Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who Am I?

How can I figure out what I need if I don't know who I am?

There is a hole in me I have been trying to fill. I have been searching, reading, writing, thinking. Nothing fills it. I write about cowgirls and houses. I feel restless, wanting. What am I looking for? Where will I find it?

Megan "Joy Girl" guest blogged at Erasing the Bored recently, where she said,
"I’m in a relationship now with someone who respects me, wants for my happiness, has compassion, and uplifts me when I’m feeling down. He is mirror, reflecting back to me the truths I now feel about myself. As such, he’s shown me that in the last few years I’ve grown to love myself much, much more than I ever thought possible. But he’s also shown me that I have a ways to go."
Donald believes that I am whole and raises me up out of my low self-esteem haze. He can't imagine what I think might be missing. I teeter at the edge, believing that I have lost my identity, that I have no idea who I am. How do I find my way back?

Several of my favorite bloggers have posted about getting rid of clutter. I see my identity reflected in the things I own, the things that surround me. My stuff defines me because it represents my choices and tells people what is important to me. Perhaps I will uncover my identify by clearing out the clutter.

Communicatrix summed it up pretty well in this post when she said,
"So. The “why?” Well, clarity, for starters, or more clarity. Freedom, definitely. Tired of feeling bogged down by my environment, and trapped (rather than supported) by my stuff. As the piles start to dwindle, though, I get the sense that this particular stripping down is me getting ready to say, “I’m a writer; this is what I do—I write.”"
Janice at Sharing the Journey has written about this several times, too, most recently here. Dani at positively present also supports the decluttering goal.

The catch, though, is that in order to only keep what I need, I need to know what I need, so I need to know who I am. What do I think I'm missing? Do I really want to be more like that cowgirl? Do I really feel drawn to the West or is that just my imagination and romanticism talking? How do I figure out what I really need if I don't know who I am?

I'm supposed to listen to and trust that inner voice. How do I know I'm listening to the right one? Or the real one? I change my mind about projects often, throwing myself into something only to abandon it a few weeks later. I don't want to live that way. 

In an earlier review post, I talked a little about making decisions based on what I thought other people would think of me. Nadia at Happy Lotus writes in this post when she says,
"Years ago, if you were to ask me what kind of clothes I liked, I would not have been able to answer because my choices were based on what I thought I should choose."
I have done this more times than I can count. Those decisions did almost nothing to make me happy. I still often defer decisions because I have no idea what I think or want. Does this mean that I have no idea who I am?

My self talk goes downhill, saying "I am happy, but..." or "I would do this, but..." I spiral into second guessing myself. I worry about the danger of flying off and doing something spontaneous. What are the costs? What do I risk? What are the consequences?

How can I possibly make a good decision when I don't have enough information about who I am to know that I am acting with integrity?

(Have I made you dizzy yet?)

Lance at the Jungle of Life posted a Sunday quote that pulled me out of the spiral. There is so much to gain.

Evita's guest post at The Bold Life reminded me that bold steps must be taken and that it is safe to trust our inner voice.

At Quest for Balance, Lisis' favorite post of her own explained that everything I need I already have.

Peggy at Serendipity Smiles reminded me that I will not find what I am looking for outside of me. I need to look inside.

I am learning to hear my own voice. It is not a failure to be unsure of what I think about everything I encounter. Instead, it's an opportunity to learn more about who I am and can be.

The hole is gone. I am no longer spinning. I filled it with a list of things I know.

Acceptance Versus Need For Change

If I learn to accept everything for what it is and simply go with the flow, does that mean that nothing needs to change?

Isn't the impetus for change a judgment that something is inadequate or wrong?

Can a balance be struck between acceptance and gratitude and the need for positive change?

Acceptance and gratitude lead to so many wonderful things. They decrease stress and anxiety. They improve mood and contentment.

Too much acceptance, however, could lead to complacency or apathy. If we simply accept everything as "that's just the way it is", don't we lose our responsibility and power?

Alternatively, constant change can be quite disruptive and unstable. Dissatisfaction with everything around us can lead to unhappiness and low self-esteem.

