In The New Year: Back To Reality

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Like most people, I see the start of a new year as providing an opportunity to make a fresh start in some areas of my life. I haven’t made any official resolutions this year, but I did sign up for a 365 day meditation challenge, I mean to finally get back to exercising regularly, I want to eat more healthfully, and I’ve been planning on picking up an instrument again.  This morning I had cookies for breakfast.  Yesterday I took two naps and exercised not at all.  I have this feeling that the New Year hasn’t really started yet, that I’m still on “holiday time.”  And holiday time is permissive.  Holiday time is for napping and feasting and slothing.  Holiday time is not for starting new projects and working on healthy habits.

I realized that I do this every year.  I make some positive plans for the New Year, but when the New Year starts, I don’t start, too.  I have this vague notion that the New Year will really begin when I go back to work, but I’ll still come home to a festive house stuffed with booze, cookies, and cheese.  I know I’ll snuggle up with a plate of leftovers amid the glow of the tree and watch a Christmas special I hadn’t gotten to yet.  And before I know it I’ll find myself in the third week of January with a dead tree, another 10 lbs of holiday weight, and broken dreams of healthy habits and time spent productively.

I’m decidedly not one of those people who drags out the Yuletide decorations right after finishing their Thanksgiving pie.  And I would enthusiastically vote in favor of a public ordinance prohibiting Christmas lights on all buildings before December 1.  But when the Yuldetide really gets going for me, I do love it.  And like many Pagans I know, I celebrate it as a true 12-day tide, starting with Mother’s Night right before the Solstice and ending with the secular New Year.  I know a good many people who take their Christmas/Yule stuff down on New Year’s Day, but that’s always seemed way too early to let go of it for me.  Granted most of those who take it down so early are the Thanksgiving decorators, so I can understand how they have gotten their fill of the merry twinkling and sparkling by January 1.  Years ago I decided that waiting until the Epiphany, Christian Twelfth Night, to take down my decorations seemed a reasonable amount of time to leave things up (regardless of the fact that I wasn’t Christian).

But having the Yule up that far into January (let’s face it, I never actually get it down on January 5 or 6; I just start to think and feel guilty about it still being up), delays for me the onset of the New Year.  Most people I know are no longer celebrating the Yuletide at this point. Almost everyone is back at work, the kids are back at school, and the gyms and Weight Watchers meetings are packed with those who have accepted that Christmas is over and the New Year has begun.  But as long as my Yule is up, I’m still in that permissive holiday time, and I can’t take advantage of the enthusiastic New Year’s élan permeating my social sphere.  I remain stuck in the hedonistic past instead of advancing toward the healthful new day.

So today, January 2, 2017, I am taking the Yuletide decorations down.  The tree will lay in my back yard, providing shelter for the birds a few weeks earlier this year. I’ll pack up the leftovers to take to work for my coworkers (on a different floor than mine). And instead of Christmas lights, I will bask in the glow of the year’s new dawn.  May it light my way as I create a more prosperous and productive me.  And I’ll start right after this last cookie. . ..

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Happy New Year!

Midwinter’s Eve

Stars softly shine in silent stillness
In a Midwinter sky so cold and clear
Nature is swathed in deepest darkness
As we stand on the threshold of the year

Outside our walls the night’s uncertain
But inside we are warm and keep good cheer
Yule fires burn to light the darkness
And their glow helps us all to persevere 

Gathered together our hearts grow hopeful
For the end of the longest night draws near
Joyous we wait within the darkness
As we sing for the Sun to reappear

You can hear a rough recording of the tune to this song on my YouTube page.

Blessed Solstice and a very Merry Yuletide to one and all!


 

Observations About Depression

Depression is a disease that makes you feel ashamed just as part of its symptoms. Doing things, everyday things like dishes, cleaning, laundry, can just be beyond me. I feel lazy and useless and I fight with myself and maybe win a minor victory. Today I put the leftover spaghetti sauce in a Ziploc and put it in the basement freezer. I put the ice cream maker bowl down there, too, to make room in the freezer upstairs. I got my clothes out of the dryer and put them in a basket. I put in a load of whites that had been sitting down there a long time. I brought the clean clothes upstairs. I gave Lord his meds and fed the cats. I put the dishes in the drainer away. I fed myself a real dinner.

