Chaos is my middle name.

Much of 2017 is a blur. There were lots of changes, lots of little victories, and a TON of growth. There was good stuff, bad stuff, & ugly stuff, but as years go, 2017 was not terrible. It was chaotic, and I felt chaotic, but amidst the chaos I learned a lot, both about myself and the people I love. I learned good stuff.

In January, I started an amazing grad program, which challenged me (& challenges me still) to step out of my (ever-widening!) comfort zone. I’m doing creative work, so it requires all of me — as in, I can’t do it on autopilot. It’s a vastly different experience from my prior grad program in counseling, which required me to go utilize my analytical brain more than anything else. Analytical mode is my safe place, it’s where I’m most confident and where I’m most productive. It requires compartmentalization of my personal & emotional life/messiness, which feels safe and comfortable. What I’m doing now is just the opposite: I can’t compartmentalize parts of myself without compromising the integrity of my work. I can’t hide behind intellectualism. I have to show up as I am, however messy and complicated that may be, and do the work. It’s exhausting, and it’s thrilling and it is completely worth facing my insecurities head-on and showing up as the messy, complicated, real human being that I am.

My word for 2017 was SURRENDER. Ha! I thought I knew what it meant to surrender, but if the past year has taught me anything it’s that surrendering isn’t something you learn to do once, add that skill to your toolbox, and call it a day. No, it’s something that stretches you in all directions, depending on the demands of the situation. Basically, it’s a practice. You do it over and over for the rest of your life. There’s no “destination,” it’s all journey.

Meanwhile, at the end of November 2016, I had moved into the place I now call Home, with my partner. For a host of reasons, it was a difficult transition. In fact, I’m still “transitioning.” It took about a year to get here, but now when I talk about “Home,” I am referring to the place where I live with my partner and step-cat. Like me, our home is frequently chaotic, usually messy, colorful, and always in process. Certain areas of our home are neatly & methodically organized. Other areas are…not. The former are undoubtedly my partner’s designated areas. The latter? Yeah, those are mine. It’s slow going, but I am actually making progress when it comes to creating order in my environment. It happens in fits and starts, but it happens. And something is better than nothing, right?

See, if you’re anything like me (INFJ/HSP), you require a lot of down time, specifically time spent alone to decompress and recharge. For me, this means a space I can call my own, filled with things that give me comfort: piles of books, journals, art supplies, my iPad and/or computer, a couch or bed, teddy bears, headphones, music, and more. (Calling me “high maintenance” is putting it mildly, but I gave up apologizing for what I need a while ago, so to quote the late, great Jonathan Larson, “Take me, baby, or leave me!” ) When I moved here, it took me a while to be able to carve out that necessary space. There were pest control issues that needed to be dealt with — a not uncommon occurrence in NYC abodes — and that essentially halved our living space. During that period of time, I bounced back and forth between here & my parents’ house, spending time holed up in my old bedroom when I needed to screw my head on straight and focus on school work.

Like I said, it took about a year, but I have carved out that space for myself and it’s made a world of difference. I am finally at Home. And now that I’m home, I can get around to the business of creating some semblance of order in my environment. It’s slow going, no doubt. Sometimes I walk into a room, look around, and panic because I don’t know where to start, so I shut down and hide out in my cave of comfort until the overwhelming panic passes. Once it does, I’m usually able to make some progress. But, like I said, it’s fits & starts. This is my process, I live in the gray. And I’m pretty OK with that.

Raise a virtual glass with me to PROGRESS! Even if it’s just baby steps. Progress is progress, no matter how you measure it.

No Resolutions Here

I don’t make New Years resolutions.  I don’t like them. For me, making them is akin to setting myself up for failure, and I have done more than enough of that over the course of my life. Instead, for the past several years, I’ve opted for something different: a single word.

Not some random, picked-out-of-a-hat word, but a word chosen with intention. Specifically, the intention of using it as my guide over the next 365 days. The word encompasses an idea & attitude with which I want to approach myself and all areas of my life.  And when I’m going through a rough time, that word becomes my mantra and compass.

I said I choose a word, but it’s more a process of letting a word/idea choose me. See, when I “look for” a word, I find it. In fact, I find & compile lists of them, and can make reasoned arguments as to why each and every one of them should be chosen, but the end result is confusion, not certainty. So I opt to bypass conscious thought and instead trust that the word I need will come to me. And, so far, it always has.

My word for 2018 came to me earlier today, in the shower (the site of many great “AHA!” moments in history). As soon as it came to me, I knew in my gut it was the word I’d been waiting for. I don’t normally share my word with anyone; it’s been more or less a private affair since I started the practice. But in an effort to share my process, I’ve decided to tell you.

My word for 2018 is CREATE (including creation, creative, & creativity.)

The word came to me along the same line of thinking as it was used by Jonathan Larson in his lyrics, “The opposite of war isn’t peace; it’s creation.”

I’m sick & tired of being at war with myself, so I think this is my attempt to divert that energy/impulse toward creation instead of destruction. I want to utilize the raw materials of emotion & impulse toward the act of generation instead of degeneration.

