Dreaming in Danish

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I had an interesting dream last night. I dreamt of a word in Danish, a language that I do not speak and of which I have no real knowledge. What’s more interesting is that the word made absolute sense in the context of the dream (though I didn’t know it at the time).

First, a small background of waking life: I work as an event planner at a hotel, and we often provide catering for events. We have a head chef at the hotel, and though we’re not exactly friends, I do respect him as a colleague. He’s quiet and focused, which comes across as stern and commanding in the professional environment. He’s got a good sense of humor hidden just under the surface, though, and like most kitchen professionals, he loves to feed people. You can’t go wrong with that combination.

All this being said, I don’t really think about Chef when I’m not standing in his kitchen or working on a menu for a client. That’s the first weird thing about the dream – that he was actually in it.

***********

I’m eating dinner at a fancy restaurant. There are eight seats, but only seven guests. The host, my old boss, disinvited one of the intended attendees at the last minute. It’s very like her, so I’m not at all surprised.

Champagne is served. The label is beautiful – yellow and pink, with gold foil accents, illustrated in an Art Nouveau style. The name on the label is HAVARI, in all capital letters, in black, with the second “A” in gold foil. The wine is crisp, and tastes of pears. I’ve never had anything like it, and I love it.

The meal ends. Chef appears, in his whites, wearing a fancy chef’s hat (he never wears a hat like that in waking life). He pours more champagne for everyone, taking time to discuss the unique pear flavor a little more with me. I am concerned I won’t remember the name of the wine, so he turns the bottle towards me to let me read it again: HAVARI. I need to remember HAVARI, I remind myself.

The scene changes. We’ve been told there’s a terrible storm on the way, and Chef is concerned about his family. The dinner party has dispersed, and I’ve gone home with Chef so that he can collect his wife and children. (I think in waking life, he only has the one child, but in the dream there were more.)

Chef’s house is on the edge of a body of water, with a solid wall of windows that look out onto a pier that juts out into the waves. I am in the house, watching the pier. Chef and his family have already left for safety, and I am relieved for them. I didn’t see them go, but there’s a feeling that he has gathered them to him like a mother hen, protecting her brood. I know that because of his instinct to stay calm and remain together, all are safe from harm.

I watch the storm outside grow wild, standing witness as the waves batter the pier. The sky and the water are the same color; it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends, especially with the waves so intense, and spray filling the air. The pier stands strong at first, then starts to shimmy, and finally is washed away as the pilings give way and collapse from the relentless power of the water.

At no point am I afraid. I am safe in the house, and the storm doesn’t seem to belong to me. I am just here to witness it.

*******

I woke up with two distinct thoughts:

  1. HAVARI
  2. Chef will have his foundation washed out from under him, but as long as he gathers his family to him when crisis comes, all will be OK in the end.

I got dressed and left for work. On the way, I wondered if I should tell Chef about my dream, or if he’d think I was crazy. Besides, how did I know that this was really a dream about him, and not just another vivid dream? But at some point in the morning, it struck me that I should Google the word “havari” to see what it was. I didn’t expect anything; in fact, I thought that it would help prove that this was all just jumbled bullshit from my subconscious, and let me move on with my day.

Now here’s the weird part – lately I’ve been contemplating Norse magick, specifically the practice of seidr, or weaving the lines of fate. I’ve been feeling a soul stirring for some time. The hows and whys are a whole other blog post, and I don’t have the energy for that right now. Let it be enough for now to say that when I found out that “havari” means “accident” or “emergency” in Danish, I realized I was being given a message to pass on.

Just because I knew the basic message doesn’t mean I knew the meaning, though. Maybe the lesson is for Chef in the distant future, when he has more than one child. Maybe it’s more of a metaphor than it already appeared to be. Maybe it was actually meant for me, and I misinterpreted it (though I strongly doubt this, for some reason).

I asked Chef for a minute of his time, told him the dream, and explained that I felt that I was supposed to tell him not to lose faith when things go awry. I told him to hold his family close. Even if the dream means nothing, I hope the thought of love still gives him strength if and when a dark time comes.

