Self-Care: Work.

After realizing that I probably had no idea what self-care actually was and that I would need to build the foundation of my self-care from the ground up, I began stopping frequently to evaluate what it was that I was doing. I thought that it would be best to take a look at my normal, everyday actions and see if I felt that they merited entry in the mostly empty “self-care” category. I had been so focused on just having shadow work equate to self-care that I had been ignoring things. Sure, mental and emotional health is fine and dandy, but I’m not just a mind and heart: I’ve got limbs and teeth and organs that need to be taken care of, too.

So, I would do the dishes and ask myself if this was a part of self-care. And I would walk the dog down the block and wonder if that was part of self-care. And I would play a game on my phone for way too many rounds and wonder if that was self-care. And I would stand out underneath the sun, soaking up the rays before it got too warm, and wonder if that qualified as self-care. And I would sit on the couch and stare moodily into the distance, berating myself for my perceived failures at work that day, and definitely declare that probably wasn’t part of self-care.

I could find that I have a lot of negative habits, mostly rooted in deep-seated neuroses and anxieties that have to do with things from a while back, and that none of them really belong in the self-care category.

I tentatively had a game plan. I was doing okay, mostly, with the mental and emotional things that I felt were included in the self-care definition. I had a bunch of physical things, though, that I had to work on. And I began working on them, but I found that every week, I was backsliding somewhere.

That’s to be expected, of course, because I’m doing new things and attempting to teach myself to do those new things. However, when I was saying, “I will do these things and it will be great,” at the start of the week and within two days, on the verge of tears, eating an entire bag of M&Ms, bemoaning a million things and thinking about how much my self-care maybe didn’t mean that much to me, I thought perhaps there was an underlying cause.

Well, I was stressed the fuck out, which is probably a pretty normal cause in not doing self-care related things.

Instead of paper balls, envision me with a flag under telephone lines and phone systems. (Source unknown.)

Instead of paper balls, envision me with a flag under telephone lines and phone systems. (Source unknown.)

I thought about the main cause in that stress – work – and wondered how I could diminish my stress levels while still achieving the ultimate goal of having a roof over my head. You see, I was beginning to notice that because I was stressing out about work related things, it wasn’t just impacting my self-care. Oh, no; it couldn’t just impact a small facet of my life like making myself better in some form or another, but had to effect all facets of my fucking life. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong and things were burning down around my ears and the even transient thought about trying to work on shadow work was laughable while I was so busy barely able to focus on breathing properly.

I’ve been down this road before and it didn’t end well for me.

As a probably not very quick backstory…

I worked for a job that I was really good at as a manager of a convenience store. I got moved to a store where managers went to get fired. Every manager who was ever put in that store was told to “clean it up,” which mostly meant there were personnel problems. Well, and that was fine because I had managed to clean up (mostly) the store I had been in before moving there, except that the personnel I needed to get rid of her been hand-picked by the owner of the company. So, it was kind of a catch-22. And knowing that, I got stressed the hell out.

Things were falling down around my ears and everyone said that it would be okay. So I began looking for other jobs, but not seriously enough, I suppose. Within three months of being sent to that store, I got fired. I didn’t even get fired for anything that I had actually done or said but because they wanted to fire my star employee. I got caught in the crossfire of all that and ended up with a serious dose of anxiety about working and jobs.

I remember how stressed out I was before, almost magically, it all stopped the moment that the security officer entered my store to inform me that my services were no longer required. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep, I was dreaming about work. My interpersonal relationships were failing because I couldn’t focus on a damn thing. I spent most of my time away from work either thinking about work or watching really bad horror movies in an effort to not think about work. (Bad horror movies are a passion of mine and I really can’t tell you how much they’ve helped me over the years when things get bad.)

I can feel the stress levels rising with work, but I also know that I’m pretty much set for a job. I could probably get away with a lot of not-working before anyone realized that I was too apathetic and pitched me out the door. Not that it matters because, as much time as I stare blankly at the computer screen in front of me at work, having a silent panic attack about something, I still manage to do a lot of shit in between the staring. But the stress levels are impacting me again, across the board, and I find myself coming home, more often than not, thinking about hiding in a corner and crying.

None of this seems very in tune with self-care, at all, does it?

This past weekend, I realized that I needed to do something for myself in this situation. I was so focused on what I may or may not be failing at for my boss, for my co-workers, for my clients and forgetting that I have a say in all of this, too. And as important as making sure that everyone that my work-related actions impact are seen to, I am the more important person because, if I’m not functioning properly, then I can’t do anything else properly. And as part of a quote by Parker Palmer attests, “Self-care is never a selfish act.”

Perhaps, if I tell myself that often enough, I won’t feel so bad?

How do you actually relax? And how do you just cross stress off the to-do list? Isn't it always, like, there? (Source unknown.)

How do you actually relax? And how do you just cross stress off the to-do list? Isn’t it always, like, there? (Source unknown.)

But what is the easiest way in order for me to relieve the burden of stress? I can’t just cross out stress. No matter how many memes are made about how you can just cancel out stress, it’s really just not that simple. Even if you know the root cause of the problem, treatment isn’t necessarily easy or painless.

Of course, the simplest answer is to leave the job. Unfortunately, as much as my instincts are screaming at me to run as far away as humanly possible, I don’t think swapping out one form of stress for another form of stress is really the way to go here. It seems very much as though self-care would be really thrown out the window by doing that.

The next available option is to bide my time while I job hunt.

I’m not sure if this is really the best answer, but I do know it’s an affirmative action towards removing stress and heading back towards self-care. I can’t do anything about the client that is causing me the most stress acting like an asshole and unable to take responsibility for themselves. I can’t do anything about reminding my co-workers that I am fallible and make mistakes (they seem to think that I don’t?) and I can’t do anything about reminding them any more emphatically that I am one person with about a trillion projects and can’t fine tune everything all at once. What I can do is look to myself and my desires. And my desires are saying: get the fuck out, homeslice.

