Two may not seem like a huge number, but it’s a big number for me and my family.
Two is the number of months I have before summer break, but it’s actually less than that.
Two is the number of graduate classes at Clemson that I plan on taking this summer, if I get in, and I should find out in approximately two days. One of them is on Genetics and the other is Ecology. I’m working towards my +30 to get a raise, and this will put me 3 hours short of being half way done.
Two is the number of months old my goddaughter is, and I’m super excited about keeping her for two days on Friday and Saturday while her mother works.
Two is the number of days that Erin took off work for her surgery where she had two procedures done: one to remove a tooth, the other to free a tooth and tie it to her braces to move it into place. I’ve been playing nurse all day to help her recover from the surgery, which was this morning. She very much on the mend now, which is excellent.
Two is the number of the next anniversary Erin and I will be sharing. She’s currently the longest continuous relationship that I’ve ever had. It took me a long time to get to a point where I understood what it meant to be in a relationship, in a partnership. It took me a long time to stop settling for what I thought I deserved and start waiting for what I knew I did, and when that happened, Erin walked into my life. We started dating, officially and exclusively, in February of 2013, and it’s been the most amazing year and two months of my life.
Two is the number of years Erin has left before she gets her Masters degree and her Board Certified Behavioral Analysis Certification. Her classes start on Tuesday and she’ll graduate in August 2016. After that, we might end up anywhere in the country depending on where her job takes us. I love the south, but I miss Massachusetts. I miss equality. I know, eventually, that the laws will change. As a teacher, I’m out at my job, but I’m unable to be on the front lines anymore. Anyone in my position, who has a state job, in South Carolina is in the same boat at me. It’s just the way things are. Don’t get me wrong, I love the south, but I’ve lived here almost my entire life, and I’m ready to try somewhere else again; however, if Erin’s job remains here, I won’t complain. I’m excited to take the journey anywhere it takes us (She said there’s a lot of jobs in Charleston, and living on the beach would be amazing, but it can all change in two years).
And finally, two is the number of years before weddings and babies start happening, but I’ll write more on that when the times comes. 2016 is going to be a big year!
Modern Mythology: Using the Bible as Kemetic Myth.
Erin and I watched The Prince of Egypt tonight. Growing up, and to some extent even today, it’s one of my favorite movies. There’s good music and good animation and good writing and it’s extremely upbeat, so what’s not to love? The Exodus is actually my favorite story from the Bible. It’s the first one I actually read growing up that I loved and would read over and over again.
But, honestly, I always feel a little dirty about enjoying it so much. It slams the Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews. It uses Moses, a Hebrew, to show how the God of the Bible is stronger than the Gods of Egypt. It makes the Egyptians look down right evil. And as a Kemetic and a follower of the Egyptian Netjeru, it feels a little wrong to enjoy a movie that is so obviously blasphemous and against my faith.
And, like all good believers coming to the defense of their God(s), Erin pointed this out to me by saying, “Doesn’t this movie make the Egyptians look really bad? I don’t like how it does that, it makes me a little upset.”
I responded with, “Well, evidence shows it never actually happened.”
So Erin replies, “You mean they made it up? They just out and out lied?”
I said, “No. Not really. No.” I channeled Galaxy Quest for a moment with my next comment, “It’s just a story that was used to show the might of their God over the might of the Ancients, who were in power. It would be like us telling the story of Gilligan’s Island and then believing it was real.” I realize now that a better metaphor would be to say something like creating a movie about World War II that involved a story that never happened and then believing it was true… Or that Jack Dawson (Titanic) really existed.
But it still makes the Ancients look bad, real or not, right? Yes, but that’s because the Ancients were bad in this story. Bare with me a moment… I want to back up.
Before we look at the meaning I see in the Exodus story, we need to see what the Bible says about its people, and for that, we go all the way back to Genesis.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2: 18-23, ESV
Here we see the God of the Bible clearly making His first man and woman. They have two children, Cain and Abel. So now the God of the Bible has exactly four people: Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel.
Then Cain gets married: “17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” - Genesis 4:17a.
Then Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, and he also had a son, “26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh.” – Genesis 4:26a.
Where did their wives come from?
Some might say that she was Cain’s sister, but I reject this idea. Genesis 5:4 says, “4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.” To me, and people will disagree, this verse implies that Adam had daughters after the birth of Seth, and Cain married before Seth’s birth.
I am a firm believer in the Gods choose you, and not the other way around. The God of the Bible “created” (aka, chose) his people, Adam and Eve, who then gave birth to the rest of God’s chosen people, the Hebrews. The Gods of Egypt “created” (aka, chose) their people, who created the Land of Egypt and gave way to a mighty nation. And we can say this of any of the empires of those times: their Gods chose them.
Cain’s wife, then, came from a different group of people. She was chosen by the God of the Bible to come be part of his group of people. There were/are different groups of chosen people. And this isn’t some foreign concept in the Bible because Joshua 24:15 (ESV) says, “15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
If you think it evil to serve the God of the Bible, then choose who you worship and serve. Maybe it’s the gods of your ancestors. Maybe it’s the Gods of the people who live here. But choose today. There were different faiths then, and Joshua didn’t think they were all that bad. He didn’t say, “Pick the Lord or you’ll go to Hell.” He said, “Even if it’s not the Lord, choose Someone.” He continues on a little later to say that the God of the Bible will do harm to you if you forsake Him; however, that’s only after He has done you good. Which says to me that if the God of the Bible chooses you, and you turn your back at that point after you have seen Him work in your life, then you deserve all the wrath and punishment you get.
So we’ve established that there were different groups that worshiped different Gods.
So now, let’s talk slavery.
The generally consensus is that slavery did exist in Ancient Egypt, but not in the way we imagine. The basic idea is this: there were slaves, but most of them were prisoners of war, and after they’d done their time, they were released. Slavery was a form of punishment rather than a way of life. Their workers were often paid.
