The rawness of beauty…or creativity…or process…

Since the last entry to this page, a lot has happened.

-I was laid off from my job (caused by financial issues, not mitigated by any issues around my work).
-My grandmother’s physical and mental health tanked. So I have been helping my mother care for her.
-My landlord sold my house to someone who wanted to own the house and live there, rather than rent it out, so I needed to move.

So I am now living in my hometown full time.

Because I am not getting younger, and I’ve decided needing to work past my funeral luncheon is a poor plan, I have done an intensive course on technical writing (it’s something I think I could handle doing; I appreciate being able to work remotely, especially with helping as a caregiver here, and it would be the best pay I have ever gotten), and I’ve been applying to a lot of jobs to no avail since completing that course.

There has also been this struggle with me trying to identify if I actually like anything anymore. I try to approach anything around this topic as diplomatically as possible, though it was helpful in helping me cull the things I wanted to get rid of in my collection of stuff. I did one downsizing as I packed up to move out of Milwaukee, and one as I attempted to settle my things into the second floor of my mother’s farmhouse. I’m sick of material stuff and that helps. If I felt an extreme sense of hatred toward anything (for instance, I really want to burn my entire collection of music, at the moment), I’ve told myself I can put it on the back burner and decide in a year what I’d like to do with whatever it is.

Sometimes, I don’t sleep well. Either my brain keeps me up, my digestive system complains of a culinary misstep taken earlier in the day, or my grandmother has a night with restlessness or multiple bathroom trips. Last night was one of those nights, and I checked in to social media and I found out that an artist I knew in Indiana passed away in April, and his memorial is this weekend.

Some background: I went to Indiana because the university there seemed like a great idea on paper for me. When I got there, it wasn’t a great fit, and I got into a bad bicycle accident the first week I was there. Between real life discontentment and pain management meds, I fell into a pretty deep depression. One of the few people I chatted with on a regular basis was this guy who hung out at the Union all the time, spending most of his day drawing sketches of everything and anything. I learned that he was a professional artist who was a professor, got into a car accident in which his wife died, he was depressed and went on Prozac, which led him to make a series of really unfortunately poor choices that resulted in him being jobless, homeless, and without his large collection of artworks he created through the years. When I first met him, he was living in his car. In a few months, he got a small apartment, though he didn’t see the point of doing much of anything.

Despite all of that, music was still something he loved, something that comforted and uplifted him.

I had a hard time understanding that back at that time, and I still, to a point, feel that now.

Though, now, I wonder: is it that he was willing to face the pain in his creative interests that he was able to move forward and still find some joy in them? Is this something I should be doing, rather than avoiding it like the plague?

I had been out of touch for so long. The internet search told me of his involvement in a printmaker’s collective, as well as musical open mics, that so many people appreciated his work. And yet, there are people who made comments that showed me he was still struggling with his mental health.

It’s something that has shocked me and stuck with my brain all day, and I don’t think I’ll let go of this too easily.

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Looking back: the Pandemiversary.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media saying, “last year at this time, we had no idea what we were in for. We were just happily doping along in our mundane lives, and this hit us out of nowhere.”

Well, no. We’ve had a lot of warning signs of something like this coming our way for a while. And also, yes. Did anyone think we’d still be in this mess now?

In any case, I was reviewing all of my unlisted YouTube videos, and one of them was a general Tarot card reading about the COVID-19 situation. The audience for this was a small group of others who were pulling one card a day for perspective and meditation. It’s so funny how it hit so much deeper on so many levels. I do readings in terms of perspective, not as prediction, and in hindsight, I feel like it was pretty on, though I’d consider the Ace of Orbs to be about self-reflection, self-evaluation, particularly about how we live(d) our everyday mundane lives. I also ended it with a shallow, candy-coated platitude, “it’s going to be rough, but we’ll make it.”

There’s never such certainty. That should be lesson one. So many people have died. They did not have the luxury to make it. Businesses have closed, people have gone bankrupt. Tenants have been de-housed.

(Side note: for several years…I want to say, from 2017 until about mid-2020, all of my readings I did for myself as well as some collective readings I’ve done had the Tower card. Broadly interpreted, it can be about letting the things that no longer work for us crumble and fall to its ruin. There’s also an interpretation that there’s a lightning bolt striking the crown, almost forcibly shocking one into enlightenment or different understanding of a situation. All of this fits our current experience so well, in my mind.)

