Sometimes When You Lose, You Win

My son and nephew--getting it right.
My son and nephew–getting it right.

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
Well, there’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?
Jason Mraz, “I Won’t Give Up”

Sometimes when you lose . . . you win.  
Richard Matheson, What Dreams May Come

I’ve always been just a little in love with humanity.  Not just people, for they fail and hurt and burn, but humanity as an existential concept of struggle against the tide of forever.  Like that.  I have this horrible habit (flaw?) of wanting to reach out, help, fight like a rabid sixties liberal in a naive state of grace and doom.  As my middle son likes to say, my bad.  I am not the tit of the world, nor can I save anyone–after all.  But damn, I lose myself in the rapture of linked hands.  Actually lose myself.  And that, my friends, is the problem.

Recently, we closed the doors of Grass Roots Church to include Tribe and family only.  The response has not been supportive.  It appears that *others* see that move as an aggressive one, a personal one, and apparently do not get one simple concept:  not everything is about you.  I had been warned, heavily, about the fubar that is our local community in Alabama–but nothing prepared me for what I found.  Is it worth saving?  Oh, hell yes.  Could we have helped?  Probably.  Am I willing to throw my marriage, my tribal health, my children and my home down as collateral?

Screw that.  Let the ones who are interested in ego-building, war-mongering and drama-stirring have that cauldron.  (And: they will.  Enjoy.)  I have seen the end of the rainbow-and my treasure lies in my own spiritual health.

Ah, it’s personal alright.  To me.  What is it about our culture that demonizes that sacral moment of self-preservation?  Eclipses our own path and happiness at the sight of popularity and power?  Naw.  Sorry, y’all.  That’s my foot, down.  If folks need saving, mayhap they should do it their own selves. My hands are full.

There’s this movie running through my mind, a goofy comedy that somehow made an impact on my life anyhow called Death Becomes Her.  Two women, in this hysterical epic stand-off on who would win all while Bruce Willis flubbers and concedes and loses his soul–until one day, when he finds it.  And walks away.  Now, Helen (Goldie Hawn) is in this death-grip with Madolyn (Meryl Streep) and can only focus on her nemesis and the thousand ways to get revenge–to the point that she has lost her own life.  These two war and spar and act like a couple of asshats until  . . . well, their hate has locked them into an eternity together.  They cannot die, only continue the battle forever:

And no matter how I search, I cannot find the funeral scene where Bruce’s later life makes it clear that he stepped out of the game.  Found true happiness.  Refused the eternal life potion and chose instead to truly LIVE.  But I remember it.  I remember thinking: how brave.

How very, very brave.  To walk away from the anger and the hate and the deep well of resentment and ego and just live.

This is what I have chosen.

Recently, I sat down with my tribe and we broke all ties with curses, negativity and doubt.  Yes, it had repercussions.  Yes, we asked for justice.  Yes, it shook the ground across town.  Did we ask for vengeance?  No.  We asked for sweet and utter release.

Let me tell you a Southern story.  Once upon a time, a very bad witch walked into my path and refused to leave.  I was all: “I can save her from herself.”  She was all: “I can teach her the dark path.”  How in the world either of us thought it would lead to anything but pain, I cannot remember.  Shaking the natural order in that form of supernatural asshattery makes no damn sense and still, we tried.  No amount of affection or adoration can supersede primal tendencies of right and wrong and scores of souls have been torn and battered by that, um, battle.  Let’s call it a battle–because it was.  My uppity butt was so invested in winning it that I almost lost my own soul.  You know that moment?  Where you cannot tell the difference between yourself and the enemy anymore?  Yeah.  Like that.

My lame excuse for continually picking up my sword went something like: someone has to do it!  She will never stop!

Jesus.  On a pogo stick.  No shit.  Of course, she will never stop.  Therefore . . . I intended to keep fighting?  Witch’s duh moment.  Wow.  Slap my face and call me Southern, I forgot everything.

Have I told y’all that I’m an Aries?

