Shedding My Skin

Death from the Motherpeace Tarot

2018 is a Death card year for me.* The Death card from the Motherpeace Tarot is one of my favorites. It includes Birch trees, which in Celtic lore represent new beginnings and rebirth, but it also shows death. So many Death cards tend to skip straight to the rebirth part, ignoring that death has to happen first.

Death and transformation aren’t easy processes. You get reduced down to bare bones like the skeleton in this picture. In fact, my word of the year has ended up being “Bones,” meaning what is most foundational to me? What is most essential to me? What really matters? I’m working my way down to the bare bones of many things in my life.

I also love the image of the snake shedding its skin in this card. I have a friend who has a pet snake, and every time he molts he becomes lethargic, stops eating, and his eyes cloud over. Each time she worries that he isn’t going to make it through the molt. So far he’s made it through every time, emerging fresh and new. However, it obviously is not an easy or a comfortable process for him, and death and transformation aren’t easy or comfortable processes for us either.

I feel like I’m in the process of shedding my own skin. My skin feels itchy and uncomfortable. It feels like many things in my life don’t “fit” me any more. However, I don’t know what I’m moving towards, I don’t know what’s next. Like physical death, experiencing transformation in our lives is moving into the unknown. It’s a process, and it moves in its own time, and right now I just feel like all I can do is wait and see what happens next.

That’s why I haven’t been blogging as much—I don’t really have all that much to say. My life feels like it is in flux. I’m not quite sure who I am right now, or who I am becoming. It is both frightening and exciting. It is tempting to try and do something to speed up the process, but I’m realizing that isn’t possible. Like my friend’s snake, I have to just let myself go through it, and trust that I’ll emerge fresh and new on the other side.

I feel like I am questioning everything right now, getting down the bare bones of everything in my life. The constant questions I keep asking myself are things like, “Does xyz really matter to me?” “Do I really care about xyz, or am I doing it because I think I ‘should’?” “What do I really want? What matters to me?” It is liberating to ask these questions, but I don’t always have the answers. Sometimes I just have to live with the questions and trust that I’ll find my answers eventually.

And like the snake, I find myself retreating during this process, becoming lethargic and withdrawn. I go to work, I take walks, I go to bed early. I’ve also recently started working on old crewel kits from the ’70s that I find on eBay. They are almost like paint-by-numbers—no counting, no thinking, just lots of stitching, which I find soothing. There’s is also a sense of nostalgia, looking back to my childhood in the late ’70s/early ’80s that makes working on these kits a pleasure. Again, it feels like I’m getting down to just the bare bones of life. It’s simple. It feels right for me right now.

So I’ll most likely continue to be somewhat quiet as I make my way through this period of transformation in my life. It is feeling very good to just experience things without having to put them into words. I’m realizing that words aren’t always enough, and sometimes they even get in the way of truly experiencing our lives. I’m enjoying just being and feeling and not having to think and analyze it all.

Here’s to getting down to the bare bones and finding our true foundations!


*To determine your personal tarot year card, add 2018 + your birth month + your birth day. For example, if you were born on 2/15, you’d add 2018+2+15=2035. Then add those numbers together: 2+0+3+5=10. Your personal year card would be 10, The Wheel of Fortune. If the numbers add up to 22, your card is 0, The Fool. If they add up to 23 or more, reduce them again by adding the two digits together, for example if you have 29, 2+9=11, and your year card is 11, Justice. This system was devised my Mary K. Greer, and more information about tarot year cards can be found in her books Tarot for Yourself, and Who Are You in the Tarot? 

A Summer Update and Saying Goodbye to Posey

Wow, it has been quite a summer, both personally, and for the world at large.

In early July I somehow injured my knee and it still isn’t completely healed. I saw an osteopath recently and she thinks I might have a meniscal tear that could eventually require surgery. Yikes! That injury seemed to slow my momentum, both literally and figuratively. I feel like I’ve been living in suspended animation since then, unable to make any forward progress in any area of my life. It has also kept me from being able to walk much, hike, dance, or do yoga, which is definitely not great for my mental health!

