To value life

Hearing that a loved one is perhaps dying is a very big shock. I guess my first real brush with death happened when my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1984. I only so young then, I was only 22 but a very young 22, I had just spent a year in my first job at the Research School of Biological Sciences and had moved out of home for the second time to share with some friends who were in the military at the Duntroon college here in Canberra. I was running a bit wild on the weekends but also holding down a second job waitressing to save for my overseas trip with my then partner Jim.

Dad’s diagnosis was a big shock to us and I have shared how it was the one time we connected where Dad expressed his emotions and I really felt his vulnerability. Up till then we had had a lot of healthy disagreement because I didn’t like my Dad was a property developer who was bulldozing old buildings to put up huge modern office blocks with my brother. I was also unconsciously angry he would not support my academic studies and forced me to go to business college.

Dad’s illness was in some ways mercifully short. He was operated on December and came out briefly from hospital on 24 December only to be returned in the early hours of Christmas morning. He died while they performed an emergency tracheoctomy on him to help him breathe in the early hours of Thursday 8 January. I got the call at work to come home.

I never got to say goodbye. I had not been well enough to go to the hospital, I was to be leaving for India in January to meet my partner who left in December and had had shots the day before Dad died. As it was my partner broke it off with me in the middle of the night shortly after Dad died, he told me not to come overseas but Mum forced me to go on with the trip which was horrendous. My brother handled the funeral and I never got to see Dad’s body. I do not remember the funeral at all, only some of the wake and not even a lot of that. Within a month I was alone overseas in the UK and very lost.

Lately I have achieved some kind of peace with Dad’s death. I have a post banked up on what grieving people need and how each death is personal and different according to the relationship we had with the person, Dad was always emotionally remote to me, as is my brother so I have struggled so much in my relationships with men, most of my partners could never validate me emotionally and my last partner caused me untold damage by not even trying to understand my complicated grief issues. That said I would often lash out due to anger I had with my father at not really ‘getting’ me and showing me empathy. I am sure I had to go through all of this pain in life to learn what a loving relationship with a healthy emotionally validating partner is, and harder to believe I do deserve to be treated with more empathy and respect.

Now that my friend, Christine seems to be possibly suffering from cancer the synchronicity of timing is not lost on me. I found my Mum also lost close friends in the final years of her life very close to the anniversary of Dad’s illness, diagnosis and death. In the case of my father it dogged every Christmas celebration and one year my older sister and I found ourselves at logger heads, it was the year Jonathan left me.

Christine’s illness is a reminder to me, too of my own brushes with death. Four of us have been diagnosed with cancer in my family, my father, my brother, my second oldest sister and I. I have not been brave enough to go for my own breast cancer check up yet, it is something I know I must deal with.

I wanted to write this post though to work through how intrinsically death and life can seem to be inter-related. Really bad grief or sadness or loss can steal our life energy for a long time and can be made more complex by earlier, perhaps unresolved griefs. What is clearer to me after all the research and reading I have done on grief as well as my experience of seeing how the failure to deal with, or rather struggle to do so manifested in my family is that we do need support and validation in our grief, in order to move through it an embrace life energy again. That said if the bond to someone is powerful, for example in the case of Johnny Cash and June Carter that I shared about in recent posts the death of one may bring about the death of the other.

Its is our heart energy that is most impacted through loss, death or leavings. I know my own heart and panic symptoms began when Jonathan told me he was leaving me. The month he spent with me before packing up to go ‘home’ to the UK in July 2004 was one of the most painful periods of my life and the following 7 years spent in the wilderness of abandonment involved a brush with death due to a head injury on the first anniversary and a bad fall on the second, but maybe on all those years we were together I was on the run from my own grief and trying my damndest to live. I think of how I struggled with the grief in my body and how little affirmation or recognition I so often got. I think of how grief still gives me ‘spins’ at critical times of the day and especially around the 5 pm critical timeslot which was when I went head over heels over my bicycle following a cranio sacral session to deal with earlier trauma. Maybe I would have been better to let sleeping dogs lie, who knows if I bought the accident on myself as my sister tried to tell me many years ago. It was just so hard to trust a family so often shut down who told me I should not be where I was nor doing it as tough as I was. That said I know its not their fault either. I truly do believe everyone does the very best they can with what they know at the time. Its just sometimes their ‘best’ falls woefully short.

My inner critic gave me a hard time again today for going over and over my trauma again in this blog earlier. It told me I need to be ‘moving on’ and that its boring for my followers. I will let you be the judge of how accurate my critic is, while acknowledging that at times my fear and sensitivity may have kept me more stuck than I needed to be.

That said I am alive and I want to live, I really really do. Life is full of such a profound mix of ‘blessings’ and ‘curses’ and in the end its up to us how we handle them and the attitude we take to them as well as the choices we make in the face of it all that makes our life what it is, and so often we are not always consciously choosing. Today I choose as much as I can to embrace life, despite my knowledge of how vulnerable it can be at times to live and face death. But I want this awareness of death to always help me keep my heart open to love and to the opportunities to connect and be fully alive that life constantly presents me with.

On Death : And Endings

Nighmare

I have stared death in the face many times.  Then reading those words it occurs to me that really I have faced it and felt it put is dark fingers around me also.  There was the accident when all the life was pushed out of me, I was flung forward, lost consciousness and then just awoke with pain struggling to breathe and part of me was asking to die.  There was the loss of my father that was never fully real as the last time I saw him he was in a kind of coma and then the call came at work one morning to say he was gone, no way to say goodbye.  This time several years ago I did not know that I had only a month or so left to visit my sister before she passed.  I was able to visit with her in the final two days of her life before we as a family had to make the decision to take her off life support and set her free.

In a movie I was watching last night one of the older characters said to a younger man, that true love is about letting people go even if that hurts you, if it is best for them.  After spending time silently with her holding her hand and saying “don’t leave me Jude” to my sister, I then said “but if it is your time to go, you must.”

