magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
If I were to be any sort of spiritual teacher, the one I'd find most honoring would be a master on the ordeal path.

Though my definition of an ordeal is broader than the one at the article linked. A quick sketch of my definition would be: an ordeal is something that frightens or challenges you in a real, meaningful way, which you go through anyway.

This comes up in a variety of ways in my conversations: as a fiction kink, as a sacred qualia. One of the character archetypes that stays with me the most is someone who drags another person through something which the other person wouldn't have attempted or possibly made it through on their own, and that person is the better for traversing it. It resonates with me.

And there are other things that stay with me, too – like how one of the people I love told me, before I was off to do something that terrified me, I promise you, you can survive this.

But before I could even consider setting myself up as an ordeal master or an ordeal guide, I looked at myself and realized that I had better know the experience inside and out. And to do that, I've been putting myself through ordeals – and they're often little, quotidian things, unimpressive things, but they're still things that frighten me. It can be as simple as dealing with my dislike of phones and confrontation to call a place to dispute a charge or cancel an account, or as common as setting up a dental appointment and dealing with the discomfort and pain, or as nonthreatening but god, I don't want to do this right now as cleaning a room in the house. (Even writing this is an ordeal, in a way – not so much the writing but the posting and leaving for people to see.) I have boatloads of small anxieties, ranging from talking to strangers to driving on my own, and one by one, I'm working through them. And I'll keep working through them until I've mastered them and am no longer afraid or averse.

There have been a couple of times recently when I've made myself proud, too. Frex: I went to Seattle to visit my brother, in early September, and one day he had to work and I was left pretty much on my own. I can't describe how much I wanted to just stay in the house and do nothing, not have to interact with an unfamiliar city or with being on my own, but I made myself get out. I walked through unfamiliar neighborhoods to a bank to get cash for the day, and then walked to the water taxi and took it downtown. I had lunch on my own. I went on a harbor tour of Elliot Bay. And when that was over and I'd gone back to the West Seattle water taxi terminal, I took off my shoes and dipped my bare feet in the waters washing in from the Pacific.

Or there was the time this weekend when I drove myself out of the city and up to the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, and participated in a wilderness survival camping experience. I shouldered a heavy pack and kept pace with the group, all of whom were, I suspect, more in shape than I was. I helped start a fire without matches, and made my own shelter out of debris and a tarp. I slept in the cold and woke up sore and tired and helped tear down the camp and bring water up from the reservoir and douse the fire, and I shouldered my pack and kept pace out of there.

And to a lot of people, those would be little things. Not even a challenge. But years of being sick and dealing with low blood pressure and syncope have taught me not to trust my body, and a lifetime of mis-interpreting people, relationships and society (because human interactions are so often just alien to me) have taught me not to trust my ability to deal with others, and so many other things have taught me not to trust so many other aspects of myself that challenging one thing and defeating that one thing is a victory I hold close. Any scrap of confidence I can knap from the world is a trophy.

And there are some fears I've mastered – submitting short stories to market was one. (I still remember how terrified I was the first time.) There are fears I'm working on but slowly overcoming, like driving and talking to fiction editors. And there are fears that still kick my ass, like dealing with dysphoria and gender and society, or striking up conversations with people I don't know well, or managing savings and feeling capable of getting back on my feet in the event that I should lose my job.

But I'm going to face them. With work, I'm going to conquer them. Because I value strength and resilience, and I intend like hell to follow this path where it leads me.

Date: 2011-10-04 11:11 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: ([me] rose garden)
I've always really liked the idea of pushing yourself to do things you're afraid of, or even reluctant to do. (Maybe not always always, but... it's been a Thought for awhile.)

Walking around in a big city by yourself is a scary thing. It's awesome you saw stuff!

Or there was the time this weekend when I drove myself out of the city and up to the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, and participated in a wilderness survival camping experience.

This sounds so cool.

But yes. I think there is something incredibly empowering in overcoming something you fear. It's a wonderful, important thing and it's inspiring to hear that you're doing it.

Date: 2011-10-04 02:27 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. ([me] little gods)
I'd really like to be able to save enough that Baco and I can going traveling together. It was really... a good experience in a lot of ways, when I drove from PEI to Nebraska by myself. One of those ordeals you were talking about (I was pretty nervous >___>) and it was just really interesting to see how the land changed as I went west. And one of the things I really love about PEI is how there are a ton of little beaches everywhere on the island. I can go traveling in a day and see something new and beautiful. (There was even this beach that had hermit crabs! IN NATURE)

ANYWAY. Yes. Is it too early for you to have a favorite city you've lived in? ...Is there anyway you could get a tech job that would allow you to travel places?

I maintain my statement that your camping experiences sounds so cool. I would love to do that sometime. Have to look into whether there's anything like that on PEI. Is there an advanced camping experience, where you actually do set up snares and traps? What was your shelter like?

Belated comment is belated.

Date: 2011-10-10 03:48 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] dchan
dchan: A red bird inside the ribcage of a skeleton (bird in the heart)
As much as my struggles with anxiety/panic disorder/agoraphobia have fucked up my life, they've also made me a hell of a lot stronger as a person.

When I was at one of the worst points in my life, I was living in a state of near-constant fear. I was literally living under my boyfriend's desk. But, in getting through that, I've learned how to keep going when shit gets rough, which is skill I don't think many people our age have.

A lot of the adult-type people in my life have made comments to that effect, and for the longest time I didn't believe them. Even 5 years later, it still feels like I'm trying to pick up the pieces of my life and glue them back together. I don't have a job, or a degree, or any of the other becoming-an-adult things that you're supposed to have at this age. It wasn't until I started to notice that in bad situations I was able to just roll with it a lot more and go "Yes this sucks, but we'll get through it."

That's not to say that I'm perfect at it now. I still don't like doing any of those things like calling people on the phone or having to talk to people I don't know, and I let myself procrastinate and weasel my way out of doing those things way too often still. But I've learned that I can do them, even if I have to inwardly try not to hyperventilate while I'm doing so.

And yeah, a lot of other people can just do a lot of those things easily. But you know what? I am not Other People, and trying to compare my Issues to some sort of nebulous group like that is just an exercise in futility, so I stopped trying. I have so many better things to use my spoons for than to try to become a Socially Acceptable Person and I've had so much less anxiety since I stopped giving a damn if these so-called 'Other People' cared whether or not I met some arbitrary standards of normality. Besides, most other people are nice, I've found, so I actually end up tripping myself up less by not worrying about things because I don't have all that worrying hogging all my processing power. (Computer analogies, woo!)

P.S. I have things to say about your more recent posts too, but I am in pain today and can only type for short amounts of time. I have already spent far more time typing this comment than I should have. Look for other comments on your other posts later. :)

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