Time, Attention & Boundaries

Merlin Mann had a wonderful series up recently on making time for creativity. He makes many, many salient points. Although all of his points apply (check it out, it really is that good), one in particular really struck me as oh so appropriate for this particular rant.

“Embrace the disingenuous charge of elitism (or, as I prefer to call it, maturity) by not pretending that everyone is equally “special” to you. …Widen the channels to the people you adore, and never make them suffer [because of] your weird compulsion to wave at strangers.”

Yeah! Exactly! What he said!

No Thru TrafficAt some level this should be a no-brainer. But I often find myself in situations where almost complete strangers demand more of my time and attention than I would actually tolerate from the people I love. Sometimes, they are not complete strangers, but because of the lack of a real and meaningful connection, they come very close to it.

To put it bluntly, I do not have sufficient time in my life to respond to everyone and everything that is screaming for attention. So I prioritize. I am more likely to respond favorably to requests for my time depending on the nature of the request and the level of our prior relationship. Seems pretty simple and straightforward to me.

A few examples might be helpful.

  • Scenario 1: A person who has served with me in working groups, teaching teams and conference style discussion panels, calls and asks if I could offer her some career advice. We have a shared history and a friendly relationship. I respond warmly to this request.
  • Scenario 2: A person who has taken a few of my classes sends me an email asking me for recommendations for further studies in a specific area. I remember him as a curious but committed student. I search through my referral lists and respond with suggestions.
  • Scenario 3: One of my full-time students has an emergency and calls me for support. I cancel what I can of my plans and respond accordingly.
  • Scenario 4: A person new to the DC area emails me asking for suggestions for getting involved in the local pagan community. I send him my standard email with helpful links to local sources of info and contact.
  • Scenario 5: A community member writes to me and asks when I plan to teach a particular class again. I send them what I know of my upcoming offerings and reassure them of any future plans in that area.
  • Scenario 6: A person writes to me asking me to teach/speak/attend an upcoming event. I check my schedule for availability and respond accordingly with either regrets or further questions.
  • Scenario 7: A friend or colleague writes to me asking me to teach/speak/attend an upcoming event. I check my schedule for availability (possibly rearranging what I can) and respond accordingly with either regrets or further questions.

Stop WatchWhat these scenarios have in common is that the nature of the request is inline with the nature of our relationship.

But in contrast, consider the following scenarios.

  • Scenario A: A stranger writes to me asking me to be their priestess/teacher/mentor/whatever. If I do not get an “uncomfortable” vibe from the note, I send them a link to Reflections, Connect DC, my standard spiritual counseling/consulting services list, and, if they mention being local, the standard email with helpful links.
  • Scenario B: A community member writes to me asking me to be their priestess/teacher/mentor/whatever. I assume they are aware of my classes, rituals and mystery school.
    1. So if they have attended any of my classes or rituals, I might suggest they consider joining my mystery school. But I also check my calendar and if I can, I offer them a time for a phone chat or and in person meeting to discuss it further.
    2. But if they have not attended ANY (to my knowledge) of my local offerings, I send them my standard spiritual counseling/consulting services list.

And it is this last bit that recently bothered a member of my local community. Both scenario A and B-2 represent requests not in line with the nature of our current relationship. And because of that, I am less inclined to either make time in my already full schedule or offer one-on-one face time w/o some form of payment.

When I reach out to others, I try to be careful when asking for some of their precious time. For example, I am really happy with my current medical doctor, chiropractor, intuitive healer and massage therapist. And I have a warm relationship with every single one of them. But I would not dare just call them up and ask for some of their time without expecting to pay them.

I also have several very close friends who are fairly well known, extremely talented and even busier than I am. And even knowing that they *love* me, I am very careful with taking up too much of their time.

Hell, even in my family we ask, “Is this a good time?” when we call.

Hour GlassI don’t know. Maybe I *could* be a bit more accessible. But then I ask you this? What do I drop to make this a reality? Do I drop the time I dedicate to my full time students and initiates? Do I drop the time I set aside to check in with my colleagues and elders? Do I drop the time I set aside for teaching, counseling and writing? Do I drop the time I set aside for self-care and self-nurturing? Do I drop my business or my plethora of medical appointments? Or do I cease the methodologies and processes that allow me to continue to work while facing several long-term chronic illnesses? Because dropping something currently on my plate is what I would have to do to be more accessible.

The bottom line is this … I am not trying to be elitist or arrogant. I am trying to make sense of an already very full life that has several real physical and energetic limits. So I am truly sorry if the person from B-2 above was disappointed.Note 1. But your potential or very real disappointment is not my metric in deciding how to manage my life.

