Killing Me Slowly With Over-Scheduling and Stress

So, how about a discussion on being busy? Or perhaps I should call it over-scheduling ourselves?

See, I live by a perpetual task list, both at work and in my every day life. It helps me to keep things from slipping through the cracks and being forgotten. It also ramps my anxiety beyond 90 on the Oh-Shit-I-Have-Too-Much-To-Do meter as well. I use Google Calendar to keep myself organized with my home stuff. I like the cute, colored squares that popup on the calendar. Plus it is easy to add things to it as well. Which is a problem. But let me continue down the tools list. For work, I have Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, which sucks. Even my supervisor agrees with that. So, we moved the department (when it was nine people) over to Asana, where he could keep a better eye on the task lists for all of us. We’re back to being a department of two, but I am reluctant to give up the Asana task lists. Much like the Google calendar stuff, it helps me to categorize tasks, allows me to put notes into those tasks (explaining what I did, just as much as it is a reminder to me of where I stopped at the end of the previous day). These are great tools for keeping me on track. Except when the tasks start swarming me like hordes of zombies from The Walking Dead – I do what comes natural to me. I lose all capacity to set appropriate priorities and essentially freeze up.

Like I said, I love the ease with which a task can be added in Google calendars. And the recurring task feature makes it even easier to set things up in terms of longer ranges. And when the colors start to overlap, and each day looks like a pile of colored sticky notes that will never be beaten back by me even if I had Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon covering my six – yeah, the panic starts to set in. Now, consider – I have been living my life this way for the past two and a half years. Some weeks were better than others, but essentially it was a life driven by deadlines and to-do items. For public gatherings, conventions, and professional conferences – I would literally clear those days of tasks and to-do items and push all of those back. Which put all those items up against other items, and soon I had a literally looming tsunami of items on my calendar. Something was going to give…and hopefully it wasn’t going to be my sanity.

A few things came to mind. I could become a hermit…living in the woods in a tar-paper shack, cut off from society. Naw. That definitely wouldn’t work, but some things had to go. One of the longer reaching things that was always in the lists, but never completed was the next podcast episode. And I knew this was something to take a good long, serious look at. Plus there were other things that could be approached as well. So I shut everything completely down. Nothing was going to be done until I had decided how to de-clutter this wall of tasks into something a touch more manageable.

The podcast turned out to be a fairly easy decision. I had not put out an episode in nearly eighteen months. I could just dump it. Except that’s not the right way to end something I have been doing for a little over a decade (or something like that – I stopped keeping track of how long I’ve been a podcaster). I owed it to the people that listened to me to bring it to a proper close. So I added the last audio file edits I was ever going to do for a podcast to the new task list. It had been a while since I had done audio editing, and the two interviews I had planned proved to be a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. It took longer than I thought, but I handled it.

I have the blog here at Life With Trickster Gods, as well as my contributions to the Druidry side of the Moon Books blogging platform. Those were not going anywhere. I enjoy writing, and I was not about to give that up. In fact, I have added extra daily writing tasks to my life, in the hopes I can turn all of that into a book. Time will tell if I can manage that. Plus, I could stagger the writing tasks over the course of the week. I’m constantly writing stuff, just not the same thing every day. So far, that has proven to be a perfect addition to my daily life schedule. In addition to that are particular exercise days that I have built into the daily schedule. My pudgy self needs to get into better shape – particularly if I want to live longer than my fifty-two-plus years thus far.

But all of that doesn’t remove one of the biggest problems I have: saying “no” to other people. And this is where my daily schedule can literally go haywire. Because I over-commit and under-deliver. I say “yes” rather than “maybe, let me check my schedule and get back to you”. I also forget to add time between tasks, along with travel time into my calculations. And what I end up with, is being late to some things, and unable to deliver at all on others. So I find myself doing one thing at the end of every day. I have a task that reminds me to take my night dosages for my diabetes and other issues – but also listed is a “quick check of the next three days’ schedule”. This one task has allowed me to check timings, calculate travel times, and make sure that I have the time to do the things I commit myself to. Its a lot of steps, but it helps keep me alive, keep me sane, and keeps me properly focused.

I just posted this as a status on Facebook:

So, sitting here writing about my issues with over-scheduling my own personal time, and it literally just smacked me upside my head. Nearly everything I had put on my calendar to accomplish was stuff that got completed….indoors. Could part of my issue be about not getting outside on a regular basis (aside from my morning trips to greet the Sun’s rise from the horizon)? Yes…its bloody hot outside…but I can find ways to squeeze in some activities in when the sun goes down, right??

