Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Ever Changing Beliefs

When I say beliefs, I mean of course, my spiritual beliefs. You may have come to realize that over time, your personal beliefs on the divine have changed radically, as have mine. This post is an attempt to summarize just how much my personal spiritual beliefs have changed in the last decade or so.

I'll preface by saying that I was not really raised with religion. My mom had my brother and I baptized Methodist when we were infants, but beyond that I never really had any particular belief structure forced upon me. We went to church, perhaps, twice a year and only if we felt like attending - my grandparents preferred that we attend church with them on Christmas and Easter, but this was not something my mother enforced.

So I was largely reared without too much religious dogma, and as such was allowed to have free reign over how I interpreted things I experienced as a child. Faeries in the woods at grandma's house? You bet. Fish-tailed monsters in the lake? Sure thing. Opening up doors and stepping through to other worlds? A popular play-time theme. Imaginary friends might not have been so imaginary - indeed.

I came into this world with a sense of wonder and magic about me, and while I lost that sense for a good number of years, I'm slowly regaining it.

In middle school, I had a friend who was utterly convinced she was a vampire. I suspect a large part of this was due to the influence of her older teen cousin, who was really into BDSM and blood-play and enjoyed the role-play involved, but she took it wholeheartedly. Even styled her entire persona and lifestyle around it. Melissa was a vampire. Good for her.

But she also told me that I was a witch, even if I didn't know it at the time. As a youngster in middle school, I was preoccupied with crushes, homework, family problems, and my own crisis surrounding puberty and gender-conformity. I didn't have time for make believe things like faeries and monsters anymore....but she was insistent that I had some magical ability. And it was the first time in a LONG time that I toyed with the possibility of opening that door again.

In high school I started practicing Wicca. Finally, a whole slew of resources for the budding magical practitioner! Something that wasn't centered on a male-deity and upholding outdated gender tropes! A belief system that was about love, and light, and female empowerment!

I dove deep - and I started finding things that just didn't add up or jive with me. I can't tell you how many times I pushed the concept of the Three-Fold Law onto other people and nodded sagely when other Wiccans scolded people for asking about love spells. How I defended the concept of duality between male and female - that each were equal and powerful in their own ways. But deep down, some of it really squicked me out and so I had to do some serious personal analyzing.

Wicca, and lots of other New Age movements, regard womanhood as sacred. While this isn't inherently problematic, it ends up veering into trans-exclusive radicalism pretty quickly - especially when you equate womanhood with the womb and ability to procreate. This reduction of women as vessels, even sacred vessels, was something that REALLY rubbed me the wrong way as a young Wiccan. Menstruation wasn't something to be proud of or experience joy over - it was an inconvenience at best and painful at worst. The ability to bear a child or become a "mother" wasn't something that resonated with me either, but Wicca told me that I should cherish that obligation. It was what defined me as a woman.

The maiden, mother, and crone thing just didn't make much sense to me either. That a woman was either a child, a vessel for another living being, or a wizened old lady felt really limiting. Where was the agency of the woman who wanted to be a warrior? A hunter? A lesbian....even?

So much of Wicca ended up feeling very transphobic, Euro-centric, and wrong. Energy wasn't either "male" or "female" - associating feminine energy with being passive, nurturing or calm was incredibly sexist. Same with assigning the characteristics of strength, aggression, and virility to males. Oh, but they cried! We all have both male and female energies within us!

a) That's kind of insulting to someone who might experience gendered dysphoria
b) Not everyone (myself included) identifies with the binary and...
c) Do you really think the incredible energy of the infinite cosmos is bound by our human insistence on duality?

So I had a lot of soul searching to do on my journey as a witch - and ridding myself of some of the problematic beliefs that I held was an important step.

I also used to be a soft polytheist that bought into the Three-Fold Law and was deathly afraid of curses and hexes. Today, I'm a definitely a hard polytheist (though I don't call myself pagan or currently work with any deity). Today, I can say without a doubt that I see no evidence whatsoever that every action I take will come back to me 'three times' and I've definitely cast a curse or two in the past. I no longer use terms like feminine energy or male energy - I don't really buy into the concept of duality - but I will substitute in "destructive" or "creative" to describe the intent of certain energies.

I no longer believe my power as a witch is a gift from the Goddess, but rather something inherent in me to cultivate as I wish. I no longer believe that all spirits are good or want to communicate with witches - there are plenty of nasties out there. I no longer believe that for spells to work, you have to cast a circle and call on certain entities to make sure it all goes right...I can be as creative as I want in combining different elements in my practice.

