My Harrowing/Hero-ing

Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red” photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

When I take action to control my life, I’m told I’m being manipulative. When they say I do not inform them of my life plans, it means they wanted me to ask their permission. When I decide what I want to do, it’s not done against anyone else’s will. When I ask for help, I am not asking for everything. When I ask for assistance, I am grateful, because there are things I cannot do for myself due to abilities I lack. I ask to be useful in return.

…and here’s where it gets personal.

It is not my fault when my help is refused. I am not your burden when you took me on as a “project”. I am not a project. I am a person, and I grow, I learn, and despite disabilities, in order to be happy, I have to help myself, do for myself, and not subsist on the crumbs public assistance assumes will leave me healthy.

I never ask anyone to break their back for me. I never lifted a hand to swipe away your bread for mine. I never got this depressed and sick in order to live lazy. When I volunteered at places I loved to work at, with people I loved to work with, it’s not my fault they turned me away because they thought the work was too hard on me, or maybe they thought I became a burden, too? If I cannot even volunteer, what use am I?

When I lost friends, those so-called pals told me they dumped me because they wanted to remember me as I was before I lost my health. But I am beyond pleasing them showing how crazy that made me feel. And when I could not fulfill deadlines for projects of my own, my passions were dying, I felt my fire flickering, my heart burning… What does it matter if I fail or not when I am considered this burden?

I cannot be a burden. It’s too heavy. I have to lose this weight. Not in the physical sense, but as in this weight of expectation. No more will I let my father tie me to the ground and shape my body into nothing but fat. No more will I let anyone sink me into mud whenever they give me looks of disgust like that. I am not this weight. My body is more than fat and meat. I’m not this heavy thing, yet…

I can be an anchor.

I intend to take action to control my life, and, yes, that is being manipulative because I am cutting off these strings to be master-less. I intend to live my life as I’ve always lived, really: as I choose, by my own power, whether or not you feel it’s what you think is proper or not. I do not need approval or acceptance. I never did. I don’t exist to take advantage of anyone. If I can, and I do, I support others in return with the abilities that I have that you do not. What I can do no one else can, and in that I have great value. Let me shine. Let me be my best. Let me produce.

I am a creatrix.

I should not subsist on crumbs, or favors, or public assistance alone. The shame of disability is a shroud created for me once diagnosis rears its ugly head and all the medical expenses pile up, keeping me a slave to an insane little budget, but how else to live when I have to maintain this balance? I no longer fit the mold. Since I cannot do as all the rest, what use is there for me? Do I forfeit all my learning and talent and remain in my closet drawing pretty pictures no one will see? So what shall I do? Wait to die? For years this body has rested underneath the burden of being a burden, practically the word alone “disabled” is enough to shame me into permanent instability. I am not disability itself. I am my own person. I am myself. Don’t mock me or tell me I’m this burden on society, or that my illness means you’re obligated to nurse maid me to Hell. I am not a crippled child who needs to lean on you in that fashion. Who said you had to work for me? Or fix me? It’s not your job.

While on disability, I’m not unemployed, I am working for myself.

When I choose to stand up for myself, I am not putting anyone down. When I decide to try something new, I am not abandoning help. When I ask someone to let me go, I am not asking them to dump me. Stop beating me up for being me. Quit hurting yourself taking responsibility for me. I never asked you to take my job. That’s always been up to me. Someday you won’t ever have to worry. It’s okay to think like you do because you really think it’s because you care. But it’s not helpful.

I am strong. I survive. I work my way through many tough things. But even when I am alone, I realize my survival has been the sum of many peoples’ assistance through many years. Even in my solitude, I am not an island.

I want you to know, I am not this so-called burden. Each time I’m called that, I think I die, and sometimes I thought I did, but each time I bounce back, I know it’s a lie. I grew up angry. How many women like me are told the same thing? How many lose their lives trying to work their way out of being a burden? How? Why?! I suppose I’m to feel guilty for everything they did for me when I couldn’t do anything in return, and they knew I didn’t have the means, so why did they decide to make me a burden? Does it feel good to stab themselves for picking me up when they knew I was too heavy? Because I’m not stabbing them. Just like they accuse me. I don’t do anything! All day, oh, yes, I sit here and project nothing. Especially not that.

Once you realize I am not a burden, you’ll be on to calling someone else the same thing. By then, I hope, I will have forgotten the sorrow of it, yet for now it is not a nothing, it is something I choose to toughen me up. I do not like getting like that. I like being soft, but like so many of you have told me,

  • “it builds character”

.

(not addressed to any one person, or organization, but written for all the women like me who are striving for independence while living with a disability)

We Carry Them With Us, Always

I don’t know where to begin, except to start at the trail of my tears, and trace back to a place of calm, somewhere where I can recount a time when maybe there was a time when I sincerely felt solace in this space.  I cannot find it now except in this inner temple where I carry you.

The Island in October, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“The Island” photograph by Valentina Kaquatosh, October 2015

And when I speak of you, I do not talk of one single person whom passed beyond this life, but of the several I last spoke to, or seen, if only in a dream, and now remember as if still awake in that dream.  I try to think of poetry, to form my words into something divine so my memories of you can float up into a heaven we can all recognize you in, someday, yes, that dreadful word someday I speak it like it will be tomorrow.  When I type it a bit of thunder rumbled outside my window.  Imagine that, thunder on Samhain!  What solace can be had this midnight with a thunderstorm?  You know how I am with storms.  My heart trembles and my skin goose pimples as the rain falls as if it were made of pure electricity.

Outside tonight the Halloween revelers are all a scream, running for shelter, their individual bonfires flooded out with the down pour as one more thunder strike silences everyone indoors.  A peace falls again, darkness swells as the rain tumbles with the thunder, thunder growing more gentle now even as it swells in intensity all along the clouds.  The rush of the wind makes me feel like I can hear your voice better now, telling me to call it a night, “go to bed, find a pillow, cry into it, or watch a scary movie, maybe take a shower, wash it all away like old make-up” and the rush becomes a fever.  There is heat all over my face.

I can’t help it.  I carry you with me everywhere I go.  I always will.  But you are not a burden.  You weigh nothing, yet only the sorrow is heavy, that is why I have to cry it out in doses, dump all these tears as much as I can and pray, at this moment especially, the Thunderers take it as my offering tonight.  May my salt leave my eyes, stop stinging my sight so I can finish writing these words, release my sorrow-burden and go on pretending everything has not left a mark, and all will be as if you did not die.

I know some of us say we do not die but we change from one life to the next and in this, yes, we must acknowledge death!  Accept death for what it is!  Do not hide sweet death and shy not from darkness…  but why, why take you so suddenly?!  What cause has your death sweetened for this life?  Those who say there is a plan for everything and that this is the work of God are mistaken.  No master plan is behind this.  Nature is random.  Only people put a riddle, rhyme, and reason to it all.  Poetry.  Yes, forever the poetry.  If only life were poetry!

We’d live forever if you and I had wrote our days long-hand poetry.  What epics we’d be now.

