Thoughtful Thor’s Day: Stagnation and Change – what can I do if I can’t move?

I’m sure I’ve posted before about the current situation in my life – I am a stay at home caregiver for an elderly, ailing mother-in-law and a disabled brother-in-law. Had anyone told me 5 years ago this is what I’d be doing I would have insisted they were certifiable. I was determined that I would never, ever become a mother or caregiver to anything more needy and dependent than my dog. Fate had an ironic way of proving me wrong. After getting fired from my job and realizing that the in-laws couldn’t really live without a caregiver, I ended up stepping into that role. Hubby helps out when he can (which is often a lot) but he also has to take care of things like shopping and fixing things around the house so he is often not here. That means the care and feeding of the inmates falls to me. If I say I detest it with every fiber of my being that still wouldn’t be strong enough.

Don’t misunderstand – I chose to do this because I was unwilling to see them institutionalized. However I did not expect my mother-in-law to still be hanging in there after 6 years. It wearing me out body and soul. I am losing interesting in everything but junk food. I feel like the real me has left the building and what is left behind is someone I don’t know. It’s worse than any horror movie I can imagine.

So what can I do? Well one obvious solution is to throw in the towel, admit defeat and have them institutionalized. This would not be my first choice for a variety of reasons. Once I take that stand then I limit my other options. That means my ability to leave the house is severely limited. So I need to find other ways to express myself creatively, spiritually and emotionally. Having conversations with either in-law is not happening. Inviting friends or relatives over is another pointless endeavor. It’s impossible to give them any undivided attention and sitting here all day sucks.

So what can I do about this stagnation and stuckness? I don’t know. I’m trying several approaches to the problem and I’m not sure what will work yet. One path is journaling. Sometimes just writing all the anger, frustration, confusion and sadness on paper helps purge it from my system. Another option is to keep connection with my social network. This is a bit trickier now that I’m not on Facebook but I can still use emails, AIM and (believe it or not) the telephone. Sometimes just the sound of another human voice and the ability to have sensible conversations can be quite a relief. Another tool that I’ve woefully neglected is spirituality. I know I feel better when I do a daily devotional and yet I keep procrastinating. It’s time to kick my ass in gear and take a few minutes every day to sharpen this saw.

So far I’ve just taken some baby steps towards pulling myself out of this stagnating pool that is my life. I still need to motivate myself to keep taking these steps otherwise I’ll be in over my head. The last thing I need is to drown in my own misery. I’m tired of being miserable (of course I do say that a lot). If I want to change things then I need to take action. I know this. I know it very well. Now I have to do something about it.

Thoughtful Thor’s Day: It’s a noir world after all

I’ve been finding myself considering a lot of different things lately. I’ve been a bit unmotivated because I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m not sure why but dealing with it is proving challenging. My intention to begin maintaining a journal has also been derailed. I have good intentions but when the time comes to actually write, I procrastinate. I’m not sure what the resistance is but it’s annoying.

I’m also finding myself drawn to film noir and noir novels; stuff like Sin City and Mike Hammer. I’ve always had a fondness for the genre. Andrew Vachss’ Burke novels and Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder books are two of my favorite series. They describe a world where “good guys” can be corrupt and brutal and “bad guys” may have a higher moral and ethical code. I’m very familiar and comfortable with that world. Growing up in my neighborhood I was well aware that cops weren’t always law-abiding and some criminals were actually pretty decent human beings. I don’t subscribe to the delusion that all criminals are really Robin Hoods at heart or that all cops are dirty but I’m well aware that those possibilities exist.

In some ways I’m rather surprised I enjoy noir tales. As someone who prefers not to deal in shades of gray it’s interesting to me because noir tales are awash in gray and shadows. Nothing is clear, nothing is absolute. It’s world filled with moral ambiguity and rampant examples of situational ethics. The very behaviors that make a character a hero in one tale might condemn her to villainy in another.

