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.

 

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.

Back at Work with Baby

I started back to work on Monday. I only took 8 weeks this time because I couldn’t afford to do a month unpaid (for my non-US readers who don’t know, the United States “maternity leave” is a joke – you get 6 weeks of disability for vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for cesarean, and disability is less than $200 a week). My work gave me two weeks of maternity leave, on top of the disability, and came up with an extra project for me to do now that I’m back to make up the difference in my salary, which is great and more than my previous employer did for me, and I have the flexibility of being able to work from home and make up hours as convenient and I get to bring the baby with me as much as I need to, which will be all the time at least through the end of the year.

But I’m exhausted. Trying to do it all is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. I’m getting about 2 hours less sleep than I have been and I’m not able to rest while nursing at work like I do at home. Monday was tough on both the baby and I, Tuesday was good, yesterday was tough again, and today is good again. I had hoped to get a break and get some me-time and extra work done in the evenings after my son goes to bed, now that the baby is taking one bottle a day from my husband, but she needed me both Monday and Wednesday night as she’s transitioning to being out of the house all day and teething at the same time. Monday I was holding her, too tired to even cry even though I felt like I needed to, and last night I just accepted it – after screaming her head off for the entire 30 minutes I was putting my son to bed, she immediately calmed when I took her from my husband, then I tried passing her back to him ten minutes later and she went off again (he feels really bad about it), so we took a bath together, she and I, and then I just held her and read the rest of the evening.

It is harder than I thought, but every time I want to whine, I just remind myself how much better I have it than so many. I get to make the choice of having my baby with me, I have a supportive husband and family, the company I work for is transitioning to being even more supportive of it’s employees and trying to avoid us all overworking quite as much as we’ve been in the past. So I feel like an ingrate when it doesn’t seem like enough. The hardest thing for me, I think, is now that my son is in school all day and I don’t get home sometimes until 5:30PM, I feel like I get maybe 15 minutes before bath time and then our 30 min at bedtime for stories and cuddles and that’s it, and it’s not enough time for me. And I look at all the projects I want to do around the house (we still haven’t even finished unpacking) and all the creative projects I want to do for myself, and I have to remind myself that an infant is hard enough to take care of all by itself and everything else will come in due time. I have to continually let myself off the hook or else the tension starts building too high.

On the plus side, I’m feeling good about getting back in the swing at work now. Things are getting organized, we’re in the planning stages that I really like to be a part of, and there are some really fun projects coming up for me, as long as I let myself have fun with them and not stress out. And I’ll soon lose all the baby weight I gained (already more than halfway there) because of all the manual labor I’m doing on top of wearing the baby for hours every day. There will be days that I know I’ll barely be holding things together, that I feel like all the threads are starting to unravel, but it’s all worth it. At least, I hope so.

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.

Getting and Keeping Organized

I am a messy creative who thrives on organization, which is something of an oxymoron but is the absolute truth on how I operate. When I’m in the middle of a project, whether it be painting or sewing or baking or sculpting, the act of creation itself is mess-inducing. When I’m writing or making music, I get distracted from everything else. So piles end up building up – a stack of paperwork here, paint that hasn’t been put away in two weeks over there because I only get a short time to work, etc. I will then slowly drive myself crazy until I reach a breaking point and need to organize everything in my life. The problem, though, is that when projects keep coming, I don’t have the down time to organize my life in useful ways. So one of my goals while being out on maternity leave is to lay the groundwork for keeping myself organized. I’m starting in my workroom (eventually I’ll want to invest a couple thousand dollars into this area, but we’re a few years down the road so I’m making due with what I have in the meantime), which is where I keep many of my supplies, and I’ll hopefully have time to get to the arts and crafts and music area – but we need to buy some shelves first for that. So what am I doing?

  • Continuing the unpacking process – there are still boxes and boxes from my move in April
  • As I unpack, I am questioning everything I have kept in the past. Will I use this leftover art supply or scrap of fabric or bit of yarn, or should I toss it out or donate or try to sell it? There is no reason to keep things I can’t repurpose and use up.
  • Find a home for everything that I am keeping that is easy to get to (ie. not stacking bins so high that it’s a pain to put something away in a bottom bin, etc.). Label the homes if necessary.
  • Decorate my workspace to make me want to spend time in there.