In this end, the poetry still leaks, strays away from me, repeats, even when I am at my loss for words I am poem-ing — perhaps that is how I carry you all — I poem you with me, always.  Like starting from a trail of tears to leaving a tiny, dry, dusty trail of glitter behind me as I reach the end of my lines, reaching for my solace.  On Samhain, forty minutes before midnight, my only strength in lighting candles, petting cats, about to watch an old scary movie, a black-and-white one I never got to watch with you, but one of you would appreciate the most.  I feel a smile somewhere in the darkness like an embrace.  It lifts me up a little at my waist.  Blood rushes back to my feet.  My finger tips tingle back to life after a numbing-stabbing of pain when I was at my bursting of tears.

I am not alone.

I’m not alone in carrying you with me.  You can be with so many different people now.  You need for no cell phone or internet.  Travel isn’t a bitch anymore.  Your body is only emotion, imagination, perfectly mobile in every meaning of invisible, impossible, and beyond understanding.  You can fit into anything, can take the shape of everything, and be the talk of everyone like you never were as a person.  No one need measure you by scientific means, or record you on video, or track you with any devices.  You’re gone in the sense that no one need touch or see you if they don’t need to, or want to, and even if they do, you’re there in the sense you never could be when you were.  As a story, more than fiction, but in this I can back that up with my poetry reference.

But in my times of solitude, where I am in my place of believing experiencing you out of your old body, it is another burden to sleep in the closet.  Sometimes, however, it is nice in the darkness.  It can protect me from the garish light, stop a migraine cold in its tracks, and heal me during times when a crowd is an assault to my senses.  When all I want to do is curl up with you, it would be nice to share what you have to say, yet the worry of the words…

perhaps only poetry is the way?

— in memory of Dylan, Joyce, and Shawnus

Who’s Afraid of the Devil?

I grew up Evangelical Christian, and in my mother’s house we had more than a healthy fear of The Devil. That fear was especially keen during the early 1980’s when day care sex abuse hysteria, also known as “the Satanic Panic” (because all of the allegations of satanic ritual abuse that went along with the molestation allegations), made everyday life for a kid full of the potential to get raped, or murdered, by devil worshipers who could be anywhere. It was all over the news, talked about at church, but what was most heavily emphasized was about the sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. Any thoughts about it made you subject for the Devil. You could invite Him in with just one horny mind. A campaign of shame was hammered into our thoughts to prevent us from getting curious about it, or daring to give in to the natural urge teenage and young adult bodies manifest as they grow. The more we were told that the seat of evil was in our pants, the more it raged. Even when in love, the guilt of heavy petting ruined perfectly innocent relationships. The Devil was everywhere, right in our underwear.

Without getting into all the hoopla of the Book of Revelation (I refuse to quote scripture here because I have an aversion to the Bible, not because I disrespect Christians, but because it’s a religion I don’t identify as my own, and I feel disrespected whenever anyone uses Biblical scripture to defend their beliefs to me because one should not use a book to give me their personal testimony), I’ve always wondered why sex was such a taboo and not a celebrated thing. You would think that people who revere life even in its earliest stages would also be pro-sex! Because how else will we get those babies? Babies come from sex. More specifically, babies are born out of women’s bodies. It’s a woman’s body that is a battle ground in regards to religious morals about sex. You can’t have life without sex, right? So how did sex get so molested? The Devil made men do it. He got up into women’s bodies and made men’s lust evil and twisted so babies come out unhealthy. At some point, I suspect, the Devil was born from the belief that still-borns, sexually transmitted disease, and sexual abuse all originated from one supernatural enemy — a scapegoat to pin the blame on for the sins of men who couldn’t control their urges, especially ones that brought them down into animalistic and brutal practices.

I don’t believe the Devil as molester and rapist was ever a pagan god, or even any god’s adversary, but a personification of the feral side of human sexuality — the kind people greatly fear will take over their bodies while in the throws of lust and euphoria. When we’re naked, we are really stripped down to our true human animal skin, and when it comes to sex, we behave as we truly are, throwing ourselves back to nature.

Getting back to everyday, modern society here, I notice correspondences between symbols, numbers, and the common iconography that people associate with their fears and desires, how we use these images to create good luck and even invite bad things to happen to us. One thing I see repeating throughout pop culture is the Number of the Beast — 666!

I’ve known people who will actually defend the so-called power behind this number, adding so much of their fearful energy to it that they create their own reality of “evil out to get me at every turn”. Why do that? No wonder some people put no stock in other forms of positive ways to fuel their own power and turn to other people for spiritual help. They simply cannot believe that number won’t have any hold on them, especially when I point out that not all cultures on earth consider it unlucky or associated with the Devil.

In light of today being International Women’s Day, I know that the number 6 has a much more benign meaning in Numerology… The number 6 relates to feminine sexuality, family, fertility, domestic duties, womanhood, and home. This makes me wonder if that number has a connection to a fear of the Devil as being a fear of sex, especially as a fear of women having control over their sexuality and being independent of men.  My feminist views aside, I must consider the other meanings of this numerical conundrum.

In Kabbalistic Judaism, the 666 number is representative of the awesomeness of all creation because the world was created in six days, and there are six cardinal directions (north, south, east, west, above and below). Also if you add the numbers 666 together they equal 18, the number of life, also known as the Jewish “Hai” or “chai” which means “living, alive”! It’s customary in modern times to give monetary gifts in the number of 18 because of that spiritual significance.

The number six is a lucky number, and a triple six is a triple trinity. Trinities are really considered special in many religions, most representing the three main forms of gods and goddesses, including the Christian God, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. All trinities also represent three stages of life being youth, middle age, and old age, the emphasis on life, not evil or death. You can put whatever power you want on a number, or any type of sigil, and it can work a miracle for you depending upon how hard and well you believe…

I read somewhere once that the number 6 was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite. I believe that the number 666 may have originally been a sign not of “the beast” but of the lust men have for women, or the lust people have for sex, and that the number represented wild sexuality, something that was later considered evil because it related to the temples of the love goddess where ritual prostitution was practiced, and eventually abused. From there it must have grown, especially with the advent of more conservative religious thought (yes, even the Romans before Christianity frowned upon  some lecherous behavior) into a major misongynist hysteria that manifested with the mythos of the Devil, especially when it involved the prostitution and rape of young people. What once was a sacred institution became a den of debauchery, where people used religion as an excuse to disguise their true intention to exploit the innocent. Hello, slavery!

Just like so many religious institutions today. We trust our clergy, no matter what god devoted to, to be perfect representatives of our god, trusted to help and educate the innocent in the ways of that god. But can we not see how tempting a position to apply for that makes an already perverted “beast” of a person to want to be in? I can imagine it was the same for followers of Aphrodite to use the excuses of religious worship to take advantage of people, especially ones who were taught that it was okay to be a sexual slave in the name of the goddess.

