What do we inspire?

This question has been on my mind a lot in recent weeks, and I’ve had some interesting social media conversations around it as well. I have issues around not inspiring in people the things that I need and want.

A fellow Pagan with ongoing health issues talked about how difficult it is if you don’t inspire care in others. It took me a long time, several tattoos and a birth to decide that I don’t have a low pain threshold – as I’d always been told – and that I may be experiencing a lot of pain. That I’m able to do a lot can make it hard for people to see what I can’t do, or how much it might cost me. When people are convinced that you are robust and healthybut you aren’t, they may also be convinced that you’re making a fuss or being lazy. That doesn’t inspire care or kindness.

I was asked why I felt the onus was on me to inspire in the first place. I recognise that this is all tied up with feeling that I need to earn a place – that warmth and care for example, are not things I should assume would come my way, but that they have to be earned. I’m better than I was at not assuming all of my relationships will be about utility, because a number of people have gone to some deliberate effort to demonstrate otherwise. But still, it casts a long shadow. I expect to have to earn things and the flip side of this is that if I don’t get what I need in a situation, I tend to assume it’s my fault for not having been good enough in the first place.

There are always interesting questions to ask about where we assume power to be centred. People who feel that they have earned and are responsible for every good thing that comes their way can miss the roles of luck and privilege. People who feel responsible for the things that go wrong can miss the influence of bad luck and other people being unkind or unhelpful. It’s not easy territory in which to strike a healthy balance. We can divide along lines of people who think they are responsible for everything, and people who feel responsible for nothing. Some of us only own our good fortune and feel anything that goes wrong is not of our making. Others of us do the reverse, feeling to blame for any problem and setback, but grateful or lucky in face of anything going well.

What do we inspire? What should we expect from others? How much is a response to me a measure of who I am as a person? When I’m trying to think about this dispassionately, ideas like ‘deserve’ seem largely absurd. Who gets what they truly deserve? Probably no one. Does everyone deserve kindness, respect and a chance to explain when things go wrong? I think so, except I’m not good at applying it to me.

For much of my life, I’ve had an array of issues around what my face and body do or do not inspire in other people. I’ve been bullied a lot over how I look. I’ve had how I look used as a justification for doing all kinds of horrible things to me. The accident of my face and bone structure, the accident of a stomach that just doesn’t develop decent muscles no matter how I try. The accident of a body that stores calories when stressed… things I have little control over that have dominated a number of important relationships.

Perhaps it’s not about what’s intrinsic to me. Perhaps the bigger issue is the way people read meanings into bodies and then refuse to consider anything else. I don’t have a delicate bone structure. That’s not a measure of my overall health and wellbeing. My body shape has a lot to do with how my body is, and is not a measure of a lack of virtue. Perhaps there are other stories to tell where I don’t have to feel entirely responsible for how people react to me.


Children’s Day

The 5th of May is Children’s Day in Japan. It’s not a religious festival but a cultural one, and I’m marking it as part of my ongoing efforts to honour Japanese festivals. Last year, this was the first Japanese festival that I was properly aware of, as Dr Abbey sent me photos of fish kites flying in Tokyo. My honouring festivals is very much about being a family even though we are in different countries.

I’m not in a position to fly a fish kite, so have drawn one instead. The carp represents strength and success – they’re a fish that swims upstream, like the salmon, so their ability to overcome adversity is important. There is a Chinese legend – imported to Japan – about a carp who, having swum upstream is turned into a dragon!

Households with sons have traditionally flown fish kites on this day. The festival is currently known as Children’s Day but used to be Boys’ Day – to match Girls’ Day earlier in the year. I’m not sure why the change occurred.


Waiting for the leaves

There was one spring, more than twenty years ago when I remember the leaves not coming out until Beltain. This year, the spring in the UK has been unusually cold. Some of the trees have leaves, some are starting to open, but there are a lot of bare branches out there. It still doesn’t feel like we’re easing into the warmth and bounty of summer.

A certain amount of variation is normal and natural, but this cold, and this late greening feels like climate change. The unpredictability of the weather makes it hard for everything – me included  to adapt.

Some time ago I made the decision that I would do my best to love the natural world in an open-hearted way, regardless of the impact of climate chaos. That I would try to embrace and love as much as I can. I find the absence of leaves, the lateness of leaves really hard. But, I can celebrate the ones that are already here, and I have felt their presence keenly.

