A wise squirrel teacher in a children’s book once said, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit”. It was in deference to a tiny, adorably tubby tyke who was unhappy over treatment he deemed unfair. Well, I came here today to add to that: you get what you give, and you don’t throw a fit. Continue reading “You Get What You Give (And You Don’t Throw a Fit) | Weekend Wishes”
Toward the end of 2018, I sat and considered some of the feedback I’d received over the year both internal (from talking to myself) and external.
I have specific goals for my writing, but I have specific personal goals as well. One is to improve the way I communicate with others when things go wrong.
My car had a flat tire a while back. The air cap was missing. I ended up missing a very important doctors appointment. It ended up throwing off my plans for the rest of the day and bleeding into the next.
I called my husband and was fuming. He calmed me and said … there had been a flat tire. He took it to a tire shop and had them patch it. They refilled the tire and must have forgotten to put a cap on. It had been slowly leaking since then, and with cold weather had compressed enough to reduce the air pressure.
Even if it had been his fault, I shouldn’t have expressed my anger that way. I said things that I regret.
I sat and read about conflict resolution and how to stop saying things that I regret.
Can’t Stuff It Back In
Sometimes I say things that I regret. I’m tired. We had upsetting news, and I felt exhausted and hopeless. It doesn’t excuse me. It’s just an explanation. When I’m physically having a rough time, or under too much stress, I’m most likely to reach that tipping point. I react, it’s a nuclear reaction, and I can’t stuff what I said back in my mouth. I’ve given life to frogs and malice like a cursed princess instead of jewels and flowers following me wherever I go.
Reading about conflict resolution, gentle parenting, and being a friend to myself has really helped me. I want to keep putting into practice those new tools I have learned.
When I find myself getting frustrated, it’s often mixed with a panicky feeling because something else is also wrong – I need rest, or food, or less stimuli. Less stimuli for me can come in the form of a clean house. If I need to clean, then I’m constantly noticing dirt or clutter and adding to a never ending to-do list.
Introspection can be difficult. It’s my observation that most of us are a little unreliable when it comes to how we perceive ourselves versus actuality.
Someone recently commented that they are “nice” to strangers but reserve kindness only for their close friends and family. I didn’t engage with them. They have the right to their approach to life.
I don’t understand this thinking. I strive to be kind to everyone I meet. Sometimes I fail, but I want to be good for goodness’ sake, not just to those who are close to me.
Kindness is often both priceless and free.
My challenge to myself this year is to be kinder in my words both in and out – in how I speak to myself, and everyone with whom I come in contact.
My challenge is to listen to understand, not to reply, and to consider the people around me, and what they need to hear versus what I want to say.
Do you have any personal challenges this year you’d like to share?
I broke down crying. I was standing in the store after an upsetting day, looking at ornaments and overwhelmed by the choices. I had to leave and collect myself. And ya know what? It’s okay. It was a little embarrassing. I caught some looks. I’ll live.
Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of listening to a semi-retired therapist – Bonnie Gramlich- speak about the challenge of the holiday season. I’ll tell you what she talked about, my history with grief, and what I’ve been doing differently this year. Continue reading “It’s OK to Not Be Jolly | Weekend Wishes”
Writing a novel takes time – even if you’re a pantser (a NaNoWriMo term meaning someone who writes by the seat of their pants), it is still a process: drafting, developmental edits, line edits, and that’s not even considering critiques and re-reading it yourself.
Today I want to talk to you about pacing, burnout, and progress.
Minimalism and mindfulness have their own places on the shelf of life. Sometimes we need to put them back in their places. Maybe your experiences are different but I’m going to share mine.
Minimalism. The oft praised design concept that conjures up fresh tiny houses, Scandinavian designs, Japanese zen gardens, and futuristic serenity come to mind. Jane Cumberbatch’s Pure Style Living has maintained a treasured spot on my bookshelf for over a decade with its praise of white, sterile, industrial inspired function. #goals
In contrast I have a maximalist house. It’s overly large (we’re planning on expanding our family). It’s overly cluttered (I’m working on that). My life is anything but sterile. It’s functionally chaotic.
