Friday, April 29, 2011

Ask and Ye Shall Receieve

Today I am marveling at how easy life can flow when I get out of my own way.  I basically announced to the universe and myself this morning (and every day for a few months now), "Thank you for all of the money flowing to me and to those around me."  And lo and behold, I am getting lots of relaxed and happy walk-ins at the studio, filling up my time around cleaning and general web-maintenance.  It's awesome!

I spent the morning cleaning the house and listening to music.  I played with Sherazade and brushed her out.  I enjoyed the open windows and the warm breeze.  I am totally happy today!  Work has been very productive, with our sign coming down and Frank completing over half of the new paint job on the new sign over the entrance.  I have done two tattoos, ran the autoclave, drained the air compressor, and swept and mopped all the stations.  I also hooked up the printer so we can print posters for work, too.  All that and a marvelous sandwich for lunch, and having met Noon, the tattoo artist friend of Loic's from France.

I'm looking forward to all of the ways life eases up for me.  I've grown tired of trying to direct it all.  Now I am going to just enjoy asking for what I am want and curiously waiting and watching to see what opportunities unfold before me to sweep me along the way.  So far it's been pretty incredible.  Having only focused on money concerns over the last five months, I can only really track that aspect's progress for me.  But in deciding that money should be flowing, it certainly has been!  My debt is reducing, and I have even been able to talk about starting an actual IRA for myself.  Holy crap, that's amazing!  Five months ago I feared financial ruin and having to close my business or do it all myself.  Now, I am continually happy to have the help and support of my staff, we're raking in new and old clients by the handful, and I'm really enjoying everything that we are working on here.  Classes are showing up and people are interested in meeting here and renting our space.  The shows are getting better and selling art.  Wow!

In short, I can't believe I haven't gotten this concept sooner.  It's remarkably simple.  I suppose it's easy to just get caught up in what everyone else stresses about and believe I have to as well.  Also, I have tended to create problems everywhere by waiting for a shoe to drop whenever anything went right.  Now I am retraining myself to just notice when things go well and sing life's praises.  It is working out better for me.

I think we just got another walk-in.  Time to set up!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Consumption vs. Acceptance

Following a much older post about how the past probably wasn't worse than the present, I was thinking about the imbalances in our culture that could result in such a judgment.  American culture as I experience it is full of materialism and over-working.  Is this the result of capitalism?  Or is capitalism the result of our imbalances?

Our entertainment is full of advertisements, more so than other countries I have visited.  In part, this may be because the production values of our programming are much higher, so the government isn't subsidizing the cost of the shows.  But it also is a result of a desire for gaining as much profit as possible for one's efforts.  Sure you could pay off your costs and make a little bit of money with just one advertiser, but if you have ten, then you make a lot more money!

The culture promotes consumption to excess, even as it tells us to be considerate of the environment if possible.  I think part of the key here is the "if possible" part.  How is that even negotiable?  It gets a lot of us angry and fired up about this lack of propriety, but ultimately, consuming and producing takes precedence over conservation and cultivation.

In order to consume as much as you "should," it's a matter of course that you should work a lot for it.  Americans work more hours than anyone else in the world except for those in countries attempting to become like us, who work even more.  Simultaneously, we feel that the culture owes us something - that we deserve the best possible gain from our expenditures.  If we feel we are working hard, we deserve the best we can afford, full stop.  Work hard, play harder.

It seems to me that many of us are working very hard for rewards we think are coming later on in life.  But what good are those rewards then?  Why would we actively choose to delay contentment?  How did we get convinced that things are going to be great later, and settle for misery and mediocrity now?  How did we forget that now is all we have?

Also, if we are so concerned about how great everything will be later, why would we be so wasteful and destructive as we are, going about accumulating wealth and status?  Wouldn't we want to live in a clean and pristine world instead of a depleted and littered one?

I don't have anything profound to say about this right now, but the thoughts are bungling about in my head.  I personally want to make decisions now that are filled with contentment and joy.  I don't want to work incredibly hard to the point of misery, because why be miserable?  It won't make things better later on to be sad now.  It just accumulates more misery.  I also want to enjoy an environment that is living and happy and uncluttered with man-made stuff.  Or, on the other hand, to surround myself only with man-made stuff that is quite lovely and that I appreciate and use.  I don't want to own things just to own them.

In short, I reject the idea that I need to work constantly to earn enough to have things I don't really even want or need.  I need very little.  I want lots of things, but when it comes down to it, most of the things I want are experiences and not objects.  It would be well if more people knew that, too.  Right now, I want to go home and paint.  And so I am - ha!

