Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moroccan feast

I have been hearing about the Marrakesh for a number of years, but I had never had the pleasure of experiencing this for myself. Until tonight. Jeff took me out for my birthday dinner, and surprised me by treating me to traditional Moroccan food. It was very good, and five hours later I'm still full.

The interior of the restaurant looks like the interior of a lavish pavilion; richly coloured drapes adorned doorways and arches, deep couches ran along the external walls with low, ornate tables surrounded by plush stools. After we were seated we were given menus and very large towels in place of napkins. Once we had ordered our meal, the server brought a very ornate silver basin and kettle, and washed our hands in warm, rose-scented water. Utensils were available upon request, but we chose to eat with our hands instead.

The first course was a lentil soup and a salad; the salad also had a layer of lentil sauce, somewhat spicy, layered over torn lettuce, white onions, sesame seeds, and a very light dressing. Squares of bread were served, which were best enjoyed after being soaked in the soup.

The second course was a delicious appetizer called B'stellela Royale, which was a mixture of unseasoned chicken and celery, cooked until very soft and baked inside a flaky pastry crust and topped with powdered sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. It doesn't sound appetizing at all, but it was an amazing mix of textures and tastes.

I chose beef and vegetable brochette for my entree. I couldn't identify all the spices used but it was an earthy, spicy mixture; my meal came with a tremendous serving of rice and vegetables. Jeff had cous-cous with vegetables and lamb; the lamb was placed in the centre of the plate with the cous-cous and vegetables piled on top of it, so that the cous-cous absorbed the flavour of the lamb; it was very moist and the lamb was exceptionally well-prepared.

After we finished our entrees, our hands were again washed in rose water, then our server generously splashed our hands with more rose-water and an orange blossom oil which we rubbed in vigorously; it left our hands very soft. The mess of dropped crumbs, evidence of our having eaten with our hands, was wiped away so that we could enjoy dessert feeling clean and refreshed.

Dessert was a mint tea and a very dense, almond-flavoured pastry.

The entire evening was exciting and fun; the food was among the best I have ever eaten and the service and atmosphere were both very welcoming and inviting. It was a terrific way to celebrate my thirtieth year of life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Circle of Stones

I've been reading Circle of Stones, suggested by Aerolin. She's been telling me about this book (and many others) for a long time now, and I always think I'm going to get round to reading them someday but I never really quite managed it. After our most recent conversation, wherein she inspired me to reconnect with the Feminine and work on that broken piece of me, this book showed up in my mail from the library. I started reading it and couldn't put it down. I am nearly finished with the book, and I keep having to struggle against my own desire not to give in to the feminine qualities that Judith Duerk describes as necessary pieces of being a woman.

The author recounts a dream she had in which she was expressing that woman should be allowed to cry; she says:

"Someday, when the first woman president of the United States holds the sides of the podium and says 'My fellow Americans ...' as she is inaugurated, it will be important that she can be there, weeping, as she speaks, and that her tears and the intensity with which she is in touch with her feeling values can flow out to and nourish the society and influence all women."

I am reminded of an interview I heard on NPR recently; a woman was telling the political correspondent about a question she had asked Hillary Clinton - I forget the question, and Hillary's response - and the response Hillary gave was delivered in a somewhat choked voice and she was showing visible signs of tearing up. The woman described how powerful it was to witness such strength of emotion from a presidential candidate and how much she was encouraged by this show of emotion.

I couldn't help but feel completely opposite feelings from the woman who was being interviewed. I don't wish to deny any woman her power, nor do I wish to have mine denied; but I don't see the act of showing emotionality in every circumstance as a benefit, as a strength. I don't see losing control of one's emotions as a source of power. I realize this is a manifestation of my own preconceived notions, but the truth is that I am not at all comforted by a woman who cannot speak without crying. I think part of my struggle with feminine qualities and aspects is that I don't think that it is always appropriate nor important to demonstrate those emotions, either for a man or a woman. I feel there is a time for reserve, for quiet dignity, and for distance from emotionality. I don't disagree with the author that expressing deep emotion is a powerful and good thing, but I am struggling with the idea that a woman's tears have value and importance in every situation. And I am really struggling with the concept of separating emotionality from weakness.

