Category Archives: SOVEREIGNTY

Reducing, Releasing and Receiving: My New Self Care

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.

13 Stages of women's life depicted in a wheel

Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard
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.

Cluttered room full of vintage and furnishings

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.


Doing It All In Spite of Your Self

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay 

Many years ago, as a wife and mother of three young daughters, with aging parents living next door, I awoke one morning to the normal sounds of my daughters getting ready for school. Instead of getting out of bed, I uncharacteristically pulled the covers up under my chin, giving in to my desire to ignore the call of yet another busy day.

My husband worked rotating shifts; he was on the early watch that day. With a 45 minute commute, he was up and out of the door before dawn, having made his own breakfast. It was the one indulgence I’d claimed from the beginning of our marriage. I’ve never minded rising early, but my brain doesn’t fully engage for an hour or more. Trying to make breakfast is comical at best, sometimes even dangerous . . . cooking with gas. Tea and quiet contemplation are more my style.

This day, I begged off getting breakfast for the girls and overseeing their morning rush, saying I maybe had a cold coming on. I had that tell tale achey and fatigued feeling, despite having slept through the night.

The girls ate cold cereal and got themselves out the house and down the driveway to the school bus. Eventually, I had to get up and into my day, but when I tried, my back seized in pain, paralyzing me in place. Living on our little hobby farm, with large garden, a small menagerie of livestock and heating our home entirely with wood, any number of daily chores may have been the cause of my pain.

Even the slightest movement was excruciating. Anybody whose ever had back pain realizes very soon how much of our movement is supported by the back—it hurts even to breath. All I could manage was to roll to the edge of the bed and drop to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees to the phone, to call my mother for help.

At the ER, a breif exam and X-rays revealed nothing more than severe spasm of the major muscles in my back (oh is that all?), and a bit of spinal misalignment. I was fitted with a soft support brace and scheduled for physical therapy. It ended up being months of therapy—six before the pain wasn’t a constant companion and nearly a year before doing even light work didn’t cause a flare-up.

It was that incident that started my journey to self care. I was the “backbone” of our family. I kept everything running, kept everybody on schedule, provided comfort and nurturing for my growing family and companionship for my aging parents. I worked out of the house part-time, but was home when my children were home. I cooked, cleaned and was responsible for most household maintenance as my husband work hours were long and demanding.

I didn’t just “have it all” as they promised young women of the day, I was doing it all . . . all by myself. I didn’t realize exactly how ego driven my need to be needed was.

The Natural Remedy Book for Women, by Dian Stein, introduced me to the idea that our body’s dis-ease is often the best clue to where we are suffering imbalances in our life. It sometimes takes a little detective work. For example, the skin is a barrier for the body, hinting that unexplained skin conditions could be the symptom of poor emotional boundaries. Chronic sore throats or difficulty swallowing may indicate feeling unable to speak freely or to call out untruths as you see them (a lot to swallow).

For years, even before my marriage, I was the fixer, the family mediator, the one jumping in wherever I saw the need to smooth things over, or maintain harmony. I was carrying the load, physically and emotionally, for too many who were willing to let me. And who would blame them? I was filling all the space, patching all the cracks before anybody had a chance to see them.

I didn’t know how to step back and leave enough room for others to step in. When my back gave out on me, I had no other choice.

It would be even more years before I awoke to the ways of witchery, and still more before I delved into my shadow work, where I would begin to understand that my desire to make others happy is a desire for their appreciation. I am a praise junky, no doubt because my parents showed love through expressing appreciation, whether for a job well done, a story or joke well told, a kindness given—any notable action or accomplishment. A high achiever, I became an expert at cultivating heaps of praise.

My default for receiving love is co-dependent, basing my sense of worth on what others tell me is valuable to them. I’ve learned to resist my first impulses to jump in and save the day, but it’s like fighting any addiction—my craving for acknowledgment and appreciation is always gnawing at me. Before I offer help, I have to ask myself if I’m doing it only for the praise I might get, and would I still do it if I knew for certain there would be no pay-off.

