As Long as the Right People Die

Maybe a lot of you are too young or too straight to remember the AIDS crisis. I’m not.

It took my cousin, whom I loved deeply.

He was one of the few people in my life that I felt really understood me. It wasn’t until after he was dead from a horrible disease that I knew why. I named my daughter after him. He meant that much to me. And it took a long time for her to come to terms with being named after a gay man who died from the HIV virus in the 90’s, since we lived for many of her formative years in a small, conservative town in rural Iowa.

You see, a lot of people there didn’t much care that my cousin was dead. Many of them thought that he deserved that horrific end—it wasn’t a pretty one. He didn’t even want us to visit. He didn’t want us to remember him in that state, but to remember him full of life and color and joy. And people thought he deserved to die in such a violent way because he was gay.

Tonight I heard a neighbor outside my window saying some bullshit about more people dying in chihuahua attacks than will from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. I’m certain that isn’t a true statistic. First, because those are some tiny dogs you could just kick into oblivion. Second, because we have no idea what the ramifications of this illness will be in the end. That is why it is called “novel”. It’s new. We don’t have data that is reliable at this point. We do not understand this virus fully, and we don’t know how many people will lose their lives because of it.

But one thing that I have noticed about the response to this virus, much like the one that took my cousin’s life, is that there are many who don’t seem to care what life is lost, as long as the right people die.

Those that are most susceptible to dying, as far as we can tell, are the old and infirm. Those that are most susceptible to dying, as far as we can tell, are the ones with preexisting conditions. Those that are most susceptible to dying, as far as we can tell, are the ones who are already in the categories that our current society—this consumerist machine we pretend is a democracy—does not value. The right people are dying, for the most part. And as long as that is the case, those that do not value them will not make the changes necessary to safeguard the society as a whole.

It is history repeated, but a different set of people are now waiting for the spin of the barrel, and the fated shot, and the moment to reveal itself. Will they live or will they die?

The lesson, if there is one to be learned, would be that all that death didn’t stop the LGBTQ+ community from thriving. In fact, in some ways, it helped inspire us to rally and organize and become stronger. And that illness didn’t just take gay men. It spread far and wide, becoming a leading cause of death for some time. It is still considered pandemic in some countries, where medications that are easily obtained here are not available. I

t still takes lives, even with all the advances we have made and our current ability to make it undetectable in some. It still frightens us. It is still a threat and a life-altering diagnosis and an automatic disability.

It stopped killing the right people. It started killing everyone.

You might not be a high risk individual. You might not know a high risk individual. You might not care about a high risk individual. But know this: you cannot control this novel thing. It might decide that it kills Tom Hanks as quickly as it kills a homeless diabetic. It might decide that getting it once doesn’t make you immune, but makes you more susceptible to reinfection. It might decide that it gives no care to malaria drugs that Trump likes, or to the economy, or to race, or gender, or age, or preexisting anything. It might mutate again and again, creating countless cycles of death on a yearly basis. It might never leave. We may never find a treatment or a cure or develop a vaccine. We may be at its mercy forever. We simply don’t know.

And if you are counting on this being fine because the right people are dying, then you are a monster who deserves not one death, but a thousand. To decide that you are more valuable than another human—that your pleasure or freedom or agency is more important than their life—is the worst possible thing I can imagine. The most heinous of crimes is to imagine yourself a person of greater importance than another, and to sacrifice them in your service.

I remember when I found out that my cousin was dying. I was grieving and distraught. The few people I told about his contracting the virus all asked the same question first thing, “Is he gay?”

Why did that matter? What was their fascination with his sexuality?

I didn’t really understand the question until today.

I saw the man who lives out behind my apartment complex and he asked if I had anything to eat. I told him to wait while I went inside and bagged up some breakfast bars and crackers and bottles of water—whatever I had around that he could easily transport and keep relatively fresh for a bit. I brought it out and handed it to him. I didn’t hug him like I usually do, because of social distancing, but after I went back inside I cried for the first time since this pandemic began. He is the type of person that so many others are unconcerned with. He is the expendable extraneous drain on society that we can let go.

And so am I.

So was Terry.

So were millions of men and women just a couple decades ago.

And yet, somehow, we have already forgotten that our callous hatred then is a blight on our history that we should not be repeating. We are going out to Spring Break or to see cherry blossoms while we let the right people die.

People asked if my cousin was gay because it justified his death, in their minds. It made it reasonable and righteous that an out of control, unknown virus was ravaging his body. They didn’t need to be afraid of AIDS if it was still letting the right people die.

I was taught to believe in a god by people who don’t care if he lets me live or die, so I’m not sure I am a believer in that, exactly, anymore. But I do have a system of belief that includes a Divine. These days I pray often. But I don’t request what you might imagine—health and for my loved ones to make it through this unscathed. Obviously, I want those things. But I find that I am begging that the Divine have mercy upon us, for allowing this lack of empathy and this sociopathy and selfishness and self-aggrandizement to go on, unchecked, for so many generations. I beg forgiveness that we continue to choose races and classes and groups that we deem expendable, as long as our own needs are met.

There is no person that should be sacrificed for our comfort. We should never be comfortable while others around us are losing their lives or freedom or resources. We should be fighting for their lives as if they were our own.

We are all human and we are all equal.

It is time to start treating one another as such, before there are none of us left to watch the others perish, because our greed has swallowed us all.

