Monthly Archives: July 2015

My Thoughts on Incense

Incense and spiritual rituals go together like calculators and math. There is some math that you can do without a calculator. You can even be really stubborn and insist on doing as much as you can without one – but at some point, it’s no longer practical if even possible.

This is how I feel about incense. I am trying to be stubborn and figure out all manner of ritual and offering techniques that don’t require it, but try as i might, I keep running into a “need” for that noxious health hazard.

Incense has a long, continuos history of use in almost every religion across the globe, but does that mean it’s necessary? I tend to validate my beliefs and practices by taking note of trends which transcend time, culture, and geographic space. If the collective human mind finds merit to it, there must be something there.

However, some cultures break away from parts of the collective as new information becomes available to them. Smoking (tobacco or anything else) used to be the thing to do (for ritual, meditation, or just because). It still is a thing today, obviously, and that’s all fine and well – but health conscious people no longer partake.

The most common place to find incense is in New-Age stores, where a large portion of customers are vegan and/or keep their mind and body healthy through yoga and meditation, the latter of which frequently involves the use of incense. Sure, they can keep their windows open, or not use it every day, etc. – but why is it necessary at all? There are other, more healthy, methods of aromatherapy available if scent-induced calm is its only purpose.

When it comes to religious ritual, it’s not only about the aroma. It’s also about a sacrifice to the gods. Technically, the smoke itself is the sacrifice, but to me, I feel like I am making a sacrifice of my health by inhaling some of it. Even if I only burn it as long as absolutely necessary for the ritual – I have to wonder, do the gods really want me to inhale all this crap for the sake of sacrifice? I really don’t think so. There are plenty of other offerings that the gods accept (especially in liquid form). I’ve heard  that smoke makes offerings more accessible to the deities, which might make sense, but then does this mean that other offerings are pointless?

So far, I’ve reasoned out using incense for meditation or sacrifice. That leaves purification. Incense, including sage and herb bundles for smudging, is used to purify a space. I find this slightly ironic. I’m purifying the space by suffocating my pets? If I have to open the windows in order to purify my house after “purifying” with something else, then I don’t see the point. However, in the case of banishing negative energies, one might reason that the noxious fumes are just as noxious to the bad things as they are to me – so of course they are going to get the heck out of the way. In that sense, incense might as well be likened to pesticides. Sure, it kills the bugs – but it slowly kills us too.

Before you write me off as a complete killjoy – I don’t hate incense. I’m trying to reduce my exposure to it, but I absolutely love the smell of nag champa. It reminds me of my grandmother’s house. I keep boxes of it in my closet so that the smell gets on some of my stuff. Sometimes, I’ll burn it unattended (I know, bad bad…) so that I can return to the left over aroma without having to experience the smoke. It’s not entirely a matter of health, though. Yes, I am health conscious – but I like a cupcake as much as the next person. We are all going to die and no one lives such a perfect life to keep themselves as healthy as possible to the end. Some people abstain from pleasures, but this too is unhealthy.

Health aside, incense smoke causes me physical discomfort – especially to my eyes. It’s terrible. I can’t enjoy being around it, healthy or not, unless I am outdoors. My last ritual I did outdoors and I used incense, it was lovely. I even had the smell of it in my hair all day. But I can’t always do my rituals outdoors.

I recently purchased some core-less pure incense sticks – supposedly they cut down on the irritants. If I can tolerate them, I may try to use them occasionally for some of my offerings – but I still don’t understand why I should have to. As far as making offerings to the fire for my ADF rituals – rather than use a censer and charcoal – an oil burner seems sufficient. Oil or potpourri is transformed by the fire of a candle, so it should be a suitable substitute. Consecrating the sacred center is where I’m still on the fence. All the ADF ritual guides suggest incense in addition to asperging. I don’t see why I can’t just do the asperging. Or why I can’t use fire – pick up one of the candles and circle it around the area.

In the end, it’s really up to me, though it’s hard to break a tradition and feel like I’m still doing it “right.” It’s also hard to force myself into tradition against my better judgement.

