Guidance for Hard Times

I decided to repost this because it’s totally appropriate right now.

(Written in May 2009 and posted in August 2013)

Dear Guides & Guardian Spirits, I’m in pretty rough shape.  A little scared, a little fragile, a little depressed.  I’m feeling cold and distant, and don’t have much hope for the future.  This struggle out of depression is taking much longer than it has before.  Please help me.

Dear Jenny, hang on.  You are doing very good work, very deep work and it has results in the energy foundation of the earth.  By working with your psyche, working to heal your deep pain, you are also helping to heal the deep wounds of the earth.  We know it’s very hard work, and confusing, and full of pain, times of horror, and lostness, and bleakness.  This is a necessary part of the healing.  You must feel these stages as you pass through them.  You must take it on trust that you are moving, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  We are doing our best to support and strengthen you to do this work.  We wish you could feel our presence, but know that’s hard for you.  We love you and honor you for the deep work you are doing.

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Winter Solstice

These readings came my way.

Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day (Written for the Christmas Revels)

So the shortest day came
and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries
of the snow white world
Came people singing, dancing,
to drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees
They hung their homes with evergreens
They burned beseeching fires all night long
to keep the year alive.
And when the new day’s sunshine blazed awake
they shouted “Reveille!”
And all across the ages you can hear them, echoing, behind us,
listen —
All the long echoes sing the same delight
this shortest day.
As promise wakens in the sleeping land
They carol, feast, give thanks
and dearly love their friends,
and hope for peace.
So do we here now, this year, and every year
Welcome Yule!

From a letter by Fra Giovanni Giocando, in 1513

(Excerpts from this letter are used in some performances of Christmas Revels)

“I salute you. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present moment. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. And so, at this time, I greet you with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.”

From a sermon by John Donne on the Mercy of God, quoted by Elizabeth Goudge:

He brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light; He can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring; though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries, all occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons.

Yesterday morning, I sat in Kendal Quaker Meeting, where there were 15 people, all of whom I know, and I felt love for all of them and then felt myself held in a field of love.  It was wonderful.  Like the sun at noon.

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Something Totally New

I’ve been reading Thomas Zinser’s book Soul-Centered Healing.  While I drank my coffee and read the Chapter called The Quickening, Mocha started squeaking.  I was determined to finish my coffee and the Chapter before I took her out, but her squeaking was slowing me down.  Generally, she only keeps squeaking like that if she has diarrhea.  As I write, I wonder if Mother was trying to stop me from reading the Chapter.

Zinser talks about different manifestations of spirit, such as Earthbound Spirits who are people who don’t realize they have died and wander around confused, and “attached” spirits who are people who have attached themselves to people living now.  Usually these beings are causing trouble for someone who comes for therapy, even if that isn’t their intention.  Zinser talks about having to convince the Earthbound Ones that they need to go to the Light.   Often, they know exactly what the Light is, and with gladness and relief, make the choice and leave this world for the next.  But sometimes they refuse to do that, usually because they believe that the Light will judge them instead of welcoming them.  Zinser says you have to speak to these ones very firmly, try to convince them that they won’t be judged, but sometimes you just have to close the door.  Usually he does the speaking, but because of my experience with contacting and bringing back various Little Jennys, it seemed easy and obvious to talk to Mom myself.  Another suggestion was to remind them that there might be someone who has passed on who would be able to help them.

from my journal for yesterday:
So when I was coming back with Mocha, I started talking to Mom.  I told her she had to go toward the Light, that I can’t do it for her.  That I had tried, but it’s not possible to do the inner work for someone else.  I told her that if she was jealous of someone else, it didn’t do any good to try to destroy what they had.  If she wants it, she has to do the work. 

Sitting here writing, I have a sense that she’s afraid of God’s judgement.  I tell her God isn’t like that.  But of course she probably had some awful childhood experience, maybe she was even traumatized, and learned that God was punitive.  So then I told her to ask Mama Greene for help, Mama Greene loved her.  I said it more than once, with force.  Imagined turning her around and giving her a little shove.  Saw Mama Greene appear in the distance, arms open.

I hope that will help.

The first signs that something may have happened: I slept well last night, despite a nap in the afternoon, I enjoyed walking with Dulany & the dogs around the plowed road in Rivercrest, and I felt held in a field of love in Quaker Meeting this morning, which is something I’ve never felt.  Energetic connection, yes, but loved? Something totally new.

