Categories
depression Finances mental health

How I recharge

Today I ran out of spoons and I didn’t realize until I started my walk to work and I started tearing up over listening to this podcast about people going for walks. Now there were some touching stories but I even got a bit teary feeling grateful over my morning coffee. 😭.

So yeah, ok then. It was going to be one of those days where I’ll be over sensitive. No watching Pixar films for me then.

I called in sick for the day, told me team I was out of spoons. I’m really grateful that I can be open about this stuff with my colleagues.

The source of my depletion

I’ve started studying a graduate diploma in financial advice part time on top of full time work. I had 2 interview assessments this week where I had to play the role of advisor for two hypothetical couples. I’ve also had two statement of advice assignments due over the last two weekends. Today was burn out day.

Retail Therapy

I started my morning with a nice coffee and breakfast in a cafe. Taking this time to appreciate food helps me recenter. Then it was a walk through Newtown and I ended up buying some awesome craft beer. We are hosting board games tomorrow and I enjoy sharing a beer with friends.

I think using retail therapy to help me feel better is one way my credit card debt got to 35K. I never use to budget for these episodes and because I have an impulsive nature that’s impossible to reign in during a low day all of those purchases use to go on the credit card.

Today, they didn’t go on a credit card. I don’t have one any more. Instead those purchases came out of splurge account, this is money I’ve already put aside to spend on what ever brings me joy. Big win for the budget there. You can read more about my budget here.

Other recharging activities

I had an afternoon nap. It was just so nice to rest for a bit. I also find the act of writing helps me to get my thoughts in order. It helps me get my thoughts out of my head. Hence this blog. I would consider going for a motorbike ride if I hadn’t already left home for the day. I’m going to watch some TV and drink beer with my partner this evening.

Having friends over for boardgames tomorrow is also going to help. I love cooking and creating tasty things, cooking for others is one way I make myself feel useful and appreciated.

How do you recharge your spoons?

Categories
mental health Weight Loss

Medical History

For the purposes of generating life insurance quotes and my own life admin I thought I would write down my medical history. I don’t believe this stuff needs to be private, does it? I’m 31, female, 155 cm tall and 87 kg. White collar worker, University qualified on a 120k salary per year.

As a kid

I had asthma from the ages of 4 to about 16. I also grew up as a the fat kid. When I was 2 I hit my eyebrow on a coffee table, I had to have 3 stitches. I needed glasses in school from the age of 14, I’m short sighted and have a mild astigmatism in one of eyes. I grew up in Tasmania.

Chronic Depression

I developed chronic depression during uni around the age of 21. I had just come back from a year on exchange in Sweden, had a bad break up and started failing my studies. I just couldn’t cope. I had 6 sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness techniques to help. No anti depressants where prescribed. I moved to Sydney back in 2013, since then I’ve had minor relapses of depression but not a chronic episode. I’ve never been hospitalised. I was on anti depressants for a few months before my weight loss surgery in 2016. I’m currently going through schema therapy. There’s also this 8 years of depression post and the dark side of my mind post too if you’d like to read more.

Getting my teeth done

I got invisilign to straighten my teeth in 2014. I had a bunch of fillings done just before this. My dentist told me there was a long term risk of wear and tear with my old over bite. I thought it was worth fixing. I now don’t wear my retainer (my depression made it hard to stick to).

Sciatic Nerve issues

During Christmas in 2015, I was visiting family in Tassie. I developed a sciatic nerve problem and it was hard to sit down. I went through physio to help stretch it back out. It doesn’t impact my work duties today. I worked in supermarkets for 7 years going through highschool, towards the end of it I had hurt my back lifting some boxes. An xray showed a potential disk issue in my lower back. This probably fed into the sciatic nerve problem. I haven’t had an issue with this nerve since.

Weight Loss Surgery

Back in October 2016, I had gastric sleeve surgery. I had 80% of my stomach removed. I was 127 kg before the surgery. I got down the 75kg within 12 months after surgery and I’m now at 87 kg. I had my gall bladder removed in March 2020. This is a common complication after rapid weight loss. You can see some of my fat photos here. I get regular bloods to check my nutrition levels for this now.

