Laugh Loudest When You’re the Punchline

I headed out to the trail that I affectionately refer to as The Temple of Mud, Sweat and Blood today for the first time in months.  It’s been a difficult week so far and I was in desperate need of peace and quiet, if only for an hour.  I’ve not been able to get out on the trail in months thanks to a knee injury and won’t be doing any trail running in the foreseeable future.  Today was more of a trail hobble, with knee wrapped up and walking stick for support. I think I would have went out today even if it meant crawling along the trail.

The slowness of the pace, I hoped, would give me a chance to clear my head a bit after a rough few days. There were two unrelated deaths this week, within hours of each other, that left most of the people that I know in mourning.  I found myself coping well enough with the passings themselves, as neither was entirely unexpected (both had been battling serious health issues).  Dealing with the level of grief and emotion of the people around me just left me drained, with no recovery time or ability to bounce back.  There hasn’t been an hour without a message, call, text, or email from someone coping with these losses.

Old grief gets stirred up at times like these and it’s not going to come as a surprise that Andy’s death has been heavily on my mind this week (as it was already in my thoughts before these new losses).  I was expecting a bit of flack about my last post, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Andy’s friend, James, called me this week and said “So, you’ve publicly admitted that you lied to a dying man?” Looking back, I realize that I did not choose my words well or carefully and left a lot open for (mis)interpretation, particularly for someone who knows only the end of the story.  If I look at my previous post through that filter, I sound like even more of a jerk  than (I think) I actually was.  My tone was more callous than I’d intended and I can see how it could be taken badly.

After a few minutes of some very serious questions and answers, James finally summed it up with “So, you felt this intense, maddening kind of love for him that made  you want to be  a caretaker of all the broken bits of his soul?  You felt driven all along, at the urging of your goddess, to try to give him as much comfort, solace, and healing as you possibly could, even if it meant having to lie to him about your feelings and hid from him things that you thought might hurt him? Even if it meant doing so meant that you’d have to revisit some of the most painful times of your life?”  Yes, I told James, that was exactly how I felt- at last, someone gets it.  At this point, James snorted loudly into the phone and said “You are so adorable” with much the same tone and meaning that folks in the southern part of the States say “Bless your heart.” (For those not familiar, these phrases both roughly translate to “My god, you are such an idiot.”).  Then he started laughing, a cackle that would do any witch proud.

My temper frayed just a bit at that point and I demanded to know what was so funny.  “Ais, you and that idiot Andy are. I don’t think I’ve met two such stubborn, inconsolable asses in my life.”  I still wasn’t seeing the humor in this and told him so.  James went on to relate the conversation in which Andy had first told him about me.  “He was driven,” James stated, “by an overwhelming need to help you move past the things that had caused you pain. What I asked about being a caretaker of the broken bits of his soul, those were his words about you.  The things you wanted for him… he wanted those same things for you.  That was the work that he needed to finish before he died, trying to mend what was broken in you.” I ended the phone call feeling somewhat stunned and re-framing a lot of things in my head to fit this new information.

As I walked the trail yesterday, that conversation was on my mind.  Then the earworm started and I could hear Andy’s voice singing Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game” (which, hooray for piling on the irony,  is the only song I’ve ever heard Andy actually sing – maybe I should have paid more attention to the lyrics at the time).  At that point, I started laughing at the whole thing because it was the only thing that I could do, other than become an atheist.  Oh thank you Isis, Mender of the Broken, for your ‘delightful’ sense of irony and your ability to fix the fixers.  To think that Coyote makes me nervous and that I refuse to work directly with Loki because dealing with tricksters is too squicky.  Leave it to the Boss of Me (TM) make those two look like mere amateurs.  *snorts* Sweet and gentle mother goddess, my ass.

At the end of the day, I needed that laugh, that moment of not taking seriously something that was, at the time it happened, intense and difficult.  I needed too the humor to get me through this week’s losses.   One of the people who passed this week had an uncanny ability to find the humor in everything and to laugh even in her darkest hours.  In facing another diagnosis of cancer, she said this: “Own your journey and find the humor in it, especially the hard parts. Laugh through the pain, laugh through the fear, laugh loudest when you’re the punchline of the joke.”  Good advice from a wise lady.

[Author’s note: I’ve recorded James’ comments with his consent and full support.  At least I think he consented… it was hard to tell with all the snorting and guffawing that he was doing.  I think he’s probably still cackling as I write this.]

Up From The Ashes

Sometimes, just when I think I know exactly what I going to do and just how I am going to do it, a juggernaut comes from out of nowhere and lays me out flat.  This is often followed by long periods of staring blankly into space while all the gears and wheels inside my head try to mesh together again in some sensible functioning way. Today, apparently, is one of those juggernaut days.

This morning I was certain that I’d finally got down my ideas for the February addition to my ritual calendar.  It’s a lovely, light working, something to help ease the heaviness of winter and to encourage a bit of self-care for SAD.  Everything was laid out beautifully in my notes, just waiting for me to type it up. When I tried to open the file this morning, it was gone.  Not moved. Not accidentally sent to the trash.  Just gone without a trace.

