Considering Values and Integrity in Our Culture

Integrity Word CloudAs I deepen my practice of radical mysticism, I am spending a lot of time thinking about values. I am intrigued at how the Universe is bringing serendipities into my life that are also talking about values. Especially integrity.

Integrity – the alignment of values, words and actions. Being in complete integrity is making every choice in your life based on your core values.

What does integrity look like? It’s about the choices you make in every aspect of your life. It’s about where you put your time, your energy, and your resources. It’s about your actions reflecting your words and vice versa. When your words and your actions don’t match, you are out of integrity.

Do you value the environment? Then you make choices, big and small, that put the environment over convenience. Do you value family? Then you make your family your priority for quality time and energy rather than work, addictions, or distractions. Do you value community? Then you build community through your words and your actions in everyday life rather than isolate yourself out of fear or tear people down. Do you value your creativity? Then you commit time and and energy to your art rather than give into resistance and distraction. Do you value human life? Then you give your money and resources to organizations and business that treat humans well – whether employees, local communities, or consumers – and you refuse to give to those who don’t. Do you value women? Then you support organizations and businesses that honor women and what they have to offer and refuse to engage with the ones that don’t.

Living in full integrity has got to be one of the hardest things to do in life! We are wired for what’s easy and convenient. It’s easier to take the plastic bag at the grocery store than to remember to bring a reusable bag. We are also wired to go where everyone else is going. Choosing integrity is rarely a popular choice in our culture today. We are surrounded by lack of integrity and the violation of all kinds of ethics on a daily basis. Our leaders, politicians and corporations are violating ethics. Our most popular tv shows are all about the biggest ethical violations possible – murder and sexual assault.

Which is why it makes me really happy to see a real conversation about integrity on a mainstream television show, Madam Secretary. It’s a new show on CBS with Tea Leoni as a non-politician who is chosen to be Secretary of State. I am very picky about what I watch on television. I appreciate when it is used as an artform that can address important issues in our culture, put much needed stories into the conversation, and inspire people to think critically. We need stories of healthy and strong women leaders in our cultural narrative. And we need stories where people have ethical crisis, especially in relationship to politics, where ethics hardly exist.

On the most recent episode, the Secretary of State asked her husband, a religions professor, to violate his integrity and ethics for the good of saving another person’s life in a political situation. He refused. He was angry with her for even asking, when in an earlier scene she said that a strong moral compass was a huge turn on (indeed it is!). He told her to find another way, and she did, one that did not violate ethics. That is a very unusual story line for mainstream media of any kind!

Another place I’m seeing a conversation about values and integrity is at Ello, the new social network. Their founders and funders seem to be interested in holding to certain values – like being free of advertising and feed manipulation. Which is why I’m devoting most of my online time there. Like not making the users a product, but rather selling a product to the users. If I am to be in integrity with my own values, I need to make a conscious decision about where I spend my time and energy online. My time and energy is valuable. I can either click buttons that make Facebook advertising money, or I can participate in community on Ello. I can use my value as a social networking consumer to make money for big corporations, or build up independent artists and their body of work, whether it’s creative, tech, or something else. I want to believe that there are businesses of all kinds that have integrity and reflect their core values in how they interact with the world.

We need more stories about integrity in our culture, so that more of us will believe it’s possible. We need to create a new cultural narrative around integrity and how living from our values creates vitality and meaning in our lives. Which is why it’s become so important to me to consider values in everything. I am experiencing my most vibrant, healthy and meaningful life because of my values. Practicing integrity and becoming conscious of where it’s been absent has made me a happier person.

Am I in 100% integrity every single moment of my life? No. I have places where I’m still working on it. Mostly as a consumer and in relationship to myself and my body. It’s easier to me to maintain my integrity when it impacts others than it is when it only impacts me. I imagine that’s true for many of us.

To consider: In what ways do you practice having integrity? In what ways are you out of your integrity? Where in your life are your values and words not matching your actions?