I don’t know about you, but throughout the course of this past year, I feel like I have buried so many old versions of myself.

d. 2020. Here lies Monica, the people-pleaser, Monica, the one to do everything possible to put other people at ease and in comfort at her own severe expense. Monica, the gifted musician. Monica, the smart one. Monica, the dumb one. Monica, who believed we could use society’s current setup to get back on track. Monica, who did so much extra work to demonstrate she’s absolutely not lazy. Monica, who is always on the ladder/treadmill of higher/better/faster, achieve, achieve, ACHIEVE. Monica, whose chronic challenges get in the way and hold her back from being the fake ass that others want her to be.

(And that’s the tip of the iceberg.)

This year has been about reevaluation. What the hell was I doing, driving all over the place for gigs that don’t pay enough to warrant doing so, playing music I don’t like? And while I don’t want life to be about making obscene amounts of money, I acknowledge that it’s okay for me to want and have comfort, financial cushion, perhaps moments of traveling to places of interest. What do I really like? (Answer: for the most part, not what I’ve pretended to like for most of my life.)

What is important in life?

Some of the best times over the past year have been spent either alone, making art, herbal medicines, reading, or taking a walk, but also having good conversations on Zoom, cooking good food, and sharing some time with my mom and my grandmother.

How do we make life better?

For me, I struggle with less time on social media. I am better away from it, and yet, because I currently work a 9-5 sitting in front of a computer, social media time is inevitable. (Also, there have been years in which I constructed a whole life out of my mental construct of life via social media, and that addiction is hard to keep broken.) More time in my body, walking, moving, being good to myself. Enjoying time outside when I can. (I tend to be super cold, so I’m excited that spring is coming!) Sharing what is authentically “me” with others and learning not to give a damn if they can’t handle the weirdness. Removing the wall between the Other and me to create better communication and understanding. And because I spent so much time being upset at all the awfulness in political life, I have resorted to doing what I can regarding calling Congress, signing petitions, etc., and then leaving that whole cluster and heading toward doing work that will help people as a whole. I don’t have a lot of extra money to give, but giving a little money or time to organizations helping black families in our city, donating food to food banks, offering reparations to marginalized groups, and listening and sharing more info about disability in our culture…doing those things have helped me feel like there’s a tiny bit of progress made. Your mileage may vary. But finding something that is on a grassroots level that truly helps at a local level is how we make life better for everyone.

In short, this year has helped me realize I was chasing a dangling carrot that wasn’t and isn’t there, and taking the time to reevaluate has made me take the time to treasure the important things, do the work to improve the bad things, and rest when needed. This is easier said than done, but they’re important points to keep in mind. (I also recognize that I had the privilege of having the luxuries for all this that I’m blathering on about, and for that I’m grateful. And I/we need to take that privilege and help others in any way we can.)

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Uncomplicated matters.

I am the queen of making things far more complicated than they need to be.

Having a mind that overthinks everything and chooses some topics to obsess over, I have gone through a lot of versions of the kaleidoscopic complexity I believe life to be.

And lately, I’ve been calling bullshit on that.

Disclaimer: this is about me and my personal path, my personal beliefs. If any of the things I mention that I’m discarding are things that work for you, keep working with them! We are all different.

In this year, I completed an herbal apprenticeship, as well as that I completed the beginning, intermediate, and advanced programs at the Herbal Academy. I did that in order to get more of the scientific and clinical side of herbalism. I’m glad that I did that, and I see that I fit somewhere between folk/community and clinical approaches. I shall hang out there and continue learning from the plants to see where we go from there.

I have cycled through spiritual/philosophical/occult studies. There are fascinating traditions out there, many of them complicated and rewarding its practitioners after months and years of dedicated work. That is wonderful. And after giving quite a lot of time to it, it’s also not given much (other than the perspective to be immersed in it) back to me. And I’ve had rather low energy, so I need to guard it preciously. This means my personal practice is really simple. Honoring the ancestors, animism in its most basic sense, and offering help and kindness through my actions, especially herbal consultations, offering card readings for perspective, and cooking for others. That’s it.

Health-wise, I’ve been battling some stomach issues, and based on some online support, it seems to be gastroparesis. This isn’t new…upon learning about this condition, I’m certain this is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Conventional medical care for this seems to be lacking, even with those I follow who have good health care plans and knowledgeable physicians specializing in gastroenterology. One of the folks I follow cannot seem to keep any food down, and she is quickly becoming a skin-covered skeleton. Another had a feeding tube installed in her stomach, and, while it has helped her with having a baseline of nutritional intake, she still has problems with projectile vomiting as well as saliva/bile/water vomiting. Initially, she was told that she’d have the stomach feeding tube temporarily…and now it looks like she might have it and a barfy outlook for the rest of her life.

With that and a lot of research taken from clinical studies, I’ve been working through finding some things that are helpful, and some that aren’t. It’s a trial and error thing that I need to continue working through.

Here is some of the best news, and I haven’t wanted to jinx it by being public, but I’m also pretty happy with this, so, here goes: I think I found therapy that works, that fits me, that seems to help. This is big, after having tried so many different approaches that the general public has sworn by. It’s called Subconscious Imprinting Technique. It works by finding past traumas, facing them, working through them, and letting them go. I will admit there is a bit of a “woo” factor to it, so it might not be the best fit for some, but it’s been a great fit for me. Here’s hoping for continued healing and improvement!

Otherwise: I’m still not sure of what to do with my life, and I’m not holding that over my head like an anvil until I figure it out and make life happily ever after. That’s not how it works. I’m trying to be more present and find the small joys there.

Making small, informal pieces of art is a joy, and I don’t afford myself much time doing that, mainly because it tends to take a lot of time to set it up, get into it, complete it, and clean up. But I still do what I can. Most of what I make is posted to Instagram.

Music is still touch and go. I’m recognizing that my concern about my involvement with Classical/Baroque/Historical music is pushing an already overworked Western European colonialist narrative is part of what makes me step back. And that there’s little that I honestly enjoy in the realm of music in general. So that is still a work in progress.

I will always love dance that tells a story with emotive gesture. And I feel like much of that has fallen away from current dance performances. And…I have to be careful with my own movements because the loose-jointed/hypermobile issues seem to be worsening as I age.

Rather than worrying about what kind of big artistic splash I’m going to make, or how much success I have or should have, I’m focusing on how to be kind to myself and others. How can I make life better? Take a walk in the woods? Cook a good meal for my mom and my grandmother? Learn as much as I can about the basic kind of holistic health options I can share with others, in the event that we all become uninsurable? Writing to congress and doing what I can to advocate for better policies and structures in this world? Yeah. That’s what I’m doing. And it seems like the place at which I’m supposed to be at this moment.
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Advocate – allow – adjust

I’ve been quiet, simply because I didn’t have much to say, or if I said anything, it wouldn’t have been original, or it would have seemed like a reach. Instead, I thought for a long time and have come to these conclusions, none of which are earth-shattering, but it will show you where I am (currently):

-Advocate: in the best ways we can, we need to advocate for those who are marginalized. And so many are marginalized. At this time and for the long haul, supporting Black lives in getting true equality in treatment and care is critical. It is criminal that it has taken us (I’m including myself, because, even though I considered myself an ally, I didn’t speak up and out as often as I should have in the past) this long to do the messy, uncomfortable work of facing internalized racist and otherwise hateful structures. The most effective way I’ve found to be helpful in this regard is in one-on-one conversations. They tend to be quite uncomfortable and painful for me (who is just not a “hey! Let’s talk to other people” type) and that is okay and necessary because it is needed, and it is the only possible way that some of these people will be introduced to other ways of thinking. Of course, I’ve been e-mailing, calling, etc. to voice my concerns to those in power, though I don’t know how much of a difference that does. There are social media posts, which I’ve resorted to sharing if I feel they’re informative. I know some don’t believe I’m visibly posting enough, and for that, I ask, for whom? So that fellow allies see how much I care, or so they can nod in agreement with what I post? Most of the people who need to turn around their understanding of their own inherent racism will either ignore or rebuke those posts.