Such behavior leads to un-wellness — centuries of it — and it’s no fault of any god/dess, or even any Devil, and no one need put a number on it either. 666 triggers all sorts of distortions and demons in the mind, even people who aren’t religious are unnerved by it, as if human beings have conditioned each other to see those three 6’s as three human figures buggering one another — come on, you can see it — and that means we’re all going to meet our doom, or that we have dirty minds.

Thinking beyond numbers and symbols, getting to the heart of their meaning and how they can be used, and realizing no thing has any power over myself except what I give it, helped me grow up. And I’m a Witch, I love the magic of these things, you’d think I was a messed up crazy person over all this, but being what I am is the heart of being wise — we practice the craft of it.

How I survived the satanic panic was that good common sense won out over fear. Faced with other people’s ignorance and all the over-the-top claims of satanic abuse every neighbor and their mother had to the point where anyone, including myself, who wore black was suspected of being a Satanist, somehow I developed patience and tolerance, and I took the time to learn mercy and forgive. And, *gasp!* I even made friends with real Satanists who shared with me their stories, set me right, and really helped me appreciate the world we live in.  Anything that could not be answered logically by my mother and other authorities, I turned to the library for help, and that place became my safe haven. To this day libraries are like my church, book stores a spiritual warehouse, and my own reference library at home is like having a chapel at arms-length.

Where did I get my confidence and wisdom to appreciate our differences? You’ll laugh when I tell you that I swear it came from the gods! I escaped into my mind and imagination. I had visions, inspiration, poetry to read, heroes to dream about, and, no, that’s not pathetic, that’s using my mind.  It’s a good thing.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the lessons from my childhood, but I’m also grateful to not live in that atmosphere anymore, to not fear sex or be in constant anxiety over the world blowing up, or even being afraid of eternal damnation if I should die (because no one was ever sure of getting to Heaven due to the multitude of sins one could commit without the reassurance of constant absolution). Besides, I’ve always suspected that “the Beast” already lived and died. He was quite possibly Nero or any number of naughty Roman, or other ancient bad boy leader in power at the time the Book of Revelations was written. No matter, I don’t make the Bible my book of choice as to what choices I make in my life.

The real devils are real people who have the nasty problem of seeking power and control over other people, sexually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. They take advantage of our innocence and vulnerability. They don’t come out of the dark wearing horns and black capes and they don’t use magic or cast curses on us.  The real devils are far more direct, brutal, bloody. They don’t rape us as part of satanic rituals, nor seek to sacrifice us to the Devil. They charm us into sacrificing ourselves to them. The nicest people are the best murderers because they take advantage of our desire to be nice, not just come at us when we’re vulnerable. I shake my head when I hear people claiming demons are inside them or following them around when we have living people who don’t have to have a devil in them to be completely devilish.

Don’t fear 666, or the Devil, or sex, or preach against all the things young people will naturally do due to being human, and don’t tell anyone they’re possessed by the Devil even if they are selfish and naughty — be sensible and guide them to be wary of real dangers in life. Teach yourself and others to have self esteem, to be physically strong and fit, and to read the psychological signs of people out there who may hurt us.  Lead by example.  Live in love.  Be blessed and give blessings in return.

Can I get a Blessed Be?  *giggle*  Or how about an Amen?

Magic and Loss

This midnight is better than last year’s
This midnight is better than when you last appeared
This midnight’s better when that old friend disappeared
This midnight’s better because the spirits’ near and cuddling

And Lou sang:

*Magician, Magician take me upon your wings
and … gently roll the clouds away
I’m sorry so sorry I have no incantations
only words to help sweep me away
I want some magic to sweep me away
I want some magic to sweep me away”

Then Lugh says:
“You knew the two you loved most had to go”

And with the new dawn, I learn
grasping at the old fur, I awake
setting aside my brushes, I wash
and with one last cry, I know

The Midnight Angel taught me I can survive even the death of someone I feel I cannot live without, and so he showed me, moving out of the cat’s skin, leaving me behind with all my sobs and wails, to grow silent again.

When I stand, I hear Lou sing:

“I want to count to five
turn around and find myself gone
Fly through the storm
and wake up in the calm”

Before Isis can tell me: “It has been done, They have flown”

My dream unfolds, words have no meaning
two months flow away into nothing
a year and five days and he’s as if no one
but I exist and the story is mine telling, worth knowing
I have meaning and so has my love, I hold on to everything
let go of the ghost of it, hang on to the preciousness

Oshun told me once: “It doesn’t matter if we didn’t mean as much to those we loved, what matters is that we loved, and what mattered is your love had meaning for you.  You have to really love with everything you are, don’t let that be forsaken, especially by your self, because if somebody else didn’t think you meant anything, and you now think you don’t mean anything because what they think matters more — that’s two people’s worth of power overcoming the love you could have helping you survive.  You gotta live on your love.”

And so it came to pass, the cat’s spirit onward his mission
my best friend, grown too big for the body that housed him
and far too powerful for me to hold back, gone to bliss
the cat became part of the Great Mystery, I melt to wonder

When the cat body died I thought I heard a whisper of Lou’s song come out of him:

“Magician take my spirit
inside I’m young and vital
Inside I’m alive please take me away…”

Because the body, once dead, gave birth to the brave spirit
the death was the rejuvenation of the Angel, a welcoming
the receiving of Who He really was inside, but I felt lost
there was no joyful release for me, only the cold shell
what was I to do but bury the thing, now empty, that I held?

But when They — the Goddesses Bastet, Hathor, & even slithering Wadjet — reached for my friend, it was I who began to echo Lou’s lyrics:

“I want some magic to keep me alive
I want a miracle … I don’t want to die
I’m afraid that if I go to sleep I’ll never wake
I’ll no longer exist
I’ll close my eyes and disappear
and float into the mist”

Awake for days, the funeral complete
felt the wind answer “yes”
and heard the paws in the leaves
and the echoes of many voices in the woods
announce my friend’s acceptance into Beyond
and worries ceased
and prayers increased
and many strange eyes peeked

Asleep for days, one month since death
the wind still carries his cry
the silence continues to say my name
and the memories of our life built a blanket fort
home is where I am surrounded by You, little friend
and I no longer think about that guy
and I can finally rest
and only worry is ‘have I really let go?
or will I obsess all over again?’
sometimes I think it someone else’s fear
at times all I think about is the lonely things

Wadjet-Bastet hisses-whispers all the same to me:

“When will you be done with all this blubbering? We’ve given you a new day, time has come to wash away, a new skin has grown, can you not feel the underneath, the twitchering-feeling-slickery-flickering? Lick at it. Roll on it. Dance with it.  Take your beauty back. Heal.”

I do. I do!  I will.

And Lou sang:

“I need more than faith can give me now
I want to believe in miracles – not just belief in numbers
I need some magic to take me away
I want some magic to sweep me away
Visit on this starlit night
replace the stars the moon the light – the sun’s gone
Fly me through this storm
and wake up in the calm …
I fly right through this storm
and … I … Wake … Up … In … The … Calm”

And I know what he was meaning in the singing
but I know all the magic all the more for the loss
it’s been the story of the year
it’s been what I was given

all the wonder
all the pain

Lugh said:
“It’s also in your painting. Look closer at what you do. You don’t do anything without a reason. And you were never nothing.”