God’s Grief – Poem by Ellen Bass

Great parent
who must have started out
with such high hopes.
What magnitude of suffering,
the immensity of guilt,
the staggering despair.
A mind the size of the sun,
burning with longing,
a heart huge as a gray whale
breaching, streaming
seawater against the pale sky.
Man god or beast god,
god that breathes in every pleated leaf,
throat sac of frog, pinfeather and shaft—
god of plutonium and penicillin, drunk
sleeping on the subway grate,
god of Joan of Arc, god of Crazy Horse,
Lady Day, bringing us to our knees,
god of Houdini with hands
like a river, of Einstein, regret
running thick in his veins,
god of Stalin, god of Somoza,
god of the long march,
the Trail of Tears,
the trains,
god of Allende and god of Tookie,
the strawberry picker, fire in his back,
god of midnight, god of winter,
god of rouged children sold
with a week’s lodging
and airfare to Thailand,
god in trouble, god at the end of his rope—
sleepless, helpless—
desperate god, frantic god, whale heart
lost in the shallows, beached
on the sand, parched, blistered, crushed
by gravity’s massive weight.

Ellen Bass

Mysticism is An Insight Seeking Process

“Mystical illumination is interpreted as a central visionary experience in a psychological and behavioural process that results in the resolution of a personal or religious problem. This factual, minimal interpretation depicts mysticism as an extreme and intense form of the insight seeking process that goes into activities such as solving theoretical problems or developing new inventions.” James R Horn

Radical Altars

photo 4 - Edited (1)

I’ve had an altar in my bedroom for about 20 years – since I started practicing my own version of Wicca after leaving the Christian Church. I stopped practicing Wicca a few years later, taking pieces of the religion on with me as I created my own spiritual path. My altar has always held items of special and sacred meaning to me and provided a focal point for Sacred Time with the Divine.

Originally it looked like a pagan altar – candles, sage, an athame (ritual knife), bowl of water, purchased and home made goddess and god representations, shells, stones, a deck of Tarot cards, etc. It was a big deal at the time because I was following a path that my parents believed was sinful, harmful to my soul, and perhaps even some kind of devil worship. When my mom learned that my girlfriend brought Tarot cards into the house, she asked to bring some of her church lady friends over to cleanse my home of demons. Seriously. I let her do so in my absence because it made her feel better.

Now my altar has taken on quite a different shape and meaning. It’s primarily full of gifts from others – sacred items that were given to me by soul mates of one sort or another. There are some inherited items from my Mother. And there are a few items I purchased because they spoke to me.

The two items in the picture above are unusual and profoundly meaningful. The bottle was gifted to me about five years ago by a dear friend in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters fill these tiny glass containers with glitter and make-up collected from table tops at fundraising events they produce, as well as with the ashes of Sisters who have passed. This sacred vessel is filled with years of Radical Faerie and Sister Magic. I’m not exactly sure why my friend honored me with this gift, other than knowing that by the nature of who I am I tend to have a spiritual impact on some people in my life. But I am deeply grateful for it and always keep it in the center of my altar space.

The other item is a new addition. It;s a Kavadi spear tip. A Heart Sister of mine recently did the Vel Kavadi ritual at a tribe gathering. The ritual dance involves a framework of spears that pierce into the skin. It is a body rite that takes the dancer into an ecstatic state. Soon after the ritual, she came to Portland to stay with the family for a bit. She is going through radical transformation in every aspect of her life and needed to be held in the metaphorical and physical arms of Chosen Family who love her unconditionally. She gave me the spear tip shortly before she moved on to the next arms of tribe who would hold her while she re-forms in the chrysalis of conscious evolution. I am honored beyond words by this sacred gift.

April's Altar

Other meaningful items on my altar include:

Images of Jesus* inherited from my Mom. She and I shared our devotion to the Divine, it just looked different after I left the church. She committed herself over and over again to Jesus and the Christian concept of God. She even became an ordained minister. I believe she was almost a mystic, in that she had the deep love for God, but she could never believe in her own lovability in return. Within the framework of sin, she believed she had done too many bad things to truly be loved and held. It made me sad to witness her give her power away again and again rather than see the pure beauty of who she was as a Divine Spark. She sparkled with humor, love, devotion, strong will, and the incredible strength to reinvent herself over and over again. She deserved joy, but she couldn’t seem to find it. She died because of her relentless physical and emotional pain.

