Confessions, or saying out loud the things I want to keep most quiet.

and because I’m mad into lists right now . . .

Depression. Once upon a time, back in May? June? when I had my last check in with my doctor, she expressed a desire to see about having me come down on my medication, or completely off, beginning in March. I’m on 20mg of fluoxetine. I started at 10mg, and that helped me not want to sleep all the time. 20mg turned me into an actual, honest-to-gods person who could do things like handle stress without shutting off. I have marveled, since then, that I do not recognize myself. Why do I say that?

In the time since I started taking anti-depressants, I have (in no particular order): applied for, interviewed for, and landed a new job with excellent benefits and a wage that would be considered a living wage, if not for all my expensive critters; I have formatted and released a number of e-books; set up an Etsy shop; written and released two e-booklets; launched two projects (which, granted, have foundered a bit); addressed the whole Poseidon-and-Vishnu thing with my head out of the sand and embraced a certain willingness to be uncomfortable; written the bulk of When Worlds Collide II and III; formatted a book for a friend; traveled to Massachusetts to visit family and friends; did not require months of recovery time; hosted not one but two sets of houseguests; dealt with Corbie’s myriad ups and downs; made a slew of new friends; did some beta reading.

Yeah. FUCK yeah. Oh, and also: faced (am still facing) mounting medical financial debt, despite the help of generous people, because it took way too long for me to get tho the point where I was able to look for a better paying job. (Good benefits? Shift differential on Sunday? What?What??) and crap kept happening. All of these thing combined, and I’m still not a walking zombie.

I fucked up my medication a bit,  adapting to my new schedule, and I’m finally getting back to okay with that, and that’s awesome. I’m also recognizing that, to a small extent, I let myself become burned out on all the doing. For a few months all I was doing was going to work, working long hours, coming home, and being social and available to people who needed me or wanted to chat. I value the new friends I’ve made, and I value that I know some things and can help people with some things — I can’t help by being physically near, and I can’t help by throwing money at a problem, and so the small skillsets I have, I want to offer — and more to the point, I can offer, for the first time in my life.

So I offered a lot. Or a bunch of little things to a lot of people, and it’s built up. Add in worry over loved ones in these tumultuous times, and the time of year, and yeah . .  . I’m having dreams almost every night of my grandparents, and it’s sweet and good to get to visit with them, but it’s also emotionally exhausting, to wake up and have that reminder that, oh yeah. Yeah. Fuck.

Hunt Season always sends me wanting to retreat, and after the election I thought a lot about stopping blogging, and really curtailing my presence back. I thought about the exploration that He is asking me to do, as w/We go deeper, and about how I generally write about  this, these most vulnerable making parts, and about how I’ve been doing it for ages now, and that maybe that time is over. Maybe I want to be more private? Maybe I want to slip into the background and go unnoticed?

And then I receive confirmation that what I do sometimes makes a difference to people, and that’s got to be good enough, right? I admit that not a small part of me decided that maybe shutting up about being any sort of visible minority might be a good idea, in the current climate . . . but then I need to own that shit, too, right? Because, for all the minority badges I claim, the only one that outranks mine is white and male. Do I only get to be visibly pagan, or visibly bisexual, or visible X when it’s safe? Most people don’t have ‘safe’ as an option. It’s not like I’m ever going to be on the front lines of anything. I’m home, writing things, on the Internet, ffs.

Right now, the scaling back is working. Making sure I get enough disconnected-from-social-media is working. I’m not so good with compensating with staying in touch via other means (phone, texting) but I’m working on it.

I’m pretty sure that I’m going to fight to stay on my current medicine levels. Lethargy hit pretty hard last week, and I felt my interests start to wan. I read. I didn’t write. I didn’t want to write, and I wondered if I’d set that down, too. Not just the blog. All of it. And yes, I saw that for the red flag that it was. Is. Whatever.

There are more things, but these are heavy on my heart, so one for now is good.

So . . . things are happening.

I’ve been quiet and withdrawn for a few months now. In part, I’ve been adjusting to life with medication that helps keep everything from being super overwhelming. In part, I’ve been working over time at the day job and have had precious little time to spare for being around on line. In part, I’m dealing with the upcoming vigil and the heaviness it brings with it.

Let’s keep it real, shall we?

I started participating in the YouTube Pagan Challenge, because I wanted there to be polytheist voices represented, and because I was hoping that if I did it, others would too — and that totally happened, and I’m super excited that that happened. I haven’t been watching, though. I haven’t recorded anything in months. At first, it was because I was dealing with the depression (depression that made no sense, because everything was fine, and if I wasn’t this depressed before when it wasn’t why was I now??) and dealing with the increased pressure to really, no for real, introduce Vishnu and Co into my devotions and really face this whole Vishnu-with-Poseidon thing. And then I was back east to visit family, and that was wonderful and awful and way too short, and then I was home and  appreciating the quiet. (I love my family, I really, really do, but the having to be on all the time is exhausting, and I know it’s because they miss me, and I miss them, and I’m not upset about being on socializing mode for that long, but it’s exhausting!) And then Beth’s daughter was out with her partner, and that was awesome, that was the best visit ever, and Corbie was over the moon for her partner, and then there was a ton of work and more work, and also writing, and not a whole lot to speak about on the religion front, and really, do I have anything worthwhile to say?

I had not one but TWO of my dearest friends express admiration for my sharing myself in my videos, and I have to admit that that contributed to the freeze-up of said videos.  And now, now I feel so behind that I don’t even know about catching up, and there’s so much I want to talk about, and where do I even start?

So, instead, I buried myself in my writing. I’ve learned to make covers, and while they’re not super-sophisticated, they serve the purpose, and I think they’re pretty, and I think they’re “me” — already, they look like mine, they look like  you can see them and say, oh, that’s Jolene’s book/story.

I’m happy. I don’t know that I’ve ever really been happy. Sustained happiness, where I get to look forward to things, instead of looking forward to having done the things. The first real exciting day I had, I think, was the trip to the coast with Corbie. I was so happy to be able to take him with us, I think I was more excited than he was. That’s the first day I really experienced what I think other people experience as happiness or happy-excitement. And it’s sobering, to experience that and realize that you can’t remember experiencing that before.

