That will be all, 2016. You may go.

Let’s start the year with a long-ass confessional post, shall we?

Like most people I’ve always tried to hit the ground running at the New Year, or at least on January 2.  (I figured January 1 was kind of a wash for most resolution type things, as I’m usually tired or hung over or unprepared for whatever it was I wanted to start.)  

Some people are natural sprinters (Dwarves mostly).  I am apparently not one.  Every time I do a “I’m going to start this lifestyle change or improvement on THIS day,” something happens to make me push that date back, and back, and before I know it it’s a week after NYD and I already feel like a failure.  

Not today, Satan.  This year I’m trying something different.  At the risk of using a self-help buzzword, I’ve decided to try “leaning in.”

I decided that the whole “40 Things Before I’m 40” thing isn’t going to happen.  It’s a great idea, but even those tiny goals were already a source of mild stress, since some of them were things I’ve tried and failed to do before.  When I really got down to the truth of things, I realized I need to focus on exactly two things this year:  Writing and veganism.

As I told my Patreon peeps last week, I have lost my passion for my work.  The last couple of years of financial stress and career disillusionment have turned my writing into a job, and therefore a burden; long before I actually managed to get a day job I had realized I couldn’t be a full time writer and do nothing but “hustle” (there’s another buzzword you hear all the time these days, which basically means “work yourself to death and maybe the stars will align for you”) with promotion and marketing and all the things I hate most in the world without it totally killing my creativity.

Some people can do what they love for a living, and the uncertainty and instability and sacrifice just fires them up more.  I need to buy cat food and hummus and prescription medications.  I want health insurance and a bank account free of overdraft fees.  And most of all, I need to love writing and I just…don’t right now.  My relationship to my work has gone from a passionate love affair to a sexless begrudging marriage.  I can’t live like that.

So, saving our relationship is going to be my 2017.  I’m going to start by dedicating time and space, silly things like a desk and hopefully at least one new project.  I’m not putting anything on hold, but I have no release date for Shadow Rising because it’s not even half finished and I kind of hate it right now.  

My other goal is tied into pretty much every aspect of my life, because it touches on issues of self-esteem, self-care, integrity, compassion, making a difference, and doing more than just mourning the world we seem to be losing piece by piece.  Veganism is a spiritual practice to me, and it was certainly never a “diet;” it’s always about the animals, the Earth, and my own integrity.  These days that integrity feels even more important than ever – surrounded as we are with corruption and hatred, I might not be able to do much right now but I can become more of the kind of person who embodies what I want for the world, not what I fear.  

This year instead of a single word I’m working more with Danielle LaPorte’s Core Desired Feelings; I’d read The Desire Map but wasn’t all that inspired by it, but among the half dozen or so end of year workbooks I read this year was her Goals With Soul, which somehow struck a chord with me this time.  I wrestled with a lot of seemingly contradictory feelings until I had the list down to something manageable:

One thing I learned in 2016 is how much of my life is governed by fear.   I am tired of my energy being drained away by fear and anxiety. I doubt I can become truly fearless, but I can work on it. 

Another unexpected but long-time-coming realization was that I have trouble making genuine connections to people; even those I love best know precious little about what’s going on in my head. I’ve been getting the Singer of Connection card from my Faery oracle for YEARS and never really did anything with it; the idea of trying to reach out to people makes me deeply uneasy…which of course means it’s what I need to do. I have no idea how to do that, or how far I want to go, but I know I need to learn more about what it means to feel connection, to like it, to nurture it.

Integrity is a big one for me, both in the veg department and in my whole life. I am terrible at keeping commitments.  Terrible.  I can’t tell you how many things I’ve gotten involved in (usually when I’m hypomanic) only to realize halfway through I never wanted to do it or I got into it for the wrong reasons; then it’s too late to back out gracefully, so I…vanish.  Or make something up.  Or forget all about it.  I try to keep my word with other people, but when it comes to organizations or plans, I have dick for follow-through.  Obviously I don’t want to be that person.  

Now, the last two are the kickers, because they might seem to contradict the spirit of the first three. Delight and Ease?  With heavy ideas like Integrity?  WTH, Sylvan?

Well, that’s where self-care comes in, because my goal is to explore these feelings while still focusing on ease and delight.  By not kicking my own ass, by not “punching today in the balls,” or “hustling” or “putting some gangsta rap on and dealing with it,” to use yet more of the slogan silliness you find on Pinterest if you look for inspirational quotes.  (Man white ladies love to talk about gangsta rap and “thug life,” don’t they?  I wonder if they’re just really high from all those pumpkin spice lattes?)  

I don’t want to do any of those things.  I realized that in 2016 about the only delight I had was at the movies.  There were lots of great movies in 2016, and when I think about real fun or really enjoying something, that’s all that comes to mind.  It’s been so long since I was genuinely excited about something new, or enthusiastic about anything – I was under so much stress about money for so long, now that I have a stable job that (mostly) pays the bills I’m seeing how much of my life got ground under the heel of that fear and sense of failure.  

So I want to spend 2017 seeking out ways to develop my spirit and heart without it feeling like constant backbreaking labor.  I want to breathe deeply again, and I want to fill my cup with something besides poison.  It’s pretty much empty right now, which is sad, but at least offers the potential of something less bitter or, at least, more nourishing to drink.

January therefore is leaning-in month here at Sylvan; I’ll be shifting to 95% vegan from the 80% I’ve been hovering at for over a year (which is still pretty good, all things considered) and also upping the amount of actual plant foods in my diet to help me feel a little better.  The amount of junk food I’ve put in my body this year (especially the last few months thanks to the move) is kind of scary.  I have no desire to lose weight but I have gained quite a bit in a very short time and to me that’s a warning bell – it means my self-care has gone perilously awry.  But my body is strong and adaptable, and she’s weathered the storm like a champ.  I’m unutterably grateful and I want to do better by her.  But I want it to be fun, and delicious, and easy, not a regimen or a 21-day anything.

I don’t have a plan for my writer-rescue, but that’s okay.  I want to cast about in my mind for a new idea, a new story to tell; 9 times of 10 when I get into something new it also energizes all my other work, so having a new book to work on or what have you will benefit all my stories.  I have a few things percolating.  I’m hoping to blog more just about random weird stuff, just to write; even my readers have always liked it better when I just wrote about whatever was on my mind.

So, to make a long post even longer, that’s how things are here at the moment.  I’m not going to dwell on 2016 any more than I have to – that’s why I did the workbooks I did, to look deeply into what went wrong in 2016 and clarify what I need to take with me so I can drop the rest.  This year is going to be a challenge, to say the least, in so many ways, so I’m doing the best I can not to make it any harder on myself than I have to.  

It’s good to have you with me.  

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Chthonic Fatigue Syndrome

from anthropologie.eu
from anthropologie.eu

“What is to give light must endure burning.”
~Viktor Frankl

I was born during the season of death.

It’s one of the unfortunate downsides of being a Scorpio.  Your life and the year’s end are inextricably linked; you begin where all things end.  Luckily time is a wheel, or a spiral, or whatever – we can just agree it’s not a straight line, so nothing really ends, any more than anything really begins.  Everything just changes form.

My Scorpio brethren and I are therefore lifelong skin-changers.  We are addicted to transformation, to the point that we frequently destroy ourselves just for the chance to rise.  (Most of us don’t realize we’re doing it – it’s not exactly an accident, but it’s certainly not something we’d actively choose.)

You might think that sounds all spooky/romantic and like I’m trying to make us seem cool, but the thing is, it’s not cool.  I mean, obviously I think we’re the awesomest sign of the Zodiac, but what people tend to overlook is that all of that relentless self-examination, transformation, introspection, and deep-sea diving is fucking painful.  It’s exhausting.  Being incapable of leading a shallow existence means you’re pretty much always on the verge of drowning – which is why raging alcoholism and suicide are rather common on this end of the star chart.  We tend not to be happy people.  People who think too much rarely are.

Of course now that I’ve told you all of that, I have to kill you.

Aside from any personal reasons I have to find this time of year difficult, it’s that continuous pull of the Underworld that makes this both the most amazing season and the most emotionally arduous.  Not to mention, it’s the lead-in to the time of year I hate most, societally speaking – the holidays.  At the same time, though, the air tastes like Witchcraft and the energy of the season sounds like the rattle of dried leaves and a raven’s call.  There’s nothing more delicious than Fall.

Pumpkin spice lattes.  Just sayin’.

The last few years I’ve felt trapped by my own life.  I don’t know when I let myself become so powerless; I certainly haven’t always been.  When I think back through the ghosts of Samhains past, I think of how my answer to “Did you do anything fun for Halloween?” used to be something like, “I channeled the dark gods, spoke to the ancestors, and lit candles with my brain.”  I’ve wandered through the days half-asleep, so tired I could barely think, carrying the weight of the world in both hands and a backpack.

The point is, my black little Scorpio heart does not approve of how I’ve been living lately.  She’s curled up in her bower, presumably dressed in something slinky and drinking something dark red we’ll just say is wine, rolling her eyes at me.

“Powerless,” she mutters, accepting a cherry from the hand of one of her lovely acolytes.  “Nonsense.  Willfully blind and mindlessly craven, perhaps, but never powerless.”

She’s the part of me I’ve called upon to help me struggle to my feet when I was bleeding in the dirt; to keep on walking even through fire; and to gather up the stones the world has thrown at me and build worlds to populate with my imaginary friends.  I locked her away a long time ago for reasons I won’t go into now.  Oh, I can never be rid of her entirely – I need her to write what I write, after all.  But I’ve kept communication to a minimum.  I didn’t want to open the door to that darkness in myself because last time it ended rather badly.  I don’t need her, I thought.  I will transcend that part of myself, focus on light happy things.

The result?  I did not, in fact, become a lighter happier person.  I became instead a pale imitation of myself.  The only way to transcend your darkness isn’t to transcend it at all, but to embrace it – what you run from will only chase you down.  If you are willing to accept and even revel in all of your parts, not just the “acceptable” ones, you can become a whole integrated being, and as a force of nature, virtually unstoppable.  There is nothing in this world more powerful than someone fully alive.

I disconnected from myself – my body, my truth, my life.  My health declined.  I lost all sense of integrity – my ability to honor commitments, keep my word, speak honestly, has eroded.  I developed an almost paralyzing fear of death.

Whatever the opposite of a Scorpio is, I’m there – well, except for the sarcastic bitchy part.  I’ve always had that bit nailed.

This Samhain, then, as I feel the Wheel turning under my feet and wonder if I have any Dramamine in my purse, as I finally do something brave in 2014 and leave behind the home I’ve lived in for 10 years to take the first wobbly steps toward something new, I have realized that every time I turned away from that dark part of myself, I’ve turned away from the chance at real change.  Every time I ask myself why I can’t change my life, I can hear her sigh, the black-vinyl-clad elephant in the room.

Today I’m standing in front of the brick wall I built, holding a sledgehammer (and safety goggles, of course – a safe metaphor is no accident).  I have no idea what to expect, or how I’m going to proceed, but I get the feeling that once I get started, once I make the smallest crack, there will be an enthusiastic push from the other side.

All I have to do is take a swing.

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