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I’m coming full circle around to where this all began more than 20 years ago, with the Mad Goddess speaking to me in my middle age about sovereignty and self care. It’s playing out so differently this time, because the landscape is new. I’m passing through another transition.
Then it was all about preparing for the empty nest, or empty next as I liked to frame it, pursuing my interests and talents, carving out my unique niche in the world, making the dream come true.
Now I’m moving through my younger old age, not yet Crone, but perhaps crossing the threshold between Priestess and Sorceress as presented by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard in their model of the thirteen stages of a woman’s life, I’m standing in a liminal doorway, crossing into the next unknown.
I suppose you could put a mystic spin on all that, but really it’s about meeting my own truth and shaping the wisdom season of my life.
I’m practicing the three Rs. I think back then it was Reevaluate, Reimagine and Reset. Now those Rs are Reduce, Release and Receive.
All of this stuff I’ve accumulated over the decades of my adult life, longed for, worked hard for, held as success, now I feel the weight of it bearing down. We don’t own our material belongings as much as they owns us. Owned in perceived value; we can’t just throw it away or donate it, it cost us hard earned money. It should all be worth something.
Our stuff owns us in the time needed to use it, clean or maintain it. It claims our space for keeping it, saving it because we fear we might need or want it some distant day. Or saving it for children and grandchildren who have no use for it, don’t want it and will give it away.
Reducing the clutter has not proven easy. There is emotional attachment to things, but I find that the memories stay even when I let the things go. I had a beautiful perennial garden, twenty-four by forty feet, raised and enclosed with wire fencing to keep out deer, rabbits and other invaders. It bloomed with fragrant roses, peonies, and lilies. Spires of holly hocks, lupine and foxglove, and carpets of phlox.
It became too much work for me to keep up with. It’s overgrown with weeds and I’ve been giving my perennials to my daughters and younger gardening friends. I transplanted a few to small flower beds near my deck. I’m transforming the space into a wildlife garden, with mostly mulched beds, garden structures, and ornaments like wind chimes and sun catchers. I’m planting a few easy care shrubs and native wildflowers to attract birds and other wildlife.
My beautiful perennial garden is not gone, it is transformed, shaped to fit my life now. The stress of no longer being able to care for the formal perennials is gone. The strain on my arthritic back and knees is gone.
I’m gathering up all the bric-a-brac I no longer need, sets of china rarely used, books I no longer open, clothes I think will fit me again (they never will), all the little chotskies filling the shelves, the collection of wrapping paper and bows—who am I kidding? I give gift cards these days, or purchase a gift bag if needed.
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
I keep telling anybody who will listen, I want less things in my life, and more experiences, with family, friends, and even on my own. I’m releasing my material stuff and going through my baggage, setting it down, walking away.
I’m clearing the space my stuff takes up in this world and opening it to receive what comes next. It’s slow going, it takes all the courage I’ve conjured up as an Warrior and Matriarch. I’m trusting it will make my life simpler and richer.
I want to travel light the rest of my years.
Release, Reduce, Receive.This is my new self care.
I’m facilitating my Self CARE™ program of personal development for a closed Facebook group focused on healing of body, mind and spirit. It’s bringing me all the way back to my days as a health and wellness coach, and my blog, Living Well, Body – Mind – Spirit.
I didn’t identify as a witch 20-some years ago. I was spiritual—delving into metaphysics and all the possibilities in the universe. I believed then, as I do now, that there was “something” to the power of attraction. I made vision boards, I filled journals, read all the books and listened to all the tapes for manifesting the life of my dreams.
Now, after learning the craft of the witch, I see the intersection of wishcraft and witchcraft, even though the two are not one-in-the-same.
My definition of witchcraft may be different that yours, and it ever evolves the more I learn and practice. As a newbie, I can remember being disappointed that while there might be a secret club (many of them, in fact), there were no mystical secrets, no arcane words foreign to my ear, to be passed on, allowing me to unlock the power of real magick. At least not the kind of secrets I envisioned—where the knowledge, or the words, or the tool, would be imparted and instantly I would be able to change physical matter, levitate things (or myself), light a candle with mere thought, or be able to turn an enemy into a toad.
