Archive | psychology

Learning to read again.

Hello, ya’ll! I know it’s been a bit of time. I’m sorry I haven’t had much to say here, but life has been busy and really good. And I figured I should post something before the new moon on Wednesday. So, here we are.

I have been learning to read tarot cards. Maybe as part of my witchy skillz, but maybe just because I find them a fascinating divination tool. Probably both. In any case, I’m learning a lot and having a lot of fun with it.

In the past I have used my iPod as a tool for divination. You can read about that in this post. And while you may find that weird or funny, it worked well for me for years. In talking with a spiritual guide, she said there was an old Greek divination practice of asking yourself a question that needed solving, and then heading to the marketplace for the day, noticing if there were any pieces of conversations you were drawn to, or words you heard repeatedly, perhaps sentences that seemed insightful to the question. And in that way, you found clues to your answer. I think my iPod oracle is sort of like that.

So, as I’ve been learning the tarot I sometimes check in with both tools- asking the same question- and seeing what the results are, how they differ from one another, and how they differ from the actual outcome. It’s kinda cool to watch and learn from.

I also sometimes work with oracle cards, which are not like tarot at all, but are a deck of cards with archetypal images that share some bit of truth to help guide you. There are literally hundreds of oracle decks which cover just about any topic you can think of: plant medicine, angels, the great mother, animals, feminism, crystals. Pick your pleasure, there is a deck of oracle cards for you. But they are not like tarot, which is a very particular set of cards with meanings that have not changed over the years. I like the power that resides in having millions of humans invest their energy in the tarot cards over the hundreds of years they have been around.

So, anyway…in my personal work, I draw one card from a very typical tarot deck (called the Rider-Waite deck). This deck I use for ‘daily’ kinds of questions. The cards feel very much like daily tools for asking and answering questions, seeking guidance, and just hanging with the energy of general life.

One day last week I drew the Five of Swords, reversed (when they show upside down, it’s called a ‘reversal’). I don’t typically use the cards as hard and fast rules about guidance or somehow knowing what’s ahead. They are more like energies I should be aware of, or be prepared to use, during that day. Sometimes it is totally spot on, and sometimes the card is only vaguely related to what happened. I think this is just because the tarot and I are getting acquainted. I hope the guidance will become clearer as time goes on.

 

The tarot card, The Five of Swords, upside down on a table with a candle and a bowl of salt

Five of Swords, reversed.

 

The Five of Swords, reversed is a reminder to step away from the conflict and drama; to accept loss with grace; and sometimes to understand that “all lies come out into the open.” For me, this was clear guidance to lay some groundwork on preparing my friends and family for my upcoming book. Two weeks ago I was granted a trademark on the phrase, “The Sex Surge” and my book should be coming out in late Oct/early Nov this year. And while I’ve not lied about things, I haven’t always told the whole truth, and now it’s definitely time to do that (I’ve had practice recently. The hubs got the whole, final download about 40s guy – there were 3 things I left out- and all the writing and emotions about 20s Guy. We had some things to discuss, but it all worked out well- see below). Knowing the truth is what actually protects our loved ones from harm.

So, you see how the tarot could be used as a guidance or divination system. Of course, sometimes what we perceive as ‘divination’ is also just us looking for confirmation of what we believe (called ‘confirmation bias’). I think that working with divination systems also requires you to have good self-awareness (so you’re less likely to bullshit yourself) and a connection with your own intuition or internal way of knowing.

::: ::: ::: :::

In my practice I also use other decks for deeper questions or broader time ranges. For instance, last week I pulled this set of cards. Two are from The Wild Unknown tarot and two are from the Inner Hue oracle deck (which I like because it uses archetypal images and all of the chakras).

 

a table with two tarot cards and two oracle cards on it with a plant and a small cup nearby

Ace of Swords, Two of Pentacles, Abundance, and Healer.

 

The Ace of Swords is about letting truth lead the way (interesting to be coupled with the Five of Swords, reversed); being courageous and assertive. The Two of Pentacles is about weighing our options, making comparisons, and getting a handle on things while remaining very flexible. The Abundance card is about…abundance, but also just being open, light, and receptive. Then, the Healer card- also very obvious to it’s meaning, but it also felt like a grounding of that energy within myself.

I really had no sense of what this meant, but I trusted that there was guidance in it. Turns out it was exactly what happened last week. I let truth, my truth, the Truth, lead the way in some places I wasn’t opening up to. Into Tuesday and Wednesday I was dealing with work stuff and balancing a schedule that would be chaotic by week’s end. Thursday I figured out how to slightly re-orient my business to make it more profitable. And Friday I spent doing a lot of healing work through clarifying words and concepts and making space for all shades of mental health.

