Coming Out About A Difficult Truth

It’s now after 4am, and I’ve already worked nearly seven hours today for Dark Odyssey, and an additional three hours on my second day as associate editor of The Bilerico Project. Yet instead of going to bed, which would be the logical thing to do, I’m sitting here in front of my computer. Because in the end, for better or worse, I am still a spirit worker, and sometimes the Work takes priority over needs like rest. 

I have quite obviously been away from Notes From a Barking Shaman for some time now. Astute readers may note that my most recent stretch of regular blogging here pretty much ended after I wrote a now-deleted post about a delicate and personal subject that landed me in no small amount of social and professional trouble. Not to mention requiring from a me a difficult spiritual sacrifice that I am forbidden from discussing. 

It is easy to conclude that the personal or professional ramifications of that post are the reason I have been away from NFABS, and I will admit to doing little to dissuade anyone from drawing that conclusion. But while that post was tangentially related to the issues that drove me away from here, the truth is in fact far more complex, and difficult for me to grapple with:

Over the past year or two of blogging here, I have been incredibly dishonest with you, my readers, friends, and colleagues. 

Somewhere along the line, I made an unconscious decision to convey a certain image of who I am. In a time of great uncertainty, strife, and doubt in my life, I chose to present myself not as I am, but as I so dearly wished to be. Within the pages of Notes From A Barking Shaman I have deliberately avoided mention of anything that manifestly detracted from the image of me as confident and self-assured, while in truth my Journey has been far more challenging. And one in which I don’t know that I’ve always succeeded in rising to meet that challenge. 

I have spent the past few years caught up in the tumultuous throws of what one might choose to call a “faith-quake” or maybe more aptly a “purpose-quake.” I’ve tried my damnedest to keep that fact out of the public eye, because many of the people whom I looked to over the years as models of how to be a spirit worker in the pubic eye are deeply invested in maintaining an illusion of infallibility. I believed that if anyone knew of my struggles I would be unable to do my Work. 

Much though I’d dearly love to dwell on the “why” and avoid the “what,” there is no way I can hope to move forward with NFABS without acknowledging some of the “what” right off the bat. 

For starters, I have felt abandoned by my gods. 

I don’t know if you can appreciate how hard a sentence that is to see written in black & white. While proofreading this post I found myself unconsciously lowering my voice when I got to it. 

There are many ways this manifests, but perhaps the most stark is in the matter of the disillusion of Fire, Summer (who now goes by Asrik), and my relationship. 

Ours was a partnership arranged by the hand of the gods, and it was something promised to Fire and I in the earliest and darkest days of our association and Work. While responsibility for the actual failure rests at once with all of us and none of us, it is all too easy to see it as a failure on Their part to stick to a bargain. That Asrik has been manifestly rewarded by the Universe for leaving us, while our own road has been far rougher and uncertain only deepens both Fire and my feelings of resentment. Lingering spiritual complications between he and us only serves to make the situation more difficult. 

Then there’s the matter of the Work itself. There simply hasn’t been much, and what there has been has more often than not led only to heartache and hardship. This is where The Blog Post That Shall Remain Nameless serves as a valuable example. In a community of people where doing and saying what the gods tell you to is generally seen as a Good Thing, I received significant criticism for that post from within the spirit work world, even when I explained that I had made binding promises to both a mortal person and the gods to write it. Moreover, despite having been told by my patron that I was to write it when I did, I felt like She left me out to dry when the consequences threatened both my spiritual and mundane work. 

A brief story: many years ago there were two blogs/online magazines named Gods’ Mouths and Blood For Divine respectively. They were created by my partner Fire at the instruction of our Lady, and he was incredibly proud of their early successes. However, they dealt with difficult topics: spirit work and ordeal work, and soon became lightning rods for people’s personal agendas and vendettas. They went down in flames, and both the community and the gods left our bare asses hanging in the wind. Even today, years after the last time they were updated, they still serve as weapons to be used against us. Some deep rooted hope in my partner died a hard death when he lost them, and he still can’t talk about what went down without either crying or becoming unendurably angry. 

