Weighed down by burdens

Still, I trudge forward arms full

Tasks undone, not fun

When Othala is reversed

I’ve been working with the runes lately to try to gain a deeper, more personal understanding of them (so don’t have to keep referring to the books). In the past week I’ve drawn Othala reversed three times. The first time it was paired with Perthro so I focused on how the lots cast at one’s birth, one’s orlog, worked with ancestral inheritance and home. The second two times Othala reversed was paired with Elhaz/Algiz. This puzzled me because clearly I wasn’t understanding how their energy worked together. Then as I was watching a movie it clicked – in this instance Othala reversed represents having an unsafe, dysfunctional home life and upbringing. Elhaz is often described as representing self-protection, shielding or sheltering oneself. That’s when it clicked! Elhaz and Othala reversed were telling me that when one’s childhood or home life felt unsafe then the need to feel protected and shielded grow even stronger.

In my own life I’ve seen this come into play quite clearly. My parents might have loved me but for a variety of reasons my childhood left me feeling unsafe and unprotected. This has resulted in the adult me creating very strict rules and boundaries for myself. I cannot abide hypocrisy or lying. If I find that a friend has lied about something (even if it wasn’t to me) it makes me question their integrity. For many years I viewed marital infidelity as the ultimate betrayal and tended to avoid anyone I knew who had cheated on a long-term partner (I’ve managed to become less judgmental about this but not much). I find it very difficult to separate unethical behavior from my feelings and judgments about someone. For example, if I learn that a Hollywood actor, director, etc. has engaged in a behavior that I find unethical (such as Elia Kazan betraying his friends and colleagues to the House Un-American Activities Committee), I cannot enjoy their work anymore. I will not knowingly watch an Elia Kazan movie because I find his behavior in that instance so reprehensible that I believe he deserves to be stripped of any accolades he has received. I cannot separate his work from his behavior. I have the same problem with Roman Polanski, although the woman he raped as a teen has forgiven him.

I believe I develop such an unyielding approach to these matters because ethics and morals were so malleable and porous in my childhood. I felt so unprotected and at-risk (Othala reversed) that I developed a personal security that would allow me to feel a measure of security and protection (Elhaz). Realizing how this trait developed can now enable me to relax it a bit. I’m no longer that at-risk child. I don’t need such strongly defended shield walls anymore. I’m much better able to defend myself. Seeing this pattern will hopefully help me change it where necessary moving forward and allow me to recognize similar patterns in others. I may not be able to change this behavior in others (in fact there are certainly going to be occasions where it would be dangerous to do so) but at least it helps me understand what type of situation I’m addressing.

I have spent the last six years caring for my ailing mother-in-law. In that time I have seen her deteriorate from a semi-independent woman who needed assistance such as preparing meals and handling other household tasks to someone who needs help with the most basic facets of life. It saddens me because in her prime my mother-in-law was a fiercely independent woman. Despite the fact that she has a developmentally disabled son, she never asked for help. Now she is unable to walk without assistance. What makes it both sadder and a relief is that she is unaware of how helpless she is. She is like an infant – knowing only that she needs something and relying on someone else to provide it.

Dark Goddess Death

I feel like Death’s handmaiden. I am not in any way contributing to this process (although dealing with this has given me a new appreciation for euthanasia). My task is to calm her, provide what she needs (to the best of my ability) and try to ensure she’s not alone if/when her time comes. Having said all of this, I cannot help and will not justify the resentment I feel about this situation; the rage that flares up inside me at unexpected moments. The desperate wish I have that it would all just be over and I could reclaim my life again.

I am no saint or martyr. This current situation is intolerable to me. I detest it with every fiber of my being. Sometimes I practically vibrate with it. Every effort made to find assistance from external sources (government agencies, visiting nurse services, etc.) has either proven to be a dead end or beyond our financial means. I’m not willing to put this woman, who spent much of her life caring for family members, into a nursing home where she will be strapped down and drugged until her body can take no more. I may hate the lack of control and independence I have in my life right now but I would have that situation even more. I also don’t think I could forgive myself for it.

Well-meaning friends and acquaintances have spouted various platitudes about some divine being who does not give us more than we can handle. Generally my response is either a pained grimace or a colorful rejoinder which includes various profanities (depending upon how well I know the person). I bitch and moan to anyone and everyone who will listen, including the indifferent gods whose existence I honor. I get it – this will end when it is meant to end. However I must reiterate that it sucks beyond measure.

The main take-away I’ve gotten from this experience is a fierce determination not to find myself in a similar situation. I have no one that I can count on to care for me if I end up like my mother-in-law. I’ve also seen the various nursing home facilities available for elderly people in this condition and the reality is that if a family member is not a regular visitor and if one’s health coverage doesn’t provide enough benefits, the patient/family member ends up ignored, neglected, and even abused in some circumstances. That thought gives me nightmares.

Wheel of Change Death

I don’t believe we deal well with death in our modern culture. We fight it with a desperate determination that often results in circumstances like this one. The body keeps going because medical technology can maintain the status quo but it can’t do much to stop the progress of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. So the body is kept alive and as healthy as possible while the mind continues to disintegrate.

Support services for caregivers who are tending to family members in this condition are minimal and (in my experience) woefully inadequate. It’s wonderful that there are support groups, but if I cannot leave the family members alone how exactly do I attend? Home visits from doctors? Oh sure they still happen, just not in this part of the county. Home care assistance? It’s available but not to my mother-in-law because she’s not on Medicaid. My brother-in-law (who is deaf and retarded) is eligible but services cannot be activated without a doctor’s approval. No doctors make home visits in this area and he will not leave the house without a serious fight. It’s a Catch-22 that leaves you bitter, exhausted and defeated. I hate it!!! In fact, I cannot stress how much I hate it. The only thing I would hate more is to have to institutionalize these two people that I love. I accept that. It’s the trade-off I make in my life. I’ll put things on hold to tend to them and I can still face myself in the mirror and sleep at night. It’s not a perfect situation but it’s the best I can do right now.

So if there is anyone else out there who has found themselves in similar circumstance, please know that you have my respect and admiration. It’s a thankless task that is fairly unappreciated by the wider society. Make sure you keep in touch with friends somehow or else the isolation with warp you. Take care of yourself. Even if all you can do is spend 10 minutes every day one yourself, treat that time as sacred. I’ve done the “giving my all to the relatives” trip and burnt out quick. I have found the work of Jennifer Louden and SARK to be inspirational and helpful in dealing with all of this. I still find it difficult to balance time for me with their needs but I’m stumbling along and finding ways. And if your choices are different than my own and you had to make the agonizing decision to institutionalize your loved one, please know that you have my sympathy and support. No one else can understand what you went through and how difficult it was for you to make that decision. Don’t allow anyone to shame you because of it. We are all just doing the best we can in this life and shouldn’t be held to someone else’s standards or expectations.

Greenwood Hermit

 

For some reason today I’ve found myself pondering the energy of The Hermit. I can certainly see the challenge of forging ahead and searching through the unknown to find a path. However recently I’ve begun to see a shadow aspect of The Hermit – the madness of solitude. I’ve come to realize that solitude can provide one with an opportunity for deep insight and self-discovery, or it can push you past the breaking point. It can produce a situation where madness licks at the edges of your mind because the solitude has become unbearable. There have been times recently where that kind of madness has brushed against my mind.

Secret Forest Hermit

It has made me appreciate the sense of isolation and aloneness felt by caregivers of various stripes from stay-at-home parents to those caring for ailing family members. When the circumstances are such that socializing or time alone are just not in the cards, that’s when the wings of madness flutter close. Social networking can help relieve some of this sense of isolation and aloneness but it really is not substitute for human interaction.

Thoth Hermit

Of course I speak from personal experience. My life over the past few years has been a long example of the madness of isolation. In caring for my in-laws, a situation has been created in which I am usually alone with no adult interaction (as much as I may love my in-laws they are not capable of adult conversation at this point). I rely on phone calls and instant messaging to keep in touch with friends but sometimes it’s just not enough. Even when I’m talking or texting with friends I’m still in the same crazy-making environment.

Wildwood Hermit

Perhaps madness caused by isolation is also initiates creativity. I have certainly had moments when I become very creative trying to find ways to alleviate the solitude. History is littered with tales of creative geniuses who isolated themselves in pursuit of their goals. There can clearly be times when isolation and solitude produce a positive result but when it is the result of external forces I have a feeling that is when madness comes to call. The relentless, oppressiveness of forced isolation can push us over the edge. We might indeed be exploring uncharted territory and forging a new path but eventually all our efforts at distracting ourselves and alleviating the aloneness fail and we’re left lost in the woods with no recourse. Howling at the moon may be fun with a pack but when you’re alone in those woods you can feel a prickle of fear as worries of impending madness assail you.

Have you ever wished for someone to die? I don’t mean that quick thought that flashes across our mind towards someone we hate or who has hurt us; that “I wish you were dead” moment. I mean hoping for the death of someone you love; someone who is suffering? I’m in that position right now.

