Accepting The Approaching Crone

As this year slips quietly into the next one, I’m thinking a lot about the passage of time.  

I told you about turning another year older a few posts ago in Chapter 34. And while I mostly used that post to describe the day, I did speak briefly about how now I need to start letting go of so much of the baggage associated with my birthday. Like Elsa in Frozen, I need to Let It Go.

(I have a four-year-old little girl. I’ve seen Frozen more times this year than I’ve seen Law and Order. It’s worked it’s way into my brain. Please send help.)

Part of letting it go is accepting that while I’m still knee deep in the waters of motherhood, cronehood is within my sights.

Physically, I can no longer make babies. In August of this year, after years of struggling with birth control, I had a tubal ligation. Four months later, I am not sad nor do I mourn the loss of the ability to make a new life. Maybe it’s because I’ve supplied the population with quite a few new faces. I’ve done my part and met my baby quota. I honestly no longer get that fever feeling when I see a cute little dumpling of a baby. I’m ok with never having to carry a child again.

The three children that I am circled by are more than enough. And while they are my world, every day I can see them growing slightly more independent and getting closer to the edge of the nest. While that might strike fear in the hearts of some mothers, it makes me really happy. I want them to be free to be themselves. They have to fly away sometimes. They have to be complete people outside of me. I will be the tree they can always return to, not the anchor that weighs them down. It’s going to happen, they are going to get older.

And you know what? I want to get older too.

But it seems that the world keeps telling me that I shouldn’t want that.

Every time I open one of the magazines that show up at my house randomly or scroll down the social media platform I’ve been meaning to quit, I get reminded of all the steps I should be taking to keep my impending age at bay.

I’m shown creams to stop wrinkles and spots, dyes to hide gray hairs, undergarments that lift, flatten and boost body parts that need to be modified. It doesn’t even end there. I’m reminded by billboard ads and radio jingles that there are plastic surgeons who can make me look younger and thinner in just a few trips. And if that’s too drastic of a change, I could always just purchase a Groupon for a spa nearby and get some Botox and eyelash extensions for 40% off. I don’t have to let time effect how I look. According to all these ads, I have the power and the opportunities to rally against it and forever maintain my youth.

(Just to put this out there, I am a huge proponent of dyeing your hair all the colors of the rainbow and I support every person that decides that plastic surgery is for them.)

But what if I don’t want to participate in that war? What if I don’t want to hold on to my youth?

My issues lie in that I do not support being told by people I don’t know that I NEED these things in my life. I do not support the idea that I must take part in these activities as some act against my body. I don’t like the idea that I should wage war on myself just because the years are changing my outer husk. I sure as hell don’t appreciate being held to a standard of beauty that I didn’t sign up for. If I want to change my hair color, fuck yeah I’m going to do it. If I want plastic surgery, fuck yeah I’m going to get it. But it’s going to me for my own reasons. Not to fit into so some “forever young” standard.

Listen, I think women are beautiful. That includes all women. From the young, shining and dewy-eyed to the old, bent, and wrinkled. I want to live a life that shows I’ve done both. I want to experience both ends (and the middle) of my womanhood with the same amount of reverence.  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

By pushing us to worship youth, our culture pushes us to hate aging. And there is a huge fault in that. We demean and devalue the act of aging and of growing because we fear moving away from what is accepted. We see being old as being less. And we really fucking fear being seen as less. Less beautiful, less worthy, less important, anything that is deemed less, we strive against.  We have fought long and hard to not be seen as less because we’ve been told endlessly how just being a woman makes us such. So for something as simple as the passage of time to render us useless is unnerving. That is why there are billion dollar industries that make their money by telling women that there is only a fleeting window of beauty they can attain. They don’t want us to see the beauty in all walks of life. They want us to desire to be unblemished, unmarked, untouched maidens forever. Just the type of maidens they, conveniently enough, find attractive.

It’s a little messed up, isn’t it?

Cronehood is just as worthy as maidenhood and motherhood. It is not diminished because of the ability or frailty of the human body. It is not diminished because of the perceived lack of beauty. We are not made less because our bodies are weathered by Father Time. If anything, we are made more. The knowledge we acquire through the tribulations we face accumulates. If we mature as we age, by the time we have reached the age of the crone, we should be a wealth of experiences and knowledge. We should be a library ready to share with those around us. We should be well-written books full of adventures, ready to share our worn pages and the stories within.  

