Wednesday, March 21, 2007

O God come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me.

I'm just not used to asking for help, I guess.

For the last year and some I've been involved in a lay order of (mostly) Christians, exploring that aspect of spirituality. Most of what the mailing list winds up being is prayer requests, and I'm careful to always take a moment to honour each request. I'm not entirely comfortable with the how of this yet, so I just think about each request for a bit, and hope that something good will happen. But despite the many upheavals I've gone through in the last year, it took almost running out of money (and a couple of well-meaning whacks upside the head from dear friends of mine) before I got around to asking for help for myself.

It's not (I hope) that I'm too proud to ask for help. I just tend to think that my problems aren't big enough, or that even if they are I haven't done enough to solve them on my own to be asking anyone else to put effort into it. So I don't ask.

I ran across the following prayer today, while reading an occult-related novel which some of you may be familiar with: "O God come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me." It's from Psalm 70:1, and it's presented as "an impregnable wall for all those struggling against the onslaught of demons, an impenetrable breastplate and the sturdiest of shields." I'm always interested in that sort of thing, have been for years, so I did a little bit of digging around to find out more.

I came upon an article advocating use of the psalm under any circumstance -- indeed, all the time, as a form of centering prayer. Use it when you're worried about finances, when you're sick or distracted, when you're tempted to do the wrong thing. Use it when you just got a raise, when you're watching a beautiful sunset, eating a lovely meal. Use it at all times.

And I just have a hard time with that. Not with the concept of thinking about God/dess at all times; I'm down with that. Where I find I have issue is with the thought of asking for help. "O God come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me." That's a request for help in my book, and yeah, I'm going through some tough times, but I'll make it more-or-less on my own; it's certainly not bad enough that I need to go bugging anyone to help me out.

I went looking for the whole of Psalm 70, in the hopes that it would put things in perspective for me:

Hasten, O God, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.
May those who seek my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
turn back because of their shame.

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
"Let God be exalted!"

Yet I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay.
Still asking for help, as I read it. But also praising God/dess: "May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you". I can seek, I can rejoice, I can praise. But asking for help? I don't want to be a bother.

I don't know how to resolve this one.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Seeking for the way, or at least one of them

Been thinking spirituality a lot lately. Trying to find something that fits me. It's been difficult; more selecting the one right thing, honestly, than finding something that suits me. A lot of things seem to suit me.

Came across this lovely set of guidelines, though. Posted by Real Life Preacher, pointed out to me by the lovely Hedwyg, they really make sense:

Listen, I'm just a guy with a bad haircut from a small church you've never heard of, but I hope you'll listen to me for a moment because I have something important to say. When it comes to God, religion, spirituality, whatever you want to call it, ignore just about everything you see on television or in movies. If you are serious about making a spiritual connection with a power greater than ourselves, try the following suggestions:

Let go of big things and embrace little things.

Ignore loud things and listen for quiet things.

Put aside obvious things and seek out hidden things.

Forget easy things and learn hard and ancient things.

Stop saving your life and start losing it.

Let your thinking and believing become doing and serving.

Quit trying to arrive and become at home on the journey.

Lose your road maps and find a wise guide to walk with you.

Love the idea of God with all your heart, soul, mind, body, life, work, and strength. And while you're at it, try loving other people as much as you love yourself. You won't be able to do either of these, but trying will be very good for you.

Do these things all of your days and forever. Do these things and live.
Regardless of what path I wind up deciding to follow -- or paths, for that matter -- they all seem to embrace the same general set of guidelines. So perhaps in a way it doesn't matter, as long as I'm doing the good thing.

What's the good thing? The basic rule I've tried for years to follow is don't hurt people any more than you can manage. It's a good start, but I've realized that it needs a corollary: help as you can. From helping the neighbor catch her dog to sending food and clothing to people in some faraway place who need it, it's what I do anyway, and it's the good thing to do.

Yes, it's pretty much Wicca's An ye harm none, do what ye will; it's also Christianity's And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31 RSV) and the Hindu This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which if done to thee would cause thee pain (Mahabharata 5:15:17 c. 500 BCE). It's the Golden Rule, the Ethic of Reciprocity.