Perhaps this is another time we learn that everything should be done in moderation. Balance gratitude for what we have with gratitude for seeing opportunity for improvement. Balance acceptance of our failures with acceptance of responsibility over what we can control. Balance change with breathing and calm.

That said, if there is something you really want to be able to do (singing, crafting, writing, etc.), you are the only one standing in your way. I do not believe that talent is the only thing that makes people good at something.

If you have the passion, find the determination and the tools to make it happen. Make a choice.

Acceptance. Gratitude. Change.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The House of Me

This is the house of me.

I have a wide, inviting front porch, keeping the house cool in summer, providing somewhere to sit and be a part of the community as it moves past on the road. The back has a deck or patio for a grill and outdoor entertaining, lounge chairs for warming in the sun.

My warm, bright, open kitchen, is the heart of the home. It has room for people to sit and chat, for many people to cook at the same time, storage for everything we might need. Mugs for warm drinks, glasses for cool drinks. Assorted plates and platters, cooking utensils and pots and pans, table linens and dish towels. Silverware, a spice rack and well-organized pantry, sharp well-made knives and cutting boards. Beautiful, earthy serveware.

Upstairs are the bedrooms, quiet and peaceful and close enough to the social center to be awakened by the sounds of breakfast. Full of natural light, welcoming and private, stocked with soft towels and bed linens. In the bathrooms, aromatic soap, wonderful shower heads always ready with hot water. Wardrobes and chests lined with cedar, available for a short stay or a long one. Fresh flowers in vases. A cozy chair in the corner for reading.

Back downstairs, inviting, open social spaces, some with fireplaces for cold winter nights, comfy couches and chairs for reading, socializing, and watching the game/movies or playing video games. Low wooden antique coffee tables, each with a story to tell. Artwork on the walls, family photos and precious items on the china cabinet. A game table with puzzles, Settlers of Catan, decks of cards and good light.

A library full of books, constantly changing as books are borrowed and returned, their readers better for the experience. A space with musical instruments, ready to create sweet melodies, soulful tunes, and rocking riffs. An office with natural light and wide wooden desks for dreaming, writing, and making crafts. Shelves and cabinets for storage and organization.

My favorite part is the view from every window. The houses in the neighborhood are spaced far enough to allow privacy and close enough to create community. The yards are large and spacious, often containing dogs and cats, gardens and children.

Beyond the tended yards the land is undeveloped in large swaths of grassy fields. A creek runs through it and large trees grow on its banks. In the distance, the fields become mountains, dividing the sky from the earth. At night, the stars are bright and the moon is full.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I grew up in the West. I don't live there anymore, yet I am finding that I am a cowgirl at heart.

I want to learn how to barrel race and become a better rider.

I follow the Horse Whisperer (the real one) with great interest. His methods encourage my belief that change does not have to include violence, that it can come peacefully, willingly.

Join-Up International's mission is "We are dedicated to supporting the education and training of people throughout the world to embody the message that "violence is never the answer"." This connects for me the principles in Fierce Conversations, about improving communication to improve relationships, with my pacifism and desire to resolve conflict in a lasting and sustainable way.

This may be a new opportunity for me. I need to find out if this is a direction I want to pursue.

The West calls to me. Its geography is etched on my heart and in my soul. I am happy when I am surrounded by mountains. I have never outgrown my love for horses.

I have an image in my head of what being a cowgirl means to me, what it would be like to be her. She is strong and confident, knowledgeable and calm. She is quiet and observant, speaks when she needs to, learns from others and from the world around her. She has grace under pressure. She is an expert horsewoman and a good teacher.

She feels wild and free riding a horse in an open plain toward the distant mountains. She is appreciated and respected in her community. She knows what she wants and finds a way to get it. She is happiest when she is making others happy.

She's also very real. She needs companionship and love. She likes soft towels and sheets. She loves good food and drink. She likes to be physically and mentally challenged. She likes puzzles and solving problems.

She can be brazen and protective, sometimes a little unconventional. She values the dirt and grit from having fun and working hard. She doesn't shy from conflict and shares her perspective with good intentions.

She drives a pickup truck and wears a cowboy hat and boots. She takes the good with the bad and knows that she is making the world a better place each and every day.

