The weather is changing

The weather is changing.

The weather here in Chicago is much different from the Bay Area. The cold actually surprised me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt real cold. This is the beginning of the cold that bites your cheeks, making you run for the covers and some hot chocolate.

The cold also brings back body memories from when I lived in New Hampshire and the Northeast. Like the smell of tobacco reminds me of my grandfather, the cold reminds me of growing up, among other things.

The shorter days makes me want to hibernate, but I know that’s not what people do anymore. It really helps me remember that this time of year is the time to go in, to reflect, to introspect. I do plan on doing more introspection here for the winter. I’m resurrecting my blog to do this.

There’s a lot going on here, and I have some ideas about future ministry, but for now, I just think. I reflect. I look at the past, think about what I want to do for the future, and then put the plans in motion to make it happen.

I do miss all my friends in the Bay Area, but I also know moving here was good for me, good for us. Change is hard, people don’t like it, but it’s also part of life, and usually necessary.

I wonder: what thoughts this cold season will bring me? What will Spirit tell me in these days where the Earth sleeps and things are quiet?

 

Staring at a blank page, banging my head against the wall

When I write about
not being abusive
to allies,
I get told that I’m oppressing the marginalized
and that allies should just sit down
and shut up.

And I wonder:
when did verbal abuse in social justice
become ok?

When I write about
not shaming those who can’t
march,
or call,
or who can’t speak out
because doing these things are not possible,
or could put them in danger,
I get told that my/their silence is assent.

And I wonder:
when did shaming and ableism in social justice
become ok?

When I write about the elephants
in the social justice room:
anti-semitism,
elitism,
holier-than-thou attitudes,
racism,
homophobia,
transphobia,
I don’t get told anything-
because
people who think they are doing all the right things
don’t want to be told that they might be doing
something wrong.

And I wonder:
when did social justice lose it’s
compassion?

It’s hard not to despair
when I want to write about these things
since all I see is that
we, collectively, are doing the work of
our oppressors

But,
I suppose
when you think about it,
when you
really, really
think about it:

Oppression is all we know how to do.

Moving and Moving Forward

Most of you know by now that the wife and I are moving to the Chicago area in March. There’s a lot of feelings around this move for me: excitement, fear, stress, wonder, and grief. It’ll be sad to leave the Bay Area as we’ve both lived here for over 10 years, built a witchcraft tradition, and made many many wonderful friends. That is definitely the hardest part about this move.

But we’ve also both realized that it’s time for change. We’ve both been a bit stuck creatively, and this will give us a chance to start some things over and try new things: creatively, spiritually, and overall. We’ll be meeting new people, trying new things, and dealing with seasons again. We’ll be closer to the east coast, which will allow us to reconnect with my family and friends from that side of the continent.

It will be different, and we’re both pretty ok with that.

For me, I’ll be figuring out new directions for my ministry and my creative endeavors. The biggest realization I’ve had over the last 6 months is that it’s time to let go of This Week In Heresy. I had originally stopped because I was burnt out. I felt like I was having a lot of the same conversations, just with different people. Finding new interviews had become a chore, not fun or interesting. But as the “hiatus” lengthened into November and December, I realized that TWIH wasn’t going to come back. I have some ideas for other media ventures, and maybe some new podcast-like things, but TWIH is not one of them. The website will stay up as an archive of the interviews I’ve done as they are still a great resource and are still awesome. I don’t regret doing the podcast at all, and it was really cool while I was still into it, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s time to move on to something new.

I’ll still be writing on this blog (and my Dreamwidth blog) and since I’m not doing the podcast anymore, you’ll probably see me write here more. I’m also working on another writing project that I’m not sure when it will be done, but it’s interesting and I like it a lot. I’m also really busy coordinating all the moving stuff on the California side, while the wife is sorting out stuff on the Chicago side.

It’s funny how you know it’s time to move on to something new, and while it will be sad to leave here, I know (and the wife knows) that it’s time.

Midnight Epiphanies

I have never been a good scholar. Oh, sure, I’ve written scholarly essays that gave me the grades I needed to pass the classes that I was in, but when it comes to scholarly concepts (especially when it comes to the human condition), I fail. I fail at getting the words right. I fail at being the person that the other social justice scholars think I should be. I even tried writing a book that talked about all of these concepts of privilege, oppression, intersectionality, and all of the other concepts that I’m supposed to know as an educated feminist. Even in that, I failed, because I know that there are other people out there who can explain them much better than I can.

