Category Archives: Divine Feminine

Stories of the quest to embody the Divine Feminine

Embracing my Shadow Self (Part 1/3): The Prisoner on the 8th Floor

“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

Photo of Janet wearing a fur lined coat with with the words “Healing my Shadow Self: The Spider Queen” written over it in black type.

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

Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com


“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.

Photo by Cameron Casey on Pexels.com

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.

Falkor from “The Neverending Story” one of my favorite childhood movies. This is what I imagine my guide Jeremial looks like, except more like a bear with 4 big, furry arms. Source: HeroesWiki (Picasa)

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.

Reflections of Life at 43: The Rise of La Madonna Rosa

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.

Happy birthday to me! Celebrating 43 years and reflecting back on a life well-lived.

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.

My altar for my dark birthday ritual in 2012

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.

Taken 12/14/12 this was the start of a new, hopeful me.

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!

A photo of the 2nd largest rose Quartz ever found – named La Madonna Rosa, named for its resemblance to depictions of Mother Mary. This is the inspiration for the new name I will be using moving forward. Image credit: Heritage Auctions

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.

My altar for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day (12/12/20).

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.

My altar for my birthday ritual this year (12/13/20). Included are cards representing the three levels of service I am called to perform from the “Work Your Light” oracle deck. Pictured too is a naturally heart-shaped Rose Quartz that was the first “tribute” given to me fir my role as “Queen”.

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.

Finally happy celebrating myself!

Origin Story: My calling over the past 30 years

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
June 25, 1990 I was called to be “The Hands of Mary” – a daunting task for a 12 year old.

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…

Me at 13 years old. About a year after I returned from Medjugorje.

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

No matter what happens, I remind myself that I chose this. There was no pressure. I say yes willingly.

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.

Always.

Right. On. Time.  


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Whoa Boy: A man’s arousal is not my problem

I know that might be a controversial statement considering how often I get variations of “Hello sexy” in my inbox, but it’s the truth: I’m not the cause of a man’s erection.

I’ve known this since the very start of my sexual life and it’s been reinforced over time and validated by in-depth pillow talk and post-sex debriefings, men don’t get hard because of me, but because of their ideas about me. This knowledge became a means of liberation, a way to own my own sexual self and encourage my lovers to do the same.

Erections aren’t about or for me

Whenever I mention this, I inevitably get push back: Some insisting that their man is totally into them, men insisting that they’re totally into me. I’m not necessarily trying to convince them that they’re wrong, they have their experiences – but I have mine as well.

My experience spans decades. I was an early bloomer sexually. Over the 30 or so years I’ve been a sexually aware being, I’ve had more crushes than I can count, a diverse array of experiences and lovers from the sacred to the profane, I became familiar with the saints and the demons within us all. My “body count”, while high compared to most, doesn’t begin to encompass those who have never touched me yet still claimed me as the cause of their erection and/or orgasm. I am no stranger to the cis-male boner.

So understand that when I say this, I speak with the authority of some significant lived experience: Most men don’t get hard because of me.

No, they’re hard because of what they’ve imagined with me, a projected muse in the mind-movies of their fantasies. That’s not to say I don’t play a factor, but it’s detached from who I am. I am a channel of opportunity for their desires whether I want to be or not, whether I asked for it or not, whether they can act on it or not. A proxy, a stand-in for the excitement of potential scenarios, the thrill of fantasy, a vessel for playful imagination. A replaceable cog in the vast, sexual dopamine delivery system.

And yet, I forever get messages that look like this: “But baby, don’t you see how hard I am for you? Don’t you have a few minutes to help a guy out?”

No and No. Your erection isn’t my responsibility.

The contextual causality

It sounds cynical, doesn’t it? But consider, when we rely on the false formulas that all erections equal arousal, we skew some important truths.

An erection is a physiological response to stimuli, whether internal or external. The presence of a boner doesn’t automatically equal attraction or consent. For example, research has shown that “beer goggles” are actually sort of a thing. Likewise, an erection doesn’t mean male survivors wanted or enjoyed being sexually assaulted, a close cousin to the “she was asking for it” rape myth. Just like “Whiskey Dick” doesn’t mean I’m not attractive to him, the presence of an erection isn’t proof that I am either.

One man went so far as to recycle his dick pic photos, always claiming they were due to me in that moment. When I called him out on it he disappeared.

