Opinion, Personal, Spirituality

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of forgiveness as a permanent act. Maybe we recognise forgiving as a potentially impermanent state of being.

Some people may have noticed I hadn’t kept my promise of posting at least once a month. I didn’t contribute anything to this blog during March and tonight’s contribution may be something that’s forced, rather than flowing freely.

March might be the biggest month of any year for me. It’s an exciting time because of the spring equinox, which usually falls on my birthday. The equinox feels like the real beginning of the New Year. My brothers birthday also falls in March, though I don’t see a lot of him these days. My son’s birthday is just a few days before mine.

March also brings plenty of sad reminders. It marks the anniversary of the first death that ever affected me on a deep level, the death of “Auntie” Sarah, a close friend of my Aunt and mother.

March marks the anniversary of my wedding to my childhood sweetheart, the date of his disappearance a year later (which falls on my brother’s birthday), the date of his death and the date of his funeral (which was also the date of our first wedding anniversary). I didn’t attend the funeral, though I was the one to begin arranging it.

Yep, March is a big month and sometimes I wince when I notice the date and remember the significance of it.

So far, since his death in 2015, March has been that month where I feel like I’m most likely to be contacted by ex-in-laws. One year, my ex-sister-in-law appeared on my doorstep. This year it appears a friend of hers, “Kazza Evans”, had been sent to leave comments for me on my public Facebook posts instead. The sister-in-law currently has me blocked having already visited my profile to pester me last November.

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A comment left on my wall on the 4th March 2019

I’ll try to cut a very long story short.

My relationship with my son’s father was toxic, damaging, included abuse and yet I stayed in it for almost six years, marrying him right towards the end of the relationship.

I don’t need to explain or justify things. Anybody who knows how abusive relationships work, or how even non-abusive, but completely wrong-for-you relationships work completely understand how easily you can step into a marriage unconsciously, go through life on auto-pilot and ignore everything wrong with your life until you suddenly can’t ignore it any more.

It happens. It could happen to you. It’s happened to lots of people.

When I began to deconstruct and end my marriage, I was open and honest about my reasons why. My ex-husband was well aware that I had a long list of complaints and issues with his behaviour, but that sex abuse topped the list. I’d said that now his behaviour was affecting our son negatively, I could no longer use the excuse that staying with him and continuing to suffer myself was best for our son.

In short, my ex knew all the reasons the relationship was ending and he knew that I did not under any circumstances consent to him touching me. Yet the time between me first speaking my truth and him finally leaving our home spanned five months, forcing me to spend another Christmas with him and giving him plenty more chances to change his ways or do something to fix things.

He had more chances than he deserved. And he assaulted me twice more in those five months, as well as continuing other behaviours on my list of complaints.

I was as benevolent as I could be, for as long as I could be, because I cared about him despite everything. I never even saw him as a horrible, vindictive man until the weeks leading up to his death, when I decided perhaps I’d been looking at him through rose-tinted glasses for most of my life.

That man was a rapist and I didn’t even get mad or hate him until the very end, after I’d kicked him out and he started doing things like making false reports against me to child protection services and coming into my home uninvited, going through my things, tearing up my clothes and reading my private conversations with people on my computer.

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A comment from my ex-sister-in-law left under one of my blog shares on Facebook, in November 2018

So, he abused me. He then began tormenting me after he left my home. Then he, I suppose after his mental health really declined, rather selfishly took his own life.

As a Mental Health First Aider and someone interested in supporting people with their mental health, I’m not supposed to say suicide is selfish. The subject came up during training. We discussed suicide and the psychologist leading the training sympathetically addressed all people who have committed suicide as “victims”.

I was triggered, of course, and had to remind the psychologist and the rest of the class that infamous serial killer Fred West took his own life in prison. In fact, lots of abusers, rapists and killers have taken their own lives once they no longer have the control they are used to (consider it one final act of taking control) and thanks to my personal experience with my own abusers suicide, I can safely say some (if not all) suicides are fucking selfish.

The psychologist had tears in her eyes, as she quietly agreed that I made a very good point.

My ex took his own life, but before his body had even been found I was being accused of murdering him. According to ex-in-laws, I either killed him through the method of “covert psychological murder”, suggesting that I’m the one that abused him, or I killed him with voodoo dolls and witchcraft.

The claims about witchcraft didn’t come out of nowhere. I make no secret of the fact I’ve always been called a witch my whole life, but one of the lesser known facts of this whole sorry story is that actually, in the weeks leading up to my exes death, when he was causing me a lot of trouble and I began to really feel the effects of the trauma I’d been going through, I’d been confiding in my friend Nate on Skype about the whole ordeal.

Nate is a practising witch and shaman from the US, and he was so horrified by my story, he suggested I try to tackle my issues with my ex through magical methods. He was so angered that I had been abused, he said that my ex should and could be killed, with magic. He began suggesting various Gods and demons that could be summoned. I wasn’t sure what to think, and told Nate that I couldn’t kill anybody.

Not only was I not even convinced or sure that what Nate was suggesting is even possible, but I just did not feel that it was morally right to go around killing people, by any methods.

This was a private conversation on my private home laptop, that my ex-husband (or someone else coming into my home on his behalf) had read. Whether they read the whole conversation or not, I don’t know, but for all those whom ever wondered why these bizarre claims are being made, this is it. Someone genuinely suggested killing my ex with witchcraft, and it wasn’t even me! And my ex had to come into my house uninvited and go through my stuff to even know about it.

I’m amazed my ex-in-laws and anybody else involved feel like the good guys in this story. I spent weeks clutching police alarms, refusing to sleep, terrified because even after his death, people were still using his key to come into my house until the locks were changed. One of my neighbours, who was fond of my ex and his brothers, was trying to convince me I was actually being haunted by my ex, so I had obviously strong reasons to suspect that even he was involved in this campaign of torment.

How did these people convince themselves I am the bad guy in this story?

THAT PHOTO - PROOF
This screenshot is essentially proof that people were coming into my home using my exes spare key following my exes death. The photo mentioned, which was in Trudi’s possession, was left in my kitchen one afternoon in April 2015.

I had to continue to live in my ex-marital home for three years, with that suspicious neighbour always just across the street. I spent most of that time terrified and not knowing who I could trust, because people right on my doorstep seemed to believe my ex-in-laws instead of me.

It didn’t matter that I’d had all the proof in the world and my ex had been having to manipulate situations and evidence to try to make me look bad. Didn’t matter that I was given Legal Aid to fight him in court the exact same week the BBC ran a story explaining domestic abuse victims weren’t being granted Legal Aid because most of them couldn’t provide sufficient evidence they were victims.

I want to add that as well as very publicly being accused of abusing and murdering my abuser, repeatedly, I’ve also been accused of having affairs and “posting my tits all over the Internet”. I was accused of having Antisocial Personality Disorder, and being a criminal, drug addict and alcoholic too!

My ex-husband cheated on me several times, including on my 23rd birthday with my brothers long-term girlfriend and childhood sweetheart whereas I’ve never cheated on anybody.  I very rarely drink, am most certainly not a drug addict and do not have Antisocial Personality Disorder, and thanks to the claims made about me in 2015, had to prove all of these things in court a little later that year.

