Of Herbs, EARTH, and Equinox

I’ve been taking an online introduction to herbalism. I’ve attempted this through other online schools before, only to drop out because the approaches were wacky. This one worked really well for me. It’s called EARTH, and it is part of a series of classes offered by Carolyn Elliott. For this class, Annie Fox and Crystal Woodling were our instructors.

Today, on the Equinox, we received our last lesson. I tore into it and pored over it. And I had to keep the phrase in mind: “Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be glad that it happened.”

I could take the time to edit what I posted in gratitude to the class’s Facebook group, but I’m not going to.  Instead, I’m going to do a direct copy and paste, and look for some key photos from the stuff I did throughout the class.

Because I thought you’d like to see me happy, for once.

Here is said FB group post:

At the risk of sounding like a bumbling idiot or a hopeless fangirl, I’m going to post this LONG brain dump here, anyway.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you Annie, Crystal, and Carolyn.
(I don’t know if anyone here knows me well enough, but I’m not one to gush with gratitude unless I absolutely mean it. So know that this is genuine.)

You all put this information into a way in which I feel I could truly grasp a firm foundation of plant medicine, and, more broadly, a different way of thinking. I knew I was in for something when the beginning of our EARTH lessons, it was said that we could learn a lot from plants in the way that they just exist. They simply ARE. And from their existence comes great medicine. That in and of itself is a tremendous lesson.

Then came the lessons learned from the plants themselves. I hadn’t realized how deep that wisdom would run until I was knee-deep in marshmallow cooling and healing so that Tulsi and Calendula could warm and brighten so that Dandelion could do some spring cleaning. And those are summaries that just scratch the surface.

Fun fact: I have been intrigued with alchemy for at least 20 years, but, until the past couple of years, it was a rather shallow infatuation. I looked at original sources, pored over books and websites with symbols and interpretations, joined (and left) a Yahoo alchemy group. There seemed to be something missing, and the information as well as many takes on them seemed stale and not quite fitting for life as I understood it.

INFLUENCE was the beginning to change that. The alchemy lesson made so much sense to me and the info presented in EARTH just took it up a few notches. I know this last lesson pointed out that the info presented is just the beginning, but I am oh-so-grateful that it is giving me the kind of foundation, understanding, and outlook with which I can go forward.

I began to tear up when I was working through the lesson and got to Rubedo, particularly this:
“We can know when we have accomplished the aims of Rubedo when we feel fully genuine and alive. When we feel a profound and vital connection to the processes of nature. When fully coagulated and incarnated, we feel a deep, palpable sense of love and joy that pervades our work, as well as a respect for the cycles of birth and death.”
OMGYAAAS THIS THIS THIS! I have friends who have rolled their eyes at me when I expressed frustration about not figuring out how I fit into this world, that I don’t feel like I found a real purpose, that I seem to be missing some sense of joy in life, and so many of them respond with things like “Purpose isn’t real,” or “Life can’t all be wondrous rainbow-farting unicorns.” Yeah, I get it…life isn’t fair, and we all need to chomp down our share of shit sandwiches, but…there should be some genuine hope? Joy? Purpose? Synchronous harmony buzzing through life? I’ve seen a person or two embody this before these classes and I’ve seen so many more since then. It gives me hope.

And ending with this:
“We encourage each of you to carry this tradition forward with your unique beauty and genius, trust in your intuition, listen to your body, and pay close attention to the language of the plants. We are the alchemists now.”

💖💖💖💖

I’m really going to miss the new lessons in this class, but I am so, so thankful for having experienced it.

Much gratitude to you all.

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What about (self-)love?

October 2018 has been a whirlwind. Lots of rehearsals and concerts, a couple of weddings, and extra time at work resulted in an insane schedule. That added to working through plenty of mental and emotional stuff as mentioned in the past two entries resulted in some moments that just about broke me. Oh, and that coupled with Seasonal Affective Disorder issues (which I sometimes refer to as “the SADs”) made some days a real picnic.

I reached a point at which all I wanted to do was sell most of my belongings, purchase the smallest and coziest cottage in the woods, quit everything, then sleep ’til death. Some people to whom I told this understood and said I needed rest. Others thought I needed therapy. When having one particularly difficult conversation with a friend, it came up that there is a serious level of self-hatred operating in me, and there always has been. It was sad. I’ve had that going on as long as I can remember. But it got so much worse over the course of the past 15-18 years or so. Letting go of the last vestiges of anything academic in my life has been a self-healing relief and a perpetuation of self-hate via constant failure, simultaneously. Balancing this out is going to be a real trick.

