Expectation, Disappointment, Detachment — Keeping It Real

Those of you who know me already know that, while I write of the value of detachment when it comes to emotional responses to things, and the value therein, I struggle a lot with finding the balance between expectations and disappointment.  For the majority of my life, I’ve dealt with this by simply not looking forward to things, by not having expectations of positive results or experiences or whatever, centered around myself. I’ll be the first to admit that a huge, huge part of this a remnant from earlier in life, and it’s rooted in superstition. If you don’t think about the good thing you want, if you don’t draw attention to it, then it has less of a chance of falling through or being ruined by someone  who wants to ruin things for you. Don’t name the thing, don’t think about the thing, and maybe the thing might come to pass.

There are a few problems with this approach. One important one is that I’ve developed a bit of a resentment toward people (generally Beth) having the ability to look forward to things. Events or experiences, but also physical things. Connected to this is a small thread of my not being as interested in physical things (except for knitting, the things that I do and make do not require the acquisition of stuff), and so when you look around my house, a lot of what you see is stuff related to Beth. She’s got more books out, she’s got more stuff out — and as she makes things, this makes total sense, but one result of this is that I often find myself feeling like I’m not connected to my home through my stuff. I feel like I’m crashing at Beth’s.  (We’re working on this both in that I’m allowing myself to acquire more books, and in that we’re creating a writing nook for me in our wee apartment, yay!) I don’t resent the people, mind you. I love Beth and I cherish her support, and her presence in my life. But I resent that people have the ability to look forward to things.

There are other problems, too. The inability to Work toward positive outcomes; the prison that carefully guarding your thoughts can become; the struggle with accepting that you deserve good things while trying very hard to not think of good things happening to you . . . it’s interesting. I’m at the point where I can accept good, unexpected things happening, but planning and working toward good things that I want? It’s harder.

Harder still is seeking out religious material that I find appealing, and having it work out. There’s a history of this, and I’m struggling to decide how to best handle it. Commission a painting of Poseidon? It arrives broken. Order a picture of Matsya? It arrives –eventually — and is not entirely as expected. Order a picture of Vishnu and a picture of Lakshmi that I really adore, in this new exploration during which I’m rather open and sensitive and unsure anyway? They finally arrive, and they’re gorgeous — but the seller was rather fast and loose with dimensions, and the 5×7 that I ordered (and bought frames for, and purchased a 5×7 Ganesh image to go along with) are actually 4×6.

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Maybe shouldn’t be a big thing. But I have a history of daring to be excited about something, having it not quite work out, and having that crashing disappointment that is rather rooted in my sense of worth and isn’t just about the disappointment. I feel stupid for looking forward to it, I feel stupid for thinking I get to have this thing I wanted, and I struggle to not see this as a reminder that I ought to be happy for whatever I get, and forget about even the smallest of desires.

I’m tempted, always, to use this as an example of further detachment being desirous, except I don’t buy that. I don’t buy that I would be encouraged  — in this case, by Poseidon — to purchase things just to have it not turn out. He was as excited about that Poseidon painting as I was, and sometimes shit just happens. I just don’t have a healthy, adult relationship with expectations and disappointments, and I think part of this is me trying to find my way there.

Last night I had a full-blown panic attack over this. Not just over this, of course. It was a high stimulation day, thanks to having my ears cleaned out the day before and being able to hear again. Didn’t realize how muted my hearing had gotten, and there was so much noise yesterday.  I should have realized when I got home and discovered that the idea of dinner (pasta with alfredo sauce) was displeasing because it was going to have too much flavor. Too much flavor in bland food is always a signal that I’m overwhelmed. So, that happened, and then dinner was too much, and the trying to settle for bread and peanut butter was too messy, and then I just couldn’t handle anything and I was in a corner trying to stay inside my skin, trying to not go running through traffic, trying to breathe. The sounds of the house around me *hurt*, and I could just about see the sound waves.

Eventually Beth let Corbie at me, and he sat and used his weight to ground me, and threw his nose in my eyes  a few times, and there may have been kisses. Such a good dog. My hero.

But I hate that this small thing has the ability to tip the balance of the scale from holding on and being able to navigate through these waters to all hands on deck, may day, may day! I hate how raw and sensitive I feel about all this, and I hate that a dimensional change in two flipping photos results in me deciding that They’re all laughing at me, practically salivating to see my next let-down, my next disappointment.

Mostly, this morning, I’m ashamed, and committed to not be, because panic attacks happen, and I never pretended to be good at this, and if I’m going to work through to the point of getting good at this — of being able to handle disappointment, of allowing myself to look forward to something so much that I *can* be disappointed — well, the process is going to be messy. Nothing to be ashamed of, there.

(Maybe I should just stick with books? Books are always book-like. They are constant)

Krishna makes me cranky.

I woke with a tension headache, around 4am. For migraines, I need to stay horizontal. When I wake with the tension headaches, there’s nothing to do but get up, sit at the table and try not to move. I crawled into the shower first, trying to loosen the muscles of my neck with heat, and then I drank a bunch of water just in case, and then I sat and was quiet.

