In the realm of: Oh, what now?

So, yesterday morning’s Social Justice Warrior crap hit me in a prodromal migraine period, which means that I stewed on it all day as I threw together that epic rant. I posted it after the migraine had subsided enough for me to proofread enough for some degree of coherency, figured it was okay and toddled off to bed. What could go wrong?

I need to stop thinking that. The universe and creation seem to take it is as a challenge to my psyche. I’m postdromal today which makes me a little more emotional than I care for, but, my husband thinks this circumstance is completely warranted. Allow me to share.

I went to the end of the driveway to get my mail today after work -since I am blessed to work from home, started digging through the unusually large stack of mail and spotted a familiar mint-green envelope that I really should not be receiving anymore. Actually, I should have stopped receiving this damn envelope after a certain meeting happened near the end of 2012 when I had enough and formally stepped down from the role of President of the organization I had founded, financed (almost entirely on my own), put a good 75% of the work into on my own and ran.

I was burned out, I was bitter and cynical. Everyone in the pagan community had an opinion. Everyone wanted something that I couldn’t offer them for an endless number of reasons: I didn’t have the money to put it together, the resources, the training, the knowledge… But, that meant I wasn’t suiting their immediate needs. No one wanted to step up and help. I was their paragon of pagandom. By stepping up at 22 years old (at the time this venture was put together) and filling a void in the community, I had somehow become a magical wish-dispensing machine for the pagans in the entire portion of my state upon which to make demands.

“I want a Beltane ritual.”
“I want a Samhain ritual.”
“I want someone to put on a lecture or workshop on Native American Shamanism.”

Great. Did anyone know anyone who did those things? Nope. Did anyone want to step up and maybe lead any of those things? Nope. This is how someone who isn’t Wiccan ends up getting sucked into leading public Wiccan-based rituals. Yeah, we had a little “coven” thing on the side with some close friends of mine, but we really did a variety of things in there… this was separate from that. When it came to standing in front of 30+ people in a public location, at the risk of protesters, media, your employer… showing up… someone had to stiffen their spine and do it whether they wanted to or not.

That’s the role I found myself in. At 22. I have a certain degree of social phobia. I don’t like ordering pizza on the phone because I don’t do well with strangers. But I did this because I was passionate enough about my community. I was optimistic in my 20s. I thought if I got up there and just did this… that maybe soon someone else would want to lead something… maybe someone else would step up and say, “hey! I want to do … blah…” and then it would take off and our community would flourish. For the most part, the non pagans in our area, left us alone. We didn’t get a lot of protesters. We didn’t get much media attention. We did get some.

I was very public about my religion because I always thought, always, that if I wanted any pagans to be taken seriously I needed to look and behave in as normal and approachable a manner as possible. It also meant using my legal name openly with my pagan profile. Because to get paganism taken more seriously, I thought my legal name would be taken with more clout than… something like Raven Moonshadow would. To be rude about it. And let me tell you this… through the years, when new people would come to our meetings, or we would be contacted via email by younger individuals (since we had a rule against minors coming without written guardian consent just to cover our own butts), I always encouraged them to come to our monthly coffee nights first to see us just relaxing and having fun. Every parent I met, every grandparent, every priest, teacher, police officer… our mayor… all of them… They always remarked at how surprised they were at how normal I looked compared to what they expected. Because the media latches onto the sensationalist stories.

My husband worked for our local NBC Affiliate during part of this time, so he was our media liaison. The media mostly left us alone because they realized there was no story here. We weren’t slaughtering chickens in the street or having sex rituals in the parks… Nothing. Other than the pentacle wreath nightmare of 2007, but I’m not going there and we weren’t even directly involved in that.

So, come 2012… 10 years later. 10 years of blood, sweat and many, many tears and I just could not continue. The number of times someone else stood up to do a ritual for the public, I could probably count on one hand. That’s in 10 years. The number of times someone that wasn’t the President or one of the other top officers giving a talk on a topic of interest happened… I can also count on one hand. In 10 years.

