I interrupt my blog series on balance to ponder on some things that frankly folks, I just don't get. I'll start with something that happened just two and a half hours ago as I was picking up supper at a deli near my home. There's a karate dojo next door to it. I was getting in my car with the sandwiches and saw a group of people walk out in full sweatsuits - and completely barefoot. I'm serious. My car said it was 50 degrees out there and they walked across an asphalt parking lot bundled up and completely barefoot.
What the hell?
Seriously, folks. I thought people wearing flip flops in this weather was nuts. I remember a conversation I had with someone in San Francisco about socks a few months ago. She thought the concept of having four distinct seasons was unique enough, but to meet someone with an entire DRAWER full of socks? She thought I was amazing for even having one pair. Seems they don't have much need for socks in Hawaii. And I remember telling her - well, we do NEED them, but many people choose not to USE them in the winter and wonder why their feet are cold.
Maybe I just don't get it, but there are many things that people seem to do on a regular basis and I'm not sure how they work their logic around it.
Here's another example - when did writing thank you notes go out of style? When Rick and I got married nearly 15 years ago, I missed 1 note - that's it, just 1 - and I heard about it from three people. How rude. How inconsiderate. What the hell happened? Well, what happened was that the person manning the gift table at the wedding reception decided the party looked more interesting than what they were doing, so they decided to join the party before all the gifts were accounted for. So when the one person that forgot to attach a card told them "don't forget to tell them it's from me," well, they forgot. I mentioned this in the late thank you note I wrote. But here's the interesting thing: in the years since then, Rick and I have received thank you notes for about 20% of the gifts we've given. We've actually asked people if they received them on a few occasions and they said yes and grumbled something about being too busy to be held to archaic fashions like writing thank you notes when nobody really cares. Hmm. Well, I checked and etiquette still says you're supposed to write one for unreciprocated gifts - graduations, weddings, or baby showers, for example, where the gifts flow one way, but not for birthdays or common holiday exchanges. I just wonder why I was griped at so much about missing one note on accident when 80% of the people I know skipped the note writing on purpose and don't seem to be getting any static for it. Hmm.
Speaking of etiquette, I thought it was rude to ask how much something costs, but I'm constantly amazed at the people that see our birds (or pictures of them) and outright blurt "wow, how much does a bird like that cost?" Seriously? My answer: more than a dog. And they live longer than a dog too. Geeze, I don't ask how much having kids, a luxery car, or that exquisite vacation you pushed pictures of in my face set you back, do I?
And these movies and TV shows that win awards - who's voting on that? I mean, really? Producers blow millions of dollars to write intriguing scripts and put special effects on the big screen that make your eyes pop out, and they get passed over. Sometimes movies that haven't even opened in our area are raking in awards. Who's seen them? Who cares? Why aren't the movies making millions of dollars from real people like me winning awards?
Music is just as confusing. I saw Taylor Swift on New Year's Eve rambling on about how she's never, ever, ever, ever getting back together with one of her kazillion ex's. I'm not even sure if that was singing - there was no rhythem or range to it, but the crowd was going crazy. Either I'm out of it, or the bar has been set WAAAY low for musical entertainment. Then again, marching bands dance and run around like idiots now too. They wouldn't stand for that in my day. We spent countless hours in the hot sun practicing FUNDAMENTALS. And by golly, you didn't MOVE at attention for WHATEVER reason. Now they jiggle around like they have ants in their pant but that's alright because they got da moves! What on earth happened to learning the basics, fundamentals, and self discipline?
I don't know. I guess I don't think the same way other people do. Perhaps I'm old fashioned. Maybe it's personal preference and it's just a "me" thing. I suppose we all have things that don't make much sense to us. Or maybe I just think too much altogether.
I'm going to try not to think too much more and enjoy my long weekend. I could use some rest. That's all for today. Happy Friday to you.
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.
What is holiday detox, you ask? Well readers, it's that period immediately following Christmas when you're so tired and burned out that you can't motivate yourself to do anything. The house is a mess and you don't care. The "to do" list is growing, and you say to hell with it. You're worn out from celebrating with all the family, food, fun, presents, and to do of the holidays and you want to hibernate in bed for, oh, the rest of the winter to recover.
Be honest, who's there? Has anybody else had a wee bit of a problem motivating themselves to do things they don't want to do?