My plan for today was a trip to the bookstore, to see what they had, to buy some books. Not an obscene amount, mind. Just, a book or two or three. I went with an idea of some I wanted, but I also went with the idea to browse. I had to drop packages in the mail for Beth, and the bookstore is literally right across the street from that post office.

I should not have gone. I should not have decided that I would browse. I don’t browse, I overwhelm myself. On good days, I really can’t browse a bookstore the way I used to be able to. Today wasn’t a good day. Today was a bad head day.

The fiction books I wanted (The Name of the Wind, the next in the Jemisin series I’m reading, maybe some C.E. Murphy) their either did not have, or only had new and I didn’t want to pay new book prices, even for a paperback. There were, though, a few other books I saw that I considered. I can’t find any of them online to share, and of course I didn’t take note of authors because headache. One was a book on Hindu deities, and it was a nice size, with very little text and pictures on the facing pages, and the pictures weren’t even half the size of the page, but I still liked thema (there was a Matsya!) nd I wanted it. I carried this book around with me while I browsed.

One was a commentary on Radha and Krishna, and I’m vaguely interested in them enough, and it was a small book, and not expensive at all, and so maybe. Except Krishna (the topic of) makes me angry, and I was already angry, and so I decided no.

I was angry, because there was one that had a promising title that I can’t remember except it made me think: Vishnu and compassion, cool! And instead it was a Krishna Consciousness book (or it was a Krishna Consciousnessesque book) and it just . . . Blargh.

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I say it’s irrational anger, but it’s not. It’s not. I can follow it’s trail back to the various roots. I have an outsider’s understanding of Krishna, but I can’t deny the joy of existence that touches Him. I have an immediate disinterest in the human incarnations of Vishnu, and Krishna is by far the most popular of these. He’s The Cool Kid. He’s found in a throng of humanity. I can’t imagine finding any common ground, and I’m just not interested. I don’t like the monotheistic tones. I don’t like the party and the dance and the fun and the crowds, oh the crowds. I find that the feeling is not far from resentment, and that’s likely not fair. I’m not sure what to do about it. Mostly I’m just holding it.

But it’s also – and possibly more? – things like: I don’t want to challenge my ideas of what constitutes compassion. The book spoke of how the way to show compassion was in preaching, and that was extremely off-putting. It touched upon another bit that I find distasteful of this/these paths, and that’s the veneration of elders, of gurus . . . and this brings to mind something I heard the other day that isn’t truly related, but sort of fits?

So, I’ve been watching various interviews on Youtube with Reza Aslan, because he’s a funny, funny guy. In this particular talk, he was discussing American religion, or whether or not there was something unique about the various religions in America (or rather, if there was something “American” about them) and he spoke of our individualism, and how what Christianity or Judaism or Islam or what-have-you in other countries, wherein there is an emphasis on community, looks different than how these religions look in America.

I think about this a lot, really, because I think that at a certain point our individualism works against our ability to build community. At the same time, I think community above the individual can also be undesirable. What if you don’t fit the community you find yourself in? I’m just . . . not interested in anything that gets between me and my relationships with the Powers.

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I don’t want to have to even consider looking at different ways of understanding compassion. And that alone has me thinking I need to buy the book. So, we’ll see.

I bought none, and I came home, and I’m agitated and angry and restless and on the verge of saying, fuck it.

All this without even touching the whole white woman browsing the Hinduism section at the bookstore. “No, it’s not what you think.”

I’ll be in my bed, with the blankets pulled up. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll go book shopping.

(edited to add: this was written yesterday. The bookstore might happen today, woohoo!!)

Dear Poseidon, or: I want to reject compassion

Dear Poseidon,

Compassion has been a cornerstone of o/Our relationship since the very first day w/We met and You held compassion for me. You planted a seed of compassion for others within me, though it would be years and years before that would sprout. Awareness, You stress — take in all sides, view the big picture, strive to understand the full story, and then, compassion.

Compassion isn’t complacency. It’s not being a doormat. It’s not turn the other cheek while atrocious things are done to you. Sometimes compassion is action, and sometimes its hard action, but ideally with personal desires removed — justice versus revenge, even when the outcome is the same. It’s why I can say I strive toward being compassionate, and still think the death penalty is sometimes necessary, or at least, more desirable, more proper than letting people continue to live. Though, that’s beginning to slip, these days . . .

I don’t want to be compassionate right now, my Lord. Not in my heart, not in my thoughts, not in my words. I don’t want to have to pause and think about those others. I don’t want to stop and think about what a world must be like to drive others to such hatred and violence. I believe that hatred and violence are things nutured, are taught, are borne of desperation and fear. I don’t want to think about people who hold different world views that I do, and how they can hate ‘others’ and still love their families, how they can still honor their parents and care for their children. I don’t want to think about how we are all human, and how instincts drive us more than we admit.

Neither do I want to think about the shaming that’s going around, on social media, about not paying enough attention to all of the current affairs that warrant attention. I don’t want to be compassionate toward the people who want to use shame to give people grief about being upset about X but not about Y.  I don’t want to have compassion for people who can’t understand that everything is complex, and that we can’t all of us know about all of the things, and that shame is not necessarily the best motivator to get us to become engaged.

