Share Your Art

I had tried writing when I was in high school; plays mostly, because I had the drama bug big-time. I loved to read, so I thought that trying to do what all of those authors and playwrights and poets I loved had done would be easy.

It so wasn’t.  And I was disappointed and discouraged.

Sure, one of my plays got performed at an arts festival at school—but I’m still convinced it was only because it had multiple roles for my friends to participate in.  And one of my other ones was put in the college literary magazine—but only because it’d been the only play submitted.

Last spring, the writing itch reappeared.  I’d seen an opportunity to try it out—a free poetry workshop at a local café—and though I was terrified, I went.

Our leader for the workshop was genuine, gentle and most of all, gifted.  She not only encouraged and guided us, but she gave us example after example of poets to enjoy and try to emulate.  It was so good, I signed up for the next workshop she was doing.  And then one on screenwriting.  And even another one on short fiction after that.

I was hooked.

And the best part of those workshops? Being forced to share what we’d done with others.

I know—that sounds like it’s not a good thing. Being coerced into something usually bears a negative connotation.  In this case, though, it was just what I needed to get going.  And I haven’t given up again yet.

Here’s what I’m getting at—in case you missed it in the title.  Share your art.

I recently read an article online that inspired me to remind you that you should do this. The article was about Sister Corita Kent. She wrote a book, Learning by Heart:  Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit, on this subject that was published in 1992, and one quote from the book in the article resounded with me:

“’We can all talk, we can all write, and if the blocks are removed, we can all draw and paint and make things.’”

What a beautiful idea.  Each of us can find something to say or to give to others to add love, beauty or meaning to our existence here.

Think you can’t sing? Did you ever try? Maybe you should give it a shot.

Want to create art out of pebbles or sand or toothpicks? Go for it.

But then the catch is—share it.  What good will it do others if you keep it hidden away?  None.  But you needn’t just do it for them. Do it for you.

Art is an outlet and release from stress, from worry and from the mundane. It’s a productive way to escape the social media maelstrom we’re all engrossed in, whether we want to be or not.  You can unplug in art. You can recharge. You can use it as a way to meet new people by joining writing groups or crafting circle or just using your art as a talking point to start a conversation with someone new. You might just find a new friend, or another hidden artist there, too.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Take Comfort

My husband often makes fun of me.

He doesn’t do it to be mean. I’m sure it’s because he cares.  One of the main things he teases me about: watching movies I’ve already watched a thousand times.  They cross all genres from Excalibur to Sixteen Candles to A Star Is Born (any version).

He can’t figure out why I don’t just watch some TV or at least a new movie—something current.  The answer, for me, is simple.

There is safety and comfort in the known.

Yes, I know all of the sayings.

“Comfort zones are comfortable because they’re familiar, not because they’re healthy.”

“Step forward into growth or step backward into safety.”

I get it.  But I decline.  I disagree.  It doesn’t apply all of the time.

Comfort matters.  It keeps us going.  There’s any number of ways we can find comfort in things we already know. I’m not convinced that that’s always something to regret or feel guilty about.

Think about religion.  Why do people go to church every week?  For their faith, yes.  Maybe because they like to listen to their priest or pastor.  These are true, but don’t many people go because it’s tradition?  Emile Durkheim, a famous sociologist, studied suicide and the major Judeo-Christian faiths back in 1897.  And he found that those faiths with the most ritual, the most repeated and known responses and holidays had followers had lower suicide rates.  I can’t think that this was just because of expectations, rather that there’s something to taking part in rituals and experiences you know and come to take comfort in.

Or take my life, for instance.  I’m all over the place.  I work two jobs. I’m running for an elected position in my job’s union. I write (for myself, for blogs, for a showcase coming up that I’m to be featured in), run a local writer’s group, and attend another one nearby.  I try to get roles in plays.  Sometimes I spend time with my husband and friends doing RPGs or board gaming. I even get to see my cats once in a while.  I have a lot to do.  And when downtime at home hits, my GenX side comes out—I need background noise, even if I’m doing something else.  Why wouldn’t I pick a movie I love that I know all of the lines to?

