acceptance · change · obstacles · renewal · self · simplicity

Sometimes, Love Makes Us Do Difficult Things


[This content is cross-posted to the author’s blog at LaPalm Books.]

Sometimes having a degree in Psychology is … cool. It encourages me to view life through a different lens. I seek to better understand myself, others, experiences, everything.

Psychological upset is the primary inspiration for the fiction I write. I love (in a demented-author kind of way) putting my protagonists through difficult situations and seeing them come out the other side (hopefully wiser and happier but definitely stronger). I also do it because I am forever an optimist. I believe in the power of the human spirit. The ability to push through the darkest of times and overcome personal hardships deserves to be celebrated and shared.

I believe in second chances. Do overs.

But sometimes, having a degree in Psychology is … not so cool. It leads me to become overly introspective. I begin to question myself, others, experiences, everything.

I am a solver. I look for whatever might be broken and try to fix it. I want to right every wrong – in my little world and elsewhere. If not kept in check, I attempt to solve problems that aren’t even problems at all. As someone who seeks answers to infinite questions, things can become very messy very fast, and it is easy to feel worried, overwhelmed, and unfocused. In these moments, I have learned to be patient. I wait. And when I wait, something wonderful happens.

Life resets itself. I begin again.

Lately, writing has fallen down on my list of personal priorities. And as I searched for a way to push it back to the top, I considered the obvious reasons: family responsibilities, frequent travel, social requirements, home workloads, overscheduled calendars, personal care, the list goes on. To put it bluntly, my process was not working and was in desperate need of repair. So I paused. Went silent.

And in the silence, there often comes clarity.

After some deep reflection, I realized the problem wasn’t everything else. It wasn’t due to a lack of balance, a need for simplicity and organization, more discipline or more time. The reason everything felt off with my writing was well … because of my writing.

I thought it was simple burnout from publishing a book a year or stress from trying to create full-time or frustration from the neverending need to market or being overwhelmed by the demands of the industry or fatigue from doing it all on my own. The truth is, it was. It was all those things.

But it was also something more.

For the past ten years, I have neglected parts of my life in an effort to create quality content and keep up the countless tasks that come with being an indie writer. When I write, I write not only for myself but for others. To show we are more alike than different. That what troubles you troubles me. That we can get through dark moments and difficulty and come out better on the other side.

There is no doubt that writing occupies a big space in my heart. It is not only WHAT I do, but WHO I am. I love it.

But sometimes, love makes us do difficult things.

Love for my family is making me move toward them. Love for myself is making me the highest priority. And love for writing is making me take a break from it.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? It means I will work – but less. I will write – but not with the intention of finishing or publishing a new book. I will blog – but even less than I do now. I will post to social media – but only when I feel like it. I will market – whenever. Nothing will be scheduled, planned, or expected. There will not be any goals or deadlines.

And the beauty of it is … I haven’t a clue how things will go.

I refuse to give up – but I am unafraid to give in. To the instinct, the known, the feeling that I do have to change things up and let go a little so I can hold onto what matters.

WILL I RETURN FULL-TIME? Maybe. I will take the coming months off and reflect on what has been. And when the new year comes, I hope to have a better plan for what might be.

I am not done. I am just getting started. And I can’t wait to come back and share it all with you.

How can you help?

~J

acceptance · confidence · relationships · self · spirituality

Faith Takes Many Forms

After the New Year, I wrote about promises. To ourselves and others. This month I focus on the promise of faith.


Faith is a difficult concept to define. For some, it signifies confidence in a spiritual power. For others, it might simply mean placing trust in the unknown. The path can seem clear and straightforward or prove cloudy and unpredictable.

Regardless of how faith is viewed or what method is practiced, it is important to develop a higher level of awareness, connect to a layer beyond the known. A deep belief in something greater than ourselves serves as a guide. It reminds us things will be fine whether we follow the proven course or explore new territory. Faith enhances the lifetime joys while minimizing the challenges of daily living. It celebrates. It cheers. It comforts. It heals. It provides strength when at our weakest and direction if we become lost.

If the idea seems overwhelming, think of faith more as a positive way to approach life, one in which hope and optimism rather than fear and pessimism are the norm. And the good thing is: the more it is practiced, the easier it becomes.

Unsure how to build a solid foundation of faith? There are two basic types that can be drawn upon, no matter the time, situation, or individual.