Leaving the ex was the hardest thing I ever did. It should’ve meant the end of my torment and troubles, but instead it carried on or began popping back up here and there out of nowhere, every time I thought I closed that horrible chapter of my life and moved on.

Yes, just when I think I’ve came to terms with it all, forgiven and tried to see things from everyone else’s point of view, I’m called a murderer and an adulterer whose naked all over the Internet again and I feel a mixture of rage and sickness so deep in my core that in the past it’s made me physically and emotionally ill for a prolonged period.

I suppose I didn’t forgive yet, even though I keep on trying. I don’t know if I ever can.

My ex and his siblings had a negligent, abusive childhood. My ex-sister-in-law is one of the most unstable, unwell people I’ve ever met, thanks to her unstable upbringing and I try to remind myself they are or were the way they are or were, because they hadn’t had very good lives. I try to remember my ex lied to everybody about our split and relationship and it’s just easier for some people to portray me as evil than it is to accept the truth.

It’s easier for my ex-sister-in-law to blame me for his suicide, than consider the fact that the day he ran away, he was begging me to take him back while she bombarded him with something like 50 text messages. The messages came one after the other, despite his lack of response and included a threat to falsely report him to the Department of Work and Pensions for benefit fraud.

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Our last conversation is not a pleasant read, but at no point does he deny the abuse and instead apologises a number of times for “doing wrong”. He deleted the conversation from his own phone before taking his life.

One of the last things my ex screamed down the phone to me was “I can’t go back to Trudi’s, she doesn’t want me there. Please let me come home.”

I said no. I was not responsible for the life or death of the man I had given chance after chance. I spent years spineless, so I could bend as far over backwards for him as possible. He dominated and controlled every aspect of my life.

I can’t be sorry for taking my life back, and a lot of people should feel sorry and ashamed for their behaviour towards me.

I’m supposed to forgive everyone that’s ever wronged me, or hurt me, because that’s what Jesus or Buddha would do. That’s the suggestion made in just about every spiritual circle and what every spiritual healer or life coach will tell you. I wont be able to be happy, have a good life or attract the right things into my life if I hold onto anger over the past and towards people.

Apparently.

But am I really “holding onto anger” though, or do I keep letting go of it repeatedly? Isn’t it only stirred up again whenever I have to recall these events I really don’t want to talk about any more? Aren’t I simply feeling completely justifiable feelings when I have to read another post about me being a murderer on the Internet?

Am I just not reacting as if a bullet has hit me, when someone has pulled the trigger? Is this not completely normal and human?

Am I really failing to forgive all of the time, or do I succeed in my attempts at forgiveness sometimes? Aren’t I only unforgiving sometimes, but forgiving at all other times? Why is that not good enough?

Am I not absolutely fine, in the here and now, until somebody makes my past the now, again? Do I not accept everything? Have I not used these events as an opportunity for amazing personal growth? Don’t I even find myself able to empathise with those causing me hurt? Don’t I only sometimes suffer with bad feelings that make me feel bad?

Aren’t thoughts and feelings transient things?

Isn’t it enough that I am spending time mastering awareness and observation of my feelings, instead of allowing myself to become my feelings?

We cannot insist that a patient forgives someone who has deeply, and forever, harmed them. And, we certainly do not want to make our patients feel guilty because they cannot do something superhuman (forgive the unforgivable).

~ Mark Banschick M.D.
Psychology Today

I think maybe I do forgive, when I’m in a forgiving state, or perhaps not thinking about any of this at all. And I think maybe I don’t forgive when I’ve been triggered and am clearly in an unforgiving state. Seems pretty fucking straightforward to me. Seems like all that stuff I read about needing to forgive is just a load of unreasonable crap that doesn’t really take real life and how it works into account. But maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe the spiritual pressure to forgive is not at all unreasonable and the human mission genuinely is to become superhuman and stop feeling pain when somebody hits you.

Personal, Review

Safely Navigating Your Shamanic Calling with Andrew Camargo

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you might be aware I have a tendency to sign up to (often free) online workshops and courses that fall into my path as I try to navigate my way through healing trauma and spiritual growth independently.

The last two courses I’d reviewed on this site were both spiritual in nature. I had little success with the Energy Alignment Method (EAM) course that promised to help me heal my life, yet had interesting experiences with another course that promised to empower me.

Though I’ve still yet to revisit and properly review, as promised, my experiences with the very first workshop I signed up to in December 2017, as well as other courses in 2018, I’d like to dive straight into discussing my latest journey with Andrew Camargo’s course, Safely Navigating Your Shamanic Calling. I was able to take the workshop for free, having stumbled across the course in a Facebook advert.

If you follow my Instagram, you’ll have seen that recently, I’ve quoted Camargo on the subject of reality and imagination. Not only should this be indication I quickly gained an amount of respect for what Camargo was teaching, but also that I’m deeply concerned about separating reality and illusion or truth and lies.

I encounter so many issues in my spiritual communities online, it’s hard to keep track of them all, but I felt that Camargo’s warnings in the earlier lessons of the workshop, highlighted a couple of the most common problems, such as people being unable to discern imagination from spiritual experiences.

In my communities there are issues with people failing to understand what spiritual growth is and how to achieve it, assuming that burning sage and behaving as if they are spiritual achieves (and indicates) advancement; there are a great deal of vulnerable people out there, unable to discern truth from lies; vulnerable people turning to Twin Flame legends to help them cope with their troubled relationships, when they should perhaps be seeking a counsellor; there are a lot of people displaying serious mental health issues; many are convinced, after a spiritual experience or taking interest in spiritual growth that their life purpose is to take on a professional role in the ‘spiritual sector’; and finally, we are inundated with frauds and cold readers, “psychics” who are either knowingly being dishonest and making things up as they go along, or people who have a very inflated sense of their own abilities, failing to realise they still have much more work to do in terms of spiritual advancement.

The latter issue may explain why every day on Facebook, when I see someone ask ‘what colour is my aura?’ they receive anything from 10 to 100 responses, saying different things. Or, you may simply argue the responses are different, because there’s no such thing as aura’s or being able to see one!

For some reason, most people within the community aren’t talking about the reality that things are obviously going so very wrong, for so many people, and if you try to address it, there’s a high chance of hostile response from these so-called enlightened people.

‘Well, that’s your belief, not mine.’ you might read.

Somewhat worrying and frustrating when you know a person willingly opts to believe in a lie!

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Photo by Nizam Abdul Latheef on Pexels.com

Allow me now to just explain to readers why a course like Camargo’s would appeal in the first place, and why I remain open to the possibility that not every psychic or person who claimed to have special abilities was a liar or crazy.

First of all, I’ve visited psychics in person a number of times. I’d say 9 out of 10 times, they absolutely were very skilled, professional cold readers. I am discerning enough to be able to spot when someone is being as vague as possible and actually trying to draw information out of me which they can then use to their advantage. However, although that’s a whopping 9 out of 10 times that I feel I was dealing with a fraud, it’s not 10 out of 10.

I’ve dealt with a psychic that forewarned me before we began that he was ‘very accurate’ and he said this almost as if he was saying ‘you can still cancel this appointment, if you don’t think you can handle it.’