Today it seems like just one more in a long line of times we’ve done what They asked of us, only to be smacked down for doing our Jobs. Yet at the same time, a part of me feels more wounded by not having much Work to do, than by the fact that the Work often leaves us feeling isolated and ostracized. I don’t know what I’m to be doing. They have invested considerable time and energy in Tashrisketlin, yet it often feels like we sit on the sidelines with little idea of what we could do differently. 

But even in the best of circumstances, one cannot thrive on the Work alone. I’m a polytheistic pagan and a spirit worker. Ironically, it sometimes seems like many of my fellows leave religion, worship, and practice behind as the spirit work consumes more of their energies. But I cannot live that way. We have not had a spiritual community where we felt at home since leaving Raven Kaldera’s Pagan Kingdom of Asphodel, although in truth we hadn’t felt at home there for a good many years before we left. 

The Lady says that the answer is that we need to create space for respectful polytheistic pagan worship, particularly in an alternative lifestyle inclusive way, and which addresses some of the aesthetic problems gnawing away at the pagan demographic, a topic I intend to address in the near future in this blog. 

For a while, we thought we might be able to do that here in the Portland Maine area. But we have been nomadic for some time now, and it’s looking more and more like Portland will prove just another layover rather than a long term home for us. Not to mention that we, and Fire in particular, are so burned out on the drama and pain that comes with community that the idea of trying to form one of our own is beyond daunting. 

Then there is the issue of my non-spiritual work. 

For the first time since Brigantian Designs closed it’s doors and sold off its assets, I feel like I have achieved some measure of personal success on the job front. This week marks one year I’ve been working for Dark Odyssey Events, first as a programing assistant, then a programing coordinator, and now as both a programing coordinator and production assistant. Over that same time I was made a regular contributor to The Bilerico Project, and starting this week have become associate editor. Neither really gets me a living wage (ok, The Bilerico Project doesn’t pay at all), but it is intensely satisfying work, and for the first time since my pain issues began to become debilitating, I feel like I’m helping to pull my financial weight, and like there may be a path forward for me professionally that I don’t want to screw up. 

My work with Dark Odyssey is remarkably spooky friendly, and I’m supposed to be working to bring more spirituality programing into the our events, although I fear I haven’t done as well as I could have hopped, due in large part to my own issues. 

On the other hand, The Bilerico Project is a serious LGBT politics and culture blog, and the LGBT community is emphatically not friendly to spiritual and religious beliefs. With the deep vein of skepticism and atheism that runs through the community, it is easy to see how a blogger, educator, and activist who talks to the gods and spirits (and they talk back!) might not go far. I find that I care about that more than I would have imagined a few years ago. 

What everything I’ve said so far boils down to in no small part, is that my confidence in the Work and in my own voice as a pagan/spirit work blogger is totally shot. I have a backlog of posts I want to write, or at least feel that I  should, that I can’t get out on the screen because I have become so fragile that even the fear of criticism leaves me a gibbering mess. Not because I’m hurt that someone might disagree with me, but because on some level I can’t seem to believe in myself. 

I can’t shake the idea that to be “good” at this (whatever that looks like) I have to be a vision of collected confidence. But that’s not working for me, and as a result I simply haven’t been able to do what I need to, both on Notes From A Barking Shaman and elsewhere in my spiritual Work and my life. 

Thus, I’m committing to a personal ordeal and inviting you all along for the ride. I’m going to resume a weekly posting schedule here, although I am not resuming my Posts of the Day as I’m doing basically that same thing for Bilerico, and only have so many hours in the day. I’m not going to try to pretend I’m perfect and I’m going to be more upfront about my own Journey and process.

Some of the posts here will be of a more personal nature than we’ve had this last year or so, but at the same time I’m not going to turn NFABS into an LJ analog. Many of the posts will be unrelated to the issues I’ve discussed here, such as an upcoming essay on pagan spirituality and space exploration, while others may very well be the sort of the thing I wouldn’t have written publicly during the last couple of years. 