There was a point today where giving Lord his meds, feeding the cats, and putting some sort of junk in my tummy would be as much as I could manage. So fighting through and doing some things on my to-do list felt like a victory. And then I could do no more. The migraine almost felt like a relief–I had an excuse for being useless that my mind would accept. I reflect on this evening’s struggle to keep from curling up in a ball in bed and it occurs to me that there are people for whom these things are not a struggle. They just come home from work and do the chores and answer their emails and listen to their voicemail and open the mail without a second thought. I try to remember a time when I felt like that. There was a time. There still are to some degree. But most often I go back and forth in my head a hundred times, making a plan, paring it down, throwing it out, and then maybe doing some things. I tell myself, “just do another task, and then one more. Keep going. Fight.” I may win a skirmish in this hour, or maybe the next one. But I’m just so sick and tired of the War.

You are YOU, Not Your Titles and Positions

These words came pouring out of me last week, and I decided to share them on Facebook.  The post received so much positive feedback and comments from people saying that they needed to hear this message that I’ve decided to post it here as well.

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Ok kids, here’s some wisdom I have gained over my 42 years that I feel is important to share.

Do not allow a title or position you hold to become entwined with your identity. If you do, you will hold on to that position/title much longer than is healthy for you and the people affected by you holding it. You may behave in paranoid and abusive ways in order to hold on to it and do great harm to others. When you inevitably no longer hold that position or title you will suffer a severe identity crisis which can cause you great existential pain, and your behavior may lose you treasured friends and valued colleagues.

Know who you are at the core of your being. Nurture yourself and accept who you are. You are not your positions and titles. Those things are temporary and you must treat them as such. Wear them when they can help you further your True Will, but discard them when they no longer serve you, when you can no longer serve others by holding on to them. Identify and nurture others to take on those positions and titles when it is time for you to put them down, but know that giving up that position/title means giving up control. That is a good thing. You have to let it go in order to grow. The new title/position holder(s) may do things differently and have other ideas about how to serve in said position. That is ok. Different doesn’t necessarily mean that it is harmful or wrong. Regardless of how you feel about it, you will no longer be steering that ship. It does mean that you must accept that the ship you worked to keep afloat could sink or crash. It doesn’t mean that it will, but you must accept the possibility because you have to accept that you are not at the helm and that it is out of your control. All things come to an end. But that does not negate the good work you did while you were in that position or when you held that title. You did that work, and its effects have been woven into the Wyrd. That will not change regardless of what the future holds.

Know when it is time, and let go and move on with respect and grace. You are still YOU. And you can do great things in your next endeavor.

Eulogies for the Living: “The Missy”

My good friend and heart-sister, Rev. Melissa Ashton (previously Burchfield) married the love of her life, Rev. William Ashton II, last month in her new home of Longmont, CO. I was fortunate to not only be able to attend but to serve as her Matron of Honor.  During the ceremony they allowed for a time where guests could come forward and speak words or make offerings on behalf of the bride or groom to help everyone see different facets of them through the eyes of their friends and family.  I found this to be an absolutely lovely idea, and it was easily the part of the ceremony when I was in most need of the tissues I smartly packed into the pocket of my magnificent Matron of Honor dress.  But not only did it allow all of us to see Missy and William through each other’s eyes, it allowed them to see as well.

We don’t always take the time or create the space where we can really express how we feel about each other.  I’m sure glad that I had this opportunity to tell The Missy.  I think about the eulogy I wrote on this blog for A.J., and I wish I would have told him those things while he was still here to listen.   I will look for and create opportunities to eulogize those I love in the here and now and not wait until they are gone before I express how I feel.

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What can I say about Missy?

I have often called her “The Missy,” and I’ve finally figured out why.

It’s because she deserves an article, because she is a Force of Nature; like The Sun, The Moon, The Ocean, The Wind.

She glows, she sparkles, she moves you, blows through you, crashes over you with her expansive presence.

