Thursday, 19 July 2012

Help vs Enabling

There is a poem called “I will not help you” I heard it quite a few years ago.  I’ve tried to search for it but you try typing those five little words into Google and sift through the millions of hits you get.  I caught up with the lady who read it at a meeting and she gave me a copy.  A few earthquakes and a shift later, who knows where it’s gotten to.  But right now, I feel it’s appropriate.

I will not help you.

Doesn’t that sound cold and hard?  The reality is that it’s quite the opposite.  We are so conditioned to believe that we should help everyone in every way we can.  However, by helping we are usually not allowing that person to grow or learn how to help themselves.

It goes somewhat with the saying “there is no self-less act”.  When we help someone, it makes us feel good.  Sometimes for genuinely pleasant reasons.  That person is a friend, I don’t want to see them suffer when I can do something about it.  More often it makes us feel superior, not that we realise it at the time, or would admit it if we did.  That person had to come to us, they needed us in order to get through.  After a while, it becomes a chore.  Haven’t they figured it out yet?  How do they keep getting into this position? When will they learn?

Truth is that by constantly helping that person, you are enabling that behaviour.  There is no natural consequence.  What have they learned?  That they can do this, get into that position and you’ll be there to clean it all up for them.  We don’t do that with our children, why do it with our friends?

It took me a long time to learn this.  And I had to learn it the hard way.  Even when I thought I’d learned it I found I hadn’t.  I could see it on a big scale, but not on the smaller one.  Look at all the times when we do something we shouldn’t have to because it needs to be done and it seems that no one else is going to do it.  My partner has this at work.  In his position, he finds the mistakes made by the design team.  He needs to fix them because otherwise his part of the job is wrong and it gets very messy for him.  He’s spent the last 12 years going back to the design team and saying “you need to get this sorted” and they roll their eyes and make jokes about it.  It was suggested to him that he lets one or two go, without fixing it, to make it clear that this is a problem.  He won’t though, he thinks that would effectively be sabotage and if he did that, knowing it to be wrong or faulty then he should lose his job.  He is stuck in a position of having to enable them.  They don’t need to clean up their acts and get things right because my partner will fix it for them.  The ‘helper’ is the one who suffers for it.

We have a rental property, currently tenanted by adult children of some friends.  If ever there was a nasty case of helping/enabling there it is.  Mum is quite fierce when it comes to her kids, she’ll step in without the slightest hesitation.  This is becoming a problem for us.  There was a problem with the house, none of the tenants got in touch with us, it was Mum.  And Dad was ringing us to find out what was going on with it.  We’ve had to say to our friends that we can’t be talking to them about it.  They aren’t our tenants, there is no way we should have to be dealing with the parents and not the tenants.

More recently, we’re in a situation where the builder is coming in to do the earthquake repairs.  The tenants need to move out for 5-6 weeks while the house is being worked on.  Because it’s a rental, our insurance doesn’t cover this, EQC doesn’t cover this, so we’re not charging rent while they’re not in the house.  My partner was spending time with his friend, the Dad, last night.  Dad kept going on about what’s happening with the place until my partner said to him that he’s not going to discuss it with him as really it’s not his business.  The problem is that Dad is the one who is having to do all the work finding a place for the kids.  They won’t do it themselves.

And there is the guts of the problem.  They won’t do it themselves, why would they when Mum and Dad will take care of it for them.  Mum and Dad run themselves ragged and make themselves sick every time because the kids won’t do it for themselves.  It’s a vicious cycle - Mum and Dad fix it because the kids won’t.  The kids won’t because Mum and Dad will fix it.

A friend and ex-flatmate of my daughter’s is even worse.  She has set herself up at the centre of a web of friends with mental health issues.  She is always on Facebook asking for “healing energy” and support for a friend who is suicidal or cutting or having another breakdown.  She thinks of herself as being wise and able to help them get through.  The reality is that she gets an emotional reward constantly by ‘saving’ them.

