Sunday, January 28, 2018

That Same Old Dead Feeling

I hate my mental illness. I really do. No matter what I say about learning and growing from it, learning about myself and what triggers me, sometimes it just creeps up on me and I hate it. Lately I have been feeling dead inside again. I have no logical reason to-- I landed an excellent job in less than a month since losing my old position due to lack of funding. I found a job before the state unemployment got figured out (and still hasn't). But all I want to do is crawl out of my skin, find a green place and escape. I want a house set back in the woods where I can be alone and be left alone. Left alone with my cats and some gardens and trees. I want to be on the edge of the wild. My heart longs for it. I feel so empty, my heart feels empty, and I need the forest, I need the solitude, and those things aren't within reach right now. All I can do is sit around and let this emptiness consume me as I prepare for my first day of work tomorrow. The soul-crushing thing is that with my current student loan and car loan debt, I couldn't dream of being able to afford land and a house to put on it. I'll be stuck in an apartment, surrounded by neighbors and noise forever. I hope this spiral into a pit of nothingness passes soon.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Gaming while Female

I love video games. I've written about it before. I've been playing World of Warcraft off and on for about 10 years, among other games. When I'm not running around solo,  I typically play with a small group of people from my guild; we all know each other, and many of us have met. Sometimes, however, we will have to invite a stranger to our group, this is fine. What I've noticed, however, is that almost every time-- and also when strangers interact with me in game-- I am misgendered. The kicker was when a guildee who knows better  misgendered me in guild chat. I have wracked my brain to understand this. Even when I played a typically "female" class-- my mage or priest-- I get called "dude" (which I see as kind of gender-neutral, honestly), "bro," or "man."  But I primarily play a melee class these days. To the right is my demon hunter. Yes, I play a female character, but a lot of guys play female characters too. Armor sets tend to look... better on them. But why is it I am constantly being misgendered? Let's unpack this, list style!

A) The pervasively inaccurate myth that women don't play video games. In fact, women in my age bracket are a main demographic
  1. Also, toxic masculinity 
  2. The myth that female gamers are casual, when there are female players soloing end bosses of raids
B) My play style
  1. I play a melee class now, although I used to play ranged DPS. But women are expected to be ranged DPS or healers
  2. I am competitive. I don't like to lose
  3. I am an aggressive player. I like to be big-dick DPS in dungeons and raids and I go balls-deep into player vs. player
    1. The fact that I even PVP is often seen as more masculine, however one of the best PVPer's I used to run with was female, back in the day
    2. The fact that I rarely bother with a dungeon any more unless it's a keystone mythic and I want to do higher and higher ones
C) My goddamn mouth

D) The fact that I also tank, which is seen as masculine, although there are excellent female tanks

E) The fact that some of my female characters are nearly naked

I've stopped correcting people any more. It's not worth the time, especially if it's some random person I'll never encounter in game again. The exception was the guildee, and she had rubbed me the wrong way prior to that. What do you think, gentle reader? Have you experienced misgendering in a video game, whether male or female? Do you stay out of voice chats so that you avoid people knowing your gender?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

ungandiR

Photo credit to this person
In the last several months, I have been really feeling more in tune with my spiritual nature than I have in a long time, to the point that, when I say the word "shaman" in the context of myself, I don't feel weird or Pagan-hokey. Heathenry is an intellectual curiosity, but way too prescriptive for my nature. But listening to Nordic-inspired/proto-Nordic-inspired music stirs my soul, and makes me realize that my spiritual nature needs to be fed, yet I feel like I have no outlet.

I need an altar.

I feel like such a creeper when I ask my hunter friends for bones and skulls, but I desperately want a deer skull to the the focal point of the altar. I feel so closely tied to the forest, and to honor that, the bones of the lord of the forest are needed. I would ask his spirit for his blessing, and surround him with objects honoring the forest and the earth.

I need space for my altar.

I need easy access to the forest to feed my soul. I need a place where I can build a fire and dance around it to the beat of a frame drum.

More and more, I want a house, set away from people, on lots of forested land. I want to be that shaman in the woods. I want to have gardens full of herbs and mumble wise things, like observing the leaves showing their backs and knowing it'll rain.

As much as I hate the winter in Maine, I feel so connected to it. I'll always be a child of springtime, but this winter has given me a lot of time to reflect on my shamanic tendencies. It makes me think I'll live a very lonely, solitary existence.


ungandiR roughly translated means "I (am) the priest, I (am) invulnerable to sorcery" is from the Nordhuglo rune stone in Norway.

