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State of the SJ: taking a break

State of the SJ: taking a break

Sadly, my breaks tend to include a lot of self-flagellation, with a day of breaking down crying for hours instead of being content with going at my pace instead of everyone else’s for a few days.

I’m not good at giving myself a break.

Blackberry bush toppling into a pond
A blackberry bush falling into the pond

I’m at my parents’ for a while, which is a rare opportunity to feel completely comfortable in my skin and in the house. I can take baths. I can take advantage of their membership to a salt-water pool and go swimming. I can spread out my Tarot cards and the books I’m reading in the living room, in the dining room, in the family room, and I’m not afraid that I’ll be judged poorly for my reading choices — my parents know me, they love me unconditionally, I’m not sure if they understand my Tarot and Pagan inclinations, but they certainly encouraged me to pursue it when I was young, with buying books and letting me research into it. My housemates might get it, but they don’t really get ME, so I don’t want to open up the conversation to begin with.

And there’s space here.

Here I can curl up on one couch, or go downstairs and curl up on the other, or go outside to visit my dad’s wonderful and, dare I say it, witchy garden, where bees are pollinating the blackberries.

Two blackberry flowers with a bee pollinating one
Bees eating, getting ready to give us blackberries

(There’s a huge rosemary bush, and a huge sage bush, which I like to think of as protection and cleansing agents for their home, and there’s mint, and oregano and thyme, and all kinds of non-edible plants, and citrus trees, and just so many things in the backyard!)

Rosemary bush with a log to the side
So much rosemary for the kitchen witch!

While I’m here, I’m supposed to be meditating, and taking baths, and going swimming, and contemplating what I want in life. So of course that triggered a panic attack and so much fear because I am just so tired of reaching and reaching and reaching for the path I was supposed to follow, and failing. I graduated from college five years ago (five! five! where has the time gone), and haven’t had an interview for a career-path job, let alone held one. The career center at school tells me it’s all about networking; well, I’m an introvert who despises networking, but loves volunteering and building connections. Has that helped? Nope, not even the jobs I’ve applied to where I knew people who told the hiring managers to consider me got me an interview. No wonder I don’t have much confidence in myself — when I try to do the things I’m “supposed” to do, doors slam in my face.

I’m lucky enough that my parents have been able to help support me during this really challenging time to be young and alive, and that they want me to have what I want to be happy in life. After the break down, I got myself back up, patted myself on the back for turning in my law school application, and wondered what the Gods would have me do next.

Turns out, once I ask, They were happy to answer: Tell Our stories.

A stick of incense burning to facilitate communication with the Gods.
Asking the Gods what to do next

Work with the Tarot, break into writing stories again, and do what you need to do. What you need, SJ, is different from what others need, and you’re forging your own path. It’s hard, and scary, and insecure, but your path is the one that’s best for you. Keep at it. You are loved.

Coming out of the Woo closet: diversity in activism

Coming out of the Woo closet: diversity in activism

I’m an activist. I’m strongly impelled to work toward the betterment of the world and its inhabitants, and I’ve drawn my line in the sand at clean air: I petition, I call, I lobby elected officials, I organize other activists to follow through on their projects to demand we stop burning coal at the dirtiest coal plant in my state, and to ensure strong protections to make sure we have clean energy and in turn clean air and water.

I’m also disabled, queer, gender fluid, and a witch, and I’m only remotely comfortable telling the people I work with — the people who rely on me to run meetings and to understand the big picture of why we’re taking the actions we’re taking — about one of them. My story of my history with asthma is a huge part of why I fight for clean air, but I don’t look disabled. No one sees the hours of preparation, the background processing of whether or not I can take a walk on the day that I’m running a meeting, or the migraines keeping me in bed for days, or the pain in my knees that has me hobbling around at home. And they definitely see me as a woman, when I feel more gender fluid or genderqueer than female. They don’t know that the secular face I present isn’t actually secular but Pagan and Polytheist, but afraid to tell anyone about those identities.