When I was growing up I saw examples of strength in femininity, but also the extreme weakness in feminine qualities. My mother is an exceptionally strong woman but she based so many of her important decisions on emotional responses without thinking her way through situations from an intellectual standpoint. She wasn't a stupid woman, nor did she necessarily make bad decisions; but often when pressed for her reasoning her responses were overly-emotional and defied rational logic. She has many preconceived notions about the behaviour of others and what she believes it means that is based on her emotional responses alone. As I grew up and watched this process in her, I found I developed extreme contempt for that method of decision-making. Not the actual decisions themselves necessarily, but the way she came to some of her conclusions seemed to me to be so illogical and irrational. As an adult I can recognize that she's just different from me but still valuable in her ways and methods; I put the contempt away and love her for her uniqueness, but I still tend to shudder away from her method of forming opinions based so strongly on emotions.

So today I'm working on stripping out my own preconceived notions about feminine emotions and leaving behind that which is not valuable or useful.

Losing patience, finding balance

In trying to find my balance, I have realized that part of my problem is my patience. Or, to be more precise, my extreme lack of patience. I want things to happen for me right now. I want to move. I am on the cusp of moving to a new city and I want to be there RIGHT NOW. I want to pack, and clean, and paint, and get the fuck out of here. I want to curl up next to the fireplace in my new apartment, and run up and down the stairs and scream my head off, and organize the closets.

I haven't done any serious yoga in months and I want to have that back. Like any other form of exercise, there is a momentum to be honoured there and I'm not really looking forward to building that back up. I want to do lots and lots of yoga RIGHT NOW. I desperately need to resume running and weight training, and I want to get started. But it's almost 9pm, and by the time I'll have a chance to actually run I'll have lost my drive.

I want to get back into reading Tarot for myself. I want the deck of Medicine Cards Aerolin keeps telling me about. She got me interested in stones, and I want some. I want them all, actually. I want to study them and learn all about them and put them under my pillow and love them. And I want all that RIGHT NOW.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Trapped and violated

I am on a plane. My mother is with me and we're going somewhere exciting. The airport we're in is chaotic, crazy with the busy-ness of men and women, babies and electric scooters and security with M16s. After we are settled in our seats my mom leaves. I don't see her again.

Sometime later, I find myself in the backseat of a car. A woman is with me and she has given me a shot in my neck, a drug to make me pass out. I am afraid of her, afraid of being passed out with her. We are both naked and I feel like she will rape me. I feel desperate and afraid.

I realize that I am on the verge of giving up, of giving in to victim hood. I become angry with myself and begin screaming. The car I'm in is parked in a busy lot, near shoppes and other cars. It's daylight and traffic is heavy, people going to and from their cars all around me. I begin pounding on the glass and screaming as loudly as I can. My voice comes out angry and hoarse and powerful, not panicked and frightened. Everyone ignores me, my warrior-like cries not inspiring them to rescue me.

The woman laughs and looks at me with amused tolerance, as though I am a misbehaving child. Unconsciousness eats at my vision. As awareness leaves me, I feel her hands on me and inside me, and I fade away.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The joyous, lake; oppression

True joy is experienced by those who are strong within and gentle without.


Today's I Ching was Tui (the joyous, lake); reversed was oppression. This hexagram tells us that true happiness and success comes to those who practice innocence, acceptance, and detachment. What progress or success that is won by the desirous, ambitious, demanding manipulations of the ego will be easily lost. Joy and success are achieved by relating correctly to others and to Higher Power. Steadfastly practice innocence, modesty, acceptance, detachment, and gentleness. This hexagram is of two lakes joined together to keep from drying up. Now is the time to join with like minded friends in discussion and contemplation of higher things. In detachment there is freedom and contentment. Empty oneself of all desires and find true joy.

Of oppression, the book describes now as a time of unavoidable adversity, and instructs that quiet strength now will insure greater success later. Now is a time of exhaustion; meet oppression (lack of forward progress) with cheerful bending. This will allow one to meet with success later. Inferior elements restrain the superior person.

Root out and remove any idea or attitude which causes negative feelings. Open the mind, quiet the heart, calmly hold to proper principles, thereby making it possible for the Creative to eliminate the oppression that currently exists.

I'm reminded again that adopting softer, gentler, feminine qualities will be an avenue to finding balance and putting my trust in something higher, something outside myself. I'm not so good at putting my trust in anything outside of me. I have always been much more focused on affecting my own change, of being my own source of strength and power and affirmation. Perhaps that is why I feel so depleted.

I'm also extremely lacking in anything resembling modesty; putting my desires away is foreign to me, feels completely unknown to my personality. I'm a hedonist at heart; treating social and personal considerations with regard, my basic philosophy about comparative morality is: if it feels good, do it. If it doesn't feel good, don't do it. The idea of putting away immodest desires doesn't seem like my own path to finding joy. It's a lovely concept, but I don't think I can pull it off. I think I'll just focus on accepting the Feminine for now, because that seems like a big enough job without trying to turn off all my desires and not acting like a wanton, over-sexed girl.

Achieving Feminine balance

I found a copy of the I Ching on our bookshelf last night. I never realized Jeff had it; it's a small version, subtitled Book of Changes: A Guide to Life's Turning Points. It's somewhat complicated to learn, but I found it an interesting way to focus my thoughts.

Last night I threw Heaven and Thunder which corresponds to Ta Chuang or The Power of the Great. This hexagram is about obtaining power through alignment with truth, and that misusing that power to judge, condemn, manipulate or dismiss can lead to imbalance within an individual. The book describes one's power to change oneself or bring oneself into balance by adopting characteristics of modesty, gentleness, softness. That resistance will begin to give way once one is prepared to make changes by consciously letting go of self-confidence and aligning one's actions and thoughts to these characteristics.

This resonates with me and my concurrent struggles of becoming comfortable with the Feminine and achieving balance. The characteristics described for this particular hexagram strike me as feminine traits, and I really don't possess these qualities in abundance. By working with the Feminine and getting in touch with my own feminine strengths I think I can achieve that inner balance that I currently lack.

Death of the Self

I am seeing a lot about the death and rebirth of the Self, the soul. A lot of people I know or know of are going through a personal transformation, and I've seen a lot of them express knowledge that they will be something and someone different from who they were when they went into that transition.

I am going through my own unnamed emotional evolution right now, and something that terrifies me is that I will not be the same person when it's over. I'm afraid not of change, but of changing. Does that make sense? In all my transformations during the early years of my life, I feel as though the essence of what made me me was the same. I was still the same person inside - the same woman, the same wife, the same daughter. I've carried about me the same me-ness that I always had, simply fattened by foregoing events. The experiences which helped shaped me have simply added to my nature, my personality, my programming, but never did I lose one Self as I became another entirely.

I am not at all comfortable with the concept of changing thus. I've been through a complete death of Self; I went through a shattering change after Colin's death, and I became a truly different person out of necessity. I didn't recognize it for what it was while it occurred and in looking back I don't recognize the girl who went into that transformation. She died with Colin, and I was borne out that experience. It was difficult, and painful, and heart-breaking. But in the end I became who I am today and I'm happy with her; I worked hard to become who I am now and I don't want a total death of this me. I've only been in this skin for a few years and I don't think I can pull another Self over this one.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On a journey, blindly

I'm walking down a highway; it is long and winding, with trees on one side and a quiet, still lake on the other. I know I'm lost but I have no sense of urgency, no panic about my situation. I come upon a bend in the road, and see a homeless man lying on his side. He's a large dirty man, with big black smudges on cheeks and forehead and hands shaped like angry mallets. His clothing is ragged and torn and he's wearing an old faded Army jacket. He sits up as I approach him and holds his hand out to me.

"Have you any food?" he asks.

"I have none. I'm sorry." I tell him. He begins searching the many pockets in his jacket, and comes up with a sandwich bag. He holds it up for me to see; it's one of those with the zipper locking mechanism, to keep the goodies in. Inside this sandwich bag is not a sandwich at all, but several eyeballs. The air has been forced out of the bag, so that the bag has suctioned around the eyeballs and the fluids they are floating in.

I look at the man's face and realize that he has nothing in his eye sockets but bloody, gaping holes. As I watch, the bag develops a leak in one corner. Eye fluid begins to drip from the bag, and I back away from the man. I raise my hands to my face and realize that my own eyes are gone. My fingers push into empty, wet sockets and find no sight there. I turn and run, and he follows after me shouting that I must look into the bag so that I may truly see what is to come.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How do I sort these souls?

Death is a common subject for me. I like to think that I embrace life and cherish the life that I have, but the yearning for balance I carry around causes me to focus on death quite a bit.

I don't fear death. I fear that the people I love who have died won't be available to me. I don't know how to classify my thoughts on the afterlife. I was raised Catholic but could never identify with the concepts of 'heaven' and 'hell'. I have been Pagan for roughly the past 15 years; what I practice is closest to Wicca, but even the Wiccan concept of Summerland doesn't resonate with me. When I read about it or discuss it with others I feel like I'm speaking about a place that doesn't exist, a place I can't get to. I may as well be planning a trip to the outer ring of Saturn.

After Colin's suicide I was speaking with a friend about the concept of afterlife. I was confused and tormented. Being Catholic, I learned that those who commit suicide do not experience peace after death, that their souls don't ever rest. I was concerned that Colin would not even experience peace in death, a peace I believe he desperately wanted. I was also confused because I knew that he did not believe in the Christian concept of heaven and hell, and I hoped that meant he wasn't subjected to that harshness.

I was left wondering what happens to the souls of people who have no beliefs about the afterlife. What happens to the souls of those who don't have a 'heaven' or a Summerland? Do people go to 'hell' because they feel they deserve to? What does hell consist of for people who do believe? Is it their worst fears? If I believe not in a horned devil lording over captives with a pitchfork, but an eternity being surrounded by crying babies, and I feel I deserve to go to hell, is this what I'll get? People say "Life is what you make it". Can that be true of heaven and hell, too?

I don't know what Colin really believed, except that he wasn't Christian and he scoffed at the notion of heaven and hell. It seems wrong to me that his soul would be subject to the rules of a religion he didn't believe in.

While talking with Colin's best friend weeks after his death, I was told about an ancient Native American tribe who conceptualized the dead as still among the community, only in an altered form. It's a common concept among many different cultures, and I connected with the idea that Colin's energy is not lost in his death; his influence and his personality and the things the made him uniquely beautiful are still all around me. I carry bits of him around with me and everything I know about life and death today is shaped by his continued presence in my life. I actually do carry bits of him around with me; after he was cremated I was sifting through his ashes, feeling the texture of it, thinking of my conversation about the changed form of a dead person. In doing so I found minerals, or stones ... little bits left over that didn't burn up. I keep them in a locket and carry them with me everywhere.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Changing my Self

Change is good.

Right? I have faced a lot of changes in my life and I've found that change, at least, is something I can always count on. Some of them have been very good, but mostly change starts out badly for me. I have to go through what feels like miles of unpleasantness before I get to the good parts. I learned early on that resisting change only makes the metamorphosis more painful, the results more slow to come. By embracing change I've found within myself the ability to shape the negative aspects into something positive. I own the change, possess it and make it wholly mine, so that it becomes a thing I've chosen versus a thing that has been forced upon me.

I've been experiencing some changes recently that I cannot identify. My normal method when faced with change is to sit with it, stare at it, and cut it open so that I can examine the bloody bits of the change inside and out. I learn it and understand it, and adapt to it. I conform to the change and make it a part of me. But this thing I'm going through doesn't have a face. There is nothing for me to grab hold of, nothing I can poke at. Lately I am staring at changes that I cannot identify, and I'm kicking and screaming because I do. not. want. As this isn't my usual way of dealing with change, the whole process is leaving me a little gooey feeling.

