12 years and a couple of days

(Yeah, I know. I go months without updating, and then two posts in the same day. But thinking about my earlier one lead me to this.)

It is twelve years and two days (September 2nd, 2001) since I Dedicated to the tradition that I am now a 3rd degree priestess in. And I find it’s a good time for me to say “Here’s what I wish someone had told me then.” [1]

What’s happened since then?

  • 9/11. And how people dealt – or didn’t deal – with it.
  • I got married. (in later 2001. after wrangling lots of paperwork – my ex was Canadian)
  • I got divorced. (we separated in 2005, and the actual divorce was in 2006.)
  • I moved in with housemates. I moved out from living with housemates.
  • I took a break in grad school. I went back and finished my degree. (Master’s in Library and Information Science.)
  • I stopped talking to my mother, for years. And I started again, and it’s so much better now.
  • I had a major health crash, left a job I loved, spent a year unemployed.
  • And I learned a lot about who my friends were and weren’t.
  • Then I found an awesome new job (just had my two year anniversary. It’s still quite awesome).
  • But it meant leaving Minnesota and moving half way across the country.
  • And switching from living in an urban area to a very rural one.

And that means: 

I have been moderately well-off (by librarian standards). I’ve had a couple of years when my food budget was $20 a week, because the food budget was the thing that could give after rent and paying down debt, and other necessities.

I lost the cat who got me through the bad years to a blood clot, when the Vet. told me the Source was diet, I felt so terrible and I swore to be more picky with my animals food. I acquired a new one, who rolls over and purrs at the slightest moment of attention

I’ve moved 5 times. Mostly across town. Except the one that was cross-country.

I’ve had months on end when I spent 15+ hours that week on religious group practice and ritual planning and my own religious practice. And I’ve had months when the only things I do are the tiny minimal things: a playlist listen here. Painted toenails there. [2] A pendant here. A pause while reading something not overtly Pagan there.

I’ve taught classes, designed them from scratch. I’ve planned nuanced rituals and really blunt ones. I’ve Drawn Down and done less than brilliantly considered things with arrows and fire in the name of religion. I’ve had three initiation rituals. I’ve helped with more than half a dozen, most recently last March. But the group I trained with is no longer active, and that breaks my heart sometimes.

I’ve argued stubbornly with my teachers, and listened to them. I’ve had things I loved and things that hurt. (And sometimes both at once.) I’ve felt the presence of the Gods and heard them speak to me – and I’ve had month after month where there’s nothing really there.

I’ve gone through cycle over cycle about what the work I get paid for and the song of my soul have in common, and how one feeds the other, and what it means when I was struggling to make things work.

I served on the Twin Cities Pagan Pride board for about 5 years – in which time we took the organisation into being solidly in the black year after year, shepherded through the 501(c)3 process, and launched Paganicon. (Related to that, I have learned how to negotiate a hotel contract, manage room arrangements, wrestled programming to build something as diverse and wide-ranging as I could, and picked up a lot of other bits of organisational skill.)

I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. (A number of them here, or for my Seeking site for people seeking Pagan religions, but many of them just in casual conversation online. Because someone asks me a question, and words come pouring out.) And a bit of music.

And in there, I’ve been to a couple of weddings, a memorial service I helped coordinate, and a wide range of other things that are about the moment of community and compassion and memory.

But none of that, really, is about what I wish someone had told me. Which is:

What I wish I’d been told (but couldn’t have heard if you had)

1) That thing about change? She does change everything She touches. So does He. So do They, over there. (Yes, all of Them that dance across the threads of your life.) So do your friends. And random students at work, and books you read once and thought you’d forgotten, and momentary conversations with a stranger.

Learn to figure out where the changes are pointing you. There’s less wear and tear that way.

(You don’t have to like the change. You don’t have to agree. But fight the right thing, if you’re going to fight.)

2) You will have glorious passionate overwhelming moments with people. You will have times when you can’t bear to be in the same room with them. In good weeks, these will not happen in the same 24 hours.

People are people. Give them the same grace you wish they’d give you.

(You don’t have to like them all the time. You don’t have to agree. But if you want to do stuff with them later, some things are easier than others to recover from.)

3) You will learn stuff from the *weirdest* places. That’s okay. Just roll with it.

There’s voices of magic in everything. There’s the touch of the divine in everything.

(Don’t worry. If you aren’t listening the first dozen times, something will probably whap you over the head or trip you up. The important stuff’s stubborn like that.)

4) You will change. What you need will change. What you’re up for will change.

If you’re not changing, you’re not growing.

(And if you’re not annoyed by other people changing, they’re not growing either. There are days you might have to tell yourself this a lot. It’s okay.)

5) You will have your heart broken. [3]

Hearts heal. I promise.

(Even if you keep being nostalgic. Nostalgia’s fine as long as you don’t move there permanently.)

6) It’s okay that your practice changes. Keep your vows (but make them carefully). But the outward show, the rituals, the structure? There are times that it’s good, and there will be times it isn’t what you need.

Live like you’re connected to the world. Look up at the stars. Listen to the beat of the music and the touch of your Gods. Everything else will sort itself out.

(You are. They hold mysteries that will last your lifetime. So does the music and so do the Gods. And trust me, it’ll work out. Just keep going forward.)

Listen to that voice, the thread of melody and harmony that makes a resonant life. 

[footnotes below]

[1] To put this in chronological context: I initiated in February 2003, took my 2nd degree in November 2005, and my 3rd in November 2007. I was about to turn 26 in 2001, I am about to turn 38.

[2] My longest running religious devotion – since about 11 years ago – is that I paint my toenails some shade of blue. Small. Simple. But I’ve been doing it for 11 years.

[3] And I’m not talking about my ex-husband, here. Or a romantic relationship, actually. The end of my marriage was pretty lousy, but it was a predictable kind of lousy, y’know?

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