissance faire, if I'd never gone back to high school after having been in home school since the 6th grade, I wonder if I'd be singing more, if I'd have married or had babies... I wonder if they'd be the same babies I have now? Who knows?

Well, when I turned 19, I took a flying leap and dove into the world head first with my eyes closed. There, I found independence, the job world, the goth culture, alcohol, D&D, Dead Can Dance, Tori Amos, herbalism, the Occult, Hermetic Magick, heart-ache, my sexuality, Tarot, zombies, Batman, The Watchmen, the corporate world, morning commutes and deadlines and reports, I learned how to fire people, hire people, change lives and train people. I learned about depression and love and how to move forward even when it hurt to breathe.
 I learned to heal my friends, love unconditionally, I learned about addiction through my loved one's struggles, I learned about letting go and holding on, I learned about desperation and compassion and babies and birth and forgiveness and... it's been an amazing time. In those 17 years, I've learned a lot. I've done many things, lived many lives. I have pages and pages of books full of journal entries explaining how I hoped to learn to cope with each aspect of those many lives, but in none of them, can I find that I ever found the answer.

As I review these 17 years, I start to see how it's not really been about learning and growing, it's been about learning to cope, deal and move on. There's a pile of crap- oh well, here- put a table cloth over it, a few candles and a book or two... there, now it's a table. Good, right? ...Not so much when you realize you're living in the middle of chaos that you've learned to deal with because you spent the last 17 years coping instead of fixing.

As I sit here in my living room looking around at the playful mess my two year old created, the dishes I need to put away, the laundry I need to fold and the garden I need to tend to, I feel blessed to have the life I do now, but I see how much of what I have is covering up what I never fixed. I am so blessed to be home with my babies, to be able to be here to teach them and to love them. Unfortunately, this comes at a price- a giant financial one. When I think about the bills I need to pay, the people I need to contact to manage my student loans, the medical bills I have to pay, I look at the carpet that needs replaced and the holes in the wall, the birthday I am trying to plan for my baby turning one next month, the silence of no tv because we can't pay the bill, the piles and piles of baby and toddler clothes I'm swimming in and only kept so that I could try and re-sell to make some extra cash, the pain in my hands because I took off my acrylic nails to save $20 a month... I'm exhausted because every spare chance I have, I'm trying to come up with ways to make money so I can continue to stay home.

My house gets neglected because I'm cleaning someone else's house to make enough money to buy my organic produce from the Saturday market. I feel badly that my house is a mess, but I don't get paid to clean this one.
I'm a health coach for a company that sells diet food and changes lives in incredible ways. I can help people lose extra weight while learning how to eat healthfully, teach them to honor themselves and their families by being healthy and abandoning bad habits with food that can make them sick. I can offer this to people, but no one I know wants to take the leap, so I'm not making any money.
 I started a mom-blog and two facebook communities devoted to motherhood, alternative parenting and organic, healthy living in hopes that my experiences can help others as they pursue the compassionate way of living rather than the easy one... I hope one day to write a book based on these ideas to share the love and knowledge with people who might need it.
 I wrote two children's books, each with potential to be a series of educational stories focused on language learning basics with subculture references, but I have no artists to draw for me, so they sit here in my computer collecting dust and spiderwebs.
I'm the co-owner of a comic book publishing company and I do my best to help them achieve their goals. I've written 3 starter stories to build upon for the company, but haven't had time to finish any of them. On top of that, many of our events and activities are not child friendly, so I often don't get to participate.
I'm directing the music for a local community theatre show in hopes that some of the kids will want to take voice lessons from me once the show is over. The process takes me away from my babies too many nights in a row and as they scream and cry when I walk out the door, I just have to hope that it'll be worth it and someone will ask me to be their voice teacher. If that happens, it'll be worth it- if that happens, I can justify their tears for just a little while because I owe so many people money right now it's terrifying.
I see my dear babies, blissfully ignorant of the financial nightmare that is their parent's lives. I see them, the beauty of them... and I want to give them everything- especially an understanding of how to be responsible with money and how NOT to make the mistakes we've made. I realized a sad truth today- I can't hope to offer them anything until I fix the life I've broken.  Okay, well maybe "broken" is too strong a word, it's not really broken, it's just more difficult than it needs to be because of self-imposed challenges.

When I consider all the things I sometimes feel I'm failing at, I also consider all the things I could be good at.  I begin to think about the stories in my head that are burning to get out and be read by others. I feel the art in my fingertips, waiting to be released through a brush and some paint, the candles I want to make, the clothing I want to sew and the signs I want to build. I look inside and see the creative doors swing wide to reveal a mind full of ideas- good ideas- worthy of profit ideas. I have about a million ideas for phone/pad apps that I know could be successful... if only I knew someone who wrote those types of programs. I feel the rush of heat through me as I consider healing, myself and others through means of alternative medicine and herbalism and I KNOW I could do that- help others and bring peace to my family.

I close my eyes and I see the world where I am actively pursuing my creative ventures, successful and healthy and joyfully sharing my gifts, gaining karmic rewards in exchange for good works. It's easy to say everything wrong in my life is because of money, but the truth is- everything right in my life is because I've chosen to not pursue money. I feel like there's something profound in this revelation and I just can't quite grasp it yet. All I have at the moment is a question; Can the things that are right and good about my life now, create money so that the things that are wrong can be fixed without having to give up those good things? I am more creative, more empowered and more ambitious than I've ever been and I've been saying, "only a lack of starter cash prevents me from achieving what I want creatively" but I don't think that's really true. I think what is more true, is that I am too scattered and pulled in different directions to clearly focus on the goal and how to walk the path to get there.  I think a lot of people do this- they blame their lack of direction on some external force like money or location, or age or health... when really, there's not that much stopping you if you stop making excuses and just do it.  I mean, if I want to be truly honest with myself, there's no reason why I couldn't have been working on one of those many things I just listed above instead of writing this!

