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

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

acceptance · letting go · relationships

When You Are Not Wanted


One of the hardest things I had to do was let go of someone I did not want to release.

I was not ready to have this person leave my life, but they no longer wanted me in theirs. I am not talking about a loss such as divorce or death.

Sometimes people just shut us out.

There might be an obvious reason for the disconnect: argument, betrayal, disrespect, etc. But there might also be a time when someone stops acknowledging us due to no reason at all. At least not one known to us.

The fact there is no defined cause for the break or clear moment to reflect on makes the estrangement that much harder to understand.

Our first instinct is to question our role. What did we say? What did we do? Did we let them down? Hurt them somehow? Where did we fail? What grievous error did we make? What unknown line did we cross?

Why would this person simply let us go without warning?

It is natural to believe we are to blame. Though this might indeed be the case, more often people do things and make decisions that have absolutely nothing to do with us. Maybe they are making big changes or following a new path. Perhaps they are caught in the trappings of daily life.

We may not be the intended target but simply collateral damage.

Once we determine we have not done anything wrong, we can experience a varying range of emotions. We might feel relief if the relationship was toxic or damaging. But if it was someone we care deeply about (a dear friend) or love (a family member), the hurt can run deep and wide.

As with any loss, overcoming the pain can take time. And for some, moving on becomes impossible. The constant wonder of what happened can stall any progress or enlightenment. And in the worst instances, it leaves the person feeling so rejected, they find it difficult to trust or become close to another.

If someone you value no longer cares to connect, there are different ways to approach it:

  1. Be friendly but uncommitted. Politely participate in interactions (no matter how big or small) whenever paths cross. There is no malice or resentment in this approach but little attempt is made to pursue a deeper relationship.
  2. Choose to take the high road. This option is particularly helpful in family or social situations where avoidance is not possible. Interactions with some people are inevitable, and it is unfair to subject others to any falling out. Be present and thoughtful.
  3. Seek to find an answer. This is best handled in a careful manner and environment where no one feels ambushed or attacked. The primary goal? Discover what caused the break. Perhaps it can be mended or maybe it is beyond repair, but at least it is known.
  4. Simply move on. Some people come into our lives for a specific purpose but are not meant to stay forever. Appreciate the time shared together. Look for the lesson. Learn from it. And use the knowledge to create better days and more meaningful connections.

Relationships should not be uncomfortable or forced. And while someone might make us feel unwanted, it may be the universe sending a gentle reminder: focus on those who fulfill our lives and bring us joy.

We may never truly understand the reason someone shuts us out, but perhaps we are not meant to. Sometimes life is simply about letting go of one thing so we can grab onto something else.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

Photo by George Bonev @ Unsplash

acceptance · celebration · family · home · letting go

A Perfectly Imperfect Holiday

It is far too easy to fall into the trap. You know the one. Cozy and festive ideas taunt us from magazine articles, advertisements, television shows, store displays, social media, lifestyle blogs, movies, and more. And we believe we must do them – all of them – if we are to experience the perfect holiday.

I have been there. I tried to design the artsiest card, give the coolest present, bake the yummiest cookie, decorate the prettiest tree, serve the tastiest meal, create the warmest memories. Sometimes I succeeded. But many times I failed – not in celebrating the season, but in reaching my unattainable goal of perfection.

My pursuit of the perfect holiday did not leave me euphoric or in a perpetual state of joy. It left me feeling inadequate (I could never reach the ridiculous standards I set), frustrated (my constant efforts to keep up made me anxious and ever-reaching), exhausted (I never stopped moving and neglected to care for myself), and disconnected (my quest clouded my ability to be in the moment).

And when I reflect on those years where I tried so hard, I realize how much I missed. In my hurried and determined haze, I lost precious time with people and the chance to create cherished memories. There was so much more I could have done. More fun. More laughter. More hugs. More love. More conversations. More connection. More time. More everything.

I stopped the frantic search for what could never be found.

I let go of unrealistic expectations so I might hold onto what mattered.

I chose to celebrate perfect holidays in the most imperfect way. Here’s how:

1. STOP COMPARING, START ENJOYING: We are meant to be different and stand out so why do we try so hard to mimic what other people are doing? Why do we believe their ideas are better than our own? This is your holiday to enjoy, not someone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate – find what works for your family, schedule, finances, and beliefs. Appreciate the world you create rather than one manufactured by another.

2. LOSE GUILT, FIND MEMORIES: Some people like to go all out for the holiday while others prefer something more low-key and simple. You should not be ashamed or embarrassed if you do not celebrate to the extent of another person. Discover what makes your family appreciate the season whether that be filling every second with activities or spending quiet moments at home. The holidays will be more memorable if you do them your way.

