Finding Your Strength

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It seems like an eternity since I have sat down to write.  Life has a way of picking us up by the scruff of the neck sometimes and shaking us like a dazed puppy.  Since January, I have had two strokes, my mom has been hospitalized for over a month, and our oldest cat TeeTee is preparing for her journey into the summerlands.

I hate to admit it, but in the midst of everything that has happened, magick tended to be done in hindsight…an afterthought at first to the situation at hand.  There were days after the strokes that I would find myself just sitting…staring out of windows…more conscious of the drooping or the lack of strength on my left side.  Funny, the doctor says that I have had ‘mini strokes.’  In talking to a friend of mine and through reading, I have found out that a stroke is a stroke.  There are no minis or maxis.

Through the challenges of recuperation, there were, constantly in the back of my mind, visions of my great grandma’s sister.  We called her Aunt Carrie.  I often wish I had gotten to know her before the strokes.  She was a beautiful woman always dressed to the nines, very passionate and eloquent from what I was told.  She was a teacher.  When I got to know her, she had been ravaged by stroke after stroke.  They had rendered her bed-ridden, only able to mouth and garble words, and only able to barely motion.

I lived in a world of not feeling like myself, fear of being that shell of a person I once was…but it was in the words of friends and family that I found the strength to push myself.  I found out from my mother that Aunt Carrie was given the opportunity to go through therapy but chose not to.  Her marriage was bad, her husband used to beat her.  She hoped for death but was given an existence with a husband riddled with guilt who now decided that he needed to try to make up for the earlier hell she had to suffer through.

I determined that I would not recreate that scenario for myself.  I had many friends that not only supported me through my healing but also pushed me.  They knew there was more fight in me than I was showing.  They also realized that I had pushed my magick to the sidelines.  Working side by side with them and my doctor, I used magick and medicine toward healing.  I did the therapies…I did the dreamwork.  I utilized stones, crystals and visualization.  I found myself in a good place.  My doctor had even told me that I had made progress that she wouldn’t have expected until the six month mark.

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I built a moss and fae garden to keep me close to the earth at all times…wear hematite for grounding.  Things were looking better daily.  I began to breathe again.

Then we noticed that our older cat TeeTee was losing weight and throwing up more.  We took her to the vet for bloodwork and xrays.  The bloodwork looked ok, but when they pulled up the xrays, I breathed in sharp.  I worked at a veterinarian’s office for ten years.  I had learned to read xrays.  When I saw the large fibrous mass staring back at me, I knew immediately that it wasn’t good.  We discussed options with the vet and came to the conclusion that as long as she wasn’t in pain and seemed to have a decent amount of energy that we would do whatever was needed to keep her happy.  We have blended the stinkiest of foods, hand-fed her, given extra attention…and now as I type this,  we know that it won’t be much longer.

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We know that we have given her the best life she could have.  From a wild, white feral kitten to a spoiled content house cat, she has been cuddled, pampered, catered to, and loved with complete abandon.  Where is the strength we pull on here? The knowledge that she will rest and walk side by side with Bastet…back with the energy and magick she came from.  We also know that they truly never completely leave your heart and side.

When you think you can’t handle anymore…the flood gates tend to open.  Toward the middle of April, I got a call from my aunt.  My mom had been admitted to the hospital that past Saturday.  No one wanted to worry me (give me another stroke) so they didn’t let me know.  My aunt was calling, however, to tell me that my mom had to be put on a ventilator and that the doctor had suggested calling the family in.  We left immediately for North Carolina.  My partner and I sat by her bedside for five days straight.  They had induced a coma…hoping that the rest would do its part in the healing.

My mom has always had a strong faith and believed in energies and such (with our family history, how could she not).  I had witches from all over sending healing and energy toward her.  My brother, who thinks my mom is more along the lines of a conservative christian, asked how I think Ma would feel knowing all those witches were sending her healing.  My aunt walked into the room behind him and whispered in his ear, “I think she would be completely fine with it.” With that comment, she looked at me and gave a wink and kissed the air.

