I was talking to my therapist about love and the conditions people in my life have placed on it. Most of them don't feel like conditions. It's not an overt "I only love you if..." statement. Most of the time, it comes in the form of a "I don't support/agree with/understand X, but love you anyway." It becomes a love in spite of not because of.
As I was listing off some of the moments I've noticed recently, my therapist suggested that, perhaps, I was also placing conditions on loving myself.
[Insert brain explosion here]
There are certain things we've all heard that become internalized extremely quickly:
I never quite realized how easy it is to take those statements and let them become stipulations on your own self-love. I'm no psychologist, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if a lot of (at least my) self-loathing and guilt and frustration comes from buying into these, and not letting ourselves feel good until we've accomplished them.
That's the thing: there's literally no way to reach these impossible standards.
Telling ourselves we can't be happy or love ourselves unless we're perfect or thin or working 60 hours a week, or whatever--that's not healthy. And it's just as painful as someone else setting conditions on when and how they love you. Maybe even more so, since it's such a subtle, internal process that we often don't notice it. I certainly didn't.
I kept telling myself I had to wait to put effort into this endeavor because I didn't feel queer enough, or deep enough into the popular sides of pop culture. I kept letting myself push off the happiness this work brings me because I didn't feel I could do it perfectly enough.
I wish I could say just recognizing the limitations we place on our own self-love would make them go away. It won't.
But realizing the conditions we set on loving ourselves is a huge first step toward actually allowing ourselves to be happy in a world that prefers us miserable.
So jump in with me: what conditions have you set on your own love? What social pressures are holding you back from doing things that make you happy? Tell me in the comments and we can sob together.
I have mixed feelings about Pride Month, if I'm completely honest. I think it's important to celebrate marginalized identities and provide safe spaces to do so. I think it's important to recognize the past of the queer community and the sheer radical nature of our forebears. I think it's important to remind those who would grind us down that we are here to stay.
But it also feels suffocating in a way. It's a time when a lot of people tend to boil down their identities to their queerness. Which, I mean, I understand--for plenty of folks, it's the one time they can feel safe embracing that part of them. But I've never liked to present myself as just this one thing. Yes, I'm queer, but I'm also a creative and a nerd and all these other labels.
Of course, there's also the issue of a lot of corporations jumping on the bandwagon and throwing rainbows on everything without actually supporting the queer community. And it's the time of year homo- and transphobes crawl out of the woodwork to complain and argue our existence even more often than normal.
There's a pressure--at least one that I perceive--to attend events and slather myself in rainbows, or else I'm not proud of my identity. And, as an introvert with claustrophobia in a an environment that feels unsafe, that's extremely frustrating. Similar to the issue of having few places to socialize outside of queer bars--if it's not your place, you're SoL.
I don't have a better solution to celebrating our identities and our past. But I do want to leave with some encouragement:
This month can be a mess of feelings for a lot of people. But we're going to make it through, y'all. You're going to be okay.
Have you ever noticed how gendered every day things are? I'm not even talking the whole bathroom debacle, but things like toys and food packaging. At the bookstore the other day, I saw a "manmergency kit" advertised for Father's Day (I assume it was a mini shaving kit or something). I'm constantly confronted with "women's X" when there's no reason to specify an audience gender.
I was talking to my therapist this morning about it and realized that so many people don't even think about this sort of thing. Seeing blue and pink candy wrappers is just normal. Of course there would be a distinction between products for men and women--even if the product is exactly the same. And this isn't even delving into the "pink tax," where products marketed to women cost more than products marketed to men.
As someone who doesn't adhere to the gender binary, this is incredibly frustrating. It's everywhere and there's no escaping it. Our society (and our marketing) is exceedingly reliant upon gender and the apparent opposition of "man" and "woman."
Sometimes I wish I could just snap my fingers and erase the binary altogether. But, alas, that is not the magic I work. All I can do is keep working here at Wandering Jotun, keep supporting my other nonbinary and genderqueer friends, and keep sharing my authentic self. Hopefully I can at least make a little change.
It's officially November. 2018 is starting to come to a close (or, if you follow a different calendar, your new year is already here). I'm not entirely certain where this year went, but I know it was a bit of a roller coaster--and that's just on a personal level, not on a national or worldwide scale. That's a whole other ball of wax I'm not going to touch here, for my mental health if nothing else.