Walking on Wild Horse Island in Montana…and its an interesting point. I am a Druid. I am a Pagan. My belief system is deeply rooted in the idea of being outside in what everyone considers to be “Nature”; though I would be in the group that would include all aspects of out lives as Nature – not just the non-concrete and steel version. But I prefer to have my hands in the dirt, my bare feet in the grass or walking on a trail with my staff and my backpack (essentially my over-sized crane bag). All of my tasks seem to have me confined to a desk or somewhere indoors. So, I can see a need to add outdoor times into all of this as well. I probably need to find some time for shinrin-yoku – what the Japanese call forest-bathing. Essentially its spending time within a forest, just walking. No cell-phones, no electronic distractions…just time away from everything. Yeah, I can definitely see a need for this. Once every two weeks. There are plenty of places near me that can offer the ability for me to do so. When I was living in Corinth, I used to walk the trails out by the Goat-Man’s bridge quite a bit. I was in the middle of commuter-town hell, but it felt like I was far from such a place. Definitely need to add that to the list.

All of this over-scheduling was really killing me slowly. My stress levels climbed beyond belief. A trip to the cardiologist revealed a need to drop a lot of the stress from my life. Revamping my calendar and task list has helped. I have to continue being careful of how I schedule everything and taking down-time between tasks and events. After all, I want to be here a lot longer.

But I do wonder…are we over-scheduling our lives to try and complete more stuff in our lives? And in that process, are we missing the small, beautiful details of our lives as everything passes us in a speedy procession?? I certainly do wonder…


My Daily Life Away From the 24×7 News Cycle

The news cycle these days is hardly an interesting thing. Most of the time, it seems, that the primary focus is what President Donald Trump did. Or who is suing him on this day? Or what laws he’s thinking of over-turning. Or what lies he’s tweeting out via his infamous Twitter account. I have literally taken to checking in on the news once a week, because of the overly repetitive nature it has become – particularly with the national news here in the United States. A few years back, I could never be without hearing some form of news update at least four times per day. Nowadays? Well, not so much.

I get accused of being an ostrich when it comes to the news because I chose to lessen its impact on my daily life. My retort is that the news is essentially the same thing over a five to seven day period with all the infotainers on tv bloviating their opinions what this means or what significance that has. I can find better things to do. And on that single point, I consistently get challenged. What is that I choose to do that is more important than being constantly in-tune with the news?


Tommy at the Beach
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

My bookshelves are overflowing with books I have not read. I am a compulsive book buyer, but over the past few years, I spent more time in front of the tv zoning out to news coverage than I did reading. Thanks to the shrillness of the Hannitys, O’Reillys, Maddows, and Lemons of the infotainer news cycle, I have taken time to get back to the written word again. Currently, I am reading through three books, each in turn. Star.ships by Gordon White, Creating a Data-Informed Culture in Community Colleges by Brad Phillips and Jordan Horowitz, and Australian Druidry: Connecting With the Sacred Landscape by Julie Brett are all currently in the reading rotation and at various stages of completion/beginning. And I wrote notes as I read too. So my speed at completing books is a lot slower than it used to be. Unless the book is a fiction book. I rarely take notes with these types of books because I read them for the escapism of that particular moment. I truly had forgotten how much more relaxing life was curled up on the couch with the cats and reading a book and some soft jazz music playing in the background.

Doing Something

Not long ago, I bought an acoustic-electric guitar. Now, I am not much of a musician, to begin with. I enjoy strumming the guitar and picking out little pieces of songs that I can catch the notes of. I don’t read music. I could not tell you the difference between a C-sharp, and an E-flat. But I enjoy doodling on the guitar, playing just random combinations of strings and fingering on the fretboard. I imagine the same type of relaxing mood comes over those that enjoy drawing when they get a chance to tune out the world and just lay pen or pencil or crayon or chalk to paper or tile or whiteboard or sidewalk. Just a singular moment, where one can stretch their imagination and reach out to the world around them through their own Awen.

Take A Walk

IMG_0243This is a two-pronged item. Not long ago, I went in for a cardio-checkup at the insistence of my new Primary Care Physician. Given my paternal family history of males, heart issues are something I do have to worry about. The checkup found some small issues, nothing overly concerning, but I was told to get out and walk more than I have been. So, getting off the couch, and away from the tv is a good thing. But this also means leaving my iPhone behind, so the ties to the news cycle are not available at all. But I have also found that carrying some ear-buds with the iPhone, and some good somewhat quick-paced music on my iPhone does wonders as well. Besides, I d not really read news on my iPhone. My typical news consumption comes either in front of the computer or the tv. And getting out and walking gets me out of either of those chairs, which is the point.

