Stop Spanking the Monkey
Well folks, it has been one hell of a ride this year and I have to admit, my typically optimistic and grateful approach to life has taken quite a beating. I came through it, or at least I came this far through it, but sometimes, it was only by the skin of my teeth.
I had a really horrible year in 2009, not to mention very painful divorces in 1992 and 1996 (same husband – Paul, not Eric) and I was not sure anything could ever top those three years for just beating a person down to to their bare bones, powdering down their viscera, and then snorting it up the nose of fate. This year went above and beyond and managed to skewer just about every insecurity I have ever had to the wall and spend a good bit of time bashing it with a hammer, throwing water on it so it would wake up again, and then bashing it some more. Did I mention I had a tough year?
After struggling with the idea, I made this a year of servitude, working hard to tune into what the people around me needed and to be that to the best of my ability. Some of the input I received prior to this decision led me to conclude that I might be a selfish person and that I was too invested in what I wanted to do and was fairly oblivious to the needs of others. That being the case, I figured I could take several months and just give over to the process of giving.
It was not 100%, that is for sure. I struggled mightily with it at times and learned a lot about myself, as well as about the people I love. Of course, the hardest work came during the Harvest season, which began August 1st. I became very reticent and docile, working hard to listen and understand; to know and accept motives and desires of others. It was an interesting experiment and I will call it a success, but it is not where I belong for the long term and, in fact, I feel safe in saying it is not where anyone belongs for the long term.
I worked hard to take a breath and smile or, if I felt rebellion welling up in me, to step aside if I could and breathe my way through it. If there was any chance I was so self-involved that I could no longer see the ways I needed to help, I wanted to know.
Kwan Yin is a beautiful East Asian Goddess of Compassion and Mercy. I never really related to her and, in fact, always winced a bit whenever she came up. In addition to other beautiful mythologies, Kwan Yin stands outside the gates of Heaven and will not enter until all of her children are safely inside. I had to become Kwan Yin.
I am at a time when most of my mothering is behind me and it was a very long stretch of mothering. I have mothered a total of three magical circles of people, even though my priestess style is not always nurturing. I started caring for my mother’s children when I was ten-years-old due to my mother’s illnesses. I have six beautiful children of my own born between January of 1978 and September of 1999. The youngest two are now teenagers and very independent. I was sometimes a good mom and sometimes a terrible mom. I tried to give my best at all times, but that was often far from enough (really far).
My current husband of seventeen years said of me before we married, “Katrina, you are the most capable woman I know.” That is how the past twenty years have felt to me. I am “capable,” which implies “utilitarian,” “useful,” and “handy,” sort of like a vacuum cleaner.
Both of my husbands, one of whom I married twice, have admitted to me that a good bit of what attracted them to me is that I loved them so very much. I love deeply and with my whole heart, unconditionally, and profoundly. As Eric recently said, “That can be intoxicating.” The flip side to love and “capability” being the currency you bring to a relationship is that when you turn inward and/or do not feel like being productive or loving, your worth plummets. If you’re beautiful or you make a great deal of money, you have those attributes to fall back onto during the darker moments. When you do not have either of those attributes, things can get really dicey.
The struggles I felt this year were less about opening myself to the needs of others and being aware of the spaces I needed to fill in their lives, but about establishing my own worth within myself rather than through the value system of others. I have not yet mastered that, but it is a work in progress. We always want our family and loved ones to think well of us and when they do not, if we trust their opinions, there is no recourse but to question ourselves mightily to evaluate the truth of their impressions. Anyone who is truly self-aware and working toward self-actualization must be open to the reality of their own flaws and challenges and consider how to manage that knowledge when it comes, even if the delivery of that information comes in a hurtful package.
It is very challenging to look beyond painful things that are said to see the true message and that was a task I had to face frequently this year. I cannot count the number of times I had to pull back from a horribly smarting ego and say, “Wait…this is important…what’s here for me? What do I need to hear?”
I said, “Fine, OK, I can do that” far more often than I wanted to. “I hear you.” “I will work on that.” Almost a year, a year, a year and it very nearly wrecked me and several relationships, but I believe it is either finalized or almost finalized.
I have a few close friends who comforted me during this time, who let me rant and purge and clean out the energy that built up from wanting to scream a good bit of the time. They talked me through some of the more difficult mountains I had to climb and I began to realize where this all was heading when my wonderful Witch sister, Jeannette, sat me in a chair under which rested a gigantic rose quartz (self-esteem stone) and said, “I am just afraid you are going to lose yourself in all this.”
I felt her words come over me and the response I gave her was more channeled than considered, “I am not losing myself. I am finding myself.”
And so it was.
For as difficult as it was to turn over my will and my better judgement to other people, in doing so, I became far more aware of who I truly am.
