Bailing vs Being Self Protective, a case study…

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.- Albert Schweitzer
I’m fine. All is well. There’s no drama, generally or abuse wise, in my life.

Except, I feel edgy and menstrual, which in itself is probably the cause of the edgy.

I have a performance this Friday. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d like to be better prepared, but feel like I’d be wimping out if I bailed.

I really really want to bail. Firstly, my guitarist who would normally play for me can’t make it, so if I want accompaniment, I have to sing with a recording. I’ve never done that before, and don’t have a lot of faith in the sound tech for this event. This in itself gives me a good reason to bail, as I told the organizer my acceptance was contingent on my guitarist being able to make it.

What is actually a bit worse is that I volunteered to help with the opening blessing, and yesterday got an email letting me know who the other priestesses are to be. One of them is a woman who is an ex housemate. We had to kick her out of the shared house we lived in because she was bullying me.  What this looked like was a lot of yelling and imposing body language on her part and a lot of cringing and ineffective arguing on mine, much like my experience was with my father/abuser. Generally she did the worst stuff when no-one was around to witness, until one day my wife came home when she was at it and intervened. We lived together during the time shortly after my father/abuser was in a car accident and I thought he would die, so I was quite fragile and definitely in no shape to defend myself the way I would normally do. It is the first time since I left my home with my parents that I have felt that afraid and helpless.  At one point I was so afraid of her that I left my wife and dog at the house and went to live with a friend for two weeks, so I could make it through to the time she was due to move out. It was a close thing as to whether she would succeed in bullying me to leave or would leave herself.

This happened over six years ago, and I have run into her at events from time to time since then. Mostly I ignore her and don’t initiate contact with her, and that works out tolerably. Since she seems to have gotten into leadership roles in the community, I’ve mostly bowed out completely so I don’t have to be around her. This has cost me opportunities to priestess and be in community, but honestly there are other things about this community that don’t fit well either. Priestessing a blessing together would require interaction.

Generally, the more orthodox Pagan protocol for these types of situations, is that if two members of a circle have a conflict they cannot resolve, it is the responsibility of the parties to put it aside during the ceremony completely, or if they cannot, to withdraw. It’s kind of like “speak now or forever hold your peace” at weddings. Some circles even ask “is there peace on the circle” before starting to ensure that people have a chance to withdraw if they need to. I’m on the orthodox end of things when it comes to pagan ethics, and this community isn’t, so withdrawal wouldn’t be required of me by community standards, but is absolutely required by my own standards.

I have stopped going to religious events in my former community because this bully is quite active in leadership roles. At the time, she was angry that she was kicked out of our house, not accountable for her behavour (as bullies seldom are) and has no doubt spread her perspective among the other people in our formerly shared community. One or two of her friends, when I have run into them, show signs that they have been told something (I’m not sure what) that makes them cooler toward me. The way Pagan opening ceremonies work is that the people doing the opening have to stay to the end and participate in the closing, so I wouldn’t be able to leave if the going got tough.

My third reason for wanting to bail is that, I lead a choir that has offered to perform that night, and we’re just not ready to perform publicly.

The fourth reason is that there are lots of other performers, and we probably won’t be on till about three hours in, and I’ll be fried from the priestessing and the waiting and even less likely to be able to perform competently because of it.

One other glitch is that the organizer has disclosed to me that she has BPD and I know rejection, if she takes it that way, might be particularly painful for her.

I don’t want to do a bad job in a hostile environment as my first time performing in awhile in front of people who may have been poisoned against me. I don’t think it would be good for my currently fragile performer’s soul.

I am an amazon; I can get through anything, but do I want to? I really should let the organizer know now, so she can find someone else for the opening.

_____

Okay, I’ve finished drafting my bail email to the organizer. I haven’t sent it yet, but I should do soon, as the gig is less than a week away.

Now I’m not certain. Is this a challenge I should accept, making myself visible and possibly a target, or a valid warning that I should avoid?