I see the spirits inside the cat who was my friend
I see him now in many different ways
again, I tell you, he taught me how to live
taught me I can live, survive, live through loss

the loss of someone I cannot live without has not killed me
it is the magic that has swept me back up into Me
I am still who I am without giving in to the
ostracization that made me think me lost
I did not need some role to fit in and
don’t need work for a man’s
approval when all along
all I need is just
home and cat
and love
my God
life
be
me

*———————*

*My favorite Lou Reed song is ‘Magician’ from the album ‘Magic and Loss’*
Lou Reed died on October 27th, 2013, same day as a friend of mine was found dead from apparent suicide. Lou’s music is now married to memories of this friend, especially echoing the last conversation I had with him.

This song especially speaks to me of the losses of life and friendship I’ve endured this year. I understand the pain and the death, but don’t know why we have to lose people we love in this world. I wonder at the magic of the other world… at what may be waiting beyond my wondering.*

*———————*

Coming up soon: So much to talk about! So much has happened! Exciting news, strange paranormal happenings, new friends, renewed vigor, and finally getting my act together as pieces of my puzzle come together. Wish I had all the time in the world to write it all down. Samhain 2013 marks a little milestone for me as I finish a playing card deck and start a new venture as a spirit medium and paranormal illustrator. Yes, you heard that right.

Plus, something adorable has brought joy into my life. I have a baby girl! Um, kitten. Her name is Miss Velvet Rose the Lady Monster. That story I have to save for next time.

Expect some changes around here as I celebrate my second year here at WordPress. Yay!

Why You Don’t Have to be Ashamed of Paganism

Do not judge and you will never be mistaken. ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

If you are insecure about what you believe, much less what you practice, chances are you are losing your religion. Or perhaps the faith was not yours to keep to begin with? If you become embarrassed by the way your fellows worship, could it be a sign that you are simply prejudiced against your own kind, or that you really don’t belong? If you cannot join them, why are you there? Why complain and judge and spend so much time debating how they should change, when perhaps it is you who needs to make the change? If you are not dancing with your friends, the joy gets knocked out of you, and you cannot experience the joy the others are sharing. The only way to find your true way is to take a cue from your heart, step back, do not judge, and move towards that different beat calling you away…

If you find yourself ashamed of what you once loved, take it as yet another “ordinary” omen; you are growing into and beyond faith, moving past the surface you clung to, and soon you’ll prove to yourself what it is you truly believe. At some point we have to separate ourselves from the community we once identified with, and it is very healthy to become disillusioned with the behavior of our peers, especially when we decide it is time for us to create our own practices.  But it is also just as important to remember our roots, to honor where we have come from, and thank the people who fostered us during those early days when we first set foot on our path.

There are a great many young Pagans today who are ashamed of being associated with other Pagans and who are embarrassed by public performances of Pagan communities at Pagan Pride celebrations. This used to anger and upset me to tears. I took this as a terrible rejection, especially when close friends decided to no longer worship with me, or after many years apart I would find out they were not Pagan any more.  We would get into arguments over whose way of thinking and believing was more correct, or needed improvement, and we’d compare religious thought like who has more money in the bank.  I would tell myself that this is how we were showing each other we cared, yet we did was hurt each other and waste our time, time we could have spent building each other up instead of putting each other down.  With time, I’ve come to accept my friends’ choices to quit Paganism, not as a rejection, but as part of the personal spiritual journey they are going through. Who am I to judge them? And why should I care when they judge Paganism an embarrassment?  For I am certainly proud of it.

It reminds me of a time when some lesbians and gays would get embarrassed by all the flamboyant drag kings and queens on the floats at Gay Pride parades. “I don’t want people thinking that’s what we’re all about,” they would say, worried about the images of gays presented to mainstream America in the media.  It still pervades today among different subcultures across the world — we all get our panties in a bundle over stereotypes! So worried other people will lump us all in with the louder, weirder, crazier, fluffier, campy members of our little tribes that it keeps us from truly enjoying who we are and what we do.

The problem with letting this embarrassment get to you is the shame of it all. At the heart of being ashamed is humiliation and guilt: both are tell-tale signs that we make ourselves feel inferior to the point where we remain restrained by the anticipation of shame brought upon us by another culture we deem more powerful, all because we are guilty of belonging to a group we believe is without power. When we believe our community does not have power, we in turn believe we have no power when we stand with them, and we cease to believe our religion has no validity compared to other religions with less embarrassing behavior and practices.  When we are ashamed, we support powerlessness.  We cave in.

I am an invisible man…. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. ~Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952

The other danger of letting embarrassment rule your judgment is the way in which you come to treat other people — will you let yourself fall into the Hall of Assholedom?  Or love, respect, and wisdom?  The people we are embarrassed of, are people we make invisible.  We stop validating their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and rights.  We start to judge them, not for the friends they are, but as strangers you deem them to be.  Even if you know them, you stop seeing them.  You don’t know what level they are standing at, or what they’re going through, and they have no more importance.  Even if you claim to live by a code of honor and be the best human being you can be; if you hold any prejudice against a group for being different (that includes flaky), you best check yourself.  It is not righteous or heroic to bully a group’s right to worship as they see fit, and they will worship and behave as they will, with or without your approval because it makes them happy.  The same goes for any individual who is different than you, too.  Let them be different.

When in a group, it is good etiquette to practice as the group does, improvise when the time is right, share ideas, and speak up! If you do not like working with a group, don’t work with a group. To get along with others it is essential to let people be who they are. Let them tell you what they are all about. Don’t assume you know all about them just based on how they look or even what they say. They might be deeper individuals than you think. People always surprise me once I get past that first impression. Judge a book by the cover? Covers lie, my friend. Ask any best-selling pop fiction author, they usually never get to pick what art will grace the cover of their books, but the content may blow your mind every time.

If you judge people you have no time to love them. ~Mother Teresa

I tend to fall in love with people no matter who they are, regardless of age or sex, and want to adopt them all as my family. Perhaps I am unique in that sense. I have never really been ashamed of the silly, fringe, New Age-y members of our community, however at one point I was greatly annoyed to the point of irritation. I was in my mid-twenties then, found myself surrounded by adults older than myself who talked about Witchcraft like teenagers giggling about boys, as if it all were the latest fashion, and I immediately assumed these women were definitely not going to stick with “the program”. Then I realized what a waste of time it was that I spent complaining about them. As I whiled away the time groaning over their girlish behavior, anxiety ate at my gut and I could not relax. They were really having fun and I was rotting like a big poop.