*I share my Mom’s love for Jesus. He’s still my favorite spiritual Master (when you strip away the religious doctrine that perverted his story and teachings). There is something about the powerful mythology of the crucifixion and resurrection story that resonates deeply with me. Likely because my own superpower is creative generosity. The story of Jesus is full of generosity. He didn’t fill convention centers with people paying hundreds of dollars to hear his teachings. He kept himself accessible to the poor, the untouchables, and the radicals. He did miracles for anyone who asked and believed. I imagine from his stories that he built true community, based on caring for and serving each other’s needs, rather than based on someone making large amounts of money to serve their audience.

A small bronze Buddha, a golden wax Goddess sculpture, and images of particular Goddesses whose archetypes I relate to. I like some of the Buddha’s philosophies and I am particularly drawn to the archetype of the Bodhisattva. My central Goddess image is Kuan Yin (Infinite Mercy & Compassion). Again – it’s about generosity. In this case, the dedication to work toward ending the suffering of all beings. The other Goddesses are The Lady of the Lake (Emotion, Renewal, Creativity), Selene (Moon, Bright, Shining), Isis (Mother, Giver of Life, Emotion), Hel (Fiery Woom, Renewal, Divine Mystery), Aphrodite (Spiritual & Passionate Love, Relationship, Feeling), and Inanna (Mother, Spiritual Death, Resurrection).

A fiery heart shaped pillow handcrafted by a Heart-Sister who shares my capacity for deep emotion and love. She’s one of the few Radical Mystics I’ve had in my personal life.

A stone heart from another Heart-Sister and member of our family. Camille gave me the heart as a Blessing Way gift for the birth of our Magic Baby. It holds a lot of the emotion I’ve processed from the birth and adoption.

A dream box from a friend at my last workplace – a going away gift for planting the seeds of my dreams of my adventure in Portland.

A beaded bracelet I made with a Heart-Sister at our see-you-later lunch before leaving for Portland. The bracelets represent our Enoughness, something both of us have struggled to feel in our selves. We are learning to love ourselves through acceptance rather than through constant (and violent) pushing to be better, better, better all the time.

A string of prayer beads that I crafted with a long lost spiritual community. The Radical Mystics of that community planted many of the seeds that I am now harvesting in my mystical practice and in this project.

A handmade prayer book from someone who gifted me after receiving a Transformation Doll package from my previous project, The Conspiracy of Blessings. I filled it with my favorite prayers from poets and mystics of several different spiritual traditions. I don’t pray every day. I reach for prayers when I need them.

And the picture of me as a child, on my knees praying, that I have on my About page. This reminds me that I am a God Girl – a woman who has always loved the Divine no matter how my brain and heart perceived Him/Her/It.

Part of being a Radical Mystic is having sacred space and time for connection with the Divine. Of course it can happen spontaneously – out in nature, while dancing, in intimacy with others. But the connection needs to be nurtured regularly or I start feeling disconnected from everything in my life. It’s my on-going relationship with the Sacred that makes my life healthy and vibrant. My altar reminds me of that need, to keep it as a conscious intention, and gives me a place where I can easily connect to the expansive feeling of Oneness through my relationships to the loved ones who’ve played a precious role in my mystical evolution.

I Bow To All

I Bow To All

I keep telling strangers that
to be in the presence of those
with whom you can both share
pain and celebrate just waking
is the answer to loneliness.

Such friendship makes the shar-
ing of pizza in a noisy pub and the
standing in silence as the old oak
creaks all one could ask for.

In truth, this process of being
worn to only what is raw and
essential never ends.

It’s as if a great bird lives inside
the stone of our days and since
no sculptor can free it, it has to
wait for the elements to wear us
down until it’s free to fly.