The tough part is and always has been... knowing which option to pick.  Maybe it's because I'm a Gemini, maybe it's because I married a Sag... maybe it's because I'm supposed to learn the lesson this way as opposed to the easier way. Because, let's face it... when do I ever do ANYthing the easy way??

All I know is that I want to continue doing what I love and I want to begin doing more things that I love and I need money to do that so I don't have to go get a job in a place I don't want to be. I feel my ambitions frantically spidering out in all directions reaching to unknown places in search of something tangible to hold onto, something to allow me to continue my life in the manner I wish.  My ambitions are good I think, there's just so many of them it's hard to filter, prioritize and choose one.
I want to be a stay at home, home-school mom. I want to write and inspire people with the worlds in my mind. I want to sing and teach others to let go- to find their voices and sing the songs of their souls. I want to heal, to learn and share that knowledge with others that we may heal this world through compassionate medicine that prevents, not just fixes. I want to help other mothers find peace with their bodies, help them embrace motherhood and do whatever it takes to nourish their babies in all ways possible so that we may normalize the experience of motherhood- cast away our prejudice against mothers and parenthood. I want to shut up and shut down the hurtful, hateful attitudes of those who have chosen not to have children and show them that we are all mothers and fathers in this world- we are, each of us parents and children of this universe and only through loving, compassionate, patient stewardship in our global community (especially the very smallish ones who cannot speak for themselves) will we achieve the greatness we have within us as a species. I want to share a healthier way of living, eating, being with those around me- I want to make them aware of the damage the foods we have trusted are actually causing and teach them what to avoid to live a new way, a healthier way. I want to help them leave behind the chemicals we have become dependent upon, the bad food we take in as "treats" and replace it with goodness from a poison-free garden, free of synthetic additives.

Can I really be all these things, or am I just spread too thin? Is there a such thing as being too diversified in my ambition?

 As I reflect the last 17 years, I can't help but feel that I have failed in some way for in my pursuit of all, I have mastered nothing. I know a little about a lot of things but I am the master of none. It's a difficult thing to admit, but I do it now because I feel I have to embrace who I am in this minute in order to truly move ahead. I have never truly owned a single ambition for very long because I want all of it! I study a little then move on... study a little more, then move on... and I am forever moving, grasping hold of nothing, taking bits of thread and swatches of different lives and I've weaved together a massive tapestry of a thousand colors, shapes and textures... but it's full of holes and unstable fabrics with no substance and that can't keep me warm, it can't feed my family and it can't sustain me. I cannot continue to live in the world I have created, in this person I have built. I need to find a way to focus. I need to find a way to pull the different parts of my Self into the same body and find a way to make the different parts work together for once, to create something beautiful and magical in my life for myself, my family and the world around me.

I feel like the world is waiting for me to offer my gifts. It's been waiting for 17 years... since the first moment I told someone I wanted to be a witch, not really understanding what that meant yet, but knowing in my heart that I was being led down that path for a reason, a path that was going to change my life forever.

So here I am, world... offering. I am owning who I am, the life I have created and the challenges I know I need to overcome. I offer these past decisions, not as mistakes and not in shame, but as lessons I learned that I am proud of. I open myself up to the power of the universe and the Self who already knows what to do.  I am open, willing and for the first time, I think finally... truly ready. So bring it, world... I've got my stomping boots on and fire in my hands, my family at my side and seeds in my pocket. Let's rock this and do it right this time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Sad Day"

Today is a sad day. Someone on my friend's list posted that today is “a sad day” because we learned that a dear friend has passed away. Those left behind when death moves to take a soul are moved to tears. Grief and sadness over a loss is always equal to the greatness of the individual who has passed. The more tremendous, bright, happy and wonderful the individual was- the greater the feeling of pain in those left behind. I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, this teeter-totter- the brighter the light, the darker the world feels without them. It reminded me of Maat. Her throne and scales are, in some cultures and beliefs, one of the first stops you make in the afterlife. Your soul is taken and your heart is placed upon her scales to be weighed against the weight of a feather. If your soul is heavy with dishonesty and evil, Anubis takes the heart and tosses it like a doggie treat to a monster, which then devours it. If the heart is light with love and truth, you may move forward into the afterlife. Maat teaches us mercy, as she has the final say- Anubis may wish to discard of the soul, but she will sometimes “weigh twice” the soul in peril. Her compassion and mercy may save a burdened heart from the mighty teeth of Am-mit, should she see some lightness; some savable spark within its core and because she is the essence of purity herself, her word is always trusted and her request, granted. She then rejoices in the release of the soul into the afterlife and the soul may further transcend. Our world needs more of her. Her compassion, her wisdom, her purity. We need to expect more of ourselves- more purity in thought and deed. More honesty and righteousness. There are few glimmering lights of joy in this world, those who allow the light to burn within them are furiously brilliant and their light shines deeply within those who know them. When their lights are removed from this world, those left behind mourn the loss- not only of the dearly departed, but the very lightness of their heart and soul. We crave that purity, that joy and that essence of lightness in those who live with honesty. Our grief is in direct response to the power of that light. Our sadness, anger and confusion stems from our sudden plunge into a darker world, one where our own lights seem dim by comparison to the one now gone from our sight. His light has been taken from this world, so he may move forward as a spiritual being. In truth, this is a joyous time! He has passed through that unknowable door into the next place… to see whatever there is to see on the other side. He now exists within that mysterious place that we can only guess to understand. Those left behind; we all must learn to burn as brightly as he did. We must not mourn the loss of his shining star- but use it as a sentinel to guide our own ships. His joy, passion and the many gifts he left us are all lessons we can learn and live by: Love unashamed, laugh with unleashed joy and sing. Above all, always sing. Blessed Be, Fred. Thank you for the lessons you have taught us and the love you so openly gave. You will be missed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My thoughts on Scout issues

