Rolling out of bed

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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.

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!

Thanksgiving reminders

Sometimes it amazes me how easy it is to just get busy.  And how in getting busy we let other things, things that are important to us, slide out of focus.  This blog is one of them.  Focusing on getting the first several pages of my manuscript in proper condition to send to the publisher who was interested in it is another, and making time for the people in my life is the most important thing that I’ve let slide out of my focus in the past several weeks.

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving.  It’s a time to spend with family and friends, be gluttons, and take a moment to be thankful for all of the blessings we have.  I was able to go visit my family in NB for the early part of the weekend, and then come home in time to spend Thanksgiving Monday with my fella’s family, which meant I was a glutton twice!

I also definitely took some time to relax and let the worries of work leave me for several hours.  A drive through what to my mind is back woods NB, a hike among the fall colours, and taking in some beautiful views with my love were certainly some of the highlights of the weekend.  Beyond that though, I found it particularly hard to let go of the life that was awaiting me back home.  It was hard to be fully present with my family.  Hard not to think of the way time away would steal from the time I should be working.  As a pertinent side note, I had a sample life coaching session several weeks ago. The most revealing thing this life coach said to me is that she noticed I used the word ‘should’ a lot while talking about my life.  Apparently I have what seems to be a ridiculous, presumably stifling and perhaps damaging sense of responsibility about the many ways I feel I should be spending my time.

The thing is though – the time I didn’t make to really spend with the family this weekend, the time I don’t make to call that friend I haven’t called in too long, to meet for that cup of tea with another, or that I don’t give to spending some time with me is the time I’m really wasting.  Yes, work needs to be done. Yes, responsibilities need to be met.  There’s no denying that.  But I have this sneaking feeling that if I put those other things first (within reason) I’d still get the work done, and probably have more energy and mental clarity in the process.

It was a weekend to be thankful and I have so much to be thankful for.  And so much that I don’t show that thankfulness for enough.  At the end of a Thanksgiving day run, the fella, upon seeing a rundown apartment, started commenting on just how lucky we are and just how often we don’t see that.  We let our stresses, our pains, our frustrations blind us to the fact that we’re some of the most blessed people in the world.  If you’re able to read this you’re probably wealthier than a staggering number of people in the world, not to mention more educated.

I’ve read so many times in so many ways the importance of being thankful daily, of taking the time to acknowledge the things in our lives that we are grateful for and though I do, it’s certainly not consistently.  I challenge myself, and you (if you don’t already) to do that.  Just be thankful, take the time each day for a brief moment to think about what you’re thankful for.  Ask a loved one what the best part of their day was and be thankful for that – together.

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.

Delaying Gratification . . . part two.

I finished yesterday with reference to the delay of dealing with the problems of life and the way those problems usually end up growing and often, because of the mental strain they create, steal from our Joy.

Peck says the “inclination to ignore problems is once again a simple manifestation of an unwillingness to delay gratification.”  And it makes sense – who wants to deal with a problem? – it’s generally never fun and it can be downright painful.  So what do we want to do – watch a movie, or deal with that problem?  Spend time with a loved one, or figure out our problem? – you get the picture.  And not all of the time, but most of the time, and often after the problem has worsened, we end up being forced to confront it anyways.

So, why don’t we confront it right away?  Well, why should we? Because taking the time to go through the possible pain, discomfort, or effort to solve our problem means we can stop suffering from it and get onto that Joy we were talking about. Even more importantly, dealing with situations we’d rather forget about and instead finding a solution – those are the experiences that bring real personal growth.

“When neurotics are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that they are at fault.  When those with character disorders are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that the world is at fault.” – Peck

Peck went on to talk about people who were neurotic and had character disorders, mentioning that most people display traits of at least one of these conditions, if not both.  As I read, it was enlightening to see the ways in which I have at times displayed these traits throughout my life. Peck says that the neurotic assumes too much responsibility while the person with a character disorder doesn’t assume enough.

The main thing though, to avoid displaying these traits is to take the time to look at your problem head on, analyze it, and honestly ask yourself what is and isn’t in your power to fix. Do it right now – think of a problem in your life . . . got it?  Ok, keep that in the back of your mind.