Bella

I am forever amused when men tell me that I’m the cause of their erection. Nah, boy, I just happened to be present either in your field of vision or a thread in your thoughts when you got one. If I was a mind reader, I’d see that while yes, I happened to be part of the field of stimulus, the erection actually came about due to certain thoughts, memories or physiological experiences. Consider the following real life situations (yes, these actually all happened to me):

  1. Ken is self-described boob guy. He was already half hard on his commute looking at the pretty boob-owners on the bus with him. He opens Twitter, scrolling for photos. A photo of my cleavage is one of many that fueled his lust to full hardness. That predisposition isn’t my doing.
  2. John sees me out of the corner of his eye flirting with the bartender. He notices I have a wedding ring. Boom! He’s hard because he imagines I’m cheating. This story isn’t my creation.
  3. Lucas has been bitter and lonely after a painful break-up. I chat with him in line at the grocery store and laugh at his jokes. He gets hard from feeling validated by an attractive-ish stranger. That role could be filled by anyone.
  4. Maurice has been catching up with his ex online, remembering all the great sex they once had together. I come home from work and he is hard and horny. That desire wasn’t because I suddenly showed up.
  5. Steve is out partying with his buddies and was rejected by my lesbian friend. He drinks until I’m cute, imagining a three-way with my friend until he’s hard. That backhanded compliment isn’t flattering
  6. Damian takes me to see a movie for our first date. There is a heavy gay leather sex scene that hits all of his repressed, sexual buttons. That desire is not at all about me.
  7. Ron is on a class camping trip and has never noticed me before. He wakes up with morning wood and I happen to be somewhere in a 200 foot radius. That wood is most definitely not for me.

Simply put: The boner isn’t because of me. The boner is because of the totality of the situation, the thoughts, the feelings, the memories, which only sometimes have anything to do with me.

The nature of my (role) play

Flirting is a better expression of interest for me. Playful banter that fans the initial, energetic sparks of attraction into some juicy mutual desire. Intellectual, witty wordplay with seductive innuendo. The tension of proximity, of express desire, of shared investment in the potential of sexual fireworks between us. Oh yeah…that’s the good stuff.

Good flirting is an art form. Back when I was in my prime, I was a master at flirtation and seduction. I could see a person’s desires as plain as you read these words here today. Written all over their word choices and body language, I could usually tell their deeper needs and I could tilt the conversation in that direction, adjusting myself to their ongoing display of desires. That is where the magic begins!

An erection is the least persuasive demonstration of desire. It limits my influence to a sexual impulse, a fleeting moment jumbled in with a ton of other thoughts and ideas. And even when it’s pinpointed to something I do or say, it still doesn’t say as much as when someone takes an actual interest in me, in my ideals and expression, in the magic I will actually bring to their world. Reductive, physiological responses aren’t enough – they have to be into ME beyond my cleavage and the sway of my hips.

Instead of wearing the costume of whatever image conjured that erection, their assumptions, their need, their aspirations, I prefer to play myself, not be a stand-in for someone or something else. And when someone only points to their erection as evidence of their attraction, it tells me that they know they don’t bring much else to the table – they treat me superficially becasue they are hiding from the depth I inevitably bring out.

At some point in my life I started recognizing that all spiritual exchange requires just that–an exchange. But when I serve as a placeholder, a meantime girl, a port in any storm, the exchange becomes more like a transaction. I was exhausted from providing more than I was receiving.

This caused me ultimately to stop sexual interaction with men who couldn’t see me, value me or be bothered to try to meet me where I am emotionally. Each message I receive I can usually pinpoint the desires. I can see their needs. And while I know I still have the skill to become exactly what they want, to get them hard for their own release, I am just uninterested in being anything but who I am. I don’t waste my precious energy unless those needs and desires align directly (not vaguely) with my own.

Your erection = your problem

In my world, an erection is only evidence a complex system of physiological and psychological responses to stimuli and thoughts. It isn’t evidence of arousal for me in particular. When men send me photos of their hard-ons, what I see is evidence of arousal from the exhibitionist nature of taking the photo. A photo of a hard dick doesn’t prove what someone actually thinks of me. (One man went so far as to recycle his dick pic photos, always claiming they were due to me in that moment. When I called him out on it he disappeared. Seriously, don’t do this.)

There is a certain freedom, as a woman, to know that a man’s hard-on isn’t because of me; it relieves me of any sense of responsibility or guilt to do something about it. How many times as a teenager did boys try to guilt me into oral sex through the coercive excuse of blue balls? Men have tried to convince me that my mere presence was enough to cause a hard on and then tried to make me responsible for relieving them of the burden of it.

“A person does not need a partner to relieve blue balls through sex. People can get rid of the symptoms by ejaculating through masturbation or by doing a nonarousing activity to distract them.”

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324870#myths

Someone once said that I was making a harsh, blanket judgment and making arousal too simplistic. On the contrary, arousal is a beautifully complex and dense array of possibilities. It is just as much a conditioned response to cultural stimuli (racists being turned on by POC due to the forbidden nature of the attraction), as it is to physical attributes (an ass man getting an eyeful of cheerleader butts during halftime). It is memory (“Oh, the last time she did this she gave me a blowjob”) and it is hope (a hint of skin leading to daydreams of more). It comes in so many forms and rarely will there ever be one, singular source of arousal. Arousal is ultimately a magnificent cocktail of stimuli.

I’m simply pragmatic enough to understand that the part that I play in that cocktail is just one flavor of the mixture. I don’t carry the burden to satisfy the thirst completely, only to be who I authentically am in the moment. I get to choose whether he presents a problem worthy enough for me to delight in solving it.

Rise of the Mountain Queen: reclaiming my true self

Looking through old journals tonight, I realized that one year ago today I went on a personal pilgrimage to our mountain cabin in the high country of Colorado. I was actively trying to avoid suicide, too traumatized and exhausted to see straight, too hopeful to completely give in. And what I needed most was a solo journey past the foothills to restore the truth of myself.

I talk often about how I am a Colorado Girl. My dad, who worked his way through college as a fire lookout near Boulder, did his best to try to teach me what he knew about cross-country skiing, building a fire, hiking a 14er (I still haven’t accomplished that – it’s still on the list). And when I had nightmares, which I inevitably did, he would lay on my floor and talk me through visualizing the meadow he and I hiked every year until I fell back asleep.

I spent all of my summers getting dirty in Colorado. I’d spend a week with my grandparents where we’d pick chile peppers from a local farm and I’d spend a week at the cabin exploring old mines and new paths with my parents. These memories are more vivid and memorable than the ones I have of even my friends and teachers, with whom I spent more time. And while I’m not a camper (I have reasons) I could spend all day exploring and soaking in the quiet of my beautiful mountains.

During those summers when I’d have time to wander on my own with my walkman, I’d end up at a specific rock formation on our property that I used to call my Castle. I’d set up my teddy bears, ask them to bring me a pretty stone (rose quartz typically) to show “tribute” and their commitment to being in my kingdom. And yet, I ruled alongside them, taking care of the business that is a human’s prerogative (like travel arrangements) and they took care of their own business (like marriages or bear disputes). My bears and I each ruled our own kingdoms in cooperation and in harmony with one another. And in some ways, that was always the heart of my ideal vision of leadership.

This vision became part of a larger ambition to serve this state, improving the lives of its people. I am so very much in love with this state – the beauty of its diversity, the elegance of its quirks, the passion of its people. I wanted to bring the same harmony that the state provided to me without even trying. I know I can find myself both in my my hometown of Pueblo, which preserves the roots of my public service dreams, and the mountains, which preserves the earthy connection to my freedom-loving soul.

Transformation starts when we decide we are enough

As my life went on, as I went through trials, the idea of the mountains, the appearance of a clear lake against a backdrop of the Rockies, was always a calming force for me. To dip my toes in the cold rush of Boulder Creek, to smell the forest air after a summer monsoon, to be humbled by the vastness of the galaxy laid before you in the purest of night.

This was me in August 2019. I was at my worst. You can’t tell in the photo because I was too ashamed to ask for help that day. I had a nervous breakdown the day after this photo.

A year ago I was on the verge of suicide, a constant battle day after day. The stress, the retraumatization was too much to bear. And while I held a leadership role in our organization, I felt too exhausted, too tapped out to be effective. I stopped taking care of myself, a passive aggressive self-destructive mechanism that added to rather than relieved my misery. Sleep deprivation, one meal a day, and high stakes decisions at work with active, daily reminders of trauma? This dangerous cocktail felt much like the anxious uncertainty, dread, and anger that we see around us today. Where the injustices, the wounds, the betrayals, the disappointments, the dramas became so heavy, so intolerable that I had to burst out of that cage and get above it all.

In a dramatic climax, I left my job, got back into therapy, tuned into an 11:11 spiritual enlightenment call with my friend, Lisa Gunshore, in November and began shedding the perspectives and patterns of the past. And what I noticed more than anything was just how often I was making myself small so that others wouldn’t be hurt by the power of my light.

I was first called to this journey on December 13, 2012. There was a massive shift in my life, an urge, a drive to finally feel worthy of carrying a larger light in the darkness of our world. I was scared, I was small, I was contained. But even then I knew it would be profound.

I am in a period of increased sensitivity to my calling, my purpose but in particular, to the needs of others. My challenge is to become a light, to allow my heart to glow with the gifts I naturally possess. I need to stop shrouding my light, inhibiting my heart. I must trust my own wisdom. And I must trust that my needs are always met.