I am prefacing this with the statement below for your consideration; I know I usually provide only general good advice and inner thoughts that might help someone through their day, but I felt if anywhere this was appropriate to post, this would be the place to do it. I am passionate about this topic and feel it is relevant because so many of us fall upon the sword of hate in our lives, so many of us wield the same sword, even while it still drips with our own blood. We hate and hate the haters continually and I believe it's vital to our survival as a species that we stop that hate, recognize our own shortcomings and take a risk to overcome them by loving ourselves and one another, not shunning one another for our differences. My desire to post this is not to stir up controversy or a theology argument, but to allow you an opportunity to consider a potential truth. Read it and continue to believe the words that speak to your spirit. I will continue to love and respect you, no matter what your perspective. <3 ~ I once signed someone's petition through change.org, so now I get emails every day from random people asking me to help with their causes. Sometimes I look at these emails, sometimes I don't, sometimes I read the heading and think, “there’s a reason you can’t have that” and leave it alone, but today I did read it. I read the heading of the email and it was enough to make me open it up and take a moment to read her plea for help. By the time I was done with my email, I was angry, sad and disappointed all at once. Here's a piece of the email; "My son Ryan has been a Boy Scout since he was 6 years old, and now, a few days before his 18th birthday, he has fulfilled all the requirements to be an Eagle Scout. But because Ryan recently came out to his friends and family as gay, leaders from our local Boy Scout troop say they won't approve Ryan's Eagle award." This is not the first message regarding people’s frustration with the Scouts and their policy on the gay community I’ve seen in the last few months. This whole concept wasn’t new to me and it wasn’t a shock, in fact, the media is somewhat saturated with it right now but even still, for some reason this one got to me. I understand this is a Christian organization upholding a core set of values that focus on their beliefs. I respect that and even if I don't agree, I still hold to the principle that organizations have a right to enact any (legal) standards they see fit in their own group/business/company. If they want to demand that everyone who crosses their threshold speaks in pirate and wears a grass skirt, so be it. If they want to demand that only people with brown eyes are allowed to join, well that’s their prerogative and the blue eyed folks will just have to start their own club. Having said that, this is what bothers me- From a Christian perspective, this does not seem like a just act on their part. The child grew up in the family of the Scouts and behaved exactly as he was expected to throughout his entire life. He represented the organization with honor and dignity and made them proud for over a decade and yet when it came time for him to be awarded for his many years of service to the organization, they turned their backs on him and denied him the award that represented all those years of service. Nowhere in the rule books, codes of conduct, Scout Oath or Scout Law does it state being homosexual is forbidden. The rule book does demand a scout act with honor, dignity and morality. None of these fundamentals are being used in the treatment of this young man. I've tried to keep an open mind with the Scouts as they have come under fire a great deal recently over this because I have family in the scouts and I may even want my son to join them one day... but this is just something I cannot agree to disagree with or continue to ignore without throwing in my two cents. The young man just turned 18. He hasn’t yet engaged in any romantic behavior, homosexual or otherwise. It’s simply the fact that he is not heterosexual that causes this organization to turn their backs on him and disgrace him, nullify his 15 years of service and deny him his due recognition for work already done. In the Bible, there are many references to homosexuality and “lying with a man as one lies with a woman” and how that act is “detestable” and “vile.” They are right, it’s in there- plain as day and clear as crystal, but here’s the thing; if you’re like me, you trust the word of God. Many believe that the word of God is spoken through many who interpreted that word and those interpretations are what we now call The Bible. I may be a cynic, but I just don’t trust the words of other men acting in the name of God. I trust the words of Jesus, not the words of any other man capable of sin in ways that Jesus was not. If we follow Christian law and ideals, Christ was above sin and was the living God incarnate. Which to me, means his word goes and is far reaching above the word of man, even a holy man, even a “Christ-like” man, because every man has an agenda. Every man is capable of darkness and ego and none are above it- this is also Christian law, as far as I understand it. That being said, I personally will take the word of Christ over the word of a disciple any day. Maybe that’s short sighted, but forgive me if I just don’t trust people all that much to not create a law based on their own personal preference knowing no one will challenge them! I also realize that the entire book has been written and rewritten so many times to fit leaders’ agendas it’s difficult to trust anything as sacred, but I’m taking a leap of faith here in order to make my point so bear with me. Matthew 22:36-4, New International Version (NIV) 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” You see, Jesus he didn’t say “Love thy neighbor as yourself, unless they are homosexual, in which case you’re welcome to cast them out of every social circle, deny them access to the house of the lord, deny them the right to become men and women of ministry and prevent them from sharing equal marriage rights.” That was NO where in that statement as far as I can tell. His message was love, above all else- love. Love to Christ is not love like romantic love or even the casual polite understanding we claim to be love between friends and it’s supposed to be an unknowable volume more than the love a parent has for a child. The love that is taught by Christ is an all encompassing, unconditional compassionate love; “agape” that sees within each person to the core of their soul. It can easily weigh and measure each sin and good deed and love regardless with open arms of sanctuary all with only a belief in that love in exchange. There is absolutely no documentation anywhere to indicate Jesus, the Christ, the Living God, the Son of the Heavenly Father EVER stated it was acceptable to hate, shun, deny or abandon homosexuals and keep them from their lives and lifestyles. He never instructed those who followed him to deny them the right to join hands in marriage and he never indicated it would be just or righteous to prevent them from having the same rights as heterosexuals. For this reason, any organization or company that supports this line of thinking in the name of Christian Law, I believe, is acting against Christ and shunning his most precious and fundamental request of mankind; to love. We can speculate that as a Jew, Jesus did follow the laws of Moses which state blatantly that homosexual behavior is unacceptable. However, most churches and Christian belief systems will encourage against speculation because you should only believe what is written and not get in too deep with your own ideas on what the people in the Bible were thinking. With that in mind, I looked up Cor. 6:9-11, a typical verse sited when considering homosexuality and the Christian world in which, according to the King James version, states the following; “1 Corinthians 6:9-11 King James Version (KJV) 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” As far as I can tell, and please know I’m not by any means a Bible scholar here, but it seems to only site “the effeminate” which is to me, a little vague. I’ve seen other versions that were put together after this, more modern versions that have replaced effeminate with homosexual, which are NOT the same word. I’m assuming as time has gone on, people chose to interpret the statement as they saw fit and as I understand it, Paul is speaking in direct regards to the Greeks and their licentious practices involving men and women as they engaged in sexual practices that were frivolous acts of lust and violence, not sacred acts of love and commitment. When evaluating that statement carefully in other versions of the text, the word “effeminate” was originally written as, “arsenokoita” (meaning “men and “bed”)or, translated as those “that defile themselves with mankind” because supposedly there was no word for homosexuality. Once this was discovered, the more modern editors changed the word to homosexuality just to “clarify things” for the modern reader. Unfortunately, this was not a true statement, as there was a word in the time used for homosexuality. Paul could easily have used the term “paiderasst”, as this was the appropriate and common term used in the day to represent homosexual behavior in Greece at the time. This also indicates the word exchange per the editor’s preference over time because for some time, this reference to “those that defile themselves with mankind” referred to masturbators and had absolutely nothing to do with homosexual activity. In fact, as masturbation became more accepted in the 20th century, the terms seen in Bible printings up to that point changed from “”those that defile themselves with mankind” to “effeminate” or outright stating “homosexuality” even though this particular term or was completely nonexistent in the time of Paul. I realize I’m skimming the surface looking for specific things here and I may be missing something but as far as I can tell, nowhere in the Bible does Jesus/God himself condemn, shun or abandon homosexuals as children of God. Nowhere does he state that a Christian should become an advocate against same sex marriage and nowhere in the Bible does it state homosexuals are denied access to heaven or should be treated as ungodly creatures of sin. Jesus did reiterate the importance of Genesis 2:24 (“Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife” etc.) when asked about divorce and the value of commitment, but I’m not sure how that denies the right of a same-sex couple from marrying, as it only states the value of the commitment of marriage under God between a man and a woman. It does not define this arrangement as the only gender combination of marriage allowed, nor does it state “a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife only and man shall never engage in marriage to another man”. If the Bible stated this, perhaps we wouldn’t be faced with such a challenge in this area. Many Christians do believe this implies it’s the only right combination, but the fact of the matter is that when you look, even carefully to find the words to justify hate, condemnation and the denial of equal rights to the homosexual community, it simply isn’t there. So, what does all this mean to me? It means that men have decided this, neither God nor Jesus. Jesus taught only love, love through Grace and according to everything I’ve read in the Bible, Grace is not awarded or taken away because of sexual orientation. No man, even a disciple, has the right to dictate otherwise. It does however state very clearly the vast importance of loving one another- all peoples, regardless of any differences. It states the importance of giving, charity and understanding, as we are asked to look inward to see the similarities between one another rather than our differences. We are asked to have compassion for all people and to draw people toward God by showing “his” love through our works, our minds and our lives. So sure, the Scouts can go ahead and have whatever type of club they want and if they don’t want homosexual teens to be a part of it, that’s their right but in no way can this be called a Christian decision. Considering they’re perfectly willing to knowingly harbor hundreds of known sex offenders as scout leaders, I question the moral integrity of the organization at its very core. It’s so disappointing to see such a respected group fail to provide respect to others. I feel this may be the beginning of their end, truly the end of an amazing era of service, strength and honor. Many young men across the country will miss out.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Healthful thinking... in sickness and in health?

