Everything around me is dying.
Relationships, cats, young police officers.
If I really start thinking about it, I won’t get up again.
Cells, me, Jow, my mother, my other mother, my best friend.
Some are more eminent than others. Bellatrix Peepingston, our other cat, our Siamese if you don’t please is going through kidney failure as we learned today. She has maybe a year, maybe longer. Maybe shorter. The young cop who had his funeral today half a block away from where I work, his wife seven months pregnant with their third, neither of them quite 30 yet. She gave his eulogy. He died on his way to work. Some guy threw his car over a divider and they both died instant. I think about how in the Middle Ages there was protocol for the death of a young beloved prince – the chief mourner, who walked behind who, the Londoners standing outside their shops crying for a man they never even knew. I saw that today, as we stood silently outside our big old rambling house where we work, the street lined with people, motorcycles, horses, grim faced female detectives–
The bomb squad.
When the hearse passed, I felt that overwhelming shock of grief that comes with a life snuffed out too soon. We stood together and apart, our eyes wet with tears.
Exile is painful sometimes, sisters. So painful. The skills you are required to have that you were never called upon to use in your previous life. If we were truly medieval queens in exile, it would be things like bargaining with fishmongers, learning encryption, making a budget, knowing when your brother is really going to try to kill you and/or your children and having a contingency plan for that. . .In real life, exile calls for knowing when to jump ship and when to ride the tide, who are reliably your friends and who pays lip service to you, who is trying to ruin you, what skills will be impressive to others in the work place, when to feign that you are a helpless princess and when to remind yourself that you are a queen capable of standing in the space you occupy and taking down those who would oppose you, how to make dinner with whatever is about to go off in your fridge, how to learn to entertain without spending a small fortune and making yourself crazy, all those skills we’ve been forced to learn in various capacities.
So okay, you’ve taken what you can carry as we’ve previously established as a metaphorical medieval queen. Wait, let’s sit here a moment. What would you take? Your children? (That is not a given, sister queens. Sometimes taking your children would endanger them more, sometimes they were already being held hostage elsewhere but reasonably safe, sometimes you just didn’t want to be slowed down in your flight in the middle of the night. We learn difficult things about ourselves in exile. Things we never had to look at in our previous lives.) Your furs? Horses? Gold plate to sell off? Jewels? Letters? Seals? A mirror? Things you’ve stolen from your enemies? Your ladies? Your sisters? It has to be fast, fast, fast. You only have a few hours to plan how to escape and where to go and what your next move will be. The rest will be decided on the road and in exile. You must chose wisely. Do you want to stay hidden or are you going to war? What will you do if you are found? What will you do if you are defeated? The wind has changed against you this quickly, you’ve only been able to smell it outside your window for a day, maybe three. It’s not a lot of time to form a really cohesive plan. Royals went on progress during the warm months all the time but that required many servants, many mules, many chests to pack all your goods into and baggage carts. Progress moved slowly for a reason. Your servants and your ladies in waiting will have been planning your next Progress for months. Here’s a hint for the newly exiled: um, you gonna get caught doing it that way. So basically, you can only take the modern equivalent of like four large suitcases. All your queenly worldly junk probably needs at least a hundred modern large suitcases. So really think about what you would take and why because it probably tells you a lot about your actual current exile and what’s important to you and where you need to be focused.
Your resources are limited because you’re in exile for a reason. You’ve been cut off from much of your financial resources, lots of powerful people are pissed off at you, many of your allies are pretending not to know you currently and it’s super stressful in exile either trying to stay hidden or plan a war on a limited budget especially when you’ve probably only mostly read the medieval equivalent of Ye Olde Bridal Magazine and have likely never tried to wage a war before and don’t really have a lot of weapons or gun powder. In the words of my nephew, Logan Robert Doggie, it’s not good.
How to Manage a Tiny Empire with Even Tinier Resources
- Keep your eye on the prize. Often, one winds up in exile because you are not willing to go along to get along. Examples: Catherine of Aragon would not be tucked into an abbey just because she was menopausal, Margaret Tudor was not going to stay married to her jerky husband when she had a hot new proto husband in the wings just because her stupid brother Henry wanted her to be, Elizabeth Woodville wasn’t super into being dispossessed of her throne periodically, platform issues essentially. What are you defending that’s yours that has sent you into exile? Why is it that important to you? Are you willing to make concessions? Where is your moral compass here? What are you willing to do to get out of exile? What won’t you do?