Being Chef, he was customarily quiet and thoughtful when I gave him all of this information – but when I finished, he assured me that he’d never leave me behind in a storm – and that he did have a wall of windows in his house. I was too weirded out to ask if he lived on a lake.

 

Goodbye 2018

Here’s a thing I bet you thought I’d never say – 2018 was a pretty good year for me. (If you’re having trouble breathing right now, I totally get you. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this weird piece of information, so please, take your time and soak it in however you can.)

I mean, if there were a heat map of the most uttered thoughts of my year, I’m pretty sure it would be a toss-up between “WTF, dude?” and “I don’t have time for this shit.”

I cried A LOT. I spent an unreasonable amount of time feeling hopeless about the future, and scared to make a move (any move), and also worried that all I’d ever feel is sorry and scared. Those moments aren’t completely over. I’m pretty anxious, and coming to terms with the fact that my current “treatment” plan of avoidance isn’t really going to cut it. That’s OK. I can work on that. I don’t have to be the best – I just have to keep working towards it in my own way.

But I also found pockets of bravery, when and where I least expected them. I was resourceful and kind, and I allowed myself to trust others to treat me as well as I try to treat them. Last year, I spent my birthday crying alone in my apartment. This year I had a birthday party with actual friends who love me in attendance. Last year, I spent NYE (you guessed it) crying alone in my apartment. Last night, I just went out with the resolve to trust myself and follow my own beat. Guess who had an amazing night doing EXACTLY what she wanted to do? I wore a cute outfit, got glittered up, had sushi, hung out with friends, visited my favorite bar, BOTH of my favorite poboy shops, and signed up for karaoke (even if I had to leave before it was my turn to sing). I even got a New Year’s kiss. It was a lovely way to ring in a big, bold new year.

Somehow (maybe multiple somehows), I was kick-started back to life this year. Here are some of the weirdest things that stand out to me as highlights of the year:

  • Finally figured out how to tell people they’re hurting me and kick them out of my life if needs be. (I’m looking at this as finally figuring out how to use my life preserver.)
  • 360-degree view of Fourth of July fireworks from the rooftop of a shed on top of a building.
  • Scoring a ticket to Burning Man (but not getting to go, sadly).
  • Going on a 14-hour long first date.
  • Being a nude art model.
  • A summer of breakfasts in bed.
  • 8-hour long conversation about Fela Kuti album covers.
  • Becoming friends with a tree (Yes, this is ongoing. No, I am not on drugs.)
  • Spending a whole day and a half with some of my best friends and not a single working cell phone between us. So much laughter. So much love.
  • Flying to Austin to attend a psychedelic rock festival. Getting asked by some dude in the crowd if the hand symbol flashed by Golden Dawn Arkestra was meant to represent the Illuminati or a vagina. Pretending to be confused that they weren’t the same thing.
  • Finding my own neighborhood haunts, places where everyone knows me and my preferences, and are usually happy to see me walk in. Knowing that I have a standing date at Tiki’s, and the catfish benedict at Who Dat will always make me swoon with happiness on a solo brunch date.
  • Reconnecting with friends. Rediscovering that I have people who REALLY love me, whom I can trust with my thoughts.
  • Starting to wear color and costumes again.
  • After 5+ years of gaining weight, suddenly dropping 25 lbs. with no activity, effort, or plan. I think it’s because I’m happy.
  • Collecting crystals.
  • Collecting cicadas from the neutral ground.
  • Selling my television, once and for all.
  • Making not one, but two, perfect green bean casseroles – one vegan and entirely homemade from scratch, the second with cobbled together ingredients purchased at Walgreens at noon on Christmas Day (Funyuns, y’all).
  • Really listening to my own needs and wants, and doing my best to attend to those desires first, even when it makes me anxious not to anticipate and preemptively carry out everyone else’s wants and needs around me.
  • Learning how to keep my own flame stoked. Realizing that no one else will.
  • Expanding my comfort zone with solo adventuring. Finding ways to be brave and make new friends along the way.

There’s so much more to learn. I’m not even close to thinking that I’ve got this shit figured out. But I made strides this year, and I intend to keep it going.

Oh yeah – that reminds me. If you don’t already, please follow me over on my other blog to find out what I’m doing in 2019 – I’m going to be posting on The Bold Life more frequently as a tool to help me transition into whatever magical psychedelic snow leopard creature I’m becoming.

 

Kill Your Darlings

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Faulkner said that in writing, it is paramount to kill your “darlings,” those special, yet extraneous, details that ego often asks us to keep in the manuscript. Creating feels so good, and it’s easy to fall prey to your own fripperies. If you don’t watch it, fear of whittling down your paragraphs can lead to a clunky, over-embellished final product.

My life is feeling over-embellished and lopsided right now. Too much detail in all the wrong places. Too many time wasters. Too little quality content. It strikes me tonight that my true connections are few, and I could be spending my time much more wisely than I currently do. Most of the actions I make in the social media sphere are an effort to woo or impress, but whom? The only people who follow my memes and photos, and longwinded musings are either good friends or decent acquaintances. We “like” and “share” each other’s funny little quips, but if that’s all a relationship is, what point of continuing? I’m only doing it to give myself mini doses of serotonin. I’m not going to magically find new people who love me in that echo chamber. I am addicted to feeling like someone gives a shit – and let’s be honest, very few do.

The kicker is that the ones who actually matter in my life aren’t even on social media. None of my best friends participate. I get my serotonin in our relationships by actually conversing with them IRL, at great length, either in writing or over the phone. Jess and Trin text. Katy connects via Signal. Natalie, Trin, and Katie use Whatsapp. Pete and Martius are on Messenger. I see Anne and Caroline and Amy and Theo in person.

I need to spend some time contemplating what self-made cancers to cut out of my life. I’ve already decided to end codependency once and for all in 2019. No more smiling and nodding and giving my soul away because it makes other people less inclined to be shitty to me. No more supporting the endless cycle of damaged, yet soulful, artist partners. Infinitely more saying YES to me. A corresponding number of NO to all of the people, places, and things that I don’t want to do but agree to because I’m afraid of what they’ll think, of letting them down, of failing as a woman or a professional or a friend. I’m tired.

Pretty sure that the first step to freedom is killing some of those darlings.

 

The Surest Way

It seems that the surest way to feel alone is to share my feelings with other people. I keep making the mistake of believing that other people are on my page, just because they say things in a way that I can understand and get behind. Typically, I’m the quiet one who lets everyone else do the talking, so it’s easy to feel like we’re vibing when I’m supporting their mental breakdowns and accepting their searching statements. But then it comes time for me to talk, and it turns out they’re not listening. Way to go, me. Always the bridesmaid, or something like that.

Anyway, I do have a couple of people in my life who are doing their best to listen when I talk (and vice versa), but it’s always disappointing to weed out the others. But what can you do besides remind yourself that the goal is to be your own mentally healthy sounding board one day?

Still, I can’t help but be disappointed. I just wanted someone to celebrate with, and it got turned around quicker than I could write a second sentence. Way to kill the buzz.

Sometimes I hear people talking about their elderly beloved, and how “sharp” they “still are.” The qualifications tend to be a combination of having a great grasp on vocabulary, and the ability to conduct a lively (read: interesting) conversation with other participants in spoken format. Given those parameters, I suppose that I’m suffering from early onset dementia. I frequently struggle with capturing just the simplest words out loud, and immediately tire of in-person conversation, even with those closest to me. I suppose it must be cognitive dissonance that keeps the same friends who declare their elderly to be “losing it” from deciding that I’ve joined those numbers. Are they not listening to me? Are they giving me leeway? Are we all speaking our own languages and just pretending to ourselves that someone else knows the words?

