Monday, 31 December 2012

Ringing It Out

The year is ending on a somewhat less life-shatteringly depressing note than the one on which its final month began. What 2013 has in store remains to be seen. There's a glimmer of hope, and possible plans, so that's something. Right now I'm warm, and safe, and loved, and that's quite a bit more than quite a lot of people can say. I hope this night finds all of you in a similar state, and with at least something to look forward to in the year ahead.

See you next year.  :)

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

So This Is Christmas

As you might imagine, I'm not feeling it. Not the religious holiday, not the secular celebration, not even the festivities related to the spiritual traditions that are meaningful for me. Even the year we left our house I managed to dredge up a bit of festive feeling, if only because that was a relatively soft landing; this year I got nothin'.


There are things that I usually do around the holidays, that this year I have felt no inclination to do: no fire on the hearth; no bayberry candles; no depraved nativity scene featuring Isis, Osiris and baby Horus; no baking; no watching the Christmas midnight mass on TV. We had the vaguest intentions of doing some kind of solstice ritual, but nothing ever came of it. I've been intending to bake soda bread since before Halloween, but that hasn't happened either. I have frozen persimmon pulp waiting to become pudding, but I have yet to make that happen. I last baked shortbread in September, before things had fallen apart so dramatically. I was thinking about watching the midnight mass last night--St. Peter's basilica is so blinged-out opulent that I like looking at it--but instead I fell asleep on the couch watching Starship Troopers then dragged off to bed. Merry fucking Christmas!

It's sad, because we only get a finite number of holiday occasions in each lifetime, and this one has just been squandered. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one having this experience this year. Misery, in this case, doesn't really much love the company.  :P

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Brief Update

I've had yet another rejection--honestly, I'm getting so good at them that they hardly faze me at all now--but also found a couple more possibilities, so I forge on; what else can I do? I started a temporary position last week, which they say could last three to four months, though there's no way to say for certain. Already there have been two days in which there was insufficient work to keep us on for a full shift, which they swear is just because of the holidays, so I'm less than confident; still, it's work, and some income is better than none. At least we've managed to buy ourselves a bit of a reprieve. At this point, it looks like we're staying put at least for another month. My husband likens our situation to being swept along with the current of a river, seeing docks and low-hanging branches up ahead in the distance but not knowing if we'll have the ability to catch hold of them as we're borne along. At least for the moment I've stopped thrashing so hard; it wasn't helping keep me afloat, and the rushing tide was far too strong for me to fight. I'm not a very good swimmer, unfortunately. But I'm damned if I'll be an easy drowner, either.

We're two days past solstice. The light may be strengthening, but as yet it's still difficult to see it. This statement applies on more than one level.  I'll light a candle, and I may still curse the darkness, but I'm also going to face it singing. I don't know what else to do.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Today my thoughts are turning to Gone with the Wind.

I know that the book and the movie are considered problematic here in the 21st century, and while those issues are valid ones, they are not what this is about. I'm looking to other themes that the story presents, and how those are applicable to me personally and also in a larger context.

First of all, we must understand that GwtW is not what it appears at first glance. The so-called "epic love story" is anything but; and part of the brilliance of the tale may lie in the fact that so few people seem able to recognize that fact. No, GwtW is epic tragedy, an examination of how varied personalities survive or not against the backdrop of cataclysmic societal upheaval. And it is this that makes the story entirely relevant today, both personally for me and societally here in the US as we find ourselves in the midst of cataclysms of our own.

Margaret Mitchell was a young southern woman born as the 19th century gave way to the 20th. Her young life was marked by the upheavals of World War I; and she began writing a story to entertain herself when she became injured and unable to continue working in the mid-1920s, not so very long before the crash of 1929. Her book was published in 1936, with the movie following in 1939, and it's not at all difficult to understand why the story achieved its monstrous, unprecedented popularity. That theme of which I spoke in the last paragraph was only too relevant to Americans in the grip of the Great Depression, Americans on the brink of entry into the second World War. The story became huge in Japan as well, and for similar reasons. When the world is in flames, be they metaphorical or literal, stories are sometimes the only things we can find to cling to for reassurance, for comfort, for a candle to light the darkness of miserable uncertainty and fear. GwtW provided that light for untold millions during that turbulent period of history, and its popularity has remained precisely because of the universality of those themes it presents. For that reason if for no other I will defend it and its author to the end.

Survival amid chaos is a keynote in the story, and we are presented with four very different main personalities and the ways in which they persist and thrive (or not). Our frontwoman, Scarlett O'Hara, is doggedly determined to survive at any cost. Her eventual counterpart, Rhett Butler, thrives by finding ways to capitalize on the destruction of his society for his own enrichment. Melanie Hamilton is gracious and accepting of the vagaries of fate, relying on a core of inner strength as well as the bonds of friends and family. Her counterpart, Ashley Wilkes, bows and breaks under the strain of trying to adapt to a world for which he was never designed either by birth or circumstance. We the audience watch the ways in which these four interact with their surroundings, with other people, and recognize that their struggles are universal and timeless, that the backdrop may be that of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction period immediately thereafter but the trials endured by the protagonists transcend time and culture.

