Visions and Ashes

My week was pretty standard. The quest for paid work continues, my mood is pretty flat, and I am procrastinating like a fiend.

My weekend, however, was magical.

As some of you might know, I am an aspiring shamanic practitioner. Over the years I have journeyed, struggled to make meaning of the work and of my life, and used various other labels to describe what I am trying to do. But it always comes back to shamanism, as appropriative as that label is.

The problem, I have no formal training.

Emma's prayer tree

Well, it shouldn’t really be a problem. A certificate isn’t going to change what I do, but somehow my practice feels invalid (to me) because I have no lineage, no mentor and no physical ‘proof’ of what is a personal practice. I have looked into training in the past, but it was either prohibitively expensive or involved travelling far from home, something I struggle with.

But a chance came up. There was an “Introduction to Shamanism” course being organised in Glasgow under the auspices of The Three Ravens College of Therapeutic Shamanism. So I signed up and took part.

Although the material covered was all stuff I had learned before in my solitary practice, it was empowering to be able to talk openly about my experiences with a group of real, physical people. It has been a long time since I’ve been amongst spiritually-inclined people.

Over the course of the day, we had the change to do three journeys. I was nervous as I hadn’t journeyed for almost a year, but our instructor took great care to prepare us and ease us into the work. I feel like I have made a real breakthrough, and I am so grateful.

That was my Saturday. My Sunday was spent with family as we scattered my mum’s ashes.

A young oak tree, dedicated to Emma's mum.
Photo by @bekarwar

There was a break in the weather while we gathered at the tree dedicated to mum, and completed the marking of her passing. This time last year was horrible. Mum was in and out of hospitals, and we were trying desperately to find someone to help her. She knew she didn’t have long, but her remaining life goals were modest. The cancer didn’t care. She couldn’t even do the one simple thing anyone in her position would want to do.

This year things are a lot more settled, but for all the wrong reasons.

Mum,I’m so lost without you. It took a long time, but you finally understood me and were my biggest cheerleader even as you lay dying. Life is too hard, too big, and too confusing without you. I miss you so, so much.

Rambling

Writing a blog post when you have nothing to talk about!

Emma wearing her fox ears and tail.

It’s funny.

I have a job. A great job. I get to support a cause I am passionate about, I get to meet some amazing people and I get to go to some fun places.

However, as my job is unpaid my work isn’t considered valuable to our patriarchal capitalist society. Instead I have to look for paid work that doesn’t contribute anything of real value to society, just to satisfy the government. It’s really frustrating, and I’m not smart enough to find a solution to the mess our society is in. Universal Basic Income is a likely way forward, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. UBI could free people from jobs they hate, allowing them to do the work they want to do. Our communities need people to do real work.

I am enjoying my work with OneKind, both as an events assistant and as the Glasgow Team organiser, but I am scared that I will have to give it up to fit in with yet another toxic work culture.

I’m not depressed, I’m just stuck in a world full of folk who value the wrong things!

*

It was the third and final year of my annual fundraising event, the Burpeethon. I am proud to say that over the three years we ran the Burpeethon, 77 volunteers did 27,780 burpees and raised £7,657 in donations. All of that money went straight to Scottish Women’s Aid, supporting their work in ending domestic violence.

There is no way I could have raised that amount of money on my own. I am so grateful to everybody who took part and donated. Thank you.

*

One of Emma's granny squares

My crocheting has slowed down as my class has finished up. I’m not great at doing things myself, under my own steam.

I do have plans to make a granny square blanket, and I want to make a temperature blanket between my 34th and 35th birthday. It’s going to be sweet!

I’m trying to exercise my creative muscles in general. I want to do daily doodles, blog more often (even when I don’t really feel motivated – hence this post) and come up with a new project to replace the Burpeethon.

Harrison Wells doodle

Today’s daily doodle makes me feel so awkward. I don’t draw humans, and I hate showing people anything that I do not consider perfect, but I drew a human and I have shared it online. It’s Dr. Harrison Wells from “The Flash”. After watching “Legends of Tomorrow”, I had to go back and watch it followed by “Arrow”.  It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a TV series as much as these. I think the last time was “Game of Thrones”.

*

The awkward ending. I really want to improve my blogging skills, rather than just ramble to an awkward close. Ha! I hope you are well, and that the world is being kind to you.

