It’s been more than a year since I last made a post here. Sometimes I think about this blog – not so much about making a post, but just about the fact that it’s here and that I have it, and about how I don’t like to keep things I don’t use, and then about whether I should keep the blog if I don’t use it, and then about how it might be more work to get rid of it than to keep it, and then I just forget about it because making a decision seems harder than not.
Like many of us, I’ve been busy.
I hadn’t planned on traveling to India this year, which is just as well. Last fall’s pilgrimage wiped out my financial resources. I did not anticipate having the means to make a second trip so quickly after the first but it sorta worked out and by sorta I mean that I pretended to be more able to accomplish the feat than I was probably able to. While there, both my cats suffered health set-backs, only one of which was entirely unexpected. The older one had had chronic health concerns for many years and, although they were successfully managed, I knew she was in the final stages of her life. I did not know that she would take a bad turn in the handful of days that I’d be out of the country, but she did. I arrived back and was able to spend a blessed final six weeks with her, even though no one on the ground expected that she’d last even long enough for me to return home. She did. She did. I’m nearing the anniversary of her passing.
(The other cat, thankfully, is doing quite well although arthritis has made him waddle more and leap less. Now he’s the one on medication, poor lamb. )
Something about WP changed well over a year ago (maybe 2 at this point) and I wasn’t able to successfully access it on the computer+browser I was accustomed to, and I never quite changed my habits enough to get into the rhythm of updating with a different device. I guess that’s part of the silence, one of those minute obstacles that doesn’t seem like such a big deal but when my rhythm is to update in a specific way and that way is blocked, the natural flow that would lead me to posting doesn’t happen, and so I don’t really come here that often.
Additionally, something occurred to me fairly recently about this blog and about my online presence in general – or lack thereof. Who originally told me I needed one? Why did it seem so very important that I “put myself out there”? In pagan and polytheist circles, we often go through waves of various platforms being popular, and we have a tendency to congregate within and then vacate online landscapes – I think mostly because we have a desire to remain in touch with people we feel close to, and because various online environments stop being useful or appealing. My online and off-line pagan life grew up together, by and large; the internet as we popularly know it was just getting warmed up in the mid 90s when I was discovering pagan chat rooms and Geocities websites and yup even a bunch of mailing lists (so many mailing lists).
My first pagan community as such was Livejournal and similar outlets (unless I feel like counting mailing lists and I don’t, because I didn’t really participate vocally), and I actually still know several people who I met back in those bad old days. And we migrated from there to…where? Where did we go? Different places. I can’t even remember all the platforms we’ve used to congregate online, to find each other and communicate. So it just felt natural to get a blog when we all got blogs. Polytheist with a blog – it’s such a given that it’s basically a cliche.
But it’s more than that – there’s also this deeply ingrained impulse (or self-flagellating psychological death march, if you like) to “put myself out there”, to “make myself available”, to “be visible” that is at the heart of the online marketing machine, a machine that I’ve been a reluctant part of for a long time. I have to work very hard to tie all my online presences together – public Facebook, Etsy store, Etsy store Facebook, published works, blog, etc. – and keep them fresh and updated so that people can “find me”, with the assumption that if I’m easy to find, people will choose to give me money. And I do, in fact, like having money because I do, in fact, like being able to pay rent and buy cat food. But what I don’t like is treating myself as a product and treating my community as resources to be exploited for my future gain. The psychological recoil from this is to run away, to hide, to hate myself and my work and the things I create.
And that’s not really great either, not for anyone involved.
The online marketing machine is not really any different than the dot com bubble that we saw bursting many years ago. So many people were in such an awful hurry to buy up all the virtual real estate they could imagine because there was gold in them thar domain names. And for an extremely small number, there was. For everyone else – for basically everyone, that is – there was absolutely nothing. Today, we’re encouraged to become our own brand, to commodify ourselves, because there’s nothing left to sell. There’s no other way to get rich, no other way to get into the market. It’s the perversion of self-empowerment – “you’re so valuable that people should pay to have you!”. And none of it’s real. An extremely small number might leverage personal charisma, extremely long hours, some purchased ad space, and a lot of random luck into richest – but basically everyone will ultimately fail to create meaningful yield from virtual value. Because it’s nothing. It’s the imaginary cloth sold to the kind in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
I guess what I’m saying is – while there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for any number of people to create and maintain an online presence for themselves and their work (and indeed, it’s an essential part of the job for many people!), I feel like somewhere down the line I failed to distinguish whether or not I was a public or private person – that is, about what parts of my life and work were to be publicly accessible, and how, and where. I came at things with a very market(ing) driven perspective, because – like it or not – that was what I spent an awful lot of time in my professional life doing, and because online personal branding has become such a pervasive capitalistic impulse that it’s going beyond ubiquitous into hegemonic. And even though I’ve always disliked it and resisted it and fought against it, I haven’t really found an effective strategy for creating a balanced approach to addressing the need for having a professional online presence and feeling like I’m (usually, hopefully) staying away from the more exploitative aspects of trying to support my writing and art.
Which is all to say that I’m really quite shit at having “an online presence” but that there are actual reasons why and not just that I’m very private and forgetful and neglectful of tasks that I don’t want to do and don’t enjoy marketing myself and I suppose it’s more accurate to think of myself as a private polytheist who sometimes teaches and writes rather than a public polytheist, although all these reasons are important too. But I want to know why I’m shit at maintaining an online presence; it’s not good enough just to observe that I am and to know that there are things bubbling beneath the surface.
So I’ve been spending a lot of time this year breathing, just doing some simple meditation, which has been very good.
I’ve also been spending time observing the tides of emotion, which has also been good but not nearly as much fun.
I also got a new sewing machine, which as been quite exciting. I’ve been sewing, well, basically my whole life but I’ve never had a new-new sewing machine. As a teen I just used my mom’s; after my grandmother died I glommed onto hers. A number of years ago I found a basic White model at a thrift store (I know, right??!) and have used that as well. In college I was able to buy a deeply discounted floor model serger, but as far as just straight up sewing machines go – I’ve never had a new one.
I got a modern machine, an electronic/computer-driven one (as opposed to a mechanical one, which unfortunately I can no longer get in the kind of quality I want). I’m very happy with it (it’s a Juki!!), and the elderly Kenmore now gets to go into a dignified retirement. I kind of wish I had gotten a modern machine years ago, but honestly I wasn’t ready. Modern machines are different, and I’m someone for whom change is not easy, especially when it comes to changing something as intimate as a sewing machine (I sew frequently and know my machines very well).
Over the past couple years I’ve made a ton of draw-string tarot bags, and I need to photograph them for the Etsy store. There are actually lots of things I need to photograph for Etsy, but you know what? I hate taking photos of things. I really don’t like it at all. That’s why I never update the shop. I made tons and tons of things, constantly – and never update the shop. I hate taking photos. Nothing looks good. I’ve made like a few dozen bags out of really lovely reclaimed linen fabric and none of them have been listed. I really thought I’d do that this year, but I’ve actually been very busy sewing tons of other things – andnot even on the new machine, since she came into my life only fairly recently.
I sewed something like 300 cloth masks early in the year. That’s nothing compared to the people who sewed thousands and thousands. I sold a few, I gave most away. I still have fabric for a bunch and need to make up a bunch more.
I started quilting, something that I thought I’d never try. I’m feeling real glad I did now that my apartment is frigid.
And yes, I want to make tons more tarot bags, but I need to get a bunch of these sold, which means I need to photograph them – hahahahah sob.
And so I spend time observing the tides of my attention, and breath, and emotion.