Author: Deborah Castellano
I’m having a midmaiden crisis.
Sometimes I wonder if I make my life much harder than it has to be. Like, just about everyone else I know seems perfectly contented working a job that is hopefully not soul-sucking 40 hours a week, getting engaged/married, spending a lot of time at home, paying nominal attention to their religion of choice, occasionally still going out with friends maybe monthly, once in a blue moon going to a club or a party, and just generally going about life.
I understand watching my family’s struggles with secrecy, pain, and shame has made me very resistant to an average, mundane kind of life even though most people don’t have horrible consequences for choosing a life that becomes very insular. I guess I saw almost all my mom’s friends leave her since she would not leave my alcoholic dad and saw how unhappy both my parents were. So the idea of being so dependent on any one person for everything and being so limited in life choices made me decide at an early age that that would never be me.
I’ve spent all of my life trying to make safe/secure life decisions. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted what I never had growing up (a warm, loving, happy family) and to please everyone and be successful. Instead I am staring down:
A career I left because it was crushing me and not nurturing my soul, so I could become a part time nanny and bring home exactly half the money I was previously bringing home for half the hours. This was not the life my mother or I had envisioned for myself. I was supposed to be on a career path! I was supposed to be making lots of money! I was supposed to be working towards being someone important in someone else’s fishbowl! Instead, I am a nanny for two small children for a very nice family and I am helping to nurture them to grow up smart, self-confident, and happy.
Loving, happy, but complicated love relationships. My heart tends to be too complex to fit into a typical Cosmo’s “How to have a successful relationship and give a good blowjob and have an awesome career and spend lots of time with your galpals and girl, get your ass to the gym for some yoga and quality you time!” column. I am truly blessed to have partners in my life who understand this and friends who do their best to try as well. But when you step out of society’s check boxes (Gay or straight? Married or single?), it can also feel isolating and frustrating to not have all the words to explain things quickly or the comfort of doing what’s expected of you.
A religion that’s often misunderstood. I was brought up Catholic (and was a very devout believer), but after my dad died, it started to not work so well for me. I started asking a lot of questions and hoped to find answers that worked for me. And while in my college coursework I found peace with the religion I was raised in, and respect for my feminist Catholic sisters who are fighting the good fight, the revolution was not moving fast enough for me personally. I learned about Dianic Wicca in my studies and was lucky enough to find a circle near to me that started my path as a Pagan. It was (and is) a beautiful, exciting, and moving experience for me. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I miss the ease of Catholicism — go to church Sundays, be a good pony, confess when you haven’t, and God will always take care of you. Following a much newer (and at the same time much older) religion and religious movement is exciting and exhilarating because I feel like I personally am making a lot of impact on it. My connections to my own goddesses and gods feel a lot more personal to me. But there are also many explanations needed, fewer religious texts to fall back on, a firm but smaller support structure, and let’s not forget the whole “I went against hundred of years of tradition in my family” to be a Witch thing.
Not wanting any kids. I love being a nanny. I really do. But I also love going home. I love having the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want it. And that is not going to go over well with my fam when they find out.
Still have a house that is often messy. Part of the reason I left the corporate world was to have more time to tend to my own hearth. To have the time and energy to care for my loved ones, my house and have enough time to cook (another pastime I enjoy). But oftentimes the house is still messy more days than not, we eat casseroles and crockpot meals more often than not, along with the stigma of others (not my partners!) devaluing my labor in the home because it’s unpaid. I also am dealing with my own envy for the women I know who work full time, but make Martha Stewart look like a burnout slacker. It can be very hard to not hold myself up to these other women and find myself lacking.
To say taking the road less traveled is terrifying is nothing shy of an incredible understatement. I remember how scared and anxious I was when I was just out of college, sitting on the concrete train station floor in Belgium, stranded and unable to speak the language with just a fistful of currency (wafflemarks?) in my pocket. If you had told me then that it would pale in comparison to how I would feel five years later, surrounded by friends and family in my own hometown trying to follow my heart like some damned chicklit novel, I probably would have thrown some wafflemarks at you. But yet, here I am anyway.
I guess I’m saying it’s hard sometimes, feeling like not a lot of people in my life can say “I know exactly how you feel” and really mean it. Sometimes this path to my true heart is lonely and often it’s scary. I’ve always, always had a really exacting plan, but I threw my map into the river. Stepping out of my box is really hard for me. My inner critics are loud, bossy, and opinionated. And that’s just my inner critics; forget about my loved ones who want what’s best for me…according to them. It can be hard to stand up for myself to all of them when I still have so many doubts and fears. Because you know what? I don’t know what I’m doing.
In this time of personal turmoil, I’ve gotten so bogged down in the mundane that I’ve forgotten how to practice my spirituality. And, you want to know a secret? I’m scared to get back into a regular practice. To me, it feels like coming home way after curfew, smelling of cigarette smoke, and you know your mom is up waiting for you. At times, I still see my deities as disappointed parents. I’ve been trying to put the magical in the daily (giving thanks to Yemaya in the shower, singing praise to Crow in my car). I’m trying to appreciate all the things I do and accomplish. I’m trying to see the beauty of just being in the grace of the deities who have blessed me by choosing me as one of their beloved. But it’s hard for me to set aside my tendencies to be an overachiever in my spiritual life.
I feel like I should be able to “just” set aside all of my faults in this one area of my life. My altars should be maintained, my meditation practice should be daily, I should give of my time freely and easily to the community and oh yeah, not be critical of my execution of my faith. In other words, I should not be me but maybe Kuan Yin instead. But then . . .aren’t all our flaws and graces amplified in this area of our lives? I’ve been crueler, more selfish, more demanding, harsher, less trusting, less attentive, angrier, and sadder in my faith than I have in any other part of my life. I’ve also been more selfless, kinder, more nurturing, more faithful, more ecstatic, and most peaceful than any other part of my life.
When I can tell my inner critic to take a nap for a little while, I can still see the beauty of my practice, even now. I can see kitchen Witching for Lammas and singing Bridget’s song to Her while I make pan after pan of food with my fellow kitchen Witches and letting a friend cry into my apron when she needed to. I can see myself at the Jersey shore, introducing one of my loves to Yemaya and twirling and throwing white roses into Her sea. I can see my Crow side teasing my friend while I read her Tarot and sort out her love life. I can see my shaman self, dancing to the universal heartbeat at a goth club, dripping in sweat, being brave enough to get on a table and dance my offerings to the Universe and yes, as if no one is watching. And I have to hold onto these pieces of myself during this difficult time, tighter than I’d hold a box from Tiffany’s, because it’s what reminds me that I am part of this universe. It reminds me that I do bring wonder and joy, even when it’s harder to see. Most importantly, it reminds me that following my path to my secret heart is indeed full of miracles and wonders if I can see them through my tears.
Additional Resources for Soul Searching:
Truth or Dare : Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery by Starhawk: A powerful exploration into using our spiritual power as women to make changes in our own lives, our community, and our world.
Office Sutras: Exercises for Your Soul at Work by Marcia Menter: A very helpful little book with ideas on how to find soulfulness at your current job and how to figure out what will make you happy in the workplace in the long term.
Planet Sark: http://www.planetsark.com/: A beautiful, colorful website with lots of kindred spirits figuring out their life’s path with some really great resources.
The Honesty Room by Dar Williams: A lyrically amazing, gorgeously sung cd that will make you laugh and cry and think about your life.