Taking Care and Rant about Discrimination

I think that somewhere, in my mess of a self, I’ve leveled up. Maybe my practice as a priest for a pagan group is paying off in spiritual spades. But I doubt it. I find that the rituals have been having their desired effect, and as such I have been feeling nebulously better. This better-ness was actually doing me NO GOOD at all until my wifey ordered me into at least one day of rest. One day.

Well, one day has now become three thanks to me being so good at it.Why? Because I feel great. I’m sleeping if I’m tired, eating when hungry – both novel things for me – I’ve cut out a TON of sugar from my diet and am doing yoga two to three times a day, as well as maintaining steady chores.

Wow. How did I get there? What magical incantation did I use?

Here it is: I forced myself to stop trying to make money to make our situation better.

Ouch. It hurts to admit that I, as a welfare recipient, am not even trying to make money in some way. But I just can’t. My mental health suffers too much in my frantic attempts at finding ‘something’ or ‘some way’ to support us. I’m not even envisioning getting to a state of health where I can work. I’m just resting.

It’s humiliating, but I think I’m finally going to just relax and let myself not earn money. And I’m cringing just writing it – which says something about our society as a whole.

Why is it so hard to not earn money, even when doctors agree we can’t? Why do we (and I use ‘we’ because I’m sure I’m not alone in this) feel so guilty for something that is part of our social agreement? For something that, in the case of illness, is hardly one’s fault? Something that is doctor prescribed?

Rant begins *

We live in a capitalist society, that we all know. But what does this mean to the poor, the sick, the disabled, or better yet, those who live with all three? Those who are dependent on others for their own welfare?

My mother always says that there is spirituality to be found in poverty, and I’m sure that is true. You see things, beautiful things, from the experience of needing help and receiving it. But you also feel the pressure of the system.

A system that devalues you for not being able to produce. A system that constantly urges you to ‘get a job’ and ‘not be a bum’.

There is something to be said about the fact that I’ve heard more jabs about welfare recipients than I almost have about colored people – and I live in a racist society. We are trained to believe that because we do not produce money, that we do not participate in society in any meaningful way. That if we do not produce money, we produce nothing at all.

Let’s just sit and stew on that for a minute. No money, no value. But what if we are taking a monastic path? What if we do volunteer work? What if we simply cannot do anything other than function?

We are all trained to be givers, producers of valuable things, but isn’t there value in being a recipient? I’m thinking here of a friend’s sister, who is mentally handicapped and cannot care for herself. What of her role in society, where she is wholly dependent upon others? Doesn’t she enrich us by offering her unique perspectives, her joys and challenges?

Isn’t there value in being a recipient, a leper, a priest, in being a caregiver, a support system, just something other than the producer?

I’m tempted to say that, obviously, the answer is that we are all valuable in this web of life. After all, animals do not produce. Yet they are all valuable within their fragile ecosystems. And yet, how do we manifest this precious value to members of society? How can we thank them, value them, and destroy this system that devalues them?

I don’t have a fast-and-hard answer. But I will say that this Christmas, due to my financial situation, I gave out handmade gifts and spent time with relatives, and that felt right. We need to appreciate what it is that everyone can give, no matter how ‘little’ or much.



Medication’s Effects on the Soul

One of the reasons I was hesitant to take medication over the course of many years were the warnings I’d heard from “spiritual” people: that medication would change “who I was” and that I wouldn’t be “myself” if I took it.

Well, as a Wiccan now on medication I find that concept silly. In the months I have now taken medication I’ve never felt that they changed “who I was” and now that I contemplate it, I don’t think they can.

I believe the soul is fairly unchangeable. I believe that there is a nugget of our soul that is “us”, and that the rest can be changed by our conscious and unconscious choices. Does medication affect any part of this? No.

Medication, for me, changes my experiences. It changes the chemistry in my brain and affects what I feel: rage, sadness, anxiety, confusion. But these are experiences. Experiences color the lens in which we view the world. Experiences affect us but they are not us.

Through all the side effects of my medication I was still ‘me’. I was still present, still conscious (though sometimes quite addled). I did not suddenly lose myself or become a brainless zombie. I was present just as much as I’d ever been through my symptoms.

Perhaps it is the distinction I made between my symptoms and my own, true, self that allowed me to be so disaffected by the effects of my medication. Certainly, if I thought every mood swing was a mirror into my own heart I would have been concerned by these changes.

Yet, over the years, I’ve come to see this seperation as quite distinct. Having a service dog that alerts to the onset of my symptoms really helped me learn this difference. Relying upon Buddhist techniques where one acknowledges that one’s emotions are just fleeting things helped cement it in my mind. This does not mean these experiences have been easy to bear. It just meant that now, as I adjust medications that affect these symptoms (lessening some, worsening others in a fine-tuning effort) I see it as just that. They, like a taste or blow, are merely sensations that I am experiencing through the physical nature of the body. Symptoms that are a part of my body but not of me, my soul.