Managing the energy

For some months now, I’ve really been struggling with energy levels. It’s affected what work I can do, and how far I can walk. It’s also been depressing and worrying. I’ve been making a lot of changes in order to try and handle things better and in the hopes of being able to recover from this to some degree.

I notice that I tend to think of poor energy as a head issue. It’s one I’ve previously dealt with by applying willpower and pushing through. Like a lot of people dealing with fatigue, I have a history of not being taken very seriously and being encouraged to think of it as a personal failing, not a body issue. I find that when I treat low energy as something that is happening to my body – not as a failure to make enough effort – I can improve things. Mostly it’s about food and rest.

Increasing my food intake often helps. Even if it doesn’t solve the energy problem, it tends to ease the panic and depression that go with having run out of energy. Toast is my friend. Fruit is also good. Plant-milks are easy to digest and sometimes biscuits are the answer. I have to remind myself that comfort eating doesn’t make me a terrible person, and that I am allowed to do things that help me feel less horrible.

Rest makes a lot of odds, and as I’ve explored in previous posts (Doing Nothing) sometimes flopping in a heap is about the only option I have. I’ve established that how and when I rest makes a lot of odds. It is currently fair for me to assume that I’ll get three or four hours in a day with good concentration and scope to be active, and that I might get a few hours beyond that where I can do some things in a more limited way – reading or crafting perhaps. I can no longer just work flat out in the way I used to. To have four hours or so of good brain, I have to take breaks. Slow the pace and more becomes possible. I still have to be careful not to wipe myself out, but pacing is clearly key.

I have to prioritise. I have to say no to things. I have to make the time to stop and recover.  It’s a lot to learn and is requiring me to identify and rethink a lot of beliefs I have about myself. I need to feel that I am allowed to rest, and I need to deal with the voices I have internalised that tell me otherwise. If I keep on as I was, I will likely get worse. If I can change things, there’s some hope of turning this around.


Alchemy and a collaboration

With Gold In Her Eyes

She is alchemy and knows the secret ways

That turn sorrow into forms of art.

She sees your awful, limping progress

As you lurch slowly, painfully onwards,

Brings music to transform your ugly gait

Into some sort of dance move.

She says yes, she does see the blood

Seeping from your wounds as you dance

But look how the droplets fall as petals

See how you make autumn leaves, fine fruit.

Where you knew death, there is life

When Alchemy speaks she turns doubt into truth.

The wounded, staggering last desperate effort –

At her word becomes possibility.

No dead end after all, but a shift

In the story journey.

She is Alchemy, and makes words of your art

And art of your words.

No distance greater than a thought.

The wound closes in your side

You paint the sky with roses, or tiny red birds

Or giant crimson dragonflies.

You paint the sky with promises and hope.

(Art by Dr Abbey, words by me. Our first collaboration in a long time. The writing was inspired by a combination of the picture, and a comment from Edrie Edrie about the alchemy of turning sorrow into art.)


Supporting Victims

If someone you know is a victim of bullying or abuse, there are things you can say and do that will really help, and well meaning things that can make the situation worse.  

Being ‘neutral’ can feel like a moral choice. It isn’t. Doing nothing always supports bullies and abusers and enables them to continue. It always undermines the victim. If both people tell you they are the victim and you don’t know what to do, look at the power balance. If all else fails, support the person who is asking for comfort and safety not the person who is asking to punish someone. Abusers will gather support to pile further abuse on victims, and you can avoid becoming part of this.

Listen. Really listen. Don’t bring assumptions with you or ideas about what you would have done differently. Don’t assume that because the bully is nice to you that they wouldn’t do this. Bullies and abusers cultivate supporters – how else could they operate successfully? They are in control of what they do, and will deliberately isolate their victims.

Micro-aggressions are a real thing. If the individual events described to you seem trivial, remember to look at the bigger picture. If someone is facing a constant drip of poison, put downs, humiliations, criticism, being overloaded, being blamed and the like than the damage done will be greater than the sum of its parts. Don’t dismiss bullying on the basis that it just looked like one small thing. Also remember that experiences that aren’t a big deal for you might feel very different to someone else.