Even today, what I believe still has the capacity for great evolution and expansion. The more I come into contact with others and hear their stories, the more my beliefs change. The more I practice my craft and refine what works and what doesn't for me, the more my beliefs change. And that's okay! Change is a good thing.

How have your spiritual or personal beliefs changed over time? Let me know! 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Challenge: 25 Contradicting Things About Being a Shy Introvert

This week we have another gem from Jenn Granneman, and this one is all about the contradicting nature of being both shy AND an introvert. I figured, this'll be good....

25 Contradicting Things About Being A Shy Introvert

I was pretty disappointed. Read the article here and see for yourself how short and stilted it really is.

1. Wanting to be left alone but not wanting to be lonely.
~ I think this is across the board for all introverts, not just shy ones. Nobody wants to feel lonely. If being alone makes you feel lonely, you might not really be an introvert.
2. Wanting to be invited to social events but not always wanting to go.
~ It's always nice to be invited, it means someone is thinking of you. But wanting an invite doesn't make you shy. Not wanting to go doesn't make you shy either, unless the reason for not wanting to go is that you're nervous or afraid of going for some reason.
3. Wishing other people would notice you but avoiding the spotlight at all costs.
~ Definitely mostly just a shy or socially anxious thing. I have no real desire to be noticed, but I'll deal with the spotlight if I must and do it gracefully.
4. Having deep thoughts every day, but when you try to explain them, they never come out quite as eloquently or profoundly as they sounded in your head.
~ I think this is something a lot of introverts experience, shy or not. If you spend a good deal of time alone and you don't regularly have deep or meaningful conversations with people, your ability to do so is going to be a bit rusty. 
5. Wanting to have deep conversations with other people but not wanting to get the ball rolling by making small talk.
~ Small talk in the bane of every introvert's existence. Not wanting to engage in it doesn't make you shy.
6. Wishing you had more friends but not wanting to actually introduce yourself to new people.
~ If the reason you don't want to introduce yourself to new people stems from fear of judgement, you're shy. If you don't want to introduce yourself because the ensuing banal small talk is excruciating, you're just an introvert. 
7. Being known as the “fun/quirky” one when you’re with close friends, but being known as the “quiet/shy” one when you’re with people you don’t know well.
~ I can be quite quirky with people I know and I am definitely quiet with people I don't. This doesn't make me shy, it makes me selective in who I give my time and energy to. 
8. Being praised for how confident you were while giving a speech or presentation (you rehearsed for hours); fumbling your way through small talk with your classmates or colleagues afterward.
~ Again, definitely just an introvert thing. 
9. Knowing the answer to the question the teacher asked but not wanting to raise your hand and have everyone look at you while you talk.
~ Again depending on the reason, you may just not feel like bothering to answer but on the flip side you might be genuinely afraid of having to speak in front of your peers. Totally different level.
10. Having an idea or question in a meeting at work but being too shy to speak up.
~ Again, if it's fear of judgement prompting this response....an introvert may not be super prone to sharing a concept or idea in front of the whole group, but a one-on-one meeting with a boss or senior colleague shouldn't be an issue.
11. Quietly doing a great job on something at work or school but not wanting anyone to make a big deal about it.
~ Some people just aren't fussy and don't think they deserve praise for doing exactly what they were supposed to. Others are uncomfortable having people notice them or look at them - different stuff here. 
12. Wanting to get away from a long-winded extrovert but not knowing how to interrupt them or exit the conversation without seeming like a jerk.
~ I'm not sure this is a shy thing. 
13. Wanting to hang out with your significant other or best friend in the same room but not wanting to actually talk to them.
~ Just an introvert thing. However, if you're too scared or nervous to actually SAY this to them, that's indicative of shyness.
14. Being hilarious and clever while texting or messaging online; being awkward and shy while talking to someone IRL.
~ I tend to speak the same way in person as I do in text/email so I can't really relate to this one much.
15. Desperately wanting to find your soulmate but being terrified to say hello to your crush.
~ Most people get really nervous around their crush and don't know what to say. If you're an introvert, this issue might be compounded. If you're shy, even worse.
16. Being told at work or school that you should speak up more; being told by your best friend or spouse that you talk too much about your niche hobbies or interests.
~ Again, I'm not really seeing anything that correlates to shyness here.
17. Feeling just fine but everyone keeps asking, “Are you okay?” because you have Resting Bitch Face (or Resting Sad Face).
~ LOTS of people have this, regardless of their personality type or level of social anxiety.....
18. Caring so much about the people in your life and treasuring all the intimate, fun moments you’ve had with them but rarely telling them how much they mean to you.
~ It's not because we're scared to do so, it just feels kind of awkward and we worry that we don't have the right words to express it.
19. Getting sad because friends don’t invite you out but then remembering that you haven’t texted/reached out to anyone for months.
~ This could be for lots of reasons. Because people are busy. Because people have been sick. Because people just don't feel like hanging out. If you're sad about lack of contact, reach out!
20. Wishing you could loosen up and have fun like everyone else but your overly self-conscious thoughts stop you.
~ That's social anxiety!
21. Wanting to sleep but not being able to turn off your over-thinking mind.
~ That's anxiety, stress, etc. 
22. Wanting to talk about something that really matters to you but worrying that everyone will be bored by what you say.
~ Definitely shy or socially anxious behavior. 
23. Going out with friends on a Saturday night even though you know you’ll get an introvert hangover.
~ Sometimes this is just called making a choice to keep one's friendships strong. 
24. Wanting to make an impact on the world but not wanting to leave your house.
~ Could be a lot of reasons for this one too.
25. Wishing you had just one person who understood your weirdness but wanting to be alone most of the time. 
~ I'm just....at a loss. Some of these things are just normal tendencies for almost any introvert and then some are just straight up behaviors that only socially anxious or really shy people exhibit. I mean, you can totally be both, but these things aren't necessarily contradicting of each other.