Wish me luck! See you in 2018!

Satellite Call | Sara Bareilles

This one’s for the lonely child
Broken-hearted, running wild
This was written for the one to blame
For the one who believes they are the cause of chaos in everything.
You may find yourself in the dead of night
Lost somewhere out there in the great big beautiful sky
We’re all just perfect little satellites
Spinning round and round this broken earthly life
This is so you know the sound
Of someone who loves you from the ground
Tonight you’re not alone at all
This is me sending out my satellite call
This is so you’ll know the sound
Of someone who loves you from the ground
Tonight you’re not alone at all
This is me sending out my satellite call.

 

Freight Train – Sara Jackson-Holman

 

Grief is a freight train
Oh what’s a little pain
When you’ve got so much to love

Forever is a slow dream
Oh, what a vivid thing
When you’ve got so much to lose

Hope is a fast car
Only takes you so far
Oh you’ve got a lot to learn

Close your eyes
Take to the sky like a big blue kite
Leave your woes behind
Close my eyes
Try to remember what you said to me
Before you said goodbye

Love is a slow song
Playing on the radio
I know every word by heart

Happiness the soft light
That we see our lives by
Your name faded to the dark

Wherein I Express My Gratitude & Share Some Wisdom

Over the past 12 or so years of my life, I’ve noticed a trend: when I follow my gut and take a chance by stepping forward  — particularly when I’m unclear on my destination — I meet someone (or more than one someone) who is willing to guide me in the right direction. By “right direction,” I simply mean the next steps toward an increasingly clarified idea of what I want to do/where I want to be. The trick is in having enough faith & trust in myself and in process (Divine, creative, or otherwise) to take that step forward into the unknown.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I met the person who is my mentor/keeper of sanity, almost a year ago, when I registered for my first semester of grad school. She’s my academic advisor & professor — but really she is so much more. There were (several) times when I considered dropping out of my program — really difficult times when I doubted my talent, my intelligence, my ability to make a difference, my entire worth as a human being — and then I’d have a conversation with my professor, either via email or in person, and my perspective immediately shifted. Some people have the gift of helping others to “see better,” [¹]  and that is exactly what has happened over & over since the day I registered for classes. This woman speaks my language. She walks her talk and, in doing so, clears away the arbitrary bullshit that so easily trips me up and ties me in knots. I’ve learned so much from her, not the least of which is that most of what I view as obstacles are the result of buying into arbitrary timelines and ideas of how things are “supposed to” be.

But these “rules” & “official timelines” were created by groups of individuals who believe in sticking people in boxes, whether or not they fit, for the sake of data processing — because, to them, that’s what we are: data points. But  I know I’m more than a number, and I’m lucky enough to have someone in my life to remind me of that fact when I forget.

So, just in case you’re in need of a reminder: you’re allowed to take your time, you’re allowed to change your mind, you are not required to contort yourself in order to fit into any box, you are allowed to make your own rules and pave your own way. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to get from Point A to Point B; there are an infinite number of possibilities. Allow yourself to let go of whatever limiting beliefs that may be holding you back, close your eyes, listen to your gut, and take a step forward — just one step — then open your eyes and take in the brilliant new landscape awaiting you.

 

[¹]  Shakespeare, William. King Lear 1604-1605.

Article: Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

Check out the article for the science of it all, or read the brief summary here.

Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions.Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

If you want more in-depth info, check out The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, and/or check out his blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Definition (or lack thereof)

I’m still in the process of defining the purpose of this site, so last night I decided to make a list of my interests. It looked something like this:
child development, creative process, dis/connection, intuitive knowing, expressive arts, expressive arts therapy, drama therapy, acting, singing, dancing, emotional regulation, life-as-process, creation (as related to art), neuroscience, creation of “self,” authentic expression, theories of personality, neurodiversity… the list went on & on, and I’m not even finished writing it.

As a result, I decided not to limit myself here; I’ll blog about my interests. I’ll post links to things that interest me, and hopefully you’ll find something that interests you amidst it all.

In taking this “interest inventory,” I noticed a common thread: my interests relate to people. This wasn’t news to me; I’ve always wanted to understand how people think and what they like and why they like what they like. In middle school and high school, I spent most of my time in the psychology section of the school library. I particularly liked memoirs filed in that section. Looking back, I was clearly trying to understand myself, but over time my interests evolved and broadened, as is typical of an adolescent maturing into adulthood. Now as a self-aware adult I’m more interested in helping other people understand themselves and discover/build on their strengths.

I seem to have a knack for it, which I discovered in grad school when I was studying mental health counseling. But I’m also a very creative person and have found that creative expression can play a huge role in healing. As can removing the labels so eagerly assigned to individuals in need of mental health support. Once upon a time, I accepted the medical model of mental health treatment. I even bought into it. However, I have experienced a lot since then — both good & bad — and can’t authentically render those services from within that medical model. I know a lot of people who can work well from within the system — they can guide people toward healing in spite of it. But I have never been good at following the rules when I disagree with them, and on this subject I am in fundamental disagreement with the prevailing norms.

So here I am, looking for another way in.