The Importance of Listening to Your Body

So… I came down with a really bad bug over the weekend, almost exactly one year from the time I started getting sick and then pushed myself to keep overworking for a couple of weeks and then literally collapsed. I’m on the mend now, feeling much better today after spending most of yesterday sleeping, but I was silly and started trying to push through Saturday evening and Sunday morning, including taking it upon myself to deep clean my tub so I could take a bath later in the day, and my body just kind of said “nope” Sunday night and I was knocked off my feet for 36 hours. Feeling much better today, with just some lingering sinus fuzzyheadedness and drainage, so thank goodness.

What that means, though, is that last week’s loss of energy and creeping in of self-doubt was mostly due to the bug coming on. I’ve noticed this pattern for a long time now… any time I am in the early stages of getting sick, I get super down about life and really start laying into myself badly. Going forward, I need to pay attention to that and start taking care of myself immediately – get more sleep, eat “clean” (no inflammatory foods), limit caffeine, do some nurturing. Then maybe I won’t need to get knocked down entirely in order to heal.

Our bodies talk to us, and I think, for the most part, we ignore what they say because we want to continue doing what we want to do, regardless of whether it’s good for us. But if all the parts that make us up work together, we’re going to be at our best, which is the happiest way to live life. So duly noted, body, and I will be paying attention to you more closely. I do not ever want a repeat of last year.

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Breaking Free from “Lack”

I have had to do a lot of healing and reflection this year, and I wanted to share one of the tools I used to lift myself out of the funk of being in recovery mode so maybe you can test it out in areas of your life to see if it helps you.

One of the down sides to getting fired after working myself ill and being on unemployment was really feeling an overall feeling of “lack” – lack of funds, lack of health and vitality and energy to do what I want, lack of social contact/loneliness, etc. I was doing the self-care I needed but couldn’t muster my usual motivation and inspiration and drive.

So what was my trick to get over this? Here it is: anywhere I felt a lacking in my life, I would find a way to give that to others. Easy to say but a tad difficult at times to put into practice, so I’ll give examples.

With my monetary lack, I had to find some way to give something materially without costing us in the process. So one thing I did was donate breast milk to a milk bank that primarily gets the milk to premies. That satisfied me in many ways because it meant milk I had pumped but my daughter wasn’t using was going to good use. I also heard about some families in need in the area and gifted baby items and children’s clothes to them. And recently I collected items for Puerto Rico aid, a drop in the bucket for what they need, but since I could afford to purchase some things now as well as donate a little money, it is good to see how giving back grows. Doing just those little things made me feel useful and made me feel more materially secure in that I had something to give.

In the lack of social contact, when I felt lonely not being at work with other artists, I made an effort. I contacted some friends to see if they’d want to exchange letters, I reached out to some local friends that I saw were also isolated to set up times for coffee dates, and I made plans to see out of town friends, and by taking the steps to initiate, I got out of the doldrums so fast. I also made sure to not take offense when plans fell through or people didn’t want to write because it wasn’t about me or even them but about the connections. And I made a real effort to connect with some of the clients at my new job, which is a big step for me outside my comfort zone.  I know we all get into that “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” thinking sometimes, and once in there, it is difficult to get out of it. But really, there are so many interesting people in the world, and there is a very good chance someone finds you interesting too. So it is worth making the effort.

So, my challenge to you. Ask yourself where you are most feeling “lack” in your life, and what can you do to relieve that lack for someone else? I really believe by taking the focus off ourselves, we can sometimes do a great deal of good both for ourselves and others simultaneously.

A Dip Into My Past

This past week, while waiting for people and on mini breaks at work, I read through my blog from the very beginning, way back in 2012. It was an interesting trip back for me. Eye opening, and very helpful in finally honing in on the next direction of my life.

The first few years of doing this blog focused a lot on writing as that was what I was prepping for release into the world. I also kept talking about music and art projects that I wanted to tackle. And I really miss having projects that I am passionate about. I miss all parts of that process.

I also posted my dream schedule of balancing parenting with being a freelance creator, and I am so far from that dream at the moment, it is laughable. Working full time (plus) in theater left me with barely any other creative time, let alone quality parenting time, and while the job was fulfilling in different ways before the leadership shift and it gave me the stability to get a mortgage and health insurance to have my 2nd child, I was so much happier when I was only working part time for them. Then going back into a different full time position doing bridal alterations has been draining in a very different way, and because of the hours the shop is open, even though I am physically working less hours, I still feel like I never get to see my kids or create anything extra. Especially since I’m still self-healing from last year. I feel all this pent up creative force longing to burst forth though.