I am not yet a cowgirl. How close can I get?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Final Review of How to be Rich and Happy

I finished reading How to be Rich and Happy last week. I wanted to take some time to think about the impact the book has had on me before writing my final review.

First, I highly suggest that you download the free portion of the book before deciding whether it is the right book for you. Since I started reading, the authors have expanded the free portion another 9 pages to include the first exercise, one I found incredibly helpful and interesting, to identify your core values. The price has also been reduced since I wrote my first partial review about the book.

Some of the exercises were more helpful to me than others. The one thing everyone should know about this book, and probably all types of self-help books, is that in order to benefit from it, you must be open and ready to implement change. If you are unwilling to try something new or think about something in a different way, this book is not for you.

Overall, I think the book is very encouraging and positive. The authors discuss facts versus beliefs, which now comes to mind every time I'm about to say something. The book encourages personal responsibility for making a decision and can be very empowering.

While reading this book, I had a personal insight. In Star Wars, Yoda says "Do or do not, there is no try." That phrase always bothered me. I thought it was pretty harsh, because I often tried hard and failed, yet I didn't want to see it as failure. Now I see that I tended to defer decision making and made excuses. I called this trying, when in fact I was not doing. It opened the door for me to acknowledge the truth to myself and to take increased responsibility for what I choose to do and not do.

It helped me see how much my self-esteem is largely dependent on how I think other people see me. The funny part is that I was very independent in high school, not caring too much about what anyone thought of me.

In college, I swung the other way, finding myself on unstable footing surrounded by people who I assumed had more information than I did. I second-guessed everything I thought I knew and became largely passive and dependent. I made some of my worst decisions in college, especially when it came to the guys I dated.

Now I'm trying to find a balance. I see the stagnation when I doubt myself or don't think I have enough information. It ties into my fear of failure, which I am daily taking steps to embrace and accept.

I know that I can decide what is right for me without judging other people for making different decisions. The authors suggest that reaching my potential and living a rich and happy life makes the world a better place. I am the only one holding me back.

The book definitely helped me see what I am already doing to achieve my rich and happy goals. I'm still not sure how the rich part will factor into my own life. The most important things to me are not things that create income, or at least won't in the way I'd like to pursue them. I could simply redefine what rich means to me, yet it is a fact that many things are almost impossible to do without some cold, hard cash.

The book reminded me to consider how much benefit I get from the cost of something. It's a simple evaluation of utility, a cost/benefit analysis. Evaluate something based on the amount of happy you get from each dollar spent and then decide whether it contributes to your rich and happy life.

Of course, my economics major husband knew that already.

The last thing I would suggest if you're still not sure about whether this book is right for you or not, is to read the Table of Contents (page 3 in the free download). Look at the headings for each chapter. If any of them intrigue you and get you thinking hard about how you can improve your life, it's probably worth it. If you're turned off by the title of the book and the chapter headings don't change your mind, don't bother.

The bottom line: If you're open to making significant improvements in your life and like to have a lot of good information all together in one book, this could be a good solution for you. If you're willing to do a little more leg work in the form of web searches, you can probably find a lot of similar advice and guidelines for free online. A lot of the blogs I follow discuss self-improvement and this book wouldn't have had as much of an impact on me if it had not been preceded by the doorways already opened by what I have been reading on the web.

Let me know if you have any questions! And thanks to Tim Brownson for giving me this review opportunity.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I'm back from my travels and happily greeted by smiling faces in my kitchen with caring and insightful questions. I thought the best way to respond to them would be in a new post. See below.

suZen asked, "What makes your heart sing? What flower best reflects your personality? And if you could ask anyone else (living or dead) to have coffee with us - who?"

My heart sings when I see or think of fields leading to mountains, both covered in green, flowing grass and sparse little wildflowers, the sky grey and trembling with thunderheads, a breeze tossing my hair around, bringing the scent of clean, refreshing rain. I feel free and wild.

My heart also sings when I think of our future children, how I will hold them, dress them, bathe them, sing and read to them, watch them sleep, and dream with them. I already have so many hopes for their futures and I am so excited to teach them and learn from them.

