Thinking About: Individual Self-Image in Contrast With Fictional Characters (Part Two of Two)

Remembering Episode One

So far, in trying to answer a question that was snarkily (my impression) posed to me in wondering if I thought I was Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings, I have discussed some of the fictional and re-imagined historical figures that I identify with in movies, tv shows and novels. In re-reading what I have written to this point, I feel like I am completely psychoanalyzing myself to a large degree. In this follow-up second part, I wanted to take some of what I have written and swing it back around to my Spirituality. I mean, this blog is about me, but the primary focus is on my own Spirituality. All of that is done in the hopes that maybe one person gets something out of all of this and has their own personal revelation as to how these fictional stories helps provide the necessary cement to hold these concepts together. This particular post is no exception.

Somewhat Circling Back to Science Fiction as a Gateway to Paganism

Back in 2016, I attended one of the three Pantheacon conventions I ever made. At this particular convention, I attended a panel entitled “Morphing the Myth” which was about Paganism in popular fiction. I wrote a handful of posts inspired by this particular panel (“Morphing the Myth – a Personal Look“, “Morphing the Myth – Gateway to Paganism“, and “Morphing the Myth: What Does Myth Mean to You?“). However, I wanted to take this time to circle back to the idea of Science Fiction and Fantasy as a gateway into Paganism. or at least part of the role that these science fiction characters play within my own life. When I go back and look at the characters that I named, there is a strong note of independence between all of them. That concept of being able to do what was necessary, even without the help of anyone else or whatever the odds might be. To use another Star Wars character that I strongly identify with, look at Jyn Erso in the movie Stars Wars: Rogue One. One perspective that I didn’t mention earlier was what others have described as my ability to be an inspirational leader. Jyn is also fiercely independent. She inspires a group of others to walk away from the Rebel Alliance party line and follow her in what was definitely a suicide mission just to obtain the plans of the Death Star so the Alliance could find its weakness and destroy it. Now, I don’t think that the character of Jyn Erso would have drawn me towards Paganism, if I were younger and not thirty-plus years on my own Path. However, I can see where someone younger might be inspired by the independent nature of Erso to look into other alternative areas of Life. Perhaps, in that search, they might come across Paganism. Who knows? Who can say? But the possibility is there. However, I can pull up a few dozen Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and series that could directly point a person into searching through Paganism as an alternative to their desired Spirituality. As Shadow has often reminded me:  “Words have meaning.” And as I have to often remind myself: “That meaning is derived from the individual reading those words.”

So did all of the characters I mentioned previously, as well as the ones I have not mentioned, turn me into a raging Pagan? No, not really. However, each of these characters, as they are written and portrayed, have provided thematic moments that have helped cement the character traits that I have. My sense of Honor. My buildup of Trust with others. My understanding of what is my own “tribe” of people. None of these characters fully describe me as a person. None of these characters are full amalgamations of what is my Druidry, what is my Paganism or the complex connections I have with the world around me. At best, they are good descriptors of a handful of all of that. These cinematic and novelized moments are; however, excellent visual descriptives to bring to those that are trying to understand aspects of who and what I am. These are absolutely not the greatest descriptives, but in each of these are handles that others can readily grasp and understand at the most minimal of levels. Deeper discussions can take place around a fire late at night, under the moon, with drinks of our desire of the moment in our hands.

Why I Believe Fictional Characters are So Important

These fictional characters are important in our lives. That’s right. I believe that these characters reinforce parts of who we are. When Billy refused to give up Chavez to the lynch mob outside, it shows that he values his friends in all matters – no matter the skin color of that friend.

Billy the Kid:  See, you get three or four good pals. Well, then you’ve got yourself a tribe. And there ain’t nothing stronger than that.

For me, this is an example of the meaning of the word “pals” as is stated at the end of the movie. These people that are part of your tribe are important. That moment in the movie only helped reinforce that idea. I am sure that there are many, many moments in movies and novels and tv series and nearly anything else you can comment on, which do the same for others. All of these pieces of entertainment that we watch are mirrors for parts of ourselves. Yes, even the evil, horrible, blood spraying horror movies that make an ‘R’ rating. All of this places a mirror in front of us, where we can see what we are made of. Now, I am not claiming that these things show us the psycho killer in all of us. Rather, these films show us ways that we stand up to such exciting villains in our own manners of thinking.

