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?)

You Wound Me

You wound me,
with carefully honed precision
and seemingly thoughtless words
with timing, off,
and a sometimes disregard for my weaknesses.

You push me,
when I’d rather just be
held safe and fast, wrapped tight
in Your arms
and the knowledge that I have Your regard.

You challenge me,
to step out of that comfort,
demanding that I move beyond what I’ve known
that I meet You
more than halfway.

You wound me,
tearing open the scars to relish
the pain, festering, that needs to run
like blood from my body,
until I am vulnerable, until I am open, until I can’t even think to hide.

I rail back at You,
angry and hurt by turns
Why now? Why in this place, on this day,
The need to push, to demand.
I don’t want to be stronger,
I want to be held.

You wound me
and You cannot seem to decide whether
it is my audacity at being furious with You
or my moments of awe-induced shock that I dare be angry
at You, oh, at You
That pleases You more.

You wound me,
but the confines of Your love holding fast
never — not for one moment — slipping
and where, Beloved, where else, would my open wounds be as safe,
if not here, now, with You?

Nauthiz

Need drives me.

I’m not special in that; I suspect that need drives a lot of people, when (heh) the need arises. Holding what I know of myself (I’m not driven by want or by interests — I’m more gentle in my approach when I’m writing regularly or when I’m knitting) and thinking about need, I realize that need is the fire that gets kindled under my tuchis.

Need. Things that need attention, things that need to be taken care of, things that are beyond the reaches of procrastination. I finally gave in to Poseidon and accepted a Reiki attunement (and thus my initiation into energy work) because the need was undeniable. I accepted Odin into my life before vows were given to Him, and need was the initiator of that, as well. The majority of the animals we share our home with came because of need — our help, shelter, security, love — and we had it to give. I started my Story Subscription — that is, I started taking my own deadlines and writing seriously — because I had no other way to pay that particular bill. I made a bargain with Loki a few weeks ago — which I’ll be partially fulfilling this weekend and beginning the rest of the fulfillment, as well — because I had need of His aid. (That there is much satisfaction on His part that a bargain, an official relationship beyond His being related to People I’m related to, is a curious by-product. It’s a seemingly minor shift; He’s gone from being near and dear to my heart because He is near and dear to a number of People and people whom I care about, to being near and dear to me because of Himself)

There are aspects to my devotional work and my energy work that overlap, aspects which, if I devoted more time, more effort, if I would be less satisfied with what comes naturally and would apply myself more, could be grown/rooted deeper/be more. I put this off because . .. well, I’m not driven. If something comes naturally to me, I tend to not go deeper than that — except with writing/story telling. For a long time, Odin’s been after me to spend more time with Him, not being with Him, but studying with Him. And, I’ve always intended to, but then something happens, and then I just don’t. Or, because Wednesdays is never a good day for it, and then I start fantasizing about the perfect set-aside day for spiritual work and study with Odin, and that perfect day never happens, and then . . .

I mentioned I’m a defeatism perfectionist, right? If it can’t be perfect, why even try? Yeah. One of those.

I have a number of people — beings in various animal forms — on my prayer list. I don’t do anything fancy for that. I place their names and their issues before Poseidon, and I ask for help for them, in whatever form they most need it. This last week, I learned of some serious illnesses with a few different people, and I thought, I should work in some Reiki treatments, too. So I sought about asking for permission to do such a work. When this can’t be done in person, face to face, I go in and down and out, and I try to get a feel for what they would want/what they do want, and I go from there.

Odin met me, when I went in and down, and we didn’t go out that time. I won’t talk about specifics. I will say, it was intense, and it was something I threw myself at, and there was no “It’s about time, daughter,” from Him, because there was a task at hand.

Thing with Pops is, there’s always a task at hand. Need fires Him, too.

Three nights of working, and three days of studying what I’m reading in a new light (it’s a book on Osun, Osun Across the Waters, and I highly recommend it). I had last night “off” because I dropped into bed without any time for Work, but I dreamt of Angel for the second night in a row. I don’t remember the first dream clearly, though I do recall a sense of him being with me and us being focused on something. Last night he was with me for the entire dream, and it was focused on him coming with me about my day, being my companion animal.

He’s made it clear, time and again, that he is hanging around to keep an eye out for Corbie, that he’s biding his time, to help Corbie’s transition, but if, after that, we are not spending more time together, he’s going to move on. Not necessarily into a new life, but that there are things he want to check out, and he’s done cooling his heels while waiting for me to make time for him in my life. He’s not asking a lot — half the year is taken up with Hunt stuff anyway (oooh, my blondie bear!) but . . .

So, we’ll see what we see. Need, though. Need drives me. I wonder how i can harness that power toward my wants, as well?

Sex!

Oh, did that get your attention? My bad . . .

It’s a timely topic though, right? We’ve just had Valentine’s Day (and while it’s not a holiday I celebrate, it is a holiday that’s thrust into my awareness, thank you Retail Reality); Theogamia is staring us in the face, Anthesteria is right around the corner, and as you already know since you’re reading this post, which is part of my YAY TWELVE YEARS posting spree to celebrate my marriage anniversary, I’ve just celebrated my wedding anniversary. Now, I don’t talk about sex a whole lot on this blog — which, for those of you who know me in person may find . . . amusing? I have an incredibly naughty mind. Beth likes to say that my double entendres have double entendres. Seriously. If something can be made into a sexual innuendo, I’ve already went there. I am have the maturity of a seventeen year old male, in my head. And the worse thing is, Poseidon is right there with me.

Except, that’s not accurate, really. Poseidon has a healthy, well-balanced and (likely the most important for me) appropriately timed sexual mindset/sexuality/sensuality/something.

I don’t have a whole lot of sexual hang-ups that is typical of women in our culture. I’m fat, and I’ve always been round, but any uncertainty I’ve had in sexual exploration has not been because of my body. (I’m lucky, and possibly an odd duck, in that somehow, despite convictions of unworthy growing up, it never really became about my body. Sure, I thought I was fat in high school, but never in a dieting sort of way.) I have had a number of sexual partners that I’m not uncomfortable with, and most of the experiences were enjoyable enough. I’m open enough about my sexuality in general that people who know me realize I’m not heterosexual; a few people know that I’m not wired monogamous, as well — what most people don’t know, because I don’t talk about it, is that as far as mortal partners go, I’m celibate.

Bringing the sacred back into my sexuality — back, hah! Introducing my mind to the idea of sacred sexuality rather, was a big deal. It’s one I balked at, at first. Hands down, the biggest problem in my marriage with Poseidon was the idea of sex as an offering and the baggage the subject brought with it. Now, you have to understand, while I was raised nominally Christian, we were never involved with any fire and brimstone type churches. New England, people. You have to talk about sex in order for there to be any premarital sex is sin you are all going to burn sermons. It simply didn’t happen in our church while I was there. But despite being pagan by that point, and despite knowing all about the lovely stories of the Hellenic gods having all Their many trysts, and despite having had my awareness of Poseidon’s presence in my life extend to knowing He was around when my then-boyfriend and I were intimate (there is precious little privacy, living with gods and spirits. If we devotional types and spirit-worker types can agree on one thing, I think it would be that), the idea of sex as an offering to Poseidon just . . . Well, I was intrigued, of course — because yay sex! — but I also internalized this whole “sex is animalistic and He is A GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” thing, too.

Suddenly, for the first time ever, sex started to become this shameful thing. What the hell? And then? Then Poseidon began to put a stress upon sex happening. He encouraged. He proved to me that my pitiful double entendres were no match for what He could come up with. He poked and prodded, urged and suggested, and lead me along paths of exploration. Because it’s me, this involved reading of various things — sexuality as expressed in various cultures, in various time periods — as well as seeking out blogs, and revisiting some of my own adventures in my past. My relationship with Poseidon was founded upon Poseidon-as-Healer, and Poseidon-as-the-Sea, but for a time He really placed an emphasis as a more earthy, more virile, more earthy Poseidon. Did I mention earthy? Because, like whoa.

