[Manic Mondays] On Leveling Up

posted in: Manic Mondays | 1
Chibi Durga will still cut a bitch.

I had promised pictures and mood boards for Mondays, but I just realized I want to do for Mondays is get to talk about whatever I want to talk about, even if there’s zero connection to magic/occultism/Paganism/whatever.  Because, while I am a . .  .Worker (so far that’s my current label), that’s only part of my day.  And I’ve been blogging for a long time now.  A really long time if we want to start from Diaryland where I seemed to only have a tenuous relationship with the English language, how money works and My Mother Is the Root of All Evil Ever.  Ever.  (Hilariously, I now actually feel guilty about being such a little bitch about poor Fran who did her best to try to raise my sister and I not to be feral).

So sometimes, I run out of things to say.  Because I’ve said a lot of things over the years.  And sometimes it’s also a matter of being pre-occupied with non magical related things.  It would be awesome if you thought that high woo ritual was part of my daily practice and I’m constantly doing magic and you should tell me that’s how you in fact see me should we ever meet, but it’s a total lie.  Sometimes, I don’t even manage japa. Or magically cleaning my house.  Or lighting one single tealight in my tiny hearth.  There’s often epic flailing is what I’m trying to say.  I don’t really have any big dictates from my gods requiring this or that and sometimes that’s amazeballs and sometimes that means nothing gets done ever.  (Ever.)  It also means I get distracted by Real Life stuff sometimes. (Often.)

It’s been established.  Monday is Whatever Deb Feels Like Day.

Jow and I just got our tax return back which is why we’re having a big furniture flurry (I like the way that sounds!).  We’re getting a leather couch, a new dining room set (same as the old one but, you know, new and not assembled by monkeys/exhusbands), book cases and a new coffee table.  The bookcases, coffee table and dining room set will be made out of actual wood, not particle board.  I’m giving our old stuff to good home, which feels really good.

What feels strange about this is that we’re not going into debt with our purchases.  We even have tax money left over which I promptly used to pay off my Bloomingdales card and *still* I have some left over.

You have to understand about the way I was from the age of 18-29.  Money was really abstract to me.  I liked nice things.  Well, sort of.  I think I’d feel better about my debt that I accrued if I had a Carrie Bradshaw closet to show for it.  Mostly, I liked going out and buying a lot of stuff that was not going to make it long term (think lots and lots of sweaters from Kohls level establishments).  I loved clubbing, I loved going to martini bars, I loved going out to eat and I did get to travel some.  I do have some nice things to show for it.  Not many, I sold most of my nice things to mortgage my (still new to me) thirtysomething adult life.  But mostly I ate and drank a lot.  Which is also how I got fat.

I didn’t plan on having children (and I’m still on the murky “probably not” side of the fence on that) and I didn’t really plan.  No 401K, no retirement savings, nothing.  I planned my next party or my next extravagant night out.  I also didn’t boomerang back home to save money like I probably should have, but my early twentysomething relationship with my mom was contentious and it was hard for us to live in the same space because I desperately wanted to be AS OPPOSITE AS FRAN AS POSSIBLE!  Poor Mom didn’t know what to do with me because I was super docile as a teen/early college kid.  It seems almost funny now since I live three blocks away from the woman, voluntarily talk to her almost every day, call her immediately whenever I have a problem and really enjoy her company and spending time together.  But it took a lot of work (and a lot of rent payments for me) on both ends for us to get to this place.

I was in a weird different financial bracket in my twenties where I made too much to qualify for a condo under Mt. Laurel (basically, each new development in NJ must set aside a certain number of smaller condos, apartments, townhouses, etc  for people who make “normal money” in most of the rest of the country, but are considered “moderate income” in NJ.  There aren’t any perks to it really, it just gives you the chance to buy real estate at a reasonable price with the caveat that you can only make a certain percentage profit on it.  Plus: You’ll never lose money on the purchase.  Minus: You’ll never make a killing either) but not enough to buy something either.  I took this to mean that (a) retirement is a far off abstract idea that I could worry about in the future (b) naturally, my line of credit was a natural extension of my income which would only ever increase (c) I would never be able to afford to buy anything anyway so what was the point of saving for it if I wanted to stay in New Jersey (which I did) and (d) I wasn’t going to have kids anyway so NO DAY BUT TODAY!  (Sidenote:  How the hell did I not know this existed?  Wishlisted!)

Then I turned 29 and I was getting divorced and my company was starting to go under (it didn’t collapse until I was 32) and the economy was really, really bad.  It was a big wake up call for me that the party was over.   I’d need a place to live once I got older, I couldn’t just chaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge it any more and I was in credit card debt way over my head.  I also realized I wanted my current financial situation and my financial future to be completely in my own hands.  It was a really hard transition going from Prada shoes and popping Moet whenever I felt like it to buying a winter coat on sale at Target and having to shop cheap grocery stores with coupons and sales.  It gave me a lot of perspective and I started really focusing on living within my means which I really needed a reality check on.

During this time, I bought my first condo with Jow and we got married without going into debt (which is, like, unheard of in New Jersey).  I focused on getting my debt under control and on making as much money as possible (speaking of which, you guys know I still have a bunch of Stag King Limited Edition Oils and Lady in Red Limited Edition Oils available, right?).  It’s really been the last four years that I’ve had my shoulder to the wheel as hard as I can.  There’s been some highlights, but mostly just a lot of work, especially since 2011.  Jow has started to jokingly refer to this time as The Age of Drudgery.

Four years isn’t a long time in the scheme of things, but it is a long time in the scheme of my life thus far.  It feels really, really strange to be truly riding Durga’s tiger and not being ridden by the tiger.  I feel like I’m really calibrating myself because I’ve gone from one extreme (Money ain’t a thing/ throw it out like rice/ been around the world cop the same thing twiceto another (At the end of the day it’s another day over/ With enough in your pocket to last for a week/ Pay the landlord, pay the shop/ Keep on grafting as long as you’re able/ Keep on grafting till you drop).

I feel like I’m calibrating for a few reasons.  At the time of my divorce, I had enough credit card debt that it could have funded a year of education at Rutgers currently while living on campus.  Maybe not that much debt compared to some others, I was lucky that my college education was paid for.  I didn’t buy a house that I couldn’t afford the mortgage payments on.  But for someone with fibromyalgia who was working as an Executive Assistant for a very small firm, it was a lot to stare down.  My credit card payment is bigger than my half of the mortgage payment.  But I consolidated and started plugging.   Our condo, even with taxes, association fees, etc. costs less than renting used to cost us (with roommates) which is why I joke that I’ll gold leaf the ceiling before I move.  I was slated to be out of debt in November 2013.  I just looked at my numbers and updated my accounts and it seems that I will be out closer to August, which to me is a huge difference.  It feels surreal, I’ve been paying for the sins of my twenties for the last four years, it’s strange thinking I won’t be soon.  (Don’t get too excited though, all that money will be plunked into health insurance most likely)  My one unconsolidated credit card will be getting a hefty payment next month thanks to you buying my book, Charmers.

Usually I would have blown my income tax return on bullshit.  This year?  I bought some Swavorski buttons for my coat.  That’s it.  I might (might) buy a necklace on Etsy.

I feel like all my work from last year has really paid off.  My book is published (which I’m ridiculously awkward about in person, unless it’s Jow or Ms. R), I’m at a profit with it which is kind of a big deal since it’s still sort of a new model.   I’ve figured out which shows are worth doing for La Sirene et Le Corbeau and my Etsy is doing pretty decently.  I’ve started teaching spinning classes.  All of that work I put in last year is . . .working.

I dropped enough weight that I went shopping at Victoria’s Secret (bottoms, not tops.  They can’t handle me on top) for the first time in years.  It’s so strange that what I bought fits.

I feel like I’ve finally really figured things out professionally and personally and how to make things work.  I miss dancing, but I can’t stay awake late enough to get to a club.  Okay, think.  Zumba it is.  I miss running around beating people with foam weapons in someone’s backyard.  Don’t really know anyone who does that casually anymore.  Okay, archery will be cool.  Katniss, ahoy!  I’m trying to learn to have fun again since fun has been off the table for the most part for the past few years.  It feels like I’ve been shedding skin and dumping things that don’t work anymore and leveling up.

