Category Archives: RITUALS & PASSAGES

When Good Is Good Enough

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I have been the MAD Goddess for so long now I have to dust off my math skills to figure out that this alter ego, the Middle Aged Mouthpiece in me, has been around for almost half my life.

At early 30-something I was, maybe, inching my toes into the stream of midlife. Never-the-less, the MAD Goddess voice was strong and she had a lot to say about aging while female in our American society. She still does at 60.

I may have been young in years then, but I felt old emotionally, if not physically. I had aging parents, three children and a husband. I worked part-time and honed my writing skills in whatever minutes were left over. I was always in the middle of something and being pulled in more directions than I cared to follow.

I came of age during the first wave of women told we could have it all. I’ve often said women were not having it all, so much as we were doing it all; and most of the time we were doing it all by ourselves, despite spouses and extended family.

For women in two career households, there might have been extra money for living the good life, whatever that might be. But more often than not, it ended up being spent on childcare and hired help to do the domestic chores—formerly housework, still largely women’s work.

Even now we continue struggling to figure out the pros and cons of all this upward mobility, and don’t even get me started on how the prevalent middle class dream paints a pretty picture of white-privilege America, while brushing over the class subjugation of people of color.

But there is something else on my mind today. Prompted by a social media post, it’s something I’ve been noodling over for a while now. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome, the idea that we have to undergo personal transformation to be shiny, happy, better people than we are.

As with much in our society, there is a money trail to follow. The pursuit of perfection is big business in America. We’re told daily that we must have perfect, white smiles, fit bodies, eat super-foods, wear dazzlingly laundered clothes, live in Pinterest-perfect homes and shit in sparking toilet bowls.

If it isn’t bigger, better, new or improved, it isn’t good enoughAnd that includes us. So, not surprisingly, with the arrival of middle age for the women who’d been doing it all, came a new industry—personal reinvention. Now that he kids were at least old enough to be somewhat self-reliant, possibly even old enough to leave home, middle class women had a sliver of time on their hands and money in their designer bags.

Instead of forking out their hard-earned cash for child care, they could hand it over for courses of self reflection and personal development that encouraged them to re-imagine their life, presumably one that was better than their current situation. There was a lot of misdirected belly button gazing going on, a lot of faux spiritual connection and self-care than translated to spa services. We were all supposed to come out virtually glowing with the outward perfection of inner enlightenment.

As the MAD Goddess, I was on that bandwagon for a while. I became a certified personal coach, a midlife midwife. I developed a four step process for achieving desired, measurable outcomes, whether a client wanted something as straightforward as finding a better job, or as esoteric and finding deeper purpose.

Being the rebel that I am, or that the MAD Goddess in me is, I focused my coaching on finding the right fit, not changing to fit in. I didn’t work with clients to reinvent or reimagine themselves, as if they were somehow inherently flawed or a broken thing that needed to be repaired. Instead, I encouraged them to rediscover who they’d always been,  to remember what gave them joy—or at least satisfaction if joy wasn’t in their emotional took kit. I led them in returning to their core values and embracing good enough.

Self improvement is not a bad thing. I think we all secretly desire to be better in some aspects. I’d like to be a better artist, I want to play an instrument, I want to write a best-selling novel, I’d like to eat healthier, be more physically active, and dress better. I think I should be a more patient wife, a less demanding mother and a more involved grandmother.

Some of those desires are to please me, and some are to please others.  The motivation behind both is the desire to meet some standard of my own design that is a combination of gut feeling and what I’ve been spoon fed to believe. Bottom line? I believe I should make changes that would presumably make me a more likable and lovable person to others. Pressure!

One thing about moving from middle age into Crone, is that I’ve stopped obsessing over what others think of me, if they like/love me or not. My circle of loved ones is growing smaller all the time, because I no longer have the inclination for wearing many masks or doing the exhausting work of pleasing everybody.

Because I love my husband and kind of want him to stick around and keep loving me, becoming more patient and understanding is worth the effort it takes. Same with going a little softer on my daughters and being a more hands on grandma. And as much as I like being all hermity, writing, painting, gardening, foraging and wildcrafting with plants and herbs (basically being village witch), I nudge myself to make time for my friends, because they are an important part of my life that I don’t want to lose.

And here’s the thing, these people who I love and who love me, they know my house is a mess most times, they know I’m a sort of absent-minded professor too focused on my projects, they know I’m mostly low energy and would much rather sit on the deck and share a bottle of wine these days, than go out to make a show of having fun.

These people don’t care that I’ll never play an instrument, that my art is mediocre or that my novel didn’t make any lists, let alone best seller. I’m good enough for them just the way I am.

More and more, I’m finding I’m good enough for me.

 


Living Dangerously

It’s my wedding anniversary today—16 years. That’s right, I chose to get married on the 13th, throwing superstition and caution to the wind. If that’s not enough, every so often our anniversary falls on Friday the 13th!

I suppose this tells people a lot about my character. Though appearance might suggest otherwise, I am not conventional. Caution has to come to me late, thanks to the laws of nature and physics requiring more prudent thought before action, for my own wellbeing. But that’s new for me.

I don’t conform. I like to be the odd duck, the square peg, the devil’s advocate. “But what if . . . ” is probably one of my favorite things to say. I like to challenge people and I like to be challenged. When I told my father I was going to be a writer (at age 22 with a husband and two small children in tow) his comment to me was, “You can’t even spell, how are you going to be a writer?”

