Bull of His Mother.

In October of this year, I was handed down a directive to re-read Hathor Rising and My Heart, My Mother. It had been a while since I had been given homework – and by an unknown quarter, no less!, though I suspect I know where it came from – so I didn’t immediately balk at the request.

It was around the same time that I received this directive that I had decided that I would proceed with the cycle of rebirth that I had failed to see through 3 years ago. Considering how thought-provoking and useful I had found both books during the process three years ago, I could see the wisdom in re-reading them by the end of the year.

What I wasn’t expecting as I blew through Hathor Rising was how much of the book I had actually forgotten. There were whole chapters filled with very interesting tidbits that relate in some form to either my relationships with my primary gods or to the regeneration cycle I had agreed to undertake, which were practically brand new to me.

One of the items that I got stuck focusing on for a while as I continued my readathon was about Bull of His Mother, or Kamutef. While this is an epithet that has been associated with other deities, as I will explain further below, in the instance of Hathor Rising, the author is discussing the regenerative properties of the syncretized version of Amun as Amun-Min-Bull-of-His-Mother.

As I researched the name Kamutef further, I found that Amun-Re in the New Kingdom also utilized Kamutef, who has a small shrine space or sanctuary outside of Mut’s Asheru sacred lake at Karnak, in his name as Amenemopet to regenerate himself each year.

While the information I gleaned about Kamutef, and the syncretic Amun-Min-Bull-of-his-Mother all very interesting for what I was going to be undertaking myself, it was the actual epithet “Bull of His Mother” that stayed with me as I researched.

DSC07286 The strong Bull of his Mother

As I mentioned, I was familiar with this epithet to some extent as I had seen it in association with various Horus iterations during one or more of my previous research extravaganzas. It is through this phrase that whichever Horus we are speaking of (both the younger and the elder) assume the role of king from their father. I had also seen it, or dreamed that I had seen it, associated with Geb. (Here’s a link to a conversation about it. Trigger warning for sexual assault.)

The gist of the associations with these gods is that it is through a full assumption of their father’s role – from son to the “fecundator” of their mothers that they take on the role of king. The father and son are the agents of the rebirth cycle while the mother is a seemingly passive vessel in the undertaking. She is providing the necessary environment for the son to be reborn into the role their father has bequeathed to them.

The idea that the womb played a sort of passive role in the rebirth of the king isn’t new to me. Sekhmet plays a similar role in the Pyramid Texts, where it is her womb that allows the deceased pharaoh to be reborn into akh. It is not from her womb that they are born; merely the act of entering the womb that seems to bestow that power unto the pharaoh. (This kind of highlights, in my opinion, the idea that ancient Egyptians knew very little about the bodies of people with wombs.)

The purpose behind this assumption of the father’s role in its entirety is that it is through the mother that the son is to hope for an ever-repeating life. It is this passiveness on the part of the mother in the cycle of rebirth that, I think, is required for the son’s elevation to the role of their father. Their mother must provide a habitable environment for this ability to manifest their own rebirth cycle but she doesn’t actively take part in the act itself.

The fertility that comes through the regenerative properties of one who is a Bull of His Mother is immune to death, so to speak. The person or god in question is capable of renewing himself over and over again and in so doing, also provides the cycle of rebirth over and over again for those who have ruled before. In effect, through the assumption of this role, the deities mentioned above and subsequent human pharaohs, are able to provide ever-lasting life for not only themselves but their forebears as well.

In addition to the hints of a constant and forever sort of rebirth cycle, the incestuous relations between mother and son allowed the sons to fully appropriate the title of ruler from their fathers. It also gave them the ability to deny “linear time”; the role allowed them to change the succession of generations by writing the past and present into a single person unified person. (This concept isn’t so different from the discussions regarding mythic time.)

With the acceptance of this epithet and the role associated with it, there would be continuity without fear of facing chaos like those of the Intermediate periods with the deity or human pharaoh assuming the full role of his father. As mentioned in the entry for Kamutef in The Ancient Gods Speak: “being the father and the son possesses an unquestionable legitimacy.”

So in this way, the epithet lends credence to the legitimacy of the succession. By assuming the role of one’s father in every capacity, the new pharaoh is ensuring continuity and the ongoing rebirth cycle that all pharaohs hoped to achieve.

While this particular epithet seems to be more commonly associated with a variety of gods, there was a specific festival called the Harvest Festival that the human pharaohs would perform so that they could fulfill the role of Bull of His Mother on a country-wide scale.

In this festival, which dates back to the Middle Kingdom, the pharaoh completed a ritual that allowed them to take on this mantle to regenerate the crops of the country. He and the priests would complete a fertility ritual to ensure that the crops for the upcoming year would be abundant.

I suspect that the Bull of His Mother epithet may have in fact had more to do with the consecration of a living pharaoh’s son to take the mantle of kingship upon the death of his predecessor. Based on what I have found during my research into both this epithet and its associated deity, Kamutef, it makes sense that the “Bull of His Mother” function played a larger part than a yearly Harvest Festival.

In effect, the Bull of His Mother epithet is associated with the ability for the sons to fully consecrate themselves in the roles of their fathers. While the epithet can have negative associations (as in the case of the possible association with Geb), it seems that it is more intended as an epithet to engender the vehicle of one’s own ability to renew themselves.

texas longhorn

There can be no doubt as to why I found my exploration of the Bull of His Mother fascinating.

The next year is a year of death and rebirth. I have been asked to die for my gods and I have agreed to go through with this moment of rebirth. Not only will the rebirth cycle I am undertaking benefit myself, but it will also benefit my gods in the long-term. Reading about an epithet and its associative deity that is capable of engendering its own vehicle of rebirth seemed, well, opportune and timely.

It makes sense to me that, in order for me to induce my own rebirth that I should assume the mantle of the Bull of His Mother. This is an epithet, and a deity, associated with the very things that I must undertake. And it would be a benefit to all parties involved if I can use this Bull of His Mother epithet as a sort of blueprint to see through what I need to see through.

As I was discussing the Bull of His Mother with TTR, they mentioned that Mut could also prove useful. “Mut is said to be “the mother who became a daughter,” or “the daughter-mother who made her begetter,” expressing a power of self-creation similar to that expressed for Amun by the epithet kamutef, ‘bull of his mother’, meaning one who is his own father.” (Link.)

While this was an avenue of possibility that I hadn’t considered before, it didn’t feel quite right to me. For some reason, the idea of becoming a god who could help me move forward on my necessary quest for ever-lasting life during my own rebirth cycle just felt wrong. I’ve since come to the realization that for the regenerative properties I am looking for, I need to undertake the epithet of Bull of His Mother to see it through as opposed to becoming either Mut or Kamutef. The assumption of the epithet feels more in tune with what I need to achieve.

So here I am, or there I will be at any rate… Satsekhem-Bull of His Mother. I guess I can only wait and see how far the assumption of this mantle pushes me in the upcoming months as I willingly die for my gods.

Receive the crook of your Father and the flail of Bull-of-His-Mother. You are the seed of the Lord of Abydos. May he give strength entirely.

– p. 95, Hathor Rising

Further Reading

  1. Hathor Rising by Alison Roberts
  2. My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts
  3. The Ancient Gods Speak edited by Donald B. Redford
  4. Temples of Ancient Egypt edited by Byron E. Shafer
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Lady of Rage.

Zep Tepi is the moment we all know as the First Time, or the First Occasion. It is that single perfect moment in which creation has been created. It signifies when the world is new and whole and perfect. It is that split second in time where the primeval mound has risen from the lifeless waters of the Nun to announce that the world has been made. It is perfection personified in a single yet brief period of time.

It is also an endless moment. It moves across time and space. It is always happening; it has already happened. Mythic time makes this part of the myth difficult for us to fully understand. We can connect to this concept of mythic time when we discuss the number of creation myths found in ancient Egypt (after thousand of years and varying degrees of import associated with specific cult centers, it’s bound to happen). But when we take a look at it without associating it with the cosmogonies, we can sometimes forget that Zep Tepi has already happened, is currently happening, and is going to happen.

In effect, Zep Tepi is more than just a single second in time from eons back; from before humans walked the earth and before gods ruled. It happens every day. And it will happen again and again every second of every day. And it will happen many years in the future after I am buried and have turned to dust.

But Zep Tepi goes beyond the cosmogony of ancient Egyptian creation myth. It goes beyond simply a focal point for us to dither and reinterpret as we speak with our community members. Zep Tepi happens every day, and it happens to all of us every day.

It is the moment the sun peers above the horizon. The second before you step into an important meeting about a raise with your boss. The decision before you start eating right and exercising. The time you roll away from your desk to take a break from work. The moment after you’ve taken your anti-anxiety medication and they begin to take effect. The moment you put your car into drive. The deep breath you take before you make an important phone call.

Zep Tepi happens every day in a thousand little ways.

This is not a new concept for us. We have had this discussion numerous times. In fact, I think we’ve hashed it out to the point where many Kemetics in the group spaces I haunt can all agree that Zep Tepi is an ongoing renewal on a personal and fundamental level in all of our lives. It encapsulates any number of moments in our day-to-day lives and can be as large as a sunrise or as small as taking one’s medication.

But the portion of the conversation that does tend to get glossed over is what leads up to that moment of Zep Tepi. In the examples I’ve listed above, we do not usually discuss what precedes each split second of Zep Tepi in our lives. In many instances the time before that moment of rebirth hits us is a battle unto itself. And the next second it is just like when the primordial mound raises from the watery chaos of the Nun.

There are any number of things that we may have to go through before we can achieve our personal Zep Tepi, no matter what we may consider a personal Zep Tepi. Any single person who has had to have these types of uncomfortable conversations either with themselves or other people can attest that it is not an easy process. Anyone who has had to work on themselves in some form or another can assert that the way forward was fraught with pain and suffering. There are any number of setbacks that may have or probably did occur before that moment of renewal is upon us.

The path leading us to Zep Tepi is not an easy one.

Here it comes !

O you who consume your arm, prepare a path for me, for I am Re, I have come forth from the horizon against my foe. – excerpt from Spell 11, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

In high school, there were two distinguishing features that people used to tell the difference between my best friend and I. (We did resemble one another.) The first was that I was the shortest one in our friend group, which was true. I was tiny in comparison and there were a good 2 – 3″ between me and the next shortest person. The second was that I was an angry kind of person, which was also true. Being a short, angry ball of energy followed me out of high school and into other adventures in my life.

Both were a constant and, or so I thought, I could do nothing about either. I wore them like badges of honor. I was a little ball of rage that could make grown men cry; and wasn’t it just hilarious that I was so tiny to boot?

I’ve written about it all before, but suffice to say I was perfectly fine with it for a very long time before Sekhmet took me by the face, squeezed my cheeks together, and said, “cut the shit, and fix it.” I argued about it since this seemed like something I really didn’t want to do and I was given a caveat to the first message. “Or else.” I was never sure what the “or else” could entail, but I figured if she was telling me to fix it, and tacking on something as menacing as “or else”, then there was probably a serious problem.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me, of course.