Sounds AWESOME, right?  In theory.  I wish I had the joie de vivre that RO has about leveling up.   I have been a goddamn deer in the headlights, Charmers.  I’m now waaaaaay more socially anxious than I used to be because I’m not used to people anymore, returning to my high school days.  I’m fucking terrified that all this work, all the tears, stress and mess will be for nothing and it will be taken away from me.  It’s still very new, the way life works for Gen X/Y.   (I’m a cusp) Anyone in our parents’ generation looks at me and is basically like, “Seriously?  What . . .what are you doing?”  I’m not going to lie, close friends in my generation were like, “Bitch, this is a crazy hot mess.  You need some security.  What you are doing now is the opposite of that.”  But, it’s working.  Come August at the latest, I’m going to be able to save money.  I lost weight, almost two sizes.  I got remarried and I think we’ll last longer than the first one (a whopping year).  I’m almost out of debt.  I own a condo.  My car is half paid off.  I know what my next four books will be.  I’m successful as an entrepreneur (another word weird on my tongue).  I got the schedule I wanted for my day job.  My first book is published and at a profit and it’s been less than a month.  I’m throwing out my particle board furniture.  I own four pairs of (gifted) Manolos and a pair of Docs.    I can give myself a french manicure.  My hair looks nice and my make up is good.  There’s a good chance that Ms. K’s start up will succeed and that will put me in a whole new income bracket with benefits.  Logically, I know how I got here.  I worked really, really hard and didn’t stop.  Emotionally, I’m a mess about this.  A shaking, jittery mess.

What if it all goes away?  What if nothing works?  Who am I becoming? What will that place between Party Girl and Drudge look like?  What happens now that my dreams are realized?  

I feel crazy being all vomity about it but I am.  Jow thinks I need a Seeking.  In the role playing game Mage, when a Mage gains a level of Arete, they go on a Seeking.  He pointed out that a Seeking is a whole journey, usually internal and external and can take days, weeks or even months.  During that time, the Mage’s Spiritual guide(s) determine if the Mage is ready for a new level of Arete and start to train the Mage for it.  As Jow put it, “You haven’t even had a day off, let alone a spiritual journey.  In the game, the time used for the Seeking is glossed over.  There’s no growing pains for your character because it’s taken care of in the Seeking with your Spiritual Guides.  This has been a self-guided Seeking for you.  So you’re freaked out, cranky and scared.  You just have to get used to your new Arete level.”

I’m trying.  Thus far it’s been a lot of listening to Amanda Palmer’s Lost and crying.  I’m not really sure what else I’m supposed to be doing.   I’m cleaning out the house which seems to help some.  I’m baking scones again.  I’m getting in touch with the Maiden parts of me that I had to shove aside in the name of progress.  I’m planning a croquet/tea party in the summer to use the antique croquet mallets I bought for SalonCon but never used.  I’m shaking up my own ant farm so hard sometimes I think there will be no survivors.  But dear Lordess, I’m trying.  I just . . .need to get used to this new skin I’m in.  

* I’m starting a project on Tumblr where I will be posting old journal entries that I posted on this day however many years ago.  I want to see how much I can make myself squirm with embarrassment and shame.  Also, to see how I’ve changed, besides improved spelling and grammar.  And laugh at myself a little.  Because, why not?

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


One Response

  1. I’m proud of you (for what that’s worth). 🙂

    Also: I think your move to make Manic Mondays a posting-day where you just talk about what’s on your mind is a good idea. Good for your mental health, but also good because it lets your readership know that you aren’t JUST a juggernaught of massive accomplishment (it lets us meet and reconnect with your “human” side, if you will).
    Thanks for that. 🙂 It’ll be like getting a letter from you on the regular. 😀

    Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished. Jow is right about needing to take some time to process and get your heart in line with where everything else is. 🙂 Day of Rest for you? Possibly witha Greyhound and an at-home dance party?

    Amazon. 🙂
    Meliad recently posted..E is for Emergency Essential Oils – Pagan Blog Project 2013My Profile

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