Self-Care is Not an Option

I started writing today’s blog post yesterday. That is definitely not my typical modus operandi for approaching blog topics here. Usually, I write about whatever pops into my head at this particular moment in time. However, this time I wanted to tackle a different perspective – what is going in my daily life during this “shelter-in-place”, quasi-lock-down that we all seem to be put into. So, yesterday, I wrote the following teaser over on Facebook

What are you doing for self-care these days? Life certainly changed for the different when just going to work or to the grocery store becomes a super stressful ordeal. Where just being in the vicinity of someone else can set you on edge. What are you doing for self-care? Are you getting enough down-time? Enough sleep? Do you have enough stuff to keep your mind occupied and away from your stress for a few hours each day? Yeah, I’m far more interested in how people are coping with these times than spending my time wringing my hands over politics or conspiracy theories…besides, if I am going to wring my hands, I may as well wash them with hot water and soap, eh? –T /|\

The essential idea behind this is to take a look at what can be done and approached during this time of avoiding contact with one another. Its a potentially depressing situation, that’s for sure – especially for those people who crave human contact on a daily basis. Probably the best way to showcase all of this, is to talk about my own approach…

Where I am currently at, I do not have streaming capability. Let’s face it, rural internet connectivity sucks for shit. I can do some streaming from my iPhone for things like Pandora music, but video streaming is patchy at the very best. So most of my communication takes place in asynchronous-style communications with iMessage, FB Messneger, Facebook itself, and a handful of other asynchronous platforms. So what do I manage to do with my time in between the conversations? Well, lots of things….

For a while, I spent some time binge-watching a few shows that I had missed. I managed to catch up on two TV shows I watch regularly – Iron Resurrection, and Texas Metal, both automotive restoration and repair shows that originate here in Texas. Now that I am caught up there, BBC America is kind enough to play my favorite Star Trek series on Mondays and Tuesdays, that being Deep Space Nine. So I am exploring that world again (and loving it). Aside from that, I am getting into the anime Hero Academia, and starting to watch all the short Youtube videos of Angry Cops. Eventually, I will jump back into watching some movies – like the BladeRunner movies back-to-back.

I can’t stay glued to a television screen all the time though. So, I do have a lot of books in my to-read pile. Currently, I am finishing “A Practical Guide to Pagan Priesthood” by Rev. Lora O’Brien. Directly behind that, I have some history books lined up, along with some fictional stories for escapism. I usually spend about an hour or more reading each day (a lot more than I had been doing in the past).

When I am not reading or watching TV – I am either writing material or goofing around on my guitar. Sometimes, I am just listening to music (though I usually am all the time when I am not watching TV or videos). I am developing a new-found love for Peter Frampton and April Wine though all of this. I even have time set aside for learning. I have three days set to the side for my Druidry studies, as well as time set aside for learning the Python programming language. I like to stay busy….

Beyond that, is the more important aspect of sleep. I have worked toward getting up every day at the same time and going to sleep around the same time – just to maintain my internal clock. For me, I have found that if I didn’t do this, the world becomes a vastly disoriented space for me.

All of that brings up a more important question – besides all the stuff you are doing to occupy your time, are you doing what is necessary to keep yourself somewhat healthy? I still handle my normal workout routine, and have found myself cooking food more often than visiting fast-food joints. Granted, my cooking is not something I would subject prisoners-of-war to, I can eat my own “creations” without much issue. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating as you should? Are you drinking enough water?

Let’s face it folks, self-care is important. And if you are someone that other people are relying on – aside from all the “must-have” workers out there – you gotta take care of yourself before you can do for other people. Sometimes that means the world goes on hold until you have had your morning coffee and cinnamon bun. You gotta do for you….that also means unwinding and relaxing as well.

As an example, I’ll tell you about a part of my old military life – working in a command-and-control bunker. We would have military readiness exercises, which were to test a lot of capabilities of various units to work together in war-time and stressful scenarios. For us in the bunker, it was about coordinating communications, and working in our respective work-places with the bunker completely sealed. Normally, the time frame in the bunker could last anywhere from seventy-two hours to nearly one-hundred-and-eighty hours. That’s right, we would be locked up in the bunker for long periods of time. We learned a lot about the ability of the human body to deal with this kind of stress. When we knew lock-down was in place, we immediately went into twelve-on-six-off shifts. This usually kept at a minimum, two people on shift at any given time. We converted the area behind the cryptography equipment into a sleeping shelter, where we could unroll our sleeping bags and rest. You didn’t always get sleep, but you did get a chance to be away from all the equipment where work was taking place. If you were resting, no one bothered you unless it was a MAJOR emergency. Otherwise, those on shift dealt with the issues without you.

