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!

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 😉

Journey within

If you’re like me, you often have somewhere in the back of your mind (and often in the front) the desire to grow, to be a better person, to improve upon the person you once were and become the person you want to be. Over the years, you can look back at yourself, your ways of thinking and doing and being and realize, yeah – okay, I’m doing better. I am better. I’ve ‘matured’.  It’s not often though (at least for me) that the realization that I’ve grown and am not entirely the person I once was smacks me in the face . . . the type of smack that brings a smile.

The other day I had one of these moments. A person I don’t know very well, but who I’ve had generally positive, friendly interactions with was suddenly not so friendly. I interacted with this person a few times throughout the day.  The first time I was a little shocked and perturbed at her seeming rudeness, her apathetic attitude. The second and third times I was hurt and a little miffed at her blatant rudeness. My natural reactions were to wonder what I could have done to offend her, and finding nothing, to be annoyed and give her an aloof and equally rude response. Within seconds though, before I had the chance to respond, another, newer thought came to me. Maybe her attitude and rudeness had nothing to do with me. Maybe I should stop having the automatic assumption that a person’s behaviour toward me is necessarily based on our interactions or that when negative, it gives me any right to fling the negative back toward him or her. Maybe . . . just maybe this person’s attitude was about something completely different and I was only the recipient of emotions she had not yet had the time to process or overcome.

This was a light bulb moment.  Rather than succumbing to insecurities and narcissism, rather than adhering to old patterns, I took a moment to try to see the world from someone else’s perspective.  In that realization, I realized I had also come a long way. The Charlene of 10 years ago, heck, the Charlene of three years ago probably wouldn’t have had that thought, or at least not fast enough to change my response in the moment.

Now the thought that hit me – this may have nothing to do with you, she may not even realize she’s directing this at you – could have been wrong.  I could have unwittingly annoyed her and she could have been intentionally trying to take it out on me. I could have been justified in feeling slighted, and hurt, and in colouring my future interactions with this person by the wariness and scornfulness I could have let it provoke in me.

It turns out the new thought was probably right. The next time I saw her she was pleasant and friendly and we had a great little chat.  But whether I had been right or wrong the point is that I took the time, before I spoke, before I acted to consider my actions in the world from a broader perspective. I displayed growth I hadn’t even fully realized I’d developed.

I guess this work on myself is paying off. Slowly but surely. I guess I’m not quite the child I once was.  Here’s to us all not being the children we once were.

Never leave the playground

I watched a video today that had me smiling in moments.  It was about a 71 year old man , Steven Jepson, whose philosophy in life is “never leave the playground.”  For Jepson, that means keeping active, agile, sharp, and exuberant by daily play.

Jepson had me wanting to head outdoors and find somewhere to practice my agility and balance, but as night has fallen and I’m not in an overly safe neighbourhood, I’ll reflect on some other desires he gave me.  He says to people, “be bold in your life choices because it’s just going to make your life richer.”  Words that can apply to our physical choices of course, but words that reach a lot further as well.  How often do we think of that burning thing that’s on our my minds or hearts to do, or even that little spark of a desire we’ve always had and yet never really acted upon?  I think of my father (sorry Dad) who for years has talked about all the stories and story ideas he used to keep in his journals and about the novel he’s never written – and all the other people I’ve heard say similar things – Well, be Bold!  Write it.  I think of myself and how I miss acting so much since being out of school and yet though I’ve looked up possibilities a few times, I’ve never auditioned for a play.  Well, I say to myself – Be bold! Audition somewhere. (And I smile as well, because if you read my post yesterday, you know I’m being bold about one of those burning desires.)

Dear reader, think of your own life and the choices you’re not making . . . is there some way you can decide to be bold?  Even if you do ‘fail’, I bet Jepson’s right, I bet the growth and experience from trying will make your life richer.

And finally, another thought to leave you with from the energetic and endearing Jepson – not because it relates but just because I loved it – “There is beauty in almost every day in almost every person’s life and all you have to do is look for it.  It’s there, there to see and find.”