So! Super cool that the cards were kind of showing me the layout for the week. Now, as stated, I don’t know that it always goes this well, but it was interesting to watch the week unfold and see how the cards related to the events. Other weeks, I’m sure, won’t be as clear, but it was cool to have this one just work.

::: ::: ::: :::

In comparison to all this, on Saturday I set my indoor bike trainer up, got on my bike, put my earphones in and said, “Please just give me whatever guidance you have.” I hit ‘shuffle’ and started to pedal. This is what I got:

I Like Me Better by Lauv 

I Hate Myself For Lovin’ You by Joan Jett and the Black Hearts

So, this is obviously about 20s Guy. I Like Me Better is his song in my energetic dictionary. I have no idea whether I Hate Myself is to be taken literally or just some piece I missed or what (not that I love him or hate myself for any of it; I think this is about him). What’s also curious is that 20s Guy has been gone for 6 or 8 weeks now. I sometimes think he comes around in stealth mode, but I don’t know enough about him to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on what I see. So, this is very weird that I should be getting guidance on anything about him.

Immediately after this was:

No Envy, No Fear by Joshua Radin

All The Right Moves by OneRepublic

Also weird because No Envy, No Fear is a song I associate with 40s Guy. It’s a very old energy I used to sense he was capable of, but now I know he’s not. (He’s a terrible kind of human: he is in pain, and he causes others great pain, because he refuses to deal with his pain. And he knows it.) The second song has a super clear meaning to me because it’s about a particular aspect of the place we used to work together. So, I think this is a message about his work and his feelings for it. (I called him out on something a few weeks ago and since then it’s been very interesting to watch is behavior; he’s playing games he doesn’t understand and it’s kind of funny.)

[Complete aside but interesting here: one thing I have learned from 20s Guy and 40s Guy and a lot of the married, hetero dudes I know is that once a guy is satisfied in his relationships, he doesn’t seem to bother other women. I have sent much good juju to 20s Guy that he would either find his person or be put on the path to her; I hope his absence means it worked. 40s Guy is still unhappy, I would guess, based on his behavior. If he was happy, he would be focused elsewhere, he wouldn’t give a shit about bugging me. Human hetero men are so weird and so interesting.]

Then:

Just Like a Chap by Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer

Too Lost in You by the Sugababes

Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol

Ah, these are all about my husband. Just Like a Chap is most definitely a song I associate with him and only him*. The other two are relevant to our relationship (Crack the Shutters is one of my favorite, playful love songs; totally reminds me of our first, very poor, years together).

So, this is the ‘guidance’ my iPod gave me. Because of what the guidance was about my husband- either pointing towards how he’s feeling about me or towards more love and depth in our relationship- I suspect that the other songs have something to do with my relationship with those dudes. Maybe it’s also just simply an indication of where they are at, how their lives are going. I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn by listening to this energy.

In cases like these, I tend to let things play out and see what happens. I’m not making any big or definite decisions based on what I’ve been given for guidance. If I was concerned about any of this, I would ask the cards or the Ipod a more specific question and see what came up (I’d probably also do it over a series of days to see how things averaged out). I have also wondered if the iPod is slightly less effective than it used to be because I’m hanging out with the tarot cards now. Shifting connection and energies isn’t always a clean process.

Learning to read tarot cards, their guidance, has been a fun experiment so far. I will definitely keep going with it. The tarot cards are really just a symbolic map through the Hero’s Journey (or, Life), and I like that idea. My iPod has a lot of variety, but it doesn’t have a specific map like the tarot does. (But maybe that’s something to play with, as well- finding a song for each tarot card. Ack! Fun! Imma do that!) I hope that with time and practice I will get better at reading the cards, their energy, and sussing out what that all means in practical terms. Until then, I’m still part science and part woo woo.

Hope you’re doing well, fellow travelers. See you again Wednesday.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

*’Chap’ is a sub-culture that enjoys a return to some of the more refined times. You can read Gustav Temple’s How To Be Chap, if you’d like to know more. It mostly involves a lot of tweed and putting it together in well-curated outfits. The Chap Olympiad is also fun to look at.

 

 

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All These Paths, Leading To The Same Place

You thinkers, prisoners of what will work:
a dog ran by me in the street one night,
its path met by its feet in quick unthought,
and I stopped in a sudden Christmas, purposeless,
a miracle without a proof, soon lost.

