Rejecting Rejection

I’ve been watching a lot of Ted talks lately. They cover everything from personal causes, to professional development to health issues and how to become stronger emotionally. There are some great ones on being yourself and embracing your weirdness. This really got me thinking about my path so far.

As a pre-teen I quickly learned to label myself “weird”. I was called bookworm, my puns and quirky humor got on others’ nerves, my family couldn’t understand why I was so emotional. I escaped into stories of my own making, just to experience a life where others’ criticisms didn’t matter. These stories were full of magic and fantastic creatures and pagan and occult flavors I wouldn’t recognize until later in life. This only added to my “weird” status, because I was in a religion where the occult was viewed as shocking and terrifying (I know this is most religions). Now I didn’t fit in with the religious crowd, but my religious beliefs made me an outsider to the outside world.

One day, when I was 25 and on my own, lonely and broke and desperate for a family of my own, I met someone whose weirdness matched my own. Someone who had, like me, grown up in a family that gave him carefully crafted emotional issues, who had a religion that did not suit his personality pushed on him, who had been denied normal social development due to homeschooling. We watched quirky cartoons and discussed chivalry and psychology deep into the night. We shared puns, chicken nuggets, and ideas about how families should be. Rather quickly we got married.

There was no audience at our wedding. Our families either had better things to do or didn’t approve. Our religious friends each disapproved of the other’s religion. Our non-religious friends, the few and true, were accepting and supportive and proved a new base of social support. And I found myself rejecting that.

You can only get so many crying faces and letters telling you how happy you had made Satan before you get a little defensive. Marrying changed my life in so many ways that I felt disoriented. It was great to hang out with people occasionally, but I didn’t feel I would ever have a close friend besides my husband again. I was used to rejection. I would reject them first.

It has been almost 14 years now, and we are still happily married, still stay up late at night talking politics or heathenry or dogs, watching quirky comedies or… doing other things. We’ve spent quite a few years sorting out our emotional issues from the abuse and other sources. Our kids are actually pretty happy and well-adjusted! And we’ve both realized that our extended families – whether trying to rule our outer choices or inner beliefs – who have given us so much disapproval and criticism and in the end rejected us – they aren’t what we want to be.

They’ve cut us off, and we’re ok with that, because we are very different from them. They want us to be what they dictate, to do and think what they tell us to, rejecting who we really are and what we believe. And we have said NO. We are who we are. We reject their rejection.

So we practice a minority religion. We  watch shows with magic and demons in them and aren’t afraid they might be a portal of evil into our house. Because they really aren’t. We listen to the music that moves us, whatever scary costume the band wears, and we are not offended by strong language. And we teach our kids that how you treat people and animals is more important that what god you worship or what political candidate you vote for or if you have tattoos or where you work. Because we are all different, and we all change so much over the years. That changeable, outer stuff, that’s not who you really are. Who you really are is the values you choose to uphold. I choose integrity, defending the weak, honesty and standing up to abuse. I accept who I really am. Rejection doesn’t matter anymore.

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The Road-sign

Life is a roller-coaster ride, no matter who you are. Hardships, emotional blows and the unexpected are a part of daily life.

But for those of us who grew up in a home where abuse was something to be survived every moment of every day for years on end, daily stresses and hardships can be much more than just the expected routine.

For us and others who have been exposed to long-term helplessness and victimization, the demands of daily life can trigger panic, depression, anger and other overwhelming emotions, or the numbness of shutting down completely. Changes in the brain can cause memory and attention problems. Sleep and eating habits may be affected. The sense of identity may be distorted or lacking. We feel disconnected from the rest of humanity. We may have compulsions. We can have problems making and keeping friendships and other relationships. We may have crippling social anxiety.

It doesn’t matter how others have handled similar situations. What matters is that it was a survival situation and we survived.

The problems arise when our fight-or-flight responses remain on a hair trigger, or when anger or hurt over the unfair treatment just won’t go away. We may not even realize where the feelings are coming from and why we can’t just “be normal.” It has become our normal. But it still interferes with our jobs, relationships and inner peace.

