Tag Archives: life

Life in Context

The circumstances in which we experience things significantly inform how we relate to them. At first glance, this makes perfect sense. What we do at work is not what we do at home. Who we are with our friends in a bar is not who we are at a family celebration. Different situations call upon us to act in certain ways, be different people.

The standards we are expected to maintain depend a lot on context as well. Lots of people have affairs and no one makes anything of it. If a politician has an affair it can be splurged across the media and bring an end to their career. In times past here in the UK (and it may well be true still for other parts of the world) if you had a more sensitive job – like teaching, then it was not ok to be pagan.

There are contexts in which it is acceptable to express our beliefs, ethics, political stance and so forth and places where we can’t. This is especially true around work. Who we are at work is an employee, and in many places, the rest of who you are has to stay outside.

Another one that fascinates me is that there are plenty of places people don’t want children, because it makes them uncomfortable. There are things we do as adults that we don’t want our younger folk to see or know about. Things like 18 films are there to protect the young. But they also exist to protect the adults from the very young knowing certain things about us. Children should not see us when we are drunk, on the pull, or otherwise messing about. If children saw how adults behave when they ‘let their hair down’ we’d have a deal more trouble getting them to accept our authority.

Some of the rest of it comes down to authority and power too. Who has the right to be what, and when? Who is allowed? But there’s also the issue of the ways in which we compartmentalise our lives, what we choose to let out and when. As with most things, there are no hard lines here, no clear cut certainties. There are times when what is required of us varies. But there is, I think, a difference between modifying your behaviour and presentation style to fit a circumstance (how we talk to a Judge is not how we talk to a lover) and not feeling like we are, or can be the same person in different settings. When the sense of what is permissible starts to impact on your sense of identity, there are questions to be asked.

If someone – be it yourself, or someone you know – is an entirely different person in some circumstances, how do you tell what is real? It might be all real. It might be that one character portrayed is just a mask. That’s when the problems begin. If fitting the context ceases to be necessary social flexibility and becomes a charade, then it’s a lie. It raises issues about honour. To spend any significant amount of time pretending to be someone you aren’t isn’t healthy either. It isn’t good for the soul.

It’s worth taking the time to consider how your identity changes (if at all) in response to people and situations. Does that feel comfortable? If it does, then the odds are that all is fine. If, on reflection, it makes you uncomfortable, then it’s worth thinking about why. I’ve had one of those today – a situation which only works if I am docile, co-operative, make no attempt at having or expressing an opinion and pretty much do what I am told. While the co-operative bit is very much in my nature, the rest of it isn’t. How do I respond to a situation in which I am not allowed to be myself? How much is conditional upon my behaving in the manner expected of me? There are no easy answers, but the process of considering is important.

Light Returning

We’re a few days after the winter solstice now, and the days are getting longer. It’s not yet at any level I can perceive, but I know it’s happening. We move from the darkness towards the light. Outside the window, the snow lies thick, and the temperature barely gets above freezing, but the year has turned and the spring will eventually come.

The cycle of the seasons teaches us that change is the only constant. There are dark times and light times, all things pass, and all things come again. Mediaeval Europeans believed in the wheel of fate, the inevitable turn from good to bad, and back again. To me that seems a tad simplistic. Different people get radically different experiences. For some the balance towards wellness, or woe, is dramatic. But most of us can expect a bit of both.

In harder times, during dark nights of the soul it is difficult to keep believing that things will change. I hit one of those last week, with yet another thing going wrong, and wondering how I had dared to imagine that anything could ever go right for me. Despair begets despair. Equally, during the wild highs, only the most pessimistic will anticipate some plummet into gloom. But we can’t stay in wild states of ecstasy all the time – we’d go mad, or burn out. The comedown can feel like everything falling apart even when it isn’t. The seasons of our lives bring change just as surely as the cycle of the sun will.

