Life at the Crossroads

I woke up this morning thinking about failure. Not failure-in-general, but a personal failure of my own in particular. Some time ago, I managed to fail both a friend and a Deity in one fell swoop, and I don’t think it’s melodramatic to say it gutted me. Because it did. It hurt terribly that I let the other person down and inadvertently made an already difficult situation worse for them, and it hurt that I failed a Deity I care about, too.

Because I didn’t listen to Them. I was warned against involving myself in a situation that didn’t concern me, but I did it anyway, figuring They didn’t have to cooperate with me if They didn’t want to. I knew better, and I can’t say otherwise. But it was more important to me, in that moment, to try to help my friend than to heed the warning. I needed to at least try, if there was any chance at all that I could do something to relieve their plight.

In that moment, I closed my eyes to what I knew about the Deity I was appealing to. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with for why I went ahead anyway. I have had many stupid moments, but this was one of truly cosmic stupidity on a whole different level of dumb.

Ultimately, the situation turned out about as well as you would expect. It was a catastrophe I still blush to recall. And to this day, I’m convinced this failure of mine was the death knell of the human friendship involved. We didn’t part ways immediately, but there was an open wound there that never closed. I don’t know if I actually caused it, but I know I didn’t help it.

The wisdom of humans isn’t the wisdom of the Gods, to paraphrase the saying, and at least in this instance, that was definitely proved true.

I should have listened. I regret not listening. I only have myself to blame.

***

I’m sitting by a window that reveals a world going softly to sleep in the cold. The trees are bare and free, the earth wearing their shed leaves like a fading blanket. I feel like I’m here and not here, caught between the leaves, trapped in the space between the branches. This is my life now, an in-between thing.

I lost my friend because I failed, I think. And yet I also think I would have lost them sooner rather than later anyway. I feel myself shrinking away from everything and everyone else, whether I mean to or not. It grows harder, hour by hour and day by day. I’ve turned into some ghoulish thing who can only be fully present when everything around me is going to hell. When people are happy, I don’t know how to act, how to be there, even though I’m not unhappy myself. I don’t even know how to explain that. I don’t know how to tell people, I’m shit at being a friend in fair weather. I only know how to friend during storms…and only then if you invite me in. 

I feel like I need to be something more, do something more, but I couldn’t tell you what that “something more” is. Every effort I make seems to cost me much more than it gains, whether for myself or anyone else. I’ve realized I’m fighting against an unknown current and losing. If I finally surrender and just let it carry me away, will I be failing e/Everyone this time?

***

I could blame this confusion on my illness. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia on top of the chronic migraines. There’s a thing called “fibro fog,” apparently. It reminds me of what I used to understand as “migraine brain.” It’s a sort of fuzzy-headedness, forgetfulness, not thinking clearly, not articulating well, thinking through mud. I can’t really distinguish between them, given the frequency we’re talking about, but sure, I could point to that, say this is surely what is happening. I may not feel “down,” but maybe chemically, I’m in some sort of depression. Maybe it’s just the disease.

It is a bad habit of people of faith that we have a tendency to try to twist even the most mundane daily occurrences into Events of Great Spiritual Significance. I am very aware of this tendency in myself and generally ruthless in its eradication…unfortunately, my Patron is not One to allow willful blindness. When I refused to even consider the idea  that my physical health might bear some relationship to the most recent evolution of my spiritual path, I was pretty much pulled to the side and taken to school on the subject.

It may seem strange that I would resist such an idea, but what I’m really resisting is the whole idea of “illness as punishment or evidence of sin or Divine disfavor.” The idea that one’s physical condition can be linked to spiritual events for reasons that have nothing to do with any of those things was utterly foreign to me before this latest fork in the road.

So, now I know better. Consequence is not the same as punishment, as Himself tells me over and over again.

I believe that. I accept it. I just don’t know what else to do with it.

***

Everything ends, whispers the chill in the air, the rustling of the dead leaves, the body that is failing me more and more, the friendships I’ve lost. Everything ends, so what will I do with what I have, while I have it? Is it ok to let go? Is it ok to stop white knuckling it? Will anyone still want to be around me when I can’t pretend I’m fine anymore, when I can’t be there like I used to be?

