hi I'm still alive
and here's what's been happening
Hello! It’s been awhile.
I’ve been hardcore hermit-ing for the past several months. Occupied with survival-mode things (moving into a new living situation to save money, quitting a job that was causing me to have autistic* meltdowns** multiples times a week, starting a new job, worrying about money, etc). Also occupied with lots and lots of internal changes (emotional processing, reflecting on all that I’ve learned in the past couple years as a spiritual practitioner, what I want my practice to look like moving forward, etc).
*I’m not sure if I’ve actually shared in this newsletter yet that I’m autistic? But yeah that’s a realization I’ve been unpacking over the past year or so.
**In case you don’t know, an autistic meltdown can happen when an autistic person becomes completely overwhelmed by sensory overload and/or stress. Not super excited about the fact that they’ve been happening a lot lately but I consider it a big deal / a breakthrough that I now allow them to happen at all…Previously they would only manifest as “shutdowns,” aka me going mute or becoming inert and internalizing everything OR I would white-knuckle myself through to somehow still seem like a functioning human. But now, when I can, I escape to a private place (pretty much just Car or Bathroom) to allow myself to break down 😬 Sounds terrible when I say it like that but I DID just quit a job that was causing like 65% of my stress and started at a new, calmer one this past week.
Time has seemed funny lately—warping, slowing, stretching out over the winter, and then kicking back into high gear earlier this month.
I may have felt this more acutely than some people, given that I was finishing out the last excruciating dregs of my Saturn Return (shoutout to my fellow Saturn in Aquarius bbs—especially those of us with fixed sign risings ☠️)—but I think that, to some degree, we were ALL affected by the weary nature of these late winter / early spring transits. Even if I hadn’t known anything about astrology, there was just this unshakeable feeling in my bones that 2023 wouldn’t truly begin until March.
And begin it has. Saturn shifted signs (out of the back-to-back signs it rules, and into Pisces—sweet relief!), the astrological new year began (welcome to Aries season), the Spring Equinox equinox-ed, and we had an Aries New Moon at 0 degrees (!!) of Aries (aka the most baby / most Aries / newest freshest brashest of all lunations). Mars has also moved on from its ridiculously long tenure in Gemini, which—not sure if I’d say Mars in Cancer is necessarily easy, but at least it’s different. So, bottom line: time has sped up and we are now in the middle of completely different astrological weather than we were just a month ago.
In just a few weeks, though, we’re going to be entering into eclipse season as well as retrograde season.
So this moment in time—this brief month-long stretch—feels like we’re breaking through the surface like brave little seedlings that’ve lain dormant for months. Bursting through the earth to gasp for air and light, before more uncertain weather comes our way.
I wanted to take this time to actually externalize some of my thoughts and feelings instead of keeping them to myself. Since last fall, I thought guiltily to myself over and over again, “It’s been awhile since I’ve sent out a newsletter 😬😬😬”—but the prospect of writing out an update just felt impossible. The words just felt too far away. Emotionally, I felt like I was cold and inert, barely moving, conserving energy, too tired and nonverbal and wrapped up with internal churning to string together something worth expressing to other people.
On the surface, it probably didn’t look like much was happening, Shadow Femme-wise. But some things were indeed happening!
I worked one-on-one with my first Obsidian Cave client, facilitating an 8-session journey for them over the course of four months.
They came out the other side a transformed person, feeling confident and expansive, more embodied and in touch with themselves, feeling ready to face whatever new challenges may come their way. I’m incredibly honored and grateful that they trusted me with this new offering, and I’m proud of how far they’ve come since we first started working together.
I’m also proud of my Good Spirits. The Obsidian Cave was something that they presented to me as an experience I could offer, and I think that one of the coolest things about it is that it’s so unique. At least to my knowledge, I’ve never heard of someone offering something like this before. It’s a bit complex, but here is the gist of it:
For each client, my guides and I construct a Cave. This cave exists on the spiritual plane.
In the center of this cave is a pool. And surrounding this pool are eight chambers.
These chambers represent eight different themes, unique to each client, that they will explore on this journey of inner transformation. I uncover these themes by drawing cards and speaking with their guides before the whole journey begins, and then during each of our eight live sessions together, the client and I delve into one of these themes.
Before every client session, I set aside an hour for what is essentially shadow work mediumship.
I set up my space, assembling my tools: I refresh the water on my altar and set out a glass of water for my client’s Good Spirits. I gather my card decks and a selenite wand. Then I light a candle, clear and ground myself, and say an opening prayer.
I place my hand on a piece of black obsidian, and in my mind’s eye, I enter the Cave. There, in the center, I see my main guide, Yulian, standing beside the pool. I make offerings to Yulian, in exchange for his help in navigating this realm.
