Letting Go, Looking Back

Jul 23, 2010
It seems like every time I have a spiritual crisis I respond by getting rid of things. This time, I finally admitted to myself that I'm never going to be an herbalist. It's something that seems like it should be ideal for me -- handcrafting magic, making something out of nothing, plus a solid tie to centuries of casual household magic -- but I just don't have the patience for plants. They don't do it for me. I emptied all of the apothecary jars full of rosemary and peony and jasmine leaves into the back yard and sent the jars over to Goodwill; my collection of herbal references went to the used book store. I have much more space now, and I feel much happier with that, but that still doesn't solve the original problem.

Perhaps it has something to do with something I've been reading about elsewhere in the blogosphere -- intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is why you do the things you love. It's the reason why the thing itself is enjoyable, rather than something you do because you ought to. Eating food because it's tasty, not because it's a part of your new diet plan. Shooting archery because it's fun and challenging and an excellent form of active meditation, not because I feel like I should exercise.

Praying because...?

I think the urge to get rid of things is a sign that I've lost track of that intrinsic motivation; it's been buried under a pile of books and paraphernalia and, more importantly, that which those things represent. A sense that I am obligated to practice, rather than doing so because it brings me joy, because it is the right thing to do.

I have been feeling, increasingly, that I have no right to call myself Pagan if I don't do something about my practice, and yet this thought is crippling my ability to practice. I love the idea that orthopraxy, rather than orthodoxy, is what unites modern Paganism, but somehow this has morphed into a subconscious sense that I'm doing it wrong.

I wish I had an answer to this problem, but an easy answer would be a cheat, because it's a real difficulty. I do need to practice in order to fulfill myself as a witch and a Pagan; feeling like I need to practice is crushing. Part of the problem is, doubtless, in the overly-broad term "practice;" what does that include? Do I need to perform devotions every day in order to feel right? Every week? At the dark of the moon? Is it devotions, or spirit travel, or divination, or what? I've never quite worked these questions out for myself. Now appears to be the time.

This week I visited my parents for my mom and my sister's birthdays. I slept in the room I grew up in, the room I first cast a circle in, the room I became who I am in. I can remember my first Samhain ritual, and I remember that I had a very clear sense of otherworldliness, and how it filled me with delight. I cannot remember that feeling itself anymore.

Finding the Time

Jul 16, 2010
The second time I went to therapy, in the beginning of my second year of library school, I expressed the frustration that I wasn't able to do everything that I wanted to -- it wasn't that I didn't have the time, just that I couldn't make myself do it. I would spend my free time reading Cracked.com or playing video games instead of doing these other things that were more important to me, like writing or practicing my religion. And the therapist said, well, you need to set some priorities; you can't do everything, so decide what is most important to you. And she probably offered some other suggestions, too, but I'm afraid I can no longer remember what they are. I can remember whether or not they helped (hint: no).

Not being able to get anything accomplished other than sleep and video games is a symptom of depression, of course. (I'm not sure if the video games are part of the official diagnosis or not, but they should be.) It was earlier this week, when I decided that my major accomplishment for the day would be a shower, that I realized how depressed I'd gotten again. Unemployment will do that to you, but I was in denial. I always start out my vacations -- and I'd been thinking of this summer as a vacation, at least until August -- intending to do all kinds of wonderful things that I didn't have time for while I was in school or working, and it never quite happens. Do I just get depressed when I don't have something that needs to get done, some external motivation? Possibly.

When I sat down to start writing a new blog post, my first inclination was to say that I hadn't been able to find the time to update. Which is both true and not true. I have had more time than I know what to do with; I have, at most, two (completely voluntary) obligations a week, for a total of four hours. But I really haven't been able to find the time -- or perhaps it's the mental space I haven't been able to find, because all too often the thought of writing something, anything, for public consumption has been overwhelming.

I lost the habit of daily prayers and readings when I went to a professional conference in DC at the end of last month, and I haven't been able to pick it up again. Last night I wiped a thick layer of dust off my altar. I haven't been able to find the time. Time is not an objective measure, an arc of numbers on a clock, but an experience. When we're enjoying ourselves, we say that time flies; at ten minutes to five on a Friday afternoon, it crawls. In a hot July in the midst of one job-hunting disappointment after another, it seems to vanish altogether until everything runs together in a long string of sticky afternoons and inadequate resumes.

I know -- I know, in a deep part of myself -- that I could make time come back if I worked at it, if I spoke to my gods again and traveled to their secret places and paid attention to my own mind. The thought is, actually, a little frightening. The sense of time passing may only enforce how long it's been that I've been unemployed, how much longer it might be, how much trouble I could be in if I can't get a job soon. Or it may help cement my sense of self, give me an anchor even if I can't make the rest of the world acknowledge my skills and talents.

I got up before noon for the first time in a week today, ate breakfast and lunch and took the bus downtown to work in the library, where I wrote so many blog posts during the school year while avoiding my homework. I haven't dusted off the altar yet. We'll see. We'll see.