Life and Love and Creativity

I have been absent again from posting here lately. The baby has been teething and starting her one year growth spurt, and I have also snuck away on a few short trips with the family, visiting the 1000 Islands and Buffalo/Niagara Falls. It is so much work to travel with kids, but the time with friends and getting close to nature was well worth the effort. I feel more grounded, more accepting of the current state of affairs in my life, and ready to allow myself to expand again after feeling retracted for so long.

My time to create has been so short, and this was one of the biggest things I had to come to terms with. Almost all my efforts right now are going into creating my sister’s wedding dress and jewelry. The only writing I’ve been doing lately is an occasional email or letter, and I haven’t had any time for music or painting. Because my energies are being poured into my family and into the work that allows us to survive, and that is where they need to be right now. Because the love I have for my family and the joy I experience witnessing my children grow makes the sacrifices worthwhile.

All this to say that my creativity is not gone; the fire has merely been stoked, waiting the right opportunity to blaze once again. In the meantime, I will guard my embers and feed them as I may.

 

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.

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.

Life Changes Yet Again

I apologize for not posting for a long time. This past project I was involved on was brutal, and I wound up working myself sick, the project had to be completed without me, and it cost the organization extra money to do so because I wasn’t there to see it through. And yesterday, I was “let go”. Mistakes were made by everyone, myself included, but I was the most expendable one and I suspect that sacrificing me is an effort to protect themselves. So be it. I was overworked anyway, with no time for self-care or for working on creative projects that felt more important to me, and it took so much time away from my children. And the organization has shifted to being very different from what it was six months ago, and a “dream job” soured fast.

So, lesson learned. Sometimes you can’t do it all. I’ve grown a lot through the work I’ve done there, I’ve gained so much confidence, tested my strength (both physical and of character) time and again, and when I finally broke, I’ve had so much support from my family, both blood and soul. The amount of love I am receiving and am giving back to others right now is incredible.

I am going to take some time, focus on healing and on my relationships, and then I’ll start creating again. I’ll have a lot more time to devote to projects that I do under this name going forward, as the baby will allow me, and I think I’m going to promote my freelance custom work under my specialty more. I have been granted a gift of time that I didn’t expect to have, and I will make the most of it.

Life Lessons from a Baby

I was having a difficult time of it a week ago. I would be trying to do something, accomplish something, have fun with something, and I would get interrupted by the baby or my son would be having none of it and I would have to have my husband step in to finish cooking or clean up a mess and I would feel guilty about it or I was getting frustrated at feeling like I couldn’t get anything done, even keeping myself clean. And my husband had to give me a talking to, which I could tell he was unsure how I was going to receive it. He told me that I was trying to do everything I did before having the baby plus take care of the baby, and I had to stop because I was driving myself crazy and he could tell I would start taking it out on everyone else soon. And he was absolutely right. So I had to take a step back and rethink my approach. I took a week to only aim at generic goals and not specific ones, and focused on trying to enjoy everything more fully. And it’s worked – my brain has been modified, and I started watching my daughter more and am applying the lessons to my life.

  • Take joy in basic things. My daughter, now six weeks old, will sometimes pause as she is about to latch onto the breast and make eye contact with me and smile a huge smile, then start eating. Like she is so excited that food is on the way and that I’m sharing the moment with her. Eating is a necessity, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t savor it and the company we find ourselves in when we do eat.
  • Be amazed by the world around you. Like bath time, which the baby  gets so excited about. When was the last time you really enjoyed your bath or shower simply because of the feel of the water? Now, as a creative, I love using and exploring my senses, but there are times I get too caught up and forget, and I’m sure many of you do too. But if we’re able to experience the sensations, how better can we then describe them if we’re writing or express them in our artistic endeavors? The feel of the wind on your face, the smell of food cooking, the way velvet or grass feels beneath our fingertips. These are sensations we should take the time to enjoy. Don’t take the good things for granted.
  • Celebrate small victories. During tummy time, my daughter pushed herself over the tummy time pillow using her back legs (she’s very strong), and she looked so pleased with herself after the fact. It’s still not what she wants, which is to be fully mobile, but it’s a step in the right direction, and her infant brain knew that. For me, maybe my work space isn’t coming together as quickly as I’d like and maybe I’m not making as much progress on creative goals as I’d wanted to while on maternity leave, but I’m chipping away same as I always do, and progress is getting made nonetheless. So breaking things down into smaller steps (empty these three boxes today in my workspace, etc) and really feeling accomplished for doing that much has been very helpful to my psyche.
  • Never underestimate the power of a nap. This may be the most important. If the world gets to be too much and you’re feeling overwhelmed or cranky, take a little nap. We all mostly lead very overstimulated lives, and giving our brains a break to process is a good thing.

“Your Job is So Cool!”

