Change sometimes hurts

On Wednesday 23rd May my wonderful mum died.  Her death was swift and pain free and totally unexpected.  She had a massive stroke in the afternoon and died a few hours later in hospital with myself, my brother and my dad at her side.

Here are links to tributes.

Tribute published by Moon Books

Tribute published by Whyte Tracks Publishing

The day after she died my dad and I were looking for some paperwork and we came across a letter my mum had written dated 18 May this year and addressed to her next of kin. We don’t know what prompted her to write this letter but these are some of her words which were also read out during her funeral:

“I truly believe in a life after death, so don’t be sad, I will live on in a different format, as energy, as spirit and will return in time. I want you to wear your robes, sing, play your instruments, and tell stories of times we have shared.”

I was blessed with a close relationship with my mum, not a standard one though.  We were sometimes more like sisters, other times it was more like I was the parent.  We knew we had been together in previous lives. She had some past life regressions done and had some memories where I was included.  I didn’t have anything like that done but I knew we’d been together.  We knew that I had been her parent or a guardian in more lives than she had been in that position with me.

It comforts me to know these things.  I know deep within my soul that while we are parted physically now we won’t always be.  Maybe next time we will be siblings.  I know we won’t remember the details of our lives before including this one but the love we have for each other will draw us together again.  Of that I have no doubt.

But for now I cry.  The loss is raw and painful still.

Love you mum, so much.

 

 

 

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The aftermath of a difficult situation

This post will touch on themes some readers may feel are uncomfortable.  In particular the use of restraint for esoteric or erotic purposes – better known as bondage.

I will make it plain here that I have very little knowledge of bondage or any aspect of BDSM practices. The topic came up recently in a druid forum and I need to express some of my thoughts on the situation that resulted.

Essentially a member of a forum I am on brought up the topic of BDSM and bondage in particular in relation to a new practice he was developing that combined aspects of shamanic journeying with light bondage.  He explained something of what he was trying to do and asked if anyone would be interested in learning more.  He framed this topic in a manner that was familiar to him as someone who had been involved in aspects of BDSM for several years.  He posted this in a forum space that was set up for heated discussion and on a board that prides itself on being a “safe” space for members to express their different forms of Druid practice.  I presume he felt that he should be “safe” to introduce this topic and as it’s usually a quiet board leave it for a few days before coming back to see if there were any responses.

Sadly his post was not received well by several members.  Reactions were heated and hostile with one of the worst responses accusing him of breaking the law and causing harm, while another severe response accusing him of trying to solicit sexual partners.

I was frankly shocked by the heat of the responses.

The original poster was asked to clarify his intentions with his opening post and when he didn’t immediately appear to do so there were further heated replies.  This is a board where usual interactions are considered and thoughtful, where it is not unusual to have days between responses and yet there was an expectation that for this topic the poster should be there straight away to respond.

It wasn’t that long before the poster did respond and I felt he did so very well.  He accepted people had been upset and apologised.  He explained himself eloquently in my opinion but still the heated responses continued.  He chose to remove his post as there were several responses on the thread saying it should be removed and that took the responses with it.  Another member tried to start a thread for healing from the situation but that too became heated with members now expressing anger that the thread had been removed even though that was what they had said they wanted.

None of these individuals seemed to give the original poster the benefit of the doubt.  He had been judged and found wanting merely because he had raised a controversial topic and perhaps not phrased things as carefully as he might have done at another time.  But he probably thought he would be safe in this space to raise this without tiptoeing around the subject.  And indeed why should he have to tiptoe around it anyway?

The conflict, and therefore the original poster as the start of the situation, were likened to Islamic radicals and white fundamentalists  in one post, to a murderer in another, just because he had shocked some members of this space.  Some stated they no longer felt “safe” there because of what he had raised.  I’m not sure I feel safe there having witnessed all these heated reactions.  Who will they turn on next and why?

