What Inspired Me This Week

I’m constantly looking for inspiration for this blog. Not just positivity that I can share but something that you can use. This week I’m inspired by other bloggers. First, this post is the product of Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. Check out her site to see how this works.

As I was searching for inspiration for this post, I started reading some other blogs that I follow. I read an interesting post at Of Woods And Words. Apparently, there is a challenge taking place in the writing world this month. The Writing Life Marathon Challenge. It’s presented by The Writer’s Life at ivillage. The premise is this: write 50,000 words in a month. It can be 50,000 words towards a novel, poetry, articles, blog posts – any writing counts. It works out to just over 1600 words a day. Sounds just crazy enough to intrigue me.

I think I should try it.

I may need to modify this a bit. 50,000 words are a little much. I’m going to shoot for 15,000. 500 words a day of any writing. Freewriting counts too. Anything to get me 15,000 words of content to edit later. Given that in March I also have to do my much procrastinated 2010 tax prep, train for a 5 mile race on the 13th that there’s no way I’ll be ready for, finish crocheting a secret project for a baby shower on the 19th and work full time, I think that 15,000 words is pretty darn ambitious. Now that I lay it all out it sounds kind of nuts but that’s what I do! I need a target to work towards. I need to make sure that this outlet of mine gets the attention that I’ll need it to have to deal with the rest of my “have tos” of the month.

This is my inspiration today. Take time for things that will fill you up regardless of how out of control life may get around you. It will be difficult. The amount of time that you can spend on these things may vary but it shouldn’t disappear. Your sanity depends on it.

Ironic that my sanity sounds a bit crazy! It must be the Spring fever setting in!

Have a fantastic March!

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Spring Fever Baby!

If you live in NH and look out the window today, it looks like anything but spring. Snow, sleet, freezing rain that will form a nice layer of ice on the roads tonight. So, who’s this crazy person talking about Spring?

My theory is this, the 1st day of Spring is in March. Therefore, March is a spring month. I know we still get snow in March and sometimes April. I don’t care. The days get longer and warmer. Any snow we get will be gone soon. Snow is fine when you’re not looking ahead to 5 more months of it. Granted, the snow bank over my perennials will probably still exist in June, but as long as it’s surrounded by the muddy driveway, I’m ok with that.

We’re in the home stretch!

Dig out the sandals, leave the wool coats at home. It’s time to start the seeds and plan the gardens! Ready or not, Spring is coming!

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Running is better than chocolate…almost

I was in a bit of a negative funk last week. It happens sometimes. I caught this case of the “woe is me’s” and let it suck me into its black hole. Here’s how I found my way out.

I ran.

I know, enough with the running thing already. But stay with me here. Come Thursday of last week, I was spitting a box of ½ off Valentines Day chocolates with my 7-months pregnant boss – an attempt to console myself for the week’s disappointments. It was a failed attempt. Cheap, mediocre chocolate will never really make you feel better. Now, had that been a bag of Giradelli dark chocolate caramel squares, we may be having a different conversation, but I digress. This cheap chocolate didn’t help me at all. It just left me feeling sick and as miserable as I had started. I resolved that my weekend would be as frustrating as my week had been.

Then, Friday came…

I had taken Friday off – a mental health day, if you will. I couldn’t have picked a better day. 50 degrees and sunny – which in February in NH sparks a serious case of spring fever. You can’t be negative on a day like that. So, I decided that that would be the day that I finally try to break my 3 mile running wall. I was going for 4 miles. I grabbed the dog’s leash, strapped on my sneaks and headed out. 2 miles out and 2 miles back so I couldn’t quit early. I had to get home somehow!

Mile 1 – This is a tough mile because it’s mostly uphill and it’s a steep one (the hill in the picture at the top of the page). I walk the hill. I’ve tried running but that’s not happening yet. I need to pace myself. After all, I have 3 more miles to go!

Mile 2 – I’m still feeling pretty good at this point. The dog and I are enjoying the sunshine. It’s gorgeous out. I’m not hyperventilating – which is always a good thing. I think I can do this. I’m feeling more positive already. The fresh air is great for the spirit.

Mile 3 – Dang wall! What is that pain in my hip? I should walk for a bit. No! This is all mental. My hip will hurt if I walk too. I may as well keep running and get home faster. Wow, this sucks! No! I’m strong and I can do this. Start the day right and finish this, you big baby! You will feel awesome if you do! (Yes, this is actual dialog going on in my head at this time.)

