gratitude · health · renewal · self

What Is Waiting For You?

Last week was one of those weeks. The kind where everything is more difficult than usual and nothing seems to go right. I won’t expand on the gory details, but I will say this: the new-school-year honeymoon is over, my son is a soon-to-be teenager, my husband is travelling extensively (again), unexpected house problems keep popping up, and oh well … life.

I felt like all I did was put out fires. Every back-to-school fall is just different enough – just challenging enough – to change the rules for our little family. I generally do not like surprises. And last week surprised me with its continuous onslaught of frustration. Oh, did I mention I also don’t like being frustrated? Of course, I am a realist – I do not expect things to go smoothly every moment of every day. But it would have been nice to have one day pass with ease.

Yet even in the midst of catastrophic thinking, my mind kept returning to one glorious thought: I have two blog posts and a novel to draft. My writing is waiting for me.

In truth, part of my overwhelming sense of frustration comes from the simple desire to work. Back to school always means back to full-time writing for me. And not finding the necessary and appropriate times to do so leaves me flustered. You would think after almost eight years of doing this gig that I would have a very strict, set schedule, right? Well, I did. Once. But that did not last.

As with any family, our needs are in a constant state of change. Despite my effort to keep my son perpetually small and snuggable, he continues to grow and as such, the responsibilities grow. Also, my husband’s career is increasingly demanding, requiring frequent out-of-state travel. And of course, I have changed – in many ways. So though I crave structure and scheduled hours, I choose to be flexible when life builds up and overflows.

I could easily say “I can no longer do this, I’m done,” but I don’t. The reason? Writing is not only my job, it is my outlet. Aside from any financial benefit, it provides an escape, a purpose, a sense of accomplishment, the ability to connect, an opportunity to learn about myself and the world. Writing is not only entertaining but therapeutic. It challenges me, pushing me beyond my imaginary boundaries.

A whole lot of who I am is figured out when I write. Aside from the people I love, it is one of the things that truly matters – which is why I make time for it even when I do not have time.

I find comfort in knowing I have something waiting for me. 

WHAT IS WAITING FOR YOU?

Is there something that makes the outside world go away? If so, do not become so trapped by the duties of daily life that you neglect to do it. It does not matter what it is – reading, writing, art, gardening, cooking, baking, decorating, exercise, meditation, a sport, a craft, anything.

When you are caught up in the craziness of life, listen for what is calling to you. What do you wish you could be doing instead? What do you look forward to at the end of a long day? What truly matters?

Take a look at what you make time for. Identify your outlet. And when you do, plug into it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

change · goals · renewal · self

10 Signs A Change Is Not For You

I have been thinking a lot about change.

In today’s world, it is impossible to ignore or deny the idea of change. Buildings are demolished only to be replaced by new ones, fashions are redesigned, homes are renovated, jobs are redefined, products are re-branded, processes are improved. We are bombarded daily with messages geared toward becoming someone different, someone better, someone more than the person we are now.

Even this blog is dedicated to approaching life differently – perhaps better – than before.

Change is inevitable in many areas – births, deaths, relationships, and yes, even people. Everything around us is in a constant state of movement and much is out of our control. We cannot escape change. But when it comes to the changes within us, we do have the power to decide what goes and what stays.

Are you unsure of when to change and when to stay the same? Think self-improvement vs. self-love.

Self-improvement is when you choose to alter something about yourself to make you feel better. Changing the way you live is a very personal decision. If you feel compelled to transform your appearance or behavior or path or dream in order to pursue a more satisfying life then by all means do it. This may be a time to change.

Self-love is when you value yourself and your beliefs so much that you are unwilling to bend. Changing who you are to please someone else rarely ends well. If another person makes you feel lacking or inferior or suggests you alter a part of yourself to suit their needs, pause before taking action. This may be a time to stay the same.

Self-improvement is easy to recognize. It is often met with a sense of anticipation, excitement, and motivation. And it is accompanied by fierce determination – on a personal level – to reach a goal or succeed. The need for self-love, however, can be much harder to detect.