My personal year card is 12 – The Hanged One, and I’m definitely feeling that energy.*** Like I’m stuck, hanging, and have few options except to just let go and surrender to whatever process is taking place right now. It isn’t exactly an unpleasant place to be, in a strange way it is kind of restful, but occasionally my brain kicks in with “You should be busy (fill in the blank with a million things)!” and I start to feel frustrated and overwhelmed with the inertia.

I did my Lammas Tarot Reading on August 2, using the Tarot of the Crone, and my “Overall Theme” card was Shadow of Disks, a barren landscape of physical loss and/or illness. My “Challenge” card was Beast of Wands, which features a cat. My 17 year-old cat Posey was diagnosed with an abdominal tumor (possibly lymphoma) in the spring, and though I don’t normally read tarot in a predictive way, seeing those two cards next to each other I just knew that I would be losing her before Autumn Equinox. The very next day she started to take a turn for the worse.

We were able to get her stabilized and I was blessed with a little over two more weeks of her presence. The weekend before the solar eclipse she was doing quite well, and we had a wonderful couple of days of snuggling on the couch and hanging out in the yard together. Then on August 21st, after the eclipse, I noticed that her legs looked strange and she seemed distressed. I realized that she wasn’t able to move one of her back legs. It was time. We took her to the vet to be put to sleep, and her passing was peaceful, but it wasn’t easy to say goodbye to my wonderful girl. She was the sweetest, most gentle cat I have ever known.

My sweet Posey Rose

I’ve been in a bit of a daze since then, and the same day she died the smoke from the wildfires burning all around us here got really bad, and it hasn’t improved much since then. It hasn’t been possible to spend much time outdoors or to go to the river where I usually seek peace and solace.

To help with the grief, I created a memory journal for Posey, using writing prompts from the book When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. I used this book and the journaling prompts when my other cat Priscilla died three years ago, and I highly recommend it if you are dealing with the loss of a pet.

I created a little memorial altar to her on the evening of her death with a pink candle carved with a heart and a rainbow, a few of her favorite toys, and her food and water dishes. I lit the candle each evening for the first three nights after she died and let it burn out on the third night to light her way on the next phase of her journey. I do believe that all souls move on after death in some capacity, and I hope that we’ll be reunited with those we’ve loved, though perhaps not in the forms we know them now.

So, it has not been an easy summer, or a particularly pleasant one, but somehow it all feels okay, like this is a necessary transition period that I need to make my way through.

And good things have happened, too! I took Lisa Sonora’s Creative + Practice course, and have fallen even more in love with creative journaling. Regular creative practice and journaling has been a big support for me through all of these challenges.

I adopted a kitty I named Winnie from our local shelter, because I just couldn’t stand having a completely quiet, empty house after Posey was gone. Winnie is about a year old and is playful, affectionate, and silly—she makes me laugh on a regular basis and has definitely helped with the grieving process. I like to think that welcoming her into the house and thereby freeing up room for another kitty to be saved at the shelter honors Posey’s life, since she was a stray, too.

Winnie

I’ve also started learning macrame (because I really need another hobby—ha!), and have been enjoying it. There is something very soothing about tying knots over and over again.

I am really looking forward to fall, and to the rains returning. We desperately need some rain to dampen down the fires, clear out the smoke, and give all the firefighters and those who are fearing for their homes and properties a break.

My heart has also been grieved by the events in Charlottesville, and the flooding in Texas and South Asia. I don’t even have words for all that has been happening in our country and across the world. It takes time for me to process these kind of things, and I’m still sitting with it all. It really has been quite a summer, hasn’t it?

I plan to get back to regular blogging now, and will have a new 15 Quiet Minutes post up for next week’s full moon. I also added a few new rosaries to my Etsy shop (update 6.30.18, my shop is now closed) yesterday. I’m especially smitten with this labradorite one, its energy is perfect for the transition into the dark part of the year.

