Year of the Dog

Another year has gone by. For those who do not know, I always consider my birthday my new year; I had my new year on Sunday. Every year I make list of “resolutions” to accomplish in the next year.

This year, I decided to use my dog as a source of inspiration. As humans, we forget so much of our natural essence. We worry about trivial things, forget to breathe. We work tirelessly. And that leads to blockages within our energy fields. It causes us to be exhausted-drained of our energy and life force.

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My chihuahua Fox Mulder

I am guilty of that. Very much so.  So this year, I am going to live more like my dog and follow these simple, yet difficult, resolutions:

  1. Live in the moment: I will try my best to be in the moment—even if the moment is uncomfortable or new to me. I am going to learn that whatever moment I happen to be in, is a moment that I am meant to learn from.
  2. Love unconditionally: Probably the hardest lesson of them all. Learning to love unconditionally: even if the person has low vibrations, hurt you, etc. Learning to love and accept that person for who they are….regardless. My dog loves me even when I am in a fierce mood. He loves me even when I am sad. He loves me even if I scold him for doing something he wasn’t supposed to. He loves unconditionally.
  3. Don’t worry. Be happy: My dog is ALWAYS happy. Always. I need to stop worrying over things that I cant control. I will stop worrying over things that I can change. I will just be happy.
  4. Let go: When my dog does something bad, I scold him. He is upset for a few moments and then he is back to being happy. Lesson to be learned: let go. Bad stuff happens. You cant make everyone happy all the time. You will disappoint yourself and others periodically. But……it happens….Let it go and go back to being happy!

Will I be able to do all of these successfully–no, but I can try! I know I will have my “human” moments—but if I keep my dog and his virtues in check, then I think these lessons will be another stepping stone in my growth to be the best person humanly possible. And if I mess up….well….my dog will be there to love me!

The Blank Slate

I don’t like the saying “where ever you go there you are” — and I have said that before. It infers that if you go somewhere to get away or start over–you will always have your old baggage.

I can tell you, that’s total bullshit. I lived in Boston for 32 years and we were planning on moving out of the city when we could. We were not sure exactly where we were going to go, but after much debating and back and forth we decided Arizona. Flagstaff to be exact. I was NOT happy in Boston. It was to dense, to over populated, to noisy. I didn’t like the false sense of community or the “yuppy hippies” that were permeating the area with their fake idea of what it means to be free-spirited. It was suffocating. I was tired, restless and began to have a lot of health issues. Yes, I had baggage! Divorce, people who I thought were my friends who weren’t, a dead-end job that initially had the promise of growth.

So we moved. And you know what? None of that baggage went with me. It stayed put in Boston. I came to Flagstaff a complete blank slate.

And not only did I leave my baggage in Boston, but I left what I thought was “identity” there as well. For over 10 years I was “Zehara The Belly Dancer” — For 10 years I taught, performed, traveled across New England and hosted and organized more shows than I can remember. Zehara The Belly Dancer was who I was….or at least thought I was. I was initially given the name Zehara when I was initiated into the Temple of the Seekers, a Ceremonial Magick coven I had been involved in for 8 years. I was Zehara the Priestess LONG before Zehara the Belly Dancer. And Zehara the Priestess and Melissa (my given name) were always one in the same. But the belly dancer persona became my identity. She was who I was. My alter ego who was not shy, bossy, could take on the world, and had no fear. And when I started sprouting branches that went beyond the scope of belly dance, I found it increasingly more difficult to find that balance between Zehara the Belly Dancer and Melissa/Zehara. It became even harder when I started wellness practice. While I understood that I was outgrowing  my dance persona I just could not fully let her go. She was me. For ten years I created this person-This tantalizing, sexy, Snake Charmer. She consumed me. And whenever I thought I was ready to let her go—I would get a pit in my stomach and say “not yet.”

Then I arrived in Flagstaff. And one of the first things I struggled with was the Zehara The Belly  Dancer and being in a new place–where no one knew her or her accomplishments. She was just a new dancer in town. And I freaked out!!!!

OMG! NO ONE KNOWS ZEHARA!
I finally secured my first performance…..and….then…..