Focusing instead on being more productive, plus cutting loose and letting my (to *gulp!* quote one of those New Age phrases!) “inner child” out to play, was so much better. I often liken our rituals to getting outside to play! When you feel ashamed, you won’t dance or laugh, you can’t do anything but stand there feeling the fool. When you are free from shame, you’ll not feel like a fool, in fact you will be far from caring whether or not someone else thinks you are one. This is when being part of a group helps loosen the inhibitions. You’re not alone at play! You’re among your own kind and we will not judge you… at least that is the way it is supposed to be.

Why else do you think we swear perfect love and perfect trust? That was not made up to procure fantasy.

You do not have to change an entire religion in order for one person, or a new generation, to feel comfortable and respected by the rest of the world. There are reasons why neo-Paganism is the way it is and why it will remain so. There are no rules other than:

  • Everyone has the right to follow their own Path
  • We believe in a Higher Power(s) — God/desses
  • Nature is to be venerated

So why worry about what other people think? When confronted with co-workers, family, strangers on the bus, or other silly persons who snicker at the religion I identify with, I adopt an attitude of being Un-Spookable, because ultimately my religion is a personal issue that is left out of their business (they can say whatever they want, but they can’t take it away from me and I shall not be bothered!). When I’m at a job, I’m there as an employee. I leave my private life at home. If someone brings up my beliefs, or anything else that is private, I do not discuss those things at a job. It’s not professional to get friendly like that. If a boss Googles me, they are sticking their nose in my personal business. It does not matter if I have made my blog public and that I call myself Valentina the Witch, that is my persona separate from any other job I’m hired to do. Yet. I have it easy. I’m freelance, it does not matter if I advertise myself as a Witch or not, it goes along with my illustration.

It’s weird that nowadays folks find it easy to make fun of Pagans and Witches then be afraid of them! There are still some parts of the world where announcing your religion of choice could get you killed, yet at least here we can express our spirituality as we see fit. In the late 1980′s/early 90’s when I first discovered Witchcraft, I saw a few Goddess-centered public rituals that were pretty damn intense that included nudity, fire, mud, and large statuary representing giant genitalia. Back then more people were spooked by Paganism not scoffing at it!  A lot of people liked the tenets of belief and practice, yet weren’t as brave or wild to invent such crazy performances, so even then there were people embarrassed by that. Thus began movements to tame down ritual into simple, child-like, easy-to-swallow forms for personal and public use.

Pagan religion, movements, traditions… they are always evolving, changing, rituals get rewritten, no one way is supposed to be the only way, you make your way of worship your own way.  This is not disorganization.  This is individualization.  It is the way all of religion is flowing into the future.

Most Pagans today find an introduction to our religion by books, or by websites, much of which filled with half-truths and myths written mainly to lead an individual to further study.  In our age with the instant gratification of information and popular spirituality, we have a multitude of authors (some posers, some true authorities) out there to test young minds.  Yet I find that part of being Pagan is discovering the truth behind the fictions we are given.

I once had a teacher who was a terrible drug addict and dealer! I did not know it at the time, but there was something about him that did not feel right to me, some of the things he said and did were off, and after finding out how messed up he was, I still walked away with mighty lessons. He taught me what NOT to do, but even though he was delusional, he was a powerful magician with years of herbal medicine experience and introduced me to other Witches who weren’t addicts who taught me more than he could. His behavior was appalling, and perhaps someone else may have walked away in disgust, never again to dabble in the Craft, but not me.  Even the worst guide can still be a guide.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. ~Richard Cowper

I find that often Paganism is a gateway religion for many seeking another path that is out there for them to discover and experience. Yet I would advise you all not to abandon Paganism for a passing fad, or continue to treat Pagans with harsh criticism because you have come to the conclusion that it does not work for you, or you find you do not fit in with the crowd. If any of you grew up in a strict religious family, or have ever been confronted with ultra-right-wing religious conservative people,  you would do well to remember how having their doctrine forced upon you felt. And the more someone argued with you, attempted numerous times to convince you how wrong you are, and policed your behavior with phrases like “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” while you were simply just being different, the less you stayed within the church of your upbringing, and the less their words had any effect on you. Pagans are against that practice. Why?  Because we are not a religion that hates or inhibits anyone’s freedom.  We do not force people to stay in a religion that they are embarrassed of, or have out grown. If you must move on, please go in peace. We will not try to change you.  We ask nothing from you.  Just be yourself.

So, please, with all due respect, do not try to change us. Because we’re happy with ourselves. We’re not ashamed like you are. Don’t shape us into what you think we are. You might someday discover we never fit that mold to begin with. But we’ll forgive you just the same.

As for me, this Witch always has room in her heart for you, who ever and where ever you are, no matter what religion or subculture you belong to, and even if you think me silly and want nothing to do with me, I’ll miss you while I dance with the whole wide world under the pale moonlight!

Is Hero Worship Keeping Me from Greatness?

It’s too easy and tempting to hero-worship.
It’s harder and harrowing (hero-ing?) to make a hero out of myself.

Is it impossible to achieve greatness when all you see is how great someone else’s greatness is? That is the problem I fall into. Hero worship can prevent me from achieving and knowing my own greatness. How can one break out of the cycle of falling in love with the Hero and giving him all the glory, when really one should set out on a quest of one’s own and achieve glory for herself?

This weighs heavily on my heart and casts a shadow over my dreams because I so badly love being in love with heroes.   Ever since I was a girl I fell in love with the great legendary heroes I read about in books. Before I ever became a teenage groupie of rock musicians and comic book artists and horror novel authors, I aspired to become the kind of heroine (or damsel in distress, even though that role left me with a bad taste in my soul) who would marry the subject of one of the greatest epic poems, or I maybe I would grow up and be a muse for a great bard like Taliesin. At the age of 11, I read Beowulf, devoured King Arthur and his Knights written and illustrated by the great Howard Pyle, loved the epic poem The Faerie Queene by Sir Edumnd Spenser, and even made my English teachers’ jaws drop when I wrote a summer reading’s book report on the Odyssey and the Iliad!  But then… I discovered Joan of Arc and Red Sonja and fell in love with swords.  If I couldn’t be the beloved of heroes, I’d be a spitfire warrior woman, dammit! (But my desire for romance never, um, quite diminished, of course)

I even tried my hand at writing my own epic poems, one I called Zora the Sea Maiden but it was a silly daydream, full of forced rhymes and little more than a schoolgirl’s pedestrian effort to mimic her heroes’ greatness.  This was cruelly pointed out to me by the time I was in high school.  Even though I had learning disability complications that held me one year behind in reading comprehension, my writing and composition skills were superior, yet still I was no Homer or Dante, nor would I ever be as it was so pointed out by several of my high school English teachers.  I attempted to write plays and songs, sang one of my own for an audition, and even though my peers thought me someone akin to Shakespeare, time and time again I was let down and rejected, my ego trimmed down to the thickness of a thumbnail. That criticism was necessary, not to hold any narcissism in check, nor to break my girlhood dreams, but to give me a dose of reality and force me to realize where my best talents lay.