If I can find an incense that doesn’t irritate my eyes too much, I will use it from time to time as one of the guilty pleasures I allow into my life, but I won’t do it because I have to or because I think the gods require it of me.

WordPress Absconded With My Customization

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Please excuse any random changes to my page as I try to sort out the issue.

My blog was working just fine before dinner. I did nothing to it since the customizations disappeared. The customizer tool is not working either. If I try to put my header image back, it won’t save. Neither will a change to the back ground color. I tried a couple other themes to see if the problem was unique to the theme I was using. Gah. So frustrating. Computer generated hocus pocus :/

Pieces of Me: Tea!

“Tea! That’s all I needed. A good cup of tea. A superheated infusion of free radicals and tannin. Just the thing for heating the synapses.” — the Tenth Doctor

Why exactly the doctor refers to tea as containing free radicals – I really don’t know. Perhaps his brain was still regenerating 😮 Moving on then – Tea! I love tea! I used to drink coffee everyday, throwing in the occasional cup of bagged green tea from time to time, Eventually, I started replacing my evening coffee with green tea. Sometime towards the end of 2012 I thought I’d see about loose leaf tea. several teapots and 400+ different teas later, I’m still learning more about wonderful Camellia Sinensis and coffee has taken the back seat. Yes, I have tried over 400 different teas. I keep them all logged in a spreadsheet so that I don’t lose track of what I like or don’t like (good tea is too expensive to accidentally repurchase a nope) I don’t drink herbal tea often, but I like peppermint, bamboo, and hibiscus teas sometimes. I don’t like chamomile at all, which is sad since it’s in so many herbal tea blends. I’m also not a huge fan of “dessert teas” (heavily flavored teas from places such as Teavana, Della Terra, or David’s Tea), but there are exceptions. I love window-shopping for pretty tea-wares, but I try to keep my own collection small and practical (I don’t have enough space to collect too much stuff). Here are some of my tea-wares:

Glass Teapot

Glass Teapot

tea-for-one set

tea-for-one set

12oz glass teapot

12oz glass teapot

teacups and strainers

teacups and strainers

Yixing clay pot

Yixing clay pot

My favorite mug

My favorite mug

Kyusu

Kyusu

Gaiwan and tea cup

Gaiwan and tea cup

I Seek a Middle Ground Between Jungian and Hard Polytheist

My agnostic side and my Luna Lovegood side (I didn’t intend this HP reference become a “thing” – but it sort of has, and I’m going to go with it) are ever at odd with one another, competing for control of the spiritual portion of my consciousness.

I am a woman of science (I have a degree in physics, after all) but I also have a touch of the whimsy about me. This isn’t the first post I’ve written in attempt to reconcile my internal debates, and it won’t be the last. I am on a pagan spiritual path whereupon the journey is the destination.

Some aspects of the universe are best left to my agnostic side; most notable being the nature of the afterlife, or lack thereof. One of the biggest appeals of paganism to me, as it is for the humanist pagans no doubt, is a focus on the here an now. It would be pretty darn sad, IMO, to live a life exclusively devoted to preparing for an afterlife which never materializes. There may or may not be something great waiting for me after this – I’m more than happy to leave it as a welcome surprise be that the case. In the mean time, I don’t want to miss out on a millisecond of the amazing experiences available to me right now.

That being said, spirituality in some form or another is one of the experiences available to me as a mortal being. Fitting it into healthy balance with all my other experiences, however, is the challenge.

I studied Jung extensively during my first years in college (as an English major). My favorite professor was very much a Jungian, which increased my interest in Jung. The idea of archetypes is quite appealing to an agnostic. They satisfy spiritual needs without impinging too much on the pragmatic. Whenever I get to reading an except of a Jungian-based text, I think, “hey, that sounds good, why don’t I try the archetype thing again?!” It gets me every time. But then I get to really thinking about archetypes in my practice and the more I think about them as fulfilling my spiritual needs, the less they seem capable of doing so. The archetype idea is too impersonal for my own practice. To some extent, I can get on board with the idea of major deities being archetypal, but when my thoughts move to a less cosmic scale, the archetype idea becomes less and less appealing.

