What Do You Do?

Today, I was in my little office. Some admin was done, a bit of cleaning, and then meeting a student to chat about Stuff.

One of the questions that was asked – and which is often asked of me – is what a Druid Priest actually does. And every time, I have to pause and think.

There wasn’t a moment when I suddenly looked around and realized ‘Wow, I’m a Priest!’ Rather, it was a process of doing the work and being called by that title, until I had to face up to the fact that I was Doing It.

I’ve written about it before in other places, and no doubt will do so again. But today, it got me thinking in a new way.

Yes, Priest-ing is looking after, guiding or otherwise holding space for folk. When working, I do that.

But as time has passed, and my health has created interesting new speed-bumps to life, I’m having to Priest to myself as well.

I’m very easily tired. I give my all, and it wears me out. I’m not going to stop doing that, by the way, so don’t ask! I willingly do what’s needed, saving some energy to get myself safely home, and then setting aside time to rest. But it’s the question of how best to recharge that’s been in my mind lately.

Doing things that I enjoy helps, certainly. Sometimes, distractions that make me laugh, such as comedy movies or television. Knitting, with its repetitive but focused creativity. Books – absolutely. If the right one can be found, total engagement as I let myself sink into that particular world for a while.

But I think more is needed now, otherwise I’m finding myself wiped out for longer each time. So perhaps ritualised ‘wind-down’ is needed more than ever – something I’ve tried before, but found difficult to get into the habit of.

I’ll no doubt explore this and natter about it as I move forward. But for today, the inspiration from another led me back to myself. Unusual, but needed, I think.

Holding the space to stop doing, and simply ponder…

Lessons in Story

It’s been a busy few months. I anticipated pauses in this blog, but the lapse shows how frenetic things have been (or how my own tiredness). But doing my best to resume with quality writing, rather than just a concession to mark a day…

Yesterday was Pagan Pride in Nottingham. The fifth year, and I’ve attended every one. So many people (always more each time), varied opinions as much as outfits, ideas and reasons for coming along.

The talk I gave was about Priesthood, but in the course of it, one small idea stuck with me. It’s still there now, and so it is being caught in a WordPress net, to share – as seems appropriate.

We all tell our stories. We live them, every day, uncertain of what will come next, but having to face the adventures as they arrive in front of us. Good or bad, and often without any sense of overarching plot or control. But these are our stories, and none are as valid or invalid as any other.

Yesterday, I spoke with so many people, listening to their stories and giving a little of my own. Today, I’m exhausted – all that energy deployed in that rush of hours and chatter, shared hugs and space.

I force myself to work, though. I have to, or I find myself dragged down with the sense of ‘should be doing something!’ So I’m picking up review books that I’ve been asked to write about.

Today’s offering has gripped me and pulled me into its world. The review will come in full, but suffice to say it’s an anthology of fiction, short stories of such breathtaking originality that every one makes me rather wish they were longer (even though that might well spoil the effect).

Stephen King said that a novel is a relationship – a short story is like a kiss. Both intimate, but in different ways. Each story I hear from people feels similar, as they open themselves just a crack to show me secrets, thoughts, anecdotes… and so I listen. I may review these in my head, but I try not to judge.

The good stories stay with us. Every one has a lesson, and not necessarily the one you might think (even a bad tale reminds us not to do things that way again!). If we pause to consider, to listen and review, we learn. That relationship touches us, just for a moment… and there lies its value.

People in front of us or via computer screen, voices from the pages of the past or across continents. Me, now. What stories do you hear today, and which do you hold on to moving forward? And what stories do you tell?

To Be Silent

In recent days, I’ve been reminded of that old Mother’s saying: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.”

I’ve been speaking a lot – in person, through messages and emails, organising, helping, working and chatting. That’s life. We communicate.

But I’ve also been more aware of what I’m saying. The intent behind my words, the effect I hope them to have. Doing my best to achieve understanding.

Ultimately, everything you say (in voice or in writing) is utterly beyond your control once it’s said. It’s out in the world, for good or ill. And always open to interpretation. As a writer, I’m very aware of this.

Obviously, the simple example that most of us can relate to is social media, and the frequent misunderstandings that come about because of lack of context, proper explanation or over-simplistic soundbites. Again, though, we can look deeper, to the intention of the speaker/author. Do the words really mean to directly hurt or anger you, personally? Or is the creator just expressing themselves and their current emotional state (not necessarily well)?

This New Moon, I’ve been feeling deeper flows moving beneath us. Change is very much in the air. Sometimes that means simply stopping your own monologue so that you might better hear it. Your story goes on… just in descriptive terms, not conversational.

Yes, communication is good; so is information, of course. But we also need time to pause, to reach beyond language, to see, hear and feel what’s really going on.

To Dare…

I gave a talk today at the Mansfield Mind, Body & Spirit fair – standing in the Council chambers at the Civic Centre, with pictures of mayors past and present watching from the walls. A full house, too, with a lovely receptive group of people.

I always get nervous. Even now, after doing this for some years. Especially when the topic is based around my second book – essentially talking about darkness and depression, but from the perspective of balance, acknowledgment, truth and potential. It’s not easy.

This isn’t putting a positive spin on a difficult subject. This is facing that subject head-on, seeing and feeling it in all its pain, guilt and social awkwardness. My Druidry pushes me, insists I see what needs to be seen. Generally speaking, this is often precisely what’s needed, and I’m glad that my audiences seem to welcome that honesty.

After I’d finished, I was told by one attendee that she’d heard people discussing the talk beforehand. “Ooh, darkness – I don’t know about that.” Because apparently it sounded too… well… dark. A bit much for some.

The presenter who came after me was talking about palmistry. Apparently even more people had squeezed into the (large) room for this one – because it was ‘easier’ than mine, I was told. Apparently people like to be told what to do, to be given answers.

Chatting to people afterwards, hearing their stories and even holding them as they cried, I was glad that I spoke as I did. Yes, it might well be challenging or difficult. I encourage exploration, to think for yourself, to find your own way. If you’re brave enough to dare to come into the room, to give up your time and simply listen, engage and consider – that’s a big step. The first of many.

I spoke of solidarity, of shared experience, of the potential in the darkness which keeps us moving. We can stop – or we can go on.

We can step through the door, or we can stay in the safe places, seek affordable solutions and people to sort out our difficulties for us. That’s our choice, after all.

One day, those who didn’t come in may find themselves ready. The door will still be there – as will the darkness, waiting to be faced.

I still get nervous when I step up to speak publicly, every time. But I take that step – because I know I must.