Lessons From The Road

I feel like there’s a lot you learn about yourself while driving in the middle of the night. As the lines in the road speed by and your headlights wash across exit signs, the road strips away the ignorance and pride from your plane of knowledge and reveals to you the truth.

The things you’ve just assumed and hoped were always true start to unravel and in those moments of dead air between the songs and the station identification breaks,  you can see where the cracks have always been. The reflection you catch in the windows is your own, but it shows you as you truly are.

You’re a mess. You’re scared. You’re out of your element and you really wish you had someone there with you. You can still see your crown, so you know you’re still capable, but you’ve noticed it’s slipped. You’re unsure. Most of all, you’re feeling less than you.

The road tells you these things. The destination not so much.

 

The Crown Slips

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Such was the case for me one night at the of the beginning of this month. After a day of being sick, my husband was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. Let me just state, one more time for the Universe to hear, diabetes fucking sucks. He has Type 1 and for some reason, his body decided to flip out and slip into diabetic ketoacidosis. As we have three children at home and are in the middle of flu season, I was stuck. I couldn’t go with him in the ambulance. I couldn’t follow behind with the kids in tow. On our previous trip to the local ER a year previously, I had learned that when the security guard says no one with children is allowed back to where the patients are, he really means it. And no amount of yelling and crying will convince him otherwise.

So I had to sit at home and wait for childcare to come before I could go and catch up. When I finally was able to join him, I was a wreck. I do not handle not knowing things well. Knowing that he was ill, possibly even gravely ill, and there was nothing I could do, drove me crazy. It was in that interim that I felt the crown start slipping.

 

I was at the mercy of those who I had asked for help. From the EMTs that transported him to the hospital to the ER workers who were working on him to the family members I called in tears, I was indebted to all of them. I had bent my knees before them and asked of them their service. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. I felt needy. I felt like a bother. And to their credit, the hospital workers and nurses, the EMTs and staff never once made me feel this way on purpose. They were just doing their job. They were pleasant and kind and gave me so many words of encouragement.

When I finally arrived at our local ER, I found out the process to transfer him from our local emergency room to the closest regional Veteran’s hospital had not only already begun but had been approved. After an hour or so, he was placed back in the ambulance and taken off to a waiting bed in the MICU at the VA hospital that was an hour south of us.

I said my goodbyes while he was being loaded into back of the ambulance and walked myself to my vehicle. If I had ridden with him, I would have been stuck away from not just my kids and my dog, but my home and all my other responsibilities. Just because my world hiccupped doesn’t mean that it stopped spinning around me. So driving myself down would allow me to drive myself home when I needed to.

So I did what I had to do. I got in the truck and I cried. I cried and cried and cried. And then I stopped, pulled up Google directions, and drove off into the night.

 

The Road To ReCoronation

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There’s a pair of owls that live on my street. I’ve seen them cuddling each other while sitting on the tree behind my house. Sometimes, I hear them calling to each other during the evening from different trees in different yards. Sometimes, the crazy birds hoot during the day, when I just assume they should be sleeping. No matter where they are, no matter what they are hooting about, they make me smile. They make me feel like I’m at home. They make me happy.

But honestly, I as much as I love them, I am not one of them. I am so not a night owl. So my drive to the hospital was extra complicated. It was well after midnight when I left the ER in my city and the place I was going was, according to Google, an hour and six minutes away. Maybe it was my worry. Maybe it was my fear. But at some point, being awake well past my normal prime didn’t seem to matter. I’m usually going to sleep with the chickens. On that night, while taking the back roads that lead me to the Interstate, I was one with the owls.

It was this time alone that allowed me to think about everything that was going on. It gave me room to evaluate what was going on in my life and how I should handle it. The wheels and the road were just rhythmic enough to zone me out to a state of thinking where I was able to assess what was and what was yet to be. I was also able to face the reality of the shallowness of the pool of physical, local support my family and I had our feet in. These revelations were neither positive or negative at that time. Like the shadows my headlights created on the trees that lined the roads, they just were. The emotions from them would come later, when more time could be assigned to them.

I’m not going to incriminate myself and talk about my speeding on the way down there. But for the most part, the stretch of Interstate I was on was pretty empty. And I was lucky enough that none of South Carolina’s finest were working that area that night. I made it all the way into the single digit exits for the city and found where I needed to go. With it being the early morning hours, I was able to find parking and somehow found my way into the back emergency entrance of the VA hospital.

It was then, when I crossed that threshold, that I felt the crown straighten. The kind lady at the desk helped me direct me to the elevators and soon I found my way to the floor and then the room where my husband was.

I’d like to say it was a joyous reunion and that the night was one of those magical nights where the love of the couple overwhelmed whatever sickness was happening.  It was not a Disney movie type night. It was a night in an intensive care unit with someone who very ill and his significate other who was very worried. Nurses were in and out taking blood and doing glucose checks. There was vomiting and pain. There were machines beeping and malfunctions. And needles. So many needles.  And when there was sleep, it was fitful and separated by tubes and bed rails. For me, it was in a hardbacked chair with a pillow and a blanket kindly brought by a nurse who might have actually been more than just a human.

But we were together. I was there when he needed me. And even when he didn’t know I was there, I was there. And slowly, the crown righted it’s self on my head. I was fragile and unsure, but I knew what to do. I wasn’t helpless. I was able to step outside my fear and do my best for the ones I love. Even if that act was nothing more than holding a hand, rubbing a leg, or getting more ice chips.

 

Ever After

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Now because all of that happened, the rest of the first weekend of February was pretty much a shitshow. There were trips back home, trips to get the kids, frustrations about feeling like I was not getting what I help thought I should be getting. It was hard you guys. Being separated from where I felt I needed to be and expected to keep just pounding along like life was normal was excruciating.

But what could I do? There’s no option for curling up and crying until the hard parts are over. Slowly, the minutes turned to hours, the hours to days and after more worrying that I’ve done about anything worth worrying about, we got the notification. After recovering enough to be moved to a normal room and having his levels be normal for 12 or so hours, it was time for him to come home. So that evening, it was just a process of loading up the kids and making the drive down.

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It was a lot different this time. I was a lot different this time too.

The road didn’t hold the same amount of self-reflection in the daylight. Even though the sun had managed to slip out of the sky while we were driving, the car was filled with too much excitement, relief, and still nervousness for there to be any meditative feeling. It is a known fact that when you are traveling with children in the vehicle, any drive becomes less ‘Oprah Super Soul Sunday’ and more ‘Mad Max Fury Road’.

After getting turned around in traffic and entering through a non-entering way, we finally were reunited. And with him entering the car, it was over. The lessons we learned were not.

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While his health is paramount here, there is a whole stream of things from this I learned about myself. I learned about the holes in my circle and the need to fill them. I learned that I need to believe in myself and my abilities more. I am responsible for so many people, wallowing in my doubt is just not an option.

Sometimes shit is going to go down and I’m going to be the one who is going to be one to hold it together. Whether I want to be the one or not. It’s just what it is.

I can’t rely on the road to remind me of that.

I have to wear the crown and all its weight in it’s full glory.
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Writing, Depression, and That Damn Blinking Cursor.

The longer I sit looking at the blinking cursor, the more it starts looking like an enemy. So if it’s going to taunt me with it’s blinking nothingness, I’m going to fill it with a whole bunch of uncomfortable realness.

When I decided to get serious about this whole writing thing, it was a lot easier for me to pump out content. I had a good stretch where I was writing what I felt was some really good stuff. Not just for the blog here, but for the few other sites that would occasionally pick up my pieces too. I was finally giving breath to the part of me that had always longed to breathe. And I was writing a lot. It felt like my fingers were trying out ideas as fast as my head could thinking them up. I was balancing all my life stressors pretty well, spinning the domestic plates with one hand and assaulting the keyboard with the other.

And it felt right. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was being a mom, a wife, a friend, and I was writing. I was checking off all the boxes of the things I had to be and the thing I wanted to be. For the first time, in a long time, I felt like more than just a homemaker. I was who I was called to be. I even got a poem published in a book. It really seemed that 2018 was going to be my year.

The hounds of depression nipped at my heels constantly though, even louder and closer than before.

I spent more time dragging my feet just to get through the day. Illness cost my husband his job and granted me the role of caregiver. His days became filled with doctor’s visits and physical therapy. And forms. So many forms to fill out. School became a challenge for my youngest son as he adapted to kindergarten. I had not foreseen it a struggle for him. I was wrong.  I addressed a personal health issue of my own and even began medication for depression. The nation took a huge leap into The Twilight Zone and each day brought a new headline of insanity. And slowly and almost silently, my ability to write as much as I wanted when I wanted, started drying up.

Sometimes things change without you noticing. Just little things here and there, that you are too busy to see. By the time you catch it and rush to fix it, it’s usually too late. That’s how this feels. It feels like maybe I’m pulling on the last fraying string of a sweater that’s already come mostly undone. (Weezer may have inspired this last sentence.) I know I talked about this in It’s Been A While, but I honestly thought by now things would be different. I thought I would have shaken whatever this was and I’d be back to my old self. That just doesn’t seem to be the case.

I have been writing. I was gifted this wonderful Complete the Story journal from Piccadilly by my sis in law and her SO for my birthday. Each page has a story prompt and the rest of the page is blank. I’ve been hand scribbling my stories in there when I get the moments. I even took one of those stories from the page to the computer and submitted it to an online magazine after sharing it with my best friend. I was so stoked about what I had created! I had thought that it had such potential. It was the first real bit of fiction I had pulled out in a good while that felt honest and real and more importantly, good. It felt like a real story with some real potential.

It was promptly rejected.

Honestly, It’s just frustrating. Being a writer is something I’ve always wanted to be. When I dreamed of it as a kid, being a blogger wasn’t included in the dream because blogs weren’t a thing then. (Someone fact check that for me. Were blogs a thing in the 90s?) But writing in a blog is as legitimate as being any other type of writer. I know I will probably never be an official, proper, make money out of it writer. I’m not the next Stephen King. My blog is enough. And now I feel like I’m not even doing that.

I’m not sinking, guys, I’m just momentarily stuck. I’m not out of hope. I have buckets of it, it’s just a little bit out of reach. I do want things to be better. I want to do better. It’s not like I’m just rolling over and letting life get the pin on me. I do intend to kick out.  Don’t try to count me out just yet, I totally mean to continue this writing, living, existing journey. I have no plans for an existential break. I have ideas and plans for the future. I’m just feeling a little low and a little unsure of myself.

Depression is real folks. And it doesn’t always look like what you think it does. It’s not all dark clouds full of doom and gloom. Sometimes it’s drying cement around your feet.  Sometimes it’s a new coat of paint covering what you once considered your reachable dreams. Sometimes it’s just the quiet whisper of “I told you so” from yesteryears’ ghost. Sometimes it’s trying to pour from an empty cup so long, all you have left at the end of the day is dust.

So, as the cursor continues to blink at me and I try to think of further ways to combat it, I ask this of you Dear Reader.

  • Keep reading. Not just my blog, but the blogs and works of yet to be bestseller writers everywhere. I don’t think there has ever been a time when it has been so easy to access the writings of so many people the world over.
  • Listen to your friends when they are excited to share with you their latest creations. Support the passions your friends have. Support what pours from their souls. Because one day they are going to feel like they are horrible at the thing they love to do. And it’s going to hurt them. It might make them want to pack all their creativity up and hide it away. For the love of all that is good, don’t let them.
  • While you’re at it, check in on those friends who have gone quiet. Check in on those who are always checking in on you. Check in on those who have their hands full and sometimes maybe press when they say they are “ok, just tired.” Because believe me, it is so much easier to say that you’re tired than to have to find a name for the way you’re actually feeling.

As for me, I’m here and I’m dedicated to making sure that 2019 is more than this treading water feeling. I’m not going to spend the year watching the paint dry over what I wanted to achieve. I want to get back to my status quo of creation again. Or at least, to a level that I feel comfortable with. I just want to be proud of myself again. And not taunted by that damn blinking cursor.


Finding Fault With New Years Resolutions

(I should tell you up front that the inspiration for this post came from a column I write for The Chronicle Star Facebook page. I churn those out weekly and this one got really got me thinking. I might repeat some things here I wrote there. So if you read both, don’t be surprised if this seems a little familiar.)

The holiday decorations are coming down, the strings of lights are being rolled up, and the torn wrapping paper remnants have all been thrown away. The stores are still playing Christmas songs but candy canes and holiday gift sets are now half priced. We’ve met our yearly family quota and now have at least half a years worth of stories to tell about how wonderful or fucked up they are to tell. The cookies were eaten (or thrown away) and leftovers stacked in the fridge. Christmas/Yule/Whatever You Celebrate is now officially over.

But wait, Dear Reader, that’s not all. When it comes to winter holidays, we aren’t out of the forest just yet.

In just a few days from this post, we will usher in the beginning of a brand new year. As we get ready to say goodbye to 2018, there is no doubt in my mind we are going to be seeing a lot of New Year’s Resolutions pop up on our social media feeds.

#NewYearNewMe is going to be everywhere telling us how this is going to be the year they turn their lives around and lose that 20 lbs or get that good job, or finally settle down and marry the right one. We read all these promises as to how the people we know are going to change for the better in the upcoming year. Just wait and see! It’s going to actually happen this time! It doesn’t matter if it’s the same resolution that’s been made ten years in a row. This year it’s going to happen.

And while I support anyone who wants to change and better themselves, I can’t help but roll my eyes a little at some of these resolutions. Maybe I’m a little cynical but it seems that very rarely do New Year’s resolutions actually work.

Because, to me, here is where resolutions are usually split. You have the people who make them and post them so they can feel they belong to the crowd. And you have people who really want to make a change.

The first group are the ones that make my roll my eyes. They are the obnoxious #NewYearNewMe crowd that fill your social media timeline. Deep down they don’t really care about changing themselves, they only want to be part of the fab. They are the same people who go extra crazy over anything at that is the hot thing at the moment. I see these people as those crazy fans you see in old clips of The Beatles. What ever the crowd is doing, they are doing too.

For them, the problem comes in when it’s time to actually put in the work. When it starts being less about internet cool points and being part of the herd and more about real life hard work, the dedication to reach those goals drops hard and fast, like flies under a bug zapper.

When no one online cares anymore or is too busy in their own lives to take part in a congratulatory circlejerk, most people simply stop. They take their resolutions, hang then on a shelf, and replace them instead with expertly crafted excuses. They spend more time and spirit to crafting up stories about why they quit than they ever did to their original pursuit. These people never wanted the “New Me” they talked about in their goals. They wanted to cash in on the fad of the moment by taking part of something. Not of changing themselves.

And I can kind of understand why. Changing yourself is scary. Changing things about yourself is hard. More than that, releasing that there are things that need to be changed is even harder. Sticking to a regime change in your life that takes your bad habits and throws them out the window is super difficult. Change is hard. It is uncomfortable. And more often than not, it’s lonely. So when we go to the internet to look for companionship or support and don’t find it, it makes it that much easier to just give up.

The other group of people who make new years resolutions are the few that actually mean it. They are the ones that know how hard it is and put in the work anyway. They are the ones still plugging away and busting their asses in March, April, even all the way into November and December of the year.  Those are the people who are serious about making a “New Me”. They are the people who have not just the dedication but also the discipline to accomplish the goals they set.

And that’s some really freaking hard work. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Forcing yourself to have discipline is one of the most strenuous things we have to do as adults. Being lazy is easy. Being lazy feels good. It’s comfortable to sit back and let things continue the way they always have been. That is what makes the difference when it comes to resolutions. Resolutions require work. If you aren’t actively working on them, they no longer manner.

That’s why, personally, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t fall into the #NewYearNewMe hype. Not because I have commitment issues. I mean, I might have some commitment issues. I had a hell of a time committing to this blog and I’m pretty sure there are half a dozen unfinished books laying around here. But I usually stick around to thinks I want to accomplish. My reason for not joining in on the resolution train is that I don’t do change well. And dedicating myself to change so much wouldn’t be something that would be good for me mentally. I wouldn’t be able to mean it. I wouldn’t be able to fully dive in. So I would in up just giving lip service to the act of change without actually doing that. And honestly, I’d rather not do it at all than half-ass it.

Real change comes from within. And until I’m ready to accept that, I don’t want to be one of those people just spouting off plans online so I can get likes and shares. Changes should be done for yourself, not for people scrolling by.

Pagan Hide and Seek: Christmas Edition

For the record, when it comes to Christmas, I’m kind of a Grinch. Christmas music annoys me. The endless rush of shopping spikes my anxiety like a kid left unattended at a trip at a dessert bar. And while I love gift giving and sharing a huge feast with people I care about, the strain of getting together and rushing about, traffic and schedules, wish lists and shipping dates, often leave me stretched thin.

We could blame it on the martyrs in my Christmas Past who made the holiday less a family-focused event and more an over the top drama fueled pageant. You know the kind of dog and Pony show that becomes a “my way or the highway” fueled by Martha Stewart worship and spiked with guilt. We could also blame it on growing up poor and being the oldest who understood “that the youngins need it more”. Even if the youngins in question weren’t siblings but cousins, second cousins, friends kids, and kids at school the had been to the house a time or two. Or finally, we could chalk it up to not being a Christian and year after year having everyone tell you that the reason for this season, the only thing we are really celebrating for, is a God you don’t believe in.

I know all of that makes me sound like a big old sour-ass. It paints me about as bitter as the crab apples at grew in my grandpa’s front yard. It adds just a little bit of validity to the jokes my husband and I throw back and forth about my saltiness level (which is somewhere between the level of rent and Willie Nelson). Maybe I am a salty old crone who fun sucks the life out of the party. Or maybe I’ve just had it with the typical holiday rigamarole.

Observations about my personal flaws aside, let’s get back to that whole reason for the season issue I mentioned earlier. Being told year after year that Jesus is the real reason for the season, by loved and unloved ones alike, takes it toll on a poor Pagan girl. That’s why out of all the holiday shenanigans, my two favorite things about Christmas are watching my loved ones be happy and pointing out all the wonderfully Pagan things being celebrated by nonPagan people.

Let’s start with an easy one. 

The Christmas Tree

There’s a lot of Pagan lore about the Christmas tree but it’s roots are commonly said to be in the story of an English Benedictine monk named Boniface who was doing some missionary work in Germany during the eighth century.

One day Ole Boniface was doing whatever missionaries do when he observed some locals performing sacrifices in front of an oak tree for their god Thor. This angered Ole Boni because by God, Thor was a false God! How dare these native folks to worship their own gods in their own land while he was there!! So he grabbed his axed and felled the mighty oak tree in an effect to stop the heathery where it stood. When he wasn’t struck dead by the local’s gods for, you know, shitting all over their holy site, Boniface decided he could use this as a teaching moment. He hauled the tree inside and thus began the Christmas Tree tradition. Like many holy people after him, he would take something belonging to the Pagan locals and claim it in his God’s name thus using it as an outreach and a subjugating tool.

From that story alone, it’s clear to see that even before dumb old Boniface was roaming the German countryside, the German people were using trees in their devotion to the Norse gods. It was Boni’s appropriation of the tree worship that helped bring it into mainstream usage.

So remember,  every time you see straight-laced Christians oohing and awwing over a big pretty Christmas tree, they got the idea from a practice much older than their religion. They got it from us.

Of course, this is just one of many different stories that feature a connection between trees and pagan practices. Trees are a key element of Nature and Nature is a foundation of Paganism. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, because I really try to be an accepting and nice person, but it boils down to this: Pagans did it first and when Christians saw it, they stole it and rebranded it without giving us credit. And then they tried to erase our fingerprints from its history.

Maybe I’ll use a little of this long-held salt to make some salt dough ornaments with my kiddos.

The Man Who Put All Those Presents Under The Tree

 Well, if you didn’t know that Santa’s origins were Pagan in nature, I’m not sure where you’ve been.

While we most commonly know Santa Claus as the Coca-Cola red suit, white-bearded big belly version, we also all pretty much have a passing knowledge of him as Ole St. Nick and Father Christmas. Some of us are probably even familiar with the story of the bishop St. Nicholas and the legend about how he provided gifts, including doweries, to the poor. The juicy part of Santa’s history that a lot of people don’t have knowledge about is that Santa has a lot more in common Odin.   

Before Christianity took over Germany, the people there (probably the same ones Boniface ran into) celebrated Yule like many of us do. And during Yule, as many of us know, The Wild Hunt happens. It is part of that happening that many believe influenced the idea of Santa for those who don’t subscribe to the Norse beliefs.

In her 1972 book Discovering Christmas Customs and Folklore: A Guide to Seasonal Rites Throughout the World folklorist Margaret Baker postulates that “”the appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whose day is the 25th of December, owes much to Odin, the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts. […] Odin, transformed into Father Christmas, then Santa Claus, prospered with St Nicholas and the Christchild, became a leading player on the Christmas stage.”

You are free to believe what you will. I personally can totally see how the lore of the Odin could be taken and morphed into the idea of Santa Claus. There would have to be a lot of creative editing, but as we have seen, for the Church, that has never been a problem. Once again, I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I’ll be damned (pun intended) if after a while it doesn’t feel like most of their canon is just hastily written rewrites.

Before we leave the topic of Santa, I’d just like to throw this in for consideration. While originally, Santa’s sleigh was only pulled by one reindeer in Old Santeclaus with Much Delight ,an anonymous poem published in 1821, by the time Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicolas” came out two years later, Santa had upped his caravan to eight reindeer. The interesting part?  

Odin’s horse Sleipnir has eight legs. I mean,  I’m just saying.

Deck The Halls

Even the decorations Pinterest is all about this time of year aren’t something that just organically popped up in the mind of the Christian faith.

In order to protect the celebration of the birth of the brand new baby Jesus, early Christians would often make a wreath of holly and hang it on their door. In Roman mythology, holly was the sacred plant of the god Saturn so this was a clever way for them to make it seem like they were celebrating Saturnalia when in fact, they weren’t. Since then, holly has been overtaken and used heavily as a prominent decoration.

Photo by Annie Spratt   https://unsplash.com/@anniespratt

And if you want to get petty, which you know I do, you could even say that the tried and true holiday colors of green and red are in fact lifted from the red of the holly berries and the green of their leaves.

Another plant that has become part of common Christmas decorations is the mistletoe. Originally used for more than stealing the random kiss, mistletoe has been held as a sacred plant by the Celts, the Norse, and the Native Americans. Used by as a symbol of peace and joy, during the Roman era, enemies would meet under the mistletoe to reconcile their differences. Thus, during midwinter, it would be placed in houses and temples to appease the gods.

Photo by Annie Spratt   https://unsplash.com/@anniespratt

In Norse mythology, mistletoe is a big fucking deal to the goddess Frigga. The weak little mistletoe was the one plant that Frigga did not make promise her to leave her son Baldur unharmed. So of course, it was the one that Loki went and found when he was ready to stir some shit up. It, in the end, made up the spear that killed Bladur. The importance of the story of Baldur’s death and later resurrection is a pivotal part of the Norse belief. And the mistletoe plays an important role in it. There are different endings and interpretations to the tale but I’m pretty sure none of them include seeing Loki seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe.

I don’t want you to think I have waged my own personal war on Christmas. I haven’t. I wish people “Merry Christmas!” when it’s expected and when I truly mean it. And I truly mean it often!  Although I usually say “Happy Christmas!” instead because I’m a socially awkward weirdo. I still want those people around me to have the very best holiday they possibly can. I do wish them well.  I want them to celebrate however they feel is appropriate and makes them happy. I want everyone to be jolly and full of love, even if its just a few hours. If anything, the world needs more of that.

But I also want the world to stop mandating that we celebrate the season one specific way by using trying to pass off time-honored bits of other religions’ traditions as belonging to one specific religion. Not everything falls under the Christian umbrella. Not everything is about the Chrisitan God. There are many gods, many traditions, and many religions under that holiday umbrella.

So really, there are many, many, reasons for the season. And if you look hard, you can see them all.


It’s been a while…

I really hate that so much time has passed between postings here Dear Readers. I’m sorry for the unintended break. 

As Fall has slipped deliciously into Winter, it seems the Holiday season has hit full force and covered my everyday activities with the stickiness of maple syrup.

With the official end of The Husband’s employment and all the ensuing doctors appointments and paperwork that followed falling right before Halloween/Samhain, then my birthday and Veteran’s Day being followed by Thanksgiving, it really has been hard just to find time to have a normal day. Especially when our normal days aren’t even that normal. It feels like everything is overlapping and requiring so much of my attention that after I try to attend to it all, I’m left with nothing but cold sticky oatmeal for brains.

That’s left me with the capacity for nothing much but mindless Facebook and Instagram scrolling. I haven’t even been posting or interacting there much, just scrolling by, slightly amazed at the colors as they bleed down my phone or monitor screen. I have contributed to a friend’s Facebook-based newspaper, The Chronicle Star.  Each Friday I drop a short column there. (If you don’t mind crude and often offensive humor like Iron Shiek impersonations and horoscopes that are knowingly wrong, you should totally give it a follow) But even that has become something I have to force myself to write. The ability I had a few months ago to make words just fall from my fingertips like a leaky faucet feels long gone.

It’s not that I think the well has run dry. I’m 34 now. I know my ebb and flow. I burn hot on things for a while and then I cool off. Part of me feels it could be that. But a larger part of me doesn’t really buy it. This doesn’t quite feel like I’ve lost interest in writing. I have pieces I make up in my head that I really do want to peak out at the keyboard. Sometimes it’s just the act of getting to said keyboard and having the mental energy to make myself function. Even using an app on my phone sometimes is too consuming. It’s so much easier to be lazy and just gawk at already created content than to make my own.

I’ve seen my dear friends who struggle with disabilities and illness talk about the Spoon Theory. The Spoon Theory says that each day you x number of spoons to use, and each activity you do in that day requires energy (physical, mental, or emotional) costs a certain amount of spoons. You may have 10 spoons on a good day, but washing your hair takes away 2 of them. But on a bad day, when your illness or disability is really kicking, you only have 5 spoons. The same activity from your good day could still cost you 2 spoons but it would be a greater hit to your energy supply on your bad day. So somedays you are able to achieve all your usual activities with ease. But some days you hit empty long before you reach the finish line.

This theory intrigues me because it makes so much sense. While I do not consider myself in the same world as my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities, I do struggle. I’m a caregiver to three children. I struggle with migraines and depression. And I am married to someone who has an autoimmune disorder and all that goes with that. There are times when I am the battery that powers the family machine. (And I don’t say that to boast. I’ve been around too many people who put stock in being the “matriarch” of their family. It ain’t like that here.)

We are a machine that works together. Sometimes though, it’s not an equal 50/50 slip and some parts work more than others. In our case, it’s not because someone is lazy or neglectful, it’s because that’s how the cards fall. There are things that are just outside our control. So when someone needs to step up and wear the crown and control the kingdom, sometimes it has to be me. But while that sounds glamorous, in reality, it’s not. It’s cleaning the litter box and meeting with school officials. It’s checking to make sure bills are paid and phone calls are returned. It’s making sure everyone has clean clothes and has eaten and taken their medicine. So maybe my troubles in getting things created come from my percentage being greater than my spoons can handle? Maybe I’ve used up out too many spoons so now I have none left in my “create cool things” reserve? It’s an interesting concept that I think has some truth to it. 

One of the contributing factors to this piece getting written right now is that I’ve been forced to take it easy for a few days and relax. I hurt my knee while taking the dog out the other morning and have orders from The Husband to stay off of it as much as possible. So instead of my factory setting of “Chicken Little”, I’ve been set to “Couch Potato” or “Propped In Front of the Computer”. There is a nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps saying this is a painful reminder from the Universe to slow my ass down and focus on myself for a little bit. I have a feeling that it’s right. Maybe by allowing myself to write this up, I am acknowledging that voice and honoring it with the reclamation of a few more spoons.

Thank you for sticking around, even thought the sporadic postings. This blog is a project that I very much love and want to continue. I really want this to succeed. And by that , I guess I mean, I want myself to succeed in keeping it up to date and alive with content, thought, and connection. It seems that the biggest hurdles I face are always the ones I put up myself. 

I hope the Holidays and all their madness have found you well and continue to treat you well Dear Readers. 

Chapter 34

This past Saturday, without much fanfare and while shivering in the chilly November breeze, I welcomed my thirty-fourth year of life by watching my son take part in the local Veteran’s Day parade.

I stood alone on the sidewalk of my small town’s Main Street as vintage cars, Girls Scouts, and a few of the bravest men and women of the Armed Forces passed by.  

The group my son is in, a youth leadership group called iLead, was near the end of the parade. He ended up sitting on the side facing away from me, but I could he see hands waving spiritedly to the people facing him from where I stood.  

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But let’s rewind a bit. Before the parade, before loading up, before trying to get ready, let’s start with that morning.

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I woke up with the day sitting heavy over me like a cloud. I reached for my phone, but unlike every other morning, this time there was a hesitation. I knew what the date was. I knew what day I was waking up to. I had the hope that when I looked at the screen my discomfort would be meet with missed messages and texts from overnight from friends and family wishing me a happy birthday or a simple “I love you”. Instead, I got nothing but the weather.

I’ve filled you guys in on my hesitation with Fall. In some sick twist of fate, the anniversary of son’s death and the anniversary of my birth fall within seven days of each other. So my chances of being able to have a joyous birthday celebration are pretty much forever stamped out. And that’s something I’ve been troubled by recently. I’ve always had an uneasy balance with my birthday.

Because of the nature of my upbringing, birthday celebrations were a double edge sword. They were often the basic celebrations of a typical poverty level child, hotdogs, chips, ice cream, and cake. But because of the issues of my upbringing, they came with strings attached. Most of those little parties left me feeling guilty and ashamed that I would put my mother through so much trouble, or that my friends would be so rude and loud, or that their mothers would look so sourly at her. Because at the end of the day, any shortcomings were my fault of course.  

Once I left that mess behind me and moved on into adult life, I thought for sure it would be easier to celebrate the anniversary of me. I was surrounded by the idea that women could proclaim the entire week of their birthday was theirs to do of their choosing and that everyone had to pay homage to them. I was taken in by that glamour and selfishness. And then November rolled around and…

I was still nowhere near the ascending to the birthday throne. I was just a worker bee. The Queen Bees made sure I was aware of that.

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So life moves on and with it my understanding of things. One, the elders I have been surrounded by for much of my life were idiots. Maybe idiot is the wrong word. The women elders I have been surrounded by are deeply wounded women who have never taken the time to try to heal themselves. Their wounds have become their identity and in turn, their legacy.

THEIR LEGACY.

Not mine.

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So let’s fast forward to now.

I spent my birthday watching my son pay respect to the Veterans of our country. (Of which his father is one) We then came home, warmed up (me with some coffee and him with Xbox) and I attended to the snotty nosed crew that stayed home from the parade. After I did some laundry, and dishes, and sweeping,

and more laundry,

and more dishes,

and more sweeping because someone emptied an entire box of Nerds candy on the floor,

we had dinner and Red Velvet cake.  Afterward, when all the kids were put to bed, I indulged myself with the fancypants new lotion my wonderful husband gifted me and started plans for what is going in the beautiful leather bound soon to be grimoire my #bestwitchforlife sent me.  

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I was proud of my children, proud of my husband, and, dagnabit, proud of my country. If you watch the news, it’s a tough time to be an American. If you see America from the sidewalk of a small Southern town on a Saturday in November while marching bands play and old men and women proudly drive their antique cars and march down the street while saluting one another, then it’s a little easier. 

And shit, even after a few tears, I was a little proud of myself too.

So the beginning of this chapter, this anniversary of my birth, was okay. It was a lesson.  I know that at this point in my life, I need to allow these days to be what they are. Something between just another day and a celebration of the arrival of the wonderful mess that is me.  I also need to let go of the hurt that the ones of the past have caused me.  

I just need to let go. Just let go of so much. 

To anyone who didn’t hear it and who wish they had, I hope your day, be it a birthday, anniversary or just another Tuesday, was a great day. You deserve it. If no one else tells you this today, I believe in you. 

P.S. For good measure, here’s the mural from our Main Street. I used to make fun of it when I was a shitty teenager who wrongfully hated the city (it was a misplaced hate. I hated my home life, not my hometown). But really, it’s pretty neat. Murals are cool. I appreciate it a lot more now that I’m older and have a bit more understanding and lot less piss and vinegar, lol. 

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Palimpsest

noun
a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

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The same heaviness that would later make a home in the foot that controls the gas pedal in every car I’ve ever driven was born in my right hand. In those ancient days of being forced to learn cursive handwriting and taking notes in class, heavy was the hand that held the pencil.

I’d press my pencil into the paper so hard the lead would break so much, teachers would insist I’d keep multiple sharpened pencils at my desk. I’d erase just as hard as I’d write, my anger at my mistakes sometimes even causing the paper to give up the ghost.

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No matter how delicate I tried to be, the weight of my hand, my thoughts, the actions of my creation left a mark. No matter how well the bar of rubber was made, it could not erase the imprint of what I had committed to the page just minutes before. No matter how bad I wanted to erase it from existence, the imprint of its history remained there.

My personal journals, cheap spiral notebooks of poems and short stories unsent letters and emotional catharsis, where all imprinted pages deep with words and their associated scribbles. They looked like football plays you’d see in movies, drawn on blackboards all Xs and Os. The last pages could be grave rubbings of my emotional breakdowns and breakthroughs. A clear indication of what and where I was but not yet who or where I would be.

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I think somewhere on this blog, I’ve quoted Heraclitus’ “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” And if I did, it was probably rather poorly. The meaning behind the statement stands. We do not stay the same person throughout the entirety of our lives. Each challenge, each event, each change (large or small) both add and take away from who we are. If we, the human machine, are functioning correctly, we are changing and growing.

That doesn’t mean that each change morphs us into a complete tabula rasa. We are not one of those magnetic drawing pads kids have where you can just slide a wand and erase everything that ever was. Despite our growth, we keep the scars of the wounds that made us. Sometimes, it’s not scars that we keep. Sometimes, it’s the wounds. The bleeding, raw, unhealed wounds.

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I’ve talked about why this time of the year is hard on me. But this week has been exceptionally stressful.
As I write this is the 7th anniversary of my eldest son’s death. I have been functional today, more than years past for sure, but still hemorrhaging internally from shrapnel buried deep inside.

In the seven years since the morning we had to walk away from the hospital without him, I’ve grown. I’ve changed. I’ve become a new person through necessity but also though will and determination.

For a while, I was not the best version of myself. It was if the person I was had been erased.

I was like that paper I used to write on in elementary school. Who I was had been erased. It would take more than a few years for me to figure out that the nuclear bomb that changed my world on the day my beautiful son died wasn’t much different than those cheap hard plastic erasers I hated that topped the cheap pencils I used as a kid.

While they changed things, erased things, removed things, and sometimes even ripped the paper, they didn’t do shit to change the parts that are rooted down into the pages beyond the top page. They didn’t do shit to the things that were entrenched in my soul.

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My love for him was not taken from me. My love for my husband was not taken from me. The love for my remaining child and the two that would come after was not taken. And after many years of trial and error, and after a lot of skin shedding and toxicity removing, when I held myself just right and let the light shine in just the right ways, love for myself and the person I was wasn’t totally taken from me. My identity as a person wasn’t taken from me.

Those are the lines I am struggling to retrace now. And I feel that I will continue to follow their near transparent lines for many years to come. No matter what has changed, what life events have moved me past what has happened, it’s all there. Not all of it is worth reliving or repeating. I can not expect to be the same woman I was before the tragedy. I have learned, and lost, too much to try to go back. I don’t want that. What I do want it is to slowly try to obtain the little parts of myself that I have lost to grief since. It’s been seven years. I’m okay with it taking a lifetime more. My love for him will be eternal. My missing him will be eternal as well.

Grief is the ultimate life-changing event. It’s a starving fire. It will literally consume everything it touches if you leave it unattended for any amount of time. My belief is that part of grief’s power comes from it being an act of love. And we all know how powerful acts of love are. So if I can sneak some things back from its grasp, if I can look beyond the current writing and see what was there before, I’m going to keep trying.

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The Normalcy in Magick

Picture this Dear Readers,

I am standing in my front yard. The light from the full moon shines down upon me. Coupled with the warm glow from a light deep within my home, my face is illuminated as I call the corners and cast a circle in the grass below me.

In the circle, a small collection of crystals glitter in the moonlight. A pitcher of collected rainwater reflects the broken sky above, with glimpses of stars and the Moon herself peeking through.  freestocks-org-425057-unsplash

 

The late October night around me swells. The crisp air, finally fulfilling Autumn’s definition causes goosebumps on my exposed flesh. I raise my arms in total awe and thankfulness. It is late and the neighbors have long turned off the lights in their windows. The street has been asleep for hours, no one is out but me.

The wind rattles the old rosemary bush near my front door and the smell fills the air. And in that, lost in the smell, the cold, and the connection to the moon, I am home.

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Now let me tell you how it really happened.

While all of that is true, and all of that did happen, it probably looked nothing like how you just imagined it did.

We tend to think of any working of witchcraft as this ultra-feminine well maintain beautiful artform. Basically, we either all look like a young perfectly made up Stevie Nicks with our flowing layers of hair and fabric twirling in the breeze or like the cast of some CW show. I can assure you Dear Readers, that ain’t me.

As I stood there under the moon, in all my glory, I was anything but well maintained. My hair, which is dyed black, except for the bleached part around my face, was tied on the top of my head in a messy loose ponytail. It’s only bleached in that area to hide the gray that is coming with a vengeance at my temples. I can’t wear it in a bun because it the tightness gives me headaches. So I have like this messy valley girl 80s vibe constantly just to keep it out of my way.

I wasn’t wearing one of those cool witchy flowy outfits for my ritual either. I had on a pair of Halloween theme leggings I got from Wal-Mart because they were cheap and super comfy. Plus I’m a sucker for anything with a pumpkin and a bat on it. 

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I was also wearing an oversized Golden Girls t-shirt with the collar cut out. I had borrowed my husband’s slide on sandals because I’m a baby and my feet are really tender. Walking outside in the dark barefoot seemed like trouble waiting to happen so the grass, which was a little longer than it should have been for this time of year, tickled my toes.

The sounds of the night that surrounded me? Most of them were dog barks and police sirens. And someone who really needs a new muffler.

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The romanticization of witchcraft in modern culture has given everyone, on both sides of the broom, the wrong idea about what is and isn’t witchcraft.

While witchcraft can be long black dresses and All Black Everything, it can also be burning sage while listening to Johnny Cash and wearing your ratty sweatpants. It can be all rituals and rites but it can also be drawing sigils with mustard on your kid’s sandwiches on while packing their lunches.

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It can be lighting candles and sprinkling Flordia water or it can be noticing that certain bird landed on your car on a certain day.  I think the amount of normal that is actually in witchcraft gets painfully underrepresented.

We are not all fairy tale creatures or lead characters in a story. We just normal people who have normal people lives. Yes, we use magick and talk with spirits and some of us have gods and goddesses. But we have bills and jobs, some of us have kids and cats and laundry to do too.

We are our magick and our magick is us.

It’s as wonderful and really at times as boring as we are. If we are going to let it be part of us, it’s got to be all of us.

The good parts and the waiting in line at the grocery story parts.

The helping the kids with homework parts and the whistling for the rain parts.

The being mad in traffic parts and manifesting change parts.

The praying that there is enough gas in the tank to get home parts and the making shit happen parts.

It’s not quite shadow work. These are not hidden parts of ourselves we have forgotten. These are parts of ourselves we overlook because they are so mundane.

This is everyday work. It’s part of who we are and what we do. As much as it’s ingrained in us, it is in our Magick.

So never feel bad if your practice doesn’t look anything like what you’ve read or seen before. Don’t feel like you’re a failure because your altar isn’t Tumblr or Instagram perfect. And never, ever feel you aren’t witchy enough. What you see other’s presenting is not the standard you should measure yourself or your Craft by. Other people and their path, whether real or for just for show, has diddly squat to do with yours.

You and your magick are just fine the way you are. You’re normal. It’s normal.  It doesn’t have to be flashy. It just has to work for you.

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The Cost of Connection

“You know what?” Trump added when told it appeared he had accused Ford of lying in a speech. “I’m not going to get into it, because we won. It doesn’t matter. We won.”

That quote was pulled from a recent CNN recap of a 60 Minutes interview with our President Donald Trump.

I feel like I can almost present this without adding any secondary commentary. There’s almost no need to explain the repulsiveness of this comment. Or of the man that said it. It’s like everytime you think he could be any viler, he achieves a new level of nastiness.

In this comment, he is literally saying, it doesn’t matter what he did or said, he won. It doesn’t matter how that win was acquired or what happened before or after it. It doesn’t even matter what his actions were. He’s smart, you’re dumb. He’s big, you’re little. He’s right, you’re wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.

That’s right everyone, Trump is the living breathing embodiment of the father from one of my favorite books and movies, Matilda.

 Here's what the cast of Matilda look like now

(No hate for Danny Devito, though. He’s the absolute bee’s knees. )

And sadly, this is just the latest quib from the never-ending stream of word vomit spouted by a world leader that found it’s way into our screens, eyes, and eventually down deep into our souls. 

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First, it was breaking news scrolling along the bottom of your regularly scheduled broadcasts.  Somehow it morphed and transformed to watching live feeds as our kids play in the park. It’s gotten to the point where there are gas pumps with news anchors that are all too happy to keep you up to date with the latest. And to top it off,  we now get Presidential Alerts straight to our phones whether we want them or not.

It’s everywhere and it’s inescapable.

It’s Orwellian.

And we keep going back for more.

 

We are more connected than ever before in our history. robin-worrall-749755-unsplash

We have knowledge that has been inaccessible for centuries at our fingertips. But with it, we have more lies and falsehoods spread by people who wish to prosper from our fear and confusion. Intentionally spread misinformation masquerades as truth and people gobble it up greedily, willingly feeding it to their family and friends too.

For those of us who identify as empaths, this constant level of connection is hard. Not only is it hard, but it’s also emotionally taxing. Every hour is a new struggle. Since the recent election, it seems that each refresh of CNN, scroll down Facebook, or conversation with an opinionated relative is a new episode of a personally written American Horror Story.  

I feel the price we pay for being that connected is something akin to a constant anxiety. It buzzes behind your eyes like phone notifications during a really hot group chat. And there is no way to turn it off. The anxiety finally heats up until it boils over and you are in a full state of fear. And after a while, that fear becomes an addiction. Just like checking Facebook and Twitter, it’s something you can’t stop doing. It’s part of your life.

Everywhere you look, everything you see is a reminder of just how fucked up the system is. It can make you scared and remind you that you’re wounded. Some of us show it by hiding. Some of us by showing our teeth and flashing our claws. But honestly, there is no right or wrong way to deal. While we all wade through the muck and mire of the sensationalized tragedies we have to remember not to judge the steps of others. It is not our place to tell them how they should or should not be reacting. 

How do we survive this? Not just as a nation, (which I promise you is a legitimate concern of mine) but as individual people? How do we disconnect from this constant barrage of information that we might want, but not need?

Dear Readers, I don’t know.

I don’t have the answers for you.

I don’t even have the answers for myself.

I’m stuck on this ouroboros of the digital age along with you. I don’t need another reason to stare at the ceiling of my bedroom after I go to bed at night. But here I am decompressing from all the content I’ve seen during the day. What headlines am I going to wake up to in a few hours? What outlandish shit is the President going to tweet in the middle of the night? When is that outlandish shit going to get us nuked into a Mad Max landscape? Or when will his Presidental Alerts have America looking more like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and less like a nation it is?

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We should be connected. We should be aware. Hell, as the young folk say, we should be woke. But we should also be whole. We should be full and centered. And above all, we should take care of ourselves. We should remember that we can not let our desire to fix the world tear us apart.

So let’s switch off the news, close the browser tab, and put the phone down. Go outside and hug a tree, worship the moon, or pet a dog.

Or we could burn this whole fucker down and start again. I don’t know. 

elijah-o-donnell-603766-unsplash.jpgLove yourself. Then, go and love each other. We are all in this together. 

Maybe, that will make things a little bit better.

It sure as shit can’t hurt.

Better Living Through Chemistry

Yesterday I did something pretty amazing. It was amazing in that it was completely normal. For most people, it would even be bordering on the mundane. But for me, it was a pretty big deal.

I went to the doctor.

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Why is that such a big deal, you ask?

 

Because Dear Readers, I have a LOT of baggage that I’m starting to unpack when it comes to medical professionals.

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From my writings in the past, you know that my relationship with my mother was dysfunctional. One of the things I don’t think I’ve ever touched on is that I suspect my mother had some degree of Munchausen syndrome.

Munchausen syndrome according to Wikipedia is the “a factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.” I am not a mental health professional and other than a Psych 102 class I took in college, I’ve had no training or education in any of the fields of psychology. That being said, there’s only so many checkmarks you can place on a page before a conclusion shows itself. I’m not saying she had it for sure but as a layman, I’d say it was a huge likelihood.

Looking back now with adult eyes, I can also see how some of her behaviors spread to me and my health care. There was a period of time when I was a little kid that I went to the doctor a lot. It wasn’t just for the routine childcare type of reasons, but for just random things that became huge ordeals. Tonsils, yeah that’s normal. But from second grade to 9th grade I had a medical issue pretty much every year. Some of them even overlapped. At one point, I had two surgeries for two different things within a six week time period. Twice I was “homebound” and had teachers come to my house because I couldn’t go to school because of medical issues.

Throughout all of this, she became exalted by her role as this super caregiver mother savior figure. She relished the concerned smiles and the pitiful nods. As I got older I started noticing the perverse pleasure she got when one of us was in poor health. Even when I couldn’t place a name to the actions, they were uncomfortable neighbors. When I was old enough to extract some control over myself, I stopped telling her about my ailments. And I made a promise to myself never ever to be like her.

That made me totally and completely gun shy of doctors for most of my adult life. I did receive the necessary maternal care when I was pregnant. But as far as other healthcare? I nope’d the fuck out of it. For years and years, I’ve OTC’d myself. For the few serious infections  I couldn’t beat into submission, I allowed myself to be dragged to a doctor. But mostly, I healed myself the best I could. And what I couldn’t heal, I just dealt with.

That was until I couldn’t deal with it anymore.

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For years I’ve seen struggling with headaches that I could not overcome. I’ve tried everything to counteract them. While some efforts brought temporary relief, nothing stuck. Seeing as they were mostly connected to my period, I cycled through different birth control options. That ended with my tubal ligation (you can read about it here). So when they still circling me like buzzards in the months since then, I decided to throw in the white towel.

I began to look for a primary care physician.

It took some calling around but I was able to get an appointment with a doctor I had seen maybe five years ago. Once the day came and I sat there on the crinkly paper of the exam table, I decided to make another brave move. Not only was I going to tell this doctor about the headaches that I’ve nursed for years, but I was also going to tell him about my depression too.

Part of me felt like a failure. Part of me felt like I was slipping dangerously close into my mother’s shoes. It probably also didn’t help that there was another voice in my head, one that belonged to someone I had once held in high regard, repeating that if I went to a doctor about depression, the doctor would report me to CPS and my children would be taken away.

Here’s the thing. I knew then, just like I know now that statement was a bunch of bullshit. But sometimes when you’re struggling, you go against your intuition. You follow the leader because it’s easier. Look, when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water, you don’t give a damn what direction you’re being towed. And that’s exactly what people who make such comments want. I know a lot about the type of people who corner you into submission for their own gain. They want you weak and powerless.

I am many things, but weak and powerless I am not. And that is what made me stand up for myself and speak my truth to the doctor.

I just told him. I told him about my struggles with headaches and with not feeling worthy. I told him about not being able to sit in brightly lit rooms when my brain decided to turn on me. I told him about my anxiety. I explained how when the pain was bad everything changed to technicolor that blurred like the lights in a 1980s recorded sporting event. I told him how the pain started in my neck then went behind my eye and lodged there like a metal spike.

And he believed me. He didn’t judge me. He didn’t think I was fishing for prescriptions.  He didn’t call CPS and try to take away my kids.

He knew what I was experiencing was real and it was a malfunction of my body and called it by its name. He said it could be treated.

He gave me a diagnosis. In fact, he gave me a few.

And some prescriptions.

And I wasn’t afraid.

I’m not my mother. I’m not held by her standard. I’m not even held by that really bad advice from someone else. I’m my own person. And right now, I need some help. And it just so happens, that help is of the chemistry kind.

The medicines were called in at the pharmacy closest to my house and ready for pick up by the time I got back in town. I started them this morning.

I don’t know if today has been weird because of the introduction of new substances to my body. Or from the weight of unpacking so much of this bullshit. Or from the impending storm (Yes! Another one!!) but it hasn’t been bad. It’s been okay. And I think I’m going to be having more okay days than I have before.

And I’m happy about that.

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