Ordeal Results (Confession Time Follow Up)

In my last post spoke about ordeals, and the fact that I was going through one.  So I thought it only fair to write a post about what has happened and what I learned from the said ordeal.

 

What’s an Ordeal Again?
In any spiritual or religious tradition, there are times when you are tested.  My belief is because we are having a human experience in a physical world, there will always be tests of some sort.  I think that each struggle we have in this human existence is here to help us learn and to become stronger both physically in this world, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Many ordeals won’t have a clear-cut beginning, nor ending.  My recent ordeal was a mixture of my own doing (going to graduate school, choosing to work with Odin in more of a fashion he likes), the environment (the hubby losing his job) and various other micro decisions that I have made over the course of my life.  A lot of times a physical ordeal feels like it just sort of happens.  You can’t point to an exact issue or decision, but all of a sudden, you think you are in one, and sure enough, you get a sign that says exactly that.

Spiritual ordeals can also be initiations, as I mentioned in my previous post.  And yes, I’ve had several of these over the course of my spiritual progression.  But what is interesting and what I tried to explain in my previous post is that most ordeals are actually physical; in 25 years of being an active pagan (‘active’ being defined as in one who was tied to some sort of community and came out as ‘pagan’ to friends and family) I can think of less than 10 instances that were actual all-out initiations that could be considered ordeals.  But those are a lot of what we hear about in the pagan community.  They are the ones that sound awesome and dramatic.  It’s neat to talk about the weekend retreat where you became an initiate of something or was accepted into a specific group or underwent a rite.  It’s not as fun to talk about the day-in / day-out grind of doing additional disciplines because you promised you would do them in exchange for certain knowledge (or because you are required to do so as a priest/ess or devotee…).

 

Darkest Before the Dawn
I also want to note something here about the worst part of an ordeal – just before it is over.  There were days in November where I was screaming at Odin.  Literally.  Here I was, doing all this work in his name, and he couldn’t even make sure I had a stable financial base so that I could focus all my energy on what he wanted me to do in the first place.  I felt left behind, alone and scared, and wanted to make sure he knew all of it was his fault.

At that point, I was angry, tired, frustrated and damn near broken.  Down in every possible way but not quite out.  Incrementally, in very slow, deliberate moves that made baby steps looked like a freaking sprint, I was moving.  And that is another thing about ordeals; you think you are going to break, but inevitably, you don’t.  You break just enough to release that which you needed to release.  In the darkness, you find a faith in yourself that you never had before.  It’s a faith that tells you that you CAN make it another day, and somehow you keep going.

It was after the worst of this that I reached out to another of Odin’s claimed to see if his experiences with the old man were anything like I was experiencing.  It turns out they were, and he chastised me for not asking for help sooner.  And that is a very good point.  I didn’t ask for help.  I probably should have, even though I knew there were lots of points about my ordeals that I had to get through myself.  But even having an ear to bend about the frustrations thrust upon those who work for someone that is at times called “You Bastard…” would have helped.  A lot.  So I encourage those who think they are going through ordeals to reach out – even if it’s online – to fellow devotees.  It will help you understand what exactly you are going through as well as make you feel better about the tasks at hand.

 

After the Ordeal Is Over
There are many times when I have undergone spiritual ordeals that I was literally exhausted both mentally and physically, but at the same time, I was emotionally pumped.  Sometimes when this happens the only thing you want to do is sleep, yet that is the last thing that crosses your mind.  It’s a very weird state to be in. (A fun state sometimes but a very weird state nonetheless.)

The physical ordeals are much different, especially because of the autoimmune crap that is fibromyalgia and other maladies I deal with on a daily basis.  Most of the ordeals were over in mid-December (at least the largest portion of it).  But even now we are almost to mid-January and in many ways, I am still exhausted as I piece together the outputs of my struggles.

My personal ordeal also has me in a bit of a state of ‘weirdness’.  Although a large portion of things in this ordeal are done,  I still have more classwork to do.  The hubby’s new job has meant finances have been a large question mark for three months, only to be (hopefully!) settled in February when he starts getting regular paychecks.  And now I need to contend with creating new boundaries for those that have changed their reactions toward me because of the changes I have made in myself.