The Ancient Egyptians believed in the concept of ma’at, of truth and justice and balance. Their lives revolved around upholding ma’at and shunning isfet (the opposite of ma’at). They had 42 purifcations/negative confessions that they had to pass in order to be granted access to the Aaru, paradise. Number 23 states, “I do not terrorize people.” The Ancients knew that causing fear or terror in others wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t upholding of ma’at. People were treated with dignity. Number 27 says, “I do not cause suffering.” Again, this isn’t something you would see in a world that involved the intense slavery of the Bible.
Slavery is a form of oppression that uses fear and causes suffering. Slavery would be in direct defiance of ma’at.
So now, let’s look at the Exodus from a Kemetic’s point of view. When I see the Exodus, I don’t see a group of people who have and worship a God greater than mine, who were freed from slavery because the might of the God of these people was so overpowering that the Ancients had no choice but to surrender. I don’t see a story that points to faith as an escape from oppression.
I see a story of a people who were in defiance of their Gods by causing suffering and fear, who were punished for their actions by another God, who was protecting His people.
So here’s the story, retold:
Once upon a time, the Egyptians, a strong and powerful race of people, decided it was time to expand their realm and push out their boarders. They had, living within their boundaries, a group of people. These people trusted the Egyptians with their safety and their livelihood. They came to live with the Egyptians many years before when one of their own, Joseph, had helped the Pharaoh save his people. As a thank you, the Egyptians allowed Joseph and his family to live in the lands of Egypt as honored guests.
But many years had passed since Joseph and his family first lived in Egypt. A new Pharaoh came to rule, and this Pharaoh wanted more. He wanted power. He wanted absolute rule, so he moved against these people, the Hebrews, and forced them into slavery. He starved and worked these people until they collapsed. He used them to build his temples and his home, pushing the boarders out and expanding his lands as much as possible.
And the Hebrews suffered. They called out to their God, who differed from the Egyptians’ Gods, begging for a savior to deliver them from the torment that the Pharaoh had laid upon them. Their God heard their cries and sent his people a man by the name of Moses.
When Moses arrived in Egypt and demanded that the Pharaoh release the Hebrews from slavery, the Pharaoh laughed and said no. Moses showed the Pharaoh the power of his God, so Pharaoh turned to his Gods to return the show of power. But the Gods of Egypt were angry with Pharaoh because he was in defiance of ma’at, the principle of truth and balance. By enslaving others, Pharaoh caused terror, fear, and suffering. They saw Pharaoh making rather than shunning isfet, and the Gods of Egypt saw the plight of the Hebrews and took pity of them for humanity’s sake. They showed their power to the Hebrew’s God, but only to let Him know They were there.
The God of the Hebrews was brutal. He brought plague, destruction and death to land of Egypt as punishment for their oppression, and when Pharaoh had finally had enough, he let the Hebrews leave with their savior and their God. But just as they reached the edge of Egyptian lands, Pharaoh changed his mind, and he went after the Hebrews, but he was punished once again as the Hebrews escaped across the sea.
When the waters hit him, Pharaoh awoke to see the death and destruction his actions had caused. He saw how the Gods treated oppression and enslavement. He saw how life would end if continued making isfet, and he knew immediately that to save his people and the land of Egypt, he must immediately change his ways. Pharaoh returned to him home, vowed to uphold ma’at in all his actions, and never again did he cause fear and suffering in his people.
So here the Gods allowed for Pharaoh’s punishment as a lesson that oppression and slavery, fear-mongering and terrorizing, are bad and a way of making isfet instead of ma’at. Here, the Gods and the Egyptians aren’t thwarted by the God of the Bible and the Hebrews, but they work together to teach Pharaoh a lesson is humanity and justice.
There’s an old saying, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s like a child’s anti-bullying mantra that follows along with the commonly known Eleanor Roosevelt saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Granted, this quote is disputed, but whomever said it had the same idea as the sticks and stones individual, and I hate to break it to you, but both of those are lies.
Words CAN hurt. Words may not be able to break your bones, but words can cause damage that, unlike your bones, may never heal.
I understand that to some people, it’s easy to just cut off when negative words come flying and know, without any doubt, that the words being shouted have less to do with you and more to do with the inner turmoil of the person saying them. I understand that some people have the ability to “not give their consent” so as to not “feel inferior,” but not everyone is capable of that. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can hurt you, too.
And what I think is possibly worse than being hurt by the words is feeling like you shouldn’t have been. Now, not only did the words hurt, but you hear “words will never hurt me” and “without your consent” floating around, so you add on the feeling of inferiority to the already hurt feelings. “Well, if I must really suck if this person says I do and I let it get to me. In fact, I probably double suck.”
Words have power, and it’s extremely important that we recognize that in our day-to-day lives.
Let’s define a word, shall we? Magic(k).
“The term “magic” is used in at least four different ways by Pagan authors. First, “magic” is used to describe practices which seek to project the magician’s will on the natural world by supernatural or occult means. (By “supernatural”, I mean those means which are not recognized by the natural sciences. By “occult”, I mean those means which are hidden from positivistic science.) Second, “magic” is used to express the feminist reclamation of women’s willpower (either symbolically or in practice). Third, “magic” is used to describe a form of psychotherapy that involves religious symbolism and ritual. Finally, “magic” is used to describe a “re-enchantment” of the world, meaning an expanded consciousness of the radically interconnected world of which we are a part.” – The Allergic Pagan
“Magic, also called witchcraft or sorcery, is simply the ability to create what you what through your desire and will. This is often called “manifestation through energy and intent.” [...] Magic and prayer are similar, in that both call on personal and divine power to change the world. The big difference is in how the two call on the divine. Most prayer calls on a god or goddess to change reality for the prayer. Magic calls on the divine to supplement or enhance the power of the caster. Magic encourages closeness and equality with deity, while prayer encourages a certain degree of separation.” – The Urban Pagan
Now, let’s define another word: Heka.