Almost all of our funding came out of my pocket. We tried a rummage sale to make money, I tried doing an on-demand merchandise sale, I tried a bake sale thing for goods at our events (anything that didn’t require permitting like raffles do), we tried donation jars… very little ever came in. Ever. No one understood that we had expenses as an organization. So, the treasurer and I sat down and we made the books spreadsheet in a format that the community could see and understand… what money had to go out and what was coming in. We had expenses for the website hosting and domain renewal, state registration and filing fees, park rental fees, PO Box rental, supplies for events… etc. Money that came in… pittances from here… and then donation checks from my personal checking.

For 10 years.

Our 2007 opening meeting has a 5 year plan of going 501c3. By 2010, I was skeptical. By 2011, I really doubted it. At 2012 I knew it was never going to happen. It was a joke. This community had no desire to support itself. I got emails and phone calls (because we didn’t have money for a separate phone for the org, I had to sacrifice some of my personal cell minutes) of people telling me what they wanted, but not a damn person was willing to give anything.

I think somewhere about PSG 2012 my brain went from enjoying the company of pagans at all to hearing nothing but “gimmie gimmie gimmie” at every corner I turned. I had to find a way to ease my way out as much as it broke my heart. And it did. Because I was petrified that the second I stepped down even a notch, this organization I put so much work into was just going to crumble to the ground. I had done work with local Christian churches and local charities. Things no one saw, and would call me lair when I would try to tell them about having done, because everyone was busy being self-absorbed with what they wanted and needed in their own spiritual quests, their own selfish spiritual quests, that they didn’t realize that churches and religious communities are built on relationships inside the greater local interfaith and secular community. I wanted to do so much more and I never could… because all the pagans around me wanted was someone’s belly to rub and grant them that ritual, spell or workshop on demand without having to do any work for it or put any money toward it themselves.

I formally stepped down from my position as President effective January 1st, 2013. At that time, another woman was elected into my position, I signed over the necessary paperwork, the new state filings were due, everything had been filled out, the check was signed and dated, the envelope stamped… it was good. All she had to do was fill out her contact information, sign her name and boom… off to Madison it would go and that was that.

I cried for probably a week after that meeting. I didn’t go to a coffee night for a few months. I couldn’t do it. When I did finally return… things had changed. No one discussed pagan topics anymore. People were playing Cards Against Humanity (a rather crude card game that I enjoy… but at home) and being really obnoxious… from the conversation it sounded like a lot of them were dating and living among each other now. The owner of the coffee shop, who I had built such a rapport with over the years looked concerned and mentioned a change to me and I apologized to him and said I was no longer in charge of the organization and gave him the new president’s name and contact phone number. She was not there that night.

I didn’t plan to go back. Last October I got a late notice from the state… same mint-green envelope, sent to my new address (because I’d moved) indicating that they had not received the appropriate paperwork. I was more than a little perplexed because everything had been more than ready to mail out. All needed was a signature and her to pen her damn address down for the state. She had been on the board, I didn’t just pluck some girl off the street for this. She was elected to this position by the community of pagans because they so love their democratic process.

I called her, phone number is invalid. Great. I Facebook messaged her about it. I get a reply of, “oops. I don’t know what happened. Can you bring that to the coffee shop on Friday, it’s coffee night, I’ll take care of it.” Fine. So I made a brief appearance at coffee night to see that my beloved pagan discussion coffee clutch was now basically a crude dating service. Again, she’s not there. She has a new boyfriend while she’s in process of divorcing her husband or whatever. I have no idea. I don’t really care. But I am starting to get pissed off because when one of the random girls calls her she says she can’t make it in after all and can I just wait for her daughter to get there and give it to her.

Seriously?

