Tag Archives: self-esteem

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

Five months ago I sat on the back porch of a rented house in Georgia and I was inspired in a way I had never felt before. The air was warm and smelled of pine forest. Birds chirped and a river bubbled over rocks far below. A salamander came to visit but otherwise I was alone, the kids still asleep inside after a late night.

I grabbed my laptop and words flowed from my fingers as I worked on the post that inspired my new novel. The word of the day was Limerence, not an easy word to work into a post:

Limerence is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one’s feelings reciprocated.

I wrote a few sentences, just 2 paragraphs – one that never even got posted:

My heart pounds in my chest and my stomach churns as I look nervously around the wooded driveway of the rented cabin. There’s no way he could have found me here, yet the extent of his obsession makes almost anything possible. With one last glance behind me the key slips easily into the lock and I turn it while pushing the door open at the same time.

As I twist quickly to shut the door behind me, the backpack on my shoulder knocks over the lamp on the small table, shattering it on the floor. My already frazzled nerves cause me to jump at the sudden noise in the silent house. I turn the deadbolt and place my bag on the hardwood floor at my feet as I lean back against the solid wood door.

I liked it, but I didn’t feel like I would be able to slide in the word so I kept it but started over.

From my rocking chair I could see the odd staircase that led down to the river. I could see a woman walking slowly down, lost in thought. In her reverie she is comparing someone she knows now with an ex – an ex who had turned out to have a crazy obsession. Yes! This worked with the word perfectly, and I posted the following:

Am I More Than Just an Obsession to You?

The girls eventually got up and we were off tubing in the river and exploring the area, my post forgotten. The next morning I was once again up early relaxing on what I was starting to feel was MY porch, ready to write another post. The unpublished words from the previous day were still up in a web browser, right where I’d left them, waiting to be turned into something more.

As I reread what I’d written I saw a connection from the previous day’s post. The frightened woman who locks herself into the rented cabin is the woman who later walks down the staircase to the river. On the staircase she is thinking of the ex she had been running away from, the crazy obsessed ex. The man on the porch watching her walk down the staircase, the one who saves her from falling off a landing that has no railing is there to protect her from the ex.

If you were following me over the summer you will have read about some of what happens with the ex, who is now named Clay and the hero who is named Caleb. These parts of the story were posted completely out of order and I explained in the post below what these characters meant to me, because the story is deeply personal even though it’s fiction:

With Eager Anticipation I Watch My Story Unfold

September 16th I posted my last post about the story. I felt I had enough content and I was anxious to start editing. I had put all of my posts into a separate document, in the order I envisioned them actually unfolding, so I printed that document – over 100 pages – and set to work. Only when I began this did I realize that I still have a lot to learn about writing. The posts made for pretty good blog posts but it certainly wasn’t what I would consider novel material.

The more I crossed out and rewrote the more frustrated I became. I borrowed books from the library, trying desperately to learn what I would need to do to fix what I had written so I could turn it into what I felt had potential to be a truly riveting story. And I have made significant progress. This has taken time away from blogging but in the end I think it will be worth it.

Many books have helped me understand dialog and character development, the use of similes and metaphors, plot and subplot, etc. But the book that has been most helpful has been Revision and Self Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel that Sells by James Scott Bell.

Thanks to this book I have begun completely rewriting what I had written, words I now consider more of an outline than a draft. The rewrite is moving slowly but I love what is forming. It’s better on an order of magnitude I never would have expected. There will be other drafts after this, I have no doubt. I may end up working on this for a year before I’m ready to put it into print – I hope not longer than that.

It’s sometimes hard to put so much time and effort into a project, not knowing if anything will come of it in the end. I am working on faith and at times I wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. I believe that it is but time will tell.

Sometimes You’re Ahead, Sometimes You’re Behind

“That’s not fair!”

I remember making this announcement repeatedly growing up. I still want to stamp my foot and cross my arms at the injustice I felt as a child. As a matter of fact, my sister and I said this so many times my stepfather took a piece of paper and wrote the word FAIR on it, then suspended it from the ceiling. He told us that the only place life would ever be fair was under that dangling piece of paper.

Still, as a twin I fully expected everything to be exactly half, split down the middle, completely even and above all FAIR.

This idea of fairness has come up time and again in my life. My daughters feel much the same way I did, although I haven’t yet hung up a sign. In talking to a friend about my parenting schedule this morning she echoed what everyone tells me when I talk about that situation – “that’s not fair!” And yes, sometimes it truly does feel unfair.