I railed against her.

I told her that she was a hypocrite.

I whined at her.

I cried a lot.

I didn’t want to get rid of it. I wanted it to remain because it was a part of who I was, it was a part of my very identity. If I were to get rid of it, then who would I be? She should have been able to understand my point of view easily since, I felt, she was in similar circumstances. But no matter how many times I tried to get out of it, I came back to Sekhmet’s message to me: “cut the shit, and fix it. Or else.”

It took me a very long time to work on it. I knew that there was no quick fix here, but I had hoped for one.

As the years had past, the primary moment that the rage began had grown. Instead of it having been created at a single fixed moment in my life and remaining the same size it had been at that moment of its own creation, I found that it had been built up over the years by a variety of traumas until it was very large. It was exceedingly painful to work on. I couldn’t go from 0 to 100 on this. I had to take my sweet time as I slowly peeled back the layers to find the very start, the very beginning.

I had always been under the impression that rage was, well, healthy. I thought that having it was a good thing. But something that I had learned as I worked on this was that anger could be healthy; rage was not. I had to work down the ball of rage until I could manage what was left before I could finally turn to Sekhmet and say, “See what I have done? I did it.”

But I had caused another problem in the fixing. Out of fear, I wouldn’t let myself feel angry. I had spent so much time working on this part of myself that I was worried what would happen if I got angry. I kept my emotions locked up tight until I thought I would break from it all. I finally fell apart and realized that I had gone from one extreme to the other; I had gone from razor teeth and claws to a featureless void of no emotion with periodic explosions.

I had to learn hard how to express myself. I had to educate myself on what was and was not healthy. I had to let myself feel my emotions, but instead of bottling them up into a nice little pocket of rage in my chest, I had to express them in a way that would benefit myself and others. I had broken myself down to fix the problem, but I had only done part of the work to build myself back up.

After working down the traumas, working them all down until I had a functional level of anger that was healthy. Then I had to teach myself how to express these emotions in a healthy way, in a way that would benefit myself, the work that I had done, and the people around me. I’m finally at a point where I can say that while I do experience anger at a variety of things, I can finally express it in a healthy way that doesn’t involve broken things or people.

My first true moment of Zep Tepi was after all the rage had been pulled from its pocket and I could breathe again without feeling like I would melt down. My second moment was being able to express my frustrations and anger in a way that benefited myself, my life, and my goddess.

Rage

I have flown up like the primeval ones, I have become Khepri, I have grown as a plant, I have clad myself as a tortoise, I am the essence of every god… – excerpt from Spell 83, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

After I had realized that I needed to build my house back up, I sent myself on a mission to find something that would benefit me in the long run. I had to find a part of myself that had been missing for a very long time. Another piece of me had hidden that part of myself away in a safe place for later because that piece of me had grown tired of the world, tired of the gods, tired of living.

When I finally found that part of me again, I was reminded a bit of the Book of the Celestial Cow where Ra is mentioned to have become old. As quoted from this piece by Edward Butler:

Re learns that there are humans plotting against him because the furthest limits of his realm are far removed from his living divinity. The myth offers two immediate symbols of this distance or gap between Re and his subjects. The first is Re’s elderliness and, the second, the mineral metaphors used to describe him: his bones like silver, his flesh like gold, his hair like lapis lazuli. Re is elderly, not as an absolute quality, but relative to those of his subjects who are much younger in the scale of being.

I could feel the difference between myself and this part of myself. She was elderly in the context of Ra above: she was older than myself and had seen untold things in the time when she had been active. I referred to her as ancient-me, which seems to amuse as well as irritate. I was doing my job at any rate if I could get amusement out of the seriousness of the situation.

What I found when I discovered this piece was that the hard work I had done to myself at Sekhmet’s push had not been done to this older facet. In fact, I would say that, if I had to associate her with my own path, she looked more like 2012 era me than anything else: always angry, ready to pop at the hint of even the slightest provocation.

I also saw in her the same Sekhmet I have seen over and over again throughout my dealings with her: a volcano that has been dormant for years, but that could explode at any moment. The plume of gases that was constantly being released to make room for yet more rage was a miasma. I had to work on that for her so that we could continue on to the next steps in our journey.

The rage that had fostered in her had similar earmarks to my own and similar earmarks to Sekhmet’s, but at the heart of it all, it was entirely her own. She had made of it, just as I had made of it, a core part of herself. And that core part was necrotic from the years of adding to it.

I had to condense years’ worth of shadow work in a limited amount of time so that we could clear out the heart that had gone stale, first after years of disuse and second after years of fortifying it with white-hot anger. In the working, I discovered that, much as I had found for myself, she had never figured out a healthy and proper way to convey her feelings of anger. She had bottled them up until she was ready to break from it all.

As I worked on this other piece of myself, I began to wonder if this, too, was a core issue for Sekhmet. We know her as the Lady of Rage, of fire and fury, but we often don’t ask her to tell us how she’s feeling. Based on the myth I linked to above, at no point did Ra give her the tools she would need to fix herself, much less to express herself in a healthy and constructive way.

Maybe Ra never wanted to give her those tools or maybe he never knew what they looked like because he, too, suffers from the same thing. The whys and what-fors really don’t matter.

All that I kept coming back to as I worked on that other piece of myself was that this was something that Sekhmet could benefit from, if for no other reason than because then, the dormant volcano wouldn’t constantly be spewing ash and miasma into the air. And maybe the eventual eruption would be healthier than the eventual destroy-’em-all eruption that we all fear.

Perhaps in her directives to us, to me and to other me, to the other devotees out there who have anger issues, Sekhmet is looking for the quick-fix or any fix, really, to work on her own issues. Perhaps in the push to “cut the shit, and fix it; or else” she is asking us to teach her how to turn herself into a better god, to work on her root troubles, and come out of it a little less angry, a little less fear-inducing, a little more than just a lioness ready to slaughter at the request of the god who fathered her.

I think, at the very root of it all, Sekhmet is looking for her own version of Zep Tepi. She is hoping for that single moment of cosmological perfection where the world is new, or perhaps merely the renewal that predisposes the many versions of Zep Tepi that we see and feel every day.

Just as this other part of myself both deserves and needs that Zep Tepi, so too does Sekhmet. And as much as I may be jaded by everything that I’ve seen or done, I’m going to continue to work towards that goal.

Further Reading

The River: Broken Pottery.

We descend upon the darkness and my breath is robbed. Before us, there is infinite blackness. It is inky and violent, soft and tender. The aching sweetness mingled with the heart-stopping fear is too much. I can feel a part of my shattering into the night and I am lost. I was lost the moment we came here, but he knew that would be the case. Without breath, without more than an instinctual need to move, I step forward. My steps are sure though I can see little beyond the brilliant pinpricks of star dust above us. It shimmers in my eyes and lights my veins on fire. The only way to make it quiet is to step ever forward into the gentle riverine whispers before me. I must quiet the storm in my body.

Weeks ago now, I began dreaming about Osiris. I was not pleased upon waking from that first dream to find imagery of that green-faced man in my head. I complained and whined about it. This was my fault, though, if the dreams had even a modicum of truth. I had decided it would be a good idea to break into Big O’s palace with some foolish intent on finding TTR, one of the few people whom I would like to meet in the unseen. My plan backfired, of course, because I was caught breaking and entering. I spent a few days having a staring contest with Big O, which seemed to only cause me more consternation. What the fuck had dream-me even been thinking?

A few days afterward, he brought me into the bowels of his palace. We passed through a door and into a landscape that I feel I have described poorly. The starkness of that landscape causes chills up and down my body. Just remembering the black sand beach, the barren rocks, and the scrub grass in shades of charcoal, brings me back to that moment. Before the two of us was a single swath of water, quiet in the stillness of this place. While my poetic endeavors would have people believe that I willingly and quietly went forward into this moment, anyone who actually knows me will understand that I was neither.

I was actually pretty pissed and made my feelings on the matter quite clear. I chose this moment for brashness but that was mostly because of my fear. Of course, I had read about a similar scene playing out so I knew what was coming and I knew what the end result would probably be. I also knew that I could go into the water willingly or I would get tossed in with a little less ceremony, a lot more hilarity (not mine, of course), and a lot more anger and sputtering (mine, of course).

I chose to do what I had been brought there to do willingly, but that hardly means that I was pleased with the overall idea.

With probing fingers, the darkness pushes me ever forward. I feel as though there is no choice in the moment, as though my will has been robbed of me. In a matter of course, it has been, but I also know that it will always come down to this. Eternity is a long time to play this game of cat and mouse; I am too tired to keep playing. The whispers of that river call out into my soul, whipping the storms in my veins into a frenzy. I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to yell. I want to not drown again. My fear is all around me, beating at my body like a bird’s wings but its intent is nothing more than harm and horror. I relive the moments of my death, that painful frightening death, as the water sucks greedily at my toes and feet. I don’t want to die.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t die.

Sometimes breaking something, even though it seems like the worst thing in the world, can be to our benefit. It’s a matter of discovering that benefit later. (Image by Joanna Bourne.)

I went down deep and let the water quiet the wildness within my veins. It seems to poke and prod at every hidden portion of myself, not just my physical body but the metaphysical body that houses the pieces of my soul. Water can be both healing and destructive, but healing and destruction can go hand-in-hand. Though the touch of the water was gentle in a way that I can’t fully describe, the end result I have to admit is that I came out of there broken.

Broken-er?

More broken?

I went in with my ib relatively intact. It was taped up, glued up, shot to hell with the mistakes of its fixing covered in white-wash. But the truth of the matter is that it was a mess. It wasn’t anything to be proud of. The river’s focus was to point that out to me.

As I lay in that water for what felt like an eternity, I ended up realizing that it was removing bits and pieces that had been added from other portions of myself, pieces of myself that had to be removed, cleaned, and destroyed in order to heal it. The removal of those pieces left me fractured and raging. I had been trying to build a tower out of pieces that didn’t actually fit together without any instructions. And now, I was being informed that I had to start all over.

It seems rather unfair.

I crawl from that watery embrace, coughing out the destruction in spades. The fire within my veins, the storm within my soul has softened its touch; it is a tender rain upon my insides. I fall onto my face and cry for it all. The destruction that had raged within my body had been destroyed or at least quieted. I could feel the tender bits of my heart quaking as it felt for the first time in centuries. I roll over and stare up at the brilliance of diamonds in the sky, wondering if it is possible to join them now. Though death has not taken me and I am nowhere near ready to be changed into stardust and memory sparkle, I am too defeated to do more than breathe.

