an existential ramble while washing the dishes
I’ve been thinking about how I, as a pagan and Buddhist, often respond to posts or comments from Christians about God. I’m often using masked language, to assuage their fears or misconceptions about me since I’m a witch in the Deep South, the Bible Belt, and must live among these people. They are my neighbors, my acquaintances in rescue and in activism, my fellow yoga practitioners. I often feel as though it’s safer to be queer in the Bible Belt than it is to be pagan. I don’t wear my pagan regalia publicly, but have no problem with having my rainbow or LGBTQ+ symbols seen. I’ve been threatened only once in my 30+ years of being pagan, and many of that a public priestess in NY and that was here, in Alabama, simply wearing a t-shirt.
So I will often choose to use language that’s couched in pleasing terms that I’ve heard used in yoga studios, that “God is Love” or that “it doesn’t matter what you call God, as long as you practice love and compassion”. And in many senses, that is true. In the Buddhist sense, it is most definitely true — compassion and loving kindness is all you need, you don’t need a “god” in any sense to be a practicing Buddhist; there is no religion involved.
Once upon a time, back when I was a hardcore elitist BTW (British Traditional Wicca, of the Alexandrian variety) participating in online pagan forums, I was often called a “fascist meanie poopoo head”, one of the “meanie brigade” that feasted on the “fluffy bunnies” in neopaganism that lacked critical thinking and would combine gods from disparate pantheons and say things like, “Wicca is whatever I want it to be.” No, no it’s not. I’m still a FMPPH, I used to have the t-shirt (yes, there were even t-shirts made once there were so many of us that corrected the misconceptions of newbies and fluffbunnies), and Wicca is a specific religion with specific deities and you can’t just stick Kali and Odin on your altar and call it Wicca. It might be fulfilling to you and you go on with your bad self but it’s not the initiatory Mystery Tradition with the particular Gods you meet in the initiation circle. End, full stop.
So. Why am I using this simplistic “fluff” analogy now? I was thinking about this as I washed the dishes yesterday.
Many years ago at my job, I was talking with a co-worker about this very topic on our smoke break, about creation and evolution and whether there was an “intelligent design” or it was God or what. He was (is) very Christian and believed in the Biblical take on creation. I, being a rational and non-Christian person, believed in evolution but was also willing to entertain the idea that there’s a “God” or Divine force that had a role in all of this. My rambling explanation as to what I believed happened has now become less of a ramble, and more of a “this makes sense to me” and also explains (to me) the existence of many Gods AND how we as humans understand them. It’s MY take on it all.
The Big Bang
(I am not a cosmologist, so please don’t roast me for not knowing the true physics. I’m paraphrasing.) Out of nothing, the Universe just expanded into existence. In my tiny little human mind, there was nothing…the void. Then two atoms appeared and somehow found each other and…boom. Things started to happen. They reacted and the Universe expanded and came into being. In a simplistic way, those two little atoms are positive and negative, Yin and Yang, God and Goddess. The ONE GOD, the ONE GODDESS and from them all the others come. Choose your pantheon, your culture, your time period…doesn’t matter. Heck …some other planet out there in some other galaxy — their Gods also derive from these two little atoms and these two ancient, simple, male/female, positive/negative, yin/yang, attracted to each other from across the yawning void of nothing to create it all. It matters not your gender identity or sexual preference in this creation story – it just takes the joining of two opposite halves to create.
BUT Where Did Those Two Atoms Come From??? Why Did They Exist In The First Place??
Whatever, or Whomever created them….is GOD.
That unknowable, unimaginable…FORCE. That WHATEVER that came from absolutely NOTHING and created two tiny little atoms, or particles that are literally just well…held together by FORCE and heat and gravity and stardust and all the other stuff we are made out of. THAT, to me, is the ultimate Mystery. You may speak to “God”, Jehovah, Allah, Krishna, Ares, Odin, Cernunnos, Ogun, take your pick. But They are made of this stuff. This same unknowable Mysterious force that made it all happen. Ultimately, that is ‘the one true God’ and IT is most likely completely unaware that we’re so in awe of it all.