My ex would agree that our arrangement with the kids isn’t fair, although he would say he gets the short end of the stick. He still pays the same amount for child support as he did before child care costs that I pay went down. During the school year he typically only gets to see them on school nights and so is always dealing with the routines of homework and school instead of being able to do fun things with them.

On the other hand, I have them almost every weekend (the weekends I don’t have them in a year could be counted on one hand). He sets the schedule every month to work around his schedule and I can rarely plan more than 30 days in advance.

I can choose to focus on whether life is fair. I can struggle against what I feel is unjust, or I can accept that sometimes I’m ahead, and sometimes I’m behind. This is a lesson I learned in highschool that stuck with me (although I do need reminding from time to time). When I first heard Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann I started to understand. Sometimes I will get the bigger piece of cake, sometimes my sister will…but in the end things usually end up being fair. As Luhrmann says, “The race is long. And in the end it’s only with yourself.” This last piece I didn’t fully understand until I was much older.

If you’re not familiar with this, below you will find links to the Amazon download and a YouTube video. It’s full of insight…things that are obvious but not often considered. I still listen to it from time to time when life is feeling unfair. And now that I’ve listened to it, I feel I’m just a little further ahead in the race.

Amazon Download:

YouTube video: Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

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Putting Myself First

A little over a week ago I was paddleboarding. It was a beautiful day and I slid easily over the water. A part of me knew that the return would be more difficult. Somewhere inside registered that both the current and the wind were pushing me in the direction I wanted to go. But it was wonderful, gliding gracefully with little effort.

I might have gone further than I should have that day. It was relaxing, peaceful, painless. Finally, I decided I needed to turn around. I was out there by myself and although not far from shore I had gone quite a distance from where I would be able to get out of the water.

I turned around with no problem (I’m getting pretty confident on the board). And then I was hit with full force. Although I paddled with all my might the current and the wind combined were too much. I pushed the paddle into the water with every ounce of strength I could muster. I leaned forward to gain leverage. And still I wasn’t sure I was even moving forward.

Slowly I gained a little momentum and I inched in the direction I needed to go. I knew if I sat down on the board I would move faster. My body was creating too much resistance against the wind. But stubbornly I refused. I argued silently that I was getting a good workout, that I was improving on the paddleboard more because it was challenging. When I had barely budged from my starting point a gust of wind pushed me backward and I was forced to relent.

I sat and paddled. And I made progress. It was easier without so much resistance. But the easy way is not for me (apparently). As soon as the wind died down a little I stood again. I continued to advance bit by bit, more slowly than when I had been sitting, but I was at least moving forward – until the next gust.

I continued this way, standing when the wind was calmer, sitting when I had to. Eventually I made it to my destination but I was exhausted.

My life the past couple of weeks has felt this way, with both the wind and current fighting me. Maybe the answer is as simple as sitting down.

The post below reminded me yesterday how important it is for me to take time for myself:

The Value of “Me” Time as a Parent

This is something I’m usually pretty good at, but this morning I started thinking about the last time I really took time for just me – time not spent working on one of my projects, or hosting a Meetup, or taking care of the kids, or helping a friend, or taking kittens to the vet, or exercising, or working on this blog, or reading to improve something, or even writing (at least writing with a purpose). And honestly I can’t remember. I used to be good about taking time for myself.

There are a few things I do just for me (like meditating) but for the most part I’ve been cramming every possible moment with something productive. Yesterday, as I waited for the vet at the animal shelter (because the kittens we’re fostering got sick almost as soon as I brought them home) I worked on my novel. I love working on my novel, but I’m struggling with the rewrite. I love how it’s coming out but it’s a lot of work to get it where I want it to be – and I know there will be other drafts after this attempt.

Sunday I went paddleboarding on the river – something I would have been happy to do alone – something I want to do alone – but I posted it as a Meetup and so was coerced into completing a trip that I would have happily spent 4-5 hours doing in just over 2 1/2 hours.

Saturday I spent working on the murder mystery for our Halloween party – something I enjoy but forces me to think in a way I’m not accustomed to (putting together clever clues is not something that is easy to do). When I became frustrated with that project I went back to working on my novel, and became equally frustrated with that.

Working backwards I can easily see how I’ve filled my time. They’re all worthwhile projects but what happened to just enjoying being once in a while?

I have a deadline for the murder mystery party (10/20). And I have now committed to creating a haunted graveyard in my backyard for a night-before-the-party party (10/19). I love Halloween and I’m excited about both of these…but much of my free time between now and then will involve getting ready for this big event (we look forward to this all year).

But I am going to find a way, somehow, to make more time for myself. I need to put myself first sometimes and October – my favorite month – is as good a time as any to start.

Becoming More of Who We Are

Do people really change? Or do we become more of who we already are?

This weekend I read something in Go Put Your Strengths to Work, 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham that got me thinking:

In it he argued that people don’t change their personality. He went so far as to say that the idea that people change their personality over time is a myth (and a harmful one at that). The personality they have as a child is the one that they live with their entire life and only their outward behavior changes. In it he tells us when we change our behavior we become more of who we have been all along. His intention in saying this is to give the read a feeling of power or control, which I appreciate.

But I have been pondering this point since Saturday.

In the past 7 years I have changed dramatically. There are only a handful of people I am close to who can actually say they “knew me when.” Most of my good friends have come into my life in the past 3-4 years, and they will attest to the significant changes they see in me. In all honestly there are only 1 or 2 people who actually knew me during the first few years after my divorce, people who truly know the magnitude of my transformation.

When I read Saturday that we become more of who we have been all along, I started to think of it in terms of my past 7 years. Honestly I like the idea of becoming more of who we are. I understand his point and I think it’s an interesting question.

Has my personality changed?

The definition of personality according to dictionary.com:

Psychology:

1. the sum total of the physical, mental, emotional, and social characteristics of an individual.
2. the organized pattern of behavioral characteristics of the individual.

By this definition my personality has certainly changed. I have changed in every one of these categories actually.

  • I am stronger and more physically fit than I have ever been, even as a teenager.
  • I have changed the way I think, the way I approach challenges. I have learned more in the past few years than I did the prior 15.
  • I have rediscovered my self-worth and have achieved a pretty significant level of emotional intelligence.
  • I have become far more comfortable in social situations, moving from being unable to speak to actually leading social groups.

Even the results of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment have changed.  Where once I was a strong INFP (testing consistently this way for 20 years) I am  now an INTJ.  Although I am still an introvert, I had once been on the far end of the Introvert spectrum and have gravitated more in the direction of the Extrovert.  I’m still on the I side of the I/E line, but much closer to the center. And this is something I had at one time believed was so much a part of who I am that this would never change.

His meaning isn’t lost on me, even though I am debating the wording of his point. In most cases, we don’t need to change who we are. That is a daunting, exhausting and overwhelming task. It’s enough to take our best qualities and make them better.

So I’m curious. Most people change over time. Do you feel that you have changed your personality, or become more of who you were all along?

In fairness, this is only one tiny point in his book which is actually about using your strengths in the workplace. He has an interesting approach and if you’re dissatisfied with your job it may be worth reading. This isn’t intended to be a book review but rather a discussion of an idea I found interesting.

When Do We Stop Letting Our Past Define Us?

We are all products of our past, what has happened to us up to this point has shaped who we are. But at what point do we stop talking about our history and simply be who we have become?

If you know I grew up poor with barely enough money for food, do you appreciate more the fact that I can pay my bills without worrying where the money is coming from?

If you know I was teased, called fat even though I wasn’t, do you better understand what an achievement it is for me to feel good about the way I look?

If you know my mother never played with us as kids, telling us she was never taught how to play, do you grasp the difference in my parenting style?

If you know my ex used my fear to keep me from leaving, do you have greater compassion for the strength it took to walk away?

Am I a better person because of what I’ve been through? I got divorced almost 7 years ago and still sometimes the thought passes through my mind….if they knew where I started then…

My goal in writing about my past is to let others know that real change is possible. Wherever you are starting, however bad it is if you choose to make a change, you can. It may be difficult in the beginning. It may seem impossible. You may need professional help, someone more qualified than me. But it is possible, if you take that first step.

And yet I also have this lingering feeling…that I somehow have to justify where I am by showing how far I’ve come. As if it means more that I can confidently walk into a Meetup with 50 strangers because speaking even to one person felt impossible once upon a time.

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Who Will You See if I Come Out From Hiding?

What if they don’t like me?

What if I’m different?

What if I’m not good enough?

If my daughter came to me and said these things I would tell her, “If they don’t like you the way that you are, then they are the ones missing out.”

Not long ago I brought my daughter and her friends to the mall. It was her friend’s birthday and the girls had earned money by deep cleaning my house. They spent hours working hard so that they would have money to spend. They planned to use it to buy the birthday girl something special.

They ran off on their own in hunt for the perfect gift.