I’m left wondering if I had a map to all of this and I somehow left it in my other pants. Or if not a map, then maybe I could get some form of instructions on where I’m supposed to go with this progression. I’ve been informed, more than once, that Big O speaks in wing dings though. This particular moment seems to more than qualify for that. Even looking at others’ experiences with their personal rivers and looking to the bits and pieces that I know about Big O, I keep coming back to that moment when the fire in my blood stirred to a boil before the heat was lowered to a simmer. I can remember feeling it as it lessened until I was left cold, alone, and gasping for breath. Everything points to a moment of rebirth.

The cost of rebirth is pretty high and no one asked if I was willing to pay the toll. I should be a little used to this turn of events; I seem to rarely get asked if I’m willing to pay for what’s being done. The problem with rebirth is that it means a bit of you – large bits or small bits – have to die. Death is a part of living; living is a part of dying. What I always expected was that death was a little more black-and-white, even though I constantly go on about shades of gray and even though I know consciously that this perception isn’t true. I thought death was the finality, not the beginning of eternity. This was just another way to die, if only a little calmer and maybe a little more relaxing than other ways.

The thing is that even though I’ve paid parts of the debt that the process has demanded, I don’t know if I can finish the payment plan. I’m being asked to craft my ib from start to finish. The parts that were removed were for me benefit, for the good of the entirety of me. This is about bigger picture, but the bigger picture isn’t community, isn’t interpersonal deity relationships, isn’t friendships, isn’t romances, but is about me. I was important enough as I blazed a trail of fire and brimstone behind me to be stopped, to be taken aside, and to be forced to look at the fact that what I had been doing to craft a representative ib was insufficient. Now I have to build a new one from scratch, using tried and tested pieces that haven’t been destroyed by my own inability.

The thing is… these hands look awfully weak to undertake such a task.

My demise was granted yesterday, I have returned today, I have gone forth in my own shape; I am tousled…; I am disheveled, having gone forth…– excerpts from Spell 179, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I think that if I keep telling myself what the end game is, then maybe I’ll be able to get through it. I tell myself, “I want to shine and sparkle, I want to roar with my power, and I want everyone to know who I am and not the person that they think I am supposed to be.” But I have to admit that there are some serious side effects to dying, even if it is only a little death. I haven’t quite mastered the side effects and I honestly don’t know if I care to try. I keep trying to point out why this is important, why I need to get going, and why it’s something that I need to do, but I’ll be honest: the gray cloud of my existence is kind of addicting. I’m not sure if I really want to remove myself from it at all.

But the real problem, the larger issue out of all of this is that I just don’t know how to build the ib, the soul, the person into reality and not the ephemeral dreams of smoke and mirrors. Without instructions or an idea, I don’t know if it’s even worth starting all that hard work.

Phase You Out; Should Have Seen This Coming.

I’ve been working on some serious breaks in the threads. It’s been hard. I don’t really want to have to deal with this, but the same old shit keeps coming up and ask Sekhmet pointed out, I’m “no use” if I’m “obsessed with things that cannot be changed.” Yeah, I suppose that’s one way to look at it, but it seems almost callous. When I called her callous that was around the same time my pillow fort got removed and grapes stopped magically appearing in my room over there. I guess the point was that I needed to stop distracting myself and get to work.

So, I got to work. I found the bond that was messing me up. There it was, feeling all bond like and there. I saw it for what it was – the connection between two people. I followed that connection back and back again and felt myself falling back through time and space. It was almost like the closer I got to the person on the other side, the more and more real this step was beginning to feel. I had a decision to make – break the bond or say “fuck everything” and let myself go down in flames?

Why is that always the decision though? Why the fuck is it always about whether or not I’m going to do something that I don’t feel inclined to do versus destroying myself? Why can’t the decision be something more like if I don’t do the thing then I don’t get to pet the puppies? Why can’t the decision be more like if I don’t do the thing that’s demanded of me and that I probably should do for my own benefit then I don’t get any cupcakes for snack? Why the hell is it always coming down to “do this thing or bad things will happen?”

When the fuck did this shit get so fucking real?

I’m pretty sure I never signed up for this. In fact, I don’t think when the original consent was provided there was anything to do with the types of shit I would be forced to face for the “bigger picture.” And I mean, in all honesty, I fail to see how in the world my personal shadow work has anything to do with the bigger picture. But there it is, the axe above my neck with its ominous threat, and how if I don’t do the fucking thing the whole fucking timeline is screwed up.

I strongly suspect half of this is bullshit and half of this is melodrama. I’m too frightened at the prospect of fucking up and finding out that none of it was bullshit or melodrama to stop doing what needs to be done, though. It’s a catch-22, motherfuckers; welcome to my fucking life.

Two sided time,
Your rebirth can’t hurt,
Branch out behind, the pain.

I can remember the first time it came up. It was like the elephant in the room, but my cautiousness kept me from leaping forward. I had been burned and hurt before; I didn’t need to go down that road again. But they just kept pushing the fucking button until I finally just agreed. Sure, I’d meet [person]. Sure, I’d give it a shot. And the first time we met? I was just like, “Who is this person? Why are you telling me all these things about yourself? I don’t know you. Please do not share these personal details with me.”

I didn’t like [person]. But you know what? I don’t actually remember a time where I didn’t have a violently negative reaction about people whom I would one day defend with every breath in my body, so I didn’t think too much of it. I didn’t like [person] and that was it. Okay, I could deal with the fact that I would be forced in their presence and maybe, I would stop disliking the person. And you know what? The fact that [person] was willing to work around my idiosyncrasies and my standoffishness and everything thrown in between… well, we became friends.

You know, friendship is weird like that for me though. I don’t really think I can convey how much I violently disliked previous people who would fill the role [person] would inevitably fill. I guess I’m just a naturally negative person? Which in some weird convoluted and frightening way, later morphs into some form of obsessive trust and love? At the end of the day, I can tell you all one thing – I am fucking weird.

But we were friends and it was okay. And then I got to the point where it was AWESOMEFRIENDSHIPOMG and it was just always there. I talked to [person] all the time and they just got the things I was saying. It was like I had found someone who could just accept me for who I was. I had found a place where I belonged. And when shit turned really fucking bad for [person], I was there for them. And when things got really fucking badly for me, [person] was there for me.

We were besties/BFFs/bonded.

It was a thing.

Had to to turn, lay down,
Your sting of disease.
Phase you out, should’ve seen this coming.
Go on confusing the soul,
Hold my breath ’til you rupture.

I think we were actually closer when we were separated. Like how fucking weird was that? I had someone physically closer to me who could fill the slot that [person] had once filled, but it was always [person]. I guess that makes me a shitty friend? I honestly don’t know. We had become so close though and honestly, there’s something about surviving the shittiest fucking back stories ever with the purpose of moving the fuck on and moving the fuck out that creates a real connection. I don’t fucking know. I don’t know; [person] was kind of it for me?

I honestly don’t know when shit started getting hard. Like, you know how a relationship is just so easy? It like ends up being almost like a pair of really comfortable sweatpants. You can just put them on and they’re really the best choice; they’re worn in just the right places and they keep you warm and they have that aura of comfort about them. It’s just the perfect fit and you don’t have to worry about it. The relationship we had developed was like that. It was just… nice.

I could be myself and that was okay. [person] could be themselves and that was okay. We liked enough of the same things to have things that we could talk about and we had enough differences where it wasn’t stale to be around one another. Maybe it was the fact that things were so easy all the time that made shit go wrong? Like I honestly just don’t even know.

I began noticing that I couldn’t feel as trustful of them. I honestly don’t know when it began. I look back down the corridor of space and time and I’m trying to pinpoint when things changed. When did I stop feeling like I could trust them? And I honestly have to say it was when I was finally made aware of patterns. There were patterns; same ole, same ole. But these patterns were detrimental to my mental health… something that was always on the back burner in our conversations.

And as I picked at the threads of what had been going on between us for nearly a decade, I had to come to the realization that things weren’t really about me. I was secondary. There was always something big going on in [person]’s life that was so much more important than me. Some of those big events in their life were really important; enough to back burner my emotions. But when everything began to get so big and out of control and my emotional needs weren’t being met… That’s when things stopped being easy. When I realized that this was a one-side relationship.

What made all of these realizations worse was that [person] was trying to influence my personal life. Like, yeah. I get where [person] was coming from, but their advice was more detrimental than if they had just continued to ignore the fact that I had emotions and needed to talk about them. It stopped being so fucking easy and it became less about us, more about [person], and I began to feel more and more like a second-class citizen in our own relationship.

The thing is that none of this was new to me. I had gone through this same ole fucking song and dance before. I could count on my hand how many trustworthy people I could count on and in all those other instances, I had come to the realization that I was secondary. I was always fucking second in the race and I don’t know why? I think I’m important. Perhaps because I’m naturally introverted, people mistake it as a need to not discuss things? I don’t fucking get it.

Why can’t I be important?

That’s the gist.

There it is in five fucking words:

Why. Can’t. I. Be. Important.

Like a leach,
I hold on as if we belonged,
To some precious pure dream.
Cast off, you’ve seen what’s beneath,
Now fail me.

I kept the bond. I kept holding on to it for the longest time in some mistake belief that things could go back to being easy. But the thing is that I realized… I wasn’t as integral to the relationship as I thought I should be and I don’t know if it’s really possible to fix that. When I had that realization, the bond began to fade. It’s a shadow of its former self now; less a connection and more a nuisance that I’m reminded of now and again.

How’s that for a relationship, though? I just fucking referred to it as a nuisance. It can’t be all that important, right?

And it is such a fucking nuisance, though, because it’s there. I feel it. I see it. I can reach out and fucking touch it and that bond is a fucking pain in my ass. There it is, all making weepy. There it is, making me all bitchy. There it is just hanging out and doing nothing for me whatsofuckingever per the fucking usual and I still don’t want to fucking sever it. Like what even is that? How is this even logical at all? What the fuck is wrong with me?

You know what hurt the worst about it all, though? It’s the fact that I have already been replaced. I saw it coming; I knew. I pulled away and just kept doing so until the bond would sever. Well, it didn’t actually do that because it’s still there, but I watched what was happening and closed myself off. I watched everything disintegrate and [person] went about the process of replacing me. And I am so burned on the idea of relationships that the mere concept of replacing [person] is foreign. It just does not compute at all.

I’m so compartmentalized now. I’m fractured in ways that, honestly, I don’t know if it’s really possible to recover from. I have been replaced and nothing has been able to fill the hole on my end.

I’ve been informed that if I sever the tie, then things will get easier. I thought that maybe that advice may be true, so I went for it. I reached out and felt for the bond. I found it and I marveled at how much it has changed in the intervening years. There have been so many nicks and stretch points. Did you know that we have had to tie the fucking thing together a few times? I found that out and I pulled at it and I severed it.

I tied it off and burned the ends, hoping that it would atrophy on its own.

Closure has come to me myself,
You will never belong to me.

