Stories I Tell Myself

I had one of those moments the other day. One of those moments that clarifies the rift between reality and perception. And this time I had the privilege of getting to sit on both sides … at the same time.

Several weeks ago, I met a man while shopping in the hardware store that recently opened in our area. I had shopped there a few times before and this time I was returning to get more keys made. The man that helped me was about my own age and was also a DC native – a rarity these days.

We reminisced about the old days and bygone fixtures of our generation. And we were hitting it off just delightfully. As I paid for my keys, we exchange telephone numbers with the promise of coffee and further conversations.

As I walked out the door, he followed me out. Then it happened, the first anomaly. I turned toward him to say goodbye, and he said something rude and crude. I was in shock. What happened to that wonderful man in the store? Where had my generational and geographical kinsmen gone? In 15 seconds, he had wiped away all the good will and rapport we had built together in the store. What the hell?!!?

He turned and walked cheerfully back into the store as if nothing had happened. He left me a single message in my voice mail, and I have not called him back

When I spoke of the incident with my mentor, he thought maybe the man had interpreted my “tough upbringing” as synonymous with having no boundaries or standards. But that statement was my second anomaly. That was not how the men in my life had ever spoken to me, it was what men yelled out of cars and construction sites; it was the language of sexual harassers everywhere in my experience.

As I recalled, the men of my generation and older were respectful and careful with their language when talking directly to a woman in which they had a serious interest, and quite frankly would watch their language around older women always. So why would anyone think otherwise? Not just to engage in the behavior but to also equate it with *my* “tough upbringing?”

I came head to head with the reality of my upbringing and the perceptions others have of it along with my perceptions of my standing as a middle age woman who grew up hard but made a success out of her life and the reality of what it really meant by today’s standards.

Now clearly that man was just acting inappropriately and Dr. Conforti can only infer what my childhood might have been like by looking back on his own tough upbringing. But there was a message within this moment for me. I needed to reexamine my assumptions about how I presented myself to the world – a reexamination that was long over due.

As I turned this over in my mind, I remembered other time and places where how was treated seemed not only inappropriate but also demeaning in many ways. At the time, I had just filed them under the category of bad experiences.

Clearly I am out of step with some of the realities of today’s world. Because either my story about succeeding against all odds was not working for me, or worse it was even working against me – even though my story was both true, and noteworthy.

So is there something in my story that seems to provide a license for folks to behave badly or worse, to not take me seriously?

Am I contributing to the field of oppression by overemphasizing my source culture while deemphasizing my education, my experience or my skills? And where else might I contribute to a devaluing of my core worth?

And finally, how do my stories inhibit my ability to see the world or myself with anything approaching clarity?

I am going to sit with these questions a while and let it settle within the container of my practice.

But as I ask my students, what stories do you tell yourself? And how do they help or hinder your development and your evolution?

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Fri, 01/21/2011 - 5:55pm.

Deep Listening And Feeling Heard

I have noticed that occasionally people will repeat what they are saying when they talk with me. I noticed that this often happens when I am quick to respond. It was as if they were not sure that I had actually heard them.

In my mind’s eye, I had heard the statement or question and was providing my response. They sometimes even interrupt my response in order to repeat their earlier statement. On Sunday, I finally stopped the person and said that if they would let me finish I would answer their query. But I could sense their frustration and it troubled me.

Later that same day as I read True Love, it hit me. Feeling heard is the response to deep listening – which is the focus of this week’s chapter. And that is what was missing; I was not deeply listening.

In my rush to respond, I had not truly heard them. I had heard the spoken words yes, but that is not enough. I had not heard their heart, their soul, I had not heard their entire being. And thus, they were repeating themselves in order to be truly heard.

Often my intellect will craft a response to what is actually a query aimed at my heart. And my fiery air self will zoom in quickly with just the right ordering of consonants and vowels, the specific collection of words and symbols … and I respond before my heart has had a chance to participate.

I think back to how I have been rewarded for this practice. My almost encyclopedic knowledge of telecommunications, technical protocols and system level design made me a success in my corporate career. And it was my rapid intellectual response that made me a rising star in academia. Even my intuitive, psychic responses are often so quick and specific, that I have to force myself to pause to see if in fact the person is ready to hear it.

I have never questioned this ability before now.

What would it be like to truly listen?

What would it be like to hear more than the spoken words and my inner response?

What would it be like … to listen … so that others felt heard?

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 03/09/2009 - 2:00pm.

There’s a Light

“…over at the Frankenstein place!”

So yeah, I watched Rocky Horror on TV over the weekend. It was not as nearly as much fun as I remembered it. [Although Tim Curry is still hot, thank the goddess! But I digress …]

So yes, there *is* a light. But it is coming from the eponymous daystar we call the Sun.

Okay, I can hear the D’oh zooming around the world. “But wait, I can explain.” [Inset giggles here because this phrase is the calling card of Julie, what then follows is a hysterically funny story. But again I digress …]

What I discovered was that the solar cycle may be a large part of the reason I am having such a tough time at the moment. And the light I am referring to is the bright sunshine that has been in short supply as of late. Which provided the light of insight when I realized that I might have a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. After a sunny day improved my fatigue, brain fog and sugar cravings drastically, I became curious. So I replaced my living room lamp light bulbs, taking out the CFCs and replacing them with full spectrum bulbs. And the mood improvement was again drastic. Leaving the living room area also produced a noticeable energy drop. Wow! This is huge!

So I dragged out my journals for the last few falls and noticed that I always attributed the fall fatigue and diminished activity levels to external sources of stress and/or my own perceived lack of internal will. But what if this was simply a part of my natural energy pattern associated with the seasonal change?

I had already noted my Solstice dip, my corresponding downward slide of energy starting at about Thanksgiving culminating at the Solstice and then rising steadily through Spring. So why had I not noticed the effect earlier, say starting at the Equinox? And the answer is again revelatory. I had not noticed because I was too busy beating myself up as it became harder and harder to focus or keep up my routines.

Um yeah, that makes sense … beat myself up just as I begin waning in energy … NOT. So guess who will be researching light boxes in the not so distant future? And… guess who will now consider seasonal changes in her annual planning matrix?

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Tue, 12/02/2008 - 4:51pm.

Tired Again

Where is my open sea with beckoning shores?
Where are my quiet, calm and silent nights?
And where is my quilted bliss and warming fire?
And oh goddess, where is my rest?

Less than a month from a respite and I have begun to feebly hope.

I am slogging through life this season with a tiredness that has been around so long, I can discern each subtle thread of exhaustion from another. Today, it is the worn out but literarily aware and conscious self instead of yesterday’s barely conscious and vegetative self.

Tomorrow will be the physical tiredness that lies yawning beneath the intellectual curiosity that fuels my technical work.

And although this coming long weekend is dedicated to rest, both physical and mental, I have several areas of my life that are begging for attention.

So I gaze toward the edges of the semester for true solace and comfort. Like a sailor longing for land, any glimpse of solidity to rest and recuperate, I scan the horizon. And just like in previous years, my expectations do not reflect reality. I actually only have about a week off if that long, but you’d think it was a yearlong sabbatical the way I dream and long for it.

What is happening is that my habit of “projecting into some predictably idyllic future” is running amok again. As I admitted to myself this past month, there is no period of openness, or rest or idleness in my life … because I purposefully do not allow it. I fill my time up with things to do because I crave the sense of urgency it engenders within me.

And my life is full because without it I wonder if I would feel lost and un-tethered to life itself. My life is over committed, full and urgent because … I do not trust my own air nature.

All this time bemoaning my earth challenges, only to discover that my problems come from not fully embracing my air gifts. I have been instead living and breathing in fire. My warrior gets more “air” time than my artist self. And she is burning me out.

And so I breathe, trying to discern the vagaries of my authentic self, my winged warrior of the air. I am not a being of fire, one who swallows embers, lifting into the air only for battle. I am a winged one, a denizen of air, one who soars, loves, dives, sings, dances, circles and spins in the windswept celestial temples of air, and only occasionally spirals down for the kill.

And it is she, my winged nature that I need to set free. So I will actually LOOK at my calendar and PLAN my time for this long weekend. And maybe I will find some CREATIVE ways to OPEN up my life and make SPACE for me.

So look up, because you never know, you might just catch sight of me soaring through the skies. Or you may find me resting at the very top of the tallest trees. Either way, I am on a journey of discovery, following an ancient trail into the labyrinth of my very own soul.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:05pm.

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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?

    2 years 2 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?

    2 years 3 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.)

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)


    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.

    2 years 4 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.

    2 years 4 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.

    2 years 5 weeks ago