Aspirations and Inspirations

Been a bit quiet… not just here, but it feels like everywhere in my life. I have been thinking a lot about being the kind of character I want to be, drawing on things I’ve done in the past like Working With Mary Sue and things I’ve read recently like Deb Castellano’s new book.

When I first started on Deb’s book a few months back, I started a pinterest board called #aesthetic, where I’ve been filing away things that appeal to me on a “yes I want to be the person that wears/owns/does that” level. It’s been an interesting challenge, since when I was Konmari-ing, there was a strong emphasis on facing down the aspirational things you own. Konmari says there’s no point in owning things for the person you feel like you should be or want to be rather than the person you are.

There’s a lot of truth in that, especially the “should be” part. Don’t feel obliged to own tools you aren’t comfortable using, books everyone says you should read, or things like that. Evaluating whether the things in your life are there because they’re serving you is important.

At the same time, though, aspirational things can go two ways. Yes, there’s the unhealthy one where you’re buying things you never use because you’re not the kind of housekeeper who’s going to keep up a Pinterest-worthy dry erase family calendar, or the crafter who has time for elaborate stained glass projects in your tiny apartment, or even the person who remembers to put the matching decorative pillows on the bed every day when you make it. This is the equivalent of having clothes in your closet for after you lose weight, but without any concrete plans for weight loss. They are made of spun sugar and guilt. They only sit there and make you feel bad. Why am I not a better housekeeper, crafter, parent, spouse? Fuck that. Trash the fucking decorative pillows. Trash the ritual that makes you feel silly instead of sacred. Burn all of that guilt and expectation to the ground.

The other thing you can do with an aspirational thing, though… and I suppose this would be the point where the aspirational thing gives you joy… is bring yourself to it’s level. I want to be the kind of person who cooks, who crafts, who makes his own tools. I joke that my aesthetic is solarpunk maker, but there’s no reason I can’t be that weirdo in real life. I still need to go to work and take care of the kid and all that but even when my neurochemistry is kicking my butt, I feel better when I do stuff. Even if doing the barest minimum of stuff feels insurmountable, I feel better having done it. There’s satisfaction in a clean house, in mending clothes, in making things. In doing some tiny part to make better choices.

So I have two options. Wrestle the joy from something, or admit it doesn’t fit my life and let the expectation go.

I have been using NaNoWriMo as a sort of test run for finding joy. I struggle with hobbies because I want to throw myself into them, but I also want to do everything at once, and then executive function steps in and I do nothing. This is not optimal, obviously. NaNo was a good excuse to focus on just one thing for a couple of weeks and not feel bad about everything else, telling myself everything else would have a turn also.

I am not going to win NaNo this year. I did write some stuff, though, and I’m writing a blog post for the first time in almost six months. I played with some various tools and ended up back at 750words, where I used to write years ago and drifted away from. It’s simple, I can log in anywhere, it auto-saves and there’s no extra bells and whistles and game mechanics to distract me… plus there’s a motivation to write daily but no real sense of failure if I don’t. If I can keep it that way, it’ll work well.

Halfway through the month, I went to Wordstock looking for inspiration and I found it in the Laika exhibit. Not writing but I found myself wanting to get back to dolls, to sewing, to miniatures. So writing is good solid practice but it doesn’t quite fit into all the small niches of my life right now.

What’s next then? Well, #domagick’s theme for December is meditation, and I’ve got some magical stitchery I’ve been plotting out, so I’m thinking meditative needlework is a good way to go. I’ve got time to do some research and I have a project in mind to start so that’ll be fun.

Day 31 – Building On

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I had a conversation today that reminded me that recovery is complicated.

Given that this started out being about re-learning how to think about wards and shields, it was appropriate timing to be talking about my ex and the effects she had on people.

Often I don’t think about my ex very much, but this was a very strong reminder that there are still places where, instead of working through difficult things, there are still areas where I put up a hasty drywall patch and moved on instead of addressing the structural issues caused by support beams she pulled out when she was renovating. If this was an episode of Property Brothers, they’d have discovered they need to pull out the whole ceiling or something.

(Following that metaphor, I guess the OCD would be like… Knob-and-tube wiring that couldn’t be replaced? I dunno.)

If I’m going to be a project, I think I prefer a metaphor like This Old House or maybe Rehab Addict: one of those shows where a whole season is spent taking the house down to the bones, figuring out what is worth keeping and improving and what shoddy work along the way did more harm than good. I’m not perfect; the ruts worn by choices are etched into me. But etching grooves into hard surfaces is how we get records and CDs and hard drives. We turn the scars of mortality into music and memory.

Fridays are for Brhenti, and so for today’s handcraft I needle-felted a pincushion. Felting is a lot of detail work and can be almost meditative, but sometimes that means I end up ruminating on unhelpful things. As always, I need to find the middle ground.

Today’s coin is a St Anthony medal. St Anthony has a personal symbolism for me regarding my relationships and how hard it can be to recognize an abusive relationship for what it is when you’re in it, but on a simpler level, the image represents finding what has been lost, especially with the help of higher powers. I found several things that I’d thought lost this month, so even though I’m still unsure whether I actually did this the way it was “supposed to be” done, I’m glad I jumped in and did it anyway.

