Failure Mode

Well, I had intended to do #domagick, and then I didn’t have any “research” to share on what I wanted to do so I figured I’d just, you know, do magic. I’ve been working on sewing a backpack/possibles bag and the more I’ve worked on it, the more it’s taken on a life and personality of its own. She had very strong opinions about shape and structure that differed from what I’d planned, and now I’m working on a late addition – turning an old Captain America t-shirt into an applique that is being over-embroidered.

The plan is to work on it every day until it is done, because follow through is not my strong point.

So then why is the post called Failure Mode? Well, I woke up at about 4:30 AM and realized I had not worked on it the night before. It turns out I’m a great deal more okay with that than I expected. There was a time not that long ago when I would have been having a scrupulosity freakout – and a time slightly less long ago when I would have thought I was okay with it but still been worrying about how best to atone or whatever.

It was understandable. We’ve been working with Bug on self-identifying when she needs help calming down, and one of the ways we do that is by having her sit with me on the couch in the semi-dark and listen to lullaby music videos on YouTube. It’s not at all surprising that sometimes one or both of us falls asleep there.

So I woke up and I did last night’s stitching, and it is what it is.

And now I’m going back to bed.

Day 25 – A Dark Night

It’d be a bit more thematically appropriate on the Dark Lady’s day, but Mondays are very bad days for minor spiritual breakdowns so Saturday is a perfectly fine choice. We were at the church tonight for social time and I stepped away after dark to call to Tzymir there in the darkest part of the yard.

Maybe it’s just because it’s Saturday and I get so little response from him, but when my kid woke up screaming from a nightmare, I found myself laying with her in the dark wondering if I was even accomplishing anything with this work, and then if the fact that I was wondering about it made me feel I hadn’t accomplished much at all toward  unpacking my hangups regarding warding.

I think, intellectually, I have made progress. I know I’m doing more and asking for more overall. But tonight I feel like I’m wandering aimlessly in Tzymir’s labyrinth and I’m not sure how to get out. Gonna ask Redbird in the morning if sleep doesn’t help.

Day 19 – Slowing Down

Today was a slow day. Bug’s not feeling well and we didn’t have anything we needed to do, so we just stayed in. I darned another sock until my wrist started hurting (time to get my supports back out) and worked on coupons and laundry and bead organizing. And I did find time to get outside while it was nice out and go down to the creek.

Apparently we’ve reached the point in daily practice where I am getting somewhere. I know this is happening, not when I start getting inspiration, but when I start getting my ass kicked. Part of my invokation of Redbird is asking for creativity and today she basically called me out on it.

I have lots of ideas, and that’s wonderful, but my follow-through is lacking. Some of that is executive function issues, some of it is compulsive tendencies, but a lot of it is just dicking around on the internet. (And there’s a lot of overlap there, because infinite scroll + OCD can be a baaaaad combination, but still.)

I have a lot of projects that I am in the middle of, and even more that never seem to make it past acquiring the raw materials. Sometimes that’s because an idea doesn’t pan out, and that’s fine. Sometimes projects are going to take a while, especially if I’m spending the time on things like playing with Bug or taking care of the house. But this isn’t those things.

What did I tell you not to do?

Get distracted.

And what did you immediately do?

… Get distracted?

And if I was satisfied with the way I was spending my time, that’d be something else too. But, once again, I’m not. I look up at midnight and wonder where the time went. I like my hobbies! I want to do them more often!

I’m not sure what the solution is. Maybe I go back to using a blocker in my browser for specific websites, or I try more specific, time-limited goals, or I try some new ways of actually working on my to-do list, or… I don’t know.

But she’s right. I gotta do the thing if I want to do the thing.

Maybe that’s something I can address the next two days…

Day 07 -Necessary Actions

There are things that are really, really hard to do when you’re mentally ill. What those things are will often vary from person to person, and sometimes they sound dumb as hell when you say them out loud. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

But Prozac makes many things possible and today I went to the dentist for the first time in… a while. Let’s say a while. And while I was sitting there I thought about discipline and Mars energy, and it made perfect sense that this appointment had ended up on a Tuesday.