Janet Rose – Solar Return

And while I’ve been steadily leveling up over the years in response to that call, something was always holding me back. A persistent thread of self-denial, of sacrifice, qualities I thought I needed to be a good leader. And yet, when I chose to prioritize my own life, to leave my job, take control over my health, and allow myself the rest my body and mind so desperately needed, my life changed, started to shift dramatically. The potential of my life started to unfold.

My life since November has been like a big, giant rose opening fully for the first time. Even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t imagine what has taken hold.

Creatively the past 8 months have been the most amazing of my entire life. I’ve painted, I’m about 20% done with my first novel. I’ve given presentations on trauma-informed care and Mother Mary. I am a frequent guest on the Buddhist Biohacker YouTube channel. I’ve launched a business and website, Rose Connections, and am building my own YouTube channel under the same name. I didn’t expect any of this.

This rose is unfolding faster than I can keep up with. And I love it. I have never felt so alive and vibrant in all my life.

Accepting the Rose Quartz Crown

On June 25th I celebrated the 3oth anniversary of my calling. And while a post detailing the origins and insights of that calling is certainly in the works, suffice it to say that after 30 years I needed a huge shift like this to still be able to do the work I was called to do. I was resistant for a number of reasons, but the biggest was that the new archetype I was being asked to embrace was that of the Queen.

The Mountain Queen.

I’ve talked about this shift a lot, particularly on Instagram and Twitter, but even back in 2017, when I was fresh in a new job, I could feel the call of this image, I could feel myself inching closer to accepting the crown. But messages about deservingness, embedded deep in my psyche unraveled the opportunities I could have taken to make that a reality.

The image I have in my mind always moves and humbles me. Crowned with rose quartz, I offer a Temple of Acceptance and Unconditional Love. I offer a structure, training that works with the heart instead of against it. I have a rose in the palm of each hand. A white rose in my right palm, representing the Divine Masculine, active, legalista, wit, and knowledge. A luscious red rose spilling out of my left, representing the Divine Feminine, receptive, intuitive, earthen healer. And from my palms, I create a bright pink, crystalline rose, an integration of Masculine & Feminine, a compassionately powerful union. And in this image that shows up in my meditations, this beautiful, pink crystalline rose atop the temple acting as a lighthouse calling seekers to a new home.

I fought myself over this for a long time, feeling unworthy of the role. Feeling too small, too insignificant, too egotistical, too unprepared, too inelegant. And yet, and yet…the signals never stopped, the imagery only grew stronger, the inspiration to reclaim my deservingness became impossible to ignore. I had to be all in or I would continue feeling out of balance forever.

We are all being called to offer our beautiful and unique talents to creating a better world whether we think we’re worthy or not. We are all being called to accept the divine purpose within, and the responsibility we have to give of our true selves, not the ones others told us who we should be. And the only way we can do that is by stripping away the structures within ourselves that have been holding us back. Stripping these away brick by brick, intentionally and compassionately until the true self shines through.

Last week when I was up at the cabin with Warrior, Husband, and my kid to celebrate the 4th of July in some peace and quiet, I was also there to give thanks to the Mountain for always being there for me. For always providing a safe space for me.

As I sat at my Castle settling in for a mediation, my foot slipped and uncovered a cache of rocks that I had collected as a child. Evidence of the tribute I had asked from my stuffed animals. I suddenly laughed out loud. Because I realized in that moment that all this fretting over my purpose was for nothing. For I had been training for this all along. I had set this path into motion from the very beginning.

Me and the Castle where I collected “offerings”

All this time I felt I was unworthy of a role like the queen, yet when as a kid, I had already been living the exact thing I’m trying to create. What am I fretting for? I just needed to remember Who I Really Am and I could stop being so afraid. I literally asked for and planned for this as a child and now the grown-up me was trying to stop it from happening? Oh hells no. I ended up creating a circle of those stones, to protect the innocence of that vision, the earnestness of that calling, the purity of my intentions to serve others.

That’s when I decided that there was no turning back. When I chose to truly inhabit that space, to accept the Rose Quartz crown being offered to me, the blessings immediately started to flow. It’s been thrilling and so rewarding. The public ownership of my story. Sharing a declaration to the world about Who I Really Am. This unlocked a future that I’m has exceeded all imagination.

By recovering myself, reclaiming my dreams I have been able to become the person I most needed in the midst of my darkness. In embracing my own authenticity, owning my own power, leading with vulnerability, I am living my life in the way I wished I had seen more of growing up. It was only in surrendering to the call of the universe, reconnecting with my soul that I truly found the me that had been there all along.

I am sharing this to say – Shine on, you crazy diamond. Trust in the truth of your vision, in the authenticity of your voice and the magnificence of your vision. Accept the sparkling crown being offered to you and become the person you most needed in the middle of your darkness.

