The Thin Line

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In the movie, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” one of the lines goes like this: “It seems as if the space between my dreams and my fears is nothing more than the width of an eyelash.”

The woman who said this was referring to her deepening love for a new man in her life. The fear of love was keeping her emotionally distant from him. She did not want to risk opening herself up to the hurt that often comes with love, but, yet, it thrilled her to be with him.

I love the image of the width of an eyelash, a thin line between dreams and fear. It is a universal experience to which we can all relate.

Right now this sentiment is true for me about my book.

My memoir, for the past four years, is the thing in my mind, after which, my dreams will come true. I have given it the power, in my mind, of being the pivot point after which my world will change. I’ll be rich and famous, or healthy and totally together… or… perhaps nothing will change? Fear of success and lack of success are equally powerful.

Now that I am close to finished with the edits suggested by my editor, I realized recently I seem to be stalling. When I finish these edits and get one more official proof, the hard work of publishing, marketing, and getting it out into the world is on.

Realizing that I am stalling, though, has been freeing. It is up to me whether or not I finish the book, and I decided that the risk of my life changing or not changing is better than a future of what if? I am committing to pushing through, finishing the edits, and hiring the proofreader. I will open that new door and see what lies on the other side, no longer allowing fear to win. When it’s done, readers, you will be the first to know!

Make it a good week!

To Thrive

I really like words. Reading, writing, learning, and considering the use of various words — I dig it.

In the song called Thrive by Casting Crowns, the lyrics say:

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive.

These impactful words paint a dichotomous picture. We were made for more than ordinary lives, for more than just surviving. To survive is to remain alive, to subsist, to make it through. But we were made to thrive, to flourish, to grow, and prosper. Thriving is full of excitement, life, and growth.

I notice a difference in my life, in how I feel about my life and activities, in times of survival versus times of thriving. Heck, sometimes survival is excellent, the very best option. There are definitely times where I have been incredibly grateful for survival.

But during regular days, not the life versus death kind of days, sometimes it feels like all we can do is to survive from one day to another, rushing from place to place, never enough time in the day to get everything done. Never enough time to meet everyone’s needs. We look forward to the weekend, or days off, to get off the treadmill of weekday life and to have more time to ourselves.

But to thrive is an entirely different experience. I think of times when I feel like I’m growing, I’m excited, doing something that makes an impact. I feel like I thrive when I am creating a healthy meal, when I am having dinner with an old friend, unaware of the time as it passes. I thrive in new environments, in being part of a group that is moving forward on something. I thrive on the idea that the way I relate to others makes a positive difference to them.

What makes you thrive? Do you make efforts to use your time in ways that make you thrive?

Make it a good week!

Limitations

Sarah lived to celebrate 110 years. A young woman of civil war times, her destiny was to stay home safe and sound in Illinois, cooking for others. But her heart was with those fighting for basic freedoms for all. Sarah’s deeply held passion was freedom for slaves.

The country, in midst of war, had sent many of its young men to the battlefield. How could Sarah help except to be one of these young men? She cut her hair, disguised herself as a young man, and entered the army. In more than six months served, no one suspected.

President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation at that time, freeing the slaves, and ending Sarah’s time in the war. Returning home she attended college, choosing to study medicine. Given the injuries she had seen in the war she wanted to be a physician.

This story came from a writing workshop I attended over the weekend. In a session on freelance writing we divided into pairs and were given a hypothetical story to write about. One in the pair was the interviewer and the other the interviewee.

I was paired with a young woman next to me. She had rolled into the room in an electric wheelchair, arms atrophied, with a beautiful black lab service animal accompanying her.

I drew our assignment from a group of small pieces of paper. Opening it, Sarah and I read together, “You are a 110 year old civil war veteran.”

My immediate thought was, Oh, no, what would I say about this? But thankfully Sarah said she would like to be the interviewee. Her deep eyes twinkled as she looked at me saying, “Well, obviously, as a woman I couldn’t be in the war. I’ll disguise myself as a man!” Thus, the story began.

She created the story; I asked questions to fill in a few details and in just a few moments we were finished. As the interviewer, I read my version of her story aloud. Then, as the interviewee, she read hers. Each pair in the class did the same with their stories. The lesson was about perspective; two people telling the same story or retelling facts will do so from a different perspective, in a different manner.

When I first saw Sarah I had ideas about limitations. But when she opened her mouth and created this tale about being a civil war veteran, I believed her. I imagined her as a 17 year old girl cutting her hair and leaving Illinois as a boy. From her mind and voice she had no limitations.

Among the many valuable takeaways from the writing workshop, I may have learned the most from my experience with Sarah. She made me think about limitations, about what exactly they are. How do we limit ourselves? In what ways can we do amazing things and attain extraordinary goals, even given our limitations?

I have a feeling I’ll mull this over throughout the week. Happy spring, and make it a good week!

Speakin’ My Mind

Maggie Smith quote

In the past few years I have been working on a memoir. If you know me, you’ve most likely heard me talk about it. “I’m working on my book…” has been said thousands of times.

The title I have chosen is “Because I Lived”, also the impetus for this blog. It describes the journey of coming to terms with life after a near deadly health crisis. Because I lived I get to have a life full of more gratitude, purpose, and blessing than I ever had before when I was considered healthy.

I’ve realized in recent months that I’m stalling. The story is there, it’s done. There will likely be plenty of room for editing. But what I wanted to say is said. I have an editor (a real editor!) lined up. I’m at the point of asking a few close friends to read it, to gather general impressions and their thoughts.

