Reconciling my Public Policy Past

Rewind back to June 25, 2020

We were lifting stay-at-home orders and the world was finally waking up to the idea that Black Lives Matter. Many were finding their hidden talents and resolving old traumas. I was about to open Rose Connections and was already gathering clients for trauma-informed care training. I was coming off of a successful, yet stressful stint with nonprofit work that gave my life a sense of meaning and purpose. It was also the 30th anniversary of my calling and I was teaching a class about the Tower Card at the One Heart, One Earth Summit online to people all around the world.

It was a mystical and momentous time in my life.

When I went up the mountain that year for my anniversary ritual, I sat with an open and grateful heart under the Colorado high country sunshine, soaking up the wisdom of the earth while praying for guidance on how I could best serve humanity through my calling. And like many of my meditations and readings, vivid visions danced around in my mind’s eye, images that stayed with me to guide me on my next steps.

A Pandemic Awakening

As I sat there with my palms open at 10:40 in the morning, I started with a simple rosary. My gaze took in the green of the aspen grove around me as I recited the Glorious Mysteries. My body started to relax into the support of the granite stones beneath me. So many new paths were opened to me during the pandemic. So many enticing opportunities during a time of such unprecedented trauma. But I couldn’t possibly do everything.

My calling has always spoken to me through the imagery of roses – not just because of my last name, but because that’s also how Mother Mary makes herself known in my spiritual upbringing. The smell of roses overtook me, as it usually does on this day and the images couldn’t have been more aligned with where I needed to be then and where I am today.

I could feel a sparkling pearl white rose blooming out of my right hand, my dominant hand. And then out of my left, a lush, deep crimson velvety rose was also unfurling its petals. These were my two sides – the rational, analytical mind (white rose) and the sensual, passionate heart (red rose). But as each one filled my palms (a significant sign of my calling to “be the hands of the goddess”) a rose began to grow in front of my heart. Fire & ice rose blended the red and white together to form a perfect dusty pink quartz rose at the center.

I still can’t fully describe the sensation of this vision while sitting up on the same rocks I used to play on as a child, that helped me become the Colorado girl I am. Surrounded by evidence of majesty all around me, I felt the cool, calm mountain rains drip over me while I was perched on the throne of “my castle” – the rock formations near our cabin. I remembered the intricate stories I played out there, including Star Trek plots, involving the stuffed animals, Jem dolls, and Thundercats figures I was recruiting into my “kingdom”.

It was then that I was struck with the realization that even my earliest games of pretending involved creating a kingdom of equality, even then. A kingdom that I co-ruled with my inner circle of bears – six of them, in fact. Just days after I had finished outlining the overall fantasy book series I am writing, I find that these are the themes that have defined my life. Gentle rain dripping from the bushy pine branches above me, I was humbled by the idea that I was about to make the literal dreams of my six-year-old self come true? I was going to share the innocence and wisdom of the lens that helped us survive trauma with the world.

My inner child called to me through lifetimes and legacies, showing me how she and I created this path for us to survive with both optimism, faith, and a fierce call for justice. She had left me breadcrumbs throughout my life to ensure that I always remembered her, that she was always seen. At that moment I was reminded of how the mountain grounded me in my heart, allowing me to remain open because I knew how to navigate even the rough and painful terrain of the world. I had proven I could do anything – so what was gonna be next?

My future self beckoned me to see myself as a blend of all my best parts, not separate facets of each. My talent had always been as a bridge between disparate sides – whether I was a writer, mediator, lobbyist, healer, advocate, or manager. I had trained my whole life for this – but now, I had to be more than just a bridge, I had to embody the integration of these two very different roles I had in life: Divine Justice and Sacred Love. It wasn’t either/or, it was both together as a whole.

The IMbalanced Scales of Justice

The past two years have been a slow but deliberate transition from the role of sharp attorney advocate boss queen to mystical truthtelling empress of divine love. I’ve been the “white rose of justice” for over 20 years of my career as an advocate, lawyer, lobbyist, and mediator. But it also meant that I either hid the parts of me that were all about sacred love, the polyamorous bisexual sensual moon priestess who was always there in the background, the “red rose of sexuality”. Trying to blend that all with societal expectations of motherhood (vs. practical application) made me feel even more unsteady and insecure.

I’ve always said that I evaluate evidence with my mind, but make decisions with my heart. The two always have to be in balance to execute the will of my soul. In nonprofit speak that means having your Director of Operations (analytical mind focused on qualitative data and efficiencies) in sync with your Director of Programs (empathetic heart open to new ways to engage with the world to increase depth and quality) while the Executive Director sets the long-term direction and agenda within an overall vision (the soul’s vision tasked with the overall direction and impacts). I always work best with my heart and mind in balance, both working toward what my soul requires.