Don’t try to explain, justify or minimise the abuse. There may be a time in the future where understanding why would be helpful, but right now the most important thing is that the victim feels safe and supported. Don’t make the bully and their issues the more important thing. Being hurt, being a former victim, being under a lot of stress, having mental health problems – these things do not make it ok to hurt other people. Many hurt and damaged people manage not to hurt anyone else. It’s not inevitable and no free passes should be given.

Don’t tell them to be stoical. Don’t tell them it will pass, or not to make a fuss, or not to take it to heart. That’s just a way of shutting people down. If what they say makes you uncomfortable, that really shouldn’t be the most important thing. Your mild discomfort at hearing this is nothing compared to actually living with it. This includes being made to feel uncomfortable about someone you liked.

Don’t ask them to put the wellbeing of the community first. Don’t tell them to be silent for fear they will harm the company or the organisation. Any group that puts looking good ahead of caring for the people in it, is toxic. Any group that thinks its reputation is more important than whether it is enabling abuse, will keep enabling abuse and must be stopped. However important you think the community, or the work the group is doing really is, this stuff will rot it to the core if undealt with.

Don’t make the victim responsible for sorting out the situation. Don’t make it their job to better humour and pacify their abuser. Don’t tell them to put up with it. Listen to them, support them, act to make safer and healthier spaces. If you truly can’t tell who the bully is in a situation, working broadly to improve safety will either sort things out or make it clearer what’s going on. Sometimes people truly believe they are victims because they can’t accept others holding reasonable boundaries or can’t bear being given a ‘no’ as an answer. The person who is able to say no is usually the person with the power in any given situation, and the person who is not allowed to say no is the person who needs your help.


Tiny Pilgrimages

Up until last year, what pilgrimage meant to me was a really epic walk. An all day sort of effort that would bring me a feeling of deep connection with the landscape, probably coupled with feelings of euphoria.

My ability to handle longer walks has largely gone. There have been a lot of days in the last year when I’ve not made it outside my home. Often I get about twenty minutes or so before the low blood pressure makes me too dizzy to continue. Hills are currently beyond me. Longer walks of a few miles leave me exhausted.

When I started thinking about pilgrimage, I knew I didn’t want to write something abelist and excluding. I wanted to explore the topic in a way that would work for people with fewer options. But, I also didn’t really know what that might mean. I had assumed you could just do this kind of thing at the level that works for you.

That’s not been my experience.

It is difficult to make a very small walk seem like an act of pilgrimage. Even if it takes as much out of me as the bigger ones used to. Even if it is a really hard slog. The major issue is time. On a longer walk I get time to really connect with the land, the sky, the day. I’ll have more wildlife encounters. If I’m only outside for half an hour, I see less, I experience less and the emotional impact is smaller. When walking is a struggle, the struggle itself becomes the dominant experience, not the opportunity for connecting with the landscape. Pain and dizziness are obstacles to connecting.

I’m coming to the conclusion that time spent on this is more important than how far you go. In the warmer part of the year I should be able to sit and rest more during outdoors time, and this will increase how long I can spend outside. Will that be enough? I think it could be, but I don’t know.

At this point the whole experience has me asking a lot of questions about what pilgrimage is for me, and what it means and what makes it powerful. I’m also asking a lot of questions about what scope there is for helpfully reflecting on a topic to the benefit of people whose experiences are radically different from your own.


A poem about living dangerously

It will be legendary

I would live deliciously

Not the safe or quiet life

No certainty, and risk enough.

There have been bruises, breaks

Wounds that left me bloody,

Battered and bereft.

I would drink deep from the cup,

Vine God magic on my lips,

Taste the flesh of my days,

Bite hard into life even as life sinks

Teeth into me. I will pay for this,

In tears and sweat, sleepless nights

Haunted hours reaching after wonder,

Taking leaps of faith in the dark,

Knowing I am bound to fall.

Deliberate in flying too close to the limits

The sun. I will burn for this moment of glory.

I will not be tame or quiet

The taste of taboo sweetness brings

The apple rich fall from grace.

Rejecting ignorance and innocence

For the ecstasy of knowing and experience.

Reaching for pomegranates, goblin fruit

The forbidden, the fairy wine

The merciless delights.