When I was a child, “Bewitched” was my very favorite TV show. In fact, I would wager a guess that Samantha Stevens was a big part of why I became a Witch in the first place. There was an episode in which Darrin was, bless his heart, under yet another spell that had nothing to do with Samantha directly. He was always stumbling afoul of some Witch or another and in this case, it was Endora, Samantha’s mother, who did not like an ultimatum Darrin issued and cast a spell that he would turn into a mouse at midnight. She looked into the specifics of countering such a spell and learned that she must do some pretty far out things:
To void the spell, the subject tries to touch a buffalo between the eyes.
Next, while underwater he must drink a potion given thee.
To the last of the three, listen and hark. He must fly over water by day in the dark.
She had to do all of these things without using Witchcraft and without Darrin knowing she was doing them. In the thirty minutes minus commercial time of the sitcom, Samantha managed to do all three and prevent Darrin from becoming anymore of a mouse than he already was. Each time she successfully accomplished one of the tasks, she would hear a bell.
That is where I feel like I have been. It is as though I had a series of tasks to complete and when I was successful, I would receive a sign that I’d made the grade.
Some of this was deliberate and planned and more than one of my friends pulled me aside and said, “Who are you and what have you done with Katrina and why are you being such a damned doormat?” Sometimes, what I went through was so experiential that I didn’t even realize I was in it until it was over, so I had to find my way in the dark without understanding it was actually part of the testing.
There is a reason why Samantha drank…a lot.
By the time actual Harvest rolled around and I was fully immersed in the lessons and the exercises that went along with them, I was almost in a chrysalis state. I wanted to sleep all the time and I felt numb. I was the walking testament of “Thank you, Sir, may I have another.”
In October 2013, I told Eric that within a year, I would participate in a 5K marathon. I did it in November 2013, only a month later, and it took me so long that I do not even know what my actual time was; only that the others finished long before me and were very ready to go home by the time I got across the finish line. Since that time, I have logged in miles and miles, both walking quickly and running. I only started charting my progress in April and there were several times that I missed charting, but of the times I did officially log, I got in 115.09 miles, 41.03 hours, and burned 28,949 calories. When I began this progress, I could not walk even a half mile without tremendous pain from my sciatica, which is now completely gone. Many thanks to Andrea Stephenson for the time she spent with me on the long trail into the woods. I am now grounded for the winter. A change in running shoes caused a terrible flare up of plantar fasciitis that I cannot seem to beat. Every time I go out on the trail, I come home in tremendous pain that worsens for hours afterward, so I have stopped for the time being.
I spent a month on whole30.com‘s eating plan. It was very beneficial and has become my primary eating plan, however, I do not believe it was a good time to give up my comfort foods. With this, I still struggle.
My weight loss during this year was not as much as I hoped, although I am stronger and healthier now. The pain in my foot is actually more constant than was my sciatica, but I trust it will get better and I believed my sciatica was there to stay. Eric is profoundly disappointed in what he perceives as my lack of success and I do feel for him in that regard. He has a particular body image he wants for me and I knew that when we married. It is not an unreasonable body image. As he puts it, “I just don’t want to always have the fattest wife in the room.” He wants what he wants and thus far, despite a year of tuning into the needs of others, I have been unable to provide that for him.
Just before the plantar fasciitis grounded me, I had three different times when the image of the Venus of Willendorf (left) came to me unsolicited. In the first case, a dear Druid friend was clearing out some of her items and offered some Goddess statues to me. She was among them. During a divination session with a sister Witch, I was working with Amulets of the Goddess and the Venus of Willendorf was the amulet I drew. Lastly, another sister Witch gave me a beautiful Venus of Willendorf pendant. She just kept showing up and although I have not worked with her before, I honor her because her body is shaped exactly like mine, which is why I could always honestly say that I have the body of a Goddess.
I took this to mean that I need to be more accepting of my body and learn to love it rather than fighting to achieve a different body image. This does not mean I will stop exercising (although as I said, running or walking is out for a bit) or that I will begin gorging on unhealthy foods. It means that I have to do what I do, but love and accept myself. I have to embrace the Goddess that is alive inside me and love Her, fat and all, regardless of the way other people feel about how I look. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about their thoughts and feelings, but that I have to also process through my own feelings of shame and failure and come out the other side to acceptance and forgiveness even if they cannot. I also have to be at peace with whatever reaction comes from them about that.
Although royalties of my books used to provide an adequate income for my end of the family finances, in Spring, that plummeted to around 1/3 of their previous income, so I have spent the intervening time trying to find other means to contribute and honestly, with very little luck. Although I will continue to write, I am branching out into my other love, which is teaching. I attempted to set up classes local to me, but hit obstacles that I have yet to find my way around, so I have committed to teaching classes in Sacramento, which is around 90 away one way. It will be what it will be, but my hope is that it is a success. I am also fleshing out online classes at www.witchyschool.com.