See, the reasoning behind this up and down schedule was two-fold. First, everyone needs time to decompress from the work environment. Just a place where they can relax and let go of all the tension that they are carrying. Second, it creates a “schedule” for your body to maintain. Once you get into the rhythm of that schedule, your body will adjust its energy – allowing you to work with as much pressure as possible in the time frame typically allotted for such things. Your body then recognizes that there is a period of time for decompression, and adjusts accordingly. or at least that was how the Air Force psychologists explained it to us Non-Commissioned Officers.

So, what are you doing? Are you freaking out because you aren’t learning anything new? Or that you don’t seem to be doing anything productive because you just can’t? Stop putting yourself on the Guilt-Train. That particular line has no stops on it. Stay off that. You are going to do what you CAN do. Stop worrying if its “enough” in my eyes or the eyes of someone else. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Times are stressful. Everything is inside-out on so many levels. Do what you CAN.

So what are you doing? Maybe you can alter that slightly and ask yourself – What is that you WANT to be doing? What is in the way? Are you feeling down? Do you need distractions? Do you need to escape to another reality? What are you doing to insure you keep some kind of schedule that life stays somewhat “normal” – whatever the fuck that is in this day and age. You know you better than anyone else. Take things one at a time. Remember, you’re not running a race or trying to piece together a puzzle with a time limit. One step at a time. One obstacle at a time. And don’t forget to reward yourself for each victory, no matter how small….and don’t get discouraged by defeats. Those are just learning moments….don’t get down when you hit those. And take your down time, its really important. Lastly, remember, you can do this. I have faith in you. I really do.

–T /|\

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 /|\

Dealing With My Own Issues of Self-Care

I have four other blog posts in various stages of completion that I have been working on for the coming weeks. However, this particular post is being written this morning, April 21st, because – well – this has been on my mind now for less than twenty-four hours. A small warning, a lot of this deals with my health issues, and while all of that touches aspects of my personal Spiritual approach, some of it is not easily relatable. This is not, by the way, a “woe is me” post. Rather, this is me being open and honest about who I am, and how the real (mundane) world touches my approaches to my Spirituality.

I have Type-II diabetes. Most likely, this came from my 12-pack a day Dr. Pepper habit that I had when I was in the Air Force. I worked the night shift, and caffeine and sugar were the easiest things to keep me moving. But regardless of all of that, I have diabetes. This means that I have to do some extra things to take better care of myself. I strive to eat better, and while I have not cut sugar completely out of my life, I have tried my best to curb my sweet tooth. And openly, I have not always been successful at it.

I have been with the same Primary Care Physician for nearly sixteen years. However, when I moved up here near the Texas/Oklahoma border, the sixty-mile, one-way trip for doctor’s visits became a near impossibility for me. Literally, I would have to take a half day off from work, just for a simple checkup that took fifteen minutes in the office. So, at the beginning of this year, I switched to a new Primary Care Physician much closer to me in the extreme northern part of Denton, Texas. New doc means starting over from scratch. During our “interview” process (my first visit), she asked about my paternal family health, particularly the males.

Well, there is a definite pattern in all of that. My father had diabetes. I know most, if not all, of his brothers were also diabetics. My father passed away from a sudden heart attack, and I do believe that heart attacks were the causes for the passing of my uncles as well. This led me being sent to a Cardiologist for testing. Unfortunately, all of that was dictated during my long period of travel for Imbolc Retreat, my professional conference, and Pantheacon. So I put things off. And finally, got back to going to the cardiologist two weeks ago. We talked about the family history, my diabetes, my blood pressure which does not seem to go down with medication, and tests were scheduled.

The first test came back as “normal” which disappointed me. I wanted “weird” because I do not consider myself to be anything close to “normal” of any capacity. Okay, that was a bad joke. But the result was somewhat puzzling. Still, my heart got a passing grade. The second and third tests were yesterday. The stress test, where they hook me up to a bunch of wires, set me on a treadmill and have me walk, also turned up normal results. There was an effort to get me to run, to which I told them they would have to set some kind of danger behind me, and an individual I needed to run just a touch faster than. I do not run. I gave that stuff up for Lent five years back…and in my mind, Lent still continues to this day. But the results were good. Another passing grade. The next test was the Electrocardiogram, where they essentially do an ultrasound of the heart.