I cleared out my house of things that [person] gave me about a week ago. I had the intention of doing something to really signal that I was done with this. It hadn’t been benefiting me in years and you know what? In the clearing out of detritus from something that had stopped being easy and stopped being comfortable, I felt a little better. I threw it all away and looked around, marveling at the pieces of myself that were a part of what [person] thought I should be. I removed those bits, too, and I felt infinitely better with it all.

I will admit that I am shattered and broken, yet again, because [person] destroyed something very good about me. I used to trust. I used to feel very connected with people. I wasn’t so introverted and being with [person] made it okay to be in public. I’ve become a shut-in and look at everyone with a side-eye. Those are my hang ups, but I hope [person] is aware that they are partially at fault for them. And maybe, they won’t fucking up replacement me as much as they fucked me up.

Note: Lyrics are from Closure by Chevelle

The Savior Complex.

Some weeks ago, I lay down in the arms of a god and asked for his comfort. He had no comfort to give, or really, it was not the comfort I was seeking. I felt broken and shattered from the last workings on this ongoing path before me and all I wanted was a few moments of safety and solitude. I didn’t find any of that. I found a conversation that punched a hole in my shaky regeneration and I was told that while the conversation itself wasn’t important enough, the basis for it and the general lesson were. I was informed I had to internalize that lesson – let it become a part of me. It wouldn’t be my salvation but it would definitely make things a little easier at some point.

Some weeks before that conversation, I began being tested at work. My boss has this thing where she tests the hell out of you in preparation for a “management” position. She doesn’t call it management – she calls it the next step in the evolution. She says that financially, it will make up for all that she puts us through. I know, nominally, what she thinks a financial reparation is like and I have to admit that I am not wholly interested in this. But the testing began and it’s enveloped my entire waking being.

After the tests began, I snuggled into the arms of a god and asked for comfort that he could not give me. More painful truths were needed before I could become more than the rusted out hulk I thought I had become. I thought that I could begin to feather out and make whole that rusted out hulk, but I’m beginning to think that it isn’t simply a matter of returning to what I once was but changing the metamorphosis so that I become something new – something still me and something else as well. But the tests began at work and I have been consumed with the razor blade tap dancing those tests have forced upon me.

And truly, I have been consumed.

It has become so much that I end up dreaming about what sort of tests she may throw upon me next. When I am not dreaming about work, I am thinking about work. If I am not think about work, someone has asked me how work went that day and all I want to do is punch them in the face. I don’t because assault just because people wants to know what’s up with you sounds like a bad idea. But sometimes, I day dream about it because in a day dream, you can do anything. And I’ve been conveniently able to put that request, “think on this; internalize this; make this a new part of you,” to the back burner.

It’s so damn easy to put off the difficult to near-impossible personal tasks the gods ask of you if you have something more obvious directly in front of you.

That’s the thing about shadow work, though. You have to figure out how to balance it with your waking life. While you are broken and shattered and bleeding from the insides out, you also have to go to work to pay your bills and feed your pets and pretend to have friends. And all the while, you have to at least try to look like a real human being without the scary face smile that you want to wear when people ask you how you’re doing.

How the hell do you balance out pain so intense that you feel like your insides are on fire every waking moment with living your life? How in the fuck do you work on transmuting yourself into the next iteration of your regeneration with painful truths building you up just as everything else in the world around you goes crashing down around your ears? How in the world are you supposed to pretend to be okay when everything feels like you are dying inside and you can’t even remotely say the words out loud or in a text conversation with people who seem to give two shits about you because the pain will threaten to engulf you and destroy you if you voice it out loud?

How even, indeed.

The burning questions, I think, often go unanswered. How am I going to survive all these tests and still be me? How the fuck am I supposed to internalize something I don’t want to admit?

One of the reasons, I think, Sekhmet chose me is because I have a complex. Who doesn’t, really? But at the end of the day, I have this intense desire, intense need to fix things. Whether I am the cause of the damage or not, there is something that speaks to me that says I need to help, I need to fix. I don’t know if she’s really the fixing deity type, on the whole, but I think she has a thing for it. It was to her, after all, that the ancients prayed to when her Arrows were on the loose. I think, perhaps, she has a savior complex, too. It may be why a lot of her kids seem to come to her damaged in some way, looking for the way to become whole again.

I am, in case you were not aware, quite damaged.

I’m working on it, though.

After my conversation with Heru-Wer, I was able to ignore it. He lets me get away with that type of behavior. So, too, did Sekhmet. I think actually most of them do. They recognize that occasionally things are too harsh and painful to full integrate and work on in one fell swoop. My problem is that I like to be able to push the limits of any such time frames provided until I am ordered, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it must be completed. I don’t know if Heru-Wer will tell me forcefully that I need to stop dicking around like Sekhmet has in the past. I do know that I don’t really want to push this one out too far.

You see, it will only get worse the longer I put it off.

I know that; I recognize it. The thing about me pushing things out and ignoring them isn’t so much that I don’t want to do it. I have delusions that one day I will be whole and winsome, ready to face the world as what I should have been before the traumas started. The thing that I’ve come to recognize is that I will never be what I want; I can only be me with the traumas healed as scar tissue. They’ll always be there but probing at the unhealthy scar tissue of a trauma that was not dealt with… well, that shit fucking hurts.

I prolong it all because I don’t want to hurt and I know it’s going to hurt. The conversation left be feeling bereft and raw. It took me most of the day and well into the night and part of the next few days before I finally began feeling a little like my [broken] self again. There was less fire as the days passed by and the stabbing heartache of that conversation began to fade. And then things got ramped up at work and I was able to ignore it some more. I was prolonging the moment when I would have to rip off the Band-Aid, rip out the scar tissue, and start the surgery that I needed so that the next round of healing would be a lot less ugly and little easier.

Funny aside – I’ve been telling one of my friends that she needs to shit or get off the pot for months now. (Actually, more like years, but whatever.) That’s been the key phrase for all of our interactions. Isn’t it funny how I can just dish out exactly what I need to hear for everyone and sundry and then bitch and moan when they don’t take that fucking advice? Yeah, I have a complex all right – I’m complicatedly fucking hypocritical.

I’m an asshole like that.

These last few weeks have been a blissful trip in ignoring the reality in front of me. I stopped harping on the painful conversation and threw myself into my work, not as if I had a choice. It took over everything and left little else beyond a sallow-faced and tire-eyed woman. I had no energy to do anything besides read my book(s), watch mindless television, and not think about anything. It was actually kind of peaceful and restful.

I also recognized that it was bound to fall down around my ears at some point. And I also recognized that I would probably fight the falling down around my ears more if I actively did something about it all. Yesterday, I received the Tower card as my daily divination and I laughed because I got the point that the divination was trying to portray: not quite that everything was being destroyed actively, but if I didn’t get the fuck on it with it, then it would be. All right – message received loud and clear.

So I sat down in front of a puzzle and built a good portion of it yesterday while watching historical drama television on Netflix. And while I built the puzzle and traded wise cracks with TH about who was really doing the puzzle (we took turns) and who was better at putting pieces where they belong (I feel that I won because I was able to build the top third of the puzzle, which was difficult since it was all blended in colors), I thought about the conversation. Not the wording. Not the feelings left over from it. Not anything in specific, but the gist of what was voiced out loud.

I have a complex about saving people.

I can see it in my interactions with people and with my interactions with the gods. I admit it; I like to help other people. It’s not something I openly admit either to myself or to others often. But I like feeling useful and I enjoy knowing that I was able to provide something that gives people the ability to finally connect a puzzle piece they’ve been poking at for a while.

If I look back far enough, I can see the thread in many relationships. I think the first time was the Christian friend, but I’m not sure. Maybe it was a natural high or maybe it was just the moment epitomized and the complex was then born. I honestly don’t know, but since then, I’ve looked for the people who needed someone to save them. I’ve failed a lot of times in the attempt, but sometimes, I’ve been successful.

The problem is that I’ve watched in recent years as failure at the attempts have become more common place. The failure may not be in actuality – it may only be my interpretation of surrounding events. And that is why these things stay with me; because I feel as if I failed and my complex doesn’t take kindly to failure, perceived or otherwise.

Heru-Wer said to me, “It stays with you so much and it burns you so much and it kills you so much because you thought to yourself, ‘I can save this one wayward lamb,’ and you attempted it with whatever means you had at your disposal. But he did not want you to save him in this life or in any of the ones preceding it.

“Sometimes, the attempt is enough to make them save themselves, but sometimes, it is only another step on the path that will lead them to bigger horrors. You couldn’t save him because he didn’t want to be saved – not by you, anyhow. You must remember this, miw, and you must accept that sometimes this path is full of failures but you must release yourself from the guilt you fill yourself with if you are to stay alive.”

Part of the reason this still burns is because of my own failure and the guilt that the failure feeds. I can remember looking at him once and saying, “I will save him from himself,” and I started the building blocks of it. It was a firm foundation that I began with but when it came to the worst of the suffering he had undergone, both at his own behest and at the behest of others, I could not save him. And so I let our connection fester until I was forced to destroy it utterly lest I drown in my guilt and shame at having failed in the task I had unwisely or otherwise undertaken.

I grieved for the loss of him.

I grieved for the loss of the life we would have built together.

I grieved for many things when it became painfully obvious that I had to skedaddle or die.

I never grieved for my own failure and I never absolved myself of the guilt of that failure, even though you cannot force a horse to drink. I gave him firm foundations to build upon and maybe he did end up using them. I think he did because all signs – all information – seems to point to the fact that the foundation I had begun has been completed and is still in use to this day. My own foundation was tied to his and I had to rip it away, but he was able to keep on afterward. I was only able to fall over ass over tea kettle, rolling down the mountainside as the pain of my guilt shredded me wide open.

I have a complex, the savior one. And I failed in that attempt as I failed in other attempts that came afterward. I am eaten alive by my own guilt, feeling inadequate for the task. Not that it was ever, truly, my task to undertake but they let me try at least.

Some nights, I wake up and I can feel the shards of my guilt stabbing at me. I can never determine which bout of guilt it is that has woken me so, but I can hope that at least with the admission to this – this complex – that I can admit that I failed in what I had set out to do with that ex-bonded mate of mine. And maybe the shards of my guilt will stab at me a little less.

The Rusted Hulk.

We all have darkness in our souls. I often wonder if that’s what the ancient Egyptians meant when they talked about the isfet that can infest a person’s heart. Maybe it was the darkness that can infect the soul and overtake it with bitterness, rage, and screams of futility. I don’t know if that’s really what they meant. I probably will never know unless I ask someone more knowledgeable and willing to teach me the tricks of that particular trade. On the days when I am more in tune with that darkness in my soul, I think about isfet and how you’re supposed to correct it so that you’re living in ma’at. I don’t have an answer for that, either.

Maybe one day I will, but today is not that day.

