Mercury Retrograde

Sometimes, everything is chaos.

That’s the way it’s been for weeks now. Since Mercury started retrograding, but even a bit before that.

I travelled to Scotland, spent a night watching old pagan rights reenacted for modern times with big bonfires, drove winding roads that hugged lochs, camped in the cold rain. I went where the world pushed me. And when I returned, too much waited for me: work projects and to-do lists, long hours that passed too quickly with a heavy heart.

I could tell something was off with my cat Marty when I arrived home, and in the past few weeks, he’s gotten weaker and skinnier. I’ve cancelled plans to care for him, because when all is said and done, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my time than loving him. And right now, he’s holding on still, but some days, I’m overwhelmed. My heart is just breaking.

When so much is uncertain, you have no choice but to live in the moment. That’s where I’ve been.

But with Mercury spinning backwards across the sky, I’ve found myself in another place, one where I’m haunted by the past and the future. I feel the weight of where I’m going. It’s as if all the past threads and current threads of my life are finally converging to show me the bigger picture, except it still isn’t clear. But there are changes that need to be made — changes in my business, changes in this blog, changes in how I live my life.

There are more questions than answers, but we have to start somewhere, don’t we?

How I Lost (and Found) Myself

I love taking chances.

It’s been nearly a year since I moved to Roanoke, Virginia after meeting my boyfriend at an archery tournament last summer. I knew the only way for us to really explore our relationship was to shorten the distance between us. The high rent on my apartment in DC wasn’t quite suiting me anymore, as I struggled to build my business anyways, so it seemed like a good time to move to a less expensive area. I had high hopes that this new life I was embarking on would fit me.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect.

Instead, I found myself in a really dark depressing place. I’m not speaking of Roanoke itself, but of my mental landscape in my new home. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t relaxing or taking time for myself. I was just working. I discovered how difficult it was to see friends when I lived four hours away, and so I rarely saw or spoke with anyone. I let myself work, more and more and more, just so I had something to occupy my time. My boyfriend saw how much I worked, but I don’t think he ever understood how unhappy I was.

I was completely disconnected from myself, from my tribe, from the divine.

The darkness took hold.

This summer, the weigh of everything became too much. My health became a real issue that needed attention. Archery competitions made me anxious. My self-talk was incredibly negative and abusive. My relationship with my boyfriend was unraveling.

I felt completely lost.

But the darkness was an unexpected blessing.

One day, I realized the dark isn’t as dark as it seems. It’s not a bad place to be. The dark place I was in was actually illuminating areas of my life I needed to pay attention to; it was telling me that the state of things needed to change.

Slowly, I’m making those changes. I’ve been dealing with my health problems and reminding myself every day of how important it is that I’m mindful. With archery, I’ve gone back to the basics, ignoring targets and scoring and focusing on form and feeling. I decided to move away from Roanoke, closer to my friends in the DC/Northern Virginia area. I found a charming home to rent in Charlottesville with a nice yard in a quiet neighborhood. I decided that if I wasn’t happy right now, my life would never come together again, I would never connect in the way I wanted with others and with the World.

The future will be shades of light and dark.

There are still shadows on the path, but I see a horizon now. And while the land before me is vast and mysterious and I’m somewhat unsure of where I’ll go and what I’ll discover along the way, the path feels good.

The Stone Angels

There are stories about the statues at Bonaventure: whispers of them moving locations when no one is looking, stories of statues possessed… And they do seem to have a life to them I’ve never seen in stone before.

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Savannah was built on cemeteries, and the tales there run thick — not just from Bonaventure Cemetery, which lies along a stretch of water away from the historic downtown area. On New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend and I found ourselves on a ghost tour, walking around Savannah’s historic streets and listening to some truly frightening tales. I’m not one to scare easily, but I still find myself waking in the middle of the night now and then with stories running through my head: the hag who latches on to women and tortures them at night, the ghost child who paces around a house with a dark history, the stone statues that refuse to stay still.

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It was in Bonaventure that Savannah’s haunted tales meet its southern charm most obviously. There was a light rain the morning we wandered the grounds and though it was quiet, it was still humming with mystery and memories.

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There was Gracie, a young girl who tragically died and who is said to possess the statue her father commissioned to honor her memory. Some have claimed to have heard Gracie laugh, others have seen a tear of blood roll down her marble cheek if a toy or doll is removed from her grave site. She was quiet when we visited.

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Offerings are left with other statues as well: apples, bracelets, flowers. One statue we encountered wore a scarf. In Bonaventure, the living interact with the dead regularly.

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And in Savannah, you cannot avoid or ignore the ghosts.

 

The Rut

To put it simply, I’ve been stuck.

I find myself in a place where it’s hard to breathe, where I feel the weight of expectations heavy on me. It is as if I were at the bottom of a lake in an air bubble, unable to break through to the surface and the glint of sunlight I see so far away.

Let’s start at the beginning: A year ago, I took archery on full speed, practicing five to six days a week, shooting state and national competitions, traveling all over the country to compete. It was awesome — except when it wasn’t.

I had promise. I had potential.  But I also had a big problem.

Me.

Archery is a sport of repetition: you breathe, pull an arrow from your quiver, nock the arrow on the string, breathe, position your left hand on the riser of the bow, position your three fingers on the string, breathe, tense the string, lift the bow, breathe, take aim as you draw back, breathe, feel your body align, settle the bow, and shoot.

If only it were that easy.

But in between breathing and moving, there are the thoughts that come at me, that drag me down: I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, they’re waiting for me to fail, I know I’m going to fail because I always do, I can’t trust myself, this is panic, it doesn’t matter how hard I try, what does anything matter. The demons in my mind are monsters, fighting over the chance to claim the kill.

I have confronted some in the past months, slaying them, burning them, banishing them to places they’ll never be able to reach me from. But there are so many, and sometimes, especially when I stand there, poised for a shot and someone summons one in, I feel their power for a moment. So I learn to fight in new ways.

There are more battles in my future, more competitions, more moments where I’ll doubt if I can do this.

That is where I found myself last week, in a place where the doubt was thick like smoke around me. So I did the only thing I knew might help me: I wrote a list of all the reasons I am grateful for this struggle.

Because I’m not alone. Because others have reached out to help me. Because I’m learning the importance of a moment. Because this is teaching me what true focus and resolve are. Because greatness isn’t achieved if we give up when we encounter obstacles.  Because the only person who can stop me from being successful is myself. Because I am discovering where my true power lies.

I am grateful for these opportunities, because they will make me stronger, make me wiser, make me new.

There is a way out. There is always a way out. And it is mine to create.

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.