The Pearl Ring

by Jennifer on December 17, 2014

425287Sunday, December 14th, 2014

We were in the bathroom, in the dark.  I don’t know why it was dark…oh wait, I remember now.  The power had gone out, and there were a dozen or so other drunken teenagers strewn about the dark house in the light of candles jammed into empty wine bottles.  My friend’s parents were gone and she had thrown a little party.  Now I know why it was dark, though I don’t know why we were all hanging out in the bathroom in the pitch blackness…Jillian, Rachael, Nicole and I.  No candles, just the dim glow of faint starlight from the edges of the window.  I know we were all sitting on the floor, two of us leaning against the tub.  I know there was laughter at first.  I have no idea why I told the story of the pearl ring.  I had never told it to anyone before.  All I know is that when I began, an enchantment came over the dark room.  Everyone was quiet, even reverent…

“My grandma lived in southern Virginia, in a town too small to be on the maps…” I must have begun.  It was tobacco country, and the town consisted of a gas pump with a general store, a tiny post office, and six or seven churches.  We went there to visit her at least once a year, even after we moved to the west coast my sister and I came back in the summertime each year, when the ground was scorched and the tobacco fields were teeming in the hot, sticky air.  And I remember the cicadas, always keeping me company with their song in a strange land.

Grandma had been a school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse for decades and was strict, and religious, and afraid of germs.  She had been the oldest of five children and at the age of 12 or 13 had needed to grow up fast and take care of her younger siblings.  I don’t remember why that happened, but there was a huge framed tintype portrait of them all around that age leaning against a wall beside the piano, and every time she pointed it out she would tell us that story, and then she would cry.  None of them were still living but her.  By the time I knew my Grandma in my memories, she lived a lonely life shuffling around her crumbling home with slanted floors in her old slippers.  I can still hear her coming down the hall.

Once a year she dressed us up in my mom’s old clothes (since nothing we had was “suitable”) smelling of moth balls and must, and took us to church where we did not belong.  While everyone knew the words to many of the hymns and prayers without a book, my sister and I recited the names of vegetables and fruits so no one would know we didn’t know them, and so we didn’t have to say words we didn’t mean, and so we could look at each other and giggle at our secret.

Grandma kept everything.  Stacks of old newspapers and reader’s digest gathered dust under tables, drawers were filled with ancient bottles of perfume that had all lost their smell and unopened boxes of nice handkerchiefs that had been christmas gifts from so-and-so years ago.  There were piles of photos crammed into shoebox after shoebox in cupboards, and food long past its good-by date in the ones in the kitchen.  Every bit of jewelry she had ever owned was in little boxes in the drawers of the dining room dresser, and the attic was a fallen kingdom of her late husband’s and my mother’s old things, interrupted by huge silver venting tubes and dusted with insulation like fantasy feathers fallen in a land of long ago.

image #02

Our great excitement there, other than swinging on the porch swing in the stifling heat and reading the comics she saved for us, or hanging on the clothes line when we were tiny, or playing marbles in the sand of the driveway, or walking down the road to the post office just to have somewhere to go, was when Grandma would let us ramble.  Rambling was what Grandma called it when you went through the old things in the drawers, searching for treasures…or, on Grandma’s most generous of days…when we could wander through the attic.

It wasn’t so that we could keep anything.  It was so that we could stare into the faces of blurry black-and-white photos and hear stories, and try on our favorite pieces of jewelry again and again, like the locket with the moon and stars on it.  Grandma was particular about what she gave away.  In fact, the rare times she gave something away, she often took it back when you did something she didn’t like.  She had a ruby ring that was special to her, because her name was Ruby, given to her as a child I believe.  She used to very ceremoniously give the ring to my mother when she was growing up, and always take it away later the same day.  When I got old enough she did the same to me.

But the pearl ring was different.  I don’t remember having seen it before.  But once I found it or first saw it I was in love.  It was simple, with a large pearl and two tiny diamonds on either side, silver band.  I don’t know why she gave it to me that day, so quickly, as it was so unlike her.  All I know is that when I slipped it on my finger I felt like a queen.  I had never felt so elegant, and the magic of the ring seemed to cover me with grace.  I felt like I moved through the room, through the world, with some kind of new glow…cat-like and perfect…

I’ve mentioned some of the things my sister and I liked to do, but I’ve left out walking the abandoned railroad tracks at night, following the path to nowhere.  And most of all, I have left out the creek.  The creek was the only place I felt at home at Grandma’s.  The flat, glossy, rocky slope down, slick sometimes, and the lush foliage around the fresh, luminous rivulets of water over smooth stones…it was all somehow lit from within.  There was magic there.

