Monthly Archives: June 2015

Gender Equality

I said I would write a post about my thoughts on gender equality. I’m almost afraid to go through with this because it has been a sticky subject for me in the past and I get intimidated easily. But I’m going for it anyway!  In a previous post, I mentioned that I found Wicca to be, in general, too goddess-centric. Yes, I understand that not all Wiccan’s focus on the goddess, but the Wiccan folks I met up with tended to be of the über-feminist persuasion. Why is it that in order to raise up one oppressed group, another has to be ignored, disregard, or flat out oppressed in return? Is it to speed up the process of reaching equality? A concept like “meet me in the middle?” I guess that would be logical, but it seems to be the natural progression of human ways to continue putting one group or another down long after a state of equality has been achieved. Not that women have reached that state yet, but they are getting close and I hate that there still “needs” to be a faction of man-haters amongst the feminists, giving the rest of them a bad name.

I’ve never openly referred to myself as a feminist. Although I am certainly glad for all that feminism has done for women, it falls short of where I think we need to be in terms of equality. There is a bigger picture out there concerning gender equality that feminism doesn’t fully address. It has done a lot for the biological female sex, but not so much for the “feminine”  (ironic since the very word feminist would seem to indicate otherwise)

In a patriarchal world, the men have everything. Who wouldn’t want to be a man in a patriarchy? I’ve read stories, fictional and biographical, wherein female characters say they wish they had been born a man rather than that they were respected as they are. And so, with that impossible desire in mind, women set out to earn the right to “be” men. And they have more or less succeeded. Although still biologically female, women can live out a masculine role. They can be tomboys, and dress like men (and, I must stress, still be considered sexy and respectable doing so). They can have masculine jobs and roles of power out in the public sphere. This is all absolutely fantastic. Honestly. I am happy that we can do all these things. I am also aware that there is still work left to make it even easier for us to achieve these goals.

But all this effort to earn a place in the masculine sphere has left the feminine even more oppressed than it was before. If a woman honestly desires nothing more than to be a mother and a housewife, others look down upon her. At best, she will receive pity from the feminists who believe she is a victim of patriarchal indoctrination. Not only are women “allowed” to participate in the public sphere and have careers, they are practically expected to do so. Today, everything that is associated with the feminine is significantly inferior to the masculine. Proof of this is especially evident when we separate biological sex from its gendered association.

Recall that I mentioned women can dress like men and still be considered sexy. I don’t mean this in a negative, they-are-objectified sort of way (although that happens too), but that they are not thought of as lesser for wearing pants, or even suits with ties, etc. A man who dresses feminine is laughed at. Not always. People try to put on a show of tolerance and acceptance. But do we really respect men who cross dress in the same way that we respect a women who does? Not at all.

And how about gays and lesbians? A lesbian, to put this in a very simplified context, is acting out the masculine role of desiring a woman. Both lesbians and tomboy-ish women are portrayed in the media as sexy, powerful, deserving of respect (there are exceptions, I know). Films about lesbian couples are usually of a serious nature (dramas) or they are action flicks. While there have been a few dramas featuring gay men too, in general, these type of films (and especially so for cross dressing men, gay or not) are comedies. Why is it so funny for men to act feminine but not so funny for women to act masculine (seriously, you don’t mess around laughing at manly women – that’s just asking for trouble)? Even mostly masculine male characters who try to fill a stay-at-home dad role are comic characters. It’s funny to watch men trying to take care of babies and kids on their own. Any even remotely feminine thing a guy does is subject to comedy.

I contend that this is because little to nothing has been done to achieve gender equality. We have almost achieved biological sex equality – but gender has been left out of the equation.

Some feminists have told me this isn’t true. That gender equality is a significant part of their agenda. Then I usually get a lecture about how I shouldn’t talk about things I don’t understand and that if I don’t have a degree in feminist studies to stay out of their business. Seriously? So only the academic elite are allowed to participate in a discussion that affects the entire world? That makes sense. I may not know exactly what is going on in the private academic feminist clubs, but I know what I see around me. And what I see is that being feminine (whether as a man or a woman) is not the least bit respected. I should feel as free to be über girly as I am to be masculine. Technically, yes, I am free to do so. But I want to do so and have it be understood that this world requires the feminine to the exact same capacity that it requires the masculine. It matters not which biological sex fills each role or combination of roles – only that we recognize the merit in BOTH genders.