But I still call, ‘Here, Other, Other,’ in the dark.

William Stafford, “An Epiphany”

::: ::: ::: :::

[That is one of my favorite poems by William Stafford. He was an unsung word genius.]

I read something a few weeks ago and had an epiphany. One of those moments when everything – years of practice, a fragment of metaphor, and a spark – comes together and you realize something important. I was reading a quote by Pema Chodron, a famous Buddhist nun and meditation teacher. She wrote, “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

And in the moment I read that, I suddenly understood something about my various spiritual practices over the years: they have all been about me trying to accept myself.

::: ::: ::: :::

I grew up Protestant (American Baptist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ) and in that tradition, humans are sinful. They are full of sin because of the choice Adam and Eve made to eat from fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What that looks like in modern terms is being regularly told that I was bad everywhere but in my soul. That I was inherently ‘not good’ and ‘less than’ and ‘blackened by sin’ (and a whole bunch of other Bible verses I’ve forgotten twenty years later…). With only one exception*, I don’t believe much good comes from the Judeo-Christian spiritual path; we certainly have plenty of evidence that it causes war and hatred and I believe it stems from this basic understanding of our selves as inherently bad.

After years of being a good ‘Bible-thumper’ I left the church because the world it spoke of as inherently wrong, bad, and sinful was not the world I experienced. The world I knew was full of amazing things and people and choices. I had girlfriends who had successfully weathered abortions, read re-interpretations of Bible stories, and enjoyed a drink with a couple of gay people and those things made it awfully hard to believe what was in the Bible, and what was being preached about it, anymore. Like a lot of people, I left and headed East.

For many years I studied the Tao te Ching, having been introduced to it in a college class about Eastern literature. I found it delightfully simple and also satisfyingly deep as I spent time with the verses and ideas. There was precious little dogma, interpretation, and certainly no mention of ‘sin.’ It felt like a good place to settle. And for a few years, it was.

I travelled other paths: Paganism, Unitarianism, Shambhala Buddhism, Tantra, Witchcraft. I’ve changed paths often. I became an ordained ‘interfaith’ minister (which I’m not sure is even a thing, but I’ll talk about that at another time). I have travelled around to various paths, texts, and rituals because they served my spiritual needs at various places along my path. And also because I love to fall in love and this was a way to connect with different ‘partners’ at the table of religion and spiritual development. (Today I see that there are appropriation problems with that kind of spiritual path, but that’s for the another post, as well.)

All of these spiritual paths were most definitely about me finding pieces of myself inside those traditions, texts, ideas, theologies, and metaphors. But my epiphany is that my most important paths have been about self-acceptance.

 

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

 

I’ve meditated for close to 20 years. I’ve used various forms, but mostly breath meditation (although I have used more sensual sub-genres of breath meditation at different times). For many years, I used the RAIN method, where you Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-Identify with whatever thoughts or feelings you have during meditation. But it was in reading Pema Chodron’s words about befriending ourselves in meditation that I really came to understand its purpose was far more soft than I had been experiencing it. It was about accepting myself, the totality of myself. To be who we are, in compassionate acceptance of ourself- whatever that self may be experiencing. Meditation was about completely accepting myself internally.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a practicing witch (the intensity depends on the day and the person, though- heh). And magic has been something I have been playing with for a long time, as well. My magic mostly involves words: rituals, prayers, handmade soliloquies spoken into the void. Only recently have I taken instruction in the more modern facets of witchery. And the one thing I learned there is that good magic involves self-acceptance. Magic that does what you want it to do involves acknowledging the totality of all that you are in the world: sinner and saint, angel and demon, mother and whore. I can be good, very, very good. And I can also be wicked. If I pretend to only be light and love, my magic sputters and doesn’t get very far. But if I acknowledge and accept all that I am, my magic is far more powerful. Magic, of course, is about how we are in the world and how the world reacts to us and our desires, to our energy and our vibe. And so magic has been about accepting myself as a human in the world, moving from internal to external.

Tantra has been something I’ve only picked up in the last five years or so, and it was most definitely about accepting myself and my sexual needs and desires. In some ways, this website has been partially about spiritually bypassing my sexual desires and needs – and Tantra is one way to both accept and bypass sexual darkness. I can’t say this blog has been entirely about bypassing, because I have certainly shared my pain and frustration and growth here, as well. But Tantra has been about self-acceptance inside of relationship, especially intimate relationship. Tantra is about the balance and alchemy of masculine and feminine (not the same as ‘male’ and ‘female,’ please remember). And my path inside of Tantra has been about accepting and balancing not just the masculine and feminine within myself, but also the dark and the light. I can be the most fun, delightful, loving sexual partner, and I can also want to live out dark fantasies (starting with having an affair, which I used to want desperately. Also remember that what is ‘dark’ is different for each person; my personal ‘dark’ might bore the fuck out of someone else). Tantra has been about accepting myself inside of intimate relationship.