Curly Bill: You know what I’d do? I’d take that deal ‘n’ crawfish, then drill that ol’ Devil in the ass. What about you Johnny, what would you do?

Johnny Ringo: I already did it.

These two are speaking of a stage-play of Faust making a deal with the Devil. Haven’t you watched a scene where you had imagined what you might have done in that situation? How you would have responded? Have you ever diagnosed it a bit deeper and tried to figure out how your own personality traits would have made that scene different? Or how the character that is in the dilemma has responded exactly as you would have? Many of these stories allow us to place our own personalities into the mix for our imaginations to work through. In many instances in real life, we may find ourselves thinking back to how a favorite character might have responded to some of the situations we find ourselves in. And those quick summations in our minds may provide the inspiration for a better response than we had initially thought of. These fictional characters provide archetypes that we can form our own hypotheses around.

Should This Matter to You?

So, after writing all of these thoughts, there really is only one final question: should any of this really matter to you? Well, the only person that can really answer that is you. Much of drawing inspiration from popular media sources really lies within you. Not everyone is going to see themselves in characters of a movie, tv series, or novel. Some folks do watch and read all of this as an escape from reality. They are not trying to inject themselves into these characters – even if that injection is only a small part of who they are. They are wanting storylines that give them relief from a world around them, not solutions or inspirations for the very real pressures of Life. I completely grok that perspective and I respect it highly. Everyone has to make their own way through Life in the manner that works best for them. And honestly, there will be a lot of people that cannot agree with my perspective of self-identifying with characters and situations from a fictional world. But then, I am not suggesting that every single human needs to do things exactly as I do. I prefer people to think and do for themselves. I am only representing something that does help me and inspire me to find solutions of my own.

Bringing This Saga to an End/Final Thoughts

Wearing one of the masks that Shadow lovingly made for me

In my opinion, there is a lot to unpack for someone here. Furthermore, I know there will be folks who disagree with my assessment of some of the characters, as well as the self-assessment I have splattered all over these two posts. I am perfectly fine with those differences. Life is not always clean and easy. There is a lot of dirty to trying to live life as authentically as you can. When you start adding more and more factors into all of that – politics, dealing with other people, paying bills, working a job – the mud gets deeper and thicker. I do see a lot of these characters in myself. Not complete work-ups of me. Just smaller parts. And some of those parts are contradictory. And those contradictions are sometimes Gordian knots that you just cannot get untied easily. And some of them you don’t want to get untied because those contradictions make you who you are. In the end, we decide what fits our self-image and what doesn’t. Sometimes, we don’t know about all the aspects of our image. Others see us in a different way. And reconciling those different aspects can be even more tedious and difficult. This was just my way of trying to explain pieces of my own self-image drawn against the backdrop of particular fictional characters. Your mileage will definitely vary.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Individual Self-Image in Contrast With Fictional Characters (Part One of Two)

Much of what you are about to read came from a snarky question thrown in my face in a private Facebook message that I tried to turn into a single post answer.

So what gives with all the Ranger stuff? Do you believe you are Aragorn now?

Someone asked if I would take another picture of me wearing the mask correctly. So I obliged.

My initial reaction was to be a touch offended. Then I started laughing to myself, as I thought it was a touch funny to have myself compared to a character that I truly am not near in any psychological or emotional aspect. However, I started thinking about the characters that I do deeply associate myself with. Fictional characters (or in some cases interpretations of historical figures from the perspective of a writer, producer and actor) that I can see pieces of myself within. I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to answer the question without approaching this without taking a deeper dive than usual.

