#2173

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No regrets.

It has become such a trite phrase, an excuse for bad tattoos and wild partying. But what does it mean beyond those trivialities, beyond the shallowness of YOLO culture? What does it mean to truly live a regret-free life?

It means forgiving.

It means forgiving the past for taking you to this present. It means forgiving yourself for not understanding what was happening at the time, for not clinging to those final moments with tooth and nail. It means forgiving those who may have hastened that end through their carelessness or the flaws in a broken system. It means forgiving every person their lack of omniscience – yet especially yourself. It means forgiving yourself for the things you did and the things you did not do and how that closed all the doors on every possible future but one.

And it means accepting.

It means accepting that you can neither change the past nor predict how it will affect the future. It means accepting that we are only human and that we all make mistakes, every one of us every day, and nothing can change that either. It means accepting endings and embracing beginnings, always. It means accepting a new normal. It means accepting that new normals are not inherently bad, only different.

And it means being able to one day look upon a gravestone without flinching. It means knowing in your heart you did all you could and continue to do all you can. It is not an easy philosophy. It is not a philosophy of misspelled tattoos and drunken selfies. It is a philosophy of hope tempered with the weight of experience. It is a constant striving to do what you think is right in the moment and a constant forgiving of yourself and others once the moment has passed. It is closing the door on the past, yet never locking it.

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#2168

I ask the Morrigan what side of Her I need to better understand and She shows me the Five of Pentacles. Traditionally this card portrays a ragged individual huddled in the snow outside a stone building, their gaunt features highlighted by warm light pouring from a nearby window. I realized when the Morrigan gave me this card that I make several automatic assumptions based on the image. First, that this person is a soldier, with the bandages on their arms or legs suggesting wounds earned in battle. Second, that this stone edifice they shelter beside is a church with a service currently in session. And third, that this soldier stands in the snow outside the church, begging for a coin or bite of bread, because the church refuses to succor them. Why these assumptions? I do not know, but I feel they are the core of the Morrigan’s message regardless of the card’s classical interpretation. To me, the Five of Pentacles shows how the church has turned away this old soldier and yet the Morrigan stands with him in the cold darkness. After the war ends, after the victories and defeats have faded to mere history, the Morrigan remembers all those who fought on both sides. She remembers – and She understands. She understands the ache of old wounds which refuse to heal. She understands the weight of memories too dark to share with loved ones. She understands the difficulty of returning to a society that values war yet devalues those who must wage it. The Morrigan is not only a goddess of battle; She is a goddess of war, and war does not end just because one has left the battlefield.

#2166

This is how I think it went down. After Anubis finished weighing my father’s heart on Ma’at’s grand scales – lighter than any feather, magic or otherwise, of course – he was met by Wepwawet to guide him through the underworld. Along the way they got to talking, bonding over a mutual appreciation for travel in all its forms by land, by air, and by sea. It is rare to meet another as knowledgeable as yourself in the more obscure aspects of your passion and they became fast friends.They probably shared about the classic cars they had owned and old motorcycles that had carried them faithfully down hot roads beneath a desert sun. Maybe they discussed the aircraft and ships which had shaped the course of human warfare or reminisced about the modes of travel long outdated by technological evolution.

(This is where the story gets hard for me to write. I keep deleting it. Ignoring it. Pretending I can’t see the scene so clearly. I can, though. And I want to tell it, I do, but it’s like my hands just… stop working. Revert back to heavy, lifeless clay. Not this time, though. Come on, just get it out!)

At the threshold to the Field of Reeds my father asked a favor from Wepwawet. He had left behind a teenage daughter, you see, and he worried for her safety. She wasn’t a very good driver, for one, and was often scatterbrained or easily distracted. Would Wepwawet look out for her as she moved through the world, just to make sure she got home each night in one piece? He gave my name and Wepwawet must have smiled, maybe even said something like, “She’s already known to us,” and assured my father He would keep an eye on me. And He has ever since, though He’s probably had to save my butt more times than I can count and I’m sure it’s a stressful promise to keep. But they’re kindred souls, I can feel it, and every time I feel Wepwawet’s presence I feel my father’s as well and know I am doubly blessed.