I was speaking with the lovely Aerolin today, and she told me all about the changes she's going through. Listening to her wisdom and her perspective reminded me that I'm doing this all wrong. I've been sitting back with my arms crossed over my chest, pissed off and glaring out at everything, and confused as all hell, but not doing anything to figure it out. I was feeling sort of lost about it all, but talking with her made me realize that I've been approaching it wrong. Well, perhaps "wrong" isn't the best word. I've been making it more difficult, certainly. Self-examination and evaluation has been pretty simple for me for much of my adult life, as I've worked for a very long time on getting in touch with my own head-space. So simple, actually, that I've forgotten how to put effort into it; I've forgotten how to reconnect with my Self.

One of the things that I have forgotten how to put effort into is my spiritual focus. I go through phases every few years where I disconnect from my spiritually. It is at times so deep, so valuable to me, and so incredibly important to my inner balance; at other times, I lose all connection with the Divine. I lose my will to develop my spirituality, forget to care about it. I don't have words to express it, don't devote time or energy or effort to that relationship.

One problem that is a recurring theme in both my mundane life and my spiritual life is acceptance of the Feminine. I have strong Yang energy and am far more comfortable with my own masculine nature. At the same time, I have very dark, very negative, very downward-seeking energy that dominates much of my thinking. I strive for balance, and had been successful in changing my view of the Feminine and what that meant for me. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I have lost the progress. I feel like I've started over with my work with the Goddess, and I am no longer connecting with Her. I am no longer feeling any connection with the Father either, and I feel rather adrift.

I don't know where this is all going to take me or where I will end up when it's over but I know this: I will embrace this change. I will hug it and squeeze the breath out of it, and love it from top to bottom.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Beowulf

I saw the newest version of this movie last night at the St. John's Theatre. It was entirely CGI animated, which is sometimes awful and painful to watch. I like the story of Beowulf; I'm madly in love with Angelina Jolie; and there was beer. There were some extremely funny parts that only RHG and I laughed at, and I enjoyed the movie while watching it, but I'm going with mostly awful and painful to watch.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Charles Bukowski

I've recently begun seeing a lot of Charles Bukowski's work. I don't know much about him as a person, but I really like what I've read of his poems so far. I've seen some references to misogyny and hatred, but the way he chose to put words together makes me smile.

I just found this line in a poem of his:

Some human beings are delicious and wondrous things

I quite agree.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A day of death and rebirth

The concept of New Year's resolutions leaves me feeling resigned and stupid. I used to make them regularly; each year I would promise to myself that I would do the things I hadn't fulfilled the previous year. I would vow to renew those resolutions and commit to them until they were finished. Each year I failed fantastically. Resolutions, especially those made at the new year, feel like something people do because they are expected to, because there are things people think they want to do. I think the failing is imminent because we put so much pressure on ourselves to do accomplish these resolutions.

Nevertheless, the new year is such a terrific time to make changes in one's life. The resolutions I've succeeded at, I've done so because I didn't think of them as resolutions, but as goals. And the new year not as the New Year, with capitals and everything, but as a day of death and rebirth. Death of the negatives that I wish to eradicate and rebirth of the positives that I choose to invite in. This is a new way of looking at things for me. I am much more comfortable with the negative aspects. I cleave to negativity; it helps me appreciate the beauty I find in life, the bright and shining things that hide from me. I invite the negativity into me, allow it to fill me and create a void for the positive things. Negativity is not a wall that blocks off the light, but a well that hollows me out so that happy things may fill me up.

This day of death and rebirth I wish to change the way I set goals for myself. Rather than make goals for the year, I will make goals for the day. I spend so much of my time looking to the future that I allow time to slide by me without focusing on today. Before I know what's happened, another year has ended and it's time for me to fill up with regrets again. The goals I choose for the coming days are simple, and I think I can accomplish them easily.

  • I will write
  • I will run
  • I will cook
  • I will craft
  • I will stop holding back so much

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