Different and the same

Me in a flood 1
Walking in a watery world Christmas 2019 – liminal space

Life feels different.

I’ve been trying to work out exactly how. What exactly has changed?

The shops are shut. There are less groceries on the shelves. I can’t just “pop” in to get something, I need to plan, and queue. I am doing less driving.

There is nowhere to go.

Surprisingly I do not miss these things.

I am more present.

It is difficult to plan anything, because as yet we don’t know how long this situation will last.

I find that a huge amount of my mental energy has been spent on plans. What I will do in the summer. When I will meet with that friend. How we will organise Christmas with various family members. Whether we will go to that show or see that comedian.

The actual texture of the days is unchanged, waking, dressing, working, chores, meals, evenings of playing cards or watching Netflix, sleep.

This is interesting.

That a lot of my “busyness” wasn’t actual, it was mental, busy thoughts, busy plans.

While I find the uncertainty unsettling I am thankful for the limits on my choices. There has been, though I didn’t notice it, a pervasive “ought” around going out and doing. I am thankful to be here having time to inhabit my actual, present life.

There is something changeless here, the rhythm of days, it soothes me.

I await the unfolding.

What matters

pheasant-3971267_1920It isn’t what I thought.

Not money

Or respect

Or being successful

Whatever that looks like

On a particular Monday.

It isn’t being purposeful.

Achieving

Pushing forwards

In my truest nature

For my highest self.

It is enjoying the gift

Of breath

Walking familiar paths

Enjoying the subtle changes

Of the seasons

Marvelling at the pheasant

Who visits unexpectedly

In his golden coat,

green, iridescent hood shimmering.

It is time with soul friends

Family.

Remembering the small gifts

Of normal.

Making the most of

The time that is here

Today.

 

 

Identity crisis

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About twelve years ago I decided to leave my job as a class teacher.  I had had a significant health scare and knew in my heart (and gut) that the pressure was not doing me any good at all. I trained as a complementary therapist and got a small part-time job which would support us while I established my practice.

Shortly after this my marriage ended and, as  single mum with two teenagers, I went back to my stock trade as a teacher to support us.

I’m good at adapting, externally at least.  I still hoped to find a way to work part-time hours to manage my health while providing an income, I gained some extra qualifications and began working as a specialist teacher.

After another spell of health challenges I resigned from my then role and began to explore other options.  By this point I had caught the tarot bug.  I loved the way the cards could cut through layers of dross to get to the treasure beneath, the insight and clarity they offered.  This was what I wanted to offer…

Anyone who has ever sought to set up as a therapist in any medium will know it’s a slow process.  It takes time to build a client base, to find connections.  While this takes place the cats (and humans) still need food and the car still needs petrol…

I worked for a local dyslexia centre doing assessments as a freelancer,  I drove around giving tuition to children after school, I found work part-time supporting university students with study skills; how to plan an essay, how to manage time or write a bibliography.

Last year I came up with an idea.  I am one for ideas.  I would sell my services as an administrator.  I’m a good teacher.  I’m a really good administrator.  I needed to work from home to help maintain my own health and provide care for older family members.

I set up my website, put out my shingle, sat behind my stall with pencils sharpened and ready and waited.

Tumbleweed.

For all the reasons noted above I had to take on more work in education.  It wasn’t what I hoped for, but the cats were grateful.

And then.

A phone call one Saturday morning introduced me to a client interested in my admin services.

This work is now, thankfully and wonderfully, growing.

Now here (finally) is the point.

This means I can let go of some of the education work I have been plodding away at, release some contracts, put down commitments.  While I won’t put all my eggs in the one basket I could make a considerable shift and reduce this element of my “muggle” work.

After almost twelve years of seeking to “get out of” education (the world’s longest ever escape plan) I may finally be on the verge of doing it.

But.

I realise why I have found it so difficult to make this break.  On the one hand the work is there, it is something people need, it’s a safety net.  Nothing wrong with a safety net on one level.  In our gig economy it’s a good idea.

On the other hand there’s the realisation that this is my identity.

Core parts of my identity are; that I’m a mother, that I am “spiritual” and that I’m a teacher. 