But even though that weirdness is there, I recognize I’ve made some huge advances.  My trust in myself and my skill levels have expanded.  I also know a granthi has been undone.  A granthi is a Sanskrit term for a knotted area of energy in the body that blocks the flow of potential.  Now that this phase of my ordeal is over, I know where this particular granthi came from, why it was there, and what happened to make it go away.  I now also recognize that this area needs special care in word and deed to ensure that the granthi does not come back.

And because of that change in my potential, there are now more requests being made of me.  Recently I was asked (repeatedly, because I said no first) to do what I call a ‘deity reading’ for another pagan that scared the hell out of me.  A deity reading is when a client is asking specifically about what a deity requests of them.  I don’t like doing them because it means I’m speaking FOR that particular God and didn’t trust my gifts enough to be able to clearly relay the message.  Yet a couple days ago I found myself in that position.  And now I know I was meant to be there; I was meant to give the advice I did because once I started the message flowed very well.  There are other advancements as well, but I expect to be writing more about those in time when I finally have words to express them.

So again, I put this all out here again for others to see for the specific reason of letting others know what an ordeal actually looks like, what the intentions are, what can be understood about them and to help people recognize that they are not alone in going through them. It is also for me; to document where I’ve been.  Perhaps I’ll come back to this post in a year and recognize so much more that happened during this ordeal.  Because that is part of their nature as well; the ripples in the psyche made during one of these experiences also go through every aspect of your life.

If someone reads this and thinks they are going through one, I hope they will reach out if they feel they need to so they recognize that they are not alone.  Paganism may be a very personal religious path, but it’s not one in a vacuum, and many times the ordeals are shared.  But you won’t know unless you reach out.

 

 

Working Through Ordeals (Confession Time)

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This is one of those posts that I don’t want to write, but I need to write (and have been asked to write). And so, I’m going to write it.  But note that this is under duress.

You see, I am going through an ordeal right now.  I have been for months.  And the fact of the matter is, it’s of my own choosing.

Well, kind of.

I am choosing to write this for a couple of reasons.   I think the biggest reason is that I need to finally come out and say what the heck is going on in my life, and why I haven’t blogged in two months.  But it’s also because I don’t know if many understand what a spiritual ordeal actually is, and what it means to go through one.  I’ve seen many people focus on the spiritual aspects of a goal and not recognize the ordeal that needs to be gone through in order to achieve that goal.  Or, people only focus on the spiritual aspects of the ordeal only to deny the practical disciplines that need to go along to achieve the spiritual goal.  That is one of the reasons why I’m being asked to share this right now.  To use the well-worn phrase, be careful what you wish for people.

Let’s get some clarifications out of the way before I go further.

 

The Background of an Ordeal
First, what exactly is an ordeal?  The definition of an ordeal, through a very quick Google search, is, “a painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one.”  Now, with that definition, why the hell would anyone want to go through one?

The quickest answer I can come up with is to become stronger.  Or, to become wiser.  And, well, to live.  We actually are going through ordeals almost daily in this world.  Sickness, trauma, arguments with others and many other things can be considered ordeals.   For a while, there was a meme going around that said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Those battles spoken about in that meme are other people’s ordeals.

So my belief about these ordeals is that since we have to go through them anyway, why not learn from them?  Why not try to approach the ordeal in a manner that will help you further your understanding about a specific topic or issue? Or even better, how can the ordeal help you work on uncovering and dealing with issues that you carry?  For me, that is a very specific point of my spirituality; to use ordeals to better understand the world around me and for my own self-improvement.

So as someone who gravitates toward a self-centered concept of paganism, who only 6ish years ago found deities that she agreed to work with directly after a multi-year hiatus, and is starting to find her voice again in the community, it makes perfect sense that my mundane ordeals would have a spiritual aspect to them.  It also makes sense because I am doing intimate work with specific Gods.  And those specific Gods expect that you clean up after yourself and work towards a common goal.