FAITH IN SELF
Believing in ourselves is faith in its truest form. We hold the power within to push through any obstacle placed in our way. Unfortunately, many of us are the root cause of those obstacles. Negative thoughts, doubt, and critical internal dialogue often lead to self-sabotage. We allow small hurdles to grow and manifest into more than they are, leaving us so unsure of our ability that we become frozen and unable to move forward. It is easier to pity ourselves and give into fear than face adversity and seek solutions. We construct imaginary comfort zones and reasons we cannot succeed to protect us from hurt, disappointment, or failure.

Why inflict unnecessary pain and impose limits when we should be giving ourselves love, compassion, and patience?

The next time you stumble upon a personal roadblock: 1) step out of yourself and think how you would treat a family member or friend in the same situation and then 2) bestow that same kindness upon yourself.

Reclaim the power within.

FAITH IN OTHERS
During times of trouble, it can be easy to fall further into ourselves rather than reach out. And while we often carry the power to solve problems on our own, there will be moments when life proves too much for us to handle. When this happens, do not be afraid to seek help from external sources. Support comes in surprising ways – spouses, children, family, friends, neighbors, employers, school, church, community, and even complete strangers. Asking for assistance may seem daunting but humans are instinctually wired to aid others in crisis. We want to help. We want to be needed. And when given the chance, we want to improve the experiences for others.

No matter how much we try, we cannot do this thing called life alone. We need people throughout our journey.

Open your heart and mind. Listen to ideas other than your own, appreciate advice of those who have gone before, and realize that sharing the struggle has unexpected benefits. Deep bonds are created once we realize we are more alike than different. Limitations become challenges to overcome rather than boundaries we cannot cross. We become reminded of just how wonderful people can be.

We are stronger together.

Believing – in self, in others, in anything – is a unique experience. There is no right or wrong way to believe. If someone imposes opinions or ideas on another, that is not a natural act. It is in the power of personal decision, the devotion to whatever is good for the individual that leads to the very success of one’s faith.

There will be times, however, when we may question the usefulness and purpose of beliefs held for so long. That is okay. Faith tests us – it is only fair we should test it back. If that time ever comes, do not be afraid to dig deeper into the reasons and facets of your conviction. Faith – in any form – should serve us well.

To believe is to hope – for something better, greater, more than what can be seen with the actual eye. It should be exciting and rewarding and above all, fulfilling. The next time Life trips you up … see what is within you, search for what is around you, look beyond the obvious.

Have a little faith.


Join me for A YEAR OF PROMISE!

Follow along as I focus on a different promise each month. This will not be some hard-core, paid program but a gentle exploration of changing how we view (and do) life. And in the end, maybe some parts will remain unchanged while others will be done in an entirely different way. The future is open, it is waiting, and it is all ours …

SUBSCRIBE to Blog Posts and LIKE on Facebook so you don’t miss out!


Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

acceptance · change · discovery · fears · learning · obstacles

When You Fall Into A Hole, Dig Deeper

After the New Year, I wrote about promises. To ourselves and others. This month I focus on the promise of reflection.


We all stumble, lose our way. And when we do, it is natural to avoid anything that might add to our discomfort or discontent. We might overindulge, engage in risky behavior, overspend, or hide behind a mask of feigned happiness.

Our instinct is to escape rather than reflect.

Understanding the root cause of a problem and working toward a solution is difficult. It requires time, effort, insight, and honesty. But though it may seem easier to pretend it does not exist or hope it will go away, the hurt or fear or pain will eventually catch up – in failed relationships, missed opportunities, disconnect, disinterest, and low self-esteem.

Whether it be personal, financial, career or health, there is no shame in hardship. Everyone will experience it. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. And when it comes to living an inspired and joyful life, managing those pesky downs can make all the difference.

