Four months

Four months since I came to wordpress and updated this journal. I would love to blame it on the holidays and on the winter months but, truth of the matter is, I just drifted away. I walked away from the journals and the people and all of it. So much was filled with negativity and pain, with snark and cruelty and so much more.

I realize now though there’s so much I’ve missed. Comraderie. Talking about my gods. Talking about the days I’ve spent dealing with my pain and my spoons and my illnesses. I think it’s time to come back. Come back to trying to share myself, share my world, and to find out about others as well. I’ve missed so much and hoping to find it back again.

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Bootstraps and roses… from a larger piece I’m writing

One of the hardest things, personally, that I had trouble adjusting to when I first came to Hellenic practices was to push away those ideals and concepts that culture – in my case Western Culture – holds about the gods and goddesses. Certainly with enough research and reading it became easier as the stories of their deeds took hold in my mind, yet there are times when those initial “one note” descriptors come to mind. The hardest for me for a lot of years was Aphrodite.

I think a lof ot that is because of public perceptions. So many represent her as a nightie wearing flirt who gambols and frolicks and inspires physical love. In so many media representations, and even in many a spell and circle, it is about sex and sex and then some more sex. For a demisexual with a low sex drive and much more interest in the mind, it was hard for me to connection with someone who even in many of her stories is shown as a goddess of physical love.

In truth isn’t wasn’t until after years of pushing myself beyond my limits, using myself up for the sake of others, that I began to truly connect with Aphrodite in such a way that, with time, she eventually had a shrine of her own in my space. What it took was a single phrase that had come to me through social media connections. The concept of self care.

Self care itself varies from person to person, and for many it’s about taking a day for themselves, pampering themselves as they see fit. At it’s core though it is a concept most have a lot of trouble with, and I know I did until only recently. Self care is about taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically. It’s about embracing yourself as one of the most important things in your life, and treating yourself in the same ways you would others. In fact better than because you can’t be there for others until you’re there for yourself.
When I first heard about self care, I likely snorted and had every plan of being dismissive of it. Right until I heard that voice in my head that made so much in my life snap into place. It was Aphrodite, and it was through her, through self care, that I came to realize that Aphrodite isn’t merely about sex. She is about all kinds of love. Of platonic love. Of friendships that become so deep that they go beyond sex. She is love for yourself, all of yourself, and realizing that the greatest love affair you can ever have is with you.

we weave our stories out of our bodies

Recently I began taking a look at where I am. Not the place I live, the job I’m in, but me. I realized I’m not happy who I’ve let myself be. I gave up on my frills and frippery. I lost the ability to see peace and magic in everything.

The latter, sadly, I think is a necessary evil in many ways. My eyes were opened to the pain in the world, the wars being waged on who and what I am, the imbalance in the world wherein one sect of the population has become the norm, the “superiority”, the masses while in the minority. In opening my eyes to how bad things have gotten, I was forced to give up some of that innocence that I embraced so much of my life. Yet I realize I’ve gone too far.

Pain. Illness. Fear. Fighting. All of it took so much of me so that I haven’t been me, I’ve been only the fight. Whichever fight it is. It’s time to reclaim who I wanted to be, who I was, and who I can be.

I’m going to remember the softness and femininity I love in dress. I want to have back my moments of embrace the simple beauties. I want to write my soul, and read to tears. I want to giggle over kittens, and paint for Hera and Aphrodite. I want to celebrate what my gods have given me.

It means taking time away from the things where all my focus has gone. But five minutes of picking outfits, five more doing my hair. A moment each night of thanks and reflection. Soft edges, sharp lines, pastels and kohl black and peacock feathers and cephalopods. It’s embracing me as much as the fight. I deserve my time as much as anything or anyone else.

Divine worship and chronic illness: Or do I have the spoons for this

Two things I make no secret of online is that I am both Hellenic Polytheist, and someone enduring a chronic pain disorder. I don’t keep seperate blogs for anything I speak about because I believe in the school of thought that it’s all about me and it’s the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now, something I don’t make obvious all the time is that I am not a reconstructionist. I am a revivalist. I am not trying to recreate the historical worship, but working to create my own space and path of worship based on the historical ways, and adapting to my life. Part of that is dealing with a full time job, a second job, a college student, as well as balancing in friends, self care, and my religious path. My chronic illness is, I admit, a part of why I practive revivalism not reconstructionism.