Let’s Change the World!

One of my motivations for starting this blog was all of the social commentary I have floating around in my head. I am not often one to ruffle feathers. Far from it, I usually back down as soon as anyone makes any form of meager attempt to intimidate me out of my opinion. Not that my opinion changes, but I always decide that it’s not worth the stress to carry on with the discussion. Nevertheless, I have all these thoughts and I’d like to express them somewhere. Constructive criticism is welcome, but try to play nice, ok? :p

I’d like to begin by sharing with you the exact moment I decided that I should start this blog. It was shortly after the Nickelodeon star, Drake Bell, tweeted about Caitlin Jenner. Something to the effect of “Sorry, still calling you Bruce.”

I don’t know Drake personally. I don’t know his intentions with that tweet. Was it a deliberate cry for (negative) publicity? Was he just trying to be funny (referencing an old episode of “Drake and Josh” when his character made a similar comment)? Did he mean it out of respect for who Caitlin used to be or out of disrespect for who she is now?

These are all the things that go through my head (most of the time) long before I consider commenting on an issue. Usually, the trending scandal of the day is old news by the time I formulate a comment worth sharing.

As you can imagine and/or know, Drake’s comment was flooded with negative replies. Very little, if any constructive criticism. People tend to go immediately into attack mode. But this is so unbelievably counter productive that I can’t understand why the majority does it. Let’s assume for a moment that Drake really does take issue with Caitlin’s transformation. Such a position results from a combination of mankind’s natural reaction to things outside the sphere of “normal” according to a given culture and enforcement of this reaction by a person’s inner circle or life experiences. You can’t just tell someone off for being too close minded and expect any thing to change. Don’t we want change? Isn’t the general idea that we, as a species are on a quest to improve our situation? If you are the first person in the world with a novel thought or opinion, you and the idea will die together if your only method of sharing it is to tell every one off who doesn’t already share your opinion.

I think it’s wonderful that the western world is becoming more progressive, more accepting of what is not the norm. But this acceptance, itself, is also not the norm. I think we forget that sometimes. We assume that everyone should already be loving of diversity. The belief that it “should be” so is what is preventing it from actually being so. The people who attacked Drake believe that he should already know better. I don’t know, maybe he should. But as I said before, I don’t know his exact situation. Maybe he tweeted before thinking and his apology was genuine. Everyone is guilty of saying something from time to time not aware of the exact connotation of their words. But I digress. We are assuming here that he really meant offense by the words. In which case, the best response is not to attack, but to present food for thought or constructive criticism. Explain, without an attitude, why he should reconsider his opinion. This is how change takes place. Everyone thinks they are right unless convinced otherwise. Attacking someone for what they think is the right opinion will only cause them to close themselves off from further dialog.

What is even more crazy to me than attacking over major social issues, is attacking over petty things. Why in the world has the internet become a place for us to forget how to be decent? It’s just baffling. Sometime last year, I watched a video clip of some dude holding a baby deer that he had found caught in some bushes. Someone commented that he was a complete idiot and shouldn’t he know that’s not how you handle a baby deer. Well geez, I dunno about you, but I don’t know the proper handling techniques of various animal species. All I know is what my common sense tells me. There was no malicious intent in the video and as far as I could tell, he was trying to help. Why, seriously, why does everyone feel the need to attack over every petty thing? Is it just the feeling of power they get via anonymity? It’s one thing to be a troll and enjoy stirring people up for the sake of it, but what about the comments that seem to imply a desire for something else? Like the desire that a baby deer be handled properly and people be educated on such things? People need to stop being so vicious online or off and engage in a dialog of substance rather than a dead end attack.

I hope that anyone reading my blog keeps this in mind as I post more of my own possibly controversial thoughts. 🙂

ADF Dedicant Path: Beginning

Sowilo (sun) rune

Sowilo (sun) rune

I celebrated the Summer Solstice with my local ADF grove on Saturday. I am lucky that the group planned a training ritual for that day, wherein the different parts of the ritual were briefly explained. It was a small turn out, but I was glad for that too. Smaller groups are less stressful when I am new to a group. A combination of the ritual date falling on PrideFest weekend and Midsummer not being one of the more popular High Days led to the smaller group.

One of the members made the lovely rune pictured above. He made one for everyone.

I became a member of ADF only a few days prior and obtained a guidebook for working through this organization’s dedicant path. It is nicely structured into a 52 week program with clear assignments and checkpoints to get me through the training. As I have already mentioned, I will likely not complete it in a year’s time, but I appreciate the structured guide and will follow it, stretching out weeks as necessary.

Keeping a journal for my path is optional, but highly recommended. It will be especially helpful should I decide to submit documentation for formal recognition of completion. I wouldn’t submit the journal itself, but would draw from it in order to complete the required reports.

The homework for the first week was to read the introduction to the Dedicant Handbook (a separate text from the guide I am following) and to consider the following questions:

Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?

I have been wandering around aimlessly on an unstructured pagan path ever since leaving Wicca. I am a hard polytheist, I talk to my house wight from time to time, and I am drawn to Celtic and Anglo-Saxon traditions. But outside of that, I have not been engaged in any form of regular practice or ritual. I do not even have an alter set up, though I’ve been telling myself to set one up for a few years now. I need formal instructions in order to start anything seriously and the Dedicant Path offers this.

Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself?

I don’t know yet. In the sense that I will never be done learning, I would call this a step on my path. But I don’t know that I will need or desire further structured training. I need it now as a crutch until I feel confident guiding myself. I may or may not consider other ADF training programs after this.

What do you expect to learn?

  • History and mythology from which to build a foundation for spiritual practices
  • Good advice and techniques for learning meditation
  • How to perform non-wiccan rituals

What would you like to get out of this journey?

  • knowledge
  • a closer relationship with the ancestors and deities
  • a strong foundation for further spiritual practices
  • confidence to continue on my path with or without further training

Do you know where this path will take you?

Not exactly, but I know well enough that it will take me closer to where I want to be with my spirituality.

If you have just joined ADF, why have you chosen to work on this immediately?

I joined ADF specifically to have access to the Dedicant Path materials. Before this, I spent several months looking around for a program of study that suited my needs. I first learned of ADF about a month ago and after learning more about it from current ADF members and the ADF website, it seemed like a good place to start with my formal training.

Does it look hard or easy?

A little of both. It seems hard only by virtue of how much time it will take, but easy in that everything will not be thrown at me at once and I can follow at my own pace.

Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?

Training my mind and learning meditation practices. I am very anxiety prone and I have a hard time achieving a satisfactory state of calm let alone complete control of my mind. I worry too about finding distraction-free times and places to practice. The book work appears to be the easiest. I am a graduate student, after all, book work is my specialty. This part will only become difficult when I am in the middle of a school semester, prioritizing school work over Dedicant Path reading (this is why I expect to take longer than 1 year on this path).

Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about?

My current doubts are already expressed in the previous question, but I don’t feel the need to specifically ask about anything at this time. I am aware that I can request a mentor if needed, but I do not think this will be necessary.

Wish me luck everyone! (^^)

Pieces of Me: My Bestie

Let me introduce you to my bestie! (^^)

Photos of Winter

More photos of Winter

His name is Winter and my husband, Eric, got him for me for our first Christmas. Winter is almost 10 years old and he has been my bestie all this time. He is with me almost all the time. Eric gets a little weirded out sometimes when my cat stares at me for too long or exhibits other worship-like behaviors. I think he’s just jealous that none of our pets love him as much as Winter loves me :p In fact, I believe all of our fur babies love me best, lol. I’m pretty sure the cat Eric had before he married me has switched affiliations – although she tends to be a bit of a loner most of the time.

Winter has a game he likes to play with Eric. He likes to pretend that he doesn’t like him. This involves hissing, getting tense whenever Eric walks by, making weird meows at him, etc. But it’s really all a game. He likes to creep by Eric slowly to get his attention. He will wait mid-creep or repeat the process if Eric doesn’t notice him. Then, as soon as Eric acknowledges his presence, Winter warbles a long and weird sort meow at him, as if he is annoyed for being noticed. He will be friendly with Eric from time to time if there is food involved.

