Goodbye 2020, Hello New Year

Every year, I try to reflect back on the past year and make some long range goals for the coming year. I know time is an illusion (and per Douglas Adams, lunchtime is doubly so) and a construct of our own making to a certain extent, but the dark of winter is an opportune time to ponder life and make plans.

Honestly, I have been battling a lot of impostor syndrome in the recent weeks. I have learned in life to separate myself from the roles I choose to take. It is what allows me to say yes to more opportunities and keep myself open to change. But lately, I have been so focused on my kids and feeling so cut off from both my creative life and from making deep connections with other people that I find myself feeling a bit of a fraud. I know I’m not, that I’m doing what I need to do at the moment, but December saw me at some low points.

And that, for so many of us, has been 2020. A rollercoaster of emotions. I know I have appreciated the slower pace, the time with my family, getting things done around the house that we never have had time for in our five years here. But also loneliness for adult company, feeling drained, needing a break from the kids with no opportunities to take one, mourning the loss of skipped trips and projects due to the pandemic. Concern for the growing divide in the United States. Seeing the eyes of so many opened to the racial inequities here and then seeing many close their eyes again. Seeing the hatred and selfishness of so many out in the open (but truly believing it’s better that way, for how can we fix a problem if it’s hidden?). I don’t know. I’m tired, but still doing what I can.

I started the year with two audacious goals for me. The first was a financial goal of being able to help one family at Thanksgiving, which we were able to do, and we also still adopted a family at Christmas. I was able to donate small amounts of money to various charitable organizations throughout the year as well, and we tried to support small businesses and always tipped big when we ordered takeout or delivery. I hope to grow this into the coming year, because there are so many in need out there, but with how uncertain the future is, I hope to at least maintain the giving at Thanksgiving and Christmas, helping two families locally.

My second audacious goal was to stop chasing the “elusive balance” between work and family and just allow the ebb and flow of life to take me along, and I think I was forced into this mindset fairly quickly in 2020. It was not an easy lesson, but I hope it is a lifelong one. I feel like the work towards having more fun in life was hit or miss, and I will continue to work towards that this year. If anything, I feel even more tired this year than last year, even though I technically worked less and was more financially secure.

So self-care and letting myself play are important this year. Filling myself with the energy to create, to help others, to have more pleasure out of the day-to-day moments consistently, to stress way less… these are what I have to work on this year.

Numbers are arbitrary, and we still have so much work to do as a species. I’m prepared to shoulder my load, but I will be taking care of myself along the way.

Happy New Year, and may 2021 provide us with a few less punches than 2020.

New Year, New Decade

It’s time again for me to reflect back on the past year and choose one major goal to work toward this coming year. This year I have two goals, but one is a material one rather than a personal growth one.

This is the year I took the plunge to finally freelancing again, and it has been very successful despite some rocky moments. We are by no means on easy street financially yet, and I have been truly struggling at times balancing being the full-time stay-at-home parent with the shifting schedules of the gig economy (only a few hours for weeks at a time into madness for a few week). I feel drained, but also like this is really worthwhile for me. So, my big audacious financial goal for this year is to be stable enough come Thanksgiving to be able to adopt a local family and give them an entire Thanksgiving meal that they otherwise wouldn’t have. One of the office jobs I used to work did this every year for 5 or so families, and I loved it and want to be able to do it on my own and teach my kids more about giving to others. We did it a little this Christmas, choosing some new gifts for a boy through a local agency and then each of my kids selected one of their almost new toys to give to him as well. My 8 year old surprised me by selecting two actually and was asking questions that I tried to answer in age-appropriate ways. Selfishly, I want to be able to do more activity-wise with the family and not feel the pinch when it comes time to replacing things that we need, but I also really want to funds to support other creators and help in small ways for the needy in our community.

Creatively, I have felt all over the board this year. Sometimes the flow comes easy, sometimes it’s been a real struggle. And I feel like that with my physical and mental energy as well. A lot of that is the lack of sleep I’m still getting with my daughter, as well as finding some way to balance the chores and the here and now with my inner worlds. Actually, one of the truths I have learned this year is that there really is no balance without some kind of support structure in place, whether financial or physical (as in more hands willing to take over childcare or employees to do mundane tasks, etc). Every mom I know, whether working or stay-at-home, is always battling exhaustion, and the dads are frequently only a step or two more rested and that’s only because they tend to stress less about certain things once they are actually in bed. But I also know from experience that the toddler phase won’t last forever, that eventually I will have more time for myself.

