Setting Things Straight (a.k.a. Why I am supporting TWLOHA)

Even though I have fibromyalgia, IBS and Chronic fatigue, I do my best to keep up the one thing that I’ve been passionate about for years, which is running.  I don’t run very fast anymore, nor very far, but I do my best to get in at least a 5k run once a week.  And to celebrate, I frequently post about those runs on facebook.

These runs are not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  I get the normal challenges when running and on top of that I have pain that runs up and down my body while I’m running for no reason at all. That makes it really tough at times to keep moving.  And on top of that, overdo it by just one quarter mile and a fibromyalgia flare up could stop you from doing anything for days afterword; including the the all-important getting to work.

So I run, and I celebrate my accomplishments when I can (like pictures on the aforementioned facebook) and I also talk about my lows too.  After all, you can’t know how good your high points are without some low points thrown in occasionally.  But I didn’t think that posting about those type of things made me an inspiration.

However a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine messaged me to tell me that I was an inspiration for her.  She said that she follows my up and down running posts, and that I inspired her to do a virtual run herself.  This very wonderful lady has her own issues to deal with.  She recently had knee surgery, and on top of that she is an abuse survivor.  Her abuse was so bad that she’s spent years trying to get herself back on track. So for her to say I am an inspiration was something that was very moving for me.

I felt so honored to be an inspiration for her that I chose to also sign up for this virtual run and run it on the same day as her in solidarity.  I want to celebrate her strength and endurance. Then she told me what virtual run she decided to choose, and that made me realize there was more to this than simply inspiration.

This fine lady is doing a virtual run that supports an organization called “To Write Love On Her Arms” (TWLOHA).  TWLOHA is an organization that works to prevent and heal people from addiction and help prevent suicide.  I’ve read about this organization and it’s founding years ago, and was very impressed.  It is a Christian organization, but the founders are the Christian-type that have good intentions.  They don’t judge, nor do they try to recruit.  They are simply trying to help their fellow human being.  These are the types of Christians whose messages out to the public are downright whispers compared to the Evangelical Christians that scream from every street corner how bad people are.  And because the Evangelicals are so loud, the Christians who run TWLOHA end up getting grouped in with them, which is unfortunate.

So I signed up for this run, even though the subject matter made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable about it because by choosing to sign up for this run, I’ve brought up pieces of my own life that I haven’t thought about in almost 20 years.  And now that it’s come up again, I’m realizing I have to get some things out in the open.

You see, the only reason that I’m still around is because about 20 years ago, I didn’t swallow enough pills to actually do the job.

Back then, when I felt like there really was nothing any good in this life for me anymore, I downed a bottle of muscle relaxers, a bottle of prescription pain meds and a couple of other prescriptions my roommate at the time had. I didn’t have my stomach pumped, never went to the emergency room, and of course I got no hospitalization nor care with a counselor or a doctor.  But even though I had taken several bottles of pills, somehow I woke up the next morning.  My stomach had felt like it had been ripped apart and it did for weeks afterward, but I was still alive.  To this day I don’t understand how.

I know now that back then I was suffering from major depression, PTSD from a rape that happened a couple months prior and had been dealing with a bunch of other things going on. I also realize now that the major depression was something that I’ve had for a very long time, most likely since I was a child.

There is a reason this is coming out now.  There is a reason why I’m reminded of this organization.  The fact is for the first time in many years I am struggling again, and have been for almost a month.  This run, it’s uncomfortable topic and the organization being helped by it made me realize that this time my struggle is a bit more serious than it has been in the recent past. Maybe not as serious as it was 20 years ago, but serious nonetheless.  And I need to treat this for what it is; a struggle against a deep depression that could turn into another major depressive episode should I not start implementing self care and figure out how the hell to get out of it properly.

