“this is not Pollyanna, like, oh, there’s something beautiful in everything. No, no, some things are just terrible. I’m not gonna lie to you about that…. and, I refuse to shape my identity around oppression. I won’t do it.”
Forming our worlds around meeting our collective and individual needs; so that we can defeat oppression without forming ourselves around the oppression itself. If we form our identities around the oppression, we risk creating a void within ourselves in the very shape of that oppression.
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 1 May 2023.
Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in.
It's May. How on earth is it Beltane? But it is. It's May. Here we are. Last week was hot here, this week is a little cooler. And honestly, I'm grateful. After adapting myself to the cold, rainy winters here in the Pacific Northwest, I was not prepared for 86 and sunny. I was not prepared. I mean, the weather told me to be prepared, but I was not prepared. But here we are, it's May.
My brain- I don't know if yours is doing this, but my brain still thinks it's February. My brain still thinks we're back in the long lull of tide in, tide out; rain and stop and rain and stop and cool and cold and bundle up. And yet somehow it is time finally to put seeds in the ground. It doesn't feel any different from January or February or March. It feels the same but the leaves are leafing out. The leaves are leafing out and there's a tiny bit less rain.
And so I guess maybe here we are. And it's May. And it's Beltane which is the heart home for me of the Neo-Pagan holidays, the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year. They're varying scholarly opinions about whether or not- how real- these Celtic holidays are. They are certainly resurrected reconstituted. Partly made up, partly probably based on something that was made up a long time ago. They make sense.
If you live in a regular North American four season climate they make sense. Northern Hemisphere most of the Northern Hemisphere, the cadence lines up and Beltane is in fact when fecundity comes to the front. When we're ready for sex and pleasure, joy and sun. Possibility. Seed planting, literal and metaphorical. When we're ready for colors.
I noticed a number of years ago that flowers bloom in seasons. That the colors come each after the other. There's a season for yellow and then a season for pink. And I think maybe purple is next but I'm not sure. And we're ready. We're so ready. Up here in the Pacific Northwest where it often doesn't become sunny for days at a stretch or weeks or sometimes longer, we are so ready to see that sun. Not ready for the 86 degrees but ready.
I mean, there are a lot of people who live here who are not ready who do not like it to be sunny ever. And they will grumble and mutter and look longingly at their thick wool sweaters in the closet and clutch their empty hot cocoa mugs protectively until such time as it is once again time to put on the heavy clothes and drink the cocoa and the coffee.
But- but it's time for the season of pleasure. Now one of the challenges of holidays in general is that they kind of tell you how you're supposed to feel. They tell you what kind of mood you're supposed to be in at a particular time on a particular day. All that pressure and struggle around Thanksgiving and Christmas- I know Thanksgiving is complicated- but all that pressure and struggle in the fall, in the winter of the year, has largely to do with the fact that it often feels like a withdrawing time.
And yet we want people to come out and be bright and sparkly and light and joyful. That's hard. But even if it's not hard for those reasons, maybe you're just having a bad day. Maybe December 25 doesn't turn out to be the right day for you to be excited about anything. Maybe it's just not like that this year or ever. Maybe something bad happened one December 25. And now all the December 25's attainted. Maybe that was your birthday.
My birthday is complicated. It's coming up and it's complicated. Many years but especially this year, there are some reasons why it's extra complicated. But that extra complication is layered on top of history, trauma, challenges, stuff that all came with my birthday. And yet I love my birthday. Not because it's my birthday, but because it's Beltane.
This year, it's literally Beltane. But even in years when it's not literally astrological Beltane, it's still Beltane. I claim Beltane. And I think of myself as a Beltane Baby Beltane is my home turf. Beltane is, is the holiday, I always come back to. In the same way that my colleagues, many of them, my clergy colleagues like to do funerals, and I prefer weddings.
I know so many people who are tied to the earth and the rhythms of the year. Who prefer Samhain, which is the polar opposite of Beltane. It happens at the opposite end of the year, at the end of October. And it's for turning down. For composting. For wrapping up. For recognizing our dead.
So many different traditions do something like that around that time. Because it feels like that in the northern hemisphere. Because that's what the world around us is doing. And we're part of the world. And that's fine. And I don't disagree with that. But that's not a place that my heart goes home to.
I am not a goth gay. I am a gay gay. I'm a- frivolity- not even frivolity. It's stronger than that. It's wilder than that. It's the energy of Beltane. It's growth and possibility and the unbelievable speed with which something becomes its whole self after it has emerged. And I adore that. And this year, it's complicated.
And, and yet we can celebrate pleasure in the midst of complicated. I think, especially now, especially right now, especially with the world the way it is, we often don't talk about that. But especially for intensives. Because we feel things so deeply, we experience things so deeply that it becomes vital- so important, so important- for us to know how to allow that depth of feeling its full range, and also and also tap into pleasure. And also tap into joy, even if pleasure and joy are not the things at the top right now.
So let's start really small. Let's suppose that I am so depressed that I have put myself to bed. Which is an emergency measure for me. I put myself to bed. I have brought my electronics into the bed. I know that people who do sleep coaching do not recommend this however, survival looks different than regular routine.
So I have brought all my electronics into the bed. It's me snuggled up with a bunch of stuffies and a laptop computer. And my phone. It used to be three things when I had a landline. When I had a landline the landline phone was in there with me and my cell phone and my laptop. But I don't have a landline anymore. So it's all in there with me. I have my water, maybe I have my meds maybe I have like some pain meds if I'm having pain. I might have my electric blanket on. I might need it to be cozy.
