Over the years I’ve been through several groves, half a dozen or so moots, various pagan organisations, online gatherings and lose social groupings. There are lots of reasons for moving on – many groups run out of steam and die of natural causes. Moving area cost me a lot of groups I would not have chosen to leave. But there’s also those harder times when you have to recognise that you don’t really fit and aren’t getting much out of an experience. Or it’s made clear to you that you just aren’t wanted.
I’ve wondered, writing the other posts about my history as a druid, how to tackle this thorny issue. I think in all relationships, including group ones, it has to be ok to leave or to express difficulty. People do not always get on, things do not work. I was, for example, entirely open at the time, about leaving www.thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com where I started druidlife as a column. I wanted my own space, I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone else anymore, and I didn’t want to have to worry about how my words impacted on the other folk there.
When I started druidlife as a column, I wondered if it was ok to call it that. I worried people would think I was speaking for druids and druidry in a way that I shouldn’t. I worried that I might accidentally cause conflict or bring druidry into disrepute. I left pagan and pen quietly, for my own reasons, and I left it with plenty of good people at the helm. At the time I was also fragile, exhausted, close to a total emotional breakdown and being fairly public about having escaped from an abusive relationship. Although I was struggling with responsibilities at pagan and pen, no one asked me to leave, nor would they have done for those reasons.
But somewhere else, other people did. I chose, for my own reasons, not to say much about it at the time. I knew I was dangerously close to breaking point and afraid that I was indeed a liability and that I might indeed bring paganism into disrepute just by being me, and being in trouble. I was also in a place of such low self esteem that I accepted the judgement, and felt personal shame over it. For a while I wondered if I had any entitlement at all to call myself a pagan, much less anything more specific.
Then a thing started to happen. One by one, people from my community got in touch with me. They sent words of love and reassurance, and also words of anger over the situation I was in. They rebuilt my sense of community and belonging, and I learned who my true friends are. What had been a personal disaster slowly transformed into a deep process of changing my perceptions, clarifying my beliefs and making me realise who I could depend on, and who I truly care for. Those of you who were there, should know who you are. I hold a deep and abiding love for the people who did not let me become totally isolated during that hard time. For the people who stood up for me, and who kept talking to me, and who did not reject me just because I was in trouble.
However, I came out of that period thinking that I probably wasn’t a group or organisation person after all. I retreated from involvement other places too. I didn’t want to go through anything like that again. I had rather imagined that I would continue with a community of individual friendships, but not seek to belong anywhere. And then life took another twist. When Druidry and Meditation came out, I contacted a few OBOD folk and mentioned that I’d been an OBODie. In the last few weeks I’ve swapped a lot of emails. I’ve got a blog post to write for them, I’ll be joining their celebrants listing, and they will carry my book in their store. Just thinking about this has brought a lump to my throat. I’m not your classic OBOD type, no white robes here, I’m scruffy, chaotic, unscripted… and they still want me. That feeling of being held by an organisation that has seen some worth in what I do, is worth more to me than I know how to express.
The desire to belong is, I think, a fairly basic one. When I first went solitary we talked on this blog about the degree to which solo druidry is a viable thing. There is such a strong community aspect to druidry, that at first I had no idea how to be a grove of one. I have my family unit, but we don’t do formal ritual. So I recognise that all through the last few years, I have wanted a place to fit and feel welcomed, but had come to the point of thinking it wasn’t even worth an ask. I don’t want to be tolerated. I don’t want to be put up with, grudgingly accepted and kept an eye on in case I do something inappropriate. I want a place to be where I’m accepted, warts and all. I can honestly say I never thought that would be OBOD. I thought OBOD too formal and myself too… all those other things. I never thought any organisation would be so positive about me. There’s the lovely folk at Moon Books too, enthusiastic about my work, pleased to include me. It changes my scope for imagining who I am. It will be a while before I stop looking over my shoulder and wondering if it’s really ok, but at least I can hope.