On Children

In my life, I am often swept along by whatever is going on around me.  The desires of others, the circumstances that simply appear, opportunities that pop up and I can't resist.  It has been perhaps a little rare that I truly sit down and make a conscious decision about choices that make my life shift dramatically.  When I do, I often find myself in paralysis, unable to move forward because I like to keep options open as long as possible just to see what turns up.

Over the last several months, I have been deeply considering my life.  What is it right now?  How I am contributing to the world?  Where do I seem to be going, and do I like it?  Who do I surround myself with, and how do I fit best with all of these beings?  It has been a time of profound insight, and hasn't always been very pretty to look at.

One of the decisions that has been particularly hard to come by has been the one surrounding children.  Do I have them or not?  When should that happen?  What would it mean to me and my life?  How about Derek?  And, perhaps most importantly, do I even want kids?

This life-altering and life-creating decision has been fraught with anxiety for me.  I feel the longing of my husband for children, and I have felt scared because I have not been ready to have them.  I hear my grandparents asking about great grandchildren, and Derek's mother telling us that a psychic told her we'd have two kids some day.  All around me my friends are having babies, babies are showing up at work even though they shouldn't be, and I have felt completely confused in my reactions to all of these events.

I was starting to get annoyed with people making the comment that there is never a good time to have a kid.  I took it as a suggestion that I am procrastinating too much and making excuses to not have children that hold no weight with anybody else.  Even Derek has used this phrase with me while we discussed children, when I was expressing how I didn't feel I could be a mom and run my studio at the same time right now.

A large river seemed to spring up in my head between my business and artistic pursuits on the one bank, and a family with kids running around on the other.  I could see how it would be nice to be old and have children and grandchildren to share life with, and in some ways really would like that.  I also in no way could imagine having children as I am right now and still be able to put my energies into my work, which is really important to me and enjoyable.

I fear in many respects that I would resent a child for taking me away from tattooing, from the studio I worked so hard with others to create.  I fear choosing a child's well being over my own (and I know I would choose that), and watching as my involvement in the business I have created slips away, and I become irrelevant.   I fear wanting to travel or go anyplace and hearing shrieking children instead of peace and quiet.  And I simultaneously fear becoming old without laughing at a dinner table with kids of my own, or sharing the outdoors with them, instead only having my paintings and tattoos on other people to share or be a legacy of my instant on the planet.

This is tough stuff!  I have been on the fence about children from the beginning.  And as I grow older, I know that I only have another decade or so in which I could have my own kid.  Derek already worries about being too old to keep up with a child as they grow up, too.  My being digs in and says NO, don't have kids, you don't really want them right now.  And I argue with it and say, but what about Derek, who would be such a great dad?  What about if I get too old and can't have them anymore and I miss this opportunity?

If I listen to my deepest self, I come to the conclusion that I really do not want to be a parent.  At this time, which is the only time I have control over or access to, I do not want to get pregnant or raise a kid.  And so, it's OK to make that choice, to not have a child instead of continually acting as though maybe someday I will change my mind, probably next year, because it is always next year that I will change my mind. . . and then I never do.  I feel badly that I have been saying "maybe" and "probably yes next year" for eight years or so now.  Even as I say no, I say yes for later, and it is causing more pain than simply accepting that I don't actually want children.  I can see how the yes is my way of delaying the choice until I can't make it anymore and will sigh in relief and blame my withered body for not being able to have children instead of my own spirit consciously choosing not to.  In my fear, I figure if my body fails I am blameless, but if I choose actively to remain a non-parent then I may be judged unworthy, or foolish, or selfish.  But really, choosing to not choose is cowardly.  It means really I choose no, but am tricking everyone including myself into believing that very soon I could say yes.  It's exhausting and awful.

So I had the discussion with Derek to let him know that my initial response of not wanting children is still primary.  I really love my life.  I like what I am doing.  I love the people I spend time with.  I love him.  I am enjoying filling my life with my work, with art, with reading and philosophy.  I am enjoying spending time out in nature, going to the zoo, seeing art at auctions with him or at galleries and museums.  I don't have a void where children would live.  My life feels full already.  I don't feel a need to have children, and I don't want them.  I apologized for always telling him this with the caveat of, but in a couple of years, that might all change, and actually, we could flip everything upside down with my work and once it takes off properly it can function without me and then I could have kids. . .  I can see how this is creating false hope in him that I actually do want kids and simply don't have the means to have them now because work isn't really solid.  The truth is, it isn't work that is the limiting factor.  That's an excuse.  It is me.