I need to also remember – It’s not my fault that I can dive into a deep depression – I’m prone to it.  It’s also not my fault I have fibromyalgia.  And I have to acknowledge that fibromyalgia sufferers have higher rates of suicide and adjust my own self care accordingly.  I also have to recognize that fibromyalgia sufferers have many facets of the disease that only a small number of other disorders have to deal with.  Not only do we deal with the pain, we also have to deal with the lack of understanding by doctors, (some don’t even acknowledge it’s a disease in the first place) so-called friends (everyone has pain, yours is no different than mine, in fact mine is probably worse than yours is) and even family (if you just lost weight, or exercised more I’m sure you would have less pain).

On top of all that, the past month has been a very trying time for me.  I realized that I had more so-called friends in some circles than I did true friends, so for the sake of my self worth and self esteem, I’ve cut those people out of my life.  But doing so also cut out activities that gave me what I thought was a sense of purpose and enjoyment.  Now I realize that much of that purpose and enjoyment was my perception alone.  Much of the circle of friends in actuality did nothing for my well being nor the creation of any lasting friendships. On top of that, very little of the activity associated with the circle did anything to benefit my self esteem or self worth.  Instead, there were many times it was lowered.  So overall it was good that I did the cut, but I still grieve for the things that I thought I had.  And the fallout of this decision isn’t completely over yet either.

So why now?  Why put this all out in the open?  Because I need to.  I need to recognize the seriousness of the situation now as well as acknowledge what happened in the past. Because hopefully someone else might read this and also realize that there are sicknesses out there that don’t have anything to do with a diagnosis by a blood test, or are not sicknesses that are specific and measurable in any way.  Perhaps they will realize that mental health diseases ARE in fact actual sicknesses, and that they perhaps are prone to them as well. Perhaps they may just realize they need help.  Or, maybe they had never heard of TWLOHA and might stop over to their page to see what it’s all about and toss them a contribution or two for the good work that they do.

This is also another reminder to me of how we are in the care of the Gods, Goddesses and other spirits.  While some may call it coincidence that this friend contacted me with this particular run for this particular group, it means more than that to me. Because while I do believe we have free will, we also have those that look out for us. And those that look out for us and our wellbeing could either be on this planet with us or in other planes of existence and visit us from time to time.

No matter whether it is coincidence or fate, these are the reasons I needed to come out with this post.  I needed to acknowledge my past. I need to acknowledge where I am at now, and I need to recognize that I can easily fall into a situation that I need help to get out of. Now perhaps I can move forward a little easier.

And come April 14, I will be able to run for an organization that helps people who are so sick that they don’t even recognize how sick they are until they get better.

For more information on TWHOLA, you can go to their website.

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Poem: Think About It

 

You never realize how much you damage yourself
Until you take a hard look in a mirror
And finally ask yourself
What do I like?

You never realize how much you hurt yourself
Until you take a hard look in a mirror
And finally ask yourself
Who am I?

You never realize how unkind you are to yourself
Until you take a hard look in a mirror
And finally ask yourself
Am I enough?

Betcha your answers match mine.

 

 

 

 

The Work of Introspection

The past week or so has been rough for me again.  But part of it is at my own choosing.

A couple months ago I realized that there were some behaviors and beliefs I had that were bothering me, so I set out on some psychological and introspective work to figure out why I had them and how I could change them.   Now I feel like I’m a little over half way through that process for these specific behaviors, and it’s getting to the part where it becomes tedious as the process has me focus on deeper and deeper issues.  On most days when I do the work, I get very tired.  At worst, on those days I feel like I’ve been run over by a big, emotional truck.  Do this on top of a normal work day and you can see how many people would consider stopping because of the complexity.

But I still continue.  Because I know I will be a much better person on the other side of this process, not just for me, but for my spiritual community.

I have been told by several people that I do more work on myself from a spiritual and mental level than the average person.  In many ways I feel like I’ve had to; I had a lot to recover from over the years and doing this work was the only real way to allow me to become authentic to my true self.  But because I held true to the belief that I could do this work, and pushed myself through it over the years, not only have I become more true to myself, I have also raised my energy levels to the point where I can now be of more service to others.