Looking at Characters from Various Mediums

So, yes, I do see aspects of myself in various characters from fictional works. I tend to look at these characters to be archetypes of smaller pieces of who I am. None of these characters, or the ones to come later in my life, are complete parts of me. Most characters from these stories are barely on the threshold of being three-dimensional, complex characters. Sometimes, the creator of these stories will provide some complexity to the characters, thus providing a touch deeper aspect of realism and reality to them and the stories that they are encompassed within, but even then, the full manner of approaching the complexity of a real human is still a much further reach. Certainly, there will be those that would disagree with me, which I am perfectly fine with. Essentially this little blog post (or essay if you will), is just my own personal perspective.

Billy the Kid
One of the characters that I completely identify with is that of Billy the Kid from the two Young Guns movies. I have often said that I likely was born in the wrong time frame of the world. I am drawn to that genre of the West very strongly. Now, given that, my pull is more towards the difficult times that encompassed that part of the world. A time when we were invaders into the First Nations. We had more difficulty in trying to work with the original inhabitants of that new environment because of our blindness for a new experience, a chance to live free from the rules of the Old World and the far more “civilized” eastern parts of the United States. The discovery of gold – and its terminal sickness of greed – paired with a lust of land ownership, only made things worse. Young Guns was not truly set in a world where that took place. Young Guns tends to lean more towards the romanticized thoughts of the old West. Billy the Kid is a leader of a loose band of friends that are caught up in the cattle wars and vendettas of the unincorporated New Mexico area during the Lincoln County War. Billy (real name Henry McCarty) spends much of the movie wise-cracking his way through various encounters with rival ranch hands, bounty hunters and eventually law enforcement. However, it is Billy’s unswerving loyalty to his ranch boss, even after he is killed by rival ranch hands, that rings true. This is also mirrored in a moment at a whorehouse, where Billy’s gang is surrounded by townspeople and the local law enforcement (Young Guns II). When the local Sherriff offers up the half-Mexican, half Native American Chavez y Chavez as an atonement to the crowd that is lusting for a lynching, Billy refuses, citing that the Sheriff doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘pals.” This is an example of Billy’s commitment to his companions. When he finds people he cares deeply about, he has a sense of loyalty to them, even when they turn sides on him as Pat Garret does in the second movie.

Doc Scurlock:  You son of a bitch! You’re starting to believe what they’re writing about you, aren’t you? Let me tell you what you really are! You rode a 15 year old boy straight to his grave, and the rest of us straight to hell… straight to hell! William H. Bonney! You are NOT a god! (Cocking his rifle and pointing it at Bill)

Billy the Kid:  Why don’t you pull the trigger and find out.

Billy’s loose grasp of leadership, treating all of his friends as equals, is a quality I have seen in myself. This came in very handy when I was a Sergeant in the Air Force. The Airmen that I was charged with supervising never felt that I had to lord my authority over them. I treated them as equals in the job, relying as much on their knowledge as I did on my own. Billy’s loyalty to his friends is a quality I have always prized within myself. Even when Doc turns on Billy, as noted in the above quote, Billy’s response is a quiet determination for Doc to go ahead and pull the trigger. Billy is loyal enough to not doubt Doc, even when staring the barrel of Doc’s rifle.

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s character gets to be a little specific. I absolutely loved Alec Guinness’ portrayal of the character, but I never really identified much with the character in Episode IV. However, Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi in Episodes II and III were far easier to find myself within. Kenobi at this point is trying his utmost best to be several things all at once. A mentor to Anakin, a sitting member of the Jedi Council and a friend to both Anakin and Padme during a time where he is seemingly aware of the extreme close relationship the two have developed with one another – contradicting a personal code of conduct that Jedi are implied to follow. It wasn’t until I started watching the animated Clone Wars that I realized that Kenobi had found himself in the exact same situation as Anakin. I stumbled across this bit of information about Kenobi and Duchess Satine from a YouTube video that took parts of Kenobi from all aspects of Star Wars to create a fanfic tribute to the character. This only cemented my identification with the character, as Kenobi was shown to make good decisions, but also suffer from mental blindness in others because of his emotions for others. To this end, I could see a lot of the character traits of Kenobi within myself. Kenobi also has an ability to zero in on the completion of his assigned mission over everything else, a definite trait that I can see in myself – and often times, a personal failing of my own. Kenobi’s sense of honor and duty are very easily mapped on to my own sensibilities. But there is another very important quote of Kenobi’s that I find resonates deeply within me.


