Fear is something I’ve written about here before, but today I wanted to talk about a different kind of fear, the fear we feel when the topic of religion comes up with other people.
There was a post circulating the other day asking why Pagan bloggers chose to write and what inspired them to keep writing, why they chose to write in a public setting versus just keeping a personal diary. My initial answer basically boiled down to three things: blogs are easily accessed from different places so I can write anywhere, versus carrying around a diary or laptop to keep on me whenever I want to write; I can be very long-winded about things and it’s easier for me to record my thoughts on another blogger’s post or an article on a blog instead of a comment that might end up being ignored because it’s too long – if it’s on my own blog and ignored, well…that just feels different and less lame; and finally because I enjoy writing it.
Even with that in mind, the positives that keep me going, I am sometimes afraid to hit that “Publish” button, especially since this blog is tied to my tumblr and thus instantly visible to dozens of people who can read it and share it with others. Sometimes I wonder what people think when they read my posts here, if they just waive it off as nonsense or if it’s actually something of value to them. I enjoy getting comments from other people, whether they agree with me or not, because I’m always wondering how my posts here are received.
I try to be truthful with everything that I write here. I try to avoid exaggeration for effect because that’s just a fancy version of lying in my mind. When I write here, it’s for me. This blog is meant to be a spiritual diary for my personal records, but I enjoy having the option to share my experiences and thoughts with anyone who reads this as well. Writing here is a spiritual activity for me and I take it seriously. I don’t want to embellish anything here because, in the end, that makes it a lie. Everything I write here is meant to be an accurate reflection of my personal thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions, rather than prose that exaggerates the truth. Do I fuck up sometimes with that? Probably, but I do my best.
So what happens when my truth is something that’s more “woo-woo” than other experiences? What happens if I share something that just seems so whacky or out of the ordinary that others cock an eyebrow when they read it, or they roll their eyes and click to another site?
What happens if what I experience here is all in my head?
A few weeks ago, my friend Red posed this same question to me: what if her experiences were all in her head? At first, I didn’t know how to reply. This is a question that I ask myself a lot and I worry what that might do to the validity of my experiences or my credibility when others think of me and my writing.
A quote jumped out in my mind, as they are wont to do – half of everything I say is a direct quote or allusion to a movie, book, or television show, it seems. This is one that I think many will recognize:
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
For those who don’t recognize it, this is a quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, made by Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter when the young wizard asks his old Headmaster whether his post-death experience is real or simply in his mind. Though he is a fictional character, I tend to have a lot of respect for Dumbledore’s views on complicated issues such as this: just because something is only in your mind doesn’t make it any less real to you. And I think that has a strong sense of truth to it.
Earlier today, I actually got a message from a friend of mine asking for some help with interpreting a dream they had the previous night. I don’t want to share their identity here because the dream is rather personal, from my perspective, but I wanted to give the boiled down version here.
The individual had a dream last night where they were visited by the goddess Eir who was presenting themself as a god in the dream. This deity informed my friend that they had been watching them since my friend was young. Eir then told my friend that they needed to take better care of their health. My friend asked me my opinion of the dream and stated that “it may just be a silly dream,” and that really made me stop. I replied to them and told them that even if it was just a “silly dream,” that doesn’t make it any less accurate or true: their health should be a priority in their life, especially since they have been going through some difficulties and their health might be slacking.
This idea that just because something is happening in one’s head makes it invalid is something I don’t agree with. There might be exceptions of course, but it just doesn’t sit well with me. I had to explain it from a more mundane perspective to The Boyfriend yesterday about my OCD: just because something is logically clean doesn’t mean it’s clean from my OCD-logic perspective. (For example: Logically, I know the doorknob is clean because germs can’t last outside certain conditions but it is not clean to me because I have not cleaned it.)
So this fear that something isn’t real because it’s all in our minds…I don’t think that necessarily invalidates the experiences we have, with spirits, with gods, with anything. Exceptions there are, I’m sure, but generally this is how I think of things.
Now with that said, I wanted to talk about fear from another perspective or fear in another sense: the fear of sharing our experiences with others.
I identify as a Pagan. I live with The Boyfriend who is an agnostic and very scientifically-minded. On Wednesday night, I was having a rough time of things with my thoughts on shadow-work and my experiences with dealing with Persephone over the last few months. I had not spoken to him about any of it, but I was having a rough time and I wanted to talk things out with someone.
It was late and we were sitting on the couch. He should have gone to bed but he knew I was struggling with something and I asked him if we could talk. Though he agreed, even knowing it was a religious or spiritual thing, I hesitated. I hesitated for the same reasons that Zenith mentions in her blog post on Fear: I was afraid The Boyfriend would regard this as the last straw and that he would finally just think of my religion as stupid and ridiculous. As I hesitated, I remembered Zenith’s post on Fear and I remembered her post a few days later. I drew courage from her ability to share her actual offerings with her partner and figured that I, at the very least, could share what was going on with him.
So I just started talking. We spoke for over an hour, me explaining everything that had been going on with Persephone, how I felt she had been trying to get my attention and why I thought she wanted me to work with her. Throughout it, I gave my usual caveat of “I know you don’t believe in this stuff, but” that I normally do when I discuss the more “woo-woo” topics of my faith and practice. Without that, I’m just not comfortable talking to him about a lot of it. I can post about it here, but talking to him about it face-to-face is infinitely more difficult, because I care about how he sees me and his opinion of me more than 99% of other people.
I’ve written about this before, too, shortly after Anubis left and I was broken up about it. I couldn’t explain things to my mother then, and honestly I don’t think I could now, either. It’s hard to explain this to people who don’t have a background similar to yours. It’s hard to explain how visceral and soul-aching times like that can be to someone who has never given you the sense that they’ll be able to understand. And even if they don’t judge you for it, it’s still difficult to know, really know, if they are being truthful when they say that, or if they just think they aren’t judging you. Or whatever.
And there are times when even people in the Pagan and similar communities aren’t sure if they can share their experiences without seeming like a “special snowflake” or trying to make stuff up for attention: god-spouses; new Pagans who are still learning and want to figure out what the hell is going on; spirit-workers who still have a sense of doubt – and those who don’t; astral travelers and folks who journey to other worlds.
For the past week, I have seen snippets and bits by folks who want to share things that might seem more “out there” than the average Pagan experience but are afraid of being accused of lying. And just in the last 24-hours, there’s been a debate I’ve seen over whether or not it is okay to make something up to see if others will jump on it and try to validate something that the person who started it knew was “false” when they shared it.
So much fear. So much judgement.
So what do we do when there’s no community to share our experiences, our thoughts, our truth, our fears, our beliefs, our faith, our anything with others who can help us figure it all out and in a way that will help us make sense of it in our heads and minds and hearts and everything we are?
That’s why I write.
That’s why I keep this blog and why I remind myself while writing to just share what I know, what I’ve felt, what my thoughts are, because I want a record of my current experience to reference back to and yet I still want to share it for others to read and help me out if they are willing and able.
That’s why when my friends are going through a tough time, I immediately tell them to write it all out. It doesn’t matter about grammar or spelling or if it makes sense, just write it out. Even if you aren’t a writer, sometimes it helps to just put it all out in front of you. If you can and want to, draw parts that you can’t explain with words. Give yourself a visual, a map of the experience, and go from there.
Writing helps me dispel my fear. I can wrap myself in a blanket of words and reach out with fingers of text in desperation for someone to help me make sense of all of this, even if the person I’m reaching out to just ends up being my future self, when things might make more sense.