As touched upon in the Kemetic Round Table article I wrote concerning ritual purity, we all deal with feelings of inadequacy in our religious and personal lives. At times, we don’t feel pure enough, or “good” enough. We don’t feel like we’re doing enough. Something. Whatever it is . . . “It just isn’t enough. Look at that person over there; their life and religious practice are so shiny. I don’t have a life like theirs, or relationships with deities like theirs, or a super profundo job like theirs. I’m not a big-wig priest or leader; I’m no diviner. I’m nothing special. I’m one of the “little people.” I can’t fill those shoes. I must not be good enough. I must suck. I must not be deserving of those things the way everyone else seems to be.”
I’m going to tell a few things about my personal life, as the wife of a United States Marine, in the hopes of illustrating how to overcome such feelings.
I’ve sold myself into the USMC way of life. I come from a military family, but marrying into the military, I’ve learned the hard way, is completely different. There’s a lot I have given up, and a lot I have yet have to give up, for my Marine. Though our marriage is healthy and otherwise happy, having the military institution in the way makes every single day of our lives a constant uphill battle.
When it comes right down to it, I’m his dependent, and dependents are not looked upon kindly in the military. Military spouses are practically second-class citizens, not much of a step above the average civvie. Actually, the military wife, referred to as a “dependapotomus,” is probably held in far less esteem than the average civilian.
No matter how loyal and competent a wife I am, I’m made to feel like I’m not good enough by the surrounding military “community,” which is more like a shark tank than anything else. If I work, I’m still not doing enough for my serviceman. If I’m a homemaker, I’m considered a fat lazy bitch (I’m not over 124 lbs / 56 kg, but that never stopped embittered servicemen I don’t know from addressing me by weight-related pejoratives) who simply married her husband for his benefits and a cushy life — believe me, the lifestyle is not cushy. It’s harrowing and painful and strips me right to the bone. It is an especially excruciating experience, when my Ram is deployed and struggling with separation anxiety, loneliness, and constant stress; when I’m left to sleep alone at night; when I’m left wondering for months on end if Ram will ever come home alive, or disabled, or dead; and when I’m left to deal with a lot of crazy shit on my own without his help. Hardly comparable to what craziness Ram has to deal with overseas, but crazy enough to fray one’s nerves either way.
My word doesn’t really mean anything beyond the ear of my husband, either. I’m talked down to on a constant basis. Whether I am in any given situation acting like a pretentious asshole who deserves to be talked down to, or a fairly innocent party, it really doesn’t matter. I still get the same treatment, regardless of what I say and the way I act — though I very rarely use foul treatment as an excuse to treat others any-old-way I want.
I can’t lie. There are some days that sort of thing really gets me. It does effect me, as hard as I fight not to let it. It’s a relentless ordeal that challenges the very foundations of my sense of self-worth.
I constantly grapple with feelings of inadequacy. My friends, family, and husband’s fellow Marines seem so much more successful than I’ve been. Because I don’t do the amount or intensity of work that Ram does, I feel like dead weight more often than I care to admit. Having a near-perfect GPA in University isn’t so much of a confidence-booster when I haven’t published anything worthy of note, don’t have the specific career in the field of History that I set out to have six years ago, and am not the one feeding mouths between us. It certainly does not help that the current state of United States military culture makes a point of making wives look and feel like disgusting, useless worms who aren’t worth the air, water, or food they consume.
I am ever-reluctant to ask my husband for help with various items under most circumstances, because I don’t feel like I do enough work to deserve it. “Holding down the fort” and making sure the household runs smoothly while he’s busy elsewhere doesn’t feel like much, despite how stressful it can be a lot of the time. “That’s stuff I’m supposed to do anyway. I could be doing more. But I’m not, so I suck,” I sometimes catch myself thinking. There have been days I’ve woken up ashamed for no discernible reason, and did not bother to feed myself. I felt too inadequate and too undeserving to even eat.
Fortunately, I married a good man. Ram makes a point of telling me how much he appreciates me, appreciates what I do for him and our household, and that loving him is beyond enough. Outside of my opinions and how I value myself, and beyond his opinions and how he values me, nothing else really matters when it comes to our marriage, and how good a wife — a human being — I am. No one else has a legitimate say, and in our heart of hearts we know that we shouldn’t gauge ourselves by the perceived standards and performance of others. “Looks can be deceiving,” “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence,” and “whited sepulchres” and all that.
It should be noted that there are indeed a number of spouses who fit the “dependapotomus” stereotype. However, they’re not a universal rule by any stretch of the imagination. There are good military wives, and plenty of them. I’m not a perfect human being, if there ever were such a thing, but as Ram makes a point of telling me on a regular basis, I am a good wife to him: I am helpful. I am intelligent and knowledgeable. I am resourceful. I am honest and dutiful. I am understanding. I am supportive. I am witty and fun to be around. I am a major source of comfort for him. I take good care of my body and my mind. I take good care of him when he is tired, sick, and/or hurting. I am creative, and a competent writer. I am also pretty good at cooking and baking. I give him something to look forward to. I give his life a purpose that he’s wanted for so long but never had before. I’m there for him to make happy, and I make him equally happy in return.
My job might not be the biggest, flashiest one in the world — I don’t service jets like my husband does, or unite warring tribes like T. E. Lawrence (though that won’t ever stop me from trying) — but what I do is very important to him, to us. Being a wife is still a respectable job. I’ve accomplished a lot in my past, and still continue to accomplish much that is worth being proud of. Not necessarily “big” things, but important things nevertheless.
My husband serves to remind me that the little jobs are still important jobs. Even within the military, this is so. Not everyone can be a four-star General. Not everyone is Commandant of the Marine Corps. Someone has to sit at a desk in the communications unit, making sure all modes of communication remain operational. It’s a boring, tiring, endless, thankless job, but someone has to do it. Someone has to clean the shitters. Someone has to work in the kitchens. Someone needs to maintain the waterworks. Someone needs to attend to towering stacks of paperwork, because that paperwork is not going to file itself. If everyone were on the front lines engaging in guts-and-glory battle-madness, everything would fall apart. There would be no coordination. If everyone were a senior officer, who would be doing all the necessary grunt-work? No one. Nothing would get done. It’d be too many chiefs and not enough tribespeople. Too many cooks spoiling a broth that has no flavor or substance to it.
The same applies to religion. Not just Kemeticism — religion as a whole. The mundane jobs are just as important as the glorified jobs.
It’s certainly a possibility that there is something one is doing wrong that’s halting progress and crippling potential. Inasmuch as my experience goes, however, this is not always the case. Self-abasement is not a healthy way to go about dealing with one’s feelings of inadequacy. Self-abasement only serves to ingrain unhealthy, recurring thoughts deeper into one’s psyche. Crushing depression and the constant assassination of one’s self-esteem are no aides to progress and personal development.
So, how does a Kemetic reconcile him or herself with feelings of inadequacy, religious or otherwise?
- By realizing that not everyone is cut out to be a priest or other leader, and it’s entirely fine to be “normal” and perform the “little jobs.”
- By realizing that we, “the little people,” still make our contributions to our Gods and community in our own way. That all ultimately constructive contributions, both great and small, are still worthwhile and of value.
- By realizing that the Gods don’t care how fancy one’s clothes are, or how prettily one speaks. They likewise do not esteem the actions of one who goes out of his or her way to humiliate or destroy unnecessarily. The Gods — Who are fallible, too, I might add — care about one’s intrinsic worth, and how one’s actions reflect and instill that intrinsic worth within the grander scheme of society, and of existence. The Gods’ chief concern is how one’s actions esteem “all good things” They have commended unto human beings — how one gives and appropriately uses what has been given, and doesn’t simply take.
- By realizing that “right action”/living in ma’at, offering up one’s love to the Gods, and speaking well of the Gods, are worthy offerings. Devotion is neither an auction nor a competition. As recorded within the Instructions for Merikare: “The good qualities of the straightforward person are preferred to the ox of the evildoer.”
One does not have to be a proficient Hekau to be a “good” Kemetic. One does not need to be an ordained priest to be a “good” Kemetic. One does not have to be wealthy or of any particular social status to be a “good” Kemetic. One does not have to know absolutely everything about Egyptian History and Theology in order to be a “good” Kemetic. One does not have to strictly adhere to a Polytheist model (or Henotheist, etc., model for that matter) in order to be a “good” Kemetic. One does not have to strictly adhere to beliefs about the Afterlife as stipulated by Ancient texts in order to be a “good” Kemetic. One does not have to burden one’s altar with lavish offerings in order to be a “good” Kemetic.
The nature of one’s character; the spirit in which one “gives back;” how one’s words and actions esteem the names of the Gods and work toward the reality of a healthier, more wholesome community/society . . . These things are what ultimately matter when it comes to being a “good” Kemetic. Ma’at is what matters.
One must do what one can, to the best of one’s ability. The little advancements, kindnesses, and justices do add up. They do change lives. They do make waves. As an adage I heard long ago states, “one drop raises the sea.”
I’ll give another anecdote about my life. About two years ago, I experienced one of the absolute lowest points of my life. My ex-fiance left me for another woman while I was in the throes of severe physical illness. In the wake of that abandonment, I had a piteous sense of self-worth, and no desire to live. I was completely consumed by anger; that anger was probably what kept me alive through systemic infection after systemic infection, immuno-compromising drug after immuno-compromising drug. Many of my friends and family neglected me when I needed them most, for reasons I still don’t understand, because I wasn’t given any. I felt completely unloved and completely unwanted. It was during this time that Ram, who was one of the only people who remained by my side throughout that frightening, disgusting ordeal, said a few small but incredibly meaningful, life-saving words to me. “I love you, and I can’t imagine my life without you.” If not for him, if not for the emotional and spiritual healing and security he provided when I had almost nothing, I might not be alive today.
Ram was never wealthy. He came from a broken home, and began living on his own when he was about 15 or 16. He wasn’t a prominent community figure, or a PhD of anything. He couldn’t afford a college education. He was a poor English-American working at a fuel station, aspiring to become a Marine, with nothing to give but his hands, his speech, and his heart. He saved my life, gave me a new sense of purpose, and made me glad again. With words that might seem small to others, he breathed life into me again, when nothing else could.
When feelings of inadequacy strike, remember that every word, every action, every person, matters. Remember that even the smallest word, the smallest action, the smallest person, can make a difference. Perhaps a small difference, but an important difference all the same.
We are only useless and powerless and “not good enough” when we talk ourselves into feeling and thinking that way, or allow others to convince that we are such. Remember this.
R E L A T E D A R T I C L E S
- Words and Symbolism — Fanny Fae delves into the power of words, both in terms of how Ancient Egyptians viewed speech, and how our every interaction impacts the world around us today.
- Simple versus Easy — Elizabeth Vongvisith explains how the “little jobs,” though not exactly glamorous, are still important. We don’t always get to choose our duties, but whatever we are assigned, whatever we find ourselves in, we should perform our tasks with gratitude and pride.
- Equal — Devo ruminates on what is really important, and the possibilities of even small changes in behavior.
- The Magic of a Hug — Devo reminds us : LOVE THYSELF. Respecting, loving, and restoring one’s own Ka is its own offering.
- My Enemy, Myself — Tahekerut-Aset gives us suggestions as to how to respect, love, and restore the Ka, rather than succumb to self-abasement.