Moving House … or Blog …

Hello there!

If you’re a follower of this writinglife101 blog you’ll notice in your reader that things have been transferred over to my charlenecarr.com site.  Life has been crazy and crazy is a good thing! It means change. I’m looking forward to keeping my posts and focus in one place from now on and I hope you continue to follow along on this journey.

Thanks for following!

Charlene

Be the Bison

I’ve been teaching a course on Communication Skills. In the process I also took a course on teaching Communication Skills and was being mentored by a seasoned instructor.  It has been an extremely revealing experience and through the course for instructors, the experience with my mentor, and the process of actually delivering the course to my participants, I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve also learned some tactics for difficult conversations that, if I’d had a few years ago, may have changed the direction of my life.

One of the things that really struck me was the challenge to ‘Be the Bison.’

Have you ever noticed a group of cows standing together in the corner of a field?  Sometimes they’re so squished together it seems ridiculous.  I’ve wondered why this happened but never taken the time to figure it out.  What they’re doing is standing there, cowering in fear, trying to get away from something inevitable.  Even before a storm comes, they’ll gather together because they sense it. They’ll cower as far away from the storm as they think they can get (which, of course, doesn’t actually help them at all) and because they anticipate the storm and spend time fearing it, they end up experiencing the storm far longer than it even lasts.

This is how most of us are in our lives – be it with work, friends, family.  We know something uncomfortable, some storm, is going to happen or needs to happen and yet we essentially cower in a corner  – hoping it will go away. But it won’t just go away, and like the cows, we end up experiencing the stress of this problem far longer than necessary.  Maybe we stay up at night thinking about it, maybe we complain to our partner or friends but never actually face it and so we continually experience the stress and pain of this oncoming storm.

The Bison, however, experience the coming of a storm in a very different way. They also sense the storm but rather than cowering in fear, the Bison, knowing the storm is going to come no matter what, heads toward it.  Bison will march into the middle of a field, face the storm, get ready, and then walk right into it, because they know that if they’re standing up to the storm, walking toward it and not away, they’re going to be out of it quicker.  They get the feeling of fear over with. They not only make themselves ready for the inevitable, they invite it.

When I first heard this concept I definitely saw myself as a cow.  I could think of so many situations where I had some difficult conversation I should have had with someone and yet I put it off and put it off.  I stressed about it, I agonized over it, I talked to the people in my life about it until they became absolutely sick of the topic.  And that’s . . . well, it’s stupid, and pointless, and destructive.  It certainly didn’t solve any problems or help me get through a storm.  Really, in our lives that kind of behaviour tends to create more storms to deal with.

We need to be the bison and not cower away from the things that scare us or make us uncomfortable.  The storms of life will inevitably come, so why not face them?  And face them with strength, determination, and power.  Sure, it’ll feel uncomfortable at first, it may even be scary, but if we get comfortable with the feeling of being uncomfortable – that discomfort will begin to lessen.

This whole idea of being the bison can even apply to storms of our own making. Maybe we’ve determined there needs to be some change in our lives – a goal we’ve been wanting to conquer for a long time but just don’t take the steps needed, a habit or trait we know needs to be ripped out of our lives but we’re cowering in fear from the work that it will take and the emotional pain it may cause . . . maybe something we need to admit to or deal with, some scar from one of life’s previous storms.

So give it a try, BE THE BISON, and I will too.  If you happen to know me personally and see me cowering in a corner like a cow, I give you permission – give me a nudge and tell me to stand up straight, throw my shoulders back, and walk on out into the storm.

Image taken from Independent Lens “Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison”, Colorado Public Television.”

Rolling out of bed

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mind is a funny, funny thing.  So powerful, so intricate, and yet so very weak.  Strongly connected to that is this thing called resolve.  In theory, I have loads of resolve.  I have goals and dreams and things on my list of ‘to-do’s that are worthy and will improve my mind and my life.  In practice, most of the time I have squat.

Now . . . that’s not an entirely fair thing to say.  I do succeed in following through with resolve at times, but I fail far more often than I succeed. Some of that probably comes from setting pretty high expectations for myself. A lot of that failure also stems from small simple moments of defeat.  From letting the little things that disappoint me about myself morph into huge feelings of inadequacy, or get so mixed up that I can’t decide what thing needs to be done, are worth doing – are more worth doing than relaxing ’cause I just seem tired and drained and I deserve to relax, right?  I’m a busy woman.  So when I do relax it often makes me feel guilty, and that guilt means that when a justified period of relaxation is over I feel even less capable of tackling those worthy or necessary endeavors  and when I do tackle them (usually the necessary ones) I don’t have the clarity of mind and focus that is needed to make me feel proud of a job well done.  A vicious, pernicious cycle develops.

This cycle has also affected my ability to write – both here and in other realms.  Some heart wounding feedback regarding my creative work has left me feeling incapable and overwhelmed at the task to feel capable again, the hours it would require – because what if I put in all that time and energy and I still don’t have what it takes?

Now, I realize this is largely silly.  Very few acknowledged writers didn’t experience tons of rejection before they became acknowledged . . . but it still hurts.

And when all those other little ‘failures’ group up with the big failures and I’m tired, cranky, and disappointed that I snap at the person closest to me – words coming out of my mouth before I even know they’ve been spoken – it’s hard to hold onto resolve.  Sometimes though, really, resolve is all we have.

My fiance replied to a text where I admitted the bad day I was having and how I felt like a failure – his reply was “be happy (if you want!)” – A wise but risky reply.  It reminded me of something I read  the other day – “when you wake up in the morning you can roll out of bed into a miserable day or you can leap out into a wonderful one – the choice is yours.”

Maybe that’s true, and if it is true it should also be true half way through.  I may have rolled into this day but I can choose to leap through the rest of it.

And you know the thing I like most about that image?  It allows for those moments when my resolve weakens.  Sometimes my leap will last longer and reach further than other times, but I’m not superman, I’m fully human so it’s okay and expected that I’ll come down from that leap at times, and when I do I have the opportunity to make the choice to leap again rather than give up and roll through the rest of my day.

Breathe in, breathe out

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a long time since I’ve written anything . . . and not just here – anywhere.  Well, anything I haven’t been obligated by a contract to write.  I’ve tried a few times here – only to ditch a half written post that felt forced.  I’ve opened my journal, I’ve tried to conjure up characters but I just couldn’t do it.  Part of it was certainly stress, a larger part of it was probably being too busy and occupied with other tasks and other matters to allow myself to be moved or inspired by anything else.  Well – the last of my major stresses of the past few months should be over with tomorrow and although I’m slightly nervous I won’t pass this test, which will create new stress – it’ll probably just be fine.  This knowledge, the knowledge that there’s probably nothing more I can do is helping me feel just a little bit lighter.

I thought to write earlier today though and still it seemed a daunting task.  Just a moment ago though I read a message in a newsletter for the Writer’s Federation I’m a member of.  The author was speaking about his or her own inability to write.  How with the life and energy of spring and summer words were just flowing but now, just as  the gardens are dead and bare, so too are his words.  He mentioned that rather than being disheartened by this he was seeing it as a time to breathe in the words, the ideas, the inspiration so that when he’s ready to write again he’ll have something to write.

I have three weeks stretching before me with very little work I’m obligated to do.  That means there are three weeks in which I’ll be able to let myself be inspired by words, by experiences, by nature (and feel no guilt connected to investing my time that way!)

Just the thought allowed me to write something new!

How will you make use of any holiday time you have off?  What will you let it add to your life?

We all need a little encouragement now and then

It’s been an intense week.  An overwhelming week.  A stressful week. A week when I’ve felt like an impostor, like I’ve taken on more than I can handle, when my work has made me tired and burdened me with feeling inept.  I had moments when I wanted to cry, moments when I wanted to give up, moments when I ranted and railed (to myself and to my fella) about work, about expectations, about unclear guidelines.  This week has come on top of a month, although not nearly as busy, containing many moments of frustration and disillusionment. The majority of this week’s intensity and stress has come from a contract I’ve been working on, a project that, largely because of unclear expectations and delays, by the time it’s completed will probably have taken more than twice the time I anticipated, making my pay (by the hour) more than two times less. (And causing me to cancel a long weekend trip to visit my family.)

Last night, after putting in about 8 hours, after putting in about 13 hours the day before and who knows how many the days before that (actually, I do know – but I digress) I found myself sitting in front of my computer thinking “what am I doing! I should just get a normal job, 9-5 is where it’s at. I’m not cut out for this!”  For those of you who don’t know a little less than a year and a half ago I quit my job and decided to go into business for myself. It’s had its ups and its downs but I’ve survived, and even enjoyed it a lot of the time.  Yesterday though, it seemed like the whole endeavour was a failure . . . until I read a group email from a friend who has just launched her own blog, in preparation for a major life and career decision she’s on the road to making a reality.  At the end of this  email she sent a thank you and shout out to me – saying that my decision to step out by starting my own home business was the umph she needed to jump too.

Upon reading that I felt touched, and happy that my decision had helped her make hers – a decision I’m sure will lead her to not only success, but to making a positive impact on this world.  So I got to thinking, all jobs have hard days and though I’ve been coming across some projects that have their moments of misery I’ve also had some that I love and when doing them I basically feel like I’m getting paid for not even ‘working’.

I just have to stick it out, learn from some of the naive or misinformed choices I’ve made that have led to this kind of stress and make sure I let my interests and talents, more than a seemingly appealing pay cheque, determine the projects I take on in the future, trusting that eventually I’ll work up enough of a name for myself that I can primarily take the jobs I enjoy, the jobs that feel more like an extension of my interests, of myself, and not like labour.

Hopefully the next time I’m feeling overwhelmed I’ll remember this friend’s words and find inspiration from the choices she’s making in her life!

Value

I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately.  It’s so subjective, and that’s a frustrating and a beautiful thing.  It’s beautiful because it allows us to make choices that would otherwise be considered impractical, unwise, foolhardy, indulgent and feel justified.  It’s frustrating because it can cause us stress, guilt, confusion about the choices we make.

A lot of the time we think of value in regards to money.  Is this outfit worth it?  This cheese?  This vacation? This gift? At times, I’ve let value, in relation to money, rule my life.  I’ve missed out on experiences with friends, I’ve missed out on wonderful meals, I’ve scrimped and sacrificed and suffered moments of regret (both from spending the money, and from not spending it!).  I’ve always been much more willing to spend money on what I could unequivocally consider an experience than a material or fleeing moment investment.  Over $4000 backpacking South East Asia with one of my best friends – she twisted my arm a bit and I think we could have done it for less if we’d researched more – but yes please! Twelve dollars for that appetizer that looks super good and that I’d really like to have and that I wish I had while everyone else is eating their delicious appetizer – sorry, can’t justify it when I know the meal I’m ordering will physically satisfy me.  And I don’t necessarily think either of these choices is a bad one or a good one – it depends on the value.  It takes conscious thought to think about value, and to think of it outside of the monetary cost.  Sometimes I’m sure I made the right choice about a meal, other times I recognize that my frugality – on that particular night, for whatever reason, made me feel cheap and envious and dampened the overall experience.

And that’s what value comes down to – experience.  And this goes for value that reaches far beyond any monetary concern. It’s about assessing our priorities, our desires, what aids our contentment and joy. Should I feel guilty about spending time researching something online that brings me joy, that will bring a loved one joy (even when I don’t have to figure out a certain gift right now) when there are dishes to be washed or there is work to be done – maybe, maybe not.

What is more valuable: securing extra jobs so I’ll have more available money, money which I may be able to spend to bring more joy to my life, or which may be spent on things that really won’t make a difference, or accepting that the work I’ve secured for the moment will cover my bills and deciding to instead spend what time I have left over to invest in myself and the people around me, even if it’s as simple as taking a bath.  It’s not possible to give a definitive answer – at least generally.  I think I’m learning though, that for each situation there is an answer that is at least the better one. I think the trick is to take a moment and ask, what do I really value? – and make a decision from there. And when we realize we’ve been making choices that don’t affect our true values (or what we want  to be our true values) we need to reassess our decision making.

In a language with so many words, we fall horribly short!

I’ve been thinking about love the last few days, the multitude of thoughts and emotions and actions and ways of understanding that one word. I’ve also been thinking about the dozens and dozens and dozens of people who’ve passed through my life that I could apply that word to – and yet for each person it means something different.  There are people in my life who I love but honestly don’t even like all that much.  There are people who I love but hardly really know – either because it’s been so long that I can’t with full confidence say I even know them anymore or because they are people I have met and loved or have had a blood connection to and loved but never really knew in the first place.

Then there are people who have been in my life for years, who support me, who laugh with me, who help me, who accept me and have accepted me throughout all the changes I’ve gone through to make me who I am today.  There are people who love me despite the fact that there are probably parts about me – decisions I’ve made, things I believe – that they don’t like at all.

There are a lot of good traits about me, a lot of things to love – but I recognize that there are also definitely some unlovable aspects, ways in which I could be better, less moody, less controlling. Like all of us, I’m a work in progress.  And like all of us, I have a multitude of people who love me despite that.

I sat in front of my computer for over an hour this morning trying to think of what to write.  I haven’t been writing much – or reading – because my time has been taken up with other matters. As a result, I haven’t been feeling creative energy and I haven’t felt inspired to write.  I have felt energy in other ways though – the past couple of weeks I’ve been shown amazing love.  From my fella, who has shown his love in a multitude of big and small ways, who has shown me patience, who has walked into my home-office on more than one occasion and wrapped his arms around me silently – knowing I’ve been stressed and feeling like I’m not balancing things the way I should.  From my friends who have taken the time out of their busy lives to offer their help, input, and expertise.  From my mother who has spent hours talking to me online and being a sounding board for ideas.

So often we see these small (or large) actions as just something people do, maybe ’cause it’s just something we do for those we love.  But it’s a lot more than that, and not something to be taken for granted.  If you’ve read this far do one more thing, will ya?  Take a moment and think about some of the people you love and some who love you.  Realize how fortunate you are, and maybe do something about it!