All the others come from it, as do we. We are all made of this “star stuff” this same basic breakdown of the matter that made the Universe. We as humans just bound together in one form, on this one planet, with brains that think about how we got here and created the idea of divine beings to explain our existence. So I’ll never understand why we all fight over which God is the “right” God. They ALL exist. They are all worthy of reverence, or faith, or worship, if that is someone’s path. But WE are also of the same stuff and therefore — worthy of reverence (compassion) and faith (love).
So no, my God(dess) is not the same as my neighbor’s God. They are different. I have different rituals, different beliefs and different practices. But deep down, They are made of the same stuff. As am I. And I shall continue to treat my neighbors and acquaintances with the loving kindness and compassion that I do. It’s not always returned but that’s OK. They’re learning. And I will continue to use the analogy — it’s not wrong.
This is sparked by a blog post by an old friend from my way-back days, her wisdom inspires me, even though we rarely speak anymore. Our paths diverged, and a life in the Bible Belt doesn’t allow one to be a public pagan outspoken Witch like I once used to be. So I watch from afar, nostalgic for the days when we danced the bonfires together. Ah… I’m croning. These are the remembrances of a world gone by for me. I truly am getting old. On to the meat of my blog post.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.
I find them to be unnecessary and often ridiculously negative or sparked by the latest diet craze. It’s always about doing something that will make your life “better” by making you get rid of something that you don’t need to be rid of. And anyway, if you want to improve your life or make a lifestyle change, don’t wait for some arbitrary date picked by people centuries ago — if you want to start exercising and thought about doing it on August 17, DO IT on August 17!
But I do believe that words have meaning, and as a Witch we use words to place our intentions upon them. Words have magic when used with intention. Our spells, after all, are words, filled with intention, imbued with our energy and focus. All the incense and candles and oils and herbs and dancing around fires are nothing without the words. Even if you don’t say them aloud — our thoughts are words in our heads and we fill them with intentions and energy and focus upon them to make them come true.
“Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will.”Aleister Crowley
So it was with this intention, this Will that I went about pondering and meditating about the word I would select for 2021, one to focus myself upon (especially important considering the dumpster fire that has been 2020). That word, I’ve decided upon is:
This past year, and the year before — I was out of balance. Teetering in one direction or the other. I have always walked a path of balance, trying to maintain it, keeping to the Middle Path, the Middle Pillar, neither walking in shadow or in light but in both and in neither. And somehow I’ve found myself wobbling into one or the other and am completely cockeyed. Every time I go out of balance, I course-correct. But I’ve come to realize as I’ve pondered — I haven’t. I’m way off course…I’m practically Columbus.
I’m currently writing this as I fight off the virus of the century. I haven’t received my test results back yet, but all symptoms point to COVID-19. I’m “lucky” in that I only seem to have a rather mild case of it so far, and I’m taking all precautions to keep it that way. My elderly aunt is in a nursing home, also with Covid. Friend’s parents have passed from it, friends of friends are passing. So many dead. My daughter was positive and thankfully it was so mild she barely noticed and was better in a couple of weeks – but she works in the service industry where no one really cares whether these servers live or die, as long as they get their drinks and food. My country is barely hanging on by a thread, with threats coming from all angles even as a new President waits to be installed to try and drag it out from the disastrous trumpster fire it’s been thrown into.
These years have taken it’s toll on me. I’ve tried, and failed to keep my balance. I am one of those people that go out and try to do good in the world, even while it burns around her. I can’t change the entire world, but I can change my little corner of it for the better. Mr. Rogers had a profound effect on me as a child, I suppose. I loved him and took his words to heart.