Yesterday, the organization I work with held a training about furthering their goals toward Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I keep attending trainings on this topic, because while I fight for clean air, I see it as a small issue that’s part of the web of all the things that are keeping we the people and the planet from being whole. So I want the organization I work with to think about all matters of social justice when we do our work: racial injustice, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and so on. We should not be an all-White organization protecting the environment, because the environment exists and affects All People. The horrors of polluted air disproportionately affect poor people, poor people are disproportionately people of color. I go to these trainings with this sense of the interconnectedness of the web of life, and I often leave with a sense that something is missing. The training is never fulfilling.

Yesterday, as a dear friend of mine left in the middle of the training, upset and made invisible by the conversation about “diversity” but really meaning “people of color”, I realized that I’m always holding back those parts of myself that might rock the boat. I realized that while we’re so fixated on our diversity meaning “make people of color join our movement”, we are dancing around the issue of other marginalized identities, and we cannot make our spaces truly safe and inclusive until we acknowledge all types of diversity.

And that means that I need to acknowledge these parts of my identity. So here I am, announcing, at least, to this part of my world: I understand intersectional identities, and I have intersectional identities as well. I am not the young, healthy, White woman you assume I am when you first see me, and I will do my best not to assume anything about your identities from how you look. I look forward to hearing from you, and sharing stories, and healing each other from the injustices and trauma done to us all.

Practicing Pagan: rituals and actions to feel in tune with my Deities

Practicing Pagan: rituals and actions to feel in tune with my Deities

I mention in the sidebar that I’m Pagan, but I’ve never talked about what that means, because I’m not sure yet. I’ve spent over a decade reading about Wicca before coming to terms with the fact that it doesn’t work for me. I love the trappings of religious witchcraft, but a couple of fundamental beliefs of Wicca don’t work with me. That’s left me floating and unsure about what I believe and how I go about showing my devotion.

So one morning while I was meditating, I was surprised to feel a nudge to write here about what I’m doing. Something about it being more concrete if I tell people a bit about my beliefs and what I’m trying to practice, as well as making a commitment to it.

A miniature clay tree on carpet
A home for the spirits in my house, tucked away where my housemates won’t notice it

The commitment part is important because I’ve failed, recently, in my daily devotions to my Deities. For a while, I was offering part of my tea to the spirits around me, and incense and a candle to my Goddesses and Gods, trying to get into a rhythm of these daily devotions, and suddenly I stopped. What stopped me? Were these devotions not enough? Was I not feeling like I was truly connecting, and subconsciously decided against doing it anymore? Was I in too much pain again? (Incense and scented candles can trigger asthma attacks, if my asthma control isn’t good, and headaches if I’m the slightest bit sensitive. Which I have been for the past few weeks.)

The key, I think, that makes it hard, is mindfulness. A lot of times I do these activities by rote, without stopping for a few moments to recognize whichever entities are present. Using my phone as an alarm, the moment I wake up, I see all the emails and text messages and life that I’ve missed out on while asleep, and I get so anxious to get caught up, that I forget to ground and center myself in what it means to be me. The last couple of days, I’ve managed to undo a little bit of that, by having my phone on airplane mode while I sleep. It’s not perfect, because I still have that anxiety pushing me around, but it’s a start.

Now to find the best practices for me to feel connected and protected. That’s why I read as much about paganism as I can: to find practices and rituals to keep me connected to my Goddesses and Gods.

There’s a dearth of daily spiritual practice in our rational, secular culture (as a white United Stateser), and I have no rituals from childhood to associate with my current spiritual work. Making things up as I go along is an uncomfortable practice for me: as a perfectionist, I want to do everything right the first time. But that’s not possible for we imperfect, irrational creatures, and it’s not fair to expect that of myself.

Candles, Tarot decks, and miscellaneous clumped together in a small space
My messy altar

I expected to make an altar full of things that are meaningful to me and to my Gods, but because I don’t have a lot of private space — I have two housemates whom I keep these things from — my “shrine” is set on the top of my dresser next to my jewelry, and there’s not a particular rhyme or reason to it. I always expected I’d have things that matter to my spiritual practice, but right now it’s a collection of candles, incense, Tarot decks, and miscellany that managed to find its way to my room. It’s not as ordered or well-kept as I’d like it to be.