I love my kitty ❤

Best Christmas present ever 🙂

Adding Structure to My Spirituality

I recently wrote about my decision to embark on a Gaelic/Heathen spiritual path in order to focus my practice. Being an Aspie (and, incidentally an INTJ personality type) I need some amount of structure in my life. There’s still the matter of this nagging INFP-ish Luna Lovegood side of me. I have no explanation for it. Make of me what you will. Obviously, if I needed structure so much, it wouldn’t have taken me fifteen years to apply it to my spiritual practices.

But I digress. I’m writing this post to let everyone know that I’ve become a member of ADF and intend to begin their Dedicant Training Path. I will dedicate a category of this blog to my progress.

The training program is designed to take one year, but I expect (if I stay committed) that it will take me twice as long. I still have to make it through two more semesters of graduate school and when summer is over, I will have little time to take a bathroom break, let alone study extracurriculars. Nevertheless, I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes. If I need to take two years, then so be it. I will be learning and growing spiritually my entire life, so there is no rush to “finish” a specific program.

I am excited to begin this new chapter of my pagan journey and I hope to gain much insight from it.

I am also looking forward to celebrating Midsummer with my local ADF Grove this weekend. \(^o^)/

My Undiagnosed Aspie Childhood

Asperger’s wasn’t well known when I was growing up, but even if it was, it’s possible that I would have remained undiagnosed.

Aspie females tend to be better than males at blending in and mimicking proper behaviors. But this skill takes time to develop. As a young child, I freely and unashamedly displayed autistic behaviors. Nevertheless, these behaviors were not as show-stopping as they would have been had I been a boy. More often than not, young female Aspies obsess over topics appropriate for their age and gender, wheres the boys tend to pick out more eccentric interests. Also, so I have read, boys will be more aggressive when stressed.

As far as parents are concerned, if you maintain good grades and don’t cause them undo stress, they are likely to accept all manner of quirks without being too terribly concerned. The only thing they were ever concerned about was my lack of social skills. But these, they thought, they could handle without outside help.

So what does a female Aspie’s childhood look like? Again, we are all different, but perhaps some common threads can be found.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Before my own conscious memory begins, one of my parents favorite stories to tell is about me and dryer sheets. You know those obnoxiously-fragrant and chemical-laden sheets some people like to stick in the dryer with their clothes? Apparently, as a baby, I wasn’t so offended by them. Perhaps I played with used ones, I don’t know. Anyhow, I used to entertain myself for a long time tearing these sheets up into tiny bits and arranging the pieces neatly on the floor. I didn’t eat them. I didn’t hide them all over the house. No, I just lined them up meticulously on the carpet. I’m pretty sure my parents considered my ability to self-entertain without wrecking the house to be a miracle rather than a reason to worry.

And so, much of my childhood progressed like this. I’d find something to hyper focus on for long hours and leave my parents alone. For a while, it was watching the color portion of The Wizard of Oz over and over and over again. In fact, today, my mother laughs at herself for not considering this to be a strange thing. In hindsight, she and my father agree that I was one strange kid.

When I wasn’t watching The Wizard of Oz, I was on my rocking horse.

It was similar to this one:

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My mother probably has pictures, but I can’t find one that looks exactly like it online. It was a spring rocking horse that made sounds, but I don’t think I had batteries in it very often.

I rode this thing obsessively. For hours. Until I got too big for it and it broke. I think my parents got me a replacement once, but finally, they had to tell me to say good bye to rocking horses. This was sad. Very very sad.

So what next? I recall that My Little Ponies came next. Yep, I loved My Little ponies. I hated playing with other people though. By now, my parents began encouraging me to get out more and play with other kids. Ugh, I hated being told to go outside or to meet the new neighbors. But most of all, I hated playing imaginative games with toys or dolls with them. My father sometimes tried to play ponies with me. I was never amused. He’d do stupid things, like put a nasty old boot of his on the floor and say it’s a monster attacking. This made me so mad!! Incidentally, my youngest sister appreciates my father’s play style and she actually begged him to play with her all the time. Too bad she wasn’t born sooner to distract him from bothering me. lol. But it wasn’t so bad. My father was usually too busy with work to interfere often. When left to my own, I preferred to arrange my ponies into a static scene and stare at them for a long time, complimenting myself for a job well done, sometimes even imagining up the things they were doing, but not moving them around.

