Being a Duck

A friend of mine came to me the other day and said “I don’t want to be angry today.” Now, anyone who knew me prior to, oh, maybe four years ago, they know that I used to be really, really good at being angry. I could get angry at all sorts of things. My wife. My kids. Perceived slights. The misdeeds of others. The misdeeds, especially, of myself. Oh, I was an expert at being angry with myself.

Full disclosure time: I struggled with being a good, attentive father with my first son. Anyone who knew be back then will be nodding. I was so out of touch with his mother, and with myself, and it was easy to lock myself away. I even went so far as to move away, to an entirely different state.

When I came back, two years later, I was a very different person. My walls had been shattered, my emotional center reborn, and my entire perspective of life changed. None of which I entirely knew, but I was, fundamentally, a different person on the inside. All I needed to do was learn how to effect that change on the outside.

Well, here’s the thing. I’ve gotten a lot less angry. But what I didn’t get was a lot less guilty. And so that didn’t really unburden me at all, it just shifted things. Being less angry was good for me. Being guilt-ridden wasn’t.

Guilt brings a different kind of burden than anger. Anger gets you going. It has a charge to it. It makes you jump out of your seat, shaking your fist, spittle flying. There’s a victory condition. But guilt has none of that. Guilt is depressing. It’s crushing. It’s a layer of dirt that coats everything that you can never quite get clean. It carries depression, self loathing, and desolation.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that it was easy to stop being angry. But I will suggest that, in general, it’s easier to stop doing something than it is to start doing something. It’s an effort to stop, but you hold your breath, and grab on to the railing, and… don’t take that step.

But to release the guilt, I had to start. Start forgiving myself.  That’s not as easy as starting to play a new computer game.  Or starting a new diet.  Or starting a new career. . Because before you can forgive yourself, you have to believe that you’re worthy of forgiveness.

It’s a long journey, self-forgiveness. It’s full of fits and starts, and a lot of giving up.  It’s taken many years, and more than a few pep talks from friends and confidants to get there.  But I can say that once it happens, it’s an amazing feeling of relief and peace.

So how does this all tie together?

Before you can stop being angry — really stop being angry — you need to forgive yourself for the anger.  It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be upset.  It’s ok to be upset.  But you have to let it go.

I struggled to let go of my guilt.  I struggled to let go of my anger.  I struggled to let go of my fear.

They were all the same thing.

Now, I still get frustrated.  Traffic.  The kids.  Homework.  Work work.

My trick is to be a duck. Not the part about looking all serene on top and paddling like mad to stay afloat below.  No.  Be a duck as in “like water off a duck’s back.”

Take your anger, your guilt, and your fear.  Experience them.  Validate them.  And then release them.  Let them flow away.

Learn to let things go.  Be a duck.

One thing I’ve started doing in my ongoing quest to be a duck is I go to this site three or four times a day.  I sit and listen to the waves, and think about the things that bother me, and try to let them roll off my back like water.  I ease them into the ocean and watch them drift away.

I forgive myself my own trespasses, as I have trespassed against myself.

Not a single one of the peers who I respect and love and seek to emulate is a more-than-human person who never fails.  Every single one of them has made mistakes.  They have all offended people, they’ve all screwed up, they’ve all been angry at other people and themselves.  I know that they have all found ways to forgive themselves.  And so I seek to emulate them in this as I do in other things.

Be kind.

Be charitable.

Be forgiving.

Be a duck.

be worthy

Epiphanies and Transformations

So, Known World Cooks and Bards was held this past weekend in the Wisconsin Dells, in the Kingdom of Northshield, a place very near and deal to my heart. And I went up there with people very near and dear to my heart. And I met people who, had I only known it before now, were near and dear to my heart.

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I could run through the conventional day by day recounting of the event, but I won’t. What I’ll do instead is lazily drift from moment to epiphany to performance.

So, People:

This is my favorite picture from the entire event.  Two of my favorite people having a laugh with each-other.
This is my favorite picture from the entire event. Two of my favorite people having a laugh with each-other.

Aneleda Falconbridge is a revelation. Zsof and I convinced her to come to the event, and she travelled with just a little bag — and an enormous heart. She was kind and friendly and courteous with everyone, fun to watch moving through the event, and a joy to sing with. It was like meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, and we just picked right back up where we left off.

Zsof, of course, continues to be my rock in the SCA. Supportive, she’s always got my back, and we’re starting to find ways to sing and perform and write together. Yes, be afraid.

