I recently traveled north in support of my father, who had lost his long time companion and soul mate of 27 years. She passed on from this world after a long struggle with illness and in many ways my father felt his life had lost meaning. It was part of my function in the light of this moment to help him find new direction and purpose and see that he was still needed by so many, that he had skills and gifts to share, and that his life was meant to move forward in the light of the love of family and friends who cared very deeply about him.
There was also a meeting with a woman I had never met or heard of before. Churches and other sacred spaces are strange places for me, as a person who believes very deeply in an all-encompassing spiritual mythology that defies the definitions set in place by the usual places of worship. Years ago I had a minister approach me randomly inside of her church to ask me for advice on the road she was traveling in life and whether her unhappiness was rooted in her decision to stop traveling and accept stewardship of this church. This time I was approached by a woman who had tears in her eyes, wanting to hug me and to tell me a story. She had heard about my struggles and my recent illness which almost cost me my life two years ago. She told me that she had been praying for me every night since hearing my story, and hearing my father speak glowingly about my accomplishments and my devotion to helping other people help themselves. This woman told me that seeing me in the flesh was like the appearance of a miracle to her. We embraced and I thanked her for her kindness and prayers.
I am not a person who prays, but I do speak to angels. It is just my thing. It is part of my complex spirituality and it comes from the historical perspective on my own mythology, which can be broken down into a number of somewhat clearly marked eras.
Depression and Suicide
Empathy grows from experience, from a knowledge of circumstances you have yourself experienced either first or second hand. Of course, first hand experience is the best teacher, but it is also a destroyer. It defiles you in such a way that if you do not rise up from it, you are comsumed.
My early life was one of an extreme introvert who was afraid of pretty much everything, all while carrying the burden of being told I had a genius level IQ and needed to achieve greatness. The balance of these two factors produced an ongoing depression because whenever I failed to live up to the expectations of others, I felt myself a failure and did not have any coping mechanisms in place to deal with these negative emotions.
In early adulthood I thought I found my way. I met and had a relationship with a woman that lasted over three years, was in college working on my degree as she worked towards her doctorate in behavioral psychology. Things changed over time financially and I had to drop out of college, and the relationship became one of convenience rather than one of mutual support and love. When that relationship came to a crashing end when I found her in a sexual tryst with a young man in our living room on the morning of my 24th birthday everything crashed. I was overcome by a feeling of emptiness.
The strange thing about personaly mythology is how certain elements carry forth. I now work in the field of behavioral psychology and have for the past ten years. We carry certain things and never is any endeavor completely without benefit.
However, The First Great Fall, as it is known in my personal mythology, which began on that birthday in 1989 began a five year downward spiral in which I became someone I did not like and eventually grew to hate. I drank to excess, I involved myself in criminal activity, and when I met a woman I attempted to control and possess her because I trusted no one and yet feared being alone. This downward spiral eventually led to my suicide in 1994, after a long look at how far I had fallen and believing there was no way out of the hell hole I had created for myself.
The Time of Angels
The details of my death experience involved a journey within my soul, as I see it, where I found myself in a desert. That desert I believe represented what had become of me, or what my perception of myself had become. I had an awakening by seeing a future version of myself who told me I had a choice, and even as his words indicated the choice was mine and mine alone, I also knew that if I ended my journey in this world he would cease to exist. I could see he wanted, and needed, to exist, And so I was blessed with the opportunity to return, during which I passed through an incredible and impossibe to describe field of light and vision. I was torn apart and put back together again.
It was, as my mythology calls it, my first regeneration. I would become known as Magick, the man who could do anything. People were drawn to me. People wanted to be around me. Old friends who had guided me in wrong directions faded from my life. This was a new life and for a while it became a party, but parties are never meant to last. My excesses at the time involved trying to prove myself immortal by doing all things to excess. I went from being an extreme introvert to an extrovert with a zest for any and all things.