Beyond each of these paths – to accept myself internally, to accept myself as part of the world, and to accept myself inside of partnership – there is something else I find incredibly valuable: Western psychology. (I am most familiar with Western psychology, but other modalities of healing the psyche are equally useful and valid. I have used food, prayer, movement, and many other tools to heal myself and others; I am for ‘whatever works’ to heal people.) Most of us wrestle with some piece of ourselves that feels ‘broken.’ And perhaps we do have ‘broken’ pieces inside us. When we do, psychological tools are often useful in helping people heal (again, I am a firm believer in using what works, even if that isn’t in the professional literature). Our brokenness is often not our fault (trauma is rarely something we do to ourselves), but we are responsible for healing our brokenness once we know about it.

Knowing about our brokenness is key to self-acceptance, I believe. But we must also know that sometimes our dark, our ‘bad,’ our ‘shadow’ isn’t brokenness- it is just a part of us that needs awareness and acceptance. The same awareness and acceptance we give to the parts of us we are pleased with or that are accepted in public.

Having this epiphany about self-acceptance and realizing I’ve been on quite the search for it has brought me a lot of excitement and calm in the last couple of weeks. If what I have been looking for is self-acceptance, there is no need for a spiritual path. Learning to accept and love myself is the path. So, all this time, I was just looking for pathways and guidance to leave behind the belief that I was bad and sinful and dirty and begin to trust in the whole of myself. Yes, there are broken bits that need fixing and healing, but there are also parts that are simply waiting for me to accept them, because they aren’t broken, they’re just judged.

And, of course, the great joke from Life is that this is the gift I most easily give other people: acceptance. Whatever darkness you feel or fear, I will listen to it and love it and accept it, without judgement. It’s so easy to give others the medicine we most need. (And so I am also a giant cliche. But, I think we already knew that.)

I will definitely continue with meditation, magic, and Tantra, but now I know what they are in service to, and where to place my energy. I suppose self-acceptance is my path now. I am grateful for the strange and varied path that got me to this place, and I feel a deep sense of grace in knowing I’m not ‘sinful’ anymore. Jung was so right about acknowledging our darkness rather than hiding from it, there is both power and grace in that acknowledgement.

I love you, beautiful people. And I want you to know you’re good, even when you’re bad.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

*I believe that spiritual paths are suitable to different levels of psychological and spiritual development. And Christianity, as it is practiced in the West today can be useful to people who need a benevolent (hopefully loving) and also parental-style experience of god. For instance, people who are in recovery. Having a god that both loves you, wants you to do well, and will punish you if you don’t can keep people with addiction issues on the straight-and-narrow. But that’s about the only place I’ve seen it be as useful as it can be; many other places Judeo-Christian concepts and interpretations have caused a lot of fear, shame, and depravity. There are folks who are stripping off the parental piece of Christianity and evolving it into something more accepting and, honestly, Christ-like. People like John Pavolvitz and Nadia Bolz-Weber. But this article on Satanists also gives me hope.

 

 

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Broken. And Bright.

The Japanese have this very deep and beautiful type of art known as kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art and practice of taking something that was broken (china, pottery, etc.) and putting it back together using gold or silver to fill in the broken spaces. It’s beautiful when well done and I am fascinated by it.

 

Kintsugi (not the album by Death Cab for Cutie.)
[Photographer unknown. Please contact me if you do know so I can properly attribute.]

 

I believe all humans are kintsugi.

We all have our broken spots. And we can all work to heal them, or at least make them not leak so much. It is in the healing that we find our gold, and our beauty, I believe.

Yes, the world will break you. Your own heart will break you sometimes. But that brokenness does not have to leave us destroyed. We can heal, even if that healing is saying, “I accept that this brokenness exists” and nothing more. There is beauty and value in the relationship we have with what has been lost, as well.

We are all broken. And bright.

::: ::: ::: :::

When I was in my early twenties, a dear friend was trying to get divorced from her husband and had to get their two cars across town to her new apartment or job (I can’t remember which). So she would drive one car a quarter mile ahead of the other, park it on the side of the road, and then walk back and get the other car, drive that one up a quarter mile, park it and go back for the last one, and repeat the cycle over and over again. [She was 20 or 21 at the time, so don’t laugh. She was doing her best with no friends or family in a far-away city.] It took a lot of energy and a long ass time, but she did it.