Some people can’t stand too close to her majesty.  They are blinded by her light, overwhelmed by her heat, or knocked down by the sheer force of her Magnificent Missyness.  Those people are unworthy of The Missy.

But those of us who have proven ourselves worthy have found ourselves blessed beyond measure.  She enlivens us.  She buoys us up.  She shares with us her mysteries and gently blows away our fears.

She blesses us with her music that gets stuck in our heads and makes its home in our hearts, always ready to burst forth when we need to hear it.  She blesses us with the way her nose crinkles up as we relish her laughter and bask in her smile.  She blesses us with the power of her intellect, whether expounding on blood diseases and medical procedures, writing an ADF study program, or analyzing a ritual.

THE MISSY GETS SHIT DONE.

THE MISSY KNOWS HER RIGHTS.

THE MISSY WORKS THAT GHETTO BOOTY.

Because The Missy remembers where she comes from as she blazes new trails; ever learning, ever growing, ever striving to be the best Missy she can be.

And with William, the most worthy of partners, standing beside her, she’s going to continue to change the world for the better—like a mutha’ fuckin’ adult.

Big. Red. Heart.

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Petrarchan Sonnet to Hestia

Dear Lady, as I life my voice in praise
To thank you for your precious gift of flame;
I feed the fire so it will remain
To warm and cheer me through my darkest days.
You light my way at night when the Sun’s rays
Have gone and the full Moon’s begun to wane.
Oh Hestia, I call up on your name!
Within my heart this love will always blaze.

My child, your prayers of worship I have heard
As I have watched you tending to my fire.
The buoyant words wing skyward, like a bird
That soars upon the thermals to the spire
Of great Olympos.  May my blessings gird
Your hearth and heart to lift your spirits higher.

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Pious Titus honors Hestia, too.

In Magic, You Must Ask for What You NEED

A few weeks ago my indoor-only cat Titus ran away. Nick and I were literally just about to leave to go to A.J. Gooch’s memorial service at Tredara. The car was packed, I had peed, and I was just doing the “cat check” to make sure no one would be stuck in a closet all weekend. I quickly spotted Spike, Lord, and Lilly, but I didn’t see Titus. I called downstairs to my husband Nick to see if he saw him. Nick didn’t see him, so he went around and checked Titus’s various beds and hidey-holes where he was likely to be, but he still didn’t find him. Starting to panic, he continued to search the house while I started to look outside. Titus had once before slipped out the front door without us noticing, and we figured it was likely this had happened while Nick was preoccupied with packing the car. But we couldn’t find him.

We did “All The Things” you should do when your indoor cat goes missing:  hung up flyers, talked to neighbors, posted on social media, went door to door with flyers, set up traps and a trail cam, put out his litter box and sprinkled his litter around—you name it, we did it. And of course since we’re us, we also made offerings, did spells, and prayed for his return. The spellwork was difficult for me, though. I couldn’t get a clear picture in my head of how he would get home because there were various scenarios I could imagine. I mostly focused on creating a hearth fire beacon to draw him back to us one way or another. The days turned into weeks, and I became increasingly worried, anxious, and desperate.

On the morning of March 18 during my daily devotion I pulled the letter “Epsilon” which means, “You desire to see offspring of righteous marriages.” But that day my brain interpreted it as, “You desire to see the outcome of righteous marriages.” And that word “outcome” jumped out at me. I desire to see the outcome. In my omen journal I wrote, “Need to do the things that will achieve the outcome I desire.” But as I already said, I had a hard time visualizing that outcome other than Titus being home. So I thought:

“OK, first things first. When he was lost the other time, how did we get him back?”

“Somebody found him and called the number on a flyer that we had posted.”

“And how did she find him?”

“She saw him hiding under a bush when she was out walking her dog.”

And then it hit me what I needed to do. I needed Titus to be seen. We had gotten reports of people seeing him in one place or another, but they were always after the fact. It felt like playing whack-a-mole. But now I knew what I needed to do. I picked up the picture of Titus I had placed on the hearth and held it in the light of the sun. And I said, “Let him be seen.” I visualized an obscuring mist that covered him disappearing in the light of the sun and him being out in the open being seen.

