Monthly Archives: January 2012
Imbolc, Bridget’s Day, Candlemas, or even Groundhog’s Day, whatever we may call it we are approaching the point in the year where the light shifts. Days have been getting increasingly longer since the Winter Solstice. By this point in the turning of the year it is noticeable that the sky is still light when we get home from the office. We appreciate that the sun is up before the bus arrives in the morning.
February is a difficult month for a lot of people. Eating locally becomes difficult especially in Northern climates. The stores do not seem as abundant and we know winter has a long way to go. Here in Minnesota we often experience the “winter thaw” at this time of year, making ice fishing a little treacherous. This year the weather has been so very wrong. It has been extremely pleasant, but entirely out of the ordinary. Our “thaw” may look a lot like the rest of the winter has been.
The seed catalogues start coming in the mail in droves. It’s helpful to be able to plan for spring while sitting through the doldrums of the cold season. Valentine’s Day is coming soon. That’s a little pick me up, or a little pity party depending on the circumstances. At any rate it’s likely to involve a renewal of bounteous chocolates. Since most of us don’t spend our days outdoors, and since most of us are dependent upon electric lighting, the shifting of the light doesn’t have the impact it would have in a hunter/gatherer culture. Our candle supply is sure to hold out, even if we don’t spend the month rendering fat to make new ones.
Spring cleaning happens in much of the world at this time of year. Even up here where it’s too cold to throw open the windows there is a sense of cabin fever. Something needs to freshen up the internal atmosphere. It is the time to clean the tools (remember that garden planning) and that goes for magical tools as well. Perhaps this shift in light is part of my motivation to deal with some “stuff”.
This shift also is a cue to start looking for signs of spring. A little south of us the end of the month will bring the first bulbs peaking out from under the snow. Up here that won’t happen for another 2 months, at least in a typical year. My daughter swears she saw a robin in the yard this last weekend. Ordinarily it’s not robins, but cardinals and chickadees that brighten our February days. Red and Black and White, the colors of the Goddess and the sign of her promise to return from the underworld and bring spring back from the land.
Light is returning
Along with putting away all of the holiday decorations I found myself sorting through my magical “stuff”. I’ve had several occasions to pull out my spiritual tools. You know, those symbols, the nick-knacks that for whatever reason have a spiritual connection. Theoretically I have “stuff” to redecorate the house every 6 weeks (Samhein, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon). I have plenty of “stuff.”
The “stuff” in the photo, an altar I set up for myself, is a collection of things that fit into my little medicine bag. They are pieces I’ve picked up over the years that mark particular points in my spiritual journey. And they are also convenient to carry when I’m traveling.
This “stuff” is important to me. It carries meaning both in symbology and also from the history where I picked up the trinkets along the way. Some of it carries a very potent charge making it easy to return to the feelings I had when I got it. Some of it carries it’s own symbology, like the rune or the chinese birth year tag, or even the particular stones. But most of this “stuff” only comes out on special occasions. When I’m taking a retreat or doing very deep personal work.
A lot of my “stuff” only gets pulled out when I’m looking to make a point in a public setting. I brought some of that with me when I did my workshop in October. I set up a little altar and decorated it with symbols that might be recognizable or meaningful to the people who attended. It’s all “stuff” I like. It’s all “stuff” I’ve used for various purposes, some more than others. Some of it carries fond emotional memories. Some of it I choose for particular attributes and associations. But it’s not my every day “stuff.”
I continue to acquire “stuff”. Anytime I go to an event there is usually some “stuff” to bring home. Either a special name badge or a token from a ritual or a magical marker to help sort the crowd into smaller groups. Sometimes I think I’d like to keep this “stuff” as a memory or a tool to reconnect to the energies of the event. Sometimes I think this “stuff” is just clutter and needs to be disposed of appropriately.
That’s really the problem with all this “stuff”. When things carry a special charge, magical or meaningful, it makes it very difficult to just throw them in the trash. Candles can be burned or remade, as can many of the crafted items (like my vision board from 10 years ago). Some things break (chalices, bowls, lamps) and can then be disposed of as household items. But what do I do with a magical blade that I no longer use? What do I do with the rattles? What do I do with the chalices, bowls and lamps that are still perfectly useful?
This issue becomes even trickier for a teacher. I have several “collections of stuff” that I pull out for specific classes. The variety allows students to compare and contrast a variety of tools that could be used for the same purpose. I have specific items that only come out in particular rituals, rites of passage that don’t come up on an annual basis.
It’s definitely time to clean out my “stuff”. I am hoping some of it will be useful enough to donate to either the programs supporting servicemen practicing their religions on foreign soil or to prison programs supporting Pagan prisoners.
What is your favorite or most useful spiritual “stuff”?
This week seems to have been laid out to provide practice for me to say, “NO!” I Am not very good at “No.” I say,”I’d rather not.” I dodge with a version of, “Maybe, we’ll see.” I’m helpful, “Wouldn’t it be better if….” I am perfectly comfortable with, “Yes.” If I actually say, “Yes” I’ve committed and will follow through. It’s clean dependable communication. Not so much with “No.”
