I began this month trying to figure out what I could use this blog for. I decided since it was mental health awareness month to use it to write things that are related to mental health…but in particular posts that were encouraging to people so that the posts could help boost our mental health together. I hadn’t written in a long time, and I was trying to find a way back into writing. And trying to stretch my own capacity for creativity and writing.
And today when I was thinking about the challenge that I had put forth for myself, to spend a portion of each day doing something that was focused at helping others and helping myself by growing, I realized that I had accomplished more than I thought I would this month. This month was full of trials and tribulations that I hadn’t expected at all in my personal life. And this blog really has served to help me sort out those issues and helped me find people who have similar problems in their lives.
What I also thought about today is how important it is to reflect upon our challenges in life. I’m not sure that I’ve really reflected on things in this manner before. Normally if I look back on a challenge it isn’t usually with the notion that I’ve passed the challenge. I have a tendency to dwell upon the challenge as something that I wish hadn’t happened, and don’t look at the fact that I have made it through, and I am continuing to make it through. I am usually just frustrated by the challenge itself in general. In my head I know that we all have challenges and that we can and should learn from them, but when we look at our own instead of at other people’s it’s a lot harder to tell where the challenge begins and ends, and whether or not we’ve actually overcome or accomplished anything. But in reality we have all overcome and accomplished things because of and in spite of our challenges. And I think taking the time to look at them in that manner is necessary to our well-being. We have to be able to look at ourselves and see the good things, see the accomplishments (even if at first we feel they are minimal at best), see that we are survivors, so that we can remind ourselves that we are achievers.
When we know who we are, we can know where we can go. And I firmly believe that we can go anywhere we want to go. In fact, we will go wherever we want to go, because that’s the way things work.
(just a note, I’m not stopping the blog, just reflecting on this month)
While outside playing with Jack yesterday I took a picture of an oak tree. We have lots of water oaks along the coastline in Mississippi and some of them have grown to huge sizes. They’ve survived for centuries, storm after storm, year after year. And I started to think about how that happens.
People mention building your roots a lot. In order for a tree to grow it has to anchor itself in first. But I think sometimes what we overlook is just how root systems work in trees. They grow down to form an anchor, and then they spread themselves out. They branch out in all directions creating the right amount of support for the tree itself to branch out in any direction it needs to. As we grow in life, we can’t just grow in one direction. We are multifaceted and complex. We have multiple talents, multiple needs, multiple areas we are capable of sharing in, of growing in. We have to make sure that we are tending to all the different areas in our life in order to grow as high as we can grow.
When a tree gets injured on one side, those branches can start to whither and die. The whole tree can end up weakened, because it’s no longer in balance. So the tree starts to regrow that branch whenever possible. New life will emerge from those areas that we’ve left untended, even when they were areas that were hurt. Whether it’s because we ignore those areas simply because we have so many things we need to focus on, or if the areas are damaged from things that have happened in the past, the chance for regrowth exists. And not only does it exist, it is necessary for us to find our balance again. For us to thrive again. We have to make ourselves as strong as possible in order to weather the storms in life, and to do that we have to pay attention to all of our branches.
Sometimes when we let things constantly eat away at one part of our life, it finds its way into the other areas as well. Inevitably we end up unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied. We get lost. We don’t know what’s wrong because so many areas are now at risk, and finding the source of the problem is hard. It’s easy for poison to find its way in when we can’t find the wound to close it. So it’s extremely important to begin paying attention, looking at ourselves and really realizing what needs to be done to help us feel whole again. They are not voids that can be filled by others. They are things that exist within us.
We have the chance to do great things and be great people in even the smallest of ways every day. We have the chance to grow ourselves with every sunrise and strengthen our roots with every sunset. Every branch we extend outward has the chance to touch someone. To help create fresh air and breathe new life, without do anything other than functioning at its best. By weathering the storms we have the chance to help someone else do the same. We just have to grow ourselves in all the different directions we can. We have to allow ourselves to be human, to be people. To have faults and weaknesses, but not let them overcome us, because we all have many ways to grow.
Last night I watched “We Bought a Zoo.” And in it he says, “all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…” And that made me think about all the people I knew who had something to say about the movie. So many people said it was just what they needed. They were thinking about major changes in their lives and they needed something to happen. It’s funny how so many of us feel that way. That we need something to happen. There needs to be a change. We aren’t where we want to be, and we aren’t sure we are getting to where we want to be either. In life it’s quite easy to lose track of where we wanted to go.
