This past Saturday, without much fanfare and while shivering in the chilly November breeze, I welcomed my thirty-fourth year of life by watching my son take part in the local … Continue reading Chapter 34
In the summer of ‘93, I was an eight-year-old jorts wearing tomboy, covered in mosquito bites and baseball caps. I spent most of that summer playing in the dirt at … Continue reading When Dinosaurs Ruled The World
In my neck of the woods, it is totally and officially Summer. It’s hot, it’s humid, and for our family, both school and work are out. The 9-year-old is … Continue reading Summer Status Report
Childhood, Pro Wrestling, and Being a Mark
Back before “sports entertainment” was a thing, my dad ran an independent wrestling company. Think less Vince McMahon and more flea market Jim Cornette.
He’d book shows in high school gyms, bingo halls, auction barns, basically anywhere that had space for a 16x16ft ring. Because of that, I spent the first five summers of my life stuffed between my parents in a late 70s Chevy Silverado. This was a time before mandatory child seats, seat belts, and common safety knowledge. We travelled the Carolinas, towing behind us a trailer full of wood and metal. The bed of the truck was full of mats and turnbuckles, 12 packs of Natural Lite and multicolour cable ropes. At our feet were empty Salem cigarette boxes, beer cans, and a black belt with a big metal plate.
We’d arrive at an empty building around midday and my dad and his motley crew of weekend performers would go to work setting the ring up. I would sit on the bleachers, a few toys in hand and watch the men strain and swear and finally turn a pile of random junk into the fabled squared circle. I’d try to stick around and watch them do run-throughs of the matches but usually, I’d be swept off by my mother to come sit with her and the other women in the concessions area. More often than not, I’d sneak off to go hang out with my dad and the other menfolk, getting ready for that night’s show. It was there I was schooled in the secrets of the business.
One of the secrets of wrestling is that there are these things called “works”. A “work” is when you get over on a crowd. It’s the act of getting people to suspend disbelief long enough to become emotionally invested in what you’re doing. It’s a grown-up version of playing pretend. As an example; On April 27th, 1991 during the peak of a white-hot feud, Earthquake (Whose real name was John Tenta. He was billed as 6’7ft 486 lbs) crushed a bag that held Jake “The Snake” Roberts pet python Damien. Damien had been Roberts’ sidekick and was a character in his own right. When Earthquake “crushed” his bag, the crowd went wild. Those fans that lost their minds and completely bought into the story are known as “marks”. With Roberts tied up in the rings, he was unable to do anything but watch this huge mountain of a man crush his pet and only friend presumably to death. Roberts work is some of the best ever to grace the inside of a ring, and that night he was on point. His face full of despair, he yelled and screamed for Earthquake to stop, for it to all not be true. In reality, it wasn’t true. The snake was never in any danger and Jake Roberts didn’t watch his only friend die. The role of Damien that night was played by ground meat shoved inside a pair of pantyhose.
Too many times I was hauled away from the wrestlers and forced to sit still and be quiet in some boring corner, far away from the banging of bodies on the mat and counts of three. In those moments when dad and the crew overruled my mother, I was the official gopher for the night. I’d run the lengths of the gym, hauling beer, towels, cups of water to the guys in the back. Before the main event, I would usually be out of sight, asleep in the truck far away from the crowd. Wrestling was a constant in my life, and I loved every bit of it.
Growing up in the Carolinas it was kind of hard not to be surrounded by the sport. The closest major city to my little backwoods hometown was not only the home of Jim Crockett Promotions (which would be sold to Ted Turner in the late 80s and become World Championship Wrestling) but also the home to one of the biggest names in wrestling, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.
Arrogant and flamboyant, confident and animated, Ric Flair was, and still is, pro wrestling. From his expensive shoes to his bedazzled and feathered robes, he was the icon for the sport. His theatrics, his ability to tell a story not only with his passionate speaking/screaming but also his body set the bar for how a professional wrestler should perform. In my eyes, he and the men he faced in the ring were more than human. They were like the Greek gods. But with championship belts and American accents.