The day that Grandma gave me the pearl ring, my mother was also there, and she took my sister and I to the creek where the three of us loved to go.  I walked alone along a trail to a rocky overhang, grassy and lush, about twenty feet over the deepest part of the creek.  I got down and let my knees squish into the wet earth there, and lay down on my belly, but propped up on my arms at the edge of the overhang, my fingers curling around the very last curves of the ledge.  From there I could look down at the water, far below, mystical and pure, like I had as a priestess into deep pools and wells, like I had as an angel before I walked this earth with human feet.

It was then, from the moment that the world was perfect, that it happened.  It was so smooth and graceful, like a whisper barely heard, like the perfect rapid beating of a wing or a heart, when the ring slipped off my finger…like a memory slipping silently away from someone’s mind.  By the time I registered the soft, momentary brush of the silver band against the skin of my finger, I was watching the pearl ring fall into the deep pool of the creek below, swallowed swiftly and in an instant gone into the watery depths.

I didn’t flinch.  I didn’t cry out.  I didn’t feel right away sad, or bad, though I had loved my ring very deeply in the few short hours it was mine.  I felt that it was still mine somehow, though I knew immediately the water was too deep and wide there to ever retrieve it.  I let it go, because everything about that moment was the purest poetry of release.  Oh I grieved a little, and felt the ache for the pearl deep below, but when it was time I simply stood up, brushed off my knees, and took the trail back.

To this day I don’t know why no one brought it up.  That had been my only fear after I went home.  That my mother or grandmother would ask me why I wasn’t wearing it, or where it was.  Or that Grandma would want it back, and when they found out I would be punished.  I would be chided and called irresponsible and told that obviously I wasn’t ready for special things.  But I was born a special thing, like you.  And for the only time in my childhood no one mentioned the ring again, and I never told a soul.

Until for some reason that night in the bathroom in the dark, where my friends sat spellbound somehow by my story that I somehow knew how to tell in intricate detail, sprinkled with the golden dust it came with…if only I could have told them the rest of this story, as I am about to tell you.  But I didn’t know it then.  I didn’t know that while I left that ring behind, I brought something else home with me from Grandma’s house.  Something I wouldn’t know about for many, many years.

I didn’t have an easy infancy.  I cried all the time, never napped, and finally was diagnosed with a list of food intolerances.  Throat infections followed and all the antibiotics that went along with them.  I seemed to “outgrow” my food sensitivities, but really they just went underground in my body.  I ground my teeth in my sleep from the time I was a toddler.  Something wasn’t right, but the symptoms didn’t come back until I was a teenager.  They didn’t paint a picture then.  It only all added up once I could step back and see it all as one big picture.

I also experienced trauma, of multiple kinds, from my youngest years for the better part of all my upbringing, ending with an awful crescendo just a couple of weeks before I went to college.  That was also the year I had all eight of my mercury fillings replaced, thinking I was doing the right thing, but at a time when most dentists did not understand the required precautions needed to not just dump more mercury into the body in doing so.  That was also a terrible winter at home.

I bounced back for a while, but when I was 19 I went to live in India for several months, came home to another painful winter at home, and by summertime I wasn’t well.  I was working in the deli of my local health food store, and as I’d stride to the storeroom or the walk-in cooler my body would move as I willed it to, but I’d think to myself, “Why do I feel like I am 80 when I am 20?  Something is so very wrong…”

image #01Some days when I got done with work I was so low I could barely stand up.  One day I was standing in the park in town feeling this way when my best friend saw me from behind and knew I was down, and came up and hugged me for the longest time.  She was an angel to me in that moment, and we were so lucky that my sweet sister came and saw us, and took this beautiful picture so I can show you now.

Again I bounced back after that time in my life.  It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I got symptoms again…my hair was falling out and my heart pounded wildly even sitting still…I lost weight and sweated more than usual, and was finally diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  I was so proud of myself when I told the doctor, “I just need to slow down,” when he wanted me to take more severe measures.  I did slow down, and along with a short-term herbal protocol, I did reverse my hyperthyroidism and it never came back.

However, the underlying cause of my imbalances was still there, and just a couple of years later, after some mold and lead exposure I started to go down again, and this time I bottomed out.  I crashed into a wall that had always been ahead of me, but that even as an Oracle I hadn’t been meant to know was coming.