(Obviously, this is not always the case. Personality disorders, untreated mental illness, and being an asshole are a motherfucker. The inability to change and accept your faults hinders the ability to grow and learn. But that’s talk for another day.)

I don’t want to be frozen in place forever. Life was not ment to be lived in stasis. I want to evolve and grow old. More than anything, I want to experience life and learn. I want to learn all the things. The good ones and the bad. And life can only be learned by undergoing the passage of time.

Life is fleeting. We must respect and enjoy its passing.

So bring on the wrinkles. Bring on the gray hair. I welcome the bent fingers and curved spine and the age spots and the declining eyesight. I want to be the old woman with silver hair, covered in tattoos, sitting under the old oak tree teaching grandchildren how to snap peas. Or how to tell if a storm is going to be bad. I want to tell them stories like my grandmaws told me. I look forward to my older self and all the adventures that await. I don’t care what society tells me. When it’s time for me to be a crone, I will wear the title proudly.


An Illusion of (Birth)Control

 

Wikipedia says that an illusion of control is “the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence”. Typically used to describe how the superstitions and rituals that surround gambling, sports, and other such things work. For me, it’s how I’ve felt for years about birth control.

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I was laying on the stretcher, Stephen King book in hand when my doctor came through the curtain.

Numerous nurses had been in and out, checking my temperature and blood pressure, bringing me warm blankets and chamomile aromatherapy in a little sniffable vial. One even gave me an EKG for some reason. The nicest ones came in as a group of three, armed with IV needles and a syringe full of the equivalent of “a big nice glass of wine”.

When he entered the small cubby of a room, I knew it was Go Time.

I don’t know if it was because of how the light emphasized his hairline or if it was the fact that his last name ended in a vowel. Or if more realistically, it had something to do with the fact I’d had been marathoning the first season of The Sopranos at home, but suddenly, instead of just an OB/GYN, he was a man that could make me a very good deal.

“Are you sure about this?” He asked after the usual “hey, how are you”s. He was calm and pretty cool for it being so early in the morning. I could picture him meeting up with Tony at the Bada Bing after his shift was done at the hospital.

Feeling just a little less anxious and a little more sure of myself, I responded with a half laugh, “It’s a little too late to change my mind now.”

He responded by telling me it was never too late. If I needed an out, this was it.

Even though anxiety was tugging at the edge of my tie in the back-show your butt to the world gown, I shook my head.

I was here. Might as well do the damn thing.

A few minutes later I was wheeled into an operating room and switched over to a very cold metal table. Then after one of the nice nurses from earlier placed an oxygen mask on my face, everything went black.

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The first time I had seriously thought about birth control, I was 17.

For years prior, always in the company of others mind you, my mother would go on and on about how when I was ready, all I had to do was ask, and she would get me birth control. No problem right? She was the cool mom, remember? She would do anything if it was the best for her girl. She was the best mom. The number one mom. No other mom could mom like she did.

The actuality was when I had my first real boyfriend and decided to ask her for help in obtaining birth control, her response was different. Almost 16 years later even when I can’t remember the title of that song I just heard on the radio, I remember her answer.

“So what are you, a slut now?”

Quicker than a hiccup, the bravery I had pulled together to ask the question eroded. For the next few weeks, she acted as if I was contagious. Oddly enough, she did become a lot more handsy with my then boyfriend around that time. She’d chat with him endlessly while icing me out. A few times, she tickled attached him.

It was a really confusing time.

I did end up sleeping with that dude. We were safe. As safe as public high school Sex Ed classes could teach us to be. We broke up my first semester of college. He wrote goodbye letters to my mother and sister and never returned my calls.

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This event really peppered my lifelong birth control experience. Between that first boyfriend and when I got married to my wonderful husband, the only other experience I had was a trip to the campus Health Clinic for the morning after pill.

After having my first child at 21, I started THE PILL. For the next 9 years, we would have an off and on again relationship that was as rocky as the one I had with my mother.

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All the usual side effects happened to me that happened to thousands of other women. To use a clinical term, I became a basket case. My libido fell into the Mariana Trench. I got acquainted again with the migraines I had as a pre-teen. It literally was a little pill of Hell that I swallowed every day.

During the time of popping birth control pills like they were party drugs, I had four more pregnancies which gave me three of the coolest kids on the planet. It was also during this time that my first born, my beautiful long-haired son, passed away. That tragedy was followed by a miscarriage.

