Revisiting the catalyst

There was a moment, some three-and-a-half years ago, that started a chain of events still unravelling even now. I’ve often called Cameron’s The Artist’s Way my commencement down this road of self-discovery and change. To be fair, I’d always been inclined towards researching the spiritual and investigating possibility, but I was stuck. We all get stuck sometime.

Twice I’ve tried to work my way through The Artist’s Way. Once, three years ago, ended when I just didn’t have the will to continue with it. The second time, just under two years ago, I made it through ten weeks of work, but only half-heartedly.

There it sat, this book that I bought used and started investing my time into. I look at it from time to time, and consider revisiting it. Today I pulled it off the shelf, and while I’m not committing to it yet, it holds the possibility of more changes to come.

Perfection is the enemy

I would like to say that the holiday travel season has kept me from writing as much as I would like.

I would like to say that it’s just been too hectic to sit down and put anything of substance down.

These things and more I would like to say, but the truth is that I’ve just let it slip to the wayside. Partially it’s because I’ve felt that nothing of substance can be written with a time crunch. I would prefer perfection. Even my morning journaling, which I do just for me, not for anyone else’s consumption, I’ve only been doing once a week or so.

The new year has many goals set upon it already, including an increase in my writing output. I’d like to finish one of the books I’ve planned, or at least get a monograph done that’s been sitting in my to-do section for the past eight months.

So as I set aside the yearning for perfection, and look to the new year, I’m ready to make those changes in my life that have been coming since all hell broke loose back in 2016.

On the reading bug

Started reading a book (the intro really, plus a few entries) that I had purchased a few weeks ago. Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub: A decade soaking in great books. First, I love books. The idea of what Hornby did for The Believer, where each month he would just talk about the books he read and ones he bought, was entirely captivating to me.

So, this being the first entry of the month, I’d like to take a cue from Nick Hornby:

June 2017

Books Bought:

  • The Republic – Plato
  • Atlantis: The Eighth Continent – Charles Berlitz
  • Designing Your Life – Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
  • Conversational Spanish in 20 Lessons – Cortina Method
  • Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Thinking: The New Art of Decision-Making  – Edited by John Brockman

Books Read:

  • Do the Work! – Steven Pressfield
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
  • Outrageous Openness – Tosha Silver
  • The Perdition Score – Richard Kadrey
  • Sept. ’03 – Jan. ’04 of Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby
  • Worth Dying For – Lee Child
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield (started)

What can I tell you about the books I’ve read? Or bought? Why do we do this? I found a beautiful passage in the intro to Ten Years in the Tub, written by Jess Walter:

“That the books we buy are almost as important as those  we read. From the beginning there were always two columns [referring to Hornby’s monthly article], Books Bought and Books Read. By my crude math, Nick spent somewhere around ten or fifteen grand on books he hasn’t even read. Besides showing that he did his part to support publishing during a tough economic period, this suggests something important about reading. Looking around my own obsessively crowded shelves, I see there are two categories of books I tend to keep: those I love and those I hope one day to read. If the books we read reflect the person we are, the books we hope to read might just be who we aspire to be. There is something profound in that.”

I checked out Do the Work! and Dirk Gently from the library. Both came precariously close to being returned unread, but something about each grabbed me and made me change course. The library and, by extension, book stores, are sort of a second home to me. And in this in-between period, where the old life I lived has fallen away and the new one is just breaking out of its cocoon, they function more as my first home than the place that houses my stuff.

Do the Work! walks us through the creative process, highlighting the role of resistance in creation. Now, I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. Have been since I first stumbled across The Icarus Deception, oh, three years ago. At that time I was creatively stifled, my professional and personal lives not working out the way that I had intended. He begged his readers to do the work, fight resistance, and ship! Yes! I can get on board with that.

Pressfield’s book does much the same, but not as effectively. I do feel inspired to do the work, yet I get stuck on syntax when he delves into his theory on the contradictory nature of the Universe’s role in Resistance/Assistance. I’ll likely come at this book again a year or two down the road, and see if I agree or disagree more with the sentiment. The War of Art has been on my reading list for a few years, so it was time to pull the trigger and buy it. I’m just starting it, and seeing the themes revisited from Do the Work!