Interestingly enough, a lot of that corresponded with the time period in which He began to urge me to veil. It was an interesting turn of events. When I speak of being married to Poseidon, I mean it both in a blending of wyrd/binding of spirits/alliance of loyalty sort of way, and also in a He is my spouse, He is my Husband, I am His wife sort of way. I mean it in that, before Odin, before Beth, before a/Anyone else, He has the first and often the most weight in any life decisions I face. I mean it in that, He is the most innermost part of my immediate family. I mean it in that, we have a wedding anniversary. And I mean it in that while I’m celibate as far as other humans go, I am not the least bit celibate when it comes to Poseidon. No, you’re not getting the nitty gritty, but yes, I’ll admit that sex happens. I’m not a prude.

One’s sexuality can exist when one is not involved sexually with mortal partners. Hell, sexuality can exist if one is only sexually involved with one’s self, period. For my part, it was when Poseidon placed an emphasis on exploring and celebrating my own sexuality for the sake of exploring and celebrating my own sexuality as part of being an animal upon the mortal realm, that the issues I had regard sexuality, sex, and Poseidon worked themselves out.

There’s a structure to the forms my sexuality can take, in the ways it can be expressed and, more to the point, whom it can be expressed with. I can talk sex in pretty general terms with just about anyone — much to my mother’s embarrassment! I’m fairly comfortable talking about my sexual history with friends, more so with females or in a female safe space. When I say that I’m not wired monogamous, I’m saying that in o/Our relationship, sexual expression does not always just involve He and I — but it also does not involve other mortal partners — and I’m comfortable with that. I am surprisingly not so much of a jealous person. Surprisingly because, in my past, in my history with other, mortal partners, I had been. Why am I not jealous now?

Because I am secure in o/Our relationship. I’m secure in the forms it takes, and I’m secure in knowing that Poseidon in one thousand and ten percent capable of letting me know what’s up.

Look, I’m not saying that all the gods and spirits want all the sex with all the mortals all the time. It may not be a part of your relationships at all. I’m also not saying one has to be wed to a god or spirit in order to have sex be part of the relationship. I am saying that sexuality is important — or can be important, and can be surprisingly healing, illuminating, and dare I say, satisfying . . . even if you’re called to a path that looks, from the outside, well, celibate. My sexuality is something that He and I share and explore together, and having the walls of celibacy around me, removing my availability as a sexual being to share with other humans, has allowed me to fully appreciate how much my sexuality is my own.

There are so many ways in which living this life I’m living, walking with Poseidon, has enriched my whole being, has allowed me to appreciate how much of ourselves we give away to others as a matter of course, without really thinking. It’s allowed me take in those pieces, to become mindful of what I give to others, what I allow others to decide for me, and what I decide to keep for myself. Having complete power over something so intrinsically me as my sexuality has been liberating in ways I could not even begin to imagine years ago, never mind articulate.

Writing as Spirit Work

(Or: All the Lovely Twists My Brain Likes to Try to Do)

Here we are, two weeks into my year of Writing The Things. I have a good, tenable plan for getting the trilogy written, getting Poseidon: A Narrative edited, and producing more material for the Story Subscription Project on top of that. It’s not even a super-busy pace — I’m basically giving  myself two months to produce 50k-ish worth of material. I’ve freed myself from my (mental, personal) obligations to produce non-fiction, so it’s not like I’ve actually decided I have to write a lot more this year than I did last year. No, I’m just approaching deadlines with more than ‘hope strategy’, and I’m being ruthlessly honest with myself. Do I want to write fiction, or do I want to write non-fiction? Do I want to get these stories out, or is it more important to me to blog about religious topics and the experiences that I have as a polytheist living my life with Poseidon and Odin? While I’m being ruthlessly honest with myself, when I sit and pay attention to where my heart is, where my passion is, and what my history with Poseidon has been, I can only say: fiction. The stories. Oh, the the stories. There is a pull, a desire, to write about the non-fiction stuff too — I want to share parts of myself with the community at large, not because I think I’m anything special, but because I want there to be material out there about living life with Poseidon. Granted, this is about me living my life with Him, and what that looks like, and as such it is not instruction but, well? It’s a bit putting forth into the world that which I want to encourage people to also put forth. Both loving adoration for this wonderful, compassionate, generous god, but also, a sharing of self, and yeah, that’s greediness on my part. I love reading about other peoples’ experiences and I want to encourage the sharing. But, if I’m weighing the scales between the desire to write non-fiction, to share about my spiritual path, to share about my worship of Poseidon, about the festivals and rituals I hold in His honor, about the work that I do with Him, etc., and the desire to write the stories that come my way? It’s not even a contest. Fiction wins, hands down.

This makes me feel like a hack. Not a hack writer, but a hack spiritual person. A hack of a devotee. A hack of a polytheist. Shouldn’t I be burning for my gods? Shouldn’t I want to talk about little else? Surely, surely at the least my fiction should be about the gods, right? While I do consider my fiction to often be inspirational stories and religious fiction, I can’t get away from the fact that for most people reading them they won’t be. I don’t often write about my own personal gods. A lot of what I write is first contact stories, initiation into the mystical stories, contact between humans and not human beings. I’ve written Odin as a main character (or rather the main catalyst) a time or two, and Poseidon is central in Poseidon: a Narrative. The latter is my most straight-up religious fiction/myth sharing work to date. Even in Treasures from the Deep, Poseidon is barely a hands-on, active character. He is in some of the stories, but not nearly as often as He should be for a story collection written for Him.

If I make the argument that fiction writing is a large part of my calling (and I do!), considering that another huge part of  my calling is to bring my gods more into the world, and my fictional stories do not center around Them . . . doesn’t that make me a hack? At the least, does that not mean that I’m not using my skills, talents, abilities, and love for my gods to the best combination of them? What the hell am I doing writing fantasy that often does nothing more than brush upon the gods, and often times doesn’t mention them at all? If this is going to be a huge part of my spirit work — if this is going to be really the only bit of spirit work that I do (and is it even spirit work?) that even touches the human realm, should I not being doing it differently/better/with more focus/more mindfully?

Spirit work need not center around humans at all. That’s not exactly a revelation, but it is a reminder I need, a lot. I’m contemplating the idea of giving over the ‘anti-social’ label, because I don’t think I am. But I am an introvert, and I am not cut out for the work I do centering around humanity. The healing work that is a huge part of the Work that I do (I could argue, is the totality of The Work that I do) touches upon humanity in that part of the work focuses on the dying and the recently dead. I don’t specifically focus just on humans, but they’re part of the mortal process that we go through, and so I don’t exclude them, either. The writing, though — is that spirit work? It’s certainly a devotional activity for me, but does a spiritual activity necessarily become spirit work? In my mind, for this? In that it provides a service to some spirit or another in a way keeping with how they’ve made it clear they wish to be served? Emphatically yes. The stories come, and those who bring them are as real to me as my gods are. I’ve surrendered the need to understand how that works.  I don’t need to know how Thistle is as real as Poseidon is, or how Drake and his creation story of the world has as much merit as Odin’s hand in shaping the cosmos — they don’t all stay in my life beyond the telling, and I don’t expect I get them 100% accurately. I don’t control them, and our paths join for their chance to share their tales, or a version of their tales, and for me to get the gist of it down.

The other part of it being spirit work for me is: it is one of the tools I have that allows my awareness of the worlds and of the mysteries around me to remain open, strong, and healthy. When I don’t write, when I don’t honor the tales as they come to me and share them, I feel stunted. I feel hobbled. I feel constrained. Beth can tell you, I get bitchy, short-tempered, impatient. I get snappy. It’s not a good situation.