And he is quite sad accepting my words.  And I am, too.  Even having chosen not to have children, I feel a loss.  I feel that I have crossed that river and am clearly on one side of it now.  My time of swimming in it, and keeping both options open is ending.  I feel sad for the life story I am losing of having descendants and going to music recitals and graduations and teaching someone how to drive.  Part of me wants to jump back in the river and stay in the middle, where those things are still possible on one shore.  But most of me is just sad, but happy to finally get out of the damn water and move on with my life.  The sadness will pass.  It's not the end of the world.  In fact, it might even be the beginning of one.

As with all major decisions that forever impact the rest of one's life, I am scared of choosing wrong.  Scared because once the decision is made, I'll never know what my life would have been like if I chose the other way.  But, the only way to really make a great life for oneself, I believe, is to really throw one's spirit in wholeheartedly into the life they actually have.  I need to stop swimming around and get out of the river, and start to build my life knowing that the longer I wait to get started on living, the less time I will have to enjoy it.

Another great point that was made to me is that decisions can be changed.  It is just important to make them in the first place.  Otherwise nothing can happen.  So here I am, with a decision.  I feel a little bit empty.  I am not sure what to do now.  But it is a lot less anxious than the indecision.  I'm sure plenty of opportunities will arrive to fill in the emptiness.  Something must fill up the space where all those unchosen opportunities resided.  I'm looking forward to seeing what turns up.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning and Decluttering take one

It's Spring Cleaning day at my home today.  At least, it is the start of it.  I feel excellent cleaning up all the dust bunnies and crumbs of the winter and getting them out of the place.  Even better, I am feeling glad to throw out useless items and consider what to do with the things that we don't use but could be useful to someone else.

It puts me in mind of moving, which I do think I really want to do.  A half-hour commute is fairly standard for most people around here, but it sucks the life out of me.  It's easier to just come home and stay put then to hang around work for a time and then go out, or leave an outing only to linger at work before we open for a few hours.  Our location limits my sociability, and I'm looking forward to remedying that.  Cleaning up in mind of moving is fun.

It's continually astounding the amount of stuff that humans accumulate, and I'm astonished that even though I believe that I don't really want a lot of things, I have so very many things anyway.  I really don't need even a fraction of it, and most of it doesn't bring joy.  So why do I hold on to it all still?

Today, I will decide to part with a significant amount of stuff that I have been hanging on to.  Trinkets that are unneeded I can either pass on, sell or throw out.  Clearing it out will leave room for better things, or even better, just space to breathe in.  We use that phrase as a metaphor, but I think it might be more important literally.  How fresh is our air when we clutter it with dusty junk?

I'm off to the donation bin right now with a large pile of clothes to give to others.  It makes me really happy, not just to provide for others, but also to get this stuff off of my floor, out of my closet and back into the world to circulate where it needs to go.  Stuff does me no good in a closet or being tripped on.  Off I go!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gratitude vs. Fear

How do our thoughts define our reality?  Is our waking life more real than our dream lives?  We seem to live with a general consensus that waking life is more real than our sleeping reality, and that on some level we all have to conform to the greater waking reality that we all share.

It leads me to wonder, how much of the greater waking reality do we really share?  Are facts actually true, or just items we've all agreed upon superficially?  From what I have observed, facts are greatly malleable as far as the meanings surrounding them are concerned.  And it seems to my observation that we construct our truths around perceived meanings, which are all quite individual.

In that case, do any of us really inhabit the same reality?  The people with whom I share the vast majority of my waking hours share a lot of experiences with me.  Or rather, they share a great deal of events with me. Their experiences of the events are as individual as we are from each other.  Our perspectives do not have to agree on anything, really.  For me, a moment may be experienced as pleasant and full of promise, while to another person that same moment might be experienced as annoying and gloomy.

Who then has the right of it?  I think we both do, in so far as both experiences happen and are valid.  It allows for two people to experience the same general events and have one feel as though they inhabit heaven, and the other hell.  How incredible that nugget of thought is to me - that realities diverge swiftly based on the individual perceiving it.  And it is the perception that defines their reality, not the external events, although external events will then conform to the actions taken by the individuals - and those actions are usually based in the belief or perception of the reality an individual holds.