Despair, Darlings, and a Daring New Year

I arrived home from a visit to my home town and found a little package from an organization called Find Your Anchor.  It was the most beautiful little package.  I am in love with it. 

This little blue box is filled with reminders of what there is to live for, and why I am a needed and loved part of the world.  It is such a generous and gracious nudge toward hope.  Each time I open it and read a little bit of wisdom or encouragement, I recall my reasons for being—for staying.

Lately, I have needed those reasons a lot. 

While away, I had a horrible but necessary, and likely healing in an eventual sense, conversation with my dad that turned into me sobbing like a child and him hugging me like—well, a dad.  Which is what was needed, because the conversation was about how I was left unprotected to be abused for years and years.  At one point he commented that I didn’t tell anyone.  And I cried out, “I was a little girl!”  That’s when the sobbing started, and the understanding came across his face for what seemed like the first time. 

I wasn’t able to say it in any other way than I was.  And I was SAYING it.  Just not with the actual words.  I was saying it with every sign and symptom of trauma that I could exhibit—and my family treated me like I was difficult, challenging, crazy, and unruly, instead of recognizing what I was trying to convey.

So, I came home to this little box, after a really emotional and draining visit.  It was a gift from the Divine of which I am still receiving benefits.  It was especially helpful a couple nights later, on the eve of the new year. 

I don’t know what it was, specifically, that was so bothersome.  I was alone.  I was broke.  I was restless.  I was emotional.  I was still processing a lot from the week before.  And I was, suddenly, despairing. 

It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, to feel the way that I did.  And that made it even worse.  Because there is nothing worse than being in the throes of a suicidally depressed mood than being there with no conscious understanding of why you are in that state.  The nonsense of it all makes it more depressing.  I got out my little box from Find Your Anchor and read some of my 52+ Reasons to Live from the card deck.  That helped a little.  I started to find an anchor.  I started to find a bit of hope.  And somewhere in the midst of that glimmer of hope, I decided that I needed to go out, and budget and responsibility be damned, I needed to have some fun. 

I got dressed up and went to my favorite bar.  I hung out with some old friends and met some new people.  We had champagne toasts and noise makers and lovely hats.  It was all very festive.  And then everyone started heading out after last call, and my despair started to set in once more.  I tried to convince some friends to keep hanging out, but they were all partied out, because they had started their fun much earlier than I had done.  So, I went to another bar where I have not had bad experiences, and have met some pretty cool people. 

I met some pretty cool people again. 

I got contact info for two women before I left, and then left with a couple and another guy to go hang out in the couple’s hotel.  This is where I move from the despair to the darlings.  Because this couple was amazing.  They were the most wise, authentic, and beautiful people.  I had such an amazing time getting to know them and hearing their stories.  And then it was late—or early—and time to go.  Or at least the other guy was leaving, so I took that as time to leave.  I’m not sure if I was intending to leave with him, or if he made it seem he wanted me to accompany him.  But I started walking the same direction as him when we left the hotel.  And then he started walking REALLY fast, and then broke into a run.  I yelled after him, “What are you doing?”  I didn’t hear him respond.  And it didn’t really matter, because  there was another guy nearby asking me if I knew where he could buy cigarettes, so I took his arm and walked him to the nearest convenience store.  After which, he walked away from me REALLY fast!  Which didn’t really matter because I was right by the bus that heads to my house and it was pulling up right then, so I got on the bus.  I missed my stop because the driver was chatting me up, so I walked back a stop and headed home and went to bed.

And then I woke up and realized I had texted my guy many times.  Probably around the time I was on the bus or walking home.  But I didn’t remember doing it. 

I had a moment when I was upset enough to send him 5 texts in a row and I didn’t remember feeling it.  I dissociated from a moment.  I thought that I was feeling fine after going out and meeting fabulous people, but those two dumb dudes being douchey had put me back into despair without me even recognizing the shift. 

Thankfully, I had someone to whom I could reach out.  And the things I said to him were oddly positive—like, thanks for not being a dick like these other people and proving that decent men exist, sorts of positive.  But it still wasn’t an ideal interaction, and dissociating is really far from good mental health in my experience.  It’s extraordinary that I can be in such a good place and such a bad place within moments of one another.  The swing of that pendulum should probably be breaking bones in my poor little body as it tries to keep up with this brain! 

I slept most of the day on the 1st.  I think that my body and mind needed to take a sabbatical of sorts.  And perhaps if I had taken that break before the events of the night before, things would have turned out differently.  But that is pure speculation.  It may not have changed a thing.  But it was much needed rest, regardless. 

The following day, my guy checked in and asked if I was alright.  We talked a bit about my mental state, but mostly we just curled up in his bed and kissed and slept and cuddled, which was beautiful.  He is a darling.  I told him that I love that he doesn’t need to run.  He laughed.  But the point was that we are really honest and communicative, and he knows I’m not ready to date someone seriously after everything I have been through this year.  We are in a casual sort of non-dating thing, and we both seem really satisfied with that.  We care about one another, for sure.  But we both need a deep connection in order to trust someone with our whole heart.  Right now we are supportive and sexual partners, and pleased with that connection.  The assumption that there is always a woman chasing you for a marriage and babies and commitment that steals all your fun is false, men.  The assumption that any partner wants to stifle and break and put you in bondage is silly—unless you are into BDSM, obviously.  A loving partner wants you to flourish and grow and become your best self.  If you are running from something, check the mirror for clues as to what you fear.  And not the rearview, but your bathroom mirror.  Look at yourself (for the really slow people in the audience). 

