Mercurial

I don’t know a lot about astrology. Most of the time I don’t find it scientific or accurately reflecting my experience. Occasionally, it is eerily precise.

Today Mercury goes retrograde for three weeks. I’d like to blame this starry shift on the mess I made with a friend on Monday. I am a strong and confident communicator in many mediums. I’m even pretty good at public speaking! But throw in volatile emotions and I can turn defensive, terse, and sometimes mean. I definitely have a few things to work on. So I’m not thrilled about a major shift in the astrological sign that governs clear communication.

One wise and witchy friend of mine always reminds people when Mercury is about to go retrograde. He embraces these periods, reminding me to use caution, to go deeper with friends, allow for slow and intimate communication, to use this time period to be more intentional about how and what we communicate. Given that I am coming out of a rough month with my husband and just stuck my foot in it with a dear friend, I am taking his advice to heart much more seriously. I have three trips coming up – one over each of the next three weekends, each trip designed to strengthen a set of relationships. Any reminder to be cautious, intentional, intimate, and deep is welcome.

Beyond astrological observation, for several months now I have been honoring Hermes/Mercury/Thoth/Hermes Trismegistus on Wednesdays, his day. Greek Reconstructionists and Hermeticists may roll their eyes at my weak efforts and limited understanding. As a Gemini, ruled by Mercury, and as a person who uses the internet for much of my communication, relationships, and livelihood, I think making friends with Hermes is a good idea. It’s an unfolding relationship. I don’t know much about him, beyond basic mythology and associations. I said some prayers today mostly along the lines of “oh, please don’t let me be an ass.” (No, the words were more poetic, even if that was the gist.) Right now, I’m burning a green candle as I type this.

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In other news, I am heartened, though not satisfied, with the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act and striking down of California’s Proposition 8. In light of this news and my blog post from last week, I would like to direct you to two excellent blog posts by my wise former teacher, T Thorn Coyle.

Love Will Out and Stand for Love Both are excellent posts about love, the law, and how the current decision is only the tip of the iceberg.

My Life is a Love Story

Falling in love is easy, if mysterious. It can be as simple as a chemistry-laden kiss.  It can be as complex as seeing a girl in an orange silk dress across a crowded room and knowing that my world is about to be turned inside-out. However, growing a love that is sustainable, with healthy boundaries and joy, is the work of a lifetime. My life is a love story, and the Red Goddess is my co-author.

Love stories get a bad rap, and for good reason! Courtly tales of romance from the Middle Ages, centered around grail quests and knights and their ladies, and modern rom-coms and romance novels, seem to focus on a singular type of love and experience. Romantic love is prized above all other aspects of relationship, focuses on one person and one person only (the ever elusive One), and lasts forever. Only one other person can be our ‘missing puzzle piece.’ We are not complete humans until we’ve found our ‘other half.’ There are very clear heteronormative patterns and qualities that we must embrace in order to find True Love.

I tried to live by those tropes, but they never worked out for me. See, it turns out that I tend to be the more ‘masculine’ one in my relationships. I am the knight in shining armor. I will swoop in, love you up, and be your rock. I almost never cry, but often end up in relationship with people who do. I am a problem solver. I am bold, aggressive, firm, and enthusiastic. This can be very overwhelming for people. Especially people who are more invested in women being flighty, passive, all about gentle feelings, and in need of saving. Only once have I been swept off my feet – and it was by a teenaged baby dyke, who in the end tended more toward passivity, thus confounding our gender dynamics even more.

The gender dynamics of loving and being loved definitely confuse things. I’m married to a strong male, who the overculture insists is the knight, but all the while prefers to be the princess. Complicating this, he is the ‘pretty girl,’ the one who never thinks she’s pretty enough. I am married to a princess who wants nothing more than to be swept off her feet, but every time I try she refuses, because she thinks she’s not pretty enough. I can’t just show up in my suit of armour, I also need to be riding a unicorn, not a mere thoroughbred.

I have compassion for my husband. I have hardly any experience being the princess myself. I don’t feel safe as the princess (too many thinly veiled rape narratives in all those fairy tales, thank you very much). More importantly neither do I believe that anyone wants me as their princess. I love others as I want to be loved, and I expect little in return. I will admit this is not the healthiest dynamic.

Love is quiet, painful, intimate, tender – vulnerable. I am terrible at being vulnerable. Blogging has been one act of challenging this. I like being the one in control. I like being the knight, rather than the princess. Loving demands that I allow myself to let others see me and love me in return. It requires small acts of passivity and release, a different type of risk. That terrifies me to my core. I know that learning to let myself be loved, not just to love, is something I need to do for my continued growth. Choosing is important, but so is being chosen, by friends, by lovers, and even by the gods. These are things the Red Goddess is teaching me.

