October 6, 2018 in reflection+studies · 14 minute read

i’m not sure where to begin, so let’s start with some journal entries i wrote— starting nearly four years ago. this is a journey i’ve been on for a long time, but not one i’ve historically been open about. but to live the life i want to live, i need to fully embrace myself. the good, the bad, the conventional, the freakish, the domesticated, the wild.

and all of the betwixt.

day 1 // march 29, 2015

it’s nearing the end of march, which means that it’s the beginning of spring in the midwest. most of the snow has melted, enduring only where pockets of shade protect it from the noon sun of warmer days. it’s raining and windy today; an awkward mix of frozen and wet. it’s depressing weather, but i can feel new sprouts fighting to burst forth. i can feel the grass drinking in water from the soil, shivering, but reaching out to what sunlight it can to begin new growth. between the golden, straw-like grass of last year, i can see deep green spreading.

like the earth, i come alive in spring. i spend all winter reclusive, fighting for every ounce of motivation and energy. it comes easier this time of year; i can feel myself bursting to grow and change and become new, but i can’t yet act on it. the soil is still too hard, the weather still too unpredictable. it will reach the sixties next week, but a day later will bring us back to fifties. a week after that, we might be back in the thirties.

i am desperate for a garden; to re-landscape around the house. i want to feel my hands churning the dirt, tending to vegetables and flowers, planting baby trees and looking after the ancient. i feel more connected in the spring and summer, even in the early days of fall. i’m anxious to begin spending more time outdoors, feeling the warm sun and humid breeze on my skin. i can feel the divine, then. and i feel radiant.

but the rain today gives me hope. ever since i was a child, i loved the rain. something about the patter on the roof. it feels like a hug. unlike snow, i don’t feel trapped in my home like a caged lion; i feel like the outside is inside with me in the sound of the rain. i feel inspired. i feel creative. i feel nourished.

perhaps it’s the connection i’ve always had with water. nourishing, changing.

today, i’m still struggling against the desire to start preparing the yard for new life and gardening. but until then, i can prepare and plan my summer landscape: a lilac bush near the front door. tending to the purple sage outside my office windows. bleeding hearts. hyacinth, hydrangea. dogwood. marigold. vinca vines. an herb garden. a vegetable garden.

day 2 // march 30, 2015

words have power and connotation and meaning. humans have a history of taking words, twisting their denotation from something neutral to negative, then taking it back to something positive. this isn’t uncommon in paganism, with words like witch and occult and spell and magic. i might have feared some of these words when i was younger, buying in to popular media. i don’t now, though occult is one i occasionally struggle with.

but the thing is, witches are people in the same way that christians or jews or muslims are people. some are good and some are bad. mostly, people are good— but we fixate on the bad, the extremists, and we let them twist connotations and denotations.

names have power, too. and the lack of names.

it’s easier to write here in anonymity. when i’m my own audience. i also fear the impact my paganism will have on future jobs, if it ever became public knowledge. i wish that it could. maybe someday it will. but there is still too much fear and misunderstanding. i’ve always thought religion should be personal, anyway. it has no place in our public lives except to urge us to love and understand one another.

i want to share and explore semi-publicly, if it might provide insight and help someone else.

but i’m not ready to come out of the broom closet.

day 3 // march 31, 2015

letting go.

it sounds so easy.

it’s one of the most difficult things i have yet to learn.

but the more i practice, the more it begins to stick, that “letting go”.

day 4 // april 1, 2015

infinite love.

my mind is a trap of negativity and insecurity. i’ve struggled against that for most of my life.

in paganism, i find love: for the self, for the world. i find acceptance. i find growth. i find balance.

this year is about getting lost and finding myself in that. it’s about becoming a new person; the person i know i am, deep down, but have been to afraid to show the world.

i find confidence in paganism. comfort. direction. peace.

that has been difficult to find.

day 5 // may 14, 2015

breathe.

it is something we do constantly, without thought, without feeling. it is such a minor thing, or seems to be, compared to the hustle and bustle of modern life. there is so much to do. if we are not moving, we are not productive, we are not worth anything. or so corporations would have us believe.

that is a lie.

pausing, breathing; that is life. that is worth everything.

feeling is worth everything. to feel every mundane, exquisite, complex piece of ourselves and the universe.

