I Have Driven Off A / Pep.

This past week, I had a part of my body removed because it stopped functioning properly. I tell people we removed my gallbladder because I’ve been beating it up for the last 18 years and we needed to permanently part ways, which is true. I told my gods I was sorry and I didn’t mean to and couldn’t they fix it so I could keep all parts of my body for the afterlife?

It was a very confusing time leading up to the surgery.

To be fair, it was a very confusing time leading up to the diagnosis.

Confusion

O you who emerge from the waters, who escape from the flood and climb on the stern of your bark, may you indeed climb on the stern of your bark, may you be more hale that you were yesterday. – part of Spell 101 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I don’t know why I let it get as bad as it did. The first few times I had a gallstones attack, the pain wasn’t bad enough to drive me to the ER at 1 in the morning. Google-fu pretty much told me what was happening to me (gallstones) so I cut back on fatty foods to the best of my fatty food loving ability and the attacks were minimal. I had one or two in a 6-month period that first year and swore I’d deal with it next time.

But I just kept putting it off (sometimes with valid reasons and other times with probably not quite so valid ones).

Three years is a long time to deal with an  undiagnosed health issue. But I kept assuring myself that waking up my family in the middle of the night because of the pain that would eventually clear up was not worth it. My body and I were on an uneasy keel, but I was managing pretty well.

My gallbladder had other ideas of course. Maybe it got sick of my shit or maybe three years was too long. After a meal that was not very high in fat content, the pain was bad enough to force me to the ER where the doc said, “oh it’s definitely gallstones. There’s an awful lot in there; how long has this been going on?”

It was kind of nice to get the confirmation of what I already knew, but now I had to deal with it. I read up on different ways to contend with it and found non-surgical alternatives. However they all weren’t permanent solutions; the stones always came back.

I decided to ignore the implication that I would, by necessity, have a part of my body permanently removed. The fear of the surgery itself weighed too heavily on my mind, but I was also completely freaked out by the loss of that body part. I could lie and say just losing a piece of yourself was what was freaking me out, but to be frank, it was trying to figure out how this could impact me in the afterlife that was causing my issues.

It had never occurred to me before I faced this that I had always just assumed I would be fully intact upon my death. But now I had to face the music: my poor nutritional choices had brought me to the point where being fully intact upon my death was no longer an option.

a town of memory loss

Seth … will say to him with magic power: “Get back at the sharp knife which is in my hand! I stand before you, navigating aright and seeing afar. Cover your face, for I ferry across; get back because of me…” – part of Spell 108 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

The month of June was completely overwhelming as I faced the news that I needed my gallbladder out. My liver function became less efficient and the doctors were highly concerned because my gallbladder had also begun to harden after 3 years of attacks that I hadn’t dealt with. I found myself crying a lot as I tried to think past my own fears of what was to come.

One night, I cried in the shower, begging the gods to enact a miraculous cure. I knew they couldn’t do such a thing but I was still angry when I woke up with the dull ache around my liver and gallbladder as I had been off and on since the second trip to the ER. I had known the only way to deal with this was removal but the terror that I wouldn’t go to the afterlife because I was missing a piece of me held on and squeezed at me.

That sounds almost ridiculous, I suppose. “I’m terrified of surgery because my beliefs tell me I need all of my body to get to the afterlife.” I don’t want to say that this was a crisis of faith because it wasn’t. It was more like failed attempts to correlate a belief system from early human civilization with the modern era.

This is probably quite common for those of us attempting to create an historically informed practice from an ancient religion. For the most part, I’ve moved beyond these issues and have modernized my beliefs and practices where I needed to. But sometimes, apparently, something comes up that tosses you into a tailspin.

The thing that finally got me over this particular hump was something a coworker of mine said when I mentioned how much the notion was freaking me out. “Maybe they’ll put it in a biohazard jar so you can bury it.” It was said in jest and made me laugh, which was the overall point at the time. And somehow, hearing that set me a bit at ease as far as loss of organs went.

It occurred to me that I was probably being ridiculous. As I came at the fear from another angle, I had to remind myself that people in ancient Egypt probably also lost body parts and may not have been able to keep them for whatever reason. I most likely wasn’t going to be barred from the afterlife because an organ had stopped working properly and needed to be removed before causing me any serious harm.

When I was able to see it from that angle, I felt better. I was still a little weirded out by the whole thing since, aside from canines that didn’t come in correctly, I had never had to have anything removed before. But at least I could turn my anxiety away from what my soul would uncover upon death and focus heartily on my fear of the surgery itself.

Surgery

…expel my evil, grip hold of my falsehood, and I will have no guilt in respect of you. Grant that I may open up the tomb, that I may enter in Rosetjau, and that I may pass by the secret portals of the West. – part of Spell 126 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I knew fear as an intimate companion the days leading up to the surgery. I would hear that phrase from Christian burials, “and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” and I would sit in a haze of terror. I would shake with it and I would hold onto my apotropaic amulet and let fear race through my veins.

I broke down minutes before the surgery, whispering in my mind, I don’t want this; I don’t want to be here. Please let this be a nightmare. But it was reality and forward I went. The SO squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead, but I was still terrified of what was going to happen to me.

The removal of the organ; the death like sleep doctors were going to control while I was out; the unknown pain and recovery of what was to come after. All of it coalesced into a sort of miniature battle where I wasn’t really sure if I would survive as intact as I hoped to be.

This sounds ridiculous but it felt a bit like a battle against that entropy snake we all battle against as Kemetics. It felt like I was going into battle against an unknown and unseen enemy and I could either survive another day or I could die in the attempt. I didn’t step into the battle with courage like you’d expect from a true warrior but with tears on my lashes and a team of ladies in blue injecting something into my IV.

Split seconds before I passed out, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking that this was a bit like being drunk without all the terrible consequences. The grating in the ceiling above me did a full 180 spin and I can remember thinking, it’s like bed spin without the nausea, and then I was waking up in a green room with nurses everywhere.

I’ve felt very fragile since the surgery. It’s kind of made me realize that our bodies can easily break. I mean, I knew this in a sort of abstract way – I had a fractured elbow a few years back and I’ve fractured my ankle before – but it’s like the point had to be made real again. I feel very much like I could break completely, maybe next time it will be in half.

I’m recovering though, no matter how dark my thoughts or how fragile I feel.

The pain is weird; it comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I could just recover on my own and then the next time I go to get up for something, I have to call for help because I can barely even think of the idea of getting up without someone helping me to my feet. I overdid it yesterday with all my trying to do this on my own and I’m suffering for it now.

My body feels a little foreign because of the pain, a little like it was someone else’s and now I’m trying to make it fit. No. No, it’s honestly like I put on a different skin suit after the surgery sometimes and now I have to figure out all the motor control again.

No. No… maybe a better description would be like being reborn…

I am reborn, I see, I behold, I will be yonder, I am raised up on my side, I make a decree, I hate sleep, I detest limpness, and I who was in Nedit stand up. – part of Spell 174 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

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Kemetic Round Table: Welcome to the New Deja Vu.

I’ve been trying to remember how long I’ve been doing this shtick and you know, I can’t honestly remember when I started being mystically bewildered. I think I started all of this bullshit about 6 years ago, but the memories from so long ago are hazy. I guess this is what happens when you have so much shit going on in your life: it’s hard to remember the exact details of what was happening half a decade (or more) ago. I guess it doesn’t matter because as far as it feels, I’ve been tap dancing to the same beat for an eternity.

Lost Lake

Sometimes, it seems so clear and other times, it seems lost in a fog bank. (Image by Ben Canales.)

Things have changed so much in the intervening years, I know that much. At times, I am both amazed and horrified by how things have turned out. It’s almost as if I had this sort of set plan for what I was hoping to achieve, which was less a plan and more of a vague arm wave in a general direction, and I have veered completely away from whatever that plan was supposed to be. And still at other times, I am very much relieved that I am not that wide-eyed, naive little shit. I have developed and redefined both myself and my relationships. I have an arsenal at my disposal – something that old me would have been whining about not having – and I am grateful for it.

But there are days, where I do indeed miss being the naive little shit.

Looking back down the fucking years, I think the question more appropriate here is how hasn’t my practice changed since I started all of this because everything has changed. I mean, I actually have a practice for fuck’s sake! I started this blog with a bunch of whining and sniveling about how I wanted to be like everybody else but didn’t know how to get there. I have things that I do regularly; I have prayers that I say to myself; I have an established dictionary of referenced and not-referenced UPG; I have books that I can go to for information; I have relationships with deities for shit’s sake. Sure there have been exciting additions and some sorrowful subtractions, but at the end of the day, my practice has changed so much that to actually discuss it with any fucking semblance of brevity would probably require about 20 years and a lot of generic arm flailing.

