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!

A Wizard’s Second Rule

In my previous post (which was awhile ago – it’s amazing how an engagement and trying to get wedding plans underway can steal your attention!) I discussed the Wizard’s First Rule from Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series.  Today I move onto the Second Rule. Just as the first had some pretty interesting implications for the average person in everyday life, so does the second.

“The Second Rule is that the greatest harm can result from the best intentions.  It sounds a paradox, but kindness and good intentions can be an insidious path to destruction. Sometimes doing what seems right is wrong and can cause harm.  The only counter to it is knowledge, wisdom, forethought, and understanding the First Rule.  Even then, that is not always enough.”

When Richard, the wizard in training, questions this rule, that kindness can be harmful, the wizard gives him some obvious examples: it may seem kind to give a child candy, but if we continue giving him candy and he stops eating good food we’ll actually be doing harm.  The child will become sick. Another example would be when a person breaks her leg and we bring her food, take care of her.  At first this is obvious kindness, but as the person starts to heal she finds it difficult to walk on that leg, painful even, so we keep bringing food and taking care of her.  The longer we do this, the more difficult it will seem for her to get up, to go through the pain of learning to walk again.  Eventually her legs will shrivel up and she’ll become bedridden indefinitely.  Our good intentions will have caused more harm than good.

The wizard then goes on to discuss the rule in less specific terms, “Good intentions, being kind, can encourage the lazy, and motivate sound minds to become indolent. The more help you give them, the more help they need. As long as your kindness is open-ended, they never gain discipline, dignity, or self-reliance. Your kindness impoverishes their humanity.”

These words really had me thinking.  I could see their truth in the small and the large and realized I had had some of these thoughts before.  I remember meeting 18-19 year old boys, their first year away from home, who didn’t know how to make their beds, do their laundry, or cook themselves a meal. Growing up in a household where my brothers and I were often responsible for these types of tasks at a young age, it shocked me that others weren’t.  I’m sure it was just a result of their parents trying to be kind, to take care of their babies, but they then ended up sending those babies – turned young men – out into the world without the basic skills to take care of themselves.  A minor example, that could be rectified easily by the boys finding people to teach them how to do these tasks or fumbling through to discovery themselves . . . but still.

The rule also has implications that are much more concerning.  Wisdom and forethought may have told these boy’s mothers that they would be doing a stronger service to their sons if they made sure they at least had these skills. But if the mothers didn’t think about it, what about our government?  How many people are on social assistance for an indefinite period of time – long past the point where they should be able to get out and find their own jobs?  How many of these same people then come to expect support, feel entitled to it, and raise children who have the same expectations and never become contributing members of society? Take it even further, and how many of these people are using that kind social assistance to support their drug or alcohol addictions – call me judgmental, say I’m unaware of the underlying issues, but I’ve met some of these people and seen the way they live – all in the name of kindness, compassion, and generosity.  Wouldn’t it be kinder to spend that money to enable these people to provide for themselves? To let go of their addictions? To overcome their fear of trying to make it on their own? (And yes, there are of course programs out there that do this – and kudos to them!)

The wizard talks about a similar scenario and questions where the fault lays.  Give a beggar a coin because he says he needs it to feed his family.  Now, rather than feeding his family the beggar uses it to get drunk.  In that state he kills someone.  Is it your fault?  Your intention was to help feed a family, but the route you chose to provide that help led to a death.  Could there have been another, wiser, way for you to provide help? He warns that violation of the second rule “can cause anything from discomfort, to disaster, to death.”

Think of your life, as I’ll think of mine.  Are there any ways in which you’re trying to be kind to someone, trying to give help, but really you’re causing harm? But really you’re enabling them to not be as competent, as capable, as able to survive in the world as they could be if you withheld some of that so-called kindness? Think of your own life – is there any way in which you’re letting someone do for you what you could do for yourself and thereby preventing yourself from being the person you could be? Even further – is there any way in which some of these good intentions are causing harm, or could lead to harmful consequences in the future?.  Don’t shun kindness, but be cautious  and thoughtful with what kindnesses you bestow.  Be a wise wizard 😉