Posts Tagged hope

Still Here

It’s been an age. So long since I wrote anything here.

(Even now, my brain is telling me to click away, not to post this, not to bore everyone. But here we go, pushing on)

The words haven’t been coming. The flow has been blocked. They’re there, in my mind, but they don’t want to get out onto the page.

The preventative song is the same. Not good enough. You’ve done your bit. That was all you could do. You’ve done.

You should stop.

(Feel free to read between the lines)

Every day is another step, though. Small things accomplished. Every piece of happiness held on to and cheered.

I can’t face friends one day; the next, I share laughter and hopeful thoughts with a stranger.

I see shock on the face of a person assigned to help me. But not disgust – sympathy. The shame shrinks before his gentle smile.

Being held, in person or virtually. Reaching out myself, wanting to help others. Tears for sick friends, frustration that I can’t do more – but being there.

Gladness in plans that we’re finally able to make, after a year of limbo.

We live in strange times. I’m not sure where the winding path is leading. I’m trying to listen to the subtle guidance – the ringing strike of truth held in random phrases, words on a page, jokes and shared thoughts.

It feels as if I’m living moment to moment right now. And perhaps… that might be ok.

Because I’m wanting more. And the ideas may be starting to bud a little once again. the truths start to fall from my lips and fingertips.

Love and hope to you all, patient friends. The mantra of last year still: Stay Safe.

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Light in the Dark

Today was not a good day.

But I did receive some advice that struck me, and which I would like to remember. I should try to ‘surround myself with things that make me happy.’

Even though we may have our own spaces, how consciously do we do this? Not random piles of Stuff, nor the minimalism of only keeping what gives us joy, but taking time to seek out soul-deep happy things in the moment – as medicine, solace, comfort, fuel to keep yourself moving forward.

The world is turning, things are changing, and I don’t know where we will end up. But for the first time in a while, I feel that I am seeing something to aim for, with the pulling back of self-care helping radiate outwards to larger work.

Tonight I sit, exhausted in body and spirit. I have soft knitting in my lap, colourful yarn gifted by fellow yarnies. A pup or a kitten may come by for a snuggle. A toy Jackalope sits nearby, sent from a friend miles away. Fire crackles in the hearth, and Himself prepares comforting food. Before bed, I will dip into a few pages of an excellent book.

Tomorrow, I will work on gifts for friends. Writing plans are germinating, throwing out tiny shoots of growth as characters begin to talk to me. Ritual ideas are also coming, as we near Imbolc, but also as I prepare a rite of Passing.

All of this while the country is locked down by illness. When we need companionship but cannot even touch family and friends – at least we have this technology to keep our shared spirits up. We have items with stories, that have come to us when needed.

We keep going through the winter months, and I am glad of being able to reach beyond that dark to the flame of happiness again.

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Farewell to This Year

It feels as if this is a moment we’ve all been working towards for so long. 2020 has been A Year unlike any other that we’ve known. Time itself has seemed tenuous and changeable, whether elastic or like wading through thick mud. Very little has been certain, day-to-day.

We’re stepping into a new calendar year with even more trepidation than usual, and (perhaps) greater awareness of the weight of what might lie ahead. But also with hope – because that is what keeps us moving on.

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions, as that’s always been a Samhain thing for me. But after some extremely fallow writing weeks, ideas have tapped on my brain to be noted and shared; maybe even looked back on next December.

Moving into 2021, I hope…

To keep rediscovering my strength. Ditto bravery. Fear and weakness can have their time, and then be overcome.

To explore my creativity. Be it fiction in places that I’ve not explored before, or new and intriguing skills. Also…

To allow myself to make mistakes. To mess up, trip up and then pick myself up. It’s all part of the journey. Blame and guilt are not helpful.

To keep speaking my truth, and digging deep when necessary to see what that means.

To allow myself to share more without shame.

To learn to love myself as I am, here and now.

To make and share my own personal magic.

To not give up.

Step, step, step…

Stay safe, friends. Thinking of you all. We’ll see each other again soon.

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Permission to Try

A while ago, I was chatting to a friend and happened to mention that I loved horror movies, especially when I was feeling low. She looked at me in horror. ‘Why?!’ she gasped.

I honestly didn’t know how to reply, because I couldn’t quite understand the question.

I don’t know if it’s still true (I suspect it is), but when I was younger, it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be really passionately into something. Be it a hobby, interest or whatever struck your fancy in a big way, it seemed that unless that topic was currently ‘trendy’ – and therefore permissible – you could expect to get mocked for it. So you quickly learned to keep it quiet.

