It’s OK to not be one side or the other

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My greatest challenges in learning to form my own opinions have happened this week.  With all of the events happening right here and now, many of my friends have started to post about what ‘side’ they are taking.  Memes are littering my Facebook feed that alter from making me shocked to making me upset, and occasionally I even agree and ‘like’ one of them.

But the biggest challenge has been when I post one of my own.  Recently, it was one regarding the state of education in the United States (yep, it’s in a bad state).  And immediately a Facebook friend took me to task for being ‘anti teacher’.

Now the meme had nothing to do with teachers.  Instead, it said that the education system needs to be fixed to help straighten out the mess that would ensure someone like Donald Trump would be voted in as a political candidate.  But immediately, the “us” vs. “them” started.  And even though I started giving examples of why I agreed that the teachers weren’t always the problem, I walked away from the posts being frustrated.

There is a lot of bias in this world.  Everyone has a bias – there is no getting around that.  If you think, you have opinions, and you judge input coming into you by those opinions.  And in today’s world where the media is for whatever reason focused on the negativity, or is biased based on the needs of the media source, opinions have become very sharp.  People expect you to either be with them, or against them in your beliefs.  The common ground has shrunken significantly, like I experienced with my teaching Facebook friend.

This environment of acute opinions and taking sides has caused significant harm, and I think there is a lot more harm that people don’t realize that is being done.  A whole generation of young people are watching what we do; watching social media and seeing the comments and arguments.  They are watching Fox News and learning from their parents how to be on the ‘right’ side, and to hate the ‘wrong’ side.

I especially have felt the harm caused by being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  When I was growing up, I was always questioning things.  I won’t go into details, as I’ve had past posts that have had examples, at least from a religion standpoint.  But realize that same frame of mind my family had was not just limited to religious beliefs.  If I had questions about a specific preference, why someone dressed the way they did, why I grew up in a specific school or anything that might sound like it challenged my parent’s comfort zone of beliefs, I was slapped down.   ‘Because that was just the way we ARE,’ they would say.  ‘Because we don’t associate with THEM,’ was another one.   And my favorite, ‘Because that is what we BELIEVE.’

Well, Why DO we believe that?  No answer.  Or that is when I would be sent away, sent to my room, or the subject would be changed.

It’s only now when I’m 41 years old that I realize the problems that upbringing had on me.  Not that I share those limiting opinions, but because I was never ALLOWED to ASK questions, or VOICE MY OWN opinion.  Because I got slapped down, I never was able to learn to talk with someone of a differing opinion and understand why they were that way.  I was never able to understand and speak to why I believe the way I do.

Fast forward to the current time.  Now I deal with the fact that I am actually afraid to put my opinions out there because others would not approve, and even worse, belittle me for what I believe.   That’s what I got when I was young after all!

I don’t know if it is because of all the ways I was ‘slapped down’ as a child, or if it is because of being the type of person I am now, but there is one very big thing that I am trying to do as I heal from this tidbit of abuse I suffered growing up.  And that very big thing is trying to be understanding.

People can have opinions and beliefs that they stick to.  They can fiercely defend those beliefs all they want.  But they have to accept that others may have a differing opinion, and that they can agree and disagree on the smaller points within those issues without losing face.

  • You can accept the rights of gun owners and still want stricter legislation.
  • You can accept that there is a significant problem with the treatment of minorities in this country and still believe that there are good police that do their job every single day.
  • You can be a democrat and recognize that some republicans actually have good ideas.
  • You can recognize that we have a lot of good teachers in our education system. And we have some really putrid ones too.
  • You can accept the fact the black lives matter movement has some serious points of contention and not be racist.
  • You can recognize that the terms Pagan and Heathen have personal meanings for different people.
  • You can be a happy christian and understand that other people have other religions that are different than you and still fulfill the same purpose as you.

Where I will draw the line however is when someone deliberately doesn’t get their facts straight.  If you aren’t actively seeking out media that has as minimal bias as possible; if you are getting your facts from ‘wehategunowners.com’, or ‘liberalmediasucks.com’ or whatever sites that are out there that focus on one side or the other, then there is a serious issue.  We have to be willing to look at other people’s beliefs and understand why they have them.  And the people we are trying to understand have to be willing to show what they believe without fear that they will be mocked, and have the courage to put their belief out there with the possibility that better facts may come along that don’t support it anymore.  And when those facts come along, we all have to have the strength to recognize the stance is outdated, and it’s time to move on.

So one thing I can say from my upbringing, at least I understand from it now what not to be.  I don’t want to be someone who believes something because that is what they were told.  I want the facts, I want to understand the issues.

It’s hard to be the one to reach out and try to ask those questions.  It’s taking me a lot of courage to do so, especially because I am so very afraid I’m going to be punished for it still.  But I believe it is something that needs to be done.  And perhaps someone will see my actions and try to start thinking the same way.

Photo from Deviant Art

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Dealing With Negative Emotions

I used to think that negative emotions were flaws.  When I got angry, I used to think that it meant that there was something wrong with me.

There is a great example of this going on right now, and it’s the reason why I started writing this post.  Right now at my work, I’m dealing with associates loitering at my desk.  You see, my work area butts up against a very popular manager’s office.  He is a good man, but he also is manager of one of the busiest departments in the company.  So he frequently has people that need to speak with him….MANY people that need to speak with him.  And frequently this means there is a line of people waiting their turn to talk to said manager.  Some of those people waiting in said line loiter around my work area, look at my work screen, check out what I am doing work-wise and get really nosy.

It gets irritating.  And I’m realizing more and more that it’s OK that I feel that way.  More importantly, it’s OK when I get angry about it.

One concept that is preached in some new age movements is the concept that if someone or something bothers you to the point of anger, it means there is an area within you that needs work.  Further, the person that is bothering you is doing you a favor by showing you a weakness within yourself.

This is a concept that I’ve struggled with this concept for a long time.  Like other new age concepts I have found a grain of truth to this, however, taken into extreme, this concept ends up hurting the person who tries to obey it each and every time they have a negative emotion.

The practice of seeking out what bothers you about an issue is good when you are dealing with some things, especially some of the issues that are out there today.  I firmly believe that lots of the emotion tied to issues today are because there are too many people out there that don’t deal with their own issues.  Sometimes it’s because they realize subconsciously that position they have is based on faulty thought, instead it’s a stance that they just ‘feel’ is right without looking at the real evidence for or against the issue.  Maybe the issue just hits too close to home to a traumatic event for the person that they need to deal with before they can have a clear head about the issue.  Whatever the cause, I believe our task when this happens is to investigate further, figure out the root cause of that emotion, and learn to deal with our own personal baggage so that we can see the more clearly.

Saying that, I do believe there are things that must be vetted prior to doing this work on sensitive issues.  First, you need to be in a position of safety to deal with those issues that might be related to a traumatic event.  And second, you need to know when to stop.

I didn’t know when to stop.

If I was upset about the weather, I considered it my flaw.  I considered it a flaw if I got mad because I had to re-explain something to someone at work for the 3rd time because they refused to listen the first two.  I considered it a flaw if I was angry at someone for interrupting me when I was deep in the middle of very highly detailed work.  I forgot those things were OK; and that I am only human.

As humans, we will never be perfect.  We will never be without flaws, no matter how much we push forward and deal with our baggage.  We will never be able to always say the right things.  We will never be able to always handle every emotion that we have.  We can work to do what we can with those emotions, but we need to realize that we are never going to stop having the occasional negative emotion, and that is OK.  I had to allow that for myself.

Once I realized that, it became much easier to realize how much I truly was beating myself up because I couldn’t control each and every emotion that I had.  I had done my work (and still do it when I realize there is something I can fix), but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be pissed at the non-management schmuck who decides to be nosy and see if I’m really doing the work that I am paid to do, or if I’m just playing on Facebook or cruising the internet.

The other thing I realized is that anger can be awesome when you need to harness energy.  I’ve done it training for races already, where I get mad and push through that last mile before I quit.  And I’m learning to do it with my fibromyalgia as well.  Sometimes you just need to get mad in order to get through the flare that hits during the work day.

I’m still playing with this, but I have to say it finally feels good to allow myself to feel the so called ‘negative’ emotions.  They are a part of me, and since I have accepted that I have felt more genuine than I have in years. Moreover, since this realization, I’ve been able to dismiss that which I do not need a lot easier as well and look forward to where else this realization will take me.

The Meaning and Use of Chronic Illness

Today I saw a post by Mainer74 about how he is dealing with his chronic pain and the lessons that it has provided him.   I am very thankful for this thoughts on this subject.   Information on this subject is needed now more than ever.  I also have been writing my own posts about it in an attempt to put into words how I deal with my pain, why I think I have this pain and to find others like me who are striving to live in spite of it.

Too many people think that their lives are over after they are diagnosed with pain.  Too many people go with what their physicians tell them, jump on the first support group website to see all of the agony and despair that others with chronic pain have and jump on the bandwagon of taking a daily dose of an opioid pain medication is their only choice to live anymore.

I’m here to say it isn’t.  I think there is a lot to learn from from the chronic illnesses that we have to deal with in this lifetime, and I’m not just talking ones that cause chronic pain and fatigue.  Mental illnesses, cancers, multiple sclerosis and many others can be teachers to show us more of who and what we are.  Learning why the illness came into our life, learning how to live with the illness and learning how to move forward and thrive again are all things that make us more authentic to ourselves, and makes us closer to our Gods.

In Mainer’s post, he speaks with how he deals with his chronic pain.  I do agree with a lot of what Mainer said, and I disagree with other pieces of it. But that’s OK; because what he is doing is working for him, and that is all that really matters.  What I think he and I can both agree on is that we are no longer victims of these illnesses.  We accept they have happened, and we are both determined to live our lives to the fullest.

So how do you live your life to the fullest with a chronic illness?  First, as I talked about in my previous post, you need to remember that you did not cause this illness.  There are way too many variables in this world that can cause any number of sicknesses.  We eat food laced with chemicals, we breathe air full of different chemicals, and we cannot get away even more chemicals in the buildings, in the vehicles on the street and even in the clothes we wear.  Whether it was a multitude of things that caused your illness or just a few things, it doesn’t matter.

Mainer talks about becoming submissive to the pain.  I don’t know if I agree with the choice of word, but perhaps the sentiment is the same.  I don’t submit to my pain and fatigue, but I do accept it.  These things are a part of my life.  But yet, they are not a part of me.  My actions, not the pain, makes me who I am.  The Gods give us obstacles to make us grow, and maladies affecting the body are no different.  I’ll be the first to say that Chronic pain and fatigue, no matter the reason we have them, are hideous obstacles.  But they can be overcome, and if you let them, they can transform you.

So how do we accept the pain?  Mainer discussed was how he had a meditation for submitting to his pain and learning to move on in spite of it. Someone could look at the meditation he proposed and be overwhelmed with what he suggests to do.  But his belief and the meditation he gave in his post isn’t very far from the truth.  Psychologically, one could say that he is being mindful of his pain, and that mindfulness of pain can go a long way to understanding and helping deal with chronic pain.  This is an area that is getting a lot of press in psychology and mindfulness circles.  There are countless articles on the web about this very subject.  Some of my favorites include how you can meet pain with awareness, much like Mainer’s meditation.  Another is an article about how the brain can change the experience of pain.  To go further, here are two published articles on meditating with pain and additional mindfulness exercises that can help someone learn to work with pain better.  So what Mainer is essentially doing has been studied and proven to be effective.  And what is even better is that he is showing the spiritual side of pain by modifying that concept based on your belief system to the same benefit.

From a physical standpoint, there are countless other things that can be done to deal with these illnesses.  Those of us who have to deal with illness every day can learn what our limits are, and sense when we are starting to reach them.  We need to learn when we can push beyond those limits, and when we cannot.  We have to learn when we need extra self care, when we could use the various treatments that are available to us.

Metaphysically, with magic and the spiritual awareness that we as pagans have, along with messages from our guides are also a huge benefit.  May times the pain, or pushing through that pain to complete a task, can become offerings to the Gods.   In working with my chronic illnesses in this way, I have also recognized that I am more aware of my surroundings metaphysically.  I truly have a foot in both worlds, and use that to my advantage. By working with these illnesses, you learn to see the hurt in the world through a different set of eyes, and recognize how many times there is a greater need for understanding when dealing with others, their thoughts and their emotions.  This is what I mean by allowing the illness to transform you.  You must learn to strip yourself of the things that you carry but are no longer needed.  You learn to recognize what the true needs of your life are, and start to align yourself with those needs.

My biggest frustration is that there are people that I see with chronic illnesses who think that they have no choice but to depend on opioids to have a life.  This past weekend I encountered a woman doing just that.  She was so high that she was slurring her words, repeating half sentences (she never did get a full sentence out) and could could barely walk straight.  I wish I could say that she was a rare case, but unfortunately it is not.  But it’s not always the fault of the patient.  The original treatment plan for chronic pain was to prescribe high dosages of pain medications.   In time, higher and higher dosages are required as the body gets used to the lower dosages.   Now in today’s day and age, we are realizing that this treatment plan wasn’t such a good idea.  So some doctors are trying to take away painkillers, while others demean and demoralize those who were originally prescribed the painkillers in the first place.  The entire situation has caused many in the chronic pain community to feel like victims – they cannot get the treatment they have been told is the only way to treat this disease, and if they do get it, they are treated like a junkie.

It is my hope that posts like Mainer’s and mine help to spur conversation on how we can reclaim our life and learn to grow in spite of these illnesses.  They aren’t going away anytime soon, and the old ways of dealing with them are making things worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take A Rest…

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If you have been following, you will have noticed that I’ve been doing a significant amount of shadow work lately.  It’s all things that I have been working on for a long time, and it seemed like all at once everything started fitting in place, helping me realize what I need to deal with.

So each day, on top of pushing through my daily mundane duties, I’ve given a lot of time to that shadow work, that self reflection and that necessary journeying and spell work.

And it’s been exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining.  This is stuff I’ve been trying to work through for a heck of a long time.  And seeing it finally moving is something I am quite happy about.  But now I feel like the Gods are giving me another order that I’m having an even harder time trying to obey.

It’s time to rest.

Wait…What?

I’m not done yet!  There is still a lot of ground to cover!  I’ve only figured out a small fraction of what I want to figure out!  There is a lot more for me to learn yet!  I don’t think I have things in a position to allow me to rest yet!  I’m afraid I’ll forget something, or pick that habit back up!  I haven’t made enough progress!

What is funny about all of this is that I get a lot of my pagan friends that laugh when they hear I’m working with Odin, The Medicine Pipe and Loki, and joke about all of the work and things that they are going to make me face.  And the thing is, I don’t understand the joke sometimes.  I want to face these things.  I want to go into the place that that I fear, because I know I will be a better person on the other side.  I want to fight those demons lurking in the darkness, because I will gain strength for doing so.

It’s the resting that I’m not so good at.

So for me, the joke is perhaps the opposite.

This weekend is my birthday weekend, and although it’s not a rounded number (that was last year)  I am going to do my best to get some rest in.  there will be 8 hours in the car, but there will also be an extra day off work.

Something tells me I’m not the only one to do this.  Something tells me someone else out there needs to rest more often than they do now.  So if I can do this, I expect those needing some rest to do it as well.

And I think I can do this.  Maybe.

 

Asking for Forgiveness

I reconnected with an old boyfriend on Facebook a couple weeks ago.  This is a guy I dated about 20 years ago.  Normally, I wouldn’t do that, but for this particular relationship, it meant something for me to reconnect to him.

Anyways, 20 years pass, and he goes his own way,  different than I expected him to take.  But it was his way, and that is all that matters.  Now, although he has had significant struggles, he’s much wiser, much stronger and more sure of himself than I have ever seen him to be.

He messaged me today to thank me for introducing him to paganism.  I said he was welcome, and then I apologized to him.

I apologized to him because I recognized that even though I was established in my local pagan community at the time, I was still very much a child and didn’t know what I was really doing on an emotional level.

I apologized to him because of things that I now know are hurts I was dealt as a child were things that were significantly clouding my judgement.

I apologized to him for any hurt that I caused him while we were together, because of my childish nature, and because I just didn’t know any better.

I am thankful for his response.  It was, “Forgiven, forgotten, friendship extends it’s hand once again.  We both had to grow a bit more.”

One down.  Maybe a significant number of people more to go.

