acceptance · change · goals · obstacles · self

FALL In Love With Life [1]: Stop Playing The Blame Game

This is the first post in a three-part series FALL IN LOVE WITH LIFE which I hope will inspire you to regain control, discover what matters, embrace change, and get back to living a life you love.

PART ONE: STOP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

A new season is fast approaching. I love the changes they bring – to nature, to tradition, to ourselves. This coming fall, however, is a sad reminder of personal goals not met. One year ago, I was scheduled to finish edits and publish my latest novel. That didn’t happen. Then I planned to complete it in spring. That didn’t happen. Now, I intend to publish within months and am fearful I will fail yet again.

The PERCEPTION? Everything was to blame.

Family: It was not an easy year. I spent the majority tackling life’s bumps and bruises for the two people I cherish most – my husband and son. They needed me, I happily delivered. The time, attention, love, care, patience, worry, and stress dedicated to them is not something I regret.

Personality: We introverts require ample time to pause and recharge in preparation for the next day or challenge. And in my perpetually overwhelmed state, I gave myself the necessary moments to reset. But now I wonder … did I really need SO much downtime?

Priorities: There was always something more important. In addition to the family, jobs, home, school, sports, pets, travel, and the simple demands of daily life required my immediate attention, pulled me away from the long stretches of free time needed to work effectively.

Exhaustion: Thanks to cancer, I still suffer from extreme periods of fatigue. I have limited physical energy and once it is spent on the most pressing needs, all else gets pushed aside to the miraculous day when I will feel “better” and have “more time.”

Work: Getting a book to completion is not a simple task. Aside from the writing, editing, and rewrites, there is proofing, formatting, covers, marketing, blogging, launching, promotions, updates, and more. Finishing one step was daunting. Knowing another twenty waited? Sigh.

Every person struggles to manage work and home life. But, the needs of family encroached into such a large part of my day and at an unfair pace that I became overwhelmed and frustrated. There was not enough time set aside for my goals (namely, finish my book). I was last on the list. Heck, I wasn’t even on the list anymore.

The REALITY? Life had become unbalanced.

I am notorious for setting high standards for personal productivity. If I can’t give my best effort, I do not want to do it. So rather than tackle something half-way, I lowered expectations for myself as a writer. Yet even though my standards decreased, my desires and aspirations to improve, be better, and succeed never went away. In fact, they just kept piling on.

I wanted to be the best wife and mother. I needed to recharge. I kept getting more to do. I needed to rest. But amid it all, I still had a book that needed to be finished.

I was stressed and emotionally exhausted. And with so much weighing heavy on my mind and heart, I sought every possible escape, excuse, and method of procrastination.

Oh, and did I mention the enormous guilt? I felt it when I did the things for me (like wrap myself in a cozy cocoon of introversion), and I felt it when I did not (like neglect my passion for writing). I mean seriously, why should I want to do something so demanding and all-consuming that it steals time away from the people who need me, the family I love? Why should I want to publish another book? BECAUSE I DESERVE IT.

We all deserve something of our own. And if we are not getting that something, we need to stop blaming others and take responsibility. Be open to hurt and frustration but also be prepared to accept your role, your choices, and what you can do to change things and move forward.

There is an old saying that perception is reality and in my case, it became true. However, once I realized my perception was negatively impacting my capacity for joy, I sought something else:

PERSPECTIVE…

There will always be too much to do and too little time. There will always be distractions, worries, and reasons to complain. There will always be something holding us back from our hopes and dreams. But rather than search for imaginary scapegoats to everyday problems, we should seek greater insight into what might be wrong and then find workable solutions.

NEXT TIME: I ask (and answer) the tough questions in my quest to get what I want.


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

daily life · obstacles · simplicity · technology

Seek Loves Rather Than Likes

It is no secret our online lives are consumed with likes. Personal validation often comes in the form of a digital thumbs up or colorful emoji. But amid the lighthearted posts, reactions, and comments, there is a dark side. Insecurity, rejection, jealousy, deception, procrastination, and addiction are negative aspects of logging on and the problem is, we might not realize it until it is too late.

Social media strengthens family bonds, fosters old and new friendships, informs, leads to exciting opportunities, inspires dreams, and even helps people find love. Yet in an ironic twist, the very tools intended to connect and encourage deeper relationships can also create division and a severe sense of loneliness.

Social media is not for everyone.

Like many, social media had become a habit for me. And while some might not view it as a negative experience, time online took over a large part of my day. And the more it did, the less I accomplished – for family, around the home, as a writer. I needed to make a change, a dedicated effort to redirect my energy and purpose.

