Watch this space

One of my resolutions for the new year is returning to blogging here more regularly (which, given last year, won’t be too hard to manage…) I’ve been thinking about what I’d particularly like to talk about, and which topics don’t seem to get much attention in the Pagan blogosphere.

I know that I want to talk more about:

  • Sustainable priestessing (doing good stuff, without burning out)
  • Better teaching approaches for Pagan material and practice.
  • Finding, evaluating, and using resources (and not just about directly Pagan stuff).
  • A few more personal examples.
  • Things that make all of the above easier. Which will include everything from recipes to web links to productivity geeking.

I also expect there’ll be a lot of other stuff that comes up. If there are topics in the above you’re particularly interested in me talking about, please ask away (My mind-reading is not reliable, so please leave a comment/use the contact form/email me/mention it to me if you see me in person.)

Continue reading

Money and Craft : a childhood background

There have been a number of conversations around the blogosphere about the issue of charging money in magical and ritual settings recently, and it both got me thinking and reminded me of a bit of my background that I take for granted, and forget not everyone has. Before I go on and talk (in a later post) about my own take on charging for Craft, I want to talk about that.

See, I grew up assuming everyone knew that there are ways to combine a secure financial future with major creative pursuits. Not that it’s easy, mind you – but that it’s fundamentally possible. It’s as much a part of my psyche as the idea that knowledge is the one thing that can’t be taken away from me, or that reading is just the thing you do all the time, in some form.

My adult self, of course, knows that these things are not the way everyone else moves in the world, and no longer expects people to put their values on the same things. But my subconscious self, the one that kicks in first, sometimes forgets.

Continue reading

Still here

My last post, admittedy, was four months ago. There’s a reason for that, but since I haven’t been talking about it much in public, let me catch up here, so that we can then move onto more interesting subjects.

January 2009: I began a term as the interim librarian at the same school I’ve been at as an assistant. They hired me formally (after the full and sometimes nervewracking search process) in April.

Summer 2009: I was in and out of work a lot, even though I’m supposed to be mostly off between mid-June and mid-August. The rest of the time, I was helping a dear friend who was having hip replacmeent surgery to repair damage from an injury 43 years earlier. (She’s got some other medical issues, including hearing loss, that made us want to have someone with her all the time, while she was in hospital or the rehab center.) Good thing to do, but tiring.

And over the summer, the dear friend who co-founded Phoenix Song with me decided she needed to be going in other directions. Which I understand, and I want her to be happy – but I still miss that particular interaction, even though we continue to be friends.

This fall: I start work for the school year by moving (with the help of my excellent minion and a wonderful student) every single book, video, and DVD in the library – about 14,000 items – at least twice. (We moved *every* shelf location as part of rearranging various things and had to move many things to a holding location first.)

I do my best to settle into making the library space as much mine as I can, to develop my own style of being a librarian and building relationships with individual students better, and so on and so forth. And, of course, all the things you do when you’re an education professional and it’s the beginning of the new year – new students, a few new staff, new directions in curriculum.

And things start to go slowly downhill.

At first I thought I was just tired. You know, the way you are when you’ve been working 50 and 60 hour weeks consistently, and you know you’re doing a lot of new things. The way you are when you’re an introvert working in an extroverted role (and for more challenge, with a very extroverted division director/boss).The way you are when you’re doing some things you’re very comfortable with – but some that are very new or really not using your best innate skills.

And then I got H1N1 in early November. And so then I thought it was recovery from that.

But then it got to be Thanksgiving, and I felt just as lousy at the end of a 5 day break as I did at the beginning – despite doing nothing much other than sleep with a brief outing to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. And I was really starting to lose my ability to think straight.

I went into work that Monday, said “There’s something really wrong” and began a round of doctor visits and other excitement. I spent the better part of two months only barely function at the most basic level. There were a couple of weeks where my focus was so poor that even reading light fiction wasn’t working (and this is me, who normally reads 25 books or so most months, not including online reading.)

And around it all, absolutely overwhelming exhaustion. Not the comfortably tired after a long day, or even the achy tired after moving or spending all day on your feet. I’ve done those. This was the kind of exhaustion that made every movement five times more effort than usual, and made even the simple normal stuff – making dinner, having a bath – take forever, and leave me unable to do anything else.

