Year in review

I’m approaching the one year anniversary of my blog, and in the spirit of honoring what growth I have accomplished, I decided to reread my entire blog and note the things I have learned this year. This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, and I might add to it, but here’s what jumped out at me:

  • I am not a naturally aggressive and spiteful person
  • Even in deep pain, I am able to recognize that it is temporary, that I will heal, that I am strong
  • That even people I love and think I know can be deceptive and hide who they truly are
  • That I am better off without those people in my life
  • That I am one of the best at deceiving myself
  • That even while experiencing intense heartache and pain, I am strong enough to focus on other major events and details of my life that need tending to
  • That crying always leaves a headache in its wake the same way too much alcohol leaves a hangover
  • That I can gain closure for myself in a peaceful way in relationships that end in a very difficult way
  • Meeting people where they are – in whatever developmental space that is – is the best way to ensure connecting with them and possibly helping them
  • While tough love is appropriate at times, not everyone responds well to it, it’s not always appropriate
  • Part of why I am here in this lifetime is to provide strength, aid, and comfort to those who need it or seek it
  • If I let anger and frustration get the better of me, I set myself back developmentally
  • A lot of the means of aid I can give to others requires that I grow beyond myself, beyond where I currently am
  • There is always a sense of anxiety for me in “starting over” in some way in my life, and it’s important that I honor that anxiety so that it can dissipate; starting over is very possible, no matter how hard it is
  • When I am very active in physically doing, I need to make time to settle down and just be – no matter what – and this is not called being selfish or lazy. It’s called self-care
  • I need to attend to my spiritual growth on a regular basis or I feel miserable
  • Culture is not limited to racial/ethnic background; virtually everything we can think of is a type of culture – age, gender, life experience, (dis)ability, geographic location, religious/spiritual affiliation, etc.
  • I can be extremely judgmental towards others, even without realizing it
  • Getting angry when I learn less-than-wonderful things about myself serves little purpose, despite how difficult it is to be confronted with them; rather, my way is easier when I gently, peacefully, and honestly acknowledge those things and then decide whether I wish to remain that way or change
  • I need physical outlets to release stress
  • Adjusting to new life circumstances is difficult and takes a great deal of time and being gentle with myself, even if I’ve done it before
  • Though I disagree with many of the things they did, my parents raised me the best way they knew how; however, because I would have raised me far differently, I have had to (and continue to have to) do a great deal of work on myself to counteract and resolve some of (what I consider to be) their mistakes
  • Religion, even with the right intention, can be deafeningly oppressive
  • Any power anyone or anything has over me is that which I have given to them
  • De-programming old beliefs and patterns of behavior is possible, though hard work that must be committed to and done intentionally and continuously
  • It is possible to miss something that I have never had in this life time
  • The theme of surrender has been floating in and out of my life since July; there are varying levels of surrender
  • Mama will present me with the same lesson numerous times, but each time, She gets a little more insistent until She just gets to the point of kicking my ass
  • Occasionally reviewing how far I have come in my journey is an incredibly important part of my journey, not a bunny trail off of it; I should probably do it more often
  • The Mama frequently talks to me in MY voice, which is a bit freaky
  • I almost always already possess the tools that I need to assist me through life changes, and they are within me
  • I do not fear change – the process – in and of itself; I fear the repercussions and outcomes; and yet, more frequently than not, every change brings me closer to my Self and therefore is worth whatever cost
  • I am capable of balancing work and play, though I don’t always do it
  • No matter how big an obstacle might seem, I can overcome it in time
  • When I’m overeager to get into romantic relationships, I usually do the most damage to myself and am the most blinded to warning signs
  • Perception is a tricky beast, and I can alter mine to see what I want to see when it’s really not good for me. I need to continually ask myself What is? Instead of What do I want to see?
  • The Universe and the Mama are constantly taking care of me and providing for me amidst my doubt and inability to see the final outcome
  • Trusting the Mama is not a one-time event. It is an every day choice She tells me to make again and again and again
  • Trusting the Mama to provide for me is like strengthening a muscle; it needs to be continually exercised in order to grow and become easier to do. And even then, She’ll continually challenge me with heavier weights to keep pushing me to grow
  • I have a tendency to reach out to and cling to things that I feel provide some sense of security when I should really be reaching inward
  • The Feminine cannot be described with masculine language
