Tuesday, November 13, 2012


So, my therapist suggested something interesting today.  She basically suggested I may have Dysthymia.  The following is a summary of dysthymia, according to the article:

The symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those of major depression but not as intense and include the following:
  • sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
  • loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
  • major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
  • insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
  • physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
  • problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
Practically the only symptom here that I *don't* have, or haven't had at least at some point, is the weight change. Well, I'm not sure that my restlessness or feeling rundown is noticeable by others, but then, I don't really interact with others  that much, outside of the internet (where obviously it wouldn't be noticed), work, and my roommate.  In addition, the symptoms go on for at least two years, with no two consecutive months being relief of symptoms. I think I've felt this way at least since somewhere in my teen years. My family history certainly has a history of some form of undiagnosed mental illness, as practically every relative I know of was at one time addicted to *something* - drugs, alcohol, pain pills, sleeping pills, nicotine, you name it.  After doing some more research, I think at my next session I'm going to discuss it with her more and see if that is possibly an "official" diagnosis and what my options for treating it are, if I need to be referred to a psychiatrist for medication, etc.

Speaking of my therapist, she provided me some feedback regarding my letter to my father which I posted in my last entry. Now all that's left to do is to actually mail it. I don't know for sure 100% if the address I found is the most current, because I called 411 and they listed the address as being to some woman. I looked into a private investigator, but that would cost around $460, and it has to be paid all at once, not a payment plan. So, I suppose my best option is to just mail it and hope that if it's not him, that whoever lives there will be nice enough to either send it back or write me back letting me know.  My anxiety level about the whole thing is going back up. Now that it's a real possibility, more than I've ever had in my life, the questions and uncertainties are going through my head again. What if it causes problems with whatever family he may have now? What if it somehow causes problems with my family? What if I'm making a mistake? I know this is all just another symptom of my general fear of change and uncertainty about life in general, but it's still there. I guess if I'm going to mail the letter, I'd better do it soon, before I talk myself out of it.

In other news, I went to a Civil War re-enactment on this past Saturday. It was very somber for me. I imagined being there, knowing many of my ancestors were Confederate soldiers. You don't typically think of a Civil War re-enactment having such an effect on someone - most people seem to view it as primarily entertainment, in my experience. It kind of made me wonder if I just think too deeply, and/or if I was having an emotional reaction due to some kind of past life experiences.

Which brings me to the topic of my next post, when I actually have time to post it: Some thoughts on Buddhism.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Letter to My Father

 My therapy "assignment" for this week was to basically come up with a list of the things I would want to say to my father if I were to contact him. Because I do these things better in free-association writing. The following is a "rough draft", if you will, of a letter:

Dear (my father's name),

I hope this letter finds you well. If my name (my name here) sounds familiar to you, then you must be my father. If not, then I apologize for getting the wrong person - it has been very hard to narrow down which (my father's name) may be the correct one with a simple Google search as my primary means of doing so.

I first want to say that I in no way have any intention of disrupting your life and any family you may have by now. I know the stereotype, the fear, is often that someone’s long-lost son or daughter only shows up for money, inheritance, or something along those lines. I want to say I have no interest in that. I also ask that, if you happen to still have the rest of my family’s (such as my parents’) contact information, that you not contact them regarding this. I have been working for years on this moment, when I would finally get the chance to contact you. I would like, then, to wait for the chance to discuss this with them myself, should I decide to do so, without worrying about what their reaction may or may not be.

I guess I should explain how I found you and why I‘m writing you. I have thought of you a lot over the years. Wondering what you were like, what you looked like, if you had other family. What have the last 30 years of your life been like, compared to the last 30 years of mine? I love my mom, sister, adoptive father, and my family through them very deeply, and could never replace them; however, I’ve always felt that you were a part of me just as much as they were, even though I had never met or spoken to you. Once we got the internet and I became computer-literate, I would regularly type your name into Yahoo!, Google, whatever search engine I was using.  Of course, the name (my father's name) showed up in countless places. I always assumed you were still in (my hometown), because that’s where most of my family was, and most people I know who grew up in (my hometown), stayed in (my hometown) - or at least that general area.

Then one day, about a month ago, I entered it in, and this time I stumbled across your brother, (my uncle's name) obituary from 2010. I want to say I’m sorry that I did not get a chance to meet him, and I’m sorry for your loss. It was actually seeing his obituary that led me to finally get the nerve to contact you, as I realized that if something happened to you before I at least got the chance to write you one time, even if you weren’t interested in regular contact, I would never forgive myself.  So, I read the obituary, and saw the memorial picture site, and recognized his daughter, (my cousin), from my middle and high school years. So I knew I had finally, after 18 years, found a definitive clue as to your whereabouts, when it said you lived in Maryland. After that, I got a paid membership to one of those people finder websites, which gave me your current (I hope) address. 