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How this Blog helps me Keep on Keeping on

From my journal written in September 2010, and posted in April 2012 as Struggle with Self-Hate

I cooked rice but I wasn’t able to eat breakfast.  Called Karen.  She said not to “shame & blame” myself, but of course I’m comparing myself to Diane who’s “glad to be alive”, who faced life-threatening illness and lost both breasts.  That made me feel like I was just whining and complaining and feeling sorry for myself.  But I can’t “snap out of it,” I can’t consciously will myself to be any different.  So I just want to die.  That’s how I felt yesterday, and no voice pops up & says “You don’t want to die, you just want your life to be easier.”

So here I sit, hating myself for being such a wimp.  Somehow I’ve got to find a way to feel compassion for this poor woman who’s hating herself.  OK, take a big step back.  Here’s this woman who was traumatized in infancy, and taught as she grew up that every thing was her fault.  Especially if she was having a bad time, she was told “You just want to be miserable.” She was given no guidance and support for how to live a healthy life.  She struggled for years against debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety.  She got married, only to find that she was unable to be sexual, blaming herself until years after the divorce when she found out she was struggling with PTSD.  Now she’s getting older, and has less and less energy.  When she’s depressed, even the basics of buying and cooking food and walking the dog become difficult.  She just wants to die, and she hasn’t any energy to fight that either.

This is the kind of thing that is worth reading when I go back and read through my blog. Yes, this really happened, I really did feel this way.  But 10 years later, I haven’t felt as bad as this in quite a while.  I have felt discouragement and despair, I have felt that it would be a relief if I died, but then I think of Mocha and a couple of friends who would really miss me if I died, and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and try not to expect myself to do more than I can.

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Collapse of a Coping Strategy

This was originally posted in March 2012

(journal entry written in June 2004)
Day started badly.  Found bank deposit that I prepared before I left for Kripalu & forgot.   I feel out of control.  This scares me because it looks like a coping strategy that has served me all my life — being super-responsible — has collapsed and left me without form or structure.  It’s like walls that were holding me up and in have collapsed and I’ve melted and run all over the floor.
Kayla was talking at me with that harshness that I interpret as anger and I started a sentence in Giraffe “When you speak to me in that intense way,  I feel scared…  and I need….” and she got it: “You need me to soften my voice..” and that really helped.  She picked a Tarot card for me, the Five of Cups, also called “spilling”.  In Tarot of the Spirit it says:

“The Five of Water is the rise of antipathy just when it seemed everything was going well.  You anticipated that you would experience great pleasure at this stage, but there was an unexpected disturbance, and the expected pleasure has been usurped.  As such, you feel a sense of futility and regret.  You feel anger and despair.  Emotional chaos seems to have arisen from somehow not being seen.  You have felt as if you were lost, experiencing an onslaught of transience.  …  There may have been moments when you felt so confused that it seemed like you were controlled by internal destructive forces, forces which seemed too deep to understand.
“You may have found yourself shaking your head and repeating “I don’t know, I don’t know… “ You may have felt like you wanted to cry.  You tried to get someone’s attention.  You have spilled out in all directions.
“When you have spilled everything out, and are right down to the bottom of your cup, you will finally see your own heart reflected.  Then you will see that you based your desire on expectations that had no foundation in reality.  That was the problem.  But you will also see that your heart, at base, is pure and good.  It is full with love, a deep love that longs to flow in the right direction. …
“The challenge of the Five of Water is to establish a new vision of your own power.  It is time to reassess and adjust.  It is time to know and correct any falsities you have programmed into your life and re-establish your connection with the fundamental truth…
“Card symbology: ..  You see the purity of your own heart reflected.  This is the key to understanding that the outcome will be positive.  At the bottom of the cup … the last reservoir, and it is the eternal reservoir of Self-Love.  Here she finds true understanding, but for the moment, that understanding is cut off from relationship.
“ …  The road is a road of healing.  Then you emerge at the top of a lighted hill as in Matthew: “You are like light for the whole world” … In the same way your light must shine.”

Comments from 2012:
“Giraffe” and “Jackal” are used in NonViolent Communication to distinguish compassionate from judgmental language.  Kayla and I had been part of a study group so even though my attempt was halting, she got the message.  Afterward, thinking about it, I realized that the “harshness” that I was interpreting as anger was in fact concern for me.