To let go of this, alongside letting go of my role as Mum as my two children transition to adulthood, feels big.  Really big.  What do I look like if I’m not a teacher?  If that’s just a fraction of what I do, how will life be?  I’ve been saying for several years that I no longer need to work term-time only.  There is no one any longer who needs care in the school holidays.  I could work the year round.

Yet it is an established pattern.  It is what I am used to.  And I hadn’t realised until today how much.  What does the year look like without the “end of term.”

Teaching for me (in the context of “working in education” rather than teaching in other contexts) has been a toxic relationship.  I love the idea of the regularity and form, but the pressures, the boxes we put ourselves and others into in our education systems, are unhealthy and stifling.  I have longed for an ordered and regimented life, one which is predictable and safe.  Yet when I try and create it something in me goes wild and starts to run away.  My body reacts with symptoms and I cannot sustain the work.

Which makes me think maybe I was never that person anyway.  Maybe that was an attempt to fit.  Trying on your mother’s shoes and playing at being “grown up”.

Or maybe it was just my best attempt to be a working mum, the constant challenge of contributing and supporting the family financially, while being the primary carer.

What’s clear is that the time has come to get ready to face a new way of being and doing. 

I am, in all honesty, perturbed.  I have often wondered why I was finding it so hard to make the break from working in education…this new understanding helps.

I still have to make the shift.

I am mentally taking a deep breath as I face this new truth.  Then slowly raising my foot to take the next step.

The doorway to “what next” is open.

After the harvest

nature-3126513_1920I did not find pregnancy comfortable.

Physically I was perturbed by the changes taking place, the way in which my body (always seen as separate in those days) “took over”.  I felt I had become host to an alien life form.  Emotionally and mentally I fought the loss of control, despite it being of my choosing.

I was a youngish mother, twenty three when I had my first child, and it would be another twenty years before I finally befriended my woman’s body.

I do recall the sense of count down.  Waiting and waiting for the due date, ticking off the days…

The sense of impending arrival comes, it turns out, with creative projects too.

I completed my first project  last week when the oracle deck I had been working on arrived.  I put off listing it in my shop because this was the last thing, and once that was done, there was nothing else to do…I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel when it was finished.  I was so pleased on one level and yet on another I felt sad..the journey was so much fun.

It was a time of unexpected delight.  I had always told myself I’d never make a deck, I am not an artist, I don’t draw or paint.  It was the regular, insistent messages from the natural world which inspired me in the end.  I began taking and collecting photographs of the garden.

Once I had them all I went into lock down.  Who, after all, did I think I was?

They sat saved in a folder on the computer.  It took almost three months before I was ready for the next phase.  And then the flood gates opened!  There is a point when the process takes over, moving of its own accord.  Once the decision to get it done happened it was like a flood gate opened.

The energy this project generated was unexpected.  I have spent a large amount of time juggling my energetic needs, since a viral infection at aged eighteen left me with fatigue.  There are spells of better health and then an inevitable crash.  But this energy was different, it felt warm, loving, hopeful.  It gave me the power to get through mundane days at work, to put new projects into place, to step up and out, it was my own inner sun.

With its completion I am going through a mini grief.  It is done now…and I don’t know, yet, what will come next.  I have been fishing around in my mind this week for fresh ideas, but they’re not here yet, or not willing to show themselves.

I suspect this means that this is the time to allow the ground of my creativity to lie fallow for a while, to replenish its nutrients, to give myself a break!

And that inner sun is still here, lurking just below the horizon, I know it will rise again when the time is right.

I am so looking forward to seeing the first shoots, the tiny green spikes of the next idea 🙂

Not sleeping beauty

animals-2608662_1920I’m not a great sleeper.

As if it’s a thing you can consciously be…

For as long as I remember I have found getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult.

My mum used to tell me how when I was small I’d hate taking a nap, and that this phase of my infancy didn’t last long.  I didn’t want to miss anything.

Night time now is the time that the thoughts return home to roost, a host of noisy birds seeking shelter for the dark hours.

In the day time I’m a busy type of person, like pretty much anyone there’s plenty going on; work, family commitments, passion projects, relationships, interests, and the ever-present hum of social media.

