BEYOND THE VEIL: Dancing With Shadows & Light - My Lindsey Stirling Journey 6
Continued from MY JOURNEY WITH LINDSEY STIRLING:
--THE MUSE IN THE MOON: A Thank You to My Muse & My Supporters
--BRAVE ENOUGH: To Fight in the Arena & Shatter Shackes
--TRANSCENDING INTO LIGHT - And Taking Flight
--LOST GIRLS - Rise Again. And Again. And Once More.
--BEHIND THE VEIL - Burying Things Underground
Beyond the Veil - Shadows & Light
Photo by Dennis Nejtek
Life is like Ogres.
Sometimes it smells bad, it can be scary and make you cry. But like Shrek, it can also be really entertaining or even sweet, and it's full of so many layers. (9)
Over and over, I spiral into the Labyrinth and follow the thread back out. Over and over, I dive my mermaid self into the depths and resurface. Not long after I saw Lindsey Stirling's Beyond the Veil video, I was inspired to finally write down a story that had been swimming in and out of my head for a long time. This faerie tale is called The Treasure Chest, and it takes us deep, deep down to the bottom of the sea where I discovered the greatest and most underrated treasure of all.
It’s dark down there, and the muck can be yucky. There are many theories about writing memoir and autobiography. Many of them admonish us to only paint the dark stuff in subtle sweeps of the brush. Just a gesture that leaves the rest to the reader's imagination.
I’ve done that. I’ve spoken in metaphor, told it silently through dance, and hinted around so as not to get too specific or scary or graphic. But if you don't know--if you've never experienced the things I write about--then you can't Know. You can only start gaining a clue when I let you know how it actually feels, and describe the real-life impact that these things have on someone beneath their Facebook-Pretty mask.
Besides, if I don't get specific about how I have learned what I've learned, how do you know I'm not just talking out my ass and cluelessly regurgitating what my gurus have pumped down my throat, but without the deep experience that the guru went through to obtain those lessons? How can anybody ever trust me when I say things like, "Just hold on. I know it's scary. I know you're tired. One more time. And again. You don't have to fucking let them! No, you don't have to do that their way. Yes, find your way, and hopefully you'll do it way better than how I stumble around with mine."
In the past, I've also done a lot of keeping silent or speaking in subtle code to protect the not-so-innocent, and therefore myself. That gets me a whole lot of misunderstood. It also leaves me vulnerable to the smear campaigns when people get super colorful and detailed about things I’ve never done, or when my actions get twisted for other people’s purposes.
So now you're starting to know. Now you have a better idea what was really going on with me during that thing you only sorta heard about or witnessed from the sidelines, or that other incident you heard a whole lot about--but not any of what I just told you because I kept my mouth shut while it was happening.
I’ve stopped being afraid of dredging things up that people are uncomfy talking about.
Why is that?
Why do we expect people who are in the midst of pain to say they're "fine"? Why do we chastise each other into pretending to be happy and graceful--or at least be silent and spackle either a serene Virgin Mary smile, or "suck it up buttercup" Manly Stoicism? What a bunch of crap.
Why are so we so afraid of the dark? The Dark Side, death and destruction, dark emotions, dark skinned people, black cats, the murky waters of the subconscious, the dark episodes of our lives, the unknown, our shadow sides, the back of our closets where those skeletons rattle…
These things have been so demonized and denigrated for millennia, and it’s unbalanced us. (Have you ever noticed what I do there? If you missed it, maybe you don’t know the etymology of the word “de-NIGRATE.”)
So many of the problems we have today are a direct result of the smear campaigns, brainwashing, and fear-mongering about Darkness. We're so afraid of it that it runs amok like a virus in the background of the operating system until it explodes or crashes or both.
Scared people are easier to control and manipulate. So are those who are missing important information. So are those who are unbalanced. And I know, it can be overwhelming down there. In there. It’s icky and messy and hard. This is why I love the ancient Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, and why I love the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld. (10)
Inanna (Ishtar), shiny Queen of Heaven and Earth, traipses down to the Underworld because she’s curious. About what? Death. There she meets her sister Ereshkigal, her shadow-self, the Dark Queen, and oh, does Ereshkigal teach her about death. Shenanigans ensue. By the time Inanna ascends once more, both goddesses are made more whole by the act of dancing with each other. It’s not a nice dance. It’s not a pretty dance. But it is beautiful and powerful. It’s why I use these metaphors so much in all my arts, and in the techniques I use for healing myself.
Lindsey Stirling and I are inspired by really similar stories, but we tell them in different ways. And no, I'm not referring to the fact that it's a one-woman shop over here and I know diddly about videography. I mean our storytelling approaches. Mine has more fangs and dark chocolate. It’s hotter and hits harder in its delivery. Naturally. Although we are both multipotentialite dancers and storytellers, she is a musician where I am a martial artist. I sometimes wish I had it in me to revel in the glitter and moonlight more, the way my Muse does. She's more inspirational and can speak to a much wider audience.
