Sometimes I imagine myself as a discarnate soul floating around in the beyond, conversing with Deity about what sort of lessons I felt I needed to learn in this life.
"Well, let's see," Deity says, checking Her clipboard, "This last time you were a morning person, and a Republican Senator's daughter. Really gorgeous except for the tiny breasts. I think we'll sign you up for Bleeding Heart Liberalism--oh, and how about a creative gift? Bleeding Heart Liberals are always so creative."
"Ooooh, I always wanted to learn to tap dance," I say.
"No, I don't think so. How about writing? You could be brilliant at writing. And we'll triple your cup size, but that means we triple everything else. Oh, and there's one more thing...thanks to that stunt you pulled in school last time, I'm afraid we have to give you the Inverse Advice Columnist Curse."
"What the bloody hell is that?"
"Basically? You'll be asked for a lot of advice, and you'll give what you think is a great answer, but within one year of every single question you'll have the exact same thing happen to you and you'll feel like a real asshole for making the situation sound so simple."
"But...if I'm going to advise people shouldn't I know what I'm talking about first?"
"Not necessary. Brilliant Writing Ability comes with a secondary gift, Talking Out of Your Ass, as well as Cutting Wit. We call it the Bullshit Trifecta. Enjoy."
Over the years since my first book came out I've gotten a lot of emails asking for some form of wisdom, ranging from puzzling to laughable to heartbreaking. I do the best I can, and try to acknowledge when I'm out of my depth, but two related subjects seem to come up over and over: dark nights of the soul, and their mopey Emo cousin, spiritual depression.
A dark night is a crisis, usually brought on by some sort of grievous event, but it can also be the last straw during a period of spiritual depression, which is in its way much worse. Just as clinical depression leaches the color and enjoyment out of life, spiritual depression drains the passionate Presence from your world. Both forms of depression often go hand in hand, and one can lead to the other, but it takes more than medication to ease the spiritual kind.
When people ask me how to reawaken their religious practice, I usually reply with variations on two themes: try to be patient, and keep showing up. I say something about how people's spiritual lives move in cycles just like everything else and that if they remain open, eventually they'll find that spark again. I say, keep practicing, even just for a few minutes a day, to keep the door open.
Sounds good, doesn't it? It's wonderful to be so damn wise.
Well, you can thank the Bullshit Trifecta for that.
I'm not saying the advice isn't valid or that it doesn't work. I'm just saying that it's not as easy as I thought it was to apply any of that advice when you're in the thick of it. And if a 30 year old Pagan writer gal were to offer me that same advice right now I'd probably staple something to her head.
Luckily I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm not a counselor, and the standard caveat "your mileage may vary" often passes through my lips. I don't make promises or guarantees. Thus far I have yet to see an army of pitchfork-wielding blog readers on my doorstep skewering me for ruining their lives, so I assume that people have taken my words to heart and found their way out of the woods. I honor them for their tenacity and courage. I also envy them.
I've never once tried to present myself as someone who had it all together. Lately, however, it seems the universe is bent on proving just how together I do not have it at all.
And so, allow me to revise months of email replies to reflect my present circumstances:
I've been practicing Wicca for years and over the past few months it seems like the gods just aren't listening anymore, and I'm having trouble believing in the things that always mattered most to me. I can't seem to get myself to meditate or do ritual and when I do it just does nothing for me at all. My altar and my spirit both seem to be gathering dust. What do you do when you lose touch with Deity and you feel like your spirituality is just slipping away from you?
Despairing in Dallas
I have absolutely no fucking idea. If you figure it out, let me know.
Sylvan the Sheepish