The anxiety trap

Was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a bestselling author and blogger.

In it, she notes that she did not always find the support she sought for while writing what would one day be a best selling book, and yet, she kept pursuing her Happiness Project.

The subject intrigues me greatly. Happiness.

And then I think of anxiety. That can be some shaky tennis shoes there, when one starts thinking about writing something that could change the world.

Or when one embarks on a new project or endeavor of any kind.

Or when one is hatching such a plan in the middle of a pandemic.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, a book in the Bible, that many people had written things, many people had wealth, many people pursued futile things in life.

He came to the conclusion that “life waa meaningless” and “there was nothing new under the sun.”

A few times already, I have almost trashed the fiction book I am writing.

Hold that thought.

Was talking to a friend at the newsroom one day about how I need to restring my guitar and how I would practice more, but I might give it up because I will never be any good at it, and so forth.

I admire Dolly Parton and her long nails and happy attitude, and there is no way I could ever sing nor play like she does.

She is a legend.

My friend pulled on his long red beard and said “Why do you have to be good at it? Do you like playing? Do you have fun doing it?”

And I nodded that yes, I did enjoy playing, and suddenly had an epiphany.

That in all my hobbies, I always try to be the best. Of course I have fun.

That kind of thinking can corral creative enjoyment.

Be the best.

The anxiety kicks in when I am surrounded by music professionals in choir at church, when discussion as to what line or note we are on turns to Latin terms.

Learn Latin.

But then I start having fun and figure even if I have to lip sync on the high notes, hopefully God approves.

I think of all the times in my life when I just cannot relax. Either because I feel I am not good enough, smart enough, deep enough, creative enough, or because my head is spinning a hundred miles a minute.

A notebook and pen, and a garden bench, and wind chimes, flowers, sunlight and birds .. and before I know it, inspiration has lit my soul, and there you go.

Words on paper.

Am feeling the same internal fire I felt in the writing of my first book. I want to write a bunch of books. And I want people to read them, and in some way, for just a little while, to realize how beautiful life can be, that their place in this universe is by deliberate creation.

The written word helped provide a way out for me when I was a kid, stuck at home, with no money for band lessons or cookies, and tormented by the thoughts swarming my head during those often dark days.

I still love reading.

Anyway. We are having homemade waffles and bacon for supper. One of the cats has curled up on my lap, and I find the pressure from the tropical storm or whatever it is .. is messing with how I feel tonight.

On a bright note, here is a picture of my feet this past summer, in my favorite pair of tennis shoes. Six bucks, Walmart.

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Light, peace, and mental health

The card tumbled out of the book I had loaned to a friend to read, as I took it out of my desk at work.

I love cards.

The friend had read my story, The Brighter Side of A Darker Thing, and put an encouraging note inside.

The person had a background in social work with kids who had been physically and sexually abused. They noted that while they understood that my faith helped me in that time, they wondered how I did not turn out to be a destructive individual, either being angry with myself or others. And they wrote that they were sure that most survivors of childhood sexual abuse keep much of the dark stuff inside.

Memories, triggers, hurts.

I think one challenge I faced was realizing that there would never be “true justice” for what had happened to me.

Sexually abused from age 7 to about 12, with full blown rape happening around age 9, my perpetrator, although arrested, never served time for the crime. Charges were dropped because my family did not want me to endure the pressure of the court proceedings, and also because a key witness was unable to testify.

I felt angry, betrayed. I felt like a freak as I went to school with other girls who seemed to have great lives. They were in band, cheerleading, sports, clubs.

A pen and notebook.

During the years prior to me telling my family what had happened, during the time my greatest secret was told, and during the aftermath, and since then .. writing has been a release for me.

I often have a hard time articulating my feelings and thoughts verbally (not a great off the cuff responder to questions usually). Writing enables me to freely express what is on my heart.

Besides the abuse, I also was bullied by numerous people in middle school. I was surrounded by girls who said they hated me .. though I did not know why. There was one girl I did not even know who started a fight with me, saying people told her I wanted to beat her up. I guess my subsequent laughing was not the best response (I did not know her, after all.) For 2 whole weeks she hounded me until we actually did have a fist fight in the girls bathroom at school, for which we were both suspended.