‘What an arrogant jerk!’ I’d thought.

And then this “arrogant jerk” told me to keep my mouth shut and let him do his thing. He had no interest in fishing information out of me. He just meant to sit there, holding my ring in his hands with his eyes closed and tell me everything he claimed spirit was showing him in images. The result of our appointment was us falling into an argument, and him leaving in anger refusing to take my money, calling me ‘arrogant’ for refusing to accept what he was saying.

It was my worst meeting with a psychic ever, because I’d finally stumbled across one that seemed to know everything about everything – a whole bunch of things he couldn’t and shouldn’t possibly know – and he was, as he warned, very accurate.

Now, as if this incredible man wasn’t enough to make me remain open to the possibility that some people out there are genuine, I myself have had a lifetime of experiences that suggest that spirits, energy work and manifesting, and psychic abilities are real things that people can experience, no matter where we’re at with our scientific understanding of such things.

I’ve had recurring dreams that I eventually realised were prophetic in nature, when the events of said dreams came to pass. I’ve had visions, knowings and heard things of prophetic nature that came to pass. I’ve seen people in front of me appear and then vanish and I’ve even shared some of these experiences with other people, with some of them blaming me for attracting the vanishing people.

My experiences date back to as far back as I can remember. I always thought it was as if I was simply born a witch, as I’m often described. I began meditating and casting spells, without instruction from a teacher or book from a very young age, but I was also very young when I actively tried to shut myself down and stop seeing people that weren’t there.

I learned my name, April, means “to open” and it was an ‘AHA!’ moment for me, like suddenly I’d been given explanation for my inherent openness, honesty and interest in seeing what’s behind every door I come across.

In one of my old homes, both I and two of my ex boyfriends kept feeling something grabbing us by the throat, or punching the pillows in front of our faces in the night. Once, in that home, I loudly proclaimed ‘there’s no such thing as ghosts’ when a young girl was on the news claiming her house was haunted, and then my sunglasses that had been placed on a shelf, immediately came flying off the shelf across the room towards me, leaving my ex-boyfriend and I jumping up and down screaming, with him insisting I apologise to the ghost I’d just pissed off.

We both caught a glimpse of what we believed to be the entity bothering us one evening, when my ex was – no judgement please – taking a hit from a bong and then turned to me, said ‘watch this’ and blew a thin stream of smoke across the room. The smoke appeared to gather into a big fog, right next to the same spot where my sunglasses had been launched across the room and the smoke took the shape of person, marching on the spot. Once again, we were both screaming.

Most doctors would put me on pills for discussing this, especially now that my ex is no longer alive to verify our experiences (even if he was, they’d probably put us both on pills). I, however, don’t think I need pills. I think I need answers and quite frankly, nobody has even been able to explain why things fly off shelves, why I and my friends have shared experiences and why sometimes, I just know stuff because it’s like someone opened a door in my head, walked in and dropped the information there.

Laura Berry - support
A message from a friend some months after my ex-husband’s suicide

I always get nervous talking about these experiences and blogging about it for all to see is a scary thing to do. It doesn’t matter how discerning or reasonable I am about things, I will always meet people that will call me a liar and suggest I’ve made it all up. People will always insist I’m crazy. On the flip-side, there are also people adamant I killed my ex-husband with witchcraft, and insist I was the ‘evil abuser’ in that relationship.

I will also always encounter people that will attempt to explain some of my experiences as something other than spiritual or paranormal in nature, without actually successfully explaining them. Yet, I’m fully prepared to accept an explanation that isn’t paranormal or spiritual in nature, when there is one.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t claim to have the answers and am simply remaining open-minded, a closed-mind that thinks it knows for sure the in’s and out’s of this universe and what’s beyond it will dismiss what I have to say. I’m full of wonder and questions, whereas some people, especially those that never experienced anything extraordinary, are full of answers and fixed beliefs.

I’m most certainly not a shaman and until working my way through Camargo’s workshop, had no conscious idea that any events or experiences in my life could’ve indicated shamanic calling. I took the course out of little more than curiosity, hoping to understand a little more about what shamanism is all about. I’d say I have a pretty vague understanding, what with not being a shaman myself and never meeting anybody who described themselves as such.

I didn’t feel a shamanic calling, but after completing the workshop, I wonder if I have simply been ignoring it, sometimes out of terror and often because of stereotypical views about who a shaman is and where they must come from. See, much like I accuse people in my spiritual communities of often being confused or misled, I wrongly assumed that shamanism means giving up life as I know it, buying some robes and living out the rest of my days in a cave, where I would drink weird potions and spend most of my time either in the spirit realm, or in the perilous throes of psychosis. I also couldn’t imagine a genuine shaman being a white person from the west.

As it happens, I’m as guilty as I charge others, at least in terms of shamanism and what I thought of the subject. I ended the workshop wishing I had the time and money to commit to diving deeper into Camargo’s world, in his much more extensive and more expensive course.

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The man himself, Andrew Camargo

The six lessons I sat through obviously only scratched the surface of the things Camargo means to teach people, and there’s various reasons why, despite still not knowing truth from lies, I’d be interested in learning more from Camargo.  And here are those reasons:

1. Camargo actually acknowledges people’s inability to discern reality from imagination.

In his short course, Camargo describes how initiation into shamanism can often lead people to very quickly have an inflated sense of their own abilities. All it takes sometimes is just one experience with spirits, the spirit realm or psychic ability for people to believe they are now awakened and the level of an Elder.

The result of trying to run before you can walk, or an inflated sense of one’s abilities leads to people being unable to separate truth from their own imagination. In other words, bunches of these psychics I refer to as frauds, genuinely might not be able to tell they are simply operating from imagination, rather than communicating with spirits.

Camargo refers to having struggled with this issue in the past himself. Surprisingly, at least for me, it’s been rare to come across somebody holding spiritual-based workshops or teaching spiritual sciences that is prepared to acknowledge the b***s*** in the community.

2. Camargo acknowledges that the spirit realm is not all “love and light”.

Is anybody else tired of hearing about love and light from the droves of people that you’re pretty sure haven’t bothered with a minute of shadow work, because of their inflated sense of how enlightened they are?

If anything indicated to me that the spirit realm may be full of tricksters or dangerous entities, it was feeling hands wrapping around my throat trying to choke me and having exes screaming about experiencing the same thing. It’s being woken up in the night by a boyfriend, screaming, because he thought I, who had been asleep, had just tried to punch him in the face, and then experiencing the same thing myself. It’s breaking up with that boyfriend, wondering if it was him punching my pillow in the night all along, only to repeat the experiences with the next boyfriend to move in.

Camargo suggests that as well as struggling to discern imagination from reality, those who have an inflated sense of their own abilities will also be unable to recognise darker spirits, like tricksters, who purposefully deliver messages of half-truths, cloaked in lies.

Surprisingly, many people I stumble across at the moment seem to be so wrapped up in the “love and light” idea, they’re completely dismissive of the possibility of darker spirits, low-vibrational entities and even lower realms that could perhaps be described as sort of Hell realms, where you’re more likely to experience bad things, rather than good. And when they do acknowledge a person who thinks they are being tormented by a dark or negative energy or entity, their solution is always “love and light”. That’s it!

I remember one evening at a friends house when my brother, for reasons I wont get into, became concerned we may be in the presence of a dark energy. His response, though hilarious to me, struck me as likely more effective than “sending love and light”. He jumped from his seat, terrified, screaming and swearing, and ran straight to the kitchen, where he found a bottle of salt and amusingly began spraying it all over my friends house, still swearing at the likely imagined entity and actively trying to banish it.

Why do I think love and light might not be an effective method of dealing with the kind of entity Camargo describes as a Trickster?

Well, it’s just a theory, but I figure if you’re talking to a Trickster and you trust it, chances are you’re going to be rather friendly and perhaps even (conditionally) loving and compassionate towards it. If the conditional love and light of most people was genuinely effective, why are Tricksters sticking around, giving people prepared to listen to them the time of day?

Though I may be wrong about my brother’s solution being more effective, the “love and light” gang strike me as lacking some serious substance. I agree we’re beings of love and light, but I also agree that we all cast a shadow and something about people parroting the words “love and light” pisses me off. I’m clearly not an enlightened being, see! But neither are most of these people.

3. Camargo stresses the necessity of shadow work and agrees it’s a lifelong process.

Do I really keep meeting people that think they have completed their shadow work? Yes.

Maybe one of the reasons I failed to get on with EAM,  is because EAM essentially claims that you can heal your life, clear your energy and begin vibrating at higher frequencies without really doing any of the necessary inner work and self-reflection required to heal. It’s all about “finding blocks in your energy” and repeating affirmations to release the blocks.

The process of finding and releasing said blocks should require some amount of self-reflection, but with all focus primarily being on waving your woes away like a Fairy Godmother, I would assume you’re of course not dealing with things properly.

Camargo stresses that shadow work never ends. He suggests the more light you begin to cast, the bigger that shadow you cast becomes! I like Camargo.

4. Camargo has really done his homework and comes across as having experience.

My name is Andrew Camargo. I have been studying Archetypal Shamanism, Entheogenic Spirituality, Alchemy, Jungian Psychology, Modern Mythology and Visionary Art for the past 17 years.

~ Andrew Camargo

He allegedly went to Yale. He’s done some travelling. I believe he mentioned working with genuine shaman’s at some point. He’s claiming he’s experienced having a self-inflated ego and sense of his own abilities and then eventually realised his mistake. As a result, he’s genuinely grown. He now has the ability to be discerning. He is now, unlike so many other teachers who are surprisingly failing to do so, actively warning all students that come to him of the extreme likelihood that the initiatory call results in the exact same mistakes for a lot of people.

5. Camargo repeatedly refers to Carl G. Jung.

I don’t remember when I discovered Jung, myself, and I by no means am as familiar with his work as Camargo obviously is, but I do know that as soon as I began to discover Jung, I began to learn very important things. Just by reading a small quote of Jung’s, or a few paragraphs on his discoveries and theories, I’ve learned so much about myself and people, that I’m prepared to name him as one of my greatest teachers.

Jung has repeatedly triggered me to have a heightened understanding of the nature of the psyche. He, perhaps, has taught me more about what I want or need to know in a few minutes than some teachers who tried to teach me for entire years at school did.

I quickly gained respect for what Camargo was doing, despite not knowing whether there is such a thing as a genuine shaman, because I at least know there is such a thing as not being genuine. His references to Jung only make me more inclined to pay attention to what he has to say. At the very least, isn’t Camargo’s interest in Jung indicative of a person deeply interested in seeking greater understanding of himself, of humanity on the whole and of life itself?

6. Camargo alludes to shamans having ordinary jobs.

Back once again to my concerns that spiritualism leads to people misunderstanding what they should be doing with their lives, thanks to stereotyping and “teachers” and teaching all the wrong stuff, Camargo, like a breath of fresh air, describes in his lessons people with “ordinary” jobs that can be assisted in expression by formative and empowering facets of the Shamanic Archetype.

I expressed that it would be a disaster if everybody who felt they had a spiritual calling decided to become a Reiki therapist, because actually, the world still needs people working in other professions. When you enter a spiritual community on social media, there’s very little talk of people in ordinary professions and a lot of discussion about people having left, or trying to leave their corporate or ordinary jobs, because they feel they’re lightworkers and should take on some stereotypically appropriate role. And that’s without the 17 years of experience Camargo has had studying various relevant subjects, or like my almost 31 years now of experiences that have gone unexplained by conventional science.

In the short course, Camargo refers to midwives, funeral directors and DJs, whose professions are guided and empowered by shamanic abilities. So, I’ve finally stumbled upon a teacher who essentially acknowledges that people with psychic abilities or other special abilities, aren’t necessarily supposed to be Tarot readers and Crystal Therapists. I consider this an important lesson that more people need to learn.

7. Camargo got me painting.

Throughout the learning process, Camargo invites us to write, as this will help us in the learning process. At the end of course, after having tried to identify one shamanic facet that is dominant in me, and then six facets that either form or empower the dominant facet, Camargo instructs us to draw our personal constellation, creating a ‘Sacred Soul Artefact’ to keep for inspiration. Again, this last piece of homework supports the learning process and would perhaps even trigger the activation of dormant or latent energies.

I think it was early last year I said to my mum I’d love to start painting with her and she handed me paper and encouraged me to get on with it. I’ve been saying for a long time that I want to get painting and drawing, not because I’m good at it at all, but because art classes were one of my favourites at school and I missed doing it.

And yet, all I did for months was just think about painting from time to time, never actually allowing my interest in painting to manifest into reality. That’s something I’m prone to do, especially when it comes to my creative interests. I’ll think about the story I want to write, or the picture I want to paint, but I wont actually do it.

It’s almost outrageous I haven’t bothered to paint until now, considering last year, on another blog I wrote about the importance of creative expression for good health and how at times, such expression can even be linked to shadow work, and the acknowledgement or expression of parts of our psyche we have tried to reject. I sat and thought a lot about the need to be creative and all I’ve done since, (this blog not included), is write roughly three poems and 20 pages of a story I might never finish. And I wrote all of that in the same three-week period.

If Camargo’s course triggered anything at all, it was at the very least, getting me off my backside to finally enjoy painting something. Though I largely wasn’t sure at all what exactly I was taking away from the course when I began the work, I at least knew I wanted to put effort into this project and place a little trust in the workshop as having something useful to offer me.

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My Sacred Soul Artefact

My amateurish piece of work has brought to life the personal shamanic constellation I devised as I worked through Camargo’s course.

At the centre of my constellation, is symbolism for the Visionary Artist or Writer facet of the Shamanic Archetype. It was difficult, at first, to pinpoint my main facet as the descriptions given for each facet seem to describe them how they would be expressed by a skilled or experienced shaman. For that reason, I almost considered the Psychic or Wounded Healer facets as my main facet, as the description for Visionary Artist details an artist that “records humanity’s ongoing, ever-evolving relationship to the supersensible, archetypal, mythical, imaginal, magical, spiritual realms.” I felt that only a fraction of my poetry or stories reflected this.

