“My eyes would say: thank you, I see you.”
“And their eyes would say: nobody ever sees me, thank you.”
The deepest human need is one of connection ~ feeling like we belong, not only in our environment but also with other people. The same atoms (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, etc.) that form the earth can also be found in us. So you see, even at the most basic level, we really are all connected.
In her excellent TED video (below), musician Amanda Palmer beautifully articulates that powerful human need for connection while at the same time validating the role of the artist as fostering that deep connection with their audience.
What I loved about this video, too, was how she talked about feeling shameful when she was offering her art and personal connection on a sidewalk in exchange for money. Someone driving past (& not part of the exchange) yelled, “Get a job!” That, Palmer said, made her feel ashamed of what she was offering to people and it made her fear that what she was doing wasn’t job-like.
I say all that to say this: I often think that too, that I should go get a “real” job, one that actually pays me a steady salary. I think it more often than I’d like to admit. Because writing fiction, for me at least, pays very little (yet!) if you just look at the financial numbers. And that’s what people like that guy driving past look at, that’s what’s important to people like them. Sadly, that’s what’s important to a lot of people.
What they don’t see is the connection that’s happening between the artist and the receiver of that art, the connection that says “I see you,” the connection that makes us a little bit closer and a little less lonely. As a writer, I show you how I see the world; as a reader you encourage me to keep going. And even if I never meet you or know your name, now we’re connected at least a little bit. We’ve both fostered the humanity between us.
It’s important work that we’re doing, creating art, and learning to trust people with the little parts of ourselves that we infuse into our work. Palmer argues that when we actually see each other, we want to help each other. I believe that’s true.
As human beings, we are already connected. It’s the artist’s job to remind all of us of that, remind us deep down in our souls where it matters most.
Do you believe in the connecting power of art?
“‘No’ is a complete sentence. Saying no is a right we all have. Use it.” ~Anne Lamott
If you want any semblance of a life that matters to you, you must learn to say no. No to things that don’t get you closer to where you want to be. No to people who ask you for things you don’t want to do. No to your own self when it’s not good for you.
YOU ARE ALLOWED TO HAVE BOUNDARIES
A lot of people like to try to negotiate when you tell them no. They wheedle, cajole, beg, yell, manipulate, and/or guilt you among other things to get you to change your mind. First off, you don’t want those kind of people in your life (because not respecting your no, according to author Gavin De Becker (The Gift of Fear), means that person is trying to control you). And secondly, the fact is that no ~ No. ~ is a complete sentence. Period and all. You don’t have to explain, give excuses, defend yourself. None of that. It’s taken me a while to learn that.
AN ENLIGHTENED NO
I’m reading this great book, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. In it, he talks about the concept of the enlightened no. Basically what that means is you say no to anything that doesn’t fit in with the focus of your life. It’s kind of like blinders on a horse, so the animal can’t see to the left or the right, it can only see straight ahead in the direction it’s going. Of course, it helps if you know the focus of your life and in which direction you want to be going. Here’s a post I wrote on figuring that out.
1. Be aware of how you feel (physically & emotionally) as you say yes when you really want to say no. How’d that make you feel?
Here’s how it made me feel:
- Like I’d just given up something precious to me (& I had: my power, my boundaries, my right to say no)
2. Count how many times you say yes when you really want to say no.
Once you start paying attention, you might be surprised to learn how much time & energy you spend doing things you don’t want to do. Time and energy that could be better spent working toward the life you want.
BE YOUR OWN CHAMPION
No one else is going to do it for you. Don’t break your commitment to yourself. Don’t put hairline cracks in your own foundation. Put your blinders on and build the life you want. But to do that, you’re the one that has to stand up for your own self. You are the one that has to say no.
Do you believe in the importance of saying no?
“Simplify. Simplify.” ~Henry David Thoreau
So here’s a benefit of getting burned out: you learn to simplify. To make it back to any sense of normalcy after you’ve fallen in a deep, dark emotional hole, you have to start getting rid of stuff: all the clutter that takes up time and energy and space and money.
I cleaned out closets, the attic, the garage, drawers and envelopes and folders and boxes. I gave it all to the Goodwill or friends or strangers who needed it. You know what’s awesome? Helping somebody out with zero expectation of anything in return. Plus they were really the ones helping me, taking all that stuff off my hands.
