Practice at Bringing Things Back into Focus

I think there three kinds of people in this world: reporters, people to report about, and those that haven’t learned to accept who they are. I’m one of the ones that haven’t yet learned.

I don’t want to be a reporter. I’m uncomfortable there, looking into things, finding out what’s going on, jumping into what everyone else is doing, but I’m also afraid to walk away from the crowd. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid that if I’m not out there watching and reporting, I’ll miss out on something important.

I believe that I want to be alone and creating, alone and thinking, alone and at peace with myself. What stops me? Why do I allow the other voices, the ones outside my own head, tell me what it is I SHOULD be doing, what it is I SHOULD be caring about?

I read the book “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown last year and it began to change my outlook in positive ways. I just added it to my “re-read in 2020” list. Through it, I learned that I can pare down, not just my stuff, but my thinking and my obligations so that I can focus and do my best on what is most important to me specifically.

Everyone is different. Some people need the community, the feeling of being busy, the camaraderie, to be happy. It has only brought me anxiety and confusion. I want to be more outgoing, but it doesn’t serve me. It drains me and leaves little energy for me to create with. From the outside, it may look like I have plenty of time to help you with your project, but I don’t, not without sacrificing my own.

I need more quiet, reflective time, away from outside obligations. I can start by curbing my social media habit. I can’t sit among three hundred conversations and have a clear thought of my own. I’m reacting 90% of my week. It doesn’t feel conducive to creativity.

Funny…I know I’ve complained about this before, very recently. I’m not complaining this time. I’m making observations and (hopefully) adjusting a course. To start, I took the social media buttons off my phone’s main screen. I had to go find the button to open it, remember that I was looking out of habit, and it gave me the space to stop myself. It didn’t last long though. I noticed they were still at the bottom of my “recently used” screen and my brain rerouted the habit through there.

Over the weekend, I took a complete social media fast. That worked well. I just did not look until Sunday evening when I wanted to share something cool. I put the phone away and focused on working in the yard all day on Saturday until I was exhausted. And then Sunday was spent going out to breakfast and then shopping at Costco with my husband. Yes, that is considered one of our favorite dates! We go up and down every aisle just looking at things, laughing, and wondering if we need that or if it’s a good deal. I think we were there for three hours. We’re easily entertained, and we came out with a month’s supply of our favorite foods, a new whiskey to try (they don’t give samples of alcohol, whatever), and some new sheets.

I was feeling overwhelmed and addicted but I willfully chose to do something else than my habit. I didn’t have to make an announcement. I didn’t have to find a way to stop the app from working on my phone. I didn’t have to call in reinforcements to make me stop. I simply chose not to open the apps. I gave myself a goal and I achieved it. One day without any social media turned into two. It was the start of a new habit.

On Monday, I kept the ball rolling by making the choice to only post my article and spend thirty minutes over lunch replying and checking in with friends. Then I put it away. By Wednesday, I was scrolling here and there to occupy myself while I waited and then it snowballed. My time total on Wednesday was over an hour and a half, far less than in the past but still too much. On Thursday, I started first thing in the morning and before noon I was grumpily tapping away responses to people (in my journal, not online) instead of writing anything productive.

It’s Monday now and I’ve refocused once again. I’m looking for a reminder, like a bell when I meditate, that pulls me out of my unconscious habit and brings me back to what I choose to focus on. Like learning to meditate longer and longer, instead of getting angry or frustrated that my mind has wandered, I notice it and bring it back to my peaceful focus. Each time I do, the focus is sustained longer and longer. It’s practice. And practice makes progress.

Lean In To Fear

I checked my email just before dinner last night and there was a cool message (seeming directly at me at that very moment) from Zen Habits.

“What if we could fall in love with the way things are, in this moment?

Try it right now: notice what you’re resisting, what you don’t want about this moment. Maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s uncertainty, maybe it’s pain or anger.

See if you can turn towards it, open up to it, maybe find gratitude about it.  See if you can love it, even a little. Maybe a lot.”

What was I resisting at the moment? What is it that I fear most? Loneliness. Abandonment. When I begin to feel it, even the slightest tremor and react as if I’m being tortured. I reach out to grab something. I text, I call, I scroll through social media. If a text isn’t answered I begin to panic, contriving multiple scenarios about why it isn’t being answered, and in an effort to control the situation, I start a battle that usually ends either with me begging to be forgiven or the other party walking away from the crazy person.

I realized a few years ago that it’s an attention tactic, starting battles with people I love, and that fear triggers it. Yesterday was the first time I leaned into that fear, faced it, and let it wash over me successfully. It wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t plan on doing it. Several things just happened to fall into place at the right moment. And now I find myself sitting here wondering if I can do it again. I want a reminder to look at, something that says “lean in to fear” maybe. Something to remind me that it’s just an emotion and I can survive it. I’ve done it before.

I started test it today. Instead of my typical behavior of texting or scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds when I’m bored, I’m taking a deep breath and naming the fear.