3. RELEASE FANTASY, EMBRACE REALITY: Often the greatest moments and memories are created when we do not organize or plan them. There will be crooked ribbons and wrinkled gift wrap on packages, awkward family conversations over dinner, houses that never seem clean enough, and burnt out lights on the tree. Messes are inevitable. Expect them. Welcome them. Making room for the chaos will ease the stress when troubles arise.

We all know perfection is a myth and yet we still try to achieve it. Why? Because we want the magic.

What we fail to realize is the magic is already there. It does not come from having the finest of anything or being the greatest at everything. The magic comes from within – our homes, our hearts, ourselves.

The best we can do is often what others want and all we need.

This season, find your joy. Make memories. Make moments. Make merry.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

acceptance · letting go · obstacles · relationships · self

Expect Less, Live More

SOMETIMES WE EXPECT TOO MUCH

from OTHERS – because we want people to treat us as we would treat them or believe they should think and behave a certain way.

from OURSELVES – because we think we are overly capable or are unable to recognize our limits and become self-critical when we falter.

If the realities of life do not match the expectations in our mind, it is natural to feel:

ANGER (as if we have somehow been disrespected by another or believe we have completely failed ourselves)
RESENTMENT (because others are not giving us what we need or we are unable to fill a void)
FRUSTRATION (when people are not doing what we want or we are not reaching our own objectives)
HURT (if someone does not seem to care about us or we do not care about ourselves)
REJECTION (the belief we are not good enough for others or doubt our personal worth)
FEAR (because we planned for one outcome and now have no idea how to cope with another)
HOPELESS (if nothing goes our way, our efforts begin to appear useless)
DEPRESSED (when everything seems to come easier to others, we believe we are inferior or at fault)

Setting goals and following dreams is vital to creating a purposeful life. And quite often, holding onto hope is the only thing to keep us moving forward in the most difficult of times. But there are enough challenges along the way – imagining or manufacturing problems that do not exist makes everything harder than it needs to be.

Life is never predictable – not for anyone. And we cannot control anything – or anyone.

We must allow others to be unique, true to who they are, and living a life independent of external wants or desires. We also need to give ourselves the same courtesy.

The next time you find yourself upset because things did not go as planned…

PAUSE – BREATHE – REFLECT – SEEK TO UNDERSTAND

If someone has disappointed you, remind yourself it is not intentional or a personal affront. We are human. We make mistakes. We are individuals free to live as we choose.

If you have disappointed yourself, remember it is not the end of all things. In fact, it could signal a new beginning. Be patient. Be compassionate. Be willing to let go or start again.

Bad experiences can carry a hidden good. An opportunity to become more aware – of others or yourself. A much-needed break or relief from unnecessary worry or stress. Or perhaps a second chance to right whatever is wrong. A failed expectation may be nothing more than the universe sending a sign: This is Life, happening as it should.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

acceptance · confidence · daily life · letting go · simplicity

The Power Of NO

This week I said NO to 5 things that were not already on my schedule. Why?

1) I had too many other non-negotiable, everyday activities (i.e. have-to-dos, need-to-dos, family, home, work, appointments, errands, etc.).

2) I knew that doing the everyday things + these 5 extra things + whatever unexpectedly popped up would have required me to give more than I had to give.

I realize I cannot do it all. More importantly, I no longer try.

Saying NO is not easy for many people. I have little problem doing it. In fact, my first instinct when I am asked something is to politely turn it down. Perhaps this is a major quirk of being an Introvert and a Minimalist all rolled into one. I am severely protective of my time, particularly the rare, free time.

My knee-jerk reaction might be NO, but sometimes I honestly and truly have to say NO so I can:

1) maintain my sanity
2) focus on what matters

Release the guilt of putting your family, your needs, and yourself first.

When we say yes to everything, we never really give our full attention to anything which can = lost memories and disconnect.

When we say yes though our heart screams no, we give away pieces of ourselves which can = anxiety and frustration.

When we say yes to things we do not want to do, we give away irreplaceable pockets of time which can = anger and regret.

When we say yes because of pressure, we give away our control which can = resentment and powerlessness.

Sometimes we must say YES because it is simply the right thing to do. We have compassion for others. We make promises to keep. We have commitments to those we love. We make goals and carry dreams.

But, the next time your instinct questions whether to do something, stop and ask: Why are you thinking of doing it? What are you sacrificing to do it? What are the ramifications if you say no? What are the benefits if you say no?

Saying NO may seem like you are letting someone down or missing out, but it can also bring opportunity.

A chance to:
-enjoy the things you do rather than rush through them
-complete the things you have to do with purpose, detail, and pride
-free up time to take care of yourself
-have cherished, ‘do nothing,’ memory-making moments with the people who matter

The benefit of letting go of the non-essentials is that we make room. Room to pause, reflect, plan, think, rest, relax, appreciate, love. Rather than chasing whatever might be coming next, recognize what is right in front of you.

These are your moments, live them on your terms. Consider saying NO so you can say YES to something better.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash