A "Book Of Life"
My life in years, written in 2004-2005, revisited in 2017


November 10 1977 - November 9, 1978
"The Year of Many Awakenings"

The trend of years not very distinct from each other ends this year. I experienced so many awakenings on the sexual, spiritual and magickal sides, that I emerged from this year a rather different person.

The first awakening was of a sexual nature. In terms of the world around me, until this point I was 'asleep'. I didn't find anyone really 'sexy'. I was greatly disturbed to find myself noticing the sexy aspects of women. I'd see a woman at the college and be admiring the roundness of her physical aspects, and found myself experiencing a sort of pleasurable 'twang'. This scared the crap out of me. It had to mean I was that thing that was whispered so many years ago of me, when my friends all went 'boy-crazy', a 'lesbian'.

(Actually, it could also mean that I was basically bisexual, and mostly clueless, but that was an awakening for ANOTHER day much later in my life.) Meanwhile, there I was sensuously enjoying the varied beauties of women, and I sort of freaked. I remember I found much comfort in a brown covered book, "Loving Someone Gay", by Don Clark. I'm glad to see they still sell that book.

I bought my copy at the local college bookstore. I was petrified when I brought it to the sales clerk, positively petrified. I gave a glance to the young black woman, and she wore an expression of extreme boredom. She still seemed bored when dealing with me, and seemed quite unaware of my terror.

I did some research and learned there was a gay community organization at the university I would be attending in fall, and eagerly but nervously anticipated joining. Meanwhile, I felt very alone, and didn't know where to turn. I had hopes my relatively liberal mother might understand, and after many years of no communication with her, I finally confided in her. Her reaction was priceless, after I finally struggled out my confession. ''Ya mean, that's ALL that's bothering you? I thought you were gonna tell me you were PREGNANT!'' I weakly smiled and replied, ''No, ma, not pregnant!''

It was good to be in fellowship with my Mother again, and we soon began to make up for the lost years between age 12 and 19. We'd go sit and talk in her light blue car, mostly. Just park and sit in her car and talk. The cool summer nights made this easy.

Those summer nights were the source of another awakening this year. I'd been somewhere with Gramma and Dad, I don't remember where, but I remember arriving home and exiting the car. It just hit me out of the blue, the deep midnight blue sky. I looked at the many twinkling stars, and it was like I saw them for the first time. I was amazed at so many little precious twinklers. And then this feeling rushed through me, and I knew a great Force had gone into their making. I knew it! I knew also in this moment that Ayn Rand's atheism was not the most enlightened view, that there was something More. I felt a great thrill as I sensed this Power and wanted to know more about it.

I didn't have any book knowledge at all, no background history of Gods and Goddesses through out time, I just KNEW that Power was electrical in nature, and that I felt better when plugged into it. I told other theists my impressions and they didn't seem to readily understand what I was saying. No one did, although Gramma's face did turn a more ordinary shade of pink, and her blood pressure lessened. At least in her mind I wasn't an atheist anymore.

The next years were confusing ones for me spiritually. I didn't know where I fit. The Objectivism of Ayn Rand no longer fit, but I was clueless. When I read of the Rosicrucians and the psychic powers, there seemed a connection. It would be six years from then, at age 25, that I sent off to join their organization. But how frustrating those little light green booklets were! They seemed to talk to me like I was a dummy. They cost so much and seemed worthless.

So I quit the Rosicrucians and sort of floundered. Occasionally, I'd get inspiration from the nearest MCC, aka 'gay church' twenty four miles away. The preacher seemed a lively and caring man. But I have leaped time here in this remembrance, six whole years worth, and have passed over those most painful years when I was away at college. I shall return to the sequential account of events.


November 10 1978 - November 9, 1979

I'm confused. My time sense of events is skewed, and I'm getting my sequences wrong. It is taking some effort to sort these things out. This was my first year at University. The shock of dorm life was enough for sheltered me, let alone other things to come later. I had uneasy tensions with my roommate. I felt awkward and strange, and indeed, I was awkward and strange. But I got through this year, and survived until summer. I remember my Mother picking me up, and spending that summer at Gramma's.

