About katmicari

I am a creative whirlwind looking to share my passions with the world.

Gratitude Can Become a Trap

We had a friend over last weekend for sketching, snacks, and mead, and over the course of the evening, the sentence “Gratitude can be a trap” came out of my mouth as I was discussing my life after having my daughter and leading up to losing my job. And I realized the truth of the statement. If you always feel grateful for what you have, even when life turns extremely difficult, the gratitude can easily become an opportunity to not process emotions properly or to allow situations to continue long past the point they should. At least, that’s how it worked for me. I have a wonderfully supportive and hands-on co-parent in my husband and my mom took time off after the baby was born, on top of help from other family and friends. So when I felt overwhelmed in my recovery, I buried those feelings in gratitude and told myself “It can be so much worst, I have no right to complain.” And I believed it. And because my previous employer allowed me to have the baby with me, when the nigh impossible job I had actually became really impossible, rather than complain, I just kept plowing ahead and told myself how lucky I was to get to have the baby with me. It became this kind of feedback loop that helped contribute to tunnel vision that got so severe I couldn’t even tell when I started working myself sick.

I don’t want to downplay the role of gratitude in my life. It’s really important. But it’s a passive virtue, and therein lies the crux of the issue. The passive and the active have to be balanced against each other, rather than allowing either one to dominate your life to an extreme, and I think the action that should accompany gratitude is another ‘g’ – generosity. Generosity of spirit. Generosity of love. Practiced both outward onto the world and inward toward one’s self. Because if you are generous towards yourself, you won’t allow people to drive you to your breaking point. You won’t drive yourself to your breaking point.

What are your thoughts on gratitude? Have you ever felt yourself in a similar situation? Do you find yourself falling more into a passive or active attitude toward life, or are you fairly well balanced?

Life and Love and Creativity

I have been absent again from posting here lately. The baby has been teething and starting her one year growth spurt, and I have also snuck away on a few short trips with the family, visiting the 1000 Islands and Buffalo/Niagara Falls. It is so much work to travel with kids, but the time with friends and getting close to nature was well worth the effort. I feel more grounded, more accepting of the current state of affairs in my life, and ready to allow myself to expand again after feeling retracted for so long.

My time to create has been so short, and this was one of the biggest things I had to come to terms with. Almost all my efforts right now are going into creating my sister’s wedding dress and jewelry. The only writing I’ve been doing lately is an occasional email or letter, and I haven’t had any time for music or painting. Because my energies are being poured into my family and into the work that allows us to survive, and that is where they need to be right now. Because the love I have for my family and the joy I experience witnessing my children grow makes the sacrifices worthwhile.

All this to say that my creativity is not gone; the fire has merely been stoked, waiting the right opportunity to blaze once again. In the meantime, I will guard my embers and feed them as I may.

 

State Constitutions – do you know yours?

I was inspired a few weeks ago by a podcast that had someone elucidating the rights spelled out in the PA State Constitution, which has inspired me to slowly work my way through the NYS one. Because while I’ve read the US constitution in government class, I’ve never looked at the states before, and I have the feeling that those may be more important in days to come.

The history of the NYS constitution is interesting. It’s been amended and even re-written a couple of times. And a vote is coming up this year on whether to call another constitutional convention.

I’ve finished Section 1, and I have several tidbits I want to bring up and discuss, and I think I’m going to use Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook to do it because I really don’t use those platforms aside from sharing my blog links when I update. I’ll go in order, but I’ll pull one positive one out for today.

[Freedom of speech and press; criminal prosecutions for libel] §8. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right;

NYS constitution Section 1, Article 8

Bam! Freedom of speech protected but you are also FULLY responsible for what issues out of your brain. More people need to understand this, at every level of society. Maybe especially the politicians.

Now I really would prefer we live in a truly self-governed society and that humanity was evolved enough to be able to live in this way, but until that happens, it’s important to know what we’re working with. There is already some verbiage in the first section that made me raise my eyebrows a bit.

Do you know what your state constitutions or even local community charters look like? Do you know what rights of yours may be being infringed upon either legally or illegally? Do you care?

Little Boy Blue, a poem

Posting this poem yet again because my heart is hurting yet again. Things won’t change until we demand that they change.  But it takes a lot of us demanding change to make it happen.

 

Little Boy Blue

Oh little boy blue,
Playing with a gun,
Don’t you know someone
Once held you for her own?
Carried you for nine months,
Then rocked you for more?
Can you even understand
How you made her heart soar?

Oh little boy blue,
In your uniform so dark,
When you go about your work,
The stains never leave a mark.
You stand before your family,
Your chin lifted in pride.
The shine on your badge
Can’t hide the darkness inside.