I do still whine about not having a manual. I think about half of my posts I’m commenting about having missed out on the sale of all of the HOW TO books that must be floating out there. I mean, for real, they have to exist because there are so many other bloggers out there who seem to have their collective shit together. And that’s something that hasn’t changed either: I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. I mean I have things and stuff that I do and I guess that could qualify as “looking” as if I have my collective shit together, but honestly, I end up whining and crying about not understanding what’s happening more often than not.

So, I guess that’s a win for constantly feeling like I’m at the tip top of a roller coaster, getting ready to zoom down at a million miles an hour.

The overwhelming thing that hasn’t changed though is that Sekhmet is still here. (Why?) She’s pushed me, pulled me, destroyed me, burned me to cinders, loved me, protected me, molded me anew, killed me, brought me back to life, slit my throat, sewn up the wounds, fucked with me, put up with my bullshit, let me cry, let me whine, made me fall in love with her, forced me into uncomfortable places, et cetera. She’s turned me into a pretzel of her own devising and it sucks.

There are so many days where I’m screaming inside, crying unshed tears, and demanding to know why the fuck I’m going through this, but at the end of the day, I am glad for it all. It’s changed me so much into the person who I am today. I can remember times where I didn’t like who I was at all and now, I can honestly say that while I may not “love” myself in the ways that those stupid trippy posters tell you that you should, I can honestly say that I respect myself. And I can’t in all honesty say if that would be the case if Sekhmet wasn’t around.

I never expected anything that’s come my way since I tentatively said to my friends (of the time), “I think Sekhmet is calling and I think she has been for a very long time.” I thought that once I entered into that relationship then I was halfway to finding a solid path. I honestly believed that by finally admitting that this was a thing then I would end up with, like, some idea of what was going to come next. Or maybe I just assumed that the alpha and omega was Sekhmet. And you know, that is actually true but there’s so much more to everything I do – the relationships, the daily offerings, the whining, the initiations, the services, the ranting, etc – than just she being the beginning, middle, and the end. But now I have whole books’ worth of UPG just regarding our relationship, never mind anything else.

♥ For The Love Of Candy!!!! ♥


She gave me the candy and I got into the van. (Image by stoopidgerl.)

Honestly, if someone new were to look at this entry and wonder what it was that they could learn from me, I would honestly have to say that they shouldn’t go into this with the idea that they’ll end up having a practice that looks like someone else’s. If they do and things don’t work out the way that they expect them to, then they’re going to be disappointed with the whole experience. I went into this whole thing with a sort of panicked wide-eyed gleam and no real idea about what the hell I was doing. It was only after I entered down this road and began networking that I got the idea that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t meet up to some invisible standard I was holding myself to which caused a lot of issues between Sekhmet and I. I laugh about it now but I have to say, holding myself to everyone else’s ideas of what a path should be like fucked with me and fucked with my relationship. So don’t do that.

And you know, it’s okay to be scared of what’s going on.

And don’t get upset if your UPG doesn’t quite match up with anyone else’s.

And don’t think that there is one true way here because we’re all individuals with individual relationships and individual preferences.

And don’t think that there’s a moment in time where you’ll be able to say, “I’ve done it; I’ve learned everything.” There will always be something new and exciting and terrifying on the horizon waiting for you.

And don’t worry that you’re doing something wrong because you don’t have a godphone or you don’t have UPG or you can’t astral or the gods don’t come down as beings of white light to give you dreams or whatever. That’s okay. Not everyone’s cut from the same cloth and so too our relationships with our gods.

And don’t hesitate to tell people that they can have fun when they’re doing the serious rituals and stuff. And don’t forget to remind yourself of that.

And don’t think that Egyptological books are the start and finish of everything.

And if you love your fucking gods, then you fucking love your gods.

And if shit comes at you from left field, you are perfectly entitled to scream and run away.

And if you’re so fucking pissed at your gods that you hate them, then by golly you fucking hate them.

And if you don’t have a strong emotion either way but this is a job to you, then you rock at that job of yours.

And like kick ass and take some fucking names.

Prep.

I spent today cleaning, which isn’t very shocking. I live in a small household and I have a young child; cleaning is pretty much a daily occurrence. But with Wep Ronpet coming up, I knew that I wanted to get a handle on the hoarder like tendencies that had overtaken my kitchen table and wash down the walls [in public areas] in preparation for what was coming. I also knew I needed to make serious decisions about where certain things are headed and I had to make serious room for rituals that I’ve been nudged/pushed/shoved/hinted/informed/ordered to do this Wep Ronpet [season]. So, I had a lot of fucking stuff to do and I had decisions to make.

The main decision being, not that I was going to do these things because I was going to do the things, but where these things were going to take place. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I live in a small house. I have my altar spaces in a public area (the dining room/kitchen area) so that I wouldn’t forget to give offerings daily. My house is built very strangely so I have the room to have tables just kind of hanging out, waiting around for things to go on them. The problem with this set up is that this is the only space where I can have these things, which means when larger rites are requested, such as those for Wep Ronpet, I need to consider where the hell things are going to be happening.

In a fit of pique last year, I purchased one of those shitty build-it-yourself bookcase for $20, which is where I housed the lwa and their related accoutrements. As I mentioned last month, the lwa have been missing in the last few months. I’ve thought about this issue not very much since I wrote that post because it’s painful. If I’m correct in my assumption that they’re gone, I know why (the lesson was learned) and that hurts. But if I’m incorrect and they’re just biding their time because right now is high Kemetic time, then I don’t want to be rash.

But I also need more fucking space to do things and to have things because, as much as I love the lwa and the relationships I’ve cultivated with them, my first calling has always been to the Kemetic gods. Or, to put it more clearly: they got first dibs. And their dibs, especially right now, are really fucking loud, really fucking non-negotiable, and really fucking important to get the fuck through. Maybe, just maybe, the lwa will come back with the cool air of the fall (hopefully around the same time when I start up my grave-tending services) and the winter months… since I’ve mentioned they tend to be, er, louder in winter. But, then again, maybe not.

Again, in the meantime, I need more fucking space.

With a heavy heart, I cleared off the bookcase I had purchased with the specific intent to house the lwa. I’ve turned this into my “household altar space.” Since I am, as anyone knows, a deity collector, I have a lot of fucking gods that I need to pay attention to at any given moment. Our relationships, for the most part, aren’t nearly as intense or as all-pervasive as my relationship with Sekhmet, which is to be expected. In many instances, the relationships I have had with the gods who have come poking around, looking for attention, have taken on similar aspects to the one I have with Geb (details, for those interested).

This is a real weight off my shoulders, by the way; I don’t think I can even explain adequately how overwhelming it can be to feel the need to pay attention to a dozen various netjeru at any given moment. I know there are other polytheists out there, like me, who have developed relationships or been pushed toward other deities/beings by their gods and have, in consequence, developed required attention-paying duties to said new beings/deities at any given moment. I’m actually in this boat, myself, so I decided that it would be best to kind of follow ancient Egyptian customs and just have a place where household type deities are paid attention to.

Of course, unlike the ancient Egyptians, I have deities within my “household” area that may not necessarily fit in with their dynamic. There is no Tawaret and Meskhenet holds no sway over me, either. But I do pay attention to Bes and Hetheru and Aset. I have since added the other flocks on over, telling them each morning that they can stop in for a bite and ask to share some cool water with the residents-with-icons (Hetheru, Djehuty, and Aset), if those residents are so inclined.

Seriously, this was the best fucking decision I have ever made.

In so moving my household altar space, I have also decided to open up my “hoarder fucking alert” cabinet. This is where the household space used to reside [on top]. Within the cabinet is, well, it’s a fucking packrat’s wet dream. Most of it is herbs and herb-related things for those off moments when I think, “Yes, I shall magic,” and utilize such things to get what I want. The thing is that these fucking jars are damn bulky and I would prefer to not have them in the cabinet. However, since I don’t up my stores of herbs and it can be a lengthy period of time between uses, I also don’t want them in direct light or in a public area where some yahoo can touch or where a child may break them.

(Magical parenting problems? Parents-who-magic problems?)

