It’s been awhile since I last posted, and a good chunk of that time has been to work on personal stuff. Some of that personal stuff has been screwing around, relaxing, and finding a job. My spiritual life has become a lot more low key, becoming more integrated in ways I didn’t think would be so effortless. The work with the herb garden, which now has one of my Dad’s tomato plants in it, has drawn me closer to Freyr, Gerda, Angrboda and Eir, and in little ways they are showing me lessons. The closer I pay attention, but to Them and especially to the plants, the more I learn. My work with Frigga comes and goes, but She is a quiet, patience presence in my life that I am still feeling out. A lot of my spirituality has gone away from my altar and now walks with me. The volunteer work I am doing, the empathy model I have learned, pushes me to listen a lot more than I have. A lot of time when I did spiritual counseling over the last seven or so years, problems were brought to me that were pretty clear. Yet, with the empathy model I am learning to be a more effective shaman and priest; I’m relearning not just how to listen, but a new mindset in listening and engaging conversation. The ‘intensity’ Odin promised me this summer for spiritual has been delivered in spades. Sure, I’ve done a good deal of spiritual work with and for others, but the intensity doesn’t come from that as much as the down time.
Not having a community to look after took away a lot of the excuses I used to distract myself from thinking about how I feel about things, relate to things, understand things, and where I am emotionally. When I lost the group, and my relationship with my fiancee, a lot of the barriers that I kept up that stopped me from relating to myself, from being empathetic with myself, broke down. I was stuck inside my own head with my own thoughts. For weeks, Odin forbade me from any astral travel, utiseta, seidr, and similar kinds of mind-altering work. I was stewing in my own juices, at times in guilt and other times in anger, and at other times sheer sadness. I was feeling real emotions without covering them up, allowing myself to put a veneer of bullshit over them, or tamp them down. Who was I not going to express them to? Myself?
This went on for awhile until I hit a breaking point, mercifully, among supportive friends who had a good idea that it was coming. They both let me do something I had, up until that point, really denied myself full expression: grieve. I had just sucked in all the mixed feelings I had from the week I left the group and my fiancee and I broke up, and ran with it. At that point, it was more about surviving exam week. Afterward, it was because I didn’t want to deal with the feelings I had stuck inside me. When I finally let everything out, it was a clearing point for my emotions and my head. I’ve been able to look back with a clearer head, see where I made mistakes, where others made mistakes, and accept that I screwed up without skewering myself with guilt trips and emotional lashings any more. I may not remember everything (I don’t have the best memory) but I clearly can see where I screwed up, and have changed how I do things. I think that of anything, that’s really the important part. That, and I’m more forgiving with myself than I used to be.
Part of the reason I lashed out at group members was because I held myself to very high standards, standards that I sometimes wasn’t able to meet. So I’d push myself and push myself until I hit them, and expect everyone else around me to rise up to my standards. Not only did I tend to have high expectations that were impossible to meet, I also reacted a lot to my fear that I was not good enough, didn’t know enough, wasn’t a good priest or shaman, and I felt I needed to help people because if I wasn’t useful doing something for someone then I wasn’t worth anything. I put people down to feel better about myself, an insecurity move if ever there was one, and my insecurities about myself ate into everyone around me. When I had more emotional highs, or when I wasn’t feeling the insecurities, I could be smug, glib, and condescending. It didn’t matter that I didn’t mean to; I did it. That’s really one of the big lessons I took away from all this. It does not matter what you intend; it is important, but what happens from the impact of your choices, that is what really matters. If I can say this about spellwork and spirituality then it is applicable to the practical and emotional realms as well.
A lot of my emotional work the last few months out of the group has largely been around my feelings of self-worth, which, from what I have seen, is at the root of a lot of the problems that erupted. Constantly talking about it with close friends and family has helped a lot. I get a new perspective each time that I share it, a new way of seeing it, and different ways of expressing my fears, anxieties, and other emotions I’ve largely buried or ignored. By relying more on the Pagan community, I’ve come to appreciate not just the larger Pagan community, but my place in it being one of value, even if I was totally silent, because I am in it. Something that Bona Dea’s workshop at Paganfest, Weaving Community, really drove home for me was that once you intertwine the threads of yourself and your community you’re together in the tapestry. It reflected a deep truth I’d forgotten in and of myself, both in terms of my impact on people, and my value in it. It also drove home the reason the group asked me to leave: when you weave in the workshop, you need to be mindful of others’ threads, of where they are, and be sure that your own respects theirs and the overall tapestry. I didn’t respect the group’s tapestry; I talked a good game about Wyrd, but more often than not I wanted people to go this way or that way because I looked at people, saw a lot of raw potential, but didn’t respect where they wanted or in some cases, needed to take that potential. In short, I didn’t listen to them, their Wyrd, or how I came off or sounded. I was trying to have people fill up something in me I wasn’t filling up myself, something that other people couldn’t give me in the first place: self-esteem. Self-respect. Love. People can’t fill you with those things. They might trigger those things in you to show up, but they have to be there first. I didn’t know how to take praise; it never seemed good enough because I didn’t respect or love myself enough to think I would be worthy of those things. I didn’t know when enough was enough because I kept setting standards higher for myself, and then for others, thinking “this is what I have to do to earn respect in the community”, but I didn’t have enough respect for myself or others to see the limitations I or they had.
In my goofy way of thinking, I thought that by being silent and leaving people be this long, that I was doing right by them. By not ‘bugging’ people, rather than speaking to them about what happened, and what has been happening, but just having them read this blog, I was encouraging healing because they didn’t have to ‘deal’ with me. The other, then, is at least touching base with people from the group. I told these people they were my family…and in my experience, you don’t just stop talking to family over disagreements or blow ups. Things may or may not be able to be fixed, but at the end of the day it is my choice to leave things frayed or at least try to put the loom back together.
Since I began to hit these points of understanding, it has been a quick shove back into intensive spiritual work. A few hours after my grief period I had my first trance possession for the first time in a few months. I may have screwed up, and refused to do spirit possession for a long time, but at the end of the day I am still a priest and a shaman. I had a job to do. I’d talked with various people for a few weeks before this about fixing what I did about spirit possession work, and started to put that into practice. Namely, telling the person to double-check statements, advice, and other things the spirit said in me with a trusted diviner, and approaching the practice as a sacred act, not like a regular occurrence, but something to be treasured and treated as holy rather than casually. To me, this, coupled with a healthy respect for boundaries and using the empathy model after the God left me helped me avoid a lot of the problems I made or ran into with my old group.
A lot of my personal work right now is really geared toward learning to be comfortable in down time, to be happy in it. To not have to push myself to ‘do something’ to feel productive, and through that, useful and worth a damn. The ‘intensive’ work Odin promised me has been a lot of down time and relaxation. I haven’t taken a summer off of school in a long time, and it has been a rather nice vacation so far. Being comfy in my own skin is a test, at times, and to have so much down time, to ‘not be productive’ for so long, has been a challenge. I’m finally able to actually relax, though, and for me, that’s a pretty big step. Couple that with finally having self-esteem and confidence that comes from myself, and I’ve come a long way from where I’ve been. To not have to need other people to prop up my ego is pretty big. I may not be perfect at it, but I’ve made a lot of strides, and that alone is worth the work.