When I started this most recent batch of shadow work, I knew how it would end. Technically, it’s ended and the outcome is what I had predicted. The thing about me is that I’m predictable. I know myself well enough to know what the bottom line is, at least as far as I am concerned. I knew I would come out of it more wounded than I have been in a long time; hurt and alone; angry and sad. I am all of these things. The bitterness that I washed myself in for weeks is over now; it’s simple a mixture of sadness and regret, horror and pain.

Yesterday, when I was looking at the newness of myself after this most recent work, I saw myself as a rusted out hulk. I was like one of those old metal jungle gyms, shaped into a rectangle or square. The bars had broken due to years of disuse and were rusted, daring anyone who touched them with their threat of tetanus. I felt as though someone had taken a melon baller and ripped out my insides, dumping them for someone else to have. Nothing could fill me but sand and the darkness of my own soul. I still feel empty and yet, I also feel as if I’m still bleeding.

I am raw with it.

When I started down this particular brutal path, knowing what the ending would be, I asked others what I should do here. There was talk amongst my most trusted advisers and someone said that I should write about it. I write about it all often enough, but how many entries have I started about this particular batch of pain and suffering only to delete the thousands of words strung together? How many new entries had I written in my head, demanding that I release this all into the atmosphere because if I didn’t, I would end up drowning in the minutiae of the suffering that I had forced myself into? How many times have I heard a keening wail shouting throughout the darkened corner of my mind, unable to release and vent the anguish I was going through?

I bought a journal; I write in it sometimes. Most of my entries are nonsense. I don’t know if they’re particular prose like, but they’re raw… just like me.

In an attempt to wrest control from what’s happening around me, I assure myself that I am simply depressed. It’s just that time of the year and things have been rocketing out of control around me for the last few weeks. It’s only normal to feel like crying because you don’t like what dinner is. It’s only normal to feel as if the world is ending around you, but everyone keeps moving around as though they don’t sense it. It’s normal to feel as if everyone can see deep into your core and know that you are damaged and broken. It’s normal to be depressed because it’s just that time of year and it’s been so long since I’ve really sunk into a deep depressive phase anyway.

But I have to admit that I can tell myself anything I want to; it doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

When the world around me, or rather deep within me, is full of isfet, I try not to look at it. Poking at it will only uncoil the snake that’s roosted itself within me and make it destroy me as thoroughly as Set kills A/poop each morning. Only in my particular case, I won’t be revisited the next morning and the next: it’s a one-time destruction and there will be no attempts; it just would be. Once the flames are out, I will be nothing but the rusted out hulk I’ve metaphorically announced myself as, my insides scooped out with that proverbial melon baller.

Maybe that’s why the ancient Egyptians really feared that particular serpent. It wasn’t so much the unmaking of the world that they feared but the unmaking of the veneer they had slathered over themselves to make it easier to live with the consequences of their realities.

I suppose you could say this particular batch of shadow work has made me a bit maudlin. Understatement of the fucking year.

I was pretty sure that I knew who I was and what things were going to be like before I started this little adventure. I just knew that this and this and this would be my life. I’m a complacent motherfucker; as much as I talk about all the things people need to do in order to stand up for themselves, I am that asshole that will only stand up for myself when I’m backed into a corner and have no choice any longer.

I stayed with my ex-husband for nearly seven years, not out of any other reason than because I always whispered to myself in the dark of the night that I could leave whenever I wanted if I so desired to do it. And it wasn’t until I was backed into a corner, knowing full well how this could and would turn out if I didn’t fucking do something… It was only then that the inner sense of self-preservation kicked in and I burned my house to the motherfucking ground, laughing while I did so.

(Metaphorically speaking. Please, no one think that I’m a pyro or something.)

As I was forced to look at myself form each new discovered angle, I found more within me than I had ever thought possible. And as I looked at myself in that mirror of shadow work, the bit that makes you stare so deeply into yourself that you can memorize the road map of where you’ve been and where you’re heading, I found myself horrified that I didn’t really know myself at all. Everything I thought I knew about who I am and what I wanted was thrown out the window with hardly a second thought. There was no laughter and no self-preservation here. I was forced to look at myself and all I found was a gaping, bleeding wound that just won’t fucking quit.

I don’t know if that’s the worst part or the best part about shadow work: in the aftermath, you only then realize how much you thought you knew and how much you didn’t know at all.

I keep trying to figure out how all of this works out in the end. I knew what the end result of this particular little adventure was going to be: I knew I would come out of it more wounded than I have been in a long time; hurt and alone; angry and sad. I am all of these things. The bitterness that I washed myself in for weeks is over now; it’s simple a mixture of sadness and regret, horror and pain. I am all of these things and I am more because there were parts of myself that I didn’t know and had no clue how they would merit in the end game. I knew I would be all of the above things but I’m more than that.

Chernobyl's Atomic Legacy  Explore #8

Chernobyl's Atomic Legacy # 8 via Flickr

I keep coming back to that image of a rusted out hulk, left forgotten and hollowed out into nothingness. I keep thinking of all those hours I’ve spent, looking at what has since become of Pripyat, the city that housed Chernobyl and its subsequent atomic disaster. I feel like the physical reminder of those images of a place forgotten. There is mystique in that place, something that I don’t have. But the images, the intensity of those images, fills me with something that makes me feel like we are kindred spirits, Pripyat and I. We are both on the same fucking page: lost to the annals of history, a minor footnote in the future that’s to come and the thousands of years that have since past.

I keep trying not to be fucking prosaic with all of this; legit. I keep falling into patterns that end up in that written fucking journal I talked about above. That white notebook that I keep hidden from the world in my purse, waiting for the spare moment when I can jot a few notes down and look them over later. I wrote the truth in that little beauty yesterday and I felt destroyed all over again for the truth of the words I used. I wanted to do nothing more than sit and stare, but the world keeps knocking even when I feel like I’ve been hollowed out and used up.

This week, while I tried to handle all of this with no one to talk to, I kept coming back to this entry that Devo wrote last year, around this time. I have come back to it a few times since she wrote it, but it’s been in the last few weeks that it’s made the most sense. She talks about burning her house down in that entry, something that I can appreciate and understand the reasoning for. While I don’t think burning down my house is particularly what I need to do, I know that I need to do something more than just writing in that white little notebook, hoping that someone will recognize that I am hurting and need help.

Help that, let’s face it, I would probably refuse to take because that’s just who I am: dichotomous and hypocritical, that’s me.

How many times has someone posted somewhere that they’re available if I need to talk and I ignore it? How many times have I received private message from people asking if I’m okay and I brush it off? It’s easy enough because they’re people I only know through the power of the Internet, so I don’t technically have to respond. I can ignore it and then the pain that I am living with isn’t real because no one in my reality actually sees how much I’m hurting.

What’s even worse is that I don’t know if it’s just the shadow work that makes me hurt or if it’s the conscious decisions I’ve made in relation to it. I decided on something clearly – I drew more than just a line in the sand, I fucking blew that sand up like I was the demolitions expert to the stars. There it is, I told myself, after doing it. I made a clear and concise decision. And I’ve been in the middle of my pain-filled world since then. I don’t know if it’s the buried truths of who I am that this shadow work has made me face or if it’s the simple fact that I’ve cut myself off to the point where it feels like half of my soul is missing. I am lost and alone, now, and it’s because I thought I was doing what was in my best interest.

I am so miserable that I want to scream for it. I want to sit in the bathroom, surrounded by the darkness both within my soul and in the room, crying while listening to the most depressing music you can possibly imagine. (I’ve been listening to something by Lana Del Ray on endless repeat for writing this entry. I’m sure she’s one of those singers that I shouldn’t like because she’s done something terrible and ageist or sexist or genderist or whatever, but the song man… The song speaks to that open wound within me and I can’t stop.)

On days like today where I can’t hide how much it hurts, I think about the darkness that festers in my soul and how best to scrub myself from it. Or maybe, the whole point in this is that it is part of the cycle of ma’at with its shades of gray and I have to learn to live with this portion of the isfet in my life. On days like today, I wonder at the isfet that infected my heart and whether or not it will damn me or be my salvation.

But truly, on days like today, I want nothing more than to have someone hold me tenderly as if I’m made of glass and even the hint of a breath in my direction will destroy me utterly and they know this instinctually and they don’t care so long as I’m not alone on a day like today.

Re-Opening Scabs.

Shadow work is probably one of the most grueling things we can ever undergo. I’ve often known that I need to work on things and I have just as often shied away from the prospect, knowing how much pain I could and would unleash upon myself. It’s not just fear that has kept me from working on these traumas, but it’s also the knowledge that I will still need to smile and interact with others, others who may not understand and who may not care, as you work on bits of you that have been folded into the very fabric of your soul.

Picking and pulling apart your soul is hard work, but even with all of that, you still need to live your regular old life. If you don’t answer the questions of people around you, they’ll start asking you what’s wrong. And if you are very busy pulling yourself apart, there is no way that you can explain it to them without sounding, well, without sounding a little unbalanced, a little unwell. So, of course, you have to continue to live your life as you normally would and maybe they’ll forgive the fact that you’re just a tiny bit off your game for a while since you’re so busy destroying who you are on a fundamental level in order to rebuild yourself into who you may have been without those damned fucking traumas having gotten in the way.

I ripped a scab off the other day. It was gross. You know what it’s like to rip off a scab from your knees, when you’re a kid? It’s kind of painful but you’re just like intent on fucking ripping that shit right the fuck off. I don’t know why kids feel the need to pick at their scabs; I used to do it and my son does it unless it hurts too much. I don’t know if picking at scabs is really useful when you skin your knees, though. You end up with scars if you do that. But sometimes, I think, the scars are useful because you can wear them proudly and point out to people that you survived.

I’ve done a lot of shadow work in the last few years. I know that I’m not perfect and I know, clearly, that I have a lot of things to resolve. I doubt, most times, that I will be able to remake myself into the form I want to be before I die, officially die. Rebirth is all well and fine and a part of shadow work, but I mean honestly and fully die. I know that I’m only thirty [-one] but sometimes, the uphill battle to get to where I need to go is so difficult that I can’t be bothered. I just can’t look up any further at the cliff face I’m climbing and I just stop.

But the thing about shadow work that I often have to remind myself is that that there is an ultimate plan in play. Sometimes it relates to bigger picture; sometimes it doesn’t. I have a lot of issues that I have to contend with on a daily basis; issues that I didn’t realize how deeply they impacted me until I started picking and pulling at what needed to be reformed in order to work through the trauma and come out the other side. I thought that after the yearlong work I did regarding my ex would be sufficient for the needs; I was wrong. I was very wrong.