It is often diagnosed as Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, OCD, Maladaptive Daydreaming, Fantasy Prone Personality, Borderline Personality and a slew of other emotional disorders. But this isn’t an illness. It is how our brains adapted to survive a long-term situation where there was incredible pressure and no way out.

This is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When I realized this is what has been going on with me since childhood, it was like a road-sign lit up the night, finally telling me where I’ve been this whole time.

The good news is that it is treatable, and curable. We can build on the strength we found in adversity to have a happy, peaceful life with direction and meaning.

Little did I know that I have been using many of the techniques suggested to aid healing for years before I heard of this “disorder”. Despite attacks of self-loathing and self-pity, hatred for life and resentment of everything in the world, I determined in my 20’s to figure out what was wrong with me and get it under control, for the sake of my family. I focused first on mastering gratitude, then positive thinking, meditation for stress-management and journaling to deal with painful memories. It has all WORKED. Slowly. Some of my most crippling issues are pretty much gone. However, I’m not healed yet. I’m working in my first supervisory position, which has thrown light on a lot of things I still need to deal with, like the focus and memory issues, over-reaction to stress, social awkwardness and general inability to form a clear self-image.

But I know I will reach my goals, with the help of supportive management, loving family, and hopefully soon a competent therapist. I’ve come so far, not even knowing what I was doing battle with!

Talk to a professional or reseach CPTSD to learn more. And never give up. “While there is life, there is hope.” – Cisero

Growing in Power

It has been almost three months since I’ve written. They have been busy months, mostly due to switching to a full-time schedule at work, but they have been far from boring!

After my last post, I realized I needed to get my head on straight and work through my issue without regaling everyone with my emotional conflict. The fact is, I did the right thing, and all signs point to that I am gaining momentum and growing in power. Even my job is proof. I decided that our situation needs to change, my family deserves better. Financially, mentally, and materially. Everything I’ve gone after has seemed to come easily since then, despite any minor setbacks. I am in no way taking this for granted! I view this as reward from the Gods for strengthening my backbone and pragmatism.

Aside from the details of daily life, there are other signs my abilities and Will are increasing. Though I’ve studied magical theory and various practices for about 12 years, I’ve never really set out for myself a course of study. I’ve never totally agreed with any of the published books or online courses that claim to be all you need. My path is winding and different, and I mix ideas freely, not because I’m “eclectic” and don’t dig deep enough into my research, but because, though I’m first and foremost Northern Tradition and Odin’s girl, I don’t believe that we should ignore the fact that we live in the modern world and there is freedom of information. Magicians throughout time have borrowed and adapted. Nothing passed down to us is “pure,” so why pretend we are back in the days when there was limited access to knowledge? I have worked with galdrstaves, bindrunes, British folk magic and thoughtforms. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of barrier. The more things I try, the more I realize that there are a lot of things I’m good at, and some artificial culture isn’t going to replace the one that is all around me – modern, fluid and varied. So I’ll take what I need, strengthening with practice, and continue on the path that I am creating – not alone, but with many teachers and the overall guidance of my beloved Odin, who leads me along the winding path to personal and magical competence.

The Internet and My Path

I first got on Facebook when I was on leave after my son was born. I was already a regular on Myspace (very different back then), WritersCafe, Writing.com and some forums. One thing I’ve found to be true again and again is that I need regular time away from the computer. The good that has come of my interaction is real – I’ve kept in touch with family, reunited with old friends, gotten feedback on my fiction and helped support those who’ve escaped cults or survived abuse. And a big one has been research. I don’t have a lot of money for books, so much of my research into heathenry, spellcraft, divination and ancient beliefs has been online. I find PDF’s of vital texts and videos showing how-to. I know there is a lot of misinformation, so I take what feels right and useful, and discard the rest. The internet has been vital to developing both my craft and my pagan path. But there is a limit.