In hindsight, I had a great New Year’s Eve.  I met some amazing people, got myself out of a terrible funk with a bit of helpful encouragement, and had a lot of fun.  The fact that I had a moment of frustration with weird dudes and a depressed mood early in the night didn’t keep me from finding some enjoyment, spending time with friends, confiding in a person who cares about me, and getting a bunch of much needed rest.  It was a mixed bag, in some sense, but that is probably a good metaphor for the start of the year.

Because life is full of ups and downs. 

I expect this to be one of my best years ever.  I am my best self ever, and I am working toward some really great goals, so I fully anticipate great things will happen this year.  But I am also not naive, and I know that bad things sometimes happen to good people.  There will likely also be a few challenges.  The year will probably be a mixed bag.  It will have ups and downs. 

It isn’t the ups and downs that define our lives; it is how we react to those ups and downs that defines us.  Life isn’t easy, and always reacting with perfect grace isn’t possible, but we can work to do our best as often as possible, and to correct whatever mistakes we make as we go along.  And when I think about this I start to consider life in the sense of an epic tale. 

Life is something we dare to pursue. 

True life, in its best form is a daring event—a quest of epic proportion. 

There are grave moments, and there are literal mountain tops, and there are fellowships that cannot be broken, and there are resistance movements bound together by hope, and there are travels that span the globe, and there are challenges that push us to know ourselves—to find ourselves—in ways we never could if we didn’t dare to walk this road and take this journey and fight this fight. 

I walked into a strange and unknown thing on the first of the year.  There was despair, and there were darlings, and there is a daring quest set before me, which I will boldly accept, knowing that I will be a different woman on the other side. 

I don’t know who I will be 360 days from now.  But I know that she will be more aware, more passionate, more educated, more connected, and more prepared for what the next year of life might hold.   Because I am happy to walk into the unknown and to live a daring year.  No matter what it brings, it will bring me closer to my best self, and that is always good.

Rise and Shine

I should be working on my presentation for class on Tuesday.  But there is a lot that I need to get out of the way and onto a page before I have space enough in my mind for what should be worked on. 

Night after night there are images that flash and a barrage of voices and thoughts and constructs that are swimming.   I’m in and out of consciousness, I think—not fully awake and not fully asleep.  And that reminds me of what a detective told me about a 911 call: a white female found in and out of consciousness. 

That female was me. 

I can’t tell the rest of the story.  I don’t know it. 

I only know what happened before and what happened after.  There is no event.  The event never happened, as far as my person is concerned.  No memories.  Not one second.  Not a blur of light.  Not a sound.  Not a smell.  Not a moment.  Not  one single moment.

There is all sorts of speculation. 

I have a basic timeline, based on other people’s statements, and the call, and the facts we could gather from my own digital trail.  But that helps me none without a camera or an eye witness to the crime itself. 

There is a person of interest, based on the repeated statements of another person that seem suspect.  He is strong enough to have done the harm to my body.  He is acting odd enough to have me mistrusting him.  But is his DNA on my body?  I won’t know for 6 to 12 months. 

And I can’t help but think about all of this.  This madness that made me a victim on my own block, in a place that I feel safe and welcome, on a fucking Thursday night on a normal week like any other.

My friend from Loyola heard about a woman drugged and assaulted from the 24th precinct police report.  Weeks later, after we had dinner, she found out that woman was me.  My friend from the bar across the street told me to turn in the name of that person of interest—because no matter what excuses I want to make for him, we know he is capable of assaulting a woman because he has done it before.  It may have been 12 years ago, but he did it then, so he can do it now.  He doesn’t deserve any mercies if he is the culprit, and I deserve justice first, before any mercy is extended.  My daughter couriered my damp clothing from one hospital to another, when the first didn’t take seriously that I was certain that I had been drugged and assaulted.  She waited and watched as they went through the meticulous steps of swabbing and combing and capturing every possible bit of evidence from my effects and then my person—taking away that skirt that flared at just the right spot, and my only “interim” jacket that works between seasons in the perfect way, and one of the few matching bra and panty sets that I wear when I want to feel dressed up on the inside when I don’t dress up on the outside.  My underwear belongs to the police now.  It is evidence.  I became evidence. 

I’m evidence.  Me.

And it isn’t just that. 

It’s the loss of a friend who seems too distracted to care about this violence that tore apart my sense of self.  It is the bar that might have footage of someone nearby during that time frame that hasn’t checked tapes, because the owner has a personal issue with me—mostly because I have both a talent for truth-telling and a strong trigger response to being grabbed by grown men without cause or warning. I have apologized for both and he still won’t look to see if my attacker was outside  his bar.

A random reconnection with an ex partner this week gave me both extreme peace and strange feels, because I think that I really loved him, and I really needed to find some positive closure there, but now I don’t really want to leave that door closed.  And a connection with someone new was not reciprocal, and also he was the most generous man in saying that now was a vulnerable time for me, so connecting in the midst of that would be unwise.  So, these good men are falling from the sky, even as I walk over the spot where my body likely was dropped on the street just a few short weeks ago by some horror of a human. 

The flashes aren’t of what I remember from that night.  There isn’t anything from that assault that I remember.  The flashes are of everything else in my life, and how complex and busy and good and not great and terrifying and beautiful it all is.  And I don’t  quite know how to fit the pieces together to feel whole and safe and good and wise and at peace like I did before this happened. 