I had to think hard about the flower question. I'm ashamed to admit that I went straight to the internet to find some "what flower are you?" quizzes. The scary thing is, the two I tried came up with the same answer, which was one of the flowers bouncing around in my mind before I looked at the quizzes. I am a lily.

If I could ask anyone else, living or dead, to have coffee with us, it would be my great-grandmother, Nana. She died when I was in middle school just before her 100th birthday and I think of her often. I want to be able to ask her questions about our family and about my journey. She lived through so many amazing and challenging times. I want to learn from her, through her own words.

jchristin asked, "Well, first, what is your favorite baked good, and what is your favorite beverage? And my favorite question to get to know someone is what is it that truly makes your heart happy, and what is the first thing you think to do when you have precious "free" time....."

My favorite baked good is probably the chocolate chip cookie bars my grandmother made. My favorite beverage is probably sparkling fruit juice.

My heart is truly happy when it sings about the things I wrote above. The first thing I do with free time is... Well, I suppose that depends on what free time is. I have a hard time concentrating if our space isn't picked up and clean. For example, I had free time this morning before I went to work and I cleaned the bathroom. No joke. Then I paid bills. I love having time to get productive things done.

True free time, though, would probably be a toss up between walking with Donald, writing, and gardening. Video games do pop themselves in there sometimes though - they relax me.

Sandi asked, "My question to you would be If you were a house, what would you be like? A rambler, a colonial, a Cape Cod? How many rooms and what room is your favorite? Can you describe it for me?"

I love this question! I would like to beg off answering it yet - I think it needs its own post and I want to think it through carefully.

Wilma asked, "My favorite question is how do you like to spend your holidays and what was the one you remember the best?"

I like to spend my holidays surrounded by family, in any setting (our house, their houses, a destination location). Thanksgiving and Christmas are probably the biggest for our families. The best ones were probably those held at one of my grandparents' homes because we didn't get to see them more than once a year or so when I was growing up. The true gift was spending time with them, even if we didn't always appreciate that at the time.

Thank you so much for all of these questions! I look forward to more!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your Turn

I have slowed down the pace of my posts recently. It has been mostly intentional rather than the result of being "too busy". I traveled last weekend and I will be traveling this weekend. Family and work are being given priority.

I have noticed that the more I feel I need to declare to myself and to my readers in my blog, the less time I have to reflect and internalize all that I am reading, thinking, and learning. So I have taken more time to mediate, to relax, to simply be.

I recently finished reading How to be Rich and Happy, so I'll be writing my final review of that here soon. I need a bit more time to let it all sink in.

I am curious about my readers and I imagine that many of you might be curious about me. Since my blog posts tend to dictate the topic of a very one-sided conversation, I'd like to open up this post as a place for you to ask questions, to tell me about yourself, to say whatever it is you'd like to say.

Picture yourself in a warm kitchen, the smell of your favorite baked good wafting from the oven, your favorite beverage in your hands, and happy, encouraging, supportive people sharing the space with you.

What would you ask? What would you share? What do you want to know?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Own Your Way

I was away this weekend, visiting my best friend in New York. We had a wonderful time together. I came away from the experience, though, with a deeper knowledge of how important it is to own our choices, to own the way our lives have unfolded.

She is so stressed and worried. She feels the need to control everything she can.

I see my former self.

She has to find her own way.

One of the most important things I have learned over the last couple months since I embarked on this journey is that I must own my choices. I must own my life. Owning does not mean blaming. If something goes wrong, it may be my fault, and that must come with acceptance, not down-talk. Owning means control, opporunity. Owning means that I can change.

Everything we do is part of finding our way. Each person has their own way, their own life. Every choice I make is my way of living. My life is my way. My life is my process.

What I have been trying to find is not some end goal, some answer. I have been trying to find my way. I have been on my way my entire life. I just had to recognize it as mine. I had to take ownership.

Danielle LaPorte at white hot truth provides a great example of the importance of taking ownership in her post "we know you're busy. now shut up about it." "Busy" is an excuse, something we hide behind as though it makes us unique. We should acknowledge that we haven't responded/called back because we chose not to. We decided that other things were more important. We made other things a priority.

