There is no pretty or delicate way to explain this first part, so I am just going to say it: my beloved friend Kismet is dying. Not today, not tomorrow, and hopefully not for a long time. And no one actually knows how long they have to live, even given best possible health. But Kismet has a complex array of health issues, and these issues will lead to her eventual passing from bodily form into spirit form.
I have known that Kismet was dying from the day I met her. Her then-husband (bless him for what he did that was good and bless him for getting the hell out of the way when he needed to) half-carried her into my store four years ago where we had an interview to see if she qualified to train with me for ordination in the Amazon Priestess Tribe. She was thin, thin, thin, and weak of body, and exhausted of spirit. She had been through serious trauma in her life, had suffered profound loss, had experienced tremendous physical, psychic, and spiritual anguish. She hated the Goddess, was mad as hell about it all, and told me so. She was outwardly composed (in true Virgo fashion), but I could see there was a lot of power, rage, and an iron will inside her.
If I had been a more experienced Initiator at that time, I might have looked at all this data, seen the writing on the wall, and said, "I think you are very magical, but I am not certain you are up to the rigors of this training and I do not feel comfortable assuming the liability of your care in case this gets to be too much for you." I am so glad I did not have that "Cover My Ass" sensibility at that time, because I do not regret one second of this journey.
The Goddess spoke to me during that meeting in Her firm, ineffable way. A deep knowing arose. "This woman is going to teach you some very important lessons. And yes, she is your responsibility. And yes, you will be with her till the end. And yes, she will be trained as a high priestess." Sitting there, looking across the table at this tiny, broken bird, some little truth lodged itself in my heart like a package yet to be opened. And then it was all decided and Kismet became an Initiate with the Tribe.
During the year of training that followed, I learned many things about Kismet. She is a brilliant ritualist with a skillful sense of the group's energy. She is hysterically funny. She has a certain kind of luck that affords her fantastic adventures and experiences. She is wise and mysterious. She can trance out and aspect a Goddess like nobody's business. She is an excellent researcher. She is an artful, poetic writer. She is outrageously beautiful. She relishes an assignment. When she loves you, she loves you completely.
Oh yeah, and she's also HELL. ON. WHEELS.
If I had been a more experienced Initiator, I might have had some kind of protocol prepared for someone who carries so much pain and anger at the Goddess. I did not. Instead, I was pretty much bowled over on a number of occasions by the stuff that came out of Kismet's mouth. But together, Kismet and I found our way. She was willful, brash, and irreverent as a student. She would dive headlong into a fight. She told me she thought the Buddhism I cherish as a blessing was "too depressing." Her e-mail signature is, "My mouth is my chalice. My tongue is my sword." And she is not kidding! Such a shit-talker, this one! Ooh, we've had some real doozies! Reining that sword in and keeping it sheathed was my full-time job as her teacher. During her initiation year and the service year afterwards, Kismet and I spent a lot of time going back and forth about graciousness, peaceful self-expression, and how to (pleasefortheloveofallthatisholy) not piss me or her other sisters off. She has an e-mail folder called, "Rabbit: The good, the bad and the ugly," where she has saved some of our more flavorful correspondences. I have a mental folder called, "Kismet," with yellow tape all around it and a sign that says, "Do not put your hands into the cage. The management does not assume responsibility for what happens if you do."
During her initiation year, Kismet came back around to loving the Goddess. Of course she did, because the Goddess IS love, and opening to love after pain is one of the hardest lessons She teaches us. A long time ago I heard the phrase, "Hate is only misplaced love." I know it to be true, seeing Kismet's path. Once she woke back up to the love and joy and pleasure and sisterhood of the Goddess, Kismet really started to blossom. She dyed her hair pink. She started cracking badass jokes. She told me funny stories about being a casino card dealer. The things that had angered her and made her sad took on a new meaning as life lessons and sources of strength. She became more quietly authoritative. She opened up more about her true feelings. She laughed and smiled more. She dedicated her High Priestesshood to Bast at the time of her ordination. She gained confidence, she pushed through, her demeanor and overall mood dramatically improved. Her health, unfortunately, did not.
Over this past year, Kismet has dealt with some of the worst physical pain and some of the most ridiculous healthcare situations one can imagine, including gross negligence from several Kaiser Permanente doctors. Her medications have been all over the place, her pain levels sky-high. She was actually told by the chronic pain management clinic at Kaiser that they wouldn't see her anymore because she's just in too much pain and there is nothing they can do about it. It took them three months to figure out that her alarmingly high blood sugars were the result of some ridiculously inattentive medical staff ordering her the non-diabetic formula of her intravenous medical food. Ingredient number one: high fructose corn syrup. Grr. She lost a lot of weight- weight she could not really stand to lose. She lost a lot of hope- hope she could not really stand to lose.
Watching all of this unfold has been difficult...and I can only imagine how much more difficult it has been for the people even closer to Kismet on a daily basis: Yansumi, her primary caregiver and another Tribe member, her son Dakota. And even the indomitable Kismet, always ready with a wisecrack, has been pretty depressed these past few months. Yet in this time, despite all the pain and the anger and the hopelessness, Kismet has also be growing in a certain nobility. She can summon this tremendous poise at times that is so ethereal. The spectre of Death sobers us all, and invites us to greet Her with dignity. It's such a paradox, because in many ways, Death is excruciatingly undignified. It can have us literally shitting our drawers and screaming like babies because we are afraid. Yet, the moments of peace that are equally possible in Death bear a gravitas that is unparalleled.
I count on my friends to be my teachers, and they fulfill that role admirably. From Ladybug, as our first Tribe member to be pregnant, I learned about birth and motherhood. From Iris, I learn about self-worth. From Grey, I learn how to activate my goals. From Rowan, I learn patience. From Raven, I learn commitment.
Kismet is teaching me about living and dying. Perhaps I ought to say, in watching Kismet's inexorable march toward death, I am learning to value all life more fully. Staying present with Kismet in life all the way, and helping Kismet to stay present in life all the way, is a gift. Enjoying Kismet's life (and may it be long!) is a gift. She is an amazing friend. She is a wonderful High Priestess. She is a crazy wisdom teacher. I give thanks for her life.
It disturbs me how many people carry regret about not having said the things that needed said. We get shy. We feel insecure. We don't know how to talk about hard things. We get scared. We mumble about what ought to be sung and shouted. In my brief life thus far, I have known many, many dear people who died. Death has been a longtime associate of mine. I learned early on to just go ahead and say the real thing, right now, because there are no guarantees that I will have another chance. In this spirit, I write this now, even though I know that it might be more traditional to wait until Kismet passes to do so. Bollocks on that. If I wait, she won't get to read it. My words will not be there to comfort her in her fleshly incarnation. She will not get to revel in knowing that she is famous to me. Now, reading this, let there be no shadow of a doubt that I adore her and respect the full, bloody, beautiful truth that is her life. That I will celebrate her and honor her for all my days. That she is a Goddess to me.
Kismet-Bast, all hail!
Duat Ka Neit Kismet, all hail!
I love you.