I’m afraid for others right now, Poseidon, and I don’t want compassion. I don’t want to engage in compassion. I want my fear to be soothed, and I’m animal enough that I want my fear to be soothed by the destruction or at least the disempowerment of those others. I’m animal enough that, when the news tells me that France, in cooperation with others, has bombed a training region of Daesch’s, I cheer, and I hope for their destruction.

I don’t want to think about the people who are trapped in the region with them, who are innocent and dying. I don’t want to think about others, elsewhere. I don’t want this call to compassion. I don’t want this stress on awareness. I do not want it at all.

You provide no answers; You simply refuse to allow me to set this down. For every time I think, “they need to be destroyed, they cannot be allowed to continue,” You bring me back to compassion. In these moments I want Angry Poseidon, Petulant Poseidon. I want the Poseidon who they say destroyed cities, leveled populaces with one angry shake of the land. I want tidal waves and divine retribution, damn it. I want a clear sign that says We Are Right and Good and Just, and They Are Evil Born — except evil is taught, and You will not let me forget that. You hold still, and You council education, and prayers, and healing, and awareness, and always, unfailingly, compassion. You council distance from gossip and speculation. You council compassion. Always, always compassion.

Compassion is exhausting and undesirable, and still You council it. You have the reputation that You have, and still You urge me in this particular way, so I must listen. I will listen. But I don’t want this compassion right now. I thought You should know.

Book update, do people actually change, and the Pagan Perspective covers “godspousing!”

Most exciting thing first: the complete first draft of A Marriage of Land and Sea is FINISHED!!!! We’ll leave aside the fact that I know I need to rewrite the last 2k of the book. I’ve waffled about whether that counts as finished or not, but I think it’s important to celebrate the steps of book making along the way, because if I don’t, I spend a long time working on something and considering it “not done yet” and that can mess with my mind. The first 9 chapters have already been seriously edited, so it’s really the last three that I need to focus on. And then, another go-through once it’s gone out to the subscription group (which may actually be getting a name in the near future). I want to have it released to the public maybe mid-2016? It sits at 53k words right now, and I’m just pleased as punch. Except for the last 2k. Which, whatever.

Anyway: YAY!!!!

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To go in a different order than my title suggests: the Pagan Perspective* has covered the topic of godspousery this week. I had something of a rant about this written up, but I’m not going to post it. I do have an idea for a response video, and also the inclination currently to actually make it, and so I might. The responses have been interesting and somewhat surprising: more of the hosts admitted not believing in gods than I expected, but beyond that I find the phrasing of the question: “Do you believe in godspousing,” to be problematic, and not just because “godspousing” is wince-inducing for me (which is actually a lot of what my ranty post was about, and then I decided that I was being an asshole, and I called myself on my own shit — Why do I have a problem with “godspousing” as a noun becoming a verb when “shouldering your responsibility” is acceptable? Because of the newness of it. And if I acknowledge that languages are alive and not static, and that slang happens, and that purposefully being pedantic over things rather than being willing to communicate and address the actually topic is snobbish and not something I want to be or do, then I need to maybe let that particular rant go. So I did.)

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So, I think I’m the last person on the internet to have found the Vlogbrothers. My own brother pointed them out to me years and years ago, but beyond letting CrashCourse entertain me, I really haven’t paid them much attention until this week. And really? The lifegoal of “increasing the awesome and decreasing the suck” seems like a pretty decent goal. Which got me to thinking about myself (it’s all about ME!!!!) and how I’ve changed, or how the story I’ve told about myself has changed over the years. I think about how fostering compassion has wrought these changes in me. I think of all the opportunities for apathy to get a toe-hold in, with me, and, it does. Often. But never for long. I think about how i used to despise people and how now, while I can’t deal with many of them for long periods of time, and while conflict drains my ability to deal with people even faster, and while there’s less and less time I’m even willing to commit *to* conflict . . .I want to be kind. I want to be compassionate. I want to build up rather than tear down, and I want to exchange ideas carefully and not take things personally. Which can neatly be summed up with wanting to increase the awesome and decrease the suck, right?

One could argue that this is and has always been the “real” me, that I simply had to get to this place and unlearn all the crap I learned to survive early on . . . but that discounts having been there, and I’m not sure I agree with telling past-me that that me was not “real” somehow. So, I think: people can and do change, and I don’t agree with the idea that they don’t.

And that’s my navel-gazing for today.

*If you aren’t familiar with the Pagan Perspective, it’s a collaboration between a group of pagans from different traditions who field questions from the wide pagan community and answer them on Youtube. I discovered them during the great back injury of 2013, and in general, I enjoy their responses. The biggest take-away I gain from watching them is the same thing I gain from listening to or reading other people from other walks of life share their experiences and thoughts, and that is that people are people are people. We are awful and we are kind and we are horribly mean and short sighted and aspire to greatness and just are people.

Hey there, compassion and assumptions on self! How’s it going?

In the quest to relieve some pretty intense, pretty distracting, pretty “life is on hold while I deal with this,” pain that’s been going on since December, my current doctor decided bloodwork would be fun, so we had that done. It’s been ages, and hey, why not see how things are going right now?