For the past year, I have been shifting my personal life away from the virtual world, back into the real one. I decreased my screen time, logged on less often, and allowed myself to deal with the discomfort that comes from missing out.

It has been a test that I failed many times. I admit I felt left out knowing others were keeping in touch more. I worried people would no longer think or care about me because I was not posting or commenting enough. I wondered if they would view my absence and lack of interaction as indifference to their own lives. It took a long time to find peace with my decision and in all honesty, I am still working on it.

The longer I stay offline, the more I realize how little it serves my personality. I love seeing photos of my friends, their funny posts, and news about their accomplishments and travels. But I also find it overwhelming. It is too much to process for a mind like mine that single tasks and works methodically. I am simply wired differently, thriving on face to face interactions and deep conversations.

This is not a rail against technology or social media. In fact, as a writer and blogger I am very involved in both. As part of my job, I enjoy staying informed, learning new things, connecting with others, and meeting interesting people. But I also need balance and in seeking that balance, I remember there are many things to love – offline. Nature, home, travel, health, animals, self, people, solitude, companionship, work, and hobbies to name a few.

When we step away from the screen and focus on what is tangible and in front of us, we reclaim a part of ourselves and re-discover the simple joy of being in a moment.

It is okay to give in to modern world expectations and be social. Like your laptop, but seek to love your life more.


A FEW TIPS:

Decide. Does logging on create tension within family or friendships? Does it interfere with work or productivity? Does it keep you from doing what you want? If it does not enhance your current life or future goals, a change may be needed.

Start. Make a conscious and logical decision to log off. Ease into the change and realize it might take time to retrain yourself. Begin with short breaks – one hour, one day, one week – to find what is manageable.

Simplify. If you log on, go back briefly to see what has been shared in your newsfeed. Focus on notifications and private messages. Reach out and connect with those who love hearing from you.

Plan. When you log off, have an idea of what will fill the time. To stay motivated, combine small and large projects so you can feel an immediate sense of accomplishment while working toward a larger goal.

Enjoy. You are giving up online time for something greater. Spend those regained moments pursuing what you love, with people who matter. Making the perceived sacrifice worth it will lead to a successful transition.


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

celebration · daily life · gratitude · happiness · self

This One Life

Today I celebrate six years cancer free.

At times it has been easy,
easy to forget the fear and struggle that came with diagnosis and treatment.
Other times it has been difficult,
difficult to remember the pockets of hope that come with remission.

For within peace, there lies chaos.

Life loves to stir the pot, rock the boat, press every button.
It gives and takes. Pushes or pulls. Hurts then heals.

Surviving has not made me perfect,
it has made me purposeful.
I have been gifted clearer eyes with which to view my world
and myself.

Parts of me are better than before,
others not so much.
I do not always like what I see,
but I love who I am.

I have changed. There is no doubt I have changed.
It is impossible not to…

I have always been curious,
but cancer gave me insight.
I was always outspoken,
but cancer amplified the voice
within my mind and heart.

Yes, I have changed the way I live and love and spend my time.
Some believe I no longer care enough but the truth is this:
I care too much.
So much that I made the decision to release the hurt, let negativity go –
from people, things, emotions.

I do not have much time.
No one does.

The moments that matter? Limited.
They come in waves and I choose to get lost in them. Swim in their joy.

We all have choices. Whether right or wrong, they are ours to make.
Love them.
We all have this one life. Whether short or long, it is ours to take.
Live it.


Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

confidence · fears · happiness · letting go · self

Declare Your Independence

Happy Fourth of July!

Today, I hope you find the courage. Courage to break free from:

HOSTILITY · DEPRESSION · FEAR · ANGER

STRESS · DISTRUST · THINGS · SADNESS · GUILT

JUDGEMENT · COMPARISON · PRESSURE · CRITICISM

HURT · FRUSTRATION · IMPATIENCE · NEGATIVITY

PAIN · INTOLERANCE · DISRESPECT · HATE

Seek all that is good. Celebrate it – by yourself and with those you love.

Live. Liberate. Pursue your happiness.


Photo by Trent Yarnell on Unsplash

confidence · fears · goals · happiness · obstacles

All The Things You Did Not Do: Risk, Reward, And Regret

My son is officially on summer vacation. Over the next few months my heart, energy, and time will be even more focused on family. But this doesn’t mean my mind stops. It never stops. And lately, I have been thinking a lot about regret.

Regret is a funny thing.

For some, there is the fear of missing out on the REWARD. The prospect of learning, improving, or gaining something we have always wanted can be a great motivator. It can push us to open ourselves to new ideas and worlds and experiences as we fear we may never have another chance. If there is something beautiful at the end, we believe the struggle will be worth it.

