Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 6377
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 30th. 2003
Series 10 - Back to Zero...
"If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kinds of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security: we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us." -- Nena O'Neil
I don't care how many years that you have under your Pagan belt or how many candles were set ablaze upon your last birthday cake. No matter what your chronological age may be or how many years (or months or days) that you have been following a Pagan path, as I end this particular series of essays I would also like to leave you with this one piece of completely unsolicited advice: Start over.
Yep, I am hereby recommending a good old-fashioned mid-life crisis for everyone. Now I know that the words 'mid-life crisis' conjure up images of some balding fifty-ish executive guy who suddenly decides to get a toupee, join the neighborhood gym and trade his forty-year-old wife in for two twenties. Our stereotypical Mr. Fifty more than likely also just springs this little surprise on everyone, says 'it ain't working' -- and then takes a walk. And sometimes in real life this is exactly how it goes. Well, boo on you then, Wren. Where's the good in that?
The good is in there, I say. It is just hard to see it -- and harder to appreciate it -- when Mr. Fifty racks up such a huge body count on his path to personal happiness. This guy made a mess of it. He didn't go about it in the right way. But he is not entirely to blame. No one ever told him that it was okay to start over. All that he ever heard was "It's a commitment" and "You have to stick it out for better or for worse" or the dreaded "What will people think?" He exited badly because no one ever told him that he could exit in any other way.
Truth be told, it is not easy to start over. Whether it is from a relationship, a spiritual path or a career, severing those ties is hard. Why? Because no matter how bad that marriage is, no matter how dull the spiritual practice has become or how close to a complete dead end that the career path is approaching, many people remain just where they are because they are afraid not to.
Change is risky. Change is uncertain. And living with the devils that you know may just be more comfortable than encountering some unknown devils down the road. And we have all those great souvenirs.
Say something like, "Yep, we've been married for thirty years." or "Well, I've been Wiccan for twenty years now." and we'll probably get a "Wow" or two. Like that's money in our pockets that we can jingle in the face of newlyweds -- or newbie Pagans. There is only one time that this type of jingling should elicit any sort of real admiration and that is when we can truthfully put the word 'happily' in there somewhere. Then at least, we are in a position to offer some good advice on how to go the distance and not lose the joy of the journey in the process.
While we cannot be sure what ancient Pagan spiritual practices were like, we can make some suppositions based upon historical and archaeological records. Some rites were solemn, some were celebratory and some were downright gruesome. But the point is that they were never all solemn or all celebratory or all gruesome. Throughout the year, solemn rites (such as honoring Gods or Ancestors as we might at Samhain} seem to have been intermixed with more celebratory festivals (as in fertility festivals like Beltane). And if we throw in (no pun) a few bog bodies, we may come away with a fair idea of how our Pagan ancestors balanced things out.**
Life is like that, too. We usually have some joyous moments and some solemn moments. We even have some gruesome ones. (Although we do tend to discourage bog body tossing and interring cats between the walls these days.) But what do you do when your life becomes seriously out of balance? When your joy is gone? When you are just going through the motions? When you dread going home or to the next monthly coven meeting? Do you stick out? Do you resign yourself to 'this is just the way that it is'? Or do you dare to go back to zero?
Starting over. Going back to zero. What will that cost you? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. Maybe just about everything. But is that always a bad thing? Only you can decide that. Just be sure that it really is a decision and not a default. Because unless you can be honest about it, you too may wake up one day and discover that you have turned into a Mr. Fifty.
A graceful exit from a situation that you are no longer happy being in may not always be possible. It might get messy. But if you are truthful about your intentions and the reasons for leaving, at least you can minimize the damage to others and to your own sense of self-esteem.
Suppose you have been Wiccan for twenty years. And suppose you now find the rituals and the tenets and the entire Wiccan religion (OMIGOD! Is she really gonna say it?) dull, boring and quite frankly, going nowhere fast? ***
But leave after twenty years? That's a long time. All of your friends are in that coven. And perhaps you are an 'elder' or hold an esteemed position in that group. You've put a lot of time and energy into establishing the coven or path and in supporting it. Maybe you even wrote several books about it. But the joy is gone. In your most honest of honest moments, you know that this is true. And you want out.
If you can be honest about it, you will find a way to inform anyone who needs to know that you are leaving and why you must go. You will take the full responsibility for this action upon yourself. And you will leave as graciously and as well as you can manage it. The fault -- should there be a need for fault to be placed -- you will honorably bear, for it is your decision. Your heart and your joy are elsewhere and it is time to follow.
It is a shame that this so seldom is the way that it goes down. For it is indeed hard to accept that the ultimate responsibility for our own happiness rests entirely within us. Our culture frowns on that sort of thing. It sounds rather...well... selfish. But just who do you think that you are really blessing with your miserable and unhappy and loveless presence if you stay?
You can choose to stay, of course, and to try to make the best of it if there are circumstances that really are prohibitive or if you are just too darned stubborn to either give up or to give in. Sometimes things can be worked out after a period of sincere effort. But if you decide to stay, stay because you have decided to stay and not because you have decided not to go. And if you have decided to go, do it right.
Be honest in your reasons. It is not that your wife is a bitch; it is that you both have changed and no longer have anything in common. It is not that Wicca itself is dull or that your priestess is a 'jerkess' or that all of those fluffy-bunnies have ruined it for everyone; it is that the depth that you now need to spark your joy is -- for you -- no longer to be found therein. It is not that your boss is always on your butt; it is that you no longer feel fulfilled by the work you are being paid to do. In other words, don't make up a reason; state your reason and then move on.
It's going to shake things up. There may be a price to be paid for rocking the comfort boat. Some family members might not understand. Some friendships -- especially those based upon family or coven/group ties -- may become strained. Some co-workers just won't get it. You may lose some things and some relationships forever. But don't let the haunting visions of what you might lose blind you to all of the things that you might gain from making a change.
So every once in a while just throw yourself an old-fashioned mid-life, mid-spiritual path or mid-career crisis party. And if being where you are still brings you joy, then do put that 'happily' word into your statements and we may someday come knocking upon your door for that advice.
But if it is time for you to go, don't be afraid to do it.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ****
As I have discovered that going 'back to zero' is also an excellent way to end an essay series.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, June 30th., 2003
* Nena O'Neil
** When forensic scientists studied the preserved brains in some recovered bog bodies, they found that the brains of these people who lived thousands of years ago are identical to ours. Education, opportunity and information availability aside, our human ancestors reasoned just as we do today. They were not intellectually deficient; they were merely ignorant by current standards.
*** Please don't bog me. I am not declaring that Wicca is actually dull, boring and/or going nowhere fast.
**** Mark Twain
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