And while I’ve always had a balance of the two in my life before law school, somewhere in the law school indoctrination I lost sight of the importance my heart and intuition play in my life. Or rather, I allowed the messages of the legal profession to wrap themselves around my heart, caging it like it was radioactive. It activated self-doubt in the decisions my heart made. It whispered pernicious lies about how poorly I would fare in the profession because I wasn’t doing prestige-building activities like mock court or law review. The one thread I held onto to keep me sane was my authenticity.

I kept trying to live a parallel life. One that was socially acceptable (white rose) and one that was underground and radical (red rose). While I felt I could pursue both at the same time, when I was taking the bar exam, I was burrowing myself in only one direction: law and public policy. I risked my pregnancy to try to finish my masters in public policy program on time to qualify for a dual degree. I took the bar exam while five months pregnant, having just bought and moved into a house three weeks earlier. The stress was such that in the same month I found out I failed the bar exam I also started having early labor pains. The anxiety I was under only exacerbated the risks to my health and more importantly, to my child’s health.

Yet, I still forced myself to conform to what the law expected out of me: no excuses. Looking back at the first two months of my very first blog on LiveJournal, I could see the inner conflict emerging. Back in January 2004, less than three months after giving birth I wrote this:

So, this year I am in the process of completing my master’s degree in public policy. As one of the requirements, I am taking a class that teaches us how to discern the bullshit from the real good policy information. While I believe this class should be absolutely essential to anyone who wishes to engage in public policy, it is interesting how many students in the class couldn’t be less interested. Most of the students in the class need to wake up and inform themselves.

Sadly, as I was finding out in 2020, soon after I had done this ritual, so many others were falling down the same hole – without access to the kind of methodologies and critiques that had served me well throughout my education. Yet that didn’t stop any of them from claiming that their intuition was superior to my knowledge – when their actions alarmed both my justice-minded brain and my divine loving heart. So, by the end of the summer, I would leave both the practice of law and the spiritual channel I had joined. I couldn’t do parallel paths anymore, I had to find a way to show up as an integrated, whole Janet.

Many of them have lived out their public lives under the impression that their view of the world is the right one–the only valid viewpoint. Most of them have entered public policy with the intention of conforming the world to their version of reality. Most of them lack vision of any depth and even worse many of them will one day wield power and will become the rule-makers. They will have ignorance in their arsenals and hatred at their sides. So how can a class teach them to become enlightened individuals? Most of them reject the very notion of reason and instead cling to some far-off belief system that has no basis in fact. Most of them live in this second level of reality which is only one step above pure ignorance. They can rattle off statistics to bolster their cause, but they have yet to answer whether it is a cause worth fighting for. We’ll see what this quarter brings.

While I have always lived my life with earnest honesty, when you work in highly conservative cultures of business, law, and morally righteous, financially dependent non-profit, you learn how to hide certain aspects of yourself to fit in or to minimize office drama. I was no different. Back in 2004, I was intent on living those parallel lives, letting the sensual live under the surface, just barely under the surface, just enough to be dangerous. And of course – it proved to be dangerous and I proved to be reckless: the biggest trauma of my life was when the sexual bled into a justice-focused career with disastrous results.

The glimmers of my intuition were still there, helping me to articulate my judgment, and giving me a narrative around the energy I felt in the room. Even as my inner world was spinning out of balance – I tried to cling to small fragments of that intuitive wisdom and nurture it into balance with the bigger role that reason, logic, law, and policy had to take in my life, but eventually the “white rose of justice” would rule my life.

Trauma doesn’t discriminate

None of us are immune to trauma. Some of us might have better access to resources, some of us more resilient to certain forms of trauma – but eventually, we’re likely to experience something that threatens our sense of autonomy and personal safety. Some people hide from it, fingers clawing holes in the sacred ground to bury the monsters of the past. Others use it as a shield, weathered and worn from the ways they’ve had to protect themselves. And others carry it as a weapon ensuring that everyone suffers as they have.

I blamed the sensual, passionate, and heart-centered parts of myself for all the problems. I weaponized my trauma against myself. Wielding the worst of my own narratives against the best of my intentions – giving power to my past to continue hurting me around every corner. I could never succeed because I wasn’t smart enough. I could never be loved by anyone new because I wasn’t reliable enough. I could never be worthy of my dreams because I was careless – after all, just look at the role I played in my own trauma. I applied the ruthlessness of a lawyer’s cross-examination to every corner of my life down to every morsel I ate. I judged myself guilty before I even opened my eyes in the morning.

So when, in the midst of unspeakable trauma, I was able to actually pass the bar exam in 2012. It was a resounding victory for the logical, rational, strategic part of myself. It had won the battle between the white rose and the red rose (are we seeing the parallels with the War of the Roses yet?) – the white rose of justice was the clear direction I needed to go in. I locked up the sensual, loving heart-centered queen and forgot all about her. That was the validation from the universe I had needed. I would recover through law and policy.

