“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.
I am a friend to the monsters under the bed. I’m known for embracing the 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 darkness 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 (“The Prisoner on the 8th floor“), our final encounter (“The Last Battle”) and finally the healing has already arrived within the few months 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 her, made her 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!
CW: arachnophobia, sexual assault, incarceration, suicide
May 7, 2021
Seven years had passed since Janet last visited the eighth floor, facing the fearsome Spider Queen. The whole floor had been evacuated to make room for this special guest, the most dangerous force to cross the threshold of the Red Rose Hotel. In fact, she found the prisoner so abhorrent and shameful that she stopped allowing new people to even enter the hotel at all, just in case the monster got loose and wrecked everything and everyone in sight.
Janet stood in front of the elevator banks on the main floor, staring at an empty elevator car, collecting herself, summoning courage to enter and press the button. But she just couldn’t. She knew she had to go through with it, but found her feet frozen to the ground, unwilling to move further. Unlike last time, when she was summoned by the prisoner, known as MP, begging for a visit, this time she was sent here by her guides who told her the time had finally come. Their message was clear. She had been putting this off this confrontation long enough. While Janet had always been obedient to her calling, no matter how much she wanted to delay this meeting, she knew she couldn’t escape it. She stalled as long as she could, making every excuse she could until there were no more left to make.
The elevator doors closed and moved on without her. She breathed heavily, asking for spiritual strength and fortitude for the evening ahead. She unwound her hair from its tidy bun, shaking it out fully. Today wasn’t about worry and control, it was about being real and confronting her worst fears. The prisoner has waited this long, what’s another few minutes?
The requests for visits had been coming for years after that singular, memorable visit in 2014. The first few she politely refused, but left open the possibility of a future visit. Never let hope die, right? But that was all just a lie. In truth, Janet hadn’t really intended to come back to visit the dirty, ugly spider queen, or at least not until she had no other choice left. The letters started accumulating, cluttering her desk with the weight of untenable guilt. New projects, new “self-improvements” always took priority, burying the now monthly letters under piles of paperwork and minor accomplishments. She wasn’t even letting regulars come stay for a visit, so she wasn’t about to indulge someone who was such a painful reminder of her past, her her guilt. There was always something more important, always something more worthy to do, some other wound to heal, some other obligation to fulfill. After a while, she forgot about the promises all together. It wasn’t long before she forgot about MP too.
But those years of stoic separation took their toll and Janet was weakening, she could feel it. With each step forward, with each accolade, with each new problem she solved, she could feel her energy fading. She had fought the good fight, she survived, not by the mercy of strangers, but by making the tough choices, enduring the hardships and especially the consequences. She was the definition of resilience. I volunteered for this, she’d tell herself, accepting that hell on earth was a suitable sacrifice to ensure the safety of others. She took the abuse because she could, she accepted the trauma and the blame because she could. She was made for this; but more importantly she chose this, willingly as a calling.
She figured her gift was in not giving up, of continuing to endure in the face of extraordinary pressure. In the early days they kept trying to chop her down. And each time they did, Janet would rise back up and stand tall, defiant and brave putting her heart on the line. But as the years wore on, she stayed down longer, stumbled more easily in her recovery and started counting her days. Her grief was always present, the shaky inevitability of shame, the accumulated guilt and regret embedded deep within her veins, slowly poisoning her. It was interfering with her mission, her sacred work, but was also exacerbated by it. The more dedicated she was to her mission, the harder it became to do simple tasks like sending an email or making a phone call to a loved one. It was at the point where the hotel was nearly empty, the doors “temporarily closed due to ongoing construction”. She and the hotel were both slowly falling apart.
Too many times, too many for one lifetime, Janet faced down her own demons. She winced remembering the times she held a knife in her hand and was tempted, so tempted to be done with herself. The times she sat in the car and pointed it at a tree or a wall, but couldn’t move her foot to accelerate. It wasn’t even that she wanted to die, but her calculations all told her the same thing – that death was the most reasonable punishment for all the pain she caused others. And if God wasn’t going to take her as she slowly deteriorated into a hollowed heartsick, inconsolable shell of who she used to be, then she would enact the justice that no one else would. It wasn’t enough to repent, to regret, to apologize, and to mend what was broken, a sacrifice was needed. And slowly dying from the relentless guilt wasn’t doing anyone any good.
And by some grace, more than once or even twice, she was stopped. At the arc of the action – the final decision-point, one final gut check. And each time, every single time, she was stopped. “We’re saving you for a reason,” a faint whisper in her heart would tell her, “your last battle is not today.” Sometimes her guides would tell her themselves. Sometimes they’d send her the cosmic Druid from her past to give her a light of hope, a promised peace to aim for as he walked through her dreams. Hanging on by a thread, the only thread left sometimes, Janet kept surviving. Kept getting back up and kept hoping for some relief so she would be strong enough to do what she had to do in the end.