She doesn’t understand that she’s not in fact helping anyone.  She’s enabling this behaviour.  This one doesn’t need to grow up and face her problems and learn any coping skills because she’s got someone who will prop her up and ‘make it all better’.  That one doesn’t have to realise that she doesn’t have multiple personalities at all, she’s separated the parts of herself into different one dimensional characters and plays silly attention seeking games that others buy into.  She’s obviously got a few things that need to be resolved, but pretending to have a breakdown (and detailing it with updates at five minute intervals on Facebook) and bouncing back within a few hours isn’t working towards any kind of resolution or growth.  It won’t solve any problems, it will create new ones and the cycle never ends.

This friend of my daughter’s doesn’t see that she’s like a ghoulish spider.  She’s feeding off the “issues” that her friends have, and by “helping” them constantly, she’s ensuring a continuous supply of being needed and having to be there.  It’s arrogance and vampirism and enabling.  It’s not help for these poor kids who lean on her, what coping skills are they learning?  What tools have they gained that will allow them to face real life?  She’s still a kid herself, she’s not a mental health professional.  What right does she really have to tell them what they should do?  To try to counsel them or offer better solutions.  I don’t agree with the “well, I’ve been through it too, so I know all about it” angle.  I’m a woman with children, does that mean that I’m the complete expert on women and raising kids?  Hell no.  You wouldn’t accept it there, why accept it anywhere else?

There is a proverb “if you save a life, you are thereafter responsible for it”.  It doesn’t really seem to mean a great deal at first.  What about the doctors, nurses, ambulance officers, police officers, rescue workers and all the others in those kinds of work?  Are they responsible for every life they save?  Well, the answer there is no, but what about saving a friend who has attempted suicide?  I did it.  At the ripe old age of 14, I had a friend who was always trying to kill herself.  The only time she looked like succeeding she rang me and told me she didn’t want to die.  A few quick panicky calls later and she was rushed into hospital and had her stomach pumped.  It wasn’t her first attempt, and it certainly wasn’t her last, but it was the only one that seemed to be working and she called on me.  Afterwards, I didn’t feel like I could leave her alone.  I had to make sure she was safe and not going to try again.  That’s a hell of a responsibility for a young teenaged girl.  I was still trying to figure out who I was and how I was going to be in life, I shouldn’t have had to be a mother as well, and especially not to a friend who was a year older than me.

I had a breakdown as a result of this.  It took me a few years to understand that she wanted attention, not to die.  And I was the poor fool who got caught up in it.  Now, I have little to no patience with people like this, but it’s difficult when my own kids seem to be doing the same thing.  It seems to have become the latest fashion in self-expression.  Forget tattoos and funky hair dyes, kids now have scars striping up their arms because cutting is like an addiction.

I don’t want your hand this time,
I’ll save myself. 
Maybe I’ll wake up for once.

~ Evanescence Going Under (c) 2003

I’ve been rescued more than a few times myself.  For many years I didn’t need to learn to be sensible with money.  If I got in trouble I could borrow it off my parents, and while they might give me a lecture about it, they’d be there and lend me money.  The best thing they did for me was to say no.  I had to get myself out of trouble.  I also knew that they didn’t approve of me leaving my husband and in a moment of pride I decided that I wouldn’t rely on my parents anymore.  I was an adult and needed to learn how to sort my own shit out.  I got myself out of nearly $30,000 debt without needing a handout from them. I’m still proud of that.

It was quite shocking to me initially, when a friend told me his way of dealing with people telling you that they’re off to kill themselves.  He’ll give them a hug, tell them that he’ll miss them, but it’s their choice and he won’t interfere with that.  I was gobsmacked.  How could anyone be so cold and harsh?  But after a bit of thought, I get it.  He’s not challenging them by telling them they’re just attention seeking so that they have to go and do something to prove that they’re not.  He’s not buying into the drama.  He’s taking a step back and letting them face the hard truth themselves.  Are they serious?  And how far will they go?

That is help.  That is useful help.  There is no enabling, there is no feelgood kickback.  It’s not heartless, he made his feelings known, but to solve it is up to the person themselves.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Cauldrons 2012 Calendar

As has been mentioned repeatedly on other blog posts and on our facebook page, we've both had a drama filled year so far.  Something had to be put aside for a while and unfortunately it was the calendar.

So, not to let anyone miss out on anything, we moved it to start just after Yule.  July 1st 2012 and running to June 30th 2013.  (Because starting it with a week left in a month was just silly).