I decided to pull out the Tarot collection and toss it over underneath the household altar. I figure this is a good decision because then, I may be more inclined to use them again. My Tarot or oracle deck use has seriously gone down the fucking tube in the last year. I honestly don’t know if this is because I don’t have a lot of time to myself and I tend to need quiet time to read what the cards are telling me, or if it’s because I just don’t want to know what to expect or what could be coming my way. I guess that could be considered a stupid move – head-in-the-sand thing – but it’s kind of my M.O. about these things.

Also, I have decks that I either need to sell or give away. So, by pulling these out and putting them in a [more] public area, I’m kind of helping myself… maybe? I think that if I see the decks regularly, since they are on the second shelf of the bookcase thing, this might mean that I actually do something about all of that? Besides, outside of two decks that I really like, most of the Tarot are taking up space so that I can’t collect the ancient Egyptian themed decks that I actively collect with no purpose other than to own them. By getting rid of decks, then, you know, I have more space for things that take up that space.

Yes, I know these is clearly an issue, but it’s my issue and I like it.

As I began pulling out the Tarot decks, I discovered that I have a metric shit-fuck-ton of candles. I knew I had a lot because I have them hanging out all over the place in my house. This is not, by the way, packrat tendencies but concerns raised when I was out of candles during the entire fucking week my neighborhood was without power after the Halloween nor’easter. But, I have candles that don’t really aid with possible power outages… as in, I found an entire box of tea lights (white) and then random tea lights (four, scented) and then I found a bunch more tea lights (white) in a baggy. I don’t even know what I have all of these tea lights for or when I purchased them. The box has a sticker, though, which says I was planning all of this at a dollar store.

Now I have to decide what to do with them. They aren’t going to help me with this week’s ritual stuff. I have full-fledged candles already set up and I have an entire box of votive candles (white) that I have on hand for just such a purpose… on top of the smaller box of votive candles (also white) that I bought last week, sure that I had thrown out aforementioned large box.

Maybe I have more problems than I’m willing to admit.*

* This is actually quite possible. Hoarding is a family trait from my grandmother whose entire upper story was filled with useless tidbits. My mother and I have both found ourselves guilty of these things, even after swearing we would not be like my grandmother. This is why I go through my stuff, or try to, regularly and throw random things away/give things away because I swear I’m not doing this packrat/hoarder nightmare shit.

I love candles, but I think I’m at my candle limit. Hopefully, I will remember this moment and all of my candle ridiculousness the next time I am in a store that sells candles… even if they’re on sale or something.

After a lot of back and forth, I think I figured out a functional cabinet layout that will allow me to keep ritual items within it until I need them. I was able to clear space out from the drawer that I stash ritual items in (underneath Sekhmet’s space) and move things to the cabinet. Of course, though I have finally managed to get the damn thing closed with a modicum of belief that I was “successful,” I have to admit that I forgot other ritual items that will need to be housed within there. (They’re currently waiting to be cleaned.)

After about four hours of thinking, moving things, debating what can and cannot be kept out, and then re-thinking what I decided, I think I have a functional space. I also think I’m set up, mostly, for the physical things for Wep Ronpet and the Intercalary Days. Hopefully, these rites are successful and I end up happy with the end result.

The Arm Flail.

Yeah, this is about right.

I often wonder if the gods find it amusing to watch their devotees going through the act of, what I deem officially from here unto forever, “Kermit Arm Flail Mode.” Anyone who reads that phrase knows exactly what it is that I am talking about; and for those who don’t, it’s easy enough to search online for the phrase and finding the appropriate image. (Or you can just look over to your right hand side and see exactly what I mean.)

It’s a visual representation that, I feel, encompasses much of the individuals who make up the wider pagan community at any given moment and quite often, it is a perfect representation of both my and other polytheists’ personal practices. I think there may even be a tag, on Tumblr, for just such a thing in the wider community. Whatever the case may be, many of us have moments where everything is melded together to encompass the very act by which Kermit is so well known: the arm flail.

The arm flail can happen because of anything, really, which makes it alarming is the frequency with which I see posts that can easily be encompassed within that phraseology.

I can remember as a newbie pagan, constantly feeling like I was in the middle of the longest and most drawn arm flail of my path. Everything could elicit the reaction: I didn’t hear the gods – arm flail. I wasn’t sure if they appreciated my offering of X – arm flail. I was pretty sure I was doing it all wrong – arm flail. There wasn’t an easily attainable manual that told me how to religion – arm flail. I accidentally tripped over my own two feet and dropped my offering – arm flail. I broke a nail leaving the altar – arm flail. No one could tell me what I was doing was correct – arm flail. People were mean to newbies – arm flail. People were assholes – arm flail. People were talking about frightening topics – arm flail. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing – arm flail.

Over the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve become less adept at the arm flail. Or, more likely, I’ve just become used to some things and I’ve learned to adapt because of other things and I’ve stopped allowing shit to accumulate that would frustrate me. Take your pick here because any of them will do. You see, I’m pretty sure that I do still do the arm flail, but the reasons behind it have become more personal and less, “what everyone else is doing.”

If you look at the above examples, there is a pattern. I was so busy worrying about what everyone else was doing that I ended up in the middle of a flail. And then I felt too stupid to live – tripping and breaking nails – in comparison to what other people were doing, thus a good flail was had. And then, as I got more used to what I was hoping to achieve and actually, possibly achieving it, I ended up letting events unfolding around me, and my lack of an adequate response to such things, cause me to jump into the class flail pose.

I think that’s one of the milestones in any polytheistic or pagan religion, by the way: the moment when what outsiders are doing doesn’t really impact you, at all. Now, I’m not talking about wider community impact because, well, assholes being assholes to newbies and fucking around by telling people what to do from their “one twoo path” egotistical trip is a problem and should elicit arm flail procedures. However, what I meant was that when you stop worrying about how your practice adds up and stacks against what everyone else is doing, then that’s the milestone.

Maybe we can think of that as, “Arm Flail Level 2,” or something.

The things that cause you to freak the fuck out and go into “Kermit Arm Flail Mode” are no longer based on what you think your practice should be based on because of what you see other people are doing. Instead, they are based on things you see happening within the wider community that are unsettling or things that are happening to you in a personal devotee capacity.

In my practice, level 2 was officially achieved when I began caring about the community, at large. Part of this was due to the people I hang out with – boat paddlers. I may not technically be one (I frankly don’t know if I really fit that title) but I hang out with a lot of them. I do try to emulate them in various arenas and it is through boat paddling, in my honest opinion, that Kemetics have such really wonderful things as “don’t be a dick,” “two response rule,” and the “don’t be a dick thing.” (I know, I mentioned it twice. It’s important enough to merit a million mentions, in one sentence even.)

But it was because of the boat paddling that I began to become aware of things outside of myself. And sure, being aware of things outside of what I was hoping to achieve is always a good idea. I mean, we should, at least, have an eyeball out there to see what the wider community is doing. Even for those of us niche enough, like Kemeticism, to not really fall under the “main stream” sobriquet should probably be aware of things that are going on. And since I was hanging out with a bunch of boat paddlers, I was intimately aware of what was going on.

And so, I entered “Arm Flail Level 2,” which to me is embodied by wider community ramification and bullshit.

I wrote a lot of community related posts when I entered that particular phase in the hopes of doing some good. However, after a while, it gets to the point where you get burnt the hell out with community and boat paddling. Sure, knowing what’s going on is a bonus but it can kind of eat you alive. This is why boat paddlers should have a hearty constitution. And since I don’t really think I have a hearty constitution, I have since removed myself from the situation.

Thus, I have moved from level 2 to the really awesome phase, “Arm Flail Level 3.”

But this is the really best part, I swear, and this is where I currently reside.

Instead of being sent into flail mode because of what others are doing that I thought influenced my personal practice and instead of being sent into this mode because of what other people are doing that influences the wider community, I have entered the best part. The part where my personal practice and all it entails is the be-all, end-all of everything. There is nothing more important than my personal practice and though I do still do community outreach work and while I do still offer myself out there in a semi-boat paddler capacity, the wider community is no longer an issue. The only thing that is an issue is what my path is, to me, and the odd twists it can take.

And boy, are those some odd fucking twists.

I find myself, not very often, in flail mode, but I have found myself in longer periods of flail mode. It’s not a single action of, “what the fuck now,” but an elongated process that is drawn out for however long before I figure it out. And sometimes, it can take me a lot of months to figure it out. Or, perhaps, it isn’t a matter of figuring it out at all that is causing the arm flail. Perhaps, it’s the simple matter that I have figured it out and I don’t like it. Just because I’m in arm flail mode doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because I’m lost and fucking confused, but it can just as easily mean that I don’t particularly like what the fuck I’m seeing/feeling/doing/being told.

Maybe it’s less arm flail mode level 3 and more like, whining baby hissy fit. In either case, it just means I’m more often just telling anyone who is willing to listen, “I am not this thing. I am not doing this thing. It’s not happening. Are you listening?” And then when it’s painfully clear that they are not, in fact, listening, I am then thrust into the middle of arm flail mode level 3.

I don’t know if this is a contest among the gods, but I’ve often thought that it probably should be: how long can I keep X devotee in arm flail mode? And then, there is a contest once a month or maybe once a quarter or once a year between all of the gods and they point out that they were able to keep their devotees in arm flail mode, level fucking three no less, for so much time. And of course, those of us who are in that mode are on the verge of tears, trying to figure out what the fuck we’re fucking doing.

Of course, the gods are probably laughing it up.

Yes, it’s kind of like this. However, there is usually less of a smirk on my face and usually a blank stare.

In the interim, many people are rapidly beginning to understand the “Kermit Arm Flail Mode” is a normal and safe reaction to any particular deviation that our seemingly obvious paths are somehow taking. And they are rapidly becoming “old hat” when their spiritual lives end up at these deviations. Sometimes, I legitimately just wind up curled in a ball because of all of the flailing – with sore arms no less – and internally scream until I can smile through it all. Most days, I just wind up keeping my nose to the grindstone, hoping that someone will listen to what I would like things to look like.

Then again, I’m used to the “bigger picture” conversations by now and I very much recognize that our wants and desires do not always figure into this. (Let’s be real here: I tend to believe that none of our wants and desires actually figure into anything unless they meet the end game, specifically the “bigger picture” that gods are always on about.)

So, instead, arm flail mode and internal screaming about all the things I’m not doing or I’m not willing to admit is possible.

This sounds about as productive as it obviously is.

Grounding and Centering: A Guide.

I go through periods where I start to feel as if my skeleton is trying to jump out of my body. I’m probably not alone here. I’ve seen remarks on various blogospheres and overheard friends saying similar things, so I can at least admit that I’m not alone when I feel this way. It gets to the point, sometimes, where I am so fucking jumpy and uncomfortable in my skin that I feel very much like I’ve been mainlining caffeine for weeks and am now just rushing around on the high. Days and weeks can pass before I even recognize my own patterns enough to realize that I’m having some issues. When it finally dawns on me that I am falling into old patterns – can’t sit still, nothing sounds right when I write it, everything pisses me off, and nothing I do is seemingly good enough – I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve done something to center myself and I should probably work on that.

The thing is, when I first noticed this issue a few years ago, all of the advice I found on those self-help websites was just a load of shit.

In every do-it-yourself guide or “Seven Easy Days to Spiritual Nirvana” type book that is out there, they tell you to ground and center. They tell you to be with the trees and throw down some roots and just go to town with sending all that wonky energy into the earth. They tell you about how that’s the whole point in Mother Earth and just toss it right on down and bring in the good energy that Mother Earth is surely wanting you to have. I tried absolutely everything I could do in order to get down with some trees and send that useless energy right where it belongs. The thing is that I realized something pretty quickly: while I can visualize this all happening, I don’t want to be a fucking tree. I’m a human being with human emotions, which occasionally get so out-of-control that I end up feeling like I’m going to puke our rainbow chunks of emotional cartilage at the next person who looks at me. None of these are things that, I think, trees go through. Besides, if I wanted to be a tree or at least act like a tree, I would have probably have signed up for being a tree in my next life.

I chose to come out a human being and to be a human being, so why the hell am I going to emulate trees? Sure, they’re nice to look at it. They do really awesome things like purify air (or some shit) and they provide shade in the heat. But, I don’t want to emulate one in any context. I just want to get this energy overload out of me.

With every ounce of advice I’ve seen on websites, in books, and going around Tumblr, I’ve just kind of had to shake my head at all and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I liken myself to Finn the Human from the episode, Up a Tree, I’m ready to make my break from all of that bullshit. I don’t need a bunch of people trying to induct me into their tree-loving cult. I’ll just go right on ahead and find my own way, but of course, next comes the question: if you can’t ground and center like the people who are “in the know” tell you that you should, then what the fuck are you supposed to do?

Quite often, I think we all forget that as children, we would do things that would ground and center us. We would run around with our friends, ride bikes, climb trees, play games, and do any number of things that, upon reflection, can clearly be seen as acts bent on grounding and centering ourselves. I can’t even tell you how many times a week, when my son is running around like a wild child in somebody’s yard or just generally all over the place with the other kids, that I hear someone say to me, “He is going to sleep well tonight.” And it’s not really that he’s going to run himself down, but that he is subjecting the world and his family and his friends unto the energy build up in his little body, sending it out and into the universe to do what it will while it leaves him a fraction at a time.

To me, it seems like the people from that in-the-tree-part-of-the-tree mentality seem to think that we, as adults, can’t do that or shouldn’t do that. We have to send all of that energy into Mother Earth while we take energy in return. And I think, people, as a whole, frown on the idea of adults doing the things that children do in order to release all of that pent up energy. But honestly, I have to say that’s bollocks (both parts). If it works for a bunch of six-year-olds, playing hide-and-go-seek and shouting their fool heads off, why can’t we, as adults, do the same fucking thing but with adult-like things? Not doing that, in my opinion, doesn’t make a damn lick of sense when it did fifteen, twenty, thirty, or more years ago when we were all just children, shouting into the darkness with our friends.

When I first realized that I wasn’t going to be able or willing to follow what everyone always said “worked,” I have to admit that I flailed a bit. There is something almost comforting in the idea of being like everyone else. It means that what they do will absolutely work for you and whatever hard work one must put in to discover what works for the individual is not your problem. However, I am an individual and while I think trees are fucking nifty, I’m not going to act like one because I’m out of sorts and overly bitchy. This, of course, meant that I had to start figuring out how to get to that magical state, or really mundane state, of not-going-to-kill-bitches-today. While killing someone is probably highly therapeutic, the court system highly frowns on such practices. So for those of us – because I know that I’m not alone here – who aren’t down with the tree shenanigans, it means it’s time for some trial and error.

Some good news, though, about my having felt as if my skeleton were getting ready to go around on walkabout is that I have a list of possibilities! The bad news is that it is going to take whatever intrepid reader is interested in exploring these options some trial and error before they figure out what works best for them. Again, as much fun as it may be to be like everyone else, we are all individuals. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for anyone else reading this. But perhaps, by offering these suggestions, it will give people worried and freaking out (and possibly seconds away from ripping off peoples’ faces) something to consider before they get to the breaking point (and possibly rip off peoples’ faces).

1. Dancing

I think this is probably one of the biggest suggestions that people of the not-a-tree persuasion recommend. And I honestly have to admit that I don’t listen to this advice very often. I should, though, because there is just something about getting hot and sweaty, heart-pumping and booty-shaking that can really bring things into focus or loose them into the atmosphere to disappear on the a wave of pent-up energy. And the act of dancing doesn’t even have to be anything over-the-top, either. Sometimes, I don’t have the ability to do much actual dancing for lots of reasons: self-conscious, not enough room, stuck in a car, etc. So, sometimes, to me, releasing that pent-up, fuck-off-everything energy is as simple as tapping my feet or fingers to the beat of whatever is on the radio. Or, maybe it’s wiggling my butt while I’m sitting on the couch writing a blog entry (as I am actually doing right this moment). But sometimes, you actually need to get up and just fucking go with it, with a partner or without. Whatever the case may be, dancing should definitely top the lists of all people in the not-a-tree group of individuals.

The song, in my experience, doesn’t even really matter, either. I will dance to whatever the fuck I want to, whenever the fuck I want to. I’ve spent whole days listening to 50s classic rock and dancing the out-of-sorts a way. I’ve spent my drives home from work, overwrought from a long day of intense bullshit, listening to something like Painkiller by Three Days Grace or Desperately Wanting by Better than Ezra in an effort to get that feeling out of my bones. Right now, I’m actually obsessively listening to Timber by Pitbull feat Kesha while I wiggle this shit right the hell out of my system. Whatever the hell you choose is entirely up to you and how the fuck you get your body moving doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is that you get your ass in gear and start moving.

