Posts Tagged support

Overcoming Fear

A week ago, I had a call that should have made me happy and excited. I’d won a makeover and photoshoot with a local company, so Himself and me would be off to their studios to be looked after and made to feel like stars.

I was terrified. I was so close to saying ‘No, thankyou’ and hanging up the phone. Because the prospect of such a thing was almost too much for me.

I’ve always hated pictures of myself. I know this isn’t unusual, as we never quite look like we imagine from inside (I always think the ‘residual image’ of Neo in the ‘Matrix’ films would never be quite as effortlessly cool as they present it to be!). But years of mockery at school combined with the usual personal anxieties as an adult have not made me tremendously comfortable in my own skin.

But something in me seemed to rise up and silence those naysaying voices. ‘Nope. You’re doing this.’

For the last few days, it’s been an undercurrent of worry, rising to just under panic levels the night before. What do I take to wear? What will they ask me to do? How can I hide?

Ridiculous, perhaps. But so runs the track of irrational negativity.

Even on the morning we were due to set off, I sat for a while in a heap, not knowing what to do. Finally we both shoved some things in a bag and set off. Keep moving. We’re on the way now. I took knitting for the journey (yes, as passenger!), to calm myself as best I could. I know that my lovely husband was nervous too, but he seemed so calm, so ‘together’ and at ease. I was envious.

I’m so glad to say that I needn’t have worried. From the makeup lady to our host, to the merry and talented photographer, we were both put at our ease from the first. I was convinced to undertake what they called a ‘boudoir’ shoot, and throughout, the voice behind the camera kept telling me ‘beautiful, lovely, yes!’ The negative niggles kept telling me ‘she’s lying…’ but I gritted my teeth and kept smiling. Or looking moody. Or just gazing into the middle distance at a random stepladder out of shot.

Much fun was had when Himself was convinced to fetch his armour out of the car, by the way. In case you didn’t know, he does full-contact medieval combat (HMB) – so the sound of a cutlery drawer falling downstairs was in fact a real Knight stomping down the corridor. Everyone was impressed. Not your normal day in a photography studio, I imagine.

We were taken into a room and shown the results. Jaws dropped (ours). Smiles began… and grew. Laughter. Hugs. Stories shared with the photographer. She’d never guessed that I was so scared, nor that I fought depression, anxiety and panic every day.

I look now at the pictures we made, and the smile rises again. Ultimately, all I did was show up – the skill was all in those who crafted the images (and did the makeup). But stepping through the door was almost too much. Leaving my house was almost too much.

I’ve undertaken rituals to face my own darkness. I’ve been forced to look at myself, inside and out. This day may have been primarily fun, playing with props and clothes, guided by skilled hands. But it was no less a rite of passage, facing the unknown, overcoming my terror (I’m really not exaggerating there) and stepping forward.

I’m keeping copies of my favourite pictures handy, to remind myself when I’m feeling fearful. I left that studio feeling so brave, as if I could do anything. I want to hold on to that, to remind myself of what I can do when those negative voices rise. Because the deeper voice is remembering how to speak, to say ever more loudly ‘You can do it, you know.’ And here’s the proof.

Images and makeup by Chique Photography. Shawl is ‘Morticia’ by Boo Knits, yarn by Posh.

(I’ll be including a little more story and some additional images for my Patreon friends – please do hop over there and support me if you can!)

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A Idea…

A while ago, I was at the fantastic Enchanted Market Pagan event in Bracknell. About to present a talk, I was, as always, a bit nervous. So I sat down at the Colouring-In Table (for children, and children at heart) and took time to calm myself as best I could.

As those of you who’ve visited the Enchanted Market know, they have an area called Steampunk Alley. Lots of creativity and wonderment, with hugely friendly people – one of whom approached me, smiling widely. This was Duke Box, organiser and MC… and he showed me that Steampunks are indeed prepared for ALL eventualities!

