Challenges

Pruning the Azaleas

This past Saturday was spent out in my yard. I wanted to finally pull all the vines off of my poor azalea bush by the side porch. Over the years, it has had its beautiful pink blossoms obscured by the green of the invading vines so often that whole portions of it seldom see the light of day.

I start at the bottom near the stairs into the temple. I pull up several roots with twisted vines spiraling out in all directions. I climb up to begin cutting vines here and there knowing it will now be easier to pull out the other ends at the far side of the bush.

I find my self following the vines down into the heart of the plant, weaving my fingers through branches and smashed blossoms hoping to avoid cutting living growth.

But then we find some are so wedded to the azaleas, we cannot help but cut off the lost portions. Finally we are at the bottom of the plant. And now as we grasp at the roots and dig into the soil, we find that yes the bush itself must be pruned so we can get closer to the core.

So we begin judiciously cutting just those that obscure our path. But soon, the pruning reaches higher as we clear a path to the source of the infestation.

After a while, the last root is cleared.

But my poor bush, it seems so open and vulnerable now that we can see its inner structure.

“Now there can be new growth”, my compatriot reassures me.

I nod in assent, but the sadness seeps out of my pores.

Yes, there will be new growth, but till then she will look so small and brave.

--

And if you think I am talking only about my azaleas, you have not been paying attention.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 2:42pm.

When it is not Workaholism

Talk about being knocked off my foundations, I feel like I am in totally new territory and my compass is spinning wildly. Whoa!

The last half of my life has been defined by my continuing struggle with my workaholism. I struggle to find time for myself, limit my [over] commitments and even set my watch to remind me to look after my physical needs. I felt like I was sparring with a ravenous beast. And this beast compelled me to work, work, work … all the time.

But today, my mentor suggested that maybe it is not workaholism that drives me. That maybe instead I am being driven by a need for validation, acceptance and acknowledgement – desperate to be seen for who I really am.

Growing up “East of the River”, as we say it here in DC, leaves a mark on you. I have met others who had similar marks. Growing up on the wrong side of town, the wrong side of the tracks, the wrong religion, the wrong gender, the wrong ethnicity, the wrong abilities, etc., marks you not just as an outsider, but also as deficient in some way.

And so I wonder if I am pushing myself in order to prove my worth as an individual to the world. All these years, have I been working my tail off to prove that I wasn’t a token, an affirmative action hire or a stereotype?

So I am sitting with this feedback.

My mediations occur within a cloud of a single question – “Who would I be if I had nothing to prove?”

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 1:47pm.

Our Deepest Fears

I was thinking a lot lately on how difficult it is to comprehend those deeper elements of our psych in times of serenity and calm. It seems that we only are able to confront them when in crisis mode. This came in startling relief recently for me as I dealt with the excruciating pain associated with acute pancreatitis. I had felt this pain before, back in 2003, when I had emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder. But this time I did not have the overarching pain of Fibromyalgia masking the severity.

As it dawned on me how much intense pain I have endured … for years … I was hit with such a wave of sorrow and compassion … for myself. So here I was … almost delirious from pain, weeping over how much pain I have endured in my life. It was a moment that sort of proves how much of “mad” mystic I am.

It was when I was laying in my hospital bed, trancing in and out of consciousness due to the morphine, that I was readily admitted into the recessed areas of my psyche. And what I found there was amazing, humbling and thrilling at all levels.

There was storehouse of images, symbols and “hidden” truths that I discovered but I will save those for another time. This long post is about what I uncovered about some of our deepest collective fears.

The Flood
One of the overarching fears worldwide is of being engulfed – flood waters, landslides, and collapsing structures along with the threatening tide of too much change, technology and information. We fortify ourselves with rationalizations about these fears --pretending as if each them are separate issues. But the reality is that this fear is universal and we project that fear onto world around us. We project it onto cancer and fear cancer patients. We project it onto those who migrate into our countries and forget that humanity itself is a migrating species. We resist even changes that benefit us like universal healthcare simply because it is new. We keep trying to close the door on a room without walls or place our fingers into a dam that has already been breeched – too little, too late.

It manifests itself in my psyche as flood waters slowly encompassing more and more of my life and removing my agency. So I fear that my life seems to be out of my direct control. So an illness can roll in like a tide, knocking me off my feet and sweep me out to sea – at the mercy of waves and storms.

But as I lay in my hospital bed, a new awareness sprouted -- one that sees this onslaught as impersonal and larger than I had imagined. And how it had nothing to do with me personally. It has a name, and it is called, Life. And just like standing on the beach, facing the oncoming tide does not have to mean being thrown over. I can brace myself and participate in the movement, allowing myself to be buffeted, changed and cleansed by embracing the very things that are challenging me. And yeah, sometimes I will be knocked off my feet. So what? It is the nature of Life and shit happens.

I am still challenged by Life, but I am learning not to fear its waves. Because, yeah, I may lose even more agency as I age – and it will suck big time. But Life is not out to get me – Life is the gift I get to participate within, that is fucking fabulous at all levels.

The Island
Another major fear is of being alone. Not just being physically alone, but being alone with our fears, hopes, and ideas along with our secret desires. We feel as if no one would truly understand us. We harbor deep-seated shame over things that when examined are actually not so bad. It is one of the tenets of the 12 Step movement - that when we actually do a fearless moral inventory, we find out that we are not as horrid or bad as we imagined. One of the benefits of the web is that so many of our imagined singularities can often find community.

But even if we have found the other 1000 people in the world who wished they were born with a tail, we can still act as if no one else lives in our bones and walks our path of pain or fear or grief or shame. And when we find a person who seems to get us as any level, it is such a relief, such a balm to our troubled soul.

My version of this fear is manifested in a sense of being different wherever I go. I am the only black bi-sexual, left wing, Wiccan, warrior, poet, techno-mage and mystic I know. Oh sure, there are probably others out there, but I haven’t met them. I could parse my self-definitions enough to fit in with several groups, and I do, but I always feel like an outsider. So when I find individuals or groups that seem to fit, it often feels like I have found my long lost home … that is until my essential uniqueness raises its head. And I am left feeling so adrift and ultimately … alone.

I usually blame the group or individual for not living up to my hopes and expectations. And then my practice of self-examination kicks in, and it all comes back to me and I feel the space surrounding me very keenly.

The reality of course is that we are all alone. That is what hit me in the hospital. I was alone with my pain along with hundreds of other people alone with their pain. And if I focused on the alone part, there was no way out of my essential dilemma. So I focused instead on the parts we shared, and instantly, I was no longer alone. I gave my religion as Wicca and boom … a fellow Wiccan sent me a lovely poem from the hospital. I shared my fears, and others shared theirs. I laughed and others laughed with me in spite of themselves.

We are all alone, and in that we are together whenever we choose to be.

It is a choice not a destiny. And so I choose community, friendship and intimacy. And when I need to, I also choose to be alone in my uniqueness. And that is the best choice of all.

The Smallest Pebble
The last fear I noticed was the fear of being insignificant – a small pebble amongst a pile of pebbles or worse boulders. The “No one will know that I was ever here”, fear is one of the ways it manifests. I have seen this fear beneath the surface of so many people over the years.

One of my roles as a mystic is to “imbue value by acknowledgement.” I say “thank you”, hold doors, look people in the eyes and smile, and just acknowledge a person’s existence … a lot. It is one of the easiest and most satisfying parts of my practice. But what I had not understood was how far down this fear resides in our collective psyche.

This fear lies beneath the “It doesn’t matter what I do”, “I am not important enough to make a fuss”, and the “I cannot make a difference.” It is the burden we carry that stops us from taking action in our own lives, or in the lives of our loved ones. It causes well-meaning engineers to give up on safety measures, medical personnel to have lapses in judgement concerning patient care and inspectors to ignore blatant violations.

Closer to home, it causes me to purposely wander in the creative desert when faced with another rewrite for my book. And it cripples me in reaching out to my dear friends even in times of need. It also blinds me to the impacts of my decisions, actions and statements.

All in all, most of us feel pretty small compared to the world or to the universe. But the reality is that we are all small in comparison to all that out there! But so what -- we are small but we are not insignificant. Our Life matters to the world and to the universe … or we would not be here in the first place!

My job is not only to imbue other lives with meaning; I am the one that imbues my own Life with meaning! In other words, I realized that whatever meaning my Life holds comes from my own actions. Just like all those African-American college graduates who worked as janitors to make a living, whatever I do with my Life has value as long as I bring value to it.

And as I lay in that hospital bed, I thought of all the work I‘ve done these almost 55 years, and suddenly I did not feel so insignificant. I realized that whatever my faults, mistakes and challenges, I have done good in this world with my own hands … and if given half a chance, I will do it again and again.

Be Yourself
And lastly, just as my stay came to an end, I was reminded that all I had ever needed to do in this world was to be myself. And that was my deepest fear. I was afraid that at my core, I was insufficient. And here is where the outer world mirrored back me to me truth. “Yeah, you are insufficient to meet the demands of all that Life has to offer, but that is why there is community.” And as I looked at all the people who cared for me, who stood up for me and yes, even stood up to me – I let go of my need for control and replaced it with gratitude. And with that, I could finally be who and what I am, a person recovering from an illness and who is deeply loved.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 08/30/2010 - 4:08pm.

Butterflies And Edges

I have butterflies in my belly as I type this post. I am currently printing out my book so I can Fedex it. Jungian therapist, teacher and film consultant Michael Conforti PhD has agreed to be a reader for my book and … provide feedback.

I re-read a portion this morning with him in mind and suddenly noticed I was missing some explanatory text. I added what I could, but time is of the essence at this point. He only has a few days of open time to read it over initially. Ai yi yi!

Can you tell that this is a real edge for me?

If you haven’t guessed already, my reader is the founder of the Assisi Institute where I am in training to be an Archetypal Pattern Analyst. I am honored and humbled by his agreeing to assist me. I am also scared to death.

Man, this working on my fear of being large is paying off … dammit!

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 03/22/2010 - 7:53pm.

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Recent comments

  • Nephthys (not verified)

    I've been with Firefly for a number of years, I recently left my position at The Firefly Community to pursue other dreams but to be clear how much I was involved before I address the statements made, I was a teacher, Priestess, member of the Inner Circle of the Council of Elders, Course Contributor, Clergy, Delegate and Divination reader so I was quite involved with Firefly on many levels.

    I am offended by your statement that Firefly is cultish. Given my involvement as listed above I can safely say that Firefly members are not cultish in behaviour nor is Firefly cultish in of itself. I am no longer involved with Firefly in any strong capacity other than that of a student so I can also safely say this is not coming from a blind faith position. I will be the first to admit that part of the reason I left Firefly was because I did not agree with some of the changes Lady Iris intended to make, that being said, I don't support the idea that abuse should be turned into a political statement.

    I don't know Sean and I am not close to Lady Iris (I live in a different country) and have not commented on the situation with her marriage but some of his behaviours are reprehensible. If a President did this he would be impeached and booted so I fail to see why it should be ignored and relegated to 'personal marital issues' when behaviour like this is indicative of larger psychological issues. If Sean Bennett is allowed to use and abuse women in this fashion, eventually he would work his way through the single ladies in the OHF and what would you be left with?

    1 year 33 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I for one have been pondering this question. Iris did highlight a valuable point - how are checks and balances established to prevent potential abuse and to air concerns. These are hard lessons that groups need to learn.

    Without denying people their agency, how do you set up a system that will prevent abuse by other members? How far does a group go to ensure the mental and emotional safety of the adult members?

    For example, I know with my disability (brain injury), I would deeply resent being told that the group is looking out for my best interests. It would seem to be paternalistic on the group's part to assume that I cannot fend for myself. But because of my disability, I can be easy prey for a con-artist. How do you solve a dilemma like that? Can this be encoded or is this sort of thing too nebulous to pin down?

    1 year 34 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I have a traumatic brain injury.

    That being said, I got caught in the cross-fire in the Firefly Campaign, since I did not get with the program - i.e. Firemoon was abused by a sexual predator, who for the sake of the community had to be removed. I was shocked at how this mantra was repeated over and over everywhere it could be. I was shocked at how the Firefly folks did not identify themselves as they sought to achieve their goals. It left a poor taste about Firefly in my mouth since I started to regard them as "cultish", incapable of independent thought or discussion. Also it disturbed me how the Firefly folks who had nothing to do with DC, carried water in the campaign as well.

    Since I had lot of free time, I researched the consistent posters and everything I could find, and an disturbing picture arose. The one you described of a one-sided campaign to achieve a stated end, without proper identification or perspective.

    As for the brain injury - I got raked over the coals for making light of the issue from an avowed healer, who thought my injury was a ruse. That scared me into thinking that perhaps my impression of the "cultishness" of the Firefly group was true. (I know cult is a loaded word, but I cannot think of the word that would indicate a group of people, emotionally inflamed with one mission in mind, and not allowing any dissent.)

    1 year 34 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)

    Katrina,

    I am so sorry that we have not met yet since it so obvious from your comments that you are a close personal friend of Iris’s and know all there is to know about the situation from a front row seat. I mean, after all, one who has seen a woman four months pregnant, losing weight and physically appearing to not be pregnant would of course understand the emotional, and yes, physical stress she was under. But of course, since you were there I don’t need to remind you of that. So lets move on to the rest of the story, you know where her husband chose to have unprotected sex with someone else, who I am sure was a complete virgin and posed no risk to mother or child, and then husband went home to engage in carnal activities with his wife, confident that his unborn child was never at risk. Yes, I am sure that all of your female students understand why you are firmly in the husband’s court. After all, it’s always the woman’s fault when marriages go bad. Or at least that is what I seem to glean from your article. Yes, I am Firefly, and I was one of the one’s chosen to help this woman after she was victimized by this predator who seems to have persuaded the pagan community that it is acceptable to treat not one, not two but at last count four woman as though they were simply a means to his end. And BTW I know she attempted to alert the community to her situation and apparently no one felt it worth even a cursory investigation. Oh yes, one more example of us not wanting to rock any one’s boat. I will tell you that in response to her story, several other pagan women have come forward with similar stories of abuse reported to the male members of a community met with similar disdain and an obvious desire to hide this type of behavior. Do I believe it happened this time, yes; do I believe that this community is willing, no matter the cost, to hide this type of behavior, yes. No one wants to call attention to the pagan community because we already have an undeserved stigma. But that does not mean we should allow behavior none of us condone simply because we are afraid of controversy. If one of us needs be sanctioned, then we either stand and sanction or accept the stigma so many would place upon us. We need to “police” our own. When four and probably five women come forth and tell the same story of predatory behavior against women we either act or fold the tents and go home. So I suggest you talk to all of them before you post any more pontifications. I also realize you can never post this but we both know you will have read it.

    1 year 34 weeks ago
  • Cara Schulz (not verified)

    Hello Katrina,
    Although we know one another, mostly online but also when we met at Sacred Harvest Festival, for your readers let me note that I'm the Managing Editor of PNC-News and the Co-Editor of PNC-Minnesota. I was the primary author of the PNC-News statement that you are writing about.

    The persons who contacted me asking when PNC would cover this were not Firefly members. Most were not local to DC, but were Pagans and polytheists in other parts of the country who had donated to the Pagan community center in DC and naturally had an interest in it. Why would they contact me? Because I'm the Managing Editor and people often contact me to ask if PNC is covering a story or to request that we cover a story. That's how we get many of our articles - through our readers.

    As for why PNC-News put two different situations in one statement, it's because they are related in nature and both needed to be addressed promptly.

    If anyone has any questions, we encourage them to contact us and ask them.

    1 year 34 weeks ago
  • Kat, Emralde (not verified)

    Thank you for this perspective. I very much appreciate the voice of the elders as I struggle with my own (not-voiced) feelings about this situation and its outcome.

    1 year 36 weeks ago