I guess shadow work is one of those ongoing processes that we all have to explore and go through. Each person’s journey will be unique, of course, because the issues that we have faced and how we came out of them relatively intact is going to be completely different. I can write whatever the hell I want to and say what I think people will need to hear, but whatever journey we have been on is [probably] going to flavor the unique shadow work before each individual. There’s no all-purpose way to do this, unfortunately. There are only some tricks, some ideas, and some possibilities to throw out there for those looking to learn.

My best advice? Be prepared to fuck yourself sidewise ten ways to Sunday, screaming and crying [internally], and hoping that you get the fixing you part right one day.

Ripping that fucking twat waffle of a scab off was some really fucked up shit.

I have discovered a lot of triggers in myself lately. I don’t really like that terminology, honestly. I understand the point behind it and this gif set illustrates it the best. But the reactions that I have to those moments aren’t necessarily “trigger” like. I don’t have a flashback; I tend to have a flight-or-fight response in all honesty. If I see it, I can fight it out and end up in an emotional avalanche coupled with such terrific physical reactions as increased respiratory and heart rate; cold sweats; and the shakes. Other times, I end up fleeing the fuck away from whatever the hell it is, either physically or mentally, and I bury myself in a world that doesn’t include such things.

This doesn’t really help in the long run, I admit. The point is that I have to get through what has happened and, hopefully, build something workable. I don’t have any blueprints, though, so I’m not really sure what “workable” means. I can assume what it means by its very definitions, but when it comes to breaking yourself wide open and see what parts fit together after removing the tender bits, well, maybe not everything will really be so fully functional at the end of it all.

I wish there was a manual for these types of situations. I really wish there was this one way that would make everything work out appropriately. Everyone just follows the instructions and everyone can come out the other side, maybe not completely whole, but relatively close to that. It would be like one of those dance floor mats that teach people who to do the samba or the waltz; you put your feet in the designated places and teach on autopilot. Unfortunately, no one thought one of those mats was in our best interest when they realized that we have to destroy in order to become reborn.

Rebirth is a terrible process, but it’s the process we all need to go through at some point or another.

Shadow work is some fucked up shit.

But so, too, are the experiences that we’ve gone through. It’s all some fucked up shit. People think that the end goal is some kind of utopia or something. I don’t think that’s really possible. It sure sounds sweet when you look up what other people think a utopia may be like, but I don’t think perfection is really the end goal. We’re imperfect creatures with wants, desires, and feelings. No matter how old we are and no matter how ornery we may get in that old age, we still have those wants, desires, and feelings. They make us imperfect, I think, but they keep us human.

One particular trauma, specific to the ex-husband here, keeps coming back to me. I’m not re-living it, per se, but I’m poking at the hornets’ nest that is that moment in time. There are other things associated with that moment; things that I honestly can’t even begin to fully comprehend. The worst part about this is that the single moment I’ve been working on is tied seemingly imperceptibly to everything else. While I can focus on this one thing right here, I have to admit that it means pulling apart bits of other things as well. I end up with a giant fucking mess on my hands and wonder, how the fuck am I supposed to pull out the good parts while shedding the bad parts and end up, nominally, whole at the end of it all?

No manual; no road map.

We just move forward with a hopeful look that things will end up better at the end of it all. And when things get hard, there are ugly tears with snot running down our faces and blotched cheeks and sobs so hard that you can practically feel your ribs breaking from the pain of it all. At the other end, you can only hope that what ends up coming out of it is all right and that, you know, you were able to put the pieces of you back together.

To be functional.

To be “normal.”

Okay, maybe just to be relatively complete.

Sometimes, when I’m working hard on those things, I try to desensitize myself. I know that this type of therapy is used for certain disorders and most often phobias. I don’t think what I’m putting myself through, reliving this shit, is really a phobia. But desensitization has worked, slightly, so that I don’t freak out publicly. I can have that frightened, scared rabbit moment in the confines of my own home, usually locked in the bathroom underneath the shower spray so I can grieve or hurt privately. I don’t recommend this therapy type, in all honesty; I don’t really know if it’s helping at all.

Sometimes, I just poke at things like a kid with a stick. I don’t look at anything; I don’t read about anything. I just follow the yarn until I come to a point that needs to be plucked about. Poking things is all right, I guess. It gets me a little farther, I think, than the desensitization. But the problem with poking at things means that, at some point, I’m going to awaken something that I didn’t really want to wake up. And then I have to deal with the aftermath of that. Periodically, that aftermath is at work or when my kid is up and asking for a story or when I’m lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling. The angry monster inside of me surges and I know nothing except that monster. I’m not sure if I really recommend this type of shadow work either; I couldn’t say if it’s beneficial or not.

Sometimes, I just let it lie. I leave it alone and wait for something to occur to me, an epiphany of sorts, and hope that I can parse out the meaning of that epiphany when it happens. Shadow work, in my opinion, isn’t always on the go type of stuff, but can also mean lazing around while you wait for the next thing to come to you, in my case, an epiphany. The problem with his particular trick is that, maybe just maybe, there are other factors pushing me toward resolution and I can’t wait amount for that single moment of clarity to happen. I don’t think this is helping me at all, but it gives me a rest at least from the hard work.

Sometimes, I ignore all of my hang ups and try to just live my life. Nothing is wrong with me and I am perfectly fine. This is a lie I’ve told myself for years; it’s still there in the back of my mind. But when I look at myself in the mirror after assuring myself that I’m okay, I can see the lie in my eyes, in my nose, in my hair. It’s all just hanging around, the big fat epic lie, and I know that I can’t hide from it anymore. As scared as I might be, I have to move forward. I don’t recommend this at all. Don’t lie to yourself. As painful as the work will be, lying to yourself makes it that much harder to break things down to their fundamental parts and work them back together again.

As I was saying, I started ripping off the scabs with full abandon recently. I didn’t care what scab I was going to rip off; I chose one at random. The scab, though, was connected to another one and another one. I ripped that fucking thing off like nobody’s fucking business and got a punch to the face for my trouble. It hurts, you know, when you do it that way. It hurts worse when you’re pulling off emotional and mental scabs than it does when you’re picking at physical ones. You don’t know what sort of pain you’ll unleash when you pick at them, of course, which is probably why it hurts worse.

I ripped off that fucking scab and reveled in the moment, briefly. It was nice to feel a little free. I am free, I screamed, from this pain. And then it came back twenty times worse and whatever heka I thought I was doing by screaming that out loud was wrong. I wasn’t free because there was more lurking under the surface wound. A lot more. I didn’t realize how much more.

I’m tired all the time; I’m weepy all the time; I read too much to hide from the pain; I delve deep into the work when I’m sleeping, hoping that one day I will wake up and it will be better again. Someone told me yesterday that this was long-term shit, at least a year or more. I can’t say that I’m shocked by this, but it still sucks that I have so much fucking hard work ahead of me.

There’s no manual about how to do this hard work, so I have to hope that what I do, at least a little, works well for me because otherwise, this job will take me that much harder.

I ripped off a scab the other day; I ripped that motherfucker off and screamed with the power of my own intentions. I just have to remember that, I think, while I work hard on this shit. I just have to remember that moment when I screamed and reveled, thinking about burning down my enemies with the power of my own thoughts. If I remember what it’s like to feel that way, then maybe, I’ll be okay through the next year or so.

And maybe, in the end, I’ll come out of it a little more whole than I am now.

Self-Care: Work.

After realizing that I probably had no idea what self-care actually was and that I would need to build the foundation of my self-care from the ground up, I began stopping frequently to evaluate what it was that I was doing. I thought that it would be best to take a look at my normal, everyday actions and see if I felt that they merited entry in the mostly empty “self-care” category. I had been so focused on just having shadow work equate to self-care that I had been ignoring things. Sure, mental and emotional health is fine and dandy, but I’m not just a mind and heart: I’ve got limbs and teeth and organs that need to be taken care of, too.

So, I would do the dishes and ask myself if this was a part of self-care. And I would walk the dog down the block and wonder if that was part of self-care. And I would play a game on my phone for way too many rounds and wonder if that was self-care. And I would stand out underneath the sun, soaking up the rays before it got too warm, and wonder if that qualified as self-care. And I would sit on the couch and stare moodily into the distance, berating myself for my perceived failures at work that day, and definitely declare that probably wasn’t part of self-care.

I could find that I have a lot of negative habits, mostly rooted in deep-seated neuroses and anxieties that have to do with things from a while back, and that none of them really belong in the self-care category.

I tentatively had a game plan. I was doing okay, mostly, with the mental and emotional things that I felt were included in the self-care definition. I had a bunch of physical things, though, that I had to work on. And I began working on them, but I found that every week, I was backsliding somewhere.

That’s to be expected, of course, because I’m doing new things and attempting to teach myself to do those new things. However, when I was saying, “I will do these things and it will be great,” at the start of the week and within two days, on the verge of tears, eating an entire bag of M&Ms, bemoaning a million things and thinking about how much my self-care maybe didn’t mean that much to me, I thought perhaps there was an underlying cause.

Well, I was stressed the fuck out, which is probably a pretty normal cause in not doing self-care related things.

Instead of paper balls, envision me with a flag under telephone lines and phone systems. (Source unknown.)

Instead of paper balls, envision me with a flag under telephone lines and phone systems. (Source unknown.)

I thought about the main cause in that stress – work – and wondered how I could diminish my stress levels while still achieving the ultimate goal of having a roof over my head. You see, I was beginning to notice that because I was stressing out about work related things, it wasn’t just impacting my self-care. Oh, no; it couldn’t just impact a small facet of my life like making myself better in some form or another, but had to effect all facets of my fucking life. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong and things were burning down around my ears and the even transient thought about trying to work on shadow work was laughable while I was so busy barely able to focus on breathing properly.

I’ve been down this road before and it didn’t end well for me.

As a probably not very quick backstory…

I worked for a job that I was really good at as a manager of a convenience store. I got moved to a store where managers went to get fired. Every manager who was ever put in that store was told to “clean it up,” which mostly meant there were personnel problems. Well, and that was fine because I had managed to clean up (mostly) the store I had been in before moving there, except that the personnel I needed to get rid of her been hand-picked by the owner of the company. So, it was kind of a catch-22. And knowing that, I got stressed the hell out.

Things were falling down around my ears and everyone said that it would be okay. So I began looking for other jobs, but not seriously enough, I suppose. Within three months of being sent to that store, I got fired. I didn’t even get fired for anything that I had actually done or said but because they wanted to fire my star employee. I got caught in the crossfire of all that and ended up with a serious dose of anxiety about working and jobs.

I remember how stressed out I was before, almost magically, it all stopped the moment that the security officer entered my store to inform me that my services were no longer required. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep, I was dreaming about work. My interpersonal relationships were failing because I couldn’t focus on a damn thing. I spent most of my time away from work either thinking about work or watching really bad horror movies in an effort to not think about work. (Bad horror movies are a passion of mine and I really can’t tell you how much they’ve helped me over the years when things get bad.)