  • When I resist situations or feelings that I experience, I make it all the harder on myself to integrate those things and/or move past them
  • Being is an active state
  • Gender is a verb
  • There is such a thing as sexual fluidity
  • I don’t need to grow “up”, I need to grow “out” and “in”
  • I have a tendency to fight the very things I claim to seek and desire when they’re presented to me
  • Financial aid departments everywhere SUCK
  • Physical beauty as western culture defines it is overrated
  • Usually, the more difficult and risky the choice is that’s presented to me is the right one to take
  • Validation received from others is something to be balanced with inner-knowing and in light of context
  • Sexual assault can be subtle and mild, and no matter how subtle it is, its repercussions can be long-lasting and widespread
  • I still have unresolved issues related to my assault that I need to work through that have impacted how I view men in relationship and numerous other things of which I am probably even now not yet aware
  • The US court system can be really fucked up
  • Men are socialized by patriarchal society to believe that they need not answer to anything but their hormones; that as soon as they are remotely aroused, they’re no longer responsible for their actions
  • Darkness is not synonymous with evil and needs to be acknowledged within equally with light
  • We are all One (still learning this one)
  • Conceptualizing people as either more good than bad or vice versa is oversimplifying and limiting
  • I need structure to my every day life (it grounds me), and when life doesn’t provide it for me, I need to create it for myself
  • I’m not always good at creating it for myself
  • Some times swearing up a storm and potently feeling the rage within me is the only way to begin to release it
  • Cockroaches are an inevitable part of living in the south. Suck.
  • I have, since July, been committing various acts of surrender to the Mama, each time surrendering a little bit more; each time, learning a new level of that surrender
  • Everything is sacred (I keep learning this one again and again, seeing it from different angles and perspectives)
  • I rush through too many experiences, eager to get on to the next, and in doing so, I risk losing the valuable lessons those experiences offer
  • Nothing likes to be forced
  • Time does not exist; it is an illusion
  • I’ve gotten pretty good at fucking with time
  • There is a difference between knowing something superficially and knowing-living something; truly owning it
  • My capacity for compassion may be infinite, but it’s not always easy to practice
  • It is easy to lose sight of my inner knowing in the academic institution in which I am studying, and this loss happens to many people all the time. I need to honor my inner knowing while also humbly accepting the instruction from my mentors and professors on certain subjects, integrating that knowledge with my inner knowing
  • I am still recovering and working to resolve my parent issues. It’s an ongoing process
  • It is easy to regress to old and out-dated ways of being when with people who still behave in those ways or who knew me when I was like that; it takes concerted effort to remain true to my new self and stand in my truth
  • Little to nothing at all is absolute or guaranteed
  • Perfection does not exist in the way people typically conceptualize it
  • Attempting to make things that are fluid concrete is a waste of time and energy and only promises false security
  • I still have yet to grasp what the Divine Masculine really is; however,
  • The Divine Masculine is not the same thing as what the patriarchy has purported divinity to be
  • When major shit is going down in my world, I don’t have or make time to blog (see posts from December of last year)
  • Mama prefers to answer questions I should be asking rather than questions I’ve actually asked
  • Mama has an incredible sense of humor
  • Transformations lead me to become more of my true self, who I am meant to be; thus, any loss I experience through that transformation is loss of what I no longer need, who I no longer am
  • Transformations are often terrifying and fucking hard
  • Invoking Kali, even unintentionally, will turn your world upside down. A lot.
  • Kali wipes away everything I try to grasp at for security
  • Some times I need to cleanse my life of people I hold or once held dear
  • Losing or ending friendships is always hard no matter how many times I go through it
  • Smoking cigarettes is my last-resort coping mechanism. Quitting, no matter how many times I’ve done it before (temporarily, it seems) is hard. Quitting cold turkey induces a lot of headaches.
  • I think the Mama loves kicking my ass
  • No developmental level is “better” than any other (I’m still working through this one)
  • Sharing does not mean I am “less than” (probably still working through this one, too)
  • Everyone has something to teach someone
  • When learning to fly, falling down is common and necessary
  • Transformation is hard work
  • There is a difference between loving one’s Self and liking one’s Self
  • People are capable of unconditional love
  • In order to love my Self, I must first accept my Self
  • I still have major issues with the Church that I have not yet worked through
  • As self-aware as I like to pride myself on being, some times I just don’t have a clue
  • I have the elemental expressions of personality and behavior incredibly confused. Still.
  • I am a mermaid, and I’m not entirely sure of everything that means
  • Love is the greatest magick