I’ve wanted to contact you many times before.  I just never knew what to say, how to say it, where you were, or the right way to approach my mom to see if she still had your contact information. I was also nowhere near emotionally mature enough to do so at the time. I admit I had some problems growing up. I had trouble understanding my family situation. I had a lot of questions as to what really did and did not happen when you and my mom were together, because I really wasn’t told all that much. But I had a lot of growing to do. I went away to college, and majored in Psychology. After I graduated, I moved, briefly, up to Chicago to be closer to a girl I was dating at the time. When that relationship ended after a year and a half, I did some soul-searching, and realized I wanted to be near the coast, the sea. I’ve always had a love for the ocean. So, I ended up where I am now. After that, I went to graduate school, getting my Masters in Social Work. I now have a job working with families that have problems and are on the verge of DSS taking the kids away.

So I guess the reason I’m writing you is to let you know that, I had some problems, but I turned out okay. I matured, as most people do. I have no interest anymore in figuring out the “he said/she said” of what may or may not have happened when I was little. It was so long ago that to dwell on it, like I used to, would just be pointless and keeping me from looking forward to the future, the here and now.  And finally, even though you weren’t around for whatever reason, I still thought of you often, and I still do.

With all that being said, I would love for you to write back if you’re interested. If not, I understand.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.


  (my name here)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Labels and Options

We all have labels. Some we assign ourselves, some are given to us by others, with or without our permission. Gay. Straight. Christian. Pagan. Buddhist. Nerd. The list goes on and on.

These last few weeks, returning to therapy and processing my family situation, I'm learning that I am a "victim of abuse". I always hesitated to use that label for myself, because it wasn't physical - I was never one of those kids who went to school with "mystery bruises". I was never severely beat, even though my parents were proponents of corporal punishment.

But there are other types of abuse. Mental, emotional, spiritual. These means of abuse, I was a victim of. When something bad happened, I was told it was God punishing me for being a bad person. When angry with me, my mom would threaten to send me off to live with my birthfather - with the assumption that he would be a worse parent than her, and that he was so violent that it would basically be "good luck living long enough to turn 18 if you're with him". Even before I found out about my adoption, I remember being locked out of the house in elementary school, at night, in my underwear. I remember my mom saying that if she and my dad (now known to be my adoptive dad) divorced, it would be my fault.  I thought I had worked past these childhood issues, but it seems that the real, concrete possibility of contacting my father has brought it back to the surface, and made me realize I still have a lot of issues with forgiveness regarding what I went through.

Therapy is going tough, but well. In addition to the aforementioned, it's helped me realize that my father's reported behavior wasn't necessarily all his fault. It's likely that their conflicts were a two-way street. I'm not justifying domestic violence by any means, but my mother did have a role to play, for better or worse, and especially based on her behavior during my childhood, it's likely that she was not just an innocent victim. It's helping me learn to set boundaries - for instance, it's none of her business whether or not I choose to contact him at this point in my life, but if she does find out, how to stand up to her?

I think as time progresses, things are moving from "should I contact my father?" to "what the heck do you say to someone you haven't seen in 30 years?" and "how can I do so without totally disrupting whatever life he may have by now?"

In the meantime, I have learned a little more about that side of the family. It appears my father is somewhat into genealogy as well, as I believe I found some posts from him on ancestry.com's message boards from the late 90s, and a family tree from a user that may be him, last logged in around 7 months ago. Apparently his father died in his early 50s as well (seems to be the family trend to die before age 60); my uncle had several DWIs. I'm researching more into his criminal record as well, at least what is readily available. I'm hoping having this information will (1) give me more insight into what his life has been like the last 30 years, and (2) help me in my decision of whether or not to contact, and when. On the one hand, if he's a dangerous person, it may really be in my best interest to just continue to stay away. On the other hand, he's in Maryland, I'm in SC, and it's like the therapist said once: if he really were *that* dangerous, there would be protective factors in place, (i.e. he would be in jail), and I'm not going to necessarily go meet him alone in an isolated place, anyways.  I'm just ready to get this whole, 20 year bit of drama resolved once and for all, and finally move on with my life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Well, things have been kind of crazy. I won't go into details about some of it until later, when I have more time, but I need to finish some paperwork before bed tonight so I can get up for a training tomorrow for my full-time job (which is going pretty well, by the way), but there are a couple of things I need to get off my chest.