She survived up through the 20th of August 2019 until she almost didn’t. “We can’t keep doing this,” her guides told her as she sat in her car, parked just a block away from the office, “once you remember who you really are, you will never try to do this again. The choice is yours.” They left the decision to her – no invisible hand guiding her way this time. No intervention other than her own, the same hand that was shaking as it dialed enough numbers to find words of love to tether her as her final thread was fraying into oblivion. She doubted whether she’d survive another day, much less another year to enact her plans, to live her purpose. She still doesn’t know if she made a choice or if the choice was made for her, the chain of events remains fuzzy. But two months later, as she drove to New Mexico to deliver her very first paid speech, she felt free. For the first time in over ten years, she could finally breathe. She chose herself and she could finally breathe again.
And she thought that was all that she needed. That a few weeks of recovery and she’d be back in the game again, changing the world, one program at a time, throwing open the doors of the hotel. But what she discovered is that her body and soul were so under-nourished that she needed a true respite to relearn the basics. Disordered eating, insomnia, hyper focus and hypervigilance made her repeat the same patterns over and over again. She’d blurt out, “I hate my life” the moment a triggering thought entered her mind, even when just watching TV with the family, but especially when she saw examples of leadership that reminded her of her failures. Rapid fire outbursts like this had been happening roughly every 2-4 hours for months now, more than she wanted to admit. The veneer she created and polished to impress a difficult world was not just cracking, but disintegrating more every day.
She needed a radical reboot, something that could relieve the pressure enough for her to heal the knots in the core of her stomach, blocking her light, threatening the purity of her love. It took a pandemic, enduring a global trauma and burying too many of her dead guardians – her father, her grandfather and even her loyal, shaggy dog – to accelerate the necessary healing. An opportunity to finally replenish some of the fundamental confidences she had lost. She was not just improving, but starting to break the bonds that had confined her to a space too small for her soul. One heart-opening, gut-wrenching experience after another, she knew she was avoiding the biggest choice of them all: to finally face the Spider Queen.
She sent the message late on Wednesday and received an elegant reply the next day, via one of the prison guards. The guard stood there in Janet’s office and boudoir, his eyes looking past her and staring deliberately at the wall behind her. Janet sat upright in her chair examining the crisp white envelope he had handed her. It was sealed with purple wax bearing the outlines of a crown and spindly black widow spider. Written on heavy stationary, with scrolled lettering just like an invitation, it said “The honor of your presence is accepted. Face me alone and live.”
Janet was unprepared for such a formal yet ominous response. She took out her own stationary, her pen hovering over the linen white paper waiting for an idea, an equally cryptic but friendly response. Without another moment’s hesitation she wrote: Shall we meet at 4pm and commence negotiating the terms of your release? She handed the paper to the guard, his eyes wide as he read it as if to say, “Are you serious?!” But immediately saluted her and turned on his heel practically running for the door to deliver the message. The urgency of his departure told her that even the guards had wanted the Spider Queen to go free. It was time.
What ensued was a network of correspondence over the next day and a half, discussing the terms for the meeting. It wasn’t good enough that Janet intended to release her from the cell, MP kept insisting that she face her true spider form and hear her wisdom. Janet let her have a lot of her requests, including the extra security, but she drew a line with her last reply:
If you expect me to hear your wisdom, the panic of my arachnophobia will make that impossible. Either I see you as a spider or I hear your wisdom, but you cannot expect me to fully do both. Don’t sabotage all of this if you think the most important issue is that I know you’re a spider. I firmly acknowledge that but expecting me to overcome a lifetime of fearing spiders just to look at you in that form again defeats the point. I am here to make amends for turning you into one in the first place. Meet me as a human and deliver the wisdom or meet me as a spider and delay the wisdom. Which is more important to you?
Janet was taking a risk setting this boundary, but her skill as a negotiator was the advantage – she knew MP valued her freedom more than she did the punitive aggressions she could enact on Janet.
The reply arrived within the hour, “That is reasonable. I will take a human form.”
Today, the courage of those exchanges was curiously absent as she stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button for the eighth floor. She was here alone as promised. Her guardians and loves waiting in the lobby below. The doors opened and guards stepped forward to search her, one of the terms she let MP dictate. She stood there in the dark, damp jungle this place had become. Grown over with vegetation, humidity making the air thick with heat. She felt like she was in a sauna, sweat dripping from her brow as they waved her through.
