The Forgiveness Chronicles - Part IV: The Circle
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The Forgiveness Chronicles - Continued
Part IV: The Circle
I never told anyone in my family that I had decided to break down and go see a “shrink.” Mom especially never believed in psychological therapy. It felt taboo that I was even seeing one, so it was yet another secret I kept.
My psychologist was a middle-aged woman in Anthropologie clothes: the long, light orange linen skirt, a sleeveless shirt that was gauzy and flowing with a lotus flower stenciled onto the front of it, sandals with matching toenails, and an array of beaded jewelry. Her graying hair was shoulder-length and wavy, her face serene with little makeup. She looked like a hippie who had made it. She sat with her recycled paper notebook in her lap, her readers perched atop her head. This was my third month of therapy; I had been coming three times a week for a while. This was also the fifth therapist I had been to. She was the only one I had found that I liked. A few had been men; it had been too soon for me to talk to a man candidly about what I had endured. I felt that they would never be able to fully comprehend what it was like to be a woman who had experienced what I had, and that any insight they might offer would be too limited. My current therapist had an extensive background in assisting survivors of sexual trauma. Even so, there was always something missing from our sessions. I never knew what it was.
“How are you doing today?” she began, staring intently at me with her gentle smile.
“The same as always,” I replied, squirming slightly on the leather couch I was sitting on. The heat from the San Antonio summer sun hit my back through the window. Even in the air conditioning it was relentless. “I feel like I am just going through the motions. I go to a job I am good but miserable at. My roommates go out a lot, but I am too tired to join them. I’m always tired…I am twenty-four and I feel like I’m seventy,” I said. “It just feels like a grind.”
She nodded empathetically. “What would you do differently, if you could imagine a life without any obstacles?”
I thought a moment. “I want to be someone. I was told my whole childhood that I would be the first female president of the United States, that I would write a Pulitzer-Prize winning book, that I would be all these things,” I said, looking back through my memories. “I was told I had all this potential, but I don’t feel like I have lived up to any of it. I’m an executive assistant in commercial construction. Half my bosses don’t have a college degree. I’m not making much money. I feel like because I am a woman, I need a graduate degree if I am to ever fulfill my potential and be able to find financial security.”
She looked up from her notes. “What kind of career do you think you would want?”
I stared at my hands. “I wanted to go to graduate school in Hawaii. I was interested in psychology, just like you,” I began. “I was very drawn to shamanism, especially in indigenous cultures of the Pacific and Pacific Rim.”
“Why didn’t you go?” she asked.
“My parents would not have approved. I had a distant cousin or something to that effect who was really smart that studied dietary habits of people in some Pacific island nation, maybe Micronesia, and I remember them making fun of it. As though it wasn’t a serious profession. I’ve always needed their approval and I’ve never wanted to disappoint them. I was worried about incurring a lot of debt, too. I guess I just didn’t have any confidence that following my desire would lead me to financial security. I was raised that financial security is incredibly important. A priority,” I finished.
She sat her glasses down on her notepad and paused. “Shamanism?” she asked.
I considered. I had never stopped to consider the ‘why’ before. “I am drawn to it. I am drawn to things that are beyond the human world, the physical senses. I feel like there is more to life than what we see around us.”
Her blue eyes were piercing. “Do you currently have a spiritual practice?”
“I was a Rosicrucian. It was lonely. I never met another person who practiced that type of mysticism. I couldn’t connect. Church never felt right; I tried going a couple times. It wasn’t for me. I have a tendency to pick apart religious dogma. I don’t like being told what to believe,” I answered.
“I don’t think you need me to heal,” she replied after a while. “We have spent several sessions discussing your trauma. Intellectually, you understand it. There is nothing wrong with your mind. You may be a little depressed, but you are not clinically depressed. Your sadness is natural, reasonable, and temporary.”
There was that word again: temporary.
“I think,” she continued, “that you’re as far as you can go – for now – in psychological healing. If anything, you excel at analyzing yourself logically. You even over-analyze. I think what you really need is to heal your heart. That is why you are drawn to things beyond your understanding. We don’t experience that kind of healing through mental means; we experience it through the heart.”
I never went to another therapist again in my life. She was right. There came a point where I could analyze and explain everything that happened in a very logical, pragmatic way. What was missing – that intangible something – was found in the realms beyond intellect that science had yet to define or explain.
As I approached mid-life, I would continue to be shown this truth in a variety of ways. It wasn’t until the third series of traumas in my life until I would finally innerstand it. We can understand things intellectually all day long, but never fully assimilate them without coming to innerstand them from the heart.