I had barbies too, but I never liked them as much as my ponies. The most attention the barbies got was getting dressed up and arranged on the stair-case shelves in my closet. Sometimes, I would rearrange them, or redress them, but their only purpose was to remain in an orderly way. I suppose you could say that of the ponies too, but there was more imaginative process that went into their arrangements – and they weren’t sentenced to long periods in the closet.

Eventually, I outgrew ponies. I never outgrew love of collecting them, but arranging them into elaborate scenes on the floor lost its appeal. So I found something else to occupy myself with and that was Michael Jackson.

An aside here: notice that none of my interests were peculiar, only obsessive. Becoming a fangirl too wasn’t particularly strange either, until you look into the exact nature of my fan-girling 

I had identified as a fan of MJ since the age of four, when my grandmother introduced me to him via MTV. She always had MTV on at her house and I was always at her house.

But it wasn’t until I was 9 that the obsession began. I collected anything and everything even remotely related to the King of Pop. Books, documentaries, tabloids, cassette tapes. I kept a journal to collect trivia about him and eventually, I’m pretty sure that I knew more about him than he did himself. Most of my family probably ended up knowing more than they cared too because this is all I talked about. I’m not kidding. I even sometimes bothered people outside my family with it because I thought it to be a suitable ice breaker in awkward social situations.

I got myself a fedora. I wore it to school all the time. Fortunately, MJ was still popular enough that I avoided too much bullying for it, but there was still a bit of mockery here and there.

That about covers my most significant obsessions as a child, but there were an assortment of lesser interests and quirks as well. I can’t even remember them all, but my parents tell me sometimes.

I remember loving to trace my hand and spend the greater portion of an afternoon filling it in with tiny dots. I used to pretend that it was armageddon or some terrible event and all the little dot people needed to get onto the hand-shaped spaceship if they wanted to live. When the space began to fill up, I got nervous for my countless dot-friends. I felt relieved for each one that found a space.

I also read a lot. I’d read until it got dark and I’d be too involved in the book to get up and turn on the light. My parents would usually show up to turn the light on for me. I carried a book around with me everywhere and insisted on reading at the dinner table even if I was told not to. I could read before I started school having been mostly self-taught. My mother tells me I used to come to her and ask her what a letter was from time to time (I don’t really remember this).

In school, I excelled in everything except social studies. I hated social studies. I didn’t do bad, but I wasn’t a teachers pet the way I always had been in math class. My parents tried to have me skipped a grade on more than one occasion, but the school didn’t allow it because of my lacking social skills and common sense. Apparently, I took a test on which I did well in every category except common sense. I don’t remember this test. My fourth grade class was a mixed 4/5th classroom and my teacher allowed me to skip the 4th grade math textbook. Unfortunately, the school didn’t allow me access to 6th grade math the next year so I did 5th grade math again. I finally got to skip a grade after I was homeschool for one year. I skipped 8th grade.

I could probably write a short novel on all my childhood characteristics, but I think you get the idea. I didn’t cause anyone trouble and my interests were in the normal-sphere besides being obsessive. Only my social skills were lacking. And, boy were they ever. I came across as pretty rude at times. I am embarrassed to think of some of the things I did and said as a kid. But at the time, I had no clue that I was being inappropriate. One odd social moment isn’t too embarrassing to share: My mother was late dropping me off to preschool one day. The kids were already sitting in a circle singing a song. I walked to the circle as if I knew exactly what I was doing, sat in the middle, and didn’t sing. My mother asked me about this and I told her that I was supposed to sit there because the kids were singing to me. haha. After all, at the time, I fully believed that I was a fairy princess, so why wouldn’t they be singing to me?

On that note, I’ll end this post here. 🙂

Pieces of Me: Talking Backwards

I’ve decided to dedicate a category of my blog to interests, talents, and aspects of my personality that don’t fit neatly into my other categories. These will often, but not always, be short posts. Little “pieces of me” that make up the whole and that I think (or hope!) will be of interest to others.