This is not a big deal.  I have enough of the ritual memorized that I still write it up without the notes and so I opened WordPress.  When I did, a post in the feed caught my eye – Between the ribs from Rock of Eye.  Before you click, I should probably say that this might be disturbing to some readers.  It disturbed me, but not for any of the obvious probable reasons.  I read the post three times in between pacing and muttering “shit” a lot to myself.   Hours later, I’m still twitchy because this particular juggernaut blindsided me with something that hits too close to home. That someone else has experienced this makes it more significant and less easy to dismiss as a misfiring of an overly creative mind.

I usually write about things here that I think would be useful to other eclectic seekers.  What I don’t talk much about are the very deepest, grittiest bits of my path, because they are deeply personal and interwoven with my relationship to my deity in a way that is far too intimate and intense to put into words. Alex’s post laid out one of those things that I’ve refrained from talking about here – a desire to meet death at the hands of one’s deity.  I’m still not sure that I’m ready to discuss this with any depth here, but I will say that I have had this same experience, a vision of dying at the hand of my deity.  In my case, it was not a steel blade, but a complete and utter consumption by fire, a destruction to ashes.  That’s all I’m going to say on the matter for now, just an acknowledgement that it happened.

As I’ve thought about the above experience today, a message from Her has come through loud and clear – that while the planned February ritual is “acceptable”, it is not what I should or need to be doing.  My impression is that what I’d planned was a little too light, a bit too nice, a bit too sweet, and a bit too likely to have zero impact.  While I’m still trying to work out what it is that She wants, I know that it relates to that vision and to (metaphorically) burning myself down to ashes and seeing what rises from them.   The mechanics of how I’m going to accomplish this are not clear to me at all, nor is the exact purpose of doing so.  So from having a full ritual for the month, I’ve come full circle back to having only the vaguest idea of what to do and twenty-seven days to figure it out.  No pressure, of course.

Answering the Call… Again (PBP 2013 – Week 1)

The Pagan Blog Project is back for another year, sponsored once again by Rowan Pendragon (thank you Rowan, for doing this wonderful thing!).  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the PBP, it’s a year-long blogging project with a goal of 52 weekly posts arranged by an alphabetical theme.

If the truth be told, I  had decided to bow out of the project this year.   The PBP, I have realized, is for people with time to spare… and I am not one of those people.  My plate is quite full, thank you very much.  Nope, not going to do it again and nothing anyone can say can convince me to do it again.

Unless,  of course, a certain Someone says in a certain tone that carries a certain implied threat, “Oh yes, you most certainly will do this” while waving a very large stick….  and enlists a couple other Someone Elses to remind me that I need to do things that are good for me.  Say, for example, listening to my patron and writing regularly.  Under those circumstances, I would roll over, play dead, and sign right up for the another year of the PBP.  I’m not so foolish that I wouldn’t take into consideration the opinions of certain deities regarding these things, even if I had already made a firm decision.

*whistles a tune while grinding a toe into the dirt*

So, did I mention that I’ve decided to do the PBP in 2013?

PBP Week 49 – You Talkin’ to Me?

Yes, I realize that quoting a DeNiro flick probably isn’t exactly what anyone had in mind for an appropriate title for a Pagan Blog Project post, but I do have a point in doing so… and will eventually get to it.

Things have been very quiet lately in the parts of my head-space that handle all things spiritual, deity, and metaphysical. The silence has not been that ‘isn’t this relaxing, listening to the sounds of a babbling brook’ variety.  It’s been the kind of quiet where you call out “Is anybody there?” and even your own echo doesn’t respond.  It’s been dead air, not even the usual static and background buzz, not so much silence as the opposite of noise.

My brain, like nature itself, abhors a vacuum.  It has quite successfully managed to fill those empty spaces with the kinds of thoughts that multiply the most expediently – depressive, anxious, doubting thoughts that pretty much take over my ability to think about anything else.  The kind of thoughts that make existentialist angst look like a walk in the park on a sunny day.  The kind of thoughts that leave you feeling as if  your soul has been sucked through a coffee stirrer.  The kind of thoughts that I really do not want to be having.

Something that I know about myself is this: I will only listen to so many of those thoughts before some part of me starts to rage against them.  The anger begins quietly enough, but eventually, it comes to surface with a full-on fury worthy of… well… the Furies. In the past, that rage has either been turned inward (incredibly stupid and destructive in retrospect) or toward other people (also incredibly stupid and destructive).  This time, I have managed not to tear apart either myself or my fellow humans.

Instead I did something that is potentially very, very, VERY stupid and destructive.   To borrow a favorite passage from Terry Pratchett, I figuratively stood “on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards‘.”   After 18 or so months of wading through so much bullshit, I finally hit the point of needing to vent at those who seemed to be standing idly by watching as I’ve floundered.   There was liberal use of words beginning with F and certain anatomically impossible suggestions were made.   There was sound and fury and many accompanying hand gestures.   There were accusations and condemnations directed at Deities and Others.  There were threats to dismantle shrines and to become an atheist. It was not a pretty or proud moment, but it was heartfelt and as anger and outrage go, it was one of my better attempts at expression.

