Musings From the Dark: Did 2017 Exhaust You Too?
I love the dark. I also love the dark of the year. I live – on purpose – in a place that has no streetlights, no traffic lights, and no security lights. When my neighbors, who I can barely see, leave their porch light on, I am tempted to shoot it out. Until I moved up here almost fourteen years ago, I had forgotten the stars are so bright. I had forgotten that “The Sound of Silence” is not just a song, but a reality.
The dark of the year gives me time to regroup from achieving, producing, and aggressing on success in any kind of meaningful way. I go into the dark and I close my door and it has never been more so than this year.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” Charles Dickens
It was a dark, dark time…even in the spring
What I am trying to say is that if this year lay upon a couch and let a qualified professional run through the DSM with a fine-toothed comb to find the perfect diagnosis, it would likely be bi-polar with schizophrenic tendencies and borderline personality disorder manifesting in self-destructive and sociopathic behaviors. There were super highs and super lows and rarely any in-between times. This year was whack. I cannot help but wonder what it will be when we come out of the dark and into the light of spring.
My life coming out of 2017 is like night and day from what it was going into it. After three years of running the shop, running a circle, co-directing major festivals, creating new products for the shop, and marketing, marketing, marketing…my life is now very quiet.
What keeps ringing in my ears when I think of 2017 is the question the Goddess asked of me as I went into my third level trials twenty-five years ago when I was working a different spiritual tradition: “Will you sacrifice everything for a promise of nothing?” My answer at the time was, “Uh..no, that would be stupid, wouldn’t it?” If you want the full effect, insert some nervous laughter into that reply.
When She asked me that mystical question way back then and I resisted (appropriately, I thought), I lost my marriage, my home, my job, most of my friends, and very nearly, my sanity.
In 2017, I guess it was that time again. When Her question came back around again, I hoped to rack up less damage with a better answer.
From recluse to reluctant public person
For most of the past twenty years, I have been a hermit. Twenty years ago, I worked full-time Air Force Civil Service as a telephone operator. I was “McClellan AFB Operator 12.” I loved my job, but the hours were terrible. I had the graveyard shift and got all of the drunks who thought they saw a UFO, interlaced with lonnnnng periods of no calls at 2:00 am and 4:00 am. I did not socialize, so really, even when I worked full time, I was still a hermit.
<== See? That’s me, twenty years ago.
As the base closed down, as so many have, we were cattle-chuted into other jobs. I became a HAZMAT professional, which meant I typed out waste stream allocation forms for various hazardous materials. It was absolutely as riveting as it sounds. At that time, I had a five-year-old and a newborn, as well as three teens who were 19, 17, and 15. After a long discussion, Eric and I decided that I would not look for another job when the base closed and would instead become – for the first time in my life – a stay-at-home mom.
This year, my youngest child turned 18, graduated, and got a job that he loves. He is the only one of six who is still at home and he is very independent and successful. He doesn’t really need me for much and really, isn’t that what you work towards with your children? I had my first baby in 1978, so I have been raising kids for almost forty years. My grandsons are now almost the same age my oldest kids were twenty years ago. It’s funny how we give ourselves labels and when they are gone, we hardly know who we are.
Books forced me to be social
In 2013, I published my first book. How did I do it? In January 2013, I booked an author appearance at a local festival…for a book that was not written and did not exist except in my head. By the time the festival happened in June of 2013, I had written three books. By the end of 2013, I had thirteen books published. Energy Magic, my first book, which I wrote with Eric, hung out at the #1 bestseller position on the Neopagan category of Kindle for a ton of weeks. It is still one of my favorites.
After that, I routinely did author appearances at local festivals and at Pantheacon in San Jose, CA. Over this time, I went more and more out into actual public. Eventually, it got so that most of my days, I spent with someone else and it was a luxury to have a day at home. I was hardly a recluse anymore. There years ago, I opened my little shop and that was such a blessing. I got to help people every week and to learn what it truly means to be in service to the Goddess. I learned what it is like to have healing energy flow through me to benefit another person. I learned what it is like to empower products that will assist others on their magical path and to be unafraid of putting my energy “out there” for others to use.