These ordeals are a blessing in that when you are done you will be absolutely shocked at the mountains you have climbed, the struggles you have gotten through, and that you did all of the things that you thought you couldn’t do.

Ordeals are also a curse because you are about to go climb those mountains, work through multiple struggles, and do all of the things you think you can’t do right now.

It seems like many pagans today seem to equate ordeals with spirituality only; as in, they only focus on spiritual struggles (initiations, rites, and other journeys)  and assume they are the only path for spiritual growth.  Some even focus so hard on the spiritual aspects that they literally are hiding from the physical issues of their life (which in fact, are their actual ordeals).  Still, others may focus on the physical as not an ordeal, but something else.  They may, in fact, give the physical issue a spiritual cause (e.g., someone is out to get me).  That is where discernment is absolutely necessary to understand what is really going on.  In my case, yes, there are other reasons why things are happening in my life right now, and I recognize the cause and effect of those reasons. But at the same time, I know my issues are part of an ordeal and that this ordeal is physical and spiritual in nature.  I say that because I see the results of the struggle that I am in. There are both physical and spiritual benefits to this to this struggle.  That in my mind classifies this as an ordeal.

 

The Path to My Own Ordeal
Looking at things as ordeals comes naturally to me.  Long story short, I’ve set myself on a path of reinventing myself once before, and although it took some time, I’ve come through those struggles beautifully.  I’m proud of what I have accomplished, and because of those accomplishments, I’ve caught the eye of a certain one-eyed deity.

Odin is very much a deity that appreciates people dealing with their own crap.  And I’ve done several cycles of dealing with my own crap already – once doing a full reinvention of myself, and multiple times in overcoming significant obstacles and fears.  Looking at that resume that I am so proud of, it makes sense that he’d want me to be working for him (to put it bluntly).

Other than following through with the self-improvement, I wonder if Odin also works with me because I have developed skills to handle new ordeals.  I’m disciplined (for the most part), and I have the drive to push myself forward, even sometimes at the expense of overdoing it and hurting myself.  I’m also stubborn as all hell and if it meant proving a point, I will take on detrimental actions that in the end will cause more trauma than it will likely be worth (but I proved my point, dammit).  So there are lots of pluses and minuses here.

Anyway, Odin comes along, and I agree to work with him.  And in the span of a year and a half, I start a new spiritual training program, decide to go to graduate school, find a degree program that matches my interests, start it, take on a larger role in my work life, and find my intuitive readings becoming more and more accurate and specific as well as going into deeper spiritual issues.  And I often find myself being drawn to do specific readings at specific times, giving the client “exactly what they needed to hear” (their words, not mine).

And if that wasn’t enough, the energy of my household raised to the point where my husband started feeling it and started his own road of improvement.  And just as he started his own training, he was laid off of his work (which I think was all part of his spiritual development as well).  Overall, being laid off will be a good thing – he was being underutilized and there was no room for growth at his former employer – but the finding of a job has added a level of deep stress for him and I to both be dealing with.

Again, you can see spiritual ordeals are not just spiritual tasks.  You face things that you are holding onto that are detrimental to your growth.  You go out of your comfort zone, taking risks you wouldn’t normally take, and most importantly, changing your habits and mindset to allow for more understanding and compassion for yourself and others.  After all, ordeals are meant to open yourself up for a clearer link to the spirits and to the Gods, and sometimes it’s shadow work that is keeping you from them.  Shadow work cannot be cleared up by spirituality alone.

 

Now Onto My Confession
To put it bluntly, this ordeal is kicking my ass.

It’s taking me places in my psyche that I haven’t talked about, haven’t dealt with before, and couldn’t even define with words until a month or so ago.

I now realize that I have a very, very deep animosity for myself, my intelligence, my skills, and my abilities.  I believe this animosity to be a learned behavior, but also a congenital one.  And that animosity has influenced my life in ways I’m still realizing.  It’s one of the reasons why I (still) cope with overeating.  It’s the reason why I haven’t followed through in some of my past self-improvement endeavors, and it’s the reason why I sometimes push myself so hard I break my own body.  There are other things I’ve realized too; other things that I haven’t really articulated before (and if I tried to explain, I’d take up two or three more blog posts just to describe), but the animosity is the one I’ll confess now as it is front and center in my head.

