Posts Tagged truth

Self

The dark nights of winter bring dark thoughts. Not negative, necessarily – more necessary. Those things we’ve been avoiding, not seeing, preferring not to think about.

As has been the case for the second half of this year, I’ve been finding the days extremely difficult to face, while the nights are calming. Quiet descends. Even the wee Yuletide lights are soft, not glaring. We’re decorating the house with green, with a baby tree to be planted outside come Spring. Himself is working on Yuletide and Christmas Day, so I will likely be too. And that’s fine.

I’ve been finding myself pushing back against what’s expected of me. Or rather, what I feel I should be doing. Be with wider families at Christmas? Impossible and impractical. So having our own plans at home. Stiff upper lip and keep going? Nope – rest and recharge, ready to move forward again.

That phrase, ‘finding myself’. It comes back to that, I think.

At various stages in life, I’ve reached the point of ‘I’ve had all I can stand, I can’t stand no more!’ (with thanks to Warner Brothers). I’ve stood in the street and yelled. I’ve chosen the untrod path that has opened up to me. Life has been very… unusual as a result.

But I’ve always wondered who sets these rules. Ever since I was small, I can remember wondering who established those social dictates. Courtesy and manners, sure, but so much of the social dance is made up of falsehoods and lies, smiling when you feel awful, hearing yourself speak nonsense to fill the silence.

Is this really necessary? I was told off for being rude when I was encouraged to honestly answer a question. You want honesty? Brace yourself.

Of course, that’s not always true. But honesty tempered with false flattery is diluted. And, I truly think, disrespectful and unhelpful.

It is up to us to use our words with care, to speak our truths in a manner that others understand the intention rather than brusquely steamrollering over someone else’s boundaries. That’s why I’d rather constructive criticism when it’s needed. Other people see things that we may need to be aware of, which we’re too close to see for ourselves.

Other times, I felt that I was the only one seeing the truth around me, but we were all in some unspoken contract to remain quiet, for the sake of ‘niceness’ or ‘not rocking the boat.’ Or people will outright tell me that I’m wrong. Really? Why? I don’t feel wrong…

As I’ve walked further down this overgrown and unexplored path, I remember moments from my childhood that have affirmed it – that I’m going the right way. Children aren’t stupid. They know what feels good or bad, what makes them happy or… not. They’re trying even harder to understand this crazy world.

One thing I’ve learned from others and have shared before is ‘feeling’ truths. It’s pretty simple.

Say your name. “Hello, my name is —.”

Now say a name that’s wrong. “Hello, my name is Bernard.”

(This usually results in giggles.)

Now say something else that’s true for you. And then a lie. The more ridiculous, the better.

Can you tell the difference? How each feels?

The truths strike a chord within, like a note ringing… well, true. The lies are like a gameshow klaxon for WRONG!

Because we know in our heart, mind and soul when something is true or not.

I’ve been exploring my truths for many years now, uncovering new aspects of myself as I grow, learn and get older. What used to be true once is now not. Some things need to be passed over and left behind. We don’t remain static all our lives.

I’ve been having deep truths thrown up to me, both from my subconscious, my work and from simply having thoughtful friends share ideas. Again, gently, in the spirit of discussion and debate, rather than effectively yelling into my face that I am WRONG!

It doesn’t feel that it’s ‘being wrong’, although part of the way we act stems from fear of that. It’s more that we’re ‘not quite right yet’. Following an untruthful path is something that I think we know – after a while, it feels like pushing through deep snow, through treacle, as our subconscious tries to put us back on track. Admitting that is a small victory, not a weakness.

Lately, I’ve been surprised at some random thought popping up. ‘No, that’s not you any more.’ Or ‘Yes! You want to do that new thing!’ I’ve faced events that I would never have imagined attempting in the past, and enjoyed them thoroughly. Whereas everyday, normal tasks have become difficult, almost impossible.

As I pass through another year, I’m trying to allow myself to explore what feels ‘true’, ‘right’… for me, right now. If it isn’t, why not? Is there an alternative route? Do I really need to do that thing? Or is it just challenging?