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I realized that Zehara the Belly Dancer was gone. During the performance, I felt nothing. Zehara The Belly Dancer became a shell and Melissa/Zehara was emerging. It was a strange feeling.

When I got home, and washed away the glitter and changed into my pj’s….I said out loud, “I cant do this anymore.” It felt amazing. Slowly but surely I began to sell my dance wears—-and I felt no second thoughts, no regrets, no sadness. She had a good run. But now its time for her to go. I was finally being able to just be……..me……Melissa with my magickal name Zehara for my magickal work. I was no longer the belly dancer or snake charmer. I was just me.

Then I made the biggest and most difficult decision I have ever made in the 10 years I had been dancing and in the 15 years that I had them. I rehomed all my snakes. It was painful. I cried for about three days. But, while they were more than dance partners, I just couldn’t devote the time anymore. And also, after  my friend and dance partner Kaala died, the desire to snake dance died with her. She was special. She and I had a connection that I never had again with any of my other snakes. I was very fortunate to find an amazing woman in Flagstaff who has a reptile sanctuary They are all living happily in retirement. It was a decision I did not make lightly, but it was the right thing to do.

Finally letting Zehara the Belly Dancer go was an amazing feeling. She did a lot of amazing things! But now its time for me to be me again.

And with that, I became a blank slate. Creating a new destiny for myself. Creating a new chapter in my life (or maybe an entirely new book!).

I am focusing on my Reiki practice, branching out into animal reiki as well! And I am focusing on starting my own Coven in which pagans of the community can come together and celebrate the God, Goddess and Earth energy together.

I feel so blessed. So light. So happy.

Finding The Change

I am learning that change is never easy—but it sure does feel good when you finally get in the swing of it. It’s been rough, adjusting – but I am finally feeling good…and doing what I love—connecting with nature.

It’s beautiful here in Arizona and the energy of the earth and land is buzzing. When I was at the doctors last week, a nurse mentioned that when she first moved to Flagstaff, she felt that she being “pushed out” – almost like she was being tested.

It made me wonder if the land chooses you—where you stay. It may be why some people move and never feel “at home” or why you can go someplace and feel like you have lived there before.

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We have been visiting a lot of places since we moved here, and I finally found a place that felt like that “to go place”. It’s called Picture Canyon. As soon as my feet touched the ground I felt an amazing familiarity and energy surge through my soul. I loved it.

I think we all need to find that place—no matter where we go—whether we moved, live somewhere, visit—finding that space where you can let go and be at peace, no matter what’s going on around you—or how your feeling. To let your feet touch the earth and know that you are safe and exactly where you belong at this moment in your life.

The Dark Side of the Moon: When the Light Fades

There is always a light and dark side to everything in life. And for those of us with depression, the dark side tends to be the most prominent. I have battled depression most of my life, with an attempted suicide at age 14 followed by panic attacks later in life and then several shrinks. I finally found a therapist I liked and from 2009-2013 I saw her and a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner during the darkest hours. I am very open about having clinical depression because I have to be the voice for the thousands out there afraid to talk about because they are afraid of being judged. In 2014 I was doing great—so great my social worker decided that she only needed to see me on as needed basis and my NP tapered my meds. I was feeling on top of the world.

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Then, I recently, and abruptly had a life change. Within two weeks, my boyfriend and I were packed up and heading to Arizona. There we were on a Saturday night enjoying some wine and sake listening to some old school tunes in an apartment I lived in for 15 years to suddenly packing boxes on Sunday, renting a U-Haul and driving 2300 miles away from the only place I had called home. It happened so fast I had no time to comprehend what the hell just happened. The whole cliché of having the carpet pulled out from under you—is serious shit.

Here we are in Arizona and the adjustment has been difficult. We went from a major city to a new town. We know no one. Have np physical support system here and are basically fending for ourselves. I have to find a job pronto to make sure we can pay rent which means finding meaningless work to pay the bills.

And what happens but that the dark side appears. I woke up one day in tears. I was crying to the point where I couldn’t stop. My depression had returned. YES—the move was the TRIGGER—but not the reason.