That said, some days it’s not that easy, and you learn as with all things how to adapt to overcome your illness in relation to your religious path.

I do try, health permiting, to leave a supper out on the dark of the moon in honor of Hekate. I keep shrines to four Gods (Hera, Hermes, Hekate and Aphrodite), as well as one to all of the Theoi. I will at least have words daily though some days I eat so little food, and do so in such a stupor of pain, I do not always remember to put aside that offering portion.

As with my self care, as well as work and everything else I do, I have found that being flexible is absolutely key to not driving yourself mad. Of course talking it out with your deities is helpful as well. There are days when I know, just know, that I damn well better drag myself out of that chair and make formal prayer. I know some days that I can’t put off my offering, no matter how pain filled I am. Then there are some days I realize that if I don’t make those stars tonight to sprinkle on Aphrodite’s altar, she’s okay with that.

Adapting to my gods is part of my self care, and I’m glad for all I can still offer just as much as I’m thankful for all I’m given.

Invalidation

I’ve seen this a few times over the last couple of days and I find it kind of bothersome, I admit. If I listen to a song, and it leaves me melancholy because of my own personal experiences and another person listened to the same song and find it uplifting, my melancholy doesn’t mean they can’t find it positive.  If one person looks at the ocean and cries, and another laughs, both of the sheer vastness of it, one emotions does not negate the other. Each has merely experienced it in their own way.

Yet, in the pagan community it seems, the differing experiences and practices of one seems to be seen as a direct blow on another. Why is this? Why is such personal affront taken?

In a community that is constantly pushing individuality, of embracing whatever you want no matter the source or beliefs of the path, and talks of celebrating the snowflake that is each of us, why then when someone’s own personal  beliefs/practices doesn’t line up with another does it suddenly become seen as invalidating the other’s experience?

Many worship Hera as the goddess of marriage, as the voice of making marriage/relationships work, and as a guardian and protector of new brides.  This is one of many things she oversees, and that is seen as her purvey. Now, I personally am devoted to Hera as a goddess to whom I am a champion for, fighting for the rights and liberties for women. I am not married, have no plans to be married, and am actually not one who supports the western civilization institution of marriage. My view of Hera as a warrior and a protector in my fight for equality does not invalidate those that turn to her for help holding together their marriage. Both are true and honest paths to the goddess, and both are equally valid.

Now the same could be said, in the latest of these “battles”, that because one sees “witchy” fashion as black and gossamer and lace and leather, and another sees it as a teefury tee with Jack Skellington and their favorite pair of jeans. Once more, one does not invalidate the other.

Yet why do so many seem offended when the path of another doesn’t match their own? Our experiences are not the same. Even if we follow the same path, view the deities in our life the same way, how we react, how we feel because of our life experiences, it will make our experiences on that path different. It’s the same for life, the same for pagan lifestyles.  We have all had different lives, and we’ve had other experiences, and in the end that tinges everything we do and say, magically and otherwise. When did we lose the ability to embrace those learned differences rather than condemning others?

Of course, this is not meant to approve of cultural appropriation, or of those that seem to think they can just glom into closed cultures and embrace them as their own. Nor should people not call others  for such things. Yet there is a world of difference between people being genuinely insulting another’s path and beliefs, and people embracing a different way of doing things. The latter is not an insult. It is not invalidating your path and beliefs and UPG. It is them doing things their way, as works for their deities and them. Difference is not invalidating.

For a culture that tends to try and claim to celebrate their differences from the rest of the world, that seems to only extend so far as it means insulting others for not acknowledging that you’re right.

She could be your sister…

This is the tag line that I saw on a billboard today  for a book about the slave sex trade. Now, I preface this saying that I haven’t read the book and don’t know what the plot of it is about. For all I know the tagline references a brother coming to say his sister from the slave sex trade industry – and make sure I say it this way rather than those sex workers who are in the business of their own free will and desires. Without knowing a bit about the plot, the tagline irks me to no end.

Why?

Because I’m sick to death of speaking to protect women not because they are human beings but because they are someone’s sister, mother, daughter, wife. This is what is bothers me. When you work to stop rape, kidnapping into the slave sex trade, even catcalls and street harassment, and the way you work toward it is by pointing out that these women are some MAN’S wife, daughter, mom,or sister what you’re saying is: You shouldn’t do this because these women belong to another man and therefor it’s wrong.

Stop this! Stop language that makes women into property and therefor their only worth is in belonging to another man.

