Sunday, 1 March 2009

Archive: Nitpicking, CR-style (2)

It's that time of year again...More spiritual ponderings...

Labels are a tricky thing. Sometimes they can be as liberating as they can be confining. It's good to be able to say you're something; this is where I belong, this is where I am; to be able to say you have a home, a family that you share things with and lean on when needed; be inspired by or receive a timely boot up the arse as necessary.

But generally these labels come with responsibilities. Am I doing it right? Does the label still belong? Because there's not much point clinging to a label that no longer fits. It's kinda like weariing a pair of jeans you really really like the look of even though they don't suit you and there's a serious amount of muffin top going on. It's just not attractive. And if you're not honest with yourself and others, then you're not being honourable, and how can you do honour to the gods if it's based on a lie? Because ultimately, doing the right thing is what counts; finding truth.

So then sometimes, with wanting to live up to those labels you've set upon yourself along with some high expectations, the focus comes to be on doing it right (whatever that means), and then thinking about doing it right instead of actually doing anything, just to make sure that you're going to be doing it right. Combine all that with the worry that those experiences, the thoughts and feelings that come with practice and exploring a relationship with the gods, might not be True because this is an area well out of the comfort zone of being able to Cite Your Sources: That maybe those thoughts and feelings are just what you want to hear, because it feels good to be validated sometimes, so you don't have to worry about whether or not you're just plain bonkers...Suddenly in amongst the mental jumble you've just made it all gets disconnected, the threads get lost. Maybe it's just me. Not that I tend to over-analyse or anything.

For the most part a healthy dose of Get A Grip sorts it all out, and that's something I've been working on. I do, but I don't overthink what I'm doing. I do research and find inspiration in it, rather than letting it restrict me too much by getting bogged down on the minute details (although I like exploring the minute details sometimes; the trick is making sure I don't get lost in them), and now I've got to the point where I have a rhythm of practise that takes me through each day, each season. I find that sharing what I do, and reading about what other people do also helps to keep things in perspective. Although recently I've come to realise I've been slipping into over-analysing again (or veering close to it, anyway). I realise I've been hesitating, stalling a little.

My practises are constantly evolving as I gain a better understanding of what I think reconstructionism is and how it shapes what I do; I enjoy the challenge and I find the results to be incredibly personal and meaningful. And as I do, and then think about what I've been doing, what I've experienced, I get an idea of what I still need to work on to gain a better balance in my practises. I'm not there yet (and probably just as I think I've got it I'll find I need something slightly different), but I've got to a point where I think I have the basics down, for now.

But just as I feel like I've dealt with the distractions of getting settled into a new house, somewhere I can put roots down, and a feeling of being on a firmer footing with what I'm doing here, something happens: A realisation, finding myself going off in a different and unexpected direction. And as much as it's been a good thing, part of me is left feeling all off-kilter again, like I'm just learning about all this and finding my way again. So I've gone back to feeling like I'm stumbling around in the dark a little - especially when it comes to how I see the gods and my relationship with them. At times they still feel so...nebulous. And no, I don't expect (or want) it all to be laid out in a how to manual before me: this is how you do it, this is what you should expect to happen, and this is how you know you're doing it right...But sometimes, when it's just you and Them, you start to wonder if you're really not just plain bonkers after all, especially when things don't quite go how you were expecting them to.

Just when I thought I was getting to grips with the attention of one particular goddess who seemed to be making herself known, it's all gone a bit unexpected. This winter, my first winter here, I've really been feeling like I've been making some sort of connection with the Cailleach, and given the season that all makes sense. No real surprise, and it's nice to know that I'm getting something right, it seems. Finally I'm starting to feel like I'm getting a proper footing with where I am and what I'm doing, and it all feels like it fits into this landscape and into the context of my practises. But then it gets a little confusing because my attention is drawn back to Badb and deep down I still really don't know where she fits in, but I know that she's there and she'll bide until I figure it out. I can't help but feel there's a reason for her prodding at me, and so far I haven't felt it's because I'm supposed to devote myself to her. Yet, perhaps, if ever. Whatever the future holds, there are some things I need to figure out before I get a complete picture of things, but as much as I've made some progress on finding answers, I've started to feel like I'd come to a bit of a dead end.

There've been a lot of good discussions about the place recently, here on lj and some of the lists, and combined with some questions somebody asked me, it's all put a few thoughts in motion. I was asked about how I saw things with Badb these days, and whether the sticking point for me in the past had been that she's not a goddess who 'lives' here, but in Ireland. Or whether it was the context, only a tenuous connection between there being a historical link with Badb and Scotland - as in, she could have been brought over here, but there's nothing I've seen to suggest an overt link.

I don't believe the gods are tied to a place in a literal, physical sense (solely, anyway), so I replied the latter, but that in my meanderings and somewhat tentative practises (at times, anyway, I'm still a little leery of this mysticism stuff, as I've said in the past), I'd come to realise that perhaps I was over-emphasising the differences between Ireland and Scotland rather than recognising their joint heritage. One thing that brought it all home to me is that I've been doing some writing and research about Bealltainn, and in comparing the Scottish and Irish practices the similarities are striking (but I digress...). And then there's the fact that I can't help but feel that there's some sort of connection between Badb and the Irish side of my heritage, which I've always felt a deep affection for (especially because it's through my nan's side of the family), and because Badb seems to have her origins in the area my family's from.

So then came the question, do you think that Badb's presence has anything to do with your nan's condition, given the ancestry angle? Hmm, I thought, maybe. Good question. I've been trying to work on the whole ancestry aspect of my practises because it's the one area I've been feeling I need to think about more, and express more in what I do. There's something about honouring my ancestors in general that I'm fine with in a non-specific way, but it's a different matter when I think about those I've known personally, so I feel I've been shying away from that side of things because I don't want to 'bother' them. Which is odd, really, but it's something I'm going to have to get over, and I'm working on it.

And if I consider all this, then I can't help but think that yes, maybe that's got something to do with finding how Badb fits in, because deep down I feel that there's a reason, something I haven't been getting. Maybe I need to learn more about my ancestors, and if that's the case then my nan's key to that because she's the genealogist in the family, and the more I'm confronted with the thought of losing my last living grandparent (and vaguely sane member of the family) the more I feel the need to be able to honour her properly when the time comes. Even though she'll probably hang around for another 20 years or so...

So it's all led up to a bit of an AHA! moment, because finally things are all starting to feel like it fits together. Connections are being made and a new direction has opened up, and it's all because of a handy label I stuck on myself, and a handy label that other people use too, that brought me to meet people who have given me a good shove in the right direction this time. Or so it seems. It seems to be the right way to go; "it feels good", but it also "feels Right". All in all, I can say I'm on step one. Now I just have to see if it works...