We humans have a deep, innate fear of the dark. We tend to feel more comfortable in the bright light of day that transparently reveals that which is around us, allowing us to assess and respond to people, situations, and things. There is something about the dark which adds the element of the ominous or disturbing. A screen door banging open repeatedly in daylight is a bother, needing to be closed tight lest the bugs get into the house. A screen door banging open repeatedly in the dead of night can leave us with our hearts banging out the same rhythm in our throats, tentatively tiptoeing towards it and taking deep, relieved breaths once it is safely closed and locked.
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Fear. We’re in it all the time. The cancer patients I teach, friends on the financial edge, my husband who has nightmares. A disturbing childhood vision--an intruder climbing a ladder to his room but somehow never reaching the sill--means he hates to be alone in the house.
I don’t fear death or burglars, just failure and ferris wheels. But that’s been enough to affect many life choices. I don’t drive or have a career (or enjoy amusement parks). I lead classes and ritual, but both make me sweat. I imagine my friends rolling their eyes as I seek reassurance for something I’ve done a hundred times before....
This past week has been a tough one on the household budget. If money flows, then my household was at the top of a hill watching it flow down and away at an alarming rate. When money is leaving faster than it's arriving, it can lead to some interesting reactions . . . such as a stronger urge to spend what you've got, to stock up for bad times. Or to choke off the flow entirely and preserve what you've got, even though this will also likely stop the inward flow as well.
It's hard to save money when it feels like you don't have any....
I'm currently going through an emotionally painful time in my life, which includes plenty of tears, and I'm not ashamed or afraid to admit that. It has got me thinking about a lot more about my future, my place in this universe, and not only what my spiritual path means to me, but where it's headed. I foresee a lot of change this year in my life, and it scares me. Recently, while having one of my less formal 'morning chats' with one of the goddesses, I broke down and began to cry at the overwhelming pressure and fear.
As the darkness approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about courage. What is courage? Personally, I think courage is so subjective – there is no one definition that would suit everyone. Yet I shall give it a go in any case.
The dictionary defines courage as: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. I would posit that courage is the quality of mind/spirit that enables a person to face difficulties, etc in spite of fear. It is just not true that the brave know no fear – I believe that they simply get on with it. There is no such thing as a fearless person, unless that person has not the mental capacity for it, having suffered physical brain or emotional trauma....
Ten years ago I had the courage to attend my first Womongathering. Womongathering was a four day women’s spirituality festival in the woods of Pennsylvania. I had been reading about it since 2001 when I found the Womongathering newsletter at a local pagan store. It was a dark time in my life. I had nightmares almost every day, suffered from panic attacks and saw my therapist at least once a week. Some times I saw her more often, especially if I had a mental breakdown that week. Mental breakdowns consisted of me crying hysterically, afraid to leave my room, and could be brought on by almost anything. I desperately needed to go somewhere safe. I needed to find the strength to continue. I remember my now ex-husband dropping me off at the gate. I was terrified making my way into the festival without him. I was so afraid to be alone back then. All the women at the festival were so friendly, but I was too scared to notice.
I spent my first night at Womongathering curled up in my blankets, clinging to my teddy and crying. Here I was, twenty-five years old with my teddy bear as a lifeline. No one could have guessed that the bulky book bag I took with me everywhere wasn’t full of books-- it held my teddy bear. I was doing a lot of inner child work and dealing with the memories coming up because of it. So with my therapist’s approval I was at Womongathering looking for something to switch on inside me. I hoped that an event full of women honoring Goddess energy would give me the change I was looking for.