I may have doubt from time to time about major deities, but I never, honestly never, question my belief in lesser spirits – land wights and such. It isn’t a problem for me to feel the spiritual energies emanating from nature all around me and to allow these energies independent agency. I can talk to my local nature spirits and never once feel like I’m being silly. Communicating with bigger deities, though, poses a problem in that I can’t work out to what extent a god can multi-locate. If I’m not addressing a single all-powerful cosmic creator, then I have to accept that the gods are not omnipresent. Obviously, if they were, rituals to call on them wouldn’t be necessary. This is where the idea of archetypes comes in as a handy and logical alternative. If 20,000 people are all calling on Thor, is he really an independent being capable of hearing all 20,000 of those people? But again, the archetype thing starts to feel too impersonal, albeit logical. From here, my thoughts move on to the necessity of ALL the pantheons. “Isn’t this why I acknowledge the existence of every culture’s gods?” I ask myself. “Since one set of them can’t be everywhere at once, it makes sense that there are regionally specific pantheons.” Well, that is all fine and sensible for the ancient, less-populated and less cosmopolitan world. What about all the cultural groups who migrated, taking their gods with them? Of course they can do that. But how many times can segments of that group migrate independently, taking their gods all over the place? Again, I have to question how feasible it is that a non-universal god figure can interact with multiple people all over the globe.

So I settled upon the idea that the collective conscience functions as our human connection to the non-local hierarchies of deity, possibly even up to the highest level of Great-Cosmic-Spirit (I recommend again that you read this blog post)

The higher up the scale of existence we go searching for deity, the harder it is to comprehend. It’s not too far of a stretch for me to imagine that there is some overlap between the concept of archetypes and individual deities with agency. But what does it even matter? Because at this point, I feel like i am concerning myself with matters that should not concern me (insert agnostic-me here). I don’t really need to know **how** it works when I call on a major deity. Nevertheless, us humans can’t help but busy our minds with meaning-of-life type thoughts from time to time, even if they go no where. So I carry on with my wondering. It makes sense to imagine that gods may reside partially in my own consciousness, but this does not subtract from their independent agency outside of my consciousness. If I allow for the existence of a cosmic-god-force, it makes even more sense that the higher up the chain of deities we go, the more the collective consciousness thing will play a part. A cosmic-god-thing/Great Spirit does not strip the free will of the lesser deities that compose it. If that were the case, all of us mortal creatures would not have any free will, since we too are part of this divine force.

I’d like to conclude here with an except from another interesting blog that I came across:

The Diamond

I describe divinity like a diamond, beautifully cut and shining brightly. Everyone looks at the diamond a bit differently. You can look at the whole thing, but the reflection can be so bright, its hard to understand and accept it as a whole. You know its there, but it seems unknowable. Details are hard to grasp. This is a strict monotheist view. You look at the whole and nothing else.

Sometimes a particular facet of the diamond will grab your attention, to the exclusion of everything else. You feel that facet is the only one, and there are no others. You do not see the whole diamond or any faces. You feel the rest are illusions. This is a particularly zealous brand of monotheism, excluding all other possibilities and viewpoints.

You can be attracted to a few of the faces, a patch of them, and focus all your attention on them. They represent a series of archetypes, the gods and goddesses from a particular pantheon. You may focus on them exclusively, but most realize there are other faces of the diamond. This is why many pagan cultures borrowed from each other, seeing other expression of their own gods in other lands. This is also why mixing and matching in the eclectic focus of modern witchcraft works so well. Even the early voodoo practitioner learned to adopt the saints as mask for their gods, because the archetypes are so similar.

Hopefully seekers recognize the faces of the diamond, and the whole diamond itself, and understand it is all a point of view. They are both right, and both have their truth. Native American traditions have a wonderful story. The world is a dream, dreamt by the Dreamer, the Great Spirit. The Dreamer realized he/she could not dream it alone, that other must create, and created many dreamers, each in charge of their own dream. One dreamer dreams of rocks, another of trees and another of love and romance. Each has their own realm of responsibility. The Dreamer is like the diamond, while the dreamers are the facets, the gods and goddess.