I am very, very conscious today of these deaths and endings as the final throws of summer retreat and we feel the autumnal change stealing in.  After a week of refreshing rain the formerly dusty dry garden has sprung up and wet leaves are littering my back deck.  I look around the place conscious that around the corner a new place beckons to me as a still available possibility.   A part of me tells me its time to put this place to death and let it go because the lunation that we are now in the final week which began with a Solar Eclipse was in contact with Pluto planet of death, impermanence, change and transformation was opposite my first house of new beginnings and conjunct Chiron in Pisces in my seventh which concerns to me all the broken attachments of my past.  Also, I recently read a post by Leah Whitehorse which showed the Autumn Equinox (Spring really if you are in the Northern Hemisphere as herein Oz everything is reversed)has a strong Pluto energy and she explained that the Equinox Chart shows the energy for the new astrological year. We wont have the New Moon in Aries though for a few days.

I just read a post about the void written by a fellow blogger and it really got me to thinking of Pluto which often rules the void, but then so can Neptune which is more a place where we dissolve all the past attachments and can be very, very frightening to face.  Here we face confusion, realise how little we can really hold onto, how impermanent life is and are perhaps reminded painfully of all the times we were so alone or stared death in the face in some form (that’s more Pluto, though). Its deeply painful territory and its hard for our mind to help us through it.  I am not surprised others are feeling that black hole a lot at present as there is apparently too a galactic point of the deep dark hole that sucks everything in and then transforms it. It would be associated to the Goddess energy of Kali in the Hindu tradition, an energy that is so often exiled from our modern consciousness so based in heroic ego ideals of achievement, success and conquest.

Many of us who struggle with depression have to make friends with this darker side of life and its energy.  We don’t get a lot of help with this.  Instead we are made to feel that we are just ‘not normal’.  But we are marked in a way not to really be able to live in ‘normal life’ so easily, most especially if as youngsters we felt ourselves to be unrecognised.

Now it seems we need to find ways and means to recognise ourselves as adults with a very wise inner child, but sometimes just at the moment we reach out or find we need some help with this process we find the help, support, affirmation or validation just isn’t there.  We find ourselves alone again in the deep dark void with no anchor and no solid ground under our feet and feel our deepest existential human dilemma that others less sensitive, less attuned, less porous are insulated from.

I can only say I don’t live in that deep ,dark, void place any more as much as I used to. But I still visit the realms of questioning and uncertainty and I struggle with what to hold onto and what to let go of.  Do I let go of the known loved thing and risk the pain of loss?  Do I convince myself it wont hurt?  Do I feel that perhaps hurt is a necessary stage of a Plutonian life full of many deaths and many endings?  Do I feel this way because its what I knew in the past and is realising this a sign that from a Plutonian level that old pattern needs to be put to death?

There are no easy answers but all I can say is (and what Pluto has taught me) that things do change form, if we can just hold on and hold through it is my experience that light does return again in the void.  But I also know that others don’t survive it and it takes them out.  I only trust and pray that if that is their decision they find the light on the other side.  For dark only seems to fully erase light for a time  and both opposites oscillate as polarities.  All of life universally is about the oscillation of opposites and polarities and this is the paradox, pain and ambiguity we are asked to embrace often on our human spiritual journey of life and death.

Feeling my heart : Reflections on Venus

Certain sadnesses will always be with me, that is my thought for today.

In our modern way, so ignorant of the true nature of feelings and a heart centred way of being we sometimes talk a lot about resolution and closure. I think these are a myth at times. In some cases we resolve feelings and issues that were painful or sad but those deeply painful sad things that happen to us and because of us we are powerless over and can’t change, those experiences or loves that really, truly and deeply hurt or scarred us remain and we will revisit them from time to time the sadness will rise up like a flood on some days and drown the landscape of our souls for a period.

It is like that for me today. I had a resistance today towards seeing my counsellor, I am beginning to realise that great as it is to talk through issues for a time in order to gain understanding and insight, at times I just need to be able to feel my way into my heart, dancing helps me, writing sometimes, most especially listening to music.

I was feeling deeply centred in my heart today as I did a whirling dervish Sufi dance around my house in the sunlight this morning to my favourite song about longing and heartache.  I felt my heart alive in my chest buzzing with all the feelings, sad as it was, it was also kind of delicious.

There were no ideas in my head, I was having a fully lived body experience that was so real and it time these feelings passed, as they do.

In the midst of this I was then led to an insight, it was about feelings and the heart.  I wondered if it is the shutting off from our hearts and taking refuge in our heads that leads us into so much difficulty on this planet at times.

Ideas are surely wonderful things, nothing would probably have been created if it did not start out as an idea in someone’s head. And ideas can really turn me on and interest me, engaging my full attention.  Nevertheless the true, fleshy, delightful experience of being alive is for me filled with sensation and is about feelings : how we express and relate to them.

It is interesting to me as I write that this is really the domain of Venus (thinking and feeling with the heart). I was reading a blog recently where someone was speaking about Venus being the indicator of someone’s relationship style. My understanding is a bit different. I believe Venus has to do with how our very body and instincts and feelings were handled in childhood, the mirror we met and in which we tried to see our true reflection.

Ever noticed that the symbol for Venus is actually like that of a hand mirror? Our Venus position and aspects may indicate if we were we touched with hands and hearts of understanding, empathy and love? Or did we met minds that felt our expression to be too much, something to be defended against? Did we get a chance to feel our feelings with someone who could help us to make sense of them, or did we instead find someone who found our feelings, confusing themselves, to be something of an inconvenience?

And when we looked at those people, did our sensitive all seeing eye confront them with something they did not want to look at?   Did we scare them with how we were or with what we saw? Did it evoke something for them they had to bury so very long ago?

It is interesting I started writing this blog feeling still deep sadness for the ending of my marriage, 11 years ago today. I felt for the innocent heart of my partner who met and fell in love with me. I felt for my own innocent, confused and hungering heart, as it was when I met him just over 22 years ago. I felt for the loveliness of the journey we went on for some years, but also for the pain that came when I started to explore my past and my own heart wounds, something that caused him pain and which confronted him with some of his own.

I felt most especially today that on some level I broke his heart when I went down a different path to the one he wanted to travel. And in the midst of my own heartbreak emerging I had a great heartbreak to undergo in having to let him go and the next relationship too, when it appeared I was not the happy person they were both seeking.

