I usually find myself missing holidays and getting into the season’s festivities too late. Blame my chronic procrastination, or my easily distracted mind, or the lovely mix of anxiety and depression that means I’m hyperaware of deadlines and can’t quite summon the spoons necessary to deal with them before they go flying by. I also haven’t been a ritual person for some time, for many reasons. With the exception of a lovely equinox ritual this past September with the ADF Grove of the Seven Hills I haven’t done seasonal ritual for a long while. It was easier when I was part of my college’s Pagan group and belonged both to ADF and to a local Neo-Wiccan coven. Having people around to physically mark changes was important to me, even if I didn’t agree theologically with everyone else in the circle.
Without some form of physical community, I find my priorities shifting. I am asking the same questions I did when I first started this blog, only now I’m more comfortable with the hazy answers and “you gotta figure this out for yourself, kid,” responses. As lonely and frustrating as it can be sometimes, it’s also freeing to be the sole meaning-maker on my personal religious path. I have to be the one who lives with these answers, after all. I have to explain the world in a way that makes sense to me; I have to live with the consequences to my actions; I have to accept whether I can sleep at night with the ethical choices I made that day.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m not pushing myself enough. There may come a time when I can finally figure out the difference between “legitimately doesn’t have the spoons to deal with anything right now” and “legitimately being lazy and unmotivated in Doing The Work.” It comes back to that weird, awful mixture of anxiety and depression coupled with being a 20-something Millennial with a good dollop of imposture’s syndrome for good measure. It’s exhausting to feel ping-ponged between all the I shoulds and the I can’ts, and, as the long lack of updates on this blog indicate, it’s very easy to ignore the problems and retreat until things get better, you know, at some point in the vague future, than to keep reaching out.
I find myself too exhausted with the experience of simply taking up space in this world. I’m a fat, queer, disabled, mentally ill trans person. Go me! (I’m Pagan too, of course, but the shit I experience from that particular identity feels so miniscule when compared to my gender identity that I often forget that I am, in fact, a member of a religious minority in a very unfriendly part of the country.) I’ve been avoiding going to my doctor because I’m afraid of getting faced with more fatphobia and being ridiculed/ignored when talking about my pain. I’m constantly feeling like I’m making things up about my gender and making a big fuss out of nothing, yet constantly worried about being a fraud and not being brave enough to be more out than I am now. I am finding it hard to remember how to do self-care and make things easier on myself when there are Anxiety Spirals of Eternal Angst that keep me from being able to focus on the present. I am really tired of my knees deciding to start hurting over the past month and wish my L4 and L5 vertebrae would jump off a cliff.
I find myself now looking at the past year, at how utterly different things were last Samhain (and the Samhain before that, and so on). I’m out of one relationship and into another, having learned a lot of assuredly valuable life lessons about love that I really wish I hadn’t had to learn the hard way. I’m dating someone like me now – another anxious queer kid with a body like mine and a gender like mine that for once, I don’t have to explain myself to. I’m in my last semester of graduate school and maybe on the path to actually getting my first full-time job – though the idea of being a trans professional is, quite frankly, terrifying beyond belief. I am if not calmer and happier, at least aware that I should be kinder to myself and give me the same compassion and patience I would other people. I know where boundaries are that I didn’t know needed defending, before. And at least some of my past traumas are, if not healing, at least hurting a little less every day, and maybe that’s the same thing as healing, in the end.
I usually miss holidays or purposefully ignore their passing, but this Samhain feels different. It hasn’t felt like “hurry up, only X number of days to get ready for Samhain!” but more a countdown to a beginning. Summer has fled, now; the folks in the Southern Hemisphere will need to take care of her while we have custody of winter for the time being. My world is growing dark and cold and so many things and relationships and people have died in the past year. I think about them as I walk through the dead leaves, already rich with decay. I think about how very much can change in a single year, how the entire world can seem to move around us while it appears that we ourselves stand still. I think about how easy it is to feel completely overwhelmed by all the stimuli ever rushing in and hurting my senses, while at the same time feeling utterly locked in my own body and caught up in my brain.
I still haven’t “done ritual” for Samhain and I may not do so on my own for a long time, or perhaps ever again. I’m thinking about what religion means for me, what my religion means, and what seems like a natural flow of beliefs and actions from the truths I’ve come to like most about the world. I told my partner I’d be keeping the beloved dead in my heart, and that much is true. I look at the joyous folk celebration that is Halloween and can’t help but think of all the queer and trans people who are no longer with us because of suicide or hate crimes. I think about the vicious institutionalized white supremacy in America that allows for the constant murder of black citizens by police officers, the continued abuse of undocumented immigrants and their children. I think about all the people with sorrow in their hearts caused by their fellow human being’s cruelty or apathy or greed and I want to sorrow and rage with them. How can the coldest, darkest part of the year be before us when 2015 has delivered so much pain already?
My ritual then is not lighting candles (though I have done that) or saying prayers (though I’ve done that too) but holding all this tension in my heart and trying to sort through what it means to be human in this world. My sacrifice is the pain in my body and mind, the growing sense of my own mortality, the heavy weight of duty and responsibility to myself and those who share this world with me. I don’t have close to all the answers, and maybe that too is an offering: to the gods, to the ancestors, to myself.
Tonight’s sunset didn’t mark the end of Samhain for me, but the beginning of the Samhain season, the embrace of winter, the expectation of things to come. The Wheel sinks below the horizon and the Lady of the Summer Forge transforms into the Lady of the Stars. Brighid grieves the loss of Her sons on the battlefield, keening across the lands. I remember that my goddess mourns with me, rages with me, questions with me, inspires and challenges me. And I will tend to this reminder like I do the flame on my altar so that however it may flicker, I do not allow it to go out.