Saturday, November 7, 2020

An Attempt Was Made.

I wrote the start of this post, originally, as we were moving into winter here in North America in 2018. It’s that time again, a full two years later. Some of these posts languished for a long time, and change a lot along the way.

The last two years? Bitter ashes. 

Where to start? Do I want to start? Is this a thing I do anymore? What is the goal? Am I the person I was when I started? Am I enough the same that this-as-this makes sense?

“The radio silence isn’t about a lack of ideas, or topics, but a feeling like there’s simply no ‘room’ for me to exist.” - It’s fine, Or it Will Be. 

“When your heart and soul starts being co-opted by the terminally misguided the water gets muddy.” - Ol’ Bent and Bowed.

I stopped blogging for a lot of reasons. None of them were exactly intentional. I emphasize that this is a "travelogue" type of blog. That it is, in essence, a digital journal. Anyone who has kept a journal for any length of time will understand an indelible and immutable truth - when you look back over old entries you realize how much has changed. Things change, things stay the same, and there it is - your blog or my blog - a monument to all of the things which are and are not.

Some of the me you’ve seen is now woefully out of date, yet still new to you. I, and the image made of me, exist at odds, out of step and out of sync. And that’s very weird to experience. 

I got tired of bullying. I mean, who isn’t tired of that crap? But I got especially tired of the middle-school bullying-by-gossip. I heard back a lot of things being said about me that were bad enough to cause me to reach out, and let me tell ya: When you reach out to the person triangulating others against you and ask them, honestly, why they did it they do not respond politely.

I got tired of the over-familiarity. It was a real shock to me that running a blog meant some folks developed a parasocial attachment. I thought you had to be a lot “bigger” to have that happen, and it turns out I was very wrong. Some of those folks thought we were tight enough for ribbing, flirtation and coarse humor - we weren’t - and they didn’t appreciate it when this was made clear. 

Mostly, though, I just got tired. Trauma is life-altering. It impacts you in ways that you won’t understand until you process and begin to inventory your thinking. The way it affects the brain and the body is exhausting. There were other things, too. 

Take it from the top.

There’s now a hole in my life - caretakers talk about that a lot - that I don’t know how to live with. I’m learning to step around it, over it, not fall into it, but it is there and it is ever-present. For the majority of my life I cared in some capacity for my mother, and in the last decade that intensified to an actual role of “part time caretaker” in fits and starts. There are regrets (thank god that telling her I love her and am proud to be her child was something I was sure I did, often, and emphatically), there is pain. There is this hole. This missing step in a flight of stairs I took ten times a day. Muscle memory falters, stumbles. 

I keep coming back to the phrase “Words ceased existing.” because what is there to say? No matter what hurt I feel, she lost herself, her family and her life. No matter what beliefs or experiences I’ve had I cannot know what transpires past the edge of death. Nothing matters in the face of death, absolutely nothing. Nothing means anything when nothing feels different and everything has changed. 

I have not celebrated. What remains of my family made sure to mark birthdays, to make sure we did not let those pass without some acknowledgement, because they are so few (and grow fewer every year). But on the slow crawl to The Big Two… no thank you.

I could not do my usual witching. Not really. I couldn’t even work my regular job worth a damn - I shudder to think of how very little I scraped by with, monetarily. I did what few things I could. I maintained. I couldn’t find it in me. I’m not sure I could even find me in me. Grief is like unclogging a drain - it’s a normal enough process, but goddamn is it grotesque. 

And it’s hard to be the person you want to be - honest and open to a fault with no wistful filter - while also avoiding talking about the elephant in the room. 

It is easy for bloggers and influencers to just straight up lie to their audience. I mean, I assume by now everyone’s savvy to the ugliness behind an instagram-ready lifestyle, especially when Witchcraft is involved. They will blog like everyone reading is an intimate friend, they’ll take your money and give you advice, but you’ll never know they had a kid (I don’t), or a ‘mundane job’ (I do) because it doesn’t fit the picture of the perfect Witch Aesthetic (as if Ye Olde Witch didn’t also have to work a dozen mundane jobs and also wipe with rags and leaves). You find out years later that their life was on fire all while the content kept rolling at an unaltered. 

It’s not a failing as a magician, or as a person, or as (insert category here) to say that one finds themselves in these situations. It’s not a sign of some personal inadequacy to say that the last few years have been trying. It’s not a shame upon anyone that sometimes we falter. Not when the whole world is pushing, crushing, grinding and praying for us to fail.

For some, the path of - well, whatever this is - is one of total power, total mastery. A blazing triumph over. And when they put that ideology forward-facing, it mutates. They’re never struggling with money, unless it makes a good byline. They’re never sad unless it’s adequately wistful. They never falter because they, good readers, have meticulously edited and curated their public-facing-media to ensure you cannot see the steep slope they just (to borrow a phrase from my grandpa) ate shit the whole way down. 

That’s a deeply Problematic way to live. Maybe a good maladaptive coping strategy in the meantime, but the lies we tell ourselves by telling them to others are often the ones that smack us upside the head the hardest when the truth bounces back into shape. 

And the truth is that for a long time, everything has really, really, sucked. So I didn’t post, because I refuse to lie, reframe, or instagram-ready it up and I honestly didn’t want to dig through and litigate my suffering. 

Peeking out of the doom-hole.

