Fear of Commitment

If I’ve got a motto for 2018 I think it’s gonna be commit. I feel like I’m behind on everything and I have a ton of things I want to do but haven’t. I spent December working on a single project, a possibles bag for my magical kit, and while I did work on a few other small projects, coming back to this one again and again until it was done was fucking magical.

Last year when I decided to do it anyway, I got a little carried away. I said yes… a lot. To a lot of things. Over and over. It was awesome – I got some new opportunities at work and I tried new crafts and new things. And I didn’t finish all of them, which is okay! But I got really distracted, and I found myself feeling like I wasn’t actually doing anything, and that was less okay.

Follow through is hard, but it’s necessary.

To that end, I’m limiting myself to two of the many, many challenges that start at the beginning of the calendar year. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I have no writing goal or commitment. I gave myself permission to stop banging my head against the wall after NaNo and I haven’t figured out what to pick back up yet.

Instead on the storytelling front, my only commitment will be #BeatTheBacklist. I’ve got a ton of books in my ebook libraries that I haven’t read yet, including some magic books I very much want to get to, as well as a fair-sized stack of physical (mostly craft) books just waiting to be read. I’m hoping for a book a week from the TBR Swamp, and we’ll see as we go if that needs to be adjusted up or down. (Maybe I’ll do short reviews here even! We’ll see.)

The only other thing I’m taking on is a meditation/shadow work course Tommie Kelly of Adventures in Woo Woo is offering through his Patreon. Meditation is definitely a thing I benefited from when I was doing it regularly, but I’ve let it lapse, so this is as good a reminder as any to rebuild that habit. I did a bit of guided meditation looking for someone to be a guide and got myself led to Luke Skywalker, thanks astral plane, so clearly there’s work to be done.

Keeping it simple, and doing my best to make it work, are the plan for this year.

Failure, Perfectionism and Keeping Going

The other day I decided I was going to set myself a challenge. I felt overwhelmed by my stack of books waiting to be read, and so I decided it would be a reasonable challenge to go three months without buying or acquiring any new books, instead reading the books I already own. I got some of my friends interested and even made plans to review the books on Goodreads for accountability. I’ve failed at this before, but this time! This time I was going to do it!

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Early the next morning I got an email notification that a book was on sale in the Kindle store that day and I scooped it up without even thinking about it. An understandable weakness, especially before I’d had an caffeine, but my first reaction was not to laugh at myself for the lapse. Instead I jumped straight to beating myself up for failing so quickly and thoughtlessly.

Of course, that does no good either. My spouse was quick to point out that I should see this as an exercise in mindfulness, ensuring “that you don’t feel like you’ve destroyed the world by accidentally buying a book.” I screwed up and it’s okay, and I need to remind myself of that more often.

I certainly could take this as an excuse to give up, pretend I was never serious about doing the thing, erase it from my mind. Or I could tell my brain weasels to fuck off and keep going.

As I was thinking through this, a post popped up on my Facebook feed about using planetary energy of Mars. Mars, it turns out, has just turned retrograde. (Traditionally this is a bad time for starting new things, so perhaps I can blame Mars for my failure at book-restraint.) Mars as a power gets a bad rap because we are often opposed to the kind of war Ares represented to the ancient Greeks, but I was reminded that Mars can be a power of the discipline needed to enact change, as well.

I certainly could use more discipline, but more than that, I need change. I’ve tended to be scared of asking for help with change, because I need my family to be stable, but I’m reaching the point where I have to wonder how much of that fear is actually reasonable and how much is pointing to something so I don’t have to admit that I’m shying away from actual change. After all, it’s certainly convenient to not want to change to protect my family…

Living with OCD means constantly picking apart which of my anxieties are reasonable and which aren’t, or doing the calculus of degrees of reasonableness. It’s important to prioritize my family’s stability, but it’s not reasonable to fear all change, and trying to hold myself in place while simultaneously trying to improve is just shooting myself in the foot, magically. I need to change that mindset.

Another post reminded me of Guan Yu and the different energy of a martial Wealth power as opposed to the sovereign wealth or fertile wealth I usually turn to, so I end up with something like:

Power of Mars, right now we are in sympathy
nearly at a standstill, looking backwards
in this retrograde I need to break down unhelpful patterns
lend me discipline, lend me mindfulness
remind me how it feels to be in control of myself
that by the time you once again turn your face forward
I will be ready to turn with you
on a rightful path to do my duty to my family and my gods
and unafraid to succeed as I walk forward.

