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Rock Aching Against Water

Original art and blessing by Connla Freyjason; Thrud from a previous render by Daniel P. for Iaconagraphy (Thrud image only available at Red Bubble by clicking this image; opens in new tab)

I have spent most of my life attempting to emulate the famous Bruce Lee quote “Be water, my friend”, but for the past two weeks, I’ve felt more like the rock than the water: rock aching against water.  Most of you already know that we’re in the midst of selling our home and attempting to find and buy a new one, and I’ve said before: moving is hard.  As we go deeper and deeper down this tangled path, however, I’m discovering more and more every day that those three words are really too mild of a statement for precisely how difficult this entire scenario actually is.  “Be water, my friend” went flying out the window, leaving nary a feather behind, somewhere around June 11th, and it’s been all uphill from there!

For a moment, let’s talk about what that quote means, before we talk about its opposite.  In full, Bruce Lee said:

“Don’t get set into one form; adapt it, and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.  Empty your mind; be formless; shapeless–like water.  Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup.  You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.  You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow, or it can crash.  Be water, my friend.”

Basically, what this means it that you shouldn’t get locked into patterns; that you should basically learn to “roll with the punches”, and somehow keep landing on your feet.  It requires being mindful of your environment and surrounding situations to the point that you can easily “change your shape” to fit that environment and those situations–the way water becomes a cup, or a bottle, or a teapot.  It implies that you are adaptable; that you can take virtually any situation and “make it your own”; take command of it; know when to flow, and when to crash. Ultimately, “being like water” means being completely open to the fact that there are infinite possibilities open to us; it means being hard and soft at the same time; it means accepting the possibilities of success and failure equally. It is to believe that anything can happen, and that it actually might.  From a Heathen perspective, it means being comfortable with the ebb and flow of Wyrd, rather than afraid of that ebb and flow.  When we close ourselves off to all of that, we remove any chance for a sense of accomplishment, relegating ourselves to a constant state of feeling stymied, trapped, out of control, and basically doomed.  

And that is where being the rock, instead of the water, comes into this discussion.  Rocks don’t typically move.  They are static entities; their shape is their shape, and they aren’t exactly legendary for adapting.  Instead of adapting, they break and erode.  Generally, with a rock, “what you see is what you get”, which is why we have phrases like “written in stone” and “set in stone” to denote things that are unchangeable or immutable.  Rather than changing its environment, a rock is changed by its environment: moss grows, or the rock is broken apart by rushing water, or eroded into sand.  “Rock people” (as opposed to “water people”) see Wyrd as something which is likewise set in stone, and they live in an environment of fearing that Wyrd.  It is a life of feeling as though something unknown is constantly impending, and almost every creature alive fears the unknown.

Up until June 11th, I was doing a fairly decent job of “being water”, instead of “being rock”, with this whole home-selling-home-buying scenario.  I had dutifully packed up most of my office without batting an eye, looking upon the whole affair as the first key to a new future in our lives together. I was, in fact, actually excited about the whole thing.  I had begun shopping around online for potential new home prospects, and we had already toured a few open houses. I began embracing the whole concept of “mobile home living” and the “mobile home lifestyle”, which honestly tugged at my California-born heartstrings in ways that I couldn’t even begin to readily describe to my partner or anyone else.  I began feverishly creating home-plans (complete with decor motifs and furniture placement) at Roomstyler, and researching everything I could find on home makeovers (including fantastic accent wall treatments).  I resolved that I was going to become the “ultimate house husband” upon moving to our new locale, complete with all that such entails, right down to making sure dinner was on the table promptly at 5:30 every day when my Beloved gets home.  And I was super excited about all of that.  Wyrd would take us where we needed to be, and I had ultimate faith in the Gods in bringing us there.  So what changed?  How did I suddenly go from “water” to “rock”?

Prepping for our first open house, on the heels of our favorite future home prospect being pulled from the market, while suffering from the worst outbreak of pustular psoriasis we have ever endured started my downhill slide.  Still, I tried to remain hopeful, as we went that Wednesday to tour two other home prospects, the first of which we were both absolutely in love with.  Cat-in-tow, we went to tour two properties, both of which had promise, and I immediately came home and sat down the very next day and started plugging in our furniture and coming up with decorating motifs via Roomstyler.  Yes, I was terrified about where my health was taking me, but I kept reminding myself that soon our lifestyle would be way more laid back, and that somewhat helped me through. I continued to pray nightly (as I always do), even as I put my job on hold because I couldn’t write or even make art through the fever and the itching and the fear.  I tried to keep my chin up, and wade through the itching, the pain, and the knowledge that this could be the outbreak that ended both me and Michelle, and remain hopeful. I tried to stay water, my friends.