I was remembering her story because three years ago I wrote a post titled, “I am Healed Enough Now.” [Read it here.] And in that post I talked about the process, the dance, of moving back and forth between wanting to grow and finding that I had things to heal first so that the growth could take place. I had to ‘bring up the rear’ to keep moving forward. It was as if my friend’s cars were tied together with flimsy rope, and she could only drive so far ahead before the second car had to be brought up, too. My psychological and spiritual growth happened like that- one was always chained to the other and I always had to go back to go forward.

I continued to dance this spiritual dance for another three years. I wasn’t wrong in that post- I was healed enough- but I needed three more years of taking tiny steps in that direction until I really felt it. I learned a lot in those three years, and I still did have plenty of healing to do, but I was ready to dance a new dance three years ago, I just didn’t start doing it.

After so many years of working on myself and helping other people work on themselves, I really do believe that healing our past is necessary work. We have to find out what makes us tick and why. We have to deal with the things that stick in our heart, mind, and soul. I am speaking of trauma, but also of the flippant comments a parent or teacher can make that scar us for many years. The ways we tell white lies to ourselves. The old stories from high school that keep us small or frightened. We have to wonder why we react a certain way or hate something or can’t deal with something when other people have no problem with it. Where did that come from? In the famous words of P!nk, “Why do I do that?”

The work of my twenties was to figure out who I was, figure out which societal boxes I wanted to check (job, car, house, kids), and kind of get my life together. The work of my thirties was looking at my shit, my problems, my unhealthy proclivities, and finding their root cause. And then working with the root cause to really heal. The work of my forties is loving who I am and not giving a fuck about what society says (because I am old and outside its reach anyhow).

My twenties were about being conventionally good and successful, ambitious and acquiring. To be accepted inside whatever group I chose to be a part of and define myself by (even if that group was ‘rebellious’- rebels want the rebels to accept them). This time was to form myself.

My thirties were to be broken and explore that space as fully as possible. And in that way, to begin to really know myself. And own myself.

My forties are to pull it together in this weird, artistic way. To fill the holes with healing and authenticity. To know what true beauty is: it is broken. And bright.

::: ::: ::: :::

This past Fall someone told me I was beautiful. And I don’t remember the last time someone told me that. I have always been ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ to other people. But this guy called me ‘beautiful’ and it made a huge difference to me. I’m sure it’s because in this patriarchal society women depend on the good opinion of men for status- certainly that’s some of it. But I think it’s also that someone simply reflected back to me what I had hoped about myself for a long time. That I wasn’t just a ‘cute’ girl with dimples, but a beautiful woman. I had grown into something deeper and more mature and real. I sort of knew that already, but having it reflected back to me was an important moment. [Isn’t it funny how one small moment can push you in a whole new direction?]

One of the things I realized, pondering and feeling my way through that awareness of my beauty and strength and wisdom, was that I had gotten into the habit of always looking backwards in order to move forwards. I still danced the old dance. And maybe I was ready to dance a new dance. Maybe I was ready to look forward with intention rather than backward out of habit. Maybe I was ready to move forward through strength and wisdom rather than through fixing old stuff [which isn’t bad, it’s just another way to work things].

Now, this doesn’t mean there isn’t still growth to do. This doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties or stumbling blocks or fuck ups. [I utterly refuse to be one of those ‘positive vibes only’ people; it’s such horse shit.] I had a little fit of early 20s energy at the beginning of the year that needed to get itself worked out [and it was kind of ugly and not my best moment]. And I still hold bits of an old story that I’m ‘too much’ for most people in this world [fact is, that’s true. I am too much for most people. But it weeds out who’s worth trusting pretty quickly, which is handy]. I’ve begun to learn that there are some people I will tone myself down for, but if people don’t dig me or can’t handle being around me, that is Totally Fine. We all gotta be who we are.

The cool part of this is that I’m really ready to step forward into the fullness of who I am. I really am healed enough now- if I did no more healing work (which I will do, but even if I didn’t) I would still be a decent human being who wouldn’t hurt too many people unintentionally. But I’m really ready to accept and know and feel that I’m beautiful, wise, smart, funny, healed enough, and maybe even ready to lead. And I’m also ready to live into my strengths rather than look back at my failures and holes.