The results came back with some interesting and unexpected news that’s very likely going to end up with me on medication from here on out. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s certainly a quality of life issue (as in, hey, here are reasons why diet doesn’t seem to be altering your constant desire to sleep one iota). It’s not a big deal at all. Further more, I have a household of people on daily maintenance medications (some of whom would die without it) and so it’s not like I think daily maintenance medication is a bad thing. While I do think that much of the pharmaceutical field has the wrong goals, I don’t think pharmaceutical help is evil, lazy, wrong, not trying hard enough, etc. (And if YOU do, great, but those comments will not get through moderation, so save yourself the trouble and don’t even bother.)

Still, I’m sort of sitting in shock over this, and am somewhat discomforted by it. and just . . . uncomfortable. It’s not an ageing issue (I don’t think?) because I’m rather aware of my mortality, and am still more curious about the process of dying than I am scared — though I’m not eager to go, and there are too many stories to get written first!! — so I’m not really sure what my issue of Do Not Want is.

It’s curious, and it’s humbling, and it’s allowing me to dig deeper. Unexpected reactions, when you think you know yourself well, are interesting and fun. Or, at least, interesting and interesting.

In the meantime: some decent pain meds so sleep can happen, and trying to get some PT lined up to help with sciatica issue. (Nerves are stupid. Why can’t they be all, “oh, hey, this is still effed up,” maybe with a burst of pain every, I dunno, 12 hours? Why does it have to be “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooooooooooooooou!!” so very constantly?)

Oh, the humanity; or Compassion and Poseidon (The Pagan Experience week 5)

WK 1- Feb. 2- Humanity- How do you define “humanity”? What is your contribution to the collective space of humanity? How does your spiritual path support this definition and contributions?Note:  we will be exploring some of what you all share as your practices more deeply in the months ahead, so don’t hold back in giving a glimpse into what sustains you.

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There are a few personality traits of myself that I am proud of. I think being proud of the person one is is a good thing, and though I’ve struggled in the past (hahahaha, in the past!) with my concept of self-worth, there are a few things about how I am and who I am that I’ve thought worth having. They have been, in the past, part of what I’ve clung to. Mile markers, perhaps. “Well, I may be wretched, but at least I’m X.” One of these traits has been, has always been: I’m not a speciesest.

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My tribe — in the collection of beings that make up my family, in the various levels of hierarchy — is made up of, well, various beings. I’ve talked before about how this hierarchy of tribe works for me, of how I am extremely tribal in practice, though universal philosophically, but to catch new readers up: I’m unapologetically tribal. That is, I admit fully that those who are in my family matter more to me than those who are not in my family. “My family” is not just the people of my blood — though people who share blood with me are in my family. (Some. Some aren’t. My immediate family isn’t even all human — in fact, my immediate family consists of one other human. The rest? Cats and dogs, incarnate and disincarnate, some gods, a few spirits. I’m unapologetic about that, and I’m unapologetic about the fact that my family matters more to me than strangers do. I think it’s normal. I think it’s natural. My dog’s well being, happiness, and health matters more to me than some random stranger’s well being, happiness, and health. We’re not a speciesest household. We’re a tribal household. As such, we don’t have that line that demarcates human/animal that other people have, that general humanity seems to value. That line which, when one is lacking it, one is often seen as cold, unfeeling, or at best, odd. Our line is “family/not family”, and we’re pretty okay with this. It doesn’t mean we wish ill of people. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t help people when they need help. It does mean that, in a situation that requires either helping strangers or even friends to the detriment of taking care of our family, we’re going to take care of our family. When presented with the old “who would you save from  burning house?” question . . . well, my family comes first. Even the old and the sick. I’m not going after Bob the Neighbor first just because he’s human.

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That’s all by way of introduction, though. What I really want to talk about for this post is: I’ve always maintained I haven’t had that delineating line, but until Poseidon entered my life and started to work His Compassion magic, it was a lie. I did have that line. It was solid and firm and thick. It also put humanity quite rigidly on the side of “worthless, must die, is automatically worse/less worthy than all other life.” Humanity was the enemy.  If you were human you automatically counted a less in my mind.

Poseidon changed that. How?

He challenged me to compassion. Not all at once, not at first. At first it was, “Pay attention to your surroundings, your reactions, your assumptions. Be aware, not just of how you’ve come to your mindset and your default actions and reactions, but also how these other people may have come to theirs. You write stories; what back stories might these people have that you are not privy to?” This moved on to having compassion — not compassion as it’s understood by society, the light, happy, always being kind, always assuming the best “compassion” that is really just not rocking the boat. Real compassion. The sort that challenges and stretches me, the sort that takes me far, far outside of my comfort zones. The sort that challenges me to remove myself entirely from the situation.