The synchronicity of the reading for the Five of Water blew me away.  This was a direct message from Spirit.  “Emotional chaos seems to have arisen from somehow not being seen” reflects my being triggered by Paula’s message which resembled things my mother said, that had nothing to do with me at all.  In some ways my deepest wound was not being seen and mirrored accurately, so I still have an incorrect knowledge of my weaknesses and strengths.  “There may have been moments when you felt so confused that it seemed like you were controlled by internal destructive forces, forces which seemed too deep to understand,” describes PTSD very well.  The reassurance that my heart is pure and longs to love, and the need for Self-love, are issues that I have been struggling with for a long time.

What strikes me today, December 15, 2020, is where I say: “it looks like a coping strategy that has served me all my life — being super-responsible — has collapsed and left me without form or structure.  It’s like walls that were holding me up and in have collapsed and I’ve melted and run all over the floor.”  This is very much how I’ve been feeling lately.  I feel lost, and out of control, and very fluid, uncontained.  It’s taking enormous effort to do things I have to do, like take the dog out for a walk — it’s 25° out and I have to put on extra clothing — or make a cup of coffee so I can wake up a little more.  Then there are things I’ve committed to do with and for other people, and I can’t seem to wrap my brain around them and get a grasp on what to do.  It’s not so much a matter of will power, more feeling like skills I used to depend on have vanished.  I have no idea why this has happened, and if I’m losing ground, or moving to something completely new.

I also say “my deepest wound was not being seen and mirrored accurately.”  At that time I knew this intellectually, but had no idea how deep the damage was.

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Needing to be Heard

This was originally posted in March 2012

(journal entry from June 2004)
A really bad night.  Dogs barking, didn’t call cops.  My heart just ached.  I tried to bring compassion to it without success.  It’s slap in my face how little control I have.  I can’t even stop my own dog from barking, nor can I make her drink – a worry pain in my heart.  I feel isolated and disconnected, far from spirit and from human contact.

Feeling pretty wretched.  Not wanting to live — this is just too hard.  My heart aches and feels stony at the same time.  I think “There’s no reason to go on” then I remember Bella and Lynelle.  They would be very unhappy if I died.  Probably this is something that I’m going through…
Thinking about the trouble with Paula, I see that I’m not satisfied by calling the police.  What I need is for someone to hear what a hard time I’m having. To care enough to help me, and to take action to protect me.  I see that Paula’s diatribe was just like Mom: invalidating my pain, telling me it’s not OK to ask to have my needs met if it’s inconvenient for her, making me wrong for having a hard time with her actions — or inactions, or failure to take responsibility — that hurt me.

Heart heavy — all of me feels heavy, dragged down, weak, without substance or energy.  Feeling slightly sick to my stomach.  Now the scared hopeless feeling comes in, a sort of vibration at the corners of my jaw.  And now the cold down the front of my body, I was feeling that last night and now heat, so I feel hot AND cold and sick and weak.

I hear the planes and remind myself that I suffered from that noise for 14 years, and now it doesn’t bother me.

Comment from 2012:
Paula was my neighbor in 2004.  She let her dog run all the time, and it would bark at all hours.  Sometimes when it was barking at 3AM, I would call, and have trouble waking her up.  She would say nice things, and call the dog in, but then it would happen again, and again, and again.  Finally she got so tired of me calling, that she called my number and left a long message about how she had lived here for 18 years and nobody ever complained  (nobody lived next door to her until we built Neskaya) and I must have a thing about dogs, and how awful I was…   I deleted the message. But it knocked me into a very painful space.  I did call the cops at one time – the man I talked to was very helpful – there is in fact a leash law and a noise ordinance, both of which I could have made use of.  But I never did.  I couldn’t believe that it was OK to protect myself that way, and I couldn’t call the Police while I was so upset.  It’s also true that I had terrible insomnia, related to PTSD (I sleep well now, thanks to medication) and that I was extremely sensitive to noises, also a symptom of PTSD.

Comment from today:
What I notice now was my need for someone to HEAR my pain, and to do something about it.  This is Little Jenny, whose mother never listened to her and reflected back her experience, who taught her that it was not OK to protect herself — I guess by ignoring my need to be protected, since I can’t remember her ever saying anything.  Except the time I complained that classmates were teasing me, and she said “Ignore them.”  I didn’t know what the word meant.
I am astounded that in typing this up I typed “rejected” instead of “reflected,” exactly what mother did.

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Soul Medicine

from my journal for Wednesday, December 9

The talk with Erica turned everything around again.  My energy was so much better for the rest of the day.  My life has not been a chore, but a battle.  A battle against malignant energies, against people who refuse to take responsibility for their own negativity, who don’t do their own work.

Then I got an email from Deena Metzger with a link to a blog piece about soul medicine which described the work I am doing.

From Deena’s blog:

A sacred illness is one that calls us to a transformational path that serves our lives and the lives of those around us, and, so, ultimately, the world. It means so much when physicians consider as part of the diagnosis, the possibility that the patient is suffering a sacred illness. It changes, deepens and ensouls the practice of medicine, transforming the medicine that one carries and who one is. When considered seriously, the patient and the physician partner on a journey toward vision, transformation, creating between themselves a culture that is good for the world.

Awhile back I saw that trauma could be a shamanic initiation.  It involves a confrontation with death and the possibility that you could lose.  I forget this most of the time, and resent that trauma kept me from “having a life.”

Healing is not necessarily restoring the original condition. It is not returning to paradise. Healing is helping to align the individual with the trajectory of the soul. Healing is the field of beauty through which the details of the larger purpose of an individual’s current life in relationship to his/her own history, ancestors, spirits, the present, the future, and global healing are revealed and enacted.

This is so hugely helpful.  “Healing is not restoring the original condition.”  Healing is something like putting the person into a bigger context in which the greater meaning of what is happening is revealed.  A Universe that can do that, is a miraculous amazing astonishing beautiful complex mysterious process.

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The Narcissist

from my journal for July 13, 1992

More realizations have crystallized out of my experience of V last week. One is how the narcissist is hollow, all surface, for all the self involvement, there isn’t any “self” there.  I went back and read the episode with V after Fiona’s death and that reminded me again that the cruelty is unconscious, the result of a powerful intuition combined with no awareness of unconscious process and a conviction of one’s “niceness” that leaves no room for questioning one’s behavior.  That made me think again that mother’s cruelty is probably the same sort of thing.  or else a defense of her drinking.  I just typed up the part from last year where I said that it really hurt me to be with her when she’s drinking and she said “well then you’ll just have to hurt for a long time won’t you” in such a cruel way.  I thought at the time that I would hurt until the day she dies, but now I see that I’ve cut off from her so completely that that particular pain is not there any more.  I’m no longer trying to connect with her, my concern is how to protect myself from her.  The irony is that now I would be able to go out on the porch and “talk” to her (what she wanted last year that I refused to do that set off her cruelty) because I have now found the safe way to do it: volunteer nothing at all.  She called Saturday night from Cincinnati because the electricity was off, I’m sure she was hoping for some entertainment.  All I said was “yes”, “no”, and “nothing new — we walk the dog, we water the garden.”  If she feels it as sad and impoverished, she has no skills for dealing with it —— ah!  but perhaps she sees me as sad and impoverished, not the conversation — oh, freedom!  safe under my cloak of invisibility.  No, mom, my life is not “exciting”, it never was exciting enough for you, though I tried so hard to make it sound exciting (now I understand why I was so put off by mom talking about her birthday “I want to go some place that excites me”).  I suppose you could call “Journey into Courage” and Neskaya exciting, but I choose not to tell mother about them.  But I’m not really interested in excitement any more, I don’t know that I ever was, I think all the “excitement” in my life came out of the search for truth.  And the real depth and richness of my life is not something that mother is capable of perceiving.

For Fiona’s death, see post for December 8

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A Place of Strength

from my journal for July 10, 1992

Since I’m planning to take a break from therapy for about six weeks, we talked about issues of separation from Mother.  I told Karen about V, and how I was not at all vulnerable to her ploys.  I think I must have just denied and invalidated my initial discomfort around her, buried it so quickly I didn’t even see it to deny it consciously.  (That talk with Lynn about her mother’s denial happened after Fiona’s death)  Karen said that first hit of discomfort is the truth, needs to be noticed and acknowledged, not swept under the rug of denial.  In talking to her I began to see much more clearly how I can’t do it for V — I can’t do it for mother — “it” being fix it for them, make it OK, make them feel alive.  They see that I have something they don’t have, and they want to suck it out of me, or get me to do it for them, and they don’t want to do what it takes to feel alive: namely look inside and face the pain.  And it’s real clear to me that nothing I can do would make any difference, not because I’m inadequate, or “selfish” or “don’t care”, but because they have to do it themselves.

Such a surprise to see myself claiming such authority to see what’s happening.  Looking back, I see that there were other things happening that supported my being able to see something my early experience taught me to ignore.  For one thing, I was able to talk to Lynn about her mother and she agreed with me.  V was NOT my mother, or my husband, or even my friend, so I had no need to preserve my relationship with her.  Also, at this time I had been doing Journey Into Courage for a couple of years: telling the truth about myself in front of an audience.  Finally, the sun crossing my Jupiter in Cancer in the eighth house of my astrology chart is a strong time for me.  Jupiter is expansion, the eighth house is collective resources, Cancer has to do with foundation and home.