[ Hey, I added a “dad stuff” tag if anyone’s interested ]

#2163

Everyone says the Morrigan tears your life apart in order to rebuild you from the ground up, so that’s what I expected: rapid, inescapable destruction. I worried over when the hammer would drop and what part of my life it would utterly wreck. Would I see it coming? Would I have any agency in the matter? Would I even survive the breaking? No subtle goddess, She; surely Her lightning would strike without warning and send my carefully constructed tower crumbling to the ground.

Lightning did strike, though of course not in the way I expected. It was a flash of illumination, not destruction, and it revealed my tower in all its fearful glory. I knew then that the Morrigan had no intention of tearing down that tower – she intends me to do it. Brick by brick, inch by inch, I will dig at the mortar until my nails are cracked and bleeding. I have been building this tower all my life, though my work began in earnest when my father died eleven years ago. To dismantle my tower I will need to deal with the grief I locked away inside. And that is correct and right, I know it in my heart. After all, what do you learn from someone else doing the heavy lifting?

Still, part of me longs for the quick, crushing swing of the wrecking ball.

#2132

My mother and I share a lot of private memories, things for which only we were present – the time we got locked in a dark sauna and I was thoroughly convinced we were going to die; the time we accidentally ordered so much food at a Chinese restaurant that it was like the chocolate factory conveyor belt scene from I Love Lucy; the time our car was nearly hit by lightning during a tornado warning and we rode out the storm in a little diner in the middle of nowhere; all the times we sat talking over dinner or laughing at stupid reality TV. We share countless private memories between us, both mundane and magical, silly and serious, yet there is a specific shared memory which binds us beyond mother and daughter – a memory I have barely touched in the last eleven years.

I was fresh out of my first year of college, just eighteen years old, and my parents and I were on vacation in northern California. We had driven to the ranger station at the top of Mt. Lassen, a ride during which my mother had kept her eyes squeezed shut for fear of the steep cliff-side just feet from the car. She hated heights, hated seeing the tops of trees passing by below as the car wove its way up the steep, winding path, and probably didn’t trust her own driving skills enough to risk the attempt anyway. On the way down, though, she had to take the wheel and remain calm for us both while my father sat stunned in the front seat by an inexplicably painful and disorienting headache. We didn’t know why the headache struck so suddenly or with such force, only that he needed medical assistance – and so my mother faced her lifelong fear to get us all to safety. I knew she was on the edge of panic that whole drive down and yet she reined in her fear to keep her teenage daughter, who had never seen her beloved father so vulnerable, from panicking too. Thanks to her we made it safely back to the tiny town at the base of the mountain and hurried to the local hospital. If my father was cogent enough to commend my mother for her bravery at the time, I don’t remember… and at this point it’s only she and I who remain to tell the tale.

My mother is made of steel and I could provide a hundred examples of her strength just off the top of my head; anyone who knows her could. She fights for her family, for her friends, and for her community and has always set a positive example for everyone around her. However, I’m the only one who can offer up this particular memory as proof of her unyielding bravery. A check for a million dollars couldn’t have convinced my mother to make that stressful drive back to civilization on her own and yet she did. For my father, mysteriously sick, she did. For me, young and terrified, she did. Maybe if we had known what the upcoming days would ask of us she would have quailed at this first test, but all I remember is her determination in the face of the frightening unknown.

I talk a lot about the ways in which I’m like my father because I’m proud to carry them on in his name and make him present in every moment with me. However, what I should say more often is how much I hope I am like my mother. How I hope I have inherited her courage, strength, and conviction. How I hope I may act quickly and calmly to protect my little family when emergencies strike. How I hope I may so bravely face down any and all of my fears to do what is right for those I love. Anyone can tell you my mother is a little blond spitfire who doesn’t back down from a challenge, yet only I can tell you about the time I saw her at her bravest. It’s not a happy memory to share between us, nor are any of the other memories from the week that followed, but it remains preserved and clarified in my mind as testament to the strength for which I want always to strive.

#2131

Reading Master and Commander, or: Meet Your New Fandom

Last winter my father told me to read Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. This might not seem very odd or momentous to you, but my father has been dead for eleven years. However, when I dreamed of us walking through a bookstore, looking for this exact title, I took the hint and grabbed the book off his shelf where the series has sat untouched all that time. I figured even if I didn’t like the book, I would read it in his honor and move on. Certainly I wasn’t going to attempt reading the entire 20-book series! I know next to nothing about the Napoleonic Wars, the British navy circa 1800, or Georgian society – while I might like the book okay, I just couldn’t imagine liking it enough to read the rest. So I started it with some trepidation… …and then my mind exploded and I developed a new and undeniably intense obsession. Hello, new fandom!