Revisiting my College Years in Dreams
"August 11, 2005"

This morning I had a dream. I was in college, in Lincoln dorm, and oh yes, just as nervous as I was then. I was running late, and the main cafeteria just shut their doors as I got to them, but there was an alterative cafeteria. All the hot food tables were closed down, but there was still the cold food items. I grabbed some bread, some sliced beef and some bananas. The bananas did a weird thing and shrunk smaller. I was nervous, and my stomach was queasy. I thought, "Why am I getting all this food when I am too queasy to eat it?" But I thought I should eat, so I was going to try.

At the cash register, I pulled out my debit card to pay for it. (Never mind in 1979, there were no debit cards.) The clerk at the register said there was a way to add a tip, should I so desire. I didn't realize she was joking, and saw there was a different place to slide the card, should we want to add a tip. I felt so brittle and strange. When I fumbled with my card, the clerk said, "No, I was joking,", with a look of pitying puzzlement on her face that I didn't get the joke. I woke up then.

Lots of this dream was weird, but so much of it was the twenty year old me exactly. Especially that sense of being 'oh so nervous' came back to me. I relived it. These were awful days for me.

Twenty One
November 10 1979 - November 9, 1980

The next summer I spent at the school, in a small boarding house, because I didn't want to return to the repressive fundy environment.

I did find that GCO organization at the university, soon after arriving in 1979, and went to all their gatherings, including dances held at the local Knights of Columbus building. It was there I came to love disco music, and Donna Summer. They'd always end each dance with her song, ''Last Dance''. In retrospect, we were just a small group of folks in a farm town, quietly socializing and occasionally dancing. I had my first taste of wine at one of those gatherings, a dark burgundy, and was puzzled to find its effect less than I'd expected. Surely for it to be so condemned by my family's fundy church, it should have more of an effect. It might have been more of a sedetive, had I not been so nervous all the time. I was out of my mind nervous at any of the gatherings.

Everything was just a shock to me, having been raised in the sheltered fundy environment. From my vantage point now, it is almost laughable. We were not big city decadents, just queer folks in a farm town socializing. I have read in books of the truly decadent things done in sequestered bar rooms, come one, come all orgies including S&M festivities for any who dare. We were simple farm folk.

Nevertheless, compared to the repression inherant in the fundy world, in which simple basic pleasures like dancing, the occasional alcoholic drink and movies are denied, that little farm folk fun was 'decadent'. I couldn't loosen up, couldn't relax. It got worse and worse, until dizziness attended me at all moments. I could not think clearly, the smallest thing like deciding what to wear became a challenge. Strangely though, I was able to summon my energies to write a paper about a modern artist named Hofmann. But then came a crisis point.

I could not go on like this. I didn't know what to do. I'd sought the help of the local counselors, but they were useless. I did not want to take the numbing Valium pills they prescribed. Rather than get at the source of the troubles, these pills only made me feel like a walking zombie. When my mother expressed alarm at my taking these pills, I readily agreed and flushed the things down the toilet.

But I was not getting any better. Thoughts that I was a defective human being for this entered my head, along with the thought that such defectiveness made me not worthy to live. I got scared enough. My mother hadn't had any real advice, so I tried Gramma. Gramma, for all her critical nature at other times, somehow understood the severity of the problem. She told me to hang in there, and she and Aunt June would be on their way to get me ASAP.

Knowing help was on its way relieved me of some worst torments. After two weeks away from school, I still did not feel any better, and we decided it was best I withdraw. This was in October of 1979. Fortunately, I was still in time to withdraw and get my money back, so I received a report card with all W's on it.

It seemed that it would be a long time before I could ever return to finish my degree. And sickness is like that. Nothing lengthens the sense of time like misery. Make no mistake about it, mental and emotional misery can be far worse than physical misery. I will admit the worst physical misery I've had is in the throes of a gall bladder attack, eight hours of vomiting and rolling on the floor in utter agony. There could be worse physical misery. Still, if I had to choose between the gall bladder misery and gut wretching anxiety and depression, I'd go for the physical.

