This lovely poem was shared by a friend on my social media feed this morning, and though I was skeptical that its words ‘could change one’s life,’ I will grant that its overall message is rather profound one…and personally relevant.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
– Jelaluddin Rumi,
Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
Some of my long-time readers have begun to notice that my devotional practices seem to have shifted a bit.
A major feature of this surprising change has manifested in that while I still work primarily with Loki, I have begun some major work with Odin.
(Yes. Believe me, no one was more surprised than I was concerning that change – trust me on that.)
The bulk of this work – regarding runes, astral travel, and energy movement – often occurs somewhere within the liminal hours, especially as Tuesday bleeds into Wednesday….
Which lately, has led me to have some rather restless nights, full of much sleep interruption.
Despite how I feel about that, it is the way it has been for the past several weeks now.
So, while walking one of my dogs this AM, this song came up:
….as I was thinking thoughts on how it’s been going concerning working with the Two of Them, and I realized that there are several aspects to these interactions that are expressed rather well through this bit o’ pandoramancy.
They *do* seem to know just what I need
And They might just have the thing…
because They *both* know what I’d pay to feel.
And… since I’m often prone to being a touch melodramatic when I’m sleep-deprived, I have been known to ask Them to – y’know –
I love Brene Brown…even when she is throwing out some hard truths.
So you can gather what I am talking about, you might want to watch the video.
Y’see, I , too, am a ‘blamer.’
It’s true of me that when something bad happens, my first thought is often whose fault is this? – and, more often than not, I twist it in my head until I’ve found a reason for whatever happened.
I need to know why. I am a person that needs to know why.
Even if -more often than not – I end up blaming myself for whatever it is that happened in some way.
Yeah. I know that that’s unhealthy.
Yep, I thought that that was holding myself accountable.*
This mindfulness and this desire to hold myself accountable for myself and my reactions to bad things happening is often the way that my thoughts go. And I’ve had enough therapy to know that I’m only doing half the work, too, when I stop and actually think about it.
Why is it only half the work?
Because the full work would be the realization and implementation of the fact that some bad things happen because they are random. Sometimes there is no reason.
Yes, it’s true that sometimes bad things happen because someone wasn’t mindful of themselves or others – and I include myself in that – and rash decisions get made. Things get broken, or feelings get hurt, or what have you, and often emotions fuel those decisions.
But the key is – the process of thinking that there has to be reason somewhere. That there has to be a reason, there has to be a fault. And that there has to be this endless overthinking and wasting of time and resources trying to figure out why something is, why something happened, or what led to this or that result.
As Brown points out, the fault-finding and blame is a discharge of discomfort and a desire for control of the situation, including getting control of one’s emotions and reactions.
And that gets me to thinking about my zen Buddhist therapist who speaks a continuous refrain of how I need to work on letting shit go, learning that the only person one can control is oneself and one’s reactions to the world, and the constant reminder that the only moment is the present moment. He talks endlessly of the fact that the present is the only moment in which we can live, and how when one has realized this, and one focuses on mindfulness and control of oneself in the present moment, only then can one create inner peace and happiness.
Oh yes, it gives me a headache sometimes…this zen business. The letting go, the reactive vs. proactive paradigm, the mindfulness — so much jargon. I cannot deny that this all feels exhausting sometimes, and I’ll admit that I fall back upon ingrained reactive habits and value judgments, and and and….*sigh*
I wallow in self-blame, another waste of time.
I seek control.
But the only control I seek in the end is self-control.
*This video opens my eyes to the mistake I’ve made concerning what accountability is.
The part that hit me the most profoundly was this:
“Karma is about being given the opportunity to change your vibration and attract something different. No one is going to inflict that upon you, but the universe will bring you ample opportunities to choose a different path.
So if you’re holding out hope that something bad will happen to another person, you’re better off releasing, forgiving, and moving on, otherwise you will attract new opportunities that involve you needing to forgive someone. Are you catching my drift here?
If you are constantly wishing negative things will happen to those who wrong you, the universe will constantly bring you people who wrong you so you can continue wishing negative things will happen to them. That’s your vibration. That’s your karma. That’s what the universe thinks you want since that’s what you’re always thinking about.