Peck says the speech pattern of the neurotic says, “I ought to,” I should,” and “I shouldn’t.” My interpretation of this?  When you’re letting yourself be neurotic, you’re not acknowledging your own power to make good choices: not acknowledging your own agency to positively affect change over the problem in some way. You’re taking the fault of a problem upon yourself even if it’s not your responsibility. You’re also often seeing some defect or fault within yourself that may not exist.

He says the speech pattern of someone with a character disorder says, “I can’t,” “I couldn’t,” “I have to,” “I had to.” Similarly, I understand this as not acknowledging your power to even make a choice, to even realize that you have the agency to change a situation. To feel: it’s all out of my hands – external forces – I can’t really do anything about this, so I’ll do nothing.

“. . . neurotics make themselves miserable; those with character disorders make everyone else miserable.” – Peck

So . . . what’s the point of writing about this? Partly to think more on it myself, and by putting it out there hold myself accountable in some way to not let myself slip into the traits above, but rather grow into a person who can distinguish what is my responsibility and under my control, what isn’t, and know how to use that knowledge to confront the problems in my life. I seriously want to start practicing the discipline of delaying gratification – both for tasks and problems.

I’m also writing to share these thoughts with you in the hopes that you will take them into consideration and let them change your life for the better as well.

Think on this . . .that problem you were holding in your mind – honestly ask yourself what excuses you are giving yourself for not doing something about it.  Do you feel it’s out of your hands? Was the problem caused by someone else or some circumstance you can’t control? For every solution that you or someone else suggests, do you come up with a reason why it won’t work? Or, on the other hand, do you see yourself as fully responsible for this problem, almost trapped by it, when really the real responsibility you should be taking is to acknowledge this is not entirely your fault or of your creation and the problem you have to solve is how to get yourself separated from it?

And finally, once you’ve thought through all of this take responsibility and say, “This is my problem and it’s up to me to solve it.” (Peck)

* Just a note – if at any times it seems as if I’m being preachy here, let me just say, I’m also sitting first row in the congregation! 🙂

Delaying Gratification

This past week I had an interview to work on writing a manuscript for a man – the topic of which was his life’s work on what I understood to be his thoughts on understanding life and how to live.  Despite his strong interest in hiring me and my strong interest in being involved in this project, other concerns mean a partnership probably won’t happen.

Although I was initially disappointed that things didn’t work out the way we had hoped, I quickly realized what did transpire was more than worthwhile.  Not only did I have an interesting and stimulating conversation with the man, but I also had the growth and experience of researching, receiving advice from other  writers, and figuring out the ins and outs of what goes into a contract for ‘ghostwriting’ of this nature.

I think most importantly, however, was the book I picked up on this gentleman’s recommendation.  I’m not very far into The Road Less Traveled  by M. Scott Peck but already it’s stimulating some great thought and introspection.

“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with .  It is the only decent way to live.”- Peck

One of the concepts that really stands out to me talks about discipline and the notion of delaying gratification.  When you think about it, it’s a pretty simple concept but I know myself, and probably many of you, often don’t exercise the discipline of delaying gratification and, as a result, don’t receive the rewards.

As a simple example, Peck (who is a psychiatrist), mentions a patient who hated that she procrastinated so much on the job. Her habit was to do the tasks she enjoyed most in the first hour or two then spend the rest of the day putting off the stuff she didn’t like.  He said that if she forced herself to get through the unpleasant stuff right away she would be able to look forward to and have the rest of the day free to enjoy the tasks she loved. He suggested that “one hour of pain followed by six of pleasure was preferable to one hour of pleasure followed by six of pain.” Seems pretty obvious – and yet . . .

How often do we put off something we could just do, then be done with it and instead spend the whole day or week or month never fully enjoying all the pleasurable things of life because in the back of our mind we know that undesirable little task is still waiting for us.  How much energy does this waste and joy does this steal?

Tasks are one thing, and bad enough, but we do this with problems too and, if we do this, not only will the problems remain and likely grow like the energy sucking and mentally taxing parasites that most problems are but, says Peck (and I can see it on some level in myself) it can manifest as some pretty unpleasant behaviours – namely neuroses and character disorders.

In the interest of keeping these posts a reasonable length – tune in for more on this tomorrow!

In the meantime – any thoughts, experiences, or anecdotes you care to share on either exercising the discipline of delaying gratification or ignoring it?