But now that I know it is there, the ‘mental tape’ that was buried for so long just reinforcing self-defeating behavior is now something I hear loudly being played over and over again as I continue to step out of my comfort zone.   While I’m doing homework in my class (that I have to pass with a B or better just to stay in the program – no pressure) I am constantly fighting it beat me up and telling me I will fail.  I get tapes at work telling me I’m not good at my job and will be laid off soon, making me lose my house and my security because we have no other cash flow.  At home, I’m not doing enough, I’m ugly, I’m fat, and I’ll never be any healthier.

Why are there multiple tapes going on?  Because this animosity was buried so deep it has become a habit, so just acknowledging that it is there isn’t going to stop it.  I need to figure out and establish new tapes to replace the ones that keep flooding my brain, and ultimately, create new habits that will replace the bad ones.

So while I’m dealing with all of the uncomfortable feelings of this animosity, and with the insecurity of my current financial status, I have other questions about the success of this endeavor in my head.  What if I do succeed in getting rid of this animosity?  What then?  Who will I be?  What will replace it?  What will my comfort zone look like?  Will it be a place I want to be, or am I asking for something I really don’t want and don’t know it?

And from a spiritual perspective, the question about why Odin is pushing me to do this is also at the forefront of my mind.  Don’t forget, Odin is a God of manipulation as well.  He does things for reasons we won’t always understand.  And that manipulation may not have any right or wrong to it; in his mind, it is all for the greater goal.

To say all of this has brought up insecurities, anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings is an understatement.   I’ve had panic attacks, bouts of anger, bouts of depression, frustration, tears, and so many other emotions I’ve lost track.  But while all of these emotions are being sorted out, I’m still working 45ish hours a week (in a job I like, so that is good), putting in about 35 hours a week on my graduate studies, trying to get in some sort of healthy exercise, keeping up spiritual disciplines and trying to be support to my job seeking husband as well as helping to keep up the house and try not to let my emotions get the best of me so that a fibromyalgia pain flare-up doesn’t sideline me.

This shit is hard.  But it’s meant to be.  And I keep getting reassured that each and every piece of this ordeal has meaning.  Every struggle day in and day out is part of the ordeal.  And I do know this won’t last.  My husband has had 11 interviews in two months.  The only reason he isn’t working is that the firms he’s interviewed with are taking their time due to the holiday working schedules (it happens at this time of year).  He’s putting in the time so the financial security will come…sooner or later.  I’ll be finished with my class in mid-December (after I finish a final examination, which has its own negative mental tapes playing in the background).

I keep reassuring myself (and getting reassured) that I’m doing everything I can, and I’m doing it all right.  I’m making the mindful choices, I’m sticking with things and putting in the time I’m supposed to be doing.  I just need to keep moving on.

 

Final Thoughts
I’ve been focused on self-improvement work for the past 16 years.  I’ve done a lot, and I’m still always surprised at the requirements that are laid out before me to achieve another personal goal.  I know I do more than many others do when it comes to spiritual discipline, but I also recognize that there is give and take here.  If I want to do more, or am asked to do more, I have to be ready to accept the burden of the ordeal to prepare me for that endeavor.  I also have to accept the responsibility that comes along with the tasks I’m asking to take on.

Not everyone is fit to be a teacher, a mentor or a spiritual leader.  Not everyone is meant to be a Priest or Priestess.  But yet we all have something to contribute to the pagan community as a whole.  Our task, if we want to be a part of a pagan community,  is to find that thing we are meant to do and serve our community as we can.  This means that we will have to go through at least one spiritual ordeal in our lifetimes.   And while my personal ordeal is tough, I am recognizing that it is also very much about finding that place in the pagan community as a whole.  So I will continue with it to the best of my ability.  There is still a chance I may fail, and I accept that.  Either way, I will be continuing to learn, and that is the most valuable thing I can do.