I was lubed up in that disgusting gel, and the monitor was moved all over the place. Sound recordings of my heart from various positions were also made. And the initial prognosis was considered to be “good”. A short consultation with the doc and he decided to place me on Lipitor to see if we can get the blood pressure down that way. Satisfied, off I went home. I have two Transact-SQL presentations to prepare for the Tulsa conference this coming week, so I had plenty to pre-occupy my mind.

Around 7pm, the doc called me and left a voicemail. On that voicemail, he noted that mitral valve (WTF is THAT?) in my heart was leaking. At that point, I zoned out of the rest of his voicemail. My heart is leaking. Well, blood is the only thing that is in there, so I started wondering what was going on? Did my heart find the iceberg? Are Kate and Leo running around my body trying to find that final refuge where they can hold on to their love before the entire body slips beneath the waves?

A short bit of research on the internet (I love diagnosing myself with Doctor IP’s help at the various websites that exist to scare the shit out of you), and I find that this diagnosis is a normal part of aging. It is definitely not something to just blow off. This will need to be continually watched. And on listening to the doc’s voicemail a second time, the notation was that there was “slight leakage” include some “tightening of the heart’s walls”. All normal indicators of age. But there were a lot of notations on the websites about needing to be active again.

Feeling like I needed a moment, I poured a small shot of whiskey and sat it next to my mouse on my desk. Where it sat. The smell was the incredible aroma that I know and love of Bushmill’s. But did I really need a drink?


“Not really, but you cannot put that back in the bottle.”

“Then what do I do with it?”

“Bring it outside to the circle. Give some of it to me. Give the rest of it to the Others.”

And I did just that. Crow, for me, is always ever-present. Nearby. Watching. Commenting. I have no idea how much Crow may have known about all of this, but there have been moments where I have been told about getting out of the house more often. Walking. Bike riding. Moving about. Being more active. And I understand a bit more now.

I do not have a Grove that I am a part of. Nor do I have a group of folks that I administer to. While I am a Priest of Crow, I have no need for the formality of that title or role. I am here to do. Not to just be. And in a roundabout way, I am being reminded that my time in this incarnation is finite. And there are things to still be accomplished. And for that to happen, I need to take care of myself.

As I sit and think about this, I am starting to realize something that seems to be a difficult thing for so many of the people I know and cherish within the Pagan community that have established themselves in various roles. We all do a wonderful job of being supportive and helping care for others. Many advocate and support those who have a need in the ending times of their lives. And these folks are all highly empathic and deal with so many things that place others on the floor in bundled masses, unable to do for themselves. But Self-Care by many of these folks is a terrible thing. We look out for so many others, we rarely see where we fail ourselves in our own Self-Care. Perhaps, it follows the colloquialism that we are too close to the forest and cannot see the trees. We see the needs of others, and yet have difficulty recognizing the same issues and frailty within ourselves. Or we ignore it, knowing that others do not receive care and support if we stumble and fall. Whatever the case may be, many folks in leadership roles, supporting functions, etc need to start becoming aware of the need for Self-Care and how to handle that. Because if we do not take care of ourselves, how can we help take care of others?

I have said it before. I am not a leader. I am nobody’s Priest, but my own. But I do talk with others, listen to their perspectives, and offer advice on how they might move forward. A few folks have told me that I am an inspiration to their own efforts to be more into their own Spirituality. All of that makes me a touch antsy because I do not see myself as anything special. I am just me. I am no confessor. But I am a human being. I can listen. I can be there when there is a need. I am not a solution. But we are all “tribe” together. And to that, I have an obligation to be a part of. My personal practice may be one of a solitary nature, but I am still your Brother. And I have an obligation to take care of myself.

As a final thought, I remember the struggle I had with trying to determine whether the Morrigan was calling to me in various dreams that I had. In the end, it turned out to be a series of Valkyrie that had come to admonish me over my lack of exercise and taking care of myself. Why the message delivery from the Valkyrie; to this day I do not understand. But I wonder how much all of this is tied to that? That will definitely be something to really contemplate going forward. The Nordic Path does not call to me whatsoever. But I believe that if I want to unravel that little “mystery”, I will need to get outside, get moving, and put myself into better shape.

–T /|\