What a year.

I’m still here. I’m still His. He has been very quiet of late, for many reasons.

It really got started in May. Well, maybe April. We brought home a new cat, Nebula, who had been hanging around a friend’s porch. We took her to the vet, got a clear bill of health, got her first shots, and brought her home. On May 12th, much to everyone’s surprise (including her own), she gave birth to four very healthy kittens.

Then my car got hit and totaled.

Then my father-in-law went for a drive and got lost for 15 hours.

On June 21st, I almost died.

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Yeah, that happened.

(Many of you already know about this, but for those who don’t, that’s called a saddle pulmonary embolism, and the survival rate for those is around 10-ish percent.)

It’s been 69 days. I’m on medication and under treatment. I’m doing much better, but not yet out of the woods. And before anyone asks… no, this was not another Ordeal. Not one from any of my patrons, anyhow. (The question was asked; the unanimous answer was “Not us!”)

So They’ve been quiet. I’ve been quiet. I’ve been back at work part-time since mid-July, working remotely, because the doctors won’t allow me to make the daily commute.

I’m learning a lot, though. I’m learning just how much I expect of myself now, much less what I expected of myself when I was 100%. I’m learning just how much my hormonal treatments (HBC) for PCOS were muting me. I’m learning accountability for what I do, the physical and mental costs of not paying attention to my body’s messages. I’m learning how to manage my temper and stress without the help of the HBC, while my hormones try to readjust. I’m learning how much stress I’ve been under, and how I’m having to scale it back.

I’m learning how much I didn’t miss menstrual cramps.

All of this has put a very large crimp on many things… and opened up many things. Our finances are a little very rough, but it forced me to be vulnerable and ask for help. (Our dear, wonderful, AMAZING community responded, and we felt so, so loved.) My energy is much lower, but I’m learning to pace myself better and I’m getting things done. We have to be much more careful when traveling, but we can still travel. I can’t go back to work full-time, but I’m enjoying the remote work and having someone to work with in the office to get everything done. I’ve had to set back my plans for drag kinging (even with my binder and packer waiting patiently)… but the clan I hope to get this year for Twilight Covening would be so good for helping me explore that part of me, and that part of my relationship with Sir. And more.

So even if it wasn’t my patrons… maybe the Universe was trying to tell me something, and provide me with an opportunity.

It’s been one hell of a year. But I’m still here. And so is He.

Losing compassion

My compassion has been the biggest casualty of the 2+ years I’ve spent closing off. While compassion is defined in the dictionary as having sympathy or empathy for someone in a dire situation, it feels far broader than that. It’s about listening, not just hearing; it’s about being there for others, good times and bad; it’s about taking a breath, turning off the phone/games/TV/whatever and really paying attention. I have been pulling further and further away from all of that, diving deeper into escapism, which is what got me where I am now.

I could go through all of my theories as to why. My relationship with my parents and stepmother is shitty, because they’re shitty people who treat me like rope in their tug-of-war and seem to feel that they have some ownership over how I live my life. Our youngest son has been exploring his own colon so hard that he’s back in jail right now for the fourth time in a year, and betrayed everything we tried so hard to teach him, and has sent my Kit into spiral after spiral of feeling like he failed as a father. Purchasing the house was an incredible ordeal, and there’s a lot we’re trying to do now to make it ours, much of which I’ve taken on as “I need to do” rather than “we need to do.” That flows into the day-to-day of the household, because my brain is going, “I need to do these things because Kit’s spoons are sucked dry by the day job/weather/what have you,” instead of asking him if he has the spoons to help me with X, Y, or Z.  The current administration is burning everyone out. Add in the day job with its stressful clients and coworkers, and trying to make Raven’s Own self-sufficient…

I could go on. Life is life is life and comes with its ups and downs. And in the face of stress and shitty people and betrayal, I did what comes naturally to me – I closed off to try to protect myself from it, except that like all of my oldest coping mechanisms, I always take it to the nth degree. I’ve said for years that I’m on the edge of a nervous breakdown, but I don’t have time for one, and I’m wondering if closing myself in my little tube of distraction was my way of keeping myself standing.