So, having help with the depression has been a relief — but it’s also made me turn inward, because it’s a quiet sort of horror, to realize how much of a fight everything has always, always been, and to realize that I’ve assumed that was normal.

Beth and I never fight any more. We snap, because who doesn’t get snibbish? I’m still a grouchy morning person, and I still have a hard time switching thoughts in midstream — but we don’t fight. I catch myself, or she catches herself, and we’re able to say, “Oh, hey, I didn’t mean X, I meant Y, and also, that tone wasn’t right, and I’m sorry.” And wonder of wonders, I can let it go when she does it, instead of digging in and digging in and digging in.

And that’s sobering. It makes me grateful for her, and it makes me  sad for her, for how I’ve must have been.

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I’m dismantling my shrine for Poseidon. How’s that for attention grabbing? 😉 All along, it’s been our space, His and mine. It has keepsakes, little found objects that I’ve received as signs or confirmation or reassurances. Gifts from people. It’s gotten quite crowded over the years. He is serious about Vishnu-through-Poseidon, Vishnu-with-Poseidon, and He wants the space to be welcoming to Vishnu, and so. So. Down will come all the flotsam and jetsam (see what I did there?), the various Poseidon representations I have, the sea water, the sand. Beginning with the Vigil, I’ll be opening the shrine to Vishnu, as well, and  since W/we want Him to be comfortable, I’ll be taking the shrine down to essentials: a cloth, a statue, candles, libation cup, incense. This will begin a year of inviting Vishnu to my rituals for Poseidon, and possibly incorporating some of His, as well.

Am I scared? How can I be? Poseidon has given me nothing but reason after reason as to why I can trust Him. Am I nervous? Yes. I’m nervous that dismantling the shrine and setting it up differently is going to be emotionally taxing — and I’m also looking forward to it, because I get too set in my ways, and I never want to be, to the point that it gets in the way.

Yes, there will be pictures forthcoming.

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You may have noticed, I also have a wee book project in the works — I’ll be writing little bits about my various festivals for/with Him, and publishing them as we go — again, starting with the Vigil. They won’t be long, or complex, and the point will be — I hope — to encourage people to create  what they need, as they need it. I thought for a while, maybe I’m trying to build a tradition for Poseidon. But, I’m not. With the clarity that lifted depression brings, I see that I just want to keep building up. I want to share where I’ve been, in case it helps others. And I have some of this on my blog, but posts get buried.

So, a bit disjointed, but something of an update.  I figured I’d inundated everyone with book posts for a bit, so you deserved actual substance, too.

 

Today I’m going to talk to my doctor about needing help

and I don’t want to.

I don’t want to talk about how my anxiety has gotten so bad, and my depression has also gotten worse, that all my mental wherewithal goes into staying detached from what my mind tries to tell me about myself (worthless, pointless, hopeless, pathetic).

I don’t want to talk about how I have tools in place — the detachment that I practice, which isn’t disassociation so much as releasing any value-judgment, and  bringing in compassion, so I can look and name and see, and even feel, without being invested in the feeling; meditation; writing; following the Snugatru (all the snuggles!!) path — and that they’re no longer helping.

I don’t want to talk about how, when the anxiety reaches a fevered pitch, and becomes so overwhelming that my skin feels so tight, that I want to claw it off, or that I want to go run screaming into traffic (which I never do), or I have the impulse to bang my head into the wall (rare) or slam myself in the head with my own fists (less rare), not because I’m angry, and not because I want to hurt myself, but because everthing is spiralling out of control and nothing else is working.

I don’t want to talk about how, because I can name the tools that I have, that have worked before, that should still be working, and because I can explain why I feel they’re not working, because I can articulate what I’m experiencing so long as you catch me at a mellow point, that I feel I should be able to just try a little harder, put in a little more effort, and they will suddenly work again — and because that’s not working, it just feeds back into pathetic, worthless.

I don’t want to talk about how my standard follow up to ‘there’s no point to anything’ (‘so why not do what you want to do?’) isn’t working any more.

I don’t want to talk about how I’ve made choices in my life so that my limits are met, so that I can cope with becoming overwhelmed through knowing myself, and knowing those limits, and being aware and mindful — isn’t enough anymore.

I don’t want to talk about how , as an introvert, decompression time is essential, and none of my decompression activities are working any more. Not even sleep, because my dreams are as anxious ridden as my waking hours.

I don’t want to talk about picking fights with Beth because it’s a distraction from the activity in my mind, and feeling badly about picking a fight with her — because, I can see myself doing it while it’s happening, and they are never over things I’m actually truly upset about — feels better than how it feels in my head, on my own. And how is that for fucked up? Her being frustrated or angry or short with me is a huge step up from how I am on my own.

I don’t want to talk about needing help.

I would never, ever, ever expect anyone else to deal with this much internal interference on their own.  Why  do I expect it of myself?

I’m exhausted. There are things I want to do, things I want to get written, connections I want to make, courses I want to participate in. I can’t even think straight any more.

I don’t want to need help.

But I’m going. And I’m going to talk about these things — or Beth is going to talk for me.

See you on the flip side.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not okay right now.

Let’s just file this under Keeping It Real, shall we?

It’s been building for a while. I haven’t written any substantial fiction since the wee beginning of January – I’d wanted to have WWC totally done (and it’s dancing at close to done as I write) long before now. I’d wanted to have moved on to the second story. I look at Beth, and I keep wanting to be motivated the way she is, and I’m not. Instead, I’m tired all the time, and when I’m not tired I’m exhausted, and generally apathetic about my goals. I’m overwhelmed almost all the time, and I’m struggling to find ways to decompress in a house that is always bustling with noise and activity. (I’ve started weekly walks to the river, and that seems to help, but I need something more.) Meditation only helps so much, because much of the over stimulation is  stress carried home from the day job (nothing bad, just the stress of being understaffed at the present) and there is no quiet to be had in my house anyway. None. Ever.