I took as much off my plate as I could. I started saying no (which is a whole other blog post!) and drawing a hard line on what I was willing to do, what hours I actually worked (think 9 to 5 instead of until midnight, taking weekends off ~ well, mostly), what kind of people I want to work with. You might think that’s a luxury. Maybe. But the bills are still paid & I’m much, much happier and more relaxed in my professional life.
I started donating money, giving it to causes I believe in, to people who needed it, to organizations I want to help succeed. It changed my whole outlook on money; how it’s a means to an end, not a barometer of my worth, which sadly I used to think. If you’re afraid there won’t be enough, giving money away will change that belief too. It’ll free you up and open you up to new possibilities. It’ll make you generous instead of fearful. I know because that’s what it did for me.
Okay, so this one’s a little tougher, but sometimes you need to let people go. Maybe being around them zaps your energy, makes you feel less than or guilty or bad about yourself. Maybe they use you for a crutch because they don’t want to stand on their own 2 feet. You know this when you dread hearing from them, when that little nudge in your gut tells you this relationship isn’t good for you, when you feel like you need a nap/drink/shower after dealing with them. So I encourage you to separate yourself from those kinds of people, gently and kindly if you can, but separate yourself still.
AND THE END RESULT:
I am more:
- present with my kids & my husband
- willing for new experiences to come into my life
- friendly to everybody (because I know I can say no to them)
I am less:
- controlling (okay, well I’m still working on that)
SO . . .
Be bold. Be brave. Simplify.
“I don’t believe in failure. There’s either success or learning.” ~Jen Rozenbaum, Jenerations
I recently took an amazing photography class from Jen at creativeLIVE. (And if you’ve never heard of creativeLIVE, you should absolutely check it out; free online learning). She spent time talking about being an artist and how if you want to succeed and want your creativity to flourish, you have to let yourself take risks and either succeed (yay) or make mistakes (that you learn from). I think it kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: you can’t ever get to the finish line unless you keep going.
HERE ARE SOME FAMOUS SUCCESSES WHO ALSO MADE MISTAKES (& LEARNED FROM THEM):
- The company Rovio made 51 attempts at a successful app before they came up with Angry Birds (which has now been downloaded 1 billion times).
- Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, the company he started. He once said: ”Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” When he came back to Apple, he went on to make it one of the most successful companies in the world.
- Oprah Winfrey (billionaire, television network owner, among many other things) was fired early on in her career from her job as a reporter because she was, according to her producer, “unfit for television news.”
WHY AM I TELLING YOU (& MYSELF) ALL THIS?
Because I don’t want you (or me) to give up after three or thirty or three hundred tries. I want you to reframe your experiences (anything you’re now calling failures) so you can learn from them and move on. Lamenting your mistakes and failures just keeps you stuck in the same place wishing for what could’ve been (I know, I’ve done it).
If it’s a learning experience, well then it’s not personal, it doesn’t reflect badly on you, and that opens you up to doing a better job the next time. And it really is true (I can attest to it!) that you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes. As an artist and a person, I’d rather keep growing which means I have to keep moving forward and upward.
MY NEW MANTRA
I’m gonna make a choice right now to not believe in failure either: only success or learning, success or learning. I hope you’ll adopt that mantra too.
So do you believe in failure? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
Well, I’ve been blogging for about 18 months now. I’ve had a blast, motivated & inspired myself (and hopefully others!), and met lots of new people (200,000 visitors and counting!). So here are some favorite posts based on you the reader (most views, most feedback, or most shared) or based on me (I just like them).
Thank you so much for being part of my blog. I’ve really had a great time not only writing but also connecting with you, dear Reader. I hope you’ve enjoyed this listing of the best of my blog. Please feel free to share your thoughts (or your own favorites!) in the comment box below.
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet
Fear’s a tough one.
The biggest regrets in my life come from when I chose fear (& backed down) instead of choosing faith (& moving forward). I don’t think fear ever goes away. Sometimes it’s not as strong (just nervous) & sometimes it’s overwhelming (sheer terror). But I think whenever you get out of your comfort zone, fear crops up.
Faith is walking through fear, baby steps and holding your breath if you have to, but walking and moving forward nonetheless.
I had a high-school teacher who told the class that we should aggressively pursue things that scare us. I was a teenager at the time. I thought he was nuts. Why scare myself unnecessarily? Turns out, he was right. Want to watch yourself grow by leaps and bounds? Face your fears with beauty and courage, keep moving through them then conquer them, & you’ll see just how capable and strong you really are.
“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
WHAT WILL YOU RESOLVE?
So here’s my New Year’s resolution, the only one I’m going to make: This coming year, the one that’s new and untouched and full of things that have never been, I’m going to keep moving forward, I’m going to choose faith over fear every single time, I’m going to show myself just how much beauty and courage I truly have.
I hope you’ll do the same.
What are you most afraid of? And will you resolve (read: promise) to do it this new year? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” ~ Henry Ford
Early on, when you just start working toward a goal, it’s usually pretty easy to stay on track. You have a vision, you know what steps to take, you can see the end result in your mind’s eye. Problem is that sometimes it’s a long road to get to where you want to be.
Sometimes it’s dark and scary and you’re fumbling around because you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. And often the road is filled with all kinds of noise (internet, TV, radio, video games, naysayers, just to name a few) and potholes (broken relationships, money problems, illnesses, and so on) so it’s really easy to lose focus.
And when you lose focus, it’s even easier to stop and look around and take your eyes off your ultimate goal. And that, my friends, the looking around part is where the problems lie.
HERE’S WHAT CAN DERAIL YOU AS YOU’RE LOOKING AROUND:
- Compare yourself to what others are doing, find yourself lacking, & watch your motivation tank.
- Look at the big picture instead of the micro goals, overwhelm/scare yourself, and slow down/stop.
- Second-guessing because, you know, so far it hasn’t worked out like you thought and maybe you give up.
- Listening to the negativity around you and start to believe the naysayers.
- Get tangled up in all the noise or tripped up by the potholes (see above) & start making excuses/procrastinating, doing things that have nothing to do with helping you reach your goals/dreams.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP YOUR FOCUS?
At a motivational seminar, my husband and I did an exercise called a Life Map where we combed through magazines, looking for pictures of the goals/dreams we had for our lives. The team leader told us to dream as BIG as possible, to cut out pictures even if we didn’t see how it was possible to achieve them. So we did.
WE USED THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES:
- career (your dream job)
- financial (your dream net worth)
- family (your dream partner/children)
- personal: (your dream self)
- location: (your dream living situation)
HERE ARE MY RESULTS:
- Career: I pasted pictures of my novels; one’s done & two others are nearly finished.
- Financial: I pasted a picture of money. While not overly specific, my thought at the time was that we’d always have enough money. So far, that’s worked out, sometimes almost miraculously. (Now, I’ll go find a new picture of a million bucks . . . or more!)
- Family: I pasted a picture of 2 blond-haired boys, one slightly older than the other; that’s what I have.
- Personal: I pasted a picture of a bathroom scale with a low number on it. (Mind you I didn’t think, at the time, I’d ever be able to even get close). Now, I’m only 10 pounds from it.
- Location: I pasted pictures of a beautiful house, a lake, horses. Last year, I moved into my dream house. The lake’s not far off. I just connected with a woman who owns horses and needs help, so I’ll be riding again soon.
It works. It does. I promise you it does. But, here’s the kicker, you have to work toward it.
- Buy some poster board (or you can do this with a cork board & push pins, too) & write LIFE MAP at the top.
- Take an afternoon & comb through some magazines, find pictures (as specific as possible) of what you want for your life, your goals & dreams, and if you can’t find pictures, then type up words describing your goals & dreams.
- Glue them to the poster board, clustered together by category.
- Hang it somewhere that you CAN SEE IT every day.
- Make a commitment to look at it daily, study it even.
- Embed it in your mind too so that, as you’re working toward your ideal life, if you start to lose focus, mentally you can remind yourself where you want to be.
- Add to it whenever you have a new goal/dream.
- Celebrate the achievements!
So do you think it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize when reaching for your goals/dreams? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“Comparison is an act of violence against yourself.” ~Iyanla Vanzant
Well, here’s me writing another post I need to hear. It goes hand-in-hand with a post I did on why I stopped looking at the numbers.
Show of hands: How many people have ever compared themselves to someone else and come up lacking? If you answered yes:
HOW’D THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
- Bottom line: it probably didn’t make you feel good.
HERE’S HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:
- I’m not enough as I am.
- I should just give up.
- Life is a competition instead of a collaboration.
- Life is less about the journey & more about the end result.
- It fueled perfectionism (& that’s a whole other blog post).
- It paralyzed me & stopped me from moving forward.
Here’s the truth: there’s most likely, at some point in your life, going to be someone prettier, richer, smarter, more successful, more popular, and/or someone with better stats that you. And even if you’re the very best there is in the world at what you do, at some point, someone will knock you out of the #1 spot.
The trick is how to be content where you are with exactly what you have. So how do you do that? Gratitude helps. So does recognizing all the things you have to offer. And keeping busy, working toward your own goals, does too.
HERE’S A SIMPLE SUGGESTION THAT HELPED ME:
- Write a daily gratitude list.
- Write a daily list of things you do well.
- Keep it handy when you start comparing.
AND HERE’S ANOTHER (courtesy of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson):
Keep your eyes on your own paper.
What that means to me:
- Do your own work & be your own self.
- Keep the focus on what you need to do to move forward in your own life.
- DO at least one thing every day that moves you toward the life you want.
- Believe that you will achieve your goal.
There’s enough violence in the world; don’t add to it by inflicting it on yourself.
So have you caught yourself comparing your life with someone else’s? If so, what did you do to stop yourself? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
So this one goes along with a post I did on things I wish I’d known when I was 20. Sadly, I still tend to learn things the hard way. So, if I could talk some sense to my current self (maybe this time I’ll listen!), here are some things I’d say:
1. THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Yeah, I know it doesn’t feel like it. It never feels like it when you’re right in the middle of it. But it’s not the end of the world. No matter what it is, eventually at some point, it will pass.
2. TELL THE TRUTH
To others, yes. But to yourself, too. Even if it scares you. Even if it hurts. Even if a little white lie or not saying anything at all would be so much easier. Tell the truth.
3. STOP LOOKING BACKWARD
I know it’d be great if you could go back in time, then you could make different choices. I wish it were that easy, truly I do. But, sadly, you can’t. Nobody can. All you can do is learn (learn! learn!) from the mistakes you made, fix what you can, and move on.
4. FORGIVE YOURSELF
Yep, sigh, you screwed up . . . again. You’re human so it happens. Sigh some more. And breathe. Don’t beat yourself up. Just forgive yourself, again and again.
5. IN THE END, KINDNESS MATTERS MORE THAN ANYTHING
I get that there’s career and family and friends and to-do lists and goals and dreams. But what matters most, really, is being kind. Kind to others, sure. Kind to yourself, too. Be kind to yourself. Remember that.
6. IF IT FEELS LIKE A REALLY BAD CHOICE, IT PROBABLY IS
Don’t make it. Enough said.
7. YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MIND
Don’t think you can’t. You have that right. As many times as you want. There’s no limit. Don’t believe that you’re trapped in your answer. Just change your mind.
8. CHECK YOUR MOTIVATION
Preferably BEFORE you do things. Otherwise, one word: Backfire. Be real clear about why you’re doing things so you can get the result you’re looking for.
9. WORRYING SERVES NO PURPOSE
Other than to make you crazy. Quit it. Don’t let your mind create a reality you don’t want, which is about all worrying does. Remember what your husband keeps telling you: If it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening.
10. BE A VICTOR, NOT A VICTIM
A lot of times it’s just a matter of language. Change the wording and change your whole outlook. Empower yourself. Sometimes life hurts a whole heck of a lot. Learn from it. Grow stronger. Be victorious. And remember while you’re going through it: this too shall pass.
So what lessons are you *sigh* still learning? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again . . . who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” ~President Theodore Roosevelt (Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)
Here’s something that’s sad but true: whenever you start to do a good work, there’s always gonna be someone who comes along to tell you what’s wrong with it or, worse, with you.
When I started this blog, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, but I knew that I wanted to encourage myself and, hopefully, encourage other people. So that’s what I’ve been doing my best to do. Most, if not all, of my posts are not real controversial, at least I don’t think they are. How can you argue with positivity, right?
Well, you might be surprised to know that I’ve gotten quite a few negative comments and a couple of scathing personal attacks from people I don’t know and never met. I’d ask myself why but there’s probably not an answer for that or even if there is, it probably wouldn’t make a difference.
HERE’S WHY THE CRITICS DON’T MATTER:
- I’m happy.
- I’m the one covered in dust and sweat.
- I’m the one who’s actively pursuing my dreams.
- I’m the one who didn’t give up.
- I’m the strong one.
- And if you’re still going, still working toward the life that you want, then you are all those things, too.
SO YOU KEEP GOING
You keep moving forward in the face of people who tell you that you’re wrong, misguided, can’t do it, won’t succeed, will embarrass yourself, they don’t like you, and on and on. You listen to me instead. You’re the strong one. You’re the one who didn’t give up. You rock on & you keep going.
So do you believe that the critics don’t matter? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
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