The landlord raised my rent this summer and I needed help financially. So L moved back in with me and Little N. He's paying me rent to share a room with his son. It's an unconventional arrangement, though I hear it's not as uncommon as one might expect, and it's given my bank account a little breathing room. Much appreciated!
The new living arrangement also initiated some rearranging of the physical space. I've moved into the smaller bedroom and turned it into a bright cozy nest. My little sanctuary of self-care.
I've been away from this space for well over a year. It's been a full and challenging time. So much learning.
Learning the people of a new job. Learning to establish and hold healthy boundaries. Learning a new, much heavier, body. To love it. To take good care of it. To patiently change it into a more physically fit and cherished vessel. Learning to co-parent with L. To tend Little N with him, my most precious person with the person I least want to share my life with. And there's more that won't fit into one tidy post.
Old memories are rising - both painful recollections and wise encouragements from my past. The memories point to how I got here. Intimating the sources of deeply held beliefs. Recalling me to nurturing habits I once held sacred and practiced regularly. If I resume those old good habits they could carry me into and beyond this new phase of learning.
Back in November, I posted that Samhain to Imbolc would be a season of sitting still with the life that I live. Oh, but I am a wriggly little worm. Much of this dark season has been resisting the life that I live. So mundane. So uninspired. I've been looking ahead to a season of action on resolutions.
I came across the above image in my Facebook feed and it did inspire me a little. I'm thinking a lot about my health. About managing my weight, getting a grip on how I feel before reaching for food, about how I want to feel, and about the things that I enjoy, that feel meaningful, and that make me feel connected. This colorful image opens my lens on health to include all of those aspects and their interconnections. Plus, I read a quote (also in my FB feed) that basically said we overeat not because food gives us pleasure, but because it doesn't give us enough pleasure. I hunger, really, for pleasure, happiness, good relationships, a sense of the presence of the Divine, meaningful work. In the absence of these things I reach for a chai tea latte and a cheese danish and head back to my job.
This season of action prompts a long list of To Dos in order to reach for the full health that I want and need. Eating healthfully. Moving my body in a way that's enjoyable and repeatable. Playing with my son after work each night and reading to him before bed. Checking in with friends for Mama-dates and ritual. All things that I am capable of and have done before.
And - this season of action calls for discrete inactivity. Sitting. With my journal. With my life. Recalling and recounting my blessings. Perceiving the fissures in the mundane where the special and inspiring whisper through.
In addition to being a time to recall our Beloved Dead, Samhain is also referred to as the "Witches' New Year." This really works for me. I appreciate the cohesion of a year ending while the earth is going into a cold, fallow state. In fact, I see the time from Samhain to Imbolq as a period where the year is dying. When the light and the plants start to rebound in February, I perceive the new year beginning.
This year, I've approached Samhain with a mind of letting go. A whole dark cold season of letting go. A time to compost, mull, and brew. No resolutions for January 1 - they will wait for February's light.
I am letting go of my marriage as I complete final paperwork and prepare to stand before a judge for the final decree of dissolution. I've been preoccupied with doing the work of this process and the emotions have faded from my perception. In this dark season I will pause and say goodbye to married life. Lay it down, with all its expectations and disappointments. Let it rest.
I am loosing my desire to lose weight, right now!, and slowly surrendering to my emotions. I may need the entire dark season and the entire new year to learn this practice. Where in my body do I feel my feelings? How do I experience my emotions? Time to lay down the perfect body and inhabit the one I am today.
And somewhere in the back of my mind I'm wrestling with our culture's prescriptions for age and timing and worth. That by X years old one should have achieved, purchased, defined Y, Z, and Q. I'm 40. I have a job that is neither a career that defines me nor my heart's work. My job is low paid and my heart's work goes unpaid. I have a home that I rent. Purchasing a home is not in view, despite my age. I have no partner. I am mother to a young child with special needs. I am short and fat with greying hair and no make-up on my face. My life is out of sync with the culture's preferred order and significance. This year has surprised me with the realization of how much those guidelines mean to me despite how little I've consciously subscribed to them. I will lay these down, too, and sit with the life that I am living.
The promise of spring lingers in another segment of the Wheel of the Year. There will be a fresh season for incantations and invocations. Part of me very much wants to skip over the slow still dark and rush into the bustling of resolutions and new habits. But a deeper hunger rumbles, calling my attention to the value of this current season.
On Sunday afternoon my Pagan circle celebrated Mabon, the holiday of the Autumn Equinox. Mabon is the second harvest festival we recognize, this one for later crops like squash and apples. We gathered to give thanks for the light that has sustained us and the bounty of the land, and to prepare ourselves for the coming darkness and cold. Already we observe darker evenings and cooler temperatures.
This new season we are entering is referred to as the time of the Dark Mother. She is the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. Marked by her sickle and scythe, she comes to reap what has been sown, in the land and in our lives. She has many names in many cultures including: Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis, and Morrighan.
