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)

Why I Am A Witch

I am a Witch. Why does that scare you? Do I make you uncomfortable when I tell you I am a Witch? I am a Witch. Does that make you laugh? Are you rolling your eyes at me? What if I told you I am Wiccan. Will you ridicule me? Are you going to tell me that my religion is not true? I am neo-Pagan. Does that make you want to prove to me that I am lost, wrong, deceived, that I believe in something that does not exist, or that the basis of my religion never really existed? I worship many Gods and Goddesses. Are you going to scoff, call me crazy, tell me that what I believe in is all mythology?  No one seduced me into becoming a Witch.  I was drawn to the very word ‘witch’ from the start.  It never sounded evil to me.  I was in love with it. Like Laurie Cabot, I found “Witch” to be “a delicious word” and how could anyone else not find it intriguing, too?

I am a Witch. I practice Witchcraft. My magic is my chosen form of worship and healing practice. You are going to tell me that what I do is evil. That when I use my Gods-given power to create change and bend fate I am acting against nature. Yet this is far from the truth. I am a Witch. I work with nature and the Gods.

I am a Witch. There is no sense in calling me “white” or “black” because I am simply myself. I am human. If you are good Why be a Witch? you ask.

Why do I identify myself with such an archaic symbol of universal evil? Because it is NOT what you think it seems. I suspect it was never meant to be a term for an evil-doer, but I have no proof of this. I can only tell you how perhaps the word developed. Yet this does not matter. A Witch is what I am. It is the title of my religious station in life. If I were a nun, I would call myself a nun. Officially I am a Witch, a kind of priestess/magician who has been initiated into a spiritual tradition. Anyone from any religion can become a Witch, but not everyone is cut out for life as a Witch. Because of the stereotypes and the service involved if a Witch decides to practice publicly, it takes courage and commitment. Many Witches keep their practices secret to make their lives less complicated, but to have a double-life is hard. You have to really be in love with the Gods to be a true Witch. Despite the hard time some people will give you, the spiritual rewards are great.

I am a Witch because I care about my community. I am a Witch who seeks to heal her people. A Witch is a fighter, a rebel, and a revolutionary. A Witch works magic to bring about justice and equality. A Witch identifies herself with the millions of innocent victims who were executed during the Witch Trials, identifies with the victims and survivors of domestic violence, identifies with all indigenous people who were forced to give up their native religions and assimilate into Christian societies in order to survive — the Witch knows what it is to be different, to be the subject of ridicule, and she does not care what the majority thinks, when there is an unfair balance of power, she is the first to protest. I am a Witch because I am a feminist. If you align yourself with the LGBT community in their struggle for equal rights, I am your Witch. I will stand beside you. Witches do not pray kneeling down and wait for change to happen on its own. Witches stand up, speak out, and dare to be different when everyone else is too intimidated to stick their neck out.

I am a Witch. That should threaten you if you need to believe in a Devil in order to believe in God, even more so if you require a belief in evil Witches so you can have enemies to blame all the bad stuff in life upon. Without the Evil Witch myth, who will you have to explain away the evil that ordinary people do? People who are not Witches are the ones who do the most evil in the world. People who want to keep your fear of the Devil alive do so to get you to stay stupid. If you are too afraid to question authority, you will continue to play follow-the-leader. The Evil Witch Myth is the choice mystical intimidation technique of some drug dealers and gang leaders, and so it is also for Evangelical Christians. Just about every cult and religion in the world needs you to believe in Evil Witchcraft, especially those who practice the most manipulative forms of magic to gain power and influence in the world. Whether or not they identify as Witches, they are NOT the kind of Witch I am.

I am a Witch. Don’t let it get to you. I do not require you to be afraid of me. I do not seek your attention. I do not want your hatred or admiration. I only request an understanding. I will never ask you to convert to my way of worship and believing. You can be yourself around me.

I am an All-American Witch. I have been a Witch for 22 years. I have learned that Witchcraft today is a boiling, melting cauldron-pot religion based on aspects of Pre-Christian pagan spiritual beliefs of ancient Europe, teachings handed down orally from various tribal and folk traditions from all over the world, kept alive by ever-changing and developing new creative ways of practicing magic by the heated passions of generations of young (and young-at-heart) Witches. Witchcraft in the United States is different from the Craft practiced in other countries and cultures because here it has become common and less scary due to the fervent campaigning of our elders before us who spread enough information about our ways to make it  mainstream. So much so, that to many people it has become homogenized pop culture fare.

I am a Witch of the 21st Century. I have grown soft from over-explaining who I am and what I practice. I assume most people Google my religion and generally understand what a Witch is all about. As soon as I indifferently identify myself as “witch” I forget that this still is pure horror for some, and a joke for others. I am either the cartoon or the Evil Witch Myth come to life — the crazy woman who thinks she’s a Disney character, or the Satan-serving creature your preacher warned you about, or… am I? With all the over-saturation of information on the internet and in books out there, a new breed of Witch-hunters and haters are out there who seek to belittle me. Today they cannot burn you to destroy you, if someone fears and hates you they will humiliate you, knock you down with their texts and tweets, get you to doubt yourself, insult and threaten you, make you fear being yourself in order to get you to destroy yourself instead.

I am a Witch. I have lived through threats on my life. I have been stalked, attacked, shot at, estranged, rejected, and more. Twenty years ago being open about being a Witch was risky business, far more dangerous and shocking than it is today in the U.S. Instead of being encouraged to walk the Witch’s path, my teachers warned me it may not be right for me. I was told to keep it a secret. I was told that being a Witch could mean losing my job, or being considered crazy, that if I ever had a family I could lose my kids, and that people will not trust me just based on my choice of religion. I was told that no one would believe that I believe in God, that if I told them about my Gods, then they would believe I was rejecting God. But no matter what I was told, I was never one to follow rules, especially ones that seemed most unfair to me.

I am a Witch who is the proud daughter of a good Christian woman. It was my mother’s spiritual example and zealous love for the Lord that urged me to TESTIFY. Being a Witch did not mean I had to abandon my Christian upbringing or reject the values and morals my mother taught me, they were easily incorporated with the virtues of Witchcraft. If only my mother knew!

I am a Witch who faithfully aligns herself with the Goddess Isis. I am a Witch who communes with the God Lugh. I am a Witch who is guided by her ancestral spirits. They gave me a vision and I made them a promise: that I would live and practice Openly and Freely and Love unfalteringly as Their Witch for Life.

I am a Witch. I know what it is to overcome prejudice, separation, rejection, and attacks on my reputation. I understand the fears and anxieties people from other faiths have concerning Witchcraft. I am a Witch in the open so that they can ask questions and know someone familiar with their beliefs, a Witch who won’t be rude or scare them away, someone forgiving and respectful, even when Christians can’t be.

I am a Witch who has lost her mother.

The night my mother died… the last time I looked into her eyes… it did not matter that she was Christian, it did not matter that I was a Witch.

All that mattered was Love.

I cannot prove to you that Witches at the beginning of time were all about love. I can only give you the proof in my heart today that this Witch, this woman who practices magic, who serves as an oracle, and paints the portraits of Gods, talks to spirits, endeavors to live in harmony with nature, someone who fights for equality, dreams of a better world, delights in all the wonderful ways so many cultures across the world worship the Gods, and nurtures a personal relationship with her Gods, she is a creature of Love.

That is why I am a Witch.