The Hermit

I get a lot of use out of social media. Sure, it’s got its flaws. When you’ve moved around as much as I have, though, it’s a pretty useful way to stay in touch with the people who’re important to you. (Especially when your local postal service can charitably be called “unreliable.”)

Still, there’s something about it that makes me dread using it. Every scroll through my feed is a list of the worst headlines from the last news cycle, friends arguing, and edgelords edgelording, occasionally interspersed with pictures of kittens. It’s a lot to keep up with, and it amazes me how much mental energy it ends up sapping — and I don’t have that much to start with.

Stepping back from it really bothers me, though. Call it FOMO, I guess, or at least the fear of losing touch. But is it even worth it when it leaves me feeling drained and anxious within minutes, and most of the news stories I read are things I’ve read elsewhere? A lot of my social media is private, and I’m not exactly writing to an audience of millions — what does it matter if I like or re-post the stories my friends have most likely already seen? At what point does it become purely performative?

Mental energy is a precious resource for anyone, but I depend really heavily on it to pay my bills. If I can’t stand being online, I can’t write for my clients. If I’m too agitated to focus, I can’t make things. As obvious as that seems now, there was a long while where I didn’t realize it — it felt like that agitation and mental fatigue were normal. They were the cost of participating, or something I had to put up with in order to keep in touch with people and signal boost things I care about.

It seems like such a Millennial problem, doesn’t it? But with six states under my belt and my mobility restricted by my health, social media has become more important to me than it probably otherwise would have. On one hand, this isn’t entirely a good thing (otherwise I wouldn’t be fussing about it now). On the other, I can’t imagine how isolated I’d end up feeling otherwise. I like being somewhat itinerant. I’m an extrovert, and I thrive on meeting new people. The flip side to that is that it’s extra rough when I end up leaving them behind.

On a lark, I pulled a few cards from a tarot deck I recently picked up. I didn’t have any pressing concerns, just wanted to get a feel for the energy of the cards and see what they were like to read from.

“How can I put more into my art and writing,” I asked, “And get to a point where I’m more fulfilled creatively?”

And I got The Hermit.

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The Hermit is alone, but not lonely. This card expresses a need for introspection, a meditative period away from distraction. It’s dedication to a goal, and a solid understanding of the path that he is on. The Hermit has to turn inward first, before he can find understanding.

In other words, he needs to be the hell off of Facebook so he can learn a thing.

… Okay, so, in retrospect, this seems head-smashingly obvious. Still, on the tail end of about three entire minutes of Twitter, it really clicked for me. Putting myself through the wringer of reading, liking, and re-tweeting post after post about the worst the world has to offer isn’t really doing much good, even in a signal boosting sense. I don’t want to get all gift-shop-driftwood-plaque-with-the-word-“Breathe”-painted-on-it, but I need to stop this. It’s definitely not improving me as a person, and I don’t think it’s even really helping anyone else.

So, I’m experimenting with another social media hiatus. I’m still updating my Instagram and other strictly blog- and shop-related things, but I really need to figure out better ways to internet while maintaining my sanity.

 

 

 

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Spring is Springing!

Not everyone celebrates the spring equinox. I do, because you can never have too many reasons to eat food and party about stuff.

Spring weather has had a lot of false starts around here — we’d go from days in the 60s, to days in the 30s, from warm sun, to snow. My plants are all confused. But soon, with the sun passing over the equator next week, it will finally, officially be spring.

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(Also officially time for me to start up my antihistamines again, but that’s neither here nor there.)

It’s been interesting to see how the color and shape of spring has changed as I’ve moved around the country. In New York, I was young enough that it was basically the year’s equivalent to Wednesday — a hump season on the way to summer vacation (and pow-wow season). In Delaware, I met it with dread, knowing I probably had about three weeks before my doctor put me back on Prednisone. In California, I watched the landscape change as the farmers tilled and planted. Now, I mostly experience the season through trips to the arboretum or aquatic gardens to see the trees with their buds and new, green leaves, still bright and fresh and soft as silk.

I like to perform a ritual on the spring equinox. It generally isn’t a long or complicated one, just a bit of giving thanks that the long, cold winter is at an end, and sowing the metaphorical seeds of all of the things I want to reap in the upcoming months. This year, I have a ton to set up. There are creative projects I want to see come to fruition, we’re planning a move, there’re a lot of professional growth opportunities… All of them need hard work to make happen, but a little magical help never hurt anything.

The rituals I do all follow the ADF structure, but there are a couple of things I do that are specific to the season, like:

  • Put fresh flowers and ferns on my altar.
  • Create a list of all of the “seeds” that need planting, charging it, and releasing it to be fulfilled.
  • Light green and yellow candles, for growth and creativity.
  • Make seed bombs for a neglected spot. (Local wildflowers only!)
  • Open all of the windows and doors, to let the air blow through.

Also, there’s food. Back when I was vegan, I used to make lemon cake pretty often. It was easy — substitute soy milk for dairy milk, and use lemon juice, baking soda, and baking powder to make it rise. Many varieties of lemons are in season now, so these lemon cupcakes are a perfect addition to a spring equinox menu.

