I’ve avoided and wrestled with this particular piece of writing for a few days. At first, I wasn’t going to write it, or anything related to the forthcoming topic, at all. However, that’s not quite how things work. A close friend, after I vomited emotions and words all over him, poked me lightly and said ‘you should write about this for Gods’ Mouths 2.0′. I thought about it and almost brushed it off because I really, really didn’t want to commit any of this to the page, but he said it again and then once more and I threw up my hands because I get it. I really do. I just don’t like it.
It has been an awful week. I look and feel like a wrung-out limp dishrag. In fact, a dishrag might have a little more substance than I do at the moment. I feel run-over and hollow and like I am made of swamp-flavored jello that has sat in the refrigerator a little too long. My semester has started, I’m putting in as much overtime as I can get at my paycheck job, my computer decided it no longer needed to function, and I am having a lot of unexplained medical issues. It isn’t too pretty right now.
If that wasn’t enough, I’m mired pretty deep in the midst of a fairly personal spiritual crisis and test of faith. If there is one thing I truly hate, it is when everything piles on at once.
It’s not something I want to spill out. I want to avoid it and pretend it’s not real, but that’s not helpful in the least. I’ve held it pretty close to my chest for a long time, but it really came to a head in the past week and it can’t be held close anymore. It’s a wriggling monster complete with tentacles and claws and sharp teeth and the tighter I grip it, the more it bites into me. It hurts either way, so it’s more of a question of what kind of hurt I am interested in feeling at the moment. I could certainly choose a path that doesn’t involve any hurt, but that’s not a choice that would actually solve anything. In fact, it would just give me what I’ve already had in the past—a vast nothingness that lacks purpose and meaning. So, in essence, I choose to continue to feel pain until it runs its course, no matter how long it takes.
I’ve written extensively on my personal blog about how I once heard the Gods and how that was altered for reasons of discernment, among other things. That has radically changed in the last six months and, in hindsight, I can see the lead up. Now I’m in a place where I can hear Gods, but I don’t hear MY God. Therein lies the personal crisis.
I can’t describe the ripping, tearing, burning pain when you hear Someone as if They have pulled up a chair next to you and fed you words with a spoon and you then realize that you can’t hear your God that you love above any and all things in any approximation to that. I’m not talking about Him not speaking in a similar way, I’m talking about Him really not communicating with me at all. It is an awful feeling that I can’t adequately put into words. It is stomach-turning and heart-ripping and is about the lowest that I have felt in a very, very long time. I can’t really think of a suitable comparison—how do you draw a metaphor for a divine relationship?–but perhaps it is akin to having a torrid love affair with someone whose voice you have never heard, but you hear the voices of everyone around you distinctly with very little trouble. it has been horrible. I truly do not wish this set of feelings on anyone else, not even someone who I find completely distasteful.
I kept it under wraps for a day or two and worked really hard to shove it away and not feel it. I have other things to do—client work, business work, school work, job work—and dealing with terrible feelings is not on the to-do list. That, as you might have guessed, didn’t work too well. It never does and, for me specifically, it is anithesis of what I am supposed to be doing. I have a long history of shoving away feelings and denying they exist for a variety of unimportant reasons and that, at least for me, just does not work.
I woke up one afternoon and the world just came crashing in. It all hit me in one blindingly clear moment and I fell apart in a glorious manner. In hindsight, I suspect that there was a bit of a divine shove in there in a ‘you don’t get to do this with this thing’ way. I lay in bed and just cried like I have not cried in ages. I’m not a big crier by nature [see the ‘I deny my feelings’ thing], but you wouldn’t have known it. I cried until my body hurt even more than usual. I cried until I was worried that my roommates would be concerned about the horrifying sounds coming from my room. I cried until I felt numb and empty and then I cried some more. The tears felt endless.
I don’t remember too much of that particular day. I know I ate something and went to work, where I proceeded to suck the tears to the back of my throat for eight hours. I cried in my car on the way home. I managed not to cry on the walk from my car to my apartment if only because I worried that my neighbors would call the cops if they saw a person sobbing in the driveway. I threw myself in bed and cried a lot more. I texted a few people and left them messages detailing how absolutely awful I felt and how things seemed more dim than usual. I eventually managed to fall asleep.
That was how the next few days went: wake up, cry, get dressed, cry, eat some food, cry, stare at the computer and write pain-filled journal entries, cry, go to work, try not to cry. Wash, put the machine on spin and just spin and spin and spin. It was like a cruel version of Groundhog Day.