First up, a useless but semi-bragable talent of mine. I can talk backwards! I’ve come across a couple other people who can talk backwards as well, but not the same as I do. I don’t “read” the words backwards in my head and pronounce them as if they were spelled that way, I say entire strings of words phonetically backwards so that they will sound like the original words if recorded and played in reverse. Here’s an video that I made a year ago demonstrating (with the aid of the “ireverse pro” app on my phone)   I decided to make a new one. 🙂

My Pagan Journey and Why I Still Wear a Pentacle as a Non-Wiccan

I began my pagan journey with Wicca. Yes, I was a fluffy, new-age, rebellious and attention-seeking teenager. I have a hunch, however, that many of you serious pagans out there who mock the angsty fluff crowd were also fluffy once upon a time. I don’t mean to say that Wicca itself is fluffy (although many will disagree with me on this), but as a prominent gateway to the larger pagan world, it tends to be a melting pot of serious practitioners and fluffy soul-seeking youngsters.

For me, crossing over to the pagan side before the ubiquitous presence of the internet, Wicca really was my only choice. Well, Wicca and an unstructured assortment of random new-agey pagan-esque stuff.

I didn’t grow up with a strong religious upbringing. My mother was a non-church going Christian and my father agnostic. Since I moved out, my mother has been trying harder to raise my youngest siblings according to the Christian faith, regretting that she did not do so with me.

As a child, I was curious about Christianity. I spent some time in both a Catholic and Protestant private school, one of which I specifically begged to go to. I went to the occasional church event, especially to hear choir singing. My brother, too, enjoyed accompanying me to these events (incidentally, he did end up becoming Christian).

Christianity in the end, however, didn’t resonated with me. I briefly dubbed myself agnostic, but this too didn’t feel right. I have too much of a “Luna Lovegood” side to fully embrace agnosticism. The world has always been a magical place to me. Full of faeries and various spirits of the earth. I had a fondness for Native American culture and spirituality as a child and this inspired a lot of my proto-pagan beliefs.

When I entered high school, I still attended the rare church or bible study event, but I also began studying Wicca, playing with Tarot cards and runes, and wearing ridiculous attention-grabbing hippy/gypsy/new-age outfits. Whatever I could do to stand out from the crowd. But, come on, you know how it is! Being an adolescent. It feels like the whole world is watching, so better put on a good show 😉

But it wasn’t all about the attention. I also felt like I finally found my niche. I felt at home in the new-age section of the book store. I never formally joined a coven, but I went to several informal Wiccan meetups. After studying Wicca for sometime and getting to know some of its practitioners, I became discouraged with how female/goddess-centric it was. Although the books teach balance, and a masculine and feminine divinity, the actual practice of Wicca always seemed to stress the feminine. This wasn’t just a minor pet peeve, it ended up becoming a deal-breaker for me. I am very strongly opinionated regarding matters of gender equality and the concept of balance in general (perhaps I will blog about this some other time).

So there I was again, wandering around aimlessly in search of my spirituality, still unaware of the options available to me outside of Wicca (I knew that there were other pagan religions, but I didn’t know how to properly engage with them). I began to refer to myself as an eclectic pagan and took a break from any form of structured practice. I remained an eclectic pagan for quite a few years.

Although no longer Wiccan, I still wore a pentacle. Not everyday, mind you, but whenever it suited me to do so. Recently, I began pursuing a syncretic Gaelic-Heathen path. I needed somewhere to really ground my spirituality and beliefs. A foundation from which to grow. I walk in a liminal reconstructionist, revivalist, neopagan space. Bringing a religion back to life means that it is no longer subject to static academic study. Religion is dynamic, and once an old path is re-opened, it becomes subject to adaptation.

I am tentatively a Gaelic-Heathen, but I can’t simply abandon outlying parts of my spirituality that are still important to me but that don’t fit into a strict Gaelic-Heathen reconstruction. Consider the pagans who originally embraced (by freewill or by force) Christianity. They carried many of their old traditions along. In fact, in every historically documented religion, we can find pieces of older and/or neighboring religious practices. Isn’t this why syncretic reconstructionist paths exist in the first place? Strict syncretic reconstructionists argue that a syncretic religion is the product of many years of mass cultural evolution. But I argue that, on an individual level, we all have cultural baggage. No one is going to abandon years of previous enculturation to embrace a historically accurate reconstruction of a religion.

