Monday, March 19, 2018

Ostara: a Time of Growth

This post is also available here.

Each Sabbat brings with it a special meaning as part of the wheel of the year. The journey through the seasons is not just a physical one, but also mental and spiritual.

As we approach each Sabbat, we can grow with the seasons when we know the lessons each one brings us. This series explores the Sabbats' spiritual meaning in the context of modern Pagans.

Ostara is the Spring Equinox, straddling the line between the cold Winter nights and the warm days of Spring and Summer. While Imbolc brings the light to the year, the warmth of that light takes a bit longer, welcomed by Ostara.
This marks the time when we need to get serious about getting things planted. If we haven't started yet, the time is coming soon. Seeds should be sorted, plots of land mapped out - the future depends on whether we plant the right stuff to harvest and eat in the winter.

This applies to our metaphorical seeds, as well. Soon, we will no longer be trapped indoors by the weather. We will be free to do all the activities we need to. The days are still getting longer, giving us more time and energy to be active.

What "seeds" are you preparing for this year? What plans do you make?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Pain in the Pain: Intellectualizing & Erasure

Pain comes in many forms and several degrees. There is physical pain, emotional pain and combinations therein. Most doctors have a handy little pain chart so that people can express the levels of pain that they feel.

Yet many chronic pain sufferers note that medical staff will often downplay their pain, as if the person feeling it - literally the only person who can feel it and, thus, assess it - doesn't really know how it feels.

We see the same thing happening with emotional pain. Lost loved ones, break-ups, betrayal - people frequently hide their pain to avoid someone telling them "it isn't that bad", or worse, comparing it to a similar event in their own lives.

Here's the thing, experience and the nuances of bodies and relationships automatically means that there is no way for you to know how another person is experiencing their pain. Period.

If someone lost a grandparent, and you lost a grandparent, maybe they had a close relationship that makes their pain different. Maybe they regret not having a closer relationship. Who knows? Not you.

If someone exclaims that what they feel, physically, is the worst pain they've ever felt, why would you say that's not true? Maybe you have broken a bone, as well, but was it in the same spot? Do you both have the same sensitivity to pain due to numbers of nerves, myelination, how close pain receptors are to the damaged part? Do you have the same pain experiences to base the "worst" on?

I'm going to say no.

We like to do this. We compare and contrast what we see in other people against what we have actually experienced for ourselves. And we judge them, usually with the bias in favor of our own experiences being "worse." Like it's some kind of sadism competition.

I've done this myself in varying degrees, but sometimes, the situation is a socialized one.

I have to admit, when videos started up showing men "experiencing labor," I laughed as hard as any woman. Why? Because I've spent my entire life with men comparing various injuries to labor, as if repeatedly tensing every muscle in your body tighter than you ever thought they could clench to push out a baby could somehow compare to... anything else.

It bothers me because, while women are often portrayed as fragile, sensitive and overly emotional, they are also seen as being flawed in experiencing their own bodies. If people are fragile, doesn't that mean they really DO experience more physical pain? If people are emotional, doesn't that mean they really DO feel more emotional pain?

An article recently declared that doctors have "admitted" that women can experience menstrual cramps at the same pain levels as heart attacks. I turned to my husband and said "This is why women don't know they are having a heart attack; they are used to that level of pain."

What I didn't say is that they are also told that the level of pain many women experience on a monthly basis is also something they are humiliated for. Why would anyone admit to that level of pain after years of being put down, ignored, or bullied for experiencing? Wouldn't you blow off the pain of a heart attack too?

Emotionally, the situation is parallel. If someone is sensitive, they are often humiliated or bullied over it. If they complain, we say things like "I went through the same thing" or "you just need a thicker skin." Then society doubles down on this by arguing that (mostly) women need to leave abusive partners.

I guarantee most people on pain medicine
wished a massage would fix it.
Dude! They've been told all their lives to put up with it, and now you want them to suddenly know better? Dude...

We also tend to bully and humiliate and shame people who take medicine for pain management, prioritizing controlling drugs over finding solutions to the addictive nature of our most effective pain drugs, prioritizing "more spiritual" treatments over pills, and shaming people who just can't deal with something they are experiencing but that the shamers are just guessing at.

As there are millions of gods and goddesses representing millions of nuances of emotions (love, sex), actions (war, protection), ideas (truth, honor), and more, we need to HONOR the emotional and physical differences in people's experiences and perspective of pain. We need to stop making it about what we THINK, and start making it about what they FEEL.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Nine Noble Virtues: a Modern Take - Discipline

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention, so it seems my title is redundant. However, little seems to have been done to bring the concepts themselves from the past into the present.