I am often reminded how fragile life is and how precious a gift it can be. I am just as often, able to forget and take for granted the gifts I have been offered and I abuse the life I have been given.
I want to focus on maintaining an attitude of necessary, healthful living without having to have a fear of dying to keep me honest.
As many of you know, I spent the greater part of last year dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety. I haven't really talked about just how bad it was, I didn't want to worry anyone or make anyone feel like I was pulling a "poor me" moment, but I can tell you now, I have never felt so horrible for so many days consecutively in my life. The only way I can explain how it feels to someone who hasn't experienced it, is like this; take your worst break-up experience- the one that sent you into a crisis of life changing proportions, the one that shattered not only your heart but your soul and the idea of who you thought you were... take that feeling and add it to the feeling of the death of a close friend or family member and all the pain, loss and absence of joy that goes with it and then tack on top, a fear so profound that the idea of finding out you have a life threatening disease would probably feel better than this.
It's all of those feelings, all at once, all the time. For months. In the happiest year of my life- the first year of my first child's, I felt like I was living in a black box.
My life was a dark room. "One, big, dark room." Yes, I can laugh about it now and make jokes like that, but a year ago today, I guarantee you I was awake at 3am just as I am now, probably clutching my baby in a dark, sleeping house afraid I'd die of a stroke or that an earthquake would hit and kill us, or someone would break into our house and I'd be helpless against them, or some other equally horrifying scenario that wouldn't stop playing itself out in my mind.
That constant feeling of dread caused me to change my life, my thinking, my actions day to day and all for the better until the anxiety began to melt away under the light of knowing I was the one in control, not those rambling images of doom and I was able to do it without medication. The entire experience still terrifies me a little and I'm doing all I can to ensure it doesn't happen again with my current pregnancy.
So often, I think the only time we care about our health (both physically and spiritually) is when it's gone so far down into self destruction that we have to do something in order to stay alive.
As I sit here awake at 3:15am, babysitting my blood sugar levels and hoping I don't crash... I am reminded that I knew better and worked very hard last year to ensure these issues didn't come back. I knew how to prevent what's happening right now and I chose to eat that pie anyway, even though I didn't have enough solid protein to back it up.
I took for granted a simple rule because I felt fine and now I'm sitting here at 3am trying to make sure it doesn't crash dangerously in my sleep. I don't want to be someone who "knew better" and did whatever I felt like anyway and end up hurting myself because of it.
This whole situation got me thinking about our culture in the metaphysical world and the constant presence of abandon we seem to see consistently. I often call them the "faire pagans", but we're all guilty of it- we all say we're on a divine path, that our bodies are temples and that we honor ourselves as we do our divinity- and yet, we'll smoke, drink, use drugs, fatigue our bodies with too little sleep, we don't give honor at all, in fact, we defile ourselves consistently!
Why is it such a challenge to do what is best for ourselves when times are good? Being the people we are, shouldn't we be the first ones in line to be healthy, to live balanced, holistic lives that honor ourselves as temples of the Gods and not so often abandon our own safety for the pleasure of a few moments? Why then, does it seem that the pagan community as a whole, suffers from this more than most? Cakes and ale doesn't mean get drunk off your ass and sleep with your coven. Praying to Bacchus doesn't give you the excuse to destroy your liver, abandon your marriage vows and party like a frat boy till you throw up and then laugh about the fact that you can't even remember half of it ...and yet, this seems to be the case so much of the time in our culture.
How can we maintain a healthy understanding of consequence that allows us to stay on track without the anxiety of worst case scenario thinking to keep us honest and on target with our meditation, diet, exercise, writing, ritual, whatever it happens to be? It seems to be all or nothing and I know it's not just with me, but with most people I know, regardless of spiritual persuasion.
So, my question is... how can we fight the inner rebellion against whatever we know we aught to do for ourselves both physically and spiritually to create a peaceful union between body and spirit and maintain that union even when things seem just fine? What is our attraction to doing the opposite for our well being?
Even a single celled amoeba can figure out how to avoid hazardous obstacles- why is it so very hard for us?
From smoking, to drinking, diet, sedentary lifestyles, lack of spirituality, toxic friendships, destructive relationships, we- humans in general, constantly put ourselves in harm's way and then try to defend our actions through some sort of personal declaration of independence; "I am my own person and I'll destroy myself if I feel like it". Even when I was ultra goth and tragic that mentality didn't make any sense and as I smoked my cloves and drank my jack, I defiantly stated to the universe; "I don't care!"... Well, now I do. I do care. I always did actually, I was just sad for a long, long time and somehow the self destruction felt like I at least had control of something at a time when I felt I had no control over anything.
Now that I realize the illusion of my consciousness, I understand I always had control. So then I ask myself, why is it so easy to step back into a state of reaction instead of acting intentionally for the sake of good health? I honestly don't have a good answer for this.
We all hold onto something- some defiant part of our minds wants to hold onto it, to own it, we use it as an identifier or a rebellious, foot stamping "because I can" statement. Some people smoke, some drink, some procrastinate, some never finish anything, some never start anything. Some "wish" they could do things but never act to make them happen. Some look at others and judge instead of holding the mirror to themselves. Some people do one good thing a month and they say, "it's better than nothing" and some people get angry and stressed at everything instead of approaching life from a positive place.
What is your excuse to hold onto your vice... whatever that vice happens to be... and what would it take for you to quit doing it to live the complete life you want for yourself? What would it take to give up that destructive habit before it kills you or makes you so sick you have no choice but to act?
Are you willing to find out how sick it can make you before you bother to do something about it, or can we just agree that it needs to stop now?
I personally don't want to wait to find out what it would take to get me to change. I'd rather just change and never get to that point of "hitting bottom" so to speak, I just can't seem to maintain that desire.
What are your thoughts on this? Does anyone have any meditations or advice on how to build this resolve to withstand the "easier" times? I think we could all benefit from knowing how to better keep ourselves in check.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Judgment