Mile 4 – It’s all downhill from here…literally. The worst of it is over. Just coast down the hill and you’re home. That pain is gone. I feel pretty good. Woohoo! I’m done!

Any runner I’ve ever talked to speaks of this clarity they get from running. It turns out, they are all right! I felt way better after my 4 mile treck than I did with that box of chocolates. Now, I still am not ready to commit to the ½ marathon that my friend has been bugging me about but I’m going to give this running thing more of a shot. The key – get past the 3 mile mark. After that, it doesn’t feel so bad. You won’t see me on any 7-9 mile jaunts anytime soon. But, if I’m going to do 3 miles and feel crappy, I may as well add a 4th mile and feel good at the end of it, right?

That experience set the mood for the rest of my day, which was fantastic! A little shopping. Some reading and a green tea latte at Barnes & Noble. All of that and I feel like I got my positive mojo back!
Now, on to the Giradelli…

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I Want to be a Runner

I have tried several times in the past 9 years to get into running. I have a friend that has been running for years. She sings it’s praises for giving her clarity and helping her cope with stress. Not to mention that she can eat whatever she wants and will always be skinny. For her, 7-9 mile runs are a weekly necessity. Marathons are a fun way to sightsee in a new city. She will actually run with a tree branch tucked into the back of her sportsbra to swat away bugs in the spring. Just a bit crazy, if you ask me.

I ran a 10K with her once. Actually, we spent the first 1/4 mile together and I didn’t really see her again until I crossed the finish line. My goal to finish and not be last was achieved…barely. I think I was 5-6th from last. At one point I was passed by a speedwalker…then an 80-year old man.

But I finished.

I really wanted to enjoy running. I wanted to look forward to it like she does. I did feel a huge sense of accomplishment for finishing. I’ve never been athletic..at all! Alas, I didn’t run much for years after that. It just didn’t stick.

Last September, another friend decided that she was going to train for a 5K on Thanksgiving…the Turkey Trot. She recently had 2 kids and was determined to get her body back. I planned to do the race with her to be supportive. I trained. I still hated it. I hated it so much that while I was running, I would chant things like, “I hate running. I haaaate running. This sucks….I hate running.” Not my usual positive self, I know. I just really, really hate it.

I ended up missing the 5K but my friend is now a bonafide runner. She loves it. Now she preaches of the clarity it gives her and how she needs it to cope with life’s craziness. Not to mention that she looks great! I’m a bit envious. I really want to be a runner. I want to have an outlet that makes the world seem better. I just haven’t been able to get past that wall. That wall that starts 30 seconds into it and lasts the entire 2-3 miles – which is as far as I’ve managed to drag myself.

I ran yesterday. 2 miles. That’s my limit most of the time. Well, my mental limit anyway. I know that it’s all mental. Anyway, I stayed after work to use the treadmill, cause let’s face it – we have 3-4 feet of snow here and it’s cold…running outside is not very appealing right now. I did my 2 miles and hated every second. Then, on my way home, I was listening to an audiobook on writing, “Writing Down the Bones” and 5 minutes into it, Natalie Goldberg said this about writing…

“Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the 3 miles but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen. Especially if you’re out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop and you stop hungry for the next time. That’s how writing is too. Once your deep into it, you wonder what took you so long to finally settle down at the desk. Through practice you actually do get better. You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing.”

Interesting. Here’s what I got from this…

1. It’s normal to hate running.
2. This hatred will dissipate the more you do it.
3. Running, like most things in life, is 100% mental. It’s only by pushing yourself through the suckiness that you get to the benefits. Running, writing, anything worth doing requires mental commitment and focus. This is hard for people like me who chronically procrastinate and don’t follow through with things.

No more.

I’ve said that this year is about talking less and taking more action. This year will be the year that I become a runner. Well, this will be the year that I really try. I’m going to give it an honest, all out effort. It’s not for everybody but maybe, at the very least, I’ll gain some discipline from it.

And maybe, just maybe, this discipline will carry over into other things in life.

“I don’t hate running. I don’t hate running. Running is awesome. I LOOOOVE RUNNING!”

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Accidental Genius

Sometimes it’s difficult to start a post. I get stuck in my head and start editing myself before any words even make it onto the page. No opening line sounds right. Well, my newest audiobook find may help me with that.

That’s right, I present my first 2011 book recommendation…

Accidental Genius by Mark Levy

This is a book about freewriting. Freewriting is simple. Sit and write as fast as you can for as long as you can about a given topic. No one needs to ever see it. Grammar and spelling aren’t important. Just write as fast as you can. The benefit of writing in this way is that your internal editor can’t keep up with the thoughts that are coming out. You know that voice that polishes everything we say or write before it leaves your head? When you shut that off, you allow your brain to come up with breakthrough ideas and solutions to problems that you never knew were in your head waiting to be discovered.

