My 41st Year Mid-Way Point Review

When I last wrote my reflections on my thoughts, dreams, and goals, it was on my 41st birthday and I was very depressed. Since that time, a few things have changed, got rescheduled, put on hold, and rearranged. We are just a week after Midsummer, I still have occasion to weep over events in the world out of my control, but my family life has improved. A great heaviness lifted when my brother broke his silence and called me on Midsummer’s Eve night. Hurts between us are always due to misunderstanding made even worse due to disorder. The same goes with my father who likes to lash out at me whenever he’s in pain.  I’m all too willing to act as care-giver when I really need to take care of myself more.  My father is in a comfy vet’s home where he’s under 24/7 nurses’ attention (“like living in a hotel!” he describes it) and my brother has his own help, too.  Yet, both my mother and aunt, before they died, instilled in me a sense of duty and honor to care for my closest blood relatives.  If I cannot do that, what good am I?  What kind of sister or daughter would I be if I didn’t do anything to help them?  So the more I fought to help my father and brother, the more they felt smothered by me.  I offended them every time I offered to do anything for them!  I thought it was the right thing to do, but then realized that the really right thing to do was to follow their wishes.  Both men wished to be left alone.  So, I did just that.

But I did not leave them alone without a sense that I was abandoning them.   During the years when my mother was dying, even though it was emotionally and physically draining there, I always felt good that I was making my mother very happy.  She lived for her visits with me and my brother.  I don’t think she even minded when he and I would fight over who got to do what!  For once she was the center of our attention.  What I miss the most is printing photographs and making little displays on her activity board in her room.  I miss meeting and talking with the nursing staff, greeting the other patients, and always going to that home with a mission — to make my mother’s day!  Planning a visit was always planning a little project.  I tried never to go there without having something to give, or a story to tell her, but it was never enough.  I still feel like I did not do enough to make her life better in her last days.  But she told me that just being there meant more to her than anything I could ever buy or make.

When my father checked into the vet’s home, I looked forward to making him a cork board to post photographs and other mementos on.  Even more I wanted to make new friends with his 80 to 90 something neighbors — seniors who are full of stories!  But, no, Dad is very introverted, plus he told me he’s embarrassed to introduce his fat daughter to everyone.  I cannot tell you how embarrassing it is to have a father who has never told me he loves me or is proud of me.  Oh, he tells me I’m the prettiest born of all his daughters, but I’d really be beautiful if I just were skinny.  Whatever.  He’s gotten so bad with me that I can no longer eat a simple sandwich, or any kind of meal, with him anymore because he panics whenever I eat.

This brings me to the one subject that hangs over me like some big, black, over-hanging-over thing (my imagination is too exhausted at the moment to include a metaphor for the moment): my weight problem.  No matter how happy I get, or what I accomplish in life, it’s the one thing that holds me back from being completely happy because there’s always some damn fool picking on me for being obese.  Ugh.  

Back in January, I wrote Belly Goal, Belly Truth and made the simple goal to study belly dance, get to an intermediate level, and conquer my fears of being ridiculed. After a bout of whispered bullying from young women, and then finally facing the worst form of ridicule: the looks of disgust toward me from a guy friend I respected, I backed out of a public performance.  I realized that if these two forms of ridicule are still bothering me too much, I’m not ready to give a truly confident performance.

I am close to reaching my belly dance goal.  My skills and sense of balance have greatly improved, but I have yet to really lose a lot of weight as a result of my obsessive dancing.  In fact, as a last resort, lap band surgery seems the way my doctors are pointing me into.  My body is set at 250 lbs. and it is becoming more and more cumbersome for me to stay at this weight.  At this point I’m more concerned about my health than my looks, of course.

Last night I was in and out of the hospital so I could be monitored after my blood glucose spiked too high, too fast.  When one part of my body is out of balance, the rest follows suit.  What caused the spike?  Long story short: I was low on my mood stabilizing medicine, and there was a delay in a shipment of it getting to my pharmacy, making me wait five days before I could get it back in my body.  I thought I could handle going without it for a few days.  I was wrong.  Lack of those chemicals made me get hyper and then crash — combination of two kinds of extreme mood stress broke my sleep routine and food intake, therefore making my body go through a total tailspin!  Val went BOOM!