~Mark Nepo

What the Devil Tells Me

The Devil - Universal Tarot

The Devil – Universal Tarot

Yesterday I felt called to do a Tarot reading. It’s been a long time since I’ve used the cards with any regularity, which is silly because they always help me feel more connected to the Sacred and myself. I don’t use them to tell the future, I use them to find insights into the archetypal energies at play in my life. It felt good to reconnect with the cards and I plan to make readings a regular part of my practice from now on. It’d be lovely to start reading for others again as well.

Overall the reading was glorious. I tried out a new layout, one I had made note of years ago but never utilized. It’s a reading based specifically in archetypes, using only the Major Arcana and the court cards. The reading validated the archetypes that are at play in my relationships (The Empress), my creativity (The Queen of Cups), etc., and helped me see some other beauty. However, I was flabbergasted to turn over The Devil card for career.

The Devil represents the small “i”, the ego. It’s a card representing bondage, limitation, restraint. And materialism – as in being tied to the material world.

This is confusing because I see my search for work in Portland as being very much tied to my values and my higher self. While I have set a couple standards regarding base income and refusal to go backwards on my career path (I’m no longer a $15/hour administrative assistant!), I’ve been seeking only meaningful positions with non-profits and educational organizations. My mantra is “meaning over money.” This is not an ego based approach to the professional world.

Until I consider the idea of smallness – playing small instead of owning my Bigness.

Perhaps my restraint or self-imposed limitations look like continuing to pursue a regular job with a regular income rather than pursuing an independent means of supporting my family through the work of my heart. I wonder if I’m limiting myself to “secure” work by telling myself that I’m not oriented to being an entrepreneur and that I thrive in high stimulation environments with lots of people. I also say that I want to help create change in leadership from the inside of organizations. Someone has to, right? And I talk about how my creativity is motivated by generosity. All of these things are valid, high minded ideals…and I suppose all of these things could also be self-imposed limitations.

There is also the possibility that I’ve been thinking small in my search for work. While I’ve applied for several leadership positions, they have been in the comfortable zone of Operations Manager/Office Manager or even Executive Assistant (which is a leadership position when you’re the liaison for the rest of the staff). While I know I’m ready for a significant leadership position, I am afraid that no one else will think so. While I was growing into a big fish in the small pond of Humboldt, I feel like I might be a small fish in the big lake of Portland. I imagine I still have some growing to do before I can be an HR Manager or Director of Operations. But maybe that’s not true?

As I go deeper into the meaning of The Devil, I am looking for where I am playing small. I’m waiting to hear back from a specific position I’m a finalist for this week. If I get it, the question may be mute. Or at least, it will look different than if I don’t get the position. If I have to continue the hunt for work, then this question of smallness will likely impact my direction from here. Either way I do feel there is something significant in what the Devil is telling me.

Of course I remain open-minded about where the Universe is leading me in regards to Radical Mystic. I know there’s a project here. Whether it’s a project from which I could one day make a living, I don’t know. I just know it isn’t that time yet. I need to develop the project. I need to build a community. And I need to do so without the shadow of money over my head.

Radical Mysticism through Relationship

Transformation Card from the Universal Tarot by M. Miller

Transformation Card from the Universal Tarot by M. Miller

“Intimate relationship is arguably the twenty-first century’s ashram. It’s not, however, a retreat or refuge from everyday life, but a transformational growth center located in the very midst of it, offering experiential courses in whatever generates and deepens intimacy, courses uniquely fitting for those entering its domain.

Its goal is not transcendence, but full-spectrum intimacy, not only with your partner, but also with all that you are — dark and light, high and low, petty and noble, deep and shallow.

If you are seeking transformation, you need look no further than doing what it takes to fully be in such relationship. This is a great undertaking that asks much of us, and gives back more than we can imagine.

The path isn’t neatly laid out, because we, with our partner{s}, are cocreating it as we deepen our intimacy, stepping into and embracing a trailblazing mutuality, without having to know where we’re going.