I am a personality type INFJ. I rely on my intuition a lot. One thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that I can’t bear to take a spell I found and copy it wholesale. My own associations are so strong that everything I do is adapted, sometimes torn apart, just using the original as inspiration. This is where time away from the internet is really important. All the information I’ve gathered percolates and with quiet time, the time when I’m cleaning or at work or talking to loved ones, it all becomes strangely clear. One online group has been stressing the validity of hexing. I’m listening, I see what they mean, but I’d really rather do shadow work to explore my dark side. Hexing feels as wrong to me as if I were to literally punch someone. Even if they deserve it, that’s not me. I respect the right of others to do as they choose. But it was in my quiet time that the reasons for my reluctance became clear. Other times a symbolic association or an aspect of a deity flashes into my mind. This never happens when I’m absorbed in the info-glut of internet exploration.

With that in mind, I’m going to take a break for a few days. Maybe organize my binder, copy down some powerful quotes I saved last week. I think it’s time for a breather, to follow that silent wooded path a little ways, alone.

Night Litany

Reconciling with Inner Tension

This will be a brief post, since there’s a lot going on right now and I need to keep my momentum going. I just feel the need to write.

I did something spontaneous again. Maybe it was a bad move, but I (mostly) feel confident things will get better. I quit a job that I felt was damaging my family. So much overtime was required, and was only available on my days off, that I felt I never saw my husband and kids anymore. My ten-year-old son was acting out at school. I was BAD at the job, which required a certain level of pushy and rude, and my pay had dropped because I was expected to start earning commissions, which wasn’t likely. Maybe I should have waited it out until I got a better job. My family is in a rough spot while I go to interviews every couple of days and hope this is resolved quickly. But I can’t really regret quitting. It felt right.

So meanwhile, I’m home with a husband who isn’t looking for work and isn’t very attentive to our kids when he’s caring for them. He’s hoping to get on disability. And I’m once again looking for full-time work, maybe something that doesn’t run such late hours as my last job. I love him. I’m angry. I’m scared because he’s 35 and can’t sleep at night due to pain. There’s a lot going on here, and the picture isn’t clear.

I wish I could magic it all away, but that’s not logical. I have to reconcile myself with it all, on the inside. Resentment will solve nothing, and will just ruin our relationship.

The fact is, we’ve been in these tough spots before. We’ve moved a lot, started over a lot, and every time there have been losses. Fear is natural, but I can’t let it become paralyzing. I have strong, marketable skills and lots of experience. I know I can find better work. And as for my husband, he’ll find his own way. I’m not here to nag or demand things from him. That’s something we agreed to before marriage. We don’t boss each other around.

Tarot has always been a strong natural talent with me. I did a reading the other day, when in a relaxed, happy mood. It was dead-on, and positive about the future and my husband. I choose to put some faith in my skill and sight, and keep pushing forward with optimism. The tension won’t magically go away, but I can handle it, just like I always have, by diving in to the issues and not running from it. We’ll be ok, maybe even better than ok soon.

 

 

 

Toughing it Out

I haven’t posted in a while, and it will be slow for a while…I’ve been working long hours, 11-14 hours away from home, sometimes 7 days a week. Hubby and I are looking for better work that will allow me to see my kids more and be home sometimes.

In the meantime, it’s a trial, and I’m learning lessons. I’m no salesperson, definitely not on the phone, but maybe I can glean some knowledge out of the effort. I always feel that asking Odin for help results in both help and teaching opportunities. This is necessary for growth, so I’m not bitter. Onward and upward!

 

Still Shy (After All These Years)

Well, I’ve gone back to work, and I’m actually enjoying it. The strange thing is that though I’ve met a couple of people who seem to be open-minded and might even share some of my interests, I just can’t bring myself to talk to live people about my pagan/heathen beliefs. It’s not really fear of being judged – I don’t care about acceptance enough to lie or change who I am. Maybe it is  avoidant – I don’t want to have to explain or defend myself and I don’t feel I’m in any position to speak for others with similar faiths. Some of it, too, is just distrust. Except for a couple of people (my husband included), everyone I’ve had strong interests in common with has ended up being kinda psycho and turning on me. Not sure I want to analyze this too deeply. Friendships aren’t really a strong need at this time in my life, anyway, since I’ve got two young kids and no time to go out and do anything, anyway. Someday, I may wish I had cultivated lasting friendships. But for now…how would I even go about it? Writing is a direct connection to my brain. You read this, you know what I’m thinking about, how deeply, and why. But face-to-face, I’m a mess. I feel like I’m translating my thoughts into some other language, and what comes out is over-simplified, Captain Obvious, misworded crap. It is so difficult to portray any level of real personality to someone I don’t know well. How I ended up married, I’ll never know. He’s as much a loner as I am, I guess. I’m sure there are kindred spirits out there somewhere. I’ll continue to trust my gut when it comes to people. I always sense the reality beneath the mask, and sometimes even sharp flashes of thoughts and emotion. Nothing like realizing someone you are starting to like just got pissed off at something you said! It’s a double-edged gift. But someday…someday when I’m old, I’m going to find some old ladies like me who do magick and bake and love fiction, costumes and corny puns.