Obi-Wan Kenobi:  If you define yourself by the power to take life, the desire to dominate, to possess…then you have nothing.

This particular quote defines a difference between myself and some of my supervisors that I have worked for. I have no desire to dominate. I have no reason to try and make myself look or seem greater than anyone else. I do not see a single way or path to accomplish what I am asked to do. Some ways or methods are longer in a time frame, but the results – in my way of thinking – might be better defined, explained and sourced. Honestly, this is a part of me that has started to come out more often than not. I do not seek to make myself right. I seek to follow where my footfalls may take me. I am not seeking a position of dominance or power. Neither of those fit into the goals of where I seek to go. To someone seeking drive, power, glory, name recognition and the such – I can readily see where our perspectives would clash.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian is a bit more of a difficult character to work through for me. The perspective is a little easier to understand though. The Mandalorian is only trying to make his way through Life, trying to provide for his clan in a manner befitting the honor he is trying to keep. As a bounty hunter, he wants to make sure that Justice is served towards those who broke their oaths and agreements to others. He is trying to do the “right thing”. When his bounty is to bring The Child to an individual that seemingly does not have its best interests at heart, the Mandalorian steps back into action saving The Child’s life. Not only is the Mandalorian driven by a sense of Justice, but he is also driven by a sense of Honor. Both aspects are larger parts of what drives me on in life, so there is a strong correlation there. A few friends have admitted that the sense and style of the Mandalorian character are very similar to who I am, at least in their eyes. For me, I am not completely sure that the similarities are as tight as others may perceive, but I also have to remember that I am looking into a mirror, where as they are looking directly at me. However, much like Kenobi’s direction towards accomplishing the mission, the Mandalorian does have a single-minded move towards accomplishing what the bounty requests. However, he does not sacrifice his friends to accomplish those ends, a trait in common with the Billy the Kid character from the Young Guns movies.


Hawkeye
This is not the character from the tv series M*A*S*H though I do I adore the zaniness of that character. This is actually the lead character in the book and movie, The Last of the Mohicans. This is perhaps the easiest character for me to self identify with. Hawkeye has a strong individualistic trait that is combined with a super-strong sense of tribalism with those he cares deeply about. For me, both of these are core traits as to who I am and what I believe.

Maj. Duncan Heyward: I thought all our colonial scouts were in the militia. The militia is fighting the French in the north.

Hawkeye: I ain’t your scout. And we sure ain’t no damn militia.

That perspective of being what is not expected of you is a big part of my past, as well as my present.  I suspect it will be the same going into my future as well. This actually figures into a lot of what I am. When I was in the military, I sought out repair methods that were not traditional – not to be different – but to get the job done. The military’s stance, at least at that time, was not to improvise. Follow the repair instructions to the letter. I never consulted the instructions unless I ran into a dead-end and needed some inspiration on a different direction to try. My Druidry is much the same. I see the direction I am pointed, I walk it for a while and then try to find some parallel Path that allows me to explore in my own manner. I guess, it could be said that I am strictly unconventional. Not sure how that would sit with those that prefer a more conventional approach to Life, but then that’s their approach. I would never say their approach was bad for them. I would say, its likely not to work out as neatly for me.

The Ranger class of Dungeons and Dragons
Ok. Don’t laugh. In fact, try and have a little bit of an open mind. I have played dozens upon dozens of games of Dungeons and Dragons. Nearly every single character that I have played is the Ranger. When taking those inane Question/Answer personality quizzes that you see floating around Facebook, every single one of the Dungeons and Dragons themed quizzes have brought me the result of the Ranger.

Though a ranger might make a living as a hunter, a guide, or a tracker, a ranger’s true calling is to defend the outskirts of civilization from the ravages of monsters and humanoid hordes that press in from the wild.