I flirt with tempting fate. My father was right. My spelling prowess is mediocre at best. I seem to get tangled up in double consonants all the time. If I double them, chances are it’s wrong. When I don’t, that’s wrong too. Lately I’m having trouble with vowels—I had to look up consonant. My sister and I both begrudge menopause for eating away at our language skills, but that’s another story.

Anyway, hoping for a career in which spelling skill is essential (remember, this was before spell check) doesn’t seem like the best bet, but my father’s comment was the challenge I needed to succeed. He probably knew that. I don’t think there was any single person more proud of my success. I only wish I’d finished my novel before he died, especially since he inspired so much of the characterization of Pops.

Perhaps choosing a day for my wedding that many people attach to bad luck was just another challenge to me.

Perhaps it appeals to my shadow side, which is very much out there, alive and thriving.

Perhaps I just wanted to be sure my husband would never forget our anniversary.

Halloween was another consideration, with a masquerade ball for the reception. But I’m a (recovering) Catholic girl who made her first communion on that date, and then years later took her first lover on the same date. October 31 seemed like it had enough going on already.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 12.54.24 PMSo, today, I’ll celebrate my anniversary with dinner and drinks at a very nice restaurant, and then come home in time for a little midnight nosh with Hekate.

Yup, that’s normal for me.

 


By the Numbers & In the Cards

Numerology Path 8

Visit http://www.buildingbeautifulsouls.com for more numerology

For a good long time in my life, I have been fascinated by the mystical—blame it on my Catholic immersion, nine years of elementary education in a Catholic school attached to a diocese cathedral. Throw in a smattering of attendance at my father’s Christian Orthodox church and you’d be hard pressed to find a more acceptable and mainstream model of ritual and magic.

Yes, magic. All of the elements of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Mass, the candles, the incense, the regalia and adornment, the chanting and repetition—all of it correspond to magical ceremony. And the high holy grail of it all?  The changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ through intention, played out in a very precise ritual? That’s alchemical high magic, baby.

Still, I am a skeptic of things spiritual; whether you call it miracle or magic, afterlife or ghost realm, as much as I want to believe it all exists, I can’t quite get there. I want solid proof.

The funny thing is, I’ve had more than a fair share of personal experiences that strongly support the mystical and paranormal, too many in fact, to list them here. But like Thomas who would not believe in the risen Christ until he could poke his finger in the wounds, I want indisputable proof. I want to see my brother or my parents materialize before me and hear at least one of them tell me something nobody on this earth knows.

My doubt doesn’t stop me from being intrigued and entertained with it all. I’ve developed a sort of take on things that fits into my rigid box. Magic happens when we access parts of our deep, reptilian brain, our rooted animal instinct. I beieve the observance, connection and logical predictions occur on a level so deep we aren’t even aware of them.

But there is an uncanny accuracy to these metaphysical means of receiving information that twangs my radar for magic afoot. I’ve had my share of hours on a therapist’s couch and as far as knowing how I tick, what my motivations and my needs are, I have to say my astrological birth chart gave me all the same information at far less the time and expense. Although, I think it’s obvious, therapy serves other purposes beyond just understanding how you tick.

I don’t read my daily horoscope, instead I prefer using a tarot deck. Even though I lean way over in the direction of tarot for entertainment, it seems more than coincidence that out of 78 cards, through the years and years of drawing from the deck, I’ll see the same ones coming up over and over again. There are cards in my deck I have never drawn for myself, but they will turn up when I’m reading for somebody else. How does that happen?

Today I found myself in a conversation about using numerology to find one’s personality and soul path cards in the tarot deck. Numerology is fun, I long ago found my birth number is 8, arrived at by adding the numbers of my birth date sequentially and then adding the two digit result to arrive at a single digit.

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Star card as depicted in Rider Waite tarot deck.

There is a twist, though, when applying it to the tarot deck. Since there are 21 major arcana, only numbers above that are combined down to one digit. So my 17 corresponds to the Star in the tarot deck. One card short of the Moon, which I would have preferred. But then, my mother planned my birth date (and those of all my siblings, there’s a whole other story in this) to fall on her mother’s birthday, a day later than I actually arrived. A number that would link me with the moon. Those who know me well, know the significance in that.

In tarot, the major arcana cards lay out a journey of sorts, beginning with the Fool, who is all about youth, energy and adventure, jumping in with both feet, never testing the water first. Innocent and unscarred, the Fool is childlike, joyful and ebullient. The Star comes along after the Tower. The Tower is a total shake-up of everything, a reversal of what’s been, the representation of it all coming down—or tearing it all down.

The Star is a transition into the next leg of the journey, the first step in a more spiritual path toward enlightenment after traversing some of the harder knocks (lessons) in life. It’s often interpreted as having faith, believing that everything has meaning and happens for a purpose. The Star is a card of hope.

My soul path reverts to the added digits, or 8. This is the Strength card, something that surprised me at first. The first time this card ever turned up for me in a reading was just recently. I don’t think of myself as strong, but in honesty I have to say that I rarely let anything defeat me if I can help it, a trait that causes others to label me stubborn. I am an Aries (the ram), fiery and determined.

What’s even weirder though, is that some decks put the Justice card at this position, the only two cards that can vary from deck to deck. My father wanted to send me to law school. Turns out I should have listened—I realized too late that I would have made a great lawyer, and would have loved it. Instead, I write murder mysteries, which is way cool too.

According to this Star and Strength combination, I am the epitome of eternal hope. Strength is a fire card fanned by the air of the Star. If that translates to never giving up, never letting anything or anybody keep me down, if it means lighting fires under myself and others, then yeah, it’s pretty much me in a nutshell.

But, I don’t believe this stuff really works . . . it’s all just coincidence, right?

 

 


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