Jane, Beatrix, Elizabeth and ME
Does the Pen Name Still Have Value in the New Millennium?
Three and half years ago, this was my very first blog ever. I was so thrilled to have FINALLY and at long last begun this writing process under a pen name -Agnes Elmira Kepler. Originally, the idea was to start an astrology blog on my Facebook page directed at my high school graduation classmates as a tool to cope with a very profound midlife ordeal. By discussing the Generational Transits that have been happening to me, and therefore all of us in my class, maybe some income could be generated for my Tarot business, which would then relieve stress and support my healing process from a long-term chronic illness.
Along the way I read an entertainment piece in my local newspaper one summer about how movie goers tend to tire of all the big, loud blockbuster action movies by the end of the summer, so August is often a strategic time for studios to put out the more quiet, thoughtful “chick flicks.” One of these brilliant moments of awakening flashed in my mind as I realized: “Hey! That explains my lucky birthday presents these past three years of being treated to a movie might out that really the hit the spot!” Julie & Julia, Eat, Pray, Love and The Help: 3 movies 3 years in a row about women cooking food, writing, and creating a new life. By the time The Help came along, my decision to support a biological imperative to start a blog about my peculiar life transition had already been made. But thanks so much, Universe, for your “3rd Charm” reinforcement! And by the way, having chronic health issues does assume big, expensive dietary adjustments, especially in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine world, so writing about food can certainly be managed here from time to time!
However, reading Eat Pray Love later that year became an inspiration and the necessity to start with something less structured and more available for brutally honest expression of my feelings became clear. I was grieving from a loss of love one year late and not only did that book resonate deeply to my own emotional formation at that time and give me a welcomed way to begin relief from a huge black cloud of darkness, but her unusual structure of approach really inspired a flow. This account would initiate entrance down into the multitudinous labyrinthine tunnels of my creative origins, crowded and alive with the bounteous personal and professional “Selves” arising from training in, living with and exercising a wide variety of artistic and metaphysical disciplines, while involving other people in my life who are very close to me. Being the lifelong codependent I am, and with the family role imposed on me of Scapegoat; my personal experience of recovery is that the compensation for expressing my direct truth where heard by my family, tends to come in the form of violent verbal abuse and criticism. Besides, my parents and other individuals are not likely to be too happy to read what I am writing about them in order to achieve my own transformation! So for the purpose of personal safety and sanctuary, I need to start with anonymity, whether I like it or not.
I do have a comfortable sense of acceptance about most of my reasons for doing so. I've always wanted to have a Pen name. It’s fun! Also, establishing alter egos can be a very effective tool for healing old pain and nurturing the aforementioned “Selves.” In addition, a few complex issues with writing in such a detailed and intense manner cascade towards me while going thru my steps and tools using specific 12 Step Recovery Literature. I’d just like to write about that publicly for a while first before deciding to reveal my true identity. Adjusting to being so honest about my intimate character defects and old core shame stuff is one nuance; as well as working thru my own particular clarity about where precisely the line of discernment is for my general recovery anonymity in meetings and expressing that process in my personal blog. For example, Melody Beattie wrote a whole series of books which, for all intent and purpose, established a new a set of guidelines for a new recovery program, Codependents Anonymous. But since she published under her own name and earned money that way, none of her literature is now considered “Conference Approved” by the CoDA World Service Organization, and therefore cannot be used in meetings except by autonomous Group Conscience vote by individual meetings. I really have not yet had a chance to decide whether any of my privy writing aspirations include published works that would influence the direction of that program or perhaps an evolved program derivative. For that matter, one of the main purposes for this whole set of Hubs is to take all the time I need to work and write through a great many sets of nuances and decisions of the surplus Selves and departments of life they reside in, and let that develop into an important source of income. It’s best just to take the time I need to do that while staying safe in anonymity for a while and I’m OK with that.
However, there is one particular aspect of the necessity of “anonymity as a starting point” reflecting upon which is urgently bringing up a whole spectrum of deep and difficult emotions. The first of these is my absolute confidence in the abundance of my own self-awareness, innate creative resource and ability to generate interesting writing from original, unique and innovative ideas slamming into the fact I’m beginning my published career under anonymity and with reference to someone else’s renowned work, especially one whose movie of the book has already been out on cable for over a year and is possibly a bit passé by now! However, the depths to which I resonate with that material, and how a similar loss of love was the “driver” of my own mid-life crisis is not the source of that pain. Rather, the profound difference in my outcome comparing and contrasting my life with that of Elizabeth Gilbert is what hurts me, as well as the profound anthropological significance of the great many women’s lives I see in that comparison extending to historical female writers such as Jane Austin and Beatrix Potter. Along with the real necessity of preserving my personal safety, the great pain is accepting the position I have found myself in and admitting the person in that position is me. Even worse, I am also seeing that in spite of 3 centuries of advancement on the elevation in stature and success of women in all disciplines and professional authority, there are still just as many women stuck in what feels like a very old prison of outdated circumstances as there are modern day successful women.
Elizabeth Gilbert is a healthy, wealthy female writer born July 18 - 2 days before Neil Armstrong’s Moon Landing. I am a sick and broke female writer born August 19 of the same year -1 day after Woodstock ended. The summer of 1969 definitely made its mark on history, as did Ms. Gilbert. Auspiciously being born (almost) precisely one month before me surely must mean that so will I…eventually. I find in this woman and in both of these books, EAT PRAY LOVE and COMMITTED many parallels to my own artistic sensibilities and personal desires as well as many reflections on the other side of my coin. Living with a long term, mysterious chronic illness and an under-earning problem, at home with my senior parents in a very dysfunctional and well, at times, verbally abusive situation; her journey is compelling to me for the same reasons as it was to a whole generation of women, but also for some opposing ones as well. If I had been healthy and rich I would have made that journey and so many others like it a long time ago! But the fact is I feel I must have it while being trapped in a situation that works against me. Yes, my situation is a lot of my own making, but is also one which seemingly transpired in spite of all of my best efforts at wellness and recovery, which are long and significant. I feel angry her story sounded too easy and that mine has always been about the hard way relentlessly forced on me.
Of course I cannot begrudge MS Gilbert her success. She earned all of her financial rewards through her own creative expression and had the right to do whatever she wanted to with it. And she did something that benefitted a whole generation of women and me, so of course I’m grateful for her work and to share the planet with her. At the same time, I know my own abilities, worth and potential and actual work and accomplishments, so it’s still very difficult even after all my spiritual development and experience, to articulate the rage I feel sometimes that, for some reason, my life and spiritual challenges have been so much harder than everyone else’s. What would the EAT, PRAY, LOVE story look like if it was experienced and written by an author of the same gender/age/generation who was chronically sick, broke and stuck at home with her decidedly unsupportive parents, unable to “divorce” herself from a significantly dysfunctional, dependent relationship, and already deep into a long term spiritual life? A Spiritual life that already included 24 years as a devotee of the world Goddess pantheons, 28 years of cognitive, Jungian, Somatic Experiencing, IFS, and Imago individual therapy; 10+ years of 12 step recovery work in AL-Anon, CoDA, DA and ACOA, with 30+ years of exploration in multiple disciplines of visual and performing arts, Eastern Philosophies, Alternative Medicine, a broad spectrum of disciplines in body/energy work, metaphysical and therapeutic modalities, and was herself a healer of sorts? Well, it would probably look at a lot like what the ultimate progress of this Hub and all its Sister Hubs will eventually be: an opus done by an author whose total soul circumstances were in exact opposition from her original counterpart. Certainly a powerful market exists for this new perspective on an old subject, thru which I believe a whole huge neglected portion of the world’s population of women would finally have a dedicated focus.
This brings me to the other very compelling juxtaposition, together with 3 sets of one century’s worth of progress for women: The Case of Jane Austin and Beatrix Potter. A juxtaposition discovered in the same year of encounter with Eat, Pray, Love and after watching 2 Netflix DVD’s in succession: Becoming Jane with Ann Hathaway and Miss Potter featuring Renee Zellweger.
The first woman lived at the turn of the 19th century, wrote by choice in anonymity and died young from a chronic illness, unmarried and childless after living at home with her mother and unmarried sister. Her work became such an important National Treasure long after her death that her writing desk still sits beside the Magna Charta in her home country wherever such items of historic value are held. Although, Jane Austin deciding not to get married and “live off her pen” was a radical empowered thing for a women to do in the early 1800’s, which was a “barbaric time for women” in the words of James Cromwell, who played her father in the movie. I tell you, a whole new education can be found in DVD “bonus features!” She also had a very close relationship with her unmarried sister, with whom she lived in a peaceful idyllic country home where she did her writing free from the chaos and existential vexation of modern technologies. It is entirely possible she may have had much more enjoyment living in that situation than I do in mine. But she was not able to enjoy the fruits of her success in her own lifetime, never knew the intimacy of being happily married with her own family, and never recovered from the strain of her “radical lifestyle,” as I believe that stress exacerbated her adrenal deficiencies which led to an early death.
The second, who lived at the turn of the 20th century, began her writing career also living at home with her parents and brother, in spite of their deliberate obstinate ignorance of her talent. Beatrix Potter made so much money off her children’s books, the Peter Cottontail series, that she bought up all the farms of her beloved childhood nature retreat, which inspired her animal drawings that eventually illustrated her books. She not only enjoyed this success with her husband and children, but also established a land preserve to protect what was most beloved to her that is cared for to this day by her progeny.
Today, at the turn of the 21st Century, our whole American, and much of the world’s cultures are populated with so many successful women like Elizabeth Gilbert after Beatrix Potter model. The success of these women is well established in every field and professional discipline, including many of the world political leaders, as with the first female American president that we are about to have. Writing after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, this truth is also well illustrated by the appearance of many new sports that are including women for the first time. Unfortunately, a profound constraining truth comes to my attention after listening to many other women on the planet share my same story on worldwide telephone 12 Step meetings these past 4 years; at least as many women are still living like me trapped in the Jane Austin model.