Today the Sun crosses my Jupiter in Cancer in the Eighth.  We went over to the Neskaya land just to “touch base” as it were.  It felt very good.  I feel very glad of this project, and willing to be patient with the process, to spend as much time as it takes to do it right because this is a sacred building.

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Unconscious Cruelty

from my journal for July 8, 1992
written the day after 
writers group with Lynn & her mother V

Gosh what a cannibal V is, what a horrid woman.  And in some ways just like my mother.  So nice on the surface, so “sweet.”  And god knows what unacknowledged bitterness seething away in the depths, that poisons the sweetness, so that after I’ve been with her I feel like I’ve been in some loathesome place of slime and sleaze.  I wonder if I would ever have seen it if it hadn’t been for her unconsciously cruel remarks at the time of Fiona’s death, because the surface she presents is so nice, so reasonable and charming.  There’s that hint of theatricality, but that’s not where the sleaze and slime are, it’s something much deeper. 

“Her unconsciously cruel remarks after Fiona’s death.”  Fiona was our first dog.  We got an electric fence to keep her from going out to the road, but Dana wasn’t able to train her by subjecting her to the shocks delivered by the collar.  She was hit on the road, after we had had her for less than a year.  V knew nothing about this, but this writing group was fairly soon after it happened, and she just started talking about someone who had put in an electric fence.  She couldn’t possibly have known how much it would hurt, she must have just picked up on the issue intuitively.

How did it go last night?  She complained about not understanding the instructions, in such a way that if I had been ready to accept the guilt, I would have thought it was my fault for not being clear enough.  She wanted to hear what I had written so she would know how it was supposed to be done, she made a great show of folding away her own writing (but then read it anyway after saying she didn’t want to.)  Then when we were done insisted on reading some of her own pieces from a little booklet of her reminiscences that her daughters had printed up.  I smiled and nodded tactfully but didn’t say anything.  It made me think of mother wanting me to admire her.  And I couldn’t admire V’s writing, it’s superficial, shallow, and trite.  She can tell that my writing has something hers doesn’t have, it has power and depth, and she wants that for herself, but she doesn’t realize that in order to write with power and depth you need to be willing to face the truth and that means engaging with painful difficult sad boring and scary material, and not just writing sugary reminiscences about the good stuff.  Even when she wrote of her son’s death, she didn’t enter into the pain.  But she wanted me to read what I had written — I felt some sense of discomfort, not wanting to expose private material — and I could feel in her a greed, for what? a kind of voyeuristic sleazy greed, like she wants to nourish herself on my transformed pain — but I’m so sorry, V, it doesn’t work like that.  And I know that part of my reluctance to read is the same reluctance I have to sharing my real self with my mother: OK, I’m going to turn on my bright light here, and you’re going to be shown up in your shabbiness and you won’t like that, and you’ll try to make me wrong.  But they can’t make me wrong any more, I’m too strong in my truth.  I felt enormous pressure from V (or in myself?) to say something nice, tell her her writing was good, say she could quickly learn to write like I do, fix it for her somehow, contradict her self-deprecating remarks, but I couldn’t do it without lying.  So there you old bat!

I’m amazed now at the confidence with which I wrote.  I like the person who is doing this writing, and I agree with what she said.  Perhaps I’m even surprised at her ability to not be “nice” in her writing, even though she was as kind as she could be without lying to the actual person.

The other thing that made me really angry was V started off by asking about Eleanor, how was she, was she “coming round.”  I said I wouldn’t use those words of Eleanor, that I admired her strength, that she was struggling with really traumatic material, and it was amazing that she wasn’t dead or hospitalized, that sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better, and that she was an inspiration.  Lynn echoed what I was saying.  I didn’t like telling V even as much as that, but I was so angry at her patronizing attitude.

Eleanor is my dear friend who was horribly traumatized as a child.  Unlike me, she was born to working class parents, so she is dependent on welfare.  She has to spend enormous amounts of energy jumping through the hoops of the bureaucracy, and she was never able to find a therapist who could really help her because the really good ones don’t have to take insurance.  My therapist Karen took insurance when she first started working, but then it started to involve too much paperwork, and she stopped.  One time when she had supper at Lynn’s and V was there, Eleanor had two helpings of salad and V commented on how much she was eating.  Given that Eleanor has all kinds of fear around getting fat, it was a cruel remark, even though V couldn’t have known.

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