: to separate (something) into sections or categories
: to separate (two or more things) from each other
: to put (something) in a place that is separate from other things
I remember sitting in a stress management workshop earlier this year. I am always interested in learning new ideas regarding stress management (especially in the workplace), so I was eager to see what this presenter had to say. One of the most interesting points that she brought up was the notion that you should not compartmentalize your personal life and your work life. According to her, there should be a sort of dove-tailing of the two. You should be able to celebrate aspects of your home life while at work, and work should integrate in other ways in your daily life.
I think the idea behind it was that you should be able to come together as more than coworkers and that we should help each other be successful both at work and at home. And that there is a place for home life in the work place (since one often influences the other). However, as she told us this, I couldn’t help but think “this is an awfully privileged way of looking at things”. And I still believe this to be true.
That being said, I am forced to live a very compartmentalized life.
My life outside of the workplace (home life) rarely touches anything else I do. My coworkers know only the bare minimum about me, and my family knows even less than my coworkers do. People know very little about my Kemetic work, people know very little about my partner. In many ways, people hardly know anything about how my mental health influences my behaviour, either. And I keep it that way on purpose, because compartmentalizing keeps me safe.
When we wrote about this topic for KRT a few months back, it seemed that many of us are forced to live our lives in segments for fear of persecution, job loss, or being ostracized. Many of us are forced to keep our relationships secret or our religions secret because if coworkers or family members found out, we might have problems. Many of us have to put up with sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia or body shaming in the office (or with our families) because if we bring up any concerns regarding these things, we are looking at the possibility of drama in the near future. Many of us are forced to keep ourselves hidden, because if we were honest about who we are, we’d be screwed over.
“Library Cabinet” by Lori Murga via Flickr
The problem with this is, it’s very difficult to live a compartmentalized life. And honestly, there are some things you simply can’t or shouldn’t compartmentalize away for the ease and comfort of others. Despite this, compartmentalization lives on because we don’t live in an ideal world.
I realized recently that compartmentalization also seems to be effecting parts of our religious community. In the same way that you might not want to talk about your homosexual relationship at work for fear of getting shunned, some people don’t want to talk about their god-spouse relationship with other Kemetics for fear that they’ll get kicked off of the island.
And I think that is a shame.
It starts off innocently enough- where a group will talk about generalized Kemeticism with other Kemetics. And while we may all start off with only talking about generic Kemeticism, as people become more comfortable with one another, or with the Kemetic community, eventually other things bleed through because there are just things you can’t compartmentalize. You see, in order to really be practicing Kemeticism, it should permeate a large portion, if not all of your life. To live in ma’at means to live in ma’at 24/7, not just when you’re sitting in shrine.
So when I begin to try and live in ma’at, and I’m faced with how ma’at looks for someone who has a mental disorder, or for someone who has physical limitations, or for someone who is a minority in our culture – my compartmentalization starts to fall away. Because on the inside, I am not a bunch of compartments. I am a whole person who is forced to keep parts hidden away for my safety.
And when this happens and I begin to discuss Kemeticism more in-depth with my peers, that bleed-through is going to show up. People are going to notice that my gender and my sexual orientation and my mental problems are going to influence my views on ma’at, the gods, and how I view the community and Kemeticism as a whole. Because I am a whole person whose religion permeates all aspects of life, I can’t compartmentalize that very readily when discussing Kemeticism with others.
Sometimes this lack of compartmentalization effects others. I saw an example of this recently, when a group of Kemetics within an organization wished to make a safe space for themselves to allow for safe discussion and solidarity. I was talking with someone about this, and they didn’t understand why these people felt the need to bring “non-religious things” into the religious forum. These people removing that barrier that is compartmentalization had made this person feel extremely uncomfortable.
The thing is, these people were not bringing in anything that wasn’t religious into a religious group. As with my example above, these are whole people who shouldn’t have to compartmentalize and hide intrinsic parts of themselves from Kemetic discussion (or discussion with other Kemetics). For these people, their lives are forever effected by a set of circumstances they can’t control; in much the same way that my life is effected because by my mental health issues. While I can try to hide that I have problems with my brain, at the end of the day, my entire existence is framed from this perspective. And when I talk about Kemeticism and community, I’m going to be operating from the same perspective.
I’m not bringing mental health issues into Kemeticism, or trying to derail Kemetic discussion with my health issues. I’m simply discussing from the perspective that I already know and trying to relay how one (mental health) can effect the other (Kemeticism/religion). And while people who don’t have mental health issues might not understand how one relates to the other, I think its important for us as a community to realize that we shouldn’t ask our community members to segment parts of themselves off for our comfort. If we truly are trying to understand one another and grow as a community, we need to understand that each of us has our own perspective, our own background, and that this perspective and background is going to effect every aspect of our religious experience. Instead of asking our community members to hide these aspects of themselves (whether openly or silently), we should be looking to understand their perspective and understand why they feel the way that they do. And in turn, learn from their experiences and broaden our own horizons in the process.
It’s bad enough that many of us have to segment off very important parts of our lives because our society has a very limited view of what is acceptable and “normal”, and I would hope that we wouldn’t want to bring this into our religious community as well. It is better when we try to reach out and understand our peers and their situations. We are able to lift all of us up simultaneously when discussion can be open, friendly and safe for our community members. And while it may take some time for all of our community members to feel safe enough to share their thoughts openly (and in the meantime, we create small groups where safe discussion can occur), it is my hope that we can slowly move forward in showing that we are accepting of the diversity that exists amongst our community members.
Because at the end of the say, Kemeticism should influence your entire existence and your entire self. And you shouldn’t have to compartmentalize or hide that stuff, especially with community members that are supposed to be a sort of support group. I can only hope in time that this will become a reality.