But even as I’ve tried to help, to find ways to be a source of compassion and peace, I’ve had trouble finding that source for myself. I’ve gone too far over to one side or the other, allowing myself to be used for one thing or another, for one agenda or another. Believing in something or someone, only to find that they’re not what or who I thought they were. Ah…people, the great pretenders. “I’m a politician!” If I never hear that “excuse” again for why something can’t be done or said, I’ll be a happy woman. I’ve allowed myself to be riddled with insecurities, get mired into negative patterns that have gotten me into places I don’t want to be – stuck in areas of my own shadow that I once that I’d healed, those wounds opening again to spit out the same old sour bile that burns my soul like acid. My therapist is helping me with some of it – we are exploring areas that MUST be reopened to be healed properly – but I’ve also allowed myself to dwell in areas that should really just be closed off when I’m done with them. I’m better than that. Begone foul stench. Close that door for good. Or imposter syndrome rearing it’s ugly head. Abandonment syndrome, C-PTSD, all my infinite and myriad trauma-related syndromes from my remarkable life, a life that I’ve somehow managed to survive with both a sense of humor and a sense of empathy still intact.
I need to turn that empathy back inward to myself — because I’ve forgotten who I AM in the midst of all this turmoil and helping and wanting to be part of the solution, or part of a tribe I’ve never really belonged to. I’ve allowed myself to get lost, and forgotten that while what I do for others is important, and yes, I already have one lasting legacy on this planet (two, if you include my child), I’ve fallen way short of finding a true balance in life. Finding MY Way.
The Middle Path. With an awakened Heart. Bold and free of suffering. Full of Love; walking the line between Shadow AND Light, With magic. And Compassion. And with much gratitude.
I think one of the hardest things about chronic illness is the downswing. Those days or weeks right after you’ve just had a really good spell. You spend the entire upswing waking up and reminding yourself to enjoy it. Don’t forget it’s just a spell. Remember the downswing is normal. These things are cyclical. Those thoughts are often racing in my brain in the times when my body decides it can do all the things!
And then the downswing. It honestly doesn’t matter how much I tell myself the downswing is going to happen, it’s always devastating. So, I thought today maybe I would just talk a little about one thing that’s special because of the downswing to help with my feelings of frustration and loss:
Pain usually wakes me up before dawn. 5:03am today. In these early hours of the morning Brian is sleeping quietly beside me, his 10-12hr…
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OK y’all. Lemme tell you about the HELL I’ve been through trying to work my way through this Windows Update to version 2004. The biggest thing about it? A whole new browser you won’t use: Microsoft Edge.
It has utterly screwed up so many things on my three-month old laptop. I bought this with some money leftover from the car fundraiser, so it’s a 2019 clearance model Lenovo Ideapad but still, it’s BRAND NEW essentially (I got it during a sale, too! Bargain shopping at it’s finest.)
First, my computer was acting funny. I went to wake it up and it started beeping at me. Not just a beep like “Oh, you want me to do something and I’m not ready” beep but a frantic beeping like it couldn’t wake up or something was crashing. I did a hard boot and when it came up I immediately did a scan to see WTF was going on. That’s when the update made itself known. It’s being rolled out in phases and mine was just waiting until later that night to be done.
I decided to go ahead and do it while I was awake, preferring to actually watch and see if anything needed to, you know, be helped. Because Microsoft. I wish I’d researched this first and delayed the install until all the problems were mitigated (which you can do). This update has taken TWO days to fully finish and I don’t know if I’ve still rooted out all the problems.
It started out like a normal update, doing its thing. The usual. Download, install, restart. Rinse. Repeat.
When it looked like it was all over and my laptop greeted me with the usual welcome screen, I signed in and then Edge wanted me to migrate all my stuff to it. That’s when all my problems began. I said “no”, and stopped the process there. I *literally* thought that all I was doing was shutting down a browser process, not shutting down part of the update. I crashed the ENTIRE UPDATE. I didn’t know that of course and went on my merry way, thinking I could do my usual surfing of FB and crap. Until my laptop stopped, and restarted and started the entire update process ALL OVER AGAIN FROM SCRATCH.
And then took ALL. DAY. LONG. What started on Wed afternoon and took about an hour and change, has now taken a day — all Wednesday evening and most of Thursday through the afternoon. I sat and watched. Took photos.
At 12:30 pm, reboot, “Look at what’s new” screen and….reboot, back to more updates. *sigh*
At 12: 43 pm, I was back…ish. Then I had to do a bunch of research to go into the regedit and replace the registry key for the graphics card because the drivers didn’t match and OMGWTF. Good thing I’m both computer literate and able and willing to do all this for a THREE MONTH OLD LAPTOP. (That is under warranty, but it’s COVID and really…I’m gonna go find a Lenovo depot or some such shit to make them do it? Yeah, right. I talked to a tech support dude and he told me barely anything I didn’t already know, because I used to BE tech support. I do all the tech support troubleshooting stuff BEFORE I even call them. Trust me, if I call tech support it’s because I’ve already done all the level 1 stuff. Give me to a level 2 tech please.) Ugh….
So. Get graphics updated. And now my sound is HALF of what it was. I do captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on this. I need the sound to work and I shouldn’t need to use a sound booster on well-produced videos. Check for updated drivers for my sound cards. Those are installed. By now, I’m ready for bed. Shut down for the night.
This morning, I wake up to garbled junk, even the normal Windows sounds are garbled. WTF. This is day THREE of WTFness after the update. So I go through all the troubleshooters and then use the “get help” option and actually chat with a person (!!!!). He tells me to uninstall my sound devices and reboot and let Windows reinstall the drivers. Great, that’s what I was afraid of in the first place, that I’d be back where I started. Well, so far so good they’re working like they did before all this happened.
Thanks to all the gods, Mercury NOT included because he’s fucking retrograde right now. Because of COURSE I’d somehow manage to do an update during Mercury retrograde.
While I wait for the bumblebees to have their meal from the clover I unfortunately need to mow though to get at the tall blades of grass growing in their midst, I ponder:
Why isn’t there a way to kill only mosquitoes and biting flies in a yard and not bees? Or any pesticide that can target specific bugs and leave bees out of it? With all the DNA wizardry you’d think some scientists would have come up with such a thing. They’d be billionaires.
I love being outside but I am a major target for mosquitoes and even with the sprays on, I get eaten up. I prefer a more natural approach but when I go hiking I have to resort to DEET for tick repellent since I have chronic Lyme disease from an encounter back in 1995.
I hate the idea of spraying my yard just to be able to enjoy being out in it, but wearing repellents just to go out is repellent in and of itself too. But then, my dogs get a monthly parasite control which kills and repels fleas and mosquitoes and such. Why aren’t things made for humans? I’d use it. I’m sure a lot of people would, outdoorsy types who would love to not have to spray themselves down with chemicals every time they go out.
But back to the bees. Seriously scientists. Make something that kills the bugs but not the bees. I know it’s possible. It has to be.
And now back to the lawn. Looks like the bubbles have moved on.
I quit the job that earned me a little extra income here and there. January and February were the slow months anyway, so I wasn’t counting on anything coming in, and planned on using this time to figure out how to make MY small business grow. And damn if I can’t determine how best to go about it. And that’s when I remember WHY I stayed working there as long as I did, putting up with the constant criticism and hits to my emotional well-being and anxiety triggers — because being your own boss is really fucking hard.
I’ve had this little Etsy shop making custom dog collars for a few years now, making a few sales per month. Nothing major, nothing to put me in the big leagues or even make Etsy send me a 1099 for tax purposes (talk about little, right?). Just enough to set aside for the “Oh shit!” fund or spend a little extra in the grocery store. When you live on Social Security Disability payments of less than $1300/mo — that little bit of extra is VERY handy. But it was piecemeal, here and there… and sometimes I’d go for a month or two without a sale.
