I know that many will agree with me when I say that 2018 has been rough.  As this year draws to its conclusion, I’ve been looking through old journals and have taken note of previous entries.  2016 was confusing and filled with alarm.  2017 was a fighting and frightening year.  And 2018… Well.  We’re just tired now.

 

I’m so tired - down to my bones, down to my soul.  I see this same desperation in those around me, too.  This year has just been hard.  For some of us, we’re so close to reaching our limits.  But when those limits are reached, what will that look like?  What is it like when you have finally had enough?

This year has been immensely challenging in my personal life and it’s had a negative impact on my professional and public life, too.  2018 has given me many deaths in the family, drastic changes at work, financial and health issues, relationship challenges, and even some crises of faith.  Honestly, it’s been hard to cope.  While I’ve not been soaring or drowning, I’ve managed to, thankfully, tread water.  It’s exhausting but at least I’m able to keep my head up and somehow muster enough energy to just keep on keeping on.  But it’s hard, as I’m sure you can relate to.  So damned hard.

Recently I was talking with a friend who said, with complete genuine innocence, “wow, Trivia. You have three big projects!  You’re so busy!”  I was stunned and couldn’t help but laugh.  She herself is involved with more than three of my schemes, so when I started counting the things she and I do together (a community group, a coven, a circle, meet-and-greets, etc.) she paused for a long time, unaware until that moment just exactly how busy she was.  As I continued to list the Pagan groups I’m part of, the ones I am in charge of, the ones I collaborate on, and others, all she could do was laugh awkwardly.  “Oh… wow…”

Oh wow indeed.

I’ve been thinking about this exchange a lot because it highlighted some important aspects of my life that I’ve been recently struggling with.  My friend sees these things as activities she GETS to do and not things she HAS to do.  That shift in perspective is fundamental, and something I’d like to write more about later.  But also, this conversation was just another reminder of how busy I amI’m too busy!  I’m involved with too many things.  It’s ridiculous and absurd and I’m tired all the time and it’s not fun.  But when I think about cutting stuff out, I’m torn between two demands – those things I want to do because they feed my spirit, and those things I feel like I have to do because if I don’t do them, who else will?

In the past I’ve suffered from some resentment of the demands I put on myself.  Sometimes I like to reframe this narrative as if I’m resentful of the demands the community puts on me, but that’s not fair.  These demands aren’t things I haven’t willingly chosen.  I’ve been devoting my whole adult life to Pagan leadership.  Bargains were exchanged and vows were made with friends, family, gods, and spirits.  Now here I am, for better or for worse, a community leader, a high priestess, a clergy person, and a mentor.  Every day I try my best to serve my community and my spiritual allies, to give them what they need and deserve.  But… I’m also tired.  So tired.

I love my Pagan community, I really do!  But I’m gonna be honest - sometimes y’all make it really hard.

Recently one of my groups collaborated on a large gathering.  It’s our fifth year organizing this event and it’s a huge partnership with a few different Pagan organizations from the area.  People look forward to this event all year, and it’s become a meaningful tradition for many.  Despite its popularity, it’s not an easy event to plan, though.  In general I get tired of the same old saying, “organizing Pagans is like herding cats.”  For one, I think organizing Pagans is harder than herding cats.  But more importantly, why does organizing Pagans have to be so hard?  Why are we so resistant to planning and hierarchy and authority and decision making and deadlines and reading emails?  Folks, with this mentality, how do we get anything done?  (Oh, wait. We don’t.  But that’s another topic for another time.)

For some reason there was just a lot of tension and drama around this year’s event.  Was this weird energy just miasma from 2018 in general?  Was there something astrological and cosmic influencing our stars?  Or maybe we’re just all tired and jaded?  I don’t want to get into specifics, but the conflicts ranged from “I can’t be in the same room as this person” to “the event is ruined because no one brought ice.”

I’m gonna be totally and completely honest - I personally didn’t want to do this event, especially not this year.  I was happy that the event was happening, I just didn’t want to be involved.  But I do the majority of the social networking for the groups I’m involved with, as well as a lot of the basic organization.  If I say no to something, it puts everyone else in a really tough, uncomfortable, and unfair position, and runs the risk of completely sabotaging the group’s goals.

So I began the day feeling tense, angry, frustrated, worried, and nervous.  I took an anxiety pill.  I drank water.  I put on my lipstick.  I stepped back to let people do their things.  I did my thing.  We had a ton of new attendees and they were beautiful and hopeful and open-hearted.  My own group came out and they were all so helpful.  We had so many people that we needed to set up extra tables and wasn’t it lucky that we had extra table cloths?  The craft activities were adorable.  The ritual was very sweet.  People sang and laughed and read poetry and told stories.  When the drum circle started, I danced with a little child.  Our quiet, meditative altars were literally breathtaking with their reverence and beauty.  People were curious about one another and new friendships were made.  And clean-up only took half an hour!

I’ve not been in the best place this year.  I’m aware of this, and those who are close to me in my community are aware of it, too.  It’s just hard sometimes, you know?  But as tired as I am (soul-bone tired), it’s worth it.  It’s worth it because our community deserves it.  We deserve to have holiday events and festive parties.  We deserve to share our gifts of poetry and stories.  We deserve to worship at glorious altars and we deserve to raise our voices in song.  But our community deserves leaders who aren’t burned out, and resentful, bone-soul tired, too.  Our community deserves to have leaders who want to be with them, who aren’t just organizing and attending events out of obligation or habit.

Which brings me back to my conversation with my friend, the one who had an existential crisis when I told her how busy I was (and by proxy, how busy she is.)  I’m torn between the things I want to do and the things I have to do.  But here’s what I’ve come to realize after nearly a decade of public Pagan work – sometimes I can’t get the things I want to do without first doing the things I don’t want to do.  I don’t care how old you are or how many initiations you’ve earned or how many great ideas you think you have.  You don’t get to enjoy the fun things (a party!) if you are unwilling to do the boring things (actually organizing the party.)

I’m not sure how to find this balance – the wants verses the needs, of myself and of the community and gods I serve.  It’s hard, and I’m tired, but it’s worth it.  Because people brought extra food.  Because they came early to help set-up.  Because they stayed late to help clean-up.  Because they made connections, both magical and mundane.  Because, despite arriving late, the crafts were a hit.  Because, despite confusions about time, everything was done when and where it should be done.  (Okay, give or take about 15 minutes.)  Because, despite the interpersonal dramas, no one let that get in the way of a good time.

The event was a success.  I’m still tired, but I concluded the evening feeling happy and proud.  Everyone worked so hard to bring the party together, and it really showed.  I need to remember to trust my community more, because they trust me.  I need to work on this whole “balance” thing, and maybe spend a little more time on self-care.  Eventually I’d like to get to a place where I can comfortably say no to the things I don’t want to do, but we’re not there – at least not yet.

It’s important for me to remember that this whole “community leader” thing isn’t one achievement unlocked and I’m done.  It’s an evolving process, especially as the community itself develops and changes.  There will always be new needs, there will always be new ideas, and there will always be new exciting, unexpected, frustrating challenges.  I will always, always have more to learn, as well as paradigms to shakeup and shift, adjust and readjust.  I also need to know when enough is enough.  I owe it to myself and to my community because they don’t deserve a resentful, tired, crabby high priestess.  As Pagans, we deserve better – we deserve the best.  But community leaders, we deserve a break, too.  We deserve a chance to just sit back and enjoy the party.