Mental Health, Meditation, Witchcraft & Accountability

Mental Health, Meditation, Witchcraft & Accountability May 18, 2018
a black and white photo of white flowers blooming on trees lining a white fence
…some days are like…

After my last post, and the subsequent follow-ups offered by others I respect, I accidentally took some time out. The reasons are many and varied, but interconnected in some obvious and some subtle ways. As are all things, I suppose… a butterfly effect, but for feels, coping mechanisms and, you know, stuff. Feeling lost is a thing that happens in every field, so it’s not like there’s a lot of surprise.

The past month and a half has been a pendulum of a time. While I suspect a portion of it is a need to readjust my bipolar medication, a large part of it has been an overall sense of flailing. There’s the usual stuff—you know: work, self-care, and poorly translated otome games. And then there’s stuff that is tougher to put a finger on, metaphorical or otherwise. Such as where do I go from here? and why do I feel lost? and what am I even doing with my life? and who the fuck put that gatorade bottle there;goddammit, filthy assistant.

Um, at least one of these is easier than the rest.

And I suppose breaking these into some semblance of organization would be best, yeah?

Why do I feel lost?

There’s this little self-deprecating idea in my head: a story or book or something titled Confessions of a Part-Time Witch. Is that a thing that exists? If not, it should. I’m not qualified to make it happen; in fact, I don’t even qualify as “part-time”. Is “occasional witch” a thing? “Unreliable witch?” I kind of like that one. Unreliable in all things except moodily staring off into space and feeling utterly out of place in this one-dimension world…

So deep. So pathos.

Ugh. I hate even looking at this as I write it. How passive can I get, you ask? Good question. I suspect if I don’t get my ass into gear, I’m’a find out.

I have theories, of course.

Because Mental Illness is a Bitch

Well, this one’s obvious… and also really, really easy to fall back on. Which in itself is this enormous catch-22; on the one hand, mental health affects everything. On the other hand… well. If you’ve ever rationalized yourself away from doing something that needs doing, you know what I mean. All we need is an excuse, right?

The cycle of laziness and self-loathing and wishing and ugly days can build to the point of sheer overwhelming stasis.

Because I Struggle Learning Alone

…alternately titled Because I Am Lonely

Most of the time, I learn by watching, asking questions, and then ultimately with practice. I’m a magpie, taking bits of this and that until I find the system that works for me. (Ask me about my book plotting someday. It’s a little ridiculous.)

I have books—lovely ones recommended and/or written by friends and established witches and pagans and p-words all over. I have some tools—tarot/oracle cards have always been my jam. I have… well, I don’t have space. That’s a thing in its own right. But I do have the draw to these liminal spaces I feel like I can’t reach, and that is freaking frustrating.

How does this work? Why does this go this way? What do other witches think, and what do they do? I am an information-gatherer. I educate myself as much as possible from various sources before I can magpie it for myself; often, I go solitary practice from there, and pay what I can forward. But where I am, there are few opportunities to visit and learn save from books.

And yes, my doves and delights, I do know there are Facebook Groups… but if you ever want to see me break into a panic and throw my laptop out a window and hide in a gin bottle and anime for the next week and a half, go ahead and put me in a Facebook group. (That kind of huge immersion education is destructive for me, is what I am saying. Please don’t do it. I’ll block anyone who invites me to those without asking. Yes, I know that is counter-productive, hush.)

Because My Ideal is Not Me… Or Maybe It Is But How Do I Know

I am obsessed with the concept of kitchen witchery. (I hate to cook.) I love sigil witchery like the ineffable Tempest’s. (I can’t draw.) In a lot of ways, I feel like so much of what I feel is based in artsy type stuff, or at least creative stuff, but what does one do with words and no space and no sense of what’s what?

Ah, I know. I do know, though: words are power! I write books and I make them as powerful as I can and I get that much, but what the fuck does that have to do with invoking…well, anything but rage and truth? (Ahem. Rage is kind of my thing in my books. I am just so angry about this world’s people. But I digress…)

Because I Don’t Believe I Belong Here

Well. I mean… impostor syndrome, right? What can I say?

What am I even doing with my life?

Does anybody even have an answer for that? Like, I’m a big fan of Soto Zen, and I absolutely know what it’d have to say about this whole thing: I am living my life one moment at a time; I am letting go of what I cannot control (which is everything but myself); I am experiencing every moment; I am accepting that which life gives me because all things chance; I am…goddamn too ambitious for this.

Sort of. Buddhism has a great deal of positive and encouraging and hard and absolutely true things to say about life, the universe and everything. It took me thirty three years before I understood Yoda’s “Do or do not, there is no try.” I mean… just do it. Shia Lebeuf had that one dead on.

white and pink flowering trees lining a white picket fence
… and other days are like WHOA COLOR

What I can say is that I’ve been taking the small steps I know how to do, and it does help.

Meditation

There were some amazing comments in my last post, and many suggested mindfulness and meditation. The ironic thing, of course, as that I attended the local Zen Hall regularly some years back. I do know, from experience, how good meditation can be for mind and body and soul… even when it’s hard (and oh, babies, it can be so hard to sit sometimes).

It took kind of a wake-up call from this community to get me to sit down again. Today, I can proudly say that I have meditated 16 days in a row (soon to be 17), and yeah, it really does make a difference. I even have a little journal where I keep track of  my sessions and how I feel about ’em. Kinda cool, right? (Praise me…!)

Reflection

For a while, I was drawing a tarot or oracle card every morning and writing that down. I stopped somewhere in the space between last post and today, and I’m still not entirely sure why. However, I’ve been considering… maybe I should draw a card at the end of the day and consider what it has to say about things?

