I still have one more post summarizing my experiences at PantheaCon (and before and after it during my trip to that general neighborhood), but I have not yet had the three-ish hours to set aside for that, in whole or in smaller chunks, to be able to write up that post. That may continue to be the case until late this coming weekend, if not longer…
But, in the meantime, I’ve had some other thoughts about the whole experience of PantheaCon this year, in part inspired by just having listened to Jason Pitzl-Waters of The Wild Hunt, the Grimassis, and T. Thorn Coyle talk about transitioning back from FaerieCon West at a panel from that convention, which you can listen to here.
One of the matters which Thorn pointed out in the discussion is one that I’ve very much taken on board over the last twelve years: don’t make very much of the distinction between “the mundane” and “the spiritual” or “the otherworldly,” especially as it applies to events like PantheaCon. PantheaCon is just as much a part of the world as anything else is, and the world with all of its marvels and difficulties is just as much a part of PantheaCon as the gods, spirits, and magic are–and in fact, sometimes even more than we would expect! Thinking back over the PantheaCons I’ve attended since 2007 (i.e. all of them between then and now), I can remember each year just as accurately by what the sleeping arrangements were and how clean I and my fellow room-sharers kept the bathroom (or not) as I can by what events occurred that year or what sessions I offered. I know my memory can be unexpectedly prodigious for such details, even surprising myself on some occasions, but likewise, food varieties and availabilities and amount of rest and patterns of carpet and size of luggage and comfortability and sexiness of clothes and status of ongoing health situations–which, to some, would constitute “mundane matters”–are just as important to me in my memories of these events as the presence of the gods, the movements of spirits, the effects of magic, and the positive or negative influences of specific individuals have been on each occasion. The “mundane” often gives the basis from which we are able to access the “spiritual,” and to ignore this is to ignore one of the very most basic and important teachings of the wider pagan umbrella at present, I think.
I know for my own part that I’ve had just as many amazing experiences of, for example, writing devotional poetry five feet from my home shrine to Antinous as I have had writing such poems in bus stations, airports, or other locations far from home. My most unexpected experiences of Antinous and other gods have often happened amidst daily life–on the bus, for example!–rather than when I’m actively doing ritual or my practices. Being ready for the worlds to bleed into one another at any time or place is one of the great lessons that anyone and everyone should take away from any study of Irish, or wider Celtic, mythological narrative, I think: the gods are no respecters of the boundaries between sacred space and time and mundane space and time.
As I’ve commented in some of my previous entries on PantheaCon 2013, this was one of the very best such conventions I’ve yet attended, for a variety of reasons. And yet, it is also the most difficult one yet that I’ve had to overcome in terms of an easy transition back to quotidian life. (And, I don’t mean “quotidian” in any negative sense–indeed, no matter what one’s views on “mundane” versus “spiritual” might be, it is hard to argue otherwise than that PantheaCon, and any convention like it, represents a big departure from everyday life simply in terms of the frequency and intensity of experiences, coupled with unfamiliar and impersonal surroundings like convention hotels, and often a lack of sleep that is much different from the daily routines most of us have.) As it turns out, I also wrote exactly on this topic last year after returning over at Patheos.com’s “Queer I Stand” column, so perhaps this type of thing isn’t any more difficult this year than it has been in previous years…?!?
Part of me wonders if the overly positive feelings generated by PantheaCon this year are part of what is making it difficult. It’s always more difficult to leave something that is enjoyable and uplifting than it is to leave something that is unpleasant or uncomfortable: we run from a burning building, but back away slowly and pause frequently when leaving the arms of a lover. The past two PantheaCons of 2011 and 2012 were not burning buildings, by any means; but this most recent one of 2013 was also not the arms of a lover. It was very difficult to extricate myself, and my traveling colleagues, from people’s presence during this most recent PantheaCon on the final day, even though that’s often been a challenge in previous years as well. In previous years, it felt as though there was a deliberate choice to linger, even though time seemed to flow more quickly than expected at certain points. This year, it felt like wading through a warm batch of marshmallow crispy treats–as nice and as sweet as those are, do you really want to be picking marshmallow crispy bits out of your hair or your arse-crack later?