I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.

This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.

Oh, great irony, that I am talking about discipline now. I've put off working on this post for a week now, and I'm working on it now to avoid my editing work. But now that I've acknowledged my own procrastination, it's only fair to point out that procrastination is a self-esteem issue, not a discipline issue.

But what is discipline in this modern world? Is it something of a military structuring of one's life? Is it punishing children until they behave? Is it that ethereal concept of Will? I don't believe it is any of those. Or maybe it is connected to all of them, or they are connected to it.

Discipline in the world of the ancient Norse lands would not be any of those rather solid concepts. I think the best way of translating the idea into modern lingo would be the word "adulting."

I know, I know, but bear with me. In the past, being disciplined would have consisted of self-starting, often at or before the crack of dawn, to take care of a variety of animals and domesticated plant-life. It would have meant that you had to be aware of your environment to avoid dangers and to actually see what needs to be done - no drifting through life half-aware. It would have meant troubleshooting issues as they came up, using practical solutions rather than the disposable, throw-money-at-it methods we often use today.

It would have meant crawling up on the roof to replace thatching, even if you just didn't feel like it that day. And you had to pre-plan for that to have the thatching ready to put in place. It would have meant that even when you thought you had done enough work, you still had more to do.

Got kids? You still need to clean house and cook food. Got a sore foot? Too bad the fields won't plow themselves. Toothache? Doesn't change the fact that goats gotta eat, too. Tired? Well, a nap here and there isn't too bad, but best not get a reputation for sleeping half the day away.

To put it into a modern perspective, we are a bit spoiled, though I argue that we do deserve the benefits we have. We go to a job that is often laid out for us. We are told what to do and how to do it, and we get compensated for that. Then we go home, and therein lies the problem.

See the 8-hour workday, 7-day workweek was NEVER intended to be lay-about time for us. It was specifically so we would have time to do the work of family instead of putting in 18 hours for a boss. But now, we forget to do the work of family. We need to be disciplined.

That discipline can mean so many things. Perhaps it is taking the time to save and invest money wisely to allow for the future prosperity of your family. Perhaps it is doing repair work around the house, or paying someone else to do that (both are equally valid as money represents time and effort that you've already put in, plus you economically lift another in their job as a plumber, etc.).

Perhaps it means going to a food bank or filling out forms for benefits that your family is eligible for but you don't desperately need. We tend to wait until we desperately need "charity" before we use it, but that increases the chances you will need it longer because you fell farther into need before making changes. If we looked at these things more as a parachute and less as the ambulance waiting for us to hit the ground, we could recover from life's little hiccoughs faster. (Check out my post on Hospitality for more on this!)

Discipline means that your wants and wannas, your feelings and hurts, all take a backseat to the reality of what needs to be done for the betterment of the family. Discipline is doing things in spite of your immediate desires in order to meet long-term goals.

Downgrading from a smartphone to a flip-phone for two years to save money is discipline. Making a budget is discipline. Learning to cook so you can cut food costs is discipline. Even consciously making a choice that has an immediate negative effect on your family's finances so that someone can get a degree or certification that will have a long-term positive effect on those finances is discipline.

And, today, discipline is getting back to my editing.

What do you think of my assessment of this virtue?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Emotional Labor: Power and Energy

There's been a lot of discussion in regards to emotional labor lately. I figured I would put in my two cents.

Emotional labor is a situation in which one person is regularly aware of and responsible for dealing with the mood and behavior patterns of another person. Now, in most cases, this ends up simply being aware of whether somebody is in a bad mood and probably needs to talk.

This is what happens when you have a relationship and the (usually) woman ends up dealing with most of the emotional burden in terms of communication. And more extreme situations this is a major confluence of both societal pressures and intersectionality.

Let me explain. Women tend to bear the burden of emotional labor. This is not because men are not capable of doing so. This is because women are socialized to this behavior. However, I believe that it is less likely that it was decided somehow that it is a woman's job to deal with emotions and more that it is a result of the power differential between women and men.

Extreme cases emotional labor is a is a form of hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance is one of the most common results or symptoms of abusive situations. This isn't to say extremely abusive situations. Any abusive situation will result in hyper-vigilance. Things such as bullying, harassment at the workplace, any kind of hostile power differential situation will result in hyper-vigilance.

Hyper-vigilance in this case is when a person becomes focused on and extremely aware of another person's micro-expressions, body language, mood changes, behavior patterns, etc.

In the vast majority of the population, you have white hetero, cis-gendered people. Roughly half of this group has a significant historical and societal power differential over the other half; that is, men have had social power over women. Because of this, women in general are a huge, often suppressed or abused group. The level of suppression or abuse is, of course, widely variable.

