Monday, 24 August 2015

Unreasonable Expectations

There are a number of things that are true about Pagans.

We are demanding. Many of us are unreliable. We feel that our own knowledge often trumps the knowledge of others. We are rampant complainers. Generally, Pagans have high expectations of local and national (and sometimes international) festivals, rituals, and workshops.

We, dear Pagans, have unreasonable expectations.

I'll throw a little personal anecdote out there as an example. This happened a number of years ago.

I used to run a group with 2 other people - both of whom I have known for a long time. We held monthly meetings and the occasional public ritual. We worked very closely with one of the other groups in town for over 3 years.

This one witch, for whatever reason, decided she needed to write some pretty unkind (and untrue) things on her blog about how we ran our group. She called us cliquish and self-centred. She called our topics mundane. She said she didn't connect with us, and every meeting she had been to has been about environmental stuff or planning stuff (which may very well have been true - I had seen her at a grand total of 3 meetings). 

As organizers, we worked closely together to co-ordinate meetings and rituals. There is a deep sense of trust and reliability when you are working in close quarters like that for awhile - these are people I can do magic with, you get used to the rhythm of how their minds work. That's not cliquish. Our meetings were always open to the public, and we had always been welcoming to others coming to meetings - otherwise, why have a public group? Why not start a private group, called a 'coven'. We have seen people come and go. We had a few repeat guests, so we got to know those people the most because they are the ones who showed up. If someone didn't connect with us, that's no fault of ours. Unfortunately, a group cannot fulfill every need or niche. So if it doesn't work, why not leave it at that?

This was on a volunteer basis - we didn't get paid to do this. It took up a lot of free time, between running meetings, writing and running rituals (plus all the planning that goes into those) that if we were doing that for attention or to fulfill some narcissistic need, we could have chosen a much better vehicle to do so. It is a thankless job. We all worked full time, or were full time students with other extracurricular activities on top of this, plus time for regular family and friend interaction.

 As for topics, we had had over 30 topics in 3 years. All different, ranging from Men's Mysteries and the role of men in Paganism to the Paranormal, or holidays and altars. We didn't really do social coffee nights, or talk about magical mystical faerie princesses. No one wants to work all day, and then go to a meeting for 2 hours to hear people yak about their kids or their cats or whatever. It was a spiritual group - we addressed spiritual topics.

This witch could have come to us directly, or taken us up on one of the multiple times we had asked  the group at large what they would like to see us do or talk about. Instead, she took to her blog and aired her grievances, and guess what? Nothing came of it. Nothing changed. She complained for the sake of complaining. Shortly after, she started her own group, which fizzled out in 2 months. Guess she learned that that kind of thing is a lot more time consuming than she thought.

Fellow organizers (past and present), does this sound familiar? In my experience, working with the public for 16+ years and volunteering running a spiritual organization for over 5 years, people are never satisfied. There is always something not quite perfect, or not quite to exact specifications or imagined value.

Pagans in particular are very critical of one another. We expect perfection, and offer many a nuanced critique, but we fail to see the actual issue. We do not value our volunteers, the people who do what they do for the sheer joy of it. We all think we can do better, but when the time comes to step up and take the reigns, we are nowhere to be found. Of course. This is a giant part of the dysfunction in many modern pagan groups - when people don't share the work burden, you end up with organizer and volunteer burnout. Of course, when the free events and rituals stop happening, people complain that they aren't happening. Well, no shit, Sherlock. When you treat people like shit, what do you expect? You expect those people to just put up with the multiple people bitching at their efforts without once offering to lift a hand to help? Would you?

 One of the first things I tell people when they start to complain about these types of things - if someone is willing to do what the group is doing, to the quality of how they do it, or do it better, go ahead. What's stopping you? That is usually enough to either shut someone up, or to open the doors for all the excuses to pour out. "I'm so busy, though." Oh, and I guess all of these people who spent the last year planning for this event just sit at home and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for something to happen.

Of course they aren't. They are students, they are parents, they have careers and families and responsibilities just like everyone else. Like, really. Give your head a shake.