After almost four years of self-publishing books and online journalism, 2017 was the year I contracted a book with Llewellyn Worldwide this year and turned in the completed manuscript this past October. That will be my thirty-sixth (I think – I lost count) book to publish. Number thirty-five, Lily of Avalon, will release early 2018. I never, ever thought I would go with a traditional publisher when I have been successful with self-publishing. Mostly, I wanted “new eyes” on my work and the push of someone who might better know what they are doing involved in the direction my career takes next.
When someone asks if you’re a god…
Eventually, I mastered at least some of the lessons that the Feminine Divine chose to send my way and I learned the “correct” answers to give. It took time and a lot of hit and miss.
Beltane, May 1, 2017, brought the start of the whole “Will you sacrifice everything for a promise of nothing?” bullshit around again. I thought we were through that. When She asked me twenty-five years earlier, I declined, and She took the sacrifice anyway…with a major vig on top. This time, I was ready. Hell, I’d seen “Ghostbusters.”
I was prepping our permanent circle out back for the Beltane ceremony and as I was doing so, I had the sudden, unsolicited, unexpected knowledge that I was doing this for the last time.
What?? I actually said it aloud. “WHAT?!”
I had a thriving, growing, vibrant circle. Eric and I were in our 20th year of running the circle together. Why would this be our last ritual? Why would I even think that?
I all but felt the *thump* on the back of my head and “I SAID…”
Like I pointed out earlier, I have learned that there are right and wrong answers when the Goddess asks you questions. She already knows the answers you should give. She just wants to see if you will give the right answer. There are no explanations good enough for why you should do something different from what She tells you. Her reply to any arguments will always be the same, “Girl, that’s ego talking.”
But my circle needs me! (“Girl, that’s ego talking.”)
But my seconds-in-command aren’t ready yet! (“Girl, that’s ego talking.”)
But what will I be without my circle? (“Girl, that’s ego talking.”)
But how will I have a place in the community without a circle? (“Girl, that’s ego talking.”)
Demonstrating that I can, in fact, be trained, before the day was over, I consulted with Eric and with the Inner Court of the circle. It was agreed on the spot that my seconds-in-command would take the circle, although it was not announced until weeks later.
And so, just like that, my circle went away. And yet another one of my labels in the world was gone.
As time went on, the circle membership struggled with authority whenever Eric and I were present for the rituals and the new leaders were hosting, so we stepped away from attendance and then the circle was really gone. Samhain was our last attended circle with our group, to serve an overall greatest good. Now my circle is truly gone.
I said “give up everything,” so more please
When early October 2017 came around, I had a vibrant little shop that was growing in profit every year. I had regular clients who came in often and were and are dear to me. Earlier in the year, Eric wondered if I wanted to continue “doing” the shop since it took up our every single weekend. He knew that above and beyond the profit, my work at the shop fed something important in me. Of course, I wanted to continue, but I told him I would make a final decisions at Samhain when endings happen.
To his credit, Eric, the business graduate who owns his own successful solar installation company, never once said, “Maybe we should look at the numbers and calculate percentage of profit increase over the past three years.” He never said, “You venue is struggling due to poor management decisions that were out of your control.” He never said, “I am confident you could build the online sales if you had more time to devote to marketing and building out the site better without the distraction of the shop.” He let the decision in every way be mine and once the Llewellyn contract came along, I knew that I would need the weekend time free to travel and promote the book. I knew that what I was making at the storefront was not worth the amount of time I was investing into it and what I was sacrificing to do it. I never got to go to a birthday party, a wedding, or any other event. They are always on weekends and we worked long hours on weekends.