This fierce independence makes them well suited to adventuring, since they are accustomed to life far from the comforts of a dry bed and warm water. Some rangers find the responsibility of protecting the rest of an adventuring party to be burdensome, but most quickly find that other adventurers who can carry their own weight in a fight against civilization’s foes are worth any extra burden. City-bred adventurers might not know how to feed themselves or find fresh water in the wild, but they make up for it in other ways. A ranger’s talents and abilities are honed with deadly focus on the grim task of protecting the borderlands.

Warriors of the wilderness, rangers specialize in hunting the monsters that threaten the edges of civilization—humanoid raiders, rampaging beasts and monstrosities, terrible giants, and even dragons. They learn to track their prey as a predator does, moving stealthily through the wilds and hiding themselves in brush and rubble. Rangers focus their combat training on techniques that are particularly useful against their specific favored foes. Thanks to their intimate familiarity with the wilds, rangers also acquire the ability to cast spells that harness nature’s power, much as a druid does. Their spells, like their combat abilities, focus on speed, stealth, and the hunt.”  

“Classes –Ranger”, Dungeons & Dragons website, located at https://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/what-is-dnd/classes/ranger

The point that stands right out for me is the concept of fierce independence, followed quickly by a desire to defend others against forces aligned against them. I have always felt a desire to protect and defend others. My military service was filled with the perspective that part of my duty as a military member was to defend the Constitution of the United States against all aggressors – foreign and domestic.” And while I don’t serve in the military any longer, I still hold that oath as being in place with who I am. Admittedly, its not the easiest of perspectives to maintain in this day and age, with the swirling political waters we found ourselves in. I have lost a few friends refuting their perspectives of what is appropriate for a President to do with Constitutional proof that its the exact opposite. Politically, I hold no party affiliation nor do I have a desire to affiliate or find any form of allegiance to one. I have taken that particular stand since I was eighteen. I’m nearly fifty-five now (in just a few days, in fact). For some indelible reason that I cannot firmly place my fingers on, I feel a kindred spirit with this particular class in a table-top role-playing game.

Cinematic Cliff Hanger for Part One

These are just some of the characters that I find myself associating with. Certainly there are others, but these were the first ones that came to mind when I was writing this. Just as I am sure there will be others going into the future as well. With this particular section now approaching 2500 words, I’ll bring this to a stop here. In the next post, the second half of this, I want to take a look at how stories with these archetypal characters influence us on levels that we might not even be aware of. I will also take a step back to looking at Science Fiction and Fantasy as potential gateways for folks into Paganism, something I have done before. Lastly, I want to explore one more aspect – if all of this should matter to you at all – a rhetorical question I will probably dance around the edges of, but one that I think might be useful for some folks to explore.

Thanks for reading part One. I hope you stick around to read Part Two which I’ll post tomorrow.

–T /|\

Of Rogues, Knights and Mechanics

obiA short while back, I was asked to provide three fictional male characters that I self-identify with. Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars was first to my mind. I was always impressed with the character’s development with Ewan McGregor playing the part. Obi-wan seems more interested in finding solutions to issues with his mind than he does with his light-saber. I have always correlated myself as being of that same sort of ilk. I prefer talking and discussions where the genesis of a solution was to become.

My second choice was that of Seamus Harper, the seamusmechanic/programming genius on the short-lived TV show “Andromeda”. I have a huge affinity for the engineer/mechanic types on Science Fiction shows. Their problem solving skills are the stuff that I just marvel over. And in my job, what I do is very close to what they accomplish. People ask questions, I get the data that answers those questions. Plus, Seamus is a proverbial smart-ass with nearly every statement accompanied by some form of zinger aimed at a crewmate, the ship or an enemy. I see a lot of myself in these types of characters.

jaimeI chose Jamie Lannister. And it wasn’t for any quality that I could readily see in myself. Rather, it was due to my draw to characters with major flaws, and Jamie certainly has his share of those. Jamie has many smart-ass comments, but its not the smart-assery that pulls me in. Its the manner in which he deals with adversity, and how he tucks away the perceptions that others have of him as the “kingslayer” – a perception he tells to Brianne in the hot spas, shortly after he gets his hand cut off. His momentary loss of that wall of derision that he protects himself with, is a momentary, naked (literally) revelation of who Jamie is. I have a weakness for characters that display these areas of shadow in themselves.