And even the things I’ve always taken for granted got hard. I’m the one of my friends who usually drives to see everyone – and light intolerance when driving at night (plus the exhaustion) made that impossible. Even simple decision making – which thing do I do first, what do I need to do to make this thing happen – got impossible.

All of it very strongly shook my  sense of self, my sense of connection to the world around me, and my sense of priorities and what mattered.

Fortunately, it’s getting better:

In late January, I saw an endocrinologist, and got a diagnosis of a significant Vitamin D deficiency and possibly hypothyroid issues. (My tests on the latter are borderline, but he was willing to try treating it given the full list of symptoms, which I’m not boring you with here.)

A month later, and I can work a full day and not be totally wiped out at the end of it. Detailed tracking shows that the focus is getting better, as are other symptoms. I’m finally starting to get my brain back, and becoming able to write again. Very nice.

It’s still not perfect. I’m not sure how much more I’m going to get back yet, and that means there’s a lot of free-floating trying to figure out how to cope going on in the back of my head. I’m committed to the coven work (and to my very tolerant student who’s put up with my inability to plan much in advance for a couple of months), but I want to build a sustainable life that includes work I love (and that pays the bills – both important), ritual and religious time, time with friends – and time and energy for projects at home.

I’ll talk more about all of this in the coming weeks, I’m sure. But I wanted to at least get the explanation out here first, so I can get onto the more interesting bits sooner than later.

We talk about how priestesses and priests in our traditions are human – but there’s not enough talk, yet, I think, about how to manage chronic medical issues in a way that’s sustainable and caring. And that’s something I definitely want to talk about – balancing my expectations of myself, my interaction in the broader community, and how to juggle ritual tasks when there’s no one else trained in the tradition to lean on directly in ritual, for example. I think there are solutions and options, and I’m sure there are more I haven’t thought of yet, too.

Several new pages

A quick note here to let you all know that I’ve recently posted a bunch of new pages (posts not linked to a calendar date). They’re also linked in the top menu as noted.

First, a series of 3 posts (and an intro) I wrote as an introduction to my religious practice (and a general introduction to Paganism). Parts below, but you can also get to the intro page under the ‘about’ menu at the top of the blog.

And, second, the first two parts of another project I’ve been working on for a while. The third part, the commentary, isn’t done yet, but I figure the first two parts could be useful while I’m working on that.

CARE introduction:
Once upon the time, there was a web document called the CASHI (the Coven Abuse Self-Help Index) that was designed to help people evaluate Pagan and magical groups for problematic behaviors. While my own experiences with groups have generally been very good, I feel the loss of something like the CASHI, and so wanted to create something that provided the same kind of in-depth discussion and commentary of relevant issues.

The word CARE is chosen to emphasize the importance of making conscious choices about where we spend our time and energy.

Read the rest of the introduction and go on from there. (you can also access all three current pages from the links at the top of the blog.)

Youngest one in the room

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Due to my recent job shift, I’m now sitting in on meetings with a number of administrators (most of whom are in their late 40s or older). And in various social settings, I’ve sometimes looked around, and realised that I’m the youngest by a number of years. (This isn’t always true, naturally, but there’ve been a good handful of specific situations in the last few months.)

This isn’t to say I mind – I grew up as a faculty brat, around my father’s grad students, and was comfortable socialising with people 15 or 20 years older than I was from an early age. My brother and sister are also 15 and 16 years older than I am, so I grew up with the idea that life was more interesting if you behaved in a way that let you go do the adult-focused activities (museums, nice restaurants, performances, etc.)

This all means I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it’s like to be in my earlier 30s, and working with people who are much older. There are some places – notably technology – where my experience *is* vastly different from most of the people I work with. (I am effectively a digital native, in terms of how I use and multitask on the net, for example, even though I first got real access to it in 1994, when I got to college.) And professionally, I need to be able to bring up those kinds of issues and provide resources to help them understand what’s going on, while still respecting and honoring the much more extensive administrative and other professional experience my colleagues have.

(Because no matter *how* good I am at my job now, I’m going to be a lot better when I have 10 or 20 or 30 years of experience in it. Same is true of priestessing.)

This all got brought home to me this weekend, because I went back to visit the group I trained in for ritual for the first time since I hived. (For those not keeping count, that was about 15 months ago.) At this ritual, they honored the group’s elders – and very firmly included me in that category.

