Live the Life You Want: a Very Long Post!
Personal example: I don’t comprehend authors who “write the books they have to so they can someday write the books they want to”. That seems ridiculous to me. What, is our religion a market where we chase every fad, hoping to get noticed or make a buck?
We just show up. We listen. We do our work. We speak. Some exchange happens. Some people will notice. Most people will not. But that’s OK. I don’t need to have that kind of a relationship with everyone. Sure, I’d like to sell more books than I do (other Pagan authors outsell me by a very high margin) but what feels more important to me is that that I write the books I want to, and the people who will respond to them have access.
Fads will come and go. As long as you/we are practicing our states of connection, we will have something to offer and be offered something in return.
We can expand this well beyond Paganism. One recipe for success is this: we just keep showing up, re-engaging with those things that interest us, seeking out new things to learn, and sharing what we have found with others. Musician and entrepreneur Derek Sivers gave a link to what the founders of Y Combinator look for when funding upstarts, I mean, start-ups.
The headings are:
Not a bad list, when I think of my current book project on following desire (and trust me, some of this post will end up in that book, because I feel inspired!). These qualities can apply to anything. So you want to run a coven? Have a relationship with a lover that is deeply satisfying with potential longevity? Improve your physical health? Train your psychic skills? Write books? Make music? Organize a festival? Go down that check-list to see what is helpful and required.
What inspires you enough that you can be determined to direct life energy toward it on a regular basis, not just making time for it, but firmly placing it in the context of the whole of your life? It isn’t something you have to do, or squeeze in, it is something that you can no longer imagine not doing. Your determination keeps your relationship active.
How about flexibility? When your project or relationship or health or coven throws you a curve, do you care enough to respond with flexibility, or are you just going to give up, take your ball, and go home? How much do you want to create or feel vitality? What is burning at your core that so wants to re-engage that you are willing to look at the situation upside down or sideways to see what the perspective shift teaches you?
Imagination. We could pen books on the topic, or simply cloud gaze and compose a symphony, linking sounds to what we see. But really, apply imagination to anything on my list two paragraphs above. Or make your own list. Imagination is always going to help, whether you are building a house, a partnership, or a mathematical sequence.
Naughtiness: Paul Graham of Y Combinator sees this as rule breaking, in other words, the ability to move outside the boxes of convention. Don’t break rules just to break them, and know the rules that govern your project that are needed to stabilize things, but within that, don’t be afraid of your creativity. When was the last time you broke some of the unwritten codes in your relationship pattern, just to have fun, or in order to risk greater intimacy? Yeah, sometimes I curse in the middle of a class on spirituality. Or use the word “prayer” among Pagans. It does me good, and keeps my relationship with my spirituality fresh.
To me, adding friendship to the list is a reminder that none of us live or work in a vacuum. I need friends to laugh with, to challenge me, to act as sounding-boards. Without that, my work, my writing, my exercise commitments, my rituals… all become stale, stagnant, moribund. Friendship sparks connections I just wouldn’t see otherwise. But to be a true friend I need to keep including all of the other qualities in the list above. Then creativity and feelings of profound satisfaction and joy have a chance to grow.
Back to the question that began this: Do I have anything to offer Paganism and does Paganism have anything to offer me? The answer is still yes. I will keep writing, making music, teaching, and laughing. I’ll sell some books to some people, but I will also know that my sales numbers are not the measure of my success or the reason for my activity. I am neither a Pagan nor a writer because of book sales. I don’t need to follow a fad or get a different angle. I just need to keep listening to my heart and soul, to the Gods, and to my friends.
Go ahead. Look at that list, and live the life you want. I recognize that last statement is one predicated on a certain level of privilege, but I figure anyone with the time and resources to be reading my blog can be doing a lot to lead a life that keeps him or her interested and offers happiness. Let us meet the challenges life throws us as best we can, and stop throwing more obstacles in our own way.
We all have a lot to offer the world, and the world in its turn, has much to offer back.
(Picture of modern dancer Alexandra Beller by Robert Maxwell)