On one hand, I struggle with too much anger; on the other, confidence and assertiveness are very much works in progress for me. Being able to recognize attack and defend against it are key to being able to actually do this work long-term. After years of my ex telling me when she decided I was under attack, or when she was under attack, my ability to actually tell was pretty destroyed. Afterward, I went too far in the other direction, putting aside any possible negative reasons basically up to the point where I wrote off clear indications of a problem as being paranoid. That’s really not any healthier. Pretending you’re not in the middle of a war is not a long-term strategy, despite what people will tell you about the current political situation.

Even if your goal is to stay under the radar and win the battle quietly, you still have to acknowledge there’s a fight if you want to actually address that goal.

This is a difficult area to write because I am pretty sure of the Martial power who works in this spot and I called on them today and it went well, but… well… I don’t have a proper name for them yet. So it’s hard to talk about it. I know perfectly well who I mean, and today’s ritual used all the things that worked for me yesterday to address a power who’s particularly suited to the “help me learn to see my enemies and also fucking smash them please” types of intonations this project calls for.

The theme of this project is apparently “blogging about things that are hard to blog about.” Maybe by next week I’ll have a name!

On the up side, that’s one complete week done…

Day 01 – Getting Failure Out of the Way

When I tried to do planetary work a couple of weeks ago, I decided to do it in the morning, after the house was empty but before I had to go to work. It was quiet, I wasn’t going to get distracted like I did in the evenings. Seemed perfect.

And it worked for a couple of days, but then I got the flu. It was the worst flu I’ve had since I was a kid, I’m pretty sure. I was super, super sick. My sleep schedule was messed up. My spouse was also sick, so I didn’t have the house to myself reliably. I finally put the planetary work on hold, and a friend of mine gave me the seed for half of what I’m doing now, with the suggestion that I re-work the planetary work to fit my own pantheon rather than trying to do something that doesn’t fit.

I assumed, I don’t know why, that when I started this up again, I’d do the whole shebang in the morning. Maybe because of that. Maybe because I’ve been doing my small offerings on my way to work in the morning. Maybe because I’m good at self-sabotage, I don’t know.

What I do know is I am naturally nocturnal, I am terrible with mornings, and I almost never accomplish anything more complicated than starting the dishwasher. When I do feel more than minimally conscious, I tend to go into work early for the overtime.

Guess what I completely forgot about until it was too late to do anything about it this morning?

You got it.

So I felt dumb about it, as you do, and I beat myself up over it some, as you do. And then I got to thinking about perfectionism. Perfectionism is an awful, pernicious thing. It gets up in my head and it convinces me it’s not worth doing anything if I’m not going to be perfect. (And thanks, OCD, I know nothing’s perfect.) I almost didn’t sign up to do this challenge because I was worried I’d fuck it up.

I spent a few hours thinking I’d fucked it up on day one with most of day one still ahead of me. When I got my head back together, though, I realized that (a) I still had plenty of day left to do it in and (b) it made more sense to do it when I was awake enough to appreciate it anyway. Also, (c) now I had fucked up and there was no consequence except for the part where I admit it.

I thought about timing, ran through the prayers on at lunch, and after the baby was in bed, I did it properly, with candles and incense and intent. Wednesdays are for Pillai and Bluebird.

I’m not satisfied enough with the prayer to share it yet, but I do like one part where I ask Pillai: show me doors that I might pick locks. In my head, even with the Prozac, sometimes it seems like I’m shut up alone with my brain weasels. Picking locks means forcing my way out, whatever it takes.

Mara, be with us. Pillai, help us. Bluebird, support us. I’m using the household concepts from the post I linked yesterday. I’m asking. That’s harder than it sounds for me. I’m going to ask every day.

Also I’ve been working on a lodestone spell for a bit with the goal of it being ready to set loose today. I put mine on, and my spouse put theirs where it goes. So that’s fired off.

Head On, All In

The theme for #domagick is self-transformation. I’m focusing on protection. How does that square?