Adams is always fun, and Dirk Gently’s was no exception. The thought and connectivity he puts into a book about interconnectivity gives enough laugh-out-loud moments that I found myself flying through it.

Atlantis and the course on Spanish weren’t bought, per se. Rather free books in a stack at the library. There’s a girl from Barcelona I wish I were better able to communicate with, though she speaks  English more fluidly than I do. Atlantis, eh. Always curious about the esoteric and metaphysical.

In The Perdition Score, I got to resist the character Sandman Slim, aka James Stark, as he moved up and down a supernatural Los Angeles, and back into Hell. I began reading Kadrey’s series last February, what is that, fourteen months ago? Since then, I’ve read eight and just committed to reading the ninth when I saw it in the bookstore. Perdition is probably the best of the series since Sandman Slim, but I’m a sucker for watching Stark get even when someone goes after his friends.

Another series that I just began last year but have managed to put a considerable dent in is the Jack Reacher collection, by Lee Child. Worth Dying For is well-plotted mystery, and I had trouble putting it down as well. I spent the better part of two days catching up with Mr. Reacher in a little Nebraska town run by some no-goods that were, par for the course, up to no good. It’s a satisfying read, and moves the story towards him heading back to Virginia, which they adapted for film in last year’s Never Go Back.

Tosha Silver and Iyengar’s books are part of my required reading for the yoga practice. I bought Light on Yoga from a Los Angeles Goodwill on Amazon, so it’ll arrive soon. It was like five bucks. Outrageous Openness we discussed at the yoga studio, and it seems to be of big help to those of us who have trouble letting go and trusting that Divine help will be coming.

My first experience with that concept was back in November, 2015, when I started Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I know some crazy things can happen, once you say okay and let the Universe/Divine/God/Source start working on you.

I made it though five whole books this month, with two solid starts, and a few dips into other assorted writings. I can’t guarantee that many, but there is that new Sandman Slim out there, as well as a Reacher novel someone loaned me. Plus, there’s a stack of library books on philosophy that need to be returned this month, so it may be more likely that I get a sit down with Spinoza and Kierkegaard.

Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K

I’ve had a kind of bad week at the office. To wit, I don’t actually have an office. I used to, working a quasi 9-5 office job in Orlando. It was a job in my field (arts administration) and the work was governmental, so it was decent pay and fairly good benefits. It was also wholly unsatisfying. When my life upended, I decided it was time to leave that job as well.

I quit. I left without a safety net, without a plan, and without any job prospects. Somehow, I’ve been fortunate enough in life to have things work out for me. Sometimes it serendipitous, sometime downright miraculous. Julia Cameron calls it synchronicity

That’s not to say I haven’t been down and out before. Last year was a big down and out year, and I wasn’t sure that I’d ever get up. Even with that said, within four weeks of leaving my job, I found work. More accurately, my mother knew a guy who just lost a worker, so I was able to step in. Voila! Instant employment.

Turns out, I was pretty good at the work too. Mostly it’s smooth sailing, with very little mental exertion needed on my part. While working there, I’ve been paying bills, taking the occasional travel adventure, teaching, writing, and reorienting myself to what I should be doing. Getting my head right, and my soul in balance, after its misadventures in 2016. Just last week I was starting to look to PhD programs and seeing what other work opportunities might be available to me after I return from Europe. 

Which sets up the drama of this week. On Friday, filling in for someone who needed the night off, I had a customer lose her temper with me, walking out and threatening to have me fired. This didn’t bother me so much, as I know she was just blowing off steam, and she has a history of frustrated rants, especially when she comes in forgetting to take her medication. She suffers from a mental instability of some kind, so we all try to remain very patient with her.

Saturday was a busy day, but I think it was uneventful as my week’s negative aspects played out. Sunday, on the other hand, busy and downright awful. I have a coworker who for some reason has this chip on her shoulder towards me. She has a general chip on her shoulder, but it’s even more pronounced when directed in my vicinity. Sometimes she is in charge, but on Sunday she and I were both working the floor. There was this heated exchange, and I had to walk away. Out of the back door and around the building. 