The last few months, I've been really into genealogy. I've managed to trace my maternal grandparents' side of the family back to the 1600s, both the Hollemans (grandfather) and the Moores(grandmother), and a good distance with my adoptive dad's side as well. But of course, sometimes I still wonder about my birthfather. It's always been in the back of my mind since I was told, at age 12, that I was adopted. I feel like I've come a long way from it being as heavy of a burden as it was when I was a teenager, with all the anger issues I had and such. But it's still something I think about. I guess you'd have to be an adoptee to really understand. I still think about him sometimes, what he may be like, if I should contact him, etc, but have never known how/when since my family is generally uncooperative, and his name is kinda common in my hometown area. Well, I found my uncle, his brother. He died in 2010. I know it's him because I found on the obituary, a memorial page with pictures. I definitely recognize the little girl in some of the pictures, as the cousin I accidentally met soon after finding out I was adopted. We were in class together in 7th grade. When I found out I was adopted, I told a friend. One of the few things my parents did tell me, was his name. My friend noticed that this girl had the same last name, so she told the girl, and it turned out we were cousins. According to the obituary, he has a sister, my father lives in Baltimore (if it is the same family), and another sister who is already deceased. Plus a couple grandkids, 3 nephews, and one niece, which makes me wonder if I have other siblings out there too. For all I know some of the pictures in the memorial page could have my father in them. I really don't know what to do with this information now. But it's at least more than I've known since I was 12.

Friday, July 20, 2012


It's interesting the way patterns seem to work in life.

When I first felt the pull to move to the coast, I took a retail position to get me here, so that I would be local when looking for work in my career field. I found a couple of roommates, who turned out to be alcoholics and potheads. I found new roommates and moved, just in time to get hired back into my chosen field.

When it came time to start school, I ended up having to move again. Again, I happened to land just the right roommate - for the time - who would be willing to work with me with my changing financial situation as my school responsibilities became more demanding and took me away from work.

Now, as I'm seeking work again (this time appropriate to my now completed level of education), I'm also moving again. I finish moving into my friend's apartment next weekend (taking some smaller stuff over here and there in the meantime, and her parents are letting me use their spare bedroom for bigger things like my bed and bookshelf). I had a  job interview today that seems promising. It's basically a case manager position. They get referrals from DSS of families that are in danger of having the children removed, and the company tries to develop plans, resources, etc. to help the parents learn new skills to prevent that from happening. The pay would be $31,500/year, plus benefits and mileage/cellphone reimbursements. While that's a good deal lower than a lot of jobs that are Masters level, it's still at least $11,000 more a year I currently make, so I'm now wondering if I got the job, if it would be enough to quit my current part-time job and still be able to afford my own apartment (probably in the same complex that my friend is in), with all the other bills I have.

Honestly, the job makes me a little nervous too. I haven't done very much work with parents, only the kids. And it will mean home visits in quite shady neighborhoods, and running into drug use, etc. I understand that as a social worker I have to deal with some sketchy people, but I don't want to worry about my safety in doing so, you know?

Guess we'll see what happens next. They said they'd have a decision by Wednesday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Other Shoe

I'm beginning to feel like I only write here when there's something major and/or dramatic going on. That makes me sad. I need to get back into a regular writing schedule.

As usual, a lot has happened since my last post. My trip to Washington DC was amazing. Probably the most memorable moments were getting to finally thoroughly go through the Holocaust Museum, and the National Archives. I was at the DC Memorial Day Concert on Capitol Hill, which was cut short because of weather. I was at the DC Memorial Day Parade.

The National Archives finally allowed me to really get in-depth in my family history. I stumbled upon an entire blog dedicated to the lineage of my maternal grandfather's family. The blog writers have traced the family tree back to colonial times, and one has even gone to England to visit the branch of the family that stayed in England. I learned that there are several ancestral burying grounds with my relatives buried in them. On my (adoptive) father's side of the family, I found my grandfather's World War II records, notably the rolls indicating what ships he was stationed on. I learned that that branch of the family was very involved in the Civil War - there were even newspaper articles that noted just how many people in my family died during the War: twenty served in the Civil War, and only five survived. Interestingly, my family line is not a descendant of any of those five; the widow of one of the fifteen who died, while still having his last name, got pregnant out of wedlock by a new boyfriend. Since she still had his last name, her son did as well, and that's why we have that last name. I made a book for me compiled of everything I've learned so far, and one for my mom. Both were made out of binders and I used page protectors, so information could be easily shifted around or taken out to give copies to other relatives who wanted them. They then came here for a couple of days for a mini-vacation the weekend before Independence Day.

Things since then have taken a dramatic turn, which I can only hope will be a blessing in disguise. Well, in reality, I guess things have been kind of dramatic for a while, really. I was injured at work, and had to go on restricted duty for two weeks. Two days after I was returned to my normal work duties, I was mildly injured again.