However, after much deliberation, I realised that if I considered where I’ve had the most success in my life, it’s through writing. I realised that I tend to hear “you should be a writer” more than I’ve heard anything else. I also realised that just days before beginning the course I’d resolved that I was perhaps, at least for now, being guided away from fixating on the Wounded Healer facet, without realising it in those terms, of course, until completing the course.

Finally, I understood my potential psychic abilities to not be anywhere near strong enough to select it as my main facet. I absolutely do not for one second believe my skills there are stronger than my skills as a writer. Writing has, as well as got me into small amounts of trouble over the years, saved my skin more than once. As well as winning various writing competitions over the years, something as simple as writing letters has gotten me out of trouble many times or essentially resulted in me getting exactly what I want in life.

As a result of this realisation, The Wounded Healer became a formative facet in my constellation, and the Psychic became an empowering facet. The other two formative facets, which shape how the Writer facet manifests, and are symbolised in the ring closely orbiting the centre are the Trickster and Storyteller facets. For a better understanding of what all of this means, I strongly suggest signing up Camargo’s course if you’re interested.

However, my reasons choosing the Storyteller as a formative facet should perhaps be rather obvious when I have chosen Writer as my main. I selected the Trickster, also known as the Sacred Clown or Holy Fool for a number of reasons, not just limited to the description I was given of the facet.

First of all, whereas my name means ‘to open’ and often conjures up thoughts of springtime in a lot of people’s minds, it also greatly reminds people of April Fool’s Day. I personally always feel like The Fool in the tarot deck, always at the beginning of my spiritual journey and also, always at the end of something too, which is what the card numbered zero tends to imply. It also reminds me how springtime is also very much a beginning and an end of a cycle and my birthday actually falls on the Equinox.

Second,  the term trickster conjures up a million memories of my tendency to be mischievous and rebellious, or a bit of a prankster, whereas the word clown resonates deeply because a lot of the time, much of it was clowning around and an attempt to entertain myself or others. So, I’ve always described myself as a clown and so, was obviously immediately drawn to the facet.

Camargo’s shamanic-based description of the Trickster is that they reveal the subconscious, like your repressed shadows and because of this, tend to trigger healing. Upon reading that, my mind automatically flashed to times where I, through my actions or words that may have initially been upsetting for people, actually triggered an individual to heal or better themselves. A Trickster allegedly tends to “expose inconvenient truths” and is “creatively destructive and destructively creative”.

Again, those ideas about a Trickster resonated, but I also realised I was remembering a number of events I felt guilty about. I also recently got kicked out of a spiritual community on Facebook, for trying to expose the kinds of “inconvenient truths” about the ego I’ve discussed here, that Camargo also describes.

Finally, I knew the Sacred Clown would be in my constellation somewhere, because if you walked into my home, you wouldn’t have to look too hard to find a clown. I have always loved clowns. They may scare some people, but as I’ve suggested already, I identify with clowns.

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That’s me, showing off Clarence, a one-of-a-kind Shadow Doll made by a witch in Gloucester.

The last two facets, which are symbolised in the outer circle of my constellation along with the Psychic facet, supposedly empower and inspire my main facet. These facets are Tender of Dreams and Occult Scientist.

I have, over the last year, had an increased interest in dream interpretation and helping others in interpreting their own. My dreams have also directly influenced my writing, poetry, stories and even decisions. I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps The Wounded Healer and Tender of Dreams should have been placed the other way around.

Are my own wounds really forming much of how I express myself in my writing, or did they just inspire me to study psychology and take training in some complementary therapies?

The Occult Scientist facet is essentially what I think of as the witches facet. Whereas I could’ve chosen the Energy Worker facet, as much of witchcraft does simply involve energy work in some form and led me to taking Reiki training, The Occult Scientist facet recognises there is a little more to it and implies that one understands on a deeper level exactly how to use energy. And of course I feel empowered and inspired by my knowledge and abilities as a so-called witch.

Whether I made a mistake in creating my personal constellation or not, I feel confident that I chose the 7 facets out of Camargo’s 25 that are most suitable for me. And though I didn’t know when I began to write this exactly what I’d gotten from the course so far, as I end this post it’s starting to become a little more clear. Not only have I learned more about shamanism, and the various ways in which shamanism is expressed, but I’ve once again looked at little deeper at myself, my path and my progress and abilities.

Camargo’s workshop triggered interesting self-reflection and inspired me to write what is possibly the longest blog post I’ve written here so far. I have created a painting that I’m actually rather proud to have completed and genuinely will keep close-by, just in case it does have the power to inspire and empower me, or trigger me to take the next step in spiritual growth. Though I may never become a shaman, I consider this time well spent!

Personal

My Final Word on 2018

2018 was everything it was supposed to be. It was everything I had expected, in ways I wasn’t expecting. It was my year of lessons, of new beginnings and transformation. It was my year to turn 30 years old and joyfully say goodbye to my turbulent twenties.
 
I thought I knew what was coming, and yes, I did “know”, but I was looking in the wrong direction entirely.
 
I looked for stories and labels. Looked for an identity to attach to myself that would show everybody I’m the “success” I was “supposed to be”.
 
Ironic, when my all time favourite quote from any book is “to define is to limit”.
 
But I’d felt like a failure. How could I not, having grown up hearing all about who I was going to be and what I would become? They said I could be anything and I would definitely be SOMETHING. Definitely no less than a star!
 
Writer. Actor. Lawyer. Politician. Musician. Doctor. Prime Minister. Psychologist. Label. Label. Label.
 
I started trying to do what I thought I was “supposed to do”. And lot of this stuff I tried to fill myself up with just made me feel empty.
 

I tried parties and reconnecting with old friends. I tried making new friends. I enjoyed amazing music. I threw myself violently out of my comfort zone. I took part in various workshops and programs. I started exercising. I started eating well. I started figuring out what suits me and what doesn’t, what works and what doesn’t.

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Athena, by Pui Che
 
Nothing works, not even the stuff that’s supposed to, when you’re doing it all for the wrong reasons. Attachment to stories and ideas, attachment to expectations and avoidance of your whole, true self in the here and now is some of the dumbest things you can inflict on yourself.
 
I knew by the middle of the year I was heading for something BIG and unavoidable: A neck-breaking twist, that would force my head and eyes to look the right way.
 
That tower I’d only just started to build, already crumbling down.
 
This year, I got the all-clear for one cancer and then found out I need tests for another cancer. I’ll find out sooner or later.
 
I started university, doing what I always wanted and was “supposed to do” and then found out everything I thought I’m “supposed to do” is a lie.
 
I had never felt closer to someone in my life, someone who has often been a source of a lot of upset for me, and just as I felt we had reached the point of unbreakable, our relationship was severed. It’s both sad and a weight off my shoulders.
 
I worked hard, studied hard and began training myself up to remake my life, to break away from the shackles of the DWP. I put all my time, money and stock into this “transformation”, to be told by my landlord I can’t run my business from home.
 
And I got this new home, away from the trauma of the old and it kept falling apart around me. It ceased to be the “thing that I needed to feel better” faster than you can say April Fools.
 
The year rolled in like a steamroller, squashing everything that I am out of me until there wasn’t much left. I tried to keep turning my head back to where it was most comfortable, looking outside for something to make things better.
 
Distracting myself with social media. Attaching to stories. Assuming that if I get the things I want, then things will be alright
 
And all year, it’s like a greater force has been with me all along saying “Stop looking. Start seeing. I’m here. I’m real. I have all these wonderful things waiting for you, if only you’d just notice me.”
 
My neck “broke”. My head turned. I sat here in darkness for the longest time, finally beginning to ask the right questions and look for the real answers.
 
So, 2018 is both the start of a new cycle and the ending of an old one. Everything it was “supposed to be”. I’m going on a new journey, full speed ahead, transforming more and calmly going to war with everything in my way, including myself.
 
I am ready for a brand new year. I’m not becoming something new or old. I’m getting real.
Personal, Review

Opening to 5 Feminine Archetypes with ReWilding for Women

I wasn’t sure whether to write this blog and before beginning to type anything at all, I found myself staring at a blank screen, taking in deep breaths all the way to my root, as I do at the beginning of any ReWilding workshop or gathering. I am sure I want to share my experiences with different therapies and healing modalities with the world, just as I have already done so once on this blog already. I’m also massively unsure about sharing my super personal experience with ReWilding’s free workshop, for very good reason.

I took part in the 5 Faces of the Feminine, and it got a little bit mad.

I discovered ReWilding when I was added to their phenomenally large Facebook group by a healer from Manchester I’ve yet to work with. This group is home to over 30,000 women, making it the largest social media group I’ve ever been in and these numbers alone certainly got my attention.

At first glance, reading through posts, I couldn’t really be sure what ReWilding was all about. It’s a group for spiritual women, that much was immediately obvious, but I didn’t know if I’d find any use for it. I decided to dive in and get to know the community by making my first post in the group. I then, out of curiosity, signed up to receive ReWilding newsletters from the main website, where I received my free gift; the workshop.

I found myself too busy to get stuck into the workshop right away, but in early November, I sat in a restaurant in London, dating myself as I’ve grown accustomed to in recent months, plugged in my headphones and watched the first 15 minutes of the first module as I waited on my food. I couldn’t deny that I was sceptical of the whole thing, while being unexpectedly excited as I watched ReWilding’s founder Sabrina Lynn talk about what I could expect from this workshop.

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Sabrina Lynn Domenosky

Some people just captivate you. Some people seem to speak to directly to your soul. Sometimes, people appear in your life that you just feel are absolutely meant for you, in ways you can’t really explain. You just feel it, with every fibre of your being. Down to every last cell in my body, I had fallen head over heels in (platonic) love with Sabrina Lynn. It was suddenly easily to see how she’d built such a large community and I knew I was going to be staying.

It took me over a month to get on with completing the workshop and when I was done, I sat staring at my journal wide-eyed, calculating when would be the right time to buy access to a workshop that takes me deeper into the ReWilding method.

The workshop consists of 3 short modules and is a very brief, introductory experience into opening up to feminine archetypes or Goddesses. This is about invoking deities and opening up to and stepping into your “wholeness” as a woman. This is spiritual healing and all about reclaiming your power. It’s re-wilding!

It doesn’t matter how many extraordinary experiences I’ve had throughout my life and how much I believe in the extraordinary, my experiences with cold reader psychics alone is enough to make me cautious when approaching anything out of the ordinary. I began the first practice, not so much not knowing what to expect, but not really expecting anything at all to happen!

And then something did happen. And it was a mental struggle to keep myself detached from stories and ideas about what I was experiencing, and just let myself experience it. It was important to me to not attach to the stories I wrote to describe what was happening, but I certainly made note of the ideas that came up. I tried to approach this workshop mindfully, just observing the results of each invocation, and then writing it down in my journal, without judgement.

If you haven’t ever taken the workshop and think you’d like to try it, stop reading my blog now. I have concerns that describing my own experiences will then influence yours and that’s what you don’t need. You want to experience something authentic and get the best of this very brief workshop. You can come back later to read about how I got on and compare your experience to my own.

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Hekate

1. Opening up to the Medicine Woman: Hekate

In the first module, I’m called to invite Hekate and take in her energy. As the exercise began, it was time to let go of scepticism and just do as I was told. After all, as a witch, this isn’t entirely new to me, so why all the scepticism?

This particular exercise however, was not something I’d done before. Sure, I’ve called on Hekate, but in the past I called with different intentions. This time, I was calling for Hekate to nourish me, standing in my living room, picturing roots growing from my feet and focusing on my ritual. This time, I was trying to merge with her energy so I could be my true, whole self. And this was where things got rather immediately, unexpectedly bizarre.

I became insufferably hot. I was absolutely boiling in my perfectly cool, comfortable living room. I felt breathless. I was suffering! I felt like I couldn’t stand up. I just wanted to drop to the floor. My instant reaction, of course, was panic. My mind raced with questions such as “why can’t I breathe?” and “why can’t I stand up?”

Almost amusingly, I forgot for a moment that I am, for the most part, perfectly able-bodied and normally can stand up. I forgot this doesn’t usually happen in any meditations I ever do. I’d only been stood there a minute, but for some reason instead of thinking that what was happening was a result of the ritual, I actually thought for a second that there was something seriously wrong with me. I thought I’d became ill. I thought that maybe I was dying.

I continued burning up and struggling to breathe. I was keeling over and all I wanted to do was drop to the ground, when suddenly a thought popped into my head that it was perfectly okay to drop to the ground and that in fact, that’s what she wanted. A weird thought, I noted, but I thought “yes! I need to connect my root (chakra) to the ground and get closer to her.”

So, I dropped. And I began to cool down. I began to rock back and forth and then my body naturally began twisting and spiralling. I could hear Sabrina talking to me through the video in the background. I could hear her discussing that we may have “old wounds” attached to the Medicine Woman.

This is the stuff we literally got burned at the stake for.

~ Sabrina Lynn Domenosky

And, “Holy shit,” I thought. “I was experiencing a memory of being burned at the stake for witchcraft?”

It made too much sense. It felt too accurate.

Telling myself again not to attach to this idea, but to simply note it, I ended the practice stunned and shook to my core. I also felt amazing! I was certain I needed to continue these practices and that more is to come from Hekate in the future.

2. The Dark Goddess: Kali

Back to my usual scepticism again, despite my incredibly shocking experience the day before, I stepped into opening up to Kali. This practice once again dictated that I should stand and I couldn’t help but be concerned I was going to get knocked off my feet again.

I simply stood, invited her and waited, observing the experience keenly.

“Nothing’s going to happen.” I thought.

And I certainly didn’t have a crazy experience like I’d had the day before. I had no trouble standing whatsoever and I didn’t burn up or lose my breath. The experience was so subtle and something that could so easily have just been my mind running away with itself, that it was much easier to not attach myself to any stories. However, it was important to make a note of what I did experience and I was still shocked once the practice was over.

I caught a glimpse of a wolf, not a Goddess, in my minds eye. It dived straight at me and tore my throat out. That was rather alarming. Then I weirdly felt that I was being commanded to kneel, so I did so, quite frankly shitting myself at this point. I had no idea if my wonderfully vivid imagination was playing tricks on me, or I was genuinely experiencing something.