I can feel the stress levels rising with work, but I also know that I’m pretty much set for a job. I could probably get away with a lot of not-working before anyone realized that I was too apathetic and pitched me out the door. Not that it matters because, as much time as I stare blankly at the computer screen in front of me at work, having a silent panic attack about something, I still manage to do a lot of shit in between the staring. But the stress levels are impacting me again, across the board, and I find myself coming home, more often than not, thinking about hiding in a corner and crying.

None of this seems very in tune with self-care, at all, does it?

This past weekend, I realized that I needed to do something for myself in this situation. I was so focused on what I may or may not be failing at for my boss, for my co-workers, for my clients and forgetting that I have a say in all of this, too. And as important as making sure that everyone that my work-related actions impact are seen to, I am the more important person because, if I’m not functioning properly, then I can’t do anything else properly. And as part of a quote by Parker Palmer attests, “Self-care is never a selfish act.”

Perhaps, if I tell myself that often enough, I won’t feel so bad?

How do you actually relax? And how do you just cross stress off the to-do list? Isn't it always, like, there? (Source unknown.)

How do you actually relax? And how do you just cross stress off the to-do list? Isn’t it always, like, there? (Source unknown.)

But what is the easiest way in order for me to relieve the burden of stress? I can’t just cross out stress. No matter how many memes are made about how you can just cancel out stress, it’s really just not that simple. Even if you know the root cause of the problem, treatment isn’t necessarily easy or painless.

Of course, the simplest answer is to leave the job. Unfortunately, as much as my instincts are screaming at me to run as far away as humanly possible, I don’t think swapping out one form of stress for another form of stress is really the way to go here. It seems very much as though self-care would be really thrown out the window by doing that.

The next available option is to bide my time while I job hunt.

I’m not sure if this is really the best answer, but I do know it’s an affirmative action towards removing stress and heading back towards self-care. I can’t do anything about the client that is causing me the most stress acting like an asshole and unable to take responsibility for themselves. I can’t do anything about reminding my co-workers that I am fallible and make mistakes (they seem to think that I don’t?) and I can’t do anything about reminding them any more emphatically that I am one person with about a trillion projects and can’t fine tune everything all at once. What I can do is look to myself and my desires. And my desires are saying: get the fuck out, homeslice.

So, I’ve been job hunting. I have found three jobs that I have applied for this week. According to the unemployment class I had to take when I was unemployed, in order to find a new job, one has to search between 5 – 8 hours a day in this economy. I don’t have the time or the ability to do that. Even though I spend a bit of my time staring blankly at the computer screen, it’s mostly because I am mentally incapacitated, semi-frozen, and barely able to register anything. So, I have to job hunt when I can, which is after work.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that the jobs in my area are kind of scarce. Well, the jobs in my area that I am qualified for and willing to take. I’ve had to cross off a bunch of prospective jobs because they are part-time or the pay inducement isn’t enough or because I just can’t with retail any longer. But this is one of those instances, where I have to decide how much of these stress levels that I can handle before I flip my shit. (When I flip my shit, it can be pretty epic and I usually end up fucking myself over, honestly.) The thing is that, too, I feel that I am worth so much monetary value, I would like to have very good benefits (my current job has PTO and that’s it), and I would like to feel like I am doing something beneficial instead of babysitting a bunch of IT departments who haven’t had the time and wherewithal to accurately learn about their telecommunications service.

When I started thinking about self-care, I didn’t really consider it beyond my body. I didn’t even consider the physical body, at all, at first and it was only after serious thought that I began to encompass that into what I realized that self-care should be. I thought of it as a strict physical, mental, and emotional fashion after my initial post on the subject. There was nothing else. And while stress can impact all three forms that humanity has about them, it still didn’t occur to me that work and having a stress-free work environment could be considered a form of self-care.

Let this be a lesson to anyone – self-care is anything and everything at this point.

And while I have plans and ideas about how to take care of myself on a physical, mental, and emotional level, I have to recognize that the biggest hurdle at the moment isn’t my bad eating habits, my bad sleeping habits, the smoking, the laziness, or anything else. Right now, it’s the stress levels at work and I need to get those down to management levels or get them gone before something drastic happens.

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  1. Self-Care

Remembered Moments

As though to ensure that I was getting the most bang out of my shadow working buck, I started remembering things last night that I had long since forgotten. What startled me about this was that it related to the ex-boyfriend who, fortunately or otherwise, set the blueprint for my future relationships. While I was very busy attempting to fall asleep after a very long day, my mind had other ideas in mind and so, I went back to my sixteen-year-old self and got to relive things I had never thought of.

This started because I was irritated by the horror movie stereotype of their being an odd number of high school friends (who invariably end up mostly dead). The movie I fell asleep watching had seven friends: four guys and three girls. I was irritated by this because, for half of my high school career, there were six of my friends. And while there was inter-dating amongst the six of us, it was mostly A and her boyfriend, J and her boyfriend, and then myself and P, platonically (though everyone thought we had been dating since freshman year). I had dated P, I remembered, but briefly…

…and then in that sort of shadow lit haze my mind takes up before falling asleep, I went back to that sixteen-year-old girl who was desperately attracted to the blond-haired bad boy. The one who would help to mold me into the woman I would become, for better or worse, and he seemed very much attracted to my best friend, J.

I don’t know if I reached out to P in an effort to be not-alone while all of my friends were with someone and/or were desired by someone. I know that he and I dated very briefly that year. I think it was about a two week, all told, relationship. And it was before I even knew what date rape was, so my mindset was relatively okay. (I say relatively because I was acting out in ways that weren’t like me at all so subconsciously, I knew and understood that something bad had happened.)

P changed for me, which scared the absolute crap out of me. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t demand compromise or force you to change, which was good. However, he was the kind of guy who would change for you. He was also the first boyfriend I had with a full on beard and mustache combination and it was very strange kissing him. What made it even weirder was that it was very much like kissing my brother. No dice.

But just because I wasn’t interested didn’t mean that he wasn’t interested. Even though he kind of, but definitely knew that I was very attracted to his best friend, the long-term relationship guy, he was still very interested in getting me into a relationship. I honestly don’t know if it was me that he liked or if it was something about me that he liked or if he was just a guy who wanted a girlfriend. I honestly don’t know and probably never will – P and I haven’t spoken in nearly ten years now for reasons – but while he was willing to let me break up with him, he wasn’t exactly not-willing to not try to get back with me.

If that sentence makes any fucking sense.

SO WHAT I MEAN is that P wanted to get back with me, even though I was more interested in getting with his best friend.

The thing is that I don’t think I ever said, emphatically, why I was breaking up with him. If I had said, “You frightened me because you shaved off all of your facial hair because it tickled me,” or if I had said, “you’re like my brother and this is borderline incest to me even though we’re not related at all,” things probably would have been okay? And I think that we could have had a decent friendship still. But I was worried about preserving that friendship so I didn’t say anything about that at all, but merely said I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship.

So, I kind of left it open a little that we would maybe get back together even though I was OBVIOUSLY MAKING EYES at his best friend.

I knew how to be subtle after having done the unrequited love thing for a year. (I thought I loved the guy and my mother was pretty sure I did, too, and maybe I did, but things and stuff.) And I knew that I had to play it weirdly subtle with P’s best friend, AKA long-term relationship guy, because he and I had been not enemies but not even remotely friendly for the previous two years, so I had to be like subtle and moody about all of that.

It was very weird, for me, to discover that someone who I didn’t seem to like was actually a really likeable guy. We had a lot in common. We were kindred spirits with outcast like mentalities, obsessions for dark poetry and prose, and as Goth as you could get without actually being Goth (I think.) So, I was already freaked out by the fact that I liked him as a person and I was even more freaked out when I realized how fucking jealous I was when he confided in me that he wanted to get into a relationship with my best friend. That was, actually, my first clue that I liked him in that more than friends way. And it was even stranger because I felt that tinge of jealousy when I was dating his best friend.

I’ll tell you what, now that I’m looking back. Having a really close knit pack of friends is okay and whatnot for high school but it can also be REALLY complicated. My group of friends was really complicated. It was my junior year that we began bringing in more friends, so it got a little less complicated, but at the start of my junior year, it was really just that core six of us with outliers, such as long term relationship guy and a few others, but mostly it was just the six of us. And it was really fucking complicated…

Anyway.

Perhaps I dumped P with the knowledge that I wanted to pursue his best friend and didn’t want to hurt him, but I’m not completely sure if that’s legitimate. What I do know is that he freaked me out when he shaved his face for me and it was like kissing my brother when we kissed. He was like the backup guy to take me out to a dance if I really wanted to go to one, and we actually did end up going to the semi-formal together that year. He was my friend more than he would ever be anything else, to me, and that, I think, is the main reason why I broke up with him even if I couldn’t have explained that to anyone way back then.

So, in November, I spent a lot of time with long-term relationship guy, moodily trying to figure out how to make it obvious that I was interested. It was only around then that I realized that I had been raped because someone else told me, so I had to contend with the ramifications of that (which I kept to myself for about a month or more) as well as dealing with hormonal surges from being a teenager as well as dealing with jealousy of my best friend, worry about hurting P if anything happened between his best friend and I, and everything else in between. Like, now that I am writing it out, it’s really a wonder how teenagers don’t end up going insane with all of these emotions and hormones. And it’s really a wonder that I, myself, didn’t end up losing my fucking shit while going through those emotions and hormones while also trying to assimilate the idea that I had been date raped.

Just… for fuck’s sake, the first semester of junior year was some fucked up shit all the way around, no matter how I look at it.

I remember that I skipped school on the half day before Thanksgiving. And I remember that I had been hanging out with long-term relationship guy and we had a really cool idea about meeting up with P at his bus stop. So, we went to his bus stop and we went over to P’s house because there was no one there and we all wanted to just hang out and be friends together.

And that’s not what happened at fucking all.

I don’t know if anyone, outside of myself, realizes how really fucking intense it can be when you’re hanging out with two guys. One of whom is interested in you and the other of whom is interested in your best friend but appears to maybe also be interested in you as well now that you had hung out enough times to establish that there was a baseline of attraction. IT’S REALLY FUCKING INTENSE. And what makes this even more fucking ridiculous is that the three of us had all hung out before as friends and it was fine, but for some reason, shit was fucking real that day.

P made a move.

I neither consented nor voiced my non-consent.

This is the key moment here and this, I think, is the point behind this shadow work. It wasn’t, specifically, long-term relationship guy that ended up making my consent button not-work anymore. It was an issue before him, but I had just forgotten this moment in time because everything that came after it was even more intense than my fucked up and shitty and asshole-filled first semester of junior year.

The three of us went upstairs and watched TV or something. And I was lying across the bed, falling the fuck asleep because I think more happened that day that made my emotional roller coaster of fucked up shit even worse than normal – I think I know what incident it was but I’m not 100%. In either case, I was fucking exhausted at that point and I just wanted to fucking nap. So, I was lying full across the bed on my stomach and I was blearily looking out P’s window and he was lying beside me, but partially over my back and his best friend was lying right next to me on his stomach, too.