He was clever, but then Poseidon is many things.  It started as embracing compassion for other, non-human creatures, and that was easy, because I saw no problem with that. They deserved kindness, patience, and the ability for me to set myself completely aside on a case by case bases. Did I really need to go and get food/find comfort/pee when I was hungry or cold or had a full bladder, but the bird in my hands was in the process of dying and I could either set it down and let it be by itself, cold, or I could hold it and at least allow it to be warm and witnessed. Did I really need sleep when this kitten needed to be bottle-fed every hour, and I then had to help him pee, and then I had to clean him, though my eyes were crossing and I hadn’t slept the night through in days?

I settled into that idea of compassion readily. He introduced the idea of compassion for other humans, too, but I took to it slowly, and it was difficult, because my experience with Him tells me that part of why w/We get on so well is due to my lack of placing humanity above other animals. I’ll admit that, when I’m thick in depression compassion for others is the hardest to hold onto. I often don’t see the point — or didn’t — when I’m in that place.

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Once, over a decade ago, a year or so into my marriage, I was in the thick of a very dark, very black, very angry period.  I was by turn apathetic and furious, and it was impossible for me to care about much beyond taking care of our furry companions. I didn’t quite understand why Poseidon kept on about compassion, but at that time I couldn’t quite understand why Poseidon was involved in my life, period. I was walking home from work, or going to work, or something, and I saw a young boy — maybe eight? maybe ten? — narrowly avoid getting hit by a car. Bad enough. Worse: I saw the car coming. I saw the boy not see the car. I saw him going into the road, and I said nothing. I didn’t do anything. He didn’t get hit, but his not getting hit had nothing at all to do with me.

This was, happily, a wake-up call that I needed extra help getting out of that particular bad spot, that my normal coping methods were not working, that I needed to learn new ones, and that I could likely use the breathing room that medication can provide to give me the space to learn those new ones. But it’s also one of my most shameful moments in my entire past. I can provide excuses all I want — I wasn’t well, my mental health was questionable, and these things are true. But, I want better from myself, and I knew that much, even then.

My standard of compassion for others in pretty high. I fail at it a lot, but never to that degree. And, my need for compassion for others is not the least bit altruistic. Maybe one day it will be, but for now it’s self-serving. It makes me a better person. Having compassion for others (and for myself,  which so far is the hardest bit) allows me to be a better person for the world. Having compassion for people allows me to keep apathy at bay. It allows my relationship with my gods and spirits to remain open and constant. It allows for me to deal with the crap life throws our way.

I’m not a speciesest, but at least when I say that now I mean it, and humanity does not get an immediate demerit mark simply because we’re human.

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This post is part of The Pagan Experience blog project. To read more posts on “humanity”, click here. To read TPE’s FB page, click here. To read explore more topics in general, click the image below!

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My god is an awesome god (The Pagan Experience, week 3)

Somewhat recently I was listening to an interview with a Catholic nun during which she spoke of Psalms. More to the point, she spoke of the belief that, when a Christian calls out to their god, when they reach out in need, in pain, in suffering, their god hears them and reaches back. The sister was recounting a particularly dark period in her life, sharing with the listeners a moment of perceiving the state of her soul, becoming aware of her suffering, and being lifted up and out of herself, and being made aware of a sentient being who saw her, heard her, and was with her. The story was a touching story, and it was one I could relate to.

I was younger when I met Poseidon than she was when she met her god, by about a decade, but there were similarities. The most important similarity, to my mind, was being at the bottom. I find it difficult now, nearly two decades later, surrounded by my family whom I love dearly, living a life that I find fulfilling, to recall just how it felt to be at the bottom. Backed into a corner, with nowhere else to go, with no hope in sight, and just being . . . done. So very done. I know that I was there. I know I felt shattered. I know that, with the way that I am, with how stubborn and how grounded and how hard it is for me to release control, that what happened could not have happened if I hadn’t been at the very end of my rope. I was suffering. I was in pain. I needed saving. She spoke of her heart crying out for help, even though she was not aware that it was doing so, and I thought, Yes, yes! Yes, me too! She spoke of the generosity of her god, the goodness, the compassion, the great love, and I thought, yes, yes! I know this!

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And I do. It’s just that, when I speak of the god who saved my spirit, the god who saw me shattered before Him, who scooped me up, brought me close, and has never once let me go since, I’m speaking of Poseidon.

I know how it sounds, or how it could sound. I know the words I use: humility, compassion, love, grace, empathy. I know that with my veiling, and with my mode of dress, my inclination to be at home with my family and my preference to not mingle socially or casually with people, how it could look. With compassion being my biggest signpost along the way, I’ve had people point blank ask me why I’m not Christian.

My path is created (or co-created?) with my gods. I look toward the Hellenic stuff because of Poseidon (and never mind all this “Hey, about Vishnu . . . ” because oh gods all the things to read, why, I thought You loved me, waaaah). I look toward the Heathen stuff because of Pops. (Er. Odin, to those of you new to the blog). But, I’m Poseidon’s, heart and soul, because when I was in that space, when I was a wretched soul in need of saving, when my heart was in its death throes and in need of shelter, it was His hand that reached out and covered me. It was His touch that brought me into His heart. When I was in need and not really looking for anything other than an end, He brought me home.

I am His. I love my Father. I love my Family, and I’m grateful every day for all of t/Them* . . . but I am Poseidon’s. I don’t care that my path looks to some like maybe this crazy lady shouldn’t really be calling herself this thing or that other thing. I don’t care that people consider compassion and healing to be way outside Poseidon’s realm. His realm is whatever He decides it will be . . . and I will be there, because there is no where I’m going without Him.

*In our household, family is a pretty open-ended term. Or, rather, it’s rather narrow in its definition but wide in its inclusion. We are not a speciesest house, nor do we require our family members to be incarnate. Our immediate family is made up of two humans, an assortment of feline and canine spirits in various stages of incarnation, Poseidon and Odin. Their family is also our family, and our extended family thus becomes even more . . . varied.

 

 

“Well. That’s going to stop.”

Last week I was talking Beth’s candles up to a coworker who expressed a love for incense and candles. We were tucked away in an aisle, putting some inventory away. “How much are they?” she asked me. The jar candles (which is what we were talking about) are a bit pricey — but they are soy wax, not paraffin, and they’re hand-poured. They’ve got essential oils and glitter and they’re fixed and all that. I explained all that, but when I got to the “fixed and dressed” I sort of stumbled.

Now, I’m out. I’ve never really even seen the inside of any broom closet. I’ve been lucky enough to live in places where I didn’t really have to worry about that, and I’m a private enough of a person that no matter how out I am, I’m not really every going to be in your face out and obvious about it. The topic of my religion comes up a decent amount of time — I veil, and I veil for religious reasons, and generally when people ask you whether you veil for religious reasons and the answer is yes, the follow up question is some variety of “Are you X?” With coworkers, it doesn’t usually delve too far. Customers are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. But, I’m out as pagan at my day job. I’m pretty out as devotee to Poseidon specifically at my day job. The rest? Varying degrees depending on the coworker, just because it generally does not come up.

So, before I launched into the “fixed and dressed” explanation, I hemmed and hawed a bit. I made some vague noise. I had, in my mind, as I always do, this awareness that what I say next might push people out of their comfort zones. I invariably frame my responses in a way that shows that I know that my beliefs are not exactly the norm. I’m apologetic. and conciliatory.

My coworker (who is a GAZILLION YEARS my junior) stopped what she was doing, looked at me, and demanded, “Why do you always do that?”

Uhm.

Shit.

Talking this over with Himself yesterday, I was put on the spot again. Because, I do always do that. It’s not that I don’t take myself seriously, because I do. It’s not that I don’t take my devotion seriously, because I do. It’s not that I don’t think this is a valid life choice, because I flipping do. So, why do I always do that?

Sharing just to share, here. Near twenty years with Poseidon. Coming on eleven having been married. Still don’t have my shit together all the time. Despair not, oh ye fellow traveller. One need not have one’s shit together all the time, or ever, to walk one’s path.

“But one does need to stop apologizing for it.”

Hrmph.

I have a Poseidon painting!

My vulnerable spots, let me share them with you . . .

In our relationship, Poseidon has not issued many taboos over the years. There are certain things He prefers I do or refrain from doing. He certainly has opinions about many things, and He has zero qualms with sharing those opinions. There are many areas in which w/We compromise, in which there is a give-and-take. We do not have a master-slave relationship (though He does remind me that, should the need arise, we certainly could, and I am grateful that the need has not risen, and I’m aware that that particular ball is ever in my court) and so there are few times during which, “Sir, yes Sir!” is the expected response. Even when it comes to the places where environmental and consumerism activism intersects (what, if any, sort of seafood I eat; what types of meats I eat; which cosmetics I buy; how I dye my hair; which beverages I choose, etc.) I do not have taboos. Instead, I have guidelines, and I have the whole of everything to consider, each and every time. (Can I afford to skip meat this week, in terms of dietary needs of my human household? Am I in a moment of anxiety crisis, and will this purchase of fast food hurt or help, more? Am I approaching this from a place of needing to save all the things all by myself or there’s no point, or am I approaching this from a place of compassion?) The question may be the same every time; however, the answer can and will vary depending on an assortment of factors.

I have two taboos. One: when I’m out of the house (and depending on the time of day and the length of the walk, dog-walks may or may not count as being ‘out of the house’) my head is to be covered. How it’s covered is not proscribed. I choose to wear my hair up in two sheer cotton kerchiefs (or tichel) most of the time (the ones I have stay pretty well with minimal tying and no pins), but I’ve also looped rectangular scarves loosely over my head. I’ve worn hats instead of veils, and now and again a hooded sweatshirt worked, too. How much hair I show depends entirely on the situation, though for the day job He prefers more coverage rather than less.

The second taboo: I’m not allowed to purchase for myself mass-market produced religious icons of Him. I was, once upon a time, but there were some tumultuous years for us, and I’ve broken things in fits of anger. My most prominent figure currently is a mass-market produced icon, but it was the last one I was allowed, and I was only allowed it because I’d not up-ended the shrine in some time, and because the then-current one was broken, and because we understood that if I broke this one in anger, that would be it with religious icons, period. The one I have currently is broken, I must admit, but that’s because I brought it with me to the sea to bathe it, and fragile points of His coral crown snapped off. Accidents do not count against me, for lo my god is a gracious and generous god. Still, even then, He’d decided that that would be the last one I could buy, new, for myself. The whole theme for His shrine is: thrifted, gifted, or handmade. When it comes to most of the items on the shrine, that’s fine. When it comes to Poseidon imagery and icons, it’s less fine, because . . . well, because, damn it. Except, this is one of those things He’s firm about. He will not be moved on this matter, and really, it’s not so bad. I’m not a person who tends to want a lot of things, anyway.