In the process of that hospital stay, my mom coded not once, but three different times.  She always made her way back though.  She is a fighter.  She has always been the bedrock of our family.  I knew that if anything happened to her, that would fall to me.  My first visit, I whispered to her, “I am not strong enough for this yet.” I have no doubt that she heard me.

It has been a long, hard battle but she is now awake, aware, winking, smiling, and breathing air and not on oxygen.  They have decreased the size of the trach opening and have moved the feeding tube from her nose to her stomach.  She is now going through therapy and trying to mouth words.

I feel like in the midst of all of these things happening around me, that I have lived any spare time I have beside ponds, in woods, and walking mountains.  On my last trip to Red Top Mountain, I looked forward at the path ahead.  It was crooked, scattered with rock, muddy in places, but oh so calming and lush.  An old bible verse sprang to my mind, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where my help comes.”

There is an area hewn into the rock on Red Top…I crawled into that cubby and lay my head back.  I woke up an hour later after the most peaceful sleep I have had in months.  Life is going to give us twists and turns, scratches, bruises, pain…and yes, even death.  I have found though that I do have the strength to face each one.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt or that there won’t be loss or challenges, it means that I can survive.  I can come out of it stronger…the armor might be a bit dirty or scuffed and even broken in places, but I have the choice of getting up and continuing on, or falling back and dying.

I walked out into the courtyard yesterday after work.  I finally gave up and just started leaving food for the birds, squirrels and anything else that might be hungry out there.  Mama Crow was perched on the wall eating peanuts.  She looked straight at me and gave me her comforting ‘Graaaaaaaackkk’

I will keep getting up as long as I am able.

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The Season of the Lion

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As we come into the season of Lughnasadh, we have moved into the astrological sign of Leo.  Since my birthday actually falls on Lughnasadh, I have always felt this time of year brought more strength and more power into my life and to my path in the Craft.  I have spent this past week journeying into the soul of the Lion and looking at his attributes.  One book that I have been reading is Steven D. Farmer’s “Animal Spirit Guides.”  Here is what he says about the mighty Lion:

If Lion shows up, it means:

Hold your head up high and keep your dignity, no matter what you’re faced with.

You’re much stronger than you think you are and need to use your emotional strength in this situation.

Call upon the well of courage that’s available to you to confront this uncomfortable situation.

Listen closely and discern carefully before acting, rather than moving ahead impulsively and recklessly.

When faced with a tough decision, follow your heart rather than what you think you should do.

Call on Lion when:

You feel particularly stressed or beaten down by any situation and want to boost your sense of power and self-confidence to deal with these circumstances.

Your dignity and integrity have been called into question and you want to recapture your self-respect.

You’ve been called upon to assume a position of authority and leadership.

You’ve taken on a project that at first seems overwhelming, even though you know you have the necessary skills and intelligence to complete it.

If Lion is your power animal: 

You have a strong presence and a dignified manner, such that people always notice when you walk into a room.

Although your anger can sometimes be triggered rather easily, you generally have a great deal of compassion for others.

You’re a natural leader and have great organization skills.

You’re at your best when you function as part of a group or community rather than being alone.

You like to stretch your capabilities and are always seeking to learn more.

As I read through this passage in the book, I realized that different energies encompass us at different times based on our need.  While the thoughts behind having Lion as your power animal definitely seems to ring true to those who are born under the sign of Leo, there are other animals that walk beside me on a more consistent basis…however, I do feel that lion power ever presently watching over my shoulder, always instilling in me my sense of self.

never forget

As we walk through day to day life, we encounter those things that constantly tear at our spirits.  We are bombarded with words and images that tell us that we are less than we should be.  Those who we thought were friends or lovers rip our hearts out and stomp them, either unaware of what they are doing or vindictively trying to hurt us.  It is in these trying times that we should pull on the strength of Lion.  He stands dutifully guarding us, poised to attack anything that comes against us.  He stands in quiet strength until we decide to access that part of our spirit…and then he readies himself for the kill.

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This year has been a year that this Leo has had to learn to roar, and roar loudly.  Over the past two years there has been a series of new beginnings in my life.  Each time one of these new opportunities surfaced, there was a part of me that wanted to shrink back and settle into the background of life.  Each time, an advocate, human and spirit would intervene…pushing me to the forefront, encouraging me to fight, to meet each beginning head on with strength and courage.  Whenever I rose to the challenge, success became imminent and a new challenge would follow.

I watched over the past couple of years as my life started to build on itself like a magickal staircase….each opportunity building on the one before it.  The more I rose to the challenges, the more I felt something begin to build inside of me.  I found that the little annoyances of life seemed not to be such annoyances anymore and they started to work themselves out.  I found that the way I carried myself was evolving, and as a result, the way people responded to me changed.  I observed those who used to challenge me, no longer challenged me.  These people, figuratively speaking, started moving out of my way to let me pass.

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With each success, though, there were different challenges.  These challenges seemed to be more internal.  I have been a part of the business world for as long as I have been working.  I have come to realize that the success of the business is not necessarily  attributed to the customers.  It comes from those who work internally.  If they don’t work together and take care of that business, the customers just won’t come.  It was the same with me.  When stresses would appear in my life, my body would attempt to break down.  I would become sick or end up hurt in some way…or have some past emotional garbage try to surface.  It was in these times that I had to stop and realize (or have it pointed out to me) what was going on and to deal with the issue and press forward.  In my own weakness, I found more strength than I actually thought I possessed.

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As I said earlier, this has been my year to learn to roar.  In my study of the lion, I have realized that a roar is not a yell…it is not strained.  It is simply a different part of the lion’s voice…and is a part of who they are.  According to Nature Center Magazine, “A male lion may roar to let the other members of the pride know that all is well. The female lion’s roar is usually different than the male’s roar. They are much quieter than the large male lions. A female can call out for roaming or lost cubs, and she can give a roar to bring the other adult pride memebers back to help in case of danger.  So a lion’s roar can be explained rather simplistically. It is used to communicate with the rest of the pride. It’s like a quick status update or a call to come home.”   Solitary lions tend to stay quiet. Only those who belong to a pack tend to roar.

I had no idea until I began my studies that female lions roared.  We are always shown the male lion roaring on documentaries.  I found it fascinating that the male roar was more for status updates…the females roar, however, was to call for those roaming or lost or as an alert for danger.  Most see the female as the more docile in the pride, but it their responsibility to guard the pride and to teach the cubs to hunt.  The females of the pride do almost all of the hunting.

As I walked to the woods this morning with Friz in tow, I could feel the heat of the summer breeze hard on the back of my neck.  It is funny, my grandma used to refer to that type of breeze this time of year as the lion’s breath or the dragon’s breath.  My mind ran in circles as I got closer to the canape of trees.  As each month of this year has passed, I have become more aware of myself…not just who I am, but what lies deep within me.  I have been getting more and more acquainted with my authentic self.  I have to admit….I like this part of myself tremendously.  I have found that part of myself to be strong, compassionate and unfaltering.  I have found that part of myself to be more open to others, but uncompromising as far as who I am.  I love harder, deeper and with more abandon…but I am not willing to be bypassed or stomped on.

As I settled down into the bed of leaves beneath me, I could feel something welling up inside of me this morning.  I was feeling the rumblings of my own roar.  It wasn’t surging forward to threaten anyone.  It was leaping forth to say, “Here I am.  Like me or not, this is me and I am more than happy with where I am and what lies ahead.  My spirit is strong and my teeth are sharp.  I stand strong and will not let my heart falter.  I stand strong in my own freedom.”

Blessed Be!

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