I loved heroes, I loved writing, yet I could draw like nobody’s business.  My drawings and paintings told stories.  I made a small business for myself quite by happenstance and airbrushed other kids’ names and things on their jackets and jeans.  I even did a little street art, but couldn’t stand the stench of spray paint, and the adventure of nearly getting caught was a bit too much for me, however having that experience… it made me feel GREAT.  But it wasn’t something epic, nothing that would make me a hero, or make me a heroic companion, or even transform this girl into the sort of lady that inspires bards.  Because, even though I sometimes used my art talents to impress boys, they were more interested in girls who were, I dunno… more demure, shy to the point of weak, or younger, less “equal (?)” to them than me.  By the time I was 18, I thought that being great meant being too strong meant being no one’s girlfriend and so, discouraged after a boyfriend left me for a petite, skinny, illiterate girl he got pregnant, I wondered if getting stupid myself would make me less alone.

Because by the time I was of the age when drinking was the rage and freedom meant experimenting with every sin, I went through some distress.  It was the only time in my life when I attracted a man willing to marry me, but only if I let him be the dominant partner in the relationship.  I played along with it for as long as I could, yet…  it never felt right.  Oh, I eventually exhibited my intelligence, budded and blossomed into the Feminist I was born to be, and began to realize the greatness of what being a woman is, and even though I could be just as great with a man as I could be single, I had yet to really know myself for myself, undefined by anyone else and no longer hidden underneath the shadow of my girlhood heroes.

I squirmed away from the possibility of marriage and the conventions of what could have been a secure, yet un-greatness-fulfilling life. My fiancé wanted three children, a house, requested that it would be nice if I be a housewife, spend my days at home and just made art in my spare time.  However, my talents did not lie in cooking, I am no Suzy House-maker, and when I am working on my art at home, it dominates every second of my time!  I cannot be bothered by dirty diapers and screaming children, let alone a husband coming home demanding anything while I’m putting my visions to paper.  Or maybe I could have…  ?  When I asked the ‘maybe’ and friends around me answered with  ‘you should‘ that was it.  I realized my greatness was not Valentina the Mom & Wife, it would be Valentina the Artist, however even that did not seem sufficient.

How does a young woman who grew up worshiping heroes discover her own greatness, anyway?

There is no manual or set of instructions for it except the double standards out there deeply conditioned within our society that tell us otherwise how to behave.  We play into them even when we think we’re being strong and independent.  Especially when we tell ourselves we are kicking ass and getting things done our way without anyone’s help.  I still get weak in the knees whenever I see how great someone else is achieving their greatness.  I ache to celebrate their achievements.  I rush up to the front row and scream out their name.  Tears run down my face when I look upon their face and I want so badly to see a God there looking back at me…

When I worship a hero, I am inviting the Gods to come out of an ordinary person.  I think that because an ordinary, mortal person has achieved greatness this must make them worthy to channel God, or that they have a God living within them all along, and so therefore worshiping them is akin to worshiping the Gods within.  The Gods make the Hero possible.  The Hero could not achieve greatness without the Gods.  If I can touch the Hero, I can reach the Gods through Him.  The Hero becomes a demigod just by right of achieving Greatness.  Yet does this, in turn, hurt any ordinary person’s chances for Greatness?  Not everyone becomes the Hero, so therefore the largest percentage of Us ordinary folk are incapable of reaching greatness and communing with the Gods.  Hero worship then becomes a poison, the quest for greatness just another selfish excuse for seeking the wrong kind of fame, making yet another individual no less closer to communing with the Gods than I am talking to the stars in the heavens.  When I cease to pay homage to the Hero and invite the Gods to come to me without achieving some great or special deed worthy of hero’s fame and glory, do I then make greater my chances for greatness in my own way on my own path according to what only I can achieve ?

Again, I feel heavy.  Not in sadness or anger, but in guilt for having worshiped my hero.  I no longer look up to fictional or historical heroes.  No celebrities push my thrill buttons anymore either.  What inspires and fascinates me now are the stellar mortals I am blessed to know in this life, people who make me want to achieve greatness so I can be their equal, catch up to them, and share some awesome adventures together.  Gone are the girlhood fantasies of wanting to become married to a hero or become the muse for a hero bard, and gone, too, is my desire to become great in order to become famous or rich.  I just want to be as great as my friends!  Their opinions matter to me like no one else’s, if they think when I express my admiration of them is wrong, I feel like a total idiot, or like I’ve been demoted to a self-depreciating groupie.  Or that they just do not see me as one of them.

Admiring my friends makes me very happy, sometimes it keeps me going, inspiring me to go to great lengths to achieve my own greatness.  I have a friend right now who is achieving a Great Adventure — *laughs*  it’s all his fault that I push myself a little harder because while I sweat in the sun, I think about how he is feeling biking and walking for many miles in this summer heat, and I think how much I have it easy in my climate-controlled drawing-room, how spoiled I am only having to worry about paying for laundry this week — !  I think of him when I go to bed, wondering if he’s sleeping outside in his hammock or if he’s found shelter tonight while I cuddle up with my cat, all safe and sound in my cozy apartment far away.

I was once homeless and know VERY MUCH what it is like to live like that.  I feel guilty staying in my own home while he’s out there.  Even though he has chosen his adventure, any adventures I’ve been through were not of my chosing.  I never had a large group of people cheering me on when I was struggling to make ends meet, surfing couches, and sleeping outside without a tent and sharing a cement bed underneath bridges with gutter punks.  That was my life at age 30.  My friend at age 30 has it better, has it all together, has the advantages of a supportive parental unit, and a network of friends to rely upon.  In some ways I am jealous, but what out-trumps that is I’m so damn proud of him!  He’s out-doing the challenges and struggles I went through at his age.

What our mutual friends do not know is that he helped me during some of the most difficult times when my life was most unstable.  When no one else stood up for me, he was there, and even though he could not fix my problems, he did what best friends do: HE STOOD BY.  That’s the best you can do — the GREATEST thing you can do for someone — just stand by them while they make it through their troubles.  It may seem like you’re doing nothing for your friend, but just standing by is everything, is all there is to do, and doing it is what matters the most because when I went through my hardest times I lost the friends I thought mattered.

When I compare my life to his right now, well, I just CAN’T see my life being anything great compared to his.  Perhaps this is due to my perception of his Great Adventure right now.  He’s the one doing all the greatness simply because he’s taking risks and being bold and pushing fast forward towards his goals!  The relief of just simply being happy because he’s happy for doing that frees me from feeling stupid and lazy for not doing something as grand and crazy as his Great Adventure.

I think of him as my ordinary hero.  I’m not really worshiping him like a God, I’m just talking and bragging about him because he’s my friend doing something  great that I cannot do.  Yes, I can ride a bike (he taught me how!) but I would kill myself doing what he is doing.  We once took a seven week trip and attempted to bike a teeny-weeny 13 miles and that put me in so much back/groin pain, well, need I go into gory details about that?  He has the stamina, endurance, skills and talents I simply do not have.  And, in contrast, I have strengths he lacks.  I know he admires me for those, so why not indulge in a little mutual appreciation?  I think we should all do that with our friends!  I do not think we do that enough with each other.  I think that when we do, sometimes people are under the impression we do it because we have some ulterior motive.  It’s hard to reassure each other that our worship of each other is genuine and the expression of it is not “I’m putting you above me” kind of thing.  It should be this patting each other on the back ritual, right?