Maybe my forays into noirish realms are a way for me to explore these gray, shady areas of life. There are few real-life circumstances that are clear-cut, black and white issues. Shades of gray (aside from being the title of a widely popular, poorly written book) describe most human experiences. Is Yahweh always good? Is Satan always bad? Do the ends always justify the means? I wish there were clear, simple answers to these questions but there aren’t. What film noir and hard-boiled noir novels do for m is allow me to consider this different viewpoint and live it vicariously through the characters. They allow me to learn what motives and drives them. Why they made the choices they did and behave the way they do. They may not be pretty or have happy endings but I find them enthralling and captivating. In fact I think they can be summed up by the phrase “no one here gets out alive”. Whether the characters are “good” or “bad” the one thing you can be sure is that death comes for them all in the end. Sometimes that all the comfort available in life.

What do I need to be listening to right now? 3 of Cups R, 4 of Wands R + Prince of Swords (DruidCraft)

Greenman Oracle Saille/Willow

In divination, Saille can suggest a need to connect, listen to, or honor the ancestors, dead or alive. It may also draw attention to timing and flow, what currents are being joined or resisted.

Magically, Saille can be used for anything that flows. It is good for timing; knowing the proper moment for action. Saille is also good for moon-related work. For healing, this fid can be used in work for cleansing or encouraging blood flow, and for menstruation. As willow bark was the original source for aspirin, this fid is also good for pain relief.

Linked Concepts:  Ancestors and messages from the ancestors, death, the realm of the dead, time, tides, knowledge of time and proper timing, denial, impurity, music, honey and mead. (Erynn Rowan Laurie – Not Your Mama’s Tree Ogam)

What do I need to be listening to right now? 3 of Cups R, 4 of Wands R + Prince of Swords (DruidCraft)

DruidCraft 3 of Cups DruidCraft 4 of Wands DruidCraft Prince of Swords

As I drew each cards a voice in my head gave me a message. For the 3 of Cups it said “not your friends”. For the 4 of Wands it said “not your hubby”. For the Prince of Swords it said “listen to your brain”. Hmm, that almost seems to easy – my preference has always been to listen to my own mind, my own intellect and usually the messages I get send me in the other direction. So for once I can follow through on my own instincts.

Of course it’s never that easy. This message is also telling me that I really already know the answer to this question. I know what I need to be doing – not partying, celebrating and feasting (or generally engaging in unhealthy lifestyle choices). I need to get smart and start doing what I already know is in my best interests. I need to knuckle down and develop the discipline I need to follow this path. I don’t need to charge blindly ahead – in fact that would undermine the entire process. What I need to do is plan and follow through on those plans. I need to come up with a strategy that will help me stick with this new plan. I need to stay motivated and inspired – whatever steps needs to be taken.

I can really suck to know the answers because it means I’m lying to myself; deluding myself. I’m always in search of shortcuts (who isn’t?) but in this case (as with most other) the shortcuts have just lead to a lot of wasted effort and little results. I have better luck wishing for a genie to blink everything in order.

I need to accept that I am an addict. My addiction is sugar and carbs and there is not getting around that. No tricks I can use to make it better or allow me to cheat a little. I need to give it up completely. Otherwise all my efforts to make changes will prove fruitless and futile. Why waste my time and energy? It’s ironic that I know once I can get past a certain point with no sugar, I’ll stop craving and missing it but getting to that point has been a long, long haul. I realize that if I want to spend the remaining years of my life in good health and be a vibrant active woman then I need to get this crap in order and knock it off. I don’t doubt it will be a challenge but hopefully I’m up to it.

Shadow Side Saturday: What is there in the darkness that I need to see? 3 of Bows (Wildwood)

Wildwood 3 of Bows

The hooded figure on this card holds up his hand as he stands before a large tree just beyond two staves planted in the ground serving as a gateway.  Is he greeting me or warning me back?   He seems to guard a path that splits off behind him.  Is he a guardian of the crossroads?  How does his energy merge with the energy of this card?

The keyword on this cards is fulfillment.  In traditional Tarot interpretation it is often seen as representing projects or creative endeavors coming to fruition; seeing the fruits of our efforts come back to us.  In this card I get a sense that this hooded man is both guardian and guide.  Our efforts have brought us to this point but now the choice to go on must be made and he is there to remind us that all choices carry some peril with them.

Behind him on the left side the road seems to dip a bit lower while on the right it rises up.  Will the lower path take us to the Underworld?  For me, today, that is the sense I am getting.  With each week that passes I get a stronger sense that shadow work and embracing the dark side is becoming more important to me.  There are dark sides to myself and to the world that I still need to explore.  I’m very curious about this dark side.  I’ve always been partially drawn to it but I resisted its call because part of me felt that I needed to stay on a more “normal” path.  I was already odd enough without adding a layer of darkness.

I have been known to joke that I’m as deep and mysterious as a babbling stream.  To some degree this is true because this is the persona I don when I interact with people.  I’ve tried being more withholding and aloof but it never seems to work.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that I developed over the years to hide my shyness and genuine introverted nature.  As a child I would much rather lose myself in books of fantasy or mythology than interact with peers.  With rare exception, I just didn’t get it, I didn’t understand kids my own age.  I still don’t understand many of the drives and desires that motivate my peers.  Although there are times when I desire company and people, most times I am find being alone.  I find myself seeking answers to supernatural phenomenon and mythical creatures such as Sasquatch and UFOs.  I’ve already mentioned my fascination with serial killers and criminal behavior.  The darker side of human nature calls me.

I remember many years ago when I read The Mists of Avalon that Viviennne (at least I believe it was Vivienne) mentions that there are four faces to the Goddess and that Morgause manifested the fourth face – the dark mother.  This concept has called to me since.  As a child I understood Medea’s choice to kill her children in revenge for Jason’s betrayal.  As an adult I understand the rage and pain that drove Betty Broderick to shoot her husband and his new trophy wife.  I am not condoning these behaviors but I do understand them.  I identified with Persephone as Queen of the Underworld.  The need to separate from one’s mother and forge an independent identity (even if it is somewhat forced upon you) resonated with me.  I connect with Sekmet’s rampage through Egypt until she is calmed by blood-colored beer.  Even now I am (in many ways) dealing with death and dying on a daily basis.  I have walked through many dark places both internal and external and emerged transformed.  Maybe the message for me today is that my focus needs to be on finding a way to use those experiences to help and heal others.  It’s a lot to process.

Shadow Side Saturday: What lesson does yesterday offer? 8 of Sword R (Prague)

Tarot of Prague 8 of Swords

Yesterday I over-indulged somewhat on wine.  Between my excitement about trying out my new accessory (a wine aerator) and the my desire to drink some of the new bottles of wine I’ve acquired., I had more to drink than was wise.  On the plus side, my new aerator is cool and does what it promises.  On the down side, I drank too much too quickly and ended up crashing and burning.  A few drinks also loosens me up and I end up calling people I haven’t spoken to in a while (this is both good and bad).  Last night I called two friends I haven’t spoken to in about a year for a variety of reasons.  It was nice to speak with them and I remember the conversations so I know I wasn’t too embarrassing but this is a nasty habit I sometimes have.  There are times when I drunk dial people and end up making a ass of myself (well a bigger ass then I might have without the influence of alcohol).  This then leads to beating myself up and castigating myself.  So I decided to ask the Tarot what lesson I can take away from this experience.

I drew the 8 of Swords reversed and looking at this bronze figure wearing a blindfold and with her hands restrained behind her back I was struck by the concept that when I drink too much I apply restraints on myself.  As a result of these chemical restraints I don’t have a clear view of my behavior and I end up becoming angry at myself because I might have done something stupid or insulting.  I end up regretting my behavior and avoiding the people I’ve called.  I also don’t have any wine for a while.  Then I end up repeating the cycle again because I feel lonely and disconnected.  It’s a ridiculous pattern and one I can easily break from if I simply exert a little sense.

So the lesson for me here is that I need to stop restraining myself and repeating this pattern.  There is nothing wrong with having a few drinks but I need to pace myself better and make sure I eat something.  I also need to accept I will call folks because there are times when I want to talk to others but I don’t need to wait until I’ve had a few drinks to do it.  Most of the people seem happy enough to hear from me.  The only thing that stops me is my own self-doubts – another self-imposed restriction.

So I need to remove the restraints and get a clearer look at the reality of the situation.  If people don’t want to talk they won’t answer the phone.  If I want to have a few glasses of wine, that’s great but I don’t need to finish the bottle.  Very simple lessons now let’s hope I can actually learn them this time.

Tarot Truths Tyr’s Day: The Magician – Blue Rose Tarot

Blue Rose Magician

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The white-faced, leering visage of this Magician is at one frightening and comical.  Is he an illusionist or a trickster?  Is to he to be feared or followed?  Is he mad or a genius?  I think he is all of these things and none of them.  He controls the appearance of reality and can trick us into seeing what he wants but not necessarily what is true.  A rainbow shoots forth over his shoulder.  Is it from his wand?  Is it from another source?  Is it even really there?  The only way we will ever be sure is if The Magician admits his tricks.

Magic, when done well, can fill us with wonder and amazement.  The slight of hand and distorting of reality takes us to a place of wonder and lifts us out of our day to day reality.  Sometimes it can even freak us out, especially if the magical working seems impossible.  Is what we see truly happening?  For that matter, what is it that we’ve seen?  It can be difficult to know what is real during a magic show (at least if the magician is truly skilled).

This Magician reminds me that sometimes we fool ourselves.  We have the skill and drive to create the reality we desire but sometimes we fool ourselves and create the reality others expect from us instead.  Are we tricking ourselves or truly working magic in our lives?  The Magician reminds us that we have the power to control our fates but it can be quite scary to wield that kind of power.  We can create rainbows and maybe even find the gold at their end but first we need to be truthful with ourselves.  We need to release the illusions we hide behind, take off the face paint and accept who we truly are and what we want our of our lives.

That’s what makes this Magician appear so frightening – he reflects our own fears, self-doubts and ambitions back at us.  He shows us what we expect and what we might achieve.  He represents our potential and our reality.  The question is do we want to create our own magic or let ourselves be deluded by the tricks and illusions of others?  Accepting the tools and focusing our energies to create our reality can be daunting.  It requires us to stop blaming others or circumstances for our failures.  It means realizing that if something goes wrong it is the result of our workings.  Many people are frightened of taking this step but if we aren’t willing to take it then we are subject to the whims of fate.  That frightens me even more.

Of serial killers and the dark side of the human psyche

Serial killers & cult leaders- I’ve been interested in serial killers and other societal deviants for a long time.  I can still remember reading the book Helter Skelter when I was about 10 years old.  I can vividly recall the fear and terror that gripped NYC when the Son of Sam David Berkowitz was randomly killing in the late 70s.  The Jonestown massacre in Guyana still holds a fascination for me.   I even studied forensic psychology in college (in fact I have a masters degree in it).  I’ve often wondered what is says about me that I am drawn to such darkness in human nature.

Even while studying psychology I knew I had no desire to be a therapist.  I just wasn’t sympathetic to the neurosis and petty problems of most folks (what can I say – I was very arrogant and fairly young).  I didn’t even necessarily want to work with the criminal population.  I think my pursuit of a  psychology degree was an effort to understand what makes people tick.  I was drawn to the darker aspects of human behavior because on some level I believed if I understood it then I could avoid falling victim to it.  The fact that I had already fallen victim to one act of violence as a child was also a motivating factor.

It seems to me that humans believe we are civilized and intelligent enough to rise above our more animal nature.  However two psychologists, Stanley Milgrom and Phillip Zimbardo, each conducted a well-known and disturbing experiment looking at how humans behave in various situation.  Milgrim’s experiment studied human behavior in response to authority figures.  He set up various scenarios but the core of this experiment was that the subject was put in a room and instructed to ask questions of another person and to issue a shock if the answer was incorrect.  The results were disturbing – in the initial study 65% of the subjects administered the highest shock voltage even when clearly uncomfortable.  Over the years this experiment was replicated in different cultures and with different parameters but with very similar results.  It makes me wonder why we are so willing to take actions we consider unethical or uncomfortable because an authority figure instructed us to do so.

Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Study, an experiment in which volunteers were randomly assigned to either the guard or the prisoner group.  Neither group was given much instruction in how to behave or what to do but it quickly became apparently that left to their own devices, the “guards” began acting sadistically and cruelly.  The “prisoners” began exhibiting signs of depression and rage.  The experiment, scheduled to run for two weeks, was canceled after 6 days because the results were disturbing and it was decided it was causing harm to the volunteers.

What fascinates and frightens me about both these experiments is how quickly we are willing to commit cruel, sadistic and atrocious acts either because we have been told to do so or because we feel that our “role” requires it of us.  Some elements of this may be due to the influence of peers or an internal desire to appease authority figures but it forces me to wonder just how civilized and humane we really are.  Is our willingness to engage in these behaviors really the result of a deep, hidden and unacknowledged desire to hurt others?  Maybe we all have a dark side that revels in cruelty and viciousness.  We learn to control it over time because we learn that such behaviors are unacceptable but those desires are still there – dormant and awaiting a chance to express themselves.  We all want to believe we would never commit certain acts but in reality I think that we might depending upon circumstances.

In fact I believe that one of the reasons some people need Lucifer or Satan is because it’s an effective way to project those nasty, dark, vicious aspects of our personality onto an external figure.  We’re not evil, we did something evil due to Satanic influences.  Or like the young accusers of Salem who behaved in shocking, socially unacceptable ways claiming witches were making them do it.  It’s always the fault of someone or something outside of ourselves.  It’s also made me realize that humans will use various excuses – “I was following orders”, “it’s my job” and even “the devil made me do it” to excuse viciousness and cruelty.  It’s why some are drawn to cults – they can submit to a more dominant personality and not feel the need to make decisions or be responsible for their behaviors.

One thing I’ve learned about my explorations into the dark side of the human psyche is that awareness of it helps me restrain it.  Not all the time but enough to be considered tolerable.  I am fully cognizant of my dark side.  Sometimes I even embrace it and allow it some form of expression that won’t hurt anyone else.  What I’ve also accepted is that it’s not the result of the influence of anyone or anything else.  It’s part of who I am.  It is also not an excuse for cruel or vicious behavior.  Knowing the cause of something is not an excuse.  Having an addiction does not excuse the behaviors that result.  Instead of trying to correct the behaviors we have a tendency for find excuses for them (which is a topic for another day).  I think it’s time to cut through the bullshit.  We’re all a blend of dark and light.  We all have mean, vicious aspects to our personalities.  What makes us human is our ability to know that and change our behaviors so that we aren’t hurting others simply because we feel like it.  We have the ability to shine light on the darkness and not lose ourselves in its embrace.

What will help me maintain this new direction in my life? 3 of Wands R + 7 of Pentacles (BoS So Below)

BoS So Below 3 of Wands BoS So Below 7 of Pentacles

The 3 of Wands reversed tells me that I need to stop trying to focus on external projects.  Now is not the time for that.  Now I need to focus on internal projects – caring for myself, tapping into my creative energies and just relaxing.  These are things I have ignored in favor of slugging (simple sitting in a vegetative state).

The 7 of Pentacles reminds me that I need to stop and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Of course that would have to mean I’ve actually done labor so that there are fruits to enjoy.  Right now I’m coasting.  And I’m not saying that as a negative judgment on myself.  I’m exhausted, tired and burnt out so much of the time the only thing I can do it sit and stare.  I want to change that pattern but I don’t want to do it in a way that just creates more stress and more goals I can’t achieve.

I need to spend more time enjoying tea and crayons and cookbooks and friends.  I need to reconnect with the flow of things and accept that everyone’s life has seasons and cycles and I’m not exception.  No matter how much I try to fight it or how often I deny it, I end up back in the same place feeling more frustrated and defeated.  I’m setting myself up to fail and I don’t want to do that anymore.

If I want to maintain this new direction I need to take things one day at a time and keep reminding myself that this is part of the cycle.  Things will eventually change and I can embrace the change and deal with it when that occurs.  For now, I need to work within the boundaries and are my life.  They may prove to be a opportunity for transformation at a deep level, if I allow it.

Why am I confused? 9 of Wands R + Queen of Chalices R (BoS So Below)

BoS So Below 9 of Wands BoS So Below Queen of Chalices

Lack of focus and insight – that’s why I’m confused.  My energy stores are depleted and my concentration is almost non-existent.  With the situation surrounding me, focusing or concentrating on any task are absolute luxuries.  I feel as though I’m developing attention deficit disorder because my attention span has become nonexistent.  If I can focus on a book long enough to read a chapter it’s a minor miracle.

I’m beginning to realize that some of this confusion and lack of focus is circumstantial and not due to any innate character traits.  My life is not conducive to focus or concentration right now.  Things may change in the future but as things stand right now I’m fighting against the prevailing current.  It’s frustrating but I need to be more flexible about this.  It would seem that now is just not the time to focus on personal projects no matter how much I’d love to start.

I think the Queen of Chalices is telling me that I need to comfort myself right now.  I need to give myself the same support and acceptance I would give a friend going through similar experiences.  I think we all tend to be much harsher and more judgmental with ourselves in situations like this.  Those inner critics that lie in wait to shred our self-confidence thrive on moments like this.  Instead of feeding that energy I need to embrace myself and say all those kind, comforting things I’d tell a dear friend.

I don’t think I’m confused as much as I am exhausted and depleted.  I’m confusing being warn out with being confused.  I can’t focus on building a new career because I am up to my neck in my current career.  Perhaps it’s not a paying job but caring for my in-laws is no less demanding, draining and time consuming.  It’s time to stop fighting the current and go with the flow, even if that flow is taking me in a direction different from the one I would have chosen.

What path should I explore next? 2 of Pentacles R + 7 of Wands R (BoS So Below)

BoS So Below 2 of Pentacles BoS So Below 7 of Wands

Out of balance and out of confidence – yes, I’d say that describes me right now.  I’m still feeling like a bit of a mess.  Don’t get me wrong, I had fun exploring the nature of extraterrestrials but in the long haul that won’t help me figure out what I want to do next with my life.

In the companion book, Barbara Moore offers the interpretation “stressed; too much to do; unable to give anything its proper attention”.  In some ways this is a relief.  Maybe the reason I’m feeling off balance and disconnected with the flow is because I just can’t do it right now.  I’m trying to force something that just isn’t meant to happen right now.  Sometimes I feel as though I’ being a slug.  I’m not actually working on anything and I’m finding it difficult to focus.  On the other hand I have a lot on my plate.

I sometimes think I don’t realize how exhausting it is to care for the in-laws.  They both require continuous (continual) attention and long-term supervision.  We can leave them alone for a few ours but no overnight or for any longer length of time.  Even the simplest of tasks like preparing dinner can become challenging if something goes wrong with one of them.  Sleeping has become challenging because my mother-in-law has developed a new habit of taking 3-4 hour “naps” and then waking up full of energy and wanting to talk.  Right now we feel as sleep deprived as the parents of most newborns.

For the 7 of Wands reversed, Barbara offers this insight – “feeling defensive or overly protective”.  Looking at the woman on this card I can honestly say I was that woman.  When I worked in the non-profit sector I regularly facilitated training sessions, organized staff development workshops, developed programs and wrote grant applications.  I knew I was good and I think that was conveyed in how I conducted myself (hell, there were times I was downright arrogant).  Those days are long gone.  Right now I feel like a complete failure at everything; someone that no person in their right mind would hire.  In fact there are days when the idea of being in any group setting fills me with terror.  Okay I’m overstating things a bit but I’m not really far from the mark here.  Apparently I am quite an externally focused person when it comes to validation and feedback I need to hear it from someone else.

So I think what I need to explore next in my life is how I can regain a sense of balance and confidence.  Instead of pushing myself to accomplish some elusive goal I need to focus on what I can do and how to keep my sanity.  Goals and a mission statement are all well and good but maybe I’m trying to run when I’m barely able to walk.  Perhaps scaling things down, taking baby steps will be more beneficial for me right now.  Beating myself up about what I can’t and haven’t done is pointless and just makes things worse.  I think I need to ease up on myself and focus on feeling better and just finding what joy I can in the day to day things.