Circumstance can be to blame much of the time, but it’s circumstance that we have created for the most part. We want to believe something can still happen. And when we see it happen for other people, we believe it again ourselves. But we need constant reminders. Most of us see something, get inspired, but never take the steps to follow through. We tend to look over just how much it takes to take a chance. To just go for it. To go for all that we wanted. A lot of times we opt not to because we don’t want to fail. Because if we fail at the things we really want, then what does that mean? What’s left from there? And it goes a lot deeper.
Unfortunately for us, taking the easy way has a tendency to become the hard way. Because easy has a tendency to couple itself right up with unfulfilled. And maybe it’s easy at first to live that way, because we still hope and there’s still time. But time moves much more quickly, and what we find when we look back is chances not taken. And the mundane of the everyday and unfulfilled gets wearing. We have reasons we do what we do. We have reasons for the things we don’t do as well. I’ve studied psychology for a long time. I’ve counseled people. I’ve consulted. I’ve spent the better half of my life helping people, even in a non-professional level. People have always come to me for help. I never understood why when I was younger. Even now, I’m not always sure. But it always seems to work out.
In life we have to have an understanding. We have to have a reason to believe in ourselves. We have to have the skills to look inside and understand ourselves. Because society has a tendency to tell us things that are untrue. The people closest to us, even our closest friends and family don’t always have our best interest in mind. That means it’s up to us to care enough about ourselves to learn how to get to where we need to be.
Today my book was “officially” released. In paper back and in e-book format. In certain book stores who were willing to take a chance. And at this point in time when I’m surrounded by chaos, and lots of bad news, I’m not sure what to do with that. I was told I needed to tell people it was out, so I guess I am right now. But I don’t know if this is how I’m supposed to do it. It’s hard, because I knew how important it was that I don’t waste anyone’s time. The reason I wrote the book that I wrote, and not a “quick fix” book as was suggested to me, is because the message that’s in the book is important. Transformation takes time. Changing your life takes time. But it starts with one day. It starts with knowledge. It starts with taking the moment to say, I’m going to try. I’m going to jump in. I’m going to have insane courage. And the book tells you why you should have that courage. It tells you why you are worthy of the things you need. It tells you how to breathe again when it’s dark and frustrating. It tells you why you should make it through. It tells you how to start changing your life, piece by piece. And why your life can and should become the amazing life you wanted, no matter what has happened in the past. It tells you how to forgive, how to let go, how to move forward. All the things that are too long to write in a blog. And it tells it well.
So what I’m saying is I hope everyone has the courage to try. Try to become the person you want to be. If the book can help, take a look. If you know someone who needs a life change or just wants an entertaining read, or needs a graduation gift, tell them to look. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the information. And it’s worth taking the chance to try. The read is easy. The information is good. Nothing I’ve ever done has taken more courage. And it’s terrifying. So even though you don’t have to, if you want to share the message. If someone needs help, lead them to it. We all have somewhere we need to go. We just need a little guidance sometimes in getting there.
And if you bought a zoo already, or have a story to share, let me know We all have multiple things to contribute. We all have things to make life worthwhile. So why not share them? Why not have the courage to try!?
Barnes and Nobles:
Today my post may be a little different. There are a variety of reasons for this. I have a few family members in the hospital. I can’t visit them because my son is still sick. I have work that is due, that I don’t feel like doing, so I’m doing this instead for now. Things seem to continue to be piling up, and so today I wanted to make sure that my son and I had a little fun. He has been sick so we haven’t been outside much in the past week, but his fever has been gone since yesterday morning, so we went outside for a few minutes.
I don’t know how many of you watched the show FRIENDS, but there is an episode of it where Phoebe runs weird. She runs with her hands and arms flailing and it’s in a weird motion, but at the end they decide it’s the only way to run because it’s way more fun. That show happened to be on today and Jack wanted to go outside and run, so we did. We ran with our arms flailing around and he was yelling tag, and even though it was only for about 10 or 15 minutes we both couldn’t stop laughing and smiling.