Rudolph Steiner believed there were three stages to child development: the will, the heart, and the mind. The will is developed through our bodies, kinesthetically through movement and motor control, from birth until we begin to lose our baby teeth. They refer to it as the “changing of the teeth.” Once we begin to change our teeth at the ages of six and seven, we begin to develop our relationship with emotions, our heart. This continues until puberty, typically between the ages of 12 and 14. At that time, we begin to build our identity, self-awareness, and individuality through the intellect. At every stage of development, Steiner believed that we need to integrate the body, heart/spirit, and the mind, balancing all three aspects. He criticized standard education because it over emphasized the intellect at the expense of the heart at a very young age. When this occurs, there is a tendency for society to produce human beings who are overly-analytical, critical, judgmental, and cold in their disposition. They become detached from their emotions, and therefore struggle more with integrating their emotions as adults.
Experiencing childhood trauma at the critical age of seven resulted in an underdeveloped heart center. The reason that so many adults found me to be so intellectually stimulating and were constantly talking about my potential in terms of intelligence is because after the trauma, the heart didn’t develop as it should. Emotions were repressed and suppressed, and I – rather unconsciously – focused on developing the intellect. Exploring my intellect at such a young age provided relief from a pain I didn’t understand. My Mom was also highly intelligent. She was a stay-at-home parent, and I suspect that in her own avoidance of trauma, she had overly developed her intellect as well. It was easier for her to teach us to read before the age of three or four; it came naturally for her to explain things to us in an intellectual way. There was already an underlying over-development of intellect at a young age. When it came time to develop the heart, emotions were not a priority. They were instead an inconvenience, something that brought discomfort in both she and I, and so together, we avoided them to the extent we could.
In my younger years, I would have tantrums of epic proportions. Sometimes, I was allowed to burn myself out before my parents would step in and deal with me. Other times, a “break the spirit” approach to discipline was used, where my emotions were brought under strict control by my father, who was the primary disciplinarian. I spent more afternoons than I care to remember with my nose in the corner and hot sauce in my mouth for talking back. I eventually learned that holding my tongue was best; instead, I would enter a cerebral space where I would begin to strategize and plot a way to navigate around the roadblocks in my path. I never worked out my emotions. I always shoved them away as bad, selfish, inconvenient, whatever. Art became my outlet for expressing the feelings I had, but could not process. I drew and painted from a young age. Sometimes, I would even go so far as to color on walls, just trying to express myself. As I got older, I would journal and write poetry. I often would escape and get lost for days in books. There were times in life so lonely that books were often my only friends. They provided a relief and a comfort that I couldn’t find in a playmate. They didn’t judge me, ask me questions, analyze me, or present thorny social situations for me to navigate. They provided adventure, travel, information, and possibilities no one in my life could offer me. Perhaps that is why my Mom was such an avid reader as well.
I had a somewhat large collection of books on various spiritual and religious topics. I had arrived at the point in life where I believed all religions were but different paths to the same location. The essential truths seemed to be the same to me. I began studying Rosicrucianism in my early twenties. It was a group of mystics who had compiled teachings dating back to ancient Egyptian Hermeticism. Each month, a new packet would show up in the mail and I would begin my studies.
I had witnessed some pretty unbelievable and incredible things as a child. My Mom, who had a strained and distant relationship with her biological mother, had been taken in by a woman in Denver who would later become my Gramma JoJo. During my earliest years in Colorado before my family moved to Missouri, JoJo had an immense impact on me. She was a mystic, deeply immersed in Rosicrucian studies, as well as Occultism and other Metaphysical schools. She meditated in a Golden Pyramid in her living room. My Mom’s pregnancy with me was said to have been presaged by a rubber bottle nipple falling out of a cabinet in JoJo’s home…a place where no babies existed and where there was no baby gear anywhere to be found. JoJo had powers of telekinesis. She was said to be able to move small objects with only her thought. She was incredibly psychic. Her influence sparked the belief in me that anything was possible. It was only natural that, when it came time to develop the heart-intellect connection, I followed the breadcrumbs she had left in my memories as a kid.
Mystical studies led me to ancient Jewish Kabbalah, Occultism, Mediumship, deeper levels of Astrology, Yoga, and Wicca. I devoured everything I could get my hands on. I had this obsession with constantly digging deeper, collecting books on symbology, shamanism, myths, lore, and legends, convinced that if I just learned to read the codes, I might unearth a piece of wisdom that would unlock all the answers. That inclination was partially right; I intellectually gained a deeper understanding of the mechanics of karma, energy, vibrational transfers, manifestation, and so forth. But it wasn’t until the spring of my first year in law school where I would be formally initiated into a world of real metaphysical magic and power.