you breathe, the air rushing to fill your body making your tongue and throat cold, swelling and swirling in your diaphragm, your lungs expanding, and your chest growing tight. this is the feeling of being alive.

so, too, are the thoughts that race through your mind as you take a single breath. there is so much life to live, and we are all so intent on experiencing it all, that we don’t often enough slow down to truly feel it. to be present in each breath, to notice how your lungs feel when they’re full, or how the sunrise make your breath stop because it speaks to you and makes your whole body ache in wonder.

slow down. feel it.

it will be over too soon.

day 6 // may 18, 2015

death has always been hard for me. i don’t remember a time when it didn’t make the breath catch at the base of my throat, make my heart feel like it was caught in a steely grip, like it was struggling to beat. it’s the same way i feel when i think too hard about the universe— how large it is, how small i am, how infinite time is and how finite i am.

like all of us, i have seen death in my family. many, blessedly, of old and happy age; too many, too young.

uncles. grandfather. grandmother. aunt. beloved pets.

it will never be easy. even as i accept it as a part of life, i think death will always terrify me and the thought of it will always make my blood run cold.

++++

i was raised christian; my mother’s family was catholic, and my father’s lutheran. my father is an athiest, and although my mother would likely consider her catholic, i consider her a universalist unitarian.

i don’t know if i had one calling to paganism. in a lot of ways, i feel like this was always my path; i just wasn’t always walking it.

when i was in elementary school, two friends and i kept a journal together. in it, we wrote spells— the herbs we would need, the words we would speak, the effect we wanted to achieve. i believed wholeheartedly.

i was confirmed as christian during high school, though it was more for my family than myself. it never felt quite right to me. of all the lessons leading up to my confirmation, walking the labyrinth, and attending a blended native american + catholic service spoke to me the most. introspection. honoring nature.

i don’t remember when, beyond the fact it was during high school, but i was exploring “half price books” and found a book called the rebirth of druidry— that caught my attention. my dad always called himself a druid. i wanted to know, truly, what that meant. i’m not sure he meant it seriously, but i think finding that book was my moment. it began everything.

paganism feels like truth in my bones. it feels honest, authentic.

++++

i won’t understand death until it’s my time. it will always be painful. i don’t quite find the answer to the question “what will happen when i die?” in paganism.

truthfully, i think it was paganism’s focus on the here and now that spoke to my soul.

i don’t want to spend my days living so that i might find happiness when i die.

i want to spend my days living.

day 7 // november 12, 2015

the sun rises and the sun sets.

our earth revolves around it. we revolve around it.

it’s little wonder that in many religions and spiritual paths, the sun is a powerful symbol and metaphor for life. it is the reason we have food to eat. we have evolved to wake with it. our eyes have evolved to see well in its light. we would be blind, lost, hungry, cold without it.

there is a reason it is a symbol of the ultimate power. there are larger powers, of course, more forces at work that result in our lives. but from our narrow, earthen view— the reason we exist, the reason we can exist, is because of the sun.

a new day starts when the sun rises, and so we associate that with beginnings. when it sets, the majority of us go to sleep, and so we associate that with endings. but it is all merely a matter of perspective.

life persists even in darkness. life is the owl screeching in the night. it is the deer that have adapted to our noisy, bustling, human life and move in the safety of the night. it is the crickets. the cicadas. the raccoons.

the sunset is not an ending. the sun persists, even outside of our view. even as stars explode and die, their energy does not dissipate and end. it persists throughout the universe.

there are no endings. only beginnings. and most importantly, persistence.

life persists, even outside of our view.

day 8 // november 13, 2015

learning to be still.

to be comforted by the chaos— or at least, to be unconcerned by it.

my anxiety is an attempt to control an uncontrollable world. all the plans in the world cannot save you from the one inevitability you did not think of.

learning to be okay with that. to flow. to bounce back to one’s feet.

to be calm in the storm.

day 9 // june 21, 2016

it is human to reach for something greater than oneself when life becomes overwhelming. it is a way, i think, to cast aside responsibility— to give oneself permission to not have to work through the difficult thoughts and emotions. to cast responsibility for ourselves to the universe in the belief that it will sort itself out, and that it will be for the best.

