Okay, I am going to tackle a couple of the hard ones. Now we are getting into deep-thought-self-examination territory. It’s not that I don’t DO it. I just don’t often write about it or talk about it – somehow whenever you try to explain your own motivations or ideals, it always comes out as pompous or conceited. The best you can hope for is that people see enough of the passion to know that it is the real deal. Bambi’s and Sarah’s questions are not interchangeable, but are definitely related, so I will treat them as a package deal.
There is a general catch-all toss-off answer that deals with both – I am a person whose prime motivating forces in life revolve around guilt and obligation. Want to know how to manipulate me? Make me feel responsible.
But, that’s rather a cop-out, huh?
So, Bambi asks “What has kept you from just saying ‘screw you guys, I’m going home?’” I could be terribly glib here and say that if I had a dime for every time I asked myself that question over the last nine months, I could buy a vente skinny latte at my favorite coffee establishment (if said establishment hadn’t disappeared under 8 feet of water), but I am pretty sure that’s not what you are looking for. And besides, it just makes me sound whiny.
I guess the answer lies somewhere in that it is simply not my nature to do so. I say what I am gonna do, and I do what I said I would. I am a woman of remarkably little original imagination, I am not a scintillating conversationalist, and I am not a particularly tactful diplomat. My only virtues are persistence, patience, and a deep, deep comittment to fairness. Even when I am GRITTING my teeth in frustration (yep, I’m a tooth-grinder and got the crown to prove it), I believe that everyone is entitled to a fair hearing IF THEY CHOOSE IT.
I have to emphasize this because, well, if you don’t have the cahones to come to the table to express your opinion and engage in fair discussion, well, excuse the French, but I got no F—ing use for you. And yes, I feel that strongly about it. If given the opportunity to have input, you decline to take it, you lose the opportunity to be righteously pissed. You may be pissed, but you ain’t righteous. But come at me with a direct question and opinion, stated upfront and honestly, and you got my respect whether I agree with you or not.
And that is what helps me weather the storms of the SCA in the long term. I am a person of almost painful self-examination. Nobody can criticize myself or my actions or my motives more brutally than I do. I am not afraid to express an opinion when I reach one, and that gives the impression that I am a bit quick to form them. Nothing is further from the truth. I obsess. I agonize. I call every human being I respect and grill them mercilessly. Ask anyone close to me and they can probably relate anecdotal evidence to this behavior in painful and gory detail. But the payoff is that by the time I am done with myself, there isn’t any skin left to scour. I will happily offer myself up as a whipping boy for any decision I have made. I made a commitment to the Kingdom when we decided to fight in that First Tournament – and it was a commitment to a Kingdom I loved, and I believed in before it even had a name. I wanted to give it the absolute best start it could possibly have with every bit of experience I could bring to it. No, I am not conceited enough to believe that Radu and I were the ONLY couple that could have smashed that champagne bottle and launched that ship, and thankfully, blissfully, we weren’t. It was a cast of hundreds. But we got to help steer the ship, and I was not going to abandon it in a storm. I. was. not.
Now, that being said, I have come closer to walking away in the past few months than any other time in 26 years of my SCA experience. That includes some pretty stormy episodes in SCA history. And what has kept me in, ultimately, was you. And Ben. And Birgida. And the Monkeys. And My Knight. And we are back to that guilt and obligation thing…
So that’s basically how I have survived this long, but it really doesn’t answer the WHY, Which is a segue to Sarah’s question of “If it were *just* the family and friends and athletics, there’d be no need to work your butt off for the Society like you do. So- what’s that goal you’re working towards, whether it be for you personally, or some vision you see for the SCA that you hope you can help implement?”
I have to divide this into two parts, which works, because it’s a two-part question. There are my goals as a Peer (my SCA vision), and my goals as a squire (personal vision).
First, when you accept a Peerage, you pretty much accept that you are willing to set aside a huge portion of the time that you dedicate to personal goals in favor of a commitment to the SCA as whole – whether you define it as the organization, the Kingdom, the Crown or the Populace. I have heard somebody say “nobody get’s a peerage without wanting it”. Well, in a word, Bullpoopy. The decision to accept the Pel was, for me, a decision that a very dear personal goal was to be, for the most part, set aside. I was not going to accept it unless I was willing to be the kind of Pelican I felt the Order deserved (I am sure for the most part, they feel ‘afflicted’ at this point, but you will have to ask them). But I was forced to recognize that I had a role I felt I could play, and that role could help a whole lot of other people get from the Society what they deserved.
As I mentioned, I am NOT a woman of original imagination. Really. It’s not false modesty, it is absolutely positively true. I am NOT a “Big Idea” person. But what I have recognized over time is that Big Idea people are fabulous on coming up with some really, really breathtaking stuff, but are generally crappy on the follow through. Dreamers have a role to play – they can look at the horizon, and see the mountain.
Now, here is where I come in. Show me where you want to go. Convince me it is a paradise. I will move heaven and earth to get you there. I am not a person who is comfortable being the talking head. I am far more comfortable being the “woman behind the curtain”. Truth be told, I was a better Chancellor than I was Queen. I see my role in the SCA being that of showing OTHER people how to get where they want to go. I am a facilitator, and I am damn good at it. And I have found that not only is this a supremely useful skill, but because it does not matter to me who the “Idea Man” is – Crown, Peer, or NewGuy Joe - it keeps my interest and love of the SCA vital and fresh over the long haul. And I get the vicarious satisfaction of seeing the pride it gives others. My definition of leadership is not showing everyone how good you are – my definition of leadership is showing others how good THEY can be. That’s what drives me as a Peer. That’s what drove me as a Queen.
And there is that other thing. That set-aside personal goal. Fighting, for me, is far more than athletics. The Quest to be a Knight, and I am going to be honest and blatant about it because everyone who puts on a red belt SHOULD be aspiring to be one, is not all about the quest to be the best fighter on the field. Although, for obvious reasons, the struggle for prowess has been a major one for me, because I want to be good. Not good-for-a-girl. Good. But more than that, it is an exercise in mastery over the self in the honest pursuit of Chivalric virtues. The inward journey has been even more of a struggle. I want to be a Knight because it is the recognition of what I have spent literally a lifetime working toward. And I am one who believes that Knights ARE made, not recognized. You can have every Knightly virtue in the book, but until the accolade is bestowed, you are still a squire. Believing otherwise, even in your heart, too often leads to a sense of entitlement and bitterness that has no place in a struggle for virtue. So, until such a day shall come, I shall work at being a very good squire – within the bounds that are allowed me by my duties as a Peer. And that’s the rub. I made a promise.
And we are back to that guilt and obligation thing… (and I am getting perilously close to answering my Knight’s question, which deserves its own blog).