I once went viral on Facebook. As a pit bull rescuer and advocate, I’d pulled the Pittsburgh Steelers out of my shop when they hired Michael Vick as a small protest (really small — at the time, I think I had maybe 300 followers on my page). I made a post about it and it was shared, and shared, and SHARED and then the comments started pouring in: positive and trolls. That post was seen over 250k times the first year (2015) and then resurfaced a few times on the anniversary. It grew my social media presence and gave me some pretty loyal fans and customers but I remain small and relatively unknown. After Facebook made it’s changes regarding pages and businesses, traffic dropped to nearly nothing. I try to use Instagram but my views are nearly nil — not like my personal account where I post my dog shenanigans — THOSE are liked. I need to somehow link my personal stuff with my business and take better photos of them wearing their collars — but until then, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Also making things difficult is deciding on the best e-commerce approach. Do I invest in using an all-around platform like Shopify to build my website, or build one using WordPress (that I know) and add a shopping plugin and buy space and domain name? I need to make so many different decisions on exactly HOW to grow…and then make the actual jump. Oh…yeah, and remember, it’s just me and a sewing machine. If my body gives out and I haha get too big for my britches and can’t keep up with orders, then what? I need to hire someone and train them to create my collars.
THAT’S why I stayed small and kept working for someone else. All these decisions are a giant anxiety attack in the making.
Breathe breathe breathe. You can do it. You’ll figure it out.
When I was a kid I used to think that the world was a book being read by a God, (or maybe He was writing it) and when the day ended, He’d turned the page. I was raised Methodist so at the time, God was “He”. Now I’m pagan so God is “They, She, He, Them, the great unknowable IT” but for this post’s sake, if I refer to God, I’ll just use “He” because I’m referring back to that idea I had as a child.
It’s a quaint idea, and sometimes I think nostalgically about it. How God would be writing His book of the world, all the things He had going on. All the lives, all the activity, all the dreams of all the people. It had to be a big book, I’d imagine. So many characters! (This was me around….10? 12? I don’t remember what age exactly but it’s obviously an age where I was having more existential thoughts, before I was questioning whether God was a male God and my place in the Church but I was apparently looking at the world with eyes that wondered about how things really worked in the greater scheme of things. By 14, I was confirmed in the church and definitely not feeling it. By 16 I was most definitely NOT Christian and considered myself agnostic but not really because I was tapped by *something* I’d come to recognize as a pagan Goddess a few years later. Save that for later posts.)
I do remember lying in bed at night, thinking about how God would be writing his book and at midnight, as a new day would begin, he would “turn the page” for a new day to begin. A brand new page, white and clean, waiting to be filled with all the things that would happen. Some stories would continue, some would end. Maybe an entire chapter was over (like a war would be ending that day, time for a new chapter.) I’m not sure how I remedied everything for everyone around the world in my mind but I know I wasn’t just thinking of this as MY life — I considered this as a Big Book of Life for everyone, even if they didn’t worship this particular God — it was an all-inclusive thing, not part of religion. It was the Book of Life, the Book of the World.
I remembered this the other day, these simple quiet thoughts of a child who still considered the world (and God in His many forms) a pretty nice place. Even though this child grew up during the Cold War, did nuclear bomb drills and lived with the knowledge that a great part of her family was killed simply for existing (one side European Jews exterminated; the other side Jews exterminated during the Russian pogroms. We won’t talk about the Romanov relations because that’s a story for another blog post.) I was, and still am in many ways, a peaceful child , who looked upon the world with compassion and wonder.
And now 40 years later my world is repeating so many of the same things that I was told about – there are numbers on the arms of immigrants in camps — in America, not in Germany. Our political “leaders” are speaking in terms recalling another Cold War if not an actual World War in so many ways. The child I once was recalls that simple way of looking at each day and wonders…
… when will this particular chapter end so a much nicer one can begin. And can the author please stop repeating themselves?