For the last concert done in October, we played in a small venue with art exhibited there. During the concert, when I was listening to the pieces in which I don’t play, I started to fall down a dark and depressing hole (some of the music done was lugubriously minor and plumbed the depths of its own darkness). I was feeling disconnected from my place in music, mainly because I heard some competitive achiever discussions during the break beforehand (ex: “Oh, I went to school here, here, and here. And I published a bunch of things, and I played all the various things I am mentioning now and will continue to reiterate throughout the evening, and I do all the non-related interesting edgy things, so SEE HOW SPECIAL I AM!!!”), and that kind of thing is so off-putting, it drains me in the worst possible way. I concluded that so much of my disgust in the music world has to do with that as well as the bone-dry approach to historical performance. (Or, in the rare flip-side occasion, the let’s-do-something-totally-outlandish-that-doesn’t-make-any-sense-to-possibly-engage-the-audience approach isn’t that much more appealing.) More simply, I want to put good stuff out there and have people enjoy it to the point that they are somewhat (even if only slightly) changed by it. Back in 2007, I heard Robert Barto perform a solo lute recital that was just like that.  And it was life-changing for me. I remember tearing up and being so grateful that I could experience something as beautiful as that. And I wanted to do something like that, too.

But, oh, the bullshit.

Anyway, back to the concert I was playing and attending: I started to tear up there because I didn’t know if I’d ever get to a point at which I could make peace with music. And I was on the verge of bursting into ugly-crying. So to diffuse those feels, I looked at the artwork displayed in the venue. The pieces closest to my seat had messages on them such as “You are adored.” and “You are worthy!” and I felt this tentative feeling of love and acceptance envelop me. It was like something was telling me, “Well, you’ve tried self-hatred for 44 years. Don’t you think it’s time to try a little self-love?” And my brain and whole being screamed “OMG YES! Let’s take a nap.” Yes. Okay, self-love needs to come in the form of me giving myself the rest and care it needs, even when I feel like I’m going to be ridiculed for it. My experience there was like a breaking open of the hatred to see how it’s just my Self crying out for what I need, and how desperately I need it. 43706428_10156678958771678_5370883915345035264_n

You know, in this little online coven I belong to, we did a little Samhain Witchmas gift exchange. For those who are across the pond, we gifted tarot or oracle readings. (I also crafted some cards just for a little something in the mail for my giftee. And that was so much fun for me to do.) Anyway, I did a reading for her with my Sacred Rebels Oracle deck. Normally I don’t like these kinds of decks, but one of my favorite vloggers recommended it as a tool for help with self-love and healing, and I’ve loved it so far. My giftee really loved it, too, and it was completely synchronous how some of the things in the reading that she needed to hear were also things I needed as well.

cards

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Full circle dreadfulness.

Content warning: sexual assault.

A friend of mine was sexually assaulted.

When I found out about it, I messaged her, expressed my dismay, empathized with her because I have been raped more than once, and offered to listen.

This evening I listened and empathized. I assured her she’s not ugly and worthless, but that hateful acts demonstrating power and anger in sexual assault will make one feel that way. That horrendous flashbacks will pop up all the time and traumatize on a loop setting. That you might feel like you’ll never have peaceful control of your mind again.

After our chat, I meditated. And that was good. But that worthless descriptor kept bugging me. I have had a wide range of worthlessness that I have assigned to myself through the years. Academically, I was often certain I was a waste, but often had glimmers of hope that if I’d work hard enough, I just might convince some people I’m worth something.

Then I thought about the timing of one of my experiences with rape. It was when I was overseas, researching my doctoral project. I was already doubting that I could create much of anything useful in the text part of it, which is why I gathered a vast sea of data remotely related to my topic and chipped away at creating modern editions instead. Worth was hanging on by a thread. And then I was raped.

Well, that cut the thread, of course. My head was messed up for weeks on this. But what really screwed me over was a pseudo- or non-relationship I had with the first person for whom I developed feelings. I had gotten to know him around the same time and being with him was fantastic.

And then he’d disappear for a long time. Not only that, any time we were together, we were either at his place or at some remote restaurant close to closing time. It took me forever to figure out that he had a thing for fat chicks but didn’t want anyone to know. And that this wasn’t at all a relationship, but rather a “fix” for him.

So, though I felt I experienced an awakening to love and feelings for another person (which was something I didn’t think was possible for me to do, based on my prior attempts with other people), I was merely a disposable item to him.

That threw me down a deep pit of despair and worthlessness.

With that in mind, it is no wonder the block to my project has been so complex and deep. And I am waking up now to the fact that I need not waste any more brain space and energy on this. I am worth something. No one’s actions nor their disregard will hold me down to such a low point anymore.