It would make a lot of sense that the general power over women creates a general feel of being abused within women, which would lead to a general hyper-vigilance among women towards men. This is a really long way of saying women bear the burden of emotional work because of our minority status. We are trained by our historic suppression, oppression and abuse.

This is observable in other groups with major power differentials. You see it in LGBTQ+ when encountering heterosexual or unknown identifying people, and there is a period of feeling them out before they feel comfortable revealing any clues about their sexuality. Essentially they become hyper-vigilant unless and until the person that they have encountered shows themselves to be safe.

You also see this in terms of racial groups. Many people of color have tried to explain that they become extremely vigilant, extremely aware of the underlying moods and energy, when they're in white spaces.

In many ways, we see the same thing in terms of religious groups as well. Pagans and other minority religions are far less likely to discuss their religion, their religious practices, etc. in a public space and in front of Christians who have not shown themselves to be safe.

Christians on the other hand literally feel comfortable throwing religious language around to the point where, if somebody calls them on it, they consider that to be an attack on them. I can't tell you how often I've been told that someone will pray for me or that they hope that God blesses me etc. in a non-religious situation simply because the Christian and question was comfortable expressing their religion. In fact, they're so comfortable discussing their religion, they go  door-to-door to actually do just that.

In a lot of ways. this explains why so many of these conversations about discrimination, prejudice, and other abuses are so difficult. One group tends to be so hyper-vigilant that they tend to immerse themselves in the situation. The other group never actually even has to think about it.

The major issue doesn't arise, however, until the group that doesn't have to think about it reacts with the topic even just being mentioned with denial, defensiveness, or "counter attacks." They become so blind to their own social power that they consider anything but superiority to be an attack.

What does this all mean for Pagans?

If you find yourself in a situation where you are the majority group, take a moment to evaluate the emotions and energy around you. What is it like? Can you feel the tensions around certain people? In relation to certain people?

Are you supporting minority groups when they have to do the extremely uncomfortable work of calling people on things or are you one of the defenders of the majority? Why have you aligned yourself with the group you are supporting?

Remember, we wouldn't attack a rabbit for being afraid of wolves. We wouldn't say, "but I'm a good wolf, not like the others." We wouldn't "#NotAllWolves". We acknowledge that there is a reason the rabbit is afraid. If we want the rabbit and the wolf to be friends, we support the rabbit in taking smalls steps of trust. We don't shout down the rabbit for being "racist" towards wolves. And we don't hold the rabbit responsible for the wolf's feelings.

So why do we do that for people?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Nine Noble Virtues: a Modern Take - Perseverance

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention, so it seems my title is redundant. However, little seems to have been done to bring the concepts themselves from the past into the present.

I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.

This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.

Perseverance is a virtue that has come to mean a lot in the last year. The dictionary defines it as "continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition". The socio-political sphere has set up quite a few oppositions and difficulties for us, in general. But each of us faces our own set of complications in life.

Historically, perseverance had to do with survival in the elements. You kept moving in a blizzard. You kept fighting in a battle. You kept planting on the farm. You kept hunting for your family. No matter what nature and the world tried to do to you, you kept moving or you died.

These days, it's a bit more nuanced, at least in the US. You don't keep moving because you might die. You keep moving because you don't want your kids to be homeless. You don't want the cascading social effects of financial failure to ruin you.

In the past, if you wanted to move, you packed up and you literally moved (walked) to where you wanted to go. The laws against hitchhiking, homelessness, truancy (for minors), and more, plus the financial requirements of crossing borders, makes that much less of an option.

For Fun and Profit

We keep moving so we can enjoy life within the context of the social structure we live in. Yeah, there are cheat codes and work-arounds, but having a bit of cash makes a lot of things possible.

I have a few life mottos to keep me and my loved ones on the path of doin' stuff:
  • "Never give up, never surrender!"
  • "Just keep swimming..."
  • "Honey Badgers, attack!" (My family is the Honey Badgers, particularly the kids. Hubby is Snorlax.)
Aside from the warm fuzzy feeling that these phrases give me, mostly in remembering the movies they are sourced from, they also reinforce this idea that we have to keep moving.

Keep Moving

For some reason, my husband seems more confused about adulting than I ever was. Specifically, about how frustrating it is to clean the house, do the laundry, catch up the dishes, pay the bills... and turn around to find you need to do it all again.

