Reading the conversation around Morpheus’ post, Theurgic Binding: or “S#!t just got real”, I find myself struggling to figure out what, if anything, I have to say about all this.
My immediate response was a self-satisfied, “Yes!” because of course I appreciate reading blog posts from people whose theology closely resembles my own, and whose life experiences affirm my perspective. That’s understandable, but it’s not very useful. If I only ever check to see how much someone else agrees with me, I’m not applying much critical thinking to the interaction. Degree of agreement with me is not actually an objective gauge of accuracy, no matter how validating or satisfying I find it in the moment, just as failure to agree with me is not actually proof someone else is wrong.
So I read it again.
My second response was to wince – Morpheus’ injury seems like a very harsh reminder of what working for The Morrigan can do to a person, and I don’t envy her. Okay, I admit that part of me would love the excuse to narrow my focus down to one absolutely necessary project at a time, but enforced bed rest isn’t my preferred method. Morpheus is not the only person I know whose experience with enforced bed rest resulted in a period of prolific writing, so I’d best be careful what I wish for, eh?
Still, as one of my former students pointed out, just because The Morrigan’s methods may be more dramatic, can we really say that other gods are any kinder? Can I honestly say working for the Vanir has been any less difficult? Perhaps it’s not a question of degree, but a question of style. Maybe we each work for the gods whose methods ride our own personal thresholds between overwhelming and insignificant.
I think of the Vanir as more gentle than average for Northern gods, but I’ve seen first hand what They can and will do to people for whom Their domains are a source of anxiety or pain. If that’s not my own experience with Them, it’s quite possibly more a function of compatibility between us than a sign that I’ve chosen (or been chosen by) gentler gods. For that matter, Freyja is a Seidhkona, Queen, and Warrior in Her own right, and that’s not even getting into my work with Odin, whose most common modern epithet seems to be “The Old Bastard”. Am I so sure I’m out of the line of fire?
So I have to ask myself, if this is what working for the gods does to us, why am I doing it? Sure, I love the Vanir now, but that’s not where I started. I know how I got here, but do I know why? And what is it doing to my life? What is it doing to the lives of the people around me? I like to think I’m better off, that I serve those around me better, but this year at least it’s quite obvious I’m not happier.
When I took ordination vows last year, I felt a strong sense of purpose and direction. I had goals, and the outline of a plan. In the year since, I feel as though I’ve all but lost my sense of direction entirely, most of my plans have crumbled, and despite my task list being almost exactly the same, I have little to no idea what the hell I’m doing, and I’m not sure I ever really did know. And I spend a lot more time noticing how angry I feel, and how tired it makes me to keep my anger and other emotions from unduly influencing my actions.
So did I choose poorly? Am I on the wrong path after all? What exactly is the point to all this work I’m doing? Is what I’m doing actually serving my community? Am I just being impatient, that what I’m doing must serve the community not only some time in the future, but right now? I mean, I’m still, to the degree that I have energy, serving my existing congregation and community, and that’s the work that lead up to my ordination in the first place.
But there’s such a strong feeling of disconnect between that and the work I felt called to do. I still feel that call, but it’s muffled, like someone at the front door knocking while I’m trying to wake up in the back bedroom, unsure if the knocking is coming from my yard or my dreams.
Last night I went to sleep bothered by a sense that my competitive streak, which I normally do my best to shelve entirely, was being prodded by something outside my control. I knew it was irrational, but I could not help but feel tremendously frustrated that some people are listened to when others are not. What is the point of all this work I’m theoretically doing for the Vanir if nobody actually cares?
Of course I knew it’s not true nobody cares. Plenty of people care. My congregation quite obviously cares, or they wouldn’t show up for monthly meetings. But reminding myself of this fact did not make the nagging sense that I am being drowned out for no good reason go away.
So I slept on it.
This morning I awoke with a sudden sense of purpose to self-promote. Normally I hate self-promotion. I feel like I sound utterly phony and self-important, and I am convinced that people will hate me for seeming to brag. Of course, some of that is because our culture does actually treat people poorly for openly declaring their accomplishments with pride, especially women and ethnic minorities. But some of it is just my own issues with trying to communicate in a style that doesn’t come naturally to me.
But this morning I woke up knowing exactly how to handle it, and more importantly, exactly why. Because why should anyone listen to me if they have no idea what I’ve learned, or done, or experienced such that what I have to say is at all significant? It’s great that we have all our personal blogs to relate our experiences, offered so that others like us may find they’re not alone, but is that what I’m trying to do here? If it is, then I’m doing just fine, aren’t I? I’ve got nothing to be down on myself for.
If it’s not, though, if this blog is just one piece of a larger picture, then it’s my own job to make sure I’m taking the appropriate steps towards the larger goal, isn’t it? If I want people to listen to me, I need to give them the information they need to evaluate what I have to say.
After months and months of feeling overwhelmed by the projects laid out before me, incompetent to perform those tasks, and unworthy of any privilege associated with them, I suddenly woke up with a sense of exactly why I AM the right person for this job, and the need to stop understating my qualifications, allowing myself to be underestimated by others as I chronically underestimate myself.
Because one of the realities of being in relationship with the gods is that my gods know me, and They know how to motivate me when They need me to be motivated. In my case, a broken ankle might not be very motivating, but if you’re careful, poking at my temper can get just the right result. Telling me I can certainly do something, and in fact I must, often overwhelms me. But telling me I am not up to the task? Telling me I can’t? Oh yeah? Just WATCH me!
While certain ace cards wouldn’t be so valuable if there were more of them in the deck, on the occasions they DO get played on me, they damned well work every time.