The thing that I really thought was cool about the methods in this book is that you don’t have to be a writer to use it. Anyone that is trying to find a solution to a problem – business, personal, whatever – can use freewriting to shut off the “thinking” part of their brain and just let ideas come out.

The book explains many different techniques that you can use but the basic is this:

  1. Pick your writing topic or problem that you need to find a solution to.
  2. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes. The reason for the timer is this: it’s easier to continue to write fast when you know it’s only for a set period of time.
  3. Write. Write as fast as your hands will let you. Don’t edit. If you think it, it goes on the page. If your mind goes blank, write jiberish if you have to. Just keep going until your brain kicks back in and real thoughts come back out. Keep in mind, no one ever has to read it. That alone can free your mind to just let go.

When you’re done, you may be amazed at what came out. Most of it will probably be unusable. But within the babble, you may find small nuggets. Pieces of good writing that could be expanded and polished for sharing or the beginnings of a solution to a lingering problem.

I tried this last night. Does it work??? Without sharing any of the content of my freewriting session, because you don’t ever have to share it…I will say that I ended with 6 pages of writing. That’s right, 6 pages. Not too shabby. And I managed to find a few good nuggets in there. I will definitely be using this technique regularly. What a great way to clear out the mental clutter!

As a side point on the audiobook – it was narrated by Bronson Pinchot. You may know him better as Balki on Perfect Strangers. He did a great job narrating but it was very strange hearing his real voice and not the accent that I grew up watching. I just kept hearing him singing the “Dance of Joy”!

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Getting older…

Sometimes the things you need to write about the most are the hardest things to put into words. I should clarify, I can come up with words….but they won’t be staying in the positive theme of this blog. Sometimes you just need to shout expletives out to the world but this isn’t the place.

So, here I am…struggling to put the last month into productive, positive words.

It must really stink to get old. (how’s that for positive?!) Not old in that you wake up to more aches and pains than you had in your 20s. I’m talking about old, as in “I can’t take care of myself anymore but I’m going to pretend that I can and fight to keep my independence even though it makes the lives of the people trying to help me harder” old.

It may not sound like it but I do have sympathy for people in that situation. It really must be awful to know that you can’t do all the things that you used to do. To know that your days on this earth as you know it, are approaching it’s end. To have to rely on others for everything because when left on your own, well…let’s just say it’s bad. So, how do those of us that are trying to help said older one have a comfortable rest of their life handle the situation? What do you do when they have made it clear that they don’t want your help when you know that leaving them on their own will lead to their detriment? And most of all, how do you know when the situation has past old age forgetfulness and had turned into something more serious? How can you ever feel ok about playing God and deciding that someone is no longer capable of making their own decisions? And, most of all, how do you cope with this when it involves someone that is unappreciative and was never there for you?

Unlike most posts, I have no answers. This is completely new territory for me. I haven’t read any books on this topic (yet- that may be next). I’m leaving these questions out there for any of you that have dealt with similar situations. I’m at a loss. Any advise or suggestions on this topic are much appreciated.

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Calling all control freaks

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the topic of control. Life can be, at best, a completely uncontrolled roller coaster that’s flying off the tracks. Things happen that aren’t ideal and you have to deal with it, like it or not. It can be very disheartening to feel like there’s no aspect of your life that you have a say over.

That is inaccurate.

There is always something that you can control. You know who you are. That’s right. YOU. That’s all we have. You can’t make your spouse be more romantic. You can’t make your parents be the type of parents you wish you had. You can’t make your boss not lay you off.

What are you going to do about it?

We all have a choice. Sit back and let life’s roller coaster run fling us around until we vomit OR find the brakes, slow that thing down and get off for a minute. In other words, stand up for yourself.

Take your life back.

It’s amazing how much of our life is affected by our perception of it. Now there’s something that we can control. We can control how we behave in reaction to the garbage that gets thrown at us. Are you ducking in reaction to the trash slinging? Or are you catching it in mid-air and throwing it back?!

We can control our actions. We can control what we dwell on. Are you focusing on the positive or the negative? The situation doesn’t physically change based on our perception of it but our attitude towards the situation sure will. And our happiness, in turn, will improve.

I promise.