Turn the Page.
Just something very silly that makes me laugh. I probably won’t find it funny for long…especially every time I do laundry but for now, it’s hilarious. And if you need to laugh…laugh with me. A cure for the winter and holiday blues.
I have no idea. I’ve never done it before today. I’ve seen it done in movies, most notably “Winter’s Bone” where Jennifer Lawrence teaches her younger siblings how to do it – and quite graphically – so I followed what she did. Why? Because my dog killed one. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself, let me back up.
Yesterday, I let my big dogs out in the backyard. Shortly afterward I heard an unusual commotion, so I ran out to see Joker, my pit bull, at the side fence and Gypsy, my mutt running around upset. Panthera, the neighbor dog was also making a lot more noise than usual at this one junction in the fence. Then I notice that Joker is bleeding from his snout. Gypsy also has blood on her. THEN, I see the squirrel in between the fence and the tree that has grown around it. A-ha. I start to check Joker’s wounds and get him cleaned up, trying to determine whether he was punctured by chain link or squirrel and said squirrel shakily scurries up the tree with some major wounds of his own to tend to. Gypsy is fine, the blood isn’t hers. Both dogs got a bath while the foster puppies cried outside the bathroom.
Oh yeah, foster puppies. They want to know why they can’t do everything the big dogs do. BECAUSE YOU’RE PUPPIES and only here for the week. Thank Gods.
Later that night, I have to kill a GIANT SPIDER IN MY KITCHEN. I have arachnophobia. It was awful. And the size of a spoon. OMG.
This morning I let everyone out, and everyone but Gypsy came back in. She’s focused on the squirrels. Fine. A couple of hours later I open the door to take laundry out to dry and look to see my garden shoes are covered in drops of fresh blood. The same garden shoes I’d worn the day before, hosed off all the mud and left to dry on the steps. WHOSE BLOOD IS THIS???? Gypsy isn’t bleeding. But why are flies all over her? WHAT? I start looking for the squirrel, it HAS to be the squirrel. Joker and Gypsy are now digging at another part of the fence by the alley. So I open the gate and go out into the alley and then I see it, covered in flies but not dead yet. Oh dear gods. All dogs go back inside but Gypsy. This is her kill. She has to finish what she started. I put her on a leash and take her to it.
And this is where I discover that Gypsy most likely ISN’T the killer of the animals I’ve found dead in my yard. She’s likely the one that catches them, but Joker is most likely the finisher. I had to encourage her to finish, to kill, to strike the killing blow. I didn’t want the squirrel to suffer for however long it was going to take for it to die — I wanted her to do what a dog does: swiftly break a neck/back/skull — whatever. And then I remembered what my neighbor said happened while I was on vacation. The dogs had caught one of the feral cats and killed it. He tried to get them off of it, and Gypsy let go as soon as he yelled out, but Joker was the one that held on and mauled until it was dead. Joker isn’t as fast or agile, he can’t jump as high (nor climb a tree the way Gypsy does). But they do team up and hunt as a pack (they ARE dogs) and I’ve watched Gypsy lead the hunt. So she catches, and he kills. Makes sense. She is the gentler of the two but has the stronger prey instinct — she enjoys the chase part, but once that is over, she’s lost interest.
AND NO ONE wanted it after I skinned it, either. My raw fed dogs turned their noses up to fresh meat. Fresh, bloody, warm squirrel meat. Now that’s just rude. Ungrateful beasts. So I had to put the body parts (and it’s parts. Skin, organs, ripped apart limbs…I offered all pieces to five dogs, puppies included and no one wanted any part of it – although the puppies licked up some of the blood) in some bags and store it in my chest freezer until next garbage pickup because rotting squirrel in Alabama heat is just stinky grossness.
AND THEN I HAD TO KILL A GIANT COCKROACH.
Can I be done being Madame Death now? Please?