So this year, my goal is to stop chasing that elusive balance and let things ebb and flow more. I need to continue my work in having fun, if that’s not an oxymoron, and just find joy in the messy process of creating and parenting and building things from the ground up. I need to feel like I’m really living and not being buried by obligations. In short, I’m tired of feeling tired, and I’m not going to put up with it anymore.  :-p

I have some audacious goals set, but I’m not going to share plans and deadlines here anymore. I’m accountable to myself, and I will continue working toward releasing works in various stages of completion when I feel like it. And as they are ready for release, I will share it here. If I feel like I have something to say socially or politically, then I will say it. But I won’t feel guilty anymore about self-imposed deadlines.

I hope 2020 is the start of some amazing times for everyone. I hope we can all start living to our fullest potentials and let ourselves shine. Happy New Year.

Reflection and Hope

I am combining my year-end reflection and look to the future this year, as this is the first chance I’ve had to really sit and think things through. I dubbed 2016 my Year of Change, 2017 my Year of Recovery from all the change I went through, and 2018 was supposed to be the year I started living the life I’ve always wanted, to step into my full being. Things have not worked out the way I wanted to or as fast as I wanted it to, and I had to contend with some serious disappointments and sad moments this year. I’ve felt ready, but stuck, and I came to the realization yesterday that it’s all been in good time. I’ve been like a seed that has begun to sprout but still needs to work it’s way through the dirt until the sun and air can be felt fully. I’ve done so much to push that dirt out of the way, and now, now I am finally feeling the freshness above me.

So 2018 was a year of internal adjustments, of letting go of some resentment, of recognizing limitations and yet still pushing against them for personal growth. I didn’t get to create as much as I wanted, but I managed to do a little. I finished three paintings and an illustration. I wrote a lot of poems and chipped away at my novel and wrote and published a short story. I wrote one song fully out and really love it. And I created a couple of cool fiber art pieces – one for myself to hang and one for a friend’s wedding gift. I also did and continue to do so much planning.

This coming year, 2019, is a year of Spiraling upward and outward, both for myself personally and collectively. I can feel it. I will be giving notice soon at work, but hopefully leaving myself open to freelancing there if I need to later. I have two big costuming gigs lined up that will take me through spring that will hopefully provide income so I can focus more on the kids and personal creative projects this summer. But I know things will happen as they will. All I can do is say yes to opportunities as they come and make the effort toward creating as I can do so.

I hope you all feel the spiraling energy and let it flow through you this year, that we all have a year of action and of love.

Stepping Fully Into My Life

So my New Year’s began with more of a whimper than a bang. My baby has a horrible head cold, so my husband and I were all set to spend New Year’s Eve together at home, snacks and drinks on hand, to begin getting giddy about our future projects, the things that have been put on hold because of the chaos of living, and New Year’s Day was supposed to be spent having a glorious planning session on how to implement the creation of those projects. However, my daughter kept waking up because she couldn’t breathe, and I could feel myself starting to succumb as well, so I would wander back and forth between cuddling her and trying to get excited amidst filling sinuses, and last night I wound up going to bed at 8PM.

My plan for 2018 is to begin living the life that I have always wanted for me and my family. One where my husband and I share both income-making and raising the children duties, one that gives me time to actually take care of myself the way that I know I need to so I can take care of others in the ways I want to. One that gives me more flexibility – for parenting, for travel, for fun, for personal and creative growth.

I had hoped to be freelancing full-time by the end of 2017, but that didn’t happen. We need to have a firmer financial base for me to make the leap (either more in savings and/or my husband bringing in new income streams, which both are being worked on). So new goal is by the end of June, by the time my son is out of school for the summer. I horribly hated having to work this past week when he was out on holiday break. It was the first time since he started preschool that I didn’t have the time off with him. Last summer was super hard too. So no more.

But getting this cold is a reminder that I’m STILL not as physically healthy as I need to be, so taking care of myself physically is important this year, as I begin implementing my plans. Self-care, self-love, and mostly more sleep need to happen. I need to have both patience and persistence as I begin to implement my plans. I need to accept that I can’t have it all at once.

So the online shop is on hold until I leave my current position. I can’t sew for 8 hours a day and then continue to sew late into the night. I have, at most, another hour worth of sewing in me, plus some extra on my days off. I have a costume commission for this month, and potentially 2 designs for the spring plus a paid workshop that I’m in talks to do, and I may have to bring shop work home with me once we get into prom alterations this spring. Any extra sewing time will be spent alternating between some personal sewing (want to make some things for the house) and coming up with the samples/patterns for my first offerings in the shop, so that hopefully once I leave my current position, I can be opening the shop within a matter of weeks.