For example, running is something that is absolutely challenging, but which fires my body and spirit when it goes well. It’s something I was always told I was bad at – but when it’s just me, out there putting one foot in front of the other, I can feel the laughter bubbling up inside. I don’t have the energy to doubt, frankly! I have to keep going, because at the very least, I have to get myself home.

I’ve discovered that some clothes I’ve worn for years are not longer ‘me’. I don’t like the feel of them, let alone the look. It’s time to pass them on, to explore what works for me now.

I did wonder if this was some sort of social ‘midlife crisis’, actually! But then is that not a stage in life which we fail to mark, like entering adulthood or (for ladies) our crone-time? We’re constantly moving from one stage to another. Let’s free ourselves to see what that means, to stay relevant to ourselves, to do what we want to be doing right now, as best we can.

This isn’t about privilege either, although I know I’m blessed to be able to do this. We can get through what is necessary – but maybe in a different way to what’s become stale. Try to see a problem from all sides, or *gasp* ask friends! Again, not weakness, not if your friends truly know and care for you.

Part of my mind has been mourning the loss of that normal world: ‘job, children, workaday week’ etc that many people have. But that’s not for me. I’m so very lucky that I can work as I do. It means I’ll likely never be rich enough to afford a red sports car for midlife! But I’m more likely to be figuring out how to make something as it’s needed that suits me and mine, rather than buy something that I can’t afford for the sake of social appearance.

Perhaps that’s the ‘stage’ that we are constantly exploring how to push through. Appearance versus who we truly are. But giving ourselves the freedom to ‘play’ with it, to try different hats, should be encouraged, not mocked. I’m so very glad of friends who are excited to explore with me, as I applaud their own adventures.

Spending time in the quiet of the dark months allows for these thoughts. I’m (nervously!) intrigued as to what’s coming next…

Season’s blessings, my friends.

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Facing Dragons

I love walking in mud with no shoes. Because shoes weren’t really made for mud, were they? They get dirty so easily, and don’t really cling (unless they’ve got special soles). Toes were certainly made for gripping, holding us firm, telling us what’s underfoot and if it’s safe to proceed.

But we don’t walk barefoot in mud, do we. Pause now, think of all the reasons you’ve been told. You’ll get your feet dirty. Who knows what you’ll step in? It’s cold. It’s wet. Just the feeling of wet, dirty, squishy mud, full of horrors… urrrgh…

Have you ever tried? How about sand? Or grass? The worst surface to walk on barefoot, for me, is gravel or concrete. Hard, cold, with no grip. The natural earth is full of sensation, feeling, and it actually feels so much better. More natural, indeed.

Oh, and soap exists. We can wash our feet afterwards. It’s easy.

This thoughts came to me as I was navigating a tricky path this afternoon, walking the dogs. Yes, there was mud. Fields where cows had been. Slippery wooden stiles to climb over. Brambles.

Every step of the way, my shoes slipped and skidded, my coat caught in things… the very clothes I wore to keep myself warm and dry were actually impeding my progress. It was both funny and frustrating.

Yes, we do things a certain way for practical concerns. Of course we do. But it’s so easy to trap ourselves in the prison of what we ‘must’ do. Not because we decide, but because someone else has, and we obey unthinkingly.

It’s interesting to consider our own personal boundaries. Which ones have we put up, and why? Which ones did someone else build around us, which we might actually be curious to take down?

Not everyone likes bare skin on mud. But you could do it easily if you wanted to – that’s the example that came to my mind today.

I’ve also spun, arms thrown out wide, in a thunderstorm… on a busy high street, full of people scuttling past to find shelter. I’ve skipped down a London street with a friend, through falling snow, as people got out of our way. I’ve stood naked in a field in Oxfordshire, screaming at the sky.

For each of these, I either was (or would be) stared at. None are illegal. All are rather societally frowned upon. Not British, perhaps, or not done by ‘civilized’ people.