Today, riding a bit high from both the Hunt energy that’s in the air around us, and from the having been stripped bare in order to connect more fully – and, true, from having a few people already respond in a way that encourages me to keep sharing these more vulnerable moments, riding high from knowing I help people sometimes just by sharing these moments – a painting I commissioned from Lykeia forever ago (okay, it was a year, maybe? Possibly a year and a half?) arrived. Now, I am not in any way upset about the time it took for me to get this painting; there was no time limit set on the commission, and such small things as pregnancy, taking care of her family, and her having a life do need to be factored in. I mention the time only to say that, there was a good amount of build-up to the actual arrival of the painting just because I had that much time to invest into looking forward to its creation and arrival. I knew it would be coming soon – it was finished and dried, and I paid the shipping a week ago. But I didn’t know it would be here today, and so when I returned home from a nice little outing to mail Beth’s candles, and then have breakfast (because the animals conspired to consume our bread for us during the night) just as the package was arriving, I was excited. What glorious timing, what a potent sign of approval and support, this arriving as I was feeling good about feeling vulnerable.

I will say – the painting itself (and you will all get to see it in the future) is gorgeous. Lykeia’s eye for color is wonderful, and she incorporates such vivid, beautiful hues. This is the third of her painting to grace our walls (I have a print of her’s as well) and I doubt it’ll be the last. I love, love, love her artwork. But, the painting did not make it all the way from Alaska unscathed – the cardboard she packaged it in had a tear in it, the frame is splintered in one area, and the canvas in the same area is likewise torn.

paintingimage2

paintingdamage1

It’s not a slice, it’s more like the weave of the canvas was stressed. It’s more a snag than a slice. Beth assures me we can fix it, and I have faith in her eye as an artist that she’ll be able to do some cosmetic work to disguise the snag. Happily, it was in a dark part of the painting, rather than on the body of Poseidon, so there’s that.

I am not even a little tempted to decide that this is some other sort of sign or portent. Poseidon has made clear – I receive encouraging signs and omens. Anything ‘negative’ He has to say to me, He does not do with signs. That is how He uses that particular tool. What I do decide, when this happens, is that it serves me right for getting that excited about an object.

I don’t desire objects much, and almost every single time I do, something happens in the process of obtaining said object that reminds me that having too much (emotion or spiritual significance or meaning) invested into the thing is a bad idea. Spiritual materialism is something Poseidon does not want me to foster within myself and my practice. He sees the value in having icons and the like – just as He sees value in the aniconic. Even with the handmade icons, He is about as attached to them as He is not. They are, or can be (aesthetically pleasing) visual tools for my worship, but they are not the be all end all, and it’s fine to look forward to something – but it’s not fine to have a physical, inanimate object have that much control over how I feel about the world around me. He would be just as happy to have the shrine contain the various found and gifted objects that are not representative of any of His forms as He is to have the icon, the lion figurine, the horse figurine, etc.

I laugh at myself now – in delight, not so much in derision. I just said yesterday that I need to give more of myself to Him. I decide what that might mean – more time, more mindful practice. I decide what forms that will take. And then things like this happen. I can see Him holding still, watching what I might do. Fly off the handle? Decide to blame Him? Decide that this means I’m not meant to have this thing I desperately want to have, that is laden with such meaning for me? Or do I see this opportunity, to surrender more to Him? To see this attachment to this object that, while a visual representation of a very important stage of my walking with Him, is still an attachment to an object, and less an attachment to Him?

I love this painting – and you’ll see why, at some point in the near future. I’m very glad to have it, and very glad that it is mine . . . and I’m grateful for the reminder that it is, above all, an object to be appreciated, cared for, even treasured . . . but not to be confused with appreciating, caring for, and treasuring Poseidon Himself.

Doing everything right, and still failing.

I’m re-reading Silence’s Walking the Heartroad, a book that I re-read from time to time, as it tends to help me remember to be mindful about an assortment of things that get pushed out to the margins of my awareness. It’s a useful (and well written) tool that helps refocus me. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.