Another great expression is that all gods are shadows cast from the same light. The important thing to remember in any of these analogies is that we, too, are part of the whole. We are all faces in another layer of the diamond. We are dreamers. We are shadows cast by the divine light.”

Notice the part that says “We too are a part of the whole….” If we are a facet of the cosmic whole analogous to a deity who is a facet of a single God or Goddess, then what does that really mean in the end as far as the concept of archetypes is concerned? If all the facets can be their own dreamers, then is a facet of a single deity any different than the hard polytheist version of a deity?

Why I Am Not an Heathen (Though I Kind of Wish That I Could Be)

Well, I think I’ve decided what I’m going to call myself: a rogue Heathen. I want the Heathen title, but I don’t want all the “true heathen” connotations that go with it. (I do what I want 😉 )

Pagan Church Lady

This (long) post has been a long time coming.  I’ve referenced my feelings about personal background and development in some other articles and have been spending a lot of time trying to explore myself in relation to the modern Pagan movement and Heathenry.  Although the title was inspired by Bertrand Russel’s piece “Why I am Not A Christian” I won’t, as he does, seek to deconstruct the idea of a particular deity.  I will, as he does, explain why the values expressed in the religion in question do not fit mine, and why that leaves me in a difficult place.

Let me begin by explaining that I’ve had a love for the Aesir and Vanir since childhood.  I first read of them in children’s fiction when I was four or five and rapidly advanced to reading more adult storybooks about them.  Later on I discovered source material like the Eddas…

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The Problem with Monotheism and the Quest for a World Religion

I’ve been trying to start this post for sometime, but I can’t figure out where to start. Part of the problem is that I have more questions than answers.

But I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes.

I’ll start with a personal background relevant to my interest in this subject. I love medieval history. But I hate that it is entirely tangled up with Christianity. After all, what would be left of the Middle Ages as we know it if not for Christianity?

I have a confusing love-hate relationship with popular imagery from the time. My husband came across a crusader helm mug on Think Geek once and put it on his wish list. From his perspective, all he saw was a representation of his interest in geeky things and Monty Python. I look at it and I instantly feel angry inside. Why does it make me so angry? I don’t know. In general, it should make anyone angry to think of the numerous attacks on human freedom throughout history. But something about religious persecution specifically strikes a personal chord that I don’t even have a claim to. I am not persecuted. I don’t have any specific knowledge of ancestors who may have been, though I’ve heard in passing that some of my ancestors emigrated to escape persecution of their Christian practices.

Religious persecution of any kind makes me mad. I don’t want to see Christians suffer any more than pagans or anyone else. I don’t have a problem with individual Christians, but the religion as a whole comes across to me as an evil force vying for world domination. Not just Christianity, but Islam too. I feel like the history of violence, forced conversion, and proselytization of these monotheistic religions stole something from me that I never had in the first place. It’s the strangest feeling. Sometimes I wonder if I am not feeling residual emotions from a past life.

Because here I am, a pagan in the 21st century in America, land of the free, complaining that Christians from centuries ago stole something from me. Honestly, I have no logical explanation for the feeling, it is what it is.

In my combined attempts to rationalize my feelings and change my negative perspective, I came to the conclusion that the Christian “take-over” of the western world was necessary due to increased globalization. More people interacting means a need for new social dynamics and new political methods. The merging of church and state seemed like a logical way to go. For quite some time, this explanation was suitable for me. It didn’t fix everything, I still felt a yearning for a past that I was not a part of and I mourned its loss, but I accepted what I rationalized to be the only way.

Recently, however, I’ve been considering the efficacy of a world religion on peaceful global relations. Muslims, Christians, even the Buddhists all proselytize (some more peacefully than others) their religions thinking that they follow the one true path and that the world would be a better place if everyone else followed their path too.

Ironically, the desire for a word religion in the name of peace has led to copious amounts of conflict and violence. As far as I am aware, religious warfare wasn’t a thing until the rise of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions. Before this time, conflicts were more likely to arise over basic survival needs – for conquest of lands and resources. Now, in this globalized world where getting along is more important than ever, we have added religious conflict to the mix. What started out as an effort to get everyone on the same page for improved relations has only made relations worse.