I will live deliciously.


Books and blogs

As well as writing this blog, I also write books. Most of the Pagan ones are published by Moon Books, with the exception of Druidry and the Future, which is over on ko-fi – https://ko-fi.com/s/6f6d37772a

You may be wondering what the relationship between the books and the blog is. If you read the blog, is there any point reading the books, especially given that most of them are for sale (Druidry and the Future is free).

There are bits of my books on the blog, if you search for excerpts. There are ideas that started here and that I’ve since expanded on and developed. Those are scattered around. There is, for example, a Pagan Pilgrimage category where I occasionally play with ideas around this subject. At some point there may well be a book, but that will come from an assimilation of the experiences I’ve blogged about here, and there will be a lot more to it than these first forays.

At the moment I am writing a Druidry and the Darkness book over on Patreon, with new and otherwise unavailable content each month. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB That’s in the Bards and Dreamers category, which also gives you a poem every month and my singing the wheel of the year content. What goes up there is some of the first draft content, so there will be more in the final book. It’s also an opportunity to engage more in my writing process, get the finished pdf before anyone else (when we get there) make suggestions and the such.

What I don’t do, have never done and will never do is take content from the blog and recycle it into books and then charge for it. The books are written as books, with a considered structure and the kind of oversight and integrity that you can’t have if things are cobbled together in 500 word chunks off the cuff. Blogs are, by their nature a bit limited and superficial, there’s always more to say. A book is the better vehicle for digging in to a subject and exploring it in more depth and breadth. For some readers, an easily digestible thought is much more helpful than a hefty tome, and for others, the digging in is preferable so hopefully this mixed approach works for more people.


Spring arrives

Last weekend it was definitely winter – cold, grey and a bit grim. Spring arrived suddenly, having flirted with us a few weeks ago, it has now moved in. The light is brighter, the air is warmer and the birds are much more active.

I’m especially noticing the woodpecker calls. I haven’t seen the woodpeckers themselves yet, but no doubt will. Last year, a pair nested somewhere near the flat and their calls were a constant presence through the summer months. I suspect they are going to do that again this year.

For a week or so now I’ve been really conscious of the growing length of the day. I’m waking earlier as a consequence. This is the first winter in many years where I’ve not been following clock time and have not had an alarm to wake me. I’ve always hated having to get up in the dark. Rising with the light has been so much more comfortable. Now, as we move into spring, the light comes earlier.

I hope that as we move into the lighter part of the year I will be able to keep rising with the light. I love walking in the early morning in summer. Much depends on whether I can then nap later in the day as I really don’t do well with reduced sleep and this is always a problem for me in the summer.

The most comfortable times of the year for me are spring and autumn, when the temperature doesn’t mess with my body, and the balance of light and dark best suits how I sleep. It’s a good feeling, moving into those weeks when I’ll genuinely feel in harmony with the natural world, rather than having to work out how to cope with it.


Art and the Altar

What do you offer? While I very much like candles and incense, I’m conscious every time I strike a match that fire is part of the problem at the moment. Humans need to burn less, and burning things as an act of reverence or prayer makes me deeply uneasy. But, what do you do with an altar if you aren’t burning things?

I’ve been experimenting with having an altar space for some months now, and trying to figure out how to do that in a way that makes sense to me. I’m interested in the way altars can function as spiritual instillations – I see plenty of photos online of the sacredness people create by making beauty. Changing what’s on an altar to reflect the season, or a festival, or a specific focus can clearly be a lovely thing to do.

I’m short of space. There is nowhere I can keep things that could be on the altar – either it lives there or it doesn’t. I do bring in seasonal finds, but that’s occasional and it happens when it does. I’ve tried liquid offerings, but I can’t leave them out – I’m clumsy and bump into things, and also there is a cat who at some point is going to get himself to the top of the bookcase.

I’m currently experimenting with the idea of making art for the altar. It’s something I can do at need, for whatever reason occurs to me. I can use it to reflect seasons and festivals. It is an offering of time and care, and it means trying to make something of beauty. It’s a lot cheaper than buying things to put on the altar, and paper doesn’t take much storing.