It’s almost embarrassing now to believe I even hoped that was possible, but I was at a place in my life where I felt completely powerless. I just wanted to make it all go away as soon as possible—poof! I say almost embarrassing, because this is the crossroad where so many of us choose the path of the witch.
Eventually, I began to see witchcraft as a practice, a skill that improves with dedication and experience. Still, something was missing from the equation. Now (over the past year or so), I’ve deepened my understanding of witchcraft to be a practice of personal power that comes from personal development. I’ve come around full circle, back to the basics of coaching.
In 2000 my marriage of 23 years ended in divorce, my world was upside down, my future was unsure and the last thing I felt was that I had any control in my life.
Each morning before getting ready for work, I’d sit on the wide, raised hearth of the fireplace drinking coffee and making check lists. Most of them were straight forward chores, cleaning, painting, removing overgrown shrubbery, making flower beds—all things to make my new place feel like home. When I checked the items off a list, I tucked it into an envelope with others I’d completed. Seeing the packet grow thicker over time gave me a feelingI of accomplishment and confidence.
I started a wish list that included things like, new carpeting, remodeled kitchen, potting shed, potager garden, sunroom addition, gas fireplace insert, and more. My mother would have called my list pipe dreams, because I had no idea how I was going to make any of it happen.
About the same time, I jumped onto the power of attraction bandwagon. Among other books in the genre, I read The Circle: How The Power of a Single Wish Can Change Your Life, by Laura Day. Much of the book’s contents fades from my memory, other than the objective to write a description of my perfect life.
I wrote of a small cottage in a, quiet waterside community, where I would spend my days writing, in a cozy room tucked under the eaves. I’d shop at the market for the evening meal, that I’d share with my spouse. We’d go for walks or ride our bikes, smile and wave as we passed by others, knowing most everybody we saw—a storybook existence, to be sure. I wrote it in great detail, including the style of the house and furnishings, the shops in the village, the colors of the sunrise and sunset, and everything that happened each day between those hours.
I was a middle-aged divorced mom still raising the youngest of three daughters, running around like the proverbial chicken, but trying to keep my head on. Looking back, that morning hour of list making and wishing was my instinctual way of tending to myself. The completed lists of everything I was doing, even if it was just remembering to buy groceries, do the laundry, and pay the bills on time, were reassuring me that I was capable, that I would make it on my own. The wish lists for my future were a promise to myself that I could still have everything I dreamed of—I wasn’t a failure and it wasn’t too late.
Life carried on as it does. I remarried, I went to work and came home every day. My youngest daughter grew and left the nest, she and her sisters all did what children do, built a life of their own. Routine days and milestones passed and I took it all in stride. At some point, I ran across those early wish lists, tucked into an envelope, slipped into one of my journals, forgotten.
Or so I thought. As I looked over the lists, and then read the description of my dream life, I was astounded to see how much of it had come to pass, without having consciously thought about it and in ways I never expected. I am still in the very same home, and though I envisioned something quite different, I realize I have almost everything I wrote in that description, vine covered cottage included.
Did I make it all happen? Of course I did; I made the choices and took the steps. But success isn’t always that easy. Many, many people want things they never get, many try only to fail. Far too many are blocked by institutionalized disadvantage, discrimination, and oppression . . . and yet there are those who overcome.
The power of thought is limitless. I like to remind people that everything in this world that did not spring forth naturally, began first with a thought; everything made by man or beast exists by the intention to manifest a thought into being.
But thoughts work in the opposite way as well. There is a common misconception about aerodynamics and the bumblebee, with wings too small to keep its chubby body aloft. It’s been used over and over again to inspire determination. And, it turns out to be wrong. Bumblebees move their wings in a different pattern that indeed makes flight not only possible, but scientifically sound. So there goes the inspiration, right?
Perhaps, but think about it this way. What if the bumblebee had listened to all the bad press, and formed the thought that it was true, that it couldn’t possibly fly and so didn’t. The only single thing keeping it from flight would be its own thought form—it’s belief and acceptance of something completely false.
My mentor is talking a lot about thought forms, exploring the idea that everything in our personal existence is a creation of our thoughts manifest in form. That’s a very simplistic way to frame her concept—it’s not an easy one to wrap my brain around, and I have no idea if it’s valid or not, but I’m traveling down the track with her.
