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.

The Importance of Knowing Yourself

These are fascinating times to be living in the good ol’ United States, aren’t they? Negotiating new highs and lows in society, dredging all sorts of muck up to the surface. It’s good, though difficult, because airing all this dirty laundry can allow for some deep dialogues to happen, dialogues that need to happen for evolution to come. But in order for these times to be fruitful, we need to reaching deep into our inner selves and know ourselves to the best of our abilities. And I know some of us are more equipped to do that than others.

How often do you take the opportunity for self-reflection? How often, when you make a decision on anything, do you actually think about the consequences of your action or inaction? Do you know what it is you want out of relationships, career, family, life? Do you know what you need? Have you ever acknowledged that sometimes those wants and needs aren’t very well aligned? Self- reflection can get really uncomfortable. But it is necessary.

If you don’t know yourself well, you open yourself up to coercion, to being swayed from your inner compass. You are easily programmable by both the systems set up in our society and by individuals you interact with. You succumb to the marketing schemes of the corporations. You externalize your self-worth and feel like you always fall short.

If you know yourself well, you can recognize others’ attempts to manipulate you, and you can choose to play along or not. You have the conviction of knowing what is right for you and that gives you courage to both ask for what you want or need and to give an emphatic yes or no to others making requests on you. You can stand solid against the tide and always have an intrinsic sense of self-worth.

The trick though is that it’s not a one time checking in with the inner self, but a constant balancing act between your inner and outer lives. It’s easy to slip into autopilot again, to get worn out by life and the craziness of others, to float wrapped in bubble wrap and expect others to handle everything for you. Being willing to live with a little discomfort for the sake of strength and mental clarity and freedom is so worth it though.

It took me until I was 30 years old to really grasp all of this, and it’s through having some really deep conversations with those I care about this past year to realize how important it is for society in general and not just for my own individual life. We collectively are to the point where we need to step up and parent ourselves, get our shit together, and do the work that has to be done. We aren’t allowed to be children or adolescents anymore, humanity. There’s just way too much that has to happen in our lifetimes for us to have that luxury. And the first step to being able to raise ourselves up is knowing the length and breadth of our inner selves. Take that first step, see how it feels, then reach out a hand to others to help them do the same.

Year-end Reflection

It’s that time again, for me to pause and take stock of myself. Not that I’m not consciously and subconsciously doing this lots of other times in my life, but it has become a tradition to do a year-end reflective blog entry at the end of December and a year-beginning hopes and goals entry in early January, so here we go.

This time last year, I called 2016 my “Year of Change”. If I were going to give myself a tagline for this year, it would have to be my “Year of Recovery”. It was a hard slog much of the time, overcoming my feelings of lack, dealing with little sleep with the baby. Feeling directionless and trapped in ways I did not like one bit. Lacking care for myself in many respects. And my personal strife coupled with the appalling state-of-affairs nationally and globally just made me so tired. I’m still so tired. Bone-tired sometimes.

But I’m recovered, mostly. I’ve shared tidbits of my process on how I did it, but most of it has been intuitive and has only been accomplished out of love for both myself in this experience we call life and love for my family who has to put up with me. The final steps involve putting into action the things I know I need to do, and I am ready. I’ve got lots of plans to start rolling with. I have hope and passion and creative drive again, and even though the world may fall apart around me, I will create and love and encourage free-thinking and creativity and self-healing for others.

My one major goal for 2017 was to let myself play more in both my creative work and my daily life, and I feel like I’ve failed at the goal for the first time since I’ve started setting them. I’ve played with my kids, but not enough, and I did not get outside nearly enough nor did I really give myself creative playtime. My productivity was so low for me on all creative fronts. So that goal needs to be incorporated in my 2018 goal somehow. But I’ll do a post on that in a couple of days.

If 2017 was a dark one for you, I hope you find your light soon. We all need to be shining as bright as we can to push this darkness back.

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.

 

I Am Me – a poem

I am me.
I am a person.
I know who I am.
If I don’t, who else will?
I am what I am.
I am me.

I am me.
I am a heart, a brain.
A soul.
A bundle of nerve cells.
I am a creature of emotion.
I am touchy-feely.

I am me.
I am a priestess.
Sacrificing.
Worshipping at the altar of Ancient Ones.
I am seeking their approval.
I am Artist.

I am me.
I am a machine.
Endless.
Working on and on for goals just out of reach.
I am making huge efforts.
I am out of breath.

I am me.
I am a china doll.
Fragile.
“Look, but don’t touch.  She could break.”
I am behind glass.
I am lonely.

But someone picked up the china doll,
And played with her a bit.
Then carelessly, he discarded her.
He had very clumsy hands.
I am no longer the me I was.

Who am I?
No longer a china doll;
The doll is broken and shattered.
Swept up and shoved back behind the glass
In hopes no one would notice.
No longer a priestess;
The priestess is shut out,
Forsaken by the Ones
She herself had briefly forsaken.

Who am I?
I am still me.
But changed.
Emotion dries up and heart freezes.
I am no longer certain of what I want.
I am empty.

I am still me.
I am still a machine.
Tireless.
Just a machine, forging ahead into the future.
I am incapable of being hurt.
I am…

I am a new me.
Better or worse.
I am no longer able to be the me that I was.
Even though I miss the old me.
I am a new me…
An improvement, perhaps.

Copyright 2000, Kat Micari