The very next day I received a phone call at 7:30 am. My heart leapt when I realized it was a local number with a name I didn’t recognize. The woman on the other end of the phone asked me if I was Diane, and I said that I was. She said, “I can see your cat. I’m looking it him right now. He has the orange-stripy tail from the picture; I know it’s him.” She told me where, and I immediately drove up there. I arrived on her porch and she pointed and said, “there, you can see him right there!” And sure enough, there was Titus, sitting on a vine and brush covered hillside. It was the first time we had received a live report about him, and it was the first time I had seen him with my own eyes in almost three weeks. I went to him, but he was too afraid and dove back under the vines. I didn’t catch him that day, but now that I had seen him and knew where he was holed up, I visualized him in the trap. I went back up the next morning singing, “Gonna catch my kitty and bring him home,” over and over. I saw him again and tried to go to him, but once again he scampered off, this time underneath the deck of the house next to the hill. I moved one of the traps right next to the deck, and when I checked the trap again he was in it and meowing up a storm.

Once I realized what I needed, I was able to focus on making that happen. I needed for Titus to be seen. And that is what led to him finally coming home.

Titus on bed

A.J. Gooch

This is the picture that most reminds me of my friend A.J. Gooch, and it is the gift from him I cherish the most.

Nick & Me Summerland

A.J. took it at the Summerland Festival in 2010.  We were dancing to the Saturday night band right after Nick had asked me to be his date to the wedding of Michael Dangler and Maggie Collins.  We had only started seeing each other long distance about a month before. We weren’t even officially a couple at this point!  But A.J. could clearly see that we were falling in love, and he beautifully captured this absolutely perfect moment.  He later told me how proud he was of this shot and how much it meant to him to have been able to capture that moment.  And when we got engaged we were so very honored and grateful to A.J. for offering to take pictures for us on our wedding day.  He was of course already invited, but there was no one better suited or whom I would have trusted more to capture our love on that most important occasion.

In Facebook memorial posts so many people have spoken about his warmth and his hospitality—about how A.J. always made them feel welcome.  My experience with A.J. was the same.  When A.J. shown the light of his eyes and his smile upon you, you couldn’t help but feel special.  One of A.J.’s greatest gifts, and he had many, was his ability to See.  And he made us feel so welcomed and special because he made us feel seen.  A.J. had this conspiratorial way of speaking that made you feel like he was letting you in on the best prank or the most important secret in the world, and you felt so damned lucky that this man thought enough of you to let you in on it.  He paid attention to your response and cared how you reacted.  While he exuded charisma and appeared larger than life, he was always approachable because unlike a lot of gigantic figures I’ve known, A.J. saw and A.J. listened.  A.J. truly cared about the people around him. His sense of humor and zaniness were infused with softness, gentleness, and pure human love.  And while we could enumerate so many reasons for calling A.J. Gooch a great man, to me, this ability to listen and to see might be the greatest reason of all.

Farewell my friend.  Thank you for seeing me.  I will always be a better person for having been seen through your eyes.

AJ Missy wedding cropped

I’ll always be grateful to Thom Avende for taking such wonderful pictures of A.J. at my wedding.

Circe

Someone in one of my local Pagan Facebook groups for some reason posted a link to the Wikipedia listing for the Greek goddess Circe this morning.  It put me in mind of a story about her I wrote for the inaugural Wellspring Bardic Chair Competition in 2009.  The competition required contestants to perform a song, poem, and story, memorized and original all the better.   Many of the bards attending the festival took issue with the challenge, protesting that they could sing but not write poetry, could tell stories but couldn’t carry a tune, etc., and they decided not to take the challenge. Music was certainly my strong-suit, and I had written a considerable number of Pagan songs and chants by that point in my life, so the song portion didn’t faze me.  I also figured that I could put together and perform a passable poem.  But storytelling just wasn’t in my wheelhouse.  So I decided to take the opportunity to work on this bardic weak point.

