But it’s who we are.

Kesha put out her newest song this week, entitled “Praying” and I will be the first to admit that I ran the whole gambit of emotions listening to it, including the compulsion to listen to it on repeat for hours on end. Although the song itself deserves more words than I could give, it actually made me think about a different post I’ve been chewing on. (But don’t worry-there will be a Kesha post before I leave this state.)

I met up with a friend this week for coffee before I make the journey. She and I have been friends since second grade-making that just about 18 years. We’ve been strong friends since freshman year of high school and I consider her one of the people I hold most dear and close to my heart. It was during this coffee meeting that we talked about our lives, the directions they were heading and without breaking the level of commitment to each other, we spoke of doubt and concern and fear.

I told her that we didn’t have to tackle the heavy stuff, and she told me that that was who we are. I don’t know about you, but having a friend who you can make jokes with and take on the messy bits with-without fear of judgment or losing conversation flow is one of the nicest things I think a person can have. She makes me so sad that I’m actually leaving this state, because I won’t get to see her face.

But I had a point.

Sometimes you have all these external battles you have to face. Work, school, bills, moving, other people. And these battles can take the form of physical, mental and spiritual ones. But sometimes you have internal battles. Depression, anxiety, doubt, fear, a lack of self-care. And those battles are no less important. They just also happen to be really hard to fight, because sometimes they coincide with external stressors.

Life is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. And so many times I have a heart to heart with myself about what it is I’m doing. Because it feels like I’m just a drop in the ocean of chaos. There doesn’t seem like there’s a meaning, a purpose to everything. And that’s such a hard place to be-because you’re the only one who can pull yourself out of it, but you’re the one in there fighting.

Love doesn’t mean coddling and over-protectiveness. Love isn’t shielding you from every bad thing that can happen. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be in pain, be scared, be sad. Love isn’t something that covers everything in bandaids and rainbows. Especially when your heart is in the right place.

Love is the thing that keeps you from giving up because it’s hard. Love means letting yourself get hurt because that’s how you grow and that’s how you learn to be a light for others. Love is the reason that you wake up every day, facing those battles that feel like they’re too much to handle.

I saw a post the other day on Facebook that said something like: “You were born to bring love to someone else. They need your laughter, your kindness, your hope. That’s why you make it through the tough times-so you can be a light for them.”

And I made a comment on that post that said just five words.
“And that person is yourself.”

So many times we forget that if we don’t pay attention the our own needs and our own brokenness, we can’t possibly do all the good we aspire to do. You are worth every ounce of love and laughter and empathy that you give out to others. And it’s not being selfish-it’s your duty.

I’ve spent a long time angry at the idea of God. I felt abandoned, I felt forgotten. I ran so far in the other direction that I passed deity and went straight to bitterness. And I spent a long time there. But bitterness can only take you to the rock bottom you were so desperately trying to avoid. I spent a long while looking for answers to those big questions, those “Why?”s. And I can’t say I have the answers. But I have the ones that keep me going, hoping for a better tomorrow. Religion and self-care have a lot in common. And whatever the “truth” looks like to you-if it isn’t wrapped in unconditional love, it’s just not the truth.

I think that each person has their own idea of truth, the truth that is true to them. And if that’s Christianity, that’s okay. If it is Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Paganism, that’s okay. Because at the end of the day, you can only do your very best. And that very best is love. The love that doesn’t prevent pain, but endures it. The love that doesn’t disguise fear and doubt, but prepares you to battle it. The love that reminds you that you are just as worthy of happiness and empathy and care and hope as everyone else. No matter where you find that kind of love, it has to start within.

“I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come.
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying.”
-Praying, Kesha.

Reads by Abby Black (review)

I like to record my experiences, both through pictures on my instagram, but also here-where words take precedent. Today, I’d like to document an experience of a spiritual nature. The day I got a a spiritual read from Abby Black.

Tl;dr- I asked a tarot reader to enlighten me. I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s my recommendation for her.

