The past several weeks and months have been just a bit too much. Too much good, too much bad, too much work, and too much to think about all at once. In all of that I’ve tried to be present where I am, doing what most seems to need my time and attention.
I’ve read books and listened to podcasts about how to balance “doing it all” and at the end of the day, I think these people want to tell you the answers, but don’t actually have it figured out. As soon as you seem to strike a balance, something in life changes so your schedule and coping mechanisms all need to readjust to fit everything in once more.
I subscribe more to the notion of seasons. There’s a season for hustle and a season for rest. A season for uncertainty and a season for stability. A season for laughter and a season for tears. The length and order of these seasons may change or go against your plans, but I just don’t believe you can do it all all the time. Unfortunately, in this past season or two, blogging just didn’t take priority. While I’ve missed writing here, I don’t regret that decision.
My writing has taken on other forms lately. My days are actually filled with it, be it at the North State Journal where I work as a writer and copy editor or with my various freelance clients who I continue to work with each week. My life has certainly not been void of writing in my absence from this blog.
I have continued to wrestle with what this blog should sayand how to say it. There has been a significant amount of transition and change in our lives in the past year and as a result, I’ve wanted to keep most of these thoughts and feelings private from the likes of social media and an unknown audience. Yet, I want to continue to be here, to write in a way that inspires or relates.
So here’s my wave hello saying that I’m still here and will continue to come back. I’ll bring more of an update in time and continue to write so I can share it with you.
It’s been a few weeks, and I’m still not sure how to pick up where I left off. A lot has happened and is happening. A few difficult yet vaguely described months this past fall/winter were followed by some resolve, some redirection, and some utter ridiculousness. In all of that, I question what it is I most want to say.
I have talked a few times about how much I appreciate writing and have been grateful that this blog has been a place for that. It’s been a way to update people, to share my thoughts, and to think through the different things going on in our lives. But it is also a place people come to read those things, which is something I consider very carefully. A handful of people have told me that they read my blog, which is always a flattering compliment, so I have a limited notion of my audience. There are also many people I’ve never met and know nothing about.
To me, the listeners/readers are often just as important as the message. This isn’t a journal, so if I don’t consider my audience, I do a disservice to us both. Lately, with a lot of transition and life going on, I’ve been considering even more carefully what it is that I’m saying and how my words are portrayed to those who are watching and reading. There are times filled with great news or success that I want to shout about and times when I just love the little details in life and want to share them. There are moments of frustration I want to lash out in passive aggression and moments of hurt or fear that I want to describe and sort through.
But the question becomes, what is my purpose? What is it I most want to do through my life and likewise, my writing?
Do I want to have a big platform? Do I want lots of likes and attention? Do I want to promote or sell something? Do I want to woo or impress? Do I want to simply have a creative outlet or a modern-day scrapbook?
Ultimately, none of those are my purpose, and in realizing this, I’ve stepped back. I’ve considered each word and each post and the impact it has. In this time of contemplation I have yet to figure out where to go from here and what I most want to say. But I know I want to keep writing. I want to connect with people. I want to write in a way that encourages, inspires, and relates.
Not only is this my favorite type of writing, but this is the type of writing I most love to read. I have learned and grown so much from reading what others write as they face challenges, celebrate victories, find their faith, and pursue their purpose. Not only that, but these are the lives that carry the greatest impact. Some people have strong voices or get loads of attention, but I’m not after the megaphone moments or a picture perfect type of lifestyle.
After a week of being sick followed by a three-day snow and ice storm, you can only watch so much Netflix and eat so many bowls of cereal and destroy so many tissues. So when the power goes out, you resort to all out ridiculousness and begin playing board games by candle light on a Friday night. We’re talking Sequence, Bananagrams, and good ole Life (the game, not the cereal as that had already been completely consumed earlier in the week).
We don’t consider ourselves “game” people. Music people, creative people, documentary people, active people–we’ll take any of those, but when someone excitedly invites us to game night, we often shrug our shoulders and wonder, “why us?” Don’t get offended, we’ll come to your game night, just don’t ever consider us regular attenders.
