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.

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?

Letting Go and Moving On

Last week I found out something that made me finally cry about losing my job. Outright sobbing for a solid 15 minutes, like I’ve done in the past when someone has died. I felt so wounded and betrayed, and thankfully my children were asleep and I was able to give full venting of my emotions. But I wanted to censor myself at first, because I recognized that what was wounded most was my pride, and really, of all the Seven Deadly Sins, Pride may very well be the least fun one. Also, in my efforts to evolve as a human, I try really hard to not let my ego drive the ship and to focus on deeper issues and discard the parts of my being that don’t serve me well, but I obviously have a long way to go still, and I really hated to have that reminder. That I still have attachments to certain identifiers about myself and my position in society. Objectively I know that it’s all meaningless, but subjectively I still occasionally care what other people think of me. It’s so contradictory that it is funny.

However, I am a creative soul, even as I seek to always be growing and learning, and I must admit that I will always have to give my inner artist-child expression or I will suffer serious consequences. And so I allowed myself to grieve and didn’t self-censor, and then I realized that I was indeed grieving a death – the loss of that version of myself and that path through life that I had set myself on. Those particular circumstances will never exist for me again, even if I do choose to return to the theater world someday. And that version of myself deserved a proper mourning and burial.

So if I was less wise than I am now, if I was less evolved, I could let myself linger in the betrayed role. I could play the victim and even relish the anger and bitterness for a while, fueling angsty poems and art pieces. But being where I am, I am ready to move on and figure out my new identity. Staying angry isn’t healthy for me, and my body already is showing me the benefits of letting it all go. The week I got sick leading up to losing my job, I had a fairly severe psoriasis-rash outbreak on my hands and then a patch open up on my back, and all the areas are healing now. I find myself laughing and being goofy with my family more, which is part of my self-improvement goal for the year of allowing myself to have more fun. And while I may get an occasional twinge of missing the part of me I no longer have, I can weigh it against what I do have and recognize the benefits of letting go. Life is too short to give other people the power to hold you down.

Whatever the future is, I trust that it will bring me what I need to continue growing and loving and creating. I may not agree with the Universe, I still may need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the next path I need to tread, but I do trust.

Gallery is Up and Some More Creative Progress

My gallery is up on my Art page here. Nothing fancy, just the freebie slideshow that comes with the page. But it’s cool to see all my work on one page! And I really like seeing my two abstracts together. It makes me want to do more. Now to start submitting to some local shows.

In other creative news, I’m working on another pencil sketch as a gift that I will post once it is received. I had wanted to finish it last week and it sits still barely started. But I hope to finish it all tonight, if I finish my work for the shop in time. Writing-wise, I’m still tinkering with a poem. Four more lines to go! I’m doing it in strict rhyming 8 syllable lines, and it is tackling some very serious societal issues, so it’s difficult. It is going to wind up feeling heavy and preachy, rather like an 19th century poem read out at a lecture series, but that was kind of what I am going for. I find it fascinating to consider that sometimes poems just pour out of me, like Little Boy Blue – I felt this huge weight on me after watching some atrocity online and the poem just popped out. And then there’s this one I’ve been working on for a very long time because I don’t want to force it. And musically, I’ve been playing and singing a little bit multiple times a week. Still haven’t gotten into a good practice with my flute yet but at least I’ve gotten it out a few times.

Since I’m easing into my new full-time position, I’m transitioning into an all new schedule again, which means being flexible about my time. My kids’ needs for me come first while we’re all adapting.

Getting Involved

I have a lot of transition going on in my life yet again, but it is important to me to start taking more action in the world. So, I am going to tell you what I’m doing in hopes that it may inspire you to do something as well, and if you have any suggestions for improvements on my end, please feel free to suggest!

  1. Inspired by my friend Shing Khor, I will be hosting a political write-in get-together early in March. Date still undecided because I am waiting for postcards from her (she made this Lady Liberty movement),  I am going to create this weekend and print a small run of postcards from my America Lost illustration below, and I’ve contacted a friend of mine to potentially use a piece of her art to create a science or educationally-minded postcard.
    America Lost

    Copyright 2013, Kat Micari

    It will be open house style with snacks and beverages, and I’ll have a list of government officials with addresses and suggestions of different topics for people to write about. My hope is to include stamps for people too, and I may put out a tip jar to help cover postage but we’ll see.