Career and Life Lessons

I went to a job interview today, the second this week. The difference with this one is, I really want the position. Which is making me very anxious about the impression I made! I was more nervous than usual. But the interview itself, and my responses, made me realize that I really am proud of the work I’ve done in my previous employment. There are situations and challenges that I still get excited about, after all these years. I want to do that kind of work again. Even the pressure can be exhilarating, as long as there’s a purpose and sense of accomplishment afterward. Why did it take me this long to realize?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I went from being a sheltered kid to being thrust into the working world at age 18 without so much as a pat on the back. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t realize right away that I was embarking on a life-long, life-impacting adventure. I didn’t always make the best employment calls in my late teens and early twenties. I was more interested in reading and writing fiction than getting my life together. Regret doesn’t do any good now, but keeping the aspects of excitement and commitment in mind as I move forward will help me to prepare better for interviews, being more accomplishment-focused than task-focused.

I’ll give this advice to my kids, when they are old enough: Yes, when you start out in the working world, you do what you have to – whether it’s fast food or call centers or interning. But never settle into a job that you know is going nowhere, just because it’s familiar. Keep developing your skills and learning new ones, keep track of every success you have at each job, and keep looking for a better fit. And when you find a great company, give them your loyalty. I was at Eclipse for almost five years, and part of me wishes I’d stayed longer. But since we ended up moving out of state and my career advancement was put on hold, I chalk it up to a lesson learned.

I don’t want to stall again. I love time at home with my kids, gardening and being creative and philosophical all day, but outside employment really has a good effect on my personal development and our family’s quality of life. I’m bound and determined: I’m going to find a great job here in Tucson. I’m going to work my ass off to make a difference. And I’m going to stay there unless something so amazing comes along that it would be stupid to pass it up.

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

Anxiety and the Working World

So I’m applying for jobs again, after six months home with my 2-year-old daughter. It has been enjoyable, and much lower stress, but is no longer a viable option due to family finances. I did really well at my last job, impressing my managers and teacher, working occasional overtime and getting bonuses on most checks. Of course, it was extremely stressful and I felt like I was losing my mind. But I think I can handle it better, now. My daughter is older. My rent is lower. We’re not in a tiny, cramped trailer anymore, trying to get established in a new city. I guess I’ll find out.

Since I was raised in a religion that distrusted all non-members, and then was home-schooled from 5th grade through high school, I had a really hard time when I first started working. I think the main disadvantage to being home-schooled is that unless you have a very diligent parent, you don’t get used to waking up early, strict schedules, high pressure and social interaction, including conflict. I still get a pounding heart from any kind of conflict. But it has been many years, and I’ve worked many jobs and done well at them. I can’t blame any of my own reactions on anyone else, or circumstance. If I value wisdom and self-reliance at all, I have to be honest and say, it’s up to me to face my challenges and improve. Even though I’m nearing 40, I’ll always have things to work on. The times I’ve broken down and written out how I wish things were, I realize that those expectations are unrealistic, entitled and sometimes lazy. I don’t get to sit on my wishes. The world demands a lot from us, introvert or not. We can cry about it, or we can take up our sword and face the challenge, fear or no fear. I was a spoiled, weak, fearful teen. But that was then. Now, I know a lot more about the world. I know how to defend myself physically, and win people over verbally. I can handle just about anything. And if the job I find first isn’t a good fit for me, then I will work my tail off until I find a better one. Here’s the adult world: not ideal, but also not impossible. If everyone else can do it, so can I.