Some weeks ago I confided in my acupuncturist about the deep grief and loneliness I’d been trying not to feel of late. My usual m.o. was to sweep it under the rug and try to stay so busy that I couldn’t feel it. But it wasn’t working very well, and I started to feel weary from so much activity. I could no longer outrun it. Zer-me, my guide in dzogchen practice, suggested that whomever told me loneliness was dangerous and not to be felt was expressing their own fear. “It is more painful to avoid it. At the same time, be sure not to be hard on yourself. If you allow emotional states to arise and then depart, they show themselves in a kinder light.” Simplicity and brilliance. So I allowed myself to feel my broken heart, harboring an old wound from childhood – the belief that I was unworthy of love and would always be abandoned. My acupuncturist had asked me to pick an archetype representing the lonely, grieving part of me, and ask its gifts and lessons. I drew a blank. Who would create a mythology around such a being?
A week later, I found myself at Pantheacon, February 16 to 19 in San Jose. Pcon, as it is affectionately known, is an annual convention of pagans, anamists, polytheists, and others of diverse religious beliefs. I have always enjoyed this gathering of the tribe, as well as the eclectic courses and rituals offered. I followed my intuition one afternoon and decided that the class on Oghams, an Early Medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language was not for me. Instead, I waited in the overflow crowd next door hoping to get into the workshop and take a journey to meet Ereshkigal, the Sumerian goddess of the underworld. She is one of many dark goddesses, and per Jane Meredith, the workshop leader, is shockingly recognizable as that part of ourselves that we try to contain and deny. Sounded familiar.
Somehow I managed to enter the room despite the lack of floor space. I sat and listened as Jane described the journey we would take to meet this goddess whom few had listened to. We were simply to listen and witness her pain. We began by descending through the 7 gates that Inanna took to visit her sister Ereshkigal in the underworld. In the vision, I saw her lying on the floor, moaning in the throes of childbirth. Her heart had been torn out, and I could see two aortas still in place where her organ had been. Then I noticed that her eyes too were missing. I wondered whether her hearing and other senses were more developed as a result of the loss of sight and heart. In the vision, tears ran down my face and began to cleanse the blood from her wound. I saw her pain and isolation similar to that of the Minotaur who was left alone to starve. I felt her deep loneliness. Then she presented me with a beautiful stone heart, the one that I’d recently won in an art auction in Santa Cruz. She told me that even stone can be shaped. I wondered whether it was a replacement for the one ripped from her, or from me.
As I sat in the dark room, seeing only with my inner eye, I had the feeling that Ereshkigal’s pain was not only due to giving birth. She had been left alone in this pit, shunned. One of the most natural human urges is to belong, to be part of a community, whether that of family or of friends. What part of myself had I done that to? And now felt the need to reclaim and bring back to the surface, to life. I thought about my 11 year old self who had felt completely abandoned when my father left. I remember sitting on the back steps of the classroom at lunch, eating alone. Feeling ashamed that my family was splintering, while no one else in school had even heard of divorce. I recently visited my friend Mika, with whom I was a cheerleader that year. She told me about things I’d completely forgotten, about my dad and family. I can’t remember much between 6th and 9th grade, when I started Homestead. I wonder whether I blocked those memories because the loneliness I felt was too painful. Along with losing my memory of those 3 years, I also changed dramatically, no longer reading or drawing but going out into the world exploring and doing sports. I didn’t want to be inside. Even practicing piano was painful, because I’d have to be home alone. So I eschewed indoor activity and went out into the world.
And ever since, I haven’t drawn, rarely read, or been able to do many other indoor activities. I’ve had a few pretty serious accidents which forced me inside for a time. After a week I’d have cabin fever to the point where walking on a shattered ankle or using a broken shoulder seemed tolerable. Somewhere in me is that creative pre-teen whose joie de vivre quietly pulses through my veins. My goal is to find her and reconnect with her will. And make it manifest as my own.