It is not a surprise to me that, as I’m really getting into the trio, and as my goals for the coming year seem doable, that my brain would decide to pull out all the stops and try to tangle me up with doubts. It can’t make me doubt myself as a writer, not after all this time. No, it has to get clever, and so it insinuates. “You can’t really be what you are and do this thing you are called to do . . . you can’t do that and truly live authentically. You are obviously trying to have all the things you want. You are truly trying to not commit to any one way of being. You can’t have two callings, you can only have the one. You can either be a writer or you can be a modern day mystic, a modern day contemplative focusing on a religious life. You can’t do both.”

To which I can only say: fuck you, brain. Fuck you.

My calling is my own.  My calling is a marriage of my heart, my soul, and my gods. Writing was the way I survived, the only emotional outlet I had for a significant time. It was the only tool in my toolbox before Poseidon got His hands on me. No way would He then say, “Enough with that. No more.” He tells me, time and again, that He found me not because of the potential for who I could be (though there is always an eye towards that, too) but because of who I already was. He wanted (and wants) to see what i’ll become, but that’s with bringing who I already am along with me, not completely changing myself. It’s clearing away that which does not serve, is not truly mine. It’s living intentionally, living mindfully, living deliberately. It’s not living a lie, and if I dismiss any part of this calling, I would be doing just that.

Knowing all this does not keep me free from my doubts. Three days ago, after having a great writing weekend and feeling good about my new plotting approach, I was walking to work. It crossed my mind that while I carry my prayer beads with me, I rarely take them out to use these days. It occurred to me that, while November was awesome in both writing and in bringing Poseidon into my writing practice, since then I had both dropped my morning offerings and I had ceased making Him a part of my story plotting/bouncing. (“You helped me so much and gave me this awesome story that I cannot wait to release. In my undying gratitude I will thank You by taking away Your tea and shutting You out of the process entirely!”)  Did that cause me to stop, realize that I had to change that, and continue on? No, of course not. It caused me to stop and begin doubting whether I should even be focusing on the fiction at all. Which at this point, knowing what I know of myself, of my calling, of Poseidon’s support and desires for me, is absurd.

And then? Then I stumbled across a quote from C.S. McCath. C.S. McCath’s fiction is one of my favorite discoveries of 2013. She’s been published in a number of places from The Shining Cities to A is for Apocalypse to Scheherazade’s Facade and her poetry and fiction are absolutely delicious. (She was also kind enough to participate in my Celebrating Pagan Fiction series a while back, go check that out if you haven’t). In the thick of my mind flailing, she posted to her FaceBook wall, “I’m learning that I speak truths in my fiction and poetry that I can’t approach without it. Perhaps I tell stories to myself for the same reasons I tell them to others. So many things are said and received best when they’re woven into the fabric of a tale.”

The collapse of the mental tower of confusion, despair, and indecision was thorough and immediate. She’s talking about her own self, her own understanding of why she writes fiction and poetry — it’s got nothing at all to do with me and my brain weasels, and yet. Yet. The timing was perfect, the power of the truth in those words, the distillation of the calling, the need to fulfill it, the passion fueling it, and the lack of room for smooth, crafty lies the brain wishes to press regarding self-worth, authenticity, and pointlessness — all this came together in the face of that utterance, and I found I could breathe easy again.

It’s silly. This long down this road, that the doubts could even arise. Surely they are tired of being flogged. Surely they are weary of their rejection. I’m sure they’ll try to rise up again. I’m grateful I have that quote in my arsenal now.

Demystifying (my) mystical work

The subject of spirit work and spirit-working/workers has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m both rereading
Walking the Heart Road
by Silence Maestas, and I’m reading for the first time Walking Between the Worlds by Nornoriel Lokason. Spirit work, spirit working, and spirit workers are mentioned a fair amount of times in both books, though a decent amount of Nornoriel’s book challenges the idea that in order to have meaningful relationships with the gods and spirits one must serve a community in some way. Since the days of yore, when a small community of spirit workers gathered on LJ, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the term spirit worker, at least as it may or may not apply to myself, for a number of reasons.

First: whatever spirit work I do or do not do, it is not what drives my relationship with my primary gods and spirits. Poseidon did not approach me with an eye toward what I might in the future manage to do for Him in this world, and to entertain the idea that that may be the case is, for me, to begin a trek upon a downward spiral of un-doing. It is to undermine every hard bit of healing we have wrought upon my psyche and, worse than anything else, it is to ignore His input regarding the matter. There is much appeal in the idea that He saw raw potential in me that night upon the shore and decided to seize an opportunity, decided to make an investment. It certainly would be easier for me to accept, if maybe I wasn’t worth His attention then,that He saw in me something that might make me have some worth to Him down the road. Such an idea goes along more readily with my concept of my own inherent worth (or lackthereof), and it could be tempting to buy into the idea . . . except, He insists that no. What I am able to do now when I serve I am able to do as a natural outgrowth of my foundations being well tended, of my relationships being set right, of my spirit being nourished and nurtured rather than feeling used up and starving for sustenance. When that balance tips toward ‘used up and starving’, any spirit work that I might engage in is dropped – and here is possibly the main argument I’ve used as to why I’m not actually a spirit worker – without hesitation, and I retreat into His arms, into o/Our relationship, into the bubble that we create. If it’s really bad, that feeling of spiritual starvation, I drop pretty much everything other than being with Him. Rituals that aren’t centered around Him, rituals that are centered around Him but are maybe more ceremonial and thus taxing rather than nourishing, practices that aren’t immediately about Him – it all goes. Earlier in all of this, it would go with a fight on my end, but I’ve gotten wiser over the years, and now it simply goes. Self-recriminations are nothing but a waste of energy.

Another reason I’ve been reluctant to name myself a spirit worker in the past has been, my “service” has never once been about serving a human community. I am, and have always been, pretty darn comfortable about the fact that my definition of community is pretty inclusive. In the beginning this was extended to landspirits and mortal non-human animals naturally, and only later did it begin to include both gods and humans on a more general scale – if we’re talking a wide-scale sense of ‘community’. That being the case, it’s interesting to me (in that, ‘huh, isn’t that curious’ way) that I would balk at considering myself a spirit worker simply because other people might mean service to a human community when speaking of service. This is very much a case of words meaning things, and a struggle between what a word might mean to me and what it might mean to a majority. More curious, that, because I certainly do not let the majority of humans inform how I use ‘pagan’, ‘heathen’, ‘god’ or ‘religion’, so why the heck would I with this?

The last main reason I have for shying away from the label is, in my head, anyone who is acting as a connection to this realm for the gods or spirits is, in my mind, a spirit worker. Even if all they are doing is providing that connection, is being that doorway between the realms, that is still a very important service to be providing, and in my worldview, in my understanding of how any relationship with a god or spirit works, providing that connection is implicit in simply interacting with Them – we cannot help but provide that, any time there’s an exchange between u/Us. Thus, in my worldview, the term spirit work is sort of redundant to ‘being involved with the spirits and/or gods’. I realize that others may have a more nuanced understanding or definition of the term, but that is mine, and so mostly whether or not I adopted the term spirit work has been irrelevant.

Until this year, when Pops put His foot down regarding my avoiding any sort of serious involvement with His Hunt, crossed His arms, stepped back a bit, and allowed Them to harry me. For years (and years and years) Poseidon has had designs on the Hunt. My understanding of this has been that my Husband gets an automatic ‘in’ into my Father’s Hunt because of me – which starts to have suggestions of delusions of grandeur, maybe, but fuck it. Odin has adopted me. Poseidon calls me ‘wife’. I don’t think I’m any great thing, but I do believe that one of the things that we can do in our interactions with Them is to help forge connections between the realms – and what else is providing a link between two huge Families other than forging a bridge? Do either of Them need me for that? Not really, no. They can do it on Their own. But having mutual love and affection for a person does often smooth the way for calm interactions, does or at least can inspire otherwise territorial types to make an effort to maybe be less aggressive about such things.