To Give it All in the Name of Love

This post hit me in the gut right when I was at my lowest, mired in Imposter Syndrome and knee-deep in panic. This was a small light that emerged in the darkness, illuminating one of the deepest, hardest truths of my life.

Sacrifice as proof of worth?

I am not as familiar with the Giving Tree – I managed to encounter Shel Silverstein, without much time spent on this book. However, this criticism of this story rang a clear, resonant note of truth within. Sacrifice of talents…using them to meet the needs of others is a major reason for my anxiety and internalized pain.

This why I have a complicated relationship with the Catholicism of my youth. I still believe in the divine – I don’t call it god or any specific name, but I feel connected to something bigger than myself, far more infinite and loving than anyone can imagine. I’ve felt this presence since I was a kid, a guiding presence that was on my side, lovingly cheering me on even in my mistakes.

But Catholicism invaded at a very young age with messages telling me to fear God. The introduction of shame was packaged with meaning and redemption. The judgment meant I was answerable for every small transgression – such as merely thinking about sex. Any violation had to be confessed and absolved in order to still qualify for heaven someday. Humility or humiliation?

That isn’t to say that I didn’t genuinely love some aspects of Catholicism. I am drawn to a sense of ritual to anchor my spirituality. The Mass exemplifies the elegance in which all the senses keep your body present in the moment: incense, music, movement and body connection, the wine and bread, the visual presentation of the mass and its setting. There is something divine in the visceral celebration of our humanity like that.

But the spiritually connective ecstasy I experience in the rituals of faith are soured in seeing the shallowness of the people who claim community with me. The hatred they sow, the majestic righteousness they promote, the private deceitfulness they practiced were abhorrent. And because I was a “true believer” (in middle and high school), I had an obligation to be better than the average Sunday catholic.

That pressure was doubly true for a “visionary”, someone seemingly “chosen” to fulfill a mission. Someday I’ll share more about it, but at the young age of 12, I had been called to be the “hands of Mary”. My world changed. Faith was no longer an aspiration, but a leadership skill. Little old ladies asked for my blessing. Priests were at the ready to advise (I chose my confessors wisely).

My role always has been to provide healing, light and love in the world, to be the tangible and conceptual hands of the divine and loving feminine. The challenge of this role: this path would be paved with sacrifice, selflessness, imbalance and fairness, infinite patience, and the constant fear that I am not giving enough.

Someone else needed my gifts more than me.

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed” . A moment in the mass that is so sincerely that I tear up anytime we get to that part (and I hate how they’ve changed it).

My parents taught me kindness and hard work, but Catholicism amplified those qualities so that anything less than perfect performance was swiftly declared a sin. A true examination of conscience reveals all the minutiae of errors in word and deed and imposed shame for the sin of having faults and bad days. Any kindness I refused my fellow human being was a black mark on my soul, a disappointment to god. Anything less than perfect patience was selfishness. Asking to be loved back or simply accepted was greedy. I was so good at turning the mirror on myself, at holding myself accountable, that I confessed the tiny little lies I tell myself to cover for my flawed self.

I was a literal expert at tearing myself down. Why pretend I am better than I really am? Why bring attention to myself by promoting my achievements? Why take the credit when others’ contributions were more significant? I viewed my pride, my selfishness and greed with such disdain. These were what was going to land me in hell, I knew it. I reasoned that if I put myself through hell now, I might not be judged as harshly later.

In high school, when I found out I was in the running for salutatorian, I deliberately blew off a couple of classes to ensure that I wouldn’t take that particular spotlight. I figured other people deserved it more and that I wasn’t harming them by taking myself out of the running. I didn’t want or need the spotlight and such attention feels inappropriately arrogant. To this day I can’t even take a compliment because fuck…how selfish would that be?

Self-Destruction isn’t Love

So…here I am at 41 years old constantly struggling with imposter syndrome, trying to lead a major arm of a local nonprofit and still trying to make a difference with the individuals I encounter. And this locus of worth, the laden expectations of the purpose I chose for myself is what is holding me back. I have so convinced myself that by possessing certain gifts and talents, that by choosing a larger purpose for my life, that I must deny any benefits that allow me to live in celebration or accomplishment.

The consequence is I have trouble believing in myself or in my own value in these roles. I chase after everyone’s goal-posts, trying to please everyone’s expectations of me at once. Constantly struggling with never feeling “good enough” or “smart enough” or “pretty enough” because I judge my best efforts as never enough – I could always do more, be more, share more. Thus, I am easily manipulated by others’ disappointment in me, including lovers, co-workers and random strangers. I succumb to the friends who say I’m not there for them enough. I break myself making it up to the partners who resent that I’ve chosen work instead of them.

I have impossible choices, all driven and decided by the lack of value I find in my own reward and happiness. I fall on my sword at every opportunity – because I should be held accountable for not being all things to all people. How fucking dare I not be infinitely grateful to serve in all the divine perfection I am allowed? How dare I not be grateful for the gifts god gave me? Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – for the greater glory of god.

The toll this has taken on my mental health cannot be understated or dismissed. “Just stop thinking like that” they tell me, as if turning off years of programming and self-flagellating reinforcement is simple because now I’m suddenly “worthy”. Nah, it doesn’t work like that.

That’s not to say I haven’t done heavy lifting on this subject, but when you’re “smart”, you are likewise talented at overthinking everything. And combined with the Catholic examination of conscience, it’s easy to feel like I’m not going to ever be good enough.

But more than anything, these noble messages that equate sacrifice with pure love during childhood imply that our gifts, our talents, or unique value aren’t our own. Our gifts are meant for the consumption of others. Our gifts are meant to be shared with humanity, even if it means we subsist on anxiety and eggshells the rest of our lives.

“You’re meant for something more” is what we tell our smart kids, our spiritual kids, our mature kids. And those kids become adults who sacrifice themselves at the altar of humanity’s betterment. We learn fast, are adaptable and aware. Our skills of observation, of reading the signs of adults around us serve as a shortcut to help us excel and thus generate more to share with humanity. The better we get, the more we have to give in return.

I am trying to find balance with this right now, which is why I had to take a sick day. But that one day of self-care cost me sleep the next night because my conscience wouldn’t allow me to let anyone down. Sacrifice myself so others aren’t ever challenged to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable.

I almost quit this time last week – for no other reason than the fact that I don’t find myself worthy of this level of responsibility. I have always felt my “accomplishments” were just a payment toward the debt that I owe to the divine for the weighty charge I have been given. I will forever be paying back a debt I never incurred. Whereas those who have taken of my time and energy will never be asked to replenish what was given. (Consider the analogous application to the environment).

I chose a life of spiritual servitude, that any other day of the week I choose gladly – but last week it just unraveled me because …I’m exhausted. Too many have asked for more when I clearly have nothing left to give. And it hurts when they fault me for not having enough for them when I don’t have enough to keep myself going. But no matter whether it’s work, friendships, family or more they don’t see or care what it is costing me.

I sincerely believe I am capable of giving my all in the name of love, but my biggest challenge is to demonstrate that love for myself, to allow myself the worth of replenishment. If I am worthy enough of scorn, I’m likewise worthy enough for their forgiveness. And with the gifts I have offered the connection will always feel incomplete until I’m willing to receive.

We all belong to each other

Each of us shares our life with someone.

In all actuality, we share our lives with many someones.

Our orbits pass through one another, sometimes crashing through the orbits of others everyday. With every action, with every word, with every choice, we send ripples of significance. We each influence someone, several someones, in our day-to-day lives and in the memories reverberating in those we may never see again. And even the most obtusely selfish among us can serve as an inspiration to someone else. One ripple sends another and another.

We are all connected. Maybe positively, maybe negatively – no matter how brief, no matter how intense, the connections we share are inescapable. What happens to one of us reverberates through the rest of us.

Even in the darkest of my depressions, it is this truth that keeps me going. This truth has been the basis of my life and my calling. It is the guidebook for my decision-making, the tome I refer to when I feel I’m off my path. I gravitate toward connectedness with others, even if it means breaking faith with what the world would have me do with its rules and expectations.

It is the universality of our connectedness that gives me hope for our future but likewise makes me fear for our present.

Trauma junkie

We live in unprecedented times. When I was 15, I cared deeply about politics, but it didn’t rule my every thought or conversation. I worried about getting my homework done, navigating increasingly more adult decisions. I didn’t have to worry about my life or the lives of those around me. We didn’t know the earth was dying.

My son is now 15 with a keen mind for politics and history. He doesn’t want kids because “why bother when the earth will be uninhabitable by the time they’re 10”.

It breaks my heart that my son, my bright light of hope in this world, cannot see any hope in our future. He watched with panic and anxiety when Trump announced, foreseeing a time that brown people would be locked up. Fearing for my Mexican family, that election was so difficult to endure for us both. It became real to us – we were being collectively targeted and threatened.

Combined with the regularity of lock-outs, the proliferation of cyber bullying and the rapidly empty responses to climate change, he has nothing left to believe in. He watched his country, the adults and parents who should be watching out for his generation, elect the most unsophisticatedly inhumane of any candidate possible to usher his generation into adulthood. Environmental protections are dismantled, a sledgehammer has been taken to a woman’s right to choose, and racism, sexism and discrimination is sanctioned and protected.