As I knelt and waited, eyes closed, I again thought I saw the wolf, wrapping it’s jaws around my head. My head was hurting. I had a genuine headache. Then I either saw, or felt, the wolf inside me and it’s face came tearing out of my own face.

Completely unsure now whether I’d gone mad entirely, I ended the practice realising that I’d now had two experiences that you could in no way describe as pleasant ones. And yet there I was, feeling oddly accomplished with this idea that “that totally needed to happen. I needed that.”

From Sabrina’s description of what Kali may do for me and my own ideas, I sort of felt I was being shown that my mind really needs a good goddamn rewrite.

3. The Mother: Gaia

Finally, with The Mother, an experience that was not terrifying in the moment. I led on the floor, waiting for Gaia’s embrace and I couldn’t deny that I did feel like I was being held, in a very non-physical, non-corporeal sort of way.

As we’d gotten further into November, I seemed to have been slipping further into a very dark, low mood. I’ve never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder and I’m pretty sure I don’t experience this every year, but it seemed almost like I was suddenly suffering. And through my spiritual Facebook groups, I discovered thousands of people seem to be suffering in the exact same way I am.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, we have all lost our motivation and something as simple as washing the dishes looks like climbing Mount Everest.

You can call it depression. But, last year I knew this year was going to be a major one for me and I’ve started looking at all of it with suspicion. I started to be less sceptical about this matter and supposed I am experiencing a Dark Night of The Soul that my sister might not even remember she had warned me was coming in her oracle reading for me earlier in the year. My own tarot readings, though I could only translate them vaguely, certainly predicted this and insisted what was coming was out of my control.

It’s a Master Number 11 year, and here I am, writing this post on the winter solstice of 2018. I never strictly believed in astrology and how planetary alignment affected people. I never cared for numerology and I suppose despite practising witchcraft my whole life, I kept my beliefs and ideas as vague and light as possible. But here I am, at the end of this very important year and I feel like everything I’m going through might be one final big push, or shift, to complete whatever it was I’d started in January.

I pleaded with Gaia for some help as I led on the floor. I begged her to take away my pain, my sadness, my despair, my longing and neediness and lack of motivation and I led there waiting.

She didn’t take these things away, but I still ended the practice feeling supported.

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Gaia

4. The Warrior: Athena

My Grandmother is Greek-Cypriot and Greek mythology and the study of Ancient Greece was, without a doubt, among my favourite subjects at school. I step into the practice excited instead of sceptical, but as was my experiences with Gaia and Kali, the whole thing was rather subtle.

As I’m not experienced with yoga and have a painful condition with my joints, this practice was actually difficult as I had to maintain a yoga pose that I don’t have the strength to maintain for as long as the practice requires. But the thought arose that it was okay to step in and out of the warrior pose. I’ll never know if I was being reassured by Athena, or by myself, but I felt pulled to step into warrior and then I’d be extending my fists, and then I’d be flexing my muscles.

I was suddenly moving like I was in the middle of a Taekwondo class and it just felt so right. It felt like I was supposed to be doing it. And despite being a little weakling that can’t maintain the most simple of yoga poses for a few minutes, I felt pretty damn good as I moved around.

Several thoughts popped into my mind: I am strong; I am a warrior; I am fine; I am ready and, finally, I am “on path”.

So, I thought, “The Dark Night of The Soul is exactly where I’m supposed to be at right now.” And then I reminded myself that I wasn’t going to be attaching to the stories.

5: The Love Goddess: Lalita

Alright. So, I’d gone from a pretty mind-blowing experience in the first module, to all these subtle ones in the second. I was starting to doubt my first experience as anything special. Was this all a load of rubbish?

I sat disheartened as Sabrina explained this final particular Goddess can be a particularly difficult one to open up to. She said something about the door or window to Lalita being a very narrow one. Slightly pissed off, I shuffled into position to begin the practice and tried to empty myself and open to the experience.

(Sidenote: The meaning of my name, April, is “to open”)

For me, this one was all about breath. I was breathing as deep as I could, intent on sucking in as much energy as possible. I needed to fill my chakras one by one.

And as I did so, my body started to rock. My back began to arch and with each chakra I focused on filling, my back would arch more until I couldn’t go any further. This was me letting go and allowing my body to do what it wanted, instead of telling my body what to do and it felt pretty darn good.

Next thing I know, I’m spinning. I don’t know why, but I am spinning around and waving my arms up and down, certain I am pulling Lalita’s energy up and filling my entire body and aura with her love and light. I felt like I was waving away “bad stuff”. The entire practice felt blissful and even almost sensual. I, of course, ended worrying again for a moment that I might have gone completely mad, but did it really matter if for just a few minutes I felt so bloody good?

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Shiva

6. The Final module: Shiva and Lalita

I was not at all sad to learn my final module involved trying to open to Lalita again, but I was sceptical (how many times can I say this word in one post?). This last module is about opening up to the masculine. It’s important, of course, to balance your feminine and masculine according to spiritual circles.

I realised the last 2 modules felt empowering, but I also realised there was part of me that doubted even my most amazing and undeniably extraordinary life experiences (more on those another time).

Trying to open to Shiva felt difficult at first. I was looking for a stillness I’m completely familiar with thanks to my mindfulness training, but there was a restlessness in me I couldn’t shake off at first. When I finally found it, another one of those weird thoughts jumped into my mind:

“Shiva is holding me.”

A split second later, Sabrina is telling me to invite Lalita, and I’m thinking, “but I’m not ready, I only just found Shiva.”

According to my body, I was completely ready.

I started to move again. I started to feel, as I had done the day before, energy rising in me and I couldn’t help but feel that Shiva continued to hold me throughout. My body started to dance and my hips started to rock. I almost dread admitting this, but my hips rocked as if I was making love to thin air. It was both bizarre and once again, felt pretty darn good.

Then, I startled myself by moaning. And then I did it again. And then I started thinking “what the FUCK is happening?”

This was sexual. There wasn’t really any denying it. I was experiencing sexual energy that had me moaning out loud (pretty damn loudly) twice, and I didn’t even know if I even really believed in this stuff half the time.

The workshops exercise ended very abruptly, thankfully. I think if I’d have gone on for much longer things would have got pretty weirdly heavy in a way I didn’t think was humanly possible.

But my interest in taking Tantra classes, which was already pretty high, has suddenly doubled. Or tripled. In fact, it’s probably increased to infinity amounts and I can’t bloody wait for the New Year. I’ll certainly be signing up to more ReWilding workshops and maybe finally booking into that Tantra class I’ve had my eye on!

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A Romance with My Recovery

This is the longest I’ve been single since I was a teenager. 

I never knew just how much I needed and would value this time alone. My last attempt at a serious relationship only ended a year ago and I can still remember how crushed I felt that things hadn’t worked out again.

For a little while, my main concerns were whether or not I’d ever meet anybody again and whether I’d ever feel truly in love. I worried that maybe I just wasn’t relationship material. I wondered if I ever really was. I told myself, with a sinking heart,  that perhaps nobody will ever love me again.

Talking to my friend, Donna, about my relationship woes over the last Christmas period, she strongly advised me to take time for myself. She reminded me that I hadn’t had that – not really – for a long time and that I need to learn to love myself again.

I didn’t know what else to do, but to take her advice seriously, so I began to try.

