Attempting Murder

It’s All In My Head

I am done with my Jerk Brain.  For forty years I allowed it to sit in my mind, eating away at my self-esteem, mental health and happiness.  This past April, I turned forty-one and decided that I didn’t want to play host to that parasite any longer.  It’s a decision borne of annoyance and desperation, but also of weariness.  The idea that I’ll be eighty-years-old and still dealing with a voice that tells me I am fat and ugly and stupid and a waste of space is exhausting.

Evicting Jerk Brain isn’t the goal.  I’ve tried in years past to mitigate the harm it has done.  I’ve turned down the volume on its voice.  I’ve redirected its energies.  I’ve engaged in endless efforts to soften its vitriol.  All of these measures have been taken under a belief that Jerk Brain serves a purpose.  For as long as it has been with me I have treated it as my very own Jiminy Cricket—albeit an insect whose guidance owes more to a school of unwarranted cruelty rather than kind correction.

None of my previous attempts have mitigated Jerk Brain’s nastiness for long.  Always, it would convince me that ignoring all the harsh criticism was proof that I was a bad person.  Jerk Brain, it would insist, is just trying to help me become a better person and here I am, being an ungrateful, petulant child in the face of that help.  And I would capitulate, allowing a voice that most assuredly wants me to die have room again in my life.

Breaking that cycle of abuse has to start with the acceptance of one solid fact: Jerk Brain does not have my best interests at heart.  It’s an easy enough realization, harder still to embrace and use as a platform for change.  I am required to reject outright any of Jerk Brain’s comments.  More than that: I have to murder the fucker.

So I set out to come up with a plan for killing off my most intimate enemy.  I need more than self-help psychology and affirmations.  I was going to call in some spiritual help in ending the putrescent Clarence once and for all.  It was time to take my relationship with Hekate to another level.

Hexing My Jerk Brain

I’ve been working with Hekate for about a year now.  I wanted to move beyond my pagan relation to the world and into practicing witchcraft.  My practice and study have been focused on my sewing, and the book I am writing about sewing and magick.  I’ve consecrated my sewing machines, imbued my pins and needles with magical intent, and wove ritual into items I’ve made.  Beyond that, and the regular smudging of my home, I haven’t cast spells.  And yet, here I was, drawing up a plan to cover a year of regular hexing my Jerk Brain, as well as spells to build up myself, to become the person I wanted to be.

It is an ambitious undertaking for someone with little experience under her (imaginary) belt.  But that is my Jerk Brain, talking, and I’m not interested in listening.  I am a woman desperate to free her life of a poisonous toad.  What else do desperate women do, if not acts that look impossible from the outside?

Hexing is a touchy subject in pagan circles.  More than one person has brought up the “rule of three” when I started outlining my plan.  Honestly that rule has never figured into my belief.  It’s a concept that doesn’t make sense to me and I’ve never seen it in action in my life or worldview.  I’ve found that my feelings on magick, hexing and its usefulness  are in line with Seo Helrune’s in their blog post “A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal” (parts 1 and 2).  I won’t expand here what has been so eloquently put there.  Click on the links if you want to read more.  Even if I abided by the rule, if ever there was an entity that deserved hexing, it would be Jerk Brain.  It is a matter of magickal self-defense at this point.

After some research and meditation I wrote out the plan, titled “A Year and a Day” (because “How to Kill a Jerk Brain in About Thirteen Months” seemed a little wordy).  For the next year I will perform a hex on my Jerk Brain at the dark of the moon.  On the full moon there will be a more constructive ritual/spell because I need to focus on building up as well.

I cast my first hex last night.  It was a rather low-key affair.  I don’t call the quarters or invoke lords or ladies.  I don’t speak in rhyme, or out loud, even.  As an introvert pagan my spellwork happens primarily in my mind.  The focus of the spell was identifying Jerk Brain as my enemy, aided by a drawing of a blocky, snarling monster surrounded by swirls of black.  This image was burned with rue (for exorcism), flower of the hour (to heighten the speed of the spell) and a dried snapdragon husk (for its resemblance to a skull and thus the death of Jerk Brain).