What is one thing that you could do right now that’s just for you? Do it. You can’t leave all your responsibilities behind. But you can carve out a small pocket of time for yourself to recharge and gain some perspective. That may be all that’s needed to look at an uncontrollable, stressful situation with a more positive and productive point of view.

I don’t know about you, but I do catch myself in “woe is me” moments from time to time. It can be very disheartening to feel like everything that you want in your life is out of your reach because other people keep getting in the way.

Is it true?

Is “everything” that you want really completely out of your reach? Is everybody around you REALLY getting everything they want or is your view skeewd? Do you just need to step back and look again? Maybe you have to tweak what you want a little right now but there may be a way to take a baby step towards filling a need of yours. It may not be exactly what you had in mind, but it may help you feel a little more in control of something.

Try it. You may be surprised.

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Talk less, do more

New Year’s Day has come and gone. Resolutions have been made. Most have already been broken. The eve of this day is a night of partying, of celebrating possibilities, of dreaming of something new. Wake up and, surprise, you are still you! You aren’t 20 pounds lighter and your life hasn’t changed except that you’re a bit more hung over than you were yesterday. What gives???

There’s so much pressure on that one day to make things better…to make your life different. Like everything in your life that you are dissatisfied with can be magically reset on the first day of a brand new year. Unfortunately, that isn’t how this life works. There is no reset button. But, you can use this opportunity to reassess what is working for you and what isn’t working for you and make adjustments.

I do take time at the start of a new year to step back and look at what I’m doing. What’s working, what isn’t working, what goals did I reach from the previous year, what goals are still hanging over my head, what goals don’t apply anymore. We do have to step back from time to time and evaluate if what we’re doing is going to get us to where we want to be. It doesn’t have to be on January 1st. At least, it shouldn’t be ONLY on Jan 1st. If you review more often, you can make needed changes before wasting a whole year doing something that isn’t working or, worse, not doing anything at all.

Overall, 2010 wasn’t too bad. I didn’t reach all of my goals but I did reach some. I had a goal to read 2 books a month totaling 24 for the year. My final total was 25! I’m very happy with that. I also set a goal of finally painting my kitchen. This is no small task given that it involves the cabinets as well (all 22 of them!). It took until the end of the year for me to tackle that but my kitchen is now newly painted. It is a bright and cheery room now instead of the dark brown cave that it was. I did a lot of decluttering this year, paid off some debts and have even created a possible outline for a book (that’s right, I said it!). There are other goals that I’ve made progress on. There are also lots of goals that I completely dropped the ball on. What went wrong? Well the answer to that is my suggestion for you today…

Write down your goals, dreams or whatever you want to call them (just don’t call them “resolutions” because those don’t stick!) and REVIEW THEM OFTEN – DAILY IF POSSIBLE! That’s it. The more often you reread what you’re working for, the more likely you’ll be to get where you want to go. Keep reading the map and you have a better chance of getting to your destination. I’ve read this advise countless times and I must say, it’s absolutely true. The goals that I think about most often are the ones that I follow through on. Try it with me. What dreams are you going to work towards? What are your goals for the year? Let’s make 2011 the new BEST YEAR EVER!
Ok, I wrote the preceding a couple of weeks ago. I feel that was good advice so I didn’t want to delete it. Now, I’m going to be a little more honest. My problem isn’t all about not reviewing my goals. I think the bigger issue for me is that I talk to much. I talk and talk about what I want to do and who I want to be. I don’t start doing things until I have mapped out an elaborate plan and have calculated every step. It’s no wonder I don’t take as much action as I should. In the real estate world, this is called “Analysis Paralysis”.

So, here is my real focus for 2011:
Talk less, do more.
Stop talking and DO SOMETHING!

Enough with the unnecessary planning and discussing and preparing for things that probably won’t be a factor. If I want to write, I shouldn’t be creating a schedule and reading books about it and talking about doing it. I should be writing! Helloooooo….this isn’t rocket science! Yes, some level of planning is necessary in achieving your goals or reaching your dreams but sometimes you just need to take a step. Any step. Start the momentum. Take action! There are so many factors that you can’t control. Control yourself. Just keep taking steps. Not planning steps. Not talking about the next steps. TAKE THEM!

That’s my real advice. Just do something…anything. If you want to be a musician, practice. If you want to buy real estate, look at property. If you want to start a business, figure out the first, smallest step you can take and…wait for it….TAKE IT!

2011 – the year of ACTION! Who’s with me??!!