I was very fortunate during school that my roommate was willing and able to work with me regarding the rent during my reduced time working due to school responsibilities - everything from reduced rent some months, to allowing me to go rent free a couple of months. However, on Friday, he basically said that he couldn't afford to do that anymore, and was giving me until the end of the month to move out - 3 weeks from now, basically. He said that because of his working with me, he was further in debt. This frustrates me, on one hand because he was somehow able to afford a new sofa and big screen TV during that time, so he couldn't have been *that* in debt. Also, now that school is over and my trip is as well, I was able to afford this month's rent in full, and fully expected to be able to continue to do so from here out, even if only barely. So why he waited until I could afford the full payment again to complain is beyond me. In addition, one of his "friends" has been living here, presumably rent-free, for the last 2-3 months, and probably will for a good bit longer, while supposedly trying to close on a house. A friend who leaves lights and TVs on everywhere he goes (which will of course drive up the electric bill, thus making him further "in debt"), and who I recently realized actually stole most of the hydrocodone I had been prescribed for my aforementioned injury. Apparently thinking I'm an idiot, this friend then later tried to "replace" the hydrocodone by putting new pills into the bottle, which I had forgotten to throw away once I noticed the pills were gone. It was obvious that he had put more in, because the pills were much smaller than the original ones. This time I was smarter, and disposed of all of my prescription pills that weren't being used, and threw away the bottles.

Meanwhile, for at least the past month, I have been applying to second jobs, as well as full-time jobs that are more fitting of my educational level, with the hopes of finally being able to quit the corrupt mental hospital I'm currently at. They continually send staff home due to being "overstaffed", which creates unsafe situations on a regular basis. Being sent home frequently has been a big factor in my current financial state. Yet the only replies I have gotten are three, all saying I did not meet qualifications - I assume for some it's because I have yet to take my licensing exam and become an LMSW (rather than an MSW), but I know for one it's because I don't have the next level, the LISW, which would allow me to practice and bill independently, but will take another two years (at least) to obtain. My parents even sent me a check to help pay for the expensive licensure fees (which cost $230 for the South Carolina exam), but I'm so down in the hole that it had to go in my bank account because I had already overdrafted by almost $50.00.

With all of this, I decided to expand my job search to jobs back in my hometown, so that I can move back in with my parents if need be, so that I can live rent-free, save up for whatever licensing fees the North Carolina licensure requires, and then save up to get my own apartment so that maybe I won't have to deal with roommate drama ever again. On Friday, I applied for an Intensive In-Home Therapist position in a town near my hometown. First I got the usual automated message: Thanks for your resume, you will be contacted if your qualifications meet our requirements. Then about twenty minutes later, I got an email from an actual person, saying that she has forwarded my info to the hiring manager, and she assumed I was willing to relocate since my info says I'm in SC. I replied, explaining that yes, I have family in the area and so relocation is not an issue. She responded saying that would be great, and explained that North Carolina has a provisional license status, LCSW-A, which once I obtain, I can then use their organization, as an employee, to obtain my necessary two years of clinical supervision hours to obtain my full license status, LCSW, which would allow for job promotion within the organization. She then told me the name of the hiring manager and to be expecting a call from her (which I have not received yet).

On Saturday, I emailed my updated resume to a wonderful organization I worked for during undergrad, before I moved out of North Carolina. At that time, they only had services in my hometown's county and two of the neighboring counties; now they have expanded to provide services throughout most of that entire half of the state (all that in just 5 years!). They were such a good organization, in my view, that had I not decided to move out of NC altogether, I would've stayed with them. In addition, the human resources person is a friend of the family - I grew up with her son as a child, going to the same church together. I emailed her to find out if they had any openings for an MSW working toward licensure. She replied this afternoon that she didn't know of anything, but she'd keep me in mind, and once I got my provisional license that would make me more eligible for positions. I then thanked her for her consideration, and asked if there were any Bachelors-level jobs available that I would be qualified for while I was in the process of obtaining my provisional license. She said she would check, then a few minutes later asked me to call her regarding a position. When I called, she told me about an Intensive-In Home Therapist/Case Manager position, where I would be a "QMHP" or "Qualified Mental Health Professional". I'm not exactly sure what that is (not much info on that online), except that apparently I would be adequate for that title until I get provisionally licensed. It seems like it would be similar to what I did with the foster care agency, as an internship. It would have the same benefits as last time I worked there. I would work full-time, and salary would be between $32,000 - $40,000/year -considering I only made about $10,000 last year (I pretty much lived off of student loan overage checks), that feels like quite a bit. Being single with no family, it would at least be enough for me to get back on my feet, catch up on some bills, and maybe get my own apartment. She then did an impromptu over-the-phone interview, and said I would be contacted if the managers over that position are interested in further interviewing me.