When we care deeply about someone, it is common to forgo our own needs to make them happy. And in truth, there is nothing wrong with doing something to please a family member or friend. If the intent and desire are shared, it may be a good thing.

The key is to pay attention. Who wants the change? What benefit comes from the change? Why are you considering the change? How does the change affect you?

If you are questioning a change, watch for these signs:

  1. PROCRASTINATION: you make constant excuses in an effort to avoid action or progress
  2. INSTINCT: something deep within your gut screams ‘this is wrong and not for you’
  3. PRESSURE: someone gives you an ultimatum or makes unfair demands
  4. GUILT: you are manipulated into believing something is dependent on the modification of your behavior
  5. FEAR: you must conform to avoid physical or emotional abuse (if true, please SEEK HELP NOW)
  6. INADEQUACY: you feel less-than because someone bases your worth upon your current actions
  7. SHAME: someone diminishes your self-image by criticizing your current behavior
  8. EMOTION: attempts to change leave you melancholy, angry, unhappy, or depressed
  9. RESENTMENT: your attitude and view of another shifts in a negative direction
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENT: you feel left out and believe changing yourself will lead to acceptance

Real and effective change can be difficult and challenging, but it should also be pursued with purpose and for the right reasons. Forcing change in your life or within yourself is rarely rewarding. So whenever you consider taking a major step in a different direction, determine if your heart is truly invested in the outcome. If it is something you – and you alone – really want, go for it with all you have and do not give up. But if outside influences are making you question the person you are, it might be best to just stay the same.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

confidence · love · renewal · self

Nurture Your Best Self

A person close to my heart recently shared a video with me. It was about embracing who we are, releasing the hold others have on self-perception, and reclaiming our power. It was a sweet, gentle reminder presented by a passionate and charming young man. And although it was catered to women, it could (and does) apply to everyone.

The core message? Recognize our true worth, realize we are loved, and above all, love ourselves.

If you have ever read my blog, you know I am a strong proponent of self-love. I believe we can show ourselves love by looking deep within, finding what inspires, doing whatever brings joy, and catering to personal needs.

It is okay to be a bit selfish. I do not mean in the arrogant “me me me” way but more in the “take care of myself so I can take care of others” way. Personally, I require a lot of quiet time alone to recharge so I can tackle the challenges life throws at me, and I make sure to find a way to do it. For others, it might be something else.

All that matters is this: dedicate time to being you. Carve out moments to nurture your best self. Show yourself some love.

In today’s chaotic world it is far too easy to move our desires to the bottom of the to-do list or cross them off altogether. Home, family, work, school, hobbies, church, friends, volunteering, etc. are gratifying and can satisfy most needs. But an overlooked problem is that we often become caught up in external demands, crushed by the weight of their importance. And when we do, we try to reach some self-set goal of performing each role effortlessly and with perfection.

How often do you push beyond your personal limits in order to please someone else? Do you ask What Do People Want From Me? and then scramble to meet their assumed or perceived desires? Are your hopes and dreams and wants and needs last on the list?

Living takes enough energy and effort and emotional strength as it is. Let’s stop trying to do so much. Let’s stop worrying about fitting into an unattainable mold. Let’s stop being self-critical whenever we believe we have failed to meet the manufactured expectations of others – and of ourselves. Let’s stop allowing invisible forces to determine our worth.

Rather than What Do People Want From Me? let’s begin to ask What Do I Need?

Spend time on you. Be a bit selfish. Love yourself first. Once you do, you will be able to give more – more of your self, focus, energy, compassion, patience, love – more of your everything to those who need and deserve it.

referenced video link


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · renewal · self · simplicity

When You Hit A Wall, Lean Against It

This summer has been a lot tougher than I care to admit. For although we are officially on summer break, much of it hasn’t really felt like summer or a break.

My son loves sports – as in he could practice, play, watch, analyze, and research all day. And because he loves sports, he loves participating in a variety of camps. I register him for some because they are worth the time and cost. They also provide an opportunity to hang with friends, be coached at a different level than during the school year, and simply have fun.