Introspective psychological work is very important and it is a key part of spiritual work.  However, especially because of the significant conflict I see in the pagan community, I wonder if there is a lack of this introspective work being done today.  My belief of this stems from the myriad of posts from people willing to tell others how their thoughts are wrong; or how we are moving in a wrong direction, very rare are the posts that discuss any compromise or any discussion or offer understanding as to why there is such polarization.  We are too quick to sprout facts for or against issues, but never take the time to understand why someone else believes differently.  So instead of building bridges by reaching understanding, we become even more polarized; much like how politics has become.

Perhaps this lack of introspective work in the Pagan community isn’t on purpose.  Many people in today’s pagan communities find the internet or a book as their first teacher.  That isn’t a bad thing – the very nature of paganism offers significantly different beliefs and systems, and I believe everyone has a place under this umbrella of belief.  But how many ‘how to’ books speak about how shortcomings and outdated beliefs could affect your magical work?  Sure, many speak about discipline of the body through proper diet and exercise as well as discipline of the mind through meditation; those are very important things to know when following a spiritual path.  But knowing why we have those shortcomings, those bad habits and why we carry the issues we do are just as important.

Many spiritual teachers that I’ve discussed this subject with over the years have told me how they do incorporate some sort of psychological work into their student’s magical studies.  It only makes sense to do so.  We need to know ourselves before we can take possession of the energies of the world and wield it to that which we desire.  And by not doing that work to truly know yourself and yet progressing with more advanced studies and spell work, you leave yourself open to unintended consequences.  And those consequences won’t be just for you, but for those around you and the community as well.

Although psychological work is a huge benefit from a metaphysical perspective, it is also beneficial in other ways.  The understanding you receive about yourself from introspective work moves throughout every aspect of your life.  You become a more solid person, not only in magical understanding, but in your career, in your relationships, in your family and in the community.

At the very least, doing psychological work will allow you to better tolerate those that intentionally try to carve up the pagan community , as that type of work provides tools for yourself when dealing with those that intentionally divide.  But depending on how deep you decide to go with this work you might find the other, deeper benefits that come from it.  For example, thanks to the significant amount of work I have done over the years, I can now understand better where some of the negative beliefs that people have come from.  This allows me to respond with empathy and put up firm boundaries with those that wish to bring the challenge to a more of a personal attack.  At the very worst, I am protected, but what may also happen is that my empathic response could deescalate the situation.

An even bigger benefit that I feel I have achieved through my own psychological work is being able to see what specific energies are at play in different conversations and situations.  Perhaps it is simply the Lokian perspective to which I subscribe, but I feel like because I was willing to look into those things that were destructive in me and learn to work with and through them, I can now see that energy better in the world around me.  I have a deeper understanding of the creative and destructive energies around me; how they move, how they react to stimuli and how they balance themselves out.  This understanding has given me a bit of comfort in this polarized world, and I am very grateful for it.

So back to the grindstone of the introspective work I go.  And I don’t plan on stopping this particular work until I am at my goal of at least understanding where these particular issues came from and why I still carry them.  Yes, it’s hard.  But good things never come easy.  And there are too many benefits to me, the energies around me and for my community to even consider stopping.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

The Next Steps

Yesterday I talked about how I realized that I was falling into the polarized mess that became this election.  Today, I still feel just as upset about who it was that won, but not because of that polarization.

The path of polarization has only brought hate and fear.  I learned that lesson from my own upbringing, and I learned it again yesterday.   We can no longer afford to automatically assume that someone who looks or thinks different than ourselves is the enemy.  We can no longer afford to get into the same arguments over and over, and have elections be ‘us v them’ like they have been for the past 20 years. We need to find a better way, and I believe that part of that way is trying to understand each other, to teach and educate, and not respond so harshly to one another.

That being said, we still have to stand for our own values, and ensure that everyone…EVERYONE has the same basic human rights.

Today, now more than ever, I fear for those who look, think and act differently. I fear for those who were just starting to feel safe loving someone that society says they should not. I fear for those who choose to be what society says not to.   We, who look more like we ‘fit in’, need to do what we can to help.  We need to say some thing when we see injustice, and be prepared to act if necessary.

