April 2022 Update: Shifting

I started out the month being very tempted to write a post about how my female leadership role model is an orca just so I could have plausible deniability if it went over poorly (April Fool’s Day). It has become increasingly clear to me that the city of pigs that Socrates references in the Republic (before he’s interrupted by someone who wants the finer things) looks a lot like orca, beluga, and other types of cetacean pods. This is their world, I realized while watching a nature documentary at the end of March. Some humans have just decided to screw everything up because they do not realize that Plato puts them first. The nature documentary, in case you are wondering, is the NatGeo Secrets of the Whales series. It is not the only cetacean-related documentary I have seen in recent months.

The Weekend I Reorganized My Living Room

How the month began: On the day of March 31, I had an extreme craving for pho. During my lunch break, I walked a few blocks to one of the neighborhood’s grocery stores, where I bought Thai basil, cilantro, green onions, and mung bean sprouts. That evening, I had no idea where any of my pho spices had gone. So … I made a pho-like dish by adding Five Spice powder to broth. It was so delicious — slurped all of it up while watching Picard. Afterward, I finished up a blog post here.

I had April 1st off and slept in until 8:15 AM. The morning involved prayer, mild tidying, balancing my personal finance spreadsheet/paying bills/doing taxes (got $8 from the federal government, owed $9 to state), cooking, and Zooming. That afternoon, I poured my dresser contents onto my bed and re-folded everything while listening to the SHWEP and a podcast about current issues in Africa. (Part of this refolding/reorganizing involved dealing with all of my socks that have holes in them. My socks always get holes in them.) I put on some ambient Endel. The general tidying took so long that I didn’t even get around to reorganizing my Tupperware cabinet, so I pushed that to April 2. In the evening, I drank a red rooibos frothed tea while reading Proclus’ Platonic Theology in French. I added some stale marshmallows to the tea. It was an experience.

I put a book dart in to mark the paragraph beginning at II.56.20 because I was like 🤩. Let’s all go for the One, yes?

Donc chaque être, en rentrant dans ce qu’il y a d’ineffable dans sa propre nature, découvre le symbole du Père de tout l’univers; tous les êtres par nature le vénèrent et, par le moyen de la marque mystique qui appartient à chacun, s’unissent à lui, en dépouillant leur propre nature et en mettant tout leur cœur à ne plus être que la marque de dieu et ne plus participer que de dieu, à cause du désir qu’ils ont de cette nature inconnaissable et de la Source du Bien; et lorsqu’ils sont remontés jusqu’à cette cause-là, ils sont dans le calme, et ils mettent un terme au travail d’enfantement et à l’amour que tous les êtres possèdent, par nature pour la Bonté inconnaissable, ineffable, imparticipable, et surabondante.

Starting in late February, I had a caged-bird feeling that distracted me during prayer sometimes: I wanted to rearrange my living room, including my shrines, and my mind would race about what could happen. I kept putting off making changes because some of the dependencies involved purchasing a corner shelf to pull both of my non-Chthonic main shrines into one (prompted both by the logical outcomes of The Soul’s Inner Statues that I want to implement for myself and by conversations with other polytheists online) — if I couldn’t make every single change at once, I reasoned, then what was the point?

On April 2, I vacuumed. My girlfriend wasn’t coming up for the weekend, so I had a lot of downtime. I had planned to marathon-read, but as I stood in my front room before showering, I thought — why don’t I just try it out now, see what I can do? I could always switch it back. I didn’t even know if I’d like my desk facing out into the room — what if it just looked strange?

I put on a face mask and held off on showering. Because I have a dust mite allergy and moving furniture involves dust, I had to protect my lungs. My front room was temporarily in a great state of chaos.

This was the third stage, which involved taking everything out of my bookcase.

As time progressed, my skin started to become itchy, so I worked faster. One complication: I needed to wake my cat so she would move out of the chair near where the bookshelf was located, as I wanted to be sure it wouldn’t fall in her direction while I moved it. I bribed her with butter. She accepted.

While I worked, I dusted.