I know many people who have been student organizers, people who have run public events or weekend retreats. That shit is a lot of work. Even a priest or minister has to pre-prepare their sermon for the week. It's not like people just stand up and open their mouths, and the right words just brilliantly come tumbling out. People spend days, weeks, sometimes months working on these things to try and have them run as effectively as possible. On top of all of that, who do you think provided the candles and matches and snacks? Providia, the goddess of potlucks and witchcraft ritual supplies, did not suddenly appear and wave her hand and make it appear. Those things were purchased or made by the organizers.

There is the expectation of perfection. When people say "well, yeah, or COURSE I can do it better" and step up to do it, only to find out how much work it is, they either flounder and quit; or they start to realize that all the shitty stuff they were complaining about was really shitty to complain about and they pull up the ol' bootstraps and put their heart into it.

Honestly, I wish more people would be willing to run and help put on events and rituals. Yeah, it's scary for the first few times (but so is anything the first time). You shouldn't let that stop you from trying. It does get easier. No event is perfect, but volunteering your time and efforts can make you truly appreciate the time and effort that others put into free events. I'm not saying everyone has to be centre stage, but something as easy as making a batch of cookies for hungry participants is always appreciated.

Some events and rituals are poorly planned and terrible. Sometimes that happens, despite everyone's best intentions. Sometimes people who have no business running a dishwasher, nevermind an event or ritual, are put in charge - and they make some poor planning decisions. I'm not here to say that every free event is amazing. People can honestly and truly drop the ball and leave people feeling wretched about the whole ordeal. In those situations, you can make the choice to complain about it, or to do better. Everyone makes mistakes, and even with the best of intentions, things can end up tits up. It happens. Give people the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance to make amends (unless something abusive or terribly offensive happened, in those cases something should be said and the offending people should be avoided like the plague). People have off days. Sometimes luck is not on your side. I have made stupid mistakes, I have run some terrible fucking rituals - all despite my best intentions and preperation. Mistakes are there to learn from, so it's best for organizers to own up, explain, and do better next time. On the participants end, if something went horribly wrong, it may have an easy fix. It's better to approach an issue with suggestions of a solution than to just complain about the problem. It certainly makes dealing with the organizers a lot better and causes a lot less drama.

There is the last option.

You could also say nothing at all. You could be thankful that you live in a place that events like that happen, for free, and just take what is given. That is an option. 

At the end of the day, these people are volunteering their time and efforts to provide you with something that you could do yourself, but with an added benefit - community. You should look at the offering as hospitality, and you should do your best to honour someone's hospitality. You wouldn't walk into someone's house and take a dump on their offered meal, so choose words wisely when addressing an organizer. Some opinions do not need to see the light of day, and complaining about it without addressing the crux of the issue will do nothing but cause hurt feelings and eventual burnout. It could even mean the end of local, free events.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Handfasting and general updates

Us, with some lovely flowers from D's pops after our ceremony.

One wedding down, one to go.

Back on July 25, I got handfasted to my sweetie, D. He is an amazing human being, and I am so so lucky to have someone like him in my life.

It's been a weird journey. Coming out to extended family as an alternate family unit was difficult. People we thought were trustworthy and loving turned out to be, well... not. There's been a bit of a schism between D and a few members of his family that's been a difficult thing to adjust to. There are many, many people who know about us, and who have been supportive and loving and accepting in the last 10 years. D's mum, rest her, was the first person he told, and she was lovely about it. Many members of his extended family have taken the time to message us and tell us how happy they are for us. Combine that with our chosen family, our coven, our parents... it's been a lot of love on all sides. The familial blow up over the past few weeks has been difficult, but I am so proud of my now husband for standing up for himself and asserting how he feels. He can be a bit of a pushover for the sake of harmony in many situations, but this was something that immediately got under his skin - and he can have a bit of a temper when something gets under his skin. The last 2 weeks or so have shown me the angriest he has ever been since I have known him. There have been many late nights of him ranting and raving about how floored and angry he is about this, how hurt, and what damage has been done.