There are few things that can be improved by pretending they aren’t happening. Fighting against the fact of a process is pointless, and it’s easy to spend a lot of time trying to resist the inevitable. With all due reference to death, taxes and aging. I can’t fight the winter – it’s happening out there, it won’t go away if I pretend it isn’t. Engaging with the realities equips me to cope better. I’ve yet to find something that isn’t true of. Engage with the reality, know that the reality will change, because everything does. Know that you will probably change with it, or because of it. These are not things to struggle with. Life is happier if you co-operate with your own existence a bit.

The light returns, a few extra minutes a day. It’s such a small difference that only the most attentive will spot it as a daily occurrence, but in a week or two it’ll be more apparent. Life changes from day to day in the same small increments, and with sudden bursts of drama. Nothing changes. Everything changes, and round we go again. I aspire at the very least to make new and interesting mistakes rather than tired, old ones. I aim to find myself in new places, caught out by things I’ve not seen before. It’s all too easy to get into cycles of the same things, but where would be the fun in that? At least let me learn enough from my mistakes not to repeat them.

Gratitude

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the things that aren’t right in life. The small setbacks can loom out of all proportion sometimes, while bigger challenges can entirely take over. It’s all too easy to get a ‘doom and gloom’ mentality.

There is always something to be glad about, and thankful for.

However awful, miserable, demoralising and frightening life is, it is essential to look for those little lights, those moments of value and joy that are scattered through even the worst days. The smile on a face of a stranger. A kind word from a loved one. A thing made, mended or tidied up. The small victories are worth so much. On the worst days, there might still be moments when the sun literally breaks through the clouds, a bird sings. Just having survived is a thing to celebrate. There will be another day, and where there is life, there is hope. 

These crumbs of goodness, these glimpses of hope and joy can be enough to stop your soul from starving when times are painful. I lived for the small things, for quite some years, built my sense of self and happiness around the slightest details. It’s come as quite a surprise to find there’s a lot more in life to enjoy and feel hopeful about. But those small things sustained me when I might otherwise have felt myself entirely lost in the dark. There were sunsets, the things I was able to make and mend, the times I gave my child a reason to smile. There was music, one of the greatest blessings I have ever known, and friends who were kind even though they did not know the half of it.

Perhaps today has been a good day for you. Perhaps it was like all the others, or notably bad. But there will have been something that was sweet, good, or worthwhile. Hang on to those details. Treasure them, celebrate them. Some days the small things are the only things we have. And often, it’s not in the huge triumphs and wild excesses that we find satisfaction anyway.

Today

I don’t know what to write about today, so I’ll just let the line flow along the page, let the words flow. Perhaps someone can find meaning in it. Perhaps I can. The act of writing is an act both of release and of taking control.

I only have any control over my life because I believe that I do, and because I think I can roll with whatever gets thrown at me. But there are days when the grief, the dismay gets too much and I wonder how we will ever get through this, how there can possibly ever be a good place on the far side. I have lived in a nightmare and I want it to end, but how to wake up?

Then I think back to the person I was a year ago, so lost and wounded, carrying the weight of blame for too many things, my soul shattered. A year of singing back the missing parts of myself. A year spent learning to trust again, to open, and to heal. I have a way to go yet.

But I am not yet free of the past. Last night’s accusation, about how I irritate and grate, how I am constantly attacking and bringing up problems still echoes in my ears. And yet, my perception is so very different, that I am quiet and keep my head down and try not to make a fuss unless something really matters. I am so grateful for the people who believe in me, who offer back reflections that do not make me look like a monster.

Today I weep for the past and the things I have been through. I have confessed the worst of it to my family, and there was some relief in that. And they step in, trying to help, to support me, and I feel so guilty that I cannot manage all these things myself, I feel so useless, letting them down, too pathetic. And I cried, and they told me it was ok, and that they would help me through. Burdens of responsibility lifted from my shoulders. I have carried so much, and so far, and thought myself weak and insufficient for all the things I could not do, but my family, are not blaming me for being soul tired and distressed. They just want to help.

I wish I had been able to speak sooner. I wish I had known how to say that I was fearful and in pain, that I could not cope. For a long time, I have needed someone to step up and help me fix things, but how could I admit that? I expected blame for shortcomings, not kindness. I am still shocked by kindness. I lived with so little of it for so long. I lived on crumbs, telling myself it was a feast, and the fault lay with me if I was still hungry. Too greedy. But they were crumbs, and I was starving to death, heart and soul.