This illness got worse before it got better. I felt so ashamed at needing to withdraw, that added to my burdens. I felt a totally incompetent human being. I felt guilty that my presence was creating a hardship for my Gramma. I felt guilty that my sick vibes were there to bring everyone down. In that guilt, I decided to go live with my Dad and his wife. This was in November of 1980.

Twenty Two
November 10 1980 - November 9, 1981

I'm confused. I know I eventually graduated from the University in December of 1981. I did not spend more than from November 1980 to the next summer at my Dad's. I re-entered University in August of 1981. But the effects of anxiety distorts the perception of time. Yes, it was in November of 1980 I went to join them. Dad's wife Nancy overcame her hostilities towards me for a while and fed me all sorts of food to fatten me up. As one of the effects of the anxiety had been loss of appetite, I'd grown quite skinny.

Meanwhile, I felt glad to not be a burden to my Gramma anymore. It is a strange thing. I read a horoscope message which I intepreted to mean that I should get a job. Never mind I was still a complete emotional wreck. I went down to the small restaurant and applied for the clerk-waitress job. To my utter shock, I got the job. It was extremely difficult to learn the tasks required, with the constant dizziness I experienced. I'm sure my co-workers thought I was on drugs. I cried to my Gramma and Aunt on the phone, regarding the difficulty I was having. This was one wise thing my Aunt did. She did not tell me to quit. Somehow she knew one more failure was NOT what I needed. She encouraged me in every way possible to stick it out.

I did, and eventually learned the tasks. The thought came to me, that although still wildly nervous, I should 'play it cool'. I played the part of one who was not nervous but calm. Strangely enough, the acting led to this state being real. In the conquering of those job tasks, I found a triumph, and that triumph was the strength I needed to build upon into the healing transformation. I had come into being as a triumphant person, having learned those job tasks, and by that process, the process of coming into a healed state was established. The constant agony ceased and I began to know a calmness I had never known, even prior to the illness.

Meanwhile, Nancy returned to her hostile self, and called one summer day to tell me to get out of the house. She blamed me for their marital troubles, although I had always given them plenty of space. I had to get a neighbor to take me and my possessions to Gramma's house. Another friend of Dad's offered to let me board at his house while I still worked at the restaurant. But by this time, I'd saved enough money for college, and felt I wanted to be again with Gramma.

So out of this difficult transition, there evolved a healing and the result was a more whole me than I'd ever been. Not ever knowing the agony to which humans can fall, I had not prior any true sympathy or understanding of what real suffering was. I gained thereby a compassion for all suffering beings. But what one does not experience ones own self, one can not understand. It all begins with the Self.

Finding myself able to give myself that compassion needed for healing was the only way I could ever be able to give it to another being. This is what philosophies which denegrate the Self fail to understand. I think it is why there are so many wars in the world. Love and peace have to start within one's own Self, and if the person is always looking outward, they can never attain it.

(A Look Within, from 2005 to 1981)

"The nature of god-men is not formed in times of joy.
It is formed in times of trouble."

Say this, then, the cry of despair,
of what was there,
and what was not,
and I had to make sense of it all.
but the only sense that could be found was in me.

Ugly patterns, all around,
no 'art' to it,
the pillars had all fallen down,
and I was asked to make art,
but didn't know how.

So for ugliness I cannot call art,
it was me, and that uglyness,
and the only light was my own in that darkness,
and it ebbed low.

Ebbed so low,
I could not see.
It was just me,
and walls and walls
of a confusing maze.

I did not know that the endpoint
was within,
and to stop trying to 'get out',
for I was there all along.

So all around me was confusion.
and I succumbed to it.
"Emotions follow thoughts",
confusing thoughts, confusing emotions.

There was no way to hack through the thick jungle
with my tiny knife.
So I took the knife on myself in accusation.
No, I wasn't a 'cutter'
but my thoughts cut sharper and deeper than any knife.
You think yourself 'garbage',
and dissolution begins.