For others, the RISK can prove too much. The sacrifice required along with a fear of failure can overwhelm to the point of inaction. The perceived cost – relationships, time, energy, money, pride – may prevent us from moving toward something we desire. And sadly, some view life as an ‘either/or’ situation, one where there is limited choice and opportunities are lost forever.

We are only one person, given just one life. Sometimes we have to jump in and have faith everything will come together. Other times, it may require more insight and extensive planning.

Weigh the risk versus the reward. Maybe the reward is worth the risk, maybe it is not. But isn’t it better to be sure before you say no altogether? Perhaps there is a balance to be found. Or there might be a period of chaotic imbalance to get through. Sacrifice is a part of goal seeking. Map it out – the pros and cons, available resources, potential timelines. You might realize it is better to be sorry and try rather than be safe and disappointed. We all have responsibilities – to ourselves and others – but we also deserve to fulfill needs, feel purpose, and find personal happiness.

Live without regret.

FOR ALL YOU DID NOT DO If you wish you would have done things differently, do something today to change the situation. It is never too late to alter the course. Make amends with someone. Rewrite your dream. Start completely over. Sure, you might not get to the exact place you wished for years ago but maybe, just maybe, you will end up somewhere far better.

FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING – If you feel guilt because others make you believe your path is wrong, release the pressure. Pursue the life you envision (as long as it does not hurt someone else) and do so without apology or explanation. We are all unique with different choices and goals. Seek those who put joy over judgment and support your efforts without condition.

FOR ALL YOU HOPE TO DO – Find a way.

Regret nothing.


Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

acceptance · change · daily life · obstacles

Life: It’s Just A Phase

Life is hard right now. There is little time to pause, relax, do nothing, or worry about nothing.

This is not the first time I have been overwhelmed, and it will not be the last. I have had many moments in life where everything seemed SO HARD – the sudden death of my father, two rounds of college, new jobs, that first year of motherhood, and a battle against breast cancer come to mind.

Whenever I think I can’t go on, I reflect on the old adage: THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

If a difficult stage in life proves more demanding than my abilities, I remind myself IT IS JUST A PHASE. Whatever is bothering me will not be a bother for long. More importantly, I know I can get through it because I have done so before.

There will always be hardships to overcome – personal loss, bad job, unsatisfying relationship, hectic schedule, major life change. But while these may push our limits and challenge us, we should never allow them to overtake our life or define who we are.

And though many phases begin and end naturally on their own, some grab hold. We may fail to move onto a new and perhaps improved stage of life for various reasons. Perhaps we:

  • form an emotional attachment
  • are in a comfort zone
  • link self-worth to a phase
  • feel guilt for moving on
  • fear the unknown
  • are overwhelmed
  • believe we have no control
  • lack a support system
  • think part of us deserves the struggle

We do not have to stay in one place. All things are temporary unless we refuse to let go and release them. The difficulties in life will eventually leave on their own and it they don’t, there are options. We have the power to A) remove ourselves from the situation B) change the situation or C) accept the situation.

If you are in the midst of a phase like I am, here are some tips to get through it:

  1. LEARN FROM IT – Adversity is a wonderful teacher. Expand on that knowledge to better yourself and future experiences.
  2. DECREASE THE STRUGGLES – Seek ways to prevent undue stress. Simplify, delegate, say no, declutter, etc.
  3. ENJOY THE NOW – Appreciate the value of the moment with this Grounding Technique.
  4. MAKE TIME TO BE – Carve out pockets of time to do something where little effort is required but much joy is gained.
  5. REALIZE THIS IS LIFE – Our days will never be perfect or go our way. Once one challenge is gone, another will soon replace it.
  6. EMBRACE THE CRAZY – Rather than focus on the stress, immerse yourself in the moments and make memories.
  7. EXPRESS YOURSELF – Cry or vent if that is what you need to do. Releasing negativity will improve your health and outlook.
  8. BE PATIENT – Know the discontent will not last and will eventually be replaced with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
  9. FIND GRATITUDE – See the good in the source of frustration. You are likely blessed with family, friends, a home, or career.
  10. PUT YOURSELF FIRST – Get plenty of rest, exercise, and downtime to offset the pressure. And do it without guilt.
  11. SEEK AND ACCEPT HELP – Delegate to share the load and if others offer to help, take it.
  12. GAIN ENERGY – Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Build your inner circle so tight that you never feel alone.
  13. TEND YOUR INNER SPIRIT – Whether through religion, meditation, art, etc., find something to feed your soul.
  14. TEMPORARILY ESCAPE – Step away for an hour, a day, a weekend. Recharge and come back with a new perspective and open heart.

