There’s still time, but not much, to register for Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment. If you want to gain more decision-making skills for the future or are facing down an important choice now, please click the link and see whether you’d like to join us August 3rd.
Hello, dear friends and comrades –
Those of you who have been around the Reflections block for a while will recognize much that is in the stories below. But for newer folks, I realized there are some fundamental things about me and about The Way of the River that need to be said again and again. Here we are. A new angle on some old stories.
This week, I have begun a series of podcast recordings on different shows with various hosts. (Check out the Facebook Community Group to see whether I’ve put anything up there. If I think my first foray out into the podcast world in some time is worth sharing, it’ll be linked there.) The process of putting myself out there in a new way—not least as a really, most sincerely fat woman—is a little scary. Nevertheless, I’ve realized I can handle it. I can make it work. I can look at my face (asymmetrical), my lipstick (rarely the EXACT right color I’d like), my arms (bigger than anyone’s I know), my neck (arguably the part of my body I’m most self-conscious about).
I can see all those things, and I can see more. I can hear my laugh—on my first podcast, someone commented on how much they enjoyed my laugh and how much joy I brought to the show. I can watch my hands and the way I use them to illustrate what I’m talking about. (Just like my father – if you’d tied up his hands, there’s no way that award-winning professor could have taught one line of poetry!) I can listen to my voice and the way it resonates tenderly, gently, and sometimes more forcefully. And I can hear the content of what I’m talking about, and that it’s solid, that I know what I’m talking about. (Though every time I get recorded of late, I make at least one misstep—see the PS in this edition.)
What I’m trying to say here is that I really believe podcasts are going to give me the opportunity to practice my watchwords. At least that first one did. What are the watchwords? Some of you who’ve been around the block with me for a few times already know what I’m going to say, but some of you haven’t heard these yet.
There are two things I try to put into practice every day, and they are the children of the Spirit of Love as I understand it. They are gentle persistence (daring to be recorded for audiences outside you lovelies) and persistent gentleness (offering myself the compassion I’d give to anyone else, the benefit of the doubt, the joy in nice things, and delighting in talking about things I love). So you are welcome, if you are in our Facebook Community Group or in the Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment class, welcome always to remind me sweetly that gentle persistence and persistent gentleness are the ways I’ve discovered change can arise.
But back to the podcasts.
One of the podcasts with whom I am likely to do an interview is called The Liminal Podcast. They provided me with a long questionnaire as part of our getting to know one another. They are interested in the hero’s journey, as they see it and as it is often described, and particularly in the sense of going into the belly of the beast and being reborn. In the rebirth set of questions, they began to ask things in terms of the phoenix – what has arisen, maybe even more than once, from the ashes of things burnt down around me? I thought I’d share a piece of what my answer about what has endured throughout my life and has, in some ways, never changed.
“As a Unitarian Universalist minister and Wiccan priestess, spirituality is STILL at the center of my life. When I was studying to become a religious sister, it was at the center of my life. When I was a nice Catholic girl, it was at the center of my life, and it still is.
Whether I’m preaching or making ceremony, teaching Wicca 101 for the Tradition of Stone Circle Wicca (USA) or teaching discernment or meditation, accompanying a client or helping someone prepare for their ministerial credentialing interview, the Spirit of Love is the egg, the fledgling, the glorious bird of fire that is carried by and comes through my heart.
Up or down, well or ill, broke (and evicted and defaulted and arrested) or comfortable, I have always been tethered to this life by Love. The Love of the many-faced Divine Who is One and Many, Male, Female, Both, All, or None. The Love of my beloved spouse. The Love of my communities. The Love of my dear friends and other family. And the Love of people whose names I don’t know and whose faces I may never see. And I love them, I love you, all of you, in one way or another, however distant or strange it may seem from here.
Gently, persistently, I work to bring more Love into the world, because I know it is Love that saved me when I most needed saving.”
Don’t mistake me – when I say, “saved,” I don’t mean an abstract, detached love or conventionally Christian born-again experience. I mean pulled from the jaws of death-dealing depression and psychosis. I mean someone holding me after I had intentionally hurt myself for the first time, age 16, and holding me and holding me as the snow fell, saying, “I feel like you’re a little kid who just dodged a bullet and I don’t know whether I want to hug you and hug you or to shake you and tell you not to ever do any such thing again.”
I mean someone making me flowers out of construction paper and drinking straws and putting them in a vase of an Arizona iced tea bottle painted to look like a stage with open curtains. These flowers, this vase were given to me to celebrate that day in the snow, the day I didn’t die, the day I decided to go ahead and live, at least for a while.
I mean my ex-lovers and their lovers coming to my rescue when I got kicked out of my apartment on Imbolc. I mean an apartment couch to crash on when I had no place of my own. I mean the apartment “dining room” floor where I lived for a summer.
And I mean being shipwrecked by my life, absolutely shipwrecked, no longer knowing what I believed, why I was alive, or where along the way the Spirit of Love had left me. I mean being shipwrecked and then discovering as I picked up my head that I had landed on the Island of Love that became the garden for the most important relationship of my life. That relationship, that love, that marriage, that brilliant woman to whom I made the earth-shaking promise one day that I will never—not from that day forward—try in any way to kill myself.
Some of you are like, yeah, what’s the big deal. You can’t think killing yourself is a good idea. Well, I suppose not. In fact, I had a good friend recently try to rationally explain why it isn’t. I laughed a lot in that conversation. For someone who heard voices for over twenty years, voices that became steadily more and more persecutory, telling me over and over and over every single day to kill myself that I was a coward if I didn’t kill myself that everyone would be so much better if I’d only… you get the idea. Hearing that every day, all day does something to your neural pathways.
And only one thing has ever given me the hope that there might be something on the other side of those voices. Only one thing has ever given me the sense-feeling-perception that I was worth something when I couldn’t believe it on my own. Only one thing has ever done the heavy lifting of teaching me that moving those neural pathways is worth it, to gently but persistently keep trying, day by day, to remember that I am allowed to be here with you.
As I heard recently, from a much more benevolent, quieter, not-crazy voice, “Darling, it was Love all along.”
Darling, it was Love all along.
Blessings for you –
PS – I mentioned it in passing, but Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment still has a few spots left. (Before we max out our registration at 24). I invite you to check out the link above if you have any bit of piqued curiosity about the fine and venerable art of decision making. We will have a good group of folks as it is, but there are still a few spots remaining, and I’d love to have a full house! How much fun would that be? Look over the page and the ask yourself, “Do I feel a wholehearted YES to the idea of a self-paced, but supportive environment of accountability in which to learn?”
Questions: Check the link above, and then if you still have questions, just go ahead and reply to this email.
So much love for you. Love and peace and all good things.