The Value of Love, a poem by Kat Micari

Gold glitter shining in the light

The Value of Love

 

The only path

To freedom

Is being other than

Myself.

But after the charade,

I’ll enslave myself anew,

Willingly.

A golden chain

For my pound of flesh

To wear proudly.

Giving myself,

False and true,

To one who doesn’t know

The value of the heart.

And for this I will be

Applauded and admired.

But will I ever be able

To hold myself in esteem?

 

Copyright 2019, Kat Micari

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

The Importance of Knowing Yourself

These are fascinating times to be living in the good ol’ United States, aren’t they? Negotiating new highs and lows in society, dredging all sorts of muck up to the surface. It’s good, though difficult, because airing all this dirty laundry can allow for some deep dialogues to happen, dialogues that need to happen for evolution to come. But in order for these times to be fruitful, we need to reaching deep into our inner selves and know ourselves to the best of our abilities. And I know some of us are more equipped to do that than others.

How often do you take the opportunity for self-reflection? How often, when you make a decision on anything, do you actually think about the consequences of your action or inaction? Do you know what it is you want out of relationships, career, family, life? Do you know what you need? Have you ever acknowledged that sometimes those wants and needs aren’t very well aligned? Self- reflection can get really uncomfortable. But it is necessary.

If you don’t know yourself well, you open yourself up to coercion, to being swayed from your inner compass. You are easily programmable by both the systems set up in our society and by individuals you interact with. You succumb to the marketing schemes of the corporations. You externalize your self-worth and feel like you always fall short.

If you know yourself well, you can recognize others’ attempts to manipulate you, and you can choose to play along or not. You have the conviction of knowing what is right for you and that gives you courage to both ask for what you want or need and to give an emphatic yes or no to others making requests on you. You can stand solid against the tide and always have an intrinsic sense of self-worth.

The trick though is that it’s not a one time checking in with the inner self, but a constant balancing act between your inner and outer lives. It’s easy to slip into autopilot again, to get worn out by life and the craziness of others, to float wrapped in bubble wrap and expect others to handle everything for you. Being willing to live with a little discomfort for the sake of strength and mental clarity and freedom is so worth it though.

It took me until I was 30 years old to really grasp all of this, and it’s through having some really deep conversations with those I care about this past year to realize how important it is for society in general and not just for my own individual life. We collectively are to the point where we need to step up and parent ourselves, get our shit together, and do the work that has to be done. We aren’t allowed to be children or adolescents anymore, humanity. There’s just way too much that has to happen in our lifetimes for us to have that luxury. And the first step to being able to raise ourselves up is knowing the length and breadth of our inner selves. Take that first step, see how it feels, then reach out a hand to others to help them do the same.

The Possibility of Change

When I was a pre-teen, my dad had a very cool girlfriend for a brief time. I don’t remember her name at all (Dineen maybe?) because she was too smart and too cool to be with my father for long (don’t get me wrong, I love him but being able to handle a relationship with strong and smart women was not a strong point for my father). The reason I remember this woman though is because she gifted me with a lovely hardcover edition of the first three “So You Want to Be a Wizard?” books by Diane Duane, now called the Young Wizards series. I adored these books, even though they were dated even in the early 1990’s when I was reading it.

Spoiler alert ahead: for me, the most striking moment in the first book is when the lead character gives the villain a chance to return to the light. She doesn’t destroy him because she can’t, she doesn’t force him to change, but she opens up the opportunity for him to change himself if he wants to. And this really is all we can do for one another in this world, isn’t it? And what we can do for ourselves.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency in our society to shut each other down, and, perhaps more detrimental, to shut ourselves down, to the possibility of change and growth. Every time we speak in terms of absolutes, every time we say “it is NEVER okay” or “we must ALWAYS” or “that’s just the way it is and there is no changing it ever” means we are diminishing ourselves and others. Because the truth is, the list of things it is never okay to do or say is very short and can be boiled down to “don’t deliberately hurt other people unless they are threatening you with violence and tyranny”. This would cover torture, rape, mental and physical abuse, murder, child abuse (which I think is the worst crime of all), the massive slaughter of one nation against another, and indeed any general sort of nastiness where one person or group is using their power over another for whatever reason to deliberately prevent them from living life to their potential. But I digress. Bottom line is when we talk in terms of absolutes, even if only for dramatic effect, it cuts off the possibility of change for ourselves and for others. It traps us in a kind of stasis of the here and now, a bubble that is difficult to pop because even though it is just a bubble, it takes on the illusion of an impossibly strong substance the more we believe in the absolutism that we are speaking and feeling. Also, speaking and thinking in terms of absolutes opens ourselves to being controlled by those who play on those absolutes and our fears of moving beyond them.

So I invite you all in the coming months to really think about how you’re phrasing things to yourself and to others. Is an absolute you are speaking really an absolute? Or is it just a way for you to not have to address something that you’d rather not be dealing with and avoid potentially changing your viewpoint? And if you are comfortable with your absolutes, which is your full right to be in, then at least be considerate about not pushing those off on other people and trying to keep them in the slots you’ve decided they should be in. Inner development, growth, and change is what leads to outer development, growth, and change. The possibility of change is what creates hope for a better future for our species, so keep that in mind in your communication with others. The way life opens up when you keep this in mind is truly wonderful.