I’ve got my eyes on that course I wrote about, and I’m excited about it  — but my mind is already whispering why it’s stupid to sign up for it, if I do, when it opens for enrollment, because I get overwhelmed so easily from outside pressure, so why do I think I can do this? I already know that I’ll be dropping pretty much everything during the course. (Warning you now: if I get in, correspondence is going to become even  less reliable than it currently is). I’ve spent the last week feeling like I wanted to claw out of my skin, and yesterday was spent fighting with Beth and resisting the desire to self-harm. (I’m less of  a cutter and more of a slam my head into walls sort of person.)

My plans for my days off were simple: get my taxes done, write some on the story, grocery shop. That’s it. Simple.

I grocery shopped. That’s it. That’s what I managed.

Frustrated. I can say, well, work and schedule all over the place, and stress, and so nice walk decompressing by the river was important — and it’s true, it’s true! But, I’m always tired. I’m always on the verge of being overwhelmed. It never  goes away.

And that’s not true. I know it’s not. But it’s been a while, and it’s hard.

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I’m not okay. It feels hopeless. It feels pointless. Deciding that I really, truly want to focus on the writing in a serious way means that I’m deciding to set the devotional stuff aside (it doesn’t, not really, but serious, focused study would take a backseat.) I need ritual, and study fuels me, but writing is also very spiritual for me. I’m realizing that keeping at my daily devotions and writing is important, and the rest can fit in when and how it can, and that’s good enough. But those feelings that convince I suck because I can’t manage it all, equal, are strong, and hard to navigate through right now.

Normally, I trust Poseidon instead of my feelings. Normally, detachment  from them is the goal, but I’m thick in their grasp, and they’re heavy, and it’s hard.

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Beth brings up medication again, and she’s right. I keep saying, ‘Let me try to deal with this on my own,’ because having to talk to someone not family about this is undesirably. I don’t want to. I’d rather be in this moment, in this feeling, than have to do that. It’s not their business, and I don’t want to.

I feel that, if I could shake the tired-all-the-time feeling, if I could get back to a point of “it doesn’t matter, so I’m going to do what I WANT TO DO,” I’d be okay. But I only ever want to be in bed, these days. And, I want to honor burn out and exhaustion and not turn myself into a productivity machine, because I don’t like that solution, either, so I resist.

VitD helps with this, a lot. So much. I remember, when I was taking it (and the mag, to cut down on migraines) that  the depression, the want to stay in bed all the time and just distract myself, was less. It was easier to overcome. Beth says that medication might help, and it would, and I’ve done that before — but it requires taking pills every day, and  I already don’t keep doing that with the VitD, so how much would it really help?

This is my last attempt to deal with this on my own, which is why I’m sharing. Going back to the supplements that I know help, and we’ll see if I stay on top of that. (I have loved ones, right now, who may be laughing — how much do I nag about regular medication taking with them? Do I stay on top of my own? HA!) If I can’t, or I don’t, it’s time to pony up and go talk to my doctor.

New writing goals: get WWC done before I head back east.

New tax goals: pay someone to do them for me. (too many forms, it’s too confusing, I can’t handle it right now.)

New professional goals: take the fucking course if it comes up again, and allow that you’re going to be prickly about doing something new and having people SEEING YOU do something new. Do it anyway.

Have I mentioned how awesome Beth is? On Wednesday I popped off on her because she offered advice when I wanted her to just listen. “Stop trying to help and fix things unless I ask for it!!” Yesterday, it was the opposite. “Why can’t you see that I need help with this? Do I really have to ask for it??” Maybe not,  Jo, but you do need to be consistent, damn it.

I am held.

So, I’m not all that good right now. It’s a number of things (retailhell season, anniversary of my grandmother’s death which generally make me think of them both as they were good enough to die in the same year and also because, hey, we buried her on my grandfather’s birthday–HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIPPY, LOOK WHAT WE GOT YOU!, but also  the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor always makes me think of my grandfather too — he was a WWII vet — and also, just THINGS. THINGS DAMN IT I DON’T NEED REASONS!)

A few days ago,  I had a day wherein a bunch of exciting things I was happy about sort of all crashed down around me.

So, I have a new phone, and it was cool and exciting, and it worked!  It actually dialed out and picked up when people called and I answered; it went online and did online things; it actually kept the time; it was an unexpected Xmas bonus from my  part-time job, woot! Only then we discovered that hey, that neat high speed internet we’ve got isn’t unlimited like we thought (curse you, fine print) and there was no way to re-up it once it was out for the month.

I ordered a Matsya print, and failed to receive confirmation of the order, and discovered that it wasn’t going to be here for forever. (Okay, a month).

I discovered that one of the other books I had purchased had been cancelled with no notification to me beforehand.

So, you know, a bunch of first world problems.

The struggle in this, for me, was — I was genuinely excited about these three things. Those who know me well will know that I generally do not get excited about things, I do not allow myself to become emotionally invested in outcomes going a particular way or in myself having a particular thing. This sounds like a nice, not-attachmenty way to be, but the truth of the matter is, I am this way due to a long history of things not working out/being what I wanted. This non-attachment comes from heaps and heaps of disappointment playing out and not any sort of altruistic, personal development crap. So every time it happens and is reinforced, I find myself in a place of, why the fuck do I expect to have happiness from things?

To which, His reponse is often, “Yes, well, why?”

(In the interest of full disclosure: hormones and deathaversies.)

Lately, He’s been supporting the excitement of having things and wanting things. Not all things indiscriminately, but specific things. I’m realizing that I’m increasingly unhappy with my lack of acquisition of physical books, and the fact that my bookshelves are so small and are not rotated through often. (Apparently I derive satisfaction, inspirations, and fulfillment from having books I can look at and remembering reading. Who knew?) We’re limited on space, granted, but we’re not so limited that a creative solution can’t be found. (Taller, deeper bookcases, for example).

There’s also the acquiring of new, totally different images and/or ritual tools — hence the Matsya print that is on its way to me. I also have a modest assemblage of puja tools (namely an extremely pretty tray and a bell and a mini-shrine for Durga), and I suspect more will be added over time. So far, they’re just sitting there, being present in my home, but they will get used. And it’s weird to me, to have Poseidon be supportive and encouraging of the gathering of things, because so much of o/Our discourse on the topic of material goods have been, “meh, sometimes nice, but ultimately unnecessary.”