Then there was a group of kids at the bus stop who used to call me names and make fun of my clothes and my appearance. I dreaded the hour long wait at the bus stop in the snow.

There was a group of like 3 or 4 girls who rode the bus who also often followed me home, pushing me to the ground, where I skinned my knees on the asphalt, and ran home, bleeding. Again, I did not even know their names.

There was a boy in one of my classes at school who started walking by me and slapping me hard on my hip and backside as I went from one class to another in the school corridors, every day for a little while. I sustained bruises from the attacks. One day, with my long nails, I finally grabbed his arm and dug in, leaving bloody nail marks on his arm. And of course, the teacher yelled at me. When I told the guidance counselor what happened the last few weeks, we were put in separate classes.

About that time, my eyes started opening to nature .. the birds, the trees, the snow, the shine of sun on a body of water, sunrise, sunset, the smell of rain and of dandelions when you pick them and pull their petals off, or blow the seeds into the wind.

Maybe it was disassociation, I do not know.

I had an attraction to light. Little lights, candles, tiny flashlights.

Turning my attention to writing dozens of poems, I eventually wrote for my middle school newspaper, The Crusader.

Somehow, seeing my byline made me feel as if I was not, as my bullies would say, worthless.

At the 8th grade yearly awards convocation, I won an award for my writing, The Shyrl Craig Creative Writing Award.

My life changed.

After I reported my abuse, I felt like nobody understood me nor listened, like I must have somehow deserved it.

Looking back, practical things my family did that helped me were:

1. The rules did not change. When I disobeyed my parents, there were still consequences.

2. The church was there for me, my only real friends in my childhood. We were all, well almost all, a little nerdy.

3. My grandparents on my Dad’s side took an active role in developing my interest in reading and writing. We talked about news articles, encyclopedia entries, the Bible and recipes.

4. Counseling helped. But more than a few sessions would have been nice. I later received years of therapy as an adult that really helped my perspective.

5. After my sister died, I was an only child. Because I grew up mostly alone, luckily I learned to self soothe my spirit through music, art and reading. As well as church and a few school activities. I feel that every kid in a public school should be in something. We were poor, so anything I was involved in had no cost.

6. Most of my family loved and nurtured me, although because of the abuse, it took me years to see that.

7. As an adult, I love to read, write, take photos, garden, listen to music and occasionally play my guitar, painting, crafts, sewing and crocheting. I love spending time with my family and friends.

I am glad that though I would never see “justice” .. that I did overcome. And still overcome. It is a daily choice.

Three words come to mind: Light, Peace, and Mental Health.

Outward actions regenerate the spirit, causing internal healing.

More on that, another day.

I am encouraged to keep sharing my story.

Life is not ever perfect. Life is full of challenges. But life can be beautiful for me when I choose it to be so. FB_IMG_1590883615400

 

Never too late

Was going through some photos tonight to add to my blog.

My goal is to quit using file art from the free media library offered by the company from which I purchase my website, and create beautiful and original art of my own.

When I first started taking photos, my camera went with me everywhere.

I need to get back to that, for sure.

It is never too late to make something better.

Changed up my profile photo on my blog. Will likely do a complete redesign.

In my free time, am writing another book and planning to launch a Youtube channel at some point, sewing a quilt that I have been (yes, ashamedly) working on for 30 years, crocheting a baby blanket for my next granddaughter, and working in my garden every day after work. Also, I am almost finished with my training for The Order of the Daughters of the King at our church, and after quarantine, am anxious to get back to singing with our choir.

Guitar strings. I need new ones. So there is that as well. A random thought.

So that is what is on my mind tonight. It is never too late to improve.

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Speak kindly to your soul

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Overheard a yoga instructor recently say she was going on a “mental diet.” She and her students were wearing armbands to snap their arm every time they had a negative thought about themselves, the world, judgmental thoughts, etc.

Kind of like a snap out of it deal.

