‘You don’t know the depth of your strength.’ Regards, A Burnt Out Match

Allo beloved,

How’s it gwan? How’s the new season treating you so far? I’ve been in a bit of a pit, to be honest, with lots of things touching uncomfortable spots that take me back years and years to places I’d rather forget I was in, ever, actually. But here we are. Everyone else who is struggling – I see you, and we’re not dead yet. Finding Steady Ground has a lovely thing that I find helpful in dark political moments.

The beginning of my autumn, maybe like that of some other humans, has been an emergency lesson in self care. Have you ever tried to make a list of things that make you happy, calm, joyful? I did, last week, because I quit drinking. Yeah, really. No, not forever. Making my ‘Activities That Bring Me Joy‘ list was so hard, it’s still barely half a page long. This led me to realise that, without beer, my life is without real restful chill, and without much ‘fun’. Yes, ‘fun’ in quotations, like I’m fucking 300 years old. I mean all I do is work, sleep, drink beer. And now I’m not even drinking beer. 

 

I’m determined to figure out how to decompress from my every-waking-minute work life (working at home + work is also life’s passion + no other hobbies + shared projects with lover = burnout), how to rejuvenate myself, without using booze to numb myself from my stress, my fear, my feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

So, I need ‘Activities That Bring Me Joy’, minus my projects (because I need activities that will refill my cup of energy for my projects), and minus beer. Over a week I managed to add:

Perfectly perfumed bath,
Perfectly perfumed shower,
Making perfume (I’m into smells, yo),
Walks in the woods,
Deep talks with people I love,
Reading,
Time with my sister,
Listening to my parents’ records,
Tea and biscuits,
Lying down with loud electronic music in my headphones,
Connection with The Ineffable,
Gardening,
Naps,
Sex.

But there are no deep talks with people I love, because I spend 90% of my time alone. I have no idea how adults make friends. I put doing my work above Skyping my foreign beloveds. My sister is 2000 miles away, and lately I even feel foreign to The Ineffable. So challenge uno has been my crippling loneliness. There’s no easy fix, really. It’s not just moving away from England or working from home or being really very fucking weird, it’s a loneliness that goes down to my core, to my youngest years. It’s more than one love letter can contain, but I guess I’ll update you as I figure that one out, yeah? Sweet.

My next challenge, and a smaller one given the context of challenge uno, was using the energy that beer sopped up to do some of my growthful and joy-making activities. Easier said than done, as it requires various degrees of life re-structuring, but that’s okay, small steps. I’ve found coffee shops that soothe me (I love Campesino on Waugh, if you’re in the neighbourhood), had deep conversations with a beloved friend, moved slightly, only a crack, out of my shell for deeper new connections, and I bought Hobnobs and LUSH products, so a cup of tea or a bath is now a headline achievement in self-compassion. GO ME.



(Something I made for fun…a year ago! – Autumnal hag goddess, air-dry clay & acrylic paint.)

In trying for a deeper ‘connection to the Ineffable’ I’ve been doing a little offering and a meditation most days. I won’t lie and say I’ve managed to wrest myself from my work to do this every day, but it doesn’t take long so I do try to make a go of it. I light candles and incense, I ground and center. I leave my used matches to burn down in the empty case of a spent tealight, then I meditate or do some small spellwork. 

There’s a rarely contested idea in witchcraft general that one shouldn’t blow out a candle, but rather snuff it. I don’t adhere to this with candles (except when I do), but I always let matches burn down of their own accord. This week I did all the usual and went about my work, assuming that my used match would snuff out against the tealight case quickly. It was maybe twenty minutes before I noticed something in my periphery; a flame, a really quite big flame… That match, still burning in the tealight case. I hadn’t spotted the little leftover wax in there, which I suppose the flame was using as fuel. Impressive!
I decided there wasn’t much wax, so it’d burn out shortly and didn’t require more attention.

Alas, ten minutes later, the match is still on fire. 

I meditate another twenty minutes, and the match is still lit.

It was an hour and a half before that match and it’s drop of old wax finally stopped burning.

“Imagine that I know – not with my intellect but in my body, my heart – that I do not stand separate from the sand dollar or the fossil; that the slow forces that shaped the life of one and preserved the other under the deep pressure of settling mud for cycles upon cycles are the same forces that have formed my life; that when I hold the fossil in my hand I am looking into a mirror.”

This passage, from a Starhawk book that a truly beloved woman recommended me, really affected me last week. ‘Everything in existence is a mirror for myself’. I’ve heard the idea before, but never ruminated on it, worked with it, you know? It was still fresh in my mind when I lit my candles, and while I waited for that peculiar match to burn out. That ridiculous match, the match that shouldn’t have held a flame that big, or for that long. I saw myself reflected in it’s burning on little-to-no fuel. Worst of all, most uncomfortable of all, I saw a part of myself that I’d never recognised – burning fiercely, even after I am sure I am spent, even after I am sure I am destroyed, done for, nothing left. See how I underestimate the depth of my own resources!

“Or better, imagine that you are with me on that beach; that we are together (as we are); and that when we look into each other’s faces, we see (as light is both particle and wave) ourselves mirrored and yet transformed by each other’s unique, independent being; that we value the mystery of each other’s being, which can never wholly be known, that we honour in each other the richness of our difference, honour that which we cannot predict in each other, that which makes us free.

And let us imagine that we are not alone, that we are together with our friends, out children, the people we love. And because we are aware of this world as returning, the forms of our thoughts flow in circles, spirals, webs; they weave and dance, honouring the links, the connections, the patterns, the changes, so that nothing can be removed from it’s context.
Even God.”

(Starhawk – Dreaming the Dark.)

That strange match & it’s strange fire has soothed my loneliness some. My barriers and edges have softened, edges between me and the match, me and the flame, me and the tree, me and the lady at HEB, me and the homeless man on the corner. That match is so much ‘me’ it knows me better than I do; there it is, showing me parts of myself that I had never seen. It showed me the incredible depths of my strength, my ability to keep glowing, even just faintly, when my resources are low. That I might think I am spent, I am done for, but really I’m definitely not, & to glow a little dimmer today does nothing to lessen my glow tomorrow.

And if everything reflects me back to myself, then I reflect everything back to itself, how can I carry on feeling lonely? 

 

(drawing from last week, ‘Sun and Moon/Knot.’ An attempt to balance pushing/doing, with dreaming/being.)

So anyway, here I am, fudging through it all, however I can. Glowing more brightly some days than others, but not snuffed out, not yet anyway.

I’m doing Inktober this year on my Instagram, in a self-indulgent way, I pick whatever prompt I feel like from the plethora of prompt lists out there, then I add a randomly picked entry from Barbara G. Walker’s ‘Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects.’ It’s a lot of fun, albeit also a lot of time and effort, which is another good lesson in balancing for me.

Here’s my October 6th entry, ‘Snake/Palladium,’ related to all of this glowing/dimming, with a special prayer to Snake for those of us struggling with ‘recent events’:

“Snake, lend us any venom we need to protect our selves, our beloveds and our sisters from those who would hurt us. Lend us nurturing rest & comfort in your dark womb, regeneration as we shed old skins, & altered, wider sight, so we can see how to grow, come together, rest, grieve, build anew, everything we need to envision better.

So mote it be, amen, aho.” 
(my Prayer to Snake.)

 

I’m giving away free prints of this for anyone who feels like having Her around would help them, protect them, give them strength. If you’d like one, please just drop me an email with your address and I’ll get it to you as soon as I can. All I’m asking is for you to pay postage from Texas!

So has the world-mirror taught you, about you? Not the kind of learning from reading things written by other people, or from other people telling you things, not that at all. The kind of felt learning, where you learn things through being with the world.
Can you imagine learning something about yourself from an old match, or a seashell, or a second-hand jumper? (And is it hopelessly romantic of me to imagine these kinds of things being possible?!

Answers on a postcard, please! You know I love speaking with you. You’re such a blessing to me, thank you so much for reading. Please be gentle with yourself, cupcake, until next time.

All my love,
-Cathy

P.S – Really, if you like it, do drop me an email for a print!

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