What do you all think? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joining The 21st Century

I did something remarkable over the weekend - I joined the 21st century and acquired a smartphone. You have to understand how radical this is for me. I've been using the same budget flip phone for the last four years and it's only NOW starting to break apart a bit. Still perfectly usable. I had a hard time adjusting to my Chromebook, which is also at least four years old, because the OS is app based and all functions are stored on the cloud.

So I ordered a new phone on Virgin Mobile's website a few weeks back and had it shipped to my mom's place (debit card address complications - it's resolved now) and this weekend we drove through a damn blizzard to go pick it up. It's the same brand as my flip phone, so I felt comfortable at least staying in the same " family" and it's Android, so I'm familiar with a lot of the app functions.

Let me introduce the Kyocera HYDRO Reach:

It looks a little blue-hued on the stock photo, but it's pretty much black. It runs a mini-version of Chrome OS and comes with a bunch of useless pre-installed apps - many of which I already disposed of. After activating it Sunday night, I proceeded to spend much of Monday afternoon customizing it. I changed up my wallpaper, set my notification sounds, and even installed the tumblr app.

The biggest hurdle now is getting used to the keypad. I'm not really a huge fan of touch-screen technology, so texting has been a headache. I'm sure I'll become accustomed to it though.

To test out it's battery life and video quality - I watched a livestream of a Youtuber gamer last night and even played an episode of a Korean drama. The battery only dropped about 30% and the device itself didn't get too warm. So I'm fairly impressed.

Tell me the story of your first smartphone (if you possess one) and what features were most notable and interesting to you! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Challenge: 17 Ways Being An Introvert Is Different In Your 30s Than in Your 20s

I would like to start a weekly segment where I find articles (usually in list form) about one thing or another that's relevant to me and then challenge them, bullet point by bullet point. And the point of this is to show that we can't all be painted with the same broad strokes and that all of our lived experiences can paint radically different pictures than might be generalized.

So this week's article is:

17 Ways Being An Introvert Is Different In Your 30s Than in Your 20s

Follow this link to read the article yourself! It was posted on Thought Catalog recently by Jenn Granneman, author of the upcoming book The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. Her assertion is that people's lives drastically change from 20 to 30 and that how our introversion manifests will change as well. Okay, sounds fair. Lets see how it stacks up against my personal experience now.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Korean Drama - Introverted Boss

Recently, I started watching a Korean drama commonly called My Introvert Boss. A better translation is actually "My Introspective Boss" (based on   내성적 ) or My Shy Boss - because of this character's personality.

Anyways....My Introvert Boss follows the story of a young singer (Chae Ro Woon) who's sister tragically jumped to her death while working at a large PR firm called Brain. Three years after the fact, Ro Woon is determined to find the cause of her sister's death and so she begins working as an assistant - intent on getting the scoop about her sister's former boss Hwan Gi.