Implicit in this is a rare trust, an ongoing, shared willingness to bring not only our very best to the relationship, but also to expose our worst — not to be acted out or otherwise indulged in, but to be faced and integrated and related to in ways that serve our relationship. Nothing in us gets left out — it’s all part of our relationship. This is more than possible when — through our work on ourselves — our relationship becomes both sanctuary and crucible, a place of deep healing, care, life-enhancing challenge, and a love that pervades all that we are.” Robert Augustus Masters

Intimate relationship has always been one of my primary interests in life. I started reading Leo Buscaglia’s Love books when I was 15. While I spent years in unhealthy relationship patterns due to the environment I was raised in, I was always motivated by a desire to experience deep, healthy, abiding love with others. Not just with one life partner, but with family and friends as well. Community relationship. I could feel the potential in love that went well beyond our infatuations, romances, and attractions; beyond our traumas, dramas, and defensive patterns; beyond everything our culture says is intimate relationship in the 21st century.

I also felt relationship could be a spiritual, healing practice. However, while every relationship I had gave me opportunities to grow and heal, many of them also came with a hell of a lot of hurt. Often I was in the crucible, trying to heal, and my partners were in the shallows, interested more in fun, sex and comfort than conscious evolution. They provided the burn for my refinement, but they did not desire to go through the refinement process with me in order to refine themselves or the relationship.

Until Camille and Jen, my partners in the Impropriety Society. Although they were business partners, they were willing to work to get to the love, with each other and with others in the community. Our partnership refined all of us in profound ways, and built the foundation for this precious family we’re nurturing.

Then I discovered the jewel in the heart of my fiance, Eros, and he showed me his willingness to work to get to the love. We have healed significant aspects of our ourselves within the crucible of our relationship, especially through the pregnancy and adoption. We have grown immensely as individuals, and grown our relationship into something neither of us really believed was possible.

I now strive to approach all of my relationships as a mystical experience, as a way to dance with God. Instead of looking for God in an ashram, temple or church, I look for God in the people I love.  And I’m striving to look for God in everyone I interact with, directly or indirectly. Perhaps you could say the world is my temple and the 7+ billion people on it are my teachers.

The God of Life, the Spark that connects All That Is, is innate in all of us. It’s the sparkle in our atoms that communicate with each other. It’s the consciousness that animates life in ways we have yet to understand. And maybe we never will. Maybe that’s part of the experience we’re here to have, faith in the unseen. Maybe if we figured it all out we’d be bored and have no where else to go with our evolution as part of this ever expanding, increasingly complex Universe.

Whatever God really looks like, it’s finding this meaning in my experiences that keeps me resilient. I’ve had more than my fair share of traumas that could have broken me. It’s my experience of God, no matter what shape it’s taken (the Father of Christianity, the Mother of Paganism, the Consciousness of the Universe, my Beloved), that has allowed me to turn every trauma into something beautiful. It’s my work in psycho-spiritual development that has created the emotional health, joy and peace I now experience nearly all the time.

The Gift of Adaptability

I am grateful that one of the tools I was born with is adaptability. Change is rarely difficult for me. I do not fight it. I do not suffer because of it. I adapt to new information and new situations very quickly. It can actually be a source of frustration for those close to me, because sometimes my mind changes on the spot and they’re still reacting to where I was a minute ago.

The gift in adaptability is less resistance to what is, which equates to less suffering. If I don’t resist change, then I don’t suffer. That doesn’t mean change isn’t painful. It often is. But there is a difference between pain and suffering. While I may have to live with pain, I do not have to create suffering out of it by resisting change, fighting what is, or wishing things were different.

Today I am adapting to new ideas about where Radical Mystic is headed. While I’ve had frustration with my lack of writing lately, I have also experienced multiple epiphanies regarding my next creative project over the past few weeks. I realize now that I am in a state of pregnancy – forming something new that has yet to take its full shape. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work in the unseen to birth something new into the world.

I believed I wanted to write a memoir, yet I’ve been struggling with getting into the nitty gritty of planning a book. I thought I was merely experiencing typical resistance. However, now I believe I’m in incubation and a bigger idea is just starting to take a distinct shape in it’s development.

When I was a young University student, even though writing was my primary form of expression at the time, I always desired to do something more complex. To combine styles and forms and create in multiple dimensions. To bring writing and theater together in performance art. To bring theater and visual art together in a community art experience. All of my former projects were multi-dimensional. The Yoni Endeavor was sculptures, digital paintings, web design, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and blogging. The Conspiracy of Blessings was multi-media art, blogging, and community building. The Impropriety Society was multi-media art, graphics and web design, writing, blogging, event production, leadership, and community building. After these years away from actively creating something other than a child and family, I needed to remember that I am turned on by complexity.

Another factor I needed to remember – I’ve always been an immediate gratification artist. I enjoy creating a collection of small creative projects that take hours or days each, leading to a larger creation based on the cohesion of the pieces. The idea of taking months or years to produce one object is really rather horrifying to me.

So the idea of writing a book – words only, crafted over months or years of time – does not ignite a fire inside of me. But planning a project – designing a website and graphics, writing content in a variety of styles, discovering the possibilities of video and audio and collaboration with others, all with an on-going production schedule – this ignites me. The last few days have seen pages of development notes, full of inspirations from nearly everything and everyone I engage with.

Developing a project, in real time online, without a direct intention to make money from it, is also in line with my super power of Creative Generosity. I have never and will never create with the intent of getting paid. I can’t. That’s just not how I work. That doesn’t mean I won’t develop ideas for exchange or accept money for creative work that I do; it just means that I operate from generosity first. I create and give away what I create because it makes me happy to do so. Generosity is both my bliss and my rebellion, a significant aspect of my radical mysticism.

I am rediscovering and following my passions. In response, I feel the Universe dancing with me through serendipity. In adapting to the Divine’s lead in our dance, I am experiencing the magical support so many teachers have claimed is out there, waiting for us when we get clear on our creative desires. It’s been a long time since I felt this way and it feels fantastic.

Next step: my own domain name.

Living With Integrity

I am embarrassed to admit that I have utterly failed at establishing a regular writing practice. While I have good reasons, like giving most of my energy daily to holding a dear friend in grief and transition the past four weeks, I have failed to align my actions with my words. Which is why this post is about integrity. I need to find my way to integrity in regards to writing; which I say – in my heart and with my lips – is really important to me for a multitude of reasons. Yet I am letting resistance and lack of discipline win.

On the other hand, I am a finalist in a position with the Department of Integrity at Oregon Health and Science University. I feel a lot of potential in this particular position and it’s rather incredible how it lines up with my pursuit of integrity in my personal and professional lives. Despite occasionally feeling fearful about survival and my dependence on the Mamas, I have maintained my integrity in my search for work, only pursuing non-profit and education positions that align with my core values. I am grateful that my family supports my integrity in this way. No one has pressured me to broaden my search just so we have more money coming in or can get into a house sooner.

A focus of my evolution in recent years has been moving towards living with complete integrity; agreement between my words, my actions and my values in all areas of my life. If I claim to be eco-conscious, then I need to make my choices based on that value rather than convenience. If I claim to prioritize meaning over money and doing good over ambition, then I need to find work that reflects those values rather than going where the money or prestige is. If I claim to love myself, then I need to make choices that keep me from emotional harm rather than carelessly put me in the midst of it.

In my professional life, integrity became the theme of my last position. Integrity was one of the core values of the company. As the Operations and HR manager for a behavioral health clinic, it was my job to maintain our division’s integrity with our funders, our corporate office, our families, and our team members. It was also my job to enforce integrity, in that I had to coach and sometimes discipline when team members were not following the policies and/or procedures they were responsible for. I strove to do so with kindness and a generous spirit, while at the same time treating everyone equally in enforcement of the rules.  This is why working for a Department of Integrity seems perfect for me at this point in my professional evolution. I imagine my conscious pursuit of integrity would be an asset to their work.

Now I need to find a sustained writing practice that brings me in alignment with my integrity around writing. I know writing improves my emotional health, exercises my brain, and feeds my soul. I know that I am being called to write, to share my/our story, and to deepen the concept of a Radical Mystic. Though I haven’t been writing, I have been struck with epiphanies and inspirations regarding both the book and community building. Though it’s been mostly internal, there has been significant forward movement, including identifying the specific message that takes my memoir from personal to universal.

I am doing my best to trust the process and uproot the fears that feed the impulse to resist. I’ll continue to work toward establishing a disciplined writing practice, but I’m letting go of the idea of posting a certain number of posts in a certain amount of time. While that strategy seems to work for others, it did not work for me. What’s new? A lifetime pattern, one that I mostly appreciate, is that I have to find my own way of doing everything. The Rebel archetype is strong in me. And I can only find my way to integrity by being true to myself.

Day 12: Going Numb & the Unheralded Effort to Return

“That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us.

Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they’ve closed, to open our souls once they’ve shied away, to soften our minds once they’ve been hardened by the storms of our day.” ―Mark Nepo

A friend of mine posted this quote to my wall on Facebook a few weeks ago because it made her think of me. I imagine she thought of me because I went numb with fatigue, pulling back from nearly every thing and everyone in my world two years ago.  And I hope because shenow sees how I am opening my heart again.

Fall 2012. The D/s relationship ended that took me on a dangerous trip with demons and addictions in the driver’s seat. I saw Daddy’s addiction to taboo sex early, one of the red flags I chose to ignore,but I didn’t realize I was addicted to the havoc his sadism wreaked in my heart. It wasn’t until I found myself on my knees on my living room floor in the middle of the night, sobbing because he only gave me 5 minutes of his attention that night and I was desperate for more. I would have done nearly anything for more. It was a few days after that night that he ended it and something in me broke.

I stopped writing. I stopped talking. I stopped spending time with people, or when I did spend time I wasn’t as intimate, affectionate and open as I had been. Friendships suffered. My relationship with Chris suffered.

I suffered from too much pain, both emotionally and physically. The Fibro was flaring up for the first time, taking away my sleep andmy physical and mental capacities. More significantly, my heart was battered and bruised from a series of challenging relationships that ended badly, the one with Daddy being the final straw. I hit bottom in my addiction to masochism and playing the martyr. I was giving myself to people who used me, neglected me, and treated me carelessly. I used a quest for spiritual evolution through vulnerability as justification to put myself in harm’s way. While I can’t accuse anyone else of outright abuse during that time, I abused myself by making myself vulnerable to people who took advantage of the gifts I offered and treated me badly.

The withdrawal started just before the news of my pregnancy. Then I withdrew further into myself in order to give our baby the optimal conditions for life. The combination of Fibro and pregnancy wasn’t aschallenging as I feared it would be, but it was far from easy. And the emotional roller coaster of giving our baby for legal adoption (not yet knowing how beautifully we would become co-parents) took allof my emotional resources to process. It took everything in me – my strength, my grace, my patience, my love for the baby – to care for myself both physically and emotionally so as to keep the baby from experiencing too much stress. I could only allow bits of feeling at a time in fear that my heart would be crushed if I let it all in at once.

It took 5 months after Lake was born for me to stop feeling the heaviness of grief. There were many ways I felt numb and hardened, unsure that I could be, or even wanted to be, vulnerable to anyone again. But that time was also a time of deep healing. In the months I had off from work I processed everything. I found the gifts and meaning in my experiences. I recognized my addiction to masochism and decidedto make different choices for myself. I also experienced tremendous gifts of love and friendship during the pregnancy, birth and after. Ilearned that I don’t have to suffer or hurt to grow. That I don’t have to work or serve to earn love. That relationships don’t have to be boxing matches between each other’s wounded places.

The biggest surprise in my unheralded effort to return is falling so deeply in love with Chris. Our relationship changed and deepened withthe birth of our baby and the process of orienting to this new familywe’ve co-created. Somehow our time apart the last few months has brought us even closer, deepening our desire and commitment. With his love as a foundation, I am opening my heart.

Now I am here, making myself vulnerable again. The walls are coming down as time goes on. I am practicing how to reach out with affection. I am letting the right people back into my heart and learning how to set boundaries. I am learning to manage my energy instead of giving my power away and moving at everyone else’s whims. And I am writing.

I feel strong and brave and rooted in love. It’s a grand place to be.


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