I’ve begun to sort through the pieces of wreckage left behind from, well… a lot of mistaken steps made with the best intentions. To be brutally honest, I spent the last decade having The Good And Dutiful Woman narrative crammed down my throat ("Accept that you'll be working twenty hours a day and come home to find that your partner has gone through the house like a typhoon and not lifted a finger to clean it up. If you don't clean it yourself you're the asshole! That's your domain and your job!") with a few extra scoops of the Sacrifice For Others Even If It Costs You Your Joy ("It's so selfish to want to be happy if that happiness isn't found through service to others!"), and that’s enough torture to make you think “Eh, maybe if I just compromise a little…” and then you’ve compromised entirely and no one else has, and you’re a stranger to yourself in your own existence sliding into a second nervous breakdown. But life is hard and complex and often quite shitty and you take on the problems as you can take them out (more on that in the future)

I managed to celebrate the First Winter this year, and this year it was not Last Harvest, but a proper Winter, bared teeth and all. I’ve been managing to work steadily. I struggled up from maintenance to headway. I’ve even started to write again.

Of course, as I wrote this the election is/was still being counted with an optimistic call for sanity. I have no idea what the future will bring. It may shove me right off my precarious little ledge back down into the pit. My life may become very unpleasant, or things may merely return to the mildly progressive normalcy we’ve been slowly building for the last forever. Ideally the last four years were some kind of extinction burst fever spasm of decades of lead poisoning. We can hope, we can look toward the dawn, and we can ideally not lie to ourselves or others about the realities of our lives along the way. The only way out is through, and the only way through is with the occasional helping hand. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Book Stayed Empty

Courtesy bohdanchreptak at Pixabay 

A while ago I woke from a dream very suddenly, distressed and upset even as sleep shed off of me. I had been at an intimate coven gathering in the dream. We sat in the circle, perhaps before or after ritual, enjoying what looked to be a very fine charcuterie board, and sundry nibbles. Each of us tending to tasks one usually does “in circle”. Someone off beside me was grinding herbs slowly and methodically, chanting as they worked. Another was plaiting cords, the tail end hooked over their outstretched big toe. I was copying into my Book. It was the sight of the book that woke me, actually. The realization - in my semi-lucid, go-with-the-flow, state - that I knew what that little book was. It exists in the real world, y’see.

I’ve been hanging onto this book for… well… we’ll say 20 years at this point. Honestly, it could be a little more. The book itself went out of print a while ago, which is weird but also understandable since it’s a blank, lined, journal. I remember buying two of them. One was cannibalized, covered in leather, filled with handmade paper and gifted to a friend. The other, plus the original “text block” of the first, were squirrelled away, wrapped in paper, beneath my altar.

I knew the moment I saw this book that it was supposed to be with me and I even knew what it was for. It was for the book of shadows. Not “a” book of shadows, nor “my” book of shadows. Nah… it was for THE book of shadows. One of the properly-received Wiccan ones.

When I knelt at my altar and did one of the early “solo initiations” from a mass-market paperback it was done with the hope that one day I’d experience a ‘proper’ one, and fill that little book.

In that moment, saying my very heartfelt words about the whole thing (speaking directly to the gods and to those who have gone before), I felt very strongly that I needed to bring something to the table should I ever approach a prospective coven - I took this as spirit-guidance, something to do with being some specific and subtle connotation of that “Proper person, properly prepared” phrase. That went into the words I spoke - to bring to a coven no less than I would ask of a coven. I felt that if I did not have something unique, novel, and most importantly useful, to offer… then why seek it out? Why take more than I would offer in return? In hindsight such an Oath may have been something of a mistake, but… what’s done is done.

So, I learned. 

Well, then of course I got burned, badly, by many different subsets of the witchcraft and occult communities. The voices of authority never really spoke in a way that sang to my heart, and so I wondered if I belonged there at all. I was filled with knowledge that I sought on my own, trials I endured solo, and initiations between myself and rather dubious sorts.

I studied every sort of thing I could afford to have access to. Basics, sure, but also some rather out-there bits of theatrics. I learned to better sew and to draft simple patterns for robes and the like, I learned leatherworking and bookbinding a little more properly, I studied but never really properly practiced smithing, I learned simple woodworking, I already knew pottery, etc. I learned how to make masks and other costumery, how to make flash powder and pyrotechnics, different kinds of puppetry, shadow-theater, phantasmagoria, stage magic, and on and on and on.

The book, however, stayed empty.

I still have a deep respect for Wicca itself. It moves in it’s own world, orbits its own courses. There is something in that unknown country that calls out, even to this day.

It’s sitting in front of me on my desk. It’s gold filigree border striking dozens of memories so deep in my heart that they ring rather than recall. To bring nothing less than I would ask. Well, by then would I not already be my own, sovereign, priest? Would I not have already learned Mysteries? Would I not already have met Them, and known Them, and adored Them in my own way?

So, I write my own book. I fill it with the knowledge I have received, details I might otherwise forget (or already partially have), and things that I might want to preserve, should I ever pass this information onward - and I can’t think of a way more proper (for me) than through blood, sweat, and tears. Tucked into the back, behind the text block of dyed paper paper, nestled into the leather flap that wraps the whole thing shut, is the home of that empty book. Maybe still waiting, maybe a reminder.