The only altar image present was the Death card from my Herbal Tarot deck to amplify the change I am attempting.  Later I might add a Hekate image, to reinforce her presence.  The altar is a family affair, constantly shifting with items added or removed by any member of the household, not to mention the occasional visit by the cats who find it a perfect place to perch while looking out the window.  Because of this, I can’t really have an elaborate set up.

The whole ritual took an hour, from the start of assembling the herbs for the incense, to the end when I snuffed out the candles, made some tea and headed to bed.  This will be key to maintaining the spellwork over so many months. Anything that requires hours of preparation or participation won’t work with my schedule.

I have twelve more months to build on what I started last night.  I go into this knowing that what I have set out to do will take time.  Jerk Brain won’t be gotten rid of overnight.  It will reanimate and lurch back into my mind to harry me once again.  That’s the reason for the year long ritual.  With each month I will build on the spell, increasing its potency and deadliness.  Every time I say “You are not welcome here” and burn Jerk Brain’s image it will be easier to tell it to fuck off between spells.  Every time I call on Hekate to help me overcome my sadistic inquisitor, I will feel stronger.

Therapy is useful.  Medication helps immensely.  And where those two fall short, I have witchcraft in my arsenal.

 

 

 

Going with the Flow

Yesterday was Mabon, the Autumn Equinox, a time of contemplation and thanksgiving.  I was going to walk to the library and work on a project for a client.  I was going to do all the dishes that have piled up and tackle the to do list that had grown longer every day.  I was going to have a bonfire to celebrate the sabbat.  Instead I slept.

I didn’t intend to sleep.  Not at first.  The past week I’ve been spectacularly busy.  My done list has been filled will several entries each day.  I’ve managed to keep the house clean.  At night I would climb into bed and fall asleep excited about what I was going to be working on the next day.  I’d wake up, sleepy, but able to get Ben’s lunch packed and walk him to school.  It was proof, I was sure, that this whole four month plan was the right one.

Wednesday, though, saw an interruption to that productive flow.  I was worn down.  I decided to keep things low-key, to keep working but not push myself.  A reading and writing day would be just what I needed to keep moving forward, if at a slower pace than I was accustomed.

I polished a short story, ready now for feedback.  I finished up a blog post for next week and got started on another.  I even fit in reading, making some headway into a book that is proving a challenge to get through.  The entire day was a struggle.  I downed copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake.  By the end of the day, despite the work I had done, I was exhausted and cranky and not satisfied.  There were dishes in the sink.  There were items on my to do list that hadn’t been checked off.

My anxiety went into frantic hamster mode.  Doing things my own way is all good and fine, but I have to actually do things.  I have to work!  I have to justify this experiment!  I had to shake off this low energy and get back to productivity!  It went on and on, flagellating me with the determination to get! things! done!

Instead, I slept.  I thought about how I had traded the anxiety of churning out inventory for conventions for that of marking off a to do list.  I’m supposed to be living by my own life patterns, and yet, within the first week I’ve fallen into another trap of “going with the flow”.  This emphasis on making every moment count monetarily is so ingrained in my psyche that it is near impossible to root out.

So I slept.  I sat in the same chair I had occupied the day before, reading and writing and struggling against somnolence.  I pulled several throws over my body, and I slept.  I knew I’d lose the whole day.  I’m not a thirty minute napper.  I’m the kind of napper who sleeps for hours and wakes up questioning what just happened.  I slept from 10 am to 3 pm, waking up a half an hour before the kids got home from school.

nap meme
Me in meme form.

I can’t say that I had some magical epiphany and now everything is all better.  I can’t even say that I felt completely rested.  I ended up going to bed that night earlier than usual.  But what I can say is that the world didn’t end just because I decided to sleep instead of work.  I can say that I gave myself permission to explore a different flow: one without judgement that allows me to find my own rhythm.

Today I am still tired.  The exhaustion lurks behind my eyelids.  It is a companion that has been with me most of my life.  I acknowledge its presence.  I acknowledge that it is a tool I can use to shape a flow of loving kindness.  And I tell it, “Not today.”  Then I make myself another bottle of caffeine and get to work.

 

2015: The Year of Slightly Less Poverty

So 2015 was supposed to be the year I returned to sewing and started living a more creative life.

How did that work out?