We think this one is our best yet, although I'm fairly sure we say that every year :)

The very talented Naniskakonindjin AKA Stacey Austin has kindly honoured us with her beautiful artwork and I personally believe that this is what has made this calendar seem like our most polished yet.

Most years, we've ended up with a huge debt and a stack of unsold calendars so last year I decided to only print what I had pre-orders for (plus maybe 10 extra).  That was hugely successful and I did it again this year.  So, there are only a very few left (less than 10) although they may still be available from Cauldron Craft in Devonport, Energy Central in Taupo, Paint Tech in Hamilton (where our wonderful artist may be found), Vesta's Circle in Napier or Candles & Things in Huntly.

We hope that you like it as much as we do!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


What is it about recognition that makes us crave it? I reckon that even those who espouse to hate the limelight would still like to know when they are recognised for what they have done, or are doing. And it doesn’t need to be something grand like an Oscar award or a parade in your honour, or even a promotion at work. Sometimes recognition just in a few kind words to say “hey, I’ve noticed the hard work you’ve been doing” is enough. But what is it about that recognition that makes it so rewarding? Why do just a few simple words make us shine from the top of our head to our tiniest of toes?

I put it down to programming. It’s ingrained. We’re taught that if we do well, we get rewarded. Not unlike puppies or performing seals. As babies, when we took our first steps or said our first words we were praised and applauded, given hugs and kisses. As children we were conditioned to seek approval. From our parents. From our teachers. From our peers. It’s something we don’t lose as we grow up. We want our bosses to see our hard work, to recognise that we have gone that extra mile or completed that task that was particularly difficult, extra long or perhaps mind numbingly boring. We want our partners or flatmates to notice when we’ve mowed the lawn or cleaned the bathroom, or cooked a particularly delicious meal.

Why is that? Why do we crave recognition like this?

For me, the only person I can really speak on behalf of, I think it’s about not being taken for granted. I don’t need someone to constantly praise me, I’m not a child. However a little recognition does make a person feel nice. Every once in a while, so it doesn’t lose its effectiveness is best I believe.

While I write this I’m working in a law firm, supporting a solicitor with two legal secretaries supporting me offsite. Now I flick so much work at them, stuff that I could very well do (if I had 20 more hours a day) but would rather they handle. Sometimes I have to correct their work, but sometimes they draft a letter that is so well written, or complete a large and cumbersome task that I just have to send them an ‘Awesome work!’ email. The smilies and thank you emails I get back can make me almost see the smiles on their faces. Now I don’t do it for everything, not just because the volume of work would not allow it, but because I don’t think it would have the impact that it does when they actually get one.

Additionally, when we do good work as a team, and praise is given to me for my hard work, I’m not one to take that all for myself. It’s a team effort, and I make sure that my partners know that the girls who work with me have just as much right to their praise as I do. They work just as hard and should be recognised just as much. So I make sure they receive that recognition, as I’m aware that they were also conditioned as I was as a child, to strive for the best so someone will say ‘well done!’.

Now that you’ve read down to here you’re probably wondering just what am I babbling on about recognition for on this blog?

Well it’s because I want to recognise someone. Someone who may have felt taken for granted, though she wouldn’t say. Someone who I really have been taking for granted within our little Cauldrons’ community.

As many of you know, I left Christchurch and my bestest bestest friend ever, Debbie, in 2010 to move to Tonga and then to shift here to Sydney in 2011, leaving the majority of the work and responsibility for Cauldrons on her shoulders. Debbie has had to deal with earthquakes in Christchurch and shifting all the stock to her new and rather cute farm, organising the majority of the festival, representing us at the Body Mind Spirit festivals and other psychic fairs, dealing with the bulk of the calendars, suppliers and customers while I’m in my hidey hole here in Australia. And while I may have mentioned to her that life has gone nuts or my world may have turn upside down, she has had more than her (and a handful of people’s) fair share of dramas while holding down the fort (or is that holding up the broom?).

So this post, is my way of recognising Debbie, in some small way. I hope that when she reads this the child in her, conditioned to crave praise, starts smiling and shining. I appreciate her more than I can say, and I know that without her Cauldrons and the Cauldrons community would not exist in the form it is today. I wouldn’t have my footing in our world without her efforts and that has not gone unnoticed.