Secondly, I am a fscking Druid. I should be outdoors! My job has me in front of a computer screen all day, in an office with no windows. By the end of the workday, I am craving the idea of being outside. And walking would definitely set me there. And to be brutally honest, being outside is a lot more entertaining and interesting than listening to the news.

Moderation in Everything

The old saying is that you should do everything that you want but in moderation. News consumption, in my opinion, is one of those things that should be placed in a degree of moderation. Yes, I do listen to the national news in moderation. I catch the news cycle on the BBC for 90 minutes on Saturday or Sunday. In that 90 minute period, I get everything that I really need to know from all around the world. After that…I’ll peek at news headlines from time to time during the week, but rarely click on the links. And in moderating my intake of the news, and choosing where I will get my share of the news, and when – I have also managed to find a way to hold my stress levels over things to a moderate level that is not wrecking my health, and killing my outlook on the world around me.

Now, all of that works for me. Maybe it will not work for you. I am not asking you to do any of this stuff that I do. You handle you. I’ll handle me. All I am doing is sharing how I deal with all of this…take it or leave it. But it is what I do to take care of me. And this does answer a few questions of how I handle all the depressing news stories. Yes, I read the stories. Yes, I get a bit demoralized when I read or hear the stories, just like anybody else does. I am not oblivious to what is going on. I pitch in where I can, to help out. But I’m just not going to let this stuff eat me up either. For me, I have discovered my limits, and choose to hold fast to those. That’s my measure of self-care.

–T /|\

The Care and Feeding of This Solo Polytheist Pagan

Today’s world is a crazy, zany, and confusing place. The political parts of the world bleed into nearly every part of life. Yes, even into my daily Spiritual life. Honestly, it can suck the happy right out of one’s world – if you let it. So how do I get around it? Well there are a variety of things that fit into that question. Originally, I titled this post as “The Care and Feeding of A Solo Polytheist Pagan” but I realized I cannot really speak for anyone else. So I changed it from “A” to “This” to more reflect that this is what works for me.

In a manner of speaking, this is really about how I manage to keep my sanity in what sometimes feels like a world spinning out of control, headed right towards the Sun for a moment of final destruction. Of course, there’s always the question of whether I do keep any sanity, but that’s a discussion for another time and place. 😉

Dealing with Politics, News, Infighting, and Intolerance

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me these days has been parsing politics and news. Never having been a fan of the current President, his juvenile antics and head-scratching political statements can sometimes send me on a real bender. Couple that with news on climate control events, issues relating to the varied treatment of non-whites throughout the country, the abridgment of rights and lands of First Nations peoples and tribes, and trying to decide who can and cannot use this or that restroom….my state of mind can move from being fairly well balanced to sheer anger to complete despair. And sometimes all of that can take place within the span of five minutes. And no matter how well I have managed to ground and center myself for the day, just a few moments with the news of the day has the potential to smack me off-center for hours on end. And none of that addresses the infighting that takes place within the widely varied perspectives within the Pagan community that occasionally make it to my ears. I am not a particularly empathic individual. I can relate to feelings and emotion of others to an average degree, but that rarely overwhelms me. But intolerance really sets me off quite easily. So what to do?

My primary means of wider communication comes from Facebook. Lately, I have taken to turning off Facebook in the evening hours. Sort of like a Southwest Airlines method – you know the commercial slogan, “Want to Get Away?” But that’s only part of the equation. I have also stopped watching the news in the evenings and even ditched my bad habit of listening to talk radio whenever I was home and coding in my baseball database. Now, I am more likely to put on some Loreena McKennitt or Mary Black, depending on my state of mind at the moment, and just writing. Or if I am not in the state of mind to write, I’ll grab a book and read. Anything to allow my mind and nerves to get away from hearing about this or that from the news.

Daily Rituals

Another way to bring my focus back to the things I need to be focused on – such as my Ovate Gwers studies – is that I have some set rituals I perform throughout the day. Well, these are more “set” in the fact that I try to do them daily, rather than a rote set of instructions. Every morning, regardless of whether I make the sunrise or not, I greet the sun. Mostly, its a matter of stepping outside and spending a few moments grounding and centering, and then saying hello to the sun. Sometimes I manage this at sunrise, sometimes I don’t. And when the weather is bad, I do this from under the backyard patio overhang – or if its way too cold to be outside in my PJ’s, I do so from within my office where my window looks out on my backyard stone circle.

There are other daily rituals that I manage throughout the day: walking around the college campus where I work to clear my mind. For some reason, walking allows me to do just that – clear my mind of thoughts and regain my center and focus. If I were to try this sitting in one place and just grounding and centering, I achieve nothing, and find my mind to be a somewhat scrambled mess.