That is the problem with this line of thought. It’s the same “logic” that comes into play when the ONLY thing that can get a man to back off when he’s hitting on a woman is when she says she already has a boyfriend. Once more it is a matter of making said woman into property of another man so therefor there’s no point in respecting her but the male mind will respect this unknown male with proprietary ownership. This is a line of thought we really need to stop.

Respecting women’s spaces and boundaries should be because they are human beings worthy of this respect, and not because through birth or relationship they belong to some other man and are therefor “protected” from violence and sexual aggression. A woman’s body is her own, and no matter what her relationships are, she is not property to be claimed and used unless we acknowledge her male owner.

When possible help brings out other issues

Since my diagnosis many have offered unsolicited advice for things that could help me. I understand where they’re trying to come from, and that yes they’re trying to be helpful. That doesn’t make it any easier when trying to explain just why these methods are less than helpful. In this case it’s a talk about massage.

I completely understand the concepts behind it helping, but for some the thought of laying there, naked or mostly so, with another having their hands all over them is not going to help. For some touch isn’t a comfort. Not entirely. It’s going to cause more stress which, as we’ve learned, causes more pain. I understand I have a diagnosis, and I’ve talked about my pain, but I’m not entirely comfortable talking about to just anyone about the reasons I don’t like being touched. For myself it stems from spiritual beliefs, from past experiences, and while I’m comfortable talking about some of it, when just anyone starts telling you what can fix you, you face that moment of either share the truth, or have others think you’re just dismissing things that could help. A person reluctance to accept certain kinds of help isn’t denying the ability to heal, it’s accepting their own limitations and doing what is best for them.

Day 4: Today’s self care was fandom

gotham

After a day of not doing much of anything, of just sitting about and hanging out and just letting my body heal and cope, I got the enjoyment of having new shows for the fall season. So there was Gotham, which I will definitely give a second chance. Had some good and some bad, enough to make me want more. Then there was the return of:

sleepy hollow

which will always give me joy, and definitely set a mood for the evening that left me feeling better than I had. And another new show I will definitely add to my weekly list.

forever

I’m working hard to exercise more and eat better, to do the things most needed to heal myself and overcome what I’m living with and how my life is. That doesn’t mean I will give up fandom. Escapism is a good thing, after all.

I need to learn one important life lesson

Giving into my illnesses is not giving up.

This has been the hardest thing for me. Due to life, the difficulties in my life, I am constantly doing things. Between the actual need to get things done and the pressure that I’ve had through my life to keep going, keep doing, don’t slow down, giving into my pain and illness is hard.

I feel the need to be doing. Work. Writing. Cleaning. Tagging rp. Devotion. Crafting. Push push push. From noon until four in the morning, it’s what should I be doing now?! What should I be doing next?

I need to learn I don’t have to do this. I can take time for myself. I can just sit here and watch tv without doing three other things. I can go to bed early, or sleep in ten minutes. I can give up time from doing fancy hair, or heavy makeup, or do them both because it makes me feel better, but I can take time for myself.

For years I was told I was making it up, it was all in my head, it couldn’t be that bad… Now I have validation, proof from a medical professional that I’m not making it all up. So I pushed, kept doing everything because there was no excuses, no answers that came from this pain because I was making it up. Now that I have an answer that can be listened to, the first person that needs to listen to it is me. I need to learn to accept that taking care of myself isn’t quitting, giving into the pain isn’t giving up.

Because I feel it needs to be said

Not everyone lives on a 9-5 schedule, and neither do they work on a 9-5 their sleeping and waking schedule. Some work 2nd shift, or even night hours. Others have actual sleep disorders beyond depression that mean sleeping during daylight hours just isn’t going to happen. Getting proper sleep, not too much or too little,  and doing your best to function in between those hours can mean more than going to bed by midnight and getting up by ten.

Not everyone is capable of being outside. Whether they have phobias of being out in nature, or are sickened by it, or have physical ailments that keep them from going outside, it isn’t always safe to assume that what everyone needs to function is time in sunlight and nature. Vitamin D is important. So is taking care of your other physical ailments.

I’m not downplaying or belittling those for whom this works. I’m merely reminding others that they needn’t feel they’re failing because thereschedule and physical needs aren’t the same as others. I know it happens to me sometimes when I see challenges and encouragements that I can never do or function on, and I start to wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Except I’m not. Sometimes what’s right for others isn’t going to be right for you. Remember that.

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