Mars leaves retrograde on June 29 – ironically, I seem to have unknowingly created this challenge to last almost exactly the length of the retrograde. I’m taking that as a sign that I am on the right path, or at least a right path.

Metaphysical KonMari: Influences

I have a folder in my feed reader that is specifically for the feeds that annoy me, so I don’t have to look at them unless I have the energy to be angry.

Why do I have this folder? Why am I even following blogs that I know will annoy the crap out of me? This must mean it’s time for the Influences portion of the KonMari.

As soon as I started in on it, I realized I probably should have done this first. I’ve done digital purges several times before, and this is much less fraught than sorting through tools or altar pieces. There’s still some angst there, as I let go of blogs that haven’t been updated in over a year or that I feel like I would keep up with if I was a better magician.

There is the idea of the lifestyle blog, all about being a better $X. There is a tendency to read these blogs aspirationally – instead of doing the things on those blogs, it’s so much easier to just read them and dream about doing them. I know this kind of blog well; I know six different recipes for making your own detergent and have never tried a one of them.

I did finally succeed in using those candle-making instructions the other night, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is that I tend to get into a new kind of blog, or a new “wing” of an old kind of blog, and subscribe to ten different blogs (or worse, Facebook groups) in the same genre and then they all sit there until I get overwhelmed and delete them all. I plan to do ALL THE THINGS and then I get overwhelmed and fail to do any of the things. I’m not sure how to fix this problem in the long run, but for the moment, anyway, I can fix what’s in front of me.

I took great pleasure in unsubscribing from that minimalism blog that always annoys me, from that spiritwork blog that always seems to be talking down, from that magic blog that’s not a system I’m never likely to put any time into. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in a wide variety of topics, that’s a good thing to a point. Unfortunately, I can only focus on so much at once, so I need to improve the signal to noise ratio.

Along the way, I whittled my subscription list down enough that I’m switching back to receiving all of my blogs by email. I’m not sure what it is about feed readers, but no matter what I use, I seem to forget to check it. Rather than remember once a week and get annoyed at myself for forgetting, I’m just going to send them to my email, where I can read them in the moment or tell them to come back later. I’ve switched to and from this system more than once, and it definitely works best when I keep the number of blogs I’m reading under control.

I need to hone my ability to judge whether something is bringing me joy in the moment – not necessarily whether this particular post makes me happy, but whether the last two or three have made me happy, whether I sigh inwardly when a certain blog shows up in my feed, what I look forward to and what I delete unread. Rather than let everything pile up, I need to be more aware of my own happiness in the moment and more responsive to my own state of mind. I’m hoping that keeping my feeds in my mailbox will do that for me going forward.

To a certain extent this will be an ongoing trickle of a process going forward – I can clear out my feed reader or my FB groups, but there’s always a stream of newsletters, liked pages and other influences that spill in front of me. The ongoing work is to keep that mindfulness about what brings me joy and what I need to get out of my life, one status update at a time.

In Theory

After a minute the doors of the palazzo opened. The others caught a glimpse of ranks of bookcases – the warm, secret paper heart of the City. — The Magicians

I have a problem with books.

Books are my comfort food, the thing I do when I don’t know what else to do. But to be honest, I tend to spend too much time with them. I keep researching when I should be moving on to field work. I look at research as something “productive” I can spend my time on, but I pursue it long past the point of productivity.

Neither my “creative” goal nor my “magical” goal is about reading more. Reading is what I do when I’m scared to start something, or I don’t know how to do it. Not that I don’t have plenty of books hanging around at the moment; I do. But too much of my research is what I do in lieu of actual work.

I think it’s actually worse since I made the switch largely to electronic books. They don’t take up space anymore. I can round up dozens for free with very little trouble, and let’s be honest, at least half of the really interesting stuff is being done online anyway. I just file it all away for later, reading whenever I don’t want to be doing something else.

I can’t quite bring myself to say that I’m not going to read in 2012. That would be ridiculous. But I am trying to be more mindful of why I’m reading, and how I choose the things I spend my time on.