“Heka, which is commonly referred to as ‘magic’ in English, is about authoritative speech and also means “activating the ka”. To put it in laymen terms, heka is about words of any shape or variety. Spoken words, written words, signed words- just about any form of communication you can throw a stick at falls under heka.” – The Twisted Rope
“Heka is an abstract Name, embodying the concept that there is power in the spoken word – power which can be used for good or ill.” – Kemetic Orthodox
Heka is both a God and a concept, much like Ma’at. Heka is the personification of magic while heka is the actual magical spoken language. Typical magic is seen as a part of a ritual: a casting of a circle, raising of energy, communing with the Powers, to manifest something into being. Heka is using language, both spoken and written, to o the same thing, but without all the ceremony and ritual.
Now, I’m not saying that all heka occurs without ritual. Ritual is a good way to help us focus and center and concentration, but the real power doesn’t come from the ritual, it comes from the words.
Just like with ceremonial magic or traditional magic, there is varying degrees of heka: “Good heka,” “bad heka,” and “Somewhere-in-the-middle heka.” We can create a ritual and use heka as the means to an end, but heka isn’t something that happens just when we want it to. It’s something that happens every day. If you talk, you use heka. If you write or sign or communicate in any way, you use heka. Our communications have power, and it’s time we started “thinking before we speak” again.
How do we know, then, if we’re using heka properly? Look to the Gods for answers:
The Kemetic Negative Confessions/Purifications have pretty strict guidelines to keep you living in ma’at when heka is involved.
Purification 6: I do not distort speech.
Purification 8: I do not speak lies
Purification 14: I do not damage myself with lies.
Purification 18: I do not babble.
Purification 28: I am not spiteful.
Purification 32: I do not talk too much.
Purification 38: I do not cause grief.
I’m not going to go into details on all of these, but it’s important to remember what happens after a person dies (specifically a follower of Ancient Egyptian religion): Judgment. Upon death, you travel to the Duat where your heart is weighed against Ma’at’s feather of truth and justice. If you fail this test and your heart does not weigh the exact amount, your heart is eaten by Ammit and you cease to exist. If you pass, you move into Aaru, which is paradise.
Obviously, if you read the above purifications, negative heka equates to isfet (the opposite of ma’at), which leads towards a failed judgment upon death. So what does that mean in the most basic of terms?
To maintain positive heka: don’t lie, don’t speak badly of others, don’t hurt others with what you say, and don’t speak more than you need to. Maintain a positive attitude and thought, and listen more than you talk. When you speak to others, make sure you are speaking rationally and not lashing out. Be careful that your wording isn’t going to be misconstrued as something else. Think before you speak.
And finally, follow through with your words. If you say you will do something, actually do it, and don’t keep putting it off. Do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. Not only will this help you live a more positive life, but it will also inspire others to do the same.
This post was inspired by my friend, Misha. She gave me the idea when I put out a request on Facebook, and she’s someone I admire for always being positive and living her life the way more people should. When I asked Misha to define what she meant by living out loud, she responded by saying, “I define it by living my life in a way that might gives hope, light and truth to others. Leading and living by example.”
I came out when I was in high school. It wasn’t well received by some friends, family, the churches I attended and completely random people who didn’t know me but only heard about me. I came out 12 years ago. (Erin just informed me that makes me “old gay” because I’ve been out for a long period of time.) I swore up and down that I was absolutely DONE with high school. I hated my experience. I hated the feeling of being on the outside. I hated feeling judged. There was one teacher who was supportive of me, and I’m not even sure she really knew I was gay. She just cared about me a whole lot and always supported me, even after I graduated.
When I got to college (after I transferred twice), I joined a group that had some of the same judgmental personalities in it that I remembered from high school. And it drove me absolutely INSANE. How as a person supposed to feel loved and accepted if s/he couldn’t even find a place to FIT IN and the one place where s/he could fit in was still being as exclusive as every other place? I eventually told the adviser that the way the group was run was fucked up and that I wasn’t ever coming back.
I found most of my support from people who weren’t connected to the overall community or groups. These were individuals that were living their lives, not hiding who they were from the world. They gave me some of the best advice about friends, relationships, family, and success that I have ever gotten. These people weren’t out in the public eye proclaiming themselves to the masses. They were people who got up, went to work, inspired others on a daily basis by existing, and went home to their partners. And I loved and appreciate every single of one them.
But there’s a problem. These people, because they value their normal-quiet lives, are sometimes (but not always) difficult to find. In a previous blog, I talk about two types of people when it comes to breaking down barriers in minority groups. It’s slanted towards Paganism, but I talk about how it can fit any situation: That Baffled Look – Your Paganism is Showing.
The one group, the In-Your-Faces, are easy to spot because they live their life, literally, out-loud, but the Not-In-Your-Faces do the same, they just end up working their magic on a more one-on-one basis. When it comes to my pagan beliefs, I tend to be a more Not-In-Your-Facer, but when it comes to my sexuality, I have almost always been an In-Your-Facer. That was, until I started teaching high school.
I was out in college, an it was obvious. I had the short boy-hair cut. I passed for male for over a year without ever taking a single hormone (I’d get busted whenever I talked, so I perfected the head-nod-smirk-and-half-laugh). When I decided I wanted to teach (because I realized that I liked education and 16-year-olds, and that I was good at it), I knew that my boyish looks weren’t going to get me a job. I grew out my hair, and I started to purchase a lot of more feminine clothes. I wore make-up on a occasion. I went from being an out-and-proud soft butch to a semi-closeted chapstick-fem in 1.5 years. It created some MAJOR gender dysphoria for me, which I still deal with (but that’s another blog).
When I lived in Massachusetts, I was out in my program and at the school where I worked. My partner-at-the-time came to company parties and events, and everyone accepted us. When we moved back and I accepted a job where I currently teach, that all changed as well. My job became more important to me than living my life as a whole person. I was terrified that if I was found out (because I was on temporary contract) that I would be fired. It’s the South, you can’t ever be really sure.