On the 22nd, that prospect we were in love with sold to another buyer.  I tried not to let that get me down, as my health was improving (however slightly), and instead focus on the other prospect we had toured.  The more of our furniture I crammed into the houseplan of it on Roomstyler, the more cramped it became, but I found “work arounds”, and kept plugging away.  “It’ll just be cozy”, I reminded myself and my partner; “and we love cozy, right?”  Meanwhile, we scheduled two more open houses, and I watched my Beloved work her tail off while I had to sit humbly by and try to “pray away the pain”.  I began to feel guilty that I couldn’t do as much as I had done around the house previously and internally beat myself up about that fact.  I began to pine for another property we had found that is totally our dreamhouse, but also totally un-financeable.  I began to hear the Princess Leia quote from Star Wars: A New Hope replayed over and over again inside my head, only with a real estate theme: “The more you tighten your grip, the more mobile homes will slip through your fingers”.  Except our “grip” didn’t feel tight at all; instead, it felt more and more like “one hand clapping”: an appendage constantly reaching out for what it wants, yet only grasping air. My downward spiral from “water” into “rock” had officially begun.

I am officially breakingeroding, and turning into sand.  Where once I sat out in the swing to watch the bunnies and the birds, and it would bring me peace, now I sit out in the swing and watch the bunnies and the birds to hide my tears.  What will life be like in a place where I can no longer hear the coyotes sing?  All I want to be able to do is look out my window and see a tree, and it doesn’t even have be my tree; it just needs to be a tree!  All the while I am constantly reminded that I am a financial disaster, living on the good graces of the people who love me, and cannot help with anything whatsoever except maybe a little housework here and there, and right now, I’m not even fully able to do that.  I feel like a piece of dandelion fluff blown on the wind; some magical thing, perhaps, to the eye of a child, but when it’s all said and done, wherever I come to land I will grow into a weed.  And weeds are a nuisance; they leech all of the good away.  My nightly prayers have begun to feel like something I say by rote.  Where once there was faith behind those words, now that faith has been replaced with a very definite desperation.  I still sing galdr, yet each time I do so, I am reminded of the two homes previously that I have tried to “galdr into existence” for us that have gone to other buyers, even as our own prospects grow ever more slim. I am spiraling ever deeper into a pit of despair, and I’m having a very hard time finding a way to climb back out of it. No longer caught up in the ebb and flow of Wyrd, it has instead become a wave which I fear will drown us all.  

This morning, I pulled Uruz for my daily rune-draw.  I do this every morning, asking the Gods to tell me Their intentions for me this day: how should I live; what should I do; to what should I put my energy?  Immediately, the blessing for Thrud which I had been led to create weeks ago popped into my mind, and most especially the line: As rock as it aches against water.  We don’t tend to think of the pain the rock endures, as it is broken apart by rushing water, until that moment when we have become that stone.  As Heathens, the words “the strength of mountains” sound like a fantastic thing to have; like something for which to actively strive.  That’s all well and good until one is actually asked to endure; then and only then does one realize just how tough it must be to be a mountain!  

So how does one go from being “rock” back to being “water”?  

Flip that switch in four steps:

  • Restore hope via gratitude.
  • Give yourself permission to believe in miracles; in infinite possibilities.
  • Define your ultimate possibility.
  • Ultimately believe in your ultimate possibility.

The first step is the restoration of hope.  That’s the “thing” I lost a good grasp on, starting around June 11th, and then pretty much totally on the 22nd.  As this proverbial stone has continued rolling downhill like an avalanche, things have come to feel more and more hopeless. And, as in that famous quote from the TV series Lost, “hope is a dangerous thing to lose“.  Perhaps the easiest way to flip our brains from a “doom cycle” back to a “hope cycle” is via gratitude.  Being grateful for the things around us provides the rational mind–that part of the brain that tends to be the “doomsayer” in the first place–with evidence that good things can and do, in fact, happen after all.  I end every day, no matter how shitty, with a litany of gratitude to the Gods for every single good thing that happened throughout that day, no matter how small: everything from “thank you for that heron that flew by my window this afternoon at two o’clock” to “thank you for time with my Beloved and Kili”.  So, clearly, I have a relatively decent “gratitude system” already in place, yet here I am still: a rock, instead of water.