I'm really hoping one of these positions works out, honestly. North Carolina's system of obtaining licensed status seems a lot more accommodating and clear-cut than South Carolina's. If I'm understanding my research right, North Carolina's process to get licensed seems like it's a lot better than South Carolina's. To get my provisional license in NC, I would pay the $100ish application fee, without having to take a test. Then I would do my two years paid clinical supervision and would only take the test when I've gotten enough hours in supervision to be able to take it. Here in SC, it's $45 to register to take the test, then $230 to take the exam to get my LMSW, then I'd have to pay somebody else to supervise me before I could pay to take the exam for the next level. If I moved back to NC, once I have my license and a few more years of experience, I can always move back to Charleston if I want. If I don't get one of these positions, then I will be living on a friend's couch at the end of the month, which, while I'm extremely grateful and she's a very good friend of mine, nobody wants to live on a couch long-term. I am nervous about returning to my Bible-Belt family and middle-of-nowhere town with little to do, but I'm hoping the last 5 years of emotional growth will help me adjust and still be the person I want to be. Plus I have gotten a little better at finding things to do, and I'll still be around lots of nature. And I've already looked up and found 3 liberal churches I will probably try out, rather than going to my parents' church just to keep them off my back like I did back in the old days. Guess we'll see how this goes. I'm trying to be optimistic, but not so optimistic that if it doesn't work out, I'll go into one of my depressive funks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


So I haven't been online in, pretty much forever. A lot has changed these last few months.

Religiously, I feel another shift. I feel myself not feeling as connected to the deities/angels/spirits that I consider my patrons. When I think of the divine, I seem to be doing so more in a true Panentheistic fashion - feeling the connection of the Divinity within and beyond, rather than individual patrons. This is something I have been contemplating lately, and feel I will continue to mull over. In particular, questions come to mind: What does this mean for my patrons? Is my time with them through, and they presented primarily to help me to transition from fundamentalist Christianity to a more progressive, esoteric, natural one? How will this affect my Druidic practices and my plans to join AODA in the future?

I've taken some big steps in emotional growth. In one particular conversation with my mother, she accused me of basically being in a cult. This all started because I agreed with someone else's statement that football player Tim Tebow was using his religion to get fame and attention. I succinctly told her that I'm almost 30 years old, by the time she was my age she was married with two kids, and it's time I'm treated like an adult. Long story short, she has certainly increased in her evangelizing (now, EVERY conversation turns to a conversation about Jesus), but I'm becoming more assertive and open about when I disagree with her and my reasons for such.

My church now has a new minister, and he is WONDERFUL. He was raised Baptist in Hawai'i, went to a conservative Baptist undergraduate school, a Unitarian-Universalist seminary, has worked with prison ministries and interfaith initiatives, and preached at a progressive Baptist church, now coming to my United Church of Christ church. His personal spirituality includes heavy emphasis on nature spirituality and Zen, and has even noted some Gnostic scriptures on occasion. A good fit for my personality, for sure :)

I have finally completely booked my vacation for Washington, DC, for the end of May. This will be my first real vacation without my family in years, and I am beyond excited.

Last week was bittersweet. It began with the death of my family's 13 year old dog, of congestive heart failure. I was saddened by it, but I'm glad she is in peace, and wish her luck in her next life. Also last week, I graduated. I now have my Masters in Social Work. I still have some steps (and a lot of money) to go in order to become licensed and become more eligible for better job opportunities. I was sad to leave my internship, and they gave clear indication that if they could, they would have hired me right then. This is also the first time in my life that I haven't either been in school, or been working to get back into school. Quite frankly, I don't know what to do with myself, and I'm going into a bit of a quarter-life crisis. Again. I'm just so sick of the corruption at my job, and especially now that I have my Master's, I'm increasingly impatient to get to what comes next.

It's amazing what can happen in one final semester.

Monday, March 5, 2012


The theme for Quest (also known as the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist) this month is brokenness. I've certainly been feeling this theme the last few weeks.

Ash Wednesday was a typically beautiful, somber service at church. As part of the service, we write on a slip of paper bad habits, stumbling blocks, shortcomings, anything we feel we need to give up during this Lent season. Then we put it all in a large bowl. The minister lit it, and allowed it to burn to ashes, which we then put on our forehead in a cross. It's very similar, actually, to some spells I've done for similar reasons, only I didn't cross myself with the ashes. It reminded me that ritual, prayer, and spellwork really are just different paths to the same end.