I thought about my day with my Bestie at a very large nature park, and how I was ready to run (kind of hard as my ankle is still getting strong from its break back in March) and she was at one with nature.

Hearing gator songs on both sides of us, I was like, “feet, don’t fail me now.”

Later, we talked about this. One thing I love about her is she is brave, but not stupid.

She grew up in Florida’s parks and knows them well. And as part of her law enforcement job, she runs into “gator calls” once in a while. Sometimes, a trapper comes to remove the issue, depending on the size of the gator.

At first, I was like wow I feel like a failure. Like, “I am not brave.” A fear filled person. Where in the world is my faith? If I really had faith, would I fear what God’s creation could do to me?

It is also no secret that in news articles, we read about the occasional tragedy. But typically, it involves people or dogs wading into water.

So while my head waged a war against my lack of a spine when it comes to wildlife, she told me to stop thinking that way.

Someone once told me I was a city girl. I do like to shop, attend metro gatherings occasionally. But I do love nature. I also love farms and have often wished I had a chance to grow up on a farm the way my Grandma did.

As we talked, I realized I should clarify my thoughts about walks in the wilderness. I like boardwalks, more protected views of nature. Benches in safe places. I love, love, love bodies of water, trees and flowers. A dream for me is to one day own a pickup truck and pontoon boat so I can take advantage of our Chain of Lakes. (Not sure if that will ever happen because of the expense, but dreams have to start somewhere.)

This will not be our last wilderness walk, as I am determined to come to peace with wildlife and such fears.

I confronted my fear of public speaking. Confronted my fear of walking up to total strangers to ask their opinion or account of an event. Confronted my fear of failure by graduating from college.

Life is a series of such moments.

When I was a kid, on youth retreats in Indiana, I would always take off by myself in the woods.

What happened to that little girl?

 

 

 

Small moves count

An empty notebook and two pens that have somewhat shoddy ink is not a great place to start writing a best selling novel and your future bucket list, but that was the best I could do.

Three times I have “restarted” this book, Tales From Fergie Shire. And somewhere in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, my abstract creativity finally woke up, and here I am.

Like authors, entertainers and artists I know, I too had felt the heaviness of this crisis. Was it disrespectful to post something of hope in this time?

Thoughts swirl in my head just now .. I have much to do to catch up .. between writing what I hope to be my first fiction book series, recreating my blog, setting a course for my “why” and “what.”

Add to that also a spiritual rebirth, which perhaps contributed to this creative urge.

For a while, I shelved this project, supposing what would happen if I did write a best seller. My number one goal is that my grandchildren will love it. The rest is just added benefit.

I want them to know that it does not matter where you come from, whether you someday face poverty, loss, loneliness, abuse, a world filled with chaos, results of bad choices, no matter where you are in life .. you can create a new life for yourself, and be renewed, and learn new things, do things people said you could not do. That your Creator has endowed you with everything you need,

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and with God’s blessing, you can succeed.

Presently, I am rolled up in an old robe, surrounded by cats, a Bible, a journal and books. Later, the Bestie and I hope to find a nature trail and do some exploring.

Note to self: Find your pens that work and straighten your desk. Small steps are the beginning of dreams fulfilled.

Believe the best will happen

Coronavirus, devastation, political upheaval, increased crime, disorder.

The words of the day hitting headlines around the world.

Today, am enjoying a leisurely day off. Ordinarily, I would be running errands and other such community things. We in America have been told to stay home as much as possible, wash hands and monitor for symptoms of coronavirus.

I have never been a head in the sand person, ignoring the issues at hand.

But neither have I been a panic person.

Prepare, and wait.

There is in the human heart a room where we decide our outlook on life. I admire people who are perpetually optimistic. I try to be that way. It is a goal.

There is a mantra of “believe the best will happen.”

One circle says we will not believe the best .. we will dwell on the worst.

The other circle says they will cling to their faith, as they are believing the best.

In either case, preparation is a good idea.

I must say though, after making preparations and adhering to CDC guidelines, believing the best is uplifting.

I believe I will have a good day.

I believe the world is full of goodness and untold positive stories.

I believe in miracles.

And if for some reason, the cloud of sickness, or other issue comes near, I still will believe.

Life is life. Ups and downs. Sickness and health. Good and bad.

Belief is the sparkle of a thousand stars, the all encompassing ray of sunshine, new growth of green grass and flowers that push heavenward.

And more.

I hope none of us in Polk County get the coronavirus.

My science mind says yes it is possible and even probable beyond measure.

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My faith mind says “this too shall pass.”

Many prayers for those who suffer today, that they may be healed. That life would return with music and laughter in the city streets. That health would prevail and we would all remember how we survived.

A tangled ball of spaghetti

Our neighbor’s rooster is busy this morning saying hello to everyone. I write about him frequently, because honestly, I love that sound.

Other birds are chirping as well.

So part of my New Year plan for 2020, the Year of Light, is to be present to the moment, create, breathe, eat real food, and hear nature.

Like many people, because we are covered in constant exposure to the entire world’s problems on social media, the news, television, the radio .. sometimes I find my stress level rising, just by exposure.

We cannot, obviously, step out of the world per say. Because I work in the media, and have for some 13 years, I understand the pressure of always being “on.”

On. Doctors, law enforcement, counselors, teachers, reporters, and other outreach occupations understand this.

And nobody wants to talk about how your head can sometimes resemble a ball of tangled spaghetti.

Why? Because we attach, as a society, this stigma to that.

Oh. You have issues.

We all have issues. That is truth.

So how do you manage your head?

I love spaghetti. Cooking angel hair pasta. All that stuff.

But to make a good dinner, you really have to stay with it.

One woman I know said the test of whether it was done or not is slinging it against the wall and see if it sticks!

And if you drain the hot water and just leave it in the pan until you eat, all the starches seem to melt it together.

A computer system may do the same thing if it short circuits.

On my days off, I have purposely tried to back away from social media and the general whir of information that stirs around us.

And while I, for a while, thought this was a bad thing, because I felt I should stay connected, I am realizing that if I give my head a break from all the tragedy, mayhem, death, and so forth, it helps.

We can get so busy hammering out a presence on social media that we forget to just be.

Be. Spend time with your family and friends. Listen to conversation without glancing at your phone. Gently take those pieces of spaghetti and lay them straight. Look at the sunrise. Smell the aroma of your morning coffee. Listen to the birds. Connect with your senses.

I recently covered the Polk County Youth Fair and noticed that out of the thousands of people present for the event, I only saw two people on their phones.

I think they are on to something.

May you have a wonderful day. Release, create, be.

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Even a car needs personal time

The line was long and I was beginning to regret that I had designated this cool and sunny Monday to “car care” day.

“Your wait is going to be about 2 hours,” the dealership attendant said.

“I really don’t have a choice, it is my day off,” I said.

Having a good read tucked into my bag, I handed him my keys and fetched a cup of coffee in a little styrofoam cup.

Heading to a corner seat with a table, I took up residence for who knows how long, as it appears there is also a recall they need to take care of, re the backup cameras on my vehicle.

Sigh.

This oil change is free and so is the tire rotation. Part of the deal they gave me at point of sale.

Already, it has been a busy day. Picked up the kitchen and wiped the counters and refrigerator with bleach.

Goals of the day include paying bills, going to the store, putting gas in my car, and of course, car care.

When you pay a hefty car payment for the privilege of reliable transportation, it is one of those things you manage.

Keeping up with your life, it is.

So they will change the oil, rotate the tires and fix the camera.

Next stop will be the car spa for their cheapest swish, scrub and vacuum.

And so forth.

I see my car the way I see other parts of my life.

Myself. And you, as well.

We need some sort of down time. A re-set. Maybe that is a facial, time for a cup of tea and some planning or journaling.

A few minutes in the sun, or listening to some beautiful music.

I did not publish my New Year’s resolutions this year. I for sure wrote them in my journal.

But am keeping up with the 2020 theme, The Year of Light.

Today is Epiphany, and I celebrate it here at the dealership, waiting on my car.

Watching the Casting of The Cross ceremony airing from Tarpon Springs.

