When people start looking to other religious choices outside of the “usual fair,” there’s a lot of waffling back and forth about whether or not this is a thing. Not only are people worried that what they’re looking into may not actually be in their best interests, but they also have to take into consideration public opinion. Even though, in my opinion, religion and religious choices should be a private affair that’s taken into consideration on an individual basis, this isn’t the case in this country or in this hemisphere or on this fucking planet. Everyone has an opinion, sadly, about everything else and that includes religious persuasions. What makes it worse is that some of the newer religious choices are looked down on by other people for various reasons: some people think that they’re worshiping the devil and going to hell while other people think everyone with a religion is full of shit and making stuff up. In either case, these are things that must be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing what sort of religious practice, or not, is best for them.
Personally, I am both in and out of the “closet,” so to speak, when it comes to my religious practices. The short answer is that all of this is really fucking complicated and it comes on a case by case basis. I’ve been burned and I’ve been supportive, so it is truly dependent both on the status of my relationships with people as well as what reactions I believe they may have if I discuss it.
When it comes to family, I’m technically out. I don’t really discuss it with either my family or with TH’s family, however. It’s a subject of conversation, briefly, when it comes up, but I tend to shut those conversations down as quickly as they begin. I think part of this is because, in all honesty, to explain everything to a regular person is very difficult. Polytheism is easily explained as long as you understand what that word actually means. But when it comes to the devotions to various gods, the levels of those devotions, and everything in between, one can be looking at having a few hours’ long conversation that leaves heads spinning. Another reason why I tend to shut those conversations down is because I can see how some people react or based on inflection in their comments – if they sound like an asshole, I’m not going to want to discuss it any more than I normally do (and I don’t normally want to discuss it because, again, it’s kind of personal and not anyone else’s business).
My mother’s family is not supportive of my choices – they’re all staunch Catholics and so, as far as they’re [probably] concerned, I’m going to burn in Hell with all the other people who have chosen not to follow “the one twoo.” But my mother is supportive. She is ecstatic that after years of saying “I’m an atheist,” I finally found a religious tradition that works for me. She’s watched as I’ve changed dynamics and created something that works for me. I think, honestly, it’s based on my mom’s statement, “finally, you have faith,” that made me realize that the subject matter of that faith doesn’t matter so much as if people have faith. And I do. I believe. I believe in more than just myself and while things are weird and rocky and can be uncomfortable when my family makes asinine comments about it, it’s fucking mine.
TH’s family doesn’t really understand how many different branches of paganism there are and I don’t have the patience, usually, to enlighten them. They understand that I am a pagan and that I do practice magic (heka), however they don’t fully comprehend all the dynamic changes, on a personal level and on a spiritual level, that have happened since I first discovered this path. But at the end of the day, they’re supportive. They might make jokes and TH’s mom may end up using me as a threat against her students to behave properly (she told one student I would turn them into a frog if they didn’t cut the shit, which I’m just like, I can’t do that but that’s fucking awesome especially since the student actually did cut the shut). Of course, TH is aware because I do [occasionally] talk to him about this.
But when it comes down to it, I still have this staunch belief that who says what or who knows what doesn’t matter. All that does matter is if it makes me happy. And as much as I have to admit that this shit drives me up a wall with the wants and desires and the constant doubt, at the end of the day, it fulfills me.
And then I have so many different types of friendships that to discuss something that, to me, is as personal as my religious practice is is just not up for debate. I have acquaintances who have asked to read this blog and I have flatly refused, knowing that my blog may not be the best introduction to what a pagan religious tradition can look like. I have had Christian friends who read this blog and grew offended over what I said. (We’ve made up since that blow up, but we both leave one another alone when it comes to our differing faiths now, which is seriously downer.) I have pagan friends who know about this blog, but don’t know much about my personal life.
I guess you can say that when it comes to my friendships and how open I am about myself really depends, highly, on how much trust I place in them. And I have to be honest here. After having the person who was supposed to me the best get up in arms over things that I’ve written on this blog, based on my observations and based on my religious choices, I have to say that compartmentalizing my life like this works out for me. Does it suck? Yes. Ask anyone on Tumblr who I have spoken with about this – sometimes, there are just moments where I want to cry in someone’s lap because I’m pretty sure I’m not practicing a real religion but I’m just having taken a long walk off of the short pier of sanity. But I’ve been burned by the person I trusted and loved the most – and learned the lesson that compartmentalization with my friends is better off for me when it comes to our friendships than not doing so.
Of course, I have two friends, locally, who know a lot about what I believe in. One is a local Hellenic pagan. We don’t really talk as much as we used to and that’s… well, that’s nothing to do with religion but she knows what I’m up to. And if she doesn’t that’s only because she’s not reading this blog. My other friend allows me to wax poetic about the nature of souls and takes my spiritual advice even though she’s a Christian, but she is just like me: it doesn’t matter what faith is had as long as faith is had.
And of course, to make things even more complicated, I work for a Tea Party Republican who also just so happens to be very much a Christian. I honestly don’t know how Christian she is but she’s told people that she’ll pray for them when things go wrong (and then maybe she does, but I don’t know). And I can tell you that if she knew that the ankh I wear wasn’t just a fashion statement but a religious statement as well, she’d find a reason to fire me. The things she says about people who aren’t Christian (and I’m not talking about pagans, but about Muslims) is disgusting and disheartening. The things I could imagine her saying about me if she were to find out… Well, I need the paycheck so I have further compartmentalized my life.