I also love mixing up a salad of spring greens, soft goat cheese, strawberries, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The sweetness of the berries, tartness of the vinegar, and smooth creaminess of the goat cheese are really nice together, and it’s a great, light side dish.

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A green salad with a little goat cheese and fruit: good stuff.

Also, since I would eat my weight in goat cheese if science would let me, I like to make lemon, asparagus, and goat cheese pasta. I usually wing it (it’s really simple!), but this recipe from Smitten Kitchen outlines exactly what to do. I prefer to omit the tarragon, use lots of black pepper, and sometimes add some white beans for protein, but this recipe is very easy to remix according to your preferences.

Even if you don’t perform a ritual to mark the equinox, get outside, if weather and circumstances let you. Chow down on the fruits and vegetables coming into season. Bring the outdoors into your space, and let yourself experience the warmth and promise of a new season.🌹

 

 

5-Minute Energy Cleanses

Ever have a day when you just feel off? You’re not getting sick, nothing really caused it, you just have a sort of wrong feeling. Maybe you’ve been around someone who left you feeling drained, overheard something that made you uncomfortable, or even just had to listen to an annoying, insipid muzak soundtrack in line at the grocery store. You’re left feeling bogged down, maybe even annoyed.

You need a five minute pick-me-up.

A landscape emerging from a very large book.

This picture has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was cool.

These short rituals are designed to be able to be done whenever you have the time for them — there’s not a lot of ceremony involved, just simple, effective rituals to help get you back on an even keel.

1. Use a Sponge

For this, you’ll need:

  • A clean sponge
  • A bowl (preferably glass or china)
  • Water
  • Sliced lemons, or a few drops of your favorite essential oil

Add the lemons or oil to the water, and stir in a clockwise direction with your dominant hand. As you stir, picture the bowl filling with warm, bright, effervescent energy.

Take the bowl somewhere peaceful — maybe in your garden, or your favorite chair. Hold it on your lap, and inhale the uplifting scent of the water.

Hold the dry sponge in your hand, and visualize all of the stress, tension, and negativity in you pouring into it. Dip the sponge in the water, hold it over the bowl, and squeeze it as hard as you can. Let the sponge soak up your negative energy, and let the clean, empowered water wash it away.

Repeat this as many times as necessary — really crush that sponge like a soggy stress ball, and let your tension fall away. When you are through, pour the water on the earth with thanks.

2. Try the Cloud Meditation

Find somewhere where you can sit quietly and comfortably. If you have trouble focusing on your breath or meditating with your eyes closed (me too!), don’t worry. Just imagine a soft, fluffy cloud directly over your head. It glows with a bright light, the color of a sunset, and smells like fresh rain.

Sunset cloud over a calm field.

Tree’s about to get cleansed like whoa.

When you have a solid mental image of the cloud, visualize it beginning to rain down on you. The rain is bright, just like the cloud, tinged with golden light. Everywhere it touches, it washes away the stress, tension, and negativity in your energy field. Imagine the gentle caress of the gleaming water trailing down your skin, carrying away all of the negative energy with it. Keep this up for as long as you need to, then allow the cloud to dissipate.

3. Use a Selenite Wand

I love selenite. Not only is it helpful for pain (for me, anyway), it’s widely used to help cleanse energy fields. If you have access to a selenite wand, no matter how small or unpolished it may be, you can use it to quickly sweep negative energy away from you.

Hold one end in your dominant hand, the way you’d hold a lint roller, or the handle of a portable vacuum. Sweep the wand over yourself, about 3-4″ from your skin, from head to toe. At the end of each stroke, give the wand a shake. If you prefer, you can also point the end of the wand at yourself, and twirl it the way you’d twirl a cotton candy stick. Visualize the negative, stagnant energy catching on the end of the wand, then shake it off, move the wand to a new area, and repeat.

4. Hold a Stone

For this, you’ll need:

  • Stone
  • A body of water

To do this, take a stone in your dominant hand. Hold it tightly, as you visualize all of your stress and negative energy filling it. Let the stone take your tension and worries from you. when you are ready, toss it into a moving body of water with your thanks. The water will rinse away the negativity, and return the stone to a place where it can help someone else.

5. Feel the Sun and Wind

The weather can be a powerful ally when it comes to energy cleansing. If it’s a windy day, stand in the wind and feel it carrying the negative energy away from you. If it’s a warm, sunny day, close your eyes, turn your face up to the sun, and feel the warmth and brightness burning away whatever negativity clings to you. Say your thanks, and continue your day feeling lighter, safer, and more relaxed.

Sun rising over mountains.

Picturesque mountains optional.

It’s hard to avoid negative energy entirely. Depending on what you do, it may not be a good idea to try — it’d be hard to be a trauma counselor or ER doctor if you consciously distance yourself from negativity! If you’re feeling bogged down by the people, places, and things you’ve come in contact with, taking a few minute for an energy cleansing ritual can help you relax and return to normal.

 

The Buzzcut: One Year(ish) Later

The New Year’s day before last, I shaved my head. The whole thing, right down to the skin. I did it for a variety of reasons — some magical, most mundane. Now, after a year (and change), how does it feel?

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Not shown: the picked-over patches hidden by that ridiculous part.

I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t regret it. I only regret not having done it sooner.

I don’t keep my hair as (non-existently) short as that first cut. Most of the time, it hovers between a #3 and a #5. I’ve debated allowing it to grow out again, but, every time, I hit about an inch in length and get the urge to buzz it again.

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Bald af.

It was a little tough to get used to, at first. I’ve almost always had very long hair. It was part of how I mentally pictured myself. Even in dreams, I had long hair. A big part of why I cut it was trichotillomania — after two decades of feeling through my hair, looking for all of the strands that were too thick, to coarse, too curly, or otherwise too different, and then pulling them out, I was ready to stop. I also knew I didn’t want to go the route of buying hair fiber sprays or putting in expensive extensions that’d only end up damaging what hair I had left. Unfortunately, like a lot of things on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, it’s not that easy to just up and quit trich. Buzzing it short removes not only the temptation, but the ability to grasp hairs and pull them. As a “fix,” it’s a bit hardcore… but it works.

Sometimes I struggle with the idea of keeping my hair short. Most of the people — men, women, or otherwise — who informed my standard of beauty growing up had long hair. The typical image of the witch in popular imagination is a woman with long, wild hair. Some spells even call for unbinding and shaking out hair, using hair as a taglock, braiding hair together with other objects, or wearing items in hair. Some traditions call for keeping hair bound or covered. I have never been a part of one that did, but I kept my hair bound anyway — I shed like a golden retriever, so it helped keep my hair off of things. (It also helped keep it out of other people’s hands. No sense in giving someone an easy way to focus a jinx on you, you know?)

On the flip side, a large component of magic is embracing change and releasing what no longer serves you. Honoring sunk costs or holding on to things that do nothing for you only serves as an energy sink that detracts from your ability to grow, create, and bring in things that don’t suck the joy out of living. With that in mind, and considering how much mental energy it took to go through the hair-pulling process, obsess about it afterward, try to hide the evidence, and keep my hair in decent shape, I don’t at all regret shaving it.

Will I let my hair grow out again? I don’t think so. I like how it looks short. I love how little care it requires. I like that I can make bars of shampoo last much longer now. I love that I never have to worry about it being dull, or limp, or frizzy, or unmanageable. Not having long hair has taken a tremendous load off of me.

Strangely enough for someone who’s had long hair pretty much her whole life, I feel more like myself with little-to-no hair at all.

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I still like to wear hats, though.

Let’s eat paste!

Okay, not really.

I haven’t written much lately, mostly because of two reasons:

  1. I was incredibly sick and felt like death, and
  2. It’s almost time for me to turn in all of the essays I’ve written over the past year for evaluation by whoever at ADF is in charge of that kind of thing.

So, in essence, I haven’t written much because I’ve been busy writing in between bouts of coughing and other assorted misery. I have done some other creative-type things, though, which is awesome. I’m in the process of moving my altar (hopefully to a place where cats can’t happen to it), too.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering what the paste bit is about. Let me explain.

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DIY Brain Chemistry

I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

I don’t want to call it “research,” because looking up a bunch of studies isn’t really the same as designing an experiment or compiling a meta analysis, but it’s a lot of reading nonetheless.

See, for years, I’ve been trying to find ways to mitigate some Brain Things. It isn’t purely panic disorder, because there are some very evident physiological aspects to that aren’t really adequately explained by anxiety. It also isn’t purely physical, either.

The first doctor I ever discussed it with was my pediatrician. I was thirteen, had begun experiencing regular panic attacks, and my mother was tired of it.

“It’s anxiety,” he said. And that was it.

It went untreated for years — I was told it was all in my head, that the liver absorbs adrenaline in under a minute (lol what), and there was no reason for any panic attack to last longer than that. This left me with two things:

  1. A raging, untreated panic disorder.
  2. A diagnosis of anxiety.

Getting diagnosed with anxiety is a curse in its own right, particularly if you’re medically female. Women’s pain is often ignored as it is, particularly for black women. If you have a history of anxiety and depression, it is downright impressive how many medical conditions it’ll get blamed for. (Like the time I was given SSRIs to treat a symptomatic hemangioma. Fun!)

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Living my best life is sucking the life out of me.

Its 2:00 in the morning, and I am writing because I have, once again, destroyed my sleep schedule.

Well, not just my sleep schedule.

I have idiopathic intracranial hypertension. It makes me forget things, feel crushing headaches every moment of the day, occasionally lose my ability to see, and want to sleep basically forever. Left to my own devices, I will sleep for twelve hours and still be able to take a substantial midday nap.

Such is life.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me much time for anything else. This doubly sucks, because what time I am left is also devoted to coping with the headaches, dizziness, anxiety, depression, and other trappings of having a head full of surplus brainjuice. Showering is tiring. Clothes hurt. On a high-pressure day, even holding my head up is more than my neck can manage.

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