Spirituality is a balance of compassion for others and compassion for yourself. It requires the ability to set and maintain clear boundaries. It includes being true to your word as well as being true to yourself. I’m really working on the piece where I develop compassion and an ability to take care of myself. This ‘no saying’ is important and I clearly need the practice.
My first opportunity to say “No” was much easier than I anticipated. I had spent plenty of time and energy fussing to myself about not taking on a leadership role for a Spiritually based community project. I’m involved in the project and it currently appears leaderless. Time had gotten short, we hadn’t made adequate progress and there was no way to turn out a quality product in the time remaining unless someone really stepped it up. I was very much in an “I don wanna!” mood.
Thankfully, our host opened the meeting with an apology if he was stepping on toes followed by a statement that he didn’t think we could pull this together given the timeframe. He was clear that he personally couldn’t commit to what it would take and proposed we shelve the project. This was greeting with cheers. “No” came out as an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Unanimous agreement followed by a meeting to rework the project in a timeframe we could manage. A very easy way to say, “No.”
The second opportunity came in a package laden with guilt. I was asked before Christmas if I would be willing to work (implying some small compensation for gas) as a patient advocate (Are you asking me to be his patient advocate? Yes.) for my ex-father-in-law. Since that time I have taken him to 1 of the 5 or 6 appointments he’s had scheduled.) I have not been kept in the loop about his health or housing except when I asked directly. I have not gotten any support for the suggestion that we create a binder to coordinate his immediate medical information.
At least 3 of the missed appointments were due to an assumption that I was not competent to manage the appointment, for whatever reason. I didn’t have the history (and wasn’t going to get it unless I went). I didn’t have a relationship with the doctor (again I wasn’t going to by staying home). I couldn’t handle the transfer (something I originally trained to do 35 years ago and have kept in practice with myself, my son and others over the years). I get very mixed and conflicting messages about what the family (4 sons including my ex) actually expect.
Additionally I am really treated badly by the boys. I was practically ignored the last time I joined them for a meal (which I’d bought and helped make). I am regularly reminded that the “exes” have no place in the family (I’m the only one who has maintained any kind of relationship). I am called upon to step in and help out when no one else is available, but I am neither appreciated or welcomed. My ex is incapable of treating anyone “badly” he’s just not supportive and tends to maintain an ‘out of sight out of mind’ practice for attentiveness to details.
None of the above is any fault of my ex-father-in-law. He’s happy to see me and give me a hug and a kiss. He’s grateful for my company and my support. We chat on the phone about what’s going on in his social life and mine. He’s always been there for me when I’ve needed advice and I’m happy to help him out in any way at this time in his life. However, I am fed up with dealing with the boys who aren’t communicating with each other, much less me. I had resigned myself to having a chat with my ex-father-in-law about what I was and was not willing to do for him and for them.
Then I get a phone call from my ex. He’s calling about an appointment that I have never had on my calendar. He’s calling after 730pm for an appointment the next day. He’s only asking if I am available, just in case. He doesn’t actually know the time of the appointment, the place of the appointment or what kind of ‘available’ I might need to be. I suspect it involves one of the brothers not wanting to get up that early after working the night before. I asked a few questions and got some of the information, but not all of it. He’d get back to me. At 9pm I said, “I can’t.”
It may not have been “No” but I really didn’t want to seem harsh. The serving of guilt coming from a genuine desire to be helpful was showing. At least it was clear and succinct. I felt much better having said it. Any guilt was washed away in the knowledge that this was not an emergency appointment and also that I originally asked for as much notice as possible. The following morning I enjoyed snuggling back into a warm bed on a cold morning and taking a nap.
The third “No” is as yet unresolved. Again, I am being asked a favor by a group of people who have written me off. It is to support their collection of a history for a group I have been actively involved with for over 20 years. The history as they have written it thus far elevates the contributions the writers have made over the years and does not make any mention of contributions I made. In fact there are a few places where the writers have actively taken credit for things I did, or we did together.
I am not interested in lending my historical documentation. There are things I have lent these people in the past that still have not been returned to me. I am told that my relationship in intimate spiritual settings with at least one of these people is entirely a lie. Time and again I have seen these people commit to something and then be unable to follow through when things became difficult.
I am marginally interested in setting the record straight and the documentation I have does, to some extent, establish my position within the group. I do not believe that having this collection in an archive will change anything about the way the history is currently being presented. I do not believe this documentation will be utilized in any direct way to support the group. I’ve already let a member of this group make a complete copy of my collection and they’ve apparently lost track of it.
I’ve not yet come to a place for myself where my “No” is clear. I have determined that it is not in my best interest to track these people down. They know where to find me. They have all of my phone numbers. I’ve returned a call and been told they would get back to me. I’m not waiting by the phone holding my breath.
Dinner Friday evening was a surprise. The oven failed to light. Now, I’ve been struggling with this stove for awhile and I know the oven’s been acting up. Since I still couldn’t get it to light by Sunday I resigned myself to a new stove as well. I have been resolved to get a handle on my financial situation for awhile now. This is not helpful!