I am noticing more and more that the world reflects back what we are to us.  We all have lots of aspects, so different people or circumstances and places bring out various aspects of ourselves for us to observe.  And that is pretty amazing!  It is often easier to see how another gets fed on the stuff that they surround themselves with.  For example, one who is always angry that people are out to take advantage of them continually finds more situations in which they believe this to be true.  Their attitude of mistrust, fear and anger creates a similar reaction in those who interact with them and creates a loop that feeds itself.  Easy to see from outside of the loop, and perpetually frustrating to the one caught in it.  It is difficult for us to see our own loops, but if we look for them, they become more apparent.

Gratitude seems to be a very potent attitude to have.  It's joy and contentment with what already is seems to bring more and more people and circumstances to be thankful for.  The more I adopt this attitude, the more it reinforces itself and it's quite a pleasant loop to be in.  On the other side, the attitude of disempowerment and inability to effect the world the way I want to is a very poor one to linger in, and I can see where it has hindered me a lot in my life and that it slows down the otherwise very effective attitude of gratefulness.  I think I have both of these attitudes going on much of the time, and they eventually cancel each other out if I stay too long in the frustrated and disempowered state.

At those times, I am not grateful for anything and more focused on how to get around obstacles.  More and more obstacles show up, and I feel more disempowered.  People aren't supportive or they try to help me.  Either way, I perceieve this as me not being powerful enough to do it myself and get frustrated and sad.  I get angry at being perceived as needing help.  I am afraid then, and start to believe that I really do need a lot of help and can't do anything on my own very well.  I complain a lot and others see that I need help and offer it, or sympathize about how difficult the world is to live in or how difficult and impossible it is to make new and exciting things happen.  I get more upset.

The very same situations, once I replace the disempowerment vibe with gratitude, take on a whole new emotion.  Suddenly I am grateful for the help.  People show up with ideas and ways of implementing plans that I couldn't come up with on my own.  I am thrilled to not have to work so hard, and even grateful that I am able to attract such help and awesomeness into my life.  I am no longer worried that by not doing everything myself that I have no worth.  In fact, I am thankful that I can put my energy into helping them instead of them helping me.  I get excited that I now have a group of awesome people all focused on a task together, all doing the parts that they enjoy and are good at.  I start to expect this kind of thing to happen all the time, and it really does begin to happen like that for me.  I want something, and within weeks or days, something unexpected and wonderful comes up that fulfills that desire.  The situations of fear and anxiousness start to break up and dissolve, replaced with situations of joy and gratitude and trust.

I think we trust reality a lot, not realizing that what we are actually trusting is our influence on reality.  We believe that what is outside of us (circumstances, people, objects, etc.) makes us feel a certain way and determines our options to create or exist or inhabit the world.  What is more true, I believe now, is that it is our emotions about life and circumstances and people that causes those circumstances, people and objects to appear, or to act or manifest as they do.  And if that is true (and more and more I believe that it really is true), there is no limit to the wonderful things we can do and create and be and enjoy.  It is unfortunately also the case that there is no limit to the amount of suffering we can put ourselves through as well.

In these times, I think it is best to focus on what we have that we are thankful for, on what it is that we want to create and share; for example, a clean and beautiful world filled with diverse and honored life, clean water and air, communities of people working to uplift and honor each other, and ways to share the incredible mystery that is life on this planet.  Ways to simply enjoy our lives right now, with loved ones, in jobs that we remember we have the power to alter to suit us as human beings - sharing our gifts with each other and for the world.  We can all be lovely without all trying to become in charge of the whole world.  We only need to be in charge of ourselves, and love it.  The more we succeed at this the more and more awesome life will become for all of us, I think.

Anyway, it is hard to describe the feeling that accompanies this essay.  The words feel overly simple and small for such a large feeling of vast possibility and wonder.  I hope that those who read it are able to pick up the gist of the idea and take something joyful from it, a feeling of their own incredible power to change their perceptions and attitudes into something they love, and let it ripple out from there.  I think as we do this, more and more people will do it, too - and the world will change, in an instant, to something so much brighter and hopeful and joyful than what it is in too many places right now.

What is time anyway, but a chance to try all of this stuff out?  Let's make it fun.  :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crow Time!

Yesterday I spent time outside walking with my mom in the morning, and later in the afternoon went walking with Derek.  Both times I got to see lots of crows, which made me very happy.  On my second walk, I offered some beef jerky to a pair of crows in a tree.  Being the cautious creatures that they are, the pair flew off to the opposite side of the field to contemplate my offering.  We continued our walk, and found that a few minutes later I had friends.  A crow was happily circling over our heads making the "Hey I'm here" caw, and seeing where I might lay down more food next.  I love crows!