Okay, I already thought my beloved organization was going to fall apart if I stepped away from it and let someone else lead it, I didn’t think it was going to be that fast. So, her daughter gets there, I shove it into her hand and say, “your mother needs to take care of this because I can’t exactly storm the office in Madison and say I’m not part of this organization anymore because I don’t have any clue where your mother is living now to update the paperwork.”

I didn’t hear anything again until today. In fact, up until now I just sort of assumed the group has faded to nothing because I never went back. It was too heart-wrenching.

So, this paper in the envelope, you might wonder… what is it?

The State of Wisconsin
Department of Financial Institutions
Division of Corporate & Consumer Services

… addressed to me as the  listed president of my former pagan organization a Wisconsin Nonstock/Nonprofit Organization

-IMPORTANT NOTICE-
DETERMINATION OF GROUNDS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE DISSOLUTION

There’s a whole lot of legalese in there, so I’ll spare you all of that, but here’s the gist of it:

Someone -namely the one I left in charge, has been avoiding filing the paperwork I gave her for long enough that they are contacting me to let me know that they are just shutting my organization down as a legal entity in the state and if I want to file Voluntary Articles of Dissolution so it looks like this was voluntary and not something done because I’m incompetent at paying fees and filing papers, I have to fill out such and such form on the Wisconsin Dept of Financial Institutions website (which is who all my nonstock/nonprofit filings had to go through), or print it off… and pay the $30 filing fee for the annual report and dissolution of the organization, I have until such and such date to do it.

Or… I could just ignore the notice and bye-bye to the legal entity.

This is not an IRS thing, so I’m not of any worry like that. It just makes me feel shittastic. Because I had something I put so much work into, so much optimism and hope and love… and it was killed so fast. Elpis, my friends, is a far more vicious bitch than anyone can understand. Far more than love ever is. Because hope can keep you going and wound you over, and over, and over again… it is what makes the abused return to abusers sometimes… that hope that it will be different next time.

I still think that this organization could have been amazing with a little more help from the pagans in our community. Not just words of what they did or did not want, but action. Or if not action… then some other backing. Instead… they killed it. As far as I’m concerned, they are what killed this organization of 11 years and then for that final year of it… pissed on the corpse.

And maybe this last bit here… lit that on fire.

Why will I, the one who was pretty much thrust into a leadership position for 10-ish years and berated through much of it, never run an organization again? Why will I actually never take a position of leadership anywhere ever again, even with my actual employer? Because I’m quite certain that the entire experience of trying to keep that running for people who wanted it but didn’t want to do any of the work… is a huge part of what contributed to my cynical and bitter outlook on the greater pagan community.

I wish I wasn’t this way. I wish I wasn’t cynical and bitter at 33-34 yrs old. I am way too young to be this bitter. I want to feel magic and communion again in a community environment, even if it isn’t my particular path, and not want to start cuffing people across the back of the head for their entitled attitudes toward their leaders. I sometimes really miss being around other people, but as I stand back and look at photos and videos and newspaper clippings and all of that… from my entire pagan “career” here… and even when  we went a few other places… I can’t help but see how much of that was me and other leaders being taken advantage of by the greater community.

If I got asked to do something in another city for another group -speak on a festival or a ritual… a lot of pagan groups would assume I was donating my time (well, they did then, I don’t know about now). When the Christian church I worked with approached me to come to their congregation (because I dress ‘normal’ in khaki pants and blouses and nice shoes instead of like I walked out Gothic Beauty magazine) and discuss the origins of Samhain during one of their Bible study days, I agreed after being sure this was not going to be some weird… trap. I didn’t expect to be paid. At all. But a week later a surprise check showed up in our PO Box. Which I deposited immediately into the organization’s checking account. Because it was never about me. It was never a pedestal or a podium. I wanted other people to do this too and while I hate public speaking with a passion I thought if I did it others with more knowledge and better ideas would maybe come forward and do it too and it would benefit all of us.