i admit that this is why i first turned to paganism. i did not like the rules of the christian god, but i desperately wanted the ability to cast aside my responsibility, and so i turned elsewhere.

but the thing is: wicca does not promise freedom from responsibility. nor does the christian god, if you think about it. paganism teaches personal responsibility, and accountability for ones choices. what you put into the world comes back threefold. and in christianity, god will judge his followers and their choices in the end.

one can pray, or perform ritual, or seek to become a better human. but unless the work is done— to take real, meaningful steps alongside your prayers and ritual— your reality cannot change.

this is true of so much in life. you have to do the work. to understand yourself, you have to embrace the ugly feelings and dig through them and untangle them so you may put them to rest. to improve the world, you must do the ugly work that comes with it.

you cannot just hope and pray that life will get better, or that your anger and hurt will fade. you have to do the work.

++++

it’s amazing what you can sort through when you stop and take a few minutes to breathe.

happy midsummer.

day 10 // june 22, 2016

blanking the mind, learning to sit with the stillness, to let errant thoughts float by without settling in and festering into a panicked and irrational worry.

distancing yourself so that you can address your emotions objectively; to accept what serves you, and let go of the rest.

day 11 // june 23, 2016

i am a moon child, but in the darkness of the midwestern winter, i’m lost without the light and heat of the sun.

it’s the balance, the nature of opposing forces and how they twist and often strengthen the other, that draws me to paganism the most. separate, but equal. different, but just as valuable as the other. we would not know life without death, nor light without darkness. it’s not to say that things are always black and white, for there’s twilight in all things. it’s those shifts, the tense moments of transition and in between, that make me feel alive.

++++

i remember back to almost a decade ago. it was a time of transition; when the teenagers of the church no longer went to sunday school but had confirmation classes and field trips. these are actually my strongest memories of christianity, and for that i am thankful— to be part of a church that was open to other faiths, and other styles of worship.

i remember burning tobacco after a prayer to the four directions and four elements; a native american catholic church. despite having gone to church every sunday for my entire life up until that point, this is the single service that i remember. it felt grounded in reality, in the earth that i could see and touch.

i remember walking slowly through a labyrinth. this was a different trip, around the same time, and i remember nothing but peace. my teenage years were excruciating, fraught with depression and anxiety— an internal anguish that didn’t seem to have a source or any relief (thankfully, that relief seems to have been ‘adulthood’). but as i walked the labyrinth, everything melted away. i felt grounded and content.

++++

down the road, they’re building a complex of nature walks, shrines, and labyrinths.

i eagerly await its opening.

day 12 // july 17, 2016

sunday nights are difficult. they are typically sleepless and anxiety-filled.

this is not something that’s uncommon amongst us humanfolk. it’s the prelude to the workweek, when we are thrust back into the chaos of commutes and deadlines and competing priorities. as daylight fades into moonlight, the tide of our anxiety flows in— we begin to think of the work that awaits us, and what work we might have forgotten in the week prior. we wonder what emergencies await us. so we then strive to elongate the weekend, and sleep alludes us.

perhaps this does not happen to you, or perhaps your week begins a different day, and this pattern is your tuesday or wednesday or thursday night— but i think it something most can relate to. and this anxiety often feels as inevitable as the tide coming into shore, and we feel just as powerless to stop it.

++++

i began reading another book yesterday. my day-to-day life feels empty of spirituality; like connecting with nature is a mere afterthought, though it is something i hold sacred and something i consider important. struggling to find ways of being pagan all the time, i searched for some literature to aid me. i came across “the circle within” by dianne sylvan, and i highly recommend it. i feel inspired, refreshed. it feels like the book about paganism that i have been searching for in all my years of collecting tome after tome.

in addition to a lot of great advice surrounding pagan ethics and embodying them, dianne suggests creating rituals in what we’d typically consider the mundane. it seems so obvious, in retrospect. it was a key piece that i was missing in my practice.

++++

a sunday night ritual, to ebb the stress away. to rejuvenate myself for the workweek.

meditation beneath the moonlight. lavender incense. taking the time to care for my body, a temple through which the divine— life— flows. expressing gratitude. honoring deity and nature through the forms we give it so that we might understand it; god and goddess. a devotional, a prayer to ease into a restful night of slumber.