I admit it, I love the concept of the anti-hero. But not because I grow tired of the Batman, Superman, Iron Man personas – though I really do. No, I like the anti-hero characters because of the stark reality of an individual that stands out against the rule of law, but does the “right thing” because it is exactly that – “the right thing” to do. These characters are direct fits for my own persona. Sure, I am setting myself on the couch now.

I am a rebel at heart. I have always bristled against following the rule of law, simply because it is the rule of law. I need to see a reason for the law to be, but it must be pliant. Laws are made to be bent, particularly when a circumstance arises where going against the law was for a measure of what is “right”. Rules and laws are shaped and tinged by circumstance, meant to bend to some degree. However, bent too far, and the law cannot break – everything comes set right back to where things started, and the law becomes rigid and unpliable. But I am also smart enough to realize that I am not the upholder of those laws either. I merely find a way to live between the line of the law, and the grey area where things remain pliable. A lot of this is why characters such as Jamie Lannister appeal to me. Those characters that try and remain within the law, while acknowledging that sometimes the rules just cannot be applied.

I am not sure that Obi-wan, Jamie Lannister, and Seamus Harper are really all archetypes of who I am, but I can see trace elements of these characters in myself. And much like I admire the complexity that each of these characters’ had within their respective mythic universes, I can also acknowledge that a similar complexity provides the makeup for who I am. I can be contradictory at moments in time, and each of those contradictions can clash at this particular moment – taken individually, none of those moments of opposition will cancel out any of the others. For they are/were all right and correct for that particular moment in time – consequences be damned.

Have you ever thought about what three fictional characters might be useful to describe you?  Who are they, and why? I wonder if you will come across a similar dichotomy as I did – a part of you that upholds the law, a part of you that utilizes the law to solve complex issues, and a part of you that rebels. This was a fun exercise for me, and one I will likely keep coming back to within my journals. Give it a try…see what you get.

–T /|\

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Who I Am Versus What I Am – Perceptions Versus Honesty

Over the course of the last day and a half, I have had a single statement rolling around in my mind. “I define who I am. Despite my best efforts, others will define what I am.” Its a really difficult statement for me to spend time looking over. I have fought very hard to learn the roles that I currently occupy in my life. Even when I want to shake that role off completely – such as my difficulty dealing with the conceptual aspects of being a Priest. I have spent an awful lot of intellectual – and spiritual – capital in accepting and (eventually) embracing who I am now, and who I am to become in my future.

I fought for the understanding of those roles, and damnit, that’s where I am going! I am not going to let a minor bump in the road dislodge me from who I am and who I will be. And that works for me. I understand all of that/ I even understand when things get a little overwhelming, and I need to take a break for a short while. Every bit of that has been difficult, including the parts where I have had to learn to adult when I didn’t want to. I have argued with myself, disagreed with others, and even had my moments of crisis, where I doubt everything I have done that has provided me with the steps on this Path in Life. But nothing prepared me for the shock of realizing that much of who I am to the outside world comes not from me, but from the perception of others. The outward depiction of me comes from how other perceive me. They get to define me in that manner.

Much like when anything comes about that is a major shock, even if just momentarily, I had my doubts. Uh-uh. No way. I manage the who of me. Those roles are handled by me. But the outward perception is not controlled by me – though I can provide some indirect effect. But let’s not head that far just yet. People get a perception of who I am by the way I interact with them, by the way I appear to them, by the manner in which we communicate with one another. And a large part of this comes down to the manner in which I dress.

See, I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of person. This is the most comfortable attire for me, and it places me in some sense of being “casual”. But that is not the most professional way to look; hence, the reason that I cannot dress like this at work. And when it comes to ritual, it is not the most credible way to dress. Yeah, whether I like it or not, wearing a cloak with a Ren-faire style shirt with black jeans tends to be a more appropriate manner to dress for public ritual than my “happier” attire of a “Dancing Terrapins” t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. that is not my expectation, but one that seems to be more appropriate in the eyes of others at public gatherings.