So, I’ve been job hunting. I have found three jobs that I have applied for this week. According to the unemployment class I had to take when I was unemployed, in order to find a new job, one has to search between 5 – 8 hours a day in this economy. I don’t have the time or the ability to do that. Even though I spend a bit of my time staring blankly at the computer screen, it’s mostly because I am mentally incapacitated, semi-frozen, and barely able to register anything. So, I have to job hunt when I can, which is after work.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that the jobs in my area are kind of scarce. Well, the jobs in my area that I am qualified for and willing to take. I’ve had to cross off a bunch of prospective jobs because they are part-time or the pay inducement isn’t enough or because I just can’t with retail any longer. But this is one of those instances, where I have to decide how much of these stress levels that I can handle before I flip my shit. (When I flip my shit, it can be pretty epic and I usually end up fucking myself over, honestly.) The thing is that, too, I feel that I am worth so much monetary value, I would like to have very good benefits (my current job has PTO and that’s it), and I would like to feel like I am doing something beneficial instead of babysitting a bunch of IT departments who haven’t had the time and wherewithal to accurately learn about their telecommunications service.

When I started thinking about self-care, I didn’t really consider it beyond my body. I didn’t even consider the physical body, at all, at first and it was only after serious thought that I began to encompass that into what I realized that self-care should be. I thought of it as a strict physical, mental, and emotional fashion after my initial post on the subject. There was nothing else. And while stress can impact all three forms that humanity has about them, it still didn’t occur to me that work and having a stress-free work environment could be considered a form of self-care.

Let this be a lesson to anyone – self-care is anything and everything at this point.

And while I have plans and ideas about how to take care of myself on a physical, mental, and emotional level, I have to recognize that the biggest hurdle at the moment isn’t my bad eating habits, my bad sleeping habits, the smoking, the laziness, or anything else. Right now, it’s the stress levels at work and I need to get those down to management levels or get them gone before something drastic happens.

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  1. Self-Care

Self-Care.

I’ve seen a lot of posts going around lately, my own included, regarding self-care. This got me thinking this morning about what exactly self-care entails. I did a very quick mock up regarding myself this morning and found that I was tired, listless, and feeling generally without spoons. This was hearkened on last night when I mentioned that I had been ignoring about 98% of what has been happening within in the great pagan community because I tend to ignore myself in the face of whatever issues are going on and forego whatever work I may be doing in the name of “self-care.” But as I did a quick look over myself and realized that my spoons are low, I began to wonder what the fuck self-care really is because, well, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

I looked around, first, at my friends list on Facebook. Perhaps it was people within that had the answer to what this question. I saw a lot of memes and philosophical type statuses about what people think the world should be like. But that didn’t really answer the question. I searched through the self-care tag on Tumblr and found that, well, there are a lot of different definitions for it, depending on people and their circumstances. It didn’t seem like I was going to find anything that was specifically, “this is what self-care is so go and do the thing.” And that’s kind of what I was hoping for since, you know, I think I may be doing it wrong.

I started thinking about the people who I know who think about self-care, though perhaps not in those words. My supervisor is very unhappy – to her, self-care, is sitting at home and doing nothing because she is an introvert. And to an extent, I can see why that would be the case since, as an introvert, it can be very difficult to socialize at work, either with co-workers or with clients, day in and day out. But she doesn’t seem particularly happy and she often complains about how dissatisfied she is with her life. So maybe not doing anything after work and on the weekends is part of her self-care, but I think there may be an integral part to it that she may not be doing.

In same vein, looking at her circumstances, I find myself. I do a few things that I would deem as self-care: spending time at home when my spoons have been eaten up by constant people-ing; working on issues that the gods or my own psyche point out that need to be addressed through shadow work; pulling back heavily from community related exercises in a better attempt to get a handle on myself, my wants, and my religious life; attempting to eat healthier and exercise more; and spending any private time on pursuits that I would prefer, such as reading fiction books in every spare moment, re-reading historical biographies, and/or boning up on historical time periods that I have a preference for. These are all things that I tend to think of as self-care and things that I have been attempting to do, with moderate success in some areas and extreme success in other areas. But I still find myself having issues in various arenas and finding that, well, I don’t feel like I’m doing things properly.

So, I kept looking for answers.

I polished off my Google-fu and began looking around for some answers.

Wiki, of course, was the first thing that popped up. The first paragraph from Wiki says, “Self-care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development. In terms of health maintenance, self-care is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease. A holistic health approach is common in self-care.” However, as I kept reading, the page seemed to be specifically referring to “physical well-being” and “physical health” as opposed to the all-encompassing health forms that I was looking for.

I kept looking.

And then I think I hit the jack pot when I found this PDF file. The first sentence was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I went through the suggested strategies and saw that there were things, according to the PDF, that I was missing out on. I haven’t been doing well with the whole eating properly thing lately (since we’ve been so social in the last two weeks, I’ve found my eating habits returning to “bad” instead of “moderately okay” like they have been) and I haven’t been able to meet my step goal in days and days. (Some of my step goals are a little difficult to meet anyway because I sit at a desk all day but I do try to make up the steps in some form or another after work.) I had been ignoring my physical well-being.

What else had I been ignoring?

Some of the emotional self-care comments didn’t seem to apply to me. While I understand the requirement, for some people, when it comes to counseling, I haven’t had very many good experiences with counseling and have since decided that due to trust issues, it’s not a good idea for me. I’ve already cut out many of the friends that I have felt used me and wouldn’t let me discuss my own issues. I screen my calls regularly (mostly because I don’t get many and the ones that I do get are those stupid auto-dialer calls from toll-free numbers).

So what else?

“Be aware of things you may be doing that take up a lot of your time but don’t support your self-care such as too much time on the internet, watching TV, even sleeping. These can all be relaxing, enjoyable activities in moderation but can become a way of retreating and isolating yourself.” Hm. And of course, this one, “Make a date night and stick with it, either with a partner, a friend or a group of friends.” Hmmmm.

I can definitely say that I don’t set limits on much of anything. I watch as much television as I want; I don’t spend as much time on the Internet as I used to but I still do it to excess (I feel); I certainly can’t remember the last time I had a date night with either of my boys (mostly because of money); and well, yeah, I do things to excess much of the time. So maybe the issue is that I don’t have enough limits or remember how to limit myself or even think about what limits should be?

I think, perhaps, the limit thing may be the issue.

Devo wrote about knowing thyself and setting limits at the beginning of this year. In this entry, she discusses how she knew where her limits were based on what she’s been dealing with lately and when she knew she had to put some things up in order to maintain herself.

This quote, in particular, is the portion of her post that resonates with me the most currently: “Many people seem to lack this ability – the ability to say no, or to drop something that is important to them. However, it’s my firm belief that all of us really need to sit down, look at ourselves in the mirror and learn what our limits are, and the effect that sticking our head in the sand could be having on the gods and ourselves. How not saying no can be of detriment to the things we really care about.”

I have set limits in some contexts previously. Many of the friends I have had over the years, I have since come to learn that it was not a two-way partnership. I am very much a people pleaser and I found that they were not aiding me at all. It became more important during my unemployment and shortly thereafter to remove such people from my life. While I currently only have maybe two people to whom I can speak with about various things, I’ve also come to set limits within those friendships, knowing that certain aspects of my life shouldn’t meet. (As discussed in this entry.)

In Devo’s entry, she discusses that the best way to set limits is to know yourself. But how do you get to know yourself well enough to know what limits you need to set for yourself? When is enough, well, enough? When can you finally decide what you do want and what you don’t want? And when are the limits too strict and when are the limits too lax?

My limits, currently, are very much in the lax category regarding many things. And I need to tighten things up a bit, I thinks. But how do I know what needs to be tightened up and what doesn’t? I remarked on where, as based on the PDF I linked to, my limits are too stretchy to be effective. But are those the only areas that I need to work on? Maybe there are other areas that need to be addressed and I just haven’t discovered them yet?

Art and words by Michael Leunig. X

Art and words by Michael Leunig. X

During my search through the Tumblr “self-care” tag, I found an image that kind of resonated with me. This image is from a cartoonist in Melbourne, Australia. It took me a while to find the original artwork, which can be seen here at his website. I went through the gallery a few times until I found the image in question, as seen to the right. I think that it is this cartoon, more than anything, that heralds how best to “know thyself” and how best to establish one’s own limits. If we don’t know who we are and get to know who we are then any limits we may set for ourselves are completely useless.

At this time, I need to sit on the fence and get to know myself again. I need to find a clear time in which I can do more than just a quick mock up of what I’m feeling and where I think need to head. I need to do an in-depth, I think, re-introduction to myself. I am not the same person I was last year or the year before. Things have changed in large ways and small ways. And I need to remind myself who I want to be versus who I am now in order to set my limits.

Once I get to know myself, hopefully, I’ll be able to set some limits and know what to cut out and where so that I can get back on track because, honestly, having no spoons really fucking sucks.

 

An Exploration in Love.

I have had a long, hard road with Hetheru for as long as she has been in my life. I can remember the day I felt that she was calling out to me for the first time and I can remember the sheer, stark terror at the thought. I have my reasons for why those feelings emerged at the call of a second goddess – none of which have, really, to do with being called by another deity and all to do with whom the deity in question happens to be a goddess of – but they are issues that I’ve had from the get-go. Throughout our entire relationship, I have attempted to prevent myself from shunting her to the side and to stop myself from forgetting that gods have layers. Hetheru isn’t just the titles that can still incite panic attacks in me – Lady of the Vulva; Lady of the Uterus; the Beautiful One Whose Attire is Attractive; etc. As can be clearly seen here, there are a hell of a lot more epithets than the few that make me panic and rage internally about working with her. However, I continue to have issues with the fact that just looking at her statue can make my breathing a little more rapid, sweat break out across my brow, and an unwavering desire to hide in a tiny closet for a while.

The current incarnation of the hearth-and-home based altar of Hetheru.

The current incarnation of the hearth-and-home based altar of Hetheru.

As time has gone by, and the years have passed, I have spent a lot of my time treading lightly wherever Hetheru is concerned. I have continued my daily devotions so that when I was ready, I could go back to her. But, I pretty much just assumed I would never get to the place where she was hoping I would be, where Sekhmet was hoping I would be. Thing is that I have continued to move forward with the knowledge that, one day maybe, things would work out between us to a satisfactory conclusion. What I didn’t take into consideration was just how difficult all of this was bound to be. It’s ridiculous and silly, admitting that. I have spent literal years ignoring her, shunting her to the side, maneuvering around her as though walking on eggshells, but it never really occurred to me just what sort of difficulties I could expect to face when I finally got to the point where I could admit that, as a deity of the hearth and home, she’s fine, but there are other aspects of hers that I should also honor and pay attention to.

Since our exploration in beauty together, Hetheru has been a rather large presence in my life. The switch from deities has thrown me for a loop, a little bit. As a hard polytheist, I distinguish the syncretic deities by different color associations to differentiate. When I astral with them, Sekhmet is always wearing a red linen, form-fitting sheath whereas Hetheru will wear a white and pink loose sheath. When I feel their presence around me, I see Sekhmet as a hazy cloud of red and when I see Hetheru, I see a hazy cloud of pink-and-white. This differentiation has helped me to distinguish who it is that is “in my head” as well as to better let me know when they’re “wearing one another’s hats,” or syncretizing. (This all sounds crazy and I’m terribly sorry. I’m usually much better with words, making it seem like I’m less crazy than I literally am.) In the last six weeks, I have felt nothing but cushioned by a sweet-smelling pink-and-white cloud. In some instances, it’s almost like I’m drowning in it. In other instances, it’s more like a whisper in my ear. It’s definitely a change from the norm in my life and it’s an ever-present reminder that I have a deity who has taken back seat for three years and is now, seemingly, no longer willing to do so.