But the call for help
began the change for better.
Then the see-saw,
back and forth,
up, down of emotions:

Guilt, fear, shame,
shame, fear, guilt.
Nothing much changed
until 'a little bird' whispered in my ear,
"just play it cool",
pretend to have the personality of a calm person.

Then the low ebb of the flame within flickered a little brighter.
MAGIC happened,
real magic.
I brought into being
what did not exist before.
"Emotions follow thoughts".

I 'thought' as a calm person,
and then became a calm person.
Each success with this built on the previous success,
and strength filled through out me.

So within me, I found my own light,
I saw in the darkness by my self created light.
Thus it is,
"The nature of god-men is not formed in times of joy.
It is formed in times of trouble."

And so now I am Illuminaria,
because I succeeded in seeing by my own self made light.
I am god-woman, hear me roar!

(All parts in quotes by Don Webb. And a nod to Helen Reddy, as well.
"Illuminaria" was a name I called myself in 2005.)

JAL, 8-13-05

Twenty Three
November 10 1981 - November 9, 1982

Visual And Performing Arts
December 20, 1981

I got my BA in Art History/Studio Art with a minor in Philosophy that day. Finishing my college years on a triumphant note, I went home and took the first job I could find. It was in food service, making desserts, whose batter was stored in huge pails the size of garbage bins, but colored white to distinguish them. I did try for one job in Chicago, at the Art Institute, but was not chosen.

Food service wasn't really my thing, and one co-worker told me that in just those words. In March of 1982, Gramma saw an ad in the paper for a seamstress at a local alteration shop. She thought it would make sense to try it, as I spent much of my free time sewing anyway. I brought various samples of clothing I'd made to the interview and the proprietor was impressed enough to hire me.

I spent most of this year learning how to do the specific tasks. Learning the zipper method was easy, 'fly side first', but learning sleeve shortening took awhile. By the end of this year, I'd gotten the basic tasks down and was given harder tasks, as well. The most difficult job was narrowing lapels on jackets, and as people brought their wide lapels from the seventies to look more like the narrow lapels of the 80's, we got quite a few of those. Precise attention to perfection of seam is necessary for those, as the tiniest wobble shows up very distinctly. And thus alteration and repairs are what I've done for the last 22 years, with the exception of one odd year spent as a clerk in a convenience store. It's somewhat creative, provides a useful service, and I've mostly enjoyed it. That it pays not richly, well, that is one of those things I endure. I would rather perform a 'humble' job that I enjoy, than be paid big bucks doing something I hated.

The knowledge gained at college has enriched me greatly. Now that I am middle aged, I am doing more with the artistic expression, so those years and the money spent has not gone to waste.

© JAL, 8-14-05, (
Click to see larger)

And thus I have spent most of my working days since 1982!

Twenty Four
November 10 1982 - November 9, 1983

I spent each week simply, getting to work by bus, and pretty much just staying around town. Any independant adventurings were tepid, indeed. I even went with Gramma to her church most Sundays, with little complaint. No rebel, at all, I was.

But a vague disatisfaction was beginning to grow until it was no longer vague. Here's an excerpt from a journal entry at that time:

May 13, 1983

Friday the 13th... The rain pelts the earth with fierceness and thunder rips the sky. It is so safe inside, where it's warm and dry.

I wonder so often about the mysteries of life, always trying to crack life's secret code. It's a tantalizing search. Every now and then I find a clue. I wonder about what powers we have to control our fate. I think of M. always talking about when she had this and that and now she has nothing. I think of how she could have, with better choices, not ended up in the mess she is. I know that the responsibility for choices made lies with us. I wish I could pour common sense into her, but it doesn't work.

I suppose it is the same with someone looking at me, wishing they could fill me with bravery and the moxie I lack. Yet I know the responsibility lies with me.

And possibly I may figure it all out, all of this wondrous mystery of life.