An article I read talked about the mental stress that clutter causes. I had a hard time explaining it to my husband before reading the article, but this really helped. Clutter causes anxiety for me because it represents endless to-do lists and embarrassment. I want the house to look like a magazine cover, but it’s a mess. I don’t think I could ever have someone help me clean up either – I’m too particular, and it would make me very uncomfortable. When I first brought the baby home, a few close friends or family offered to help, but I had to turn them down. Having anyone else clean up my mess would rack me with guilt.
In the spirit of reducing and destressing, I tackled the closets, the bookcases, and some keepsakes. The Marie Kondo method really has helped me trim down my closet to clothes I enjoy wearing.
Why own clothes that don’t make me feel good? Why keep books or keepsakes that are just collecting dust? If I don’t treasure them, then why not give them a happier home with someone else?
Like The Decemberist’s song, “[A]nd if you don’t love me, let me go”.
Marie Kondo’s method of folding socks and t-shirts has transformed my drawers. The idea of treating my belongings with respect has truly increased value for objects I otherwise disregarded.
I have not read her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s in my To Be Read list, as is Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.
Someone who has read Kondo’s book was telling me that there’s an idea expressed that if your house is cluttered it’s because you’re choosing chaos, and that if you’re choosing chaos in your most intimate of physical environments it’s to distract you from the disarray in your own mind. Again, I have yet to read it, so I can’t speak to the quote and tone.
That idea, however, been bothering me for a few days. Am I choosing chaos in my home to avoid chaos in my mind?
I’ve been trying to get as much done as I can, but I seem to consistently fail. I definitely relate to having chaos within, and I’m doing my best to tame the chaos around me.
Someone else told me that they choose to view chaos in their physical environment instead of as the result a choice (blaming oneself) as merely a case of insufficient resources. They view it not as a personal failing but as a symptom of too little time/energy.
This brings me back to mindfulness.
Studies upon studies tout the line that mindfulness meditation has health benefits, improves mental health, etc.
What if you can’t get into it, though?
I’ve had to deal with some intense physical pain during my life. Sitting and focusing on what I’m experiencing in the moment isn’t always good for my mental health personally.
Mindfulness sometimes employs labeling: naming experiences, condensing actions into an idea to limit internal monologue to allow more time to focus on the present.
An example of labeling might go something like this:
Inhale. Thinking. Exhale. Itching. Inhale. Shoulders heavier. Exhale. Tummy relaxing.
It brings acute awareness to physical sensations. For me that sensation tended to be pain.
My mindfulness labeling went something like this:
Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Hurting. Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Still Hurting.
It sucked. I don’t want to just sit and think about how much pain I’m in. I can’t negate that being the most poignant part of my experience in those moments. Mindfulness that focused on labeling the present was not for me.
Does it help others? Yes. More power to them.
For me meditation that focuses on controlling thoughts is more helpful: mantras, focused breathing (especially square breathing).
Sometimes this sad vending machine is a pretty accurate depiction of me.
Minimalism, for all its beauty, isn’t working for me. I’m trying to tackle the clutter one type at a time and trying to become better organized. That’s one tool that I’ll have to shelve for now.
There are cleaning guides I’ve looked at as well. They seem to over-simplify cleaning. Focusing on a single room a day sounds like a great approach, but it hasn’t worked for me. I can’t do just one load of laundry a day or one load of dishes either. I mentioned this to a friend who said they think this only works if your house is clean to begin with and you’re just doing maintenance cleaning instead of nitty gritty cleaning and you live by yourself. With a baby and pets, laundry and cleaning are constant. I also have to decide – do I want to treasure this moment with my child (who will only be this size right now), or do I want a perfectly clean house? Cleaning can wait.
The same goes for meditation: mindfulness isn’t my cup of tea. With so many types of meditation, I’m lucky I’ve found other ways of quieting my mind.