A lot of sadness, a lot of pain, a lot of grief and a lot of guilt on my own part too, sadly. In both those relationships I could not be mirrored, empathised with, nor be deeply understood, accepted and loved and my own self preoccupation was probably difficult for them to understand. I don’t feel I was selfish, but sometimes when we need to heal it seems that way.

It can be a lonely journey and others tell us we are wrong, bad, hurtful and selfish, but to truly live with some kind of peace I feel if we weren’t given that gift of knowing ourselves truly and being truly know we must go on the journey to find who we are truly, what we really feel, so that we can well and truly be capable of loving and being someone who can love and be loved.

I have the natal Venus Neptune square and that definitely comes across in this blog (Venus in Aquarius in the seventh house squares Neptune in Scorpio in the third house). Transiting Venus has just stationed retrograde at 00 Virgo in opposition to my natal Chiron at 4 Pisces and will soon move back over my natal Uranus in the first house (very much a go it alone, adventurer, pioneer of the self placement). Over the next few weeks it will move backwards to 15 degrees of Leo just inside the last degree of my 12th house and it will square during this time my natal Neptune in Scorpio in the 3rd house as it opposes South Node, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and the Sun all square to that natal Neptune.

I have had a good look at all of this stuff for quite a few years now. I have been working through the issues, invalidation abuse, a sense of loss, absence of a strong inner masculine and feminine principle that was nurturing and understanding and supportive of myself. Much loss and confusion too.

In the end I have had to face and struggle what in AA are called my “defects of character”, really just inner resources not developed very skilfully and with wounds there to heal.

I feel all of this deeply in my heart today as I feel old grief and heartache, as the price of my suffering on this journey to healing. Becoming whole.  But in the writing out of it in the dancing I feel a deep sense of rightness and beauty here amongst the wreckage at times of my truly human self.

Today we laid her to rest

It is now just over fifteen months since my eldest sister died in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning, 2014.  A call came suddenly as I was pulling up in the car close to the park where I walk my dog, Jasper on Good Friday last year.  It was my brother and I hear from him so rarely.  The news was a shock, my eldest sister who had been living out her final 12 years in a care home for those living with acquired brain injury was in hospital on life support following a bout of pneumonia.

“Deb, we need to make a decision as a family whether to take her off life support, I think it is what Judy would have wanted.”

Shock, disbelief, then I bristled at this inwardly.  Old pain surfaced as I thought “how the fuck would you know?  You so rarely visited her.”  On reflection this was my reaction at having to face painful news.  Later that day I made the journey to the hospital to find my sister unconscious and having difficulty breathing.

My sisters four sons live away from here.  The eldest was af that time living overseas in Singapore.  The younger three live up north with their partners, an hour’s plane ride away.  “We’ve called the boys”, my brother said.  Huge heart leap, excitement at seeing them, when I see them so rarely mixed with such painful sadness to know the reason they would have to visit.

When my father died a month before my 23rd birthday I did not get to visit or say goodbye.  I had had vaccinations the day before for an overseas trip and was feeling unwell after the injection.  I received a call at work the next day to say he had passed earlier that morning following the performing of a tracheoctomy to help him breath.  He had recently been operated on for stomach cancer and had experienced complications following the surgery.  A few weeks later he was dead.  No chance to say goodbye as he had been unconscious for a few days due to a reaction to a drug given to calm him down.  I did not see his body.  My brother handled all the details.  That time is blur to me as it was such a shock and his death came hot upon the back of six years of trauma we had endured as a family.

Jude’s passing was different, an opportunity to be with her  (even though she was unconscious), many hours alone sitting holding her hand knowing that soon the decision would be made and it would be time for the final good bye.

I was able to say how much I loved her, to ask her please not to leave, but also say “if it is your time Jude,  its time to let go”..  time to cry (for the first time, to share the grief with my much loved nephews) two of whom stayed for a further week, time to talk over the traumatic years in which she was separated from them while her ex husband conducted an affair, to learn details of her psychosis, to share memories, pain and feelings.

Its a paradox to say this was a special time for me, it was a chance to finally share some grief.  After my father died I left to go overseas and drank over a lot of the pain. I did not begin to truly process my father’s death until I was well in to sobriety and recovery some 12 years later.  Some losses are just too huge to process at the time and we need support to grieve.  This is something I have had to learn over many years of my body holding complicated, unresolved grief.   A new loss triggers the old ones.  My marriage ending also brought a revisitation of the pain felt once the protective masculine influence is gone.

I remember just following my father’s death how a little mouse came to visit and I was the one who had to take the steps to get rid of it.  The same thing happened in the weeks after I had been informed my husband would be leaving me after returning from an overseas trip.  I buried a little mouse body in the rose garden and remembered the weeks after my father’s death.

Luckily today was also an opportunity to share grief.  My mother, my sister and I made our trip to the crematorium and the beautiful memorial garden there.  My sister’s ashes had been sitting in the office for some time.  My other sister was taken into hospital with depression on the day of my older sister’s funeral.  A decision made by her sons (one that upset me deeply but that I now understand).  A second hospitalisation took place this year between January and June, on the anniversaries of both my father’s death and Judith’s cerebral bleed.   As a family the time was not right to lay my sister to rest yet.  And it would be the women in the family doing it, in the absence of the masculine, an echo of both the death of my mother and father’s fathers at a very young age, an association made by all three of us today.

A lovely gentle man met us at the office of the crematorium.  He walked with us to the garden where the plaque was laid for my sister, very close to the plaque for my Nana who died when I was overseas in 1987 two years following my father.  How hard for my Mum.  Three major losses.

I was the one chosen to place the box with Judith’s ashes in the earth.  It felt so heavy and as usual I was the one in the active masculine role, I was the one who drove there, I was the one who thought to bring flowers, I was the one crying all the tears. But I was not necessarily the one grieving most.  I just always seem to be the one expressing the feelings most externally.

Birds sang as I placed the box in the ground, we then placed a handful of earth and some rose petals in the hole which was then filled.  My sister had finally been laid to rest.