Well it goes back to a little something called excessive psychic hygiene. I’ve written about this before. When I was living with my ex and engaged in unhealthy, excessive levels of psychic hygiene, I was doing the metaphysical equivalent of scrubbing my skin raw. After leaving her, I figured out ways to cope and built some elaborate rituals to manage those tendencies.

Now that I’m pretty stable on Prozac, I think it’s time to revisit and rebuild my relationship with the most complicated part of my magical practice.

The goal is that, at the end of March, I’ll have at least the foundation of a functional, healthy relationship with protection magic that I can maintain on an ongoing basis. To get there, there’s going to be some starting from scratch with meditation/shielding techniques, which is part of what I’m doing as prep this month. There’s going to be some unpleasantries, because as Mara informed me, you have to excavate deep to lay a good foundation.

Agnosticism and Faith and the Hole In My Brain

I still don’t know.

You remember the MRI I mentioned back around Labor Day? The one where I was supposed to have the results on Wednesday? Well it’s a week past Wednesday, I’ve emailed and called my doctor, and I still haven’t heard anything. I haven’t yet had a nervous breakdown yet. I attribute this to Lady Prozac and my patient spouse, who pointed out that the last time I got bad news about a tumor it was very prompt, so it’s probably fine. 

After trying to reach my doctor’s office again today I spent a few minutes freaking out and then sitting with my fear. I’m scared of abandoning my spouse and my child. I’m scared of all the things I haven’t written. I’m scared of all the ways my mind can betray me. 

What I ended up thinking about, though, is that the tumor is there in my brain regardless. It has been there my entire life. It may be growing, and it may not be growing, but whatever it is doing, it was doing it before I had the MRI. Knowing doesn’t change what is actually happening in my head.

So: I am an agnostic on the subject of my tumor. Most of the time I hope it is harmless, static, not doing anything much. I have no way of knowing unless it’s time for my alternate-year MRI, or unless something goes very wrong. (And depending on the wrong, I might not get the chance to know then.) I believe the thing that let’s me stay functional. I probably am fine. It’s statistically likely, and yes, they would almost certainly have called if something was worrisome. My OCD is better and my aphasia isn’t worse and I’m probably fine.

But I wonder: what if it’s not fine?

And I believe in the powers because the alternative if a lifetime of self-delusion and schizophrenia and a world where nothing makes sense, not even my senses. But sometimes I wonder: what if none of it is real?

I was asked recently who or what motivates me as a writer, and as I chewed it over, I realized that a big part of my motivation is fear.

I wrote that last line and then I thought about it for a while, stepped outside and raised my arms. I called: Hekate! Mara! Redbird!

I offered: I make a gift to you of my fear!

I doubted, and then I shook my head. My fear must be precious, because I give it so much space in my heart and my mind. It motivates me and it protects me. Many of my virtues spring from it. I either need to learn to work with it or I need to learn to cast it aside. Do with it as you see fit.

And then I made my offerings as I usually do lately, and since I didn’t bring another way to divine a response, I unlocked the car and turned on the radio.

I was greeted by: Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day

And it was so perfect an answer that I wondered if it could be that easy, especially when I’d just been writing a blog post about agnosticism. How am I supposed to make my point when the powers are being so obvious? And yet I know that it’s only really obvious to me. I’ve divined by song since the 90s, never in any kind of system so much as I know when a song is meant to be for me. But wasn’t that just the same thing – having faith that patterns meant something, when I had no way of knowing for sure?

About that time the song ended, and the next one I recognized almost immediately.

Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya
When I play the highway FM
I find my soul revival
Singing every single verse
Yeah I guess that’s my church

It’s a song called My Church, for fuck’s sake, about finding meaning in the songs on the radio and the heart of the wind and I thought okay, okay, you win.

You win.

And that’s the thing about my fears, and the gods. I can’t prove the powers exist in any objective way. I can’t prove that my fears are impossible, even if they’re statistically unlikely. That doubt worms in despite the drugs and the therapy techniques and the meditation… but throwing off that agnosticism feels so good, even when I know it’ll be back. Giving myself permission to believe things, to try them on and see if I’m happier with them or without them, is my big act of faith. I can always stop having faith later if it’s not working out for me.