And advocacy doesn’t stop there. I’ve been learning more about a lot of the horrors that Native Americans experience now, and we need to show up for them, as well. Of course, this month that is fast closing is Pride month, and we need to support GLBT+ in their battles resulting in hatefulness directed our/their way. (I feel like I more or less fit into this group, as someone who currently identifies as Asexual, but also don’t really feel like I quite fit, either, so…I never know how to address this…except, really, in all of these cases, we shouldn’t be thinking in “Other” terms, but as how we can support our fellow humans and eradicate antiquated, hate-filled attitudes.)

-Allow: So much allowing is necessary. Allow outdated systems that don’t work for us to crumble and crash down. Allow and accept that we are uncomfortable and we’re going to be in this uncomfortable place for a long time. Allow for ongoing time to learn. And allow for taking breaks to rest. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you fill yours up.

-Adjust: Recognize the myriad of adjustments needed to ever learning, ever moving forward. Adjust your thinking to realize we might not be able to grasp all the possibilities our new futures can hold. Adjust to every unexpected thing that shows up in our path. (And in 2020, there have been a LOT of unexpected things showing up for us!)

None of this is easy. All of it is messy. We need to do what we can. And chat with each other for support along the way.

My own path is still quite foggy. I have been continuing to learn about plant medicines, and I know for certain the directions I shouldn’t go, not quite sure how I will be extending this to others beyond using my knowledge to help my own health and wellness. I know my workplace is barely hanging on at the moment, and we’re going to be experiencing more cuts. And there’s not a lot out there at this time, especially for someone who is wayward with her personal direction and would like to be paid at least a little closer to her worth.

So, like you, I’m trying. A step at a time. Learn what I can. Make mistakes, learn from them, do better. Keep kindness in mind. And we’ll figure out a new way, even if we all have no idea what that way is right now.

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Cross my heart, hope to fly

I’m at the point now at which I should accept that I shouldn’t come up with a crazy series to work on unless it seems like something that I love and that I’m committed to. I’m thinking particularly about that idea that I had to play short improvisations outside whenever it moved me. Then it became and remained colder than I would like and I amended that in my mind to strike the word “outside.” Annnnd then I didn’t play and record any short improvisations.

Everyone has been going through their own weirdness during this time of isolation. I have, too, though it doesn’t seem to be solely related to the quarantined life. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I found this magic triumvirate of herbs for my mind, which addressed my anxiety, depression, and sadness. What was fascinating is that, once all that dissolved, it wasn’t like joy popped right in to fill its place. No, I was struggling with the feeling of nothing. A big old void of blankness. And prior to this herbal discovery, I was already feeling like I lacked purpose or direction or interest or whatever. That felt like the most cavernous yawning gap after anxiety and depression weren’t there, incessantly yanking me around.

Anyway, fairly recently, I had this dreadful realization: this is where I will remain if I don’t do something to change it. I had been trying so many things to help in the flavors of psychology, spirituality, physical activity, studying herbalism further, getting outside. Nothing was helping much. When I had this feeling that this everlasting vacuous dreadful nothingness was here to stay, I thought about, well, what else could I do to fix this?

For some reason, a pop album came to mind. On TikTok (yes, I’m on TikTok, as an observer, at the moment) I encountered quite a few testimonials for the album Qabalista, with one of the main perks (according to online legend, BTW, this isn’t something the creator of the album proclaimed or encouraged) being that one can lie down, listen to the whole thing, and have a trippy experience or astral projection without the psychedelic mushrooms. I thought I’d try it, but I failed because I couldn’t sit still to this kind of energetic music! I want to RUN to this!

Ah, running. I’ve been having increased hypermobile joint issues, so I haven’t been running for a while. Heaving a disappointed sigh, I gave up on the album then. But I decided to work out to it, doing a workout that focuses on alignment, lymphatic drainage, and some isometric principles. (And I do modify some parts of it because, otherwise, I’m fairly certain I’d end up completely dislocating my shoulders, and I’d need to pick up one arm off the floor with the other.)

It was such a beautiful experience.

I hadn’t enjoyed a workout like that since I was able to run on a regular basis, and I think it’s because a lot of the words fit so well into my esoteric studies. I essentially combined my meditation and simple daily ritual followed by this workout fueled by Qabalista and I felt amazing. And I was surprised, simply because there were a couple of tracks that I didn’t particularly relate to (on the musical style part of it), But especially some of the words to the song “Tiphareth” really built me up.