As an astrologically minded person I always look at the transits.  Today the transiting Moon was opposite my own Mars Saturn Moon and conjunct my sister’s Pluto in Leo at the time of our ceremony.  It was squaring Mum’s Sun Mercury Saturn conjunction and my sister’s Saturn in Scorpio.  Transiting Venus was conjunct to my second sister’s Pluto in Leo. As I wrote in an earlier blog at present the transiting Sun is close to both Saturn and Mars in my dead sister’s chart.  And most appropriately today Venus is exactly smack bang on my Uranus in Leo in the first house as Saturn in Scorpio squares it.  I am aware of the many powerful eruptive Uranian events that have littered my life and splintered things apart.

Following our little ceremony we drove to our favourite café and had lunch.  We then spoke of many things.  I was asking questions about what occurred all those years ago following my sister’s cerebral bleed.  I was 18 at the time, then 20 when she was sent back with a one way ticket by her husband.  I learned at the time of her death from my nephews of what occurred in New Zealand in 1982 when she was in a psychosis.  Her husband had been carrying on a affair. He had planned to meet the woman he was having an affair with over there and my sister had to be a party to this.  Later, as I shared before, he had her committed to an asylum.

I wont ever know what my sister suffered.  She would not speak of what happened at this time. I do know that my sister was not an easy person.  She had addiction issues, in fact, as an adolescent she encouraged me to drink at a time when it had a bad effect on me.  I have had such a struggle to make sense of it all, being the youngest, I was bonded for many years to my sister due to unresolved trauma.  I understand that now.  At some level I felt responsible for her, especially when I found out more about the multi-generational legacy of addiction in our family on Mum’s side many years after I got sober in 1993.

My sister’s ex husband died a few years ago.  In all that time he never talked to his sons of what occurred in his marriage but I learned today that on his death bed he admitted to his oldest son that he had really betrayed my sister and regretted his actions.

It was good to be able to talk about this with my sister and mother today.  I am so grateful for the softening in my remaining sister who put her arm around me as we laid my other sister to rest.  My sister who died was like a mother to me growing up.  She was 16 when I was born and she would wheel me in the pram around the neighbourhood and received funny looks when it was assumed it was a teenage pregnancy.  With her wicked sense of humour she drew great delight from this.

It is now close to dinner time. I sit typing with the soft glow of lamps around me and the buzzing of a silence that is always present at deeply spiritual times.  I have danced out some of the complex emotions that today has evoked.  Exhausted when I left my family, I am now refreshed by time alone.

Its a great mystery to me, the family we choose.  The question, do we choose?  How fated it it?  What are the common themes that wend their way tendril like throughout the generations?  I see patterns, creating patterns. I see that sometimes we choose, sometimes we are compelled, sometimes magnetised and then we live to reap results we could never had imagined.  Much as we try to control things at times, greater forces work their way out. It seems at times we make fatal choices and mistakes which then we learn from, even though the learning is gut wrenchingly painful at times. If we can bear the consequences we live on.  And sometimes fate forces upon us a hand we wish to lay down or escape.

Today the issue of my father’s grave came up.  Unlike Nana and my sister Dad is exiled to another part of the cemetery, buried in a coffin.  At the time he died the Catholic church did not accept cremation.  Mum cried today as she hates to think of Dad being alone.  We spoke of Dad’s belief that when you are gone you are gone, and yet you are not wholely gone when others remember.  I guess we project our own feelings on the dead.  The memorial is probably mostly for us who remain and need a place to remember.  But the exile of my Dad’s grave, so rarely visited does reflect something of how, in the past our family has not fully dealt with our grief.

It is interesting to me to note that in the week that astrologers have gained their first sighting of Pluto, so recently demoted from the planetary pantheon, that we as a family have begun to bring our own grief out of the shadows.  I like to think this is a collective indication that our society is becoming more prepared to deal with the so called “dark” side of life.  Death has lessons for us and emotions, sometimes very hard to express and resolve.  It takes us into a place of healing, of recognising what was loved and what was of most value to us.  In feeling it through we have a chance to engage with our hearts and with the complexity of our attachments and interconnections.  Important work for our soul.

There attachments and interconnections are deep as our soul is deep.  Even when we seek to avoid or deny them the affect us in many ways.  We are not separate but inter connected.  Death, loss, separation does not end this interconnection just moves it to another plane.  That is my belief.

Cancer New Moon : Reflections on Ancestors, Family and the 12th House

I am entering a kind of inward dreaming of hosts of associations and tendrils at the moment as the Sun and Moon approach a conjunction in the 12th house of my chart ruled by the sign of the Great Mother, home, family, roots and maternal ancestral connections, Cancer.  Mercury and Mars are following close behind, as is usual with these transits I want to write, dream, eat soup, get cosy, read poetry, write blogs and explore the entire cycle of my life, drawing the whole host of interconnected resonances through my maternal history and DNA.  With Saturn Moon I have always felt a deep connection with the past on my mother’s side.

At age 31 when I entered recovery for addiction it slowly became clear to me that there was a deep wound to the feminine and to the family I was born into.  There had been a lot of separations over generations, stories of ancestors leaving their homeland to settle or pioneer in foreign lands far from family. Lots of father absence and father loss too.  Just recently after connecting with some relatives of my ancestral Great, Great, Grandmother I was shown a letter my Great, Great, Great Grandfather wrote to this son.  It was heartbreaking and sad, sent all the way to New Zealand from Cornwall in the midst of a harsh and bitter winter spent in poverty he was missing his son and knowing he would not see him again.

My maternal Great Grandmother left her own father behind in New Zealand to come to Australia early in the 20th century, he was suffering from addiction problems himself.  She was one of 18 children two of which also called Eliza Jane had died in childbirth.  Two other brothers came here too but I did not know that until this year, however they settled in the north while my Great Grandmother settled in Victoria.

She gave birth to three children and it was my Grandmother who moved to the town where I now live, alone with her husband who had suffered during the First World War.  He came here to build houses, but was also a bookmaker.  He died when my own mother was seven from war injuries, he had been gassed.  My second sister carries a congenital lung weakness.