I note that in the wooded places, the undergrowth is unusually verdant. The jack in the hedge is really tall, the nettles are flourishing and the garlic is prolific. There’s a lot more happening at ground level than happens most years. This may well be a consequence of the late leaves.  In the absence of one kind of greening, we get more of another. What that means is hard to say.


Collaboration and creativity

I’ve always liked to collaborate. I’d much rather sing with other people than sing alone. I’ve been working creatively with my husband Tom for well over a decade now. I’ve co-written with various people along the way.  My blogging is held in part by my being part of a wider blogging community, where ideas flow between people. I think the idea of the lone creative isn’t true, it’s just that not everyone acknowledges their creative family, or the people enabling them to do the work.  Humans don’t exist in isolation and therefore cannot actually create in isolation either. We’re all held by our societies, and family histories and we all depend on people who make our food, clothes, electricity and so forth.

I’ve been collaborating intensively with one person for a couple of months now. I’m committed to two ambitious projects, and smaller side projects keep opening up. What’s particularly interesting about this collaboration is that it’s changing all of my work, not just the bits I’m co-writing.

I note that my ideas flow more easily, and I have a lot more of them. My imagination feels like a trim, lively sort of creature as it bounces about inside my head. I’m more relaxed about what I do, and more confident and that’s showing up in all sorts of ways.  I’m getting feedback from people who are involved with my work and can see the difference in other projects, too. I’m faster. Things that would have taken a couple of hours now fall into place in one, or less.

I like myself more as an author right now than I have done in the last twenty years. Oddly, I feel like I’m finding my voice – something I thought I’d done a long time ago. I’m also finding out, week by week, what a Nimue/Abbey voice sounds like, and what kind of stories that might lead to. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before, and at the same time, it feels like coming home.

I’ve been sharing posts here that are me responding to Abbey’s ideas. Over on the Hopeless Maine blog, I’ve got pieces where his words and mine are much more interwoven, and the stories come from both of us.


What if we re-thought the Police?

In the UK and America alike, we’re seeing a lot of reasons to re-think policing. What could we do that would change how policing works?

The big one for me is to re-prioritise around crime. Currently the police seem far too focused on the small scale crimes of poor people, while there seems to be no way to even challenge the crimes of the rich – and the crimes of those in government and other positions of power. Those with most power should be held to most account.

Justice should not simply be about punishing people after a crime has been committed. Justice means fairness and equality of opportunity.

If we legalised all drugs, provided them safely through pharmacists and treated addiction as a medical issue, we could do a lot of good. I gather it’s worked out well in Portugal.

If we invested properly in mental health support, we wouldn’t have people in crisis becoming a police issue.

If we invested in quality of life for everyone – especially including easy access to green space – we’d reduce crime where it relates to poverty. Interventions like Universal Basic Income would wipe out the crime that only exists because of desperation.  Investing in communities would wipe out the crime that comes from boredom, frustration, lack of opportunities and feelings of alienation.

In a fairer and more just society, most of us would feel more motivated to support said society. Inequality and injustice encourage crime. When the crimes of the rich go unpunished – as is currently happening – a sense of obligation to each other is bound to be undermined.

What if policing included more community support and mediation? What if policing was more focused on abuses of power? What if ecocide was a matter for the police? What would happen to how we police ourselves if prison stopped being the default answer to crime?


Beltain Altar

We’ve made a hobby horse, based on the Padstow May day obby oss. Which on closer inspection doesn’t look a great deal like an actual horse at all. It feels like a lively, slightly tricksterish, unpredictable sort of energy to have invited into our home, but there he is, and he seems happy enough for the time being.


Intuition is not irrational

We take in far more data than we can consciously process. What rises up as intuition may be in no way irrational, and arguably not even that woo-woo – it’s just a different way of using our brains. Also it turns out that our thinking is far more distributed through our bodies and not just a brain thing, so the idea of a gut feeling may be highly valid as a form of thinking that is actually happening.

There are questions to ask around intuition if you want to establish what kind of relationship yours has with the rest of reality. It’s important to keep track of how those gut feelings relate to what actually happens. Humans are very good at persuading themselves they were right all along, so you do have to be self aware to do this.

