I wanted to write just a bit about Many Gods West before the experience got away from me.
To start with, I had an excellent time. In many ways it was the most comfortable and enjoyable con experience I’ve yet had. A big part of this was having all my migraine meds. Last year I didn’t know what was going on with me and I was very nearly incapacitated by pain, nausea, and disorientation that whole weekend. (If I spoke with you in 2015 and then couldn’t remember you, or if you came to my session and wondered why I couldn’t make my eyes focus or speak clearly – I was suffering serious neurological symptoms and couldn’t fix it.) This year I had my special pink glasses and a whole pharmacy – and still suffered quite a bit but overall had a much better time. Physical aches and pains were also lessened; I only needed my cane one day!
The hotel was very comfortable and the scenery was stunning. I spent a lot of time on my balcony just staring at the trees and the water and Mt. Rainier on the horizon. I can’t tell you what being near so much water does to my spirit. The best image I can reach for is those time-lapse sequences in nature documentaries where desert plants swell into life and burst open for a few short hours before crawling back underneath the dust. I’ve lived in the desert my entire life and I forget – literally forget – that there is so much water in the world, that there are vast, deep, cold sounds full of slate-dark water and that cold winds blow when the tides shift. I forget these things and when confronted with them I couldn’t stop the tears.
I got to have many interesting and exciting conversations with people. As fun as programming is to attend, in many ways its the chance to network and share ideas that is most appealing to me about conferences and conventions – and this from an introvert. I came away with lots to think about, both in terms of advancing projects that are deeply meaningful to me and improving myself and my practice.
Being around new people in new circumstances is an opportunity to see oneself in new light. I discovered that I have not nipped my gossipy nature quite as close as I thought; I still have a tendency to bring up very old hurts and injuries and stories. Even as I try to curb my words I just can’t give up the desire to jump in; the desire not to be left out (or the fear of missing out) is a big personal obstacle of mine and I got to see the ways in which I still have to improve in this regard. In some cases I found myself later regretting something I had said or implied or suggested; these instances were thankfully relatively minor but I still have much I want to improve. I also need to be a whole lot better about not talking over people, about not interrupting, about not rushing on with what I think I have to say instead of giving others the space they need to shape their own words. I apologize for taking up more verbal space than necessary. I’m deeply grateful that so many people chose to share themselves with me and I will strive to improve the way I communicate.
I may have said something that hurt or stung or dismissed you. I sincerely apologize and I want you to know that I am having some long hot baths with myself to identify my shortcomings. I am making concerted, active efforts to improve. If there was a hurt I caused, I recognize that I may not be able to correct it – not here, not now, not ever. I honor you as my teacher on the road to deeper self-knowledge and self-improvement. Please accept my apology and know that I will carry improved behavior forward in order to minimize the suffering of others and prioritize compassion individually and throughout the worlds.
Something that I learned – or rather, relearned – is also worth mentioning. See, I agonize over “not fitting” a little more than I actually need to. I worry about not fitting into a tradition, about not knowing what my tradition is, about not feeling confident that I can claim one tradition or another when I don’t fit into it very well, etc. etc. etc. And you know what? There are LOADS of other people who share exactly the same thoughts and feelings. There are lots of of other people who don’t know what to call their tradition or even how to describe their practice. They aren’t sure what label to claim because they’re not always sure that a convenient label is better than an accurate one – and finding an accurate one seems impossible. I often don’t know how to describe my polytheism, my practice, or my affiliations with traditions. I’m not alone in this and oh, that makes me feel good.
I had the chance to be confronted with information that I never knew or guessed at. I had the chance to make a decision about how I would react this information. I had the chance to feel my heart opening. I had the chance to clarify my boundaries and oh, I had the chance to see those boundaries respected. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone for understanding that I have limitations due to physical problems. Even when people don’t personally experience the same kind of disabilities I do, absolutely everyone I told about my limitations *took at face value* what I told them. This is not something that I have always experienced; invisible disabilities or disabling conditions that are not always in full force are sometimes hard for others to understand. I received nothing but honest acceptance and compassion. Thank you.
I came away from the event with a clearer picture of the many ways in which I need to grow and improve as a (human) being in a community of other (human) beings.
Oh – and the tea room was awesome.