Checking in

Seen Scene - Photocredit: Via Moi (flickr)

I haven’t been writing because I’ve got a lot going on but most of it is not particularly survivory, and is private in that it involves more than just me.

I’m still doing the music, still struggling with continuing to rehearse, but I’m taking weekly voice lessons. I got the number of a piano teacher who I’ll follow up with when I can handle the extra.

I’m starting a pagan choir in my town, and have 5 people signed up, which is good to start with. It’s going to be more of a chorus than a choir.

My current drama is mostly about my relationship which will either end in the next few months or it won’t. We’ve been together for a decade, are legally married and have things like joint property and such that would get complicated if we split, but we’ve both accepted that the way it is can’t continue. Right now it’s in the air whether we’ll sort it out and come out better than before, or we’ll end it, or we’ll have an open relationship. Whichever way it works out the plan is to keep living together, which sounds crazy I know, but if you know the specifics of us and our living situation, could actually work. My wife is my family, my home, my security, my ally and I’m not keen to lose that, even if we’re not working in other ways.

Wish me luck!

Perseverence Practice – Voice Day 3

Well, I’ve managed to practice voice for two days now. Mostly I just did the physical stretches and some warm up vocalizations, not the actual practice, but I’m figuring out when in my day to do it, and I’ve remembered fairly late at night when I was tired. However, I did it anyway, which is good.

Today I’m trying to do it before I start my workday, which might work better. It’s funny that I find it hard to do something I remember enjoying. When I talked it over with my therapist, I was saying that I’m afraid if I get unblocked, whether vocally, creatively or sexually, bad stuff like flashbacks and memories might come out.It’s like I’m trying to break some self-imposed (and partially culturally imposed, to be fair) glass ceiling.

I guess we’ll see.

unfinished business

Photocredit: Lawrence Op
Photocredit: Lawrence Op

(Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies – the following has description of positive pagan ceremony. )

Last night I got together with a friend of mine who shares my religious beliefs. We got to talking about how neither of us are completing our creative projects to our satisfaction. As we talked, we both realized that it’s at least partly about being seen in our authentic selves. Me, to be seen in my gritty survivor art that I am drawn to now, and her in her art at all. We decided to do a symbolic action in sacred space to magically invoke the ability to be seen. The Goddess we chose to bless us was Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the only Goddess I know of who has no myths about having been raped. She is often depicted naked and makes independent sexual choices about her lovers and seems to have no negative consequences for that independence. I think that a person who is able to be safely naked/vulnerable/visible without need for armour and violence is much more powerful than someone who cannot. So that was the aspect or spirit we wanted to bring in, the courage and strength to be visible in our true selves.

We decided we would cast a circle, call the sacred elements and Aphrodite to be present and then for 40 minutes my friend would write a story, and I would try and complete an arrangement of a choral piece that has been unfinished for over a year.

Something magical happened.

My music notation software malfunctioned and I couldn’t edit my work. Every time I clicked on the score to edit it, it would play my piece for me, in its full imperfection and incompletion. For 40 minutes I read the manual and struggled with it, and got absolutely nowhere. Parts of it were perfect already, playing similarly to how I hear the three part piece in my head, and parts of it were incomplete and didn’t sound right, and I could do nothing to change it. By the end I was ready to cry and wracking my brains for what it all meant.

My belief system is that anything that happens in sacred space is meaningful, and is likely a message from the Gods/Goddess. My friend didn’t seem to get it, and gave me a ‘better luck next time’ kind of encouragement, but what I really wanted to know was why this freak computer bug had emerged in sacred space when I’d invoked assistance on my creative work.

When my wife came home, she understood immediately. Bless her! (things are going a lot better with her, by the way.) In talking it over with her I figured out why the Goddess was playing to me my same old song, unchanged, over and over. It was a song I’d written almost 20 years ago, one I’ve gotten a lot of recognition over, and could easily find a choir to sing for me if I had sheet music to give them. I’ve only heard it sung properly once by three voices and it made me cry. The topic is about finding strength from a relationship with a tree and the earth, but isn’t overtly about the abuse.

It’s an old song. It’s not me as I am, naked. It’s me as I was 20 years ago. No wonder the Goddess of healthy empowered nakedness rejected my work on it as an offering in sacred space.

I have decided to make another offering.

I am promising to myself and Aphrodite that I will practice voice daily. Each day. Every day. Using a CD I have with some vocal exercises, the ones that fill me with a feeling of joy and mastery in my voice. For a year. Voice practice needs to be done frequently and for short duration, as the muscles involved are small and damage easily. By practising a tiny amount daily, I will do more good than practicing once a week for hours. By practising regularly I will build a much stronger voice, that I can depend on.

I need to prove to myself that I can persevere with something I’m passionate about. So mote it be. (That’s a think pagans say at the end of a spell or intention, which means roughly, ‘it is so/it must be so’.

I told my therapist about this today and she’s going to help me stay on track, despite my resistance. I’m also telling you, and I’m going to report in on my blog when I’ve done it each day.

I’ve lost 28 pounds since January. I’m proud of that. I’m eating more healthily, taking my vitamins and getting regular light exercise, just brisk walking but it’s good and my wife walks with me so we’re working on it together.

Warrior – the Real Wyrd Sisters

The Real Wyrd Sisters – Shame on Warner Brothers

I have two items on the subject of being a warrior that I want to share – here is the first:

The lyrics to “Warrior” by the Wyrd Sisters. When looking for a recording or video of this song, I found out that this Canadian band from Winnipeg, who has been one of my favourites for years, is being sued by Warner Brothers, who want to steal their name. WB is legally in the wrong, but has way more money and wants to market a band of their own with all kinds of spin off products (based on the one in Harry Potter with a different name) with the same name. The Wyrd Sisters named their band for a Celtic trinity of Goddesses, and have have written some beautiful songs on important issues including child abuse. Shame on Warner Brothers!

WB is probably going to bankrupt these nice socially progressive folk musicians, who have done so much to support the spirits of those of us concerned with social justice. I’m so mad I could just spit!

I love the Harry Potter books, and respect JK Rowling, but honestly the movies are just a weak knockoff of the kind, good and inspiring features of the books. The band in the book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was named the “Weird Sisters”, probably a pun/nod to the same Celtic Goddesses.

WB should ask themselves WWDD (“What Would Dumbledore Do?”) and negotiate something fair with the Wyrd Sisters instead of crushing them. They could name their movie band “The Wierd Sisters” like in the book instead of the Wyrd Sisters their marketing folks like better, compensate the real Wyrd Sisters for using their name, and mention in the credits that the real Wyrd Sisters are in Winnipeg Canada and have generously allowed the similar name to be used. This lawsuit shows that WB have no respect for the values the Harry Potter books illustrate. I encourage people to Boycott / Girlcott  / Pagancott / Survivorcott Warner Brothers Harry Potter paraphenalia unless they do the right thing. If you want to see the movie, wait till your local library gets the DVD.

Here’s their myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/thewyrds and you can hear “Warrior” there. The lyrics are below.

I was a shy and lonely girl
with the heavens in my eyes
and as I walked along the lane
I heard the echoes of her cries

I cannot fight
I cannot a warrior be
it’s not my nature nor my teaching
it is the womanhood in me

I was a lost and angry youth
there were no tears in my eyes
I saw no justice in my world
only the echoes of her cries

I cannot fight
I cannot a warrior be
it’s not my nature nor my teaching
it is the womanhood in me

I am an older woman now
and I will heed my own cries
and I will a fierce warrior be
’til not another woman dies

I can and will fight
I can and will a warrior be
it is my nature and my duty
it is the womanhood in me

I can and will fight
I can and will a warrior be
it is my nature and my duty
it is the sisterhood in me

 

Apparently, the back story for the song is that the Wyrd Sisters member who wrote it worked in her youth in a mental hospital, and saw first hand how at least one girl who had disclosed child sexual assault was treated  in the hospital. The abuse was severe and documented but the administration treated her like she was dirty, a liar and the source of shame to her family rather than her father/abuser, and the songwriter felt helpless to help her at the time.

Learning to be here

I met a woman at the Pagan conference who presented on a topic I happened to have a book on that I’d read but didn’t really understand. However, I knew that she would find the book of interest so I brought it and gave it to her. She’d heard me sing, and in return gave me a book she’d written about the journey of the Bard in Celtic shamanism.  In the introduction of the book it suggests you might want to read one chapter at a time with a couple of weeks break in between to let it filter through and become part of  your dreams and work. I’ve decided to do that.

Photocredit: L. Brumm
Photocredit: L. Brumm

The first chapter was about that state of being connected to the sacred through the present moment. It’s like when you look up at a tree (as I often have) and feel it fill your visual field, your heart and your mind at once. In moments like that I feel like I am as grounded as the tree, like I am at peace. Or standing by the ocean and allowing it to fill me up, exchanging my grief with the flow of the water, thinking of nothing but the ocean. Her thesis is that these moments are the door through which we connect to the divine. I think she’s right.

So today I made sure to take a few instances of being fully in the moment, in nature. It was a beautiful day and for a few breaths I was connected. Less so than I would have thought, I felt a bit guilty about taking a break from activity, or more likely a little reluctant to settle into waters that might take me deeper than I felt I had time for.

Late in the day, I found out that a friend, a woman I’ve known for about 8 years, who follows the same tradition as I do, has died suddenly of cancer. In finding out and processing my shock and grief, I was able to be present and aware. Every moment is a sacred moment. Now, I feel at peace. She would, I think have certainly wanted to live a longer life, and had lots more to do. She leaves a wife who is no doubt devastated, and who we will need to find ways to support. However, I think she was a woman who enjoys new experiences, so wherever she is, I’m honestly sure she’s having a good time.

Photocredit: Denis Collette
Photocredit: Denis Collette

There is a song from my spiritual tradition that I sing when someone I care about dies.

“Weaver, weaver weave her thread, whole and strong into Your web.
Healer, Healer, heal this pain. In love may she return again.

We are dark, and we are bright. We are formed of Earth and light.
On the wheel of Life we spin, from birth to death and back again.

Weaver, Weaver, weave her thread, whole and strong into your web.
Healer, Healer, heal this pain. In love may she return again. ” – Starhawk

Blessed be, my friend.

Why a sinus infection is a gift from the Goddess

Okay, now you probably think I’m nuts, but it is.

About ten years ago, I was accepted to the music program at a community college.  The director of the program told us on our first day, that the reason we’d been accepted was because we had a shot to make it as a professional musician. I was accepted as a vocalist into the jazz program. I’d recently got into jazz and lucked into finding an accompanist who knew the type of material they wanted. I was 30, surrounded by what looked like teenagers straight out of high school.  Straight teenagers.

There were 7 of us vocalists, who were second class citizens in the program. The instrumentalists were assigned groups to play in, but those groups didn’t include a vocalist. We were supposed to somehow find people willing to let us practice being a vocalist with, practice with with no sound equipment, with no mic or monitor to hear ourself in against a 6 piece band playing full  volume. It was some kind of hell where they gave me the means to access the dream I’d had since I was 8 years old, and then tore that dream apart, piece by piece, while I struggled to hold it together. I got an A+ on all my vocalist work, and much lower marks in some of the other courses, because they, being geared for kinesthetic instrumentalists, were all about learning by doing, with explanations, demonstrations or questions not permitted. I now understand how frustrating the normal visual oriented schools I excelled in were for kinesthetes, but it didn’t make it any less painful. I had one teacher (now the head of the vocal program, though she’s not primarily a vocalist) tell me she had no time to answer questions when I came to see her during office hours, nor would she permit them in class.

I lasted a year and a half, while working full time at my regular job at the same time. It took me at least 5 years to heal enough to perform again.

How does this relate to my sinus infection?

I think I had one then.

I had trouble hearing the differences in notes that I had to identify and transcribe. My processing speed was too slow to write them down when they were played at tempo. My ears hurt. I thought I had allergies.

Earlier this week I was singing with my new musical collaborator, and my dormant sore throat went into full raw glory within about an hour. Next morning it was so bad that I cancelled my work meetings and stayed home.

I figured it out a couple of days later, once I discovered that you can’t have a cold for a month. They resolve within two weeks. However they can set you up for a sinus infection, and according to my extensive internet research I have all the symptoms. Not only do I have an acute infection now, looks like I’ve had a chronic infection for years, chronic cough, perpetual sore throat.

So, self-sufficient and doctor visit disliking person that I am (I can’t stand to be condescended to), I researched home solutions. I found a somewhat gross but seemingly effective home treatment (you don’t want to know) that uses salt water to loosen and flush out the infected gunk in the sinuses. But now that the treatment is starting to work and I can see how differently I breathe, I’m thinking that maybe this infection is a gift from the Goddess.

I’m ready now, to sing and write about what really means something to me. I’m strong enough to make art that reflects MY experience, that doesn’t force me to pretend I didn’t live getting raped or living in fear of getting raped daily for ten years of my life, when I was a young, resourceless, defenseless girl. I am willing to make art that reflects the bitter, hard, lonely and profoundly spritual lessons I learned when I was fighting for my life and when I was fighting to transform those experiences and integrate them into the proud, strong, warrior priestess I’ve become.  I shouldn’t have to earn the right to just be honestly who I am, but I have and I will and if people find that uncomfortable, it’s good for them and they need to deal with it.

So it’s good now that I start doing that, singing authentically rather than stupid stagnant cover tunes of dead men and love songs written for straight people, that the Goddess hands me the resources I need to be ready, to regain my voice as well.  This is another sword dance.

Back in the saddle

Photocredit: "the magic of horses" by Big Grey Mare
Photocredit: "the magic of horses" by Big Grey Mare

I’ve been getting weekly massages and had one today. It’s amazing how nice and unusual being more relaxed than usual is.

Last night I made some good progress on writing a song to go with Oniongirl’s words (with her permission) and I’m really happy with it. I’ve got to get the guitar part a bit more nailed down, and I’d like to have multiple voices on it, but the bones are there. Yay.

I’m going to be rehearsing with my friend the guitarist tonight. My voice isn’t quite recovered from the cold, but I should be able to manage. I was worried I was losing creative momentum but it seems to have bounced back.

Yesterday night my wife did a really nice thing. She got out her guitar (we took beginners guitar lessons together last year) and together we played an easy song or two. Then she faded into the kitchen to cook something and left me at it. Once I had my guitar out and tuned, it was so much easier to keep going and I ended up having a good time working on my song, organizing repertoire and rehearsing and not watching tv for once.

She’s the kind of person that when she’s sick I can’t say “you should take some vitamin c, or an aspirin or whatever”, she won’t do it, but if I put it in her hand and hand her a glass of water she’ll swallow it down. That’s kind of what she did for me last night. I guess living together for 8 years teaches a person something about how another person works.

We’re getting along better, still sniping from time to time, but more affection and kindness too. Last night we cooked dinner together, chopping veggies and stirring and singing along to nice folk music. Last night she stroked my hair while she read a book in bed, which has come to be a kind of nice bedtime routine.

All in all, things are good. The sun is shining, I bought tomato and squash plants for my garden, and all is well with the world.

One’s own nature

Photocredit: Ricmcarthur
Photocredit: Ricmcarthur - "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures."~Henry Ward Beeche

I made music last night with a guitarist I’m now working with. We worked on some covers and one original song from each of us.

I brought my most successful song, a song with no survivor content, about euphemisms for the word vagina/vulva. I’ve performed it many times, and gotten a lot of approval for it, so it’s ‘safe’.

I don’t really have any others that I like that aren’t about being a survivor. One of the hardest things for me about being an artist/songwriter/writer (not by any stretch my whole identity or even my job), is that that topics that have my passion are the ones that are at least coloured by my experiences as a survivor.

I believe it’s important work, to say the things that need to be said about being a survivor, in ways that are passionate or beautiful enough to overcome people’s discomfort with the topic and help them understand. However, it’s not easy work, and it exposes me when I share it.

It’s a bit like being a vocalist.

When I was in music school (A college program, I dropped out after first year) I found every one of the other vocalists in the bathroom crying at least once. It’s because using the voice as an instrument is so personal. Playing another instrument can be emotional, but the voice is one’s body, and there’s no separation between the self and the music if you’re doing it right.

My throat is still sore and I’ve got a wicked ear ache, but I was able to sing a bit.

This guy I’m collaborating with is great. He’s a good guitarist and seems passionate about it.  I like the songs he writes. He’s married, and I met him and his wife through some lesbian friends, one of whom is his ex. Since he’s still on good terms with her and has met my wife, I’m pretty confident that he’s fine about the lesbian thing, which is nice to have nailed down.

However, it’s a bit of a reach to sing the vagina song with him, let alone songs about being an incest survivor. Perhaps the ‘anyway‘ song that doesn’t mention it overtly. I really am going to have to learn to play the guitar.

It was harder than usual to find a picture to go with this post. What I found was incomplete somehow. I think that’s because I don’t understand what’s going on well enough to have a metaphor for it yet. Perhaps I’ll add another picture later when I do.

In a cold and northern town

[A song in progress – celtic/folk story ballad feel. Key of D major]

In a cold and northern town, the days are short and the nights are long
A little girl grew up alone, surrounded by her family

When she was five years old she didn’t know that daddy’s weren’t allowed
She thought a monster’d come to kill her, (I) guess that’s what it was

A father owns his daughter, while not exactly true
was true enough to keep her enslaved and him free to abuse.

And now she dances a sword, atop his grave so fresh
And she dances victory, to drive away his cruel ghost

[Bridge]

She cried at school until they teased her, bad crybaby, should grow up
She never heard she had a right to tell, or even
what to call it
when the monster called

And when in hospital he lay, they tried to save his life,
they got him into treatment, he got nursing from his wife.

And now she dances a sword dance, atop the monsters grave
And she dances victory and she is proud and she is brave

Her grandpa died when she was 12, her mother told her later
if he had known he’d have slayed that monster, he would have saved her

Her grandmamar, the monster’s mother, bravely faced the truth
She listened to her grown grand-daughter
and gave her back her family

Her Scots ancestors danced over
crossed swords  before battle to prove their hearts

Danced over their slain foes, to celebrate,
to keep vengeful spirits in their grave.

So now she dances a sword, atop his grave so fresh
and she dances victory, to seal his cruel ghost

So now she calls her fierce ancestors, to take his soul away
that never may he trouble her, in night or in the day, oh.

And now she dances a sword, atop his grave in victory
And she dances binding
to seal his cruel ghost.

And now she calls her fierce ancestors, to take the monster’s soul away
that he may trouble her no more, in night  or in the day

And may they trouble us no more
the men who try to rape/take our souls
and may we outlive them all!
and dance upon their graves!

[Note about men as abusers – The following are all true: most sexual abusers are men, women abuse children sexually too, boys get abused too, I have many men I love and who are my allies. I refer to abusers as men in my writing because that is my reality. Your mileage may vary, and that’s fine. If you’re against child sexual abuse, that’s all we need to be allies.]