I’m here now to pass on the favor by telling you why you should read what is quite possibly the best western historical fiction of the 20th century, if not western fiction in general. But let’s start at the beginning. I’m betting most of you have no idea who Patrick O’Brian is or what Master and Commander is about, but you may know more than you think. Remember Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, that boat movie that came out in the early 2000s, the one with Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany as BFFs Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin? If you don’t, ask your dad – I think the movie is required viewing for all fathers. Either way, I will try with my mediocre literary powers to convince you why you should read this entire series right now. So here we go!

The Setting
Master and Commander throws us into a world at war – it’s the year 1800 and Napoleon is fucking shit up all over Europe, much to the chagrin of the British Navy and her allies. Against this historical backdrop we are taken all across the world, from the icy waters of the Arctic to the blazing deserts of Africa, from the prim and proper society of Georgian England to deserted tropical islands beset by pirates, and everywhere in between. Many books take you to other places but this series does so with a depth of detail and historical accuracy that will leave you feeling like an expert historian.

But I don’t know anything about that time period! you say. Never fear! You don’t particularly need to. Look, high school history class failed me too – I know more about Napoleon from Assassin’s Creed: Unity than I do from any teacher I’ve ever had. Thankfully O’Brian understands the need for accessibility and flawlessly weaves any necessary explanations or information into the text in a way that educates without boring. As for the immense amount of nautical terms thrown back and forth, the reader is comforted in knowing Stephen Maturin has no idea what they mean either. However, I promise you that upon completing the series you could convince anyone that you’re an expert in early 19th century naval history, social status and etiquette, biology, ornithology, entomology, hydrography, naturalism, mathematics, astronomy, religion, medicine, imperialism and colonialism, and just about any other topic you could think of. The amount of research O’Brian had to do to make these books so believable is absolutely mind boggling.

The Characters

This series is most commonly referred to as the “Aubrey/Maturin novels” or the “Aubreyad”, as the two main characters are naval captain Jack Aubrey and doctor/naturalist/spy Stephen Maturin. Theirs is one of the most beautiful, realistic, and enduring friendships I’ve encountered in any form of media and forms the true heart of the series. These two are such utter dorks that you can’t help but fall in love with them and turn eagerly to their next set of adventures.

Jack Aubrey

On the outside Jack Aubrey is an ambitious naval captain who passionately loves the navy, his crew, and doing anything to foil Britain’s enemies by sea. On deck he’s a dashing master of his ship, called “Lucky Jack Aubrey” for his skill in battle and his frequent taking of prize ships. He bears a number of nasty scars as evidence of his firm belief that a captain must lead, not direct from the sidelines as his men head into danger. Even more, Jack is a man who sees the silver lining in every bad situation and always manages a smile in the face of danger or disaster. His seemingly endless fount of optimism endears him to the reader immediately, especially since we are offered glimpses of the emotional turmoil beneath which he hides not from pride but from the necessity of leadership. I would sail into battle with this man in a heartbeat.

On the inside, however, Jack Aubrey is a big squishy teddy bear and the king of dad jokes (even before he becomes a father). This man finds puns so funny that he laughs at his own before he says them, and laughs even when he can’t think of one to fit the situation. He’s just so tickled by puns and it’s adorable. He’s also quite fond of food and good alcohol, as well as a talented amateur violinist and astronomer. Jack appears at first like our usual dashing hero, eager for battle and flirting with all the pretty ladies, but this James Bond facade masks a dorky, good-humored man with a heart of gold who loves his family and friends fiercely. I love him so much it hurts.

Stephen Maturin

On the outside Stephen Maturin is a singularly intelligent and talented surgeon and famed naturalist with a focus on ornithology (i.e. a huge fucking dork). He’s the most hopeless landlubber ever to fall into the ocean while trying to board a ship, his mastery of multiple languages no help when it comes to naval jargon, and the crew of the HMS Surprise has to constantly keep him from dying at sea. Stephen will go to extreme lengths to observe a particularly interesting bird and can happily monologue for hours about a new species of beetle. He’s your classic nerd: cranky, socially and physically awkward, unkempt, and simultaneously unbelievably smart and totally oblivious to everything around him. He’s everything I want to be.