The Lovers, from the Mary-El deck. It is no surprise to me that this is also 'my' tarot card.

The Lovers, from the Mary-El deck. It is no surprise to me that this is ‘my’ tarot card.

As I embrace the Red Goddess in my life, I see that She has been singing me a siren’s song. I always assumed that to honor an indiscriminate slut would mean that I would have to be one too, so I gave Her the side-eye and backed away slowly. But as I see my own story and the choices I’ve made more clearly and honestly, I realize that my life is about love, a pouring out that is in keeping with Her desire. All of my passions, spiritual, musical and academic, have been pieces of a hunger for connection and relationship. Relationship means everything to me, and the more I understand this about myself, the more I see that this isn’t something to shy away from, but something to embrace. Loving is heroic, full of daring, bravery and action.

And love is limitless. So what happens if I fall in love with more than one person at the same time? There isn’t any model for that in medieval or modern romance tropes. When it happened to me I had to walk away from the standard map and become my own cartographer. More love means more conflict, especially when my partner is invested in the standard knight/princess motif. Envy, jealousy, scarcity of love and time – all these demons reared their ugly heads. I had to dig deep and face these demons. I also had to accept the consequences of loving someone who was unprepared to be given everything they said they wanted. I had to accept the reality of losing them. More love means the possibility of more loss. Every parent knows this fear.

There is no perfect lover, no saving Love. I don’t believe in being completed or perfected by The One, nor can I save anyone else. I am already complete. Each important relationship is a part of my own perfection and continual unfolding. My life has been a series of romances that have honed me. I haven’t been single since I was 20. I am often hard on myself about this, wondering if I am afraid to be alone.

I have realized that I need not diminish myself for the comfort of others. I don’t need to love people less intensely simply because they fear the strength of my love. I am the knight in shining armor, that is the way I love. I am writing my life like a love story. Imagine Romeo and Juliet if Romeo doesn’t climb the balcony. What if Bilbo says no to Gandalf and never leaves the Shire? Any good story is full of risks, a love story even more so. Loving is an heroic act; each time I’ve taken a risk I’ve been rewarded with adventure, love, and wisdom. I am the heroine and the knight, the lover and the beloved, of my own story.

Both Kali and the Red Goddess have shown me just how big my heart is, how full of love, how black and how bold it can be; I’m still terrified. But when I am on my deathbed and I look back on my life, I will never regret having loved. I will have written the story I wanted to read.

Maxim Monday: Foresee the future

Foresee the future. I see this in two ways.

I suspect this Maxim is relating to thinking ahead and planning wisely for what may arise. Looking ahead and making plans  are important, whether that’s for later in the week or for our 5 year plans. I am a planner by nature. I like to have at least a vague sense of where I’m headed. As I’ve gotten older I worry less about the details and more about the larger picture. To think of it in slightly different terms, I try to be more intentional about my choices and trust that the details will fall as needed. Attempting to micromanage the details often means I miss out on something far better than I could have foreseen.

I also like that this could be a plug for divination.  Many Pagans really like divination. I definitely do! I think it’s a great tool. Some people use runes, some the entrails of chickens. Me, I prefer tarot. I use tarot for many types of insight, sometimes ‘foreseeing the future,’ although not usually like most people think. Tarot doesn’t tell us the future – the future is mutable! But often times the tarot can show us likely outcomes, or things that we might not be seeing. That perspective can be invaluable.

The Moon, from the Chibi Tarot

The Moon, from the Chibi Tarot

Off the cuff, what do I see in my future? Quite a bit of fun: in the next month I have two trips to Portland and a trip to Canada planned. I see some refocusing. More reading, more writing, more meditation, more offerings, more cleaning. I foresee a new template for this blog and a new professional website for my editing and writing. I see deeper connections with old and new friends, lovers, and family. I foresee this being a fantastic summer for me.

What do you foresee?

Maxim Monday: Use time sparingly

What does this one even mean? Is this trying to tell us not to waste time? Or to try and do things efficiently, so as to spend the least amount of time on any one task?

We cannot ‘use’ time, as time is a mental construct humans have created. From what I understand, not all societies think of time or interact with it the same ways.

Sparingly means meagrely, pieced out, prudently, with restraint. How do we use time like this?

I have no idea. This one has got me stumped. Do you have any ideas?

Identity

My birthday was this week. Birthdays and anniversaries are good times to reflect on one’s life, so I’ve been thinking about the last year of my life, about the challenges and successes.

