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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Are You Waiting For To Live Your Life?

So, you have a dream, a vision, a purpose and a passion. Unfortunately, you haven't moved it out of your head and into action.

I was moved into action by 7 months of a mysterious back injury/ailment that just would not improve no matter what I did. I tried physical therapy, prescriptions, yoga, applied heat, applied ice, applied medicine with little roller ball applicators that felt like heat and ice, and applied tears. Finally, I found a little relief. Sitting on my tucas (as dad says, and spell check refuses to respect) for 4 months. While sitting there, I read, I researched, I studied and I wrote. I had no choice. (Yes, there was daytime television, but UGH!) You may not be so lucky. Yes, I said lucky. I had no option but to do what I feared doing – stop waiting and start pursuing my desire to write.

So, what's holding you back? What are you waiting for? I gave this some thought yesterday and here are some things you may believe you have to wait for to live your life instead of just imagining what it would be like to live your life -

  • When I lose 10 pounds
  • When the kids grow up
  • Mr. Right
  • After Mr. Right gets a divorce and is back on the market
  • After I'm married
  • After PMS week
  • After my wife's PMS week
  • When I have children
  • When the baby starts sleeping all night
  • After the baby is potty trained
  • After the kids go to school
  • When the kids graduate
  • After the kids move out
  • My divorce from Mr. Wrong, so I can use my imagination for things other than planning perfect crimes
  • A rainy day
  • When it stops raining
  • When I learn HTML
  • When I find WYSIWYG software that works with my free blog site
  • When I think of the perfect domain name
  • When the person who stole my perfect domain name stops paying their renewal
  • After the kids move out AGAIN
  • Tomorrow
  • When I lose 25 pounds
  • After I find an agent
  • When I write something worthy of an agent
  • When this pulled muscle heals
  • When I find my soul mate BFF with the same Pinterest board as me, who will live it with me
  • When Spell check is updated to recognize tucas, BFF and Pinterest
  • When my spouse gets a personality exchange and is suddenly interested in my interests
  • When I get a raise
  • When I get a less stressful job
  • When I get a job
  • When I retire
  • Payday
  • A better software program
  • When I get caught up
  • An eBay deal on the software I want
  • An instruction manual
  • A free Kindle day for the instruction manual I want
  • When I finish reading every book ever written on the subject
  • And the new one that comes out next week
  • And the really boring one that got kicked under my bed after I fell asleep trying to read it
  • After the spider dies that built a web on that that really boring one still under my bed
  • When I have more time
  • When I feel better
  • When I find the perfect theme for my website
  • And it's available for free
  • Without a watermark
  • When we buy a bigger house
  • When we pay off the house
  • After we remodel the house
  • After spring cleaning
  • A deadline
  • The next deadline
  • A deadline next year that I think I could really meet
  • When I have all the right equipment
  • When I update all that equipment
  • New shoes
  • When I remodel the previously remodeled space that is now dated and no longer inspires me
  • When I figure out if blue or green paint in my office is more inspirational
  • In the summer
  • After summer
  • After Christmas
  • On my next vacation
  • After vacation
  • Next month
  • A winning lottery ticket
  • To go to college
  • To graduate college
  • To get into graduate school
  • My masters degree
  • My doctorate (important if you're dream is to be a medical doctor. Just sayin')

You aren't going to begin at the pinnacle (unless you're a supermodel in which case, I'm sorry to say, every day that passes you by is a day you will never look as dewy again and you may have to consider work in Walmart ads). Get started! What can you do today to pursue your dream?

Not everyone is blessed with a temporarily disabling injury, making all other activities of life excruciatingly painful. I'm sorry, that was insensitive – it could happen to anyone. Chances are you won't be that lucky, though... so get moving!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Exposing My Secret Rituals

Each morning I perform a few rituals that guarantee my entire day is fulfilling. They energize me to tackle important tasks.  Doing them day after day builds my momentum and what feels insurmountable and uninspiring on Monday is simple to complete by Friday.

Some days I do all of these.  Some of these I do every day.  Some days I only do a couple.

Ritual #1  Get dressed. I don't have to do this - I live in a very private location, my husband goes to work and no one would even notice if I spent all day in my jammies.  I would feel sluggish, though.  Getting dressed makes me feel as though I'm getting ready to DO something.

