Be careful what you ask for – you just might get it.
For all that Under the Ancient Oaks is the story of my spiritual journey, I try to keep the deeply personal stuff out of it. I prefer to emphasize the thinking and practices that can be helpful to others, rather than my day to day life. And I’m far more introverted than you might guess – there are many parts of my life I simply want to keep to myself.
But there are times when I feel the need to share some of my personal life, either to let people in similar situations know they’re not alone, or simply because I need to talk about it. This is one of those times.
Stretched to breaking
Without going into too many details, I’m overloaded right now. My paying job, my various writing projects, house and family stuff, local Pagan group work – they all have me beyond busy. And my devotional requirements are going up. It’s all good stuff (mostly – the paying job is getting stressful, though not to 2009 – 2010 levels), but the sheer volume is stretching me about as far as I can go.
One of the benefits of regular spiritual practice is that it builds a foundation that will support you when times get tough. Prayer is my core spiritual practice – I pray a variety of scripted and extemporaneous prayers four times every day. Prayer is my foundation, and I’m leaning on it in this time of stress.
What do I pray for?
Do I pray for my paying job to become easier, only to see it go completely away, and with it the income that supports everything else in my life? I’m far too young to retire, particularly here in the United States where health insurance is tied to employment. Short of death or serious illness, the last thing I want is an unplanned job-related move.
Do I pray that my writing workload is decreased, only to see my book contract canceled, or my blogging platform disappear? Ultimately I control how much I write, but the business end of writing is very much a case of “what have you done for me lately?”
Do I pray that my devotional requirements be lessened, only to see the most powerful and meaningful experiences in my life dwindle to nothing? The devotional requirements aren’t going up because some deity is insecure and wants more praise. They’re going up because the world is getting harder and stranger, and this is one of the ways I need to prepare for it.
Do I pray for more dedication and focus, only to lose access to (or even interest in) the few bits of relaxation and lighthearted enjoyment in my life? I have never been able to devote my full attention to any one thing, not even things I like. The call for “balance” in Paganism is often an excuse for mediocrity, but to a certain extent it’s necessary. Some of it is absolutely necessary in my life.
Do I pray for help, knowing that the people in my life who could most reliably take on some of this work are overloaded themselves? This isn’t all about me – not by a long shot. We will succeed or fail as a community and as a movement, not as individuals.
This is real life
The Gods I serve are neither capricious nor cruel. But They are not divine helicopter parents, eager to intervene whenever something makes me uncomfortable. And this isn’t a test, or training, or some other arbitrary program that can be ended at any time. This is real life in the era of the Shredded Veil and the Collision of Worlds.
So apparently the psychological disorder of the moment is FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. That’s nothing trendy for me – I’ve always had it. Part of that was growing up in a semi-rural area where I really did miss out on a lot. Looking back on my life so far, I have no real regrets over the things I’ve done. I have several regrets over things I had a chance to do and didn’t. I try not to add to that list.
I don’t worry about missing out on some great social experience if I skip a party (see the comment on introversion in the opening paragraph). I enjoy watching football, but being at the games isn’t worth the trouble – you can see better at home anyway.
But if things are important – especially if they’re important enough for Gods to be involved – then I want to be a part of them.
Part of me understands that I’ll be an ancestor someday – I want to be worthy of the honor of those who come after me. But more importantly, I want to live life as fully as I can. I want to do my part to prepare the way of the Gods.
Nobody writes epic poems about The Man Who Lived A Balanced Life. They write epic poems about people who do heroic stuff. I really don’t care if anyone writes epic poetry about me or not. But I want to do heroic stuff, and I especially don’t want to miss out on the heroic opportunities that are right in front of me.
My very careful prayer
But here I sit, with a to-do list a mile long, and the stress is building. And as I write this, I also have the onset of a summer cold. Such is life.
So I will pray.
Cernunnos: Lord of the Animals, Lord of the Hunt;
Danu: Mother Goddess, Lady of the Waters;
Morrigan: Battle Goddess, Lady of Sovereignty;
Brighid: Lady of the Fire, the Well, and the Tree;
Lugh: Master of All Arts;
I thank You for Your presence and blessings in my life.
I am honored to be called to this sacred work,
and I do not regret saying “yes.”
I have sworn oaths, and it is my deepest desire to fulfill them.
But I am tired.
And so I pray for strength, that I may complete the tasks set in front of me.
I pray for courage, that I may do what must be done even when it’s hard.
I pray for discernment, that I may choose what should be first, and what must be last.
I pray for skill, that I may work effectively and efficiently.
I pray for perspective, that I remember the journey is long.
I pray for humility, that I remember I am human and mortal and will never be perfect.
I pray for wisdom, that I remember to care for the needs of my body and my soul.
I pray for community, that all who will may share in the work, and in the rewards.
This is my desire,
This is my prayer.
May it be so.