I guess all we can do is hang in there. We’ll get through all of this, and hopefully we’ll come out stronger on the other side.

Blessings.

***To determine your personal tarot year card, add 2017+your birth month+your birth day. For example, if you were born on 2/15, you’d add 2017+2+15=2034. Then add those numbers together: 2+0+3+4=9. Your personal year card would be 9, The Hermit. If the numbers add up to 22, your card is 0, The Fool. If they add up to 23 or more, reduce them again by adding the two digits together, for example if you have 28, 2+8=10, and your year card is 10, The Wheel of Fortune. This system was devised my Mary K. Greer, and more information about tarot year cards can be found in her books Tarot for Yourself, and Who Are You in the Tarot?.

No, We Aren’t Spiritual Failures

The spiral necklace that I wear every day, to remind me that life is a journey.

I’ve been struggling with my spiritual practice ever since hurting my back and then being sick for three weeks with a cold. I got out of the habit of my daily morning practice, and out of the habit of reading, meditating, praying, or journaling in the evenings, and it has been hard to get back to it since I started feeling better. It is easy to start feeling like a spiritual failure.

So many of us find most of our spiritual community online. We follow spiritual people that we admire on Facebook and Instagram, and many of them only share positive posts showing their lovely treks in the woods, their morning spent journaling over their coffee, their altar glowing with candles for their evening rituals. It is encouraging to see these kind of posts, and I try to keep my posts positive, too, but this isn’t the whole story for me, and I’m guessing that it isn’t the whole story for anyone else, either.

Life gets messy. We get sick, or our family members or friends get sick, and our practice languishes. Or you may struggle with anxiety or depression like I do, which can sometimes hit us out of nowhere and leave our spiritual lives as well as our everyday lives in shambles. Dirty dishes pile up, beds don’t get made, our altars get dusty. Yet we see these other people online who seem to have it together every day with perfect homes, perfect children, perfect spiritual lives, and we start to feel like we’re doing sometime wrong, failing in some way. That we aren’t trying hard enough, or maybe we’re on the wrong path, or maybe we’re just not cut out for living a spiritual life.

However, over the years I’ve come to realize the ups-and-downs of our spiritual lives are just normal. I’ve gone months, even years, without a regular spiritual practice, feeling adrift and unsure about my path. But I always get back to it eventually, and as I’ve practiced more regularly over the years, as I’ve gotten more clear about my path and more dedicated to it, I experience fewer periods of uncertainty, and they don’t last as long as they used to. But they still happen, and that is okay. I am not a spiritual failure.

I think this is why the spiral is one of my favorite symbols. To me it represents our journey, both our journey in this lifetime, as well as over many lifetimes. Sometimes we are moving towards the center, feeling tuned in and connected to Goddess/the Divine. Other times we are on the outer edge of the spiral, feeling like we are moving backwards, away from Goddess, away from our spiritual center. But it is all part of the journey, the moving inward, and the spiraling outward, and wherever we are on the path is simply where we are on the path, we don’t have to judge it. We are not spiritual failures.

Our spiritual practices are important, and they are definitely worth working our way back into, even during those times when we don’t feel like it (I have a whole other post planned soon about that!), but sometimes, we just aren’t going to do them. Sometimes, we are going to feel disconnected from the Divine. Sometimes, we aren’t going to have any inspiring photos to post to Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes we are going to doubt ourselves, and doubt that we are on the right path. But we still aren’t spiritual failures.

Spiritual growth comes from the struggle to get back to our practices, to find our center again, to reestablish our connection with Goddess, even if it takes months, or years. Maybe sometimes all we need to do is just yearn for that connection, even if we aren’t taking any active steps to get back to it. I hope that is true, because some days yearning is all I have. And some days I don’t even have that. Yet, I’m still not a spiritual failure.

