Waking Up in Ashes, w Help From Robert Bly

Pushed the thorn in, sans self-pity
… Nothing new to off myself again
Just transphobic feels to have a witch catfishing me to “uncover” my deadname:
Please, bitch, I don’t have that horrible of ghosts to hide: here, look inside, I just took the fucking doors off my closet last night: see
I’m not evil, just shitty –
There’s nothing unspeakable in my past!
Shameful at worst, highly unfortunate at best, but painful more than all else, esp for those whose hate still casts a black shadow upon me: a guilt so heavy it threatens to pull me back into my own darkness with its unforgiving vitriol
Listening to and blowing 93FEETOFSMOKE tn
“You can blame it all on me”, feels great
Like, here I am, transfemme, dying again for my old sins…. already been owned this, already hated myself every night, wanted to die;
Sorry I can’t just give up on life when I am still worthy and worthwhile,
Just back to feeling worth less for awhile;
Familiar with it, thank you, been soaking in the acid of my sins ever since, gets worse with time, just, I got nothing to hide, I take all responsibility for my life at thirty five… my sins were all mine;
I’ve never felt I was going to live a life wherein I did not own up for my actions, been doing that for years here, I, just, I’m sorry old wounds were opened, things thay belong in my memoirs, and I am sorry I shared things without seeking permission from others before I did, and I’m sorry for what happened:
I’ve never been disingenous, never been a denier of things, I could never gaslight something that I did… I just, I don’t beleieve in lying and I’m too stupid to craft an image… I’m not holding up a mask anymore, Lawrence was the mask: he and I have always told the truth, too much, I’ve always been an open book, too open, too honest… I say things and share things others keep inside, this a painful but goodhearted element of my Autism… it’s just my personality… my conscience is a public entity, obvi
And I never want to forget or deny any part of my life… and I’ve read enough memoirs and autobiographies to know that people like me always learn from, grow, change, and come back from their mistakes – because we are honest with ourselves and others about what we have done, and why:

“We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie about them — to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever.”

– Another Country, James Baldwin

Looking at things again really helped me see why, and how I was directing this repressed mom-anger upon people I loved, whom I made into mom’s for me l.

I have a big hole in me where love goes.

I’ve kept people at arms length the past two years, and my over opening up to a stranger, my over attaching to, is proof that I still have Attachment Disorder… it’s the worst consequence of my childhood aside from the CPTSD…

I’m more shaken up than I’ve ever been… i realize I make women into caregivers and I realize I have a lot of unresolved emotions surrounding my own worth… these are kind of permanent things… like, when you grow up without warm loving approval, closeness, you don’t ever feel worthy of it… and you resent it when you get it, because it’s never good enough, like its never going to be good enough, until you believe in your own worth… and I think, when I get there – and end which this has all been a pivotal linchpin to – I’ll only find people who see my worth or not… rather than looking to others for my worth… just so goddamned love hungry… they tried to fix me with their love, my exes really did… and they all raised me, child I was, am….

I’ve never felt like more of a child. Opening up all my wounds and sins has fucking left me like wow, I can really see myself… and its really cringey bc I’m so fucking insecure, so wanting to be loved. But clearly I’m blind.

Anyway, I don’t know where to go from here… but I know it’s forwards, not backwards.

I can’t ever go back.. if I could, I’d change it … it’s just… “the past isn’t even past”, like Faulkner said.

I have to own that past forever. But it’s not who I am. But it will always be a part of me, because consciousn3ss doesnt go away once you have it.

And I’ve been getting so much consciousness it’s painful

Now I know what Jung meant when he said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

It’s painful to gain and it hurts to have. But not as bad as staying unconscious hurts.

It’s just, a different hurt. Consciousness, maturity, the ability to see reality more clearly, this is the medicine we all need because, in the words of David Foster Wallace, “The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you.”

I thought the truth was finished with me. Then I stuck my dick in a witch and she divined that the truth wasnt done… it wasnt as dark as she assumed, but it was musty.

I had already arrested the worst behavior patterns that I had, but I see that my relationship to the feminine is so bankrupt that I could lead myself back to the same road, and that would hurt.

I don’t think I would ever verbally abuse someone again, but I never thought I would then either. Words are not okay weapons. Psychological pain is as damaging as physical. My exes are owed every right to hate me forever. I hope oneday they’ll be able to tell their story. I’m certain its both worse and not as bad as I’ve made it out to be.

I think that that would say that I’m not a monster, but that I could be at times. an a mean drunk. Like my father was to me. Add an unhappy relationship to that, and, just, I put a lot of shit on them.

I’m free of my darkest monsters, but I’m just, I’m not healed of that mother wound, and my father wound too. I had a really tough childhood. It’s no excuse. It’s just a big reason why. These caretaker wounds. And they are generational too. My mom had a distant mother and my dad had an alcoholic father. The wounds get passed on. This is obviously, cycle breaking shit. But, it’s, just, it’s not like I just go get to go be normal: I was not emotionally safe to love.

Am I now?

I think so, but I am having a real hard time loving myself rn. It happens in small acts. Not buying wine at target, haha, not smoking cigarettes. Keeping it real with myself. And realizing no psychedelic or drug induced experience is going to set me free. Often that quest has been more costly than worthwhile. Just, after a decade of on again off again therapy, which I put myself into, paid for myself, just, after a decade of that, I hadnt ever gotten deep enough into my psyche… psilocybin, mescaline, mdma, dmt, have l helped where therapy couldn’t. I’ve also lost my fucking mind on psychedelics – LSD and Amanita + LSA. Not tools for babies. Shame they are illegal, bc we are forced to wild-west our own therapies, particularly those of us who can’t afford psychedelic tourism to places like Peru and Costa Rica, or, stateside, are unable to afford thousands of dollars for new legal treatments like Ketamine IV therapy.

That said, I’m not doing much other than cannabis these days. While I still drink alcohol, my relationship to it has changed completely, and I’m able to drink responsibly at this point in my life.

Anyway, clearly I still have anger issues and have no problem using sexist language to attack people. I guess I’m still toxic.

Now, I don’t really know of people who voluntarily share their darkest secrets, since in society, the guilty tend to only fess up when caught. Now, I was recently opened to a potentially awful character attack, so, I dragged my character out to prove I wasn’t that bad. But, the truth is still ugly. I spent years dating my exes, and was verbally abusive to all of them on multiple instances. It was a pattern.

I had thought the last two years alone, wherein I beat myself up to the point of having to check myself into a mental health facility twice, for observation, were enough to “fix me” – but I still have the same attachment disorder that causes me to overburden women with my emotions, which are way too strong.

I wish I knew an answer. Frankly, I think full disclosure is a start, which this is. Beyond that, I’m back to celibacy island – and no way am I dating nor hooking up with anyone.

I’ve made my first five initial appointments to get back into therapy this week. I think if I open all myself up, all of my past up, to the right therapist, I can gain more insight.

Frankly, I already knew I had attachment disorder. I was already aware, as one therapist had told me, that, “we recreate our childhood trauma in our adult relationships.”

Only, for me, I only saw this recreation of my childhood insofar as that I had dated women who were like my mother: they all grew up fairly easy, comfortable, well, off, and they were all distant, unnaproving, yet loving. I felt like I was always trying to live up to them, and never could, like I could never live up to my mom’s image of me. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was the sweetest, I just never got any approval for my goodness, while my errors seemed to cancel all of my goodness out. Point being, I blamed them for being unnaproving, “spoiled”, “entitled”, distant.

What I did not do is connect my worst behavior to my father’s. Now, my father is the worst – was, he is dead – person I ever met. And bc I was so little like him, I denied being like him at all. But, yeah, he had a real distant, unnaproving mother too. He had his own mother wound. His own anger and resentment towards women that was normalized in my house growing up.

Like, fuck, I feel so crestfallen after digging all this back up. The moon was all the way down in me last night. But now it is waxing, and I am slowly regaining my light too.

I can look in the mirror for the first time in my life and see that my low self esteem has very little to do with my physical appearance, and is more tied to my shame. In innate feeling of not being good enough for myself my entire life. Of things not being good enough for me. I’m very hard on myself and very hard on others. But clearly I’ve been too hard on others and not hard enough on myself.

Though it’s not hardness or self-abuse, like I’ve engaged in lifelong – abuse that’s really only curbed itself the last two years – that will set me free.

It’s being super loving and super self-compasssionate.

I was doing Dr. Kristen Neff’s self-compassion work a decade ago. I have long been working towards healing my wounds.

However, as Dr. Jung said, “We do not become enlightened by bringing light to the dark but by bringing the dark to light”.

That’s finally been done. And it feel like a heavy cloud over me. I feel like trash.