So, the goal for the past couple of months now has been to be freelancing by the end of the year and becoming the at-home parent. Once that happens, I will still do some alterations. I will do some costuming work too as it comes up and as I can find time to do it. But I want to focus the bulk of my energies on my kids and on creating my own work again. I need to feel that passion for creating that I get sucked out of me by scraping myself dry through overwork.

Current Affairs

I’ve thought a lot in the past couple of weeks about what I can say to help with what’s going on lately. Life feels more fragile, a little more tenuous in the face of it all. But the truth is that life is always fragile. History is full of brutal manmade destruction and rife with natural disasters even while it is equally full of soaring beauty and truly wonderful levels human achievement. We are being reminded almost daily that everything we know can be snatched away at a moment, outside of our control. And we can either fear that and go on autopilot, or try to deny it and escape reality, or we can accept it and work to live up to our potentials in whatever stretch of time we have. And if we’re not striving towards the third option, what’s really the point?

So do what you have to in order to practice self-care. Heal yourself to the point where you can turn off the autopilot and stop the escapism for little stretches of time at first and then longer and longer moments. Find a life of meaning in whatever you do, and if something isn’t working, don’t fear changing it. And don’t be afraid to shine your inner light. Also, if you feel like you want to change things, find ways to help where you can. You can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. You can’t control the way the world operates, but you can control how you operate within the existing parameters and work to change those parameters.

Finally, if you really want to change the world, stop letting assholes win. If all the caring, empathetic people in the world would adopt this attitude individually and collectively, things would change so fast. Stop supporting those who don’t value their fellow human beings, whether it be the big fish in the small pond or the sharks in the ocean, small-town sleezy landlord or big time Hollywood producer or career politicians at any level. Stop giving them your money, stop giving them your time and attention unless it’s to rub their faces in their misdoings like a dog and say “no” very loudly and repeatedly until they get the message. If you are going to start demanding the best of yourself, demand the best from those who profit off of you as well. There is so much potential power there.

It is hard not to get caught up in the fear and the drama. But that let’s those assholes win, and that is the one thing I refuse to do.

Some Thoughts on Life

I’ve been listening to some random lectures and talks online while sewing in recent weeks, and a couple of things I’ve heard have stuck with me, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them.

The first was a positive, truly inspiring lecture, and the line that stuck with me was when the speaker was telling everyone to stop comparing themselves to others, that we each have a purpose to fulfill here in life. And the line was that we are all puzzle pieces making up the world, and the puzzle pieces fit with other pieces to make the whole, and without even one piece, the picture is incomplete. So we’re all vital, we’re all important. And it’s our connections with each other that are truly the most important thing. I thought that was truly lovely.

The comparison game is such a tempting one, isn’t it? And we’re bombarded all the time by advertising and programming that tells us to fall into that trap so they can sell us crap, and the prevalence of social media in our lives makes it oh so easy to constantly compare and then bring ourselves down by our lack. We spiral low, shop to make ourselves feel better, drown our sorrows in more media or unhealthy habits, and let ourselves get trapped. It’s terrible. But I have learned to look at my twinges of jealousy as the sign markers for where I need to grow and direct my life. My friend is traveling off to far lands while I’m trapped with a baby and no money? Plan a day trip or weekend trip with the family and crash with friends. Someone I know released a single or put out a new book? That little pin prick is the drive for me to carve out a little time to create. And continue to make differences where I can. But this metaphor of a puzzle is one that will help quell the twinges all together, I think.

The second was a psychologist speaking about something that touched deeply on my spiritual awakening that occurred several  years ago, and I’m going to be deliberately vague because it’s very personal to me, but mainly what she said cast the entire experience in a very negative light. And I reflected on this a lot, and I’ve decided that I still am glad I went through my experiences because of the profound growth that I’ve had. There was a catalyst, a rebirthing, and then a test, all in one, and there were risks involved, but because I stayed true to myself and listened to my heart, it was a test I passed. It was necessary for my evolution, and this speaker would have cast me as a victim. And I don’t know if she truly sees the world that way, or if she’s just out to make more clients and make a buck.

So here it is, any period of growth is tumultuous. Any true spiritual experience has risks because we live in a materialistic age and have lost a lot of the knowledge of the spiritual so you enter blindly. But I know that everything in life has a positive and a negative side – the same tool can be used to heal or to harm. And it is each of our own responsibility to guard our own paths. To a lesser extent, we can help guard the paths of those we love, but really it has to come from within. We need to decide the things we value in our hearts and souls and then not waver from those values. Because it is when we become untrue to ourselves that others can manipulate us.