2. Walking/Jogging

This probably goes hand-in-hand with dancing. I think it’s one of the more popular recommendations out there for those of us who don’t belong to the part-of-the-tree group of people. As with dancing, it is the act of doing something that gives you what you need in order to release all of that fuck-shit-up energy going on with you. I spent a lot of time, for months, just walking randomly wherever the hell my feet were willing to take me. I had no particular goal in mind because it wasn’t the act of walking that was important. The important part was that I was feeling incredibly out of control with everything going on around me and I needed a form of escape. To me, becoming one with the trees doesn’t help me when I want to escape the “rah” screaming fits that I may feel deep inside. However, doing something, like dancing or walking, was exactly what I needed in order to get out from under the pressure of the energy build up.

I would spend hours walking around my neighborhood, just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I would listen to music as I walked and sometimes, I didn’t. It all depended on how quickly I needed to get somewhere before I felt like I was going to rip someone’s face off or break into a thousand pieces because of the overload going on. Whatever the case may be, it was the act of actually moving that helped me to focus my mind long enough to try and find a way out from underneath everything that was poking my insides and making me feel as if I was getting ready to jump out of my skin.

3. Baking

It was only when I was unemployed that I realized how much I really enjoyed baking. It’s an organized activity that requires (if you’re following a new recipe, at least) exact requirements and attention. This appeased my obsessive compulsive side. However, the act of actually mixing everything together is just a mind-numbing enough project to not really require you to pay attention it. It was a perfect mix to make both sides of my personality feel at peace. And each action – by adding an ingredient – can help to release some of the pent up aggression/out-of-sort/da-fuck-am-I-feeling that’s going on. As the process of baking goes on, I start to slip into the rhythm of it. It gives me something to focus on enough to not feel as if everything I am attempting to do is going to turn into some fucked up piece of shit, but it also gives me enough creativity to allow myself a little free reign with what I’m making. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you get with the overall process, so you’re less likely to behave like a wreck when you’re adding new things.

But each action that is required for the overall baking process can be used to release some tension in specific areas, too, which is why I think it’s such a good way to get my head back to where I need it to be (under my skin). Cracking eggs? Good for being pissed off and needing to take some anger out on something. Need to make sure butter is soft before adding it? Good for staring moodily into space while you get your head in the game. Measuring out enough flour? Good for control freaks feeling out-of-control. You see? Every aspect to baking can be used to help bring your head back under control in some context. If that’s not fucking awesome, then seriously, what the fuck is?

4. Dishes

I hate doing laundry and I hate cleaning, but I don’t actually mind doing the dishes. (Sh, no one tell my ex-husband and my ex-roommate that because, let me tell you, I put up some damn fights about washing the dishes.) During the phase that I was unemployed, it was a simple enough chore to get done early in the morning. And it was during this chore that I found that I had the ability to let my mind wander enough to figure out whatever may have been bothering me at the time. There is something about mindless actions, specifically the repetitive actions, that calms my mind enough to focus on something long enough to start to explore why I may be feeling so out-of-sorts. Occasionally, I’ll find that I have absolutely no fucking reason and it’s because, well, I’ve been so do-do-do that I’ve stopped to take time for myself. And while doing something as chore-like as the dishes might not seem like taking time out for oneself, it is in my book. My hands are busy and it’s something that I can’t really fuck up, but my mind isn’t busy and it’s able to traverse whatever little rambling road it may feel like walking down. It’s actually when I’m doing the dishes that I have some of my more intense epiphanies regarding my religious path, so I suppose it’s something akin to meditating (which isn’t something I am able to do). But it’s also the time when I am able to stop whatever the fuck wildness is going on in my life long enough to come back to myself feeling a little relieved and a lot less as if my skin is going to jump right the fuck off my bones.

And with baking, the very act of cleansing the dishes can be seen as an overall metaphor for grounding and centering. The dishes are dirty – they’re a metaphor for how cray-cray the feelings are getting. The soap and sponge are the act of meditating into the state where you can finally find your center. The rinsing off of the soap is the grounding as you send the nasty fucked up energy off into the sewer system. You see? Even though I’m not a fan of the whole part-of-the-tree cliques out there, I can still find the metaphor useful when I find something much more workable, for me.

5. Card Shuffling

It’s difficult for people, I think, in my particular individualistic ground-and-centering genre to meditate like the be-like-trees group tend to talk about it. They tend to make it seem like a very mystical experience and I get that, to a degree. However, I have found that I can’t really mediate, which may be why I have a hard time with the be-a-tree mentality. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found that many of my grounding and centering techniques are a form of meditation that allow me to let loose long enough to release the pent up energy going on inside. Part of these acts is shuffling any one of my myriad of Tarot decks. The act of actually shuffling the deck quiets my mind enough to settle on whatever it is that may be causing me to feel so out-of-control to finally get it under control.

By shuffling, I’m giving myself the quiet time that my body needs in order to get to where it should be. And the act of actually pulling the cards is me flicking the excess energy into the universe, while also seeking all of the Tarot answers that may be available to me.

This isn’t the complete list of things that I’ve found to aid me with grounding and centering. Depending on the situation, and just how overwrought I may be feeling, I may do something smaller or something more expansive than what I’ve listed here. The point being that it’s not all sitting around and trying to act like trees. Sometimes, it really is just all about getting up and fucking moving enough to unleash the turmoil going on deep inside by whatever [legal] means necessary.

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.

Related Posts

  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.

 

Kemetic Round Table: Living and Breathing.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners.

From time to time, I will look down at the ankh I wear around my neck in an effort to remind myself that I am the sum total of all my parts as opposed to a human-looking Zord composed of different, autonomous parts. In those moments, I grip that pendant in my hand and hope beyond all hope that I am doing the symbol it stands for – my religion, my life, my gods, my family, and everything in between – justice as opposed to a disservice.

Whichever the case may be, I tend to feel a little stronger in the face of whatever it is that is causing my consternation and am able to move forward with the hectic nature of the day. Sometimes, just the grip is enough and sometimes, it is a matter of minutes before I can feel strong enough to continue. Oh gods, I always think, let me be able enough to live this life. Whether or not I am able to do it justice is another story.

When it comes to life and living and having a religion that must be kept covert, I will usually think that the things I don’t do matter. They probably don’t. There is no one better at making me feel like a guilty, shame-filled terrible devotee than myself. And there are extreme moments, daily sometimes or just periodically, where I’m pretty sure I’m doing everything wrong and I’m not “living” my religion the way I should be. During those moments, I pause and remind myself that since I haven’t been smote to fuck yet, I must be doing something right.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes me to get through.

Sometimes, I need more than just reminding myself that I’m still breathing.

I used to think that if people were living their faith appropriately, they would just know. I always looked forward to that moment, in the hopes, that the doubt and fears that continuously plague me, even now so many years in, would just go away. I would wake up one morning and think, oh, I’ve definitely got this, and be on my way with that knowledge. I think I may live in books and movies too much; isn’t the hero or heroine supposed to have a magical epiphany regarding things?

I’ve had plenty of epiphanies since I started walking this path, but I can’t think of any that have been particularly magical. Or even awe-inspiring. They’ve all just been a bland and boring, oh, well now I understand a bit, and I move on. But I always kind of expected bells and whistles or something. Instead, I have those freak moments where I’m gripping my ankh in my hand, with eyes narrowly focused on the feel of the arms biting into my palm.

I think I’m living my faith as capably as I possibly can, but I just always kind of expected something a bit more rainbow and unicorn farts when I got to this point.

I guess I just always assumed that, one day, when I was “adult enough” to do all of this, then things would be easier. I’m not really sure what made me have that assumption. I just remember, looking forward in moments of acute stress and panic, and knowing that it wouldn’t always be that hard. And in the grand scheme of things, I suppose I wasn’t all that wrong. Things aren’t always that hard; they’re just hard in different ways now. I suppose things got easier somewhere, but when I ask myself what it is that’s easier, I usually get muddled with all the things that are hard [in the moment of asking].

So, I guess I can safely say what living a religion, in my opinion, is not.

  1. It’s not no longer having doubts, fears, panic attacks, or stressful moments.
  2. It’s not having an easy time.
  3. It’s not having a clear moment of realizing you really are living your religion.
  4. It’s sure as shit not living fancy free.

Well, I’ve talked about what I thought it would be like and have found it to not be like. But what is it, to me?

When I sit down and think about it, I think back to what I said earlier. I said that I have intense moments, throughout the day, the week, the month, the year, in which I clutch the ankh pendant I wear daily around my neck. Sometimes, I have it nestled beneath my shirt and I have to pop it out in order to grasp it in my hand. Sometimes, it’s out and glinting in the light, waiting for my palm to clasp it. No matter what the purpose or how hard I grip it or the intensity behind my fervent wish that I am enough to get through my life, I think that is what living a religion – any religion – is all about.