Yet, here I am, after reading essays by bell hooks, in the middle of the night, writing an essay about my failures as a social justice scholar. Or, to be more accurate, my failure to be a scholarly social justice writer. My wife, who is as much my priest as she is my wife, suggested to me that I read those authors who write passionately. My mind thought of all the Womanist theologians who inspired me through seminary (and while I am not black myself, I found Womanist theology a breath of fresh air after reading the droning that is white feminist theology in my seminary days), and my brain connected “bell hooks” with “you should read her work.” So I fired up my Kindle, downloaded several of her works, and started reading “remembered rapture: the writer at work.”

And here I am, writing, in the middle of the night about my failure as a scholarly writer.

I’m still a theologian, though. I think about religion and spiritual matters all the time. It makes me hope that even though I won’t be scholarly in my writing, with mounds of footnotes that reference Rahner, or Tillich, or Spong, or any of the other classical or modern theologians, that the theology police won’t come and confiscate my theologian card. Frankly, regular, scholarly theology can be incredibly dull to me. They have the same conversations over and over again about the same few topics using twenty-five dollar words in 1100 pages, when, in my mind, they could have edited it down to about 100 pages and moved on with more important things. I felt this especially true when I was reading white feminist theologians (although, I think I can forgive them for it since in the misogynistic world of academia, women are forced to go above and beyond to prove their sincerity).

I could go on about my gripes with modern scholarly theology, but that’s not really why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this essay.

No, I’m up in the middle of the night because I’ve had an epiphany about my own writing.

I am just not a scholarly writer, hence the talk about my failure as a scholarly writer. You see, I wrote a book about radical inclusion. It was filled with explanations about the concepts I mentioned earlier: privilege, intersectionality, etc. All of that stuff about social justice that I’ve learned over the years and talked with many people about on my podcast. This book goes into very specific details about what I think is wrong in the Pagan community, and my ideas about how to bring in radical inclusion, or, at least, a set of questions one can use to bring radical inclusion from the head to the heart (as Bishop Flunder of City of Refuge would say). I poured out 25000 words into a document that I then sent to others to read.

But if I’m honest with myself, there was something about it, even in my excitement of having written it (or really, having written 25000 words on anything at all). I knew in the back of my mind that it was a failure. I could feel that there was something missing, something not quite right. I wasn’t seeing something in it that I felt should have been obvious. I thought that maybe I was too close to the writing and that I needed others to read it to help me find out what I was missing.

When the first comments came in, especially the more pointed and honest ones, imposter syndrome and depression hit me really hard. At first I was defensive. When I talked with my wife about the comments, she helped me put them in perspective, since many of them were very valid commentary about my own privilege and knowledge. I took a look at my own defensiveness, did some work around my depression and imposter syndrome, and left the commentary to sit for awhile. When I looked at it again, I realized that it was all true. It wasn’t the fault of the people giving me their comments, far from it, it was my own. And tonight, the epiphany is that I tried to write something “how to” and scholarly, which I’m not good at. As I said, there are many people who can, and do, write about these topics in a scholarly and explanatory way much better than I can.

The second half of this epiphany came earlier today when I asked my wife about which writing she thought was my best. She told me that it was the writing I did when I Spirit was coming through and when I wrote about the things I’m most passionate about. When I thought about it, I knew she was right. All of my blog rants, prose pieces about deities and spiritual experiences, human stories around my faith and belief, those were the things that always felt “right” when I wrote them. They were the pieces that felt the most satisfying to me when I put them out into the world.

If I really think about it, I’m more of a works versus faith type of theologian. I’m more interested in how spirit moves through us. In how people use spirit for good and in observing the ways humans interact with each other. For example: I could explain radical inclusion by citing scholars and theologians in a massive tome, or I could tell you a story about a young autistic boy who gave me a hug at the doctor’s office and the mother’s profound relief that I not only accepted that hug, but treated him like a human being instead of a freak. The first I’m miserable at. The second, however, still tugs at my emotions and makes me want to write.

I’m a scholarly failure, and I’m actually rather OK with that.

It only took 25000 words, my wife, some beta readers, and a bell hooks essay for me to figure this out.

And one late night (or early morning) essay writing session for me to really believe it.

(This post was written in the wee hours of the morning of September 23, 2016)

Navel Gazing about Worthiness and Writing

Most of my life I’ve had a hard time feeling worthy of any praise or positions I’ve gotten. I think a lot of that intersects with imposter syndrome too: I could do the thing, but then people will find out I’m a fake and I’m not worthy of their praise or accolades. Also, there is a part of me that can get jealous of others when they get accolades for something I feel I’ve worked just as hard to do. This was especially true of my undergraduate college days. I did a lot of hard work, and learned a lot in my classes, but I didn’t test well. Looking back now, I wish I had realized that I was better in the humanities than the sciences (because I did get accolades for my writing), but I was determined to be a biochemist. I wasn’t a bad biochemist, but even when I was working in the industry, most of the work I ended up doing after a few years was some sort of writing or editing (in addition to lab testing). I wrote SOPs, inspected labels, edited SOPs and other documents, wrote or edited validations, and other tasks like that. I also ended up doing some computer work because I seemed to be the computer geek of the group (I can pick up software programs fairly fast).

When I went to seminary, I was writing all the time. It took my first few papers to really get into the groove of writing academically again, but when I found that groove, I seemed to just write. Although, I do procrastinate horribly, especially if it was a paper topic I wasn’t really into. There were a few papers where I deserved the grade I got (boy were they stinkers), and at least one paper I wrote that I should have gotten a higher grade on, but the professor didn’t like me. (Since it wasn’t that bad of a grade, I didn’t bother fighting her on because at the time I just wanted to get done with her class. There’s a lot of other reasons for that.)

I suppose that where this is going is that I would see other people getting awards for their work and wonder why I wasn’t getting the awards, too. What made my work less worthy of public recognition than others? Granted, there was the practical side of it: the awards had rules: you had to have a certain grade point average or test score, or a professor had to nominate your work, or you had to somehow know about it and apply for said award. Another side, to quote my wife, is that people sometimes get awards for doing something unexpected of them, where for you it’s something expected.

I think, though, it took going into corporate America to really start thinking that my self-worth can’t be based on the job I do. That is a problem with being raised on the east coast, because on the east coast, your job is as much of an identity as your sexuality, gender, or any other form of identity. I tell people a lot that the biggest difference between working on the east coast versus the west coast, is that on the east coast, the first or second question that people will ask about you (after introductions) will be about what your job is and who you work for. On the west coast, people are more likely to ask about you first before getting around to your job: do you live around here? What brought you to California? What do you think of the Giants? (Or alternately, they’ll talk about their own history and you end up chiming in about yours during the conversation.)

But I’m finding that my self-worth is starting to be more reliant on the work I do with others and my relationships with myself and others. It’s not easy, because it’s hard getting rid of the “I’m not worthy of X” tapes that stick in one’s head. Or the little kid in yourself that says “Pick me! Pick me!” when it comes to awards and things. It’s a process, and some days I know in my heart that reward can be a simple as being able to do the same work, same ritual, more than once. Or to be able to do it at all.

Or, I’m just mellowing about that stuff as I get older? Possibly….

5th Week of Lent: Into the Last Phase

I’ve just realized that I’m over halfway done with my Lenten working. On Tuesday I started the Jesus part of my working, and so far it’s been good. What I’m realizing, though, is that Jesus and I don’t know each other quite as well as we used to. What I mean by that is that while I’ve had a relationship with the spirit of Jesus, it’s been more as an acquaintance rather than a close relationship like I have with The Dagda and Hecate. I realized that this morning at the beginning of my morning meditation, and so instead of doing the rosary like I have been doing the last few days, I just did a quiet meditation and had a conversation. It was a good conversation, and I think I’ll need to keep doing that for the time being.

In the evening, before bed, I’ve been doing a set of Compline prayers that I adapted and redacted from the Daily Office of the Society of Saint Francis. (Out of all of them, the Franciscan prayers and theology are the ones that speak to me. It doesn’t really surprise me, given my witchy proclivities.) I’m finding that I really like the little ritual each night. It’s got me thinking, though, about maybe creating a Wiccan Christian Daily Office (as if I need yet another writing project), but it’ll have to wait until after I get the radical inclusion book done.

