“The West Wing” and the Disgruntled Spouse Trope

There is a TV show trope that I just absolutely detest: the person who marries another person, knowing they have a vocation or calling, who then gets all bent out of shape when their spouse puts that calling before them.

It came up again for me because the wife and I are re-watching “The West Wing” (and crying bit). In one of the first episodes of the first season, Leo McGarry (who is the Chief of Staff) comes home, and his wife is mad at him for missing their anniversary. The next day he tries to plan a romantic dinner to make up for it, but because of being Chief of Staff, he ends up having to squeeze the dinner in between work things. She then proceeds to ask “Is your job more important than your marriage?” and he says “Right now, yes!” She then decides to leave him and ask for a divorce.

This is a pretty common trope, not only in a series like this, but particularly in series that are about the types of careers that are also vocations: cops, federal agents, pastors, fire fighters, medical professionals (doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc.) and so on. It also happens in real life, especially when a spouse or family member can’t handle being second to something they deem as “just a job” or a “dangerous job.”

The thing is, it’s not “just a job,” it’s their life and their work. It’s a part of them that makes them who they are. I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to support their spouse being their full selves? Especially if they marry someone and know about the vocation going in. In the case of Leo on The West Wing, his wife married a politician who was helping someone run for the White House who would most likely have a job in said White House after the election if his candidate won. It’s not like she couldn’t figure out that that would eat up her spouse’s life until after Bartlett got out of office (one way or another).

Now, I won’t argue that Leo could have communicated better (much better). Or that there weren’t a bunch of cis-sexist marriage things involved in how the marriage turned out. But this trope happens a lot, even in marriages that have great communication. One partner just can’t understand that there might be something more important than them in the marriage.

My wife and I both have vocations, and we both understand that they are important to each of us. We also made an agreement that we wouldn’t give up our lives for each other. That means, that she can have her friends, I can have mine. I can take myself out for dinner alone if I want to, or just have alone time at home if I need it. It also means that I can do the work I am called to do and she will support me in doing it.

My wife is the most important person in my life, but she is not the ONLY person in my life. We make each other happy, but we’re not solely responsible for each other’s happiness. We have a lot of things in common with each other, and do a lot of things together, but we don’t do everything together.

The best advice, actually, comes from the reporter, Danny, a few episodes later when Charlie is bent out of shape because the Secret Service doesn’t allow him to go to a party with the president’s daughter. Danny basically says that she has enough to go through, and that the best thing Charlie can do for her is to be the one thing in her life that isn’t stressful. I try and do that with my wife, and she has done the same for me. Besides, I want to see my wife happy and fulfilled. I would never deny her that, nor would I tell her she is a bad person for wanting to pursue her dreams.

She is my wife, after all. I do not own her.

Lent Poetry: He is a Healer

He comes to me
lays His hands on my head
and says:

“I can’t promise you
that things will get better.

I can’t tell you that there won’t
be more violence
in My name.

I can tell you that
you will have life
and love
and laughter
and sorrow
before you cross over.

You need not stay at
Death’s altar
in order to understand
Us.

Remember to love
in this life, and remember Me
as I should be.”

Guidance

“So, now that I’ve made all these tools, what do you want of me?” I asked.

“Well, you use them, of course!” She said.

“But I’m not sure how, and for what purpose!”

She sighed. “I suppose it’s only fair to tell you since we had you write the journey in the first place. Ok, here you go:

The Stone is for looking at the past, storing, and remembering.

The Knife is for the work of magick, as you already know.

The Dark Mirror is for scrying and to help when dealing with the dead.

The Water Bowl is for everyday guidance and purification.

I’d recommend the Water Bowl for daily meditation. And your usual offering of candles and incense. Do prayers in the evening and meditation in the morning.”

I nodded. It all made sense. Now I had a direction…

She shook her head. “It really does take a spiritual 2×4 sometimes, eh?”

“Yeah, well…there’s a lot of stuff going on…” I said sheepishly.

She smiled. Her eyes held nothing but love and kindness. I smiled back.

Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Jesus

“No, no…pleases don’t fall asleep! I’d like to have this conversation.” He said, as I was typing in my bed. I was tempted to nap right then, but I did want to write. I turned on my Hated Bands playlist and invited Him to have a seat.

