On Racism and Passing Privilege

I’m a light skinned Puerto Rican, and I used to be racist.

I didn’t know I was a racist, I never really thought I was.  But when I called a relative out for saying that a friend’s dark-skinned, beautiful daughter should get a nose job and lip reduction to make her “prettier”, I was told that when I  was about 3 years old, I saw Tracy Chapman singing “Fast Car” on our little TV, and reportedly I said: “Mami, pero que fea!

Mommy, she’s so ugly.

Although African blood runs through my veins, Eurocentric standards of beauty had already been taught to me, and little sponge that I was, I had already absorbed them. But to grow up in Puerto Rico is to be surrounded by people of all colors. Going to school and making friends, all of us mixed in the playground, black, white and every shade of brown, olive, red and yellow in between. In school, we were taught that Puerto Ricans come from the mix of the Taíno Natives, the white colonizers, and the African slaves they brought with them. I later learned that Chinese laborers had also come to the Island, and that that kid we called “Chino” probably actually did have some Chinese genes.

I also learned, on my own, that the color of someone’s skin nothing to do with their character.

I was forced to confront my racism when I went to college, and started to develop a crush on Vince. He was smart, kind, played violin – or was it guitar? There was music, I know this much. He also spoke Spanish, and was the quarterback of the football team, and he looked a bit like Taye Diggs. But I stopped myself from pursuing him or showing any interest because I was concerned about how my family would react. When I had showed pictures of my first college boyfriend to my family, a white boy with dark blonde hair and blue eyes, they said “¡Qué bien, mejorando la raza!

That’s great, you’re bettering the race!

What would they say if I showed them his picture? Now I know they probably would’ve said nothing, or “¡Qué negrito tan guapo!“, and they would’ve welcomed him. But there’d probably be no mention of “bettering the race”.

Most of my family is light skinned, though the sun’s kiss brings out the brown in us easily enough.  You can see it in my paternal grandmother’s hair, texture 4B, kinky and crimpy, and soft like lamb’s wool. In the gene lottery that results from the mix of 3 races, I ended up with 2B, a soft wave that coils up into curls if the humidity is high enough, fine and thin. And fair skin, with a slight olive tinge to it, and a propensity to rosacea.

Since moving to the Midwest, the most common guess as to my ethnicity has been Italian or French, but I’ve also been asked if I was Russian, or Indian. Most people don’t even want to guess where my accent might be from, if they even hear it. Not once have I been pegged for a Puerto Rican, except by fellow Puerto Ricans, though they usually assume I’m white upon first spotting me and are startled when my Puerto Rican Spanish bubbles out.

I look white. I talk white, for the most part.

I pass.

I’ve been accepted in spaces where I have seen my darker brothers and sisters be treated with suspicion. I heard some pretty racist stuff come out of some people’s mouth, and kept my mouth shut for fear of being ostracized. And it used to be that when I walked past black men in the street, I could feel the rush of adrenaline released by the fearful conditioning I was bombarded with since before I called Tracy Chapman “ugly”, ready to fly (fighting has never been my first choice).

I feel like I’ve come very far from where I was, though. The first step was to accept and confront the ugly truth that racist cultural conditioning actually had an effect on me. Not society, the amorphous, anonymous masses. Me. 

The next step was to become very aware of the thoughts that come up because of this conditioning, and actively rationalize my way out of them. Those thoughts are not my own. They were planted there, and fed a steady diet of fear and misinformation. I resolved to feed them love and truth.

It’s amazing what this kind of conscious cognitive shift has done for me. Those Eurocentric standards of beauty I upheld as a 3 year old have gone out the window: I can see the beauty of black bodies in their natural state. Since discarding those ridiculous standards, I’ve noticed that there are a LOT of beautiful people in this world who can’t see the beauty in themselves, which is such a sad thing! I greet black folks as we walk past each other in the street, a neighborly “Good morning!” or “Good evening!”, and have found that the response of holding my purse tighter or crossing the street isn’t an automatic one anymore. I check any assumptions that might come up against what I know to be true, and try to get to know each person I encounter as an individual, not as a representative of any group of people at all, and treat everyone I encounter with respect and dignity.

This is my next step, the hardest: speaking out.

I no longer stay silent when ignorance and fear come out of anyone’s mouth. Now I try to broaden others’ perspectives as kindly and respectfully as I can. Tensions are high right now, but unfortunately that’s the only way this unjust system will be dismantled. We have to speak up.

To my light-skinned brothers and sisters: we are flying under the radar and spared the brunt of the pain and injustice that our darker kin are brutalized with. But we also know that there but for the grace of genetics go we.  We must become visible, and not be complicit in our own erasure. Speak up. We all need to stand together, to remind everyone who doesn’t remember it that #blacklivesmatter.

Maybe Vince wouldn’t have been interested in my nerdy ass anyway, I found him on Facebook the other day, and saw he has a beautiful wife and children, so the missed opportunity was definitely on my end. Maybe he would’ve been the Love of my Life and I missed out BIG TIME, just because I was afraid. How dumb was that?

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Hell is other people

 

“L’enfer, c’est les autres.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

 

I’m not sure how or where I first heard the phrase “Hell is other people”, but it popped into my head a few times over the past few weeks, along with other thoughts which I’ll try to make coherent momentarily.

It’s generally attributed to Jean Paul Sartre, a line from his one-act play “No Exit”. For those unfamiliar, and I’ll admit I was one of them until yesterday,  the play is about 3 people who are in hell, and their own flavor of hell is to be locked in a room, just the three of them, for the rest of eternity.

When researching the origin of the phrase for this post, I came across the original French quoted above, and I find the translation “Hell is other people” to be a bit too direct. A truer translation would be “Hell, it is the others”.  Here is what Sartre himself had to say about it:

. . .“hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because. . . when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, . . . we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters. . . . But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us.

He didn’t mean it as a statement of universal truth, but most definitely as something that someone sentenced to hell for being selfish, manipulative, and shallow (like the characters in the play) would say.

But here’s what I’ve figured out: Hell is The Other. It’s separation from The Divine, which is Everything.

The illusion that there IS an Other, that we are somehow separate from this whole divine cosmic Creation, the terrible illusion that we are somehow separate from everything else around us.

The degree to which we consider other people to be Others, which breeds fear and mistrust and feelings of “No, gimme! This is mine!” instead of realizing that when we help others, we also help ourselves, and when we hurt or deprive others, we also hurt ourselves.

Each one of us is simply a thread, or more like a single loop of a thread, in the Great Tapestry of Creation. Our soul, or Higher Self, is the thread, our spirit as it manifests individually in this lifetime is the loop.

We are more than our bodies, and our thoughts, what we have or how we present ourselves. Our souls, emanating directly from the Divine Consciousness, connect us with Everything Else There Is, and we are simply a point of perception, and co-creation.

What we see is a narrow view of reality, through an infinitesimally limited window of time and space.

Realizing the seeming insignificance of our existence can be a gigantic blow to the Ego, scary and painful. The Ego is exactly the construct that maintains this illusion of separation.

But after that scared part of the Ego dies, the feeling of liberation is exhilarating. That is Heaven.

But we’re on Earth. We can’t just float in the ether, connected to the universal energy,  and let our bodies whither away. We’re here to create. And when we are able to detach enough from our ego to connect with All, we can channel this energy to create and manifest our purpose in this plane.

This is how we avoid Hell. Even if those around us try to create a hell around us, if we can truly see our divine essence and how small their transgressions against us are in the Grand Scheme Of Things, our connectedness to this Divinity will carry us above it.