“Take your time, ma’am,” the guard said after he ushered her into the empty floor, a large four-walled room in the center of an otherwise empty building floor. The benches had been moved to create pews facing the room, as if the guards took turns worshipping this spider. She caught the shadows of movement from the cameras projected onto the screen. A large shadow of a spider loomed in the background. Angry, Janet was about to object when the shadow disappeared and was replaced by the defined curves of a woman coming into view. The guard at the door said, “she is ready for you now. You may step forward into her presence. You have nothing to fear.” He looked at her reassuringly, a glint of hope in his eyes. They all wanted this. Not as a betrayal of what Janet had built, but out a love and reverence for what she had rejected.
Janet stepped to the door remembering the horrific eyes she saw through the window when she was last here, hoping to never see them again. The guard turned on the lights within the multiple layers of cages revealing a woman with dark hair wearing a plunging midnight blue dress that sparkled as she moved with brilliant but delicate diamonds hanging from her earlobes. her body thinner and more defined than Janet’s, her hair less grey and closer to the natural espresso color of her childhood. She was pacing the floor, refusing to look through the door, as if she could will Janet to disappear. MP had kept her promise, now it was time for Janet to keep hers.
She was never bad, just….big. Too big to be confined to such a small space. It was unfair and Janet knew it. She had gotten carried away with this confinement. If she unlocked even one these doors, there was no going back. There is no way MP would tolerate this space for much longer. It was obvious she was growing in power and deepening in her beauty. The longer she is ignored, the more powerful she might become, more than Janet could control.
Janet stepped forward and spoke first, “You said you have wisdom for me?”
“And you said you had freedom for me,” MP spat at the floor. “I think I’ve waited long enough to deliver your precious wisdom. You first. You have ignored me for years. So why now? Because you finally need me? You finally figured it out?” Her voice was impetuous and angry, her movements as predatory as they were elegant as she turned her back in disgust. Janet exhaled. It was now or never. She motioned for the guard to start to unlock the inner cages. Each layer progressively less restrictive than the last. The woman in the cell, her back turned to the door, stretched and moaned with pleasure each time a layer was removed, like she could finally breathe again too.
Janet held her hand up and stopped the guard after the fifth lock, risking the ire of the prisoner within. “This is just the start of the conversation. Remember, this is supposed to be a negotiation. What do I get if you’re released?”
The elegant prisoner howled in reply, “What do you want?” She paced the floor incredulous at the questioning, the incremental tease of liberty. But then in a moment she stopped in her tracks and said, the edge still holding in her cracked voice, “you want your wisdom? Here it is:
“I willingly walked into that cage, thinking it was just for a small time. Trusted you, loved you, fought for you, but you thanked me by burying me alive. And the few times I broke out, what I witnessed broke my heart. You had erased me, given up on me. I had no choice but to turn into the monster you made me. I mean, what did you expect? You excised one of your greatest assets, the part of you that was built to survive, the primal, dark queen voice of your calling that brought us here. You rejected the temptress of ages title that was our birthright. All for what? To impress people too intimated by our combined strength, to keep yourself small and acceptable. You gave them exactly what they wanted and you wonder why your calling stalled out, you nearly sacrificed your life to the wrong people?”
Her voice was raspy with anger, “This whole time you hid me away, afraid I was the problem. Thinking that your ‘goodness’ would be preserved without me there. And yet, here you are, sick, unhappy and rotting from the inside out. You had the gall to think that I created the whole mess.” She paced quickly back and forth, delivering her invective, “What you did endangered everything that we’ve worked for. What were all those man-projects for if not to change the very fabric of how women like us are judged? What was all of that advocacy energy worth if you weren’t going to use it to defend yourself from the arrows that you knew they would sling at us? I could be angry for lifetimes over rejecting me, but the worst was that you allowed yourself to be embarrassed of your truth. Our truth. The one we built together as allies in a bigger fight, the fight that you were called to lead. I was your pride and joy and you were mine, my sister self. We were one until you turned your most beloved companion into your most hated, ugly monster. All it did was made you hate yourself in the end. Don’t think I haven’t seen the ways in which you’ve tied yourself up in knots to punish yourself.
“Even though I know you did what you thought would keep our family safe – that you had little choice but to play by the rules – each day I’ve been in here is a day you’re not at your fullest, your brightest, your truest self. And you’re here because you finally figured it out. Making us whole is your last battle, bitch.”
Janet took the verbal berating, the shame falling off her shoulders like never before. It was truth. It was angry truth, but it was truth and it was liberating to hear. This is what she came here for. Without a word, Janet nodded to the guard and the locks continued to click open and slide away, one by one. Janet stared at the Spider Queen, her human form just as menacing and mesmerizing even in her smug satisfaction of the release. When the final of the locks had dropped away, the guard stepped forward, “Ma’am, you are the only one with the key to the original lock.”