Edited to add:

  • Even when I am going through very difficult and trying times in my life, I am still able to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Whoo hoo! I think my short term memory provides enormous assistance in this department
  • My continual changing is not a matter of not having established or discovered my identity; to be continually changing and growing IS who I am

Sitting at the table

So I’ve got this food analogy to explain how I generally approach difficult issues in my life that take some time to sort out which I’m going to be discussing in a minute (daughter of a chef = I can whip up a food analogy for just about anything, no pun intended). When I was thinking about how to begin this post, I started off in my head with, “Have you ever sat down at a table with all this lovely food prepared before you, and though your appetite was huge and you loved what you saw, your stomach just turned at the thought of eating it for some reason?” And the Mama jumped in with, “Oh really? You see all of this as lovely and you want to dive right in?” And she raised an eyebrow. Shit. Touché, Mama. Then I thought of a little kid who’s a terribly picky eater being forced to eat peas (memories from childhood here), and the little kid is whining. No, that’s not me. “Oh?” the Mama interjects. Not all the time, Mama. “Mm-hmm…” with Her eyebrow still raised and now She’s just crossed her arms. Fuck.

Yes, some times a lot of the time, that’s me. I go on and on about how I want to grow, but when it comes down to doing the work and when facing the not-beauty that is a bunch of the issues I’m dealing with isn’t pleasant, I don’t want to dive right in. Whether they’re good for me or not, I hate peas.

I have a number of big issues that are arrayed on this vast dining room table in front of me at the moment. And the thing with big issues – particularly ones I don’t want to just gobble up – is that I can’t sort them all out at once. I can’t sort one of them in one sitting. Or I probably could but the thought makes me want to vomit. Because they’re all things that I’d like to pretend aren’t before me. That gigantic bowl of peas (issues with my parents), a huge tray of olives (internship details), a large plate of coleslaw (issues of shame/guilt), etc. And that’s not even all. There’s a big vat of lima beans, another bowl of kidney beans, and I think I smelled some boiled cabbage lurking around here, too. So I sit here, at this proverbial table, staring at these things. Most of the time, I’m trying to will them into non-existence while the rest of the time I’m trying to build up the courage to at least take a bite. And let’s just say that the going is slow.

So what’s on your table? How do you approach and manage to eat up all the unpleasant dishes in your life?

Child of God vs. Adult of God

Grace over at The Wild Pomegranate wrote a post recently expressing some frustration with the Christian faith and the lack of first-hand knowledge Jesus didn’t record in written form. Before I read her post this morning, I was thinking about Christianity myself, my own conservative Christian upbringing, JC, and the whole concept of being a child of God versus being an adult of God. *

I think part of what I consider to be Christianity’s problem is that most Christian leaders out there are still children of God, despite whatever their chronological age is. They’re kids. Most, if not all, children, by their very nature, cannot understand complexities. Their worlds are generally black and white. And I’m not being ageist here – it’s totally normal. All of that pre-frontal lobe not being fully developed stuff. So abstractions, metaphors, and other forms of complex concepts are, a lot of the time, lost on them. Chronological children aren’t supposed to understand those types of things. Also, they tend to take most everything literally. This can lead to them just not getting “it”, but worse, especially in the case of the child who’s really a chronological adult and is leading (an) entire congregation(s), is that they don’t even realize they haven’t gotten it. The other thing about children is that they can be damn nasty little brats. I’m sure you’ve had experiences from your own childhood or have made observations on your children’s peers that can attest to this. They can be mean, bossy, know-it-alls who insist on getting their way and insist that there is no other way. However, when we accept the responsibility to be leaders of any faith system that excuse – the one where we’re not supposed to understand because we’re at a certain developmental level – doesn’t quite cut it.**

Personally, I think most of Jesus’ early followers were also children of God in adult bodies. And really, I don’t think he did them any favors by stressing the whole “being a child of God” bit. It’s a beautiful concept in and of itself, and I think it helps people to feel a deeper connection with their Creator, but I feel like it was something he should have followed up on, you know? Cause now it seems like there are a whole mess of leaders with this spiritual Peter Pan syndrome. Anyway, back to JC and his peeps when they were all hanging out together. JC taught in parables and stories. Why? Because that’s how children learn best. Unfortunately, unless you take the time to walk them through the deeper meaning of the story (which is one way to help them become adults of God), whether or not they get that meaning is a gamble, and one that, personally, I think Jesus risked and lost.