This was a time of passage, an empty time in which I felt unfulfilled, no matter how much I lived on the edge in a reasonably facsimile of Dionysus, the unstoppable force of nature I became eventually needed to find grounding. That grounding came in the unusual form of a repeating dream, which would eventually guide me to Orlando, Florida to find a woman who, in dreams, promised that if I found her she would give me the answer to why I was still alive. The infamous words repeating, "Go where there is no snow. You will know her when you see her. You will have no doubt and the sky will turn to gold."
The problem with the realization of miracles within a mythology is that you get ahead of yourself. You make mistakes. You make assumptions. You draw your own conclusions instead of letting them play out in their own time. Every person is in individual within their own universe and mythology. You cannot simply walk into someone's life and say "I am here" and expect peace to suddenly reign over the lands.
We are human. We fail. We fall down. We misjudge. We make terrible, terrible mistakes.
She from the dream became a reality. Tina the Great opened herself to me, and through me somehow regained her faith, her self-confidence, completed nursing school, and ended a disastrous relationship with an abusive man. In the end she told me these things while also telling me she was afraid to ever physically touch me for fear I might cease to exist. I only failed her when in the end I walked away because in my arrogance I felt my mission was complete. I failed to let her become human and in return let myself become human to her.
Christina the Martyr, the second queen of the Time of Angels, was a different sort of person. She was gifted with a kind of divine beauty and yet she was always dying. When she opened herself to me she told me something she never told anyone else, that she herself had a death experience when she was younger that foretold she would die of cancer before the age of 30. She also said her only real wish before death was to have someone love her more than they had ever loved another woman before. I loved her deeply, but always in her mind was the fact that Tina the Great was always primary in my heart. And in the end she did not think I loved her enough to be by her side as she was slowly consumed by the cancer than killed her at the age of 25.
Tammy the Acolyte was a true believer. The clumsy, awkward, and all so loveable devotee of every word I spoke and wrote, she kept a journal of my adventures in the Time of Angels and slept with it under her pillow. She was weird like that. She was an orphan from Rio Rancho, New Mexico who was guided to Orlando by dreams that told her she would find a man there who would help her understand the nature of who she was. I lost count of the number of times she told me "I wish I was the one you were here for." And I never managed to tell her that I was, for there have always been three queens, and my fixation on the first caused me to let down the other two.
Tammy saved my life and allowed my Second Regeneration to happen, and for that I left her out in the cold because I was powerless to do anything else.
Complacency and Destruction: The Second Regeneration
What becomes of a fool who believes his work is done and decides to go on vacation for an extended period of time? He loses his way. In the Time of Complacency I saw a number of friends die, move out of my life, and I settled for a mundane job with mundane friends and went through the motions of what some consider an ordinary life. It went on for too many years. I sang songs of past deeds and talked about everything in the past tense. It was what I had become, a storyteller and a seeker of ways to fill the new emptiness that filled me.
The opportunity to fulfill that emptiness became the way in which I came to understand the nature of the One Queen. As Tina the Great once told me that to touch me could make me disappear, she actually was reflecting great wisdom. The nature of a One Queen is that she is a muse and a muse is a dangerous creature. She inspires great things, but she cannot truly take physical form or she becomes the destroyer. The story of composer Hector Berlioz and his disastrous marriage to his muse Harriet Smithson is one of my favorite references to this sort of thing. They do not end well.
And so I set forth to find the original One Queen, the muse of my younger days, who had always kept me at arm's length. She had for twenty years warned me that if we were to ever become united as a couple we would destroy each other. And in a time when she was struggling and I was looking for something to fulfill the emptiness we came together as a couple. As we came as close to killing each other as two people possibly can without actually pulling the trigger. The anger, abuse, violence, and hatred became so strong that the images of those days still haunt me in the form of PTSD.
And yet, it is a lesson learned. To weep for the dead brings them no comfort. To learn and expand one's consciousness of the nature of these things honors them.