The ancestral pattern repeated in that when my mother married she remained in the place of her birth but met and married my father who was from Holland. He left his homeland finally for the Dutch East Indies just on the eve of the Second World War prior to German invasion. He met my mother while seconded to Australia by the Air Force to collect B52 bombers which did not show up on time.  They married and after some years in Indonesia following the ending of World War Two decided to settle here.  They gave birth two four children.

The second child was my sister Judith a Sun sign Capricorn who had Mars and Saturn in Cancer very close to today’s New Moon in Cancer at 23 degrees.  My sister died on 20 April last year after a long and tragic life that was mired by a cerebral bleed, abandonment and betrayal, just as Pluto was transiting her Sun.

It was Jude whose chart interconnected so strongly to our maternal Great, Great, Grandfather Thomas Watts Trudgeon, (my mother’s Great Grandfather) and it was Jude who met and married a New Zealander and returned to live there two times, the first when I was only three.  The second time she was taken there by her husband following the cerebral bleed after which she developed psychotic symptoms together with her four children, so far from us. About a year later though the details are sketchy (it was an experience too painful fr her to talk of) he had her committed to an institution he had been having an affair with a woman who had gone over earlier to set up, they needed my sister out of the way.  She was very unwell, that is true, but no contact was made with my family and that family perhaps would have been of little help.  Two years later my sister was sent back to Australia with a one way ticket while her then husband disappeared abandoning her without telling her it was only a one way ticket.

In 1982 on hearing the news she tried to take her life.  She did not see her two youngest children for over 10 years they were 2 and 4 at the time her husband returned her to us. I, the youngest was back at home and I witnessed her attempt.  A bottle of pills downed and after which she lay down clutching a photograph of them to her chest.  I cannot remember what time of year this occurred but I do have a strong feeling it was winter.  I remember it being cold and such a very dark, dark, dark time.

I was 20 at the time and had began to drink a lot.  My father had forced me to give up uni studies and undertake a secretarial diploma.  I was also taking drugs and acting out within a silent internal rebellion.  Just a few days ago I woke up after a dream in which I was singing Billy Idol’s song Rebel Yell feeling deep in my psyche the rumbling giant of feeling that got buried for so many years, of thwarted development without masculine guidance.  Within three years my father was dead from stomach cancer and I like a lost boat was cast adrift overseas and into a succession of painful relationships driven by a deep father hunger but also a magnetic lure to those who could not truly appreciate my soul suffering but wanted to smelt it under the fire of their rigid imposed judgements.  While writing this I also cannot fall into the narcissistic trap of not admitting how hard it would have been for others to deal with someone suffering so many silent wounds that were carried deep within.  I had a way further to go along the unconscious pathway.

In an earlier poem posted here Emerging Through the Dark Night which was a piece of  stream of consciousness writing when I was deep in 12th house retreat (Saturn in transiting the 12th and 1st) I wrote the lines :

somewhere from deep with your belly

I hear a child is crying

longing for her pain and loneliness to be heard

After the suicide attempt the pain of that child within my sister got buried and she struggled with it for the rest of her life and with the separation from her children and the man she had loved with all her being.  All deeply Mars Saturn Cancerian experiences and Pluto in Libra was transiting over important planets in her chart too.

Blogs tend to assume a life of their own and so it is with this one.  But it is no surprise to me that today deep in dark moon time prior to this new one which  squares Uranus (planet of awakening and separation) and opposes Pluto (ruler of the subterranean wells of feeling carried over generations, buried, repressed or burning for liberation and transformation) consideration of these experiences is with me and I am feeling drawn to bring them out of darkness into the light.

Tomorrow, at midday after over more than a year, we will finally be laying my sister’s ashes to rest.  Is this writing for you, my beautiful sister Jude both memorial and remembrance?  You are not forgotten.  If it is true that her soul lives on most especially in all of these memories and associations so the transits to her chart are still in place as Pluto passes over her Venus and as Mars and Mercury oppose it.

Somewhere deep within I feel the need to give this a voice, today.  I think also of my own deep connection to  own mother and her repressed psychic life which became such an important preoccupation after I got sober over 20 years ago  I think of my own tangled journey with love, intimacy and relationships and of the twin pulls of both the call to individuation (my North Node in Leo in the first house widely conjunct Uranus) and of familial inter-relationship or the longing for such (a tight stellium of Sun, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, South Node in the seventh) both square Neptune in Scorpio on the third.

And I see that the journey of the Nodes is not an either/or dichotomy but more in the nature of a infinity symbol, figure 8 pattern of journeying between the opposites in a circuitous and meandering way.  It takes an enlarged consciousness to see this and a long journey wandering or pulled backwards and forwards between both polarities that then perform an alchemy on the soul.

Last night after an inward day of blogging it occurred to me that in esoteric rulership the sign Cancer is ruled not by the Moon but by Neptune.   I was blogging about Orpheus and the relationship of this myth to Neptune.  There was a deeper issue or subtext to that blog around the issue of letting go of and making peace with the past, of the need to regress to move forward but also I guess of loss and longing and their impact upon us.

The Crab which symbolises Cancer has a soft inward centre protected by a hard shell.  The mother must be intensely protective and the Crab claws can grab on and have a difficult time letting go but surely the square to Uranus of this New Moon and its opposition to Pluto demands it of us, either a letting go or a transformation of the ways in which we hold onto relationships through memory, thoughts and perceptions and our tangled association to past connections, pains, wounding and intimacies.

It seems to me that as I write ideas or intimations from my soul emerge in a way that would not have occurred had I not set fingers dancing on the key of my lap top keyboard.  Deep within the 12th house I find my home at present and wait patiently for Mercury and Mars to enter.  It seems that it may be even more difficult to get out my PJ’s for the next four weeks or so.

At this moment glint of sunlight peeping out from behind stormy clouds that have gathered on this cold winter day.  I feel the pull to get out of my PJ’s and walk lovely Jasper along the bush pathway by the lake.  To feel the buffeting wind and bracing cold, to know that I have the precious gift of life, despite and even within all the painful memories of Cancer time.  I remember the saying : light is never more visible than in darkness.

