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Author Topic: Second Year Struggles.  (Read 5432 times)
Ali
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« Topic Start: March 05, 2011, 08:02:24 pm »

Hi, everyone,

Tonight is my flamekeeping shift, and once again I find myself somewhat disconcerted. So I wanted to stop by here and share, and ask for advice from more seasoned keepers.

I'm a few months in to my second year Keeping the Flame with this Cill. My first year was enthusiastic and full of serendipitous coincidences. Many of my flamekeeping shifts seemed to fall on very important dates or anniversaries or holidays for me, and they were always easy to remember and a joy to keep.

This year, though, seems to be much more difficult. This has to be about the third time that I've only just barely remembered when my shift was in time to keep it (and not in time to hold my sunset lighting ritual that I usually held) - and once, I actually got the day completely wrong and only realized too late. I have my shifts in my calendar, which I look at every day, and yet I seem to be strangely, uncharacteristically forgetful. I'm usually very good at keeping track of my various duties and obligations in many areas of my life.... but now it feels almost like a blind-spot, like my flamekeeping is just too slippery to keep in my mind. I looked at my calendar not two days ago and thought, "Oh, I have a shift coming up!" Yet today, it completely slipped from my mind and I was only reminded of it because I had to look at my calendar for some other event.

I'm wondering if others have had this kind of thing happen to them before, and if they have any advice on how to deal, and/or what it might mean. I went through an intense period of working with Brigid through the Lady of the Stars group, and since that work (and perhaps as a result of it) I feel that I've been "introduced" by her to a sea god (probably Manannan) who I'm now exploring a relationship with at a more intense level. Is it possible that Brigid is trying to let me know that my time of working with her is over, or at least on pause? Is this just a case of forgetfulness, or perhaps the luck of my first year wearing off and requiring me to rise to the occasion with better self-discipline?

Any ideas or advice would be most appreciated! Obviously, I'll be asking her tonight, as well, but I'd love to hear from others in the group, too.

--Ali
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« Reply #1: March 06, 2011, 08:32:23 am »

I'm wondering if others have had this kind of thing happen to them before, and if they have any advice on how to deal, and/or what it might mean.
The time comes when the shiny NRE (New Relationship Energy) passes, and you're on to the long-term day-to-day.  Not that there'll never be shiny again - there can be lots - but the focus is on a different level.  This'll be all the more so because it's in contrast to the NRE of your relationship with probably-Manannan.

I had something very similar happen - lots of coincidences between shifts and dates of personal significance to begin with, but then it dropped off (didn't end completely, though - my next shift is my nephew's birthday), and having trouble remembering my shift.  Including checking on it a day or two before, making what I thought was a mental note, and wups!

It didn't take long before I noticed something, though:  I find that I keep my shifts even when I don't notice them - Brigid sends me Work, and blesses my doing of it.  (A couple of times, the way I remembered my shift was by noticing how smoothly the writing I was doing was going, how easy it was to find the words I wanted, how quickly a blog post or novel-length forum reply came into being, how it seemed to require so many fewer spoons, and thought, "Hmm, am I on shift?" and looked, and, lo, I was.)

I do struggle with guilt about it, but I've come to mostly accept that the formal rituals aren't necessary to being "on shift"; the necessary thing is to do Brigid's work - so mostly now I just feel guilty of not being able to be as mindful of it as I'd like, which is as much a matter of what doing her Work does for me as it is of what I do for her.

One thing I found that helped some (but not completely) was when I took over doing the roster, and decided that my shift was just the right time to post the new schedule and update the calendar.  It wasn't so much that it helped me remember, as that it helped with another issue:  for the first while, I usually seemed to have quite a few spoons come my shift, even if I'd been low on them for days; later, it was the other way round, shift-day would come and I'd feel spoonless, even if I'd been doing really well up until then.  Having the schedule stuff meant that I had a shift task that was almost always within my capacity (except on the very worst days) - and that, in turn, did help with remembering.  It didn't hurt at all that I was much more aware of the schedule as a whole.  That might not be useful to you, since you'd have to think of something else that'd have that effect; I like doing the roster and have no plans for giving it up.

Hmm, do I have anything else?  Well, for me, my Cill shifts have always been Brigid-centred, not Brigid-exclusive; I can, and often do, honor others among the deities I work with, and/or do Work that is theirs - most often, that's be Work that's in both their domain and Brigid's (f'ex, my social justice work is for both The Ladies - Brigid and tM).  Possibly you'll find it helps to also honor probably-Manannan on your shifts, if Brigid has no objection.

That's all I can think of right now; if I come up with more, I'll let you know.

Sunflower
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« Reply #2: March 06, 2011, 11:29:21 am »

My first year was enthusiastic and full of serendipitous coincidences. Many of my flamekeeping shifts seemed to fall on very important dates or anniversaries or holidays for me, and they were always easy to remember and a joy to keep.

This year, though, seems to be much more difficult. This has to be about the third time that I've only just barely remembered when my shift was in time to keep it (and not in time to hold my sunset lighting ritual that I usually held) - and once, I actually got the day completely wrong and only realized too late.