I forget things, from time to time. I’m pretty good, in my own estimation, at remembering them eventually, and getting back on track. I’m honest about the fact that, even though I’ve been walking with Poseidon for as long as I have, even though I made the decision almost twelve years ago to center my life around my walking with Him, even though these things, it does not mean that I don’t stumble, a lot, still. It does not mean that I’ve reached a certain point and suddenly all the things become easy or obvious or what-have-you. There are things I don’t trip over much any more – it’s been ages since I’ve been caught up in the ‘what am I thinking, is this even real?’ and, more of a personal victory, a long time since I’ve been caught up in doubts of my self-worth (or lack-there-of), ages since that was last a factor. (I guess this means that at some point I started to actually believe across the board that since He said He wanted this, wanted me, saw value in me, that meant there actually is value in me, and so I could surrender that worry). These big things that were issues for so long do not crop up much any more, it’s true, but there are still plenty of ways in which this walking with my god every day is akin to deciding every day to walk with my god. Ways in which, every day, it’s sort of like a new decision, for the first time ever. I’ve yet to hit a stride wherein suddenly this is all just the way things are, wherein mindfulness and attention from me is not required. At this point along the way, I’m beginning to realize that that particular stride is never going to happen. I need – and more, want – to stay open to His presence, to both His fluctuations and the natural fluctuations anyo/One would have in any sort of an intimate relationship. I want to be engaged in this life.

I’ve been good. Ever since the whole “Hey, so, Vishnu is a thing,” incident a bit ago, I’ve been sitting with it. More, I’ve been sitting with Poseidon, and I’ve been present. It’s difficult, those of us who are privileged enough to have access to historical information regarding the worship of our gods, not maybe not get bogged down in the history. (Especially if we are anything like me. Being a pedant is a great tool for editing; less useful to me when dealing with relationships with my gods and spirits), but having been greatly jarred, it’s easier to see that I had been doing just that. Looking at His past, at a human-explained and experienced past that attached ‘Poseidon’ to its history, and getting stuck in a particular place, at least when it comes to how I was allowing myself to connect with Poseidon, and in how I was seeing His touch upon my life. This is somewhat embarrassing considering how much the historical influences did not inform my foundation-building period with Poseidon. I am grateful for that jarring-out of complacency that I hadn’t realized I’d slipped into.

Between that, and rereading Walking the HeartRoad, and my previous post on knitting and yoga, yesterday I experienced a sort of . . . well, something a bit more gentle, emotionally speaking, but still akin to a slam-down. (He is ever so careful with my emotions, this terrible god of mine). Three words, quietly spoken, that devastated me and stripped away all the excess garbage, that – if you will – stripped me back to the bone and re-grounded me. “I miss you,” He said to me, in the stillness of my heart, in the quiet of my mind, and in that moment I wanted to die.

I do believe that our gods and spirits can experience missing us. I have the audacity to declare myself a wife of Poseidon’s. In light of that, declaring that I believe the spirits and gods can experience loneliness, and can – in fact, do – desire to spend time with specific people – should be small potatoes. But then I find myself, not doubting Him, but maybe marveling at why on earth He would miss me. My reaction, once I was able to think again – those words floored me and I did not expect them, and perhaps I should have – I listed all of the things I’m doing ‘correctly’. Upon waking and upon going to bed, unless there’s something major going on that is seizing my attention, I take time to touch in with Him. I’ll go to o/Our special place, to o/Our inner temple. When I get out of bed in the morning, I light incense to Him, I say my morning ‘help me walk with You’ prayer, and I share my first cup of tea with Him. I converse with Him throughout the day. My mind at rest in on Him, is with Him. When I settle in to write, I touch base with Him. Poseidon isn’t exactly my ‘muse’ – I don’t have one, that’s not how I explain the story-receiving-process that I have – but I do story-bounce at Him. I use knitting time as an excuse to touch in with Him. I’ve even finally bowed to the pressure to take part in Odin’s Hunt at my Husband’s side this year – though perhaps not as often as either of Them would like – and that’s been years coming. I don’t have any festivals specifically for Poseidon between September and Yule, so I haven’t been skipping any of those. I’m not feeling any pressure to pick up yoga from Him, though I’m not sure I’m the only one experiencing nostalgia for my practice. I’m doing it all ‘correctly’; so why this admission on His part?

I’m forced to stop, to look, to be honest. And when I’m being honest, I can see that all the parts and pieces are in place, and this is good. I can see that my heart is in all of this, and this is good, too. But we’ve hit one of those places where putting my heart into all of this has become easy . . . and it’s time to put more. The only outward thing that I’m lacking right now is a regular meditation practice, and I’ll fix that. There’s no recrimination – there rarely is from Him and He will not abide any from myself – as I’ve been working to get a schedule in place that works for me, to maintain the responsibilities I have. (Still not perfect on that front, but steady at this point) but it’s time to pick that back up again. Beyond that, though, it’s time to start challenging myself to give more – to Him and, through Him, as He decides, in service of others. Carefully, though, because He did not express a desire that I serve others. He expressed a desire that I spend more of my time with Him. And that’s what I need to do, what I need to fix.

I’m sharing this here because I’ve been at this a while. I don’t mean that to sound like me tooting my horn, but I know that when I was just starting along my path, I looked at others with years behind them and thought, they must have it all together. And now, with years behind me, I have to admit that – in some things, yes. In other things? Not so much. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I would rather spend my life stumbling along with Him, trying to give more and more and more, clumsy and fumbling and awkward, than glide along with nary any attention paid to the process. I’m embracing my stumbling and my awkwardness and, yes, even those moments of feeling devastated in failing Him, in having to be reminded to give Him more of myself. All of myself, and then more.

Hail, hail, Poseidon.