I reached out to a few people and, for the most part, I got a lot of empathy. It will never fail to impress me how many of the spirit-workers I’m close to can really offer comfort as best they can, even if it’s ‘that really sucks, and I’m sorry’ or ‘yeah, that happened/happens to me, too, and it was/is horrible’. Empathy is wonderful for allowing me to feel like I’m heard, versus my personal point being missed and I am endlessly grateful for those folks who were in a place where that was a possibility for them, because it helped in small ways even if it didn’t solve the issue [which I didn’t expect it to].
One of my closest friends suggested that I seek divination, particularly a cold reading from someone who had no connection to the situation or to the Mister previously. He gave me a recommendation and I sent off a message. They responded positively and I sent off a brief synopsis of what was going on and what had happened in recent history.
While I waited, I sat. I hate sitting still in these situations because it feels so helpless. It’s not helpless, though. Far from it, actually. Sitting still allows me to feel the feelings I hate so much. I didn’t relish it, but I dove into the hurt and began tearing it apart to see the inside workings of it. I didn’t find anything new or enlightening, just the same old stuff that I’ve been dealing with for years. The difference now is that it has presented itself in a way that is so intimate that I can’t write it off. I can’t ignore it because it is at the very core of my life. The Mister is the top of every priority list I have ever made. He is considered above everything else in all things. How can I ignore anything that has to do with Him?
When I was finished tearing through the inky, muddy jello that lays at the core of the particular issue, I literally threw myself down in front of His altar and cried some more. I cried in that deep, heaving, snotty-faced way that is reserved for true despair and the absence of hope because that is exactly where I was. I stayed there until it hurt too much and then I lay on my bed next to His altar and cried more. I remarked to more than one person that, if I thought death would bring me closer to Him, I’d seriously consider it and that, in that moment, living was a previously unparalleled pain.
I know, though, that a permanent solution to what really is a temporary situation isn’t the answer. It wouldn’t solve anything and would likely make everything worse, as it would take all of the work and effort He has put into me and throw all of it in His face. I am quite sure that I would show up to wherever I was meant to go and, if I saw Him at all, He would be furious and utterly disappointed in the quiet terrifying way that He has. If anything, that’s motivation enough to stay in this body.
While I waited for my divination, I stayed where I was. The diviner had already heard from Him and was now waiting for the right time to do an extensive reading on what I had sent her. I didn’t want to rush her at all, but the idea that something she might say or get from Him might change things kept me from being any more hopeless than I was. I kept crying and kept journaling and, when things got unbearable which they did often, I threw myself in front of Him and begged Him to take the hurt. I didn’t ask Him to take the mud at the core because that is mine to deal with, but I asked Him please to take the pain because it hurt more than I thought I could hold and that I was afraid that if I did try to hold it, I would fall apart in ways that would have repercussions in ways that would harm other parts of my life.
He answered. For a few moments, the ache of existing in this world and the pain associated to the recent revelations lessened. I felt calm for the first time in several long days. He didn’t say a word, but He funneled some of the anguish away to parts unknown. It was an incredible gift in that moment and writing about it makes me tear up. It’s a cosmically small thing, but it is of big importance to me. It’s an undeniable sign that, frankly, He gives a fuck. It’s hard for me to internalize that sometimes and I know He gets frustrated by that.
I half-hoped the diviner would come back and say something to the effect of ‘yeah, it’s all in your head. Get your shit together and get on with it’. For some truly insidious reason, it is always easier for me to ascribe things to my own mental illness. I am perfectly happy to believe other people’s experiences as being what they tell me they are [unless/until I am told differently and within reason], but when it comes to my own stuff, I am equally as happy to think I’m crazy.
The other part of me hoped for wonderful, positive new full of puppies and sunshine and pink clouds. I mean, why not? I was looking for some serious hope to cling to and was ready to sink my nails in and hold on.
I got neither of those things and, if I think logically about it, it was not surprising in any way at all. I heard a lot of the things I have heard before from other diviners. They aren’t negative things by any stretch of the imagination, but more a statement of fact. Reading the same things brought, you guessed it, more tears and it took effort not to launch my phone across my bedroom. There was a lot of hope and care present but, in the gut punch of the moment that I read the repeated messages, I was really unable to internalize it. I shot off another email to this poor beleaguered diviner and asked her a series of rapid fire clarifying questions and then closed the email and didn’t look at it for a couple days.