This also inspired me to create some more little artistic pieces in my journal. On the left side, a dark, hopeless background, with a heart that had been completely bandaged up, a few bloody spots here and there across it. (Oh, wait, pause: I should mention that I had done another heart art piece before this, and it had big tears and breaks in which music and dance resided. In the art piece, those tears were stitched together with the greenery of plants as well as gold, in a Japanese kintsugi-inspired way. I had made that a week ago. I had no idea that I’d want to make a heart series later!) I knew that the lyrics from “Tiphareth” at the beginning fit this well:

“I said goodnight for a long time…
…I was not all right.”

The most interesting part of crafting this is when I took old torn shreds of book pages and began pasting them over the heart to make the bandages. At the bottom, the words “Aber soll ich” (But should I?) showed up, and to the far left, where music and its deep wound was in my first bit of heart art, the word “Gefängnis” (prison). Yep, that about sums it up. I have been holding myself in a prison of what my life and my musical self should be, while second guessing every single aspect of what I think I *should* do with my life. Art synchronicities strike again!

Later, the song grows more hopeful, and it plays on that same kintsugi concept that I had been using in the last two art entries of my art journal.

“Light up my heart
Brighter than my dark
‘Till all my scars
Shine like stars
Cast in gold
Endless gold”

I don’t know why, but this somehow opened something up in me and helped me transmute the years of shadow work I’ve been working away on oh-so-diligently. It has been a magnificent thing to behold. I look forward to seeing what the future holds, now that I have more than a crumb of energy and that which seems like the possibility of hope. (Probably why I wrote “Cross my heart, hope to fly” at the bottom.)

Much gratitude to selki girl for this album. ⭐

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Not for everybody.

I recently concluded that intensive study of astrology is not for everyone.

I have, in the past, envied those with encyclopedic and detailed knowledge of such heavenly studies. And I wanted to try to learn more after seeing the wondrous synchronicities some medical astrologists have revealed from a simple natal chart study. Despite my long-term efforts, I had to let go.

I’ve done this in the past with studies of other disciplines. After putting in so much effort and feeling like I turn into a combustible powder keg of resentment from the lack of returns, I needed to recognize that it’s not for everybody.

In a similar vein, I’m getting more comfortable with the fact that I’m not for everybody, either. To some, my music, my artwork, my personality, my feeling that I just can’t be bothered to put up much of a façade when interacting with anyone…all of that is too weird, too awkward, too much….or, more likely, not enough.

There will always be those who don’t seem to get along.

And there are those who are out there looking for the weirdo that is you. Or me.

I guess this is a reminder to fly that freak flag without the worry of offending others. We’re not meant for everyone. But our authentic selves are needed and sought out by some.

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“Be kind” – it applies to interactions with oneself, too!

The beginning of this quarantine was beautiful. I had enough time to spend by myself and recharge. I could get a lot of things done. I didn’t have pesky BS events taking up my time. So I luxuriated at home. Sleeping in, cooking good food as slowly as I wanted.

For the most part, I still feel pretty good about it. However, there have been numerous occasions in which I learned to what severe degree that I am my worst enemy. In the first week, I noticed I reverted back to eating-disorder-in-poverty mode, consuming a breakfast smoothie and little else daily. I snapped out of that once I recognized it.

Then I realized how many restrictions I put on myself because I’m not deserving in some way or another. Even though I thought I had been good with gentle, good-for-me physical movement, I found that I’m still very much all or nothing. Because I’ve been struggling with loose joints, I either wouldn’t do much in the way of daily movement because it was too wussy or gentle to make a difference, or I’d go all in and do the hardest workout I could muster, because my fat body needed that. Clearly, I’m dealing with food and dysmorphia issues that I didn’t realize were still there.

More generally, even before the quarantine, I’ve been beating myself up over past choices. Why on earth did I ever major in music? Why did I ever think that would work? Why didn’t I go into a more stable field that wasn’t about just barely getting by?

And this does tie back in to the prior entry I wrote about being okay with just being. Some days, I love and embrace that hard. Other days, I’m less than kind with myself and I harass myself over past choices and failures.