Work. Friends. Family. Religion.
Very rarely do any of these in-roads meet. Yes, I am “out” and my Facebook profile even labels me as a “pagan.” But the people who are friends with me on Facebook, most of them, don’t look at that. Some of them because they like to ignore things – such as my mother’s family – and others because they don’t care and I’m not going to enlighten them. I’m a little open on my Facebook account regarding beliefs and whatnot, but I always second guess and third guess before I post something religion specific. As much as it sucks, and it really does, my life is a many-spoked wheel with me at the middle. And nothing really touches at all.
In case I haven’t really mentioned it, while doing things this way makes life easier and safer for me, it really kind of sucks. There are moments, at work, where I want to scream at Djehuty for not watching over a phone system when it goes down. Or, I want to meditate to Sekhmet, but instead, I’m stuck silently saying words that may or may not have power, depending on the spoon allotment and energy reserves I have at that moment in time. There are moments where I want to scream at my mother’s family and tell them that all beliefs are good beliefs as long as they’re taken to a good place and not used to condemn others for what they feel, think, believes, or are. There are moments in my life where I just want to scream because of how compartmentalized my life has suddenly become when even two years ago, it was hella easier.
I tend to feel, a lot of times, that this segregation is actually detrimental to everything going on around me. I can’t really pinpoint when I started to feel this way, but I noticed that carefully and purposely dosing out different portions of my life in this way began to tire me out. I would go off and be at work, followed by coming home and doing religion things and then I would spend time with my family and never the multitudes to meet. And I have to admit that it’s kind of dragging, a lot, to have to keep things so differentiated. It sucks. And I think a lot of times making sure that everything is not touching as carefully as I do, it takes a lot of spoons out of everything else. It leaves me breathless and bitchy and tired and depressed a lot of the times and I end up coming home and just staring at the television or reading a book.
I don’t think people are really meant to do this to their lives. Even if there are valid reasons for it, I just don’t think we’re made to keep anything separate from anything else. We are a multifaceted people and facets should touch. They should integrate. But in this day and age, especially with asshole bosses or unsupportive family members, we have to do these things, possibly even to our own detriment, if we want to have our cake and eat it too. (If that is even remotely apropos here because I honestly don’t know.)
Based on what I’ve shared, I have to say that if a new Kemetic wants to tell others, I strongly recommend not doing what the fuck I’ve done. I’ve kept myself so separated that I hardly know what the fuck way is up anymore. So, if anyone wants to tell their friends and family and their coworkers what their religious situation is – not that, I attest, it’s any of their fucking business – then I think that not doing what I’ve done is a good idea. It’s seriously just not healthy, in my opinion, and it ends up causing a lot of problems for you later on.
But the thing about telling people is that you have to be sure that telling them is even remotely useful to you or whether or not them knowing has any benefit to you whatsoever. You can shout whatever the hell you want from the rooftops and back, but if there’s no real point in telling them, other than you think you should, then you have to seriously taken into consideration the reasons behind why you want to tell them. Do you just want to share something new and exciting with people you care about? Or do you want to shock them? What is the point in telling them something that, quite feasibly, will not impact them in anyway? So, it comes back to having to decide of announcing your personal religious choices is useful to you. If you think that’s the case, then I think the next thing to take into consideration is whether or not they’ll be supportive.
And this is the crux of the matter for many pagans out there. We live in areas that aren’t supportive of anything outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. And there are people who we love and adore who may react very negatively towards whatever choices we make in our lives if those choices are deemed to be outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. So, if the person you believe you are telling will be supportive and benefit you, then I absolutely think that you should move forward with what you want to do. However, if the person is going to behave like an asshole because you’ve made a choice about your life, then maybe keeping it quiet is in your best interest. As much as you may feel that telling them is a good idea, if they’re going to be a complete dickface about it, then I strongly recommend just not doing so.
Honestly, I have to tell you that when it comes to telling people things about you that, in my opinion, are personal and private, such as one’s religious decisions, doesn’t really gain you much. Hell, in my experience, it seems to have caused more anxiety than when I was quiet about it. Just because you think someone will be supportive and nice about it doesn’t mean that they will be. Or maybe they’ll start off that way and then change their mind later because you say something they disagree with or because they convert to a religion that doesn’t tolerate others’ “differences.” While I can’t say that all people are going to react the way I’ve come to find many to most of them reacting in my life, I do have to think that what I’ve experienced (as generalized as I’ve described the experiences) should at least be taken into consideration when someone decides they want to tell others.
But of course, how one decides to live their religious life – privately or publicly – is entirely up to them. And anyone who tells you that your choices are wrong are assholes and anyone who doesn’t support you in doing something that makes you feel good about yourself is, also, an asshole. And people like that… well, they really shouldn’t be in your life anyway.
The whole “spokes of a wheel” thing is not healthy, truthfully. We had a stress mgmt workshop in our office once, and the lady told us that we should all try to integrate our life and our work, so that we could support one another. And I wanted to scream at her that tht is such a privileged thing to say, because for people who are not of the norm, talking about that stuff openly in the workplace is a sure fire way to get fired, or harassed. Or both.
Like you, I’ve spent most of my time segregating my life. I don’t really know any other options out there. I’d rather keep my job and some of my sanity than tell everyone and have it blow up in my face.
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