And then there’s my own feelings of confusion over all this.  Did I do enough by witnessing this the way I did?  Did I speak up clearly enough? Should I have said more, done more, to defend this man?  Did he need defending?  Will he feel this space is “safe” for him to continue in.

I do know this person a bit and I know that he has a hard won strong sense of personal identity.  This isn’t the first time he has experienced reactions like this from what I understand so hopefully he will weather the storm reasonably well.

Did I stand by my own principles well enough?  I’m not sure.  I didn’t let my anger and growing disgust at the responses I was reading get the better of me so that’s good.  I did write something in support of the original poster so at least I spoke up to some extent.  Should I have done more?  Realistically could I have done more?  I don’t really know.

I’m not upset by the thought of someone using BDSM practices as part of their own religious practice.  I’m a self diagnosed autistic with sensory needs that mean I often seek really tight hugs and even being pinned down.  It’s not that much of a stretch to go from the feelings of relaxation I get from deep pressure to accepting that bondage can lead to a change in consciousness especially when handled in a way to enhance that sort of effect.  I don’t have a clue how that might look practically but that’s not the point, I can trust that this man knows what he is doing.

I accept other definitions of what it is to walk a Druid path.  I listen to other points of view and think carefully before I respond.  I expected those in the forum this took place in to do the same, to think carefully, to give the benefit of the doubt, to respect alternative practices and views.  I am still upset that so many didn’t do that, that so many didn’t seem to take that step back and seek further information before reaction so strongly.  And at the moment I am less likely to share my thoughts and practices in that space because of what happened.

 

A bit of this and a bit of that

It’s been a busy month for me with lots of different things going on which means my mind has often been jumping about from one topic to another.  It also means that I’m feeling a bit drained.  Much of these happenings have been good things.

The first two weeks of April are school holidays here so there were visits from school friends to co-ordinate, trips out to arrange and space for relaxing and unwinding to be managed. This year my son also needed to fit in some study time for exams that take place in May.  Juggling the desires of a highly selectively social teen with a bouncy sensory seeking ten year old while remaining sane myself can be challenging and by the end of the school holidays I am very happy to get back into term time routines!

My husband, Neil, is a keen amateur landscape photographer and on Saturday 7 April he was up at Fort William for the launch of an exhibition with the Society of Scottish Landscape Photographers which including one of his images. I wasn’t able to go with him and I still haven’t seen the exhibition but it’s moving to an exhibition space in Leith, Edinburgh on Saturday 5 May so I’ll get to see it when it’s there.  If you’ve not yet seen Neil’s photos please do take a look at his site Awen Photos, you can also find him on Facebook. Needless to say I am rather proud of his photographic skills!

Saturday 14 May saw Neil and I at the Druid Network AGM at the Bilberry Hill Centre near Birmingham. It’s a location that the Druid Network have used for several years and we are all rather fond of it.  The Druid Network (TDN) AGM has a formal side to it but it is also a time of community connection, discussion, shared food and fun.  It is a full day event and many of us stay overnight before dispersing across the UK the following day.  Last year I stepped into a new role at the AGM, that of minute taker.  I found that having a task to do helped me manage my social anxiety and this year I continued in that role.  I’m not a fan of taking minutes for meetings usually but when both I and the group can benefit I am much more keen. Thanks to years of University committee experience it’s not a role I find difficult and TDN AGMs are more fun to minute than anything I have done in the past.

Just last week I had another AGM to attend.  This one was for the RDA Glasgow Group and I was anticipating a much more boring and formal meeting. I was pleasantly surprised.  It was anything but boring!  This AGM took place on Wednesday 25 April in the evening in the RDA Glasgow Group conference room. The discussions that followed the formal reports were lively and I found the whole meeting much more interesting than I had anticipated.  I was very tired afterwards though as there was a lot to concentrate on.