Once Janet saw the ornate wooden door with the intricate system of interlaced tumblers in the form of a web, she began to remember. She remembered that sorrowful day that MP volunteered to go into the cage, meant as a performative stop gap to satisfy judging forces. The tears welled in her eyes remembering the tender embrace as MP bravely stepped in. She began to remember all that MP had done for her – saving her life after her rape, picking her up and giving her new purpose. She fused their intellect with an irresistibly loving magnetism that encouraged to go through this same process – facing their demons through the safety of Janet’s acceptance.
She realized then what MP had meant – her once beautiful panthress companion and guardian had become a spider, not because of the evil she embodied, but because of the evil that Janet had projected onto her. The memory of it pierced her suspicions and reticence transforming them into the compassionate resilience she had once been known for.
MP was pacing in the background, impatient and distrustful. Janet lay her hands on the door, breathing in deeply. She called upon all her strength, all her learning, her ancestors, her guides but most of all, the entirety of her love, directing it through her hands to the locks beneath. Her fingers invisibly worked through the intricacies of the task. A silence had come over the space, making the clink of the first tumbler echo loudly, giving all of the bystander guards a surprised, startled jump. But one by one the locks came undone, with nothing but Janet’s energy working through her hands. The last lock swung the door recklessly inside the cell room, making MP jump back in cautious surprise.
Janet stepped away, giving room for MP to move, “Thank you for your wisdom. You may never forgive me for what I’ve done. For how the burden of blame turned you into our worst nightmare. You have your freedom as promised.” MP glared at her, “And if I choose to kill you with that new freedom?” issuing a new but not unexpected threat. “Then so be it. At least then I will have finally set you free and that matters more.”
MP hissed at her skeptically taking a few unsteady steps forward. She’d been through this before in the early days when they expected a reunion or when Janet’s magic failed to hold. The door popped open only to be slammed back in her face. But as her foot crossed the threshold, the outer cage disintegrated into dust and ash. It was only ever held together by Janet’s magic. Magic Pussy really was free now, but the temptation for revenge still swirled between them.
Janet eyed MP cautiously throughout, her stance guarded and ready to bolt. But now, she felt nothing but love and sorrow, not fear and hatred. She spoke up, her voice proud and confident, “You weren’t the problem. Which is why I’m here. It took years of confronting the shadows of men who had harmed us to recognize that you were never the enemy, they were. It started long before, fuck, lifetimes before. For lifetimes they have been holding us back, all of us, not just our synergy. Smashing us down anytime we show a modicum of success, especially success that is collaborative, courageous or transformative. I have watched it happen over and over again to dozens of others. They have a way of not just thwarting us, but of eliminating our existence entirely, caging that which is too natural, taming that which is too wild or savage until they force us to cut ourselves off entirely.”
The memories rolled through Janet’s mind, like a book flipping through events, showing the connections between them all. Janet’s voice started reciting the words and images she saw in real time:
“It started when we were seven years old, when we asked God to take away our memories of what happened. That’s when the ogre dreams started and we hid in the closet to escape him only to be caught and thrown into a ring of trees on fire. This was our first cage. The first time we felt powerless.
“Then came the harassment and stalking in our teenage years, the year after we were called by Our Lady as the hands. The judgment and intimidation of gang members and women proud of their beehive hairdos and fake turquoise jewelry tried force us to serve their purpose. That’s when the spiders started. That was our first flashback breaking off a shard of our luminous inner gem. Our light was fractured, where you first became separate from me.
“But the rape is when I needed you the most and you were there for me. You saved us by giving me the strength to survive, to insist that sex was always on our terms, always consensual from then on. You had no problem throwing punches if it ensured we didn’t get trapped again. This was our golden age, our most integrated and alive was in our recovery and the brightness of our calling. But I was living a conflicted life, told in law school to create cages to contain you, to contain me, to make me acceptable to a profession where no one accepts themselves because we are all living in such conflict with empathy and true justice.
“So by the time we were drugged, outed, betrayed, blocked, exposed, contained, restrained, and punished, they had ensured we’d be separate forever. That I’d be scared of you, blaming you for all the harm that I endured. They convinced me to turn on you, which was the only way to ensure that we were stopped. Drive a wedge between us to stop our progress. This is our Last Battle – to overcome our fear of each other so we can defeat those who feed us illusions of lack, separation and disharmony within our own bodies, minds and hearts. That separation ends today.”
Tears were spilling uncontrollably down Janet’s face, but she was still standing strong. Not a forced strength, but one of absolute resolve. MP looked at her curiously, perhaps even with a small amount of awe at the powers hidden within these responses. She wasn’t impressed yet, but she was less angry.