Restoring hope should begin to pave the way for a restoration of the belief in infinite possibilities.  In other words, giving oneself permission to honestly believe in miracles.  Two weeks ago, I wholeheartedly did; now, notsomuch.  I believe that was the true turning point for me, with going from water to rock.  One can only be told so many times that something is impossible before one actually gets with the program and realizes that something is, in fact, impossible. And once we reach that point, miracles cease being a possibility.  The permission to believe in them is officially revoked.  Author Marianne Williamson, famous for her books on alternative spirituality, including A Course In Miracles, has this to say about giving oneself permission to believe in miracles:

“A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love–from a belief in what is not real, to faith in that which is.  That shift in perception changes everything.”

Breaking that down from a strictly Heathen perspective, believing in miracles means understanding, accepting, and (most importantly) allowing the concept that all of those infinite possibilities–all of those miracles–are not utangard, but instead, innangard.  In other words, miracles aren’t something that happen to someone else out there in the big somewhere elsebut are instead right there, waiting for us, within our own circle of influence.  We fear what is outside our circle of influence, while we love what is inside our circle of influence.  When all of those infinite possibilities becomes things which are outside of that circle of influence–when we have that “one hand clapping” feeling that I described earlier, which makes us feel very out of control–we come to fear those possibilities, rather than love them.  The further we push possibility away from us, the more we come to fear it, and the more out of control we subsequently feel.  

So the third step is to define your ultimate possibility.  Your ultimate possibility should be the best possible outcome, based on the good things already being detailed by your personal “gratitude system“.  By basing the ultimate possibility on things which are already happening within our present circle of influence, all of those infinite possibilities become innangard, rather than utangard. My ultimate possibility, therefore, would be an attainable home that is sustainable by me, even given all of our health issues, which will require me to show off my interior design skills in effectively homemaking, because that is the “part of this bargain” which is actually within my circle of influence.  I cannot buy us a house; I can’t make that happen.  But I can make it a home. I cannot control whether or not there are trees in our yard-to-come, but I can learn to garden and grow things inside as well as outside. Home-buying is outside my circle of influence; it is utangardHomemaking, however, is something at which I excel–something I have always longed for the opportunity to actually do–and is therefore inside; it is innangard.

The final step, then, is to believe ultimately in that ultimate possibility.  Believing ultimately means that you put your heart and soul (all four parts of it!) into making that ultimate possibility an ultimate reality.  In my case, that means that rather than pinning all my hopes and dreams on this specific property, or that one, I instead put all of that energy into learning and preparing to do all of the things that are congruent with my ultimate possibility.  For example, if I want to be able to look out my window and see a tree, I need to start learning how to either plant one, paint one, or otherwise create one, rather than sitting around crying and moaning about “please, Gods, give me a tree!”  If I’m so obsessed with having “a room with a view”, instead of pinning everything on a specific property that has that view (which could just as easily slip away as not), I need to be developing creative ways to make a room have a view.

Ultimately, Wyrd is neither shaped for us nor set in stone: it ebbs and flows and changes with our every breath and our ever-changing attitudes.  When we trap ourselves in a cycle of hopelessness, then that becomes our Wyrd.  Instead of running like rabbits from shadows in the dark–from those things which are outside our circle of influence–we must come to realize that such behavior simply calls our worst fears to us.  By living our lives that way, we are literally bringing the worst possible Wyrd into existence.  Instead, we must focus on those things which we can control–those things which are inside our circle of influence–and take charge of those things.  Be grateful for them, and then do something with them and about them.  Even if it requires the strength of mountains; even if it hurts, like rock aching against water. 

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To The Pain?

You may or may not be able to quote dialogue at random (as I can), but most of you have probably seen The Princess Bride. (If you haven’t, rectify that ASAP! It’s one of the best films of all time!)  Near the end, there’s a duel between The Dread Pirate Roberts (trying not to give too many spoilers here, for those who haven’t seen it) and the dastardly Prince Humperdink, in which the dialogue goes a little something like this:

Humperdink: To the death!