I know I am. I'm Christmased out. The holidays are nice, but it's time for them to move along out of here. I fully believe that the days between Christmas and New Year's Day are a time when the world needs to back off and let us be lazy, just for a little while. We need some time to ourselves before we get back to the grind. We need a break to rest and recuperate from the heavy activity of the holidays. We need to drop out for a while and tend to our own wants and needs. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, we probably need it more often than just post-holidays. We need to take time to ourselves regularly. If we work ourselves to death, we'll eventually break down and then we won't be good to anybody.
I think that's one good resolution to make for the new year - to take more time out for yourself. I know a lot of people would say that's selfish and rude, but I'd counter that those accusers aren't truly in touch with themselves and need to take this opportunity to get in balance themselves. (Or they're selfish jerks that think everybody in the world should be their handservant and their attitude needs correcting - but that's one for another entry.) If there's one truth I've seen this holiday season, it's that the world isn't going to give you a break. It will work you to death and wear you down to nothing. It's our responsibility to keep life in balance, and to work things out for the best. We have to be aware of what's going on and what we have, and to stay alert and in balance. To do that, it's necessary for us to say "no" to the demands of the world every now and then and tend to our personal needs. The best way to do that is to take regular time outs. And the world won't give them to us, so we have to take them. I say resolution #1 is to take what we need to be our best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Block out time to yourself that's not open to anybody. Setting boundaries isn't wrong. In fact, it's the only way to achieve confidence and to have balance in your life.
So go ahead and take a break - God knows, you need it. And make that a habit in the future, while you're at it. ;)
That's all today. I hope you have a great week.
I’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
Well folks, it happened for the same reason every other massacare happend. Somebody was crazier than Chinese Chicken Salad and we have a system that won't touch crazy with a 100 foot pole until there's a body count.
And that, as they used to say, is the rest of the story.
It's the sad and ugly truth, though. According to FOX news, James Holmes acted on his own and his apartment was booby trapped to the point where 5 surrounding buildings had to be evacuated. Ok everybody, try convincing anybody that nobody saw something odd happening around there. I can't water my lawn without a relative seeing me or somebody from church driving by, and this guy pulled THAT off without anybody noticing?I don't think so. The more likely scenario was that people did see it, but they ignored it for 2 reasons:
1. It made them uncomfortable and they hoped to stay safe by staying out of his way; and
2. It's not like trying to do anything about it would have yielded results anyway, because it's not a crime to be weird.
It's sad, but I've looked into these things, after incidents like this and in a few instances where I suspected I was dealing with a time bomb fixing to blow. In every case, I was told the same thing: it's all about personal rights. You're head can be "a bag full of cats" (as Bruce Banner put it so eloquently in The Avengers), but unless you break the law, nobody can do anything. At that point, you have personal rights and unless you volunteer to get mental help, then nobody can force you to do it. Situations where people are mentally ill and refuse to seek help usually wind out 1 of 2 ways: In jail for commiting a crime like this, or dead because they tempted fate too hard and The Reaper won. Or worse yet, they killed themselves AFTER a maccacre that left a huge body count before they turned it on themself.
And let's be real, folks. How many mentally ill people look in the mirror and say "I think I'm frigging crazy. I'm going to get help right now" and march straight to their doctor. None, because part of mental illness is failure to recognize that you aren't right. A lack of self awareness is symptomatic of every mental disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM - the bible of mental illness that describes pretty much every mental defect we've found yet, for those that haven't heard of it in a while).
It's a thin line, and unfortunately it puts unsuspecting people like those that innocently went to a movie in Colorado last night at risk. Because you never know where those loose cannons are, and that lack of awareness doesn't allow them to see you as an innocent stranger. To them you're the villian, the boogeyman, big brother, and another cog in the wheel driving reality to hell, as they see it.
This incident is another illustration of how the system is broken. We can't do anything to help others unless they break the law, but by the time they do that, they're so far gone that it's difficult if not impossible to help them. The prime time for treatment has passed, when they were aware enough to help themselves. By that point they're completely in another world, and it's neigh on impossible to bring them back. I'm not sure what the answer is, but clearly there's a need for a better one than we have. I don't want to step on personal rights, and individuality covers a pretty wide latitide - but aren't we able to discern what's eccentric and what's bordering on being a threat to self and others yet? If we aren't, then that's something that the medical and mental health professions need to work on.
So no, it had nothing to do with the movie. It had nothing to do with sci-fi, or fantasy. Crazy comes in all shapes, sizes and genres. This guy might have latched onto the persona of The Joker, but he was no super villian. He's nuts, plain and simple, and once again another one shows the world just how much damage one deranged mind can do.
And sadly, we learn that as much as we love superheroes, they are fiction - and this time ugly reality won.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you.
Folks, it’s amazing I’m alive. I stepped on a landmine recently.
Yep, I sure did. I asked someone I know if they had spoken to a mutual acquaintance lately and was harshly accused of trying to pick a fight. After some ranting and admonitions about “minding my own business” they revealed that no, they hadn’t spoken to the person.
Well, pardon me.
How many times has that happened to you? You know what I mean. A memory trigger brings something to mind so you ask about it, only to be criticized for asking, or accused of being nosy, or being told to mind your own business. You didn’t realize that you were drifting into sacred territory – after all, it hadn’t been a sensitive issue before – but something changed and you get cut down for not knowing what you haven’t been told.
I know it does hurt. It’s downright rude and offensive. But in such situations, I think it’s important that we keep a valuable truth in mind: the harsh reactions are a protective mechanism. These reactions are as good as
renting a digital billboard saying “I have issues with this!” They think a harsh reaction will teach you to back off. They don’t realize that may work, but they’re also exposing a chink in their armor. I compare these attacks where there’s no threat to an allergic reaction: An innocent substance gets in your system but for some reason your body perceives it as a threat, so it reacts.
The truth is that we all have emotional issues that we hold close in order to protect ourselves. None of us are really an "open book" no matter how forthright and honest we are or strive to be. We all have things we keep in our innermost circle and don't invite others in. That's fine. There are certain things we should keep private. The problem is that some people stretch that inner circle to hold in more than others, oftentimes things that others don't have a problem sharing and even seek help and support in handling. How much we hold in is up to us, but we need to kill the correlation between the one thing that pricks us and the whole world being out to get us. Emotionally charged issues tend to cloud our judgement and scew our perspective to a point where we believe it really is all about us - and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most of the people in this world don't even know us, and a great number who do know us don't have an emotional investment in us. For all our trials and tribulations, we personally interact with a limited number of people at a time and believe it or not, most of them mean us no harm. Some (gasp!) might actually want to help and support us, and our knee jerk reactions to scare people away from sacred territory may scare them away. When emotions run high, it would behoove us to realize that, in the words of the late, great C.S. Lewis, "sometimes an apple is just an apple." Believe it or not, there aren't double meanings or ulterior motives to everything under the sun.
I think the best thing to do in these cases is to back off. We all tend to cut others off from very emotionally sensitive issues and if a person chooses to do that then it’s disrespectful to try to bully your way in. It’s a shame, especially when you want to help and support them. But if they choose to shut others out and suffer alone, well, it’s best to respect their wishes and let them. After all, you can’t force people to open up, seek help or do the right thing. Sometimes the best you can do is back off and continue with the rest of your life.
And as for the person I unintentionally angered, well, I am sorry. I see the “keep out” sign now and believe
me, I certainly will. I’ll give you the space you desire, but realize the ball's in your court. It’s your responsibility to let me know when or if the landmine is diffused.
That’s all for today. I hope you enjoy the video inspiration to go along with this entry below. Bye!
Villians may make the story, but let me ask you - what happens when YOU'RE the villian? It is possible to sabatoge yourself and self help experts and gurus will be the first to say that very often, the only thing we fight more than other people is ourselves.
It's true that we can fall into bad thought and behavior patterns that can sabatoge our own best efforts. In fact, this is a topic I'm pondering for my next book. The idea I'm working on is about a woman that compromises her integrity While she does struggle with other people and there will be a clear antagonist that will aid her in this endeavor, the true enemy is herself. The real battle is in how her thoughts and perceptions influence her actions and attitudes. And, in my classic fashon, it will turn toward mystery with a supernatural creature (I'm considering a djinn), a way-out-there-where-the-hell-did-that-come-from turn of events and, of course, a twist somewhere. Geeze, I hope I'm not becoming my own worst enemy by becoming cliche or (gulp!) predictable after 4 books. Hmm, it might be time to mix it up a bit. We shall see.