 

 

Depression and daffies

That bastard we know as “depression” has been creeping back into my life this last week. He has been following me around and reminding me how terrible I am in every facet of my life. My response? To avoid people and responsibilities, and spend my days on Reddit and Twitch.

Healthy coping mechanisms.

I did push myself to go out on Thursday evening to my crochet class, which was a lovely thing to do, but it was on my way home that I did something to help myself feel better: I spent £1 on a bunch of daffodils.

Daffodils opening

A cheap bunch of flowers is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but these bright daffodils have made a world of difference to me this week. Each morning, and throughout the day, I have delighted in seeing just how much they have opened up and raised their heads.

Daffodils today

These daffodils are just a wee bit of magic in an otherwise bleak life. I know I’m being melodramatic; that’s how I roll.

 

Imbolc, and the life of the Urbanimal

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Imbolc is the one festival that I do not connect with. I guess it is because here in Scotland, Spring comes later. Heck, we haven’t even had Winter yet! I worry about that. There are early signs, such as budding leaves and crocuses, and I am just waiting for them to be crushed by severe weather. It’s the same every year, but this year the feeling is even more palpable. I hope I am wrong.

Photograph of leaf buds
Spring is making an effort to arrive

I’m not thriving at the moment. Surviving, yes. Thriving, no. While my GP knows that I am still not fit to work, what with my fibromyalgia getting progressively worse and my difficulties in handling my mother’s death, the Department of Work & Pensions has decided that I am, and they know best. *stifles laughter* The immediate issue is that they have taken my benefit from me. Thankfully I am in a place of privilege; I have a loving partner who is willing to support me while I fight this. Not a lot of people have that. It sucks to be in this position, especially because it is due to a government who has waged war on the poor and vulnerable, but I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I’ve just lost some of my independence and autonomy, but I can survive that. Survive, yes. Thrive, no.

Prior to losing my income, I had saved up enough money to do an introduction to crocheting class. I have gotten the hang of scarves, with a single crochet, but I was stumped as to where to go to next! Then my local wool shop announced the class on their Facebook page, and there was much rejoicing. We’re making granny squares! It’s a bit like magic to me. I’ve managed to make one decent looking square, but the rest are misshapen monstrosities.

Photograph of Emma's first two crocheted granny squares.
Granny squares!

I’m not the best person at getting things done. I also love journalling. And so, I have begun experimenting with goal setting, habit tracking and general attempts at being more disciplined. For my goals, I have chosen to work with Leonie Dawson’s My Shining Year workbook. So far I have been inspired by it and its Facebook community, so I have plenty of ideas for what I want to do in 2017. Getting them done is an entirely different beast! I’ve been experimenting with Bullet Journalling to combine my to-do lists, habits, goals, ideas and inspirations. On my good health days it is brilliant, but my good health days are few and far between. Of course I know that a part of me is being lazy too, and using my poor health as an excuse for not doing anything at all. I’m trying to beat that habit.

Photographic portrait of James the cat,
New houseguest

There has been a major upheaval this week; James, my mum’s cat, has moved in with us. Mum passed away in June, but this week my dad decided that he was not able to look after James anymore. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone, but when is life ideal? So on Tuesday James came to our home, much to the confusion and anger of our cat, Lucy. It has been okay so far. Both cats are avoiding each other, and Lucy has the option of going outside if she needs space. When they do come into contact, they have a spat rather than a fight.

I have always wanted to be able to talk with animals, but I have wished so hard for this gift right now just so I can explain to Lucy and James what is going on and why. Childish, right?

Emma doing a burpee
Burpees are fun; look at me smiling!

Finally, it is a week and a half till the Burpeethon. Our third and final event takes place on Saturday, 18th February. We were featured in the Evening Times this week, too, which should give us a boost. You can learn how to support the event by checking out www.burpeethon.co.uk. I have set myself a modest target to 200, which is 50 an hour. That’s 10 every ten minutes with a ten minute break before the next hour. It should be fine, just don’t tell my doctor! Shhh!

Weekend at Vegfest Scotland

Emma is wearing a fox onsie and standing beside a Vegfest poster

On the 3rd and 4th December Vegfest Scotland took place at the SECC. From what I’ve been told, it was the biggest gathering of vegan-friendly folk in Scotland. With a mix of good food, education, campaigning, art and retail therapy, there was something for everyone. I was volunteering for much of the event so I didn’t get to see everyone, but I want to share with you all the amazing stuff I did see!