It’s interesting.

Through this all, He is gentle. He is kind. I am wrapped up tight in love and acceptance. It’s really difficult to hold on to feeling threatened in any of this, because how can I be, with this sort of support?

People That Make My World Better

It’s almost as if admitting to fighting apathy right now made it stronger. Maybe it just meant I didn’t have to pretend as much right now. For all that I want to Keep It Real, I also try to make my writing positive, or uplifting, or cheerleady. I’m trying really, really hard to be the change I want to see in the world, and so while I like to Keep It Real, I also really want to build up rather than tear down. I want to cheer people on rather than dig into them. I don’t ever want to be another voice telling you why you’re doing it wrong or why your path is invalid.

I wanted to make this post especially way more happy and upbeat than it’s going to be. I wanted to celebrate the people whose existence makes my existence easier to commit to, whose presence — even if it’s only from a distance — remind me that I want to be in this world, and that I want to keep feeling the feelings. I am not okay at the present moment. It’ll pass; I work hard to not get invested in my emotions when sink below my baseline blue. Today is a day of “There’s no point to doing anything at all,” and “Every time I open my mouth I’m misunderstood, so why do I even bother?” and “I desperately do not want to be alone, but even when I’m in a room with others I feel isolated, rejected, unwanted, and unworthy.” Being convinced that I have no worth makes that gap between myself and others ever larger than it would otherwise be. I can’t even write today — I’m trying to finish up the book for real for reals and I spent two hours writing one paragraph and I’m not sure why I keep coming back to writing. Except, of course, I know exactly why, and this is what I mean by not being too invested in the feelings. I know much of them are bullshit. But they’re so easy to get stuck in. I know, objectively, that I’m exhausted and stressed out. I don’t know if I’m tired because I’m stressed out, or if I’m tired because I’m fighting off a cold, or if I’m tired because whatever else. I do know that when I’m exhausted my ability to cope goes entirely away. After trying to write for a few hours, I had to go to bed. Not to nap or rest or anything productive like that, but to be in bed with the dog pressed against me (Hero Dog super-powers activate!) and focus on not letting myself become invested in this numbness. When I felt like I could maybe face some more time out of bed, I got up and put some tea water on. When I forgot about my steeping tea for too long, making a new mug of it was not possible. I can’t even make tea correctly. There’s no point to trying to do anything at all, and so I went back to bed, instead.

This time without a hero dog.

So, I’m not in a good place right now. It’ll pass. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, all of the things that are the reasons why I deserve to be alone and misunderstood and unwanted and unworthy will return to just being quirks of life, too many loved ones spread across time zones and filled with busy lives. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that I’ll remember and be able to believe that people are generally good, often self-involved (as they should be!) and just because some one does not understand where I might be coming from does not mean they’re saying I’m wrong or unworthy or unwanted. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, I’ll be back to being okay. In the mean time, I am not deleting all my social media (because no one would notice anyway) and I’m not going to take down my blog (because what good is it really doing?) and I’m not deleting all my books and stories (because I’m a useless hack who is only playing at being a writer). I am not, as much as I want to — and today I really, really want to. Today, I want the world to forget I exist, so maybe I can pretend that I don’t.

Keeping it real. Why the hell would I want to keep it real when real looks like this?

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Even today, as I’m caught in hopelessness and bleakness, there are people whose presence in the world makes the world a more live-able place. I can’t say I’m happy to be in the world right now, but these people (in no particular order, and this is by no means a complete list) remind me that it’s not all horrible, and maybe, sometimes, it’s even good.

Beth. Maybe this is obvious? Maybe not? Beth is amazing. Not only does she put up with my dark periods (and has managed to learn how to navigate them even!) but . .. well, actually, that’s reason enough. I don’t know that there would be anyone else who would allow me to live so fully as myself, without judgment, with love and support. I worry sometimes that I’ve had a negative impact in how she tolerates others, but really I think our highly selective when socializing with other humans trait compliments each others’, and we’re well matched. Unlike me, she has this insane drive to keep pushing herself when things get tough (I’m more of a take my toys and go home person) and that’s a constant inspiration.

My friend Diane. Sure, she’s on my mind because she was just out visiting. Not only was she one of  the first pagan type people I’d ever interacted with, but she’s also been a great mentor and friend. I forget, when we’re not talking all that much, how much like me she is and yet how not like me she is. In my mind, all my close friends become introverts by nature, and I don’t know if I can say that about her. I mean, maybe? But she’s also really not. One of  her projects is the creation of a class whose name I can’t ever remember but which addresses LGBTQ issues in regards to healthcare and ageing. It’s something she saw a need for and then she created the class. And that pretty much sums up her personality type. “See a need for something, recognize I have enough of a skillset to make it happen, make it happen.” How can a person like that not make the world better, simply by being?

Anni aka Ahneke Greystone over at The Greystone Path.I discovered Anni’s Youtube the same time I discovered the Pagan Perspective (actually, because of having discovered the Pagan Perspective) during the Great Back Injury of 2013. She quickly became a friend and a mentor, and I gained so much through participating in her Journey of the Seeker course. Her love of learning and of exploration nourished me at a point when I was pretty much burned out on pagan interaction. One of the best things about that course for me was her emphasis on honoring our past experiences — acknowledging and accepting what you bring with you. the experiences that have shaped us up to this point in our lives. When we decide to place others into a “newbie” category, especially in spiritual discussions, we’re ignoring and discounting all the experiences they’ve had heretofore. She has helped me shift my ideas about the beginning of any exploration back to a place of wonder and awe.

Silence Maestas, author of Walking the Heart Road — which is my favorite primer on devotional polytheism out there. Also, dear, dear friend. Even when we’re not talking, the fact that Silence exists makes my world better. When we are talking, it’s generally about gods, writing, or cats, and all those things make my world better, too. (Or knitting, or food, or caffeine . . . ) Silence and Diane actually remind me a lot of one another, it terms of “see a need, have skillset, fill the need.” So that’s sorta neat.