I remember a bumper sticker I saw once, “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.”  Yes, I am outraged.  And yes, I’m upset.  It’s going to be a long, hard 4 years.  And that’s why my next steps are still going to have to include backing off of my intake of media attention.  And I’m backing off and filtering my social media feeds as well.  With the exception of National Public Radio (NPR), which is the least biased media I can find, I need to do this.  And my best is that I’m not the only one who should consider this.  We are only going to burn ourselves out if we start scrutinizing every move our government makes from this point on.  There will be plenty to be outraged about.  But we sill need to live our lives as well.  We still need to give ourselves rest and allow ourselves to heal.  What good will we be to others if we are burnt out from hearing story after story that induces frustration and anger?  We have to choose our battles now, and choose wisely.

There will be people out there with a better constitution than I who will be more active than I.  That doesn’t mean what I’m doing isn’t enough.  It means they will do what it is that they can, and I will do what I can.  I’m already thinking about what I can change in my budget to allow for more money to go to organizations like the ACLU, and other organizations that support LGBT rights.  Where others cannot afford to help monetarily, perhaps I can.

Finally, and what perhaps may be the hardest, we still have to reach out to those who think differently than we do.  We still should not judge others immediately by what we think they mean.  We need to be respectful, and we need to let their actions tell us what they truly feel and believe.  If they don’t believe in the basic premise of human decency, of basic human rights, THEN we need to get to work.  But until then, we need to see more people as potential allies, because we are going to need every one of them we can get to step forward together.

When the Spiritual Obstacles get Real

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I have been away from my blog for the past two weeks, but it wasn’t because I wanted to be.  Instead, I got hit by the current round of the flu.  And this wasn’t just any flu.  This was the ‘not-keeping-anything-down-or-up-my-head-is-going-to-explode-wow-does-this-hurt’ flu.

I’m lucky in that the seasonal stuff rarely puts me down.  The last round of the flu I was hit with was years ago.  But when I do get hit with it, I go down hard.  Even now, two weeks after the initial onset, I’m still not fully back to what I think of as my ‘normal’ physical state.

Now I’ve realized however, that it wasn’t totally the flu that put me down for that long. I mean yes, I did have a virus that I had to get out of my body.  But the recovery time is taking a lot longer because of things that I am doing, or not doing.  In short, I’m not treating myself very well.

Because I’m still trying to cope with my limited amount of activity, my diet has gotten to the point where comfort food is almost always at the top of my choices (and goes without saying that the comfort food of my choosing is always the fat or sugar laden kind).  I’m still trying to do more than my body can handle as my current exercise levels do not take into account the significantly changing Michigan weather, nor do they always take into account the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.   I’m still not giving myself the significant rest that I need in order to fully recuperate from races and other activities that I push myself to do.   And last but not least, it’s become painfully obvious that I am dealing with another food intolerance that I have yet to figure out what to do about.

One of the biggest obstacles that come up for my clients when doing intuitive readings, or even just in discussion in pagan circles is the fact that we regularly are forced to be face to face with those things that shake us up.  These are things that come up again and again, even though we try to ignore them.  Or perhaps we try to push them away, thinking that we just ‘don’t have time’ to work on them right now.  We don’t even realize we are pushing them away because we don’t want to work on them.  Instead, we rationalize why it’s not a big deal to push it away just a little longer because you have more important things to deal with at the time.

As pagans, one of the biggest things we hear from others is that in order to grow, we must look into that which we are afraid of and overcome those things to the best of our ability.  It’s so common to hear now that it’s joked about a lot, especially when new people come and ask to learn, unaware of what they are truly getting themselves into.  So we go about our day, expecting these hard obstacles to be metaphysical.  Perhaps the challenge from the Gods will be to do a journey, perhaps to learn to build a ritual, or work with a divinatory tool.  No one ever expects the challenge to be something as mundane as dealing with your own shortcomings and weaknesses as a human being.