That leaves me with 1 to 1.5 hrs a night to split up between music, writing, and art, on top of sneaking in a little bit of writing during the day when it gets slow. I want to start promoting myself more again, and I have some lofty goals for getting work out this year. We’ll have to see what happens. When I am able to be freelancing, I hope to double to three hours a day spent toward those things, setting things up so I can be painting while my kids are doing arts and crafts again, like I used to, having fun creating together.

Again, this is going to be about patience and persistence. About applying my will toward the creation process. About making sure I’m not burning out and then having to recuperate, rinse and repeat. About creating a sustainable and nurturing life for everyone in my home, myself included.

I do not regret my time working at the theater for a few years, even though I was so overworked. It gave me amazing health insurance to have my second child, and it gave me the financial stability to get a mortgage and a decent home for my family. I do regret this past year working the bridal alterations because of how much time I’ve missed with the kids, but it gave me the flexibility to work from home for the first six months for part of the time, which was huge for my relationship with my daughter, and I’ve learned so much working on these gowns that I can apply to my own designs. It means a lot to be able to support my family, so there is that too. But I’m ready now to step into the life that I’ve been saying I’ve wanted for almost 10 years now. Our time on this earth is too short to try for less than what we truly desire, no matter how “safe” other paths may be.

And if the world completely falls apart around me, if my dreams don’t come true, if we end up losing our civilization, at least I’ll have tried. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing of all.

May your 2018 give you the strength and courage to follow your own deepest, truest selves as I will be.

Reflect on the Past, Be Fully in the Present, Move toward the Future

I have taken a bit of a hiatus here, thanks to my typical internal retreat that seems to happen naturally this time of year coupled with a lack of energy from what turned out to be an iron deficiency. But a new year, and my energy is returning, and I’m feeling ready. For what, I’m not quite sure, but that’s okay.

Each New Year, while safely ensconced at my Writer/Artist retreat on Lake Ontario, I like to look back on my personal and creative growth from the previous year and set one major intention for my growth into the New Year. You can read the past years’ entries on this blog here, here, and here.

So how did I do in 2015? My personal growth goal was to learn to create balance within myself and to then help others find their balance. I think I’ve been able to achieve that as much as I could on the current path I tread. My chosen field is time-intensive and has crazy deadlines, but the craziness comes in waves so that I’m able to recuperate and spend quality quiet time with my family in the lulls. I’m more stable and steadily working on the inner work that needs doing rather than the leaps and bounds that were happening in previous years, and while it sometimes feel like I’m inching forward rather than soaring, that’s where I need to be right now, I think. I still don’t feel like I ever have enough time to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish in this life, but I’m much more accepting of that than I was in the past. What I’ve found to be true, though, is that the balance isn’t a constant. To walk a fine line means frequently feeling the pull from each side. It isn’t fixing something and then having an easy time of it. Creatively, my goal was to release my first novel and at least one major painting. I did release a painting, though I don’t know if I would consider it “major”, and while I made progress on my novel, I didn’t even make it halfway through. I did manage to finish writing the graphic novel draft I had been working on for years, which is something. And I went from a part-time position to a full-time+ position in a creative industry that I am really enjoying, which enables me to provide for my family. I’ve done some good freelance projects, and I’ve laid the groundwork for future freelance work for a decent fee. It is fulfilling at a different level than the work I do here, but fulfilling nonetheless. So I’m not disappointed in myself. I’m trying to go with the flow more, is all.

That all being said, what are my goals for 2016? Well, we’re buying our first house soon, so I am looking forward to trying to make a more sustainable life for us. It is ridiculous how excited I am at the notion of composting and growing my own vegetable garden this summer. We are going to look into grants for solar panels. And we’ll be slowly building a true home. One of my goals is to use the house to further nurture people, either by literally feeding them love through dinner parties and creative meetups or running small classes out of the house occasionally to share my skill set and increase the confidence of others. I don’t know how far I’ll get in that this year, but I want to lay the groundwork at least.  I also want to see what kind of an impact we can have in our new local community, so there will be some research that needs to be done once we move to our new village. I guess, in brief then, my goal for this year is to nurture others while continuing to nurture myself so that I can do that work for others. My other big personal goal is to integrate my title of this blogpost into my life. I know many people focus on the attempt to detach entirely from the past and the future to be in the present, but I want to try integrating all three (while still attempting to let go of the attachment to time in general) and see what good I can accomplish through that. It should be an interesting mental and spiritual exercise.