OneKInd logoOneKind – Of course, these guys will be at the top of my list – I was volunteering at their stall! The stall was focused on the campaign to end the culling of mountain hare, and in selling some lovely Christmas cards and gift memberships. If you missed out, you can click here to visit the OneKind online store. OneKind have also launched a brand new educational resource over at onekind.org.

Give a Dog a Bone logo

Give a Dog a Bone – A new charity that I had not heard of before. Give a Dog a Bone helps the over 60s adopt a companion animal by helping to meet adoption fees, and some ongoing costs. I think this is a brilliant idea! For humans, animals can provide much needed friendship and purpose, and for animals, humans can provide a loving home away from a rescue centre.

Wear Your Voice Logo

Wear Your Voice – An awesome clothing retailer who specialises in social justice and animal rights designs. I bought two of their t-shirts over the weekend and the quality is fantastic. The icing on the cake is that around 15% of their profits go to support good causes AND they run The Hoodie Project – to give out hoodies to the homeless during winter. Good vibes all round.

blitz

Blitz Patisserie – Vegan fares are the best place for cake, and the best place for cake at a vegan fare is Blitz Patisserie! I was very late in the day when I found their stall, and the Vegfest patrons had virtually wiped them out! Luckily I was able to nab a slice of apple crumble cake and a raw mince pie. Oh. My. God. Both were delicious! Keep an eye out for them at vegan events, or follow them on Facebook to see when they are doing home deliveries in Falkirk, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Photograph of the OneKInd Stall at Vegfest Scotland

Being at Vegfest Scotland gave me a lot to think about. I know that vegetarianism and veganism are not right for me (been there, done that!), but I do want to reaffirm my commitment to a dairy-free lifestyle. I’ll maybe write about that in a separate post. I do wish more non-veg*ns had come along, just to see how great the lifestyle can be for mind, body and spirit. It also made me think about how important activism is. Many of the events I go to are focused on the lifestyle, but without the activism behind it veg*nism could just be another consumer fad. The activists bear witness, and remind us why we do what we do. But it’s also important to cut loose and have fun too!

Scan cats killed by cars in West Dunbartonshire

Please sign the petition: Scan cats killed by cars in West Dunbartonshire

Dougal the cat, relaxing on the couch.

All responsible cat owners will have their pets microchipped. This technology allows owners to be reunited to their pets should the worst happen, including a fatal accident. However, many local authorities in the UK do not bother to make use of microchips when they come across lost, or dead, cats.

There are risks to having outdoor cats, and road traffic accidents are one of them. As a cat owner, I feel that when such an accident happens, an owner who cares enough to microchip their pet has the right to know what has happened to their cat. In this spirit, I think that all local authorities should scan any dead cat they come across in their work.

There was a national petition about this issue, which West Dunbartonshire Council did not respond to. This gives me hope; hope that they are willing to do this one simple thing to end the awfulness of cat owners not knowing what happened to their companions.

My cat Dougal disappeared years ago. He was microchipped. He was previously in an RTA, and his microchip reunited us with him and allowed us to have him treated. But when he vanished, presumed dead, we had no information. If he was found by the local authority, we were not told. This is wrong.

Scanning a microchip takes no time at all, so I ask West Dunbartonshire Council to start scanning the deceased cats they find.

Please sign and share the petition. Thank you. 

State of the Urbanimal

Hello m’dears and m’deers!

I thought I’d write a post about all the things going on in my life at the moment, with the possibility of developing each one into a fully-fledged blog post on it’s own. I’ll divide them up into ‘mind’, ‘body’ and ‘spirit’, but there are bound to be crossovers!

Mind

  • I’ve not written about it publicly but my mother passed away three months ago, eleven months after being diagnosed with cancer. Due to the variety of issues around my mother’s death, I’m dealing with a lot of complex trauma, and unfortunately I have to be my own therapist at this time.  I think I’m managing well, all things considered.
  • My chronic depression, anxiety and various other issues are, understandably, exacerbated meaning I’m pretty much unreliable this weather.
  • I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied by taking on a home study course. I’m working on a simple business administration course in order to brush up my admin skills with the intention of being a freelance virtual assistant.

Body

  • My fibromyalgia has been a nightmare recently. I’m finally being referred to a pain clinic, and I’m starting to take pregabalin which a few of my fibrochick friends have recommended.
  • As I talked about in my last post, I’m starting to take control of my fitness. I go to the gym three times a week; I’m still tweaking my programme to find a balance between effort and impact, but I have already lost some inches from my waist and can fit (uncomfortably) into my jeans again.
  • Thanks to my friend Tam, I now have a bike. You can see me riding around the car park trying to get the hang of turning.