I turned, out of need, to Hetheru during Memorial Day weekend when things went exceedingly sour between TH and me. It’s a long story and it’s really not important to the story. All that matters is that he moved out, and it hurt. The problem I kept foreseeing was a little known card reading I had done between the two of us many years ago. During that reading, I foresaw the issues. I saw the possibilities of our futures, both with and without one another. And because the reading was exceedingly negative, I was pretty sure that things were just completely over between us. When TH came back and said that he loved me and wanted to be with me for the simple fact that he loved me for who I am, what I do, what I look like, and everything in between, I turned to Hetheru and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.” This started our lesson plan, our discussion about love, and all of the various items it actually entails.

The lesson plan started off small.

I have exceptionally awful self-esteem. I’ve written about it on my personal blog and I’ve inferred it all over the place. When I look in the mirror at my face, I see the sum total of every Google image search for “the ugliest person in the world.” If you then multiply some of those photos by 20, you may actually get what I feel and think I see when I look at myself. With TH’s admission that he loved me for how I looked, I was floored and nervous. I am guilty of spending quite a while staring at my reflection in the mirror and saying, “You are the most hideous piece of shit this planet has ever wasted space with.” (The worst part is that, during those moments, I have usually gone in there to do some power mantra about how awesome and beautiful I am. As I’ve said, I have some severe issues here.) No matter what I have attempted to make myself seem more pleasing to myself, I have utterly failed: make up, hair styles, positive comments, etc. I know that I can look as perfectly coiffed and wonderful as the women on television and in the movies – and I can do so rather well – but I will always come back to feeling like I am some scared, ugly piece of shit whom no one could ever love for anything about them.

What makes this utterly worse is that I am overweight. While I often say that the body mass index is a load of shit, and I still kind of believe that, I actually fall into the “overweight” category. It doesn’t affect my health. It doesn’t really do anything except to make my self-esteem that much worse. I’m not a fan of dieting – not just because I have no control over myself when cupcakes and cookies enter the mix – and I always feel ten times worse about myself when I attempt to work out. It’s really just a byproduct of having done that “miracle” thing of carrying another human being for nine months. I can remember the days when I was barely one hundred and ten pounds, complaining about my weight. And I can remember the days, still complaining about how fat I must be, when I put on a healthy twenty more pounds. And then, I got pregnant and I’ve kept a lot of the weight that those days added. And as I dry off after a shower, I try not to look at the body I am saddled with, feeling so piss-poor about myself that even the thought of going back to zumba or joining a gym makes me cry from the horror of other people realizing just how grotesque I actually am.

The lesson plan started with how I had to admit, at least once a day, that I am an awesome and spectacular human being.

Another part of the lesson plan had to do with derailing the general discomfiture when TH mentions how much he loves my body. As I’ve indicated, I have absolutely no love of the shell that my soul inhabits. Whenever I wriggle with the need to hide at TH’s voluminous outpouring of sentiment regarding any aspect of my body that I find disdainful – of which there are many – I have to attempt to internalize what he says. And there are days where this lesson has worked to my advantage.

I find myself singing and dancing in the car now, more so than normal, with the knowledge that there is a man who loves my body for what it is. Previous relationships were adventurous and interesting and many of those men claimed they enjoyed and loved my body. While I have to admit that in many of those relationships, I was nowhere near as large as I am today, I never actually felt that was a real possibility. There was always the nagging belief that if I ever got fat, which was always a possibility due to genetics, they would leave. I don’t have to worry overmuch with TH regarding that being the reason. We may have our faults, but his love and worship over my physical stature is true. (The cards I’ve pulled repeatedly regarding our relationship confirm, at least. So, I guess we can say that this is kind of confirmed personal gnosis of sorts.) And there are days where the knowledge can incite me to ecstatic dancing, ecstatic singing, and an over all appreciation of everything around me.

It’s a step, at least, in the right direction.

Another step in this direction, at Hetheru’s direction, has been to post pictures, occasionally, in the sexy pagan Friday tag that has been going around on Tumblr. I don’t really know where or how this started. However, the fact that it started in league with the attempted lessons Hetheru was trying to instruct me in was fairly precipitous. And while she has explained that I don’t have to post every week and she has explained that I don’t even have to make the picture particularly alluring, I have begun to try to incorporate the kinds words that others have said about me. Just this past Friday, a fellow Sekhmet kid she loved my hair. (Thanks!) And another Sekhmet kid said I had a pretty face. (Thanks!) I may not have fully incorporated or internalized the kind words these two lovely ladies have said to me, but I am beginning to at least be able to say, “There are people who like things about me.” As much as the kind replies have helped to boost my self-esteem, there is something even more exciting about the comments that TH has said to me.

I have found, oddly enough, that with the knowledge that someone cares about my body that I have found myself thinking more positively about myself. It’s probably a little sick and twisted that the knowledge of someone else caring about my physical stature should impact how I feel and think about myself. But, there is something incredibly sultry about knowing that someone is willing to kiss all of your parts and to assist you with your beauty regiment if the need would arise. (Do you really think it’s possible to shave your legs when you have a nine-month belly? No. It is not. Not only did TH assist me with leg shaving, but he also assisted in me in shaving other parts as well. [I had a traumatic experience with 70s bush a few years ago and I have kept my trimmed ever since.]) There is something heady and inebriating about the fact that TH is willing to see me in all of my glory and all of my deprecation. And this has absolutely and completely given me a boost that I never knew I actually needed.