I have certainly experienced this, in multiple cycles. I'm in sync for a while, and then I fall out, and then I work to get myself back, only to fall out again some time later.

For me, there have been a number of issues: my struggle with ritual and formality (and realizing that, as Sunflower said, I just need to be doing her work, not some ceremony) has been at the forefront, but also realizing that while being part of the cill was an important step in my relationship with her, it was the first. If I let it be my primary avenue to her (which I have in the past) it is not enough.

As for how to deal with it- I think asking her is a good idea. I'm considering making an advent-style calendar to help me out, too- Google calendar rules my life, but sometimes something tangible is more useful. In any case, I'm sure you'll find your way out of it! Best of luck.
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« Reply #3: March 06, 2011, 01:37:52 pm »

I'm wondering if others have had this kind of thing happen to them before, and if they have any advice on how to deal, and/or what it might mean.

I think all I have to say echoes what Sunflower and Juni said. For a long period of time I went through forgetting shifts, even though I belonged to two other cills at the time, effectively meaning that I kept the flame about once a week. You'd think looking at my calendar and literally staring at the entry *on the day my shift would begin* would remind me. But no. Come the evening, my mind would seemingly willfully space off.

This gave me a lot of angst at the time: since she was the only deity I had a relationship with, it was hard not to feel 1) guilty and ashamed, 2) abandoned or cut off, 3) feeling like I had done something wrong.

The physical reason why I kept forgetting was probably due to depression, which effectively stopped most of my spiritual growth (or at least, what I used to think spiritual growth looked like). But spiritually, I think that I was *supposed* to stop. It may sound strange or sound like I'm laying the blame somewhere else, but I think that I had to go through that period of time as a kind of fallow period, where instead of active growth Brighid was working deep down inside me where I couldn't see her. Indeed, she *needed* to be far down so as to make me feel cut off, because how can a seed grow without the dark?

She ultimately decided when it was time to break through the surface, and in combination with overcoming the depression, my memory and flamekeeping activity has improved.

So, again, I'll echo the others and say ask Her for advice. I'm sure she'll help you find a way because she definitely helped me find a way eventually.

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« Reply #4: March 06, 2011, 03:55:06 pm »

Indeed, she *needed* to be far down so as to make me feel cut off, because how can a seed grow without the dark?

I'm going to hang my reply here for convenience sake, but really it's a reply to all of you. Thanks for your thoughts and insight - I haven't been too plagued with guilt or anything about it (more annoyed at myself and wanting to either do better or "get the hint" of what the forgetfulness was supposed mean Wink), but it's good to know I'm not along in having experienced this!

This part that you said, Finn, about the seed needing the dark to grow was almost exactly the message I got last night in my work with her. I wrote up the results of my meditation and divination with her on my "spiritual diary" here, but the gist of it was a very clear message from her that she would be withdrawing, at least for a time. Unlike previous meditations, she did not present herself in human form at all this time, but I had to seek her out at the ancient stone shrine in my inner landscape where I first started to cultivate my relationship with her as the Ashless Flame. There, after making offerings and libations, I was able to connect with her briefly, at which point she clarified for me that my expectations up until this point about what my relationship with her was going to be like have been slightly off-base, that she will not be the kind of intimate, personal deity I was expecting, but much more like a glorious force of nature, at times impersonal, at other times sublime, and always primordial and inspiring (i.e. in-spiring, the breathing-in or life and energy and a source of creativity). She indicated the woods off to my left where, despite the bright high-noon sun, shadows were thick beneath the tangled branches. She seemed to suggest that this would be where my path was leading me in the near future, and that the prolificacy of the forest which made the understory dark was due to the abundance of sunlight pouring down from above - the light itself helped to create and define the darkness.

This experience in meditation with her was confirmed by my divination for the evening, which came up with the Page of Cups and the King of Cups as the dominant figures in the spread. I interpreted this to indicate that I was the "Page of Cups" position and she was handing me over to apprentice under the "King of Cups" - Manannan (and if you've seen the King of Cups card in the Shadowscape deck, I can hardly imagine a better depiction of the sea god I've met in dream), who would be able to offering me the more intimate, personal relationship I was seeking. The cards seemed so unambiguous on this matter, I actually laughed when I saw them!

As for the Flamekeeping shifts - I asked her what she wanted me to do about them, if I should continue to keep them or not? The answer was yes, but not with the expectation that they would lead to a more personal relationship with her necessarily - to keep them as a way of honoring her because she was worthy of that honor, not because I was expecting to get something back out of it. This reminded me a lot of what you said, Sunflower, about the necessary thing being to do Brigid's work. I think in some ways, so far that hasn't felt like enough because, through my writing and such, I feel like I'm pretty much always doing her work in one way or another. The formal rituals of lighting and smooring the flame to begin and end my shift felt like a way to formally recognize and thank her, and so I think I will continue to do those things whenever I can.