Hwan Gi is the featured "introvert" of the series. He has a private penthouse/office at Brain and is hardly ever seen or heard. Even his personal secretary doesn't know what he looks like - she's been instructed to never look at him directly. We, the audience, see him as a foreboding figure in all black, accompanied with an oversized black hoodie. To the unsuspecting, he's the very essence of weird, cruel, and bizarre.

Ro Woon is intent on painting him in such a light. In the aftermath of doing so, she finds herself working for him with a small team of other PR agents on a side project called Silent Monster. And finally, we begin to see the truth of Hwan Gi emerge.

This isn't just some introvert who prefers a LOT of solitude, Hwan Gi deals with some major social anxiety and is painfully shy. Hence why I believe a more apt title for this series is My Shy Boss. I've seen 13 episodes of this series thus far and I have one very strong conclusion about the character of Hwan Gi:

He is not an introvert. At all.

Hwan Gi WANTS desperately to interact with and be comfortable around other people, but his intense social anxiety prevents him from doing this. Instead he panics and gets lost in his own head - keeping his thoughts to himself and never expressing anything coherently to the people around him. When he does try, it often comes out stuttered or shouted or completely misunderstood - the greatest fear of someone with social phobia. And so he shuts down even more.

Ro Woon meets Hwan Gi at the pinnacle of his shyness - he's been keeping an eye on her ever since her sister's death and taking great pains to make sure he's never seen. The guilt of knowing who she is and what happened to her sister weighs on him as well. But with Ro Woon's exuberance and willingness to listen to and get to know a person she had harshly misjudged, Hwan Gi starts to come out of his shell and into his own abilities.

I've been watching this drama on KissAsian.com and under every episode there's always some comment about introverts and what introversion is. Many are operating under the misconception that an "introvert" is someone who is either 1) Shy. 2) Socially Anxious. 3) Hates people. or 4) Is Depressed. As an introvert myself, I really want to clear up some of these concepts.

Introversion and Introverts:

If we look at the noun "introvert" it means to turn inward or upon itself. Introversion is the act of directing one's attention inward. Introverts are often said to be more reflective, inwardly focused, withdrawn, and quiet - and while some of these things generally hold true - it is not what truly defines a person who is an introvert.

An introvert derives their personal energy from spending time alone and focusing on personal interests whereas an extrovert recharges by spending time around people and focusing on external happenings. Operating under this definition, we can assume that an introvert feels most at ease and comfortable when spending time in a quieter setting doing what they love or enjoying the few precious hours they may get to themselves.

Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not inherently shy, socially anxious or misanthropic. Introverts are not more likely to be depressed or anxious, but as a result of a tendency to be more self-reflective might be more aware of such conditions in themselves than an extrovert might be. Not all introverts are incapable of socializing or hate it entirely, but they do tend to feel very drained and exhausted after prolonged contact with other people. Unlike the extrovert, a introvert needs a period of time alone to recharge and relax.

Introversion is not a psychological disorder and is certainly not classified as a mental illness, but some introverts may exhibit signs of avoidant personality disorder. An introvert may find that they become easily overstimulated in certain environments - like crowded spaces, loud stadiums, public transit, etc.

Think you might be an introvert? See if these Nine Signs apply to you.  What other misconceptions about introverts have you heard? Have any questions? That's why the comment box exists. 👍

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Monday in March...

I can't, for the life of me, understand people who STILL think climate change is a hoax. Yesterday, March 6th of 2017, a tornado swept through a chunk of Minnesota - doing damage to trees, roads, and houses. It's the earliest recorded tornado in Minnesota history. We normally don't get tornado producing storms until late May or June.

Yesterday, it was 65 degrees and super humid. Today, it's 30 degrees and there's snow on the ground. If you think a 30 degree temperate drop in less than 24 hours is "normal" you need a reality check.

When they say March comes in a lion, this is not what they meant!

But I digress. How are you, fair readers? I hope all has been well in your realms and hearts. 

All kinds of things are falling apart in my realm. A member of my rather extended friend group died recently. Our vehicle is having problems - either the motor mount is coming loose or we have front axle problems. Things are crazy at my job and I'm still stuck proctoring oral exams - but at least I'm getting the hang of it now.

Some things are also falling into place. I now have internet under my name and access to pretty much any xfinity wifi hot spot in town. The electric bill is a lot lower now that the bulk of winter is over. I've started doing to basic yoga again to loosen up the body I've been neglecting for months. I'm even in the process of upgrading to a smartphone.

The normal ebb and flow of life it seems.