The last blog entry got me thinking. Since we got back from Arizona, I've felt weird. Not bad, or sad, just - off center, like something wasn't right. I didn't know what it was. But it felt like something was out of place.
I was talking to someone after I made that last blog entry and it finally hit me: this is the first time I haven't had something big or in progress in my life in 3 years. Since 2009 at work there have been law changes, regulation changes, administrative changes, and adjustments to get the work move done. At home, I wrapped up a large cross stitch project in the summer and then dived back into writing novels. I've written 3 novels and one shorter book since then, and have published 6 pieces. It's been creating, researching, writing, and promoting for a good long while.
And now, it's done. Things are settled from moving the programs and everything is up to date.On the writing front, Move is published and publicity is pretty much a part of my routine now. I've shifted my focus to short stories, which is still fun but isn't as intensive as a novel. In fact, this is the first time since November 2009 that I haven't been at some stage of working on a novel.
So life has settled back into a routine. It's just going along and living day to day. Simply the business of keeping things moving. That's what was weird for me. No big projects. No efforts to update, progress, or get things done. The fields are sowed and now, we simply care for them and wait for the harvest.
It's been a while since I was in this place, and that's why I feel weird. It's been 3 years of working and striving and now, the work is done and all I need to do is faithfully work at maintaining the progress that's been made. It's weird. And what's throwing me is that it shouldn't be. I remember a time when this was completely normal and now that I'm bad to it, I don't know what to do.
It's weird, but it's also a relief. It's almost like I don't know what to do now that something doesn't need doing. Perhaps it's a good time to rest. Shift my focus. The short stories are a good idea, as I really do need to work and improve in that area. And perhaps going back to cross stitching isn't a bad idea either. Those are things to do, and areas I enjoy. Why not rescale my efforts in different directions? Different is good.
It bothers me a little that normal seems weird, but in another way, I understand why. I also know that I'll settle in. My life is full and there's always plenty to keep my soul, heart and mind growning, learning and occupied. Boredom is not a problem that plagues me.
That's all today. It's a nice Saturday and heck, there's not a to do list so I might as well enjoy it. Bring on the coffee! Let's enjoy this beautiful day.
Take care and enjoy your weekend.
As we head into a new year, I ponder my resolution to have better balance in my life on a number of levels. One of those (very important) levels is in the area of stress reduction and reducing worry in my life. I think these are things we all struggle with, and recently I've come to realize there's a great deal that we impose on ourselves, especially when it comes to our relationships.
This realization came after having several people tell me things that other people said and/or did over the past few weeks and asked what I thought of it. I remembered that when I was under a therapist while going through my life changes a few years ago, one of the things she told me was that the secret to finding balance was realizing what was and wasn't my business. "You concern yourself with your responsibilities and what you control and let go of the things in the hands of others," she said. That's certainly true, and in fact remembering this advice upon being asked my opinion on these various situations and issues made me realize that people, in general, bring on a lot of their own stress by worrying about or fretting over things that other people think, say or do - things they have absolutely no control over.
Why do we do this? My first reaction was that it's arrogance. Frankly, we all have a tendency to beleive that everything is all about us - and that's wrong. The truth is that everything people think, say and do is all about THEM. It's a reflection of how they see the world. Even if they say that "others made me do it," the truth is that they made the decision on how to perceive things and on how to proceed. Nobody "makes" anybody do anything. Plus, by nature, people are going to do what's best for them and the ones closest to them. Why should they do something that benefits you 100% and them none at all when you aren't the center of THEIR world?
So there's one reason, but I don't think that's all of it, nor the major portion. In fact, I think if that were the whole reason, then it would mean that people in general are extremely selfish and short sighted, and I don't believe that such a narrow view applies to most people most of the time. Some maybe, but absolutely not all. Maybe not most. And remember, I said there's some truth to this. Maybe it's a small part, but I don't think that's a "once size fits all" explanation for it. Most people learn, grow, and gain a wider perspective on the world and as such, they aren't so shallow.
I believe another reason is that we want everybody to like us. The problem is, I recently read that there was actually some scientific study that at least 10% of people aren't going to like you. Frankly, I was surprised the percentage was that low. I thought it would be closer to 30%, but the latest study I read said 10% so we'll run with that. Why is this? Plain and simple, personality differences. Some types just don't play well together. If you don't believe it, ask any extremely emotional person I've come in contact with and they'll tell you I'm mean and don't give a crap about their feelings. I am, by nature, a person that leans more toward logic and reason in making decisions than emotion. I usually don't get along well with extremely emotional types that "just want peace" and "want everybody happy right now" because I beleive happiness comes from investing the time and hard work to do things right no matter how you feel about it "right now." If you do what's right, then it will work out in the end, and that's a happiness that last; not a vapor of high emotion that wears off when the party is over and the consequences have to be paid. In fact, since I've been working in professional licensing, I'd say my tendency to make decisions based on logic and reason have become a stronger because by nature of my profession, I'm obligated to do what's right no matter how people feel about it. I don't think that's a bad thing (of course), but I've caught some flack about it because I'm female, and by stereotype I'm supposed to be all about feelings. While I'm ok to say "alright, forget the 10% and thank God for and enjoy the other 90%, well, some people get awfully fixated on that 10% and believe that if they work harder then they can get a 100% approval rating. It seems their effort would be better spent nurturing relationships with the other 90% but in fact, sometimes they turn on the ones on their side to gain approval they'll never have, counting on forgiveness from that 90% that might come, but not realizing that it will have a higher price than they bargained for because broken trust is a very hard thing to rebuild. But it happens, all the time. I've experienced it; I've seen it; I've written about it. Hey, I'm a writer. The ugly underside of humanity is a playground of inspiration. Expose it to me at your own risk.
Just kidding - maybe. And a sidenote on the emotion thing: I'm interested to see if the stereotype of "hysterical emotion" in women downplays as more generations of women have careers.Working women don't have time to fret over every little wayward comment, rolled eye, questionable social media post, tear or tirade that comes their way. Or at least, me and my colleagues don't. But we'll see as time tells this particular tale.
So there's that. But not all people are emotional and out for approval ratings that would make politicians jealous, so reason #2 can't apply to everybody. But it does apply to enough that I believe it should be considered.
There is one more reason, and I think it applies to most of us. I believe the reason people get tied up in what others think, say and do is because they don't want to be alone in how they think or feel. They want to know that others agree with them. They want others to have an opinion with them, or to get mad with them, or to be sad with them, or to take up the cause with them because they don't want to be the only freak swimming against the tide. They want to know they're like everybody else and what the other person is doing is wild/selfish/stupid/crazy/nonsense/whatever. They don't want to be alone in their opinion or feelings because they don't want to look in the mirror and ask "is it them, or is it me?" We all want to be right. We all want the world to understand that our opinion is just as important as everybody elses'. We all want respect. Nobody wants to be a nobody. They want people to know that they're here, that they have value, and that they are just as important as the other 7+ billion people in the world.
Here's the thing, though: Going about it by getting tangled up in other peoples' business is a sign of insecurity. If you truly walk in faith and you're confident in yourself as the authentic human being you were created to be, then you don't need to beg or scream for attention. You humbly go about your own business, believing that the life God set before and the purposes you serve speak for themselves.
That's the cure. That's how you break free from this stress. You get busy living your own life and tending to your own businss and have the grace to accept others and the decisions they make without intruding into their lives with your opinions.
Does this mean you ignore others and don't care what they do? Of course not. You should always do your best to help people in need and if there's something you can do to help others on their life path, you certainly should. The key is to use common sense and discernment. Yes, we all have opinions on things, but we don't need to share them all the time. Everything that flies through your head doesn't need to fly out of your mouth. If you aren't asked for your opinion or advice, assume it's not wanted or needed and keep it to yourself. I'd even go so far as to say that you should still use caution in giving advice even if you ARE asked for it. As one of the elves said in The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, "elves don't give advice because all paths may run ill." Think before you speak. If in doubt, don't. And realize that advice is a take it or leave it thing - and in many cases, people leave it, so be prepared to have your advice or opinion rejected just in case and be prepared to not get offended. And please, for the love of God, if it won't make any difference and you have a thought - don't. Stop right there and go no further. If it's done and/or there's no way it's changing no matter what anybody says and you really need to get it out, set up a private blog or buy a journal to work it out, but don't go off on tirades and complain to everybody in the world about things you can't control involving people close to you. And don't ask or expect people to take sides with you unless you want to do the equivalent of renting a billboard that says I'M THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM. It makes you look bad and it makes other people run like hell from you when they see you coming. If it's something so big that you can't live with it, find a way to either deal with it or distance yourself from the situation. Just because a war's going on doesn't mean you have to be a soldier in it. Other people might want you to have their problems, but they can't draft you. You don't have to accept them and if you choose not to accept their problems, well then, it's over.
The point of this mile long blog is that I'm coming to understand that balance is something that we have to strive for in every area of life, and personal relationships are certainly a big element there. We do live in the world, with people, so having good, balanced relationships is an extremely important thing. And one way we can achieve balance in our relationships is by not being a busybody, minding our own business, and having the grace to let it be.
Thanks for hanging in there with me on this one. I hope you had a Happy Friday and that you have a great weekend.
I think we all understand that life is a journey. We are continually striving to become better than we are, and as such there will always be bigger goals to reach for and bigger dreams to attain. Every milestone we reach, every dream we achieve, every new discovery we make, will change us. Although the core of who we are remains constant, we should continue to grow and learn with each experience. Our roles and functions many change, but who we are deep in our soul won’t. This is why it’s so important to strive for authenticity and to find your true purpose. The only way to make the journey successfully is to know who you are deep inside, and to know where you’re going.
We’ve often heard it said that Christ should be the foundation of your life, and this is true. Remember, though, what a foundation is for – we’re supposed to build on it! Each of us were created to live in this world for a reason, and our job is to build ourselves up to be the best we can be based on this solid foundation. We’re supposed to construct rising layers and to build up ourselves and our presence in the world. If Christ is the foundation, then I believe it stands to reason that being authentic and honestly knowing ourselves is the ground floor. Everything else builds up from here and depends on the support of the layers beneath it. Christ gives us our spiritual roots, and knowing ourselves helps us to serve the world in the best way possible.
I truly believe that we can’t relate to other people and perform to the best of our ability if we don’t know ourselves. How can we? How can you get along with others if you don’t know yourself? How can you do your best when you don’t know where your talents and abilities lie? How can you form solid relationships with other people if you can’t be honest with yourself? How can you succeed when you can’t accept reality? You may be rooted in Christ, but you can still get stuck in horrible ruts if you don’t take the next step to knowing yourself and to find contentment in what God made you to be.
So what is contentment? It’s accepting the reality of where you are and working to strive for better. Life certainly isn’t perfect, and sometimes it can take you to dark places. This is the ugly underside of reality in an imperfect world. Life is going to hurt from time to time, and we may be completely dissatisfied with where we are. I certainly understand. I mentioned that I went through major changes in my personal and work life in 2010 and believe me, that was a special kind of hell. For many months I literally had no peace no matter where I went because battles raged all around me. Change is tough. It was hard enough to face two major transitions, but add to that the fact that change makes people very nervous and irritable and you understand what I mean by facing battles on every front.
How did I make it through? First, I believed in the promises that the Lord knows His plans for me and they are for good (Jeremiah 29:11) and that all things work together for good for those who love Christ and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). These promises, from the foundation of my faith, gave me the courage to stand up and take charge of my life. I claimed my life as my own and acknowledged that, although I couldn’t help the changes or control them, I certainly had a right to work them for the best. I sought advice from others I trusted, took advantage of every opportunity, and kept my eyes on the goal of coming through these transitions to building a life that was better than the one I had before. I wasn’t happy with my life, but I found contentment in knowing that the Lord was leading me through a transition that was taking me to a better life. I can honestly say that my life is better today than it was two years ago, and I’m grateful for that. It wasn’t easy – it fact, it was brutally painful in spirit– but I feel I’ve come out wiser and with knowledge and experience that will guide me through whatever comes next.
I believe this story shows that contentment doesn’t mean that things are perfect. As I said, we live in an imperfect world, and if you reserve your happiness for that magic day when it all comes together then you won’t be happy a day in your life. Contentment means accepting reality. It means resting in the Lord. It means being true to yourself. It means doing the very best you can in everything you do. And I do believe that is the secret to joy. It’s not an elated happiness or a dopamine high, but rather a sense of peace in doing the best you can with what the Lord has given you.
I think we owe it to everybody: God, ourselves and the world, to be authentic. After all, we are all part of the Body of Christ. We do His work in the world now. Isn’t that a job worth offering your absolute best for?
I’ve often said that when you first tell people that you want to be a writer, expect a lot of blank stares at best, and a reaction akin to announcing that you plan to become a serial killer at worst. That is, until you get published. Then everybody will know you and proudly proclaim that they knew you “back when.” They’ll completely forget all the times they said “why do you want to do that?” or “didn’t you graduate? Why not go back to school instead if that’s what you want to do?” Or any other number of “helpful suggestions” that included doing anything but that.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have support. Of course, those closest to me wanted me to succeed at making my dreams come true, but let’s face it – your inner circle is usually pretty small. Most of the people you know won’t be in it, and they certainly won’t understand the things that are most important to you. In fact, even those in your “inner circle” will eventually lose their enthusiasm for your personal pursuits if they don’t see results face, and often. It’s unfortunate, but peoples’ attention spans are usually much shorter than God’s timing. Most people don’t have patience to stay the course, especially in a culture where everything is instantaneous and available with the click of the mouse or the press of a button. That’s why I believe that internal motivation is perhaps the most important element in pursuing your authenticity and purpose in life.
What is internal motivation? Basically, it’s the determination and inner drive to see things through to the end, no matter what it takes. I’ve said before that God will only reveal purpose to you, and for that reason you simply can’t rely on others to hold you up and carry you through the finish line. They have their hands full with their own lives and frankly, they are probably overwhelmed with keeping up with the day to day grind of reality. You must have strength within you to stay the course and be determined to see things through all the way to the end, no matter how many battles or struggles you must endure. There path to purpose isn’t a straight line, but rather a winding highway. There will be progress and setbacks, trials and errors, success and failure, as you wind through the journey. Some people will be with you for all of it, some for part, but remember that they are also taking their own journey’s. We all only have so much emotional energy and must dedicate it to those things that matter most. And let’s be honest, what are you more concerned with: Your own life or somebody elses’? That’s not being selfish – it’s just the way it is. We must attend to our own obligations and priorities first and foremost.
Likewise, there are also people that don’t want to see you succeed. This usually isn’t personal, even though it feels like a very real attack on who we are. It’s really smoke and mirrors for their own insecurity. I believe we all have these “emotional vampires” in our lives that can find the dark cloud in any silver lining and discourage us from doing anything that causes us to rise above where we’re at. Their security is in making sure that you (and often, everybody they know) stay inside the convenient box they’ve put you in for their own comfort. You must realize that this box isn’t your problem. Do yourself a favor by dealing with these toxic relationships quickly and efficiently, and moving on. In fact, that might be the very thing that makes them realize the right thing to do so they can get on with their own lives. Doing the right thing and refusing to accept other peoples’ problems is often the best living testimony we can provide to the world.
Yes, the journey to purpose can be a lonely one at times. There are journey’s we must take alone and things we must discover on our own. The good news is that we are never really alone. The Lord is always right there with us, to ensure that we stay on the right path. He will always do His part as long as we do our part by following the prompting of the Spirit, but sometimes what is right isn’t what looks or seems right. That’s why it’s so important to be internally motivated. These promptings are usually very personal, and we have to be able to stand up to scrutiny, discouragement, and sometimes even attack to see the victory. But as I’ve said so many times before, the reward is well worth it. There’s nothing better than realizing you are uniquely and wonderfully made, and being content with who you are.
Next Time: Contentment – The Secret to Joy.
Who are you? I think that’s one of the hardest questions we face, and the reason is that the answer is always in motion. Every experience we have, every role that we play, every life lesson that we face, all contribute to who we are. Identity is something that is always in motion because as life changes, we change with it. Our capacity to grow and learn is what makes us able to adapt to the world around us and to evolve, both as a society and as individuals. Unfortunately, this capacity also means that we must constantly reconcile ourselves to the world we live in – and frankly, that can be exhausting.
The good news is that there are some constants in this ever changing world. The situations we face and the roles we play do impact who we are, but the core of our being – our soul – doesn’t change. Each and every one of us was uniquely and wonderfully made to serve purpose in life. Notice that I keep this general for a reason. While we may have one overriding purpose that’s our “main mission” in life, I believe that each season of life has a purpose within that mission. You may be a child, spouse, parent, colleague, and friend. Each of these roles are separate with their own unique purpose, but all of those roles contribute to how you are as a whole human being. If any of you were to walk into my church or workplace, I would expect that you’d be able to say “yes, that’s Sherri the Writer” because you know the core of who I am through my writing and can see it in other roles I serve.
I know this is confusing, and we could ponder on that particular point for a long time. Suffice it to say that for the purposes of this entry, I am addressing that “core self,” which is who you are as a unique human being. It’s
your soul. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people that don’t dig deep enough within themselves to know who they are at this level. Maybe it’s because it’s too exhausting, or confusing, or maybe they found something that frightened them, but for whatever reason many people abandon that search for authenticity and simply conform to what the world wants them to be in each role in life. While this may work on the surface (and is certainly good enough for day to day life), in reality it means that you never really connect with the people around you or the world you live in. After all, how can other people know you if you don’t know yourself? And how are they supposed to trust what they don’t know? So they go through the motions of life as a shell of a person, never fully experiencing life or the joy that we’re supposed to have in being who we are and serving the scared missions set before us. In fact, the sacred is removed, turning it all into drudgery and labor.
Folks, this isn’t the way we’re meant to live. Yes, it can be frightening to delve within ourselves to search for our authenticity. You might find things you don’t expect; things in direct contradiction to what you want to believe about yourself. Or you might find something socially unacceptable or embarrassing. It’s ok. You have the power of the Holy Spirit working within you, and It can show you how these things fit into who you are as the unique creation you are meant to be. It can show you what you have for a reason and what you could stand to fix here or tweak there. None of us are perfect, but the perfection of the Spirit can show you how to use what you’ve got to be who you are and to contribute to your place in the world.
The key to happiness isn’t fame, or wealth, or status. It’s finding contentment with who you are as a unique individual. That’s the only way you can find your purpose. That’s the only way to form genuine relationships with a solid foundation. That’s the only way that happiness will come.
So, how do you find your authentic self? It’s best to start at the beginning – and that is the foundation of it all.
Next Time: Jesus – My Savior, My Friend.