I still have a couple of weeks until Easter and the end of this working. I’ve been learning a lot, and I know I want to keep doing the morning and evening meditations, but right now, I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. While part of my brain wants to figure it out right now, but the rest of my brain is saying “Don’t worry about it until the working is done.”

I think that would be the wiser course. Besides, there’s still 16 days left….

4th Week of Lent: An Appreciation for Getting Things Done

Reflecting on the 4th week of Lent where I’m still in the Dagda part of my working, I realize I’ve done quite a bit. I’ve “normalized” my work day and have gotten more written on my book this week than I have in several months. I cooked a lot, and have a lovely visit with my friend River and her little one on Thursday. I created a booklet of the prayers I need for the next phase of my working and shared that with those who I thought would be interested. I called the gardener and had them come sort out our yard (before the rain started). I got a new phone and set up our fancy new lights that we can control with our devices!

In other words, it’s been a busy week.

I keep wanting to write about some of the interesting conversations and thoughts I’ve been having about the state of clergy in paganism, but it seems like I need to think about the more before I write on it. I keep starting and deleting, so…

One thing, though, is that my social media need is way down. More often than not I’m just checking Facebook to see if there’s anything specific I need to address, and then I move on. Same with Tumblr. The further I get into this working the less I really want to deal with social media. If it wasn’t good for the podcast or the way I communicate with a lot of the east coast, I’d just jump ship from Facebook all together. As it is, not being on Facebook a lot has done a some real good for my mental health.

A definite thing to come from this working is that the twice daily meditation is doing a lot for my anxiety and depression issues. I know it’s one aspect of this working that I’ll definitely keep up with afterwards. Even the wife has noticed a real difference in my mood because of it.

This is just a short update since, apparently, the other stuff I want to write about is going to be saved for a later date…

A general post of New Year’s goals and putting out my shingle

It’s a new year, and there are many posts and memes about New Year’s Resolutions going around. I tend not to bother with resolutions because, when I make them, I end up feeling bad if I break them. I have enough of my own anxiety that I don’t need to add more on top of it. Instead of resolutions, I like to think about projects and goals for the new year.

The first project this year is to finish a book. I realized the other night that I actually have two books in the works: one on radical inclusion for the pagan community, and one about our coven’s traditions and teachings. I’d like to get the radical inclusion one to at least a finished first draft by the end of the summer (earlier if possible). I’ve probably got about 1/4-1/3 written, so this is do-able if I knuckle down and just get on with it. If I can get a first draft of the Cerridwen book done this year, too, that would be a bonus, but I’m ok with shuffling it into 2017.

The second set of projects are around TWIH: First, I wan’t to try doing quarterly live Google hangout panels about particular topics. I’d like to shoot for doing the first one in March, and I hope I can get the folks I’d like to get for it. It’ll take some logistical wrangling, but I think it’ll be interesting. Second, I need to revamp my Patreon page and make more interesting goals and incentives. (Although, feel free to contribute any time, if you feel so inclined!) I’m also considering maybe a Patreon contest or fund drive, but I’m not sure. The third one is probably a long-shot, but I’d like to do a live interview (or interviews) for charity. I’m still thinking about who to ask for that one, and if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

The last goals, as far as online content is concerned, is to keep writing, at least weekly, for this site. I had thought about doing a vlog on YouTube, but doing both a weekly audio podcast and a video would be a bit much for me, I think.

I’d also like to get some more freelance projects for either writing, editing, website work, or even some A/V work. If you need this type of work done, or know someone who might, please let me know! I’d also like to do some more workshops and speaking at other conventions/festivals, so if anyone runs some of those things and would like me to be there, send me an email!

As far as priestly work goes, besides my work with the coven, I’m planning on doing a big personal working for Lent. I’ve felt a bit disconnected from deity and devotional work for awhile, and my wife had the suggestion to use the Lenten season to do it. It should be a pretty intense working and of course I’ll be starting the Tuesday before Pantheacon. (So if you see me run off to go do something at certain times, that’s why!) There’s also an ordination this weekend (yay!), and maybe even doing a wedding at some point in the future (well, it may or may not happen this year, we’ll see).

Heh…now that I’ve written this all out, it seems I’m doing a lot more than I thought. The wife has a lot of new stuff going on, too, and so far, 2016 is behaving. Hopefully, the rest of the year continues this way!