How much of what I believe to be true and irrefutable is really a result of the thoughts I form around it? Does the placebo effect prove this out? In a limited fashion, yes. But if I’m diagnosed with a fatal disease, can I think it away? If not, how do we explain those rare cases of people who have survived against all odds? A miracle, yes, but are miracles necessarily divine intervention from some unknown and powerful source? If that’s the case, the seeming arbitrary determination of who deserves miracles and who is passed over is troublesome to me.
As a witch who stands loud and proud for social justice and equal rights for all, I have to walk this tight rope carefully. Saying the power of desire plus intention is limitless— if we can find the key to unlock it—is one thing. Saying we can wish all our troubles away if we just think positive is another. One is a willingness to explore the possibilities and put in the effort (practice, practice, practice) and the other is toxic positivity.
For now, I’m willing to believe that my thoughts have power beyond my current understanding. I’m willing to put forth the required work in action, and explore the possibilities. I’ll never know if I don’t try, and really, what can it hurt?
It’s always a welcome awakening. Shining through my east bedroom window the beam strikes the mirror (positioned to catch it) and light floods the entire room. For a few moments, I lay silent, letting the illumination fill me; it reaches into the shadowed corners of my psyche and I feel both hope and purpose propelling me to rise.
This morning, like most, I fed the cat, made my coffee and completed my morning devotionals, a changing mix including meditation, prayer, intentions, reading, and journaling. Now, I’m sitting in my quiet space and the clear sky has given way to gray clouds. I hear the sound of soft but steady rain and it evokes a different feeling than the sunrise, a calm sense of contentment and appreciation. I’m reassured that all I need is provided in balance, in light and dark, sunshine and rain, stars and moon in the black velvet night, joy and sorrow, growth and rest.
It’s not always so easy to remember this. Quiet mornings become busy days and the voices of doubt and fear speak louder to me than the silent proof all around me that the light always returns, the bounty of earth blooms every spring, that I live in a place and time where my needs are easily met, and my worries are mostly a foolish waste of my time in this life.
“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
~ Julian of Norwich
It’s sometimes difficult to wrap my brain around what the 14th-century holy woman intuited in her messages from the Saviour of her understanding, Jesus Christ. It’s not as simple as saying this too shall pass. I think more so it means that what we experience in our human existence as suffering—unmet need, loss, sorrow, pain, illness, and death, are as well in the fact of their existence as when they are overcome; all manner of things shall be well.
It’s from the sun and the rain that bounty grows, it’s from the adversity and the prosperity that we grow. All manner of things.
Each of us meets our metaphorical rainy days against the backdrop of our personal experience. I have buried four young men in our family, my step-son and three sons-in-law, the most recent just six months ago. The depth of that despair is now familiar to me and colors the lens of my perspective.
Friends wonder how I survive, how I go on. For some time, I thought I didn’t have a choice; the world goes on, the sun continues to rise every day, sometimes the rain falls. I am faced with the same challenges and triumphs I have encountered before, and will again in many guises.
But with such great loss, has come a gift of deeper insight. I now see that the joys and sorrow of life dress differently for everybody but are felt the same. I may be able to look at a mother who mourns the loss of a baby never held in her arms and know she cannot imagine the deeper sorrow of losing one she has known and watched grow, maybe to adulthood; it doesn’t matter because this is her greatest pain.
A parent or grandparent who has never stood at the graveside of a child they nurtured and protected, sees a future taken away by drug addiction or unwanted pregnancy, or debilitating illness or injury, and feels that loss as deeply. A spouse who cares for their dying partner, or one who watches, helpless as their marriage dies in divorce, each feel their pain as intensely.
Regardless of what measure they are dealt in, sorrow and joy are the two sides of the coin that is this life. They boil down to two known quantities—what am I afraid of, and what do I yearn for?
My fear of loss is great, it haunts me daily because I know how much more I could still lose, but the depth of that loss equally expands the boundaries of my yearning for joy, because I know how much more is still here within my reach.
A moment spent with my daughters in their otherwise busy lives, the mess of my grandchildren’s muddy boots in the entryway, the comfort of a warm cat sleeping in my lap, the light of the sun breaking through the clouds, all give me infinite joy. I have only to choose to embrace it.
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