After a brief recovery, and a lot of yelling at my pharmacy for the mistake, I am much better.  I feel very lucky to have the health care team that I have.  Plus…

I have GREAT NEWS.  Just signed an approved contract for MORE pay than I estimated/asked for a playing card project next month.  I’m beginning to feel more like a published artist.  Someday I’ll have to talk more about that.  For now, I’m relaxing back into my routine with a few burdens less heavy and with plenty room in my mind for rejuvenated inspiration!

Postcard #34: …BAM! It’s There When You Need It

When reality unwinds, I seem lost to dream, and I cannot lift my head up anymore

….

BAM! My strength bounces back like the Something Amazing in a circus act waking me up from dormancy. Suddenly, made aware how ordinary everything else was, I want to fade back into that place between worlds and wish myself beside spirits I can only live with in spaces long and in between and lonesome, lovely, lost. The nooks and crannies where some humans slip and fall into, trapped like ghosts in the walls of houses, where consciousness is all you can imagine and yet is only half real, the outrageous state of half-being, a trip I do not recommend having.

I rejoice in being again when all is clear, and find my body, all this time, has been here . Today each movement mine is gentle slow and fine, my every thought blue-sharp and hungry-inspired, finger-ready to trigger the pencil and paint — this the different kind of drowsy that doesn’t draw me to the floor.

A wonder brings it home to me, that with each weakest moment, I remain unmolested by destruction, that with each touch of death, I am reborn more alive, and discover I’m getting stronger all the time.

“This is the most grounded I’ve seen you yet,” My doctor said. I stared at her thin, peach-pink lips in that cheerful, oval face with the soft mother’s chin. Her smile was genuine, cherub-like, sweet as a kiss, and I couldn’t resist believing her. “These last five years, Val, you’ve gotten so much stronger.” Her teeth interrupted her peach lips and a curl of her summer straw hair fell over her rose cheek.

“Really?” I said, rising up from the bed, the nurse tugged the IV out, and as I winced, I grabbed my clothes, already half way back home. “Really?” I said to myself on the midnight walk home, crossing through lines of gossamer, occasionally turning back to see the partial Moon. “Really.” I told myself, once home and hugged tight in the fur arms of my cat. “Yes,” I whispered into my pillow, when I lay in the darkness, smiling, “Really!”

Postcard #33: Where the Wild Iris Grow

You will be my death, and happily I shall be
….

drowning in a sea of petals, soft as your fading kisses
under waves of green blades, blackest earth and thistle,
drifting in tall grass tides, met by chorus of frogs and flies

When they dump my body, I will need no burial, no ceremony
just the wild iris shall mark my passing like it did my living
for here it bore witness to my every secret joy and doomed delight
every fear and tears I could not hide

I will disappear forever here
even stench of my decay will seem as part of the marsh

all along the outline of my body, there shall grow the most glorious
the tallest and best iris the world will never know
all in the shape of who was once me
where once my belly, full and fat, will be mushy and wet
home for the frogs and snakes, my body feast and fertilizer
finally I will fulfill some great purpose
if only for the littlest things


Finally no one will think me ugly or unwanted when
every part of me is used and taken, valued by every life
when all of me left are bones poking out of the dark chocolate earth
to tell you I was here, I made a difference, I was dead and born
in this place, deep in this bed of waving Elysian green
where my tears have become dew, no longer shed in want of you
secreted my life away by my own desire, I fell for the last time
I laid back, relaxed into the forever dream, and stayed

Yet
….

There is too much of me to let forgot or disappear
I leave traces everywhere, messages and hopes, poems like gropes
scraps, scribbles, and notes
the hand print evidence of my lost loves and longings
the daily updated guide of how to navigate my heart
twists, turns, and bends
all signals beeping and flashing, neon signs, firefly lights

I say I’d die happily, overdosed completely on you and that
You would be the welcome assassin to finish me, take your sword
and cut me out of existence, slash me out of misery, but….

What rude gift, what curse, what horrible disservice then
I be to you my sweetest friend!   Already there is a
slicing, stabbing, bleeding, but no death, just the shade of it
haunting me in your absence, my favorite sorrow, preferred torture
just a waiting, watching, building up, letting myself down
staring at the iris, eye of heaven, staring back at me
and I sit, listen, smile suddenly, and sing your name
to the sky like a prayer without the asking, or the praising

I sing only to make music out of your name
here where I am the only person alone in the world
where the wild iris grow.