“There is that feeling that fear. I’m alone in this room, but not in the world. And even if I was, so what? I won’t die.”  And then I’m going for a walk, reading a book, working in the yard, or cleaning my house. I’m setting a timer for thirty minutes and doing something even if I might not finish it.

It seems to be working. But I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again, I’m sure.

The strangest part is that when I am alone, I enjoy it. I was raised in a busy house. I grew up in the city. I worked at amusement parks. I have loving parents, a doting husband, and children that love me. I crave being alone in a room with no one interrupting, responsibilities set aside, only myself to cater to. When the opportunity to be alone presents itself, I jump at it…as long as I have something to do while I’m alone. Drive for hours? Clean the house? Write a blog post? Sure! In the past, working alone was always nice. I could play the music I wanted to hear, focus on my task, get a lot of work done. It always felt good.

The alone I fear is in my head. It’s not being physically alone. It’s the feeling of loneliness, the feeling that no one is out there, no one understands me, or wants to know me. It’s that lack of connection I fear and the reason that social media has been so attractive to me. It’s an instant gratification when that feeling lurks in the back of my mind. At any moment I can go there and “like” and comment. I can post a cat picture and get a response. See? There are people out there. They see me. But it isn’t connection, not really. It’s a false sense of security and it’s become an addiction and a new source of anxiety for me.

It’s not inherently unhealthy. Facebook has been an incredible source of entertainment for me over the years. I’ve made new friends, found old ones, and gotten to know people I would have believed lost forever. Lately though, when I consider walking away, I have panic attacks. If I’m not posting, if I’m not getting likes, if I’m not sharing what I love and what I’m doing, am I really alive? Am I still here? There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t share something. I don’t read articles and think, wow, that was interesting and informative. Instead I think, I need to share this on my wall so everyone can see it. Only sharing can validate my experience, give me the feedback that makes me feel better. If I’m reading a paper magazine (yes, they still exist) I feel like I’m missing out because I can’t share it.

I’ve never been one to cut things completely out of my life. I’m a moderation type of gal, one that likes to work to keep the good parts and overlook the bad, use the positive aspects and leave the negatives on the floor beside the trash can.

There are things I very much enjoy there, and I don’t want to lose those. I think I’ll experiment right now in creating new habits that add so more joy to my life that the negatives get pushed out. What can I do? You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Spend less time on social media by doing something else.

I’ve taken the buttons down from my main screen so that I have to search them out instead of habitually click. That’s step one. I’ve uninstalled them before. Doing so just caused me more problems than it solved. I am a writer and the world does operate on social media these days. I need to use it, not run and hide in the hills. If my fingers can’t automatically click the icon from my phone’s main screen, it creates a pause between the thought and the action. It works for me.

Step two is to create times when I do see what’s up on my feeds. Over lunch was perfect for me today. I munch on my sandwich while I scroll thru and laugh at all the silliness my friends and family post and then I put it away until dinner time. While I cook dinner will be another time I catch up and then put it away again.

I think that’s enough to work on for one week, don’t you? I wish I knew where this fear came from, but I doubt it would really help anything to drag that out. I don’t care how I got into the ditch; I just need to find a way out of it so I can get moving again.

I wrote a “post-it” reminder and stuck it to my computer and I think I’ll write another and keep it in my pocket all week. I’ll check back in with you guys in a week and tell you how it’s going!

Yes, I want “validation” and There’s Nothing Wrong with That

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I’m growing weary of hearing people joke about other people “needing validation.” What’s so wrong with wanting to be validated as a fellow human being? Everyone on this earth needs to know there is someone that approves of them. It’s natural to want to belong, to feel loved and admired.

I’m sure you can seek to be validated in unhealthy ways, maybe think about it too much, but there have to be healthy ways to get it too. Man is not an island, they say. To wall yourself off from the world, to not give one single fuck what anyone else says, seems just as mentally unstable as those that change everything about themselves to fit in.

When you go out for coffee with a friend and share pictures of your kids or talk about a project you’re working on or a vacation you took, are you “seeking validation?” It doesn’t seem like it to me. Isn’t that connecting with other humans, bonding over common experiences, or simply sharing the joy?

If I post a picture of the book I’m reading on Instagram or share the meme I thought hilarious on Facebook, am I “seeking validation?” No. I’m attempting to bond with other humans.

Social media is not evil incarnate. Wanting to share my life experiences with distant friends and family, hell, even complete strangers is not wrong. Yes, we can be pretty fucked up online. I’ve never seen people talk to each other in person the way they do in a Facebook group. It’s pretty damn disgusting if you ask me, and I have learned to steer clear of those social situations, the same way I kept away from frat parties in college and office parties when I worked. They are not my cup of tea.

