"Remember who you want to be"
In the month of September I attended two Pagan Pride Days (I taught a workshop at one, met Selena Fox at another), attended an Equinox ritual, officiated a same-sex Pagan wedding, finally started my new career as a child and family therapist, and co-facilitated a ritual for World Goddess Day (to list just a few things). In these past four, glorious weeks, it seems like my life has moved forward by leaps and bounds, but really, I feel like everything is spinning out of control. Rather than celebrating, I find myself freaking out, closing myself off, and retreating.
I’ve written a bit about anxiety in the past. It can really suck, and at times it can be devastating to those who suffer from it. But, that said, I firmly believe that a little bit of anxiety is a good thing. Anxiety can be a matter of survival and self-preservation. It can protect us from doing something stupid or being too reckless. It is programmed into our DNA.
“Don’t trust those strangers. They may be dangerous!”
“Don’t go into the darkness. There might be wild animals!”
“Don’t eat this beautiful plant. It might be poisonous!”
But, on the flip side, too much anxiety can cripple us. It can keep us from moving forward, from enjoying ourselves, from relishing those things we love and adore. Much of dealing with anxiety can be trying to achieve a delicate balance. Without throwing at least some caution to the wind, we wouldn’t have the intrepid inventors, mystics, scientists, and artist we have today. These are the people who have willed and who have dared, who took epic leaps forward, and who forced society to evolve, despite our collective fears and hesitations.
But sometimes it’s hard to achieve equilibrium between safety and excitement, between maintaining the same-old-same just because you know it works, verses stepping out there and doing something thrilling. Do we maintain the status quo just because it’s safe, or do we dare the odds despite the risks?
The wheel has finally turned, autumn is fully upon us, and as we enter into this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” it is time that we ask ourselves some difficult, even painful questions. And what more, as we settle further into October, we are challenged to take the answer to those questions and put them into action.
When I was a Baby Pagan I was taught that the October full moon was called the Blood Moon because this was the time of year when farmers would slaughter any livestock that wouldn’t survive the coming winter. For our ancestors this wasn’t a matter of cruelty verses sentimentality – it was a matter of survival. As Samhain (Gaelic for “Summer’s End”) approached, they had to ask themselves which animals would live and thrive, which would not, and if they would have resources to keep both their livestock and their families alive. Anything that couldn’t survive the harsh season, or that would require more resources than the family could afford, was slaughtered, maybe offered up as offering or sacrifice, and enjoyed in a huge feast.
So ask yourself this: right now in your life, what is thriving? What is dying? What won’t survive, and do you have resources for what remains? Do you need to hold on, and in doing so, are you doing more harm than letting go?
The Cosmos has been giving me messages this month, challenging me to ask myself these questions. Right after Lughnasadh I thankfully left unemployment behind, but was surprised and disappointed to find that my financial bounty wouldn’t quite be as much as I had expected. So while the Mabon spirit inspires me to celebrate the fruits of my hard work after spending the light half of the year planting and tending to my springtime seeds (which included nearly a year and a half of job applications, job interviews, job trainings, etc) the Samhain spirit whispers to me, settling as a chill in my soul “Wait, wait, wait…” Yes, I should celebrate my harvest, but I also need to realize that it might not be enough to get me through the Summer’s End. What on Earth are we supposed to do when our harvest isn’t enough? With my tiny paychecks and endlessly growing debt, how am I ever to survive?
When I was out of town to officiate the wedding earlier in September, I visited a local metaphysical shop. (When I go out of town I seek out two things – local coffee and all-things occult or new age.) I saw a shelf full of tree of life pendants, something I’d normally ignore. But one was flipped backwards and I noticed that there was engraving on the back. The one facing me said “Remember who you want to be.” I stared at it for a long time, reflecting upon this message. I decided it was an important reminder and would also make a good key-chain, since I had been looking for one all summer.
A few days later I saw graffiti that said “what are you doing with your life?” I saw a headline in magazine that said “How are you going to do it?” I saw a hipster wearing a t-shirt that said “Don’t let them hold you back.” I listened to the whispers in my favorite song that have been telling me, over and over, for nearly 15 years, “the best thing in life is knowing you put it together.” And every time I pick up my keys, on my way to a ritual or to see clients or run errands, I am reminded again and again “remember who you want to be.”
Remember who you want to be.
So here in these crossroads between the Equinox and Samhain, between the harvest and Summer’s final conclusion, I contemplate upon balance. Who do I want to be? I want to be a witch, a writer, and a clinical social worker. Anxiety has been keeping me from achieving these things, but being reckless and overly-confident is its own self-sabotage, too. I need to keep just enough anxiety to keep me from maxing out every single one of my credit cards or over scheduling myself with rituals, movies, concerts, parties, meetings, trips and all of those great things I love but I really don’t have enough resources, time, money, or energy to enjoy. But I don’t want to be overwhelmed with too much anxiety that I don’t enjoy the good things in life, that I hide myself at home, literally sick with worry, frozen into inaction. Just enough anxiety to keep me busting my butt to get as many clients as a can, but not so much fear that I don’t give myself time to write, to go to rituals, to sleep.
My harvest is manifold – a new job, thriving Pagan community, tons of writing projects, the coming Halloween season. My slaughter may be bloody, but it need not be devastating. Enjoy myself but not too much, working hard but not to exhaustion, taking risks but not being overly dependent on an immediate reward. And through it all, my anxieties, fears, excitement, and adventures, I am ever reminded – “Remember who you want to be.” May this wisdom guide me and guide us all through the season of mists and beyond.
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run.”
“To Autumn” by John Keates
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