The Gods want us to look at all facets of our life.  And why wouldn’t they?  To overcome obstacles in every aspect in your life makes you a better tool for the Gods.  It allows you to better hear them and be able to more easily discern what it is that you think you hear vs what you want to hear.  Someone who works on all facets of their lives become more able to raise the energies of those around them.   You become more powerful just by recognizing the shortcoming in the first place and learning to find ways around it when you can.

Most of the time, those challenges and shortcomings that we have in other facets of our lives are HARD.  They are the ones that we try to hide from the most, because they tie to issues so very deep within us that it shakes our foundations to deal with them.  These aren’t the issues that take a week or two to fix.  These are issues that take years to tackle and deal with.  The Gods know this, and don’t expect a quick fix.  This isn’t going to be something a single spell is going to fix.  No one is going to be able to tell you what to do, and no one will take the burden from you.

This is when the spiritual obstacles become real.  This is when you will truly test your strength and your resolve.  Will you fall?  Absolutely.  I know I have.  Will you ever fully win?  Maybe not in this lifetime, but that isn’t the reason for the obstacle in the first place.  This is when you finally have the chance to prove everything that you have vowed to your Gods in the first place.  Do you truly believe you have the strength to overcome obstacles?  Do you truly love yourself and recognize that you are worthy?  Do you practice what you preach to others about tolerance and respect for others?

And the question that arises for me right now – Can I take care of myself just as much as I tell my clients to, and do I accept myself as I truly am in this life, or is all of it lip service?

I’m going to chew on that one for a while as I start making plans for an elimination diet and re-configuring my exercise and rest schedule….

Photo from Deviant Art

Feeling Through Things and Taking an Inventory

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Sometimes it seems like even though the path is clear, it still might feel like the right path

Recently I have looked through the posts that I have done on this blog and realized that some of my beliefs have changed since I first wrote them down.  Some of them are because of what other people have written in response.  Others have changed because I realized I feel differently now.

Feelings are hard things to reconcile sometimes.  I think some of the biggest obstacles we see in the Pagan community are due to feelings; Either we aren’t listening to our feelings and focusing too much on what other people say, or we think too much on a subject and try to outmaneuver others with our grasp of the material. Another thing we do is we get angry because someone else ‘dares’ to give themselves a specific label or calls out something they feel is an issue and it ruffles feathers – this I think being the biggest thing we see in the blogging community. The Pagan community, especially in the United States, is so broad and deep that no one person is going to hold sway over the entire belief system of a particular aspect.  We forget that when we feel like we are under attack because someone says we are ‘right wing’ or ‘left wing’ or whatever.  When in actuality, the label is actually fitting a very small group of people

I realized that in past posts I’ve not been as true to how I feel. Instead, I’ve tried to reason my way around what other stances are with my own knowledge of the subject.   I’ve tried to push my voice out there; to either agree or disagree with the argument du jour, and hope that enough people will get behind me and listen. Now however, I understand that the particular strength of debate is not in my wheelhouse, and probably will never be.  And thanks to that realization, I know now that what is most important for me is to look at the material presented, see if it feels right for me, and if it doesn’t, let it go.  I don’t need to form a rebuttal, nor do I need to agree.  Others who feel like it is their place can do that and get into the arguments.

So by not forming my own rebuttals, or putting my own significantly different point of view out there, I fall in with the biggest group of people in the online pagan community; the ones who either feel left out, or stuck in the middle.  They are the ones that can’t get 100% behind what someone else writes down in a post about their particular faith or religion. They also can’t get 100% behind what someone else writes in a rebuttal to the first post.  And since they usually don’t speak up, they then get roped in with the ‘you are not listening’ or the ‘you are ignoring the truth’ crowd, to which isn’t the case either.  One pagan blogger found this out the hard way, when in a comment on his Facebook post he classified the middle ground group as the “I’m going to ignore what you say and do it my own way” group.  He quickly was overrun with people hot under the collar regarding his comment.  He apologized, and said he would try to understand better before classifying one way or the other again.

Those who do not put their path out there for others to see are not lost.  Neither are those who choose not to defend their path when others perceive it under attack.  We watch, we listen, and we take that which is right for us and cast aside that which is not.  And I believe I can speak for many when I say that we have some very strong tools that can help guide us on the paths that we are on.  Our own communication with our Gods and our own instinct can go a long way in helping us figure out where it is that we are supposed to be to do the most good.

I am not a ‘lost soul’ that needs direction from someone else who knows the heathen histories better than I do.  I  am not someone that needs guidance from a human mentor, or teacher to teach me how to be a caretaker for the traditions that have been handed down to me by blood and by lineage.

I know now that I need to ‘feel’ my way through concepts and thoughts.  And I bet that I’m not the only one.  Others who may be feeling lost may need to do the same.  We cannot rely on the current group of published writers and founders of traditions to spoon feed us something that will fit our daily lives.  Yes we can listen to them, but that doesn’t mean we can take everything they say and become that which we are called to be.  It won’t fit.  I know that there are already countless traditions out there, but they will never fit everyone. Countless more are still needed – lineaged, solitary, eclectic, personal gnosis, political or no, it doesn’t matter.  We need to find our own places, and they may be places we have to make our own in some form or fashion.

This blog going forward is going to be making that place for myself.  I want to talk more about Chronic Illness Spirituality.  I want to talk about myself and how I fit into my own beliefs; and how my beliefs have changed from previous posts.  I want to talk about my successes, and I want to talk about my failures.  And perhaps others will comment and help shape what it is I practice.

These words describe things that have been within my heart for a while now.  But I didn’t have the courage to put them out in the open.  I’m hoping that this post will help me gain the courage to keep going.

 

 

 

Darkness

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Today driving into work I could really tell that we are creeping toward the darkest part of the year.  There was no sign of the sun the entire way in, and even now as I sit at my desk I still don’t see any signs of the sun peeping out yet.

I used to think of the dark as a scary place.  Often during this time of the year I suffered with seasonal depression, and struggled to just get simple tasks done.  In those days I would much rather crawl into bed and hide under the covers until yule was over.  Then at least I could recognize the fact that the days would start to get longer, and allow that fact to get me through my daily tasks.  I recognized back then that for me the sun was a guiding force, maybe not metaphysically, but its presence was calming, reassuring and gave me a time frame to go by in order to get tasks done.  But when the days were so short that I ended up waking to darkness, working, and going home in darkness, it was a significant struggle because I didn’t see that guide in my life.

Now however, things have changed.  I recognize that darkness is not something to be feared.  But it is something that is different and must be explored.

We cannot have light without the darkness.  And while darkness brings a time to rest, it also brings a time where we must change our patterns.  The sun serves as a guide to the day, so since we don’t have the sun, we must strive to look within ourselves to find the guidance to carry us through.  Since the darkness also brings cold, we must seek warmth, whether it be the warmth within ourselves, the warmth that comes from being kind or just the warmth of extra blankets on the bed.  Darkness is meant to be a struggle.  It’s meant to be a time where you have to reach deep within your resolve to get through the daily duties of the day.

Darkness is also an excellent time to look within ourselves and let go of the things that no longer serve us.  To continue to carry those things around simply means that you exert more energy.  Why not cast out that which you no longer need?  The thought of changing patterns and recognizing unhealthy truths is scary in itself.  Yet holding onto those things may be stopping you from figuring out what it is you really want, or it may be dragging you down so that you cannot reach the goal that you have for yourself.  At the very least, accepting those pieces of you that you aren’t as comfortable with will go a long way in allowing you to move forward.

For me, this year I am learning to embrace the darkness itself.  I want to learn to live within the darkness just as comfortably as I live within the daylight.  To me, that means I need to recognize I am more human than I allow myself to think I am.  I am not the perfect shape, by any means.  I have what society classifies as ‘negative’ feelings, and I’m allowed to have them.  And I recognize that I need to accept what society may classify as my shortcomings as they are.  And although some of those things may need to change in the future, for now just accepting them as a piece of me is enough.

Photo from Deviant Art