It was Hetheru, really, who explained to me that I needed to hear these things on a regular basis. I had spent so many days and so many nights living in the horror of my own head that I began to believe every aspect of those horrors. I began to believe, truly and honestly believe, that I was everything I thought myself to be, which was not good enough, not perfect enough, not beautiful enough to be loved or wanted. And she explained to me that I needed to hear that good things could come to me, that I deserved good things, and that, frankly, I needed to stop living in the snarl of my own head.

“You have lived for so long believing every word your mind has come up with to describe you that you cannot even begin to see that you are a human being. You are everything that a human being is, but you think that you are actually less than a real human being. You have spent so much time living in the tiny, little box that you invented for yourself. This box is a cloister for all of your self hate and self loathing. You are not the sum total of the things you have decided you are. You are the sum total of your love, both for yourself and for others and for the causes that speak to you. You are the sum total of the lesson of beauty that we had together. And you are the sum total of the gods’ love. You are alive. You are worth everything that you say others are worth.

“You are so sweet. You are so kind. You are so congratulatory. You are so into boosting others’ self esteem. You are the positive influence in many peoples’ lives and you forget this. You forget the power of your heka when you tell your friends that they are worth every hurdle someone else has to go through in order to be with them. You forget the power that you wield with each act of kindness, with each sweetness, and with each moment that you infuse your friends with your care and your time and your spoons. You are all of these things and you forget that you deserve to be the recipient of every word you have ever given to your friends.

“You are worth it just as clearly as everyone else.”

And this is something that I need to remind myself. With the constancy of TH’s presence and his ability to make me feel loved, sometimes, I can hear her voice in my head, reminding me that I am worth all of the attention. She tells me that not only am I worth all of the attention that he lavishes on me, but I am worth every sweet caress, every tender kiss, and every positive reinforcement. I am not just worth it because someone loves me for me, the ugliness that I think I have and the body that I wish I didn’t have, but because I am a human being who is worth every ounce of respect that I should be garnished with. And that respect isn’t just based on what other people think about me and what other people feel towards me, but also the respect one gains from the love they give themselves.

It’s a lesson a long time coming, but at least it is finally begun.

An Exploration in Beauty.

Yesterday morning, I got to explore all types of beauty while driving to work.

Some days, I spend my drives to work marveling about things or having deep, philosophical conversations with my gods. On other days, I just ignore everything while I focus a little too much on the fact that I am driving. Yesterday, I chose to focus on the fact that Hetheru is in my life and more often than not, I don’t know why. I know the original reason, but she has stuck around through all of my sobbing, whining, and refusing to do what she wanted of me (and doing it anyway under the mantle of her sister-self, Sekhmet). But she is the complete antithesis to who I am, honestly. She collects things and they’re not like two or three bookcases of books or sets of divination cards out the wazoo. She collects things like beauty products, and sparkly rocks, and seashells. None of these things, if you look at me or even know me, are things that would even remotely equate to who I am, in any form. So, why does she hang around? What’s the point?

While mulling over the fact that I have a main deity in my life who has never really, overtly, explained why she’s here, I began catching flickers of color from the corner of my eyes. No big deal – I was driving and most of the area that I was driving through is flush with spring’s first blush. However, green and white and pink do not equate to gold and red. So, as I turned my head to glance into my passenger seat, thinking I was going crazy, there was a goddess sitting there. She stared at me with gentle eyes and she was… breath-taking. It was as though I was looking at that man who got kicked out of that Middle Eastern country for being too beautiful? Only instead of a male body, it was a female body. And she was wearing a white, thin sheath with golden bangles down her wrist that clacked together when she moved her wrist.

And her movements… they were every ounce of grace that I had ever seen in ballet performances. She moved with an economical intent, making sure that each movement of her arm or positioning of her body was bringing her more and more fully into focus. As I kept glancing over to see her, I couldn’t help but realize just how beautiful she actually was. I had envisioned a perfect paradigm of earthly and unearthly beauty, but I was getting something that tugged at heart-strings and made me feel oh, so inadequate. With each second she was in my car, she shimmered from corporeal to thought-form and back again. I was pretty sure I was crazy, so it stood to reason that she would start talking.

“You’re beautiful, too, you know,” she says softly. Her bangles slide up and down her arm as she reaches out to touch my forearm.

I glance down at the paunch leftovers of bearing a child and of not bothering to work out, of eating what I want, and usually not caring. “I hardly think we could both be classified as beautiful. You are the epitome therein. I am just… something that generally alludes to a feminine splendor that doesn’t deliver and you are the actuality of that splendor.”

She giggles. “You are beautiful. You bear the hallmark, the badges of creating life and bringing it into this world.”

I touch that paunch and think about the nine months of horror and of joy at having my son growing in there. I think about the days when his kicking and tumbling about were the most exciting things in the world. I think back to the bitchiness and grouch of demanding him out every five minutes in the last month. “Being a mom… that’s not beauty. Butterflies are beautiful. Flowers are beautiful.”

“You are wrong. You are beautiful because you are a mom. You are beautiful because you wear the badges of honor for being a mom.” I mull that over for a minute while she says, “And you are beautiful because you are human. All humans are beautiful.”

“Hardly,” I retort.

“If they have a heart, then they are beautiful,” she says.

I thought about this statement for a long while. What was it about humans that could equate them all to being beautiful, no matter the outer shell they reside within, if they had a heart? By her statement, one could assume that no matter the doings that may stain that heart, then a human was still beautiful. Or, maybe it was because we were given free will to preserve a heart that does not weigh more than the feather of ma’at, then we are beautiful because of that? I honestly tried to pick the meaning. Was it just because I had a heart that made me beautiful? Or was it because I could make decisions to preserve the perfection of that heart so that the feather weighs as much as my ib?