What is it about monotheism that creates all this drama? First, let us consider the polytheistic peoples pre-Christian-conversion. When peoples of differing religious beliefs came in contact with each other, they didn’t feel threatened by each other’s gods. What was there to fight over when everyone had their own deities? Oftentimes, people would consider foreign gods with curiosity and sometimes adopt one or more into their own pantheons. With monotheism, however, a particular religious group is certain that their version of the one and **only** god is the correct one. Monotheistic religions, therefor, threaten the validity of each other.

This shouldn’t be a problem if everyone could just settle on one religion, one worldview, one dogma. But this is impossible, nor is it desirable if it were possible. The beauty of this world lies in its diversity. If everything was the same, that would be boring. Who would want to travel anymore? I want to visit China someday, among other places. Why? Because it is so culturally different than where I am from and that is exciting!

The very evolution of individual Abrahamic religions and their further divisions demonstrates our need for culturally relevant and, more often than not, polytheistic belief systems. The Abrahamic God started out as one of a larger pantheon. He eventually sort of absorbed the characteristics of all gods and natural forces until he became the one-and-only. If He is supposed to be the embodiment of all the cosmos, then why do the religions that follow him need angels, saints, demons, Jesus? People have a hard time relating to a cultural-less cosmic being. Culture is a significant part of religion. Jesus came about as a way for Christians to relate to their God on a more human level. It’s telling that pictorial representations of Jesus show him as a white man, despite evidence that he likely wasn’t (religion is inevitably cultural!). Many Catholics worship or pray to the Mother Mary as a deity figure, possibly indicative of desire for a male/female balance. The Saints have been given traits of pagan gods and people pray to them as if they still were gods.

There may indeed be a cosmic all-encompassing god force out there, but like the blog post I referenced last time points out, what matters to us as humans on our microscopic level of existence are the aspects of deity that we can relate to on a human level. This means that there cannot be one cultural-less god figure who will satisfy the entire world’s religious needs.

Consequentially, each religion that insists on naming only a single god as god-of-everything, no matter how culturally relevant to a region, will inevitably lead to conflict and violence each time different religious groups come into contact.

I don’t have the answers to the world’s problems (but wouldn’t I be cool if I did 🙂 ) and this post shouldn’t be taken as proof that we should eradicate all monotheistic religions (attempts at this would also lead to more violence 😮 ) It only represents food for thought and my personal observations.

One last thing: I didn’t mention atheism in the above, so I’ll add my two cents about that in here too. I think its great that some people feel secure as atheists. But the fact of the matter is, mankind as a whole needs something else to believe in. Unless science unravels the theory-of-everything, eradicating religion entirely isn’t an option – although it sounds lovely on paper (isn’t that the way of it with idealistic solutions? 😉 )

My Beliefs: Hard Polytheism and the Supernatural

I am a hard polytheist and sometimes I find it hard to articulate to others why I am. In this modern world run by science, with paganism a viable path for naturalists and humanists, why don’t I just jump on the naturalist or pantheist pagan bandwagon? Indeed I have gone through bouts of agnosticism in my past, even now I have no choice but to acknowledge that I can’t possibly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my beliefs are true, hence why they are “beliefs.”

But I came across this blog post that explains, better than I have ever been able to, why hard polytheism is (and should be) a viable belief amongst so many other ostensibly more “logical” alternatives.

There is also more to my personal story, a part that I am not always comfortable talking about, but it is relevant here. I have experienced (I might even say “been a victim of”) supernatural events to the extent that I have no doubt at all that something out there is immune from the laws of physics as we know them. So, believing in the supernatural is no problem for me. Before I married, supernatural goings on around me were of the sort that could be explained away by coincidence. Such things as playing with tarot cards for the first time in my life and reading in them that we would suffer a loss by theft or fire. Shortly thereafter, we lost out house to a fire. Of course, there were also the usual assortment of family ghost-stories that centered around lights, TVs, other electronic things turning on and off – seemingly in response to our actions at times. There was a remote control car that drove itself around the coffee table without running into anything. There was the mysterious hand that my brother and his friend saw closing a door in the basement and scared the crap out of them, the voice my mother heard that sounded like my father talking to her, but he wasn’t there, etc. But all of these things I could explain away. I didn’t personally witness most of them, so that alone made it easy to explain away. Besides being the one who spread out the tarot cards, I never witnessed the other stuff that my family talks about.

