Plan A and Plan B

It’s the end of August and I have not finished my series on 31 Days of Paganism. To be fair, I had some technical difficulties with my account and my phone so I ask for forgiveness and patience. I’m totally going to complete the challenge, even if it’s a bit late. But I wanted everyone to know!

Also, just an update on my wls journey– I got a call from the Kaiser bariatric program in Richmond. I’ve officially received a welcome to the program and my orientation is on the 10th. It’s  a four hour appointment, so I’m taking the entire day off from work just to be on the safe side. After the orientation I’ll schedule a consultation with a surgeon, and they will determine if I’m a good candidate for surgery. Then another appointment with the nutritionist, and a psych evaluation. After that, probably a bunch of other stuff. I don’t yet know the details, but I’m sure they’ll go over it all at the orientation.

When I got the call, I couldn’t believe it! I was so shocked that I actually got accepted to the program, maybe because in the back of my head I was still thinking all those things that society says I am– just too lazy, not working hard enough, doomed to be fat forever. Why would they allow me to even dream of this surgery? And then I thought, wow. I must be really fucked up if they actually think I need it. Because I’m supposed to be ashamed, right? Because this is the easy way out, right? But then I was like, NO! I can’t think that way anymore. This surgery, it can change my life for the better. It can be an amazing tool for my health. I’m scared, but I also still really want to go for it. I end up missing a lot of things because I’m too scared to do them. But do I want this for the right reasons? Sometimes I don’t know. For instance, I often think about my “goal weight” for after surgery. Sometimes I think that I would just like to lose 100 lbs. I would still be overweight, but 100 lbs off my body would mean I would be able to be so much more mobile! I keep thinking of all the things I could do, pain free. Without getting totally winded 10 minutes in. Without feeling completely defeated. I know it sounds like a lot, but 100 lbs really isn’t (I think it’s actually pretty realistic for weight loss surgery results– and I wouldn’t be skinny, but I would be healthier).

But sometimes I get wrapped up in the thought of weight loss, and I start to fantasize, and I take it too far. There is still a part of me that wants to be as thin as possible, even if it’s not healthy (and also probably impossible). Now, there are people out there who weighed as much as I do or more who are now like 130, 140, 150 lbs. And that’s amazing, but those results aren’t typical, and might not even be healthy weights for me– and yet I still think about what it would be like to be that small. And then I think, if I can get to 130 surely I could get to 120, maybe even 115. That is the eating disordered mind at it’s worst, because first of all there is no way I could get down to that weight at all, let alone in a healthy way, without restricting/fasting and totally fucking up my metabolism. And second of all, I know that even if I did reach that weight I would be unhappy because I would be so focused on weight and food and I would be completely lost in the eating disorder.  I don’t want that. In fact, I want to get as far away from it as I can. I want this surgery because I think that it’s the tool I need to be healthier, and if I follow the program like I’m supposed to, no only will I gain health, I will gain confidence. That’s what I really fantasize about the most– being a confident woman who loves her body at any size.

So I have to be really careful and intentional about this whole thing. I am still in recovery for my eating disorder– that is my burden pretty much for the rest of my life. I’m not letting that get in the way of my happiness or my health.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 24

What is your favorite season, and why?

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Autumn. All the way. I love the way that the leaves crunch beneath my shoes! The weather is beginning to cool (as much as it can, given where I live– we don’t get so many seasons here), and although it rains it’s not everyday, and the smell of the rain mixed with grass and leaves is just so calming. Have you ever just breathed deep when you’re outside in the rain? And sometimes I imagine the raindrops as little blessings from the goddess or whoever is up there and in control of the weather.