Someone I care for deeply is nearing the end and there is no making her better or improving her condition; merely a slow, steady deterioration. On a daily basis I find myself hoping that that she just won’t wake up one day. The reality is that her death is inevitable (aren’t all our deaths actually inevitable?) and probably much closer than I realize. Unfortunately the lingering slowness of her departure is draining me and my hubby and can’t be fun for her either.

Every time this thought crosses my mind I feel awful. I’m starting to consider myself a horrible, heartless person but the reality is that I completely understand why some people believe in euthanasia. People babble about quality of life and how we don’t have the right to take someone’s life. Why? If someone is going to die anyway (and once again, death is inevitable for us all) then why not limit the suffering and misery such a lingering process brings?

Modern medical technology can extend the body’s life span but it can do very little for the mind. Alzheimer’s and dementia seem to be even more prevalent now because people live longer but not necessarily healthier. Perhaps this is the end result of our relentless pursuit for longevity. We refuse to accept that we are meant to die, ignoring the fact that very often the extension of our lives often results in lingering, miserable existences in our old age. As a result of this tendency, I am left in a position of hoping that someone I love will go to sleep and not wake up.

This makes me feel awful, hateful and horrible. What kind of person must I be to hope for such a thing? My opinion of myself is not exactly very high right now. It’s not that I want her to die, it’s simply that I realize she’s going to die eventually and if the remainder of her life is in this miserable, dependent state I’m sure even she would prefer it end. This is not who she was when she was 5 years ago and that woman would not want to linger like this. I realize I may not have this choice but if I do, I will gladly accept a shorter life span in exchange for being in control of my mental faculties. Is that too much to ask from life?

Green Man Tree Oracle Quert/Apple

Ceirt, along with h-Úath, is one of the most challenging ogam feda. Its meaning of a rag or a shrub links it in my mind with the practice of tying rags to clootie trees in Ireland and Scotland as an appeal for healing (McManus uses the “shrub” or “bush” definition, while Meroney suggested that the word was translated as “a rag”. I found the connections between both of these suggested meanings useful enough that I have chosen to use both, though Meroney’s definition is probably not correct.). These trees are often found at sacred wells or on fairy mounds, and are significant for being very much associated with Otherworldly beings and energies that can be fickle and unpredictable.

The complex of meanings surrounding this fid often point to intense frustration and even self-destructive activity. When it comes up in a reading, be careful of sudden changes in fortune or capricious individuals. It’s associated with bad luck and with psychological problems, but because of its linked association with clootie trees, there can also be an element of hope to this fid that h-Úath lacks. In divination, it can point to a situation of poverty or illness that is temporary, or to setbacks in a person’s life or situation.

Linked Concepts: Poverty, illness, fleeing, retreat, madness, insanity, ill luck without total loss, psychological issues and problems, the hope for healing from illness or madness.”  (Ogam:  Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan Laurie)

After reading these passages, I realize it’s time to face some facts.  Engaging in self-destructive behaviors as a way of dealing with my current situation is pointless and harmful.  It improves nothing.  So I asked the Tarot :What traps me in cycles of self-destruction?”   I drew Cernunnos R, 10 of Wands R + 8 of Swords R (DruidCraft)

Okay, I’m getting it. It’s my own fault. Well fault is too harsh a word but this feeling of being trapped is because of how I’m approaching this situation. I’m limiting myself and binding myself to certain pathways. As a result I am narrowing options that might be available to me. As a result I become frustrated, feel trapped and become self-destructive. The fact that I feel trapped is because I feel certain obligations to carry this burden (10 of Wands R) and I’m doing it the hard way rather than exploring other options or resources that might be available.

I think Cernunnos is reminding me that I am a traditionalist. I like holding to the old ways. In this family, that means the elderly and infirm are cared for within the house. Of course when that was the tradition there was a much larger familiar circle to rely on for assistance. Now it’s all falling on the hubby and me. It’s too much for just too people. Looking at the shadowing horned figured watching over the naked couple sleeping in the forest, I was struck by the sense that I’m being watched and judged by our ancestors and they strip us bare. They can see beneath the platitudes we tell ourselves and see our true feelings; the good and the bad. They know that we’ve done the best that we can. They also know that we are worn out.

The 8 of Swords reversed is telling me that I’m not facing my own bullshit here. If I believe I’m trapped and restrained it’s because I’m not being realistic and seeing things as they are; all the possibilities and permutations out there.

Yesterday a friend pointed out that maybe I keep drawing reversed cards because I’m not really listening to their message. I think she’s right. I’m blowing smoke up my own ass and it’s starting to irritate. If I truly want to change this situation then I need to stop lying to myself about what I think about it and how I’m viewing it. Yes, I can keep going in this same direction. If nothing else, my maternal line are quite good at carrying burdens long past the time when common sense tells you to let it go (10 of Wands R). I think we have a bit of a martyr complex in our blood. I don’t want to continue that pattern.

The bottom line is that if I want to break this cycle of self-destruction I need to change my attitude and mindset. I’m my own worst enemy because I can find ways to justify, rationalize and intellectualize pretty much anything. What I’m not good at is listening to my heart, trusting my emotions.

I’m still working on improving my relationship with Cups and with myself for that matter. It’s been so long since I’ve known the secrets of my own heart that I almost forgot I had any. I think that was part of the Princess of Cups message to me yesterday. I need to do more spiritual and healing work so that I can reconnect to that aspect of myself. I’m not just a brain with a love for shenanigans and burst of creativity and energy. I am a physical being whose body deserves love and appreciation. I am an emotional being allowed to cry, become angry and feel betrayed and forgotten.  It doesn’t matter how much I try to claim otherwise, even I know I’m just fooling myself. It’s time to face some facts and make some changes. Then again I’ve said that before too but I like to think each time I state it I’m taking a step closer to manifesting it.

Green Man Tree Oracle Gort/Ivy

In her book Ogam:  Weaving Word Wisdom, Erynn Rowan Laurie writes this about Gort:

“When Gort appears in a reading, it may indicate that a period of prosperity is coming, and a little more patience is required to get there. It can suggest that you look to the blessings in your life and be thankful for them. It frequently indicates a happy situation or a place of safety.

Sometimes Gort suggests that you pull back from your activity and find yourself a safe and sheltered place for rest, particularly when it appears with nGétal. This is the place for incubation and restoration, a need for peace and quiet and nurturance.”

So I asked the cards:  What needs to be cultivated in my life so that abundance will grow?  Prince of Swords R, The World R + Princess of Cups R (DruidCraft)

DruidCraft Prince of Swords DruidCraft The World DruidCraft Princess of Cups

The Prince of Swords reversed is showing that now is a time for reflection and thoughtfulness. It’s not about what the rest of the world thinks about what I need, it’s about what I think i need. It’s also about creating an action plan and not just waiting for things to work themselves out. slow down, think things through and make a plan. It’s about exploring my own thoughts and goals not what others expect. He might also be reminding me that I’m avoiding thinking and making decisions about tough issues – the in-laws’ and their future care. I can’t keep hoping things will work out for the best.

The World R is telling me I can’t take the world’s problems on my shoulders. I can’t be the world to others. I need to surround myself with things that will allow me to feel fulfilled, satisfied and help release some of the stress. I need to seclude myself in my own secret garden to recharge my batteries and enrich my life so that I can still help others.

The Princess of Cups R is reminding me that I need to listen to my inner voice, trust my instincts and get more in touch with my own feelings about this situation instead of getting stuck in my head and trying to convince myself everything will work out okay. Hard decisions need to be made and no matter how much I want to avoid facing it, I can’t.. I need to trust my heart and respect my feelings about this situation.

I’m getting a sense that things are coming to a head and I need to prepare myself to make some very difficult decisions. Our choices may not be what I’d like but they are what they are and we need to face that.

Today I drew the Ogam Edad/Aspen(?)

18

According to Erynn Rowan Laurie in her book Ogam:  Weaving Word Wisdom, Edad is important where healing is done by dream incubation and interpretation, or when wounds go deeper than the physical body. It can also be useful in work where the healer makes journeys into the Otherworlds as part of the healing process.

Linked Concepts:
Divination, dreams, contracts and relationships with spirits, vision-seeking, intoxication, discernment, enlightenment and the tools used to reach it, communication with the Sidhe and Otherworldly beings, connections with the Otherworld.

What deep healing do I need to do for myself? 4 of Swords R, The Hermit R + 4 of Cups R

53 09 DruidCraft 4 of Cups

I need to really give myself a time to rest and recuperate. I need time alone to explore new territories, interests and ideas. I need to look at what is causing the dissatisfaction and ennui in my life so that I can break free of it.

The deep healing I need to do is a direct result of the relentless responsibilities we’ve been dealing with and its accompanying exhaustion. I have no alone time. Even when I go somewhere, I’m always concerned and worried about what is going on at home. When I’m home there is no break, no downtime. If one in-law isn’t acting up then the other is. It’s rather like having two old, colicky children.

I suppose what I need to do is start thinking about myself. Not being selfish but giving myself some care; tending to my needs. Being selfless may get one into heaven but it will also break your spirit in the process. I have no desire to get any more broken than I already am.

This reading reinforces the reality that I am weary, worn-out and exhausted beyond belief. It has passed physical exhaustion and moved into a spiritual exhaustion. I am reaching a point where I don’t care about anything. It’s time to start taking steps to change things. I’m not sure how things will turn out but something has to give. This situation isn’t healthy for any of us anymore.

Shadow Side Saturday: Soul Darkness

Lately I have been feeling very down, bleak and worn out. My spirit is exhausted and sore. It is as though a darkness is twining its way through my soul, weaving unhappiness and sadness through my spirit. It’s tendrils are wrapping themselves around my spine and won’t let go. I feel like a tower being overcome by ivy and hidden from the eyes of the world. Or like Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty whose castle is surrounded by a thick, impenetrable hedge of thorns.

My brain is hammered daily by the nonsensical ramblings of a woman I love but sometimes want to kill. I am a prisoner of this house with no chance of parole. Even on the sunniest day, darkness blots my view. There are days when I truly don’t care if I wake up because what is the point? I’ll simply be repeating the same day over again and that wasn’t fun the first time around.

I try to put a positive spin on things; put my best foot forward but there are days when that is impossible. I hate blowing smoke up my own ass and when I am in this frame of mind that’s how it feels. This sucks. There is every likelihood this situation can go on for years – she’s in good physical health, it’s her mental state that is challenged. I want to range at whatever deity let this happen and then I realize it’s not really any deities fault. Sometimes theses things are the result of human intervention (for example someone who might have died at 60 from a heart attack survives, living to 80 but developing dementia or Alzheimer’s). It makes me wonder if longevity is such a great gift. If living longer means dealing with this kind of mental state I’d prefer to die younger but with all my marbles unscrambled.

I know I’m a strong person but even I don’t know if I’m strong enough to handle this much longer. I hate to see her suffer and I hate suffering myself. I feel like my soul is shriveling and dying one small piece at a time and I have to find a way to stop that process. No matter how hard I fight it, sometimes there are just days when I need to let it sit and experience and then move on. Luckily to date that has been what happens. If I become lost in the darkness then I’ll have to figure out another plan. Right now just acknowledging these feelings and expressing them help alleviate some of the darkness.

Dark Goddess Hag of Earth

The Hag of Earth reversed – this is the second time this week I’ve drawn her staring, pitiless gaze.  Today she speaks to me of secrets hidden and denied over the years.  Familial secrets, community secrets, those deep, dark secrets that impact everyone even they are unaware of its existence.  It makes me think of tales told in my community about neighbors whom “everyone knew” were living in dangerous circumstances (abusive husbands being the most prevalent) and yet no one did anything.  I often believe that the tellers feel guilty about not helping in any way and tell the tale in an effort to make it seem less serious.  At the same time the guilt leaves a scar on the person’s psyche and on the community’s psyche.  The Hag of Earth observes these actions or lack thereof and records them on our souls.  She does not judge or shame, simply watches with her pitiless, blank eyes.

The Cailleach, old woman of the mountains who drops stones from her skirt to build them.  Her blue skin and red hair combined with having only one eye in the center of her forehead give her a strange, frightful appearance.  She seems to move lightly across the mountainous peaks, her stone-filled apron no real burden to her.  She is the crone of winter, cold and darkness.  Although she often uses those stones to make the mountains higher, I think in this instance she is removing some of the boulders for me.  She is clearing the way to help me move forward on my healing journey.

The Hag of Earth tells me that my tale is recorded in the very stones of the earth.  I can choose to ignore it but that will not make it go away.  Denial is not the way to heal from this situation.  The Cailleach on the 8 of Earth reminds me that the stones must be moved in order for me to progress.  She can help take them away but I must decide to move ahead once the way is clear.  She Who Watches sees the scars on my psyche, even if I try to deny or ameliorate their impact.  The Cailleach can help me remove the boulders upon which these scars are inscribed but I need to ask for her help and actually do the work once she had cleared them.

That scares me – I’ve had these scars for so long I’m not sure I can let them go.  They are part of me and yet they aren’t.  They are the me I am now.  If those scars had never formed who knows who I might have become?  Maybe removing those scars, healing those wounds, will allow me to find out the answer to that question.  These darkly divine ladies offer the terrifying vision of hope.  Hope and the possibility of healing can be frightening and overwhelming, especially to somehow who has abandoned all hope.  I think these two tough ladies are showing me that I can heal – it might not be easy but it can happen if I’m willing to do the work.

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