(Note: sadly my technical ability on WordPress and recent upgrades to my computer have made it hard to load up from my picture library so I am sorely limited so at this stage and unable to link to images or images of charts on my blog which would make this much clearer)

Out of the Ashes

Fire

you warm me

with your amber kisses

glow of remembrance

heat

of love and desire

which burned too brightly

then was gone

leaving only ashes.

Tears

you are the heart’s silent rain

that fall

over so many years

as I sit alone

in the dark pit

grown cold now

only memories

to keep me warm.

Tears

as you fall

you turn the ash to clay

and this substance

becomes workable over time

turning and turning

on the wheel of the year

navigating

all the backwards and forwards

of longing

desire

heartache.

Empathy and understanding

are the water

that forms this dark sludge

into something

awesome

terrible

Yet beautiful.

I contemplate

the surface of this vessel

I made

cracked and crazed in places

with the deeply etched scar marks

of tempered pain

desire and love

the fire

that alchemises

and transforms

this suffering

into a vessel

which contains

and in containing

heals

Visitation by a Dark Angel

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What is this dark angel that hovers over me, laying to waste all happiness, entering me into some deep dark mystical sadness that is like an ocean that threatens to drown me, that pulls on me with its restless tide that comes unbidden from an unknown place?

I have no power over the times of its coming and going and then I question do I create its visitations with my resistance to the world I see that seems barren of feeling and leaves no place for a deeper darker vision of events which have fallen below consciousness.

I remember asking my first therapist. “Do you think I am a borderline personality?” To which she replied, “No, Deborah I believe you are someone who lives very close to the collective unconscious.”

Carl Jung was such a person. His sun in Leo opposes mine in Aquarius and he had the Sun Neptune square.   Just prior to the outbreak of World War I Jung had dark visions of Europe bathed in blood. He had broken with Freud due to their dispute over the unconscious.   During this time his deep interior journey and dreams led him to develop the concept of the shadow, that dark twin of ours which we can enter into a relationship with at midlife.

Jung also developed a relationship with the inner child at midlife, he learned to play, to build castles of sand. I feel a resonance.

This darkness around me others don’t often understand.

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My brother just called, disappointed I could not make dinner last night. All that came out from me “sorry” and a flood of grief. He has not often seen this side of me. I’ll probably be judged as bi polar now by his entire family. They keep their distance as if I am infected by something they don’t want to catch.

He wasn’t nasty or uncaring, just mystified and perplexed.  He did listen. Now he has seen my dark side. I am relieved in a way as often I feel there is some kind of pretence and I have to present a bright face so not to be rejected.

Today I read a blog by Therese Borchard who struggles with depression and death thoughts. It was a letter she wrote in response to a friend who was disturbed by her death thoughts. Therese could not deny them.  In the writing of the letter she spoke for her right to give voice to sadness and darkness that society labels as an illness.

I am not so sure if it is an illness or just a shadow aspect of modern life. Maybe certain experiences mark us out for this type of encounter and surely there is a temperamental aspect to it. It is a deeply Plutonian energy.

Only in astrology have I found a real understanding of how we get marked by archetypal experiences, (indicated by planetary influences) those common to people of all ages and times. In this modern society with its emphasis on happiness we melacholics and depressives are seen as somehow sick, but might there not be some value too in a dark vision?  We cannot just erase one side of the yin and yang of existence. And the truth is that sometimes the descent to the darkest place represents a turning toward the light.

At this time of the in the Southern Hemisphere we are reaching the time of maximum light, while overseas the Northern Hemisphere turns toward Winter Solstice, that time when the Sun has gone as far down and light will begin to return.   People there are experiencing the time of maximum darkness.

Certainly here though at this time of year we are in the time of most light, I do go into the dark as the sun inches its way through the nadir or lowest point of my chart, which has familial and ancestral themes.

I was trying to explain this to my brother how this time of year holds great grief. It is not something I feel I will “get over”. The dark angel makes her visitations at certain times, it is something that is part of living having gone through experiences where death came close and I saw the threat of light extinguished for a time.

I think we need voices such as mine and Therese’s who give exposure to this side of life. Suicidal thoughts come to me too, I had some yesterday.   As Therese noted in her blog today, they do pass in time. It’s a matter of holding through the most painful dark times, until the light begins to dawn again.

There is a saying I first heard in early sobriety. “This too shall pass” and so it will. Everything in nature is subject to death phases. It is one of the reasons my higher power in sobriety was a massive tree. Trees shed leaves at certain times, are in death but death is not an ending : there is a force slumbering there even when no life shows on the surface.

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The world turns and life turns again to show its other face. In astrology January is associated with the god Janus who has two faces, one looks back to the old year passing out, the other towards the new year. In the past is sadness, and maybe in the future the possibility of returning light. But it seems to me that all of life in some way reflects doubling, polarity and paradox, which only our modern society tries to erase in its naive quest for an eternal summer.

I have watched two partners walk away from our relationship because they struggled seeing me embraced by the dark. Therese’s partner stands by her and supports her through her dark phases. At this time of year I am aware who walked away, of those who turned their back on me or took a wide berth. I finally have acceptance rather than anger around it   Those who choose to leave must go and I understand why.   Living with sadness is not easy for some, especially those who had to eradicate it because it was just too much of a burden or too difficult to face.

I know that the clouds that accompany this latest visitation by the dark angel will lift in time, there is even some kind of deep beauty and comfort in being able to cry and feel sad, for at least when this happens energy is moving and I don’t feel as though I am drowning or strangling.

But one thing I question. Is it my protective resistance to further hurt and misunderstanding that holds me back from being with those who are challenged by my vulnerability? I am not sure. In the end it made me sad to not see my brother and yet I felt better and more true to myself for not subjecting myself to what may have been too much for me to bear, at least last night.

On the phone this evening I was genuine and real, I spoke to my limitations and feelings and held nothing back and I felt love in my heart even though I have struggled for years with my brother’s lack of understanding. Maybe it is even more poignant due to the close relationship he had with my Dad, now dead, with whom I never had the opportunity to establish an adult to adult relationship.