Organized in Lincoln via the regular Steampunk events in that city, the Anxiety Auxiliaries are a group of volunteers who help out at large gatherings, assisting people who are a bit overwhelmed by it all. They have quiet space, tea and a listening ear should one be needed.

I was awed. What an incredible idea! Why haven’t I heard of such a thing before?

Then I realized that I had. A good friend had told me about a similar system organized by fans at conventions for the TV show ‘Supernatural’. A system of badges identifies helpers and those who are particularly vulnerable or delicate (for whatever reason). But either way, people are there to assist those in need, with care and without judgement.

This idea snagged in my head. I’m often at Pagan events, usually talking to people about mental health and ‘spoon‘ (energy) issues in general. If ever a group needed such support, it’s us Pagans…

I composed the beginnings of A Plan, and began to run it by some friends. Folk from the Pagan Federation liked it. Their Online Conference organisers liked it. The magical Lord of Spoons himself, artist Tom Brown, is pondering a recognisable logo.

And so, the Cauldron of Calm is being born!

I’m looking for a few individuals who attend Pagan gatherings, willing to volunteer to wear our lanyard and be available to hold quiet space or just provide a listening ear (and maybe medicinal tea) to those in need. This can be due to being overwhelmed by the¬† crowds, overheated, nervous before a talk (!) or whatever – just someone to Be There. Because this is a community. I often assure people that they’re not alone – now I want to prove it.

I’m putting this plan into the world now at this early stage because I’ll be at the Pagan Pride events in Nottingham and Milton Keynes this month, as well as the Artemis Gathering. Please do find me and give me your thoughts and feedback on this! Ideas are very welcome as I bring it all together. All being well, the official launch will be later this year, probably to coincide with one of the PF Online seasonal festivals, so as to reach as many people as possible.

What do you think? Do you attend many events? Do you avoid them, due to the excess People? Would this sort of thing help?

Let’s make this Cauldron a place for inspiration – and for Calm.

PS – Do feel free to share this and get in touch here too!

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Support

So… this has happened. I now have a Patreon page.

It’s come up a lot on social media over the years. How dare I ask for money to perform the work I do! Well… I need to live. Our ancestors supported their communities, from butcher and baker – to Druid or Priest. I’ve said it often: if I wasn’t able to make my way doing this work, I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m grateful daily that I’m needed and valued in this way, both monetarily and in the thanks of the many kinds that I’ve received over the years!

Now, things are moving forward. I’m testing the water, to see if this is possible – to have a base for that work, rather than taking over my own kitchen table with laptop and papers. I had it once before, at the lovely White Rose Healing Rooms, and people would come to visit, to learn, to just find a comfy chair, a cup of tea and some sanctuary. This is needed again.

What I get on Patreon will be supplemented from my own earnings, of course. But the more I’m backed, the more I can do – and I will. I’ve often been told that I undervalue myself, but it’s more that I’m aware nobody has much in the way of spare finances these days. Ultimately, I’m there for those in need, and those don’t tend to be the affluent.

But if you can, know that your help is so very much appreciated. Updates will be regular, and surprise gifts are being planned! As always, I do try my best.

I’m hopeful that this will aid my writing and my work with others, as the next stage on this mad journey…

Onwards.

With love and thanks, as always xxx

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Vocation

I may be the last of a generation who remembers the local village vicar. As familiar a sight as the local Bobby (policeman) walking his beat, the vicar was often about, visiting parishioners, helping in schools, generally being part of the community.

Now this is a sight only for fiction – Agatha Christie dramas, ‘The Vicar of Dibley‘ and suchlike.

And yet I’ve discovered that the roaming priest is still very much needed.

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This image is not a place where I have personally walked. But it is cookie-cutter similar to those I, and many others, do.

As I lock the heavy gate-door behind me and enter the prison wing, I always feel a little nervous. But it’s similar to the feeling before a public ritual, a Handfasting or even visiting a private house for a supportive chat.