Thank you hon. A thousand times, thank you.

My advice to everyone is take time to recognise someone in your lives. Make them aware that you notice their effort. That you care enough to mention it and don’t take anyone for granted. Everyone needs and craves the opportunity to shine - from the top of their head to their tiniest of toes.

You’re So Judgmental

Please Note:  It has come to my attention that one of the individuals I was describing (briefly) in this piece has decided that I'm bullying her.  Parts of this blog post have been copied to other places as "proof" along with comments that I'm blocked from seeing, and apparently anyone who reports it or disagrees is then also blocked from.

I do not tolerate copyright violation, and will go as high as it needs to, to have such things removed especially when they are being used incorrectly to satisfy someone's own self-absorbed paranoia and narcissism.  I don't care enough about this person to have any reason to bully them.  I tried to walk away so they brought the argument into my space and didn't like it when no one agreed with them.  Anyway, back to the programme :) - Debbie

You're So Judgmental
Apparently, this is supposed to put me in my place.  I keep hearing it lately, is it the latest way of saying “you’re mean and hurt my feelings”?

A lovely lady I’ve had contact with decided to organise a festival for her little part of the country.  She got in contact with me and asked if I’d be interested in making the trip over the great divide to attend.  I was seriously thinking about it.  She created a group on facebook and added me to it.

She was feeling concerned because she hadn’t received any enquiries about her festival, and it was not too far away.  I know this feeling.  Our first PaganFest, I nearly cancelled a week before because we had a grand total of 2 paid registrations.  In that last week, another 40 flooded in, but it was a nervous time.  You see, many venues have a cut off date for cancellation – it’s part of the contract you sign when you agree to use that venue (along with a deposit).  After that date, you are charged a percentage of your site fee (and don’t expect to see the deposit back) depending on how close to the booking date you cancel.  I get her concern, really I do.

Then one of the people on this group makes the comment “I’m a very last minute sort of person.”  What? Really?  So I asked in my usual abrupt (some will and often do call it bitchy) manner if saying that made it okay to be thoughtless and disrespectful of another’s time and energy.  As you can imagine that led to a barrage of abuse directed my way telling me I’m being judgmental and that I’m the only one being disrespectful here.

Seriously?  I’m being judgmental?  I asked a question and stated a fact.  I’ve lost sleep, hair and money because of “last minute people” who breeze in and expect everything to be provided for them although they only yesterday bothered to inform you that they were in fact coming.  And nine times out of ten, they’re the ones who bitch and moan about what was lacking.

It was judgment based on too much experience.  It was supposed to be a wake-up call that your actions are in fact thoughtless and disrespectful and that you’re old enough to know better.  But instead I’m the bad person.  I received so much abuse and being called “negative” that I chose to leave the group.  I wished her well with her festival, but clearly, I’m not the right kind of self-deluded flake to fit in with the rest of the attendees.

Here’s another facebook howler:

“It’s funny how the most simple things can be taken the wrong way. Before you judge someone for what or how they do something, try just letting that person be themselves without your approval. There is always a reason why people are the way that they are and that reason doesn’t need your approval either.”*

*Punctuation fixed by me (again) because I have issues.

This looked like a nice opening for an intelligent philosophical discussion.  So I asked the obvious question - What if that person “being themselves” is potentially harmful. Either to themselves or others?

I quoted a situation and then received this reply.

“I think you have taken my original message the wrong way. We are now talking about something completely different. I don’t feel the need to justify and explain what I actually meant because you have misunderstood it. How about reading just the very first part of my original message again and then try and fit that into the situation you are talking about. I think you will find there is nothing simple about that situation??? I have every right to be who I am and do what I like without being judged for it, especially by people who can’t read properly. It sort of proves my original point - I done something completely simple and it was taken completely out of context.


Apparently the most simple things can be taken the wrong way.  A vague status is really something deep and personal and I should just butt out.

Following this was a picture posted to my timeline by the person above – the caption reads “Don’t assume my posts are about you.  But if you’re affected, then that must mean you’re guilty of something.”

I’ve since been told that I use the word judgmental wrong and that she uses it correctly.  She knows all about it because she works for an anti-discrimination place.  So?  I’m thinking that perhaps she’s a bit overly sensitive to what she assumes is “judgmental”.

In the situation I quoted to this person, a good friend was making some poor choices.  Her lifestyle was putting herself and her 10 year old daughter at serious risk.  When we raised it to her, she called us judgmental, and said we had no right to sit in judgment of her life.  She was who she was and we should let her be herself and she didn’t need our approval.

In the end, after many frustrating attempts to ‘help’ her, we contacted her ex – the daughter’s father and he removed his daughter from that dangerous situation.

Does anyone see the likenesses between her rant at us, and the facebook post?  Now, since she made the effort to mention her workplace, I get that she’s probably talking about race, fashion or LGBT type lifestyle choices not a woman bringing strangers home from the pub who then stay for months at a time.  But how do you tell the difference between an unfair discrimination and a potentially dangerous situation without using your judgment?

We talk about having judgment as a good thing normally.  It’s what drives the choices we make, the people we associate with, our ability to do a good job and so on.

There are negative people that we describe as “judgmental”.  I can think of a family member who fits this perfectly.  I swear in all the time I’ve known her, I’ve never heard a positive comment leave her mouth.  She thinks that all women with tattoos must be in gangs, and says so, repeatedly.  She complains about her neighbours, she complains about the rest of the family, she complains that we’re never in touch (well duh).  She makes snap decisions about people with the following conjecture – she looks like that so she must be.... This is what I think of as being judgmental.

And regardless of how politically correct we may try to be (or not as the case may be) judging people is part of how we’re made.  First impressions count right?  And second and third.  We see something and relate it to an experience, connections are made, rightly or wrongly.  Whether you open your mouth or keep it inside is a different matter.

Discriminating against another based on race, religion or sexuality isn’t being judgmental, it’s being bigoted.  Learn the difference!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Witches of Old and Persecution

The Witch by Pen Parker

When my grandson was visiting a few days ago, he asked me a question that has been on my mind for a while.
“Grandma, why are pictures of witches ugly when you’re a witch and you’re pretty?”  Out of the mind of a young man a question for the ages, a thought lost in time and a story to unfold.  This has me losing sleep and my mind was racing and when I took pen to paper a sad tale began to unfold.

Q Why is the skin of a witch shown as an unhealthy green?
A Tis from the countless beatings and bruisings she endured by the hands of the church whom call her witch.

Q Why are her teeth missing and broken?
A Humm from being pushed and beaten (the pain she endured).

Q Why does a witch have warts?
A They are not warts, they are burns and blisters from the witch needles and heating irons used to torture her for loving the Lord and Lady the earth and moon.

Q But why are her clothes ragged and black?
A Tis from being locked in a cell with filth and no water, no sun, no moon, the black is her dried blood.

Q Why do her hands look old, crippled and her back bent?
A She had a straight back once and lovely hands as she gathered her herbs and plants to use for healing and to harm none but after being pushed into a small cart (so small she had to stoop) and to keep from falling down in the filth she had to hold onto the bars and as she was driven through the town her lovely gentle hands were beaten with sticks.

To me she (the Witch) will always be beautiful and I for one am proud to be a witch.

* Most of the bad spelling, grammar and punctuation have been fixed by me (Debbie) because I'm a bit uptight about stuff like that.

Yet again, a heart warming facebook post about how the “Church” has maligned the witches of old.  Kids know witches from stories as having green skins and warts and being ugly, and so to explain why this is inaccurate such a lovely fantasy was invented to explain it.

Gods forbid we should actually teach our children truth, that would just be wrong.  They don’t need to know the truth, they need to believe the fantasy such adults seem to keep perpetuating in order to feel more persecuted than thou.

Firstly, lets look at the word ‘Witch’.  Throughout history, a witch was an evil sorceress, often portrayed as ugly but sometimes as stunningly beautiful like Snow White’s stepmother.  Until Gerald Gardner decided to ‘reclaim’ and redefine the word in the 1950s, this is what it meant.  An ugly evil hag.