He laughed. “It’s easy for people to hate what they don’t understand, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Definitely. Or to think someone is evil because they like something you don’t.”

He gave me that look.

“Okay, Okay! Guilty. But, seriously, how can people like Trump and say they believe in You? How can they say they believe in You, when they are generally being discriminatory, racist, white supremacist, homophobic, transphobic and more? I mean, people really believe that they need to take up weapons to fight these things in Your name!”

He grinned, but His eyes were sad.

“My words have become Rome. They are not what I taught then, but I can’t help what My words and My actions became. Humanity has used what I’ve taught for their own ends. There is only so much I can do as an Ancestor and Deity. You all have to own your own mistakes and find the compassion to forgive them…eventually. Humans are good at torturing themselves and hurting themselves. You should know that by now.”

I nodded. “Yes, we tend to do ourselves in quite handily.”

We sat in silence for a bit.

“There is hope, though.” he said.

“Is there?”

“Oh yes! It’s in your art and film. There are stories of humanity’s great awakening by more than one author. There is, somewhere in the human psyche, a need to believe that some day we’ll move past our hatred and violence, or at least make it so that the violence and oppression are unacceptable and that learning, art, music, compassion, love are normal instead of the exception.”

I nodded. Yes, we have a lot of that, and a lot of the art I consume is of that. “But we’re far from that place,” I said.

“Yes, that’s true. It’s like any wound: you have to go through a lot of pain and discomfort until it goes away. The unfortunate thing is that you were born in the middle of the pain, so it seems like things will never get better.”

“Really? You mean it will get better?”

He smiled sadly. “Eventually.”

That didn’t really inspire hope, but I have always had at least a little in my heart.

“That’s the spirit!” He said, as he stood up to leave. “I have hope that you will continue to spread the teachings of love and hope. It doesn’t even have to be in My name. I’ll tell you a secret: My hope was always to make people see others as human beings, to see themselves in others. It was never any more than that, really. The religion isn’t important, but that is.”

He left the room while “Sympathy for the Devil” was playing…

Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Ereshkigal

“You humans are very strange creatures,” She said as She sat down.

I took a sip of my cocoa. “I can’t argue with You about that. We tend to do a lot of weird stuff to each other and to our planet. We are stubborn, willful, quick to anger, but then we can be full of compassion, joy, and happiness.”

“Well, yes, that’s very true.” She paused. “But your species doesn’t learn very well from it’s past, does it?”

“No, unfortunately.”

“You all come through My realm, one way or another, and yet you never seem to listen to the Ancestors that came before you. They leave you books and pictures and art and music, and still there are those who willfully ignore or deny the atrocities done. They deny the signs of those who would only seek power for their own ends and feed on the hatred of others. They would willingly ignore the human race’s ability to change and adapt based on perceived notions of a lack of perfection in word and deed.”

I grimaced behind another sip of cocoa. I was rather glad that this conversation was in my head rather than physically real. Then again, I suppose if Ereshkigal became visible in the coffee shop, it would make things rather interesting.

She raised Her eyebrow at me.

I quickly answered:

“Some believe that it is only through perfection that we can change society. Others believe that we can only get to You and the other Gods through perfection. They believe that if we make mistakes somehow we’re not good enough. And, I think, sometimes some of us will shame and degrade others for mistakes long after the mistake was made and learned from.”

“What do you believe?”

“Well, I believe…I….” I stumbled.

“Do you not have an opinion?”

“I do…it’s just that…well…it’s not very popular…”

She raised her eyebrow at me again. “Priest.” She reminded me.

I took a deep breath. Right.

“I believe that demanding perfection from each other actually does more harm than good. If we don’t take the time to explain to someone who makes a mistake out of ignorance what they’ve done wrong, there’s no room for change. If we just tell someone they’re a horrible person and that they should just sit down and shut up, then all that does is build resentment.”

“And what of those who do it out of malice?”

“Well,” I said, “sit down and shut up can be a bit more effective then. I think there are some people I won’t be able to change.”

She laughed. “No, you can’t change everyone. You can’t change anyone unless they see the need to change.”

“But what about people’s anger?” I said, frustrated. “How can I acknowledge someone’s very real feelings around their oppression, but call them out on their lack of compassion towards those who want to learn and grow? I mean, I get that people get sick of educating people. I get tired of it, too. Sometimes it’s just easier to back away and just leave it alone!”

The Queen of the Underworld looked at me for a moment with sad eyes, then stood up to walk around the room. She stood behind the Latinx couple with a baby.

“Their daughter will get bullied and they will not be able to find an apartment because of their skin color and speech.”

She moved to stand next to the white man at his computer. “He doesn’t know his privilege, but he makes donations to charities every year because he can take it off his taxes.”

She moves to the white man and Asian looking man talking. “They are friends and meet here often. They both have conflicts of faith.”

Then she stood next to a teenage girl. “She knows that the world is wrong right now, and yet she will be a beacon of hope and change as she gets older.”

She wanders around standing near people and showing me their pasts and futures. Their humanity, their oppressions, their privileges, their struggles.

“They will all learn what they need to learn in this life. You are one teacher in a sea of teachers that they will come across. You don’t necessarily need to acknowledge their oppressions, but you need to absolutely acknowledge their humanity.”

I nodded.

“Remember what the Morrigan told you: you cannot save them all. And sometimes Death, in Spirit or in Fact, is a mercy, not a punishment.”

I nodded again. She sat down again.

I tried to think of something else to say, but my words were failing me.

She touched my face. “Don’t worry, my love, when they come to me, they will finally learn. It is not your place to demand perfection, but is is your place to try and emulate that which you hold dear. You will fail sometimes, but if you can tell me that you did the best you could when you arrive at My Gates, then I would be satisfied.”

I nodded.

“Yes,” She said as She got up to walk away, “You humans are very odd creatures.”

Recent Reflections (with expletives)

  1. I like makeup, and I’m having fun with it, even though the butch side of myself is going “huh? wut?”
  2. I am an activist for some things, and I’ll do the work when I need to, but I’m not so keen on the community around activism sometimes. There are times when the very far left sounds quite similar to the very far right, especially in the “I will shout at you until you believe like I do” school of activism.
  3. Speaking of politics, I am not an anarchist, even though I’m pagan. I love all you Anarcho-pagans out there. Keep doing what you do. I just am not. I’m very much a New England Yankee Democrat.
  4. I’m not Hillary’s #1 Fan or anything, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world that Bernie didn’t get the nomination. I don’t think there was any actual conspiracy on the part of the DNC to see him not win, either. Having grown up in New England with history nerds for parents, I’ve lived and breathed politics from the cradle. What the DNC has been doing is what usually happens during elections. Unless you get a surprise winner like Barack Obama in 2008, most of the time they have a general idea of who’s going to end up with the nod.
  5. That said, the Republicans have gone batshit crazy, and what they have is certainly not normal. Trump is nasty and should not get in office.
  6. Personally, I think a third party vote is throwing votes to Trump. But you know what? You don’t have to give a fuck what I think, and I don’t really give a shit who you vote for as long as you actually vote. There are plenty of down-ticket things that still need your attention, even if you leave the presidential vote blank.
  7. I keep wavering about running for office. Sometimes I think I should and sometimes I think that way lies madness…of the bad kind.
  8. Working with Ereshkigal keeps the “give a fuck” tank low and the bullshit meter set on high sensitivity. The extra helping of hormones does not help this.
  9. It’s rather fun watching my wife watch the DNC. She’s getting a real education about American politics this year.
  10. Pink is my favorite color. Most of you know this already. I am just reasserting my pink-loving identity. 🙂

Holy Week: What I’ve Learned

It’s Holy Week. The last week of my working, which ends on Sunday night.

It’s interesting to look at this working from (almost) the other side. I was kind of nervous about doing it, really, since I hadn’t really done something quite like this before, but I know now that I didn’t need to be nervous about it. Going through it was definitely work and I learned a lot.

From Hecate I learned to let go of people and things that I couldn’t do much about (and about curbing the obsession I can get sometimes with wanting to know everything about people). I also was reminded that I can’t stay in death working mode all the time, and that unless I’m needed in that capacity, that I should save it for Samhain.