People who don’t have depression don’t understand what it’s like. Imagine that you are just moving along a bright sunny day when suddenly someone throws a pitch black can’t see shit bag over your face and never ever takes it off. It’s like that. A dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. And thoughts-bad thoughts come in your mind. And YOU CAN’T HELP IT. It’s just there.

I have had so many people tell me it’s the move. To give it time. To find joy in the things around me. Believe me…I am trying. We have gone to canyons, creeks, walked, enjoyed the beauty of the place—but my lack of happiness isn’t with where I live…it’s chemically going on in my brain.

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I think that’s hardest thing about depression–people think it’s an external thing that can be “fixed”–when it’s a chemical thing that can’t be fixed just “adjusted”….and I appreciate everyone’s helping…. but depression can’t be fixed with a walk or giving my move time…if it were…I would be walking all day every day and loving every bit of Flagstaff. It’s hard for people who don’t have a clinical diagnosis to understand that depression is not always due to outside circumstances. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and offerings of advice during times like this, but want I everyone to understand that it’s not going to “fix” what’s happening inside my head. I can’t just flip a switch and “be happy”—nor can I flip a switch and decide that all the chemical mishaps in my brain will fix themselves.

Being supportive is awesome. Being able to just be there—and listen—is even more awesome.

Cominando: The Walker

I believe, truly, in cosmic intervention–even when said intervention comes in the form of disruption, chaos, deceit and selfishness. Sometimes cosmic intervention–is not kind and circumstances arise that literally force you onto the path The Universe wants you to take. But when The Universe decrees something–it is to be so. The Universe works on its own terms and has its own methods. And even though you know you are going to make a change, The Universe will make the change happen when it is supposed to happen–not when you want it  to happen. So yes, its good to make plans, but not concrete ones, because they are always apt to change.

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One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the past few weeks is that, when you have nothing to lose–it’s often the BEST time for changes. You do not need to hit “rock bottom” or be irresponsible to have nothing to lose. But when you realize that you have exhausted yourself — spiritually, physically and mentally— that’s when you realize that you have nothing to lose.

I realized that I had nothing to lose a few months ago. I was in a job that was going nowhere, not happy  with my living situation, and was feeling spiritually fatigued. My loves and hobbies did not give me the joy that they once had. We were planning on moving in August, but then, The Universe decreed it was time for us to go now. It wasn’t a pleasant, and it left me feeling a lot of anger and hatred toward several people (something I have finally gotten over after realizing you can not change a person–or people–and that sometimes cosmic intervention comes in unpleasant forms). We decided, it was time to go.

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I decided to literally up root myself. After living in the same place for most of my life, I decided that in order for me to reconnect with everything important to me, I needed to move forward–take a leap of faith– close my eyes–and free fall. We packed our stuff in 2 weeks, found an apartment and decided to move cross-country to Flagstaff, Arizona. As most of you know, I had a profoundly deep experience when I went to Sedona, AZ in 2014. It was the first time in my life that I was somewhere where I felt that I belonged. And so here we are….

I am starting a whole new life. Like a flower that has been uprooted, I am being replanted in a bigger space with love, life and the ability to blossom like I have never done before. I am walking a new path, in a new place, filled with new bright adventures. Reinventing myself. Cracking out of the egg. Flying out of the cocoon. I feel–free.

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And of course it doesn’t come without fears. Fear is normal. I am starting from scratch, a whole new life. And it scares me. But of course, I know if it was not meant to be The Universe would not have delivered it right now. But it did.

Taking leaps of faith are scary. But with a leap of faith–only new beginnings can occur.

So if you have nothing to lose–I highly recommend….closing your eyes, free-falling and taking that leap. There is no backward..you can never go back. Only forward.

Convergence

2013 was a big year for me. Personally and professionally. It’s funny how when a year starts, you have no idea how it will end. We all make resolutions-what we wish to accomplish in the year ahead. We have dreams and goals. Perceptions of what to expect. But it almost never turns out in the end the way we expected. For better or worse, the New Year always brings about changes in our continuous evolution. We shed our skins. We learn, we grow, we change.

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If I had to sum up 2013 in one word it would be ENDINGS. I don’t want to say “losses”–I don’t believe things are ever lost for us. Things end. Some things that end we never expected. Something that begin we never expected. But everything ends and begins somewhere in time. 2013 started off with the hopes of new things to come. My year has been such an emotional roller coaster. 2013 marked a major shift in my perspective on life, love and the world around me.

