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I’m writing this on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Instead of going out and taking part in the merriment, I’m at home writing in my pjs. The kids are in bed, a crime show is playing at a low volume and I’m trying to decide if I should have a post-dinner snack. For me, it’s just another night while the husband is at work. But outside my boring world, this is a day of celebration.
Today online has been swamped with countless talk of parties and shamrocks, “Kiss Me I’m Irish” declarations and green beer. I have absolutely nothing against people revelling in a holiday. With the shape of things in the country right now, I can totally get behind a day of hearty fun. If our hands are busy lifting beer glasses they are won’t have time to attack each other. So by all means, drink, eat, and be merry!!
My gripe and the gripe of so many of my fellow Pagan brothers and sisters is that the snakes St. Patrick ran out of Ireland weren’t the kind that slithers. They were actually Pagans. In a quote attributed to him, his views of the Irish people were explained:
“Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!” source
St. Patrick is said to have created over 300 churches in the Emerald Isle. More importantly than just the physical buildings, it’s alleged that he baptised over 100,000 Irish people. Through his teachings, the native polytheism of Ireland was all but wiped out. If worries of appropriation were a thing in the fifth century they would have been cast at St. Patrick. He understood that incorporating well-known ideas and beliefs into his teachings was the fastest way to get the locals assimilated. He took their beliefs in their “unclean things” and sold them back dripping with Christian tint.
This was, and still is, the standard modus operandi for the Church. First, find a heathen population and pillage their beliefs. Then, change just enough so they can’t prove you copied them before you finally shove them down their throats. Rinse and repeat until you’ve pushed the populous belief so far underground that it gets referred to as “The Old Ways”.
And that’s exactly what Saint Patrick did. But being credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland may or may not be completely historically accurate. Sent to Ireland around 431 by Pope Celestine, Palladius was the first bishop of Ireland. As with many characters in historical lore, at this point, Palladius and Patrick have probably been conflated to become one person. Either way, I personally don’t see the brainwashing of a people something worth celebrating.
But, and this is a very important but, what the holiday is now is not its intended purpose. The festivities we have become accustomed to here are more celebration than reverence. It’s an important celebration of the incredible spirit of the Irish. From Ireland to America, the Irish people always faced hardship with determination. That is something that is worthy of celebrating and drinking to. In a weird sort of way, it’s kind of poetic. St. Patrick used a country’s religion as a stepping stool to expanding his religion. We now use his day to as a stepping stool to expand our exaltation. That’s reason enough to have a drink.
But make sure its a really good Irish beer, not that dyed green crap.
*The following is not and should not be used in place of medical advice. If you need help, please see your doctor or a mental health professional.These are just personal habits I’ve had success with.*
Back in the early 00s, I was a wide-eyed, overworked, scared to death college freshman. In my very Mickey Mouse Intro to College class, we had this group activity. It was one of those icebreaker games that’s only freshmen and people at seminars do. The gist was, we had to pick an adjective that started with the same letter our name that described us. Alliteration being a memory helper and all, I suppose. I instantly knew mine. It was a name that I had been carrying with me since I was just a wee little girl.
I’ve never known a time when I haven’t been anxious. As a kid, I cried. I cried a lot. I’m not sure if it was the early signs of anxiety, depression, or the effects of my mother, but childhood was full of teary eyes and snotty noses. I remember once during an elementary school orientation my mother telling the teacher that I was “tender-hearted”. It was a descriptor that stuck with me long past my public school days. All these decades later, that tender-heartedness has turned into full-fledged anxiety.
Anxiety is still a big part of my life. It’s a monster I battle each day. Below are 7 things I do to try to take its power away.
It sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not. Breathing is one of the hardest things to do in the midst of an anxiety attack. Shallow breaths come easy and fast and can cement you in the fight or flight mode. I tend to hold my breath when I’m struggling. I don’t even have to explain why this a foolish thing to do. One thing I’ve found that really, really helps is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s a great way to reset your brain and center yourself. And it’s pretty easy.
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold that breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale for 8 seconds.
- Repeat as necessary
It’s really a fantastic exercise to regulate your breathing and bring your mind back from the brink. If the 4-7-8 technique isn’t your style, taking deep slow breaths will also help. The fast shallow breaths that are common during an anxiety episode do more harm than good. Breath deep, from the bottom of your diaphragm. Those long deep breaths are the good ones that will help you center yourself and calm down.
Ask For Help
The only thing harder than remembering to breathe correctly often is to ask for help. It’s painful and frightening to open yourself to others. But we are not islands. We need each other. Find yourself a tag team partner. Someone who will support you and work with you as you navigate the bullshit that is anxiety.
Whether it’s holding your hand, making you lunch, or just reading the words you need to type, having a circle of people you can turn to is so very important. Ask them for help. Let them help you share the load.