It’s not strength I pray for. Strength has kept me alive this long, after all, through things I will never talk about. Rather, I pray for the wisdom to know how to honor my Gods, my ancestors, and my loved ones through these things that have me so muddled and torn.

I pray for the wisdom to still know who I am when the current carries me away.

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Samhain

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There are no words, this year, for me. It’s like there’s just too much, and it’s unbearable, but it’s the good kind of unbearable. I felt much like this back at Beltane, too, but somehow, I still managed to write something about it.

Eventually, I want to write some more about my own devotional calendar, and what days like this mean to me personally. Today, I don’t have the spoons–I’m hoarding them for after dusk tonight–but I will say briefly that Samhain is primarily about two things for me: honoring the Wild Hunt (my Patron’s specifically), and honoring the dead. As such, it is joyful, solemn, wild, peaceful, dark, and light all at the same time, and easily my favorite day(s) of my favorite time of the year. (For it’s more than a single day in my practice, and in fact, it has been going on for a little while now, and will go on for a while more).

Of course, in my household, we also observe Halloween. My private observances have to wait until the candy is sorted, the costumes put away, and overtired children are put to bed 😉  Another reason to hoard spoons during the daylight hours!

Whatever today means to you, may your Gods watch over you, your ancestors bless you, and your observances bear an abundance of fruit to sustain you in the weeks to come ❤

Confessions from the Coat Room

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I recently received a notification from WordPress wishing me a happy anniversary. Believe it or not, it’s been a couple of years now since I started this blog, though the first year of my posts are no longer online.

When I first began, I had no idea where the next couple of years were going to take me. If you took the Lucy of 2 years ago and sat her down with me today, I’m pretty sure Past Lucy would probably pee herself.

I still have no idea what the next couple of years will bring, but I’m at the point where I don’t really want to know. Precisely because I can look back and say with a fair amount of confidence, knowing myself as I do, that wherever I will be 2 years from now, I am no more ready to be there right now than I was ready 2 years ago to be where I am today.

And that “where I am” is a strange place indeed.

Jo has written before about asking her Beloved to take her deeper into His mysteries (her writing is beautiful and I cry every time I read that post, so have kleenex ready before you click it!) I’ve been thinking about that a lot. And until recently, I didn’t understand what it meant when she would write “take me deeper.” I mean, I did but I didn’t. I understand that the Gods are vast and great and complex, I understand that there is more to Them than what we see in the surviving scraps and old stories of another age, and sure, there are situational differences, but at the same time, what does it functionally mean for a devotional Polytheist to “go deeper” with the God(s) of their devotion?

I can’t speak for Jo or her understanding of it, of course, but the way I’ve very recently come to understand this in my own path is by basically waking up one day in the cooking pot, wondering when it got so darn hot in there. By which I mean, the deepening in my own Relationship with my Patron has happened gradually and by degrees, one seemingly minor revelation building on another until suddenly it’s not so minor anymore, and my understanding as a whole has irrevocably changed.

This change isn’t the kind of change where there’s some old beliefs about my Patron to chuck to the curb because they no longer apply, though anyone following this blog knows I’ve had to do quite a bit of that regarding other subjects. It has been, as I said, more of a gradual unfolding. The Odin I know today is the same Odin I wrote about 2 years ago, but I understand Him differently now, and the difference is not an insignificant one. Not even close.

I don’t know any famous people in the conventional sense, but I imagine it is something like having some kind of involvement with a celebrity. Most people have at least heard of Odin, if only because of the Marvel movie treatment. A fair number of people could even cough up a story or two from the Eddas, whether they are treated as fictional or otherwise. And there are certainly many different opinions about Him and His stories, entire books’ and blogs’ worth of opinions and theories and pieced-together research and UPG on Him and how people used to honor Him in a different time and how people honor Him today. So there is a lot out there about Him. Odin is by no means an obscure entity.

