There are moments where I look back to those heady days of beginning this Kemetic path of mine and I have to wonder why no one took me aside and said, hey. Hey. This shit is hard. I don’t think that would have actually deterred me from the path that I am on now, but I would like to think that if someone had given me a little bit more forewarning than I had, which was to say precisely none, then I may have at least paid closer attention to the book learning and to what those people who could be deemed as “older and wiser” were saying. I knew, technically, that going into this would be difficult. After all, I’m historically informed and recreating a religious tradition that hasn’t been actively practiced from a layman’s perspective in thousands of years. However, the reality is that I spend more time crying and blubbering about how I don’t know what the hell I’m doing versus actively attaining the homeostasis I think I see brewing in practices that have been around longer than mine. Even though I am quite aware that appearances aren’t everything, I seriously have some rather nastier moments where I’m pretty sure everyone is doing this so much easier than I am and having so much more success. And in those dark moments, I wonder if they got that warning I never got. You know, the one: this shit is hard.
With each new ask that I get and each new convert I see entering the scene, I tend to have this intense desire to take them aside and say, “Back the train up, Johnny. There’s something you really need to know about all of this.” And then, with a furtive glance over my shoulder, I want to shake them like a rag doll and scream, this shit is hard – run the other way because this shit is so damn hard. There’s no manual to turn to. As many books as I own and as much reading as I’ve done, there’s no big, huge book that I can turn to for the answers. When I’m having an internal debate about spoon management or about boat paddling, I can’t turn to a Kemetic version of the Bible and read a passage, learn a thing, and move on with my life. I have to continue those internal debates. I have to make a mistake, pass the test with flying colors, or scrape by barely. There’s no priesthood that can say a prayer for me – I have to do that on my own. There’s no right way or wrong way, really, because I’m practically make it up as I go along. There is nothing in any book that will be able to adequately tell me the things I need to know: what the people thought of the gods, how they believed in things, what they thought of the priesthood, how they felt living in ma’at and how they functioned in their daily life. And even if we did have those things handed to us, even if the ancient Egyptians actually wrote down what the lay people said and thought and believed, it wouldn’t matter. We get to recreate an ancient religion not just removed by time and geography, but also based on morality and history.
I often wonder if people think I joke when I talk about those times that I wind up curled around an altar, crying my little heart out. Frankly, I never am. If I’m going to joke about something, I’ll joke about dicks. I’ll make half-serious remarks about not being a dick. But, when it comes to how often I spend whining at my gods or how often I’ve curled into a ball on the floor, banging my head against the tiles, and just blubbering about how I don’t know what I’m doing? I never joke about those things. I’m incredibly serious. There is nothing more difficult than trying to recreate a religious tradition that is as far removed from us than the other side of the universe is from our galaxy (and that other side keeps expanding, so never the twain shall meet). Those images I’ve posted over and over again with the tag, “this is me” about kicking and screaming? I never joke about those, either. Those go hand-in-hand with the hours, the days, the weeks, and the months where I’ve wound up crying on the floor because everything is just so fucking hard. I’m not just kicking and screaming because I am being forced into something that I don’t think I’m ready to work on – see: shadow work – but I’m also kicking and screaming because this shit is hard.
The worst part about it all is that it doesn’t matter how well read you are or how active you are in your practice. It really doesn’t matter if you are more of the armchair persuasion or if you are more of the active persuasion. It will always be difficult to sit up and say, “I’m doing well,” with pride in your voice. I’m not saying that you won’t have moments like that. You will. I do. There are days where I’m like, “fuck yeah, man; I know what I’m doing.” And then something will come out of left field and I’ll end up on the floor again, crying about how I don’t know what I’m doing and how much I suck at this. As often as you go hunting for the religious equivalent of homeostasis with your practice, there will always be some other task, some other item that is lurking in the corners like some religious-related robber or something, ready to steal all of your good deeds, hard work, spoon management, and boat paddling away from you. And when that happens, the ghost of the voice in the back of your mind will be whispering, this shit is hard.
We can always turn to one another, to each other Kemetic in those moments, and talk it out. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of my community players’ blow ups about these kinds of things. They’ve been on the receiving end of my version of a blow up because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I must be screwing everything up in some way or another. That’s the point, I think, in community anyway. It’s a place where you can go and not feel like you’re being judged. And it helps in the Kemetic community – hell, in any of the polytheistic communities – because there are other people who have gone through or are going through the same damn thing that you are. But sometimes, you are so embarrassed by whatever setback you’ve hit that you can’t really bring yourself to mention it. So, you curl around your altars or around your icons or around your pain or around your misery and you cry about it. You cry about how you suck and you’re anxious and how very, very difficult this whole religion shtick is. In those moments, the only thing that we can really do is just let it run its course. Just like there are times where relying on other people to discuss what you perceive as your failures or your hardships, sometimes there are times where you just can’t bring yourself to talk about it with other people. In those moments, of which I have frequently because I’m a lot more socially awkward and anxious than I let on, is when I end up crying, this shit is hard.
For those of you who have these moments more frequently than me, let me just say that you can and will get over it. For those people who have them rarely, let me just say that I am incredibly jealous. And for everyone in between, everyone who is thinking about Kemeticism and what it will be like… let me put it to you this way: there will be moments where it is freeing and exhilarating and thrilling. And then there are moments where it is like you are being tortured by some unknown, all-consuming thing that you can’t fight against but you have to keep going because turning back is not an option. With moments like that, I can assure you that crying about how difficult this path you’ve chosen is quite all right. It won’t solve anything. It may not even make you feel better. But, it’s an option and it’s the best option in many cases.
And it’s quite all right to tell yourself, this shit is hard.
And it’s equally as all right to warn others, this shit is hard.