I once cooked meals for a woman after she’d done me serious harm that effectively ended our relationship. Her husband was dying of cancer. She was working full time and couldn’t quit her job. She’d asked among her friends and family if somebody could make meals that she could easily reheat at the end of her long days.

Nobody else responded to her need for this small comfort, so for several months I cooked a week’s worth of meals at a time, arranging for a mutual friend to deliver them to her. It was one thing she needed that I was capable of giving. If there were never a single word of thanks, I knew, without questions how much those meals would be appreciated.

I’ve also learned there are healthier ways to channel my penchant for trouble shooting, as I did when working as an events coordinator—there’s always at least one fire that needs dousing at every event. And there are far more enjoyable ways to receive accolades, like performing in community theater for one.

My mother used to say I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. As a headstrong and persistent teenager, I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. I spent a good part of my life, bending over backwards, doing cartwheels and handsprings, trying to get people to do the same for me. It’s taken me a long time to figure out I could put all that energy into giving myself what I need, instead of begging others for crumbs.

You don’t have to love yourself before others can or will love you; but if you don’t love yourself at least as much as you expect others to love you, there will be an emptiness in your heart that remains unfilled.


I’m Picking Up Good Vibrations

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Even in 1966, when The Beach Boys were extolling the virtues of good vibrations, the power of positive thought was nothing new.

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’”

Beach Boys

Dale Carnegie wrote How To Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. It later became a course of personal improvement based on positive behaviors, hailed by business executives the world over. And it was Benjamin Franklin who wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Tart Words make no Friends: spoonful of honey will catch more flies than gallon of vinegar.”

More recently The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne (2006), took the premise of the law of attraction and ran with it, selling the idea (by way of 30 million copies of the book) that the vibrational frequencies of our thoughts go forth into the universe and fetch back like vibrations—positive thoughts attract positive results. 

It seems positivity also attracts nay-sayers. Lately my social media feeds are full of chatter decrying the scourge of toxic positivity and the harm it causes in the spiritual community. In my opinion, it’s fast becoming a one sided conversation driven by those who feel they are being pressured to mask behavior or personality traits seen as negative, in order to be accepted.

In polite society, there are certain conventions regarding behaviors generally thought to be offensive. Let’s face it, you probably don’t burp, fart, or pick your nose in public regardless of how pleasurable it may be for you, or because you do it at home all the time and shouldn’t have to change who you are to be accepted. You know good and well such behaviors will draw criticism and avoidance.

Where does your right to act or speak as you feel, come up against my right to not be offended—or even feel uncomfortable? How does your comfort level, trump mine? Frankly, if your attitude is bumming me out, what compels me to engage with you?

If I see one meme a day, I see twenty, declaring that the poster is not a phony or fake and if you can’t take them as they are it’s your problem not theirs. But it’s not my problem at all. I can walk or click away, and maybe you don’t care if I do. Great, we’re both getting what we want. If it’s my page or my group, I can ask you to get with the program or leave. That’s when you cry foul.

Own Your Own Crap

Everybody certainly has the right to act and speak as they feel. However, there is no protected right to impose your true self on those who choose not to participate in the exchange, in real life or on social media.

I’m married to a man who sees his world through a lens of negativity—he points out everything that he sees as wrong, somehow lacking, below standard, or otherwise irritating to him. Whether or not his constant negative commentary is justified (by chronic pain, life threatening illness, profound grief over the loss of his only son, and probably complicated PTSD) is irrelevant. He chooses to focus on these things, and by verbalizing it in an endless stream of complaining, he imposes it on me. It’s exhausting, sometimes maddening, sometimes unbearable. I’m constantly shielding and deflecting his behaviors. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what the stress levels are doing to my own health.

I married him, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. More importantly I love him and have compassion for his struggles. I’m no saint, he tolerates a lot too—probably not the least of which is my incessant positivity. I’m not walking away. I choose to put up with his crap, which is one reason I won’t tolerate yours—I’m already fulfilling my quota, thank you.

We live in expanding rings of community, with self at the center, surrounded by family, then friends, work groups, social groups, and so forth. The further you move from the center, the more you have to moderate your behavior to get along in a crowd.

Being told that you are a buzz kill, a kill joy, a Debbie downer, a gloomy Gus, a drain, an energy vampire, a pessimist, or any other epithet denoting negativity is not toxic positivity. At the other end of the scale are the Chatty Cathy’s, the Pollyanna’s, those accused of being naive, sticking their head in the sand, being in denial, wearing rose colored glasses, too loud, too hyper, told to tone it down, take it down a notch . . . all for being too optimistic. 

I have heard every one of those at times in my life. Does it sting? Oh my, yes. Could it be said with more tact, maybe compassion? Yes, certainly. Does it cause me to moderate how I act? With some people, in some places, yes. I’m pretty sure that’s a lesson in social awareness. 

Accusations of toxic positivity as I most often see them, are a misnomer at best. It’s an umbrella term covering the new age, love and light, power of attraction schools of thought that abound in personal development, healing arts, and spiritual practice from witchcraft to evangelical Christianity. A few recognized thought leaders include Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, and Joel Osteen, minister of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

I mention these three because all have drawn criticism from their detractors and contemporaries both. Williamson is being called a whacka-doodle, Robinson has been held up as a snake oil salesman of the worst kind, and Osteen is accused of bypassing the scripture of fire and brimstone to preach a false gospel of prosperity and positivity—despite heading up the fastest growing non-denominational Christian congregation in the United States. 

I’m not here to debate the validity or value of these self appointed gurus’ offerings. I don’t necessarily subscribe to their pitches. For all the followers, there are as many haters. It boils down to a cup of tea—maybe it’s your cup of tea, or maybe it’s not. Offering you a sip is not the same as forcing it down your throat. If it feels that way, maybe you should reconsider hanging out with people who think it’s the nectar of the gods.

This is not to say that toxic positivity does not exist. At its core, toxic positivity is a problem of insensitivity and lack of compassion. Telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up, or suggesting they wouldn’t need medication if they just tried to be more positive is not only insensitive, it’s just plain ignorant. As is telling members of marginalized and minority communities, where systemic discrimination blocks upward mobility and success, that they need to stay positive and try harder.

Equally toxic is the implied (or direct) suggestion that if positive thought brings positive results negative thoughts attract negative results. Of course, that’s utter nonsense. As Rabbi Harold Kushner put fort in his best selling book, bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s nobody’s fault, it is not some divine punishment, it is not the action of a vengeful God or gods, or the powers that be.

  • Fact #1: Good and bad things happen all the time.
  • Fact #2: These things happen as a result of our decisions and actions.
  • Fact #3 These things happen through indirect forces we have no control over.
  • Fact#4 All three of the above facts can co-exist; no one is no more true than the other.

What About The Exceptions

Does positive thought have any efficacy at all, then? I choose to believe it does. 

There’s this funny little quirk of our brain and how it processes information—it’s not so good at distinguishing between real and make-believe. For example, watch a scary movie and you’ll feel your pulse quickening and your heart racing. Your body systems are also being flooded with stress hormones preparing the body to flee or stand and fight. All of this happens even as you repeat to yourself, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

The same glitch has been used by competitive athletes for decades, under the headings of self fulfilled prophesy and mental conditioning. An olympic skater might go over their routine a thousand or more times in their mind, imagining each glide, spin, jump and landing, envisioning perfection in every detail, willing it to happen just that way.

Even the practice of making vision boards, providing a constant visual reminder of what you want to manifest, fools your mind into thinking it’s already a reality. Though you may not be consciously aware of it, you begin to make choices and act in ways that facilitate your goals. Or even more simply, the familiarity of the images compels you to have those things in real time. Whichever it is, I’ve manifested a good many material things in my life by first attracting them with thought.

Diversity in personality and behavior is one of the things that makes us all unique. Fly your freak flag, or your grump flag, or your love and light, positive attraction, unicorn pooping rainbows flag, and allow others to do the same. Maybe don’t join a camp if you don’t feel allegiance to its flag.


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