Within two weeks, the shop was closed, cleaned out, and relocated to various storage areas on my home property. We are now an online and festival business only. (www.gringabruja.com and www.twosistersbotanica.com)
Within months, I wasn’t a mom anymore, except in that remote, distant, parent-of-adults way. I wasn’t a circle leader anymore. I wasn’t a shop owner or hands-on bruja anymore. My three primarily labels were gone. All in 2017.
The way people is
When you are no longer positioned to do the same things for them that you did before, people tend to go away. It is the rare gem of a friend who sticks around after your ability to give to them on a regular basis diminishes.
Friends hurt me this year, I won’t lie. I lost a lot more than I expected. I released with open arms and when She asked me again if I would give up everything for a promise of nothing, this time, I said, “Sure thing, Ma’am.”
I have seen the worst of people’s behavior this year, as have most of you on both a global and a personal scale. I had times when I was really struggling and needed help, needed compassion, needed friendship, and it just was not there. I had times when I felt lost and sad and yep, I was alone. But this year taught me to stand alone without the help I grew accustomed to having and without the warmth and friendship that I had comforted myself with for many years after I stepped into the public arena again.
One person who I thought was my friend became disillusioned with me because she said I, “became a human right before [her] eyes.” After that, she was done with me. I had no idea where to put that, but it told me a lot about what needed to change in my life and the strength of commitment I needed from people moving forward. I could not live in a world where I could not be human, could not be fallible, could not feel, could not react in anyway other than within the capacity others prescribed for me.
When I first became an acting High Priestess, my mentor told me, “In order to channel down the Goddess effectively, every female gendered person in your circle should want to be you and every male gendered person in your circle should want to be with you.” I thought that was a pretty tall order to fill, but as the years went on, I realized how many people wanted the High Priestess and not the woman, not the real person, and certainly not the human. The High Priestess gives of herself, but the human, the real person, the woman has needs. She is flawed and vulnerable and while she does the best she can, ultimately, that will never be enough. This is why you see so many circle leaders eventually walk away.
The one person who was there through everything was Eric and he was my rock this year. I could not have asked for better support. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this year and did it big time. There is so very much politically, socially, and personally where he and I are on absolute opposite ends of the stick and that has caused more than one issue between us, as well as his lack of filter. I spent twenty years working hard to get him to believe that there is there is good in everyone, that he has to be more empathetic, has to make room for the view of others, has to be more compassionate. This year, I threw in the towel and said, “You know, you are right. Some people are just assholes.” Despite how different he and I are as people, he was there every step of the way.
He asked me where I wanted to go for our 20th anniversary celebration and I said I wanted to go back to Scotland and the UK, so we flew over, rented a car, and drove all over the UK. We saw and did so much in just 10 days and it was an amazing experience. By the time we came back, I had found my peace with what I released. If you want to see a narrative and photo account of our trip, it is here.
Into the dark
As this year closes and we head into the dark of the year, I am reminded of a question a friend (one of my real ones who stuck around) who recently asked me. “If you could have any job and do anything you wanted in this world, forgetting about money, forgetting about fame, forgetting about everything except what you want, what would that be?”
I thought about it longer than I should have. My answer was: “I would spend my days in my little house in the mountains and write my books, teach classes now and then, and work a few festivals.”
As it turns out, that is exactly where I am. All of that loss, all of the ego struggle, all of the “giving up everything for a promise of nothing” brought me to exactly where I wanted to be and as we head toward the dark, I am at peace.
I may have lost ways that I defined myself in the world from an ego perspective, but I gained a far greater understanding of who I truly am and who will be there for me and who will not. You learn exactly who your friends are when they are with you because they want to be and not because you can do something for them. I found a new definition of friendship this year. I got to see who can allow me to be human and having feelings and frailties and who only wants the High Priestess.
So going into the darkness, I melt into the blackness of the Winter without grief or sorrow, but with gratitude and willingness. I open myself to what comes next and surrender to whatever manifest destiny the Goddess has in store. But man, this year was just exhausting.