Reverend Victoria Pendragon, BFA, DD
The important thing about me is not my certifications and degrees. Anyone can earn certifications and degrees, though I feel compelled to point out that my ordination and Hon. Doctor of Divinity degree were earned in the previous century after some years of study under the aegis of Rev. Dr. Paula Sunray at the National Interfaith Seminary.
The most important thing about me is that I am here to help. It took me many years to embrace that fact. I was just so happy to be alive, after leaving progressive systemic sclerosis behind me, that all I wanted to do was celebrate. Then, I was visited. Twice. That’s because I tried to ignore the first visit, despite that fact that the Being who was visiting me was larger than the room I was in and so bright that all I could see was light. The following day, counseled by my then husband that I should probably have paid attention to such a vision, I announced, when it came back, that I was ready for whatever it had for me.
What it had was a message, preceded by the announcement, “I am an embodiment of the light.” The message was that the time had come for me to share what I had learned with others. And so, reluctantly, I entered into the field of being a helping person. It took me almost 15 years, though, helping and learning and training, to concretize what healing from an advanced case of scleroderma had taught me. I call that technique Sleep Magic, but I do many other things as well: I write, paint, mentor, counsel and do vibrational healing for the earth and its many inhabitants every day.
But what is really important about me is that I am a thriver. My work, as good as it is, would be significantly less good if it were not informed, as it is, by my personal history. My personal history is, in a word, ugly. If what you came to this page for was to check out my degrees and certifications then you might want to skip to the very bottom of this page now, because I am about to reprise, first with as little detail as possible, my personal history so that those of you who need to know that I know, can see that I do and second, the same history, but a more lyrical version, with more feeling and detail.
“The Middle Way is not a cautious path between opposites, but a path of abandon, surrendering to that which is in you..” Richard Rudd, GeneKeys
Photo by Julia Lehman McTigue of www.JuliaLehmanPhoto.com
In a Nutshell
At 6 months of age I contracted tuberculosis, then incurable. I was used as a guinea pig for an experimental medicine because in the 1940s, babies were still thought of as more or less disposable. Happily, it worked. Because my mother, who had gifted me with the disease – she was a pathologist back in the days of no-gloves-required! – was recuperating in Havana, I was sent to the home of my grandparents where my training for becoming a sexual product began. I ended up being rented out by my grandfather on a pretty regular basis until I was in my teens. Meanwhile, at about the age of seven, my father took an interest in me as well. Happily he only used me for more private entertainment and did not have anywhere near the audience for my services that my grandfather had.
My teens, 20s and the first half of my 30s were marked by the promiscuity that is typical of a woman with a background like mine. I sought to grasp the power I never had by behaving badly. I married, had two remarkable birthing experiences and two remarkable children. I divorced, gave up everything I had and even lost the custody of my children, then 8 and 10 years old. I thought I would die.
I remarried and 4 years later contracted one of the most painful diseases there is, rapidly advancing progressive systemic sclerosis for which there is no cure. Scleroderma marked the beginning of my transformation, the turning point when I realized that my own history had created for me the shell I had been seeking to hide within. In death, I knew I could not be hurt again, I could not make any more dreadful mistakes.
Much of the rest of my story – and it’s all been amazing since I made up my mind to live – is written in my book, My Three Years As A Tree andis summarized in The Whole-ish Story, the lengthy prose poem below. Born on a new moon rising, I bring with me the energy of bursting forth from darkness…
The Whole-ish Story
Once upon a time there was a butterfly woman. Once upon a time she would be a very, very old butterfly woman with wings so sheer and transparent that you could see the sky through them, like a rainbow. But when this story begins the butterfly woman is inhabiting a 13-year-old cocoon. It is a very interesting cocoon, and it has been disturbed many times in its short life.
Other cocoons that have been disturbed as much as this cocoon has been disturbed have simply shriveled up and died, one way or another. They might look alive, but inside, the butterfly that has inhabited them has died, or gone away, leaving a moist pastel husk that simply will not go away on its own. And when the time comes for the butterfly that is not there to emerge, the husk, now dry and brittle, simply turns itself inside out and then begins to die some kind of slow death.
This cocoon is different, though, from most of the other cocoons around it but does not know that it is different in a helpful way. It feels strange and outcast. In an attempt to keep itself alive, this cocoon has allowed the immature larva of the butterfly that dwells inside it to leave the the safety of the cocoon, while the cocoon is being disturbed. The larva, even in its larval stage, is a very powerful presence, filled with wisdom, smart enough to leave a burning building before the place burns down. It never does burn down, of course, but it’s not a good place to be because it gets very, very, very HOT.
The larva leaves the cocoon and slips into the earth with all the other insects and bugs that live there. She sees their light, brightly colored bands that surround each small being. They glow. She travels in this underground world that is gently lit by insect life. She goes into underground caves and speaks with the snakes that live there. She travels up the roots of the trees into their branches and gets to know them from the inside out. She discovers that from the highest branches she can look down at her very own cocoon, the one she left, and observe the sad, sad situation that is occurring. And every time she watches her wonderful little home being desecrated, she can feel the part of her that will one day become her heart try to grow. She can feel it trying to become strong.
When she returns to the cocoon, to her home, to the delicate golden wounded place where she lives, sometimes she brings messages from the world where she’s been. She can tell that the cocoon doesn’t hear her most of the time, but she is wise enough to know that just saying the words helps, gives the cocoon hope because this particular butterfly needs this particular cocoon – which is really a part of her – to live so that she can become the being she intends to become.