It was not an easy time.

I bounced around between types of hormonal pills before getting the Nexplanon implant. Three years of constant coverage seemed like a good way to tame my rabbit like fertility.

And for two and a half years, it was awesome.
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The decision to remove Nexplanon from my arm and being fertile from my life was made in my living room on what we call “The Little Couch”. I had my head wrapped in a blanket to block out as much light and sound as possible. My stomach rolled with nausea from a migraine roaring through my head and an almost Keith Richard’s amount of Excedrin.

I spent most of the days that week writhing in a pain I couldn’t touch with my hands. I felt that if I could just get my hands in behind my eye, I could dig it out, like the worms I dug up as a kid. The pulsing behind my left eye made me want to high five Odin for plucking his own eye out. It seemed like a logical and reasonable choice.

I didn’t pluck my own out obviously. My courage is way less than my imagination.

It was then that my husband and I decided that now was the time. We had a houseful of children. I wasn’t getting younger. And the side effects of hormonal birth control were getting worse. We like to pride ourselves on being logical people. Not Vulcan logical, but the basic human kind of logic.

The only clear answer was sterilization.

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I called my could-be-a-Soprano’s character doctor and made an appointment. There was no hesitation. There was no period of mourning. There were no tears shed about interrupting my biological imperative.

I haven’t gotten baby rabies for years. The sight of a newborn does nothing but remind me about how fucking hard babies are. I get giddy over puppy videos now. I go all gooey when I see a doggo doing doggo things. While I still take pride and enjoy (most days at least) being a mother, I am over becoming a mother.

The appointment came faster than I thought it was going to. I sat with my doctor and we talked about options before he dug the Nexplanon out of my arm. I told him I was done, I wanted out. He looked at my chart, then looked at me, asked me if I was sure and then said ok.

After talking all the obtains, we decided that a tubal ligation was the way to go. It was covered by our insurance and it supplied the lifelong low failure rate that I needed.
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That’s how I ended up naked and asleep in an operating room on a Tuesday morning. The surgery was uneventful and went pretty much as planned. I was taken to recovery and then, when I was able, I was reunited with three of the coolest kids in the world and my husband.

Since the surgery things have gone well. It’s been about a week and most of the pain had dissipated. The first few days were the worst, but that’s normal. I’m able to do most things and feel in the next week, I’ll be back to my normal self.

But it won’t be my old normal self. I don’t know if getting put under anesthesia is the human equivalent of turning something off and then back on again, but I feel a lot better mentally and emotionally. Maybe it’s the absence of extra crazy hormones in my body.

I’m not a doctor, I can’t really say for sure.

All I do know is that I feel like I’m actually in control now.

And that’s pretty nice.

 

Sources
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Photo by Atik sulianami on Unsplash

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.

 

Sister (A Declaration)

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman”

In 1969, Tammy Wynette took that declaration to the top of the Country charts. For very different reasons than her lyrics explain, the statement rings true for women in 2018.

If ever there was a time for us to come together in sisterhood and stand up for ourselves and each other with the fire we’ve been persecuted with, that time is right now.

This piece I’d like to share with you speaks to these times. It speaks of my feelings towards the heroic women of all ages, colors, and identifiers that are fighting against a system that makes millions off our degradation, assimilation, subordination, and even death.

I hope it also speaks of how important it is for us to love and support each other, whether we are an arms reach or an ocean away.


 

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Sister (A Declaration) 

Sister, I don’t know you,
but I love you.
I love you the way a child loves a superhero.
Eyes wide and mouth agape
Waiting for the next little drop of heroics to fall into their eyes
I love you not just as an inspiration
but as a causation
Like the lore that leads them to discover the powers they own,
hidden behind their school uniforms.

I love you the way a match loves friction,
The ripping of wound that starts a flame.
You remind me to take what I’m holding
And use it to destroy.
Destroy their words, turn their hate to ash,
Blister skin that dares touch me wrong.
To grow and become a force
That can wipe out all life
And leave it fertile for the next generation.

Sister, I love you the way the tree branches love a hard freeze
Bending to new angles, bearing more weight than they planned
The moment before the snap,
before the break bearing the meat of the tree
That’s the moment I love you for showing the strength in me

I love you
But I don’t know you
Your name is not one I can recall out of habit
Like the phone number I had as a child
But the feeling of your hands on my heart,
your fingers in my hair,
The gold of your kintsugi
Are all home to me.