In the past, that would have turned into toxic self pity. Now it’s just, what is.

Guilt for my past has never been greater. And even though I’ve come out as trans and shed that cisgender hetero mask, and the neurotypical masking of my autism, which I am still shedding, I realize I can be free of myself but will never be free of the guilt. I thought my childhood wounds were the only ones I had to carry. But I have my own self-induced adult wounds, and the atomic weight of the guilt for wounding those I love most with my pain, with my childhood wounds.

I’m no “me too” male. I’m a, “I was a part of the problem” person. The songs Part Problem and Twisted by Nahko and Medicine are perfect themes for me rn.

As the latter says:
Foolish child broken, looking for his mother
Tryna find her in every woman that he called a lover
That’s how he shows her, all of his power
Keeper of the secrets but he’s a coward
To let go, all of the control
South node scorpio
I been tryna fix it, with just my lyric
But, I gotta find the heart to do it
Well, this is easier said than done
I’m tired of living on the run

I didn’t realize I was on the run from my past, but it had not been reconciled. This is a reconciliation with myself.

And it’s mostly the awareness of, “Hey, I’ve got trauma wounds and unformed early childhood bonds, childhood abandonment and neglect, abuse, that still very much exists as a pain – not just from my early years and growing up, but from a decade of relationships, a life of seeking care I never got and can never find in anyone other than myself”.

None of my exes will say that I wasn’t kind. But they will say that I could be mean and cruel. I’ve never physically nor sexually abused anyone. I have emotionally and verbally abused people. There’s nothing else to say.

I just, I thought it was all gone but the dynamic in me that created that projected pain, that harm, that hurt, that me at my worst abuse, that dynamic exists.

I’ll be alone a long while. I’m like both characters in one of my favorite movies, Happy Accidents. I’m a recovering codependent and I’m an Autistic alien time traveler. Great movie. No way one of my exes could watch that movie and not see me, us. Great film, Happy Accidents. And Sam Deed was right, benadryl helps.

Well, fuck, hey, at least I don’t have to spend my life a Steve Jobs or Phillip Roth level asshole, which I certainly have been.

In some ways, it feels like I’ve gone through such quantum change, as Sequoia, that I feel as if I inherited Lawrence’s life. And contrary to whatever that witch thinks, I have never ever been trying to hide my past. I changed my name bc I am transgender. It’s just, I inherited the wounds too.

And it hurts so bad. I don’t think I can ever fix myself, as in remove the wounds.

Best I can do is continue to increase my awareness of my pain and the pain I caused. Appropriate that its 9:11 pm. All the steel beams in me have melted.

Fuck, I’m back atop a pile of ashes. Cinderella. Back to tending the kitchen fire in my heart, on my knees, covered in ashes, looking for something, but I don’t know what it is, this missing thing. But I’m collecting it, piece by piece, minute by minute.

I’ve turned a corner – not onto a bright, beautiful, easy street, but into an alley, where the trash has been rotting. It is not a pretty, nor cozy place, but it leads to the dream road, the promise of high-heels clicking on cobblestones, fingers linked in mine, and me beside myself, forever, at peace, like I was a long time ago in love once. Like I was always trying to be in love everytime. But love can not make someone love you. No matter how much you love them.

This place I’m in now, this alley, it’s not so bright as the world was before; the eternal boy is gone: his wings clipped, his self-approval dead, Peter pan is just a little boy again – only, it’s his first time being there.

To quote from a book I have long loved, which I am reading now, once more with new eyes – Robert Bly’s Iron John.

In Chapter three, ‘The Road of Ashes, Descent, and Grief, Bly writes about what he calls “Grandiose ascenders”, his term for the Puer aeternus or puella aeternus – the eternal boy or girl:

“In order to keep a grandeur feeling a child may refuse to remember the ugly facts of childhood, may look away from the disorganization, abuse, abandonment, lack of protection, and skip over our parents’ indifference, addictions, or dark side.”

Further, Bly poignantly states: “Women have tried for centuries to carry men’s pain, and it hasn’t worked well.”

Bly refers to the grandiose ascender as “naive”, explaining:

“Sincerity is a big thing with him. He assumes that the person, stranger, or lover he talks with is straightforward, goodwilled, and speaking from the heart.

He puts a lot of stock in his own sincerity. He believes in it as if it were a horse or a city wall. He assured that it will, and should protect him from the consequences that fall to less open people. He may, “It’s true that I betrayed you with your best friend while you were away and after you were back, but I was frank with you and told you about it. So why should you be angry with me?”