And that’s what the allure of pro wrestling is. It’s men who look like superheroes acting out comic book storylines live and in person. It’s bigger than life characters taking part in beautifully violent choreographed battles. Good guys versus bad guys, babyfaces versus heels, heroes versus villains, add some beautiful ladies and it’s the male equivalent of a daytime soap opera. But with way more punching than kissing.
Sadly, a real-world workplace injury brought our wrestling adventures to an end not long after I turned six. The ring was broken apart and not put back together. It’s corner post used in the fencing for our merger herd of cattle. The hefty Silverado replaced with a smaller truck. The walls of my dad workshop stopped getting promotional poster stapled to them. It was over.
But my love for professional wrestling continued on.
It wasn’t until middle school that my love for pro wrestling, or as the regional accent in my head says “rasslin'”, became socially acceptable. But still, it wasn’t something that many girls my age were into. Along with my ill-fitting boys pants and at home butcherblock haircuts, my excitement for wrestling set me further apart from my female peers. Nevertheless, I was enthralled. What I lacked in a social life, I made up for with being a wrestling fan. No matter how many times my interest was discouraged with “But you know it’s fake, right?” I continued on.
High school and college came after and with them, more adult responsibilities than I should have had to take on. The schedule I was keeping kept me away from the TV for most of the week. Still, when I could, I would sit down Monday and Thursday nights and watch wrestling with my dad. Like keeping up with the Atlanta Braves, wrestling was how we bonded. I’d watch the spectacle of The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and DX with glee. My dad, in typical grumpy old man fashion, would complain about how wrestling had “gone to hell” and was nothing more than “a bunch of hogwash”. With the space between us filling up with more and more things, it became our last avenue for connectedness.
But like all storylines, that too would end.
The day of my courthouse wedding, it was a disagreement centred on the name of his old promotion that kept my dad from coming to witness the event. Someone had decided to use something close enough to his promotion’s name and he felt slighted they hadn’t consulted with him first. At least, that’s the story that hurts the least to believe. If I can believe he missed my wedding for something he gave numerous years of commitment to, it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
After all, I know what a work is. And I’m a big enough mark to believe it.
My family medical history reads like a Cause of Death report
Any one of the illnesses I’m set to inherit
Would be the case close decision
For any dead body in any morgue
And if the high blood pressure, diabetes,
And likelihood of breast and/or ovarian cancer
Doesn’t clock me out early and in excruciating pain
Those genetic mental illnesses will
Double dipped chicken fried depression
Enough borderline to go over the line
[see what I did there?]
With more than a dash of attention deficit disorder
And some potential schizoaffective disorder for good measure
And I’m not even including those addictive personality traits
that course through my family tree
Like sap in the spring
Not that I was ever given any assistance
In learning how to deal with these second-hand things
No one taught me about eating right or exercise
Or even addressed calming techniques to quiet
My brain speeding around like an energy drink loving hamster on a wheel
But my mom did teach me
That chewing up Vicodin makes them work faster
And that drinking beer with a Twizzler is super funny
Both of those lessons came before I turned fifteen
I also learned that it’s okay to throw up after you eat
Its okay to do that in the Ryan’s Steakhouse bathroom during a rare family night out
And that its ok to take so many Oxys that you don’t hear your daughter calling
Or remember how to sign your name on her brand practice logs
I know I won’t be inheriting anything grand when my folks die
At most a couple of used cars,
Maybe an old goat or two
And a trailer overflowing with pill bottles and dust.
And that’s okay,
They’ve already given me enough
Before we start, I want to be honest. While kicking around the idea for this post in my head, the working title was “Keep Your Tribe, I Have My Witches”. It was a response to how the word “tribe” is used in popular culture.The more I thought about it the more uncomfortable I was with using that word. I don’t want to offend or insult anyone and I know the usage of that word does both. I don’t want to add to the appropriation.The word “village”, especially in connection with witchcraft lore, works just as well.
Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal”. Our need for comradery and connectedness is genetic. We, as animals, need each other. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Connecting with others, especially the “wrong” type of others, hurts us more than it helps. Finding the right crowd, the right circle to surround yourself with is so very important. And one of the hardest things you will ever do.
While I pride myself on being a nice person, I am not gregarious by nature. Not only am I a homebody, I’m an introvert who struggles with social anxiety. Honestly, maybe I am a homebody because of those things. Either way, I am not a social creature.
I also am not a collector of people. I know people who pride themselves on collecting friendships, like dead butterflies pinned in shadow boxes. I am not like that. I don’t need a huge chorus of yes wo/men. I feel like this does two things. It either feeds into a cult of personality or it devalues the quality of the friendships. I don’t want a group of fans following me around, regurgitating everything I say. I’m not Jim Jones. I don’t need a fellowship.
What I have, and what I’m exceptionally grateful for, is this small little circle of people who love and cherish me the same way I love and cherish them. What this group lacks in numbers, they make up for in true honest emotion.
From a young age, I was taught by my mother that love comes with strings. Every relationship was a maze through spiderwebs of obligations. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I learned that friendship doesn’t come with prerequisites. You just love each other. You support each other. You want the best for each other. It is not a tit for tat set up. No one keeps score. You both strive to be the best you can be and help the other person when they can’t be.
I’m lucky enough to surround myself with magical ladies who inspire me constantly. These women are my support network, my therapist, my comedians, my teachers. They surround me with love and set my creativity on fire. It’s because of them I’ve dived into researching and truly living my Craft. From books to articles to tarot cards in the mail, they have helped me find my true self.
It’s also because of them and their belief in me, I’m writing again. Their support and never-ending cheerleading is a huge part of why this blog and my recent accomplishments have happened. With them at my side, I’ve been able to trust in my abilities and pursue something I’ve enjoyed since I was young.
So while you may have a village, I have my coven. And for me, a tight group of inspiring and motivated friends is all I need.
I don’t know how to start this. Perhaps my hesitation is from this not being easy or enjoyable to write. So here goes.
This is my goodbye.
This fragile relationship of ours is no longer good for me. You are no longer good for me. Your passive aggression taints every conversation we have, like second-hand smoke in a sweater. Somehow, no matter what our conversation is about, you warp and bend it until it reflects light onto that one time, more than a decade ago, when I fell short in your eyes. Our friendship does not make me feel good about myself. If anything, it makes me feel like a scapegoat. I’ve worked really hard to grow as a person and to cast off the shame, guilt, and self-hatred that I carried from my childhood. I can not allow you to undo what I’ve accomplished.
I’ve tried to be a good friend. I’ve tried to honor your feelings and allow you to hold them. But you used your feelings as a weapon. It’s obvious that you still hold on to the anger and pain that befell you in the past. It’s obvious that this hot coal burned its way inside your body and took residence in your heart. While I am not one to tell someone to let go and move on, I feel that for us to have worked, you needed to calm that burn. I supplied apologies as a salve, but they never seemed to soothe enough for you.
You throw shade (as the kids say these days) and make remarks that seem to have no other point than to paint me as a villain and you my victim. They seem to suggest that all your hardships are because of the perceived slight you think I performed. Just to put it to bed, my actions back then were never malicious. You know this. I acted on what my soul called me to do. It was what I personally wanted for once, instead of what was wanted for me. I explain this to you so you understand, I was just trying to live my life. No one should be kept from that OR be made feel bad because of that. Its exhausting explaining time and time again that my actions were not personal attacks. I just wanted sovereignty.
I understand your life has had ups and downs. So has mine. Everyone’s has. I will not say that anyone has had it easier or harder than anyone else. We’ve all made choices and we all deal with their consequences. That being said, you really seem set on winning some imaginary Misery Olympics. I do not support and will not take part in such games. We should be celebrating each other’s successes, not trying to impress others with who hurts the most. Pain is not something that is measurable like that. While I am sorry that your experiences haven’t all been positive ones, I don’t feel that they should be things you wave at me in an attempt to make me feel bad for or to discredit my own.
For my own mental health, I can not allow you lay your sins on me and send me out into the wild any longer. I do not hate you. I do not dislike you. I would very, very much like for us to be close again. I would like for us to have the relationship we assumed we would. But I simply can not with things in their current state. I’m sorry we can’t be the friends we imagined we would always be.
Please have a good life. I wish nothing but the best for you. But I can accept nothing but the best for me.
According to Google, a cankle is “an unusually thick or stout ankle.” If you take a look at the images that pop up after that search you will see cankles are huge punch line in what sees to be a never ending fat joke. A lot of the memes circulating right now are at the expense of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Whatever feelings you have about them, you can agree that insults of this nature are low brow and juvenile. You will also notice a lot of “Get Thin Quick” style ads willing to help you eliminate your unsightly cankles for the low, low price of $19.99. Usually these ad have some mind blowing before and after pictures and a giant Click Here NOW!!
So, based on that, cankles are a bad thing right? Something completely and totally unattractive. Another thing women need to change about themselves to fit into the ever shrinking category of “Acceptable.” We mustn’t let ourselves be too thin, or flat, or hairy, or fat, or anything else that might be too much or, conversely, not enough. We must always, no matter the situation, be attractive. And we must never, ever have cankles.
Guess what? I have cankles. Big, thick, stout calf ankle hybrids. Starting after my scarred up knees, my legs flow, like fallen logs down a stream, into the flatlands that are my big wide feet. Since late elementary school, these chunky stems have been hidden under pants. People may assume, but they don’t for sure know. But I do.I have big cotton picking cankles.
And even though I’m using “cotton picking” as a tongue in cheek adjective, there’s some truth there. Going back many generations, the women of my blood line worked in the cotton fields and mills, picking and spinning the crop that made this part of the South.
My maternal great grandmother, Grandmaw Katie, worked the fields with her husband Ott, and their five children. ( Sidenote: Grandpaw Ott passed away before I was born, so while he is a family member, I don’t really know a lot about him.) From sunup to sunset, they would move through the fields, hunched over at the waist, plucking the little balls of fluff out of their thistle homes. The fields they inched their way through were owned not by ‘well to do’ farmers but by ‘better to do’ farmers. No one was well off in their corner of the world. They picked cotton and tended the fields in exchange for a little clapboard house to stay in and a few dollars per bale.
It was a hard life but Grandma Katie was a hard, tough women. Story goes that she picked cotton right up until she was in active labor with one of my great uncles. She then went into the house, birthed the baby, and was back out in the field before the sun was down. I remember her being mean and stern in the way that only a grandmother can. And I remember, she too had big thick legs and cankles.
In her later years, they would swell and become stiff. Her knees would become hard and refuse to work right. Her ankles would expand over the edges of her good church shoes. Both those legs traveled many miles inches at a time to keep a roof overhead. They stood hours upon hours in front of hot stoves, frying every part of the chicken to feed the hungry mouths at the table. They bowed at the knee to give praise to her god, and jumped and jived to the out of tune gospel music her sister played at reunions. Those legs worked a sewing making to make clothes out of flour sacks. Those legs birthed a generation, and held the ones after. They were the legs and cankles of a goddess.
When I was around 10, while hanging out looking at his motorcycle, my maternal uncle grabbed my calf. He laughed when I yelled.
“You got them thick Grandmaw Katie legs.” He said, working his fingers into the thickness of my calf, something between a tickle and a pinch.
I was ashamed, feeling the weight of a what I thought was a male declaration of my unsightliness. I was a young girl, I wasn’t suppose to have old lady legs. I was suppose to be little and pretty. I was not. I pulled myself out of the uncomfortable air that surrounded us then and went back inside. I remember at the time, not fully understanding why I felt so weird by his comments. It would take me years to unpack all the things from that day. And if I’m truthful, I’ll admit, some days I still carry that memory as part of my heavy mental load. The next time I saw him, and every time after, I made sure to wear full pants.
A lot of time has passed. So has that uncle. And now, after a life of being ashamed, I’m proud of these thick legs and these stout cankles. I get shit done with these things. I’ve birthed a generation of my own and spend everyday helping them become who they are. I work a modern sewing machine pedal with these chunky extremities, making clothes and bags out of fabric a little more expensive than flour sack fabric. I worship my gods and goddesses with these legs and feet, using them to walk under the moonlight. These cankles are important. And while they might not fit in most conventional boot sizes, they are wonderful.