Sometimes what you need during an attack is not just a change of space but a change of mind. Going outside can do both. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city or are in the middle of the country, going outdoors is a great way to help bring yourself back. Sunlight, fresh air, and the sounds of nature foster a sense of serenity. Being able to have space and absorb them is a great way to become unflustered.
Some of the best art comes from the darkest places. If you are able to harness some of the power of anxiety and use it for good you might be amazed at what you’ll create. It doesn’t have to be great, just make something! Write some words, doodle some drawings, take some pictures, bake a cake, build a birdhouse! Just put yourself in motion and use your powers for good, not the self-harming evil they can be used for.
The first thing I ask whenever one of my kiddos comes to me with a complaint is “Do you need some water?” Staying hydrated is important. It’s also something that gets overlooked quite often. As someone who drinks more coffee than I should, sometimes just taking a moment to drink a glass of cold water changes my mindset. Water, dirt, fire, and salt. They are all three things that connect us to the planet. They are all things we need. In the middle of our chaos, I firmly believe these things can ground us.
Find a Positive Distraction
We live in a time where podcast, audio books, and most tv shows we love are streaming on demand. We don’t have to wait to for a certain time on a certain day to lose ourselves in a mindless distraction. It’s available anytime we need it. And when you’re fighting anxiety, you need it whenever the episode happens. Finding something positive that you can quiet your mind and enjoy in the middle of a rough time is wonderful to keep you grounded. Some of my favorite things to listen to are podcast. One of my very favorite podcast is Levar Burton Reads. Its Levar Burton and his wonderful voice reading amazing stories. It’s incredibly calming and interesting. Being able to focus a speeding mind on something as enjoyable as Levar’s voice is great calming technique.
Even harder than remembering to breathe and asking for help is remembering to stay in the moment. When your head is playing the highlight reel of every horrible thing you’ve ever done, its hard to remember to be in the here and now. The following is a grounding exercise I use daily to help me focus on what is and what is not:
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear.
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.
1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.
No matter what methods we use, we must realize that we are stronger than anxiety. While this is a monster that lives in our world, we do not have to make our world about it. It is my hope that some of the tips effect you in a positive way. As with anything, find what works for you and do that.
You probably don’t know about the issues I carry around with me. You probably have no idea that one of my biggest deficits is in the shape of a loving maternal figure. So you probably have no clue how much those pet names you called me during our short interaction meant.
How could you? You’re taking orders in a fast food place, working your ass off for a paycheck. You see hundreds of folks a day. For all I know, you might really fucking hate your job. But somehow, I don’t think you do. And dollars to donuts, everyone is “Sug” “Hon” or “Babydoll” to you.
I’d be willing to bet, some people get snippy over that. There are some assholes that feel that it’s a personal insult for a stranger to speak to them in a familiar sense. I’d also bet a lot of them are other women who get mad that you call their significant others a pet name out of hospitality. A lot of people don’t understand sweetness like that. They are all so busy tripping over their ego that they see your kindness as a threat. I know it isn’t.
Even though I don’t know you, I know you. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Like sees like, and all that. I think people like us want to make others feel good. We want to give them a little bit of happiness to take with them on their way around this crazy world. Like a sugar cube in their pockets, there just in case they need it.
More than seeing the hidden good in others, you see the good in yourself. And you act with that goodness spiralling around you like summertime fireflies. The world is short of people who hand out their happiness freely. People usually keep their happiness to themselves because they rarely see it in the world. But it’s not seen in the world because people are keeping it to themselves. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You break that with your smiles and downhome endearments.
That brief moment we interacted set the tone for the rest of my day. I was able to go home and happily hand out the breakfast to my pack of sometimes savage, mostly hilarious kiddos. You made my day better and that in turn made other’s day better. Your sweetness was the spark that set fire to a day of positivity.
You probably won’t read this. We might not cross paths again. While I am all about chilli cheese dogs for breakfast, my leggings only have so much stretch. But from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Please no matter where you are, keep on being you.
You’re an absolute treasure, Sug.
Childhood, Pro Wrestling, and Being a Mark
Back before “sports entertainment” was a thing, my dad ran an independent wrestling company. Think less Vince McMahon and more flea market Jim Cornette.
He’d book shows in high school gyms, bingo halls, auction barns, basically anywhere that had space for a 16x16ft ring. Because of that, I spent the first five summers of my life stuffed between my parents in a late 70s Chevy Silverado. This was a time before mandatory child seats, seat belts, and common safety knowledge. We travelled the Carolinas, towing behind us a trailer full of wood and metal. The bed of the truck was full of mats and turnbuckles, 12 packs of Natural Lite and multicolour cable ropes. At our feet were empty Salem cigarette boxes, beer cans, and a black belt with a big metal plate.
