It is obvious from a quick perusal of the last several Barking Shaman that I have been in an introspective mood of late. “Requiem for a Symbol,” “Lessons from a Plastic Bracelet,” and “Don't Call Me a Unicorn Hunter” all had elements of self-examination.
In the earlier days of writing Barking Shaman, before my long hiatus, it was not uncommon for posts to group into themes. I do not intend to turn this blog into a forum simply to talk about myself. The internet is replete with venues for narcissistic expression, and I have my Facebook page and Twitter feed to indulge that part of my psyche.
However, I do feel that I have something more to say, and gods be damned, Notes from a Barking Shaman is my little corner of the internet, so bear with me through one more inward journey. Or don't, if you are not so moved, I won't mind.
Looking for Roots (that I might not need)
I am Wintersong Tashlin, although most people just call me “Winter.” Of course, it is largely a given that if you are reading Barking Shaman, you already know who I am. What likely goes without saying is that “Wintersong” is not the name my parents gave me, nor it should be noted is it the name that they use to this day. “Tashlin” as well is a taken name, although unlike “Winter,” my surname was made legal over five years ago.
On second glance, the above is a powerful statement though. My identity is far more bound up in who I am as Winter than it is around my birth name, which I continue to use in certain limited areas of my professional and familial life. My identity and the life that I lead, as a spirit worker, magician, god-servant, BDSM educator, queer activist, and gun nut, are vastly different from what I could have imagined as a child. It is hard at times to reconcile my “real” life with more mundane one that I associate with my birth name, which is the name I am called at work or when the bill collector calls.
There are times when I feel adrift. It is hard not to disassociate from my childhood and my life before I took this name (Wintersong was my third chosen name, but I have had it since 1999). I have very few ties to the person that I was. I am quite close to few family members and I am in touch with no friends from before college, and only one or two from college.
It has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that through the magic of the internet and Facebook in particular, I could try to reconnect with people from my childhood. This has raised an interesting question for me. Should I? There are few people I would want to connect with. I did not go to my local high school because of the severity of my Tourette, so I lost touch with many of my friends after middle school. The remaining ones I was close to primarily through the synagog youth group, and there are obvious issues there. One of the few people I'd really care to reconnect with is now a successful Rabbi, while I am a hard-polytheist-shaman. Clearly our paths diverged, although not as far perhaps as I did from her brother who is a successful accountant. She and I may serve different paths and gods, but in our own ways we both serve, I honestly cannot imagine the life her brother (also a good friend of mine growing up) lives.
Thanks to Facebook I did discover that the first boy with whom I ever had what I felt was a positive sexual experience, did in fact end up batting on the same team as me. If nothing else this finally set my mind at ease after seventeen years and allow me to enjoy that memory without concern that what had been a positive experience for me had been mere experimentation for him (it still could have been, but now I know what the experiment's results were).
That is interesting, and perhaps edifying knowledge, but I do not see it providing any real connection between us. At least no more so than anyone else with whom I shared a one-night-stand with a very long time ago. Another childhood friend and I have remarkably similar tastes in film and television, again, at least according to what he has chosen to list on Facebook, but other than a fondness for Jeremy Clarkson's automotive antics, the culinary adventures on Top Chef, and hazy memories of the of children we haven't been for nearly two decades, we likely share little common ground.
I could reach out to them, and in truth I have experimentally sent out a few introductory notes, but the reality is that I feel more like I am contacting the childhood friends of a lost relative than the children I once whiled away long Saturdays playing with. Part of me hopes to hear back, because no one likes to be rejected or worse, forgotten. However, an equal part of me hopes that my messages vanish into the empty reaches of the internet, taking with them awkward conversations and feeble attempts to recapture a sense of connection to each other, when what we are really looking for is a sense of connection to the child we each used to be.
At least that is what I find myself looking for. I like the man I have become, but in many ways I feel like a man without a past. When I look in the mirror I can not find echoes of the boy who played pretend games, Legos, or Micromachines, with Jeff, Steven, Lucian, Josh and other childhood friends (boy are those '80s names or what). For a while I looked for those echoes in some of my age play, and almost found them, but circumstances in my life shifted and I lost track of them again. When I wonder “How is X doing” one of the things I mean is “maybe by understanding how my childhood cohorts got to where they are in life, I'll understand where my own childhood self fits into my identity now.”
At the same time, as I stated, there is a lot about who I am now that I like. I feel like I fit better in my own skin now than I have in a long time and I am not sure that looking backward is necessary or healthy. I am unsure of how I will benefit in my sense of self or well-being through connecting to people whose concept of me is fifteen or twenty years out of date. What value would I gain through such a connection?
In the end I am a shaman and spirit worker, and as such I have put this issue into the hands of the fates. If I have something to learn or gain from such an interaction, one will happen and I will endeavor to approach it with an open mind and heart. If one does not, then that too will tell me something of value about the relationship between the child I used to be and the man I have became.