Then I dive into the inky black pool—it’s small and circular, like an obsidian mirror, and incredibly deep. As I float down, images come to me—usually two, but sometimes just one—scenes that play out and give me clues as to how the client feels about theme we’re about to explore. These can be literal (for instance, in one case, I saw a very specific, pivotal memory from my client’s life) or they can be metaphorical/symbolic.
I emerge from this pool, write down my findings, and then I enter the corresponding chamber for this session. Once inside, I get my bearings—these chambers can lead to anywhere and everywhere. Along with my guides, I explore the space, looking for a Shadow Part—part of my client’s psyche that they have pushed away / rejected / disowned—one that is relevant to the theme at hand. When I come across this part, I speak to them, and I invite them to come back out into the Cave with me and wait for the client so that they can converse with them.
Then I begin the live Zoom session with the client: I share my findings with them, opening up space for them to discuss the memories and symbols that came up during my mediumship, and I share my interpretations of the tarot and oracle cards I drew for this particular session, as well as any aspects of the client’s astrological or human design charts that I find relevant. Then we segue into a dialogue with the Shadow Part that emerged earlier and who’s been patiently waiting outside the chamber. After a brief grounding, clearing, and breathing exercise, the client enters the Cave in their mind’s eye and has a conversation with this part, asking them questions and talking about whatever thoughts and feelings come up, until the discussion comes to a natural close. Sometimes this looks like a revelation; sometimes this looks like a quiet but comfortable silence; and sometimes this looks like an enlightening impasse. If a feeling of stuckness or stalling arises, I’m there to facilitate, and to even enter the Cave with them to help out with the dialogue. Once it all feels wrapped up, the client leaves the Cave and emerges back into the light of day, gradually grounding themselves and orienting themselves back into their bodies. We close with a few moments of recap and integration before ending the session.
Eight sessions and eight themes later, this adds up to an entire transformational journey.
I’m proud of this offering, and I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to impact people’s lives on deep level. At the same time, something about this offering doesn’t seem energetically sustainable for me at this time.
Maybe it’s the fact that I myself don’t have the money to continue with therapy / somatic work or pay for an equivalent service for myself at the moment—even though I desperately need it. I think the “fill your own cup before you pour into others” thing applies here.
I think it’s also because, after a few years of my usual activities / hobbies / creative outlets breaking down, I’m strongly craving an artistic/creative/expressive facet to my public-facing work.
To me, being creative feels as necessary as breathing. And while a service-based spiritual business most definitely has a creative element to it, there is such a prominent part of me that needs to feel purely creative in a way that gives tangible expression to my inner world. Magician vibes, rather than High Priestess vibes.
I have so many ideas and so much potential inside of me, and as a neurodivergent formerly “gifted” formerly “high-achieving” child who now doesn’t have much of a career path to speak of, I’m tired of letting my ideas just be ideas and my potential just be potential.
Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, I felt like I could do anything. In my twenties, I moved to another country, taught abroad on a Fulbright scholarship, learned to code and became a software engineer, won two hackathons, took theater classes and performed with multiple improv groups, got selected for a UCB house team as a sketch writer, successfully dabbled in standup, hosted open mic nights, shared poetry and rap (both serious and comedic), played the drums, started to learn the basics of music production, wrote three TV pilots — and the list goes on.
Then the pandemic hit, I got laid off, my mom died of cancer, and I became a hermit. Hermit-ing and learning and healing and working on developing my spiritual practice (public and private) as much as possible, but still largely living in survival mode.
Post-Saturn Return, I’ve gotten to the point where giftedness and potential isn’t cute anymore; it just feels sad. Even though I try to be kind to myself for the (completely understandable) last few years of seemingly unmoored hermitude—the Lost Years, if you will—(I tell myself that even though I wasn’t outwardly productive in a capitalist, high-achieving way, so many important and necessary things happened internally—which is true)—and even though I know that I am young, and that I still have so much life left to live, I sometimes I look around and ask myself, “What am I doing?”
I tried to make this public-facing spiritual practice work, to make it into my livelihood. I’ve even gone into debt paying for courses and mentorship to learn all the tools and modalities I now utilize in my practice. And now I’m left with immense credit card debt, almost no income, a cycle of part-time low-wage jobs that I don’t want to work at, and a feeling of weariness, cynicism, and defeat. I worked so hard to make Shadow Femme into something that could sustain me, but now—even though I feel that my offerings are unique, impactful, and worthwhile—I do not feel supported and fulfilled by my practice, financially or emotionally.
There have been times when I’ve been thiiiis close to deciding to quit. To just give it all up.