Broken Ankle

At the end of 2017 I fell off a wall in door rock climbing. I was in hospital for a week, had 2 surgeries and couldn’t walk for 12 weeks. I had to have a third surgery at the 12 week mark to remove the two bolts holding my ankle together. I still have a bit of weakness/stiffness in the ankle, there’s a palte and a dozen screws still in there that I probably won’t remove. I’m currently doing physio to improve my ankle. It doesn’t impact my day to day work. You can read more about my broken ankle journey here if you like.

I’m also flat footed and have inner souls to support my feet.

Current Medication

I’m currently on the birth control (Levlen), I was previously on Normin but supplies of that dried up recently. I take melatonin to help me sleep at night. My vaccines are generally kept up to date. I’ve taken the flu vaccine nearly every year since I lived in Sweden.

Family History

There’s some family history of depression, obesity and kidney problems. Someone was allergic to some form of anaesthetic or pain killer but I haven’t had any issues with my previous surgeries.

Drugs

I’ve smoked some weed while in Amsterdam and in a previous share house someone would share a joint on occasion. I would have the occasional cigarette while out as a 18/19 year old. Someone once shared half a tablet of ecstasy with me. I don’t smoke or do drugs on any regular basis. I’ve never have had a regular habit of it either. I drink, mostly beer. I’ll have up to 5-6 standard drinks a week. I don’t regularly binge drink and I don’t drink every day. It’s usually a few social beers with friends on a Friday/Saturday.

Categories
mental health mindfulness

Schema Therapy part III

In my last reflection on my journey through Schema Therapy, I’ve found out that Social Isolation and Unrelenting Standards are my main two influencing schema’s. When people have these schema’s they can potentially develop the following poor coping mechanisms:

SchemaSurrenderAvoidanceOvercompensation
Social Isolation/
Alienation

Becomes part of a group but
stays on the periphery; does
not fully join in.
Avoids socializing; spends
most of his or her time alone.
Puts on a false “persona” to join
a group, but still feels different
and alienated.
Unrelenting Standards/
Hyper-criticalness


Attempts to perform
perfectly; sets high
standards for self and
others.
Avoids taking on work tasks;
procrastinates.
Throws out high standards
altogether and settles for
below-average performance
Table is adapted from Young et al (2003). Schema Therapy: A Practitioners Guide.

Social Isolation Schema

I have this schema, but I don’t have any of the poor coping mechanisms. So I think this schema is not the one causing me the most stress or suffering in life. I view myself as an odd ball, but I’m comfortable with that part of myself and feel like I can bring that authentic part of my to my daily part of interactions in both my work and personal life.

Unrelenting Standards Schema

This is my main schema that causes me the most problems. I have a tendency to procrastinate on work tasks, even to my own detriment. Avoidance is usually my poor coping mechanism of choice here. I also have a tendency to get distracted by the new shiny idea and never finish it.

Other Strong Sentiments

From doing the schema survey with my psychologist there’s a few more strong sentiments that I’d like to reflect on.

In the end, I will be alone

This is in a literal sense. I beleive when people die, we die alone. There’s no one there with us. I don’t beleive I’ll be alone in my old age and I don’t beleive that I don’t deserve love. I’ve already got the wheels in motion to have a pretty comfortable retirement.

Most people only think about themselves

This belief is founded in an understanding of human nature. I don’t beleive people are ill natured. Everyone thinks they are morally up right citizens. But a lot of self less acts can be analysed from an individual benefit too. Donating your time/money to other people also helps you feel good too. We are social creatures who also ger personal benefits when we coorporate with others.

I don’t fit in

I view myself as an odd ball. I’m ok with this.

If I disappeared tomorrow, no one would notice

There’s a bit of existential dread with this one. Sometimes when my depression is taking up more attention, I desire for the world to open up and I could disappear forever. It’s easy to think that no one cares. When I don’t have good social connections with people my mind goes down this path. Sometimes I wonder, “If I died tomorrow, who’d turn up at my funeral? What would they say?”.

I am inherently flawed and defective

This is a hard belief to see written out. I didn’t receive a lot of praise as a kid and I’ve always felt like there’s something wrong with me. My muppet (harsh internal self critic) likes to remind me of these feelings. I grew up as the fat kid too, so constantly being bullied feeds into this feeling.