But oh, how freeing they were. To feel that urge within me and to follow through with it. To feel the fear-walls fall away: less like tumbling bricks, more like smoke, that faded as I pushed it, challenged it. Overcame it.

I think of close friends, and things they’ve done, which are marvellous to me. Walking alone through busy city streets on the far side of the world. Leaping from a plane, falling back to earth at the end of a thin rigging of cloth and rope. ‘Coming out’ – as a particular sexuality, gender or faith – in an unfriendly environment.

My little mischiefs seem trivial in comparison.

When I wrote my last post, I did worry. How many people would respond accusing me of ‘privilege’, of not knowing ‘how lucky I am’, of how I should ‘be grateful’. I was only talking about having photos taken, for goodness sake…

Words like that were the bars of my inner fear-cell as a child. Always being aware of how I appeared to others, and how I had to act. I always wondered why, how this sort of thing was known. I felt as if I’d been left out when the instructions on such things were being given out. My biggest mistake was often being honest. When I was, I usually got mocked, laughed at and ridiculed. I learned to stay quiet.

But the response that I actually got to my writing was wonderful. People thanking me for my honesty. For being so brave as to talk about such things. For putting into words what is so difficult to even feel, let alone express.

Whenever I let the words come. When I feel so full of emotion that I have to let it out, to express it in some way… people thank me. This confuses me – because as I said, that used to be precisely the wrong thing to do! But now I’m allowed to say it, somehow. Or rather, society has turned enough that we have learned to listen, both to the words being said and to the intention behind them.

I still see words being censored. I’ve had bosses tell me to ‘use different language’, that certain phrases are ‘too negative’. That’s because the situation is negative, perhaps? I see journalists fight in America to express bigger truths that need to be heard. I see everyone figuring out how to tell their own individual tale.

We can only share the stories as we live them. If this means identifying privilege as part of it, then so be it. I’m a white, cis-female, living in a wealthy country – of course my view is going to be limited to that. But this isn’t a prison either; it’s just a perspective. My story is no better or worse than anyone else’s, and by sharing, we can open the doors to each other’s experiences too.

I may be using hard language here. I’ve often felt ‘imprisoned’ by societal demands, by the expectations of others, of that strange ‘map of life’ that I’ve somehow stumbled away from (you know the one: birth, school, job, marriage, kids, death). I’ve often said that I left that behind a while ago. I’m in the back pages of the atlas now, drawing in the blank space. As the medieval maps would say, Here Be Dragons.

I’d rather the dragons of my own experience and exploration than those snapping at my heels. The adventures and stories give me the power to fight them… or fly.

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A Single Light

Sometimes, everything seems difficult. Life is overwhelming. Physical or mental pain may seem to take over our world, events just keep crashing down on us, there seems no way out…

What we need at those times is a single light. Be it an actual flame – the pause as we light a candle and take a breath – or something external that ‘sparks’ us back to ourselves from admist the chaos… we need the reminder that we must hold on. We battle through, for the sake of ourselves and those who love us.

As Pagan folk, there should be any number of Inspiring Things which help during crazy times. But that’s easier said than experienced. When you can’t see the path for the sheer noise around you, you might simply not be able to see what you need to, what’s right there waiting to help.

We need that candle-moment, that pause, that breath. It’s a skill, certainly: cutting through with a mental laser, to reach who we are at source. The I, Me, Self, who may well be sitting, trembling, curled in a ball and unable to move. Or who’s banging on a thick glass wall, trying desperately to be heard.

It’s impossible to act truly if you aren’t truly in your Self. If the true, inner Core of you has been squashed down, nullified and silenced by sheer busy-ness. Once that Self has been rescued, the breaths will come more easily. You throw your Self a lifeline, remembering who You are and what’s important. What do you need to do, right now? The rest can wait.

One thing at a time. What can you do? Even one breath, then another. One Thing. One spark, to light the flame.

Once you’ve accomplished that, the rest begins to flow more easily. The flame within you remembers that it’s needed to keep you alive and warm.