Because things were amazing before this happened. 

I had recovered from people being hurtful and dishonest and childish.  I had moved forward on a new path.  I was letting go of much.  I was sitting in the fire and letting it burn away all that did not serve me.  I was becoming a new and better and stronger and more beautiful woman.  I was gaining health.  I was growing in wisdom.  I was overcoming challenges.  I was making choices and building something new with the direction that I was going.  Things were flowing.  The Divine and the Universe were holding me up and carrying me along, and there was abundance and joy and gratitude and grace. 

And now there is this chaos—this unknown void surrounded by all sorts of things that I cannot seem to juxtapose correctly or assign with an ethos of good or evil without questioning my own judgment and mistrusting my gut instincts, and wondering if I was ever really being carried along by the Divine, or if I wanted to believe that was true, and the actual truth is that Evil smacked me down onto the pavement and said, “Stupid Bitch.  Nothing holds you up.  You always fall.”

There it is.

I knew if I could write it I could find the core of the matter. 

And the core of the matter is that I feel stupid for believing that I deserved that good and that the bad wouldn’t come and take it from me.  The thing I fear most is that the truth is I Always Fall. 

But why does that frighten me? 

I’ve gotten up more times than I know how to count.  I’m not sure there is a number that expresses how many times I have gotten up.  Falling.  I am an expert at fucking falling. 

But I am also an expert—by at least a sum of ONE MORE NUMBER—at GETTING UP. 

I Always Get Up.  I Always Stand.  Still I Rise.

All this chaos of the night and these flashes of what may have happened and who may or may not be here for my good or for my ill. All these thoughts and feelings and glimpses.  All of this comes to nothing and it means nothing.  Because at the end of this, I get up and I keep going. 

I already know that is true.

And maybe I didn’t know it until this moment.  But I know it now. 

I also know that it has been true for years and years.  It isn’t going to stop being true anytime soon, or because of any circumstance—whether I remember it or not, whether I was raped or not, whether this asshole dude’s DNA is on my person or not, whether I lose friends or not, whether Stavros checks the surveillance or not, whether I find the perpetrator of this violence or not, and whether I find an amazing partner in the future or not. 

I will find my footing. 

I will find my wisdom and my gratitude and my abundance and my grace and my joy.  They will radiate from me.  I will pour them out upon the world.

I am rising again.

Patience and Perseverance

I have this great relationship in my life.  It’s with a rock.

 

No, seriously.  It’s a little quartz bit that is shaped to a point and it hangs from a chain.  It’s a pendulum, and it is changing my life with all sorts of insights. Today it told me that “What’s going on” with me emotionally is that I am struggling with perseverance and patience.  And that clashes with someone else’s challenge to cope with my “Drive to Win”.

 

If you know me, even a little bit, you understand this post fully right now.  I could basically stop typing and you could surmise the rest based on the juxtaposition of Patience and Drive to Win.  Because they struggle internally, but apparently that struggle is now coming out, and potentially driving away others whom I don’t wish to repel.  So …

 

I approached my day with as much patience and perseverance as I could muster.  And this day definitely took some of each. I needed to call the housing authority that subsidizes my rent, because I felt they had made an error in figuring my new rent amount after the approval of my accommodation request due to disability.  I talked to two people, and then they put in a request for the person that I spoke with on Friday and Monday to call me. I suggested he may know more about my case, considering we had discussed it twice already. He called me back, walked me through the same response I had gotten earlier, and then I patiently thanked him for his time, while still feeling a mistake was made.  

 

But I didn’t let my Drive to Win intervene.  I let it go and hung up the phone. Fifteen minutes later, I received another call.  I was correct. Anthony, who had been looking at my case repeatedly, noticed that I had not been given the utility amount for a two bedroom, and the change lowers my rent and increases my subsidy.  

 

There was a woman in line at the market earlier who could have driven me nuts.  She was very scattered and also chatty and I could have thought, “If she would shut up and focus I would get my coffee and tomato and get home much faster.”  But I reminded myself that patience was an important focus for me right now, and instead I said to myself, “Isn’t she adorable. I’m probably like that when my brain fog kicks in and I’m in public.  Good thing I usually have Luke along to do the things for me when I get all scattered. I wonder if I pull it off as adorable?”

 

And that response made my day go an entirely different direction.  

 

I left the store feeling peaceful and entertained and a bit joyful.  I’m pretty sure I was smiling. I laughed aloud at a text Adam sent and people looked at me like I was strange.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And that was just a trip to the market.

 

I also went to the pharmacy.  I said I needed to know if I could go without one of my medications, since permission to refill hadn’t come in.  The tech forgot to ask the pharmacist. I gently reminded her and she called him over. He gave me three days worth of pills and told me to get in touch with my neurologist to get a new script in as soon as I could.  He didn’t want me experiencing symptoms. Perseverance and patience win again!

 

A little later today, an old partner, whom I used to help with work tasks he didn’t have the capacity to perform–like typing things and using big words, for instance–called and asked me how to get “a blank page to type on” to come up on his laptop.  

 

Breathe.  Breathe. Patience, Christy.

 

This one took a lot of extra patience and perseverance.  

 

He finally found “Office” on his desktop and then “Word” inside that.  And a happy cheer came from the phone as he found that blank page. I congratulated him and then politely ended the conversation.  