In all honesty, such philosophical tripe isn’t normally my repertoire as I drive the forty-five minutes to work in the morning. But, Hetheru – and the other netjer, to be honest – have this habit of forcing your mind outside of its usual trappings. Instead of mulling over what to make for dinner when I got home and what my first plan (that never ends up happening) to get moving on when I got to work, I was trying to figure out what it was about humans having a heart that made them all beautiful. In a manner of speaking, I got it. It was a message of not paying attention to what’s on the outside, but what is on the inside. But, she was saying all humans and not all of them were nice people with good hearts.

Then again, maybe she didn’t think those kinds of people even had hearts anymore.

Or, maybe, once a human being stains their heart with a failure to live in ma’at, they are forfeit in her thought processes.

I went back to the whole being beautiful because we had hearts thing, trying to figure out what it was about my heart that made me beautiful. Or what it was about Joe Blow’s heart that would make him beautiful.

“You’re over-thinking this,” she says to me, finally. She breaks my concentration with her words. She points to a man in the distance. He wears a day-glo green shirt as he rides a mower, doing his job in the morning sunlight. “He is beautiful. Now tell me why.”

I had no clue. I had no idea why a man, mowing a lawn and doing his job, was beautiful.

“He is providing. Providing for oneself and one family – that is beautiful.”

If I was reading into this conversation correctly, then she was telling me that what we do because of our hearts is what makes us beautiful.

“You’re still over-thinking this,” she says. Sighing, she turns to look out into the world around us. We are driving down past the correctional facility. There is a giant, barren field of grass on the right and the soccer field the man is mowing on our left. She points at the barren field, “That is beautiful, too. It has a heart and it is beautiful.”

“All nature is beautiful – wild or ordered,” I reply, on much firmer ground here.

“That building is beautiful,” she says to me. It is the face of a mechanic. It is brown with white lettering. There are cars littering the front parking lot and the sign out front is in some need of repair. It is quaint, to me, more than beautiful but I love architecture – all kinds. I am on even firmer ground here. I agree that architecture and that building is beautiful. Smiling, she points to a yellow sign. “That sign is beautiful.”

I am tempted to stop the car, but I do not. The sign is that glittery yellow they use for road signs. In the center of it, there is a man on a horse. A forewarning that we are entering a countryside where people own horses and ride them in public places. “That sign is beautiful because… why?”

“Humans made it with a purpose. That purpose was for good – they wanted to let people know that there were horses and riders in the area and to be aware so that no harm will come to anyone. That purpose is a good purpose. That sign is beautiful.”

Driving further down the road, I started to look for things that she would tell me were beautiful. It was easy to pick out things that were obvious. The over-sized rocks in the middle of people’s lawns, placed in a carefully manicured subplot were beautiful. Someone had taken the time and energy and forethought to work that rock, either because it was already there or with its being placed their intentionally, to landscape their front yard. Not only was the pattern of the red and green plants surrounding it beautiful, but the person who had worked on that project was beautiful. Whether it was the homeowners themselves or a professional landscape artist who had done it, it didn’t matter. They had worked something beautiful into the world with their intention and that was beautiful.

But, I was putting off the inevitable. The inevitable was that I would have to start finding things that didn’t seem to go hand-in-hand with beauty to make my goddess happy. She didn’t just want me to think about nature as being beautiful, though I do strongly ascribe to the principle that all nature – both ugly and clean, both ordered and chaotic – is beautiful. She wanted me to think outside of that beauty box like she had with her horse riding sign.

I began really looking. I looked at the street lights coming up a they switched from red to green. I continued driving at my speed as I tried to find a reason why those lights were beautiful. In same vein to the road sign with the rider on it, they were beautiful because human beings had made them with the intent of keeping the rest of humanity safe. Along the same lines, I could assume that the cars we were all driving, with their pollution and their break downs and their flats and their loud mufflers and their talking-on-cell-phones-illegally drivers, were all beautiful, too.

“But that’s a little different,” she says. “Humans create things to make their lives easier. They made the wheel to help transport things more easily. That is beauty, too, but cars aren’t just beautiful because of the assembly line someone made in Detroit for that car. They are beautiful because they have a heart, too. Just like you and me and your son and the dog, just like the trees and the flowers and the clouds. Everything has a little bit of a heart in it but a car’s heart is part the car and part the human who loves it.”

We were discussing animism, I was pretty sure. There’s been a sudden burst in urban paganism lately, on Tumblr, so I was passingly familiar with this. It was after reading Zenith’s entry about cars that really nailed home for me the types of personalities each person can have with their electronic items. And I knew the personality of my car – Olga – even prior to reading that entry. (It was only after that entry that I began paying attention to the personalities associated with my laptop and my tablet.) And since I had no doubt about the personality of my car – old, tired, doggedly attempting to keep up her fighting weight – it stood to reason that every other car on the road would have a type of personality, too.

And those personalities could be part owner and part the car’s own.

On firmer ground, I was able to tell Hetheru about how and why Olga was beautiful. In same vein, I was able to explain why Dell, my aging laptop who has the same dogged personality as my car, is beautiful. (What? I’m not so original with naming my electronics – sorry.) I was able to explain why all the cars on the road were beautiful. I was able to point out what made them beautiful and what made them unique. I was getting into the exercise of this exploration on beauty. I was able to give her satisfactory answers and I was able to point out houses, signs, 18-wheelers, and depict why they were beautiful in the eyes of this goddess.

She smiled with each passing answer, pleased that I was finally getting the hang of what she was trying to teach me.

“You are beautiful because of your relationship with TH,” she says, out of left field.

I clam up, deep inside, not willing to discuss this. I could not bring myself to say anything on my relationship with TH at the moment. It did not seem like there was anything beautiful, right now, with my relationship with TH. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I say.