Perhaps I should add an addendum to my pagan title: semi-reconstructionist neopagan. It’s difficult to assign myself to an accurate label when labels for these different paths are not yet widely agreed upon. But even if they were, should I really have to add a string of modifiers so as not to offend anyone? Several denominations of Christianity hold onto the Christian title, despite each thinking it’s following the “correct” teachings of Jesus. So I’m just not going to worry if I am offending anyone by referring to myself as a Gaelic-Heathen.

I wear, and will continue to wear a pentacle. When I first began my Gaelic-Heathen journey, I thought that I might have to leave the pentacle behind. After all, symbols are powerful. Some people claim that wearing a cross doesn’t make one a Christian, and yet if you wear one, this is what others will think you are. I have heard that one should feel free to wear symbols based on what they mean to the wearer and not to the outside world. Almost a harmless concept, but imagine if the symbol was a Swastika. A symbol that used to have a positive connotation, but now? See my dilemma? Obviously, wearing a pentacle isn’t as taboo as a swastika, but after experiencing some of the extreme exclusionary hostility in heathen circles on the Internet, I was sufficiently intimidated. For a few days, at least. I took some time to mull it over and I thought, hey, wait a second! I can’t let those guys intimidate me. This is my life and my spiritual journey. The pentacle still holds meaning to me. I have a few of them, mostly gifts from my husband. They are sentimental and I still believe in what the pentacle stands for. It is a piece of my past that I do not wish to forget. It represents the beginning of my pagan journey and this alone is reason enough to wear it.

I will not let one person or the entire world intimidate me out of being myself.

ASMR and the Amazing Internet

I never fail to be amazed by the power of the internet. Everything and everyone previously considered rarities of the world come together on the internet and give us the impression that they are not so rare after all. The most crazy and obscure lifestyles can be googled and entire communities found for things as unusual as “adult babies.”

The irony of the increasingly globalized world is that the more we mingle with it, the more isolated we feel in the long run. The internet gets a bad rap for destroying “real” personal relationships, but I think that it acts as a necessary side-kick to globalization.

Long ago, people lived in smaller isolated communities. Culture and tradition was strong within each group. The larger communities became, the harder it was to hold onto shared experiences and tradition. Individuality is wonderful, but when everyone is so unique that we can hardly identify with our own neighbor, it makes for a lonely world.

Introductory ramble over, let me get to the original inspiration for this post. Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. A phenomenon completely unknown to the world a few years ago, although many people experienced it long before it was a “thing.” Without the internet, it would probably still be an unknown, experienced by a lucky few who each think they are the only one in the world who experiences it. I am one of these.

For the most part, I thought nothing of it. When something triggered my ASMR, I appreciated the experience, but I rarely sought it out on purpose. For some reason, I never associated a particular trigger with the response except for while it was happening. I’d listen to a hang drum (one of my triggers) and think, “oh yeah, hang drums! I forgot how nice those are!” And I might spend the next 15 minutes or so looking up videos of people playing the hang drum (or a marimba or tibetan singing bowl). The sound alone is a mild trigger, but its stronger when I can also see the person playing the instrument.

Watching someone write on a chalk board is also a trigger. But I rarely appreciated it. It made me sleepy in math class. In fact, I used to attribute the sensation to lack of sleep and stuffy air in the class room. I took to ordering a triple shot of espresso before class in college to ensure that I would stay awake. I recently learned that my brother, too, is triggered by this and he also thought of it as an annoyance.

When I think even father back to my childhood, one of my earliest triggers was watching my mother doodle. She loved to draw house plan designs on graph paper. I don’t think she was ever aware that I liked watching her draw, and usually I didn’t creep around her shoulder for too long at a time so she wouldn’t wonder what the heck was wrong with me. haha.

ASMR was coined as a term in 2010, having gone by a few other names in the years following up to its widespread internet presence. I only heard about it last year. I was watching a video by one of the people I follow on youtube and she decided to make an ASMR video just for fun. Having no idea what that meant, I looked it up and discovered the larger ASMR community on youtube. What an exciting day that was! To find out that I am not the only one. Don’t get me wrong, being one-of-a-kind is fun, but not so much when no one can even understand what i am talking about when I explain my “unique” experience.

