A Self-Love Journey: My Teeth

For the month of September, Kelly-Ann Maddox is hosting Self-Love September on her blog and YouTube channel as well as in exclusive sounds and sessions material (if you can purchase it, I highly recommend it; alas, I cannot this year, but Kelly-Ann is a total inspiration).

But, in participating with the free bits of Self-Love September, and in continuing some of the work I’ve already been up to over the past couple of months, I thought I’d talk about an aspect of self-love that’s really affected me greatly as of late.

My teeth.

I’ve had anxiety and depression that I’ve struggled with for quite some time, and it really only increased once I left home and went away to college. My first year was rough: I had head lice that seemed to have spawned from Satan himself, I lost a dog _and_ my grandfather, I didn’t break out of my introvert shell and make a ton of friends, so I spent a lot of time in my teeny tiny fourth floor dorm sort of hiding out from the rest of the world. Somewhere in that year, I quit caring about a lot of things, and a lot of them were to do with my personal health. There were plenty of times where I just wasn’t properly taking care of myself, and the worst thing of all was my teeth. I just wasn’t taking the time to brush them a lot of the time (I know, gross, right?).

By about mid-way through my junior year, I was not only not taking care of my teeth? But the crippling fear about “How bad are they? What if they abscess and I die? What if I need them pulled- what if they just fall out?” was literally enough to keep me up for hours in the middle of the night if I hadn’t talked myself to exhaustion on Skype with someone first. Having a real, on-campus job that got me out of the house, and having a serious boyfriend, sort of helped me start taking a little bit better care. It got me moving, motivated. I felt like I was accomplishing something finally- I got complimented on my hard work, and had someone who was there sort of cheerleading for me from the sidelines.

That was a year and a half ago. And while I’d come a long way in working on things and starting to feel a lot better? I wasn’t done. This summer, after the mess of a school year last year was, I decided I wanted to make some major improvements: to my self-care regimen, to my spirituality that wasn’t feeding my soul and helping me through hard times like it ought to, to my physical living situations. No sooner had I said that, and I broke a filling on M&M’s. I wanted to be sick. All of the fears I’d had about my teeth, and about the dentist came flooding back. It was easy to sort of repress them until the wee hours of the night until there was a gap in my teeth and a piece of metal wedged in there and broken. It was a total wake-up call, and you can bet your ass I was obssessively keeping them clean after that.

I genuinely think I was panicking when I first went to the only dentist in town that my insurance would completely cover: like, sort of shaking, has to blink back a tear or two every couple of minutes, heart-racing, panic attack in this dentist office by myself. Their complete lack of professionalism didn’t help. I waited for an extra 20 minutes in the x-ray room because the hygienist was busy chatting with someone, and spent 2 hours there overall. All that, only to be scared with the possibility of a root canal that day (the way they made it sound made me think they were just gonna get it done because it was serious- and I was freaking out), made to test out an electric toothbrush, have absolutely nothing actually done to my teeth or the broken filling, and given an extensive payment plan for the work I’d need done- which would take a trip to an oral surgeon for a root canal and several trips to get everything done. What? What ended up happening, thankfully, was that my mum took me back to our old family dentist. It was going to cost more, but at least care was actually being taken. All of the plaque and crap on my teeth? Blasted off in one cleaning- and they even got the bit of broken filling that had been hanging out in my mouth for weeks out. I didn’t need a root canal; my cavities weren’t all that bad- or numerous thankfully. The best part of that experience was that they asked to make sure I was okay when I explained the why I hadn’t been taking care of my teeth. They made me feel comfortable sharing that with them, and then wanted to make sure that I was okay. That, to me, was really cool.

And I was nervous when I went in to get my broken filling fixed? But my anxiety about my teeth has been lessened, I’m not afraid of the dentist- at least not as afraid as I was, and through all that’s happened, I’ve started feeling better about myself and really wanting to take care of myself better than I have been- I’ve actually smiled, like teeth-showing really smiling, in photos and real life because I’m not ashamed of them anymore. And I think that feeling will only get better as I continue on my journey.

-Rachel

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Breaking Free: A Summer for Shadow Work

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I couldn’t find an artist for this image, but found it via Pinterest here.

I have been, in the past five days since my first post’s publishing (and since I started working on this new blog), really beating myself up over what my first few posts should be about. Being at home- and without my campus job’s income- means that I have a lot of limited space to do things, and access to not only some of my tools but things that I tend to like to purchase such as candles, incense, and the like. Especially this summer, it’s been feeling a bit like I’m not doing much that seems worthy of a blog post.

I have, however, been doing a lot of thinking and planning.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of my focus this summer has been on improving my self in the sense of health, organization, etc. and really jump-starting my spiritual practice which had all but ground to a halt entirely over the course of the last year. I had some ideas about what this might mean when I left Grand Valley for the summer, but it’s turning out to have touched me on even deeper levels than I could have ever imagined. It seemed simple enough to come up with some daily things to do, go on some camping trips, get my inspiration flowing again. What has begun, instead, is a complete transformation of self.

Now, I’m sure if I looked good, long, and hard enough back at journals and the like, I could see the beginnings of this change hiding out in the months leading into summer break. The more noticeable thing, however, was a sudden resurgence of Morrigan imagery after many many many months of very little nudge from anything at all. Almost as soon as I acknowledged that perhaps this message was for me, and not a close friend of mine, things began to pick up rather rapidly right before my most recent camping trip. I kept getting more and more and more of that crow/raven and warrior goddess imagery, and quite literally the day before I left for the camping trip, a filling broke in one of my teeth. What I had been planning, really, was eating healthier, meditating more, doing witchy things… But Morrigan came knocking and insisted on something else: over the last several years, I’ve taken pretty dreadful care of my teeth. Depression kicks in, and my will to care sometimes just drifts away. This was a jarring wake up call- to not only face some deep fears (I hate dentists, and have developed this weird thing where I worry about how bad the news will be and therefore avoid hearing it), and to take better care of myself. It’s something I’ve added to my list of things to work on for the summer, and I’m already starting to feel a bit better (though I’m still in need of some dental work done).

During the trip, a dear friend of mine brought out some shadow working and self-analysis prompts that were posted on Kelly-Ann Maddox’s site, and I’ve really started to address things like how I truly feel about various aspects, how I handle fears and angers, etc. We’ve continued these prompts over the last couple of weeks.

The other really big change in my life came with what felt like a random whim to sort of revive my more classy-goth sense of style in the couple of days before my birthday on the 2nd of this month. I’d been at the library and picked up a copy of Walking the Twilight Path: A Gothic Book of the Dead, which I’ve admittedly not delved into quite yet (but seems to really delve into some personal vs/ slightly anthropological-ish issues involving death, dying, etc. and seems like a book I’ll order on Amazon because I may not have time to get to it this summer), as well as a couple of other more light-hearted books on the goth subculture.

On my birthday itself, I set out to sort of search for some new clothes to sort of reflect this darker aspect of self I was embracing, and ended up visiting my local metaphysical shop with my mom and aunt. I received both a tarot and astrology reading (from my aunt and the shop’s owner respectively), and had a good, long talk with them about what the future had in store for me as I turned twenty-two and was headed into my final year in university. In both readings, the themes of rebirth, redefining the self, working through a lot of shit, and looking towards a future seemed super prevalent. But what started the real turn-around of the conversation was them asking me what I wanted to do for a career once I’d graduated.

And it sort of hit me: I don’t want to work in a museum. I don’t want to go to grad school. I don’t want to continuously do historical research- not for a living, anyway. That’s not what I find fascinating about history. What I find really interesting is the ways in which history acts as a many-faceted story of us: humanity, and it’s really those stories- and the stories that often go unheard that interest me, not what can be researched and argued. I also bemoaned that being a witch, doing tarot readings, writing pagan books, blogging, etc. is not exactly an easy way to make money (though I damn well think it should be). I said, sort of off-handedly, that I’d debated going into mortuary work: more specifically funeral directing and the sort of pre-need counseling type stuff. Of course, the shop’s owner gets excited because that seems to match quite well with my chart.

But the more I thought about it that day and in the few days that followed, the more it sort of made sense. It’s something which allows me to use my spiritual, compassionate side- to assist others in dealing with what is arguably one of the greater transitions in life: its end. There’s a creative, compassionate element to it; it echoes the sense of purpose I get when I think about being a priestess and leading others through ritual. I have a post detailing my thoughts on ritual and its purpose on my older blog, found here, but essentially, my thought is that ritual is supposed to in some way be transformative and transitional. One should leave ritual slightly different than when they entered. It also sort of reflects my views on the Wylde Hunt, my feeling drawn to them, what I’ve always sort of felt my purpose in working with them is, and how they act in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Detailed here, it is essentially that the Wylde Hunt for me acts as a sort of psychopompic force; that they are the necessary end to life, but also the ferriers of souls into whatever next state of being they are destined for.

And with the Morrigan death/war/crone goddess symbolism and presence around, with the darker themes of shadow/self-work and even the stylistic choices, it all just suddenly seemed to make sense. I looked up the information I needed, and could get certified to be an apprentice and work in the funeral industry within a year after graduating if I enroll and complete a 21-credit online program from a university only about 45 minutes away from where my boyfriend is living in Florida. Suddenly, even moving down to Florida to be with the man I love dearly makes a lot of practical sense that I seemed to be lacking in the beginning.

I sort of joked that I’d gotten some new tops, a new bra, and my life-purpose for my birthday.

With all of this change, it’ll be interesting to see where else this flow takes me by the end of the summer.

Lots of love to you all,
Rachel