At the end of that year, one my students asked me to attend a meeting at the school. It was all the “gay kids,” she said, and she didn’t want to go alone. When I went, I found out that there was a fairly large group of students who were struggling in the school. They were struggling to find acceptance. They were struggling to find support. They were struggling to make their student group exist. I told them I was there to help support if it was needed.
And at the start of the next year, they asked me to support them. They needed a faculty adviser. They needed an adult who was going to stand up for them when no one else would listen. And that’s when it hit me: this job isn’t about me. It’s about them. It’s about the students. It’s about fixing the school so that they don’t have to go through what I went through. It’s about making sure they always have at least someone, like I had someone, to talk to if they needed it.
I said yes. And that was the absolute, single most terrifying yes I have ever, ever said.
And since I said yes, I’ve gotten into the administration’s uncomfortable zone. I’ve felt like I would walk into school and be fired. I’ve fought for these kids, advocated for these kids, sat with them while they talked to the administration about how they were bullied, listened to their stories about their parents’ disappointed scowls and awkward questions.
This year, I took it one step further: I came out. I came out to the students, to my boss, to my coworkers. Now, there’s a lot of people here, so I’m not sure everyone has found out yet, but I’m not sure how that’s possible. I’ve taken my partner, Erin, to games. She’s come to the school, to my classes, met my students. The kids love her. My co-workers love her. I did it for the kids, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do it a little bit for myself.
For the kids, I came out because growing up… I didn’t see successful LGBT “normal” people in my daily life until I got to college. If I saw a gay person, they had dropped out of school or were struggling to make ends meet, usually because they had poor family support after coming out (because of the times, a lot of people weren’t out). If I saw a successful gay person, it was on TV and completely unattainable. I came out to my students and my job because they deserved to see someone who was successful. They deserved to see someone who graduated from college, got a Master’s degree, was in a stable, successful relationship, and was gay. I wanted them to have hope that, even if the family support wasn’t there, that there was hope.
But I also came out for myself because hiding who you are and being forced to lie isn’t fun and it isn’t spiritually healthy.
Being the out-advocate that I am had led to many spiritual questions, and I’m sure teaching science hasn’t helped. My kids know that I’m not a Christian, but I believe in a higher power. They never ask for details, and I never get into it. I’m sure that day will eventually come, and I’ll have another round of coming out stories to tell everyone, but until then, I live my life as a Pagan, and I haven’t denied it once.
Living Out Loud, as my friend calls it, isn’t at all easy. In fact, it borders on absolutely terrifying, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it has made me more spiritual and more connected than I ever thought it possible. The Gods have blessed me for being myself, but I think that’s all They wanted in the first place.
When I was a kid, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until I grow up because everything will be perfect. I’ll have my own house, and I’ll have a job I love, and I’ll go on all these trips to these exotic places, and I’ll eat out whenever I want because being an adult is AWESOME.” My parents made it seem fairly effortless, but I think that’s part of the deal of being an adult: you don’t show just how much it really sucks. And I see it in my students all the time: they want to move out and get a job and drop out of school. There’s always that day where it gets really bad, and I have a lesson prepared for just that day where I go through what bills look like and how much money a person has to make to be able to live comfortably.
They always give me the same terrified look and make comments about how they had no idea that being an adult was so expensive. Generally, they come to the conclusion that dropping out is NOT the smart choice for them or what they want to do, and I’ll see a change (even if it’s only for a month or so before we’re right back where we started). Now, I understand that high school isn’t for everyone, but a lot of these kids don’t realize that a diploma can mean the difference between minimum wage and a living wage when it comes to the job market.
The point is this: being an adult is expensive, and it’s not something that ever really stops happening. Money is always going to be needed, and it’s one of the most common reasons that couples fight. And gay couples are no different.
I’m a teacher, so the amount of money I earn is not proportional to the amount of work and effort that I put into my job; however, it is NOT a bad salary. I make enough to support myself and the majority of my family. I’m not saying that Erin doesn’t help out because she definitely pays her share of the bills, but I’m the current bread-winner right now (although that will probably change at some point in the next two to three years).
We live on a budget, and it’s probably the budget that prevents us from fighting about money like I did with my exes. We know how much we have at all times, what we can use it for, and what we have left over for fun. We don’t go spending money on frivolous items that we want but don’t necessarily need right now (like we both want kayaks because we kayak A LOT in the summer, but we have more important things to spend money on right now rather than kayaks, so we aren’t going to blow our money on something like that).
We have had our share of unexpected bills (car needs a new X, Y or Z or some medical bill creeps up on us) that left us thinking that we weren’t going to make it, but because we budget as well as we do, we always have the money that we need to pay our bills. We are definitely not in any bad shape! But when those bills creep up, it can leave us both feeling stressed. In the past with my exes, it would start a fight (mainly because I couldn’t afford the extravagant spending of the other and the other wasn’t willing to get a better job that paid more/second job).
So when these situations arise and there’s an unexpected bill or other stress that’s threatening our happiness, what do we do?
1) Stop focusing inward on yourself.
Don’t become consumed with your thoughts so much that you stop realizing where you are and who you’re around. You’re in a partnership. This means that you and the person you are with are supposed to be working together to accomplish your goals and their goals. If something comes up, the first person you need to turn to is your partner. Not your friend. Not your boss. Not your parents or siblings. Your partner.
If the problem/stress is your partner, you may want to think long and hard about why you’re still with them. If it’s something minor, then you have to talk to them and work through it. If it’s something major, it may be time to get out.
Your partner, if they’re in it like you’re in it, will respond to you and help you. They probably already realize that you aren’t happy and that something is bothering you.
2) Approach your partner by focusing on yourself.
But I just told you not to focus on yourself, didn’t I? No. I said not to focus INWARDLY on yourself. When you have a problem or something is stressing you out that you need to talk to your partner about (whether it’s money or something else), start the conversation with an I-statement. “I feel really stressed out. I’m worried about X, Y, Z. I’m scared about blah, blah, blah.”