The butterfly, it should be said, even though at this point it is no more than a larva, is carrying all the wisdom it will ever be able to express.
Newborn cocoons – you may call them babies – know exactly what is going to happen to them in life. Newborns are one hundred percent in communication with the butterfly beings they carry inside. They try to communicate this information wordlessly to their parents, but it almost never works, and as a rule, eventually, the parents (who are often entering that dry husk stage we spoke of before) manage to overwhelm their small cocoons, leaving them as clueless as they are. Some are lucky, like the cocoon in this story, and they occasionally hear the voice of the larval being that is the source of their own izzness, and it is enough to provide, like the auras of the underground insects, just enough light to find a way into the trees and into the truth.
At the age of 13, this cocoon is lying in bed one night hoping to slip into a sleep that will shield her from whatever may happen in the night when suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, she sees herself, perhaps 30 years older. She knows, instinctively knows, that she has a very rare disease, something there is no cure for. She senses that other people are very worried about her. And then she falls asleep. But in the morning she remembers what happened, and for some years she remembers and can even see herself as she saw herself that night. But by the time she is 18 or so, she hardly even remembers that it ever happened. It slips her mind.
By the time she is 18, many things have slipped her mind. They have had to. If all the memories in the cocoon were to come to the surface of her consciousness, who knows what would happen? By the time she is in her 20s, she is behaving very badly. The parts of her life that she does not remember have led her into many, many unsavory situations. Unbeknownst to herself, she has become, in a way, programmed to take part in the desecration of herself. She goes with men and boys and allows them to use her as it pleases them. Then she goes home and wonders why. She does not remember what they do because the larval butterfly, now much larger than it once was, is still leaving the cocoon when the men enter it. The larva knows what the cocoon does not know. But what the cocoon feels, the larva does not because she is not there to feel it. The larva is in the tree tops. The larva knows, but she does not know the full extent of what she knows.
The cocoon, like most life forms, desires to live. In order to live, she feels that she must find a safe space, one where it will not be so easy for her to do the things that hurt her. When one of the men she meets asks to marry her, she agrees. To have a husband will be to be safe…or so she thinks. As it turns out, the programming runs too deep for a marriage certificate to alter it. Her bad behavior continues, now even more secretly.
Frustrated by her own seemingly unstoppable behavior and becoming more and more of a mystery to herself, the cocoon makes a decision that many other young cocoons make, she decides that having another small life form in her life will change everything. Unbeknownst to her husband she prepares to become pregnant, to bring another cocoon into the world. Even pregnancy does nothing to quell her behavior. And, while other men find her very attractive in her luxurious condition, her husband does not. She is confused, very unhappy and fearful about the actual biological process of giving birth.
The birth event is long and arduous and filled with pain. When the little boy cocoon begins making its exit from the larger cocoon that is his mother she orgasms. Interestingly, the larva stays put. It stays within the body and experiences the birth…and the orgasm that comes with it.
The moments just following the birth are not good. The first words the little mother cocoon hears are, “He’s not breathing!’ She watches as the small self, the little baby boy cocoon, is whisked away. A cadre of doctors and nurses hover over him. She can see tubes and hear strange noises along with the muffled voices. And she is angry. She has, after all, suffered. She has laboured in the worst pain she can remember (remember!) feeling. Are her efforts for naught? Will this small beast die on her? She is furious. She wants to leap from the table and end his life herself. How can he do this to her?
But she is way too weak. Exhausted by the efforts. The small cocoon is saved. She does not care.
Because she develops a fever, the hospital will not allow the baby to be brought to her, but the staff all urge her to visit the nursery and behold the small wonder she has brought forth through a thick pane of glass. She will not go. She will not even rise from bed. Her husband’s mother and her own mother chide her for not going. She is still angry at him. Now she is angry at them as well.
Eventually, of course, she goes home, mother and baby cocoon gently bouncing in the back of the grandparents car, returning to a home in which she has never lived before to live a life she had never dreamed of living, far, far from a city or even a town with neither car nor bicycle to drive. There is one saving grace about the place, a butterfly woman who lived not far away. She is perhaps in her late 80s or early 90s. She is feisty and strong and as thin as a needle, and she does not care what anyone thinks of her.
The little boy cocoon develops into the most beautiful being she has ever seen. Too beautiful to be hers, she thinks. She does not deserve such beauty. She is a terrible person, and she has lived a terrible life. She has even wished her own child dead. Surely this will not go well. Surely he will die or grow to hate her. Her anger has disappeared into a kind of hopelessness which she weaves daily into the growing cocoon that is her son.
As he grows his beauty becomes terrifying to her. So does his behavior. He has more energy than she has ever experienced. She was, after all, the eldest of eleven, but never has she seen anything like this. She is sure that he can run up the walls and over the ceiling when she is not looking. So she does it again. She sets about to bring him another small companion. With any luck they could careen around the house together and leave her to her tears. And so, one fine day in early spring, she becomes pregnant again.
This time, though, she knows what to expect of a pregnancy. She knows her husband will despise her. She knows what labor will bring. She decides that she will not endure it in the same fashion. She remembers hearing about another way to give birth. She remembers something about breathing in some special way. She tells her husband that she wishes to enroll in a class to learn about a wiser, less painful way to give birth. He tells her that they cannot afford it. He needs more books and new clothes and then there is the house and the baby. So, no, she cannot take the class.
So far, she has done the mothering cocoon thing pretty much on her own. Her husband, the father of her children, comes home every night, but that is the extent of his involvement in her life and in the life of the small baby cocoon they are supposed to be tending. She knows it will be the same with the next one as well. As usual, she takes matters into her own hands. Over a weekend, when she has a car – to go food shopping in, of course – she goes to a library and gets out a book on Natural Childbirth. Whenever she can, over the next 2 weeks she reads it and reads it and reads it again. She takes notes. Surreptitiously, she returns it to the library. She practices secretly.
When the day comes – and the day turns out to be Thanksgiving – she is supposed to be preparing a meal for the parents of her husband who are staying down the street with the elderly butterfly woman as there is, happily, no space for them in the house where she lives. Her water breaks before dawn. She rises. The contractions begin within hours. She tells no one. She prepares the dinner in solitude, stopping now and again to breathe in the way she has learned to breathe to forestall the pain. It works like a charm. By the time most aspects of the big meal are settled, the contractions are 2 minutes apart. Then she tells him. This one, this baby, is her baby. She changes the agreed upon name within moments after the delivery. No one would dare disagree, not even the mean-spirited cocoon who has fathered the child. There, too, on the table she decides to nurse the infant cocoon, a thought that had been repugnant to her up until just that moment. Her cocoon is starting to listen to itself, just starting to hear the messages from the larva within, from the butterfly she will one day become.
For different reasons, mother cocoon and baby cocoon, though, are separated. She has been nursing the little girl cocoon, but the doctors say the baby must stay in the hospital for an extra 2 days. She is jaundiced. They will not allow the mother to stay. As she is driven from the hospital, she feels as though her heart is being ripped out of her. Never, never, in all the time she has been alive has she felt this degree of connection to another human life. For the 2 days of the separation, she is in anguish. The little boy cocoon is heart-broken as well. His favorite toy had fallen apart the day his mother left for the hospital; then his mother disappeared; now she is back but she’s barely there. She does not seem to notice him at all. Heartbreak is all around.
Finally, though, the little girl cocoon does come home, and she and her mother are as one being. The little one does not like to be apart from her mother so her mother wears her, on her back and on her front, all day long. One day when the little girl is about 6 months old, she is lying on the changing table, her little chubby legs kicking in the air. The mother cocoon glances over at her baby and sees the small dark cavity that is her daughter’s vagina, and her heart opens wide with a pain that she breathes away. “How can it be,” she wonders, “How can it be that someone would violate that small space?” And then she wonders why she wondered that. It seems perverse. How could she even think such a thing? She wonders, too, why it is that she is biting down so had on her tongue.
She is not yet ready to hear that voice inside her.
The mother cocoon loves her children more than life. She calls them her heart outside her body for she truly feels as though she has no heart. Her children are the only pure love she has ever experienced, and she is confused by their love for her, for she thinks she knows who she is, and she thinks she is dark, and she knows she is troubled. Yet, from her body there have sprung these two amazing creatures, little untouched cocoons with a sort of light that seems to shine from them.
Then, one day, as the little boy cocoon is hopping down the stairs, singing, he loses his footing and falls off the side of the stairs, straight down, head first. He lands on the concrete floor of the basement where the mother cocoon has been working. She sees him fall. There is no doubt in her mind that he is dead. She runs to him, leaning close to his beautiful face. His eyes open. He sees the terror in her eyes and lets out a scream that does not stop for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, she scoops up the baby cocoon, calls the hospital and then calls their father. There is no one to help her as she carries both children to the car. “Don’t let him fall asleep,” the doctor had said on the phone. As long as he screams at least she knows he is awake.
To her amazement the doctors say that all he has sustained is the tiniest crack in his skull. They tell her she will have to wake him every 20 minutes throughout the night and check the pupils of his eyes to make sure that they are both the same size. She can hardly breathe. Then the father arrives, and he blames her for not watching. It is all her fault. Of course, it is. She is a poor mother. She never had any doubt. He helps her put the children in her car, and she cries as she drives them home, stopping now and then to check her son’s eyes.
It is decided that this event will be kept a secret from the paternal grandparents. The doctors have said that if 9 months pass and there are no problems with the little boy cocoons head, then everything will be fine. When they finally do reveal what has happened, the grandparents leave their home, buy the vacant property next door and build a house there. The mother cocoon knows that her life is about to be over.
She is very, very wrong.
As they grow, the small ones remain very attached to their mother. The littlest one nurses for a very long time, stopping only because her father and her grandmother do not think it is suitable. Eventually, since the little ones want their mother to put them to sleep at night and because she is exhausted by then, she takes to sleeping with them. She does not care about the father cocoon or how he feels. He does not seem to her to care anything for how she feels or for how the little cocoons feel. His world revolves around his needs. She remembers that her own father had been much the same way.
Then something very interesting happens. The children are in school and there is not enough money for everything, so the mother cocoon takes a job. It is only a part-time job to begin with. It is in a small store where the grandfather already works. Every day on the way to work he tries to get her to have sex with him, any kind of sex. He tells her stories about his sexual adventures and about things he has seen. She just stares straight ahead and says nothing. She has no idea what to do so one night she tells her husband what his father is doing. He accuses her of lying because, of course, she would.
She begins to drive herself to work. She begins flirting with a lot of men – and boys – where she works. She behaves very badly. Then she sees a news story on television about something called a Bunny Hunt. The Playboy Club is opening a casino in Atlantic City. They are looking for women to work there. Now, when the mother cocoon was just a little cocoon, she used to read through all her father’s Playboy magazines, and she used to imagine that one day she would grow up and be one of these women whom her father seemed so attracted to. And, even though she was just about 33 years old, and much older, she supposed, than a Bunny probably would be, she joined the hunt.
Three thousand women from all over came to one small hotel. There were papers to fill out and posing to do and walking about in bathing suits. Only 300 of the cocoons who showed up there that day would get a job. She gets a job.
Until the official letter offering her a position as a cocktail waitress shows up in her mail box, informing her that she will hear more later about fittings and training, she can hardly believe that she really did it. Even after the letter arrives, she still feels as though this could not really be happening. But it is.
During training special bunny names are chosen. No two bunnies can have the same name. She is too late in line to get her own name so she takes another, one that sounds kind of edgy she thinks. And so she becomes Bunny Nikki, but it doesn’t matter because all the men she works with call her Boom-Boom because her walk, which is what the black girls call ‘switching’, is very pronounced by wearing the tight corset and the three inch heels. So pretty much everyone calls her Boom-Boom.
Even though she draws a very high number, allowing her to pick the most lucrative work shift, the night shift, she chooses to work days. Her babies are in school and her husband does not want her out at night. He is all puffed up because he can say that his wife is a Playboy Bunny, but he is not stupid enough to give her free rein. It does not matter. She finds plenty of ways to misbehave anyway.
She takes terrible risks. Sometimes she takes the time to tell another bunny about where she is going and point out the man she is going with just in case she does not come back. She has no real friends there so it is awkward for her, but she does not want to leave her family wondering if anything goes horribly wrong. And yet she goes. Not knowing why. Sobbing later. Wondering if it might not be better to be dead.
One day she meets a man. He is very attentive to her in a different kind of a way. He is not overtly sexual, no. He comes back again and again. He brings her flowers. He woos her. No man has ever treated her like this. She wants to be with this man. She starts hiding some of the money she is making, and she is making very good money. She can, as they say, work it. And it pays.
She finds a room and begins to set up a space for herself. Finally, one day, she tells her husband that she wants to leave. She will take the children with her, she says. He tells her she is crazy. He tells her that she knows she is crazy. He tells her that, like her schizophrenic sister, she is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. She thinks he must be right. How could she manage? How could she manage without his income? (She certainly could have.) Without the help of his parents next door? (Day care?) None of that will work, according to him. She is crazy, and if she leaves she needs to sign a paper giving him control of the house and the children.
His lawyer (she has none) warns her that she is doing a foolhardy thing. She is filled with despair. She feels too crazy to ask for a lawyer herself. She feels she must be mad and yet she cannot stay there. Her only joy in life is her children, but she feels as though she will die if she does not leave. The new man she has met seems so different, so gentle, so caring.
Leaving home is more devastating than she could even have imagined. She cries the whole time – packing, driving, unpacking. Even when she finally becomes the butterfly woman, that picture, of her children’s backs to her, pretending to watch television, as she packs everything she owns into her beat-up old car, never leaves her. She is turning her back on them, leaving them with people she cannot even stand to be with. What a hideous, horrible mother she is. Perhaps it is best this way.
Every other weekend she drives to what used to be her house and picks up her children and drives them to her new space, a little room in an old house that rocks when the wind blows hard. They all sleep in her double bed together. They play together and take walks and go to movies and then she drives them home. It breaks her heart every time. She wonders if it breaks theirs too. They don’t seem angry, just confused. She is confused, too.
The man, the one in whom she had placed her hopes and dreams, turned out to be a very strange man. One day while visiting his house she came across some pictures and some strange balloons. They looked like birthday balloons. They said “From your slave,” and “To my Master.” They seemed to be hidden in an upstairs closet, a strange place for balloons she had thought. Then, one night, he asked her if he could ride her, like a horse. She started asking questions. She did not like the answers she got back. She left.
She never went back.
She never went back to her old ways either. She realized that somewhere there were men who could treat her differently. She had hope that not all men who were that nice had to be that strange. She began to realize that what she wanted was love.
Then she discovered that her housemate was a drug addict. She was slowly coming to the realization that almost everyone she worked with was taking drugs of some sort. She had always been very afraid of drugs. She figured she had enough problems already and knew that her chances of becoming addicted to something that might make her feel good were very high. She did not want to be around that. And so she left there too. And never went back.
She got herself a little room in an old motel that had been converted into apartments. It was her own space. Now the children could sleep on a fold-out sofa and she could make them meals. She could lie on the beach and dream when she got out of work. She could play with her tarot cards and find solace. She was beginning to feel almost normal.
She had a lovely offer from a very wealthy and very pleasant man to become his mistress. She declined. She met a very nice married man who actually seemed to respect her opinions about life. He took her to very expensive places and was, happily, unavailable on weekends, and so it was no trouble for her to manage the affair. It was as good a relationship as she had ever had.
Then her uterus fell out.
It starts small. Every time she is in her exercise class, when she does jumping jacks, she seems to leak a little. Then she starts to notice that when she sneezes, urine fairly squirts out of her. When she orgasms, well, that is the worst of itm and she is very, very embarrassed by it so she makes an appointment to visit the Ob Gyn in Philadelphia where she has been going for years. This doctor knows her, knows her habits, seems to enjoy her habits. He informs her that pretty much all of musculature in her lower abdomen has simply let go, causing everything inside to collapse down upon her bladder. She will need an operation very soon. Meanwhile, he says that he will teach her how to put her vagina back in, should it fall out.