I am seeking validation when I post on my social media accounts. And there is nothing wrong with that. Those of you that think you are just so above everyone else because you refuse to share your thoughts and opinions with the world, go have your fun. But me? I’ll be here, happily posting the badass muffins I made, the wonderful view from my porch, and the sweet love meme I found while scrolling through Instagram. Each morning I’ll be here with my coffee, typing out words for posts like these and stories I make up in my head and then I’ll post them for others to read and laugh at or be inspired by.

I do want to be part of a larger group of humans and there is no shame in wanting to belong, to be accepted. No, I won’t change how I feel or what comes naturally to me to make you want to like me, but I also won’t hide it away. I’m here. I’m a little off-kilter, as my Grandpa would say. I’m not always nice, but I try to be. I’m excessive at times. I find the strangest things and the commonest things fascinatingly beautiful.

I’ll be here sharing those things with the world in the hopes that someone out there likes the same things I like or finds something awesome they didn’t know about until I shared it. And yes, I’ll be checking back to see if anyone “liked” it. I’ll be hoping someone out there will make a comment and say, “Hey person I don’t know! That’s awesome! Thanks!” because, to me, the whole point of living is connecting with the other humans in this world and social media makes that possible.

Peddle your negativity somewhere else, here there is only love and the hope of meeting a new friend.

Attempting to Slow Down the Input Rate

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Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

“Input!”

“Johnny 5 is alive!”

That’s the scene that runs through my head as I listen to a podcast on the drive to my dentist appointment. I can’t just waste time driving, must have more input!

I want to do something with all the information that is thrown at me but I honestly can’t organize what I’m getting well enough for daily use. I can’t maintain forty strong daily relationships. I can’t read ALL the books. I can’t comment on all the posts I find interesting. I can’t read all the articles or see and laugh at all the memes. There are other things that need to be done. Groceries to buy, laundry to do, meals to be made. Not to mention words to write, creating more input for others!

But my words have to relate to something, don’t they? I do need some input to process. I can’t just cut myself off from the world and think that I’ll still have something to write about. One has to have the brushes and paint, the clay or metal, the seeds and mulch, the fabric to quilt!

Quilting. Now there’s an interesting train of thought. I know a lot of quilters and something they all have in common is the problem of collecting fabric. It becomes a habit and an obsession to some. They go back to the fabric store to get thread or a piece they need to finish a quilt and while they are there they notice a nice new pattern, a sale on pretty solids, or an eye-catching collection of fat quarters and they pick them up thinking they’ll use it someday on something. Time goes by and their sewing room becomes piled high with fabric for future use. When they go to make a new quilt, they look at that wall of fabric and are overwhelmed by it. None of it seems useful. None of it catches their eye for this piece. The best pieces are bunched up and hidden behind less appealing pieces and then end up forgetting what they have. So they go to the store and buy all new fabrics, ones more easily accessible and organized by color and pattern.

I’m starting to think information overload is the same thing. I have a project in mind on one hand and a huge pile of information on the other. The whole time I’m trying to sift through the information I’ve already collected, there’s more input every moment. A text from a friend, an email from a blog, a new book is coming out, Facebook and Instagram feeds, not to mention family members wanting to call and share their lives with me. It’s all good stuff. It’s all positive (or can be, I tend to block out the ugly as much as possible). How do I filter and organize it so that I know what I have and where to use it?

There are a couple of things I’m going to start doing. My phone is my gateway and I’ll admit I do have an issue about being unreachable for any amount of time. Maybe it’s a Mom thing that I’ve latched on to, but if my phone is off or out of reach, I can’t relax. What if one of the kids needs me? The truth is that no one really NEEDS me that badly. My kids are grown and while they may want to talk to their mom in the middle of the night, it can probably wait until morning. And they know if it were an emergency, they could call their Dad because his work phone is always on. My phone will stay on at night just in case, but when I get up in the morning, all notifications will be off until I’m ready to communicate with the outside world. I’m not an emergency room doctor. I’m just not that important and that’s not self-deprecation. It’s reality.

Social media is another big input I have and I’m so addicted to it in the best ways. I’ve found so much joy there, so much connection with the big wide world. It inspires me to see all the awesome stuff, all the wise words, all the wonderful people that make up this planet. The trouble is, like a wonderfully written book that I can’t put down, I keep going back to it every chance I get. And unlike a book, I don’t need silence and focus to just pop in and have a look around, so I tend to spend quite a bit of time there.

At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the trouble is that it adds to my stash of information in big ways. I save clips from articles, memes, comments, all to use in the future. Maybe I’ll write about that. I could add this to my story. This looks like a good place to visit. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by it all and nothing else gets done. I look like a zombie slobbering “input” instead of “brains.”

So I need to limit my time there and save my energy. I’ll try to check in only while I eat breakfast and lunch for now. Sounds pretty wishy-washy, I know, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never been one for hard and fast rules. Sometimes an afternoon of mindless scrolling and laughing at people’s antics is what I need. I’m not going to deny myself, but I will promise to be more mindful of what I’m doing.