I did find clues to solving some of the frustrations I faced. I was at the bookstore in the mall one day, looking at book titles, and was reminded again of the world that lay beyond me. I soon discovered the joy of catalogs and order by mail. If I could not get out to the world beyond, the world beyond could get to me. Thus it is, a wide variety of literature and music of a decidedly LGBT culture came to me.

I found the folk music known then as 'Women's music' especially uplifting. Women inspiring each other to be daring and break the molds society set for them was what I needed. Why, I might even learn to be daring myself!

My Mother was willing to aid in this regard, and we decided I should again have a go at learning to drive. When I was younger, my Dad had proved a poor teacher. Reminding the timid student that ''There are people who kill, not with guns, not with knives, but with cars!'' is the surest way to scare the crap out of them. However, my Mother had a relaxed and easy manner. Having a great love of cars may be what enabled her to know just the right way to put me at ease.

My mother took this picture of my first car, and wrote the dates I'd owned it on the picture back: 4/29/83 to 4/16/87. I used money I'd saved up to pay for it with cash, just slightly over 2000 dollars.

We had confidence I'd learn, for I bought the car while still only possessing a learner's permit. However success wasn't immediate. I am amused to find reference to an old journal entry of this time among more current journal entries:

June 9, 1983

What I want to do: Make beautiful poems and love beautiful women, be sensuous all the time, free, say what I feel, be what I feel, know what I feel, me - macho, drive that car RIGHT, man.

I made a huge dumb mistake driving Tuesday, and I haven't got back my confidence . . .

But eventually, I did regain my confidence and in the summer of this year I had the happy triumph of acquiring my driver's license.

Learning to Drive
I was just relaxing, thinking about what it meant to me to learn how to drive, and thought I'd let myself ramble along those directions:

Hands on the wheel,
I can feel all the potential speed
under my control,
dangerous and exciting,
Set likes speed, too.

(Note from December 19, 2009)
(For many years, Egyptologists were puzzled about the animal representing Set. Ken Moss has made a good case for the Saluki, as he says "The erect status of both the tail and ears of the Seth-animal is also now clear. The animal was portrayed in its hunting state rather than while resting like most dogs or canine deities (Anubis, for example, who was a dog said by some to have been fathered by Seth). This fits perfectly with the god Seth himself, the all-powerful god of action, a hunter and perpetual dispatcher of the serpent Apep [Apophis]. (From _Ancient Egypt_, August/September 2009, page 44)

And with my hands on the wheel of the car, I know what a dangerous power I have under my control. Combustion engine firing, pistons popping, it is all for speedy travel.

And once I'd mastered this skill, it wasn't too long before I was standing up to Gramma and moving out on my own. Confidence breeds confidence. A little daring encourages a little more.

Speedy wheels! They got me past old boundaries, into new territories, expanding the range of the possible.

It was scary to learn how to drive, and exciting, too.

June 16, 2004
November 10 1983 - November 9, 1984

March 10, 1984

The wise, all seeing woman walked into my room, and laid before me a green velvet pouch. So soft it was on the exterior, but what could it contain? ''What is this'' I asked. She said solemnly, ''this is a knife to slice away at lies.''

March 23, 1984

A couple of days ago Gramma and I were talking at the kitchen table, relaxing. She asked me what was the first thing that I could remember ever wanting. I thought and answered, ''Mail.'' When I was six years old, I wanted mail so bad I even wrote a letter to myself, addressed an envelope, stamped it and had my parents mail it. I am not much different now. In my college days I would go to my mail box in earnest hopes. When too many days passed by without any mail, I felt as if I needed to check the mirror to see if I really existed.

Now that I am at home and working, when I come home, my first question isn't ''What's for supper?" but ''Did I get any mail?'' Body food is important but spirit food is more so. ... A letter brings true excitement.

I am so glad I have that old written record, for I'd forgotten those memories.

Twenty Six
November 10 1984 - November 9, 1985

With the freedom driving a car gave me, I was ready to broaden my horizons in other ways. I was tired of only passively reading books, I wanted real 2-way communication with kindred spirits. I found a pen pal club for 'womyn', and soon began cooresponding with various women from all over. Most were brief exchanges of letters, but, Jackie, one penpal from England and I wrote for many years until sadly my letters to her were returned to me, with the word 'deceased' in large capital letters on the outside.

Real communication with real people fortified me greatly. I began thinking of the day when I'd have a place of my own. I bought pots, pans, and dishes for that day, which was to come sooner that I thought.

April 21, 1985

I feel pooped, shot full of holes. Screwed royally, you might say. Gramma and I got into it this morning, Really into it. she told me to pack my bags and leave. Not exactly those words, but at any rate I am to look for another place to live...

She said ever since I went to Northern and got in with that 'way-out group' (the gay/lesbian organization), that I hadn't been the same, that God (that is, her conception of the Divine Creator) didn't mean anything to me anymore. And furthermore she said she knows what kind of books I've been reading. She said when the books come with a plain wrapper, and no company name, that means that 'aren't the best'.

I told her I loved her, but I in no way could compromise what I believed in and value any longer...

Standing up for my values, oh that took lots of guts. It did, and I am proud of me. I think I did it with quite a bit of grace, actually. And I was so scared, and my heart pounded. But I did it anyway. And for that, I am so proud of myself.

It wasn't too many more entries in that spiral bound notebook, before this one:

May 8, 1985

I've made it to Broadway! Apartment 2C, 28 N. Broadway! Yes, a wonderful three room (if you count the bathroom) apartment is mine! I get the keys Friday!

May 13, 1985

I've gone and done it, I've really gone and done it! I'm lying here on the sofa bed. Somehow it seems more real now. There's a strange clanging outside that I have to get used to. This apartment is across from a school. There is a flag pole which has a metal cord that constantly hits it. Also, Broadway is a much busier busier street than Leach, so I have to get used to all the cars...

The Desplaines river flows behind this apartment house. The open windows at the center were to my rooms.

The following is a fascinating entry, with possibly prophetic portent:

July 1, 1985

(This is a subconsciously produced dream while awake.)

A large woman is seated at a dining table, eating dinner in a secluded part of a restaurant. She is wearing a white dress with huge black spots and is laughing very low-voiced. Transvestite? She is talking to another also dining at the table with her, a gentle slender boy in his early twenties. He is calm, yet nicely awed and warmed.

The woman is wearing a huge ring, of which the boy eyes the passage of through space, as if it were a separate moving object of its own accord. He is hypnotised by it. He wonders about his dinner-companion, (if a man, really, and if the companion would like him sexually.) The jewel of the ring grows in size, so that it startles even the wearer of it, who exclaims, ''Oh no! what are our fates to be?''

The deep bass resonance of the voice reveals a truly male companion. The boy's eyes glow light out of them. The earlier laugh of the man-woman is now echoed from within the ring, now sphere-size and floating above the dinner table, held there by the fact it is still on the man/woman's hand.

S/he rapidly loses that 'jaded look' and becomes scared. ''Oh, my God!'' s/he lets out in falsetto.

The sphere cracks open and they find themselves in a different planet with palm trees, yellow skies and orange grass. Now free of the ring, the man/woman grows rapidly youthful and slender. S/he is as s/he appeared at 20, only lighter in spirit. S/he is jubilant, even, and begins dancing, still wearing the polka dot dress. A song with a jungle beat arrives from nowhere to accompany he/r.

''Shall we dance?'' s/he asks the boy, who has aged about ten years. ''Yes, throw away cares, let's DANCE!''. They dance.

Prophetic, I do believe, but at that time I couldn't have known this. It is only with my current perspective that I realize the boy represents myself, who would grow in maturity with association with a certain man/woman, with a deep bass voice, if sh/e did not artificially pitch its tone higher. As I grew in maturity, so the richness of our love brought a youthful heart to Laura, who had become jaded with life's cares. Also, I did find myself later in a different world with my man/woman. Not quite as odd as the one in this dream, Arizona none the less is replete with many palm trees.

next section, 27 to 29
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© Joan Ann Lansberry