Ritual #2  No phone calls before noon.  My mind gets a fresh start every day.  I present this canvas for fresh paint each morning.  Phone calls muddy my thinking.  What's going on in everyone else's mind or day will creep into my quiet time and compete with my own thoughts for my focused attention.  I also try to schedule all my appointments in the afternoon.

Ritual #3 Keeping a notepad with me for the next 3 rituals, I write down significant new information and inspiration.  Have you ever had a brilliant idea and then lost it completely in the recesses of your mind for a period of weeks or months - maybe forever?  A journal of these thoughts - kept in any sort of book - can reveal a connection and clear inspiration.  Without a written journal, you can and most likely WILL miss something significant.  It's an pivotal moment to see a recurrent theme where I expected only randomness.  God continues to bring certain topics to my mind over and over in my inspired moments and I can see it much clearer when it's in ink.  I prefer a little 4X6 spiral notebook, but am working through an inventory of composition books I purchased on sale last summer.  Back to school sales are on now, in case you're the thrifty sort.

Ritual #4  Reading, preferably nonfiction.  I like to learn something every day.

Ritual #5  Take coffee, pen and paper to a chair outside on the porch, in the yard or in the woods (or a comfy corner chair inside on bad weather days). Birds, breezes and solitude simultaneously relax and renew my mind and imagination.

Ritual #6  Bible study.  In all honesty, I'm not a frequent studier of my Bible all by itself, but I'm almost always using Bible study guides to explore a book of the Bible or a particular subject.  Right now they are Captivating: Uncovering the Mystery of a Woman's Soul & Judges/Ruth.

What about you?  What are your rituals?

Suggested Read: Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Discontent? You Must Not Be Doing Enough. 101 Activities to Fill the Emptiness

I'm reading a book. SURPRISE! Why do I make the announcement, when at all times I'm probably in the middle of 2 or 3 books? I need to cite the culprit of inspiration. None of us learn in a vacuum. All deductions and Aha moments are sparked by someone or something in Heaven or this world. The book today is The Missional Mom by Helen Lee. I'm working my way through this book. This involves many activities which make my mother cringe. Notebook on my lap, hi-liter and ink pen in hand and a cup of coffee are my tools for working through a book.

I had writer's block the other day, because I didn't follow my rituals. Ritual #2 - no phone calls in the morning before I start work. (We'll discuss the other 5 rituals in another article) I lose sight of my path when I let the happenings and concerns of others dance across my spotless morning mind in muddy shoes. All those footprints everywhere distract me. One of my phone calls that morning was a dear friend overwhelmed and fraught with a to do list that would stop any beast of burden, let alone a woman of ordinary physical capabilities. When I realized I was in a tornado of anxious thought and unable to clear my way to work, I sat down with my book. Almost immediately, my heart was softened.

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) This verse always makes me think of the Scrooge's in this world – hell-bent (literally) to make money they will never spend in their lifetime. “You can't take it with you.” I think of people sacrificing their family relationships to chase power and prestige, greedily behaving in unscrupulous practices at the peril of their soul, living in excessive (always a relative term) luxury.

For most of us, this is unimaginable. Yet, the enemy is deceitful, and he doesn't only harass the greedy Scrooges of the world. He doesn't serve his intentions up so blatantly. Subtlety is his middle name. For most of us, it's dressed in a cloak of what is normal expectations in our culture. Much of what we think we need are self imposed cultural expectations, not actual needs. A brand label on our clothes, smart phone upgrade, larger data plan, manipedi, new video game, frequent dinners out. You pay twice for everything. You pay your time to make the money, then you pay the money you made, then you need to do it again... for more.

When you look at what we treat as important in raising kids, it's academic achievement, extracurricular activities, preparing for a financially rewarding career with travel perks and significant retirement plan. What about their calling? What about their souls? What about a life of service? What about a spiritual center? I'm not talking about going to church and Sunday school each week, saying grace and bedtime prayers. Living a life of seeking secular achievement with a sprinkling of Jesus.

Are we secure or are we stressed? Teaching reliance and trust or fear and self reliance? There have been years I spent more time planning the family vacation than planning the development of my gifts to coincide with God's calling for my life. Random activities and new “stuff” are but a temporary soothing for the inner discontentment of an unanswered calling.

Do we confuse contentment with laziness because we aren't exhausted all the time? Is this really what God wants our lives to be like?