And last, but certainly not least, my newest habit of “going to my trailer” to write. My phone doesn’t come with me. I make sure my husband knows where I am, not that he would worry and come looking for me if I went missing for a couple hours, he is working too after all, but I would sit with anxiety thinking he might. Every day, whether or not it is quiet in the house, I’m going to be there for at least an hour and half. There are no dishes to do, no pet antics, no bookshelves to peruse, out here. It’s just me, the laptop, my notebook, and a cup of coffee. I’m training my brain to see the trailer and think “work time.” And so far it’s working nicely…except when I look around me and think, “We need to go on a road trip in this baby!”

The plan: Write one hour. Edit up to one hour. Post after lunch.

That’s how I’m going to make this writing shit work. I’m not aiming for complete solitude or hermitage. My goal is to slow down the input to the point where my poor brain can process and use the information or at least store it in a way that makes it more easily accessible.

I’m also not aiming for perfect or beautiful. My goal is consistency and focus. The more often I can sit down and create with focus, the more likely something beautiful will be discovered.

Here’s to some new habit building! Let’s see what happens!

Is Social Media a Waste of Time or A Call Into the Canyon?

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Something that has kind of bugged me for a while now is, “What in the actual F am I doing?” I’m trying to write daily and sometimes it’s decent enough to post, but really, why? Practice? I’m not sure really.

I have my Instagram page humming along. I’m getting far more followers there than on my Facebook page, but I post there daily as well. I share things to my Facebook page that seem interesting, that flow into my consciousness. But then sometimes I’m sitting there scrolling through both, wasting my own time looking at mindless crap that I know is all geared to market someone else’s product to me, and think…that’s what I’m doing. I’m marketing my mindless crap to others, pulling their attention away from their real, physical life, to show them mine, in the hopes of gaining followers so that I can market a book. What am I doing? Really? Do I have anything important, anything tangible to add to the conversation? Am I doing the world any good?

I believe I am. When I think of pulling away, it makes me sad. I have words to say. I have ideas to share. Why should I stop trying to influence others? I want to be a positive, joyful voice on the internet. That’s why I’m online. That’s why I check in with Instagram and Facebook.

Where does this voice come from? This ugly one that whispers in my ear, “You’re feeding a monster.” These are the times when I look around me and think maybe I do spend too much time there. Maybe my time and creative energy would be better spent elsewhere.

There’s that old buzzword again, “balance.” Ugg…I hate it. “Everything in balance.” I hear people say. “Everything in moderation.” Should I moderate my joy, my patience? Should I balance my time between good and evil things? No, not everything. There are loads of things that should give in to with abandon. I should love without moderation. I should share my passions without a filter. And that’s what I feel like I’m doing when I’m scrolling through feeds and sharing my thoughts anywhere on the internet.

There are times when I look at my own posts and wish I had more interaction with people, though. Why don’t people share my posts? Why don’t people comment? I started doing more of that myself. I comment when I see something pretty instead of just “like” and I share when I feel like other people would probably love this as much as do, or they’d at least know me better because I shared it.

It seems like hating the internet and social media is all the rage lately, but I just can’t understand that. There are downsides to everything. Just about everyone can use anything in a negative way. But overall, it’s a good thing to me. It’s brought me quite a bit of joy. It’s helped me make new friends. It’s helped me reconnect and keep in touch. It’s shown me whole other worlds and ways of thinking.

Why am I there? Why do I have my blog, my Medium account, Facebook AND Instagram pages? Because I want to add to the conversation and share in the joy of this world. I have something to say and something to show. I’m yelling out into the canyon and waiting for the echo. I’m waiting for an answer to my call.

Hello? I’m here! Is anyone out there?

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Me using our VW Bus as a beer ticket sales booth at a local Music/Beer Festival this past weekend! Do I look hot and tired?

Once again, I’ve promised myself that I’d write something. Anything! So here I am on a Monday morning, right on schedule. My morning routine has been accomplished, which is a feat considering the wild weekend I had. My computer has already displayed its contempt for me by restarting without my permission just as I sat down, so I’m sure that won’t happen again this session.

This morning, I’m attempting to stay off the phone more. I did something clever. I accidentally gave the app that can limit my time a password and can’t remember what it is. Now when my social media time is up, it asks me for a password! I can get around it but that takes conscious thought and reminds me that I don’t need to scroll through social media whenever I have a couple minutes.

Here’s the thing, when my mind is quiet, like during my morning meditation, in the shower, doing the dishes, or driving, I remember the things I wanted to do or have an epiphany. Great ideas come to me in those silent moments, yet I have so few of them. When I’m between tasks or projects I sit down to take a five-minute break and the first thing I do is pick up my phone and open a social media app. It’s nice because I can catch a glimpse of my cousin’s sweet baby or find a sweet recipe for cookies, but I feel like I’m constantly filling my attention with so many outside things that I don’t have room for thought processing. I tell myself every day that I won’t check so often. I’ll just sit and take a deep breath, maybe get a glass of water, close my eyes and listen for a moment instead of searching for more input.