A classic example is Dungeons and Dragons, which was widely derided for many years after launch (despite its popularity), but is now ‘cool’ because those nerdy kids grew up and are still enjoying themselves. Thus others are finally drawn in though curiosity rather than put off by derision.

I’ve never understood why someone being really keen on a subject should have to push that down for the sake of their ‘image.’ When do we learn to mock others for things they enjoy? I think the nearest I came was having a laugh at my brother for his football-madness, but our whole family had that – I always took a book (or two) wherever I went, unless I wanted to sit with them watching two groups of men chase a ball around a field for 90 minutes. Fun for many, not for me.

I still joke with him about ‘Doing A Sport’, by the way. It’s not malicious at all, as I love seeing my nephews enjoying it as they get older. I really wouldn’t want to tell anyone what they can and cannot like! My technically-correct explanation of the Offside Rule (‘that man’s in front of that other one and he shouldn’t be’) shows how daft I am, if anything.

It’s interesting to take a step back to consider why some things are permissible and others not. So many social rules fly around gendered roles, for example: historically, women were looked down upon for reading, because they might Get Ideas. Let alone Playing a Sport (still true).

I love that we’re now starting to really dig into the irrationality of such invisible laws, which seem to originate in the schoolyard. At some point (hopefully by adulthood) an individual can stop, think to themselves ‘Hang on…’ and realize that the thing they love is for a valid reason.

I mention my ribbing of my brother and his football because he has been known to do similar to me about my Paganism. He used to call it ‘That stuff you do’, until he came to my Handfasting and saw what the Stuff was for himself. It’s not for him but he gets it, and I’m glad.

At every single such event I’ve ever attended, regular folks have approached me to tell me how lovely the ceremony was, and how they’d never realized. I do wonder what they imagine Pagan Ritual to be, but it’s always lovely to share The Stuff I Do with others in an open way, so they can see for themselves. Not with a view to recruiting at all – people can make up their own minds about that! Just demonstrating.

If people ask me for introductory information about something I love, I try to help them understand and hopefully inspire a little. It’s always a true pleasure to hear others speak on such topics. Personal passion is a wonderful thing.

I’m writing this today because allowing myself to feel deeply about certain things is something that’s been on my mind recently. What I am allowing myself to have or to do. What’s permissable – and if not, why not?

I’ve been reviewing books to share my opinion and also help authors and small publishers. Genre fiction isn’t always ‘cool’, but if I liked it, I’ll say so. It’s up to those reading the review if they pick up the book themselves or not.

I’ve been watching makeup videos on YouTube, and debating playing with colours again. The greater part of a year spent in lockdown means I’ve been making do with basic primping, but I want to remember how fun it is to dress up. I love my dark red lipstick, and will have to wear it at home for a while… but that’s ok.

What do we allow ourselves to do, or not do? Why avoid things that we love for the sake of what others think, or what we feel we ‘should’ be doing? Those awful social expectations, codes and rules…

This isn’t about anarchism or chaos. This is simply about pausing to ask ‘do I really want to do this?’ when you know the answer is Yes.

Because right now, we need to give ourself permission to enjoy what we love. Explore new languages, cultures, topics, genres, games, pastimes. What can we do to brighten the days during lockdown? Bake, read, play, craft, dress up. Even play D&D with friends across Zoom, which Himself and I will be doing tonight.

I feel as if sometimes I’m relearning what I love all over again, because the depression brings back those playground voices that tell me I can’t, shouldn’t, will look stupid, etc etc.

But what if I try?

Wintry blessings, my friends.

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New Hope

So… an exciting Thing is happening regarding my mental health situation.

A while ago (pre-lockdown), my lovely Dr told me about some medical trials going on for those with ‘treatment-resistant depression.’ I appeared to meet the criteria, so she put my name forward.

This is the project – Brightmind (I keep wanting to call it Brightburn, but that’s a very different thing 😂).

I’ve had confirmation today that I’m pretty much their ideal candidate, and after the formal assessment next week (and MRI scan to check my brain), I can begin in early September.

I’ve kept this quiet until it was confirmed, and also because I should’ve started in February – but then the MRI machines became suddenly busy. The team at Nottingham University, working with QMC Hospital Nottingham, are super-keen to get working again, and their enthusiasm is really giving me hope.

Short version: this is like ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), but using magnets. So it’s not invasive at all and has shown a high rate of success. The last statistics I found showed 80% of improvement in patients, with the remainder showing no change. NO side-effects.

I’m hopeful. No guarantees, but any improvement is A Good Thing.

I will be updating on here, and possibly with videos as well. I’ve seen other folks on YouTube document such journeys, and their positive experiences have been a big factor in my going forward with this.

A Big Adventure is about to begin! Fingers – and everything else – crossed.

Also, before anyone says anything: yes, I’ve read ‘Firestarter’ and books like that. I promise to use any resulting superpowers for good. Including a clearer brain 😊

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Monday

I’ve never been sure what Real Druids (or Pagans, Witches or whatever) are supposed to do on a daily basis.

I’m sure you’ve seen memes involving Getafix or Gandalf. I rather like this one from Living Liminally:

druid meme2

Even that’s not been possible for most of this year, alas. Looking over my garden is kind of my limit for outdoor contact – or walking the dogs close to home. That’s something, and it’s more than many, I know.

Today I’m wondering what I should be doing, according to others. Because when I woke up, my brain decided to regale me with all of the demands made by others who clearly Know Better.

(They don’t. Some folks just love to critique based on a glimpse of the person they think they know.)

The softest target is my health. Lately this has been a real bone of contention, and apparently a problem for others as well as me.

Every time I post something about my health (read: my depression, anxiety, what have you), I feel bad. The voices gleefully squeal ‘Oh, she’s off again! What is it now? They don’t care, you know.’ Or, that biggest of guns: ‘She just wants attention.’

I don’t. I really don’t. I want to talk about how I’m feeling because every time I do, I get quiet messages telling me that being honest and up-front about it is helpful. I’m not actually whingeing; I’m striking a chord with someone stuck in their own dark hole.

A lot of what I do is invisible, thinking about it – meaning that it happens, but can’t easily be seen. Battling my illness. Working with energy, connecting with the world around, chatting to spirits or deity. Or – gasp! – writing.

Writing is sorting ideas somehow in your head, transmitting those coherently through my fingers onto this page. Broadly speaking.

But there’s also the jump to simply do the work. To get up, find the writing tool – laptop, pen and paper – and make the words happen. That can be as difficult as putting on running gear to head out of the door. Especially when feeling low, because the Brain wants to convince you that you can’t do it. You don’t need to. Nobody cares, anyway.

Shut up, f*ck off, I’m doing it.

A common piece of advice from writers is to Just Write. Neil Gaiman put it so well when he said something akin to ‘Put one word after another and keep going.’ Yep. Like running – one step, then another, repeat.

It is at once that simple and at the same time so much more difficult!

Here I am, then. Wittering on. Hoping that these words strike that note to inspire.

This Druid does indeed have Things to do today. They are Good Things. Reading through my students’ work; reading review books and preparing my ideas on them, answering messages – and seeing what happens as they day goes on! Last week, I worked on the upcoming issue of Pagan Dawn. New things come along all the time. Druid Life is interesting.

Normally at this time of year, I’d be so busy with public rituals, talks, camps and suchlike. This year is quiet, generally at home. But I’m still doing my best.

Try not to judge. It’s likely you can’t see everything about a person from just a glance or a Twitter status. Look deeper into the story if you’re interested; you might find something you like.

Let’s try to keep inspired, eh? Your story is just as valid as anyone’s. I’m telling my frustrating brain that today – now with an added topping of ‘Look, you wrote something! Not useless after all!’

Solidarity and love in these difficult times, my friends.

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A Listening Heart

Imbolc has passed. We’re still feeling the chill of winter, but the snowdrops herald the imminent Spring. The sun is with us for a few more minutes each day, and all around, I see projects slowly beginning to bud…

It’s been a long winter. I’m not going to recall the turbulent times we live in, but we’ve all felt the length of January like never before, it seems.

I’ve spent the winter months trying my best to survive, literally and figuratively. My health has been poor, and despite all of the urges from The Internet to seek the help that I’m apparent entitled to, I’ve been met with walls of silence – or at best, suggestions to ‘go for a nice walk’ and suchlike. Imagine eyerolls here. Then imagine the tears.

Over and over, each rebuff hurts. When it takes all of your strength to reach out, to be told you’re either not sick enough or that there isn’t anything to be done is crushing.

For years, ever since a GP told me to ‘go away and cheer up’, I’ve managed. Recently, though, moving forward has felt next to impossible.

I’ve read all the books, tried all the techniques. Hell, I’ve written my own! What more can I do?