By gripping that damn thing in my hand, I am reminding myself in the most tangible way that I am a Kemetic. I am also reminding myself that I am a living, breathing human being who may or may not be successful in their endeavors. (And the amount of success, of course, always varies depending on the moment and what it is I am enthusiastically wishing about.) And lastly, I am reminding myself that the life I am living is the only one I have available to me and by golly, I’m going to fucking live that shit the way I want to fucking live that shit.

To me, living my religion is characteristically summed up as clutching the ankh and feverishly hoping for the next moment to hurry the fuck up already.

It isn’t, though.

That’s not all of it.

It’s just that moment of such intensity where I need to feel the threads of my religion underneath my fingertips that leads me to cause the distinction.

Everything I do and say and write and breathe is an aspect to my religion, whether it looks like it is or not. The advice I offer to people who don’t know anything about my religion is part of it. The looks I give people walking down the street is part of it. The songs I listen to on the ride into work are a part of it. The books I read on my breaks at work or when I get home are a part of it. The way I sit in a chair is part of it. How I grip the steering wheel is part of it. The air that I breathe, the food that I eat, the clothes that I wear are all a part of it too. Everything I do is a part of it because my religion is as integral a piece of me as my hair color and my eye color; it’s just, maybe, a bit more hidden than all of that.

I say that the grip of the pendant is what living my religion is because it’s the most physical and obvious aspect. But everything I do, really, is summed up as living my Kemeticism. Everything is microcosmically interwoven together to be a part of who I am; it’s just the macrocosmic parts that seem a bit out of whack.

I thought I would be able to give advice on this topic, honestly. I thought I could write some things and then end it with how others can be like me, or something, and live their Kemetic ways. Or, other religious ways. But as I think back and I look down at the ankh around my neck, I have to wonder if how I live my religion is even something that others do or others should even remotely aspire to. I say that they’re all interwoven in some big cosmic Aubs that exists in the world who does the Kemetic thing and does the work thing and does the driving thing and drinks vodka on the regular like and it’s all a part of my religion.

But is there any way that someone out there could possibly look down at their pendant of choice, whisper a few words (possibly soaked in foul language) and know that they’re living their religion? Maybe, it’s just me that’s like that. Let’s be real here – it’s probably just a me thing. And I honestly don’t know if I would recommend how I do this to anyone else. Or even remotely have anyone build what they will do off of what I do.

I don’t think how I do this is, maybe, the right way or even the best way, but it works for me.

I can give some advice, though. Sometimes I have that stuff in spades; not so much today. But the bits I can assure you on are these:

  1. Don’t assume that because you don’t feel like you are living your religion that you aren’t actually living your religion.
  2. Don’t assume that how anybody else lives their religion is the “one twoo way” because that’s just ridiculous. There’s no one way on any of this shit, no matter who says otherwise.
  3. Don’t assume that you’ll just automatically know when you’re “actually” living your religion because, clearly, epiphanies of that magnitude are probably never going to happen.
  4. Don’t assume that you’re the only one out there constantly doubting your shit even if you do feel like you’re living your religion. I doubt it all the time.
  5. Don’t assume that I’m bugnuts because I equate clutching a piece of metal as living my religion. I can assume I’m bugnuts because of that all on my own.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can read my post and think about it however you want, but it doesn’t mean that how I go about this will work for anyone else. I honestly hope it doesn’t work out for anyone else because I can assure anyone who has made it this far in the reading that shit is fucking hard and there are moments that I’m clutching that fucking pendant less for a steadying influence or anchor and more out of intense anxiety at the belief that I’m doing everything fucking wrong, wrong, and more wrong. It’s a tethered link, so to speak, with my religion that I hone in on often enough, but it’s my tethered link and doesn’t do a damn bit a good for anyone else, I shouldn’t think.

I suppose the best way to do this for anyone who isn’t me would be to stop periodically and assess yourself. In effect, that’s what I’m doing with my ankh. Step out into the day and look up at the sun or down at the grass or look at the flowers in bloom on the bushes or in the yards and assess yourself. Come to your own conclusions about what it is to live a religion and whether or not it’s an integral part of yourself. If you think it is, then I think… maybe, you’re probably doing this just the way you need to be.

Lent 2014 Revisited.

When I first decided to observe Lent this year, I didn’t really think anything would change. I figured, like last year, I would go into this with the intent of giving up something really important to me (diet Coke; diet Coke; diet fucking Coke) and take a much needed break from the craziness that was my relationship with Sekhmet. And then, on top of that, I would get to spend a bunch of extra time with Papa Legba, who is always a treasure to spend time with. It was a lose-win-win, I guessed, because I was giving up something really important to me (diet Coke; diet Coke; diet fucking Coke), but it was also a win because I could take about a trillion steps back from Sekhmet. And of course, Papa Legba. I have to admit, the amount of intensity I had reserved for looking forward to taking a break from Sekhmet was unparalleled by anything save the impending birth of my son. (Let’s face it – any pregnant woman will tell you how very much they are looking forward to the fetus within finally being removed.) I went into this with certain ideas and beliefs about what I was going to get.

The Road Not Taken by dusky-inc via dA

I didn’t expect to actually take the time to discover what Lent was actually about and find ways to apply it to the religious situation I live now. What was so surprising was how easy it was to pull the basic concepts behind Lent out of the dogma related to it and utilize it in a way that better helped me to define and remind myself what my religious life is about. I found that, while there are some aspects to Lent that are intrinsically tied to the Christian background from whence it comes, there are also aspects of it that anyone can use to help them realign and reinterpret what their religious needs should be and what their religious path should look like. I wasn’t expecting the amount of introspection that I delved into in a better attempt to understand why I needed the break, what I needed the break from, and what decisions, if any, I would make when it was time to look back at things.

What I wholly didn’t expect was the fact that as much as I was taking time off from Kemeticism as a whole, and Sekhmet in specific, I found myself thinking about it all too often.

However, it wasn’t as painful as it had been before the break happened. Leading up to Lent, things got incredibly painful for me. Thinking about my religious path ended, more often than not, with me burnt out, crying, and/or overly anxious. Things had been so difficult for me with Sekhmet and the initiatory rites she had me go through that to think about them was to leave me in physical pain from the amount of bullshit I felt I was being inundated with. The intensity with which I looked forward to my break was mostly because I was at my wit’s end, I was at the breaking point. I was seriously considering just giving it all up and shoving it away from me. I couldn’t seem to handle it anymore. I spent so much time, screaming unintelligibly or crying quietly to myself that the thought of even remotely continuing was too much. I knew that if something didn’t break, I was going to.

And then, like magic or more like the turning of the calendar, there was Lent. It was coming up and Papa Legba had said, “I need you to learn about Lent and I need you to not religion, can you do that?” And here I was thinking just to myself about how much I needed to not religion and there was an opening. Papa Legba was giving me a way out, temporarily at least, of the overload of emotions I was having regarding my religious tradition. And I went running to it so very hard and so very fast that I didn’t even stop to consider the nuance, the reason, or even what consequences might occur with what he was asking me. I didn’t stop to consider how this may or may not impact my religious path when I came back to it, if I bothered to go back to it. I was so focused in the idea of taking a break so that I could analyze myself and my feelings before making a, quite possibly, big huge and horrible fucking mistake by leaving everything behind on the spur of the moment. So, I went running ahead and I said, “I will not religion and I will learn about Lent.”

Every day, I would wake up and go through the motions. I still left out offerings and I still put on my religious-related jewelry, but I made a studious effort to ignore whatever emotional upheaval I was going through. With each passing day, the upheaval and turmoil grew less and less insistent. It began to fade. Just like with a wound – it started to scar. Only the healing took a good deal longer than a simple cut on the finger or on the leg. Instead of needing a few days for the wound to knit itself back together, I needed a couple of weeks. And in that time as I distanced myself from the hurt and the pain, I found that I could think more and more clearly about what steps, if any, I was going to take once I came back from the Lenten season. I found myself able to understand better what Sekhmet’s ultimate goals were, whether I knew specifically what they were, and what she was hoping to achieve.

I was becoming far more rational with each passing day and I hardly noticed.

