In Tarot, the “death” card is not really about dying. You’re not supposed to believe, if this card comes up in a reading, that you or someone you know will perish. Death is about, in many ways, fertility, regeneration. In order to gain what’s new we have to purge the old. As much as we mourn things that pass away we have to know that the moment of death is the instant of birth. The promise, hope, conception must happen in conjunction with destruction and loss.
I keep dying.
These past three years have been a process of continual burning of nostalgia so that love and life can emerge from the ashes. My identity kept shifting until I realized I could not, any more, identify myself in relation to others or to the things I owned. I shed “Army wife” and “urban farmer” as I shed connections to people I adored deeply but who chose to unchoose me. I lost my house, custody of my children, and majority parenting time. I had to ask myself whether I could identify myself as “mama” so strongly if I lived with my children only three nights a week.
In October, I lost an unborn child.
I have died so much I’ve wondered about shamanic dismemberment, that process of losing everything that you hold dear so that you can find what it is like to be stripped clean. Once you do so, you can re-emerge, it’s said, as a wounded healer. I was put on this path somehow; I don’t remember asking for it; all I told myself was that grief was a powerful force. I saw in my own grief a clarity and a ripping open of my previous conceptions. I lost “wife” and became “lover.” I lost a secure connection to someone who said he’d love me forever and I found I could make love out of air and water and trees, out of men and women and the energy that burns in my belly.
You know that cells of children you birthed, and yes also the ones you didn’t birth, live on in your body? This way I am always mother to my three born children and my two (and more, smaller) unborn ones. I carry my loves in my blood and my skin and my womb. The scientist whose love wakes me up in the morning and puts me to sleep at night will never leave me; he can’t; I carry him now in the small of my back and the curve of my cheeks. My love for him, for all of them, is a fire that burns along my muscles underneath my ribs; it is a pulse of electricity in my veins; it is a breeze of breath rolling down my spine.
The death process is for something, isn’t it? I lose things and people so I can contain multitudes? When we let things go, doesn’t something come into the space to fill it? Energy must be conserved. There is no vacuum.
I’ve been given this for a reason. Sometimes we can hide from reasons, let them pass over us like wind through our hair, pretend we weren’t mussed or smooth it over. These ones won’t let me go. They chase me down and if I try to turn my head and pretend it’s someone else they’re after, they knock into me and I fall down. I lose my breath and have to stay there, looking up at the sky, waiting for my eyes to come back into focus.
I lost my appeal. A month ago the first court decided to affirm Judge Beth Allen’s decision without opinion. The decision she based on no submitted evidence; the decision she made against the recommendation of a court-ordered custody evaluator; the decision she made to punish me for unschooling my oldest son. “That’s it,” I wanted to say. I wanted to be done with everything, give up.
But I know it’s not it. It’s not done. Less than 24 hours after I posted a fundraising appeal for the further appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, another friend messaged me. She’d just lost everything for a different reason, equally unsupported by legal standards. No basis for the judge’s decision but — I can only suppose — some vengeance. Not justice; not truth; not fairness. Not right.
The “Justice” card in Tarot is interesting. In the book I’m reading I’m told the word “testament” comes from the word “testes”; men would swear on their future unborn children. “The decisions we make sow seeds in the world… future generation may depend on our choices.”
“…all things are connected, and nothing is decided or has an effect in isolation.”
I keep getting recommendations to keep quiet. These are made in love and from fear, realistic fear, fear that I will lose more. Fear of others who have come before me and lost horribly. This silence is connected. All of our silences are connected. We are seeking safety; we are seeking the security we feel lies in whispers and walls.
I can’t whisper, my voice hews loud like I hew happy. I have lost what I thought was everything and, as with anything, I keep losing; as with anything, whatever I lose is replaced by something new. I lost my legal rights to make decisions about my kids, I lost my house, I lost time with them, I lost the right to take them to school four days a week, I lost the tax deduction, I lost walking to the corner for pizza on a Wednesday night.
I lose what I thought I owned and the energy is re-arranged. Instead of telling people my story I became a collector of stories. Everything I lost came back to me in images and words.
I’ve now heard so many stories. In Multnomah County, routinely, women judges are making decisions that victimize women who are victims and punish women who refuse to be.
“He strangled me in front of my children and the judge took my children away.”
“I lost my children for years.”
“I’m homeless, I lost my job, I’m penniless.”
Don’t stand up. Don’t leave. Don’t complain. Don’t you dare look a judge in the eye and say, I am confident I have made the right decision for my children.
I have had enough. I am telling my story and I will tell anyone else’s who will give me heed. Please spread this story along. Send me other stories. Remake me. Refill the void.