And the place where I manage these doesn’t matter either. I have walked the aisles of an aircraft in flight to just clear my mind. Granted, the distance wasn’t all that long – but the momentary stretching of the legs can bring me back to focus. When I travelled overseas to the UK these past two winters, I lifted the shade on the window seat to greet the sun on the trip over. Little set patterns like this are critical for me to handle the rest of my day – whether on vacation, at work or at home.

Remembering My Place

There are times where I will find myself overly engrossed with something – typically its the news coverage. When this happens, I will spend some time remembering who I truly am. I’m not a purveyor of the news. The news is nice stuff to stay in touch with the wider world around me, but my personal focus is different. I’m a Priest of Crow. I’m a Druid, in my Ovate grade training, I have a daily job that pays the bills and requires my attention 8+ hours of the day. But being outdoors is where I should be, not indoors looking at a computer screen (though that is what I am doing at this very moment). I write, I read, I am working towards being a Storyteller because this is where I see the future (and the past and the present) of the world:  telling the stories that connect us, our environment, the animals, the Gods – all of us – together. My place is not to worry about what the fake-Donald-Trump does. Certainly, it is best to keep an eye on him, as well as the rest of my representative government officials. My place is elsewhere. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that.

Don’t Beat Myself Up When Things Fail

This last part is one of the hardest things for me in the care and feeding of myself – not being too hard on myself when I misstep, stumble, or fall. And it happens. I’m fallible. I make mistakes. I misjudge things. I am also my own worst critic. And sometimes I have to remind myself of all of that. Its not a competition between myself and other Pagans as to who does what better, or how often, or more mistake-free. My Path is mine to walk. If I trip on the roots or rocks in the Path, I need to bandage up my wounded pride, check myself for injuries and tend to those. When all that is done, its time to stand up and continue walking along the Path, reminding myself to be a little more careful of steps. When I need to stop and rest along my walk, I need to do so. I don’t need to beat myself up over the fact that I needed to rest so much sooner than this other Pagan or that person over there. They know their own limits; I know mine. We are different people, and therefore different in our limits in walking the Path. This is not a race or competition over who completes what training faster than others or who is more pious (who the fuck measures this?) than another. Rather, I managed to get this far on my Path before someone else – I can reach back and help them along as well. I can point out where the roots and rocks caused me to stumble, hoping that these are the only points of difficulty that they might have. I can point out the marvelous vistas that I saw along the way, hoping that they find that view just as enchanting as I did.

Each one of us walks our Paths in life on our own. I know what works for me. I can provide advice on these points, but in the end – its what works for you that really matters. And to that end, what works for me might not be useful for you. Pay attention to your care and feeding. I haven’t even discussed how reading, podcasts, and just making it to some Pagan gatherings can provide nourishment, inspiration, and energy to my daily walk. Because, honestly, my own care and feeding manual is long, varied, and constantly changing and evolving. I am sure, you will find that yours does to – though maybe not nearly as much as mine does. Happy walking!!

The Keyboard Won’t Get Me There

About a month ago, I started to look at various aspects of my life. I was seeking some dramatic types of change, where I could provide some kind of “improvement” without really defining it. The entire “search-for-change” thing failed completely. Well, not completely, I did manage to locate two thin dimes in the couch cushions. But I didn’t find anything that would be a huge change for me. Except I started noticing that a few things kept falling off the table. Walking, bike-riding, exercising more, reading more, playing my guitar (despite the fact that I suck – I still want to learn)….all of these things take time, which I seemed to have less of now than ever before. Perhaps, I mused silently to myself (and not for the first time) it was time to investigate.

My first notice that something was desperately wrong came from my overdependence on Google Calendar. See, to use it – I had to have my computer or my phone near me. All the stuff I noted above gets done when I am away from these devices. Sure, the phone works great as a pedometer when I am walking. Plus, with a set of earphones, I can block out some of the more unpleasant sounds of living in a town. And yes, I could read when at the computer….but typically, I would spend my time going from site to site reading Wikipedia entries or burying my head in useless news stories moving at 78 rpm.

After a few moments, and I looked down at my legs while I was sitting at the keyboard. My skin is pasty-white. Granted, I don’t tan all that well, but its obvious that I haven’t been outside in the heat of the day like I used to be. Looking at my work area, I have two computer systems – both of which are constantly going. Yes, I work with my hobby of baseball statistics, but lately – that’s all I have been doing. I am a Druid, damnit… I love being outdoors…I love getting sweaty, even in the heat of the day (provided I have a bottle of water with me to keep myself hydrated). I manipulate information and query databases for a living…that doesn’t mean I should live it when I am away from work too! I’m not a digital Druid, I’m not an 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit or 64-bit representation of a human. And yet….