 

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Other interesting thoughts on the subject:

  1. http://rickontheater.blogspot.com/2010/07/most-famous-thing-jean-paul-sartre.html
  2. https://www.quora.com/What-did-Jean-Paul-Sartre-mean-when-he-said-Hell-is-other-people
  3. http://www.thefinancialphilosopher.com/2009/10/hell-is-other-people.html –> This, SO MUCH!

 

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Sharing Wisdom with Barbara Nova

Most of you are probably familiar with Theresa Reed, the Tarot Lady, who started out reading in bars in Milwaukee, has always been her own boss, and has been so generous with her advice and knowledge! The Emperor meets The Hierophant.

As a member of her Tarot Brainery (a one-time-only year-long group mentoring program), I had the assignment to interview someone for my blog, and thought you all should meet this other GREAT lady I had a chance to connect with during this year’s Readers Studio Tarot Conference. She’s one of the many AMAZING readers and wise people who were present that weekend, some of whom have been making tarot their living since before it was as widely accepted as it is now.

Her name is Barbara Nova, but you may have known her as Barbara Emrys before she decided to switch gears in her career (which is happening as we speak!). She kindly agreed to sit down for a conversation with us, so, here she is!


Jen: I wanted to interview you because you’ve been  working as a tarot reader for your full time job  your whole adult life, correct?

B: Since 1991, yes.

J: Oh, so that’s 25 years now? That’s so awesome and wonderful! Did you try other jobs before saying “You know what, these other lives are not for me, I am a reader and this is what I’m going to do”?  Or was it more like something you floated into? How was it at the beginning for you?

B: Well, I started reading back when I was 13, and Stuart Kaplan is actually responsible for that, so it was a real thrill to meet him [during Reader’s Studio 2016]! My paternal grandmother actually read playing cards until my grandfather forbade her from doing that anymore, and I was always interested in astrology and numerology, but I never saw a deck of tarot cards until I was 12 in 1973 when the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” came out. I saw Jane Seymour as Solitaire in that gorgeous outfit and once I saw those cards I said “that’s it! that’s it!”. I knew that was the thing for me.

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Jane Seymour as Solitaire

But then FINDING a deck was another story entirely, until US Games put out the 007 James Bond Tarot kit. I asked for it for Christmas that year, and my parents didn’t know what it was so they got it for me. And so I studied that book, I must’ve worn its pages thin. I actually still have that original deck from 1973, it’s in San Diego right now.

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I moved from my native New York to California, started to go to college, worked in retail, and as an answering service operator, I did billing and collections for a company.   Then I got married to a Baptist from Texas, believe it or not, and had a child, so all that metaphysical stuff went on hold until I decided in 1989-88 that it was time to get divorced.

So, I was 27 in 1988 when I started studying it again, I felt an urge to go back to it. During that time, before I started reading professionally, I actually worked in retail again, and in a supermarket and then I saw an ad on the newspaper in San Diego, they were looking for readers and I said “Why not?” I went and applied and they hired me! And the rest, as they say, is history!

J: I think it’s so funny, and I couldn’t help smiling, when you said you were 27 years old when you went back to it, ’cause this was during your Saturn return!

B: Right?!

J: I also started reading the cards again during my own Saturn return, after having put them away for so long. I wonder how many of us find that we put them away an then when Saturn comes back around and it’s like *screeching tires noise* “Hang on! This is what you’re here to do!”

B: It’s amazing! You know, when I was 16 I had my first psychic reading by this woman who had to be about a thousand years old, her name was Rhonda. I actually wasn’t even supposed to be there, my mother was going to a reading party, and when I found out where she was going I asked if I could go and so she took me, and this woman told me, she told me when I was 16, that this would be my main career, and even if I tried to get away from it, it would just keep pulling me back. She said I would end up teaching and writing and creating art around metaphysics and the occult, and damn if she wasn’t right! Right now I’m developing a deck.

J: That is awesome! I want to ask you more about that later… but first I wanted to ask you, that ad that you found when you first started, was it for reading out of a store, or a phone line service, or… what?

B: It was a phone line service called Psychic Marketing Group, they actually had an office that we had to go to in San Diego every day, it was not done from home like they do now, we had to actually go into the office, and there was pretty strict quality control, so, that was my first exposure, which I think was really great, because I got to meet and hear a lot of other readers that had been reading professionally longer than I had. Since I had just started, it was a very good experience for me.

J: That is great, so, in that environment you were able to get instantly connected with a community of readers, so you had that right from the beginning. So, did you also start going to tarot conventions around the same time, too?

B: No, back then we had what we would call “Psychic Fairs” and they would last just a day or two, and it was mostly people doing readings, and selling things, so, we would go to those and meet other readers between clients. But actually my first full blown Tarot conference was Kim Arnold’s UK Tarot Conference in London, in 2013.

J: So, had you been connected with the Internet tarot community beforehand, though, before you went to the conference in 2013?

B: I was but not to the degree that I am now.  Mostly, I’d go meet other readers in person when we’d go take a class, or in the San Diego Astrological Society, things like that.

 

J: Gotcha. How do you think the business has changed in the past 25 years?

I think it’s changed TREMENDOUSLY. Back in the day when I first started reading professionally it was still kind of like “Oh. You do that?!” Even back in the early 70’s when I first saw that deck, I mean, I grew up in New York, not in some rural area. It was suburban but only an hour east of the City, in Long Island, so it was a pretty cosmopolitan atmosphere, and even there it was really really hard to find any other materials. You’d have to go to the library and get them to request old books for you that had to be tracked down, because, remember, there was no internet back in 1973, well, not the way the Internet is now!

To me, it’s really gratifying to see how much more accepted it is now, and the community that’s so readily available, and all of the resources that are out there. I love seeing new readers or up and coming stars such as yourself, there’s this sense of community  that you get to have that we really didn’t have back then. Also, all of the products coming out, and that even mainstream people understand that we’re NOT doing “The Devil’s Work”, for example, I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian Satan, so being told “Oh, you’re doing the devil’s work”,  I have to laugh, because I don’t believe in the devil!

J: Yes! I’m so thankful that it is the way it is, because if it wasn’t, I don’t know that I would be doing it! Not with the fearful ways that I was raised, where I didn’t even see a Tarot deck until I found that one of my aunt’s had a deck and she gave me a reading at age 15 which was REALLY accurate and I was like “Whoa! How did you know ALL THAT?” Right? But now, it’s really wonderful how the Divine can channel its messages through so many people so that, somehow, if you are looking for guidance, you can find it.

B: While I love the Rider-Waite-Smith, I really like that there are so many non-Rider-Waite-Smith decks out there, with different styles of art, different colors, it’s fantastic!

J: Yes, people can find whichever deck resonates with their own aesthetic sense, and that way they can connect a bit better with it, and read with it. I believe anybody who really wants to can learn, because it’s all about learning to understand yourself.

B: Yes, and back when I started there were the traditional meanings of upright and reversed that everybody had to memorize, and you went strictly by the book. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties and was working much more with the cards that they really started speaking to me. I don’t mean that I literally hear voices, I mean that they tell me what they want the meaning to be, even if it’s not the traditional meaning for the card, so, I love that too, that I’ve had the opportunity to evolve as a reader and form such a connection.