Last Lent season, I gave up meat one day a week - Mondays. I did well, and continued the practice as a weekly spiritual practice. This season, I'm expanding my commitment to eating vegetarian for the entire season of Lent (excluding Sundays, as is tradition in many denominations). Like last year, I am doing this to remind myself of what I put in my body, how I impact the world around me, and awareness of the inhumane practices animals often suffer through before they reach us as food. Also like last year, I am considering this a "test run" with the possibility of continuing as a full-out vegetarian after Lent, or at the very least, transitioning my Flexitarianism from "mostly omnivore with occasional vegetarian meals" to "mostly vegetarian with occasional omnivorous meals". So far so good.

I've learned this week that the Quest website now has live online services on Sundays at 7pm and 9pm, and repeating the 7pm service at 1:30pm on Monday. Today's was, as I suggested at the beginning of this post, about brokenness. It was wonderfully done, and I do believe I will watch these regularly, since my brick-and-mortar church does not have church in the evenings, only on Sunday mornings. I also plan on watching through the rest (there aren't very many yet, as they have only recently begun doing this, and even more recently begun recording them for later) to catch up.

As stated before, I've been aware of my brokenness for quite some time now. I was reminded how, as a child, I felt guilty as a Caucasian for the horrors that my culture has done to minority races and religions, from driving the Native Americans off of their land, to slavery, to fighting immigration. I'm aware of my own shortcomings, as someone who tends to put himself down a little too much, and who procrastinates, and who struggles to maintain a steady spiritual discipline.

But on the other side of brokenness, lies salvation. That which puts you back together. I'm reminded that I'm doing things to make sure I don't carry out my culture's racism, sexism, and bigotry. I have felt more aware and intentional in my actions the last couple of days, than I have since Advent. I hope to start blogging more - this time for real. Much of it culminated tonight, after my Celtic spirituality meeting, and I went to the beach for a bit of night viewing. It was one of the most beautiful night scenes I've seen. The moon was beautifully bright, the waves looked as though they were in a spotlight. It brought me to a sense of total inner peace with myself. And that, my friends, is salvation. When you have peace with yourself. And when you have peace with yourself, you also have peace with the Divine, whether you call it God, Spirit, whatever.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An Irish Blessing

At this past Monday's Celtic Spirituality meeting, one of its elderly members gave us copies of a beautiful Irish blessing, which she found in her family's records. I quite enjoyed it, so I thought I would share here.

An Irish Blessing
Refashioned, a little after the manner of Synge, from the original of Cornelia Rogers

May the blessing of Light be on you. May the splendour of the sun warm your spirit through and through until it glows like the heart of a great turf fire, where the stranger may draw up to warm himself, and also a friend..... And may the light that shines out of your two eyes be blessed in the sight of all, the like of the friendly candle shining from the glass of a cottage when the dark is down to bid the traveler below come in out of the night and the great loneliness.
And may the blessing of the Rain be on you - the warm, sweet rain. May it fall gently on your spirit, the way little flowers of happiness will be all the time budding from the earth beside your path, and they making sweet smells in the air..... And may the blessing of the Great Rains be on you. May the flood of them beat upon your spirit and make all fresh and clean, with here and there a shining pool left after to be catching the blue of the sky, and maybe a star.
And may the blessing of Earth be on you. May the two of you be great friends, like, the way you will always be minding its beauty and its wonderments, and wishing for yourself no joy at all above walking the woods and fields in the new of the year or ranging the ridges of the autumn hills..... May itself be soft under you when you lie out on it in blissful tiredness at the end of a long day's wandering. And may it rest easy over you when, tired out entirely, you will lie out under it in the end of all. May it rest so easy over you that your soul will be quickly through it, and up, and off, and on its way to God.

Monday, February 6, 2012

CYF Session 3: Session 3: Sparks and Flames

Now that the holidays are over, I'm going to resume going through the CYF's Religious Education Curriculum as jumping points for when I want to write, but have writer's block.

The opening words for this session:
At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each
of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within
-Albert Schweitzer (Reading #447 in Singing The Living Tradition)
 Following is a poem by Howard Thurman:How Wonderful
Howard Thurman
How wonderful it is to be able to feel things deeply!
The sheer delight of fresh air when you have been indoors all day;
The never ending wonder of sunrise and sunset;
The sound of wind through the trees and the utter wetness of the rain;
The excitement of finding something that was lost and is found:
My fountain pen,
A beautiful word forgotten,
The return of an old book,
The reconciliation after estrangement,
The first step after months of illness.
How moving is the sheer wonder of being necessary to the life of another?
The source of food for a dog, a cat;
The giving of a gentle word when you did not know that such a word was
desperately needed;
The sharing of so little at the crucial point of acute urgency;
The invasion of the mind and heart with a sense of Presence in which all of one’s
being suddenly becomes God’s dwelling place.
Questions for Reflection:

What sparks a flame within you? Nature. The sea. Knowing that I'm making a difference.