So: You win. For now, I believe, because the alternative is worse. I need to go back to writing more, because the alternative is worse. I ask: Hekate! Mara! Redbird! I make a bridle of my compulsions, I make a saddle of my goals! Help me to tame my fears and to ride them out. Show me how to find motivation without being swallowed up!

And I say: Voice of Fear, I see you, I hear you. I call you out. Work with me. Let us have a partnership. 

I have a Muse who inspires me, but I suspect the Voice of Fear is a title for someone who’s been around, and pushing at me, for a while. I think I need to learn to take from, and give to, both of them.

Why do I write like I’m running out of time? Because you are, he whispers. But I’m running out of time whether I write or not. Energy moves whether I believe in it or not. The gods answer as they will, regardless of how I feel in that moment.

I feel better when I write. I am happier when I make. I feel better when I believe in the gods. I am happier when I have faith. I feel better when I accept that I will die eventually, and I am happier when I tell myself that it’s probably not now. I won’t know until I do know. I’m agnostic. But I choose to have faith, I pick a side and march forward, I keep going, because the alternative is to… I don’t even know. I just keep moving forward.

Psychic Hygiene, Miasma and Me

This post was inspired by Ravew’s Purity and Devotion.

I didn’t really understand what Prozac could do, when I hesitantly agreed to medication. I thought it would reset me to my normal levels of functionality but it’s been a bit of a lightning bolt. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Knowing I had an early schedule this week, I went to bed at reasonable hours all weekend. (This turned out to be a good idea because apparently night weaning means the baby gets up at 6:30 on weekends now.) I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night despite having to do chores after the baby went to bed. I fell asleep in a reasonable amount of time, and was not kept awake by self-loathing or rehashing mistakes I made ten years ago.

I got up this morning just after five, along with my very gracious spouse who altered their schedule to accommodate mine. I felt gratitude that they were doing this for me, but not guilt. 

This is all so new. 

My practice includes no standards of purification, no states of uncleanness. It never will again. I have OCD, and am prone to being all too aware of my failures and the ways in which I am incomplete, broken and unacceptable. I drown easily in the fear of being tainted. 

My ex, at one point, would often question me when I disagreed with her: “I think you’re being influenced by nasty spirits. Work on your shielding. Work on your psychic hygiene. The real you would agree with me and with the gods.”

Staring at it now, broken down like that, it sounds ridiculous, but at the time it made perfect sense. So I banished. I prayed. I meditated. I learned a dozen shielding techniques and used them all, layer over layer. I banished some more. It was the metaphysical equivalent of washing my hands compulsively, and I had no idea what I was doing, only that I had to keep doing it or I would be infected and hurt everyone.

This was a particularly fucked up instance, but ritual uncleanliness is often a stick used for beating. Look at the taboos around menstruation. Look at the way humanity tends to turn from death, from untouchables, from lepers both literal and metaphorical.

I’m better now. I learned what scrupulosity was, and how to spot it in my thoughts, and how to chase it out. Miasma may be a useful concept for other people, but it is not and cannot be for me.

And that’s okay. My practice seems to be fine without it. My powers do not ask me to ritually purify, and there’s not really a precedent for it in heathen practice anyway. When I have the energy for cleanliness, it’s going to my apartment, because that matters more to my gods. I’m down in the mud and the blood of living and that’s just my way and the way of my powers.

I'm Psychiatric Now

Is it peace or is it Prozac
I don’t care
No need to know that
– Cheryl Wheeler

A few years ago, my mom mentioned off-handedly that there had been a funny mix-up with my dad’s new anxiety medicine. 

I had long suspected that I got my genetic seat at the anxiety spectrum from my dad, but things like “psychologists” and “mental illness” and “mood drugs” were not welcome in my house growing up. There was never anything said, exactly, but it was there in what didn’t get mentioned to the doctor and in what seemed normal because my dad did it too and in the way my parents reacted the one time my high school required I get a psychologist to sign off that I was safe to return to school. 

And while I’ve always been of the opinion that drugs are wonderful for the people they work on, I was equally sure that I wasn’t cut out for them – I was “not that bad” and besides my ex didn’t like the idea of drugs and I didn’t want to have that fight. Not that bad. I’m getting by. I’m fine. 