It was a slow erosion of self, slow enough that I did not see it, until there was almost nothing left in me. I don’t know how a person guards against that. I can’t much offer advice for how not to go there. I know this. Just keep talking. Trust people. More than one person. Tell the stories of your life and make sure they seem ok to someone else, and listen if they say otherwise. It was the silence that undid me, the carrying that great, unspoken weight, and never giving anyone the chance to tell me to run, never giving anyone opportunity to come in and rescue me. Not for too long. I thank the gods there is Tom, and that he helped me feel safe to talk, and told me none of what had happened was ok, or my fault. Today, my mother’s words echo his. Terrible. And not my fault.

I am breathing very slowly. I am typing, because I can. I have spent a lot of time holding my child. I will get through this, somehow. But today hurts, and I can see no way forwards, even though I think there must be a lot. If you can spare a prayer or a little magic for James, Tom and I, we’d be glad of it. And spare a moment for anyone else around you who is in pain, or in crisis. So many folks are. Life is hard enough without people undertaking to make it worse for each other.

Life and story

Dear friends, your support over the weekend has been tremendous. Tom and I are both deeply moved by how everyone is responding to our plight. For the time being, this blog is likely to be more personal than philosophical, because I’m struggling to think about anything else much. Neil Gaiman says ‘We have a duty to tell each other stories.’ It is also a way of having some control, some ownership over experience. Sharing our stories is often the basis of relationship, it shapes community and collective identity, and in times of anguish, it’s about the only thing that reliably helps.

So I will tell you my stories. Tom and I have been involved for six years, ish, first as friends, and creative partners, and now as lovers. He’s my inspiration, and my soul mate. It took both of us a long time to realise how we felt might be requited. Somehow, online, we managed something akin to love at first sight (well, emails, technically). This last year, has been a journey, the unfolding of an epic romance, a more profound love affair than I could have imagined before. I did not know love could be like this, or that I could feel like this, or that anyone could value me so highly and adore me so completely.

I’m quite aware that one of the conventions of romance fiction is the torturing of the characters, such that even though everyone knows it’ll work out ok (that being the main rule of romance) you start to believe it won’t. But this is not a romance novel, and we have no certainty of a happy ending. There is an ocean between us, and all the rules and regulations of countries who don’t really like folk moving around. We are not rich enough to have an easy ride of it. Officialdom is much more sympathetic to wealthy folk who want to change country for love.

 This morning I woke up, heart thundering, headfirst into full on panic. Yesterday was the same. I’ve got to try and get that under control, because my digestive system can’t take it, and it’s making me ill. Which is not going to help in the slightest. I sat with a lock of Tom’s hair in one hand, and my pentagram in the other – left to me by someone I think of as a craft parent, but that’s a long and complicated tale in its own right. Generally speaking, my druidry is more about communion, service and celebration than asking for help. I tend to assume I’m on my own for most things, I am not much of a god botherer. But right now, I need all the help I can get. I am praying for courage and strength. I am praying for a way through this, and not to be eaten by despair. Above all, I am praying for help. Never before have I felt so keenly that my life is in the hands of the Gods. I do not know what they want of me.

There are moments when I feel I am not alone, when there seems to be support and comfort from some external source. Moments I cannot explain. I’ve had them before in times of extremis. I survived those. But I want to do more than survive this, I want to win. I want to get my lover to the UK, marry him, live with him, have one life, one future, one story.

Today is my birthday. I am thirty three. I have never been more sure of what I want, and less sure of where on earth my life might be taking me, literally. So I dry my tears, and do the only thing I can do. I will tell stories.

Please, keep us in your prayers. I am thinking, when we get through this, there will be a handfasting. I’m considering Avebury, because it is huge, and I can invite everyone.

Art Imitates Life

bloodiedquill

More often than not, my life ends up in my words.

It’s not that I’m deliberately writing Mary-Sue. It just happens that things or people from my life end up in my work. I’m sure it happens to most writers, if not all at some point.