I knew I was in no real danger (or, at the least, I knew that if Odin’s Hunt was going to be my ending this year, it was how He wanted it to be, and there was no point being deeply scared about it) but it was still uncomfortable. Hunting dreams (in which I was being hunted), seeing faces and shapes around me (I’m not a visual person, when it comes to Seeing; I get impressions and ‘knowings’ – I do not often See things, and it was unnerving), having flashes of scenes play through my mind, like daydreams, only I wasn’t driving them, and they would involve horrible, awful things. That, on top of Poseidon wanting me to really, for real for real this time, agree to spend time with Him, Over There, riding with the Host . . . I could keep denying this, I could keep shrugging it off (“No, You go with my Dad and go Hunting. It’s a menfolk thing, I’ll be the dutiful daughter and wife, I’ll keep a candle in the window for You both. Have fun!”) and I could keep losing sleep . . . or I could agree.

Once I agreed, They all eased up a bit, and spelled out exactly what They wanted from me, how They wanted me to be a part of Their company – and They laughed uproariously at Their great fun when I realized that what They wanted was nothing more than what I already had the tools to handle. Ah, what a grand joke! What entertainment that was!

Still, that too has me thinking about spirit work, specifically the spirit work that I do, and the fact that often spirit work, often service, is stressed, to the point where those coming into this maybe expect that they have to be spirit workers – and that’s simply not the case. This is another one of those things wherein we really need to let our relationships set the bounds of the relationships, wherein we need to be open to the gods and/or spirits we are involved with, to define with Them what is to be. For some, service to o/Others is a path they take to better understand themselves, to encourage spiritual growth and fortitude. For others, that may be the worst approach to this entire thing. For some, the thought of being loved, of being treasured, of being supported is the hardest thing to grasp and the most authentic way to a place of being able to serve. For those of us who have been forced into caretaker roles maybe way before we had the tools (or, you know, years) to fulfill that role in a healthy, holistic way, the idea of serving others may be the thing that makes us high-tail our butts away from relationships that might otherwise help us a great deal. I’m not sure those who have not been in that sort of a situation can understand fully how detrimental the mentality of “you must serve” can be to those of us who have a low sense, or are fully lacking any sense, of self-worth.

Love can be the spirit work we engage upon. Love certainly has become a central tenent to my devotional path. It’s been a winding path to this point. First came awareness, at Poseidon’s behest. Later, this evolved into compassion– first detached compassion for others, later for myself, and eventually that became the sort of detached compassion/loving-kindness that is my current struggle. I picked up service along the way, and the particular service I provide I’ve set down and picked up and set down and picked up again and again, and I’ll continue to do so. And I have no shame in this fact. It has only been within the last few years that I’ve even been able to look at service in the name of my gods, at the behest of my gods, in a way that is less about “you should be doing X” and has become a more authentic pouring out of what I am filled with. This vessel is not always filled, let alone overflowing, but when it is, the natural inclination seems to be to give.

All this being said, what, then, does my service look like? What does it entail, and whom does it serve?

The longest-standing way in which I serve is in serving the spirits. Some of you may already know that I practice Reiki. My initiation into Reiki was centered around serving others, initially humankind, but that quickly spread to other communities. Sending Reiki to the recently deceased and/or dying (with no limit placed upon species), sending Reiki to the Waters and to the Earth, are regular parts of what I do. Sometimes this entails going and sitting int a cemetery or by the river’s edge; often this entails parking my butt in the bathtub with some incense and a candle and some earplugs. It’s rarely fancy or elaborate.

Another way I serve is through my writing – and here I mean my fiction. What I don’t talk about a great deal or in great depth is how the stories come my way. I don’t experience interaction with beings as muses the way that muses are classically understood. Sometimes I’ll get flashes of concepts I want to explore, but the most common way I receive stories is that a character or two will come to me and tell me their story. What that looks like to me, as a person who regularly interacts with gods and spirits, is that a spirit of one kind or another comes to me with a story they want written down and released into the world. For the longest time I had great concerns – if I experienced these beings as real and the gods as real and other spirits as real, how could I ever know which ones were really, really, for real, real? On that front, I’ve given up. I’ve surrendered. So long as they are not causing me or mine any harm, it’s none of my business to decide the level of their Realness. They impact my life – they enrich my life – and that’s enough for me to consider them real. Their being real does not in any way invalidate how real Poseidon is. Writing – pursuing this calling – keeps me tapped in, keeps the connection open, and Beth can tell you that whenever I go for a period without writing there are obvious side-effects and negative consequences. I am grateful for the people who read my fiction and enjoy it, and I’m humbled by their support, but I write, ultimately, for the spirits who bring me stories and request that I tell them.

The most directly-in-service-of-humanity work that I do is, activism. Some may not consider sitting in one’s home and writing on the internet activism, but such people may have too narrow an understanding of the term. I’m out as a pagan, as a polytheist, as a godspouse, as a devotee to both Odin and Poseidon, because I can be. I write publicly, I use my real name, and I write about some pretty private stuff, because I live in a place and time when the worse that’s likely going to happen to me is I’m going to get ridiculed. That’s not true for everyone, and that’s a huge part of why I feel a responsibility toward activism. I want to be a voice that people can hear – whether they’re new to paganism, to polytheism, to deity- or spirit-devotion – as an example of how one might walk one’s path. I try my best to keep it real, because when I was starting out, everyone who’d been walking similar paths seemed to have their shit together, and I still don’t feel like I have my shit together, and I want to present as authentic a representation of what me walking my path looks like. Not that I think I’m the shit – I don’t – but because I think it’s important to have as many examples as possible available, to drive home the fact that what walking your path looks like is up to you (or is up to you and your spirits and/or gods) and not so much up to other humans who have nothing to do with you beyond being on the internet together.

Bottom line for me is: love is the work. Love makes the above three things happen and makes them possible to be sustained for longer periods of time without burn-out . . . and I’ve only reached that place through Love. For some, service has to come first. For others, service comes after one has shored one’s spirit up. Neither are right or wrong, and no one should be shamed for doing it one way or the other.

edited because homonyms!

Names Don’t Matter, or: what to do when your god pokes around with your identity by poking around with His own

A young girl is on her hands and knees at the water’s edge, keening into the sea. There is no other word for the sounds coming from her, the sounds of a spirit bound too tightly slipping its cage and splintering from the force of it. She feels herself shattering, and no amount of trying to hold on will stop the process. She is beyond fear, beyond worry, beyond hope. She has given over to this moment, and she is caught up in fury, in desolation, in these big, crushing waves of emotions that are too big, too wild, to be held back. Her spirit has tasted freedom and it will not return to its meager existence. Her spirit knows the depth and beauty of the worlds, and it calls out for rescue.

He comes clad in moonlight and darkness, in denim and leather, in flesh, bone, and magic. The young girl does not hear him, does not see him, until his arms have already scooped her out of the surf and wrapped her snug against him. He is warmth and spice and gentle, gentle strength, and he strokes her hair while she continues to cry. He gathers the pieces of her shattered being that have scattered along the sand, treasures that he will hold onto in safe keeping until she’s ready to take them back. She does not see this; she does not see anything in the outside worlds as she is trapped in her grieving. She cries for lost childhood, lost innocence. She cries for her pain and the pain of loved ones. She cries because she cannot kill her feelings and she has tried, oh how she has tried, for so many long years. She cries for having ever dared hope that an ending would come sooner, and for the disappointment that it never has. She cries for having been trapped, for having been alone, and for wanting, still, to not have to feel so alone. And she cries for so many other, unnameable things.