Hero worship itself can become a trap for some of us.  I struggle with not letting it get too big of a habit.  It can carry me away back into acting like a 14-year-old girl again, but instead of copying her heroes or wanting to marry them, at some point reality seeps back in, I think of my love for my friend — the one who is not a hero but working toward living the Heroic Life — and I remember I am walking my own path to greatness.  My path is not the same as any of my friends, but like everyone else’s, we each have our own to define and chose as our own, and mine is simply a Witch’s Path; one of independence, creating beauty, caring for other people, activating change, standing up for justice, living in devotion to my Gods, and living by my own set of virtues.

But hero-worship can also be a welcome escape from trouble, often a way to rescue ourselves out of boredom and out of thinking that all there is to life is drudgery.  Hero worship should be the very thing that works as an elixir against conformity, yet with right ingredients mixed with the wrong elements, it is used to create tyranny that manifests in the form of cults, dictatorships, fanaticism, fascism, stalkers…  *shivers* Those things scare me.  Hero worship can turn into the poison that is so dreadfully yet beautifully addictive, it stunts the soul by the thousands.  I believe that anyone who finds that they have become a hero may or may not realize that their power is given to them by other people who are willingly giving up their freedom to belong to them.  When fanatics force that kind of obligation upon the hero they look up to, it becomes sick.  We might as well be asking our heroes to become assholes just to prove to us that we have placed our love and faith into the wrong living being.

My policy now is to NOT follow my pop culture heroes.  I refuse to meet them at conventions.  I don’t ask for autographs.  I am not thrilled by the idea of getting the chance to spend any amount of time with actors, authors, or celebrities.  Most of whom I have met by accident and enjoyed short, sweet, ordinary exchanges of word with that left me feeling comfortable knowing that we did not bother to bother each other with the usual fanfare that goes along with fan-meeting-star.  Why do I not go out of my way to meet my heroes at comic-book conventions?  Because every time I have met them, they turn out to show me their asshole side.  Everyone who sits through hours of signing their name millions of times for billions of lines of hungry, determined, crazy, starry-crossed-eyed, adoring fans ends up cranky and exhausted while all of it is going on.  There is only so much of that crazy one can take.  A friend of mine who “made it” in the business described it to me as “spending the entire day with your heart in your throat” so by the time you get to your hotel room, all you want to do is be quiet and do nothing.  When a fan goes out of their way to catch you unaware and manages to charm you into going to dinner with them or whatever, their perky attitude, no matter how sincere, becomes exasperating and, um, I often have been that fan.

I will not name the big names here, but one well-known author completely disillusioned me to the point of making me want to slit my wrists for worshiping him in the first place.  My best excuse for it was I was young and naïve and that put me on his most annoying let’s-fuck-with-this-silly-ignorant-girl list.  I don’t think I deserved it, however, his cruelty it taught me a lesson. Our heroes are not always what we make them to be. We must be careful in our selection of heroes. Chose the wrong person to believe in, it can devastate us to discover they are an asshole.  Our Hero-turned-Asshole we then make into our Nemesis because he becomes the antithesis of what we worship as Great. Yet even our nemesis is our teacher and worth our thanks because they can make us strive towards greatness that they will never achieve.  When my author hero humiliated me in front of his other fans, it put me on a war path to prove him wrong about me.  But that was not why I was an artist, so I exited the comic art industry and chose instead to just be the best artist only I am known to be.

What is keeping me from greatness now?  I fear greatness because I do not want to become the kind of hero who tears down and belittles the people who admire her.  I’ve learned that some heroes abandon their friends once they achieve greatness.  They conveniently forget names, cut down and ditch people out of their lives like one does no-longer-needed items donated at Goodwill or rummage sales, and once you’re out of the entourage, there are no more reunions, just drive-by hellos and byes.  Yet this is not an attack against heroes, just an expression of the fear of the way that fame that goes along with being a hero can change a friend into stranger.

I fear greatness will tear me away from people I love.  I will do  everything, no, ANYTHING in order to not break the hearts of the people I love because I know how that feels.  In many legends, heroes sacrifice their lives to save people, often leaving behind their lovers, wives, families…  but oftentimes today I don’t think it always necessary, depending upon what kind of greatness one is achieving.  I think when a person chooses to become the kind of hero that goes off to risk their life, and before they risk it all they chose to have a family, they are causing pain.  It’s well and good to sacrifice one’s life to save people you love, but… can’t there be a better way?  I like to hope so!

I sometimes fear the way my hero worship wells up a passion in me because it allows me too much of an escape from reality and when I wake up from the daydream world of the epic Hero, it makes me think ordinary men are not to be trusted, nor are worthy of love and greatness.  When I read the epics, the legends, I often shook my head and got angry with my heroes.  I did not always understand the need for sacrifice.  I also sometimes resented the glory that was bestowed upon them for their deeds when it was the women and children, the families left behind who often were the ones who suffered the most after their loss.  I especially wept for the ladies who were never to be reunited with their lovers, the ones who wasted away, took their own lives…  what good comes from that?  And, oh, how I fancied to do that myself at times.  How pathetic!  Such tales made me want to, not because some silly boy broke my heart, but because THERE ARE NO HEROES IN THIS WORLD LIKE IN THE LEGENDS OF OLD TO WORSHIP and therefore no men living are worthwhile for me to date *slides into a fainting chair*  Oh, woe, for me!  

The kind of fictional heroes I’ve often fell in love with were rogues that women loved because, well, they’re the best!  Who doesn’t want to make love to the best, even if the best can’t stick around, because, hey, maybe they’re woman enough to match the best?  Those heroes were, let’s face it, womanizers, not really worthy heroes, no matter how great their deeds, because their ideas about women were based on nothing truly real — there were no heroines in those heroes’ world, only whores, damsels in need of rescue (then they were de-flowered by the hero, of course), and temptresses (basically whores who were spies and killed for money, yet despite eventually falling for the hero and displaying their true heart of gold, get killed anyway — hurrah! ugh).  Like the song goes “rulers make bad lovers” however heroes make great lovers but make bad husbands and always end up being the death of their wives because heroes always need a dead beloved to avenge in order for there to be a great story.  I’ve read the legends both make-believe and historical (yet sometimes it is hard to tell which one is real).  I watch the news.  I read the papers.  It’s all true (or so we’re led to believe).  And even the heroines — the “SHEro” — isn’t always the greatest wife or lover because she’s so busy, she doesn’t have the time to spare for love, or she’s basically a male hero in a woman’s body.  What’s that all about?  Now I’m starting to get the comic book fiction mixed up with real life.  Sorry.  Typical mistake of my imagination.

