Yesterday I was writing a post just to share some of the magic that has arrived as I write my first novel, but what came out rather unexpectedly was this reclamation of self, the third part of my Embracing my Shadow Self series:
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’m no stranger to enduring trauma and challenge. And while most times I’m able to handle quite a bit, my tolerance over the past few years has been waning under the pressure of what we’re experiencing as a people, which is a common reaction for most empaths.
I usually pride myself on being able to read the messages of the universe. The little signals and signs that point to the areas in my life that need attention, the ambitions that are worth pursuing, the battles that are worth fighting, the people who need my healing touch. I was especially talented at seeing the deeper, emotional needs of others. Where they needed validation or encouragement. Where they needed cleansing and forgiveness.
But I have been fighting for my own survival for so long, that I lost track of not just my own needs, but the talents that make me unique. It became harder to connect with people, harder to recognize the radiance I knew was there in them. I lost track of the reasons why I can and should love myself, making it harder to access my love for others.
And it wasn’t until I fully committed to writing my story that things really started to shift, breaking open my heart so I could find my love once again. This is the prelude and epilogue to this story of deep shadow work and forgiveness, finding love for myself again.
How I lost my love: Burnout
I’ve always had a precarious relationship with self-esteem, but the one thing I could always count on is my heart had room for everyone (Red Rose Hotel). Love was second nature to me: I fell in love, just a little, with everyone I met. I might not be able to immediately remember their names and their faces might momentarily fade from memory, but they have a little room in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone. They can come and go as they wish, some might need extra security screenings or a deposit to get back in, but for the most part if I’ve met you and exchanged more than a few words with you, you have a place in my heart.
Growing up, that was always the one thing that no one could take away from me. I could be proud that I was a caring person who loved people with freedom and acceptance. My love is genuine, it’s true, it’s a celebration of the radiance I find within each and every person I know. That massive, loving heart was how I could disarm people and accomplish my goals: by truly seeing and loving them as they are.
But now, I was under pressure constantly – made worse by the ways in which I couldn’t care for myself, it was wearing me down. Instead of making room for more love in my life, I shut my big heart down, fearing I would infect everyone around me with the toxic stress it was carrying for everyone else.
As impressive as my old job was, I was greeted everyday with reminders of my own trauma while trying to avoid absorbing the trauma of my clients and team. I fell further and further behind, always activated, always under fire and not taking care of myself well enough to be able to cope. It didn’t matter how many times I told my team to set good boundaries, I never could for myself. So I took on extra duties, worked until 2 am regularly, worked evenings and weekends while habitually skipping meals. But no matter what I did to try to keep up, it was never going to heal the heart that was constantly breaking under the weight of systems of trauma.
For a while I could still go through the motions of love. I could say the right things, I could make the right gestures, but I couldn’t -feel- myself the way I used to. I wasn’t even looking to recover an old me, I was just looking to be able to delight in others with a depth of daring and boldness of openness that would help us all feel more free. I missed that part of myself so much, a part that was always the core of my confidence: my belief that my love would always keep me safe.
But that’s what trauma does – it twists our love, our innocence, our belief in others – into something inherently unsafe. It shows us the love we gave and says, “see, you were always wrong!”. It replays our trust and says, “you must have poor judgment”. It reverberates our light, and says, “It was never enough”. It convinces us that not only is the world unsafe, but we are unsafe for ourselves. After all, it was us who chose to trust someone (we later found out) we shouldn’t. It was us who ignored the signs (that we only saw after) and did it anyway. It was us who chose to put our hearts on the line (where someone later betrayed us) and lived to regret the tale. We convince ourselves that we are unworthy of healing because somewhere deep inside there is a thread of us that is afraid that we did this to ourselves and it’s only a matter of time before we’re found unworthy of our needs actually being met.
Trauma caused me to spend most of my life thinking that I was a burden to others. My safety came from being able to anticipate the needs of others and conform myself around that. I was so scared of disappointing people, so scared I was running out of chances to be human with them, that I put extraordinary effort toward “perfection”, which caused my deepest levels of panic. Anticipating how to avoid the rejection of others was my means of survival, but it also became the way I unraveled. Over and over, I found confirmation that my authentic best was never going to be enough.
Not being able to access my love clouded my vision so much. I see with my heart as much as my eyes. I see with my crown as much as my third eye. But when I at my worst just two years ago, I couldn’t see even the possibility of love for me outside of the partnerships sustaining me. I couldn’t see the possibility of a future for myself at all. I ran away from anyone who called me attractive or asked me out. I couldn’t see what was special about me and thus what about me was worth fighting to stay and share.
But one persistent idea stood out in my mind: I had this story patterned around the Flower of Life, a story I needed to tell. A story that was bursting out of me at random times of the day and night. A story I couldn’t leave the earth without sharing.
And to tell that story I would need to choose myself. I would need to choose setting boundaries. I would need to choose to be a writer and use that gift to finally confront and forgive myself.