My go-to meditations besides square breathing are simply counting one on the inhale and two on the exhale and trying to free my mind of any thoughts; and a singing meditation:
When I breathe out, I breathe out peace. When I breathe in, I breathe in love.
My goal right now is to shelve those thoughts deriding myself for perceived failures in organizing my physical and headspace and to just accept that sometimes I have insufficient resources. I don’t think the Serenity Prayer was meant to be applied this way, but I definitely need “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
What are your favorite ways of creating order in your headspace and/or physical space?
One of my dear friends told me that the theme for her in 2017 is forgiveness. This quote has inspired me in writing Syzygy. I challenge you to not only forgive others but to also forgive yourself.
Self Compassion. I’ve not had a problem forgiving other people. My worst enemy is often no further than the closest mirror. Forgiving myself is difficult.
The way I talk to myself and the harsh way I deal with myself is not how I would treat others. I’ve admitted this before.
If you’re like me it’s easier to let go of what other people did than to give yourself compassion. Compassion is vital and it needs to start internally. For us to be healthy, functional people we have to own our flaws and move beyond them: we have to forgive ourselves.
Let It Go. If you’re holding on to bitter thoughts about someone, I challenge you to let them go. Madeline L’Engle said, “Hate hurts the hater more than the hated”. While you may not actually loathe the person who has wronged you, holding onto negativity just bogs you down like a ball and chain.
Use this formula when posting on social media – 20% book marketing, 10% small talk (weather, exercising, cooking, etc.), 30% retweets, 20% personal (I use this to post baking/cooking pics), 20% other interests (sports, hobbies, news, politics, etc.)
Next I examine the other characters in my cast. Who could use more fleshing out? Or who has a rich backstory that I’m not utilizing as much as I could? I give myself time to brainstorm ways I could enhance my cast as well.
Rereading Dark Fate there are places I can expound. I want to add content of substance and improve the story. I know the scenes with the villain felt short and plan on revising them.
Often a hobby or interest can yield unexpected benefits to our writing.
Sometimes my well runs dry and I have to find a way to refill it. My critique partner, Eric Peterson, has given me good advice to keep my creative mind happy. Ballet and reading invigorate me. What makes your creative mind happy?
Not everything in life happens over night, which is most likely one of the biggest blessings that we as humans have been given. We are allowed to grow, and improve. We are blessed with time to shape and mold ourselves into what we are meant to achieve AS WE ARE READY FOR IT.
This article was about going the distance as a writer. Small pieces of progress add up. Being a writer means that one has to actively write. Bestseller Dean Wesley Smith said in Heinlein’s Rules, “My definition of an author is a person who has written.” I don’t want to be someone who has written. I want to be a writer.
The best way to make sure your story’s logic makes sense is to spend time learning how people work.
I’ve mentioned previously the enneagram article Yep, You’re Talking to Yourself Again but there are other resources as well. Learning about Myers-Briggs or even zodiac signs can help as well. I don’t personally believe in horoscopes but the personality classifications based off astrology are intriguing. I’m definitely an Aries. I’m also working on a book called Syzygy right now that revolves around astrology. I start each chapter with a horoscope so that has been an interesting challenge requiring research and it has broadened my horizons.
A dear friend let me know that she is writing and that I had encouraged her. What she didn’t know is that she’d inspired me as well.
When we share our stories we become vulnerable. We open ourselves to rejection in that moment.
At the same time those authentic moments are what inspire others.
We each have a different human experience and story to tell. Your own struggles can help another person have courage or find a new way of looking at things. Inspiration can be infectious. Touching the life of a single person can in turn trickle down to others.
This brings me back to writing about what hurts: when you write about your own pain you can touch those around you in a powerful way.
The ultimate goal of writing is empathy: we want to evoke something in the reader. We want to make a mark on another’s soul.
Who or what inspires you? Does this person know how you have been touched by them? I challenge you to let them know.