Now I know, not everyone agrees with the idea of tarot, and that’s you’re right. I, however, know the energy that the cards have and respect people who can actually use them to help people. The most basic concept behind it is using a deck of cards and then interpreting the pictures in order to give meaning to experience. It’s a LOT more complicated than that, but that’s the simplest I can put it. If you’d like to know more about my read with Abby, or about tarot itself, I would be more than happy to chat.

I’d had a pretty chaotic day, a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings and I happened to jump on Facebook for a minute. I saw Abby post about having a couple minutes to spare and I commented. I’ve mentioned wanting a read a few times, but our schedules always clash. As luck would have it, we both had time. Now, I should note that while I post a fair amount on Facebook, I typically keep my posts to these blogs, political activism and some mental health stuff. I haven’t posted anything about what I’m going through in a very long time. And I didn’t post about my day, used lots of smiley faces (as per usual) and I gave no background information. I’ve never even met her in real life, we haven’t heard each other’s voices and that’s about all I want to say on that. My point is: we don’t know each other at all.

Abby told me initially she’d do a 5 card spread-to get to know me and my situation. I waited, wondering what we’d discover together. And although what the cards said was personal, I can promise that it was spot on. She knew my big fears, what was plaguing me and why I kept feeling weighed down. Things I tell no one except Ben, my husband. And that’s saying something because I’ve shared just about all my secrets with ya’ll.

Then she did a karmic read, to find out why my soul is here, what I have to learn in this life. And that’s when the tears came. I expected the cards to be pretty accurate, as I’ve worked with tarot before-but not so humblingly so. She was honest, but not in a brutally harsh way and I respect the hell out of that.

Then she did a financial read. Now, it’s important to point out that I had not asked any questions or really commented on anything at this point. She would pause every now and then and ask if I understood, which I did, and then carry on. This read happened over Facebook Messenger-and she saw no facial expressions. Anyway, she was able to parse out information that I’d been circling for weeks. And I actually felt a lot more resolved.

When things were starting to wrap up, I told her I had one question. An identity question. I told her I “felt adrift” and left it at that. She took a moment and came back with suggestions for reading material, spiritual items I’d been eyeballing (but hadn’t decided myself if I wanted), practices for focusing on self and self-care and more. When we were both finished discussing, she offered to chat about some of the things again at a later time-when I was in a different energy-and I greatly appreciated that, as sometimes the questions come much later for me.

Overall thoughts and reflections: While I am not new to tarot and scrying and looking for the truth, this read was different. It wasn’t vague, it wasn’t short-sighted and it wasn’t hard to understand. I “walked away” from it with a sense of peace and clarity that I’d been missing for a long time. I’m so happy I took the chance and reached out.

Link to page: Reads by Abby Black

 

SAAM 2017: Engaging New Voices

The theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Engaging New Voices. According to the NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), the targets for involvement are: Greek life members, Coaches, Fathers and Faith Leaders. It’s one of those occasions where I get to don my faith leader hat and use it to further an important cause.

I’m Pagan. Those words are already a turn off to a lot of people, and I know that. All it means is that I find the divine in nature. I think that’s pretty amicable grounds-Chrsitians often cite nature as a way to prove their beliefs. Islam’s holy book is filled with depictions of nature. It’s universal because it surrounds us. But I’m bringing this up for a different reason.

A LOT of mythologies contain depictions of assault. Native stories about Coyote have them, Celtic stories, Norse stories, Greek and Roman traditions, even Slavic ones. And there are mentions of it in Judeo-Christian texts as well. It would seem, from the beginning of the written word (at least), sexual assault has occured. I think though, the most well-known story about it is Medusa. This story is one that I hold dear-but for a little different reasons. I’ve told other people, but I think it’s a really good lesson for others as well, plus it fits with the current climate.


(Cellini, 1554)

The version that is spread around in academic settings, and even in pop culture is the following.