As the keening turns to sobs and the sobbing begins to taper off, the young girl begins to take in the worlds around her again. She can hear the steady crashing of the waves upon the shore, the ssshush-ssshussh-ssshussh as the water races up the beach and then retreats. She can feel the cool night air upon the bits of her skin that isn’t cocooned in warmth. Through burning, swollen eyes she can see the light of the full moon dancing upon the waves and casting the landscape in a nice, gentle silvery-white light.

She can feel the arms at her back, the hand stroking her hair. She can feel the rise and fall of his chest under her cheek. Her ears pick up small, wordless sounds of soothing nonsense, and she realizes he’s been making them for some time. She pulls back far enough to peer up at him. Dark, kind eyes catch her gaze before pulling her back against him. She wonders in a detached way if she should try to get away, but there are still people walking about on the beaches, and the houses aren’t very far away, and they’re out in the open for all to see. Maybe she’s gone fully mad, she wonders, and any pretense of concern disappears because concern is too much work, and she’s so tired of making the effort to care about things like survival.

They speak, and he dares to speak of things like love and hope and awareness. She gives him her anger, and he counters it with detached calm. She rages, and he does not flinch. She offers up her revulsion for her body, weak and flawed, for her whole species, destructive and mindless and insensitive. He takes her revulsion, takes her animal, and places it back neatly within the bounds of nature. He plants seeds for love and for compassion, and he hands her the tools she needs to keep going. This is triage, nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, but the rest will come.

“Who are you?” she finally asks.

“Name’s don’t matter so much,” he says, “but I am Poseidon.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

From the very beginning of our relationship, Poseidon has been all about not being hemmed in by boxes. I was not yet a polytheist when I met Him – I was pagan, sure, and certainly of an animistic bent, but I was trying to be Wiccan (or at least Wiccanesque). I was reaching out for the God and Goddess, forms of the divine that continued to elude me. On that night, all I was, was broken. I remember reaching out both to the being that I refer to as Momma Earth, and to Grandmother Moon, pleading that I could just be finished. I wanted, as I’ve wanted a time or two before and since, to just be done. It’s a curious, non-suicidal desire – there has never been an urge to do it myself. It’s not about wanting to die, exactly (and maybe this is because I’ve always had a conviction – or fear – that death isn’t The End, and troubles can’t be expected to just stop simply because one in so longer living) so much as wanting to simply not be, any longer. This was the first, and most shattering, most encompassing, of mental breakdowns that I would have. This was the first time I let myself go completely – and I have to laugh at that phrase, because I did not “let myself go”; I was broken. I was done. I wanted to lie down and die, and maybe I would have, if it hadn’t been for Him.

To this day, I can’t say how and where our interaction took place. He was as physically real as I was, as solid, as present in the moment. So much so that, for months after I decided I really had gone crazy. Trying to figure out in which way the experience was “real” (was it a vision? Did I get pulled somewhere else? Was He truly embodied, or did He just use my memory to make it seem that way? Did He possess some hapless passerby?) distracted me for quite some time, until He decided that was enough. “If it changes you, it is real. Does it matter ‘how’ it’s real in order for it to change you? Do you really need to know the details to that degree?” No, I suppose not. Whatever had happened between us granted me enough of a buffer between my hopelessness and myself, so that I could become comfortable with living, so that I could begin to accept that hope and a desire to be loved, and to love, was to be a part of my existence. There was some back and forth at the original exchange – I was not remotely interested in the Hellenic pantheon, though I knew enough about Poseidon to know His reputation with the ladies – willing or not. I was interested in Celtic mythology; maybe He could by Llyr? Manannan? I even suggested as much, still snug in His arms. He laughed, somehow making it sweet and gentle and not mocking, when all I’d known at this point was laughter-at-my-expense. “No,” He insisted. So much for names not mattering.

I refused to delve into Hellenic paganism for a number of years. Even after Poseidon “moved in” (a disconcerting time period after I’d pretty much asked Him to, when my awareness of His presence in my life went from somewhat regular interactions ‘uploaded’ to my mind, to constant, unrelenting awareness that He was with me. That sounds sweet, right? For three months I seriously thought I was losing my mind, and it wasn’t until I started practicing yoga that I found any relief at all.)(Thank you, Diane, for that!) I wanted very little to do with Hellenic paganism. I’d known some with a recon bent, and that was fine, but it wasn’t for me. I gave offerings of water and of juice and of tea. I burned candles. I meditated, and I practiced yoga, and I wrote letters to Him. I picked up barley as an offering to scatter into the sea whenever I managed to get to the shore more because friends with connections to Apollon (again, thanks Diane!) put that knowledge into my head, and not because there was any big push to study up on His Family, and ‘His’ culture. And, for the longest time, there was no push from Him. Once Odin entered the picture, and I delved freely and happily into northern European studies, Poseidon did begin pushing for equal treatment, if not equal enthusiasm, for His historical areas, and so I did begin to (grudgingly) expand my studies. But, for years before that, our relationship was about us, and about the here and now. The stories of Him raping women did not – do not – mesh at all with my understanding of Him as a compassionate, kind, healing god. I sat with that for a long time, and there’s so many ways one can approach that. Maybe the myths aren’t to be read literally. Maybe word usage and definitions change over time. Maybe translators, especially in the early centuries, wanted titillating tales that shocked delicate sensibilities. Maybe ‘rape’ is an easy way to explain the overpowered sensation that can come from being in the presence of a god, when your own agency and sovereignty is completely eclipsed by this massive, massive presence. Maybe a combination of these things, and others I hadn’t considered. It would be easy to get lost in the wondering, trying to explain it all out, but how do you do that with a god, with His Mystery? And why worry about that so much, when He saved my sanity, my life, and gave me Love unlike any I had known before?

He brought me to yoga, and yoga was the single most transformative tool He would grant me. Through yoga, I healed the rift between my psyche and my animal. Through yoga, I brought myself into a more and more easy communion with Him. Through yoga I challenged the limits of my comfort zone and began to pass through them. With yoga, I began to care less about being seen and judged. For years, yoga was The Devotional Act I preformed for Poseidon, for us, and of all the devotional acts that are in my arsenal, yoga is the one that works without fail, even when I’m in my blackest, blackest places.

My devotional life is not defined by any one culture or time period – the gods do not belong to people and places; people and places belong to gods. Every time I’ve tried to make Poseidon stick to a way of being worshipped, He shatters it. Every time I’ve tried to restrict Him to being paid cultus in a particular way, He refuses it. I’ve had my eye on the Hellenic past for some time now, enough so that I find their ‘religious language and landscape’ for wont of a better phrase, native-enough. (The understanding of the Germanic religious language and landscape feels like my native tongue; the Hellenic feels like a pretty fluent secondary tongue.) Poseidon has been saying for the better part of a few years now that it was time to widen my scope again, that I’ve become too entrenched in these few spots in history along a narrow bit of the Mediterranean. It was time to explore outside that region.

~*~*~*~*~*~

He’s funny, about names. When I’ve asked Him about whether or not He is also Neptune, the answer is unfailingly yesno. At the same time, He’s given teasing glimpses about places in stories when people are speaking of Zeus, that they may be speaking of Him, instead, or vice verse. The feeling is that They (the gods in general, or maybe just the Three Brothers, or who could possibly really know??) are not so attached to names the way we are, and They could exchange them like we might borrow a coat from our kin. He laughs in delight as I stumble over references to El being equated with Poseidon in some regions. When I hit a point in a book that speaks of religious influences hitting the Mediterranean world from the East by way of what is now Iran – a place where Poseidon was certainly worshipped – He simply holds me near to Him and floods me with sheer delight.