To be honest, living into this truth – about my strength and beauty – is going to be a practice just like any other. It will take effort to point forwards rather than running backwards. [Sounds weird, but it’s totally true.] I will need to be patient with myself and practice and fail and learn. It is a daily decision I have to make because it isn’t habit yet. But I am so ready for this. I want it so much. And that is what will pull me forward, the desire.

I’m ready to be new and strong and live that way down to my bones.
I am my own kintsugi.
I am broken. And I am bright.

And here is where I start from.

 

Joanna Meriwether in color, beautiful and strong

 

Thanks for reading, fellow travelers. You don’t know how much it means that you all are here with me. I wish you strength and joy and knowledge of the truth of who you are (which is always good stuff; your truth is always good stuff, I promise).

BIG LOVE, big, big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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I am a witch. And a monster.

You ever type your own name into Google and see what comes up? Or your maiden name? Or alternate spellings of your name? (Maybe it’s just me.) Well, it started like that.

I typed “Joanna Meriwether witch” into Google and this is what I saw:

The text reads:

“Ewen recounts how in 1543, a Canterbury townswoman, named Joanna Meriwether – who otherwise made no claims to being a witch – confessed to having cast a spell on a young woman named Elizabeth Celsay and her mother with a holy candle. Confessions were often obtained from suspects over a number of days through beatings and sleep deprivation. Meriwether ultimately admitted that she had built a small fire over Elizabeth’s feces and allowed wax from a burning church candle to drip over it. She had later told neighbors (it is not clear if they were called as witnesses) that this would cause the ‘girl’s buttocks to divide into two parts.’ ” (Folklore of Kent, Fran and Geoff Doel, 2009)

My friend, A, said she showed me this when we met two years ago. I replied, “I’m sure you did. And I have no recollection of it at all.” (Exactly INFJ, ha!)

When I shared this on social media, one friend, a comedian, noted that it was set up just like a Patton Oswalt joke, only to finally reveal that Joanna Meriwether was simply throwing shade at a bitch, the 1543 version thereof. And two other friends were kind enough to point out that I invented the butt crack. (Which, in addition to really dirty sex jokes, is exactly my sense of humor).

What’s really interesting here is that the name is spelled exactly the same as mine. Which is a rare thing. Usually it’s easy to find things about our name if the spelling changes a bit- add an extra ‘r’ or ‘a’ in my case, and I’m sure there are many other things out there. So the exact spelling makes a gal wonder. A handful of friends on social media certainly suggested that I was looking at my exact past life. I did have an irrational hatred for England before I lived there. And certainly my lot in this life is cosmic crap cleaning for other people, so maybe that’s just karma clearly at work. Maybe it was me. Or is.

The fact is, even today I don’t totally claim ‘witch’ as my label. Do I do some energetic work? Totally. Can I see into other realms? Kind of- I certainly find lost things, whether that’s rings or nametags or souls or your truth. But, just like my 1543 self, I’ve never fully claimed that title. I consider myself, very much, to be a bridge between worlds, whether that’s spirit and science or magic and muggle. I speak both.

Of course, in this post, I also promised to talk about how Mercury in retrograde was handing me my ass (terrible segue, I know) and how I’ve come to know myself as a monster as well.

This past week, as Mercury in retrograde began, I made an honest request of my latest spiritual patron and got exactly what I asked for. I asked her for truth about my self and within the hour one of the most sacred pieces of my spiritual practice was dashed into a million pieces as I realized how much of my ego I’d invested in it. I’m not going to say which piece, just know it was very precious to me and sustained me for many years. To see that it had become an amplification of my own ego hurt like hell, even as I knew it was the truth. It was like one of those situations when you realize the thing you’re supposed to hate or leave is actually the thing you want desperately to keep (or vice versa).That slo-mo sense of everything crushing inward was exactly how I felt.

The only way to handle this kind of ego crushing is to accept it. To cry and feel stupid and ashamed and guilty in my own sabotage. And, just like all the other times this has happened, my whole internal self is called into question- what is real and what is not? As the hours passed, I would feel all my feelings (because, holy shit, you want to bypass that kind of pain as quickly as you can, so staying with it is a major task) and then try to see what I might take from the rubble. And the cool thing was, what I could take was more rubble, more destruction.

There were things I had built inside myself, psychic or emotional or spiritual structures, beliefs, ideas, perspectives that were part of this practice that was destroyed. And all of those things were destroyed, too. It felt exactly like wooden houses, built like the Three Little Pigs, blown away in one fell swoop. And even as it felt like destruction, it also felt like freedom. I could let it all go.

I could let it all go.