If people think about their choices this way, they might respond to emails/phone calls/texts in a completely different way. When we know what our core values are, we act on putting them first, not on responding to the person who screams the loudest.

Can you imagine what the world would look like if we acted first on our core values? If we embraced our choices and looked for opportunities for positive change in every choice we make? What would you do differently?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Finding My Way While Treading Water on a Rollercoaster

Yesterday I found another potential application of my skills, interests, and talent. I was reminded that I had looked into professional organizing several years ago, and had forgotten about it until yesterday.

It appeals to me because it involves creating systems that help people perform everyday tasks, much like the rehab work we do for people with disabilities in my current job, and extended to everyone. Every system would be different, just as every person and their way is different.

The process would be about asking questions, getting to the root of a problem, working with people in their own context and perspective, and widening the possibilities. I would get to encourage people to be more efficient, effective, productive and happy. Better organizational systems promote competence. I could facilitate the process, teaching each person how to improve their own lives themselves.

I could even work for myself out of my home and only work when I want to.

Except, when I completed the activities in the most recent chapter of How to be Rich and Happy, working in any capacity isn't in my pictures of my own rich and happy life. Instead, I picture our future children, Donald and me, our families and friends, smiling and laughing. I picture our pets, including a future dog. I see myself encouraging wonder in our children, looking happy and free and peaceful.

I see travel and trying new things, visiting Europe and hanging out on a dude ranch, riding horses. I see a home of our own where we are comfortable and where I can host lots and lots of happy visitors. I see an inviting and lovely guest room. I see a well-stocked kitchen where I try out new recipes. I see home improvement projects and volunteer time in our new community.

I see a beautiful garden, full of tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables. I picture new crafting projects. I see that I am feeling needed, fulfilled, purposeful. I see myself sending Donald off on his own adventures, things that will help him blossom and grow. I see us eating healthy, yummy food. We are healthy in my pictures. We walk and hike and canoe. We are surrounded by mountains and green fields with dirt paths to follow. I see us playing in the snow with our dog and kids.

I have what I need and I am content.

I have no idea how this turns into being rich. I know it leads to happiness.

Right now, the images I descibed above are my absolute top priority. What I really want is to have a family and to create a new life with Donald. That is what will make me happy right now. That is my current motivation.

The best part is that we're already working towards that goal each and every day. I am off the pill. I am eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight. I am working each and every day to get closer to finding inner peace and maintaining it. I am present in my marriage. I am decreasing the level of stress and anxiety in my life.

I am teaching myself things that will be valuable as I become a parent and transition back to life on our own. I visit my family whenever I have the chance. I am learning how to cook and I have more confidence in trying new recipes. I am identifying what I can contribute to my community. I am finding my way.

So here's where the treading water on a rollercoaster comes in. All of these positive realizations that I have outlined above happened while I was at work, sitting alone in my office with little interruption. As I made my way home, my mood slipped. I started to feel tired and melancholy. The excitement and hope and motivation abandoned me.

When I got home, I could tell that Donald was down. He seemed sensitive to my tone of voice, ready to assume that I was upset with him even though there was no reason to be.

After dinner, we went to the basement to snuggle on the couch and chat. I told him about how helpful it has been to me to think positively in the face of unknowns. He said "That won't work for me." I felt sad. I wanted to bottle up my joy and pour it over his head. I wanted him to be able to see that we have come so far, we are so close, that he deserves to feel good about the progress made. I wanted him to picture success and hold it fiercely and close to help him get through this additional week of waiting.

All of the things I have been reading lately speak to the power of positive thought in creating positive outcomes. And that negative thought produces negative outcomes. I pictured our energies, my positive one and his negative one, doing battle right there in the room. I felt angry and deflated. Keeping up positive energy is hard enough on its own for someone like me who has little practice so far.

It's hard enough to create positive out of neutral. To have to create positive just to balance out a negative seemed like more than I could take on, especially when the negative was coming from the person with whom I want to share my positive, happy pictures.