My first serious attempt at this was a set of three roses for Valentine’s Day. I’m not much into the hetronormative romance as performance. I don’t like commercialism around this day or any of the other social festivals. But, I also had a lot of other things going on and I wanted to honour the idea of love, and this seemed like a way to do it.


Why soothing is a problem

“There, there dear, don’t cry.” It’s the most awful thing to hear when you are crying. There’s no comfort in it, it’s just a very polite way for someone to tell you to shut up while feeling that they’re being nice.

If a person is crying, there’s probably a reason, and that reason isn’t solved by telling them not to cry. Most allegedly soothing and comforting interventions work in much the same way. Cheer up. It will be ok. Things aren’t as bad as you think they are. Don’t worry about it. It isn’t important. There’s no need to be this upset… All of these kinds of comments are a message to the person who is hurt to make the people around them more comfortable by shutting down their distress.

Make soothing noises, and you make it harder for a person to talk about what’s hurting them. Tell someone things are ok when they aren’t experiencing it that way, and you’ve just written over their experience, erased it, told them that their perceptions aren’t important.

We don’t all experience things the same way. We have different vulnerabilities, different histories. Things can be painful and loaded for a person with a history in a way that might never occur to someone else. If something doesn’t seem like that big a deal to you, that’s no measure of how it might make someone else feel. Imposing your response as the truth isn’t going to make them feel better, it’s going to make them feel like they don’t matter.

If you want to help someone who is suffering, start by taking them seriously. Validate their feelings – even if you think they are wrong, accept that this is how they feel. Start from where they are, not where you want them to be. If you want to help, find out what’s happening for them, and take it seriously. Don’t tell them they shouldn’t feel that way, or that it is unreasonable. Deal with the distress first and then maybe there will be space in which you can explore the thinking and experiences that led there.

If someone stops crying because you told them to, you probably haven’t comforted them at all. There’s a very real chance you’ve just persuaded them that you don’t really care how they feel. They may feel dismissed and like their feelings and distress don’t matter. They may have just had a clear message that making you comfortable by shutting up is the most important thing. Sitting with someone else’s pain is a hard thing to do, and soothing noises are easy to make and really affirming for the person doing that. You make the soothing noises, the sad person gets quieter, job done! Only the odds are you’ve added to their load, not lightened it.

Pain takes work. Sometimes it means being uncomfortable. If you aren’t willing or able to be uncomfortable in order to help alleviate someone else’s distress, it is important to know that and handle it honestly. It is better to say that you can’t help, than it is to shut the other person down.


Becoming a Druid

I started along the Druid path in my twenties, drawn in by a longstanding attraction to the title, by a crush and a set of odd coincidences. I found out early that modern Druids are not carrying on ancient Celtic traditions, and I got over that. When I started studying with OBOD I realised that I had in many ways been on the Druid path my whole life. I just hadn’t known that was the word that turned my various interests into a coherent way of being in the world.

I was so very serious as a student of Druidry. I read hard, practiced hard, and strived a lot. I never really got into kit and presentation – I find it hard to feel comfortable in what Cat Treadwell aptly calls ‘Druid Drag’. If I try to look like anything, I always feel fake. A few years into all of this, and people started showing up who wanted to learn, and undertake ritual. I didn’t have the experience to do it, but there was no one else willing to try, so I tried, and we muddled along.

Finding you are doing things you don’t feel ready for because someone else needs you to, is a rite of passage. It is one that can happen many times. First student. First ritual. First handfasting. And the hardest one – first funeral. Becoming the person who will step up and do what needs doing is, I think, an important part of what it means to become a Druid.

I took my service very seriously in my twenties and thirties. I sacrificed time and energy. I spent time at the Druid Network, and back then there was a culture of sacrifice and a clarity that it should cost, it should be hard. I made myself ill repeatedly, giving more of myself than I could afford, taking on voluntary work and responsibilities that were not sustainable. Sacrifice may be powerful, but you can’t live there.

It’s taken me a long time to learn how to be softer in my Druidry. How to be more like flowing water. How to say no to things. I don’t try hard any more. I show up every day in all sorts of ways to do things that are part of how I understand my path. I’ve become much more interested in beauty, kindness and how we lift each other and a lot less interested in opportunities to hurt myself.