So, my last real update here was on February 26, 2014. I am not proud to admit that I stepped almost entirely away from my religious and spiritual life since not long after that until about a week ago. Sure, there were moments where I would look longingly over at my household altars, clean them up a bit, and think of doing… something (even just a hymn of honor and an offering) but couldn’t bring myself to do much beyond an apologetic sigh of, “I haven’t forgotten you, I’m just… can’t.”
I hate the word can’t. It feels like a cop out. I know that isn’t entirely true, there are points in our lives where we are actually incapable of doing certain things. I hit a brick wall and the only way I was going to get passed it was if I was ready to do so. That’s what it was. I was not falling to my knees and begging, pleading and praying for the gods to come down and alleviate my pain. None of it; not my psychological, emotional, financial or physical pains. I just was going to suck it up and tough it out.
Somewhere along the line… May, maybe?… I had a well-meaning pagan woman ask me if I felt like I was cast aside. I said no. No. My gods had not forsaken me. They had not turned their backs on me. For me to believe any of those things I would first have to believe that I am important enough in their divine existence to be worth tossing aside. Please. Even with a reciprocal relationship I don’t believe I am significant enough in their lives for that to happen. I am an ant in their world. I just happen to be one that happens to listen and talk and give homage, praise and sacrifice to them. But to think I am worth forsaking… means that someone has very little understanding of what an emotional toll it takes on someone to actually turn someone you care about aside. If you don’t care, you aren’t turning them aside, you just don’t care. If you care… it’s draining, which is why people stay with abusive or emotionally draining family, spouses and situations for far too long.
My gods are flawed. They are arrogant at times, they get angry and vengeful, they do not tolerate hubris. They were never going to take my hand and hold it through every trial and tribulation I came to in my life. I never wanted or expected them to do so. I have always been expected to pull myself back up by my own bootstraps, brush off the dust of the challenge, count my scars as badges of honor and move forward again. This was one reason of many why I had worked so well with Ares for so long. But… there was a point where part of my spirit broke for awhile.
It was a couple years in the making. I’ve scrolled back to some old ranting posts in this blog and I can see the decline in my sanity toward the larger pagan community, toward my local community, to my country, the world and even toward myself. It is there in my Twitter feed, in my Facebook timeline and a bit in my old mostly-dead Livejournal.
Some of it was just my being burned out on things. I was running too thin and not receiving enough assistance when it was promised to me from people I trusted and was clearly being taken advantage of. Because people had come to realize even if Dawn asks us to do it, if we wait long enough… Dawn will just do it herself because she will want to get it done. So, I was running what became a thankless non-profit pagan group, I was doing a mostly thankless job (by the greater community, not the leaders) of coordinating part of Pagan Spirit Gathering and dealing with what I am referring to as the dark and seedy underbelly of that community, I was having people ask for me to help them with guidance into the Greek path only to have them not really want to look into ancient Greek religion but instead were looking to toss fluffier versions of my gods into their one sided version of eclectic Wicca.
I had people telling me that the only way I was going to conquer my health woes was to step away from actual scientific medicine and trust Mother Nature. Suggestions from Fish Oil to St. John’s Wort and so forth, from people who only really seemed to open a damn wikipedia entry on the supplements they were suggesting much less my conditions, and not cross-checking them against each other, were so rampant I had to ban people I had known for nearly a decade in the pagan community from every social media site I was on. Did these people not see that if some simple supplement was going to be a miracle cure for all my problems I would have found it by now? I hate taking medication. I have a daily medication dispenser like my 90 year old grandmother does. I hate that.
Hate might be too soft a word for it. But, I started to hate a lot of things to the point of a visceral and violent bitterness and rage. If the gods feed off of what we give them… Styx was getting a veritable buffet from me. Hate and vitriol poured forth like a filthy chocolate fountain at Golden Corral (what a disgusting concept of American gluttony, btw) and it disturbs me to look back at myself.
I hated the pagan community for not being willing to recognize the blatant, glaring, flashing neon signs pointing to the problems that exist in it… instead preferring to sweep them all under the damn rug and fling shit at each other like a bunch of monkeys. No one is the problem and yet everyone is the problem. Because we can’t have standards and rules because to try to start a conversation to establish any is too much like establishing a dogma and creation knows every pagan seems to hate organized religion to the point where anything resembling dogma evokes a knee-jerk reaction from them.
I hated work for putting me into this shit situation where I was reporting to two separate sets of management that could not agree as to how I should prioritize their work, so I was stuck in an tug of war between them. It was an emotionally taxing time that I wasn’t sure of a proper way out of short of just rage-quitting my job, which was not doable.
I hated some of my so-called friends, who even though I had only moved across town, I still haven’t seen in over a year for various reasons. Some are petty, some might be my fault but even giving me the opportunity to find out what is going on so that things can be sorted out is too much like pulling teeth for them, it seems…. it’s been hard. I went from always having friends around to only having maybe two that want to actively be part of my life.
I hated myself because my body was clearly falling apart before my eyes. I went through months of testing and almost non-stop pain. I have my mental health problems, of course, which are not a crutch for me but definitely make dealing with everything else more difficult than the average person can imagine. But on top of all of that was just being physically ill so often, having a digestive and gastrointestinal system that doesn’t always like food (at all, and I’ve been tested for things you are probably thinking of, I’m sure), near-constant migraines, and just physical pain. I’d had pain for years. Mostly I chalked it up to the damage I did to my body with poor dance training in my younger years and then my inability to stop myself from moving (dancing, working out… didn’t matter) well into my early 20s. I just wore my body out. Or so I thought.