It’s daunting and terrifying, as I suppose an ordeal should be, but for now it’s 6am and I really must go to sleep. There’s a good bit of both work and Work I need to be ready for after all. 

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6 thoughts on “Coming Out About A Difficult Truth

  1. On my personal page is a page that I take very much to heart:
    “The torch of doubt and chaos is what the Sage steers by.” (chuang-tzu)

    Doubt is good. Without doubt, and questions, and all the other searching and finding of new answers and pathways, we would lack the conviction that makes us appreciate the world and energy around us with the requisite depth and understanding.

    And why wouldn’t your public want to know of your struggles? To envision a perfectly content and focused spirit worker can be intimidating to those of us who grapple with our own questions. To see you grappling with your faith and views makes me feel that I, too, can attain some element of clarity and peace in my own life.

    So, by being human, you are more powerful. The only way out, after all, is through….

  2. I recognize this first step as being one of the bravest you’ve made, at least online, and in some weird way as the co-“master” of this ordeal I am proud that you found the strength to face this head on. I, for one, am very excited to see what this new freedom brings the world in terms of unique insights that *only* you can bring.

    I think this feeling of abandonment is more common among spirit workers than we care to admit; I know I’ve had a couple of semi-public moments where I begged other spirit workers to “force” my Gods to tell me what the hell was going on, with me and my work an my personal situation.

    I think it’s radically important that no one forgets that shamans, spirit workers, wyrd workers, and magicians are still *people*; we eat and shit and fuck and have breakdowns and feel insecure and make mistakes and get divorced and need haircuts and sometimes know exactly what it’s like to be a person who talks to the ceiling and hears nothing back. There’s this bravado that some of our role models and elders have created where its verboten to be seen as anything other than completely together and always positive, and I think that’s not just horseshit, but actually *damaging* to us as human beings.

    What makes me a good madness shaman and ordeal master is that I understand the daily struggles of the average joe, mostly because I *am* an average joe. I know what its like to have my heart broken, to lose grip on reality, to have to talk to a professional about needing help/meds, to face scary surgeries, and to need a boundary challenged in order to grow. We tend to write our own ordeal stories not from the point of view of the scared initiate but from the POV of the champion already having faced our lion’s den.

    I applaud you for this piece of emotional vulnerability, and am giddy to see what this new phase brings.

    SMIB, baby.

  3. Well, for what it’s worth, as someone who is primarily a person of faith rather than a spiritworker, *I* believe in you and Fire, and Tashrisketlin as a whole. I believe that you can weather this crisis of faith. It sounds like and is a horrible cliche, but it’s what a person does during times like this, as opposed to the good times, that shows the real measure of their character. That you’ve been so honest about this, in a public sphere such as a blog, says a lot about your character and courage.

    I can heartily empathize with feeling that your work goes unnoticed and unrewarded, and your mistakes are made more of than your successes. I fight that battle daily, on a personal as well as a professional level, and it can rapidly wear a person down. But you should know that I am heartily grateful to you and Fire for the help you’ve rendered me in the past, and haven’t forgotten the difficult circumstances under which some of that help was rendered. If you ever need help or just a person to vent to, or conversely, someone to take your mind off all of the bullshit, you know where I am.

  4. Thank you SO much for this post. And I’m so sorry you are having to deal with all this. I’m also going through a period (have been for some time, actually) where I feel abandoned by my Deities, and have NO idea what the hell I’m supposed to be doing. I’m just starting to “find my way” again. It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had, and I hope to never go through it again.

    As pretty much all the other comments state, showing your vulnerability on this blog actually makes you more “reachable” and human, and those of us who look to your posts for inspiration and insight can and DO take heart from that! It feels good to be able to offer support to those who inspire us when THEY need it.

    I look forward to reading your “new and improved” postings. :-)

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