life

Crammed into a Tight Space (Artist’s Way, Week Six)

I am now officially halfway through the Artist’s Way. I am technically on the third day of week seven, but I’d like to  recap week six here. The theme was recovering a sense of abundance. This week was actually the most challenging to complete all the activities by far. Everything felt so rushed and doing it for the sake of doing it that the activities had lost their magic. For example, I had to collect five leaves and five pretty rocks. Had I been in the suburbs in my house growing up, it would have been an exploratory process of my front and backyard much like my childhood years,and I would have been able to choose. Instead, I ended up picking five leaves during my morning jog of five different shapes, some that were a bit dirty and wet. It felt more like rushing to complete homework for science. Since I am in the city, nowhere around me seemed to have rocks. I finally found five tiny grey rocks that were about as romantic as the pavement. Again, this felt like just taking the only rocks I saw, for homework.

Clearing went a little better. Surprisingly, I was able to get rid of three articles of clothing (okay, underwear, but still). I felt a little thrilled and rebellious to throw out something that was once my favorite, even though there were no holes in them. I don’t know why Julia Cameron keeps specifying articles of clothing. Living in a studio, I have minimized a lot of my wardrobe already. I did set aside a few articles of clothing to give away, but I won’t be able to until I see my friend or go to a donation center. I also cleared out some of my kitchen pantry and give away some teas I never used.

Creation-I’ve been making sweet potatoes pretty regularly for the last two weeks, so I didn’t feel like this would count as my baking activity. I decided to finally bake some spaghetti squash that I had received as a birthday present from my team lead last month (woops! I swear it was still good). However, even this felt more like a part of my regular life and responsibilities than a fun creative dessert like the kind I would make in my childhood, where I would pick a recipe from my grandmother’s cookbook and discover all the spices and ingredients my mom already had in the house.

Communication-I was actually already intending to send postcards to my friends (last month I bought them off Etsy), but I am glad the Artist’s Way prompted me to actually go through with it. Maybe next time I’ll do five different people. I did this on the airplane on my way to Minnesota, and gave myself the most time to do this activity, so I will say that this one activity felt special to me.

Of course I forgot to do the Artist’s Prayer and read page three every day. Week two was the only week I was on point with doing daily affirmations and reading page three. All other weeks where I was supposed to do daily activities, I just did on the days I managed to remember. I did manage to track all my expenses for the week however.The tracking made me behave better unintentionally, even though we’re not supposed to police.

Making changes to my home environment-I ended up double dipping this activity with my homework for the “Source Course” I have now just enrolled in. I added onto my preexisting altar, and started a new one specifically for the Source Course. I challenged myself to pick things that had never been on an altar. I picked the eucalyptus Nan-a friend I made on the train-had given me, which is especially appropriate as a symbol of healing. Next I chose a Gustav Klimt postcard of a woman in red holding a snake wrapped around her arm–symbolic of the Magician in my Gustav Klimt tarot deck. Finally, I chose the butterfly shadow box that said “Let the Miracle Happen.” I remember when I saw it in Minnesota, I was torn up about whether to get it or not, and my best friend Fatima convinced me to indulge a little. Ironically, it ended up being on sale any ways. I didn’t get to add posters to my walls like I wanted, and there wasn’t much else to change since my studio is pretty much all set.

Week seven is off to a much better start-I’ll tune you in once that’s done!

 

 

 

 

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Things I did during reading deprivation

While I couldn’t completely keep myself off of social media and online articles, I did refrain from reading any books or watching my typical movies.

Here’s what I did:

  • On day two my stomach hurt, so I simply cradled by pillow and stayed under the covers, doing nothing at all. It was actually quite lovely.
  • I cooked a bunch of potatoes. I haven’t cooked since March!
  • I went to a birthday party, went to a gay bar, and ended up having a meaningful conversation with my friend from Afghanistan.
  • I cleaned house by swapping all my summer wear for my fall wear. Got rid of a ton of clutter from the cupboard under the sink. The change is invisible, and yet the studio feels so much cleaner and breathier because of it!
  • I talked on the phone with my mom–per usual.
  • I jogged twice on the weekend. The weeks before I might have jogged once and went for a couple walks.
  • Made my studio nice and clean–of course I do this any ways but it’s still an accomplishment!
  • I did my Louise Hay meditations, as usual
  • I “buried” my fantasy life (what should have or could have happened in my life), so that I could let go and work with the present. I have yet to burn it, but I expect I’ll do this on the full moon.
  • I lit incense did a new moon ritual and wrote down everything I want to let in to my life.
  • I made a friend on the train, who gave me a stem of tuberoses and of eucalyptus.