This photo is from when everything was mostly finished. (I still hadn’t moved the sacred image of Sulis.) My girlfriend has a printer here (a Canon), and I moved that over to a small table by her weekend desk. I put some more books on the file cabinet. The white-out rectangle is a personal photo of my girlfriend and me plus a photo booth series with people at my college reunion. My girlfriend doesn’t like having photos of her online (although she tells me that if we get engaged/married, she may make an exception), and I don’t have my college acquaintances’ consent to share theirs.

After my dust mite allergy diagnosis — I was waitlisted for an appointment a year after I moved into my current apartment and got full-body hives, and I had had a plethora of weird, mild symptoms that I didn’t understand for years before that, like randomly crying beneath dusty ceiling fans — I bought a washable face mask for cleaning. This was before the pandemic, and my options for something reusable and eco-friendly were practically nonexistent. My first washable face mask left a lot to be desired. No — it was actually really terrible, and I just dealt with it. I’m very happy that the cloth face masks (specifically my Enro ones) are so good for cleaning. One reason I’m still masking at my gym, apart from being skittish about COVID-19 still (which I am), is that my gym is carpeted, and dust mites breed at truly astonishing rates in gyms due to the plethora of shed human skin and the sweat-generated humidity levels.

I take it from my cat Yoyo’s closed eyes that she approves immensely.

This change was a success, for the most part — I still have to deal with car glare from the windows shooting into my eyes, but I had to deal with that before, and a music stand works wonders for that.

Self-help books frequently recommend small changes, repeated regularly, over time, and this just goes to show that one doesn’t need everything to be lined up and perfectly ready to go to start a living room rearrangement.

It was the Noumenia, so after I showered and ate a very late lunch, it was time to (finally) honor the Gods. I did the new moon prayer sequence at the shrine I’d just moved, and I think that putting it where it is now was a good decision.

Perhaps it was the dust in the air or the off daily schedule, but I had a bout of loneliness and melancholy that night. The details aren’t important. Eventually, I wrestled my way through the feelings to an uneasy end (listen to soundscapes, acknowledge that part of this is actually stress about student loan repayments restarting and being worried about COVID, get some rest), and I decided that I should call family on Sunday and walk to a small grocery shop to buy eggs for myself and some chicken for Yoyo so I was getting ambient and real social contact, as research says are both important for well-being. I did both of these things.

I organized my Tupperware cabinet.

I Consolidated My Shrines

Moving everything around in early April enabled me to make another major change: My main shrines, which had once been divided, could now all actually fit in the new “nook” beyond my desk. The consolidation that I mentioned above could happen. It felt urgent and pressing. I wanted a return to clean lines and the uncomplicated, of space that allowed me to breathe and that did not encumber the contemplative expansive state of letting Gods slip in.

In the meantime, while I figured out what would work best, I moved my space for contemplating Apollon over to the shrine area, in addition to some more of my focal icons of Gods. I made an inventory of all of the incenses I have.

Contemplating Apollon at the new shrine felt like homecoming — fire and bliss. It was correct.

On April 27, after picking the furniture piece and receiving it in the mail, I moved everything. I made an offering to the hearth Goddesses the evening I shifted everything around. There are still some small changes I want to make — a wall shelf, for example — but it’s so exciting and wondrous to have everything together.

The shrine at center, with my desk to the right and a chair with my cat to the left.

It was also overwhelming. How did I end up with so many divine images? It didn’t seem like so many when the shrines were all separate, yet bringing everything together forced me to confront that I have often been impulsive rather than thoughtful in my decision-making. That changed while writing The Soul’s Inner Statues. I am far more methodical now than I was years ago.

A sideways close-up of the shrine.

And — what does it show, exactly, to have myriad Gods all together? And to have so many statues and images? To have the evidence in front of me of “figuring things out” — a slow process, bound to time and the growth pains of young adulthood.

It brought me into thinking about the toxic side of our aspirational selves and the ways we lie to ourselves in pursuit of some kind of perfect ideal — in an ungrounded way, jostled in the realm of opinion instead of holding fast to stable principles. Most of the issues with the “ideal self” nowadays seem to be that it’s wrapped up in status symbols, ranging from physical items to the habits that say someone is “successful” or “a just person.” But if we’re not looking to the Form of Justice, what is the “just person” ideal we land at? If we’re not looking to Truth Itself, what is the point of self-development? How do we balance realistic expectations against the drive to improve?

