Because the moon feels loved, she lets our eyes
follow her across the field, stepping
from her clothes, strewn silk
glinting in furrows. Feeling loved, the moon loves
to be looked at, swimming
all night across the river.
On New Year’s Day, 2013, I looked out the window. We were several rainy nights deep at a cabin on Vancouver Island, and I was looking out across the bay. Suddenly she appeared, slipped through her cloudy robes, and shone her light over the water in that uniquely magical way that makes you feel sure she is looking directly at you. Mostly full, spectacularly white, set off by the wispy grey clouds around her and the stars blinking nearby, the moon was beautiful.
My partner and I had been discussing the past year and the new one. We’d both faced some difficult situations, and I felt like their heavy layers had cracked my confidence significantly. I found myself wishing I could get back the bravery I didn’t know I had before I was hit by a car, or the nonchalant risk-taking I didn’t know I was doing before I started sharing writing and poetry on the internet where I picture certain anonymous commenters to look like the sort of troll you might meet on Middle Earth.
I noticed I was using a certain vocabulary that split my experiences into two states: BT (“Before Trauma”) and AT (“After Trauma”). I thought of an article I wrote last year and went back to reread it—after all, the advice you give is always the advice you need to hear. I saw myself doing it again: telling a story to myself about how things were before this stuff happened and that they are irrevocably different now. Total BS, of course, and an excellent reason not to do anything about it.
It’s no secret that life can be hard, but the struggles we go through are also the way we learn. When I think about some things I faced this year, hiding under a rock sure sounds like a good idea, but I also have the choice to let them make me braver, thicken my skin, and move me me forward. I won’t return to the state I was in before these things happened because, well, that state is an illusion. My New Year’s buzzword (I don’t like resolutions) is “New Confidence”: building from what I have, rather than what I think I had “Before the Trauma.”
And then the moon came out. I have a collection of moon goddess meditations from Eric Stoneberg that explore the mythology and archetypes of the Nityas, the moon phase goddesses, in which every single night is represented by a different figure. I went to my meditations and tried to figure out which goddess was associated with this night in the cycle. I realized later I was reading the map wrong and counted backwards, but I’m quite sure this goddess was the right one for me at that moment anyway.
Her name is Bherunda. Unlike all the other Nityas, she stands naked before us, revealing herself completely. I listened to Stoneberg while I stared at her across the water: “This Bherunda exposed has extra weaponry,” he says. Not only does she carry a noose, a goad, a sword, and a bow and arrow, but also a shield, which is “a song that she knows how to sing to herself to protect herself.” In this moment of true, authentic vulnerability and exposure, she carries everything she needs to stay safe, including powerful words she can tell herself. “What does it mean to be authentically exposed, and at the same time, well protected?” Stoneberg asks. “In what way would it be valuable for me to put myself out there? To expose myself? what do I need to know to stay protected? What do I need to tell myself?”
This morning, I woke up from a night of restless dreaming. On discovering I had no coffee and only curdled milk, I headed out for some manna from the coffee shop across the street. I noticed my outfit on the way out: a red plaid coat, coral-colored Thai pants, green rubber boots, brutal bedhead, and pillow creases on my skin. My need for coffee was too great to care all that much, and I became vaguely aware that this is always the moment when you bump into your ex-boyfriend. It wasn’t quite that bad, but I did manage to pass some acquaintances, including a yoga student, in the three minutes I was half awake and out of my house. As I watched their eyes drift to the billowing pink and orange of my Thai pants breezing from beneath the cover of my bright red coat, I thought to myself: forget New Confidence. I’ve got a better buzzword for the new year, in honor of Bherunda the moon goddess. I threw them a brilliant smile and thought to myself: Own it.