I am, for all intents and purposes, a polytheist. I’m a devotee of both Poseidon and Odin, and I do not count Them as one and the same god. I don’t really see either of Them as different manifestations of the divine – at least, not any more than I see everything as manifestations of the divine. Simultaneous holding. Yes, I can see how that might be so, but that does not discount my individuality from Beth, anymore than it discounts Poseidon’s individuality from Odin. An abstract idea about the beginning of all is maybe a nice way to begin (and end) the story of All That Is, but it’s so far removed from our experiences as to be nearly meaningless, and is certainly not very useful in navigating our ways through life, the worlds, and our interactions with the spirits. I’m not the least bit interested in narrowing my understanding of the divine and how the divine works into little boxes – I prefer to celebrate the differences, and to stretch myself when those differences threaten me. Why should they threaten me? I choose to celebrate. I choose to find wonder and joy. I choose love. I do not want to become rigid. I do not want to go back into those little boxes, and in any case, I don’t think I’d fit, anymore. So, whether there are a handful of gods who are known differently in different places and times, or whether there are as many gods as we have names for, and more, is, in my practice, irrelevant. It is unknowable. My gods are Odin and Poseidon. That is what I know. Names don’t matter, but He is Poseidon. That has been His mantra. He won’t budge on that. He is Poseidon, but maybe He uses His brothers’ names here and there. He is Poseidon, but He does not want to be trapped in history. He wants to be present now. He is Poseidon, but, oh, hey, let’s read what we can about Yam, and also, aren’t these things about El interesting?

And I’ve prodded. Of course I have. Let’s look at the things that inform my practice. First and foremost (though less actively in the more recent years, because modifications for injuries and weak points has become annoying and frustrating. Yes, I’m working through that) we have yoga. (Like most people in the West, when I say yoga, I more properly mean hatha yoga, which according to most falls within the Raja yogic path. The four main paths being Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga). Awareness, healing, and compassion have been the ‘signposts’ along my journey, with an emphasis on detached compassion-loving-kindness. It’s never been just awareness of myself and my limits, healing for myself, compassion for myself – it’s been all these things, and also, awareness of other people’s limits, experiences, situations. Keeping an eye toward the healing of others and how, if I can’t aid their healing for whatever reason, I at least not make it worse. Healing – oh, my Lord is a generous, talented, ruthless Healer, and He has done more for my being able to function in the world than I can even begin to name. From the very beginning I’ve joked that Poseidon is very Zen. Further along, things like humility and grace have come into my religious vocabulary. I cover my head when I leave my house because He’s asked it of me, and I dress rather modestly, both because it’s more comfortable for me and also because He has definite opinions about it. Of course, I’ve prodded at this – what, of all of that, sounds like Poseidon of Hellas? Short-tempered, vengeful, lustful, petulant Earth-Shaker? In my exploring outside of Hellas, are You sure You are not instead El? Yam? Ba’al? Going further north, are You not Aegir, maybe, Njord? Here’s Neptune, here’s these others, and names do not matter, so are You sure? Again and again over the years, and He is Steadfast, my Hearth, my Home. No, I am Poseidon. Oh, there’s a bit of Me that resonates with that, but I am Poseidon. Names can be like hats, but I am Poseidon.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Yesterday Beth and I watched Peter Marchand’s Divine Energies of Hinduism (and if you’re even passingly interested in that topic, do watch. His accent is a delight, his word choices often charming, and the painting are gorgeous). I actually started watching it on my own, made it through most of the second part, and had to stop. Now, I’ve been passingly interested in Hinduism on and off for a while – there’s that yoga connection of course, and the chakra connection (a system that informs my energy work). Most importantly for me lately is, there’s that whole extant, long standing polytheistic tradition to be inspired and informed by. (We won’t get into a polytheistic-or-monotheistic debate. I don’t know enough about the information we have in the English speaking world and how much it was or was not colored by the translation efforts of the Imperial period, during which educated white men would of course be interested in putting the whole of it across to the Western world as ultimately a monotheistic tradition. Monotheism was in their mind the pinnacle of religiosity. I personally do not understand monotheism as being a workable module if for nothing else than we are pattern seeking animals and you cannot have a pattern with just one, and I do not see the various monotheisms in our world as true monotheistic paths anyway. That’s neither here nor there).

I knew of Siva, of course, always with the trident, and I’d looked into that connection before, ages ago. I knew of Brahma and of Vishnu, of Kali, of Krishna, of others. What kind of a well read pagan do you take me for? Of course I knew. But I’d never really dug deeply at all – I still haven’t. But I was watching this lecture last night, and he starts talking about the various avatars of Vishnu. Vishnu, already pictured with a triune symbol upon his forehead, with blue skin, and with a shell in one hand. He spoke of Matsya, the first incarnation of Vishu, the fucking fish incarnation, and I laugh, delighted but uncomfortable already, because Poseidon is watching me watch this lecture. We move on to some others, and then we get to Narasingha, and I stopped breathing a bit. Hit pause. Seriously considered stopping the lecture for good.

godnarasimha

“You can stop,” He said, “Or you can keep watching. Know that yes, I am Poseidon . . . but I also want you to sit with these things. You need do nothing more, and I am not taking My name from you, I am not changing My name, I am not asking you to do anything more than sit with these things.”

Because – I have a lion connection, a strong, strong lion connection with Poseidon. It was dream given (and I’m realizing quite uncomfortably that the various icons in the dream could easily see parallels within Hindu mythology) but the end result was lions became very closely tied to Poseidon, in my personal worship. I’ve sought external connections to them with Him, and I’ve found some by way of Rhea, but it’s always felt more personal than that. It’s a connection that defies sense – Poseidon is not much in the way of a solar deity, my Lord of the Depths, my Lord of the Rains. Not in the way that we know Apollon is seen as a solar deity. (And I know many find connections between Apollon and Vishnu, easily – in my understanding of these gods, Apollon ‘feels’ like the next-generation of Poseidon. I explain it in words like, He is Poseidon’s favorite nephew, He has the feeling of an heir, He is that one step closer to humanity, but these all fall woefully short. My point is I am not surprised that I can find uncomfortable parallels between Vishnu and Poseidon, considering the similarities and overlap that can be found between Poseidon and Apollon.) Still, the connection remains.

There’s more than just these small connections, a host of small connections that are building up to something bigger, something scarier, something potentially threatening. I’ve had dreams of Poseidon with blue skin — important enough so that I’ve got a commissioned painting my way in which my Beloved is blue skinned. But there’s more, so much more, seemingly insignificant, that, added together, make breathing hard and panic start to kick in. Don’t take this from me. Do not, I beg You, take such a big part of who I am from me, please, my God, please.

Discomfort is not a reason why I pull away from things; in my training with both He and Odin over the years, discomfort is a trigger to dig in, to explore and name and expose, and well He knows it, so of course I kept watching. And all was perfectly fine until we reached Varuna – whose name I’d come across a few weeks ago, and who, at first glance, while seemingly connected to the oceans and thus a sea deity, also seemed pretty occupied with social hierarchy, and as that’s not a connection I see Poseidon as having, it was easy enough to dismiss Varuna from my mind – and the lecturer mentions that He is both a god of the deep and is also very concerned with compassion.

At which point I was tempted to start crying, so instead I grabbed Beth, started it all over again at the beginning, and made her watch with me. (Not a hardship, because, again, pretty.)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I’m still feeling extremely uncomfortable. I’ve been praying. He says, again and again, “Just sit with this,” but ‘just sit with this’, when it makes me feel this vulnerable, often means “write about it and share it” because that somehow nullifies the threat that comes along with feeling vulnerable. It transforms the feeling of vulnerability into one of empowerment.