The greatest challenges for me in the last 12 months have all been relational. Since this time last year I have had a miscarriage, lost and/or ended three important friendships, survived my son being 4, and entered into the deepest of emotional depths with my husband.

The struggles with my husband have been and are intense. We raised and discarded the dreaded D word (divorce). Our lives are significantly better together than apart; we haven’t worked hard over the last 10 years to give up now. Our solution and process is uniquely our own: we are breaking up and staying together. We’re a both/and kind of family, not an either/or one. What new relationship can be born if we prune away what isn’t working? Can we let it bloom in its own way, in its own time? I am more than hopeful, I am confident that we can. I am exhausted, but grateful that he and I can not just think outside the box, but live outside it, too.

As for the friendships, I do not believe, nor desire, that they will be renewed. One of my worst recurring nightmares used to be me walking through my life and no one would talk to me. I was never able to find out what I’d done wrong (was it something I said? did I do something wrong that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to??). No one would tell me! They wouldn’t look at me, they would turn away; I was shunned. Losing my friendships has been a bit like that. A disagreement followed by absolute silence. The ladies in question could not apologize, not even to say, “I’m sorry things have ended this way, let’s work this out.” I’ve done my share of apologizing. I have realized this year that it costs me nothing to say I’m sorry when I fuck up, and fuck up I do.

In losing these friendships, painful as it’s been, I’ve also found an incredible degree of strength and freedom. My biggest fear was realized: I exposed myself and people – beautiful, amazing people – walked away. I did not die. In fact, their absence opened up space for new, amazing, beautiful people who not only can accept my quirks, but also share their own with me.

Midyear I posted about Kali’s heart surgery. I found my heart is bigger and bolder than I ever realized. I do not need the companionship of people who will not work things out with me when we disagree or hurt each other. I do not need to diminish myself for the comfort of others. I do not need to love people for both of us. I do not need to apologize for both of us. I may have known this intellectually before, but now I’ve learned it, I know it in my bones.

I feel stronger in who and what I am. I do not fit boxes all that well. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I am not a lesbian, nor am I straight. I am not a Christian, nor anything else ‘normal’ or remotely orthodox. I am an independent, queer, witch of the left hand path. I am a devotee of Kali. I am a scholar, editor, writer, singer, mother, lover and friend. I am fierce and silly, often in the same breath. I am an introvert, but I am not shy.

It feels good to stand more boldly in who I am. It feels good to know who my allies are, who I can trust, and who will is willing to go the distance with me. I am inspired to dig even more deeply into my practices, to live even more boldly in the year to come. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

(None of this is surprising when I look at the collage I made for my 2013. So far that divination is spot on, sigh.)

Practical Magic for Tough Times

There are two things, two not especially ‘magical’ things, that help me when times are tough.

The first is rest. My primary gut response to times of intense stress, physical and/or emotional, is to sleep. I become borderline narcoleptic. I can barely keep my eyes open. This happens when I’ve been processing emotional issues for maybe a little too long; it also happens to me during childbirth. When my first child was born, the midwife had to shake me and kept shouting at me, “Wake up! Hold your baby!”

This is a symptom of a deep need for rest. For quiet. For space to rest the body and let the primal part of me sort and process on its own time. It signals a need for me to replenish my reserves. I wish I could say I always chose to go to bed earlier, find more time to sit in meditation, go walking in the woods, or out for drinks with good friends. What usually happens is I numb out in front of the internet, distracting myself with online comics and reorganizing my itunes.

Rest and silence are magical in their own ways if I will make space for them.

The second magical act is cleaning. Once I’ve rested and gotten a small handle on how I’m feeling, it’s usually time to clean. Letting go of my typical standards is a healthy thing in times of stress. But there is something incredibly cathartic about wiping the grime off the stove, getting a toothbrush and scrubbing the faucets, sweeping the laundry room, essentially doing all the little things I’m likely to neglect  in my regular life. I light a sweet-smelling incense, open the doors and windows, and banish the muddle of negativity. I verbally invite in clarity.

I do the same to my physical person. I clean my insides and outsides. A haircut (I’m getting one tomorrow) and a good scrubbing down in the shower helps me shed the grime that’s accumulated on my energetic body. I make kala, sometimes formally, sometimes just standing in my kitchen with my mug of water.

Today that’s what I’m about: cleaning and kala. Kitchen sink is scrubbed. Stairs are swept. Kala has been made. Now it’s time for incense and the kitchen floor. Tomorrow I’ll bless and ward the house with splashes of salt water.

What magical (or not so magical) acts help you out when times are tough?