Day 30 – Down to the River

wp-1490938497225.jpgIt was a good day for walking down to the river on my lunch. A guy could get used to this routine, I really could. Today I gathered all the prayers in a word document, and now I’m trying to decide what I want to do next.

I’ve done the same prayer for Velos and Pechak for three weeks now, at similar places, and it’s starting to take on an energy of its own. Some of the other ones are almost there, but Pechak and Velos are… maybe the least picky? Or maybe just the simplest to reach out to. I knew what I was asking them for almost right away so it didn’t take much tweaking.

Today’s coin is a souvenir from the 1962 Penticon Peach Festival and Square Dance Jubilee. I associate peaches with Wehaz, the Merciful Fire. There is a certain fruit – and scholars can’t agree which, of course, but some say a rare peach – that, when eaten, burns away the imperfections and ruts mortality leaves on your soul. It gifts enlightenment, or maybe immortality… You know, something like that. It’s not unlike how Wehaz is in the wildfire that allows new growth and the forgefire that burns away impurities in metal.

Let go of what’s holding you back. Sweep in the new and necessary.

Day 29 – Bluebird Skies

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Not the library I was at today.

It’s Wednesday! I’ve done four complete weeks. It feels like I just started, to be honest. Today started early, as I had a follow up doctor visit to make sure I was recovered from last week’s “event.” I knew I wanted to make today’s prayers at the library before I even went to sleep last night, though, and I had my bag packed with the books I needed to return.

The morning was gray and wet and windy, and no amount of cover helps much when the rain is blowing sideways. I got some quality solo train time in, which hasn’t happened much since we moved. Along the way I took care of some paperwork that needed to be done and visited Portlandia for the first time in a while. It had lightened up some by the time I was walking from the train stop to my office, but it stayed gloomy and damp right up until about an hour before my shift ended, when the clouds thinned and the blue spring sky came through.

After work I was practically skipping on the walk to the library. For the last Wednesday, my offering was joining the Friends of the Library, a proper commitment to the town and the library wights as well as an offering for Pillai.

I need to spend some more time with the new lesson from the Court of the Work In Progress but it’s got me thinking about my writing, and the spirits I already work with and the spirits I could turn to for help with that. The course has thus far done an amazing job of happening to be just what I need when it comes into my mailbox, I have to admit.

One last day with Pechak and Velos and this experiment will officially be complete, though I have to finalize the prayers and their format. And now that I’ve laid this groundwork, it’ll be time to move onto the next thing.

Today’s coin is an Algerian 1 dinar coin. The back features a prominent star and crescent symbol and a hamsa. The star reminds me of the Dark Lady, and the crescent I hadn’t used to associate with her, but pairing her with Monday has made me think about it. I hadn’t spent enough time with Redbird to see it before the last few months, but the Dark Lady and the Bright Lady are very much two sides of the same coin. The hamsa is a protective symbol, so this coin I take as the Dark Lady’s blessing.

 

 

 

Day 28 – Lemon, It's Tuesday

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Tuesday’s dollhouse shrine figure. Clothes are still a work in progress.

Every week Tuesday has rolled around and I’ve somehow been sans prayer, despite having working models for everyone else, despite being completely sure I’m going to work on it this week.

On one hand, considering I knew almost nothing about Tuesday when I started, the fact that I now can contact him, interact with him, and know the outline of his mythology seems like some pretty good work to show for it.

On the other hand, well.  I hadn’t actually done the assignment. I started with the format anyway, planning to make something up on the fly as I had last week and promising myself that later on I’d do it properly, maybe following the format from Felix Warren’s course, or doing some meditative writing or something.

Nope. Sit.

He made it clear that I was going to sit there and I was going to write the damn draft, and despite getting distracted by a goose (goose necks are weeeeird y’all) and worrying about rain, I got it down. As a bonus, I got a few more notes on his personality, and a vocabulary edit. (Instead of “worker for my household” I’m experimenting with “voice of my household”. What do you think?)

Tomorrow morning I have another doctor’s appointment, because I think Wednesday is the only slow day at work that I haven’t had one yet. Maybe I have. I’d have to check my notes.

Anyway. I decided to pull a coin again tonight, and this time it was a commemorative coin for the 1996 Olympics with the logo for rowing on it. (Does anybody else remember those? They came in cereal boxes and I was obsessed with collecting them.) Sometimes you just have to keep plugging along, and sometimes plugging along hard enough is what wins you the medal.

Day 27 – Dark Lady 

img_20170327_235106_991.jpgIt was never really about the candles. Even when I was lighting them every night for Mara, even when it was the only thing I seemed to be able to do, it wasn’t the candle that mattered. It was the remembering to do it. The attention. The energy they represent can be offered in other ways.

