Category Archives: Life
As I passed a doorway, I glanced inside. I caught a reflection in a mirror framed by the door and saw my mother’s face. I saw her eyes, the arch of her brow, the slope of her nose, the strong and determined chin.
I saw a strength radiating from the reflection that I had never noticed before. A set to the shoulders, a sense of self-pride that comes only from embracing hard truths.
On closer inspection, I realized that the woman staring back from the mirror was me.
The resemblance of the women in my family is striking. I can’t look in the mirror without seeing my mother, my grandmother, my daughter. As I grow older, it seems the comparison is only growing stronger.
Since the death of my mother last summer, I’ve learned, and come to accept some very hard truths, about our relationship, about her as a mother, and her as a person. Seeing her face every time I look in the mirror hasn’t been easy. It’s led to a lot of me trying not to look.
Finding out that someone you loved and respected wasn’t who you tried to believe they were is hard. Finding out after they are gone and unable to explain or defend themselves is even harder.
My relationship with my mother was troubled, but in spite of that, I loved her and craved her approval and love more than my next breath. I believed her to be perfection personified. Not that I believed she’d never made a mistake, but the grace and ease she seemed to move through life with left me in awe and with a desire to be like her.
In truth, my similarities to my mother end with what I see in the mirror. This used to upset me, but with the lessons I learned right after she passed, I’ve found that she wasn’t quite the role-model I believed her to be.
Learning that a parent is, indeed, nothing more than human, can be devestating, and it was for me. I spent the first few months grieving more for my lost image of her than for her as my mother. Reality can be a relentless companion.
As I look into the mirror now, I no longer see the woman that failed at everything, that was weak and never did anything right. I no longer see shame in my eyes for the times I disappointed her.
Now, I can stand tall when I catch my reflection. Shoulders back and head held high, knowing that I have not lived a perfect life, but I have lived. I have made mistakes, but I have learned. I’ve had my heart broken, but I have known love.
For all my imperfections and short-comings, I have a beautiful daughter that I love with all my heart, the love and devotion of a good man and a handful of wonderful friends that I can always count on when I need someone.
I no longer live my life by the measure of a woman that hid her impefections while expecting those in her life to live up to unrealistic standards. I have begun to set my own standards for my life. I have learned that expecting the people in my life to perform to my expectations will leave me sad and alone, a fate I am determined not to share with my mother.
I have come to realize that her expectations of me were unrealistic and that if she could have seen past them, she could have really known me as a person and been able to see that I am a good person, with a kind heart. She could have seen how much her love and acceptance would have meant to me.
I will not continue to make these same mistakes with Mini-Me. In my eyes, as well as my heart, she will find the acceptance she seeks. I will know the person she is and not be blinded by my own wishes for her. I will accept her for the beautiful individual that she is and support her in her decisions in life, even the ones I don’t agree with. I will give her what my own mother never gave me, a place of love in my life where she never feels inadequate or unworthy of my love.
I don’t want it to take her loosing me for her to find her self-worth. I want to be part of watching her blossom into the outstanding woman I know she can be.
When I am gone, I want her to see my face in her own and for it to bring her pride and joy. I don’t want her to search eyes so like my own for an acceptance she should have found in mine.
As I finally begin to heal and move past the loss of my mother, I can’t help but wonder if she left this world with peace in her heart. Did she realize, too late, the things she missed out on? Was she satisfied, in her own heart, with the life she lived?
I will never have the answers to those questions. I will always wonder, and I can’t change that. What I can change is leaving those questions in my own child’s heart when I’m gone. I can live my life in such a way that she will always know where my heart is and that I have found peace in my life. I can teach her by example, to live a life filled with the joy of living and the love of those that matter.
I awoke this morning to a layer of frost covering everything my eyes touched and it reminded me that in spite of the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, that the Winter Solstice is only a week away.
The days following the Solstice, leading into January, is the time Draco and I normally celebrate Yule, although we haven’t truly celebrated in years.
At my friend B’s urging, we finally put up a small tree last weekend that she sent from her Mom’s house, insisting we use it since her mom passed last month and she leaves today for Switzerland and then Italy, to spend the holiday with her daughter and grandchildren. Before that, my only concession to the holiday season had been a table cloth she insisted I take.
Draco knows I’m trying to reclaim our holidays now that Mom is gone and Mini-Me is grown, but he also knows how hard this year is for me. He is following my lead, listening to every word, and trying to make it easier. I appreciate him for this all the more because being attentive isn’t normally his strong suit. He’s used to me being an independant, strong and assertive woman – at least in our home and marriage. He doesn’t really know what to do with the uncertainty he’s seen in me the last few years. To be honest, I really haven’t known what to do with it either.
As we finished putting up the tree last weekend, which was just a string of lights and a star on top, I mentioned that it looked a little bare without decorations, so last night, he snuck off and bought 2 boxes of ornaments (all our Yule decorations are in storage 2-1/2 hours away).
I had also mentioned recently how I missed the smell of oils in the house (I’m an oil burner junkie), so when we stopped at a store and a lady was selling oils from the trunk of her car in the parking lot, he bought a bottle and got her number so that I will have a steady connection for my oil addiction.