So it's a matter of which expression of this is the right one for me. And honestly if I keep on the way I have been, I could be flailing about this for the rest of my life.

I intended to go to church (the local Episcopal church, specifically, as I haven't found an Independant Catholic church in the area) but entirely failed to get up until well after it was over. I'll try to go tomorrow, and with luck that'll work better since I won't have lost an hour overnight. It's been a long time since I've seriously considered Christianity but I have Hedwyg and Mother Laura, among others, to thank for it. Mother Laura's lovely inclusive liturgy, especially, has helped me reconcile my childhood view of an unloving, authoritarian and, eventually, irrelevant God with a God/dess who loves me and takes care of me. Some of Mother Laura's work:

And a piece on Mary as priest:

Somehow the simple concept that the Christian God might just be a Goddess as well makes things a lot simpler for me.

I've also been looking at Hinduism, with thanks to and help from Devichan. Lord Ganesh, remover (and occasional creator) of obstacles, gateway to the rest of the Hindu pantheon. 'No one shall come to Shiva and Parvati save through me'? Just gets me thinking...and I rather like the thought of a portly, sweets-loving, cheerful deity, the personification of Om, whose chosen mount is a mouse. Got a sense of humour, that one. And a temper, but it doesn't seem to ever last long.

I have a pretty bowl I picked up a while ago, and since I can't draw worth anything much I drew an Om on a sticky note instead of trying to draw Ganesh, and I stuck the sticky note to the bowl, and I've been putting candy in it for Ganesh. I know he likes the stuff. And I've been chanting one of his chants, when I have the attention span. I'm going to look up the local Hindu temple and see how they'd feel about me stoppping by; I can't imagine they'd object.

I self-identify as 'pagan' in the little blurb at the top of this journal; I'm less and less sure it fits me, though. I suppose I could try to find a local circle or at least a couple of folks who play the same way. Or I could hang out with Tim, which I do some anyway, but these days it seems like if we talk about religion, it's Christianity. We'll see.

In any case, the journey's going to be interesting no matter where (or if) I wind up. And no matter where (or if) that is, I think it's gonna be okay as long as I keep doing the good thing.

Tough night

Had a tough night last night.

I missed two days of work this week, due to leg problems. (They're getting better, albeit slowly.) I did go back to work Friday, determined to stay the whole day and earn some money -- two days doesn't put me behind, quite, but it certainly is going to make it harder to catch up on the credit cards. Fridays we usually get the option of leaving early or staying, and I decided to stay.

And wound up leaving a half hour early anyway, when there was nothing but nothing to do. Not even cleaning -- I'd spent most of the day making sure bolts of fabric were in the right place. So I left, feeling vaguely guilty but determined to enjoy the extra time, or at least do something useful with it.

And (foolishly) wound up stopping at the Humane Society on the way home. I didn't come home with a cat, but it was a close thing. Her name is Ebony, she's lovely lithe and black, a bit shy but friendly, licked my fingers thoroughly, and has extra toes on her front paws. And I fell in love.

I can't bring her home; I already have two more cats than I'm allowed to, and, frankly, two more cats than I can afford to. I can't afford to sponsor her so that someone else can adopt her more inexpensively. I can't really even afford to donate canned cat and dog food, which they're in desperate need of. I'm getting suck of hrowing away every request for a donation that comes in the mail -- granted, most of them I wouldn't give to anyway, but I can't and I hate that the decision has been made for me.

I'd think about volunteering at the Humane Society, but I know better. I already have two more cats than etc. and I know myself.

So I came home feeling grumpy and helpless andfairly ill as well, since on top of everything else I have a cold. Sat down in front of the computer for a while before heading over to Tim and Ray's, and wound up sitting there longer than I'd intended. And then got to watch Tim pulling out of the parking lot without so much as a 'I'm going out to X, do you want to come along?'

I got a little grumpy at myself for that. Yes, we're working towards being a triad. Right now? We're not. Tim and Ray are primary partners. I'm secondary in the reationship. Even if we were all primaries, I can't expect the two of them to spend every moment with me, any more than either of them would expect the same.