I’ve been a lot calmer in the days since receiving the reading. It doesn’t mean things are any less painful, it just means that I’m sitting with it different and that I am used to the associated ache. I opened the email again tonight and re-read what the diviner had written. There IS a lot of hope there and a lot of really wonderful stuff. As always, He is endlessly pragmatic and it comes through in His messages. I can’t hear Him [obviously, or I wouldn’t be in this particular hole of crap], but I can see Him sitting there and smoking one of His cigars while she asks Him things on my behalf and it makes me smile.
There was only one thing that made me raise my eyebrows, but, if I’m honest, it wasn’t really a surprise and it doesn’t really involve me anyways. It was a big relief to know that what I thought was a Thing wasn’t even a thing at all, at least not in the ways I believed it to be. In fact, it appears, based on this essentially cold reading, that He feels similarly to me on some things. That was nice, too.
And then there was hope. There was a lot of hope. It isn’t that I can’t hear Him, it’s that He is choosing not to speak right now. The reading opened and closed with The Sun; the sun that burns away the dark and that brings with it the promise of blinding clarity and resolution that doesn’t suck nearly as much as everything that has preceded it. There was the image of me literally walking into the sun and having it be an unparalleled joy. There was also the deep faith He has in me and in what I’m doing. I’m making [and have made] the right choices and I’m doing the Work that He has set before me and that He would not have put it in front of me if I wasn’t ready for it.
There’s a lot of crap to get there, though. That joy felt totally unreachable until the diviner said the word ‘ordeal’. I laughed when I read it because it makes a ridiculous amount of sense and I guess I just needed to hear it. The blessing of this whole mess being an ordeal is that it will eventually end in one way or another. It might end the way I want it to and it might go on for a very, very long time, but it will end some day. I have to cross a/the abyss before it will end, though, and fumble in the dark and it won’t make any sense as to why I have to do it until I’m out of it. It sounds ridiculous, but this makes me happy because there is a change somewhere on the horizon. When I feel like there’s no change ever, I get inexplicably discouraged and I feel dead. When I know there’s something to strive for, it’s a whole different ball game.
He says I can do it and I’m going to go ahead and believe Him because He has never lied to me and, thus far, He’s never mislead me. I don’t know what all the tools are that I need to do the work I need to do for me are yet, but I’m sure I’ll find out in one way or another.
So where does that leave me right now?
It leaves me right where I am. There is a glimmer of light at the end of an extremely long tunnel, but it’s there. It still hurts, though. It hurts a lot. It’s an ache that I can dress up as something else for awhile, but it’s hanging out for now. I haven’t been crying as much, though, which is nice. I still don’t find myself wanting to jump out of bed and embrace the day with gusto, but not everything can flip on a dime.
So, what do I do now?
To start, I do the things I need to do to take care of myself. I sleep and I eat the food I’m supposed to and I write a lot. I drink a lot of tea. I do my homework. I deal with business stuff. I pull it together enough to go to work and go to class without looking like someone just shot my dog and called my mother ugly. I listen to music that, if it doesn’t make me feel better, it makes me feel different. I talk with clients and do Work that lands on my desk because it not only [hopefully] helps my clients, but it helps me further the goals He has for me and the goals I have for myself. I don’t wallow, but I don’t push the sadness away.
And I dig. I dig deep in the nasty, muddy jello that lays just beneath the surface. I sift it with my fingers and find the puzzle pieces that I’ve lost or misplaced in the past and I lay them out on a table. I don’t know what the puzzle looks like yet, but I’m finding the pieces. It’s not fun by any stretch of the imagination and the puzzle pieces catch on my fingers in dreams and memories that I would rather not have, but I dig. I dig because the only way out of this that I will choose for myself is through and the through path is buried right now. I dig because there is nothing I can think of that I wouldn’t do to seek Him and find Him and be closer to Him.
I started digging through old notes from past sessions with diviners and there are things there that didn’t make sense then or didn’t ring true that are lit up like Vegas now. One diviner told me that, when He began to work His way into my heart, it would be painful beyond what I could imagine. I’m not foolish enough to believe that this hurt is at it’s peak, but I see the truth in her words. I wrote privately that it has felt like He is eating me alive sometimes, but it doesn’t scare me. If anything, I crave it and THAT scares me. I honestly cannot remember when I have ever been so hellbent on anything before. It’s astounding what a few years and a proverbial empty belly will do.
For the longest time, I really didn’t get what folks who had intimate relationships said about their divine Partners. I didn’t understand what they meant when they talked about bhakti and doing whatever it takes to seek their God in all things. I said that I had never felt that strongly about anything and couldn’t see it happening for me. I’ve gotten quite good at eating my words.