When we reconnected they were all wearing matching sweatshirts they had bought. My daughter had used the money she’d earned and some of her own to pay for part of her friend’s sweatshirt as well as her own. She’s a saver. Her goal is to save double what she needs to buy a new phone so she still has money in her savings account – so when she chooses to spend her money it’s a big deal.

She didn’t actually like the sweatshirt though. It was a cropped top and she hated it. After that day she asked to return it but because she had worn it already that wasn’t possible. Since then she has refused to wear it and the hated top remains buried in one of her dresser drawers like a forgotten toy at the bottom of the toy box.

She never liked that sweatshirt. She didn’t want to buy it in the first place. Why did she?

When I talked to her about this she told me she wanted her friends to like her. They liked it and she was afraid if she didn’t go along with it they wouldn’t like her. She didn’t want them to think she was being difficult (apparently they had a hard time choosing something they all liked).

Ridiculous, right? These are good friends who like her for a lot of reasons. If she didn’t want to buy the sweatshirt would they really stop being her friends? Not these kids.

And if one of them did decide not to be her friend because she didn’t buy a sweatshirt? Well then she certainly wouldn’t be someone my daughter should be friends with anyway.

We tell our children that true friends will like you for who you are. I know when I say this that I honestly believe this is true. Her friends would be her friends if she didn’t buy the sweatshirt.

But what about me? Do I believe people will like me if they get to know who I really am? If they see behind my public curtain, if they discover that the wizard is really just a bookworm who also happens to like paddleboarding, what will they think?

When I first started writing for this blog I stumbled in the beginning. Until I found the word of the day I struggled with what I should write. I claimed it gave me inspiration, which in a way was true. But in reality what it gave me was an excuse to write. Why did I need to justify my writing?

I was afraid.

Who am I to put my thoughts and ideas out into the world?

Why should anyone read what I have to say?

Why would they want to?

What if they don’t like me?

What if I’m different?

What if I’m not good enough?

If my daughter came to me with this problem I would tell her, “If they don’t like you the way that you are, then they are the ones missing out.” Advice is easier to give than it is to take. But I’m learning.

Please Stop Yelling!!!

I have two girls who are just over a year apart in age, but almost complete opposites in so many ways.

My youngest is tall (taller than me even though she’s only 12) and thin. She loves to watch television and do crafts. Although she likes having friends over, she sometimes will choose to go off on her own for a while to get a break from people. She’s the classic introvert in that way, although not overly shy. She’s a STEM girl – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – although she also adores Pinterest and will happily spend hours meticulously recreating the crafts found there.

My oldest daughter has been shorter than her sister for the past 5-6 years and the gap has been increasing dramatically the past year. Although not “fat”, she has been self-conscious of her weight for as many years. As an extrovert she never tires of being with friends and is often the hostess, entertaining even Emma’s friends when they’re over. She gravitates toward leadership and has even received an award at school for her initiative there. She would much rather listen to music while chatting with her friends than do any kind of art project.

How could you possibly compare two individuals who are so different? Why would you want to?

And yet they constantly compare themselves to each other. This creates so much friction and animosity it’s sometimes difficult to tolerate.

Around the time the girls were 9 and 10 I finally read the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

In this book they talk about all the ways we create animosity between our kids without meaning to, and I realized my contribution to what was going on.

I know when they were little I would create mini competitions to get them to do what they needed to do – “Let’s see who can get ready for bed fastest!” I can’t tell you how beautifully this worked, but after reading this book I can see how I probably should have tried something different.

I try to be very conscious of how I phrase things with the girls, attempting to reinforce the idea that they are unique individuals with very different personalities, strengths and interests. Sometimes I can see this helping. There are little glimpses of collaboration when my oldest helps my youngest with a school project or my youngest invites her sister into her room to listen to music.

But even in these moments the bitterness still bubbles underneath the surface, just waiting to return.

Unfortunately their dad doesn’t understand how comparing them to each other or creating competitions feeds into this hostility they feel toward each other. Add to this their now 2 year old sister who they see as the “full time child” in that household and tension between them sizzles like bacon frying in a pan – just waiting for you to come close enough to splatter hot grease all over you.

So, I’m adding this book onto my reading list again – perhaps after the 10 books I already have stacked around me. I want to make sure I’m at least doing the best I can. I can’t change anything at his house but I know I can respond better to their bickering when they are with me. I just need to remember how.

I sometimes miss the days when their problems were easier to solve. Back then a hug or kiss could heal most anything.