And so, the battle raged on.  Over a year ago, I begged her for a “divorce,” the only word I could use in my lexicon that she would understand for a forever break–to which she responded badly.  I had envisioned a shared experience of two people who could not make a relationship work sitting down and–perhaps even with love–parting ways.  Formally, without malice.  (Yes, yes.  It was idealistic and stupid.)  The option was ridiculed–heavily–and I was left with nothing but my ass in my hands.

And then it hit me: I was asking for release.  That meant I understood my bondage to be under someone else’s control.  Ah.  (Never teach a slave to read–they will use the language to tell you to go fuck yourself.  Moment in grad school.  And, hell yeah, we will.)  This post is going to be long.  Go pour yourself some wine.

Someone asked me the other day:  So.  You’re just going to let her win?  Come on.  Isn’t that a bit simplistic?  When you walk away from the battle, you’ve lost?  Okay.  If that feels like victory . . . enjoy.  In fact, I don’t think that it’s all been wasted.  This time has taught me more about myself, who I want to be, who I need NOT to be, than any other experience I have had in my life.  There are some lessons, here, Batchildren, in what we traditionally consider “wasted time.”

Lessee.  Things an old friend taught me:

1.  Astral travel.  (Thanks for that.  Was very useful when you showed up here–nice hat, by the way.)

2.  It’s okay to use a crockpot in cooking.  (It was a big deal on my end.)

3.  Define your terms.  Someone is always out there looking for a missed comma, a forgotten etymology and the like and waiting to trip you.

4.  Announce your Halloween party early.

5.  Some folks are polyamorous.  And that’s okay.  (As long as they are honest about it.)

6.  Everything can be taken for a time.  There are wolves everywhere . . . and some of them aren’t your friends.

7.  Even your worst enemy can make the best cake you’ve ever tasted.

8.  Don’t tell anyone but your soulmate everything.  It can be brought up for funnies to hurt you around a dinner table.  (“Push back?”)

9.  Excessive intelligence is a form of madness.

10.  Love is not enough in a relationship.  Ever.

11.  Innumerable songs have the lyrics “nah nah na nah na” in them.

12.  Egoists will never admit when they are wrong, especially when they decide that Annie Potts WAS NOT in that eighties movie.  (Yes, she was.  And you are an asshat.)

13.  Knowing someone for almost twelve years does not mean that you really know them.

14.  Matching birthmarks are not always a good thing.

15.  Some folks just can’t get right.  Never will.  So you have to leave them.

16.  Planting things in the ground is better than pots.  Yet, agriculture is the worst thing to ever happen to the planet.  (yeah, still scratching my head on that one, too.)

17.  Satan is too much fun not to share a drink with from time to time.  And then?  Get the hell out of there.  Before he Facebook friends your kids.

18.  Cucumbers can be weird.

19.  T-shirts should be taken at face value.

20.  I’m too old for this shit.

Now, strangely, most of the things that she taught me were conducive in my recent decision to close down GRC to family only–although, watch and see if her next post doesn’t dance on that grave for a good laugh.  You see, I woke up.  I mean shaken-hard-by-poltergeists woke up, standing straight up in my bed, hair spiked on end woke up.  Thought about things like:  what if I were dying?  would I give a damn about all of this drama and pretense and dungeons and dragons craptastic high-school performa?  Nope.  Then, shadow work showed up and slapped me around.  Why am I doing it, then?

Don’t you hate that shit?

Yeah.  Me, too.  It was Ego, the crusty old bitch.  Slaying her will take some time, a bag of lime and a strong shovel . . . but she is going down.

When I knew . . . I walked.

And so, here I am.  And here’s what.

I love the way my husband snuggles against my back, talks back to me in my sleep, makes me coffee every morning.  I love the way my son comes at Paganism–a rebel with a cause–and gets all misty-eyed and angry when he thinks of me dying.  I love the way my magic bestie never betrays me and the way my academic, thirties bestie knows my every impulse and adores me anyway.  I love the way Cynthia’s eyes light up when we go all Alabama and the way my students forge fire.  I love the feel of my garden beneath my feet and the thought of dying near it.  I love that I’m finally growing sunflowers and corn and tried out purple on my toes and remembered that writing is like communion and letting someone go is like sacrifice and that both are necessary in order for me to breathe.  I like that I resent my crockpot–and use it once a month, anyway.  I enjoy that I have friends from grammar school, that my dog loves me more than bacon, that my hands are starting to wrinkle and that lemon balm smells like Pledge when you rub it.  I love the way that forgiveness feels, like Lava soap–all sandy and hard and clean–and the smell of regret when it slides down the sink in bubbles and dirt.  I love that my neck is starting to sag, I love that I hate it, I love that I am grappling with age like battling with a toothy bear and that I have no choice but to lose because it meant that I fought.