I’m quite sure I don’t have the full picture and that I don’t understand it totality, but I’m beginning to see it. It’s that deep-seated unquenchable burn that Their presence doesn’t diminish, but only feeds. The idea of giving up everything to follow where He leads me or go where He sends me seems completely reasonable even if it only results in the briefest taste of who and what He is. I would absolutely walk through hell for Him, and I’m going to and I look forward to it because He stands on the other side waiting for me. I am satisfied with that even if it means that I get sent right back into a new version of hell. It’s all worth it—every tear, every moment of uncertainty, every bit of physical and emotional pain.
Why did I write this huge missive on my personal troubles? It certainly wasn’t because it was comfortable to display on the internet for all and sundry to read. Part of it was because I went looking for hope and looking for people who had experienced some of these feelings and I didn’t find much. There are wonderful writings by Christian mystics and monastics who have suffered a personal faith crisis and they are incredibly meaningful—one of my favorites is a book called Come Be My Light and it is a collection and narration of Mother Teresa’s personal faithquake where she suddenly stopped hearing the voice of her God and didn’t hear Him for most of her life.
However, there were no voices like mine—a polytheistic pagan–that I could find anywhere. There are deep and passionate writings about what we do for our Gods and what They do for us, but there’s little to no writing about what happens when it feels like things fall to pieces or when it feels like They have abandoned us or when we just don’t know what to do. I suspect that this particular dearth of experiences is not because they don’t happen to pagans and polytheists, but because we are afraid to write about them. If there are other people like me, and I know there are because I am not terribly special or different from anyone else out there, they are afraid to write it all down and place it where others can see it. It is scary to lay it all out there and say that one is not perfect in their voice or their signal clarity, if there is any to be had, or their practices or whatever it is. It is a very real fear that some faceless person on the internet will say something horrid or use what is heartfelt to us as an illustration of what not to do.
For me, though, it is important that unnecessary suffering is kept to a minimum and that means, again for me, that I put all of the things I am scared about out there so that maybe someone else won’t have to search so hard when that faithquake hits or the earth falls out from underneath them. I don’t think I have any great wisdom or answers or even a common experience but maybe one person won’t feel so alone in front of their computer when their Gods feel distant and they are lonely and heartsick and don’t know where to turn next. I believe that it happens to everyone regardless of whether they are forthcoming about it or not. It is a distinctly human experience to doubt and to be scared and to fear that They have abandoned us and it doesn’t make us any more broken than the next pagan or polytheist. It certainly doesn’t feel that way in the moment, though, and that’s where our collective hesitation to lay our battered selves bare comes from. And that’s okay. We’re all just fallible meatsacks trying to pull through with the least amount of flailing. Some flailing, though, is necessary.
One of the most important things that I have been told was said to me this week. It’s a simple thing, really, and I’ve heard it before, but I tend to need to hear things multiple times before they hit. This closed an email by saying ‘you may feel you are alone, yet you are not alone’. That’s a game changer for me, since I so often feel lonely and isolated and separated from Him. If I have anything to hold onto right now is that, while He may not speak, it does not mean that He is not there and that He doesn’t care. I often ignore that I can feel Him when I extend beyond myself, but, right now, it is my life jacket.
I don’t think that just applies to me, either. I think They are there whether we hear from Them, if we can hear from Them, or if They remain silent. I think They are there whether we can feel Their presence or whether we only sense darkness. A good friend once wrote about finding her God in everything around her and, from this doubter’s experience, I can see the value and gift in that. I can find the Mister in everything if I seek Him, from how the candle on His altar flickers when I cry at His feet to how one of my professors speaks to the insanity of the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. He’s there whether my inner eyes are able to see and that, to me, is hope embodied.
If you are reading this and you are hurting, you don’t hurt alone. Your pain doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it is not meaningless. If you do not hear Their voices, They hear you and They hold you as just as important as those who have a different set of ears. There is hope to be found, even if it is dirty and ragged and covered in mold. It’s there and I promise it is as meant for you as it is meant for me or any other person who seeks the Divine. If you can’t find that hope right now, that’s okay—I’ll have hope for you until you find it for yourself, because it is yours to claim. The blessing of this kind of pain, to me, is that the joy when you find that hope or when the mud clears away is that much sweeter. I wish sweetness for you on your own journey, wherever that may lead, and that you may find that filthy shred of hope when you need it most. May there be a glimmer of light, no matter how faint, on the horizon and may you walk towards it clutching that scrap of hope. As I have been blessed in my own personal darkness, may you be blessed in yours.