Making a Comeback

Spring Faerie by Ruth Sanderson. Available at StaticMoon.comI’ve been noticing once again that the themes of my spiritual life really do tend to fall into synch with the themes of the seasonal holidays. These past few months of harsh, cold winter have been like a trip into the underworld — and the coming of Imbolc has been like the return of my inner sun, rising to meet the springtime sun on the horizon.

First, I’d like to say a bit about the winter.

Those of you who don’t know me personally probably didn’t noticed much of a difference in me over the past few months. When I’m around other people, especially people I don’t know well, I tend to keep my troubles to myself and bring what good cheer I have to the forefront. So at most, you may have noticed that I wasn’t being as actively cheerful as usual.

Really, though, my troubles went far beyond a lapse in my good cheer. I don’t know which came first — the chronic fatigue flare-up, or the low spirits — but often the two go hand in hand.

I found myself less energetic, more achy, more prone to related symptoms such as irregular sleep patterns, light-headedness, moodiness, and an inability to focus. This, in turn, diminished my ability to work at my “day job,” much less the independent projects I hold dear.

Going to work would exhaust me thoroughly, even on a slow day, and I would spend most of my free time recovering and resting. Then, just when I was starting to get back enough energy to work on the projects closest to my heart, it was time to go back to work again. This lead to a vicious downward spiral of frustration, depression, and despair — which do not mix well with the significant physical discomfort associated with an increase in chronic fatigue symptoms.

So, for a while there, I lost myself in frustration and self-pity. I was still more than happy to cheer other people up, because helping other people to see the bright side in life is always a pleasure for me. But aside from scattered moments of joy that I found with the help of my friends and my spiritual path, my life took on a very despondent, almost desperate tone.

I was tired, I was sore, I wasn’t making progress toward my goals, and I felt like I was a victim of a society that didn’t care enough to let a poor man rest for just a month or two while he catches his breath.

But you know what? I have friends who respect and love me, and I have a spiritual path that inspires, educates, and transforms me. If I didn’t have any friends, and if I didn’t have the Goddess and God to guide me, I might have just stayed in that desperate place, believing that my life had spiraled beyond my control on a fast track toward failure. Instead, when Imbolc rolled around, bringing its lessons of the return of the light and the power of the inner sun, I felt something shift inside of me.

And what a shift it was! The shift that took place in my inner landscape over the course of February was even more dramatic than the shift in the weather. When I awoke to a beautiful frozen Carbondale on a cold Tuesday morning, it was as though I had woken up in another world. The foot of solid ice prevented me from going to work, giving me an unexpected four day weekend with which to rest my ailing body and search my ailing soul. It also gave me a very visible and powerful outward opponent to struggle against, challenging me to summon a strength and courage from within that had all but died down to cold embers over the course of the winter.

Now, as the ice thaws and the weather shows the first possible signs of spring, I too am thawing and shining. But I still have my work cut out for me.

My renewed enthusiasm and attitude is already improving my health dramatically, but since I do have a serious chronic condition, it will take more than just enthusiasm and attitude to restore myself to full health. I will have to adjust my habits and channel that enthusiasm into the right balance of exercise and rest required to improve my health and fitness. Opinions on chronic fatigue / adrenal syndrome are mixed, but I feel that with time and the proper attitude and action on my part, I will be restored to full health. I’m already healthy enough to hike, to dance, and to ride a bike, so that’s a good start!

My enthusiasm has also given me all sorts of renewed inspiration for the projects that I have lined up for the spring and summer. But first, I need to finish catching up with my “day job,” and I need to decide what projects I will work on in what order to make sure that this welcome flame of enthusiasm doesn’t burn me out again.

So, there are still many challenges ahead. In fact, I might say that I have more challenges ahead of me now than I did during those long and difficult months when I contented myself with wallowing in my own misery and defeatism. But the good news is that I love a good challenge, and I can feel myself rising to meet this one.

When I was feeling downtrodden and desperate, I kept looking for some sort of “deus ex machina” — the arrival of some unexpected opportunity or some guardian angel that would swoop down into my life and save me from the exhaustion, the poverty, the stagnation, and the despair. But instead, what I received was a quiet, simple, humble voice reminding me of the closing lines of the Charge of the Goddess:

“If that which you seek,
you find not within yourself,
you will never find it without.

“For behold,
I have been with you from the beginning,
and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.”

In other words… look within yourself for the strength and inspiration that you need to succeed in your life’s journey. You are a divine being, and the magic that you’re searching for — the power to change your life and change the world for the better — is already deep within you. All that remains is for you to find that inner sun and let it shine.

That was good advice when I first read it, and it’s still good advice today. I’ll have more to share soon… in the meantime, though, I’ve got to get going, because I feel inspired to go out into the world and shine.