Blessings, all.

P.S. What are you doing to walk out your Year of Light?

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Everyone starts somewhere

It is very quiet outside, just two days before the New Year, as I sit here, rolled up in blankets with some sort of respiratory infection: again.

Our family has a tendency to get sick in November and December. Not sure why, but it seems to be so.

As the grey, dull days after the holidays settle into our spirits, likewise, we can feel grey and dull. Blech.

On my itinerary is a stop at the doctor today .. and I am just occupying my time until it is time to leave.

So I pull out a sketchbook, look at a drawing on Pinterest, and try to copy it.

I am

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mildly impressed that perhaps with some more study, I may some day learn how to draw.

One person comes to mind .. a friend of mine who started dabbling in art a few years ago as a way to deal with the pain after losing a child.

I watched her Facebook journey go from “what is that,” to “wow,” and “how much is she asking for her artwork?”

Likewise, another friend of mine has a small business in beauty product sales, and I remember her early “videos” and how they were a little rough .. not anymore. She is on point, she has learned multi-media marketing and found her sweet spot in the retail world, and hence, profits.

Both of these scenarios encourage me that it is never too late in life to learn a new skill, work a new hobby, or pursue an interest that lights up your world.

As we stand on the shore and greet the New Year 2020, the possibilities are endless.

My word for the year is Light.

More on that in the coming weeks.

 

 

Dig another well

Somewhere in the middle of Gerar, a town located in the land to the east of the Mediterranean Sea, a young man named Isaac was having issues with the Philistines.

The Philistine king, Abimelech, had just had a heated discussion about Isaac lying to the king about Rebekah, Isaac’s wife.

Isaac told the king that Rebekah was his sister, not his wife, because he was afraid that besides taking her captive, the Philistines would kill him.

When the king found out that was not the case, he was not a happy man.

But Bible history indicates (Genesis 26) that the land occupied by Isaac was his by blessing from God.

Isaac gets his wife back and basically, the king is like, hey .. get out of here.

Well Isaac was living before the invention of running water, and every tent owner would dig a well, or two or three, depending on their need.

Isaac became a very prosperous man, as God fulfilled His promises to him. He had “great” numbers of flocks and possessions.

“The Philistines envied him.”

I am 51 years old, and have read this passage many times.

Yet never noticed this.

“Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his (Isaac’s father, Abraham) had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth.”

Filled. Them. With. Earth.

And my mind, as I sip my coffee and pet my cat this morning, goes to those I know who are struggling to keep going.

Everything they do to try to bless their homes, their communities, their churches .. seems to end up with someone kicking sand in their well.

Discouragement is not easy to deal with. One soul I know said “you just try so hard. Seems like nothing works.”

Another person is dealing with a toxic family member. Everything stinks, nothing is ever good enough. All the world are “morons.” Their family is running out of steam trying to keep the peace.

I can’t imagine Isaac’s frustration at seeing his wells filled in with dirt.

So he moved to the valley, and dug another well. But it was not long before neighboring herdsmen had something to say about that.

It took him a total of three “tries” before he was able to dig a well without opposition.

You know, this life is hard sometimes. We dig figurative wells.

Outside of completely leaving a situation, the average person seeks renewal.

Dig another well.

What do you mean, dig a well?

What encourages you? What uplifts you?

We become guardians of the wells of our peace.

Someone pitches sand in, you pitch it back out.

I heard of one person who is regularly put down and called names by someone close to them.

In complete disbelief, I am like wow ..

Pitch the sand out of there, kiddo.

That is not the life for you.

We have no control over the actions of others.

Only over how long we are going to allow the sand to fill our reservoir.

Practical note: Someone says you are stupid.

You say: I am not stupid.

I am an intelligent being, with gifts and talents. I am a son or daughter of God. I was created on purpose. God has a plan for my life. My life has value.

Picture then a golden shovel, and dig another well.

Blessings to all today.

Here is sunny Florida, we have a rare cold snap today.

The cats have all snuggled up on fuzzy blankets and the fish are maintaining.

After all, fish do not wear sweaters. 🙂

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