Fast: Day One

Today is the first day of a Nine Day fast and Vow of Silence.  I did something like this last year with Hanging on Yggdrasil.  This time I’m not hanging on the Tree, but going deep inside, reconnecting with myself, purifying, and bringing myself back together.  I’ll be letting go of things, and developing a deeper connection with my Gods.  Primarily I’ll be working with Odin and Loki, with Odin tending toward work during the day, and Loki at night.  I would have thought it would be otherwise, but a lot of work I’ve done with Odin has been done at night, so I guess this is switch-up will challenge me on some things.

The first thing that really hits me is the hunger.  I’ve been hungry all day, and finally, after taking a nap, the nagging in my stomach left me alone.  Throughout the day I’ve been talking with Odin, going over some of the basics for the following days.  A lot of the work is going to be introspective, while other parts of it, such as writing the Hávamál-like poem we negotiated I would write for being able to start the fast after Mother’s Day, will be about creating or exploring.  A lot of the conversation is sparse, talking about what I need to really dig into these Nine Days.  How I approach relationships, my constant need to be there for people, my boundaries, sexuality, my self-esteem issues and self-denigration are all going to be lain out and one-by-one worked through.

Today, a lot of the work was focused on how I approached relationships.  During the day Odin and talked on and off about why I did things with Nicole that I did, exploring deeper where those feelings of “I need to be here” came from, and why I wasn’t honest with myself from the beginning when we started to see ourselves drift apart.  I found myself going back to my folks and what I learned from them, that when you find someone you love, you stick it through no matter what.  That loyalty is sometimes measured in compromising, sometimes on things you hold dear to yourself.  It’s about giving everything you are to that other person.  While these are, I think, good foundations in this theory, as I explored how those examples impacted me I found myself giving over to (before Nicole) emotionally abusive relationships, manipulative relationships.  With my first relationship I made much of my time with her about her, and was offered very little in return.  This became my norm for a long time.  I thought “Well, this person loves me, and that’s enough”.  Yet I didn’t actually examine my lovers up-close to see if they honestly loved me like I loved them back, or if I was even getting basic things out of the relationship like affection or help on things that I was going through.  I have made a lot of my relationships about the other person, to the near-exclusion of myself.

This trickled into nearly everything I did.  There’s a joke that Nicole and I share.  I usually left food decisions up to the other person; I’m not picky.  I mean really not picky.  So I was usually just defaulted to the other person (I did this with a lot of things) and didn’t make a hell of a lot of decisions.  One day we’re driving in her car and she looks to me, and asks “Hey, what do you want to eat?”  I fumble around; holy shit, what do I want to eat?  I hadn’t expected the question and started darting my head around looking for some kind of food place.  “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug.  “Well, you need to pick someplace.”  “I don’t know what I want.”  This goes on for another five minutes.  Then she asks me, exasperated, “Well, what do you want?”  I answer in deadpan: “Chicken.” She throws her hands up in the air half-yelling half-laughing “There are about five hundred places with chicken!  What kind of chicken?!”  I eventually fumble out Chinese and laughing, she pulls into the nearby Chinese food joint.  Gods, food sound nice right now.

In just thinking about this little incident, it made me think about how much I gave my autonomy over to the other person in relationships.  It isn’t healthy, and isn’t something I will be repeating in future relationships.  Nicole helped me to make a hell of a dent in this, but I still dipped into it, and still gave a lot of decisions I could make myself (like where to eat, what movie to see) and just compromised on the little things that could have made me happy.  It’s no small wonder I was willing to give the rest of my life over when I didn’t even have the spine to say “I’d like to eat here” or “I’d like to see this”.  What kills me is, I did this voluntarily.  There was no knife to my throat, no one ever threatened to leave me.  It was all about keeping the other person happy…while totally forgetting that “Hey, I don’t want to see this movie; I want to see that one.”  Totally forgetting, or ignoring, my own needs, wants, feelings and desires.  You can’t be honest with the other person if you can’t be honest with yourself…and I haven’t been honest with what I have wanted for a long while.

Part of figuring out what I do want is realizing how much that can change, or is in flux.  Something simple: Do I want any more kids?  I have no idea.  I thought at one point I wanted to have a house and kids and family.  The more I think about it, the more I ask if I will have the ability to do that, especially in the economy we’re heading into.  I wonder if that “American Dream” is even my dream to begin with.  These Nine Days may not help me decide that, but they will give me better ground to judge that on.  Yet once upon a time I would have answered off the cuff that I did want kids, I did want the 2.5 square acres and a wife and the house and the car and all the other stuff that goes along with that “Dream”.  It’s what I’ve been raised on.  So I haven’t really questioned that until lately.  What do I want?  I want, ultimately, for myself and my son to be happy and have a blessed, fulfilled life.  I’m not sure what that will look like.  I really have to destroy expectations.  After all, I expected to never have to live with my family again when I hit 25.  Yet here I am.