This takes the conversation off of your partner and focuses it on you and your wants and needs. It lets your partner know that you aren’t blaming them for your stress but that you’re trying to seek comfort from them.
3) Listen carefully and offer reassurance.
If your partner comes to you with concerns, make sure you listen to them fully. It takes a lot of courage to open up and be vulnerable with another person, so if your partner comes to you in this way, realize that it wasn’t easy. Especially if this isn’t something that happens often. When they’re done talking, the first thing out of your mouth needs to be something reassuring and positive, even if you aren’t 100% where to go.
For example, if your partner comes to you with concerns about an unexpected bill, you could say something along the lines of, “It’s okay. We’ll get through this like we always do, and the money will be there when we need it.” Then you could sit down and reassess your budget and see where you can get the money from. (Maybe you give up going out to dinner once or twice, like if you go out once a week, you can go every other week.) You can call the company to work out payment options/plans or something else.
4) Finally, follow through.
If you made plans or changes to your budget, make sure that you follow through with them. If you decided to do something to relieve the other’s stress, make sure that you do it. If you don’t follow through, the stress level will come back worse than when it started for a couple reasons: one, it’s the previous stress that didn’t fully go away with the plan but was just suppressed by the ideas of how to fix things, and two, now you have the new stress of being unable to follow through like you should.
People generally do not like a person who cannot follow through. It adds more stress to the others involved.
One of the hardest things, I think, in a relationship is communication. But not just any communication: tough communication. That communication you have when things are going well or when you have doubts or concerns or misunderstandings. Well, as silly as this might sound, practice having tough conversations so that you know how to handle those situations when the real tough stuff starts happening.
About two years after my ex and I broke up, I got involved with a girl I probably shouldn’t have. She and I weren’t compatible, but I thought she was funny and cute. When things didn’t go well there, I started to feel like I was losing myself again like I had while I was with my ex. I decided it was time to go and talk to someone, so I went and found this absolutely amazing woman who helped me work through my inability to say “no” to people who weren’t healthy for me.
She made a stipulation that if/when I got back into dating, the person I was interested in would come and sit down with the two of us and we’d talk to make sure we wanted the same things and had similar goals. When I met Erin and we decided we wanted to start dating (aka, she asked me out and I said yes), she agreed to go with me. We were given “conversation tools” to help us talk through any concerns that we had and told we had to practice them X amount of times before we came back.
What ended up happening was pretty amazing. I would think of things that I knew would bother me: money/finances, clingy-ness vs. independence, etc. We’d run through the scenarios like good students and it would spark these wonderful conversations about stuff that we knew would bother us based on past relationships we’d been in. We ended up doing so much talking about areas where we might have problems that once we started actually dating, those areas were no longer areas for concern.
It’s resulted in absolutely no fighting. No fights in the entire 13 months we’ve been together and the 18 months we’ve known each other. When there’s an area that we’re stressed about or something that we have a concern over or something that we want, we talk about it then and there and come to a compromise if we need to. We never raise our voices. We never scream or shout at each other. We never fight.
Fighting is pointless and destructive. It can create rifts between couples that words and apologizes and make-up sex cannot mend. Fighting isn’t the answer to disagreements, and if screaming or shouting happens, I’m going to feel like this isn’t a relationship that is healthy for me to be in. Now, I realize that all couples are different, and if screaming and shouting is what works for you and yours, then okay… but that’s a lot of negativity that you could convert into something more positive, and I’d almost wonder if that’s not something you should try doing.
The key to a stable and happy relationship is good communication before, during and after any “problems” or “stresses” arise. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun, but just like unexpected bills and other parts of being an adult… These situations are not likely to every fully go away. Something new will always happen, and how you react and deal and face that situation with your partner will greatly determine your happiness level moving forward.
When I was thinking about this letter, I was coming up blank. I did my first default thing to do when I come up blank on ideas and that was check the official prompt list. And I read it and thought, “Oh… Gaia… God… Goddess… I wonder if there are any Kemetic gods that start with G that I might want to write about…” So I Googled and came up with exactly one: Geb.
Now, maybe I’m a bad Kemetic, but I don’t know every single Kemetic God and Goddess out there. I might recognize a name, but when it comes to actually knowing the intimate details of this or that God or Goddess’s life, I’m going to draw a lot of blanks. I mean, I don’t know a lot of my distant cousins’ names either. And Geb is definitely NOT on my list of close deities.
For one, he’s one of the oldest Gods there is. He comes from a long line of even older Gods. He’s a major player in one of many creation stories. His parents, Shu and Tefnut, and his sister-wife, Nut are all responsible for the creation of the world itself. Geb and Nut’s children are said to be the Gods that mediate between humans and the higher powers (Wesir, Aset, Set, and Nebthet).
As the story goes, Geb fell in love with Nut and they married without Ra’s, their grandfather’s, permission. This pissed Ra off, and he cursed them to be permanently separated from each other. Geb was so upset that he cried the rivers and oceans into existence. This explains why the sky and the Earth never touch. Ra also cursed Nut to be unable to give birth on any day of the year, and there’s a whole other story that goes along with that leading up to the Kemetic New Year, but I can talk about that in another post.
Here’s what I find absolutely most interesting about Geb: he’s Father Earth. In a world where we almost universally believe that Earth is sacred feminine, Goddess energy and Mother Earth, we find that the Kemetics’ seemingly have it backwards: Earth is most decidedly male and sky is most decidedly female. In my Western mind, this didn’t make sense, and I’ve spent a few days really thinking about why Earth is male here.
I honestly prayed about this because it took everything I knew and understood about a fundamental part of what is considered traditional Paganism and turned it completely upside-down. I had always known the Earth as this feminine body where life grew out of Her. Life comes from the planet. We see this every day: plants sprout flowers and leaves, new creatures are born, the season change and the cycle continues. The bringers of life area always female, and the Earth was the bringer of life.