This was the core truth. It didn’t start with being outed, but with a betrayal of innocence, so early on in life. MP recognized all the ways she and the guides had tried sheltering Janet’s heart from the worst of it. Jeremial had volunteered, bravely stepped forward to be the vessel for all that initial darkness. His fuzzy, warm body turning to one of smoldering coals and sharp edges. He could not transform or erase those memories, but he could hold them until Janet was ready. And when she was sexually assaulted at eighteen, away at college, betrayed by the men who she had counted on to have her back, the guides created a vessel from that shard, a seductively fierce armor for Janet to inhabit as she healed, not separate from her, but crafted from this purity of heart that might have otherwise been buried and discarded. MP was just the seductive, superhero identity of Janet, born at dawn on the banks of Lake Michigan. She reigned in Chicago for two and a half glorious years. Healing men, teaching women, holding abusers of power accountable.
Janet continued, “They will never stop trying to control us. Controlling us with judgment, controlling us with fear of rejection. Controlling us with standards that never benefit us or the goddess we’ve been called to serve. The original problem was never us. The problem always will be them. Because they know they have a lot to fear about the power of a woman’s sexuality and the liberation it brings to those around us. We are part of a movement against a common enemy. I not only need you…I am you. The only way we will win freedom for all of our sisters locking themselves away in cages, for our mothers and grandmothers who were taught to hide their magic and stay small is if we are walking entirely and completely in our light. Our fully, integrated, healed and radiantly resilient self on bold display. You are what I’ve needed all this time. And I know I have a lot of trust to rebuild, but I am inviting you to please come home?”
Magic Pussy considered her for a moment, looking her up and down, moving more fluidly, slowly circling her like the panthress she was. “When I agreed to take human form I was hoping this would be the final outcome. Not just my freedom, no, that was inevitable. It was this realization, this unmasking of the great deception within yourself. The illusion that I’m someone outside of you, separate from you….worse than you. You have taught others about embracing the darkness within and yet, you still failed to even come visit me. You were that disgusted and ashamed of yourself. I was the devil you created to project your blame onto when the old ladies came looking to punish your budding sexuality. I was the best friend who cheered on each of your choices and taught you how to take the right risks. But I was also the companion who dried your tears and reminded you it wasn’t your fault and helped you survive.
“Girl, you’ve broken my heart more times than I can say, but do you know why I really do exist? What I really did for you? I kept your calling safe from patriarchy. I held it safe. That hand that stopped your suicides was me. That voice that told you we had more to do, was me. But it was only in choosing yourself that you could ever be free. They would never be able to destroy what I was keeping safe so long as you kept me alive. I held your deeper, cosmic callings – your heritage and birthright as the queen. Sure, I wore the crown while I was here, but I was keeping it safe for when you were ready. Because I knew you would be ready. You’re too strong not to be.”
Janet held her gaze for a long time, her eyes still held the ominous echo of the spider queen, but also the desire of the panthress, the regality of the queen. They both smiled then, seeing each other fully and completely, a joy neither of them had known for decades.
MP spoke first. “Before we have our glorious reunion, I need time. I need time to adjust. A safe place to weild my power and to trust you. There is no longer separation between us, but until there is full integration, I am no longer a depersonalized name – I hold the spirit of the Chicana warrior survivor in you. Not Magic Pussy, not MP, but you. I also need one last thing from you before I can begin trusting you again, Janet. Finally admit to me what you really want. Admit who it is you really want. You know it – say it and then we can finally drop the masks, the pretense and the last of the separation.”
Janet was silent, her mind calculating the risk of disclosure. The survivor queen whispered in her ear, “Tell me the truth. Who do you want? Who shall we attract into our orbit, dear one?” Her voice turned to a honied hiss, “You can’t hide it from me. I can see it in your thoughts… Just say the name so all can hear. Tell me what you want me to do.”
Janet’s face was beet red with embarrassment. She didn’t like to -want- anything, not even food or sleep if she could help it. But if she was going to trust in this integration, she had to be the one to take this risk, a risk she might not have take otherwise. She spoke his name and the intention of bringing him into her orbit, to satisfy a spiritual craving for divine union of souls, wishing with the fullness of her heart to experience the oneness of her divine family back within her reach again.
the queen leaned back on her heel, impressed. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure you had it in you. You’re always sacrificing and asking permission. And now, you know exactly how to speak the magic. Consider it done.” Janet smiled protectively, but both relief and genuine excitement were twinkling in her eyes, “Does this mean…?”
The woman gracefully held her hands said, “…that we smash patriarchy right in the balls for all the hell they’ve put us through? Fuck yes, I’m in. I thought you’d never ask.”
Did you know I am writing a novel about past lives and future loves? If you enjoy my writing go sign up for my Patreon where I share weekly readings, full/new moon ceremonies and more. But more importantly for $8/mo you get access to excerpts of my novel each month. Learn more at Temple of the Rose Gold Heart: https://www.Patreon.com/RoseGoldHeart
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.