J: Yeah, that is really nice how after you’ve been reading for a while, you do, I mean, you have all the traditional meanings, I started with the little white book that came with my Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and that was my one and only resource for the first 8 years I was reading the cards! For every reading, I’d pull out my little book and read what the traditional key words were for it, and from there, I would build the reading within the context of the question, but when you can go beyond those little rote meanings and remember, that’s when you feel like a true reader, like “I got it now”.

B: Yes! I was fortunate that the book that came with the 007 kit that US Games had put out wasn’t just a little white book, it was an actual BOOK, with descriptions and everything, so I had little more to go on, and then I started bugging my librarian to find me ANYTHING.

J: That’s so cool, that from the beginning you were so into going deeper and studying deeper, for me, it took a few years before I really started looking for more resources. Actually, what it took was me deciding that I wanted to do this as a business, and so, I should get serious about it. That’s when I bought 78 degrees of wisdom and started keeping a tarot journal, and with those two things, within 3 months I was off-book, because I already had the 8 years of practical experience reading with “training wheels” on, ha!  How long would you say it took you to go “off-book” with the Tarot?

B: The first time was when I was about 13 or 14, but then I put it away for so long, so let’s start from the second time, when I was in my late 20’s. I’m gonna say it took a few months, but I also went and took some classes in San Diego, from Alexandra, who has a place who is STILL THERE called The Alexandra Institute, and I took her beginning, intermediate and advanced tarot classes, which took a couple of months all together. By the time I was done with her, I really knew my stuff.

J: So there you go, you had a good teacher! A good teacher was something that helped it click for you… and that’s really what we need! If you have a physical teacher, that’s so much better because you can really interact with them and they can answer your questions, but, in the absence of a teacher, a good book can be a great “starter teacher” like Rachel Pollack with her 78 Degrees of Wisdom was for me, or Benebell Wen’s Holistic Tarot could be. What do you think was the most helpful book for you? What are some of your favorite tarot books?

B: Wow, I have to really think back! It would’ve been early on, and I’ve read so many since then… David Palladini’s Aquarian Tarot was on the cover… In more recent times, I just started working with the Lenormand cards, and I just bought Rana George’s “Essential Lenormand” (Llewellyn), so that’s what I’ve been really into! I also love Rachel Pollack and Mary Greer’s work, I know they’re not new, but there’s something to be said for things that stand the test of time! I really dig The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals (Greer, Llewellyn), and Understanding the Tarot Court (Greer & Little, Llewellyn) is also a fantastic resource, she really clarifies a lot of the mystique around the court cards, which can be so challenging.

J: What’s your favorite deck that you’ve recently acquired?

B: I’m a big fan of Ciro Marchetti’s work, and Ginnie Jester’s City Mystic New York Tarot deck (Independent), I love the imagery in that.  Oh, and I just got this one at Reader’s Studio 2016, it’s called Tarot Leaves by Beth Seilonen (Schiffer Publishing).  They’re different, they don’t have the typical imagery and that’s kinda what I like about them. I find that when I’m reading I prefer muted colors and clean lines, that’s why I’m also a bit fan of the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini (US Games)… oh, and I also LOVE, LOVE Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot (Schiffer Publishing). I love that deck! The muted colors and clean design are really appealing to me.

J: Yeah, I find that they can help us tap into a different part of our intuition, like it allows more abstract thought forms to be evoked… So, do you still do most of your reading work out of a calling service?

B: I do, for a number of years I also had a private practice, where I would see people in my home, or speak to clients over the phone, and that was great, but I found I was spending so much time handling the business end of it, because you know, you have to do your own advertising, and even if you have a clientele that comes to you through word of mouth, you still have to advertise, you don’t want to the same people coming every day or every week!

Remember, I wasn’t doing this just to make some extra money, this was how I was making my living, so having to do the advertising, booking the appointments, running the credit cards, if someone’s card charged back you had to handle that, there was so much more to do, that it was taking away from my pleasure at reading professionally. So I actually prefer contracting with one of the companies, because they do everything! I feel that with the company I’m with, I’m very fairly paid, the compensation is fair considering the services they provide, and all I have to do is answer my phone!

J: Do they also take the taxes out of your check?

B: No, I’m an independent contractor, so that’s a part of my business that I still have to manage. But I don’t have to maintain a website, or all of this and that, so, it’s worth it for me.

J: And they bring you enough clientele that you’re able to, you know, take care of yourself, and go to conferences, and do your thing!

B: It’s been the best job ever! It has allowed me to live in NY, CA, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and England. As long as I have access to my phone, I can work!

J: What has been the most important self-care practice for you in doing this work?

B: That’s an excellent question. When I first started reading, at 13, I didn’t know enough to sometimes just shut it off, so you can take on a lot of stuff. So that’s been it, knowing when to shut yourself off, and also knowing when you’re a little burnt out and need to take a little break from reading, even if it’s just for a couple of days. Especially if you’re working a phone line, hopefully you’re going to get a lot of volume, and in one respect it’s really exhilarating, but in another it can be kind of exhausting. Psychic rest, is what I call it!

J: Do you have any sort of end-of-day ritual that you do to clear yourself, or anything like that?

B: I do, I actually do, I have a little mantra that I say prior to starting work, I ask The Goddess and The God and The Bright and Shining Ones to bring to me that day the people that I can genuinely help, and to put the right words in my mouth that are going to get through to them. That’s how I start my day, in the Spirit of Service and wanting to benefit the people I speak to. At the end, it might sound kinda silly, but I like to physically move and just kind of, shake it off! Because you do pick up people’s stuff, so it’s important to make sure that you don’t end up carrying it around with you.

 

J: That’s so cool! So, you have been doing readings and that has been pretty much it for you for the past 25 years, but now you’re working on something new, tell us a little bit about it.

B: I decided that I would like to actually use my artistic and writing abilities, because back when I was younger, as my daughter can attest, I had ideas for so many different products, but as a single parent supporting a child as a reader, money was tight and it had to go towards the day-to-day essentials, first. So I had this long list of different product ideas I had come up with but never had the resources to do anything with them, of course, we didn’t have crowdfunding back then, and I knew that I really didn’t like the traditional publishing world even back at that time, so I thought “one day I’m going to become a publisher, a small press publisher”, and that’s what I’m in the process of doing. Initially it was intended just to showcase products that I developed, ’cause I’m a little bit of a control freak, so I get to keep control over them! And this first project I’m working on is actually a collaboration with an artist friend of mine, she had an idea of something she wanted to do and she asked me if I wanted to be the author, because she only wants to do the art, I’ll share some of the images we have so far because I feel they’re really special.

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Skyward

 

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Take The Flame

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The Scholar

J: Oh, these are so wonderful, thanks for letting us have a sneak peek! Is there an underlying theme for this deck?

B: What’s interesting is that we did have an initial idea, which I’m not going to talk about yet because I DO plan on doing that later! But as the illustrations started to take life, we realized that this deck had a mind of its own as far as what it wanted to be, it did not want to be what we initially were going to do with it, so it’s actually going to be more of an oracle deck, with 48 cards. It’s kind of unfortunate for us that Angelo Nasios is calling his BRILLIANT new deck the Inner Journey Tarot, because this was going to be the Inner Journey Oracle deck! I don’t know if we’re going to change the name or not because that’s been its working name for a few months already, I don’t want people to get confused though… But that’s really what it’s all about, to help people look inward and see what they might need to identify, what’s holding them back, where they could improve,though it can also be used as a predictive tool. I might call it the Journey to Grace, we’ll see!

J: What piece of advice would you have for somebody who is just starting in the business?