And besides which, I hadn't entirely decided if I wanted company at all. But the decision had been taken out of my hands and I'm sick of that.

Well, I thouht about it a bit and realized that Tim had gone to pick Ray up from work. Which is fine, no need for me to come along (though he's invited me along on errands often enough). I'd just head over once they got home.

Half an hour passed, then an hour. No sign of them. I finally called Ray's cell phone, only to discover they'd gone out to dinner. Without me.

And you know? I can't be upset at them for that. I wasn't upset at them, really, I just felt horribly left out, and alone, and then really grumpy at myself for being upset, and ... and and and.

Part of the problem, I knew, was low blood sugar; it'd been a while since lunch (and they were out eating, weren't they and...I stopped myself there, but it wasn't easy.) I moped around the kitchen for a while, discovered that since we nearly always eat at Tim and Ray's that I have really nothing around to cook (and isn't that another grumpitude, that he won't come over to my place, I have to go to him...), and decided that to heck with it, I was gonna have popcorn for dinner, and nutrition could wait until tomorrow.

I was out of popcorn.

I coul cry, or I could go shopping. So I went shopping and cried, at least a little. On the way I stopped at Hobby Lobby to look for plant stands -- did I mention I hate not having disposable income? And this is me, who cheers myself up by buying things. Not expensive things; just small ones.

Can't even afford that.

Went to Target, wiping my eyes. On the way conceived of a plan to make a plant stand -- there are those 2x4s someone put next to the dumpster, aren't there? That cheered me a little, enough that I managed to plan a healthier dinner than I might have while in Target, enough that I managed to avoid buying potato chips to cheer myself up.

So, thus fortified, I head home. I plan to leave Tim and Ray alone for the evening -- I feel that I've been over there too much, surely they need some time alone, and anyway I'm awfully hungry and dinner will take a while. Perhaps I can check on those 2x4s while the water is boiling. Instead I leave the groceries in the car and walk right up to their place, thence to burst into tears and apologize all over poor Tim.

Who to his credit doesn't apologize for going out to dinner (Ray did, later, but that's Ray and he'll apologize for anything you let him) because he hadn't done anything wrong. I apologized to him, actually, and told them both that I'm having a really hard time with things sometimes -- I'm trying to figure out who I am, I'm trying to work out how I fit in wih the two of them, I'm redoing my etire life forchrissakes -- and got hugs and support. I do love them, and it helps so, so much.

And headed back home. I needed to eat, and I knew if I stayed much longer someone would feed me something and dammit, I'm grown up enough to be able to feed myself and I've been a bother anyway. On the way I checked for the 2x4s -- alas, gone, but I'm sure I can scrounge up something in the way of wood. Started the water for the pasta, poured heavy cream into a saucepan for the sauce. Added onion flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, and, after some hesitation, tarragon. Let the water heat and the proto-sauce simmer and set about getting the place in shape. Empty the dishwasher, refill it with dirties, handwash a few things ... deal with the mail ... clean up a couple magazines from the floor ... feed the rats ... oh hell.

Siegfried's dead. Cold, stiff. Likely while I was at work; certainly Reinhart had been in there with his dead brother for several hours.

I very nearly melted down right there. But I couldn't just leave him. I found a hammer to dig with, took him outside, and buried him in the flower garden. I still need to clean out the cage for Reinhart. I don't know, yet, if I'll be getting him another brother. On the one hand, he'll be lonely...on the other, I really haven't been paying them enough attention, and I don't want to do that to another rat.

On the gripping hand, if I rescue a rat from the Humane Society he'll still have a better life than he would elsewhere. I don't know.

I left the hammer on the porch and washed my hands. Started the water and the sauce again, put in the tortellini. Stirred the sauce and wished I'd had some chicken to put in. Did a little more straightening while things cooked. Eventually, divided tortellini and sauce between a bowl for now and a plastic container for later, and ate. It was very, very good. Though it really needed some chicken, too.

I will start keeping more food around the house. I need to not depend on Tim for meals all the time.

I cheered myself with a bowl of popcorn and a favourite book. It helped...some. But it was a long, awful evening and I came out of it feeling less strong than previously. I don't know.