But it does its job of reminding me to take a moment to say a prayer for my ancestors, for my house spirits, and for the Deities Whom I honor. And that’s the part that matters.

So while I’m not entirely sure, still, how I’m practicing and what I believe in, I am taking my first steps, and they are important ones. I will continue them and keep trying new things. And I will continue sharing my spiritual journey with you all here.

Looking for guidance on your own spiritual journey? Book a reading and let’s discover what will work for you.

Reflecting on the Four of Swords

Reflecting on the Four of Swords

I’ve been meaning to write an entry for four days now. I spent a whirlwind weekend at Paganicon, exploring what it means to be pagan in a world that needs so much more from us in terms of social justice, and how do I personally put together practices that keep me grounded in my beliefs? I have a few starts to answers to that second question, and I’ve been feeling really close to my Tarot cards the last few days because of the conference.

Which is awesome.

I grabbed my Fey Tarot and brought it with me a few places over the weekend, including a Tarot meetup for queer people on Monday night. I got to see my decks through others’ eyes, and check out some great and new-to-me decks that others have. And while I was sitting there, leafing through my cards, this Four of Swords snagged my attention.

An image of the Four of Swords, a fairy putting on war paint for battle, from the Fey Tarot deck

I’ve seen it before in readings, and it is such a strong card to me: gearing up for battle, putting on the war paint—I have a joke with a friend that my makeup is Pigments of Protection, my armor against the outside world. So I see myself putting on makeup in this card, and getting ready to do battle with the day.

Last night, as I was drawing a card to write about in my paper journal, I saw this Four of Swords at the bottom of the deck, thought about it a minute, then shuffled. Shuffled four times, cut the deck, and flipped over the top card: Four of Swords. Well done, Tarot. Well done.

I see in this card that I have all the tools I need to protect myself as I venture into the world: I have my makeup, I have my understanding of how to pay attention to my needs. I have some light shielding in place so that I don’t “read” too much from others. (I have a lot of work to do to feel confidence in my shielding from others’ energy, though.) I’ve figured out reasons for why some “normal” interactions bother me and what I can do about it. I really am ready to take on the next stage of my life.

I can see where protections might go too far, though, and if I ever see this Four of Swords reversed, I’d have to examine myself to see if I’ve been shielding myself from too much. Am I being vulnerable to the people who matter to me, or have I closed myself off entirely from everyone? Am I pushing friends and family away instead of letting them know what I need? That happens often enough that I need a good nudge to remind me that people care about me, and it’s okay to let down my guard.

For now, though, I’m reassured by the presence of the Four of Swords reminding me that I got this. I can go after my hopes and dreams, because I’ve worked hard to earn the skills I need. It’s a beautiful feeling.

Coming back to life

Coming back to life

When I texted a friend this morning to say that I didn’t know how I feel about the full moon today, she suggested I use my daily meditation to ask for guidance. Then I spent my entire meditation period thinking about getting out a notebook and my Faeries oracle cards, so I count that as my answer. Look, Gods! I’m doing what you suggested, even!

A notebook, pen, and three Faeries Oracle cards

I have to give my spirituality more priority. Moon cycles create dramatic changes in my life, and it’s going to become even more important to honor those. With the theme of the year continuing to be intense, carving out space for me to reflect and honor the important things happening in my life will help me feel less like I’m always behind on things.

I’m finally starting to feel like I have a handle on how my body will react to the world, now it’s time to get a handle on my spiritual life. It’s hard and important work for me to do.

I miss writing, again. I dropped off when I started taking care of myself after surgery. Now it’s time to get back into it and catch up on all I’ve missed.

Made it through the longest night

Made it through the longest night

This morning, I flipped off the last few weeks as the cloud cover brightened with the sun coming up after the longest night. I tried to stay up all night, but between having a million things to do and my health being volatile, I took a 3-hour nap in the wee hours.

But I still got up before sunrise to make sure to see the night through.

Two candles lit atop a desk.

As I wrote in my last post, this is the time of year that’s hardest for me. And I doubt I’m out of the woods yet, but it feels like a burden has been lifted. From here on out, I’m hoping to have more energy to do the things that matter to me. Be with the people who are important to me. Figure out my Pagan path. Decide what my next steps are in life. Come end of February, it’s time for me to have concrete next steps about how I’m going to survive and thrive. I haven’t touched my Tarot cards in too long, but I’m definitely about to pick them up again. It’s time to wake up from my hibernation and start my life again.