One evening, I found a secret stash of Bravery and reached out to a friend. Professionally and personally, tentatively and with slight fear of rebuttal (based purely on experience from every other quarter!).

I was heard. Such a small thing, but I was heard. Helpful suggestions were made, which I will follow up, but the main power came from the fact that someone heard my cries, understood, and listened.

This has made such a difference. A voice from outside my head, telling me truths that I was unable to tell myself. That’s all. It is ok – it really is. There is hope. I can do this.

Sometimes the battles we fight seem hopeless purely because of the weight of time, as we’ve been fighting for so long. I can understand how people give up.

The simple but profound gift of a listening heart made all the difference. Quiet invitations to shared healing events. Belief in me, when I had none in myself. Feeling seen, held, heard.

These are gifts that we can give to each other. Sometimes I can’t – which is when I know things are bad – but I try as often as I can, when called upon. I try to hear that mystic tap on the shoulder. Deep breath and…

I’m stepping up. Creating Things to help. Setting space, reaching out to like-minded folks. The Cauldron of Calm will be happening this year. Message me if you’d like to join in.

As the world stands confused and hurting, we need to come together to help each other. Every individual can make a difference. We can try.

There’s a lot of 2020 yet ahead, but I’m doing my best to stand up again – and find my own strength along the way. By reaching out with a hand to hold and be held.

Much love, my friends.

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Truth in Word and Deed

Recently, I’ve been rather quieter than usual. I realized today that this is since the recent UK Government Elections. With all the noise leading up to it, and then the fallout after, I didn’t really feel that I had anything to say.

No – that’s not quite right. I had a lot to say. It just felt rather like yelling into a void. A void of anger, disappointment, soundbites and oversimplification.

Today, Nimue Brown wrote about Truth in her blog, when spoken as part of a Druid’s role. I’ve also spoken recently about my doubts on the word ‘Druid’ as a label, as it doesn’t quite encompass what I do… but this Truth absolutely does.

I’ve been quiet because I’ve felt the need to pull back right now. The Yuletide season is full of light and noise, and I can’t engage with that this year. Physically, mentally and spiritually, it feels wrong for me.

The image I keep coming back to is actually from what may be considered a ‘seasonal’ movie – not because it’s set at Christmas (it really isn’t!), but because this series is traditionally shown at this time of year, as a fun adventure for all ages.

For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (Episode 4, the original film). Suddenly hit by something, he puts a hand to his head and totters across a room to sit down.

You know the quote, I’m sure. But it’s the whole image for me.

A little melodramatic, but the energy of sheer confusion, powerlessness and wanting to lash out… it’s been overwhelming.

And yet, it’s times like these that demand we speak up. It’s more important than ever, in fact. To stand, as Druid, Priest, human being; to console, protest, debate, find sense in the story that’s unfolding right before our eyes.

15 million people (estimated) didn’t vote in that recent Election. We are at once so disengaged from the process of running this country that we all have an opinion, but feel that our voices make no difference. Suddenly silenced – as on social media, when expressing an opinion and being shouted down. The one who wins is the one who shouts loudest.

I’m not sure how this will all unfold. I’m not sure that anyone could have ‘won’ the political game during this round. But – speaking as someone who is on medication to literally prevent the urge to do this very thing – I know that we cannot give up.

We must keep talking, and also listening. We must relearn empathy, consideration and motivation, why others act as they do. We must challenge, educate and inspire. We hope… but then we must move. Do. Step forward.

I’ve felt for a few days that I needed to write this – I just wasn’t sure how. I’d silenced myself. Then today, I was watching a man who is already considered a great storyteller, reflecting my feelings (and frustrations) perfectly whilst talking about another movie:

“Here you have this event – on the one hand, it’s a beautiful thing, right? We’re all going to get together, we’re going to hold hands, and somehow that’s going to cure hunger. The illusion that we’re contributing to something that actually is making change, at opposed to something that kind of makes us feel better, and absolves us of our responsibility to enact actual change.”

Jordan Peele, speaking about the duality of America as depicted in the 1980s ‘Hands Across America’ movement in the movie ‘Us’.

The noise of this season is coming together with the frustration of these times. We can’t make change while we’re busy worrying about our own problems: paying for gifts, sorting food, travel, the needs of relatives. Yes, community and sharing, but with more emphasis on image than truth.

We get together and talk about even more problems that we see: those in power, those without, immigration, homelessness, rich versus poor. And then we return to our lives and enter the next year. Back to ‘normal’, whatever that means.