I am both blessed and cursed by the ability to step back from situations and see things from every angle. Blessed because it makes my ability to understand and work with other people very easy and cursed because it can give fodder to my inner critic.  The evening the Paris attacks began and the other terrible events worldwide were brought to my attention in succession, I had to continue working on a very sparkly fairy tale commission because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to deliver on time. And it fully struck me how really ridiculous my job is, both my day job and most of the commission work I do. Incredibly frivolous. In the daily disasters occurring in the world, the discussions and problem-solving and creating that I am doing is fluff. I should be devoting my energy instead toward actually helping people or at the very least toward more meaningful art.

In that frame of mind, I left for a fast work trip to NYC. I was helping the lead on our next project pull it off under very tight time constraints. I managed to squeeze in seeing a Broadway show (Hand to God – very funny) and as I walked through Times Square with my local friend, two NYC officers stood in a 4’x4′ barricade each holding an automatic rifle at ready, scanning the crowd. My friend didn’t even notice them as we walked by. Very few did. And that alarms me more than the officers standing there on guard. So that thought also was on my mind as I worked.

Back home, the lead and I frantically scrambled to get things ready Wednesday, running out and buying certain needed items as part of our prep work, and the ball of stress and tension and minor annoyances just built and built. Finally, while in one of the stores, someone stopped and asked what I was doing/working on, and I told him, and he responded with “your job is so cool! that’s really cool!”. In that moment, feeling sweaty and disheveled and annoyed and guilty for being all of that in such a frivolous field, I didn’t feel very ‘cool’. I thanked him and smiled though, and then commiserated with the  lead about how people have no idea what the job actually has to deal with and the amount of work involved. Wah wah wah.

But upon reflection, my job is cool. It is ridiculous and at times very stressful but also joyful and unlike anything else that I could possibly find to do, and maybe while frivolous on the surface,  it gives me the opportunity to meld all of my interests into one process that then allows me to help other people tap into their own creative process and build their confidence and occasionally tap into dreams/fantasies that they have. And the joy and confidence they feel because of my work then spreads out to others. Since that is one of my main missions in life, to be a ripple that causes waves, to help others find their own transformative abilities in their lives, the fact that I’m able to do so and get paid for it while simultaneously being creatively fulfilled is really cool. It’s not easy in the least, but it is cool. And for a self-acknowledged lifelong dork, that is really neat to discover.

Let Yourself “Be”

I’m tired… the kind of tired that comes from working hard physically and mentally, that comes from carving out time to hike and play outside, that leaves you collapsing into bed at night and sleeping so soundly that nothing can disturb that rest. I’m tired, and I’m happy in the exhaustion. I’ve got so much going on at work and in life right now that my head is spinning, but I’m enjoying the dizziness for the moment.

But I almost self-sabotaged. Not six hours after finding out the details of my new position (as well as my new official salary and benefits), I had this horrible fear suddenly grip me. That I wasn’t going to thrive, that instead it would become an abusive situation of giving more than I felt capable of giving, of having too many expectations thrust on me, of not being able to maintain any semblance of a work-life balance. This was going on while I simultaneously was experiencing deep inner spiritual/creative growing pains that shook me to my core and had growing pressure put on me regarding certain “big decisions” that have to be made. And I started feeling trapped by it all, like a big cage was descending over me that would bind me and hold me against my will.

It was a difficult week adjusting to everything. I asked myself “why can’t I just let myself be happy?” I had to dive deep and experience the fear and the pain, and then I let it go. And I found that I could let myself be happy. I can find joy in my life, in my work, in the path I tread. But I wouldn’t have been able to maybe if I hadn’t had everything rising up at once.

Life is of course not perfect. I do miss my son horribly working these long hours, but the way he greets me as I walk through the door every day and the way he holds me so tight as we cuddle is worth everything to me. And there is still some things that need working out in the realm of inner growth, a lacking that could fill me with despair if I dwelled on it. But I’m so busy right now that I can’t worry at it, which is a blessing at this point I think. I was ever one to worry ahead of time, and this is not something that will be rushed. So for now it is just a single black drop in my crystal-clear waters that I am mindful of, and, if anything, it only helps me see how fortunate I am in every other area. Which maybe is the point for the frustration right now.

Anyway, life is good. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time because I am allowing myself to “be”. I’m experiencing each emotion as it arises and then releasing it, and I’m finding joy in both the small and large moments in my life. After feeling a week of being trapped, I feel freer than I have in a long, long time.

Life Lessons from Hungry, Hungry Hippos

My son has been really into games of all kinds lately, so when his 4 year old birthday came last week, we got him Hungry, Hungry Hippos as part of his gift. And I had an epiphany while playing with him last night. He, being four, would start slamming down on the lever as fast and hard as he could, while I was doing the same with one hand. But with my other hand, I was operating a second hippo at a slower and more cautious rate, and it was that hippo that ate more marbles most of the rounds. So, a metaphor for life, where humans are the hippos:

Frequently in life, we fight to consume as much as we can as fast as we can when it is actually the one who watches and waits and figures out what they actually want who takes the biggest bite.

So I would ask – what is it that you are fighting so hard to consume? Things that will nourish your body and soul or things that attempt to fill a void you want to pretend doesn’t exist? Or do you bide your time and wait to take the bite that you really want?

Also, who or what is taking the biggest bite out of you? And are they worthy of that bite?

As a complete aside, the games today are so cheaply made. I could have stood on the old version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos without breaking it, but now, not so much. It’s almost like goods are designed to break, causing you to throw them away and buy another after a certain amount of time.

Some Life Lessons from the Past Couple of Weeks

  • The closer you are to certain goals, the more difficult your path becomes, both within yourself and externally. Almost as though we each must follow the “hero’s quest” in actuality and slay all of our inner and outer dragons. Note: this is really, really annoying.
  • Synchronicity continues growing exponentially, even in the face of the more difficult journey. If you are on a true path, you will have assistance in fighting your way through.
  • Life occasionally will throw something so ridiculous in your face that it will drop your jaw and make you chuckle ruefully for days.
  • It is not always the easiest or simplest choice to be positive or act from love, or even to act at all. Some days, even when everything appears to be sunshine and rainbows, you can want to just stay in bed or be angry or sad. The thousand pinpricks that we all deal with every day can add up to a massive wound seemingly out of no where. The strongest thing you can do is to be willing to treat yourself compassionately when you feel this way. Acknowledge the validity of the feelings and let them go.
  • And here’s the most important lesson I had driven home to me this week, one that I vaguely knew but never articulated. There will be times in this life that you cannot help another person, however much you might want to, because there will be nothing that you can do for them besides hold them and experience their pain with them. And it is so important when you feel powerless in a situation like that to take a step outside yourself and not make it about you, but about the person you hold dear and want so desperately to make everything better for. Everyone has to experience pain, and maybe if we were more willing to just simply be there for each other, we would find the pain easier to bear and to share. I think this is maybe important on a societal level too. We’re so quick to make everything about ourselves rather than acknowledging the validity of others.

Swimming the Depths of Myself

poolI think and I feel deeply.  Some of those that love me have told me I go too deep sometimes, which is valid.  I do over think.  I don’t believe I over feel because I don’t think that is possible, but it is definitely debatable point.

I’ve come to the realization recently, though, that I am not as open to others as I imagined myself to be.  When I am wounded emotionally, I’ve always thought that others could see the blood streaming.  When I desire, I was so certain that everyone could see my naked need.  When I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I wondered that no one else helped pick up the load.  But the only emotion I really show (outside of a small circle), is my happiness, because that is what I want to give people.  And, actually, my sense of humor and capacity for joy is both a gift and a curse, because being able to see the ridiculousness of any situation makes it hard to take myself seriously sometimes. Humanity is my own private inside joke, and others are sometimes fortunate enough to share the punchline.  But by and large, the rest of me remains buried deep.

I am very nuanced in my ability to pick up on others’ emotions and energies.  I’m like a funnel, and whatever comes in, I process and spit back out into the world.  This is why, I think, I have such a burning need to be creating and to stay constantly busy.  If I don’t remain active, I dwell on what I’ve absorbed.  If I spend time around selfish or negative people, it drains me.  But I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is an ability that not many share.  Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and how boring a world it would be if this were not the case.  My assumption that everyone could read me as easily as I can read others has caused me no end of trouble through my life, though.

Beyond that, there remains the fact that I’ve hidden away the secret parts of myself over the past few years.  Imagine my surprise, thinking myself an open book and finding out that I am inscrutable in so many ways. It’s a painful discovery.  Three and 1/2 years working an office job made me so good at wearing masks that I didn’t even know I wore them anymore. It wasn’t that it was a terrible company to work for.  In fact, many of the higher ups were generous in donating to their causes, working to help the less fortunate where they could.  But the mindset was completely foreign.  They had no way to feel empathy for certain groups of people.  And rather than rock the boat, I just learned to smile and nod.  I adapted myself to become what they needed, and it was only when I started voicing what I needed from the company that I realized I was never going to get it.  The damage was done though.

Slowly, these past few months since I’ve left the office job, I’ve been working at making myself more vulnerable, both to others and myself.  But not enough, because the walls I’ve built around myself are so much higher than I thought.  Life is too short to live in fear, though, especially when what you fear is the very pieces of yourself that need most to be shared. I am going to plunge into the emotional currents of my inner self and figure this out.  It’s not easy, but I need to do it.