And so it is that my son and I have very different views of summer. He prefers warp speed. I prefer slow and steady. He wants to compete. I want to relax. He likes places to go. I like no schedule. He seeks to be challenged. I seek serenity.

Of course I believe immense value comes from activities and experiences. But I also believe occasional boredom, having absolutely nothing planned, and stepping away from the crazy can be equally rewarding.

Any moment – grand or not – can become a cherished memory.

My struggle? Surviving cancer often makes me believe I should hold onto everything with a grateful heart while at the same time I should let go of whatever is a waste of time and energy and just … live.

I want every moment to matter – both for him and for me – which is why I often do things I do not necessarily want to do. As a parent, my son’s happiness automatically becomes my happiness. In a strange way I have to do things I do not want to do in order to get what I ultimately want … joy in the everyday.

The problem? For the first five weeks of summer we were on a tight schedule. And while I loved seeing my son do the things he enjoys, I tried to do too much. Even worse, when I reached my limit, I (stubbornly) kept going.

I HIT A WALL.

The solution? Pause. Reflect. Remember the magic summer can bring. I will make the most of the next five weeks. Our little family has already enjoyed one vacation – glorious days exploring, relaxing, and simply being together. Up next is another trip filled with family and fun. And in between we will do a little of something and a whole lot of nothing.

I AM LEANING AGAINST THE WALL.

Sometimes we must give in to the demands, feel overwhelmed, and push ourselves to get through busy or difficult days. And other times, we might have to say yes when we really want to say no, especially if it comes to pleasing the people we love. The key is realizing when we have reached maximum capacity. Yes, it takes strength to keep up with it all, but it takes even greater strength to release the guilt, take care of ourselves, and break away.

If you have hit a wall, lean against it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

change · confidence · goals · renewal

Dream Big And Work Small

Too often when we want something, we do not want to wait for it.

Instant messages, fast food, quick loans, overnight delivery, one hour glasses. The world has been wired to coddle and appease on-demand tastes. And with the increasing speed of everything, our desire to want experiences now has not only become commonplace but expected.

It is human nature to focus on the destination rather than the journey. But while a hurried approach might be fine for the service industry or technology, the rapid-fire tempo of life does not work everywhere, especially when it comes to far-reaching dreams or goals.

Change – real and meaningful change – does not happen quickly. It requires determination, organization, and extreme patience. And this is often the very reason why many people do not pursue their true dreams. They think big but do not work small. They want the reward without taking an honest look at the steps necessary to get there.

We cannot always get what we want simply by wanting it. We must work, then wait, work, and then wait again. Rushing toward satisfaction in certain areas will only lead to 1) disappointment with the result 2) lack of appreciation for the result 3) lackluster result or 4) complete failure.

Life is a project. Treat it that way.

Whether it be physical or mental, a career path, school, relationships, home improvement, or a major life change, mapping out the ideal end and expectation is the key. And the best place to start? At the beginning.

  1. Where do you hope to be? What exactly do you want? I mean truly want. Focus on the overall picture, aim high and dream big but be sure you are specific in your goal. Envision the intricate details of your final reward. Imagine the incredible feeling of accomplishment. Having a clear visual along with the anticipation of a successful end will help propel you forward when times get tough and all seems impossible.
  2. How will you get there? What is your simple plan? And I do mean simple. Create a few manageable steps. Again, you have to start somewhere so start at the beginning. Decide what must be done and go in order – do not jump to an easier, more appealing task if others must be completed first. Work diligently and once done, move onto the next. And do not forget to take pride in the smallest of victories and celebrate along the way.

And for those times when you feel stuck, defeated, or in need of a reality check:

BE DETERMINED Short term pain for long-term gain. If you made a decision, stay committed and resolve to see it through. There will be times when it all seems too much and overwhelming. With any large undertaking it is inevitable. You will question whether it is worth the time, energy, or emotional and physical effort. But if you obsess and get caught up in the amount of work involved, you will never get anywhere. When it all seems too much…

GET ORGANIZED Work small for big results. Think about it: a bridge is not built road first – it needs a stable, strong foundation, a base to rest upon. Even this article is not published immediately, it goes through stages of content creation, research, editing, proofreading, etc. Work in an organized manner and find a way to overcome every step, no matter how involved or consuming. If that way does not work, seek another. Simply crossing one thing off the list and moving onto the next can be a great motivator to…

HAVE PATIENCE Stay the course. Be sympathetic to the process and your journey. If you need to reassess and alter the course, do it. If you got through a rough spot, treat yourself. When you need a break, take it. And if all becomes too much, show some compassion. Just do not forget what you are working toward and the hurdles you are willing to overcome to get there. Baby steps can turn into long distance marathons and crossing that proverbial finish line will feel unbelievable.

If there is something on your wish list that seems unattainable, do not fret. It can be yours.  Just don’t expect to get it overnight.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · daily life · fears · renewal

How To Weather The Storms Of Life

Last night was a weather-watcher type of evening as hours of severe storms passed through our area. Growing up in the Midwest, I am quite familiar and comfortable with an active tornado season. They are random (often hitting one building and missing those surrounding it). They are unpredictable (veering from a path at a moments notice). They are devastating (I have witnessed the damage to people and property). They are to be respected (they often leave death in their wake).

As my little family huddled in our basement, I first thought about the editing I hoped to finish. I tried to resume the work but within minutes I shut down the laptop. Instead I snuggled on the couch with my son as he fell asleep for the night and listened as my husband monitored the forecast.

I thought about the storm raging outside. I thought about the storms of life.

The likelihood of something hitting our part of the world was slim, but I also knew tragedy could strike at anytime and to anyone. It could happen to us. It has happened to us. Not in the form of hail or wind damage but in illness and loss.

We cannot predict or prevent the storms heading our way.

No one is immune. If we are blessed enough to live a long life, tragedy will find us. It always does. Illness, death, financial struggle, personal betrayal, estrangement, job loss, an accident. Life is not created to be perfect. And because of this, we are not perfect beings meant to handle situations in a perfect manner.

Eventually, our homes will be the epicenter. And when they are, we can face the storm, hold on through the night, and embrace the morning after. It may not be easy but it is possible to come out on the other side. Here is how:

  1. Take ShelterGather with those you love in a comforting spot. The key is to have a support system you trust who has your best interests in mind. And being in a place that makes you feel safe and secure will ease the uncertainty.
  2. Ride It OutNothing lasts forever, not even personal pain. The feeling of helplessness is common for anyone going through a difficult time. Sometimes we do not have the solution and must allow things to fall apart before we can put them back together.
  3. Assess The DamageTake a close look at what has changed within your life and you. Too often people prefer to believe nothing is different, that life can return to what it once was. It is important to acknowledge some things might never be the same but if so, it does not mean they cannot be better.
  4. Accept What IsUnderstand things are out of our control. If the reality of your situation is too much to bear, allow ample time to process what happened. Let it all sink in at a comfortable pace but be wary of avoidance. Lingering in the realm of denial will only make the healing more difficult.
  5. Make A PlanCreate a path to recovery. It can be an overall goal or a series of smaller goals. It can be as detailed or broad as you like. Having a path forward does wonders for a fractured soul. And although it may seem the end result is unattainable, knowing you are in charge can ease the process.
  6. Take Your TimeMove one step ahead and celebrate small successes. Rebuilding anything – a home, a relationship, a life – does not happen overnight. Be patient with the effort required to get back on your feet. Get help where you can. Work when you can. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Be GratefulWe may never understand why tragedy hits one home and not another. But if you are fortunate to be missed this time around, show some gratitude. Volunteer time. Donate goods or money to those in need. Lift someone up. Do so with a grateful and giving heart because the next time it might be you in need of aid, compassion, and love.

Weather the storm…


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

health · relationships · renewal

How To Help Someone Heal (When You Don’t Know How To Help)

Although we wish it would never happen, there will come a time when major illness / surgery / medical care affects someone dear to us.