But putting it out there is S-C-A-R-Y! What if everyone who reads it hates it? What if it isn’t interesting? What if it’s self-indulgent, whiny, or boring? And the biggest fear of all, what if publishers are not interested in publishing it? What if they do publish it?

So, I am trying to be brave, put the words out in the world, and trust that it will all work out. Although it is shaky, I am trying to use my voice.

What are you thinking about or working on that has you stalling? Are you shaky but trying to speak?

Make it a good week!

The You-est You

The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

Michelangelo

When I was in high school I had an idealized image of being an adult. I couldn’t wait to be older, have a job, a dog, and a condo in the city. My image was a life of success, contentment, independence and maturity. I would have a job I loved and was good at, enough money for needs and a few wants, and would not settle for anything less.

I looked around at adults I knew, at how they participated in their lives. Some people worked every day and disliked what they did. Some talked about being excited for retirement, looking forward to the days when they could do what they wanted. I remember wondering how people could live like that, spending days waiting to get on to the next one. I felt this was the type of person I didn’t want to be.

When I actually matured into an adult I began to see how people could stay in a job, or in a life situation, they didn’t particularly like:

  • Money may be a factor; once we earn a certain amount of money or family members to support and bills to pay, it can be very difficult to let it go and make a financial change.
  • In general, people don’t like change and it seems that many prefer to stay in what they know rather than trying something new.
  • Inertia may set in; it feeds on itself, that feeling of sluggishness with the familiarity and monotony of every day life.
  • Lack of self-confidence; I believe many people, women especially, feel incapable of making a change, learning a new role and doing it well.

There are probably many more factors (please feel free to comment below!) and they share a similarity. The ugliness of each of these factors, real as they are, is that they hold us back from being our best selves. They change our perspective toward negativity. We may not give 100% to the job or the relationship and, therefore, we don’t receive back 100% satisfaction. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. We fall into a hole and wait for some set of circumstances to come along to get us out of the hole. Over time new goals may not be set, much less reached.

What I want to encourage you to consider, if you are in this kind of place, is you can get yourself out of the holes you are in. You are the You-est You there is and the world needs You to be your best self. Reassess your goals, remember your dreams and ideals from the past, and reconsider aiming for them.

Make it a good week!

Waiting

Really, this post is about procrastination. I meant to write it weeks ago…

Ha! Just jokes. But the word “procrastination” puts people off doesn’t it? I am really good at procrastinating what I don’t want to do, but it is not generally thought to be a positive trait.

I think procrastination really means that we are waiting: waiting for the right time, waiting to have all the information, or waiting because of fear.

The right time. It is easy to think, while putting off a project at work or putting off the big thing I have been avoiding, that I will feel better about doing it a little later. “It’s not the right time,” if I don’t think I will have enough time to finish or if I am not in the right mood.

To have all the information. Sometimes it seems best to wait to start a project because I don’t really know how to do it. If it is new or requires research of some sort, and I don’t know how it will turn out, I want to wait until I have all the information.

Fear. Waiting for all the information can be an illustration of fear. Feeling afraid to start because I may be wrong, or seeing how unprepared I was to start can be strong motivators to wait. Fear of working hard and not succeeding makes us wait to start. And fear of actually succeeding, although it sounds counter-intuitive, is just as likely.

I put off work on my memoir for a long time, afraid of what would happen if I actually finished it. And I wasn’t sure I would finish it; I didn’t know if I could fill a whole book, whatever that means. I was fearful of it being boring, without any interest from publishers. And I was afraid of it being highly successful, getting published and being a best seller.

This fear made no logical sense but for some reason it seems a part of the process for many of us. I am conscious now of the ways I wait, the many projects I have procrastinated over. I try to figure out why I am putting something off; does it feel like not the right time, is it fear or is it simple laziness?

With my memoir I have passed over the hump of waiting and now believe it will be finished, and I will work to get it published. Boring or not, best seller or not, I’ll finish. If you too can be tempted to wait, I encourage you to think about what may be behind it and give yourself a little push if need be.

Make it a good week!

Where do you want to be?

Have you ever noticed that the space between where we are and where we want to be is filled with stuff we don’t want to do?

As a procrastinator, I am really good at avoiding stuff I don’t want to do. I try to trick myself, saying I’ll get to it later. But then I don’t make progress getting to where I want to be. And the stuff I don’t want to do is still there.

What is required in these situations is discipline. Without some serious motivation it’s easy to avoid being disciplined, especially for a procrastinator!

A few years ago my lifestyle was turned upside down by my heart attack. I began eating very healthfully, quit drinking alcohol, and began exercising most days of the week. A health crisis can definitely propel a person into taking care of oneself.

Actually, it was all about control. My heart attack occurred because of a rare thing (my coronary artery tore) and after seeing specialists, I was diagnosed with a rare disease of the arteries. Months of fear and worsening news about my health pushed me into taking good care.

When all you can control is what you put in your body, and whether and how you move your body, being disciplined can come easily.

But now, a few years worth of health stability later, persistent discipline has given way to “I’ll do it later” and “Sure, I’ll have dessert.” Gradually I have eaten more junk food, exercised less and gained weight. And it doesn’t feel good.

So, it’s time to practice discipline and to work harder at the stuff I don’t want to do to get to where I want to be. This same idea can be applied to situations at work, to cleaning the house, to finishing a project or starting a new endeavor.

By focusing on the prize, where we want to be, and by focusing on the fact that we get to impact our place in the world, we gain the motivation and discipline to get there.

Ready? Good luck to us!