Creatively, I will continue to work at my novel, I will continue to make art, and I will continue to make music, but I am not going to pressure myself with deadlines this year. There are too many other things that need my attention. I am really looking forward to having my piano back home once we move though. It will be so soothing to be able to play multiple times a week instead of just once every 2-4 weeks like I’ve been doing. It makes a difference.

It is strange to me that in the midst of the tumultuous world, in the violence and hatred that continues to grow, I’ve managed to find some calm, safe waters for myself. And it’s not that I’m hiding myself away from what is going on, that I’m not experiencing grief and concern, but that I’m navigating through all of that with an ease I’ve never had before.

We’re all responsible for our own selves. That is true freedom, I think. To own our space in this world fully. Hard work to do. But necessary and wonderful in the long run.

May you each find your own calm waters when you need them in the ensuing storms. May 2016 be the year we can all take charge of our own destinies and follow the true purpose of our lives. The world is changing and shifting, and we can make it a change for the better. But it is up to each of us to do the work necessary for that to happen.

 

Personal Growth for 2015

I don’t make a list of resolutions for the new year, choosing instead to work on one large goal that carries with it several smaller pieces of mental adjustment along the way. I’ve talked about it for the past two years here and here, if you are interested.

Every year since 2010, my major goal just came to me as the obvious choice. This year, it’s a little more difficult for me. I think that all of my work for the past several years led up to my epiphany this past July and that I’m now somewhat plateaued at this stage in my development because I have further work to do here and now. In RPG parlance, I’ve leveled up a character and now I’ve got to learn my new skill sets. It is an entirely new place for me to be, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. I feel as though I’ve been expanding for years and now to have had that stopped, or slowed to a crawl, feels odd.

But it is a new year, and a goal must be set even just for tradition’s sake, so I will make my goal to go deeper into the “Tension of Opposites” that I began re-exploring this fall before work caught up with me. My ultimate goal is to find balance within myself and to project that balance outwards to help other people find their balance, but that may be too much to accomplish in one year.

In creative goals, I am going to really make an effort to get my first novel out this year and at least one major painting. I am also going to attempt to become more of a part of the local community, both with art and writing, and hopefully discover new ways to give back and help grow what is happening immediately around me.

How My 2014 Started as a Farce and Now Ends as a Farce (And a Year End Personal Review)

Many of you may not remember (or were not yet following), but last year’s Artist/Writer New Years retreat ended early due to septic issues at the cottage we were staying at. And now, to end the year, we are spending our New Years Eve not at the cottage as planned. Yesterday, my son came down with a fever and chills, and he spent much of the day just cuddling me. Turns out some relatives were sick over Christmas and neglected to tell us before we showed up. My father-in-law also came down sick, and we were going to be leaving my son with my in-laws. So we contacted our friends and warned them that we might be cancelling last minute or bringing our son with us. Remarkably, my son’s fever broke before bed, and after watching him closely through the night, we decided he would be fine to come with us to the cottage. Then, our friends call while we are on route to say there were white out conditions in Buffalo so they would not be joining us until tomorrow during the day, if it clears. Then we hit lake effect snow ourselves and opted to spend the night at my husband’s aunt, where we were heading to get the key to the cottage. Better safe and having a quiet night than having us get stuck on the road or take three times as long to get to the cottage on unplowed roads. If the snow clears, we will head out tomorrow morning and at least get one night of a retreat in, with or without our Buffalo friends. We also plan to try to do these retreats quarterly again, if we possibly can.

So, thanks for reminding me to remain flexible, 2014. Thank you for the not-so-subtle reflection on the unpredictability of life and the importance of going with the flow. I will definitely keep those lessons you’ve taught me in mind as I move into 2015.

Anyway, how did I do in 2014, as far as creative projects go? I think fairly well. While I did not complete nearly the amount of art or writing that I wanted to, I managed to release The Cephalopod Maid and several new art pieces. I wrote and shared several poems (and wrote a handful more that I didn’t share). And while I wish I had accomplished more, I have a really good reason for not. And that reason is that I’ve found myself getting more and more work in my former creative field and unexpectedly have a career again. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to earn money doing something I enjoy (most of the time), but both the work and keeping up getting more work requires a lot of time and effort. So I keep working on my writing and art at the pace I can, and I have to accept that as being enough.

