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 · 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

bookshelf · celebration · goals · gratitude · obstacles

(Almost) Crossing The Finish Line

In my other life, I am an author of contemporary fiction. Like much of this past year, it has been a challenge getting my latest project from chapter one to publication. But, I am happy to announce I am almost there.

The Breakup Effect will officially release later this month, and since it was directly inspired by this website, I thought it fitting to share the news here.

As a THANK YOU, I am offering a special FIRST LOOK PRICE for KINDLE*. Download your copy for just 99CENTS! This price expires midnight EST 11.9.18. Please feel free to share this offer with others.

Find Out More …
Read SAMPLE CHAPTERS [extended excerpt]
View BOOK PAGE [details, sample, buy]
Visit LAPALM BOOKS [official site]

*No Kindle? No problem. Amazon offers a FREE Reading App so you can read any Kindle eBook on any device (computer, tablet, phone). GET THE APP.

There is more work to do but after dedicating every available moment to this book, I look forward to blogging regularly and re-connecting with everyone here. I have missed it so …

discovery · goals · happiness · obstacles · self

FALL In Love With Life [2]: Let Nothing Destroy Your Joy

This is the second 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.

In the previous post STOP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME I shared how viewing our difficulties solely as the result of external circumstances could lead us to believe we have no control. Blaming outside forces for our inability to reach goals is not only unproductive, it can be destructive, particularly if we project our frustration or resentment onto other people. Making and relying on excuses prevents us from gaining insight into what we want and the reasons we are not getting it.

PART TWO: LET NOTHING DESTROY YOUR JOY

We need to go back to the beginning and define What We Want. This can be difficult because our instinct is to make a list of every little thing we wish was different in our lives. That is a trap, a distraction, and unrealistic. Instead, we need to look deep within and diagnose What Is Missing. What is that ONE thing that is not working or broken?

This. This is what we want.

Discovering the core want has two benefits:

  • While it often seems we have many things to repair, there is usually a primary issue disrupting other areas and creating imbalance. Working to correct one can heal and improve others.
  • If we dedicate our thoughts and energy on one topic, the focus becomes clearer, the task appears less daunting, and our success is more likely. We realize real change is possible. We can do this.

First, ASK and ANSWER the tough questions:

1) WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Think about what is missing. If you had unlimited free time, how would you spend it? On a hobby, travel, education, self-care, a goal, certain people? Write down everything you would do without the worry of a job, caring for others, home projects, etc. Once you see what your heart desires, rank them. What comes out on top? That is your Joy – pursue it.

2) WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK?
Determine what stands in the way. There is something preventing you from getting what you want – people, things/clutter, chores, self-esteem, fear, confidence, guilt, money. Yes, some things are out of your current control. There are people who need you and places you must be. Find the workable things you can simplify, delegate, prioritize, influence, or change.

3) WHAT ARE YOU HIDING BEHIND?
Be realistic but more importantly, be real. Pinpoint the excuses you use to procrastinate, distract, or even sabotage progress. Chronicle your actions for a week. Is it perfectionism, unnecessary tasks, perceived needs of others, your personality? You might be surprised to realize you waste a lot of time. Only when you accept your role and responsibility can you bring about change.

4) WHAT IS THE COST?
When we fail to nurture the person we want to be, we lose something. Frustration and resentment over not getting what we want can lead to broken relationships, poor health, risky behaviors, a lack of purpose, and a desperate search for peace. What do you pay for not doing what you want?

HONESTY is a requirement. When we believe we are stuck and just going through the motions, like our desires are not met, or that we are ignored, rejected, invisible to the outside world … THIS is when we must look inward and find out what lies at the heart of our frustration. Because that is precisely what frustration is: not getting what we want, expect, or need.

For me, it was an inability to make time to write effectively. I battled stress which led to emotional exhaustion which led to physical fatigue, procrastination, unrealistic expectations, and a life out of balance. I was letting go. In most instances letting go can be a positive move. The problem arises when we are constantly required to let go of the things that bring us joy in order to make room for things that do not. I got tired of putting off – my time, my aspirations, my dreams, my life.

LIFE IS NOT SOMETHING WE SHOULD EVER PUT OFF.

I challenge you to figure out what is missing and when you do, do everything in your power to reclaim it. Become committed to giving yourself more of what you want. Find a way. There is always a way.

Research multiple solutions
Develop a flexible plan
Delegate when possible
Let go of what does not matter
Prioritize what does matter
Determine the motivation
Take small steps and reward yourself with big happiness whenever you overcome one

CREATE A LIFE WITH YOU IN IT.


Photo by Sandis Helvigs at 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

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

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