This, I suspect, was the point of reading deprivation–we were meant to explore what activities or creations we could make outside of just consuming entertainment. It’s actually kind of nice!

 

Strange Catalysts (the Artist’s Way)

In “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron mentions that synchronicities might begin to appear in one’s life, things might begin to change, and creativity might become unstuck. I came into this with the sole intent to revive my writing inspiration. Instead, I’ve achieved a different kind of transformation. I did receive small manifestations–from a free chai latte, to a one dollar meal (my childhood favorite of arroz con platatanos/rice with bananas), getting the opportunity to collage over my ugly notebook cover, and receiving a stem of tuberoses and eucalyptus. When I went on a spontaneous lunch adventure, I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, which mentioned all my fears, the need to let go of our worries so that we can be open to ideas when they come. Also at the time of trying to let go of a negative situation, I ended up accidentally getting into long conversations with the Afghanistan doormen at my apartment building, specifically on letting go of the past and just living in the moment and enjoying the present.

Even though I have not found a speck of inspiration more than when I started, I have opened myself up to mini adventures, having spontaneous conversations and making new friends. Last week I had a major revelation that the reason I was being so hard on myself was because I wasn’t perfect. Instead of recognizing that logically, I felt it deeply. It seemed so ridiculous, because no one is perfect! How could I expect that from myself? How could that be a prerequisite to being worthy of my own love? Two days later, a friend showed me a book she was reading by Brene Brown, and I knew I had hit the hammer on the head. This revelation shook me up, because my defense mechanisms of self hate were fighting back harder, to keep myself protected. I had created the defense mechanism to protect myself from the scrutiny of others, and to motivate myself to work harder to achieve. But at some point, it became detrimental because I became paralyzed. Nothing was happening.

At this time I became ravenous for the next few days, with nothing satiating my hunger. I wasn’t sure if this was another defense mechanism, or a backlash from my medication which had previously been suppressing my appetite. In my desperation, I was thinking of a way I could add more starch in my diet, to keep myself satiated. This led me to several YouTube channels and articles on being able to eat in abundance on a vegan high-carb starchy diet. So I figured–why not, I have nothing to lose. Apparently I am now going to become a vegan. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while (I was vegetarian for 7 years and pescatarian for 1), but never really knew how to achieve that without severely limiting my options and making sure all my needs were met. Now I think I’ve found a way, and I’m going to try it. This is completely insane! Again–not a speck of writing inspiration has come into my life–but, I’m making both minor and major shifts. I’m wondering if anything else will happen, or what my life will look like at the end of the 12 weeks. While it concerns me that I’m not making any progress as a writer, I’m looking at the things I’m beginning to do- draw, play the guitar, cook again for the first time since March! Not planning a thing for my weekend and yet having long spontaneous and meaningful conversations with new friends. It might not be a lot, but something is happening.

Artist’s Way Week 4-Slip ups begin

I am the kind of person who likes to do all the exercises and activities within the required week. Sure, I’ve forgotten to do daily affirmations sometimes or had an artist’s date that wasn’t exactly pre-planned, but these were minor. This week’s mission was reading deprivation. While I was able to stay away from books and movies (movies being the hardest part for me), I was unable to stay off social media. By day 2 I already accidentally skimmed a couple online articles.  By day 3, I was looking at several online articles and watching a couple Youtube videos.Day 4 I worked late so I managed not to read by default. On Saturday, I was doing the exercise of getting rid of/donating an outfit, but since I live in a studio my wardrobe is already more limited, so instead I started going through zines. I accidentally read a couple of the entries to see if I still wanted them, and had looked at some articles earlier in the day too. On the plus side, I finally cleared out a gazillion bags from the cupboard under the sink, which was long overdue.