Oh little boy blue,
How can you sleep at night?
Do you truly believe that
‘Might makes right’?
Your anger and aggression
Causes blood to pour.
Do you even know
Who you’re fighting for?

Oh little boy blue,
Your friends call you out to play.
Now you’re hunting in a pack
Each and every day.
Didn’t your mother teach you
Not to always follow the crowd?
Is there ever an end
To the violence you’re allowed?

Oh little boys in blue,
Playing with your guns,
Don’t you realize we’re all
Someone’s daughters and sons?

Copyright 2015, Kat Micari

Taking Responsibility for My Life Path

I’ve still been feeling rather stuck on where I want to grow next creatively and career-wise in life. There are excuses, some more valid than others (lack of sleep due to baby – very valid excuse), but I realized lately that I’ve partially been sitting around waiting for some signs from the universe. Aside from allowing myself to be trapped in an office job for about a year and a half longer than I should have let myself be back in the early 2010s, my life path has always progressed organically. I’ve mentioned before that I decide I really want to try something out, and it happens. Opportunities come up and I take them, and they may not be specifically what I had planned, but things progress. I work my butt off, gain experience, and that’s what life is for me. Taking opportunities as they come. But before I decide I want to do something, I spend an insane amount of time hemming and hawing and waiting for a nudge or hint that I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes I get involved with very serious doubts on whether it’ll be good in the long run but just trust that I’m meant to be at certain places at certain times. A healthy way to live life, I think, but I’m pretty sure I don’t get to have it that way this time.

I have to take action myself. I preach taking personal responsibility and I know that there are inherent human freedoms, and I have to now step fully into the weight of that and take charge of my life. Which means deciding what I really want. Which is something I’ve always had a difficult time doing. And I find it doubly so now, because beyond a vague desire to “be creative”, what I really want is more time with my family. Which we’re working toward, but I miss that ambitious drive to push me through on projects.

I think I also have always wanted outside validation, a stamp of approval that my work is good. All of us creatives have that to a certain extent, don’t we? I want to march to the beat of my own drum, but I want other people to be tapping their hands along to the rhythm. It’s almost like my whole life I’ve been looking for permission to create the way I want to. And if I didn’t get that outside validation, I kind of just stopped pushing forward with that side of my creativity. Which is a tough thing to admit, but it’s true.

So I have a lot still to process in these realizations that hit me a couple of weeks ago. But processing through this is A Big Deal, and this will lay the groundwork for the next part of my life. A life path I will choose wholeheartedly. It will still be eclectic, and I’ll probably still be all over the place in my creative instincts, but it will be mine.

Books, Books, Books!

I apologize for my lack of posts in the past couple of weeks, but life has gotten crazy recently. But now I’m back and hopefully will have a few months of regular updates until things get crazy again. We’ll see.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given some free furniture from my aunt who is upgrading, and it included a couple of bookshelves, which when added to the bookshelf we bought from a friend moving last summer, allowed us to finally unpack all of our books and CDs, which was about ten boxes. And this is after we’d weeded through and removed several boxes to pass on and donate. So yes, we’re crazy about books. For me, I really do like to re-read series, and there are some series I’ve revisited so many times in my life, so it was like unpacking old friends. I still had several books I had saved from my youth that I put up in my son’s room, as we started reading chapter books together (a chapter a night, plus two picture books before bed – his first chapter book was The Little Prince). I’m excited to share the books I loved with him, and also it is definitely intentional that I am reading books with both male and female protagonists. I want him to love stories about every body.

Anyway, my big mother’s day gift that I asked for, since we’re still recovering financially, was time to alphabetize the books. So I did that. It’s the first time all of our books are together and organized since 2011. And 2010-2011 was the first time we ever had our full collection together in one spot. So it feels good. Because I’m a dork, I wanted to start reading through the shelf, reading one book in between two works on my Kindle (which is generally heavier works or indie books or whatever I can get for free that sounds interesting) but couldn’t decide if I wanted to start at the beginning or the end, so my husband suggested doing a random letter generator and I got ‘R’. So I just finished a short story collection of Kim Stanley Robinson called The Planet on the Table which I had never read. It was good. Really deep. There was one particular story that was a “what-if” about American WWII military involved in dropping the atomic bombs in Japan that dealt heavily with the notion of personal responsibility. It’s an important question to ask – who holds more responsibility? Who has more blood on their hands? The person giving the orders or the person pushing the button/pulling the trigger? To say “I was just following orders” does not erase culpability. Ever. But which carries the bigger burden?