Of course, the “be kind” advisory is especially important for us to remember when interacting with essential workers, strangers, and loved ones. But part of that is also to be kind to ourselves. It is clear I need to face a lot of internalized self-hatred and transmute it into healthier approaches. I wanted to share the beginning of this process with myself, in the event that you have found you do something similar. Be kind to yourself, too, for you’ve punished yourself for far too long.

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Reflections from quarantine.

Well, I definitely feel the uncertainty that everyone else is. How long will this last? What will financial affairs look like? Will our outdated monetary systems remain in place, or will we find better ways to function as a society and move forward?

Unlike many others, I have been reveling in being holed up by myself. Because of all this time, I’ve been able to organize, clean, cook at my leisure, and finally get the rest I have been aching for in the past couple of years. I am allowing myself to focus on only the things I want to do, like make herbal medicines, read and learn more about them, and to try my hand at drawing, painting, creating collages. It has been quite a beautiful time for me, and I wish there could be a way I could show others this kind of peace.

But I also know that I have the luxury of being at home alone, and often, one’s peace can be easily disturbed by one person, but even more so by several people. So finding some calmness, joy, and flow with interruptions and conflicts can be much more challenging. Or there are others who feel the lack of human connection so acutely that it eats away at them. And sometimes there’s the undertone from people who don’t feel like they can stand the company of themselves. So…what to do?

Because this doesn’t seem to be ending any time fast, we might need to face all the façades we slap onto ourselves, hoping we are making ourselves presentable enough for the Outside World. I’ve been going through that for at least the past two or three years, and I know that some people have found me a little more uncomfortable to deal with. I still want to be kind and compassionate, but I am tired of doing everything at my own expense. So a lot of bullshit layers had to go.

Sometimes, we might find that we don’t like the naked, vulnerable person beneath all of those masks. And sometimes, like in my case, we might not even recognize if there’s a real personality left! Good grief, was it ALL just a construct?

Perhaps. And what is further more interesting is that, at least, for me, there’s this need for simply being and living, without the stress of highly achieving. This feeling is something I’ve found embarrassing for a long time, until recently, when I concluded that having a place to live, growing a garden, working with herbs, helping others, making art, and getting plenty of rest is a lovely collection of things to bring contentment. It’s fine that it’s not peppered with millions of dollars, or academic accolades, or some kind of fame. It’s okay to just be.

If you find yourself highly driven to do all the things, that’s okay, too. But if you feel like you are dragging around a carcass with only an iota of life left in it to do all the things because you have to prove something to the world, maybe it’s time you step back and reflect on why.

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Healing is not linear.

That bears repeating:
Healing is NOT linear.

I’m currently experiencing the perfect example. The first health issue I worked on in my herbal apprenticeship was my stomach. For my whole life, my stomach has been fussy enough for me to warrant naming it “Princess.” Princess really doesn’t like much, but she LOVES to HATE things and throw a fit if faced with needing to digest them. Meat? WTF, Monica?!? I guess I’ll just hold onto this crap for five days, let it rot, give you some smelly sewer burps, and then at the most inopportune time, you will need to vomit your eyeballs out. Cooked tomatoes will do that, too! Other stuff like cheese is mighty tasty, but it’s going to kick that normal-for-me pain up a couple of notches. And, oh, some of this will be standard info, and I’ll also surprise you with sickness and pain from things you thought were safe. HAH!

Anyway, I had pain, some strange abdominal swelling, back in 2017 I had a dime-sized ulcer, which the gastroenterologist thought would be best managed with a lifetime of omeprazole. While I was grateful that my ulcer healed, my digestion never seemed quite right. It wasn’t until I had made holistic healing important, taking Marshmallow Root cold infusions, regularly drinking nourishing hot overnight infusions with Nettle, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Comfrey, as well as decoctions of roots like Burdock, Dandelion, and Astragalus. Also being extremely careful in what I was consuming…all of that helped. The final piece was to add some gently warming herbs like Meadowsweet and Ashwagandha and some bitters. I remember how excited I was to feel what it was like to have a stomach that simply digested food, the way that it should, the way that millions of people experience it every day. I had that experience fairly recently, in my mid-40s.