I just got finished reading a popular article floating around the internet written by a woman who is apologizing to the world, to parents she knew and those she didn’t for the judgment she passed on them prior to having children. She remarks how pre-children, she had all these ideas and opinions, she knew exactly how she was going to parent and what was the right and wrong thing to do. She continues to apologize openly for her smugness, her lack of understanding and her naive belief that it was easy to do the job she had yet to do.
As I was reading this article, I began to think of three things; my own pre-child judgments and ideas of how I would raise a child, those I have judged and the actions of my own that are judged by others. This topic has come up a great deal in the last few weeks, enough to inspire me out of my year-long writer's block and post something up here that I think might be valuable to you.
In general, those who know me know I’m not a big fan of judgment in general. I avoid situations that will create judgment to the point where I don’t invite people over because I don’t want them to see my messy house that looks like a preschool. I realized this past year, the first year after my first child was born, that I judge a lot more than I realized. I judge people’s character, their dress, their ways of presenting themselves to people they don’t know, their personal style and statements, their religious convictions, their judgment of others, their egotism, their audacity to think they have any right to counsel others without degrees and professional training, the list goes on and on.
I also realized I am surrounded by people who judge. I have friends who are pagan who judge the actions and beliefs of Christians. I have Christian friends who judge the actions and beliefs of pagans. I have Jewish and pseudo-Jewish friends who judge… well, everyone. I have gay friends who judge conservatives, I have conservative friends who judge gays and liberals and liberal friends who judge anyone who tells them they are wrong. I have friends who have kids who judge others who don’t have families at all and I have friends who don’t have kids, don’t want them and don’t particularly like them who judge anyone who has them. The more I realized this, the more repellant I became toward the behavior.
I began to see clearly when I was about four months pregnant and first started showing. Situations began to come up that would start as innocent enough questions, turning quickly into a “are you sure” conversation with the eyebrow and the uncomfortable throat-clearing. Questions about the baby; names, birthing process, location of the birth, will I vaccinate, will I make my own food, will I be using cloth diapers, am I still dying my hair, how will I decorate his room, will I return to work and was I really planning to go to a 5 day comic book convention in July while 5 ½ months pregnant. That wasn’t just it, though. Some of what I noticed had nothing at all to do with the baby.
I was about 5 months along and sitting at a family gathering, listening to every single member of my family from age 15 up through age 65 in a conversation about how stupid a certain group of people were and how ridiculous it was that they act/dress the way they do. I stood back horrified, frustrated and getting more anxious by the minute as I realized I had dear friends in this anonymous group they were bashing and no one noticed what was happening except for me. I was suddenly hit with this realization that even the people I love judge indiscriminately, blindly and they feel justified in doing so and it’s not just my family- it’s everyone.
They take a group of people or a subject and draw conclusions based on what they see in that moment, making assumptions about their character and who knows what else. Anyone with any logic knows this is not the best way to evaluate a situation, and yet… in a room full of educated people, judgment abounds. I’ve spent the last two years now evaluating this behavior in myself and those around me and doing my best to purge it from my universe. I realize I can’t change how others think, but I can absolutely change the way I think, who I spend time with and hope that my influence encourages others to be less judgmental.
I started by evaluating my situation; the groups I traveled in over the years and the people in my life. I decided I had better set some standards in this area before my babies are too big because with any luck, I can help them to never develop these tendencies at all. I began listening for choice phrases and comments, those like; “I love her, but...”, “she’s a nice person, but…” and other, similar statements. All of these phrases and many more are masked judgments, viewing another’s actions to be wrong somehow but in a polite, passive-aggressive way that makes the person feel like they’re not really being unloving or judgmental, they’re just observing or they care, so they are concerned that the person is wrong.
I am not a stranger to judgment; it’s been a part of my life, my entire life. They have judged me long before I was pregnant, they judged me twice as much once I was and they continue to do so now that I’m a mother. I’ve been judged because I was homeschooled, because I was a goth, because I went to RHPS, because I smoked clove cigarettes, because I wore Doc Martins with dresses, had blue and purple hair and I pierced my tongue. I’ve been judged because I am not and don’t believe I need to be baptized. I am judged because I have spiritual beliefs that many others can’t fathom and I believe it’s because they hold onto their belief that theirs is the only right way and judge everyone else as being wrong.
As a pregnant woman of 33 years, I was judged because I couldn’t take a birthing class because I worked 12 hours a day and went to school full time. I was judged because I was older. I was judged because we moved 65 miles away from my hospital and I refused to change doctors. I was judged because I chose to have my baby in a first class hospital that was over an hour away rather than a second rate hospital close to home. I was judged because I scheduled an inducement 1 week prior to my due date because I didn’t want to be stuck in labor, in traffic, on a random week day afternoon. (Turned out he was breech so a c-section was necessary anyway AND my water broke 3 weeks early so none of that mattered) I was judged because I chose a hospital instead of a home birth. I was judged because I chose a physician instead of a midwife or a doula.