I had only ever mentioned it a few times before. To my mother, sister, and husband. I described it as the “warm fuzzies.” Not that the sensation is particularly “warm” but I really had no idea how to explain to it people whom I thought didn’t experience it. I have since learned that my husband is triggered by certain types of music (his music triggers are more complex than my simple percussion triggers) but when I described it to him, he didn’t make the correlation. I think because he thought that a music trigger was something unrelated to the other triggers that I mentioned to him. It seems that only two members of my family (besides myself) experience it. They, along with my husband, only have one type of trigger, wheres I am triggered by almost everything since discovering ASMR videos. There are a few exceptions. (update: it turns out that my husband was right about his sensation being different – apparently he and my sister both experience music frisson, but not ASMR. This would also explain why they are triggered by more complex music than my simple percussion-melody triggers – I do not experience frisson. It is possible for people to experience both, however)

Having a sensory processing disorder, I am sensitive to just about every olfactory, auditory, and visual stimuli there is. This goes both ways. the sensation can pleasurable, but also painful. Physically painful. I like taping, but if someone slides their nails in a particular direction on an object (not making a sound though), my teeth and face hurt. Same if someone slides a sticky object like a lint roller on a dry surface, even if only for a second. Sometimes i don’t know what will affect me negatively ahead of time and I have been unexpectedly offended by a few ASMR videos.

Although it seems like ASMR is fairly common considering how popular it is on youtube, I am curious to know how common it really is. I wonder if everyone is capable of experiencing it if they train the ability. For those who have it, I wonder if they are more likely to have only a few triggers, or many. Also, I am especially curious if there is any correlation between sensory processing disorder and the quality of the ASMR experience.

I am looking forward to more scientific research!

Aspergers

In the past, I have been hesitant to admit that I have an ASD. Despite that diagnoses for it have been going up in recent years, it is still misunderstood and riddled with negative stereotypes. Aspergers (now diagnosed as part of the larger spectrum rather than its own thing) is popularly associated with sociopathic behaviors. At best, NTs pass it off as an imaginary condition. If I’m not a sociopath, I’m just looking for an excuse for poor social etiquette, apparently.

I grew up with no idea that I may be autistic. Besides being a very strange little girl, I kept out of trouble. My brother stole the show back in the day for his hyperactivity and poor grades. He was diagnosed ADHD and received all sorts of special assistance and medication. Meanwhile, I spent most of my childhood in my room, engaged in peculiar activities, but generally staying out of notorious limelight. Sometimes, my parents would reprimand me for staying in my room too often or I would get in trouble for being rude to other kids. But Aspergers wasn’t well known at the time, and being a bit strange isn’t as much a burden to parents as unleashing Dennis-the-Menace stye havoc all over the place.

Believe it or not, my brother grew up to be the most mellow guy you’d ever meet. I’d hardly believe he was the same person if I didn’t know better. As for myself, I began to amass more attention the older I got. Being strange as a kid can be passed off as a phase, but into adulthood, it loses its appeal as a cute-curiosity. Once my family learned of the existence of Aspergers, they suggested I, as well as a few male members of my family, including my brother, might have it. I considered the possibility, but it didn’t change anything. I carried on about my life, certain that there was still time to “grow out of” my issues. However, as I tried to enter the professional world, my quirks got in the way. More than one person asked me upfront if I’m an Aspie. I was also told that “my type” wasn’t wanted in the teacher training program that I was in at the time.

These armchair diagnoses are peculiar considering that most people I have told since my diagnosis are shocked to find out. They tell me they would have never guessed. Of course, I really like to believe that I have overcome many of my previous social obstacles.

I eventually took myself to have a psychological evaluation because I finally just wanted to know. During my evaluation, I got the impression that I wasn’t going to get an ASD diagnosis. In fact, I was entirely expecting an OCD, anxiety, and/or sensory processing disorder diagnoses instead. But nope. She said I am definitely on the spectrum. I also received a separate diagnoses for anxiety, but she said everything I suspected was OCD is really part of my ASD.

Well, so, now what? Does this mean that I can let go of all my progress and learned behaviors in order to have a free-for-all autistic experience? Of course not! It means only that I understand myself better as I continue on my journey to self-improvement. Sure, some aspects of life may be more difficult for me than an NT, but that doesn’t excuse me from anything.

And just so we are especially clear, I’m not a sociopath. An evil genius, yes. But my plans to take over the world are morally sound (more or less 😉 ) and don’t involve violence.

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