In my mission statement, I state the following.

My mission is …
To share my gifts.
To actively participate in my own evolution.
To acknowledge divine mystery.
To experience the joy, sweetness and beauty of life.
To be willing to touch and be touched by the journeys of my loved ones.
To be grounded in the present moment with an open heart and mind.
To engage in radical self care.

This is my metric. And this … is my boundary.


1. To be truthful, I did offer a free phone call for us to discuss exactly what she was looking for from me. But I suspect that because I listed my prices for spiritual counseling and consults, she was disinclined to go further.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Wed, 08/13/2008 - 11:08am.

And Finally, A Dialogue

This is part five, the last part in fact, of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.

Dream: Walking a path underground that I usually walk above ground. I get lost at some point. So I come up but nothing is familiar. So I retreat underground trying different options. I think I run into this man who I am sure is not to be trusted.

I begin thinking about the beginning of this disease (CFIDS) and the kind of stress I was under at that time. And although I am not under anything close to that level of stress, it feels/felt like it.

My dreams point to my walking in the dark of the unconscious where I normally am aware and conscious. And thus when I finally come up – I am lost. And being in unfamiliar ground, I retreat into the unconscious.

So where am I, really. I hastily write out a list of all that is on my plate. As I survey the list, I notice two things. First, no wonder I feel so stressed. And secondly, it is all doable. I note the conflict between these two views.

“Who is that? Doable based on what? How do you get the idea that I can do all of this?”

“I just know … we, I mean , I can pull this off … if …”

If what? Nothing else explodes? Nothing else happens unexpectedly? No surprises? No disasters? What?

… if we, I mean I just do it …”

Just do what?

It ... y’know .. get to work …

That m’dear is a lie! It is not going to happen. I cannot just get to work! I am working as hard as I can already. I cannot just work even harder!

Why not? It is what we, I always do!

Yeah, but at what cost?

Then, then … I will have to let something go … so smarty pants, what do I let go?

Oh, this is painful! I do not want to let anything go.

So we are at an impasse then?

No. We are in the midst of a dilemma. We have a lot (some would say too much) on our plate. But we truthfully cannot bear to drop any of it. So we have a dilemma. What this calls for is creativity, not hard work. We/I already work hard, and so more hard work may not be the answer.

Because of the cost yes, but also we will learn nothing from it. And learning is my/our prime motivator.

And at that moment, my entire internal chorus finally reached an agreement. I had found my way back to my passion. Learning something new was something all parts of myself were keen about. So I hastily wrote down some ideas on approaching this issue. None seemed to fill the bill. So I took a break for lunch. As I munched on romaine and grilled chicken, something caught my eye on my list of projects. And then another item caught my eye, then another. I picked up my pen and some scratch paper … at the end I had a new view. I had laid out the original list into groups. Some had relationships between them which I noted by connecting lines and some had a natural hierarchy. By the time I finished, I suddenly understood the big picture in a way I hadn’t before. And I discovered something surprising!

Apparently, it was all doable. But what was required was not more hard work. What I needed, most of all, was space. I needed more air. I was too close to the work.

An air person needed more air. Aha! I was underground where I should have been above ground. I began laughing out loud. I was in my shadow element, I was ensconced in earth. Not the healthy earth of a balanced earth person, but the shadowy earth of an air person.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Who would of thunk it? Air!

Two weeks later …

bateleurI am still under a lot of stress, but it all seems lighter somehow. Like before, I am getting a lot done and some days are harder than others. But I am not burning my self out nor escaping into ice cream – my drug of choice. I am sleeping better and taking plenty of breaks.

It still cracks me up, that all I needed was some perspective. I needed to spread my wings, lift off and gaze at it all from thirty thousand feet.

Blessings from a Bateleur Eagle,

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Fri, 08/01/2008 - 10:27am.

Runaway Child, Running Wild …

This is part four of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.

girl in pink

"Runaway child, running wild …
Better go back home … where you belong …"

Temptations, 1969

From my journal …

My niece, wearing a pink outfit, is throwing up and running away ... from me. She has a bruise on her forehead. We were traveling together, and at some point she returns from the bathroom without her jacket – also pink. When I inquire, she said that she had thrown up. “On your jacket?” “Yes.”

Later she is upset at losing all that was in the jacket pockets – especially a photo of a young boy. The photo had been worn and creased, but it was all she had left and now it was gone.