This past six years has been a series of those crashes, like waves in the ocean one after the other, some larger than others.  Of course I went to my inner guidance, and I talked to my beings.  They told me that this was meant to be a journey I took one step at a time, without answers in advance.  That I was meant to learn as I went, and search blindly but from deep within.  They said this was the lifetime I could finally feel all the pain and exhaustion from every other lifetime when I had pushed forward through trauma and loss to stay on my mission, to keep the remembering alive in my heart and be one of the vessels for it on the earth.  They said because I was finally safe enough and the remembering was rooted enough, I could go back and feel all the sadness and the battered weariness of a very long fight to keep a flame burning through every kind of storm.

And so I have.  I have felt it all, and in that process every childhood trauma I thought I had already processed has also been more truly plumbed.  The darkest corners of the underworld where the most voracious ghosts live has been my unchosen yet deeply chosen playground, my alchemist’s laboratory, and my place of magical healing dreams.  I always say that the wounds of what I call in my book, The Oracle Within, “The Great Forgetting”, can only be fully healed as we now enter into “The Great Remembering”.

“You’re an Oracle, right?  Can’t you just like, talk to the Universe and get all the answers about what’s going on with your health and then…you know…heal yourself?,” a girlfriend asked me over tea one day, a couple of years into this, as I ruminated about my health studies and what might be happening to me.  “Yes,” I said.  “But I wouldn’t want that.  I already asked and know what I need to…that this is meant to unfold just this way, and I would never want to end it before I am done getting it all out of me, feeling it all.  This is meant to be.”

Still, six years later, when I finally walked into the office of a doctor with the breadth of integrative knowledge to maybe really help me, I knew just what tests to ask for.  And when all the signs started coming before I even took that trip, by the time I got home I knew.  Before they even called me with the results I took long walks with my husband to the beach for many days and processed it all.  I couldn’t believe that after all my work and research, I had one of the most mysterious illnesses.  A disease no less.  That underneath all the other issues I had discovered in myself, there was a mother root.  The one that wouldn’t let me heal the rest until I got to it.  The one I got at Grandma’s house.

The phone rang in the middle of the afternoon and I picked it up to hear nurse Katie’s voice on the other end of the line.  I had been expecting her.  “I have some test results I need to talk to you about,” she said softly.  “Is now a good time?”  I took Sebastian’s hand in mine and waited for the words I knew were coming.  “You tested positive for Lyme Disease,” she said.  “I’m sorry…”

The tears were silent, like the ring slipping off my finger.

I’d been traveling back to Grandma’s house in my mind for weeks.  Again and again when we went outside she’d call after us, “Don’t go over yonder in the grass with all the ticks and the chiggers!”  But the problem was it was all “over yonder” and we never left Grandma’s without bites along the lines of our socks, the tops of our feet, along our arms.  Grandma didn’t go over yonder, but she got them too.  And now that I can look back at how she ended up with a combination of bells palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and dementia, it’s very likely that Grandma got Lyme too.

Some of you have heard me write or talk in my courses about having been chronically ill.  It’s been very special as an example in my teaching.  I usually talk about it in the past tense both because I sometimes feel better enough that it seems that way, and because I like to imagine it is already gone, but in truth I have suffered an incredible amount in the past six years.

I can’t count the tears.  I can’t explain what it is like to wake up most days feeling like you were in a terrible accident in your sleep, or to lie awake in pain night after night.   What it is like to have to sometimes make six different micro-movements to turn over in bed because you are so stiff.  To pull a muscle turning your arm the wrong way to make a simple gesture.  To be more sensitive to sounds and stress and smells and smoke, and to take longer to heal or bounce back…to have no buffer.  But of course, sometimes that is also exactly where the magic happens.

The veils have always been thin for me, but I have also had incredible skill in walking between the worlds my entire life.  I also know how to be embodied, love my body, access self-love to nourish myself, move beyond the pain lands, to keep pleasure and natural sexuality at the forefront at every possible moment, to be guided by my deep knowing, to anchor and re-anchor in my trust in the universe with every breath…and even when I feel like I can’t breathe.

And the impact of all of these gifts and abilities has been palpable.  I believe it is why I am not bedridden, why I remain able to work, and teach, and still go out and dance…why I still have my libido despite the fact that with my very tired adrenals and other conditions you would think it would be gone.  My spark and fire are strong, and while I have been sprinkled to the winds of oblivion more than once, I am yet a force.