But then I read something that really got to me: the Ancient Egyptians believed that life came from water. And then suddenly this made a whole lot more sense. The Earth provided a place for life to occur and live out its days, but the life itself had to be given water before it actually came forth. The Ancients relied on the flooding of the Nile river. If the river didn’t flood, their crops wouldn’t grow, and the people would starve. Their whole entire way of life was built on this idea.
In fact, in the creation myths, the primordial waters from which all life came were all female (Mut, Nit, etc). Now, there’s Nun as well, but according to the Kemetic Orthodox website, ” Nun, when personified, is referred to as the “Father of Fathers and the Mother of Mothers.” Nun is both male and female, it seems. I’m still learning a lot about all of this, so bare with me while I work through the details in other posts. (I tried to make a family tree of everyone this week. Crash. And. Burn.)
So here’s how I see it: When there’s new life, there’s water. The Nile would flood: Life would grow. Water plants: Life grows. But it goes past that as well into the human realm (not just with plants). If you’ve never witnessed a live birth before, take my word for what I am about to say: human babies are born into this world through a lot of liquids. That baby comes out and there is a lot of fluids that come with it. I realize that this isn’t water exactly, but it definitely includes some water.
The Ancients were so hyper focused on water and the need for water that it’s not surprising that they associated the water with the female-divine. And honestly, this makes a lot of sense to me. The Earth can provide life, but only if water is there to give it. When we give offerings to the Gods to sustain Them, we give them wine and milk and water. And we give them bread (which you had to make using water or some other liquid).
Don’t get me wrong: I can still see the other point of view that the Earth is female and the Sky is male (providing water to help the Earth grow the life she needs to), but at the same time, I can also see the Earth as male now. I like the creation myths of the Ancients, where there was no life or anything but the primordial waters, and then life came out of the waters in the forms of different Gods and Goddesses followed by the rest of life that exists today.
In some aspects of paganism, the element of water is considered feminine energy and connected to emotions, so in the respect, if we’re talking feminine as the energy that physically brings forth life, then water would be connected to that idea. Earth is the same way in this aspect, but with the Kemetics, it’s all about duality: male and female counterparts.
It all comes down to this: When the Ancients saw they Earth and they saw the Water, they had to rationalize which was the feminine energy and which was not. The water was associated with the flood and then life coming immediately after this occurrence (just like with human birth), so the water (which fell from the sky, Nut) became associated with feminine energy, making the Earth (the counterpart) masculine in the form of Geb.
There’s a lot of woman-talk in here, which is part of my gender-identity that I struggle with a lot on multiple different levels… This is just one of those levels.
This blog was inspired by another blogger, Ooh Chiara, called inFertility, or “When your ovaries don’t want to work.” It’s pretty awesome, so you should read it.
I am a firm believer in what I’ve come to call “The Gods’ Plan.” I think that has a lot to do with being raised Presbyterian (aka, God’s Chosen). When I was growing up, my family, being very devote PCUSA members, always reminded me that I had follow God’s plan for me since it was already laid out. When I told my dad what I wanted to be when I grew up, he said, “Now, you need to make sure that’s what you were put on this Earth to do. You need to really think about it and make absolute sure that’s what you’re job is supposed to be.” It’s something I can’t really shake, and it’s something I’ve carried over with me into my faith as a Pagan.
I think it’s because I like the idea and what it means. It implies that the Gods always have my back as long as I am faithful. It implies that when I feel lost, the Gods will be there to guide me and help me on my journey. It implies that things will turn out okay in the end of it all. The Gods having a plan for me gives me a lot of hope for the future, and I can look back on my past and see how that plan has led me directly to a better future.
Even the worst of all my past relationships have led me directly into the arms of my current love. I have so much more to be thankful of when it comes to my past, so I don’t spend time anymore being angry about it. And I was angry for a long time, but then I started thinking about the Gods’ plan, and I realized that I have no reason to be angry, only thankful.
The Gods’ Plan also makes way for something else to go away: fear.
Let me back up. When I was in high school, I went for a yearly check up with a gynecologist, as all women do (or should do, really, although I haven’t been recently, so I’m not one to talk). I hadn’t had a period in two months, and I was worried about something being wrong. The doctor, of course, thought my tears meant that I was pregnant and just didn’t want to admit it because I was so young. I got so fed up with him about it that I said, “Doc, unless it’s the next messiah, I’m NOT pregnant.” He finally let off it.
At the end of the appointment, he said, “You aren’t ovulating, which is why you aren’t having any monthly cycles. It’s probably because of your weight. Different women have different weight thresholds, and you’ve just reached yours. If you want to get your fertility back, then you need to lose weight.”
I thought that was a pretty cop-out answer (because I knowz allz the medicals), so I didn’t change my habits. Eventually, I saw another doctor, who diagnosed me with PCOS, but he never saw any cysts, never told me that was what I had, and never treated me for it. The only way I found out that was what I had was it was in my records and on my paperwork. I was never treated.
After months stretched into years of not having a cycle, I finally realized that having kids of my own was in the low percentile, and once that realization hit me, I fell into one of the worst bouts of depression I have ever experienced. One of the things I wanted out of life was my own kids. I wanted to experience the birthing process, feel what it was like to have a tiny human kick me from the inside, hear the heartbeat over a monitor, and see the tiny hands on an ultrasound screen. And each one of those dreams was crashing down around me.
I thought about fostering and adopting, but adoption worried me: what if the birth parents backed out? What if it took years to finally get placed? What if the state wouldn’t let me adopt because I was unfit? And where the hell is all that money going to come from? Adoptions are NOT cheap, and there is absolutely NO health insurance to help cover any costs. Some places in the south won’t even bat an eye at telling a lesbian couple to suck it when it comes to having a child through adoption. We’re two women in love, obviously we’re unfit for parenthood.
I’ve looked into different adoption options over the years: open adoptions, closed adoptions, adoptions from birth, adoptions through fostering. A little over a year ago, I was in process to take custody of a girl who was in a bad situation, but she ended up being placed back with her family. I hear these stories of friends and coworkers who just heard of a child who needed a placement and they were in the right place at the right time and now they have these amazing children.