It never happened. It was always just me. And I got fingers pointed at me claiming that I was making things all about me, that I was trying to turn it into a church -even though I wasn’t Wiccan and when I tried to do more Greek like things no one wanted to really participate in those. I was told that I had ego issues… blah blah blah. Thing is… Two, maybe three other people in our little ‘officers’ knew how much I wanted other people to do it and half the time I ended up having to in the end because either no one would… or they’d back out last minute. Our Secretary and Treasurer were the only ones who really seemed to understand just how much money I regularly vomited into our business account.

Pagans hate organization and dogma and all that which major religions have with their established churches. But who has stability? Who has longevity?

I’m crying right now, as pitiful as that sounds. I kind of want to frame this document like it was a death certificate. But a certificate for a future death. Because if not received with corrections by December 8, 2014… that is the end of the legal entity of my old organization. And in a way… its the death of the optimism and hope of my 20s.

It’s like I’m mourning something that was once alive and vibrant and so full of beauty. It’s actually been dead a long time. I need to let it go.

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6 Comments to “In the realm of: Oh, what now?”

  1. Seems to fit with the image I have of the greater “pagan” “community”. It really boils down to there *not* being a community, since communities work together and support each other.

    • It just saddens me so much because this group, the group I put so much work into, is not the only group I know of this happening to, either. There was a group that formed about the same time we did about 30-40 miles away from us where they had some similar issues -I don’t know all the details of their inner workings and problems, but when the founders had to move to a different part of the state for work… the person they left in charge didn’t end up liking responsibility once she realized what went into running one of these things (because it is not a picnic at all) and it dissolved about a year later. I think they had been a step ahead of us, though, and actually had their IRS 501c3 filed and approved somewhere in there.

      It happens in other places, too, I’m sure. Part of me wonders now if some of the psychosis seen from pagan ‘leaders’ of old in the more recent days is just burnout causing them to snap. Because I know several people that were like me and thrust into positions out of necessity, not a desire for a pedestal to preach on, and when you look at the decades when many of them started… what the average mindset was of a person then to the drastic personality shift to people now (and there is a very strong shift now to a: I want it, I want it now, I want it my way, and I don’t want to work for it.). It burns someone out very fast. I’m not saying that is the case… I’m just wondering if it might be, maybe, in some cases of people who didn’t appear quite so… intolerant 5-10 years ago.

  2. I wonder if this personality shift is emblematic of the problems we see in our country today, in getting along, in getting people’s needs fulfilled, and so on. I’m curious if groups in other countries (Canada, UK, Europe, etc) face the same issues to the extent we do in this country. Or do they have different problems?

  3. This describes the majority of the so-called neo-pagan community. The main reason is that there is no respect for anything, least of all a religion. Hellenion has been incorporated for a long time and we are finally putting the paperwork together this year (2014-15) for the 501C. We wanted to make sure that we had “staying” power. Porous psychological boundaries are also endemic to the neos as well. They cannot make a commitment for anything, either, which shows a clear lack of character. I could go on and on. At least you learned this earlier rather than later. There are colleges in Madison. Maybe you can find some like souled individuals there or in a UU Church? They might let you run a small ad in the Sunday bulletin/monthly newsletter.

    • Madison does, but… that’s quite a hike from me, drive wise. 3+ hours in good weather. In good weather. Unfortunately from about now through May, it gets dodgy. I have done that drive in blizzards more than I care to and a lot of the highways between me and Madison are not major highways. They are country highways -one lane each way. I’m up in Green Bay.

      But, yeah. Thanks for the input, though.

  4. Green Bay, then ;-)! I know how tough it is and I am in SE Connecticut. I’m not looking for “coven mates” to do “magic.” Ick. I am sensitive to energy more so now than I was when I was younger, I just don’t want or need the miasma. (This is the primary reason I stay away from so-called “pagan” pride events.) I just hate THAT word!

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