For now, even though I feel sad, I am also feeling a kind of peace. There is comfort in the encroaching dusk and the shadows that play across the screen as I write. In giving voice to all of this, I am returned to my deepest self and send this message out into the ether along with the love I feel in my heart informed by and tinged with the deep  sadness I feel at present, hoping it will speak to someone.

Broken Winged Angel

images (20)On Tuesday I explored an old journal.  In it I found the following poem which I have re-edited.  I also came across some writing about grief and its impact on the sufferer and those around them taken from a book by Virginia Ironside called “You’ll Get Over It.” 

This poem is for my sister who died earlier this year, for the impact of what she suffered on those of us who loved her and for those who are suffering grief and depression due to invisible heartbreak or loss:

Broken winged angel

I saw your reflection

On the breast of a robin

Grown cold now

Surprised on our return

She took flight

Captured here

By a framed ceiling

She flew too high

Struggling to be free

Death

Brought her down

At nightfall we return

I carry her lifeless body

To the garden to bury it

Silent and empty

Her spirit has flown

Vacating its earthly shell

Today you tell me

My heart is empty

I feel vacant

Nothing to say

I can not connect

When an empty shell

Is all that is left

Vacant eyes

Stare through an open window

Enfolded wings

Wrapped tightly around

An imprisoned soul

Trapped in a straightjacket

The drugs they gave you

Erased and dismissed

The reality of your deep suffering

Grown mute

A hollowed out shell

Is all that remains

My most vivid memory

Of your darkest hour

There is nothing left

Only empty space

Where a beating heart once lived

You empty out all my sorrow

I traded my true identity

So that I would remain here

A victim trapped

Trying to atone

With non existence 

For the pain of your existence

The penance for

A painful aborted life

The hands of the clock

Revolved in slow motion

Over those wilderness years

Everything was erased

I entered the void of grief

And how my body ached

Over those long years

A voice deep within

Tells me it wasn’t for nothing

But there are no words

That can express

What I saw there

I don’t belong in your world

Let me rest quietly

Free of your demands

For me to be another way

Let me free to soar

Across darkened skies

With white wings

Tasting the flavour of the breeze

There is only this moment of flight

Over distant shores

Which I cover with a shadow

That in time

Will disappear and leave no trace

Yonder I flew

To the land of our ancestors

Carried only by the promise of God

Into a destiny

That will prove

A disappointment to its promise

And leave me questioning and questing

After so many years

Long years hence

The early morning claimed you

The ancestors

Called your spirit home

The weight of your damaged body

Too heavy any more

For the soul to bear

The broken winged angel

Has found her home now

On my bedside table

Overlooked by an angel of light

With both wings in tact

Tenderly holding a lamb

Was I just the witness

To a crime

To one else could bear to name

Witnessing it nearly broke me

For a time look everything

Hollowed me out

For a new beginning

What  broke you

Was the silence

Too much silence

They turned a blind eye

Your grief was heavy

Who else could bear it

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This morning I read these words

Fear may make some people stay away from a bereaved person, fear of emotion but also fear of anger and rage, or worse, fear of longing, the utter craven helplessness of a bereaved person.

The absolute abandonment happens twice:  First with the loss; second with the impact of that loss or losses on the person that drives people away.  Thus is sorrow driven deep within into a place of inexplicable expression, symptom, illness, cancer or the death mute catatonia of profound depression that has no words but can only be recognised by those who have understood that darkness through resonance.  We must not quit from trying to find a way, to not turn our backs on those whose grief has lost its words and longs so mutely for our understanding,  love, tenderness and containment perhaps expressed less in words and more in the comforting touch of a hand or a soft look of empathetic mirroring.

 

Who knows where the time goes?

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My darling sister Judith died just over a month ago.  There are some things that bring me close to her and are helping me in my grieving.  One of them is the beautiful album by Eva Cassidy, Imagine, which I found when clearing out her room in the care home she lived in for the past ten years.   On this album my most favourite song is Who knows where the time goes?  In the beginning of this song is the image of birds flying away, there is an ending that has occurred, a movement away, perhaps a change of season as there was when my sister passed, leading to an absence and at the base of it grief, a sense of a chapter ending.  This song and the instrumentation is so profoundly bittersweet and beautiful.  Music has a rare power to touch something deep in my soul, opening the underground river of grief that is there for the loss of my sister but also reminding me of the great joy and her deep, deep love of music and the gratitude I have for still being alive.  On Friday evening her youngest son became a father of twin boys, and I was reminded of the dark and the light, that in life some things are taken and new beginnings come following loss.  This too is bittersweet. My sister’s spirit lives on in her children and grandchildren.

(6) Eva Cassidy – Who Knows Where the Time Goes – YouTube

Many times I would I visit my sister in the care home and we would listen to music and sing together lyrics we both loved.   Yesterday I visited my other sister with my mother in hospital and on the way home my mother cried.  She told me that she was coming out of her unit and saw some people she knows.  When they mentioned my sister who died my mother cried.  The people she was with were embarrassed and did not know what to say.

I have just been given a thesis on sibling grief and loss by a Canadian woman, Brenda Marshall.  Brenda lost her younger brother just over eight years ago.  She loved her brother deeply and found it a very challenging loss as it was so difficult for her to find places to share her grief.  She began to research sibling loss and found a great silence surrounding it.  Siblings when loosing someone were the ones supporting others grieving, most particularly parents and children of their brother or sister but having to hold the grief silently due to lack of concern from others.  Brenda dealt with her grief by speaking about it and connecting with other grieving siblings three whose stories and experiences she explores in her thesis.  What helped these people to grieve was the ability to connect with their siblings possessions, things that had meaning and significance for them.  In my own place at the moment in every room there is some reminder of my sister.  Beautiful little cards, photographs, items of clothing, trinkets, scarves, jewellery, books of poetry and of course CDs.

Was it a divine piece of synchronicity which drew me to a counsellor who also had an interest in sibling grief.  Through my contact with Julie this thesis has been put in my hands and is helping me to understand the challenges faced by a grieving sibling.

I must admit Eva Cassidy’s song brought me to my knees this afternoon.  The kitchen floor was covered with teardrops which my dog Jasper licked up after instinctively drawing closer toward me to give me comfort.

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These words came to me, so I wrote them down.

When my grief is fully spent

You will have pressed me down

So low

The lowest low

I will ever know

And when I rise

Again

The twisting and turning

Of old griefs

So long buried

Will, too have cycled their way out

I will turn again

To face a new day

Without the one’s I loved

Yet with the courage

To go on

Knowing true love never ends

And loving’s price

When faced with loss

Is a profound grief

To which these precious teardrops

Bear witness

Bodies at rest, and in motion

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I really enjoy the still quiet moments in life.  I think that is why first thing in the morning and dusk are two of my most favourite times of day. There is either a quietness and a stillness that is pregnant or the feeling of things winding down as we  move towards the close of the day and I find that time of dusk particularly poignant and special.  If I could have designed my life, perhaps the feeling is that I would have been most comfortable living inside a cocoon where it was warm and safe and loving.  My growing up years were not like this, so probably its what I was missing then that I yearn for now.  And sometimes it hard to face that so much has been left behind and I am living on my own with my lovely dog Jasper, who while writing that just came to say hello and remind me its time for an early morning walk an opportunity which will be lost if I continue to write this blog.

The truth is that following the ending of my marriage I did go into a retreat.  It was self imposed and I think in a way it was a reaction not only to the grief of that loss but the others that I was trying to process after years of substance abuse which numbed the pain.  I Iived alone and wrote and wrote, trying I guess to birth myself as a writer, to feel deeply into myself and my past, to grieve, to understand, to make sense of it all.. to heal.. very difficult to do in isolation and then a relationship came into my life which was very challenging and I started to be pulled into someone else’s world but since mine was not yet fully birthed it was a constant struggle and so after time, that struggle ended in yet another painful separation.

The situation we were living in had been torn apart as my ex had wanted to travel.  I was longing instead for a home, having done heaps of travelling in my early twenties, but because I wanted to be with him I went along on his journey.  When he chose to end it suddenly, after I had made the decision to travel back east to spend Christmas and some more time with my mother and a cousin who had come to Australia for the first time from Holland, as well as with my sister’s family it was a very deep pain.  This new loss occurred around the anniversary of my father’s death. At that time I had also suffered the ending of another relationship. This time however I would not be sent away and when I consider the repeating pattern that occurred perhaps offering a new opportunity for repair, maybe at a subconscious level it was just too hard to rejoin my partner again as that return would have reminded me of the hard leaving that took place as I began my earlier travels so quickly following my father’s death, all at my mother’s insistence. I have noticed with this a current loss she very much uses distancing tactics when painful emotions threaten.

My partner’s decision to end our relationship due to my delay in returning to meet him caused me so much pain. I just could not go back to the situation in which I had been living when I met him.  A very quiet and solitary life at the South Coast in the house my father built just a few short years before his death.

I do believe all these griefs and my response to them did lead, in time to a kind of paralysis or at least the desire to build and inhabit a cocoon.  During my South Coast retreat and prior to meeting my ex partner I just was not moving or exercising much  I was also suffering the Post Traumatic Stress of two accidents on the anniversary of my husband’s leaving which were in some strange way repeats of a far earlier time of trauma where I nearly lost my life and my sister had a cerebral bleed.  I was in a lot of pain and the pain had four components, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

The planets of sudden change and trauma are Uranus and Pluto.  Both planets are placed in my first house of identity. As I look back at this life I see that change, trauma and loss are indeed huge factors that have shaped who I am as a person.  I tend to be very inward, I do love to relate to others, but I feel deeply and am introspective.   I find groups difficult being a more one on one person and due to the pain and consequences of the PTSD at times it is very hard to get moving.  As a strongly fixed sign person at times I get stuck in ruts and like to have certain routines, perhaps its a need for control of some kind after all the sudden change I have been forced to go through.

This week I am really becoming aware though that some habits of mine need to be changed.  I did recently suffer the loss of my eldest sister which was yet another shock though in some way a relief for her as the situation she lived in and the bodily difficulties she had made it very difficult for her every day…. she lived with a lot of pain.  That I now see was and is a necessary ending.  The fundamental structure of my life is changing.  I have spent the last few weeks sorting out her things and treasuring her memories and possessions in the absence of any other care in my family for these things.

I went to see someone the other day to deal with my grief.  She was telling me that the way we have dealt with grief has roots in the responses of those to the massive deaths that befell them following the First World War.  At that time there was not much talk of trauma and there was an implicit belief that people had to just get on and let go.  She reminded me that in this day and age we are too influenced by this ideal, for if we suffer a loss the loss is always there and yet we can and must at some stage I guess make a decision to not let that sadness stop us in our tracks totally and keep moving forward holding the grief lovingly with both hands but not making a trophy of it.   Those later ideas or image are actually mine.  She also reminded me that there is a dual process model of grief that is now understood, That is at times we are going to be deeply immobilised by the loss and unable to concentrate and function and yet on other days we will be back in “real” time and able to move forward.

Yesterday I had a day of immobilisation.  My grief  was submerged and I was so tired all I could really do was rest, garden, potter and rest more.  I had a light dinner as I was feeling so clogged up yesterday.  Today there is a different feel to the day and I am aware of the need for movement.  At times its hard to keep moving forward and I guess at times its not always ideal.  Its good too to be able to be still, to be able to inhabit the body fully and meet and accept the emotions and thoughts moving through us.  And perhaps there is a need to be able to achieve a balance of both as the pendulum swings back and forth to call us towards what ever is necessary for us to experience at the time.  I kept getting a phrase going round in my brain while Mars was retrograde for the past few months.  It was “bodies at rest, and in motion”.  Perhaps it was an intuitive harbinger of this blog.

Today I am aware how precious the ability to inhabit a moving body is, even if at times the body can be a source of pain.  I am glad today to have mine and will go now with my dog out into nature to experience it and give thanks for the life and body that is mine and for the gifts even of these painful losses which have in so many ways shaped who I am.