For me, I kill people in messy, sticky, very bloody ways. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as I am for the most part, a horror writer. Even in my romance writing, though, there is a dark ending, someone has died a slow and lingering death. I’m not sure any of the folks these characters are based on would a) actually read my work and b) recognize themselves. That’s probably a good thing; some of them might take my words the wrong way.

I’d much rather write them dead, and leave them there, than have continued interaction that will only hurt both sides in the long run. I’d rather write them out of a fictional existence, than curse or bind them. My freezer is nearing capacity with jars that have slips of paper or pictures of people with a binding written in Dragon’s Blood Ink over all, tied up with black silk thread and frozen suspended in water. They’re frozen out of my life, before I write them out. The connection is broken and they are gone.

My ex has been in the freezer, as have/are my brothers’ exes. Former friends and co-workers and even some family members have had or have cozy little spots on the shelf. Some may die more than once, sometimes once is enough.

I do that to cover myself and them with protection. I was told once, a decade ago now, that words are intent; every bit as much as a curse or binding is spoken, if it is written with an image of someone in mind, it’s just as harmful. Considering the things my fictional killers get up to when unobserved by fictional heroes, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Sometimes they are done with, and I take them from the freezer, release the binding on them and set them free.

Some are going to be in there for the remainder of their days.

Writers are natural observers, and I like to think most of us are naturally emotional as well. Hardened from years of rejection on the outside, but soft and occasionally vulnerable on the inside. Big hurts can tempt us to find the darkness within ourselves and give in to it. Writing it out is second nature to us, and frankly, any bit of protection we can put in place is good for us in the long run. Superstitious one, aren’t I? 😉

I’m not sure if I’ll get back today in time to do a second posting today, but I may. If not, feel free to stop by my regular blog and check out guest blogger, Michele Lee (author of Rot, recently released from Skullvines Press). I’m also running a poll, and there’s a link to the guidelines for my new anthology project, Dead Bells.

So why did I write a book about angels?

This is a pagan blog, so why is my first book, “The Fallen Fae” about angels? The book is based on the concept of the Fae (the fairies) being the fallen angels of heavan when Lucifer lead the original rebellion against God because he would no bow down to Adam and Eve.

I always thought of the Fae as specific entity or species of mythology and the domain of paganism. So why was there a Christian explanation of the Fae? This got me thinking and to explain, we need to go back and do some defining of Paganism.

There are many differing definitions of paganism but the general consensus is that anything pre-Christian is classed as pagan. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities as there is a lot of history and a lot of “religions” that held the worlds imagination before the beginning of Christianity.

If by definition any pre-Christian is pagan, then everything including the Druids, Norse, Wiccan, Celtic, Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman, Aboriginal, Taoism, Hindi and many more both living and dead religions are pagan.

Some of the Christian rituals that have been incorporated into our society are actually pagan rites that were blended into Christianity to make the assimilation easier. There are numerous examples of this and many major Christian holidays are celebrated around the same time as many pagan events that correspond to natures calendar, such as Christmas adn the summer or winter solstice (depending on what part of the himisphere you reside). Another example from a different pagan “religion” is the Christmas tree that was originally believed to be in honour of Odin, the Norse God.

So, if Christianity has blended some elements from pagan cultures, is it possible to do the reverse and blend some Christian theories into paganism? For example, angels. But not all angels are Christian. If you use the Greek “Angelos” meaning a super natural being, then that can incorporate both Christian and pagan entities.

The Christian angels such as Archangels and angels of death have the same chores as Celtic Fairies and Norse Valkyrie. A lot of pagan religions have “super natural beings” that have the same standing as the angels, such as bringing the souls of the recently dead to “heaven”, “Valhalla” or the “Underworlds”.

So I wrote a fantasy novella on the theory of Christianity’s version of the creation of the Fae, because it was another aspect on a mythology of many pagan religions. And whichever branch of Paganism you follow take care to note the similiarities and differences between it and many other belief systems.

Cheers

Connie

www.conniewood.co.cc