Being in the middle of an extreme drought, I’m especially grateful and appreciative of rain since we’ve had so little in the past few years. When I get the chance to walk in the rain it feels like a baptism, or an anointing. I don’t know, it just feels really spiritual, like I’m being touched by the Divine. Perhaps that’s because we’ve been getting so little rainfall I just forget what it feels like to have raindrops falling on my face. While we’re on the subject, I really REALLY wish I lived in a place with actual seasons! I live in the Bay Area of California– the temperature doesn’t really stray from a range of 50 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, so we never really have winters, just grey springs and foggy summers (and crunchy autumn leaves sometimes). I wanna live somewhere that has snow in the winter! I want to live somewhere with real deal autumn leaves, and a recognizable transition from winter to spring.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 22

Do you practice as a solitary or with others?

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How do I find another group like this?

I basically practice as a solitary. This is not necessarily by choice, but more because I don’t know if I will feel comfortable in a community. I’m an anxious person in general, so trying new things is hard for me, especially when other people are involved. I also worry about being accepted/feeling safe as a queer woman of color. I don’t mean physically safe, I mean more emotionally safe, like I feel safe enough to allow myself to be vulnerable as we do ritual together. I don’t want to feel like I’m out of place, like I don’t belong, and that’s what’s keeping me from reaching out to any groups in the area.

I am also basically the only pagan in my family, meaning that my rituals are outside of the norm and that my religious leanings are different than theirs. I would love for them to participate if they wanted to, but I understand that for some of my family, doing any ritual that is marked as “pagan” means it is in conflict with their own faith. I don’t know if I agree with that, but I respect their choice and I don’t want to rock the boat. I’m all for interfaith work, but I won’t force people to participate in something they don’t feel comfortable with, you know? So I end up doing a lot of ritual on my own, when no one is around. It can be really hard for me to do ritual or celebrate a Sabbat by myself because I really like doing ritual with other people. I especially love celebrating holidays with my family. I’m used to celebrating holidays with a huge meal with a lot of people in attendance, eating and drinking and laughing and maybe arguing. Maybe we go see a show, or we go watch a parade, or we have a holiday dinner at a restaurant. It doesn’t matter what exactly we do, as long as we do it together.

I can’t do that with paganism. It’s too “out there” for most of my family. I really struggle with ways to create an interfaith celebration with participation beyond just me and Kourtney, and I know an outright pagan affair is just not in the cards (and honestly, I don’t want it that way– I would much rather do an interfaith celebration). So then the issue becomes figuring out how to celebrate in an interfaith space, and also creating ritual that is meaningful for me as a solitary practitioner. No easy feat for me.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 20

How do you navigate the Holiday Season and other holidays in an interfaith family?

Ooh, the dreaded Holiday Season. I think this one is hard for any person who has converted from Christianity to another religion or spiritual practice. Celebrating coc8Christmas is totally ingrained in my brain, it’s part of my cultural history and it HARD TO SHAKE. And when I first broke away from the church I really wanted to go cold turkey. I was ready to completely stop celebrating Christmas, and that meant no more sending Christmas cards, no Christmas carols, no tree decorating, nothing. It’s not that I didn’t like the holiday! It was really my own way of separating myself from Christianity. And what better way than to quit Christmas, the most celebrated christian holiday on the books (let’s be honest, Easter doesn’t really compare). I wanted to really commit myself to my new-found pagan religion and make Sabbats a priority over other holidays. It was really a way of saying, “I’m pagan! Not Christian!” I even wrote about it on my other blog, to really drive the point home.

It totally backfired.  Continue reading

Blog Post Delays

So I’m a little behind on my blog posts for 31 days of Paganism. It’s not that I don’t want to write. I actually like writing these posts because I really want to share my thoughts with others it actually helps me solidify my practice.

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Google Authenticator app.

Right now my wordpress account has a two step authentication process when I log in. This is for the security of my account, and it’s connected to my personal phone. You use an app to generate a random number, which you enter into the log in when prompted, and then gives you the option to have it remember the device and code you’re using for 30 days. That’s what I’ve done with my work computer and my personal phone. Which is fine, except last month my phone was stolen. I had to erase all my data on that phone so no one would gain access to my passwords, credit cards, etc. When I got my new phone, I realized that I couldn’t use the authenticator app because it had erased my data, and I needed a backup code to log back in.