My brother. Even though we’ve been playing phone tag (er — sort of? Playing phone tag would mean both people calling, so I guess I’ve just been playing super creeper stalker via phone) for what seems like forever (but is only since the beginning of August), my brother makes the world I live in so much better. Of all my blood family, I think he’s the only one who truly, truly “gets” me. We can go (and have gone) months and months without talking, and I never have to worry that he thinks I’m mad or resentful or some other stupid social game bullshit. I know that he’ll contact me over important things, and he knows I’ll do the same, and it’s all good. I love the way he brains, and I love the way he words, and I feel like we speak the same language (you know, that sarcastic, literal language) I miss him like whoa, but he’s the bestest brother ever — though, admittedly I’m biased.

And because I can’t think about my brother currently without thinking about the Vlogbrothers John and Hank Green — whose presence I even know about at all in part because of my brother and in part because of Silence — and because so many of their videos have been helping to fight off the apathy lately, I have to add the two of them (and maybe the general concept of Nerdfighteria?) to my list of people who make the world a bit better.

Beth and I have been marathon-ing on their vlogbrother videos (we’re almost done 2008). It’s been pretty awesome to watch. Yeah, I feel a wee bit peeping tom-ish over it all, but I don’t care. The growth of such catch-phrases as DFTBA and, my favorite, decreasing world suck and increasing the awesome have been really cool to watch, and the existence of such phrases have added more tools to my dealing with apathy and anxiety toolkit. Being able to see this animal that would become all of the things they’re doing and have touched and have inspired others to start is pretty amazing. Learning about them now and seeing how much they’ve done can be overwhelming; getting to see the humble beginnings is pretty fucking great, and I love the Internet.

(even if when I’m reading stuff now I’m totally hearing John Green reading stuff in my head. A small price to pay for more tools in the toolkit)

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So, I’m not okay. I will be, again, and when I am, the fact that these people exist makes the world fucking fabulous. Right now, they make the world something I’m willing to suffer through. Sometimes, that’s the best we can hope for. Right now, that’s enough.

Edited to add:  I’m not posting this as a cry for help. I’m not asking my readers or friends to  cheer me up or try to make me feel better. I appreciate that this is a normal reaction — I know how helpless I feel when I can’t help my loved ones feel better. I am not suicidal.  This numbed, overwhelmed, helpless, hopeless feeling will pass, and knowing that it will  is part of why I can stay emotionally uninvested in these feelings. I’ve learned detached compassion — this is my biggest tool in my toolkit. I will be okay again, and knowing  my cycles, likely soon. So please don’t worry about me and this. It’s simply how I am.

Apathy as a response to Anxiety, and Depression is an asshole, too.

Recently, someone asked me how I dealt with apathy when it comes up. I’m not sure that I can really talk apathy’s role in my life and how I deal with it, without starting at the beginning. Feel free to jump to the bullet points if TL;DR.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is not meant to be a “do this and you’ll get a handle on your apathy, depression, and anxiety.” This is simply how I’ve dealt with it, what has helped me, and what my coping methods are. If you find that you cannot deal with this on your own, seek help.

I’ll spare you the details of my childhood, and sum up by saying: I grew up in an alcoholic home and had responsibilities at a young age that I don’t feel young children ought to have without also having a solid skill set of coping methods. Even without added responsibilities, though, it’s a very common thing for children in these situations to wind up with a savior complex, and then guilt that they cannot save those they feel they ought to be able to save – in my case, my mother and also my brother. I couldn’t make it better, I couldn’t stop things, I couldn’t do anything. (Of course not, I was a child!) I think apathy, in these situations, is a sign of being overwhelmed. In fact, I think apathy is often a sign of being overwhelmed, of being over-stimulated, to the point where one can either go stark raving mad, or one can just shut off. I shut off.

Not totally, not all the time. I loved animals. I adored my brother, even when I resented having to take care of him so much. I had a safe haven at my grandparents’ house, where I could just draw and read and write and be with my brother without having to make sure he was eating or was entertained, because my grandparents would see to that. I had friends, and we’d often escape into the woods or the library. I’ve written before, that it was like there were two of me who were living two different lives, because I have good memories of these awfully hard years, but I also have memories of hating people, hating adults, for not helping, for not making it stop, for not rescuing me and my brother(s).

Because all of this started so early – my earliest memories are of my father’s alcoholic violence – it is impossible for me to know if anxiety, which is, of this triumvirate, my biggest demon, is inherent to me or if it was a conditioned response. For practical purposes, it does not really matter. Apathy was my default response to crushing anxiety. Looking back now I can see things like, I fall upon the highly sensitive spectrum, and really one of the main coping skills I have is to avoid becoming too over-stimulated, but it wasn’t until my mid- to late twenties that I discovered that. Until I was sixteen or so, I hated people, I hated myself, I hated being alive, and I did not want to be alive. A key note here is that, I was never suicidal. There were a few times when I was pushed to the edge of murder, in my desperation, and I fantasized about killing my father. Often. In detail. I suspect that suicide was never a major contender as a coping method because if I died, who would take care of my brother? Who would be his buffer? My desire to make sure he was okay drove much of those years, and so, suicide never entered the picture. I wanted life to stop, but in that vague sort of everything just go away sense. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please, please talk to someone and get help.

A few things happened when I was sixteen. My father had been kicked out finally the year before, so there was breathing room of a sort. We adopted a dog (under nefarious circumstances, but I wouldn’t know that for years) and he attached himself to me. And, the summer of my 16th year, I met Poseidon. If you’re interested, you can read more about that here. The important bit is, my heart was open on a regular basis to this dog who would become one of my best best best friends, and I reached a point in life where I could not continue as I was. It felt as though I was the walking dead, and I broke. I wasn’t looking for a god or a spirit or a power; I wanted answers, an explanation, or an end.

I can’t talk about my dealing with apathy without talking about Poseidon, because He was and remains my number one coping method. He is the one who took all that power I gave to our species, all our special evil nature, and brought it back to the realm of the animal. He is the one who freed me from the idea that we are in any way special, which allowed me to have breathing room to figure out how to deal with these feelings. By doing this, I began with Him a long, evolving but never ending process toward healing, and then, toward building up a toolbox to help me live a functional life despite the marvelously wretched things my brain can do.