The story of Demeter and Persephone is particularly relevant to Mabon. Demeter, the goddess of grain and harvest, loses her lovely daughter Persephone to Hades, the god of the underworld. Either abducted or perhaps descending voluntarily, Persephone is resigned to six months of each year with Hades. Demeter grieves the absence of her daughter and the land is barren. That change, from lush to loss, begins at Mabon.
For our ritual, we decorated the altar with garden fresh vegetables and fruit. Bright Mums and Oak leaves stood out in a vase. We crafted candle holders from apples and placed them on the altar to note the four directions and god and goddess at the center. Our meditation focused on seasons of our lives – which season are you entering and how are you preparing for it? We used a Talking Circle to shape the individual sharing and later group discussion around our altar.
I’m entering a season of partner-less among the partnered. Now, more than ever, I feel like our culture places heavy expectations on us to have a partner. The expectation peppers our popular culture in music, television programs, and even commercials. The love-interest. The love unrequited. The love lost.
I started dating when I was 13, and while interspersed with solo phases, have usually had a partner or some love interest in my little sphere. Even in those times when there wasn’t a partner, and they were good for me once I adjusted to them, I assumed that there would be again. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve drawn some (a lot?) of my sense of worth from being partnered and possessing partner potential. Not so these days. Who wants to date an overweight, 40-year old, divorced mother of a child with special needs? The culture tells me the options aren’t good. So I look ahead and assume a long season of singleness. A season of belonging to myself. I’ve grown to like the idea. I’m choosing how to live in that season and claim it as my own.
I think it starts with treating myself as I would a good friend, in my thoughts, words, and actions. I tend my close friendships with time together, authenticity, listening, fun, sharing, patience… and so I will treat myself. It means developing personal practices for my body, mind, and spirit. It includes returning to my dreams for 2014: improved health and weight loss, feeling and expressing my emotions in healthy ways, hosting mini-retreats for women, cultivating a good divorce and co-parenting, and returning to my creativity – especially writing. It stretches to imagine new dreams of confidence, good work, and community.
So where I previously experienced loss and confusion, facing this season of living partner-less, I now feel excitement and anticipation. I am a true companion to myself. Composting the distractions, lies, and cultural hubbub, to tend something true, vibrant, and vitally my own. This is my season.
Note – The Fall Equinox has only recently been named Mabon. It received the name in the 1970s from Aidan Kelley as he wrote Crafting the Art of Magic. He deemed it a useful tool in helping modern Pagans to conceptualize Pagan religious ceremonies. This is interesting to me because it speaks to how contemporary Paganism is both an old religion of ancient myths and symbolism and a young religion that is still being created. I think about that seeming dichotomy a lot as I imagine all the little circles around the country, or around the world, gathering and recognizing the symbols and seasons of the year in their own unique ways, borrowing from the past and infusing it with their own personalities, creativity, and desires. I appreciate the malleability and personalization of this religion because it allows each person to honor Spirit in his or her life in his or her own ways.
Poor Little N. I signed him up for Summer Camp for his Summer child care. I talked to the director of the program and it sounded like a match. It's not. Kiddo hates it and cries and fusses every night and morning in anticipation of another day at camp.
Little N says it's too loud, even with his ear muffs on. His dad has witnessed the classroom and describes it as disorderly and undisciplined. All of kiddo's Autism triggers are being hit. Noise, chaos, unpredictable behavior. More than a challenging transition to something new, it's a full offense on his sensitivities.
Today, we're trying something new. Little N's dad went with him to drop off, as usual, but now is getting kiddo moved into a new classroom of slightly older kids. These children are kindergarten and first graders and are a little more mature. They already know how to behave in a classroom setting. Plus, this group has a teacher trained to work with children on the Spectrum. So far, this morning, Little N is participating, making friends, and playing with the group. He's still got his ear muffs on and his dad remains hovering in the background. But we're optimistic. Fingers crossed that Little N can do the same on Monday, when his dad drops him off and heads out.
Back in December I made a list of dreams for 2014. It's been a series of fits and starts as I make progress on these dreams. But this week, we are noticeably closer to two of them.
The other morning, Little N's dad signed the divorce papers and parenting plan so I am submitting them to the court tomorrow morning. It's one big step toward the Good Divorce that I'm dreaming of for our family. It's a formalizing with the legal and public world of what is already true in our private world. The marriage is over, but the family continues, albeit in an new form, but one equally committed to Little N's happiness and well being. Submitting the paperwork starts a 90-day waiting period before we go to court to finalize the divorce. And there are a couple classes to take in that time - one on Family Law and the other on Children and Divorce. So there are still steps to be made, but this submission to the court is a big one
On the path of another dream, I'm starting to lose the weight! Finally! The Kind Naturopaths gave me a terrific and challenging list of foods to eat to help me shed the stress pounds and support my adrenal function. It's working! I'm in my newest pair of jeans and I can put them on without unbuttoning them. And I had to tighten my belt. Little things that encourage me to hold this course of a healthy diet.