That, she says, is not happening. The operation must happen as soon as possible and the uterus, filled with cysts, must come out as well. The doctor argues. She argues back. A deal is struck. The uterus is coming out. And she will be left with “the vagina of a 16 year old.” She is very happy about that.
She will have to take a leave of absence from Playboy for the nature of the costume conflicts with the nature of the operation. She is very happy about that too. She has grown to hate it there. In fact, the more she learns about what she wants out of love, the more she hates being at Playboy and living in a place where so many people seem to be so disconnected from life. So when, after the operation, her babies’ daddy shows up with flowers and the most sincere apology she could ever have imagined, she thinks about going home.
She will have to agree to go to marriage counseling, he says, the man who would never agree to go before. She agrees. But she will not live next door to his parents anymore. Someone has to move. He agrees. So she leaves Playboy and returns to the thing she loves the most, her children.
Marriage counseling is short lived…for him. He says she needs it more. She begins to sense that the flowers and the sincere apology were window dressing. The psychologist feels he should stay, but he says that he is fine. She stays on, as required. She tells the psychologist about all the men and all the encounters and the psychologist wonders how this will ever work. Has she told him? No. She cannot. It would kill him…or he would kill her. She is not sure. The psychologist has an idea. Write stories, she says, erotic stories. Read them to him in bed. He will get turned on and, at some level, he will know what he cannot know.
So she tries it. The psychologist is right. She reports back to the psychologist who says that she would like to read some of the stories. Sure, why not. The psychologist reads the stories and tells her that she could do this for a living, the stories are that good. This seems like a good idea to the cocoon mommy because now she is not allowed to get a job. Now she can just stay home and watch her babies. Now he doesn’t trust her anymore.
So she reads up on how to go about becoming a writer. Fully expecting rejection, because all the magazines and books talk about that, she submits one of the stories she has already written. The $75 check she gets back is very nice. She writes more and more and more and sells more and more and more.
It seems as if she will never run out of ideas. But the psychologist had said that writing would help her control her sexual urges. That doesn’t happen. The urges keep coming. And the husband who promised that he would love her as she was keeps insisting on her donning costumes and make-up before they have sex. She begins to grow unhappy. She wants to be wanted for who she is. The arguments start.
They move away from his parents, though, across the river, far enough away that there is no chance of them just dropping by. The move and setting up house keeps her occupied. They explore the neighborhood on the weekends and one day, as they drive home from a nearby mall, she turns to her right and sees, in the car beside her, the very nice man that she had been seeing in Atlantic City just before her uterus fell out. And he sees her. Her heart skips a beat, and she begins to breathe very carefully.
Fact is, she’s been feeling lost and alone since things have settled back into exactly what they’d been before she’d left. Her husband does not respect her or her opinions. He thinks she is too much of a risk-taker. He thinks that, because he is the conservative one, all of the decision making should fall to him because, after all, it will be safer that way. She wonders why he wanted her back at all. It seems he does not really want anything about her except for her to perform for him sexually. The man from Atlantic City had talked with her about problems he was having with his kids. He at least acted like her opinions were of value. The sight of him so close triggers her desire to be respected, to be valued. That night she does not get stoned so that she can perform for her husband.
On the following Monday, shortly after she drops the kids at school, the telephone rings. It is the man from Atlantic City. She is overjoyed. They make arrangements to meet in a nearby park, which they do almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the duration of the school year. Often, they have breakfast together. Always, they talk and talk and talk. And there is sex of course. Summer seems long for her without him, but she is writing her stories, and they are selling, and her children keep her distracted. The arrangement makes it easier for her to tolerate her husbands needs. Life at home begins to flow much more smoothly.
She has found a local men’s entertainment magazine that is buying stories from her every month. The editor asks her if she would be interested in writing a column as well. Things are going well right up until school gets back in session, and she sees the man again and begins to feel as though she is falling in love with him. She keeps it inside her for months. She knows he loves his children, and he seems to value his married life as it is. Finally, though, she cannot bear it. She tells him, and they decide that they had better pull back from each other, breakfast and talking, but no sex. He seems good at it. She struggles. She realizes that she needs more. She needs a whole pretend relationship, a relationship like the one she would have if she were married to the right man. She would like to marry him. But that will not happen so she does something to hurt him, to drive him away because she cannot tolerate another nice breakfast.
She tries to lose herself in her writing and notices, along the way, that the editor of the local magazine also writes for the magazine. She had not been reading it before. Now she had time. His writing is very different from her stolen-pleasures eroticism. His writing is silly and stupid-on-purpose and funny. It makes her laugh, and she thinks that maybe he would make her laugh as well and so she invites him out for lunch. He accepts.
When she had been seeing the man from Atlantic City and had told him which local publication she had been writing for, he had told her that he had met the editor, that he was short and overweight and not very attractive. Perfect, she thought. He can make her laugh and not be a temptation. Except the man he had met was the owner of the publication, not the editor.
The editor, as it turns out, was tall and well built and very handsome in an old-fashioned movie star, Gary Cooper kind of way except for his hair which is wildly curly and not there in the middle. Lunch goes well. The editor and she share a similar soul. They decide quickly that they can help each other to stay in their respective relationships by having one of their own. Their idea lasts for about a month and a half. Then they realize that the relationship they have created has eclipsed pretty much everything else in their lives including her children and his about-to-be-born child.
It is not easy. But the passion is impossible to ignore. When they cannot see each other they write letters. They rent mail boxes and write and write and write. They tell each other about their dreams of being the best people they can be because they know they have not had the chance yet. He knows that he is a cocoon. She still does not know. But she senses something. They tell each other about the guilt they feel for what they are doing, and they promise each other that they will always be honest and open with each other.
He, it should be said, is honest with his wife to the extent that she knows he is seeing someone. She knows a little bit of who he really is. She calls the cocoon “his little distraction.” When the little distraction does not go away, she presents him with an ultimatum, give her up and go to counseling or get out of the house. She is very pregnant and very brave. The cocoon admires her and knows that if he heeds her it will save her a whole lot of trouble. He doesn’t.
One Monday morning, before her children have even gone to school, he shows up at the door to tell her that he has left. He asks her to join him. Her head reels. She makes him go away. She drives her children to school. Her son forgets something. She has to take him home again. On the way back, in rush-hour traffic, a woman sits in her driveway, and no one will let her out. The cocoon lets her out. She pulls out and into the next driveway. It seems odd. She takes her son home, then back to school again, then heads home. Waiting in the line of traffic at the stoplight, up ahead she sees the same woman in the same car waiting to get back out in traffic again. Again, no one is letting her out. The cocoon gets to the driveway. She makes eye contact with the woman in the driveway to let her know that she can go. The woman seems stunned. She has a look in her eyes that makes it clear to the cocoon the she recognizes her as the woman who, not 5 minutes before, had let her out of the other driveway. She sits there as though paralyzed, the open space in the road growing larger by the second.
The cocoon makes eye contact once again. Nothing. I can’t wait all day for this, she says to herself, and drives on leaving the mystified woman to fend for herself. And then it hits her. That woman had a chance and she didn’t take it. She lost what could have been hers. That will not happen to her.
When she gets home she calls him. They agree to meet in the park at lunch. They forget to say what park. They go to different parks. He thinks she changed her mind. She can’t think at all. When she gets home again, he has called. They know, there has to be a plan, and it has to be a good plan, and they have to be sensible and thorough.
That night, when her husband returns home, she greets him with a smile on her face like he has never seen. He recognizes that he does not recognize the look. When he asks her, she tells him, while grinning uncontrollably, that she wants a divorce, and this time she wants the children. She cannot, cannot stop grinning. She wants to. But she has never been so happy, and she simply cannot stop.
Arrangements are made. She agrees to give up every material thing she has except for her old, beat-up car and a 10-year-old television. He does pretty much the same thing. Guilt has devoured them. They have no common sense. All they have, all they have, is each other. Because the papers she signed when she left the first time have already ceded to her husband the only treasure she has ever cared about, the only love she had ever known ’til now, her children.
They are very, very, very much in love, but she knows what he does not know, which is that she is terrified. Deep in her heart, she knows that men cannot be trusted, that they lie and they cheat. And she has just given up the only love she ever knew she could count on, her children, to walk out on a limb barefoot with a man so dangerous that he has just left a woman who is 8 months pregnant to be with her. What, she wonders, will it take for him to leave her stranded? And where will she be then without any love? Once upon a time her father had told her he loved her. Then he turned his attentions to other women. It had just about killed her. She thinks she would rather die than be hurt again.
She becomes unreasonably jealous. Every time his eyes linger just a little too long on a television commercial or she sees his head turn slightly as he notices an attractive woman she burns inside. Later she will berate him for it. Is she not enough? Does he desire these women? If he does then why has he done this to her? But all the while she knows, knows it is she who is the problem. She knows, senses that he really does love her, that he would never cheat on her, because he knows she would leave him, but she cannot stop herself. She hates herself for her behavior, but she cannot seem to stop it.
So she does the best she can. She sees her children every chance she gets when she is not working, because now she has to work to help pay the bills. She goes to work with her new husband at the magazine that was the cause of their introduction. The job of the magazine is to rate whore houses which are, of course, illegal but all over the place. Before he met her, her now-husband-co-cocoon visited the whore houses so that he could write reviews. Now he does not want to do that. Things do not go well, and soon they are both out of a job.
They want to work together and begin to look for jobs where they can do that. Her brother pitches in to help pay their bills. They think they will start a business together and begin borrowing money from credit cards to pay for the expenses. They do not find jobs. Their business fails. They move in with her brother. And then she fails. She becomes mysteriously and painfully ill. Her being terrified seems to have real-ized itself in a way she never expected. All the anger and the confusion and the jealousy seem to be killing her from the inside out. She is tired, tired, tired, and they have no money and no medical insurance, and creditors are beginning to hound them for their unpaid credit card bills. Her mother offers to pay for medical tests, but the doctors have no answers for months and months and months. Some even suggest that her pain is psychological.
Then her skin begins to harden, first like leather, then more like a tree. Her arms begin to bend inward, her fingers curling into her palms. When she walks – ever so slowly – her legs squeak. Her hair falls out. She begins to fade away, losing weight so quickly you can almost see it. Now her disease is obvious. Now it is diagnosed. Scleroderma. She has never heard of it but she has a medical encyclopedia and from it she learns that it is both incurable and fatal. Fatal.
The cocoon has petrified. The larva within is in the process of petrifying. She has become a sort of limulus, a living fossil. She is, she alternately muses, turning into wood. Ironically, she has spent the last 4 years of her life absorbing information like a sponge. Now she is more like a tree, but the information she has absorbed is about something called The Mind-Body Connection. And so she is somewhat more informed about her own condition than she might like to be so she wonders why she is turning herself into a tree. She wonders why she is, for all intents and purposes, killing herself. And why so painfully? There is no part of her that does not hurt…or itch…or burn.
When she was little, she was called Mouse. Now she feels like a newborn mouse, all raw and vulnerable…yet to all appearances she is as invulnerable as a log. She is a living contradiction.
When she was little, she used to leave her body and go into the earth, then up into the trees, to avoid feeling the trauma that her little body endured from the men who entered her. Her sister, who was there too, did not go into the trees with her. Now her sister is what people call crazy, and she herself is turning into a tree, but all she remembers is going into the trees…not what happened with the men. She does not remember the trauma…only how wonderful it was to be in the trees, to wake up each morning as though it were the first day of a brand new life. She does remember, though, being suicidal when she was a teenager, and she does remember her unstoppable, unfathomable promiscuity, and she is starting to wonder about what she does not know about her own self.
One night, in a small patch of sleep, for sleep is very difficult and very precious to her now, she has the most odd little visitor. Always she has been a Dreamer. Always her dreams have been as real to her as her waking life. And so the little visitor seems quite real to her, and when she wakes up she makes a small sketch in her sketch book and writes down the details of the creature, it is neither male nor female, and its sole purpose in life is to experience pleasure. The little creature grips her imagination with the same fervor that all of the people in Close Encounters of the Third Kind have before the actual encounter. She wants to make it real…but she cannot. Her hands are too crippled and in too much pain.
She shares the dream with her mate. Her strange condition has had the unlikely effect of increasing the love they feel for each other and increasing their ability to be clear and open with one another. Crippled, deformed and in pain she is, somehow, happier than she has ever been.
The butterfly begins to stir within the cocoon.
Strange and wonderful things begin to happen. These are not things that surprise or scare her. They are, somehow, familiar things. She begins to see pictures in the wood paneled walls, pictures in the tile on the floor, pictures on the clouds and the grass and the leaves. There is little she can do now but observe, and as she does she sees things other people do not see in what they look at. And she sees rainbows everywhere she looks, small rainbows, rainbows you could put in your pocket. They are in the corners of the rooms and in between the steps and just where the curb touches the street. Her dreams become more and more and more vivid, and she begins to realize that all this is just for her, just to make her life as beautiful and as wonderful as it can be.
This is how it was when she was little…and went into the trees…and saw the faeries…and every day, every single morning when the sun came up, her heart was filled with magic. It is coming back to her, the wonder of her childhood. She shares with her friend, her husband cocoon, the only one she truly feels comfortable with for her is the only one who has never denied her feelings, even though those feelings were sometimes ugly and wrong-headed. Their cocoons have become bound to one another. At a level she could never have imagined possible, they are sharing life.
Yet she does not remember why she happens to be so gifted. She remembers going into the earth and going up into the trees, for she has been doing that all her life, every time she had sex until this newish husband asked her, “Where are you going when we have sex?”
This new husband cocoon is very observant.
Is this where the trouble comes from? Perhaps because she stopped going into the trees, she had to incorporate the tree into her? Perhaps there is no getting away from the trees? Why was it only when she had sex that she went into the trees? She spends most of her days now meditating. It is all she can do. But she has never spontaneously gone into the trees while meditating. It must be something about the sex…
One day, through the only friend she has, she meets a gifted healing person. Her friend told her that she thought this woman could help her. She told her the woman was a sort of a massage therapist. She loves her friend, (the only friend she has), but she does not understand how the massage therapist can help. She especially does not know how she would pay a massage therapist. She has less than no money, but she says OK and agrees to meet her on neutral territory so there is no danger that she will end up on a massage table owing money she doesn’t have.
She meets the massage therapist, and the massage therapist is looking for something she has, artistic ability. The massage therapist is just starting out. She needs a logo. They agree to trade services. At her first visit to the massage therapist, she is surprised to discover how much the woman wants to know about her. They talk for more than an hour. Then the massage. But it is not a massage. It is something called shiatsu. And, while it hurts sometimes, because every part of her hurts anyway, it is a hurt that seems to carry some sort of promise, a good hurt, not just pain. The woman works on her for 2 hours. At the end, she is exhausted.
Over the next few weeks the woman recommends things to her, like what she calls juicing. Juicing is making fresh vegetable juice every day and drinking it. The woman lends her a very fancy juicer to use, and she finds that she loves the juice, which is mostly organic beets and carrots. A funny thing starts to happen. She stops losing weight. Her hair stops falling out. The woman recommends that she try to walk outside a little bit, then walk more and more each day. She does. She starts feeling like she has a little more energy. She starts feeling hopeful.
Then one day the woman asks her about her father. She says she would rather not talk about him. The woman asks why. She says that he cheated on her mother, and he hurt her, and she would rather die than be hurt again.
The woman asks her…”Did you hear what you just said?”
She nods…yes…she heard the words as she spoke them. “I’m doing it, aren’t I?” she says.
The woman nods.
And, with that, they both know there is a way out.
The way out is the way in. She begins to explore her inner self. She gets scared. She leaves the therapist. She tries other modalities, modalities where she won’t have to face the truth right away. It is almost as if magic is happening, because wonderful people seem to come out of nowhere to help her. Her dreams start to tell her that she is going to be well one day, and despite how bad she looks and feels, she believes the dreams because there is something magical about them, too. She makes the pain as much of a friend as she can, sort of like the way she might make friends with a snake. And, just as her dreams had said, she goes to a hospital for very odd treatment, and they want her to come back, and before you know it she’s turning from a tree back into a cocoon.
She is different now. She smiles a lot. And the wonderful people who help her tell her that now she is supposed to help other people because, they say, she has healing gifts. She doesn’t want to think so because she is having too much fun being healthy. She doesn’t want to deal with pain and sickness anymore. And then, one day, when she is doing yoga, the room fills up with light.
She thinks something is wrong with her eyes. She rubs them. The light doesn’t go away. And then it talks.
“I am an embodiment of the Light,” it says, and it tells her what all the wonderful people told her. And that now she has to share what she has with others. And so she does.
But as time passes, she grows frustrated. All these other cocoons, they seem to think that she will fix them. She knows, because she has been where they are, that they have to help themselves, too. By now, she really does want to help them. She has grown to love what she does, but these people, they do not seem to hear her, they do not seem to want to change. She wants them to be able to do what she did, but she does not know how she did it.
One day in 2003 she throws up her hands in despair. “Please,” she cries out loud to the Universe in general, “Please send me someone who can teach me what I need to know.”
And the Universe does.
And the teacher is a Zero, a Void, a Null Sum and a madman who grows grapes with a passion and can rant for hours on end about the condition of humanity, and his energy is somehow catalytic, and his ideas spark her consciousness, and she begins writing and writing and writing and writing, and she begins to use the memories he has sparked in her to make changes in her life.
Her cocoon-mate starts making changes in his life, and the next thing you know they are becoming different people, and the next thing you know, in 2008, they are talking about a divorce, and the next thing you know they are divorced.
She moves away to live near the daughter that she never got to live with when she was growing up, and even though she lives in a third floor walk-up with no air conditioning and even though she cannot afford to heat it in the frigid winter, she is happier than she has ever been in her life. She is happy because she can help her daughter when her daughter needs help, and they can see each other whenever they want. Then her boss calls her up to tell her that the only way she can keep her job is to move back where she came from.
She moves. And she cries. And her daughter cries. But between the tears and packing, they heal the wounds of their first separation many years before.
The apartment she moves to floods 10 days after she moves in. She does not yet have renter’s insurance. Somehow, happily, even though the ceiling fell in, her most precious things are not damaged. She moves again. This time into a cozy apartment in a basement of a house whose owner loves to cook, and she is, once more, very content.
She starts to do healing work again and word spreads about her magic, crippled hands, and she begins to be happy again. She finds a place to dance and a place to drum and begins to feel like a child again…long, long before her little cocoon was disturbed. She travels about visiting her family and her friends at will, enjoying a freedom she has not known before as an adult woman. She revels in her autonomy.
Then something unexpected happens. One day, in the tub, her hand brushes against her thigh, and she thinks to herself, “I feel good.” She feels her other thigh, her belly, her arms, her breasts. “I feel really good,” she thinks. I don’t remember ever feeling like this. In a few days she begins to realize that she loves her body, really loves it, and she realizes that something has shifted inside her that has allowed her to relax into a kind of sensuality she has never before experienced. She begins, after a year without penetration, a year without orgasm, to think about what a sexual experience might be like in this state of mind.
Something has come alive inside her. She is 62 years old and feels more alive than she has ever felt. She suspects that her butterfly wings are beginning to grow and, although she had made a point to dance every Friday of her life in Rhode Island at a women’s only event called Dance, Dance, Party, Party and then in Philadelphia at a similar event, she had not been able, for the longest time, to dance in the way she liked best, which was naked. Dancing naked was something she had discovered in the 90’s and she had felt so free dancing barefoot and completely unencumbered…. except that her husband had always insisted on dancing with her even though he didn’t actually dance. Curiously, though her jealousy had disappeared along with the scleroderma, his had blossomed and he had become very jealous of her and of her time. She had danced alone at DDPP, now she decides that it is time to dance alone, naked.
She makes arrangements. She goes to a place in the hills of West Virginia where she and her husband had once gone together and on Saturday night she dances the dance of a new born butterfly. A man sees her dancing and politely asks if he might join her and she declines. A while later he asks again, she tells him that she has come to dance her joy alone; he seems to understand. When he returns later it is not to ask for a dance but to give her an invitation to see his house the next day if she would like. His house, he tells her, is on Pendragon Court.
Come morning, his invitation seems like something to do on an otherwise uneventful day and so she walks a mile uphill to visit this man in his wonderful, round house, a house he calls Merlin’s Cave. As it turns out, they have much in common. As it turns out, they dance very well together. As it turns out, she does something she has never done before and, over the next few months, she falls in love for real, fully and deeply and for the first time ever.
…and they live happily…
The Aforementioned Credentials
(Please bear in mind that, although I have had these trainings, have practiced them and carry them in my cellular memory, I no longer practice them as my time is devoted to writing, speaking and creating art.)
Degrees and Certifications
BFA Philadelphia College of Art
Certified in Total Quality Management
Magnified Healing, Master Teacher
Body Talk Practitioner, Level One
Ordained Minister, National Interfaith Seminary
Hon. Doctor of Divinity, National Interfaith Seminary
Feng Shui Consultant and Teacher, Shamballa Institute
Feng Shui Consultant, Western School
Aura Soma Level Three Practitioner
Bach Flower Consultant
Tarot since 1964
I Ching since 1966
Igili Source, Master Teacher and Practitioner, 1996