Then I wanted to improve hormonal issues. I’ve always had heavy periods, some accompanied with debilitating pain. Taking Vitex regularly has helped greatly, as well as a Beth root tincture.

For my mental/psychological health, I have found some helpful allies. Milky Oats tincture has been aiding me in being able to stand myself for quite some time, and the real find(s) I’ve encountered is this triumvirate of herbs that seem to be critical for me:
Blue Vervain, Wood Betony, and Linden. The combination of these three brings a beautiful blend of dissolving tension and anxiety, uplifting one’s mood from a funk, and also encouraging better brain and stomach health. It is absolutely what I needed, as a stressed-out pile of sadness.

As far as I’ve read thus far, these herbs are not to be taken when pregnant, and Linden shouldn’t be taken with iron-rich foods, as it may inhibit absorption of iron. But I have been using small doses of the three herbs in a tea before bed. It is bitter, perhaps, it wouldn’t be your most favorite-tasting tea, but I feel it has helped my brain get into a better balanced place, with wonderfully restful sleep to boot. That in and of itself makes me feel like a new person!

I should note that these statements were not evaluated by the FDA, and that this isn’t meant to diagnose, treat, or cure.

This is simply my anecdotal experience that I have had with these plant medicines.

Okay, but, back to healing is not linear: I had a BAD stomach week this past week. I started it by consuming chips and salsa. (I know, stupid move, but, HEY! I was hungry, and I was at a family gathering with not a lot for me to eat, there, so, yeah, salsa was consumed.) I had a couple of other things throughout the week that were borderline. I felt one part of my abdomen swell and my stomach started going back to its old ways, and oh, that’s not good. I was thinking I could handle the salsa, because there were a few times I’ve had bad-or-borderline-for-me foods, and Princess wasn’t happy, but after a bit of a small fit, she got over it. Not so in this instance.

But I’m working my way back to having that awesomely-functioning stomach, because I know it’s possible. It’s just going to take time. And maybe now I shall learn that cooked tomatoes really are terrible for me? Yeah.

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Of endings, beginnings, and ludicrousness.

IMG_0097Long time, no blog. Let’s fix that. 🙂

I feel like there’s a whole lot of nothing and everything that has happened since the last time I posted on this page.  Here’s my attempt at an efficient summation:

– I had to give up running for a while, both because I have to be careful with my joints, and because winter came and I ended up being too much of a fair-weather person to go outside. This made me realize how important jogging is to my brain, even if I was slow-going and battling my hypermobile issues, because The Brain got to be a dark place. I’m sure Seasonal Affective Disorder and low vitamin D didn’t help.

Eventually, upon reading someone on Facebook muse aloud that they had been experiencing strong disassociative issues, and someone else thought that was a hallmark of critically low vitamin D, I tried upping my intake and that made a difference.

-I am almost through my herbal apprenticeship. It was mainly quite good, especially initially, for one-on-one work in dealing with stomach and hormonal issues. For that, I am grateful. I was disappointed in the private discussion group, as it was totally dead in there, and I hoped to have conversations as lively as they were on the original beginner plant medicine group. The difference, though, is that there are hundreds of people, at least 10-20 who are talkative in the beginner group, and less than 15 in the apprenticeship group, most of whom hardly post. I know that many of them have been involved in other classes, trainings, and intensives at the same time, so they probably didn’t have time to post anything, and I think I am likely the only one with a job at which I’m chained to a desk with computer for 8 hours a day, so there’s that. Oh, AND! I feel like I found a wonderful formula of herbs to help with anxiety, stress, depression, and to encourage restorative sleep! I will write a separate post about that.

-I have been doing a lot of work on myself, psychologically/philosophically/spiritually, particularly through shadow work approaches. Some of it has been helpful, and I’m thankful for the introduction to the various techniques I’ve learned. And some of it simply doesn’t resonate with me. A while back, I pared everything way back into blissful simplicity, and, yet so many things creep back in. I’m realizing that I need to recommit to that kind of simplicity and set effective boundaries for those things that don’t serve me or seem to create unnecessary work.

