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. 

Rough Times Ahead for Notes From A Barking Shaman

 Carol’s daughter has informed me of her intent to pursue legal action against me for my recent post about her mother’s illness and death, saying in part that “it isn’t your story to tell.” In writing “The ‘Good’ Death” I was following Carol’s wishes as she expressed them to me, that I continue to advocate for the right to die as she did, and that her story be told as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. 

However, I also know that Carol cared about my family and I, and don’t think that she would want us to sacrifice our freedom or livelihood in her memory. While I firmly believe that nothing I wrote is legally actionable, I also have little financial resources with which to defend myself. I have removed the post from Notes From a Barking Shaman as a show of good faith, though I stand by what I wrote, and consider it to be one of my finest pieces this year.

This pending legal action leaves NFABS in a bit of limbo. This blog has always first and foremost been a place where I use my words to serve my gods’ will. Either I have misinterpreted said will, or They are simply uninterested in/unable to shield me from the consequences of doing so. Until this mater is resolved, it is in my best interest to let NFABS lie fallow. I will likely continue posting links to interested articles on the web, usually with a bit of commentary of my own, but for the foreseeable future I will be unable to write any more original content here.