In all seriousness, I have noticed that it’s truly difficult not to smile when someone is running after you yelling tag. If you let yourself play, it’s nearly impossible not to have fun. I think that’s one of my favorite things about my son and my nephews. They do such a good job reminding me to do things that I forgot I like to do. I had flashbacks of playing freeze tag on the playground at school as a kid. And then of my leg getting caught in the slide and hanging upside down until the principal came and got me down because he was the only one tall enough to reach me. That part was less fun, but that’s not the point. I slid down the slide again, and no real harm was done.
My point is, take the time this weekend to do something you don’t normally do. Something you forgot you like to do. In the US it’s a holiday weekend, so there’s extra time. If you want to share your stories, please do so. I love to hear them. Make time, even if it’s just a few minutes, to experience the laughter and joy. (I told this story to my friend and he is renting a Nintendo and the game Paperboy, because that’s what used to make him smile. He says physical activity has never been his friend.) Whatever it is, find your lost love and enjoy! (And you know, tell me what it is. I’m nosy like that.)
~There is something special when your words are clever. When your mind creates a unique endeavor. But where do you go when the words are slow and it seems you’ll be writing never. ~
Today I’m doing something a little bit different. When I was in school I was given a set of things to do whenever you are stuck for words. I was in a PR program at the time (it’s my non-psychology degree). And when we had to write news copy or come up with campaign strategies and we were stuck we had to go through a list of questions. When I was in my master’s program for psychology, I changed the questions over to questions about ourselves for motivational purposes. This morning I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today. I just knew I wanted to provide something of use. I have had some things on my mind lately, so I started going through the list of questions to figure out what to do next, and then I realized the list would probably be of good use, so I decided to give you the list instead. Basically it’s a short list of questions designed to be reflective in nature so that when we think about the questions we build a platform to work from. I always write down my answers, because again, tangible forms of the thoughts in our minds are essential so that we have something to go back to and to create a map from. It can have whatever paths we need and any alternate routes we may need to utilize, but we have the starting point and ultimate destination in front of us any time we need to see it.
- Who am I right now?
- Who do I want to be?
- Where am I right now?
- Where do I want to be?
- Who has gone to where I want to go?
- What did they do to get there?
The purpose of the list is to be a starting point. Once we see who we want to be and where we want to go, we can find others who have made that transition. Everyone starts somewhere. We have to be content with starting where we are at. And we have to know where we want to go if we plan to get there. We have to have something to come back to that can guide us. This list creates a starting point for our own action plan. It allows us to see ways to get to where we want to go, and to research what needs to be done, so that we can then start on our own way. Awareness (of who we are and where we are going) and Knowledge (of who we want to be and how to get there) are keys in life. We have to put them in front every day, so that we go through each day with purpose. Time passes each day, and it’s time that we do not get back. So taking the time to making it meaningful matters.
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned as I have gotten older is the importance of understanding that we have to go through things alone. Now, I know I have talked about the importance of understanding that we have to have help if we are going to get to where we are going. And that still stands. But we have to do the work on our own. We are the sole decision makers in what we do each day. We are the ones who are affected by our actions, more so than anyone else. We are the ones who have picked the path we are on. And we are the ones with the ultimate responsibility of getting to where we want/need to go.
It can be frustrating at times when we can’t find anyone to help us in the way we would like to have help. We have ideas and projects that we believe in, but sometimes it feels as though no one else really cares. The people who we feel are supposed to help may not always do so. And that can be difficult when we are trying to accomplish something that we believe in. It’s the ultimate rule when it comes to accomplishing your dreams…. No one will believe in you as much as you do until you can show them why they should. And unfortunately, that usually takes a lot of work.
I find that with writing it takes even more work. You can’t force people to read something. You can’t force someone to pay attention. When you sing people can hear you even if they don’t want to. When you act people can see you, even if they don’t want to. When you paint your work is visible, what you have to say and share is visible, even if people don’t want it to be. But when you write, your ideas are hidden between under the covers. The book covers to be exact. You can’t force people to understand that what you have to say is worthwhile enough to give up a few hours of their lives to read it. That’s significant time. A song is three minutes, and can be turned off. A show is 30 minutes or an hour, and can be turned off. A piece of artwork is available to take in over the course of a few moments. But books, books require an investment. And you have to do work. You’re not just observing, you are actively engaging in reading. And as a writer, I think it’s very important not to waste anyone’s time.
