Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, every other week here on Agora!
From the very beginning, Wyrd Words was always intended to be a community-centric column. I’ve always valued the study of people and culture over theology. In my heart of hearts I have always been, first and foremost, a student of anthropology. I prefer to leave the preaching to the priests. I always felt that the subtle nuances of spirituality should be left to the pens of those more qualified than myself.
However, I don’t feel that this kind of examination gives us the whole picture of what Paganism is. The old ways are just as much about personal revelations as they are interpersonal relations. We are more than just a community, we are the products of the lessons and values that we hold dear. We keep the old stories alive for a reason, and how those stories affect each of us is an important part of who we are. To explore this, I’d like to introduce our newest series!
Life can be rough. Plain and simple, no sugar coating, sometimes just getting out of bed SUCKS. Sometimes we have to wake up early just so we can go to a soul-crushing job that we hate, eat a crappy microwave dinner on the job because we didn’t have time or energy to prepare real food, only to go home and futilely try to battle the never-ending mountain of laundry. It’s so easy to get crushed beneath the weight of life’s demands. We can lose ourselves amidst the overtime shifts, the bills, and the myriad of little tasks that take up all of the precious minutes of our waking hours. Worst of all, sometimes we don’t even feel like we can talk about it to anyone. We assume that everyone else is going through the same thing, and that we must just be weak or defective because we can’t keep up with life. It’s a kind of depression that our community isn’t always great at talking about, and so we often have to look within to find an answer to our troubles.
It’s not something I like to admit to most of the time but I’ve had my own battles with depression, and as a Heathen I often felt like talking about it was more likely to get me judged than to help me. The community has such a strong focus on “Strength” and “Willpower”, which is a fantastic message! Unfortunately, to somebody who is suffering from depression, it’s also fantastically INTIMIDATING. I chose to start our series off with this life lesson because it took me years of soul searching to find my own answer, and during that time the thing I wanted most was to find people in my own community who were willing to talk about it!
Life Lesson #1: Never forget who you are, or what you’re fighting for.
This is probably the single most valuable lesson I’ve taken from my faith, and it’s never steered me wrong. I work long weeks at a job I absolutely loathe, because it will suck every ounce of creativity and individuality out of you. You must act a certain way, dress a certain way, even speak a certain way. (We can’t even ask a client if they need “help”, because it might imply that the client is incompetent, so we must offer “assistance” instead. I KID THEE NOT). Between a job just to the left of being a cubicle prison, and a seemingly inexhaustible list of household chores that need doing, it’s hard to find time to be really passionate about anything. The two steps above are what keep me trucking through the worst of it.
Life can be rather bland, so spice it up with a bit of flair. I don’t find a lot of time to just “be myself”, so instead I find ways to express myself through the mundane things I have to do. When my boss tells me to deactivate an access pass to my site, I take the extra 30 seconds to set it up so that the pass makes a pop-up on my computer that says “YOU …SHALL NOT… PASS!!!” the next time they come through. If I have to clean the house, I do so to music I can dance to. (For given value of the word “dance”…)
Even battling the invincible laundry monster can be made slightly more entertaining simply by dubbing it “the invincible laundry monster”. It’s these little moments that allow me to remember who I am when it seems like I don’t have enough hours in the day to have a life outside work.
Never forget what you’re fighting for.
Step one is all well and good, but during the hardest points of depression just mustering the energy required to express emotion can be daunting. When just getting out of bed feels like it takes more energy than you’ve got in the tank, it’s hard to care enough to put on music (or fight laundry monsters). On those days, the only thing that gets me moving is remembering that people need me. I have a wife who deserves a functioning partner. I have approximately 1/3 of a child who needs me to to provide a safe and stable life for it to grow. I have friends that need to know they can call on me when times are hard. This has become my morning mantra for those days when I’m just to exhausted to muster up will to function. It doesn’t matter how I feel, or how little I care about anything else. That one thought will get me moving.
It’s probably the simplest life lesson I’ve taken from Heathenry, the value of Kith and Kin. It’s not as complex or high-minded as some of the more philosophical lessons in the Havamal. It’s also, without a doubt, the most important to me. Without this idea, there wouldn’t be enough left to me to continue learning the rest of what the old ways have to teach.