Building a Body of Work

In the first decade of my adulthood, I have often come back to the idea that I was lacking a body of work. I have realized that the body of work comes over time. That may seem like an obvious statement. But it is not so obvious. I listen to podcasts and read books by people who have been working on their body of work for decades. The disparity in my thinking rested in that I did not see the correspondence between accumulation and expertise. There are a couple of points to further look into here, accumulation and the building of a body of work.

First, let’s look at accumulation. Now, depending on what we find to be our calling or great interests, we can look at accumulation in more than one way. Accumulation can also occur without a direct gain of knowledge (let’s talk about this in another blog post). Let’s take writing as our first example. I have been working on building a body of work for my writing since I was about seven years old. Most of that time was spent unknowingly doing such. But let’s say my body of work started about 4 years ago, when I started this public blog. In the past few years, I have been accumulating blog articles.

These blog articles demonstrate a few things, including: I am interested in writing outside of being paid to do so, and I have the diligence to continue studying beyond structured schooling. Now, this is my public accumulation. It is for the sake of releasing information into the world that I think is interesting because it offers thought alternatives. Of course, I also have a decent body of private accumulation of writings. These live in about 10 journals that I’ve filled up. I used to get rid of all of my private writing. But since becoming more comfortable with my process of self-exploration, I have kept all of my private writing.

In addition to accumulating public blog articles and private journal writings, I also have a professional body of work. Now, this is owned by companies, so I don’t show this work in a portfolio. It is often enough in the professional world to simply give companies and other professionals a good understanding of what body of work I have written for pay. Aside from professional work, I have also created a body of work comprised of two novels, one of which is now published and available on Amazon.

This may seem like a lot of work. And it has been. I write every single day. But I would not have it without accumulation. I remember starting my blog and believing that it was too late for me. I wasn’t a traditionally published author, so what place did I have carving out my own little plot on the internet? Who was I to put my name on a website URL and publish my personal thoughts? I did it anyways. And shortly after I started my blog, I gained the courage, through discipline and letting go, to begin writing my first book.

I used to feel that I had to qualify what I spent my time on. I asked myself the value in all that I was doing. But I felt that contributing to this blog and writing books was what I was being called to do deep inside. Writing is my complete release and my raging freedom. I don’t have to publish everything I write, and I definitely keep most of my writing private. But what I do put up is my public accumulation, my contribution to my body of work. The ego was not the part of me that wanted to attach a body of work to my name. The ego was the voice making me question my place in the world, when I have a good idea of it.

So the first part of building a body of work is simply accumulating. It’s not releasing daily content. It’s not putting monetary pressure on the things you love to do most. It’s diligence over the duration of time. There is no need to be an expert now. There is no need for perfection. At the end of the day, when I am finished my professional work, I am still a writer. I will continue to write and create private and public works. There is no incentive beyond the feeling I get that I am fulfilling what my soul most wants to do, which is get words onto a page.

Building a body of work is the more calculated form of accumulation. A body of work shows a personality behind the work. An accumulation can be bits thrown to a wall. For a writer, it can include a drawer full of poems written on napkins, old grocery lists, photo-collages meant to be book covers. Accumulation is disorderly, contains mediums that are extraneous to the main themes of the work, unedited. It’s private, primal, un-curated, insecure, weathered, worn, hyperbolic.

The calculated body of work takes many forms for a writer. For me, it’s these blog articles because they show the themes that I like to work with in my writing. This blog is my outlet for alternative thoughts that I can’t otherwise speak into existence. It is here whenever I absolutely feel the urge that I need to get a thought out. The calculation rests in that I sensor my thoughts in this medium. This is not done to distort the message or manipulate the reader. It is meant to create a more understandable narrative. If I were to use a completely uninhibited stream of consciousness, the articles would become crowded with distracted thoughts that only I am able to make connections to. We all form strong mental associations to words and images, but it’s not useful for me to speak about the formations that I make as they are highly personal and amoebic.

The body of work gives other people a lot into the workings of the creator’s mind. With writing, you can learn far more about me from the words on this page than what I am saying directly. The more material I create and publish, the more you can make your own ideas about how I think and live my life. This idea of who I am lives uniquely in your brain as your perception. Although I can mostly control what goes into my body of work, I cannot fully control how my work is interpreted. The body of work does that for me. A consensus of my writing is made outside of me, based on what I have released.

