What I do:
The story of a paradigm shift to become a Priest
The primary thing I'm trying to do is shift my self-definition away from what it was before.
Centrally, when making conversation, people will ask you, "What is it that you do?"
This is usually one of the first few questions in a conversation with someone you don't know, because what a person does reveals a lot about them. In fact, it often steers the conversation from that question on.
It's no secret that I've been not doing well for the past couple of months, for various reasons. Those reasons aren't really important, but it should be noted that I pretty much have centrally been struggling with personal identity and who I am to myself. Figuring that out is the first step toward figuring out who I am to others.
This job has been one of the major issues in my life. It has been, since early this year, a constant fountain of instability, time-drain, and general unhappiness with my life. Between the face-to-face time with customers and the losing battle with training, along with the extremely sharp increase in workload and the repossession of work that is simple but repetitive and time-consuming, I often feel as if I'm drowning. My sixteen-dollar-a-week-before-taxes payraise was probably the biggest disappointment I've experienced in the past five years, and I've had a lot of disappointments.
Because of all those factors, I've decided that I no longer "do" that. Yes, I still go to work, and I put in a hell of an eight-hour day every day, but it's not what I do, life-wise. It just pays the bills.
Instead, the answer to that question is: "I'm a priest." I answer that way because that is, centrally, what I am truly called to do.
Though I have been Consecrated as a Dedicant Priest within ADF, I rarely feel like such. I know that I have changed, fundamentally and deeply, through the process, but I cannot access those changes within myself until my self-definition reflects this new status.
Recently, I've had the opportunity to answer this question of what I "do" a lot. At Mitty's wedding, in particular, I found myself answering it often. The first time I said it (to a girl named Jen, the fiancé of one of Mitty's groomsmen), it felt . . . freeing. It was the right thing to say. It washed away a lot of the stress in my life, and made the conversation both fun and engaging to me.
Of course, one cannot simply say, "I'm a priest!" and leave it at that. No, apparently, I have to actually describe what I do in that position. This caused some momentary floundering.
You see, Jen asked me, "So, what's a day in the life?" Unfortunately, for me that has always involved "Get up, go to work, go to lunch, go back to work, go home and die. Maybe see some friends if I'm lucky." If I'm going to shift my paradigm away from that hellish existence, then I need to focus on what I do in the priestly realm first.
Jen revised the question, thankfully, to, "How about a week in the life?" which was much easier for me. "I do rituals, talk to people, counsel, etc. The usual priestly stuff."
Since then, I've revised the description of what I do in my mind.
"Well, my day begins with a morning devotional at dawn. I get up, get ready for my day, and then I get in front of my altar. There, I say a number of prayers and occasionally make small offerings. After that, I go out and take care of things that have to get done: mostly administrative and mundane tasks.* I spend some time in prayer throughout the day, and try and get out into nature a couple of times, just to experience it. I help work out the vision of the Church when needed, and engage in a couple of theological debates to keep the blood flowing vigorously. I meet with and speak to my congregants as much as they may need, including counseling and sometimes just lending a listening ear. Sometimes there's a ritual with the congregation to do, and sometimes I just do ritual alone. I do an evening devotional at sunset, and sometimes that ends my day, while others I either go out with friends or spend the evening teaching or learning. It's generally a full day, but I love it."
* - These "administrative and mundane tasks" are, of course, my dayjob. But I would rather define them in the larger context of my religious work than define my religious work in the context of my mundane work.
That does fairly honestly sum up my life. The trick, of course, is getting me to see that in myself. The issue here is not what I do, but what I believe I do.
I got better at this as the weekend went on. I didn't miss a beat, really, defining myself as a priest when asked what I "did" after that. I decided that it was best to indicate that I was a priest, but just leave it at that. I would let them define that to themselves before I indicated that I was a Pagan priest. . . most would somehow internally know that I was not Catholic, though most associated the term there first.
Eventually, they'd ask something like, "What denomination are you?" but this would come well after the words, "Really? I never would have guessed." I really like it that way. I like to watch people process it all. I know I'm not lying when I say I'm a priest: I have the full legal right to say that. I'm also not intentionally misleading people to call myself a priest. Besides, I'm not denying it. I'm just using this opportunity to tweak their perceptions a tad, and maybe challenge their paradigm.
Oh, I'm very happy to see the Chaote again some days.
This is really the first step in shifting my paradigm and seeking a better life for myself. I'm working hard to become something I want to be again, because I certainly don't want to be the wage slave I was.
And I've noticed that my work as a wage-slave actually has improved since seeking to improve who I am on this clergy-level. I'm a harder worker, because I realize that this work really is meaningless and pointless, but that it has to be done in order for me to maintain an environment of real priestly work.
There are more steps involved in this process: I have begun by working on myself internally, and I have noticed that stripping away who I am externally is central to doing that. There is a lot in my life that simply needs to change, and most of that is self-definition. In order for me to find happiness, I see that I need to be the Priest first, and everything else will come in time, following it later.
I have a lot of faith in the fact that things will work out for me, if I follow my heart and seek happiness, even if this means walking alone for a while.