I always have an actual candle lit by me when I work. It keeps me reminded. Sometimes the hardest thing is to get to the point of lighting it… but once it’s there, I believe that I can do what is needed.

Know that this light is burning for you as well, my friends.

Candle

(Originally published on my Patreon, 7 September 2018. To see an exclusive post such as this every week, please do consider supporting me – it really does help keep me going.)

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Truths and Apologies

Memes are such a constant background noise these days, aren’t they? Cute little sayings, often with a pretty picture, to provoke or inspire. I once sat in an office with walls covered with ‘motivational posters’.

Sometimes that can be helpful. A quick, easily-digestible sentence or two, summing up a feeling or emotion. Validating something far more complex.

But as I love playing with words, sometimes I dig deeper… and find a less comfortable place.

For example: How are you? I’m fine.

This is a lie. Powerful images demonstrate this here (warning – challenging pictures). Many people don’t want to see. ‘Fine’ is enough.

I’ve not been fine for a while now; or rather, I’ve had good days and bad days. This is normal.

But I’ve not posted for far longer than I’d like, because… well… I’ve been battling. I’m sure many of you know those insidious thoughts. ‘You’re useless. Nobody cares. Nothing you say is worth hearing.’ And that most evil of all: ‘Just stop.’

I’m not alone in this, not by a long shot. I’ve heard tell of several other contemporary writers who have such difficulties – from Scott Lynch to JK Rowling. Much has been written about the creative fire being linked to mental illness (eg this interesting essay).

But worst of all for me is that inner voice telling me how much I let people down. Because of those precursors to memes, the oversimplistic misunderstandings that we’ve been told all our lives. ‘You don’t think that.’ ‘Don’t be stupid.’ ‘You’re always making excuses.’

From frustrated family members to overbearing bosses, we’ve all heard it. Someone doesn’t want to look deeper, or listen to what’s really going on, so they lash out. Hey – we’ve all done it too, I’m sure.

This is part of the journey, however. As we stop – whether voluntarily or forced to by circumstance – so we realize how awful this is. How unhelpful, degrading and, frankly, wrong.

Nobody is worthless. Nobody is useless. Why can’t I do that? Why shouldn’t I? If there’s a reason, then so there is, but more often than not, the person throwing the demands around is projecting, trying to control, to fit you into their world.

And if you challenge those statements? Have you ever tried? I have, a couple of times. The expression on the person’s face (a teacher and a boss, as I recall) was priceless. It’s as if a disobedient pet suddenly spoke back.

We are often taught to keep quiet, for the sake of peace. As we grow older in this crazy world, though, we discover that while quiet can be nice, safe and cosy, it doesn’t necessarily do much to change things that are wrong. We need to speak up, to challenge, to look deeper.

I’ve had to take time in recent months. I’ve had no choice. Panic attacks, severe anxiety, what is now being called ‘major depressive episodes’. Some days, I haven’t trusted myself to put thoughts together enough to write anything.

Today, a dear friend sent me a meme that summed things up nicely, and inspired this post:

Some Days...

And this is true. Some days, more than others.

Then yesterday, another friend reminded me of my favourite phrase for my Druidry: ‘What are you doing?’

Am I trying? Really? OK. Reboot from Start. Let’s challenge those unhelpful voices within.

I’ve been told that before, by doctors, professional therapists and other ‘experts’. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

So how best do I challenge them? The awful things that I tell myself – would I ever say such things to another person? Of course not. But they’ve been said often enough to me, surely I must deserve them. And so I’m dragged along with the flow of negative emotion.

A few nights ago, struck with insomnia, I found myself reading about deities who challenge. And I thought ‘Hey – I’m Pagan. Let’s ask one of those experts.’

So I quietly called upon that deity to help. To see if they’d listen.

And they did.

I sat for a while, pouring it all out, while that person sat quietly, just listening. Giving me their full attention. Understanding, sympathising. Not judging. Seeing deeper than the trite insults and demands, to the effect they had.

And when I was done, they were there with a hug. And so I let myself be held.

I do believe that as Pagans, we are blessed to have such methods to help us. Ancestors, helpful spirits, deities to call on. We are never truly alone, even when it feels like it. The tricky part is remembering that. And as with friends who are there for you, not being afraid to call them up and ask for a chat.

The key here is to speak your truth. Excuses won’t cut it (and are insulting, to them and you). This is the time for soul-truths, deep and painful. To be excised like infection from a wound. A scab can’t heal if it’s just covering a blockage of pus. Yes – that’s unpleasant. So is this process.

So here I am again, asking for your patience as I work things through. The medics are being helpful at least (another huge blessing!), and those of you who’ve offered help are valued more highly than any coin I can think of.

I am trying. I’m always sorry for letting folk down; I take pride in stepping up to keep my promises, and hate it when I can’t. Please know that if I can’t, I really can’t. It’s not an excuse. Those are the worst times.

But the flows rise and fall, and I work with them, as best I can. I battle through the storms and am so glad of the good days, of things I accomplish – even these wee words today. What I once took for granted, I now see as a huge gift. Perhaps that’s the latest lesson to take from this winter season.

Much love, dear ones. I am doing my best, with truth and sincerity. We move into Spring with tiny seeds planted. Gods willing, they will blossom and bring us joy in mind, body and spirit moving foward.

Onward.

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Secret Strength

I’ve been finding mornings exceptionally difficult lately. I’m not sure why, but since the turning into Winter Proper (ie when the clocks changed), I’ve been finding it harder to get myself together and get on first thing. I’ve been feeling far more myself come evening, with the sunset bringing calm, the darkening skies like a beautiful, cool blanket.

However, most of the world seems to function during the daytime, so this hasn’t been helpful. It’s been interesting to see what I’m pulled to do at different times, with more creativity and inspiration in the darker hours, but increasing challenges during the day.

Today, I’ve been feeling the difficult thoughts trying to rise as I go about my morning routine. I’m meeting a lovely couple about a Handfasting later, so have to sort myself, walk the dogs, and so on. But my mind is incessantly telling me how I simply can’t.

This is my depression in action, by the way. I’m not making it up or being difficult – the Voice of Depression really doesn’t have your own best interests at heart (despite the foundation of ‘fight or flight’ that it apparently comes from). Its’ demands are often deeply irrational and usually unhelpful. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but this is where I am – not just the regular ‘Monday blues’.

And there – see? I’m justifying myself. It was tough enough to even pull out the computer and write (because who wants to hear about this, shut up, stop, you’re just boring everyone with your whingeing). There it is again, in the background. I suspect this is familiar to some of you. It’s ok, I get it. In a way, I hope you don’t understand, as I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

This morning, I’ve been reading about lovely friends and their adventures, seeing their happy pictures on Instagram, bouncing footage from concerts on Facebook, tiny Tweets of ‘good morning!’ I can feel that connection across the media that is so prevalent in our world.

Last night, the words of these friends made me so happy, I sent out my own image, a Selfie taken at Stonehenge. I don’t do selfies generally, but this one made me smile, and I wanted to share me looking out of the screen at all of you lovely folk around the world.

The voice was still going, mind you. ‘Don’t do that, nobody wants to see it. Urgh, look at you, you’re so tired and worn-looking.’ etc etc etc.

But people did enjoy seeing my smile, as much as I enjoy seeing theirs. I’m hopeful that you enjoy reading my words this morning – hello! Image a virtual wave as I raise my coffee cup to you.

Blogging on a Monday was initially a kick in my rear to get writing again, with a deadline of sorts, a commitment to do something to share each week. But it was also with the wish of wanting to send out words to help those who also have difficulties with these early hours, or even the regular working days.

I may sound like I’m whingeing, above; but I’m more trying to show what those voices within can sound like. I don’t really mean it, and wouldn’t say it aloud. They don’t need that kind of power.

I’m nervous about presenting this publicly, so I’m typing super-fast in order to get it out before the doubts stop me. Backspacing only for typos. So I hope this is ok.

