Patreon Topic 38: On Resting and Pushing

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic: “How do you know when to slow down and when to push through? When to let yourself rest and when to buckle down and power through?”

Before I tackle this, I have to say I giggled at this topic. Not because it is not needed or serious, but because I am really bad about slowing down, resting, and relaxing. Case in point, I am on a break and working on this topic instead of, say, playing a game on my phone, just listening to some music, watching something, or reading a book. My idea of reading for pleasure lately is cracking an academic-level book relevant to my religion, culture, or other topics of interest. I have found it a lot harder in the last couple of years to read fiction for pleasure. Exploring new forms of fiction or going back to the book equivalent of comfort food is probably in order because I used to read fiction all the time.

Óðinn and my other Gods have seldom had to push me to do or finish things relevant to my religion, whether that is research, spiritwork with Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir,, divination, and the like. Where He and other Gods have really had to push me is actually in the other direction: to relax, recuperate, and slow down. It’s damn funny to me when I type it out that right now I am actually working on relaxing. If I feel the writing bug and don’t scratch the itch it comes up later, sometimes worse. Often, in order to relax I have to do things that make me feel productive. It’s also true that some forms of work, like writing here, spiritwork, and divination can themselves be relaxing while also being work.

A pretty big tell for me if it is time to let myself rest is if Gods are telling me to slow down or relax. This is not something Gods do for/to me, generally, especially since there is trust and expectation on Their part that I will speak up if I am overwhelmed. So, if all I am thinking about is work, that is a big clue for me to explore what might be relaxing. If it is bad enough I will have to force myself to do something relaxing. Another big tell for me is that if I am doing something that I usually find relaxing, soothing, or enjoyable, and I am consistently worrying about ‘wasting my time’ then that means I need to acknowledge the feeling, let it pass, and keep on doing what it is I am doing.

If it sounds like I am doing a lot of working around anxiety that is because I am. Unfortunately, the United States’ work ethic is pretty horrible. Despite growing up Catholic and being a Heathen now, escaping the WASP overculture’s influence on how we view, engage in, and relate to work is something I am still working on exorcising. Telling myself or being told “I am enough” or “I have done enough” or even “I can relax” is hard to accept, especially if I do not feel it. It is odd, though, because my initial impressions are usually right with regards to “I can and should power through this” or “I can and should relax”. Where I tend to trip up is the expectations I feel I should be fulfilling, which is why “I can and should power through this” gets weighted far heavier in my head than “I and should relax.” So part of this is that I am trying to listen to my instincts better on this, and the other part is that I am trying to stick to those guns where relaxation, recuperation, and rest is concerned.

Far less rough for me is to know when to power through. If I am feeling challenged in a way that makes me excited to do the thing, even if I am exhausted, that is a pretty good tell. If the idea of not doing something outweighs my sense of frustration or weariness of it, that is usually a pretty good sign to power through it. I tend to feel this with regard to exercise. I have to make it fun or interesting. I need to do it for my health. So, squaring my shoulders (or legs) and just doing it provides me satisfaction after I am all said and done. Knowing when to power through feels fairly uncomplicated. I have something that needs to be done, and I do what I need to in order for it to be done. Getting to this point with rest, recuperation, and relaxation is a work in progress, and something I am aiming for.

I do not push through when it is clear the process I am going about is teaching me something through the process. Likewise, I do not push through when the relationship is unfolding through letting it unfold in an organic way. For instance, my relationship with Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir could not be pushed along. The unfolding of those relationships were teaching through the process and it had to unfold in an organic way or it would have been done poorly. When learning a new spiritual technique or engaging in a relationship that is usually not the time to push through. Things need to unfold as they will, and no amount of pushing is going to make a good relationships or make the lessons a God, Goddess, Ancestor, or vaettr has for me stick.

I push through when it is clear I have hit a roadblock or that in order to progress further in a lesson, work, etc I have to do so. For instance, it is adding on the five minutes or adding the next 5 pounds to a weight when I can physically take that on. It is having an obligation that I will fulfill because I gave my word. It is doing everything I can to meet obligations, clear debts, and do what needs to be done so my relationships can be healthy. I push when it is needed for gipt fá gipt, reciprocity, to be fulfilled.

I do not always know when it is best to relax or power through something. A powerful way that I assess if I need to relax or power through something is that I talk with those I love and trust. I ask my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their input. I ask my family, my friends, my kyn. I ask for input, consider it, and sometimes follow it. I have avoided a lot of wasted energy this way, as well as avoided breakdown.