Enter Medusa, an incredibly beautiful woman who devoted herself to her beliefs. She worshipped the goddess Athena, who was a virginal goddess-meaning her followers would also be virgins. Poseidon, god of the sea, seeing that Medusa was beautiful, came to visit her and try to woo her. Medusa was devout and refused his advances, returning inside the temple to pray. Poseidon followed after her and raped her. Athena, then angry, cursed Medusa to live as a Gorgon-a winged snake woman with snakes for hair and eyes that turned men to stone. Medusa is then killed by Perseus and her head was removed and used later. Perseus is hailed a hero, having vanquished a foe, with the help of other gods.

But that’s not the version I know. Here’s the version I learned.

Medusa, an incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman, lived her life devoted to her faith. She worshipped the goddess Athena, known for her wisdom and strategy, as well as being a virginal goddess. Her followers, then, chose to remain chaste as well. Poseidon, god of the sea and enemy of Athena, saw that Medusa was beautiful and came to visit her, to try to woo her and make her one of his followers instead. Medusa refused his advances, returning to the temple to pray in safety. Poseidon, angry at her rejection, followed her and raped her, then left. Athena returned to her temple to find Medusa, no longer a virgin, crying. Athena told Medusa that she could no longer be a servant in the temple, but that Athena would like to help her. When asked what she needed, Medusa told Athena that she needed a way to protect herself from all who would harm her. Athena then turned Medusa into a Gorgon, giving her the power to stop anyone who came to harm her in her tracks.

The first version is told from a male perspective. Perseus conquers the monster and sets everything back in balance. The thing I couldn’t ever get past was Athena punishing Medusa for being raped. That wasn’t her fault. Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. And for the longest time, I felt like mythology had made a giant mistake. Until I came across the version I know. Instead of punishing someone who was already punished, the victim became a survivor. And that’s why I share that story.

Sexual Assault and Rape and Domestic Violence is not the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, the clothing, the drinks, the location.  That’s why SAAM is important. 

Rape culture isn’t a new concept. It’s not a myth. 

Religious Tolerance

You sneeze: what do people say to you?

It’s the holiday season: what do people say to you?

It’s your birthday: what do people say to you?

Something terrible has happened to you: what do people say to you?

A loved one has passed on: what do people say to you?

Something great might happen: what do people say to you?

All of these have one really strikingly gorgeous thing in common: well-wishing. Now, the specifics may not be the same, but the idea behind it very much is. And yet, we have some issues accepting it, don’t we?


If someone came up to you and blessed you because you sneezed (and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s in German), you’d say thank you. It wouldn’t matter if you believed that God was going to bless you, or if you were atheist-you’d just say thank you. Or at least you should, becuase that’s just good manners.

If you were going into the hospital, you’d want to come out of it again, right? And you’d want comfort if a loved one or friend died, right?

You’d want to celebrate when good things happen, take solace in community when bad things occur. That’s just human nature-right?

My point here is that if I were Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Pagan or Buddhist or what-have-you, the concept of well-wishing is universal. I did a post during Ramadan (last year?!) about how much I learned about the graciousness of the Muslim Americans that I met. I have a Jewish friend who is the happiest, most accepting person I may ever know. I have a Catholic friend with a heart of gold, who accepts me for my differences and loves me just the same. I have very Christian friends who are a delight to be around-and allow me to explore who I am while they do the same, and even some who give me their time and share their food with me (I’m always down with food and coffee dates-you know, when my schedule permits).  I have atheist and agnostic friends who respect my choice to believe in something bigger than myself. I have pagan friends who delight in my successes, lift me up in my sorrows and support me throughout. And I know that’s just my story. I get that.

But the larger picture is what I’m getting at. 

Tolerance is something that doesn’t seem to be big around my country these days. I see a collective out and about, trying to make sure everyone knows they are valid and matter and valued-and I love that. I try to do so as well, because that’s what we all need. In the end, it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, if someone is wishing you well-becuase it means they care enough to say something nice to you.

Look, I don’t expect everyone to know that next week is Ostara, the celebration of the Spring Equinox, a time of great fertility and happiness. Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious day, but is celebrated by more people than just the ones who honor him as a saint. Lent is happening right now, in preparation for Easter. Purim and Holi are coming up soon as well. Ramadan starts in a couple months. And you thought December was the only packed holiday month!