Still overwhelmed? Start with these two questions:
1. What part of your current situation is the most frustrating? Seek to better it.
2. What, above all, is the foremost priority? Focus on it.

There will never be a time when life is easy but there will be moments – glorious, joyful, memorable moments – when life reveals its true beauty and purpose. Look for those. And when you feel caught up and lost in the crazy, remember: nothing is forever unless you allow it to be so.

This Too Shall Pass.


Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

acceptance · fears · learning · obstacles · self

Choose To Deal Rather Than Dwell

Ten days before my official diagnosis, I already knew I had cancer. Family and close friends remained positive, reminding me the mammogram, ultrasound, and lumpectomy were simply procedure. But something inside – my instinct – told me I was about to face the biggest challenge of my life. So while everyone else pretended all would be fine, I mentally worked it through, toughening myself for what I already knew.

I will admit the first month was the most difficult. It was a time of great sadness and hopelessness. The battle ahead seemed too overwhelming, and there were countless moments of deep despair. Unsure of what was to come, I questioned my ability to persevere. But even more, I feared an unknown end.

There was a turning point, however. A defining moment when the clouds passed and everything became clear. And as I look back, I realize it was when I acknowledged the possibilities. I could not only get through this, I could SURVIVE. There was opportunity for a LIFE AFTER. Yes, it would be forever changed, but it could still be beautiful. And yet I worried … how would I get there?

The answer was within me. I held the power. Cancer was strong, but I could be stronger. And that strength would come in many forms – education, goals, perseverance, diligence, relationships, motivation, and above all, attitude.

I decided to deal rather than dwell.

When we are hurting or fearful of the future, it is easy to become lost in the pain and frozen. Rather than face a hardship head-on, we allow ourselves to remain stuck in one emotion and place. And to be honest, sometimes we must do that before anything else. But it is important to accept reality at the appropriate time so we might regain or live a better life.

We cannot rush or force the process, however. Trust yourself. Pay attention. When the time is right, you will know to stop dwelling. Even the smallest step forward, the tiniest change, the slightest attempt to overcome is dealing.

What helped me through the darkest of times? THE FIVE Ps.

1) PLAN: Determine where you want to be and create a manageable path to get there. This does not need to be detailed or final. Establish baby steps. Be flexible. But have some idea of how to move yourself forward.

For me, this was two-fold. I educated myself about my stage of cancer to lessen the unknown. I also had my oncologist provide an estimated timeline of what treatments, surgeries, tests, etc. I would undergo so I could better visualize what was ahead.

2) PURSUE: Tackle the tasks in your plan. Even simple efforts should seem like a major victory. Celebrate the small things, but remember there are bigger hurdles to overcome if you hope to come out on the other side. Acknowledge them. Act on them. Take satisfaction in every achievement.

I took life day by day (sometimes minute by minute). But even on my hardest days, I focused on the opportunity to do something to advance my situation. I viewed everything – big and small – as necessary to moving me forward and welcomed them.

3) PERFORM: Even if you are not in a good place, act like you are. I do not mean pretend or ignore your feelings. But doing routine everyday tasks like it is a normal day can help you forget the difficulties ahead – even if just for a moment. [NOTE: Depression is very prevalent so please watch for the signs and seek immediate professional help if needed.]

In the first weeks after diagnosis, I fell into a depression which my doctor monitored closely. And once I came through that, I found solace in basic chores around the house, running errands, and maintaining a sense of normalcy for my young son.

4) PAUSE: Managing a major life crisis can be stressful, but it should never be allowed to erase all the joy. Whether it is something you love on your own or being with others, make time to do something that makes your heart happy – every single day.

Chemo and surgeries left me fatigued, sick, and unable to focus. My family and friends found creative ways to engage me socially online and via coffee dates and movie nights. The simple act of getting out of the house always lifted my mood.

5) PURPOSE: When something bad happens, it is common to question why. But there are lessons hidden in the toughest of times – about ourselves and life. Accept your journey will be difficult but also seek to appreciate that you have been granted a gift. To learn, to grow, to perhaps change or begin again. View it as a reminder of what is important or a chance to discover what truly matters.

Whenever I felt lost, I remembered what I was fighting for – this beautiful life and my amazing family. I learned to love everything.

[Bonus] PRAY: A spiritual connection can help to allay pain, worry, or fear. Whatever your belief, a faith-based approach can provide an incredible sense of peace for those who struggle.

It is inevitable – there will be difficult days. But when we are thrust unwillingly into the deepest of depths, we still hold the power. We have a choice. We can either dwell in the dark or we can make our way into the light.

Choose the light.


Photo by Lawrence Walters on Unsplash