===============================

The Message of the Iris

Patron Goddess: Iris (Greek) Goddess of the Rainbow
Origin of the Flower’s name: Named after the Goddess Iris whose name means “Eye of Heaven” — her principal job was to take messages of love from the “eye of heaven” to earth, using the rainbow as bridge between worlds.
Ceremonial Tribute: Iris are traditionally planted by Greek men on the graves of their beloved as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields.
Omen: Sign of lost love and grief, especially for young women and girls who are usually fated to be taken into the afterlife by Iris.
Symbolism of the Petals: Three large petals of iris represent faith, wisdom and valor. It is a special honor to give one to a man as a favor, because for her to give an iris to him meant she found in him these qualities. Charles IV (1294-1328) was first ruler to include the iris on the French banner– and iris became the basis for the French fleur-de-lis.
Meaning of the Colors: Purple: wisdom and compliments, Blue: faith and hope, Yellow: passion, White: purity
Victorian flower language meaning: Message
20th century flower language: Eloquence
Official Emblem: State flower of Tennessee, Provincial flower of Québec, Canada (iris versicolore), Symbol of Brussels, Belgium (stylized Yellow Iris)

What the Wild Iris means to me: Representation of faithful, enduring friendship, and the Goddess Iris’ “rainbow promise” of future hopes and goals fulfilled.

When I say “you will be my death” and “You would be the welcome assassin to finish me” I talk about letting a friend let me go, and a friend saying good-bye to me (something I think would mean the death of me) but to do so would not be fair to them, or to me. I believe we are meant to stay friends with the people we make friends with, even the ones we lose touch with, despite the ones who reject us for one stupid reason or other. What matters most is love, that lasts longer than any moments we share.

To be “dead” and buried in a field of wild iris, is to come to the end of my life knowing I have lived with the three-petaled virtues symbolized by the flower: faith, wisdom, and valor.  Furthermore, since they are not domesticated iris, growing wild and untended by people, this means living by my own rules, fierce and free.

Color Lovin’ Found Poems

I am CRAZY for colors, design, and ART!  Not just obsessed with making my own, but really into looking for daily challenges to stretch my creativity.  Lately I’ve been naming new colors from palettes and patterns I create.  From these names, I can generate found poems.  Tonight I want to share some of those with you, but first a little background…

If you look to one of my widgets at the right, the sixth one down underneath my archive, you’ll notice a list of patterns and color palettes I create at ColourLOVERs.com.  Each day/week/month, artists at the site challenge each other (and me!) to color duels and pattern-offs — basically competitions to see who can create the most awesome palettes, patterns, shapes, and designs based on antique art, themes, poetry, you-name-it.  Each challenge gets harder and harder, but ever more enjoyable, and every result I come up with really sharpens my color theory skills.

Every day I get fan mail from other artists and random art lovers who peek in on my Twitter page who take a liking to my creations.  It is a boost, not just for my self esteem, but keeps me motivated to work on other projects, and tells me that once I do create more momentum in regards to my original artwork, I can really generate a good following and someday make a better living at what I love to do.  I discovered the site through Twitter via Themeleon; a site you can access from your own Twitter “edit your profile” page (if you have a Twitter page) to create your own custom color palettes and pick from thousands of original patterns created at ColourLOVERs.com by artists like myself for your Twitter pages (or download for any web site you use) for free.

The following was the very first color palette I created at the online designer’s community, ColourLOVERs.com, and the painting it was based on: “The Masque”.  From this very first palette, I came to see that each color had its own original name, and some colors I got to name.  Some palettes I created had colors that were named by other artists.  Placed together at random, the names fit together to create unusual, yet wonderfully fitting, found poems that sometimes tell a story.

altAntique Velvet Lace

Antique Velvet Lace revisited and altered:

Antique_Satin_Lace

Her_Blushing_Cheeks

A_Show_of_Lace

Here are the found poems each palette generated (including links to the individual colors named):

Antique Velvet Lace

Pinched flesh
rose quartz
candy coat
soft rose
smooth journey

Antique Satin Lace

Chance encounter
pink blush
faint
ice cream castles
Fleshed for fantasy

Her Blushing Cheeks

Solace in your voice
favorite mittens
creamy
as skin
Muted coral blush

A Show of Lace

vanished feelings
Lavender lullaby
Baby’s breath
Colony green
December sky

=====================

I just got another idea after writing this blog: the above found poems could also double for the beginnings of sentences, opening dialogue, beginning paragraphs, and so on for story telling.  Love it?  Like it and share.  And, hey, why not get in on the action?  ColourLOVERS is fun for everyone.