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It looks a lot like this. (Fallout 4)

But, as Brené Brown says so well: “[Y]ou cannot selectively numb emotion.”

Well, I sure as hell tried. And, just as she states in that talk (which was my first therapy homework, by the way), I numbed gratitude, I numbed joy, I numbed compassion.

(I had a whole case in point thing typed up here, but it felt like obsessive venting, which I am also really bad about doing, and I deleted it. So yeah.)

I don’t really have a neat way to close this out, which is frustrating me a bit, so I’ll just… end it here.

The Law of Inertia

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An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. – Newton’s first law of motion

I come home from the day job around 5:00 PM. I change clothes. I set my laptop up on the couch. Sometimes I grab a snack. I sit down, turn on the xBox, turn on my laptop, and get comfortable.

That is where I stay for most of the rest of the evening.

If we’re lucky, I get my butt up and cook sometime before Kit gets home, so that dinner is ready (or nearly there) when he walks in around 7:30. If we’re not, we sit around for a few minutes trying to determine where to go for dinner, and that’s not easy when half the restaurants nearby close at 8:30 or 9:00. We head to bed around 10:00, until my alarm rings around 5:30 AM.

Monday through Friday. Given the chance, I do the same with Saturday and Sunday. Notice anything missing? I do all the time, and the self-flagellation for not doing is part of what I’m running from. I silence thoughts and projects and Voices and emotions with food, Netflix, and games. You know, like most of the rest of the American population.

I know better. I know this. But it’s easy. It’s habit. I am at rest; I remain at rest.

When I do go into motion, I remain in motion until I fall down. Kit calls this “white tornado” time, and it stresses him out immensely because I’m really not a pleasant person while I do this. It’s another way of distracting myself; I know it, and it makes me worn out and cranky, but it keeps me from thinking about things.

DM has challenged me to sit with my thoughts. Sit with my feelings. Don’t distract. Don’t let blame and that pipe-like wall and noise and games get in the way. Be vulnerable. If I feel something, feel all of it – not just the anger, not just the blame, but what’s underneath it, too.

Be Open.

Sounds familiar.

Five years ago, middle-of-Ordeal familiar.

One year ago, middle-of-Journey, ripped-to-the-bones, Ol’ Beaky-stealing-my-core familiar.

It’s easy to submit to inertia, to habit, to the things to which one is accustomed. It’s the path of least resistance. I gravitate towards it. I think most people do. (Laziness is the mother of invention, after all.) Somewhere along the line, I gave up on the Work and gave in to habit.

Be Open.

Geebas, that’s hard.

Blame and Laughter

My Kit and I went to North Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend, in part to visit his sister (whose ashes we scattered into the ocean in Avon last November), and in part to have a real, actual, honest vacation. While we were there, we bought a couple of very pretty handmade bowls from a local potter.

We got home Sunday at 5:30. I brought the bowls in, still wrapped and in their paper bag, put it on the counter, and we went to get dinner. We came home at 8:00 to find our yearling cat, Tache, wearing a torn-paper-bag bib, and his older sister, Hatchy, catatonic.

Uh oh.

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Pottery + gravity+ ceramic tile floor = smash.

I was angry. I was disappointed. I got into the shower and started crying.

And blaming.

Look at what else you broke, the sock monkeys started to whisper. You knew he could reach the counter. You know he loves paper bags. That was careless. It’s your fault.

I spent the rest of the night rehashing everything I had caused to break over the years – the tajine, our first pizza stone, glasses from events. I spent it upset about money I had spent over the weekend/month/year that was silly, and could have been used better, and gone towards this vacation to make it better. And then I felt bad that I was stressing Kit out by my tailspin/meltdown/whateveryawannacallit.

Two hours later, three days of relaxation and rest were completely shot. I spent the next day in a fog, which was an utterly perfect way to prepare for my therapy appointment that evening, dontchaknow.

I described the incident and started to cry again. And my therapist (we’ll call him DM) started taking it apart. We got down to a core of something.

The bowls meant more to me than just things. They were something Kit really liked, something he had picked out, something we got together, for our home. They were a part of our first real vacation in years, if ever – most of our travel involves vending or festivals (many of which we have worked). I was disappointed. I was hurt. I was sorry that Kit had lost something else (considering everything else he’s lost over the years) before he even had a chance to enjoy them.

Instead of letting myself feel that, I turned automatically to blaming myself. It isn’t comfortable; it isn’t pleasant. But it’s familiar. It’s a barrier. It keeps me from thinking about the real, honest, vulnerable emotions behind why I’m upset, and redirects me into something I’m used to, something I use to shield myself from the actual feelings. Why I default to blame, I’m not sure. I don’t remember being blamed for a lot when I was a kid (except for food disappearing, which usually was my doing, because unhealthy food relationships run in the family). But it’s a thing. And it’s a thing I need to work on.

That’s kind of the core of this particular bit of Work. One of the reasons that I had to Ordeal in such an extreme way was to rip me open so I could feel and receive and be. One of the things I realize that Raven was trying to do last year, in taking my core, was try to open me back up.

I did not let it work. Hell, I didn’t even mourn for my old cat Minoush when she passed – after being my nutbar girl for eleven years – nearly as hard as I mourned for Belenos after only 8 months with us. I shut myself down even harder when she passed. I wasn’t letting myself feel anymore, because it all hurt too damn much.

The Wake Up Call ripped me wide open again. I’ve been feeling the walls trying to come back up since the pottery fell, feeling myself deflecting, and I’m having to work hard not to allow it. I’m not always succeeding, but being honest with DM is the first step. Being honest with myself is next. (That’s what he’s there to help me with, after all.)

An interesting side effect, though, is my laughter. I’m noticing that I’m laughing more at things. I’m laughing harder at things. I’m not just humming or giving off a light chuckle. There’s something more authentic to my laugh these days, something that’s been missing. Maybe it’s just me, but I hear something different, and I like what I’m noticing.

Reset.

On October 12th, I received an enormous wake-up call.

On October 13th, I removed my collar and cleared my altar.

The relationship is not over. He is still my Sir. I miss His collar; I miss Him (since this is His quiet time, and there is a gap in the voices I Hear). But I had forgotten that it is a two-way street. I stopped listening, stopped doing the Work. I have not taken care of His property (myself), and I have not represented Him well. I let my ego run rampant, and used the relationship I worked so hard to earn to make myself feel important and justify things as it suited me.

In the process, I have closed off. I let the hurts and stresses of life run me over, stopped making time for any of Them, for Kit, for anyone else, and drew my walls back up. I shut away my compassion, my mindfulness, in order to escape the anger and hurt. I forgot how much that doesn’t work, and how much damage it can do.

I’m back in therapy, something I’ve needed for longer than I wanted to admit. So far it’s going well, and I’m poking at the wounds that I shut the walls over to try to protect, so that I can work on accepting them and healing them. My therapist uses words like heart, honesty, vulnerability, compassion, regret, work to describe me so far, which tells me I’m not a lost cause yet.

My altar now carries only a candle, a lighter, and an incense burner. Back to basics.

I almost cut my hair, even – if I’m going to reset, reset all the way, right? I didn’t say you could do that, Raven said firmly. Boundaries.

But I’m back to weaving chain maille more regularly, which is as much devotional as it is self-serving. I’m enjoying it again, too. It’s a start.

Sometimes it takes losing something to realize how precious it is. I’m lucky that I can say “almost losing,” rather than “lost.” And I’m lucky for those who have stuck with me – and been willing to be the Universal Clue By Four – when I’m too busy deluding myself to listen.

I have been trying to think of words, because that is always my fallback. But there aren’t any.

I was thoughtless. Colossally, incredibly, inexcusably thoughtless. I didn’t listen; I didn’t think. Worse still, someone had to spell out for me what a thick-headed, selfish jackass I was to other people, what I took away from other people, before I realized how wrong I was – and how my actions completely contradict my words on all accounts.

This is not who I ever wanted to become. Words can’t fix this. Dwelling on it can’t fix this; I can’t push rewind and do it again. Apologies mean nothing without the action to back them up. I have put in the work. I have to fix this by doing.