G is for Group

[Still more in the Pagan Blog Project]

I am slowly recovering from 10 days away from home (and my cat is slowly being assured I will not disappear at the drop of a hat – though she seems to have also decided that perhaps pouncing on unattended appendages outside the blankets while I’m sleeping is not in her interests, which is a good thing.) And I’m getting ready to go away again in a week. (Last trip was vacation with a smidgen of professional conference – paid for on my own, because it’s an awesome conference. This next one is professional conference with a smidgen of vacation time.)

Anyway. One of the things from my trip to Minnesota was getting to catch up with members of my trad, and then also getting to priestess for three 2nd degree elevations. (Which is the first time I’ve done that particular role, and which involved some rearranging of our ritual.)

It worked really well, and they all had the appropriate glow of ‘this took’ after, and I am delighted beyond belief I got to help (and that they put up with my scheduling issues. And the fact that between a professional presentation and a cold, I’d blown my voice out. There was a certain amount of ‘inhale cough drop during brief pause while they were busy in other parts of the house’ in my ritual experience.)

And as part of *that*, I spent my Monday night while there sitting at a table discussing various things, once we’d done our ritual editing. And got a chance to sort out some pieces. Which reminded me about the benefits of working through things with other people.

Now, a lot of us have had bad experiences with “group projects” in our past. Or we’ve had experiences that are the reason that I have a tag labelled “all.communities.have.politics” in every place I use tags to organise info. (because groups of people have glitches in interacting sometimes.) But those bad experiences aren’t the only thing out there.

I’m also not just talking about a formal group – like a coven or fellow members of a tradition. Though those help too. The kinds of groups, the kinds of support, the kinds of webs of knowledge I’m talking about can be extremely informal, or erratically scheduled, or otherwise not look much like a group at all. They might be very short-term, like a conference or specific brief project. Or they can be very long-lasting: I have friends I’ve known for 18 years who have a very long baseline on how Jenetts work and what might help with stuff.

Here’s stuff my networks of interactions have helped me poke at in the past 10 days or so:

– Lots of stuff about my current non-religious hobby (which is in fact a closed-group project with 12 collaborative author/participants – several of them live in Minnesota, and we got some great quality plotting time in while out at various meals.)

– Ideas from both Paganicon and the professional conference I was at. Most of them are not “Oh, this is the answer to this burning problem”, but a Paganicon experience opened up a whole new vista for me I was not entirely expecting (and am not ready to talk about in public yet) and the professional conference both affirmed that I know a bunch of useful stuff, and told me some other bits and pieces that will help down the road.

– Contemplating the book project I did a bunch with and then put on the back burner. (Which I have Many Ideas about.)

– Figuring out some practical stuff about what to do about my own religious path and practice (being as I live 1500 miles from the rest of my trad, and picky about the situations in which I do group ritual work – also, my health and stamina are still unreliable enough that doing too much is clearly not the sensible thing.)

– Asking my HP about how to deal with a couple of specific things. (To amuse myself, this started with “I am having this conversation because you are my elder in the tradition, and I understand we are supposed to have these kinds of conversations from time to time.” At which point he got the very wary look, and then cracked up when I explained what the actual issue was, which really was “I’m asking in case there’s something I’m missing here, and because I value your advice.”)

– Lots of conversations with several different friends about things going on in my head, and things outside my head, and what to do about them.

Here’s the other part: 

I have resisted thinking of myself as a Connector for a long time. (I finally gave up this year and admitted I maybe sort of was, and *everyone* who’s known me for a while went “Hey, Jenett? We’ve known that for, like, a decade.”) but one of the things I do is that I know people who know stuff I don’t, or know things at a depth I don’t.

There was a point, after my presentation at Paganicon, where someone asked me about Slavic mythology, which is a subject I know only a tiny bit about. (I’m a librarian. I know lots of random stuff about lots of random stuff, but the things I don’t use myself – well, that’s why I’m a librarian and know how to find things.) But at that moment, in wanders a friend who I know has stuff on the tip of her brain, and I say “Hey, what *are* the good sources there.” and she shares.

I do not need to know all the things myself. I do not need to be able to do all the things myself.

I just need to know how to find them, and how to check and make sure they’re accurate or useful or meaningful (whichever apply). And doing that in company, whatever form that takes, tends to be a lot more fun, and a lot better in terms of the end result.

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