Postcard #32: The Linden Tree Lover

I found a lover while you disappeared
hidden within the Linden Tree…

Like a featherfall into bed he was
as I stood, making me lie down all night long
filling me with his heavy honey sweetness
I delighted delicate, crushed happily against his chest
his chest soft and fluffy and white…
his flowers blooming perfume bright
he dances my senses all open
lifting me up, tossing my hair
I find myself bouncing at the tippest-top of his branches
dizzy and floating yet again dreaming crazy, obsessed and mad
just another woman one more lover closer to blessed death
the oohs and aahs spell out my doom
I am spellbound with the wonder of touching
heart-shaped leaf and linen-smooth wood under my finger-tips
dripping with sweat, dusted yellow with pollen, powdered perfect
I tremble out a smile —

sunshine breaking through darkest cloud

and he appears above so high, so close
whispers of vapor drifting, coming together
the most mysterious face taking shape…

The smiling Linden Tree Lover
he came so tender, so glimmering and true
no ghost or phantom-seem nor angel of dream
was he out of sky, out of me, out of the tree?
It could have been out of too much of my wishing
because all along it was you I was so much missing
yet the more I struggled to explain
the more the feeling remained
that evening when I, once chained by pain,
could not stop crying and dying
over every memory and worry over you,
gave in to this intoxication, settled into joy
I found myself embraced, receiving love again

This ecstasy took away my every want and care
and the God was all I desired, was the all who carried me
sky and sun, all became gold, no more blue
he even took the look of you
and I dance with him today still
the lover I didn’t know I knew.

Now what am I next to do?

More songs! More stories! More laughter! He demands sending giggles down my gut, and, helpless, I stay in bed birthing worlds outside my head.

Etiquette for Witches: How to Get Along with Family

Today could be Christmas, or Easter,  Mother’s Day, or it could be any other holiday, or event, or just another get-together, and whether or not you’re a Witch, Pagan, or green-skined Fairy Godmother, your family and friends invite you home.  They know how different you are and you know how much they wish you were more like them, more normal, so this makes family-time stressful.  You could stay away, but that’s not fair to them, they gave you life, and despite your differences, they have loved you all your life.  You could be the stubborn one first and point out that today’s holiday celebration is based upon ancient pagan origins.  You could further spoil the day by proclaiming it’s all a Hallmark card creation to get consumers to buy unnecessary gifts for their loved ones.  You could even delve into a philosophical discussion where you explain to everyone why what you believe and think is valid and superior, but all that will do is just demean the people who just simply want your company.  But after you insist upon distancing yourself from your loved ones by being such a bore, they may regret their invitation.  Nonetheless, the invitation still stands, and you could really be the shock of the party if you come dressed in your best Gothic black, yet what you think is a way to assert your independence and artistic brilliance, comes off as being disrespectful.  Plus it’s just bad manners, isn’t it?  Have mercy on those you love!  Save the shocking outfits, the ceremonial robes, and chest-covering-Gangsta-sized silver pentagrams for rituals and festivals.  Even if all your Witchy get-up is really an expression of who you are, and you insist on  wearing it everywhere to show your devotion to your gods, you can always come up with a more tame version that your relatives will find more comfortable.  Remember that our families are the earthly embodiment of the pantheon of gods who gave life to All.  It is far better to treat your loved ones with kindness and think more about them for a change.  You can still be different and be together…  The key to honor is giving respect.

It’s About Family, Not Fighting

Even if they start a debate, it’s not up to you to finish it or keep it going.  Whenever you are invited over to anyone’s house, it’s best to respect them, you can still disagree and quietly thank them for sharing with you their opinion, but let the time be about togetherness.  My family is full of individuals who love to debate about politics and religion, perhaps this is how all families are, because when I think about it, those subjects are the two that get people most emotional.  I do my best to keep politics and religion out of my conversations with my relatives.  Like them, I feel it my duty to take a stand for what I feel is right and just.  They taught me well!  But I am much more liberal.