This has become a matter of turning over every stone and searching vigorously for my own financial security. I tried several “work at home” jobs and none proved lucrative enough to invest my time into with any expectation of return. I applied for traditional jobs with no luck. Because I left the traditional work force when McClellan Air Force Base closed in 1998 (I was a civilian employee there), I have a decade and a half of only self-employment for my work history. The Air Force and the United State Postal Service has managed to lose my employment records of almost twenty years of non-appropriate funds and civil service employment. The Air Force sent my records to the post office when I worked for them for a few days several years back and the post office swears they were returned to the Air Force and no one can find them. When I delivered the mail, I was subcontracted under Eric’s contract, so my name was never official. I worked as Post Master Relief for a few days before learning that I would only be called to work a scant few days a year, so I resigned from that job and sometime after that is when my records disappeared. Nevertheless, I dusted off my resume and added on what needed to be added and put it out there into the world, then listened to the crickets chirp and awaited my marching orders from the Universe.
When school started in August, I became aggressive with my son’s school work, investing hours a day into making certain he knew what assignments were due when and keeping him focused. The lack of support from his school was disappointing, but after several frustrating interactions, I realized he and I were truly on our own and had to find a way to make this work. He has only this week really started to kick it into gear and of course, that is the week that Dad stepped into help, so the credit is not mine, but theirs, despite the time invested. I have to be comfortable with that and let it roll off because taking time to feel butthurt over it only contaminates the spirit and there is plenty of sludge in there trying to take hold already.
A good bit of this energy all culminated on Monday, October 27th, when I had to take my dog, JoBu, to the vet. Jeannette went with me and I pretty much knew what the end result would be. I left. JoBu did not. I held him while he slipped away from us. I rubbed his ears and told him he was a good dog and I loved him. I thanked him for letting me be his mom. By a miracle, I found him under Eric’s truck when he was still wet and his cord was still attached. That was September 7, 2005. I bottle fed him and cared for him and he was my faithful companion. We ended up with two of his sisters/littermates as well. A lovely little white lab neighborhood stray had the puppies and left them for us. The girls came after they weaned, but JoBu had my heart. After he died, I drove to the WalMart parking lot, bought paper towels and hydrogen peroxide, and scrubbed the blood out of the back of my car and sobbed. I am surprised I was not arrested.
As I midwifed JoBu to the great beyond, I knew it was part of my croning. My time as Mother and as Diva were done and it was time to move on to life’s next adventure; that of being old. I did not think I would feel different, but I do. I feel incredibly different. My year of giving and reshaping and striving was the last shout of my young woman’s hurrah. I am peaceful with this. In fact, I actually missed my period this month and trust me, I’m not pregnant.
Samhain (October 31 with our celebration happening on November 1) was particularly poignant for me this year, especially when we welcomed the Crone into the circle. As I embodied the Diva and She welcomed her aged Sister to take the reins of the year, the manifestation was stronger than I have ever felt it. Since I now watch Aiden (who is ten) before and after school, I am a grandmother almost every day. I feel the years and years upon me, the hurts, the triumphs, the failures, and the blessings. My spirit cries out for rest, for acceptance, for compassion, for the unconditional love I have given others over decades, but I know our world does not work that way for the most part. I have to give it to myself and whatever others do is up to them. I know I will live a very long time, so I place no design or expectation on what comes next or where I will ultimately land. I am open to where The Goddess leads, whether that is a married woman surrounded by love and mutuality or a single woman with a lot of cats. I accept whether I am a reclusive writer and teacher or I am a greeter at WalMart or working the drive through at McDonalds.
I open. I receive. I accept.
I will craft my own life as I go and will heed the inner whispers of how to proceed. My time of servitude is done. The Venus blossoms and is in her fullness and, in the case of this article’s banner, is a sock monkey for no reason whatsoever.
Another imagery that presented strongly in the past two weeks or so is that of the ouroboros, the self-consuming serpent, the icon for life, death, and rebirth. We know for a fact that we live one incredible physical life. Anything beyond that is pure speculation. We also know that each life is a series of births, deaths, and rebirths. The ouroboros symbolizes how the new life feeds on the old life and is a circle.
When this imagery began, like the Venus of Willendorf, to present itself over and over to me, I honored it by ordering a pendant and ring of the ouroboros. Ebay is wonderful and I got both for little more than the shipping costs. I then promptly forgot that I ordered them and was surprised when they arrived in the mail today, just as I was writing this unreasonably long blog post. I found it very fitting.
I worked a great deal with Fire energy this year, just to keep going, stay energized, and feel alive. Now I put that energy to rest and embrace the Dark of the Year. I go into the quiet, the introspection, and peace of the darkness and whatever it brings to me.
Plus, new ring means I had to do my nails, so maybe there is a bit of the Diva still in there.