I can not name your favorite color
Or what song you listen to in the car while you
Build courage out of toothpicks.
But I see the fire in your eyes
And it’s holier than the fire they burned us with
When we were both witches at the stake.

Sister, I need you.
I need a strong woman to hold me
When I can play that role no more.
Like a bridge bound with rope
We will sway in the wind together
Holding up and reaching out into the unknown
With delicate dedication.
The future can only be female
if we as a team
Decided to bloody the brows of those that stand against us.
Four fists are better than two.

I do not know you as a lover,
Or as a mother,
Or as a friend.
I know you as a sister.
I know you as I know myself
Which is in a cloudy way.
I know your DNA as if it were my own
Strained through a colander made of expectation and grief.
Forced to rebuild itself in a more uniform way.

Your fight is my fight
And my will is your will
And like the moon,
the wind, and the face of Mars
I don’t know you
But I fucking love you.


 

I love you, sisters.

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Happy Obligation Day

Mother’s Day 2018 is officially in the bag. Another year, another series of cards, flowers, saccharine dollops of love and clickbait headlines like What Moms REALLY Want filling up your feeds. TV and radio commercials tell you about bouquets, hearts that look like butts necklaces and weekend getaways more frequently than they bring you the news. Every store has circulars and signs explaining how best to use your money to prove your love for your mother. Instead of being inspiring, these endless suggestions make Mother’s Day seem like an obligation.

And like Victory Gin, holidays of obligation leave a bitter taste.

I should be the prime target for this Hallmark holiday. I’m a mother of four. I like flowers. Shiny things catch my eye. I’d be so down for a spa day. But something about how Mother’s Day is celebrated really crumbles my cornbread. It feels too commercial, too disingenuous, too consumeristic.

My umbrage for it all probably has something to do with my personal mother quandary. Yes, I have a mother. Yes, she’s still alive. But she’s not worth the spit on the back of a stamp. She’s the fly in my self-esteem punch bowl. I have more things to vilify her for than celebrate. If anything, Mother’s Day is a reminder that of the hole in my life that she created that keeps me on the other side of normal.

Personal feelings aside, Mother’s Day has a pretty interesting history.

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Ann Maria Jarvis

The roots of Mother’s Day start with Ann Maria Jarvis. She was an OG social activist who cultivated women’s and health groups during and after the Civil War. With only four of her possibly 17 children reaching adulthood because of the effects of childhood diseases, she became a champion for better care and fought for more sanitary conditions.

It was Ann’s daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis (Yes, Ann Maria the mother had Anne Marie the daughter. How Norman Bates is that shit?) that made Mother’s Day an event.

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Anna Marie Jarvis

Looking to find a way to honor her deceased mother, Anna held a memorial celebration at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908. (In the years since the site has been renamed The International Mother’s Day Shrine. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.) In the flair of her mother, Anna made the memorial for more than just herself. She incorporated all mothers in this remembrance as she felt that maternal figures were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. It was Anna who introduced the idea of gifting carnations to mothers. She gave the Church 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to commemorate her mother’s decades long service. In sharing these flowers with the mothers in attendence, a trend was born.

But eventually, even Jarvis struggled against the river of commercialization. She wanted the purity and sacredness of the day of remembrance observed, not made into a money-making tool by the floral, jewelery, and candy industries.

She was quoted as saying:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

Jarvis went so far as to try to rescind the day in 1943 by organizing a petition. Her efforts did not get far because later that year she was, and I swear Dear Reader I am not making this up, committed to Marshall Square Sanitarium. She would die in that sanitarium five years later, penniless.

The history and the commercialism of the holiday make it a bit complex. My personal feelings make my experience of the day a little bit more complex. But my experience is not the same for everyone. Some people love Mother’s Day. Some people very much respect the idea and the methods in which that idea is delivered. And that’s totally cool! I am not here to ruin what others care very deeply about. That would not be fair of me at all.

We are all familiar with what Nietzsche said:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Applying that thought to Mother’s Day is wise. Not every mother is Kitty Foreman or Clair Huxtable. That also means that not every mother is the cold cream faced Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. Somewhere between is where most mothers, just like people, land.

Celebrating or not celebrating is an individual choice.  Whatever your decision is, make sure it’s one made out of compassion and not out of obligation.obligationday