B: Something that’s really important for new readers to know is that to remember that a lot of times the people that you’re speaking to are in pain or in denial.

If they’re in pain, be kind, but be honest.

If they’re in denial, you can present the truth to them, but don’t take it personally if they’re not ready to accept it. Because a lot of times people will say “no, no, no!” and you can see in the cards that the answer is “yes, yes, yes! This is what’s happening!” but they’re just not ready and sometimes you’re just planting a seed for somebody, and seeds take time to germinate and sprout and grow, and you may be the first person that’s saying something to them. They may need to hear it from a hundred different people, so don’t take it personally.

I also think that trusting your intuition is really important, don’t doubt yourself!


Thank you, SO MUCH, Barbara for taking the time to talk with us!  And for sharing the gorgeousness that you and Victoria Vale are cooking up! As soon as the deck is available, I’ll update you guys with a link where you can get it 🙂

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Breaking the “Man Rules”

I came across this thing on my Facebook feed:

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It was posted by an older, conservative friend, a high school teacher, who I still count as one of the most influential and inspiring mentors I’ve ever had in my life. He encouraged me as a writer and independent thinker, and so I was a bit shocked to see him endorsing this kind of baloney.

“Manly” men may say I’m a humorless bitch, but here’s the thing: if we keep thinking that “harmless” sexist jokes like these are funny, we keep passively condoning the harmful sexist crap that actually happens in real life. They may not see it, because as men they’ve been brainwashed by the media and the culture to not notice it, but it’s there.

“Manliness” as it’s been construed by patriarchal societies like ours is a very limiting concept. It aims to keep men emotionally stunted, insecure in their worth as humans if they don’t conform to the “manly” standards. There’s no such thing as a “man card”, and it can’t be taken away. But this thinking has been so ingrained into the cultural psyche, it can override the insights of even the smartest man, if he allows it.

Anyone else posting this would’ve been promptly unfollowed and ignored, but this is my dear teacher we’re talking about, and I couldn’t just let him blindly go down this line of thinking without at least calling out at him. This point-by-point refutation is for him,  and for any other man who has bought into this propaganda, to the detriment of their relationships, and probably humanity as a whole.

 

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Let’s start with the title of the piece: 21 Men Rules That Girls Should Know.

These are not Men Rules, they’re Man-Child rules.  This is evident right from the get-go because they’re addressing “girls”, not women. A man who is self-actualized, secure in himself, and wants a healthy relationship wants a woman, not a girl, and they don’t dismiss grown women as if they were children.

1. Men are not mind readers.

Women are not mind readers either, though we’re often more open to our intuition and sometimes it may seem like we are 😉

The reason women are often afraid to directly say what they mean, especially if they want to give a critique or ask for something, is that they fear a negative response from manly men, who tend to channel all their emotions into the only acceptable one, the manly one.

Anger.

Reasons men often don’t say what’s on their mind is that they don’t even have the vocabulary for expressing their emotions, because they’ve been forced to choke them down as sacrifice to the altar of Manliness. Emotions are womanly, and they act as if womanliness is a shameful thing, because the manly men bully them, and often women do, too. This comes from an internalized subconscious programming telling them that the Feminine is weak, and inferior.

My favorite term for this is “toxic masculinity”, and I believe it is the root of all of humanity’s problems: poverty, war, our messed up healthcare system, rape, greed, and selfishness.

2. Learn to work the toilet seat, you’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down. You don’t hear us complaining when you leave it down.

The seat AND lid should be down when the toilet isn’t in use to prevent stuff from falling in, and to stop pets from drinking the water. That’s why there’s a lid on it. It’s a public health issue more than anything else, really. Besides, you’ll be sorry you left it up when you go take a poop in the middle of the night and end up with your butt stuck in the bowl! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3. Crying is blackmail.

Crying is a natural emotional response that men also have, though much less frequently than women because it’s been conditioned out of their behavior and made “unacceptable” by the devaluation the feminine part of human nature. When you see her crying you get a pang in your heart… what is it? Is it… sympathy? We’ll come back around to this on point 6.

4. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

Agreed, people should ask for what they want.  But see point 1 above. Women have learned to not make direct demands, if they do, they’re perceived as “bossy” or “bitches”. You can’t have it both ways. When she asks for something, listen, don’t dismiss it as “nagging”.

5. “Yes” and “No” are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

Only if the question isn’t open-ended. Anyone who answers an open-ended question with “yes” or “no” is either hard of hearing, trying to be funny, or doesn’t know how to communicate in a civilized and productive way.

6. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

Sympathy is, again, a natural human response that’s been bullied out of the manly man, by conditioning a response of shame and unworthiness whenever it arises. If you’re in a relationship with someone, they might expect you to care about what’s going on in their lives, and that includes the crappy parts.

7. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

Nope, we should strive to speak with integrity, choose our words with care, just in case we have to swallow them later. A wise person should be able to look back on statements they no longer agree with and revise them with the experience they’ve gathered since they first said them, growth is totally allowed, guys!

8. If you think you’re fat, you probably are. Don’t ask us.

If she’s wondering if she’s fat, it’s because the media has brainwashed us into thinking that the worth of a woman is in her looks, and the ideal look has been distorted through advertising into an almost-impossible standard for ADULT women to attain. The Powers That Be want to keep us insecure and subservient, infantilized (they want that for men, too, hence the conditioning for emotional immaturity), and spending a TON of money in cosmetics, face creams, eye creams, cellulite creams, manicure, pedicure, waxing, hair color, liposuction, collagen injections, botox, eye lifts, face lifts, butt lifts,  boob lifts, and all the other stuff I probably forgot about. Oh, let’s not forget about the lasers! Do you see the real, beautiful person living inside that body? She’s feeling insecure and looking for validation, tell her she’s beautiful and to stop worrying about that bullshit that only feeds The Corporate Machine.

9. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

See point 7 above. Be clear with what you’re saying if it could potentially be misinterpreted, choose your words with care when dealing with potentially hurtful subjects. It’s what effective communicators do.

10. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

When someone criticizes how you’re doing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re insulting you as a person, so don’t take it personally! Teaching is a way in which the nurturing instinct presents itself, so more likely than not, your lady is thinking she’s helping by giving you tips if she sees you doing something inefficiently. I reserve the right to offer advice if I think there’s a better way, but don’t have the physical strength to do it myself. If I can do it myself, don’t worry about it, I’ll be over here doing it.

11. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

I agree with this, HUGE pet peeve. I will most likely tune you out. Dudes talk during shows or games too, by the way, this isn’t behavior confined to the female half of the species.

12. Christopher Columbus didn’t need directions and neither do we…

Don’t even get me STARTED on Christopher Columbus, that depraved genocidal megalomaniac. Do you really want to be comparing yourself to him? He got to America while trying to get to India! If you want to get to where you’re going and you’re lost, let’s listen to someone who knows, ok? Or use Google maps. We have the technology.

13. All men see only in 16 colours. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a colour. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

Not all men. Scientists figured out that training the brain to distinguish colors is a language skill. Not all men in western cultures possess this skill, because they don’t have to pay such close attention to their looks and outfits, but painters, printers, graphic designers and probably a lot of other men who are observant know way more than 16 colors.  It’s all a matter of having the words for the colors, then your brain can tell the different hues apart. There’s some super interesting research in that field, here’s a good article on it.

14. If we ask you what’s wrong and you say “Nothing”, we act like nothing’s wrong. We know you are lying, but it’s just not worth the hassle.