Oops – there’s that justification again.

I know that banishing negative thinking is a modern industry, but it’s not in any way as easy as the self-help books would have you believe. It’s finding what trick works for you, and that may change from day to day. What buoys your mood, what gives you strength? Maybe me sharing my nonsense voices; maybe looking out of the window on your commute; maybe greeting workmates or neighbours with a smile and a friendly word.

And sometimes, the tactic is more subtle.

I’m slowly giving myself permission to dress in a manner that I want, as I did as a fearless youngster. Ignore the voices that tell me my arse is horrible, my hair all over the place, that I’m too old, too fat. I’ve been looking at my smile, my woman-curves, remembering the value of a hug or a hand taken with love. I hold on to the look on my husband’s face when he sees me and is happier.

I’m trying to wear or use an item each day to keep reminded of my strength. It’s difficult to even type this – but yes, my beauty too. We all have it, absolutely. It’s just hard to remember.

I’m sending shawls to folks today, for them to be comforted and pretty. Sometimes lip-balm or colour is a tonic, to remind me to be aware of what I say, and to keep smiling. I have particular rings that I can grip, boots to stand tall… weapons and armour that I choose to wear and work with to maintain my Self. Especially when the bad thoughts come knocking.

What item do you have today to keep you going? A necklace, a wedding ring, a favourite hat or coat? This is part of you. It makes you feel better, raises a smile when you catch sight of it. It may inspire others too, as they are actually pleased to see you. This is your magic in action. Really really.

We need our strength these days, folks. And know that when folk speak kindly to you, they do mean it. Tell those inner voices to sod off, or just laugh in their (not really there) faces. See, I can do it too!

This is me. I bid you a Happy Monday, and know that I will be stepping out of my door soon with determination. And excited puppy dogs, fearless and glad to see what the world holds today.

Much love, my friends.

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Layers and Labels

Years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to study archaeology. Just for a couple of years, at ‘A’ Level, when a teacher volunteered to go off-timetable for the few who were interested. It was fascinating.

We learned about the layers of history that are visible as you dig downwards through the earth. From the concrete of the crust beneath our feet, through to the soil… but so much more besides. The strata of the ground we walk upon holds as much history as the rings within a tree, each gently layering one atop the other to finally reach the current time. What we see and take for granted – unless, perhaps, it is breached by excavation or earthquake.

Did you know that skin has a similar layering system? Despite archaeology being ‘an ology’ and so SCIENCE!!! (ahem), I know little about such things (so apologies to those who do) – but lately I happened upon this:

skin-strata

We carry this around with us constantly, and all unaware – again, perhaps until something goes wrong and we are forced to notice as these partitions are breached. People would often ask about my dermal piercing; you can see from the image above why it didn’t hurt, as the dermal layer and nerves are separate. Admittedly by mere fractions of millimetres, but even so. The mysteries of the human body in action.

I’m reminded of this recently as I’ve been progressing on my healing journey. Talking therapy has thrown up various thoughts and ideas, with previously very ‘normal’ foundations being rocked as I challenge them, discovering how fragile and sometimes even false they are.

I’m performing archaeology on the strata of my mind, right now. Layers are being peeled back, light is being shone on ideas that seemed as solid as concrete, but are in fact as easily penetrated as the membranes of our skin.

I’ve seen ritual undertaken to explore this idea, usually using external props such as masks that can be peeled away or used to represent different facets of ourselves. I’ve helped others break down the emotional or spiritual walls they’ve unconsciously put up around themselves, initially for survival but then becoming trapped within.

I’ve seen the layers of armour my husband and his battle-brothers strap onto themselves before taking the field at medieval tournaments. We all put on clothes each day to protect and warm ourselves, but also to represent who we are, from hidden undergarments to outer uniforms. But how often do we consider the strata of our minds? The layers that can only be seen when we stop to take notice – what we choose to show to others in terms of personality or persona, compared to the sub-layers of neuroses, fears, desires… all of those mysteries that the psychologists are still exploring.