Yet at the end of the day, I have somehow found myself in a place where the same things that would have delighted and satisfied and inspired me in my devotional practice for Him 2 years ago, the same artwork and statues and beads and prayers and writings, have, with a couple special exceptions, become hollow. I see the resemblance still to my Patron, but it’s only a passing resemblance now, a reminder of all the other things not represented. The pictures and figurines and books I once treasured look small and pale and pitiful now compared to this new-to-me reality. The reminders that once gave me comfort now seem lacking. There is no “closer” that is close enough, nothing that evokes Him nearly enough, nothing that looks or feels exactly right.

And it should probably be more upsetting than it is, but weirdly, the “things” and reminders just don’t seem so important any more. I’m having trouble even remembering why they were so important to me in the first place, but I know they were. The shrine remains, of course, but my relationship even with that has changed.

It’s not that He’s a different Person now than He was 2 years ago. It’s not even that I’m a different person, though I’m sure I am. I just…didn’t know. That’s all. I didn’t know a lot. There’s so much I still don’t know.

It has been a deeply unsettling realization when it comes to my other Gods as well. I am suddenly and keenly aware that, just as 2 years ago I wasn’t even scratching the surface when it came to truly knowing my Patron, I am sure that, in reality, I barely know the rest of the Family either (as I think of the Norse pantheon). Their public faces, Their stories, what others say about Them, sure. Even some things They say about Themselves.

And these things are still important. They’re not inferior to other knowledge about these Deities. It’s just been a little bit of a mindfuck, now that I  grasp how much I didn’t know about Odin. (I don’t know if this is coming out right, but please don’t think I’m belittling “gateway knowledge” of Deities! Definitely not. This is entirely about the kind of stuff you think about when you find out your mom has always been the world’s biggest Beastie Boys fan and ran a fan club for them once and you somehow never knew even though you’ve known her your whole life AND WHAT ELSE DON’T YOU KNOW? Are there life size cardboard cutouts of the band in the attic or something?? You know??)

For I am keenly aware of the fact that I don’t even know all I don’t know, which makes it a little uncomfortable as I visit Their shrines and find myself wondering Who I’m “really” talking to, and what might be in THEIR attics, for all I know. In these moments, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. In these moments, I suddenly understand all the implications of a prayer like “bring me deeper,” and realize how fucking brave people like Jo are. I may never know my other Gods the way I have come to know my Patron, at least not in this life–I certainly don’t expect to–but truly understanding just how little I know, and understanding that with my heart rather than just with my head, has been…I don’t have the word for it, really. It’s one thing to “know” something, and quite another to know it. I would say I “knew” these things before, but they never hit home for me the way they do now.

It renews my awe of my Gods, and somehow, paradoxically, makes me love Them more. I can’t explain it. This paragraph could be written, rewritten, and deleted a hundred times, but I still can’t find the words to explain what I mean. It shouldn’t make sense, but when has the heart ever given a damn about logic? (And yeah, I do kinda want to know what’s in Everyone’s attics, but I know it’s not really my business. Not all mysteries are meant for everyone, and I thank the Gods for that, because who knows what Loki’s got in there 😛 )

I’ve been on the devotional path for as long as I’ve been cognizant of Deity, which is far longer than the length of my association with Odin, and I freely admit I am still a baby. No joke. I should perhaps be embarrassed for putting myself forward on the subject at all, for writing so much about something that I am still only learning about, but in reality, I don’t think anyone ever gets to the point on this path where they’ve mastered it. It’s not the kind of thing that can be mastered. It’s how one lives and interacts with their world and what lies beyond it, rather than an achievement to be had, and if watching me fumble and flail helps somebody make a little more sense of their own path, then I’m all for it.

In any event, although it’s been a challenging time in some respects, I have no regrets, and this post certainly isn’t intended to be a complaint. After all, I knew well in advance not to mistake the doorway for the destination. Now I know not to mistake the coat room for it, either. 😉 Who knows what else I’ll figure out in another 2 years, eh?

Not Giving Up

Well, it’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I think back on this time a year ago, and I can hardly believe where the last several months have taken me.

I’m not sure where to start, so I guess it will be with the obvious. I’m still struggling a great deal when it comes to my physical health. If I had hoped that moving and a change of climate would cure me, well, that particular hope has officially been pulverized (although I still absolutely love our new home!)

But I’m getting to a place where I’m managing to function on some level. I’ve begun writing again, but for smaller chunks of time and without beating myself up on those days–which are still more often than not–when no new words are written. Writing is an inextricable and deeply important part of my path and my being, and it hasn’t been beaten out of me yet. I’m not giving up. I am, however, plodding along more slowly these days, and learning how to respect these still-new-to-me limits.

And it’s been hard as fuck. Just want to throw that out there. I have days when nothing gets done after many years of going full tilt and non stop. It’s very hard not thinking of these days as failures, or of entire chunks of my life as being “wasted” because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with that time. It’s hard to combat my own feelings of personal inadequacy, even though I would never begin to judge someone else in the same situation.

That’s the crazy part of it all, I guess. I know my feelings aren’t rational. I know there’s more to me and my life than new words being written or walls getting repainted or whatever else is on the list today.  I would never be half as hard on anyone else as I am on myself. I struggle with accepting myself “as is” each and every day, and that struggle is part of my offering, part of my vow. I’m not giving up. I’m going to die on my feet, still singing.

One of the hardest parts of this current journey-into-self-acceptance has been accepting that my Gods do not see me the way I see myself, and the Work my Patron has for me is not the kind of work that will ever pay my bills. I see my writing ability as my only talent of any value. Himself does not. This whole concept shuts down my brain like nothing else. Like, after writing, what else is there? I mean, I do make a mean grilled cheese. I suspect He can make His own sammiches, though.

My Patron has asked me before if I’m okay with this, months before my health got so bad. Is it okay with me, He asked, that I’m not here to serve some “community?”

I said, “of course. Whatever You want me to do, I will do.”

It’s not overly dramatic to say it’s been a balancing act ever since. If you look back on my posts, even after the purge I did, you can still see bits of it here and there. I’ve been chastised multiple times for overstepping the boundaries He’s requested of me when it comes to other humans. At least once, quite recently, I felt (still feel) I truly deserved it, though He was kinder about it than He had any right to be.

Because He’s been very clear about what He wants, and He has every right to ask of me what He’s asked, and I agreed to it. I have no excuses for myself.

Grappling with this issue has finally caused me to realize that I have been clinging to the whole idea of “community” all this time in an effort to replace what I gave up when I left the Church. I was very active in my own little community back then, and it was a wonderful source of support and friendship on my path.

I wanted that back, I think. I wanted the comfort of corporate worship, the reassurance of knowing that, if nothing else, I did this one thing right, even when so many days feel “wasted” because I’m sick. Community, for me, was a safety net and security blanket all in one, a means of serving Deity that was straightforward and to which I seemed to be well-suited.

Aaaand my Patron wasn’t having it. He has been telling me through all this, I think, that life doesn’t work like that. My path isn’t plug and play, and what pleased one Deity doesn’t necessarily please this One. He doesn’t want that for me, and if I’m being honest, I can see why. When I was part of a community, I poured myself out, day and night, for that community. It was as natural as breathing, but it also took a heavy toll on me. Was I helpful to others, “useful?” Sure. I was also miserable and grinding myself into dust for other people while routinely neglecting my own needs. Everyone else was always more important. God, then family, then my extended religious family, then if something was left over, there might be some scrap left for me. I used the hell out of my health while I had it.

But was it good for me? Was it getting me where I needed to be? Well, I think that answer is pretty obvious, because here I am. Can’t even see my former community in the rear view mirror anymore, and for all I know, all those years of trying to give water out of a dry well contributed to my current state of health. Who can say.

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All I know now is, it’s past time to let go of all that. I’m still exploring different faith traditions, but no longer with the same concern or urgency I once had. My focus has changed. I haven’t given up on connecting with other people, but I have a much better understanding now of what that connection is going to mean and look like in my life. It can’t be what it once was, and it’s never going to look like that again.