Representation and symbology is at the heart of not just sympathetic magic but many other techniques as well. I’ve been thinking about this off and on. Much of what I’ve been doing from Project Protagonist on has been about figuring out what symbols resonate for me and what they mean – not for other people, or according to this or that source, but what clicks in my head. Frankly, the more I play with divination systems, the harder a time I have with popular systems like tarot and runes.

img_20170327_235106_989.jpgI was reading this post on divination systems from Kylara earlier and her system of charms reminded me of the Magpie Oracle, which reminded me of the Found Objects oracle (the link for which is unfortunately offline) which in turn reminded me of Felix Warren’s Road Bones.

I feel better when I can point to the chores I’ve done. I feel better without the daily “frog” hanging over me. (And I know Bug’s been watching a lot of Doc McStuffins… I feel better, so much better, thank you Doc for taking all the ouchies away.)  This isn’t perfection and it doesn’t have to be, after all. Systems like the road bones and the found object oracle are meant to be actively changing systems, just like us. Pieces join. Sometimes pieces leave. The symbols we need in our lives change over time. Father means something very different now than it did five years ago.

I pulled a coin from Mara’s bag tonight. It was a charm from an old tourist attraction that reads “Frontier Town USA Salutes the Man of the Past.” A lot of the pieces in the Calvinbag set, as I’m calling it in shorthand, are pieces I’ve had since I was a kid. They have layers upon layers of meaning thanks to my past selves. I know at a touch which of those star charms represents space and science and which represents magic and fae and yet it’s only the current me that can draw the connection between them and conclude that stars represent knowledge.

The Dark Lady reminds me that this evolution is necessary and important. Who I am in the dark has never been who I am in the light, and both of those people are constantly changing. I am a shapeshifter, after all.

 

 

 

Day 26 – Bright Lady

Incense and candles are a good all-purpose offering, but I’m fascinated by the variety of things individual powers might prefer. An all-in day for Redbird included:

  • teaching sex ed to my sunday school kids
  • receiving the blade-in-chalice ritual of my regular testosterone shot
  • grocery shopping
  • spending the afternoon off the computer, taking care of little things around the house and playing with Bug
  • a spectacular home-cooked meal from my spouse

Basically she wants me to live in the moment and be committed to doing the best I can with what I have. Sometimes that’s medical care and sometimes that’s a nap and sometimes that’s finally getting a shoe rack put together in the entryway.

Hail the Bright Lady, who shines light on my choices. Do what you do with intent, whatever you do.

It seems kind of hard to believe that the month is almost over. It’s definitely time to be finalizing the daily prayers. I’m not sure whether I’ll type them up and make a little booklet for myself or copy them neatly into a notebook but either way they’ll be getting a ‘final’ version so I don’t have to keep flipping forward and back in my bullet journal every night.

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 24 – Craft Time With Brhenti 

The to-do list project is to-doing along. It’s not perfect yet but I’m trying to be more aware of how I’m spending my time. 

Friday is for Brhenti, so after dinner and playing with Bug it was project time. I decided to try this easy plan for making a tote bag from a t-shirt (verdict: super easy!) and then started on some hand stitching. 

Jewelry is really a thing I need to work on at my desk because of all the small pieces and pliers and things, so I’m liking the experiments with things like sock darning and hand sewing that I can do on the couch with the family, and pick up or put down easily depending on what’s going on. 

We’re far enough into this project now that I have pretty solid prayers for everyone. I’m making daily offerings but they vary depending on who they’re to, and that seems sensible. 

There’s been a lot of medical foo and illness this month, though, enough that I’m wondering if that means I’m still fucking up something in the warding process. Of course, it’s also been widely acknowledged in town that there’s been more and worse winter bugs than usual this year, so maybe I’m being paranoid. 

I haven’t actually celebrated the equinox yet, and that actually is a holiday – we should be celebrating Mara’s return from her winter hunt now. Oops. Frankly I think I lost track of it because I knew Easter was so far out. I found a bread recipe that I want to try but I need to find the yeast. 

Not an exciting Friday, but I’m looking forward to the weekend. 

Day 23 – Crossroads and Confluences

Sometimes happenstance makes things obvious. Last Thursday it seemed like pure luck I ended up at the confluence of two rivers to call on Pechak and Velos – I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that I knew those two rivers met near there, and it didn’t even seem relevant enough to mention in my post last week. Today at lunch it was beautiful, and I felt tugged to walk a little ways from my office, down toward the place on the edge of the Willamette where I first made offerings when I interviewed for this job.

Also it is the spot where a large creek enters the Willamette.

A confluence isn’t the same as a crossroad, energetically. It’s a mingling. These two things are separate, and then they are joined. It’s a little like a marriage, or a merger.

I noticed the repetition as I came down to that overlooking spot and as I offered the day’s prayers. There’s some ideas to chew on there about why a confluence of rivers is sacred to them. Two separate, distinct powers that operate in concert or in opposition but always together… hmm.

For the most part, Pechak and Velos are very straightforward. I ask them for protection from those who would harm our household. There’s some mysteries to them, but those aren’t necessary to get anywhere. They can be blessedly straightforward, and that’s a nice way to start winding down the week. I darned another sock today, and I put dinner together. I’m trying to stay on top of the to-do list thing, in a combination of not being too hard on myself and not being too easy.

Let’s see what Brhenti has to say about that on Friday.