At the time, I was engaged to a wealthy paraplegic man who had built himself a successful life on the back of the music industry. He was an international sort, a dual citizen, who thought himself worldly and superior to just about everyone. His sister was a television personality, his mother had her own fashion line, and his father – he claimed – had invented a critical component for the first satellite dish.
I was intrigued by his intellect and worldliness. He was more than a decade older than me, and back then, I was still looking for external validation. That someone of his stature could be interested in the likes of me had given me a temporary buoyancy I had never known. He was not the sort of man to shy away from an intelligent, ambitious woman; those were qualities he demanded because they were traits exhibited by his mother and his sister and valued in his ancestry. The problem with this man was that his temper had been extremely erratic. One moment, he would be completely content and basking in the joy that comes with a good meal and intriguing conversation. The next moment, he would we twisting anxiously in his chair, shredding apart all manner of trivialities, devolving into a fit of scathing criticisms. He looked as though he could be Mel Gibson’s brother, and would beam a handsome smile that would smooth out any edge that remained, as though nothing ever happened.
I was a total stranger to elite society, and it showed. We had come from completely different worlds. While he had spent his childhood jet-setting from one exotic destination to another and staying at five-star resorts, my family went camping next to an Ozark river every summer. We almost never left Missouri. I didn’t try sushi until I lived in Hawaii in my early twenties, and I might have never tried it if I hadn’t been pressured into eating it by my peers. His global sophistication clashed badly with my salt-of-the-earth sensibilities on numerous occasions, but none so stark as the time he took me to a high-dollar private political fundraiser. He had spent what seemed to me to be an incredible amount of money just to ensure we got to sit next to certain well-connected people at dinner. He made a show of always eating the most peculiar delicacies on the menu, in a bid to show off just how urbane his palate was. First, a plate of raw oysters was brought to the table as an appetizer. The slimy texture did not appeal to me and I politely declined. In front of the others at the table, he gave me a dismissive sneer, as though I was a child who should just feel lucky that I was getting to eat at the adult table. Next, he ordered sweet breads – which I would later learn is the pancreas of a calf – drowning in butter and cream. He held a dainty bite on the tip of a fork, offering me a taste. I had declined. He rolled his eyes and popped the bite into his mouth, making a show of savoring the meat. Foie gras (a pate made from the liver of a fattened duck) arrived on little crostini and again I took a pass. By then, his patience with me had evaporated, and he had sarcastically announced to the table that perhaps he should order his little Midwestern date a corn dog or some chicken nuggets. Everyone chuckled and I shrank on the inside as I smiled meekly on the outside. All I could think to retort was that most of the crap he was eating came from animals that were tortured their entire lives and slaughtered when they were still babies, and while that might be high class to people like him, I had my own standards. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and stared at my plate. I nibbled on my salad and sipped on my wine as the assholes I dined with looked down their noses as me, talking about the economic costs and benefits of universal healthcare, the alternative minimum tax, and what the American strategy should be when it came to negotiations concerning international shipping and trade. Snore! It was a subtle insider’s dance, but I wasn’t interested in dancing.
When we arrived back at his place after dinner, he had gone on a tirade about how badly I had embarrassed him. The litany of insults was long: I had no class, I lacked culture, I was immature and lacking in substance. He suggested that perhaps we should cancel our engagement celebration in Mexico. I stared at the suitcases laying open and half-filled on the floor. Our trip was just a week away.
He wheeled off to the bathroom to take a shower, my eyes burning with tears of shock. Once I heard the water turn on, I started rifling through his drawers on an impulse. The erratic behavior was the symptom of an illness I had seen before, dark and deep, rooted in desperation: addiction. It didn’t take me long before I found his vice, evidenced by multiple empty packets of methadone that crunched in my fingers and empty prescription pill bottles. The containers painted a vivid picture in my mind of a man who would blow through the maximum monthly allotment of the highest dose of heavy duty prescription painkillers in a matter of days, only to find himself battling withdrawals for the remainder of the month. The shakes, the tremors, the scratching and itching, the sweaty forehead and constant showers, the tumultuous mood swings…all the signs had been there, flashing obnoxiously like a neon sign, and I had been ignoring it for months…because it was a trigger. Because I had once been addicted to numbing my fear and pain rather than facing it.
The pieces began coming together, like pucks plunking into place on a Connect Four game. A scene began to unfold in my mind’s eye: to remedy the harsh withdrawals, he had visited the methadone clinic and bought doses off the patients to get him by until his next refill, leaving the addict in recovery to run to the nearest heroin dealer with a wad of cash to score his next fix. I wondered how many had overdosed, lonely and cold under a bridge, as he purchased his own purity, anonymity, and comfort. The prescription bottles told the other part of the story. I didn’t care if he admitted it or denied it. I didn’t care what the details were. All I knew is that the implications of what I held in my hands were enough to evaporate any benefit of the doubt. Addicts manipulate; they say whatever needs to be said in the moment to prevent loss, pain, and suffering. I shuddered. I had to leave.
In my shock, I didn’t hear the water turn off. I was caught off guard when the bathroom door flung open. A cloud of steam billowed out, and he emerged from the bathroom in his wheelchair, a towel across his lap, his damp hair tousled. I was sitting on the bed with all the evidence scattered about the sheets. His face reddened.
“What’s all this?” he had demanded, staying in the doorway, glaring at me menacingly.
“The narcotic addiction?” I answered softly. “We can get you help.”
He snorted. “I don’t need help,” he spat. “I’ve been like this for years. What we need is better pain management in this god-forsaken country. But I wouldn’t expect you to know anything about that.”
The comment had torn through me like a knife to the gut. “There is a lot you don’t know, that you can only assume, and you know as well as I do that assumptions can be dangerous.”
His laugh was caustic. He wheeled over to the drawers and pulled out fresh clothes.
“Where’s your compassion?” he asked over his shoulder. “Do you have any idea what it is like to be paralyzed? To have phantom pains? To have rods that hold your spine up, and the ache it causes not to be able to stand, but to sit here all day? Do you? Of course not. What do you know about pain? You have your legs. What would you have me do? Spend all day on my back?”
“That’s not what I am suggesting at all –“ I began, but was interrupted. I was always being interrupted by men who thought they knew more than anyone else in the room. He had pulled a shirt over his head and was shimmying into his pants.
“This catheter? Think I like being tethered to my piss all day long?” he spat, as he shoved the bag down his pant leg. “Not to be able to take a piss like a ‘real man’?”
I took a breath. This is the addiction talking, not him, I reminded myself. His hang ups were spewing forth in all their ugly glory. “There are other ways to deal with the pain,” I began. “This is a dangerous addiction. If you get caught, you could lose everything.”
His eyes blazed. “I built this all once before,” he said, waiving his hand around. “I can do it again.”
“Not from a prison cell,” I said, gesturing to the empty pill packages and bottles.
“I can afford the defense I need.”
An icy chill shot through my heart in a dull realization. He had pushed me to take extra classes in criminal law, and when he spoke of my future, it was as a criminal defense attorney. He had told me he could get me a job with the best firm in town. Was this why? I wondered.
“Get help or I walk.”
I was envisioning the bravery of Princess Leia even though the entire episode was stirring up my dirtiest, darkest shadows of self-doubt. I was disappointed in myself for not having seen him for what he was sooner, and I knew I it would be a mistake to hesitate in breaking off the engagement. I wondered if I had averted a crisis at trying to get through customs in Mexico with a suitcase full of drugs that weren’t completely legal. Perhaps he was planning to score some additional pills from the pharmacies south of the border. A wave of panic coursed through me. I had come so far, only to find myself right back at the threshold of addiction. It seemed that the further I thought I had come, whenever I turned a corner, it was right back there, staring me in the face.
His laugh was caustic. “Go ahead and leave,” he said. “You think I actually need you?” he looked at me in disdain. “You’re just another c*%t I picked up in a strip joint. Don’t ever forget that.”
The shock of his words was so numbing that my mind couldn’t think of a comeback, so instead of continuing the tortured conversation, I began silently packing up my things and loading my car. This only fueled his rage.
As I was dragging my suitcase out the door with an armful of books, he continued to shout angry insults behind me.
“You f*&%ing bitch! How dare you point the finger at me? Your mother is a raging alcoholic who doesn’t know how to make a decent pot of coffee!”
If I hadn’t been using every bit of fortitude to hold my shit together in that moment, that one comment would have been macabre enough to make me laugh.
The next two trips back into the house brought new rounds of projectile insults. I allowed him to rage, quietly packing up my items as quickly as I could and shuttling them out to the car while dodging missiles of degrading curses. I did one final thing on my last trip in: I grabbed his phone and swiftly deleted my number, tossing his phone into the toilet for good measure. When I left, I wanted to be sure that I never heard from him again. Some people and situations are too toxic to risk repeated exposure to.
When you ditch the fear, leave no trace, the voice inside of me said dryly.
I hoped that he wouldn’t figure out what had happened to his phone until I was safely in my car and headed back to my bed in my parent’s basement. Even the thought of that was oppressive and grim. I felt like a total failure.
Within a day, reeling from the whirlwind that came from severing a serious relationship, I was on a plane to San Francisco. The initial shock of change is worse than the change itself. I reminded myself of my priorities. I needed geographical distance between myself and the problem to gain perspective. I wasn’t running from anything. I was running towards peace and clarity, and the only place I had ever felt consistently at peace or clear was San Francisco.
On my way to the Bay Area, I read a book my mom had given me about an immigrant woman who pretended to be a man so she could start a business and amass a fortune to give her family a better life. The book took place in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Absolutely nothing was what it seemed, not then, not now, not ever. My mom had a knack for picking out the right book for the right person at the right time. Suddenly, I was hit with a pang of grief so deep that I couldn’t tell where it originated from. I realized that someday, my mother would die and I would be left on this planet without her. The lengths mothers go through to protect and provide for their daughters, only to find them heartbroken on a plane, adrift in life, contemplating the abyss beyond mortality…I wondered if she knew.
The plane skidded down onto the runway with a jolt and I was jostled out of my reverie. I couldn’t collect my carry-on bags fast enough. I was standing as soon as the seat belt signs went dim. I marched down the jet way, found the escalator, and went straight for the doors. I only had to wait a moment. Violet pulled up to the curb and threw open the door.
“Guuuuurrrrrrl,” she said deeply when she grabbed me in a tight hug. “That bastard!”
I shrugged. “I hope you have some wine at your place.”
“Sister! F*%k wine! We’re drinking tequila! Look who you are talking to!” she laughed. Her deep brown hair was cut into a short bob with longer wisps framing her face, a shocking blue strand accenting the cut. She was dressed in multiple layers – patchwork Hippie skirt over a pair of leggings and brightly colored leg warmers, a few layered shirts topped with a cardigan and a loud scarf, and long dangling earrings that matched a large stone hanging from a chain around her neck. Violet was the quintessential San Francisco Haight Ashbury counterculture woman – voluntarily uprooted from the Midwest and transplanted into a place where she felt she didn’t have to explain herself. I admired her.
The five-day escape was filled with treating ourselves to leisurely meals at little hidden gems while smoking the best pot Humboldt County had to offer, laughter, tequila, walks, Ghirardelli chocolate, and on the last day, my first introduction to “The Circle.” Violet knew how to heal a wounded soul with sisterhood.
“What’s a ‘Circle’?” I asked. The concept, for all my metaphysical and occult studies, was foreign.
Violet had told me she had invited over some of her classmates from graduate school to have a ceremony that evening with the theme of Letting Go. “You know, casting a Circle.”
“Nope, I don’t know,” I replied.
“I thought you were a Rosicrucian?” she asked, brow furrowed.
“Rosicrucians don’t ‘cast circles’ that I know of,” I answered.
“You work on telepathy and telekinesis and stuff like that, right?”
I nodded. “That’s the goal.”
“So it’s just like lessons? No ritual? No ceremony?” she was incredulous.
“Not that I have experienced,” I said. Though I’ve been sworn to secrecy, I thought. Still, I wish we would’ve had some rituals; it probably would’ve made things a lot more interesting.
“Well, the Circle…it’s hard to explain. You’ll see. Trust me,” she said shrugging off the explanation and gathering up candles.
Somehow, I was completely okay with that. It was always easier to go with the flow out there.
After dinner, women started coming to the house, which was located at a weird intersection in the heart of the city. The house sat wedged in the crook of a “Y” where one street became two. One of the women made the comment that back in ancient times, before Christianity took hold, the Goddess Hecate ruled magic, the night, dark moon, crossroads, and interestingly, it was the new moon and we were at a crossroads. She suggested Hecate should be invoked. Another woman gasped at the relevance and opined that it would totally be a powerful night for a ritual, agreeing at the Goddess’s invocation. I was intrigued and felt all the hairs on my neck rise.
I swallowed. “How do you all know this?”
One of the women smiled at me. “We’re all studying the divine feminine and its connection to creation spirituality,” she answered, as if it was as ordinary as studying biology.
Ritual to invoke an ancient goddess? I panicked. What kind of ritual? I hoped there would be no squatting over a chalice to deposit period blood for painting crazy marks on our faces or sacrificing a chicken, because I wasn’t sure how well I could fake tolerance with a headless chicken flapping about a kitchen, squirting blood everywhere. And I was in no state of mind to deal with someone else’s period. If the women sensed my apprehension, they didn’t let on.
Wait! Where are these thoughts and assumptions coming from? I wondered, suddenly checking myself. No doubt this group of women would tell me that these constructs come from the patriarchy. Probably so….
I didn’t have time to dive down that rabbit hole. Violet took us all upstairs to her room, a spacious suite overlooking the intersection below through big windows. She had laid down a couple blankets and had lit a bunch of candles. A warm glow permeated the space. Occasionally, I’d catch a whiff of sandalwood. The women gathered naturally into a circle. I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do, so I just sat down beside Violet. In the middle of the circle, a strong, spicy temple incense burned, and a couple crystals were reflecting the flickering candlelight. The women became silent and bowed their heads as though in deep meditation. Their breathing became very controlled and slow, even synchronized, their hands either folded gently in their laps or rested on their knees, palms facing up.
“Find your center,” Violet whispered next to me.
My center…where’s my center? I wondered. The terminology was far less formal than what I was used to.
I decided to just do the grounding exercise I had learned in my metaphysical studies. I hadn’t “centered” myself in a few weeks. I closed my eyes and focused on my breath until I felt calm and when I opened my eyes – I wasn’t sure how long it had been – all the women were staring at me expectantly. I flushed.
Am I holding something up? I thought to myself.
“You’re right on time,” one woman said softly, as if she had heard my thought. She gave me a mischievous smile.
Violet grabbed my right hand and I felt the woman on my other side reach for my left hand. One woman “cast” the circle by announcing that we were surrounded by a ring of light and the light was love through which no harm could penetrate. Another woman announced that the creative force of the Goddess was omnipresent and created a safe womb from which we could manifest a sacred space to give birth to our intentions. Each woman went around reaffirming the sanctity of the circle in her own way. When it was my turn, all I could think to say about a circle was that life was an infinite cycle and that I hoped what no longer served me could be transformed into something uplifting. That was better than the dark visual image I had of tossing my ex’s limp body on my mom’s compost heap back home to be devoured by bugs and weeds and churned into black dirt by the voracious heaving of the Earth. My comment was met with murmurs of approval, reassuring me that I was getting the hang of this whole ritual thing. It dawned on me that depending on the makeup of the circle, ritual was probably an organic process and that no two rituals were ever really the same. No one there had a spell book or notes or a script. The movies, as usual, distorted the truth.
Maybe women are innately made for this sort of thing.
Each woman, beginning with Violet, started by announcing what she was letting go of. There were five of us total, and each had something she was prepared to put out on the curb. Self-doubt was the first thing to hit the sidewalk. One woman wanted to change her job. Another sought to release a spirit she thought had latched on to her. Violet was struggling with her long-distance relationship and hoped that life would make a path for she and her lover to be reunited in the same city. When it was my turn, I didn’t hesitate.
“Bad relationships,” I said resolutely. “I am ready to let go of bad relationships. I’ve been bad at picking lovers, and I think from now on, I’m ready to trust the Universe to choose the next one. I’m ready to meet my soul mate, whoever it may be. In return, I promise to be open minded and accept what I am sent.”
Violet raised an eyebrow at me. “Even if it is a woman?”
I paused. I wasn’t attracted to women, but so far, my track record with men had been poor. Who are you to judge anything at this point? I scolded myself.
“Yes. I am done messing around with the wrong people,” I said with certainty. “If the right person is a woman, I surrender to that fate. I would rather be happy than lost, abused, and miserable.”
One woman reached behind her and pulled out a bottle of wine and a chalice. “I’ll drink to that!” she exclaimed.
She popped open the cork and poured generously into the cup, which she passed around. I took my large gulp and smiled with satisfaction as the wine slid warmly down my throat. The glass was filled a few more times, passed around a few more times, laughing as we refined our intentions, until there was only a little left in the bottle.
“This portion goes to the Goddess,” the woman announced, putting the cup in the middle of the circle as she poured out the last of the wine.
“And with it,” another woman said, grabbing a small vile from her purse, “is the epitome of what we shed and let go of.”
I looked around, half expecting to see a chicken, checking to make sure there were no animals to sacrifice. Then I remembered that was patriarchal construct and I was surrounded by vegans. As the meat eater in the group, I was the barbaric animal killer. I chuckled at the ridiculousness of myself.
“So where does that cup go?” I asked.
“Down the sink or into a plant,” one of the women answered. “It gets recycled.”
Everything gets recycled, I reminded myself. It’s all just compost. Fertilizer. Its symbolic, the creative life force.
One of the women, small and thin with a mop of unruly blonde curls, fixed her large gray eyes on me. “Wine is also our representation of blood, which attracts energy from other dimensions,” she explained. “Especially our ancestors back through the bloodline.”
“It’s an offering to the deceased,” an older woman with piercing brown eyes like molten chocolate said.
“How does that work?” I asked. I had heard of leaving offerings of milk, wine, honey, cake, all kinds of things…but never blood.
The woman with the chocolate eyes smiled, stray gray hairs framing her face. She was an indiscernible age. “To sacrifice something is to take a mundane thing and make it sacred. Jews do it when they butcher an animal, prepare, and dispose of the meat in ways that meet Kosher standards; they are taking the mundane, infusing it with sacredness, and in doing that, they believe that the person consuming the meat is brought closer to Deity. Muslims have a similar practice with Halal. Christians talk about the blood of Christ, as in their ritual of the Eucharist. Every spiritual group has their own way. From the perspective of the Divine Feminine, it represents the Life Force; our menstrual blood gives life to another human, and if it’s not used for creation within our bodies, its same energy can form one of the offerings we give to the energy of creation in ritual; whether symbolic or in actuality,” she explained.
“That’s why men have usually been the ones to sacrifice something living,” another woman began. “Because they do not have the Life Force, only women do, and they have been historically afraid of that power and have sought to dominate, control, and oppress it.”
I nodded and stared at the cup. The blonde woman added a pinch of salt to the cup. Violet added a small quartz crystal. When it was my turn, I grabbed my purse and rummaged, trying not to look too thoughtless. My fingers found a small glass bottle of lavender oil. I pulled off the cap and tipped a couple drops into the cup.
“For a peaceful transition,” I stated, improvising. Lavender oil was calming, and the scent had always soothed me. Even though I was totally unprepared and ad-libbing my way through, everything had come naturally and easily, as though it was supposed to fit that way.
The women nodded and murmured their approval.
The cup was lifted up and blessed, offered to the Goddesses protecting us, and then was taken downstairs to a house plant and dumped into the soil.
“It is done!” the other woman chanted as the cup was being dumped.
We went back upstairs. The curtains framing the open window fluttered in the candlelight. During the ritual, the night had grown dark. Clouds had glided in from the ocean and began to blanket the Bay. One candle went out; no one blew it out. Then the others, one by one in sequence, went out apparently of their own volition, too. No one said a word. I felt Violet and the woman next to me grab my hands. Only a faint eerie light distinguished our silhouettes from the rest of the darkness.
One of the women across from me began to whisper, “We thank the Goddesses and the Elements for their Protection and their Energy. May our Will be manifested through our Divine gift of Creation. It is done,” she said with conviction.
“It is done!” we all said in unison.
I could feel the other women releasing each other’s hands and turning their palms upward to release the energy of the circle. One by one, with me last, each got up and walked backwards from the circle. Violet turned on a lamp and it was over. No one acted like anything out of the ordinary had happened.
When the ritual was over, I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t feel changed, except that the candles going out one by one at the end had left no question of the divine presence that had existed in that space at that time. I had always been taught that this energy existed and could be controlled. However, I had never witnessed such energetic flow until that ceremony. There was something graceful in recognizing gain through surrender. I wondered if anything had happened, if any energy had moved in my life and the results were just waiting to materialize. Was this instant transformation or did it take a while? Maybe it was both. Or neither.
The following day, I hugged my friend goodbye and saw the Pacific disappear. The heaviness increasingly descended upon me as the miles brought me closer to Kansas City. I returned home, a vague energy of the ritual lingering in the back of my mind, soon to be replaced with the resumption of hundreds of pages of reading assignments for upcoming final exams in five different areas of law. I had left the fluid ocean of divine feminine and had returned to the concrete cage of patriarchy, where Father Time, Justice, and Authority was forever bearing down on me. Modern day society, with all its demands, began to crowd me, pressing in like a vice and forcing me to conform to “normal” life. I struggled to push away deep inklings of anxiety and depression that threatened to suck me down into an endless eddy of despair. What had I been thinking, choosing this path in life?
I shoved away the nagging realization that I was living my life for everyone else’s expectations, to avoid their disappointment and judgment and my perception of it. I believed I had committed too much, had indebted myself too greatly, to turn back. My friend had made her decision: to eschew the expectations of others and to pursue her path to joy, grace, and greater innerstanding of her place in the Cosmos. For all my rebelliousness, I had the sinking epiphany that I had chosen the opposite path: I had conformed. I had something left to prove…to everyone but myself. That was a harsh moment.
So, why not continue to cherish that intention, of manifesting a soul mate, someone just for me? I can choose love, can’t I? I can have something beautiful, despite all the harshness I was embarking upon, the voice inside of me soothed.
The night I returned home from San Francisco, I laid in bed stared up at the ceiling. Returning to my life felt impossible. The pressure to do something, be something, go places, succeed…it all seemed too much to bear. I had no idea what I wanted. I was exhausted from trying to “find myself” and figure out what my life *should* be like. I knew who I was, and who, in the depths of my soul, I wanted to be. I just lacked the courage at that moment in my life. In desperation and frustration, hot tears rolled out of the corners of my eyes, I flopped my arms down limply at my sides, legs splayed out, palms facing the sky.
“I’m done!” I yelled hoarsely.
Fresh, hot tears spilled down my face and rolled onto my pillow. “I don’t know what I want!” I admitted, then paused.
That’s not entirely true, my gut said, quietly, lost in the cries.
I wasn’t sure how to continue and laid there crying for a minute. I felt ripped in two.
“I just want my soulmate,” I whispered fiercely.
The depth and intensity with which I had said it stunned me into a pause.
“I don’t care who it is…friend, lover, business partner…male, female…whatever. I won’t judge. I promise not to second guess. I promise that whoever you bring me, I will accept open armed and be present enough to recognize it. Please,” I begged. “I am ready. I am done fighting. I trust a wisdom greater than my own. I surrender and I am not afraid.” The fierce whisper rose from my gut, not my throat.
Get out of your own way, goddammit! F*%k woman! Shut that damn ego off!
I paused again, but nothing else came to mind.
“So Mote It Be,” I whispered.
I squeezed my eyes shut and watched as my wish drifted like silver dust out the window toward the full moon in my imagination. It shone through the naked early spring branches of the trees. I imagined that the wish met with the moon’s light, and through alchemy I would never claim to fully understand, the wish would manifest.
After that, I fell into a deep sleep borne of emotional exhaustion, my room surrounding me in eerie shadows. I felt something leave me, and the relief lulled me into the kind of dreamy slumber I had found so elusive while studying law.
Back at school after spring break, my friends told me I needed to socialize more. I was too withdrawn. I needed to reconnect to those who had shaped me and had been a positive part of my life in the past. Being told I should do something, like a horse led to trough, I drank, eagerly allowing others to lead me around by the bit.
In 2006, it was MySpace; Facebook was new and wasn’t as popular yet. I opened an account. I didn’t know what information to put, so I didn’t have much listed, but it was a start. It didn’t take me long to reconnect with friends from college, Hawaii, and Texas. Within a week of my efforts to find old friends, I came across a guy named Chet, who I thought was an old acquaintance from high school. It was an unusual name, and that’s what had made it stand out. But when I saw the photographs, I knew it was someone else. This man made the most beautiful things out of metal and I was instantly intrigued.
How does someone make things from metal, to take such an unforgiving substance, bending it and twisting it into something new and beautiful? I was intrigued.
I decided to reach out and try to befriend this artist, since law school was leaving me with the sense that I was bartering away every shred of creativity I had in exchange for cold, brutal logic. It would be nice to have an artist friend. After emailing back and forth for two weeks, we met for a drink during a law school happy hour…with lots of people around. I’d put myself in enough sketchy situations in the past, and law school had made me so risk averse that I insisted on making him meet my classmates. It was apparent within the first hour that he was a normal person, there to have fun, and my apprehension evaporated. It took me three months to realize that he was my soulmate, my wish come true.
It was the first time I had manifested an intention, a wish, a miracle. It had happened so quickly, I was in awe. Even then, there was an inkling of doubt. Maybe it was a fluke. While I didn’t believe in coincidence, I would later learn that the recipe was simple: a deeply held desire and belief that emanates from the heart, combined with an act of will, and a dash of “right timing” (letting go of the need to control outcomes and allowing the Cosmos to determine the best timing for all involved). I had been uplifted by the love, unconditional acceptance, and joyful week with my friend. When I had been in that Circle, the women there had offered a supportive, nonjudgmental environment. I had felt a deep connection with something greater than myself…from within myself. I had willed it into being through my actions of participation in the ceremony, adding my energy, belief, and vivid visualization. Apparently, the Cosmic timing was right.
What was most remarkable, though, was that upon returning to Missouri, when I had reinforced my wish, I had immersed myself completely in my feelings. I allowed them to flow, and I didn’t repress them. I had a deep desire for a meaningful relationship not to avoid fear or rejection, but to love and share my life. I had returned to Kansas City for a reason. It was a Circle, a circuitry. Love sent always returns to us in one way or another. My heart had led me home to find love. Finding my future husband would be the thing that brought balance to my life in the years to come. The love between us had given me what I had always wanted and longed for since I was a seven-year-old girl. I fueled that love with gratitude as often as I could. It was the first time in many years where I felt my heart begin to expand. Because I had a partner in life who shared the same frequency, who also expressed love and gratitude, we connected and bonded at a level I had never before fathomed.
The thing that differentiated this relationship from all other that had come before it was that it was born of empowerment, not desperation or fear. I had tapped into the well of power deep within myself to attract a sincere desire for something unselfish: real love. My path to healing had truly begun.