I write this for myself as much as for anyone else. I don’t have the answers, really. I just know that I periodically spiral away from my spiritual practice, and I miss it, and I spiral back towards it again.

Maybe there are some people who find a spiritual practice, a spiritual path, and stick with it perfectly without any issues, but that hasn’t been my experience, or the experience of most people who I know. And if it hasn’t been your experience, either, don’t worry: you aren’t a spiritual failure.

You’re just a human on a journey to reconnect with the Divine. You’ll find your way back again, and so will I. There is no way for us to fail at this, because there is no final destination, no perfect way to be. It is a continuous journey, whether we’re moving forward or backward, or standing still. We can’t get it wrong.

Blessed be the journey!

Wise Words (Not Mine) for Challenging Times

So, the election is over. I had planned to post my next Goddess rosary post today, but it felt weird to just blithely do my next post without acknowledging that many of us may be feeling like our worlds have been rocked. Many of us are grieving. Yesterday, people in my Facebook feed seemed stunned. Today, they seem angry.

I’m grieving and angry, too, and there is a part of me that was beating myself up for it yesterday, feeling like I was being self-indulgent and that I just needed to get over it. Then someone shared this article by Joann Macy, and this quote in particular stood out to me:

“This is a dark time filled with suffering, as old systems and previous certainties come apart. Like living cells in a larger body, we feel the trauma of our world. It is natural and even healthy that we do, for it shows we are still vitally linked in the web of life. So don’t be afraid of the grief you may feel, or of the anger or fear: these responses arise, not from some private pathology, but from the depths of our mutual belonging. Bow to your pain for the world when it makes itself felt, and honour it as testimony to our interconnectedness.”

We grieve because we have opened ourselves up to acknowledging, to feeling, our connection with each other, and with the earth and all her creatures. Right now we don’t know what is going to happen next to those people and places that we love, and we are afraid.

I’m afraid for the further unregulated damage that may occur to our precious land and water, and to the creatures that share them with us. I’m afraid for everyone who is not male, straight, white, and Christian. I’m hoping for the best, but that doesn’t alleviate the fear and grief.

Yesterday, while drawing my cards for the day, two cards fell out of the deck together while I was shuffling:

11-9jumpers

Cards from the Gaian Tarot.

I felt like this was a challenge; to claim my power like the Elder of Fire and work for healing, or to give in to despair. My cards of the day gave further guidance: to work for justice, seek community, and be sure to listen to others.

11-9draw

Cards from Womanrunes and Gaian Tarot.

Last night I was reading Mysteries of the Dark Moon: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess by Demetra George. Some passages about our shadows really spoke to where we are in our country right now:

“When we project our shadow, we externalize these inner distorted images and then cast them onto others, thus undermining our capacity to form safe and honest relationships.

We then perceive the outer world through the inner filter of our negative emotions and thoughts. When our minds are full of fear and hatred, we then see others as the personification of what is most frightening and hateful to us…

This becomes especially dangerous when society collectively projects a shadow onto a group and fantasizes that it is the enemy. Societal prejudices against blacks, Jews, homosexuals, witches, aliens [by this I think she means immigrants], Communists, or the Devil have led to mass intolerance, and even to persecutions, inquisitions, and other manifestations of hatred…”

I know I need to examine my own tendency to “other” people. What of my own shadow am I projecting onto “those Trump supporters”? Adding more fear and hatred to this cauldron is not going to help, but how do we even begin healing this? I don’t know.

For now, though, I’m still just processing everything, allowing myself to grieve, and not beating myself up for it anymore.

I highly recommend reading the whole Joanna Macy article that I quoted above. I also found comfort and inspiration yesterday from two other wise women:

Elizabeth Gilbert asking “Who do I want to be in this situation?”

Hecate Demeter sharing one of my favorite poems and some pertinent questions from Wendell Berry.

We’re all in this together. Somehow, that brings me great comfort.

Blessings to you, however you are processing this election.