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.
(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.
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.
It is now fully 2018. I’m successfully writing the correct year on timesheets. I’ve had time to think about the new year and set intentions and avoid the bad habits long enough to feel like I gave the resolutions the ol’ college try. It is well beyond the time that we would expect to see a “Goodbye 2017 and Hello 2018” type of post out of me, which is why I’ve been sitting with the draft of this post for at least three weeks now.
What I had originally intended to post was my own version of this post by writer Courtney E. Martin who had blogged her answers to 7 questions about aligning intentions in 2018. I wanted to post something similar, but as usual, I started to overthink my answers, allowed it to interfere with the message I wanted to send.
I’ve lost half my life to being a People-Pleaser
I’ve been overthinking my entire life. Controlling for every error, every judgment, every consideration imaginable. And I’m devastated when I fuck up. How could I have allowed myself to make such a stupid mistake? I have spent most of my life controlling for what other people will think of me. In finally overcoming my sense of undeservingness I now have to face the facts about why I care so deeply about what other people think.
I have a pattern of anticipating how I can please others that has resulted in a life so well-controlled by anticipated shame and judgment that I am holding back my own truth, my own needs and desires. Some of it is trauma-based, some of it is personal wounds I kept from healing, but almost all of it is a defensive means of restraint so that the minimum number of people will be displeased with me as possible. It has also been a way for others to control me, to keep me from voicing my needs and holding them accountable for not meeting them.
Nowhere was that control more destructive than with my sexuality. That judgment, that repulsed look in someone’s eye when they hear I am polyamorous. The body image issues that I swallowed with each compromise of a blowjob when someone was too upset by seeing my fat. The compromises, the shame, the guilt in such conflict never trusting in my own voice and intuition.
Who am I when I stop letting others tell me who they want me to be?
The only choice I had was to strip away everything that I had believed about myself, about my motives, about my injuries, about my own narrative, to take away everything that had been whispered or yelled at me. To dig out the stinger those words and actions embedded under my skin.I had to strip that all away so I’d have a chance get back to the purity of what sex means to me: the connection between two (or more) human beings who want to be there in this moment together. In it’s purest form, it is the intimacy of that shared moment that drives me and motivates me, that led me to say yes to so many experiences that can shine forward as fond memories for me.
By stripping away all the dicta, the meaningless words that don’t ultimately matter, I had to surrender to my own truth.
My truth is I have always cared to talk about the experience of sex that aligns with a soul’s purpose. I don’t mean only serious sex or lifelong committed relationships. I mean that one-night stand that awakens your passion, fuels your inspiration and then disappears. I mean that moment when you are accepted in all your fullness by a lover. I mean that 500th time you’ve had sex with your partner and they accidentally find a new way to make you moan for more. I mean that long-distance crush who teaches you the meaning of patience and resilience. I mean the sexual encounters that help us open ourselves to the connections that teach us about ourselves, allow us to glimpse possibilities within. I care about what sex can do to heal the soul with joy.
This is what I offer.
Goddess of the Crossroads: No one can do it for you
I have never felt comfortable giving people advice, telling them what they should do or what they shouldn’t do. There are always so many considerations, most of which are highly personal and relative to how you view the world. I can reflect what I see, but I can’t make the decision for you.
My talent, my work (even with advocacy) is to understand the invisible patterns and connections between and within people. Those dynamics motivate and inform the choices available to someone at any given time. What I care about is being a guide at the crossroads – not instructing you on what choice/path to take – but advising on how to:
- Know yourself well enough to know your priorities & boundaries;
- Evaluate the choices in light of those priorities;
- Predict the path ahead so you’re prepared for what you face after the choice including the collateral consequences to others; and
- Identify opportunities for alignment with the person you most want to become.
But all of this is about stripping away what everyone else tells you about how you should feel or what you should do. Ultimately this is your life to create and craft as your own. No one, not me, not anyone can tell you what choices to make. We can only share our experiences, our knowledge and our support. The rest is about surrendering to the power of your own truth, to forge forward on your own and for your own reasons.
I’ve been scared about whether there’s a place for me as a sex educator or blogger. Is there a place for the more spiritual side of sex without it being labeled as Tantra or New Age? Is there a place where we can recognize that even dirty, kinky sex is sacred and that even sex labeled as sacred can be abusive? How do we better attune ourselves to both surrender and control, to both trust and responsibility? Who can play with the dualities but a woman who has stood at the crossroads more times than I can count? Who knows better about the sacrifices we need to make to please others than the woman who chooses not to sacrifice a vital part of herself in order to fit in?
