In my January #RelationshipReboot video, I use the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021 as a backdrop to discuss transforming our perspective about accountability to recognize it for the act of love that it really is.
Just a very quick post to remind you that I have a Patreon where I post “spiritual support for heart-centered leaders”. One of the foundational things I post are weekly tarot and oracle card readings, with a different deck every week. It’s a joy to do these. I just want more people to participate and share support for each other!
Only $3 for access. Just a way for me to share one of my gifts and talents with you in gratitude for supporting my heart-centered mission 💖♥️
“Embracing my Shadow Self” is a three part series where I examine my relationship with the uber-triggery Shadow Self that was imprisoned deep within me and has been responsible for most of my internalized woe for over a decade now.
“Shadow Work” has been part of my spiritual vocabulary for as long as I can remember. I don’t shy away from ever confronting my own darkness. In fact, it’s probably the most reliable thing about me. And while I can point to so many of my shadows and icky, dark corners I have gazed into, wrapped my loving arms around to heal and nurture, I could feel a messy knot of anxiety at the core of all this work that I couldn’t quite approach. Even after years of therapy, EMDR and past life regressions. it was unapproachable. It was like there were layers of force fields to hack before I could get at the slimy, angry black tumor growing inside of me, stealing the bulk of my optimism and resilience each day for breakfast.
CW: arachnophobia, sexual assault, incarceration
Introduction: I am no stranger to Shadow Work
I don’t normally run away from the monsters under the bed. I’m known for embracing the worst of humanity on its worst days and wrestling with demons until we finally become friends and allies. And while I have battled with my share of demons both external and internal, there was one that I was uncharacteristically avoiding, the biggest, baddest boss bitch monster of them all: The Spider Queen.
This three part series details our first encounter in a dream I had some time ago, our final encounter and finally the healing has already arrived within the few short weeks since I decided to turn toward her instead of continuing to reject her. This is the story of how I avoided her, abandoned her and avoided owning up to the ways I was hurting her (and especially myself) with those choices, which felt so necessary at the time. Ultimately, once I started to lean in, with all my courage, all my hope, all my humility and strength, welcomed it, made it a part of everything that I did.
Ultimately, this is a story of hope not just for me, but hopefully for you too. The work is hard, but I am so proud that not only did I do it, but I can share the story with you all.
Setting the stage
Parts 1 & 2 are written in 3rd person narrative, taking place at the “Red Rose Hotel” which is how I describe my heart. Each person I love, even a little, is given a safe and secure room in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone. Privacy is honored, but there are no locks on the doors to the room – people are free to come and go as they please. Even if they cause damage, they might need to make a deposit, go through some extra security, but ultimately that space in my heart will always be theirs. New rooms are added because my heart just grows with the more I meet others. There is only one floor, one door that is off limits – hers.
Part 3 is a personal testimonial and lesson about what I’ve learned since this process started on 5/5/21. Raw enlightenment happening in real time!
Part 1: The Prisoner on the 8th Floor
Red Rose Hotel – April 2014
“Come here, my dear,” her honied voice called from the cell walls. “Janet, come closer…over here,” she kept repeating every few minutes until finally the impatience began to brew underneath the sweetness she was trying to project. ” I know you hear me, girl. Come close, I have secrets that you want to hear.” After a few more minutes of silence her voice suddenly erupted through the room, sending a chill like the brusque unwelcome arrival of winter. Her voice took on an icy bitterness “Us Queens have got to stick together, do we not?”
Janet sat there, on the benches outside the cells, embedded in the middle of the eighth floor, a labyrinth constructed within the hotel specifically designed to hide this prisoner. The place has fallen into disrepair, the air hot and humid. Where the walls once held tacky palm tree wallpaper, a request of her Florida guests, the trees had come to life, growing out of the walls with the dense danger of an Amazon jungle. The trees and vegetation had already taken over the walls and floors. She had to be escorted over the roots and pulsing life to reach the prisoner’s inner chamber. This place was returning to nature, commanded by the sultry sickness that resided at the heart of this place.
When Janet realized she had lost control over this place, her body was slumped down in the seat, back curved in preemptive defeat. She held her head in her hands praying the voice would just go away. This prisoner, although contained behind layers cinderblock, iron bars, glass. She couldn’t be too safe. It was as much to keep the prisoner in as it was to keep others out. And while she had surrendered willingly, at first, tales of her monstrous deeds reverberate throughout Janet’s life. Consequences for their failed partnership will never cease. She hurt everyone that Janet loved, and as much as it hurt to do it, she knew she had to be contained, controlled, locked away for her own good and the good of the realm as a whole. The cell was well protected by twenty locks and several armed guards.
The prisoner, known locally as MP, voluntarily walked into the first cage, to demonstrate to others who were calling on Janet to burn her as a witch. But even then, her recklessness, her relentless pursuit of her own agenda is what ultimately added layers. Her continued defiance and disobedience would endanger them all, including and especially the kids. No, this was the only way. Had she not been so tempestuous, so attention-grabbing, so raw and dirty, picky and arrogant none of this would have even happened. There wouldn’t need to be guards at the door, locks on the door. All of these security measures were because Little Miss Seductive cannot be tamed. Except by one person and one person only, Janet.
As much as Janet wanted to believe that MP earned her place here fair and square, she knew ultimately it was her choice. She let MP close the door on that cage, at first just a performance of remorse and restraint, but later, a more permanent monument to it. Even if MP voluntarily walked herself in, it was Janet that sealed the first lock. She allowed this to happen and believed the visitor’s stories of MP’s wrathful wrongs to justify her choice.
Just then she noticed that the hissing of the spindly, manipulative creature behind the wall was now turning to into low howls of pain. The caged walls rattled with each movement. She paced rapidly, scraping the floors, banging against the door. Each movement and unnerving noise was a demand: You will look at me!
But Janet wasn’t ready – not yet. She needed more courage. She needed more companionship. She needed more healing before she could face the grotesque monster behind the door. Even what little she could see through the window was enough to start the stress-induced cortisol cocktail flowing through her body. She was starting to recognize it, the surge of ice water in her veins, forcing her to take action or to freeze or to fly out of there at a moment’s notice. But it wasn’t just fear that triggered her, it was the memory of danger, the full scale of that trauma that MP brings with her that made her hold back. All this creature needed was just a few minutes to worm her way into Janet’s mind, taking control all over again.
But even with that, there were some advantages to when she was in power before. In fact, they had once shared an intimate and cohesively complex unity of decision-making. The Prisoner known here only as MP, was the huntress, a sexually abundant temptress who could seduce even the most loyal heart into a wild night of abandonment and passion. But it was Janet who was the light bringer, the angel who delivered meaning and purpose to the encounter. Together they worked to unlock core, deep truths of these men and together they worked to extract the sicknesses of the soul to transform them into the glittering diamond dust to heal the wounds of confidence, courage and acceptance. Janet as the compassionate wounded healer, MP as the renegade wildling queen on the hunt. Together they were sweet and sharp, light and dark together, the Mother Mary’s angel of love and the Dark Goddess’s fierce panthress of justice, who many knew as Magic Pussy or MP. Together they were the goddess in balance.
Janet couldn’t stop herself from crying as she remembered their divine feminine union. They were one soul, whole and complete as one. She missed her sister soul, but knew that this punishment was necessary. Knew that they had to be separated if anyone was going to stay safe. Together, they were too damaging, MP was too powerful. Janet could not contain her anymore. Even MP knew it was necessary. Her promiscuous appetite brought too much unwanted attention and now a damage deeper than Janet could have ever foreseen. They aimed too high and it nearly cost Janet everything, including her life.
No, there would be no forgiveness today. She wasn’t going to fall for MP’s slippery lawyer tricks. She was just as lethal with law as she was with love, savoring the intellectual kill more than someone’s passive surrender. Janet was the peacemaker, the healer, the heart who felt all things, but she was also the constant forgiver. Not this time, this time she wouldn’t give in. If there was anytime she needed to be strong and stand up for herself it should be now. No forgiveness. Not anymore.
“Come closer, girl. I know you know who I am,” MP’s voice taunted from behind the glass. A dark figure loomed from within the shadows of the lonely cell. “You don’t have to be afraid of me. I can never actually hurt you,” she intoned, “not without hurting myself at least.” Janet shuddered, tears falling down her face. The taunting made it even worse. She summoned the last of her courage and stood up, her eyes averted as she faced the cell, her fists tightly wound up in a ball. She stood tall, stood her ground and lifted her face, opening her eyes.
There was a wail from the cell and scratching at the door. The guards took position, their weapons locked and ready in that instant. Janet stood calm, but in truth the fear was seeping from her pores and she felt she might melt into a puddle in any moment. She stood there, the figure pacing back and forth in the shadows. An eerie silence fell between between them. MP’s arms and legs were scraping at the door, her breathing heavy and fast, audible even through the layers of glass.
Janet was walking toward the cell, about to speak, about to say, “see I did what you asked” when a roar started from the inside of the cell, so low and grumbly, the floor rattling ever so slightly that it at first Janet thought it might be the start of an earthquake. But then the howls started, the screeching, pinching howls. So furious and wrathful in its insistence. Her screeches turned to cruel bellowing laughter:
You will look at me. All of me. Before this is over, before you can take your throne, you must face me. I am inevitable.
Janet snapped her eyes open just then, determined to prove this bitch wrong. She narrowed her focus and saw the gruesome, horrifying creature before her, her worst nightmares made reality. Coming face to face with a fearsome spider queen.
She could only hold the gaze for a moment, a mere heartbeat. But it was long enough for them to stop time, to suspend this moment, a grace of magical ability they shared. It was also enough for them to truly see each other, see each other without the filters of fantasy clouding them, without the shields of revenge in their way. Rival queens in a terse parlay before battle. They held this gaze, through the layers of prison wall, through layers of time, viewing each outer through the glass face to face. The Spider Queen snarled and Janet held her ground.
Janet stared at MP’s eyes, shiny with darkly ominous intention, willing her stomach to not empty its contents on the floor. Both of them knew that their final battle would be their end. And despite MP’s bravado and Janet’s intellect, each of them turned away unsure whether they could survive such a battle.
The guards rushed past to check the locks and tried to contain the beast, who went back to her wailing and scraping. Janet stumbled back to the benches where her guides and beloveds had been waiting for her. She sought out Jeremial, one of Janet’s original guides, whose wooly, furry arms wrapped her up and held her like a warm blanket. Mike held her hand and kissed her on the forehead and Ted leaned in to whisper how proud he was for facing the demon down. But her courage was entirely spent and soon after coming back she fainted in Jeremial’s arms. He lifted her gently as the husbands flanked him to protect his departure, carrying her back to the elevator.
The Spider was still now maniacally laughing, “You fainted? What a weak little girl you’ve become. Just wait until I get out of here and find you. If you can’t take this you definitely can’t take all of me, you coward”. To punctuate her anger she started chanting, taunting her with that word, that final pronouncement of “coward” over and over again. “You couldn’t stand up to them and you think you can stand up to me? You can’t stand at all, bitch. What a little coward?” She laughed herself into a frenzy, her screams ripping through the hallways, as if her echo were infused in the vegetation that lined the walls. Janet, barely conscious and aware could only hear the bleating cry of “Coward! Coward!” as the group retreated back to the elevators. The doors closed on the spider’s cruel snarl in the background.
The last words she heard were:
You will never take the throne without me, without at least facing me. You will be back and you will be sorry!
The elevator jerked violently as the machine stirred to life and moved the party away from the prison floor. Janet’s tears silently fell, absorbed and silenced by Jeremial’s thick white fur, knowing this was always supposed to be their destiny.
The past year my career has done a complete 180 from where I once was. I was hurt and frustrated, recovering from several years of life-threatening burnout. I hardly knew myself outside of the work I was doing. My family barely saw me and when they did, I was usually not very present with them. I was in such a constant state of panic that I couldn’t see up from down any longer. All of this on the heels of ten years of trauma, retraumatization and damaging self-worth issues in my sexual life as well. But for all that happened, for all that I was suffering sometimes in silence, I know in the end I made the correct choice to leave my old job and open my own practice again.
But growth is a funny thing. We work so hard to “get back” to some idealized version of who we once were, only to find that once we’ve achieved the stability we needed or positioned ourselves to take up that old glory, we find that it’s just not who we are anymore. Growth changes us. From children into adults, from adults into elders, from elders to spirits and back again. Maturity isn’t just about carrying the imprint of our past, but creating room to become even bigger, even wiser, even smarter and more bold.
Too often we question that growth, lamenting all that we’ve lost by not being the smaller, younger, thinner, more innocent version of ourselves. Sometimes we even curse the experiences that forced us to grow, but in the end, we keep earning experience points in this great journey of life. There are no winners or losers, just leveling up against your personal best. And as we grow, mature and become bigger versions of ourselves, we realize that our old dreams, our old expressions, our old image just doesn’t match the experience we’ve acquired or the deeper truths we’ve uncovered about ourselves.
When you get what you want, you find you didn’t want it at all.
I’ve been doing that a lot over the past year. Looking at my relationships, my faith, my family and even my wardrobe to figure out what still suits me. For example, in college, I had been known as “Magic Pussy” (MP for short), a term I had used throughout all of my poly and kink life as a badge of strong, courageous, sexually assertive identity. When I was outed, I thought for sure that healing meant I was making my way back to MP, a way back to that identity. I wanted to be that strong, independent woman to wielded her sexuality like a finely sharpened blade of truth.
But in fact, that identity wasn’t a weapon, it was my armor. Armor that I created to protect myself through years of sexual harassment at work and school. Through years of studying men’s wants and desires so I could remain valuable and thus safe. That armor kept me safe because men fell in love with the idea of me so easily – very few got to see more than a limited facet of me, but it was enough to win their loyalty for literally decades after we’ve been broken up. They were attracted to the power I projected and how I transformed the worst in them into a glittering experience of intimacy and vulnerability, finding acceptance in my embrace. But few of them would ever fully understand that this ability, this power was developed because too many of their brothers had harmed me in inexcusable ways.
That armor also kept me from resolving the wounds it was protecting, the shadow self that I was avoiding: the wounded 6 year old, the humiliated 13 year old, the panicked 15 year old, the angry 18 year old, the cynical 20 year old and more. It was only in writing this blog and connecting with others who have survived multiple traumatic events, that I started to feel safe enough to peel away the armor to heal myself..
When I started this blog in 2011, I had only the vague goal of reclaiming my voice, whatever form it might take. I chose the name to honor the two men who saw me through the outing, my Husband and Laz. Combining my Husband’s first poem about me (where he called me “sharp and sweet”) and my poly husband, Laz’s blessing for me (“thou art god, Bella”) the name matched the frequency of the world I wanted to heal. In fact, my only goal has ever been to resonate with others who see themselves in my lived experience. To connect with others to let them know they’re not alone in their conflicted ideas and thoughts. And so, SharpSweetBella has become almost synonymous with the exposure of my private pain and insecurities, like imposter syndrome, and #MeToo. It was a way to find my authenticity on my own terms again.
I have different stories I want to tell
But part of growth is recognizing that if we keep telling the world the same stories about our woe and loss, we are committing ourselves to making that our only voice. And while emotional pain is a significant experience that should be shared to an empathetic audience, eventually, we want to know that the sun will still rise, that our hero is resilient and has overcome something significant in the process. And while I feel I do show that here, the narratives I’ve told about my trauma just don’t serve the story I want to share with humanity now.
I started SharpSweetBella because I needed to feel safe in telling my story, expressing the truth of what had happened to me. I needed to pour out the emotional injustice of it all, how I was struggling to find wholeness in my experience. This blog has documented the process of my resilience since then. The process of picking myself back up again, trusting my own voice, much less the audience I’m sharing it with. In 2012 it documented both the delirious joys of passing the bar exam to the debilitating lows of suicidal ideation. It also is the only place I recorded a dream that literally saved my life. It’s where I protested efforts to disrupt the accountability of local kink community as we asked them to stop protecting predators and where I started developing more of my spiritual voice. I laid bare the entire story of my rape and my Outing. It also manifested as lectures to my equals and confessionals to my social justice superiors. It was about finding Janet Rose again and proclaiming my rebirth as a seasoned, experienced leader.
This site was intentionally created to keep me small and safe. There have never been plans for monetization or scaling up, just simply the experience of rediscovering my deservingness. There have never been thoughts about readership, only the offering of companionship. In some ways, this blog was the thin layer of skin, a cocoon that kept me safe while I transformed from the Wounded Healer into the Queen of Rainbows and Roses, a long and arduous process that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been able to discuss it here. This blog was never meant to be optimized for anything other than the magic I was rediscovering in myself.
Honoring the Rise of La Madonna Rosa
The past year has brought a lot of personal and professional changes that have really accelerated the dynamic of what the gifts and talents that I want to bring to the world. It’s amplified my voice to make it bigger and more accessible. It’s freed up my time so I can spend it writing all day or constructing arguments for various social justice projects. It’s exposed me to amazing and beautiful people, collaborators who bring joy to my life and augment the reality I want to create so divinely. In the past year alone I have:
- prioritized my self-care and healing
- moved to inactive status as an attorney which alleviated so much anxiety
- launched Rose Connections, my own training, coaching and consulting business
- abandoned working a 70 hour week to a more reasonable 30-45 hour week
- lost my father and grandfather 3 months ago but said goodbye on my terms
- healed from panic attacks where I was blurting out ‘I hate my life’ multiple times an hour to only saying it once every few days
- owned my sexual power once again, this time in a more dominant role
- started both an Only Fans and a Patreon account to invite financial support for my work
- created YouTube videos about the experiences and perspectives that got me here
- healed my relationship with my family to be more self-directed and assertive
- set specific boundaries around my time and energy
- let go of needing to please everyone
- examined my own racism and colonialism
- connected more deeply to spirit and my new calling
I am healthier now emotionally than I think I’ve ever been. I have always a Truth Teller, always sharing with transparency and honesty the world that I see and experience, but that often came at too great of a cost. But truth arises when people feel heard and safe, and my ability to continue to speak truth today means that this space has served a powerful, transformative purpose for the past 10 years.
It might be time to retire this blog and move forward with something that better represents the next level of my work and healing. Just as I spent my 20’s known as Magic Pussy, my 30’s as SharpSweetBella, my 40’s will be defined by La Madonna Rosa, the name I chose for myself in my birthday ritual this past winter solstice.
During that quiet coronation ritual, I made promises, vows to spirit to honor the role I’ve been given. I am stepping into a wholly new version of myself. And while I want to preserve the stories I have here, I want to move forward much more strategically aligned with a heart-centered direction and purpose. I want to be able to move forward on my own terms, not dragging my past behind me like an albatross, but using it as fuel for a lantern of hope for others when all seems lost.
Expect this space to change in the coming months. Thank you all so much for making this such a nurturing space for me to grow and become who I am today!
This is the way.
Whether you follow me here or on my other social media channels, no doubt you noticed me talking about several deaths that happened in my world right on top of each other. On January 17th, I lost my dad, on January 21st, I lost my grandpa and on Feb. 2nd I lost a childhood friend. Three deaths in 16 days. Three people who made a difference in our world – two in law enforcement and one forensic psychologist, three people who influenced who I am today.
The death of my dad was the hardest and will continue to be the hardest. He was one of the people I trusted most in this world, one of the people who unconditionally believed in me, one who taught me how to make room for my feelings. As a family, we gathered over Zoom last weekend to say goodbye to my dad, to honor him in the ways we felt best.
And one of those ways, for me, is to honor him this way – to share my love for him and his love for me here. Because in all things my dad gave me safety, which is what is necessary for resilience to truly grow. Space, time & room to heal, grow and finally glow. This was his love language – giving us the freedom to be who we really are and as you’ll read, the gift he asked me to share is to help eliminate shame & guilt from our lives. That’s all I want, all I’ve ever wanted. So grateful to my dad for giving me the tools and wisdom to make that a reality in my world.
I love you and miss you, dad.
A tribute to my dad…
My dad and I shared a love of self-expression. We both could be wordy – which should be a giant hint of what to expect from me – but it was because we saw so much in the world that moved us deeply, so much that sparked imagination and even more that reflected the truth and irony of the real world.
We both spoke in languages that accentuated our ability to share love, allowing us to build a trust and comfort with vulnerability – one that sometimes allowed us to speak without words, to commiserate without details, to connect without expectation. We found a way to communicate even when words felt inadequate.
One of those languages was sci-fi. I mean, I was born the same year Star Wars debuted, so it was fate that I would be a geek. And how excited I was to see Return of the Jedi with him at the Chief theater in Pueblo, it was Star Trek that really became our own special love language.
And I think this quote from Gene Roddenberry summed up dad’s viewpoint so well.
Because the vision that Roddenberry created for this world fascinated dad and I so much, the allegories of our current problems giving us hope for better leadership in the future.
From ethics of the Prime Directive to the judgment of Q, we examined our potential as human beings. We’d have moral debates and relate the show back to our own lives. Both of us sought to live a life of service working for something bigger than ourselves, to make our lives as meaningful as possible.
I rewatch those episodes a lot, especially now when we all need hope for a better future. And in those moments where the show hits the right emotional and humanist chords, I can still feel his hand reaching over to embrace me, a tender grip on my shoulder pulling me to express the resonance of that moment, to share how deeply moved he was, to express a hope so impossibly grand, it almost hurt to speak it out loud.
He made me believe in that vision so much that I chose to make it my life’s work to get us one step closer to that hopeful future.
And so, social justice became our language also. We both needed to make sense of a world that too often was cruel to sensitive souls like him and I. He saw how easily wounded I was by the suffering of others and he gave me avenues to channel my empathy into meaningful change.
His words helped me to reframe my experience away from victimization and toward resilience.
While my mom’s fire and passion give me courage and a boundless drive to make a difference in the world, the type of difference I chose to make comes from the wisdom and guidance of my dad.
Even though Dad wasn’t religious, he heavily influenced how I describe my relationship to the Divine. He encouraged my faith and taught me how to balance it with emotional honesty, intellectual curiosity and cultural humility. He let me explore my spiritual world by providing me a solid framework of ethics and safety (a family business, literally). There were of course things I did that he disapproved of, but he rarely told me that, wanting me to be uninfluenced by his opinion, knowing I saw a truth in things that he couldn’t, just as he saw certain truths that I couldn’t.
More than anything, throughout my life my dad made me feel safe in the times where I felt the most threatened.
Like when I was 13, it was the language of his presence that mattered most to me. I had been plagued with nightly terrors of nightmares, screaming in the middle of the night. Those nights, he would lay beside my bed, holding my hand, talking me through a guided visualization of our annual hike through what we called “the Meadow” a stretch of land near our family’s cabin in the high country.
He would create this bubble of safety until I finally fell asleep. The imagery he used still permeates my meditations today – little yellow, pink and white flowers dotted across small grassy hills, the sounds of nature reminding me that I am supported.
From talking with my siblings, I know that they were no stranger to the language of his “lectures” especially when we did something wrong. It wasn’t that the mistake was highlighted as much as the motivation behind the mistake, the psychology of our choice.
But in some ways, I see how much those lectures were more like a Socratic inquiry of emotion itself, a philosophical exploration of the nexus between what we did and what we felt.
It was a way for him to understand himself through us. He’d ask his psychologist questions and I’d open my heart and spill out my insecurities over my relationships, my frustrations with injustice, or the fears of my personal failure. He helped me define my inner landscape, a skill that has become more valuable the older I get.
My dad hated the language of authoritarianism. While his education and position gave him authority over others, he was disgusted by those who flaunt and abuse their power, who unilaterally impose fear & suffering to solidify their control.
He tried, sometimes successfully, to escape hierarchies of rank and often examined his own privilege to rectify the passive injustice that he saw illuminated in our world.
And so, even though it might hurt his back to do so he’d meet me on my level, literally sitting on the floor with me to play, to listen, to understand, to equalize our conversations.
That was projected into his public self – he was universally known as friendly and generous, and my kids saw him as both Santa Claus and Gandalf, secretly calling him Gran-dolf, the very image of a wise, old wizard with a sparkle in his eye.
To understand my dad is to hear the wisdom expressed in the language of his wit.
He amused himself endlessly with his little quips & witticisms, a trait for wordplay and puns he got from his dad, Clarence – a gift of the Rose heritage, a talent for both learning & expression. He kept a shoebox full of these thoughts under his desk – even had a short comic he was writing. It will take the rest of my lifetime to go through them, but there was one that stood out that I wanted to share today.
Context: In late 1999 the plan had been to move to Denver to work for then Representative Abel Tapia for the legislative session, go to law school and then go out to change the world. But my dad had just been diagnosed with cancer and I was deeply reconsidering my plan so I could stay behind in Pueblo with him.
In the days before my birthday, he had been told he had a 20% chance to live just one year. I had already signed a lease on a new apartment in Denver.
My dad made it a point to tell me to go live my life. To live my purpose by working at the Capitol. He made me leave and he made my brother go with me to ensure I stayed. He visited me at the Capitol a few weeks later, just after he started chemo and was about to do his first radiation treatment. I remember how moved I was that he dressed up to visit me that day, in my little corner desk of a big room we shared with another representative and aide. He put his arm around me and told me how proud he was of me.
Of course, he beat those odds by a good twenty-plus years. At this point he would have said something sharply witty like:
It’s pretty impressive that I 100% beat the odds for 21 years in a row! OR Maybe they got it wrong – it was a 100% chance to live exactly 21 years!
Just a few days before he died, I was helping to organize his desk. He had written this back in 1999, when he thought he was going to die. He made several copies which he kept in his desk drawer, presumably so they would be ready to give to us when this day came.
Breaking cycles of insecurity
My dad was afraid to be a burden to everyone else which reveals yet another language that we shared – insecurity and guilt
For all that my dad believed in everyone around him, he held an undercurrent of anxiety regarding his own self-worth, his own contributions in life, feeling like he hadn’t done or given enough. He was quick to see fault in himself, rather than others, reinforcing old patterns of rejection and anxiety consolidating it into a knot of internalized judgment.
And because I share this trait, I understood the guilt he felt, the shame he punished himself with. I was so defensive of dad – ready to confront those who would trigger that private, internalized pain, ready to put myself on the line to alleviate that pain. That empathetic connection the deepest of our communications.
We talked about this on his last night with us. I had conveyed a message from Andrew Romanoff, who you heard from earlier. He didn’t believe that someone as important as Romanoff might care for him. Andrew responded in big, bold letters…. “WHAT?!?”
Which sort of conveys what we all feel, right?
When I showed him the texts he said, ” I have always felt unworthy, undeserving of the love and attention people give me.” I held his hand, tears mixed with laughter on my face, and reminded him, “I know dad, because I feel the same way about myself. And my son feels that way about himself. too” He looked at me right then, squeezing my hand tighter, his hands cold, but still so strong with life and said, “Well, then it ends tonight. It ends with me, right here. Promise me you’ll let this die here tonight.”
His green and gold hazel eyes locked onto me to confirm that that I had heard him. My head nodding with the rigorousness of my commitment, the words stuck in my throat, sobbing with both joy and sadness.
Joy that he was recognizing the harmful effects of our shared legacy of shame and guilt, but sadness that he suffered for so long with that shame. But, like we always do, we spoke wordlessly, with the love and honesty of our gaze, volumes of mutual respect, admiration and encouragement passing between us.
That night I held the phone as he facetimed with my brother and sister. I watched him tell them how much he was proud of them. He called our partners, Dan, John and Mike, “Good Men” – a phrase he felt unworthy of bearing no matter how many times I forced him to hear it.
He told me often that night that he had acceptance for this moment, that he had lived a good life – the proof of which is seen in his children, his five grandchildren (Brandon, Jennifer, Dylan, Gabe and Leslie). He saw our good deeds as artists, thinkers, and nurturers. And he whispered to me, “maybe by loving and raising you kids, I think I have already changed the world for the better.”
I can say with complete certainty that in the end, my dad did knew how loved he really was.
The only regret I have is that we couldn’t sit down to watch Star Trek: Picard together, my Christmas present that had been waiting for him at home.
I went home from the hospital planning to show up at hospice with the DVDs so we could watch it together, reliving the memories of our special Saturday night KWGN scifi ritual. To hold his hand, creating the same bubble of safety he created for me, allowing the moment to move us.
I wanted to say goodbye by sharing Picard’s journey in that show, as he deals with aging and bravely tries to right the wrongs of his past. That lesson would have reverberated strongly for my dad. I wanted him to see our favorite hero, Jean-Luc Picard, facing his own mortality, amidst a period of political turmoil and growing moral imperatives. I wanted to feel his reaction to this line:
“We have powerful tools: openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity. All they have is secrecy and fear. And fear is the great destroyer.”
The task he’s asked of me, of us really, is to release ourselves of the fear, the shame and especially the guilt of our past so we don’t starve the soul of the unconditional love it needs to thrive. He invites us today to live with a vulnerability of openness, a boundless optimism for our vision and with the imagination of curiosity, the true gifts of our humanity.
And so this becomes my sacred charge and in the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard:
“Make it So”.
For more on grief…
I also made a video about how I’ve been processing this grief. See more here:
Over the past year, I haven’t been quiet about QAnon’s harmful influence within the spirituality and wellness communities, but I haven’t been as vocal as I should have been. By some fluke of fate I had a front row seat to the explosion of QAnon theories in the spiritual, mystical and wellness communities that once welcomed my social justice mind and queer, mystical heart. Today I can’t even bear to look at that time without feeling shame for staying as long as I did. And that guilt persisted during the Insurrection on January 6th.
Most are calling this QAnon incursion into spiritual and wellness circles conspirituality. But for me, calling it “lightwashing” feels more accurate because of the use of “love & light” narratives to absolve oneself of responsibility for collective action on social harm. Even if I didn’t personally get caught in the QAnon spiral of doom, I watched helplessly as whole groups of lightworking, spiritual friends were lightwashed into this strange, cruel, incongruent reality. I feel a responsibility to share what I learned during that time, a responsibility to share what insight I have about their beliefs and behaviors and why it is so perniciously awful.
Exploiting the vulnerability of the pandemic
I first became aware of QAnon in late 2017 when I started seeing an increased presence of “We are Q” signs prominently bouncing around at Trump rallies. Since I’m suspicious of anything that aligns with the former president’s self-aggrandizement and violent rhetoric, I did a bit of research to find that it was yet another 4Chan spin-off, this time with a constructed mystique of anonymity, creating a mystery for the relentlessly overstimulated incels of 4Chan to chew on and later weaponize against women (more on that later)
It was a violent movement from the start, cheering on a bloody end: predicting “The Storm” which presumably is when Trump would round up prominent Democrats, arresting them and eventually executing them. QAnon can’t exist without its lust for blood.
Here is what the New York Times was saying in August of 2018:
The paranoid worldview has crossed over from the internet into the real world several times in recent months. On more than one occasion, people believed to be followers of QAnon have shown up — sometimes with weapons — in places that the character told them were somehow connected to anti-Trump conspiracies….”The biggest danger is you are one mentally unstable person away from the next massive incident that defines whatever happens next,” Mr. (Ben) Decker said.“From 2018: Explaining QAnon, the Internet Conspiracy Theory That Showed Up at a Trump Rally” The New York Times, 8/1/2018
And although I had researched QAnon enough to recognize its dangers, I went down the rabbit hole just enough to see the face of their message, insidiousness of its tactics and goals. I hoped, rather than believed, that it would just go away.Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been struggling with what to write about “Insurrection Day” or at least that’s what I’m calling it. What else should we call the day a violent, seditious, coercively gullible mob attacked the U.S. Capitol building? White Supremacy Wednesday?
I spent the day feeling the suffering of a country whose heart was ripping in two, in real-time on live TV. My heart was dropped back into all that my generation has endured – the AIDS crisis, the Challenger explosion, Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11. I felt the same sickness, the bile, the disbelief, the familiar taste of crushing defeat transforming into cynically validating disassociative doomscrolling.
January 6, 2021 – A Day of Epiphany for the United States
It wasn’t until today that I recognized the timing of this event. Not just in relationship to the certification of electors, but with a Christianity that I thought I left behind. But in it, I found the message I most needed to share.
See, January 6th is the day Christians celebrate the epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas (depends on specific traditions). It celebrates the day the Magi came to visit the newly born Christ child, bestowing gifts upon him as a king, a celebration and recognition of his divinity. It is celebrated as a manifestation of the divine’s presence here on earth, a recognized symbol of a higher purpose and connection. It is a day of holy celebration. Like, literally – celebrating the holiness of Christ.
The overlap between those who call themselves Christian and those who scaled walls, attacked guards, and stole furniture is, I imagine, very nearly a full circle. All of the QAnon videos assume some affiliation to Christianity – even the mystic woo-woo generated videos. They rely on creating an “Army of Light” for Christ, for Christ Consciousness, for battling Lucifer in some epic stand-off between good & evil. They presume to think you agree, by default, that not only is there a Devil, but that you must weaponize against anyone who believes differently than them because any opponent is automatically under his control.
Or so they say. If you ask me, it’s an easy way to morally and spiritually justify planning sabotage, sedition and homicide. A self-fulfilling prophecy that was intricately designed perpetuate its own paranoia and anxiety through reinforced mechanisms of manipulation and authoritarian beliefs.
But their choice of January 6, a day actual Christians had once honored their divine Savior, was turned into a day of bloodshed, selfishness and moral bankruptcy. Instead of celebrating the holy presence of their own god figure, they chose to play god. It wasn’t just the election that motivated their actions, it was a deep desire to reassert their superiority over everyone else. If they can disrupt our government, no one will dare stand in their way. They wanted to prove their own invincibility to the rest of us.
They expected their whiteness to serve as a shield. They expected their positions of power to be waiting for them when they got back, whether it be a boardroom, a classroom, a pulpit or an elected office. They expected their dicks to generate a “benefit of the doubt” force field to keep them safe from criticism. They expected their version of “free speech” to protect them from their lack of impulse control. They decided that their cause was just because fighting the “Devil” in form of Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence is their god-given duty.
They are so devoid, so out of touch with their own divinity that they have to use force, coercion and bullying to feel their power. They create villains to slay so they feel bigger and badder. But eventually the only monster left will be the one in the mirror, the one they refuse to face.
The Devil is our favorite scapegoat
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but, There Is No Devil. Crazy, right?
See, civilizations throughout the world have described battles of good vs. evil, of light vs. dark, of day vs. night. Humanity loves its dramatic dualistic battles for justice. The bad guys are always bad, the good guys are always good. There has to be a winner and a loser. Those are the rules. Amen.
But the reality of humanity is that we’re waging a war closer to that of Dr. Jekyll &. Mr. Hyde. Our own darkness became too much for us to admit, so we externalized it, molded it into avatars of our own shadow selves, projected images of fear for us to blame.
Those who are familiar with tarot are familiar with the representation of the Devil card – Baphomet – a horned creature that is half man and half goat. The depiction quite literally is symbolic of creating a scapegoat. Someone to blame when we give into our temptations or allow our shadow selves to take the driver’s seat. Scapegoating is possible when we externalize and project our own thoughts, words, and actions onto another being, we absolve ourselves from bearing the responsibility of those things. The classic “The Devil Made Me Do It”.
What if all this time the battle hasn’t been against a separate entity, but a battle against our own worst natures? That there is no Devil figure spreading evil across the earth. There is no cosmic villain to blame for what is happening in our country right now. There is no single mastermind out to destroy God. The King of Hell doesn’t give a shit about bargaining for our souls. He or she isn’t waiting around for us to innocently pass by or hunting us like some sinister collector of holy relics.
No, I believe the evil in the world can be traced directly back to us. To our fear. To our hatred. To our ignorance. To our pride. To our jealousy. To our entitlement.
There is no devil; there is only us.
Pathetic, lonely, cringing, victimized. Us.
Enraged, bullying, threatening, controlling. Us.
The evil in this world – for example, a seditious and treasonous coup, is of our doing. No one was forced to walk up the steps of that building. No one forced the same people who screamed “Blue Lives Matter” at all us all summer to use their crutches and American flags to beat an unconscious Capitol Police officer. No one was forced into any of this. No, they just needed an excuse, something to blame.
But they won’t blame the person actually responsible, who pledged his support as he whipped them into a fury, deftly playing their tune, knowing just how to twist, lie and manipulate them into doing his dirty work for him. A mass indoctrination of rabid minions, snarling and ready for the faux righteousness of drawing first blood.
In positioning the President as a “savior”, as some sort of divine messenger, they are able to create a self-sustaining loop of obedience and excuses. It isn’t Trump who’s to blame, it’s the mainstream media for not giving him enough attention. Any form of censorship of their batshit posturing is viewed as evidence incarnate of their suffering and the sinister plot against their FFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEDOOOOMMMM! It is a self-perpetuating loop of dubious group think that represents one the most reprehensible applications of manipulation we’ve ever seen. They are expendable to him, heartsick masculinity willing to die, impervious to introspection.
By convincing themselves they are fighting some Devil, they convince themselves that their cause is righteous and just. That they’re preventing great evil from taking over the earth. And yet, it is truly their own failure and denial of their shadow that is the true boss battle. Their divinity hides behind layers of false victimization and the violent rage it inspires.
But the Epiphany that is most needed is to face the Devil within. Unity will emerge once the shadow has been exposed and balance is restored. The most compassionate, loving response we can have right now is to hold them accountable – to shine a light on the failed commitment to something larger than ourselves. To shine a light on actions that break faith with our values. To take responsibility for remedying and realigning with the common good.
But for that to happen, we have to let go of the Devils we blame for the worst of ourselves. Accountability is the only thing that will come close to giving us the national healing we need and to face the darkness we’ve accumulated. For in facing the Devil within, we find a way to recover our own light and divinity.
CW: suicide, sexual assault, awakenings, healing
The best gift, the most uplifting present I could have given myself this year for my birthday is the gift of being authentic and real with myself.
I am no stranger to introspection. I can navel gaze with the best of them. And as exhausted as I’ve been I’ve never truly hidden from the dark stuff in my life, the intense inner work of healing that I’ve needed to do. But like most of us, I was frustrated and tired with all this work, feeling like I was on a never-ending grind that was wearing me thin rather than building me up. I was doing the heavy lifting, I was picking up every stone, examining each brick of my wounded tower of self. What was I missing?
At no time was that frustration more apparent than in 2012 when I truly learned how trauma reverberates reverberations to create an everlasting static that clouds the mind. A constant buzz reminding me that the world was inherently unsafe. An undercurrent that made me question whether I was inherently unsafe for myself or those around me. Doubting every single fraction of my value.
Trauma is a dream killer
My brain became twisted up with these messages of my burdensome distortions. I couldn’t see straight anymore and nor could I see a way through such devastating destruction in my life. It wasn’t just that there was one trauma I had to deal with – I had several that were presenting all at the same time setting off alarm bells all over my psyche. Post-traumatic stress kept me up constantly with nightmares, twitching pain throughout my body, night terrors where I was screaming and crying for hours at a time. I’d wake in the morning with puffy, raw eyes and a wounded spirit. There was no joy to my day because I knew I would only be facing more horrors at night.
I wasn’t well. A sleep study told me I had sleep apnea, which didn’t actually explain why I couldn’t fall asleep in the first place. Why my ears were sensitive to every sound – I swear I could hear my dog fart three rooms away. It didn’t explain why I started having recurring nightmares of being surrounded by white pine trees on fire. It didn’t explain that the night my childhood abuser died was the night those same dreams from childhood started up again for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Nope, that was trauma.
And that trauma was augmented by a childhood prophesy I had held secret from all but the closest of partners: When I was 6, in my nightly prayers, Jesus told me I wouldn’t live past 35, similar to how old he was when he, too, died for humanity. When I received my calling in 1990, I dedicated everything to that one purpose because after all, I knew my time here was limited. I believed in this prophecy so strongly that for the longest time I refused to even consider marriage or having children. I was labeled as having a fear of commitment, but given what I believed, can you blame me?
I took that belief to heart – and when I turned 16 years old, I found my birthday to be the best time for a true examination of conscience. I started to reject presents and attention, shying away from parties or celebrations in my honor. And like most things, I did my birthday the Janet Way – I turned a day of celebration into a solitary, reverent ritual of reconciliation, of journeying into a dark night of the soul to view my failures with brutal honesty and a penitent heart. I mentally flaggellated myself for the imperfections that got in the way of being a perfect example of love for humanity. It didn’t matter that my scope was so limited or that I was human. I was here only for a short time and so I needed to ensure that everything I did adhered to the highest of my ethical guidelines, my calling’s potential.
Since 1993, each year my birthday has been punctuated by a private ritual where I confess my sins to the Divine and accept punishment and penance for my sins. Each and every year, I buried myself in self-absorbed sorrow for my failings, of the ways I had disappointed those around me or the divine with my weakness and cowardice, my avarice and selfishness. The more that people celebrated me the more I punished myself for the weakness of needing that attention, my cowardice at not standing up for myself to push away presents. Eventually I got to the point where each December I would change my birthday on Facebook to a day earlier in the year so that it wouldn’t show up in notifications and I could avoid the unnecessary attention.
But there is something beautiful as well. It became a time for me to look back on the events and actions of the past year and truly empathize with those who I have hurt, especially those who I hurt with my selfishness. There are always many, many hurts for me to delve into. But when it’s over I am cleansed. I am forgiven. I am renewed to my divine purpose once again. A once-a-year reconciliation.
The Dream that Saved My Life
Part of the reason 2012 was so hard was because I had this looming deadline over my head. A prophesy that I wouldn’t make it past that age, that I would be sacrificed to the gods of exhaustion and obscurity. So even if I hadn’t been going through all the trauma, the bar exam, the death of an abuser, the separation of my family, I would have been paranoid about this ticking clock over my head. But the trauma only made that ticking clock yet another thing I couldn’t control.
So around Thanksgiving, after my sons’ birthdays (they’re 6 days shy of 6 years apart), I felt the need to control something – anything – about my experience in life. I couldn’t control what was happening int he rest of my world and certainly not what was happening to even my basic need for sleep, but I could control the outcome of this prophesy. I didn’t fear death, but I didn’t want to die in an accident or of a disease I couldn’t control. And even though my cosmic pledge was “Thy will be done”, I wasn’t going to leave this up to chance. If I was going to be parted from my loved ones and my calling, it was going to be on my terms only and with the knowledge I had a chance to say goodbye.
I started planning my suicide.
By this time in my life I was doing my dark birthday ritual a night or two before the actual day. I had relented that my family could still wish me a happy birthday – so if I did the ritual earlier in the week I wouldn’t be so distraught when someone wished me “Happy Birthday!”. I might despise it, but I wouldn’t outright reject the person saying it. I didn’t want to commit suicide, but it was literally the only way I felt I could reassert myself over the trauma of my own timeline, planning out how my family would move on without me. I planned the ritual for a few nights before and told myself that if I didn’t receive a clear message from the Divine by that date telling me otherwise by then, I would follow through on the plan.
I laid down to sleep on 12/12/12 and woke up the next morning from a dream that was so crystal clear, so somatically significant that it changed my life forever. A dream presenting me with a love so powerful that it filled me with more joy than I had ever felt before in my life. A cosmic reunion of souls, a Druid for the Queen in me, each of us supporting the other’s mission, an oasis of wisdom and sensuality between the storms. I saw a version of myself that I always wanted to be, one that was so deeply resonant that I have used it as blueprint for the life I am creating today: the Queen.
It was only then that I realized I was about to enact a plan based on the interpretations of a six year old me. I knew then that 35 wasn’t going to be the end, 35 would be the beginning.
Here is what I wrote back then:
“In the year 2012, 5 days before what many, including myself, feel is a shift in the consciousness of humanity, I turn 35. Ever since I was 6 years old, I have believed that I would never make it past 35, so this is the one birthday I have honed in on as more life-altering than the rest. I can feel something big about to make its way into my life. A new beginning and everything spiritual tells me it will be a time of great independence and bold action. This dream confirms all of that in a very real way that is hard to deny. I have to move boldly forth with power and confidence into this new year, this new life, this new adventure and trust my heart and my skill to be my guides….as I once did, but in a brand new way.JKRose, 2012
In all, I have the power to make this happen. Maybe not with the actual man in the dream (although I’ll never turn that down!), but certainly with what he (the Lover) represents. A union. A magnetic attraction. A fulfillment of purpose based on a risk of vulnerability, emotional chemistry, and sensual spirituality. The breaking of the dam that has held me too steady for too long. A loss of control that is mutual, consensual ,and completely magnificent in its beauty. I will have to take the step to make the changes that I see in this dream. I have no doubt about this. But I know it can be done. And I know I’ve found the path to reclaiming my soulful purpose again.”
Embracing the re-birth day
Here I am 8 years later – I made it!
I have arrived at this promised destination. Despite my optimism above, I took the long way to wade through my own trauma, to unravel the knots that have been holding me back. I had to resolve the threads of active retraumatization – the ripples that interrupted the calm I was trying to achieve. I had to resolve the distortions I still saw in the mirror, reflected in my life. I had to finally make the hard choice to choose myself. So when I left my job a year ago, all throughout COVID, I’ve been healing my weary heart, tearing off the layers of heartache that keep me from trusting myself.
I’ve engaged several healers throughout the years to help me with the issues that have been holding me back and making me feel small. But that help is meaningless if I’m not willing to confront all the ways those old beliefs where self-sacrifice is an expected penance for the crimes of who I am and who I’ve disappointed. But it’s only been in the last year, when i rejected the career-climbing hustle, when I removed myself from the practice of law (and its culture of dominance, emotional denial and brutal nitpicking) that I started to see who i was without all of these things. Sure, I haven’t passed a policy agenda or secured as many clients as I want to, but I’m enjoying existence more. I’m enjoying the freedom to determine my own day and to forgive my errors quickly so I can move on. I had to be free of the critics sitting on my shoulder, winding me up with hyperbolic stories of my failures, stirring up old traumas with each triggering hurt.
The work I have done to integrate this hurt, to transform the stories of an old, scared version of me is the leadership I’ve been called to. To be the example. The impossible Rose growing in the cold, dark of winter. To be a symbol of resilience achieved through Love, an avatar of tenacity in the face of overwhelming trauma.
My ritual was quite different this year – cut into two parts.
In the first, I surrendered my woes to Our Lady of Guadalupe on 12/12, keeping a vigil at my altar to her, surrounded by the red, white and pink fire & ice roses that symbolize my new calling. I encountered past lives that needed healing. And for the first time in my life, I was able to heal myself the way I’ve healed others. I cried and purged the memories of the past, rewriting old stories to tell a new truth about my life. I touched the wounds of my ancestors and set them free of the burden of our collective, inherited sexual shame and guilt for our failures throughout these lifetimes. I am the best of what they came here to do and it is my job to release them of the inter-generational trauma I carry, to gently forgive and heal the only way I know how.
That night between rituals, the anniversary of this life-altering dream 8 years ago, I was gifted with a momentary glimpse at what my partners see in me. And I was moved. I saw myself as I did in that dream. I realized in that moment that I had arrived. I would never be able to unsee that image of myself as laughing grace and overwhelming love, the true impossibility of my radiance. Why so many had seen me as their lighthouse, a constancy of light emerging in the darkness, reminding them they’re not alone.
For a moment, I understood what it had all been for. And I was transported to a core of myself I never saw before. I was finally ready to let go of the cords binding my heart. I was finally free.
By time I laid out everything I needed to start my true birthday ritual on Sunday night, I was entirely at peace and even excited for this celebration and, I daresay, coronation.
I celebrated and anointed my rebirth as the Impossible December Rose, taking a new name for my calling: La Madonna Rosa. And just as Juan Diego, or Cuauhtlatoatzin, his birth name, brought roses growing on Tepeyac to prove to the bishop Our Lady’s /Tonantizin’s appearance, I am here to bring people to the truth of miracles available within if they just believe. I am here to show the beauty that is waiting for them, the true miracle of integration and oneness. That night through to the morning of the eclipse, I danced, chanted, meditated and eventually took vows to step into my new role. The role presented in that fated dream, accepting the new responsibilities and directives. But most of all finally accepting myself as the Divine Leader I was meant to become.
Even though I’m still a bit of a control freak (what Queen isn’t?), I found my heart again and it is open and ready to shine forth. Profuse with affection and passion for humanity. Overflowing with gratitude for the generosity of my time here on earth, valuing every moment of every day to live out my purpose, including, and especially caring for myself. I am finally ready to serve humanity exactly as I am, in the only way I know how: as a reflection of the impossible resilience of humanity’s light in all its tender imperfections and blessed depths within us all.
A little about who I am professionally
Since I started this blog in 2011 I’ve been mindful about how I connect this blog to my professional life. But I also know that in order to let go of some of the trauma issues that have held me back, I have to forge a much more integrated, far less compartmentalized version of myself. This includes connecting the dots between the woman who talks about polyamory and consent to the woman who engages with holistic systemic change, all wrapped up with the hopes of inclusivity and accessibility.
What will always be consistent about me is my sincere desire to serve humanity in every aspect of my life. My radar is always attuned to tracking the ebb and flow of interconnectedness between each of us, especially when we engage in spiritual or systemic dynamics. I see the beautiful, magnificent brilliance of light that shines from each of us and how that connects, enhances, and amplifies the light of others. Every single one of us matter.
It has been 20 years since I went to law school, since I sat for my first torts exam or used a 4-color pen to book brief a case. The process of learning speaks so deeply to me – I miss being in school, but I’m also impatient for that learning to lead….somewhere. I have always sought to be a woman of action, a woman of substance and since I was a kid, I only ever wanted to serve humanity through acts of love honed with the sharp sword of justice. My priority in all aspects of my life, but especially professionally has been to ensure that no one gets left behind, no one is treated as “less than” or “undeserving”, and to not add to the burdens that people are carrying in their lives.
All people really want is to be seen and heard for who they are
That love of learning took me to take a class on trauma informed care when I was a mediator in private practice back in 2012. It changed everything for me. It gave me a term for something that I intuitively knew was the right thing to do but didn’t have the brain science to explain why. Once I recognized that what I was feeling about myself and about how people treated me, the mediator, during sessions, I started to recognize the patterns of my own trauma that were playing out during sessions. It explained not just my clients’ reactions, but the ones that were playing out for me under the surface.
Once I learned how to be trauma informed the biggest thing I noticed is just how shitty we were, as a society, at meeting people where they are. We are constantly pushing people to “just get over it” or to deny the severity of how a comment, action or even policy made them feel. I was a successful mediator in that I got people to transform conflict into something more positive, but often I was working harder than they were to recognize that the constant fighting, hypervigilance, and avoidance were all trauma reactions.
It’s not an understatement to say that my life has intersected quite often with trauma, both my own and others’. Over the years I’ve been transparent with my story because I know others have been through something similar, might be struggling the same ways I have (or am), and need a glimmer of recognition that will help them not feel so alone. By making myself visible, even at this moment, I have a hope of helping others feel seen through my own reflection and storytelling.
One of the most valuable concepts I learned as a mediator is how critical it is for the human psyche to feel seen and heard, to be recognized, valued, and appreciated for the insight and experience we bring. And that is especially highlighted during conflict. The temptation is to win the fight, to shout down our opponent, to view everything as us vs. them. We often fail to truly see and hear see one another when our brain is too busy defending ourselves. And yet, most of the time, people have similar goals and objectives in mind, the same problem they want to solve, but each of them are only seeing a small piece of the puzzle, not the overall picture. And when you truly make space for someone to be authentic and real, you make room to find solutions together.
So why is trauma-informed care important?
How much different could our relationships be if, instead of nagging our partner until they snap at us, we recognized that there might be more to the behavior than the ulterior motives we ascribe and assume. How might we change our approach if we recognized that our words and behavior triggers something stored deeply in their bodies that they aren’t able to cope with at that moment? For example, maybe our partner snapped at us because their last partner used to throw things at them when they didn’t “obey” and they’re immediately defensive because our nagging triggered that embedded reaction for them?And what if they knew that by calling our normal request for help “nagging” they used a deeply stigmatized cultural description that likewise triggers shame reactions from our own childhood?
Is there a better way to relate that doesn’t leave us hostile and on edge?
While trauma-informed care isn’t a cure-all, it is a framework for how we can be more conscious of how we relate to one another. And with COVID increasing levels of trauma and toxic stress for everyone, it’s even more critical that we develop some skills so that we don’t inadvertently add to anyone’s trauma, least of all, our own. For us to have our best chance of truly beating COVID, we need to develop skills that allow us to increase our empathy. We are challenged to give people a soft place to land while we slowly reconstruct what “normal” looks like.
So why Trauma-Informed Social Change?
Trauma-Informed Change is a societal shift toward the empathetic recognition, respect, and reduction of the widespread impact of trauma on the world.
A trauma-informed society acts to mitigate retraumatization and avoids the addition of new traumas.
When we are trauma-informed, we are saying:
- I respect that you’ve been through some stuff….
- Because I’ve been through some stuff too and I recognize how that feels in myself…
- So, even if we can fix the things we’ve been through, we promise to…
- 1) to not needlessly reopen old wounds; and
- 2) at least not add new ones.
My professional website says:
My vision for humanity is a more compassionate, just & sustainable world created through trauma-informed, heart-centered leadership. By preventing and healing the toxic trauma and shame imposed by misaligned systems, organizational dysfunction, and interpersonal relationships, we create a meaningful & accessible experience of equality and justice for all.Janet Rose
And frankly, the most trauma informed thing I can for myself and for others in 2021 is to show people that resilience is possible. Like seeing Bruce Wayne and Batman in the same space, we need to be able to believe that we can get through this as integrated, whole people, instead of fractured, fragmented, and alone. We need to have the #RadiantResilience to not only recognize the vulnerability of the collective trauma we are experiencing right now, but the inherent strength it took for us to still be here, no matter how weak or exhausted we might feel.
I am here to share that not only is resilience possible, but that we can actually contribute directly to building it for a new world. As more structures that have enforced systemic trauma, like police violence and food insecurity, are challenged and dismantled, we need systems that are more responsive to the generations of trauma we are carrying in our bones. And at the very least, how amazing would it be if even just once in a day, we consciously chose not to add to another’s burden, not to add trauma or retraumatization to an already difficult day?
What might happen if each of us chose to simply not add trauma or retraumatization for even just one person each day? Below is one of the videos from my YouTube channel where I share my thoughts about how that might look.
I believe a more loving, just, and sustainable world is possible if we choose to show up and truly see people.
Even if all we do is nod to show “I respect what has happened to you and I’ll treat you with the dignity you deserve for that”, it would go a long way to demonstrating the love and sensitivity we want to see for our future.
This year I celebrated the 30th Anniversary of my Calling. While this is a story I’ve shared before audiences of true believers and benevolent skeptics with donuts and orange juice in the back of old church halls. This month was the first time I chose to share this story as deeply as I feel it, hoping that it resonates with folks who are currently answering a calling that matters to them. I recognize myself in each of them, hoping they are better prepared than I was, but grateful for the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
This Origin Story is deeply embedded in my heart. Enjoy!
Edited from original published at #OneHeartOneEarth
The vision on a crowded hill
The clouds were sparse on Apparition Hill (Podbrdo) that night. It was a clear, summer’s eve, a handful of days after the Summer Solstice. It was also the 9th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia (Bosnia-Herzegovina) to six local children. Back when it was still a Communist country. But on June 25, 1990, I climbed that hill with hundreds of thousands of others. All with the hope of catching a glimpse of the divine.
I was a 12-year-old girl from Colorado, praying with thousands of others, longing for the proximity to one of Mary’s visionaries, Ivan Dragicevic, as he led his rosary group. Murmurs of prayers could be heard in dozens of languages on the hill that night. The power of that moment was undeniably pure. Humans from all over the globe gathered in a moment of peace, of hope, of love, brought together by Our Lady. Miracles of faith witnessed in the everyday kindness we offered to each other amongst the sharp stones and pitch-black shadows. We removed barriers so everyone could witness this event.
But others didn’t see what I did that night. I saw the cross marking the spot of the first apparition disappears from the landscape. I saw the stars glow brighter, suddenly free of the haze of pollution. I saw the hands of Our Lady, gold sleeves slowly coming into view. I saw her hands outstretched before me, open and inviting. Her hands motioned over the crowd in blessing. And even though someone stood up in front of me, interrupting the vision, I was able to get them to sit long enough for me to see the stars move from the heavens to form a cross of gentle, magnificent light. Time stood still and moved too fast all at the same time. I was dumbfounded, moved to tears, overthinking as I always did. I didn’t want to believe what had just happened. I wasn’t worthy. I blurted the whole thing out in short, sobbing sentences to my mom as the group continued the rosary.
When they announced that she was wearing a gown of golden light, in celebration of her anniversary there, I knew. When they announced she gave a very special blessing to the crowd gathered there that night – that we were being asked to give her blessing to others, I knew. When they announced that she departed in a cross of light, not only did I know, but then my mom understood as well. When they confirmed everything that I saw…I knew but didn’t want to believe. I knew I was being called to something bigger than myself. I knew I would never be the same person ever again.
And then I came home…
What I really needed in that first year was a welcome packet for “How to Be a Catholic Visionary”. Even though I saw the hands of Mary, it didn’t mean I knew what it meant or what to do with it. I had nothing to anchor myself when others tried to use me to push their agenda. At twelve years old, in 7th grade, I was piecing this together for myself.
Little old ladies were thrusting me to the front of their rosary groups, giving me uncomfortable importance that I felt was entirely unearned. I was embarrassed as they lined up for me to lay hands on them. Is that something I was even supposed to be doing? Is that really what was asked of me? The more they expected of me, begging for favors for themselves while sharing judgmental comments behind my back, it placed an inhibiting spotlight on me that made me even more self-conscious and doubtful of myself.
The pressure for perfection became nearly synonymous with my calling in those first two years. My imperfections seemed to be an indictment of my unworthiness. Not only was I exploding with hormones as an adolescent, but I felt like I was being watched for any minor mistake, rosary-laden ladies waiting for me to fail so they could feel better about their own faith. So I made mistakes on purpose – offering them larger concerns than the micromanagement of my life that would fuel my anxiety for years to come.
The closest thing I had to a true compass in those early years, besides my parents, was a visit by Fr. Rene Laurentin, a Catholic priest giving a talk in town about the scientific testing he’s done on the Medjugorje visionaries. The organizers made sure I was invited to a private dinner with him, a not-so-subtle hope that he would validate my vision. I dreaded it. Despite my stated wishes, the ladies pushed the issue and he asked to hear my story.
It dribbled out like an apology, anticipating his rejection. Each sentence was dripping with, “I know you think I’m crazy, which is totally okay, I probably am.” He listened quietly as his translator relayed the message. I searched his face for the doubt, the denial of the authenticity of the vision. Instead, he relayed a story of other children my age all across the world who have had similar visions. One only saw Our Lady’s eyes, another saw her feet. In fact, these “partial” visions were more common than I had known.
“Mary’s is asking whether you will serve as her Hands here on earth. Do you accept, child?” he said in all seriousness.
Even as I relay this story, thirty years wiser, my eyes are filling with tears of blissful joy. Because I finally had a purpose. All of this doubt, all of these signs were for a reason. I wouldn’t need anything else ever in my life. Just this. I only wanted to live a life of service to the Divine. At that moment, in the middle of a steakhouse, I smelled roses. This was Mary asking me to serve as her hands through this wizened French priest.
A calling requires consent
My first awakening wasn’t the vision itself, so much as the divine purpose attached to it. Smelling roses that night was the start of understanding that other people didn’t get to dictate what my calling was. That Mary would tell me, through that sign and others, when a message was meant for me or when an opportunity required my energy. I was called to devote my life to something bigger than myself, even if it hurt, even if it cost me. I could endure anything with the love of the Divine, a sacred bond that no one else gets to define. The little old ladies, the well-intentioned priests, parents, gurus, even the bishop, none of them could tell me what I saw or what Mary asked me to do. The gravity of my calling, the patterns of how Our Lady speaks to me, the signs I see along the way, are my purpose, my joy and mine to choose. No one else is capable of living it for me or taking it away from me. Only I have the power to say “no” or “yes” when I am called. I have the power of consent.
I say yes to that call each time I stand up for those more vulnerable than me. I say yes when I amplify marginalized voices, using my privilege to hold the door open so they can charge in and kick some ass and when I step back to listen and learn more. I say yes when I touch a lover’s most intimate soul-wounds with unconditional acceptance. I say yes when I embrace the darkest shadow forces of this world with the light of my love. I have walked through chaos and created peace through my passion for service. I have held a light for others as they face their own dark night of the soul. I channel empathy and transform suffering. I am living my life as a testament of love, even when it hurts, even when I think I can’t go on. I say yes.
Once I understood my purpose, once I understood that I wasn’t there to fulfill others’ expectations for my calling, I forged my own path. I know so much more now than I did before. I know how to better discern the signs, how to better meet the challenges asked of me, when and how to ask for help. And I know my work continues to this day as I work to dismantle systems and beliefs that keep us stuck in our illusions of separation and lack. I will always serve gladly as the hands, reaching to offer proof that we are truly all connected. Hand to hand. Heart to heart.
To follow a calling is to share the voice of your heart
But more than anything, I have been called to share my story with you. Here. Today. Sharing my heart this way is the true joy of what I do because I want you to know that this is possible for you as well. It was only when I chose to let go of what others expected me to be that I found the natural flow of my light, my connection to the true potential of my highest self. It is has given me the courage to do the impossible, to live an extraordinary life of love.
And because this post insisted on coming out this month, if something about the words, the images, the emotions resonates with you, consider this your sign from the Divine! Is there a slender, delicate proof of your own truth contained in these words?
This is the Divine’s way of reaching out to say hello, inviting you into a deeper union.
I’m here to affirm that this bigger-than-you thing that you’ve been called to do…yes, you ARE worthy. It is never too late. Awakening happens.
Right. On. Time.
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