But dark-moon blood magic with spells made from toadstools and a vampire’s venom are just as inherent to my storytelling as my rainbows and kittens. So is armor and an arsenal of weapons. Kittens, after all, come with claws and fangs. Given enough time, they eventually grow up into Big Kitties. Rawr. As such, I tend to write, relate to, and portray a lot of antiheroes, even villains, rather than shiny she-roes.
It’s easy to get lost down there in dark. That’s one of the themes my Moon-
Kissed Muse cycles back to over and over. She reminds me like the lunar rhythms how imperative it is that I come up from the depths and dance in the full light. She reminds me how much I love to break free, turn my face to the sun, and bask.
In this journey, I keep having to remember that my shadow is nothing to be afraid of. I find I'm at my most powerful when I make friends of the Beasties who dwell inside me, instead of chastising, bludgeoning, and banishing them. They're simply overactive, unhealthy, over-fed self-defense mechanisms with bad habits.
But if I can learn to coax them out of the dark caves and the nasty dungeons where they lurk, they can't wreak such subconscious havoc on me. If I feed them their favorite healthy foods, pamper them, pet them, and give them appropriate boundaries around which jobs they're allowed to do, I can entice them to work for me, instead of against me. They become what they were always meant to be: my guardians, my protectors, my ego-checks, my account balancers, my spoon distribution center, my intuition, and my warning systems.
Best of all, I've found that my shadow makes a really good playmate in the right circumstances. Making art is the biggest one.
So here we are at the end of autumn. Persephone has tumbled deep, deep down into the dark again. (11) I've spent so much time trapped in the Underworld that I had to make it my business to learn how to get comfy down there and find its beauty. I also had to learn how to cultivate life in places that it was said could never foster it, to keep shining amidst shadow, and to find my way through the dark when my light has gone out.
These things are not mere metaphor. They're not some misty-eyed, magical wand woo-woo. These are brain-muscle skills that need to be developed through consistent and devoted practice.
One of Lindsey’s eternal themes is that of perseverance--of being the light even when you're trapped in a dark place. No matter how many times I watch this video, I get choked up. This is one of her songs that I dance to the most frequently, because it sings the story of my heart without a single word.
The leaves are turning and falling now, and everything is dying for the winter. The Ancients used to say this is because Earth Mother is mourning the descent of her daughter to the Underworld. Demeter tried to reverse this. She tried everything to prevent it, but that's not possible. Soon the cold will descend upon our part of the world and the long nights will leave me aching for a return of the light.
I suppose I could huddle and shiver in the shadows, mourning what was lost, and sometimes I do. That's equally important, as the mirroring validation and compassion to Ereshkigal's woe teaches us. Myths are just a metaphorical map for dealing with our internal landscapes, or those of the people and circumstances we encounter. The more we belittle, shame, guilt, smack, reject, hide, censor, numb, and try to silence our shadow side, the more ferociously it will embed its claws. The same is true when dealing with the shadow side of someone else who has been vulnerable and brave enough to trust us with it--or unlucky enough to have it exposed at an inopportune moment.
In this ancient myth, the Dark Queen must receive empathy and nurturing for her pain before she will release her death-hold upon Inanna. Only then can the Queen of Heaven and Earth return to the surface and shine. I've found this is absolutely true for my shadow and shiny sides.
That's what so many people don't understand about me. (Many more also deny the same thing in themselves.) A little empathy and kindness goes a long way when I'm symptomatic or talking about my painful experiences in this body. I don't talk about these things "just to whine." Most of the time, I'm educating the uneducated, pre-warning people what to look out for when dealing with me, explaining a limitation and my needs, or setting boundaries as part of my self-care regimen.
It's when people start pooh-poohing or attacking me for my disability limitations and my reactions to pain--or denying its existence--that the biggest problems arise. Then I burn through even more spoons by having to go into Educator Mode. Boundary Defense Mode. Advocacy Mode. Or I just leave, and boy is that great for developing connections to other humans.
If people would simply listen, acknowledge, empathize, and care--or if they can't, to step out of my way and let me handle my shit in the way that's best for me--they might be surprised how quickly my light switch flips back on.
I know perfectly well how to do it. I'm the only one who can, and it's the mode I prefer. Even when I'm in one of my moods, the light is hardly ever out. Not really. I'm constantly running simultaneous extremes of emotion. Pain and joy. Grief and wonder. Rage and gratitude. Fear and curiosity. Feeling one emotion does not negate the strength of the other within me. Whatever is on the surface being expressed is simply weather, whereas the climate is always a multifaceted jewel of dichotomies.
One of the scariest and most frustrating aspects of Traumatic Brain Injury is when I lose the ability to choose which weather patterns I allow to come up to the surface. The first time I lost it in 2000, it took six months to even glimpse an inkling of that fork in the road. You know, the place that lets me ask, "Which emotion am I going to choose to run through me in this moment? Is this an appropriate time and place to express this? To say that? To let this emotion come through? Or do I need to compartmentalize so I can do what I need to do in this moment?" After half a year without that ability, it truly felt like a light switch being turned back on. Now, my ability to access that depends on the day and how symptomatic I am.