I just did it again. I stopped typing for a moment, wondering what word to use next, began to re-read, got stuck, leaned back in my chair and reached for my phone. What to write next is not on that phone! What an amazing power habit has!

This week, my goal is to sit and write for an hour on any day that I don’t have somewhere to be in the morning. That’s most days for me, but this week I’ll be off on an adventure on Wednesday and Thursday. I’m thinking I’ll post here on my blog more frequently (even if it’s just silliness like this) and post to Medium if I come up with anything spectacular.

Right now, I’m working on an article about my sons’ motocross “career.” Let’s see what kind of craziness I can write about when I put my whole mind to it.

It’s Friday, my Friends! Episode #9

Oh my goodness, people! We’re on week three of my new morning routine! Those that know me are in shock for sure. Sticking to anything for more than a week is pretty rare. For those that are just coming on board, or just plain don’t remember, I changed my focus three weeks ago and decided to treat reading and writing as my job.

I’m self-employed and working on building a business, the business of author, so I need to keep regular hours. My hours are 5am to 11am and during those hours, I think of myself as “at work.” When I’m at work, I act accordingly. I stick to my schedule and focus on my job, limiting my socializing by keeping my phone set to silent and checking my social media feeds after I’m done working for the day. For the most part anyway! What can I say? I have to be honest!

It has worked wonders! Suddenly, reading and writing is not something I get to when I have time. Reading and writing are not “messing around” all morning until I get up enough energy to get my housework done. They are my work! And when I’m done working, I have some lunch, talk to my friends, and get some housework done.

It’s a huge change of focus from the last fifteen years of my life. The kids’ activities and education, keeping on top of the housework, and making sure there was enough healthy food in the house used to be my priority. My “kids” have one foot out the door now and really don’t need me to focus on them so much. I do need to be here when they need me, but I don’t need to be directing or hovering. And my sweet husband works all morning too. He’s here in the house, but he’s working. He doesn’t need me coming in and telling him about strange bird activity in the yard or what I saw on Facebook either. This shift was a long time coming but once I saw the need, BAM, here I am!

So what does the morning consist of? Simple. Coffee. Read my non-fiction. Read my fiction. Yoga. Meditation. Coffee. Write 1000 new words. Edit and re-write yesterday’s words. Post. Breakfast. Read more. Done! That’s when I begin the rest of my day, when I take care of my other responsibilities…like playing with friends online!

And as you can tell by the frequent posting, it’s working! Goals are being met! Now…if I could only make a living at this. The plotting and planning continues!

Thing I learned: I’ve learned this many times in the past, but this week I was reminded once again that I tend to think ahead just a little TOO much. Just like an amazing vacation, I don’t need to know exactly where I’m going all the time. I can just enjoy the journey and see where things go. I tend to worry and then I worry that worry too much! A friend reminded me last week that it’s not a bad thing to consider the consequences of my actions, to take into account how what I want to do will affect my family. I just need to find a healthy balance.

Thing I’m reading: The Economist magazine. Twenty-four hour immediate news and its commentary was starting to drive me mad, so I left it. I rarely watch TV news, unless I’m just in a funk and want to revel in being annoyed. And I’ve unfollowed any news sources on social media since that’s not news, that’s just a rumor mill. But I still need to know what’s going on in the world, so I decided to BUY a PRINTED weekly magazine subscription. I know! $120 a year is cheap for peace, let me tell you.

I love this magazine for two reasons. (I just realized I say “for two reasons” quite often.) First of all, at the front it has “The world this week: Politics and Business.” It’s a few pages of bulleted small paragraphs just summing up events. Great for reading over breakfast or lunch, much like a newspaper. Second are all the longer articles throughout the magazine. Those are the ones I read throughout the week during my coffee breaks.

I love having the magazine in print instead of online because I’m not tempted to scoot over and see if someone liked my picture of the dog or scroll down and read the comments. And the articles aren’t chosen by me or a social media algorithm, so I get a much greater variety of input. Some articles I strongly disagree with and some are about things I didn’t even know existed.

Honestly people, there isn’t much national or international news that you have to have at the moment it’s happening. It only causes stress. Yes, I should keep up on some politics and world news, but there nothing immediate that I need to do about North Korea or what President Trump just tweeted. A raw food diet may be better for you body, but a raw news diet is not. I say bring back the weekly printed news and leave social media for socializing and TV for entertainment!

Any suggestions of other magazines I could subscribe to would be greatly appreciated!

Thing I heard: The quail circus has been in town recently! “What in the world is the Quail Circus,” you ask? It’s what I hear outside my window when a family of quail are nearby. Their squeaks and chirps, their scratching, coos, and flutters. It always reminds me of the acrobats at a circus. I don’t always see them, but hearing them in the bushes or out by the low water dish I leave out for them, makes me smile. I could sit and listen for hours.

Thing I want to do: Get professional pictures done of me out here in the desert for this blog and for my book. Why does that freak me out?