My point is simple, really, and I feel like it’s almost absurd to have to say it. When someone tells you:

Happy Easter, Happy Ostara, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Friday, Blessed Purim, Blessed Lent, Blessed Holi, and more, they are not saying “you have to subscribe to my religion”. They are wishing you well. 

And in this day and age, isn’t that something we all need?

Snow Falls Slowly On the Mountain

Hi there everyone. I’ve been taking things slow for a few days. I really miss the chances to just connect, to just simply be-without emotional necessity. I’ve been working fervently on several things all at once and I needed a chance to clear my head. So that is precisely what I did. And I really wanted to share my Ramadan experience in light of the recent attacks in Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. But now I think I want to do a little bit of introversion as far as blogs go. No expectations, just thoughts.

I love thunderstorms. That should surprise no one. I often compare my existence to storms, hurricanes and weather of assorted variety. But one of my favorite things is when I’m so connected to the storms. I believe that the thunder and lightning are the sky spirits speaking to us, and I whenever there is a big storm, I go out on my balcony and sing to them. And the coolest thing is that when I reach a really emotional part, a power chord or a really high note, the storm inevitably picks up with a momentary deluge, thunder clap or lightning show. It’s my very favorite thing about storms.

I spent Litha (summer solstice) in quiet meditation. -Here’s where I should probably give you the Campbell’s soup (condensed) version of some things.- So ever since I left the church some years ago, I haven’t found a way to pray without feeling like a monster. So when I say “pray” I very strictly mean “rejoice in my blessings” not “ask for things”. When I do have things to ask for, I light a blood candle and ask, no ceremonial “Please may I…” stuff. So just know that it is VERY unusual that I asked for guidance. I can talk about the particulars of my belief system later if people are interested.

I used a couple meditation videos for spirit guides and began my journey. I’d heard from several people that their guide came to them very quickly (or not at all) and either said nothing or gave them a present (like a gemstone or a kiss on the cheek). So I tried to mentally visualize my way through the exercise, trying not to focus on animals I dearly love, faces of ancestors and the like. So it was my great surprise when I was not greeted by a “realistic” looking spirit, but a great big stag made of dimly glowing light (I found a picture on Google). And when given the chance to speak, all he said was “Why do you seek that which cannot be found?” He nudged a small present (yellow box, red ribbon) towards me and inside it was hope, glowing like sunshine. And then he was gone.

Stag spirit animalOdd, I thought. And very peculiar-because I hadn’t really been searching for anything. So I asked a couple of spiritual leaders I trust, and they were helpful, but nothing really *stuck* so I waited a week or so and tried again. This time, it was the same stag, made of light. The meditation exercise I was listening to mentioned finding out their name, and I asked. “My name is Snow Falls Slowly on the Mountain” he said. “So it has been found, She Who Guides the Water.” That was the name he gave to me. I thought that was pretty nifty, thanked him for coming to me and ended my meditation.

So where does that leave me? Well, I’ve had some time to get everything sorted, and I think I have some answers.

That which I seek: myself
What cannot be found: the perfect version of myself, which fits into each niche perfectly
What I found: the perfect version of myself that I need, the one I deserve to love.
It took until today, when the storms rolled across the sky that I understood why he called me She Who Guides the Water. It’s the storms.
Yellow=creativity. Red=passion.
The stag of light is symbolic of a great change coming, a shift in life meant to be interpreted as a call to preparation.

I thought this was probably the nicest spiritual milestone I’ve come across. And I’m sure there are people out there who would love to break it down, as though my spiritual journey weren’t valid. It is, though. And I don’t want to spoil it, but I had a dream this morning about the specificity of that shift, and let’s just say, my future is looking bright indeed.

And what’s more? My application for the new apartment (or lease is just about up in this one) was approved-without a cosigner. Turns out, when I stop panicking every second of every day, life lets me focus on the positives. I have less than 3 weeks to get everything set for moving because ready or not, my life is changing.

celebration.jpg

I’m probably going to do a double-post today. The next one will be more structured, more typical of “me”. But we’ll see I suppose. Happy Tuesday everyone!