There was a point of fire, of flailing and fighting where I was not accepting what the only diagnosis that was making sense to the hoard of specialists that had been looking me over came up with was. It was my own failing. I would not accept Fibromyalgia as a diagnosis. No. The only people I ever heard about having this diagnosis were not people who fought through life. I was not going to be this. I would not accept another chronic condition that was not going to ever go away. But, you can’t will something like this away. Winter was rough, some days everything hurt so bad I couldn’t get out of bed without tears, but I still did it. I was not going to be defeated. I was not going to live on pain medication. The nearly daily migraines were bad enough -oh yes… there’s that too.
Here’s the thing, I realized it somewhere around Louisville on my drive to Atlanta for DragonCon, I can either sit down and accept defeat or I can clench my jaw, close my eyes to bite through the pains, force myself upright, brush off the dust and fight my way through this crappy card of life I’ve been given and make the best of it. I had started changing things to improve my mental well-being beforehand, but… progress is there:
I unfriended most everyone off my Facebook page that I just don’t want or need to have on my list anymore. My list is under 100, which seems bizarre to most people, but it has helped. I stopped clicking like on things which has eliminated the strange mentally and emotionally enraging things I see during the day. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it means I see them on my terms, not those of some robotic algorithm of Facebook’s. “Oh, you like kittens? How about this photo of a kitten beaten to death. You’d like this too, right?”
I stepped away from greater paganism almost entirely, just to refresh my mind from the ludicrous crap I saw. I dip a toe in here or there, finding things that are better for me.
I’ve lost around 40 lbs since the beginning of the year. I say about because I have a history of eating disorders so I don’t let myself linger on the scale. I know if you compare my natural waist this year to last… I’ve lost about 8 inches off it. That I know for sure. I’ve always ate well, and I’ve not really upped my routine much, but… I’m doing better physically in terms of weight loss. I don’t have much more explanation than that. I’m sad that I can’t drink anymore, my body is sort of rejecting alcohol in all forms, but… I don’t really need it to get by. I’m okay.
So, back to DragonCon. I don’t give much thought to symbolism much of the time. At DragonCon I have to take things with a grain of salt. We march behind the group that does the 300 cosplay every year in the parade Saturday morning (I’m with the Greek Mythology group) and there is so much I appreciate from following the Spartans. First of all, they have a routine in order to march with those guys… they are all physically fit. Some of them might be in better shape than the actors in the movie were. But they are also a fun bunch of guys. Their women… not so much… really standoffish… but whatever.
It wasn’t there, though. It was seeing things I didn’t see before. Little nods as I walked through parts of the Art Show and Artist Alley. A peacock feather here, a bronze and crested helm there… a painting of a hand with a pomegranate across the room. By some strange twist of luck, fate, whatever you want to call it, I found an artist booth selling prints of some of their work -mostly fantasy based but some highly steeped in Greek Mythology. Yeah, I got a couple prints and yes, I know where they are going to go once I have frames.
I also found an awesome 4 x 6 art card done in the Fanart section of Beetlejuice as the banister that says, “We’ve come for your daughter, Chuck.” The artist said he was less than thrilled with the color. I found it stunning and it is now in my living room awaiting a frame and a place to live on my wall. But, that’s irrelevant to this conversation.
Returning home last Wednesday late afternoon, I started cleaning the house up. Really cleaning. Saturday we were having a party to celebrate our 10 year anniversary with any of our friends and family that could make it. Things got moved around, including some of my altars… they also got a deep cleaning. I was tired, so tired. But I had a great time both in the travel and at DragonCon that was filled with laughter and love of friends. I had some amazing cosplay (the lotus flower I made to top my staff for the parade for Hera was really popular with people) and I did a run/walk while I was there.
But Saturday I picked up my statue of Ares, brushed the dust off (it’s been a dusty year) and the cat hair (it’s everywhere but on the cats, I swear) and gave it a new home. A cleaner, more prominent and better home. I felt, for probably the first time in quite a while a vibration -resonation or sound –whatever you want to call it, that said, “Better?” I looked at the idol of the one I assumed to be responsible and answered firmly, “It will be.”
Because I know damn well it was not a question for my well-being or a desire to coddle. It was wanting to know if my little emotional temper-tantrum was over, if my pity-party for one was over… was I going to pick myself up and keep going or let the world run me over? Well, I’m stronger than the latter, even if I do have to express a few frustrated moments of defeat when things get rough and overwhelming. Failure is not an option. Giving up is not an option.
Time to get my shit together. I’m not better. Not yet. I’m sick, I hurt, I’m tired all the time… some days my kidneys hurt, if there’s a storm on the horizon I might need to give myself an injection to keep a migraine from turning me into a human vomit fountain and rendering me totally useless, but… it will be better. It will be because I will find things again that make me happy and focus less on those that don’t. It will be better because while I can’t always do traditional exercise, I’m still walking 5Ks, which is lapping most Americans on the couch and I’m hoping that if my body doesn’t get worse, I can throw jogging sections in there next spring. I have time to work on it.
“Good. Then you have work to do.”
My gods don’t hold my hand through the trials of life. They don’t coddle me, give me things like magical wish-dispensing machines. But there is a definite pride when they know I don’t beg them to fix my problems for me and I figure my way through it.
I will be better. In time.