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The Great Letting Go.

It’s here.

I thought this might be apropos to post after the Autumnal Equinox. A few days ago, I posted on Facebook:

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May we honor the balance of darkness and light, the acknowledgment to let go when the time is right, and the understanding that everything is impermanent.

This fits life rather well at this moment. I decided to let go of a few major things, and I feel that more are on the way.

The first thing: I gave up dance because my knees hate it. I kept experiencing the same things again and again…having a few weeks off dance class, getting my knees almost back to normal, only to go back out of whack within the first five minutes of class.  There were a few weeks I could not attend leading up to a weekend full of dance workshops and dance parties and performances, and when I joined in the open dance, the first twisty move I did had wrenched out my right knee pretty far. That happened rather early in the evening, so I watched the dancing for the rest of the night (and weekend) and felt like I was attending my own dance wake. Yes, Body. I got the message. I won’t try to dance this anymore. At least, not now. But I will keep going to the gym so we might attempt to keep strengthening the muscles around my knees.

The second thing: Oh, this is so hard to admit. I have mostly given up on being able to finish my dissertation and graduate. The blocks have been numerous and diverse: at first, it was simply overwhelming to have such a broad swath of information; then, there were the years of the horrible chronic migraines and bloody nose issues that were never brought to a true medical conclusion, but I had resolved nutritionally and by the way I sleep; following that, I had various anxiety and depressive issues that linger to this day. I have, in the past, sought out psychological help, counseling, alternative therapies, as well as attempted help with editors and writing coaches, you name it, and I still have severe issues with hyperventilating and scream-crying whilst writing. And if I could get through it and make headway in improving it, that would be one thing, but it’s not. This seems to be the first thing I must admit I cannot muscle through as I had done with so many other difficult things. There are some meditative practices I have found recently that seem to help me chip away at my anxiety little by little. At the current rate, I might be at a place in which I could re-approach this project by the time I’m seventy years old. Also through those meditative processes, I have realized I have used my dissertation as a way to freeze me in place, an excuse not to make decisions, a way of showing others that I’m not completely stupid and a total failure. But if I’m putting that much emphasis on it, and I don’t really believe my finishing it will be good or worthwhile or helpful in getting any kind of job, that is already creating a terrible failure loop playing on repeat in my life, isn’t it?  What if I let go? What if I allow myself to find things in life to enjoy? What if I look at the shame square on and say, “I understand. This difficulty, this downfall, this shortcoming, this failure is part of me and my story. I embrace it as part of my story, so shame can eventually melt away and let me stand upright again”?

The third thing: my purpose on this earth is not for me to be everyone else’s polite sidekick. I am done with that.  Much of this circles around my tendency to play well with others so that I’m seen as stable, reliable, good to work with. In musical groups, it means that I do a lot of work for others on music they enjoy and I am taken advantage of and not seen as a real musician.

I feel like I’m peeling back ancient layers of desiccated flesh here. And I feel like there are some more to be removed, or, at least, rearranged (like how to create effective boundaries for unavoidable difficult people). But it is a start.

 

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Thank you, Hannah.

Recently, I watched and listened to Hannah Gadsby’s farewell show called Nanette. It was fantastic. She is so witty and funny, and she takes the audience on a tour of her life and why she can no longer offer her self-deprecating humor to us, mainly that it is humiliating to marginalized people. And there was so much that this brought up in parallel to my life.

Her whole thing about the Pride flag being garish, the big extroverted festivals not fitting her, despite that those are “her people,” that it’s hard to make a parade about the satisfying *clink* of a teacup on a saucer, that is a resounding yes for me. I consider myself bisexual who presents mostly as asexual because my turn-ons have more to do with intellect, humor, and personality (so that would further label me as sapiosexual and demisexual…but I’m also sick of the labels…), and I find the parades and festivals garish and exhausting. But I’m happy for the people who attend and enjoy them, and I think the existence of such events is important.

Then the whole thing with the uppity and misogynist art history stuff also struck a chord with me regarding historical music and Western European music history. We focus so much on the Great Man Theory and on the canon of masters that we don’t tend to address problematic issues in such figures. And yes, after realizing that one doesn’t quite fit in there, what is there to do?

Oh, but I wasn’t prepared to bawl as hard as I did when she addressed how this culture has normalized horrific treatment of women so much that assault and rape are normal. Yes, Hannah, I have experienced rape as well, and the actual events were awful, but pales in contrast to the pile of feelings that grabbed and held me for years afterward that swamped me with shame and mental arguments about the better ways I should have handled the situations. And the concept that I somehow deserved it because that’s all I was worth. Yes, Hannah, I felt that, too.

It made me realize that I need to be more honest overall with what I’ve been through and what I no longer need to put up with for the comfort of others. And I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I do know that continuing forward is the only true way ahead.

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Changes at hand.

person holding grey glitter

Photo by Amber Lamoreaux on Pexels.com

At the moment, life seems the same as it has been for quite some time. I’m working at the same place, I still have rehearsals, I’m still tired, and not much brings joy my way. But I have been taking part in a little online class that has helped my mental being in this life, and for that I am grateful. Most helpful has been this book, as well as some of the meditative practices like Brahmavihara cultivation, Deep Fear Inventories, White Flame Meditation, among others. Some really basic planetary magick is included with this, I think, more for creating the right atmosphere as well as to help find aspects within oneself that might be difficult to identify otherwise.

So far, I’ve had a few major epiphanies. Let’s see if I can adequately verbalize them.

  • So much of the root of my fears deal with choosing to be stuck to stop time. I’m trying to stop time so that I still have my mother with me for as long as possible. I think her diabetes diagnosis given a few years ago made me double down on this.
  • I also feel like so much is beyond my control, but staying torturedly stuck is the one thing I can manage. (I know that sounds absolutely stupid, but there it is.) And this is something I sorta dreamed up when I was a kid – that it would be great to be this complicated, tortured, artistic soul. Well, hey, lil’ Moni of the past: we did it! But it’s really not worth it.
  • I’ve been holding on to this with a death grip and experiencing fight or flight adrenaline stresses for most of my waking hours, in addition to regular life, and that would make anyone really fucking exhausted. When I realized that and started working through some of my fears, I decided it was best to let go of that constant fear, anxiety, and stress. And I slept so well that evening. (In general, better overall.)
  • After attending a concert that was well-performed but horribly boring, I realized my flatlining in music has to do with music and approach that has a lack of story and lack of resultant magic or excitement.  I cannot see accomplishing much of this with my current groups, so I think it’s something I’m going to have to work on trying on my own. I know that music cannot be super thrilling at all times, but it would be great to have a crumb of excitement affiliated with it here and there on occasion.

There’s this over all feel that a major shift is starting to take place. And I think I’m ready for it. I feel like all this work has been more helpful than any work I’ve done with the various therapists and modalities I’ve tried. And it’s just in the approach and phrasing; the other day I noticed that one exercise I was doing accomplished the same thing as what a therapist about twenty years ago attempted to squeeze out of me by needling me with the same painful questions that I thought I already sufficiently answered.

Looking forward to onward and upward (likely with some fuck-ups and temporary downwards thrown in there, but hey, that’s to be expected, right?).

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Of *that* age.

Well, I’m reaching *that* age, at which I need to buy ugly sensible shoes in order to walk at a normal pace. See the photo below of my goth nun shoes, as I like to call them. I wore Danskos for a long time, and they are great (and I know some of you would be quick to tell me how ugly they are, too!), but, even though the bones in my feet have settled down, they still have impossibly high insteps, and there’s only one kind of Dansko shoe that sort of accommodates them, but that is with some pain at the top of my foot. After gothnunshoesa few years of walking and running with fantastic running shoes, I decided I wanted something that would be more bearable/less painful, but that would still have the supportive footbeds of the Danskos.

I went to a shoe store that should be good with helping all kinds of feet. I told the woman working with me that I wanted black shoes with laces, not so much of a heel, but a nice strong footbed. She brought out tons of shoes. I was initially dismayed at her inability to listen to what I wanted: she didn’t bring a single pair of laced shoes, only a bunch of Mary Janes (which is the WORST thing for my feet), ballet flats (same issue), and a few pull on varieties (which didn’t get far because of my high insteps). Apparently, she did this to see what kinds of issues we’d be dealing with, so I guess that makes a little sense (kinda…). We found three kinds of shoes in the store that fit, and only these met all my needs, plus an added insert helps with the footbed quality and my overpronation issues.

They feel great. We will see how well they stand up to long rehearsals and concerts in standing in them. They were ridiculously expensive. Initially, she put on a pair just like this, only with a pewter color with black laces and trim. It was a nice contrast, but because of the extreme cost of these shoes, there is no way I can purchase two pairs of them.

I feel like grade school all over again: Here I am, wearing ugly orthopedics that no one else would be caught dead wearing. Except I don’t want my feet to be totally crippled by the time I’m 50. So, happy birthday a little early, Monica. May you walk in comfort as you keep working on helping your body get better.

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