I have been practising good sleep hygiene for the past ten years or so, since my first burn out and stroke…no working in the bedroom, avoiding tech after hours, creating a quiet space to sleep in, clutter free and with a window open and so forth.  This has certainly helped.  But some nights when the lights go out all the questions, and ponderings of the day turn up, noisy teenagers in the street, rattling my cage.

If I get to sleep often I will wake up in the small hours.

It is 2 a.m.  I woke quickly, as though someone switched on a light, and couldn’t get back into sleep.  It is as though my brain lives separately from my body and has questions, a child clutching its teddy bear in the doorway; why this?  What about that?

Tonight my eldest son is on my mind.  I have written here before about this remarkable person.  He is now twenty three.  He has an indomitable spirit, despite what some might call considerable challenges.

Tomorrow he will travel almost five hundred miles to Glasgow to visit a friend.  This is the first time he has made a long trip alone.  We began travel training with him when he was about ten years old, and gradually his confidence increased.  He is able now to get himself around independently, to work/ study/ leisure activities in our local area and has been doing this for the past three years.

He just hasn’t gone this far before.

I am not even sure why I am anxious. I want it to be a success for him.

There is some part of me that believes if I think hard enough about it I can make it ok for him.  But my rational self shakes her head.  He has taken longer than many of his age to reach independence, but it is coming, and I realise that on some level I am empty nesting. Neither of my children went to university.  I would have liked that I think.  Not because I wanted them to have a degree, but because I would have had time to get used to the idea they were leaving.

Which reminds me of my own journeys.

I travelled to visit my friend Vera in Germany when I was sixteen.  My parents waved me off at Dover docks and then I made my way down to Wurzburg on the train.  I had no doubts at the time that I would be ok and indeed the journey was without incident and I had a great time, returning home safely two weeks later.

I wonder when I grew so fearful.  I feel sometimes like the fear arrived when I became a mother.  Before that I don’t remember fear, not like this.  Motherhood brought with it a whole host of night time shadows, and day time anxieties, I had never even countenanced before.  A hundred and one hidden dangers waiting just out of sight that I would need to protect my children from…

Then there are the facts.  Our world is not always kind to people who are “different”, they have, throughout history, been persecuted, mocked, belittled, restricted.

These dark imaginings do not help. Today is a different day.  Today is a day when I have to let go.  To step a little further into the life of a mother of adults.  That they stretch their wings and leave is what is supposed to happen.  That this is difficult is normal.  I am just normal.  A human type person.

Which is, I guess, after all’s said and done, a relief.

I have spent a lot of the past few years crossing limits.  Extending beyond what I felt was comfortable, safe, expected.  This is another one of those moments.  I have to trust.  That the well established systems of public transport will work.  That people will be their best selves.  That a young person can make a journey without incident, as thousands do each day.

I have to sit down with my catastrophising self and remind her of the good options.  What if it all works out?  What if the best outcome happens?  It is easy, at 2.20 a.m. to fall into the negative spiral.

And now I will take my tired, toddler self back to bed, I will tell her that good things happen too.  I will remind her of the magic that happens when we wait and see what comes next and stop trying to dictate outcomes.

Matthew 6:34  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

 

 

 

The life of a working witch

wash-4852195_1920This is a snapshot.  A reveal.  A peep behind the curtains. This is how life is for me, in the here and now.

For a lot of years I looked at my witchy heroines and heroes on the internet and thought that one day, one day I would have that life, and then I would be a working witch.  It would be how I earned my living, it would be my 24/7.

Sometime last year I gained a different perspective.

It came through loud and clear that what mattered was how I lived right now, in my ordinary, not particularly dramatic days; that how I lived in ordinary circumstances, how I practised my craft, my spirituality, in the middle of the mundane was the key.

Maybe you, too, aspire to be a full time lightworker/ witch/ coach/ fill in your dream role here…so in the spirit of honesty and authenticity I thought I’d share how it is in my life, most days, right now.

I am just turned forty-seven.  Two years ago we moved to live with my parents to help care for my mother, who lives with dementia and is severely sight-impaired.  I live with my second husband.  My youngest son lives elsewhere, my eldest, who has an autistic spectrum condition, lives with us.