I remember having a conversation with my dad the summer after I began studying Paganism about JC and salvation. He quoted the scripture that goes something like, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one shall reach the father except through me” and asked me what I made of it. Immediately, I realized that he (and most every other Christian) took this passage literally. I pointed out Jesus’ rather consistent track record of teaching in parables and metaphors and asked why my dad thought this teaching was any different. It’s so simple, he replied, of course he meant it literally. Enter child of God thinking. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s straightforward. When I introduced the idea that maybe what Jesus meant when he said “I” was everything he embodied: Love, Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness, Hope, etc. – the very essence of Christ consciousness (which, unfortunately, is usually not taught in most churches because the leaders are still children of God themselves). My dad found the idea preposterous. Right.

But that’s what I think being an adult of God in the Christian faith system would look like: an understanding of, living of (though not necessarily perfectly) Christ consciousness. As a Pagan, I can appreciate and honor Christ consciousness and its beauty, though recognize that it’s not for me. But people who live in Christ consciousness – think Mother Theresa when she was still on the planet – are amazing people. They don’t hate, they don’t judge, they don’t condemn, they’re not the ones who are saying, “It’s my way or the highway” on the road to union with Divinity. You might know or have run into some of these people. They’re the ones that when you find out they’re Christian, you might say, “No! Really?” because they don’t act like the majority of Christians with whom you’ve probably come into contact.

A spiritual leader is supposed to guide people in their spiritual development, assess where they are, find out what they need to come into deeper connection with Divinity, and help them get there. So if the leader is a 3-yr old wandering around in spiritual Pull-ups in an adult body still being a child of God, how are they supposed to bring people to deeper levels of spiritual development than where they themselves are? In this case, the whole idea of children leading children doesn’t seem to fly to me. If more Christian leaders were adults of God and could guide the every day Joe Christian to understanding of what it means to be an adult of God and help him get there, I think there would be a whole lot less hypocrisy and ugliness in the Church. But it’s got to start with the leaders.

I can’t tell you how many times when I was growing up in the Church I heard either from my parents, who were very active in the Church on numerous levels, or other Church leaders that the safest (or most dangerous, depending on your perspective) place to be in the Church to hide your faith or ignore your spiritual development and not be held accountable for it was in a position of leadership. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s pretty fucked up. It makes me wonder – I know that when I graduate from my program and get my degree and get licensed that it is my professional responsibility to amass hours of continuing education each year for the rest of my career in order to keep abreast of what’s going on in my field, further my specialization and development as a professional counselor, and continue practicing ethically. I get these CEUs by attending conferences, workshops, seminars, etc. held by other leaders or professionals in the field who are more advanced in their professional development than I. The same is true, I believe, in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and medicine, and perhaps others (I’m not sure). Why isn’t there something set in place like this for spiritual leaders of organized religions?

*Disclaimer #1: I’ve got a beef with the Church. And it’s not a little McDonald-sized wanna-be hamburger. It’s a freakin’ big-ass Porterhouse. Consider yourself forewarned.

**Disclaimer #2: I, as in me, am still walking through the whole more-advanced-stages-of-spiritual-development-aren’t-BETTER-than-less-advanced-stages-of-spiritual-development concept. It’s something I’m working on, and I totally admit that I’m not there yet. That is my own personal bias I’m sorting out because, though I’ve made some progress, I’m not yet to the point where I truly “get” that all stages of spiritual development are equal. It’s a tricky beast for me, and it’s left over from…something…that’s very hierarchical in my brain. I do get that everyone is at different stages of development, and I get that that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and I’ve just recently started wrapping myself around the idea that we all – no matter what stage of spiritual development we’re in – have something to teach others who are in different stages, whether more “advanced” or less “advanced.” Now, back to Christianity and its leaders.