Kari… what can I say about Kari that isn’t summed up with o/ ? The hairband comes off, the locks flow free, and the Rock God is among us, leading the way and showing us how we are all Epic in His Eyes.

Finnguala is funny, and sweet, and supportive. Her drinking song that she sang in the car on the way home is going to be a great hit, and an awesome singalong.

Lasair is really coming into her own. Her new valkyrie song is haunting and tight, a look at the world of men through the eyes of their Judgement. And her boyfriend Charlie is a good liberal lad. Their intellectual discussions in the car (interspersed with fart jokes) were really quite interesting.

Shava and Kudrun and Eliane and the rest of the KWCB staff were astounding in their attention to detail and service and assistance. The coordination, the food, the loaner bedding, the freakin’ taxi that never stopped running… well, I’m sure that there were issues, but I never saw one. Feast was… astounding. Even when the eels were staring at me.

NOT ME!  EAT THE ONE ON THE LEFT!
NOT ME! EAT THE ONE ON THE LEFT!

I got to reconnect with Wyndreth, which was awesome, and even more awesome is having the opportunity to work on a project with her. Her Voice is as powerful as ever. She’s a font of information. She makes you think in ways you didn’t think you could brain. I love being around her.

And of course, my Laurel Amelie, who I didn’t get to spend much time with, but is always a cheerful and supportive presence.  She brought one of her amazing 800-stringed instruments to the event (I think it’s called a Delruba) and completely cut short a group of bards aggressively discussing… something, I don’t even remember… and played for us.  No moss on her, my Laurel.

Classes:

I took Wyndreth’s “Finding Your Inner Norse Voice” class Saturday morning — and then proceeded to make up kennings for the rest of the event. (Althought silky mushroom is NOT MINE.) Key takeaway: it’s not enough to understand a poetic form. You have to understand the culture to truly be able to speak with an authentic voice. For example, what did the vikings use for money? (Answer: Other people’s money.)

Then I attended Lisa Theriot’s bardic keynote. She’s an excellent speaker, and I enjoyed it. Key takeaway: In the SCA, we’re playing at it. We take some aspects seriously, but the concept of fealty, and the obligations it carries were far far different in period than they are in the SCA. If you break your fealty oath in the SCA, people will talk about you. You’ll lose status. But if you broke your fealty oath in period, frequently you ended up dead.

Sunday started off with Robyyan’s Cantigas for Contrefait class, and I’m really excited about working with some of the material on a particular project I want to try. Then I taught my Sestinas, Ballades and Triolets class, which I really enjoyed doing, because I had nine really interested students, and almost all of them tried writing a poem themselves when the lecture portion of the class was over. I love these forms, and I wish more people would do them. In the afternoon, I co-taught a sparsely attended Boasts class with Zsof, an then a pretty well attended class on being Kingdom Bard that, uh, got a little political. But we worked through that.

Sunday night feast was made especially nice by the conspirators of my wife Laura, Finnguala, and Zsof who worked with Shava to deliver a very nice personalized birthday cake for Lasair and I, who both had birthdays at the event.

Look!  It's me!  In sugar!
Look! It’s us! In sugar!

Singing:

And of course there was “Weight of the Chain.”

First this: 

then this: 

And how did such stout MidRealm Royalists come to be singing with the War Bard of the East? Go find her blog and she’ll tell you. (psst: find it here.)

It was a… transforming experience, this event. I experienced something very personal and very fundamental here, one that lifted a great weight I’ve burdened myself with for years, and one that puts me on a new path to new aspirations and new deeds of honor.  I’ve struggled for years now, trying to find my way back to the SCA, to my muse, to my friends. No one’s fault but my own, but it’s nice to finally, for once and for all, get there.  I’m not leaving again.

So there you go.  An awesome event, lessened only by the lack of my wife and kids.  Amazing classes, tasty food, good friends, formative experiences.  

Word-wielders, weary, as homeward they hasten.
Cunning Cooks clean food-blades and drink daggers
Brewers beam brightly at mead scabbards all empty
And Shava, world wrangler, dreams deeply in sleep.

Full friendships flower, sun facing, long waking.
East linden walks softly with dragon-bards bold
Word-bindings strain under snow-leaves, a blizzard
Grain-singers boiling, mind-wort and milling

Heart-pluckers standing, tune-gifting the people
Passing the light round song-circle once more
Life-speakers, feeders and story-distillers
Our wagons bear kennings and dream drivings.

And this is why we do it.  Thank you, Audience!
And this is why we do it. Thank you, Audience!

Other exciting videos from KWCB can be found here.

My favorites: