Still Here, Still Creating

This time at home with my children this year has been really great, but it has left me with not a whole lot of time and energy for writing here or tackling big projects. Add on some freelance costume and sewing gigs finally, and trying to update Originals by Katharine Tracy monthly, it means there are sometimes weeks of no writing or art. I still always carve out time for music even if it’s just 10 minutes on piano every day, but there were a couple months at the start of the year that I couldn’t even play the uke or flute because it seemed like too much effort. The cycle of feeling energized and then almost burning out has been a theme this entire pandemic, and if I’m honest, my entire life. There hasn’t ever been anything like steadiness, which definitely keeps life more interesting.

I have songs and poems and stories and art inside that I hope I will have the chance to manifest into reality. I always chip away where I can. In the meantime, I’m continuing with focusing on my biggest creative endeavor (my children) and consider it such a profound privilege to watch them grow and help shape them into amazing human beings. I am pursuing my costume and sewing work, which is satisfying creatively in different ways. And I have learned to let myself off the hook a little bit. I cannot be a “creative machine”. I don’t need to feel guilt when I need to rest. I’m finally learning to ride my own waves, and that’s where I need to be.

Where are you all emotionally at this point? Hopeful? Despairing? Taking things in stride? Wherever you are, I wish you well.

In Which Time Passes

Eesh… it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Over a month. Yet again. I want to be pouring myself out more creatively, and I have been as best I can, but there is just so little time. We’ve also made the decision to keep my son home for at least the remainder of 2020, so I will have remote schooling on top of caring for my daughter, who’s preschool is also postponed until January (maybe). This Covid-19 social distancing has me busier than ever.

Yet I find myself completely content and happy this week, finally. I have been really enjoying the time with the kids. I started focusing on my health, and have been making some progress in controlling inflammation and getting my energy levels back, which I may talk about at a later date. I’ve embarked on a year long spiritual and hopefully magical journey of inner work and met a wide network of very sweet people online in the process, all also working on themselves. I’ve taken it upon myself to do one active activism something a week, which in these crazy times of ours is so important. I’ve continued my education into being an ally. And I continue to create whenever possible and am building into my creative work that actually makes me money. Also, we recently adopted a bunny, and that has been a fun addition but extra time in caring and cleaning out cages. So, I don’t know.

I’m going to make the attempt to use scheduled posts, and try to set some up every week, with progress photos of my current work. I’m going to try to get more poems and songs up. But mostly I’m just trying to stay afloat and find the happiness I can. Do the good in life that I can. And try to be a little bit better every day. Which is all that any of us can really do, right?

Finally, some creative progress!

I know I have mentioned before how the autumn is really my time to get my butt kicked into high gear and work on all the things, and that is how it has been feeling. Several projects are finally culminating into their final swing, some serious personal development has been going on, and I am excited to continue sharing here everything that I can. That being said, I wanted to give a little bit of a run down of where I’m at on things, partially to give me something to look back on in a month when I am reflecting on the year overall.

Writing: 

  • I am currently compiling my second poetry collection and really hope to have this out by the end of the year.
  • I wrote a huge chunk in my post-apocalyptic short story and hope to actually start shopping it around along with a few others after the first of the year.
  • I’m making good progress on my Shakespeare poems and will start doing art pieces to go with those at some point next year.

Art:

  • I have scanned and am in the process of editing the illustrations for my poetry collection and am designing the book cover for said collection.
  • I am teaching myself to work on a tablet for digital designs in the hopes of eventually designing my own fabric prints to use in my sewing career.
  • I am designing my next two shows and committing the costumes to paper this week, which is always a little scary but exciting.

Music:

  • I finished writing another song last night! This is the one I scrapped and rewrote, and I need to edit it, but it feels good to have it done.
  • I have started getting my singing chops back again slowly after another break from it due to crazy parenting and gig schedule.
  • I’ve been playing my flute once or twice a week while my daughter is in preschool, even if I have other things I “should” be doing, and it’s felt great.

Now how much I can push forward will depend again on both my paying design gigs and also I am trying to open a custom clothing boutique online as we go into the new year. So we shall see how that goes. But it feels good to be creating right now.

Becoming Myself Again

I am finally beginning to feel like I am reclaiming myself after the birth of my daughter. With both my children, the first few years of sleep deprivation and wanting/needing to spend time with them over everything else, I had this disconnection from myself. My children were the center of my world, and everything else, even frequently my creative work, just kind of went on autopilot. A necessary sacrifice, and truthfully, when I finally reclaimed myself when my son reached about 2.5 years old, my inner growth the following year more than made up for the pause I took. And my life is about ready to push play again, and even though I am still sleep deprived and still learning self-care again, I feel ready.

