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.

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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.

The Healing Power of Music

Friday night, I found myself alone at home, which is a very rare occurrence. So I tried something while meditating. A handful of times over the past couple of months, I’ve felt moved to sing during meditation sessions. No words, just an open vowel sound, the melody usually sliding and chromatic. But I’ve had to be quiet because my son is usually sleeping in the room next to me. This past Friday, though, I was able to really open up and be loud. And I got really loud.

It was incredible. I’ve never felt harmonics like I experienced Friday night before. They kept building on each other as I opened up my sinuses and airways more, until it felt like there was a chorus of voices coming out of me instead of just one. And I ran through the full gamut of emotions, where at times it felt almost like keening or a banshee wail, and a moment later it went to joy and almost laughter. And at the end, I felt something that had been off internally start to shift back into proper alignment. I have no words.

So… I’m excited with where this will take me creatively and musically. I’m excited about my shifting gears again and unlocking more inner potential. I don’t know where the road I’m on is going to lead me, but it’s been a really interesting journey thus far and I’m glad to be on it.

Creative Recovery Mode

My last creative project at work was an enormous one and fraught with minor annoyances and issues along the way to completion, so much so that I was left feeling shell-shocked and incredibly drained and fragile when it was finally finished last Thursday. My creative well was close to running dry, and my body still is teetering on the edge of sick/not sick from overwork and stress. But I am beginning the recovery process, and it occurs to me that my recovery steps may be helpful to many of you. So here they are:

  1. Meditation. I had gotten away from my regular practice during this project, going down to only twice per week, so I eased back into it. Taking the time to sit in silence with yourself is necessary to be able to heal.
  2. Exercise. Again, it’s been a while, and I eased into it with gentle stretches. This week, I’m hoping to be back on course.
  3. A long soak in the tub, with or without aromatherapy, candles, sea salt, etc. This is key because it loosens and warms the muscles, it lets your inner creative know that you are pampering it, and it means setting aside time for just relaxing and letting go. Water is especially important to me spiritually, so I have the added benefit of that, and I treat certain baths almost as purification rituals. This time around, I did a clay facial mask while soaking and felt the benefits deeply.
  4. Getting away for a few days. We wound up going up to my aunt-in-law’s cottage on Lake Ontario for the weekend. Work followed me a little bit, as I had some issues to deal with (the downside of being in charge of certain things is having to be on call), but I was able to forget about all the housework and paperwork that had piled up and truly take my mind off of work for a good, long while.
  5. Surrounding yourself with other creatives and/or people who are in your soul family. We had our friends out that we usually have out for our New Year’s Eve retreats, and it was wonderful. Rich, vibrant, enriching conversations, whether talking about current projects or spirituality or life or pop culture, that feeds your mind and soul like nothing else can. It is rare to find people that you can carry such conversations with and open your inner self to, so when you find them, treasure them for the gift that they are. The fact that we live several hours apart makes our moments together that much better.
  6. Take time to play. I spent a long time playing with my son, and I also took time to do stuff that was playing for me, which means I was again showing my inner creative that I am treating it right. This can be anything that is frivolous and something that you don’t customarily get to do.
  7. Spend time in nature. While at the cottage, I sat outside even though the air was chilled to do my morning pages. I watched the water. I walked barefoot on the lawn to ground myself. Today, after spending half the day organizing and cleaning at home, I went for a long hike.
  8. Be kind to yourself. This is maybe the most important one. Give yourself the comfort that you need to be well.

Music is a Gift

My husband recovered our digital music collection from our old hard drive last week, and it is the greatest gift I have gotten in a long time. We thought the collection possibly lost, as the old hard drive overheats quickly and our new hard drive had a fall in the summer from our toddler and has since been sitting in a recovery shop (they swear they think they can fix it). So since summer, I’ve been relying on the few CDs not in storage and on the albums my husband and I each had saved to our laptops or listening to Internet radio. It was not enough.

Almost every plan I have made lately that would have energized, healed, and/or rejuvenated me has fallen apart, due to situations outside my control. I’ve been understanding and tried to calmly take it as it comes, but I’m severely scraping the bottom of my barrel. I described myself the other day as currently heartsick and soulweary. Suddenly having access to over 19,000 songs (2 people x 2+ decades) that I thought possibly lost to me forever, being able to sing along to old favorites or listen to project-appropriate music or have a really good dance party with my son, soothes me at a time that I really need soothing. Not that I’m suddenly complacent or numb, but the music is a balm that makes it easier to work through what needs working. And I always have something that needs working.