The only connection to me and those stories was that I lived in the same house where they occurred. My parents tell me nothing strange has happened since I left that house.

Then I got married and things got freaky. Like really freaky. Things that I cannot explain away. Sometimes I try. Some of the things (like my sand troll that kept taking “vacations” and reappearing in its spot on my dresser) I blamed on my husband as playing games with me. But the games became less and less funny and I would like to believe that by the time such games were starting serious arguments, that my husband wouldn’t continue them. But, hey, there are crazy people out there, I could have married one. 😮

Not everything could be blamed on my husband, though. Sometimes he wasn’t home when things happened. And I definitely can’t, for the life of me explain how I, no joke, witnessed pennies materialize out of nothing. One time, after my husband had gone to work, the crease of my knee felt really cold all of a sudden, but it looked alright. I had my knee folded up and folded it again after having investigated the strange feeling. I put my hand in the crease of my knee to warm it up – then a penny grew in my closed fist. The penny thing got crazy out of control for a while and occurred shortly after that start of other more malevolent goings on. I wondered if the source of the pennies wasn’t trying to protect me. I came home once to find a penny placed in the center of every door way in my house and above the door frames. No, that wasn’t a little weird. Sometimes they fell on my head from the empty air above. Ok, sure, maybe someone set up a crazy elaborate prank, and my husband had a sidekick messing with me when he wasn’t around. I don’t know. The other things that happened of a more malevolent nature, I don’t feel safe to discuss in detail. Whatever it is/was seemed to be aware of when I mentioned it.

Well anyway, that’s enough crazy talk. I know that no one believes other people’s experiences like these, and it’s not important to me if you do. I just put it out there to explain why I find it especially easy to believe in forces that defy science. Perhaps all of this has a logical explanation. Perhaps I’m staring in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. But even if I figure out the mystery, it won’t make me doubt my “illogical” spiritual beliefs.

ADF Dedicant Path: First High Day Essay (Summer Cross-quarter)

The August Cross-quarter is known as either Lughnasadh or Lammas in neopagan circles and is celebrated on or around August 1st.

Although Lammas and Lughnasadh fall on or around the same date, they are not, according to Alaric Albertsson, necessarily related” (169). Lughnasadh refers to the celtic god, Lugh (who is not a fertility god) and is, among other things Lugh-related, “a funeral festival commemorating the death of Tailtiu, the mother of […] Lugh” (Albertsson, 169). Lammas, on the other hand is associated with the god Ing Fréa, a harvest god, and is very much a harvest festival. Nevertheless, blending of the two traditions has occurred over time, such as with the association of the term “first fruits” with Lughnasadh, despite, according to Albertsson, the expression’s Anglo Saxon origins. Today, both Lammas and Lughnasadh are associated more or less equally with the first harvest.

Common traditions that prevail today include baking the season’s first loaf of bread and making corn (or grain) husk dollies. Corn husk dollies were traditionally made from the last sheaf of the the harvest in order to preserve the spirit of the grain. They would be saved until the next planting season, whereupon they were plowed into the soil with the new grain seeds. Today, it is most common to use them simply to adorn an altar.

Works Cited:

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.   Print.

I’m Pretty Tired, I Think I’ll Quit School Now

I’ve been in school for a very long time. Not continuously; there have been breaks, but the breaks were always with pending school in mind. School has always been my happy place. It didn’t matter if I was in a private school, a public school, a homeschool (I was homeschooled for a short while), or a university. I have simply felt at home surrounded by academia.

You might ask why I needed school after the required years were over. Can’t I study on my own? Why yes, yes I can. I’ve never had a problem with independent learning. But I like the school environment – the checkpoints I have to pass in order to get various rewards (stickers, grades, etc) and level up.

I often think of my life as one big video game RPG (yeah, I’m weird). I translate even the smallest mundane tasks into important quests in my head and imagine that I need to finish said task in order to obtain another piece of the map, or whatever it is that I imagine up at the time. This gets me through many unpleasant errands and chores, especially those in bad winter weather, when I don’t feel like going out.