At a restaurant, the staff helps her to escape. At first I say fine and leave. But at home I looked over all I had acquired for her. They were all inappropriate for a fun loving child. They were weights and tools wrapped up to look like gifts. I realized that I wanted her back so I went back and demanded her return.

I sit with the first message from this dream. My child self is not happy with what I have been feeding her (throwing up) and giving her (weights and tools). She was mad about what she had to give up and finally ran away. And I was fine with it until I looked at what I had been offering her. Then I realized what I had done and what she really meant to me.

The second message in this dream was where she chooses to run away -- a place filled with food. Aha! My runaway child is placating herself with food.

There is definitely a pattern here. My fire self, [the one who interrupts my quiet moments with the flame of anxiety and tension] is overbearing and pushy. My water self is rebellious and running wild. Ai yi yi, something has to give.

They are each overreacting, one to fear, the other to hunger. My fire self takes over at the first sign of chaos, loss of control and stress. I am afraid of losing ground to the chaos, the ten thousand things of life that haunts introverts like myself.

And whenever I succumb to the fear, a second reaction spills out due to my hunger for life itself. My water side rebels and starts me to binging to compensate – as if there will never be a chance again … to enjoy life.

Ah! The message of the dream I ignored comes dancing back before my eyes. I do not want to lose any more time, I feel like I have given up so much already, I do not want to miss out on the passion of living in the moment, not again, not anymore. I have been so sick for so long, enough with all this working hard all the damn time. And it does feel like a family curse, now that I think of it.

I sit with these realizations as tears well up and fall to my journal obscuring the words. When I can talk, I say out loud, “Please don’t leave me again … we will get through this together … I promise.”

Next … a dialogue … finally

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 07/28/2008 - 9:00am.

A Realization …

This is part three of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.

I awaken with the following listed on my internal chalkboard …

  • Nothing is actually wrong.
  • Web design is my business. And as a business owner, I have to step up to the plate and meet deadlines. It is my job. I am a professional, and this is what professionals do.

[… break to catch a design idea for one of my clients …]

  • I am a priestess, shaman and warrior mystic – this is my vocation. This is my calling, my great opus. It is who I am.
  • I am not missing out on life. This is my life. And there is nothing wrong with it.
  • This is exciting times. I am in demand. I have customers beating a path to my door. This is the life I had hoped for all these years.

Yes, I am scared, worried, and filled with anxiety – but this is what success looks like.

[…break to catch an idea for a personal goal…]

And on toward my day …

…next morning … from my journal …

Whoa! Yesterday was really hard on me. The quick fix I had hoped for did not materialize and I feel as if my entire day was a wasted effort.

And all my dreams last night were about (1) Disasters and picking up afterwards, and (2) Getting lost on a road in the middle of nowhere and dealing with it.

In the first dream, I had to pull out the carcasses of the dead and work with what was left. In the second dream, I had to find a way to care for these orphans without causing myself even more problems.

This week is impossible! Too much stuff on my list! And now I need to add in what someone forgot to tell me about as well, Aieee! This is all very stressful!

[ .. oh and here is an idea for some future classes ..]

Omigod, can [you] stop already? … sigh …I have enough ideas … really.

next ... run away child...

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Sun, 07/20/2008 - 3:04pm.

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Recent comments

  • Nephthys (not verified)

    I've been with Firefly for a number of years, I recently left my position at The Firefly Community to pursue other dreams but to be clear how much I was involved before I address the statements made, I was a teacher, Priestess, member of the Inner Circle of the Council of Elders, Course Contributor, Clergy, Delegate and Divination reader so I was quite involved with Firefly on many levels.

    I am offended by your statement that Firefly is cultish. Given my involvement as listed above I can safely say that Firefly members are not cultish in behaviour nor is Firefly cultish in of itself. I am no longer involved with Firefly in any strong capacity other than that of a student so I can also safely say this is not coming from a blind faith position. I will be the first to admit that part of the reason I left Firefly was because I did not agree with some of the changes Lady Iris intended to make, that being said, I don't support the idea that abuse should be turned into a political statement.

    I don't know Sean and I am not close to Lady Iris (I live in a different country) and have not commented on the situation with her marriage but some of his behaviours are reprehensible. If a President did this he would be impeached and booted so I fail to see why it should be ignored and relegated to 'personal marital issues' when behaviour like this is indicative of larger psychological issues. If Sean Bennett is allowed to use and abuse women in this fashion, eventually he would work his way through the single ladies in the OHF and what would you be left with?

    2 years 3 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I for one have been pondering this question. Iris did highlight a valuable point - how are checks and balances established to prevent potential abuse and to air concerns. These are hard lessons that groups need to learn.

