This weekend, I read the first in a new trilogy by Debora Geary, Witches on Parole. I like Geary’s other “Witch” books, so I eagerly jumped into this one… and recognized myself in a scary way.

If you want to read Geary’s book without spoilers, stop reading now. While this post isn’t a book review, I will be talking a lot about one character’s storyline.

One of the witches on “parole” is Elsie. She’s a repressed therapist, looking for a way to refresh her approach to ethics. Except, that’s a surface answer. In reality, Elsie’s looking for a way to set her inner fire witch free.

So how on earth am I Elsie?  Because I’m certainly not a fire witch.  But let’s take the witching out of it for a minute. Elsie had been repressing a portion of herself.  She was challenged at one point in the story to do something for herself that would bring her pleasure and joy.  At first she didn’t know what that was.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it?  I’ve been there.  There was a time, not long ago, when I couldn’t tell you what made me feel really, viscerally happy. Or sad. Or angry. Scary stuff, when you don’t know, anymore, what makes you tick.  When you never really feel anything deeply, happy or sad.  Just there. Simply existing.

I remember realizing how disconnected I had become. And I remember resolving to do something about it. A line from Leonard Cohen stuck with me, and even now is something of  a mantra I use whenever I need it: I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.  I may not be using it the way Cohen intended, but for me it’s this:

I couldn’t feel anything deeply, so I resolved to touch more. To  make an effort to be fully present in the moment. To rediscover the things I cared about, or could even be (dare I think it?) passionate about. To figure out, better late than never, who I really am and embrace that.

It’s not been easy, and I’m not done. I’ll make great progress for a while and then I’ll be dragged back into the mundane, and I’ll forget to touch, forget to be authentic. I’ll get back into the mold of what other people expect me to be, and I’ll put walls up to protect myself. That’s when I make myself break out the funky jewelry or paint my fingernails green and read books about creativity and misfits and being true to oneself. Usually I make myself try something new, too. Preferably something that makes me get out of the house and interact with people.

And it’s why, when I read about Elsie today, I saw so much of myself.  There’s fear in learning to feel again. In opening up oneself to new experiences. To being vulnerable and open with other people and not being so damned independent all the time. I think (I hope) I was never as rigid and unyielding and predictable as “old Elsie” but I was close. It was safe and it got the job done. But had that been my life, I would have regretted not doing so much.

I had such an identification with Elsie that it is obvious to me that I’ve been on the repressed side again lately.  A good reminder that it is so important to live authentically, and passionately. To at least feel. To spend time on the things that matter and do let go of the things that don’t.  And that is my task now.