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No longer a lurker

So I guess it’s about time I started a blog since I’ve been part of this website for months and have nothing to show for it. Well, let’s start w/ the obvious. The weather. Wow, Carbondale is like one big glacier. Snow covered by ice everywhere. I’m from Chicagoland, so I’m used to ridiculously cold winters, but never have I seen such a thick later of ice on top of snow. It’s ridiculous. And I don’t know what they are putting out around campus, but it sure isn’t salt. It’s more like they’re just throwing dirt everywhere.
Just 3 days ago it was soooo nice out. Saturday was shorts weather and now this. Well, I guess the only thing to do is turn it around and find the beauty of it all. Every tree and bush is covered w/ a layer of ice, and they each seem to sparkle differently from one another. The needles are still green on many pine trees, and the ice around each one makes the trees seem like they almost glow green. That’s one thing I’ve been able to do better since I’ve come down here. Finding a little bit more beauty in everything, even if it’s usually mundane.
I’m continuing to work on a tv show on spc-tv called “What The Hell”. It’s supposed to be a slightly more exciting version of campus news and goings on. Our 1st episode aired last week, and the 2nd one will be rerun this coming sunday at 7:30p.m. We haven’t had much luck finding new crew members to help out, but we haven’t given up hope yet.
Classes are the same as usual, boring. That’s just like the rest of my life. It’s not that nothing ever happens, just not much. I spend most of my time just sitting in my room w/ my roommate. Hopefully that changes soon though. Well, I guess that’s enough for now.
-Nick

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Snow Day

It looks like I’ll be missing part or all of my shift at the Co-op today due to the challenging travel conditions. So, rather than catching up on any of my numerous other tasks in life, I thought I’d write a new blog entry about the weather, my life, and anything else that comes to mind.

First, the weather. As I prepared for my afternoon shift at the Co-op yesterday, the day’s snowfall was just starting to stick. Rather than trying to bike through the snow and ice or wait a half hour or more for the next bus to arrive, I decided to walk.

The walk to work was decent. Snow and a bit of freezing rain was swirling all around me, and it occasionally got in my eyes for a moment. But I was bundled up well, and the walk got my blood flowing, so I was warm and mostly dry.

The walk back home was a plodding but pleasant journey through a winter wonderland. Several inches of snow had carpeted the landscape, leaving the sidewalks all but lost in the snow and the streets coated and clogged with a whitish-grey slush. At one point, I almost went to help a snowbound car on the other side of the road, but they eventually made it out on their own. A few minutes later in my walk, I noticed that the falling ice pellets were making a rather unique and musical sound as they lightly pelted the leaves of a nearby holly tree. I guess that even after all of these years, I still have new forms of “treesong” to discover!

So, I made it home safe and sound. After taking a few minutes to kick the foot or more of drifting snow away from my front door, I made my way inside. For better or worse, once I was indoors, the rest of the night was largely uneventful.

When I woke up in the morning, I went through a fairly ordinary morning routine for a work day — eating breakfast, checking email, bundling up for another day in the cold. When I opened the door to head to work, though, I was in for a surprise!

The entire landscape was frozen over. Now, I’ve seen a sheet of glassy ice coating the trees and buildings before. That’s actually something that I see at some point every winter here in Southern Illinois. But today’s ground conditions were something that I’ve rarely if ever seen during my time down here.

Apparently, after laying down a half-foot carpet of snow, the winter storm doled out enough freezing rain to transform the surface of that snow into a thick sheet of ice! My boots have lost most of their traction, so when I stepped out onto the snow-ice, I could barely keep my footing long enough to take a few steps out the door to examine my surroundings. The coating of crystal-clear ice on the trees and buildings cast a frosty glimmer on the landscape. It was quite beautiful, really — and yet it was clear very quickly that I wouldn’t be walking to work unless I wanted to walk in the street the entire way.

With a few quick phone calls, I determined that the buses weren’t running, the taxis weren’t running, and I had little other means of making my way to work. The Co-op is open, though, so I’m going to try again later. In the meantime, though, I realized that I had plenty of time to write a blog entry.

With my description of the wintry weather complete, I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I may write more later if I don’t end up going to work at all today. In the meantime, though, I hope that you’re staying warm, dry, safe, and happy. This weather may be difficult to travel in at times, but it’s seasonally appropriate, and it sure is beautiful!

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Love: A Beatific Vision

Immanence: This is a lovely painting that I found on a website with no title or source mentioned.The “beatific vision” is a religious term for the eternal and direct perception of God that is said to be enjoyed by those in Heaven. For me, though, the Divine — or “God,” if you prefer — is not a bearded old man who rules from on high in some distant Heaven. The Divine is all around us, and within us, right here on Earth. Therefore, the beatific vision is not some distant mystical state that we will only achieve once we’ve shed this mortal coil. It’s the birthright of every living being — and it can only be experienced through the power of universal love.

Let me jump back to something a bit more concrete before returning to this point…

For about ten years of my life, I experienced chronic depression. When I say “depression,” I don’t mean that I was simply sad or dissatisfied with my life. I mean that if I had gone to a psychiatrist, they probably would have diagnosed me with clinical depression. In retrospect, I would classify it as more of a “mixed episode” of bipolar disorder.

Regardless of what you want to call it, though, my experience of life was very negative. Social situations were very draining to me, and even my physical perceptions seemed very dull and grey relative to what they are today. It’s like I was walking around in a fog, with the beauty of life hidden from me by my own fear, sorrow, frustration, and despair.

At first, this lead to constant thoughts of suicide — a symptom known as “suicide ideation” for all of you psychology buffs out there. But eventually, just a couple of years into the process, I started undergoing a slow but steady awakening. I didn’t want to die… not really, anyway, or at least not fully. What I really wanted was to LIVE — and the fact that I wasn’t able to live life to the fullest is what made me feel that death might be a better option than a life left unlived.

My first step towards what I would call a “beatific vision” started with activism. It was an internal step, initially — a choice to care, and a choice to reach out with my heart to those who were suffering an injustice. I lead a fairly sheltered life, but I knew what it was like to be bullied, and I knew what it was like to watch my family and friends suffer needlessly. And so, the sight of their beauty, and the ugliness that circumstances had thrust upon them, was enough to inspire me to take what little actions I could to make a difference in the world.

From there, it snowballed. Caring lead to action, and action lead to more caring. During the height of my depression, I had lead a very socially isolated life, speaking only to family and to friends on the Internet. Out of sheer self-defense, I had kept my tender heart behind lock and key. But now that I was out in the world talking to people about important issues, I felt my vision broadening and my heart expanding. This world — which I still found very frightening — was filled with beautiful people, and beautiful places, and a constant struggle between harm and healing, malice and benevolence, ignorance and understanding.

About two years ago, I crossed the point of no return — the point at which I made a conscious decision to release my death wish and embrace my love of life. Ever since that fateful day, I’ve been experiencing another stage in this awakening — a deepening ecstatic spiritual experience which I can only describe as a beatific vision.

Life is so strange to me, sometimes… to see what I see, and yet to act as though an “ordinary” life is still possible for me. There’s nothing ordinary about life anymore when I can see the divine beauty in even the most unlikeable and frustrating of people. It’s like holding Heaven in one hand and Hell in the other… recognizing the divinity of each and every person, each and every place, each and every moment, and yet seeing that divinity denied and defiled by a mix of apathy, greed, ignorance, hatred, and the like.

If only people saw each other — and themselves — the way that I see them, there would be no war. There would be no poverty. There would be no racism, classism, sexism, ecocide, and the like. We would spend our lives in ecstasy, sharing in all of the joys that life has to offer, joining in free cooperation to ensure the best experience for everyone. Instead, our vision is limited… our love is limited… our lives are limited… and even with my own beatific vision, I find myself sinking back at times into that bleak grey cloud that had a hold on me for so many years.

Is it wrong for me to love with such reckless abandon? Is it foolish of me to hope that the ecstatic power of my joy, my humor, my passion, my lust, my sorrow, my rage, my bliss, my sensuality, my creativity, will not fall on deaf ears, blind eyes, closed hearts? Is it mad of me to feel a deep longing to run naked through the streets, howling and whooping, crying out in praise of the beauty that so few seem able to see and so many seem willing to extinguish?

Even in all of my ecstatic fervor, though, I find the extra ounce of strength necessary to hold back for just another day, hoping and praying that my efforts to create change will be successful. If I have my way — and if others like me have their way — we will live in a world where more people see the beauty of life, the beauty of the Earth, the beauty of freedom, the beauty of love. Individuals will come together in circles of friends and family; friends and family will come together as communities; communities will come together as bioregional societies; and in the end, we will discover a good life the likes of which few of us can even imagine from the vantage point of the fog that currently surrounds us all.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about the prospect of being involved in projects that may in some way contribute to making this vision a reality!

Stay tuned for more details, because I’ll be announcing a few major projects over the course of the next few months. In the meantime, I encourage you to search your heart for all of the sources of pain and sorrow that may be blocking you from loving others and yourself fully. Find these blocks and release them — because love is its own reward, and the earthly beatific vision that results from a life of love is perhaps the most precious gift available to us as living beings.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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