-I have been genuinely drawn to a lot of associations with death. Some find this scary or morbid, but I have been looking at it in a myriad of ways. Interest in the work of being a death doula, learning about the devotion to Santa Muerte (a beautiful contrast to Tonantzin – think Great Mother of All), and finding the concept of starting an informal recording series in local cemeteries alluring. I know that my reading audience might read that and think I’ve lost it, completely, but let me tell you what I’ve gotten from all this. Death doula-ing really shows care, attention, and appreciation in change, transition, suffering, and letting go. Studying the devotion to Santa Muerte shows me a level of acceptance and nonduality (because it’s often said that Death is not picky and accepts all…that is why she has been popular with the poor, the imprisoned, and some parts of Mexicana/o/x LGBTQIA. And because there’s a sense of acceptance of our whole selves…the light, the shadow, the living, the dying, the changing. I feel I should say that traditional devotees would not classify me as being one of them, but one who appreciates the concept and has learned much from her).

-Let me give the playing-in-cemeteries thing its own bullet point. (If you are curious to listen to this, here’s that link. Here’s what I wrote elsewhere about it:

…For some reason, I’ve been feeling really drawn to playing in cemeteries. I’ve been waiting until it’s warmer outside. Sunday was definitely the day, as it got about 50 degrees Fahrenheit here.

I went into this one cemetery I felt I needed to begin with. My plan was to record this in the little chapel there. So I wandered around the place with hundreds of closely-dug plots, eventually getting to Chapel Hill. The initial way I found to go up had rickety stairs for two-thirds of the way up, and the rest of the ascent was a muddy hill. I made it to the top only to find the chapel was locked. Of course, it was then that I found a paved path that wound its way down the backside of that hill.

I couldn’t find any indoor places to play. So I found this little crypt (pictured) and stood next to it to play through my little improvised tune once, recording it. I took it home, added a little reverb, as well as a minimalist second track to accompany it, and here it is.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this experience. Because of all the running around and still needing to play outside, I was less than enthused, and there were a lot of pockets of strange swampy energy in this cemetery. (I mean, it was initially a place for war soldiers to take their final rest.) So I thought, maybe I should be looking more for, like, cave structures. (And then I thought about how I’d likely piss off the things living in the caves and thought again.)

But today, as I was putting this together for Soundcloud, I felt like I got it: it’s not just about cemeteries, or caves, or whatever. It’s about going to the spaces I’m drawn to and playing there to encourage some kind of peace, healing, and harmony of the land, of unsettled spirits, of ancestors, and of the living. And I feel like the groundedness of my work with plants has been leading me to do this kind of thing.

So thank you, plants. We shall see where this takes us.

(I realize, again, this might seem a bit “woo” for some of you. Even if you think I’m nuts for running around and recording short, mediocre improvs outdoors, know that this is the first time in a long while in which I feel connected to and appreciative of music in my life, rather than feeling like it’s some elephant sitting on my chest trying to kill me. It is leading me back to a place of music and emotion, a safe place of learning to embrace imperfection and offering it out there for anyone who might care.)

-Addressing the ludicrous in life: of course, I could be referring to our current political catastrophe, and, yes, I do think that is a total shart show (yep, shart! There’s too much noisy hot air flying around with all that shit), I’m also thinking about, I don’t know, so much in life. Take this thought, for instance: why do you do/say/post what you do?

If I’m being honest, here, for a long time, much of what I posted on social media was to
-show how funny I am
-show how smart I am
-demonstrate how edgy or progressive I am
-to show my readers how worthy I am of their attention
-to beg for some kind of affirming response from my readers

When I took all that away, I realized that I was, essentially, a construct of my imagination. So if I’m not that, what am I? How much of that do I need to put out there?

The answer is I am what I am, and I don’t have to put a damn thing out if I don’t want to. Or I can put out a ton of stuff, if I’d like. Or something in between.

So all of this has brought me to realize the need to avoid unnecessary drama, maybe less social media time (I’ve been better than I was in past years, but always room for improvement!), and being my authentic self.  In this vein, I’m going to keep playing with the Harmony recording series, continue my herbal studies (mostly on my own, though, after attempting test-runs of working with clients, I think I would feel better if I rounded out my knowledge with some clinical herbal info), and see where that takes me.

It feels like now is the time for a massive spring cleaning, both in cleaning out my physical living space, as well as tidying up all other aspects of my life. Sometimes it’s a little daunting, but I’m feeling good about it.

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