As far as personal growth goes, I succeeded in fulfilling my 2014 goal, which was to learn to move despite fear. I have experienced a lot of inner development that would take pages to articulate, and I’m not sure I can explain it all, so I won’t. But I experienced a rebirth that was simultaneously painful and wonderful (much like actual birth), and I’ve settled into who I am as a human being and an artist for the next several years of my life, at least. Not that I’ll stop trying to grow, but I feel a confidence that I’ve never really had before and that feels really good. Now to see just how long that confidence will last.

Anyway, happy new year to each of you. I wish each of you many profound moments of joy in the coming year.

New Year’s Day Musings

Starting in 2010, I stopped drawing up a list of resolutions. Instead, I chose one major self-improvement/growth task for myself to work on, knowing that several small changes would come about simply by focusing on one big change. That first year, it was to learn to cherish myself, something I had neglected for a long time (possibly my entire life). The next year, my focus was on childbirth and being the mother I most wanted to be. The next, I focused on finding joy in the small moments and accepting life for what it is.  Last year, I focused on what I could give back to the world, in both small and big ways.

This year, I want to learn to move through life, not without fear, but despite fear, both professionally and personally.  See, although I project confidence, inside I can be cripplingly shy and unsure. My abhorrence of being annoying keeps me from joining in conversations at times, even when I know I can add something to it. But I’ve recently realized how much my fear has held me back in my life. Professionally, I sometimes expect my work to stand on it’s own, rather than engaging and sharing my own passion for the projects.  Personally, I know that I have missed or delayed the opportunity to form potentially lifelong friendships.  When I open up enough to actually converse with people, when I ask the right questions and engage them in conversation, I can learn their stories. And I find them frequently fascinating! So, rather than be afraid that I’m annoying someone, I have to trust that they might in fact find me a little fascinating too. I know that I won’t be able to entirely rid myself of my fear, but I will learn to move around it.

This, of necessity, means tapping into a more aggressive part of my personality than I’ve let out in many years, and that means that this year will also be one of finding balance between the strong/aggressive side and the soft/nurturing side of my personality.

For me, 2013 was a year of transition, of finally ridding myself of the fear of poverty, of finding myself again.  This coming year will be one of finding my balance and focus.

I wish you all luck on your journey through 2014, whichever roads you choose to travel.

New Year, and I’m Back

I’ve returned from my self-inflicted Internet hiatus.  It lasted a little longer than I originally anticipated but hopefully I didn’t lose too many of the readers I had started to gain.

I have to say that 2012 was not the year of fulfilled hopes and dreams that I thought it would be, but if I am honest to myself, those wishes were unrealistic given the current reality of my life situation.

But what have I accomplished this year towards my goals?  I was a good mother to my son, meeting all of his physical and emotional needs.  I continued to lose the weight I had gained during pregnancy plus 10 pounds without crash dieting or overexercising.  I’ve put back on a couple of pounds since Halloween (too much candy and baked goods at work and I was too stressed to say “no”!) but I will soon lose that now that the temptation has been removed.  I’ve completed a first draft of a book and will be releasing two books in the near future.  I attempted a business venture with my husband that ended up costing us money, but we learned so much for the coming year from that experience.  And I generally continued to grow as a person.  I feel like I left some of my last bits of childishness behind this year, that I’m finally able to be more accepting of mine and others’ supposed failures.

Perhaps the sign of biggest change in me this year – each year since 2008 has been challenging and difficult in various ways, and the past several years on New Year’s Eve, I’ve looked forward to the next year with hope but also a kind of “You owe me this year, Universe” attitude.  This year, at thirty years old, I can finally see that the universe doesn’t owe me anything in reciprocation for the hard times and stresses I’ve faced.  Everything that I’ve experienced, both wonderful and horrible, has contributed to making me who I am today, and nobody owes me anything to make up for the past.

I’ve stopped making any kind of list of resolutions in recent years but instead try to choose one thing to focus on.  A couple of years ago, it was to start cherishing myself better.  The following year was focused on childbirth and motherhood. Last year, it was to learn to take things as they come and be more accepting of life and to take pleasure in the small moments.  This year, instead of looking for payment due from Fate, I want to see what I can give back to the Universe.

I hope 2013 is one that sees an advance for the human race, that we can start focusing on creation instead of destruction, celebrate life instead of causing death, and that we all have the strength to be honest with ourselves and others.  Happy New Year to all of you.