I regret that I was too young to be a mom and did a piss-poor job my first time out, that I married badly several times, that I cannot get past my failure to forge peace with my nemesis, that I am addicted to brick-red lipstick, that I left a naked photo out there in the eighties and that I smoke so much.

I have always been so in love with the fallible essence of humanity.  It just took me nearly fifty years to figure out that I am that essence.  Grace and sin, dirt and soap, rebellion and concession, heartache and victory.

And–while I understand the anger and disappointment that some folks have voiced at the closure of GRC–I am firm in my belief that one must have priorities.  Mine are myself and my family, our spirituality and our home.  There is a certain justice in that.  A peace that I cannot quite translate to those who have not yet grappled in the dark with their own egos and impulses and actions and regrets.  Everything else is . . . well, frivolous.

I leave it all to you, my Nemesis.  No more conflicting gatherings or parties.  No more conflicts, period.  Enjoy it all.  I hope it makes you happy, I truly do.  We will never have Paris, dear.  That was only the lie we told ourselves.

And, there is no longer a “we.”  I am bowing out, grabbing my oyster fork and a bottle of hot sauce and enjoying what is left of my life–and your reaction to that no longer matters.  Flip out.  Accuse me.  Blog hard.  Throw up memes.  Blame my name.

I’ll be in my garden.  Falling in love with humanity, all over again.

For myself, I choose . . . this.


13 Comments on “Sometimes When You Lose, You Win

  1. Jesus. On a pogo stick! Oh my. No it’s not all i took from your post but damn I heard that with a twang and everything. No one can tell you what is right for you but you. I decided this year (only took me 40 years to figure it out) that I AM who I am and I will not ever EVER again apologize for it. You’ve more then earned the right to your life your way.

  2. I feel what you are saying. I was a young mother, dealt with the issue of loss of my childhood faith. Then, I came to a marriage- my second one. We formed a Kindred,with a group of people that he chose. I tried to get along with them. One was certain she knew it all and wanted one specific deity invoked at EVERY ritual. She forgot his mead-brother in the invocations. Thus, often rituals turned into chaotic problematic things. They were meeting at our home. We had put a few rules into place to help maintain the hof- which we- the married couple felt was reasonable.(For example, we asked that a minimal monthly dues be paid. $10 is not much) We asked that people contribute to the food(either bring it or offer us some money to buy food for the feasts, not for my family) We often contributed the bulk of the food, sleeping space, the firepit in the front yard, (this was our home that we were renting with hopes to buy) We didn’t ask much- but that the entire Kindred contribute.(yes- we paid $40 in dues, $20 for the two babies, $20 for the adults) or help ready the house and clean up.(I often got stuck with prep, cleanup and everything)

    Needless to say- we got frustrated with all of this. We, my husband and I, sat each person down individually and explained this to them. We showed them the ledger where we kept track of dues paid, food contributed, everything. We found that two members consistently failed to contribute- save to “preside” at rituals.
    Our Halloween party was meant to be just that- a party. No magic, no working, just a party. When everyone was drunk(except me, I was minding kids) one of the members who consistently did not uphold the agreement decided to do spirit journeys. This violated the agreement about the party. When I protested, the female member behaved as though I were not present.
    Needless to say, after this- there was a huge rift. She would often go around me when she wanted the Kindred to do something and place me in an awkward position. My husband often sided with me, and we would present to the entire group and vote. When things did not go our way, we were reasonably gracious about it. When things did not go hers- she raised hell until we allowed what she wanted as a minor part- which she tried to dominate.
    It came to a head when I became ill one day before ritual. I had been home, cleaning for three days(purification ritual) and taking care of my two children. I also was cooking and juggling all of the preparations and checking off who brought what. I- unsurprisingly- developed a migraine. I had the sense to realize I had a problem and ask my husband to let me rest for an hour or so before the ritual. While one of the other guests explained to the drama queen what was going on she loudly declared(where my husband and I could hear her upstairs) that I was obviously faking it.
    We quietly fed everyone, called off the ritual in its entirety. The other guests left quickly and quietly with an invitation to return if they liked.
    We confronted Madame Drama Llama and told her that we were tired of her shirking her(and her boyfriend shirking his) ends of the agreement, an agreement signed, dated and referred to. We told her that we were telling- not asking- her to leave and not return to our home. As for the Kindred, we would explain the necessity of our actions, and let the chips fall where they may.

    The conclusion was this- the Kindred- minus the Drama Twins thrived for several more years. When we went separate ways(this included my marriage) we did so peacefully.

    I am happy that I put my foot down. It has made me leery of ever joining another group. But removing the stress and pain of these people taught me several things. One being that the only person I can truly count on is myself- and the other- there are friends who see you through the rough times, but they can only do so much

    • Honestly, I had to keep looking up at your name to make certain it wasn’t myself. Yup. I feel you. Leery of groups doesn’t begin to encapsulate what I feel right now . . . seems like so many people out there are it for the drama and free therapy and attention. Thank you for the comment and the support. Doing the hard thing is so often doing the right thing. 🙂

      • It has been 12 years now since the Drama Twins have been in my life. I divorced and remarried(a third time which was charmed) and lost my husband to cancer a year later. That backbone I picked up so many years ago has served me in good stead. I have been made to feel welcome with one group, but I am trying to learn more and understand more about their workings before I join them. This is a first time for thinking of joining in a decade…. it’s interesting

  3. Life is entirely too short to waste it fighting a useless battle. Open those doors, and shut that other one behind you, you don’t need it anymore. Love you sister. )O(

  4. I’ve noticed that there are seasons in my life when I’m all out there. And there are other times when it feels essential to close ranks–which for me means a circle of one (plus husband and pets). I suppose I could frame this as me making a choice to go inward, but the only choice involved is whether I’m going to honor this necessity or fight it. If I fight it…well…I’m always sorry. I’ve noticed something. When I do finally end my “hermit” time, I’m in a position to be truly useful to others. I’m strong. I’m centered. There’s something to that old saw that you have to save yourself before you can save the world.

  5. Dear friend –
    It’s about damn time. Don’t it feel good?
    Hugs and kisses to you and yours.

  6. I SO understand all of this….I get it and got it and I love that you can put it all down for me (us) to read! 🙂 Much love!

  7. Sounds like you won a battle with one of my major demons – inertia. Change — now change is hard, even if it’s for the better. Congratulations for making the change necessary for you and yours to grow!

  8. This resonates on several levels for me. In the practical, Witch Wars” way, in the personal “demons of childhood” way, and in the super intimate “honoring of who I am, what I need and what I refuse to put up with any longer” sort of way. No one should have to apologize for declaring what they need and taking it! Thank you for the thoughtful articulation of such a complicated topic! I love the long posts! 🙂

    BTW, I don’t understand why you protecting your spiritual family (temporarily closing the GRC to seekers) would cause so much drama, but I don’t need to. Kudos to you for doing what you *know* to be right for you and yours!

  9. Sorry this reply is so late… been a bit busy at work with graduation time. I’ve been keeping up reading just couldn’t respond. There are times in all our lives when we have to weed out the malcontents, to smooth out our peace of mind and heart. We out grow people, have differences of opinions and then there are the ones who just suck the life out of us and we need to shake them like a bad habit. I don’t think we owe them an apology nor an explanation for the most part. I too had to recently shake off a “friend” of 13 years. I finally woke up and saw the advantage they were taking all this time. Sucking the life and happiness out of me. It took me a while to catch on but it’s freeing now that it’s done. I don’t hold a grudge because I believe that everyone comes into our lives to teach us something, some lesson we needed to learn, even if it’s how NOT to act. I wish you peace and blessings now that you have shaken your nemesis.

  10. Simply beautiful and clearly you chose the only path worth truly fighting for. Mama would be, is proud!! Shine on you crazy diamond!!!


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