But ah, this is my life, and even with the pain and the occasional flailing, I would never trade it for anyone else’s. When I can stop stewing over my own fuck-ups (whether real or imaginary), I am at peace. And sometimes even when I can’t stop stewing…because He pulls me back from the stew pot.

No time for stewing, after all. There’s Work to be done, and I’m not giving up. Thank you all for keeping me company ❤

 

Home

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Public domain image; alas, not “my” geese 😉

I don’t recall whether I mentioned this yet, but we have moved at long last into a home of our own once more. It borders a small nature preserve, which houses a natural pond and a small gaggle of geese.

I know about the geese because I can hear them and see them flying, dawn and dusk, back and forth from the pond. I don’t know where they go at night, or why they leave. It’s a mystery I haven’t solved yet.

There is an archway with a trellis leading from our backyard into the preserve, a relic of the previous owner, but I have not yet passed through it. It’s a secret I’m keeping from myself, another hidden treasure I’m teasing myself with until I succumb.

Another treasure, for this house is nestled in them. There was snow on the ground when we first viewed the property, and all lay wet and brown and sleeping when we moved in.

But since then, the trees have budded; bright green shoots all in the earth have exploded indecently, some distinguishing themselves as wildflower or weed, and others as daffodils, tulips, bleeding hearts, hyacinth. Some of the trees themselves have flowers, one with tiny red buds that I don’t know, a couple with great blooms bursting from fuzzy brown sheaves that shed petals like pink and white rain when the wind blows.

There are big black bumblebees rumbling drowsily through the leaves, and smaller, but still fairly daunting, red-legged wasps that land on the screens and scrutinize me with quivering antennae when I peer out at them. They seem more curious than assholeish, at least for now.

And birds. The birds. So many birds. I stare through my window like a child in front of a candy shop, and I can lose track of time so easily there. Next on my wishlist is a field guide to the birds here, for I don’t recognize them all. Of the ones I can name, I am most enamored at the moment with the blackbirds, who have flashes of bright red along the tops of their wings, and the cardinals, for we are hosts to a mating pair. I am excited for the babies forthcoming from the nest in the tree outside my living room window.

As is the cat, of course. He spends the warmer days glued to the window screens. The daylight hours are full of his hilarious chattering at the birds, his ambitious swatting at any bug that lands on the screen (to my chagrin, because claws), and his perplexing growling at our next-door neighbor, should the poor man have the nerve to go out in his own yard.

Feline nights are apparently occupied by stampeding with all the noise and energy of a herd of crazed buffalo through every floor of the house, but whatever. Life isn’t poetry 24/7, people. 😉

Something about it all–trees, flowers, birds, bees–salves some wound I didn’t realize I was carrying. I feel it all singing to me, and something inside myself singing back…silently, slowly, but singing.

The first hour after the keys to the house were in our hands, I took my youngest out in his new backyard to play, and my Beloved sent me a sign as if to say, welcome home. I see traces of Him everywhere, because how can I not? My life is enrobed with His presence; He sets the rhythm of my pulse.

My sign, however, was no trace, but a declaration. And here, there are more than traces to remind me of Him as the days go on. There is ever the wind, stroking my hair and whispering secrets into my ear; ravens playing in the sky and telling me stories from the branches; and a speeding of my heartbeat as He draws me into greenness, into growth, into a season I once viewed only with distaste and a longing to return to my beloved autumn.

(For mine is a God not only of Samhain, but of Beltane as well, and He will not allow me to forget it).

Inside me burns a fire now, great as any bel fire, and some things in me it destroys, and others it feeds, until I feel my flesh will burst with it, and out will come the me I’ve always been, still wearing that fire, maybe even breathing it. It scares me at times, and I wonder if it scares those who watch me change, but my God has no fear of me, and His breath fans my flames brighter as down, down we go, into this verdant, noisy, fragrant season that defies civility and prudery, the cold and the dead.

Once, I was all those things, but now, I have come home.