Monthly Archives: December 2020
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.