At first, He simply demanded that I be aware. He asked that I be aware of my emotional reactions, and maybe try to figure out the context of those reactions. He asked that I be aware of my reactions to other people, and He tapped into my passion as a storyteller to see if I could figure out a story that would explain why people reacted in harsh or thoughtless or cruel ways. He encouraged my study of Buddhism. Not long after, He began asking that I push my comfort zone, that I expose myself to public situations, that I allow myself to be open and seeking in select public-ish spaces. At this point, my religiousness was all internalized, and I could barely stand before His shrine in my own private home and offer incense or a candle without becoming a sobbing wreck. So, the crippling shyness had to go.

In my twenties is when I really tackled the toolbox. I had all these avoidance and survival tools that worked so well in the hostile situation growing up, that no longer served. In fact, they were making everything horrible. I’d moved in with Beth, I embraced being a devotee to Odin and a wife of Poseidon’s, I changed my life almost completely, and I should have felt better, right? I’d struggled with wanting to focus more and more on spiritual stuff, but felt torn, in my then-relationship, and I hadn’t wanted to end it, but it was more and more clear that it would be unfair to us both to continue, and it was just awful. Awful, awful, awful. If I wasn’t trying to convince Poseidon I was unlovable by being unlovable, I was trying to save Him from the mistake He was making in having anything at all to do with me, and when I wasn’t doing either of those I was trapped in a conviction that this was all a trick, and once I believed Him, the Cosmic Joke would be revealed and all would point and laugh at my expense.

At some point, apathy kicked in, and it kicked in high gear. This was about a two year struggle, and despite They’re doing Their level best to make inroads and to lay the foundation for a better coping skill set, I was only intellectually learning things. I was introduced to the idea of high sensitivity to environments, and I recognized myself as such, but it was intellectual, it didn’t carry over to real life. I intellectually knew about detaching ones’ self from one’s feelings, and that reactions based on feelings were not necessarily the way to go, because feelings are fleeting. I didn’t care so much about putting these things into practice, because it didn’t matter, because I didn’t deserve any thing, and certainly not to feel okay and certainly not happiness or even contentment or, like, a stable mind.

This period of depression and apathy did not end until I sought medical help. I reached a point where I was going to work, coming home, and sleeping. I had some other medical stuff going on, but I didn’t even care about trying to figure those things out until I was getting medical help for the depression. I didn’t seek help out on my own free will, either, or not entirely, because, you know, you’re supposed to be able to do this on your own, and also, you do not talk to people about these things. Right?
It was a combination of Beth’s support and also a horrid incident in which I watched a child almost get hit by a car (he didn’t) without really feeling anything at all – except, later, horror at my lack of reaction. He was crossing the street. I saw the car coming, I saw him stepping out and not seeing the car, and I did not care. It did not matter.

So, yeah. Drugs. They can kind of be awesome. I did not stay on the drugs (and arguably maybe I ought to have) because I lost insurance, but by then I had coping methods in practice that I was more or less okay. To be clear: depression is not the ruler of my triumvirate of mental issues; anxiety is, and apathy is my default response to anxiety (or even just being over-stimulated). My emotional state is what I refer to as my baseline blue. I am rarely what I could describe as “happy”. I am most of the time content. I don’t actually trust “happy” and in my worldview, it’s a dangerous goal. Contentment is better. It’s less disappointing when it slips away, it’s easier to achieve, it’s just more realistic. I have moments of joy – there’s nothing quite like a good book, a cup of tea, and small animals sharing the bed with me – but through the roof happy is an uncommon emotional response that I actually avoid because of its over-stimulating properties.

How do I keep myself from slipping into apathy on a regular basis?

  • I know my limits. One of the triggers of apathy for me is over-stimulation, and so this means I need to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed. At first glance, this seems like a no brainer, right? Don’t do things I don’t like doing, don’t agree to things I don’t want to do, makes sure I have enough decompression time, etc. Except, it’s not just a matter of things I don’t like doing. There are things that I enjoy that I need to make sure I don’t do. I’ve learned through trail and error. I can’t browse indiscriminately at bookstores or libraries. Same thing with yarn stores and thrift stores and, well, all stores. I need to know what I’m going for and stick to my list. I also have a three-chore limit when dealing with errands, and that’s pushing it. I do my utmost best to make sure that I either have time to come home between errands, or I move those errands around. An example: I’m the courier for Beth Wodandis Designs, and sometimes I have to visit the Post Office on days when I also have to grocery shop. That is the limit of what I can do for that day, and often, instead of doing both on the same day, I’ll space them out. While I love having days off from the day job during which I can simply stay home, piling up errands all onto one day is a recipe for disaster, and even if some of those errands are ones I enjoy (going to the library) I have to be mindful of overwhelming myself.
  • I accept that sometimes I live in a bubble. There are stretches of time during which I ignore the plight of the world. I adhere to the “think globally, act locally” adage, but often – and especially when the impulse toward apathy is strong – I think locally, and locally in this case tends to be the four walls of my house. I strip my practice back to basics, and I disengage from the wider world. I spend time with Poseidon, I drop almost all outward devotional activities, I pray and I meditate and I read a lot of fiction that nourishes my spirit and my imagination.
  • I honor the fact that, while I’ve made progress with regards to my dislike for my species, being around people is overwhelming. I’m not anti-social, but I’m extremely selective about the situations I’ll put myself into – and I’m okay with that. I’ll never be an activist that is changing the world on the front lines, and I’m okay with that. I’m a homebody. I don’t want to be out in nature, most of the time. Most of the time, I want to be home, with my family. I do take walks and I do spend time by the river, but that’s not every day, it’s not even every week. I don’t travel about the area for fun. I snuggle Corbie and the cats for fun. Home is my sanctuary, and I love my home.
  • I don’t judge myself. This I couldn’t have achieved without Poseidon, and without the fear of the Cosmic Joke, or my complete conviction of unworth. I realize that the standards I hold myself to I wouldn’t dream of holding anyone else to, and I admit that I believe everyone has inherent worth, simply because they are. I realized this, and still I could not shake this conviction of unworth – so I gave it to Poseidon. I decided that, since He is Poseidon and He is bigger, knows more, sees more, since He is (as He put it) a grown-up god who can make up His own mind about things, that He must see something I don’t, and that I would trust Him over myself in this. It sounds easy on paper. It is easier now, with over ten years of practice doing it behind me, but it takes that practice to make it easier, and it’s never exactly easy.
  • I live a semi-secluded life. The majority of my interactions with people are either at my day job or online. We don’t have many friends who live close to us, and we don’t seek making friends with people who live close to us. For myself, the space that online communication creates is exactly what I need, for the most part. The people who are part of my family are people who understand and honor that, who know that I need to make phone dates, who know that I won’t answer the phone usually unless it’s planned, and who may not understand, exactly, but at least accept that’s how it is.
  • I avoid unnecessary drama. I don’t play social games, and I have no patience for them, and the friendships I cultivate tend to be drama free. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and speak up if you have a concern or a problem. Don’t let it fester. Because of this, the friendships I have with my chosen family are the sorts where, we can go months without talking, and we don’t take it personally. My brother is probably the best example of this. He is arguably one of my favorite people ever. When we do talk, we talk a lot, and his friends are amused by the fact that while he is also not much of a phone person, it’s understood that when I call, he’s going to take the call, be excited about the call, and also, will be on the phone for at least an hour. But we’ll also go months and months without talking, and neither of us feel slighted.