Yeah that sounds about like me alright. Sincere but perhaps not moral. I live by my own ethics, but my aim may be misdirected.

Continuing from Iron John ch3, and Bly’s characterization of the naive man:

“The naive man tends to have an inappropriate relation to ecstasy. He longs for ecstasy at the wrong time or in the wrong place, and ignores all masculine sources of it. He wants ecstasy through the feminine, the Great Mother, the goddess

He uses ecstasy to be separated from grounding or diszipline.

The word special is important to the naive man, and he has special relationships with certain people. we all have some special relationships, but he surrounds the special person with a cloying [causing disgust through excess] kind of goodwill. The relationship is so special that he never examines tthe dark side of the person, which could be a son, a daughter, a wife, a male friend, or girlfriend. He accepts responses that are way off, conspires somehow with their dark side. ‘Some people are just special he says’.

If he feels upset or in a low mood, he identifies with the mood, and everyone around his has to go down into the hole. In his mood trance, he is not present to wife, children, friends.”

There’s a toxic passivity there.

“The naive man lacks what James Hillman has called “natural brutality”. He mother hawk pushes the younglings out of the nest one day; the father fox drives the cubs away in late October. But the ascender lets things go on too long. At the start of the relationship, a few harsh words of truth would have been helpful. Instead, he waits and waits, and a major wounding happens farther down the line.”

Bingo.

In a final note about the naive man, Bly says that ‘a woman will feel impelled to betray him’.

“When there is too much naivate around, the universe has no choice but to crystallize out some betrayal.”

A bit later in the chapter, Bly gets into the “descent” or fall, from the King’s son, to a cook, the way “down and out”, which he says makes a person aware of a depression that has been living unnoticed in them for years.

Bly – an expert in mythology, and the founder’s of “the mytho-poetical men’s movement”, a very healthy whole and feminist – which is to say ‘caring about women – perspective for male healing and actualization – refers to the descent, in the hero’s journey, as a fall, a drop right through the floor, and into the basement. A point when “a man no longer feels like a special person”.

“Your inner psychology changes as an old shame surfaces, one walks with head down and feels it’s all inevitable. The inner masculine self changes. While one is still grandiose and naive, a young man lives inside, shinyfaces, expectant, hopeful, dandified, a prince. After the Descent begins, an old man takes the place of the prince. To one’s amazement a helpless, anti-social, brittle, isolated derelict takes over.”

At this stage, Bly explains that one becomes fully conscious of ones wounds…

“Through that hurt, his way of dealing with the world became damaged.”

Bly says the “important thing” about the fall in status at this point, is “the consciousness of the fall”… “from man to spider”.

Bly tells us that, like any other serious collapse, the fall is an invitation “to go through the door, accept ketabasis, immerse himself in the wound and exit his old life from it”.

I thought I had exited my old life when I came out as trans. But, quoting D.H. Lawrence’s poem, titled ‘Healing’, Bly explains that this takes time:

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.

“Sooner or later,” Bly tells us, “the dark side of The Great Mother crystallizes out of the universe; the black darling has to appear, the one with boar tusks coming down from her lips. Perhaps she will appear in ordinary life as an enraged woman, a woman astounded by inconsistency or betrayal”.

“Something wants us there, wants the meeting with the Dark Queen, wants the boar to open its mouth, want’s Grendel’s pool to fill with blood, wants the swords to melt, wants the Giantess to put the boy in her sack”.

We cannot defeat this Dark Queen, Bly tells us.

“The only solution for the power of the witch is for the young man to develop energy as great as her’s, as harsh, as wild, as shrewd, as clear in its desire.

When a young man arrives at her house, proves himself to be up to her level of intensity, purpose, and respect for the truth, she will sometimes say, “Okay, what do you want to know?”

In my case, I wasn’t at that level, but this person initiated me, as my Dark Queen, who showed me my ashes, or forced me to look at them, out of fear of being seen as worse worse than I actually am.

“At thirty-five [my chronological age] his inner stove begins to produce ashes as well. All through his twenties, his stove burned with such a good draft that he threw in whole nights until dawn, drinking parties, sexual extravagance, enthusiasm, madness, excitement. Then one day he notices his stove doesnt take such bug chunks anymore. He opens the stove door and ashes fall out onto the floor. It’s time to buy a small shovel at the hardware store and get down on his knees. The ashes fall off the shovel and onto the floor, and he can see the print of his bootsoles in the ashes.”