 

Minutes later, he called again.  “Could I bother you for a minute?”

 

“What is it that you need?”

 

“Well, you can figure this out and get this printed.  I can’t figure all this stuff out. You can do this in a minute.  Can’t I just come up and you can do it up there?”

 

Breathe.  Breathe. Breathe.  Patience, Christy. More patience, Christy.

 

“You just need to click the little print symbol, or go to “File” and then click “Print”, so I think you can handle it.”

 

“You’re better at this stuff.  I don’t know how this stuff works.  Why don’t I just bring it up there?”

 

“My printer isn’t connected to my Chromebook yet, so you will have to wait for me to transfer it to my tablet and print from there,” I said, hoping to deter him from utilizing my skill to do his job.

 

“Well come down here and use my printer then.”

 

“No. I don’t want to come down there.”   Breathe. Breathe.

 

“Okay.  I’ll be up in a minute.”

 

Breathe.  Breathe. Plug in the computer.  Move the desk away from the window.  Prepare to do the task with haste and grace and then go forward with your life.  

 

As soon as he arrived I texted another man and asked him to call in a few minutes time to give me an excuse to shove out this one.  But he was with a client. I said I would make another excuse, but maybe he should call when he was done working, just to be certain I was freed from these clutches.  He said that wouldn’t be until 8. I’m not that patient. I would have to deal with this situation on my own.

 

But, frankly, the texts to the other man were part of dealing with the situation.  The jealousy meter on the ex-partner went up to “fuck this bitch, I’m outta here” with my second coy smile and giggle at the arrival of a text.  And we weren’t talking about anything to be coy or giggling about, but I knew that the fact that someone else had my adoration and attention would frustrate him.  It’s a terrible way to play with a person’s emotion to get the outcome I want. I can admit that without hesitation. But I don’t really have any shame over it, because I have been used for his outcomes time and again, without even a thought about my care or concern at all.  And I was being used by him at this present moment. He had a task that he didn’t want to try to accomplish on his own, so he bullied his way into getting me to do it for him. So, I fought back with my text game, and it worked. I was patient enough to complete the task that he needed me to complete–simply typing out some names and addresses, and then he went on his way.  

 

Now I am impatiently wondering if I will still get a call from my other friend after he finishes work.  Which is probably the worst impatience I could have, because he is one who cannot stomach my Drive to Win, and I cannot be impatient with him.  So, all of this patience today and all of my persevering is for naught if I cannot hold onto it for the long-term.

 

The long-term is kind of how patience works though, right?  Playing the long game. Waiting for the right moment. Anticipating the needs of others.  Being able to stop demanding instant gratification.

 

I fail at those things a lot just because I am super open and available as a person.  I say what I feel. I put things out there. And I am accustomed to being around people who are comfortable with that.  

 

I suppose I have always known that there are people who are not comfortable with that.  But those people simply were not my friends. They were outside the circle where I spend most of my time living.  And the thought that the shy, quiet, slow-moving, considering deeply, and taking their time to decide people should have space in my circle, and that I needed to make a space for them wasn’t one that concerned me much until now.

 

He isn’t a bore.  He isn’t a nerdy, weird, unsocialized guy.  He just has lots of layers of stuff. It takes time and energy to get beyond the surface.  And there are nights when I want to break it open and get in there and figure it out and know it–whatever is down inside there.  That isn’t how he works, though, so trying to do that won’t work. Only Patience and Perseverance and letting go of my Drive to Win will work.  The only way to know what is beyond the surface is to wait and watch and be present and let things slowly unfold.

 

I don’t need to be different to do that.  I just need to see differently to do that.  I just need to interact differently to do that.  That doesn’t change who I am or how I am, at my core.  It just opens me up to a possibility that I hadn’t taken the time to make available before.  It gives me an opportunity to learn a way of interacting that is foreign, but may have beautiful results.  

 

So, my rock told me today that I have to focus my attention on patience and perseverance and not my drive to win.  And it is proving to be an excellent guide.

 

It is a guide.  And that is what I call it.  Before I use it I have a mini incantation that I say, basically ending in “my guiding stone you shall be”.  It helps me find the way when I don’t really know which direction I need to point myself.

 

There are days when you wake up feeling strong and ready and full and you just go.  You know where to go and how to go and you do life. And there are days that you need a little guidance.  Today my guidance came from a little bit of quartz. It is a really smart bit of quartz, I think. It gave me excellent advice.  

 

I’ll keep working on Perseverance and Patience.  I’ll keep trying to let go of my Drive to Win. If the Divine is offering me guidance that says these changes will serve me well, I believe that it is true.  And I do believe that my bit of quartz is one way the Divine speaks. That seems foreign to many, I am sure. But seeing is believing, in many cases, and I have seen over and over that this little pendulum tells me the truest of things and the best of things.  I’ve grown to trust it over time. And I guess that is what it is asking of me now–to grow to trust people over time, if time is what it takes for them to let down all of their walls and let others see them truly.

 

I think I can do that.  It won’t be the easiest journey upon which I have embarked, but it might be a great one.  

 

Operation Patience, here I come … or wait, I suppose.

Infuriating

In preparation for a short mission to cheer up a niece who needs her auntie, I was crossing tasks off my to do list this morning.  One of the most daunting of the tasks was to retrieve my suitcase from the guest room/office closet. It is daunting because my second bedroom serves as both guest room and office, but also because it serves as art studio, storage, and a dedicated room for my medical supply when I am not actually using crutches or in need of my walker or the air conditioner.  So, the closet–well let’s just say that opening the door can be a harrowing experience.