Despite feeling on pause for the past couple of years, I have learnt so much about myself. I have tested the absolute limits of my physical and mental strength when I worked myself sick two years ago and had such a slow recovery. I have finally grasped the notion of true care. I have made decisions regarding my work in the future in that I have no interest in doing “bargain” quality work for lower pay but prefer to do the very top quality and detail work and be recompensed fairly for it. That is something I had a hard time with in the past, especially working for nonprofits. I have learned to truly listen and hold space for people. And I have continued questioning and studying, although much of what I have been doing has been internal rather than external. Maybe that is the biggest lesson I’ve had… learning to keep silent not because I have to but because I can learn more in the silence sometimes than in shouting my views out. Comes back to that notion of being an active listener. All very important lessons, but it is now time to step out of the blurry haze of newborn and toddler parenting and into the steadier tread of helping to raise decent human beings and reclaim my sense of self again. I’m very interested to see where my creativity and personal growth leads me. And hopefully you all will be interested too.

Your Higher vs. Your Lower Self

I’ve been going through some of my old morning pages (which I started after doing The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and you can watch a video about them here). And I wanted to share a section of one of the entries from last fall. I had just listened to a lecture about the importance of getting in sync with the universe and trying to help build up humanity, and it had left an impression on me.

“It is a lofty goal, to think about one’s desires and then align those desires to the good of society. I want to be the spark for so many people, I want to help them lose fear of the darkness and shine a candle so they can integrate their dual natures into one. I want to love and be loved and draw energy from all of that love to spread outward. I want to burn away the smaller parts of myself, the meanness and pettiness, and help others burn away those areas within them. I want to utilize both my wisdom and intelligence in a way that benefits all, rippling out from me to my inner circle and then to the world.”

On my best days, I am able to do all that. And I feel so in tune with everything that surrounds me and able to tap deep into creative resources to help people or to help myself through writing and art and music. And I can keep going for a long time.

But on my worst days, I find myself overly sensitive and raw, so very raw. And I find myself out of touch, making a big deal in my mind out of things that other people do or don’t do or say or don’t say when customarily I am fine taking people as they come and don’t take their actions personally. But on my worst days, my feelings get hurt really easily and very deeply, and it can leave me shaky for days, because all of a sudden I’m reminded of my preteen self getting tortured and tormented by classmates, unsure of where I stand with anyone, even the people whom I love most. And however much I work on healing that little girl part of me, sometimes the tears come unbidden. This happened to me last week, and it was originally what I was going to do today’s blog about, but reading my morning pages earlier today made me realize that going through these sensitive times gives me a sign that I’m working too hard and also is part of my ongoing effort to integrate my own dual nature. So it’s very much serving a purpose. Even when it makes me sad or uncomfortable or reminds me of past pain.

I prefer to focus on my best days, to reach toward my higher self more often than descending into my lower self, while still acknowledging the existence of that lower self and knowing that I have to allow those feelings to surface occasionally in order to continue to walk my inner paths of both darkness and light comfortably and to then be able to guide others on their own paths. It’s how I tap into creativity, it’s how I navigate through life. But it certainly is not the easiest way to go.

If you are open to sharing, what are some of your innermost higher-self desires? What would you want to accomplish as an individual toward the betterment of humanity? How would your personality align itself best into the universe? And do you walk that path now or do you have a lot of work to do still to get there?

The Wanting

There are times I want to run
So fast, so far.
I don’t know which way I’m going
But I want to feel the wind
Full in my face
And dance on sandy beaches.
I want to feel
The force of nature
And the exhilaration of nothing
But living in that moment.
I want to crash into my love
With the force of a
Thousand wild horses
And ride the reverberations outward.
I want to feel the universe breathe
And breathe deep with it,
Heart pulsing with
The heartbeat of the earth.
I want the flow
To never stop,
Not for a moment,
To be ever expanding
Beyond myself.
There are times I want to run
With you.

Copyright 2016, Kat Micari

Phoenix – a poem

Feeling this poem again lately.

Kat Micari

Phoenix

I once killed a man
With kindness.
Beauty and sweetness
And love
Cut him down
Where he stood.
I was unaware that I even
Had the ability,
But still remained fully culpable,
Reaching into his core with my
Innocent destruction
Of all that he was.

Yet his death
Meant my death.
His transformation, mine.
And two different beings
Stood in our place.
Painful, yes.
Necessary, maybe.
But the act itself was
Entirely thoughtless.

I could do it again,
A thousand times over,
If I were strong enough
To move in full knowledge
Of the ensuing pain
And wise enough
To ask for consent first.
Mutual annihilation
To rebuild in the ashes.

Wisdom carries its own burdens,
And inner truths, once discovered,
Can never be buried again.

Copyright 2014, Kat Micari

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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.

Freelancing Woes and a Direction for Personal Growth

Last week, I had my first unhappy customer at the shop I’m freelancing through. I ended up taking the project back, spent hours being as perfect as I could be, stressed myself out knowing what the outcome would be, and the woman was still unhappy. So I charged her only half what I was originally going to charge her, for the work that I had done that she was satisfied with, and politely told her to bring it somewhere else. I did show my work to the manager of the store before showing it to the customer, and she verified that it was well done, but I had a rough couple of days. I hate when people are unhappy with my work because I get really invested in whatever I do, I was mad that I only averaged maybe $1.50 per hour on the job and hours away from my son or my other creative work, and I had this momentary desire to give back the dozen or so other projects for other customers that I have in my work room. A sort of “Fine, I don’t wanna play anymore!” The store owner emailed me and told me that this is a fairly regular occurrence, that I am really talented at the work I’m doing, and that it can be a brutal industry. This week, I have kind of a similar case, where one of the customers is a self-confessed OCD, but she’s a bit better about it than the other lady. So fine, it’s not like I planned on doing this forever, but in the short term, I need to make this as stress-free as possible, for my health and my sanity.