Back in April, I paused and considered the good work that I was doing toward my 2014 dreams. I still couldn't see any of the results. It was a dogged, baby-stepping, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other time. I found (and continue to find) encouragement in friends and family. Now I can look at the paperwork, and look at my own clothes, and be encouraged by the evidence I find there, too.
Oh and there's so much work still to do. I need to find a way to pay for Little N's Summer Camp, and fix my car, and change my school loan payments, and figure out new health insurance for Little N… and what about community and retreats and writing…. It could overwhelm me. But I'm doing the work and getting results. So I know can continue to do so.
Last week, the Kind Naturopaths prescribed some herbal and vitamin supplements as well as a new way for me to eat - Leptin Food Lists. It's a diet of primarily protein and produce, excluding starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. I did a big grocery shopping for the week on Saturday with my new lists and have started in on the cooking. Roasted and steamed vegetables, baked fish and mini-frittatas, and chopped salad fixings and mixed nuts and tossed each into Mason jars.
It's all beautiful. Good for me. And time consuming! What the heck! It's not obvious to me how I'm going to keep this up on the usual 2-day weekend as well as rest, catch up with friends, parent, and do other chores. Good self-care is not self-indulgent. It's another kind of work, like tending a garden, or a baby, but yourself.
Curious about the Leptin Food Lists? Check them out here.
I went back to the Kind Naturopaths this morning with my Food/Feelings Diary. After reviewing it, they reasserted that my adrenals are in fatigue. This makes sense to me because it's not the first time I've heard it. When Little N was a newborn, Miss A sent her Medical Intuitive/Naturopath to visit me. In the course of our visit she discerned that my hormones were out of whack (duh, postpartum) and that my adrenals were struggling. I took this information to my GP who blew it off saying that I wouldn't have been able to carry a baby to term if there were issues with my adrenals. I yielded to the GP's assessment and went back to work, struggling, but making it.
It's now six years later, years of pushing myself through my job, postpartum and major depression, and ultimately this divorce, to hear the same diagnosis. Adrenal Fatigue.
The adrenals are two important little glands that sit just above the kidneys. The image below illustrates the many things that stress the adrenals. Most of these stressors are a regular part of my life, reinforcing my perception that the Kind Naturopaths are correct and that heeding their guidelines for healing will work for me.
The next steps include: an overhaul of my diet - supported by a list of good foods as well as recipes for using a crock pot (to make cooking more convenient), herbal supplements to support my adrenals, and methylated B vitamins. Besides helping me to lose the extra weight I'm carrying, this healing plan should also support me in recovering from depression.
I go back to the Kind Naturopaths in about a month to check in on how the plan is working, where I'm seeing success, as well as any challenges I'm wrangling.
I feel something like hope and relief. Like maybe my adrenals have been calling for attention all this time and we're finally getting to them. Like I have the direction and the team to truly help me heal and feel better in my body. The work is yet to be done, changing my eating is going to be a big challenge, but it's pretty amazing how having support (Kind Naturopaths, Beloved Therapist, Miss A) for this specific work of healing changes my perspective on that work. What once felt too big and impossible, now seems like a task I can start on (baby steps count!).
My addictions are my armor.
Feeling low in mood or energy - grab another cup of coffee. Frustrated with my work or sensing the stress of my coworkers - go outside for a smoke. Lonely, sad, generally lacking power - eat a muffin.
My addictions are reactions that mask how I feel so that I can push on with the matter at hand or steal a quick break from it. I imagine that they protect me from the world around me - from that thing or person who is messing with me. But with a little pause and thought, I recognize that my addictions are "protecting" me from me. They block, bypass, or stuff my emotions into a form that I can't perceive. My addictions keep my emotions neatly contained.
Oh, but I don't want to be a "neatly contained" person. Granted, I can't have my emotions running roughshod over my life either, but there's got to be a middle ground where I can feel what I feel and express it in a way that works with being an engaged human being interacting with other human beings and getting stuff done. And I don't think we get to pick and choose which emotions we lock away; they stick together.
I want to be an emotion-full, juicy person. Someone who perceives her feelings and can live in them. I want to recognize and understand other people's feelings and be able to empathize and support folks without taking their emotions on as my own. I want to cultivate my creativity and connections and all that rich, succulent life that emotions sustain.
I think I'm on the right path for this. I already have the Beloved Therapist and the Kind Naturopaths eager to help me take on these challenges. The diet diary has opened my eyes to the relationship between my food and my feelings. I plan to continue the log to include when I drink coffee and when I smoke. Initially, it will be a project of awareness - noticing the feelings that lead to each action. Then, I will grow into choosing healthier actions to respond to or even express the feelings.
All of this is part of my self care. Shedding my addictions fosters a healthier, happier me, which further equips me to tend a healthier, happier world through my family, my community, and the bigger issues I participate in.
Out of the Attic
This blog started in 2006
on Blogger as
Out of the Attic.
I began posting here in April 2014. Please visit the original site for the rest of the story on topics like: