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.

Hobby Horses

You’re probably wondering why I felt the need to write about a child’s toy. Seeing as I’m surrounded by them constantly, maybe the title leads you to think I am an aficionado. That’s not quite the case.

The only thing I am an aficionado of is messes. So clearly, this is not about stuffed horses heads on sticks.
In this context, hobby horse means a preoccupation or a favorite topic. It’s something you’re excited about, something you’re always thinking and talking about. It is that one thing you devote what little and precious spare time you have to.

For some people, it’s sports. For other’s its music. For some, it’s art or working out, or celebrity gossip. For some weirdos, it’s watching buff dudes in usually small tights throw other buff dudes around.

Whatever it is, whatever spark it lights in your emotions, it’s important. And I’m going to explain why.

I was having a conversation the other day with my #bestwitchforlife (yep, that’s our thing, lol) and she was very excitedly telling me about the beef between Eminem and MGK. Neither one of us are big rap fans, but she was really really into this. And because she was so excited about it, I was too. I spent a good few minutes watching diss videos and reading background info on the situation.

At one point during the conversation, she apologized for being so wrapped up in it. And that was something that got my attention.

Why do we feel the need to apologize for being really excited about something? Why do we feel guilt over our hobby horses?

Everyone has a hobby horse. Like I said earlier, it could be sports or art or vintage talking boards. Sometimes it’s as mellow as gardening and sometimes it’s as loud as motorcycles. We have things that we like and that excites us. So naturally, we want to share this with the people around us. And when we do, we shine. Our excitement and happiness raise us up.

But it seems, that the moment you express it there’s someone standing there ready to tell you how stupid it is. There are naysayers that want to snub out your excitement over something the way they would a cigarette. They don’t want you to enjoy one second of spreading the name of your hobby horse. And I think I know why.

There is a huge amount of society that has no desire to see someone else succeed. And that’s because they feel inadequate. They might say they want you to do and be good, but what they really mean is they want you not to be better than them.

It’s not even business or monetary success they are jealous over. It’s that shine. That feeling you get when you’re excited with the pleasure of your hobby horse. When you’ve brushed it and watered it and gotten it all saddled up to go. That’s when they reach out like a viper and strike it down.

Dull people, those without a shine, often try to find a way to make themselves better than those of us that shine. It’s a way for them to distract from the fact that they don’t have something to shine about. But like putting lipstick on a pig, it does nothing to cover up the fact that they are sad people.

Some of us have been so inundated by the reactions (or in some cases, the none reactions) of those around us who want to snuff the shine, that we keep our hobby horses in their stables. We feed and water them still, but we only let them out when we’re alone. We devote time to them, but only undercover. So when something happens and that hobby horse shows up in conversation, we are quick to shoo it away, put it back in the closet. The pain of getting manure thrown on your shine radiants long after the incident.

And I think that is one of the greatest travesties of our time. We are made to feel that we can’t share our passions, of any degree. We must dampen ourselves because our excitement offends those who don’t shine at all.

There is no guilt in being a fan. There is no guilt in being passionate about something. There is no guilt in being slightly obsessed with something.

Read the books, watch the sports, get lost in the juicy slices of celebrity beef.

Our time on Earth is limited to just a handful of years. We must be the ones who decide how we spend it. Hard drugs and acts of violence and cruelty aside, there is no wrong way to live your life. There is also no right way. There’s just your way.

So keep on shining.

Stop Using That Broom Just For Sweeping. Get Flying, Witch! : Reconnecting To Your Craft

Heraclitus of Ephesus once said, “You could not step twice into the same river.”

Angela of Conjure and Coffee is saying now “You can not meet the same witch twice.”

One of my favorite things about Witchcraft is how individual our paths are. There are no two witches who are alike.  Even though you and I might believe in the same concepts, we will not have the same journey within them. There is no “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” here. Because we are all different, our practices are all different as well.

But the one thing that is similar all across the board, is how it’s damn easy to get unplugged from your Craft. There are many reasons for this. Location, work, family demands, monetary demands, health. The list is endless. For as many desires to practice there are that many things standing in our way.  My personal struggle involves caregiving and family obligation. I am currently a stay at home mom. You’d think that would allow me plenty of time and chances to incorporate my practice into my everyday life. But honestly, it doesn’t. Finding time for myself in the hustle and bustle of this life is very hard. And I’m sure for so many others, maybe even you reading this right now, it’s the same.

How can we change that? How can we throw back the layers of the mundane to find the magick in every day?

Here’s a handful of ideas for reconnecting to the magick you are missing.

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Stay Lit

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

 

Fuck “Chill Out”.

Fuck “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Double fuck “Calm down. Everything is okay”.

Stop letting someone else tell you that your fire is not appropriate. It’s that fire that connects you to the Universe. That burning in your soul fuels you to live the authentic life you deserve. When we are told to sit down and be quiet, that is the lesson we feed our soul. We dampen it until it becomes nothing more than an ember.

And why? Why are we so ready to diminish ourselves to fall into line with what someone else thinks is okay? It’s important to remember that “okay” and “normal” are social constructs. They are ideas we’ve all accepted because it makes life easier for those who are in power. They want to you to be separated from your flame. It’s easier to rule the pacified.

Stop living your life for the ease of others. Find the things that ignite you and douse yourself in them. For some, this may happen with meditation. For some, it might be shadow work. For others, it might be blowing everyone off for a few days and playing hermit. Introspection is one of the most powerful ways to replenish.

The fire that sparks inside you will fuel your journey. Once you allow it to burn out all the expectation and obligations you hold for others, your magick will be in clear view.

Up, Up, Down, Down

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Photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash

It is common knowledge that the moon controls the tide. It’s also common knowledge that humans are over 50% water.

So what makes people think the moon doesn’t influence human behavior? Ask any EMT, police officer, ER nurses, or mother and they will tell you that the full moon totally affects human behavior. Our connection to the moon is much more than it just being a satellite. Hell, even the term “lunatic” comes from the Latin word “luna”! There’s no doubt that the moon is a heavy influence.

For us witch folk, the moon is so important. It’s a constant agent of change that we use to chart our cycles, cleanse our crystals and even power us. The phases of the moon and the phases of our lives often fall in step with each other. In the midst of the chaos of our lives, the moon is there.

So if it’s good for empowering and charging our crystals, it has to be good for us too right?

But it doesn’t end with the moon. The elements around us are the elements IN us.

We are Air.

We are Water.

We are Earth.

We are Fire.

We are Spirit.

When we connect to the elements around us, we connect with the elements that make the magick in us. And when we awaken them, the magick they produce is outstanding. We can not be whole with ourselves and deny the elements.

A trip outside can do wonders to help center yourself.  Whether it’s among the trees, or in the dirt, or sitting by the crashing to sea, any place where you can let the earth restore you is the right place. It doesn’t have to be a great mythical journey either, even a quick sit outside with an open heart will count. The intention to bond with Mother Earth will be noticed, no matter where or how.

Talk To The Past

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Here’s something you may not know about me. My paternal grandmother’s name is Jerushia. We often talk when I am driving around town. She’s stubborn and has some extremely outdated opinions. She also thinks I’m a bad driver. (To her credit, I totally am.)

The kicker? Jerushia died in 1978.

Her and my maternal great-grandmother, Katie, are the two main connections I have with my ancestors. When I’m driving or cooking, or about to make a mistake, it’s usually their voice I hear. They aren’t fairy tale guardian angels, but what we have works.

For better or worst, the family we are from influences who and what we are.  We all have our fair (or unfair) share of influential ancestors. Some of them act as an inspiration to be a better person, to reach our full potential. Some of them show us exactly what not to be.

The connection to your ancestors can be a great way to open up the avenue to magick in your life. I have a big deficit in maternal figures. So being able to connect to the ones I can means a lot to me. Most of our talks are through meditation and random pop ups. Like sometimes they will just pop up and into my daily life. The car being Jerushia’s favorite place to make an appearance.

For as many different relationships there are, there are ways to communicate with the ones beyond. Spirit boards have long been the way to breach the divide. If that doesn’t work for you, there are so many different ways. All you need to do is find the one that works best for you.

Sidenote: Please don’t think I am advocating for everyone to reach out to every member of their family and take them in. Yes, we are all related to some bastards. We all have people we’d rather not have under our umbrella whether it be in this world or the beyond. I am not saying open the door to the people who have wronged, hurt, or abused you. All I am saying is that the people of our past can hold the key to so many things we don’t understand. They can be a reference for us to learn and experience more. They can even just be figures of guidance and love to help us in the moments we need someone.

Don’t Be A Drag, Just Be A Queen (or King)

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Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Ever have a really bad argument with someone one day and then still feel it the next? Even though you resolved the problem and made amends, you wake up the next morning feeling like you are neck deep in hangover mode? You drag your feet through the day, spreading that nasty hungover feeling around like a virus? You act short with someone and get a rude reply. You get pissy about that person being rude and end up being rude to someone else in return. The circle goes on and on, drowning you and all those around you in negativity.

When you are negative, the things and people around you become negative too. While I am NOT a follower of the rule of three, I do think the nastiness you send out, you get returned to you somehow. It feeds on itself and multiplies. When you drag it out, when you’re a drag, it builds and builds and pollutes everything.

The longer you hold onto it, the longer it will stay with you. The pains of our past, the bruises of our egos, the unravelling of our threads, are all things we have to eventually let go of. Those feelings will dampen any chance at magick inside you. They are the mortar that holds the bricks together in the wall between you and your magick.

Breaking free of that, breaking apart that wall comes at a cost. You have to be ready to put yourself in a leadership role and take control. You gotta put on that crown and rule over your kingdom. Owning up to your own negativity is a big job. But heavy is the head that wears the crown. Being strong enough to acknowledge that you might be the thing holding yourself back is worthy of a storybook legacy.

Once you clear away the comfortable but problematic skin of being negative, magick will be much easier to find. The restrains will fall away.

Another side note:  I am in no way diminishing the struggle that is depression. I understand, very very well, the struggles of battling depression. I know how it drains the color from everyday life and highlights the negative. It filters everything you see and do through its monochrome lens. Living with depression isn’t what I’m talked about in this section. That’s a whole different demon to battle.

Blessed Be All The Things

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Our surroundings influence us away more than we admit. That’s why we decorate our homes with colors that feel right, keep photographs of those we love, trophies from our accomplishments. That’s why stuffed animals keep their place in our beds way past childhood and why our favorite hoodie just makes us feel so safe.

If you follow the belief that magick is everywhere and in everything then the things around us are open conduits for it to move through. Why not make sure we are surrounded by magickal things and they are clean, charged, and blessed?

Your favored aesthetic can lead directly to inspiration. Being surrounded by things that make you feel magickal will lead you back to being magickal. Wanna wear black on Wednesdays? Do it. Want your living room to look like a Victorian seance? Do it! Having the area you reside in feel magickal to you will allow you to connect with your inner magickal.

There are so many magick tools that have a perfect fit for everyday life. These items can be special occasion pieces or just mundane things you’ve designated just for magick.

Let’s say you surround yourself with candles, incense, besoms, and/or crystals. At a glance, these are just items. But you and I both know they are full of potential energy when it comes to practicing your Craft.

From your atheme to your tablet, the contents of your altar to your phone, any and everything that you use throughout your day can benefit from being cleaned and repowered. So every time you touch or use the item, you’re getting an extra boost of magick.

Take A Look, It’s In A Book

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

I’m going to be a little bit pompous and say we are living in one of the greatest time for obtaining knowledge. Yes, we here in America may be teetering on the edge of an Orwellian ultra-pasteurized world. It’s scary and confusing. But honestly, never before has so much information about witchcraft, magick, history and women’s mysteries been so easily available.

Books about magick, witchcraft, and all sorts of Pagan ideas are everywhere these days. There’s no more secret meetings or newsletters. You can walk into any bookstore and find hundreds of titles. If you let your fingers do the work, Amazon has more books on these subjects than Carter’s has little liver pills. There are some amazing authors who are putting out some outstanding work.

Personally, Lisa Lister’s Witch was(and still is) a huge inspiration to me. It’s the book that, without doubt, kicks me in the ass and pushes me back to where I want to be. It’s inspirational in a way that works for me.

Books aren’t the only place you can expand your knowledge.

The internet is full of resources that we may never be able to visit them all. There are so many personal blogs and websites that are amazing!! It’s a brilliant time to be alive and Pagan online. I’ve learned so much about myself and my personal Craft by reading the knowledge others have decided to share. As with anything, there’s bullshit. Just like publishing and face to face interacting, not everything is going to be a fit for you. The great thing about having all this information is that you are always able to move on and find something else.

The magick in you is only a few clicks away.

You Do You

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Connecting to your craft is in essence, reconnecting to yourself. There’s a part of us that just is magick. It’s the part that tingles your fingers when you touch a deck of tarot cards or the voice in your head that tells you not to take the shortcut home. We are the magick that has flowed through our ancestors’ veins. We are the magick that fills the air and causes the leaves to fall.

Like I said earlier, WE. ARE. MAGICK.

But here’s the problem. We live in a society where even though we can be different, it’s not always easy or safe. And while it would be easy to say “Fuck ‘em”, sometimes that’s just not the answer.

So what do we do? Like Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” Your life has to be YOURS. It has to be painted with your brush and in the colors you chose. It’s not going to always be easy. The world will constantly stand in your way because you’re going against the grain. You’re trying to be something outside the conventionally accepted normal.

Let me tell you this. Normality is simply a cultural construct. And you don’t have to play by their rules. Your magick is what makes you whole. Live your magick out loud. Take action each day to make sure you are living the most authentic life you can. Once you allow yourself to fully and truly live out loud, your magick will be bursting at the seams.

Let go of the restrictions you think you have to abide. Let go of the stress from the obligations you take on. Whether that be through meditation or medication. YOU DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU.

And fuck ‘em if they try to tell you different.

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Being in touch with our inner magick is important. But trust me, I know it’s not easy. Life gets in the way. Obligations get in the way. We get in our own way. Breaking all those walls down and reigniting our inner pilot light is the only way we can heal the wound the emptiness causes.

Reconnect to your magick, dear reader, any way you can.

It’s all we really have.

 

Bumping Your Nose Against the Glass: Thoughts on Caregiving, Being Strong, and Self Care

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Don’t those words sound pretty?

They sound pretty in that behind the glass at a jewelry store type of way.

You see them sparkle. They draw you in close. But before you know it, you’re bumping your face on an invisible barrier that keeps you from reaching them. Over and over you try to break through. If only you could touch one, hold one for a moment, you know you’ll feel worlds better. But you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t reach. The only thing you can feel is that enlarging hole in your self worth and a busted, bloody face.

That’s the major struggle of being a caregiver.

For many caregivers, they have one job and one job only. It’s an all consuming position that has little to no time for that pretty concept called self-care. Their one job is being strong.
I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s when Strong Man competitions were popular on TV. Early morning or late at night, on one of the seemingly endless ESPNs, there would be big muscle dudes pulling or picking up big heavy things. And wrestling. Oh my word, there was so much wrestling in the late 80s and 90s that my little eyes couldn’t look away. Those sports helped me to develop an idea of what being strong meant.

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To young sports entertainment fan I was, being strong was being able to do things with your body. Being “strong” was being able to work through the pain to make changes. Even if the changes were moving a giant tire or body slamming a giant man. Being strong was a purely physical thing.

After years as a caregiver,

I’ve learned just how wrong that thought was.

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Being strong is watching your loved one become sick, and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Being strong is knowing that no matter how much you accomplish, there will always be something else that needs to be done.

Being strong is waking up at all hours, making serious decisions on an unholy lack of sleep.

Being strong is bathing someone who can not bathe themselves.

Being strong is watching the words and phrasing you use to keep your loved from one feeling like they are worthless. It’s remembering they are more than an illness. It’s dressing their emotional wounds along with their physical ones.

Being strong is offering a shoulder to cry on and an arm to lean on, physically and emotionally. It’s being a sponge for the emotions someone won’t or can’t handle.

Being strong is balancing appointments and medications, checkbooks and utilities. It’s knowing what food you can make a meal out of and what type of soap to buy.

Being strong is standing during the storms of emotions and the tidal waves of unhealthy words because sometimes your loved one has been reduced so low that they are not who they once were.

HOWEVER

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Being strong is also saying enough is enough.

Being strong is not feeding into someone’s negativity

Being strong is providing recommendations instead of solutions to someone’s problems.

Being strong sometimes is saying “No.”

Being strong is taking action to patch your own sails when the winds of another have left them battered.

Being strong is practicing the dirty parts of self care. Self care is as ugly as it is brutal. But there’s strength in that pain. There’s a beauty in breaking what you think is yourself to clear the path for a better you.

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I have been strong.

But at the same time, I have not been strong.

I have often taken on the weight of the world when I should not have accepted it.

I have willingly placed myself in pain to help others feel less. I have not been able to tell someone when their actions have hurt me. I have not been able to take a step back, even when it was vital.

I tell you all this not as a pat on the back. I am not saying I’ve done these things to make myself a martyr. I do not need recognition for my actions. So many women in my life have worn a crown made of bitterness and passive aggression and asked to be praised for it. I do not want that weight on my head. I do not want heads bowed at my feet.

What I want is to be accountable for my actions. The ones that are good for others and the ones that are good for me. I want to be strong enough to do both. I want to breathe without having to make sure there is room. I want to put roots down and have a bit of the sun too.

I don’t have a plan.

I have a desire. A necessity.

I’ve read about it, I’ve written about it. The stars as my guide, dammit, it’s now time to live it.

All I’ve been doing is window shopping lately.

And I’m tired of bumping my nose against this glass.

 

 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Windows Down

In this part of the Carolinas, Summer comes hard and fast.

You see, our Winters aren’t that deep. We don’t dip below the freezing mark enough for it not to be first alert news when it happens. Our Springs are barely a handful of weeks worth of stretching in preparation for the long run that is Summer.

This year, by the end of May, Summer had taken root. The first week of June saw highs in the low 90s and humidity well over 50%. It was like it was going to be for at least the next four months, hot.

It was during that week that I had a rare solo trip out. This trip was the kind of event that house locked stay at home parents look forward to. The kind where you’re running benign errands, but you’re doing them ALONE. No kids, no pets, no significant other. Just you and your to-do list. The kind where you can hear your own thoughts for a change. Not just the unending ramblings of the ones you hold dearest. Cause while you love them, sometimes you love the quiet a little bit more.

Since I was alone this day and was set to be in the car for a while instead of turning on the car’s air conditioner, I rolled the windows down. And much like the advice in a poorly written Country song, I turned the radio up. My solo jam session had begun.

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Uninhibited by the roar of the wind and the thump of the bass, I sang. I sang and sang and slowly, every drop of my build up emotions were loosened. I don’t fancy myself a performer in the slightest, but there in my car speeding towards a routine everyday thing, I was something on display.

The phone cut into the music when my husband called. I told him to hold on while I rolled up the windows.

“Wait, why aren’t you running the AC? It’s hot as shit.”

In my head, I could see his face wrinkle when he asked this. One of his eyes becoming smaller than the other from the effort of trying to figure me out. We’ve been married 13 years, he wears this look frequently.

“I dunno, I like having the window down.”

I didn’t dare try to explain my thinking that it’s cheaper to have the windows down. Or my theory that going ten over the speed limit makes up for the air being hotter outside than what the car’s AC would throw. True, it was warmer, but there was more movement, more excitement, more to get lost in. The regurgitated air of the AC would have felt nice. It would have prevented the line of sweat that dampened the back of my shirt. But it wouldn’t have opened my soul like the windows down music up combo did.

“You’re still broke Angela from Buford.”

There was no malice in his statement. It was a teasing truth mentioning the backwoods community I grew up in.  Even though I’m at a place in my life where I have comforts I couldn’t have even dreamt of as a teen, I often revert back to the behaviors of my dirt road, poor as shit younger self.

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It’s more than just coupon cutting and discount shopping.(Which, don’t get me wrong, I love. RetailMeNot is bookmarked and thrift stores are life) Like many people who grow up in poverty, chasing escapism became an important part of my life. Not being well off enough for video games and too athletic and clumsy for sports, music was my path of choice.

Every song was a story and through them, I got to live. I knew heartache and struggle. I knew friendship and fun times. I knew love, loss, and a little bit of Jesus. I even knew a boy named Sue. When I got older, the flavor of the music changed. I learned the words for rage sounded a lot like guitars. I learned that a bass beat could speak for my heart. I learned the delicate art of screaming four-letter words without breaking the glass cage around you.

So many times, the only place I could find peace was in the car with the windows down and music blaring. It was there I was able to pull myself out of the ocean of responsibility that I was expected to swim and look at the skyline from the shore. The volume pushed the cheap factory speakers to their buzzing brink and the wind wove my hair in knots that would take hours to undo. But it didn’t matter. Those small annoyances were worth their cost for the small taste of freedom.

So now, a decade or so removed, when I do get the chance, not much has changed. I still drive with the windows down instead of using the air conditioner. I still sing with my horribly out of tune voice at the top of my lungs. It might not be popular amongst my fellow drivers, it such as hell meaningful to me.

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My circumstances are not the same as they once were. I am not the same as I once was. My quest for escapism is now of a different variety. I no longer have to quest to escape the pain of an abusive, restrictive environment. My dashes into rebellion are now to find the person I lost under all this caregiver garb.

The situations have changed but the songs, the roads, and the heat of Summer have all stayed the same.

Featured Photos by William Krause  and Luigi Manga on Unsplash

 

Bless Their Hearts, But Take No Shit

Fun Fact Time:

Like many uncertain baby witches, I spent a block of my youth getting my wand wet in Wicca.

Let’s face it, there’s not a world where an outcast girl growing up in a single wide trailer wouldn’t be infatuated with the idea of Wicca. The songs, the rituals, the connections with the gods and goddesses, it was everything to me. I was a huge fan of To Ride A Silver Broomstick by Silver Ravenwolf. Everything about her and the book seemed immensely cooler that than the life I was living. The book became almost another appendage of mine, I was hardly seen without it. But like most things deemed THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER!!! In those precious pre-teen years, it eventually lost its shine. Like a pair of second-hand shoes, Wicca became something too tight and strange. It just didn’t fit me.

One of the lessons that did stick from my splash in the kiddie pool of Wicca was the Wiccan Rede. The full rede is long in that Terms and Conditions kind of way. It’s sing song-y advice about the Old Ones, the Moon’s phases, and speaking little but listening much. Basically, it’s LifeProTips with a NeoPagan slant. Most people boil it down to an easy to remember eight word maxim:

An it harm none, do what ye will

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Basically, it’s the same philosophy as the 1969 hit “It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers (record label drama aside). If you aren’t hurting anyone, by all means, go on with your bad self. It’s an acknowledgement that you are free to do what you need and/or want to do without having to worry about a series of expectations hanging over you. It’s the idea that you are free of sin or commandments and are able to live the best life you can.

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I want to stop here and mention Thelema. Developed in the early 1900s by everyone’s favorite eccentric Aleister Crowley, Thelema is the spiritual belief structure based on the Western Mystery Traditions. Basically, Aleister went to Egypt with his then wife and had a spiritual occurrence that paved the way for his development of this sometimes religion/sometimes philosophy that he brought back and spread to his influential friends. The basis of Thelema, also known as the Law of Thelema is

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.

You can see how this and the Wiccan Rede are similar. The difference is that with Thelema, harming none is left out and love is added. There’s enough here to for its own post, so I’ll tackle that at another time. Stay tuned.

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From that basic validation of the Wiccan Rede and Law of Thelema comes the often quoted and frequently over shared “Do No Harm But Take No Shit.”

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No doubt you’ve seen this one on your daily scrollings on social media.  It’s a solid philosophy that is kind of the bastard child of the two other ones. It has purpose and meaning as well as a much needed importance placed on the individual. Yes, we should not harm others, but we should also protect ourselves. Sometimes doing what thou wilt is not taking shit. It makes sense right?

So if “Do No Harm But Take No Shit” is the child of the Wiccan Rede and The Law of Thelema, my new adage is its redneck cousin:

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Bless Their Hearts, But Take No Shit

Any Southerner worth their salt knows that the phrase “Bless your heart” has a whole mess of meanings. The phrase can mean anything from “Well good for you!” to, “I’m so sorry” to “Damn, you’re an idiot”  and to my personal favorite, the trying to look sweet when you’re really being ugly “ go fuck yourself”. It’s a phrase that fluctuates from love to sympathy, to passive aggressive hostility by vocal inflection alone.

That versatility makes it the perfect partner for the “take no shit” mindset. No matter what your intentions are for the other person, you are prepared not to take an ounce of their nonsense. And while you may not always be supporting them lovingly, you and your smug opinions probably aren’t doing much harm. We all entertain our own personal judgments from time to time. But in a perfect world, we do what we can to keep them personal. And like the Law of Thelema, the phrase indicates we are in fact doing what we will, even if it is in a backhanded, sided eye sort of way.

There’s a lot of obligation that comes with expressing concern and showing empathy towards someone. Often because we feel sorry or attached or even in love with someone it’s expected that we allow them their vices. Even if those vices are harmful to us, we are supposed to overlook them. Love prevails over all, right? In believing that, abusive behaviors are granted a pardon. Wounds are allowed to fester to save face and prevent the assailant pain. It’s not long until the rose-coloured glasses that society gave you wreck your eyesight permanently.

While it’s true that everyone has a dark side, a less than pleasant persona, it’s also true that we don’t have to put up with it. We can love and care for them without putting up with their shit. You can’t keep someone else warm by setting yourself on fire. You’ll burn out, but it will be long after they’ve already walked away.

So bless their hearts, in whichever way that works for you. But remember, no matter what path you follow, don’t take any of their shit. You have enough to carry, you don’t need to add more.

 

How Plants Grow

I have a question for you, Dear Reader.

Do you know how a plant grows?

A seed, cast off and discarded from its dead and barren home, falls to the earth and is slowly covered with dirt. Layer after layer of dark, damp weight fall upon the seed until it is forgotten by the outside world.

The weighted darkness presses down on the seed, surrounding it on all sides. The pressure building in the damp womb of the Earth squeezes it from above and below. The small hole the seed occupies is both a bed and a prison,  everything and nothing. From there, the change happens.

Slowly the pressure forces the seed to change inside. Something inside unlocks and it begins to entwine upon itself. Cells divide and multiply, forming a newness out of the remains of what once was. Gently, the new appendage lengthens and widens. It unfurls until it’s pushed against the shell of its former self.

Then it penetrates the skin of the remains, the shell of the life that was,  and cracks an opening. Instead of growing up, towards the sun it once loved so well, it grows down. With no fear and only purpose, it plunges into the unknown.

It anchors itself to the nothingness and uses it as leverage. In the absence of other life, nutrients are plentiful. The seed feeds off the darkness. And in doing so, thick sturdy roots form.

Their growth is an acquisition. The roots split and divide, small branches spreading the existence of the then seed now seedling. Their sole purpose, their only desire is to strip their surrounding and use it all for their own good. And they do.

Then the seedling starts to stand, its newly formed spine still shiny and pure. It’s new form is greeted not with applause but with silent darkness. The same darkness that allowed it’s metamorphosis now stands in creation’s way.  To reach the goal, to bask in the sun, this then seed-now seedling has to fight and climb, dirt sticking to it’s delicates. It has to contort itself into a new form, finding a balance between protecting itself and allowing expansion to happen.

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Finally, after the struggle and challenge of refashioning, this cosmic modification breaks into the sky. It is that moment that the seedling becomes what it was proposed for. It fulfils the prophecy that was written in its cells before it was fully formed. It becomes a plant.

The Sun, the god the plant loves without a name, welcomes it into the land of the free. Closer the plant strains to get closer to this holy fire. Drawing up all of the spirits from the roots, now doubled in thickness and width, every cycle of the bright deity the plant grows closer.

Eventually, the inevitable happens. The plant that did nothing more than worship in the bosom of the Sun dies. Everything it was and everything it could be has been erased from existence. Death spreads along the plant, leaving lip prints in strategical locations. The plant dies slowly or all at once. The timing of the cycle song is different for each one.

After Death has sung it’s song and had its way, the only remnants left are the seeds the plant created almost absentmindedly during its pursuit of the Sun.

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That is how plants grow, Dear Reader.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret.

It’s not much different than how people grow.

It’s not that much different at all.

 

Disconnected

I don’t have pretty words to dress it up. I don’t have metaphors to make it relatable.

I’m drained. I’m empty. I’m disconnected.

This year started in the red. My husband had a scary hospitalization that has since lead to months of dealings with the VA and his jobs HR department. And if you have ever dealt with the VA you understand what a headache that is. More than just the administrative frustrations, I’ve been worried. I’m a worrier by nature so his inclement health has heightened my natural protocols to be a worry wart. Forms, phone calls, driving downstate to the regional clusterfuck of a medical facility, it’s all a perfect storm of frustration and low key fear.  But like I wrote about here, I pulled on that heavy crown and dealt with it

But added to the weight of reigning, is the weight of plebeian life. Kids, schools, pets, and domestic adventures weigh a thousand fucking pounds on a good day. But when you’re running on almost empty, they weigh even more. Balancing doctors visits and IEP meetings, with grocery trips, homework and family dinners requires more patience that I have left in the tank. The chaos of normal life glows neon under the light of stress. And guys, that annoying fucking glow is starting to hurt my eyes.

There are so many things I’m carrying that don’t belong to me. I think sometimes my compassion gets ahead of me and takes the friendship into therapist territory. I often have soft boundaries and am just so thrilled that someone trusts me enough to bring their problems to me I don’t know when to excuse myself. For me, and I think other empaths, emotions are viral. The feelings and energies of others act like a contagion and take over the host. More times that I should have allowed, that host was me.

It’s a balancing act and I’m the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This wavering existence and the darkness it brings has made it hard for me to be me. It’s severed me from the things that I’ve really loved. As more things pile on to my haphazard load, the more I pull away from myself. The things I’ve enjoyed have become harder and harder for me to accomplish.

How do you reconnect? That’s the big question. Thankfully, the internet is full of advice. Self Care is a hot topic. You can find hints and tips from Facebook to Pinterest and back. Hell, I even wrote about it here. That part isn’t hard. The hard part is making yourself commit and implement those strategies into your life. The struggle is not in finding information, it’s in using it.

I don’t have answers. I could sit here and preach to you like the Southern Baptists that pepper my genetic background. I could bombard you with recommended things to try that would guarantee you some connectivity to your life. I could easily just copy and paste some list from some other blog. But honestly, I’m not a good liar. I can’t bullshit well. That’s why I keep my ass away from the poker tables. (That and my horrible math skills.)

So I’m just going to admit that I have a lot to work on. I will acknowledge my part in my own struggle. I will tell you that this is a public declaration that I need to step up my self-care game. I’m going to find the fray in the wires between where I am and who I want to be and stitch them back together. I’m going to grab the receiver and complete the call.

pavan-trikutam-1660-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

 

 

 

Featured Image Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Declined: A (Self)Love Story

 

I was getting a jump on cooking dinner when I got a notification that I had a new email. Normally, I would glance at my lock screen to see who it was from and make a mental note to check it later. But this ended up being different. It wasn’t just one of those crap spam emails that flood my inbox (No, Directv, I’m not coming back! Leave me alone!). It was from a literary magazine I had recently submitted to. I had found their call for submissions via the Discovery tab on Submittable. It was a call for a piece of poetry that contained certain words. It seemed like a fun little challenge, so I crafted up a piece and sent it their way.

When I was able to pull the pan off the burner, I opened my Gmail app. This was what I was greeted with (the name of the publication has been removed):

Dear Angela,

Thank you for your submission to XXXXXX Magazine. After careful consideration, we have decided not to select “Before?” for publication. There are many possible reasons for why a particular piece isn’t selected, and I regret that I am unable, given time constraints, to offer further explanation as to which of those reasons applied to your work. I will say that you’re in good company; as always, there were many authors and many pieces that I would have liked to include.

Now if you know me, you’re probably thinking I’m crushed. And there was a time, not even that long ago when you’d be right. Were I the Angela of a handful of years ago, I’d be sitting here in a pit of despair. My self-confidence, shakey like a young deer on ice, would have been completely annihilated. I would probably be ugly crying and thinking that the voice in my head, which sounds like a really weird combination of two women, was correct. I really couldn’t get anything right. I was a sham who would never know what I was doing.

But that’s not happening. What is happening is surprising.

 

I’m okay.

Actually, I’m more than okay.

I’m good.

I feel proud of the piece and, more importantly,

I’m proud of myself.

So what changed?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t feel the cut that this declination would have once made.  Don’t be mistaken, it’s not a misplaced apathy type of feeling. It’s not the depression I’ve grown like a bonsai tree my entire life filling my head with nihilistic whispers. I just legitimately don’t feel this is a failure.

This year, I’ve come into my own when it comes to my writing. I’ve tried new things, forced myself on shaky limbs, and learned to work within my own voice. I’ve also forced myself to become dedicated. I’ve developed a discipline to keep the hot or cold switch in my head in the right position. For years, I’ve wanted to do this. I’ve wanted to create words and ideas that I could share with people. And now I finally am.

This rejection is a good thing. And I’m not trying to blow smoke up my own ass here. I really, truly think it is. I’m showing myself I’m able to face the chance that I might not be everyone’s cup of tea and accept it. I’m flexing the muscle of my psyche that’s matured into an IDGAF self-content woman. So what if the piece wasn’t what the magazine was looking for? It was what I wrote. It was what I created. And even if it fucking sucks, in the moment of its creation, it was exactly what it was supposed to be.

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Not all wins are trophies, championships, or acceptance letters. Some victories, and often the best ones, are the ones that ignite inside of you. There the ones that people can only see when they catch the glint of determination and self-appreciation in your eyes. They are the ones you will never have a newspaper clip out of, but will always remember.

 

 

And those are the ones current me strives for.

 

 

 

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PS: In case you’re wondering about the piece itself, I’ve included it below. The designated words to use are still in bold so you can see what I was working with.

 

Before?

Not lamp, but light
The kind of brightness that prys eyes apart
The nightstand is long since emptied
Pictures gone, now filled with medicine bottles and phone chargers
Was this what life was like
Before?

Her electrical current is no longer current
The coil has thus been shuffled
But damned if she doesn’t still make
The hair on the back of my neck stand at attention
That’s the only attention being served these days

The TV never stops, but I don’t know what’s on
It’s just lights without sound
I thought I had turned it off
But it’s talking heads keep the remote hidden
So I can’t check for sure

I know that pain is a real thing
But feelings elude me
How much longer must I endure?
Eight weeks dead might just as well be eighty
Is this what life was like
Before?

 

The Problem With Purity Rings

After days of conversation and hours of introspection, my husband and I have decided that on our son’s thirteenth birthday we’re giving him a necklace. Unlike the “chains” that so many others boast about this necklace will be a locket. Inside that locket will be a picture of me.

More than just a lovely picture of his forever smiling mother, this locket will be a promise between my son and I. It will be a promise that from the day he receives it to the day he says “I do”, he will love no other woman as much as he loves me. This necklace will be a physical representation of the connection between us. And it will always remind him that no matter what, Mother knows what’s best for him. Every time he wants to make a decision on what to do, he’ll feel the necklace around his neck and will think of me and consider what I’d say in the matter.

*record scratch*

What? Is that too Norman Bates for you?

If the concept of that Mommy Dearest necklace makes your skin crawl, then so should the idea of a daddy-daughter purity ring.

 

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Photo by Jacob Rank on Unsplash

 

Purity rings, also known as promise or chastity rings, are typically given to a young girl in the Evangelical community as a commitment to chastity. A fashionable part of the abstinence-only sex education club, the purity ring is like a wedding ring but in a creepy incestual sort of way. Typically silver and simple, some of the rings have witty little mottos stamped into the metal while some feature a cross wrapped in a lazy sort of swoop way around the finger. Diamonds or their lower cost alternatives are also frequently used.

Instead of being between two consenting adults starting their lives as a wedded couple, the purity ring is typically between father and daughter. It signifies that the daughter will remain chaste until she marries. Since “purity” is all that is clean and beautiful in their world, the ring will help keep the girl on the straight and narrow. It’s a giant bubble of Godliness that protects her from the filth of premarital sex and the temptations of the secular world. Because of course, a young woman’s worth is totally dependant on how “pure” she is. Who needs brains, talent, or personality when you can say you’re morally unsullied?

Two of the high profile organizations responsible for the popularization of the purity ring in America are the True Love Waits* movement and Silver Ring Thing* movement. The mission’s statement on the Silver Ring Thing  (abbreviated as SRT, cause abbreviated are cool) reads:

“To inspire sexual wholeness in this generation through the power of the Gospel.”

It goes on to explain a little bit more:

Silver Ring Thing is a radical response to culture’s view of love and relationships.  Our events inspire teens to defy the meet-up, hook-up, break-up culture of today and discover true life found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This goes way beyond just ‘purity’ to embrace our identity and pursue a lifestyle that brings honor and glory to God.”

Sounds like some party people right? Part of the allure of groups like this is that they make their message seem hip. Most utilize a concert like atmosphere that rivals most rock bands. Some use comedians and celebrity testimonials to influence their audience.  More than that, they understand how the teenage brain works.

 

 

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Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

 

Peer acceptance is a key element to a young person’s development. If you’ve known a young person for any amount of time, you’re well aware of how important being accepted is to them. So for this movement to prey upon youths desire to fit in is as genius as it is disturbing.

While young people who make pacts to lose their virginity is a topic for countless exposes, tv shows, and movies, the reverse is not true. The market for hive minded purity was largely untapped. That was until these movements began their “Purity is cool! God is rad!” message. Based on the way young people work, the message went viral. Not because it was actually believed but because it was believed in mass.

The creepiness factor of a father, mother, or organization stomping on a child’s bodily integrity is huge. Forcing a child to take a vow on what they do with their body is troublingly archaic. It’s a practice of eliminating the sovereignty of a child before they can fully understand the meaning. While the common joke is to call followers of religions sheep, that’s exactly what this causes. The children grow up not understanding that their body is their own. This causes a dependence upon a hierarchy that puts the child on the bottom with parents and the church standing tall above them.

In Conclusion

The practice of purity rings is troublesome. It’s a restrictive, oppressive act that teaches children they are not in control of the only thing they truly have, their bodies. It is no wonder that we struggle with body autonomy in this country if this practice is so commonplace. So much time was spent wondering how to control what children do with their bodies, no one thought if they should.

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* Call it shitty writing, but I’m not linking to the organizations mentioned in the text above. You’re welcome to Google them on your own. I don’t want to support them by sending any traffic their way. After cruising their pages for information, I feel mighty dirty.