As much as they are mine, they also belong to those who came before. They are one of the links to not just my ancestors, but their strengths as well. I can only hope that wherever they are, the women that came before me are pleased with the woman I turned out to be. Cotton picking cankles and all.
One of those most daunting things about my recent belief voyage is feeling slightly outclassed. Witchcraft, Wicca, the Mystical and the Occult, often have a flair for the dramatic. Candles and robes, crystals and essential oils, sliver ceremonial tool. Just so much stuff! The practical side of me keeps considering the cost associated with all this. And after reading the Modern Girl, Mystical World book, I was feeling a little too low class to take part.
Let that sink in for a minute. I was feeling like I couldn’t commit to what my soul was calling me to do because of my socio-economic status. My family’s situation is better than some and less than others. We don’t face fears that we will go homeless or even hungry. But we do have three children. And as we all know, kiddos are expensive. Because of this and my upbringing in cotton mill generational poverty, I don’t feel comfortable spending money on myself when I know there are other needs that need to be met. I also don’t think MFMW made me feel any better. Sorry, I can’t go on retreats to find my OM. Sorry, I can’t drop hundreds of dollars on supplies to do rituals to put me in touch with my gods and goddesses and,more importantly, myself. Designer shoes and crystals? Yeah dude, that ain’t happening.
While reading Witch by Lisa Lister (side note: I’m going to reread this wonderful book and bring you guys a review soon. It was so good!) I realized those things don’t really matter. I didn’t need certain items to strengthen what I believe. All I needed to do is awaken what was buried somewhere deep inside of me. The ideas of the kitchen witch and the granny witch resonated with my soul. It’s that practical everyday magic that I feel drawn to. So, it’s what I’m going to focus on.
I come from a long line of women who did what they could with the little they had. If you think feeding a gaggle of people on a pound of beans ain’t magic, you’re mistaken. If you can’t see that magic in keeping the house warm when you’re out of cut wood, you’re blind. And that ability to chase off the nightmares with nothing but some loving words and a silver coin? Pure magic. That’s what is inside of me. That’s what I need to remember. Having pretty robes and shiny tools won’t make one bit of difference if I don’t follow the path my feet know.
There is no wrong way to be a witch.
I’m going to wake up the part of me that remembers how.
Wake up witch, we got magic to do.
I live in the Southeastern United States. Winter, to us, is only a slight reprieve from oppressive damp heat and endless pollen. That being said, I have no idea how to drive on an icy road. If it’s icy, I retreat further into my home and refuse to venture out. I’m a horrible driver on a good day. So when the roads are compromised I’m extra dangerous. It’s not intentional, I’m just a bad driver. Winter weather just adds to my inability.
Sometimes though, you can’t avoid the icy roads. Sometimes you need to go out for milk, or toilet paper, or medicine. And sometimes the icy roads are not actually roads connecting geographic locations. Sometimes those icy roads are genetic paths that connect people.
I’m on one of those roads right now. I’m revisiting a relationship I had put a Dead End sign on long ago. I’m realizing that so much of the narrative that played in my mind for all these years was not only seasoned by other people’s agendas, but was mostly hypothetical. I had created wars in my head where there were just misunderstandings. The mountains I made and were struggling to carry, actually might have been mole hills.
With that, I’m facing the hard realization that the people I backed never really were backing me. Imagine standing the the corner for someone’s fight only for them to use your battles to hype their own. Someone I thought was a wise and caring person is actually nothing more than a gaslighting soul leech. Narcissistic abuse comes in all shapes and sizes. I realize now that my naivete and gullibility lead me like breadcrumbs through the forest right to the door of a storybook villain.
There’s so much I need to reassess. So many things I need to judge clearly on my own. So much to unpack. While I do that, the cold stays and ice continue to form. This road isn’t getting any less clear.
For right now, I’m just trying to stay in my own lane.
Postface: This is not about my significant other. Mr. Conjure and Coffee and I are wonderful.