Karma is not punishment, it’s not revenge, it’s not justice. Karma is the universe giving you opportunities to alter your vibration. Do with that what you will.”
How this relates to my present situation is that I have wondered for quite a while now why I keep getting thrown into situations wherein I keep finding myself feeling echoes of the past – people I’ve hurt, people that have hurt me, and the corresponding situations that I would rather not think about.
Perhaps in focusing on the pain of what I’ve been through, I am constantly re-opening the wounds rather than doing anything to heal them.
Perhaps this is what brought Him to me: my latest spiritual work – in working with the God that I Had Promised Myself that I Would Never Work With – I have been forced to confront all the reasons why I had refused to work with Him for so long.
I began to see that the only way to move forward was to confront the lesson that kept being presented to me over and over in seeing His face, and the echoes of that premise: If you expect a monster, you will get a monster.
Yes, He is still capable of being a monster.
But the only way to move forward in my spiritual practice is to engage with Him.
2016 has been a rollercoaster..and I don’t think that it has just been a rollercoaster for me.
Look at the rest of the world, I suppose.
It would seem that everyone is struggling with something…not just me.
Not just my struggles.
I haven’t been posting, mainly because I’ve been keeping to the relative safety of writing in my notebooks, because 2016 has brought so many changes to my life that when I look back upon where I was, emotionally and spiritually, on this day in 2015, I am agog at how much has changed in my relationships, my attitudes, my writing….hell, even my devotional/spiritual practices.
As a matter of fact, so much has changed in my devotional practice that my head is sort of… spinning.
It’s been an interesting year, to say the least.
At the end of 2015, I was coming out of a major depressive episode.
Certain aspects of my life were either stagnant or evolving in a direction that I didn’t want to travel. I felt stuck and sad and angry.
I had decided to end relationships with several persons whom I’d come to over-value so much that I’d thought of these folks as the basis of my spiritual community….so deciding to cut ties with those friends felt like cutting ties with my sense of community.
As well, I felt stagnant in my spiritual relationships. I needed something to change but I didn’t know what or how
Though I had hope for 2016, I’d never in a million years expected the changes that were in store for me regarding my marriage, my circle of friends (or whom I would have considered my circle of friends), how I’d come to spend my free time,the people, places and things I would come to value, the skills that I would develop or the way that my devotional/spiritual practices would be completely overhauled.
Yes, my spiritual practices would suffer a complete overhaul in 2016.
And that is why I have chosen WorldBreaker as the title of this post.
Because, oddly enough, in retrospect, one of the only constants I see in the pattern of 2015 to 2016 was …Loki
And yes, that is true…I am working with Loki now.*
Though in late December 2015, I’d even gone as far as to pack up all of my altars -including His – because I was feeling disconnected from all of Them.
I was throwing what was essentially a tantrum of enormous spiritual proportions.
I was trying so hard to feel and to do, and yet all I could feel was an immense sense of frustration and disconnection.
I was feeling what I thought that I was supposed to feel and I was doing what I thought was the ‘work’ that I needed to do…
And yet I was ….not.
Though I will admit what I did feel was this:
“ I wish you all had one neck and I had my hands around it.”
(Those, by the way, are the second to last words of convicted murderer Carl Panzram, just before he was executed at Leavenworth Penitentiary in 1930)
(Do you see the WorldBreaker yet?)
Because that, my friends, is how I felt (inwardly, of course) about the whole business of not just the day to day functionings of my mundane life, but my spiritual life as well.
In late 2015, I definitely felt that if Life were a person, I wanted to choke that motherfucker out…and hard.
But I am not a violent person, so I could not even begin to guess where those feelings of rage were coming from at the time.
But I do…now.
(Yep. That was me…being upset. And oh…not working on my shit. But boy, did I think I was!)
So, what changed?
Well, I can’t exactly write a recipe book now, can I?
It was my journey from 2015 on and through all of 2016 that required a change in attitude towards a lot of situations that I didn’t particularly like that involved people that I didn’t particularly like.
I was entrenched in a battle of control and blame in my mundane life, and I was believing that these situations were somehow within my realm of control… but they were not.
I was the face of acceptance on the surface, but underneath all of that, I was angry and withholding.