Another thing about this time of year is that as we moved past Samhain (Halloween), we entered the dark half of the year. A time when the harvest is nearly done, sunlight begins to loose its strength, nights get longer and the cold begins to creep in.
At Yule, we are entering the heart of the cold and the dark. It’s a time when activity is limited and families gather around the fire to share stories, memories and to reflect on the passing seasons.
For me, it’s a time of reflecting on my personal harvest from the year and when I attempt to plan better for next year, so that the harvest will be plentiful.
As I reflect, I see that we weren’t really prepared last year and because of it, I am still scrambling trying to lay in supplies for the barren months we now face. There is no doubt that this winter will be a difficult one, but I know we will manage somehow, just as we have in winters past.
I also know that I have learned some very valuable lessons, especially about planning for the lean months.
While I own that our planning could have been better, I refuse to give myself too hard of a time for it this year. This time last year, things were falling apart fast at my parent’s house. We were blind to the fact that Mom had discovered a lump in her abdomen that she would announce to the family after the New Year in January. We were looking for our own place and trying to stay close enough for me to help with Mom without having to live there. We were planning, but Mom’s annoncement in January would throw my family, and my life, into a tail-spin no one was prepared for and all my plans would fall apart at my feet as I tried to help my family while loosing my mom.
That is something I had no way, and no opportunity, to plan for.
Now, it’s just me and Draco. My family is pretty much non-existant with the exception of Mini-Me, Chicklet and a few friends that have clung to my side through it all.
Moving two and a half hours away was “planned”, literally, in a week. When we got here, we didn’t even have a home to come to and stayed in hotels for nearly 3 weeks. My health had gone downhill, especially my mental health, while I spent the last 3 years trying to take care of everyone but myself.
My spiritual life suffered so much that I’ve begun to redefine it and what I want from it. I don’t believe that I could have honestly prepared us, or even myself, for what the last year had in store, so I chalk it up to one of life’s many hard lessons and move forward. We will get through this. I will get through this.
In the last six months, I haven’t always felt certain of that. Loosing my mom has been an experience, and a pain, unlike any other. I have learned so much, so fast, about the woman my mother really was. I have been forced to see our relationship for what it really was. It has been one of the most difficult times of my life, but I have survived.
My family, that I always thought was so integral in my life, has treated me as if I were disposable, and it nearly broke me completely, but I have survived, and what’s more, is that I have learned.
I know now that I can make it without them. I know that with only myself to answer to, I can make the decisions that need to be made. I know that my life should be what I make it, not what others choose for me. And? I know that no matter what life throws at me, I will survive that, too.
I was raised old-school Church of God in the Bible Belt of the deep south from the time I can remember until I was 12. For those unfamiliar with what that means, let me offer some background.
Church of God, the old school ones, anyway, are very serious when it comes to their religion. I suppose every religion is in it’s own way, though.
Women wore dresses, below the knee, 24/7, not just for church services. No make-up, no jewlery other than a wedding band.
Even though I attended Sunday school with children my age, the pastor’s voice carried throughout the small building. While we were memorizing John 3:16 and learning the about the New Testiment, stories of fire and brimstone and eternal damnation echoed around us.
Sunday and Wednesday nights, we were privy to what the adults got. Shouting, speaking in tounges, running up and down the isles, people laid out in the floor vibrating and shaking from the power of their beliefs. The nights these events occured were considered among the best of the services by the adults.
I never realized how disturbing this could be to someone not familiar with the practices until I took Draco to a service at my cousin’s church (my family is full of pastors, gospel singers and devout Christians) where he is the pastor, and Draco spent most of the service looking ready to bolt for the door. He was raised Church of the Bible Covenant, which I gather is more like Baptists, who are much more docile in services than Church of God.
I also spent a fair amount of time at the local Baptist church. They often held special events and anyone was welcome. Women in pants and the quietly spoken “Amens” were uncommon in my world where church was concerned.
When I was about 8 or 9 I suppose, life opened up. Aunt Hattie (my babysitter my whole childhood and an extremely devout Christian) would drag me to church every time the doors opened. My great aunt that I lived with would take me with her to a honkey-tonk every Friday and Saturday night. There was a battle going on between them there that I wasn’t aware of until I was an adult. My great aunt didn’t attend church. I nerver knew why.
Above my bed hung a Certificate of Dedication to the Church of God with my name on it. When I got old enough to ask my great aunt what it was, she said she had me dedicated to the church when I was very small, that way, the church was responsible for my soul and not her.
I went to live with Mom when I was 12. Even though Mom had been raised in the same faith as me, she didn’t attend church. Dad’s Dad is a pastor, something I wasn’t even aware of until I was grown, and he didn’t go either.
Weekends were spent riding in the car, most often in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is still my favorite place to be.
Dad taught me about life, love and nature. He could identify any plant and it’s uses, he taught me to watch the skies – the clouds, sun, moon and stars – and how those things effected every living thing. He taught me respect for the world I live in and at his side, I found more of a connection to God and Divine energy than I ever had in a church.
I learned of a gentle but powerful Divine energy. I learned more about feeling that Divine energy in my heart and soul than I ever did cooped up in a building reading a book I didn’t understand.
I learned to be human and humane. I learned about this awesome world we live in that most people take for granted. I learned that everything is alive with that divine spark, not just humans, and I learned how to feel Divinity within me, and through it, my connection to every other living thing. The world and nature became my church.
I know that my Dad had no clue that I was finally finding religion while we sat on the bank of a lake fishing and talking or while we wandered around exploring nature. I know it wasn’t his intention to bring me religion, but he certainly brought me to it.
I’ve searched most of my adult life for somewhere that made me feel that way inside in a church. Somewhere that talked about the God I found wandering the Blue Ridge Mountains. The God I felt as I rested my head against a maple tree to smell the sticky sweetness oozing from it and listened to the squirrels and birds chatter in the woods around me. The God I felt in the rush of water around my feet as I stood in the middle of a cold mountain stream, arms stretched wide, head thrown back, the kiss of the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.
The God I feel stirring restlessly in my soul as the fall fades to winter and the world he created sleeps. The God I feel begin to stir again as the air warms and buds begin to peek out.
Where is that God in the Sunday morning services held behind closed doors and stained glass windows while a man gives me his interpretation of who God is supposed to be to me? That environment just isn’t for me.
So where does the Goddess you hear me talk about fit into all of this?
When you get down to the bare bones of what I believe Divinity is, you see the Goddess aspect come into play.
Put simply, I believe that all gods are one God. I believe that that One God encompasses everything. It has no name, no gender, because of this, it is every name and both genders. It is Divine Energy, The Divine Spark. It is every name from God to Buddah to Zeus. It is also Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Gaia, and even Hecate.
The Pagan path I follow is more nature related, but even an old tree-hugger like me finds need for prayer and asks for help and guidance. It helps, in my mind, to be able to work directly with certain aspects of Divinity sometimes, and this is where names and genders come into play for me.
In my next Exploring Phases post, I’ll delve deeper into how these aspects come into play in my life and how I made peace with the dual-gender aspect of Divinity.
Until next time…
I’ve been seeing a lot of controversy lately, both on blogs and Facebook pages I follow about people arguing over beliefs, or rather, misunderstandings and misconceptions about beliefs not their own.
I have not been left out of feeling the effects myself, even though it’s been much less “public”.
After my Mom passed, my Dad got understandably concerned about religion for a time, wavering between a faith he was raised to believe in, his own doubts and issues stemming from his personal experiences, and being angry at God for taking my mother from him. All understandable feelings in my opinion.
This finally led my father to bring religion up to me, the “known black sheep of the family”. I say “known” because my sister is Satanic and my brother is Agnostic. My daughter is Christio-Pagan. I’m not certain my father is aware of all this, so he brought his “religious curiosity” to me.
He finally asked me one night what, exactly, it is that I believe. Somewhere along the way, he picked up a few of the general misconceptions that a lot of people seem to have. He was obviously under the impression that I don’t believe in God, that I don’t pray, etc. We had a lengthy and in-depth conversation in which I tried to explain my belief system to my dad. I won’t rehash our private conversation, but I felt that maybe it was time to add some tag pages to the site going into a little more detail of what it is I believe, how I came to be a Pagan, why I call myself “Pagan” in a general sense instead of branding myself as one particular path, why I am solitary, why the only Pagan-type labels I do refer to myself with are Kitchen, Green and Hearth witch…and so on.
Obviously, this isn’t the work of a single post, as most of the things I’ve mentioned deserve their own posts, so I will most likely turn this into some type of series…possibly reviving my “Just Another Phase” tag or something similar where I showcase my more personal posts that explain who I am and how I got to where I am. Stayed tuned for new pages to go up, possibly this weekend.
For my non-Pagan followers lurking out there (yes, I see you), any religious information on this blog is not meant as an attempt convert you or anyone else. It is not intended as a method of teaching a path. It is not intended as an attack on anyone else’s beliefs. It is simply my own, personal experiences, beliefs, questions, etc. If anything on my site offends you in anyway, I offer a sincere and heartfelt apology and I invite you to explore the methods availabe to you to unfollow this blog, or me personally.
I realize that @PhasesOfMe started out as a “mom/empty-nester blog”, not a “Pagan” blog. It still is a mom/empty-nester blog. I am still the same person I always have been. I was Pagan then, just as I am now, I just didn’t talk about it on my blog.
While I welcome and encourage questions and thoughts from all of my readers, I will not remove posts from my site because of anyone else’s feelings when it comes to my experiences, beliefs or my truths in life, be they religious or of any other nature, but I will remove hateful, hurtful, derogitory or prejudice comments without warning or explination.
I suppose I haven’t talked in-depth here because I was afraid of controversy, afraid of loosing followers, afraid someone wouldn’t like me, or would disagree with my beliefs. I realize now that this reluctance lent itself to a feeling of shame over my religion that I don’t (and shouldn’t) feel. I will not hide anymore and I won’t refrain from celebrating my faith simply because someone else may not understand or agree with it.
With that said, I hope you will all join me on my magical journey through life, love, mental illness, faith, family and empty-nest parenting!