My first part time testing job while in uni, I wasn’t praised until I left. I didn’t feel like I was doing any good until then. But I was also going through my first bout of chronic depression then too.

I’m a failure

No matter how succesful I am in life, my muppet likes to remind me of how much of a failure I feel sometimes.

I feel more like a child than an adult when it comes to handling everyday responsibilities

I think this is a common millenial experience. The idea of #Kidulting (pretending to be an adult when you feel like a kid) is fairly common in the media. At the end of the day we are all just faking our way through our journey of life and no one really knows what they are doing. I also love being a big kid at heart, I love jumping in puddles and approaching life with that child like wonder and curiosty.

What unhelpful beliefs do you hold?

Categories
mental health mindfulness

Schema Therapy part II

Wow, it was back in November that I last wrote about starting Schema Therapy. The whole pandemic situation really put a spanner in the works with that. This blog post is a reflection of my most recent session. I’m not a psychologist, if anything here concerns you please seek professional advice.

So two months ago I started a new bout of therapy with a new psychologist that was a bit closer to home. The last one was close to the office so when I stopped going into the office I stopped going. Since I’ve moved to Sydney I’ve had a tendency to only go to 2-3 sessions with a psychologist before I come up with some reason to stop attending (usually it’s just expensive and I postpone/cancel because I’ve felt like I haven’t done the homework correctly). So it’s nice to be 4-5 sessions in with a new therapist and I’m actually sticking to it.

My two main Schema’s

My two main influencing schema’s are Social Isolation and Unrelenting Standards. These have a mild influence on my personality, some people can have a strong influence and they might have a schema that is a strong 80-90% influence. There’s 18 Schema’s and I they can be a little overlapping.

Under the Social Isolation schema I feel:

  • I feel like I don’t fit in
  • People think I’m weird and strange
  • I am a bit different to other people

Under the Unrelenting Standard I feel:

  • I rarely switch off and relax
  • I need everything to be done to very high standards
  • There always seems like there is more to be done

I also have an unhealthy dose of a very harsh internal self critic. This self critic likes to remind me of how much of a failure and odd ball that I feel sometimes. These two schema’s help drive my harsh internal self critique.

Personifying that harsh critic

In my earlier sessions, my therapist asked me to personify that harsh internal self critic. Put a name/person/character to it. I thought a muppet from sesame street would be a good caricature.

And then the next question, what muppet would it be best? I thought a blue one is not right, blue is too calming of a colour. Orange is an angry, attention grabbing type of colour. And then I thought of the interrupting Manana Muppet:

So now, when I find myself thinking, “you are such a failure, you are nickempoop and a stupid fat good for nothing …” I can now respond with, “Ah, muppet, it’s good to see you again. Glad you could join us. That’s not helpful right now, would you like to sit back down and stop distracting the driver?”.

What would inner critic look like if you personified it? I’d love to know.

Categories
Finances mental health Weight Loss

My Credit Card Addiction

Let me tell you the story of how my credit card addiction blew out to be 35K AUD in debt (that’s 1.8 million rupees, 19K pounds and 25K USD for any of my international visitors). And how I’m still struggling with paying it off today.

But would I have done anything different? Probably not.

Learning how to manage money is one of the hardest things to do in life. And I think you learn the most by taking the hard route. Experience it all first hand.

2008 – The Student Credit Card

My first credit card was a $500 one. I got it before I went on exchange in Sweden. It did help when I was at uni, traveling around or had an unexpected expense come up.

2012 – The First Job Credit Card

When I moved to Sydney in 2012/2013 that creditcard was joined with a second one. This new card had a $2000 limit. I used it to buy a new laptop, and a bluetooth speak. I still use that speaker. The laptop really should be recycled through e-waste.

I also got my teeth done the first few years I lived in Sydney.

Getting my teeth fixed cost me $8000 and it was all cycled on the credit card over 2 years. So I never really paid it off. I just constantly cycled money on it.

That 2k credit card soon slowly increased to 7k.

2014 – The half arsed credit card application

Then I thought about consolidating that 7k creditcard. I half applied for a card but didn’t finish the application process. But Citibank were so desperate to issue me credit, they called my employer to check my income.

Nek minnit, I had a freshly minted 15K credit card in my letter box. I should have just canceled the card.

Narrator: She didn’t cancel that credit card

2015 was a bad year for my debt

In 2015 I had around 14k in debt across 3 cards. I had moved in with a partner at the time, used a card to help with the purchasing of household stuff. Had a sciatic nerve problem flair up, decided a decent mattress was in order. It went straight on the credit card. Got a loan for a motorbike, all of the extra gear I bought for it went on the credit card.

I was just about to consolidate it all into one card and cancel all the others, when my dad asked to borrow 2k. I used the credit card to do it. He paid it back but it meant I didn’t cancel that 7k credit card. I kept it open.

There was a holiday (a motorbike road trip to cairns and back) all added to the credit card too.

2016 came weight loss surgery

I applied to pay for the $7000 excess for weight loss surgery out of my super, the application was declined because my doctor didn’t emphasis the life and death nature enough on the referral letter. I ended up using that remaining credit card to pay for it all.

This I wouldn’t change at all. It helped me lose 40kg. The gains in quality of life and earning potential have probably already paid for itself. You can read more here.

2017 – Personal loan 35K

In 2017, I decided I had enough of all of those credit cards. I had 35K in debt across 3-4 cards. I took out a personal loan, cancelled most of the cards. I kept the 2k one. I still couldn’t completely shake off that credit card addiction.

2018 – Had lots of shit happen

I broke my ankle at the end of 2017, which meant I didn’t work as much in 2018 due to recovery, there was 2 job changes and moving houses a few times. It was not a very stable time of my life.

2019 – finally some stability

2019 sees me land a job with Commbank, however there was some drama with how I ended up with that role too. Basically I thought I was going to move to Newcastle. but nope, that was cancelled at the last minute.

But my housemate had already found a new roomy to take my room. So I had to move again. That 2k credit card had slowly increased back up to 7k and I used part of it to help me move again. I’m really proud of my new furnishings though, I even got a photoshoot for it. It’s all second hand furniture and now I pay sweet fuck all rent in Sydney:

After a few months working at Commbank I transferred my personal loan from westpac to commbank and reconsolidated that 7k credit card into it.

I also had my gall bladder removed at the start of 2020. Only about 2k out of pocket, but it still went on the credit card.

Today – it’s 20k plus 2k in credit cards

Today my total personal loan debt is at 20k and I have a 2k credit card. I finished paying off my motorbike loan last month. Woohoo. It’s the first big debt I’ve acquired since moving to Sydney that I’ve now paid off.

I’ll have that 2k card paid off by October and I’m track to have that personal loan paid off by the end of next year.

I feel on track to domino all of my debts but oh boy, has it been a rollercoaster ride to get there. I don’t think there is much I would change because it’s all a part of how we learn about life and how to manage our money.

If I hadn’t gone on this rollercoaster, when I do become debt free I wouldn’t appreciate it as much if I hadn’t taken the hard way to get there.

This is not financial advice

Categories
Critical Thinking mindfulness

Reflections on free speech

In today’s internet era it feels all too easy to get angry and upset over something offensive. It can be easy to find the rage machine in full swing and to get caught up in it all. Many platforms can concentrate that anger and it’s all in the name of “engagement”. Outrage gets more clicks and shares.

This blog post is a reflection on my thoughts about free speech, hate speech and how people become hateful.

3 approaches to moderation

If we let all types of speech fly under the free speech banner, then what do we do about speech that enacts violence? On the internet I’ve seen three levels of moderation:

1) Reddit – let everything fly

If you want to see some dark nasty corner of the internet you will find just the right corner in some subreddit thread somewhere. 4Chan has a similar culture. Anything goes, no moderation here.

Remember #GamerGate? One part of of it was some people didn’t like Anita Sarkeesian’s video posts on Tropes vs Women in video games. Someone even created a beat up Anita game.

2) Twitter – let most things fly

If it enacts a sense of violence twitter will now tag the post with a warning:

Twitter has flagged and hidden a tweet by United States President Donald Trump, saying he violated Twitter’s rules about glorifying violence.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/twitter-flags-hides-trump-tweet-glorified-violence-200529080054304.html

3) Facebook – post no evil

Facebook has a team of people and algorithms searching and blocking hate speech, e.g. commenting “Men are scum” will be removed.

you can’t attack a person or group of people based on a protected characteristic. A characteristic like race, religion or gender.

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/post-no-evil

Free speech isn’t a free pass

If I say something hateful, offensive or generally misguided, I should be held accountable for what I said. I want people to call out my offensive nature. There’s lots of things I don’t know or misunderstand. By calling me out you help me to improve my understanding.

We have to take responsibility of what we say

Rowan Atkinson – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiqDZlAZygU

Comedians and cancel culture

Comedians have a reputation for being a bit offensive or a bit on the nose with their comedy. Comedy is criticism of society at large. Here are some Comedians calling out Cancel Culture:

These comedians tend to think we are now too sensitive and over react to everything.

How people are radicalized

I’m going to leave you with a video on how people become radicalized. It doesn’t matter if it’s veganism, transphobia, racism, sexism or general hatred. No one starts their life hating another group of people. We learn this behavior through the culture we absorb:

If you find yourself getting angry over something on the internet, please take some time to reflect and understand where that anger is coming from.

Further Reading

https://ketanjoshi.co/2020/08/07/journalism-has-a-social-media-abuse-problem-no-not-that-one/

Categories
mental health

Mental Health reflection

I last did a mental health check in at the mid June and this blog post is a reflection of where I’m at today.

If you need to talk to someone about mental health there are plenty of services out there. Here is a list of them.

Sleep is better

I got my bloods done, there’s no issues from a nutrient point of view that was causing the low mood. I’ve been taking some melatonin to help get my sleep back to a regular cycle and it seems to be helping.

So fucking bored

I think the monotony of working from home is starting to set in. I really miss interacting with people. I get most of my motivation for work from interacting with people. Interacting with people purely online isn’t quite giving me the energy I need. This last week I’ve just felt so fucking bored. I haven’t had any motivation for work. I don’t know where this feeling is coming from either.

And I can’t focus

It’s not like I have a lack of things I can do. I have tons of ideas and improvements. Things that could help my team, the next video series on public speaking and I’ve started a new part time course so there’s tons of new things to learn. But really struggling with the focus.

I don’t know if time off will help

If I took a week off, all I would do is sit around home studying/growing my side business. I wouldn’t actually switch off and relax. I never switch off from work and life, it’s one of those things that was impacting my sleep before hand. There will be a week off from study in October with the term break. Maybe I’ll take some time off then.

I’m searching for meaning

Life can be so goddam random and meaningless sometimes. As humans we are really good at finding meaning in the chaos of life. Why am I even bothering with trying to find meaning and satisfaction? Anyway I feel a bit weird here and I think the whole pandemic situation might be contributing.

Counselling services

I should try some things to help me re-centre and calm a my mind. Maybe get back into meditation, or try some magic or just talk to someone.

Anyway, how are you looking after yourself during these challenging times?

Categories
Job hunting mental health Software Testing Technology Weight Loss

Discrimination in the Workplace

There are many forms of discrimination you could face when you are looking for work or in the workplace. Whether it’s based on;

  • Gender
  • Appearance
  • Family
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Age

Many of these forms of discrimination are illegal in many countries. Hiring Managers/Recruiters who work in Human Resources departments (HR) know how to protect their companies from potential lawsuits, so they won’t be directly discriminatory to your face. However you still might face indirect discrimination.

This blog post is a deep dive into the the subtleties of discrimination so you can be more aware of it during the job hunting process. Topics covered include:

  • Women in Tech
  • Fatness and Bias
  • Mental Health
  • Local Experience

Women in Tech

Women still face discrimination in the tech industry. Trans folk even more so. I read a story about a female to male transition for a tech support worker. When he transitioned he visited an old client to help fix a computer. The client thought it was a new person and complained about how the women who use to help fix their computer didn’t know anything about tech. It was the exact same person.

Here’s another story about how a Husband came to understand the discrimination his Wife and Business Partner faces on a daily basis.

In my early career I avoided using my full name (Samantha Connelly) on my CV because of the gender association. If you look at my old 2014 CV, I have S. Connelly as my name.

Now that I have a reputation in the industry, I can’t hide my gender. I’m a little gender queer in my representation and could easily go by Sam (he/him) but I don’t suffer from gender dysphoria and don’t have a strong desire to change. I will remain female because I’m comfortable in my own skin (CIS). Also men’s fashion isn’t as fun as women’s fashion.