Norse/Scandinavian folk I've been listening to:

Wardruna (will be seeing them in concert in February)
Heilung  (watch their amazing concert Lifa on Youtube. Serious shaman headdress envy)
Kaunan (very folksy)
Danheim (only recently discovered yesterday, already love them)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I took the picture of the nearly-full Wolf moon to the right on December 31, 2017, the last day of my employment. I am starting out this new year unemployed, however unlike past periods of unemployment, I'm... calm. I did have a bad spell a few weeks prior to my job ending, but as I got closer to the day, I got calmer and calmer. Granted, I did cry a few times on my last day, but when you've created close bonds with people, enjoy what you do, and people have told you how valuable your work has been, that can be emotional. In the spring, when I started looking for jobs in earnest, I didn't have the confidence that I had the skills it took to be successful. The last 6 months have proven that wrong, and I have a resume that people are actually looking at now.

When I was complaining about my microwave the other night to Joe, he told me to go get a new one. I told him that wasn't in the budget since I don't currently have a job. His retort was that I seem--and have seemed-- unconcerned with that fact. And it's true. I am unconcerned. I'm not going to recklessly spend money, but I'm not freaking out. I have a final paycheck coming, and holiday pay, and I've applied for unemployment. Unlike prior years, I won't have to fight for unemployment, because I was laid off, not fired. I have a little cash set aside. I have a little in savings. I have plenty of staple foods in my cupboards (beans, rice, frozen veggies, frozen meat). I survive, and I'm not worried.

Instead of freaking out this time around, I found comfort not only in knowing I would have a little time to myself (I never took vacation time while I was working) but also that I have prospects lined up and likely won't be unemployed for long. Probably just long enough for me to start getting bored with being home all the time. I'm looking forward to reading, gaming, taking care of myself, and hanging out with my cats. I'm taking solace in the fact that, as a snowstorm is preparing to barrel down on the state tomorrow, I won't have to worry about trying to drive to a job in it or in its aftermath.

This is the calmest I've ever been without a job.

I could get used to this serenity.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Downward Spiral

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I originally created this blog for a reason, and that was to unpack and examine the feelings and thoughts that arose as I dealt with my disease. I talk about being well-regulated and pride myself on the fact that I am fully functional living with bipolar disorder unmedicated. Some days though, some days I slip into a downward spiral, and instead of unpacking, I let the obsessive thoughts overwhelm me and I instead sit in a puddle of despair. I realized today that I've been edging toward that downward spiral, and it became apparent when I was really rudely blunt to my coworkers over something I could have addressed in a more mature way (and I also could have realized that the irritation I was feeling at the repetitive noise was definitely a byproduct of my disease, as I get easily irritable when I'm cycling). So here it is, and I need to unpack some feelings that have been nagging at my mind for a while, and some I have only brought up in a passive-aggressive way. List form, because lists are comforting to me.

1. I feel isolated and lonely. I am a 37 year old childfree Paganish woman who doesn't know anyone with the same interests I have. All of my friends have kids and their own lives. I largely avoid the local Pagan community because I don't take them seriously yet I crave that feeling of spiritual community.

2. I feel like an afterthought to people. I try and try to reach out to people to do stuff, to no avail. Then I get invited to something last minute, like an afterthought. That sucks.

3. What even is my relationship right now?

4. I don't think I really have a best friend. And I've realized I'm really envious of women who have a best friend that they can always hang out with and talk to. I used to, but as people's live take them in different directions, friendships change. And I get it, I'm a shit friend that pushes people away and avoids people once they have kids. That's my fault.

5. I feel... stuck? That's not quite the right word. But I had grand ideas of getting tech certifications and I just wonder if it's even worth it. I was going to look at job opportunities in other states but I haven't managed to save like I wanted to. And I doubt my own capabilities.

I ate dinner alone at a restaurant tonight. I was thinking about going to the movies alone. I want to go to Iceland in the summer but I don't want to go alone. I hate being alone. I just want to be able to do shit and have fun with people. I kind of wish I was manic. I'm so much more sociable when I'm manic.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

You Heathen!

Icelandic stave Veldismagn
As mentioned in a recent, ranty, "get off my lawn you kids" sort of post, I have a habit of sitting down and reevaluating my spirituality every decade or so (and woe to be old enough to measure these reevaluations in decades!) and generally realign my spirituality. I will never be one of those people who is comfortable practicing any sort of spirituality in a group setting, but I still seek virtual groups out not for camaraderie, but to quietly learn and slip away with the knowledge I was seeking out. Recently, I've been feeling that the word "shaman" fits my spirituality the best (although I'm not hung up on labels) so over the last few weeks I have been looking into modern shamanism (oh boy, so much fluff and woo) and dissatisfied with that search, started researching the Icelandic runic staves.

It's interesting, the rabbit holes you can fall into with a Google search. From Icelandic staves I went to Norse runes (the Elder Futhark) and somewhere along the way I stumbled upon Heathenry. A first, knee-jerk reaction was that Heathenry appealed to me very much. A second, knee-jerk reaction was "wow, there are a lot of racists who use a religion to justify racism." Apparently, it's a widespread problem, as several groups I've found online have, as rule number 1, "take your white supremacy and racism elsewhere." After looking into Heathenry on a superficial level, there is a theistic side to it, which doesn't quite work for me, but I'll continue to research and read, because knowledge is always valuable.