As time went on, I began to look into Lent, as I had promised Papa I would do. When I started reading about baptism, I was shocked at the meaning behind what baptism was. According to what I found, it’s, more or less, an initiatory rite. And hadn’t I gone through one, not that long before? I felt, a little, as though I was being trolled. However, instead of just sighing in disgust and giving up, I kept up the research and ended up turning it back around to my own religious tradition. I had gone through an initiatory rite. Instead of having water placed upon my head, I had been forced to go through a very grueling and painful process, one that my soul has been building up to for many, many lives. And there’s something to be said here about the different types of initiations that one can go through. In Christianity, it is a simple decision. In Kemeticism, or more specifically in Sekhmet’s line of work, it is a death coupled with the re-forging of one’s soul to meet the needs and desires the deity in question has in mind.

I’m not saying, specifically, that this is what can be expected always when it comes to initiatory rites with Sekhmet or even with the NTRW. I’m just saying that in this particular instance, I had to die in order to be reborn into the instrument that Sekhmet wanted me to become. Death is never a pleasant experience and this particular death was not what I wanted. I understand the necessity of it, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. I also understood and even accepted the necessity of the work I had to do in the pit at her behest, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. And I didn’t. I was helping people, in many ways of course, but the work was dirty, painful, and hard to stomach day in and day out. The initiatory rite that I went through with her was so fucking painful and so distressing, but it was a necessity.

Just like a baptism is a necessity to enter into Christianity.

When I started looking into The Scrutinies, I found that while I couldn’t celebrate it the way that the Catholics could, I could at least take the message to heart. I found myself scrutinizing myself as deeply as I possibly could and found so much broken inside. Instead of just finding doubt, anxiety, and worry, I also found shards of broken glass in the middle of my heart and in the roots of my soul. I found that amid my very core, I could traverse the wilderness within and found that everything there hurt. It was a hurt borne of angst and anger; a hurt borne of confusion and fear; it was a hurt borne of not understanding and worrying; it was a hurt borne of the shattering of whatever illusions I had carved for myself in regards to Sekhmet. Everything within was a broken, discarded horror story that left me so filled with breathless sadness that I could barely stare at myself in the mirror anymore. What I saw was someone who was insufficient and quite possibly mentally unbalanced. I found someone who I didn’t like looking to.

So, I set about picking up the pieces the best ways I knew how.

I relaxed.

I calmed.

I told myself not to worry.

And when I broke those demands to stop worrying, I did everything in my power to toss myself away from those thoughts. I read heavily. I watched a lot of crap TV. I played games with the family.

I did everything I could to force myself away from all of that so that I could pick and choose what needed to be fixed and what needed to be discarded. The barren wilderness of my core was healing itself. From burnt out husk to partially green pasture in a few days. It seemed that by staying away from it all, I was doing far more work on healing myself and my broken promises. It was almost as if, by leaving it all alone, the mysterious inner workings of my soul were doing whatever the hell they needed to do in order to repair the damage. All I had to do was keep going and continue to make sure that I left that barren wilderness alone. I’ve looked back some since the moment that I walked out of my core and saw that desolation and have been shocked to find so many new things growing and even growth on older things…

With each passing day, as I would put on my heart-shaped ring, I would think about all of the things I wasn’t doing and wasn’t going to think about. With each night, as I would take my heart-shaped ring off, I saw the dark marks around my finger and sometimes, had to massage the feeling back into my finger. I was beginning to associate the heart, the ring, and the relationship with a heavy weight. And I think that the association with a heavy weight is important. By not taking it seriously, I could end up in hotter water than I’ve already been in or I could make things worse for myself. But with each day, instead of feeling angry or embittered about it, I began to feel calmer, cooler, more detached. And then as yet more time passed, I found myself feeling less detached and more intense. I was almost… looking forward to putting the heavy ring back upon my finger. I was beginning to remember why I had started all of this in the first place.

I went into Lent thinking that I was going to take time off, give up some diet Coke, see a whole ton of Papa Legba and learn about Lent.

I did take time off and it was worth it. I was able to remove myself from the emotional situation I was in and discover that I understood the nature in what was needed of me. And while I forgot, for a while, that my religion makes me happy towards the end of the initiatory rites I was going in, I remembered what it was about this religion that makes me happy. I was able to remind myself that while, yes I am in service to a god, I am also in this for me. And that includes doing the things that make me happy and make my feel worthy and remind me that I am living in ma’at. That includes reminding myself that while everything was really shitty for a while, it’s not always going to be that way. Rockiness is a natural part to any relationship, whether it is a relationship in the realm of the living, the realm of the dead, the realm of the astral, or the realm of the gods. Nothing is static and we can’t expect it to be. I needed to remember that everything changes and sometimes, it can be so hard to remember that as hard as the chaos of the initial change may be that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad change.

I did give up some diet Coke. I went the full forty days without having a single sip. I’ve been inundated with ads on Facebook and Tumblr for it. I’ve found myself surfing websites and there would be a diet Coke ad. I thought that perhaps, at the end of this, I could give up diet Coke completely. I found out that without having diet Coke around, I am more of an emotional mess than I was with it in my life. I also found that I have far less patience with work while drinking bottles of water versus diet Coke. It’s possible that the weight less I’ve experienced in the last month was due to giving up diet Coke, but I’ve also found that I am not a very good person without it in my life. It is an addiction and I understand the health risks wrapped up in that addiction. But it is my addiction and for fuck’s sake, I really like diet Coke.

I hardly saw Papa Legba at all this round. I felt his presence, occasionally, in the morning or at random times throughout the day. Sometimes, I would dream of the two of us in a garden or in the forest. He was always making something grow. He’s very good at getting things to grow, as I’ve found out. What I didn’t seem to realize until only just recently that each change in the scenery, the overall goal was the same: he was creating a garden and needed to nurture it. We talked a lot about the nature of what nurturing a garden was like and how that relates back to the nurturing one must do for themselves. He told me jokes and he told me stories. He said to me last night that it’s time for me to go back to where I belong; the lesson is over. And it was a lesson and a half. He wasn’t just giving me a way out of the really oppressive atmosphere I was in, but he was also helping me to grow, my core, my soul, and everything in between. He was busy nurturing the fledgling plants and the older plants that had been accidentally pinched out when I became so angry and so embittered.

I learned a lot about Lent. I learned about how it relates to Catholicism, but I also learned that the overall lessons for Lent can easily be turned back to focus on anyone else’s religious path. I also found out that the goals behind the Lenten season can, also, be brought to bear in any religious tradition. And it was in that lesson that, I think, I was able to really overcome the aggression, the anger, and the bitterness that I had been feeling for the six months or so before Lent started. It was because Papa Legba had asked me to learn about it that I was able to achieve introspective heights and understand, remind myself, and remember what it was I had started this whole path for.

I started on this path, all those years ago, not just because I heard the call of a goddess whose songs have been sung in my heart for hundreds of years, but also because I found a place where I belong, where I am comfortable, and where I am happy.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Kemetic Round Table: Hush-Hush.

When people start looking to other religious choices outside of the “usual fair,” there’s a lot of waffling back and forth about whether or not this is a thing. Not only are people worried that what they’re looking into may not actually be in their best interests, but they also have to take into consideration public opinion. Even though, in my opinion, religion and religious choices should be a private affair that’s taken into consideration on an individual basis, this isn’t the case in this country or in this hemisphere or on this fucking planet. Everyone has an opinion, sadly, about everything else and that includes religious persuasions. What makes it worse is that some of the newer religious choices are looked down on by other people for various reasons: some people think that they’re worshiping the devil and going to hell while other people think everyone with a religion is full of shit and making stuff up. In either case, these are things that must be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing what sort of religious practice, or not, is best for them.

This pretty much accurately represents this post in its entirety.

This pretty much accurately represents this post in its entirety.

Personally, I am both in and out of the “closet,” so to speak, when it comes to my religious practices. The short answer is that all of this is really fucking complicated and it comes on a case by case basis. I’ve been burned and I’ve been supportive, so it is truly dependent both on the status of my relationships with people as well as what reactions I believe they may have if I discuss it.

When it comes to family, I’m technically out. I don’t really discuss it with either my family or with TH’s family, however. It’s a subject of conversation, briefly, when it comes up, but I tend to shut those conversations down as quickly as they begin. I think part of this is because, in all honesty, to explain everything to a regular person is very difficult. Polytheism is easily explained as long as you understand what that word actually means. But when it comes to the devotions to various gods, the levels of those devotions, and everything in between, one can be looking at having a few hours’ long conversation that leaves heads spinning. Another reason why I tend to shut those conversations down is because I can see how some people react or based on inflection in their comments – if they sound like an asshole, I’m not going to want to discuss it any more than I normally do (and I don’t normally want to discuss it because, again, it’s kind of personal and not anyone else’s business).