The ensuing silence lasted about 24 hours, a silence that made the previous one look positively cacophonous.  And then I heard a low chuckle, nothing more than a deep, resonantly but distinctly feminine chuckle.  An hour later, I heard on a local radio station  the only song I’ve ever really associated with the Lady I follow, a song that I haven’t heard on the radio since, oh 1991 (and then only on an alternative, college radio station).  And so it went for the entire afternoon  with little pokes and prods, until I finally did my best (but still awful) DeNiro impersonation with this gem:

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to? Oh yeah? OK.”

And clear as day came the answer: “Yes, you. Who the fuck do you think I’m talking to?”   Yep, I think She’s talkin’ to me.  See, I told you I’d get to the point of the title eventually.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to apologize to a few thousand gods for rude comments pertaining to their legitimacy.

Path Forging – Honoring Deity

When we make the decision to follow a specific deity or deities, there are many questions to be considered regarding our relationship with them.  One of these questions is if and how we honor deity. Organized paths often have prescribed rituals for honoring deity, but for those forging their own paths, this question must be decided as we travel along our spiritual road. 

  • Is it a requirement of your path to pay honor or homage to your deity?
  • If so, what form does this honoring of the gods take?
  • How often should or do you pay honor?
  • Are there specific days or times set aside for this?
  • What is the significance or reason for paying honor to deity?
  • Are offerings a part of this process? If so, what form do these offerings take?
  • Are there restrictions or taboos that apply to paying homage?

 Along my own path, I find it useful in paying tribute to deity as is appropriate.  I give offerings and prayers of gratitude at the change of season to the deities that I work with regularly.  Offerings are also given at other times throughout the year, as needed.  The reason that I honor deity is to express my thanks for their influence and assistance in my life.

Path Forging – Parting Ways with a Deity

Funnily, this wasn’t a subject that I’d included in my original list of possible Path Forging topics, but this has come up in a couple places recently and seems worthy of a little time.

  • What happens when your relationship with a deity is no longer beneficial or helpful?
  • What circumstances would cause you to end a working relationship with a deity?
  • Is it necessary to try to resolve any problems with a deity before ending your relationship?
  • Are there circumstances in which one might briefly work with a deity but then initiate no further contact?
  • What are the consequences of ending a working relationship with a deity on a bad note?

Ending unproductive relationships is a difficult endeavor for many people, myself included. We often will continue to cling to the relationship in hopes of savaging something of value from it. We make promises to ourselves – “I’ll leave if she comes home late again” or “I’ll stay until things settle down” – only to break them or make excuses to remain longer than we’d intended. We want to find something good, something worthwhile, in our relationships with others. Admitting that someone we once cared for is no longer good for us or worth our time can be a very difficult and daunting task. More so when that someone is a deity.

Path Forging – Divine Work, Geas, and Taboos

In the last Path Forging post, the questions revolved around what it means to serve deity and what forms that service might take. For many of us, service to a deity means that not only are we expected to do work on their behalf, but also that we face one or more geas or taboos as we do so.

So, a few questions to ponder:

  • Does deity demand that you work on their behalf? If so, what is the nature of this work?
  • Does your deity have expectations of things that you will do at their request?
  • Does deity impose rules, restrictions, or limitations on your behavior and actions?
  • Are taboos or geas a part of your path?
  • Does your deity explain the reasons for such prohibitions?
  • What are the consequences of breaking one?

Although, I’ve posed only a few questions, my answers to them may take a little more space than usual. My patron goddess does indeed demand that I do “her work”, but her work in its most basic sense involves living and acting in a way that is true to my own soul. It is her will that I make the most of the gifts that I have been given and share those gifts with others in ways that are appropriate (i.e., not harmful or destructive).

In a way, it seems quite simple. Be true to my innermost self and I can’t go wrong. The problem is that being true to who I am is not always a simple matter. Like many other human beings, I don’t always know or understand what it is that my soul was born to be or to do. It can be difficult to determine if what I want to do is simply a product of logical thought or something more fundamental. Part of my inner work is to figure out, with her guidance and the aid of others, what it is that my fundamental being is meant to be doing. With her help (and those guided by her), I have come to understand that my work for her is to include teaching, healing, guiding, nurturing, protecting, and stewarding. This does not mean that my vocation needs to be one of doctor, peace officer, or teacher. It simply means that I must find my own ways to do these things as a part of my day-to-day existence.

There are geas that affect what I do, but for the most part, they aren’t open for public discussion (a geis about geas!). Sometimes the reasoning behind them is explained and sometimes it is not. Many take the form of “I (Herself) will allow a, b, or c… if you abide by rules x, y, and z.” I am, for example, allowed to exercise whatever mediumship abilities that I may have, but there are things that I must heed in order to continue to do so: 1. This gift may not be used solely for my own profit, 2. I must help those She sends to me who need assistance in matters regarding spirits and hauntings, and 3. I cannot seek out or initiate contact with certain souls that I’ve known in this life. The penalty for failing to follow these rules is that I temporarily lose the ability to sense, see, and communicate with those who have passed. Yep, my life gets weirdly complicated at times. 🙂