In the mean time, I'll continue to collect crow feathers and any clean bones/antlers and other magical items I can find/afford and spend time in nature. I'm too shamany for anything organized. Hopefully next summer I can make it to Iceland for a spiritual journey and to have Veldismagn tattooed on my chest (because believe it or not, 2 of my 3 current tattoos are spiritual for me, being my animal guide, the crow). Right now I'm looking for something way more primal and less organized, and I've realized that's a path I have to forge for myself.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Photographing Cemeteries

St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, Waterville ME
 I have had this blog for a long time, and I could have sworn I had written about my cemetery photography hobby before, but it's only vaguely mentioned in a post from 2015 where I talked about getting my creative spark back.

I've been visiting cemeteries in a non-funerary function for as long as I can remember. As a child, I used to help my parents as they helped fill Memorial Day orders at the family greenhouse for the local cemeteries, which included delivering arrangements and planting at the grave sites. Because visiting cemeteries was never associated with anything "scary" or "sad" for me (and indeed, the only "graveside" service I can remember attending is from adulthood) I have always found them a place of calm serenity. Oftentimes, if I need a quiet place to sit with my thoughts, I'll go to a cemetery. While some people do use them as walkable greenspaces (as they truly are), I typically have the place to myself for the most part, with the exception of the people who come to tend the graves of their loved ones. It's quiet, peaceful, and filled with art.

St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, Waterville ME
I started photographing cemeteries when I was in high school. I think the first time I put any effort into photographing something at a cemetery was at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery in Waterville, Maine, when I went with my mother as she tended to the graves of families. There are the most spectacular bronze angel statues guarding the gates of the cemetery (the Catholic side, because there is a secular side), one with a cross raised up to the sky, and another blowing a trumpet. It was natural, when I started photographing cemeteries again, that I recreate some of my first photos (the above is one of the recent photos). St. Francis is one I have traveled the width and breadth of because it is not only massive and convenient to get to, but it is filled with some of the most beautiful monuments. There are angels galore, many in varying state of decay due to age and the inevitable lichens that feed on the stone they are made from. There are virgin statues (see right), incredibly old grave markers that are barely legible, and new, shiny, modern marble and granite head stones with likenesses of the deceased etched into them with laser precision.

Maplewood Cemetery, Fairfield, ME
I have a set of personal rules or standards I hold myself to when I'm visiting the cemetery to photograph monuments. I try to remain as respectful as possible, and treat it like you would a national park: what goes in comes out with me. I try not to tread on the flat markers if I can help it (some have sunken into the ground and become overgrown over the years), and while I haven't encountered a fresh grave yet, I wouldn't tread on the dirt or otherwise disturb someone recently interred. I give anyone else in the cemetery a wide berth because I realize that some people find it weird and morbid and possibly inappropriate that I'm photographing grave markers and monuments. I also don't photograph (with one exception, because I hadn't seen one like it before) the names and birth/death dates if I can help it. If I can't, usually editing can help make them illegible. To me, photographing the personal information of the dead feels invasive. I do not sit on or lean on grave markers, ever. While a cemetery is a public greenspace, it is still a place where people are interred and their loved ones visit. It's not a park, or a playground, and I get upset when I see people walking their dogs through a cemetery or riding a horse through one (I have seen this). Cemeteries are sacred places to me, and they-- and their residents-- deserve respect.

Cavalry Cemetery, Skowhegan, ME
Photographing cemeteries is a sort of self-soothing act for me at times. It allows me to completely disconnect from the outside world for a while and do something creative. I often edit the photos on the spot and upload them to my Instagram account (you can find more there, but my page isn't all cemeteries), and I will walk through the more historic areas with their old, leaning marble stones to learn about the history of the area (anyone with an interest in epidemiology should visit an old cemetery or one with an old section, there's a lot to see and learn). Sometimes, though, I get sad, because I see graves with plastic or silk flowers on them, tattered and faded, and to me, that says "this is an obligation" or "I don't really care" and I would hate for my final resting place to be treated that way by the people I've left behind to care for it.

A friend recently asked permission to print some of my photos to decorate her office with and asked why I don't sell prints. Honestly, I don't photograph cemeteries for money or fame. They are available on my public Instagram page to view, and I would hope people would ask before reproducing them. I do this for myself. These cemeteries and the photos I take in them make me happy. I enjoy exploring different angles, getting close, and editing on my phone (because I take them ALL with my phone). I enjoy the time outside, walking, seeing the varying types of monuments, and learning the history of the area. I'd like to visit more than just the local cemeteries, but there is a lot here I'm sure I haven't seen. Cemeteries are a happy place for me.

If you're interested in death, cemeteries, mortuary science, and anything to do with death rituals, I highly recommend looking up Caitlyn Doughty either on Youtube or on her website. She's informative, funny, and a mortician that specializes in green burials.

All photos in this post are mine. If you want to see more, use the link above to visit my Instagram. Please don't steal them, I don't want to start using watermarks.