- Your emotional resources are limited, plan accordingly. Yes, you’re in exile. Yes, it’s hella, hella stressful. No, that doesn’t mean you get to take a pass card on whatever issue a loved one is having because this is your exile, goddamnit and you have enough problems. You also don’t need to surrender yourself to every issue or whim a loved one is having. Learn what is actually an emergency and what is not. Figure out what you actually have to give and don’t overextend past that part. Practice firmly saying, no I can’t do that. Sometimes going to lunch or taking one of your olds to the doctor or playing High Ho Cherry O for the nine millionth time that day will be a sacrifice, but one you can afford to make many times. Though sometimes, you will not have it in you. Learn what you can afford and what you can’t afford. Carve time for yourself to do what you want, even if it’s just an audiobook in the car or cooking what you want for dinner, tiny citizen revolt be damned, even if it’s a teeny act of self care. I go to the gym for 20 minutes to text on an elliptical. It’s better than not doing that. I had been putting off getting various items I needed for my beauty regime for an assortment of crummy to myself reasons that basically boiled down to: I stopped feeling like I was worth the effort. That’s crap. I had the money and the budget to replace the missing items and when I finally stopped dragging my feet about getting the items and then actually doing beauty regime, I felt like a human being for the first time in a while. I took a little piece of myself back by doing that. That’s how exile is won, taking back all of those tiny pieces you gave away. They’re yours. Demand them back and don’t back down.
- Your physical resources are limited, plan accordingly. Money, physical wellness, space are probably not infinite. Really figure out what you want and what you need. Sometimes take out is critical. Sometimes having domestic help is critical. Sometimes learning to make your own fun with what you have is critical so you can pay all your bills. Sometimes it’s worth skipping an experience you are not that into to have really good food at home. Sometimes it’s worth eating okay food for a bit to go to that experience. It’s a lot of trade offs. If you have physical wellness issues, know when it’s worth it to (temporarily) cripple yourself for an experience and when you need to go to bed at 9p. Learn to make these trades. You can’t have everything anymore so you need to be strategic both from a wellness perspective and also to keep your eye on the prize so you don’t find yourself unable to make bold moves because you have bankrupted yourself of self care, money and wellness.
- Make an exile plan. So, you escaped. Well done, sister queen. That’s the hardest part, finding the strength, boldness and luck to slither away from a court that’s turned against you. You ran, you took your goods. Now what will you do? How will you continue to adjust to exile? Are you planning to stay hidden or to go to war? How will you win your prize? Now is when you figure out how to find solid ground in exile.
- Get yourself supported. Exiled queens usually would talk to their ambassadors to beg other countries for financial support, military support and to start figuring out the terms of post-exile life. Your ambassadors are your family, friends and loved ones. Support in this modern life comes from many places and in many ways. If you can be brave enough to open your hands and ask for support, you will be really pleasantly surprised what will come back to you. Things you never thought to ask for, tea, “purse dumping” sessions, encouragement, retreats, sanctuary. Be appreciative and be sure to actually follow through with these offers. This is how exile alliances are made, through the kind hands of others.
- Stay Final Girl ready. You are in exile. You never know when you will need to run, seduce new allies, charm ambassadors, kiss and make up with your enemies over dinner or when someone will come to try to seize what few goods you have. Be ready for anything, as we talked about – go to the gym, go to yoga, strength train, limit your garbage animal habits so you stay sharp, be ready to entertain at a moment’s notice and have the perfect gown ready to wear to a gala you’ve managed to invite yourself to. Be ready to say yes to opportunities that bring you closer to your prize.
- Cast your charms. There’s a beautiful scene in The White Queen in the book and the movie where Jacquetta casts charms out to a river and her daughter winds them in a little at a time every night. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make that work without polluting local bodies of water. Here’s my thought: start collecting charms – on etsy, at thrift stores, at craft stores. Have a bag to keep them in. Think about your prize and your exile and select a number of charms. At least 3, no more than 13. When you need to know what your future holds, get some black sand and a large deep glass vase from a craft store. Put the craft sand at the bottom of the bowl. Measure at least a yard of thread (preferably, silk) and tie one end to each of your charms. Bury them in the sand. Add black sea glass or black dragon tears on top of the sand to the top of your vase. Leave it there for at least a week while intentionally working to forget which charms are there. When it’s fuzzy in your mind, add spring water. Chose your charm. Cut the threads to the other charms, symbolically cutting off futures that won’t happen (you can recycle them in your charm bag after the working is complete). Get a v. small dowel or empty spool and wind approximately four inches a night onto the dowel for nine nights. When you pull it out, use the water/stones to scry for what it means. Wear the charm somewhere on you until your charm’s meaning has come to pass. Once the meaning has come to pass, bury it at a crossroads.