Easy enough, except I couldn’t find the damn code list! So I was basically only able to access my account on my work computer. Which is fine, except I barely have time to post when I’m at work, because I’m…. working. Long story short, I’m behind on my posts. I promise I WILL get caught up, and I’ve finally figured out out to get new codes and disable the two-step authentication (for now) so I can get into my account again. I’m hoping to get caught up this week.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 17

Where do you like to do ritual?

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I typically do ritual in front of my personal altar. The one above is actually our family altar, which was decorated for Halloween/Dia de los Muertos (family tradition).

I would love to do ritual outside, by the light of the moon. There’s a really nice, quiet park just down the street that would be perfect for it. But it closes at sunset, and I don’t want any confrontation with the law, especially when I’m trying to do spiritual work.

Kourtney with her flower offering

Kourtney with her flower offering

Although it’s not necessarily a pagan ritual, sometimes we– and by we I mean me, Kourtney, my mom and our friends Joanne and Katherine and Tashi– go to Limantour Beach for the full moon. We get there mid-day and right before it gets dark we’ll light a fire and eat snacks and enjoy the ocean. We usually bring offerings to the ocean (like flowers or biodegradable things that aren’t like super harmful to the ecosystem there), and sometimes we’ll write something that we want to happen in the next month on pieces of paper and then burn them, so that our intent is known to the universe. The beach is a great place to do ritual, in my opinion.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 16

What types of rituals do you incorporate in your life cycle events?

I really don’t like the way I phrased this question. I think it should say something like, “tell us about pagan ritual for life cycle events” or something like that. Oh well. You can incorporate pagan ritual into any life cycle event, and there are lots of people out there that have written beautiful rituals for those occasions. But honestly, there’s not one way to do any of those events. There’s not standard book of ritual that all pagans refer to when planning a wedding or preparing for a funeral. That can be freeing, because you get to be creative and incorporate your faith in whatever way you see fit without feeling so much pressure to do it “the traditional way”. Because there really is no traditional way in modern paganism. The elaborate rituals that we imagine our ancestors doing thousands of years ago are mostly lost, so most of what we do is new. That’s not to say that there are not rituals out there that have stood the test of time, that we still use today. I’m just saying that there are more opportunities to be creative. Whatever. What do I know?

October 26, 2014. Our Wedding Day.

October 26, 2014. Our Wedding Day.

I’ve had few life cycle events happen to me since I’ve become pagan. Kourtney and I did incorporate handfasting in our wedding ceremony when we got married, which as I mentioned before was mostly her idea. But that’s not the only pagan wedding ritual out there. Now that we’re married I’ve been thinking a lot about future life cycle events like pregnancy, childbirth, welcoming new life into the community and then even farther down the road, puberty/coming of age. And of course, eventually death. There are thousands of ways to honor, celebrate and/or recognize these major events in our lives. The problem for me that I’m just not that creative! I actually prefer having just a few options to choose from, and tweaking anything that I just can’t handle as is. I can appreciate having standardized traditions and rituals for this reason– for me it’s not about everyone doing things the same way, it’s kind of about using time-tested ritual. Not having to try to create something brand new. Having something pre-made can be like a lifeboat in a sea of chaos for people going through a major life event. I mean, have you ever planned a wedding? I have. It was madness. I can’t really imagine being pregnant, trying to plan a naming ceremony from scratch at the same time I’m trying to learn all about how to be a good parent and take care of a helpless human.

All this to say that, I think it can be hard sometimes as a pagan to not have a standard way of doing things. Ultimately it’s worth it, because you create things that are incredibly meaningful and tailored to fit your own spiritual needs. But sometimes the time tested stuff is just as fulfilling. This post doesn’t have any ritual examples, or tips for what to celebrate and when– you’ll have to go elsewhere for that. But lucky for you (and me), there are lots of people out there who are diligently creating meaningful ritual for those of us that maybe aren’t as creative, or don’t have the energy to devote to crafting a ritual right just now.