Something else that has bugged me lately is how my spirituality seems to have fallen off the radar.  I say ‘seems’ because I did a lot of spiritually exhausting, sometimes dangerous work.  I was ‘horsed’ (that is, possessed) a lot by spirits and Gods, I did a lot of journeying and seidr work, and much of my spiritual life revolved around my community.  Now that I am doing none of those things, I have been doing a good deal more meditation and prayer than I was doing…yet I find myself still looking for spiritual fulfillment.  When I ask myself “What am I looking for?” I keep coming back to community.  So I am happy that the Shaman Supper in my area is coming up.  It will be good to reconnect to people, share experiences, maybe even ritual.  I’m also looking into the Unitarian Universalist churches in my area, and connecting to more people on Facebook and through this blog.  I asked “Why do I need community?” and I came up with a couple answers.  The first is that I like to be around people, and share my spiritual path with people.  I didn’t do a terribly long stint as a solitary Pagan.  This is probably the longest I’ve gone without a group or someone else to practice with.  The second is that community tends to inspire me to go further and deeper into my faith.  This stint at going alone is proving to me that I don’t need community to do that, but it sure makes the journey easier and much more pleasant.  The third is that community provides a support network and a safe place where I can bounce ideas off of peoples’ heads.

As I have heard from a few Odinswomen being driven is part of what Odin likes in people, and sometimes will push in people.  My error is that I let that drive push into everything I do; I don’t tend to relax well, and feel guilty oftentimes for doing so.  That “I’m not being productive” is something I have caught myself denigrating myself for, even while enjoying a movie or a video game.  Part of the deflation that has come from more or less being apart from everything I’ve been used to is that it throws me into making me relax, into making me take more time for me.  This has been hard to deal with; if I keep busy I don’t need to stop, and take it easy.  I don’t feel ‘lazy’ or ‘unproductive’.  I’ve had to look at myself and realize that I push myself too hard, that I ask too much out of myself.  This isn’t something that is simple for me; I pride myself on doing a lot, and so much down time makes me feel out of place.  I’ve been keeping busy enough cleaning up the house or doing meditation and prayer…but it always seems like I have a lot of time.  I think a good chunk of this is simply learning to mellow out.  Until recently, I’ve been running around doing stuff non-stop.  It’s weird to have nothing to do like school or especially the work with the community.

So I am having to resettle myself a lot.  My work with Odin was largely getting into my head and rooting around about the stuff I’ve written about already.  Loki’s work with me today was about going into myself and letting go of the influences of my folks on how I approach relationships.  He took me into myself, and together, experienced times where I remembered lessons (and some where I didn’t) of where I learned what I know and practice when it comes to love.  It was like looking at my life on rewind.  I was sitting in a chair before my altar I’d just set up, smoking mugwort in my sacred pipe.  He instructed me that with each inhalation I need to go to a time, and on the exhale, blow it out.  I could feel the vaettir of mugwort come into me, help me dig out the pain or poor lesson, and carry it out.  I cried at one point as I passed through old hurts, and just as quick as I had started, I stopped.  I felt at peace, a kind of powerful peace rise out of me like the smoke.  I became still, and happy in that moment.  I’m not done…but taking out these harmful lessons from my folks helps.  Lessons that come especially from my Dad, like giving over his dreams to make our lives possible to the point where he never finished college, and never pursued his dreams from there.  I won’t go into much detail here; some of these are painful, and others uncomfortable.

The experience so far has been powerful, even if at times I feel like “I am not doing enough”.  Which is dumb.  I’m in the middle of a Vow of Silence, I am fasting, I am praying, meditating, and giving devotion, and going through painful and uncomfortable memories while also finishing up an at least 140-line poem to my God.  I’m also still filling out applications for jobs and will be going to volunteer orientation for a nearby crisis center.  There should be no reason I should be so hard on myself.  As the days move forward I have a feeling a lot of this will be brought into the light and dark, and dealt with in each realm as it needs to be.  I pray the journey forward is healing; I know I need it.

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  1. September 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    This is so personal… I was almost embarrassed reading it. ^^’ But there are very interesting thoughts.

    • September 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      Thank you Valiel. I tend to get personal with my stuff…I could pontificate all day about things I believe in, but when I came back to this blog after leaving the group, I needed to get a lot more personal and show more of myself through it. I’m glad it is giving you food for thought.

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