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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I Am Ready

“I am ready” is a thought that’s been rattling in my mind during my moments of relaxation and meditation that I manage to grasp. I’ve been waking up with it, even delirious from staying up too late prepping things for my sister’s wedding and dealing with a teething baby again, and now that I’m in recovery mode from all that, it’s becoming more and more insistent.

The only problem is that I have no idea yet what I’m ready for. So that’ll be interesting to discover.

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.

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.