Not worth the hassle? You must not care about her feelings. Why are you with her, then? Once she figures it out, she’ll leave. Avoidance isn’t conducive to a healthy relationship. “You’re visibly upset, something’s bothering you,” could lead to a difficult talk, but that’s how relationships grow.

15. If you ask a question you don’t want an answer to, expect an answer you don’t want to hear…

This one’s true. If you really don’t want to know, don’t ask. But, again, this applies to everyone, not just women.

16. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine… really.

This one’s also true, but see point 8 above. Give her a genuine compliment on what she’s wearing and grab the keys.

17. Don’t ask us what we’re thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football or motor sports.

Sure, if that’s really what you were thinking about. But it’s only fair that at some point you’ll have to listen to her talk about her interests, and whatever her friends have gotten into. Tit for tat and all that.

18. You have enough clothes.

19. You have too many shoes.

We are expected to maintain a certain image in order to be considered desirable by society’s standards. Clothes and shoes are how we keep trying to fit the standard. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

20. I am in shape, round is a shape!

Agreed, round IS a shape, and a very cuddly one. Don’t bitch about her being fat either.

21. Thank you for reading this, yes I know, I’m sleeping on the couch tonight… but did you know men don’t really mind that? It’s like camping…

Yeah, the couch isn’t too bad. After all this, you’d be sleeping on your friend’s couch, in my book. Unless you’ve read my refutations and were able to see the truth in them, and are ready to stop buying into the crap they’ve fed you to keep this imbalanced system of power going. Let’s talk, human to human, and that includes listening to each other.

Emotions like sympathy, compassion, love and caring for each other are not the enemy. They are the compass that point us towards the next step in our evolution as a species, as beings who are fully aware of their place in the Grand Scheme of Things, who embrace the differences among us as the seed of new ideas, co-creators of our environment and true stewards of the Earth, all of us thriving peacefully.

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So, let’s say you’re a man who is ready to break free of the limiting box you’ve been told you must fit into. How can you reclaim the emotional and intuitive parts of yourself, so you can feel balanced, whole, and empowered as a human being?

Verbalize your feelings.

This may be very difficult at first, because it goes against the deeply ingrained conditioning you’ve been through. You’ll have to break through the wall of shame that’s been keeping them suppressed and that can be really uncomfortable. Not to mention, you may find yourself frustrated (or even angered) by the inability to find the right words to describe your feelings. Don’t be afraid to use analogies and metaphors, even if they seem a little weird at first, they can help you get a firmer grasp on what you’re trying to describe.

Start a journaling practice.

You may find writing helpful to get the “wrong” words out of the way, so you can hone in on the right ones.  It can also be an invaluable tool if you find that talking to someone else about your feelings would be too intense to start. You can keep it under lock and key if you’re really worried about someone else reading it.

The 10 journaling prompts in this article are a GREAT way to start!

Consider the Tarot

Each of the 78 cards of the Tarot deck represents an aspect of the human experience. Getting a tarot reading can sometimes help put into words the feelings and experiences we haven’t been able to pin down yet, through the power of symbols that speak to our subconscious mind.

After you get a reading, if you find it helpful, you may want to start reading the cards for yourself. They can be a GREAT tool for self-exploration. The book Tarot For Your Self by Mary K. Greer is a great companion for this journey, if you decide to take it!

Theresa Reed’s upcoming Tarot Coloring Book promises to be a GREAT way to learn the cards, too! And, hey, if you get yourself a box of 72 colored pencils, you’ll end up learning 56 more colors! 😉

Seek the help of a licensed counselor or another qualified healthcare professional

If you’re experiencing an unmanageable amount of stress or distress through this process, please, do talk to a professional! This can be really painful stuff, especially if you’ve never allowed yourself to be emotional before, and it can feel a bit overwhelming until you learn how to handle your emotions in a healthy way. There’s no shame in this. How can anyone be faulted for not knowing how to handle something they’ve never really dealt with before? We’re not born knowing everything. We came here to learn.

If you made it this far, there’s hope for you yet.

YAAAAAAY! I believe in you!

I know you can break free from that box they want to keep you in, and be ALL of you who are!

And if you wanna give that Tarot reading thing a shot, click here to book a reading with me!

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Know thyself

Pythia

In Ancient Greece, you would’ve been greeted by the aphorism “γνῶθι σεαυτόν” inscribed above the entrance of the chamber where Oracular knowledge was imparted by the Pythia. Transliterated as “gnōthi seauton“, it translates as “Know thyself”. Whatever wisdom the Oracle was pulling from the ether, ultimately, would bring you to know your most intimate Self.

This has always been a challenge for us humans. What and who, exactly, are you? Are you your body? The collection of your experiences? The particular pattern of neuron firings going on inside your skull? Or are you more than that? And if you’re more, then what is its substance? We could go along this line of questioning forever.

The way I see it, your Soul is your true, highest Self. It is what says “I am”, regardless of what changes have happened in your body or what experiences you’ve gone through, it remains intact, whole, and perfect. Each one of us is a fractal offshoot of the Divine Universal Consciousness that decided to know itself more through the experience of humanity.

We are caught between worlds. The Divine Creative spark, boundless in time and space, wanted to know what it was to be heavy. To have material substance. To be bounded, fettered.

Why would the Divine decide to bind itself thus?

I like to imagine that it wanted a challenge. Can we become truly aware of our place in time and space, as we are, and reconcile it with the fact that even though we may appear bounded for this brief droplet in the vast ocean of time, what we truly are isn’t defined by our body, our history, our family, or our circumstances? Though these things house us and shape us, our Truest, Highest Self was there before all that, and will continue to be after all that has been.

Can we learn to fully embody our Divine Self, our Christ Consciousness, starting from the gross matter of physical existence? Can we truly reconcile these seemingly opposite realities?

As a story-teller, I’m also tempted to say that it’s all for Love, for the love of story. Endlessly curious and creative, The Divine Spark wanted to see what would happen.

And so it practiced at Life, starting with blue-green algae in the primordial soup, and kept evolving and figuring it out and becoming more complex until we got here, to where we are, allegedly the highest form of consciousnes on this planet. And I believe that this is exactly why the Bible says that we were made in God’s image. We truly are, but it’s our consciousness that is made in God’s image, Limitless, Whole and Holy, not our bodies which are so diverse and distinct from each other, beautiful in their own right, but so corruptible and perishable.

The Divine Spark within us always seeks Divinity, and so as soon as we evolved enough brain power to realize our individuality, our identity as contained, solid beings, we also recognized, in awe and wonder, the divine magic of Life-Creating Energy, or Spirit, or God, or Allah, or The Everything that Is, or whatever you choose to call It. Jesus said that God is Love, and I believe him.

Because the Divine is boundless, and we see ourselves so limited by the four dimensions of space and time, we may not recognize that we really ARE a sprout derived from the Divine Spark of Love. We get so caught up in the sound and fury and solidity of physical survival that we forget our True Selves, and what we came here for. Our perception becomes overwhelmed by the barrage of evidence presented by our empirical senses and the needs and demands of our physical bodies, drowning out the more subtle, spiritual knowledge we can all access when we are attuned to it. Our senses fool us into thinking the material world, with its concrete immediacy, is all there really is. In reality, this physical plane just happens to be the easiest one for us to perceive, embodied and earthbound as we are.

But deep within us and high above us, the Divine always seeks itself. There have always been humans whose sensitivity to the spiritual world is heightened, and they tell us what they’ve learned, as best they can see it through cultural and linguistic frame of reference they’ve been conditioned to, and if we follow their guidance, our own “antenna” gets tuned to the right frequency, and little by little our own perception starts to change, we see more. The Divine Essence within us longs to be recognized, because this recognition strengthens our connection to the Greater Cosmic Divinity. When we connect with the essence of loving creativity that is our Soul, we can hear the call of our purpose more clearly.

And so this is our quest. To become so familiar with our Nature that we are able to feel and hear the call of our Soul, and to fearlessly follow through with it. Knowing that, in the end, when we flow with our last breath out of these meat suits which temporarily house us, boundlessness will be attained again. We realize that there’s truly nothing to fear, not even Death, because we know in our core that it’s not The End. Not by a long shot.

How wonderful, then, that so many folks before us have toiled, and built upon the old existing knowledge, to devise such excellent tools to discern our Soul’s messages! Astrology, pendulums, I-ching, tea leaf readings, tarot… all of these means of divination are merely tools to connect with Universal Divine Knowledge. The truest, highest, unchanging Truth of who we really are. Whatever the external manifestation of our being might be, in essence, we are Divine Love made solid. If we remember and truly know ourselves to the point where we feel this in our bones, it becomes easier to live accordingly.

May you know yourself deeply, and shine forth from there. Namasté!

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This entry is part of a mini blog-hop done in collaboration with the exceedingly magical Paige Zaferiou. Check out her entry here!

 

If you’d like to consult the oracle yourself, click here to book a reading with me!

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Divined Advice – Momma worries

Hi Jen,

I’ve dabbled with the tarot quite a bit over the years and drew some cards asking about the energy between my son and a particular girl.  I drew 5 cards… all major arcana… does this mean big lessons? Past life connections? A bit intrigued as I have never drawn all major cards in a reading before, ever. 

I should have written everything down… but I do remember The Emperor, Death, and The Star. And I think the others were The Hierophant and Justice…which makes me nervous about him being in trouble? or maybe they will one day marry?  He is so young, and she is his best friend in school. They currently don’t see each other outside of school, but they text. I don’t think I can altogether put a stop to this because it may make it worse.  She doesn’t seem awful…lol. She lives in questionable area and hear things about the family…  Thought you may have insight. 

Meddling Momma Bear

 

Hi, MMB,

Thank you for sharing your situation with me! Let’s see what we can find out here.

From your own reading, pulling all major arcana cards tells me that this relationship will definitely bring major growth and life lessons. Your son is at the threshold of manhood, and how he learns to relate to women during these critical years will have a deep impact on how he approaches relationships as an adult. The Emperor and Death indicate to me that he’s learning how to be a man, leaving behind childhood and exploring what this new phase in his life means, and how he fits into it.

The Star is a card that often indicates a past-life connections and karmic lessons. There is hope and beauty. The Hierophant and Justice make me think that he is learning to navigate what tradition and society tells him about relationships between men and women, and what he actually perceives to be fair and balanced.

I pulled some cards for this situation, using one of my favorite simple 3-card spreads asking: What to do? What not to do? What’s the final insight/outcome?.

Divined Advice for MMB

Goodness gracious, look at all that fire and air! You’re right in thinking that if you try to prevent them from communicating, you will only be fanning the flames.

What to do? The Guardian of Fire. Offer encouragement, and be welcoming and open-hearted. Remember that we don’t choose the family we are born into, and that being of limited financial means doesn’t necessarily have negative bearing on the content of one’s character. Offer advice if your son asks for it, and keep an eye on the flames, so that they don’t burn destructively. Show him that you respect her, and he will in turn learn to respect her, and other women too.

What not to do? The Eight of Air reversed. Don’t try to stifle the communication between them, and encourage open dialogue with your son. Though he is your child, he is his own person, and he’s figuring out his agency and will. Listen to his reasoning and requests. “Because I said so” is not a good enough reason to restrict him anymore, he needs to understand why. And the reasons shouldn’t be based on unfounded fears or prejudice.

What’s the final outcome? The Six of Fire. I love this card here! This is a card of joyful celebration. It’s too far into the future to see clearly if these kids will end up getting married, but it does appear that this relationship will help them grow into well-balanced and successful adults, and it will bring them a lot of happiness. They encourage each other to succeed and do the right thing.

As always, I like to look at the bottom of the deck for the underlying energy, and here we have the reversed Nine of Air, which tells me that there’s a lot of uncalled-for worry. The card behind it is The Sun, reversed, which further advises you to lighten up, and to see that this will bring more joy than anything else, both for your son and his friend.

Trust that you’ve raised a smart young man, and offer encouragement and guidance. It’s all working for good! Namasté!

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From Reversed Queen of Wands to Queen of Cups, part 1.

Hi guys! Thanks for stopping by, I hope you’re enjoying getting to know me. This post is a continuation of this one, so go ahead and catch up if you’d like to. I’ll be here. 🙂

 

So there I was, sitting on the couch with my guitar in my hands, crying with frustration because my fingers forgot how to play. The once smooth and flawless picking and chord changes had been replaced by a halting, muted wreck that broke my heart apart.

There was one song I could always get through, though,“Morning song”, by Jewel. I let that song lead me back to feeling like I could play guitar again. Every time I became frustrated with another song I was working on, I would go back to that one and feel better, while still getting some of the technical practice I needed.

And practice I did, little by little. I thought about practicing a lot more than I actually did it, which is decidedly silly and unproductive. Over time, though, I’ve started practicing every time I think about it, and I’ve re-built my skill to where I was before I lost it. Although my practicing lately has been a bit sparse, at least I don’t let it go long enough to get rusty!

The more I’ve been getting back in touch with my musical and spritual side and allowing these aspects of my personality to guide my decisions and drive my actions, the happier and less encumbered I feel in my everyday life.

At first I thought, Why not do both? Music AND Science! Science will pay the bills, and music will feed my soul!

Except that Science took all my energy, because even though I was good at it, my heart wasn’t in it, and I had nothing left to give to my creativity, to my soul’s work. My creative voice grew hoarse from disuse, and finally it went silent.

And when I DID try to dedicate time to my soul’s work, the environment at home wasn’t really helping: my husband at the time was annoyed by my “froofy girly music”. He was more of a Slipknot guy. It went better with the soundtrack of gunfire going on with his constant first person shooter gaming.

Now don’t get me wrong, he’s a really nice guy and I cared for him deeply, but after years of this dynamic, where he disparaged the music I wanted to make, where he would lash out and push me away with his insecurities, where every time I tried to help with anything he took it as a personal affront, my love and desire to be in the relationship dwindled until I felt I just had to get out. It wasn’t fair to either one of us, how unhappy I was and how this was affecting his happiness, too.

But breaking the commitment, and his heart along with it, wasn’t something I wanted to do in the least. The part of me that loves him still was very resistant to this gigantic change. A divorce is never easy, even if there are no children involved. I was afraid to speak my truth and of the potentially devastating consequences that would follow.

I kept waiting the right time to feel right, and so went two years.

Then one day, I had enough of the stupid fighting over little things blown out of proportion. What started as a little fight escalated to me finally blurting it out:

“I just can’t take this shit anymore. I want a divorce.”

“You’re going to divorce me over THIS?!?”, was his reply.

In my efforts to keep the peace and be kind, I had neglected to impress upon him the depth of my unhappiness with our marriage… this is probably the biggest regret of my life. If I had been more vocal about my dissatisfaction, maybe he wouldn’t have been so surprised.

As shock gave way to devastation on his part, I could tell my presence was a source of pain, and so I needed to go. I decided to go home to my parents in Puerto Rico for two weeks, so that he could start getting used to the idea of me not being around. At the end of the two weeks, I’d come back and start moving out.

Life had other plans for me, though, and I ended up staying abroad for three months, facing one of the most fearsome challenges of my life so far: going through a separation and divorce and fighting thyroid cancer at the same time.

But that’s a story for another day.

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Once upon a time, before the word “blog” existed, I kept an online journal, in addition to writing poetry, songs and fiction pretty consistently. The creative output fueled my inner fire, and it was all I wanted to do with my life.

Create, create, create, bring beauty and joy and wisdom and comfort into this world.

I read voraciously, wrote freely, sang every day, and this kept me going through some of the most emotionally difficult times in my life. It helped me find the light of hope that shines within me, and it helped me uplift others, and help them find their own light.

Back in those days, my most regular writing practice was “Aurora’s Journal”, a website I built from scratch with old school html code, using images I had drawn myself and scanned in, where I talked about my everyday life, and about my feelings. I used a pseudonym (Aurora Sofía, because I’ve always been into light and wisdom), to protect those involved (and in an attempt to keep my journal a secret from the boy I was crushing on, hehehe).

I guess you’d call it “personality” blogging these days with all the business lingo, I learned that from the lovely Paige Zaferiou during a little Skype date we had. I love masterminding with this babe, hehehe… Anyhow, what I’m getting at is that I’m just going to go ahead and let this memoir-type of writing be my lifeline back into my written voice, unapologetically.

This is my Morning Song.

Here’s a few articles that have given me lots of juicy, delicious food for thought as I start this year out:

Briana Saussy’s latest Lunar Letter has such an important message for us: Call it like you see it, see it for what it is, and respond with compassion and courage.

Theresa Reed’s blog is always a fount of inspiration and information, don’t miss her Mad Hookups for this month.

Amelia Quint’s handy guide for using astrology to set your goals for this year has given me a lot to chew on! I’m using this as a practice to learn a bit more about astrology, and loving the insights it’s giving me. Combining her advice with this technique from Theresa (man, do I love that lady!) is giving me some major clarity for this year!

I really enjoyed this post from Hilary Parry about Tarot readers and money. Readers have to eat, pay rent, buy more decks…

Paige Zee’s lovely prose inspires me to choose my words and actions to match my goal, constantly, this year and always.

And if you’d like to connect with me and get some insight on where you are currently, and where you’re headed, just let me know! I’ll be so glad to hear from you.

Namasté!

JenSignature_Small

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The Empress, Reversed, or How I stopped singing for a long time

Welcome back, my dears! Thanks for continuing to indulge me in my protracted trip down memory lane. I’ve been promising to talk about those years when my creative voice was silenced into apparent oblivion, but kept procrastinating because, well, it’s not the easiest thing to talk about.

These were the years where it looked like I was headed towards a promising career in medicine, or laboratory science, much to the pride of my parents. These were also years where I didn’t write one poem, and my guitar sat in its case, untouched. I didn’t sing. I didn’t even listen to music. When I wasn’t working or studying, I was numbing myself with TV. How did I allow myself to get there?

The Empress, Reversed

It started gradually. I went away to Knox College, a small, beautiful liberal arts college in Galesburg, IL, one month after turning 17 years old. The standards were high: most of the less than 1200 students had graduated in the top 5% of their High School class. I had won a writing scholarship during the admissions process, and enrolled with plans to do a double major in Creative Writing, and Music.

Up until then, my natural aptitudes and test-taking abilities had allowed me to do “well-enough” without really applying myself. By “well-enough”, I mean I graduated second from the top in my small high school class. But I had never really studied music theory in depth, allowing my ear and good memory to guide me as I taught myself guitar, and felt a little intimidated about writing in English, which is my second language. These were things I was passionate about, but never really had a chance to formally develop.

I was undisciplined, and was so afraid to sound stupid when I wrote that I ended up not finishing or turning in most of my assignments, because they weren’t “good enough”, in my opinion. The one thing I felt I was doing right was singing with the Choir, and the Chamber Singers. This is also what my transcript showed, and so I was in academic probation by the end of my second quarter.

All throughout my childhood and teenager years, my spirituality and “religion” was very loosely regulated: I lived with my mom, who at the time was a lapse catholic, and so after going to a Mennonite grade school from 2nd through 6th grade, I didn’t really go to church regularly. When I went to college, I decided I would really explore my religious and spiritual side, and started attending Newman Club and IVCF meetings, as well as regular mass. And the more time I spent with Christians, the more out of place I started to feel. How could a God that is Love condemn even one child of his creation to an eternity in Hell? Surely, God should have a greater capacity for Compassion and Mercy than I, a mere mortal, shouldn’t he?

Then I took a Philosophy class near the end of my first year, and started learning more about other religions, and felt like in all of them there were things that resonated as true within me: Love, Kindness, Compassion. And then I saw that even though all religions had these things in common, most of them also had judgmental and condemning aspects, absolutely jarring to what I felt to be true. Which one was true? As invested as I was in always finding THE right answer, I thought they couldn’t ALL be true. So I started to think they might all be wrong. After all, what proof was there, other than anecdotal?

I lost my faith in the Creator, both the Divine, and the archetype within me.

The only thing that seemed consistently true and infallible to me was Science and Math. Two plus two always equals four. The sky appears red near dusk because the rays of the sun are bent by the atmosphere and only the longer wavelengths of light get reflected back at us. There were right answers, and wrong answers, and this pleased my need for absolute certainty, so I went into full skeptic mode.

When I told my parents I had decided to become a medical doctor, my mom was so happy she nearly wept. She still had the belief that having the M.D. initials after your name automatically brought respect and wealth (Puerto Rico was a few years behind on the increased corporatization of the healthcare system and predatory practices by insurance companies) and thought I’d be set for life.

With such an ambitious goal, and very defined steps towards its achievement, I invested all my energy into it. I was working 38 hours a week as an optician to support me and my husband at the time, and enrolled for 17-19 credits at UW-Milwaukee every semester in order to finish my degree in a timely fashion. I slept 6 hours a night when I was lucky. There was no time for singing.

And so went the next 5 years. After a year finally cultivating some study habits with a very structured curriculum, and tests where there was always just the one right answer for every question, I went from academic probation to consistently making the Dean’s list.

I was loving learning all that I could about human pathophysiology, genetics, biochemistry, really absorbing all that I could about how our bodies work. But as I learned more about hospital administrators and insurance companies, the prospect of becoming yet another overworked and underappreciated drone in that bloated maze started to appear more dreadful than appealing.

At around this time, I took an Immunology class with a professor with a very strong personality. He was the only professor to have a serious essay component to his exams, and it was by far one of the most challenging classes in the curriculum. I loved the challenge, and did well in it. Doing some independent research was a requirement for my Biomedical Science degree, and so I decided to work in his lab.

This professor saw my potential, and took me under his wing. He saw how I kept putting off completing my med school applications, and suggested that I go for a Master’s instead, or even a PhD. He helped me secure a position as a teaching assistant to help with grad school when I sabotaged my own med school application. Each med school receives approximately 6,000 applications, 4,000 of which are well-qualified, for 200 spots which are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.  By the time I submitted my application, on the final deadline, the classes were long full.

So I started grad school, and the lab took over my life. I got a taste of what being a research scientist at an academic institution would be like. I was good at it. My professor said, when I told him I was quitting, that I was the best scientific writer he had trained so far, and that if I ever wanted to come back to science, he would vouch for me. But that I had to be serious about it. And that was the problem.

At first, the work was interesting and exciting, but after the novelty wore off, it grew very boring. Long nights in a basement lab, running timed experiments where measurements had to be taken periodically: Every 30 minutes, or every hour, or every 2 hours, for 24 hours, or 48 hours. Doing statistical analysis of the data. Departmental politics. And the ever-present stress of procuring funding. It was soul-sucking for me. I was miserable.

And it was then that, searching for my soul, I pulled that old black case out from between the computer desk and the wall. The dust was thick on it, but  the guitar inside still had all 6 strings. My fingers had lost their strength for making chord shapes, though, it was frustrating to feel how much the muscle memory had faded, how hard it was, when it once had been like breathing. It had been my solace and my joy.

And I cried, because I realized that somewhere along the way, I had lost sight of who I was, and forgotten how to be me, happy.

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Introducing… My writing deck.

Once more unto the breach, that I may finally break down the walls that keep my voice silent.

A couple of months back, a new deck found me. While waiting for a table to have brunch with some friends at the Spring Green General Store, I decided to look through their gift selection, without any real intention to buy anything. But then, among the usual gift shop fare of cute note pads, figurines, cheesy t-shirts and children’s toys, I spotted the one metaphysical item they carried: Their last copy of “The Artist’s Inner Vision” Tarot, by No Monet. This strange and beautiful deck, now out of print, was discounted down to $20 from the original $40, which put it right within my price range, and I immediately grabbed it. I decided this would be my official writing deck, and would help me connect with my creative voice.

This brunch took place right before our latest visit to The House on The Rock. If you’ve read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, you can appreciate the effect that a visit to that place has for a creative person: his description of the place as a “place of power” was very apt. A great fountain of creativity was accessed and channeled by Alex Jordan, a sensitive soul who felt the beauty of the place and brought forth one of the biggest, most bizarre, whimsical and original works of art ever created.

I had been looking forward to my second visit to this attraction as a source of inspiration. I’ve been in the process of trying to reawaken my muse for a few years now, fighting against the fears and judgment’s I’ve allowed myself to be burdened with, and felt this tarot deck was a gift from my guides, to help me along. I said some prayers, drew some symbols on the bag the deck came in with scented oils, and then walked through the House on the Rock, shuffling through the deck and willing the energy from the place to be infused into the deck.

It felt electric, like I was walking on air the whole time I was there. I kept seeing Kwan Yin depictions in so many places, when their prevalence didn’t register at all the first time I visited. I felt the Divine Creative Feminine presence surrounding me, and had every certainty my little magic spell worked.

The Artist's Inner Vision

And then I put the deck in a drawer of my altar table, and there it stayed from April until today.

Months ago I had begun writing the last couple of entries in my introductory blog series of sorts, and one of them talks about how I stopped singing for a long time… Tonight, with great anticipation, after meditating and thinking about what my next blog entry should be about, I drew a card… and it was The Empress, reversed. I guess I need to finish what I started!

The Empress, Reversed

So, look for my next entry sometime late tomorrow! I’m so excited to get started writing again 🙂

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Why I believe again, part 2.

I’m back! I told you you wouldn’t have to wait as long for a new post as you did last time 🙂

This is a continuation of the previous post, so if you haven’t read it yet, please start here.

… So, as I was saying, I interviewed to go back to work as an optician in February, and made a good impression, but they were unable to offer me enough hours for me to quit my corporate job. So I went back to it, knowing that my days there were numbered, but not their exact number.

This should’ve been enough to relieve my stress, but the truth is, my work ethic doesn’t allow me to work at something and not care about it. I always want to do my best, and my computer and tools were still acting up, and the pressure to perform was still as present as ever.

Due to the stress, a chronic state of sweaty-palm anxiety started to set in. Over the course of a few weeks, this developed into a very painful case of dishydrotic eczema: lots of tiny little fluid-filled bumps just under my skin, itchy and burning and painful as hell.

I would meditate, and try to relax when I got home, but nothing helped. The only thing that gave some relief was… the weekend. Saturday and Sunday my hands would go back to normal, then by the time Wednesday came around it would start getting bad, and by the time Friday would come around, I’d be wanting to strip the skin off my hands clean off, it was so horrible. March and April went by like this.

By Friday, May 2nd, I felt I was at the end of my rope. I had to take a couple of hours off work, because I literally COULDN’T work anymore, my hands were in so much pain I was crying. I went home and sat in front of my altar, lit some Archangel Raphael incense, and begged for his healing help, praying and then meditating, before going to bed extra-early.

The next morning, Saturday, I had a chiropractor appointment, so I woke up early. Instagram fiend that I am, I opened the app and this is the first image at the top of my feed:

I thanked Raphael for the confirmation, and went to my appointment with Dr. Jon at Cream City Chiropractic in BayView.

After the appointment, I was driving back towards the freeway on Lincoln Ave, when the green glint of copper of the dome of St. Josaphat’s Basilica caught my eye.  In case you don’t know, green is traditionally Archangel Raphael’s color. And I felt pulled towards the church, even though I hadn’t been to church in years.

As I walked into the church, I gasped in amazement at all the green marble everywhere. I took some holy water and drew a cross, and a six-pointed star, whispering “as above, so below” on the palms of my hands.

There wasn’t a mass happening at the time, and there were very few people inside. There are two smaller altars to each side of the main Sanctuary in the front, and I went to the far left and sat in quiet meditation for a few minutes, then I felt the need to light a candle offering. Everyone else had left and I had the church all to myself.

Instead of going to the candle offering altar that was immediately to the right of the altar in front of which I had been kneeling, I felt pulled to the one on the other side of the main sanctuary. I put my money in the offertory box, and knelt where I felt pulled towards. As I took the flame from another candle to light my own, the wind outside picked up and started whistling through the rafters, beautiful natural tones.

I sat in prayer and quiet meditation for a while, and felt the urge to look up and to the left, into the main sanctuary. I was flooded with a feeling of love and peace as I saw I had been pulled towards the exact point in the church where a beautiful mosaic of Archangel Raphael would be perfectly centered in an arch, and it felt like a confirmation again. “I hear your prayers, child, help is on the way”.

I wept with relief and gratitude, as I felt surrounded and filled with love and peace. I stayed there for a while. Eventually, I pulled out my phone and took a picture, because I wanted to keep that view as a reminder:

RaphaelJosaphat

Do you see Archangel Michael peeking out from the left, too? 🙂

Here’s a closer view:

RaphaelClose

I left, feeling peaceful, but then once again I felt pulled: towards the gift shop. There were lots of crucifixes, images of Mother Mary, rosaries, the usual fare expected in a catholic gift shop. And then, to the back of the store, lots of small worry stones with words inscribed in them. And in the very center of them all, this one:

BreatheStone

Shimmering, Iridescent emerald green, with the same word as what was on that Oracle card. I bought it, and added it to my little pouch of crystals I had been carrying with me.

The following Monday, I meant to call back to see if the people at the optical place had enough hours for me, but kept feeling like I needed to wait. Around noon, they called me, offering me full time hours. I was floored and humbled, and so, so grateful.

And this experience has reinforced my reawakened faith. This is why I believe again today. Thank you for letting me share this experience with you! If you would like to share your own tales of being touched by angels, please find me on Facebook or Twitter, and let’s have a conversation!

Have a lovely day, everyone. Namaste!

JenSignature_Small

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