Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 27, 2013

PantheaCon 2013 Meta: On Difficult Transitions

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!


Responses

  1. Hi there=)

    i was not at Pantheacon but I have this band I really love and I follow them around the country quite a bit. I do so with a bunch of other like-minded people who are also in substance abuse recovery (The band is Phish and the group is called the Phellowship). Most of us are at our happiest when we are running around on tour together with the band…we are with people we love who understand us in ways few people understand us, and we are doing an activity that touches us deeply, emotionally and spiritually…the worries of our real lives have receded…it feels like we don’t have a care in the world.

    Often, when tour ends we will all suffer from the feelings you are describing. It’s an emotional hangover. Like an alcoholic hangover, it is the direct result of the excesses of yesterday’s (or last weekend’s) emotional excesses. The excesses, whether they were negative or positive, have thrown us out of balance and now we are unsettled. Sometimes we joke about having Post-tour syndrome, or post tour depression. We joke but we are also kind of serious. It can feel like real depression.

    Really the only cure for it we have found it time and prayer (or whatever passes for it in your tradition). But yeah it sucks and it makes EVERYTHING feel like one big ball and chain, doesn’t it?

    I did a meditation on the rune Wunjo today that reminded me how true persistent joy comes FROM connections. That is so important for me to remember on the days when I am resenting all the connections/responsibilities I feel like are trapping me.

    Hope you feel better soon

    • Thank you for commenting and discussing!

      I like your point about “true persistent joy comes from connections”–that is most certainly true, not only communally and personally, but spiritually. Connecting to the gods, to the cosmos, to nature, to community, and to one another is a constant source of joy and enjoyment; it’s also the frustrations over such connections which are the cause of so much upset and disappointment, anxiety, and other things…which simply demonstrates how very important having and maintaining those connections is. So, an excellent thing to keep in mind! Thanks for that!

  2. I know for me it’s mostly more physical exhaustion than spiritual withdrawal, if you will. In ages past, when I first started going to festivals and cons, it was like hitting a brick wall because I had to readjust to a situation where I couldn’t even be out about who I was, so I had to jam myself back into a closet when I packed up my bags and went home.

    • Yes–and that’s part of the problem, in my own case. I’m so much more “out in the public eye” these days, but in spheres that are not at all connected, and that might not benefit from being connected at present…so, there is that. It’s hard to go from leopard print peacock feathered fez and neo-Bithynian clothes by a Latin-named, gay Greek designer to boring small-town community college nearly overnight. Bleh.

      • I feel your pain, my dear. *hug*

  3. Even though I also have a vacation after Pantheacon, coming home from that whole time span has been tough over some of the years. Three years of it was not even as much of a vacation, since I had course work to do as well and online discussion in which to engage. And last year with the health crash I was worn out at the start. This year has not been quite as tiring. Part of it was having my 1.5 week vacation morph into an over two week vacation due to the blizzard. And some was having things happen and messages delivered which took me outside my comfort zone. So even though I came back to my normal life and was still buried under way too much work, I have things going on to think about and some taboos to observe for a few weeks. Also, I don’t want to lose the way I felt during that time off.

    I don’t know if this helps you, but this is how I am feeling right now. And thank you for writing this, since it means I had to think about how I was responding in my own situation.

    • Yes, it most certainly does–I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one having re-adjustment difficulties that are a bit more odd or intense this year than they have been in the past.

      It must also be difficult to have some of your only in-person time with a major LTR person(s) be in this context–there’s enough intensity around it anyway, adding that into the mix, while wonderful, must also be challenging.

      (If, for example, I had ended up getting together with someone who I only would see at PantheaCon each year, I’d be severely tempted to appear only for my scheduled sessions, and spend the rest of the time in the hotel room naked in bed with them…but, that’s me!)

      • I’m still feeling thrilled that there were no major issues coming about this year. That alone can be very difficult for processing the weekend.

        As for the rest… heh. Thankfully Pcon is not our only time together while I am out there. Plus we are both on different sleep cycles and view the weekend as a big socializing and networking event. I suspect if that were not the case we’d do like your idea. :)

      • Now that you mention it–yes, I rarely see you in late night hours, and I almost always see himself at around 1 to 1:30 AM, and am usually at the end of a busy and action-packed day, wanting to fall asleep but also wanting to hang out more because he and the whole crowd are just so damned interesting! ;) (And especially this year with the Australian gentleman that I wanted to take home in my suitcase…!?!)

      • On the timing, exactly!
        And I agree on the young Australian. Yum. I am sure a lot of people wanted to snag him after the con.

      • I wonder if he’ll be coming next year as well…

        If he does, while I’d like to of course just have him (!?!), I’d also be interested in seeing if I could get him to do part of a ritual drama with us, if in fact it gets accepted into the program. If you’d like to be a part of that as well, it might be cool, too!

      • I know he’s going to be traveling around the US for a while with his project, and when I spoke to him he did not know how long it would be. If you are ever so inclined, he is in my listing on FB people so I can get you in touch with him.

      • We’ve already been in touch briefly (we exchanged e-mails when I saw him), but thanks!

        Since we’ve already done an Antinous-related three-part ritual drama, I thought we’d not repeat ourselves next year and instead do one that is based on Polydeukion (but will, of course, have Antinous in it as well). While it would be great to get some actual teenagers to play Polydeukion and friends, it’s not very likely since I don’t know any personally who are pagan, would be interested, and attend PantheaCon; but, if our Australian friend were there, he’s small enough and young-looking eough to pull it off convincingly, I think.

      • oh, I like this idea. Why must there always be such good ideas coming forth and not enough time, energy, and clones of oneself to experience them all?

      • I agree…but, like almost all things associated with PantheaCon, it will come to pass (if it is meant to and accepted on the program!).

        If you wanted to be a part of this, I’m trying to think what part might be good for you to play…Ever fancied yourself as Appia Annia Regilla, the heroine of Herodes Attikos (i.e. his deceased wife)? You might fit that role quite nicely…My second thought would be Hathor. ;)

      • I can’t make any promises this far out but when the plans become more concrete let me know. We shall see how I am doing then.

      • Cool! Of course, while I’ll probably write the thing anyway in the event that we perform it some other time, I’ll propose it to them like usual, and see if they take it; so, we’ll know in roughly November if it is going to happen or not. And meanwhile, I’ve got to see if I can get a hold of our Australian colleague…it would be hard to make it convincing without someone who looks young, and the height matter with him helps in that…! ;)

  4. I wasn’t there this year, but as a rule I’ve always had to take some time (and several lj posts) to integrate the energies and lessons of P-con after I got home, and that’s been true whether it’s been a “good” or a “bad” experience that year. (Not that it’s ever been BAD bad, but you know. Degrees.) I can imagine it might have been a different process in some ways if I’d been there this year, given that I’ve taken to wearing my liminalities differently than I used to.

    Meanwhile, being a person of limited physical and energetic resources with too many things to do, with the ones most cherished not always making the top of the list…yeah, I feel you.

    • At least on my end (though I’m quite certain many others as well), your absence was deeply regretted. I would have loved for you to have been at the Tetrad ritual and to have heard your thoughts on it…

      I like how you phrased the idea, though, of “wearing my liminalities differently”–it’s something I think many of us have ended up doing as a result of, or during the process of, PantheaCon this year.

  5. Mt re-entry has been really problematic, more so than last year. Not only am I still sick, but I feel strongly that I’ve found my tribe, and you all live on the West Coast. So I’m both delighted, & lonelier than before.
    Your situation really sucks. I’m glad you’re gainfully employed, & it’s sad you don’t have enough time. {{{hugs}}}

    • I’m glad you had that experience, and was glad to be a part of it (however large or small a part of it I might have been)!

      It is so tough, though, to have those times of deep connection, only to have to return to a situation that is geographically and socially isolated from those connections. I certainly feel your pain there…

      • Lupus, you’re at the heart of it! I met two people new to me, & one from last year, through the Ekklesia. One of my co-initates is most certainly Tribe. There were a few others, but the heart of it is you.
        There’s always next year, of course, but right now that feels awfully far away.

      • I am deeply touched and honored to be recognized as such…thank you for doing so.

        I’m only one person, doing my part to be devoted to and to serve Antinous and the other gods as best I can. I hope that others find what I’m doing useful in their own work with whichever gods they prefer.

        Indeed, next year does feel far away…though, because plans are already afoot for it, it also feels somewhat near and the concerns of it are already taking shape into events and ideas…I’ll write about some of those in the next few days. I’m wondering if we should propose another performance ritual for next year, not unlike our one in 2011, but this time, cut out some of the “ritual” aspects of it and just get right to the performance…Hmm…much would depend on content, and if we could get particular individuals as actors for certain parts. We shall see what might be possible…

  6. Obviously, I wasn’t at PantheaCon (I can barely make it to local cons and gatherings when they happen during the school year; one out on the West Coast is right out), but something similar often happens to me after our local twice-a-year festival. To some extent, it’s a matter of readjusting to the bits of daily life that can be profoundly unwelcoming – I may have issues with some of the people at the gathering, but at a minimum they accept my religious, sexual, and relationship identities in a way almost no one in my “mundane” life does. It’s also partly just physical recovery – I almost always get dehydrated at both outdoor Pagan festivals and SF or gaming cons held in hotels. (Not sure why, although being in a strange place and away from my own kitchen probably has something to do with it.)

    • Yes to both–while I don’t sleep well even at home, four hours of sleep at home is different than four hours of sleep in a strange place (even a hotel that I’m used to), without regular access to food and such, etc. I do too much, I don’t get enough sleep, and as a result, the crash is harder when the whole thing ends, and even more so when I have to go directly into other stuff right after returning…

      And, there’s also the key further point you mentioned: while I did make an effort to be at my effervescent best this year for the con’ itself, I did so knowing that no one would say “freak!” or anything worse and threaten me with violence or exclusion or derision, at least during the boundaries of the con’ itself. That is a very different reality than my daily one, where I’m constantly worried that someone might mention I’m pagan, or I’m queer, or the “decorations” in my office aren’t just decorations, etc.

  7. Maybe you need a closing ritual of your own, similar to the “havdalah” which says goodbye to the Jewish Sabbath. Perhaps next year I’ll bring a spice box to sniff for strength! :)

    • Had things gone slightly differently, we had considered doing a final “Inundation” ritual, since we didn’t get to do it on the mornings as usual because I wasn’t staying in the hotel (due to that stupid hotel rooms lottery and no preference being given to presenters, etc.); but, for various reasons, including the rather foul weather on that final day, we decided not to. Perhaps next year…

  8. I usually need recovery time after vacations, camping trips, or historical reenactments, but then, I don’t tend to leave home just to ‘chill’. Revelations, epiphanies, and other smacks up alongside the head by the gods frequently occur when I’m outside my usual routine and, while it’s difficult to leave, I look forward to returning home, to rest and process the experience.

    I do think some of us live more intensely than others.

    I do a sort of ritual on the return trip home to help ‘close’ the experience. Whenever I cross a bridge, I intentionally view it as a crossing from the Other World, which is a holy and taboo place we mortals are not meant to remain in for very long. The more bridges I cross, the more I distance myself from the place to which I had traveled. This helps me to regard whatever occurred more objectively, so that I can stop reliving that past moment, and bring whatever I learned into my daily life.

  9. I feel like I can empathize here… While my situation isn’t exactly the same I also feel like I’ve got more limitations than energy and resources to do what I really need/want to. I’d venture so far as to say it’s unfulfilling. It’s not that I’m not thankful for what I have because I really am, I’m just frustrated my lack of resources, physical and emotional, probably spiritual, but then you know I’m still not entirely sure where I am in that area.

    That being said, you’d better not quit your job because you’re like one of my favorite people ever (I know it’s been like two months but hey what can I say?) and I also know where you’re coming from with the not-a lot-of-friends- on-a-day-to day-basis thing, my closest friend distance wise is in Lacey and after that you’re in the thousands-of-miles category.

    ANYWAY, I really wish I could help other than saying “yeah man I totally feel you” but even if you wanted advice I’d just ask you to let me know when you figure out what to do because I’m there myself. I hope you find yourself in a less stressful situation sooner rather than later, and I am sending good thoughts and well wishes your way.

    • Thank you! I do appreciate it! :)

      If I could have an extra twelve hours a day just to sleep, that would start to help, I think. Next quarter will be better, since I’m only doing one class, so I’ll have a few days a week (and larger parts of each day) to do things like sleep, but also to do things that I enjoy and that feed and sustain me otherwise in terms of practice, writing, and just leisure activities (e.g. watching television!). I’m also going to start going to the gym again, or at least attempt to do so–I’ll have to be here relatively early on most days, and my class won’t start until later, so I can use the time for something besides getting ready for class or just puttering about on the internet. And, that would honestly end up helping a lot with my energy levels and general health, too, which is always a good thing.

      One more class period to get through (Monday) in our class, and then things simplify a great deal…there won’t be the likelihood of fervent religious derailment of the classes after that point, unless any atheists in the class get upset over being discussed in ways that suggest they are religious or that their stance on religion itself bears characteristics in common with religions, etc. (And Religulous is bound to turn some heads, or stomachs, or something, too!) We shall see…

  10. [...] posts, that is!), to finally bring it to a close. I can say very happily that though the transition back to the everyday from it has been difficult this year, at the same time, some of the other difficulties that have [...]


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