The Human Waves of Happiness and Pain

I’ve noticed in recent years that our individual happiness and pain (which we all experience throughout life as that is kind of the point of life) goes up and down in waves, but that our waves do not necessarily align with other individuals or with the world as a whole. Tragedy can strike across town on your wedding day, just as you are feeling the happiest you’ve ever felt in your life. You can lose a loved one on a day that your best friend is graduating or giving birth. You can have met the person of your dreams just as your sibling is finally nailing the coffin in their marriage. And it’s hard from both perspectives to be able to be fully present for the other, isn’t it?

There’s the old saying “misery loves company”, but I don’t think that most people willfully feel that way, going out and deliberately trying to ruin other people’s days. Some do (and I know some of those toxic people quite well), but I think most of the time, when you’re down and out, you just can’t help but get caught up in the comparison game. Why is this person so successful when I have the same training/experience? Why is this person’s art or writing selling when the work I’m doing is at least on a comparable level, and I’m barely able to bring in enough to pay for the materials? Why does this person have a solid love relationship and I’m doomed to single life? I experienced this a couple of years ago when my husband and I were the poorest we’ve ever been as adults – seeing friends of ours who were making substantially more money and moving on in adulthood was difficult, having to turn down invites out to eat or drink because we couldn’t afford to was humbling, to say the least. I never outright resented my friends for being better off than we were, but there were lots of feelings of “Oh, what I wouldn’t give…” or “Oh, what I couldn’t do with those resources/opportunities/etc.” and it was difficult on the hardest days to be really happy and excited for other people. Or the other person’s happiness winds up reminding you of something you’ve lost, so it triggers feelings of regret.

Conversely, when things are going really well in our lives, most of us dislike being reminded that other people aren’t doing well, especially when it’s people we care about. Our joy and happiness seems tarnished by the knowledge, somehow, because we all have that initial urge to make something about ourselves rather than about the other person. We don’t want to feel pain in a moment of triumph. But it’s important to be compassionate and empathetic to those around us. And I experienced this when I was pregnant with my first child. Several people close to me suffered great personal tragedy. Others less immediate loss, but still were going through really rough times. And it was during this time that I really learned how to experience the grief and pain of those I care for without allowing those feelings to diminish my personal joy.

Recently, a coworker of mine whom I was getting friend-ish with and felt a connection to has backed off from where we’ve been, almost immediately once I announced that I was buying a house and was pregnant. I know that they are in the midst of personal struggles and that my domestic happiness is a reminder of what they no longer have, but I feel a sense of loss at a potential amazing friendship. See, I like and love a lot of people, but the number of people I count as being close to me is a very small number. It’s a defensive mechanism in many ways to keep that distance from others. So to have someone that seemed to have the potential of being a part of that select few back away makes me a bit sad. But because I have already thought through all of this in my head, I’m able to just give the coworker the space that is needed. If we become friends in the future, great, and if not, hopefully whatever connection existed served the purpose it was suppose to serve. At the end of the day, it’s not wholly, or even mostly, about me. And being able to realize that has been a great boon in navigating this crazy life.

This, I think, is the real point of “practicing mindfulness” and “living in the moment”. You can repeat New Ageisms until you’re blue in the face, but until you switch from a passive to an active mode of living those phrases, until you learn to navigate not only your highs and lows in life but the highs and lows of the people around you, then the words are mostly meaningless.

On Love

As this weekend is Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to do a post about love and what it means. Love is always an appropriate topic to discuss, I think, but it’s rather ironic because my husband and I don’t celebrate the day beyond a cheeky “Happy Hallmark Day!” and doing some fun crafty stuff with our son.

twoheartsweb

When Two Hearts Become One” – Copyright 2015, Kat Micari

That being said, I believe love to be the single greatest transformative emotion we humans have the capacity to experience. It is the key to expanding ourselves beyond our current states, to be constantly evolving. So it isn’t something that should be celebrated when the calendar tells us to but reflected on and thought about daily.

I’m not talking solely about romantic love here. Romantic love is great. Sex is great. Having both together is really great. But we’re caught in yet another trap that is sold to us, that we have to constantly be on the lookout for “the one”, that there are these strict lists of what is necessary to have a glorious “true love” experience. That somehow we must find the one person in the world that completes us as individuals and thus cleave to that person and that’s that. And so, in our desperate search to feel complete, we throw ourselves into sex and romance instead of forming deep bonds with people, but it’s the deep bonds that allow you to most open your heart, and this is where the greatest personal power comes from. Even if you do meet the one that could wholly complete you, your “twin flame” (a phrase that gets misused a lot), if you are not already whole and healed and loving yourself, the relationship winds up becoming a destructive one.

I think we should all love as many people as is in us to love. I don’t mean in a free love kind of way, unless that’s your preference (not mine, I prefer one sexual partner at a time and like to know everyone I’m bringing into bed with me), but true and pure love, whether that be romantic or platonic or familial. Being able to open your heart and to willingly hold a piece of other people’s hearts in your hand safely… that is how you combat the fear in the world, both within and without. And that is powerful.