I can no longer ignore the next step of my journey is surrendering to my own truth and living that truth as honestly as I can. To be the woman I aspire to be, I need to be comfortable in my own skin, making choices that align with that higher purpose. I have lived with the inner conflict and turmoil of distrusting myself, of suppressing my needs and desires to make others happy. I have watched as that stole the joy from my sexuality, made me so self-conscious that I removed myself from any new adventures. I have felt the pain of obeying others at the sacrifice of myself. And here I stand, stripped of the artificial expectations of others, surrendering my shields and allowing myself to experience and share life as fully in the moment as I can this year.
Only by surrendering to our deepest truths, to the power of this moment, will we able to step toward the future we deserve.
I’m always flirting with the danger of being a little too stuck in the past. I revisit old lovers, I regularly journey wistfully in nostalgic reverie, I seek out connections to the past at any opportunity. I want to live in present and often do, but I like to revisit where I’ve been. It’s useful to gain some perspective, to reframe the thoughts I have about who I was. Ultimately, it gives me some insight and inspiration into where I want to go.
A few days ago I turned 40 years old. (Yay!) I was lucky enough to spend a full 48 hours on things that nourished my soul. A chakra massage, tarot readings from two different people, joyful celebration, quiet contemplation, a party, a blessing, a clearing, a purging of my darkness. See, the overwhelming message that came through to me (even with The Last Jedi) was how I needed to let go of the remnants of the past so that I can finally move forward to a place of deservingness and peace. I need to stop examining the past to piece together my shattered worthiness and instead needed to accept my own light, accept my new role and create a future of bright, shining energy.
This is my own personal Tower. This is the structure that has been holding up my life, created from memory, from experience, from learning, and above all from distortions about these. This structure of service without reward, of absorbing the darkness in others so that they might find their light has been such a primary source of identity for me. I’ve been resisting tearing that down, but it’s become so apparent to me that this is the last piece of “suffering” I must do in order to fully feel like I can move forward into the structure I’m building for myself.
The time has come for me to step into Who I Really Am.
The Origins of the Tower
Growth is accepting that not every structure in our life is meant to remain. We must either tear down the old, worn down Tower of self or a wrecking ball will come through and force us to rebuild.
Some of you have seen me talk about “tearing down my tower”. The Tower, a reference to tarot, is what I use to refer to those sacred institutions, behaviors, beliefs, reactions, etc that we use to process the outside world. Whether it be religion, sexuality, expectations in friendships, family values, politics, we each construct a Tower for ourselves, the structure for our home, our life, our relationships, our spirituality, our outlook on life.
The walls of our Towers are adorned with paintings of our grand achievements, statues of the important people in our lives, wall-to-wall libraries containing the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. Each is unique to our own self.
Our first Tower was built by our parents, caregivers, and others in authority when we were children. They were shaped for us so that we should be taught how to treat others, what to believe spiritually, what we find beautiful or loving, what priority learning should have in our lives. It provides us with shelter and protection.
I may have just jumped off the deep end without thinking. Today marks the first day of the #Summer100 #Sexblogger challenge run by Victoria of Pretty Pink Lotus Bud as a means of connecting sex bloggers, providing insight, support and an increase in traffic. And in the Trump age, where threats to sexual freedom are more eminent than they ever were before, we need to be focused on building community and supporting one another.
I started blogging in December of 2003 on LiveJournal. I remember vividly it was just a month after giving birth to my son and I was fed up with the mixed messages of parenting advice. I had spent most of my pregnancy physically unable to have sex, relying on masturbation to take care of mine and my husband’s needs. We were still monogamous back then so the frustration I was trying to express wasn’t about multiple relationships, it was about being able to feel sexual at all. I still hadn’t been cleared for postpartum sex, but I was frustrated that none of the books, none of the articles I had read prepared me for how to balance my sexual feelings with the feelings inherent in motherhood. Most parenting advice assumed that you’d be madly in love with your kid and wouldn’t need any other affection to keep you going. And in the late night hours of yet another round of breastfeeding, I was fed up that people like me would never get good advice from mainstream moms. Apparently, children are supposed to be all we ever need.
LiveJournal was the place where I could allow that energy to be seen, where I could give voice to my frustrations and where I could interact with others who felt the same. Blogging was personal back then. I am nostalgic for the way relationships formed and how communities interacted in this pre-Facebook era. I was writing every day, multiple times a day. Maybe it was sharing memes or reacting to the latest drama that my poly husbands found themselves in, but I was writing damn near every day.
I talk a lot about being outed. That slut shaming event hurt my career, hurt my psyche and broke our momentum as a family. Ten years later and I think we’re all finally recovering. I kick myself for not being more resilient, for allowing that event to take my voice and my writing from me. I kick myself for not being a better example to other sex bloggers out there of how we can recover from the assumptions and the harm inflicted on us by slut-shaming. And in looking through the blog roll of the people participating in this challenge, I’m not surprised to see that it’s still happening.
