Depending on whom you ask, it’s the end of a decade. Math geek I am not, so I’m more working with the serendipity of my personal timing, and 2019 is the close of a massively important cycle for me.
Big Deep Breath.
I publicly talk a lot about very personal things–things that have been no-nos to admit in the soul healing arena. Among those is that I manage multiple big-deal chronic health conditions, including mental illness, living between worlds, orientations, genders. These challenges are very real-life aspects of the soul path, and I’ve always striven to be very real in my walk, in all its shitshow, challenges, glory, and fuck-ups. I have refused to play into the New Age stereotype of perfection and enlightenment because I see myself in the mirror every morning, because I refuse to give the system the satisfaction that I fail to meet its norms, and because I have chosen a calling not to let others believe they’re alone in their own challenges.
All that said, the one thing I’ve played close is my experience of parenthood, partly because I have felt no authority in it, and because I wanted my kids to have privacy on all levels. My twins were born in 2009, and the experience of motherhood has radically informed my soul journey. They have radically informed my soul journey. In order to talk about the last decade, I have to talk about parenthood.
I didn’t grow up believing I had to reproduce. I never bought into those gender standards, so when we decided to become parents and the miscarriages began, it was in a very strange way okay. When I say that, I don’t mean that the losses were okay. They were very hard, yet they were my first experiences of souls coming into form. Until that point, I had only ushered souls out of form. Even with those radical entrances and exits, I had a soul frame of reference that these losses were also full, rich lifetimes and my task was to honor that aspect of their truths amidst my hormonal onslaught. There was grief, for sure, though it was the first time in my life that I could allow my soul experience room to tend my emotional one, and I grew from it. I surprised myself, though that awareness in those losses shaped how I would parent.
I was afraid also, that pregnancy would trigger my health issues. I was very fit in that era, and did everything I could to ensure my health for pregnancy and after.
I panicked when they were born. I think that’s a normal reaction, though we’re not supposed to admit it. I knew I wasn’t reconciled in my childhood traumas in the way that I’d idealized, which I realized in vivid hindsight was very difficult to honor alongside actually having kids. Ultimately I decided to have kids because I had internalized that I could do better in ways to improve my family lines forever. Through my niece and nephew, I saw that my sister already had. My relief came in the knowledge that my children entered this world fully embodied, and my job was to facilitate and protect that state–from the world and from me–and to model how to hold compassion and show up even when the world would have otherwise.
When they were born I had already published several books, had others in submission, and tons more in my head. But my brain changed. My life changed, and I couldn’t write for hours on end like I had my entire life. I didn’t see clients or teach for a good year-and-a-half. Also, I couldn’t travel out of my body as I had my whole life.
From about the second trimester of pregnancy until they were about two years old, my ability to travel out was nil or very limited. I realized it was my body healing and reintegrating how it held space in the world, but I didn’t like it. Even after two years old, I could only really access deep spaces for others, not myself. I didn’t like feeling trapped here, even if it was as Nature intends we best show up for childcare.
They were four before I could even think of my soul work here, and by that point I was deep in the throes of seeking diagnosis for worsening health conditions. I also sought help from my Dream Team, in therapy and soul healing. It was about this point that I realized it wasn’t about healing so much as tending, and everything changed.
They say when you bear children, you birth yourself to the world as mother. If that’s true, my birth of myself took the first five years of their life.
Before them I did everything I knew to be a good custodian of myself and others. After them I was so intent on them rooting well in the world that I dropped it all. I started saying no (especially to myself). Even when I had the time or opening for sessions or to be social, I kept it for myself. When words came, I jotted them down quickly and didn’t beg for more. I slept when my body told me to. I ate what my body said to. I stopped shaming myself for what I hadn’t healed.
In that same timeframe, the diagnoses came. I had multiple surgeries and went into organ failure. I had legal complications with Intentional Insights and with my day job. In realizing that I was disabled for life, my anxiety became unbearable and triggered old wounds I hadn’t been able to access, prior.
So it is now the end of 2019, and I see myself as someone I always wanted to be. In the last ten years I became a mother to twins. I published five books (twelve if we’re including those under the pen name). I finished my Masters, which conferred upon me the credentials of an ordained interfaith minister. I got diagnosed with a lot of shit, after a lifetime of not knowing what and why and how long. I recreated Soul Intent Arts, repeatedly, to honor what it needed through all the changes in my life. I entered mid-life and menopause. I literally shed several organs. I celebrated a lot of wonderful years with a fabulous lover.
I share all of this for the reasons that I always share personal things, and to thank you for all the support you’ve shown, not just for my personal wellbeing, but for me to continue showing up in the world. Thank you for valuing a life I’ve worked hard to create, even when I couldn’t see it for what it was.
Especially, thank you Rob, Tristan, and Maya.
Thank you to all the LJ peeps, still.
Thank you, Patreon and Intensive folx.
Thank you for all you do.
S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div.
I’m an animist, author, deathwalker and death doula. For the last 25+ years, through Soul Intent Arts I’ve helped others to ethically build thriving spiritual paths as fit, embodied elders, who upon death become wise, capable Ancestors. My work is Nature-based, and focuses soul tending through the Elder Futhark runes, animism, ancestral healing, and deathwork. I’m author of Runic Book of Days, and I host the podcast, What in the Wyrd. I also write The Weekly Rune as a celebration of the Elder Futhark in season. Full bio.
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elder well, die well, ancestor well