In the Belly

It’s Imbolc. Well, it’s almost Imbolc. I can’t take the 2nd or the 3rd off from work, but I could take the 1st for preparation for mid-winter. Imbolc, meaning “in the belly,” celebrates the mid-way point of winter and the increase in light until spring, when the sun god is born again.

I don’t believe in gods, but I revere nature, because unlike any sort of god, nature actually has some control over me. It brought me into the world, and it can very much take me out. This weekend, nature dropped snow steadily on Chicago for about 27 hours or so, stopping yesterday evening. It was a relatively clear day outside, but I didn’t go out. I have things to do, and unfortunately, even if you have a day off, duty still calls, and I am redoing some work for tomorrow.

But that’s okay, because part of my solar/natural new year intentions revolve around work, so I may as well.

Screech died. Did you know that?

He was 44. He was undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

I didn’t really like Saved by the Bell, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t watch it on occasion if one of my siblings was watching it. But of those who have died recently, this one actually scared me. He’s not much older than I am, and he seemed to me to be quite tragic in some ways, and not. If you’re old enough, you might remember dustindiamond.com, which was not affiliated with Dustin Diamond and was funny for a moment. He sued, he lost. He also made a sex tape that was not actually him, but nonetheless was supposed to be him, and it wasn’t satirical. He wrote a tell-all book about Saved by the Bell that also wasn’t supposed to be him. He went on despite and lived and then got cancer and died suddenly. And somewhere between Saved by the Bell and his death, he somehow managed to keep living despite the fact that he was the poster boy for typecasting and the trap that is being famous for something very specific, famous for embodying that thing, for creating and becoming that thing that turns immortal and becomes you.

And he was 44, and he was trying to beat cancer. He wasn’t suicidal. I mean, he couldn’t have been. He wanted another tomorrow, and he must have been curious about what was to be in days to come. This is what most of us hope for, and what keeps most of us going: I’m not convinced that happiness is so much related to contentment as it is to curiosity, because first comes curiosity (Scorpio), the comes optimism and adventure (Sagittarius), then comes the production, putting ideas into reality to present to the world (Capricorn), then using all of those abilities to change the world into something closer to our dreams, a.k.a. hope (Aquarius), before we reach out and embrace the entire universe, the monster it is, and all the unseen and unknown it has in store (Pisces).

Because I don’t know the exact feeling I had when I found out that Dustin Diamond died, but the base note was fear, and not just fear of my own mortality. I was in 8th grade when I found out Kurt Cobain died, and I’ll never forget it: it was on the news just after Rush Limbaugh’s show, which my father came home from work to listen to at lunch with my mother. It was on A.M. radio with this horrid, whining feedback through the entire show, so my parents turned the volume full blast so you couldn’t escape the sound. And if you asked permission to leave the house because you wanted to escape the sound, the answer was no. You had to listen to this old blowhard know-it-all and this screech for an hour, even when the neighbors came out and said to turn it down. But there was Rush, telling my parents and people like them that despite what they can see with their own eyes and have experienced in their own lives, nothing was their fault, they were temporarily embarrassed millionaires who were more like him and less like the other people in line at WIC.

And the radio feedback screeched away as the show ended and cut to the hourly news in which it was stated plainly that Kurt Cobain had committed suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound. I was just a little too young to understand the cultural significance right then, but I was no stranger to the concept of suicide. I grew up with someone who near-daily threatened to kill herself or demanded reassurance that her continuance existence was necessary for the rest of us. The idea that someone is alive but does not want to live was never strange to me; what was strange was that there were people in the world who didn’t hold the belief that suicide was a sin and allowed that fear to hold them back as it did for the suicidal adults that I knew.

But I’m now at the age where we’re not dying because we want to die, or because we’re reckless, or because someone else was reckless. I’m now getting to the point where it’s real that my body can fail me, that it can turn on me, and there’s going to be a point where there is nothing I can do. I’m not there quite yet. It’s all under control right now, but what if?

Because Imbolc is a time of what-are-you-waiting-for, of getting ready for the season of activity. It’s planning. It’s counting seeds and making sure they’re still good for sowing. It’s for preparing for and making the changes necessarily so that when the season of activity arrives, we can do what must be done.

And in reality, if we’re able to get away from the expectations others have for us, we have the ability to do and be anything. And it’s frightening that someone who seemed to be making the most of his first forty-odd years just didn’t make it through the chemo. It happens. You never know.

The Pandemic and the Season of Change

Whatever you do now will not be the same when the world goes back to normal, even if by all appearances, everything is business as usual. We are permanently marked (Pluto), expanded (Jupiter), and constricted (Saturn) by this event for all time, and what is actually important (Capricorn) can no longer be ignored even if there’s nothing we can do about it right now. If your job in any way required people gathering in a place in person, your job has changed in some way for all time. You should be using this time in part to preserve (Capricorn) and to invent (Aquarius), but to also give yourself the freedom (Jupiter) to choose what to do, even if that means walking away.

Because in order for their to be spring, winter must end, and so much the rest and the waiting. You’re lucky if you have the chance to wake up in a bed in the morning, even more lucky if there’s people in the world who care about you, and even more lucky if you have a reason to get out of bed that is entirely your own and independent of what others need or want from you.

Because if you’re looking for happiness in success, you won’t find it. If you’re thinking happiness is a flag raised when you’re successful, you’ll never be happy, but you’ll also know when you’re successful.

It’s in the journey and the ability to pass time, right here, right now, to be able to do as you want to do here and now regardless of who likes it. Who even has time these days to stop and ask for feedback? Cause you know, some feedback you get from people who seem well-meaning is actually a choreography in which they’re actually trying to illicit from you a request for their permission to do as you must in this life. Do you know someone who always lets you know what they like and don’t like about everything you do, everything you put out in the world, when really, a “great job! I support you…even if I don’t understand you!” would actually suffice? They may not even know that what they’re actually trying to do is get you to give them that kind of power over you; it often comes in the guise of help or love, and they may very well be conditioned to think this kind of hemming in is help or love.

Next time, ask them “by the way, what do you get out of picking it/me/my work/my art apart? Do you want me to tell you that you’re important? Okay, you’re important. Now stop picking on me and go find something meaningful to do with your life that’s entirely your own, because no one ever became a successful farmer wasting his days telling others how to sow their seeds and plow their fields. It’s not too late.”

Today’s card: The Knight of Wands

So I pulled the Knight of Wands, a very fortuitous card, for Imbolc:

This is the card of new ideas, new people, and new adventures of all kinds. Invention, creation, enthusiasm, travel and progress. The suit of wands corresponds to the element of fire, and the Knight of Wands corresponds to the sign of Sagittarius.

A good pull for a Sagittarius Sun, no?

What can a nontheist do for Imbolc?

Well, whatever you want. I mean, I can tell you what I’m doing.

I took the day to rest since I’m still coming off my month-long insomnia jag.

I don’t have a hearth, but I have scented candles that smell like fireplaces and pine (I can’t stand food scented candles). They were already green and white, the colors of the day.

I set my intentions for the spring. I chose three specific things I want to change in order to be ready for spring, and I chose three things I must do in order to be ready for spring.

And I did each one with intention.

And they were not exciting.

I wrote this blog post. That was pretty good.

I re-prepared for court tomorrow based on information that came in today. That sucked.

I exercised. That was good.

And I may make a cake because that seems to be the pagan thing to do. A small one. With chocolate. Maybe a brownie. A small one. I only have one egg left, after all, and I still don’t want to go out in the snow just yet.

Happy Imbolc. I hope these next seven weeks before spring are good for you and that you are not afraid to use them.

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