Monday, February 27, 2012

The Whims of Gods

People don't talk all that much about their gods and goddesses. A lot of that interaction is private, personal, and decidedly weird. So what you see are declarations that someone works with X, or that they were doing something and Y made themselves known, and let's not forget people who pick a deity like they're ordering off a menu. Even in long running, happy relationships, the status always reads "It's Complicated". Do you ever truly know where you stand?

I think about this a fair bit. There's much warning to think critically, with some skepticism, because our minds can play tricks on us at best and we can go mad at worst. It's good to have your eyes open and ask questions. When not that many people talk openly about something personal, weird, and most definitely in the realm of Woo Stuff, it's hard to ask questions. You don't want people slowly backing away from you... There's the odd anthology or brief mention of something in a book that confirms the Not Actually Crazy hope I carry when it comes to weird experiences. It's not like there's a convenient repository of the weird stuff that happens so you can check out what happened.

How far will a god go to make a point or get your attention? A smack upside the head could be a warning or a sign of being favored enough to be corrected. These are not the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A theoretical understanding of the differences and an operational understanding are very different things. All-knowing, all-loving, omnipresent beings of goodness they are not. Forgetting that can be dangerous. It is not a place to be timid or trust too freely, nor is it a place to hedge your bets until you're scarcely committing. I'm sure that has different nuances and degrees for each individual deity, but the more ancient, atavistic powers have these ways that are sometimes ruthless, though it's clear they're not meant to be unkind. It scrambles my ingrained Southern ladylike sensibilities and habit of thinking in terms of modern diplomacy.

It's easy to be somewhat unprepared for the reality, when so much of what you hear about people's personal relationships with deity are those of the Pagan laity who don't delve into things like hedgecrossing, ecstatic worship, ritual possession, and such. It's one thing to appreciate warrior qualities or an emphasis on sex or death - akin to finding beauty in both the light and the dark. It's another thing altogether to have an intense, up close encounter with the more visceral expressions of those things. It means that you either have to step off the path or proceed while you sort out hard questions that aren't the sort we usually encounter. It's decidedly uncomfortable.

There are times when I know so many people would trade a great deal for the strength of experiences some of us have, and I am grateful. Then there are the other days, where the burden of what is asked is great, and the cost seems very high. Those days are hard. The burdens and tasks are squarely on your shoulders - no savior is coming to carry them for you or save you from the consequences of your actions. It's just you and some capricious gods...

Monday, February 20, 2012

NY, NY: Lessons Learned

The NY, NY project is over, so back to your regularly scheduled ramblings and experiments after this summation post. Here's what I've learned from tackling diverse goals in a reasonably systematic way with more than one kind of attack:

1. Look for the second right answer. Someone said that, because I have it on my wall of quote notecards at my office. We're good at arriving at the first answer that will change the way we're doing something. It's an improvement, but that doesn't make it the right answer. You need to find what comes after that. When everyone warns you that magic will take the path of least resistance, so be careful, the first response is to be really specific to control risk. The second answer, the right one, is to focus on what you want out of meeting that goal instead of how you presently think the best way to reach it is. The easiest path may not be the most pleasant, especially if you put a lot of boulders in the way because you're a control freak.

2. Fear and anxiety about doing it right take up way more time than just doing it and fixing any mistakes you make. The mistakes will happen no matter how much planning you put in because nothing is static. Acting with a reasonable amount of information to go on gets you a lot further a lot faster than trying to wait until you know everything possible and have planned for every contingency you can think of. It's good to be brave. It gets easier each time you try.

3. Caretakers need lots of care, too. I take care of people, feed them, comfort them, help them when I can. It's something I enjoy. Begrudging myself the same nurturing and love is not healthy, especially when it's in forms I can give myself. Everyone needs to take care of themselves, and it shouldn't take some sort of intervention to get you to take time to just chill out. (It didn't happen, but it got threatened.) Half an hour or so to meditate or take a hot bath or a cat nap is easy to find in the day and helps me be happier and more productive.

4. I need help. I don't have superpowers. Everything can't be done at once, nor can it be done well if you have too many things going to see each job through to completion. Even if I were able to manage juggling everything smoothly, I would still need help from the outside to get perspective, reexamine priorities, or be my backstop so that I can take time off. If I'm clear about the help I need, it turns out that it's no problem to get people to share the burden on a big project or on little daily tasks. Sometimes, you help yourself by having good boundaries and saying no to taking on more things.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

You know... I really DO need someone to help

The NY, NY prompt this week is about asking for help. How timely. As usual...

I need help. I definitely need it far more often than I ask for it. Despite being the kind of person who tends to do too much and offer help too freely, I feel as though my needing help is a failure. I'm so good at helping other people, surely I can help myself first, right? We all need it. I don't feel anything other than happy to be of service when I help. Why would me needing a hand from time to time be shameful?

I really do need help. Asking for it is all about admitting that I can't do the work of two or three people, which is hard - especially for women who are often expected to give the effect of being domestic full-time while working full-time. For me, help is also about feeling like I need permission to take care of myself (very foolish). A lot of the way I understand my worth is in my ability to do for others, to help, to meet needs before they're vocalized. My life's dream has been to create intentional community that nourishes and engages all parts of a person. A big part of that is domestic stuff - welcoming and beautiful home, good food, peaceful environment, etc. The nature of life right now is that I desperately need someone else to shoulder the domestic burden with me equally, which feels like a failure at the deepest part of my identity. Loss of control. Someone else is going to do it wroooong. There are always excuses to not ask for what you need. My current favorite is that I would ask for help and get someone in to do a thorough clean 1-2x a month, but we have a deal that it's not an available option until all debt that isn't student loans is paid off.