School was an easy way to realize a portion of my life-game outside of my imagination. I didn’t have to pretend that I was leveling up, because I really did.

I started college at 17 as a physics major. My parents agreed to pay for no more than 4 years of college, so it was important that I was efficient with my time there. My first semester was wrought with drama and unfortunate events, so I took the next semester off to get my stuff together. I had changed my major to art just before the end of my first semester. My parents weren’t terribly impressed. As good parents will do, they worried about my future and the practicality of an art degree. They tried to compromise and suggest that I do graphic design instead of froo froo studio arts. I tried to compromise their compromise and suggested animation. I applied to a graphic arts school for animation and was accepted, but another series of setbacks and drama prevented me from going (probably for the best). I don’t think I’d be too happy in today’s animation world. I preferred pencil and paper drawing, not computer tech magic (incidentally, I stopped drawing after this didn’t pan out). My interest in animation was also tied to an interest in film making in general. I considered majoring in film at the local university, but there was a waiting list. I compromised with English thinking “hey, maybe I can be a screen writer.”  As you can see, my “efficient” first four years wasn’t starting out so efficient. My parents were unsettled about my flighty interests and lack of career-oriented plans, but they still guaranteed four-years of funding. Somehow I ended up making a deal with them that I would finish in the originally allotted time (despite the semester set back) in order to secure their confidence in me that I would, indeed finish. So I completed my English degree in 3 years time, making liberal use of summer classes and 20+ credit hour semesters. I also worked part time, so it was quite a challenge. But I did it. And I did it all with stellar grades. I would have had a perfect GPA if not for my first mess-up semester in physics.

Oh, physics. How I love you. How I hate you.

No one told me to major in physics. I wasn’t following orders from my parents. I really wanted to study physics. I had been certain that I wanted to be an astrophysicist since I was 14. Before that, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Either way, science was my jam.

I had skipped a grade before entering high school, but I didn’t skip ahead in math. So, when I started college, I had no calculus background. This wasn’t so unusual. Many students enter college without having taken calculus in high school. But it kinda mattered since I wanted to take the calculus-based physics class, the honors version no less. Other students had successfully taken calculus and physics concurrently and I though I was good enough to do so as well. That didn’t work out for me. A combination of non-academic related issues and my damaged pride (no longer the smartest fish in the pod) led me to give up.

After I graduated, I immediately regretted not following through with physics. I was full of what-ifs. I met my future husband a few days after graduating. He proposed a few months later and agreed to help me go back to school. A year went by before the marriage, and then another semester of waiting before I began my physics studies again. This time, I finished. Not without a lot of stress and effort, mind you. I struggled the first few semesters. Again, life got in the way of my focus. Getting married, moving to a state that I absolutely hated, and thousands of miles from my family – it was a lot to adjust to. But I carried on and eventually got the diploma to prove that I did it. I can even proudly say that my final semester grades in physics were all As. I waffled about continuing to graduate school or teaching high school physics. I was enrolled in a teacher training program for a year, but that didn’t work out. I decided that completing the physics degree was more about proving to myself that I could rather than planning for a future in it (although, I still have moments when I wonder what-if). By the time I finished physics, I was sorely missing literature and humanities studies. I immediately enrolled for a double major in anthropology and German. Now that I was all on my own for funding (no more grants and no more family), I needed to consider efficiency again. Anthropology had to go. I finished German short of three credits to a degree (through no fault of my own – the school just left me hanging and I would have had to put off graduate school for a year just for those three nagging credits, so I let it be).

Well, here I am, finally in graduate school (finished my first year in Comparative Literature) and finally feeling like Forest Gump when he was done running. Is it graduate school in particular or just school? graduate school is certainly something else, but I think I would have loved my time here a lot more when I was younger. I’m just tired now. I’m tired, and I want to do something else besides school. I feel like I will disappoint some people. My husband and some of my other family was hoping I’d get a Ph.D. But I’m really tired. And I’m getting too old for this. I **am** too old for this. I want to enjoy life a little, rather than be tied down by a thousand after school assignments and such. I want to come home and watch TV without feeling guilty for having more important things to do.