“The recog ition of this diminishment is a proper experience for men over thirty”, Bly says. Adding, “If a man doesn’t experience that diminishment sharply, he will retain his inflation, and will continue to identifyhinself with all in him that can fly: his sexual desire, his mind, his refusal to commit himself, his addiction, his transcendence, his coolness. The coolness of some American men means that they have skipped ashes”.

I’m so glad for all this happening. I would hate not to have gained all this has given me, as ego killing an experience as my own fall has been.

“Murray’s Stein, in his book Midlife, suggests that what I’ve called Ashes Time may be thought of as a search for the corpsee.

It could be a career mislaid; it could be a relationship gone into the river. It could be the corpse of shamed boy”.

All the above. My childhood, my relationships. All in ashes. It can’t be pieced back together. Only seen – for the first time, in all its pain.

“Among a man’s job is to reclaim his own grief. When a man has reclaimed his grief and investigated his own wound, he may find that they resemble the wound and the grief the father had, and the reclaiming puts him in touch with his father’s soul. Once his senses are sharpened, he will be able to smell the father’s wound.”

“… as a snake, who sheds his skin and lives”.

“Initiation asks the son to move his love energy away from the attractive mother, to the relatively unnatractive serpent father. All that is ashes work. When a man enters this stage, he regards Descent as a holy thing, he increases his tolerance for ashes, eats dust as snakes do, increases his stomach for terrifying insights, deepens his ability to digest the evil facts of history, accepts the job of working seven years under the ground, leaves the granary at will through the rat’s hole, bites on cinders, learns to shudder, and follows the voice of the old mole beneath the ground”.

I imagine this wisened mole, seeing everything objectively, clearly. As Robert Bly says of this time, “… the failure just sits there, not to be explained away”.

“This begins the black courtship with the soul which eventually leads to the garden”.

I fucking hope so, it doesn’t all that great down here in the basement, in ashes.

Trying to “…grasp the song that adult male cells sing, and how the charming, elegant, lonely, courageous, half-shamed male molecules dance”.

Now, obvi this is all very gendered language, and may not speak to any father mother wound, but simply, what I call, “the caretaker wound”, which sadly, creates wounded caretakers of self and others. It’s a deep lack of worth, for self and others that must be healed.

But before we can enter the garden, we have to have our ashes time. Only once this has happened, Bly says, can we have a fruitful meeting in love, in the garden.

I can see it, but I’m not there yet.

Listening to John Mayer’s In Repair, a perfect ashes ballad.

I think a long inborn depression is melting, turning to grief. Ashes time that “becomes discipline in lucky men, and sour bitterness in unlucky men”.

I think we can safely say I’m not going the way of sour bitterness.

I see why Robert Bly says that someone who falls in love with a face “has some soul work to do”.

The perfect love I wanted turned into resentment on both sides. They couldn’t live up to it, and I made things unpleasant by a childhood identification with victimhood, which meant I felt powerless over my grief, until it consumed me and emerged as a very destructive uncaring anger.

It brings me back to a realization I had in Big Bear, alone in my cabin there, during a lesser ashes time: Jesus and Satan are one being. We split good and “evil”, so that even in ourselves, we vacillate between feeling worthy or worthless. Good or bad.

I think my shadow is enriching me. I’m so terribly sorry it came at the cost of all the psychological and emotional pain I caused the women who dated me. They were truly all better than that. And I’m happy they had the self-esteem to see they deserved better. They did.

My life isn’t verdict-less. I’m a good sort.

But I’m not perfect. And I know what I’ve done. I’m aware.

Im John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist, he wisely advises this:

“By the nature of their work it is important that one way or another the novelist learn primarily to depend on themselves, that they love without too much need and dependency, and look inward (or towards some private standard) for approval and support”.

I always looked outside. As my daddi Jung said, “He who looks outside dreams. He who looks outside awakens.”

I’m so glad to be gaining all this. It’s going to set me up for a real strong relationship with myself, one that knows love, fame, or money could never bring the peace, strength, security, and confidence I’m growing within me.

However long anything takes, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters other than just knowing I am okay, that I’m going to be okay. On my own. No one’s love nor approval but my own to guide me.

[Note, the book quoted in this is Iron John, by Robert Bly – he has some good YouTube videos too]

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