An invitation to unlock my love
But while I did choose myself by leaving my old job and even the practice of law, I still hadn’t chosen to be a writer. I was still chasing what I thought would keep me “acceptable” to others. I was choosing to be the lawyer, the teacher, the trainer, the leadership consultant. The problem wasn’t that these things weren’t authentic to me, it was that I was trying to make those things conform to what I thought people expected out of me instead of allowing who I am to inform those roles. I was still trying to contort myself to pleasing others.
And so I was still missing the signs. First, I dismissed the crows who would caw happily whenever I was outside casually outlining my book. Then, I dismissed the serendipitous occurrence of roses or thunderstorms happening in my life when I was debating whether to write. I convinced myself that I was “seeing only what I want to see”. I was more willing to believe I was lying to myself than what the signs were trying to tell me: take the plunge into writing. I was in such denial that I even minimized the advice of my husband, my actual favorite writer, who kept telling me that “writing is your day job and leadership coaching is just your side gig”. Fake news!
It wasn’t until I did Holy Fire Reiki I & II training in April 2021 that the truth started to blossom within me. It talked to me first through imagery. The images and stories came to me fast, a flash of stories that has taken me months to fully pull apart and comprehend. Obstacles were removed to clear my vision, to illuminate the paths available to me. Showing me all the possibilities, but ultimately asking me to follow my heart. My heart had been dormant for so long, I didn’t know how to access the creative fire within to even know which path I wanted to take.
But two weeks after training, the same week I put my dog to sleep, the Spider Queen finally revealed herself. She showed up as a reminder of how reactionary I became after I was outed in 2006, when I was first told by the world to “lock down” my sexual, sensual self to protect people I loved. I was constantly at odds with myself and especially with my writing. The first few entries of this blog started as a feeble attempt to reclaim my voice, to find some safety in all the loudness of my inner bitch howling to take on the world.
I wibble-wobbled on holding my defenses against these forces that was trying to coerce me into giving up my gifts. But after a few years, I became so distraught, so mad with rage and betrayal, that I finally let it happen. I let her be separated from me. It took a few years, but bit by bit, I tore out this shadow of myself, this temptress supreme, my creative life force and I locked her away. Far away from the rest of the world. I was afraid to ever let her back out again.
When I chose to rip a part of me out, to lock it away in a box, I could no longer say I loved everyone freely. There was one person who could not come and go, who was small and restrained and unacceptable: me.
I locked myself away, shackled to a cage because I blamed myself for all the trauma I had put my family through. Projecting it onto her was the only way I could survive the guilt and shame, the piercing judgments of my self-blame. I cared more about proving to people it wouldn’t ever happen again, than I did for my own fullness. I weakened my magic willingly all so i could be “acceptable” to others.
My dreams tried telling me this, forcing me to face this truth (Part 1), but then in the weeks following my training, following the death of my dog, my psyche brought it to the forefront – I had no choice. It was time for the final confrontation (Part 2). It was inevitable, because if I couldn’t find love in the grosteque face of the Spider Queen, then who was I really?
The moment when love finally won
The encounter, this moment of synergy with this impossible story, changed me. I could feel it cracking through my bones, a growth spurt ready to ignite me into something…more than I could have ever imagined. My light was radiant with the reunion, my heart spinning with a cautious joy at knowing I was releasing her from her bonds. My honesty required me to admit how much I needed her. She even required me to admit how much I needed her. How much I missed her. How much I missed the stories of divine love we wove together.
I missed the full and authentic me.
When I saw her, when I saw the me in her, there was a seed of freedom that began to grow roots within me. A seed that urged me to write about this, to share this story exactly as I saw it, exactly as it was shown to me. An awakening of my voice that I thought was lost to me.
But the real enemy was always patriarchy – all the ways it tried to convince me that my authentic expression was too sexual, too bold, too damaging, too much. These forces work so hard to manipulate powerful goddesses and queens like me, like you, into hollowed shells of our selves. They try to make us feel too fragile and brittle to dare to shine. These powers convinced me that punishing her was the only way to keep those I love safe…from me.
But the radical love, the #RadicalReflections I have to engage with is healing the broken relationship I have with her…healing the separation I forced us to have, choosing to make her an ally, to harness our energy for the epic destruction of patriarchy’s machinery of lies.
For the greater glory of love
What I wouldn’t admit until literally just this week is that I had secretly wanted to be a writer all my life. I won awards in school for writing and even had a few of my poems published. It seemed like the far-off thing that other people did, that other people succeeded at. Not some plucky little girl from Pueblo, so I never really considered it for my future career.
From as early as I could remember, I took the idea of reconciliation quite seriously. Ever since I was a little girl, I felt like I needed to give up something that brought me joy in order to make things right for my mistakes – giving up my favorite teddy bears, refusing to sing in Mass, grounding myself from books and TV and toys. If it brought me joy and I had done something wrong, I didn’t deserve to feel joy again until everything was right. Into adulthood, I was systematically giving up up the gifts I had enjoyed sharing, dancing, singing, writing, even sensual connection. And that sacrifice had been hardwired in me from birth, written into my DNA both by my dad’s skewed relationship with shame and a Latinx family history of sacrificing our language, names and culture to stay safe. Catholicism just gave it a name and a purpose.