From the Dagda I learned why it’s important to ask for help because it’s hard and draining to do it all yourself. (I did improve my cooking skills, though.) I also learned a lot about self care from Him, too, including treating my body with care. What I remember most is that on a bad body image day, He said to me: “If I, as a god, can have a big belly, so can you!” I also realized after His part of the working that it’s best for me to get up a couple of hours early, before I start writing, to have breakfast and do my meditation, or else the brain doesn’t wake up enough.

From Jesus I’ve been learning more about what His role in my life is. He’s more about my public priesting. In other words, His is the ministry that I emulate in public: doing my best to help those who need it, praying, and doing my best to heal in the areas that I minister in. I’m also learning more about my monastic nature at the moment, figuring out how I want to do my monasticism, and how regular ritual can be comforting and grounding.

Overall, I’ve learned just how important daily practice is for me, even on the days where I don’t feel like it. Especially on those days. I have much more confidence in my spiritual work and spiritual connections. A friend of mine mentioned a few weeks ago that we didn’t really learn what it meant to be a contemplative in seminary. I agree. I really wish we had learned more about being contemplative and religious life. It definitely provides a wrapper for my days that helps me be more on focus (especially with my writing) and on task. The other really good side benefit is that my mental health is vastly improved. My anxiety is way way down, and I haven’t had any lengthy depression (some small bouts, but those were more hours than days). Also, minimal interaction on Facebook has also been a big plus for me. (YMMV, but for me, this has been really good.)

I’m going to keep doing the morning and evening meditations, although, I’m not sure exactly how the evening meditation is going to manifest. I’m liking the Compline prayers, since reading from a paper and following instructions is easier at the end of the day when you’re tired. There are a few things I want to add to my altar, too, to tie things all together.

But, I’m at the end, and it’s been quite the experience.

The New Sound Of Pentecost — City of Refuge UCC, January 31, 2016

(This was written for my church family at City of Refuge UCC for their last Sunday of their Consecration Month which had the theme “Sounds of Pentecost.” It was read today, January 31, at the their regular service.)

The first time I came to Refuge, I had a vision. Everyone was up at the front laying hands on someone who needed healing, while I stayed in my seat because I was being shy. I was waiting to see what the Spirit of Jesus looked like at Refuge, because most churches have a particular way Christ manifests in their church. Now, in most churches, it’s one large Christ that looks over the congregation.

But, as we all well know, City of Refuge is different. There wasn’t just one Jesus over the Church, there were many. Each person had Christ with them, and each one looked different, depending on the person He was looking over. That vision was when I knew I had to be at Refuge and to learn from everyone there. It was my own personal vision of Pentecost through all of you who were there the first time I came to service.

I know I haven’t been able to come to Refuge for awhile, but the Pentecostal Gift that is City of Refuge lives in my heart, lives in my soul, lives in my spirit. I hope I was able to show you all that even though I am Wiccan and come to Christ through different means, that He is the one who is speaking through my practice. That He helps guide my soul through love, compassion, healing, and inclusion. And because of all of you at Refuge, I am now channeling that sound of Pentecost through my own work of teaching radical inclusion in the Pagan community. Because through you I learned that even if we call Spirit by different names, that love, that compassion, that healing speaks through all of us.

And what I saw that day was a true vision, because we all have different words to talk about Christ. We don’t all see Him in quite the same way, but we all know His love. We all know when He’s talking through someone, even if how we see Him isn’t the same as the person who is sitting next to us. We can hear it in the praise of the singers. We can hear it when someone talks in tongues because the Spirit has come upon them. We can feel it from the person who is praying quietly in the corner. We feel it in the drum. We can see it when the people dance. We ARE Christ for each other, even if we are far apart.

Those of us who work for radical inclusion, radical hospitality, radical love, and radical justice ARE the new Sound of Pentecost. I believe we, all of us who speak of love, compassion, and justice, we ARE the Coming of Christ in our time. We ARE His voice and His fire. We ARE his hands and his feet. WE are the Common Christ. This is the strongest magick we possess and it is the strongest spell in all the Universe.

So Mote It Be and Amen