I remember how resentful I would feel, buried in a swamp of self imposed expectations. No one “understood.” No one would join me in taking on all the work necessary to be a “good” mom, businesswoman, homemaker, and hostess - simultaneously. Jesus could easily say to me, “Amy, Amy, you are worried and bothered about so many things.” (See Mark 10:38-42) I remember dumping my “list” in rants of frustration, hoping for offers of help. How selfish I believed people were, living a peaceful and content life when it was clear I needed help. I was completely oblivious to the obvious. This mess wasn't a mountain I needed to climb. It was evidence I was “doing it wrong.”

When you find yourself in the midst of a whole lot of self made stuff and you're frizzled, frazzled, exhausted and angry, when you know something's missing – consider this... what's missing is “down time.” Time to pray and meditate (that's when you give God a turn in the conversation), consider your calling, consider your purpose, sit down and read, take a walk, pursue that real RE-CREATION. You have more than enough going on – too much – and it's stealing your joy. It's OK to have joy. It isn't laziness to find contentment in clarity. Trust me, you'll have plenty to do – it will just satisfy you in a way that “keeping busy” doesn't.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer, Sunscreen, and Sadistic Swimsuits.

Arrgghh. I'm 48 years old. My face has completed a disappointing eight year run. It's worse when I wear my glasses, but if I take them off, I look as good as I did 5 years ago. I had a nightmare a few weeks ago that my entire cheek area resembled the wrinkly bottom of my big toe when I've spent too long in the tub. I slather on that 25 SPF cream from Mary Kay.

I'll guarantee you have rarely seen me dressed for the weather, if the temperature is above 78 degrees. Smaller clothes do not adequately conceal my upper arms, my thighs, or the relaxed nature of my muscle tone. When people have called me uptight – they weren't referring to my muscle tone.

I vow I'll be ready for summer this year, every year. My aversion to sweating tends to interfere with my lofty visions of the knockout body, however. It's July, and I'm not ready – again.

I've waited and waited. My husband, the King of Workout Willpower to my Queen of Next Week, I'll Do Cardio a Minimum of 3 Hours and Eat Only Vegetables, I Swear, lounges in our pool in self confident comfort. He plans tubing outings on the river while I consider the unflattering visual of a swimsuit.

Yes, the swimsuit – let's talk about that for a second. A swimsuit bottom is designed to hold onto your bones or hard muscle, no matter how deep into the flesh it must venture to locate it. When you're 10, you are jumping off diving boards – it's an important feature. At 48, I just don't want it to slide off when I climb the pool ladder. The swimsuit top, however, is less obvious in its intentions. The strap around my back is always good and tight; I spend a lot of time moving it to the most flattering location amidst the back fat. The strap around my neck is a no win situation, mostly because of the inadequacy of the cup area. The cup area relaxes in the lovely summer weather, apparently unaware that it isn't on vacation, it's ON DUTY. As a result, I have to really tighten that neck strap to keep the cup tops in a semi-modest location. About 20 minutes into this wardrobe debacle, the strap becomes part of the spinal cord at the base of my neck.

My husband enjoys telling the story of me walking out of the water at Hammonasset Beach with a big smile on my face declaring the water beautiful, my bosoms completely revealed thanks to failure of structural integrity in the straps of my brand new one-piece swimsuit.

I've decided I'm as beautiful as I make up my mind to be. Why not? It has to be the form of denial with the most positive side effects. In my mind, I look like Liz Hurley at 35, and I unleash beaming, posh British smiles on passing strangers. I possess NO back fat, and believe that my outfit appears just as it did at home – looking on from the front, with my shoulders back in perfect posture, stomach sucked in til I couldn't breath. When I walk away, I believe no one can see me if I'm not looking directly at them. Yesterday, I decided I look better in my underwear and bra than I look in a swimsuit and... so, after my walk, in the privacy of my own secluded back yard, I stripped of my shirt and Capri pants and jumped into the pool. Woo Hoo!

I informed my husband the rest of the world could deal with my lack of perfection, or divorce me... but I'm not missing out on summer this year. I have all these tank tops that are almost brand new, and I can buy shirts with spaghetti straps, and sundresses! I'm packing up my sunblock and my inner beauty and taking them everywhere I want to go.

He laughed and said, "Good, you're much more fun like this!"

In truth, I was quite relieved he responded that way, but I was committed to do this for myself regardless.