I have battled with anxiety and depression most of my life. It all came to ahead eight years ago, when I found myself ending up repeatedly in the emergency room from panic attacks. I lived as if I was sleep walking. Needing to hold hands. Afraid of doing things I used to find so simple. My life became a focus of dependence on others. After years of therapy and finally taking the step to go on medication, I have been able to get a handle on both. My anxiety, which used to be so debilitating that I lost my independence, only creeps up occasionally. And its been months since my depression consumed me that I could  not even get out of bed. With my regained sense of self and control, I began to explore outside myself once more. My spirituality began to become a major part of my life and I was blessed to begin meeting other people who had the same sense of the Universe as I did. I started attending drum circles, started my own spiritual group, and focused more on the needs I was feeling. I began turning inward.

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With the new awareness I had, of which I was no longer bound to the darkness I had experienced with anxiety/depression, came changes within myself. With change comes beginnings and ends. I changed. I changed a lot. What I thought I knew, what I thought I wanted, began to shift. I decided, wholeheartedly, to take a rest from my dancing. I loved performing and teaching, but my passion was gone. Dancing was not what it used to be for me. So I decided that I needed to step away. That life was no longer what I needed. My “retirement” came after my show “ANIMUS,” which for the third year in a row, became a spiritual masterpiece for me. Conceived of a dream where my dance and spirit could merge.

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My perception on life, once bound by chains of a loss of self due to the darkness of anxiety and depression, shifted. My dreams, desires and needs changed. With that, came the end of my marriage. The Universe was pulling me in a different direction, and my desires for my future deviated.  Our goals differed from what they started off as. I shed a new skin and needed to grow.  I continued on my spiritual journey, walking away from the life I had started. I had to reevaluate myself once more. I was now treading in a new tumultuous ocean. But life is like that—waves. Big or small, we have to ride them out.

And then, like a flash of light in a thunderous sky, The Universe decided to flip my world upside down again. If I have learned anything this year, it’s that The Universe will do exactly what it is meant to do when the time is right.  I met a partner who was my spiritual and creative equal. Who I have loved for lifetimes. When you least expect it, when you think your world is drowning in darkness, The Universe decides to pull you out. What I have now is a gift I treasure beyond all others. What I have now, only few will experience in their lifetime. From an end, came a beginning. And with the meeting my twin soul-came the rebirth of my creative spark.

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An idea that had once lived only on the stage of “ANIMUS”, now became a new reality. I founded PRIMAL FUSION WORLD DANCE. Walking away from belly dance, I was able to open a door to a new world that I could share, finally. Creating a dance style specifically for the use of cathartic purposes, I began to reestablish my love of dance and movement. From and end came a beginning.

Lastly, the hardest aspect of my life was the passing of my sweet best friend and dance partner for nearly 10 years, Kaala. A spiritual guide for me now, even in death, my serpentine friend is always a part of my heart and soul.

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The great convergence of 2013.

I thinking of 2013 much life the myth of Persephone. Spending 6 months in the dark and 6 months in the sun. It’s not that my life was lived in shadows. It was that I needed to see the shadows as a gift. You can’t walk in the light–appreciate its warmth–until you walked in the shadows. I changed and evolved.  Like a snake, I embraced the cyclical nature of my evolution and shed my skin. I started to become who I was meant to be. From the endings, came beginnings.

I have learned a lot this year:

1. Always trust The Universe-even when you think your world is ending–The Universe is doing EXACTLY what needs to be done for you.

2. Expect the unexpected.

3. Embrace your change. Even when things may not turn out the way you wanted, that change is part of your evolution.

4. Don’t worry about what others think. People who judge you are people you don’t need in your life.

5. Be happy and let go. You can’t move forward if you are living in the past and you can’t live life to the fullest if you hold on to regrets and what-if’s.

6. Take one day at a time. What was yesterday was yesterday. What is today is today. What is tomorrow is tomorrow. You can only live in the moments. Life is made up of all those little moments.

So 2013 was an a year of endings for me. I cant wait to see what 2014 has in store!