We have a generation of children who have been force fed a steady diet of fear and impulsive intolerance. Even for the kids not directly in harm’s way today, the multitude of dangers they have to navigate put my youthful grievances into clearer perspective. The trauma, the low, constant hum of human suffering accumulated slowly over time.

Who would they be if we hadn’t done this to them?

We all belong to each other.

This isn’t about my kid vs your kid. This isn’t about comparing our suffering. It’s about recognizing that we share the burden of carrying that experience with and for each other. Without your experience, how can I possibly ever understand mine? We serve as mirrors for each other, reflecting both the pain and the resilience, the fear and the healing. By sharing those experiences, we give context to someone else’s.

People often tell me that I share too much online. And I do. I know better than most the consequences of sharing so much. But I also know that dee in my soul, I share my ideas and experiences so that others might find something that resonates with them. If my story can help even one other person, then I experience a transformative effect for the pain I’ve lived through. I reclaim more of who I really am and I experience a greater freedom in living my most authentic life.

So many of us have been through some horrible things, things that we’re only now starting to find a voice for. Many of us are grappling with the outcomes and consequences of shame, guilt or trauma. That realization has a ripple effect around us, even momentarily altering how we see ourselves and the world around us. And if, in this moment we can collectively mourn for the people we never became, if we can reconcile the betrayal we feel, we might recognize that we have more in common than we think.

In these moments of crisis, in these days of uncertainty, we have a choice whether to silo ourselves away in a tower of enforced misery, or whether we might deserve the strength of sincere companionship. We have a choice to model for our over stressed and over burdened children how to handle emotions like fear or distrust, how to maintain resolve when it looks like all is lost. We can show them leadership. We can show them another way.

Connecting with one another, making ourselves vulnerable to share in the burdens, collaborating on solutions together may be the only way we can ensure that our children will survive their futures.

We all belong to each other.

We all want to be loved, to be found worthy of our intended’s affection, to be worthy of our parents’ pride, to be deserving of close friendships and to bask in the joy of romantic passion. Only by realizing and engaging with that connection will we be able to create a world of abundance, security and peace for us all.

Starry Night & the Vastness Within

The Timeless Beauty of You.

(originally posted 10-7-18)

I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up: a nurse, a teacher, a judge, a senator, a singer. But the one that stuck with me most, that lit up my imagination the most was the ambition of being an astronaut. I grew up during the age of the space shuttle, Star Trek, and Star Wars. I was mesmerized by 2001: A Space Odyssey and consumed everything I could in those very early years about space travel. I even went to Space Camp. Twice.

This was it for me. My only destiny. I was destined to travel among the stars. My early childhood memories include watching the space shuttle, Columbia, roar into the sky. Innocence and imagination propelled me to research and learn, which caused me to grow and dream bigger.

My trips to Space Camp also got me started with public speaking rather early. Traveling to schools and scouting troops who wanted to hear about my experience. It also led to designing a space station with my equally geeky friend in middle school that won us some awards and Air Force mentorships. My life became a series of events, speeches, presentations, leadership councils, playfully personal arguments that illustrate a higher ideal than the everyday, ordinary obedience.

I since decided to stay on earth for the duration of my lifetime, I still am inspired and awed by the inspiration of space.

Whenever I’d sit and watch the stars, I saw the endless possibilities for discovery, for growth, for the experience of majestic beauty. I saw the potential for greater technologies to take us past our solar system. I saw the bright, twinkling possibilities for future destinations, greater understanding of our origins and even the capacity for humanity’s redemption in the vast, glittering expanse of space.

But space is also scary. It’s dark and mysterious. The boundlessness of such apparent emptiness often exceeds normal comprehension. And in those rare moments we allow ourselves to explore the vastness of that concept, we begin to see how it’s possible to let go of our smaller selves and connect to the vastness of the cosmos. It’s humbling and remarkable, sparking a flicker of wisdom within, as fleeting as a shooting star.

The wisdom within is as vast as the universe itself

Sitting on the porch of my family’s cabin in the mountains. I needed this retreat for the past few months, but something else always seemed more important. In my efforts to cope with the stress of day to day life I had allowed myself to get drawn back into old patterns: reacting instead of responding, self-deprivation instead of self-nurturing, beating myself down instead of lifting myself back up.

The gravity of the world had weighed down my spirit more often than the beauty of it had lifted my soul; yet, I feel untethered, the ground never truly solid beneath my feet. Sometimes I feel like I have just been floating out there for quite some time. Drifting from one ambition to another – today I’m a writer, yesterday I was a lawyer, tomorrow I’ll be a goddess. While all of those roles are me, lately there has been very little of me left to inhabit those roles. There’s been very little of me to offer to the people I care most about in this world.  Very little of me to become the sparkling mountain goddess I want to be. So consumed by the fear and anxiety, the doubt, and the anger, I have lost touch with the love and the wonder that set me on this path, to begin with.