I don’t get to read as much as I did when the baby was nursing more, but I still manage 10-20 minutes a day usually. Sometimes a little more. So now that the short story collection is done, I’m going back to the two I was flipping back and forth on the Kindle – a book on Qigong energy which I’ve been reading in segments and incorporating bits of what I’m learning into my little time for meditation I still manage to squeeze in during the week and Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea, volume 1 of 3 volumes, which is super long and intense but really good. I got up to a section on art that I’m going to do a post about eventually, but I don’t know how to cut down the section in the book. I’m about halfway through both of those, and then when I finish them, I’ll move on to re-reading the Harry Potter series, which I haven’t touched since I was given the 7th book when it first came out. So that will be a fun palate cleanser in between the heavier works I’m tackling.

So yeah, I’m a lifelong learner and I love exploring topics deeply, but I also enjoy disappearing into a good work of fiction. I’m glad that I am going to try to balance both moving forward. It may help inspire me to start writing fiction again.

Freedom’s Just Another Word…

I came across this quote recently from the author David Foster Wallace that I thought was interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of what most people think of when they imagine freedom.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The truth is I have found more internal freedom than I ever thought possible through having my kids. I’ve grown so much in making space that includes family and deep soul connections in my life. I’ve lost fear. Which is the biggest freedom there is. So even though I can’t go out partying if I get the urge, even though I can’t blow my paycheck on concert tickets and new clothes, even though I frequently put another person’s needs before my own needs and almost always put someone else’s needs before my wants, I am free or on my way to being free in the ways that truly matter.  Sometimes, though, I very badly need the reminder, and so this quote hit home.

What are your thoughts on freedom?

Also, the title of the blog post comes from the Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby McGee” which I’ve always loved singing along to.

Internal Progress

I video recorded myself playing piano and singing two songs the other night and then watched it. And I was able to not be too overly critical of myself. Which is huge progress. My perfectionist streak which I’ve battled for years to channel into productive paths has gotten in my way a lot, as has stage fright that rose up sometime between undergrad and grad school, so the fact that I didn’t cringe or shy away from myself is a very big deal.

The songs were two I worked on with my voice teacher last year – a Joan Baez song and one from the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel, so I knew I had certain nuances down before I even started playing. The next step will be to record myself playing my own music, and at that point, I can let the perfectionist out a little for tweaking purposes.

Music is so important for healing. I’ve said it often that it is the one area I’ve felt a lack in my life since leaving undergrad. So I’m glad I can introduce it into my life again.

A Couple Visualizations

The world has seemed especially bleak lately, hasn’t it? Disturbing videos, articles and op-ed pieces pointing fingers and hurling blame for every societal ill we face, people becoming inundated with guilt and fear and hatred, our so-called leaders and the elite growing more open in their hatred of the general population by the minute it seems. It’s a lot to process, perhaps even too much to process all at once. Which is how it’s designed to be, right? Keep us spinning until we’re dizzy and then we’re just grateful for the slight pauses to catch our breath.

To ground myself and not get sucked in by the chaos, I keep two visualizations in mind. First, each individual person is a drop in the ocean of humanity. So that image of myself as a drop of water in the sea keeps me humble and allows me to go a little easier on myself because a drop of water is sometimes swept along with the collective chaos of the sea. It’s okay to let myself go with the current at times. But a drop of water is also strong. It can continuously purify itself if it gets contaminated through the process of evaporation, always returning back to it’s original molecules. It can shape stone over time, especially when working with other drops. It is the source of life on this planet.

The other visualization is remembering that humans are made of the same stuff of stars, as Carl Sagan famously said. The star I visualize being from originally is a big blue one. This helps me keep my higher self in mind and not give into the pettiness and despair as often as I sometimes feel pulled to. Also, I’ve been working on this visualization to give myself permission to shine. We all should shine as brightly as we are able and not let fear dim our lights.

Do you have any visualizations that you have been working with lately to further your creativity/productivity and keep yourself from sinking too deep into the current muck and mire of modern life?

I’m So Very Very Tired…

Cue Madeline Kahn. If I ever decided to pursue a career in acting, my goal would be to follow in Madeline Kahn’s footsteps.

But seriously, I’m so tired. My 9 month old has been going through a sleep regression for weeks now. And the lack of sleep is taking a huge toll on me emotionally and physically. I’ve been suffering a severe lack of “me” time, either to relax and self-care or to create. We know what we signed up for as parents, especially being the second time around, but it’s still not easy. I pity those who are chronic insomniacs.

I’m also tired in the sense I blogged about last spring. You can read it here. More people seem to be growing aware of the bigger picture, that change is needed, but will it be enough?

And really, I’m so tired of being strong. Strength of will, strength of character, a pillar of strength, a warrior woman, juggling it all…  Is it strength to do what you feel you have to do? I don’t know.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t start this blog until after my son was a year and a half years old. He was a terrible sleeper and I was a “mombie” for a long time. A couple of weeks at a time with his sister doesn’t seem half bad by comparison.

I’ll be back to normal soon, I hope. I feel like I’ll be emerging from my cocoon soon.