These are all thoughts that I am having now after a bad week of sleep. (Yoyo is now waking me up before 6 AM. I’m running on fumes.) But I did make a list of all of the things that I think are reasonable aspirations to have in an embodied context, and in embodiment, I know the results will be imperfect: developing a growth mindset, writing letters, spending less time on my computer in the evenings, committing more time to my TBR, making mindful financial choices, meditating for 20 minutes, prioritizing my prayer routine, making healthy food choices, managing difficult emotions skillfully, making just judgments.

Binding Threads Together

For a while now, I’ve been using temporary documents in Notion while I make adjustments to aspects of my daily ritual. I figured out the iterative stopping point for approaching them in a Soul’s Inner Statues framework at my consolidated shrine. About when I ordered the furniture piece, I pulled everything together into a Google Doc, exported it into an ePub, created a cover in Canva for presentability, and loaded my file onto my Kobo and into the Google Play Books app. Canva had a free clipart of a woman with a lyre, which I thought was cool.

An image of the ePub in Calibre after generating it. I censored the byline because it uses my legal name.

In the future, I can edit the ePub directly in Calibre, as I know how to do that — but it’s easier to generate an ePub first from another tool.

In addition, I wrote a prayer for the Apotropaic Goddesses (which takes some lines from one of my prayers to all of the Hellenic Gods, as I tend to jazz through motifs in my prayer practice — I’m such a bricoleur), something that has been on my to-do list for some time now, and transcribed handwritten prayers for other Gods from a print notebook.

Several months ago, I made some prayer beads for Ourania out of tumbled river-stone and ordinary rock beads. They were my first handmade beads, and I think I need to redo them after watching a few videos, but I finally wrote the prayer for her during the last decad of April to try out.

Like most things I do now, it is saturated with Platonic imagery. I’m not showing the full thing here because I’m sure I will edit it over the next few months. This is a “getting back to my childhood” moment because Ourania is the Muse whom I was infatuated by as a toddler, as the daughter of two people who met at an amateur astronomy convention. (My first word was “moon” while pointing at the moon while we were observing the moon at such an absurdly young age that my mom was worried.) Other “getting back to my childhood” spiritual practices include praying to Bast again and incorporating practices from my Neopagan youth (like imbuing water with lunar energy, but for theurgic, not magical, use) now that I’m no longer afraid of getting lambasted by recons. So much has changed over the past few years.

The day I compiled everything together, I posted the prayer to Belesama on KALLISTI. The cosmic imagery in that poem comes from contemplating the Goddess, and I simply recorded what came into my awareness on several contemplative occasions, albeit crudely formed into words.

Life

When I opened some milk, I realized that the expiration date was my birthday. It was funny — I’ll be done with it long before my birthday arrives, but given that I’ve made such a big deal about checking a new radio button on surveys in a month and a half, “milk that expires when I leave young adulthood AKA the 18-34/25-34 demographic” (surveys don’t always bundle in the same way) is the perfect literary metaphor for leaving nascency behind.

I also realized my egg cooker can steam salmon. It’s right there in the instruction book.

My life has been changed forever. I could steam asparagus in this, too.

In spin class in late April, we had a substitute instructor, and a song from the class got stuck in my head. I find the vocals and the lyrics to be very beautiful — Oceanlab’s “I Am What I Am.”

Everything is iterative.

🐋

2 thoughts on “April 2022 Update: Shifting

    1. I’m happy you like what you’re seeing on the eReader! It’s still very much in progress — I don’t like the cadence of several lines even though I think the imagery is broadly applicable. I may or may not make the final version public.

      Construction-wise, I’m attempting to do a 9-3-3-9 pattern that has a mirroring effect (in the shape of a V or Λ, going up or going down) and leaning heavily into epithets. I have some prayer beads from an online shop (Hearthfire Handworks, highly recommend), and “I pray to you” is part of the refrains for all of those — I got in the habit of saying “I pray to you” when I’m doing other prayer beads, too, when the bead recitation is in English, because the recitation feels more complete with that. The 9-3 symbolism is for the Nine Muses or Three Muses, as there are so many different narratives.

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