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Life Happens

For all of the “personal development” books I read and cds I listen to, you’d think I’d be more…well, developed. You’d think I would know that I need to keep chasing my dreams no matter what life throws at me. You’d think I’d know that people can’t change just because you want them to. You’d think I wouldn’t care if they didn’t change because I can only focus on what I do, not what others do. You’d think that I would be better at budgeting my time.

To this, I say, “I’m not perfect, so back off!”

Sorry for the outburst. It has been a frustrating month for me. I had great momentum here in December. I really enjoyed sharing my favorite reads of 2010 with you. I was raring to go.

Then, life happened.

Life always happens, I know. Sometimes it happens in a way that completely blind-sides you and takes you off track for a bit. I should know better than to let it. But, one month lost is better than a year…or 5 years…or 10 years.

Situations can occur that may alter your life for a while. It can be very difficult to cope with them not leave what you want behind. This writing thing isn’t my job…not yet anyway. It’s something that may never amount to much…or will it?? No matter, it’s not doing much for me right now. Or is it??? Is it more of my sanity than I thought? Every body needs an outlet, right?

I think so. For the last month, I’ve had dozens if ideas roll around my head and I haven’t gotten any of them out. No wonder my head is spinning. My outlet right now is this and I have missed it.

So, although the situation that knocked me off track is still an issue, I’m taking my sanity back. I’m not perfect at this manage your life, make your dreams come true, build a business doing what you love, personal development thing…but I’m not giving it up. The dream of something bigger is what gets me through the day sometimes.

Thanks for your patience. I’m back now…at least, I’m gonna try to be.

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What’s your journey?

My final book review of the year was very easy to choose. As you’ve read in my past 4 reviews, I’ve gotten some good tips from my reading this year. This final book was more than a source of good tips. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was, for me, an experience. A book that was read by the right person at the right time. (Side point – I highly recommend the audio book. Liz narrates it herself so the emotions behind her experiences are felt with every word.)

Liz’s way of recording the details of her year-long journey captured the essence of the struggle and indecision that anyone who has ever searched for something in their lives has felt. Her journey was one of recovery from heartbreak and an attempt to find her true self…to find pleasure and spirituality and a balance between the two.

We’ve all had moments of searching…of struggling with a decision or learning how to live with the choices we’ve made or how to correct wrong choices. What I love about this book is that the details of her journey aren’t what’s important. Granted the details exceptionally written but the details and the locations of her self discovery aren’t the point. The point is the search – surrendering yourself to your surroundings and allowing yourself to become the person you’re supposed to be…the person you want to be. The message that I derived from her story is that it’s ok to take some time to figure out what you want and who you really are and just be that. Be your authentic self.

I’ve spent the greater part of the last two years trying to discover my true self. Who am I when I’m not trying to make other people happy? What do I want the rest of my life to look like? What do I believe in? What really is important to me? How much of my life was spent doing what was expected of me and how much were based on what I really wanted? Can you really choose what your life will look like or is this life a just a series of unexpected events that you’re forced to react to? When you don’t know what you want, it’s easy to go along with what other people want for you or just react to what’s happening around you. You reach a point when you have to start being accountable for your own life. If it’s not a true reflection of you, you have to change it.

Unlike Liz, I haven’t traveled? the globe on my search – although sometimes I do think about relocating for a while just because I’ve never done it. Maybe it’s easier to make changes in your life when your old life isn’t breathing down your neck the whole time but that’s not my reality. So without the benefit of travel, this is what I have learned so far…

  • It’s ok to try new things and explore new interests.
  • It’s ok to make new friends.
  • It’s ok to change your mind and start over.
  • It’s ok to fail…actually, it’s imperative to fail because it means you’re really going for it. Fail enough times and you will succeed.
  • You must stay true to your values.
  • You must always stay grateful.
  • This life is too short to spend it being someone else’s version of you.
  • Life, knowledge, joy, success…all are meant to be shared.
  • Be happy when others reach their dreams – your time will come.
  • It’s ok to not have everything figured out. In fact, you’ll probably never have everything figured out so deal with it.

In a way, my search has led me here…right now..writing for you. That may not seem like much with my humble, little, vastly unread blog but it’s something to me. It’s a step to discovering my passion. It’s a place for me to work through the details, sort through the clutter and underneath all of it, find me.

If you feel like you’re in a similar place in your life, read this book. Look through the details and just feel the spirit of it. Be part of Liz’s journey and maybe discover something about yourself at the same time.

“If your brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and set out on a truth seeking journey and if you are prepared to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.” – from the movie

Categories: Personal, Positively... | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments