Okay folks, this is my blog and today, I feel compelled to share something that has been on my mind for about a month or so. I held back because I wanted to make sure I wasn't being overly-sensitive or taking things out of context, but in reflection and talking with some others, I realize that it's completely within the bounds or normal, how shall I put it - pondering. Yea, that's a diplomatic way to say it.
I've known a number of people that have recently faced trials and life changes similar to the ones I faced a few years ago. Of course, I can relate to their struggles quite well, having been through something similar not too long ago. But one thing that rubs me kind of wrong is that a few years ago, people were quite bold to tell me to get my crap together and move on. I heard a lot of "if I were you" and "you need to get things under control" and "that's just life, you have to be strong and work your way through." I realize this is all true, of course - life throws you curveballs and the only way around is through. I knew that at the time and the truth of that still rings loud and clear. It seems, though, that when the situation goes from "it sucks to be you" to being the one it sucks for, well, that's different.
I asked Rick recently if this realization seemed harsh or hypocritical and he said (exact words): "No. People weren't afraid to get in your face and tell you to get it together. They made it clear that you were to make it stop immediately."
Okay, so it's not just me. There is a level of hypocricy going on.
I could get angry. I could get very frustrated and call people on it. But the truth is, I haven't had to. While nobody's come to me and said "oops, well I guess you aren't the only one reality can kick in the a**" their contrite attitude has clearly indicated that they finally understand what I was trying to communicate before: That it's not so easy when you're in the middle of it. Oops, you can't make things go back to what they are because you aren't God. Oops, you can't force other people to change. Oops, you can't just say "stop" and the universe will heed your call. That big, bad boldness is fine when you're on the mountaintop, but not so practical when you're in the valley and a flood is threatening.
I see that they get it, and I don't think their circumstances are the result of a lack of sympathy at my plight, or anybody elses'. Rather, I think it's the universal truth that reality is an equal opportunity smacker. It will knock us all down and bring us to a humility that we never imagined we'd have to face. I know I've had to become a new person from my own experiences. I had to completely change the way I thought about EVERYTHING and that's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself to case off those old thoughts and embrace the new. It isn't easy, but to refuse would have been to sentence myself to a life of misery and depression, something that I simply won't have or allow in my life. If it's change my thinking to stay happy or hold to my old thoughts in a life that doesn't fit any more and resign myself to depression and misery, I'll change.
We all have to make that decision at some point. It's going to happen. C.S. Lewis called it The Law of Undulation in The Screwtape Letters, and I believe this is one of the most often ignored truths of life in this world just because it makes us uncomfortable and we don't like it. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. We will have times when we're on top of the world, but eventually the pendulum swings and we find outselves with the world on top of us. Sure, sometimes it's the result of bad decision making, but just as often it's the result of things beyond our control: things change. People change. Circumstances change. As The Bible says, "time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). And all you can do is deal with it, for however long it goes on, until you work your way through to the other side.
So no, I'm not mad at people. Rather, I hate to see them go through such times because I know the pain they fell. It's not fun and I pray it passes for them. That being said, I would like to share some things I noticed going through my own trials that I hope will give others facing hard times some comfort or guidance in navigating their way through the valley:
1. Be honest, first with yourself and then with others. The sooner you face that life is crap for you right now, the quicker you'll find your way through. But also realize the truth that this too shall pass and you won't be here forever. There's always hope. Likewise, don't be ashamed to admit that life isn't roses, unicorns and rainbows. Don't be afraid to tell people, when you must, that things are rough, but you're doing your best to work through. Now that being said;
2. Use discernment in who and what you share. You need to be honest with people, but they also don't need to know every single thing going on in your life. This is especially true when dealing with sensitive family matters. I'm sorry to say it, but there are some people that won't get it and others that will use it against you to embarass you later. I think we've all had those instances where you shared something personal with a friend because you needed to vent, and they brought it up VERY publically later to get a laugh or gain what I call "cool points" with others that they've decided they like better since you shared your woes with them. Keep your inner circle limited to a very few people and even then, use discernment. You don't have to tell everything, nor should you. It's fine to say "yea, I'm dealing with some issues with myself/ job/health/at home right now, but I'm working through and it will be okay. I just need an extra dose of grace and patience right now," and leave it at that. You aren't on reality tv, so you don't need to act like it.
3. Don't be afraid to seek outside advice. The problem with keeping it in your inner circle is that they are biased. They aren't going to be able to fully see the situation and sometimes their advice, although well meaning, will be off base because of the tendency to see what they want/like best (for whatever reasons). It's perfectly reasonable to go to a pastor, therapist, or vocational rehab service, even if just once, to get a clear perspective on the situation as a whole so you can understand how to best proceed. Just be forewarned that those closest to you may take a level of offence. I did this a few years ago and was told by a few "well, I'm sorry we all let you down so much that you had to go to a stranger for help." That's not the case at all. I was realistic enough to know I was too beat and broken to see it logically on my own and that those close to me couldn't see past my own pain (and their pain) to see it clearly either. I was that serious about dealing with things right the first time so we could all move on. A good barometer of knowing when to seek outside counsel is this: if you feel absolutely stuck and paralyzed with no way out, you need a third party intervention. It doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're strong enough to face all the ugliness of reality and have the determination to work it out correctly, no matter what.
4. Realize that some people "just won't get it" and decide right now if you are able to forgive them. General rule: if somebody prefaces a statement with "if I were you..." cut them off right away. They aren't you and that statement means "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but I want to say something so here it is." Likewise, and this isn't flattering but it's absolutely true: Sometimes people are more sympathetic to others because they like them and their situations better than they like you and your situations. Okay, maybe that's harsh, but people are biased based on their own experiences, and what this means is that they'll come down harder on you because there's something in your situation they really hate but they'll be more sympathetic to another facing something similar because they like or relate to something in their situation more. We're all hypocrites, folks,and we all judge. It's not right, but it's true. You have to make the decision to forgive it and move on or you'll stay stuck in the mire of your own problems a lot longer than necessary.
5. There is one, universal solution to all problems. This is the good news, but it isn't easy news. That universal solution is do the right thing. All the time. No matter how hard it is, how much it hurts, who gets angry, or how tired you get. No matter what. And don't stop doing the right thing ever. It might hurt like hell, piss people off, and seem to destroy your life but trust me, it's temporary. Because "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). Doing right always leads to right in the end. Some battles may be lost, but the war will be won. But taking shortcuts, doing things the easy way, or ignoring things and hoping they will go away will prolong the war indefinitely. It literally took two and a half years for me to get my life settled into something that could be called "normal," but I'm convinced the struggled would still be ongoing if I didn't dig in my heels and determine that I would do things right, no matter how hard I had to work, how tired I got, who got mad at me, or how much it hurt. Let me tell you, it doesn't hurt anymore.
So take it from one that actually did all of these things - it works. You have to be stronger than you imagined possible, but it works.
Am I mad at my realizations? No. People aren't perfect and I made the decision long ago that I wasn't going to get angry or hold grudges. There's no point in it. My mission was to recreate my life and move on in the abundance and blessing I could find in it, and I am. Now I pray that others going through hard times will find the strength to move through and to find their own blessings and abundance on the other side of their trials.
And there is the other side, folks. God promises that there's always hope. I'm living proof. So keep fighting on to do what's right, and it will be fine. That's a promise you can count on.
That's all today. Take care and have a good weekend.
One thing I think too many of us take for granted is our physical state. We're so busy that we don't worry about taking care of ourselves. I can see why, in a way. With all of our responsibilities, it can seem like self-care is a full time job in itself - and a job we don't have time for. You can't neglect it, though. And I think we all have to learn that lesson the hard way. We don't realize until we're flat on our back sick - or injured - that our health is the foundation of everything.
You know what I mean. You push yourself to the brink until your body can't take it anymore, and one day, you crash. Tell me, how many of you have been knocked out by the flu this winter? Come on, folks. Germs are only so much to blame. You're body can fight off a lot, if you take care of it. The problem is, we don't.
I'm just as guilty as the next person. I don't eat right all of the time. I'm on and off my exercise routine so much that I'm ashamed of myself. And I used to have a bad habit of staying up too late and skimping on sleep while I had novels in progress or during busy times, until the past year, when I realized I simply couldn't function on skipping on sleep anymore. That was one habit I had no choice but to break. In fact, I changed my work schedule late last summer to help in that endeavor. Extra time int he mornings has been the best thing I've done for myself in a long time.
The truth is that the body isn't going to tolerate neglect for too long. It will break down and fail you unless you take proper care of it. That's why it's imperative that you take care of yourself - because frankly, if your body isn't in good shape then you aren't going to be as effective and efficient as you could be. Taking the time to take care of yourself pays off by making the rest of your work and efforts more productive. You work better when you're well rested. You have more energy when you eat right and exercise. You concentrate better when you take time out each day to rest, relax, and spend time doing things you enjoy. All work and no play doesn't only make Jack a dull boy, but it makes him dysfunctional as well. Proper balance means taking care of yourself so you can take care of your responsibilities.
This is something I have to be reminded of from time to time. Rick recently asked me about getting back to my resolution of getting on the treadmill. I got sick with my sinuses recently, and ironically I slipped from that one, already. I reasoned that I might as well work on finalizing my novel since I couldn't exercise, but I got better and, well, finishing the novel was more interesting that the treadmill. And I do feel better when I exercise regularly. I know I need to make it a habit in my life again. I'm working on it, like so many other people are working on making themselves better so they can have a better life.
Yes, it's a struggle, I know. There's so much to do. But don't do it at the expense of yourself. There's just too much at stake, and when it come to mind or body, well, body usually wins. Because if you don't have your health, you don't have anything.
That's all today. Have a great week.
I'd like to open this entry with a disclaimer: I have no objections to working outside the home. In fact, I believe I'd be bored and rather miserable as a stay-at-home. I have always felt that I need to contribute to the world at large, and I invested a great deal into getting a college degree so I could do just that. So to start, I don't mind working. The issue is balancing it with having a life. Because jobs take up an awful lot of your life, and you have to set boundaries with how much of your life you want to give to your work - much like everything else.
I never wanted my job to be the core of my life. There are a lot of people out there that are defined by their work, and I've known all along that I don't want to be one of them. To me, I have a job to serve my life. It's how I channel my knowledge, experience and skills to the world, and in return it financially supports my life. That's it. It's not who I am. It's not my sole purpose in life. It's not the whole of my existence. It's one part of my life, one part of the whole that makes me.
The challenge is keeping it one part of life because work, much like everything else, wants to be the center. The fact that it's our financial foundation is a binding factor that makes work one of the "immovable objects" in our lives, and the trick is how to keep reshaping that object into something that helps rather than hurts. Our personal lives change over time and so do our jobs - even if you work in the same place throughout your career, I can guarentee that the job itself will change as time goes on. Duties come and go, and more is always added. I can attest to this by experience. I've been working in the same job for over thirteen years, but it most certainly IS NOT the job I was hired to do. It bears absolutely no resembelance to what it was the first day I walked in. It's even been reclassified twice to accomodate for the drastic changes over the years. Likewise, my personal life has drastically changed in those years as well. And the ongoing challenge is how to keep work in balance in your life with both are constantly changing forces.
It's tough, and it's something that constantly has to be managed. I've had to make a lot of adjustments in the past three years alone, as my job duties quadrupled at the same time that my in-laws moved to town and my writing started to get published more widely. In fact, I was under a therapist for a year to help me manage all of the changes sweeping through my life. It would have been nice if all of these things could have happened, say, over the space of five years - but it was more like five months. I made it, but I'm not afraid that I'm still on that curve of balancing my changed work situation and my changed life situation. That is, in fact, part of what spurred my resolution to work on the issue of balance. It was realizing that while the major adjustments are done (and have been for a while), some tweaking to the details needs to happen. In fact, tweaking is something that probably needs to be done, well, more frequently than I have.
I think the big thing for me right now is balancing my increased work duties with my writing. I could easily stay glued behind a computer all my waking hours between the job, then coming home to work on writing promotion and working on new projects to keep my writing in motion. While I love my writing, I realized it had elevated itself to "work" in my life, and I always said that when it was more labor than enjoyment, it was time to make some adjustments. I can't and won't work 100% of the time. I want free time with Rick and the birds, with family and friends, with occasional volunteer projects at church, or with hobbies or just being lazy, and I will have it. I need time off, and I believe that getting sick with that virus before the holidays was the wake up call that made me realize I spend too much time working and not enough time taking care of myself: spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally. I have a full life and that's fine, but I need to get it in order and make sure there's a place for everything - and especially a space for taking care of myself, which I neglected to an almost dangerous place a few weeks ago. I really downplayed that here and in my social media posts, but the truth is that I was a bigger wreck than I let on, and it downright scared me. I was ill and distressed to the point of being almost non-functional for about 36 hours. Not long, but long enough to get through. It was time to heal more than my body. My mind and soul needed healing too.
Thankfully, I had some time off for the holidays to take stock of how to do this, and the work-life issue was primary amongst my concerns. I can't change my job, but I can look for ways to get better organized and to get things done better and more efficiently. As for my writing, I looked into some publicity options that included writing more articles and short stories, which allows me to continue producing new work that gains publicity for my published books. It's channeling into doing more of what I love, which is creating new work. It takes the "work" out of the writing and puts it back in the place of being "fun." And that's what it's all about: being entertaining and fun for me and my readers.
I think we all get knocked off kilter every now and then, and it seems that the work-life balance is usually where it's most likely to happen. We just have to stop and take stock every now and then to make sure we're keeping work in it's proper place in our life, and not letting it morph or grow into a trap. Because when we feel trapped, that's when it's gotten too far out of balance. I'm happy to report that I do feel much better and I continue to heal from my illness of a few weeks ago. There are still some struggles, but I take it a day at a time and I believe I'm finding a better way to have my life with all the joy and fullness I'm meant to have.
That's all today. Take care. I hope you have a great week.
I wonder where inspiration comes from. It's a funny thing. For example, I haven't written a single new thing since November, yet I've done a lot with promotion of my work and a great deal of blogging. It's odd. It seems I'll go through these odd spells then all of a sudden I'll get hammered with more ideas than I can possibly keep up with.
Here's another puzzle: I've been agonizing over what to do with our front yard for a year. When you build on your own lot they don't do a thing for your yard - I mean nothing. Rick and I even had to plant grass, which we did, but we did little else because we were getting the inside of the house settled. Well, we finished that about a year and turned out attention outside, but came up blank. Then all of a sudden the entire vision of how to fix the front yard up came to me in Sunday School this morning. Just like that. I actually did a rough diagram of it while we were waiting to take communion on the back of my bulletin in church.
A lot of people have ideas of where it comes from. The most common that I hear is Holy intervention - the Spirit speaks and our mind moves. Some say it's how our experiences affect us. Some say it's where we are in life, or what we're going through - the situations we face and how they shape us. Others say it's more organic and inspiration comes through exercising regularly or eating right. Some say working your mind by doing puzzles. There are so many theories.
I believe they all have merit, but I think it's a more mysterious combination of it all. I sure do wish I could pinpoint what causes those flashes of inspiration that artist live for, though. I suspect I'd be a rich woman if I could find, bottle and sell that secret.
Unfortunately I don't have the answer, so I just have to work through it like everybody else. And hope that today's flash of inspiration for fixing up the yard will be the first of a wave that will inspire me in other areas of life. All I know is that my mind did start moving today, and I hope it's on a train that keeps on rolling.
Take care and I hope you have a great start to the week.
Hi folks, it's me today. No, I'm not taking creative license by handing over my blog to my writing characters or my birds, and it's not part of the blog series. Today it's me here with real life, which is the stuff that blogs are made for. And today, I have a life lesson for you.
Did you know that truth always reveals itself? It seems that a lot of people don't. But some truths that have been carefully hidden for 3 years came flying out today. Yep, the masks fell away and people saw the nasty, ugly reality, complete with crumbs, dust bunnies, dead bugs and all.
The short version of this story is that I was asked some questions about the last place I was at today - detailed questions, complete with names and all. And I told the truth, which was unflattering to some people in my past. Oh well. They were warned. That's what happens when you try to brainwash people and the one thorn you could never quite "get fixed" gets away.
Yes, that's right. I said "brainwashed." It was a place where that was how the entire culture was defined. Everybody had their place and by golly, you stayed there "or else." The problem with that kind of mentality is that you always run across those strong, independent types that refuse to be told what to think. I was one of them and now, I see that it was the root of all my problems there. It wasn't personality conflicts, or fear over what wasn't understood - it was that they couldn't control me, plain and simple. I just wouldn't "settle down" and tame my renegade spirit. I rocked too many boats.
Well, they're too cool to care, so none of this should be of any importance to them. And I'm gone, so it's the past and really of little consequence to me. I tell you this story to make a point. There are always people around that will try to brainwash you. Always people that are arrogant enough to believe that they can control you - and that you should listen to them. I say bah. That's just crap. I hope I gave those people hell with my independent spirit while I was there . And for anybody else in my life that has the audacity to try similar tricks on me, I say this story demonstrates one very important thing you better take note of: I have a foot, and I know how to put it squarely up your rear if you DARE to try to brainwash me. This isn't just throwning down the gauntlet. This is the Hammer of Thor coming right at you and it's in your face.
I have my own brain, thank you very much, and I know how to use it.If you don't like it, you can take your happy butt right out the same door you used to come into my life, because there's no place for you here. I've broken free of those leashes they tried to slap on me and I have no use for that kind of shallow mentality in my life. God removed me from it, and I thank Him every day for that deliverance!
Yes, I'm a huge fan of fiction, but I also have a foot in reality. I realize there's no such things as wizards, elves, hobbits, Jedi, Sith Lords, demi-gods, superhereos, or even gecos and ducks that sell insurance. The truth is that in reality, it's no huge secret to how to impress me. I'm no respecter of persons. Titles don't impress me. Positions don't intimidate me. Power doesn't dazzle me. There's one way to get my admiration and respect and everybody on Earth has an equal chance at it.
You have to be a decent human being. That's it. Plain and simple. Honesty and integrity will get you everywhere. Anything else is smoke and mirrors, and I don't like magic tricks.
The truth is that most people are smarter than you give them credit for being, but few have the courage to admit to what they truly think and stand up for integrity. People have a inherent sense of when they're being deceived and they always resent it, whether they act on it or not. Beware the ones that don't comply with conformity. They're the sandpaper that rub on the rough edges of arrogance. They're people like me. And there are more of them than you think. Those brainwashed worlds are, in reality, very small. The real world is much bigger.
That's my soapbox speech for today. Thanks for tuning in. Until next time ...
I hate that song "When Peace Flows Like a River." It's a filthy lie.
I suppose that statement deserves an explanation, so here it is: I went to a funeral for a friend yesterday that died from cancer. It's the third friend I've lost to cancer in 18 months. To say I hope I never see the face of this ugly beast again would be an understatement.
