The following paragraph is an excerpt from a larger writing that I will circulate to the ADF community later today. I share this here to further comment on something that is deeply meaningful to me. Why did I leave the more personal aspects out of what I will be circulating within ADF? Because I wished my email to convey certain points that I believe will be helpful to the discussion and I do not wish my more personal viewpoints and experiences to distract from those points.
We are an organization made of people who have each given their dedication, time, and resources to the spiritual home they are drawn to and believe in. I believe that this is a time for us to remember what we love about our spiritual home and work together to change what it is time to change. Let us honor all the work that has brought us to this point and move forward in an open and honest manner. Be mindful that we are all folk and within our folk are those who have taken up volunteer positions within our spiritual home. We need to listen to each other and work together as a tribe to continue guiding our spiritual home in the direction that both current and future folk will wish to join their hearts and minds with ours in honoring the Kindred.
This sentiment is one that I had been struggling with for some time. I have felt burnout from volunteering, appreciated, unappreciated, that I had a voice, that I didn’t have a voice, included, excluded, etc. This cycle continued for a long enough period that when I had massive changes in my personal life I was feeling enough strain from my spiritual home that I had to take a break from something. My personal life and spiritual home had been so intertwined that I felt the only option was to take a break from my spiritual home. I am going to voice things today that I have never voiced before.
Hindsight being what it is, I deeply regret the decision to take a break from my spiritual home. I wish that I had leaned on and listened to the guidance of my grove priest more and stayed within the grove despite my separation and divorce. I miss my grove, the fellowship, companionship, support, and education.
This fully hit me when I visited our Nemeton for a friend’s initiation ritual and stood beside people in sacred space that I had not stood with in a long time, yet was once a monthly privilege to do so. I was reminded of all we had shared for so many years of experience and fellowship, as well as the hopes and dreams we had for our future together that I now feel are long lost.
I thought I was doing the right thing by stepping back. I had believed I was saving my grove heartache of seeing long-standing members go through what turned out to be a nasty separation and divorce. I allowed myself to feel guilty and ashamed for finally doing what I had needed to do for years, leave a situation that was making me miserable and bringing out the worst in myself.
I was deeply hurt and embarrassed by the turn of events at my separation and divorce. A variety of feelings were felt when I found so much of my personal life being shared with friends within ADF, but humiliation and feeling violated were the large emotions when strangers came up to me at ADF festivals telling me what was being said about me. Some of those folks were nice and concerned for my well being, others gave their opinion on my life to my face.
The bombardment and isolation, plus feelings of guilt and shame triggered my PTSD and left me feeling as I did when I was a young girl recovering from abuse and violence. For the first time in my life I was without a spiritual foundation. I was more lost than ever, but also more certain that I had done the right thing for my own long term happiness and well being. But the loss of my grove and spiritual home haunted me; I had never wanted that.
I quickly regretted leaving my grove but did not know how to go back to them or my priest once it became evident how nasty this situation was. I should have reached out to my priest, but I did not. Would he have had an answer? I do not expect so, he is just a person watching events unfold around him with no control over any other individuals actions. But I wouldn’t have felt so alone if I had just told someone I trusted how haunted I felt.
Realization: I never did thank him for all the support he offered in the beginning or the support he has given me since. Each time I have reached out, he has been there. That is something I will remedy this week when he returns from festival.
Due to the reception I received at the festival following my separation. I no longer felt welcome at festivals or chenille canopy events within my region. This contributed to my isolation and silence. I had been so shocked by the turn of events that I panicked, withdrew, and shut down. I was completely overwhelmed and could only focus on so much. That focus went to my day to day life.
However, the absence of my grove, spiritual home, and spiritual connections haunted me. It was through ADF that I met my best friend and now life partner. It was through that connection that this pivotal relationship and many other friendships had been formed. Now there was a gaping void.
Many friends have been gently pushing me to come back and try again. To reclaim the home I once felt within the ADF community. I have recently picked up my lapse membership and begun working devotionals at home and with others.
What has been most healing and encouraging has been the reaction of my children. They love devotion and ritual. The joy they find reminds me of the joy I once found. Explaining Earth Mother, Sky Father, and the Kindred to them reminds me of what I love about ADF. Having our 4 year ask me to help her build her own shrine both amazed and touched me deeply. As does showing her and her brother how to find their own path to honor the Kindred.
Their smiles and joy when helping with devotions or ritual are what has given me strength to once again try to find my spiritual home within ADF. Together our family is once again trying to find the deep connection we once had to the ADF community. We are slowly reaching out and becoming involved once more, but this recent storm has us wary. Perhaps we have just been too battered by personal storms the last few years. Our only sanctuary being each other.
I do not know, but I do know that I need to once again be here with an open heart and open mind. That I want the core of what once made ADF my spiritual home to still be available to me and my family … welcoming people, fellowship, community, support, education, and shared devotion to the Kindred. Time will tell if this is where my family and I need to be. I dearly hope that it is still the right home for all of us.