I didn’t  recognize until about 14 years ago that my actions and reactions had anything to do with the fact that I had suffered abuses as a child, that I had not been fully safe and allowed to grow up, or that my view of the world was significantly skewed.  And I also didn’t recognize that the skewed views I had affected me from a spiritual perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot about Wicca and was (and still am) pretty proud of what I had accomplished.  I still formed and ran my own coven for awhile, until I recognized that it was time for me to let it fly on its own.  I still helped to develop a pagan study group at a local college. And I still published a pagan article  here and there.  And I am proud of the work that I accomplished despite my emotional shortcomings.

I however, know there was collateral damage along the way.  I damaged friendships, I acted in ways that I didn’t fully understand.  And even though there was no malice, it caused hard feelings.

Looking back, I can’t even begin to start figuring out each and every individual action.  I can’t begin to understand who it was that I hurt, when I hurt them, how many people I hurt, or how many times.  But it is important for me to acknowledge what has been done.

I don’t believe that the actions and reactions from that time fully under my control, so while I did the action, much of it was not purposeful.  I was pretty damaged, and I fully admit that.  And today, I still have some more of that damage to heal from.  But as situations come up, like with my ex, I will do my best to understand, accept, apologize, heal and move on.

The Peeling of the Onion

onion_by_scheinbar.jpgAnyone who has ever cooked in their life has (most likely) peeled and cut an onion.  And if they are like me and don’t cook that much, they’ve peeled some pretty old onions.  You know the type I’m talking about.  It’s the, ‘It’s-my-time-to-make-dinner-and-oh-crap-the-only-onion-we-have-is growing’ type.  You don’t want to go run out to the store and buy new onions.  So you make due, and cut into it, and recognize very quickly that it is an onion..

a very STRONG SMELLING onion.  And there are lots of nasty bits in the onion.  But you peel back the layers anyway, eyes watering, feeling like you are going to sneeze any moment, and get out of it what you can.

This week, my spiritual work has been a lot like that onion.  It isn’t because I neglected it.  Nor did I forget about it.  But instead, being on the hot seat was key for me to find the damn onion in the first place.  And even then all it did was provide the road map to where the onion was at; it didn’t even present me the onion to start my work.

But once you have found it, I think the harder work begins.  What are the layers?  Are they had habits that you are recognizing are causing more harm than good?  Are they things you have to heal from?  Or in my case, are they realizations about your life that you have been trying to deal with for years, and are just now able to acknowledge with words?

Each issue is a layer of that onion.  For me, the layers sort of look like this –
– I was never allowed to have any opinions of my own growing up (Peel it back)
– I was forced to conform to the way my family thought and felt (peel…)
– I had roles I had to conform to – Mary’s daughter, Margaret’s granddaughter, A member of THE Christian extended family known well in the area I lived, the sisters who sing so well together…(peel, peel and more peeling…)
– I never felt safe having my own opinion (peel…)
– Because I never felt safe, I never learned to voice those opinions (peel…)
– At forty years old I’m finally learning what it feels like to put words together to say how I really feel (peel)..

Every one of those realizations pull more off of your own identity and who you think you really are.  Your fears are realized to the point where they can start falling away on their own.  Your roles are identified and cataloged in order to determine whether or not they are still needed.  You realize your shortcomings, and your strengths.

By the end, there is nothing left but you.  And you feel more naked than you have ever felt in your life.  You have no shields, nothing to protect you, and that thought is liberating and downright scary all at the same time.

I feel like in some ways I have nothing left.  I am broken down, only to be built back up.  That building back up process cannot come fast enough for me, but I know it is not going to be very fast at all.  I need to understand these layers.  I need to understand why they are there, to grieve and heal, to get angry and to fully let go of what it is I don’t need anymore.  But then comes the biggest fear – the fear of failing, not learning what you need and having to do this all over again.

I supposed in a way it’s my very own spring cleaning.   But where I would usually work like heck to get it over with, this time I am going at the speed of my Gods.

I’d say let the examination begin, but it already has.  I’d say hopefully I won’t cry at this onion this time, but that already happened as well.  And it was all meant to be that way.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that when you reach for your Gods and want their attention that it is an easy process.  They will accept your service, and they will pull you apart, layer by layer, in order to make you into a truer image of yourself.

If you chose this, I pray your onion doesn’t stink as much as mine.

Photo from deviant art