What To Do

What to do?

It has been such a long time since I published any writings here. I kept putting it off thinking that I didn’t have anything to write. Then when I had something to write I didn’t write it. I would say to myself, “It has been so long since I’ve written something I can’t just write and publish out of the blue. I need to write an explanation as to why I haven’t written in such a long time.”

So, I wouldn’t write because I didn’t know how to write that explanation. And who, exactly, is the explanation for? Who gives a care that I haven’t written in so long? Nobody has inquired as to my whereabouts. Nobody has screamed from upon high lamenting my literary absence.

Nobody has indicated that the lack of my ponderings or musical quips have left a void in their lives.

So, why write? 

There was a void in my life. I wasn’t writting. I write because I’m a writer and to not write is to not breath, not nourish and not be who I am. It does not matter whether or not the writing is read. When you are a writer, you must write. Write something meaningful or crappy. It doesn’t matter.  The athlete must train even if they don’t feel like it. They have good training days and bad training days but they must train.

So, this is my training day. I took a few minutes to write. To let my mind and fingers do their exercises. Muscle memory will take over if you just get up and do it. 

Time is Pricelss

Your attention and time are the most precious things you have. You have given some of that to me and I appreciate it.

Thank you.

I believe that when time is given to me the best way to show my appreciation is to give my time to you.

I have visited some of the blogs of those who have visited mine. I dove into more than one posting by some of you. I really like a lot of what I have read; especially, those posts where you have shared about yourself and your struggles. The most impressive writings to me have been where you have shared what you have done to be good to you.

Choosing yourself in order to be available to others is an inspiration to me. One of my reasons for writing this blog is to be more honest with myself through my writing. I’m still working on this.

Life is tough and rough and we have to treat ourselves well.

If I don’t stop telling myself “I’m not worthy of things”, then why should I expect anybody else to think me worthy. I say some pretty horrible things to myself. If I were to say those things to my friends, I would not have any friends. If I were to say those things to my kids, I would be a horrible father and my kids’ self-esteem and self-image would crumble. Thinking about that happening to my kids breaks my heart. I would want to punch myself in the face if I said those things to my kids. So, why doesn’t it break my heart when I say those things to me? It does break my spirit. I should probably punch myself in the face for having such negativity towards me.

But physical violence only begets physical violence. We see it happening every day. Negativity begets negativity. It happens in my head all the time. That negativity has kept me from striving to do more. I have backed away from many challenges in my life because I didn’t fully believe I was worth it.

Personal examples in my creative life:

I’ve written two novels and a script for a graphic novel. I’ve attempted to get agents for one of my novels. I even knew someone who worked for a literary agency and she submitted my manuscript. It never went anywhere.

I reached out to a few artists to collaborate on my graphic novel. One artist just stopped communicating with me and another did not get back to me. It never went anywhere.

So, I’ve been knocked down and was left rejected. However, there are two points about the above.
One, I could have done a better job of following up by asking more questions. I wasn’t told my work sucked. I just wasn’t told anything. What else could I think?

Two, my passion level was not high for what I had created and promoted. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my creations to go to the next step. I just didn’t believe in myself enough to advocate more strongly for them. I didn’t give myself enough worth. I didn’t give my work enough worth.

This is something that I recently began to understand about myself. I’m a low-key guy most of the time. I can get heated and excited but mostly I try to keep my “cool”. This is not a good thing when I am trying to promote myself and my creations. How can I get others excited about what I created if I’m not getting excited about it?

I would smack my forehead, if violence didn’t beget violence. And you know what, passion and excitement begets passion and excitement. It’s those mirror neurons everybody is talking about. (You know, everybody.) If I’m acting excited then it is almost (almost) impossible for someone in my presence to not feel a little bit of that and not get a little excited themselves.

Time for low-key Nate to get out of my way to make room for passionate Nate. Excited Nate. Enthusiastic Nate. The Nate who believes his work has worth. My work does have worth.

Your work has worth. Why create it in the first place if it didn’t?

Let’s be good to us. Keep writing. Keep creating. It is worth it.

Nate

 

The Four Agreements

I seem to be drawn to reading things on how I can change my perspective about my life in order to improve myself. I want to think myself healthier, think myself happier, and, in some cases, to stop thinking so much and just start doing.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements he presents a simple formula to follow that seems to offer a way for me to combine thinking and doing.

Perhaps, using the term formula is not correct. But I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe a process. A reprogramming. He does use computer terminology, such as, our old agreements being a virus in our programming as humans.

Miguel states that we have agreements within our minds that allow us to accept the ways things are, the negative things we believe, and the way people treat us. And no matter how detrimental those beliefs may be to or for us, we will continue to agree with them.