The Long Game
It took years to recover enough from the experience with The Excommunicated Muse to learn to function again. For years I was less than half the man I could have been. I bled emotionally for years, seeking long periods of solitude and never letting anyone get too close to me. The pain of love and caring was too much. My heart ached and when I stumbled, I fell hard, trapped in a moment when a close female friend, who had been my partner at a very dangerous and chaotic job and always had my back, told me she loved me. I remember crying as I told her "I am no longer capable of love. I am only capable of existing."
Events beyond my control began to trigger my PTSD to extremes and I began therapy. I needed to open my heart again. I needed to stop isolating. I needed to open myself, but instead I fell deeper into myself and endured a lengthy period of being a hermit. I felt like I was simply waiting to die.
Then the words once spoken by Tammy the Acolyte rang in my head repeatedly and she came to me in dreams shouting them at me: "If you give up then what are the rest of us supposed to do?"
As they went on my three queens all appeared in my dreams. "Fuck the Snow Queen. You came for us and you found us. Get up and be who you are. We needed you and you came for us. Do you think we're the only queens in your deck."
Someone left a pinochle deck on my doorstep. I have no idea who. There are more queens in a pinochle deck. It was a sign.
I went to North Carolina to see my grandmother and to seek the support of my mother. It was a resignation, but I had little choice at the time. I was dying. My grandmother, who has always considered me to be her favorite grandchild and loved me beyond all reason, lifted my spirits. She needed me in her final days and I was able to make her passing more gracious and allowed her to embrace her own mythology. In her last hours she saw me as her dearly departed brother Conrad, who died a hero in World War II. She has always told me that I resemble him, but in that moment I allowed her to believe. I allowed her to set the stage, to have her two children and myself there on Mother's Day, her final day of life, because I knew that family meant everything to her and it was a moment in which she felt all would be okay in her absence.
The slow growth back to becoming myself was far from complete, but as I worked with troubled children for the next five years, usually just doing enough to get by, I found I was touchin the lives of people without even trying. I learned new skills. I became respected. I became someone others came to for advice.
And then came the appearance of an almost random Two Queen. Two Queens invoke passion in my mythology, and for Laura, it was a deep and necessary passage. She was in great pain, a nurse of great compassion and love, she had been cheated on and abandoned by her husband. She was broken and lost and no one knew what to do for her. I stood by, telling myself I was no longer the man I thought I once was, but then I could no longer stand by.
I wrote her poetry. I told her stories that made no sense. I told her that if I was in her life I would never stop being the man she wished her husband could be. Even though I knew it would never become more than this, I poured my heart out to her and told her that I loved her. And I did love her, and still do, even as her life path took her away as she made the decisions she felt she needed to make.
Mistakes are made but mistakes are educational and build a foundation for the future. There was a Christmas Party at our work where she arrived with her husband, reunited. I stood alone at the bar after talking with some co-workers and Laura the Sorrowful waited until I was alone. She bought me a drink and stood for a moment.
"Thank you for everything," she told me. "You have no idea what you did for me."
"I only hope it was enough."
"And just between you and me, I do love you."
Love has many forms. That was one of them. It was also the moment where I regained my faith.
The Wolf is a Harsh Mistress
Time passes. In the spring of 2014 I began to suffer from serious complications of a mysterious illness. I was constantly sick, my joints were at times frozen, my feet and hands swelled to disturbing proportions, I could not eat or digest food, I was losing weight rapidly, and I could not concentrate. Doctors were confused. No one could figure out what was wrong with me other than to say that I appeared to be slowly dying of some mysterious illness.
How had I come back from emotional destruction only to now be physically torn apart by a devastating illness no one could seem to diagnose? I was in the hospital for 12 days while a fleet of doctors told me they had never seen blood work as bad as mine in a person who was still alive. Every test possible was done with no answers. I was sent to the cancer center. I was sent to dozens of specialists until I finally went to a rheumatologist who ran tests and came back and said.