The value of a body of work is immense. Consistency and perseverance are required. There is romance is the daily toil. One must accumulate, and simultaneously build a body of work. One must work in private, and also show something – not everything – to the world.


Capture and Freedom

To me, capture is the sense that I cannot fully express my individuality. And freedom is full expression of self. Navigating the world that we live in with a sense of freedom is unheard of because we live within the bounds of systems that rely on us to have needs. I was visiting my bookshelf this morning, mourning for the loss of a great many books that I gave away in my minimalist adventures. I found that there were unread books that I still stirred a great interest in me. Since we are in social isolation, I find it very rewarding to remind myself that I have far more tools that I thought I did. I don’t need to rush out to a book store right now. I have a couple of hundred books waiting to be read for the first time, or revisited.

So on to capture and freedom. One of the books I revisited this morning is OSHO’s Love, Freedom, Aloneness. I own several of his books and I enjoy OSHO’s perspective immensely. Lately, this book is highly pertinent. Coming into this world as a child without a solid family system has always weighed on me and made me feel less-than. As I go through this social isolation without a single other soul for support, I find that it’s more important than even to understand that there is nothing innately wrong or bad with being alone. I have known this, of course, but to read literature about it solidifies and validates my experience. Eventually, I would like to validate my own experience and philosophies without relying on books like these.

As an additional point, I have always found that I much prefer to be alone than to be in company. And our modern society views this lifestyle as dangerous and anti-social. So I have spent a considerate amount of my time masking this need for aloneness with relationships that were wholly unsatisfying, draining, and damaging. We are washed with so many pieces of information that tell us that we need to have this relationship, and that relationship. When  force myself into society’s mold, I feel suffocated and it takes me months to regroup and recharge after a stint with “normalcy”.

The chapter I was drawn to during today’s reading is called Solitary and Elect. Here, he speaks of the requirement for society to have needful citizens. Without needs, society would not be possible. Further, he says “you need to be needed; you have a deep need to be needed. If nobody needs you, you feel useless, meaningless. If somebody needs you, he gives you significance; you feel important.” This is a common web I see in workplaces, where an individual may start a position with the goal (conscious or subconscious) to make themselves indispensable. This is done through means of excelling, or more covertly and irresponsibly, through means of creating output in a way that cannot be duplicated with ease except by oneself.

He talks about therapy too, in that we pay someone to listen to us so that we can feel worthy of being listened to. Unfortunately, those raised with improper attachments who recognize that they are deprived of a listening ear end up paying a lot of money for something that others receive for free. Of course, there are some more complexities to the therapy example as we look more deeply at attachment theory. But on a base level, when the community improperly socializes a child, they grow increasingly needy for lack of attention or shut off that mechanism entirely and become distant and wholly uninvolved.

OSHO speaks of meditation as the disturbing to intimate relationships because it brings in spirituality, which he refers to as religion. Note that I am going to use the term spirituality instead because oftentimes, when people think of religion, there is a connotation of organized religion. In a relationship, one would rather have they partner be a drunkard than a mediator. With spirituality, “the fear is that she or he is trying to become sufficient unto herself or unto himself”.

Rather than enjoy the bondage and capture, because it feeds our ego, the alternative is to choose solitary life. This does not mean being alone. It means rather than one is happy whether or not someone is walking by their side. “He never waits for anybody and he never looks back,” he continues. In aloneness, one is whole. The capture is in relying on others to feed the ego. The freedom is in being fine with or without a person and circumstance.

Achieving this state of freedom has been highly complicated by people, naturally. They have words on a page to sell. It is important in this process to understand that there is no escape from society. The imperative path for me to take is allowing myself to be drawn towards the things that I find a natural affinity to. It is not admitting capture; it is living in semi-bondage and recognizing my worldly limitations, while growing in mind and meditative practice. Freedom may surely not be attainable, but we can all work within society to cultivate attitudes of non-attachment and aloneness.


Weaving Spiritual Practice Into Daily Life

In my last post, I talked about how I use Tarot to aid with my memory and constructing my personal narrative. All of this is work is done in the context of my ordinary life. During social isolation, I have allotted myself more time for my spiritual practice in the mornings, while taking a lunch break, and in the evenings. This has allowed me to increase my knowledge and comfort with some of the tools I use, as well as deepen my comfort with some of the practices I have been using for a long time to self-soothe and re-center.

Journaling

The spiritual habit that I engage in the most is by far writing. At the moment, I keep a vegan leather bound journal by Magic of I. My other go-to is squared Moleskine paper cover journals in dark blue. I have a stash of those ready since I write a significant amount. Every morning, I begin my day with at least a paragraph. I have very vivid dreams each night, so I try to write them down before I forget them. Then throughout the day, I return to my journal and make addition entries when I feel that there is something worthy of noting, when I feel anxious, or when I have a bit of extra time.

I write about anything that is happening in my day and how I feel about it. I will also jot down any triggers or sudden memories that arise. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been having a lot of memories flood in recently about my past, and it’s important that I record them so I can acknowledge the memory and perhaps dig into it a bit more.

Tarot

In addition to writing in my journal in the morning, I also make it a habit to work with Tarot. I generally am drawn to the Angel Tarot, the Rider Waite, or the Herbal Tarot for these readings. My questions are loose and I generally just try to get a feel for the day, including anything what I should pay attention to or watch out for. These readings serve two purposes – deepening my knowledge of Tarot and working on my self-awareness.

I pick three cards (and sometimes clarifiers), write them down in my journal, and then work on a short narrative about how the cards tie in together. After my morning reading, I often revisit Tarot at least one other time during the day or night. With my second reading, I may draw some accompanying oracle cards to draw out a more robust message. Oracle cards also help me to soften up a reading. Tarot can be a harsh truth-teller at times, so it’s not a bad idea to work with oracle in the same reading. This is especially if you haven’t been working with Tarot for long, like me.

Planetary Positions and Moon Phases

I work with the Magic of I 2020 planner to determine if there are any astrological events that I should be paying attention to. For example, we have currently entered Taurus season. I take this into account when I interact with people at work and in my personal life. During this time of the year, I am reminded to focus on comforts at home and enjoy the pleasure of food. Since LA doesn’t have drastically contrasting seasons, it is easier for me to work with the astrological periods for rebalancing and shifting my focus.

One way that I work with planetary positions is by consulting readings in correspondence with my own astrological birth chart. With this, I can highlight parts of my life that I should be paying special attention to. If anything these readings, which I obtain through the app Co-Star, are points that I can think about. I can choose whether the message is applicable or not, and this helps to ground me. Seeing myself as impacted by gravitational circumstance really helps to differentiate and remind me that I must let go of what I cannot control.

Maintaining a Home

There is something profoundly healing to me in maintaining my own apartment. I grew up moving a lot, and never feeling like I had a home. I never felt grounded. So I am working this year on creating a feeling of home in my apartment, regardless of how long I will actually be living here. This means that I light candles, burn incense, care for my plants, make delicious meals and baked goods, and put artwork I’ve created on the walls.

It is remarkable how much of a difference in mentality I have now that I feel more settled in my apartment. To show my thankfulness for all that I have, I take care of what I have. I don’t neglect it. I make my home into a living space. My two cats help me immensely with that feeling. They instantly make me feel like I’m home, but those extra items of comfort add to it all. And I’ve learned that feeling like you have a home is not a luxury, but a necessity. Home can look like a lot of different things, and for me, I’m still figuring a lot of that out.

Music

I play music a lot of the day; it’s very healing. If I’m particularly stressed, I will even have some nature sounds on during a conference call when I’m muted. Throughout the day, I listen to a variety of music, from Classical to R&B to pop to alternative. I have a variety of different playlists of Spotify, each with a different sound for a different mood and time of day. When I am not listening to music, I like to have speaking as background noise. I don’t have a TV, but I put on YouTube videos of people talking about things that interest them. That’s been a big saver during social isolation since I live alone. It’s nice to hear another human voice speaking.