Now that my child is born and is a young toddler, I know I am judged because I am an attachment parent. I know I am judged because my child has five names. I was judged because I exclusively breastfed and refused to let him eat solid food until he was 7 months old and when we began solids, it was only for fun, once a day or so at best until he was a year old and I only made it myself, spending the extra money on organic foods to puree in my Baby Bullet. I eventually got brave enough to try the organic pre-packaged products, but I still only use them sparingly. I have them on hand to use when I’m too tired or have a particularly fast morning that will require breakfast on the go, or I’m low on groceries that he can eat or he doesn’t want to eat anything I give him. I know I’m judged because I let him watch Yo Gaba Gaba, In the Night Garden and The WotWots and I usually leave Nick Jr on all day because it’s educational and I need the background noise and I figure that’s probably better than every other option out there. I’m judged because he takes his naps on the living room couch and not in a crib. I’m judged because I nurse in public and I STILL nurse my now, 16 month old baby even though I’m four months pregnant with our second. I am judged because I don’t go out much anymore. I’m judged because I have only been to 4 movies in the theater since I was 8 months pregnant with him and I’m judged because I use Huggies instead of cloth or more natural brand diapers. I’m judged because I stay home with him instead of working, even though we’re crazy poor. I’m judged because he’s only used his crib probably 12 times since he was born and the rest of the time, he sleeps with us. I’m judged because I chose to vaccinate him. I am judged because I chose not to vaccinate him with the flu shot. I’m judged because I don’t like to give him fast food, but sometimes I do anyway because he needs to eat and I can’t stop and feed him something better. I’m judged because I don’t like to stop him from making noise in public if he’s not being bratty because I believe he is exploring his voice and I encourage that rather than cover his mouth and tell him he’s being bad for happily wailing at a restaurant dinner table.
Whether it’s religious, political, parent-related or what color hair I have, the bottom line is people are always going to judge my actions and I will always fight that attitude within myself and try my best not to judge them in return.
So what’s my point with 2 pages of how I know people think I suck? Well, here’s the deal; all of this could make me really bitter, angry and defensive about my life. I could allow their judgments to hurt me emotionally until it began to damage my outlook on life and humanity in general. I could jump on a soap box and shake my finger at those who seek to prove how wrong I and others like me are and get violent, storm businesses, protest in front of government buildings or just bash people on my facebook page to make myself feel better as I hurt someone else. I see people doing it all the time and I wonder if they realize what they are doing. I see people who have been hurt lash out at those who hurt them and do exactly the same thing that was done to them, but because it happened to them first, it’s somehow okay, justified, righteous. The phrase, “these idiots make me feel like crap because I don’t believe what they do, those infantile morons don’t even read their own books” or, “hahaha, they’re so stupid for believing in this, I’d never be that much of a follower” are a few good examples of what I mean here. Justified judgment is still judgment and it still brings out negative energy that is absolutely unnecessary.
Simply put, I believe everyone has something to teach, something to learn and their lessons are designed for them and them alone. It is not my place to tell another person their path is wrong because it’s not my path. I may not wish it for myself or strive to emulate their behavior, but it’s their own life- as long as they’re not hurting anyone it’s really none of my business.
It’s hard not to judge the judgers. This I believe is the true lesson to be learned in all this. Recognize the judgments you cast upon others, even in passing from “that guy in the car ahead of me cut me off, the moron”, to, “all paganism is, are a bunch of irresponsible drunks who have no morals or sense of consequence” and everything in between. Maybe that guy was racing to the hospital to see their father one last time before they pulled the plug. Maybe not, but you don’t know either way. If you make a choice to assume the worst in people, choose to think the best instead.
Sit with yourself in truth and hear the elitist violence you speak toward others even in small ways, even in masked ways that feel like concern but laced with judgment and self-righteousness, or comedy. Many of us have grown comfortable with meanness masked as humor but it is no less violent to the spirit and damaging to the bright light in your soul. Elitism, even when presented as humor, is negative and unnecessary. It’s a nasty way we have been able to openly bash people in a socially acceptable way. To rid yourself of judgment, you must rid yourself of this hate masked as humor. Allow yourself to let go of these tendencies, these “do-gooder” attitudes or the flippant “I’m just kidding” excuses and realize that with every breath, you are your own mind and yours is the only life you can change. By choosing to change for the better in a loving and compassionate way, you will change those around you. Those who thrive on the negative behavior of judgment will eventually move away from you to find others that enjoy it and will feed on and perpetuate it.
It may be difficult at first and you’ll catch yourself often but take it as a lesson and move forward into a more loving being who can embrace the differences in others, pitying their limitations and loving them for the lessons they will be taught. Be ambassadors of love and compassion by disagreeing in a room full of people who are judging, take care to love those who judge and offer an alternate perspective and be brave enough to love them even if they continue to disagree.
It’s hard to let go of these behaviors because they are such ingrained aspects of our being but we learn time and again that all it causes is pain. No one comes to a faith because they were told they were wrong. They come to a faith or social group, a way of living or a lifestyle that embraces them in loving acceptance and helps to show them a path that brings them joy.
Being an attachment parent who likes educational tv is for me, what brings me joy. My child with his five names and a family legacy to take with him through his life brings me joy. My friends, diverse and on all sides of every type of coin bring me joy.
I realize this isn't what used to bring me joy and that may seem strange to some. I know I am judged because I don’t go out much anymore, I know people may think that I’ve lost my identity and that I am wrong for the way I’ve chosen to live. I know that my love of Jack and Coke and clove cigarettes with a mocha was life's best pleasure for me, but things change, friends. Life changes and moves forward and I moved with it. Staying home with my family watching a movie or taking a walk and watching my son discover dogs and grass and birds… I have no use for drugs of any kind with this simple pleasure of life at arm’s reach every day. This is where I want to be now, not dressing up and leaving him behind to go pretend I’m not who I am now in a club or a bar. I don’t have to cling to my “identity” by leaving my child at home to go to a party or a concert. If I really want to do those things, I will. I try not to judge those who judge my new life. I try not to judge the people who don't feel the same about their situations and I can only hope they see that this new life I live brings me more joy than my old life ever could.
Just as the woman writing that parenting article said, I am sorry for judging those I have judged. I apologize to those who I, in spite of myself, sometimes continue to judge. I know better now, I am learning better now and my hope is that others take the steps necessary to do the same.
'Love is the absence of judgment- Dalai Lama XIV
Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.
Sri Chinmoy
When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.
Wayne Dyer
Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.
Ralph Marston

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The darkness of the Nothing

Last time I posted here, I had not yet become a mother. I cannot express in a blog the experience and emotional insanity I have been through since this last post below, but I can sum up; parenthood is absolutely amazing. It’s horrifying and beautiful. It made me aware of my own mortality in a way I never understood before. It made me more aware of the gravity of my choices in a way I had never experienced. It has opened my eyes to my inner spirit and my divine purpose and has shown me who I really am in ways I never knew were possible. I have been broken, terrified, full of fear. I have been ecstatic and joyful, thankful and grateful for my mere ability to breathe and to feel my heart beat in my chest. I have been both fulfilled and empty. I am simultaneously cautious and careless. I take risks and in the same moment, plan for everything. My life has become the biggest walking contradiction I, personally have ever seen. One moment I’m crying out of fear of the unknown and in the very next breath I laugh because I acknowledge it’s no different than before- I just notice it more now.
I admit I have been suffering from postpartum anxiety since the birth of my dear child. I am coming to terms with it now, realizing how far down the rabbit hole I actually slipped before I was ready to admit it. I wish I could say it’s over now that I’ve realized it- but this is anything but true. I recognize that how I feel is beyond me at this point and I need further guidance and help to move out of this place. My depression began about this time last year, long before he was even born. I thought it was stress. I thought it was nothing to worry about, that when I quit my job and was able to have the time I needed to do what I really wanted to do, I would be fine. I had been dealing with changes in my body, new pain, lack of mobility as my belly grew, my ability to do things became harder and harder. I was still working 9 hour days in an office 2 hours in traffic away from home, a home I had just moved into. I had no time for me, as I was finishing my degree and was either sleeping, driving, working or studying and I was overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion, anger, anxiety and depression. I held out hope this would all just float away after the baby was born. Sadly I was mistaken.
I've been secretly suffering panic attacks, constant feelings of dread, afraid to leave the house because of what might happen and at the same time, afraid to stay home because I didn't trust how I was feeling to be alone. I finally started admitting it to myself after I got to the point where I was having a panic attack every morning when Craig would leave for work and I would be afraid that I was dying of some heart condition or some other unknown thing that would render me helpless to care for him. I would be afraid that I'd pass out or fall, or that something would happen that would cause me to be unconscious and then I'd fixate on what would happen to him all day with no one here... but when I tried putting him down somewhere safe, he just cried and cried so I felt totally trapped. I was afraid to hold him because if I passed out, he'd get hurt but he'd cry if I put him down and I didn't know what to do.
So, when I am filled with anxiety and my dear child won't let me do anything but sit on the couch holding him I start to go a little crazy again. LOL... I think the average person would be okay with it but because I've got this mental issue on top of his attachment it makes it harder.
Then, compound that with the mundain issues such as finances, bills, daily responsibilities and what not and I found myself worried all the time with way too much time by myself to think about all of it with nothing to distract me but the television.
I'm amazed at how many women go through this and don't say anything. I waited literally 9 months before I started talking about it, secretly feeling horrible all the time. Everyone talks about postpartum depression but no one really talks about anxiety. Some women don't get sad, they grow afraid of everything. They fear for their health, the health of their baby, financial issues, irrational fears of horrible accidents and scenarios that play out in the mind that can't be stopped, like a bad dream you can't shake out of. All of this I have and continue to experience. I admit here now that I’ve been buried in the swamps of sadness, fearing everything including myself in hopes that others who may experience it become brave enough to voice their fears and find the love and support they need to move forward and climb out of it.
I have gone in these past 10 months from happier than I ever have been to more afraid than I ever thought possible. What I have learned so far along this journey, is to try to be rational as I can be, do all I can to prevent the outcomes I fear and recognize the irrational fears for what they are and do my best to move through them.
Fear is a terrible emotion, full of physical and chemical reactions that can terrify the spirit and make you feel like you’re dying.
Again, I have not yet overcome this… but I am willing to voice it. I feel there is power in standing up to the jabberwocky and I intend to fight it with all I have.
I usually reserve this space for enlightened words of wisdom to gift as pearls to those I love, but I’m learning now the gift of sharing may be the most profound of all. If my experience helps even one other person from waiting as long as I did to recognize that these emotions are not normal, they don’t make you a bad person or a bad mother and there’s no shame in asking for help- then I have passed along the best gift I can offer.
That’s all for now.
Love and light…