When a controversial subject is unavoidable, I try to steer the conversation into one where we can agree on something.  I have been pleased to note each time we get together, despite us teasing each other for being on opposite sides, that even my most conservative relatives and I can find issues we mutually support.  I find I don’t have to fight with them to get my points across, plus they do not have to argue with me to tell me what they think is right.  I also realize that we come from different generations, we have different experiences and interests, yet when you look at us you can easily see we are related.  Blood doesn’t wash off!  Even if any one in my family does not like what I believe or support, they feel the same way about me.  They see in me a reflection of themselves.  Our differences are necessary so we can learn from one another, not so we can fight and separate from each other in disgust.  To fight, instead of taking the time to listen and really appreciate where each other comes from, is to turn our backs on our ancestors and cut ourselves off from the source of our own creation.  The challenge we face is to overcome our differences, not get each other to convert the other to believe and act the same.  When we face this challenge, our bonds of love become stronger, and the stronger the family ties, the more respect is given and received.

Some people think it necessary to engage in heated debates in order to break common ground, but I believe such struggles are unnecessary.  There are more gentle and loving ways to overcome our differences.

Try to remember this no matter who you are interacting with.  If you want someone to respect you, act according to, and how you want to be treated.  If someone does not treat you as well as you treat them, take it as a sign to leave them alone because any further attempts to win them over will waste your time.  If family rejects you, they are hurting themselves because they are giving up the opportunity to be loved by you.  The same goes the other way around, too.  Of course in cases of abuse, the rule is get out and be with a family of friends who don’t hurt you.

Ways to Connect, Not Struggle, with Family

Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the last twenty years that I believe you will find helpful when you are dealing with the difficulty of relating to your family, especially in the years after you reveal to them you are a Witch (same goes for coming out of ANY closet):