Playing with the Full Moon and Faeries Oracle

Playing with the Full Moon and Faeries Oracle

I’ve been slooooowly outing myself to my social circle about my Pagan inclinations, and it’s been much more well received than I thought it would be. I guess that if people love and accept me as I am now, glitter obsession and all, it’s not a far cry to see me believing in the power of Tarot, astrology, the Moon, whatever. I am already that slightly left-of-normal, but now I’m committing myself fully to that path.

The best part about being more honest and open about the path I’m walking down? It’s giving me more motivation to buckle down and study. After spending a couple hours planning a full moon ritual yesterday for tonight, I came home and spent another hour or more doing some play time with my Faeries’ Oracle cards.

I canNOT remember when I got these cards. It was for my birthday, but was it in 2014? Or 2015? 2013? A friend sent it to me with the intent that I use the book that came with it to work with the cards. I’ve hemmed and hawed, picked it up, read a page, then got nervous and put it back down, spent more time with my Fey Tarot instead.

A book, "The Faeries' Oracle", placed on the grass with a bag of oracle cards

Until last night, when I got home and decided Now was a great time to pick up the cards, pick up the book, and work on the first couple of exercises. And I learned some good things about myself and the path I’m going down while playing with these cards. Maybe soon I can use them in addition to Tarot to do readings for others, too!

I also mentioned that I’m planning a full moon ritual for tonight. I’ve studied different types of religious witchcraft paths for years, always been drawn to the moon, and until now never had the courage to follow through and do something for the full moon. I’m grateful and looking forward to a good, simple, respectful, great time to play under the Moon’s watchful eye.

Some of the Fey Tarot cards scattered on the grass

Another great thing about being open to my friends? Hanging out on a beautiful day at the park and admiring the Tarot with them.

There’s gonna be some changes made

There’s gonna be some changes made

There’s gonna be some changes made lyric from Bruce Hornsby’s “Gonna Be Some Changes Made”

The last week or two has been a time of monumental change and upheaval in a lot of people’s lives, including mine. It started with the super moon in Pisces and just kept on going. It was as if I didn’t stop and pay attention to the signals I was getting, well, the forces of the universe were going to crush the things that are most important to me to get me to listen.

One reason I like that article about the super moon best is this quote:

We are approaching the final four months of 2015—and it’s crucial that we enter into it as honestly and authentically as we can. This was promised to be a big year of change and revelation for all of us—right now is the time to evaluate how close we are to achieving the life that we envisioned when we rang in the New Year.

It woke me up to the fact that I’m being pushed to a way of life entirely in opposition to the “daily grind” and that this new way IS what’s best for me. I’m pagan, and we believe that there are many gods and many of them are active in our lives. Mine are leading me toward a future where I use the skills most important to me and honor myself and my needs.

This isn’t all about me, though. I’ve been encouraging a lot of people to follow the paths of change we’re being pushed toward.

As a friend said:

I talked a lot about the fact that the Earth is calling out her people because she needs us.

As I put it “people are too far up God’s ass and worrying about what other people can and can not do” and we’re destroying ourselves.

So the Universe “God” is calling into action those that will help each other and themselves.
We’re being called to our higher selves because we are needed.

If you’re also being called to change, welcome to the club! I’m having my own anxieties and self-doubts about being part of this change, but I guess I need to follow the right path for me. Fear and misgivings are only going to make my Gods notice and throw more upsetting curve balls at me, and I’m trying to avoid those at all costs. The curve ball last week devastated me. I’m trying to not give Them a reason to devastate me again.

Instead, I’ve been making an active decision to continue to trust my instincts and be okay with where I’m heading. I sometimes channel universal messages, and I’m hoping to work more with the Tarot to interpret the currents I sense. I’ve joked in the past that I’m an oracle, and my goal for the next few months is to work that intuition and psychic abilities to a point where I can help others stay on the right path: for themselves and for Mother Earth. We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to starting.