Transformations: Death and Rebirth

Spring is beginning to take a firm hold on northern Georgia (finally). Some trees are still budding, some not quite even there yet, but that beautiful, life-affirming baby green colors much of the landscape around where I live. I was driving home from class this evening, and I noticed the crepe myrtle trees lining the highway. These trees are resplendent in summer with bright, vibrant colors, and I’ve been longingly anticipating their return over the past month. Right now, the trees are covered in puffs of muted, semi-brown/golden puffs that could easily be mistaken for dying leaves or blossoms threatened by frost. But in reality, they are really about to burst into bloom.

Many people I know right now are undergoing (resisting, anticipating, or dipping their toes into the water of) transformations, transitions, new beginnings, etc. As I gazed upon these trees which will soon be magnificently beautiful, I thought of how often we view (how often I have viewed) transformation, transmutation, transitions, and the like with a dreadful trepidation. How often I had (and not too far in the recent past) thought the transformation chasing after me and hunting me down was a death or dying of sorts, an overwhelming loss from which I would only painstakingly recover. How easy it is to mistake new life creeping out from under the thick layers of Self as death, as only an ending without a beginning to follow, as finality. And yet, in my experience, it is these situations and transformations that are frequently the most glorious, the most beautiful, the most life-giving and life-affirming.

This is not to say that there isn’t an aspect of loss or death of something when we undergo transformations. Usually, there is. But it is not as final as we might initially believe. It is the same as pruning plants to make way for new growth, for new birth. And just as cutting away at those plants might leave them looking a little sorry, temporarily speaking, because we have cared for them in this manner, they grow even more robust than we could have imagined. I think the same is true for our Selves.

I’ve said before that I had originally approached my last major transformation with feelings of bitterness and resentment. Why was it necessary? What was wrong with the way I was? Why did I have to change? Why did I have to lose my Self? I think most of us facing transformations (or running from them) throw these questions around our heads and chew on them till they lose their flavor, at which point we either keep chewing, denying the flavor is gone and that perhaps it’s time to seek answers because we are not ready to hear what those answers will be or we summon our courage, take a deep breath and wait, listening for them.

Truly, it takes a great deal of courage to face any type of transformation. I have run from many a transformation, and I have kicked and screamed and clawed my way through numerous others, bitching the entire time. Openly embracing them is definitely the exception for me. Each of us is different, and there is no assigning certain timings to anyone concerning when or whether they should embrace what is waiting for them. It is here, it seems to me, that inner knowing is at its most significant. The only one to know when or whether we are ready for what is awaiting us is our Self.

I hold true to my conclusions in that transformations are not a matter of losing our Selves, but becoming our Selves, our True Selves. And while there is a degree of death in all changes, a loss of sorts, and that loss is to be honored and perhaps mourned, we can lose the potency of the transformation and the beauty of it if we become so distracted by the loss that we forget to look for the life about to burst into bloom.

New beginnings

Over the past couple days I have reached a level of new beginning and becoming on my path. I had been walking my path with the energy of an adolescent, expecting it to simply be there as if I were on a moving sidewalk, and it would take me to where I wanted to go without my having to exert or expend any significant amount of energy. I recently began reading the book The Feminine Face of God, a work that explores the spiritual development of women. While reading, I came across a striking idea – a question and challenge each woman interviewed for the book faced during her spiritual journey: It is not enough to be a child of God, how do I become an adult of God?

The women in the book answered this question/challenge in numerous ways. I answered it by fully surrendering my Self to the Goddess without condition. I hadn’t realized it but before, I had only given my Self conditionally. I gave my Self if it meant that I didn’t have to experience fear or uncertainty, if everything in my life remained secure, if I received from Her what I wanted and needed, etc. But no relationship – particularly one with the Divine – can ever be fulfilling and whole if we do not give it everything we are without condition.

Since I have done that, I find my Self revitalized with new energy, an energy of beginning. An energy of wholeness. An energy of potential. Suddenly, it feels as though doors that had been closed to me can now be opened and will be when it is time. The blockage I felt surrounding me and closing in on me has disappeared. And I realize that what had been blocking me was myself.