Miguel says there are four agreements that we can use to combat the negative agreements within ourselves. The Four Agreements are:

Be impeccable to your word

Don’t take things personally

Don’t make assumptions

Always do your best

They seem pretty straight forward and can leave you saying to yourself, “Well, of course that’s all you gotta do. Easy, so easy.”

But you have to explore them deeper, which Miguel does in his book. He explores the depths of what those agreements mean and what you must do in order to adopt them into your programming.

I am aware much more now than I ever was in my past about the negative agreements I hold onto about myself and other people. I know I am folly when it comes to talking to and about myself. My thoughts are not nice.

Over the past few months I have been able to recognize my negative self-talk about me. The power of my rationalization to not do things out of fear. I know better how to recognize my fear. How the fear plays its hand in my decision making.

Fear has played a part in most of the decisions I have made in my life. Fear has powered my rationalization to not speak, not change, and not do.

And I know so much better now that even though I know this, I am not free from the power of fear. I still watch it and let it control me.

I let fear use rationalization most recently to not play my guitar with my friend in his band. He had offered and I had gladly accepted. I’ve played with him several times live in the past. But for some reason I let fear tell me “no” this time. It told me that I wasn’t good enough. That I should go to support him and his band, but I was not good enough to play.

I ended up spending much of that day with my kids at my ex’s house, knowing that I was supposed to play that evening with my friend, but fear told me to stay longer and longer because “I’m not going to play. I’m tired. I can’t solo as well as my friend. My guitar never sounds good. My guitar is a bit dusty from sitting out and my friend my see it and make fun. The other band members will wonder why I’m there and why would my friend invite me to sit in. Just stay here with my kids for as long as I can. I’m not going to play. I just tell my friend I didn’t have time to stop off at home to get my guitar. I’ll sit on my ass and watch him play because I know I am not good enough.”

And that’s what I did.

I let the fear rationalize and put me down and talk me out of playing. And lie to my friend.

The lying makes me feel badly about me. It also makes me upset with myself for letting my fear make me miss out on another experience.

I may not be the best guitar player but I cannot let that be fuel for my fear to stop me from doing something that I really do enjoy doing.

I was not impeccable to my word. I made an assumption about what others would think of me and I didn’t do my best.

Miguel points out in his book is that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it right every time.

Miguel also let’s me know to be aware of the Judge, Victim and belief system within me. It is like a Bizarro World Holy Trinity. Not that Miguel describes it that way.

The Judge bestows guilt and shame. The Victim agrees to the verdict of guilty and accepts the shame. The belief system is the agreements that are in place that allows the Judge and the Victim to play their roles.

In the coming weeks and months I will continue to explore and write about how my Fear and the Bizarro World Holy Trinity (BWHT) attempt to keep me from Action.

Some of my thoughts on the Four Agreements.

Be impeccable to your word – I am doing that each morning. I write my three morning pages. I treat my inner artist to creative dates.

Don’t take things personally – This is difficult. As much as I may say to myself, “this isn’t about me” I still think things that happen to me are about me.

Don’t make assumptions – This is part of what I do as a therapist. I make assumptions based on people’s behaviors and what they tell me. If we know what motivates us, or other people, we can make an assumption as to how we will react or respond to situations and people in our lives. This can be very helpful. But it does not mean our assumptions will be true.

Always do your best – I like this one just as much as the first agreement. Miguel says that our best will be different for every situation due to many factors about ourselves including emotions and health at the time we are to deliver our best. Some days our best is not going to be good enough to achieve something that we want.

If we can agree that we did the best we were capable of doing at that time, then we should be satisfied. There should be no looking back. No placing blame or guilt on ourselves because we gave all we had at that time. It is okay that our best isn’t going to be good enough every time. We don’t always have to succeed, get “it” right or be perfect.

We should accept ourselves warts and all.

Nate

 

 

My Artist’s Way

The awesome book by Julie Cameron The Artist’s Way was a gift to me by my wife, with whom I am separated. We still love and care for each other and continue to offer support in many ways. This kind of relationship with an ex is crucial, especially since we have two young children together.

She knows my desire to be a writer who can make a living wage from my creative endeavors, so she was kind to give me this book by Julia Cameron.

I had been searching for a means to get myself back into writing daily. Writing creatively and with purpose.

I am more fresh in the mornings to do my writing and I know that is the best time to do it, but I have lacked the discipline to get up and do it. I was unable to focus my mind on purpose. I kept putting it off for years.

I would still write. I had written a few new short stories for a writing class I took back in the fall of 2016. That was over a year ago. I haven’t finished a story since.