They have a point – during my time with that group, I was substantially involved in the training of 9 of our initiates (to varying degrees), and I did a lot of work to help support (and at one point, change) the community culture when that was needed. (I’ve done *less* work than my HPS and HP there, of course, because they were doing that work before I ever showed up. But I’ve done my time in the trenches.)

But it did also get me thinking.

The responsibilities:
There are responsibilities that come along with that role: needing to pay attention to what and how I say things in a community setting. Remembering that people may attach *extra* emphasis to what I say in some places, and adjusting for that – even though I might, inside my head, be thinking “this is just a thing I found handy”, not “this is what everyone should do.” Remembering that I need to model what it looks like to be a respectful guest and participant, because that reflects not just on me, but on the people who trained me, and it’s going to keep echoing with the people who see me.

Not that I’m perfect at any of these things. And there’ll always be things I thought were clear that get muddled somewhere along the line. But I do keep them in the back of my head.

Balancing “Done good stuff” with “Still got more to do.”
I’m nearly 34. Chances are good that I’ll be continuing to grow in my professional and religious life, and taking on leadership and practical roles there for another 30 years. At least. So how do I do that sensibly?

The first thing I keep in mind is that burning out is not a good move. Yes, I’m perennially busy, as most people who know me figure out fast. But I also need to schedule downtime at home, and I need to make sure my projects are balanced and sustainable.

For example, as much as I love Pagan Pride, and have enjoyed doing Programming work, I’ve done that for three years, and have learned about as much from it as I’m probably going to for a while. It’s also fairly close to things I’m now doing more of in my job that can sometimes be stressful (getting people to get me information with a deadline involved, mostly.)

So, this year, I’m training someone new in to take on programming next year. I’ll still be involved with the project, but I’ll be able to step back a little bit and do less of the stuff that feels like just more work. (I do enjoy the end result, mind you.)

Likewise, at work, there’s a bunch of stuff I want to do – but I also know I don’t need to do it all this year. This year, I’m focusing on creating an intentional space and use of the library. I want to get the administrative parts of my job under tight control, so they work as efficiently as possible. And I want to have time to develop lots of individual interactions with students and faculty about learning, finding information, and reading for pleasure.

*Next* year, I can think about other projects – like getting online literacy education more tightly interconnected with our curriculum, and working on teaching specific databases and resources. (I’ll still do some of this this year, of course – but it’s not going to be my major focus.)

Likewise, it’d be a good idea for me to get involved in some professional organisations and help run a conference or two in that setting (because I do have really useful skills there). But the first year or two of a new professional job (even if it’s in a school I’m highly familiar with) is probably not the right time to do it. There will still be conferences in a few years.

The same is true in the coven. The next step (once we’re back from hiatus) is to look at gaining a few students. I know I can’t go from 2 people to our ideal working coven focus overnight, so it’ll be a few years of building. That’s fine – I just need to make sure that that building is something that sustains and supports me, not something that’s only work and no fun. (Fortunately, I love teaching and discussing, and find it re-energising almost all of the time, so this part’s pretty straightforward.)

Being human, and reminding other people of that.
I love my job, and I love priestessing, and I love a lot of other stuff I do. But I am also going to have bad days. I have stuff I am less good at. I have times in my life where things conflict and get tangled, and it takes me time to sort it out. I have times where I say stupid hurtful things and need to make it better.

For me, part of taking these responsibilities seriously is reminding people of that. Letting them know what I think I can sustain long-term, and pushing back if they try and push too far beyond that. Not rudely, not nastily, but “If you want me to do *all* of these things, I’m going to miss stuff: which ones are most important right now?” and “If you want me to do all this paperwork that requires attention to detail and has high costs if I mess it up, I need some time off the desk where I won’t be interrupted: how do we make that work with your other goal that I am highly available to students?”

And “I really want to be involved in the broader Pagan community, but I’ve got a job that demands a lot of time and attention (and that has very little downtime to work on other things), and I’ve got this coven, and my health requires I be attentive to getting enough sleep and downtime.”

There’s answers to all of those. But they’re not always simple and quick and easy. And while there are certainly days I wish those limits weren’t around, being responsible, being mature, being – well, worthy of being an elder – means I need to speak up about what I can do well, and what I can’t do well, and what the options are.