So, I did. I let it all go. And I felt somehow cleaner inside myself, but also with a sense of grief and vulnerability, rawness. A sense of myself as small and silly and immature. But that’s okay. Because I was free. And free to start again- this time with wisdom.

 

Fire is magic. Burning it all into stars.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

 

One of the things I realized in this experience is how monster-like the truth can feel. When the truth comes for you, it can feel so utterly overwhelming and horrible, even if you know it’s right. It can feel (and is) destructive, crashing around like The Hulk inside of you. It’s hard to handle and accept and that’s why most people run or refuse to feel something until they are somewhere more psychically safe than their own mind (say, by projecting on a loved one or running away from a relationship simply so we have space to feel the truth).

And I realized how much of a monster I have been in delivering the truth to people sometimes.

I am a truth-teller. Truth is one of the three core values I live by- whether that is personal truth, capital “T” universal truth, or some other level of truth. I value it highly. But I also use it like a hammer sometimes- and it can be destructive and painful for others. (Sometimes I don’t give a damn if it hurts other people; sometimes people deserve to be hurt by their own truth if they’re so stupid as to avoid it for their entire life.) And that is true whether I’m delivering a ‘positive’ truth or a ‘negative’ one.

I should have known this, of course. When I’m at my full strength, fully myself, there are only about 5 people on this Earth who like me and can handle me. For everyone else I am some level of ‘too much.’ (Which I have learned to not let stop me- more about that Monday or Tuesday.) So, of course, when I stand in my full strength and power and tell someone the truth, it’s going to come out like napalm and set some things on fire. And I’m going to be the monster who did it.

What does this mean? More discernment is the thing I keep coming back to. Discernment about when and where to use the truth (which I already try to do), but adding in discernment about how to deliver it. In pieces. Or softly. Perhaps couched in a story. Simple but gentle. Because my tendency is to deliver it like a cannon delivers a cannonball. The truth doesn’t have to be so destructive. I don’t want it to be- I want the truth to help.

Of course, all this will take time and risk and fucking up. But I do have some wisdom and caution on my side. I will try to be careful, even as I know I’ll have to screw it up to really learn and grow. So, yes, I am a witch and a monster. But trying to be a better version of both of those things.

I was reminded by a favorite teacher that these moments of difficulty and growth are merely the valley in a multi-orgasmic life. The heat and the energy will rise again. This is just the refractory period for my soul. (Ha!) I’ll take it.

Love from the trail, my friends,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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ego + delusion + learning

He wrote other things in his text that felt the way a superficial cut across my forearm might feel. They hurt and stung, fast slices that surprised me. But they were easy to accept.

Then he wrote these  words:
“I appreciate your concern for what you think I might be…”

And those were the ones that sunk the knife into my gut and turned the blade. Those words cut me and killed me. Because they were the absolute truth and hit the wound of an old habit I have for seeing the potential, and not the reality, of people I care for.

In that moment, it was my ego that was cut down. I that moment, I realized how much I had deluded myself about what was going on, what was really going on, in my head. And what was going on in my head was not the truth. What was going on in my head was all desire and ego. And it was a delusion.

And his words brought the delusion to a quick and painful end.

::: ::: ::: :::

It was almost always mixed messages between us.

He said one thing but his actions were the exact opposite. I can’t tell you what he was thinking, but the two things were never in sync.He didn’t want to hang out, but he would check my social media multiple times a day [for which I have receipts]. Even as he said goodbye he asked me look at something from his life- to go, but also stay and listen one last time.

I asked him for coffee on my twentieth wedding anniversary, so that was…conflicted. [Truth be told, I had gotten a new tattoo that day, and my dinner dress was fabulous, and the heels made me feel super confident; the stars were in alignment and I felt great, so why not ask him for coffee? I tried to tell myself it was just companionship I was after, but really…the daydream of tracing his collar bones with my fingers while we were wrapped in a tumble of white sheets in the afternoon sun (and a 1000 permutations of that*) was regularly on my mind. My actions weren’t 100% innocent, either.]

And we were from two different universes. Mine well over a decade older than his.*

We barely spoke the same language. I am long letters. [I will always be long letters.] I’m not sure that was his style.

Which is all to say: there was a lot of potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication. And that left plenty of room for me to fill in the blanks with whatever I dreamed. However much I hoped those things might be the truth, they were not.

And the reconciliation of truth and reality was that night and that text.

 

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

 

The thing about having your ego slain is that it hurts. It hurts psychologically. Because the view we generally have of a situation is tied to our identity, it is tied to our ability to perceive things correctly. And when we realize we’ve perceived them so incorrectly, it makes our ego very uncomfortable.