That being said, I started to write this blog to capture the fact that tonight I’ve been visited by the ghost of Annas past. I frequently find myself mentally visiting specific locations that I’ve visited in my younger days – bars, bathrooms, particular shop windows, settings at specific times of day – at the spur of a moment. I feel like a time traveler when I do this. It’s SO sudden, it could give you whiplash. It’s not the same as something reminding you of a place. It’s like being at Applebee’s, enjoying a margarita at the bar, then suddenly looking up to realize you’re at the beach in Cabo three years ago. Realistically, you can see that you’re still here at Applebee’s, but the memory from that trip long ago is so very strong that you’re almost there for a moment. You’re a time traveler. I’m definitely good at that sort of time travel. There’s a reason that I can so clearly recall my days on the Camino. My brain is not so good at the here and now, but my long term memory is incredibly sharp, and for reasons I still don’t quite understand, every now and then I get pulled back to a place that I once loved, in a way that’s solid and violent and sad and good and true. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but I’m happy about it. In the here and now, I tend to live on my own frequency. Sometimes I find other people to explore the here with me, but normally I’m pretty much living here alone and trying not to get too sad about it. When I go back in time, I can slow things down and re-interpret the moments. I can be in the presence of people I love, at the times I most enjoyed sharing with them.

Anyway, this all goes to say that I know I’ve visited some places tonight in passing, but the last two were specific to old birthdays, and also quite enjoyable. For a split second I was drunk on the dance floor of a club in Vienna, about a mile’s walk from K’s apartment. It was my birthday at midnight, which means it’s my birthday now. The band has gone home, the lights have come on, the staff is cleaning up, and the rest of the crowd is dwindling away. It is way too late, and we’re still here. She’s angry about something, in that funny belligerent way that she has, the one that lets me know it’s totally OK (even though she’s SO DEADLY SERIOUS). She’s a part of me, and I know how to counteract this, and I do (but that’s a story in itself, and it ends with me under a bench and with us missing a flight to Berlin).

The next memory is also in Vienna, also with K. It’s my birthday again, but another year. It’s always my birthday in Vienna. Or maybe it’s always Vienna on my birthday? Maybe that’s the smarter way to play this rotten old world. Anyway, it’s Vienna, it’s my birthday, and it’s the second time that I’m at The Prater. I visited the park on my first time in Vienna, but never managed to ride The Reisenrad. This time around, I do. It’s terrifying. I’m surprised, for no good reason. It’s creaky and old – it’s the oldest operating Ferris wheel in the world, after all. The cars swing more than any I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve rode many – I love Ferris wheels, and make a habit of riding them in every city I visit, around the world). It’s a quiet night as we head to the park. We go to a museum about the Ferris wheel. We ride the wheel in question. We leave, but we’ve just missed the tram. To pass the time, we go to a bar across the street. It’s cold out, a quiet Sunday night. We are the only two in the bar, getting our beers, and we end up sitting on the patio alone. There aren’t even tables and chairs out there anymore. It is awkward in that comfortable way, the way that tells me I am fine there, and only uncomfortable because the other person is not feeling great about being there. K wants to get home and get ready to work in the morning. I’ll fly out pretty early.

I can’t remember how the night ended, but I know this was the same trip that I dropped a vegetarische sandwich and caught it in mid-air, like a drunken ninja. I know that there was a Billa AND a Bipa within a block of the apartment. I know that I slept too much of the morning, and ate too much sonnenblumenbrot every single day. K’s bed was broken, and her couch was magically a futon and some sort of treasure chest for blanket storage. I had just started dating Dan, and I remember our online conversation as having a film of darkness to it. Is it just my memory playing tricks, or was I already disenchanted? Or maybe I was disenchanted but believed that was the norm? In looking around, I can see this potentially being true. I have seen too much of my friends and their relationships, and I know that I approached that with a learned pragmatism. I set myself up for that one.

But now I am tired. I can’t remember the other places my mind pulled me tonight, but they were weirdly OK. A street corner in Chelsea at 2am – nothing special, just a hug from a man I admired but didn’t yet know enough to call a friend. An elevator in Gold Coast, a few months after Katrina, feeling ashamed but used to it. The basement of a palace in Astorga.

I’m writing with one eye closed. I think that means I should call it a night.

Thoughts Re: My Last Birthday

I had a great realization today. In just a couple of weeks, I’m going to turn 37. A few months back, realizing that I haven’t had a vacation since November 2016, I asked for my entire birthday week off. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do something extravagant, but just getting the chance to not go to work is HUGE. After some finagling, I figured out a way to use various rewards points and an unused flight credit to get a free round trip to Chicago to visit friends – I’m beyond excited to go back to a city I love, and to see some of my favorite people in the world.