Music is spiritual to me because I use it to obtain slightly altered states of consciousness. If I want to get into a deep mode of writing, I have a playlist for that. I crank up the volume and put on my noise cancelling headphones. I know just those songs that are going to push me into that state of creativity. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to train my brain to respond that way to the playlist, or if they inspire creativity on their own merit. I expect that it’s a combination of both.

 


Tarot, Memory, and Personal Narrative

I will start off by saying that I’m thankful to the many people before me who’ve opened up about their occult interests. Because of them, I’m able to speak openly about my usage of Tarot and oracle cards to deepen my self knowledge and help to narrativize my life journey.

I kept this side of myself under wraps up until pretty recently partly because of the fact that I work a “normal” office job and didn’t want this interest to impact my professional life. But the new atmosphere of self exploration has really enabled me to come out with some of my alternative interests, and I am happy to share them.

I was first drawn to Tarot about four years ago when I purchased the Aquarian Tarot deck. I don’t remember where I got it, probably online. But it sat in my room for a long time. I had the learned false understanding that Tarot was evil and that it was somehow tampering with fate or the future. When I cracked open the pack, the cards themselves were intimidating, as the symbolism was difficult for me to grasp. There are 78 cards in each Tarot cards, each of which has a distinctive meaning. I jumped in too deep and too quickly. I started with laying large spreads, or card formations. I relied heavily on the booklet, not realizing that I could learn the cards based on imagery and intuition.

The Aquarian deck wasn’t around long. If you’ve stuck around my blog, you’ll know I’m a failed minimalist who used to compulsively purge items. It was a couple of years before I purchased another deck. This time, rather than dive straight into Tarot again, I stumbled onto oracle cards. These decks generally have fewer cards, and they do not follow a specific formula like Tarot does. Oracle cards tend to be easier to read, providing a word or sentence with accompanying imagery. These decks usually also come with a booklet of thorough descriptions for each card.

When I became comfortable with reading oracle cards, I moved back to Tarot by purchasing the Rider Waite Smith deck. This is the most widely used deck and recommended to beginners. The imagery can be frightening at first, especially when you see cards like the Tower and the Ten of Swords. But I was able to soften how I view the cards after learning the symbolism more in depth. I am now very comfortable looking at the deck’s imagery.

I learned Tarot by sitting with the cards, working with them daily, and reading a good amount of literature on the meanings of the cards. The beauty of Tarot is that it encourages you to trust in your remembrance of the meaning, and also to engage your inner trust to bring the messages together. Tarot is a lot like writing in that it takes seemingly disparate concepts, figures, and abstract symbols, and requires you to weave a narrative. It connect concepts, and enables the reader and the answer-seeker to work in collaboration to strengthen their conceptualization of the matter they have brought to the table for questioning. One of my favorite things about Tarot is that it is not an absolute. It’s rather a practice in seeing possibilities, living in the flow of life, and reawakening trust in self.

Tarot and Memory

I have had a weak memory for my whole life, and I believe this has come from continuous and prolonged childhood neglect, abuse, and trauma. There is research indicating that if you do not receive the proper emotional attachment to a parent figure in infancy, it will permanently damage your brain. Many resources discuss how devastating your childhood can be on the remainder of your life. Every adult relationship is impacted. There are ways of healing, and it takes time for some. Others unfortunately never see themselves as the lovable and completely whole, unique people that they are.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, I have had a lot of time to myself to sort through painful memories. Part of this recent recover of memory seemingly has to do with the fact that we are all socially isolated. However, I have socially isolated myself on and off for my entire adult life. So I believe that part of the reason for the influx of memories has to do with my deeper and more consistent engagement with Tarot and oracle cards.

I have been reading Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, which walks you through the Major Arcana. This is the first 22 cards of a Tarot deck that represent various stages in a human’s life on Earth, from the Fool to the World. These archetypes can stand for stages like motherhood (the Empress), the influence of institutions (the Emperor), intuition (The High Priestess), Death, and so on. These are universal archetypes that all of us go through. When I look at the images and see them as part of a greater order and story, I am able to form some sense of the experiences that I have gone through. I feel connected to humanity through the pain and beauty that has entered and left my life.

More personally, I have been able to connect details of my life to cards, as they spark a connection for me to explore. Sitting with the Star card, which is associated with Aquarius (also my astrological Sun sign) has triggered memories from my childhood that involve the feeling of the card. If you have not seen it, it shows a naked woman pouring water into a body of water and onto land. She is the calm after the storm. She rests in nature and I view her as unbothered. When I was a child, I was unbothered and connected with nature when I kept a diary of the plants I encountered at my local botanical garden. Memories like this help me to construct a more composed collection of instances that can help me with strengthening my sense of identity.

As someone with my background, it is important for me to have daily rituals like using image association to trigger memories. It enables me to collect data about my identity, which without kindling, would lay a path for me to remain a shell of a person like I was expected to be as a child. When I look at images, remember something, and then write it down, I solidify my place in this world. I encourage myself to take up space and to work towards expressing myself more fully.

Tarot and Personal Narrative

I have been working with Tarot daily in conjunction with journaling. This is the most effective way that I have found to lean into my spirituality, while remaining grounded and practical. I find that the combination enables me to whirl the world of symbolism and mystical messages into the tactical act of writing pen to paper. The practice feels well rounded to me, as it employs color stimulation, meditative awareness of visual details, and engaging the analytical act of writing down concepts and self-reflective streams of consciousness.

The diversity in stimulus boosts my ability to formulate my personal narrative. As I learn more and more that it’s okay for me to have and express my personal identity, I find that it’s more and more important to work every day to connect the neural passageways that reinforce to me that I’m multi-faceted, hold a range of emotions and beliefs, and can continue to learn and grow. I quoted Orwell in my last article in saying that the true way to destroy someone is to undermine and dismantle their understanding of their own personal history.

Tarot has helped me slowly build up my own conception of where I came from, what my past looks like, why I’ve done certain things. Importantly, it’s also provided contrast with my past self in encouraging journaling as a counterpart to picking cards. In this process, I have been able to record my process of identity construction, and can track progress. Journaling in accompaniment of Tarot has also given me a historical document to reference when I am in need of clarification for timelines and recollection of specific details.

Writing my personal narrative has been the most effective technique so far during my process of healing, and will continue to be an important part of my life. It is the text that will never see the light of day, but perhaps it is the most important body of literature that I will produce. That’s since it’s the one place where I am able to be fully, completely myself. And in that, I will one day be able to provide public-facing writing that may have an impact on others.

But back to Tarot. It is far from evil, as I’d previously thought. It is an incredible tool for the process of diving into the self, including the good parts and the not-so-good parts. The Tarot is non-judgmental. It’s simply a representation of the parts of life that make us human. It’s neutral. It requires you to come up with a lot of your own answers. It pushes you to get to your own core to tap into the things you already know. It doesn’t condescend. All the imagery is laid out. It doesn’t put a time limit on your session; you can walk around with the same card for days.

Tarot is a tool for the self, the whole self. It reminds you everyday that you’re perfect just the way you are, and that things are happening because that’s just life. And it’s okay. Life is moldable, malleable, inevitable, and incredibly, insanely thought-provoking and transformative. Life doesn’t pause. And I hope more people feel open and vulnerable enough to engage in self-healing practices that they feel drawn to. A lot of people are suffering in the world, and we can make the biggest difference by caring deeply and profoundly for our individual wellbeing.


Identity Through Narrative

In the past few weeks, I have been researching personal identity through narrative from the perspective of survival of trauma and complex PTSD. It’s a rehashing of my thesis topic, in which I proposed that identity is formed and stripped through the power of personal narrative. George Orwell said “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” While in my thesis I cited literary academic sources, I have been deep diving into psychological research that speaks of this same idea. In Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, the author relates that if you don’t have a basic sense of who you are as a person, you can’t learn how to emotionally engage with other people at a deep level.

The resources that I have consulted over the past few weeks all promote the idea that we must speak about our personal experiences to become freed of the psychological weights we have been carrying around. When we create a narrative around our experiences, we are able to own them. Further, through the various outlets I have been consulting, the common thread is that there are some inset narratives that must be dismantled and rewritten.

There are narratives that we tell ourselves, such as “I am unloveable”, “I am worthless”, and “I am a burden” that may have carried over from the past. In claiming our personhood and reintegrating our personalities, we must come face-to-face with these damaging narratives. We can slowly begin to brush these thoughts away as they come. And they will come. There is no shame or guilt in having thoughts. It is in our hands to be gentle and let them come and go.