  • Parents often blame themselves for the way their children turned out.  They wished you to grow up to be someone they wanted you to be, but you could not be that person.  You are proud and confident with who you are, especially if you have finally discovered who you are and long to share it with your loved ones.  But it is often very difficult for Mom and Dad to figure out how you got that way.  What did they do to make you so different?  If your parents are uncomfortable with what you believe in, what you do, and who you have become, it’s up to you to reassure them that you are still a good product of their upbringing, and above all, that no matter what, you love them.  Visiting them is tense because, even though they know you, they do not know any details about your spiritual life, and they do not know what to expect from inviting a Witch into their home.  Put them at ease with plenty of verbal reassurances.  Tell them, and mean it from your heart, in your own words, that they gave you a good childhood, taught you what you needed, and that you hold them in high esteem.  Don’t show up with butt-loads of over-information about your religion because this is too  overwhelming.  Concentrate on your relationship with your folks first.
  • Never let your family think you have abandoned them.  When you grow up to lead a very unique lifestyle and/or practice an alternative religion, they will expect you have done this in rejection of the background they provided for you.  If your family brought you up with a very traditional religion, they won’t see it as you turning your back on God per say, but that you have broken with tradition, which seems equals rejecting family.  They will wonder what made you change.  Who convinced you to convert to something new and different?  And what kind of person are you to have gone against your family?  You haven’t changed just because you practice a different religion, you are still the person they have always known, and no matter how unique you really are, no one can completely divorce themselves from their roots.  We all still carry the morals and spiritual lessons we learned.  This is something to point out to your family.  Share with them how you have incorporated lessons learned from the religion you grew up with with what you practice now.  All ways of worship have one or several things in common.  Find them!  Focus on what still spiritually connects you to each other.
  • Want to know one of the best ways to reconnect with your family after a long separation?  Before a reunion, put together a family tree and/or research your genealogy.  Discovering the deepest connections you have throughout history (if possible) teaches us all how intimate the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth are — something Pagans and Witches revere — and sharing this with our family also connects us to far more powerful and greater forces of this Universe.  Remember to consistently reinforce your blood and spiritual connections by honoring, not just your ancestors, but the family you have alive today.  
  • Make sure to keep past hurts and unresolved conflicts away from the dinner table.  It’s not only bad for digestion, it is just inappropriate.  If there is still bad blood between you, save it for a time when you can talk in private.  Let all talk during dinner be jovial and sympathetic, avoid controversial subjects, and even if you do not share your family’s interests, be there to listen for a change.  Sometimes all it takes to make your family happy is to just show up and be there!  So enjoy the free meal, sit back, and relax.  It’s time to give the people you love a break.  Oh, and remember to help out with the cooking and cleaning the dishes, too.
  • The key to earning the respect of your relatives is to take a step back, stop yourself from dominating the conversation and demanding attention, give them your attention, listen to what they say, let them talk first, and then respond kindly to their opinions.  Sometimes what they have to say will make you angry  and you’ll feel the need to correct them.  But wait a second.  Imagine how you would feel if you were in their place.  Realize how they must feel about you!  No matter how much the world may change, or how much information is available out there, there are people who will never change their mind and do not want to understand what you believe as something that is normal or right.  Being a Witch is still viewed as being the enemy in many people’s minds.  Some people wish to cling to their fears and myths, and they will also believe you cling to the myths, too!  No matter how much you strive to educate and enlighten, there will always be those who won’t like you because of what they think you represent.  Some members of your family are like that.  They will always dislike your religion, but if they truly love you, it won’t stop them from loving you.  Remember to do unto them as you would have them do unto you…  Don’t brow beat them into believing as you believe.  Because it’s the same for you, isn’t it?  You don’t like their religion, so why feed them the same story?
  • Never laugh at the questions family ask, especially if they are silly and based on common myths.  Also remember to not always be the one to initiate providing information.  Acting as a lecturer will make you the poop of the party.  You’re with family to have fun, not be a preacher.  Last thing anyone wants is be given a guilt trip, especially during a Christian-stolen Pagan holy day.  If your folks want to know, they can google it nowadays.  But if they really want to know the background, they will ask you.  When they ask to know what you believe and how you worship, that’s the best time to share with them your truth.  Be patient with them and forgive them if they misunderstand, or even make fun of, what you practice.  It is weird to them.  They mean no harm.  You are the only Witch they’ll ever know, and you owe it to them to act with compassion, swallow your pride, and suspend your criticism.  What you do and say matters.  Your example will be the one they will think of when other people speak poorly about your peers.  As a result, they may even defend you!
  • Do not make the people who love you pay for your principles.  Likewise, stop torturing yourself over choosing to practice your holy day over their holiday.  Also don’t make anyone, including yourself, suffer over your religious views.  Refusing to gather with your family because you reject a holiday or other tradition simply because it is not your own is one thing, but refusing to visit family because you think you will cause a problem?  Then you are your own problem, not your family.  No matter what the occasion, a family gathering is about togetherness, never really about the holiday itself.  You can still do your own thing your own way at home or with your peers later.  I have spent too many years unnecessarily alone thinking that my family did not want me around because I was a Witch.  I thought my presence in their lives would just make them uncomfortable and that it would be better for me to stay away.  Every holiday I would torture myself over making the decision to separate myself from them, but the truth was they did not care I was a Witch, what mattered to them was that I was still their little girl, Tina.  I am Valentina the Witch to anyone, but I’ll always be Tina the Girl  or Teena-Weena (my nickname from childhood) whenever I’m with them.  Being present in my family’s lives wasn’t just about doing a good deed for them, it healed me.  It no longer matters to me if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Solstice, it’s all the same to me because the season is all about being with family.
  • When a relative becomes abusive towards you for what you believe in, they are out of line, not you.  Do not attack them back and do your best to step away from the situation.  Confronting them in a violent way will not solve anything.  When they attack you violently, even if it is just verbal, it is unacceptable and you do not have to put up with that.  Tell them how they make you feel and stand up for yourself, but don’t stick around to let them continue to hurt you.  Something like this happened with my mother and I years ago.  I found that instead of yelling back at her, it was better to step away, let things cool down, and then have a decent conversation to address what was wrong later.  Most often the case was my mother’s anger was over something that had nothing to do with me, and I was a reminder of the rejection she felt when I told her I was a practicing Witch.  I could be just as confrontational as she was, too.  The worst thing to do is to attempt to force a loved one to accept your religion against their will.  If you love someone, what should really matter to you is that they are happy.  Love matters more than religion.  Love serves the Gods more than the human invention of religion.  How we treat each other should reflect this.
  • Dealing with an especially intolerant religious relative is a special spiritual challenge that you should bravely and lovingly accept with all your heart.  The more intolerant they are of you, the more they will teach you to be more tolerant of others.  The more they judge you and point out all your flaws, the less likely you will be to do that to others.  Or you could take the opposite route, you could take after them and become as big a bigot as they are, but hatred only begets hatred.  No matter how angry and hurt they make you, first realize a few important things…
  1. When they fight for your attention and make it their mission to “save” you, they do so mostly out of concern for your soul.  They believe you will be damned for all eternity.  They love you and don’t want that to happen to you.
  2. They will never give up on you because they truly believe you are in danger.  They are trying to rescue you.   Imagine that heartache.
  3. Fear keeps them from understanding and accepting you are okay.  Your soul is of great value, once lost it is gone forever.  Since you have chosen Witchcraft, they believe you gave up your soul to the Devil.  This is unacceptable to them.
  4. Hatred of the Devil keeps them vigilant.  Anything to do with Witchcraft is of the Devil, so for you to become a Witch means you are now on the side of the enemy.  Anything you say they will consider a lie.
  5. They cannot listen to you because they believe you have been deceived.  It is as if you have become delusional — you cannot be reasoned with — and yet they love you and wish to save you.  Imagine the pain and suffering they go through!
  • React with empathy, thank family members who pray for you, and tell them you will pray for them, too.  What?  They  probably didn’t know Witches pray!  Now there’s an opportunity to share what you do.  Remember to do this when you’re on the street and a Christian stops to witness to you.  Most people who do that do so because out of concern for your soul — they really want to help.  Only a rare few are truly bigots.  Thank them!  Don’t give anyone an excuse to dislike you and do not volunteer spiritual information about yourself.  Your relationship with the Gods is personal, and just as intimate as a sexual relationship with a lover, so why give away something that is too special?  Well, maybe it would be cool to share with everyone your awesome relationship, but there is a time and place for that sort of too much information exchange, right?  Use commonsense.
  • Fight an uncomfortable situation with good humor.  Have fun!  Be silly!  Did your family forget who you are when you told them you became a Witch?  Better go remind them how human you are.  Let them see you happy.  Show them how much fun being you really is.  It really is awesome being a Witch, isn’t it?  We get to do all kinds of interesting crafts and things.  We’re not serious and spooky, well, not all the time.  If you cannot be yourself around the people who changed your diapers, who can you be with?  Let go of your darkest cares.  Get over your ego.  A Witch’s life is one of joy!  This is no secret.  Pass it on…