More or less okay.  I overestimated how well I was, thinking that my mental health was fine now that I was on medication. That wasn’t really the case, though.  I spent most of 2015 battling my anxiety, at times unable to leave the house.  Since I was working from home, that wasn’t a deal breaker.  But it made getting supplies, sending off packages and the like more difficult.  Not impossible, but requiring a greater amount of scheduling and having things go right.

The depression was a bigger problem to contend with.  It would sap me of motivation and energy.  Coupled with the insomnia, I had to fight for every productive moment for the first half of the year.  It has only been in the last two months that I have found myself more often stable than not.

On the financial front, things fared about the same.  My grand plans for a limited number of large conventions hit speed bumps.  Two of them costing me money.  Those pretty much knocked the wind out of me economically speaking.  It’s only been in the last month that I have caught up on my bills.

But you aren’t here for value updates on how the year went.  You want the nitty gritty.  Just how much money did I make on this quest to earn a living by my creative endeavors?

When it is all said and done I made a gross income of $3,858.86.  My expenses equaled $3,976.53.  So my year ended in the red by about $120.  Up until I paid for my Anime Midwest booth I was in the black for six months of the year, though.  Not great, but not catastrophic.

How did I make my money?

Commissions $1,185.00
Etsy Sales $759.21
Direct Sales* $1,475.50
Other** $407.46

With that $120 in the hole sitting there, the question some might ask is: Why are you going to keep this up in 2016?  I’m asking a different question: Having made almost $1,500 in convention and direct sales with two awful events as part of the mix, how much more could I earn vending at two larger, more established events this year.


* The include sales at conventions as well as sales to people who contacted me directly rather than through Etsy.

** Stuff sold on E-bay, E-book formatting work, etc.

Parenting with Anxiety

This morning I was reading Facebook on my phone when a plastic bowl sailed past me and smashed into the dining table.  “Ben!”  I shouted, more out of fear and startlement than anger.  As soon as the word was out of my mouth, I regretted it. Ben crumpled into a sorry, sobbing heap, frightened by my outburst.

The loud noise and movement had triggered my anxiety, setting off the fight or flight response in my body.  Even after Ben and I hugged it out and he was all smiles once again it took a while for my nerves to settle.

The whole incident lasted all of two minutes, but it happens often in our house.  Sometimes I can go a week without an outburst.  Sometimes when my anxiety is close to the surface, as it has been the past few days, they happen more frequently.  Ben is often the target of the startled yell.  He is an exuberant child, who moves constantly, even in his sleep.

He runs and jumps, bounces off of the furniture, walls, people.  At meal times he won’t sit at the table.  Instead he does headstands on the couch or planks with his hands on the table and his feet balanced on the back of his chair.  His father is pretty much a walking playground which he scales and jumps on without warning.

I love Ben’s energy.  I love the physicality of it and his fearlessness.  At the same time I can’t stand it.  Loud, sudden movements make me flinch and set me on edge.  Being jumped on makes me cringe.  I’m always on guard for a blow to the body.  Ben doesn’t mean to hurt me.  But he is energetic and clumsy at times.  No matter how many times we explain that he doesn’t roughhouse with me, he will forget in his excitement.

Rather than dampen that enthusiasm, or worse, punish him for how he interacts with the world, I take great care to manage my condition.  I am on medication to help with my depression that in turn lessens the intensity of my anxiety.  I am in therapy as well.  For the day-to-day, minute-to-minute stuff, though, I have struggled to find solutions.  I’ve had to learn how to walk away and be okay with that.  Telling Stephan that I have to step away has been the best coping mechanism I’ve learned.*

Finding  activities I can do with my son that doesn’t involve jumping around has helped.  We play with Legos, a lot.  We read books.  We cuddle.   We sit in the hall closet and play Minecraft on the tablet.  I try in as many ways as possible to let him know that I love him and he is not at fault for my current state of mind.  I try each day to focus on the good times, to be patient with myself and him, to know that I am working on getting better.

With all of that, however, I still struggle with the belief that I am a bad mother, that I am scarring my kids.  I am honest with them about what I am going through: that I am struggling with anxiety and depression.  They know I take medication to help, that I see a doctor.  They might not understand fully what it is that is going on, but they see I am doing what I can to get better.  I hope that helps to counter the times when my issues get the better of me.