What do you feel deeply? I feel deeply that we are all loved by that energy which we call "God". That everything has its place, and if we could just be in harmony with the rest of the world, we would be a much better species.

What gives you energy? A good book. Meditating by one of my altars. A starry night by the sea.

What sparks your interest or curiosity? Knowledge of the world around me. Understanding how nature works.

Talk about an everyday moment that renewed your spirit or made you feel good. Recently, I went to the beach at night. The stars were especially clear. I felt connected to the Universe, and in awe of how minute we really are in the big scheme of things.

Are there things you’re interested in trying? In short: Everything.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012: Changing Tides

2012 is going to be a year of change for me. In May, I will graduate from graduate school, launching the first time since I was five that I haven't either been in school, or trying to get into school. After that, I will have to take my licensing exam to become a licensed social worker. It's now the first day of February, but a fair bit of change has already been occuring.

On the work front, I'm still working a little less. One co-worker got arrested for some kind of outstanding warrant - while he was out with one of the patients on a consult at a local dentist office. He'd been there for a couple of months at that point, at least. Goes to show what kind of background checks they do at this place.

In school, this is going to be the toughest semester yet, I do believe. I'm taking two classes - a family therapy class, and a "capstone" class, which is basically full of case studies where we have to try to apply everything we've learned the last three years to case scenarios. In my internship, I only have about 2-3 individual clients, leaving for a lot of downtime and wondering how much I'm really learning in the long run, especially in relation to what we're studying this semester, involving working with families and couples, none of which I have ever done. On the other hand, we are doing three group therapy sessions instead of just one: on Tuesdays we do two group sessions for elementary school kids (the first session I work with the kids, and the second session I sit in with the parent support group); on Thursdays we do a preteen group focused on dealing with things such as bullying. 

I accomplished something I have wanted to do for years. I stood up to my mother more than I ever have.

It all started on facebook. My mom, who doesn't even really watch football, made some status comments praising the wonders of the super-Christian Tim Tebow. One of her friends, another Southern Baptist, commented, in short, that he felt Tebow used his Christianity for attention. I, personally agree with him. Upon this revelation, my mom called me and attempted to start her typical guilt trip. I was trying to unwind and watch television, and was really not in the mood. So, I told her, "I'm hanging up now." and did just that. Later that night, she messaged me, again on facebook. She had seen where I include in my religious views "Panentheist", and she already knew of my views on Buddhist meditation. So, long story short, she accused me of being in a cult, citing badly worded and ill-informed fundamentalist websites that talk about the evils of Pantheism(she was, like many do, getting Pantheism and Panentheism confused). I explained to her what Panentheism actually is, pointing out the content that was wrong on the website. I finished it by reminding her that I'm 29 years old, and by the time she was my age she was married with two kids. I explained that I'm almost done with graduate school, I pay all of my own bills except my cellphone, and I've therefore clearly established myself as a functioning, capable adult, and should be treated like one. Her response was basically her usual guilt trip. She provided a version of "all parents still treat their adult children like kids, my mom still tells me how to drive" (she clearly could not understand the distinction between reminding your adult child not to run a red light, and accusing your adult child of being in a cult simply for believing differently). She finished with a reminder that she risked her life to get me away from my birthfather, helped me move various times, and begging me not to shut her out of my life (in my view, we both essentially did that to each other years ago). At that point, I didn't even bother really responding anymore. 

At first I was angry at her (although maybe a little proud of myself), but now the whole thing just makes me sad. Sad that she has to go back 29 years to come up with something meaningful she did for me. Sad that we'll never have a real relationship beyond an occasional facebook post and a five minute phone call twice a month. Sad that I can never be open with her about anything deep and meaningful, the way I see other families being. And I feel sorry for her, that she's so scared to expand her horizons, that she  put herself in this narrow little bubble and refuses to accept or acknowledge anything that could burst it, even if that means only pretending to have a real relationship with her son, rather than actually having one.

At the first Celtic Spirituality meeting, which I attend through my church, we met some new members. One of those members described herself as a "Zen Druid", and another also described herself as Druidic like myself. The latter I had met previously, as she attended a Sunday School class, and described Jesus as one of the spirits that visited her during her Reiki training, which she received at Stonehenge. It was quite an interesting meeting, and affirming to see others who think just as "out of the box" spiritually as I do.