People are going to define what I am, by my outward appearance, and by the way I comport myself at public gatherings (and some private ones). There is a certain air of seriousness that one approaches ritual, as well as serious discussion. Even when you have two Trickster Gods around you, as well as one of the flirtiest Goddesses waving at you from the edge of the tree-line. Coyote, Crow, and even Fliodhas can make ordinary moments….well, “interesting” and difficult for keeping a straight face. And that can be rather testy when you are wanting others to take you seriously as a Priest, a Polytheist, and a Pagan.

But that’s what I mean – others will get the opportunity to define what I am by how they perceive me. And I can agonize over this as much as I want to – and I would like to think that I don’t – but the matter isn’t how I perceive myself. Its how they perceive me. Like I said…I would like to think that it does not matter that much to me. But it does, just not as much as I thought it might.

Which is why its a moment that really brought a touch of shock to me. I have always steeled myself against the opinions of others, by noting that what I define myself as was all that really mattered. The perspective of others didn’t matter. But when this thought popped into my mind, and I started to turn it over and over – I realized that I was shielding myself from an aspect of the truth. It may not be a big factor in how I perceive myself, but it is there. And honestly, its far better to be truthful with myself over something like this, than it would be to continue with my self-narrative.

 

So Here I Am

I have discussed in previous posts about getting messages about the coming Storm for the past two-plus years. Those messages came through in nearly everything I did that was tied to my Spirituality. Meditations, dreams, during rituals, and even while reading. But it didn’t happen every single day. Other days, everything was quiet – thankfully. But there were certain days were another message found its way into various parts of my life. And this has been around for far longer than the Storm messages have.

Become who you are. Be what you are to be. Be the Druid you are. Be the Priest you are to become.

Take a jog back and read some of the blog posts in the past, and you will see a few spots where I have had trouble dealing with all of this. Go on. Me and all the rest of the folks reading will hold on. Go on. Everyone else – coffee, tea, hot chocolate and lemon cookies are in the back of the room. Help yourselves. Ok. So, now that you have had a quick peek back, I guess the fair place to start is where I was versus where I am.

Most of my life has revolved around defining myself by the job position that I held, and the value that my employer held upon me. I have had some shitty employers in my life, and have had some even shittier jobs as well. Believe it or not, back in 2004 I actually gave tax advice over the phone for Intuit. Worst job I ever had. Hands down. But my own self-image and self-value came from what I did to make money, so I could pay the bills. Now, I work as an Institutional Research Assessment Analyst for a small college. But the reality is that I am a glorified Data Analyst. I don’t have time to do any real research or analysis of collegiate information. Most of my time is spent filing federal reports, gathering data to file state reports, or pulling data for other people’s research projects. In the private sector, I would likely be classified somewhere between a Data Analyst and a Data Retrieval Specialist. And the truth of the matter is….not one bit of that really matters.

My job is my job. I have the skillset to handle my job responsibilities. I have zero desire or inclination to climb the “ladder” within the college. If, in twenty years, I find myself in this same job position – I will be quite happy with my career progression within the college. Five years ago, I would not have said the same thing. I would be discouraged if I had not progressed within the structure to some Director position. But that was when I let my job position and the prestige behind it dictate who I was and the self-image I had. But like I said, my job is my job. It provides the money I need to pay the bills. It provides the healthcare I need to insure I continue to survive from my diabetes. It provides the monetary ability I have to attend Pagan-related conventions, music festivals, and OBOD gatherings every year. My job does not define who I am. My job does not define my self-image. I do that.

I work as an Assessment Analyst. I am a Polytheist Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Priest of Crow. And to me, those statements are who I am. My self-image is my own. I may not see myself as someone with any large shadow to cast – I am reminded by several people that there are those that read what I write, hear what I say, and weigh that in their own terms for themselves. And in knowing that, I realize that I need to slouch less, sit up straight, and continue to be me.

Recently, I finished my Bardic Grade studies and submitted my review. I spent nearly seven years on those studies. Because I didn’t believe that I could do what I needed to. Because I let myself be defined by something I am not. I was defining myself by something that I do. Once I reversed that; once I stopped trying to be what I do, and decided to be what I am – I found my freedom to move forward. The rest of the Bardic Grade studies were difficult, and eye-opening – but I no longer had the mental blocks holding me back in my mind and attitude. That ages-old saying – “free your mind, and your ass will follow” certainly holds truth to it.

So here I am. I’m Tommy. Better known as TommyElf. I am a Polytheist Pagan. A Druid. A Bardic Grade member (hopefully soon to be in my Ovate Grade studies) of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. A Priest of Crow. A follower of Coyote and Flidais. A Poet. I stand before Time and the Gods with my fist raised in the Wind. I define who I am. I live, learn and grow into what I am, and what I will be. I live free to make my own choices for my own life. All I ever ask of anyone else is that you do the same for yourself.

Words Have Meaning – Fighting My Own Self-Image

Words have meaning. Whether we intend or not, the words we use have power that affects even ourselves. In a recent post, I mentioned my over-use of self-depracating humor when introducing myself to others. I did this at the ADF Imbolc Retreat, when I made a light-hearted comment about the number of followers I have here on the blog or dedicated listeners on the podcast. I was attempting to make the mood light-hearted. By doing so, I didn’t lighten the mood, I reinforced my own negative self-image, and spread that out to others.

To those who know me fairly well, its not huge secret – I have a negative self-image. As a kid, I was the bean-pole-thin boy who didn’t have very many friends. I wasn’t very strong – either in strength or personality – which made me a perfect target for the bullies within the school. It didn’t take long for all of that to project deeply into who I was, forming the beginnings of the introvert that I am today. Even today, at 51, I have very few friends. Those that I do have as friends, I am fiercely loyal to. They may never see that loyalty, but it is there. Over the past four months, I am seeing where my negative self-image has come from, and I am slowly tearing down those curtains. I still have a lot more progress to do.

My self-depracating humor is a defense mechanism, designed to make my flaws into strengths. Or rather to take away the weapons of the bullies and use that as armor for myself. It works. But it cuts both ways. I take away the weapons by showing that I am not only aware of my weaknesses – such as my awkardness – but that lampooning those weaknesses to show that I am not afraid of them. But I am. That’s why I choose these as points to make fun of. It keeps these from being a weapon, because I expose those aspects and beat the bully to the punch by making fun of myself. Like I said, this cuts both ways.

In using this defense mechanism, I give power to the negative image of who I am. Many folks will not take me that serious when I do things like this. Hopefully, this drives away some of the people. Those who manage to slip through all that self-depracating humor – I provide them with an unseen badge of honor: they made it through all of that, which helps me relax around them. They want to be here and get to know me. But do did some of those folks I drove away because I was trying to be funny. And not only that, but much like Donnie, I begin to believe my own “press”. I begin to believe that I am an akward mess that people just don’t want to see or get to know. And that drives me deeper into my introversion. Because words are power. Words have meaning. Words are the magick we speak every day. What we say, if repeated enough – can be believed. Even if its not the truth.

A short while back, John Beckett put up a blog post about how Pagan Clergy need to dress their part. He’s caught some flak for it, even from me. I wear what I find comfortable to rituals, which is usually a tshirt and jeans. But John is right. Dressing for the role, for the intended audience, for the intended need can all make a difference in how you are perceived. At the ADF Imbolc Retreat, I wore my cloak to the night ritual. Still wearing my tshirt and jeans underneath. I honestly didn’t need the cloak to know I am a Priest of Crow. I have already accepted that role. But the cloak certainly made me feel a lot bolder than I normally would have. Its the same thing for the words we use to describe our own self.

Understanding how a simple description helps to evolve my own self image, my own projected self worth is something I will likely struggle with for the rest of my adult life. Being aware of it – that’s the first step. Reprogramming my brain to not do it. That’s the next step. And it won’t happen over night. Nor over the next year. It will take time. So long as I am aware of that…I can change this part of myself. That’s nearly 50 years of self-programming. It will be long, it will be complicated, and it will be tough. I can do it. And the best part? I have some damn good friends who will always be there when I stumble, to pick me up in a positive way.