 

Long ago I learned the concept of “eating the frog” from a friend–doing the hard thing first, so the rest of the tasks seem less challenging and the thing you dread most is done, eliminating the dread.  It’s based on the idea that if you had a bunch of things before you to consume, and one of them was a live frog, while the others were less disgusting choices, you should first eat the frog, and then allow the palate to rejoice in the other, less gross, items consumed after.  So, a little before 9:00 am, I opened the closet door.

 

Thankfully, nothing fell on my head upon opening the door.  And I rather quickly remembered the location of the suitcase and confirmed that it was, indeed, under all of the postal boxes.  I set out to rearrange the items and acquire the suitcase stashed below.

 

Now, it is important to mention at this point that all of the movement, noise, and shuffling happening was due to the shifting of cardboard and foam inside my closet on the second floor of a two-story building.  I will also remind you that it was nearly 9:00 am. And then, the thing happened that made me lose my shit. I heard banging on my floor–the ceiling of James, the downstairs tenant.

 

James has been told, repeatedly, that he is not, under any circumstances to bang on the ceiling.  After I had been living here for about 10 months, he suddenly decided that he would yell obscenities at me whenever seeing me outside, and bang on the ceiling at ANY noise he doesn’t like–including my family sitting down to eat lunch during the holidays. This morning he did not stop banging.  He just kept on doing it for about ten minutes, even after I had retrieved my suitcase and closed the closet door on the remaining mess.

 

I called my landlord.  She said she can’t be a therapist, she is a landlord.  But she did call James and tell him that ANY noise complaint goes to her and he is not allowed to bang on anything under any circumstances.  

 

However, he said that there is constantly yelling at 4 in the morning and 8 in the morning and all sorts of noise.  And that is complete bullshit.

 

This is the thing I am finding so infuriating today–and in the recent weeks, with all that has been going on in my life.  There isn’t a way to effectively tell tellers of truth from tellers of lies if you aren’t in the situation. If you aren’t there to see the events unfold, you can’t necessarily discern what the truth of the matter is, which puts the crazy, insecure, jealous, dishonest, selfish, and self-involved people in the world on the same level as the ones who are truthful and altruistic and compassionate and working to make a better world for all.  And that just doesn’t seem fair.

 

It isn’t enough to be a good person.  Suddenly, you feel like you need to constantly prove that you are a good person.  

 

That infuriates me.  Because we should be able to somehow tell the difference.  We should be able to know truth and see good and not be constantly deceived.  Good people shouldn’t be dragged through the mud by those who have selfish or nefarious motives.  But they are.

 

It didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t actually need to prove anything to anyone.  

 

Truth will out, as they say.  

 

Eventually, the good is recognized and the lies are exposed.  I do believe that, even though I also believe that it could take decades, or generations for that to happen.  It will happen. And a legacy of beauty and good and love and truth will be remembered as such, and the opposite will also be remembered as such.  

 

It isn’t easy to let things unfold, and to let my name be dragged through the mud.  It isn’t easy to live above the fray and to allow others to lie and misrepresent and harm without trying to fight back in some manner.  But attempts to argue with those who don’t tell the truth or use logic or care about the heart of matters always fail. It is futile. The only way to get justice in these matters is to wait for the truth to become known.  

 

It will become known.  

 

So, no matter how infuriating it is to have a guy who is full of crap banging on the ceiling while I try to pack for a mission of love and compassion to cheer up my lovely niece (and cheer up myself, of course, because being with her is such a joy), I will swallow my pride, hope all the things stay behind the closet door, and let things play out in whatever way they will.  Living in light and love will always be my best defense against any odds.

 

Now–to launder the clothing, pack things that don’t freak out the country folk (so basically nothing I own), and get ready for mission Return to NWIA.  (I just freaked out a little. It’s been almost 4 years. I must really love this niece!)

Singleness is Scary

In the wee hours of the morning, I went up to the bar owner and bouncer at my regular watering hole and told them that I have no idea how to be single.  Now that I have officially declared my independence from Bill, I have attracted all sorts of attention that is unwanted from all sorts of men.

 

And my declaration has been quite public only in the last 24 hours.  

 

I had to be walked home to my apartment last night.  There was a man stalking me, and I live frighteningly close to the bar for stalkers to be allowed to simply lurk outside the bar and possibly follow me home.  Thankfully, the love and care is strong among this community, and they made sure to have me escorted safely to my door. One crisis averted.

 

Another crisis is still brewing.  A new friend whom I love spending time with has a boy who suddenly has only eyes for me.  He kept trying to touch my face. Clearly, he was drunk. But touching a woman’s face is seriously intimate, people.  You don’t just come up and start touching a woman’s face. And you certainly don’t do it to a woman who is developing a friendship with a woman with whom you are already involved!  Are you trying to create “Housewives” level drama in the corner bar?? Also, I find you not at all attractive and don’t like your personality.

 

Man number three is married.  His wife understands (or so he claims) that Saturday is his day to do what he wishes.  The rest of the week he is home, and Sunday is for family, but Saturday he apparently flirts with, buys drinks for, and asks out to dinner other women.  I kindly explained that I am not interested in dating someone who already has a wife and family. I’m not looking for a side guy. I’m looking for a long-term love.  I’m looking for serious, settled-down life with one person in a committed and monogamous situation. That explanation didn’t seem to deter him. Luckily, he disappeared when it was my turn at the karaoke mic, so crisis averted, for the moment.  