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On the inside, however, Stephen is a man driven by love of his home countries, Ireland and Catalonia, and his resulting abhorrence of all forms of colonialism and oppression, especially slavery. This leads him to become a valuable member of Britain’s spy network to stop Napoleon. Few characters know his secret but the reader is gifted with insight into Stephen’s activities and we come to understand just how dangerous an enemy he can be and how valuable an ally. Stephen’s nerdiness and clumsiness lead to some of the best laughs in the series, yet he can be colder and scarier than any other character. What he is at his core is a good man driven by higher principles and a truly exceptional love for weird birds.

Everyone Else

Jack and Stephen might have stolen my heart by the end of the first paragraph (in which they get into a fight at a musical concert because Jack won’t stop air conducting), but the secondary characters are where this series truly outshines its contemporaries. Every single side character is as richly developed and complex as our protagonists and will capture your heart just as easily. From Jack’s loyal crew and officers to Stephen’s odd collection of wayward souls (many of whom are ex-slaves), both men manage to form an extended family of lovable and loving characters. One of my personal favorites is Tom Pullings, one of Jack’s young officers whom we watch grow from little midshipmen to captain of his own ship. His utter adoration for Jack is so sweet it makes me want to throw my book across the room:

“…All except for Pullings, who had the watch, and was walking the quarterdeck with his hands behind his back, pacing in as close an imitation of Captain Aubrey as his form could manage, and remembering, every now and then, to look stern, devilish, as like a right tartar as possible, in spite of his bubbling happiness.”

The Writing

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great, but this just isn’t my genre. I know I’m gonna be bored. I need magic/sci-fi/paranormal-whatever. And you know what? That is FALSE. Look, I have extremely high standards for my fiction and while I’m a sci-fi/fantasy girl at heart, I’m drawn primarily these days to queer speculative fiction. Historical fiction set in 18th century England is not at all my cup of tea (pun intended)… or so I thought. But please understand the gravity of the following statement:

I have never read a more beautiful, well-written work of fiction than this series in my entire life.

It’s true! In just one book Patrick O’Brian surpassed Ray Bradbury as my Biggest Writing Hero Ever and every single book in the series is as fantastic as the next – how often does that happen? The prose is flawless, at once accessible and laden with historical accuracy, a fast-paced read rich with minute detail. What O’Brian does best, though, is his weaving of subtle humor into every scene; a reader paying close attention is rewarded with some truly humorous, one might even say silly, little scenes and asides. I have to share my two favorites, though they’re a little long:

“The sloth sneezed, and looking up, Jack caught its gaze fixed upon him; its inverted face had an expression of anxiety and concern. ‘Try a piece of this, old cock,’ he said, dipping his cake in the grog and proffering the sop. ‘It might put a little heart into you.’ The sloth sighed, closed its eyes, but gently absorbed the piece, and sighed again.

Some minutes later he felt a touch on his knee; the sloth had silently climbed down and it was standing there, its beady eyes looking up into his face, bright with expectation. More cake, more grog; growing confidence and esteem. After this, as soon as the drum had beat the retreat, the sloth would meet him, hurrying towards the door on its uneven legs: it was given its own bowl and would grip it with its claws, lowering its round face into it and pursing its lips to drink. Sometimes it went to sleep in this position, bowed over the emptiness.

“In this bucket,” said Stephen, walking into the cabin, “in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London and Paris combined: these animalculae – what is the matter with the sloth?” It was curled on Jack’s knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack’s glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable, bleary face, shoot it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, “Jack, you have debauched my sloth.””

And from the very first book in the series…

“‘I was contemplating on the Pongo,’ Stephen said aloud as the door opened and Jack walked in with a look of eager expectation, carrying a roll of music.

‘I am sure you were,’ cried Jack. ‘A damned creditable thing to be contemplating on, too. Now be a good fellow and take your other foot out of that basin—why on earth did you put it in?—and pull on your stockings, I beg. We have not a moment to lose. No, not blue stockings: we are going on to Mrs Harte’s party—to her rout.’

‘Must I put on silk stockings?’

‘Certainly you must put on silk stockings. And do show a leg, my dear chap: we shall be late, without you spread a little more canvas.’