And that's why Gone with the Wind is not only relevant, but possibly necessary, in this day and age. I almost would not be surprised to see a resurgence in its popularity. Last year was the 75th anniversary of the book's publication, and the movie will celebrate its anniversary in 2014. How can such antiquated tales be of any use in this complex modern world? Didn't I just explain that?

Right now I feel a bit like Scarlett, forced to flee Atlanta when it came under siege by Sherman's invading Union forces. She ran, despite the risks, to the only place that represented any sort of safety or stability to her: her childhood home, which conveniently happened to be located right where recent skirmishes were happening. Despite that danger, she sought refuge there, only to find the house looted, most of the servants gone, her mother dead, her sisters dangerously ill, and her father driven mad from grief and shock. Even the illusion of security was denied her, but she was home, on her familiar ancestral ground, and that was enough to give her strength and focus and the ability to take up her "weary load" and move forward. And that is what I sort of foresee for myself. It's like I can hear the siege cannons firing in the not-so-far-off distance, and fear that fleeing is all but inevitable. My ancestral place is none so grandiose as a plantation, but it's familiar, and it feels like a source of strength and safety at a time when all else looks to be collapsing and closing in. I feel fragile right now, dangerously so, and wonder at my ability to hold it together during this time. I can only hope to find a bit of Scarlett's determination, Rhett's wry cunning, Melanie's grace, and Ashley's--well, at the moment I'm finding it difficult to think of anything of use that poor doomed Ashley brought to the table. Maybe he can serve as the example of how I don't want to end up: bitter, broken, defeated.

I think I know what book I'll read next, for distraction and inspiration. Thanks, Margaret Mitchell.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

False Positives

I haven't been around here since Halloween, you'll have noticed, and it's because things have gone (as they are wont to do) from potentially bad to oh my fucking god. As in, long-term unemployment + UI running out + lease ending = don't know where I'll be in three weeks' time. No hyperbole; that's the stark truth.

It's been a series of disappointments along this downward slide. In the rare moments that I'm numb enough to view the situation with dispassion and detachment, it's rather interesting from a sociological standpoint: a microcosm of the current US economic climate, if nothing else. The phrase close, but no cigar applies. I've gotten close on several occasions to securing permanent full-time work, but each time I've just missed it. This has done nothing at all for me beyond reawakening that small sad part of me that still recalls, with painful mortification, being perpetually the last one picked.

The last time I was in the running for something potentially good, I decided to try doing a reading. I'll point out that my spiritual activities since Halloween have been practically nil; faith has never come easily to me and the darker things get, the closer I edge to the abyss of utter unbelief. In order to perform any spiritual functions at all I have to almost approach them from a scientific what-if standpoint, almost like an experiment: I'll try this and see what, if anything, happens. In that spirit, a couple of readings were done back in the summer, when I thought I had a sure thing; I read my cards and my husband read the runes. The readings were both positive and encouraging. I myself was both positive and encouraged--until they day I found out that the requirements for the position had been changed to include a degree I did not possess. False positive.

Move on a couple of months, and I've tossed my hat in the ring for a, let's say, scribal sort of records-keeping position well within my skillset. It's at a place I'd interviewed before, and even gotten a second interview (so I know that I was at least one of three finalists). I decide to do a reading, and I ask about said position; I pull two scarabs and what I come up with are the jackal figure of Anubis (whom I'd invoked in his name of Wepwawet) and the symbol of Seshat, whom I'd also invoked.

Well! That seemed very encouraging, indeed! Until I got the "thanks but no thanks" email, without even having been invited to interview again.

And now here we are, even further into the unwinding secular year, and looking ahead looks more like looking down the barrel of a gun. I've applied yet again at that same place, for the same sort of scribal position (albeit in a different department; my first two rejections came from the same department), and last night for shits and giggles I decided to try another reading, this time with the Tarot. Simple three-card spread, past-present-future, and the inquiry dealt with the urgent need for at least one of us to secure permanent full-time employment to avoid the utter shitstorm of humiliation and degradation ahead. Here are the three cards that came up:

In this deck, this card seems less dire than in the traditional Rider-Waite, but the meaning is unchanged  


She was actually reversed, and things being what they are I tended to agree with the reversed meaning

Yeah. This.
If you're unfamiliar with the meanings of the cards, I urge you to Google 'em up, particularly the meaning of that last one, the one in the future position. Words like "everything" and "eventually" came up, which I have to add on top of the words "hope" and "patience" that appeared in a certain oracle with which some of you will be familiar. (These are all important words for Bones fans, which give them an extra layer of meaning for me.)

So. Another false positive? Nothing left for me to do but wait and see.