I’ll be back in New Orleans in time for my birthday, and I’ve planned (sketched out, really – planning makes me anxious, which is ironic, given my profession) a quiet night at my favorite little bar, inviting just a few people whom I think will get along together, and will not require any tending to. I think I’ll spend the day going to the spa or doing self-care things like getting my hair and makeup done, maybe going dress or shoe shopping, and just generally taking my time and doing my own thing. On top of all of this goodness, one of my friends is coming in from out of town, and that weekend I’m going to go to our 15-year college reunion weekend, hopefully to see a bunch of other classmates I haven’t seen since we were bright young things.

Sounds great, right? I think so. It’s not anything too huge, but overall, a really nice week.

What’s funny is that I was talking with a friend today, and we were generalizing on what a difference a year can make. All of a sudden, it hit me that in this case, the platitude is strikingly true. Last year, my boyfriend of three years dumped me a couple of months before my birthday. I wasn’t surprised, exactly, but I was still devastated. I loved him, and I will always struggle with having a connection like ours severed, but c’est la vie.

For years now, I have had a joint birthday party with a very dear friend, but since this friend is also best friends with the ex-boyfriend, I suddenly no longer had a boyfriend OR a birthday party. I’m sure I could have scrounged up a few people to hang out with, but the effort seemed pointless. I was terribly depressed. I came home from work and spent the night sobbing my heart out in my apartment. It was neither the first nor the last time that would happen over the course of the last year, but it was one of the worst times. It was a really shitty birthday. Bottom of the barrel bad.

So today, I’m talking with my friend, thinking back to where I was, mentally, a year ago, and things are pretty good. Not perfect. Not wonderful. I’ve got a long way to grow. But I have friends, and a place to hang out where people know and like me, and I am 99.9% sure that I’m not going to cry myself to sleep on my birthday this year. That’s pretty good stuff. I’ll take it.

Shadow

I Dreamed I Was A Raven Art By Cathy McClelland

“I Dreamed I Was A Raven” by Cathy McClelland. View more of her works and purchase this as a giclee on Cathy’s website.

There’s this hint of an idea, rattling around my brain, and I want to try to capture at least a fraction of its essence here. Please bear with me. Note that this will not be a full blog post, and it probably won’t make sense. I’m merely wool gathering in the digital realm.

Thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. It was said to me today: “You just need to embrace who you really are instead of fighting it.” At first, I was confused. Then hurt. Then a little angry. Then irritated at the presumptuousness. It felt vague, like a fortuneteller’s comments. Of course we all need to embrace ourselves. But the question was, what was this person saying to me in saying this? Which one of mes do they think is the real one? What version do they believe I am embracing? What version am I fighting? Because hell if I know. I don’t have one particular personal brand that I’m trying to sell, here. I don’t even have an ideal self in mind, the way that other people seem to. Most of the time I seem to be here to observe others. Just passing through, if you will. All of these things passed through my head over the course of the day, and in the end, I returned to being annoyed. I decided that perhaps the person was saying that I should just stop fighting the inevitable, and crumble under the weight of it all. But then I thought:
  2. The other morning, I woke up with one driving impulse. It was so clear in my head that I didn’t even pause to consider if it was the remnant of a dream. It just WAS. And now it IS. No quibbling required. I woke up knowing that I needed to become a battle mage.
  3. I believe in the Fae. Not the cute type that are made of light and sprinkle faerie dust and bring sweet dreams – the Other type. The type that allow us to live here, but would eat us in a moment (and often do). The tricksy types. The types who will turn a kind hand your way for a nice saucer of cream and a bit of cake of an evening. The ones who drink the whiskey left out for our forefathers on All Hallows Eve.
  4. I have always looked at the world with sorrow and resolve.
  5. I have more backbone than anyone I know. That’s not pride speaking, just truth. I am simply resilient. It’s in my genes, perhaps. Or maybe just in my zodiac. Maybe a bit of both.
  6. About nine months ago (which sounds rather ironic right now), I decided that Elen wasn’t doing it for me right now as a goddess. I needed a warrior. I needed someone who would understand my rage, sorrow, need for physicality. I needed The Morrigan, but in particular, her sister/self Macha. I have healed with a warrior goddess as my guide, even if it has been a little too casual, up until now.
  7. My cousin, whom I also call my sister, and is also like a part of me, is best described as “ethereal.” She is full of light and magick and all of the smells of autumn and comforts of a perfect summer afternoon. Not to say that she comes without faults (that would be boring, and kind of frightening, now that I’m imagining it), just that she balances them out with lots of love, and care for those around her. But here’s the thing – we are somehow twins without being at all alike. It’s confounding, but also comforting, to know there’s at least one person in the world who will never need further explanation. We both operate on the principle that all will become clear in time. It’s like fishing for yourself in a pool of stars. That’s a pretty picture. But with all of the similarities, there are major differences. One is that I can say something like “fishing for yourself in a pool of stars,” and think “what a lovely image” and also “ugh, that’s some trite bullshit right there.” And my cousin can hear me thinking of her from literally a thousand miles away and text to see what’s up, and my response is both “well, of course, we share a bond,” and “it’s just a coincidence.” We even once had a conversation about Fae, she getting excited about meeting some sprites in the wood, me simultaneously planning protective measures to ensure that I wouldn’t get eaten by one of those crafty little buggers. I allow myself to see and believe all, but also to disbelieve all with even measure.
  8. I both believe in ghosts and disbelieve in ghosts, pretty equally. God is multiple and singular, male and female, and living inside of Schrodinger’s box (which by the way, looks a lot like the inside of the bottle from “I Dream of Genie.”) More than that, all cats everywhere are both alive and dead, as evidenced by how often I indulge in sorrowful, vivid daydreams of how I’ll handle my favorite cat’s cremains.
  9. The other day, I answered one of those stupid FB questions, “If you could cure cancer or discover a new planet, which would you pick?” My answer was neither, because they were both pointless endeavors (of course, I spent a couple of paragraphs explaining it from both sides, and felt utterly secure in my analysis). One of my friends remarked that reading the answer made her feel like she was looking down an endless black tunnel. A few other friends (whom, it should be noted, I instantly wrote off as lacking in imagination and, just maybe, intelligence) remarked that curing cancer was the obvious choice – even after I’d explained why it wasn’t. Anyway, this isn’t to say that I’m right and they’re wrong, or they’re right and I’m wrong. After all, it’s a huge, pointless hypothetical meant to get people talking, and that’s what happened. Just that I tend to see all sides of a thing, and I see dark, and the dark doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to me that it does to others. It is nuanced, thick, full of texture and possibility. I see now that some people ignore the dark out of fear, try to paint over it with false light. But false light is its own dangerous form of darkness. We act like negativity in its base sense is evil, instead of just the flip side of positivity. Dark is not inherently bad. It’s what you do in the dark that sets you up for the fall.
  10. All this going to say that I realized that all this time, I’ve envisioned myself as a lightbringer, a white witch. Of course, that’s pretty funny, when viewed from this angle. I HAVE been fighting myself. I can’t tilt the scales of my own spiritual makeup. I can’t pretend that the balance of my inner truth skews toward the sun. I have always been one for grey days. The world requires tough choices, based on truth rather than fancy, on solid fact rather than hope for what may be. There are plenty of healers, learning their craft, keeping the world from going under, one heart at a time, like my beloved cousin. When the time comes, the healers will require a solid line of defense. I will happily take up a place in the shadow if it means giving the light a few more minutes to work.
  11. I have spent a lifetime focusing on being “good,” but to me, “good” meant not rocking the boat. I’ve lately come to realize that, however unintentionally, I have built a fake persona that most people don’t/can’t see beyond. This comes in handy for me, as I have limited energy for human interaction, so only the creme de la creme make it my front door, so to speak. But thus I have built up a toolbox of secret skills that can be repurposed, with none the wiser. That being said, some of these learned behaviors will have to go. Mostly, patience with mediocrity – including my own. It’s time to stop hiding. It’s OK to not know who or what you are, or even what you want. It’s OK to be afraid, to not know what to say. It’s not OK to stop fighting your way forward, finding ways to call others, wearing your colors proudly so that your comrades will know to fight their way to your side.
  12. Vive La Résistance.