Six years ago I celebrated the season of Advent at my parents’ house in Germany just before starting over in California. I wrote a metaphorical pregnancy announcement for the transition into my new life, but no matter how much I emphasized that I was using pregnancy as a metaphor, I still ended up with congratulations and baby clothes. I later had a metaphorical baby shower but as time went by, I completely forgot the whole thing. That is, until this morning when Facebook told me “you have memories to look back on today”.
As I read through what I wrote, I notice how much my worldview has changed. Here’s what I wrote six years ago today*
This summer I was told by a psychic that I was going to be pregnant soon. My startled and alarmed look made him laugh and he immediately added “metaphorically speaking, of course!” Phew. A month later I got a letter from an old friend, telling me she had had a prophetic dream in which I gave birth to an American baby boy. She was certain that the baby was American, and she also interpreted the dream figuratively. The month after that I had another friend talk to me about pregnancy in a spiritual sense and during my recent visit to Berlin I was told once again that I was pregnant.
Yesterday marked the beginning of the season of Advent – the season of waiting. And I realized that I am indeed pregnant – metaphorically speaking – and have been so for several months. I am spending a lot of time reflecting on the crazy year I have had. Eight months ago, at the rainbow gathering, I had conceived the hope of a new life. The process of liberation from my abusive past had begun and I felt the beginnings of a new reality growing inside of me.
The dark night of the soul was starting to change into the dawn. I could see the light and even though I was still stumbling around in the semi-dark, I knew I was headed toward it, no matter how often I kept tripping and falling along the way. During my stay in Berlin I got a good look at the light in which I am going to live. I truly have entered into my metaphorical third trimester and feel big and pregnant.
The last couple of months of literal pregnancy are daunting and it is no different with metaphorical pregnancy. I feel hindered in living my daily life because I am so full of expectations. It is hard to be in the here and now when all I want is to be in the there and then. I’d so much rather spend all day doing the things mothers-to-be do, like decorating baby rooms and going shopping and whatnot…
And I am annoyed with not being fully in the light yet. I know this is not the dark night of the soul anymore. The dark night is over. This is the time of morning when the sun has already risen but the shades are still drawn and I am drifted back to sleep – probably because I am so big and pregnant that I don’t want to get out of bed. It is a time of semi-darkness, full of odd and senseless dreams, often confused and disturbed. Truth and reality penetrate into my sleeping mind but are distorted into blurry and often troublesome visions.
I want to draw the shades and let the light stream in, but the lattices are a tightly woven web of tensions in my family, emotions of guilt, depression, feelings of worthlessness, a parasitical consciousness in my body, and a daily uncertainty of the future. Each lattice seems to hold the others in place and sometimes I feel that if I could just pull one loose, the whole thing would come apart and the sun’s rays would caress my face with eternal bliss.
If metaphorical pregnancies progress just like physical ones, my due date is in a little over a month. I often wish for that baby to come early, but I am not going to induce. I am going to have a natural birth. Oh God, I hope that baby is not going to be late! And yes, I am afraid of the birthing pains of moving once again, starting my life all over again – from scratch, but I know that it is all worth it, for soon I will give birth to my beautiful, precious new life.
After reading this again, I remember that this was the last time I intentionally celebrated Advent. The following year I tried being an Atheist before becoming a Pagan. When I started a day job as the administrator of a progressive Christian church, Advent became a part of my life again, if only in my work life. Yesterday, however, I gave up my resistance toward integrating Christian rituals into my practice and lit an Advent candle on my altar.
Six years ago I couldn’t wait for Advent to be over. I thought of each candle as bringing me closer to “eternal bliss”. Once the season of waiting was over, everything would be fine. Sure, getting started in a new country would be difficult, but leaving my family, leaving Christianity, leaving Germany was going to be my salvation. I looked to California as my messiah, a place of endless freedom where my new life could finally begin. I saw my bouts of depression as external intruders. I felt entitled to a life of ease and happiness, and saw that which kept me from such a life as an enemy to be defeated by my messianic hope.
Today I look at Advent differently. I have moved to California, I have started over, and I love the new life I now live. And yet I am still visited by what my community calls “the depression fairy”. While much of my external oppression has been removed (I live in a place I love, have a community, a home, better health, and I no longer struggle with poverty), I still face darkness. Last night, just before I lit my first Advent candle, I had a conversation that made me face my struggle with internalized oppression. Removing all external obstacles did not result in the “eternal bliss” I had imagined.
My perspective on darkness has changed. I no longer see it is an external enemy but as both an internal struggle and a natural force in life. My body cycles through seasons of depression and I’ve found ways to live with these cycles. Most of the time I no longer see them as intruders but as a part of who I am. I find solace in the rhythm of nature. In California, just after our garden dies, the hills turn green with winter rains. When the sun returns, the garden reawakens but the hills turn brown. Life and death, light and darkness are joined in eternal dance.
The word that occupies my thoughts is integration. I no longer see darkness as the enemy and light as messianic salvation. I’ve grown comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, and a lack of binary paradigms and clearly defines dichotomies. I’ve been helping a friend integrate their past and present and would like to think of myself as being comfortable with integration. But now that it is Advent again, I know I have more work to do. I’ve procrastinated on making the Advent wreath I’ve been meaning to craft. I pushed back the date for setting up my altar. And by the time I finally sat down and lit the first candle, it was already past midnight, and technically no longer Advent Sunday.
I lit the candle anyway and decided to be gentle with myself. In keeping with the pregnancy metaphor, I did give birth to a new me when I moved to California. That new me is now entering its sixth year and I have a lot more growing up to do. I have to face the fact that my Christian past is still a part of me. Just like I wanted to cast out depression and live in eternal bliss, I thought I could cast out all things Christian and be born again as a Pagan. Darkness, oppression, and Christianity, versus light, freedom, and Paganism.
But it’s never that easy, is it? Writing about this fills me with dread. I am afraid of opening the door to oppression again. I don’t ever want to go back to where I’ve been, I want to go forward. Integration is not the same as conversion, but the process can look disturbingly similar from the outside. It would be so much easier to dismiss everything in my past so I don’t have to decide which parts to integrate and which to discard. Going through the process of integration has me worried I’ll be mistaken for a backsliding Pagan, to borrow a Christian term I hate.
This growing has me engaging in all of my coping mechanisms. I’ve been withdrawing and overeating and working too hard. And yet ironically (or maybe unsurprisingly?) my love for my path is deepening through this struggle. So I continue to wade through fear and confusion, waiting for what is to come. This Advent I am not waiting for messianic light to cast out darkness. This Advent I welcome the light coming into darkness and residing there with me.
* I fixed some spelling and grammar issues and rewrote sentences that were obviously written by someone immersed in German rather than English for a year.