J

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Responsibility and Excuses

It’s been some time since I have posted so I thought I would pop in for a spell to share something that has been on my mind lately. I don’t have much time today so I’ll get right to it.

With great responsibility comes great power. Wait, isn’t that backwards? Well, I’m not so sure it is.

When we embrace our path and grasp our role in the universe with both hands, we become empowered to do great things. When we align ourselves with who we were intended to become, simply as a side effect we will become stronger in both mind and in body. Our presence is more grand, we stand taller, we are more likely to smile, to sigh at the simple beauty of the world, to breathe deeply and to do more than just see our surroundings, we will live within them and we will create them to be what we wish them to be. Instead of allowing the world to take us places, we will take the world places.

When we are in the right place, we naturally become more confident, as we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are just where we are supposed to be and that knowing can bring tremendous comfort. Things that were difficult, suddenly become easy.
That feeling of calm and security with all things does not come without its price, however.

Bliss does not come without its responsibility. One must work at bliss.

Anyone who tells you the road to happiness is a straight and paved one, is either lying to you or has never seen it for themselves. The road is rocky, treacherous and dangerous. The demons of stagnation, doubt and fear lurk around every corner and will try to trip you, confuse you and take you away from your goal. The fog of indecision will come down upon you and you may loose your way and the great and terrible "what if" will rear its ugly head and breathe fire at your toes, screaming at you to "GO BACK!" like a terrible monster from a childhood nightmare.

The path is never a clear and easy one. The path will make you forget, and playing the role of Tom Bombadil, will show you how much easier it would be if you just stopped, had a quiet picnic on a grassy knoll and let time go by. The path will try to shelter you from storms- it will cover you with thick woods on either side, beckoning you to just stay a while longer… it’s cold and wet out there… there’s mud and wind… just stay… and sooner than you think, years have gone by Rip Van Winkle... and what did you do with all that time?

You have to be honest with yourself about what you want, enough to be willing to say no when the path wants to stop you. You must keep your wits about you and the sword of truth at your side. You have the ultimate responsibility, the one that is so very simple to ignore- the one that leads you to your own happiness.
But if you embrace it, you will gain great power.

If you choose not to, always remember- it was always your choice.

Now, on that note- Synchronicity happened and I randomly found an entry from a journal by Donna Metcalfe. She ws the owner of a shop called Good Scents in Redlands, CA. She was one of my biggest inspirations growing up and this is an entry from her blog. It still rings true and is well worth the read.

This find was proof that yes, the path may be cunning in trying to convince you to stand still, but it sometimes does show you signposts that you are still on your way in the right direction.

~

Excuses
by Donna Metcalfe
Whenever I hear someone give a reason for not doing something they say they’d really like to do, I always wonder why. I know why, I just wonder if they do.
It might sound like a perfectly good reason. The fact is that if that particular reasons or excuse is removed, there will be another one underneath it. And another one, like layers of an onion.
Because at the center is “I don’t want to.” That is the only basic reason for not doing something. The reasons for not wanting to can be good ones or silly ones, it doesn’t matter. “I don’t want to” is at the heart of it and beyond that you don’t have to look any farther.
This is because if they really wanted to, they’d already be doing it or making plans to do it; an excuse would be irrelevant! Whatever we really want to do, we set aside the necessary time, money and effort needed to do it. It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks we can’t do it, that doesn’t even come into the picture. Whatever is important to us to do, we find a way to do it.
Now maybe we have told ourselves that we should do something or should want to do something, but we really don’t want to. Maybe we are afraid to, or don’t want to put out the necessary effort. Maybe we don’t think we would like the consequences, or that someone else wouldn’t like it. That’s when we start making excuses for ourselves, to ourselves. This is where the “if only” come into play. If only something were different than what it is, things would be different for us.
Well, yes, if things were different, which they never are, we would be different, which we aren’t. Some how the excuses are meant to make us feel better about who we are and the way things are.
Well, things don’t become different until we make them so. Lying to ourselves is the most harmful lie there is. It keeps us from being able to change ourselves or our situation. What a tangle we get into by not accepting and admitting to ourselves what is really important to us.
To get untangled, a good first step is to stop making excuses to yourself about what you do or don’t do in your life. It doesn’t matter at this point whether you continue to give excuses to other people, although eventually you may want to stop that too. The only person you owe complete honesty to is yourself. If you don’t want to do something, let that be a good enough reason. you may choose to explore your reasons, or not. That can come later. First give yourself the freedom and power of honoring your gut feelings.
Take the pressure off the “shoulds” by examining each one to see if it truly matches with what you feel inside. This is a very good practice, learning how you really feel without making excuses for it. If you see something in yourself that you don’t like, you can always work on changing that, but not as long as you are making excuses. Gently push aside the excuses and look at what is the truth about how you feel. If the truth becomes too scary you can always cloak it again with excuses, but that doesn’t change the truth, only your perception of it. And no one says you have to look at the truth if you don’t want to, just don’t bother with the excuses!