What it comes down to is that I don't want to take my sticky fingers off the control panel and ask the bearded giant to fill in where I'm failing myself (he doesn't think I'm failing domestically, but his standards are very, very low). The last thing I want is for him to do something as wonderful as pitch in and do an equal amount of domestic work, then repay it with negativity and criticism because he didn't do it like I would have or thoroughly. All week long, I've been thinking about this whole jumble and how it ties into my explosion of job hours. I can either ask for help and appreciate what I get, or I can power through like an idiot and be worse off than I am now. My decision was leaning towards the, "Fuck it. I'll just work a couple of days straight through, get it done, sleep through a weekend, and not have to ask for help from anyone. I used to do it all the time!" I was feeling smug.

And then I had a couple of days peppered with anxiety attacks, feeling like I'm coming down with something, crying, feeling totally overwhelmed and under-appreciated with the eighteen things I'm juggling, and to top it all off, at a three hour wedding meeting today, Kevin tried to pull me out of Super Serious Angsty Tunnel Vision Mode by throwing zany wedding ideas out, and I was a beast to him in front of a half dozen people in the meeting. Classy, Peeps. Really classy. He finally can make it to a meetings, gets involved, offers to be helpful if someone will direct him, and I'm derisive, then spend the whole car ride home crying about how I'm never going to get everything done myself -> downward spiral -> nobody will love me anymore and the rats will chew my face while I try to learn to live in a cardboard box because I failed something.

Instead of just asking for some extra help around the house in specific ways and getting that, I get a two hour conversation about ALL the ways I need help, not just getting tasks done. Communication, understanding, needing perspective. So very much help is needed and got discussed. I need help relaxing and unplugging (very true), but it turns out that when you refuse to do it for yourself, you wind up receiving help in the form of a supervised grownup time out where you have to lie down and breathe until you've truly calmed down.

The lesson is: if you don't take the hint and do what the universe is nudging you toward in a major way, you may very well have it foisted upon you in an unpleasant form that probably strips you of a fair bit of your dignity (for your own good, of course). You will actually have to do the painful excavation and uncover that some of your strongest points are rife with cracks and shoddily built. It will be awful. A fancy bath won't fix it. Food and drink won't fix it. I think the only fix is to let yourself be vulnerable and human in some of the ways that are most uncomfortable, letting yourself be helped by those who offer. Few things feel more helpless than to actually let go and let yourself be loved and cared for when you're the one who does most of the tangible caretaking.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

NY, NY: Row Ye Bastards!

The actual prompt is Shoulder to the Wheel. I can't help but think of Eddie Izzard talking about the Druids co-opting people to move the giant stones of Stonehenge so many miles, and then making them move them around like living room furniture. Why? Fixing the last entrenched habits always feels just impossibly impossible.

I looked up my starter post with all the goals on it. I've been avoiding it a little, thinking I'd be horribly far behind. And I'm not! TA-DAAAA! How thrilling is that? I'm trying not to feel smug about it. The disorganization at home that I've barely grazed is tempering my pride and keeping it at manageable levels. There are weekend plans to cross some big stuff off the home organization list, like charitable donations, clearing clutter, and hopefully finding better places for the nitty gritty stuff that valiantly resisted my first round of serious organization. I really, really have to get this under control because 2012 is a nonstop running kind of year, which means discipline is required to get things done that I don't particularly like to do.

I'm working on my office stuff being more organized, which has suddenly become very important since we're shifting around the client load a bit, i.e. I have a lot more work and responsibility on my plate suddenly. That extra work? Totally the result of a long series of magical workings, naturally coming to fruition when I finally gave up hope, complete with details and timing that are a "be careful what you wish for and maybe you should put an expiration date on things" warning. It has the potential to be excellent, but a lot more hours and responsibility on top of a full life are going to be a challenge.
I can do it... I just have to be less complacent than I allowed myself to become in some arenas.

I'm doing great with my magic goals to take advantage of the place my life is in right now and do more things more often. That is due in very large part to Jason's fabulous Strategic Sorcery course.*  I love it. There are even visible fruits of all those daily works and being more action oriented. I'm working out my own recipes for elemental oils (a friend's request), one for a combo of clear thinking and understanding coupled with decisive acting on that understanding - so great for work or communicating through some difficult issues, and there's some candle making and Hoodoo oils.

I love that the water one on top has that murky swamp quality. It makes me think of the True Blood opening sequence.
And look! A semi-magical garden of seedlings! Gardening is one of those things I don't have much luck with but really want to do well. Those tall guys are the green beans, who grow a few inches a day. The goal is to grow a variety of plants to fruition so that one day I can order seeds from the splendid Harold and successfully grow plants intended solely for magic. A worthwhile goal since many of those seeds grow plants that are very hard to buy without growing them yourself or living in a place where they grow wild. That place is not Texas.

Beyond magic, the course responsible for my mental organization being much better (which is a byproduct of a more disciplined daily practice). A better mental environment means clearer, better thinking with more reason and less bull, which translates into a more realistic and far less caustic way of seeing myself. Mundanely, I've been taking better care of myself, dressing better, and I even got a new haircut today that can be either professional or wild and punky. The haircut was a shoulder to the stone gesture because it's an investment I'd been putting off, even though it carries an impact on several goals I'm working on. Getting out of my own way is a good thing.

My stylist seriously has some kind of supernatural gift for beautification and hair skills (not that this picture shows it, but I have a decade of experience to know that she's got something going on).
*For those of you playing along at home, you might recall that I've been a little bit timid with some of the Ceremonial Magic aspects of the course. Jason was reassuring, and sure enough, mispronouncing something doesn't open some Buffy-style portal into an evil dimension of wrathful spirits.