How many of you have all ready managed to break your New Years resolutions? Have any of you ever managed to keep a resolution for a whole year?
The New Oxford American Dictionary that came loaded into my laptop defines resolution as follows:
resolution |ˌrezəˈloō sh ən|noun1 a firm decision to do or not to do something : she kept her resolution not tosee Anne any more | a New Year’s resolution.• a formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting, typically after taking a vote : the conference passed two resolutions.• the quality of being determined or resolute : he handled the last French actions of the war with resolution. See note at courage .
2 the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter : thepeaceful resolution of all disputes | a successful resolution to the problem.• Music the passing of a discord into a concord during the course ofchanging harmony.• Medicine the disappearance of inflammation, or of any other symptom or condition.
3 chiefly Chemistry the process of reducing or separating something into its components.
I happen to prefer the second definition especially at this time of year. The action of solving a problem or a contentious matter. The passing of discord into concord. I suspect that most of our New Years resolutions stem from some kind of discord in our lives, dissatisfaction with ourselves or desire for something different. The proclamation that we’re going to resolve that problem in a years time is often quite ambiguous. I resolve to lose 100 lbs this year. There is no real plan of action for how to go about that momentous task.
When I make a New Years resolution I usually manage to hang on to it for about 3 weeks. When I approach a problem with resolve I’m much more likely to gnaw away at it until it comes into harmony. I’m likely to pick it apart and find out what I can get done immediately. I worry the rest of it until either I solve the problem or decide it isn’t worth continuing to fuss about. Then I cheerfully leave it behind without any guilt or concern that I failed.
It seems to me that a New Years resolution is like credit card debt. Great instant gratification and guilt for an extended time down the road. Sadly, as I’ve found this year, sometimes that credit card debt seems pretty unavoidable. Unless of course your resolutions tend to be more in line with the old custom of Braggarts Toast. The drinking game where each in turn says they are going to do some great deed topping the last toast made, and we all drink to that.
So the first person says they are going to lose that 100 lbs this year, and we all drink to that. The next person says they’re going to take that 100 lbs of fat and turn it into 30 lbs of lean muscle tissue, and we all drink to that. The next person says they’re going to use their lean muscle tissue to repave the road the city never gets to, and we all drink to that. The next person isn’t just going to repave the road they’re going to build a whole mass transit network, and we all drink to that. You get the idea. The only guilt involved with that kind of braggarts resolution is from the hangover the next day!
I decided a long time ago that I was giving up on New Years resolutions. I didn’t like beating myself up for a month over it. I do a little better with shorter term goals that with this kind of big promise. I do think it’s a good time of year for visioning. I like to take a little time out to meditate on how I would like my life to look, how I see myself, in December next year. Because this is a wish, there are no strings attached. Often though, the visioning can serve as a carrot throughout the year to get myself somewhere I really want to be. Better for me to work towards something than against.
I hope that whatever you’ve resolved, what ever issues you have resolve about, and whatever New Years visions you hold that the coming year holds many blessings and pleasant surprises. I wish you great joy and laughter in 2012. May your spirit be filled with love and peace.
I had the beginnings of a lovely posting set to go out on Monday 2 January, 2012. But……….
New Years Eve day I was quietly sitting watching a British BBC production (White’s) on my laptop. I was juggling my breakfast, a large cup of tea, and keeping an eye on Orion eating his breakfast.
At this point I don’t remember if it was the phone chiming in with a text message, or Orion asking a question, or a timer going off in the kitchen. It could have been any or none of those things. It could have been the cat jumping up or a cramp in my leg. Whatever it was, I moved.
And the entire world shifted.
The end result was that pretty much the entire cup of tea ended up poured over the laptop keyboard. Crash!
So you are getting a post with no pictures, no editing and very little prep. because I no longer have a functional computer.
The nice people at the Apple store started quoting me prices on water damage repair that started at $750 with no guarantee of success. Since I don’t have anything backed up externally (I know and I’m crying) any repair could require dumping all the data unless I paid additionally to back it up before they sent it in to the shop. Given what the tech had already seen I needed a new board, a new box and if there was anything else the repair shop would probably deem the computer a total loss.
Theoretically they could do the data transfer on site before they sent the computer into the shop. In order for that to happen I would need to purchase a remote hard-drive. Additionally I would pay the data transfer fee, cover the costs of anything extraordinary needed to transfer the data, and of course the inevitable sales taxes. I quickly began to see the costs of repair as nearly equivalent to starting over with a brand new machine (with a brand new warranty.)
Sadly, I did not receive $1500 in holiday loot. (Didn’t expect to. I thought $50 was nice.) So I am starting the New Year with an unanticipated debt and hopefully a new computer with all of my old data. There is still no guarantee that the data will transfer uncorrupted as the old machine is severely corroded internally.
I am asking for prayers and good wishes that by the end of the week I might be up and running again. I have photos and files on that old machine that I would really, really hate to lose.
May Hermes, God of Communication (and in this era electronic data), look kindly upon all of us in 2012.