I used to write plays in my youth.  In fact, plays were the first sort of creative writing I had ever attempted.  They just seemed to make sense to me.  Once I realized that a story could be like a monologue, I devised a retelling of Odysseus’s encounter with Circe from Homer’s Odyssey from Circe’s point of view.  I spent a lot of time refining the story, memorizing it, and practicing, practicing, practicing.  

My story and my performance of it at the Bardic Chair Competition proved to be my strongest of the three categories, and it went a long way toward my winning the whole thing.  I was certainly proud and pleased to have won, but I was more proud of myself for not dismissing the opportunity to compete out of hand just because I didn’t fancy myself a storyteller and instead took the opportunity to grow as an artist.  And as I haven’t shared anything here in a while, I figured I’d share it here now.  

“Circe”

I am the Daughter of the Sun, the Mistress of Magic, Lady of my own land.

As such I know the moment a ship lands upon my shores.  And one day a black ship landed, a ship full of sweaty, savage men.  Knowing I hadn’t long until their gluttony drove them to discover my palace and my stores, I swiftly prepared some food and other necessities in anticipation of their arrival.  Then, gathering my handmaid nymphs about me, I set to weaving and singing a spell to hasten them on their way.

Soon enough a handful of the brutes did indeed darken my door.  I welcomed them in, plying them with food and wine, all sprinkled with a simple drug that clouded their simple minds as they greedily indulged themselves at my table.  Taking up my wand I then cast the spell that reveals men’s true nature–changing every one to swine.  I expected no better.  After seeing them packed off to the sty, I settled myself back at the loom, knowing that more would follow their missing comrades.

And so it was.  Soon another of the beasts appeared at my door, marveling at the wild animals milling docilely about my grounds.  Smiling to myself, I welcomed him into my home, to his similar fate.  Seating him in a silver chair, I noticed he was handsomer than the others, with a more noble bearing about him.  Their leader, perhaps?  No matter, I would know his true nature soon enough for he quickly quaffed the potion I placed before him.  I raised my wand for the spell, but before I could touch him he drew his sword and rushed me, aiming the blade at my throat.  Startled I ducked beneath the weapon and clasped his knees in entreaty, my mind racing.  How could he remain unaffected?  And then it hit me—Hermes.  Hermes must be helping him.  And I realized he was the one Hermes always told me would find his way here, the famous Odysseus.  At this realization I felt quite flattered—a Hero in my own house!  Not an opportunity to be squandered, for sure.

“Sweet Odysseus,” I purred, slowly rising and taking hold of his sword.  “Surely a Goddess and a Hero can come to some sort of understanding.”  But he balked at my generous advances, nattering, “How can I trust that once I’m naked and in your clutches you won’t simply unman me?”  Unman him?  Why would I want to do a thing like that?  I mean the man was gorgeous; it wasn’t for his conversational skills that Calypso kept him so long.  So I swore the Great Oath by Styx not steal his penis or harm him in any other way.  “So come, my dear, and let us seal our friendship at last.”  “No,” he replied, shaking his pretty head.  “No, it’s just not right, that I would be in this house having sex with a Goddess while my men remain in the pig pen.”  “Fine,” I sighed.  “If that’s what you want, I’ll change them back.”  Which I did, but only I made them taller and handsomer than they were before.  I mean if I’m going to have them under foot, at least they should be pleasant to look at.  “So,” I said. “Are you satisfied now?”  “No,” the Hero replied, “but I have a feeling we both will be soon.”

And so it was.

The seasons circled ‘round and Odysseus’s men had their fill of my stores while we had our fill of each other.  But finally they began to once again think of home, as men always do, and I had to reveal to Odysseus his next dark road.  For I had seen that he would never again see Ithaca’s bright shores unless he learn the way from the seer Tiresias, dead in Hades dread realm.  After teaching him the summoning spells and providing him with the necessary supplies, he and his men made ready to leave.   All but one, the most piggish of them all, who had fallen asleep drunk on my roof and who subsequently had fallen to his death in my yard.  For the Lord and Lady of the Dead demand their own sacrifice, and only death may open their Gate.  And as I watched the Hero’s white sail disappear over the horizon, I sang a spell to hasten him on his way to his next adventure.  While I, the Great Goddess Circe, lady of my own land, awaited my own.