"You have the most severe case of Lupus SLE I have ever seen." I was seen almost daily with my rheumatologist calling me personally almost daily calling me down to his office for a different treatment. Nothing was working. I was losing weight rapidly. I had basically no white blood cells, my hair was all falling out, and I couldn't stand up on my own.
"How are you still alive?" People kept asking me.
"I kind of stay alive for a living," I joked.
Lupus SLE has ravished my body, but on Christmas Eve 2014 I went for a walk amidst the christmas lights and shouted to the angels. "Kill me or restore me. I won't live like this."
I was lying in bed all day barely able to function. I'd lost my cognitive skills and was striking out angrily and bitterly at friends and loved ones. I couldn't figure out how a key worked in a lock, but I stumbled through the night that Christmas Eve and demanded an answer.
And it came.
"Find what was lost and begin again."
Humans are Foolish Creatures
I made more mistakes. Even knowing they were gone, I sought out the old queens. Tina the Great was nowhere to be found. Christina the Martyr was long deceased. Tammy the Acolyte was untraceable. The time I spent seeking them out kept me focused as I made up my mind to return to Orlando and find myself again.
I knew I would find the Three Queens in Orlando again, but I was foolish enough to think they would be the same queens. Foolishness is a good teacher, perhaps almost as good as mistakes are, and as I lamented the inability to find a trace of three women I had found once before via no method other than a dream, I decided to just go with what came. I travelled to Orlando for interviews and met an intriguing woman who was to interview me in a trailer. The facility I was interviewing to work at was not yet open, still under construction, and she was looking for the right people to work with adult addicts in recovery. I started my interview by telling her I hated interviews and would rather provide a narrative and she was happy with this announcement. I spent an hour and a half talking with her and apparently impressed her, since after the facility opened whenever she saw me she hugged me. She never hugged anyone else.
I decided I would give my all to this new facility and help to put a positive face on what it hoped to achieve. I was promoted during training and became the lead on third shift, my old home as a creature of the night. Even with my low energy and my ongoing illness I poured my heart and soul into my work and found the rewards to be more than enough to justify my long fight back from being all but dead and lying in a bed.
And then she appeared. There was no doubt. Her history and the way she spoke, there was no doubt she was a One Queen. A new employee who took an instant liking it me and who happened to have a second job doing exactly what each of the original three queens did for a living. It was a clear sign. And so I told her the stories, I annointed her as my new muse, and I have never met a woman who understands the role better. And she is magnificent. She inspires me daily without really trying, just by being the unique and bizarre and impossible to define woman that she is. The Elf Muse has my love and admiration and always will.
It was enough, I said, as I embraced my work and revelled in the discovery of a new muse, a new One Queen, but then the wind shifted.
Christina the Martyr always had this sadness about her when it came to me. She wanted to be someone's number one, and yet she always knew that Tina the Great came first in my mythology. If I had offered her that, if I had been capable, so much could have changed and I might have been able to be at her side in her final days.
Life is weird. I work with a number of women, one of which was absolutely spectacular at her job and I used to tell her all the time that she was "the best there was." She was young and beautiful and I had mistakenly believed that because of this she would not be as capable as she was. I used to tell everyone that Andrea was the best, even her friend who also worked with us.
Andrea left and her friend remained. She would ask me if I missed Andrea and I would tell her, "Why would I miss her? You're BTA."
"What does that mean?"
"Better Than Andrea."
Over time I came to realize I had found the Two Queen, soon after realizing she inspired my passion with her beauty, grace and incredible heart. And I had already corrected an ancient mistake from my mythology, just in a slightly different way.
And the Three Queen? That is a story for a different time, for the Three Queen is the Queen of Redemption, and while I already think I know who she is, it is bad luck in my mythology to acknowledge a Three before the time of redemption has become.
Perhaps this time the curse of attachment will not be my undoing and I can let peace take it's course.
Thank you for your time. Please remember to tip your waitresses and bartenders.