Only time will tell.


*Though it took time and comes with its own guilty baggage.   It’s hard to admit that you need a break from your children, when they are just doing what comes naturally to them.

Border Patrol

Last night I went to the local Changeling LARP*.  It had been a high anxiety day, and I almost stayed home.  Even the first half hour I was there I contemplated bolting to the car.  But it was cold out there, and I had gone through the effort to put on a corset, and my hair was looking particularly cute.  By the end of the evening I was glad I had gone.  I had a good time.  I ate cupcakes and meatballs.  And I got lots of good role play in.  Being able to be someone other than myself for a few hours has always been helpful in ways that I can expound upon later. Today, though, I’m spending time reflecting on two incidents that happened at game that highlight one of the issues I’ve been dealing with lately.

My social anxiety fluctuates.  Sometimes it is high, and I have a hard time leaving the house, or even letting people I don’t know into it.  Sometimes it has eased up enough that I can run errands and attend events with little stress.  But there is another aspect to it that involves touching.  I am physically demonstrative in ways: I talk with my hands, I am affectionate with Stephan out in public, I love to cuddle with my kids.  But I find touch with anyone outside of a small circle of people to be uncomfortable.

This goes beyond sexually motivated touching.  The pat on the ass, or the shoulder massage that creepers use as an excuse to touch targets.  Those bad touches are universally uncomfortable for the recipient.  I mean the personal space invasions that are part of our culture, most specifically hugging.  With the group of gamers we played with last night this is a regular form of physical contact.  And none of the huggers first ask permission before they swoop in, arms wide, for some physically enhanced social contact.   And thanks to social conditioning, people go along with it because it would be rude to not.**

The first half an hour of game, I was approached for a hug from a regular.  Previously I have acquiesced to his embrace, but I couldn’t this time.  The game room was small and crowded and I knew I would have issues if I didn’t firmly establish my boundaries.  As he came at me, I spoke up.  “I’m not really a hugging person,” I told him.  He seemed to understand and offered a high-five instead, which I found reasonable.  Of course later my words came back to bite me in the rear.

Later, as I was leaving game, I gave my friend Chrissy a hug.  Reasonable Regular saw this and I found myself having to explain to him that there are exceptions to my no-hugging.  An awkward situation was made worse when he took it to the place of “Oh, I get it, you just don’t like me.”  Even though he was joking, I found it infuriating that 1) I felt I had to explain myself, and 2) he seemed unable to accept that there are distinctions and levels when it comes to social interactions.  If I say I’m not a hugging person surely that might not apply, say, to my husband or children.  So why is it unreasonable that I might have different levels of touch when it comes to others?

Later, I had to deal with another regular.  While sitting in a circle during mass combat, he tried to cut in front of me.  When informed that, actually, it was my turn, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Okay, you can take your turn.”  Around the circle of gamers I heard snickers and laughter.  Oh how funny!  How cute!

The shoulder pat is the snot-nosed, sagging-diaper baby brother of the head pat.  Insecure men—and it is always men—use it to get their patronizing misogynism on but still maintain plausible deniability.  Having been on the receiving end of such I knew exactly what had just happened.  As did the regular.  As did all the others in the room.

My feet firmly planted on the ground of “You Fucking Did Not,” I looked down at my shoulder, swiveled my eyes to his face and stared at him for a long, uncomfortable second.  Then I turned my back to him and addressed the storyteller.   Suddenly it wasn’t cute anymore.  The circle of others acted like our personal live audience and provided a collective “Oooooohhhhh!”  Once I had finished my conversation with the storyteller I turned once again to my would be belittler.  “Okay, you can have your turn now.”  I patted his shoulder and turned away from him again.

Like my social anxiety, my ability to maintain my boundaries is ever changing.  Tomorrow I may find myself unable to speak up.  I might feel obligated to accept another hug.  I might find my borders crumbling again under enforced niceness.  However, there are at least two gamers who now know where they stand with me.


*LARP = Live Action Role Play. Where you dress up as your character, only to end the evening standing around in a crowd to resolve mass combat.

**Oddly enough, in game, if a character refuses to shake hands, no one bats an eye and accepts it, no questions asked.  Of course game has rules about touching.  Go figure.