  2. I’ll be making the postcard file available for free download for everyone, so look for that here early next week! And use it how you will.
  3. I contacted a local organization that works with victims of domestic abuse to potentially do a hand sewing workshop monthly or so. If they’re interested, I’ll start with them, and if not, I’ll contact other organizations of at-risk populations. Hand sewing is an important life skill for people to have and something I can easily teach and make not scary. If the first organization goes well, I’ll add more as I feel I can handle it. Even if they don’t have money to reimburse me, contributing a handful of dollar store sewing kits and using my own muslin supply for the samplers won’t cost me more than $20 a workshop, and I can definitely afford that once a month or so.
  4. I am going to start a monthly “sketch/art” meet up at my house of mine and my husband’s creative and creatively-blocked friends. People will bring sketchbooks or whatever they’re working on, and we’ll sit and hang out and play. And hopefully brainstorm ideas to creatively get things going in the wider community. As an added benefit, it will force us to keep the house clean enough for people to come over every month.
  5. I have started to ask really difficult questions or make suggestions to get people thinking. And then I let them respond to me and I’ve gotten some really well-thought responses. I don’t argue with them, though I could, because I’m really trying to get their gears going mentally. My plan is to step up the questions slowly.
  6. My husband and I are trying to become more sustainable and self-sufficient, and I will be talking more openly about that rather than hiding it because I don’t want people to feel bad. We’ve started composting this week, and my husband has started taking notes for the first veggies and herbs we’re going to attempt to grow. My reverse osmosis water filter has been installed finally by my husband and the water is delicious (no chlorine! no fluoride! and if something like Flint MI happens here, we’ll be set!). And I am going to be making reusable facial wipes instead of using cotton balls/wipes thanks to a post suggesting it from a friend of mine. We already cloth diaper and use cloth wipes, and I switched to handkerchiefs years ago (though apparently used tissues are good to go in the compost heap). Not a perfect system yet, but baby steps are better than no steps at all. Why talk about this more? Because sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is be healthy in body and mind so you have the strength and stamina to fight the good fight, and not enough people connect those dots yet.

So that’s where I’m at. Since I’m starting the new job and still taking care of baby, this feels like what I can handle at the moment. As I get a rhythm going in my work/parenting/creative schedule, I’ll try to add some more community-based actions. But this feels like a good starting point for me.

Job Opportunities and Future Creative Endeavors

I have a job offer that I am accepting. It starts in a couple of weeks. I’ll be the one working full-time again, while my husband will continue his part-time position he found for a few months at least to replenish our savings a bit and continue freelancing from home while watching the baby. And we’ll see how things go.

As it seems to matter less now that I keep these two sides of my lives separate, I will discuss my former job and my future job. I was working as a theatrical costume designer and costume shop manager at a local theater before I was let go after getting sick and being unable to complete the costumes before a show opened. Costume design is what I have my training in, and it’s something I really enjoy doing when I am working with people that are good to work with. But the entertainment industry is one that is really easy to be taken advantage in, to burn out, to deal with all kinds of crazy personalities, and to drive yourself into the ground. If you want to check out my work (and learn my real identity – ooo) you can see my portfolio page here. I need to update my Bio page eventually, as all I did was remove the section about where I had been working, but I’m in no rush to do that yet. I also have a tumblr blog where I occasionally post pics of me wearing vintage and repro vintage outfits as a kind of soft-marketing for the custom work I do here.

My new job is going to be doing bridal and formal gown alterations and helping to grow a second shop to it’s full potential. I’ll be making the same rate of money, even bringing in a little more possibly, and I’ll get to work from home part of the time. And the hours, while possibly getting crazy during prom season, won’t be anywhere near what I was putting in every time we led up to a show opening at the theater.

So, pluses are my family and I get to live at the same level of comfort we were at before, maybe even better because we will be able to start building our savings up again. I’ve worked with this woman and in this shop as a freelancer several years ago when I was freelancing show by show at the theater as well, so we have a relationship and I really admire her. I’ll get to help people feel beautiful and confident on their big days, and I’ll still get to be creative in making the bustles of gowns (which I actually love doing) and some custom work as it comes up. I’ll have more time with my family and more energy to put into my own creative work. And I’ll get to surround myself by pretty fabrics and dresses almost every day.

Cons are that after working in theater, almost everything else feels boring by comparison. There are so many little problems that need solving, so much fly-by-the-seat decisions that need to be made, that it is difficult to move at a slower pace. This is why I’ve said in the past that I have two speeds – 100 mph or not moving at all because I overworked myself. So maybe this is actually a plus, because I’ll be forced to modify my way of doing things. Anyway, the other con is that costume design is this blend of everything I enjoy doing – reading and analyzing scripts, historical research, psychoanalyzing characters, inputting all of that in my brain and sketching out ideas, collaborating with the scenic and lighting designers to best realize a director’s vision, occasionally doing fancy renderings, having to read actors to get them to want to wear what I want them to, and then buying/sewing/renting the costumes and making sure they all fit nicely and the actors can move in them the way they need to move. All while on severe budget and time constraints. Doing alterations won’t engage me in the same way. Again, possibly a plus because it will leave me room in my brain for my own projects to be bubbling away, and it will also allow me to focus on my further growth as a human being, allowing me to listen to podcasts and lectures while I work and to just daydream a bit more than I’ve had the opportunity to do in recent years. Another con is that some of my work at the theater was put into helping in our local school district, occasionally going in and working with very poor, at-risk students. We would also pull some of those students into shows we were doing sometimes. Now I won’t have that direct interaction in the community that I felt was really valuable, so I have to find a way to add that back in again somehow.