I know, I know, there’s no right way to do this. So that much is worth experimenting, right?

Thinking About Cleaning

…Yeah, you read that right. Thinking about cleaning. Neither I nor my housemate—affectionately, filthy assistant—are great with chores. I’m hella bent on creative endeavours and operate best in organized clutter. Filthy assistant is, well, in his own words: “Lazy as shit.”

This means that my space tends to be a) messy, and b) crowded. I live in a small space. Making room for any sort of practice is so hard that I have taken to meditating in the middle of the tiny alcove that passes for my office. It is, for the record, not an office. It is a nook, and there is no escape from any motion or sound in the apartment.

Even so… I suspect I’d feel better if it was all clean. I mean, call it a hunch…

So where do I go from here?

I’ll take Impossible Questions for $600, Alex. (Question: how many generations, do you think, before this reference makes no sense to people?)

Obviously, I have at least one clue: cleaning. I mean, how long do I need to think about it already?

Of course, there is this one little mental trick that leads to nothing. ever. getting. done. “Once I clean, I’ll be able to start practicing!” … “Once I read this book, I’ll be ready!” … “Once I find someone to teach me, I’ll have something to work with!”

Or my all time favorite: “Once I feel like I belong, I’ll be able to do it.”

Ha. Ha haA WEB OF LIES.

And the worst part here is that I know this is mostly on me. I am accountable for my own actions, my own choices, and that will never change no matter who you are. One of my absolute favorite takeaway lines from a movie comes from Captain America: Civil War:

Captain America: What you did all those years, it wasn’t you. You didn’t have a choice.
Bucky Barnes: I know… but I did it.

Whatever else, whyever else, I commit the actions I do. So…

Why.
Is.
This.
So.
Damn.
Hard
?

When I’m on twitter or on panels, I speak with confidence. I am familiar with my chosen industry and I have experiences to share… and lessons learned from my path. But witchcraft is something else entirely. I have no lessons to share, no wisdom to dole out. When I can’t even figure out where to put my feet and which side my ass is supposed to shake on, how can I teach anyone else to dance?

But to expound on that metaphor a little, I can say this: I dance stupid. Maybe one day, I’ll learn how to do it with confidence, but for now my ass is too far to the right and my arms are flailing like the kraken on a bad day and I’m doing that white-people thing with my lips and… well. If you’re in this phase of things, come dance with me. You aren’t alone.

Okay, but who put that gatorade bottle th—

… Oh, nevermind.

Ultimately, I suppose it all comes down to one simple fact:

I don’t know what I’m doing. And going in blind terrifies me. I know for a fact that others feel the same way. I guess my only bit of wisdom is… it’s normal. It’s also okay, I think. And it probably passes… but it’s gonna take work. Some advice, probably.

And a lot of accountability.

Damn it.

About K. C. Alexander
K. C. Alexander is an SF/F author and very proud of smearing her bloody fingers all over the lines. She writes aggressive transhumanist sci-fi, co-wrote Mass Effect: Andromeda: Nexus Uprising, and may or may not be a witch. Like what she does? Want to see more? Check out her tarot reads and behind the scenes glimpses of her new projects. Every offer goes to support an author hard at work. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Little secret, none of us really KNOWS with absolutely certainty what we are doing. We all just muddle through the best we can. I’ve always thought it was important to feature voices in this space (Patheos Pagan) who are new to all of this. Its a reminder to us old-timers not to get too jaded.

  • WAIT. Am I not supposed t be jaded yet? 😀

    Well, at least it’s nice to have company in the muddling!

  • You are doing great. I tend to get myself bogged down in the research end of things and have to remind myself that my Gods want me to Know Them, not know someone else’s version of them. Even if someone else’s version helped me find them to begin with. There are certain ones in the pagan community that ascribe to the “perfect practice makes perfect performance” philosophy, but not every one does. Do what you can when you can, keep your ideal in mind, and then one day you will find that you have achieved it. The hardest for me was accepting that even though Wiccan is a “cool kids club” it is not for me and as a result their ideals, deities, etc just will not work for me. I tend to act more like the warrior tribes of old than those that were farmers. There are many things I could say “ah ha that is why,” but in the end the “why” of the way I am is irrelevant if I am happy as I am. More importantly who I am works for me. Do keep in mind it is easier to change one habit at a time, rather than a whole change of life style at one time.

  • “Do keep in mind it is easier to change one habit at a time, rather than a whole change of life style at one time.”

    This seems so inefficient! … she says, but you’re absolutely right. I tend to be one of those that resists, thinks, analyzes, rationalizes, and then once there is a decision I JUMP RIGHT IN. I have to remember to take it bit by bit, and thank you for reminding me.

  • Trellia

    I just want to say THANK YOU. Right now I’m at a tough point where my job was eliminated and I’m trying to job hunt with mental illness and chronic pain and I can relate to this so much on so many levels. (Eyes piles of books that really should be organized.)

  • One thing at a time, yeah? (Ahem advice I should be taking too ahem ahem.)

    Good luck, okay? I believe in you!

  • Trellia

    Thank you again. 😀 To paraphrase the Janitor from ‘Scrubs’- “Let’s make mental illness feel foolish!”

  • David West

    Just flicking through older posts here and I just wanted to throw in two things..
    1. As someone who’s a part time artist, and maybe one day will get round to becoming a full time one, I have to say that words are also art.
    2. I also tend to put off things, mostly because they look too big ( and just get bigger the longer I wait 🙁 ). The best thing is to find a way to make them feel smaller, whether by taking them on in little lumps or looking at them a different way or even finding another way ( sometimes you can make yourself feel bigger too ).