I didn’t go to Battlemoor last year for a variety of reasons – there were a lot of obstacles, no one particular one insurmountable, but what brought it all together was that it was the first year on the new site, and I had been – Juan had been – so, so invested in the old site for so long, that I was just not emotionally prepared for the enthusiasm of other people for the new site.
This year, I knew, it would be business as usual. And I could deal with that.
And in so many other ways, this year was just easier. It wasn’t the first week of the semester! I have a car and the freedom that goes with that! I have a camp family I feel safe and welcome with. I have some direction in my SCA life and things I’m excited about and things to do.
I had in my head a vision of this being the Battlemoor when I came back – had all of my own shit together, contributed meaningfully to my camp, showed up and carried myself like a Peer and competent adult person, didn’t need help and in fact had the emotional and logistical agility to help others. Started paying forward all of what so many people have done for me for so long now. Was myself again, my best self, the person I want to be.
It didn’t work out quite like that.
My car blew a timing belt on the way to the event. I didn’t know until a few hours ago what it was, I just knew I was dead on the side of the road, but that’s what it was. I got safe, I got roadside assistance activated, and then I posted to Facebook that, “whoops, no Battlemoor for me,” and as far as I was concerned, that was that. But one of my close friends had not yet left town, and we were able to coordinate, and in twenty minutes in my mechanic’s parking lot I sorted through my car and figured out what MUST go and left everything else behind. The food and garb and basic bedding went, and I was able to grab a popup tent from my daughter on the way out of town. The period tent, servingware and kitchenware, a lot of camp conveniences stayed behind. I spent the entire weekend going, “I have – oh, no, fuck, I don’t have that with me.” A lot of people helped me out, a lot. I apologized a lot. There was a lot of MacGyvering, and that’s kind of what I do, so it was ok.
Because I was just bloody emotionally and physically exhausted before I ever even got there, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to. I missed the parties both Friday and Saturday night, and I had had my heart set on going to them. I missed most of the fighting.
I did get to watch a little bit of the rapier Artisans’ Tourney and just a few minutes of the Sword and Shield of Battlemoor, which was lovely. I took some really fascinating and timely classes and had some really great conversations around A&S work I want to do. I was able to get all the food to site, and I was able to cook dinner for my campmates on Saturday night, and that was low-key and delightful. I got to spend some real time with a couple of my dearest friends who I have hardly seen at all this year and their delightful out-of-kingdom guest, including just sitting in the middle of an unused road at the far end of site, our chairs all in a row, watching the sunset over the mountains and talking. I helped feed several hundred people breakfast on Sunday morning, and that was a joy. It was just a quiet, slow, unambitious, introspective event.
It was a very difficult event for a lot of people, and because of the seeming overwhelmingness of my own problems I wasn’t aware of a lot of what was going on and was not as helpful as I could have been to friends who were struggling, and I’m sad and regretful about that. I would really like to not be in crisis mode myself all the time; I would like to have the emotional and resource resilience and agility to help others. I think that that resiliency, and willingness to bring it to the moment of need, is important in a Peer, and it is a source of shame to me that I don’t have it.
But I think that, more importantly, we bring whatever we have to the moment of need, and if there’s one thing I can offer from this rollercoaster through hell that I’ve lived for the last few years, it’s a certain transparency about how I bring my values as a Peer to the challenges of life inside and outside the SCA. Dignity is important; dignity can be armor. Grace under fire, as I said this weekend, is a peer-like quality.
But I am reminded that it is okay to be human. We all struggle in large and small ways, we all experience crisis and grief and disaster and fear. It’s important for Peers to be an anchor for our community members, to model and teach compassion and hospitality and competence in helping.
But it is also important to model and demonstrate and teach that it’s okay to be human, to model and teach being on the receiving end of compassion. It’s hard to ask for help; it’s hard to need it. Asking for help, and receiving help, with dignity is a learned skill.
We are teachers. We can’t teach what we don’t know. We must also learn to set aside the armor at times.