All this is of course challenging with an infant, so I’m really only chipping away 30 minutes here and there. But to continue on my organization efforts, I’m also organizing myself electronically which I can do one-handed while nursing or holding her sometimes. My project right now is going through my oldest email account and saving emails I want to save on my harddrive and unsubscribing from way too many companies – places I bought an item from once or twice and get bombarded with offers from, restaurants we never go to, and so on. It was a bit nostalgic for me, because I unsubscribed from a bunch of businesses in the Los Angeles area finally. It is bittersweet. I really loved being out there in my mid-20s, and I had a good time. I’m happy with the life I’m building here, but there were so fewer responsibilities ten years ago. One of those responsibilities is currently sprawled across my lap napping right now as I twist myself in an odd position to write this blog so the laptop isn’t too close to her.

It will be a long time until I’m fully organized because I’ve got areas of unpacking and sorting in my personal life too, but as long as I can really designate a spot for everything to go, picking up the pieces of my creative whirlwinds will be a far easier task.

Some Personal News and Reflection

I’ve inadvertently had another brief hiatus during January, haven’t I? Well, I have a good-ish excuse – I’m expecting my second child. I’m just at the end of the first trimester now, and for those of you have never experienced it, the first trimester is often accompanied by deep fatigue. Add to the mix an iron-deficiency that exhausted me even more (which I self-corrected with a diet change) and a very hectic schedule leading up to a big project at work (which finishes tomorrow), and also the stress of dealing with buying-a-house paperwork, and I’ve kind of let everything else fall by the wayside. I’m looking forward to a slight increase of energy during the 2nd trimester.

It’s strange, the differences between my two pregnancies. I feel much better with this one thus far. I’m far healthier than I was last time, my psoriasis has been under control for years, I’m very active at my job so even when I’m too tired to exercise I’m still getting some exercise daily. But my last one, I worked as a receptionist and so could just mentally check out during the day at work but still get my work done. It didn’t matter if I was exhausted, as long as I was awake enough to process paperwork and answer the phones. My position now involves actually being in charge of stuff that I can’t let slide. Which makes it difficult. Pregnancy brain is real! The other big difference is that for almost 6 weeks of the first trimester, I went into “robot-mode”, where I felt really flat about everything, no emotional highs or lows, which is the complete opposite of the emotional swings I felt the first time. It was strange, feeling almost numb, and probably was tied into the iron-deficiency because I feel much better now.

It’s also strange how pregnancy forces you to slow down, both physically and mentally. Your body will let you know if you move in a “wrong” way, or if you start trying to go too fast, bringing you up short of breathe. Your thoughts just start to wander sometimes. As an example, I started working my way through Kant’s “Critique of Practical Reason” back in December as a good mental exercise for me. It is not a long work, but I’m barely able to read a few pages at a time on my Kindle. Granted it’s been a decade since I’ve read anything similar, so getting back into scholar mode would’ve been tough regardless, but the pregnancy brain is making it much more difficult. I’ve also let a lot of my creative and spiritual practices slide because of the exhaustion. Still being creative through my main source of income, but I just haven’t had the energy to do a lot on the personal side of things. Meditation has been difficult with the wandering mind, or I just tend to go inward to feel myself and the baby and do some self-healing. Which is maybe as it should be right now. I need to feel self-insulated and cocooned against the outside world slightly as a protective measure. Hopefully, though, with the close of this project and moving into the 2nd trimester, I will be better capable of keeping up with my practices.

Anyway, even though I will get back into regularly blogging here again, I won’t be posting a ton more about the pregnancy here. Maybe one describing the labor and delivery if I’m brave enough to share. I think it is important to share a little, though, because even though this will probably be our last biological child (replace ourselves), I really believe that having children is the ultimate creative project I can accomplish in life. Raising decent, whole human beings is a lofty goal, but a worthwhile one. And as this blog is about creativity, it’s important to me that I connect the two. Every creative process and period of growth for me is like the birthing process. I guess I’ve just always become the stand-in mother for any group I’ve been in. Nurturing and protecting and sometimes pushing people for their own good is an innate part of who I am. An incarnation of the Earth mother.

“Oh, You Got to Have Friends!”

Yesterday was a big “friend” day for me. I held one friend while he cried. I got to spend 45 minutes on the phone with a friend from across the country I haven’t caught up with beyond a brief email in about a year (she runs her own business, I keep a busy pace) and it felt great and I was glad to have scheduled the time with her. I contacted another friend for some help on some research I’m doing as part of my personal growth and he got back to me right away with many helpful leads. And I got to round out the day with some good conversation with my husband, who is after all, my closest friend.