Then I reached that age where Facebook goes from photos of nights out drinking and partying to new babies and smiling families. And it is NOT easy. It’s not easy when it’s something that you want so badly for yourself and it’s not a matter of when but a matter of if. I spent many, many nights crying over my infertility and the “you’re next!” comments from well-meaning friends and family. I would smile, but in the back of my head I was thinking, “Not me, not now, and probably not ever.”
I hear a lot of women who complain, a lot, about their monthly cycles: the up and down emotions, the pain, how annoying they are, how much they suck and how bad they feel. I’ll make some comment like, “Well, at least you have one.” And then it starts up the stream of, “Oh, you’re so lucky.” and “I wish I didn’t!” I’d smile and agree, “Yeah, I guess that’s true,” at first, but after awhile, it really started to get to me. Finally, I started saying, “I’d take having over not having one any day because I want to have kids and I can’t. Not having my cycle means I’m infertile. Every. Single. Month. that passes and I don’t get it again is another constant reminder of something I desperately want and can’t have.”
That was usually followed by some apologies and an uncomfortable silence. I spent a lot of time forgiving myself and learning that this didn’t make me less of a person. I spent a lot of time forgiving others for their well-meaning comments, and forgiving myself again for lashing out. I had to allow myself to feel angry and mourn for these children I wanted and expected but weren’t ever going to have. I cried a lot.
Two of my major Gods in my life, Ubasti and Bes, are associated with fertility, childbirth and children. I was so adamant to add Bes to Erin and I’s family altar downstairs that I searched for months for an idol before speaking to an artist and having this one to the right specially made.
When things got bad, and I got desperate for any sign of my fertility (usually months and months of nothing), I would pray, in tears, for something… anything. But the Gods don’t work on my schedule, They work on Theirs.
In the time since placing Bes on our altar, I’ve lost 30 pounds and seen some major health improvements that have led to a lot of hope surrounding my chances of having children in the future. I don’t know if it’s possible, but the hope is there. I’ve decided to trust in the Gods’ plans for my life.
For one thing: It’s not time. I know it’s not time. Erin should start her graduate program in April, and then it’s two years before she has her Masters and her BCBA. We’re working on getting our finances in line and our debt paid down. We’re wanting to get married first and have a wedding with all our friends and family. We want a stress-free honeymoon without having to worry about pregnancy or who’s going to watch our kids and make sure everything and everyone is taken care of before leaving.
We have so much stuff we want to accomplish in our next two years that children just isn’t on that list. School and being in better financial position are more important. I know people will say, “But you’ll never really be ready to have kids.” And that may be the case, but we can be more ready that we are now, which is not at all with Erin going back to school for her Masters and me getting some classes in over the summers for a promotion.
I honestly don’t know what my current fertility status is, but I do know this: It’s in the Gods’ hands. I have faith in Them and Their plan. All I can do is prepare and plan for the future as best I can because I can’t control what that future is. It helps keep all the overwhelming feelings of falling behind from surfacing knowing that my time will come, just not quite yet.
We ended up getting rained out of our hike, which is okay (we might try again for this weekend, but it depends on how I feel with this cough). I ended up coming down with one hell of a bug on Sunday too. I woke up coughing, aching and with a fever. I thought I had the flu, and I was freaking out because that would mean that I would miss a week of work (doctor’s orders), so my dad came over and gave me the flu test.
And let me tell you what… that thing is NOT fun. He stuck a swab so far up my nose, I swear it touched my brain. But in the end, it came back negative. We’re getting into crunch time with testing just around the corner, so I can’t afford to be out any more.
Which has made this week absolutely one of the most interesting weeks in my career. Talking is a large part of my job. I have to be able to be in front of the classroom to teach lessons, and I have to be able to communicate with students to help them when they need it. When I got sick on Sunday, I worried about how I was going to manage. It’s a 30:1 ratio in those rooms, and it can get loud quick.
I learned a lot about patience this week, and how to handle situations that aren’t going well without having to raise my voice to be heard. I also learned a lot about the kindness of teenagers, which is very few and far between, but they know when to stop being jerks and help me out, so it’s nice to know they care.
I made it to work every day this week. Monday and Tuesday were the worst, but every day I’ve gotten a little bit stronger. I still have this killer cough, but the fatigue has gone away.
And my kids have been amazing: all 135 of them. They keep asking me if I’m feeling better, and they’ve helped to get the class quieted down and focused, and they will listen to each other before they listen to me, so we’ve managed to get a lot done this week that I wasn’t expecting we’d be able to get done. There’s not much time left before the end of the year. We have April… and the May starts testing month… And then we get out on June 6th.
It’s been a tough week at work, but like always, the teenagers always seem to make it worth it. I had a horrible experience in high school because I was gay and out at the time, and it wasn’t well accepted. I did what I needed to do to do well and graduate, but it wasn’t like I was Ms. Popular or anything. I swore I’d never teach, especially high school, because of that… But this job, and these kids, continue to surprise me each and every day.
Every so often, usually when some messed up thing happens in someone’s life revolving friends or family, a video of Madea talking about friends and comparing them to a tree will pop up. It’s a good clip, but the part about the branches bugs me a little because it implies, to me, that certain people in the world are only out to hurt you, and I can’t fully believe that.
I think there’s two types of friends in life. There’s the type that are there for a short time, and those that are there for the long haul. And maybe “short” means a few days, weeks, months or years, but it’s still not the same as the friend that is there for you regardless of how often you talk or catch up. I think both friends and boy types of friendship are something to be valued.
Friends that are there for the “long haul” have celebrated the best times of your life and helped you through the worst. These are the people you can lean against when you can’t stand, and the people you call first to tell the good news. Maybe you talk to them every day, but sometimes, these are the people who you talk to on occasion. I have a few friends like this: we were very close in that we talked often when we were growing up or in school, but we’ve lost touch over the years. I still consider them friends even though we only talk once every year or every couple of years. I’ll see something that will make me think of them and send it to them in a text, e-mail or Facebook message, and we’ll talk and catch up and then maybe it’s another year before we talk again.