Better to just be myself.  Be an artist.  Stick to one’s craft.  Don’t let anyone make me a hero.  Stay being this Witch.  Make magic out of nothing.  Let those people who can hack it, do something drastic.  I’m content to wait til all the excitement is over.  I’ve had my share of it and I like to watch it.  I’ll be here to write the stories and poems.  I’m now the poet who is most happy to compose the praise.  That’s where my passion lies.  If some friends match this passion, they’re welcome to come join my party, yet I do so want to knock on their door and be a part of their cool adventurer’s club!  It is like I am the odd girl out again wishing to hang out with the awesome kids.

To answer the question that is the title of this essay:

No.  Hero worship comes and goes with me.  My perception of Greatness changes as my heroes change.  Even when they cease to be heroes , long after the glitter in their crowns of laurel fades, and they return as men, as other women, as friends, as the people only I know and love, I will still think them great long after others think them not.  That’s my way.  Perhaps that’s the key to my Greatness, the kind I like to give to them… and there is no wrong in that.  Leave me with that kind of Greatness, the one I’m most comforted by, the most loved, the one you can see in my eyes as I shut them to say good-night and dream of you.

Postcard #36: Let Be This Crimson Storm

What’s come over me?  What’s going on with me right now?  It is hard to write and draw at the same time.  I get bored before I start writing because I’ve had the same ideas in my mind for some time about what to write and they grow stale by the time I get to the keyboard.  I discover I write about the same sorrows too often.  My joys are the usual as well.  I think too much.  Then I start to censor myself.  I worry about what people I love think about.  I swing between passions.  At this point I exhausted myself into fury.  I don’t want to care about what anyone thinks.  I want that most precious of freedoms that makes me so happy, you can’t imagine.  I want to write about anything and everything I want and about anyone I love.  But…  I must not go over the top.  I have to be respectful, or is that repressfull?  To reflect this, I did a cosmetically drastic thing.

I dyed the left half of my bangs brilliant crimson, dyed a lower right part the same color, and over all, my hair is aflame, with bands of darkest brown in between like rivers of chocolate next to all this burning red strawberry-gold mess.

This is the brightest I’ve ever highlighted my hair. I accidentally spaced out and left the bleach on too long on my left side. For a few moments I worried I had killed my hair. The darkness I’m so used to had disappeared into this stunning gold white. When I poured the color on, the dye was a thick, bloody red and it made me remember when my head was split open at the age of 14.

It was an accident. My younger brother was one of those kid brothers who liked to tag along and be incredibly annoying. There were plenty of boys his age to hang out with, but, no, he had to follow me and my girlfriends around as if it were his life’s goal to tease us to death. I tried to perfect the art of gracefully ignoring him, yet this only egged him on. One late summer night while my mother and the rest of the adults in the neighborhood were indoors debating Biblical scripture (we lived in an evangelical Christian community where Bible Studies were like social get togethers during the weekends), my best friend and I, like the rest of the kids, were left with nothing to do but hang out at the playground. We were too big for the jungle gym, so we sat on the swings, swaying casually back and forth while we talked about boys. To avoid my tag along brother, we told him we would be somewhere else, but he soon found out the truth and came at us in full antagonizing fury. First he called us names, chanting stupid rhymes, but then he started to throw little stones and things at us. Still, we ignored him.

He never intended to hurt us, he only wanted attention, and he was going to get it, even if it meant he was going to scare us. But my brother was never good at frightening me, just an expert at stepping on my nerves. To ignore him even harder, my friend and I started to swing as high as we could get, singing and laughing as loud as we could. I suppose we were just as annoying to my brother as he was to us. I don’t remember seeing him pick it up, but out of nowhere something big hit me upside my head and, just like in the cartoons, I saw stars…

Then I flew and fell and thudded to the ground. Somehow getting back on my feet, yet unable to steady myself, I couldn’t say anything or feel anything, my ears popped and I laughed. I always laugh whenever I’m uncomfortable, very angry, or whenever I’m in a situation where I don’t know how to react. The first thing I heard was my brother screaming, “I DIDN’T MEAN TO KILL MY SISTER! I’M SO SORRY! GOD PLEASE FORGIVE ME! DON’T LET MY SISTER DIE! SOMEBODY HELP MY SISTER!” Then out of him came the worst, most pitiful cries of animalistic fear and pain. Poor boy! My friend helped me stay on my feet and we were both laughing as my brother ran away back home. I thought his screams were for nothing. I was fine. I felt no pain.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” My friend asked, but I laughed off her concern. We began to walk back to make sure to let everyone know my brother’s panic was over nothing. Yet I did not see what had hit me. A few steps away from home, we stepped into the street light, and my friend gasped in horror. She wouldn’t speak, she just squeaked, covering her mouth, shaking her head, looked away and threw up. Alarmed, I had the sick realization that the back of my head felt very… wet. One side of my head was covered in blood. No. It was streaming blood. I felt for the wound, couldn’t find it, and it was hard to distinguish what part was my hair or scalp or could that sticky, squishy part be a piece of my brain?

I did not want to go home. Even though I felt no pain, I just did not want to be seen that way. How silly a thought was that! But sympathy for my brother drove me to open that screen door and slowly step inside as if I had done something gravely wrong. Everyone panicked except for my friend’s African father. He had experience treating much more horrible wounds in his home country, so in the minutes before anyone could get me to the ER, he managed to stop my bleeding. “She’ll be fine,” he assured everyone. Meanwhile my poor brother would not look at me, he clung to my mother, still quietly apologizing for what he did, but he didn’t have to.

I did end up fine, well, okay. I had a concussion, I still can feel the scar whenever I brush my hair, and my brother got over it, in fact as an adult he now teasingly claims I beat him up (yeah, right) when we were children. When he showed me the wooden board with the big rusty nail that had snagged a valley into my scalp deep enough to cause that blood river, I was thankful more damage had not been done. Whenever my brother and I recall what happened that night, we laugh about it now. We have a history of causing each other accidental bodily harm and saving each other from dangerous, near fatal situations that go as far back as early childhood. I don’t know who saved who first! I can even brag that I saved my baby brother from getting kidnapped by a serial killer, and it’s no lie, we even got to identify the creep, but we were too young to get ourselves on the news. *shivers* That was scary.

Getting back to my crimson hair…

That color… I chose it, picked that left side to color, and colored down that lower right side as part of a grand design to express my what — wildness?  But after I rinsed and dried, I took a good, long, hard look at what I done… I noticed that it seemed symbolic of being struck through the head, yet my head is still held together. Like I’ve had a breakthrough instead of a breakdown. The name of the hair dye is “Crimson Storm” and it could describe what goes on inside me when I’m filled with ideas, passions, inspiration, dreams, just me  overflowing with too much STUFF where I BURST at the seams.

So instead of complaining about how this makes me feel like that and being sad over this and blah, blah, blah, blahck… sheep, I gotta let burst and let myself be and just live. Let this crimson storm loose, get back to writing, let myself fly, and just go where my passions take me instead of holding back and waiting for permission (from who? I dunno!) to be whatever I wanna do.