Happy Winter Solstice everyone
This time of the year always invokes certain emotions, memories, feelings within people, and while they are not all the same, they are all powerful in themselves. The autumn solstice, for many people (at least in the northern hemisphere), marks the beginning of the time of darkness. Days are shorter, nights are longer, the weather becomes cooler, and some people begin the next countdown to summer. In mythology, the autumn solstice marks the decent of Persephone into the underworld, where she will spend the next 6 months in the darkness, and the subsequent mourning of her mother Demeter until her return to the earth in the spring. In some belief systems, October is the month when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to cross over into our world with greater ease. For me however — I always love this month, as it signals the start of my favorite time of the year. Homecoming. Halloween. Pumpkin EVERYTHING (yes, I am one of those people). The coming of winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas….for me, this is when I really feel like I begin to come alive. Ironically, New Years always seems to mark the end of the celebration, rather than the beginning. Not that it brings doom and gloom and negativity for the next 8-9 months, but that after the first, things begin to wind down. I find myself falling back into routine and habituation, doing things without really feeling much about them one way or the other. This is not the only time of the year I feel “alive,” nor am I trying to say that I find no joy, enjoyment, or pleasure in anything starting January 2. I get sparks of energy, creativity, passion throughout the year, sometimes lasting for days and weeks, but overall, January has marked the beginning of my descent. This year, however, may be different.
Tonight brings a new moon, one of the darkest of the year. It also, for me personally, marks the first week in this SouLodge session of working with the Shadow self. The archetype of the Shadow self is that part of us that we hide away, ignore, try to pretend doesn’t exist. I think that everyone can relate to this on some level, however you want to define it. The problem with the Shadow, though, is that it doesn’t want to be hidden — it wants its own freedom to be expressed. And the more we try to suppress it, the more pain and anguish we bring upon ourselves. The Shadow self isn’t bad — it isn’t the “evil” side of us, the side that would destroy the world if allowed to run rampant. Rather, it is the side of us that harbors our pain, our feelings of guilt or anger, the darker sadder emotions that we carry. In other words, the Shadow is what we hide when we try to pretend that everything is okay — the side that is hidden by the mask of perfection.
Someone made a comment that began to provoke some of my own thoughts. It brought up the truth that, at the end of the day, the last person we give any love or compassion to is ourselves. We overwork ourselves, say “yes” to everything, avoid free time, all to avoid the accusations that we are “selfish,” “lazy,” or even “worthless.” We overextend ourselves to prove that we are valuable, that we have worth, that we are not just wasting oxygen that should be reserved for the “more productive” members of society.* At the end of the day, we give everything we have to others, leaving nothing for ourselves, running ourselves to exhaustion, not because we have an abundance to give away, but because the minute we attempt to fill ourselves up we face judgment and criticism. While I think every person experiences this to some degree, I do believe that a majority of the burden is placed on women — we are supposed to be the “caretakers” of the world, so we are expected to take care of everyone else first, think of ourselves last, and then we are told whatever is left over can be used for ourselves, all the while being expected to have nothing left (because giving less than all we have is selfish). As a result, the feelings of exhaustion, depression, loneliness, guilt, anger, frustration, all continue to build and build, just to be suppressed into the shadow realms for fear of appearing weak. And the more we shove into our shadows, the greater our burden becomes.
This year, this time of the year is marking my confrontation with my own Shadow self. All of the work I have done this past year has begun to prepare me for this work. It won’t be easy, nor will it necessarily be “fun,” but it is necessary. I know all to well the dangers of suppressing the Shadow to the breaking point. I don’t know that I’m prepared for what I will find, what I will be asked to deal with, what will come into view. All I know is that it must be confronted, addressed, and acknowledged.
Just in time for the darkest night of the year.
*This point was also addressed in the book Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Well, I did well for awhile on the whole “not going months between posts” thing, and then promptly fell back into old habits. Yay me. Honestly though, my handwritten journal isn’t much different. I will have days where I sit down to write in my book and think, “oh I was just here!,” only to look down at the last date and find it was a month ago. Sometimes I find journaling to be therapeutic, to help me get my crazy swirling thoughts out of my head, other times I feel it gets in the way of the “deeper” work that I am doing. And I have been doing a lot of “deep work.”
There are so many things I could talk about. Many that wouldn’t even be overly personal, others too personal to share, as is with all aspects of life. Lots of thoughts that have come up, lots of realizations, uncovering of hidden truths…so much of self-discovery that I hope every person would take the time to do with themselves. But it’s not easy, and the deeper I go into myself, the more I realize how much easier it would be just to accept the surface creation instead of trying to unravel all the layers, many of which have been purposefully hidden for various reasons. It’s easy to see why people avoid this type of spiritual work — you won’t always like what you find, and you can almost guarantee that other people won’t necessarily like what you find either.
I’ve been reading a couple of books that have been instrumental in this journey, books that challenge the way I see myself, see society, and see myself in society. I’ve also found several communities of women who have been amazing, each one traveling our own journeys and supporting each other along the way. I’m learning more about myself than I even imagined I didn’t know. All bringing me to where I am today. And while all of this work has been intense, it’s mostly been outwardly silent as well. Hence my long absences.
We are entering my favorite time of the year. Autumn, my favorite season, and all of the things that it brings — cooler weather, pumpkins, Halloween and Thanksgiving, the decorations and fragrances — cozy and warm feelings. It’s also the period before winter, when things begin to die or become dormant, the days become shorter, and eventually the weather can become cold and bitter. Just like all things, it is a balance. As for the spiritual work I am doing? This is also the time of the shadows — the darker, deeper parts of the self, a time of introspection and releasing, of confronting those things that no longer serve a purpose and letting go of them. I will do my best not to fall silent again, to continue to maintain a voice here.
To my followers, thank you for sticking it out with me. To my new readers, welcome, and I hope that the things I share here will resonate with you in some way.
Wow, I am so delayed in writing a post. I’ve had a lot of things going on this month, and what can I say, July ran away from me!
San Francisco: this was such a fun trip. I’ve found that I’m more fond of the smaller vet conferences than the large ones, even though they typically don’t have much more to offer than lectures, but the advantage of that is that we are done early. The past two conferences I have been to I frequently got out around 7pm, sometimes even 9pm or 10pm and still walked away with about 20 hours of CE (continuing education) to claim. However, I left the PVC with 25.5 hours and didn’t get out after 6pm any single night, and I still didn’t go to *every* lecture possible. So not only did I get an awesome educational experience, I also had plenty of time to explore the city. One of my friends had suggested that we go to the same conference, so I had someone to hang out with for the weekend, which was so much better than going by myself. I think we spent most of our time down at Fisherman’s Wharf, although we did swing by Pier 39 a couple of times as well as (of course) visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and Telegraph Hill. Funny story about the last two — there was a lot of walking involved, and not just city walking, but “San Francisco walking up 45 degree angle hills for 90% of the time” walking. And true to my impeccable navigational skills, I managed to get us lost coming down from Telegraph Hill, winding up on the wrong side of the tower and realizing that there isn’t a straight shot walking down to the piers. Oops. Then the Golden Gate Bridge the next day, which was a 2 mile hike from the nearest bus stop, and that’s before you begin the ascent to the actual bridge. Yeah, pretty sure my friend wanted to kill me for that one. But it was an awesome time, and I got so much out of the conference that it was just an all-around win-win situation.
Next stop was a trip to Indiana to visit my mom’s side of the family. I figured, “hey, it’s Indiana, sure it gets hot, but we are close to Lake Michigan, so it can’t be too bad, right?” Every single day I was there it was over 100 degrees, for the first time since 1947. Go figure. And considering I was coming straight from SF where the temperature didn’t get above 70 (or maybe even 65), it was insanely hot. Thankfully I got to lay in a pool most of the time and got a nice tan for the first time in, well, EVER, so there was that. Not to mention getting to spend some quality time with my grandmother and aunts and uncles. It’s always enjoyable going up there, even in the case of a record-breaking heat wave.
Back home now and back to work. Trying to get the house ready for a big cookout later this week, plus a float trip with some friends over the weekend.
In other news, the final session of SouLodge for this year is open for enrollment. I swear I’m not paid to talk about it, but it has done so much for me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally that I feel I can’t NOT talk about it. And what has been the most amazing is that even after a session ends, the friendships don’t. I don’t make a habit of “friending” people on Facebook that I don’t personally know, but with the amazing support and love I have found in the SouLodge community, I’ve made exceptions, mainly because even though we haven’t met face-to-face, I truly feel that they are friends. When my friend Deb went into the hospital, I went in and asked for support and prayers, thinking that the usual would happen, a few people would respond and that would be it. What I didn’t expect was over 100 replies throughout the whole ordeal, continuously offering prayers and good thoughts, or for people to continue to ask for updates. These women genuinely CARED for her, even though they had no idea who she was, only that she knew a member of their community, and they adopted her into their hearts out of love. It is an amazing community — it isn’t just a course, it’s literally a community and in some ways, a way of life, and I am only sad that I did not find them sooner. So, if you would like to see what I find so amazing, now is the time, because starting next year the program will be different, and while I have no doubt it will be just as incredible, I have loved the sessions currently and would encourage every woman who is looking for something more, even if she doesn’t know what exactly, to check it out. I have a link in my sidebar to take you to the website where you can read more about it and enroll if you feel so moved.
Now time for pictures, and hopefully my next update won’t be 6 weeks from now!
Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten about this! I had an amazing time in San Francisco, an amazing time visiting family in Indiana, got to go to a friend’s wedding (with its own excitement!), and after a, well, amazing week and a half, I head home tomorrow. I will have an update with pictures later this week! (And hopefully early in the week!)
Wow, what an amazing past few days! I posted a couple of pictures from my solstice celebration on Wednesday, although the photos only hint at what really happened. No words can describe what transpired, or what I experienced, but I can say that it was one of the most spiritually empowered experiences I’ve ever had. It felt so good to reconnect with God on such a deep level, to acknowledge all of His creation and the presence of His spirit in every thing on earth, to express gratitude for what I have and where my life is right now, to ask for guidance and the wisdom to recognize the messages He has for me regardless of where they come from, spending some time in deep meditation and feeling His energy moving through me. All of that, and still there are no words for the experience. Now I am trying to continue to draw that energy and flow with daily life. I won’t lie — it isn’t easy, but it is necessary to keep myself grounded without being buried.
I will be leaving in a few days for a business trip to San Francisco. I’m so excited to spend time in a city I’ve never visited, hanging out with a good friend that I don’t get to see very often, and to learn a few things as well (I will always be a nerd at heart). After that I will be traveling to visit my grandmother in Indiana and spend time with that side of my family. I only wish I had more than a week — it never feels like enough. But it will be wonderful, and the short vacation will be a much-needed relief.
Debra continues to improve. I will be going to visit today (hopefully) and it will be so wonderful to see her smiling face again. To help raise money for her medical bills, I have created an art piece and am selling prints in my Etsy shop. They are $30 each, and all of the profit will be going to help cover her expenses. There will only be 20 of these prints and they are selling pretty quickly, so if you would like to order one, they are listed in my Etsy shop (link on the left — it’s Mouseprints Studio).
Finally, the summer SouLodge class starts soon, and registration will be closing in the next couple of days. Believe me when I say that this is a truly life-changing experience. You will leave the course with a new outlook on life, with more confidence and a better understanding of yourself. I am thoroughly enjoying the current mini-session and cannot wait to start the summer class in July. You can find a link to the website to the left of my blog. Trust me — if you have any doubts, just go for it. You will be so happy you did.
TRANSFORM: a mixed-media piece inspired by Debra’s amazing strength and courage.
Wow, what a crazy past couple of weeks! So sorry to not have updated sooner, but life has been a whirlwind for a little bit.
First off: I mentioned in my last post about a friend that was in need of prayer. Here is the story on her. On May 27th, Debra went into the hospital for an emergency c-section, during which a healthy but premature baby girl was delivered. Debra, however, continued to bleed for 12 hours before finally being life-flighted to a hospital that could do the surgery necessary to save her life. At one point, her heart stopped and her family was warned that she would likely be brain-damaged if she awoke. They were also warned that she was not likely to survive the flight. However, she overcame both of those odds, and for the next few days faced a multitude of challenges that ultimately resulted in the loss of her spleen and 90% of her intestines, something that required countless surgeries with slim survival odds. Her entire body blood volume was replaced 12 times and her kidneys shut down. Miraculously, she survived and is beginning to recover. She is still on dialysis but she is eating solid foods and has been able to hold her baby. She has also been moved out of ICU. She is an amazingly strong woman who has overcome some of the worst odds known, but the medical bills her family now faces are staggering. As a result, I have created a piece of art inspired by her amazing fight. Prints are available in my Etsy shop (linked on the left), and all of the profit from every print sold will be donated to her family to help offset the medical costs.
SouLodge is once again going strong. I am currently halfway through the Summer Solstice mini-course and am preparing to celebrate the solstice tonight. I am looking forward to spending some time meditating out in nature and sitting under the sun on the longest day of the year. Nothing spectacular, but incredibly spiritual and I am so honored to have been brought to this tradition. The summer class is right around the corner, so if you would like to learn more or sign up, follow the link on the left side of my page and check it out! It is a life-changing experience, and you will not regret it.
I will do my best to update more regularly. I head out to San Francisco next week for a veterinary conference, which is exciting in itself, but I get to spend time catching up with a dear friend. After that I will be flying out to visit my grandmother in Indiana as well as attending another dear friend’s wedding. So the whirlwind continues, but maybe next time I’ll have some pictures to share.
*Note: this post was written in advance, scheduled to be published today. In light of the significance of today for me, I am leaving it as it stands, but I do ask for anyone who reads this to please keep my friend Debra in your thoughts and prayers. I will write more on the subject later, but she is currently in the hospital in critical condition.
Four years ago today, my mom woke me up by saying, “Now I don’t want you to worry, but it’s raining.” The reason for any worry was that in 8 hours, I was supposed to be getting married…outdoors. And it wasn’t just a rain, it was a full “can’t-see-your-neighbors-houses” monsoon that only Oklahoma could produce.* So naturally, I did the best logical thing — looked up at the ceiling and told God that if it didn’t quit raining by the afternoon, we were having words when I got up to Heaven. Well, it worked, because it quit raining later that morning and turned into a bright, sunny afternoon. Complete with temperatures pushing 1000 degrees Kelvin** and humidity reaching a bajillion percent.*** The showers had turned the seating into a muddy mushy mess, and the arch under which we would stand was in a flooding low spot, forcing the groomsmen to go shopping for Astro-turf. The ceremony itself was beautiful, if not short, followed by the cake-cutting before the icing melted. The reception was great and fun and of course would only be interrupted by the tornado that decided to visit the next county over. Oh, and let’s not forget the bee that decided to attack my bridesmaids through the entire 10 minutes of the ceremony. (They totally get credit for not running away screaming.)
This is why my wedding is frequently cited for “reasons to not get married outdoors.”
Even with the bee and the high temperatures, it still took four years for it to click that it may not have been the best idea to get smart with a deity known for sending plagues of locusts and making people wander in the desert for 40 years.
Happy anniversary to my husband, the most amazing man who gets all the credit in the world for putting up with a woman who can make even God facepalm.
*Might be a slight exaggeration.
**Absolutely not an exaggeration.
Wow! Such a busy two weeks for me! Balancing work, art classes, and other life, I have been running nonstop this week. SouLodge is officially over, and I could not be happier that I was a part of that. I feel so renewed, so much better than before, having a deeper understanding of self and a greater respect and appreciation for who I am right now, not who I could be, who I was, or what I am. Even though it is over for now, I am hoping to continue on the path I have set for myself and continue to use and incorporate the lessons I have learned into what lies before me.
Abundant Wild Life is in full swing. Week 2 is over, and I am loving this class! I have learned several techniques using India ink, a medium I have never experimented with before. Needless to say, I definitely have a new style that I am having so much fun with, one that will likely remain a lasting component of my artistic toolkit. I wound up a bit behind, with everything else this week, so I used part of Sunday catching up and working with the new assignments and process-builders, and I could easily see myself spending hours just playing with ink. Such a fun technique!
21 Secrets is finally starting to seem less daunting. I have completed 2 workshops and am working my way through a third. I’m sending quite a bit of time and energy on this one, Taming the Critic, since that’s one of my biggest challenges with art. So far, it has been fantastic, and this coupled with what I have learned in AWL and SouLodge, I finally feel like I am relaxing a bit, not only in art, but in life as well.
However, the biggest reason that I have been a bit behind is that one of my very best friends got married this past weekend! I was so honored to have been a part of her big day, and (no surprise) she looked absolutely stunning. It was such a beautiful day, and it was so obvious just how in love they are. I am so excited to help them start their life together and can’t wait to see where the journey takes them.