It gives me something that I can connect to without having to put more mental effort into it.  I know those lines.  I love those characters.  I can work on grading essays or concocting writing prompts while I watch Samantha Baker pine over Jake Ryan in the breaks here and there.

It gives me familiarity in a world that increasingly becomes more and more unfamiliar, whether it be because of world events or just because I’m simply getting older and haven’t had to process this terrain and these problems before.

So I say, find something that gives you comfort—maybe not food (though I have that problem, too)—but something else that you can come back to when you need to regroup.  I think that’s a way to find something healthy in the comfortable and known.

I’ll be getting back to my King Arthur legends and Judy Garland now.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Setting Intentions

I’m continuously looking for ways to stay positive. It’s difficult to do sometimes. Stress, two jobs, shortages of time, and chores all make it easy to feel gloomy. And somehow, gloom-and-doom is just simpler—at least for me.

Negativity isn’t the way, though. It weighs us down and eats at our insides till it takes over anything else that could have been. It draws on any creative energy we might have had to take it over for itself.

So, the title of this article comes into play—setting intentions.

Setting your intention is an idea I learned about (at least in name) when I was reading about the Wicca faith many years ago. But then, I saw it come in a book on mediation, and later in my Philosophy 101 in college.

What does it mean to set intention? It is different things, surely, in all of these situations, but in general they all lead back to the same thing. Setting intention helps you see things you might have missed, and gives an aim and appreciation to your actions and to your day.

What would your intention be? It doesn’t have to be complicated.

I think back to a day earlier this week. It was a day I needed to go to both of my jobs, and upon waking up, I just didn’t think I was going make it.

I decided I must set my intention for the day: to feel gratitude for what my life is now and to complete my day’s tasks to be able to see it continue.

I made a list of what was going to happen that day—for days when I have both of my jobs to go to, I can easily seem to see things have slipped my mind. My day job topped the list. Next would be office hours with two stacks of writings from my students to finish grading. After that I would go on to teach two sections of class, pick-up dinner on the way home, and finally outline some writing ideas. It was a daunting list.

My intention was not necessarily a goal. That seems to me to be more long term. But with the full rundown of what had to all happen on a usual Tuesday gave me focus of what I ought to do to keep things on track for myself (my mind and my soul, I mean) while going through the motions of everything else.

My jobs take a good deal of time, yes, but I find both rewarding in some way every day. I can assist people who need help from getting them benefits from the Commonwealth to giving my students new ways to better express themselves in a language that isn’t their first one. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to do both of these things. I see that they are not just a means to an end of financial security for my husband, the cats, and myself, but they’re fulfilling in a spiritual way, even if they often take all of the energy I can muster.

An intention can be simple—finding one small bit of beauty in a tough situation—or it could be more extensive, such as trying to work towards helping your community on a large scale through your actions. Just let it be something that you value and that you feel strongly about—let that be your intention each day.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Pop and Positivity

There’s a lot of talk anymore about self-care.

I have mixed feelings on this topic. Part of me thinks it’s sort of a crutch people use to get out of responsibilities and obligations. But I can see the other side of self-care, too, and can embrace the idea that there are times when you need to do things to re-group and prepare yourself to keep facing life.

Self-care is self-treatment, according to Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary. I think most of us see it more in light of what Dictionary.com said when I looked it up there though: “..[it is] care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson share something that I feel applies here–and while it doesn’t entirely embrace the idea of self-care, I think it’s on the right track, He writes:

“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”

Emerson’s idea extracts any medical sort of connection. I feel this is the best place to start for self-care–in your mind.

We’ve all had tough things to get through. But you can use your mind to work on a lot of these things at the onset.

In February 2006, my maternal grandfather (always affectionately known as “Pop-Pop”) passed away. He had been in the hospital, but I still hadn’t thought his death would be the ultimate outcome of the situation. I was a mess. No one had cared for me as I believed he had. A black loneliness encompassed me for months to come. I was worried that I wasn’t going to make it back to the usual light life has to offer.

Now–don’t worry–I haven’t forgotten Mr. Emerson. It so happens that several of the lessons my Pop-Pop taught me applied directly to Emerson’s idea of controlling your life for yourself.