I’m becoming more involved with the RDA.  While I was recovering from my unscheduled dismount and not fit enough to help out in classes I helped out in the office instead and took on the RDA Glasgow Newsletter preparation.  I will be doing the next issue too although I’m not sure what’s happening after that as yet.  I’ve also been doing a bit of work on updates for the RDA Glasgow website (feedback always welcome by the way).  I’m now building up my fitness for helping in classes again and it’s great to be back doing that but I still plan to help out in other areas.

Which reminds me, today being the last day of April is also the last day of Autism Awareness month for several countries. World Autism Awareness Day is 2 April each year.  Some areas of the world use the whole of April as Autism Awareness month.  In the UK the National Autistic Society held a week long focus of events from 26 March  – 2 April.  Anyway, RDA National has been working on a new addition to its online learning courses aimed primarily at RDA volunteers and staff.  This one is on Autism Awareness and it’s going to be officially launched very soon.  I took part in the testing of the course and I am delighted to say that in my opinion they have done a really good job on this course with a good balance of information and practical suggestions.

These are a few of the highlights from my busy month.  I’ve also been continuing in my book writing efforts and trying not to let self doubt stop me.  I’ve been healing from my own injury and continuing to coordinate requests to the Pagan Healing Circle. And, as always, I’ve been continuing to devote time to my family and my devotional practices.

 

 

Where to start…

I have so many thoughts running around my head.  So many ideas chasing each other about like screaming kids in a busy playground. I think I get hold of one and then it slips from my grasp, another thought totally unrelated to the first jumps to the front and then dashes off again.  How do I pin these things down?

I don’t.

This is my mind. This is how I am, jumping from one idea to the next.

I’m a Druid and a self confessed tree hugger. I’m a polytheist. Today is Friday. Hail Epona! I miss the stables. Will I have time to sort out the volunteer voices section on their website once we start back after the spring break.  How am I going to keep my head together while the kids are off. Rowan is studying pretty well, so proud of him! The hair dye worked well on Rose’s hair, have you ever seen such bright yellow hair?

Rose's hair

Breathe.

Pause.

This is who I am. Writing forces me to slow my thoughts down, to hold onto one idea more carefully while the others continue to run round.

Am I the only one that does this?

How do I connect with others with all this running round?

I don’t.

They said I could get better. That I didn’t meet diagnostic criteria! That I would be able to improve how I am around others. This is who I am.  I have learnt new ways to manage the social anxiety but…

Did you know April is also PMDD awareness month?  I wonder how many other things are in April?

PMDD – “Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition in which a woman has severe depression symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation. The symptoms of PMDD are more severe than those seen with premenstrual syndrome (PMS)”

Severe – do you know what that means?  It means thoughts of suicide. Lashing out with uncontrolled rage.  Here look it up: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd

My cats are eating, the smell of the food is crawling up my nose!

I… I… I…  Who am I now? What am I? Do I meet your expectations? I need to know I am doing ok? I need to meet someone’s expectations.

I flick my nail against my finger, it makes a an odd scraping sound, sometimes I dig the nail in, relishing that sensation of sharp pressure.

It’s raining outside. The rain drums on the conservatory roof. I love that sound. I find it soothing and relaxing.  My mind slows a little more.

I have another week of school holidays to go and then I can get back to my routines.

First there is the Druid Network AGM. It’s not as formal as most AGMs and has a fair  bit of socialising but last time I took the minutes and I get to do it this time too. That helps me. I have a job then, a purpose. I need purpose in my life.

Shall I post this?  Do you need to see this? What I’m really like?

 

Autism Acceptance. This is who I am.

 

Heart in my mouth I hit publish.

The Defwy – A Brythonic River of the Dead

This post from Lorna Smithers spoke deeply to me so I’m sharing it here 🙂

Signposts in the Mist

In the sixth verse of ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ Taliesin berates ‘pathetic men’ (monks) for their lack of knowledge of the answers to riddles which in his day must have been well known. He says they do not know ‘who made the one who didn’t go to the meadows of Defwy’.

The meadows of Defwy are clearly in Annwn. Marged Haycock notes it has been suggested Defwy is a river-name from def-/dyf- ‘black’ ‘as in Dyfi’ and may be ‘a river between this world and the next’. Taliesin also sings of this river in a list of fine things in ‘The Spoils of Taliesin’: ‘Fine it is on the banks of the Dyfwy / when the waters flow’.

Rivers dividing Thisworld and the Otherworld, the realms of the living and the dead, are found in many world cultures. In Greek mythology the Styx ‘Hatred’ divides Thisworld and Hades, the dead…

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Landing hurts!

Here is a picture of me on Dillon, the horse I have been having my riding lessons on.

me and Dillon

On Friday I had my first fall.  It was towards the end of the lesson, we’d already done a fair bit of trotting in the inside arena and things were going well so we went outside.  We went for a combination of walking and trotting outside on the well used Tulliallan Trail created and maintained especially for the use of the RDA Glasgow Group that I volunteer with.  They do some riding lessons for able bodied too and I started to learn with them in October last year.

The trail is familiar to the all the horses and the weather was good. Everything was going pretty well when Dillon decided to buck.  I’m still not sure if I did something wrong.  I thought he was beginning to get faster so was trying to start to slow him a bit but the next thing I knew was I was sailing up and over his head!

I landed hard on with the main impact being on my lower back but I immediately rolled slightly to an almost recovery style position.  Dillon fortunately stopped straight away.  My instructor did everything you might hope for really.  I have no idea how she actually felt with all this drama but she sounded calm and in control which was very reassuring.  I have had years of first aid training myself so found myself internally nodding to her questions about what I could feel while externally responding.

After a bit I felt I could try and move.  I got to my hands and knees first and paused there because I know from past experience that when I have a lot of pain I can faint easily.  Then I got to my feet and again paused to make sure I wasn’t going to go down again.

Gradually we began to make our way slowly towards the entrance into the trail area but as we walked the pain began to get worse.  I had to stop and sink to the ground for a break a few times as I started to feel nauseous with the pain and I didn’t want to pass out.  Contact was made with staff on the yard who came out to help me hobble onward.  In the end though I accepted the offer of a wheelchair for the remainder of the way as the pain was getting so bad.

Back inside it was agreed I needed to go to hospital for a check up and an ambulance was organised and arrived sooner than I expected it might.  I was transferred to the ambulance staff’s care which was excellent and was soon provided with some gas and air or Ntox pain relief.

Once at the hospital I was given further pan relief as I was in a lot of pain.  X-rays were taken of my lower spine and pelvis but no signs of any broken bones.  I had trouble waking though and even with the pain relief the pain was bad enough that I fainted after they to hobble to a toilet.  All with excellent care and supervision of the A&E staff, I didn’t faint until I was back on the bed in the cubicle.  So they decided to keep me in overnight for observation and I also had an ultrasound check for signs of internal bleeding.  All was well.

I eventually got home Saturday morning with more painkillers but already improving.

My care both at the RDA Glasgow stables and in the hospital has been wonderful.  So grateful for living in the UK with the NHS so no need to worry about health insurance or anything like that.

I have every intention of getting back on Dillon as soon as I’m fit enough again.  Landing hurts and I don’t recommend that particular experience but I love my riding lessons.  I love the feeling of being up there and communicating with Dillon, of learning how to get the signals correct for moving into a trot or coming out of it. I love being able to now steer while trotting.  I’ve learnt so much already since I began my lessons and there is so much more to learn.  I admit though I am hoping that we’ll have a gentle lesson for my first time back on after this experience of landing!

 

Cherish your Normals

This is the subject of a blog post by John Beckett.  It’s written for the Pagan community but I found that many of the points in it speak just as strongly for me of parts of the Autistic community so I’m sharing it here.

If we can be accepting of different races, genders, and sexual orientations, we can be accepting of people who are “weird” or “normal” or anything in between.

via Cherish Your Normals: You Need Them (And They Need You)