I have a planning mind, I guess. It’s a trait from my mother. We all plan things in various ways. We make lists for all types of necessities: shopping, next steps, goals, packing, etc. I can remember watching my mom make lists and my grandmother’s lists on the kitchen table when I was a kid. I have never figured out if it was simply a learned behavior or just a requirement stemming from genetics.
I walked into Lent a little half-assed. I knew I was going to do it some weeks before it began. The ancestors were hammering me so. I couldn’t have said no even if I wanted to (and oh, I honestly did want to) and so, I went forth with a half-assed plan:
- No meat dinner on Fridays
- Quitting smoking
- Donations to worthy causes
It wasn’t a huge list but the ancestors agreed it was a good idea. They backed my play and when I asked them what I could expect they turned sorrowful, almost regretful. They said I would know despair but that it was for the best in all ways. They told me not to worry – they told someone with anxiety to trust and follow the road ahead no matter where it went.
It was a large and bitter pill to swallow.
It choked on the way down.
It started as innocuous as could be. The hardship was there, but as I looked over it each morning, I found the mountain ahead not quite insurmountable. It was perhaps a little difficult to climb, maybe the path wasn’t always so very clear but, I was fairly certain I could do it.
To be fair, it’s easy to look back at a time of darkness and make it lighter. To prevent myself from doing that, I kept careful notes each morning. And yes, it was hard and annoying. And yes, I whined a lot. And yes, I grew quite wrothful. But going through my notes, it looks a bit like it maybe wasn’t as bad as all of that to a degree.
It’s the mind that gets you.
I’m out of the forest of depression and anxiety now. They’re both still there but not to the nth degree that they were. The gray, finger-like branches of depression and the thunderous cloud bursts of anxiety have faded. I’m grateful for all of that.
They mentioned trust; the told me sorrow.
They reminded me in little ways that this was all for the best:
- The SO telling me that Lent is about bettering oneself and what is quitting an addiction if not bettering oneself?
- The son telling me that I was doing so well.
- My mother buying me a mid-Lenten hurrah gift to show me how proud she was of me.
- My boss buying me a 12-pack of diet Coke to succor me through the hard days ahead.
There were many little things that popped up to remind me that the road ahead, while tumultuous and obviously sorrowful at some point, it was all for the best. So long as I continued to trust in what was coming, then I could move forward perhaps not quite with alacrity but at least forward.
I was reminded as I moved along of all those conversations I had had in the last 2 years with gods and fellow polytheists about trusting in the path, the journey, the gods. Those conversations tended to be about a sort of blind faith and I fought against those pieces of advice every time.
The ancestors laughed when I mentioned this to them. They told me that I was trusting them now. How different could it be from trusting the gods?
They had me there.
Lent was less a time of introspection, of sacrifice, of bettering myself than a steady nosedive into a fiery oblivion. I could recognize that many of my actions were self destructive but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. Even when I assured myself that I would not fall prey to my own foolishness, it seemed as if I had to go through with it anyway.
The ancestors shushed my qualms and told me to keep going.
I burned my bridges with alacrity, destroying everything in my path.
During one such moment, I was yet again reminded of Sekhmet and the Destruction of Mankind. While I burned and destroyed, leaving decay and chaos in my wake, she did too. When I felt closer to her than I had in over a year, she came to me to succor me as a mother to a child. Her presence was calming and the rage within subsided.
By then, though, I had fucked myself ten ways to Sunday.
It was 30 days in and upon realizing that everything was a disaster, I gave up Lent. I didn’t give to another charity. I ate meat that Friday and had picked up smoking that very morning. The reasons are immaterial to this blog or entry and I won’t go into them. But when the haze of rage finally cleared, I saw the destruction I had wrought and I truly knew despair.
The ancestors were right.
I was, of course, angry with myself but I was also angry with them. They reminded me about trust. They told me that it was dismal now but things were going to get better. I figured they were lying to me, trying to keep me around before I dismantled their altar and kicked them all out.
Maybe it’s human nature to want to believe. Or maybe the idea that I would be getting rid of one of the few things in my life that I had come to rely on stayed my hand. They reminded me to trust, to believe, and I did.
Just before Palm Sunday, the dismal abyss of my life began to light up again. The ancestors were coy and cheerful when I checked in, but they assured me that I was headed in the right direction. They also assured me that they had my best interests in mind. The overall theme of that conversation was less about trust and more about belief; they’d get me through.
So the sun came out and shined upon me. My anxiety and depression had already receded to moderately manageable levels when I had started smoking again. It fell back further, hiding from the light that was shining down upon me.
Things are better now. The spiral into the dark chasms that was the first 30 days of Lent became an uphill climb out of darkness the last 10 days. Everything is far from perfect, but it’s much better now.
Immediately after seemingly to fail, I asked the ancestors if they were disappointed in me. I was a little disappointed in myself, less because I had failed and more because so many people had assured me they were so proud of me. I had disappointed them all and assumed my ancestors would feel the same.
They laughed at me when I asked. They told me that this road I had traveled for Lent wasn’t about the goals I had made for myself but had been more about my ability to trust in them. I had proved over and over again throughout Lent that I trusted what they were telling me and acted upon those words. They were sorry for the hell I went through but advised it was the only way to kick my ass into gear.
And they were/are right.
I needed The Tower to happen in order to meet Death.
I needed destruction and death on all sides in order to be resurrected.
Them akhu be damn tricksy, but I trust them finally. I believe them when they tell me not to worry about X thing but to instead focus on B. We’re all in this together with concrete and symbiotic goals that we need to meet to fulfill a dream. They’re needs are intertwined with mine and I realize that they can be trusted to get me through.
Thus endeth the lesson.
The next one, well… I can say it’s a bitter pill to swallow too. But perhaps not quite so bitter as this last one.