The Miraculous and Unexpected Happened

August 15th last year, I found myself on a table in a fluoroscopy lab as a resident, assisted by a lab tech, took directions from another doctor yelling from the other room on what would end up being the 4th or 5th attempt at a spinal tap with my body barely responding to the local anesthesia they were using on me.  To be fair to the resident, most of those jabs weren’t his, and he would have gotten it his first time if they’d realized I needed a larger needle than most people.  The pain shot and burned around my rib cage, following the nerves there like electric wiring; it pooled in my hips and ran down my legs over and over again.

I’ve been meaning to talk about that day before now, to talk about how the pain I experienced was nothing less than ordeal work that has changed me forever.  I no longer fear pain like I did before.  I no longer worry if anything they do to me medically is going to hurt (though I still am not that fond of having my eyes touched, which happens regularly enough that I know I can get through that, too).

What I remember, though, is that my God was there for me, and in that moment of agony, I felt his hand tightened around mine.  I heard his voice tell me that everything was going to be okay, but it was important for me to experience this.

A month later He would drop the bomb that He was leaving.  Somewhere in there I handed the management of my healthcare (note: not my health, but healthcare) to Odin, who promptly lit a fire under my ass and forced me to stand up for myself in a situation where I wasn’t getting heard.  The day I saw my new neurologist, I spotted a valknut hidden on the side of some hippie van covered in flowers in town.  I knew things would work out the way they were supposed to…  I was still skeptical.

I had another follow-up about my pseudotumor cerebri two days ago, and the days leading up to it were horrifically stressful.  The only thing they’ve found helps take some people into remission is weight loss, and since I have a history of eating disorder this has been the part of this experience I’ve struggled with this most.  And to make matters worse, I had managed to gain weight instead of lose it, though to be honest beyond worrying about getting lectures from well-meaning doctors, I haven’t cared.

My appointment on Monday came with me not being able to see one super subtle thing on one of my visual test.  There were some extra beeps on my visual field test.  I was absolutely certain that my vision was going, which is the big fear of the disease.  I was sure I’d gotten worse.

I commented to my mother that what I really, really wanted to hear was that there was no sign of pressure and that it was time to wean me off the diuretic that has started to effect my autonomic nervous system and give me more heart issues than usual.  But I’ve been at this chronic illness thing for 30-some years.  I said that I didn’t expect to hear any of that; I no longer hope for the best but accept that things may not change.  That is a hard thing for someone to understand who doesn’t deal with this level of illness, but it’s the very best place one can be in coping-wise as long as they don’t let the darkness of it all swallow them…  Because that’s the danger of it.

My doctor came in, read all the tests, and checked out my eyes.  And then the very last thing I expected to happen happened…

He said the words, “I see no signs of pressure today.  I think, despite your weight gain, that your neurologist can trial tapering you off the medication.”

I started to cry the moment I got out of the clinic.  Yesterday I was prone to weeping in joy.

But as the shock has worn off, I started to realize something…

Last January my friend acting as Volva yanked something off of me in the middle of seidr, and it was terrifying.  My friend who very obviously was introduced to me in a way that I still can’t entirely believe wasn’t orchestrated in part of this story by the Gods.  But what was even more terrifying in an exciting way was that I felt something open up and start to drain at the back of my head that night.  And while the process has been slow, looking over all the reports from doctors between then and now shows that in the last 7 months the pressure in my head had started to wane where before it had been getting worse.

I rarely share publicly words from my private journal, but I feel compelled to here.  What I had asked that night in seidr was what it was that Odin wanted of me.

The answer was knowledge, knowledge, knowledge (by the end she was yelling the word).  She said she saw me with a black veil over my head.  She saw the iridescence of black feathers.  My left hand was a raven’s wing, and in my right hand was a rock.  I was standing on a labyrinth that had been smoothed by water.

It was at that point that I asked where I was to start.  First, she screamed and doubled over in pain, which…  Everyone that has ever looked into my wyrd has had this sort of reaction, or they’ve at least spoken of pain.  Much pain.  It’s pretty fucking terrible to understand that the pain I feel reaches out that far.  Someday I may get enough bravery gathered about to ask why that is…

But she told me the labyrinth was my brain…  Not my mind, but my brain.  She said something was at the back of my brain blocking “it.”  It was effecting my arms.  Then she yelled, “Careful!  Careful!”  She proceeded to feel for me, and climbed onto the ground.  She found the woman next to me, and grabbed onto something in the air and yanked.  However, I knew she was aiming for me, because when she did that I suddenly felt something dislodge and pull from the base of my skull.  I felt the pressure in my head drain.  Later she said it was like a parasitic worm that had been wrapped about my chest. – from my personal journal, 1/13/2015

I hadn’t thought much about that night in my living room where I had my first experience with seidr until this morning over coffee.  The skeptic in me is hard-pressed wonder if this was just a coincidence, but the believer in me will win out in the end.  Checking over my neuro-opthalmology notes, in January the signs that I had pressure in my head had lowered slightly just a 2 weeks after this experience.

Now those who know me in my personal life know that when I talk of the Gods, it is with belief and all the conviction that goes behind it.  There are layers there, though, where somehow I didn’t believe as much as I do now.  My utter avoidance of all things Team Heathen turned into a brilliant line of where Odin (Woden?  He’s preferring Woden lately) tipped one domino stacked against a hundred more, setting off a chain reaction to reveal that He’d always been there.  Always.

Always.

I am a mystic.  I am a believer.  And I am a woman of both science and faith…  And perhaps that “and” is sometimes more of a “but.”  While the medicine and modern science was 100% necessary and the right choice, I know that in the end this disease that has no real treatment, no cure, no explanation as to why it happens is/was in the end is managed and treated by Odin.  I may not be in remission.  I may not be able to get off some of my pills…  But part of me rests in the comfortable place where Odin has this.

Out of what feels like a million novels about the Gods and Spirits stepping into the lives of others that I feel like I’ve read, I didn’t see this coming.  And perhaps that’s what this situation has taught me the most…  There are degrees of belief and faith in the Gods.  Sometimes those beliefs don’t have to be tested.  Sometimes the Gods metaphorically pull the tablecloth out from under the dishes without them breaking over dinner, and you’re left in quiet shock, eyes bugging, because your life has suddenly became the makings of fiction.

And your heart explodes with love for Them.  You can never go back to the way things were before, but no matter what happens you also realize that doesn’t really matter anymore.

A Return to Art: Cultivating Self

Note: I am behind on my Fasti post for April, and I apologize to anyone looking for it.  I got hit with chronic illness after a bout of stomach flu, and this is the first week in almost a month I’ve felt even remotely capable of thought.  It will go up in the next couple days.  May’s posting will be forthcoming also.

Michael’s recently had a 3-for-the-price-of-1-sale on their art paper. It was about the time I had spent 10 minutes debating size and type aloud to myself while my mother and daughter stood patiently waiting that I should have maybe realized that something was amiss. When Mr. F&F inquired why I had bought so much paper, puzzling over why I needed so 3 pads, and I exclaimed “I’m going to use it!” in an annoyed manner that something was happening.

I should have seen it when I gleefully, albeit slowly, started drawing out graphic design work. I had to have had some inkling when I wanted nothing more than to buy clay to sink my hands into for the first time in ages.

I was stepping back into art in a serious manner after almost a decade.

Somewhere in storage is a giant box of supplies I never got rid of. It wasn’t a “just in case” thing. It wasn’t a “I’ll get to it later” or “when I feel like it” situation. It was hoarding things I had absolutely no plans to ever use again but just couldn’t get rid of. Or so I told myself, even if now I’m currently wondering where that box is exactly. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have known it wasn’t actually done. I wasn’t really finished with it, even if I thought I never wanted to make art again.

A few months ago, I started realizing I felt like I’ve been removing parts of other people that I seemed to absorb. All of these voices filled with judgment. They belong to people I care about, or they belong to people I cared about at the time. Friends. Family. Teachers. I know we all suffer from it, but I sometimes wonder if, because I have been so involved in the group artistic process of critique, that somehow I trained myself to take in what everyone has said and internalize it more than your average… Attempting to make myself better than I already perceived myself to be.

The problem with critiques is that not all advice you get is actually good advice. In a class setting, you find yourself getting advice from peers. Sometimes the teacher isn’t skilled or even remotely interested in the style that you are… Which is where I hit the real wall in Chicago. I internalized those critiques. Critiques I have scars inside my mouth to this day from, trying to keep myself from showing others the weakness and art school crime of feeling too much about your creation… Critiques that eventually hit too hard during the very initial days of my first mystical experiences and the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced.

I remember driving away from Chicago, watching the city’s skyline get smaller and smaller as we drove back to Iowa. I remember the bitterness of a dream I worked years to achieve not being anything like I’d imagined it would be. I remember the promises of returning to visit friends who had supported me the best they could those hard months and understanding at a very gut level that I’d never see them again. Never mind the friends that I’d not gotten to say goodbye to before leaving.

Never mind that a decade later, the voices of my teachers there have grown into the monsters that try to hold me back. I think I’m starting to understand that I internalized these voices as a weapon against myself. I feed them by listening to them.

I don’t think I will ever get rid of them, but I can learn to ignore them. I can grow back the pieces of me that I have tried to keep from growing due to fear of being judged by people I care about. It’s none of my business what other people think about me, and if they really want to be vocal about it then I need to start reconsidering if they really deserve to be a part of my life.

In the garden that is my own life, I am the one who has the final say in what seeds to allow to grow and which sprouts to pull. I have the right to remove anything that threatens to spread to the point of choking out the beauty I have planned. This is what I tell myself. This is a theme that keeps returning this year for me, and amusingly I discovered just last night that according to numerology I’m in the finalizing 9 cycle for the year.

It’s time to let go of things that no longer work for me: Ideas, habits, people.

This isn’t as easy as I would like it to be, but it’s necessary for growth. That’s what Apollon keeps telling me. That is what all the Gods, major and minor, who take the time to speak to me say. If I don’t let go of these things on my own accord, they will be ripped out from me anyway.

But as I work on removing these things, I find old parts of me buried underneath. Here is my art. Here are people who support my work and my Work. Here are pencils and paper and praise. Naysayers I’ll never see again in my life but somehow weaseled their way into my brain be damned. If we rip off the old skin, I can see the woman who has been silently healing underneath all along. Maybe a little scarred and worse for wear but complete all the same.

It’s funny how some things you simply can’t escape. You think you’ve done it, but suddenly you find instead that you’ve come full circle back to something.

Art just happens to be one of those things for me. I have officially given up fighting it.