Moon of My Life, My Sun and Stars

Attention to the blog has been lax as of late but this is not a symptom of my studies in the arts of mind, body, and soul. I’ve introduced coherent breathing to my daily yoga practice and since I’m still in the beginning stages, anxiety relief is short lived but it is getting longer every day even by a few minutes. The body, after yoga, feels awake and physical relief is long term as long as I practice daily which is to say if I skip a day, the aches and pain do come back not long after.

While I have nearly a dozen pages of ideas to write for Effing Mindful, I am finding myself at a loss for words not only on Effing Mindful but also on other topics. A blog I write graphic novel reviews for lightly admonished me recently that I was to no longer receive ARCs since I was woefully behind on my submissions by like months. Connected to this is I am losing potential paid writing work because I cannot find the motivation to apply but also work on samples needed for the applications. I cleaned out some notes on a book I started years ago and found this was nearly the sixth time I’ve rebooted the project. I have no reason as to why these things are happening or why I am so reluctant to do the work but I can say seeing how much I have lost in terms of potential earnings and work most recently is sobering.

Another reminder of my lost writing work came today when I received a submission to a ‘zine I wanted to publish back in the spring of 2017. I did very little advertising, relying mostly on Duotrope to do the work for me, which wasn’t enough since I received very few submissions. I nearly forgot the ‘zine in its entirety until the submission appeared in my inbox. I wrote back to the author releasing the piece back to them and deleted the blog. The ‘zine was not the only blog I removed as I also deleted effing gratitudes since its purpose was short lived. a courtesan poet, the poetry blog I wrote for the month of April, was also deleted because I hated the name and I wanted to start submitting the work to other publishers and many of those publishers won’t consider something if it’s already online, even on a personal blog.

I’m consolidating my publishing empire.

Lastly, I exported the posts from rituals of woo and imported them here to go on to then deleted the blog because having that blog and this one seemed redundant.

A couple of months ago, I wrote

I wanted spirituality to be incorporated into Effing Mindful because whether you are spiritual or religious, it all comes down to not only your sense of self but of community and ritual as well as a sense of belonging and lastly, of being grounded in your being which is literally the number one positive effect of living a mindful life.

That remains true. I wanted to keep rituals of woo up for posterity but I decided perhaps despite good intentions, being spread out all over the place was not in my favor.  If you’re curious about the ideas I was beginning to explore with rituals of woo, the posts are marked with their own category. (I was doing a daily tarot card read for a while which I may start again because it helped with my anxiety by being able to work out what I was thinking.)

I’ve been working on the acceptance that just because there may be kinks in the process does not mean I am a failure or should I stop. I feel the hiccups in my writing work is directly parallel to my mindfulness work. I have finally found a practice that is working for me right now but it took many months of venturing into other practices to find something that fits. I don’t know if my current practice will be long term but that’s okay as I have today and that is what is most important.

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failing and failing spectacularly

Recently I came across an inspirational quote that says, “fall down seven times, get up on eight.” I thought, “That makes zero sense. Every time you fall down, you get back up.” Why make this distinction specifically on number 8?

I get what this quote is saying: no matter how often you fail, you should always get up. But why aren’t we discussing those previous seven failures?

I think about failure. A lot.

This quote got me thinking about my own perceived failures. For example, my partner and I currently eat a no added sugar, low sodium, no gluten (me, not my partner), no cow dairy (I’m allergic) diet. It took us weeks to get in the groove. We were not eating out; we cooked all of our meals; we figured out what foods worked best for us. I wasn’t really bored with what we’re eating but it wasn’t always a gourmet meal at every turn. We did great for a month until we celebrated an event by going out to eat and I ate things I wasn’t supposed to have. “Just this one time,” I said. And that one time became two, and then three, and then we were back to eating most of our meals at restaurants and all my hard work was pushed aside. I tried to be mindful of what I was eating but that took a backseat since the food tasted good, why did being mindful matte I thought, and so I kept eating. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before all the health problems I have eating the foods I shouldn’t be eating flared up again.

I began to look at patterns of thought on failure with conversations with friends. I want to live a mindful life; be kinder to others; I want to live a fulfilling life as well as one that is healthy; I want to be spiritually and creatively fulfilled. As I looked closely at those communication and thought patterns, I noticed how often I thought of myself as “failing”: I am not a good person, I’m mostly OK. I am not as kind to others as I should be. My life doesn’t feel that fulfilling though many people tell me I am strong and inspirational. My healthy lifestyle is in fits and spurts. The list goes on.

Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I not letting go?

Why do I feel like I am always failing?

But I want to go deeper. “Fall down seven, get up on eight.”

Other patterns I notice in the media I consume emerged: we aren’t really talking about our failures. Article after article gloss over the attempts and mostly concentrate on the successes. I get that, I do. Reading about success stories can be overwhelming because the first thing you want to do is compare yourself to the writer of that article against things you want but we want to read about them to reaffirm our own goals on moving forward. “It took them four submissions to get their book published and I’m rejected at every turn.” “They were able to lose weight / get a better job with almost no effort and I can’t do yoga or lose an ounce.”

We know none of these goals are easy to come by but yet we keep insisting success is as simple as playing the piano for the first time and assuming we’ll sound like Mozart.

It takes practice.

Fall down seven, get up on eight.

As these thoughts became ideas and the ideas became something I could work on. First, and this was hard, I had to make peace with my failures. Even Mozart, a prodigy, still had to practice to become, well, Mozart. Second, I had to look at failing as a positive step and not a negative one. This one is huge. Just because I wasn’t as generous with my heart with others doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It means I needed to work on my own boundaries before I could give more to others in a way that mattered to me. Third, failing was a source of inspiration as it allowed me to explore outside of my boundaries. Failing is growth. Failing is acceptance. Failing allows me to fine tune my needs and wants to what best suited me allowing me to stop obsessing over others and working on making the best me that could possibly be.

Failing allows me to find different paths and tools. The whole world opens up when you fail.

Now, I see what I consider my failures to be gifts. Sometimes I am excited if things don’t work out because it allows me to reexamine my methods. Failing allows me to put faith in myself that I can do this thing, work at it, and the practice will eventually pay off. Failing reminds me I have tenacity and grit and creativity and patience.

Failing reminds me I am human and I have the capacity to do and be so much more than we originally set out to achieve.

We should often fail and fail spectacularly because you never know what could happen when you do.

gratitudes

What the fuck is being grateful? How do you apply it, search for it, acknowledge it? What does it mean? What will it do? How is it different than being happy? Where does being thankful or blessed come into play?

So many fucking questions!

Let’s break down the grateful vs everything else:

Grateful is appreciative of a kindness of a thing/person/whatever that helps you in your life and is long lasting and on-going. It’s an action. e.g. I am grateful for my partner being understanding of me.

Thankful is a feeling of something and it’s momentary. e.g. I am thankful for people who read my words.

#Blessed (I hate this word) is when you feel lucky to have something in your life that went your way. e.g. I am #blessed Converse had a massive sale this weekend.

Defining the words is often like splitting hairs. The difference between grateful vs thankful vs blessed can be, at times, miniscule. I found that we often trip up on the words themselves rather than concentrate on the act of practice and we get bogged down wondering if we’re doing it right or not.

Being grateful is an act and you should always acknowledge it. Being kind to your partner because they are supportive of you goes a long way to your own mindful being. You should feel thankful in the moment when someone does a particular act of kindness towards you. Did they put gas in your car? Get you take-out when you’re not feeling well? Spending a second telling them you are thankful for their kindness speaks volumes of your appreciation of them and it makes both of you feel good for being in that moment.

Now #blessed, #blessed on the other hand is a cheap word used by religious folk and braggarts of their lifestyle to illustrate the material goods in their life. It’s far overused on social media and has lost all meaning. You’re not #blessed because you hit a Converse outlet store and walked out of there with four pairs of Chucks for $86 (unless you’re me and you did this then you are #blessed), you just happened along to a great sale. If you’re going to persist to be #blessed, be #blessed you have food on the table when other’s may not or that you have a job if the economy is tight. Being #blessed does not mean you were lucky to get a pair of $300 shoes for $50. And please, for the love of fuck, stop tagging your insta photos as #blessed.

I know I said the differences is minuscule but you should be practicing all three on a daily basis. Acknowledge someone or something for the gratitude of their action. Every day I tell my partner how grateful I am for when he takes care of me mentally, emotionally, and the other -lys so he knows I have gratitude towards his kindness. After every meal, whether he cooks or we do take out, I thank him for the food that I just ate. We’ve been together for eight years—why am I still thanking him? Because I want him to know that his act of cooking keeps us sustained with food and I’m thankful for that. I need to practice being blessed, as much as I want to grit my teeth when it comes to this word, but I am blessed I have a roof over my head and food in my belly.

Why should you practice these things? Because at that very moment you are participating in life and you’re being present. Showing gratitude, thankfulness, and being #blessed are good reminders to slow down and enjoy the here and now.

How do you search what you’re being grateful/thankful/blessed? Honestly? What helped me was looking at people’s examples to get inspiration for my own. A few years ago I did a project that to give myself a limit of coming up with 100 things I was grateful for and 100 things that made me happy. I didn’t think I could come up with ten but once I got going, it went by pretty fast. Here is the list. Creating the happiness part was easier: I just thought about things I liked and started writing them down.

How often should you create your own lists? This is a hard question. There are so many websites that have you do them in the morning, at night, write one, write 10 and that is confusing. So, I say: Do what the fuck you want. If you think writing down what you’re grateful/thankful/blessed for needs to happen before you go to sleep, then do it or before you get out of bed, do it. If you think that you should do one, five, or ten, that’s completely up to you. It’s your list. You don’t have to subscribe to any one particular way. Websites also like to sell you tools to do this. I made you a starter worksheet for free. Download the worksheet here. But be careful. Lots of people, just like in making ToDo lists, get caught up in the making of the list rather than the list itself. You don’t need washi tape, sparkle gel pens, or fancy paper to make the list. Just make the damned list.

Let’s talk about happiness. I mention above I just came up with things that I liked and I matched it for every gratitude I came up with. I am grateful that I am tenacious AND Trader Joe’s dark chocolate pretzels make me happy. I just came up with things/places/experiences of things that made me happy. There is no simipler way to explain this.

When I created my gratitude/happy list, I did one to one so I could be in the now as I wrote them. But looking back at it now, I should have done the act on a daily basis and not sit down and write ten at a time. Since it’s been two years since the last list was made, I’ve started a new list and I’ve turned it into a blog. Every day I will post one gratitude and one thing that makes me happy and it gets posted to the blog, my Facebook and my Twitter accounts. If you visit this blog directly, I also have the lists coming up in the right sidebar.

I don’t front load the lists meaning I don’t sit down and write out days ahead of time. I do a single one for the following day. It reminds me of that particular thing that I’m grateful for or that makes me happy and it allows me to continue that practice without rushing through it. (Side note: We’re going to be on vacation next week for a week so I’ll be front loading then but that will be the only time!)

Bottom line: Should you be making gratitude lists? The answer is a resounding YES! Becoming mindful is a daily practice and creating a gratitude and happy lists is easy and takes only a minute. You don’t need special tools or spend money to do it. It’s the easiest way to start to slide into being mindful. And remember: There is no right or wrong way to do the lists and no right or wrong way on what to add. This sounds selfish, but showing gratitude is for you and about you. Don’t give a fuck what other people think.  If you’re grateful for the rain, then write down you’re grateful for the rain. If you think looking at your partner while they have tissue paper rolled up their nose makes you happy, so be it!

Just make the damn list!

 

 

 

 

Star Signs

I wrote about spirituality the other day because as part of the three tenants of a healthy life, mind and body being the other two, having a spiritual belief system can help you gain a better understanding of your wants and needs as well as form a community of those with similar beliefs. There is also an enrichment of having conversations with those with opposing belief systems because it helps to strengthen your own as well as giving you a better understanding of other’s doctrines.

My birthday is June 12. According to astrology, I am a solid Gemini. Geminis do things in contradictory to each other and they do those things with intensity. Geminis can be both introverts and extroverts; loving and aloof. They are curious, sociable, and the life of the party. In turn, they can be distant, serious, and restless. Geminis are creatives and really into sex.

I am also bipolar. Bipolars can be introverts and sociable, the life of the party; loving and aloof; curious and restless. The most famous of creatives, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Path, David Foster Wallace, Anne Sexton (who all died by their own hand it should be noted)—the list goes on— were bipolar. Aggressive and assertive sexual health is related to unmanaged bipolar as well as those with borderline personality disorder.

So, are my moods related to my mental health or to my star sign?

When I was younger, before my diagnoses, I believed my personality traits were attributed to my star sign. OF COURSE, I was angry and then joyful, my star sign was in full bloom. My sexual prowess? Totally related to being a Gemini and not being unmedicated. Every once in a while, I will do something “typical” of Geminis and forget for a minute that same thing is attributed to my mental health.

Even though science shows me my traits and personality are derived from my mental illness, I still have a belief in astrology and the metaphysical. Mental health has a stigma attached to it. You talk about being mentally ill and people’s perceptions of you change and often not for the better. Finding a community can often be triggering.  No one wants to discuss mental health because it could be catchable, dangerous, or full of bullshit. You just need to pull up your bootstraps, stop fucking around, and do whatever it is you need to do. Your anxiety/ depression/addiction is just all in your mind (literally). But astrology? Oh, people love discussing astrology and the esoteric world. It’s easier to believe your issues relate that your star sign is mutable or that your ascension into a particular time and place is the reason for your faulty handling of money or your overactive sex life or why you can’t get the perfect job and it’s even more fun to argue against this belief system. Having an interest in astrology is cute while being mentally ill is dangerous.

But let me be very clear while I like to believe in my star signs, it does not and should not replace the diagnosis of my mental illnesses. This is where belief systems like astrology can get perilous: some will attribute their quirks or personality traits to where their star sign is located or what their palms tell them or how the tea leaves fall and forgo their mental illness help or treatment putting their lives in danger. I know it’s hard, there is fun to believe in mystics and the relation of the sky on a particular day, but it does not nor will it ever replace an illness that is treatable or at least managed.

Be mindful of the blurring of the two and seek medical help when you’re in a crisis no matter how intriguing it can be of the sun falling into Jupiter on a particular day predicts the abundance of money in your life.

 

 

 

spirituality

What does spirituality mean to you?

A couple of years ago, I started an anonymous spirituality blog because I wanted (and still do) explore what was out in the metaphysical world and find like-minded people while keeping the blog relatively separate from the rest of my online life.

I was raised Catholic but according to an aunt, I’ve been questioning the existence of God since I was eight.

I have questions!

After all of these years later, I still am discovering my belief systems which continue to be pretty fluid (hence the aforementioned spirituality blog). I don’t believe there is a singular god (unless I’m dying, then I become Catholic) but I’m open to a pantheon of gods or a mother earth goddesses. Pagan? Druid? Greek? Norse? Roman? Indigenous? Doesn’t matter. I find it more rational to believe we come from and the world is shaped by a variety of somethings rather than just a lonely peerless god. (But if push comes to shove, science always wins out.)

But let’s get some clarification. Spirituality, to me, is when you believe in something such as soul or the metaphysical world which contains many while religious means you are affiliated with a particular sect and typically a monotheistic god. Put another way, spirituality is utterly fluid while religion is stocked with rules and restrictions yet both have rituals. The definitions themselves tend to overlap but they are not hard and fast rules so your milage may vary.

So for me, spirituality is the acceptance there is something greater than me, I don’t know who or what it is, but I’m in the process of learning and discovering it. I believe this is going to be a life long process.

I wanted spirituality to be incorporated into Effing Mindful because whether you are spiritual or religious, it all comes down to not only your sense of self but of community and ritual as well as a sense of belonging and lastly, of being grounded in your being which is literally the number one positive effect of living a mindful life. Living with a mental illness is hard and finding people who know what you are going through is difficult but there is some comfort in knowing there is a support system not only in the communities we choose that help define us but also communities that mesh with our belief systems. Even atheists create communities of belonging; I know several who attend Unitarian Universalist churches so you can completely abstain from believing anything otherworldly and still get the benefits of community and ritual.

Rituals is another aspect of spiritual life and if you follow DBT, rituals such as daily meditation or self-soothing techniques play a huge factor in calming the brain. There is so much here to explore, it’s almost overwhelming.

Some of what I may discuss may seem a bit woo, like tarot cards, but I like to believe anything is possible. I hope you’ll join me.*


*The spirituality blog is now defunct but I’m keeping it up for posterity.

Honoring Mabon

It’s been a long time, I know, and I’m sorry.

Mr. Brisngr and I own a cabin in Northern Michigan about a mile from the 45th parallel. Since my job hunt proved fruitless this spring (anyone needing a librarian?), we decided to spend the summer at the cabin and I hoped to connect with the gods and goddesses since our cabin would give me all the solitude and tools I needed to call and worship.

But I did nothing but the gods and goddesses did not forget me. A slow smile would creep across my face when I was outside and the breezes would cause the treetops to move — they were with me even if I wasn’t with them.

Michigan, Northern Michigan specifically, was home to dozens of Native Americans / First Peoples tribes who have now mostly dwindled to one or two. No one had told me directly but I’ve always thought the 45th parallel would be home to magic and ley lines based on the areas history and other lore but I found nothing except an obscure article connecting US cities on the 45th parallel to other cities around the world with Trieste, Italy as the primary significance of some sort. I want to write a (fiction) book about the gods, fairies, and other otherworldly things that exist in our world and theirs but I am already discouraged by what I have found. Perhaps this is the gods and goddesses ways of telling me to dig deep and create my own lore, my own history. I really hope so.

#

I have not forgotten my journey or intent for the discovery of my spiritual path. One of the first things I did when we got to the cabin was to find and pack the rest of my books on paganism and related subjects for the journey home so I could have my entire library in one space. I did, however, bring my tarot cards with me but those remained wrapped neatly in the velvet bag, protected by the crystals placed within. Now that I am home, I want to get back on the path I have strayed from. It’s becoming more crucial, not only for my mental health but also for my spirituality that I continue on my search. The last time I wrote I mentioned Unitarian Universalists, a non-denominational church which also has a pagan chapter, CUUPS, that I have been meaning to also check out. I’ve been so rife with anxiety and depression this summer, I long for some kind of community of like-minded people and while I see myself as a solitary practitioner, UU and CUUPS may be what I need for the community. I went to a local UU meeting in the spring and I’m planning on going on Sunday. The local CUUPS meeting is that night and they are celebrating Mabon.

Which is why I’m back writing here today.

I subscribe to the Patheos Pagan newsletter and in a recent mailing, there is an article honoring Mabon. I’ve been thinking about the fall equinox lately, and how I could participate in Mabon, and I begin to think of it not so much as a “reap what you sow” but rather “out with the old and in with the new.” There is a French philosophy around “la rentrée” which means “the beginning of September” where you would not wait until January 1 to reboot your life instead you do it on September 1. I just found out about this yesterday so while it is late in the game but with Mabon coming up, I would reboot my life at the equinox and give myself fully to the gods and goddesses. I have an idea for my offering which I’ll share with you on another day.

 

when all the stars align

THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot

April was indeed a cruel month. My unemployment ended. I sold my car for financial and I wasn’t driving it reasons. I was denied for disability. And the big one—my mother died.

I’ve been struggling with myself these last few months—I haven’t posted since February!—at one point I attended a Unitarian Universalists1 church here in town and found it to be helpful but I haven’t gone back (much to my regret). My life is a complete mess in some ways and it is completely stripped, naked, and ready for imprinting in others.

My mother’s death came as no surprise to the family tho’ we didn’t expect it to happen when it did. She was in the hospital for a surgery she had been cleared for, came out of recovery in great spirits, called my brother to let him know the good news, and was dead an hour after that phone call. My brother is taking this much harder than I—he was significantly closer to her, picking up the ball when I stepped away from caring for her a few years back. Relationships between mother and daughters are always fraught but while I gave her a eulogy fit for the gods, I was the afterthought, someone she often said she was “jealous” of for my gifts and yet she denied me a lot of support and motherly love over the years. Lest you think I am exaggerating, when I was 17 I attempted suicide by swallowing a handful of antidepressants. The medics wanted to hospitalize me but mother, who was a nurse, convinced them I was fine under her care. I was feeling shaky but I could get around so I left with some friends and when I came back, she locked me out of the house. I banged on the door, she opened it up and cooly told me next time I wanted to attempt suicide, I should with a knife and not her pills. If a friend hadn’t been standing next to me when mother said this, I would have thought I would have completely made it up.

That one action over twenty years ago gives you everything you need to know about my relationship with my mother.

I came back to the fold, as it were, when my brother got married in October of last year. She cried, I cried, and some part of me hoped she and I could work on our relationship. In December I tried to have a sit down with her about several thing and she shut not only herself down but also me. Mr. Bringr said it was obvious she was lying—for what reason, I’ll never know. When I stepped away from caring for her and ended up not speaking to her for a few years, I made peace with the fact I’ll never get the answers to any of my questions. That meeting with her cinched it. So when she passed, I was upset—you only get one monther—but I felt more relieved not only was she no longer in pain but I could put away my Janus face on my relationship with her. (It did not help when one of her best friends approached me at the funeral and told me mother said, upon my return to the fold, her life was now complete.)

I hadn’t planned on spending the near entirety of this post on my mother’s death—even in my petulance I have to admit my grief may not seem obvious but there is definitely a loss in my life. Having come to terms with our relationship long ago, working through my grief has not been as terrible as I would have thought. Then again, I could be in complete denial.

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Mr. Bringr and I split for about 15 months and the main condition of us getting back together was to see a couple’s counselor. We see one once a month and she’s pretty awesome and also full of lots of woo. We talked about energy work today and how he and I needed to be in the present and not pull in the past when we have disagreements. She’s also recommended a new talking therapist for me—who is also very woo–when my current talking therapist called me on Thursday past and asked me to drive her to another city about an hour away for her to attend an all day conference. She said she would be paying me and giving me a free session. She also stated she didn’t think her car would make it and she didn’t want to rent a car. I should not have to point out how badly overbounds this woman has stepped over and she’s getting fired this week.

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I haven’t slept on or touched my cards in a month. I decided to do a pull today and as you might have guessed it, the card is right on the money.

Card: Minor Arcana – Nine of Swords
Deck: Rider-Waite
Key meanings: Anxiety, worry, sleeplessness, stress, backstabbing, depression, illness

The Ultimate Guide to Tarot: “I call this Nine “the 3 a.m. card” because it describes the meaning so accurately: It’s what you wake up worrying about in the small hours of the night, showing you are dealing with high levels of anxiety. The Nine of Swards occasionally comes up in a reading to show mental health issues associated with anxiety, such as panic disorder or anxiety and depression. Insomnia and nightmares are additional interpretations.”

The Tarot Lady’s Tarot Card by Card: “When the Nine of Swords appears in a reading, it’s a sign that life may be getting under your skin. Sleepless nights and depression may be affecting your quality of life. Nightmares. What pain are you dealing with? Consumed by worry. Mental problems. Isolation. Difficult endings. Getting knifed in the back. Feeling like the victim. Crying the blues. I have also seen this card indicate illness, hospital stays – or rehab if combined with The Devil. Mental suffering.”

My interpretation: I have mentioned in the past I am mentally ill—bipolar, general anxiety, to name a few—and I’ve been struggling with it more than usual these last few months. The bowels of April did not help. Mr. Bringr mentioned the other day some of the signs (overeating, anxiety, anger) have started to surge more so than usual so it may be time to change my drugs. But following the outline above, pulling this card didn’t surprise me even tho I did not cleanse my deck before hand. There is so much more in the world other than me and at times, like today by the presence of this card, I’m ever so glad it/they exist. It gives me some comfort and hope.

1. They have a pagan group, CUUPS, which I want to check out but haven’t yet.