I kept telling myself that I had let go of the past, but I had not….not entirely.
I was full of assumptions and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I was waiting and hiding and grumbling to myself.
I had expectations based upon assumptions, and I was feeding an ugly vicious cycle of blame and insecurity.
In short, I was living in the past, but thinking that I was moving on.
I thought I was open. I thought I was being accepting and fair and loving and generous. I thought that I was letting go. I told myself constantly that I was holding myself accountable. I was convinced that it was I who was fair and open and honest…and others were not.
It wasn’t me who refused to be, it was them.
And in my spiritual life – well, there’s a mirror. I was insecure, tentative…also angry.
I had so much stuff on my altars. I was meditating every day. I felt like I was constantly giving Them time, giving Them energy, giving Them thought.
So why was I having the dark night of the soul? Why was I feeling a fallow time? Why did I feel so disconnected?
You refuse to be open.
You refuse to be generous.
You do not allow….
You do not permit….
It will begin…when you begin.
And so, in 2016, I began without even being aware of what I was beginning.
(Enter the WorldBreaker, stage left.)
Looking back upon the year, I realize that there were many occasions wherein I was thrust into many uncomfortable situations.
I look back upon these uncomfortable moments and I recall feeling forced to explain myself in many ways.
A lot of these moments featured me being forced to examine myself – my social anxieties, my prejudices, my decisions, my beliefs.**
But 2016 also rewarded me – the year even brought me a lot of growth, and even some new friends – or rather, I re-connected with myself in re-connecting with several ‘old’ friends – which led to my social circle increasing exponentially and unexpectedly at the same time.
As well, 2016 brought me joy in unexpected places (Arizona) and heartache in others (Washington DC)…but in the end, the slow change toward actually letting go of my need to control/create a specific outcome led to unexpected and entirely unforeseen outcomes.
While I do not have a lot of the same people in my life that I had had in 2015, I do have people in 2016.
As well, in 2016, I have done things that I never thought that I would do, I experienced things that I’d never dreamed of experiencing before, and craziest of all, I am actually working with yet another God that I had once insisted that I would *never* work with.
(Hel, as recently as two months ago, I would have refused to even look at Him, let alone work with Him in any way.)
Funny, how things can change so completely and so abruptly, eh?
But that, my friends, is the story of a decision for another day entirely. 😉
So that was the trajectory of my 2016.
A year of rapid, dramatic (sometimes even melodramatic) emotional and spiritual change for me.
Courtesy of a relentless Breaker of Worlds.
Hail Loki, indeed ❤
*In retrospect, I realize that up to a point, 2012-2015 was essentially ‘making a good show of working with Loki’ compared to actually ‘working with’ Loki
**I felt ashamed, exposed…and about three months ago, it peaked in that a few folks even vilified me for speaking my mind, for writing what I wrote in this blog. And yes, it stopped me. A lot.
I’ve always felt a profound connection with this song – Bittersweet Symphony, by the Verve.
As I’ve been hearing this song a lot in the past month, the resulting thoughts and feelings that this song generates for me have been rolling about my brain for some time.
I hemmed and hawed about posting these thoughts, as I am aware the subject matter can be quite triggering for some.
And yet, in the spirit of my ‘Keeping It 100’ project – I decided that I might as well share those thoughts today, the intent being that if I come clean about this particular part of my personal history, perhaps someone out there might feel a little less…alone.
***So please be advised: In this post, I discuss my mental illness, including some details/references to episodes of personal self-injury.***
I was once diagnosed with bipolar axis 2, and I thought that I was – for many years.
I even took medication for about 5 years– which I hated doing – because that’s what I was told would help me get a handle on myself and my negative thought patterns, behaviors, and emotions.
(It’s one of my personality traits: I’m pretty much a strict follower of prescribed rules regarding certain aspects of my life. )
Though the high level of prescribed medications actually didn’t help – for obvious reasons I’ll touch upon in a minute – I took my meds as prescribed, without fail.
And yet, I still found myself with a distinct inability to feel happy.
In therapy, I was told to embrace change, to meditate, to talk about my feelings, and to reject negativity.
And this song – Bittersweet Symphony – signified all of these aspects to me:this song resonated deeply with me because it gave me the words to describe my personal struggle with being bipolar.
Because bipolarwas the blanket mood disorder that was ascribed to me.
My being bipolar was the explanation and the reason that I displayed all those ‘negative’ personality traits: moodiness, a penchant for melodrama, emotional instability, anger management issues – even the personal quirks that I talk too fast and too much was ascribed to be further proof that I must be bipolar.(The speed of my delivery must indicate the speed of my thoughts!)
And oddly enough, as much as I hated it, the diagnosis of bipolar was a relief too.
Because being bipolar explained everything.
Even if it didn’t.
When I went off medications in late 2001, my psychiatrist at the time insisted that I shouldn’t because he claimed that possibility that I would self-injure again or attempt suicide.
But my stubbornness er, determination to prove him wrong was a powerful force.
Thus, it is a point of pride for me when I admit that I did not even think of self-injury nor suicide for 12, almost 13 years.
And I admit that I entertained some dark thoughts while I was staying with LOL.
While I am certain that she felt that she was helping me, I realized within that month, that I had simply traded one form of mindfuckery for an even more insidious form of manipulation.
I felt as if my world was falling apart – and I was simply existing between that rock and hard place, and while I should be ashamed of this, I suppose, thoughts of self-injury came rushing forward like an equally manipulative but familiar friend.
(Trigger warning: discussion/reference to self-injury follows)
Now, allow me to point out that the desire to self-injure is not the same as suicidal ideation.
This is a concept that has only recently been recognized by the psychiatric community.
An act of self-injury is not, and should not be conflated as a suicide attempt, and yet I have been in therapy long enough that I can recall when it was difficult to find a therapist/psychiatrist that subscribed to the idea that self-injury event did not equal a suicide attempt.
And yes, I have a ‘helpful’ but essentially misguided Massachusetts social worker to thank for a three day stay in a state mental ward in 1998 to show for that.*
But if you have never self-injured but have always wondered why the fuck self-injuryshould not equalsuicide attempt, allow me to explain my personal take:
When I have self-injured, it has always arisen from my being in an intensely overwhelming emotional state.
Usually my self-injury arises out of a combination of anxiety coupled with despair, as well as – and this is the most important part – a desperate need in me to have control of something. Anything.The levels of my anxiety and despair have reached critical mass and I am not just emotionally overwhelmed – I feel like I have lost control of everything.
Emotionally, my thought-patterns and self-image have swiftly become stuck in an endless dark loop of hopelessness and negativity.
I have likely hurt someone’s feelings with what I’ve said and done.
It is likely that my words and behavior have concerned (if not terrified) someone I love.
I start thinking in absolutes:
Nothing is good.
Everything is wrong.
It is all my fault.
I cannot fix it.
I feel I have lost control of my thoughts and emotions in response to the situation.
Then, that emotional situation might be coupled with the physical symptoms of what is most likely a panic/anxiety attack:
My heart, blood and breath rates are going through the roof. I am bathed in a cold sweat, and all major muscle groups ache and twitch with tension.
My neck is tight, my chest feels constricted.
If I’ve been on a crying and/or screaming jag, it’s likely that I’m become so congested from crying that I am having trouble breathing, my stomach muscles ache from all the clenching/sobbing, and my throat has probably gone raw from screaming/crying.
My head and teeth ache from clenching my jaw, and I cannot seem to regulate my body temperature.
I am shaking.
I feel nauseous.
If I’ve lashed out physically, I might have gone and broken something.
I have likely terrified or upset others with my physical response.
I may feel like I’ve physically lost control of my body and its responses to the situation.
The loss of control – in the combined mental and physical responses –is terrifying.I feel disconnected from myself.I need to get control of something.
I want to get control back.I want to connect again to my body and mind.
And so then, I might focus on the repetitive actions of scratching/picking at my skin.
In extreme cases, I might move to using other implements – usually something with a point or with a sharp edge – and I might proceed in cutting or scraping until I reach the desired level of pain which brings me relief.
It’s the pain, you know.I need to focus on the pain.
It is my attempt to create a little physical pain as a distraction –to distract myself from my mental pain.
The pain is nothing more than a coping strategy – the effort to create a controlled distraction for myself, from myself.
Self-injury is a coping mechanism some people develop to deal with emotional pain.
But self-injury was, in my case, an unhealthy avoidance maneuver/coping mechanism.
But self-injury, in my case, was never a suicide attempt.
I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to have control of something– and in the case of self-injury, it was a cause/effect paradigm that was much easier to control.
When my levels of emotional pain and the anxiety/panic attack sensations were overwhelming (out of control), this was a pain I could handle, something I could control.
Though honestly, I do understand now how my anxious attempts to create sensation-situation I can control could easily lead to damage – anywhere from permanent scarring to accidental death.
(And yes, I do have scars as reminders of several episodes of self-injury.)
So.There’s the background on the memory of my feelings that led to most of my self-injury attempts, which includes that last major self-injury attempt in 1998.
But back to June 2014 – when my husband and I seemed definitively headed for divorce, I left my husband and I was living with Local Other Lokean.
I was, as you may imagine, feeling an overwhelming level of despair.
(And as I had mentioned before, it was the first time in 12 years that I’d even allowed myself to entertain thoughts of self-injury.That alone was a sign that I was in way over my head indealing with my emotional pain in a healthy way.)
So I checked myself into the closest mental health facility that took my insurance which happened to be in Bartow, FL.
While there, I began therapy, and again, I was put back on bipolar medications, also for the first time in 13 years.
I thought about what my psychiatrist had said to me in 2001, and I had to chuckle: if his understanding of the unmedicated bipolar patient were to be trusted, why did it take me 12 years unmedicated to get to this moment?
The assigned therapist couldn’t answer that question.
As well, she couldn’t answer why the bipolar medications that I had been recently been given (and took as scheduled without fail) for the last 3 months did not seem to have any of the desired effects.
I still couldn’t sleep more than a few hours a night.I felt just as anxious, just as ‘manic’ as ever, though the meds did affect my memory skills and I did have trouble concentrating most of the time.
If calmer meant feeling as if I was uncomfortably drunk to the point of nausea, then I wanted no part of this version of calm.
But I am a follower of rules in regards to my mental health, so when the doctor suggested I try another medication, I did.
So I tried another medication.
And yet, it was not until relatively recently that any psychiatrist, social worker or therapist thought to question my bipolar diagnosis.
I would explain what my symptoms were, and they would ask if I ever had a diagnosis.I’d tell them that I was diagnosed with bipolar axis 2 in 1997, and then, they would write me a prescription for another bipolar medication.
And it didn’t seem to matter if the medications didn’t work – I was bipolar, wasn’t I?
I started to wonder.
Well, finally in April 2016, I started going to another therapist who also had a degree inpsychiatry.
Oddly enough, my bipolar diagnosis was the first thing that he questioned, mostly because I’d begin to question it myself.
So I laboriously described both my past and present symptoms in great detail over the next two months.
As well, we talked about my meditation practice, negative self talk,behavior modifications and mindful choices.
Also, to ease my mind – and satisfy the insurance company – we sat down with the latest DSM of psychiatric disorders and methodically went through the symptom lists of bipolar axis 1 and 2, schizophrenia, OCD, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and several anxiety disorders.
Turns out, according to his professional opinion, while I am melodramatic, talk fast, and I definitely have my moments of rage and depression, I don’t fit the diagnostic criteria of bipolar either axis one or two.
As well, I am not schizophrenic.
Nor do I have borderline personality disorder.
And I do not have ADHD.
But I do have an anxiety disorder with some rather definite overtones of OCD.
And that, my friends, is all I needed to know.
It’s nice to finally be heard and understood.
As well, it is good to finally be working with a therapist and a correct diagnosis. It’s good to finally be able to function.
While the path to this point was not easy – I am grateful that I am making headway on treating my life-long issues with anxiety and depression.
* By the way: Thank *you*, Claire! Sending three policemen to meet me at my home directly after our appointment on that miserable January day was an especial treat…and your suggestion/threat to the intake staff that I might require a straitjacket to ‘calm’ me when I arrived at the hospital for intake was a lovely though unnecessary touch.Thank you ever so much for giving me and my powers of self-control the benefit of the doubt!)