I’m better, today. I’m shaky, I’m fragile-feeling, but I’m on the mend. The voices that love to tell me how worthless I am gained a whole lot of ground in the previous two weeks. I believed them. Of course, they’re full of shit, and they are largely to blame for why I was so unwell in the first place — they started talking and I believed them. “If you were better/less pathetic/more dedicated you wouldn’t need boundaries/your down time/decompression time. If you just applied yourself/weren’t so stupid/really wanted X, it wouldn’t be so hard. Obviously you are lying/stupid/lazy/pathetic.” Which, sounds reasonable . . . right?
I’ve been reading along to some of the “Wiccan Privilege” discussions — not all, not nearly, I don’t have time for that and really ultimately it is only a peripheral interest because I’m pretty reclusive, I do my own thing. I’m interested in it because I’m interested in interacting with people successful, because language fascinates me, because reading about experiences people have fascinates me, because I’m not a little bit of a voyeur, but there’s so much, and people better qualified than I to tackle the topics. And maybe I really shouldn’t have been reading along, because the enormity of the topic, the enormity of the “pagan/polytheism” debate daunts me.
I keep reading because, if nothing else, it’s a great way to keep ‘compassion’ in the foreground of my mind. Those with whom I ought to theologically have common ground with and patience for, those I ought to sympathize with, lose my compassion when they become hostile, when they espouse a my way or the high way attitude. They lose sympathy or understanding when they (to me) seemingly fixate on a word and insist it’s meaning narrow/change — not because I’m judging but because I don’t see language working that way, and because I don’t understand being in a place where you would not like to explore the stories of who we are and why we are here and how we came to be here.
I realized a few things in my reading, quite suddenly, which helped me a lot. The first: I have no real experience to speak from. Oh, I have experience. I’ve been pagan for long enough. I know my gods and their histories, and of the cultures they’re couched in. I’ve lead public ritual, I’ve been a part of organizing Pagan Pride Days. I’ve been to gatherings.
Except, the Pagan Pride Days I’ve been a part of or have gone to were extremely Heathen-friendly, or Heathen-run. The public rituals were sumbels, not circles. The gatherings I’ve been to were Trothmoot and East Coast Thing. Not pan-pagan gatherings. I’ve been involved with specifically Wiccan gatherings too, during our brief year with the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel . . . again, not pan-pagan. Tradition specific. I’ve ever been to FSG. I’ve never been to Pcon. The big, pan-pagan events are big draws, and for that reason alone I’m not likely to attend. So: no experience to compare with those polytheists and pagans who are not drawing from Wicca at all in their practices and being frustrated at being under represented in larger groups.
I realized that, for as much as I want to distance myself from those who are writing in ways I wish they ought not write, at the end of the day, no matter what else I want to call myself, I am a deity-centered polytheist. If you ask me what I am, the first thing that comes to mind? It’s not heathen. It’s not pagan or polytheist or Hellenic. It’s Poseidon’s, and then it’s Odin’s. Poseidon first, always Poseidon first, being His is so much a part of my identity. Everything else comes after. For all that environmental concerns are a part of my path, for all that my festivals and rituals are seasonally based, it is not an earth-centered path that I walk. The line between deity-centric and self-centric is less clear to me — if I’m struggling to put myself more and more in alignment with Him, there is as much self-work as there is devotional work for/to Him, so I don’t understand the distinction some make between the two/it isn’t there for me.
I also realized that I was exhausted and overwhelmed, and that was eating up at my compassion and patience and willingness to learn or contemplate. Which had nothing specifically to do with the conversations going on. It was a separate thing, but it did mean I needed to step back from such a heavy topic until I was less overwhelmed.
I don’t have taboos. Well, there’s the headscarf thing, but beyond that, the adoption of religious “laws” into my practice is choice-based. And, my choices over the last few weeks have not been the best. Some wasn’t avoidable: financial worries, worries over the animals, errands that had to be taken care of, going to work, not having any down time, migraines. Some was: bad food choices, not dropping the things that could wait, getting rest without giving in to those voices.
There are many reasons why Poseidon urges me to eat whole foods. We may not be able to focus as much on the local as I would like. We may not be able to focus on eating seasonally as much as I would like. We may not even be able to focus so much on eating organically as I would like. But there are some rules that are to be flouted at our peril. Worn down, unwell, and bad nutrition that looks like good nutrition on top of it? Disaster.
I’m proud that, on my utterly worst day, I started the day with yoga practice. I’m sort of awed, really, that as the blackness covered my head and filled my lungs, my ass was on the mat and I was reaching for Him in our most tested-and-true way. That day the difference wasn’t quite there, and I was so over-wrought by the time I got home that night that I couldn’t eat anything other than saltines. (Everthing else had too much flavor/too much texture/was overwhelming). I was a sobbing, shaking mess.
The next morning? Back on the mat, only this time when the cats flanked me, it was wonderful, not enraging. There was laughter and joy, and a steady, steady calm.