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Entry from July 9: Finally, the Tease Puts Out

Fifth backdated entry from July 9:

Okay, enough with the teasing, eh?

Camp was great and has sown seeds to change my life. Aren't you glad you waited this long to hear that? Heh. Okay, just kidding.

There were three things working me at camp this year -- the theme, which was beauty, ugliness and sovereignty; my path, Holding the Paradox of Bright and Dark; and my coven sisters, or more accurately, working not to repeat the first camp experience we had. All three things delivered great insights, lots of post-camp work and many moments of joy, pride and pain. In many ways, it was the camp of paradox for me.

I struggled a little with the story they used at this camp -- Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady (Dame Ragnell). I never thought I'd say I'm burned out on Arthurian myth, but I think I am. And I still have to read more about Sir Gawain next week in my Brit Lit class. But I digress. So when I say struggled, I mean I had a hard time really connecting with the story on a deep level, or so I thought at the time. If you're not familiar with it, click here. The only thing this summary changes is the Black Knight (the challenger to Arthur) and the White Hart (who Arthur was chasing when he trespassed and was challenged by the Black Knight).

Towards the end, I realized that a large part of my struggle was in looking for a deep, inward connection, one related to sovereignty and how some deep part of my psyche holds me back from that. What came to me at the end of camp -- and I expect more will bubble up -- is that one thing that really holds me back is the very paradoxically superficial and deep realization that I truly believe, deep inside, that I am ugly. And not in the cool sense. Face and body, I feel ugly and unattractive. I want to hide, I want to tear out my own hair, I want to reject before I am rejected.

It's such an ingrained way of thinking about myself, I know I must find a way to overcome it. And it has to be me. No amount of compliments will help. I explained it to my affinity group thusly: When someone gives me a compliment, it's like giving a person a glass of wine. It feels good and makes me feel warm for a time, but it fades away and I'm left with what I started with. I'm looking for ways to work with this. I'm open to suggestions, so feel free to offer. Currently, Ravyn shared some mirror work with me, and I'm doing that (essentially, spending time in front of the mirror every day and telling myself "I love you." If you know how much I hate mirrors, you know how hard this is for me), and one of my affinity group members suggested that whenever I do receive a compliment of whatever kind, instead of shrugging it off, I say, "Thank you, I know." The "thank you" isn't hard, but the "I know" sure is.

As I mentioned, I did end up taking Ravyn and Zoe's path about shadow and light. It was close once I got there -- but ultimately, it called to me strongest and I got exactly what I needed. I learned that it is easy for me to own my dark shadow -- the things about me that are scary or "bad," like judgment or hypocrisy or squashing ideas. But owning the bright shadow -- the part that is full of the potential things I can do but don't? You know, like being a writer, or learning to sing, or any of the other things I have a shadow artist for -- those are the ones I have a hard time wearing.

I also revisited the Iron Pentacle in path, something I haven't seriously undertaken in at least a year. Not surprisingingly, the points I'm currently struggling with are not the same I struggled with then. Now I'm having problems with Self -- spending a lot of time rusted here -- and Passion, where I'm either rusted or gilded, but rarely in the balanced passion. For more about these concepts, click here and here. Clearly the Self issues are related to what I found in my reaction to the Loathly Lady story, but the Passion stuff requires some work with Dionysos, I think.

Working with my coven sisters to not revisit our first camp was actually really good for me. I was confronted with my assumption that there is a Them and Me early on and was able to shed that. It was just We. Ivy and I had some great time together and I was really able to finish the foundation of our relationship. I really cherish that and the time we spent together. She unwittingly delivered a huge epiphany to me one morning simply by giving me a hug. Why was that a big epiphany? Because I didn't know I needed it until she gave it, freely and with a very open heart. What happened is that I ended up spending the night alone in our cabin. When I woke up by myself, I felt very sad and isolated. About five minutes later, when I was on my way up the hill to go pee, Ivy came back. We chatted for a moment and then, heading back towards the cabin, she asked if Thalia was still sleeping. I told her I didn't know -- Thalia wasn't in the cabin. I told her I felt a little sad when I woke up alone and she immediately gave me a huge hug. All the sadness melted away -- it was brilliant. And then a short while later, we met Thalia at path and had another great hug moment.

There were a few other moments like this, when someone took my hand or gave me a hug at just the right moment where I realized I really crave physical affection, but I am so completely shut off from it that I don't even know it. I don't even know to ask for it. Part of the why of that became obvious as the week progressed.

The California camp has a sexual vibe that is different from the two other camps I've attended. Both times I've been there, this ouch area has been hit for me -- the place of my rape, the place of being molested as a young girl. I don't know why -- physically, it's quite safe and no one has ever done anything that was remotely threatening or unwanted. Still, I go to this place when I'm there and it is painful. This time, however, I had a far better arsenal of coping tools -- thanks to other camps and thanks to Diana's Grove. This time I was able to peel back all the defense mechanisms and really see what is at the core. I have shut down the physical touch because it is confusing to me and scary. Because I was touched in ways no young girl should be touched, the distinction between sexual touch and sensual touch is blurred. Loving touch and lustful touch -- all that. It's a jumbled mess in my head and heart. At the end of the day, it isolates me, starves me. I'm not entirely sure how to approach this work, but I am at least now aware of it in a way I never was before. Couple this issue with the issue of feeling ugly, and you can see why I am often perceived as cool or stand-offish.

One final thing I wanted to mention... My affinity group. They rocked. I particularly connected with a man named Ed who was there with his partner, Kurt. Ed was the big brother I've never had, even though he was trying to resist the urge. I can't remember the last time anyone noticed I was cold and offered his jacket. It was nice to be cared for, to be noticed. Ed's done a lot of grief work in the AIDS community and we really connected on that point too. It was great to talk to someone who is also intimate with Death, someone who was able to articulate beautifully things I have seen and felt. I really miss him and the rest of my affinity group. How fabulous it would be to meet with them every day just to decompress.

There's really so much more, but really, your eyes must be tired. I'd love to chat about it more in person with anyone interested. This camp set the stage for my work with Dionysos at the Tejas camp.

So. Was it good for you too?

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