Pop was a man of action. He didn’t stop to warn you that a lesson was coming. He just gave it. The first one from him that applies here is “trust your gut, but check your facts.” If it seems like a bad idea, it likely is. If someone seems negative all of the time, in relation to you or others in general, they probably are a negative person. Their words and actions are proof of what they are truly like as a human being. Don’t fail to trust yourself. Keep positive things around you and focus on the good.

Next, he also taught me to “keep priorities in check.” Sometimes, that priority in life has to be you. But help others all you can. Get involved. And, at the same time, know where to draw the line to keep from being spread too thin.

Third: “Work through it.” This one doesn’t seem as if it’s in your mind, but it ends up it’s true, and it can apply to many areas. Work through problems to solve them, indeed, but with regard to yourself, don’t underestimate the alleviation of just doing something. Whether it’s a job, or a hobby, or charity work, keep your hands and yourself from being idle too long. It’ll add to your confidence, self-worth, and give your mind a chance to work through other things while you’re keeping yourself occupied. Remember the last bit from lesson Number Two from Pop as well–still be mindful of when you need to stop.

Lastly, my grandfather exemplified the idea of “mind over matter.” He was as close to a Stoic as I think I might meet, mostly because he knew not to broadcast every emotion on his face. But do you have to do this? No. I know I couldn’t. But you can think of that technique to try to keep problems or anger from getting the best of you. Think through things fully (if possible) before you just act on a whim. You can control those external factors, or at least “fake it until you make it.”

By keeping your own positive outlook in check, you may find it easier to share with others.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Fate Up Against Your Will?

I’ll be honest. I was leery of posting this– because it will have to make me more accountable. But I’ll get to that.

The title of this piece is a line from an Echo and the Bunnymen song, “The Killing Moon.” It got me thinking on the way to work today.

How much do you consider your will? For me, it is an ever-present entity, and one I constantly struggle with in many ways. I blame my will, or willpower, for the weight issues I’ve had a good portion of my life. I’m the first to admit that some chicken and waffles or a Tart ‘n’ Juicy IPA are nigh impossible for me to refuse. Often, I blame my lack of willpower when it comes to these decisions.

But this is a paradoxical idea, for I know with certainty that I have a strong will. I push myself. I relish challenges. I work two jobs—one to pay bills (mostly) and the other because I love teaching others about language.

So what’s the problem otherwise? Why don’t I want to challenge myself to deal with this weight thing once and for all? It’d be easy to blame it on fate and say to myself, “It’s just going to be like this.” But I’ve done that before, and don’t want to do it again.

I tried to come up with a list to guide me. Let’s get to basics here:

Step One: Make a goal that motivates you.

What will your goal be? More exercise? A vacation to someplace you’ve always wanted to see? To reconnect with a loved one?

Step Two: Make the goal specific and measurable.

Don’t make it too broad—the more specific it is, the easier to will be to keep track of it. And think about how you can measure your goal. Think about what will show you your progress.

Step Three: Make it relevant and attainable.

A relevant goal makes sense. Have it be something you actually want in your life as change. Yet don’t make it so daunting it’s not achievable. If it’s not attainable, start with a smaller first goal as a step to the bigger one.

Step Four: Give yourself a time limit.

This is a challenge, and there’s nothing like an approaching deadline to keep you on track.

Step Five: Make yourself accountable.

Write it down. Consider keeping a journal of your progress. Or mark that deadline on a calendar and note each day what progress you’re making towards the end goal.

Step Six: Delineate your plan.

When you write the goal down, add in what things you need to accomplish the goal within your time frame. Or put it as a reminder in your phone’s calendar. Do what you have to in order to keep track of what’s happening.

Step Seven: Stick to it.

Make yourself keep track of the goal—even if it’s only for a few minutes each day. Write down successes. Track struggles so you can watch out for them as the process continues, and learn how to try to counteract them. Leave motivational quotations related to your goal in your phone’s reminders or in your journal. Do what you have to do to keep from slipping up.

Will you have slip-ups? Undoubtedly. We are all a work in progress. However, increasing our consciousness of how to improve ourselves is part of the idea, and knowing these things should help you cultivate strategies to keep working towards other goals in the future, too.

Set that goal for improvement.

No more letting fate have its way with us.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.