I felt like I was treading water, barely keeping my head above the surface, now burdened with holding Donald's head above water so neither of us drowned.

When I asked him to tell me what his camera images were, he said that he didn't know. He believed that I was showing disapproval of him in my desire to have him try to think positively about the situation. Our conversation devolved into me trying to explain myself and him getting increasingly agitated.

The dark basement suddenly felt oppressive and cold. We moved upstairs, where warm, soft light cleared our minds, the excitement of a hockey game on the TV changed our moods, and the company of Donald's parents opened our hearts. We sat together and watched, forgiving each other as our hips touched.

We went to our own space, got ready for bed, and snuggled under the covers in the dark. We lay on our sides, Donald in front of me, my arm over his side, my breath on his back. Donald apologized. I forgave and apologized too. And then I described my pictures to him.

I told him about the dreams I have, the hopes I have, the success I know we will have. We could both see the images in front of us, hovering in the dark, real enough to reach out and touch. I felt tears sting my eyes when I said that I wished I could show him the pictures I have in my head of our beautiful children. They are what I picture the most.

Donald's strong back softened against me. He told me that while I was talking, he saw a cosy house with a small yard, in a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood. He could see our future. He had hope.

Breathe. Faith. Smile.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


In light of the new laws coming out about bloggers needing to disclose sponsorships and endorsements (Barbara Swafford has a great post about it), I want to share that I was provided with a free copy of How to be Rich and Happy by Tim Brownson, one of the authors. The free copy was provided in exchange for my review of it on my blog. There are no expectations or assumptions that my review will be anything but my honest opinion; I am not obligated to say only positive things. I get absolutely no financial gain from reviewing the book besides the value of the book itself ($97.00).

I'll be writing more about the book as I move slowly through it. Thanks for reading. I feel better now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Slowing Down

I feel like I have been rocketing ahead trying to discover and define and decide. I have found myself resisting my own efforts to improve, like I'm putting on the brakes.

I have stopped reading and commenting on other people's blogs in the last few days. Please don't take it personally - I seem to be needing some space to simply be, to take stock of what I'm doing and what I want.

I also need time and space to think about the book I'm reading and the direction Donald and I are heading.

Donald may be hearing more news today. That's my focus for now.

Addendum: Good news received. More in a week or so. Think happy thoughts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More About Getting Rich

I neglected to explain in my last post what being "rich" means to me. There are so many scams out there for gaining financial wealth. This is not my goal. Much like Lisis at Quest for Balance, I have had a strange relationship with money, assuming that people who have a lot of it spend it on frivolous things and that those without it have suffered some injustice. These are unfair stereotypes.

According to the How to be Rich and Happy book, being rich means "the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want." As Lisis said in her post about this book, "If what you want is to feed every man, woman, and child on the planet, you’re gonna need money (or friends with money). No matter how noble your goals are, money is the tool that will allow you to achieve them." This statement is what hooked me.

I also identified with Lisis' current life situation, as she describes: "...now that I find myself between homes, between states, between jobs and way past any degree of certainty about how we will pay our bills or create the life we want, I can honestly say I’m more than curious. I’m a sponge. I am thirsty for useful, helpful advice."

So, as a fellow thirsty sponge, I sought out more information on this topic and came across this series of posts on Abundance Blog at Marelisa Online (start with Part 1). Marelisa writes about a book called The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles in 1910. Her posts are very well written and informed and I feel like I learned so much. Wattles figured out so many of the things that I have been struggling with.

The premise of his book is that anyone can become rich if they think "in a certain way" and act "in a certain way". First, you must have a clear, detailed vision of what you want and you must focus on it, giving that vision constant attention. You must have faith that your vision is approaching and on its way. You must show gratitude for receiving the subject/object of your vision before it arrives. Positive thinking attracts positive things and negative thinking attracts negative things, so for goodness sake, think positive things!

The part that really got me came next. You must more than fill your present place, work beyond your job description, and work efficiently (carefully and productively) and with purpose (your vision). I definitely don't do that enough. The last part is to give more value than you receive. If you make minimum wage, do work worthy of the next pay grade, for example. Giving more value creates more life. More life means more riches available to everyone.

I haven't really done justice to his book or his vision. I really encourage you to read Marelisa's summary, or the original book to understand how he arrives at these steps.

Can you see some familiar themes here, though? Faith, gratitude, being present, efficiency and purpose... My sense of being on the right track is heightened. I can't wait to read more about How to be Rich and Happy. More to come.

How to be Rich and Happy (initial review)

I slept really well last night. I woke up feeling... new.

I started reading a new book yesterday, called How to be Rich and Happy by John P. Strelecky and Tim Brownson. I will be reviewing it and writing about my thoughts over the next week or so (however long it takes me). I am grateful to Lisis at Quest for Balance for suggesting it - she's reviewing it too.

I have only read up to Chapter Five so far (it ends at page 39 of 218) and I am already thinking differently and starting to feel more centered. If you're skeptical of self-help books, I'll also be sharing Donald's perspective (often known as Mr. Skepticism).

One of the most important things I have taken away from the book so far is the motivation to actually put something into action this time. The authors say that they have been guilty of reading self-help books, understanding the principles, and then never putting them into practice. I have definitely done this too. It is time for me to move forward, to try something new, to be willing to fail, and to feel good about the whole process.

What I have read so far has prompted me to think really hard about my values. I have realized how interconnected they are, and also how some of my values are so much more important than others. I can also see now why some negative things bother me more than others.

For example, negativity is something I desperately want to avoid. When my mother-in-law suggests to Donald that perhaps he should stop waiting for news on this job and should apply for other things, I react at a much higher level than I would at most things. I am defensive and protective. I am angry. Even though I understand that she is trying to help him avoid getting hurt, I do not appreciate her efforts. I want to prevent Donald from falling back into the black abyss of depression. I also need her to respect that as a married couple, Donald and I are in charge of our future ourselves, despite the fact that we are somewhat dependent upon his parents right now.

Fierce Conversations and How to be Rich and Happy both advocate the importance of living according to one's values. I feel like I am on the right track. My introduction to this book came at a wonderful time.

Now that I have identified what my core values are, I'm looking forward to reading about the next step.

While I was writing this post, I nagged Donald about whether he would say something to his mom about not being so negative about his job search. I phrased it badly (I made it about me) and it didn't come across the way I intended. I pushed him away.

As we seem to get closer to having some kind of answer about his state of employment, I can tell that we're both on edge even more than normal. I'm concerned that I have been blind to some signs that he's not doing as well emotionally as I think he is. He hasn't returned calls or followed up on basic household type things lately. I have to trust that he has been moving forward in some way.

I also need to remember that he and I are standing side by side, facing the unknown together, working together to help each other take the next step, whatever that may be. We are not adversaries, we are partners. The only way we move forward is together.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Think I Figured It Out (For Now, At Least)

I think I figured out what I want to do.

It dawned on me yesterday, suddenly. I had been thinking about Glen's post at PluginID called Deciding What To Do With Your Life (Without Actually Deciding). He said "Do something (whatever interests you most) and you will end up where you are meant to be." His post gave me permission to decide what interests me most right now. I don't have to decide what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. I just need to decide what I'm interested in most now, in the present. It's liberating!

I am grateful, now, that my job was so slow for a while. It gave me the time to address my own needs and to invest in myself. I might not have been able to turn my attitude and outlook around without that opportunity. Funny how things seem to work out that way.

At work, my responsibilities have been expanded recently to have me working more closely with my boss and his clients. I had initially resisted the change and my recent self-coaching made me do it anyway. It ended up being very interesting and I now have new ways in which to support my boss and the work he does in rehab. I have more insight into the importance of the work we do and I am now convinced that my job is more meaningful than I had given it credit for.

I was very pleased when I received a phone call from a client's caregiver telling me that the help I had facilitated for her had worked and improvements had been made. We figured out the next step so more progress can happen. It felt so good to know that I made a difference and to interact directly with the people we are helping. The main part of my job has me working mostly behind the scenes, so I don't have direct interaction with many people who are impacted by our work. Working with clients and seeing the improvements first hand is so rewarding! I need more of it.

The happiness I felt as the result of a single phone call had me thinking about Glen's post. I pulled out a sheet of scrap paper and started brainstorming. I wrote about helping people and facilitating progress and coordinating efforts and organizing and searching for a better way to do things and efficiency and effectiveness and implementation of positive change.

Many of these key words are not new for me; they are constant themes when I brainstorm about what I want to do. Unfortunately, they are incredibly vague without a specific context. I feel hindered in this area because I assumed that I need specialized/expert knowledge in order to help people.

However, my experience helped me see that I am already doing many of these things in my current job. I don't need to be the expert, I just need access to the people who have the knowledge. My role as a coordinator should be knowing the systems, the contexts, and the opportunities, which is where my interest in operations and my analytical and problem solving skills come in.

I also wrote about my humanitarian interests. I like helping people who are viewed in one way or another as "disadvantaged", like people with disabilities and Veterans. That's when I realized that I am actually DOING much of what I want to be doing.

The main change I seem to need is an increased interaction with people so that I can see the progress and feel happy knowing that improvements have been made. The new responsibilities I just started this week will make that happen, and that change took place before I even knew that it is what I needed.

My new insight comes at a strange time. Donald may be employed in the near future, in a location too far away for a commute to my current job. The most surprising thing to me is that this situation does not give me anxiety. As I put my thoughts into words, I realized that the most important part of what I had just figured out is that I know what I want to do now. While my current job meets those desires, it is not the only one or the only way for me to do this kind of work. What I want to do is not dependent upon my current job.

I plan to explore my options with my current job to see how much flexibility there might be for me to keep it and telecommute. I know, however, that the worst case scenario of leaving this job and having to find another is not nearly so daunting now that I know what I am looking for and what will be fulfilling for me. I will no longer have to get "just a job". I will look for a good job that will help me grow and will give me meaningful work to do.

If it is meant to happen, it will.

Holy crap.... look how far I have come...

I was open to these insights partially because of Dani's post on positively present called "light up your life: 5 days to make your path brighter". Her metaphor of walking a path at night and in daylight and the way our perceptions change what we experience is truly artful and moving. I am bookmarking this post in particular so that when the darkness clouds my senses, I will be reminded that I am responsible for providing the light on my way through life.

Thank you for watching and supporting my journey, dear readers. I will keep you posted!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Perseverence and Survival

News about Donald's job prospect may be forthcoming today. I prefer not to write anything about it yet, except to say that it is amazing how things may be working out, in an unexpected and possibly very meaningful way.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a story I heard recently. It was on Ken Burns' "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" series aired on PBS about the history of the national parks. One of the parks highlighted is Yellowstone, which includes the story of Truman C. Everts. While traveling with an expedition in 1870, Truman (aged 54) was separated from his party. He managed to survive with no food or tools or shelter for thirty-seven days before he was found, emaciated, injured, and out of his mind. And he recovered. He published his story in Scribner's Monthly in 1871. Lee Whittlesey republished it in 2002.

I sat there with my jaw on the floor. As the narrative described the course of events, the situation got progressively worse as Truman lost his supplies and then was injured several times. I was amazed that he survived at all. You can see the clip about his ordeal here (his story ends at 5:11).

It made me wonder about the kind of determination and resolve that Truman must have had in order to survive such a situation. I wonder whether I could have done/could do the same.

It also reminded me that things could always be worse. It reminded me to be grateful for each and every good thing in my life. I am even inclined to be grateful for the mediocre and mundane things because at least I'm not lost in uncharted wilderness with wild animals, frostbite, and starvation. Ah, perspective.

If Truman could survive under such terrible circumstances for over a month, what in the world could I possibly have to complain about?

To be fair, everyone has their own context. There is always someone worse off than we are. Truman's situation lacked simple physiological basics. Most of us are not in that situation. That doesn't mean that we don't have the right to express discontent or frustration. We have to work from our own perspectives and expectations and each find our own way to be happy.

Truman's story struck me because of his strength and determination. I admire his ability to survive. It gives me strength and determination too. If he could survive that, then I can certainly survive (and thrive in) the challenges that come my way.

What can you do today to move beyond surviving and into thriving?