I'm curled up in bed, and I have that sinking terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Really right at the point where my ribs end in the middle, right? That tender spot right there. And I need to break the cycle. I'm in bed because it's essentially an emergency and I need to break the cycle in my head. And none of my usual tricks, none of the meditations, none of the soundtracks, none of the distractions, not even the Internet has worked.
Usually something works.
Problem solving, project planning, anything. But if none of that has worked and I am curled up in bed, and I have got to break the cycle, it is possible that the beginning of breaking the cycle is rubbing my thumb across my finger. Or rubbing one toe across my foot. Petting the tops of my thighs with my hands. Paying attention to the sensation of the sheet against my palm. Or the pillowcase against my cheek. Or the soft ear of one of the stuffies in my fingers. One swallow of water and watching it in my mind's eye as it goes all the way down.
My bedroom faces the backyard where we have a bird feeder. A finch. Or the glory of a scrub jay. Or a juvenile squirrel. Or a tiny, tiny bird landing so lightly on the yellow flowers that came from the kale that the last person who lived here planted. That is still growing. And I will not interrupt, as long as the birds are enjoying it.
Sometimes- not often- sometimes it's a tiny little taste of a food that I want. That is rare when I'm in that state to want anything. But something that tastes good, something that feels good. The coziness of the bed itself. Tiny, tiny, tiny. And also May, this month, is so robustly abundant. It's so glorious. There's so much here and there is so much in my life that I absolutely adore.
Perhaps, I will start a gratitude journal. Not to hammer at me, as so many people use it. But because if you write fifty new gratitudes every day, you can repeat but you can't look back. So you have to think of them yourself. Fifty gratitudes, every day for a month, or six months or a year. What happens is you get used to noticing the things that you feel gratitude for. It trains your brain to look somewhere else.
So in the midst of all of this crisis, and it is crisis, make no mistake, in the midst of all of this challenge and struggle and fear and pain, the gut stabbing sensation of people who seem to want nothing more than to enact cruelty. To cause misery. To bring suffering into the world.
And yes, I want to shout at them. Because my understanding of their central narrative is that all the suffering of the world was taken on by one person, that we might thrive. And to me, that makes it anathema to cause suffering. Where it is not- I don't even want to say essential- to cause suffering. Where we don't need to cause suffering. Which implies that there are places where we need to cause suffering. And that is a deep philosophical rabbit hole. But there are definitely places where we do not, and where people are.
And it makes me tired and angry. Sometimes it's because people don't know any better. Sometimes it's because people have trauma or lack the skills or something. And sometimes, it's just because people are mean, which is something that I absolutely cannot grasp. No matter how hard I try. I do not understand it at any level.
But the world is rich and beautiful. And there is something we can do. That is not that. I am not saying we can afford to not pay attention to the absolute atrocities around us. What I am saying is that in order to nourish ourselves, to pay attention and make good trouble, and ultimately to craft a world beyond the tug of war. To look into the future and imagine a future that is on the other side of this.
To craft a better world, to imagine and live into a better world, and to be the people that we need to bring about that better world, we have got to be able to focus on pleasure also. we cannot allow the cruel people to dictate where we put all of our time and attention. Not just rest, not just recovery, not just resistance, please not just resistance. When we set ourselves up with resistance, what we set ourselves up with, is pushing back at something.
Which means that we end up requiring that something to exist in order to understand our own identity. And that is not where I want my identity to come from. I refuse to shape my identity around oppression. I won't do it.
It's why when I talk about DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion type things, I talk about them in a holistic way. I talk about them in terms of everybody's needs. Because we need to stop forming the shapes of things around the oppression that we are experiencing. If I experience oppression, what I want is a system that cannot even imagine that oppression as making any sense.
I want the absurdity of separating a class by brown eyes and blue eyes. I want that level of not knowing how you could even think about that. We have to get to a world that's so far past that we can't imagine it. That those categories don't make any sense. What if we said you had to be under five foot four in order to ascend to an executive level role in any company? It doesn't make any sense. I want that.
I want that level of doesn't make any sense. And in order to imagine that, I- we- must immerse ourselves in pleasure. In the physical sensations of safety, of possibility, of enrichedness, of nourishment. And so how do we do that? In the middle of all of this?
Sometimes it's the tiny things. And sometimes it's the absurdly large things. Sometimes it's the impossibly enormous things. Sometimes it's changing perspective. Sometimes it's going off to the woods for three days. And luxuriating in what the woods offer and also luxuriating on coming home.
Coming home to a place where there's hot running water. And a bed, if you have those things. Coming home to a place that has shelter, if you have that. Coming home to a place at least that's familiar where there are very few surprises. Where even the unpleasant things are things you know to expect. Things you've worked out a way to deal with.
Sometimes it's a splurge, it's a treat. Sometimes it's an absurdity. Sometimes it's an absurdity, because it looks funny from that angle. Today I went with a friend an hour and a half each way to get a plant that's so common that most people think of it as a weed. But it's very hard to get at a nursery.
Was it an absurd way to get a plant? Yes, an hour and a half each way. In the middle of the workday. On the other hand, it was a joyful hour and a half each way. Conversation and connection and shared experiences and values. Of deepening relationship. Of mutual troubleshooting. Of being in community. Is that worth three hours? Yeah, yeah, it is.
Sometimes it just looks different from a different angle. Sometimes you have to tip that little box back and forth until you can tell what the prism is inside it. And it's not what you expected. But there is something in there and you do find it. And this is not Pollyanna, like, oh, there's something beautiful in everything. No, no, some things are just terrible. I'm not gonna lie to you about that. But sometimes... sometimes the pleasure is right there. As long as you know what you're looking for.
Thanks for tuning in. I'll talk with you soon.