And P kissed the back of my neck.

I remember his kisses – they were very cautious, but they were also very not-cautious if that makes any fucking sense.

And alarm bells were going off in my head.

Source unknown.

Source unknown.

I closed my eyes and turned my head away and reached out with my hand and clasped his best friend’s hand in mine, squeezing as much as I could. I don’t think he realized why I was holding his hand at all at first and I don’t think he fully realized what the hell was going on behind him because he wasn’t looking in my direction. I had my eyes closed so tightly and I was thinking, stop, stop, stop, stop, no, no, no, don’t do that. Say something but how do I say no without making it clear I’m not interested and I will ruin our friendship and no no no no no no. I remember enough to remember worrying about our friendship and how this would impact us as friends.

I don’t know if my worrying about his emotional state if I rejected him is normal when it comes to people in similar situations? I just know that I was absolutely fucking worried about how this would impact him. I guess, in one way, that’s really selfless and amazing, or something. But on the other hand, it goes to show what I was usually thinking when it came to failing to give consent or to reject the advances: I was too busy worrying about what they would think or feel if rejected. My emotional state in the aftermath of said occurrences didn’t merit, but theirs did.

Is that rape culture at work or is it just a really fucked up self-esteem problem?

In either case, now that I think about it, this moment crystallizes and clarifies, I think, the underlying issue when it comes to consent. I’m too worried about others to actively take care of myself in any meaningful way. Again, let me reiterate: in my head, my own emotional state of that moment and after that moment doesn’t merit a fucking second thought, but the boys who did things I didn’t consent to did merit a lot of fucking thoughts on the topic. So maybe fucking thoughts that I fucking never even voiced a yea or a nay; I just closed my eyes and silently wished it would stop.

Well, now, that’s some fucked up shit.

In this instance, I didn’t have to do much more. When I squeezed his hand hard enough to rub bones together, the long-term relationship guy turned over and saw what was happening. I may have looked at him, begging with my eyes, but I honestly can’t remember. He saw what happened and managed to firmly put a stop to it. (He ended up shoving his best friend off and lying on top of me so that I was completely covered head to foot and commenting about how that was how you cuddled a chick to make her feel safe. So, he cock blocked his best friend for me – at my silent request – and also crushed the ever loving shit out of me, which made me happy as hell because, you know, hormones and emotions.)

It was at this moment, maybe, that I fell in love with long-term relationship guy. At that moment in time, he was in tune enough with me to recognize what I needed without my having to say it. And that, to me, meant a lot more than anything else. Later, when we were in a relationship, he would often check in with me to be assured that what was happening was okay. For all intents and purposes, he did a really good fucking job checking in with someone as emotional frazzled as I was.

It just didn’t stick.

Or maybe he got complacent.

Or maybe I got even worse about consent.

Or maybe we were both really fucking young and fucked in the head.

In either case, long-term relationship guy wasn’t exactly the reason I had an issue with consent. He compounded the problem when he stopped checking in and stopped verifying that I had given permission to move forward. No, clearly, it’s something that I had an issue with before that, as evidenced by his best friend and the one-off guy before that and the kid when we were both nine-years-old.

In the instance with P, it was for fear of what our friendship would end up like if I said something. (Which was dumb as shit of me because it got a little strained when I did start dating his best friend.) In the instance of that one-off dude, it was fear of being unwanted that stayed my tongue. In that moment when I was nine, I think, it was fear of what he would do to me if I didn’t just do the thing. The point being that I’ve (A) had this issue for a long time and (B) reasons varied from individual scenario to individual scenario.

The lesson I should have learned with P was that I mattered enough to have a say in what was happening to me. The lesson I learned was, instead, that if I reached out long enough, something magical would happen and I would be saved.

Self-Care.

I’ve seen a lot of posts going around lately, my own included, regarding self-care. This got me thinking this morning about what exactly self-care entails. I did a very quick mock up regarding myself this morning and found that I was tired, listless, and feeling generally without spoons. This was hearkened on last night when I mentioned that I had been ignoring about 98% of what has been happening within in the great pagan community because I tend to ignore myself in the face of whatever issues are going on and forego whatever work I may be doing in the name of “self-care.” But as I did a quick look over myself and realized that my spoons are low, I began to wonder what the fuck self-care really is because, well, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

I looked around, first, at my friends list on Facebook. Perhaps it was people within that had the answer to what this question. I saw a lot of memes and philosophical type statuses about what people think the world should be like. But that didn’t really answer the question. I searched through the self-care tag on Tumblr and found that, well, there are a lot of different definitions for it, depending on people and their circumstances. It didn’t seem like I was going to find anything that was specifically, “this is what self-care is so go and do the thing.” And that’s kind of what I was hoping for since, you know, I think I may be doing it wrong.

I started thinking about the people who I know who think about self-care, though perhaps not in those words. My supervisor is very unhappy – to her, self-care, is sitting at home and doing nothing because she is an introvert. And to an extent, I can see why that would be the case since, as an introvert, it can be very difficult to socialize at work, either with co-workers or with clients, day in and day out. But she doesn’t seem particularly happy and she often complains about how dissatisfied she is with her life. So maybe not doing anything after work and on the weekends is part of her self-care, but I think there may be an integral part to it that she may not be doing.

In same vein, looking at her circumstances, I find myself. I do a few things that I would deem as self-care: spending time at home when my spoons have been eaten up by constant people-ing; working on issues that the gods or my own psyche point out that need to be addressed through shadow work; pulling back heavily from community related exercises in a better attempt to get a handle on myself, my wants, and my religious life; attempting to eat healthier and exercise more; and spending any private time on pursuits that I would prefer, such as reading fiction books in every spare moment, re-reading historical biographies, and/or boning up on historical time periods that I have a preference for. These are all things that I tend to think of as self-care and things that I have been attempting to do, with moderate success in some areas and extreme success in other areas. But I still find myself having issues in various arenas and finding that, well, I don’t feel like I’m doing things properly.

So, I kept looking for answers.

I polished off my Google-fu and began looking around for some answers.

Wiki, of course, was the first thing that popped up. The first paragraph from Wiki says, “Self-care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development. In terms of health maintenance, self-care is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease. A holistic health approach is common in self-care.” However, as I kept reading, the page seemed to be specifically referring to “physical well-being” and “physical health” as opposed to the all-encompassing health forms that I was looking for.

I kept looking.

And then I think I hit the jack pot when I found this PDF file. The first sentence was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I went through the suggested strategies and saw that there were things, according to the PDF, that I was missing out on. I haven’t been doing well with the whole eating properly thing lately (since we’ve been so social in the last two weeks, I’ve found my eating habits returning to “bad” instead of “moderately okay” like they have been) and I haven’t been able to meet my step goal in days and days. (Some of my step goals are a little difficult to meet anyway because I sit at a desk all day but I do try to make up the steps in some form or another after work.) I had been ignoring my physical well-being.

What else had I been ignoring?

Some of the emotional self-care comments didn’t seem to apply to me. While I understand the requirement, for some people, when it comes to counseling, I haven’t had very many good experiences with counseling and have since decided that due to trust issues, it’s not a good idea for me. I’ve already cut out many of the friends that I have felt used me and wouldn’t let me discuss my own issues. I screen my calls regularly (mostly because I don’t get many and the ones that I do get are those stupid auto-dialer calls from toll-free numbers).

So what else?

“Be aware of things you may be doing that take up a lot of your time but don’t support your self-care such as too much time on the internet, watching TV, even sleeping. These can all be relaxing, enjoyable activities in moderation but can become a way of retreating and isolating yourself.” Hm. And of course, this one, “Make a date night and stick with it, either with a partner, a friend or a group of friends.” Hmmmm.

I can definitely say that I don’t set limits on much of anything. I watch as much television as I want; I don’t spend as much time on the Internet as I used to but I still do it to excess (I feel); I certainly can’t remember the last time I had a date night with either of my boys (mostly because of money); and well, yeah, I do things to excess much of the time. So maybe the issue is that I don’t have enough limits or remember how to limit myself or even think about what limits should be?

I think, perhaps, the limit thing may be the issue.

Devo wrote about knowing thyself and setting limits at the beginning of this year. In this entry, she discusses how she knew where her limits were based on what she’s been dealing with lately and when she knew she had to put some things up in order to maintain herself.

This quote, in particular, is the portion of her post that resonates with me the most currently: “Many people seem to lack this ability – the ability to say no, or to drop something that is important to them. However, it’s my firm belief that all of us really need to sit down, look at ourselves in the mirror and learn what our limits are, and the effect that sticking our head in the sand could be having on the gods and ourselves. How not saying no can be of detriment to the things we really care about.”

I have set limits in some contexts previously. Many of the friends I have had over the years, I have since come to learn that it was not a two-way partnership. I am very much a people pleaser and I found that they were not aiding me at all. It became more important during my unemployment and shortly thereafter to remove such people from my life. While I currently only have maybe two people to whom I can speak with about various things, I’ve also come to set limits within those friendships, knowing that certain aspects of my life shouldn’t meet. (As discussed in this entry.)

In Devo’s entry, she discusses that the best way to set limits is to know yourself. But how do you get to know yourself well enough to know what limits you need to set for yourself? When is enough, well, enough? When can you finally decide what you do want and what you don’t want? And when are the limits too strict and when are the limits too lax?

My limits, currently, are very much in the lax category regarding many things. And I need to tighten things up a bit, I thinks. But how do I know what needs to be tightened up and what doesn’t? I remarked on where, as based on the PDF I linked to, my limits are too stretchy to be effective. But are those the only areas that I need to work on? Maybe there are other areas that need to be addressed and I just haven’t discovered them yet?

Art and words by Michael Leunig. X

Art and words by Michael Leunig. X

During my search through the Tumblr “self-care” tag, I found an image that kind of resonated with me. This image is from a cartoonist in Melbourne, Australia. It took me a while to find the original artwork, which can be seen here at his website. I went through the gallery a few times until I found the image in question, as seen to the right. I think that it is this cartoon, more than anything, that heralds how best to “know thyself” and how best to establish one’s own limits. If we don’t know who we are and get to know who we are then any limits we may set for ourselves are completely useless.

At this time, I need to sit on the fence and get to know myself again. I need to find a clear time in which I can do more than just a quick mock up of what I’m feeling and where I think need to head. I need to do an in-depth, I think, re-introduction to myself. I am not the same person I was last year or the year before. Things have changed in large ways and small ways. And I need to remind myself who I want to be versus who I am now in order to set my limits.

Once I get to know myself, hopefully, I’ll be able to set some limits and know what to cut out and where so that I can get back on track because, honestly, having no spoons really fucking sucks.