How do you tell between anxiety and intuition? Or wishful thinking and intuition? Also, rather critically, how do you tell if your intuition is right but you’re being systematically lied to? How do you hang on to your intuition in face of gaslighting? Especially if you’re dealing with someone who is using the woo-woo as part of their tool set? What do you do if you’ve trusted someone, and that one mistake leaves you wide open to having your confidence in yourself entirely sabotaged? These are not easy things to figure out, and I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer here.

The most important thing is to keep checking in with yourself. Cross reference what you feel with what you know from other sources. Compare and contrast. How anxiety manifests in your body is likely to be different from what it’s like to have a gut feeling that something is wrong. The same goes for wishful thinking. Only if you want to avoid self-delusion will you be able to pick these things apart. There’s no helping the person who is hell bent on asserting that their intuition means things regardless of all evidence to the contrary. I’ve been in those situations too, and if someone is adamant that they know what you’re ‘really’ thinking or feeling, and won’t hear otherwise, there may be nothing you can do. It may be a case of deciding to put up with it, or deciding to quit. I honestly recommend quitting.

It’s also important to remember that you have the right to say ‘no’ in most situations without the obligation to explain exactly why you feel that way. Over-explaining can itself be an abuse legacy, or a sign of an unsafe situation. If your ‘no’ isn’t acceptable on its own, and you have to justify what is a gut feeling, and saying ‘this doesn’t feel right for me’ is not going to be a good enough excuse… you may well not be in a safe situation. If you can act on your gut feelings without having to justify yourself, it speaks well of your circumstances.

It’s ok to do that – if it works for you. Navigating life intuitively is just as workable and reasonable as trying to make evidence based decisions. We are all only ever guessing and there are always more variables than we know of. None of us can ever be totally certain about exactly how our choices will play out. Some of us do our best thinking by being as logical as possible, and some of us do our best thinking unconsciously. Some of us blend the two to good effect.

Watch out for people who try to play to your ‘intuition’ to persuade you of things that aren’t true. Conspiracy theories often depend on engaging your feelings to override your knowledge, logic and wisdom. If someone tells you that you are so intuitive that you’ll get why they are right… mistrust them.

An it harm none, do what you will – and if that means your choices look a bit irrational to other people, that’s ok. We’re not obliged to make sense to each other. Kindness is also far more important than making sense. Do what works for you.


Reclaiming Intuition

Inspired by Natalia Clarke, I started thinking in earnest last year about what I might do to reclaim my intuition. Looking back I think it would be fair to say that I invited opportunities to rebuild my intuition and to work actively with it. As is sometimes the way of it, when you ask, you get.

I made a dramatic leap of faith in the spring of 2020, based on a dream I had, and a feeling.  It was a decision that had a huge impact on my life, and that continues to do so. It’s probably a choice that will turn out to have been a major point of change for me with a massive impact on my future. It’s not something I could have done as a reasoned decision.

Having taken that leap, I found myself in a situation where pretty much all I had to work with was intuition. I went from having largely ignored and refused this part of my life for many years, to suddenly having it be the thing I had to most rely on. As the year progressed, this became increasingly the case. I made a lot of decisions based on what my intuition said because I simply didn’t have any other substantial information sources to work with.

This, in all honesty was a scary place to be, and incredibly disorientating.  It felt more than a little insane, and I spent a lot of time second guessing myself, and wondering at the wisdom of where my intuition was leading me. How do you tell what’s intuition and what is just wishful thinking? That’s a hard one, especially when you have reason to think you may be being led by something else entirely. I was also very aware that if I had miscalled some of these things, I would make an enormous mess and cause considerable damage to myself and the people closest to me.

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for!

It wasn’t until spring of this year that I started getting any significant feedback to put my choices in a rational context. I paid dearly to get to that point – in fear and distress. However, early in 2021, I started finding out what the consequences of those intuitively made choices were. It turned out that I had been right about pretty much everything.  I had steered an almost impossible course through some trying times, based purely on what my gut feelings told me. I emerged into a place full of remarkable possibilities that just keep opening up.

It’s been a very powerful experience for me. It would be fair to say that Natalia’s book on Intuitive Magical Practice changed my life – there’s a more prosaic review for it over here.


Losing my Intuition

Reading Natalia Clarke’s book on intuition in magical practice made me think a lot about my own history with intuition. In my teens, I pretty much steered by my gut feelings, and in my twenties, that changed. It wasn’t loss exactly, more a series of experiences that damaged my trust in my own gut feelings.

