Something I’ve struggled with a lot in my life is recognizing that I have value of any sort. My therapists have fought tooth and nail – just as hard as my friends and family – to get me to acknowledge my right to exist (which is a tall order for someone whose father blatantly resented her existence). My current therapist has taken up a new battle in trying to get me to stop apologizing for everything. She noticed right from the get go that I always preface everything with a disclaimer of some sort, which is something that I’m sure has been noticed in this blog. So many things I’ve written have been self-discounted with statements like, “I know this is crazy,” “Yeah, I’m insane,” and “This is nuts, but…”
I need to stop doing that. I’ve worked way too hard to get where I am, and I need to stop devaluing my experiences and myself.
Yesterday, I continued the ECT high by wandering around the trails at my favorite hiking spot with a great friend, telling her about what she’d missed and why she needs to attend next year. S was enthralled by the intense experiences so many of us had had at the place where the gods’ power is so concentrated and amplified. She eventually remarked on something she’d noticed when she came to my kindred’s midsummer celebration. She’d been late in arriving, but she’d shown up just in time for me to say my bit at the blót, and she was there for the sumbel when I opened it with a lengthy toast to Loki. Half of the time in regular conversation, I steal Statler’s “words: how do they work?” quip because I trip over my own thoughts pretty regularly. But when discussing the gods, addressing them in ritual, I change. S said she was so excited to see me speak in ritual setting, saying, “There she is. That’s who she really is. This is what she’s meant to be doing, and she’s exactly where she belongs.”
She’d echoed the sentiments of a lot of beloved friends at ECT – so many people whom I adore and respect told me they were thrilled to see me so vibrant and alive there, and were proud of me for thriving and absolutely beaming in the presence of the gods and the community. Shadow Spouse had been saying the same since last year’s ECT. Last month, he took it a step further: “It amuses me that for so, so long, you were afraid of joining the community when you’re such a strong part of it. You do realize that you’ve been a part of this specific community since you were 9 years old, right?” he said, referencing the Impossible Story from last year. “This community has been protecting you since you were nine. You finally joining us was inevitable.”
Yup. Shadow Spouse is great at nuclear strikes. It’s why I love him so.
When I’m with my community, whether at large events or one on one, I don’t need to give disclaimers about my spiritual experiences or identity. Everyone has similar experiences, and there’s an unspoken understanding that what we say might sound absurd and outrageous to those who don’t know our gods, and especially to those who have never had direct communication from any kind of deity. But when we speak, we’re really talking about shared experiences, the way cousins might compare notes about what weird Uncle Larry said at Thanksgiving dinner.
Statler isn’t heathen, but she certainly listens to me ramble about it a lot. She’s never given me side eye or any other indication that what I say is psychotic. If anything, she’s weirded out by how normal it all sounds. And when I think about it, there’s only one person who’s ever discouraged me from talking about it, because her own path was so fraught with uncertainty and vagueary and struggle that she came to the conclusion that there is no greater power. I never really felt comfortable talking about the specifics of my daily spiritual practice with her anyway because I knew it wasn’t anything she wanted to hear about, and I respected that. But everyone else – family, friends, strangers? – everyone else has been absolutely accepting of my religious babble. As S acknowledged, my spiritual life IS my life, and there is absolutely no way to separate my devotion to the gods from my identity. Yes, I was raised heathen, though it was a casual form diluted through the generations, the way many families tend to approach the religion of their predecessors. But since the age of 18, I’ve worked incredibly hard to develop and enrich my relationships with my God Squad on my own terms, and I’m tired all the time because of how much energy I devote to them. I’m not going to change that, because it’s a good kind of tired, and I’m often so enraptured by the experiences I have. Gift for a gift is real, and it’s worth it.