I frequently express sympathy for the kids, who I've just assigned chores to AGAIN, by saying "I know, it just never ends." I do this because it is true. The trash was taken out yesterday and needs taken out again tomorrow. That's just how that works. Four people wearing clothes and taking baths with towels - laundry always needs done. I make my epic meat sauce for spaghetti - pans and plates need cleaning.

And it isn't just that.

Keep Doing Better

We have to keep improving our situation, at least to a point. We want to be able to afford better quality, healthier food. We want to be able to travel for fun and business. We want the kids to be able to go to camps (and not stay home all summer to drive me nuts!). And we want to be able to afford medical bills and insurance, since both of us freelance our work, so insurance will have to be through us.

I keep a mental tally of the bumps and bruises and aches, prioritizing medical treatments like some kind of psychopathic triage. And I know I've had close to my limit of stress in doing this for the last 5 years. So I add my mental health to the list... at the bottom, of course.

The point is, doing okay is just that - okay. And that's just fine, but it isn't where we want to stay. We want to help the kids pay for college so they don't have the burden of 30 years of debt like we do. Maybe we can help them cut it down to 10 years.

Things Fall Apart

We hit our bumps. Hubby's gig ends a week sooner than expected. They don't direct deposit, so checks have to wait another three days. Things get pushed out and pushed back in anticipation of a break that falls through.

We've all had crap happen. It just does. Life isn't fair. Chores never stop. And, in our current social environment, we always need a certain amount of money, so we have to keep working.

That's just how that works. Give up or get it done. It's a marathon, not a sprint. That's perseverance.

Eat the Horse

Hubby is particularly fond of DBZA, and quotes this scene A LOT.

So if you lose your battle, get back up and eat that horse! At least all these quotes will keep you laughing while you persevere.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Goddess Worship and Feminism: a Plague of Hypocrisy

I am disappointed in someone.

That's not much new for me. I have a lot of optimism and hope surrounding the people that I don't hate on sight. The more I get to know them, the more I see the epic awesomeness they could be. This leads to a certain amount of disappointment when they don't live up to their potential, but more often because they don't even try.

This is a very brief description of a very nuanced set of experiences for me, so don't assume you get it from those few sentences. It will be better for everyone involved.

My recent disappointment is but one of a series revolving around a single general concept - Goddess worshipers (ie, Wiccans, many Pagans, etc.) who actively speak out against women's rights and, in particular, the issues surrounding the #MeToo movement. For those of you living in a cave, I'm talking about people who don't support women having more justice in sexual harassment, abuse, assault, etc. cases.

Yeah, I say women, but only because it is disproportionately women. Men get attacked, too. Men also represent 98% of perpetrators, so I'm going to keep this simple and assume that a perpetrator is male.

Skadi got a divorce cuz her
first hubby didn't allow for her needs.
If I get another #NotAllMen comment, my head will blow up. 98% is not a statistic of kinda-sorta. It doesn't even break out of the +/- range of uncertainty. Fortunately for us, this statistic is based on reporting, so it really doesn't have an uncertainty range. 2% of women are douche-canoes, too.

Here's what my issue is.
Many Wiccan (mostly) men (mostly) worship the Goddess (TM). Great! Awesome!

Unfortunately, it ends up being a semi-sexual relationship of holding the ideal feminine as the only feminine with value.

Oh, yes, I said it. I could go into a background and history, but I'm a Midwestern gal, so I'm going full-on redneck with some

You Might Be A Hypocritical Goddess Worshiper If:

  • If your default position is that women are likely to lie or exaggerate about being assaulted or attacked or harassed...
    Some Goddesses are the Divine Mother;
    some will destroy your world. Both are
    "real women".
  • If you are concerned that women having the power to get justice for assaults will negatively affect you or your life...
  • If you believe that women are "bad" if they react to an accidental grope/brush/bump "excessively"...
  • If you have called a woman a name that implied a sexual or physical judgment of her in a debate or argument*...
  • If you feel that apologizing to a woman for an accident is worse than her being the recipient unintentional or accidental touching of her breasts, butt or other "second base" body parts...
  • If you feel that apologizing would give a woman power over you...
  • If you believe that your intentions for a situation trump any experience a woman has in that situation...
  • If you think taking responsibility (ownership) for your actions doesn't include accidental violations of another person...
  • If you think taking responsibility (ownership) for your actions will somehow mandate punitive measures...
  • If you think that a woman's past experience, whether distant or immediate, MUST be shared and understood by you before it can mitigate whether she has the right to an emotional reaction...
  • If you think your intentions in a situation should be more important than a woman's past experience, whether distant or immediate, in how she feels about a situation...
    No one ever taught "fuckability
    of subjects" in art history...
  • If you think that your intentions in a situation should give you immediate, verbal and enthusiastic forgiveness for any unintentional violation of a woman's body...
  • If you have ever said, thought or typed something like "you aren't helping your cause" during a discussion about women's rights, sexual assault, etc...
  • If you have ever behaved in action or word as though a woman should not question your trustworthiness because you are connected on social media or through mutual friends...
  • If you have ever told a woman "I would never fuck you"** or otherwise reduced a woman with a position/opinion on a topic to having value only if you would be willing to have sex with her...
  • If you have ever thought or made a comment about a woman's negligence in preventing her attack/assault/harassment, WITHOUT making a conscious effort to refute or walk-back those thoughts and/or comments AND attempting to derail such thoughts in the future***...
  • If you have ever said or thought that someone was not a "real woman" because of their opinions, appearance, sexual preferences or activity, career choice, behavior, gender assignment at birth, or anything other than their own self-identification...
    Even the Great Mother isn't always what
    the generic images portray.
  • And, perhaps the most controversial one - If you have expressed or behaved in a way that indicated that the sacredness of a woman or the feminine was solely or primarily about their sex, sexuality, reproduction, or appearance in relation to any of these things...
So, what do you do if you suspect you are a hypocritical Goddess worshiper? It's really easy. Shut up and listen to the conversation. Think about what people are saying, and not just from the (white) male perspective. How would you feel if you endured what women are talking about? How would you want it resolved? Work on applying the things you've learned TO YOUR LIFE. The best thing you can do to support women in your life or in this world is to #LearnBetterDoBetter.

Please feel free to comment more "you might be a hypocrite Goddess worshiper if..." items!

* If you think I'm wrong about Universal Healthcare, that still doesn't make me a slut. And, yes, this "clever comeback" is something I literally experience several times a month - it just doesn't happen to me that often.

** I can guarantee that, unless we are on a dating site and actively flirting, having sex with you is not something I'm considering. At all. Your penis is not and will never be the focus of my interactions with you. I would appreciate if you would stop thinking about my vagina.

*** I acknowledge that this is a visceral reaction with a steep learning curve. This only partially excuses it. Victim-blaming is always wrong.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Problem With Integrity

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” - Zig Ziglar

This quote was waiting for me in my in-box, like a crouching panther about to attack.
I get it. I sometimes look for the simple tales - the one with the black hat bad guys and the white hat good guys. The ones where the good guy always knows what to do and it’s always right. How simple, how pure such tales are.
I can’t write them. It’s not like I don’t know how. That’s how children’s stories go. It’s a basic plot with characters who are iconic. Dare I say, archetypal?
I guess it would be more honest to say I won’t write them. To explain why, I have to unpack everything I find wrong about the quote above.
“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide.”
First of all, this assumes that hiding something is counter to having integrity. But that’s not the case. I can’t spill my entire life story every time I meet someone. Or even every time I befriend someone. I can’t wear my life on my sleeve. That’s called oversharing.
And it means there will always be things you don’t share about yourself. Some of that may include bad behavior you’ve since grown out of. And sometimes, it just doesn’t mean enough to you to share with other people. That is, you forget about it.
This also assumes that things that you hide are all things you don’t want other people to know about because of nefarious reasons. That’s bunk. Sometimes, I’m just embarrassed, like when I can’t walk on ice because I’m a clutz. Sometimes, it’s an issue that I have that no one needs to know about, like how ice sends fear shooting through me with thoughts of pain and death because I slipped once and shattered my ankle, and sat in the snow screaming for help at 5 am. Life changing, yes. Something everyone needs to know about? Probably not.
Fear isn’t just about what people will think of you or how they will judge you. Sometimes fear is the primal reminder that we are mortal and may have brushed up against death at some point.
“With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”
I have got to move to B&W world where these quotes come from. Just because you have integrity, doesn’t mean you automatically know what decisions are right. Gods, that would be awesome! Evil things would never happen by accident. Bad stuff would never be an unintended consequence. It would all be by choice, making those who caused bad things to instantly be the bad guy.
Life doesn’t work like that, and realistic writing plays with the grays. Good people make bad choices, and no amount of integrity can change that.
However, people with ego and a belief in the strength of their own integrity will actually believe that they cannot make a bad choice. If their actions have a negative and unintended consequence, they will blame it on the victim (“she must have deserved it”) or on someone else (“look what you made me do”). To these people, there is no need to feel guilt or apologize for accidental or unintended bad things. If fate put you in the way, you must have earned that negativity somehow.

I could go on, evaluating the way that this quote extends into social mindsets, like meritocracy, and the pros and cons associated. But I should keep this short, and that would be a thesis-sized project.