Two days ago, TTR announced an indefinite hiatus for mental health reasons. I saw it coming before it happened. I speak with them semi-regularly and our conversations had started to have less and less content, more and more silence between our messages (to be clear, this is not just on TTR; I have also been less communicative). So, I knew that they were pulling themselves back within themselves and I knew that they would eventually make a post somewhere detailing why.
I was out dealing with boring things when it popped up on my feed as I was waiting for what seemed like forever for someone to help the husband and I with something. I saw the title and felt a little flip-flop in my stomach, in my heart. I had expected this to happen but I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. I didn’t get to read it all right away because the person we had been waiting on finally showed up to help us out and I had to focus on that.
When I got home, while the SO was doing what I had asked him to do, I read through the post twice. I read it first quickly and made a quick comment. This is my usual protocol for deep entries or even posts people make about their religious lives. They make the post, I read it quick, and I’ll comment based on that first reading. But then I go back to it later or immediately after I comment and I start over again.
As I read through the post, I felt a plethora of things: guilt for being a terrible friend; annoyance with TTR for doing this without warning me; irritation with the wider “community”; worry that their mental health would go off the rails and I’d never know what happened to them (like another friend of mine from eons back); relief that I knew where to contact them should the need arise… But above all, as I read through the entry a second time and then a third, I felt a wave of complete and total sadness. It was so much that I felt tears in my eyes, which I blinked back because, I don’t know if you know this about me, but Strong People Do Not Cry and I am a Strong People.
It wasn’t sadness merely because of what they have been going through or because they would not signal boost my posts anymore (I always knew when a post was reblogged by them because I got a lot of fucking notes after that). It was sadness because it felt very much like what I assume the Day the Music Died must have felt like to Americans everywhere.
I have known TTR for a very long time. I think it’s been at least 8 years, although it could be closer to 9 for all I know. (My memory is not what it once was. It’s full of random facts and famous faces I saw once in a movie.) We haunted the same message board for pagans.
I remember reading their posts on that message board and marveling at how very together they seemed with their practice. I can remember reading through the posts of those Kemetics who were far more “advanced” than I on this whole roller coaster ride of religion and I can remember TTR holding their own against those people and their arguments or their statements of seeming fact. I remember how they made me nervous, made me fearful because I strongly suspected I would never get to the same point that they seemed to be at that moment in time.
When I left that message board in a flounce of all flounces, somehow TTR came with me. I honestly don’t remember why. They still posted there and sometimes we’d chat about the new goings-on when it came to the posts that were being made there, but I never went back. They began to tell me about their plans, the push from the Big Redhead about community. And I can remember thinking that while I couldn’t be sure I could really help in any of that, I was willing to give it a shot.
I was always under the impression that what I was to do was to be solitary, and to a point, it is. I’ve come very far since those early days where Kemetics were likened to being islands and the starter posts being published about boat paddling in an effort to connect those islands. But when those posts were coming out and TTR, along with other Kemetics who have long since passed out of our realm, were talking about connecting those islands to unify the wider Kemetic community, I could stand behind their desires and raise up those words.
The community, back then, was very different from what it is today. Most of the things going on were presented on the various message boards for different types of Kemeticism. There were the KO people, the people on tC, the ones pushing out into individual blogs on Blogger and WP, and of course, the FtS message board for the LaBordians. TTR haunted the spaces in between, trying to find a way to unify everyone in the way that Big Red told them to. It was a lot of hard work and it was completely thankless.
We started making forays into other blogging platforms, notably Tumblr. There were all of maybe 5 of us there, boosting up each other’s posts. The handful of existing Kemetics, or Kemetic curious, persons on Tumblr found us and began to haunt our posts. We talked about our blogs there, trying to push other Kemetics from other platforms to Tumblr, hoping to use that place for the visions of community that TTR and Helms had cooked up in their late night chat sessions.
We mostly spent our time in other established polytheists’ circles because we had no circles, at first. We were friends with Hellenics and Heathens and we all intermingled a good deal more than we do today. I suppose you could say it was the heyday of the Kemetic community; even though there were so few of us trying to make the kemetic tag popular, we felt like we were really doing the hard work of cutting back a swath of the wider polytheistic realm for ourselves. We spent our time joking and laughing, or running in circles around various concepts and ideas, agreeing and disagreeing with one another, in an effort to make something that really worked.
It wasn’t all fun and games. I could remember TTR growing worried about various things that were happening on the message boards, concerns they had always had but were beginning to bubble up more and more. They saw the shitty behavior of KO and FtS and tC members because they had the access to all of that. They explained the ins and outs of the different types of Kemetic message boards, carefully outlining the faults they had found and lifting up the good that they had seen too. They did their best to boat paddle and I lifted up their voice when I could, snapped at people when I lost my patience with this whole boat paddling stuff, and then came back to it to start again.
You see, I believed wholeheartedly in that vision. I worked hard to be a good little boat paddler. I sat back more often than not on posts that made me go, “eh what now”, and tried to emulate what TTR would do to the best of my ability. I still snapped. I still lashed out. But I tried very hard to be calmer, cooler, and more collected as I helped them foment the growth we both talked about seeing.
The vision was beautiful. In my head, it was all sparkling gold and silver with precious stones and gemstones winking in candle light. It reminded me of a dream I had had in 2013 and I wanted to see it come to fruition. So I helped as much as I could and for a while, things seemed okay.