Yeah. That was a month ago. And the changes have been slow, and somewhat steady. I get out a bit more often. I walk. I spend time in the backyard enjoying the outside. Now, in Texas, its Easy-Bake-Oven standards outside right now…so I don’t always see the afternoon sun. I do like the idea of not being flame-broiled like a Whopper. I have set the baseball database off to the side on my work days. And on the weekends, I typically work on it when I cannot get outside. Except when I take the time to read. I looked at my to-read pile, and started pulling books to me. And I keep a notebook handy, just in case I read something that is inspiring to me at that moment….or if I get inspired to write some more poetry. Removing myself from some aspects of the digital world has definitely been a help. But I can’t disconnect completely…

I do have friends that I stay in touch with via Email, Facebook, Twitter, and even here at WordPress. Some of these folks I know face-to-face, but digital communications – especially in an asynchronous format – seems to work best for us. So removing myself from digital platforms altogether is not a practical thing for me. However, removing myself from certain segmented aspects of these platforms has been beneficial, especially for my sanity.

Facebook, these days, has gone from being a wonderful way to keep up with friends and family to becoming a huge political billboard. Meme after meme, news article after news article (let’s not even start to get into the veracity of the stuff that gets shared) concerning political gyrations of one sort or another from around the globe wind up in the FB feed. In some respects, its not terrible thing, as it does serve to expand the bandwidth on issues that do not get reported as widely as they should. However, the barrage of one political perspective after another after another after another…well, its wearisome. And given the shitty addition of Facebook’s filtering of my feed, which removes postings from many of my friends in favor of….well, whatever methodology that Facebook has added to its algorithm. What I wind up with is a feed that only shows me *some* of what happens with my friends. And hunting for a different methodology at another social platform has proven to be just as fruitless and useless. So, in deference to my friends whose posts I haven’t provided a “like” to…its likely because I have’t seen it because it was either drowned out by the dozens of dozens of political ruminations that are expectorated into my feed by Facebook’s algorithms or filtered into oblivion by the same programmatic equation seemingly designed to lull me into an Orwellian slave that is chained to my online devices.

So for approximately the last four weeks, I have utilized Facebook while at work. It makes for a tidy ten minute break from SQL programming and endless iterations of data manipulation, mostly for people who have no idea what they are going to do with that information – aside from plug it into some proposal designed to bring monies into the college. So very few people at the college really grok what they should be doing with those that data requests. But that’s a thought for another time loop. Facebook serves as a tool to break the monotone drum-beat that punctuates my mundane job. Once I leave work, I head home, feed my darling furry girls, post one last time (usually) to Facebook, and crack open the book I am currently reading, or take my Mac offline so I can write (staying online provides too much of a temptation for endless distraction). If there’s no desire to head in that direction, I find a pair of swim trunks, and relax in the pool in the backyard. Or, I may go walking. Or in the very near future (when it arrives), I may strap on my helmet and go for twenty mile bike ride. Anything, aside from the mind-sucking of what the internet has become.

Now, I am sure there are those that see the internet as the tool it is, and do their best to use at as such. Furthermore, there will be those that see the internet, in the format that I have disparaged in my above denunciations, as something that should be treasured and enjoyed. I say, more power to ’em. Who am I to say what is right and wrong for anyone else? I know what works for me…and I would never dare to imply that it would work for everyone else – or even one other person.

I will; however, find some tennis shoes, and go for a walk in the park – just across the street from my house. I moved here two years because of that – among a whole host of other things. Its time to start using it, and experiencing it while getting back into a healthy shape. After all, in two years, I have a mountain in China to visit and walk up. And shortly after that, there’s the Tor. I have places to go, things to do when I am there, and prayers I am obliged to offer. I’m not going to get there sitting at the keyboard….




Life as a Long Hike

As I noted in a previous post, some of the minor themes in a talk given by Starhawk at Pantheacon this year have brought interesting conceptual thoughts to my mind. One of the more interesting ones was looking at one’s life-time journey as a hike. A really long hike.

Now, I enjoy walking. I get a chance to wander and accomplish what I call “walking meditation” where I can literally turn a single thought over and over in my mind as I walk. Lately I have not done a lot of these, and I really do need to change that. But that is a thought for another time. Using a hike as a metaphor for life was certainly an intriguing thought. There are all sorts of things that can be utilized in hiking that can be brought over to looking at one’s journey in life.