Often I don't choose to suppress my "negative" emotions anymore. Most of the time, they're trying to warn me about something. I'm tired. I'm hangry. I'm with toxic people. I'm overloaded. Somebody's crossing my boundaries. I'm grieving. I'm in pain. Meh. That's part of being in a body, so I just pop off with them as I experience them. That way, I stand a better chance at dealing with what they're trying to tell me in the moment, and they don't bottle up, only to come exploding out when I least want them to.
This theory lets me run more like a gas tank and exhaust pipe, rather than a warehouse filled with toxic waste nobody can figure out how to dispose of. I've got enough of that from all my decades of stuffing and masking. I don't need to keep adding to the pile with current issues.
On the other hand, spending so much time in the Underworld has given me a lot of practice in choosing an emotion contrary to what I'm experiencing, and I don't mean putting on the face. I mean accessing the genuine emotion that's in there somewhere. If my journey of getting stuck Down There lasts longer than Inanna's three days, if it's more like Persephone's six month without sunlight, eventually I have to start opening boxes. I have to take out my versions of the enchanted violin. I have to place the bulbs and candles all around me and sing them to life with the magic inside me. For me, that most often means writing, walks in nature, singing, art, and dancing.
If I want to bloom, I have to do that where I'm planted, not wait around in the hopes that The Almighty Someday I might taste sunlight again from outside myself.
I have an entire playlist of songs that help me change my mood if I'm stuck in a dark place. Sometimes I want music that reflects my mood. I want to gnash my teeth and growl, or rage, or moon in my misery along with the music, so I've got playlists for those, too. But other times, I want to externally shift the weather. Music is the first tool I reach for. When I'm yearning to be brought out of the darkness into light, or when I want to find the shiny in the darkness, my Lindsey Stirling playlist will transport me there almost every time. (7)
Dancing with the fall foliage and my Muse this week
Some people say that Persephone hates every second of being trapped in the Great Below. I'm not one of them. I say that, all winter long, she skips across strange pools filled with glowworms, enticing them to create arcs of light by tiptoe. I see her singing beneath the caverns of monolith crystals and bathing in the River of Fire. I see her stealing that three-headed monster puppy from her beloved husband, and prancing with the ghosts among the asphodel. I think those flowers flourish in their Queen's presence the way the daffodils do when the Bringer of Blossomtime strolls in the sunlight. I say she goes running down that shadowed staircase in the fall just as enthusiastically as she races up and springs into her mother's arms.
One of these days, I'm going to be with Her in earnest, so I guess I'd better get comfy with the idea of dancing with the Queen and King of the Dead.
Winter lets me practice. So do catastrophes, injuries, illnesses, and losses. Some people think this winter is going to be even harder than the last, because things still aren't #BackToNormal.
I'm sure not back to "normal," and as we approach the two year anniversary for this century's version of The Plague I find that, yet again, I don't want my old life back. If you had a better life before Covid, then I'm sad for your loss and I hope you phoenix well. Much of mine wasn't better, and now I've learned too much about what needed to be shed to ever want to go back. I've found too much unexpected beauty in fall and winter to wish only for a lifetime of spring and summer.
True, these seasons are harder to get through. I'm a freeze-baby and I hate the cold more than most things. I have Seasonal Affect, so I don't do well without sunlight. Now with Plague, we're returning to flu and isolation season, which makes every other pain point more complicated.
But are we really ever alone? Truly? On a planet teeming with life, in a universe so vast and wondrous, in a realm abundant with things like scent, taste, eye-candy, art, texture, energetic waves, and the music of the cosmos, how could we be?
This is Lindsey’s thank-you-song to her Guardians, so this morning, it is a thank you to all of mine as well.
Thank you, Lindsey. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And an especially huge wave of gratitude to your guardians, your supporters, and your crew. They make it possible for all of us out here to experience your multifaceted arts in the way that you envision, through formats we can access when we're on the other side of the globe from you.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: MASTER OF TIDES, MISTRESS OF PLAY - How Lindsey Stirling Holds My Heart - Part 7
--OR: I used to have a lot of fun telling tales while dancing with my shadows when we performed at the Runyon.
--Dancing with Darkness is fun, too.
--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS
GROOVALICIOUS LINKS FOR YOUR INSPIRATIONAL PLEASURE
1) Lindsey Stirling
--"My Story" - As told by Lindsey, set to one of my favorite self-soothing, pick me up anthems: Anchor by Mindy Gledhill
3) Lindsey Stirling's new tour and album, Artemis
5) Atwood Magazine's interview with Lindsey Stirling
6) Lindsey's book, The Only Pirate in the Room - yarrrrrr!
7) My Spotify collection of Lindsey Stirling songs that make me dance and swoon. I admit, I'm a bit of a Lindsey purist, but there are a few collaborations that I adore. As we will soon see.
8) Joseph Campbell - Follow Your Bliss
10) Inanna and Ereshkigal