I guess this means there really is no way for me to wiggle out of this thing with Manannan. Wink

--Ali
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« Reply #5: March 06, 2011, 06:19:27 pm »


Ali, it never ceases to amaze me how eloquent you are about these things. Smiley You've articulated a lot of feelings I've been working through myself. Not feeling up to a major post at the moment (stomach problems, bah) but I would like to say that I have been frothing at the mouth to have a close, intimate, consistent relationship with a deity since I left Christianity. Brighid's been the closest I've ever had, but she rarely pulls back her Mantle for me. I know that I'm sticking with her for a good long while, but we're still in the getting-to-know phase and while I feel Brighid is intensely compassionate, she's a very busy woman. The whole of the world to keep warm and fed, you know.

My relationship with Dionysus was close to the relationship I'm looking for. (I suspect, in fact, that Dionsysus was the being who guided me in my final Christian stages towards Paganism.) He's mostly faded away with the other Theoi for now, which makes me pretty upset. Manannan gives me the same vibes as Dionysus - their personalities just feel similar, for some reason, and they have the same 'voice' in my head - so I've felt compelled to look in his direction, too. There's a lot that's been spinning around my head that I just haven't been able to get out yet.
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« Reply #6: March 06, 2011, 06:24:48 pm »

Hi, everyone,

I'm glad you brought this up, because you are not alone.  I have been feeling some disconnect from the Cill and from my path in general.  I think I just needed to be open to other possibilities to make my spirituality richer.  I need to leave, so I could learn how to do what I need to do.  Now, I feel like I am still in limbo, but I think it will come together (at least, I hope).

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« Reply #7: March 06, 2011, 06:28:37 pm »

I'm glad you brought this up, because you are not alone.  I have been feeling some disconnect from the Cill and from my path in general.  I think I just needed to be open to other possibilities to make my spirituality richer.  I need to leave, so I could learn how to do what I need to do.  Now, I feel like I am still in limbo, but I think it will come together (at least, I hope).

I've been in and out of limbo for a long time. They really need to change their wallpaper! Grin

I think, spiritually speaking, limbo is very important. It's like any relationship; it's not going to be omg super exciting rainbows and unicorn farts all the time. That'd get monotonous after awhile. There's the daily grind, the silly arguments about which way the toilet paper's supposed to fall and whether you should put the orange juice container back in the fridge with only half an inch of juice left. There's working through normal life and bringing richness from your relationship into other aspects. Then, there are moments when things are bright and vivid and you remember why you fell in love in the first place. Smiley
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« Reply #8: March 06, 2011, 06:29:58 pm »

I've been in and out of limbo for a long time. They really need to change their wallpaper! Grin

I think, spiritually speaking, limbo is very important. It's like any relationship; it's not going to be omg super exciting rainbows and unicorn farts all the time. That'd get monotonous after awhile. There's the daily grind, the silly arguments about which way the toilet paper's supposed to fall and whether you should put the orange juice container back in the fridge with only half an inch of juice left. There's working through normal life and bringing richness from your relationship into other aspects. Then, there are moments when things are bright and vivid and you remember why you fell in love in the first place. Smiley

This.

Thank you.
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« Reply #9: March 06, 2011, 07:19:34 pm »

It's like any relationship; it's not going to be omg super exciting rainbows and unicorn farts all the time. That'd get monotonous after awhile.

What!? No, this is unacceptable. I was promised unicorn farts, and by the gods, unicorn farts I shall have!

(I think we might have to agree to disagree on this one - I can't see unicorn farts ever getting boring.)

 Roll Eyes

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« Reply #10: March 06, 2011, 08:20:08 pm »

What!? No, this is unacceptable. I was promised unicorn farts, and by the gods, unicorn farts I shall have!

(I think we might have to agree to disagree on this one - I can't see unicorn farts ever getting boring.)

 Roll Eyes

--Ali

*laughs* Unicorns and flatulence are hardly known for their lack of garnering interest, that's true.
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« Reply #11: March 06, 2011, 10:01:35 pm »

I've been in and out of limbo for a long time. They really need to change their wallpaper! Grin

No freaking kidding.

As a side note, I began to feel somewhat better about being limbo both spiritually and emotionally after graduation when I remembered that the between places, the edges--Limbo--were the places of greatest power to the Celts. And in fact, where Brighid (and Manannan) probably have the greatest power and effect change.
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« Reply #12: March 12, 2011, 01:36:52 pm »

(I think we might have to agree to disagree on this one - I can't see unicorn farts ever getting boring.)

I think it would get boring cleaning up all that glitter all the time. What, you didn't know that unicorns fart glitter? It's true.

The longer I walk this path, the more I understand that our relationships with the Gods are just like our relationships with everyone else. Sometimes we're both on the same page and things are great. Sometimes you want contact, and the other person doesn't. Sometimes it's the other way around. Sometimes you go months without talking and then fall back into an intense personal relationship where you go out for coffee every night.

I think we forget that the Gods can be like this because, well, we want them to be better than humans. But if we're to believe that our gods are not omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-etc, then we have to believe that they can have some of the same failings and mood swings that we do. And that they're subject to the same ebbs and flows of the universe that poke at us.

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