Saturday, May 5, 2012

As I Soulfully Tumble Along....

Well, my lovelies, I'm afraid the time has come for me to be moving on from Blogger--so I'm soulfully packing up all my bites and moving on over to Tumblr at The more I work with Tumblr, the more I see it is a much fresher way to approach blogging, at least for me and my nefarious purposes, and, best of all, it allows me much easier access to interact directly with my readers. Thank you, each and every one, for following me here. I do hope to see you all over on Tumblr and, if you have Tumblr blogs of your own, please do post links to them here so I can be sure to follow you too.

All My Love,
-M. Ashley

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Big Breakup: Addiction, Pain and Promise

It has been a long, long time since my last post but, in my defense, there has been a lot going on in my life lately that made it difficult to get my blogging mojo working. First and foremost, my fiance and I broke up after a little over two-and-a-half years together. After valiantly battling his addictions and being sober for nearly five years, in the last several months he began slowly replacing his old addiction with a new one to buying and reselling things on EBay in a way that I imagine is very much akin to how someone with a monstrous gambling addiction approaches the roulette tables. As innocuous as an EBay addiction may sound, the results of it were just the same as if he had been downing a bottle of vodka every night--he repeatedly spent all the household money that was earmarked and desperately needed for bills or groceries on EBay merchandise, especially silver, and isolated himself more and more in his room, slowly but surely alienating all of his friends and family, including me and his eighteen-year-old son that lived with us. While I had to sit in line at food banks to make sure the family didn’t go to bed hungry, he sat in his room and made purchase after purchase on the auctions hoping to resell for huge profits, which he never did. While I was hauling in bags of charitable people’s leftovers in hopes of stocking our pantry that became progressively more bare, he was hauling five to six packages out of the mailbox every day. As he proceeded down this path and the situation at home got more stressful, he became angry and irritable and only pursued his addiction and isolation more. 

In all honesty, I don’t think I can tell you the single thing that finally pushed me to end the relationship, but as, I suspect, it is in most cases of love gone sour, it was a mounting of a thousand little things that finally made the pain of ending it less than the pain of staying there with him, unloved, alone and carrying the entire burden of supporting the family on my shoulders while he blissfully clicked away in his room. Our boat was sinking and I felt that while I was frantically bailing water, he was drilling larger and larger holes in the hull. And because I always hate when someone tells their breakup tale as if it were entirely the other person’s fault, I will say that I was definitely culpable in not having spoken up about his behavior much sooner than I did. I hate conflict to an intense degree and so I tend to stuff things until I can’t stand the situation any more, then just move on. Perhaps if I had screamed and stomped my foot a few times, or thrown a few plates, it would have been a wakeup call for him, but I am not that woman. In my heart I know that for the future success of any relationship I may have, I MUST learn to stand up for myself more, but there is a balance to be achieved there as well--I must stand up for myself, yes, but I also must not let someone turn me into a screeching harpy simply to attempt to achieve in them a basic level of common decency.  

So I left him. I packed up my animals, (three dogs and two cats), and whatever belongings of mine could fit in my mom’s van and hightailed it back to California, to the city where I grew up. Because of my eyesight I cannot drive, but my dearest friend Angela and my mother drove for three straight days across the wastelands of west Texas and Oklahoma to come rescue me, then three straight days back with me and five animals in tow. I am much blessed and much beloved. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it, both my friend and my mother have experienced similar breakups in their lives so we were able to commiserate the whole way home and I knew that for the first time in a long time, I was truly not alone. 

I am living at my mother’s house now until I get my feet firmly back under me again--I guess that makes me one of those “boomerang children” you hear about on the news--and between fighting feelings of loss and failure, more and more I allow myself to feel excited about the new life and possibilities I see stretched out before me. I can go back to school and, at long last finish my degree. I can go on to get my M.F.A. in creative writing--a deeply held dream of mine for many, many years. Because I am no longer supporting an addicted spendthrift, I can finally get my little epileptic dog the proper medical attention she needs. I don't have to go to bed hungry ever again or wear worn out clothes with holes in them. I have friends here and family so I need not be isolated anymore. There is a fantastically active CUUPs group in a neighboring city that promises much Pagan fun and new friends. There are writers’ groups ALL OVER THE PLACE that meet regularly, hold readings and contests, and even offer the occasional scholarship.

I took a long, circuitous path to get here, but for the first time, in a long time, I feel I have found my home. 

Blessed by the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

The artwork for today's post is actually one of my own creations from about fourteen years ago. I am no Picasso by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love making art and perhaps now I will have the time and energy to pursue that once again as well. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Hero's Deepest Wound: A Veterans' Day Post for My Father

My father did not turn out to be a good man.

He was a brilliant child--he got fabulous grades, could play the guitar by ear, and, by the time he went to high school, he was a champion runner. But somewhere between his horrific childhood home life and his time serving as a naval corpsman during the Vietnam War, he did not, as I said, turn out to be a good man.

With a false glee, my dad used to tell the story of how, coming home one day after a high school track meet--which he won and which none of his family attended--he found that his family had moved without him. At sixteen, he wandered the desert streets of California’s “Inland Empire” for six days looking for them. When he finally found them--his raging alcoholic father, his promiscuous mother and all eight of his siblings squatting in some rathole by the tracks in Fontana, they laughed at him and told him he must have been very stupid to have taken so long.

My mother tells the story of my dad enlisting in the navy and, in the process of getting all his papers together, found the last name on his birth certificate did not match the last name of the abusive alcoholic he had grown up thinking was his dad. When he confronted his mother about this she acted nonchalant and said, “Oh yeah, your real father’s last name was Wyss--he worked at some tire plant...I think.”

Then, in the navy, my dad served as a corpsman--officially a medic with the navy but traveling on the ground with the marines seeing to the dead and dying. Once, when I was thirteen, he dug his duffel out of the garage and showed me his gas mask, his boots with a bayonet hole in the toe and, most proudly, his white medic’s tunic still stained with the blood of some marine or other whose name, face, and fatal injuries he had long since forgotten.

All of this is to say that my dad had every right in this and any other world to be completely and totally screwed up--and he was. His depression kept him from ever holding a steady job. His anxiety led him to a devastating Valium addiction. His outwardly acted, self-hating, power-needy PTSD led him to violence and the alienation of both his daughters. All of these things together led him to die absolutely alone on March 1, 2009.

My dad was a brilliant, strong, heroic young man who valiantly served his country and the many, many young soldiers who died in his arms. I tell this story not to detract from the honorable things he did--because they are many--but I tell it to make a plea to AresApollon and any of you who may know and/or love a similarly brilliant but tormented young soldier--that you may help them to heal--that the brilliance and honor may not turn into madness and ignominy.

And for those, like my father, who have already passed, send your prayers with them that in the Kingdom of Hades--in the gray Fields of Asphodel--they will be welcomed as the heroes they are and be given the courage they need to fight one more battle in that place--the battle to reclaim themselves from the terror they knew and had become.


Blessed by the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Call of the Cailleach: Samhain Reflections

In preparation for Samhain this year, I have been reading a great deal of Scottish lore where I came across the Cailleach Beara--the Winter Crone--Grandmother of Gods and humans. Samhain is the end of the reign of Angus and Brigid and the beginning of Grandmother Cailleach’s reign. What struck me most about this myth is that, although the Cailleach is fearsome, she is also the epitome of wisdom and, I can’t explain this, but I feel from her a certain tenderness. Yes, we are tested in winter by her iciness and incessant howling--by, as the lore goes, the eight hags that serve her and deepen the winter chill--but we do survive and we continue to survive. We learn things in the depths of darkness, we come to appreciate more fully the light, and in those howlings from the dark woods, there is deep, deep magic.

Because my birthday is exactly two weeks before Halloween, this time of year has always been special to me. When I start to see the colorful gourds and jolly pumpkins in the grocery store, I get giddy. I ponder near months in advance what my costume will be. As I drive around town, I drive my family crazy pointing out all the most glorious turning trees. When the first chill of autumn wisps through the air, I feel an awakening--I feel my spirit enliven and my mystical yearnings begin to pulse. I’ve often tried to figure out why this season is so special to me, and the only thing I have come up with is that it strikes me as the last hurrah before the cold of winter--like nature going out in style. It is a time of pure, unfettered fun and every day filled with anticipation for the big sendoff of Halloween.

Every year, decorating the house for Halloween is a big, big deal and, for some reason, my family has always been able to do the decoration with absolutely no stress or squabbling like we inevitably have around the rest of the holidays. We also always cook up some ghoulish treats for the night--like Mummy Eyeballs which are really deviled eggs, or Spinal Cord Spirals, which are really tortilla wraps. Then there is handing out candy to the beggars, parties, and scary movies every night for at least the week before. Funny how, now that I am a Pagan, I enjoy all of these things even more because I know there is a real spiritual significance behind them--and always has been. Now, as a Pagan, I have been able to add to the festivities the decorating of the Samhain altar, writing letters to my departed loved ones, leaving a light in the window for them on Samhain night, and using my poetic gifts to write a ritual to do either on my own or in a group.

Perhaps the autumn magic I always felt in my bones even as a child was the soft yet persistent call of Grandmother Cailleach drawing me to my Pagan path. As the season progresses, the nights lengthen, and her call resounds ever more loudly in my soul, may I have the wisdom to heed her and to follow fearlessly wherever she may lead.

So be it.

Blessed by the Mystery
-M. Ashley

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Call Out the Calvary! I'm Goin' Nucular Cacalating the Heighth of Political Peeves

Last night my partner and I had a ball watching the Republican debate in Las Vegas. In our house politicking season sounds a lot like sports seasons sound in other houses--my partner yelling "Boo-ya!" and "Slam dunk!" at the screen and me, after an excellent parry, "He just flattened him man, just totally flattened him!" In particular though, last night's debate was special because it helped crystalize in my mind at least six things that will always keep me from voting for any candidate, no matter what their political affiliation. In that vein, I offer the following open letter:

Dear 2012 Presidential Hopefuls,

I heretofore vow that I will never vote for you if you meet any of the following criteria:

  1. You repeatedly and purposely drop your "g" so as to appear more folksy. "I'm thinkin' we need to get these people back to workin'!"
  2. Use a "th" where no "th" should be, as that is the "height(h)" of ignorance.
  3. Say "pundint" instead of "pundit." If you add that extra "n," you deserve whatever they say about you.
  4. Say "Calvary" instead of "cavalry." We already know you're evangelical and have Jesus on the mind, you don't have to grammar stammer over it.
  5. Prove that you are in no position to handle this nation's economy because you "cacalate credick" rather than "calculate credit."
  6. Say "nucular" instead of "nuclear" and attempt to pass it off as an accent thing rather than an idiot thing.

Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin--you have all been put on notice! As it is your job to speak in public, you must also consider it your job not to sound like a fool.

Most Sincerely,
-M. Ashley

Well, I guess I'm not going to make my goal of posting every day in October for National Blog Writing Month. I've been physically out of it the last several days and just couldn't get my fingers pumping on the keyboard. Still, I'm proud of myself as this October has so far been my most prolific blogging month ever. In the spirit of celebration then, I get right back up on that blogging horse and ride...

As always, I just included this 'cause I like the "pp"

Special thanks to BFF Angela McKinney who pointed out "cacalate." Your friendship "credick" is always good with me!