Now it takes a great deal to aggravate me, and even more so to make me angry. But at one point I noticed my hands shaking, and I knew that there was nothing good that would come of me engaging anymore with her. Now, the owner has said nothing to me concerning the incident, but the other party has been off since then, and it’s possible he would want to talk with her first.

Then, again, a minor incident on Monday and one yesterday, all leading me to the inevitable query: Is it synchronicity’s way of telling me it’s time to leave? 

I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, nor do I think that I’ll reach one prior to leaving on the 24th. I do think that it’s quite interesting that, after eight months of relative quiet, all of a sudden this week it seems to be one thing after another. So I wonder… Is it the Universe giving me not-so-subtle hints that, “Hey. It’s time.” 

The last time I ignored the Universe I had a mountain dropped on my head. Figuratively. I do not need that again. 

Philosophical Art

Been on a brief hiatus, as I reoriented myself in a direction I’m comfortable with. Coming to terms with losing love, the balancing of material and spiritual, energizing my thoughts and, finally, discovering what it means to break life down into manageable segments.  

“It’s not the destination, but the journey.” – Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Years ago I conceived Michael’s Musings to be a political soap box for my thoughts and views on the happenings and going-ons of American politicians. I was, and remain, an ardent Obama supporter, and remain convinced of his merits as president to this day. I’ve been non-vocal on my views following this past election, partly because I’ve been preoccupied with my own crises. Though not a major factor in the lives of most Americans, my dark night has been the Matterhorn looming in the foreground of my consciousness, waiting to claim a life. My life. 
It’s this mountain, this hard time in my life, this period of reshaping, that reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech. In it, he implored the graduates of the University of Arts in Philadelphia to find their mountains. Make decisions that put them closer to reaching it. To achieving those goals. 

Thing was, I had long ago lost sight of my mountain. in my proper job, with a desk and office and chair and computer, I put a little sticky note on the monitor. “Will it bring you closer to your mountain?” I wrote on it, using the Japanese character for mountain (山) rather than the word. And every day I would sit there and look at it. I’d wonder whether I was getting closer to it, not even remembering what I had planned for it to be.

Then, after so long spent wondering, the damn mountain came and crashed on top of me. I guess it got tired of waiting for me to figure out that I was supposed to be climbing it. Figuratively, I was crushed. I was now facing decisions that I had no clue how to handle. And only over the past couple of weeks have things began to once again come into focus. The mountain, now looming large in my vision, is calling to me. Beckoning me to come climb it. So I take the first step.

“1837. Oct. 22. “What are you doing now?” he asked. “Do you keep a journal?” So I make my first entry to-day.’ – The Journals of Henry David Thoreau.  

On Spirit

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. 

-Rumi

I began a journey, back in November. The inciting incident, as it were. Very recently, I was an office worker in local government, doing arts funding. It was rewarding, albeit unsatisfying work. 

I felt lost in my career. 

Partially my reasoning for staying had been to work on the life I was building with my fiancée. I lived in a crappy little house, impossible to keep clean. My two pets ran my life, and I was just waiting to get married. 

I felt lost in life. 

Over lunch with a young man who was leaving his job in real estate to do something in the arts, he had no idea what, he explained that he was doing this program by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. It was a twelve-step recovery program for stifled artists. 

Perfect for someone who was feeling lost. 

I ordered a used copy off Amazon, and when it arrived I started, more or less. Daily pages, which is journaling every day right when you a wake. A three-page long brain dump, hand written, for the purpose of focusing. 

Perfect for someone who was feeling lost. 

Nearly a year later, I’ve fought through severe depression, what I will address in later posts covering my dark night of the soul; drastic changes in my employment and living situation; world travel; a deeper understanding of faith and spirituality, as well as a more comprehensive exploration of those aspects of myself; and movement. A clearing of the path, so that I could find direction. 

I am no longer lost. I just have no idea where I’m going.