I overanalyzed every situation which might bring me guilt, each situation that I might have to give up yet another thing I loved in order to make things right again. So I became more than just sensitive to the needs of others; I became hypervigilant to even the slightest indication of disappointment. All it taught me is that my gifts were secondary to others’ opinions and reactions, that my joy was disposable to make room for others’ joy.
So when I was outed, I tried to give up my most sacred of gifts, my writing. But it functionally would have been impossible, so it became a means to an end. Journaling to get my feelings out. Writing talking points to pass a bill. Writing a report to persuade people to extend our contract. Writing a grant to get support for our cause. Writing a speech to smooth over a difficult controversy. Writing an agreement to give a couple a fresh start. Writing here to share my intimate truths with the world. Writing to influence policy. Writing to share my love.
What I had forgotten is that writing IS my love. And specifically, writing about our inner lives has been my true love. When I was a kid, I tried writing three Star Trek scripts and won awards for my poetry. I cared about conveying the biggest possibility of humanity, to help the world see through my lens to see all that was possible with love and cooperation.
My stories help us find the divine within to illuminate our most intimate and insecure truths. I use stories of my beautiful breakdowns to connect to the tender honesty for our common vulnerabilities. I share my vision because I am so desperate for people to know they are not alone. I have spent the life as the steward of so many stories – mine and those shared with me in person and in spirit. Even stories of our past lives, our parallel lives, the ways we have been connecting for millennia through the telling of our stories. Telling our transcendent tales of our shared humanity is my truest and most complete expression of love.
For over a year now, I have had several mentors and chosen family tell me “write the book”. All my guides scream at me “write the book”. And my partners keep telling me, “all you have to do is keep writing the book”. Since just before I left the practice of law last year, I have been getting messages from everyone and everything, even my own mom, to “write the book”. But it was only when I chose to share my own story, the story of embracing my dark Spider Queen, that I fell in love with the writer in me again.
I’m in love again
Writing about the Spider Queen has unleashed a creative energy I have never truly felt before. A dharma that seemed inaccessible to me without sacrifice. It’s undeniable that I can spend hours and hours writing, losing all sense of time because I’m so enraptured by the process of sharing exactly what I see and feel.
Despite my focus on justice as a form of love, despite my willingness to love everyone I meet, it’s been a very long time since I was last “in love” with anyone. But this week as I finally discovered the voice of one of my heroes, Niall, it finally hit me that I’m in love with not just this character, but all of the characters. Niall is inspired by my real-life past life regression work. He wore a crown of antlers and was my counterpart in all ways spiritual. I felt the same depth of love – tangible, aching, euphoric – when I started writing him as I did that first regression where I met him. An ancient love based on freedom and a mutual mission – different sides to the same coin. It broke me open and now words flow with the force of raging waterfall. I feel like I’m in free-fall and it is the most exhilarating sensations I’ve ever experienced.
I’m in love with each of my characters. They are the perfect embodiment of what I’ve always envisioned for my polyamorous and spiritual life. Niall is my Druid, Faeltan is my Warrior. Kara is my healer. And I am their Queen. We each have roles to play that are connected through the love we share with each other.
It’s been an adjustment to think that my creative writing has a purpose. I’m not writing social security applications. I’m not writing talking points for legislation. But that doesn’t mean my 7000 words last week didn’t add to the beauty of the world or inspire magic for my followers. In sharing my story, I am blossoming, faster than I knew was possible for a middle-aged woman like me. But I’m not stopping it anymore. I’m leaning into it. And the more I lean in, the more I open myself to this once impossible dream, the more I fall in love.
And as much as I want to love my druid in real life, writing him as he lives in my heart is the strongest way I can show my lens of love to the world. See our story through my eyes and find the possibility of your own. If I can show others how I fell in love with myself again, through this writing, then perhaps I have finally lived my purpose, by sharing instead of sacrificing my gift. In watching me discover love for my true self by telling my heart’s story, I hope readers learn how to love themselves again.
After so much pain, so much separation, so many of Patriarchy’s attacks on my livelihood, I could have easily given in for the rest of my life, told myself I was too weary to do anything more. But patriarchy won’t be dismantled by scared girls unwilling to upset the status quo; it will be pulverized by queens who unapologetically share their radiant truth and make it safe for others to share their own.
Rites of the Rose Queen is my love letter to my past, present, and future self. My love letter to the Spider Queen for all she endured to keep me safe. My gratitude offering for the gifts and magic I will no longer hide.
Follow my writing progress: Rites of the Rose Queen
Follow along with the queertastic tale of 7 strangers who are connected through lifetimes of fate twisted to hide their powers. Only in finding each other again, can they overcome the forces of global dominance and liberate humanity to join their cosmic kin
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