Pathway in Mesa VerdeFor instance, probably the easiest one to bring into focus is the ups and downs of life relayed into the hiking of hills and valleys on a path. I walked a rather long trail in Mesa Verde National Park. The start of the trail was up a steep hill to get closer to the cliff-side nearest to me. Once there, the trail hugged against the cliff-side, and narrowed considerably. The drop-off into the valley below was extremely steep and at times a sheer drop-off. At other times, the path passed through very narrow passageways between large boulders and the cliff wall. It was along this pathway and through one of these passages that I encountered Crow, which I can describe in no other way than an initiation of sorts. At one point, the trail scaled straight up a cliff wall, which – for me, as an individual with an acute fear of heights – was quite harrowing indeed. But thinking back along the lines of a hike as a metaphor for life….makes perfect sense.

The steep climb at the start of the hike, is quite similar to the initial steps one takes in life or even a Spiritual Path. We do not necessarily know exactly where things are or how definitions to certain terminologies or concepts can map into our own lives; so there’s a rather acute struggle. Or if you prefer, a climb of sorts. As we accumulate knowledge and understanding, we build on each concept and build and grow our application of that to our own lives.

But hills and valleys can have other meanings as well. The height of a hill can be a positive moment in our lives. Where we reach the pinnacle of some aspect. Everyday life seems to be in harmony with anything we do or try. We feel the awesome joy of accomplishment, able to look outwards at all that is our life, and survey the beauty of everything that is there. The valley, with its downward momentum, can have the feeling of riding in a vehicle without brakes. Gaining speed at every moment, careening dangerously along the path; a certain painful, and sudden stop that may certainly be in our very near future. Our demeanor reaches depths of sorrow and despair, as if our immediate world is being torn asunder. And we know that once we reach the bottom with our painful, injurious stop accomplished, that our future will require a slow, difficult climb to reach the heights. At times, we can feel like laying at our stopped location in the valley, staring up at the sky with despair that we will once again have to expend the energy to achieve what we once had. And we know that the top of the coming climb will provide a different vantage – similar to the previous one we had – but different all the same. Each individual person will have to determine whether they feel that such a climb is still within who they are.

And then, there is the narrow pathway that I found along my Mesa Verde walk. There were places where the path lead down a very steep, and short dirt path to the cliff edge. The drop off was certain life-threatening. A single misstep could potentially spell outright doom for me. Every step was carefully determined, each handhold was carefully tested to insure I had a strong grip, and that the handhold would hold enough to keep my pudgy ass from pulling me over the edge. Believe me, that the cliff edge was very much on my mind. We do much the same thing throughout our lives. We make plans for this or that; we make preparations for how we are going to accomplish these tasks. We make plans and preparations for our rituals. We decide where and what we are trying to accomplish. And sometimes, that narrow Path is the only way forward we have. Its not the yards-wide Path with smooth dirt or concrete or asphalt that we would prefer. Its rocky, uneven, and fraught with ways for us to trip and fall. We take our steps slowly, trying to keep our balance, and our footing. We navigate our way through some aspects of our lives in careful, measured steps. Where we have walked many times before, we might make quicker steps – faster decisions – sure of our footing or our position. And we might find an unknown root in our way, ensnaring the toe of our boots, and sending us sprawling face first into the Path. What else is there to do, then pick up our wounded pride, check for injuries, dust the dirt off our clothes, and move forward – looking more carefully?

So, there are certainly ways to see Life as a long, long hike. We get a little cocky on our walk, trip and fall in places where we seemed to be certain of our footing. In other areas, we are acutely aware of the drop-off at the cliff’s edge, and tread far more carefully. But the true measure of our hike is not how far we’ve managed to walk. That comes from looking around us. Seeing the environment within which we’ve walked. During my walk along the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde, I was struck by how beautiful the views were from my side of the wide valley. The land rolled outwards from my vantage point, moving hundred of yards in distance until the other side of the valley rose sharply from the ground. Once I got far enough away from people, I could see deer – or they might have been antelope – down in the valley below me, searching for food and water in the brush far below. Crows cawed from the trees above me, and Hawks soared on the thermals in the skies above. There is so much to what happens around us in Life as well. People come and go in our lives. Some stay and walk the Path with us from time to time. Some stay longer than others. All of them touch our lives to some degree, even if just momentarily.

Life is a long hike. But its not the distance that matters most. Its what we experience along that distance that matters the most. Those experiences make us who we are. Steep climbs; long valleys; thin trails; deer trods that we can barely see; extremely wide, paved paths – all of it provides the trail. But what we encounter on the trail, and just off the trail adds to what makes our Life experiences. And from my own perspective, those experiences are the treasured aspects of who and what I am.


