Saturday night I sat in circle with my sisters to mark the full moon. We have been meeting, in various forms and varying numbers for over twenty years, carving out sacred space to share sacred time. Together, we mark out the cycles of our lives by the cycle of the moon, waxing to fullness, waning to darkness, waxing to fullness again.
We have met inside women's' houses, outside, most memorably in a small hallow in the woods behind someone's house where we had to ford a stream (glare ice in winter) balance our way down an old stone wall, then slog through a bog to get to a numinous spot where we sat cross-legged on the ground by the fire to drum and sing. These days, when we meet outside, it is in accessible places, where we sit in lawn chairs, and, when it's too cold, we meet indoors.
And there is less drumming and singing and more silence and sharing, but we are mostly all older now, more arthritic and wiser than in the beginning. None of this matters; for thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, before artificial and electric lights, the moon really did mark the cycle of a woman's life, their periods flowing together, moon-marked, and they did met in circles, in huts or outside, around fires to mark their moon-times.
Occasionally when we meet today, I can see these circles in my mind, from the many women who meet in circles now, stretching back, circles beyond circles beyond circles, back to the beginning of mankind, women gathering on the full moon, or at the dark of the moon, or at the equinoxes and solstices to sing and share and laugh and mourn together.
All this came to mind as we sat in silence Saturday night and I thought about how my own life has been lived in cycles, too. Cycles of security and insecurity, of moving out and moving within, of happiness and sorrow, of hope and hopelessness, of pain and joy. Everyday cycles, lived by most women, consciously and unconsciously or a curious mixture of both. I have been curiously aware of these cycles of late, as they move through my life, some quickly, some with agonizing slowness.
This August, August 7th, to be exact, will be the fourth anniversary of my Big Fall at work. Moving too fast, with the phone cord wrapped around my feet, I went down like a felled redwood, all 368 pounds of me, landing on my right side with a crash that echoed through the cinder block building with a wallop that brought people running from all directions. And though I did not know it at the time, Kali the Destroyer, was there, ending my life as I knew it, as I'd planned it, as I'd been quietly living it with confidence and the real gift of ability. I could not see it for years, but that day ended the cycle of my working life as surely as if Kali had killed me.
Kali is the Indian Goddess, blue in color, standing by the Holy River Ganges, with the string of skulls around her neck, and four arm (or sometimes six), each hand holding a bleeding head, a sword or scythe, some weapon of destruction. She has a terrible visage with her blood covered tongue sticking out of her voracious mouth, while she tramples on a figure below her. Her name originates from the word for "time" and she is a terrifying Goddess, who is the very epitome destruction, pillaging and killing, shaking the universe into nothingness seemingly for her own entertainment.
And yet (like all of us) she also carries the opposite. She destroys one cycle of existence in order to clear the way for the creation of the next. Here she is the loving Kali Ma, who emerges from the Holy Ganges, young, beautiful, ready to create all the beauty of the world once again, so the eventually she may turn dark and destroy it all again. She is a Goddess of cycles.
My next cycle seems to have been that of loss, rehab and unending pain. Friends faded back into their own lives, Rene took over organizing our lives, and a lot more work, and I struggled (often futilely) to get through each week stronger and more able than the week before. Nerve damage and chronic pain morphed into chronic depression and hopelessness. I forced myself to do physical therapy exercises nearly daily to stay out of complete helplessness (my right hand was so damaged, I could not move it at all for nearly a year).
And eventually Rene left, too, unable to live through the terrible ups and downs (mostly downs) and changes after my gastric bypass, though we both had issues long before my fall, which just sped things along.
And I am still cycling, shorter cycles than those of Kali, whose cycles may last eons. Mine just feel like eons, and I do have good(ish) times between each unexpected roller coaster back down, usually caused by the next necessary surgery (four in four years). Each surgery emphasizes that I am alone, a loner in a world filled with couples and groups, reemphasizing my inability to take care of my house, my life, even myself, leaving me feeling newly destroyed and meditating on Kali and her cycles.
Lately, anger has risen from deep inside of me. Really. Serious. Anger. I have not had the energy or courage to feel this rage before, because my energy went towards getting through life. Early on, I didn't know how radically my life had changed, would change. And when Rene left, it was much easier to slide past anger into sorrow, so I cried and cried and cried. And still have crying to do about my altered life. But rage has risen and broken through, finally. I'd like to be angry at god or goddess, but I don't really believe in deities, and certainly not ones who scratch his or er chin and decide, today I'll fuck Margo up for fun, and see how she copes (or not).
And I do not believe this terrible set of changes were "a gift" as a pious Christian recently told me. Tragedy is never an automatic gift. What we do with our burdens may eventually (in retrospect only) be seen as haaving been worked into gifts, but lots of people are given burdens, both light and terrible, and never recover. No, I have found that recovering life when one has lost the last one is hard, emotional work, full of sorrow and rage and hopelessness and bits of courage which may, in the end, coalesce into a new and different kind of life. But I still mourn and rage over the one I lost.
Human nature, I think. And it is my nature to want to find a Goddess to put a face on what I am feeling. Kali, in her blue form, holds all the rage I could ever need, and more. (The trouble with archetypes is that one never wants to embody one, for then one ends up living out the archetype, and as Kali, I could destroy my own small world quite easily with over-blown self-righteousness and rage.) So I meditate on her, and honor her, and know that despite my very human desire to blame someone or something for the ending of useful working life, there is nobody to blame, not even myself. Impersonal forces, perhaps like Kali, ended my doing what I believe I was born to do and was really good at (HIV counseling and testing women inmates) leaving me alone to build a somehow lesser kind of life. The only answer to "Why me?" is "Why not me?"
What I have been doing lately is feeling the anger behind the sorrow, and treading water as hard as I can to keep from drowning in the churning waters of the unconscious. I have crawled out for now, and am limping along as if there might be a better life ahead of me if I just keep going. And, after four years, of creeping forward, at least I'm staggering upright. And will continue to do so, for I seem to have no choise to do otherwise.