Me? I just feel utterly betrayed. I had a lot of trust and love placed in the people involved, and it's never a fun or welcome thing to find out that kind of thing is misplaced. To be painted as something I am not is never a fun thing, but unfortunately, it's something I have practice in dealing with. I am just staying out of the conflict, doing my own thing over here, and hopefully it'll be resolved, eventually. The friendship I had is dissolved, though, and I don't think we'll get that back. That's something I have to deal with, in time. Betrayal and lies never sit well with me. I'm a loving person, and I am a good person. I wear my heart on my sleeve in a lot of ways. I am forgiving - and almost always willing to do so - but I never fucking forget. Ever. My mental rolodex is organized by the wrongs done.

All that nastiness aside, it was a lovely ceremony presided over by GarmsTears. We gathered in a local park. It had been pissing rain all week, but the rain held off for 5 or 6 hours, even opening up to blue sky during the ceremony. A raven flew overhead, croaking a hearty approval. Our coven sister DragonLady took some pictures. Afterwards there were hugs, tears, and joy. After that, we had a picnic of cupcakes and finger foods (and we snuck some wine in too!) and sweet tea. We chatted and shared time with everyone, and then we tidied up and walked along the lake to catch a bus home. It was really, really nice.

Our altar. We wanted it sort of inconspicuous and general, but we did want to include D's late mum. The handfasting cords we picked out. The box holding our rings was given to me by D's father after D's mum passed, and belonged to her.

This is my favourite picture of the whole day. D is reading/sobbing his wedding vows (and quoting one of my favourite movies, The Princess Bride), I'm beaming at him, and behind me is my soon-to-be-husband, partner of 17 years, DPM, radiantly smiling at both of us.

Exchanging rings and swearing oaths to one another in front of witnesses.

Being bound through handfasting.

Kiss kiss!

Life has been blessedly quiet since that point. August is going to be a busy month, with people visiting, trying to catch up with all those folks, and making plans for marriage #2 in September, the legal one. Thankfully, no ceremony. Just off to the courthouse for a quickie, or 'to sign some paperwork', as DPM is fond of saying. The paperwork and courthouse cost a bit of change, so there is  the cost for that we're saving for. I also had to order rings - 2 for myself, and one for DPM. I have the ring I got for my handfasting (I ordered it from Etsy a while back - very simple little silver ring with aquamarine), but it's shape makes it difficult to pair anything with, so I ordered a beautiful set on Etsy of two rings, one for each. Sterling silver with a floral design, and one of the rings has a piece of mystic topaz in it. DPM's ring is a handmade titanium piece, also from Etsy. Our family is coming over, we plan on having a family lunch and a big dinner with all of our friends. It'll be fun.

I've been trying to finish up my reading. I just finished the Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman - they're making a series and after reading the books, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm currently reading Armada by Ernest Cline. His first book, Ready Player One, is one of my favourite books ever. So far, Armada is a fast read - a little derivative of his first book, but still enjoyable. The characters are great. A lot of comparisons to Last Starfighter and Ender's Game. When that's done, I've going to try and read Goblet of Fire in french. I've been trying to brush up on the language - it could be very handy in my current career, and I used to be fully fluent - and reading a book I've read a million times should be helpful.

After that, I have a whole bookshelf of books to tackle. I wanted to give my brain a break from the non fiction for awhile. I have a few fiction books to pick through, stuff I ordered awhile ago when I was picking through Goodreads recommendations, but I still have to finish a book to complete my yearly requirements for IDGAF, but I have a few (just a few? ha!) to choose from.

I'm going back on Eifnir in a few weeks to talk about Skyrim and Elder Scrolls. That should be a gas. I haven't had much of a chance to play any games lately, but I've been thinking about picking up Animal Crossing again. DPM's been obsessed with Pokemon lately. I've also been thinking of picking up something else. D really enjoys Uncharted, so I may give that a go.

That's about it, I think. I have another article in the works, but I think that's a few weeks off. I don't think I have anything else to cover.