    Without denying people their agency, how do you set up a system that will prevent abuse by other members? How far does a group go to ensure the mental and emotional safety of the adult members?

    For example, I know with my disability (brain injury), I would deeply resent being told that the group is looking out for my best interests. It would seem to be paternalistic on the group's part to assume that I cannot fend for myself. But because of my disability, I can be easy prey for a con-artist. How do you solve a dilemma like that? Can this be encoded or is this sort of thing too nebulous to pin down?

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I have a traumatic brain injury.

    That being said, I got caught in the cross-fire in the Firefly Campaign, since I did not get with the program - i.e. Firemoon was abused by a sexual predator, who for the sake of the community had to be removed. I was shocked at how this mantra was repeated over and over everywhere it could be. I was shocked at how the Firefly folks did not identify themselves as they sought to achieve their goals. It left a poor taste about Firefly in my mouth since I started to regard them as "cultish", incapable of independent thought or discussion. Also it disturbed me how the Firefly folks who had nothing to do with DC, carried water in the campaign as well.

    Since I had lot of free time, I researched the consistent posters and everything I could find, and an disturbing picture arose. The one you described of a one-sided campaign to achieve a stated end, without proper identification or perspective.

    As for the brain injury - I got raked over the coals for making light of the issue from an avowed healer, who thought my injury was a ruse. That scared me into thinking that perhaps my impression of the "cultishness" of the Firefly group was true. (I know cult is a loaded word, but I cannot think of the word that would indicate a group of people, emotionally inflamed with one mission in mind, and not allowing any dissent.)

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)


    I am so sorry that we have not met yet since it so obvious from your comments that you are a close personal friend of Iris’s and know all there is to know about the situation from a front row seat. I mean, after all, one who has seen a woman four months pregnant, losing weight and physically appearing to not be pregnant would of course understand the emotional, and yes, physical stress she was under. But of course, since you were there I don’t need to remind you of that. So lets move on to the rest of the story, you know where her husband chose to have unprotected sex with someone else, who I am sure was a complete virgin and posed no risk to mother or child, and then husband went home to engage in carnal activities with his wife, confident that his unborn child was never at risk. Yes, I am sure that all of your female students understand why you are firmly in the husband’s court. After all, it’s always the woman’s fault when marriages go bad. Or at least that is what I seem to glean from your article. Yes, I am Firefly, and I was one of the one’s chosen to help this woman after she was victimized by this predator who seems to have persuaded the pagan community that it is acceptable to treat not one, not two but at last count four woman as though they were simply a means to his end. And BTW I know she attempted to alert the community to her situation and apparently no one felt it worth even a cursory investigation. Oh yes, one more example of us not wanting to rock any one’s boat. I will tell you that in response to her story, several other pagan women have come forward with similar stories of abuse reported to the male members of a community met with similar disdain and an obvious desire to hide this type of behavior. Do I believe it happened this time, yes; do I believe that this community is willing, no matter the cost, to hide this type of behavior, yes. No one wants to call attention to the pagan community because we already have an undeserved stigma. But that does not mean we should allow behavior none of us condone simply because we are afraid of controversy. If one of us needs be sanctioned, then we either stand and sanction or accept the stigma so many would place upon us. We need to “police” our own. When four and probably five women come forth and tell the same story of predatory behavior against women we either act or fold the tents and go home. So I suggest you talk to all of them before you post any more pontifications. I also realize you can never post this but we both know you will have read it.

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Cara Schulz (not verified)

    Hello Katrina,
    Although we know one another, mostly online but also when we met at Sacred Harvest Festival, for your readers let me note that I'm the Managing Editor of PNC-News and the Co-Editor of PNC-Minnesota. I was the primary author of the PNC-News statement that you are writing about.

    The persons who contacted me asking when PNC would cover this were not Firefly members. Most were not local to DC, but were Pagans and polytheists in other parts of the country who had donated to the Pagan community center in DC and naturally had an interest in it. Why would they contact me? Because I'm the Managing Editor and people often contact me to ask if PNC is covering a story or to request that we cover a story. That's how we get many of our articles - through our readers.

    As for why PNC-News put two different situations in one statement, it's because they are related in nature and both needed to be addressed promptly.

    If anyone has any questions, we encourage them to contact us and ask them.

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Kat, Emralde (not verified)

    Thank you for this perspective. I very much appreciate the voice of the elders as I struggle with my own (not-voiced) feelings about this situation and its outcome.

    2 years 6 weeks ago