This could have been a faster, more streamline process if I’d been willing to seek therapy. I’m lucky in that I have a few friends who are in the medical field, and a friend who shared skills she picked up by going to therapy herself. I have a natural inclination for over thinking (hello again, anxiety) and I harnessed that power to study on my own the ways that people deal with anxiety, and also to self-examine my own responses to things. I like to know why things are as they are, and this helped fuel my studying.

I don’t want apathy in my life. Apathy kills my writing, and it makes it harder to connect with my gods. These two things are, even when I don’t care about apathy harming me, are what I fall back on time and again. They are the drive to keep apathy from taking root.

When it sneaks in before I catch it? I scale everything back to basics. I retreat. I give myself permission to do this, and I do not judge myself because of it. Judging myself only makes it worse, and I still have to climb out of it.

There is a reason why I cannot stand the proclamation that our gods are not therapists, and this is it. Poseidon was very much my first and most powerful therapist, and I will be damned if I pretend otherwise. Our gods are whatever the fuck They decide to be, to us, and They are the ones who get to decide what They will be, along with us. I will not discount the help Poseidon gave me. I won’t pretend that I am not who I am, because of Him. I won’t pretend that my health, my ability to function as a person, my ability to be compassionate and kind to others, isn’t His doing.

What works for one person may not work for everyone. Cultivating one’s life toward one’s need is a hard, long process that not everyone can do to the same extent. The trick is to find what works for you, and to stick to it. I could not have done any of this without medication to get me to a stable place, from which I was able to build my coping toolbox. I accept that there will be bad days that are brought about by good things. Things that I’ll choose to do knowing that I’ll likely be a wreck afterwards – and I plan for being a wreck. I accept that while I wish I could be excited about things (writing projects! Visits! Ideas!!) that mostly they come with a crushing sense of anxiety, and that I’ll need to put blinders on to some degree in order to keep moving forward.

My biggest tool against apathy is keeping my anxiety in check. Some might see this as being a slave to my anxiety; I think of it more as knowing and honoring my limits, and being okay with them.

Clawing Back to Good

As mentioned previously, I’ve been overwhelmed a lot recently. It’s not a matter of too many bids for my time; the choices I’ve made in how I live my life on a day to day basis, coupled with the litany Odin frequently has me chant regarding the Hierarchy of Obligation that I owe to o/Others both make it somewhat easy to be sure that I don’t allow myself to be pulled in too many directions at once. This is a very important tool to living with the anxiety that I live with.

I learned years ago that my anxiety and depression are intertwined, but that it was the anxiety I needed (and need) to pay attention to on a daily basis, as the anxiety informs my depression. That is, generally my depression is such that it creates a baseline blue sense. I am rarely happy, I am generally at most content. Giddiness is something that only happens around new books, kittens, and puppies. I’m content (heh) with this; I find striving for contentment more useful than striving for happiness. I don’t want to say I’m a pessimist, because I don’t think I am. It’s more that I’m resigned. This is to say that, on a day to day basis, my depression is not a soul-sucking monster. On a day to day basis, the depression is tolerable. It’s in the backseat. It’s something I’m aware of, but except for when it flares up, it’s not a life-changer. It’s cyclical, but on the average day it’s mild rather than severe, and at most it’s moderate.

On the other hand, anxiety . . . I’m anxiety’s bitch. Anxiety is the one I need to pay attention to, daily, and it’s the one I need to build my life around. It’s the one that I need to have a check-list for. It’s not all panic attacks; in fact, it’s rarely about panic attacks. It is being hyper-alert to my surroundings, having an eye and ear toward every possible escape. It’s a constant litany going on in my head of all the things that could go wrong, and they are rarely based on reality. It’s being super tense when I’m out in the world and away from “my” territory. (My day job counts, a bit, as ‘my’ territory, as far as the anxiety is concerned.) My teeth are almost always clenched, my shoulders are almost always tight, and while this isn’t the cause for my migraine problems, it does not help. Worse, if I let my awareness slip, if I let my mindfulness slip, and my routine for maintaining a functional baseline goes away, the anxiety runs unchecked, and it unleashes the depression.

My depression is my anxiety’s best friend, and when I don’t have a tight leash on the anxiety, they are like teenagers running through the neighborhood, creating mischief and mayhem. They are assholes.

My coping methods are pretty basic. I keep my life as uncomplicated as I can. Beth and I live a semi-reclusive lifestyle. We don’t have any close friends where we live, and these days that’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not that we don’t like people, but rather between work, our hobbies, our family, and our religious lives, there isn’t enough time left over for the sort of relationships people want. We’ve tried, and one of the issues we’ve had with locals has been our lack of time to give, and our lack of desire to socialize (even within a religious or spiritual framework) with others. The moments when we wish for local community happen, but they do not happen frequently, and I feel there’s less chance of misleading people if we just sort of keep ourselves apart. Also, I have community – it’s just on-line, far flung, and not all that cohesive (unless people being awesome counts, which I think it does). I barely have time to stay in touch the way I’d like with people I already know and love; I don’t want to add more people to that. And, more to the point: I want to be home, with my family, all the time. So, I work at my day job, and I run errands, and I sometimes go wandering about parks and waterways, but mostly? Mostly I’m home, reading or knitting or studying or writing. I like home. I love home. I want to be home.