I begin my day around 5.30 a.m.  My husband commutes to London so has an early alarm.  He is kind and brings me tea.  Then I write for a while, pull cards, read from some of my daily books (The Goddess Companion is a favourite) and pray.

After I’m dressed I’ll get breakfast and then start work around 7.30 a.m.  Initially this will be some social media work or admin on the PC.

Some days I have to leave around 8 a.m. to go to other work. I might be doing admin/ PA work or off to a local university where I help students with study skills.  Sometimes I go into a school I once worked in to do educational testing.  I have about five different “jobs” mostly on a zero hours basis.  This gives me a chance to manage the household, provide care when needed, keep on top of chores, do day to day business admin and manage my own health, which can be variable.

I’m taking a bookkeeping course right now (another way to “make cheese” to support my witching) so when I have a spare half hour I might get some of that done.

And in the middle of it all I’ll be fetching groceries, or clearing up after the cats, or emptying the bins, or loading the washing machine.

Evenings I meet with clients online, or prepare lessons for the “witch school” I made on Patreon.  I work on creative projects, write, plan, dream.   Sometimes I catch up with friends or take a walk with Simon when he gets home. I like to end the day with an episode of something and some books.

Every day is full. Every day is different.  My goal in life is to be a “working witch” but to do that I need to be supporting myself and right now I can’t do that by spiritual work alone.  And that’s ok.  I’m offering what I can to be in service and I’m blessed with friends and co-creators who are supporting me in this endeavour.

It isn’t a book deal, or a global speaking tour, or 50k followers on Instagram, all of which I have thought would be benchmarks of “success”.

It is real life.  It is my life.  It means,for now, I can do the things which need doing, the messy, gritty, unglamourous things.  These are the things I bump up against everyday which challenge me to think about how I can use my practice to bring a little more magic into the world, whether I’m living true to my principles.  The rude girls in the library, the homeless man shouting at me to help him, the huge car which cuts me up in traffic, the friend in crisis.

I learned a lot about witching from Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series.  Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany’s mentor, says that most of witching is “headology”.  I feel that’s true.  Being an everyday witch is 99 % headology and 1% mystery as far as I’m concerned.

And it’s in that 1% that the real magic lies. 

So I will continue to practice my own brand of working witchery.  And if the gods decide I’m allowed to do a bit more magic and a little less muggling I will be extremely grateful.  But I will not wait to exercise the magic I have to share until certain circumstances are in place or the world looks a particular way. This blessed now is where the magic happens.

Made up

makeup-402533_1920

I have been reading a book by a female entrepeneur.

I liked the book.  I liked her open and candid way of writing, her enthusiasm, her honesty.

It fell apart, for me, towards the end of the book in a section on developing good habits, in particular, confidence.

This section began talking about doing whatever you could to make yourself feel confident.

That seems fair enough.  But reading beyond the surface it was actually a section on physical appareance and in particular, make-up and cosmetics.

The writer stated that she had previously thought women who wore make up and took care of themselves physically were vacuous and self-absorbed.  She wrote about how she had changed her mind, and ultimately opted for cosmetic surgery as well as spending large amounts on make-up and beauty treatments. This, she felt, was justifiable because it made her feel confident.

All of that seemed reasonable when I read it, though different from my own opinions.

But I’ve been awake for about an hour thinking about it, because there are certain assumptions underneath this which I find disturbing.

Firstly, women have rights to choose.  The right to choose what to do with their own bodies being crucial. 

My concern is the link that’s made between make-up and confidence.  The argument seems to be that wearing make up engenders confidence.

This may be true.

But why?  Why can’t people be confident without make-up?

There are ideas here about beauty, worth and value.

Physical beauty is, in many creatures, a way to attract a mate. Attracting a mate means the opportunity to pro-create, which means the opportunity to continue your genetic line, which means survival of the species.  This is part of our animal nature.

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And the link between make-up and beauty is long established. People have been using cosmetics for over 7000 years.  In Ancient Egypt it was usual for men and women to wear make-up, as protection against the gods, and in Regency England men wore face powder and kept up with make-up trends in society circles.

In early Victorian times make-up was associated with a less desirable class of person, make-up was linked to “loose morals”, interestingly bringing in ideas of make-up and sexuality.  In the twentieth century this idea was overturned and embracing make-up became a way to embrace sexual freedom and claim sexuality (regardless of gender).

