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.

And next up…

I finished my enormous project that I was stressing about. It went really well, thankfully, even with the stress. I managed to not make myself sick, although I did end up losing another few pounds, causing my husband to threaten me with an office job if I don’t start taking better care of myself on these projects. It was just a lot to deal with, to wrap my head around, and to logistically bring to a physical reality. But I managed to do it with only one really late night, and when the situation got it’s craziest, I kept my sense of humor.

It was strange working on a creative project that dealt with racism while race has been brought to the forefront of America’s mind, much to the displeasure of many white people. To feel myself exhausted and stressed and buried in work and still fully present in so important an issue… I haven’t really words to describe it beyond saying it felt like a profound place to be.

Along with dealing with the many thoughts and theories and emotions surrounding the project itself and the greater societal issues, life decided to throw two major past personal problems in my face when I was at my most exhausted and stressed, I guess as a test of whether or not I had learned some of the lessons I needed to learn. And I did. I passed the tests with flying colors, which means I’ve dealt with SO MUCH of the my teenage baggage, which is this huge affirmation towards my personal growth. I was annoyed that the tests came when I was so exhausted, but what better time to really know, right?

Anyway, this is the first time in a long time I’ve finished a project of any size and felt energized to jump right back into other creative work. I’ve let myself rest the past couple of days and spent loads of time just cuddling and playing with my son, but I’ve also penciled three small paintings, dove back into writing, and started the early work on my next project for my company I’m working for. This one in January will be my last extra project until summer, which I am actually looking forward to. It means I will have time this spring with my son, to focus on my freelance and personal creative projects, and maybe even to take on some extra projects with outside companies. I have my next voice lesson this week. And I’m eating calorie-dense foods and slowly getting back into my exercise and meditation routine. All good things. And I’m excited to share some of what I’m working on with you in the coming weeks.

Renewed and Refreshed

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On Saturday, I made the two hour trek with my 3 1/2 year old son to my aunt-in-law’s cottage on Lake Ontario for a clambake (the same cottage we stay at in our annual New Year artist/writer retreat). As soon as we got there and started in on our greetings, my son started saying “I want to go see the water! Go see the water?”, and I told him that we had to finish saying hello to people first. After the round of hellos were through, hand in hand, the two of us ran to the deck overlooking the water, wind in our faces, laughing and shrieking at the cold. Then we stood on the deck, watching the water, though I was torn between finding solace in the waves and just watching my son watch the water. Then he was off, running, me at his heels until he reached out his hand for me again, and we went to the neighbor’s deck, which sits lower to the water and he had explored this past 4th of July. And again, we both just watched the waves and felt the wind and grinned at each other. We bundled up later and spent more time by the water.

It was one of those absolutely perfect moments that life hands to you at times, that indelibly imprints in your mind and lets you replay it like a movie. I don’t talk a lot here about my son (beyond complaining about him keeping me up at night) or my views on motherhood, but it is such a profound joy to me. Every day that I get to spend watching him grow further into himself, every moment he slows me down and lets me see the world through his eyes, every time his sweet smile makes my heart feel so full that it should overflow but somehow it doesn’t, it gives everything else in my life such profound meaning.

It was worth having to stay up late Friday and Sunday night working to be able to do the trip, to go to the water’s edge and have this time with my son. All I could think as we ran to the water was Please don’t let him ever lose the joy of running full into the wind and loving the water. I hope he keeps it into adulthood as I have. As a seemingly inherited trait, there are far worse ones he could have.

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