So as I sit here on this porch, staring at a magnificently sparkling painting of stars overhead, I recall the girl who dreamed of being an astronaut – of seeking out a future for humanity. In this quiet of midnight, I finally feel free to reconcile my own destiny.

I had lost touch with the wisdom that is found when I slow down and consider the true vastness of the universe compared to the small and tiny problems of my life. Who cares whether my boss likes me if there isn’t a humanity left to bear witness to the grandiose majesty of our universe? Who cares whether I said the right thing or wore the right outfit or if I weighed 210 lbs or 135 – my weight and nervousness is not my legacy. Likewise, why should I care about which celebrity is dating who, when I am one tiny person in the vastly diverse array of human beings on this planet, inhabiting one of just a billion different rocks?

Life is so much more than our competitions and jealousies. Life is so much more rewarding than a lifetime of bitterness. Staring at the stars, we begin to question the uselessness of our structures and oppressions. Staring at the stars we know that life is much more than what we’ve contained ourselves to become. Break loose of the mold and find your light in the vastness of complexity and beauty within. Cut loose from the ties that have bound you to the ground and allow yourself to find your place in the universe around us.

No more apologies: letting go of overthinking

Too many of my blog posts have started with an apology. A conditioned conversation starter that presupposes I have failed to meet invisible expectations that I believe people have for me. I over-explain everything – a knee jerk reaction to the weight of the disappointment I have assumed into my shoulders whether earned or not.

But the point of this post – the point of my blog is to reflect the universal truth and beauty of our shared experiences through my own personal revelations and transformations. That includes making a conscious choice to not apologize, not to assume, not to beat myself up for living my own life.

Therefore, I’m not going to apologize for my absence and lack of posts lately. I have been doing a lot. I have been kicking ass at work (getting an increase in staff and responsibility). I have been battling demons (finally confronting the monsters under my bed so to speak). I have been challenging myself to be a better person (recognizing and accepting my faults without going overboard to please everyone). I have been developing new connections (lovely sources of sexual tension). I have been learning new things (making time to read books). I have been discovering my power (standing up for myself and speaking my truth). I have been creating change (in policy and in my various communities).

Breaking the Habit

I don’t feel the need to apologize for any of the things that have been drawing my attention away from blogging. There is only one of me and being present during this time of rapid change and transformation is the most important challenge I have in front of me.

Too often I get buried in a never ending spiral of overthinking. It could start innocently – seeing a cute dog crossing the street. But within moments my brain is spiraling into guilt and shame for not taking my dog to the groomers sooner, this making her cute too. And soon, I’m apologizing in my head (and occasionally out loud) to the audience I’ve let down with my apparent poor choices, adding more tasks to my neverending to-do list.

This propensity to apologize out of anticipated shame and guilt, that it is sometimes physically painful to hold back that reaction. It’s such an automatic reaction that it’s taken a long time to just be aware of it, much less take the steps I need to actually overcome it.

It’s taken years for me to just become aware of it, to notice how often it was derailing me. This spiral pattern of shame, blame and apology is how I kept holding myself back from experiencing success and happiness. I allowed those invisible audiences to judge me and shame me into hiding because of my persistent fear and shame.

And while I do have plans to write this story, to provide the insights I want to share, it’s an incredibly difficult task while I am still living it, processing it and being present with it.

One year’s growth

The past year has been one of the most challenging and fulfilling of my life. The growth I’ve experienced has been life altering. Finally finding a space of deservingness also brought me to an awareness of how intimidated I am by what I think others think and believe about me.

But there comes a point where doing the right thing won’t make everyone happy. And the past year has given me a lot of opportunities to examine my relationship with my own sense of power, to examine how I respond to my own decision-making authority. I’ve been too comfortable in the background, unwilling to fully step into the lead of my own life much less my own profession.

The past year, I’ve had to do something that is very difficult – I’ve had to stand up and be noticed. I’ve had to give structure and hold people accountable. I’ve had to hold myself accountable without losing my power. And my god, it’s been so hard to do that without completely losing myself to the fear and anxiety of it all.

Over the the past week I’ve had to examine some of the deeper pieces of my heart that were still in need of healing. And I recognized that had I not been through all the hard, difficult things that I already have, that I never would have reached this point of catharsis and release – healing wounds that created a thirst for self-esteem, that relied too heavily on the approval of others.

That healing needed space and time. And my healing does not require me to apologize to anyone for not being as available as they want. I have spent the past 6 years fully engaged in the hard work of repairing my heart, restoring my soul and preparing for the difficult job of being The Queen. Every minute, every decision, every difficult step has been worth it.

No more apologies.

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