My mind flows with ideas of stories, a podcast with my kids, and a podcast for myself. I thought of editing a young adult novel I had written many years ago that has been in the editing stage for just as long.

I just could not focus or find a way to get my mind to stop wandering the trail of “I’ll get to it if these particular things are in order.”

Excuses.

Then I got Julia’s book. I read the first chapter on the basic tools. The two most important tools being the Morning Pages and the Artist’s Date. They are crucial, according to Julia, if I was to truly let my creativity flow.

That was one of the most powerful chapters I have read in any book in a very long time. Years ago, I had read a book about writing and it had suggested that I write three pages a day double spaced and soon I would have a completed novel within a of couple months. But I went one step further with that and I wrote three pages a day single spaced. I had completed my first adult novel in a month and a half.

It felt great to have accomplished that feat that I had been wanting to do for so long. I spent another month or so editing and revising. I gave it to two friends and an aquantance to read. They gave good feedback. I attempted to get an agent and even knew someone who worked for an agent but I was met with rejection.

That is besides the point. The point is that I had disciplined myself to write everyday in the morning and I finished a novel.

The young adult novel came a few years later, but I wrote that whenever I had a moment to write. I also finished a script for a graphic novel around that same time. For both of those, I had an outline that helped to guide my writing and so wrote whenever I got a moment to type something up.

It also helped that I worked at a job where I had a lot of down time and access to a computer.

So, all this rambling. Sorry.

My point is that over the past few years I didn’t have the discipline to get up in the morning to write. I didn’t have the outlines for a story. I had nothing.

Then I read one chapter in The Artist’s Way and it changed the way I thought about the process of writing.

Two things: writing three morning pages in a note book, front page only, and take two hours out of my week to treat the artist within me to something artsy.

Starting December 27th, I got up at 6:30am and wrote my first three pages. The best part of this is that it is stream of conscious writing. All I have to do is just start writing. No expectations. No direction. Just write. Like going for a run to get back in shape. No direction. Just run to build up the cardio.

So I started running. I’ve written everyday since.

I took myself on my first Artist’s Date to the Philly Art Museum the day after New Year’s.

I’ve started to edit my young adult novel two chapters in the evenings that I don’t have the kids. I don’t have them this weekend so I will be editing more chapters at B&N on Saturday. It will be my artist’s date this week.

I’ve only read the first two chapters of The Artist’s Way. The next chapter is Week 2. I’m not sure when I will get to that chapter. And it doesn’t matter to me right now if or when I get to that next chapter. All I know is that I am being good to my artists right now by doing these two simple things. Those two simple things have made a huge impact on how I think about myself as a writer and have freed him.

There is another book I have read over these past few weeks that has presented me with a new way to think about myself and the world with which I interact. It is Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. I’ll post about that another time.

My next post will be another of my music posts, but this one will be different. It will be a song I composed this evening as a way to let my inter musician out to play a little.

Stay tuned for that.

Nate

Shear Panic

Recently, I woke up in the morning with almost paralyzing anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call out sick. I wanted to just stay in bed.

I was sick. I was in a grip of hopelessness.

There have been some changes happening at my place of employment and I am overwhelmed.

I’m a manager and whenever there is change, I am one of a few who have to coordinate the change among our limited staff and resources.

And I am worn out.

One of the other managers is moving on and out of the company. She is number four of those who have moved on within the past two years. Every time one of them has moved on, more change has occurred.

And I’m worn out.

In the mornings, I wake up to NPR playing on my clock radio. It’s news I can listen to. Normally. But that particular morning it was one bad headline after another. Budgets that support big business. Political support of child and women molesters. Repeal of protected lands so oil and gas companies can drill.

I had watched a Netflix documentary that past evening, “Saving Capitalism.” If you want to know what it’s about, just see my description of NPR’s news cast in the last paragraph.

A raping of society in several ways that keeps getting worse. Nothing was right or fair in the world.

And I am worn out.

I eventually got up and out of bed. I’m not truly sure how I did it but I did. I showered and even managed to get food in me. My anxiety usually suppresses my appetite, but I made myself eat.

I took many deep breaths along the way. I used all my coping techniques that I could think of to get me through.

Then while getting my shoes on, my wall broke down. My skills were of no use to me anymore at that moment.

The tears came. Real crying came. Not just watery eyes and feeling overtaxed. But real crying. Sound and all.

I hated being brought to that point. Why had I been brought to that point?

The crying felt good. I obviously needed to cry. I was hurting inside. For many reasons. I had been strong for so long. I had to stop being strong. It was hurting me.

I’m still hurting. I’m still getting up each day. I am still worn out, but I’m looking forward.

It is time. Time that I was looking and attempting to move on from my pain.

Nate