I doubled down on my trauma by immersing myself in work that involved survivors of intimate partner violence and coercive control in under-resourced sexual communities like BDSM, kink, swinging, and polyamorous communities. It was a way for me to straddle both of my worlds with any amount of integrity – using my experiences and training to teach about what abuse is/isn’t in both kink and legal worlds. And while I really love teaching this subject matter – I was still focusing almost entirely on that “white hat” rose. Savior complex anyone?

Enter…the dreaded burnout.

Shift Happens

In all parts of my life, I’m looking for the opening to create transformation and metamorphosis. I wound up working with folks whose trauma resembled my own. Whether it be co-parents desperate to stop patterns of intergenerational trauma, helping survivors in the kink scene access resources, or representing disabled adults for social security benefits, I felt compelled to use my trauma to help heal others through law and public policy. And while I was talented at it, it was costing me a lot.

Burnout took a toll on my empathy – I could barely speak to family or close friends over the phone anymore. All of my attention and energy was directed at work and matters of the mind, which was constantly locked up with overthinking chaos. The glimmers of my intuition were screaming for someone, anyone to save me. Many tried, but ultimately we have to choose to find ourselves worth saving for it to really work. it wasn’t until I reached a situation where moving forward as an attorney would force me to compromise everything I held sacred about myself – where my spiritual ethics were in direct conflict with my legal ethics, that I finally decided the time was right to leave this part of myself behind and find a new way.

In the Summer of 2020, I was primed to start a new phase of my life but all of the ways offered to me felt too restrictive with expectation, too similar to the ways I’ve had to hide parts of myself to be acceptable. It still wasn’t right because the signals were clear: the world was shifting in a really big way – so big, that all my hard work as an attorney to navigate existing systems would soon become obsolete, too onerous, and corroded by misdirected fear and anger to be worthwhile anymore. It wasn’t worth pursuing other people’s agenda, especially when they’re factually or ethically wrong. To remain an attorney in this environment would contribute my magic to processes that were inherently in conflict with the integrated, intuitive person I was becoming.

What’s funny is that I predicted that there would be an inherent imbalance when I ended that post in 2004 with this line:

This brings me to another question: If someday I am to become a policy maker and shaker, how should I incorporate my knowledge and love of counter-culture into my policy considerations?

LiveJournal post (1/21/2004)

Leaving the practice of law was the first step that has brought me to where I am now – a place of grounded healing, energetic truth, and quiet confidence. And the Supreme Court’s upheaval of the right to privacy only solidified for me that my role as attorney-advocate will no longer be useful because we’re no longer playing by the same rules of the game – we might not even be playing the same game at all anymore.

A New Leader Emerges

The recent events with Roe v. Wade and the revelations coming out of the January 6th Commission gave me a validation that I saw the problems coming. But I still had this nagging feeling that somehow I was letting down my potential by choosing a path that was so different from the lawyerly-save-the-world goals I had at the start of my calling.

Then, in going through our house to make room for our kid to move out and for my partner of fourteen years to move in with us, I had to confront all the boxes that held those painful memories and old paranoias. What I found was the final piece of validation I needed about where I’m headed: I owe my past self nothing. I found my resume from my senior year of high school – in my objective section, I saw that I’ve actually achieved all that I set out to do in the 30 years since my calling originated. I could finally reconcile with my pubic policy potential and now move forward with this new, sharp, sweet, mystical intellectual, and fully integrated self.

I am finally free.

I am no longer interested in playing by rules set by power players who ensure the worst actors escape accountability for wrongs committed against humanity. I’m no longer interested in accepting excuses for poor leadership and cold decision-making that leaves out the heart of humanity. I’m no longer willing to accept the manufactured advice of experts that are paid to exploit humanity’s neuroses and self-doubt. And I’m no longer available to play political charades where they laughingly go through the motions of giving a shit.

Now, more than ever, I’m ready to co-create a better world with all of you.

I’m ready to pour my heart and brain into actualizing what my soul most wants to see – an interconnected world where we are assured of love, acceptance, protection, and reconciliation. Where are mistakes become lessons we learn together. Where successes are celebrated without the edge of jealousy.

Any guilt I might have felt about leaving the law has dissipated. Any guilt I might have felt about leaving public policy is likewise fluttering away. These twenty years have taught me that no amount of public policy can save us until we decide that we’re in this together – that we all have a stake in the outcome and clarity in our own motives. It is only our interconnectedness that can help us survive.

Perhaps, like the people I complained of back in 2004 at the start of my blogging life, I am trying to get the world to conform to my point of view? Or perhaps I’m just removing the barriers we have to see one another as worthy of listening to? Maybe I’m removing the layers of judgment we place on ourselves?

Or maybe I’m simply connecting us with the deeper meaning and truth we all need right now: Love.

And if the way I do that is I show up as a wholly integrated, secure, and loved version of myself, then so be it. For the only way, we can really ever reach that form of interconnectedness is when we finally allow our souls to direct a course to our highest selves, holding a synchronous balance between our intuitive, empathetic heart and our fact-loving mind within. Only when we integrate ourselves can we find how to integrate with others to forge a new future together.

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