I feel this is a good theme to run with because I've seen it over and over, not only in other people but in myself. We all have tendencies that work against us, and the devil loves to use them. Fear is a pretty universal one that we all struggle with. We get scared and that pushes us in all kinds of places we don't intend to go: Stagnation, laziness, complacancy - heck, I call fear "the devil's shovel" because it's a handy tool he uses in us to dig those ruts we find ourselves in.
Our emotions can also get us into trouble. Whether we realize it or not, emotions are learned. YES THEY ARE! When we have an emotional response to something the first time it happens, we tend to continue to have THE EXACT SAME RESPONSE every time it happens after that. They can become conditioned. For example: You have an annoying friend that tends to call you every Tuesday at 3:00. Tuesdays are busy and you tried to explain that but they don't get it, so after the first 2 calls you grow annoyed with them. So how do you feel the third week when the telephone rings at 3:00? You get annoyed, right? Before you even pick it up, you associate a 3:00 call on a Tuesday with that person that annoys you, and just the sound of that phone ringing at that time makes you angry. Maybe you wise up on Week #3 and don't answer but you're still angry when the phone rings. How dare them, you think, without even answering this week - but still, you're mad because they made you mad the last 2 weeks. So we do learn many of our emotional responses.
Another way we sabatoge ourselves is through wrong thoughts. This falls into that same pattern where we learn emotional responses. We do something and one or two people have an unfavorable response to it, so we avoid it in the future because "that doesn't work out." This is something I struggled with a lot when I went through my job transfer. I was at my former place a long time, so when I moved I tended to assume the people at the new place would have the same reactions and attitudes as the people at the old place. For example, the former place where I worked didn't think much of my writing. They didn't like it and even told me that it wasn't company related and to keep it out of the office. So when I moved I assumed my new colleagues would feel the same. I had to fill out a "dual employment" form when I got my book contract for Blurry, so I turned it in as quietly as possible. Imagine my surprise when my boss called me in her office and asked me to tell her more about my writing! She loved that I was doing it. In fact, it turns out that many other people there have "side ventures" and the agency regularly featured these on their internal website - they even featured me when Blurry was released and shared the link to my Amazon.com profile. (In fact, they sent out an email earlier this week asking if anybody had news or accomplishments to report so they could celebrate it at our employee appreciation picnic in a few weeks.) I was absolutely shocked by how enthusiastic and supportative my colleagues were, especially when I spent so many years in a place where I was ordered to keep it quiet. It took a while for me to get used to that, but it also made me realize the other areas where I had wrong thoughts. Even after 2 years I still struggle with that and have to stop and tell myself "remember, they aren't the same people and don't see things the same way. Be fair." Thank Got I realize it and am working through it.
Yes, there are many ways we can be our own worst enemy, and we really have to guard against that. Sometimes we even project our own faults and reactions on others - but this entry is long enough, so let's save that for next time!
I'll close with a challenge - think about it. Are there any ways where you are your own worst enemy? Do you have thoughts or reactions that work against you? Think it over. It's worth it because really, these are easy things to correct. Often just stopping and realizing it is the path to breaking the pattern.
That's all for today. Happy Friday and I hope you have a great weekend.
Rick and I got out and raked the yard over the past couple of weekends. We hired somebody to do it for us at Christmas because Rick was sick and I was working a lot, but decided to do it ourselves again. Why not, we reasoned. We're healthy, the weather is nice, and it's just a waste to pay somebody to do it when we can do it ourselves. We did the front and side yards last weekend and aside from some sore arms, no problem. But yesterday we did the back yard, which is bigger, and it was about 10 degrees warmer.
OMG. For all of you that tell me "oh, you're still young!" that's crap. I got overheated. It took forever to cool off. Rick's sinuses have been giving him grief and my back is so sore that it's been a struggle to move all day. I've been trying to hide it - pride, you know, because I hate to admit that it's getting the best of me, but the truth is that my back has been killing me today. Good grief!
Yea, this wouldn't have bothered me 10 years ago. I might have had some sore arms and been tired, but it would have been gone the next day. Not so this time. I started out ok, but as the day has gone on, I've lost my energy and felt cruddier and cruddier. I didn't know what was wrong until Rick informed me that the yard work yesterday was probably still taking a toll on me. After all, we aren't in our 20's anymore.
Most people complain about seeing those first grey hairs. I'm here to grip about the loss of energy and how much harder it is for me to rebound from pushing myself. Now I understand why both of our parents have hired out the yard work. If this is how it is in my mid-30's, I can't imagine it's going to get any better from here.
Well, crap. How did I get to approaching middle age? A day at a time, I suppose, just like everyone else.
I have to tell you that age isn't something that I give much thought to most of the time. I just keep going on, doing my thing, until something like this happens. These are the instances where I say that age is "the creeper" coming up on me. Most of the time I plug along just fine with little mind to that DOB on my driver's license and CWP until some little thing reminds me that I'm not a kid anymore. Like taking longer to recover from illness and injury. My aching wrist when the weather changes, from that bout with tendinitis I had 2 years ago when I was working on the final draft of Anywhere But Here. An ache here and a pain there. Hearing grunge songs on "remember when?" countdowns on VH1. Things like that remind me that the clock is ticking and time is creeping up on me, slowly now but it's coming, like a thief in the night.
It's not all bad. I have to say that wisdom is an advantage of your 30's. You might be jaded by life and it takes more to impress or excite you, but you're also more patient a understanding. Things don't bother you as much. You know yourself better and find a confidence in that that gives you the boldness to embrace your individuality. I can honestly say that I wouldn't have considered e-publishing 10 years ago, when I started out in writing. I wouldn't have believed that I could learn or do what it takes to be an independent author. But after adopting 3 birds, buying a car, recovering from a stomach infection, building a house, a job move, an in-law move, joining two church committees, and a 3 year dry spell with my writing - yea, I figured why not step outside the box and give it a try. And so far, so good. It's building, and I can tell this is the way for me to go. I didn't believe I could do it on my own until I was knocked flat on my butt and crawled back up again a few times. Then I finally knew who I was and that I could do anything through Christ. Intellectually I knew it all along, but it took life experience for me to really see and believe it.
Still, though, I look at my wedding pictures and know I'll never be that 110 pound pixie again. Not that Rick's complaining about how I look. He's still gracious and tells me I'm beautiful, and I belive he's a good looking fellow. But sometimes that rising number on the size tag in my clothes bugs me and I think, gee, I wish I could have the mind I have now and the body I had at 23. Especially today. Because my back didn't ache so much when I was 23!
Then again, I'd also like to see robot maids, self-cleaning cages, and laptop computers and smart phones with retractable power cords, but that's not happening either. So I suppose the point is that in life you can have it all - but not at one time. Great body and great wisdom come, but not in the same day. And I somehow doubt that robot maids and retractable cords will be around before I hit retirement either. I suppose I'm better off enjoying where I'm at on the path to where I'm going. I know better - I just don't look it!
That's all today. Have a great start to the new week.
Well, here we stand near the end of the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hakunnah are over, and New Year's Day is on the horizon. But before we tackle the issue of the all-important "resolutions," I feel there's one more issue we need to discuss: Holiday detox.
Now that the meals are eaten, the gifts are opened, and the family visits are done, there's the usual "letdown" to deal with. It's time to go home, time to pack up the decorations, time to get ready to get back in the swing of day to day life again. But right now, we have a few days to kick back, relax, and "detox" from the holiday festivities.
Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of the season. Yes, it's a letdown when the festivities end, and you take the decorations down. But there's something nice about having the rest of this week to wind down, rest from the activity, and take stock. It's good to slow the pace for no other reason than to catch your breath, take a much needed break, and enjoy life without the stress of a huge "to do" list hanging over your head.
So take the rest of this week for yourself. Spend time with your spouse/significant other. Enjoy those presents. Eat some candy before going on that New Year's diet and exercise program. Waste time online, or watching TV, or playing video games. Stay up too late and sleep even later. Go out for lunch on a weekday afternoon. Hit those post-holiday sales. Dress down on a weekday just because ou can. The festivities are over so now is the perfect time to drop out of the race of day to day life and just be for a few days. Real life will start again before you know it, so detox from the holidays and life itself now while you can!
Who says it's the post-holiday gloom? These can still be some of the best days of the year, if you use them wisely!
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?