This Shit Is Hard.

This shit is hard.

This shit is hard.

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.

Kemetic Round Table: Inadequacy.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek here.

Inadequacy is one of those things that tends to hit human beings at the least opportune time. You can be in the middle of doing a huge ritual and that voice in the back of your head starts whispering things about how you must be doing it wrong. Or, you can be about to fall asleep and that voice pipes up about things that you could never actually successfully do because that voice is a douchecanoe. But, we all have that voice. We all have those whispers that feed our poor self-esteem and our inadequate imagery. This imagery and belief about how inadequate we are to the gods, and in my case, to the lwa, may in fact be completely fucking wrong.

I will be honest here, my inadequacies don’t necessarily translate over to my religious life. There are moments, don’t get me wrong, when I feel like what I’m offering the gods – inadequate. There are moments when I feel my attitude – inadequate. There are moments when I feel like my rituals – inadequate. I think everyone has at least one moment, at some time in their life, where they think that what they are doing, saying, thinking, and believing doesn’t measure up to some invisible yard stick. I’m not perfect. In fact, I am pulling so much stuff out of my butt about 99% of the time that I literally can tell you that I have no fucking clue what the hell is going on in my religious life about as often. But, when thinking about this topic, I realized… I really don’t feel very inadequate with the netjer I have relationships with. I know I’m not perfect, but… does it matter?

You see, I wonder if the reason we feel inadequate is because we believe that our gods have some invisible servant/devotee/child image of us that they measure us up to. In working with all the gods I have going – and more, apparently, on the way – I have to say that I don’t really worry about it. If I’m in the middle of doing something that feels right, such as celebrating a festival or creating a spell or working up heka, then I’m not necessarily going to let myself stop long enough to doubt myself. Before the event, I may ponder and hem and haw about what to do. After the event, I may mutter and moan about something I forgot to do. However, when I’m in the thick of my religious life and all that entails, I’m not really, really, really worried about whether or not I am fulfilling my duties with ineptitude or with satisfactory actions.

Here’s the thing, each of these gods is in my life for a reason. I know this isn’t necessarily the case with all other practitioners out there, but in my case, each of these deities showed up with an ulterior motive. Djehuti is around to remind me of my dream of writing. Aset is here to help me get over my magix issues. Hetheru is here because I wanted a mother/home deity in my home. Sekhmet is here because that’s her bag. (And personal.) None of my gods worry about me being perfect. None of my gods harp about how I am a tool. All of the Bigger Picture stuff that I discuss? It’s not made to make me feel like I’m inadequate for the tasks they want me for, but that one day, I will be awesome enough to be that tool.

They also knew, coming in, that I had faults. They knew that I was sexually anorexic or asexual. They knew that I was not willing to heal myself from my traumas. They knew they I had nothing but bad experiences with magic and thought all experiences would be the same. They knew that I had a dream about being a writer that I had given up on. They knew that I was a fledgling in the religion area. They knew that I had no fucking clue what the hell I was doing. They knew that I was sassy, importunate, and bitchy. And yet, they all still showed up, entered my life, and ready to work. I’m not being built up by them for some magical purpose except to live to my full potential. And that’s all they want from me. In a manner of speaking, we could assume all this Bigger Picture stuff, all of this shadow work, all of these side projects have the ultimate goal of fulfilling my intense desire to live in ma’at.

I will admit, I’m extremely surprised by everything that I’m writing. Of all the people I know, I’m the most nervous, the most anxious, and the one with the least amount of self-confidence. If we had been doing this blogging project even a year ago, I would have said, “I am not what they need. They need to find someone else. I’m just a nothing and a nobody and unsuitable for whatever they need.” But as I sat down, ready to explain to everyone that feeling like you don’t measure up to some invisible yard stick is bollocks, but it’s fine to feel that way… I realized that after a very long time of struggle, I’m finally comfortable with my Kemeticism.

And I think, at some point, everyone gets to that point. The thing is that may not necessarily mean that you, or I, will ever be “perfect.”

Look, let’s be frank. I’m not an expert. I don’t know what’s best. I just know what has worked for me. And I also know that how I’m living and working with my gods is probably entirely off-base with how they did it in ancient Egypt. So, I suppose that from an outsider’s perspective, I am inadequately measuring up to the historical standard. And you know what? That is just fine by me. There’s a reason I am recon-slanted and not a full-fledged reconstructionist. It’s great to have a basis in history, but it’s really stupid to try and measure myself to a standard that I cannot visually see and will never visually see. Besides, if the gods wanted the same thing they had in antiquity, don’t you think they would have, en masse, given us the information necessary to emulate an ancient practice?

It really doesn’t matter what other people are doing or how they are doing it. It really shouldn’t matter if you will be judged by those other people. Of course, you will be, just as I am and all the rest of my Kemetic friends are. It is human nature to make snap judgements and judge others based on those perceptions. And that’s perfectly acceptable for each human being who does it. But, you know what? That’s complete shit. As they tell my son at the library, Everyone can play in their own way and that’s okay.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret… The above phrase? About playing? That’s a good one for religion, too.

Suffice it to say, when it comes to feeling inadequate, most human beings go through this at varying points in their lives. Occasionally, it is mundane and the moment passes. Other times, it is religious in origin and the moment passes. In some other extreme cases, it can be a mix thereof and the moment just kind of lingers. Everyone goes through that.

Look, today while I was at work? I kept remonstrating in my head about things I really had no way of fixing, trying to make myself more competent for the next time some shitty shit falls my way. Consciously, I knew that the items in question were out of my hands. Consciously, I knew that no matter how much “I suck” feels I was having, I’m incredibly awesome at my job and really, I should always be reminded about how awesome I am. However, knowing I’m good at my job doesn’t stop me from feeling like I suck at everything and that I only ever handle things improperly. This is incorrect in every way and I did everything I could to deliver good customer service. However, we all just have those times where you’re feeling overwhelming and incapable.

The moment passes.

Sometimes, it requires more than a deep breath. Sometimes, it may require a long bitch fest, a stiff drink, and/or harsh music at ear-drum abusing levels. Whatever floats your boat and however you take care of the situation is all you. But, sometimes, the feelings are going to happen no matter who you are, how awesome you are, and no matter the situation. Human beings tend to want perfection, but we can’t always deliver. And in those moments, all I can say, it may just be best to take a step back, listen to some angry music, and wax poetic about how much you hate the world.

If nothing else, it’ll make you feel better for a little while.