I dealt with several people in succession who were manipulative, gaslighting types. One in a work context, one in my personal life. Before I realised what was going on with them, I was fed a lot of information that contradicted my gut feelings, and I did not know what to trust. I’ve never been a massively self confident person, and was persuaded that my intuition was wrong and not to be trusted. To further compound this I had people claiming magical knowledge that was so alarming and uncomfortable that I pulled away from all of that sort of thing in self defence.

My Druidry became more agnostic, sometimes more atheist, because belief no longer felt safe. I couldn’t afford any sort of woo-woo. It was a lot to lose, especially my ability to trust in my own judgement and gut feelings.

The thing about abusive people is that they will tell you they know best. If you resist, it is further proof of how wrong, silly, and misguided you are. What they do to you is always justified. The same is true of toxic systems, that will tell you why you deserve how you are being treated – the appalling treatment of disabled people in the UK, the way police shoot innocent Black people in the US, the history of oppression for any group that has been oppressed includes messages about why the dominating culture feels entitled to do this. Worthlessness is taught. It can be hard to trust your own judgement when you’re subjected to this kind of treatment.

I abandoned my intuition. I did so in order to try and stay sane and survive situations that were really unhealthy. I found that I needed to be able to evidence and justify anything I wanted to express – and even that didn’t reliably work, but starting from ‘I feel’ was likely to cause more trouble than it was worth. I fought a losing battle to be allowed to be a person, and I cut off a lot of parts of myself to try and survive. An animal in a snare may gnaw its own leg off to escape, and for a long time, that was what I was doing.

I read Natalia’s book, and I asked whether I could change things, and make room for my own feelings and intuition. I set a process in motion. I’ll be back in future posts to talk a bit about how that worked for me.


World building in fiction and real life

The advice to ‘write what you know’ is good advice because writing in ignorance can lead to a lot of unconscious assumptions and prejudices. I’m very much in favour of imagination, but for your imagination to take you somewhere, it needs to engage with reality in some way.

I’m world building at the moment and most of my Tuesdays have gone over to pieces that relate to that. The world I am building with Dr Abbey is post-war, post environmental disaster. My aim is to write something hopeful, something in the hopepunk genre perhaps. To do that well I need to think both about what might go wrong and what might be restorative. So, I’m playing with ideas and I’m also reading around and looking at what people are already doing to find solutions for climate chaos.

Fantasy is not enough – in fiction and in life. We’re all engaged with world building as an everyday issue. The choices we make, the dreams we pursue, the things we value and the things we reject all go into making the future, into building the world we inhabit. Or tearing it apart. The crisis we are in has a great deal to do with wilful ignorance and denial of truth. We’re living in the fantasy of an economic system that says you can have infinite growth with finite resources. We’re living in the fantasy of lies created by a fossil fuel industry that has long known how dangerous it is for life on Earth. We’re living in the fantasy of people who believe that we can have a viable future without making radical changes.

World building is important. Fiction writing is a place to explore that, but even fictional world building has massive implications. We have so much dystopian fiction out there, on the page and on the screen. Our shared imaginative worlds feed us doom and gloom, and do not offer us much we can use for building our own future.

Dreams and ideas are the places we begin to come up with change. What’s true for authors is also true for the rest of life – if you imagine with no basis in reality, it will be full of assumptions. People who are not writing from a place of knowing tend to regurgitate what they’ve seen without questioning it. And so you get yet another faux-white-medieval-Europe  fantasy world with elves and dwarves and orcs. You get another dystopian future in which people have to fight each other for resources. If you start to ask about what happened, and what is happening, if you enrich yourself with better information, you are likely to tell different stories. Those stories will have more room for diversity, and for different outcomes.

Perhaps one of the most important stories to know about, is the one about how humans cooperate in face of adversity. There are lots of those stories out there, in our history and in current life. Cooperation isn’t as self announcing or dramatic as conflict, but wherever there is conflict, there are always people working together trying to come up with something better.

I don’t know why people are persuaded that in a dystopian setting, it would all be about weapons and fighting over scraps. It would be about basic skills – being able to grow food, and keep warm and sheltered.  I don’t know why people are so often persuaded that they would magically grow combat skills in face of disaster and not that they would wake up one morning with some ideas about potatoes. Why is one more persuasive than the other?

What kind of world are you building? Do you notice when you are doing it? Is this a deliberate process or are you just going along with whatever flow has caught you?