As a cancer survivor who has battled multiple surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and more, I have often been asked how to help someone in a similar situation. The most recent came last week and prompted this post.

The following list is a small sampling of ways to reach out. It is not just for illness but for anyone suffering through a difficult life event and is only limited by your own creativity.

Whatever gesture, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have an incredible impact on how another person heals.

WHAT BROUGHT LIGHT TO MY DARK DAYS

 -Meal Service: Organize a network of dinners via Meal Train or Sign Up Genius. Meals are catered to allergies and tastes, and menus can be as complicated or simple as you like. During my chemo weeks, friends provided delicious home cooked and carry out meals for my husband and son.

-Dinner Gift Cards: A gift card for meal delivery or carry out on those nights when they are too tired to cook will be appreciated.

-Meal Alternatives: If they are unable to eat due to intensive treatment or recovery, consider doctor-recommended Ensure. There were many days when I could not stomach food and textures made me nauseous. A friend included a pack with her donated meal, and it worked to provide vital nutrients when I could not eat.

-Seasonal Arrangement: This one is obvious. I am not a flower person, but the sentiment certainly did brighten my days.

-Group Gift Basket: If your friend is part of a group or club, have the members contribute an item to a collective gift basket as a way to cheer them up.

-Media: A friend of mine gifted the season one DVD of a popular television show. I became hooked enough to catch up on the entire series while I was sick. Books and crosswords are also wonderful ideas to help pass recovery time. If you order from Amazon, you can gift almost any item (digitally or via mail) to another person.

-Drop A Note: I still have (and cherish) all of the handwritten greeting cards, notes, and kid drawings that came through the mail or were given to me. One friend sent a funny card every week to let me know I was not forgotten.

-Social Media: I received countless wall posts and private messages of support. A second of your time can make a world of difference to someone who is feeling down, isolated, or alone.

-Child Care: Offers to babysit, host play dates, pick up from school, or run a child to/from activities can be a lifesaver on those days when it is difficult to even get out of bed.

-Provide Transportation: If they are unable to drive, offer to take them to appointments, the store, etc.

-Run Errands: Save them a trip. Ask if they need groceries, a run to the post office, or a stop at the discount store.

-Home Care: Offer to do light chores. If you use a cleaning service, see if they provide free services for medical patients. Cleaning For A Reason offers free maid service and the opportunity to gift to someone battling cancer.

-Be Social: Friends invited me for coffee, movies, and more on a regular basis. Though I was not always up to it, I did go on many occasions. It felt wonderful to be included and escape the diagnosis for a while.

-Check In: Let them know you are thinking of them, just because and with no expectations. One morning my neighbor and her children brought me a bouquet of wildflowers after their morning walk. The visit took less than five minutes but made the day.

-Join The Fight: More than once, I was shown public support via fundraising, sponsorship, or recognition on my behalf.

-Prayer Chains: Regardless of your religious affiliation, it is heartening to know someone is praying for you. My hometown church included me on a weekly prayer list and a complete stranger who knew of my fight sent a lovely card.

These are just a few ideas and as you can see, I still remember them almost five years later! Each person is different and every situation unique, but there are some basic things to remember:

DO
  • Respect their privacy: ask permission before sharing with anyone
  • Ask questions and then listen to the answers
  • Allow them to choose topics of conversation
  • Avoid negative stories about whatever it is they battle
  • Help them feel normal whenever possible
  • Let them know you are willing to help if needed
  • Reach out!
DO NOT
  • Post on social media or make it public if they do not want it
  • Offer advice unless they ask for it
  • Judge: everyone fights in their own way
  • Hover: allow them the freedom to heal on their own terms
  • Minimize their pain or emotions
  • Call or visit if they are not ready
  • Avoid them just because you do not know what to say or do!
WHEN…

they seek companionship, be there.

they ask for space, leave.

they want to talk, let them.

they need silence, give it.

Honor the struggle. The greatest gift you can give someone who is healing is your patience and understanding.


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