‘You are always in such a hurry,’ said Stephen peevishly, groping among his possessions. A Montpellier snake glided out with a dry rustling sound and traversed the room in a series of extraordinarily elegant curves, its head held up some eighteen inches above the ground.

‘Oh, oh, oh,’ cried Jack, leaping on to a chair. ‘A snake!’

‘Will these do?’ asked Stephen. ‘They have a hole in them.’

‘Is it poisonous?’

‘Extremely so. I dare say it will attack you, directly. I have very little doubt of it. Was I to put the silk stockings over my worsted stockings, sure the hole would not show: but then, I should stifle with heat. Do not you find it uncommonly hot?’

‘Oh, it must be two fathoms long. Tell me, is it really poisonous? On your oath now?’

‘If you thrust your hand down its throat as far as its back teeth you may meet a little venom; but not otherwise. Malpolon monspessulanus is a very innocent serpent. I think of carrying a dozen aboard, for the rats—ah, if only I had more time, and if it were not for this foolish, illiberal persecution of reptiles … What a pitiful figure you do cut upon that chair, to be sure. Barney, Barney, buck or doe, Has kept me out of Channel Row,’ he sang to the serpent; and, deaf as an adder though it was, it looked happily into his face while he carried it away.”

Also, there’s literally a chapter in one book where our heroes escape from France by buying a recently skinned bear, turning it into a costume, and tricking everyone into believing Stephen is a traveling entertainer and Jack is his pet bear. They walk hundreds of miles to the freedom of the Spanish border over harsh terrain, sometimes acting for pennies in the town square, as Jack just suffers in this stuffy, slowly spoiling meat suit and no one suspects a thing. IT’S THE BEST.

These books aren’t just about laughs, though. They elicit emotions across the spectrum from joy to sorrow, anger to triumph, disbelief to nerve-wracking anticipation. They utterly captivate the reader from page one – twenty books won’t be enough once you get caught up in the Aubreyad! I’ve never read a series that made me want to simultaneously hug and throw my books as often as this series and I truly will be bereft when I finish the last book. This is a stunning example of “genre” fiction raised to the very heights of literature and a must-read for anyone who appreciates complex characterization and masterful prose. You will not be disappointed, I can absolutely promise you that.

#1994

Wherein I Visit a Psychic and Leave With More Questions Than Answers

As you can tell from my previous pieces, I’m not doing so great in the life department right now. A deep spiritual crisis has somehow perfectly coincided with both a supremely busy time in my life (getting married in 25 days, holy shit) and what feels like the worst depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m not just questioning my spiritual path – I’m questioning whether anything beyond the scientifically provable even exists, and whether there’s much point in our existence if it doesn’t. I feel listless and apathetic, and I’m really only getting the absolute minimum done in all aspects of my life. It’s not fun! Super not fun.

All this is to say that for the last few weeks, I’ve pondered seeing a psychic. I thought that if a psychic could tell me something they would have no way of knowing or really guessing, that would be my proof that the spiritual side of our world actually exists. At first I thought the idea was silly, or at least a waste of my money and time, but I finally grew desperate enough to make an appointment. Before I met the woman, Jody, I removed all of my jewelry so she wouldn’t have anything to work from and I could feel confident that her conclusions weren’t biased or just good guesses. I’m not naturally suspicious of psychics, and Jody certainly didn’t give me charlatan vibes; I just knew my pessimistic mindset would magnify any little flaw or uncertainty. So with some trepidation, but also hope, on my part, Jody began the session.

  • Past lives: Jody told me I have lived many, many past lives. Among the ones she touched on were lives in which I was an ancient Egyptian, a monk with a special affinity for animals, a shepherd, an old Irish man with a wolfhound, a young girl who loved horses, an Italian man who spent most of his time sailing, and a Native American tracker who spent much of their time alone in the woods, exploring and bringing back news and discoveries to the tribe.
    • I asked for clarification on the Egyptian life and Jody told me I was an Egyptian man who did energy work (possibly in a religious capacity?). She said I would “hold” energy, and in example of this she raised her arms up as if offering a large bowl to something taller – perhaps a statue. This evidently became my demise, as someone I trusted and for whom I was or had held energy took my life. It was a brutal end to a rather short life, according to Jody. She also said my connection with cats comes from this life, which isn’t surprising but still nice to have confirmed.
    • The Italian lifetime struck a deep chord with me, as it reminded me strongly of my father. Judy said she kept getting “Italian” vibes as she read my past lives, which could have been a good guess based on my hair but would also make sense due to my strong Italian roots.
  • My spirit: Jody conducted what she called a “rose reading” of my spirit and told me it looked like a purple rose so open that its petals were nearly falling off, which she interpreted to mean I have been in a time of development and change for the last three years, but it is coming to a close. I found this particularly interesting since my spiritual path began almost three years ago with Bast’s calling me to Her service.
  • Spirits/Companions: Jody seemed surprised that I had a whole gaggle of spirits with me during the reading. She noted at least three that were spirits of those who had passed on, several animal guides, and a few others of the deity/spiritual entity persuasion. Among the gathered were the following:
    • An older woman who was laughing, evidently amused and pleased by the entire event. Jody didn’t describe this spirit much, only saying that she liked her. I wondered if this might be Bast, as She often gives me the feeling of an amused, loving mother watching her daughter stumble around when learning to walk.
    • The Archangel Raphael, whose presence definitely surprised me; I have very little connection with the Abrahamic religions and if I was going to be visited by an angel, I’d think it would be Lucifer. Jody said he was with me in a healing capacity, which made sense from the rest of her reading. When I told my fiance about this, she pointed out that Raphael is known for bestowing sight to the blind. Ah, I see what you did there, Universe.
    • An old woman who reportedly told Jody that I can’t hear her, though she is always with me. Jody told me this woman had known me when she was alive, but that I hadn’t known her. I suspect this spirit was my mother’s mother, who died when I was just a baby.
    • Two spirits of cats I knew or had known in my life. The first she said I had known many times, which didn’t surprise me; I have often felt that my cats were reincarnations of the same spirit visiting me again and again. Jody described the other cat spirit as large (personality-wise) and extremely loving but kind of doofy. I laughed out loud at this and asked if the spirit could be living now – it sounded exactly like my cat Lorne, who we call a “precious gift” when he does anything remarkably silly or dumb. It was so nice to know he was sitting beside me for the reading, like he wanted me to know I wasn’t alone.
      • Strangely enough, though I got home much later than usual and way past our cats’ dinner time, they greeted me at the door in patient silence instead of their customary starved howling. It was like they knew I was going to be late but that it was for an important reason, so they gave me some slack.
    • An animal guide in the form of a large black panther. There were also two other animal guides with me, but Jody was apparently warned (though I forgot to ask by whom) that she couldn’t tell me what they were – I either needed to discover them for myself or I knew their identities on a deeper level. I wondered after the session if they took the forms of a raven and coyote, as I’ve always been drawn to those animals.
    • Jody also identified what she called my “sister spirit”. She said we had been together in many lives, and each time traded off who was more reserved and who was more lively. We always found each other and brought each other companionship, support, and love. This could honestly match any of my closest friends, so many of whom feel like sisters to me, but I think she could also have been indicating my fiance. For years I’ve longed for this abstract someone, always female, who felt like both a lover and a sister, and I knew pretty much the moment I met my fiance that she was that person. On top of that, my fiance longed for exactly the same thing – though she called this person her “Stranger” while I called them “Shakespeare’s Sister”.
  • My father: The first and main spirit Jody identified was very clearly that of my father, though she originally identified him as a friend and said we had been together in many lifetimes. She told me he kept showing her things I had written about him and told her he was proud of me. She also saw him placing something around my neck, which she later interpreted as him giving me his “pearls of wisdom”.
    • He also had with him a female spirit (we both sensed this was his mother) and a male spirit who seemed like friend or brother. My father’s brother is alive but they weren’t very close, so I don’t think it was his spirit. I suspect, but would love to confirm, that it was the spirit of my fiance’s father. We often feel as if one or both of our fathers are present, and they would have gotten along in real life – it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to think they hang out as spirits.
    • In addition to the two other human spirits, my dad also had two dogs with him, which Jody said made him very happy. When I was a kid we had two golden retrievers whom my father cared for, so I think they are with him in the afterlife as well.
    • Jody indicated that my father had died unexpectedly from something like an illness, but she seemed hesitant to define it further. Considering my father was originally hospitalized for a stroke, but died of complications related in part to his treatment by the hospital staff, this uncertainty makes sense. More importantly, she said my father knew (either consciously or subconsciously) for about a year that he would be passing soon and was okay with it. He felt ready to go, and lived that last year to its fullest. This detail was particularly comforting, and seemed to be confirmed by actual events – that year was my parents’ first without any kids in the house, so they spent a lot of time together doing new things, and my father actually became sick while on a family vacation with myself and my mother. Jody also told me that my father was happy as a spirit, because he could go anywhere he wanted and wasn’t confined to a physical body. She told me to hang up wind chimes as a way for him to signal his presence, which I will definitely do.
    • Jody told me my father wants me to write. He said I have a book inside me that I need to write, possibly because it might help people. This statement originally confused me, since my preferred writing style is very short and discordant – not exactly the stuff of long novels. Jody seemed to think my father meant some sort of spiritual or self-help book, possibly based on my own experiences, but this didn’t feel correct. I’m not a huge fan of those kinds of books in the first place, and am not yet in a place emotionally where I would feel comfortable acting like an authority on, well, anything. But then a few days later I remembered that I had indeed been pondering a book idea! I gave it up immediately because I couldn’t fathom how to go about researching the topic (paranormal activity in relation to natural disasters), but it sits at the back of my mind anyway. Could this be what my dad was indicating? He definitely would have found the concept interesting, and would have encouraged my research. I’m super intimidated by the prospect, though, so I’m not sure yet what I’ll do.
    • To top this all off, I came home and found my dad’s keychain on the floor of my room. I keep it on a bookshelf where I have set up a kind of ancestor shrine to him. It’s not impossible for my cats to get onto that shelf, but they usually knock more down when they do because it’s a cramped space. This time, though the keychain was on the floor, nothing else had been disturbed – even the cloth underneath that would surely have been rumpled if a cat had jumped onto it.
  • My aura: Jody conducted an aura/chakra reading, in which she reiterated that I was doing a lot of healing on different levels (indicated by the color green). The most interesting thing she mentioned during this reading, though, was that my crown chakra’s aura was a light lavender speckled with stardust, and that this indicated that I am able to “know” things without knowing why. The combination of lavender and stardust, which I immediately imagined as freckles, made me think of Bast. She is associated with the color purple and lavender in general, and I always imagine her dusted with freckles. That this particular aura was also associated with my spiritual connection and this “knowing” which I can feel but never explain felt like a jolt of desperately needed evidence. Jody never named Bast or otherwise indicated Her presence, but when she told me about the state of my crown chakra, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of rightness.
  • Overall: Jody emphasized throughout the reading that I am a healer and empathetic person who has difficulty shielding myself from the pain of the world – the understatement of the century, if my general mood through 2017 is anything to go by. Jody told me I can give too much of myself and must make sure not to take on others’ pain or sorrow, but to try to lift them up with my own light. This is actually something I’ve worked on with my therapist, but haven’t made much progress; it’s very easy for me to adopt someone’s bad mood and incredibly hard to retain my good mood if I’m around someone negative.
    • Jody indicated my third eye is just barely opening, and that I need to nurture it through confidence and faith in order to open myself more to my spiritual guides, companions, and messages from the universe. She told me to listen to my dreams, look for signs, and take chances on things I want to do or learn, especially if they are creative activities.
Overall, the session left me reeling and totally uncertain as to how much I believed and how what I believed would shape my spiritual path. Unfortunately, my general malaise hasn’t lifted yet, making it even harder to do the soul searching and difficult mental processes necessary to sift through everything to find the valuable bits. The session was definitely interesting, though, and I think over time I will get more and more out of it. Right now, though, I’m still processing. There are questions I never got even remotely close to answering – where were Tanim and Daren in all of this, for example? or Inanna? – and answers to questions I don’t yet know how to ask. Part of me wants to go back to ask for more detail, to dig deeper into whatever Jody can find, but part of me knows that could be a dangerous slope. It’d be so easy to accept everything she said at face value and operate accordingly, yet I don’t think even she would support that tactic. So I’ll be sifting for gold dust for a while, I guess, and trying to shut up that voice of doubt I can’t ever be totally rid of.

If you actually read to the end of this, wow, damn. I’d love to hear your feedback or insight!