I am, however, going to drop some encouragement here. Because if I need it, I'm sure someone else does, too. Yeah, I know they all sound kind of like generic uplifting bullshit, but sometimes that's still a reminder we need.
I know it can feel like the world is crashing in on us right now. I know the holiday season can be rough on its own, and even rougher with everything else happening around us marginalized folks.
But we're still here. We're still fighting, in whatever way suits us as individuals (even if that's just surviving). We're not going anywhere, no matter what people in power want.
So hang in there, my friends. Take a deep breath and remember to take care of yourself during this shitstorm.
I love you.
Last weekend, I was talking with some friends about my preferred pronouns. It got me thinking (not for the first time) about gender identity and the pressures that come with being non-cisgender.
For example: I feel the happiest when someone refers to me using he/him pronouns, but that happiness always comes with a twinge of anxiety because I have no plans to transition in any way (medically or otherwise).
I worry that people will undermine or disrespect my identity as (currently) a genderqueer demiguy because I still present along the androgynous/femme lines, don't bind my chest, don't necessarily want hormones or surgery, and have very femme-coded body language.
So instead of dealing with that on a regular basis, I'm learning to be comfortable with they/them pronouns.
There's nothing wrong with gender-neutral pronouns, and I do enjoy being somewhat in the middle. But there's also this sort of anger that comes with feeling like I have to choose words to describe myself that don't feel completely right.
Why use pronouns you aren't happy with, Nonir?
Because it's easier and I'm a conflict-avoidant coward. I mean, what?
In all honesty, it comes from not wanting to battle the "trans enough" narrative a lot of society is currently pushing. You know, that idea that your non-cis identity is only valid if you want to completely transition, radically change your life, and buy into the other side of the heteronormative gender binary.
Which is just super not me. And I'm extremely lucky to know a handful of people who don't push that idea and/or fall into this weird middle category with me. But it's still an extremely prevalent thing in society (because respectability politics and whatnot, but that's another post entirely).
So I guess I'm going to wrap up this ramble with this:
Your identity is valid, even if it changes.
P.S. If you're in the Denver area, stop by Denver Pagan Pride on October 6th! I'm sharing a table outside and will have charms, prints, and readings available.
Been a while since I've blogged, due to a lovely soup of exhaustion, busyness, and anxiety. I'm not going to apologize for that, but I am going to take a look at some of it. Because reasons.
I have two major projects in the works for this business right now:
I'm super excited about both of them (and I'm planning on making them both digital, so no one has to pay exorbitant shipping), but every time I open the files to work on them I get hit with huge waves of anxiety and imposter syndrome. Who am I to instruct people on how to create healthy, fulfilling relationships with non-corporeal beings? I can barely keep my own life together, why do I think I'm qualified to design something to help others be more organized?
The short, honest answer is that it's my anxiety that doesn't think I am.
I have over a decade of working with non-corporeal entities under my belt. I've read other peoples' accounts and had lengthy discussions with other spirit workers. I've searched for resources that aren't culturally appropriative or homo/transphobic and don't just gloss over the issues inherent in dealing with spirits (and found none, btw).
I've struggled with anxiety and depression and the overwhelm that comes with trying to look at life in chunks of big goals. I still don't really like looking at life "five years from now" or whatever because I don't know where I'll be. I need something small and easy, not huge and terrifying--and I know I can't be the only one.
Logically, I know I'm "qualified" to create these things, and that they'll likely benefit other people. It's just hard to remember.
Pretty much, imposter syndrome is a bitch and the only way to kick its butt is to keep moving forward.
Even though it's terrifying. Even though anxiety and the world at large is telling us that our work isn't important or we're not good enough. Even though it's so incredibly hard to believe in ourselves.
Imposter syndrome and anxiety lie. Big time.
P.S. If you have anything in particular you'd like to see in either of these offerings, please drop me a line! They're both in development and I want to make sure I'm giving you things that will actually be interesting and useful.
One of the things I constantly struggle with in my everyday life is productivity. We (especially here in the U.S.) live in a society that idolizes working ourselves to death and being productive every single second of the day. I for one just can't do that--but it piques my anxiety not to at least try.
It's this super-vicious circle, and I'm not ashamed to say I've talked to my therapist about it a lot. She told me something last week that really hit home (admittedly, she saw it in a meme, but that's because she's awesome):
Sloths have survived thousands of years--by doing absolutely nothing.