But sometimes being the beacon of light in the darkness can gnaw at you. The posts are there. The sources are neatly gathered together in a good place for people to poke through, but they always asked the same questions. I don’t know if they tried to find the resources or if they just wanted it handed to them. How many times did TTR or myself get the same damn questions over and over? I don’t know if you realize this, but it kind of gets to you after a while. It makes you begin to feel like you are stuck in a maze and there is no exit because you keep rehashing the same things. But TTR kept doggedly going forward, putting themselves out there over and over again.
They had the vision that Big Red had given them in their head, the push from him to keep moving forward because it was within reach. And they followed that idea, that vision in the hopes of one day coming to the finish line.
But nothing is forever and we had problems. Slowly, we watched the hard work that TTR had mostly pioneered on their own, boosted up by the voices of others, start to fall apart. We watched as divisions within our community began to rise and we started to realize that the vision we had had may not ever be achievable. We could never get out of the rut of 101s, we could never get out of the rut of constantly having to explain why racism/sexism/transphobia/homophobia/etc had no place in our religion, we could never move beyond the establishment of the same old shit we had already twice, thrice, quadruple, etc established.
It can tire out anyone. I didn’t get involved nearly as much as TTR did, but I saw the toll it took. I saw what it all was doing and maybe that’s why people were so shitty to them or maybe it was just their own jealousy that TTR is a good and honest person who can form sentences better than most. I don’t know. But it ate at them and one day, I kind of sat back and thought that they might implode.
I don’t think anyone is aware of just how hard they took it when the division within the Tumblr community happened. To them, it felt like a personal failing. It wasn’t. There are always going to be shitty people and sometimes, they are going to gather together with other shitty people and snatch up the young and impressionable to be taught to be just as shitty as the first round of shitty people. I think it’s human nature, honestly, but TTR was greatly upset by the break up of the vision that they had so carefully cultivated with Big Red.
I had given up already, no longer willing to be a part of the whole. I couldn’t bring myself to become a part of it when the things I needed to discuss were either ignored or I was talked down to about it. While TTR kept holding my hand as I thrashed and grew disenfranchised with my whole religious life, I pulled myself away and away and away. I boosted up their words, jumped in if I felt that I could help or assist, but I kept to myself. Maybe I was TTR’s last bastion of sanity amid the chaos and I pulled out of it all, unable to go on publicly.
They kept going on, maybe seeing the vision of boat paddling within their mind as they kept trying to push forward. But it ate away at them and I could see when they began to stop believing in that vision. I wasn’t surprised when they began posting original content less and I was even less surprised when their queue was just full of other peoples’ posts. They tried again to push themselves on but with everything else going on in their life, they found it hard, harder, hardest.
Maybe they’re at the point of giving up, or maybe they’ll come back. All I know is that I’ve watched as my friend has slowly been eaten alive by one thing and another. They have their issues; they’re not perfect. I don’t want anyone to assume that is what this post is about. This isn’t me starting a cult of personality. This is me saying that I can understand why they needed to break.
And this is me saying that it also kind of feels a little bit like the death of a vision we had all once wholeheartedly shared.
The vision of the community that TTR had wasn’t just a cool hangout for kids to get together. I know it sounds like that was what it was. But we were all trying to actually form a community: a place where people could belong together based on their similar religious leanings, but could also form friendships and relationships and work together towards the common good of the community. That means being sounding boards for weirdness and being there for someone who is going through Some Shit.
I’m sure there are people that have come together because of what TTR had begun and are good friends today. They are people that can get together once a year in person or maybe do group ritual online together. Maybe they can talk about their problems and not worry that it’ll get spread around to smear their name, or feel confident with the advice they are given. TTR doesn’t have that; I am part of that failing, a part of that problem.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s just because we’re too old Kemetic fossil types (it’s a joke) and that’s why we sit back and kind of stare at what’s been going on in the wider community, unable to even begin to become a part of it again. But I think the damage may have been done with the wider division happening a few years back, and I think it has continued to be done because maybe the whispers that we’re not smart enough, capable enough, too embittered, or what have you has been listened to one too many times.
I look in my shrine room and wonder if I can handle that. I think I can because as I said above, my path was never really supposed to be community oriented. I was always supposed to go solitary, which helps because I’m getting into things that are just not discussed (sadly) within the Kemetic community, things that have little to do with Kemeticism as a whole, and more to do with personal religious shenanigans. I’ve always kind of known that I would be on the wayside, watching shit go down and maybe wishing I could be a part of it, but mostly knowing that I could not, should not, will not.
TTR on the other hand had always looked to the vision of the community, looking to call the place home. And that home has, basically, kicked them out. They created it, put the foundations up, and started working on all of the design space of the interior and exterior. They even started to decorate before they got tossed out on their ass on a place they had very lovingly tended to for years.
It is my sincere hope that one day this community will reach the potential that I know it can. We must do better about letting people slip through the cracks. We must do better at fostering ma’at.
We must do better.
As quoted above, TTR said in their post of farewell that the wider community needs to do better. They are right. We all need to do better. We need to be able to create the vision of what the community needs to be, police ourselves much better, pointing out the faults of the hateful and wrong, and be there for each other.
We need to do better.
We must do better.