Missing Home

Being away from home can be fun, an adventure, and it can suck the life right out of you. Since late December, I have been on the road at one point or another. A trip to Ireland. South central Texas. San Jose, California. Houston, Texas. Mandeville, Louisiana. Now….Tulsa, Oklahoma. And while each trip has had positives and negatives for it, I really just want to go home.

You never really know how much you will miss the place you call home, until you are away for extended periods of time. For me, the reasons are many, and diverse. There is, of course, my three cats. Shadow, Gizmo, and Kaylee are my daily joys – when I am home. Sure, there’s cat crap to clean up, cat vomit to wipe off the wooden floors, the constant barrage of “pet me, pet me” that each cat can utilize as a guilt trip for my extended periods of abenstia; but all of that matters not when I lay in bed with kitties all snuggled against me.

Nearly every morning starts with a similar note: stepping outside with a bag of birdseed to scatter for the local feathered friends, stepping over to the stone circle to face East and thank the Sun for soaring once more into the sky to grace us with light and warmth. Then its back inside to make a cup of coffee and check Email before I get a shower and get dressed. Sometimes I change up the order that all that happens, just to shake up the start of the day. If its a weekday or a holiday, a quick check of the news takes place, and then its off to get chores finished and on to writing tasks. Otherwise, its getting dressed for work, gathering up everything that I need and driving the eleven miles down a farm road between two cow pastures to get to work.

My short drive to and from work provides me a daily peak at the changing of the seasons. Spring and early Fall herald the arrival of little calves, who romp tirelessly through the pasture in the mornings. In the evenings, they sit in the middle of the pasture, zonked out for the evening, with momma cows clustered near the fence line to provide a front-line defense against my pickup truck and other vehicles that drive down the road. The bushes at the side of the road, and the various trees along the way call out for the arrival of Spring as their leaves turn a bright green. In late Summer, those same leaves will turn a slightly brown color as the hot Texas summer has created a nearly desert-like environment. Later, at the end of Fall, those same leaves will fall from the trees to trumpet the start of Winter, against which the skeletal frames of those trees will attempt to survive.

Home is a comfortable place, where I cherish each and every one of these moments. And when I am away for long periods of time, I fear that I miss some spectacular moment that gets played out on this intense, local stage. I may miss the budding of a string of leaves along a branch, or the soft caws of the Crows that populate the fields between my work place and home. Or I may miss a spectacular running jump and leap of the newborn calves learning to grow into their springy, youthful cow legs. And for me, each event is an important part of who I am, and my connection to my local environment.

And truthfully, I want to go home….

A ‘Normal’ Day

A few months ago, a reader of the blog (I know!  I was shocked too when I found out that people actually read this thing!) asked me what a “normal” day was like for me. My answer turned out to be a little flippant in nature, but its an appropriate description from my perspective:

A ‘normal’ day for me is the same boring thing over and over. I try not to have ‘normal’ days.

For me, Monday through Friday provides probably the most routine parts to my life. I get up in the morning, go to work, do work, come home, eat dinner, and eventually go to bed. Fairly ‘normal’ routine, except that things are not normally the same thing over and over again. So I decided to be a little more detailed and provide a lot more introspection to what I do. But when I went to write about all of it, I realized that I might have dug a little too deep, especially when I started noticing that I tried to note every little observation and exception in detail. I wound up with a lot of stuff that I categorized as “who wants to read all that shit?”

The truth of the matter, no single day is exactly the same as the last. Every moment is unique, and there’s always a potential exception waiting around every corner. So, what follows is an attempt to be as general as I can about things, and not slip into too much detail. Some of the things that I do are important to my day, and I have tried to provide a little more detail as to what those are, as well as how I might approach them.

My mornings are typically a mix of Spiritual moments, personal routines, and interaction. Believe me, its not nearly as exciting as that sentence makes it seem. When I first get up, I am greeted by three furry little faces that I always see. Shadow, Gizmo and Kaylee are the cats that own me, and the morning is typically where they want attention. Once I get past these three, my coffee becomes the next moment of the day. Its here that I spend a few moments looking out the window, observing the weather, and greeting the sun’s arrival. Sometimes, I’m there before the sun rises, sometimes the sun beats me to this moment and is waiting. If I happen to have a few free moments (read: I did not sleep in too late), I step outside to my stone circle and spend a few moments in a tree meditation. After this, its typically time to get ready for the rest of the day – whether that be work or something else.

My daily routine varies with each day. Monday through Friday are typically spent dealing with work tasks. Saturdays and Sundays can vary with mundane chores (such as laundry, dishes, yard work, etc) or I can be out walking through my local neighborhood. I live in a small town, so doing this does not take too much time at all, but it is good exercise. Typically, after lunch, I will bring the crumbs of my meal outside for the Crows, Grackles, and Sparrows. For some folks, a Crow is just a Crow. For me, they are a part of the “tribe”. Each one is likely not a manifestation or message directly from Crow, but each one is a part of the Crow tribe for me. Feeding them is a gesture of good will between myself and the tribe.