Fatness and Bias

I use to be 127kg (that’s 280 pounds for my US readers and 20 stone for my UK readers). I’m now around 83kg, at 160cm tall this still puts me in the Obese category. I had always grown up being the fat kid. I had weight loss surgery (gastric sleeve) in 2016.

People tend to think fat people are lazy and unmotivated. Back when I was fatter and saw someone else who was even larger, I use to thing, “well at least I’m not that fat”, but I’ve seen my mindset change first hand. I now have the same knee jerk, “ew, gross” reaction as everyone else.

Fatness itself is generally not cause for legal discrimination (unless it’s classified as a disability), however overweight people are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions because they are seen as less competent.

When was the last time you saw a fat leader in a tech company? That weight loss surgery has probably already paid for itself based on my increased in potential earning capacity and more leadership opportunities.

Mental Health

This time last year, I thought I was going to move to Newcastle to join a start up in a head of engineering role. After the offer had been made, someone on the board did “further research” into my history, and getting fired from Campaign Monitor came up.

They thought I had been fired because of my history of mental health impacting my performance. At the time I was recovering from a broken ankle and I had presented to the whole company about my struggles with depression.

However, the reason why I was let go was a mismatch of skills and expectations. It was an experimental Quality Coach role, through hiring me they discovered they actually wanted someone to help grow the test automation framework for the C# backend. This wasn’t my strength and we broke up on good terms.

I even presented at a conference of how I tried a quality coach role and failed at it. I put together this presentation with the help of my old boss from Campaign Monitor. I was super excited for this role back at the end of 2017.

Local Experience

Through my career coaching sessions and leading Sydney Testers over the last 4 years, I’ve spoken to many people who are looking for their first job here in Australia. They often get rejected for not having any “local experience”. I view this as a form of discrimination. It’s an excuse to not consider you as a candidate.

I can’t blame hiring managers for taking this mental shortcut. When you are dealing with 100’s of applicants and you want to get the list down to 4 to interview, you take many shortcuts to get there.

It does mean people often struggle to land that first job here. I’ve told people to invest in their online profile and networking to overcome this barrier.

Summary

I have no idea how other people over come other forms of discrimination (like agism and racism). But this blog is full of stories of things I’ve tried or heard that can help people put their best foot forward during the job hunting process.

If you’re an older disabled fat black mother working in tech good luck out there because society isn’t on your side.

What’s worked for you? Or did something backfire?

Categories
Craft Beer Critical Thinking Finances Job hunting Marketing mental health mindfulness Software Testing Technology

Buddha in Testing: Chapter 5

At the end of Buddha in Testing, Pradeep asks the reader to co-author the next chapter with him. So this blog post is my attempt at writing part of Chapter 5 of this book:

What is the chaos that surrounds you in testing?

Write now, during the pandemic a lot of people have been made redundant and are struggling to find work. I’m lucky enough that my day job isn’t all that chaotic, which is a good thing. The mobile app I’m working on is doing pretty well. I wouldn’t want to be dealing with a stressful work load on top of everything else.

What is my contribution?

I put together a software testers career cheatsheet to help anyone whose struggling to find work right now. After having career coaching sessions with a bunch of people, a few themes came to light. I got the inspiration to do a video series on those points. I found out it makes for great marketing content.

What situations have put you out of calmness?

Last weekend I recorded 7 career tip videos in one weekend. I was burnt out by Monday and a blubbery, teary mess. I couldn’t focus on work and took the day off to mentally recharge. I told twitter I was out of spoons.

How did you bring peace?

Walking around the city, listening to podcasts and shopping in second hand clothes stores was how I recharged. I even had a beer in a sports bar at lunch and watched some cricket (England vs West Indies) :

What answers are you searching for?

Satisfaction in life. I’m over software testing. I’m starting a graduate diploma in financial advice next week because I have an idea to disrupt the retirement funds industry here in Australia. Making retirement funds easier is something I can get behind.

How will you recognise the peace?

I enjoy adding value to other people. It’s a huge driver to most of what I do. I miss the constant interaction with people from my shop assistant days. If money/labour wasn’t a drawback I’d prefer to work in a supermarket over most of the testing roles I’ve had. With my history of depression, I don’t think I’d ever achieve peace but I can be more content with life.

I’m now outta steam

I could continue answering the questions but I think I’m going to leave it there. How would you answer some of these questions?

Categories
mental health Paganism Spirituality

Why Paganism appeals to me

I don’t often write about spiritual or religious ideas on this blog but I was recently listening a 99 percent invisible podcast on Yokai (Japanese Folk Lore Spirits):

And the idea of personification of spirits resonates with me. This blog post is a reflection on my spiritual beliefs.

What is Paganism

Paganism is a Christian made up word to mean non Christian, or a non believer of the Christian God/religion. It was used during the Roman Catholic expansion through Europe to describe many of the other spiritual beliefs they encountered. Witches and Wiccans are a small part of the broad Pagan label. The witch hunts weren’t a pleasant time of history.

Many Christian holidays are based on pagan traditions. Easter is a spring time fertility celebration and Yule (aka Christmas) is a feast during the dead of winter to help ward off things like disease and famine.

Paganism is an un organised religion. There’s not a big building that all Pagans congregate at like a church or sinigogue. It’s also a very flexible religion where you can shape it to your own beleif system.

Game of Thrones uses a lot of pagan rituals. Robb Stark and Talisa get married and there’s a handfasting ceremony where their hands are tied with cloth. Bran goes back in time and witnesses this handfasting wedding:

Bran Azor Ahai The Dragon Has 3 Heads Rhaegar Prophesy
https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2017/09/170646/bran-prince-who-was-promised-prophecy-finale

If God has a gender

One of the things that irked me the most about Christianity is the fatherisation of God. God is a He, Him, the Ultimate Father. Where as when I think of the magic of how life is created, the female form is generally more involved (sea horses being the exception).

If I was to give God a gender, I like to think of it as a motherly figure. God is beyond gender but many pagan traditions associate the goddess of creation with the moon. Mother nature in a way. May the goddess protect you on your journey. And all that jazz.

Anthroporfism of spirits

One of the benefits of the Yokai is the personification of things that go bump in the night. Heard a spooky noise at night? It’s a mischievous little monster. When you personify something it becomes easier to deal with.

One of the benefits of Christianity is the externalisation of life’s randomness. You don’t get as stressed about life when you can tell yourself it’s all part of God’s plan and everything happens for a reason. I prefer to think of many spirits causing these problems, not just one or two apposing forces (i.e. God vs the Devil).

Druidry

Druidry resonates with me, having the ultimate respect for nature. Why not believe there’s a wise old spirit in the big old tree that you could seek guidance from. It also means I can bring in elements of the aboriginal dream time because living in Australia there are elements of respect to country.

Anyway, if you are interested in connecting with Druids Down Under, there’s this facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/Druids-Down-Under-160405097356025/

And there is this book on Australian Druidry that I read at the beginning of the year:

Magic is preyer

When a pagan practices a magic ritual, either solo or in a group, it’s all about putting positive energy into the cosmos. Much like how a Christian might make a preyer before going to bed, the act of putting positive energy out there is a great comfort.

It’s the same sensation when joining in a group song at a sermon. When you put enough faith into it, you can feel a part of something that’s bigger than you. It’s a really up lifting experience.

Practicing magic

At the start of the year I gave myself the goal of doing 4 magic ceremonies and I haven’t done one yet. I should do a basic initiation ceremony, I would welcome the goddess of creation into my life and ask her to keep me safe and to watch over some of the people that I care about. I might even create an Amabi Yokai character to represent the water part of the magic circle.

Wiccan magic circles

A wiccan magic circle is often part of a ceremony, you can orient the circle with the 4 cardinal directions (North, East, South and West). Each direction can represent an element or a spirit. You evoke a spirit to help protect your magic circle before you start the ceremony.

For a basic enchantment they could be earth, air, fire, and water. However in the southern hemisphere we may swap things around and if you have a big ocean to the east of you might use that direction for water. You might use a candle for air or fire, a plant for earth, a feather for air. Something that has meaning to you and helps you focus.

Practice time

I’ll put some of these ideas into practice and do an initialising magic ritual one night and I’ll let you know how I go.

What’s involved with your spiritual/religious practices?