G – Gratitude (PBP Week 13)

2011 was a really bad year for me.

I left the job from hell in March, literally for the sake of my sanity.  Our plans for an alternative income fell through, and I spent most of the year dirt poor.  Francis’ old army injury kept getting worse and worse until he could no longer work.  Our house was foreclosed upon.  My depression started spiraling out of control and, because I had so many good reasons to be sad, I didn’t realize what was happening until it had almost destroyed my relationship.

Worst of all, a very dear friend of mine passed over that August.

Yeah, 2011 sucked.

In spite of all that – or rather, directly because of all that – I learned a very important lesson that year.  I learned was gratitude is.

It’s not that I’d never been thankful for kindnesses bestowed on me.  I like to think I’ve always given credit where it was due and was not shy in sharing my appreciation.

But it wasn’t until I had been so thoroughly humbled and was completely vulnerable that I really understood.

When we had no money and I needed to see a doctor, we found a free clinic that operated out of a bus and visited our neighborhood once a week.  I made an appointment, and expected to spend the entire day there, waiting to get help.  In actuality, though there were dozens of people there, the whole operation was incredibly professional.  I was at most, fifteen minutes before seeing a doctor.  The doctor asked me questions and genuinely seemed interested in my answers.  After discussing options, I was given a free prescription and told I could come back if I needed a refill.  I felt that I had been treated with more respect and dignity than in many doctor’s offices that I had paid to visit.

These people provided this kind of service for those desperately in need every single day.

I was grateful.

The night Rena died, a volunteer pastor sat with us for hours while we waited for news from the doctor.  She sat with us and just talked.  Some of it was about Rena – how were we related, what was she like.  Most of it was just chatting to keep our minds off of our worries.  Not once, though we had told her our religion, did she attempt to proselytize or minimize our beliefs.  She talked to us as people of faith, giving our Gods the respect They are due.

When the doctor finally appeared and gave us the terrible news, she sat with us while we cried and, when it was time, gave us a packet of practical information detailing what we’d have to do next.  Then she left us alone with our grief, letting us know we could contact her any time we needed to talk.

I was so touched by this.  I thought it would be wonderful to be able to provide that kind of comfort to people in need, but I knew I would never have that kind of strength.

And I was so grateful that she did have that strength.  That she was there.

When my depression got out of control, I found I was able to visit a county outpatient facility and receive free counseling. When we were so badly off that we couldn’t afford groceries or medicine, several institutions provided help – the Vetran’s administration, the local food bank, county medical assistance, state food stamps.

The depth of gratitude I felt in all these instances, and in several others that year, was unlike anything I had known before.  Possibly because the depth of my need was unlike anything I’d known before. It wasn’t simple thankfulness – which is a wonderful thing in itself. Thankfulness, as I see it is a virtue of the mind.

This gratitude was pure emotion, almost primal. To risk sounding even sappier – it made my heart glow.

When my family was in danger, I found the strength to get us the help we needed.

And I’m grateful for that, too. Grateful to my Gods, because I know I wouldn’t have succeeded on my own. And grateful to Francis, who kept pushing me to find help for my illness.

That year has changed the way I live my life.

Now, when someone helps me though they’ve no good reason to, when something goes well, or I feel warm sunshine on my face, or see a smile in my sweetie’s eyes – I can call up that feeling of pure gratitude. I try to remember to be truly grateful to my Gods for the blessings of this life, and to the people around me who give so much of themselves. It isn’t always easy, I get so absorbed in my troubles that I can’t always see the big picture. But when I do, it makes me feel better.

Gratitude can bring a path to joy into the darkest times.


Happy John Lennon Day!

This is a free account and I can’t imbed videos. So I’ll just make a strong suggestion: everybody go find a copy of Imagine (here’s one) and give a listen. Go ahead and do it now, I’ll wait right here.

Now don’t you feel better?  More hopeful about the future of humanity?  What, you feel like crying instead?

Yeah, I get that too.

Anyway, this post is actually meant to be relevant to this blog in more than just a John-Lennon-was-Awesome sort of way.  With Samhain coming up, like many pagans I’ve been thinking about ways to honor my ancestors.  For a long time I’ve wanted to incorporate an altar for the beloved dead and regular offerings in my practice.  I really want to include all of my “beloved dead,” not just family.  There are many among my beloved that aren’t related to me at all – I never knew them in this life.  Like John, they are not great heroes of my nation or direct benefactors of my family.  Yet, I adore them and they had a part in making me the woman I am today.