There are days that go by, sometimes, where I get trapped in the routine and it’s a struggle just to be available to my immediate family. I’m horrible about talking to people on the phone. Sometimes if I’m in creative-mode, I’m horrible even in person because I have the tendency of being able to just cross over into my own head if I get bored or distracted. But forging real, lasting bonds with other human beings is so necessary, not just from a mercenary standpoint of needing other people to stand with you when you falter, but because that depth of connection grounds us to this life and this world, and the capacity for caring for others is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

I’m grateful for the connections I’ve formed, the members of my soul family that I’ve been able to freely give my love to and trust with pieces of my inner self. I’m grateful that I can be there for them if they need it, and that however far away we may be physically, and however many months may go by, time and distance holds no meaning.

Is Work Bliss or a Chore?

This week, I was so excited to be doing one of my many projects for work. I actually was getting to draw and watercolor and thoroughly think a project through instead of flying by the seat of my pants as is what inevitably happens much of the time. Literally, I had been giddy last week leading into this one, so excited to sit down and do the creative work.

Then it came time to move from the rough sketch to prepping the watercolor paper with a background wash, to penciling the final images, and I immediately started getting frustrated at myself with the way I was drawing hands and feet. I wanted to throw the project down and go sulk, and I almost started berating myself over the imperfections. I took a brief break, and I realized that I was in the process of ruining something that I had so been looking forward to due to being overly hard on myself. It doesn’t matter if the feet and hands aren’t up to my high standards. It has literally been six years since I’ve done this detailed of work for this type of project, and I’m rusty, but I’m never going to get un-rusty if I don’t take on projects like this. I was able to take what would in the past been a downward “beat myself up” spiral and find joy again in the creation process.

This is really important to remember as creatives and as human beings trying to go about our daily lives. Anything can be a chore, even the work that you love to do the most. And anything can be bliss, even the dishes (I like to put music on and sing while I do the dishes, when I do them. Though usually my husband does them while I’m putting our son to bed.) You can get satisfaction or annoyance from almost any task that you set yourself to do. I actively choose bliss and satisfaction whenever I can. And I’m getting better at catching myself when I do tends toward the self-degradation and negativity that would make everything seem like a major drag on my life.

Which do you choose? Can you find small ways to bring yourself more joy into your daily and creative life?

The Shifting Sands

There is a growing energy shift taking place across the world. I can feel it, see it in the individuals around me, watch it unfold on a global scale. It is as though collectively we’re shaking ourselves like a wet dog. It’s hard to stay present and grounded while the movement is happening, and maybe that’s not the point right now anyway.

I think we need to fully experience these shifting sands. We need to be strong enough to survive the chaos that is growing and supple enough to bend when we have to. We need to acknowledge when the ground is knocked from underneath us and get back up and keep moving anyway. We need to feel the grief of the world and the grief of individuals and process that grief in such a way that we can learn from it finally. We need to find the core of ourselves and remember that in the coming months and maybe years. We need to remember…

The future isn’t certain, but we can at least find certainty within ourselves.

The Passing of Time

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was lovely. Not an especially out-of-the-ordinary day, but one of quiet joy, love, and well wishes both in person and online. Many of the Facebook well-wishers said “Hope you have a great day!”, and I replied that it was great, because it was. I had some surprises and some sweet moments, and it was beautiful.

Last year, I found out the day before my birthday the details of my new part-time position at work, and I had this tingling sense that the next day would be a “day of destiny” for me, and I felt disappointed when that didn’t happen. It was a letdown, and I wound up missing so many of the small, perfect moments of the day because I was waiting for the big moment to come. So, lesson learned, and I’m grateful now for both the big and small moments of bliss, and life is a lot more enjoyable. Maybe that was my destiny then last year, to learn a hard life lesson?

It seems important though, given the growing violence and insecurity in the world. Tumultuous times are upon us, and nothing is certain except for our sense of “I am” and our ability to forge relationships with others that are honest and true. We have to move from the heart and be secure in our space and appreciate the beauty amidst the madness or we’ll succumb to the madness ourselves.

So today is the day after my birthday, and it is another “great day” of creative and organizational work, of cuddling my son and having deep conversations with those I care for. Anything that I currently feel lacking in my life will grow to fruition in their own time, and I’ll keep working towards them without feeling rushed. And tomorrow will be another day of the same, or something will come up different, but it will be “great” nonetheless. Because all the small moments of joy add up, and that is great.