Here are the areas I need an attitude adjustment:

  1. I need to remind myself daily that “I am not my job”. I was born a ‘hard worker’. That phrase has been on every single elementary report card, stated in every parent-teacher conference, and been in a lot of Thank You notes that have been written to me. If I got a bad grade on anything, I would beat myself up over it so badly that my parents felt bad for me. I don’t know how to NOT work hard. And I don’t do it for accolades, or to be “the best” at anything (I was never top of my class but usually had straight As), but out of a desire for personal mastery. I also battle my own perfectionist tendencies ferociously. When something like this happens, it tends to reinforce the self-debasing side of myself that can come out, which then fuels stress and all the side effects that it brings with it. But this freelance work is just a job, and I am not my job. I have to keep telling myself that – even though it involves some creative work, even though I’m working with my hands, I am not my job. Hard to convince myself of that.
  2. I need to learn to turn off my empathy radar, or at least to crank it way down. I’ve talked in this blog before how much I pick up on the emotions and motivations of others, so when someone is unhappy with me, I REALLY feel it, and it REALLY sucks. I’m able to hold it together during an altercation, and my core of steel has never let me capitulate just to make someone happy with me (what’s the point, right?), but the experience is enough to majorly stress me out. And my inner radar has been going wildly with all the personal and creative growth I’ve gone through the past six months. Great for the artistic projects and tapping into energy I might not have, not so great for personal relations at times. One thing I feel might be helpful with this is seeking solitude and time in nature.
  3. I need to allow myself time to learn and be kind to myself when I have to redo something because I’ve never done it before. Right now, my breakdown per hour varies wildly, from being lucky if I gross minimum wage up to $25+ per hour, and I never know on a project just how long something is going to take. Rather than say, well at least I’m averaging $12-$15 an hour and learning new skills, I get really frustrated on the jobs that seem more trouble than they are worth.
  4. I need to resist the urge to walk away sometimes. For the past six or so years, if an individual or group of individuals created a sour experience for me, I would let it spoil the entire project or situation. Again, that “I don’t wanna play anymore” attitude. This was something I really started doing in CA, where I embraced the laid back atmosphere. I only half-kid that moving from upstate NY to SoCal helped remove the stick from my butt. So I refused to tolerate any poisonous people and learned to duck out of stressful situations. Which is good, to a certain extent, but I took it too far. Part of the reason I practically dove into the office job when we first moved back east is because I was fed up with the field I had gotten my MFA in. I had several bad experiences in a row, but I realized earlier this year that I had allowed a handful of individuals (across several months and many different projects) make me decide to turn my back on what had been my dream career – one that perfectly combined my creative side with my love for research; one that allowed for up front collaboration, then let me go away and do my work in peace without having to answer to any middle management, and then let me come back for further collaboration; a job that had a hard deadline that had to be met, regardless of whether the completed work was “perfect” or not; a job that gave me the opportunity to really help other people do their jobs. Granted, with the collaboration, you have a wide range of creative temperaments, some of which thrive on craziness and stress, and it is an industry I often compare metaphorically to an abusive relationship (when it’s good, it’s good, but when it’s bad, it beats you to within an inch of your life), but the trick is finding people you do enjoy working with and making it fun-crazy instead of mean-crazy. So I was so angry at myself earlier in the year at this realization. I don’t regret taking the office job because it allowed me to have my son (I knew when I was 12 that I wanted my first child when I was 28, and taking the job allowed me to make this happen), but I do regret that I allowed my “Fine, I don’t wanna play” attitude to trap me. In any situation, I really need to question whether the urge to walk away is coming from a place of wanting to maintain my health or because I’m letting my ego get in the way. Which brings me to…
  5. I need to let my ego go. I need to learn not to want the pat on my head and the gold star for a job well done. If I am going to be able to thrive getting back into the industry I left (which I’m starting the creative work on my summer test projects now), then I have to absolutely come at it from a place of doing the best work I can, but then letting it go once it’s out there.

That’s a lot to work on, long term. Short term, to heal myself from the self-induced stress of last week, I’ve been making sure to exercise, get outside for a walk with my son, and do at least a five-minute deep breathing session daily. I’ve started drinking nettle tea daily to fight the inflammation (also this is how I fight my spring allergies). And I made up a bone broth from a local free-range organic chicken carcass I had in the freezer. Earlier in the week I made an asparagus egg-drop soup out of some of it, and tonight I’ll be making a lentil stew – both full of lots of vegetables. It seems to be doing the trick, and I’m glad to have not made myself literally sick from the stress last week.

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stand doing the freelance work for the shop though. At least long enough to figure out if we’re staying or moving, I hope, and for me to make up my mind on what I want for the next stage of my life.