I’m cautious. Is this me wanting once source for all these seemingly disparate bits of “my” Poseidon that do not come from any Hellenic sources? Is this me, yearning for a tradition that I can draw on, rather than having to forge forward on my own so much? Is this me, is this my wanting? But, no – if I was left to my druthers I would never move beyond my Father’s sphere. “Use what works, learn where it comes from, honor the history, be respectful, but use what works.” Yoga works, yoga is ‘our’ thing, and I don’t need to be attached in any way to the tradition that gave it to the world in order for yoga to aid in my union with my god. I’ve teased, too, along the way. “You are so big on this whole humility thing; are You sure You’re not going to end up being Yahweh? Maybe Allah?” but we’ve always, always come back to, “No, I am Poseidon.” So this careful, careful, “Hey, maybe you could sit with this,” suggestion takes my worries that this is my doing, my imagining, and tosses it to the wind.

I do not want to be so connected to a way of thinking, to any sort of identity, that it threatens my connection with my god, my Husband. I do not want to be so fixated on His being Poseidon that I refuse to let Him Be Who He Is. I am so caught up in being Poseidon’s – it is who I am, who I’ve been for more than half my life. There is panic – whose am I, if I am not His? I do not want to be any Others’, and the thought of not having Him does make me want to die. But, I don’t care about the name, in the end. And it’s not that different from the early days, wondering how He was Poseidon, which Poseidon – really, truly Poseidon of myth and legend, or a spirit that has taken on that name now – and deciding, I don’t care. If He is a Poseidon-imposter or The Real Poseidon – He is the being who held a shattering child as she lost herself in the world, as she gave up. He is the being who caught her as she flew apart, and held her close, and gave her hope. He is the being who planted the seeds of compassion, so that I’ve gone from being an apathetic, resentful, hateful creature to one who not only sees beauty and love and goodness in the world, but one who chooses joy. He is my Love, He is my Heart, He is the very center of my soul. Names do not matter, so much, and yet,

“I am Poseidon,” He says. Does He, for my comfort, for my peace of mind? Does He, because it is an informative part of His very being? Does He, because that is the piece of this god’s story that I’m tied to? Does He, because it is True at the very Heart of His core? Does He rush to assure me that He is not taking His Name from me, because we’ve reached a point where, soon, He might? Or does He rush to assure me because He wants me to hold fast to that while stretching myself to take in more Mystery, without giving up what I’ve already been given? In the end, as in all the ends, all I can really do is cleave to Him, and so I will. He is the only buoy in this great Sea that I can even see. I will go where He goes, I will go wherever He takes me, and it will be enough. He has done nothing, nothing, but kept me safe and true, all these years. Fear is no reason to begin to doubt, now. He is not what shatters me. I shatter myself. He is what holds me together, despite myself.

And, He is Poseidon. 😉

on Compassion and Setting Boundaries

Long-time followers of this blog will know that, in sharing the ups and downs of my path, it is incredibly important to me that I keep shit real. We as people are encouraged to write about the good things, to talk about the good things, to share the positive stuff, to put a positive spin on things, to put on a happy face. I don’t believe that this is always a bad thing – I believe that there is honest sincerity in the “fake it until you make it” adage, and that for some people that works. I also know that for some, airing things publicly is the worst thing they can do in order for them to move beyond whatever “it” happens to be. I’m not going to make that call for anyone else. For myself, in knowing myself, in knowing my quirks, and also in knowing what has helped me, when reading about other peoples’ experiences, I can say: transparency. Keeping shit real. I love my gods, I love the conscious living that I strive for, I love my family, I love this semi-secluded lifestyle Beth and I have going on. But there are ups and downs. It’s not perfect. There are struggles, some the type you would expect, and others the type that you really can’t prepare for. And, more often than not, the struggles fall somewhere in the huge range between the two extremes.

Currently, I’ve got some stuff going on in the non-spiritual part of my life centered and is more potential hassle than actual big bad thing. I’m hesitant to label people as toxic, and I’m always mindful of compassion when dealing with people I’d rather not be dealing with. I’m also wretched at standing up for myself, and unexpected questions (“Can we do X?”) throw me for a loop and wind up with me making ‘maybe’ responses that I later feel badly backing down from. Giving our word matters, and never mind that there is a huge difference between ‘giving my word’ and ‘maybe’; in my default mindset, my wants and needs matter less, so it’s nothing to sacrifice my time/comfort/own goals in order to do this other thing for this other person who isn’t really much in the way of a friend. There is added grey areas when I find myself conceding that said person is likely being as good of a friend as they know how to be. It is simply not where I’m at in my life. Worse, we have nothing that I rate as important in common. They are not spiritually minded; they are more social/more extroverted/they are not interested in metaphysical stuff/writing/history/anything really that we could have common ground in, and I am more a listening ear than anything else.

There is no perceivable-as-kind way to say, ‘We aren’t really friends, you aren’t really friend material for me, I’m not interested in cultivating a friendship’. That said, how much of my own comfort do I give up to try to be kind to someone whose presence is not welcomed in my life? Does it matter, to a point, that that sounds terribly cold? Am I so concerned about compassion for others that I’m ignoring my own compassion, and self-care?

So, currently: I have a full time job outside the home. I have a very full and fulfilling spiritual practice that I’m not willing to give up even a little bit. I have a chronically ill partner, two chronically ill (one of which is also terminally ill) family members, and, thanks to humbling support of some generous fans, a steady part time writing job that I desperately need to find more time to sink into. (Website! Formatting! Editing! Things to learn and do well!) That doesn’t count the friends and family I am struggling to keep in steady contact with. I’m not saying I’m closed to meeting new people and making new friends – but I really don’t want to do that in ‘real’ time, in ‘real’ life. I certainly do not want to get together with people to go shopping or to hang out and chat small talk stuff or bitch about the annoyances of our daily lives. That’s not to say that I don’t do those things, because I do. But, I do them with my family.

That thought brings me to: my idea of family does not meet the cultural standard for ‘family’. Because when I say ‘family’ . . . there are layers, right? It’s a group of concentric circles. There’s a hierarchy. I’m fucking tribalistic when it comes to understand human relationships, and that’s not about to change. Even when we’re talking about global communities, that falls in a tribal landscape for me. So I have immediate family, and the extended family and it goes out from there. I don’t really seem to have casual friends – if you are a trusted member in my heart, you’re part of the family, ranging from immediate to extended – and, you need not be human, is another bit that is maybe different from ‘normal’ society’s understanding of family. The hierarchy, one’s placement within those circle, is largely dependent upon 1)how much you factor in my day to day life and 2) how dependent upon me you are for your well being, shelter, care, etc. Call me cold, but being a blood relative doesn’t get you an automatic ‘in’ – though in my life, those who are blood are pretty high up in those circles. I have more blood relations that I don’t really know one way or the other, and I have one in particular who, despite a shared history, is not my family, will not be my family, is a hair’s breadth away from being part of the “and everybody else in the world” crowd.

The friendships that I cultivate, the people that are part of my “spiritual family”, are inside the family circles. They are trusted and they get to see bits of me that other people may not. I don’t have casual friendships – I have family, and I have acquaintances. This is my preference.

This is the important part for me. I like it this way. I’ve cultivated my life to have it be this way. I live a semi-secluded life. I don’t make spur of the moment plans. I want weeks advance warning. Hell, the people I adore and miss terribly, I still need to make phone dates with as much to factor in our schedules as to give myself time to psych myself up for the phone call. Interacting with people is exhausting for me, and it’s part of my full time day job. It’s not not exhausting because sometimes it’s the people I love dearly. (I’m more willing to talk to people I love dearly when I’m feeling like I’d rather scream than have a conversation, than I am willing to talk to people I’m ambivalent about) I have my home life the way I want it to be. My time home, away from errands and away from the day job, is my retreat from the world at large that I need and, more to the point, want. This is what I keep getting drawn back to. Want. This is what I want. And is it my responsibility to help other people who aren’t part of my family to gain what they want, simply because I am good at putting my own wants aside for other people?