Spirit

  • I’m trying to find energy for creative projects, but it is a bit tricky! I can’t remember the last time I drew something, or painted.
  • I am offering to do free tarot and oracle readings, so that I can practice! You can read about my offer here.
  • My partner and (mostly) I, are working on a podcast about the social justice issues raised in the sitcom Disney’s Dinosaurs. Yes really.
  • I really want a dog, but I know I am not in a place where I could look after one. I am managing my love affair with dogs by being a member of Borrow My Doggy. Through that site I’ve met Lily & Tinks, two wonderful canine companions.
  • Pokemon Go has been my saviour, I kid you not!
  • I have a new tattoo planned.
  • I’m a volunteer for OneKind, a charity that is focusing on ending cruelty to Scotland’s animals. The majority of my work is home-based research tasks, which is perfect for me right now, but I’m also starting to move into public engagement again.
  • The Burpeethon is back for a third year! This ridiculous fitness challenge has returned, and I’m hoping it will be the best event yet!

Re-shaping up!

Doge as a Twinkie I’ve been unhappy with my body for several years now, but over the past twelve months my health has gotten out of hand. Weight has been piling on around my middle, so much so that I feel like a beanbag being propped up by two chopsticks. The straw that broke the camel’s back was last month, when I took some nude selfies and I was just so unhappy with what I saw.

Of course fat is a feminist issue, which does make me reluctant to talk about this but here I am. I have never been made to feel overweight by anybody else. When I am harassed on the street the insults are about my face, not my body. I feel overweight because my body does not feel like my own; it feels bloated and out of control. Unnatural. Not a part of me.

I am unfit too. I get out of breath when walking up the stairs, and I’m too embarrassed to do any group fitness because I don’t want others to see how bad I am. I’ve been hiding behind my fibromyalgia too; using the pain as an excuse not to try anything at all. It’s ridiculous when I think about it.

My diet went to hell in a handbasket earlier this year. I didn’t have the time or energy to eat properly, so I relied on fizzy juice and chocolate bars to get through and I’m paying for it now.

Less moaning, Em! It’s time to c*nt up!

Inspiration came when a friend recommended the Re-Shape programme run by my local council. It’s eight weeks of access to their gyms, swimming pools, and fitness classes combined with weekly classes discussing diet. The ladies in my group are all pretty cool, and because many of them also have unusual dietary requirements I don’t feel like the odd-one-out for once. I’m back at the gym for the first time in about four years. Still finding my feet, but having fun. I’ve made a start on a C25K programme too. I had tried that earlier in the year, but running on the ground messed up my joints. Starting again on a treadmill feels so much better. I’m still not feeling brave enough to return to my Krav Maga classes, or to try any new fitness classes, but I have faith that it will come in time.

I have noticed that my jeans are a bit more comfortable this week. It’s the little victories that count. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have some more updates for you all. In the meantime, I hope you all feel happy and healthy in your own way!

 

My Shrine (Jan 2010)

As a neo-pagan totemist and aspiring contemporary shamanist, I feel that it is important to dedicate a space in my home for the honour of the spirits who work with me, inspire me and drive my passion for the natural world.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is the current layout of my shrine.

Left side: Didgeridoo (which I do not know how to play), an antique fox tail, a maneki neko, replica coyote skull, polar bear figurine, badger figurine and replica brown bear claw necklace.

Centre top: Portrait of a Maned Wolf (my primary totem and the animal I identify as), my anger jar and my happy jar.

Centre bottom: Tea cup (where I place financial offerings), piece of a Monkey Puzzle, a Pine Cone, a Grove Snail shell, stones (one from inside a potted plant pot, one from some train tracks, and one from the beach at Ardrossan), Wood Pigeon wings, Pigeon offering pouch, blue stones in a jar, and a Leopard sweater guard.

Right side: Roe Deer antlers, Red Deer antlers, Goat figurine and a White-tailed Deer pendant.

My shrine isn’t to/for any one entity in particular, but it functions as a home for gifts with meaning, a place of celebration and a beacon – indicating my home is a place of safety to spirits who cause no harm to me and mine. It isn’t fixed, items come and go from it, but I feel it is a reflection of who I am and where I’m going.