Anyway, those are my random thoughts.

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?

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.

A Few Book Recommendations

I used to be a voracious reader. A couple of years ago, I noticed that I wasn’t reading as much as I had in the past. It started in grad school, then working crazy hours, becoming a mother, trying to create… somehow, there wasn’t much time left for reading. When I noticed I was reading less, I made an effort to read for at least 10-15 minutes every day, and very rarely missed, and now one of the nice things about having a nursing baby, though, is that I have a lot more time to read in short chunks. And I’ve been trying to read a wide variety of books. I’ll always love fiction, but I’ve been really alternating between fiction and non-fiction, old books I’ll get off of the Project Gutenberg site (and as soon as I have a more stable income again, I intend to donate) and new books from authors that I “meet” online… everything that might expand my mind and make me think.

I had two books that helped me a lot leading up to my losing my job and in the aftermath that followed.

The first is Coffee for Consciousness by Vito Mucci. This is one of those times that soft marketing techniques worked. Vito and I were in a Facebook group together and I had liked some of the excerpts and memes he had posted and made a few comments, he friended me, and I’ve enjoyed his life views for a long time before purchasing the book. Going through the stress I was, reading this book when I did was perfect. It has a very conversational tone to it, which I enjoyed because it really feels like you’re just sitting down and having a conversation about life and the way humans and the universe work. The book just gave me some really strong reminders about how to look at the situation I was finding myself in, and also some new perspectives that really helped me to face my “big meeting” with the strength and conviction in myself that I deserved to give myself.

The second is Arthur Schopenhaur’s On the Basis of Morality, which you can find for free from many sites online. I chose to read it as a follow up to my tackling Kant a while back, and I was actually chuckling out loud at moments while reading, which I did not expect from a 19th century essay on ethics. And reading the response of the committee at the end (because he wrote the essay to enter it into a contest) was priceless. Even if you don’t have the same sense of humor that I do, though, it is an incredibly worthwhile read because of the argument for morality being based on compassion and for his views on ego and self-will. It gave me so much to think about about humanity as a collective group that I was able to not think about myself and my problems. And in turn, I have the feeling that my writing is going to taking a deeper look into things, which is cool.

How about you? Read anything lately that really makes you think?

Now Is The Time – a poem

Now is the time

To rise up and sing,

To raise your voice strong

And let the sound ring.

Feel the movement of your life,

And the rhythm of your heart,

The dance of your soul,

No better time to start.

 

Now is the time

To make yourself whole,

Listen to the music

Of your body and soul.

The melody you live,

Your heart keeping time

To the beat of the earth.

Nothing is more sublime.

 

Now is the time

To let out your song.

Join in the symphony

To which we each belong.

Let our harmonies blend

And ring out like a bell.

Let the chorus grow,

Let the sweet sounds swell.

 

Copyright 2016, Kat Micari

They Will Try to Take Your Voice

There is a ton of negativity rising up, a backlash against the tides that are turning. I’m finding normally open-minded and intelligent people suddenly publicly calling for the eradication or imprisonment of those who disagree with them, people rubbing other people’s faces in the outcomes of events on both a national and personal level, people shouting others down and losing even more of their ability to listen, people clinging even tighter to their belief structures (of all sorts) and being angry at people who disagree with them. It is, I think, a necessary purging, but there is danger in the air. I’ve retreated inward, as you can tell from my absence posting here. My personal social networking has been light in tone, kept to happy personal tidbits and work-related postings and not even touching on larger topics or pointing out other’s hypocrisy when I am normally quick to do so. It’s a tricky time to engage others right now.

That being said, I had to write this down. Yes, some of what is happening is a natural purging as energy is shifting in the world, but there is also those behind the scenes trying to manipulate that for their own means. And one of the best tools they have is to take away your ability to choose and your ability to feel and your ability to speak about your choices and what you feel. They will try to take your voice, either by tricking you into false dichotomies and group labels, or by forcing you to be so overworked or worn down that you can’t think. They will try to trick you and trap you, but you have the power to walk out of the trap. It is difficult, it can be painful and exhausting, but the power is there within you. Move from your heart. Heal yourself as best you can. And step outside the game as much as possible. Do it for yourself, and then do it for your loved ones, and then do it for the human race as a whole. It’s time to step into yourself, no matter how frightening and intimidating that is. And then help others do the same.