I am naturally a care-giver type person. This is not a bad thing. I am able to provide for my family with this particular skill set and ability and willingness to set my own issues aside when they need me. I’m easy going – for the most part I don’t have day to day plans when it comes to projects and goals, and I don’t care enough about a lot of things to get overly worked up. I’m way more of a beta type than an alpha type personality. But in this, in establishing boundaries and feeling like I have a right to said boundaries, this is to my detriment. I’m 36 this year; this is beginning to feel pathetic.

I’m trying to institute stock answers. “I’ll have to check my schedule.” “You know, that sounds like it could be fun, but I really don’t have the time.” They feel forced when I practice them, but they’re not exactly untrue. The truth is: I have two days off a week. One day is for running errands and spending with Beth, our only day off together. The other day is my writing day. So I’m not lying when I say I don’t have time. It may be “I don’t want to give you that time,” because essentially that’s what I’m saying – but shouldn’t that be a given when said person is not my partner? But my stupid brain. I say things like, “I’m working that day,” and it runs with “but you’re not working at your real job/you can write any time/insert all excuses they could think of here.” Given enough breathing room I arrive at knowledge that, if what is important to me isn’t a factor to them at all, they have no place in my life. But out of the blue questions don’t give me that breathing room, so “I’ll have to check my schedule,” is better. Really, what I want is to be comfortable saying, “No.”

And I’ve tried – because bitching aside, said person is not someone I dislike, although in my course of not standing up for my actual wants, there’s an association of dislike, and that’s on me really, my fault for not honoring those boundaries in the first place – I’ve tried to give said person some of my time, now and again, and then they get graspy about it. Clingy. Let’s do more things, let’s go places, let’s hang out. The kindest answer at this point, simply, no. If that makes me an asshole in their eyes, then I’m an asshole.

Situations like these, I wish so badly I had an easy way to say, “My house is my cloister and I leave it only when I must.”

(Our Pagan Cloister. Beth, maybe we should rename our house? Hrmm . . . )

I know that this is something I need to get under control. I know that this means, most immediately, there is going to be some “breaking of my word”, and disappointment on their part. The question is: am I okay with that enough to put my family and writing and wants first? The answer is: yes. But it’s still going to be annoying and bad-feeling-making to deal with. Why is it on me to care about other peoples feelings and what they do with them?

Frustrated. Keeping it real, and right now, real is frustrated.

Asking for help is okay

I’m learning, the older I get, that asking for help is okay. It’s difficult to do, for any number of reasons, up to and including not wanting to ask for charity.

What is this stigma we have against asking for help in our society? And for giving it? Considering how greatly American society is supposedly influenced by Christian values, how the hell did things like helping those in need become so taboo?

I’m learning, too, that the guilt I feel when I cannot help those who are asking for financial help, is not only useless, it’s irrelevant. I know, from experience and I’m being reminded of it lately, that those who are asking for help are genuinely grateful, break down in tears of shock and gratitude and relief when any amount of help comes in. They are not by and large sitting around and wondering sullenly why people won’t help them. They know — or at least I know — that times are rough for *everyone*. The frustrating thing about our communities being so wide-spread these days is that it’s nearly impossible to help those we care about in any other way than prayer, energy work, and financial support. We can not pop on by to take care of chores, or give our time in other ways, and that’s frustrating.

We will be caught up with digging out from the surprisingly high vet bill (and yet, not nearly as high as it could have been, I realize!) in the next month or so. We’ll no longer be behind on those things that we let slide because, hey, vet! And, as of this morning, it got one bottle of medicine easier, because I swallowed my pride and asked for help. (I won’t embarrass you publicly, but you know who you are and you have our gratitude!)

Ask for help when you need it. Don’t waste time feeling poorly when you cannot help. Help when you can. It need not be any more complex than that.

Banishing Guilt

2013 has been . . . a year. It has been a wretched year for many people I know and love dearly, and because of that I feel badly that, for me, it’s been a year of recovery and breathing, of holding still and letting the wretchedness of last year travel its course. I won’t lie — a decent amount of the beginning of this year was lost, to sleep and to wine. I’m not ashamed. My kind, we hibernate. I hibernated.

2012 came to a close and took my grandparents and one of our girls with it. We prayed that we would end 2013 with our household numbers stable, and so far it looks like we’ll be granted that — various tush troubles not-withstanding. (Anal sacs! The horrible, horrible things anal sacs can cause!)

I wrote a lot of material this year. More than I’ve written in any one year since 2001. More importantly, I wrote the first draft to the book I’ve been wanting to write, for Poseidon, during NaNoWriMo. It’s very, very far from being reader-ready, and I don’t know that I’ll return to it in any dedicated fashion until after the drafts for the series I’m working on are finished. NaNoWriMo proved to me that I could, indeed, without giving up more than a few hours a day at most, get those books written, and quickly. Which is good. Because the backlog of books that want out is not growing any shorter by my not writing.

I also hit a number of pivotal moments in my spiritual life. I’ve allowed joy to re-enter my practice, which is horrifyingly sad. I’ve remembered witchcraft. I’ve remembered that devotion can look any way that w/We decide it can look. Poseidon has asked me to focus less on the history and cultural context of Hellas, and to spread out my area of study to include places that touch the Mediterranean and the Agean seas.He’s reminded me of His original decree, that “names do not matter,” and He’s pulled me away from hemming myself too tightly into boxes. He’s reminded me that we are here, and now, and that study is amazing and fun and great, and cannot take the place of devotion here-and-now.

I love my books, you see.

‘Be the change you wish to see,’ has become a thing, for me. And to that end, this is the year that I lay down the guilt that I carry.

I’m laying down the guilt that I carry, that I am not the person people expect me to be, or that I assume they expect me to be.

I’m laying down the guilt that I carry, that I am choosing to live my life the way I am called to live it.

I’m laying down the guilt that I carry that I cannot save all my loved ones from hurts and wounds, self-inflicted or not, real or imagined, from the past or from the now. I don’t think they expect me to, really, but *I* expect me to, and I’m laying that down, too.

I’m laying down my survivor’s guilt. It’s bullshit. I made it through, and I don’t know why I made it through with the ability to build healthy, meaningful, nourishing relationships, and why the one brother did not, and it’s not mine to understand. I am surprised to discover how much of the survivor’s guilt I carry because I know his life must be horribly hard and sad and lonely, and that I don’t care to be in contact with him — but, I don’t care to be in contact with him, not even if such a thing could make things better for him, because I’ve given all I have to give to that situation, and I want no part of it.

I’m laying down the guilt I feel that I cannot be more — more social, more out-going. People overwhelm me. People I love overwhelm me, and it’s not personal against them, and it’s not up to me to make sure that they realize, after all this time, that it’s not that i don’t like talking to them constantly.

I’m laying down the guilt that my life choices have lead me to live a life of semi-seclusion, semi-monasticism. I love my life. I love the buffer, I love my gods, my spirits, my religion, my immediate family.

I’m never going to raise another child. I’m never going to wed a mortal human. I’m not going to have grandchildren. I’m not going to be part of the daily life of my nieces and nephews, of my brother, of my mother and my aunts. I’m going to study, and I’m going to do my devotions. I’m going to write. I’m going to adore Poseidon, I’m going to love Pops, I’m going to bring my gods into this world by my work and my words. I’m going to be openly and vocally pagan. I’m going to pray and contemplate, and heal, and practice compassion, even when it sucks. (Often, it sucks.)

I’ve long said that we are not nearly selfish enough when it comes to living our lives. I have become better able to give of myself to others only through having first becoming selfish about living my life for *me*. We need to know our limits so that we do not drain ourselves to depletion.

This guilt I carry depletes me, so I’m laying it down.

You should, too.