Tequila! It may sound strange, but tequila is amazing. I just discovered the glories of it this past year and have started to become a bit of a connoisseur of it. It all started with a free margarita, a real one, not a blended strawberry one with a just a splash of the cheap stuff. A strong one with good tequila, a rim of salt, and on the rocks. Damn it was good. I never would have ordered one, but a friend bought me one after a long afternoon of work and it was glorious. I’ve ordered them ever since. Somehow it has morphed into straight tequila and now I’ve gotten into trying different brands. My latest love is Casamigos Reposado. This stuff…wow…so tasty. One shot, iced up, no salt. It’s the perfect end to a great week!

Cheers to you, my lovely readers! Enjoy your weekend!

Share the Love

 

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It’s the little things.

 

“Be brave,” says my spirit.
“Wait,” says fear.
“Have courage,” says my soul.
“Not yet,” says worry.
“Dare,” says my heart.

-Rachel Marie Martin

All of this and more, it speaks to me on so many levels. Thinking about writing, relationships, and my own self-expression, I’m sitting here on a Monday morning, trying to think of something positive to add into the world. I can think of several, but I’m afraid the negativity is sucking me down. I want to write about THAT! I want to say what’s on my heart, but at the same time I don’t want to feed the monster.

There are two big things on my heart this morning. The first of which is news media. Why do we keep watching these people, the vultures of all the ugliest parts of our world? They feed off our despair, our pain, and then feed it back to us as if they are doing some good for the world. “The people have a right to know!” and “Freedom of the press!” is what I hear, but what I see is a group of people getting in the way, clamoring for a good view, and speculating to the world about the disaster that has just happened, spreading fear and terror to the masses. Why? If something terrible is happening in another state, is there anything I can do at that moment to fix it? No. Is there something I should know to stay safe where I am at the moment, therefore needing the information? No. The only reason they are on the tv is to get me to watch, to raise their ratings, and to sell advertising time. This is not news, it’s sensationalism for ratings. It’s making money off people’s fears and insecurities. It took me less than five minutes to be reminded of why I do not watch these so-called news channels.

The second thing is this idea of “stopping hate,” as if hate is what is driving people to hurt each other these days. Newsflash: People have always hated other people. Do you know what’s worse than hate? Despair. We can hate another person and feel no need to take any action against them. But when we despair, when we feel there is no other way, that we have nothing to lose, we lash out in anger. A person in despair acts out in many ways, all of which are prevalent these days. Some medicate themselves with drugs and alcohol, some do themselves harm in other ways, physically and mentally. Some “live for the day” and throw themselves into hedonism, following every desire hoping it will bring them momentary joy. And some commit violence against others. Like a child without the means to communicate his anquish, he decides he has no other choice but to hurt others the way he is hurting, and he’ll use any tool he can find.

How can we help? I can think of a simple way. Stop sharing it on your social media. I know we think we’re helping our cause by raising awareness, but we’re not. We’re only causing people to despair. Every time we point out another hopeless cause, every time we point out the cruelty, the injustice, the hate we find in the world and then blame it on someone else, we create more despair. It’s hard not to do it. When I see how much one person is hurting another, or hear of one cause I believe if we only put our minds to we could fix, it’s hard not click “share” and show others in the hope they will join me against it. But that’s the problem. We’re all trying to get others to join us AGAINST something or someone.

What can I do to help? Spread hope. Spread joy. Share the highs. Share the love. There is so much in this world that is better than it has ever been. Why focus on what is not?

As I sat eating breakfast with my teenage son, discussing these feelings I have, the sadness I find in my social media feeds, he was baffled. His young friends and the pages he follows don’t seem to have this urge to share the negativity for the most part. It seems that’s an “old person” way to use the new technology. We have something to learn from our children.

A couple years ago, my sons taught me how to change my social media feed by unfollowing friends that only post the negative, and not liking and following news channels. I find my news in slower media forms, printed magazines and newspapers. That simple change filled my social media feeds with positivity, science, religion, relationships, and writers I love. It’s been a wonderful change. I do still have a few friends that consistently share the ugliest of things. I love them but I have to tune them out for my own sanity. And then, when something like this past weekend happens, even my most positive friends are shaken, and rightly so. That’s when I choose to put my phone down completely and let the dust settle. I don’t need to know the details as they happen. I don’t need the play by play, the body count changes, or the speculations as to why it happened. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It means I’ll wait until the event is over and read about it in a rational and complete way, one that doesn’t tear at my heart as if my own child is dying in my arms for days. Since I can’t control what others post, and I know it will hurt me for no useful reason, I put my phone down and I turn the tv off. I turn to my home, my family, my friends and my local community and live.

What if we all did that? The honest truth is that in this world, people are hurting each other and dying every single day, all over the world. It cannot be avoided. It cannot be worried and legislated away. The only thing that will make anything better is love. Love those around you, love them unconditionally whether they “hate” or not. Don’t push more people into despair by shutting them out. Stop giving people more reasons to feel like they have no other choice but to fight. Love people even when they make bad choices, or choices you believe are wrong. Love people when they are angry and love them when they hate you.

Start creating joy around you. Start creating love. Start sharing love, unconditionally and in as many ways with as many people as you can. And you can start with your own social media feed!

The Clutter Isn’t Helping The Situation

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I told myself to make time for writing every morning and here I am, writing words. While I’m never short on words, today’s question is, “Should I share them?” The charge of “write 1000 words every day” does not imply that I post them for the world to see, right? Sure, take the time to put words on the page. Make space in my day for reflection and the organizing of thoughts. Spill my guts into a Word document for safe keeping, but must I drag you all along for the sometimes torturous ride?

Why the hell not? I mean…you clicked and you didn’t have to!

I’ve been spending some time taking some classes on Skillshare this week and it’s already been worth the $15 a month. Sunday afternoon I listened to Matt Bellassai talk about going viral for an hour. While I’m not all that interested in gathering clicks and writing “20 reasons you don’t suck” articles, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about what makes things sharable on social media. Besides, his helpful hints and legitimate advice were so entertaining. He comes off as thoughtful, intelligent (most comedians are pretty damn deep), and certainly seems like someone I’d like to spend time with. It was an hour well spent!

Yesterday I listened to Roxane Gay talk about crafting personal essays. I only had time for half of her presentation yesterday, but she already has me thinking. I get frustrated with my writing and this blog. Just like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where I fit in, where I’m going, or if I’m wasting my time and energy. And that is why I keep writing, to find the answers! My writing is another reflection of the real me, the one a little deeper down than the one you see on the street, the one you go have lunch with, or even the one you live with. These are the inner thoughts, the questions, and the attitudes I take when I’m alone. Sometimes these are things I want to say but can’t for whatever reason.

And it’s not even ALL I want to say. Many times I have mean, nasty, or snarky things to say. There are things that pop up in my head while I scroll through Facebook or drive into town; reactionary things that are probably best left unsaid. For the love of all things holy, I have a file on my phone called “Things I WANT To Say On Facebook But Don’t.” I frequently copy the offending post to that file and tap out my wanna-be comment and close it. It’s cathartic in that I release that negative energy without looking like an ass on social media.

I don’t always feel like a very nice person and I’m lucky that my personal filter catches things before they come blaring out on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always function well, or maybe it gets full and things spill over the edges from time to time. Maybe I need to clean that filter a little more often. That’s when you see an uncharacteristic personal judgment post on my wall. Those posts tend to get deleted before too long. But sometimes…oh man…I so want to just say exactly what I’m thinking. Or better yet, just type the word “FUCK!” and leave the internet forever without another word or explanation. I imagine what would happen…probably nothing. My parents would probably text me and the rest of the world would keep on keeping on. I imagine my own self-importance. We all do. More likely, I’d go back several times that same day to see if anyone made any inane comments. That is the depth of my addiction to online validation.

It’s just a passing mood though, and moods can be tricky. They build up into huge waves, crash onto the shore, and slide away to build momentum again. I haven’t mastered the magic of controlling nature. I haven’t become a sorceress that reigns in the moon. I’ve merely learned to be a better surfer. And just because I’m getting good at it, doesn’t mean I don’t let the board slip out from under me and go tumbling beneath the waves. At 46 years old, I have finally learned to notice when I’m being thrashed, and to at least try to control my panic and wait until the waves pass before I search for the surface.

Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks to stay calm in the face of the negativity wave; find the breath, make some emotional space, and wait. One thing that doesn’t work for me is seeking the positive. Being content in my negative mood seems to help me most, sinking down into it like a warm blanket of mean nasty thoughts comforts me and helps it pass over more quickly, like not thrashing against the wave as it passes. To do that most efficiently, I need to be alone both in person and online as much as possible. I feel no need to drag everyone along with me. I used to, trust me.

In the past, I’ve reached out to other life surfers, more like frantically grabbed them in my struggle to stay afloat, and all it does is multiply the negativity and create a feedback loop. I feel like I’m starting to sink into a negative mood, and in a panic reach out to someone. Precariously balanced on their own board, they panic trying to pull me up. I feel terrible that I’ve upset someone else, spiral deeper, and it takes longer and more energy to swim back up with every person I pull down with me. Better to go it alone, and know there are still people at the surface waiting for me.

Since I work from home and don’t have many outside responsibilities, these days it’s easy to withdraw. I have only my husband, my nearly grown sons, and a few close family members to retreat from, all of which have learned to notice my behavior and give me space. They wait quietly by, my husband giving me a few extra loves as he moves through the day.

But online life, social media, is still a struggle for me. It’s become a habit to pick up my phone and scroll through my feeds when I’m bored. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I find myself taking a quick look only to find more posts to add to that file on my phone and when I’m being “thrashed in the rinse cycle,” it’s much more likely that I’ll make that comment for real instead of keeping it private in my file.

