Saturday was the annual Mermaid Parade at Coney Island. I call it The Greatest Day of the Year and for extremely good reason. I mean, look at this:
Where else does your mayor dress up like a pirate next to “The Other Mayor” who bangs a huge drum and leads a pilgrimage to make offering to Neptune in the waves at the conclusion of a parade composed of 1,500 people (barely) dressed as mythical sea creatures? AT THE MERMAID PARADE. NOWHERE ELSE!
It is my very favorite day of the year.
A few months ago, I started this series about how I decided to divide my time. 1/3 of the time, I do for the world which I wrote about here, and am also chronicling here. I also wrote about spending another 1/3 of my time doing things for those I love, which you can read about here. The final 1/3 is left for me–doing for me, only for my own pleasure and happiness.
After I swore to write about it, I had to think. What do I do only for me, with no other recourse than to make myself happy? I could mention Dark Moon baths, but that also falls into the hygiene category which is necessary. There’s also television, but that’s not very interesting to write about. Walks in the park. Just going out with friends. Exercise, socialization both through interactions are necessary parts of human development. But what do I do that’s just for me, for only me, and only because it makes me happy?
My High Priestess spoke at length about Self-Nurture. Early in my Craft days, I didn’t understand that. Focus on the Self seemed indulgent. Why focus on the Self when there were so many issues in the world that needed addressing? What I didn’t know I was in an entirely self-focused phase. I was in college. I wasn’t partnered. I didn’t have a job with serious responsibility. I held no legitimate role in my community. My whole existence was about educating, discovering, building, knowing, and learning about me–along with how to keep myself alive outside my parents’ house. This was the best place for my energies at the time, but that also meant that focus on the Self naturally seemed ridiculous and unnecessary. Talking to College-Me about Self resonated about as well as talking about water to someone who lives in a pond. How can you seek out and embrace that which you’re friggin’ drowning in?
In the Craft, we talk about the phases of a woman’s life being divided into Maiden-Mother-Crone. The timing is subjective, but whether or not we actually have human children, it seems as though women eventually enter a phase when their lives are not about them as much as they are about others and that is the Craft’s “Mother” stage. I’ve never been a dude, so I can’t say whether male persons experience this as well. We begin caring for children, or Elders, or start businesses. We may take jobs with real responsibility. We might embrace roles in our communities, partner or enter serious relationships. ****Many of us do several at once.**** “Me-Time” is a precious hour (if even that!) every few days. Or weeks. Or months. Sometimes, it’s something we have to schedule in with a therapist or stylist. It’s often the first thing cut when time gets tight or when others’ needs are prevalent. We may find it hard to legitimize time for us, solely for us, doing things that solely make us happy. But like the idea of the well needing to be full before it can nourish others or putting on the yellow-cup oxygen mask before placing it on the less-able person next to you, there is a necessity in filling our own Selves if we want to keep doing for others.
For me personally, however, dressing up in Mermaid-esque attire and marching down Surf Avenue at Coney Island with 1,500 other people in view of 800,000+ attendees is something that I can do for me, only for me, and for no reason other than it makes me happy.
I’ve been told I need to grow up. I’ve been told I’m supporting something raucous, tacky, and irritating to a tired Brooklyn neighborhood. Throughout the year, my partner patiently endures Ebay deliveries and resale Halloween-store purchases crammed into corners of our apartment. In the two weeks leading up to parade, our place is littered with traces of tulle, paper mache, and ends of seafoam green thread. The day of the parade, it’s like an angry orangutang made a deliberate primate-message in every room of the house with spangles and grease paint. Boyfriend is patient and understanding, only asking only that I don’t use glitter in the house. It’s a request I honor almost completely. It took me awhile to take my own joy seriously and to say to the world, “Hey. I spend far more than 2/3 of my time doing for others. This is one thing I’m doing for me. I want to dress up like a Sea Witch and spend a day walking around with other people dressed up, too.”
And, yes! The past three years I have gone as a SeaWitch–my costume developing a little further each time!
Let’s be honest. Sea Witch KILLED it this year!
I make the majority of my costumes. What I don’t build, I buy mostly resale. As the Mermaid Parade is a true homage to the Ocean Gods, it wouldn’t make sense to buy a bunch of cheap stuff to pollute the waters further. If it’s not resale, it’s personal craftsmanship from an artist. I wish I could say I built the hat, but that credit goes to my friend Mimi.
The great lesson of this year’s parade is that when we do things simply to make ourselves happy, sometimes we make others happy, too. Early in the parade, a woman jumped into the route and asked me to take a picture with her sister. The sister was completely immobile–reclining in a wheelchair to watch the parade. Her condition seemed to keep her mostly uncommunicative, too, but still her face lit up when I approached and she tried to speak. I got the gist that she was saying something like, “THAT’S AWESOME!” Throughout the day, children ran up to me and parents posed me for photos with them, making this a Magickal part of their family time. Even on the subway, one little girl sat on her mother’s lap with stretched arms and grabby fists until the train stopped and she was allowed to run over and hug me.
It seems like I’m getting away with something sneaky…a costume, the construction and wearing of which brought me so much joy also brought so much joy to others. It makes sense, really. What if you were five (or fifteen, or fifty…) and you were out with the fam or just getting away from life for a bit at Coney Island and suddenly there was a Magickal Sea Witch wandering around???!!!!??? I would think it’s great. I do think it’s great that I got to do it.
It’s more than fueling or refilling. Sometimes, seizing moments of joy for the sole purpose of being in joy is enough to make the world a better place.
P.s., I’ve got a new Facebook page, now! “Like” me and you might win an email reading!