This past spring circumstances collided in such a way that I hit a bigger wall then ever, and finally reached out in ways I never have.  I then found out which friends and family members could support me, and how much…and which ones couldn’t.  I’m not going to lie.  Finding these things out was just as heartbreaking as any of the other pains I’ve known through this, and sometimes I think moreso.

But when my bottom dropped out, the one underneath all the other dropped out bottoms, I got even more vulnerable, and while some people stepped back, a few people…some I hardly knew much yet…stepped forward.  They reached out a hand in the dark like the nuns did that day for me in Tibet, and told me I could call them anytime.  I was humbled.  I am humbled every moment of every day…I have been my whole life.  It’s a gift.  And then there is my love, my beautiful husband who is the light of my heart and who has stood by my side as steadfast as anybody ever could.  My living angel.

You see, when the last bottom dropped out, I fell hard…but ultimately it will be what lets me soar.  Through all of this suffering, like it did for Isis or Mary Magdalen, or Innana when she journeyed through the underworld, I too will know a new freedom from past pains, and I too will touch the deepest alchemies I have yet known.  I know love wouldn’t make it any other way.

Alchemy doesn’t always have to happen through pain.  That’s just one way.  This way is like the making of a pearl.  A single grain of sand gets into the oyster and irritates it, so to protect itself it makes layer after layer of coating, until a pearl is formed.  Many people think suffering is a sign that one is not evolved enough spiritually, but as I have taught since long before mine became so severe, it can be all to the contrary.  Like it was for Isis when she wailed by the Nile and became old, and haggard, losing teeth and pulling out her hair…and everyone forgot she was a Goddess and didn’t want to even get near her…but through honoring her full feelings and pain she accessed the power to bring Osiris back to life, and restore herself.  Like it was for Mary Magdalen who also suffered loss, or Innana who bravely ventured naked into the underworld to face her self-judges and shadow, to die and bring herself back to life.  No, I am not ashamed of my suffering.  Why would I be ashamed of my pearl?

When Innana died in the underworld, her body was placed on a hook.  That’s how far it had to go to bring about her total rebirth.  While it isn’t that way for everyone or in every case, I have been on the hook and ultimately it was because I caught myself, like Isis caught herself by losing herself alongside the Nile.  Lost and found.

When I got done telling the story that night, in the dark in that bathroom with the girlfriends I miss most every day, I was on my knees as if leaning over that ledge again as a child, hands in the air as if holding some sacred thing gained when something else was lost, and there seemed to be a golden glow around me even in the blackness.  Everyone was silent.  “And even though I wondered if they would, no one ever asked me about the ring…almost like it had never existed…or had been only a dream.”  The quiet moment seemed to last forever, and then my friends began to tell me that somehow that was one of the most beautiful stories they had ever heard.  I didn’t know why, and maybe they didn’t either.  It had been a simple story really, but perhaps they felt the deeper meaning.  Perhaps they felt this story underneath…they felt the preciousness the ring really represented.

I love you, friends.  I really do.  Sharing my heart and my passion with you all for the last nearly-eleven years has been one of my soul’s greatest joys.  Those words seem pale and empty in comparison to the ecstasy it has brought and brings me every day…they are like a cardboard cut-out image of the sun.  I hope you will feel the real fiery glow behind them, and that you too will find something in the story of my pearl ring, and will think of your own, submerged somewhere in your watery depths within…always there, never ever to be truly lost, guiding you back to being found by yourself, over and over again.

For when you know, like the Goddesses of my stories, and like me, that your suffering is not a sign of something “wrong” with you, but a sign of courage and grace, brilliance and liberation, you become free.  And nothing can stop you then.  You break away more than ever from the lie of perfection and punishment, and find your wholeness and utter beauty here and now…the only place that it can be truly found.  And then there are no more forbidden fruits in your garden, and no more dark corners to hide from within, and the luminous pulse of love and life flows through you, unfettered.  And you discover that your ugliest-feeling shame, your deepest fear, has somehow become a smooth, bright, pearl.



Friend, if you have two minutes and are touched and inspired, I would be honored beyond words if you would consider donating anything at all to my healing at GoFundMe…I promise to send some nymph kisses your way, and there is usually a lovely boost when you support someone in this way (and a lovely boost to your feeling of abundance when you share as well!)  You’d be helping me keep putting work like this into the world, and even the smallest amount helps.  Thank you with all of my heart.  Visit or donate here…

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jila December 17, 2014 at 4:12 pm

thank you for sharing this, jennifer… i am deeply touched.


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