I’ll put this out in the universe. Someone please develop an app that poses questions to determine your mood before you open any social media app. Depending on your answers it can either put a delay on all your posts and comments or stop you from reading at all until your mood improves. You’d make millions on this one. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that needs it!

“Temporarily Closed for Spiritual Maintenance”

That’s what I shared to my Facebook and Instagram feeds this morning. Is it the July heat and humidity that is making me so edgy and irritable? Is everyone feeling this way? All I know is that the intolerance, disrespect for others, stereotyping, and name calling has reached a maximum level of ridiculous for me lately and I’m starting to react in kind. I need to step away and take breather. I need to find my light so to speak.

There are things I’m doing that are not helping my attitude. The first of which is that I’ve been checking my social media first thing in the morning. I have learned in the past that this is not a healthy practice for me. I used to leave my phone at my desk until I read for an hour and had my first sips of that glorious caffeinated love some call coffee. I need to reestablish that habit! Messages can wait. I’m not an emergency room surgeon.

For a long time, I was only posting and checking my comments once or twice a day, usually over breakfast and lunch. I would put my phone to bed at dinnertime. But lately, I have made some new friends that want to chat over text in the evenings after work, so I have had my phone nearby. That’s fine, but I find myself spending the in between moments scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, shooting off immediate comments, and looking for something entertaining, instead of paying attention to the story we are watching or finishing the socks that I started. That might be fine from time to time, but I feel like the more I do it, the more negativity and ugliness I see and the more that seeps into my day and colors my own posts and comments…which triggers a downward spiral. Also, not healthy for me.

It’s fascinating to me how easily old habits can creep back into my life and take precedence over the newer, healthier habits I’ve worked so hard to establish. If I’m not careful, my whole emotional life can get messy pretty quickly. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve started to feel that pull downward, and only the past couple of days (since the heat hit) that I have felt it begin to accelerate into the nasty urge to lash out and retaliate. I felt it culminate this morning when I read a message and couple comments before I even took my first sip of coffee. That’s when I put it down and thought, “What am I doing?!” Luckily that was before I responded too harshly…I think.

Progress? Maybe. Writing this I realize that I seem to have learned a new trick of awareness. My morning meditation has taught me to notice when I stop focusing on my breath and start thinking. When my mind wanders, I don’t get frustrated, I just become aware of the switch and move back to what I wanted to focus on, my breath. I feel like that’s what I’m doing today. I noticed the change in attitude and I’m moving back to what I want to focus on, my immediate surroundings, my peace of mind, my heart.

What to do? What to do?

The trick is having my phone around for useful things like taking a picture, looking up words, or receiving an important text like my son needs me to pick him up. I don’t NEED it, but I want it. It makes my life easier. I also don’t NEED a social media app on my phone, but I want them so that I can read an article while I wait for something, share an awesome podcast I just heard, or entertain myself for a few moments with my friends’ fun posts. I also enjoy being the online friend that posts fun pictures!

How do I use my new found awareness here?

Just sitting here writing this, I can see my phone sitting on the coffee table. Several times I’ve gotten a bit stuck with what to write next and thought to reach over to it. I didn’t. That’s progress. Right?

How did I get that picture of it? My son walked by and I asked him if could use his phone to take the visual aid and message it to me! He looked at me strangely and acquiesced. When the text came through, I was tempted but I didn’t pick up the phone to see it. I know what it was and how I would use it, but I didn’t need it right at that moment. I knew that if I picked it up, I’d open Facebook just to see if that…person…replied to my comment. Then I’d have to see if there is a cute picture on Instagram and a whole “If you give a mouse a cookie…” scenario would begin! So I left it alone. I’ll add the picture to the post later. Right now, I’m thinking.

I thought of one device that I’m going to start using more deliberately from now on, my FitBit. I have the new one that alerts me to messages. The reason I pick up my phone and check it is because I worry that I might have an actual urgent message to respond to. What if my Mom needs me? What if one of the kids has important news? What if a friend is in trouble? Honestly though, wouldn’t they call? But what if they don’t? So my watch goes off and I can see if it’s just a friend saying hello and remember that I can answer that later. My fingers have no other buttons to push, so I easily switch back to my immediate surroundings, my family, and my peace. It’s a great way to avoid the habit, like not going to bars where one used to drink too much.

It’s now been about twenty-four hours since I posted my closed sign and I’m feeling a bit better. I didn’t stay away the whole day. I shared my blog post and replied to a couple of comments, but I did spend considerably less time scrolling, which is an improvement. This morning I woke up wondering if I should continue my limited involvement. I mean, how “temporary” are we talking here? I’m not making rule about it. I think I’ll just see how it goes. If I have a minute, I’ll check it out. If I feel negative about it, I’ll walk away. I sure wish I didn’t have to use my own willpower though. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app on your phone that asked you some screening questions and then delayed your posts and comments if the answers pointed to a bad attitude? I’ll just put that idea out there. Someone make it! I’ll be your first tester!