I’m now of the mindset that I don’t want to give up entirely on the possibility of a public-facing practice, but I do know that in order to move forward, Shadow Femme needs to be entirely rebuilt. Not just a new website, new offerings, new fonts and colors. But I need to take everything I’ve learned about myself in the past year—the in’s and out’s of my neurodivergent brain, my needs and wants and likes, my limitations—as well as what does NOT work and the advice I DON’T want to listen to when it comes to running a business (there’s a lot of bullshit out there lol)—and use it to rethink my public-facing practice from the ground up.
And this may mean completely removing the pressure (at least for now) to make money via my practice.
At least until I figure out a way to make the commitments of a service-based business work for my finicky ADHD/autistic brain and my no-motors-defined Projector body (Human Design lingo for, “my energy / my productivity can be extremely unpredictable and inconsistent”).
There is a fantasy I have (and I’ve heard my mentor Kaitlyn Graña express something similar) where—in another time and place, perhaps—I’m living in some peaceful abode on the edge of the woods. I’m known as the village oracle, the local medium / witch / etc, and people come to me and knock on my door and sometimes ask for my advice. And I’m able to say “no I don’t feel like it today” (when the stars and my brain and my body say, ‘now is not the time! We do not have energy!’) and then the person says, “okay no worries” and respectfully retreats, because they totally understand the nonlinear nature of a weird mysterious brain like mine and we live in a non-capitalist society where they get that sometimes things don’t happen on the timeline you expected them to and that’s okay. And then sometimes people knock on my door asking a question and my curiosity is completely piqued and I’m psyched by the challenge this question presents and this person is vibing with me and I say, “okay yes! I will answer your question! Come in, come in. Would you like some tea?” And they come in and I do my divination and they’re like, “wow that was amazing! Thank you so much! Here is a goat.” And I’m like, “gee, thank you for this goat. Run along now.” And they leave me alone. Yay! (It’s not that I don’t like people, I’m just an autistic introverted scorpio with limited batteries for socializing and I love being alone.)
In this world, there is no marketing! Because people are like, oh you have a question that requires mystical insight and a warm yet conversational approach? You must be looking for Sarah! She’s in the hut by the edge of the woods!
And then people just come to me.
(Btw what I’m expressing here 100% makes sense in terms of me being both neurodivergent and a Projector. (1) people seeking out my expertise instead of me having to initiate anything and (2) me being allowed to say no when I don’t have the dopamine for it!)
And in this fantasy, my spiritual practice is not the ONLY thing I’m known for. I’m also known for being a badass artist, storyteller, and all-around creative, funny, and inventive person. Maybe in the context of this quaint anachronistic world, I paint things and craft things and put on plays and I’m, like, the go-to person for retelling epic myths or something.
Lately, with Saturn in Pisces, I’ve been wondering if I can be so bold as to make this fantasy into a reality—at least, as closely as is possible, within the confines of our current tangible world.
I’m not sure what the specifics of this would look like, in terms of actual implementation.
For one thing, I am considering a name change, from Shadow Femme to…
✨The Neighborhood Oracle✨
…and the ethos of this new name would radiate out from what those words evoke: something very close to that fantasy I detailed above, where I’m able to be a chill yet wise source of mystical insight, open for questions, but empowered to say no when I don’t have the energy or interest or capacity for it.
All of this is still in the possibility phase, the Murky Yet Exciting Yet Frustrating stage of development, and I’m trying to be okay with the uncertainty. I’m trying not to push it, not to force anything.
In the meantime, I also have been flooded with a boatload of thrilling ideas for creative projects which I…don’t yet have the executive functioning to bring into reality.
And in the meantime of that, I’ve been slinging prescription glasses at a new part-time job (yay) and learning the in’s and out’s of the optical industry because I have to pay my bills and seemingly no one will hire me for tech jobs anymore because it’s been too long since I’ve been gainfully employed in a tech role 😐
Anyway, as you can see, I’ve allowed this newsletter to be long and rambly. If you’ve gotten this far, I want to sum everything up into an actual concrete update for you: for the time being, my Shadow Femme offerings are closed. Part of this is because I do not have access to private space (i.e. to conduct appointments) in my current living situation, but mostly it’s for all the reasons mentioned above—the fact that my own cup is majorly empty right now, and that I feel an inescapable pull to completely rethink the concept of being a service provider.
If you’re interested in seeing how this space evolves, then I invite you remain on this mailing list. I will keep you posted on what comes of this rebuild. Thank you for being along for the ride!
All the best,
P.S. Below I present to you: a taste of my burgeoning (re-burgeoning?) creative impulses! Aka my first, second, and third attempts at figure drawing! All with ink / no pencil sketching to serve as guardrails. In order: drawings from a wintertime (aka interesting layers and textures) clothed figure drawing class at Nova Community Arts, a drawing of my partner Charo on the couch, and then one from another queer Nova Arts class (this time mostly nakey).
P.P.S. Completely forgot about this message I channeled from Lola in the midst of this dark dark winter and it is hitting hard now, in the full light of hindsight.