A Simple Guide for Reflection:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE FALLEN
    If you are in a bad place or facing a challenge that seems bigger than your ability, find the courage to name it. Giving it a label diminishes its strength, transfers the power. There might be numerous things bothering you. If so, recognize them but focus attention on what is the most disruptive. The biggest problem often leads to smaller ones. Control the leader and eliminate the followers. Taking ownership is the first step in overcoming whatever holds you back and moving on to a better place.
  2. STAY DOWN THERE A WHILE
    Fight or flight kicks in whenever we feel hurt, rejected, fearful, or overwhelmed. No one wants to dwell in pain. Yet sometimes, we need to stay and experience the discomfort before we can overcome it. Ask the hard questions and answer in raw honesty. Why have you fallen? Look outside of yourself and identify contributors. Why aren’t you getting up? Look inside yourself and identify behaviors. Linger within the pain, but do not stay too long. If it becomes a crutch or excuse, it is no longer within your control. The goal here is to confront and conquer it so you come out as a victor rather than victim.
  3. LEARN HOW TO CLIMB OUT
    No one should struggle alone. If the problem is more than you can handle, admit you need help and then find it. Research solutions to your problem via reputable sources. Discover methods for coping. Therapy, meditation, exercise, life coaching, books, forums. If you feel lost and unsure where to begin, ask those who have shared a similar experience. Be open. Be patient. Be realistic. There is no one size fits all option. Try different approaches until you find a healthy, manageable way to adapt or overcome.
  4. PACE YOUR ESCAPE
    Maybe it took a long time to fall, maybe it did not. Whether the struggle has been a lingering downward spiral or swift blow, it might take a while to mend whatever feels broken. Give yourself time to discover what is wrong and how to make it right. And once you have a plan in place, work slowly through each step to insure a thorough transition onto the next one. Rushing the process or skipping vital areas may seem tempting, especially once you realize what needs to be done. However, taking an easy path will not solve the heart of the problem, and it won’t be long before you fall back down.
  5. ENJOY THE CLIMB
    Improving yourself or your situation will not always be fun, but it will be filled with hidden rewards. Assume nothing will go as planned. Appreciate the unexpected. Proving you can overcome hardship carries an extraordinary sense of pride and accomplishment which will help you face future problems. And once you discover and recognize the strength that lies within you, your sense of self and confidence will soar. View each and every test of your ability as a lesson – not only in self-care, but in life.
  6. CELEBRATE
    When you reach the pinnacle of insight, be fully present. Commit the hard-won moment of joy to memory. Never forget that feeling of freedom, the independence from whatever held you down. This experience will prevent you from falling so hard the next time. In times of distress or worry, when you fear tumbling back into the abyss, remember how you waded through the darkness to come back into the light.

We will fall many times in this one life. Sometimes we will be pushed.

Rock bottom does not mean the only way out is to look up. Think about the darkness. What is its purpose? Think about the light. How do we claim it? Maybe if we slide a bit further down, we will realize the light cannot be seen up above because it is not always meant to be found there. Maybe, just maybe, when we fall into a hole and everything seems lost that is when we must dig deeper …


Join me for A YEAR OF PROMISE!

Follow along as I focus on a different promise each month. This will not be some hard-core, paid program but a gentle exploration of changing how we view (and do) life. And in the end, maybe some parts will remain unchanged while others will be done in an entirely different way. The future is open, it is waiting, and it is all ours …

SUBSCRIBE to Blog Posts and LIKE on Facebook so you don’t miss out!


Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

acceptance · celebration · home · self

The Gift Of Good Enough

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful. We put pressure on ourselves to give the perfect gift, bake the perfect cookie, serve the perfect meal, decorate the perfect tree, provide the perfect everything.

Do not allow the world to tell you how to celebrate. Whether simplified or with fanfare, a little bit or a lot, the best memories are created in the imperfect, unplanned moments. As long as they are done with love, you will never fail.

THIS HOLIDAY, GIVE THE GIFT OF BEING GOOD ENOUGH.

Struggling to keep up? Let it go. Wishing to do more? Let it BE.

Be unapologetic – Release the guilt and take care of your own needs.

Be kind – Depression and loneliness rise around the holidays.

Be considerate – Stop logging on and start powering off technological distractions.

Be real – Not so ideal photo? post it anyway. Cookies a bit burned? eat them anyway.

Be realistic – Celebrate within your means.

Be you – Stop comparing, quit competing. We are meant to be different.

Be grateful – Life may not be what you expected, but there is always something to appreciate.

Be positive – Focus on the good and more will come.

Be picky – Do not be afraid to say no to one thing so you can say yes to something better.

Be understanding – If gathering with others, remember this is their holiday, too. Embrace new experiences.

Be mindful – Linger over that cup of coffee with someone special.

Be present – Focus your whole heart on friends and family.

Be patient – Do not be in such a rush. The next thing can wait.

Be generous – If you can help another have a better day, do so.

Be thoughtful – Hold a door open, say thank you, lend a helping hand.

Be gracious – Maybe a gift is not the prettiest, but it if was given with love, it is the best.

Be honest – If you need help, ask for it. If you are overwhelmed, admit it.

Be still – Rest your mind, your body, your soul. Breathe.

Be blessed – You are here, living this one life.

Be Merry.

Be.


Wishing you an Inspired Christmas and a Joyful New Year!


Photo by Greg Weaver on Unsplash

acceptance · change · goals · obstacles · self

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

This is the first post in a two-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

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