There’s a spiritual and emotional connection with those people that is hard to replace. They’re created by all the good times we shared that far outweigh the bad times. These are the people I call my family, even if we aren’t related by blood.
Everyone has good times and bad times in their life. If we can’t agree on anything else, I think we can agree on that. But there’s a distinct difference in bad situations that end positive and bad situations that end negatively. All bad situations eventually end, but how they end is how they differ. I’ve gotten into arguments with my friends before, but working through those arguments and apologizing when it needs to happen is what moved them from temporary friend to true friend.
Temporary friends, I believe, are there to teach you just one lesson, maybe two, before they move on and out of your life. Sometimes the moving on can hurt and sometimes it’s like they weren’t there to begin with. Whatever it is that happens, those people are there for a purpose. I believe everything thing and everyone has a purpose, and most of the time we don’t even know what that purpose is until after it happens.
That’s where faith comes in. Faith is the complete confidence or trust in someone or something, and it’s definitely not an easy thing to get, have or keep. When bad situations happen and I start feeling down, my faith that it’s going to end helps me through it. I don’t have faith that it will end positively, but I do have faith that it will end, which means something different can begin (whether good or bad). And that faith has gotten me through a lot of situations.
I think that even if we lose faith, that we’re still being carried and help through tough situations, whether it’s by family, friends or the Gods. And I think that all people are put into our lives for a reason.
When I was growing up, my family and I hit a rough patch surrounding my coming out. I ended up on a version of house arrest without any technology access or ability to leave (they took away my driving privileges by taking the battery out of my car). My home didn’t feel much like home for awhile (this was ten years ago and things have changed for the better), and I vowed that when I had my own place, it would be a sanctuary for people who needed it.
There’s an energy here of happiness and joy and calm. If you can’t have peace in your own home, where can you have it? Disagreements and differences are discussed rationally and calmly without fighting, and anyone is allowed to stay so long as the drama is kept at zero. My home is a sanctuary for all my friends and family who need it, regardless of the past.
I guess, in a way, that it’s a place people can have faith in because there’s a trust that it’s here for those that need it to be. I miss the times when I could just go to my neighbors, unannounced, and it was okay. Now, it feels like an intrusion to even think about doing that. Is that part of growing up or just a product of the times? Maybe a little of both. Change is inevitable, but at least I know I still have my sanctuary when I need it.
Erin and I went hiking on Sunday. Our friend lent us some hiking books, so we went through them and found a hike we thought looked good and then went for it. We took the dogs and managed to have them off leash (unless we were passing people, but that was rare). I love having well trained dogs: they come when called and we can let them hike without restraint knowing that they’ll come back when we call to them. It’s fantastic.
This hike was a short one, but we enjoyed it. And the entire time, we kept talking about the future and what we wanted. We talked about our plans for a family and different parenting techniques. We talked about what we wanted to accomplish before we got starting having kids: get married, go to Europe, hike Table Rock, etc.
We have, what I like to call, a couple-bucket-list. It’s a list of things we want to do together before things get “serious” in that we have kids. We know that once we have kids, we aren’t going to be able to just drop the kids off to hiking for a day (because this trip is supposed to take 7 to 8 hours, and that’s not including the drive to get there) or pack our entire family up for a few years to go to Europe (I wouldn’t want to take my kids there until they could appreciate it the way they should).
This area was very conducive to future-talking. The area was very pretty, the day was nice and warm. The ground wasn’t too soggy from the rain.
After our hike on Sunday, there was some bathing of puppies that need to happen before we went over to have dinner with my parents and my aunt and uncle who were in town. Once we got there, we told mom and dad about our desire to hike the Table Rock trail (it’s one of the most strenuous, if not THE MOST strenuous hike in South Carolina).
My parents both said what I was expecting:
Dad: I’ve done that hike twice, and mom’s done it once.
Mom: Yeah, before we had kids.
Dad: It’s a tough one… And it’s not exactly the safest hike around either.
After thinking about it, we decided that we were going to do it this weekend. I’m not sure if we’re going to do it Saturday or Sunday yet, but we’re going to do it this weekend. Table Rock’s Summit is one of the highest points in South Carolina at 3,157 feet above sea level. It has five stars for strenuous in pretty much every hiking book and website that I’ve seen, so it’s a little daunting, but we’re excited about it.
There’s something to be said about the spiritual awakening or feeling of accomplishment that comes with marking things off of a list of life-long goals, whether they’re travel related or local (education/home/family). And I’m big on goals. When I decide I’m going to do something, then it’s going to happen.
Now, I started writing this blog last night. I stopped it, erased it all, and started over while at work today. Now, it’s almost 8:00pm, and I can say that I’m on the way to a second of my bucket list goals this week as well: I bought flooring! I’m not sure when this adventure is going to begin. I’m waiting on a a friend who has the saw I need, but once that happens, it’s on.
On my previous blog, Milestones and Resolutions, I mentioned that I wanted to rip up my carpets and put down bamboo flooring. Well, the bamboo wasn’t what I liked when I saw it next to my cabinets, so I went with poplar. I’m really looking forward to putting it in with my friends. I love home improvement projects, and this is going to be a good investment into my home, so when I sell it, it’s going to sell for more.
I haven’t done the stairs yet, but that’s next on the list, along with the kitchen floor (maybe).
I realize that this blog post wasn’t really spiritual in nature, but I’m so stoked about this that I had to share!
It’s laminate flooring, but it’s on the high end of laminate. I got it because real hardwoods aren’t something I want in any house that isn’t my “permanent forever home.” I plan on selling this townhouse in a few year once my family outgrows it. Also, real hardwood floors in a townhouse: I wouldn’t get back the amount of money I spent on it when I sell.
I love marking things off my goals, and I can’t wait to mark the rest of them off as well. Pictures to be coming soon of Table Rock and the Floor Project!