Some really useful phrases I have kept for a long while are “What does it do? How well does it do it?”

Does this action allow me to fulfill my obligations? How well? This action-oriented approach even to relaxing has made it easier for me to engage in relaxation. See, it takes relaxation out of the realm of something passive into the realm of something I am actively engaging in. I have to relax, I know I do, and in framing my relaxation as part of the cycle of Gebo, of gipt fá gipt, I do not need to justify my relaxation to myself. It justifies itself here. I am a more present, efficient, careful, and whole person when I have enough rest. It allows me to meet my duties, obligations, and engage in my interests by being well-rested. This evaluation works just as well when it comes to deciding whether I should power through something or not.

Figuring these things out, and even getting the skill to evaluate whether I need to relax or power through is a work in progress. I have had times where I clearly needed to relax, and instead, pushed through. I have done this with spiritual work, but it takes a toll, and unless there is an immediate need I do not recommend it. I have had times where I should have pushed hard to see something done and relaxed instead. Over the years listening to others, making mistakes and good calls, and learning from experience which intuitions and instruction to follow have been my best teachers.

Relating to Odin

*Another draft brought to life.

I am reflecting on a few posts I’ve read, started by Beth at Wytch of the North, in how I relate to Odin.

Some of the blogs I follow feature Odin prominently from the perspective of Godspouse, a way of being with a God or Goddess that I feel is at once both powerful and incredibly intimate.  I feel privileged to see into the lives of those who call Odin, or any God, Goddess, or spirit Beloved.  However, this is not my path.  Odin is my Father, and as such, our relationship is in many ways very different.

To borrow her terms, the Odin I encounter can vary wildly between the ‘more human’ and ‘less human’, but tends toward ‘more human’ in more of my interactions with Him.  Yet, even in this, there is some of that ‘less human’, as it seems there is an overall push in our relationship to move me towards something.  Perhaps a better way to put it is that there is purpose in everything He does, including being patient and fatherly with me.

One of the greatest strengths of polytheism is that none of us need have the exact same relationship as another.  I do not need to do the things a Godspouse does, nor they what I do, to be part of the same community, sharing respect and experiences.  Learning, and being willing to express my experiences, especially if they are different from others’ has, at times been hard because of a fear of judgment, reasonable fear or no.

So what does being an Odinsson entail?  For me, it is a good chunk of extra work when He calls me to it, a good deal of it spontaneously and without a lot of direct explanation.  Sometimes it is being in the right place at the right time, and He gives me an inward or outward sign to do something.  I have walked around the city close to where I live, and He has reached out and had me strike up a conversation.  After half an hour’s worth of conversation my Work will be down and I can get back to what I was going to do, or go home.  At other times He is silent, letting me work out what needs to be done between subtle clues or vague feelings.  At others, He lets me be, doing what needs to be done.

I find there are times where He is very deeply warm, generous, and kind, helping to mind where I ‘step’ and correcting me with patience.  There are others where He is very distant, callous, and allows me to blunder until I find my way.  It is not unlike times with my own son: there are times to be warm, and gentle, and there are times to be hard-edged and distant.  Yet there are other times where He is some mix of the two, logical, warm, and intimate as a caring Father is to a son, and yet with that steel edge that lets you know where the hard limits are.  These words fail to convey the fullness of our relationship, but I find myself trying nonetheless.  Given how reading others’ accounts of being Godspouse to Odin have helped me see my Father in different lights, maybe talking about things from this perspective can help another.

There are times where He will set me up to fail, not in some cruel sense, but in the sense of placing me in situations where the only or best decision I have is to not act, to finally get it through my thick skull that I cannot be all things to all people, or that yes, failure is expected; giving up is not.  He is not my self-help guru.  Everything I do in this way is in service to Him.  If it helps me along the way, so be it, but I am not the end-goal.  My life itself is a service to Him, from my work as a shaman and a priest, to my work in school towards my Master’s of Social Work.  My life was not always this way, but especially since following Him full-time, and now especially as His godatheow, I recognize how much my life is turned towards the Work, from raising my son to the relationships I hold to the services I give in my communities.  Truth be told I do not always know what reasons He has me do some things, but I am getting better bit by bit to recognize in the moment and my duty to do them.