“You love him. You love him so foolishly and stupidly and that is beautiful. You would fight for anything he asked you to fight for. You would protect and cut out the eyes of anyone who would dare destroy your family, even if that person is you or TH. You are beautiful because you love, head over heels, deep emotional love, for that man even with all the problems you two have lived through.

“You are not just beautiful because you are a mom.

“You are beautiful because you love selflessly.”

I could feel myself choking up. To hear from one of my gods that I am beautiful because I love a man who drives me insane some days and who makes me happy on others was nice, if a little painful. I knew that if we continued this conversation, I may cry. The music on the radio was in line with the revelations that she was telling me. And even though, in a secret part of myself, I knew how much I loved that man and even though we continue to have the same old problems, I’m not willing to give up. I’m not willing to just walk away because nothing ever appears to change or because we end up in a new batch of shit-fry. I just keep it going and going because I love and I don’t give up.

“You are beautiful because of your relationship with the Sister, too,” she says to me. I shake my head, not willing to discuss this further. I did not want to talk about my interpersonal relationships at the moment. I wasn’t willing to go further with this conversation, but that was quite all right. To a goddess, it did not matter if the person they were speaking to was willing to continue the conversation. They would talk and that person would listen, whether they really wanted to or not.

“You know you are beautiful because of your friendship with her. You are beautiful because of all that you have done for her.”

The message was clear: it was the part of ourselves that we put into things that makes us beautiful.

So, endeth the lesson.

The Hard Truths of Djehuty.

Note: I know this first part is something my long time readers have read before. He’s asking me to start at the beginning, so…

I was a pretty morbid child. As a pre-teen and into my early teenage years, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell you that I wanted to be a medical examiner. I had no delusions about medical school or anything like that, but it was the most morbid and depressing thing I could think of to answer that question, which is partially why I said it. The other reason was because I had a fascination with death after the early death of my father that came out in very strange and weird ways. It was because of this that I ended up taking anatomy and physiology my senior year in high school (and also because I desperately needed that science credit to graduate). To this day, I still have a bit of a thing for the biological and health sciences, but not to the point where I would tell anyone that, if I had been smart enough to plan my future better, I would have ended up in medical school and would have become that medical examiner I used to profess to wanting to be.

However, my secret and most fervent desire was, actually, to be a writer. Since I was pretty sure I wasn’t a very good author of anything, I never really said I wanted to be a writer out loud. You had to be legendary and awesome in order to publish things to the public. While I have some poems published because of high school, I tend to believe that’s just because there are not a lot of decent teenage poets out there and because my teachers had slim pickings. The thrill of having things in a book is still something that can elicit titillating giggles from me, but I’ve long since given up on hoping and dreaming. Now, I mostly write in this blog and if I begin to work on stories, it’s mostly as a way to pass the time. I can create an entire universe and do the research necessary to make that universe work out properly, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is ever going to read it.

Let’s be honest here: the reason I let the dream of being a writer take backseat to everything is purely selfish. It is because I wasn’t positive I could be successful that I didn’t bother. To me, what was the point in the attempt if I couldn’t make something out of it? I didn’t just want to be a writer so that I could say, “I write for a living,” but I wanted to be successful at it. I suffered from big fish, little pond syndrome (That is when you are the most popular, well loved, awesome-est person at a school, a job, etc. You may be all of those things at the place you are currently, but if you get to the next level, will you still be as beloved as you are now?) when it came to my writing. Everyone ever said that my writing was “wonderful.” They all told me how “good” everything was. I’ve gone back through my writing from those years and I can tell you: nope, nope, nope. And while a writer can be the most critical reader of their own writing, I knew that whatever I was writing wouldn’t necessarily make me successful.

So, why bother?

And that “why bother” attitude has followed me through the years.

With my secret desire banked in my fiery heart, it really wasn’t surprising to find Djehuti on my doorstep. In fact, from the first that I began looking into paganism as a whole, and Kemeticism in minor, I figured that the patron deity I would end up with would be Djehuti (since at that time Sekhmet was off the table for reasons). The whole thing made a lot of sense, though. I liked writing, he was a god of that. I liked to read, there was a connection with reading to him in some form or another. All joking aside, I’m really not kidding when I thought that Djehuti would end up as my patron deity. The fact that he only just showed up and I’ve been able to ignore him, successfully, for nearly five years is a personal best for me.

The thing is that if you ignore something, particularly a god, they will start to make things a little harder and then a lot harder until you can’t ignore them anymore.

Djehuti is a fan of just showing up randomly and talking to me about I could be writing and yet I’m not. We have this discussion about twenty times a day.

D: You should be writing.
Me: I’m driving…?

Or, if not like that, then it goes something like this.

D: You should be writing something.
Me: I don’t really have anything in my head to write that isn’t a blog entry.
D: Oh, no. We’re not blogging. That isn’t what I mean.
Me: But, that’s all the time I have for.
D: Then make the time.
Me: I don’t have the spoons to be up at X o’clock to be writing.
D: You should really be writing, you know.

To say that he is tenacious about whatever he wants is a complete understatement. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll sit back for a little while and then come back in full gear. With his writing engine roaring in my ears, the conversations turn to one word, clipped responses very similar to how one of my co-workers will remind us to update our repair tickets in the program we use.

D: Writing.
Me: I know–
D: Writing.
Me: I hear you, but–
D: You.
Me: I can’t–
D: Should.
Me: Look, please, just–
D: Be.
Me: Would you–
D: Writing.

I’m not really used to this kind of behavior, which is why I normally will infer heavily that Djehuti is a troll.