Fast-forward several months, and not only had I been diving into every self love self-help workshop I could find, but I was slowly starting to live my life exactly how I always wanted to.

I started focusing on all of the dreams and goals I’d been mulling over for years. I started to achieve things I kept putting off because it was never the right time or because I kept finding bad excuses.

I was learning that loving myself meant understanding myself and managing negative thought patterns that had me getting in my own way. I realised loving myself is about being true to my real self. But first, I’d have to get to know myself again.

It’s amazing how much of yourself you can lose in relationships if you’re not careful.

Alone, silently
the bamboo shoot
becomes a bamboo

– Santoka

I had a feeling when I turned 29 in 2017, that 2018 and turning 30 would herald some sort of major transformation for me and that’s exactly what this year has been about.

I had been through my fair share of trauma and had never taken any time to recover, thinking I could just stuff things down and keep on moving. Yet, I wasn’t really moving at all because I placed no importance whatsoever on healing past hurts.

I never considered that I shouldn’t date anybody until I’d dealt with myself properly. It didn’t seem logical to let someone pass me by if we liked each other. But my relationships, good or bad, were partly what was distracting me from doing the important stuff.

I wasn’t even living the life I want and parts of my twenties had dissolved into some sort of sad blur.

The truth is, I probably will meet someone again, I probably will love again and of course I’m relationship material; I got married once already, didn’t I? But there’s no rush. I stopped being concerned about romance months ago and I’m so happy with the way things are right now. I can focus entirely on my son and recovering whatever I’d lost.

This last year has seen me gaining qualifications that help me towards my career goals. I’ve gone back to my spiritual roots and stopped pretending to be someone else to avoid ridicule. I started setting goals, writing bucket-lists, facing fears, forcing myself out of my comfort zone and even decided to follow one of my dreams, literally.

Some time earlier this year, I discovered a London-based rock band on Instagram. I can’t ever get enough of music, so I always tend to check out the bands that fall into my lap and I enjoyed this band enough that I immediately bought every song I could get my hands on.

That band was Romances – an appropriate moniker for the five musicians who unknowingly became part of my journey of self love and healing!

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Romances at The Monarch, Camden, 7th August 2018 – photo by James Canavan

I was casually enjoying their music from time to time to begin with and thought to myself that maybe I’d see them live some day. Then all of a sudden, I started having dreams of going to watch them play.

After the first dream, I remember waking up thinking it must have been because I’d watched one of their videos on social media. But then the dreams kept happening, once or twice a week, and at first I was a bit confused. I hadn’t listened to them that much, but I seemed to be their biggest fan in my sleep.

As strange as it may sound, my dreams of Romances putting on an awesome show are what got me more invested and listening more to the band. I certainly wanted to see them play, but deep down I was sure that no matter how much I told myself I would go, I’d probably never get around to it.

I’m always seeing shows and events I want to go to, but I’ve never gone because a lot of my friends are usually busy or simply uninterested in the music I enjoy. Music is the most important form of art in my life, yet I’d rarely been to see bands play live.

Though I spent a lot of time in London when I was dating my ex and was more than accustomed to travelling there alone, I’d never gone on a ‘night out’ alone. I’ve travelled as far as America alone, but I’d never been to a pub or club on my own and the thought of it just seemed terrifying!

Wouldn’t I look like a total loser, lingering around with no friends to accompany me? Wouldn’t it be dangerous?

I would have pushed it all to the back of mind, but then, Romances released their first single, Parallels. Soon after, the famous American singer Billy Ray Cyrus was telling his fans to “check out” the song. By this point, I was familiar with the band members names, extremely impressed with their talent and had watched every video they uploaded to social media.

I was turning into what my ex described as a “Romances super-fan” just like I was in my dreams. And of course, the dreams continued.

It is a positive sign to dream of a band or musical group playing live music. It usually refers to a good level of spirituality in your life, which brings you a lot of inner peace and contentment.

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I wondered if the dreams meant something and it occurred to me that maybe I just needed to go! I had so many fears surrounding going out alone, being seen alone and getting into some sort of trouble, that I realised that perhaps a trip to London was exactly what my soul had ordered.

If you want a better life, it’s no good staying constraints of your comfort zone, hanging onto pointless fears! Life is about growing, changing and doing new things. If I could get on a plane to fly to America all by myself, I could probably take a trip to the pub alone, even if it did require several hours travelling.

I’ve spent much of my adult life not going to see bands I really wanted to see because my mind was always coming up with a hundred bad reasons not to.

I finally went for the first time in August, despite the nerves. I had quite a lot of fun alone in London. I did meet with my ex briefly, seeing him for the first time since we split. He joined me for two drinks and then left, with me free to do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about anybody else all night.

I made a friend at the bar, Yarek, and though I was mostly trying to sneak around unnoticed, he informed Ashby (guitarist) of Romances I’d travelled to see them play and before I knew it, I’d met the whole band and was spilling my guts to them about how much I loved their music. They were all so friendly and I’d managed to get through the night without much trouble at all!

The only issue I encountered was one that I think is quite typical for women, whether they’re alone or accompanied; I attracted the unwanted attention of a couple of men that evening and one was following me around for a while. I wont play it down as an issue. This is quite a serious issue that is, in part, one of the reasons I’ve been too terrified to go out alone.

I hadn’t really known how to deal with unwanted attention and that’s probably one thing I’ve yet to learn, but Soufian (bassist) spotted what was going on. He somehow managed to get rid of the man, quickly, with little more than a glare and declaring we’d ignore him.

Regardless of the behaviour of some intimidating men, I ended up having a wonderfully memorable night, for all the right reasons. I couldn’t stop smiling for days.

I enjoyed the support bands, Big Peyote and Rival Karma. Yarek insisted that I would love Rival Karma and he was absolutely right! They quickly became another favourite of mine.

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Rival Karma at The Monarch, Camden, 7th August 2018 – Photo by James Canavan

Rival Karma knew Yarek, so thanks to them, I was able to track him down on social media and stay in touch. And since first seeing them live, I’ve also been able to enjoy them treating their fans to a little live music on Instagram when I’ve been stuck at home, something they may never know just how much I appreciate.

(Or there was that time I was watching while walking around Tesco, attracting the gazes of everybody I walked past, but suddenly caring a whole lot less if I looked like a ‘loser’.)

I’ve enjoyed watching the bands so much, I ended up returning to London again twice this week so that I can see all three bands again. I also got myself tickets to see several other bands and wrote another bucket-list, specifically for all the bands I’m determined to see.

I took myself on a date to Daphne Restaurant in Camden, somewhere I’d always wanted to go when I was spending so much time in London. My ex and his girlfriend joined me to watch Romances this time and whereas that sort of situation might be awkward for some people, I had the best night with them. I’m so grateful to have them as friends.

After my experiences recently, now when I want to go anywhere, I don’t suppose that I wont go based on fear. Being alone certainly wont stop me! Now I know that I’ll probably go wherever I want to. My comfort zone has gotten a whole lot bigger all of a sudden.

I’m starting to think I was always supposed to go and see Romances eventually and I knew it, deep in my soul. It felt like destiny that I’d almost ignored, a chance to romance myself.