2019: A Year of Change

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This morning, I woke up late, drank a cup of coffee, and prepared my 2020 journal. Admittedly, I’d cracked into it a few days early after running out of space in my previous notebook. A post from a friend made me return to my intentions and aspirations for my 34th year (2019) and hours later, I’m at the head of our dining room table with my scrawlings laid out in front of me, reflecting on the past year. My husband is in the living room, reading old articles he wrote for our college town’s hockey team and undoubtedly marveling at the progress he’s made in the area of sports journalism since the beginning of the decade.

2019 brought a lot of personal change. I quit my office job to pursue my passions. Thanks to a supportive life partner who earns enough to float us during this stage of experimentation, I began to reorient my life toward creative, artistic work. I took a big leap professionally, and so far, it’s working out (albeit slowly). I grappled with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and the necessity of personal discipline and practice. I made new friends and chosen family, and we welcomed our first family member to visit us in Korea.

In 2019, I rediscovered witchcraft and spellwork, things I hadn’t considered much since I first read The Spiral Dance as a college freshman in 2003, sitting outside with my pagan roommate as she cast a spell to let go of an ex. In truth, I’ve been a hedge witch for some time, slowly opening my heart to plant medicine, to my inner voice, and to my lineage. I come from a line of gardeners and artists (painters, woodcrafters, potters), from the Irish and the pre-Christian Celts of Cisalpine Gaul. This year, I opened to my lineage, though I’ve barely dipped a toe into that great river of time.

I discovered the Strange Magic podcast and a number of beautiful books on spellwork and herbs. I hosted a Mabon celebration for some friends and we made magical teas and fire cider. We practiced divination and radical sharing with tarot cards. I was nervous; it was my first time sharing these practices with others. I started writing my own incantations and spells and gave two tarot readings to others, something I was terrified to do. I’ve begun to carve out a magical life.

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2018: A Year of Magic

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The Magician, The Wild Unknown Tarot 

I’ve been learning the tarot for one year, a practice which began last New Year’s Eve when I was visiting home and joined two dear friends, Andrew and Anne Marie, at their kitchen table for a reading. Andrew had purchased the same deck that’d been sitting neglected on my bookshelf for many months, and I took this as an invitation to return to the cards. We drew a card for each month and one to encapsulate 2018; none embodied the energy of the past year quite like The Magician.

2018 was a year of magic and my challenge was learning to receive it.

Last year, I experienced a transformation; I am not the same person I had been. That year, I learned to let go of a number of habits and beliefs that had been causing me deep suffering for so much of my adult life: confusing shame for anxiety and mental moments for facts, fighting against my feelings rather than accepting them, tuning out. The year brought many other blessings. New friendships came unexpectedly, adding layers of love and inspiration to my life. I spent an hour each week for many weeks with a therapist, a kind and nurturing woman who turned my understanding of human emotions upside down and who showed me how to love and accept unconditionally – myself first, then others.

I learned what true compassion can feel like and how finding seeds of connection in others can transform relationships. I also learned to tune in with the deeper tides of experience that flow beneath the surface of consciousness; in other words, I connected with my inner child.  Throughout the year, I repeatedly drew the same tarot cards: Cups/Sea, Mothers/Queens, The Moon. The sea and the subconscious were so dominant in my mind and spirit that I had them etched into my skin so that I would never forget. I still see my dreams in shades of seafoam, the mysteries and magic of life in the crashing tides.

It was last year that I was thrown by chance onto the stage and rediscovered how theatre and the act of making a show can be deeply medicinal, spiritual practices. Through theatre, I reconnected with my physical body, from which I’d been disassociating for years but hadn’t known it. I performed in another play and won a Best Actor award. I took up drawing again, played many hours of Dungeons & Dragons, studied the tarot. I directed a short play and through that experience uncovered yet another unexpected and powerful friendship.

I expanded into the world, seeking connection and contributing what I could with the energy of The Magician, my ambitious ally. The love and passion I sent out returned in the form of new connections, a sense of community, and opportunities which are filling me with such thrill and anticipation I hardly know what to do with the feelings.

Here is the magic I came to see: the universe is abundant and cyclical as the sea. Its gifts are boundless. When your heart is open and loving, you will find that there is so very much to receive.

On Shame

I used to say, “I have anxiety.” Over time and with the support of some wonderful people, podcasts, and books and moments spent in sometimes very uncomfortable silence and meditation, I came to a deeper way to understand my difficult emotions: by recognizing that behind anxiety is most often shame. And everyone experiences shame, it’s so very human. But sometimes that shame feels really powerful. Sometimes it’s just so damn loud and its voice drowns out the voices of self-compassion, self-love, and kindness. What happens when instead of having a shouting match with our shame, instead of getting all teacher on our shame, we just sit with it and listen? What if we let shame scream its totally well-thought out, fact-driven ideas at us and then smile back, seeing shame as the sad, hurt little person it is – because our shame is us, but only one part of us – and then we say, “I hear you. That really sucks. I love you?” What would happen then? I don’t know for sure but on this long, quiet subway ride home, I’ll listen, and maybe later I’ll let you know.