Anyway, the point is, we had maybe played Life once in our entire time of owning said board game, as evidenced by the lack of people pegs plucked from the plastic casing. I loved playing the game as a kid and dreaming what my life as an adult could be like. This particular version had a few new spaces and some modified rules, so I kept checking to read the rules to find out what different things meant. Half of the time spent was in set-up alone, so after the two of us played through rather quickly, we decided to play once more (and I might have needed a redemption round).
Here’s the thing, the game is rigged. You get so little control of what happens or doesn’t happen and very few choices throughout. Sometimes real life can feel like that I suppose, so for the sake of the game, I’ll let that slide (although I don’t think I’ll ever be a veterinarian turned entertainer turned hair stylist and later a Nobel Peace prize winner on accident).
My issue though was not that I lost (twice), but what determined the win. The whole game is just a big exchange of money. Maybe you pick up a few people pegs in your brightly colored car along the way, but each “life” event was represented in dollar signs. The best career to pick, the house to choose, the route you took–it was all solely motivated by ending up with the most pastel colored cash at the end.
Maybe you think I’m going too deep here, but indulge me for a minute–is that what life is? A long and winding path that declares winners and losers based on how much money you banked by the end? Are we so motivated and persuaded by the financial cost and benefit of things, that we give no other weight or meaning to what it is we are doing with our days?
I’m not so naive to think that money doesn’t matter. This last year was tough financially (to be all too honest) and obviously what we make does impact our every day life and has to be considered for our future. I’m not talking a pile of wealth to gloat about but more like, hey, we use money to pay the rent and put food on the table. So, yes, we need money, and it certainly comes in to play with many of our decisions since we don’t have the luxury of ignoring it.
But is it possible that society goes from basic necessities to a “success” measurement based merely on how high your money pile is? What about art? And creativity? Passion? People?
Is our impact and our worth instead better defined by the dollar amount we acquired at the end of the year?
I’m not opposed to getting or giving raises, far from it. Rent goes up every year, cost of living increases, needs change. Raises can show progress and reward work well done. Yes, let’s get raises. Also, it should be noted that passion projects have their own points of failure. Investing all of our time and energy in to something that has no return on our investment is, at times, maybe even negligent. Sure, you can have projects and pursuits that lead to little or no monetary gain, but there also has to be some balance and overall understanding of needs and responsibilities.
Okay, so we’ve established that I believe we should be paid and decently at that. But is there more? I think so. I don’t want the end to look like a pile of money, however big or small, declaring whether or not I won. I want it to look like a life that mattered, that I did something valuable with my time.
So, what value are we/you putting on money? Is it truly a living wage that allows you to live your life in a way that is also generous and creative? Or is it more so a measurement of your own personal value and a metric to constantly improve? Are those mutually exclusive?
The bottom line is perhaps, are we are asking the right questions, spending our money (and time and resources) the right way, and placing our value where it belongs?
Plans and goals–they sound like such good things. Dreams and deadlines mean something has to happen. It tells a story of progress and forward motion toward (hopefully) all of the right things. It is refusing to stand idle while life threatens to pass you by.
But is that all? Is it only the promise of good that can come from such hopes and aspirations?
What about the bitter disappointment that comes when things don’t go “as planned” in life? Or the fits we throw when someone doesn’t live up to our expectations? We lose trust and hold a grudge when things don’t look the way we envisioned, because that’s only fair. This was not what we had in mind, therefore it is practically our right to let the world know.
Honestly, you and I, we are allowed to be disappointed. I will never be the person that says you should only be happy or at least attempting happiness in every moment of life. Emotions come in a wide range and part of life is allowing ourselves to experience the many joys and frustrations that a range of emotions can bring. Go ahead and feel down when you’re sad, elated when you’re happy, conflicted when you’re confused or overwhelmed. This not only makes us human, it also allows us to cope with our situation and better empathize with others.