Dread Pirate Roberts: No. To the pain.

Humperdink: I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase?

Dread Pirate Roberts: I’ll explain, but in small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog-faced buffoon.

Humperdink: That may be the first time in my life that anyone has ever dared to insult me!

Dread Pirate Roberts: It won’t be the last. To the pain means that the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles, then your hands at the wrists; next, your nose.

Humperdink: And then my tongue I suppose? I killed you too quickly the last time….a mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight!

Dread Pirate Roberts: I wasn’t finished!  The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right!

Humperdink: And then my ears! I understand! Let’s get on with it!

Dread Pirate Roberts:  Wrong! Your ears you keep, and I’ll tell you why!  So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish.  Every babe that weeps at your approach; every woman who cries out “dear God, what is that thing?” will echo in your perfect ears.  That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

So, why am I quoting this scene from The Princess Bride in the newsletter this week? What could that possibly have to do with the business here at Iaconagraphy, or with magick, or Tarot, or art, or anything else that I normally talk about?  Because I totally get what “to the pain” means, and I need y’all to understand it, too. You see, I’m having a duel with Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis, and it’s leaving me in that promised anguish, wallowing in freakish misery.

This isn’t just a disease that can kill you.  It isn’t just a disease that can cause you so much pain on a daily basis that you feel like you’re living in a medieval torture chamber, trapped inside an iron maiden, wondering what the hell you did to deserve this sort of punishment. (And if you don’t know what an iron maiden is, I suggest adding Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow to your next movie night as well!)  This is a disease that can make you ugly, inside and out. It’s a disease that affects your mind, as much as it affects your body.  It’s not just a matter of “I don’t feel well”; it’s a case of “I hate my life”. It’s “to the pain”.

Yet, I get up every morning and get online and get to work.  I’m sitting here now, typing this, with a left hand that barely works and hurts so bad when I type that I literally need one of those sticks you see dudes in war movies and historical flicks bite down on while somebody’s amputating their limbs without anesthesia.  I do housework (on today’s agenda: cleaning my office, because it’s a total wreck; tomorrow: laundry), or at least as much as I can (which is less than it used to be, and believe me, everybody in this house is paying that price).  I hardly every complain. In fact, I hardly tell anybody at all that I’m in this much pain.  So I’m telling you now.

Sometimes, I make sales.  That’s more and more rare these days, admittedly. But I still get up every day, slog through tremendous pain that would make most people just pray for sleep (or death), and try, try again, in the hopes that somebody’ll “bite”.

And yet I’m not on disability.  The “proud state of North Carolina” doesn’t think this level of agony is a disability.  I have no health insurance (Obama care doesn’t cover me…yeah, that was really designed with the poor people who actually need health coverage in mind! Not!)  I have no means of going to a doctor and getting prescription medication, and even if I did, ninety percent of what’s on the market is only a panacea anyway–nothing they give you actually heals this, because they haven’t yet discovered a cure for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis!

This is my means of making a living.  All those “conservatives” who get up on their bandwagons screaming about people like me who “want a handout” take note: I’m not taking any; they won’t give them to me. So, instead, I work my ass off every day in this level of pain, and pray to God that somebody will actually take me seriously, realize this is my only means of making a living, and actually act on that.  That is what “to the pain” means for me.

I was taught my whole life that you don’t tell other people “your business”, and that includes not “letting them see you sweat” when you’re under this much pressure on a regular basis, and in this much pain.  Telling people about your pain means you’re a “whiner”.  Not pushing through the pain on a daily basis and doing what you need to do anyway means you’re “lazy”.  Well, fuck that Southern Sensibility.  I’m not a whiner, and I’m definitely not lazy. I’m “to the pain”. And it’s high time the whole world knew what that actually means.

Right now, it means that I am in in a very dark place.  I am sick and tired of putting on a brave face and having the world think I’m a “together kinda gal”.  This “together kinda gal” is in a shit-ton of pain. Every day. A level of pain that most of you couldn’t even begin to imagine, and certainly wouldn’t want to endure.  And behind that pain is the knowledge that I could, at any given moment, be one pustular psoriasis outbreak away from death.  And I live with that every day, too.  Yet I get up every morning and I do it all, anyway, and usually silently, without telling a soul that I’m dying inside. Well, no more. Here I am in all my freakishly anguished glory, because if you can’t be completely honest as a minister and Tarot Reader, you shouldn’t be a minister and Tarot Reader in the first place!

What I really want to do right now is throw in the towel and finally just quit and give in “to the pain”.  That’s as honest as I can be without being rude, mean, or unprofessional (or, at least, any more unprofessional than this entire blog post probably is to begin with).  I want to just lay back and enjoy the good hearts of the people who do support me and make sure I have things like a roof over my head, food in my belly, occasional excursions to do fun things, and clothes on my back (and a kitty to cuddle when shit gets real, like now).  I want to throw my stupid Southern Pride out the window, curl up in a little ball, cry my eyes out and truly express the level of pain, fear, and anguish that I’m actually in on a freaking daily basis.  I want to stop working my ass off for something that most people apparently regard as a “hobby” that I do to “make myself some extra cash on the side”.  But if living “to the pain” for almost thirty years has taught me one thing, it has taught me this: I am not a quitter!

So I won’t quit, but I’m also no longer going to “put on a brave face” for anybody, including myself.  This is what I live with every day.  This is my little life.  This is me being honest in a way that I probably shouldn’t be, but then again, maybe I should have been this honest a long, long time ago. With everybody.  I am not quitting, but I am stopping long enough to desperately attempt to get my shit back together, before it’s so fallen apart that there is no getting it back together; before things reach the point of no return.  There will still be Pagan Minutes at Facebook, because I need those and at least one other person who constantly loves and supports me needs those. There will still be art, because making art is one of the few places where I find any peace whatsoever right now.  I will be testing the waters at Etsy this week with a few offerings in the hopes that adding a new audience might actually give me what I need to survive and in the process help me understand and believe again that I might actually deserve to survive, because right now, I really don’t feel like I do, or like I want to.  Beyond that, y’all can kiss my “brave face” goodbye, because I’m all out of spoons with that….

I’m living “to the pain”. And I need a vacation.

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A Burning Day

“…Shame you had to see him on a Burning Day.  He’s really very handsome most of the time, wonderful red and gold plumage.  Fascinating creatures, phoenixes.  They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.”–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

Slight confession: In addition to being a Star Wars nerd, I am also a Harry Potter nerd (though not as big of one as my husband), and when I’m feeling particularly down (or sick as a dog, as has been the case for the past week), retreating into the Potter Universe tends to make me feel better on both the inside and the outside.  There’s something about the world that Rowling created that can’t help but make you feel more warm; more hopeful; more sure that there is some good out there in the Universe, somewhere, even though it might not feel like it just now, while your body is at total war with itself and you’re running a persistent fever, and your nerves are blown to hell in ways you can’t even begin to explain to people.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Rowling’s world this week, while I’ve been out of commission, so it’s only a little odd that I woke up this morning with that quote from Albus Dumbledore dancing in my head this morning. I say “only a little odd”, because, out of all of the quotes that could possibly have awakened me this morning, why that one? Why not the brilliance he spouts to Harry in the heavenly version of Platform 9 3/4 at the end of Deathly Hallows, which I most recently watched?  Or that great one about remembering to turn on the light? Why Fawkes and his Burning Day?

Because y’all are encountering me on mine.  I don’t like to talk a lot about my disability because I don’t like to play the “disabled card”.  I don’t want anybody doing anything for me “out of pity”. I also don’t want anybody to see me as weak–ever.  And I have some pretty major issues with the concept of anybody ever remotely thinking I’m being a “whiner” or a “complainer” or a “whatever”.  But I’m learning a lot about owning things in my life right now, and one thing I need to take ownership of, because it’s doing its best to own me right now is my disability.  Turns out, folks with disabling psoriasis (like me) and phoenixes have an awful lot in common….

Phoenixes are ordinarily beautiful creatures; they’re peaceful beings that will protect those they love loyally, but rarely go spoiling for a fight. They’re herbivores, and as Albus tells us in The Chamber of Secrets, they can carry immensely heavy loads, have tears with healing powers, and make highly faithful pets.  The same can be said of folks with disabling psoriasis:  we also carry an immensely heavy load every single day of our lives, because we live with the constant knowledge that while we might be quite beautiful today, tomorrow could easily be our next Burning Day, and it can come with little or no notice, and then we literally turn to dust (if you could see my forehead right now, and observe how often I’m having to wash my glasses from the “ashes” its dropping, perhaps that allusion might be a bit easier to understand).  Our tears also have healing powers: if we don’t let them out, if we bottle them within us, they come out through the skin instead, and, again: bingo, Burning Day.  And we make highly faithful pets: Love us, learn to deal with us, learn how our disease actually works, and we will fight and die for you as surely as Fawkes facing the basilisk for Harry Potter!  We need our peace, because the moment one thing is out of whack, so are we, and, again, bingo: Burning Day.

When you say “I have disabling psoriasis” to a person, most people generally think they actually know what that means. They think it means you have a skin disorder which can be ugly and painful and embarrassing and really, really itchy, and that that’s the long and the short of it. Television commercials for psoriasis remedies do little to nothing to assuage this false impression of what the disease actually entails. (I hate those freaking commercials, for the record.)  In truth, it means all of that and a colossal shit-ton more: it is as complex and, indeed, fascinating, as learning about a phoenix.  The worst parts of psoriasis don’t even happen on the outside, as all of the media propaganda (like those damned commercials) would have you believe.  No, the worst parts happen on the inside, where nobody but you know they’re happening, because psoriasis is also inextricably bound up with mental disorders (like acute anxiety and depression) and an immune deficiency syndrome (which is the actual root of everything that is psoriasis in the first place).  If it was just an ugly, painful, embarrassing, itchy skin disorder, it would be a freaking cakewalk by comparison. By the time things have made it to the outside phase of psoriasis, you’re already out where even the Knight Bus doesn’t run!

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past two years celebrating the fact that my little move to New England has worked miraculous wonders on the state of things with my psoriasis, which it indeed has, but the truth of the matter is, that doesn’t change that immensely heavy load you constantly carry as a psoriasis patient: that one day, the storm is going to hit again, you just don’t know when, where, or how, but it is certain and inevitable and unchangeable that it will.  And now it has, and I’m back at Burning Day.

The last couple of times I’ve had a “psoriasis mishap” (read: flareup, as that’s the more common term), it’s all been apparent from the outside, on my actual skin, and steps could be taken, immediately, and no matter how frightening on the surface for all involved, they were fairly easily remedied, and *poof*, you move on.  This one hasn’t operated that way, and it has been a completely new drill for all involved, on some levels, even for me; even though I tried to explain, I couldn’t explain well enough until the ball was already so far down the hill there was no turning it back.

No, this one began on the inside, in that mysterious nether realm, somewhere between healing tears and that ability to carry immensely heavy loads, and the fact that my immune system makes a mine field look like a sea of children’s balloons.  I was the only one who could feel or see it coming.  Even now, as my forehead and my back are the only two really apparent places that “the red menace” is alive and kicking and waiting to turn my life into a living hell, I am forced to realize steadily that while I’m on an upswing today, tomorrow could be something I don’t even want to ponder (much less ponder for the people around me).  What’s happening on my skin is only the tip of the iceberg; what’s happening in my skin is what’s causing the Burn.  And I should have explained that better long, long ago to everyone who loves me–and to all of you, and possibly even to myself–but it wasn’t until this morning, with Albus Dumbledore’s words dancing in my head that I really realized that fully. So, here I am, explaining, or, at least, trying to.

It’s no secret to any of you that I’ve been trying to get my business off the ground for several years now, only recently having changed direction somewhat and become more laser-focused since about September of 2015, with mixed results, some of which are glowing and some of which make me literally sit with my head in my hands and cry for hours.  That’s how you’re here, reading this in the first place.  That’s how I’m here, typing this in this particular forum.  What is a secret, and what I would’ve liked to keep that way, is that whole “crying with my head in my hands” part; that anxiety part; that depressive part. I mean, I’m selling hope here, in a lot of ways, right? I’m selling faith, and a ticket to it, through things like my Tarot Readings, and Dragonfly Theology, and chances are great none of you are going to want to buy any of that if you can’t see it work for the person who wrote that book, or who is providing those readings. When it comes down to marketing, everything says “be passionate, be vulnerable, be real, be truly yourself, but always stay positive“, and I’ve been trying desperately to do all of that, but it has recently occurred to me, whether I like it or not and whether anyone else likes it or not, that it is absolutely impossible to be passionate, vulnerable, real, truly one’s self, and constantly positive–that last bit will kick you in the head every time! Why? Because the moment you commit to always stay positive, you also commit to always wear a mask; you always put up a veneer of positivity between the world and the real you that might be aching, hurting, and, yes, crying into your hands at the computer several hours a week.  Remember those healing tears I talked about a few paragraphs ago? Yes, those ones. Well, that commitment to always stay positive makes those healing tears null and void; they well up, they pour out, and they heal absolutely nothing. Instead, they turn to acid that just increases the Burn.

I made a commitment not long ago to be a “whole new, scheduleless Mishy”, and I talked a lot recently about all the epiphanies I was having and about “restructuring my life“, and yet for the past three weeks it’s like I’ve been on a constant roller coaster aimed in only one direction–hurtling down into the abyss–while I’ve been maintaining my commitment to always stay positive, and smile all the way down, without letting anybody see that façade break, and now: Burning Day is at hand, and I’m ashes, and the jig is officially up!  And it occurred to me this morning (thank you, J.K. Rowling and Albus Dumbledore) that I’ve done this all before, only last time, I was in high school, and that was how all this psoriasis nonsense got started in the first place.  I couldn’t explain it to anyone then, including myself, because I’d never been on the ride before; perhaps this time I should explain it to everyone–including myself–before it’s too blinking late to stop the train!

That unravelling–that hurtling into the abyss while keeping up my positive exterior–was the first flickering of the flame.  The diverticulitis on the 29th of December was my immune system joining the party.  In a “normal person”, you could fully separate the two things, maybe get one or the other of them under control, and be back out of the woods in no time, but as I’m trying desperately to establish here, there’s nothing normal about me–I’m a phoenix; that’s the analogy we’re going to continue running with here–and though we all tried to desperately un-ally the two things and put on the brakes with all of the above, the train had left the station, and it wasn’t stopping it’s downhill journey anytime soon.  Once things reach this sort of critical mass, the tiniest thing on the tracks just makes things worse.  I mean, think of an Amtrack heading down Everest, and then picture something as simple as a banana peel on the tracks, and imagine what would happen….

Just when things seemed to be marginally under control with the diverticulitis, stuff was not under control in my head (the anxiety was spinning completely out of control, and so was the depression, but I had made that aforementioned promise to stay positive, remember?), and I tried desperately to keep that a secret from everybody, even the ones I love the most.  Especially the ones I love the most.  So I was still secretly careening down the side of Everest on those slippery tracks, and WHAM banana peel: in the form of a truly adorable little dog that should have been an answer to my prayers, in the wake of Boo. In truth, for a “normal person”, that’s precisely what he would’ve been, but phoenix, remember?  And, bingo: Burning Day.  I was up all night Monday night vomiting.  The fever hit, and I was bedridden Tuesday.  I tried to push for a second day on Wednesday of “doggy daycare”–because that’s what a normal person would do–and by Friday, you could add the beginnings of bronchitis to the diverticulitis meltdown.  By yesterday, my hands were sealed in “Aunt Bea Position” from the psoriatic arthritis (I call it that because my dear Aunt Beatrice had psoriasis to the same level that I do, and her hands were always held in the same position to ward off the pain; moving her fingers even a little from that position caused waves of pain that I now understand on levels I wish I didn’t).  What is hard for anyone–including me–to fully understand is that all of this is connected, and it is all the psoriasis: it’s not just what erupts on the outside; it’s what’s on the inside that completely devastates.

Ultimately, what’s on the inside is born out of anxiety, and trying to explain anxiety (to the level that it is experienced daily by the person with disabling psoriasis) is rather like trying to teach a cat to roller skate.  Even when you “seem fine”, you’re not fine.  You’re never completely fine.  That isn’t to say that your every night is sleepless, or that you constantly sit around on pins and needles waiting for the next bad thing to happen–what folks traditionally think of when they think of someone with anxiety issues–but it is to say that it is precisely the “immensely heavy load” I’m talking about when I say I carry it all the time.  Someone recently described my own battle with it as being like a “cat on a hot tin roof”–like “Maggie the Cat” in the play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, which is actually a fairly apt description. It’s this under-the-surface constant feeling of “not-okay-ness” that doesn’t abate, and literally makes your skin crawl from the inside out.  You know, somewhere deep inside, that “something bad” is coming, you’re just not sure what, or from which direction, or even why.  It’s like you’re being pressed down by some unseen force, and in that way, it’s very claustrophobic.  Your heart races for literally no reason whatsoever.  You find it hard to lie still, even though moving hurts, and there’s nothing at all, really, to want to get away from, besides the pain, in the first place.  The slightest teeny, tiny thing outside your norm sends you completely off the deep-end, and as much as you wish you weren’t that way, you are that way, and there’s nothing you can do about it, because this is just part of who you became when you joined the “psoriasis club”.  It is there all the time, and it eventually reaches critical mass at points where it becomes impossible to tell which came first: the chicken (anxiety) or the egg (the psoriasis).  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which came first, because you’re stuck there, on Burning Day, with both the chicken and the egg, and suddenly you’re the phoenix, and your world is burning, and nobody understands why, and you realize “oh, maybe I should have explained”, and maybe I should’ve started by explaining it to me!

So it’s a shame you had to encounter me on a Burning Day. I’m usually a rather handsome and fascinating creature, but this is the immensely heavy load I carry all the time, and I’m sorry I’ve kept the healing power of my tears bottled up for the sake of always staying positive.  I really am quite a faithful and loyal friend, even if it might occasionally be to my own detriment, but that’s the true test of friendship anyway, isn’t it?  Too bad when I set out to restructure my life in 2016 I didn’t take into consideration the fact of my “phoenix-ness”.  In truth, it has been so long since I had to struggle with it on this level, that I had almost forgotten it myself. In fact, I had hoped to keep it buried, and just be “Mishy”, and not let any of my fiery plumage actually get revealed to the world, because, as I said, I hate talking about my disability, for the reasons given. But you know what? I’m not the only person living with this disorder; I’m not even the only person I know right now who deals with this on a regular basis, so who am I to keep my mouth shut if perhaps I can explain what they are also going through in ways that perhaps they themselves cannot? Isn’t that precisely what I say I want to do with this thing I call my “business” in the first place?

Not talking about all of this–not explaining all of this–to those who haven’t ever dealt with it before (and even to those who have, and by that, I mean to myself) has put me on the rails, hurtling downwards towards something I don’t want to even think about, because I’ve been here before, and I desperately don’t want to go back to that place.  There’s a part of me, even as I sit here typing this, that really wishes the fever I’m experiencing right now was from the diverticulitis, or even the bronchitis, and would in fact answer to antibiotics, but I know in my heart of hearts what it’s really from, and I don’t even want to type it because somehow, that makes it more true.  And there’s a part of me that fully understands that no matter what you do–or what I do, or what anybody I love does–there is a certain amount of inevitability to an outbreak that only Mother Nature or God or The Universe or whatever you want to call it can fully understand or predict, much less attempt to avoid.  Ultimately, I can do nothing to change where I am or where I’m headed, but what I can do is cease not talking about it; not explaining it. And maybe if I do that, I’ll not only help myself and the people around me, but also someone else out there who might be going through the same thing, but cannot find the words as I can.

In the future, if you come here looking for the real me, and for vulnerability, and for passion, and for authenticity, you will find those things, but you may not always find persistent positivity, because that mask is going in the trash here beside my desk; I refuse to wear it any longer. It isn’t fair to you, and it’s killing me. I will always do my best to uplift, to uphold, and to educate; to brighten your worlds, the way so many of you have brightened mine. But sometimes, I may need you to feel and see and understand my tears, the way I promise I will always try to feel and see and understand yours: for tears can be profoundly healing, and to keep them bottled helps no one. No one can live their life in a bubble; not even me. Bubbles too often become cages, anyway, and this little phoenix needs to fly. I’ll try to carry you with me in whatever ways I can, but from now on, this business needs to be a journey, that we’re all on together–not a thing that’s driving me, or even that I’m driving, but a road that we’re all on together. Hopefully we’ll discover some truly fantastic things along the way, and win some treasures together, but even when the road is dark and frightening–even when the anxiety has me so that I cannot sit still in the middle of the night–at least we are on that road together, and like Fawkes, I am faithful, and I hope you will be, too….