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.
I started smoking the summer of 2013, when L and I decided to divorce. It was an amicable decision and yet it initiated a very stressful phase of transition, communication, and action.
Our divorce was finally final on 12/2/14. In recognition of what prompted my smoking habit, I decided that I would quit when we divorced. It has been 6 days since my last cigarette.
I'm chewing gum, including nicotine gum. I've told a few folks and have received good support from friends and coworkers. I'm imagining my lungs healthy again.
There's more to say. About the work it took to get divorced and how I feel. But for now it is enough to recognize it and even celebrate an end, a new beginning.
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.
At Samhain (Halloween/All Souls Day) Pagans say that the veil between the living and the dead is especially thin. It's recognized as a time to commune with the spirits of the departed. To be honest, I don't really go for all that. I prefer to believe that the souls of our loved ones are always with us, equally, around the year. And I'm admittedly uncomfortable with practices/readings that call upon the dead to present themselves or offer their messages to the living. But I do like having a time to call my attention to our Beloved Dead and to start telling Little N the stories of his grandfathers.
In my little group's tradition, we both honor our Beloved Dead and welcome the new babies at this time of year. My altar bears the images of Little N's two grandpas as well as two children who were born since last Samhain. I appreciate the full circle of this tradition - even as we recall, and maybe grieve, the ones we've lost we are celebrating the new young ones that we are now living with.
This year our group did something a little different. Due to a combination of low participants (we were gathering on a weeknight) and the needs of one of our members we didn't recognize Samhain with ritual this year. Instead, six of us gathered together with our hurting friend and shared a meal. We listened as our dear friend talked about her current challenges, we offered advice, we held her in our little circle of warmth, affection, and trust.
For something lighter, and yet insightful, we played with a deck of Oracle cards that one of the women had been inspired to bring with her. Oracle cards are similar to Tarot cards, in that they consist of a deck of cards, each with an image and word printed on them. Each card is associated with a meaning or message that the deck's author has assigned them. Unlike Tarot cards, I haven't seen any set spreads or layouts for a number of Oracle cards. Instead, you choose one card and sit with its meaning.
We played with a gorgeous deck of cards called "The Enchanted Map" created by Colette Baron-Reid. (On Amazon here.) We sat in a circle around the living room and took turns posing a question and pulling an "answer" from the deck. We laughed out loud together as we each pulled cards that rang true and challenged us to good work in our lives.
I pulled the "Rock Bottom" card. It startled me. I did not like it. Then I considered it in relation to my question, "How the heck am I going to lose this extra weight? Wait, I mean, How will I learn to listen to my body and treat it well?" By hitting Rock Bottom?!
One of the other women read the author's meaning of the card and the word that stayed with me was "surrender." So now I'm thinking about my relationship with my body and the emotions that, for example, prompt me to eat when my body is not hungry as one of surrender. Surrender to the feelings that trigger unhealthy reactions in how I treat my body. Feel the feelings. Pause, hold off the reaction, choose a healthier response to the emotions.
But I've thought about taking this approach before so maybe now there's a little more to it. Maybe it's about surrendering to the fact that I've got a little problem here. This problem is not some simple little habit that I need to change. It's a pattern of avoidance that goes on in the back of my mind or in the creases of my heart when uncomfortable feelings come up that I can't do anything about. The last year or more have been focused on doing solutions. Like, finding a lawyer, completing paperwork, achieving divorce deadlines, finding and starting anew job... The end of the divorce is near. Maybe surrender is about shifting my perspective from so much doing to more being.
Being in my body. Being in my emotions. Being aware of this pattern of avoidance that I've enlisted to get the doing done. Being aware of the power this pattern has over me. Preparing to be in a new space where I can both do and be.
Autumn has always been my favorite season. As a child it meant apple picking, apple cider doughnuts, and pumpkins! Pumpkin selecting, pumpkin carving, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin pie. Every year we made a little trek into "the country" to pick out our pumpkins at a farm stand. We hauled them home to the suburbs for all the ways we enjoyed them. It was looked forward to, even as teens, and served as a sure sign of the season.
While there's plenty of country, farms, and farm stands to be found in Washington, Little N and I are urban dwellers these days. And kiddo doesn't take much delight in long drives to unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people, sounds, and smells. So we took the city-dwellers' approach and I picked up a couple of orange beauties at the grocery store next door to our apartment. We invited a friend over and commenced carving.
Little N wanted a "happy" pumpkin, so Miss A delighted him by carving exactly what he had drawn for her. I went for a spookier approach, which also allows allows a lot of candle light to shine through, and cut a cyclops from my pumpkin. Kiddo does not like my creepy monster and sequesters it to a different part of our deck, away from his happy creation.
From a Pagan perspective this season, like each season, holds sacred meaning. By now we've noticed the days getting shorter, the darkness enfolding us, and in Seattle the cold and rain have started. We inhabit more time indoors. We reach for creature comforts of hot beverages and hardy foods. We are embracing the darkness as best we can and listening for the messages it offers. It's a time for composting that which doesn't serve us, as well as the dreams that have not come to fruition in the time we granted them. New life will be cultivated from their detritus in another season. It's a time for giving thanks for what we have received and that which we have learned. Our lives are stronger and more vibrant for these things. It's a time for drawing near to the folks we love. We are all connected.
Little N doesn't really understand seasons yet. He is puzzled by our dark mornings as I rustle him up for school. He plays out on the deck in dark evenings within the glow of the overhead lights. I don't know if that's due to being a child who hasn't seen as many seasons change as I have, or if it's related to his Autism and not perceiving sequences. I'm hopeful that his comprehension and appreciation will develop as he grows up. To that end, I have the job and the joy of sharing what I perceive in each season. I'm trying to become more intentional in my parenting around this topic and Autumn calls me to it more than any other season. I string little twinkle lights up in our apartment to warm the darkness of our evenings. I make a place on my altar to host the photos of our Beloved Dead, his grandfathers. They have a special place in our hearts and minds at this time of year (more on that and Samhain coming soon).
I want Little N to perceive the turning of our little blue planet in our solar system, in our galaxy, in our universe! Our lives are tiny, precious, and changing with our own seasons in this magnificent space. We humans are all connected to each other in various ways and I wonder how to teach him about that as well. I want Little N to experience connection to traditions I grew up with as a link to a family he is part of, a family that loves him, but who he barely knows, rarely sees. I want Little N to be familiar with the emotional and material meanings of entering the dark. We needn't fear or dread the darkness. We can work with and within this season. I want Little N to deeply know all of these things and have fun living with it!
So I drag home the pumpkins from the grocery store. We carve them and giggle over the slimy orange goo we pull out of them. We light them and watch the candlelight flicker inside of them. I plug in the twinkle lights. I make room on my altar for the grandfathers. And I try to draw Little N's little-boy-attention to the darkness and what it can offer.
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.
Out of the Attic
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Out of the Attic.
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