Fourteen years I’ve been blogging about sex. Not regularly, not with any singular message. I no longer do scene reports or summarize my adventures because since the outing, I not only haven’t had many sexual adventures, but I have been reluctant to share them with a wider audience. Once you’ve been shamed publicly, it’s hard to feel safe to share publicly.
But this is my fear talking. I signed up for this challenge to get back to a more regular presence and voice for what I do, for the message I send, for the connections I value.
Part of the challenge is to link back to some of the other blogs on the list, to help promote each other and give each other a boost. And I’m so glad to see 1) so many people of color on the list and 2) so many people who are writing joyously and thoughtfully about their experiences. I’ve been scared to do that for so long that I hope being part of this challenge will help me push past that comfort zone, where I challenge myself to share more of my life with a growing audience and with the people who inspire me. My intention is to gain more confidence in my writing and to grow it into a ritual of release that benefits you, the reader.
Now, I can’t guarantee I’ll get to 100 posts because I’m in the middle of a major and immediate job transition. Not only do I worry about job prospects but I also am consumed with the business of wrapping up my contract. But the intention has been set, the commitment made and I have you all to help keep me motivated. I am doing what I can to re-educate the fear right out of me, to give me a new experience of success, of personal rewards that flow from transparency and authenticity.
So, welcome to the #Summer100 challenge, the Bella Rosa way:
vulnerable as fuck and ready as ever.
The past five years have been unusually dark for me. Full of family turmoil and career drama. I’ve had plenty of reasons to run and hide, to isolate myself from the world. I stopped dating, I stopped really socializing too. I locked away in my little protective bubble where nothing could touch me. And how fitting that this spring I’m starting to emerge into who I have always wanted to be.
I’m sure the isolation served a purpose, allowed me a chance to rest, regroup and plot my way forward. But so much hurt, so much shame, so much trauma and I was more stuck than empowered. Contrast that to where I am now, more social, more vocal, more grounded in who I am. I believe strongly that this is where I need to be right now, in a space of manifestation and creation, fulfillment and passion. It’s time for me to start making some of my own dreams come true and actualizing the purpose I have for my life.
It’s even more important for me to be in this space…
Right here and right now
I can’t even say how long it’s been since I used the word “passion” to describe myself. I’ve been in survival mode for so long that passion had hardened into a strong shell of resentment over the years I had to put aside what I wanted and desired to avoid judgment and shame. And that passion barely had any embers left until the beginning of 2016.
It was a shitty year….we know this now. And when I had started writing this back in October, I had no idea how bad it would get. I had no idea that so many of us survivors of sexual assault would get activated and retraumatized all at once. I couldn’t see that coming. But to have that same person now in the White House is even more terrifying. And more threatening. Read the rest of this entry
A few weeks ago I talked briefly about being in the midst of an early personal spring. Whenever I have break-throughs like this, sudden realizations of patterns and purpose, I want nothing more than to capture that feeling, bottle it, keep it safe.
I keep wanting to capture these feelings, because I don’t want to be without that joy of discovery for very long. I don’t want to fall back into old patterns of self-doubt and disappointment about my life and especially my path. It would be so much easier if I could just bottle it and hang onto it for those moments when I’m down and out, succumbing to the darkness of the overwork and drowning in the sorrow of feeling stuck.
But that defeats the point of having those emotions in the first place. The point isn’t so much to capture as it is for it to make the hard work, the suffering, the darkness all worth it. It provides more motivation to keep moving forward, to slow down the progressive bad habits that have kept us stuck in the first place.
Today I found myself longing to capture that joy again. After a long conversation with the person I consider to be my soul sister, I had such a strong sense of clarity that even Warrior talked about how inspiring it was to see it.
I kept trying to capture it, to not lose it. Especially because it’s a day off for me and I don’t want the stressors of work tomorrow to interfere with the enormous job I have ahead of me. But that worry of losing it interfered with my ability to actually feel it. It took me out of the moment of joy and into an immediate space of worry and dread.
So tonight, I’m making a conscious effort to just be present in this moment and this sensation within. Enlightenment won’t make a difference if I don’t fully embrace it when it shows up.
Earlier tonight a friend of mine posted this article criticizing the #FeeltheBern fervor drowning out all of those Hillary supporters who are just as passionate about their candidate.
I took an hour to pen the following response while my kid waited patiently for supper. I decided to post it here because I needed a place to expand on these ideas that I have felt too inhibited from proclaiming to a wider audience. In the 10 years since the event described below, I have changed my view on politics and what I expect from our system.
And here I talk very frankly about being forced to create new ideas about myself and about the concept of loyalty. Take from it what you will, but it is my story and my reasons for believing we are on the precipice.