Sometimes, we will meet people who will attempt to destroy our identity. Maybe they will not even realize what they are doing. Maybe they will catch us in a moment of vulnerability, such as when we start a new job, as we’re moving, when we’re going through some personal issues. These people will tear apart those very things that make us feel secure. They will have us feeling like empty shells walking around, unable to operate without their opinions. Those are the people who take away the power of our personal narrative. And in that, they temporarily shrink our identity.

Not until we come out of spells like this do we realize that we relinquished our very personhood to someone else’s insecurities. And then we may take on more damage and more damaging narratives by telling ourselves that people are not trustworthy and that they are not meant to see our truest selves. If we have been through enough trials of broken identity, we may wake up one day and realize this. Perhaps we’ll stumble on a book that will frame identity in a new way, or someone will say something to us that will break from the norm and get us thinking differently.

When this happens, it is up to us to run with it. Not walk, run. Pick up as much as we can and sprint for that person inside of us, that true identity that we lost in childhood. We lost this identity because we thought it was safer that way. If only we were more quiet, or more nice as small children, then maybe we wouldn’t have been subjected to the abuse. But when we wake up, we start to realize that it was never our fault. We were just small. We adapted in the best way we could, and that carried over far into our adulthoods.

And when we finally wake up from that dizzy spell of rejection and manipulation, only then can we see that it is all of humanity that is hurting. And we all hurt in different ways. Some of us hurt ourselves (internalizers); some of us hurt others (externalizers). We have a bit of both. We can claim the pain and we can claim our actions, but never the actions of others. We can fathom that tomorrow will be a better day, because we will continue to steep in the lovingness of self-awareness, fend off the negative self-talk, care for ourselves like nobody else ever could, and try to make those nourishing connections we always craved.

When we have untangled the horrid things we’ve endured and cast them to the winds, driven through our thought deserts alone, gained enough courage to be vulnerable, then we can stop fighting. We can drop our shields and pour out all of the last hurt and mistreatment and even the things we’ve done to hurt others. And when we are so tired that we drop to our knees, we will feel there is nothing left. Nothing more that we can possibly go through that will make things right. And that’s when we’ll give up our healing fantasy. That healing fantasy was meeting a partner to put us whole again, our mother coming to hug us and say sorry, a friend realizing that they’d abandoned us when we needed them most, strangers taking out their frustrations on us. That healing fantasy will disintegrate. And when we’re still there, on our knees, we’ll realize all at once that we were always whole.

A rush of energy will make us briefly dizzy and then make us itch to stand up. And we’ll stand and as we do, we’ll begin to rebuild our identity. “What makes me happy?”, we’ll say. “How do I like to do my hair?”, we’ll cast into the mirror. “What do I like to do?” And it’s those questions that will weave a narrative of self, and our identity will come to feel more integrated as the days, weeks, months, and years go by.

Our identity will have gone from being fractured. We will have come from feeling discomfort in our own bodies. We will create a new narrative of ourselves, and it will change and flow. And it will repel the people who want to hurt others. And it will welcome those who want to share the precious time we have here on Earth. It will cater to those outside ourselves who see our value and respect our boundaries. It will place the things in front of us that we never thought we could have.


I Published a Book

The Unwelcome Portal is a young adult fantasy/horror novel. We follow the main character, Ada, who lives with her emotionally absent mother, her distant father, and her two brothers in France. As she’s walking to school one day, she has an encounter with the neighbor girl, who has an odd way of interacting and appears to be living in a dark house. This interaction brings her into a world of things unseen by grownups. Well, all grownups except for her mysterious old neighbor Claude and a deceased schoolmate’s father. Ada is confronted with startling realizations about the events going on around her, seeing the reality that her mother cannot understand, that her dreams are nightmares, and that the other people she’s surrounded by may be far more sinister than she had imagined. The Unwelcome Portal is a creepy tale of childhood exploration through the unknown things that we tend to leave behind in adulthood.

If you’d like, you can purchase my ebook, The Unwelcome Portal, on Amazon.