My mother’s family is not supportive of my choices – they’re all staunch Catholics and so, as far as they’re [probably] concerned, I’m going to burn in Hell with all the other people who have chosen not to follow “the one twoo.” But my mother is supportive. She is ecstatic that after years of saying “I’m an atheist,” I finally found a religious tradition that works for me. She’s watched as I’ve changed dynamics and created something that works for me. I think, honestly, it’s based on my mom’s statement, “finally, you have faith,” that made me realize that the subject matter of that faith doesn’t matter so much as if people have faith. And I do. I believe. I believe in more than just myself and while things are weird and rocky and can be uncomfortable when my family makes asinine comments about it, it’s fucking mine.

TH’s family doesn’t really understand how many different branches of paganism there are and I don’t have the patience, usually, to enlighten them. They understand that I am a pagan and that I do practice magic (heka), however they don’t fully comprehend all the dynamic changes, on a personal level and on a spiritual level, that have happened since I first discovered this path. But at the end of the day, they’re supportive. They might make jokes and TH’s mom may end up using me as a threat against her students to behave properly (she told one student I would turn them into a frog if they didn’t cut the shit, which I’m just like, I can’t do that but that’s fucking awesome especially since the student actually did cut the shut). Of course, TH is aware because I do [occasionally] talk to him about this.

But when it comes down to it, I still have this staunch belief that who says what or who knows what doesn’t matter. All that does matter is if it makes me happy. And as much as I have to admit that this shit drives me up a wall with the wants and desires and the constant doubt, at the end of the day, it fulfills me.

And then I have so many different types of friendships that to discuss something that, to me, is as personal as my religious practice is is just not up for debate. I have acquaintances who have asked to read this blog and I have flatly refused, knowing that my blog may not be the best introduction to what a pagan religious tradition can look like. I have had Christian friends who read this blog and grew offended over what I said. (We’ve made up since that blow up, but we both leave one another alone when it comes to our differing faiths now, which is seriously downer.) I have pagan friends who know about this blog, but don’t know much about my personal life.

I guess you can say that when it comes to my friendships and how open I am about myself really depends, highly, on how much trust I place in them. And I have to be honest here. After having the person who was supposed to me the best get up in arms over things that I’ve written on this blog, based on my observations and based on my religious choices, I have to say that compartmentalizing my life like this works out for me. Does it suck? Yes. Ask anyone on Tumblr who I have spoken with about this – sometimes, there are just moments where I want to cry in someone’s lap because I’m pretty sure I’m not practicing a real religion but I’m just having taken a long walk off of the short pier of sanity. But I’ve been burned by the person I trusted and loved the most – and learned the lesson that compartmentalization with my friends is better off for me when it comes to our friendships than not doing so.

Of course, I have two friends, locally, who know a lot about what I believe in. One is a local Hellenic pagan. We don’t really talk as much as we used to and that’s… well, that’s nothing to do with religion but she knows what I’m up to. And if she doesn’t that’s only because she’s not reading this blog. My other friend allows me to wax poetic about the nature of souls and takes my spiritual advice even though she’s a Christian, but she is just like me: it doesn’t matter what faith is had as long as faith is had.

And of course, to make things even more complicated, I work for a Tea Party Republican who also just so happens to be very much a Christian. I honestly don’t know how Christian she is but she’s told people that she’ll pray for them when things go wrong (and then maybe she does, but I don’t know). And I can tell you that if she knew that the ankh I wear wasn’t just a fashion statement but a religious statement as well, she’d find a reason to fire me. The things she says about people who aren’t Christian (and I’m not talking about pagans, but about Muslims) is disgusting and disheartening. The things I could imagine her saying about me if she were to find out… Well, I need the paycheck so I have further compartmentalized my life.

Work. Friends. Family. Religion.

Very rarely do any of these in-roads meet. Yes, I am “out” and my Facebook profile even labels me as a “pagan.” But the people who are friends with me on Facebook, most of them, don’t look at that. Some of them because they like to ignore things – such as my mother’s family – and others because they don’t care and I’m not going to enlighten them. I’m a little open on my Facebook account regarding beliefs and whatnot, but I always second guess and third guess before I post something religion specific. As much as it sucks, and it really does, my life is a many-spoked wheel with me at the middle. And nothing really touches at all.

In case I haven’t really mentioned it, while doing things this way makes life easier and safer for me, it really kind of sucks. There are moments, at work, where I want to scream at Djehuty for not watching over a phone system when it goes down. Or, I want to meditate to Sekhmet, but instead, I’m stuck silently saying words that may or may not have power, depending on the spoon allotment and energy reserves I have at that moment in time. There are moments where I want to scream at my mother’s family and tell them that all beliefs are good beliefs as long as they’re taken to a good place and not used to condemn others for what they feel, think, believes, or are. There are moments in my life where I just want to scream because of how compartmentalized my life has suddenly become when even two years ago, it was hella easier.

I tend to feel, a lot of times, that this segregation is actually detrimental to everything going on around me. I can’t really pinpoint when I started to feel this way, but I noticed that carefully and purposely dosing out different portions of my life in this way began to tire me out. I would go off and be at work, followed by coming home and doing religion things and then I would spend time with my family and never the multitudes to meet. And I have to admit that it’s kind of dragging, a lot, to have to keep things so differentiated. It sucks. And I think a lot of times making sure that everything is not touching as carefully as I do, it takes a lot of spoons out of everything else. It leaves me breathless and bitchy and tired and depressed a lot of the times and I end up coming home and just staring at the television or reading a book.

I don’t think people are really meant to do this to their lives. Even if there are valid reasons for it, I just don’t think we’re made to keep anything separate from anything else. We are a multifaceted people and facets should touch. They should integrate. But in this day and age, especially with asshole bosses or unsupportive family members, we have to do these things, possibly even to our own detriment, if we want to have our cake and eat it too. (If that is even remotely apropos here because I honestly don’t know.)

Based on what I’ve shared, I have to say that if a new Kemetic wants to tell others, I strongly recommend not doing what the fuck I’ve done. I’ve kept myself so separated that I hardly know what the fuck way is up anymore. So, if anyone wants to tell their friends and family and their coworkers what their religious situation is – not that, I attest, it’s any of their fucking business – then I think that not doing what I’ve done is a good idea. It’s seriously just not healthy, in my opinion, and it ends up causing a lot of problems for you later on.

But the thing about telling people is that you have to be sure that telling them is even remotely useful to you or whether or not them knowing has any benefit to you whatsoever. You can shout whatever the hell you want from the rooftops and back, but if there’s no real point in telling them, other than you think you should, then you have to seriously taken into consideration the reasons behind why you want to tell them. Do you just want to share something new and exciting with people you care about? Or do you want to shock them? What is the point in telling them something that, quite feasibly, will not impact them in anyway? So, it comes back to having to decide of announcing your personal religious choices is useful to you. If you think that’s the case, then I think the next thing to take into consideration is whether or not they’ll be supportive.

And this is the crux of the matter for many pagans out there. We live in areas that aren’t supportive of anything outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. And there are people who we love and adore who may react very negatively towards whatever choices we make in our lives if those choices are deemed to be outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. So, if the person you believe you are telling will be supportive and benefit you, then I absolutely think that you should move forward with what you want to do. However, if the person is going to behave like an asshole because you’ve made a choice about your life, then maybe keeping it quiet is in your best interest. As much as you may feel that telling them is a good idea, if they’re going to be a complete dickface about it, then I strongly recommend just not doing so.

Honestly, I have to tell you that when it comes to telling people things about you that, in my opinion, are personal and private, such as one’s religious decisions, doesn’t really gain you much. Hell, in my experience, it seems to have caused more anxiety than when I was quiet about it. Just because you think someone will be supportive and nice about it doesn’t mean that they will be. Or maybe they’ll start off that way and then change their mind later because you say something they disagree with or because they convert to a religion that doesn’t tolerate others’ “differences.” While I can’t say that all people are going to react the way I’ve come to find many to most of them reacting in my life, I do have to think that what I’ve experienced (as generalized as I’ve described the experiences) should at least be taken into consideration when someone decides they want to tell others.

But of course, how one decides to live their religious life – privately or publicly – is entirely up to them. And anyone who tells you that your choices are wrong are assholes and anyone who doesn’t support you in doing something that makes you feel good about yourself is, also, an asshole. And people like that… well, they really shouldn’t be in your life anyway.