My plan for the weekend was to do all my chores on Saturday so that I could have my full day outing for my artist’s date. Here I had failed as well. I did a closet overhaul of switching summer clothes to fall clothes, cleared out the cupboard, did laundry and made the bed. Normally I only have energy to go grocery shopping, so I was proud of myself. However, I spontaneously went to a birthday party I’d been invited to, and didn’t sleep until 3 am. I of course didn’t wake up properly until ten, which pushed back all my plans. It took me an hour to cook (something I hadn’t done ever since I moved into the studio), went for a run, and by the time I got around to errands, it felt like I hadn’t made any progress yesterday at all. I still had to do everything that I normally would put off until Sunday. Which leads me basically to this point in time where I am writing this blog. I feel I desperately need some me time, which I haven’t really done between cleaning house and socializing. I still haven’t done my artist’s date, which I plan to do tonight.

I think this taught me a valuable lesson. My prerogative is to “get it right” each week so that I can get the maximum out of the experience. I didn’t want to miss any of the exercises or take longer than a week to do them. But honestly, from being on the Facebook group and watching Youtubers detail what they do; I learned it’s more important to just do your best. Some people skip the exercises, or take a few weeks to complete the chapters. Some people don’t even do artist’s date, and do lunch pages instead. We all have busy lifestyles. Even though the goal is to get us to put time aside for creativity, which is very much needed, we can’t always “get it right.” The experience is really for you. I may still try to “make up” for my artist’s day outing next week, but honestly, I have no desire to redo the chapter or backtrack. I’m just going to keep moving forward.

 

Updates, Life

From time to time, I like to look back on my life transitions. This last transition was particularly rough. I think when I moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota I was naive and starry-eyed, which made things easier. I seemed to think moving once a year, even across states, was feasible, as long as I was pursuing a vision. At 23 that vision entailed finding my own city, a new job, new friends, and leaving Chicago behind for good. A couple years of that, and off to Europe, was the game plan.

I always envy people who blog about living in a different country per year-Australia, Thailand, Japan, France. What kind of money do they have? Are they debt free? I think yes, I can do that. I can totally sell my car and do TEFL and uproot myself to another country. But somehow, I keep not feeling ready. I don’t think there ever is a point where you feel “ready,” but I know myself well enough to do know that if there is a leap to take, I will take it.

I take comfort in the talk I had with my spiritual guide Teal Swan at the Chicago workshop, in her reassuring me of the burning questions I had for her, and her telling me I don’t have to jump the Grand Canyon. What a relief it was to hear her say she wouldn’t ditch everything for an unpaid gig in Guatemala on a four month trial period either. I felt like I was betraying myself when the Tarot and the angel workshop seemed to be indicating that was my chance, and I had blown it. Anything that stresses me out so bad my head hurts can’t be good.

So, far from achieving my game plan, I went to Ohio to live with my parents for a couple months until I could find a job. I was hoping to leave the bulk of my things with them and save enough money to go abroad. As nice as it sounded on paper, it did not last long. There was no job, interviewing and hiring was slow, the house was cold, and I felt lost in the middle of nowhere with no social life. I was glad to have my parents, my cat, and my writing, but I felt even more displaced than when I lived in the suburbs of Chicago. I ended up using the same  strategy that landed me in Minnesota–applying nationwide. Luckily this time I had 2 years experience of a full time job under my belt, and garnered a lot more interest. While earning my TEFL (my backup plan) and finishing Nanowrimo (50k words in a month challenge), I found myself drawn back to Chicago. Initially I was dismayed at failing “the plan.” That’s not to say I’ve given up entirely on going abroad again at some point, but I think sometimes I have to just forgive where I am in my life and make the best out of the journey. As it turns out, people were not just telling me it’s cooler to live in the city than the suburbs to make me feel better. It truly is an event-packed city with lots going on and lots of cool people to network with. I pulled a classic me by telling my new company I could move within a week, and ended up being “homeless” for nine days; ie couch-surfing while I apartment hunted. With little more than a recommendation on the neighborhood and a newspaper listing as one of the best neighborhoods, I ended up moving to Logan Square in December 2014 and even accidentally moved 5 minutes walking distance from a high school friend!