Anyway, they seem to love this hymn at funerals. There's just one problem: No, it's not well with my soul. I don't understand why three people I know had to suffer like this. They were good people. They wanted to live. It seems so unfair that their lives were cut short when I look around and see people that don't appreciate a thing - or that play hard and fast, like they don't care about putting themselves or others in danger - and they keep going on and on.
I hate that hymn because it's arrogant and it's a lie. Are you ok with anything that happens? Life can whollop you and it's just "well, praise God and glory be." No folks, not in the real world. Real people get frustrated. Real people get angry. Real people are confused and hurt and don't understand. I'll admit that I'm a real person and my soul's got problems. I don't get it. In fact, there's a lot I don't get.
Another reason I don't like this song is because it implies that faith means never questioning anything - just blind acceptance. You can reason out everything, even if the reason is simply "it's God's will." While that is true, and I suppose it all does boil down to that, it's been my experience that human beings aren't that simplistic. We do try to understand. We do ask questions. We do get frustrated and angry in our confusion and lack of understanding. It is through these struggles that we find what faith really is: Not a lack of questions, but an acceptance that we won't have most of the answers. That in the grand scheme of things it does make sense, and being ok with the fact that only God may know how it fits into that scheme. And most importantly, to realize that it's ok to not have the answers or to work through whatever processes we need to work through to get to this acceptance.
That's where I'm at. My soul does hurt, and it's confused. I know all three of them are at peace now, and that there's a greater plan that I won't see this side of Heaven. Intellecutally, it's there. Emotionally, I'm still on the journey to that point. I miss them and those absences do hurt. It's hard to remember that they won't walk through that door at church Sunday morning any more, that they won't be at that committee function or in Sunday School or passing by at functions with their cheerful smiles. The reality that they're gone and never coming back is still stinging. And I don't think there's a thing wrong with that sting. It means I feel. It means I'm still human. It means I'm still alive.
So no, it's not well with my soul, and I'm ok with admitting that. My soul is hurt and it needs to heal. I know the truth and accept it, but I'm just going to have to work through that process to get these pesky emotions at that same level. And I don't think I'm alone. Many others are on that same journey. I have plenty of company on this road. My comfort is that tomorrow is a new day. New mercies every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.
Now that's one I can live with.
That's all today. Happy Friday to you tomorrow.
I was talking to a friend a while back who sheepishly admitted that their doctor put them on an antidepressant. This friend was very unhappy to be on medication and said they wanted off the pills ASAP.
I countered by asking this friend if they thought it was bad for me to take antihistimines everyday to manage my allergy and sinus problems.
"No, why would that be a problem?" they asked. "After all, you have to take it to be able to function every day.It's a maintenance medication"
"Well, how is that different from you taking an antidepressant?" I asked. "If it helps you feel more energetic and you're able to go about your daily tasks easier, what's the difference?"
They never thought of it that way. And in my experience, it seems most people don't.
I don't understand why we're so hesitant to take care of our mind. We don't mind popping an aspirin for a headache, or taking antacids for heartburn. We'll mention an ache or pain to a doctor in a minute. But if it's our emotions that hurt, well, that's different. That's personal. That's nobody's business.
Well, my allergies aren't anybody's business, but I'm not ashamed of them. I don't advertise this health issue, but I don't hide it either. And while I understand that an anxiety attack and sniffling and sneezing are perceived differently by the general public, well, relief is available. Shouldn't we take advantage of it?
I think that as a whole, society has come a long way in understanding mental illness, but they still have a long way to go. One thing we can do to progress this effort is to be honest with ourselves. If you've lacked motivation for six months or more and getting out of bed every day is a challenge, treat it like the flu and see your doctor. Relief is available.
There may not be a cure for many of the emotional disorders that plague us, but they can be managed. And with the right treatment, you can have a good and productive life, just like you deserve.
You don't life in bondage to your physical ailments - you manage them. don't live in bondage to your emotions or your mind either. Don't be shy. Don't be embarassed. Don't let it define you. Manage it, so you define yourself in spite of it.