That said, sometimes I think we set ourselves up for disappointment when we don’t have to.
We put these high expectations on ourselves to be something and achieve something. Then we go around putting these expectations on the people around us. We make plans as if that will lock in the things we want and then pay no regard to the fact that we only have the slightest bit of control over it. If it’s in the calendar, then it’s bound to happen, right?
Right now, I have no interest in making any plans more than a few weeks away. There’s so much that can happen in a month, three months, eight months, a year. The farther ahead we plan, the farther it feels from something I can count on. I would not be planning based on reality, but on pure speculation and therefore creating more expectations to uphold. Life has too many variables and the vast majority of them are well outside of our control.
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, much less a month from now. Tragedy could strike, opportunity could knock, the unexpected could happen. Health-related, weather-related, people-related, work-related, government-related–which of those things can you reasonably control? Sure, you can exercise, bring an umbrella, invest in the lives of others, work hard, vote, and whatever else to contribute to the overall impact (and you should), but don’t fool yourself into believing you’ve therefore earned it and can will things to happen the way you want.
Let’s instead put our hope in the right things. Let’s give grace when expectations aren’t met and think more realistically when it comes to our dreams and deadlines. Let’s be cautious to make plans and realize when we are forming absolutes in our minds. Let’s do our best, but know that most things are beyond our control and therefore let go of our reliance on our own expectations.
Let’s give the same grace and space for in our own lives as we do in the lives of others.
I’ve got an announcement: I’m officially the Employee of the Month. Yes, thank you for your applause, kind words, and flowers. This is just such an amazing moment for me.
Where at, you ask? Oh, uh…my little yellow house. So I guess you could say there wasn’t much competition, BUT the hard work and effort was all there. And no, my husband did not bestow upon me such prestige and glory, it was self-awarded.
Alright, jokes and sarcasm aside, I thought I’d give you a little update on what I do during the day. Frankly, it changes all the time and has been an interesting journey, but I’m really grateful for it.
Some of you know, I have worked in communications and project management for years. That work has allowed me to think creatively, plan strategically, and work with all sorts of awesome clients and businesses. It seemed the most logical step was to do just that and set my schedule and workload around what worked best for me.
So, I’ve been adding new clients who need me to write their blog posts or send their newsletters or help them create a timeline or a process. I have my own LLC and created a simple website to sum it up. I get to decide the clients I take on and have to keep myself accountable for the work. I have continued to have clients coming in and have learned so much in the process. I feel this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.
I won’t deny that it has been hard to know where to start or what to do at times. I took on a part-time job for quite awhile to make sure there were consistent paychecks coming in, and I have had to really consider what type of work I want to do. It has been a continual work in progress as I work through different projects and look forward to upcoming clients and assignments.
That is the long and short of it.
If you find yourself saying, “I love her writing, I should hire her!” then please go right ahead. We can talk more about specifics and see if it’s a fit. If you are worried that from now on I will be self-promoting my work in every post here from this point forward, then you are sorely mistaken. I think work and what we do each day is important, but I also think it’s a mere piece of who we are and what life is. I most certainly enjoy my work, but it isn’t all that I am…and I plan to keep it that way.
Happy New Year and welcome back! The vacation schedule is gone, and it is time to get back to the normal routine. Except this year is going to be different. Right? Because we’ve got goals, we’ve got plans, we’ve got dreams. Ain’t nobody gonna stand in our way.
Kick fear in the face and seize the day…or whatever it is motivational memes are saying these days.
This is what we do. We make plans and hope to achieve them. Motivational speakers and authors get us going, small incentives help keep the momentum, and we seek the promise of success. By no means do I think this is a bad thing.
Somewhere in a notebook is all of my goals from middle school through college. I would write a big long list of things and then grade my success at the end of the school year. Silly things were on there, like getting a date to prom or maintaining a certain GPA. Now, I have yearly goals based on the calendar year that pertains to different areas of my life. This has consisted of everything from starting a retirement fund to hosting couchsurfers.
Planning is practically my hobby. Bored? Just daydream until the next five years are planned out, vacations and careers included. Hand-written diagrams, lists, spreadsheets, vision boards–all of it is often pieced together for my upcoming ideal life. When you get down to it, part of my job as a project manager is planning/scheduling and making things happen for people. I’m a goal-setter, a dreamer, and a planner.That’s me.
Truthfully, the last few weeks I’ve spent more time avoiding resolutions than making them. My mind has been in a constant back-and-forth between reflecting on the long, hard year that was 2015 and overanalyzing the many possibilities of the year to come. And during that time, I stayed away from writing because I didn’t know where to start. This is the time of year when bloggers spout out all of their favorite things from 2015 and their new shiny goals or words for 2016. For me, this year, that just wouldn’t be genuine.
While there were so many things to be grateful for in 2015, but there were also quite a few hardships that I never planned or expected. Looking at the year, I realize how little control I actually have over how it goes.
So, this nonstop planner is putting a temporary stop to the goals and the life plans. It feels too overwhelming right now and puts some unrealistic expectations on me and the people around me. Writing my usual list or even finding the word of the year to live by is too distracting right now. While some of my past accomplishments have been truly ignited and inspired by my yearly goals, this is not the time.
This is the year I simply keep on keeping on. I have a lot going on and instead of dreaming big and thinking toward change, I want to only promise to continue to show up. To do the work. To stay in the game. To be all here.
Despite a lack of goals, I still think this has the potential to be a big and wonderful year. But I also think it will mostly be beyond my control. All I can do is continue to take one day at a time. I want to be present and aware of what’s happening now–today. And then, I want to live through tomorrow when we get to tomorrow. That’s it.
Sometimes I hesitate to share the victories without sharing the trials. When I write I try to be transparent and make it clear that I don’t have it all together, but I know it still stays vague. Because frankly, it’s not very fun to tell about the challenges and at times, it’s not appropriate to share, be it to protect people or because the timing is just not right. Sharing and showing just the moments of glory–the vacation plans, the promotion news, the family photos, the epic adventure, the finished product–whatever it is, doesn’t tell the whole story. It instead leaves the rest of us to believe that it happened, just like that.
In those moments, I struggle with jealousy. I couldn’t care less if you had a bigger home or a fancier tech gadget. But when I see someone get an amazing opportunity or live an incredible-seeming life, it can sometimes get ugly on the inside for me. Suddenly my mind is off and running that so-and-so had everything handed to them on a silver platter or had the right connections or just naturally awesome hair. I don’t know or care how they managed to pull it off, but why not me?! And then I stamp my foot and pout for awhile.
I see the glory and the end result. I see the attention and the appreciation. I see the success and imagine the dollar signs. I see the art and the opportunity.
You know what I don’t see? What it took to get there.
I didn’t see the effort they made and all of hard work they poured into it. I didn’t see their fights for what mattered and accompanying sacrifices. I didn’t see the scrimping and saving. I didn’t see the insecurities and doubt. I didn’t see the practice or failures. I didn’t see the years of struggle or nightly prayers.
I didn’t see the journey, all I saw was the reward.
Then I got jealous or made quick assumptions or gave up on my own goals. I can’t keep doing that. We just can’t do that. Why? Because nobody wins that way.
You want to know how it happened? Ask them. Put in the work and the effort and the years that it takes. Think big breaks never come your way? That’s probably true, but they don’t really happen for anyone who isn’t trying. Sometimes people stumble in to things, but rarely because they were sitting around waiting for it.
I can’t promise that you will get the same end result or that your effort guarantees what you want. But there are ways to lessen the sting or escape the distractions. If I focus on working towards my goals and you focus on yours, we have less to be jealous of and less assumptions to make. Finding friends and support with whom to share our hardships and our dreams strengthens everyone. Gaining an understanding that you are not alone in the struggle brings perspective. Instead of playing the comparison games, we can together walk through the challenges and celebrate each other’s victories.