Most people run from this discomfort. They hide or deny or try to ‘fix’ it.
“It didn’t happen like that.”
“I always thought it was that way, anyway.”
“You don’t understand what I meant.”
Accusations. Defensiveness. Passionate retorts and explanations.

There is a difference between ‘fixing’ and ‘learning,’ though. When we rush to ‘fix’ a bad situation, to explain away a delusion or poor behavior, we are not learning from it. We are simply trying to make the pain go away by moving on as quickly as possible, by apologizing without true remorse, by painting over the mistake and pretending it’s new. Learning from a bad situation takes time.

You can understand a lot if you watch people and what they do when they make huge mistakes or are forced out of delusion. I once watched an ‘up and coming’ feminist marketer make a big fucking mistake with her foundational cohort. This woman claimed to be ‘woke’ in terms of racism, but actually did some really racist, sexist, immoral shit to other women, and especially other women of color. And when her delusion came to an end, I watched her try to ‘fix’ it. And how do I know she was fixing instead of learning? Because it took her 36 hours to start her comeback. You don’t learn shit in 36 hours. Learning takes at least three days. You gotta sit with it like Lazarus. Three days in the cave is the only way you’re going to even begin to learn. If you’re back at it in 36 hours, you’re just cleaning up a mess so you can keep your ego intact.

The pain of having our ego slain is a call to learning, though. It is a good thing. It is worth investigating and sitting with. The pain will point us towards the truth if we let it.

::: ::: ::: :::

It’s been a day and a month since he sent that text. And for the first five days I couldn’t even read it again, it hurt my psyche and my ego that much. (Which is a lot, because I can put up with a shit ton of pain, psychological and otherwise.) It hurt because I had fucked up so very much. I fucked up my perception of him, my perception of myself and my actions, and my perception of the situation. Many levels of fucked up.

So, first I sat with the pain it caused me. And that’s helpful but the next step is to go sit with the pain of what happened- to purposefully look at it and drink the pain like medicine. Because if we can do that we’re on our way to learning.

Learning comes when we look at our part in the situation. Learning comes when we examine our desires and wishes and hopes and falsities in the context of the situation. Learning comes when we see what we did wrong, in thought + action + intention, and decide we won’t do that again. Learning comes when we heal whatever it was that made deluding ourselves a reasonable choice and begin to act differently.

::: ::: ::: :::

That is what I’ve been doing the last two weeks. Having sat with the pain, over and over until it was tolerable, I am now beginning to behave differently. I question myself and my actions and intentions more. I do not immediately default to my intuition for insight about a situation. I admit to my dreams and fantasies if that is what the situation entails (it doesn’t always). I do not abandon myself in the search for connection. I think more critically about what data I’m using to guide my actions and to gain insight into others’ actions as well. I validate before I act more than I used to. I try not to have too much pride about my intuition or how ‘right’ it is (yes, it’s true: pride goeth before the fall). I am learning.

I am grateful for the fact that I haven’t heard a peep from this guy since our interaction. Nothing to see or read or deal with as I find my way forward. That’s a gift when you’re in the dark, knowing you’ve made a big mistake and likely hurt other people in the process.

I wish things had ended more smoothly between us, but I would not have learned as much as I did if it had been that way. I needed to be clearly and cleanly broken so I could heal and learn more deeply. Clean out the wound; reset the bone. I’ll never be ‘like new’ again. Instead I will be stronger at the broken place.

The pain of having our ego killed is actually one of the greatest gifts we can get because, if we let it, we can find truth inside the broken delusion. And if we can truly learn from our mistakes, we can become better people. That’s how it’s been in the past, I’m hoping it’s the same now.

I’ll be sitting here at Broken Delusions Ranch for a while yet. Come and join me if you need a friend on your journey.

Big love from the mistakes on the trail,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

* He was too young to be a great lover, which is why daydreams are awesome. He had my favorite body type (lean and lanky), lips that you could crash into and always land softly, lovely collar bones (I don’t know why those get me, but they do), and eyes like the ocean near Malta. In five years he’ll know how to use his body better, be able to listen to a woman’s moans and sighs and know what they mean, and he’ll know what he wants. He’ll be ready to take his time; and then he’ll be ready to learn. I wanted much more from him than I describe here- imagine what you will. But Life unfolds how it does, and just because I want something doesn’t mean it’s for my highest good (if it were, it would happen). So, we take our lessons, let go, and move on.

 

 

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