No, I don’t want to say it was “too much of a good thing,” but there was a stickiness to the goodness this year that was unusual, and not at all what I’m used to encountering when I have good spiritual experiences in community for the most part.
Another part of me realizes that a lot of this had to do with my much-changed quotidian experiences and situations these days. I’ve never worked as much as I have during the time of PantheaCon previous to now: often, I’ve been entirely unemployed, which makes scheduling easier but the financial strain much more stressful. This time, I’m much more financially secure (though not by any means in an ideal situation yet), but I had to miss a lot of work to be able to attend, and the piles of work have not lessened in the meantime. Most of my work colleagues, for all that I interact with them at all, are not of a viewpoint that would be amenable to hearing about the rituals I conducted or the other sessions I attended; and the same is true for a lot of my family (who, in any case, have had their hands full with concerns over my brother’s health meanwhile, which is now improving, thankfully–and all prayers and good thoughts on that matter have been most appreciated and effective!). I don’t have many friends in my everyday life, and the ones that I speak with on a regular basis are over the phone, and are likewise people who shared many of my experiences at this past PantheaCon. That, of course, makes them ideal people to speak about these things with, but likewise, they’re as much mired in the marshmallow crispy treats wading pool as I am as we do speak of those issues…and, likewise, it’s not very enjoyable to help friends pick the marshmallow crispy treats out of their hair and arse-cracks either (unless that’s your particular kink…which it isn’t for me, but anyway…!?!).
And yet another part of me realizes that a large part of the realizations and insights that occurred over this last PantheaCon experience and the further matters that bookended it during my trip has to do not with rejoicing over our successes at the event, but instead they concern gearing up for doing a great deal more work in the immediate future. My own practices are going to have to be added to and revolutionized, and there are some major projects that I need to get working on and moving further with yesterday (or, last month, in at least one case!), and yet I’ve barely had the time to take a breath, a nap, or a shit since I’ve returned, it seems. (Yes, of course, I have done all of those things in plentitude since returning [apart from naps], but it feels like I have not done enough of them, if you see my point…)
So, what is a metagender to do? My heart is not in some of my daily tasks that are relatively necessary, and I wish I was doing something else. My heart is in tasks that I’ve not had the time or energy to do yet. And, time and energy are both so painfully scarce at present that I’m not really getting the less-fun or the more-enriching activities done to the extent that I need. The work of integration feels almost impossible in such a state…
But, I’m taking a few moments now to process this, and it is helping some. I’ve taken a few moments to do small efforts toward some of these ends, and it is helping some. Even if I’m not where I’d like to be as far as my various devotional projects, I have a vague timeline for hopefully getting some of them completed in the near future. And, even if I’m behind on grading and other administrativia for my day-job, I’m at least showing up to classes (even when I’ve contemplated using paid sick leave to beg out of them) and am teaching good solid material that I think the students are benefiting from hearing…or, at least, I’ve had no complaints thus far on the content or conduct of my classes at this point, so I’m taking that as a sign that they’re at least adequate for the moment. Small steps…but my legs feel like they want to leap and kick and then rest, whereas my current abilities with them feels like I’m chained and only able to hobble a few steps at a time.
And, in case you were going to suggest it: no, quitting my job won’t solve anything, and in fact would create so many more problems than it would solve right now that it wouldn’t even be at all funny. And, I’m not asking for advice here–I’m merely processing out loud/online, and if anything, am asking for “immoral support”–I need “I’m sorry to hear that” and “Jeez, that sucks, I feel for you” right now more than I need people who are not as informed about my situation as I am to give me suggestions on how to fix my problems. I will state in advance that I appreciate the gesture and the intention behind wanting to help lend a hand or give advice, but I’d also prefer that you keep such advice to yourselves at present. This is a situation that only I will be able to help fix–perhaps with the help of some of my gods, but that’s their business to decide upon.
I will ask a wider question, though: has anyone else had as much difficulty with “returning” and “splashdown” after this last PantheaCon as I and some of my colleagues have had? Or is this a particular mess that only ourselves have been mired in? In general, do you find that coming home from a vacation or a convention or retreat of this sort is always difficult for at least a few weeks, or do you find that you transition much easier between these states? I’d be interested in hearing your opinions and experiences on the questions in this final paragraph very much indeed in the comments on this post that you make!