And this morning, while scrolling through Twitter for my day job, I came across this article, which has a fabulous headline: To avoid extinction it's about 'survival of the laziest,' study suggests.
It seemed like pretty convenient timing, you know? One of those "hey, pay attention!" moments that may or may not be a poke from something in the universe. But the meaning is clear.
It's okay to fucking rest.
It's okay to take a damn break.
You don't need to feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
It's a hard lesson to learn, especially when everything around us is pressuring us to do more, create more, work more, just so we can survive. But what good is survival without taking the time to recover, rest, and actually enjoy our time here?
I know it's easier said than done, especially if you're an outcast like me, or you're struggling to put food on the table every day. But I think it's important to be able to take even just a five-minute break now and then to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you're awesome regardless of what you produce (or don't).
Our humanity, our worth, is not tied to our productivity. It's tied simply to our existence. You're amazing just by being here.
P.s. Don't forget to sign up to the Wandering Jotun Crafts newsletter. It's just getting started, and you'll get some great freebies to boot.
My roommate and I have recently been watching a lot of Buzzfeed Unsolved, and it's got me thinking about spirits, the ways we interact with them, and how our own brains help or hurt that. It probably helps that I've started writing an e-course about spirit work, but we're totally going to blame the show. Because reasons.
Paranormal investigation focuses on trying to find real, solid, scientifically-acceptable proof that spirits (mainly ghosts and other post-human entities) exist. They use tools like motion cameras/lights, video and audio recorders, and all sorts of other technology. The problem, in my opinion, is that spirits don't exist on this plane--so how would they trigger motion lights or show up on video?
So, okay, that sounds crazy. Dismissing paranormal investigators by saying they're doing it wrong. But in my experience, they are.
Spirits, especially in the context of a spiritual practice (since that's all I can really talk about), aren't generally throwing things around or creating intense physical sensations. Most of the time, it's a very subtle thing that even those of us who have been doing this work for decades can miss or misinterpret. When a spirit worker talks about "hearing" or "seeing" a spirit, more often than not, we're talking about things that happened inside our heads or in dreams/mediation or some other subjective, non-physical experience.
For me, what matters the most in dealing with spirits isn't physical, solid proof that they exist. It's belief that they do, and they want to interact with us*. Which, you know, would put paranormal investigators out of business.
I think it's important to remember if you're interested in working with spirits in any capacity that there will likely never be scientific proof that you're not crazy. Maybe it is all in our heads. Maybe we are talking to entities from other planes or the ghosts of the deceased. Maybe it's some combination thereof. We'll never know.
But, honestly, I don't think that's a bad thing. Healthy doubt is good in this work, after all.
* Of course, don't believe everything you experience or let belief get in the way of good discernment, but that's a blot post for another day.
Last night, I held my very first book release party ever. I'm not going to lie--I was anxious as hell all day leading up to it. But it was actually a fantastic experience.
The fantastic people at Turn A Page Bookshop in Aurora, Colorado hosted the party for On the Tightrope: A Loki Devotional. A group of my good friends (and my parents, gasp) came to celebrate with me and listen to me read poetry in public for the first time in ages. It's always nice to be reminded of the support system and encouragement in your life.
But the important part for my blog readers (are you there?) who weren't at the party and didn't get in on pre-orders of the book, is that On the Tightrope is now officially available for regular purchase!
The physical book can be bought on Amazon and special ordered through your local bookstores, including Barnes and Noble (hello, dream come true!). Or if you're in the Denver area and desperately need it ASAP, Turn a Page has a few copies left. If you prefer a digital version, you can grab the PDF ebook from my shop here on the site.
And to wrap up this post, this week's TGIF:
P.S. If you've got a sec, stop by the newsletter page to help me decide which freebie to create first (and then, you know, subscribe so you can get it when it's ready).
This week has been a little crazy and scattered as I've tried to work through some new plans and ideas for this business (including starting to offer some art prints and opening a Redbubble store--both of which will be growing soon).
For those of you in the Denver area, come join me on Thursday, August 16th, 6p.m. for the On the Tightrope launch party at Turn a Page Bookshop. There will be sweets (my mom's kickass chocolate chip cookies), some savory snacks, copies of the devotional for sale, and my random-ass Loki playlist. It'll be good times. Plus, Turn a Page will be keeping a few copies to sell on consignment afterward. My book's going to be in a real bookshop, y'all!
And now this week's TGIF:
Nonir is a queer pagan nerd and writes about various things in those realms.