Ryan at Pagan Reveries talks about the cult of the poet hero in this and many excellent posts following it.  This is kind of what I’m thinking about, but not all of my beloved were poets, either.  Cultural heroes, maybe – as in heroes of arts and science?

Lennon, Morrison, Vaughan, Tesla, Einstein, Galileo, Lovelace, Byron, Shelley, Emperor Julian, Hypatia, Hildegard von  Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Josephine Baker, Rumi, Wilde, Bradbury, Vincent, Leonardo

Those of you who do honor your ancestors as a regular practice, do you only include those genetically related to you?  Or do you also honor those people who have made you who you are in ways other than biological?  Or do you feel this would be a slight to your physical ancestors?

I always liked this story and just discovered this lovely painting. Its a new favorite.

The story is this:

In the middle of a war, a group of maenads lost their way and found themselves in the town of Amphissa, where they fell into an exhausted sleep in the agora. When they were discovered, all the women of the town formed a protective circle around them, and when they awoke, arranged for them to return home unharmed.

The Women of Amphiss

Q – Quotes (PBP week 33)

(Trying to find a good “Q” topic, I opened my OED and compiled a list of really awesome words:  quandry, quagmire, quantum leap, Quakers, quietism, quarrelsome, quartz, Queen Anne’s Lace, quest, Quixote, quixotic, quinoa, quintessence, quisling…  I skipped queer, queenship, and quackery because there had been many very good blogs on these subject already, and I didn’t feel I had much to add.  But the others are all topics that I thought it would be fun to explore, and find a pagan slant one.

The thing is, I’ve been having a couple really rough weeks.  I just don’t have the mental capacity right now to put the kind of energy into those projects that I would really want to.

So instead I decided to cheat, and do something that was just fun.) 

The following are quotes that I’ve found inspirational in some way.  They are not specifically pagan, but all are of spiritual significance to me – though it might not be obvious why, since my spirituality is wrapped up in so many things.  Some seem to contradict each other – I take strength from each at different times.  People are complicated.

A few are from pagan sources, many aren’t. 

Many are from people of other faiths – Christians, Buddhists, Sufi – talking about their own Gods, spirits, and philosophies. 

Some are from completely secular sources. 

And, me being me, many are from U2.

I hope others may find some of them as inspiring as I do.

“It is not our intentions, it is our actions.”
– Bono, numerous occassions

“Beware! Beware
His flashing eyes, his floating hair
Weave a circle ’round him thrice
And close your eyes in holy dread
For he on honeydew has fed
And drank the milk of paradise.”
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan

“Ἐν οἴνῳ ἀλήθεια” – Alcaeus
“In Vino Veritas” – Pliny, the Elder
“In Wine, there is Truth” – common knowledge

“Kindness and a good heart are the foundation for success in this life, progress on the spiritual path, and the fulfillment of our aspirations. Our need for them is not limited to any specific time, place, society, or culture.”
– HH The Dalai Lama

“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.”
– Rumi

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
-Freiedrich Nietzsche

“To touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal.
If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel”
-U2, Mysterious Ways

“They sicken of the calm,
Who knew the storm.”
– Dorothy Parker

“I believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of the senses in order to obtain the unknown.”
– Jim Morrison

“This, therefore, is a faded dream of a time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern marketplace, and with my own brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions come true.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find all is vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.”
– T E Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

“I pray for the love of madness…”
– The Mission, Kingdom Come

“As you enter this life
I pray you depart
With a wrinkled face
And a brand new heart”
-U2, Love and Peace or Else

“And learning better to feel joy, we learn best not to hurt others or to plan hurts for them.”
-Freidrich Nietzche

“You shall no longer take things at second or third hand…
     Nor look through the eyes of the dead
     Nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either,
     Nor take things from me
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”
Walt Whitman

“It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.”
– Franz Kafka

“Love, lift me out of these blues
Won’t you tell me something true
I believe in you”
– U2, Elevation

      “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
– Bishop Desmond Tutu

      “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
– Albert Einstein

“We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can you still recall
The time we cried
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side”
– The Doors, Break on Through

“I believe in a celebration
I believe we can be free.
I believe you can loose these chains
I believe you can dance with me, dance with me.”
– U2, A Celebration