Because you are ‘on’ – you are Priest, Minister, Chaplain, Celebrant… whatever you want to call me (as I often say, you can call me anything provided it’s nice!).

I minister to those who identify as Pagan – but I am often approached by others too. In the prison environment it’s first of all because I’m female, but then out of curiosity. Again, it’s similar at public events when I’m in robes. I’ve spoken of it before and I’m still glad that people are curious rather than fearful, able to approach and ask questions rather than cower or even be abusive.

I’ve discovered, too, that despite my nerves, I rather love it.

I got back to the Chaplaincy at the prison a few weeks ago, after spending quite a while on the wings, and commented on how good it was to do, how worthwhile. The Church of England Chaplain looked around and smiled. “It is, isn’t it?” he remarked. He’s often out and about, Bible in hand, huddled against the cold but always busy, out there with those who need him. The prisoners have told me of the friendly Imam as well, often there for a chat.

The Priest serves their community as they are needed and called upon. This is regardless of faith path, religious doctrine or even personal preference. We help because that is our role and our job, but also our calling as people. We want to make friends, to find that common ground, to share and connect with others.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about Ministry, biographical accounts of women fighting to become priests in the Christian Church over recent decades, but also those taking vows to join monasteries or convents. The latter may seem to be removing themselves from their communities in order to better understand and work with their spirituality, but in fact they are often the busiest, getting out into the roughest areas to help those who the ‘regular’ world believes beyond help: the sick, dying, homeless… those in need.

I read of the ‘call’, vocational summons to live life for God. This is an interesting idea from a Pagan perspective, and one that I’m not sure has really been explored yet (not that I’ve seen, at least). Many of us live our lives with honour to our Gods, but giving everything up for Him/Her…?

And yet, I realize, perhaps I am doing this already. I mediate between the spiritual and the everyday, in my writing and my ‘walking the talk’. I represent deity (as named individuals and the wider Natural world) in public ritual. I end my day exhausted but glad, having worked as a Pagan for those who ask – and those who don’t, but who welcome me anyway.

I may not even mention ‘Gods’ to those who approach me as I walk the prison paths. But I do explain what my Paganism means, find common ground (often surprisingly easily!) and simply chat, as a visitor and potential friend. I’m not out to convert anyone, but respect those who step up to ask. The other day, as I locked those same barred gates behind me, I heard a (non-Pagan) prisoner commenting to a mate of how pleasant I was. The Pagan prisoner I’d come to see was beaming – proud at last that his spirituality was recognised and valued, rather than mocked. Just by my turning up and engaging.

So the Priest is still walking the streets, still needed. In traditional ways, but also exploring new ground – online, via social media and Skype – but where there are people who need companionship, help, just someone to hear them and be there. I suspect many ‘quiet’ or solitary Pagans do the same, in their small but meaningful way.

It might not be a job for all of us. I’m still often surprised that I’ve fallen onto such a path! Or perhaps… just perhaps… I answered that call.

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Wishes and Work

This week has been busy. I’m working (as in bill-paying work) full-time again for the next few months, but I’ve spent so long spent writing, teaching and generally Druiding semi-professionally since Spring that it’s pretty much combined with whatever else I’m doing. As I found when I was asked in the space of two days about preparing a public talk/rite for the Winter Solstice, and also an as-yet-unspecified activity for the Spring Equinox. Both requests from my workplace…

Plus, the inevitable chat with new colleagues about exactly what I do as a ‘Multifaith volunteer’, gently answering their (wonderfully¬† curious) questions. And the still-unbelievable fact of my book as a reality (now in the editing stages, after a mad rush to finish it on my last ‘free’ week before Proper Employment).

The madness of the working world has been brought home to me again forcibly, however. The 9-5, the insanity of so many meetings, there’s no time to do any actual work. Policies that appear to bear no resemblance to reality, nor those expected to enforce and be enforced by such doctrine. The frankly mad questions, demands and ways of spending the day that make me want to write a version of ‘Catch 22’ set in an office. I keep expecting a small elf to step out from behind a filing cabinet, scribbling notes and asking me to repeat something I’d just said, because I’m actually in a Terry Pratchett novel. Absurdity abounds.