Evenings are even more wildly varied. For the next few nights, I will spend time watching the World Series games between the Indians and the Cubs. But for the most part, I don’t watch that much TV. I have shows that I record on my Satellite receiver, but normally don’t watch them until sometime during the weekend. Needless to say, I don’t read much about the shows I watch when I am online. Typically, evenings find me feeding the three furry ladies (sometime between 5pm and 6pm), and spending the rest of the night with a book, working on my Druidry studies, surfing online, or working on my baseball database. Yes indeed, I live a boring life. 🙂

When the Wheel of the Year turns to a particular point in time, I do spend time preparing myself for the celebration of that point in a ritual. Putting myself into a proper frame of mind, gathering items necessary for the ritual, and the ritual itself. Sometimes, such as this coming Samhain, I might spend that time with other Pagans. Yes, I am a solo Pagan Druid, but even a singular adherent finds the need for the company of others from time to time.

I know. There’s likely a few folks who are reading this and thinking: “Damn. Being a Pagan sounds an awfully lot like everyone else’s lives.” And you are correct. Pagans are no different than anyone else. Pagans just have different Spiritual beliefs from many other folks. Pagans have a different way of relating to the world around them. There are no gatherings of Pagans coming together to find a way to melt Donald Trump’s Cartier bracelet in the furnace at the bottom of Trump Towers so that he would not dominate the world. Pagans are normally, everyday people too.


If melting a Cartier bracelet in the furnace of Trump Towers would stop the Donald’s run at a presidency. I might be your Hobbit. 😉

Walking on Wild Horse Island in Montana

The Next Five Footfalls….

I live in a small town near the Texas Oklahoma border about ten miles on the Texas side. In its heyday, when Oklahoma was still considered “Indiana territory”, Lindsay was known as a haven for gamblers and cattle rustlers. The close proximity to the nearly lawless Indian Territory afforded a quick getaway when the law pressed in. So, in a sense, Lindsay (where I live) and the bigger ton of Gainesville (just to the east of me) were considered to be frontier towns at one time. Raids by Indians – whose land this was before – were a frequent occurrence.

In many ways, the area is still a bit of a frontier town. Services are not as plentiful here. The nearest McDonald’s is about twelve miles away, and out by the interstate. You have to pass plenty of cattle-land before you get there. On my drive to the college, I can make out the water-tower near the school at about five miles (halfway). On the return trip, I can make out the water-tower and the steeple of the local Catholic Church at about the same distance.

Where I lived previously, you could easily make out the sounds of the very busy interstate just four miles away. Sirens were a daily constant down the busy neighborhood street I lived on. The feel was a definite suburban neighborhood. A very different cry from the sleepy little town I have chosen to live in.

I moved here for the quiet. I moved here to get away from the city. I moved here for the shorter commute to work. I moved here to get closer to my environment. I moved here to have the time to work more on who I am, what I want to be, and where I am meant to be.

And just where is that? Where does that center take me to? What am I needing to work on? What should I be doing?

I already have some of those answers. I need to be working on my Gwers – my Druidry studies. I need to be meditating more. I need to be writing more. Removing two hours of driving from my daily routine has freed up my time to do this. And I am learning to change my routines to add these. I need to be walking more, which means I need to adjust my time of waking and sleeping. That is being adjusted slowly. I need to be diving deeper into my studies…into my own Spirituality. This change is meant to help facilitate that. But mostly, I need to spend time achieving my center of balance again. Finding my inner peace again, while my immediate surroundings are pieced back together slowly from the move. Each opened box needs to be placed deliberately into my surroundings. Or be considered as to whether its contents should even be here at this point in time.

There is a line from the movie “The Last Samurai” that I carry in the back of my mind. Its a scene where Katsumoto asks Algren about destiny. Let me see if I can find this on YouTube, so that you may view it at your own leisure.

I am not sure of what my “destiny” is or may be. But I do know this, when that destiny is revealed, it will be because I am ready – not because I have stumbled upon it. And in some way, I may already be on it – and just not realize it at this moment. There are things I will need to work on where I am concerned – the manner in which I deal with people on a daily basis, being able to find my center and balance under the most difficult of moments, and being just myself – whoever that is. In the meantime, there is study, there is practice, and there is fun to be had. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily in equal quantities. Life most definitely is a journey – but it is a journey where I may only plan far enough for the next five footfalls. Anything beyond that is pure speculation….