I’d like to have more time for my hobbies too. Perhaps even open an Etsy store or start a tea business. So many other things I want to do and school is no longer one of them.

I still have a year left of my Master’s program. I’m going to try to stick it out. I’m getting paid as a TA and tuition is covered, so I might as well. But we’ll see. I’m definitely not going for a PhD though.

Imagining a World with Friends: My Introverted Aspie Dilemma

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I’ve always wanted a best friend. The kind I see on my favorite Disney Channel shows. Someone I am completely comfortable around and who accepts my need for alone time. A lot of alone time. Fortunately, I found a husband who, more or less, grants me a fair amount of solitude, and for a time I thought it was romantic to consider him my best friend. But a husband-friend isn’t quite what I had in mind.

Growing up, there were a few girls whom I called best friends, but it was in title only. They were really no more than playmates with a status slightly above acquaintance. For me, however, anything more than acquaintanceship was a big deal. Frequent moves and loss of contact (pre-internet days, you know) prevented any potential best friendship from developing further than that. I’m not entirely sure that frequent moving was the real problem though. I don’t know how to make friends. It would have required the efforts of the other party to force me into a friendship despite lack of effort on my part. I like the idea of having friends, I just don’t like the work it takes to make and keep them. The social obligations are a source of terrible anxiety.

After high school, and especially after my first four years of college, potential friends no longer fell into easy reach. Without group projects and forced encounters with people my age on a daily basis, even my acquaintances began to dwindle in number. I am in graduate school now, but I don’t have much in common with my cohorts, mostly because they are so much younger than me. People my own age are becoming mothers, I am not. That too makes things awkward. There is little common ground on which to mingle.

Recently, I have been making a fair effort to get out more. I am usually happy being alone, being left alone, tending to my own hobbies by myself, but sometimes I get to feeling the lack of people in my life. It’s a strange feeling – wanting to have people in my life but feeling crazy drained and stressed when I go looking for them. I had a good thing going on as a kid, living with my siblings and parents. There was activity around me, people to hang out with (despite the bickering and inevitable family drama) and I miss that. I miss knowing that there are people around should I need them, but being able to keep to myself most of the time. I don’t want kids of my own. I don’t want to be responsible for people. I just want to know that there are people around.

I went to a local Witches meet-up yesterday night. The conversation was lively and the people were friendly. But I don’t know them. I don’t know how to get to know them. I am terrible at keeping a conversation going and even worse at small talk. There wasn’t much room for individual socialization during the meet-up itself since it was a focused-topic conversation, but people gathered to converse post-meet-up and I don’t know how to do that. It is discouraging for me to consider how much small talk I would have to suffer in order to come across one of “my people.” Sure, a group of Witches is a start. We have at least one thing in common. But that isn’t enough. Just one night out for me takes a huge toll on my mental well-being. It would take an eternity to form a bond of substance by this method, considering how much down time I need in between events.

Going out for me isn’t like it is (or seems to be) for the average neurotypical extrovert. I don’t just think, “hey I’m bored, I think I’ll go out tonight.” No, it’s not like that at all. Going out is a painstakingly planned event. I need at least a few days notice. I need to prepare myself mentally, to consider all the possible sources of stress at the particular location to which I am going and to prepare accordingly.

Once I’m at my destination, I have fun. It’s not like the entire process is a chore. It’s the before and after that cause issue. When I get home from any social event (ranging from a small few-person event to a crowded dance club), I get the same sense of relief that I do taking off high heels or a corset. I get home and feel like I can breath again.

I’ve heard rumor that Aspies are not necessarily introverts. I wonder what it’s like for an extroverted Aspie. Is their situation more or less stressful than mine? I imagine they are the sort who socialize without abandon, not caring if the other person is interested. Or maybe that’s not how it is. I don’t really know. I just know that I am introverted and autistic, which makes a poor combination for making friends.

Although the odds are against me, I’m trying my best to be a part of the world. Even if I never form any real friendships, at least I won’t look back on my life with regret for not trying.

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