We’d arrive at an empty building around midday and my dad and his motley crew of weekend performers would go to work setting the ring up. I would sit on the bleachers, a few toys in hand and watch the men strain and swear and finally turn a pile of random junk into the fabled squared circle. I’d try to stick around and watch them do run-throughs of the matches but usually, I’d be swept off by my mother to come sit with her and the other women in the concessions area. More often than not, I’d sneak off to go hang out with my dad and the other menfolk, getting ready for that night’s show. It was there I was schooled in the secrets of the business.
One of the secrets of wrestling is that there are these things called “works”. A “work” is when you get over on a crowd. It’s the act of getting people to suspend disbelief long enough to become emotionally invested in what you’re doing. It’s a grown-up version of playing pretend. As an example; On April 27th, 1991 during the peak of a white-hot feud, Earthquake (Whose real name was John Tenta. He was billed as 6’7ft 486 lbs) crushed a bag that held Jake “The Snake” Roberts pet python Damien. Damien had been Roberts’ sidekick and was a character in his own right. When Earthquake “crushed” his bag, the crowd went wild. Those fans that lost their minds and completely bought into the story are known as “marks”. With Roberts tied up in the rings, he was unable to do anything but watch this huge mountain of a man crush his pet and only friend presumably to death. Roberts work is some of the best ever to grace the inside of a ring, and that night he was on point. His face full of despair, he yelled and screamed for Earthquake to stop, for it to all not be true. In reality, it wasn’t true. The snake was never in any danger and Jake Roberts didn’t watch his only friend die. The role of Damien that night was played by ground meat shoved inside a pair of pantyhose.
Too many times I was hauled away from the wrestlers and forced to sit still and be quiet in some boring corner, far away from the banging of bodies on the mat and counts of three. In those moments when dad and the crew overruled my mother, I was the official gopher for the night. I’d run the lengths of the gym, hauling beer, towels, cups of water to the guys in the back. Before the main event, I would usually be out of sight, asleep in the truck far away from the crowd. Wrestling was a constant in my life, and I loved every bit of it.
Growing up in the Carolinas it was kind of hard not to be surrounded by the sport. The closest major city to my little backwoods hometown was not only the home of Jim Crockett Promotions (which would be sold to Ted Turner in the late 80s and become World Championship Wrestling) but also the home to one of the biggest names in wrestling, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.
Arrogant and flamboyant, confident and animated, Ric Flair was, and still is, pro wrestling. From his expensive shoes to his bedazzled and feathered robes, he was the icon for the sport. His theatrics, his ability to tell a story not only with his passionate speaking/screaming but also his body set the bar for how a professional wrestler should perform. In my eyes, he and the men he faced in the ring were more than human. They were like the Greek gods. But with championship belts and American accents.
And that’s what the allure of pro wrestling is. It’s men who look like superheroes acting out comic book storylines live and in person. It’s bigger than life characters taking part in beautifully violent choreographed battles. Good guys versus bad guys, babyfaces versus heels, heroes versus villains, add some beautiful ladies and it’s the male equivalent of a daytime soap opera. But with way more punching than kissing.
Sadly, a real-world workplace injury brought our wrestling adventures to an end not long after I turned six. The ring was broken apart and not put back together. It’s corner post used in the fencing for our merger herd of cattle. The hefty Silverado replaced with a smaller truck. The walls of my dad workshop stopped getting promotional poster stapled to them. It was over.
But my love for professional wrestling continued on.
It wasn’t until middle school that my love for pro wrestling, or as the regional accent in my head says “rasslin'”, became socially acceptable. But still, it wasn’t something that many girls my age were into. Along with my ill-fitting boys pants and at home butcherblock haircuts, my excitement for wrestling set me further apart from my female peers. Nevertheless, I was enthralled. What I lacked in a social life, I made up for with being a wrestling fan. No matter how many times my interest was discouraged with “But you know it’s fake, right?” I continued on.
High school and college came after and with them, more adult responsibilities than I should have had to take on. The schedule I was keeping kept me away from the TV for most of the week. Still, when I could, I would sit down Monday and Thursday nights and watch wrestling with my dad. Like keeping up with the Atlanta Braves, wrestling was how we bonded. I’d watch the spectacle of The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and DX with glee. My dad, in typical grumpy old man fashion, would complain about how wrestling had “gone to hell” and was nothing more than “a bunch of hogwash”. With the space between us filling up with more and more things, it became our last avenue for connectedness.
But like all storylines, that too would end.
The day of my courthouse wedding, it was a disagreement centred on the name of his old promotion that kept my dad from coming to witness the event. Someone had decided to use something close enough to his promotion’s name and he felt slighted they hadn’t consulted with him first. At least, that’s the story that hurts the least to believe. If I can believe he missed my wedding for something he gave numerous years of commitment to, it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
After all, I know what a work is. And I’m a big enough mark to believe it.