All this leaves me with having to decide where to put my few hours a week of creative energy. If our positions had flip-flopped and I was the one freelancing from home, I would have tried to build up my sewing business, doing alterations, yes, but also coming up with some kind of line. I could have made a lot of money off of vintage-inspired kids clothes but probably would have quickly gotten bored with it too (cutting the same thing over and over isn’t exciting), and I’ve been leaning toward creating a custom corset and costume line since grad school and have so many ideas for it. But I don’t know if I’ll feel like sewing a lot more after sewing so much during the week, and it feels silly with the world being where it is to put a lot of energy into corset making. I also have two big commissions for the year all ready lined up which will take a lot of time. So I may still dabble at creating a line of things to sell, combining pieces I’ve already made with new pieces, but I doubt that I’ll be motivated to move very fast on that end. So I’d like to focus more on work under this name, as I move to fully unblock myself. I’ve been loving painting this abstract, and may do a couple of more before tackling those bigger pieces I’ve been putting off for years. The writing… I have to see what will happen with that. I have enough poems to probably put together another collection, and I’ll have the time now in theory to try to get out to some poetry readings. The fiction is difficult. I read through some old story ideas and I am really interested in a lot of them, but with reality being so much like fiction these days, I’m having a really hard time wanting to delve into it. I’m not going to push myself too hard on that front, because I can’t force myself, but I will write something every week. And music – I’m building myself up on that front too. I probably won’t try to start pushing myself more until the baby is a little older and weaned, but I want to have that in my life again. Maybe I’ll combine the writing and the music and start writing my own songs again as a means to get back into writing. I don’t know. It’s all kind of up in the air right now. I need to continue to give myself permission to play, and I am trusting that it will sort itself out.

So that’s where I’m at. We’re going to have a rough transition into me being out of the house as the baby definitely likes me better than daddy at this point, and I’m sad that I can’t be a happy housewife for a while longer. But it will be good. I am glad that we’re going to survive this bump, and I feel like I got a nice little 2.5 month extra maternity leave and the chance to fully heal, which is more than so many people get. And I’m also proud that my work ethic stands on so firm a footing that upon posting that I got fired from my job, I was made a job offer with no questions as to why I was fired (we did discuss it later on). This is also the second time that someone wants me so badly that they are creating a position in order to have me. Having me available is the impetus toward someone else pushing forward in an endeavor, and that feels really great.

Beginning to Refill My Creative Well

I have begun the work on refilling my creative well, which is the last part of me that really needs healing. Physically and mentally, I’m back to my former self. So yay for that!

Earlier this week, I started a new abstract painting with no plan in mind, just letting myself play with the paint. It will be interesting to see what happens with it. I love doing that, but I also have a really difficult time knowing when I’m done with a painting when it’s not of a particular subject matter.

Musically, I’ve begun playing the piano and singing a lot more. My baby loves to either sit in her little toy chair next to me or right on my lap while I play, so that’s been a huge boon in the process. I found the box that held my personal songs that I’ve been working on and plan on cracking into that today. That same box also held all of my flute music, so I will be bringing that out for the first time since we moved hopefully this weekend. Baby steps. I’ve also begun listening to more music again, mostly jazz and classical around my daughter to foster brain development for her, and I’ve found having it on in the background is helping my brain too.

Writing-wise, I’m still primarily just posting here and little snippets on my personal page (mostly political and social stuff there mixed with personal) and getting back on track with morning pages. I haven’t been able to journal at night with the baby’s schedule, and I am having a difficult time writing fiction. I think playing music is helping me get back in touch with the writing, and I may focus on writing poems and songs and “pieces” for a while before delving back into fiction.

And before I can really develop a plan for where I want to focus my creative energies moving forward, I have to figure out the survival part of things. Which I have definite possibilities that will hopefully be firmed up soon.

In some ways, with everything going on in the world, it seems crazy to be focusing on this stuff, but at the end of everything, it’s the creative spark we all share that will let us evolve as a species.

Lighting My Creative Fires

I adore talking to people about their creative projects. Hearing about all different types of creative projects in all various stages of projects gets me going, energizes me, and makes me want to create more myself. And because I get so enthusiastic and genuinely interested, it can help energize the people I’m talking to as well.