Sometimes those dry spells between hearing from Him can be hardest for me, especially after long periods of continuous contact.  It is times like these that falling back to the daily prayers and the cleansing work is best, because it gives me a base to start from.  While I do this, sometimes He is simply busy doing other things and leaving me to my own devices.  Yet, I find in this there is purpose.  The silence is often there for me to wrap my head around something, or to leave room so I am forced to cut down on my workload by finishing projects in my life so I have room for more.  For instance, I am somewhat in such a period right now while I finish up the Ancestor Anthology book, and write two essays on top of other work/Work.  Come November I will be doing poetry and writing each day for Him as I did for Loki in July.

Odin, I find, is nothing if not patient, even if He does not seem it in the moment.  In my view He takes to crafting people not unlike bonsai trees or well-tended oaks: slowly, snipping off bits here and there until the essential tree is fashioned or revealed.  He does this by what means He has handy, what means I give Him readily, and what means He demands of me.  I don’t always like how He prunes me, but then again, what being likes to lose limbs?  I do trust Him, wholly, even if I am scared and uncertain while waiting to see where the shears will snip.

The Importance of Down Time

*Yet another post culled from the draft bin.  ^_^

Down time is precious.  Sometimes, in the midst of life and wanting to do so much I can lose focus that down time is important.  To take that moment to breathe, or an hour or better to relax, unwind is one of the best gifts I can give myself, and those around me.  Heck, it can even be a gift to my Gods.  It is hard to be mindful when you are moving from anxiety to anxiety or the next “What do I do now?” to “Oh crap, x or y is due soon.”  Sometimes it comes down to just getting my time management to a point where I get the important, must-dos done.  Some of it is breaking down what is important right now, what things can be put off to be done later, and what things have to be put off.  Some of this is determining where I need to step back and say “This is my limit.”  There is always a need for mindfulness, that the relationships I have, human, Divine, and otherwise, need upkeep and work.

There is a part to this that is not often commented on: the Gods, the spirits, and the Ancestors do have patience.  This has been, perhaps as much as kindling deeper relationships with those I worship and ally with, a good deal of my learning experience.  I am not supposed to get everything right now.  I have living, breathing relationships with my Gods and spirits.  In this, I have had to learn, if for nothing else than a kind of patient silence, that sometimes leaving me be is the best thing the Gods, spirits, and Ancestors can do for me.  This forced downtime from direct, head-hitting spiritual dialogue and messages and such has pushed me to cultivate a deeper appreciation of the downtime given to me, and to silence.  I imagine, at times, how much more hectic my life would be if I had as much spiritual activity hitting me from as many directions as I had a year or so ago.  I would likely be very, very stressed in a time I can ill afford it.

This kind of forced spiritual downtime also means I am pushed to refocus on more mundane things, such as career and education, which, to me, are holy in their own right.  It also has moved me into recognizing everyday situations where I can bring my spirituality closer to me.  I prayed to my Ancestors during lunch breaks at work.  I hailed landvaettir at the local college either by saying a short prayer or giving a small salute or something similar as I passed them.  I teach my son and others to honor the Gods, spirits, and Ancestors as I can, and raise him with this path as best I can.  I do nightly prayers, make offerings, and write poetry.  I listen to people when they need help, and live in frith as best as I can.  For every time I screw up, I try to do better.  I’m not the best, not close, but I do as best I can.

Asking more than my best is not something I have heard from my Gods, Ancestors or spirits; that is something I have put on myself.  I am not saying I should not strive to be better; quite the opposite.  That said, expecting more than what I can give is foolish, and overtaxing myself with trying ‘do more’ or anxiety or guilt takes away from those things the Gods already have in front of me.  I would not expect my son to read at a vastly higher level than he can.  Would I want him to?  Yes.  However, that expectation is unrealistic, and if I put that on him, it may turn him off from reading entirely or just burn him out.  So too, with my spiritual work.  Sometimes the Gods are simply saying “you have enough on your plate” and I need to accept that.

Down time is precious in that it gives me time to get my head clear, something that I have needed sorely.  It is precious in that it can make me more receptive of my Gods and more perceptive of my biases, internal dialogues, and when I am ‘clear’ versus ‘muddled’.  It is precious in that when I have down time I can be more honest with myself, and with others, on where things stand.  I might have once recoiled at the thought, but I now view down time as precious sleep that anyone with spiritual engagement needs.  Stay awake for long enough, and you can go mad, or burn out, or simply just fall asleep and/or crash.  I am pretty surly when I have little sleep, and am even more unpleasant when I have not eaten or had coffee.  I am not much different with my spiritual work.