Every year I choose a word of the year. It is something I want to manifest in my life that year. This year’s word is JOY. I definitely found it at SWLC this year.
I have been hibernating for a year and a half now. Healing. Taking time to just be. My year-end reflection resulted in the idea that SWLC would be the ‘kick off’ event for the new year for me. To stop hibernating so much and rejoin the land of the living. It succeeded in being exactly what I wanted it to be.
I accepted an invitation to be the M/s Judges Wrangler this year and I thoroughly enjoyed that role. When I arrived at the hotel on Thursday afternoon, everything seemed to wash away and I felt at peace. I was home. The Meet and Greet was a wonderful time to reconnect with those present and meet the judges I didn’t know. Getting to introduce friends to the energy of SWLC was also great. (they will be back next year for the full weekend.)
Friday started with Wrangler duties and supporting the judges during contest activities. The great thing about having a specific role for the event is that it enables me to stay in the thick of things rather than on the edges. It forces me into participating rather than observing. And that changes my experience exponentially. I had a great team of judges and cohorts, and truly enjoyed spending the weekend with them.
There were many people I got to connect with this weekend who were important in Justin’s life. The experience this year was a great celebration of memories with those people. There were only brief tears of shared memories rather than grief, as I experienced last year. Spending one-on-one time with Mama Vi and sharing stories of Justin was a real treat. Getting to connect with Sir Cougar during judging activities was very meaningful. Getting to meet and get to know Patrick Mulcahey was awesome. Spending time with Doc and his boy, seeing Race Sir receive a much deserved award, and communing with my Tribe just made my weekend extra special.
There are so many little vignettes I could list here, each one very meaningful to me. Drum circle time. Visits in the smoking area that are always part of my favorite times. Cheesecake on the vendor space floor. Leather earned and gifted. Early morning visits over coffee and a smoke. Meals shared. A boy’s new mask. A slave’s new dress. A new kilt for me. Introductions of online friends. Corsets and motorboating, and sitting on Mama Vi’s lap for some pictures. An imp’s laughter that I feel deep inside. Hugs, kisses, love, peace, energy. Knowing I am seen and loved. Seeing and loving in return.
And then it was Sunday.
Duties over, today is all about the Dance. I had to run home to get some things I had forgotten and found a package from my nephew and his wife. She had told me to expect it, that it was something that ‘belonged’ to me. I started to leave it to open after I got home that night, but went back into the house to see what it was. A stained glass roadrunner. How perfect that I opened it before returning to the Dance. (If you don’t know why that is significant, you can read about it here.)
Outside for smudging. Back inside to Dance. I placed my collar and wedding rings on the altar. In 5 years of Dancing, I have typically placed myself near the doors closest to the altar. This year seemed to need a new position, and so I placed myself by the door closest to the piercers. I walked over to the Portal for my own grounding and blessings. Stopped first at the post nearest me, but quickly stepped to the post to my left. (Don’t ask me to tell you the directions now, because I don’t recall.) I moved my hands up the post, touching things here and there, and then raised my head to follow the line my hands were making, almost of their own accord. There, just low enough that my hands could reach it, a stone with a word on it. JOY. Signs and messages everywhere. Yes, Joy. Today’s Dance is Joy.
I had already decided that Doc would do my piercings this year. One person ahead of me for Doc, someone I fully expected to also be pierced by him. No hooks. I’ve come to accept that just isn’t going to be part of the journey for me again. Two stones, two bells, and a third eye. Huge energy in this bubble, just Doc and me, with his boy quietly assisting. Energy vibrating so much that Doc has to sit back and breathe for a minute. “Someone just joined us,” Doc said, a bit surprised. “Yes.” We took a long time in that bubble. Third eye in and the vibration increased. I was already flying. So much love in that bubble. Items tied off, blood cleaned. Smile. Kiss. And she’s off.
I had to go outside to ground a bit after that. It felt a little bit like I had just slammed 5 double shots of espresso. Went outside and stepped in the grass and felt instantly more grounded. Back inside, I ran into Mama Vi. “Oh Cheryl, you are so beautifully open.” Yes, open. That was truly the word for the space I was in. Totally and completely open.
The drumming was subdued. I sat on my towel in front of the altar, eyes closed, feeling the drumming, riding the energy. I felt a presence, opened my eyes. An amazing woman I’m blessed to call family sits down to join me, face to face. Another beautiful soul, also family, comes behind me. Eyes closed, hands connected, rocking side to side, I hear sobbing behind me and feel a well of tears myself. It just comes. As quickly as it comes, it is gone again. Drums begin to speed up, and I feel the need to DANCE, to shake off whatever it is that needs shaking off. I want to wipe it all off of me, scrub it off, sling it away. I don’t know what ‘it’ is, just that I need to get it off of me, out of me. And we Dance. Just at the right moment, we’re joined by a laughing imp. Perfectly dancing, we three. Smiling, stomping, shaking, releasing. Hydration and time to step outside for a bit of grounding again.
Back inside the Dance for me is again more subdued. Eyes closed, sitting beneath the Portal, feeling the beat of the drums deep inside. Sitting back at the altar, observing, feeling, swaying side to side. I see people I love and witness their journey. I smile. Love. Joy. Blessings. Tribe.
The piercings on my upper chest are screaming at me to be removed. No, not pain. But it’s time for them to come out. I look to Nelson and say, “I think I may be done.” I go to have those 4 piercings removed but leave the third eye. Feels like maybe there is still something to do here. Outside for another break to ground and smoke.
Inside again, I walk slowly about the space, observing. Deep breaths. Eyes closed. ‘Seeing’. Feeling. Eyes open. Observing. Yes, I’m done here today. Third eye piercing removed. Hugs on the path to the door. A few goodbyes outside. More hugs.
This year’s SWLC was my 8th, and one of my best yet. I’m in a good place and SWLC confirmed that for me. Continuing forward movement. Expanding my circle. Rediscovering myself and exploring my path. It’s not the life I planned, but it’s the life before me. And it’s perfect. Just as it should be.