Introducing Myself

First, the blog, now, a bit about the author!

I have what is being called an “alternative academic career” (Google for #alt-ac — it’s not just a career choice, it’s a hashtag!). I went to grad school wanting to be a professor and thinking that an academic career would also allow me to have another life: that I’d be able to write books, have a family, serve as a leader in my religious community, that sort of thing. About halfway through my PhD program, it became clear that being a professor is not a job, but a lifestyle.

Twenty to thirty years ago (and probably still in some of the more civilized colleges and universities), it was possible to have a stable, full-time academic teaching job and also have a family life and hobbies. The professors in my PhD program, though, were just as overcommitted and stressed out as I was. Particularly for those who didn’t have tenure, the pressure never let up: to teach a full load while publishing two books and doing committee service to the department while also mentoring students. Yet I started to find out that even my tenured instructors were taking antidepressants to help them deal with their lives. And upon graduation — well, a few of my colleagues got jobs, even good jobs. But far more were trying to make ends meet by adjuncting, sometimes five or six classes at a time, at a few thousand dollars per class and often without benefits included.

I thought: this is not what I want my life to be.

I finished my dissertation in 2007. I was exhausted; I was in debt; I wanted to go home. I’d also just finished a two-year course of study in a religious witchcraft tradition. Having been provided with powerful spiritual tools to change my life, I found myself willing to sacrifice anything in order to feel whole, in order NOT to feel the crushing strain that had dogged me all the way through graduate school. So I packed up everything I owned, headed back to Texas, found an admin job and enrolled in massage school.

Massage school changed everything. I wasn’t just learning bodywork; I was receiving bodywork two to three times a week. My body started to recover, and (here is the secret!) because there is no genuine separation between body and mind or body and spirit, that meant ALL of me recovered. As one of my instructors taught me, every time a therapist-in-training laid healing hands on my body, she contacted not just my flesh, but my entire history. I healed, and I learned to be a healer.

The circumstances that sent me back to Boston, where I’d gone to graduate school, are complicated, but the short version is that I felt an irrational spiritual calling that couldn’t be ignored. I worked flexible hours as a massage therapist to make room for writing, and the result was a Pagan theology of touch (being published by Routledge next year). I also started teaching Pagan studies and theology at Cherry Hill Seminary. Being able to integrate my academic training in religion and theology in a specifically Pagan setting helped me re-integrate the intellectual work I’d put aside to become a bodyworker.

Life progressed. I became a nonprofit consultant and grew prodigious organizational skills. I served the seminary as a department chair for two years and helped to develop the Master’s program, then returned to being an instructor to make room for getting married and writing another, shorter book (Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies — big announcement coming soon!). And then, just a few months ago, I joined the team as Managing Editor of the Pagan channel.

This is not how I envisioned my life when I began grad school ten years ago: in fact, this is far better than I imagined. My life expresses my religious values in a way I never could have planned. When I was finally initiated into my witchcraft tradition in 2011, I felt as if the way were being cleared for all the change and transformation of the previous few years to manifest. When I was in graduate school, I learned to talk about body-centered religion, a spirituality that stems from the relationship of human beings with their physical environment. But in bodywork and in circle, in my struggle to become someone who could be genuinely happy, I learned to live that religion. And I became someone new.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a complete draft of Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective today, to be published in late 2013. It’s intimidating to think about releasing it into the world, because in addition to talking about the importance of loving touch in general, I’m also advocating for all kinds of consensual erotic touch between adults. And I’m doing it openly as a Pagan practitioner, even if I have the legitimacy of an academic publisher to support me. I’m a little afraid of hate mail. I’m also afraid of its being received with deafening silence.

I shared my fears with my husband this morning, and he just grinned and said, “Go forth courageously into your life!”

Today’s courage is revealing myself here. Thanks for witnessing.


12 thoughts on “Introducing Myself

  1. You’ve done a lot of brave things, from having the courage to make your own career path to putting your convictions out in a book. Brava!

    I think that controversy is a sign that you’re compelling enough to warrant a response. Even if the response is dismissive, the writer always has the option of silence instead, and I’m often surprised by the precise details of what is controversial! I’m looking forward to reading the book 🙂


  2. I am so happy that you are enjoying some publishing success after being rejected by the editor who shall not be named. When I spoke with him at the AAR, he seemed to “forget” having read your proposal. Nikki forcefully reminded him otherwise.

    I linked to this blog on “Letter from Hardscrabble Creek,” but I see that Patheos does not let its bloggers link to those outside the walls, apparently.


    • HA! Well, his loss is Routledge’s gain, in this case, though I’m hoping there will be a chance to work with you and Nikki in the future.

      We can link to external blogs — I just haven’t built my external blogroll yet. I’ve been advised to put my long blogroll in a tab, as evidently long sidebar blogrolls don’t get much use and can add to a cluttered look (which, well, this blog already has a ton of widgets). Will give you a link back once I’ve set it up. 🙂


  3. I haven’t read the book yet, but I am looking forward to it! I also hope that it will be released in a print version some day so that I can use it with the woman who are incarcerated that I work with. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life story. How fascinating that you were able to weave bodywork into your academic and spiritual life!


    • Fingers crossed that it will sell well! That will help to make a print edition possible. :> If you like it, please do spread the word — I’ll need about 500 sales to make a case for a print edition.


  4. It sounds like a lovely book! I am very interested in the healing arts and am a reiki practitioner myself. I always think of healing in a holistic way, but when you said that there is “no real separation between body, mind, and spirit” I could feel my eyes open a little wider. Best of luck in “going forth courageously into your life!” Blessed Be. )O(


  5. Hello, Christine. It’s nice to connect with you via this site, and I look forward to reading it. I have been privileged to develop a relationship with Pagans I respect and learn from, such as Jason Pitzl-Waters, Mike Stygal, Gus diZerega, Selna Fox, and others. They have become valuable as friends and dialogue partners as I learn about the varieties of Pagan practices and theologies. I hope I can add your perspectives to this mix.


  6. Christine –
    Your journey is very intriquing. So many ‘jobs’ these days seem to eat up lives. I feel like my story is similar in some ways to yours. I worked for a homebirth midwife, and loved being at the births – and so I began the process of earning my owm midwifery degree. In the process, i came down very sick with chronic pain that no amount of tests nor treatments could resolve. No one could even figure out what was causing it. It was a tremedous strain , but i completely changed my life. I withdrew from school, work, plans to become a midwife. I stopped driving because it just plain hurt too much. I have two children and a husband, and i felt terrible for being too weak and letting everyone down. The oddest thing happened after all that calmed down. I cut everything draining out of my life out of sheer necessity, and my life took a better aspect than it had in years, if ever. I decided to go back to teaching literature, which i love, but i had left behind me in my passion for the demands of birthing. Because i couldn’t drive i started a home business, teaching literature classes to homeschool students. We meet around my dining room table and talk about Shakespeare, Dickens and JRR Tolkien. I only schedule morning classes because i know my energy can be variable and limited. I spend alot of time with my family. I have more friends than ever, and they have to be people who really like me, because i can’t go to them – they have to come to me. And for the first time i have pets. I never had time for animals before. Not productive enough i guess! Now i can’t beleive i let half my life go by without animal friends.

    My body, i think, had a wisdom of its own. The body decided i would never slow down given the choice, so it made that choice for me. Turned out that part of me knew what it was doing.


    • Kathleen, thank you so much for sharing this story — you are not alone in the way a chronic illness ultimately shaped your life in a positive direction. Now, if more of us could only make those choices WITHOUT having to get sick!


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