I dedicate this to my Mother, the evangelist who taught me how important religion is, and why having a personal relationship with the Divine is so essential in life.

I also wrote this in dedication to the rest of my family — the people who have seen me go through many, many, many changes and who have been there for me even when I did not know they were thinking about me. Thank you!

No matter our differences, love is all that matters.

Postcard #31: Looking for Heart’s Ease

I’m writing in the dark, or more like from out of the darkness, tonight in a lonely place, where I feel like everything I love is disappearing…

For awhile I will forget about it, but the second a shadow falls, a flash of hope or memory caresses my cheek, and it begins again. It is a tired, worn out, annoying love story that clings to me like a coat of mud I can never quite wash completely off. Like the tea stain old age spot under my right eye. In the shape of a horse it is, a stain so strong my dermatologist couldn’t even burn it off with the laser. Stubborn symbol refuses to let go of me — so I accept it — a tattoo the Goddess gave me. Like the other new mark under my generous chin, yet another sign that the Crone is coming, youthful times are getting shorter just as my strands of silver hair are growing longer. I am liking the new hair color, however, but that will soon change, too. I plan on dying my locks a deep crimson soon.

Everyday I am more aware things and people are fading. My loves are leaving. My new neighbors are strangers. I’m not adjusting well to this next set of circumstances. I don’t mind change — if only it could come in small doses! It seems all the things that give me joy are doomed to sink away into places I cannot follow. I want to offer them my life to extend theirs. I’ve already lived forty-one years, that’s more than some people already have, and I need to be free of this constant pain. But, no. Nope. You can’t go walk deep back into the woods to die yet, Valentina. You still belong to this world. You are loved more than you know. But why, oh, WHY aren’t they here?!

I’m also reminded too well that my Aunt Sylette died at an early age, just a few years away now from my age. Although I’m told I have no signs of fatal illness, there are times when my heart hurts like a burning coal and my blood is like fire, everything boiling within me in a tearful rage that forces me to the ground and makes me think I’ll just die! It’s all normal, the doctors say. Just sit back, relax, breathe, accept what’s happening, let it go, it’s only natural…

I look for my heart’s-ease in simple things. The best things. My pillows, tea, poetry, art, reading the blogs of friends, and Mr. Snuggles. His nose pushes into my face a lot these days. He licks at my tears, head-butts me to get up and out of bed, and gives me a look of concern that no human can make, one of innocent longing, pure and sweet and of complete understanding. Unconditional devotion, the kind I give back to him. If it weren’t for him, I would not leave the apartment. I carry him on my shoulder like a baby and sing to him, sing to keep from crying, and laugh in the sunshine to hide my swollen eyes from my neighbors. I’m okay, I say, when I want to tell the entire world, help me out of these feelings!

There is no escape, you know.

So it is best to do what I can with my life and make some use of my time. Once again the summer brings things to do. The trees and wildlife call me to volunteer. Last night I saved a toad from a swift and sure death in the middle of the road…

It peed on me, but I paid it no mind, cupped it in my hand and hummed to it as I carried it back into a deeper, wetter part of the woods closer to my place.  But before I deposited it where the other toads like to hang out, I paused to snap a photo of us together. Every summer the toads and frogs are a common sight here. I get to see them grow bigger as the season grows long, and, yes, I weep when they are gone, too. I weep for every thing that comes and goes by. Why?

I’ve been like this for as long as I’ve been alive. I remember the day when I learned that not every creature likes it when I try to rescue it. When I was four years old, I tried to save a group of army ants from getting crushed on the sidewalk. I picked a handful of them up and a dozen of them all bit into my hand. For a moment I felt more shock than pain. I stood there staring at the ants digging into my skin. The first thought I had: So that’s what those shapes in front of their heads are for! and I ran screaming home because all those little jaws felt like pieces of glass slicing into me. Before an adult could get to me, I tried to pull off a few of the ants and, even in pain, I did not want to harm the creatures. Trying to pull them off made them bite into me deeper! Then when I could not bear the pain, I pulled too hard on some of their bodies, only to discover their heads and jaws still clamped on tightly to my skin.

Before I could get all the way home, a neighbor saw me fall into the grass. He and his wife took one look at me and a series of events happened afterward so fast, I don’t quite remember how it all ended, but the man knew what to do to get those stubborn army ants off me. He stuck my hand into steaming hot water, almost hotter than I could stand. In seconds my mother was there, and we took off to the hospital, yet I needed only a few stitches on my left ring finger. I still have a slight scar to remind me of my misadventure.

Sometimes I still feel that sense of sorrow and betrayal like I did with those army ants. I want to reach out and protect all living things, but some things are not supposed to be within my care.

I just pray that my simple act of caring from a distance is enough, that my tears will buy some future happiness, and my worries repaid by my friends keeping themselves safe. I do not want to imagine life without someone I love. It would be the death of me. Like a part of me dies again right now just thinking about it. I do not want to be all doom and gloom, but… for once I will be a little selfish and say that there are times I feel like my joy was stolen from me all because my emotions are too much, they scare people I love away from me, and I am afraid to see them for fear of breaking down in front of them.

So, from this distance, I breathe slowly and move on. I give my love freely and as much as I would to someone who cannot be here. Every creature, every plant, every person I come across I just give them that love that isn’t accepted by someone faraway. That’s what I have to do. That’s what I’ve been doing for years. It is what I plan on doing for the rest of my life, just so I can stay alive, and not spoil my life on something hopeless. The work — the art — what I’m meant to do and why I’m here — sometimes I feel it is worth more than my own personal happiness.

Like yesterday, after I could not stop myself from crying, I paused to sob underneath a linden tree. The flowers of the tree soon stopped me from weeping. The spirit of the tree itself had a healing power to it, and my instinct was to put my face into the flowers, rub my eyes with its heart-shaped leaves, and hug at the bark. Yes, I’m that kind of person, and I didn’t care who saw me. When I had sufficiently lost my sadness for some time, I thanked the tree and left an offering of strands of my hair.

A few feet away from me I saw another woman crying, no, sobbing loudly. She had just got off the phone talking to whomever, sighed, wiped at her eyes with her sleeve, and was about to put earplugs in to listen to some music. By her accent I could tell she was Thai. I felt the urge to ask her what was wrong, so I did. She immediately, and exaggeratedly, bobbed her head up and down to reassure me that everything was alright, but she was lying. So, boldly, I said, “I know you’re missing someone, just like I am, but I want to tell you it will get better.” I gave her a hug with my eyes, and smiled as I started to cry again. Oh, and the tears gushed out of her, too! I put a hand over my heart as if I were holding it back from bursting out as she squeaked out a meek thank you and I left her to her music.

I surprised myself I had said what I did. I told her what I had wanted to hear myself. I gave her heart ease and that made me feel better for a little while, good enough to weep with a joy in my heavy heart, reminding myself that, yes, it will be okay, somehow, more than okay, it will get better, and I won’t have to say good-bye anymore soon.