The herbwives, midwives and healers that so many aspire to (with no clues about the reality) would have been horrified and deeply offended to know that our modern generations are calling them witches.  To use ‘witch’ in such a manner is a modern invention.  It is incorrect and illogical to place any correlation with such women to the old use of the word.

Secondly, the Burning Times.  Oh Yippee, the most grossly inaccurate event modern wiccans and witches think they know anything about.

History shows that less than 150,000 people were executed as “witches, heretics or Jews”. That’s it.  And further, only a smaller percentage of those were executed by the Church, the Inquisition or any religious institution.  More commonly, secular courts and townspeople got the mob mentality and chose to punish their neighbours for their real or imagined sins.  Also please note - witches, heretics and Jews.  Not just witches.  The Cathars were a Christian sect that was almost completely wiped out for being different to Roman Catholic Orthodoxy, and Jews were blamed for everything from killing Christ to poverty.

Compare that with the “9 million witches burned at the stake” that some sources quote.  To be fair, this number wasn’t pulled out of the arse of some modern Wiccan author, but from an extrapolation of the events in one area.  An historian was trying to calculate numbers and based it on one area, multiplied by population and area base to cover the whole area affected.  Unfortunately, his sample was a particularly brutal one and not representative of the reality.  This number was repeatedly quoted as accurate by historians who should have known better.

Apparently we should feel some sort of kinship or relationship to these people.  They were our ancestors, if not in reality then in ‘the faith’ as they were our spiritual forebears.  Nobly standing up for their wonderful virtuous beliefs, wrongly punished by the evil Patriarchy in the form of the Church. 

What a crock.  For the most part, they were good Christian people who had the misfortune to say no to a Lord who wanted an easy shag, or had healthy livestock when their neighbours were having health issues with theirs - why look to our own practises when we can cast the blame elsewhere - or someone owed them something, or they were just different which has been the cause of so much misplaced fear and loathing and still happens today.

The Pagan belief system as we know it is also a modern invention.  Reconstructionists from all pantheons are frequently looked down upon by Pagan groups as being too hard and inflexible.  A good friend of mine is a Folkish Heathen - a hard core Odinist.  His belief system is reconstructed from historical accounts, from the scholars who make an effort to study (properly) the way their Gods were worshipped.  He is closer to accurate than most, but is frequently derided by others who claim to follow the same Gods in “the old ways” but are basing their worship on modern fluffy sources.  They associate a belief that you should follow the Gods of your ancestors with bigotry and Neo-Nazi ideals.  Really?  Dion Fortune said the same thing in The Mystical Qabalah, but this is overlooked.

If it’s in a book, or on the interwebs it must be true.  I can find a quote for almost anything you want to hear, and it will be sourced from the internet or a book.  There are some truly dreadful books out there, and some wonderful books filled with great and accurate information, but flawed with one chapter or sometimes even one paragraph that is complete fantasy or invention.  Sadly, for me this taints not only the whole book, but also the author.  Even sadder, with the internet, I’ve found articles of mine, attributed to someone else on their blog, side by side with the most inane drivel you have ever had the misfortune to read.  It’s important to remember that any flake can start a webpage, and with the self-publishing craze, they can also write and publish a book.

A friend of mine was telling me that she read a manuscript for someone she knew.  That person was quite a locally respected astrologer.  The manuscript was really good she tells me, but what got her was that apparently she was the first to read the manuscript, but there were already reviews of it as part of it.  The author had written her own reviews and quoted them for the cover!

Worse still, to my mind, is that the people commenting on this "beautiful poignant story" are bitching and moaning about religious intolerance, persecution and hatred of another faith that is misunderstood.  Do they truly not see their own hypocrisy?  Seriously?  They are turning what can be a wonderful and fulfilling faith to many (2000 years - and many were not converted by force or lies) into something dark and evil.  And comments like "they'd do it all again given half the chance" is not only incorrect, it's inflammatory, it's disappointing and is the kind of thing that makes me feel ashamed to call myself Pagan.
For those who want to teach our new generations history, sources must be reputable, primary sources, and backed up by more than one or two similar reputable sources.  An open mind is important, but not so open that your brains fall out.  A little common sense must be applied.  But as the saying goes, common sense is not that common.