This past Sunday, my church voted in our new pastor. He was voted in unanimously by all 204 members who attended.The timing was interesting, and seemed like a humorous joke from the Universe. We voted him in a couple of weeks after that argument with my mom. The new minister is very involved in Christian mysticism, Soto Zen Buddhism, religious naturalism, and interfaith works. Basically all of the things that she was using to accuse me of being in a cult. To make the irony even better, he's coming from a liberal Baptist church, in Texas. Four words I didn't even know could exist in the same sentence! He is also very strong in promoting LGBT equality, and seems dedicated to raising awareness of our liberal Christianity amidst the conservative sea that is South Carolina. I'm very much looking forward to him.

Today I spent some much needed relaxation time by the sea, and realized another change. I feel myself shifting my spiritual focus a little more in my panentheistic view. I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the deities, angels, etc. that I have been following, and where they fit in my panentheistic worldview. In the past, I've viewed it along the same lines of what is called in Paganism as "soft polytheism". But I find myself thinking of the Divine in more generic, truly Panentheistic terms, thinking more of the One Spirit that is within, part of, and beyond all. So I'm beginning to work through that as well. Throughout the process, I will need to keep in mind to focus on what makes sense to me, and not fall into previous habits of trying to find "somewhere to fit in", trying to find a label for my beliefs.

Yes, 2012 is going to be interesting indeed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2011: A Year In Review

This week has been a very interesting week. However, before I go into that, which I will on my next post, I would like to do my annual "year in review" of 2011. 2011 was, for once, a fairly uneventful year for me personally, so it may be a little shorter than other years I have done this.

From January until around the end of April, I finished up my second semester of my second year of graduate school. I interned at a local foster care agency. By the end of it, I had a caseload at least as big, if not bigger, than some of my colleagues who were there as employees. My caseload changed regularly, making it difficult to develop a relationship with the kids I was in charge of. Only one kid was on my caseload for the whole school year, a 7 year old with cerebral palsy, who she kept with me because of our connection. Two foster homes, which had previously been on  my caseload and then switched off, were put back on my caseload, after they basically hounded my supervisor until she agreed to do so. But, this happened right as I went on Spring Break, and by the time I returned, one of the foster kids (the primary one who wanted me back so bad) had turned 18 and signed himself out of the system.

In April, a nightmare began at my place of employment, a mental hospital for teen boys, whenever four kids escaped from the facility. They were found the next day. But, it brought to light the shoddy practices that were going on there (some which still are, just to a lesser extent and better covered up).  News articles about it, I posted on my facebook wall. I assumed I was okay, because I have my privacy settings very strict on my page, so that only my friends can see anything, and even then, I restrict some things from some friends.  But, as it turned out, one co-worker, who I thought I could trust (I'm also very selective in which co-workers I add, if they request me, and what I allow them to see) reported back to a supervisor, and I was threatened with my job. I called a lawyer, who basically said it would depend on the facility's social media policy (they did not have one at that time) , and maybe it would be easier to just remove the posts. I did not do so. Doing so, to me, would have been like saying I was okay with what was happening and like silencing my voice. I refuse to ever do that. I may do things "under the radar" in order to counteract the corruption while still keeping my job while I have to be there, but I don't give in. In any case, it became a moot point, because so many disgruntled ex employees came out of the woodwork to file reports to the police (and to the media), that I would have simply joined the masses.

The summer was generally uneventful. In May, during a weekend trip to the beach with a friend, I secured my second internship, an outpatient group therapy program on the psychiatric unit of the local major regional hospital. I had Saturday classes. My family came to visit for a week.

The Fall 2011 semester was difficult. I was put in charge of coordinating and collecting many resources for the group therapy program. It was exciting and liberating to actually have my ideas acknowledged and even used. It gave me hope that I can still meaningfully contribute, which I haven't felt in years.

For October and November, I barely worked. My work time is limited as it is because of my school commitments. But for those months, most of the days I was available to work, they didn't put me on the schedule. On the days I was scheduled, I was often called off for "overstaffing" - interpreted: "We actually have enough staff on schedule to manage any and all situations, but that costs too much money, so we're going to operate on the bare minimum and hope to God nothing happens."  I think I worked maybe 2 days the whole month of November.

I did work more in December, thanks to the school semester ending. I made all A's last semester. Christmas break went generally well, as detailed in my Christmas post. The day before I left North Carolina, I was checking the newspaper's website for my current home. Once again, my workplace was in the news. One of the psychiatrists for the facility, who treats sex offenders no less, was arrested for hiring prostitutes. Incidentally, the case was dismissed because the arresting officer was also arrested for unrelated sketchy illegal activities. Just love South Carolina!

New Year's Eve I worked day shift , before going to Olive Garden with a friend, and then we came to my house and watched movies and the Dick Clark New Year's countdown. And so was 2011.