As a priestess and devotee of the Goddess with a passionate sense of justice, I feel strongly about being an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment. I’m so grateful for the countless great women in the centuries preceding this one who created these opportunities for me in this century. The problem is I wanted to be one of them! It really hurts to be in this other position now and admit to myself that I am one of those who are. At this time in my life, with all the advances in the new millennium, I **should** be on the other side of all that hard work and training with artistic and financial success. Instead, after fighting so hard in my own way for women’s health and an artist’s unique lifestyle, I feel the stress of my path has deteriorated into an illness of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) Auto-immune Thyroiditis, and a weak immune system. Being so flat out depleted, some days I feel so close to death and the idea of climbing this mountain NOW with this Hub, at my age and in my condition, just feels so damned hard to do. Especially since I keep forgetting I’ve already done it once before 20 years ago when I was healthy with youthful benefit of unlimited energy!
But I am in this position and do need to start out of necessity with the “Jane Archetype.” Through the crucible of this writing, I want to evolve into embodiment of the “Beatrix Archetype” in my lifetime. Not only do I, like all the other women on the planet, deserve to have a life that supports and harmonizes with my inner value and talents free from the intense struggle which should never have been necessary to anyone, but the desire to do so comes out of some desperation. As an only child, I have no siblings like Jane’s sister to support me emotionally or like her brother, who republished all her work after her death in her name, enabling her to have posthumous success. And my parents more resemble those of Beatrix’s who remained in deliberate obstinate denial of her unusual talents, as they were slaves to their expectations of their social culture and generation. I do have an overabundance of cousins, but they are so busy with their own children I hardly ever see them and don’t have the relationship I wish I had with them. I’m pretty sure none of them actually believe I’m sick, rather that am just sponging indiscriminately off my parents in avoidance of having a “real life”. So I feel quite isolated, without confidence that anyone in my family will feel moved to see to it my work is available to all the next generations under my name after I’m gone.
2010 was the year I lost the love of my life, discovered telephone 12 Step meetings, began Chinese herbs & acupuncture and was called by Elizabeth, Jane and Beatrix to finally climb out of a black pit of despair, grief and insomnia to start this blog. And it was the year I turned 41, the same age Jane Austin died. Looking back on it now, I see myself on the precipice of a cliff repeating her same pattern. Of course, as grateful as I am that my disease is not debilitating, and could still live a long life; it could still remain a lifelong unlived under the cloak of miserable chronic symptoms and poor quality. In a way, is that not worse than death? Maybe it is a kind of death for a vibrant creative soul such as me. Either way sucks so consequently this blog had to be born. The grim reaper was on my shoulder and I could delay no longer- but simply MUST begin to change my life NOW! I have an opportunity our Jane never had - to redirect the course of my own herstory, picking up where she left off as another “stuck” soul allowing a partial unlived life to be completed into a fully lived one. With 3 centuries worth of perspective, I have no excuse! My fictional energy goes towards my modern dance choreography and fiber art. Therefore, mind you, I will not be picking up as an author of masterful fiction encapsulating the precise identity of relationships in my time; but as a writer of brutally honest essays of one woman’s true story … perhaps still encapsulating the precise identity of relationships in my time.
Unfortunately, “NOW” in poverty and chronic illness time, is actually 4 years: the length of time it took to follow thru. And so I begin with anonymity. In a later capsule, it might be fun to share some stories about how these three names - Agnes Elmira Kepler - became my pen, thereby bringing into existence some of my rich inner life and experience and fleshing out the identity of this particular “Self.” For today it is enough to say the primary motivation and generating thrust of this whole set of hubs is to determine how on EARTH did I get myself -with all my natural born talent & intelligence, and gifts of opportunities & resources “standing on the shoulders of giants” who came before me - into this position of perceived failure? And how on earth can I move from this position into the other archetype in my lifetime with my current set of limitations?
I will be taking a thorough inventory of my situation, including my work, health, relationship, family, education, artistic and spiritual history and its many complex levels of nuance, to gain sober awareness of my past so I can be free of it. Certainty of my personal sense of safety – and/or strength and ability to effectively manage the potential “flak from boundary setting” will be developed before revealing my true identity. All of the other nuances of my inner process remain the same, carefully leaving out any details that may reveal my location or identity, although dealing with reference to specific people and places personal to me has not yet been reconciled. I want to restore my health and emotional sobriety and make definite progress earning money with this effort to make calm and deliberate choices in all these areas for a new future. Ultimately a successful career as an artist and activist/advocate will grow making use of all our modern technological advancements in social networking and brand marketing. Enough resources thru the fruits of my own success will accumulate to build and enjoy a life with a family of my choosing; and enable me to champion, defend and preserve what matters most to me. Somehow all this gets accomplished while I still live, under my own name, bypassing the need to wait till after I’m dead, while suffering in silent miserable obscurity for a lifetime first, as was the destiny of so many artists. Maybe along the way I will gain enough perspective to realize that this desire alone does make me the heroic and empowered woman I always wanted to be. Goddess, if it be your Will, give me the strength to carry it through long enough to be famous for it!