I take supplements to help. For the anxiety, I’ve found that vitamin D and St. John’s Wort to be indispensable. The vit D was a surprise – I started taking it as a matter of course because I live in the Pacific Northwest, and everyone is vitamin D deficient here. I did not expect it to help stabilize me; maybe I ought to have.

I perform my devotions. There are many things I can skip. I can skip meditation. I can go months on end without practicing yoga. I can take quick showers that don’t entail the mindful washing away of psychic contamination from others (yes, I have a shower ritual). But when I skip my tea offering to Poseidon in the morning for more than a few days, it shows is my ability to function in the world. It shows in the amount of stress I can handle gracefully.

I write. Even if I’m doing everything else and I let the writing go, sooner rather than later I find myself over-wrought, scattered, pressed too tight into my skin, and so on.

It’s not a lot, right? Four simple things that, when I pay proper attention to them, help me be in the world as a caring, open, generous, compassionate being. Four things that, when I ignore them, reduce me to . . . I don’t even know what. I become miserable, and fearful, hopeless and scared, and exhausted.

It was a number of things that found me, in July, at the bottom of a depression-and-anxiety pit. A number of unavoidable and even reasonable-to-end-up-in-that-pit over. Grim’s illness and death, the Vigil for the Bulls, the various things Poseidon nudged onto my plate, and the accumulation of all the things I put on my plate myself, and suddenly there was this mountain upon my back and I was being crushed.

Dismantle this on your own, or you’re going to get help in doing it.”

It’s not that I don’t think help is a good thing. I’ve been on drugs to help manage this before . . . but I don’t want to have to talk to strangers about this. And since I’ve never talked to my new doctor about the depression and anxiety beyond the fact that it’s there, she counts as a stranger. Not wanting to have to got to PT made me get seriously committed to my daily exercises to improve my sciatic problem; not wanting to talk to strangers about my feelings is the quickest way to light that fire under me, to get me moving, and Poseidon knows that.

The first thing to tackle? The obligations I’ve committed myself to – all obligations to my writing, trying to hold a pace I cannot hold, trying to write things for the wrong reason. Except for one collaborative project (which is at an agreed-upon by both parties snail pace, and thus is not any real pressure), the only WIP that I’m dealing with at the moment is the story subscription. The subsequent books will follow, but I’m just easing off on the timetable because it was just too much. Research project? Don’t really want to do it. Other works in progress? On the back burner.

The second thing I tackled was finishing getting my Patreon account set up – because people were asking for it, and because it’s a fucking cool idea. I was cheered on through that process, and I can’t thank Beth or Silence enough for their support. (Staring at blank forms when already anxious is terrible. “Tell people why they should pledge to you!” They shouldn’t, I suck, I’m a hack, why am I doing this??? Thank the gods for people who understand anxiety and were able to cheer me through it. You rock.)

Then I started my tea libation in the morning again. Why’d I stop in the first place? Couldn’t tell you. I could say that I stopped drinking tea, and that’s true, but, you know, water’s an appropriate offering, too. I realize that this is partially my anxiety’s way of trying to remain in control. It’s harder to ignore Poseidon when I take the time to open myself up before His shrine. I also realize that part of my stepping back was due to some of the things He brought forth during the Vigil (I will write about that, I swear. I’m just . . it’s so much, and I’m having a hard time articulating it). Except, in the processing of this I need to honor my pace, and I need to honor that He always honors my pace, and to thus not drop everything entirely.

After that, I made sure to include the supplements into my morning routine again.

It’s only been a matter of days since His ultimatum, and I feel more like me than I have in a while. We’ll see how it goes, and if it’s too hard to maintain my baseline, then I’ll get outside help. For now, though, I think it’s possible to do this without it.

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.

St__Merman_of_Orphaned_Seals_by_Basia_AlmostTheBrave

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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Two years.

Today is my grandfather’s birthday (he would have been 98). Two years ago this past July we buried him. Today is also the two year mark of  my grandmother’s funeral. That means that yes, 2012 was a lovely, wonderful year for my family, and why bury one grandparent when you can bury two in one year? I find this especially bittersweet, both that we buried her on his birthday, when she so very much did not want to live once he’d died, and also that now, NOW, there’s no way in hell I’m going to ever forget his birthday again. For the entirety of my adult life with him in it I could never seem to remember: the 8th or the 10th of December? (Funny, Gippy — I see what you did there.)

I frequently see something of value in poking at the grief, grieving, and interacting with the dead process that I have, because I ?enjoy? rooting out the influences of society in what this looks like for me. I do not share this idea that once the dead have died that they are gone, that they necessarily move on and away and that’s it. My interactions with the dead, in the few times that validation has come my way regarding the messages I’ve passed on, has been such that between that and my own instinct, I’m rather firm on the idea that the veil between the living and the dead is not an iron curtain. The part of my path than entails service to the dead does not encompass — generally — passing on messages, and it has never happened outside of my extended tribe, and it’s generally Made Known that that’s not something I’m comfortable doing . . . but exceptions have been made.

The first year following their passing was bad. Not Angel died and I went a little crazy bad, but a constant, dark, black, hopeless, steady sort of bad. I’m still not entirely sure what changed, but I place that change at my grandmother’s hands. I never thought my ancestor house was out of order, but things are certainly tidier now, and there are a number of things I needed to let go of that became easy to release. I do not carry forward the same sense of joie de virve that I believe they each carried forward, but certainly I’ve gotten better.

And still, I miss being able to call them up on the phone, or writing to them and getting letters in response. I miss their physicality. I miss their being alive.

It feels like forever, and I can’t believe it’s been two years already since we buried my grandmother next to my grandfather on his birthday.