 

There was another man who watched me across the room for hours.  He didn’t approach me. But he didn’t approach me because the night before I was still being attended by Bill, for a portion of the evening, at least.  While I had told Bill that I needed freedom to find what I desire in a relationship, and therefore he would need to back off, he hadn’t accepted that reality.  But at one point during the night, this man came up to talk to me. He continually told me how beautiful I was and made what he thought were successful overtures.  I was polite but did not encourage his advances. But some men don’t understand that not encouraging their advances is a “no”. You need, I guess, to tell them to “fuck off and leave me alone”.  But I hadn’t done that. And then this weird event took place where there was a mix up with beer bottles and Bill threw a childish fit, even after Olga poured out his old beer and I bought him a new one, undefiled by the man who had been hitting on me.  Bill disappeared after that and I haven’t heard from him since. The man who had been hitting on me, and caused the mix up–touching Bill’s beer bottle, and more importantly, I think, invading the space around “Bill’s” Christy–stared at me the next night for hours.  I wasn’t sure if he was angry because I was clearly not with Bill tonight, and approached by many men without consequence, or if he was desiring me from afar but not willing to risk the rejection of the previous night. But it was a bit creepy–being watched.

 

And then there was the one man who I did want to see.  Apparently he had been in the bar at some point. I have no idea where I was at the moment he was present, but I didn’t see him.  I’m still disappointed by that. I’m also a bit worried that I was being pressured by one of the other suitors at the moment the man I really wanted to connect with was nearby, and he may have gotten the wrong impression about my engagement with one of those other men–not realizing that I simply haven’t figured out the art of telling people to “fuck off and leave me alone” in an effective manner.  Singleness is scary, people. Being a beautiful, intelligent, capable woman who isn’t attached to a man makes you feel like dead meat among vultures. And somehow that seems like a terrible association to make, but it feels really true!

 

I like to imagine that in an anarchic situation I would compile all the good and fight like hell to secure my safety.  And that is probably true. I am a fighter.

 

But I am also really nice and really innocent in ways that can get me into trouble.  I have a compassionate heart. I don’t like to hurt people. I want to help people. So, telling them that I reject them seems hurtful.  But you can’t be nice to vultures. You need to scare those beasts away! Finding my way to the compassionate fighter may be a difficult road to travel.  And I may need friends and bouncers to walk me home on the regular before I get it figured out.

 

I suppose I will look at this like I look at most things that scare the crap out of me–as an opportunity with unknown benefits.  Learning to navigate this scary single way of being will likely teach me skills that I can use in other areas of life. And while I never want to become the jaded one in the room, and will run toward the bloodied man on the floor to administer first aid while everyone else moves away, and still don’t want to break spirits with harsh rejections, I do need to figure out how not to be followed home by creepy dudes.  That is a useful skill. And I also need to learn how to fight away the distractions so that I have space in my life for the people whom I want to know more–the ones that I potentially won’t wish to say no to, and will want to offer my time and attention and affections. Maybe, someday, they’ll even be allowed to touch my face or follow me home. Or both!

The Way of the Witch

This afternoon, I anointed a candle, said a little incantation that I devised on the fly, and lit said candle.  

 

It felt like the thing to do.  

 

The spell is one called “Road Opener”, and it is meant to do just that–open roads, in the proverbial sense. I felt a shift happening, and I feel a shift is needed, so I used the tools around me to ask The Divine for a little boost in that area.  I asked for some opportunities to present themselves, and for the peace I need to close the chapters that aren’t meant for me and to let go of things that I am holding on to without good reason.

 

Last night I felt this rage rising in me.  I was infuriated at wrongs against me, and the ways that people spread lies and misrepresent others and make up stories to fit a narrative they prefer, instead of the way things really are.  The way things are? I’m being slandered by a selfish, insecure, jealous girl who for one reason or another sees me as the enemy that traps her where she doesn’t like being. Whether that is because she admires something in me that she lacks, or she sees something in me that connects with something in her that she dislikes about herself, I cannot begin to guess at or understand correctly.  But the crap thing is that she isn’t being aware enough to see that the thing that bothers her isn’t in me, but in herself, so she is gaslighting and lying and verbally assaulting and slandering in order to make me into the enemy she so desperately needs. And that makes me the enemy of her friends, by some strange loyalty that I have yet to comprehend–because logic has always been somewhat more important to me than loyalty.  

 

But the Universe intervened time and again as that feeling rose in me.  

 

Flex came in and kissed me hello.  Kory forgot that we know one another and introduced himself again.  Mark started yelling my name from the corner in a slightly disturbing manner, but I knew that in his damaged brain it was an endearment and not an offense.  And then I met a wonderful man whom I hope to meet again and again. Chai told me to go after what is good for me and makes me happy, not to wait around for things that won’t likely change for the better.  Raven texted that she will be out tomorrow and can’t wait to chat with me about her week.

 

At one point I ignored all the love that I was being sent and still went back to the other establishment where I had been mistreated and slandered.  I wanted the owner, whom I had always been on good terms with, to know that the situation that had happened with the girl was not one that I meant to impact him, and I hoped to say my goodbyes to him, since he is selling said establishment.  But the girl and her sidekick were present, and the owner treated me just as poorly as they had earlier. Clearly the narrative was spreading, and I was being painted as the enemy of all.