Which is why I am bummed we missed out on our annual New Year writer/artist retreat this year. We’re hosting a gathering in a few weeks where I’ll get to hopefully get some good creative conversations in, but since I’ll be playing host to a lot of other people as well, I don’t know how much inspiration I’ll get.

That being said, if any of you would like to share what you are working on, please do! You can keep details vague if you are afraid someone may steal ideas, but I would love to get excited for you and then use that to fuel myself.

It’s that time again…

Every year I try to look back over the year and take stock of how well I’ve lived up to certain goals. And then I try to set myself some new goals for the coming year. I’ve decided to break up that post into two posts because I’ve got quite a bit of sorting out to do for this year.

Many people have felt betrayed by 2016, and a lot of terrible things have happened to a lot of people, both personally and on a large scale. There was much divine masculine energy being brought online, if you follow that particular spirituality, and quite frankly, people haven’t been processing it very well. Hopefully that will settle in as we move into 2017 collectively. For myself personally, early on, I’ve dubbed 2016 my Year of Change, and it has proven to be that for me right up til the end. Change is not easy, change can be both good and bad, change can be scary, but it is also necessary for growth, so I’m hopeful that the coming year will be a fertile one for me.

What personal changes did I go through? I bought a house, I had my son diagnosed as being on the lower end of the autism spectrum a couple days before his 5th birthday and a week before we moved into said house (which I haven’t discussed on this site before and as someone who hates labels, I had a hard time adjusting to), I had a leadership shift at work and many of my good work friends left but I was assured that things would be shifting to the better, I delivered a beautiful baby girl with all the changes that go with that, and I got fired early in December from the job that rather than shifting to the better was made more difficult.

I have experienced such intense joy and such intense pain through all these huge life shifts, but also a lot of numbness that I’ve blamed on pregnancy and postpartum hormonal shifts which could also just have been a coping mechanism. And a lot more stress than I should have allowed myself to experience.

These past couple of weeks have been difficult for me dealing with losing my job. It’s funny that I immediately felt acceptance, even in the moment, and I still do think it was the best possible thing to have happened given the situation (and if you believe in the law of attraction, I asked for it to happen a few days before it did and I was granted my wish). But two weeks ago, I changed my Amazon Smile recipient to an organization other than my former employer and I unsubscribed from the newsletter finally, and I realized that leaving an employer is quite similar to breaking up with a significant other, and then I further realized that my getting fired after being sick a week and a half after Thanksgiving was an exact parallel to my one break up I experienced in my life – I was 18 and so sick with mono and the boy I was dating broke up with me the week after Thanksgiving. I kind of pushed him into it by making him realize that he was incapable of coping with my being sick (one of those relationships where I was more a psychoanalyst than anything and when I couldn’t fulfill that function any further, he was a mess). So I’m still trying to figure out what lessons I missed that first time that are being repeated here. But I also let some bitterness in. Being unemployed and having to be super frugal was not how I imagined our first Christmas in our new house with our new baby. With the help of my family, I was able to stop myself from spiraling into a deep dark hole and actually enjoy myself, which I was glad for. Then this past week, as I reviewed old posts here and under my real name, I kept seeing how much joy I found in my work last spring, despite the craziness, and it made me sad to think that just a handful of people being switched out was enough to make me feel taken advantage of and abused by my employer.

So here I am, my creative barrel scraped pretty dry. I’m healed up physically fairly well now though I still need to bring my stamina and strength back to my pre-pregnancy self as I still tire more readily, but creatively I’m having a difficult time tapping into where I need to go. I’ve been doing some project daydreaming, played the piano and sang several times a week for a couple songs, and my aunt got me an adult coloring book for Christmas which I started one but coloring other people’s designs isn’t really fulfilling. My morning pages are lackluster and whiny, which is what they need to be, but beyond this blog and a couple of longer Facebook posts on my other site, I haven’t been able to write. So the healing that still needs to happen is deeper than I’ve managed to get yet. But I will.

My goals for 2016 were to get the house set up to be as sustainable as possible, and that didn’t happen. We still are unpacking! But we’ve made great progress since I’ve been home. The previous owners actually left a compost bin, and we’re planning out our first veggie and herb garden for this year. A friend of ours has a phenomenal green thumb, so we will be tapping him. So, in brief, everything around the house is taking way longer than I thought it would, but part of the fun is planning long term finally. I feel like I didn’t have enough energy to do as much as I wanted creatively and self-growth wise, but I’m giving myself slack since I was creating a baby instead.

Tomorrow I’ll look ahead to the coming year with hope and optimism. But I think it’s important to be honest about where I’m at presently.