Feast of the Two Lands 2016.

January 27, 2016

Two years ago, Khenne had put out the request for other people to simultaneously celebrate the Feast (or Festival) of the Two Lands. I answered that call then. Last year, I low-key paid homage but didn’t do much other than to calculate the holiday to my calendar and add it.

Though this celebration is about the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, I will probably always associate it with Ptah. The triad of Memphis doesn’t soak into the my thoughts on the holiday nor do any of the other available triads out there. Whenever I think of this particular festival, I can only see the image of Ptah that is often in my mind’s eye: quiet, calm, ankh-djed-was scepter in hand.

As I looked at his icon this weekend, trying to figure out what to do, it was like being overwhelmed in the presence of someone you really respect. It wasn’t quite being an emotional wreck, but it also was. It was very strange, but I looked upon his icon and felt the heat of tears at the back of my eyes.  I was so overcome that I wanted to cry, though I didn’t.

While sitting there, I got more of the same from him that I got from Sekhmet last week. This isn’t about the holiday; this isn’t even about him. It’s about me, myself, and I. He said I could deliver. I told him I would try.

Unified ↂ Conscience

More and more frequently the edges of me dissolve and I become a wish to assimilate the world – More and More by Margaret Atwood

Since Ptah has joined my household, I find the need to pay homage to him most often by creating things in his presence. When I work on long-standing artistic projects, I tend to have him around to watch me. It’s both an opportunity to have him around so he can oversee the results and also so that when – not if, when – I get frustrated, I can soak up his calming presence.

I get very frustrated when it comes to my artistic endeavors because I am not an artist. I had never been interested in drawing, only coloring carefully between the lines in coloring books as a kid. Most of the things I craft by hand look, to me, like something my kid brings home from school. There is nothing wrong with that, of course; the things I make get the job done. But I’m a perfectionist so the fact that I can’t draw for the life of me grates on my nerves.

Since this celebration was supposed to be about me, as Ptah instructed, I tried to think about how I could be associated with unification in some way. The inertia thing is still a huge problem, confounded by the fact that I spend most of my days in an office setting that tears me apart most days. In the end, I decided to create a jar filled with heka specifically aimed at bringing more spoons into my life.

I listened to happy music since this is one of the very few things Ptah has asked me to do since officially joining Sekhmet in my home. Music is very important in my practice, but we had noticed that much of the music I listen to can or do have depressing associations. Still other pieces of music are so closely intertwined with specific relationships that, happy or not, it doesn’t fulfill the request very well. The mission to find happier music has been in play for months and while I don’t always follow through, I do try to when I’m working for or with him.

I started the jar off by creating a sort of paper poppet of myself. I filled the little envelope with charms that represent bits of me then doused everything in red, yellow, and orange glitter. I had forgotten why I don’t use glitter anymore, only recalling that I had sworn off using it ever again; I remember now. (I found a single piece of gold glitter in Heru-Wer’s cup this morning, days later, and I had been using the glitter on the floor 2 feet away. I just don’t even.)

When I was mildly satisfied with those results, I went paging through books to find a good representation for spoons. If I attempt to draw a spoon, it tends to look a little like Pops from Regular Show. As I went leafing through various books, I decided that I wanted something that had ancient Egyptian symbolism. In a seeming twist of fate, I wound up finding an image of a soul rising from the blue lotus. It was a hell of a lot more complicated to draw than a lopsided spoon.

It took about forty-five minutes for both images, probably longer, and it was frustrating. As the crick in my neck became more pronounced and my frustration grew, I would stop and look up at Ptah, trying to remember what the fuck I was going for here. Finally, I wound up with two of the images on sheets of half paper.

I filled the interior of the jar with my poppet and with herbs that scream spoon management to me. I pressed the sheets of half paper against the sides of the jar, with the soul picture facing my paper poppet, I closed the jar. I thought about sealing the jar with wax, which ended up only making things worse (and with my ruining two pairs of pants in the attempt). Deciding that the contents may need to be revamped at some future unknown date, I held off on the act of sealing everything in.

Blue lotus- Processed image

I plucked my soul out of its secret place and held it to the mirror of my eye to see it like a star against the sky… – I Know my Soul by Claude McKay

As I angrily scraped wax off the lid of the jar, I realized that this was not helping. Ptah had stated I needed to do something for me, and I did do the thing for myself, yet there I was angry as all get out because the image in my head wasn’t showing up in front of me.

It was like all my doubts and frustrations kind of metastasized into this really snotty diatribe directed at Ptah. And the whole time it rather felt like he was just nodding sympathetically, waiting for the rant to end. When it finally did, I looked down at the jar in my lap and realized that it didn’t look so bad as all that.

I set it upon my altar, lacing the top with a carnelian rose, now covered in glitter, an ib amulet, and a key. I looked down at my handiwork and felt rather proud of myself for what I had made. From frustration and worry to pride and pleasure; it was like all I needed was to vomit up all the concerns I had about the project so I could focus on what I had actually done.

The next morning, I woke up feeling rested and ready to greet the world. It was probably just a simple little mind trick – believing the thing was working because I had crafted it, because Ptah had watched me put the materials together, because he had overseen the creation of the thing from start to finish. But sometimes, we need to have faith in the things we create even if it’s not a conscious decision.

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.

 

An Exploration in Love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lesson plan started off small.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Exploration in Beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hardly,” I retort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are beautiful because you love selflessly.”

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

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

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

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

So, endeth the lesson.