Except I wasn’t fine. I have had good times and bad times, but the bad times have been getting worse. I took my Yaya’s passing harder than I expected to, and job hunting is a dehumanizing process that wears me down. I caught myself telling the baby things that were definitely my anxiety talking. I thought about the times growing up when I can see how my dad’s illness impacted me.

And then I asked my doctor what she recommended, therapy or medication, given how therapy had gone for me before. She said both was an option. Tonight I took Prozac for the first time. 

I spent an embarrassingly long time staring down the bottle. I know tons of people who have benefitted from it and similar drugs. I have no problem thinking of myself as mentally ill. I’d already admitted I needed outside help. Why was I giving myself a panic attack over it? 

Well, the answer is because I’m fucking crazy and if my anxiety were logical, I wouldn’t be crazy. So I thought about wanting to be better for my child’s sake, and then I took the pill. 

I’m terrible at self-care. I’m much more successful when I frame it in terms of someone else’s needs. My child needs me to raise her well. My spouse needs to be able to depend on me. Destroying myself hurts them, so I should stop.

Whatever keeps me moving forward, right?

Scrupulosity + Distance

Red Lady - red silhouette against a brown backgroundTwo weeks ago, a spirit came to me and said she wanted my attention. She’s poked here and there at recognizable names, but for the moment the best is Redbird, a spirit from the Empty Sky side whom I haven’t had much experience with before. Redbird is one of the four “children” of the Dragon and the Firebird.

In the oracle deck, Redbird is associated with knowledge and with small beginnings that turn out to be big outcomes. She’s a raw enough power that she doesn’t have a simple element or portfolio – there’s fire, there’s magic, there’s sex and death and creation. She’s the most like her mother out of the four children, but she has her differences. She and her siblings don’t ride often or for very long.

So far she’s largely instructing me in how to do certain kinds of magic more efficiently. In exchange, she gets to direct the magical effects of my practice work, so it’s basically been split 50/50 between work for me and work for her.

One of the things I’m stressed about is how many obligations I have going on at the moment, though. When she came in and asked for my time, I told her that I could give her a few weeks but I need to focus on finding a job before I can give much attention to anything else. The job hunt is playing havoc with my anxiety, enough that I’m thinking about asking my doctor for medication or a referral.

Adding another long-term esoteric practice sounds exhausting, but I also need to accept the help I’m offered.

“I’ll give you a month,” I told her. “Help me find a job by the end of it and we can talk.” This is a lot like what I said to Juno, several months ago, and that resulted in me getting very close to a job but losing out at the last moment. I’m hoping she comes though; I’ll be happy to give her more time if she can.

Things are going reasonably well with the Dark Lady, as far as I can tell.

But Mara… Mara feels different. I continue to offer to Mara but I’m feeling at a loss. It’s hard to know what’s going on there, and divination has largely turned up ‘it’ll work out’ messages from her, but I’m literally incapable of not worrying. Part of me is worried she’s unhappy about something – that maybe she didn’t like Merciful Earth, or she didn’t like how long it took to produce. That I made some mistake when I got her her own altar, or when I expanded her space, or when I konmari-ed the space. That I’m not making enough room in my budget for charity. That I’m not spending enough focus on her in her season.

It’s almost certainly religious scrupulosity talking, I know that, but knowing it has no effect. Summer is her season. If I’d gotten my shit together last fall and done my six months with the Dark Lady starting with Samhain, I’d be on the correct schedule… but I didn’t, and it’s not like I can go back in time and feel bad when I could have done something about it.

I can try and make enough time for Mara too, and I do, but I just end up worrying whether it’s enough, which is not a problem I’ve had before. Usually my religiously scrupulous tendencies manifest differently. But I know distance is sometimes normal in relationships with powers, and I’m trying not to read more into it than is justified.

It’s a struggle with myself, and ultimately I’m answerable to myself as well as the spirits. I keep going as best I can. I do what I can, I offer what I can, and then I move on.

I can only hppe it’s enough.