 

I felt that frustration and rage rising again.  I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I went back to the place where the love was being poured out earlier.  And there was more love on tap.

More good conversation, more assurances of my worth, and more positivity swirled around.  I put a few songs on the jukebox and basked in the glow of goodness that I had found.

 

So, today, I knew that what needed to be accepted and anointed and encouraged in my life was this opening up to the places and people who show love and acceptance and encouragement, and a closing of the door on people and places that do not.  The best way to embrace that was with a ritual that I know to express and to empower such a thing.

 

I’ve been one of the many who misunderstood “witchcraft” over the years.  I took it as opening up doors to devils and demons. I took it as power that you couldn’t control or understand.  I took it as one half of a supernatural or spiritual war that had Jesus and an angelic host on the other side of the field of battle.  And I even got sucked into these ways of believing after I had practiced witchcraft of sorts, because I saw and experienced things that I didn’t fully understand or have the rubric for explaining.  I didn’t have the framework in which to hold the powers that be.

 

I’ve been building that framework for about 26 years now, and I have a much broader understanding of these things.  I’m not scared of the devil anymore. Spiritual warfare isn’t really a thing–life is life and it isn’t divided into physical and spiritual bits, whether you are connected to your spirit or totally unaware–and demons aren’t attacking you on the regular.  Spells don’t welcome evil spirits and start horror movies. They are rituals for those who are connected to The Divine. They are kind of like the Eucharist for a Catholic–only less stuck in the age of men who thought the universe revolves around the earth and taking money in exchange for the promise of heaven was ethical.  

 

Honestly, I think it is far less weird to use some herbs and oils and stones to acknowledge my desires and questions and fears and strengths to The Divine than it is to wear a torture/murder device around your neck as a symbol of your adherence to ancient codes of conduct.  And I am an ordained minister with degrees from both Evangelical and Jesuit seminaries–so I’m not really biased toward, but away from, Earth Magick and Celtic practices.

 

Getting in touch with what is going on inside of me–my spirit–and then assessing how that self is interacting with the world around it–the Universe–and connecting with my understanding of deity–The Divine–for guidance and assistance in having better understanding and connection all around, seems like a totally normal, necessary, and sane way of living life.  It doesn’t seem weird to follow this way of being and interacting. It doesn’t seem evil or dangerous. And I am sure that there are many who would quote the few bible verses that say witchcraft and divination are evil and forbidden. But I don’t think that the ancient Hebrews had much contact with the Druids, and I believe that the understanding of witchcraft and divination that would have been expressed in those passages was much different from the using of stones and herbs and oils to affirm and express and seek to align myself with positive and helpful energies.  Context is important.

 

There isn’t any shame in the way I align myself with positive and helpful energies.  And I’m not afraid to have my smudge stick and my tarot deck and my books on herbs and shamanism and spiritual discovery displayed on shelves in my living room.  These are all ways that I seek wisdom, align with positive energy, and keep myself in a healthier space.

 

It might seem strange to some, but there have been threads of witchcraft running through all of my theological study over the years.  I learned to be a witch before I learned to map ancient Israel or translate biblical Greek text. At Fuller Southwest, one of my cohort used to call me Jesus Witch, throughout our Saturday classes, after learning of the ways that Sufi converts keep using their rituals after learning of Jesus.  I would often smudge my apartment and carry crystals even while I studied at Loyola Chicago. There was never really a time when the knowledge of the needs of my spirit left me, even though these practices were not seen as normal or acceptable in mainstream religion. I never stopped needing these things to keep me healthy, in touch, and connected to The Divine.  When I tried to leave these practices behind, I stopped being healthy, in touch, and connected–not just to The Divine, but to myself and to the people around me. They are essential to my wellbeing.

 

The way of the witch is a part of my overall “religion” (a word that I generally reject, because of the way that organized religion has tainted it–I usually claim to be “spiritual but not religious”).  I’m not a Wiccan, in the sense that I have joined that organized group either. I simply find that my connections and my energies and my rituals are essential to my overall health, and that using these forms of witchcraft are one piece of that puzzle.

 

I’m healthier, stronger, more balanced, happier, and less stressed when I use these rituals–whether that be the lighting of the candle and incantation of this afternoon, or cooking with particular herbs, or sage smudging the house, or carrying particular crystals with me during the day, or using more involved spells and incantations, or reading tarot.  Some days that means going out to the beach on the new moon and dancing to the drumbeat and fire. Some days that means setting intentions. Some days that means noticing the rainbows that come from the strategically placed prism in the window. But it always means following the way of the witch.

 

If you want to know more about it, email me or comment and I’ll be happy to share some of my favorite resources for beginning such a journey.  

 

I’m hoping the roads open even more.  I’m hoping that I get to see Raven tonight.  I’m hoping that my new acquaintance becomes more than an acquaintance, because he seems–wow.  I’m hoping that the old things pass away without me concerning myself with the insecurities of others, and that I can move forward and keep being my best self.  I’m hoping I can hold fast to Chai’s advice and do what makes me happy, taking a better road and leaving behind a dead-end sort of situation. And in many ways I don’t have to hope.  Because I have already affirmed it, chosen it, anointed it, and lit it on fire–telling The Divine that I am willing and ready to move and that I am asking for all the helps to do so.  I have yet to be denied those helps.

 

So let it be.