Part of the realisation of this mental landscape is identifying each section, realizing what it is and why it is there, perhaps with an ‘aha!’ moment of remembering when it was put in place. As with the external masks and protections, internal walls go up in response to abuse, misunderstandings, trauma: scar tissue over the delicate breached skin.

In one sense, I was concerned at the idea of picking at these mental ‘scabs’, but then I saw that the excavation was more like rebreaking a bone to set it properly, or restitching a wound. We throw up our defences without much skill, often reflexively I think, and so it takes gentle care to see what happened and help the healing process.

All of this is done with acknowledgment and intention, and with the help and guidance of one who understands. It has to be, otherwise another false layer is simply being added to cover those wounds. I have various lovely friends who have tattooed their skin around external scars – not to cover and obscure, but to make those tears their own.

This is a process, and as I move forward in life, so it is part of the healing journey that I’ve been on this year. I know I’m not alone, and am so glad that I’m finally at this stage where I can undertake such difficult work.

But in the course of shining a light on old wounds and determining what is ‘real’ and what is ‘false’ – what is truly ‘me’, if you like, what feels like my truth versus implanted protective armour-mechanisms – I’m discovering just how many labels I’ve taken on.

This is something I’ve considered for years, ever since I started exploring my Paganism. Because there’s a label, eh?

As I took on the label ‘Pagan’, then ‘Druid’, then ‘Priest/ess’, so I considered what that meant to me. More and more, I wonder if these truly represent me, or if they’re for the benefit of others – verbal shorthand to give an idea of what it is that I do. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a mixture of both, but what any label means to one person may be completely different to someone else. That old Getafix idea of the white-bearded Druid, for example.

It always frustrates me that people seem to want to define others by those labels. What you should and shouldn’t do, because you are [insert title here]. ‘You can’t do that, you’re a —-‘. This is where the labels start becoming walls, traps, false foundations which identities are then built upon.

‘I have to do this because I’m that’ may be helpful sometimes, but what if it isn’t? I love messing with expectations (not being a white-bearded Druid, for example), but as I’ve said in the past, I also love to hear people’s stories. Nobody is defined by just one or two key words, but by many, many aspects of their personalities. As I get to know them, I see the ones they present to the world – the external strata, if you like – and then perhaps the deeper layers, if I’m permitted so far in.

I’ve often been accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve, but as I undertake my mental archaeology, I realize how much has actually been lost over recent traumatic years. No – not lost, but subsumed. It might have been for my own wellbeing, but what have I actually been showing to people? I’d rather honour those who pay me attention by being the ‘real Me’, not some false front, and I think I have done that – but insofar as I’ve been able. When people have said ‘Oh, you don’t really mean that’ or ‘That’s not you though, is it?’ I’ve been confused, wondering if they know something I don’t. But no – they’re just objecting when I don’t fit into their image of me. That label isn’t enough, so I must be reminded to get back into the box!

I’m looking forward to exploring this more. Of course there’s trepidation, and inevitable pain as layers are stripped back… but also frustration that they had to be put in place at all. But that’s life, isn’t it? The key here is that I’m digging now, learning to my own self be true, to Know Thyself… all of those ancient truisms that are part of life’s journey.

It’s interesting that my dermal piercing recently removed itself after many years, popping free after a little pain and discomfort. Herein lies the parallel, of outer reflecting inner. I can only keep reminding myself that I would rather live truthfully than surrounded by nonsense. If I challenge the labels others place on me, or even simply ask ‘Why?’ then no insult is intended – just curiosity. Because what’s going on in here is a true excavation, but also a positive step in the ongoing battle of my own health.

And as I find myself, I find my smile again. Because that’s something I have always done easily and honestly.

Much love, my friends. Journeying onward.

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Shields – Front and Back

I’m often asked about Shields. Usually it’s in context of energy work, protection, personal defence against negativity. That’s fine, as this is something that we will likely encounter in our lives and so have to deal with.

But how often do we consider what’s keeping those shields up, or what’s behind them?

All my life, I’ve been told what to think. Society does that, after all – from marketing billboards, to advertisements on television and via social media. But also from teachers, bosses, friends and family. Everyone has their ideas and wants to share them. I’m sharing my opinion right now.

The difficulty comes when someone is determined that their opinion is better, truer or more valid than your own. You have to give in to their Truth, because they’re right. End of discussion.

I wrote of Trolls yesterday, and suspect this is a logical progression. How do we deal with those who cross that line between a thoughtful suggestion and a demand? Often the root is intention – genuine caring versus a wish to dominate or ‘win’. Sometimes the demand stems from an insecurity – others must agree with this person, or they are somehow insulting him/her by insinuating that they are actually wrong.

I’m not going to get into that again today – I’m sure you all have experience of this to some extent. But it can be hard to deal with, and this is where the request for shields comes in.

Overbearing co-workers, demanding relatives, pushy friends… these aren’t Trolls, are they? They’re usually just other people who genuinely feel that they’re doing their best, without realising how uncomfortable they make us.

Or is it actually a problem with Me? Is it that I’m being challenged in ways I’m not comfortable with, and so want to hide rather than deal with the issues?

We throw our shields up and back away. These can be psychic/energetic or physical – going home and closing the door is a good reaction, to claim your own space once again! But once we’ve done that, then what?

We can whinge about the Troll or the person forcing their opinion. They don’t understand me. Sometimes that’s true, and we must respond accordingly.

But as we stand behind our shields, taking time to think, so we can place our feet, take a breath and consider ourselves as well.

What about this is making me uncomfortable? Is it the manner in which the ideas are being pushed, or do I genuinely disagree? Can I articulate my thoughts now, in this safe place? Am I able to consider a response, or would I prefer to keep hiding? I could always just leave, or avoid the person altogether…

We fuel our shields from our selves. If the ground beneath our feet is uncertain, so the protection will crumble; but if we are able to identify our own personal Truths, then our foundation is firm.

I read of a simple exercise to find your own Truth, to see what it feels like. Give it a try:

State your name: eg ‘I am Cat’.
Now state a wrong name: ‘I am Bernard’.

Can you feel the difference?

Try other obvious lies. Play with this. ‘I’m the world’s best accordion player.’ ‘I really like cucumber.’ ‘My favourite singer is Justin Bieber’. You get the idea.

Now try stating your truths with this in mind. ‘I think that this won’t work’. ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.’ ‘This might be a better option.’ ‘I don’t like that colour at all.’ Keep playing, with negative and positive angles, and levels of firmness. See what suits best.

Try stating some of the things you’ve been told so confidently. How do they feel? ‘I’m sure I can find time for that assignment.’ ‘I’d love to wear that outfit.’ Is it true? Were you just whinging, or do you genuinely disagree? Note how strongly you feel, see the difference in emotional tone.

Explore which of these statements is true to you. Each one can be a brick in your shield-wall (if it’s even needed now), but crafted with care. You are standing firm, but also remaining flexible – encouraging discussion and debate, connection and understanding, from within a place of safety that is held by you. You are standing up as equally valid, with a voice to be heard.

And you might start to notice the other person’s walls in turn. If your truths simply bounce off theirs, maybe it’s time to highlight that they’re not listening; or even to step away. Show people the truth of you, not an imagined version that they might be projecting – or which you have helped to build.

I see this a lot in Paganism, because spirituality is a topic which is deeply heartfelt to many people. Passions incite strong opinions, and often descend into all-or-nothing arguments. But they don’t necessarily need to.

I’ve been noticing those who listen versus those who don’t; individuals who seem to be seeking confrontation and argument, not discussion. Shields that are so inflexible, the person behind might not even know why they’re arguing at all – it’s just habit, or that sense of ‘because I should.’ Or fear of being exposed as ‘wrong’.

Take time to consider what’s behind your shields – and whether they work with you or keep you imprisoned.

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