So why do I apologize and subtly discount so much of what I say when I chat with people? Because I don’t know their experiences with spirituality, and my own experiment with Christianity gave me a taste of what it’s like to have a distant relationship with deity. My mom eventually sent me to Catholic school so that I’d “learn what a big part of society believed and grew up with,” and I think that experience is what led to so many apologies from me for sounding crazy. I think I subconsciously assume that what I felt and knew during high school was what everyone felt and feels when it comes to religion, so OF COURSE I’m going to sound like a nutcase when I babble on about feeling Loki and Sigyn’s presence on the regular, the teasing banter we have, the way Odhinn rolls his eye when I pop a bottle of red and say, “Come and get it, you old bastard!”
My stories are especially fraught with disclaimers when I talk about my relationship with Loki. Because even within this community in which so many have such intense, direct experiences with the gods, godspousery is still a WTF kinda topic. I know this with absolute certainty because until last year, I thought it was a crock of shit. I still think of godspouses with a “right, sure, because you’re just that fucking special” reaction sometimes, and that includes myself. And yet… And yet. It’s not the path I chose, but it’s the one I’m on. I resisted it at first, when he proposed, because I thought I was losing my fucking mind. I made him wait while I tried to figure shit out, talked with very trusted friends, and sought divination from someone who wasn’t aware of the situation. And even then, I hesitated, because it’s a massive commitment. But it’s one I’m glad I made, because it’s made all the difference to me, a difference that has been noticed by my loved ones. Hey, what can I say, my favorite part about Catholicism was the devotion of the nuns, and I’d always aspired to dedicate my very life and being in that way. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my dire need for health insurance, I’d absolutely withdraw into monastic life. That’s how strongly I feel about my relationships with my gods.
One of the biggest takeaways from ECT this year is my place and worth in the community. I was surrounded by people who have intense, direct communication with the gods, who dedicate their lives to their faith, who see me as a good companion on the path we’re on. I delighted with Loki and Sigyn about the love they were given, the support offered that has been increasing over the years. I felt their ecstasy, and I was too human to process their joy gracefully (good grief, it’s been a week and I still feel dehydrated from all of the sobbing!). I got validation and acknowledgement from both of them about my role in the community and my relationships with them. Odhinn just felt relieved because I’m not clinging to the tail of his cloak anymore (what was more annoying to him, do you think – me nagging him all the time, or Loki bitching and whining to him about my obliviousness?).
I know my role. I know my place in the community. I’ve got enough self-awareness that I don’t speak with authority, because I can only speak based on my own experiences throughout my life and my own personal understanding of the lore. But I’m not going to apologize anymore for being a self-described religious fanatic. I’ve worked too hard to build the relationships I’ve got, to become what I am, to continue discounting my own life. My heathenry is my identity, and my identity is heathen – take that away, and I’m just a shell, as I was when I tried my hand at Christianity in high school. When I withdraw from my family and friends, I withdraw from my gods; I ignore them and block them out even as they’re trying frantically to get through to me, and that’s when I get suicidal. I cannot separate myself from my spirituality because it’s who I am. Loki is in everything I do. He always has been, even when I didn’t realize. There is no separating a single aspect of my life and identity from Loki and my God Squad.
What I am: I am heathen. I have direct two-way communication with my gods and, occasionally, my ancestors. I am godspoused to Loki, and everything I do is for him and with him, influenced by him, because I am dedicated to being a conduit for his energy. I am a priestess of Sigyn, and I cherish her friendship and kinship, and I want others in the community to have the chance to know her.
What I am not: I am not crazy. I am not delusional. I am not psychotic. I speak of all of the above openly and freely with friends and strangers alike, and if I were crazy or mentally disturbed (beyond depression/PTSD, that is), I’m sure my primary care physician, my psychiatrist, or my therapist would have said something by now. They don’t. They’re just as enthralled by my talk about my faith as my friends are, and my therapist has actually taken Loki’s side on quite a lot and told me I need to listen to him more. Statler has said the same. A lot of people have said the same. Because Loki (and Sigyn) seem to genuinely want me to thrive and flourish and be happy, just as my friends do. And owning my existence and all it entails without apology is a damn good start to being able to thrive.
Shit. Took me long enough. Boy, is my therapist going to be pleased.