When Sekhmet wants something, she tells me that I need to do it and that if I don’t I will suffer the consequences. I’ve ignored her enough times to know what kind of consequences she is referring to that I just do whatever she needs me to do. I may not like it *cough* shadow work *cough* and I may not think that it’s a good idea *cough* getting to know new deities *cough* but I will do it because I remember those long, dark periods where I ignored her desires. I’m not willing to go back down that road again [with her] especially after all of the strides I’ve made to move forward. So, I do what she wants, usually in a general time frame, and leave it at that.

However, with Djehuti? There is no time frame. There are no consequences. There is only him, constantly telling me what I need to do. But, where as Sekhmet will generally tell me why or allow me to figure it out on my own (because it’s obvious), Djehuti won’t sit down and tell me why my writing is so important. I have to figure that out on my own.

About three or four days ago now, Djehuti turned the volume up on his desire. It was very strange. While I was sitting at work, doing what it is that I do in front of my dual screen desk, I had this intense desire to sit down in front of a short story that I wrote in high school and just re-read it. There was nothing to do with writing except, perhaps, to add some minor edits to sentence structure or something of that nature. It wasn’t that I wanted to write but that I just wanted to fall back into the mindset that the story can give to me. (I don’t know if this is true of other writers, but when I go back to re-read some of the work that I wrote in high school, I get transported to the mindset of the high school student who wrote it or I get transported directly into the world that I had once created so that I can see if what I have written correlates with what I saw in my head… if that makes sense.) It was so intense that I couldn’t actually not do it – I had no choice.

So, I went into the story, which lowered the volume so to speak. And Djehuti was quite pleased that he had found a way to get me to do something that he wanted me to do – since you know, I’m a consummate ass and can put things off indefinitely if I’m so inclined – and that I was working on this short story in particular. In doing what he wanted, it made me realize that I was very, very, very sad about not being able to spend an entire night in front of my computer, listening to the radio, and creating an entire world or universe in that single night. It also made me wonder what it was that made him choose this story. It’s very old (about 13 – 14 years old) and it’s very poorly written in comparison to my writing style now.

Since that night, I’ve been thinking about this profoundly in every waking moment that I have. Why this story? Why now? What is it about it that makes the desire so intense? Why have I been breathing this short in my off moments? Why have I allowed it overtake me? What is it about this. particular. story. that Djehuti needed me to pay attention to?

Yesterday, while driving to work, I began to have a bit of an epiphany that was put on hold for the rest of the day because of reasons.

This is when I realized that all of my gods are slowly but surely working together to get the things they want out of me, which is namely shadow work right now. I have been planning, and I may have mentioned it here, on a new series that detail my high school shenanigans and all of the really shitty things that impact me still, to this day. This particular short story was written in high school and the main characters are based off of me and an ex that I had from back then. When I had that realization, the music oracle (or Djehuti) came on in and played nothing but songs that remind me of this ex and let me tell you, I was not happy. (I shut off the radio.) This is when I heard Djehuti laughing uproariously and when he said, It took you long enough.

Djehuti is yet another layer for the gods to ensure that I get around to doing what I intend to do. Now, I’ve been putting off this bit of shadow work for reasons that have to do with my last batch of shadow work, but I am going to be doing it. However, I was having some minor issues on how, exactly, to write back that far without having anyone to help me remember. (As anyone who read my last series may remember: I had to ask the Sister repeatedly for information on things that happened with my ex-husband that I purposely forgot.) I don’t need anyone if I have stories that detail my emotional state of mind from back then, now do I? And apparently, Djehuti is a constant reminder – an obnoxious reminder – to get going with it already. So, now, I have visions of my gods doing one of those carefully choreographed water dance things that all end up with me doing what they want in the middle.

But, while all of that is very important information to have for the next batch of shadow work I have planned, it’s really only a very minor thing. It’s not even the thing; it hardly qualifies as little more than a “huh” moment. The important part was the reminder–

Wait.

I don’t really do things that relax me. I have items that make me feel better about things or that will calm me down after a lot of really shitty days in a row. I will occasionally take a hot, warm bath while I read a book, which is calming. I go grave-tending as many Saturdays as I can before the weather turns too hot or too cold, which soothes me. I shuffle Tarot cards without any real reason because the sounds calm my nerves. Sometimes, I will just go driving around pretty landscapes and listen to really loud music. This is the sum total of what I do that “relaxes” me, that makes me feel human, that reminds me that I belong in this body, in this time, and while things can get really bad that doesn’t necessarily mean that I should give up.

Writing is something that used to relax me. If my entire high school world was falling apart, I could jump into the middle of a story, or start a new one, and things would be okay. I could make those characters suffer the worst possible injustices that my teenage mind could think up and have everything work out okay. I could escape into fantasy, horror, and love from a youthful writer’s perspective to get away from the constant drag of a depressive phase that was pretty much constantly from 13 to 19. And when things got bad between my ex-husband and I, I could just jump into a new series of stories and make the lives of my characters as wonderful or as bad as I deemed fit. The act of creation was what soothed me. The act of writing was what made me calm after a bad fight, a bad night, a bad whatever.

That’s the point.

That’s the important bit.

I am so busy working and raising a child and living with my boyfriend and seeing to everyone else that I kind of forget that I am important, too. There is always something that I must do that is household related, whether it is cleaning or it is bill paying or it is tucking my son in or it is walking the dog. Or. It doesn’t matter what the things I have to do are because they are all necessary and they’re the usual batch people have to do when they live on their own and/or have a family. And I am so damn important because I am what makes this household run, financially and mentally and emotionally. I know that I am important, consciously, but subconsciously is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish that is kind of beyond my control. And in being important that means that my needs and desires need to be met, as well, on a personal, relaxing, intimate level.

And they aren’t.

But, you know what?

Writing. Writing is enough to make me feel better for a little while and it is enough to get me out of the doldrums of reality for a while. Writing is an important part of who this soul named Aubs is. And that, my friends, is something Djehuti needed me to figure out on my own.