It’s teaching me to value my time all over again. The icy mornings walking the dog as the sun rises, before returning home to put on smart clothes and makeup. The tired evenings, stuck in traffic as I watch the moon rise over the river, returning home to a few brief hours of nourishing food and company. before falling into bed… only to repeat the process again daily until the weekend.

But whereas before I knew no different, having been a commuter for most of my adult life, now I’ve experienced my time as truly my own for too long. And with that comes the realization that it still is. I’ve made the active choice to spent 7.5 hours a day in an office, plus travel, with everything that entails – so I can whinge about it, wishing myself somewhere else, or I can do it in my own way.

I’ve felt the battle between the ‘masked’ persona – the suited office professional, who knows the buzz-words and has a fixed smile on standby – and the ‘real’ person – the leafy tattoos that sneak an appearance from up my sleeve, the unusual knowledge that creeps into conversation… and the real, genuine smile that seems to be the most surprising thing of all. I’m living my truth, and people are seeing it. And liking it.

I was caught staring out of the window in the middle of transcribing a recorded conversation (so headphones on, full concentration on screen and keyboard, huge tiredness afterwards). But outside were the rolling hills that border Derby, leading away into the Peaks beyond Ashbourne, remote and wind-swept, birds soaring above, clouds threatening snow… and a workmate sighs next to me. “Lovely, isn’t it?”

But she’s not sighing because it’s unreachable – she’s happy that I’ve noticed it as well. We talk a little about how lucky we are to have such a beautiful view, moving on to the stories of how we came to live here. Her face lights up as she talks of her love for the land, the community, her friends here. And my smile can’t be anything but genuine.

That’s my Druidry, active and relevant amid the busy working landscape that we’ve built for ourselves, and which is considered the ultimate in ‘normal life’. I didn’t mention the word ‘Druid’, nor ‘pagan’, nor ‘faith’. I’m simply listening, responding, allowing the tale to unfold and bearing witness. Not from politeness (or concealed boredom), but genuine pleasure in what that other person had to say. Because they’re telling their truth as well, from inside, often a little shyly because it’s not the ‘cool’ thing to be talking about. But they’re clearly glad that they can. I do my best to set the space for us to really be ourselves – and that counts for a lot.

When I tell others what I do, some of the experiences that I’ve had, I quite often get the response of: “Oh, I wish I could do that. You do such amazing things with your life.”

I do know what they mean… and I want to laugh, to tell them about the sheer amount of (unseen) work that goes into those tasks well. But what I want to say is: “Why can you NOT? What’s stopping you?”

Because I know there’d be a list of excuses, reasons that act as walls to their dreams, insurmountable barriers put up to make the 9-5 into the entire reason for living. It’s that old story of “Why did you do/say that?” “Because I should.” Or “I have no choice.”

I know it sounds unbelievable but… there is always a choice.

Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for the opportunity – but you can still move pieces into place to make your life more your own, setting things up in line with where you want to be. Simply waiting for goals to manifest won’t result in anything. I’ve found that you get back exactly what you put in.

And yes, it’s difficult. I’ve fallen lots of times, and have had to be picked up and put back to rights. I have to remind myself daily why I’m doing my tasks. Often, it’s simply perspective. Something small will happen to remind me, and I have to be aware enough to recognise it. Which quite often results in a smile as I realize how daft I’ve been.

Remember what’s important. Be curious as to the reasons for things. Try to know your truth and live it as best you can. Not in a flighty, ‘New Age’ way – but in the sense of you, yourself, really knowing what’s true in your everyday actions, and what’s (frankly) bullshit. Why are you doing that? How can you change it into something better?

And are you brave enough to?

Step forward. You’re not alone.

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