I wore make-up as a teen.  Usually kohl eyeliner and lip gloss.  Sometimes face powder or awesome eighties blue mascara.  I don’t recall wearing much make-up in my gap year (between school and uni, when I worked and volunteered).  After this I wore it (wear it) only for special occasions, weddings, job interviews, family celebrations.  Ironically these are times when I want to “look my best” which means that I am working from the assumption that I look my best when wearing make-up, which is the very issue I’m querying.

Why is this?

Obviously cosmetics is big business.  The concept that make-up is an “essential” seems built into our society.  If you go into any High Street chemists, such as Boots or Superdrug, the whole front half of the store is taken up by racks of cosmetics.  The product too, has a shelf life, so not only are there new colours and products to try, the stuff you already have will go past its sell by date and you will have to get more.  With big business goes advertising, plugging in to our primal fears of lack and not fitting in.  These are powerful themes enhanced by the barrage of social media and modern ideas of airbrushed, unobtainable beauty.

As I write I am beginning to feel that this is a colossal topic!

It raises questions around human beauty, self-worth, identity, commercialism, tribalism, materialism, culture, value, sexuality.

For me, make-up is a kind of mask.  It is a glamour I adopt to hide or enhance aspects of my physical features.  Mascara makes my eyes look larger, and more appealing.  Lipstick enhances my mouth, powders and foundations cover skin blemishes or uneven colouring.  When I put on make-up I feel I am hiding myself, masking imperfections.  It is a camouflage.  Underneath is the real me, warts (literally) and all. On the surface the “acceptable” face.

We talk about a face with make-up being “made up”, the same language we use to talk about fiction, a created untruth.

I wonder about the link between make-up, the desire to “cover up”, and shadow work. What exactly am I trying to hide?

Despite years of work on self-development there are still some situations where I would feel “wrong” without make-up.

Make-up is also work.  I’m in my mid forties.  My skin is changing.  One day I decided it was time to finally learn how to “do” make up.  I began looking up videos on You Tube.  Oh my goodness.  The woman in the first video began with a list of about twenty products, most of which I had never heard of.  This was going to be a costly endeavour! I then watched a video of make-up being applied.  It was being applied by a make-up artist.  This level of complexity was being shared as something anyone could achieve.  Seriously, who would have time?  It would take an hour, at least.  There were videos on “quick” make-up, advertised as being time efficient because it would only take half an hour.  Half an hour is plenty time to take a walk, prepare a meal, write a blog post, but to do make-up…I’m not sure about this as a valid use of our time.  How many things could humankind achieve if we gave up make-up? How many hours would be get back?

This isn’t about who can wear make-up.  Anyone can wear make-up.  However in Western culture, over the past century, make-up has come to be seen as an essential part of womanhood and femininity.

What is the link between make-up and sexuality?  I spent a long time as a teacher.  Not many children in primary school wear make-up.  In September of Year 7, when they  start the first year of English secondary schooling, not many girls wear make up.  By the end of the year, though, many do. I am interested in the connection between make-up and menstruation.  When girls reach puberty their interest in make-up seems to increase.

More questions.

I am a white woman. For the longest time the “skin tones” reflected in the make-up available on our cosmetics counters were for white girls/boys.  The idea that “normal” skin meant white skin raises issues around white supremacy and implicit racism. Which in turn flags up ugly issus around what counts as human beauty.  If there is no make-up for BME people what does this say about what is beautiful?

The rabbit hole deepens. So many questions, assumptions.  The challenge which comes when attempting to question culture is that our culture is who we are, the very eyes we see from, and re-training our vision from within the fish bowl can lead us in a closed loop.  I still want to know what it would be like to live in the ocean, unlimited.

Body image has become a hot topic.  That we should love the skin we are in (ironically a phrase from a cosmetic commercial) is taken as read.  We are told size does not matter.  Yet when people post their pictures of their stunning and diverse bodies they are, in all the images I have seen, wearing make-up. We question one definition of beauty while embracing it in other ways.

To return to the book.  Applying make-up has come to be seen as a sign of self-worth, self-care and a way of valuing ourselves. I feel this shows that big cosmetics firms have won.  They have convinced us that we owe it to ourselves to paint over the cracks. 

People say that they can’t go out unless they have “put their face on”.   Are we able to be our most authentic selves if we have covered up the face we were born with to make it fit some socially defined notion of acceptable appearance?

The rabbit hole winds on. And don’t even get me started on cosmetic surgery!

I don’t have the answers yet, but I have plenty of questions.

  • Why is make-up such an important part of our culture?
  • How much money and time are we, as a culture, spending on make-up?
  • What does this say about our cultural values?
  • How does make-up link to self-identity?
  • What does this say about our cultural identity, individuality and conformity?
  • What are the links between the cosmetics industry and ideas of human beauty?
  • How does this feed implicit racism?
  • What, if any, is the link between make-up and menses/ menopause?
  • How is make-up linked to sexuality and sexual dissidence?
  • How is make-up part of “women’s work” – in the same way that domestic chores and family caring (for children or elders) is?

I imagine I will still find it difficult to go to an important event without make-up.  I feel a sense of not being “properly dressed” if I do this.  This is my own cultural conditioning, my own notions of worth to work on.

I want to be able to stand, unmasked, real and raw, and face the world truthfully, whatever the circumstances, proud of the lines and shadows on my face, the story of my skin. 

 

 

 

Medusa

“Snake woman shedding her skin.” Starhawk.

black-mamba-653644_1920I was gifted a Medusa story goddess from Brigid’s Grove.  She inspired this.

Come, let me hold you,

twine you,

squeeze you

Close embracing,

Sliding sensuous,

sinuous,

round ribs,

forcing breath

from lungs,

throat-tightening,

stifling.

Life ebbing,

Turning you,

To bone,

stone.

Frozen numb,

feeling gone,

Skin drying,

stretching,

straining,

dying

Until

You split!

Wide open,

Shedding form

Torn,

Poured,

Naked, new born

Screaming

Un-seaming

into the world

Raw, ready

slick

with promise

and power.

What is needed

hand-1917895_1920I have been on my moonlit path for some five years now.  Prior to that I was a Christian and a minister in a well-established national church.

Since entering the world of woo I have found some teachings which resonate with my particular brand of spiritual geekery, and some which, although hugely popular in spiritual and new age circles, make me uncomfortable.

One of these is the idea of “manifestation.”

Initially I wanted to buy into this body and soul.  Who wouldn’t?  Change your thoughts, and you change your world.  It sounds simple.

And there are elements of truth within it, for instance neuro-linguistic programming teaches us that the ways in which we speak and use language can have a huge impact on our successes.  To manifest something we should choose positive language.  Rather than saying I won’t drink coffee, we look for a positive phrase, I will drink non-caffeinated drinks that support my body’s health (for example.)

And it seems to be true that if you set yourself a goal you are more likely to achieve it than if you don’t.  Similarly if you set yourself a goal and then take steps towards achieving it you’re more likely to be successful than if you sit at home eating digestives in front of the Great British Bake Off.  It wouldn’t be much good if I set myself the goal of becoming a qualified teacher and then sit at home waiting for it to happen.  I need to get enrolled on a teacher training programme, attend classes, survive my teaching practices and finally gain my certificate.

What I am uncomfortable about about this concept of manifestation is the idea that anyone can have anything they want if they just put their mind to.

I feel like there’s a chance this might work for you if you were:

a) Born in Europe or the U.S.A.

b) Are white.

c) Are from a middle or upper class background.

d) Are literate and numerate, more likely if you have a degree.

It feels as though “manifestation” of your “best and highest life” is another way of saying going for the American dream.  A six-figure income, dream house, the ideal career, the luxury holidays, the perfect partner.  It feels as though it’s about material gain, ultimately capitalist goals and it makes me uncomfortable.

Back when I was a teenager we attended a charismatic congregation.  Teaching there said that God would answer my prayers if I prayed the right way and lived the right kind of life.  If my prayers weren’t being answered then there was likely some unrealised sin in my life, or it simply wasn’t God’s will.

The teaching I hear around manifestation is similar to this.  Your dreams aren’t being realised?   You’re not setting clear enough goals.  You aren’t being positive enough.  You need to devote more energy to the practice.

I want to call bullshit on this kind of teaching.

I think it is a colossal spiritual red herring, and potentially very dangerous.

785 million people on the earth lack basic clean water access.  795 million people lack enough food to live a healthy life.  73 million children (between ages five and seventeen) around the globe are engaged in hazardous child labour.  Between 1990 and 2016 the world lost 502,000 square miles of it’s forests. In the UK there are 1.2 million chronically lonely old people.

While I am busy focusing on aligning my intentions, and manifesting my dream career I am in danger of losing touch with the world around me, and the real needs that are out there and the very real suffering of other human creatures.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t like my own home one day, or to take holidays sometimes, or that I don’t dream of being successfully self-employed tarot priestess one day. It’s ok to have dreams.

But there’s a danger that if I follow the manifestation road I will become blinkered. I will create a demanding idol who will eat up all my time, energy and focus and the world will continue to starve and bleed and die and I will be blindly serving my self-created god.  Vision boarding while Australia burns.

It is never straight cut. I know there are people out there whose dream it is to create something healing.  My friend Flo and her family have, creating and establishing a refugee charity in Malawi.   Or there’s the amazing work of my talented sis-in-law Sue through Christmas with Kids. Real people making and creating real and sustainable change.

It comes down to this.  Whatever your faith, whoever or whatever you follow the Letter to James has it right to my mind, “faith without works is dead.”  (James 2:26).

I wonder if it would be possible to turn all the focus and energy ploughed into “manifestation” and create something truly magical?  An end to child labour perhaps? A world where people were valued for who they are not what they produce? A planet where all creatures are honoured and there is justice?

It would take will, hope, determination, surrendering wanting more than our share, a measure of sacrifice.

But it seems to be what is needed.

 

Undefined

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Who are you?

Ask me that question until recently and I would have begun with role titles.

I am a teacher.  A mum. A woman.

I remember a spiritual director telling me once, “That isn’t who you are, that’s what you do?”

I have spent much of the last thirty years seeking to “find” and define myself.  The irony of this is only recently becoming apparent.  I have quested long and hard, yet I was right here all along, like the alchemist’s treasure in Paulo Coelho’s book.

My labels past and present include: daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, Christian, minister, Dyslexia specialist, reflexologist, Reiki practitioner, witch, friend, writer, lightworker, crystal healer, queer, tarot reader, Druid, gardener, shop assistant, vegetarian, campaigner, blogger, carer, home-brewer, herbalist, domestic, tutor, priestess.

I have, at various times, pulled them out of the cupboard to try them on, alone or in combination, but they are none of them me.

My friend Liz says that she feels that defining herself is for other people’s comfort.  She chooses not to.

The time spent gazing at my own navel trying to work out “who I am” would be much better used to experience the vast, fleeting, crazy, miracle that is our universe.  It would be better spent in play or conversation, in writing, in sitting watching flowers grow.

Yet the urge is strong.  If someone asks me, who are you? I want to be able to present it to them.  Tidy.  Attractive.  Acceptable. It feels as though this longing is heightened by my virtual life.  When I am online I want to connect, and labels are a way in which I seek out like-minded others… #findyourtribe

Definitions of self are closely linked to ideas of individualism, a theme which did not appear to dominate human minds until the Enlightenment era three to four hundred years ago.  Maslow contributes here also, the idea of self-actualization, to be all I can be, to fulfil my potential, is powerful in Western culture.  It encourages materialism as we quest to gather the tools and props we need to demonstrate our “selves” to those around us.

I am beginning to feel, though, that this idea, which I have held as a core part of being human, is just another theory, a way to capture a sense of purpose and security in the vast and chaotic experience of life.

Who am I?

It’s difficult to say.  Who I am is something in motion.  A moving target.  Who I am today, is not who I was yesterday, or who I will be tomorrow.  The constant flow of life, of others, around me is a dynamic interplay of interactions, each one impacting on me, creating subtle alterations, just as I in turn create an effect on all around me.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull has it right, “I am an unlimited idea of freedom.”

Perhaps in the end the only label I need is a name.  In this context that name means me.

Hello, my name is Fiona.  Pleased to meet you.