Yes, such debates happen amongst those with privilege, to some extent. But that’s not helpful either. Guilt or blame gets us nowhere.

My Druid phrase comes back to me again, right now:

What am I Doing?

My husband is heading out tonight, working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to help those in need. I’m here at home, wondering what I can do.

I can speak. I can write. I can make things to help people. I can listen when called upon.

I’m honestly not sure what else I can do just yet, but I’ve no doubt I’ll find out as we enter 2020. The challenge, as always, is to stand up. To reach out. To engage.

It’s so very difficult right now. But I cannot stay silent. It’s knowing what to say – and then what to Do. It’s overwhelming, but I feel that I can’t stay silent any longer.

Season’s blessings, my friends. Stay strong, remember that you are loved and that you are more powerful than you think. Use your words well, moving forward.

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Small Magics

(Cross-posted with Drops of Awen).

To paraphrase many notable occultists, Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.

We all do this, all the time – but unconsciously. We let ourselves be influenced by outside forces, as our attention is moved from one thought to the next.

But when we take charge of our consciousness, with intentional and will-power, we can feel the change happen.

As I walk this path, I often say that Paganism is a constant practice (in the same way that we practice magic). We learn about ourselves and our connections with others, and create change with our thoughts, words and actions.

Today… perhaps a simple change, but to me, a profound one.

I felt myself beginning to slip, to spiral down into the depression. Quickly – time to take action.

Moving is the first step. Sometimes I don’t even get that far, which is why I usually have a book or a knitting project to hand.

Then Doing, something which brings me back to myself, usually through happiness, an activity I enjoy. Alter the negative feeling, grab onto something to stop the spiralling fall.

I distract myself with this, even though the anxiety-voices are telling me that I have things to do, I should be working! But no.

Right now, I’m spending this hour in an indulgent, sweet-smelling Bimble bath. I’m reading a book. I’m washing myself thoroughly, then using pleasant scented Lush oil afterwards. I wrap myself in a soft dressing-gown, and fuss the pups (who’re always glad I survived The Bath).

I can now feel mind and body relaxed. The tension has dissipated, the worried voices gone quiet. I was able to beat it (this time). It’s not always so simple, but I celebrate this victory.

Each win tells me that I can do it, and keep on doing it. Even on the worst days.

I’m now sharing this, cross-posting so that in these small words can themselves be a magic spell, to inspire in turn.

If you need it, feel my hand reaching out to you. We can get through it, dear ones.

Small magics, together.

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Morning

Life changes.

Years ago, I learned how to be up at silly o’clock, to catch a train into London and start work. Sometimes I went to the gym by the office first, then ate breakfast at my desk.

I enjoyed it. Watching the sunrise time change as the year moved, enjoying the peaceful freshness before rush hour. I was awake and got a lot done before most people had started.

Mornings are difficult for me now.

Not so long ago, I had to pull over on my drive to work, because I was crying so hard. I couldn’t continue. I didn’t have the strength to face the day, let alone work with others. I had to return home. Defeated and ashamed.

My own inner sunrise was changing, I think. What had been possible before… now was not. A limit had been reached. I had to rest, regroup, figure out what next. I wasn’t sure how long that would take, or even how best to do it.

I still love watching the dawn. The fresh quiet over the fields when I walk the dogs before the school run begins on the street. I’m in a very different place, geographically and personally. Battles have been fought.

Sometimes those tears still come. I’ve rushed back from the walk and collapsed inside my gate. Or I’ve continued, wiping my eyes and trying to take solace from playing pups (who try to help as best they can). I always carry a handkerchief, just in case.

Mornings aren’t the start of the ‘potential’ of the day for me. What will I do today?

That potential can be overwhelming. Rushing thoughts of what I have to do get faster and faster, until I can do nothing except sit and shake. Himself sits with me if he’s there, caring and concerned. But my illness seems determined to list everything I must do, before berating me for not being able to do any of it. Spiralling chaos.

I try to take mornings gently now. As much routine as I can (things happen, after all). Allowing myself to pause to knit, or just sit and watch the birds run the Kitten Gauntlet in the garden (this is apparently A Thing).

I always have to move and do eventually. That is certainly daunting, and sometimes too much. I have to let the wave of Overwhelm pass. Once the flood ebbs, I may be worn, but then I can see what’s left – priorities remain.

I do what I can. Still exploring the healing process, what my body and mind need. Ups and downs are natural. It can be so very hard.

But it helps me to appreciate every sunrise that I see.

Still here.

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