So I made it a point to write something that I believe is worthwhile. And after writing it, it felt great. But now I have to get people to read it. Which is less great. Because even though I want to share it, and even though I believe in it, I have to convince other people that they should as well. And though that makes me uncomfortable, what I have found is that thing that I started learning when I started college – no one else is going to do it for me. I’m the one who has to do the work. The ultimate responsibility is mine.
We all have things we want to do. Things we need to do. And we all have to start somewhere. Is there somewhere you are planning to go or something you are wanting to do? Find the time, find a way, and make it a point to do it. And along the way:
- Understand that even though people may be supportive, they may not be supportive in the way we’d like.
- Understand that even though it’s going to get hard, it’s something worth doing.
- Remember the journey is yours to take, and some of the people will have to come and go.
- Remember there are plenty of people who have made it through, so there’s no reason that you can’t, too.
- Stay motivated. You have what it takes. YOU.
- Smile. This is just good sense. It has the natural ability to lift your spirit, even when things are hard.
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” - Louisa May Alcott
Today I am writing, and I’m writing rather quickly because there are a set of storms that will be coming through in about 30 minutes. The storms have already produced a small tornado. And I started to realize all of the things that I needed to do before the storms came in case the power goes out, I decided that what was I needed to write about as well. One of the things that you learn living through lots of storms, especially if you live on a coastline like I do where there are lots of hurricanes, is that there are things that you can do to prepare for the storms and things that you can do during the storm in order to survive. So today, since I’m preparing for the storms, I thought I would share my tips for surviving storms the storms of life. As it turns out those for surviving the weather, apply just as well to surviving the storms that mark our lives.
- Prepare. The reason this is the first step, is because no matter what is going on in our lives if we take the time to prepare ourselves, we are better able to face the storms. During hurricane season we have preparedness kits so that if things go wrong (like they did with Katrina) we can have the supplies we need to be able to survive both the storm and the aftermath. We need the essentials. Food, water, medical kits, money, routes to shelters. Things of that nature. And in life we have to do the same. We have to prepare ourselves for what we will face. Part of this comes from learning from the things that have happened in the past. If we reflect on the difficult times we’ve faced before we can take things away from those situations that will help us in the future. We can utilize the strength and the knowledge we have gained. These are some of our essentials. We can make it a point to put ourselves mentally in a place where we are growing and confident in ourselves and our abilities to weather these storms. We can build a shelter. We can supply it with the materials we need if we take the time to reflect on ourselves and our lives, and to use that information to make a path to where we need to be. We have to organize ourselves – make lists (that’s why I’m writing this in list form now), figure out what we plan to do, because if we have those plans and they are tangible, they are our routes to safety during the storms we weather.
- Focus. Once the storm hits we have to stay focused. We have to take the time to be still and listen, especially when the winds pick up. In elementary school during tornado warnings we used to have to move to the hallway and sit in silence listening for the wind to start to sound like a freight train, and if it did, we knew to cover ourselves. This is what we have to do during the storms in our lives as well. We have to stop and pay attention. We have to focus. We have to look to see if what we are doing is the right thing to do. We go back to our list that tells us where we are going. We see if our current situation is a part of it. If it is, then we look around and figure out the supplies we need to utilize while this storm passes. It can be that we just need patience and a look back at the list so we remember that the storm will always pass. Or we may need the confidence to remember that we are accomplishing what we have set out to, despite the storm – because there will always be difficulties on our journey. If our current situation isn’t part of our path, or we’ve come to a crossroads we have to decide if we are going to leave the path behind to stay where we are (if so, refer back to the previous statements) or if we are going to leave our situation behind so that we can continue on to where we planned to go. And leaving a situation, especially an emotion-filled situation can be hard. It can create a whole new storm. But as long as we are paying attention and focusing on where we need to go, and what is best for ourselves and those we care about, then we can know that we are going to weather this storm and turn out all right in the end.
- Find joy. This third step may seem a little bit strange, so let me explain. Whenever there were hurricane warnings and we had to stay home from school, I always got a little excited. I knew that I would get to see at home, maybe with just flashlights and candles. I knew we’d make a tent. I knew we’d play games. And those weren’t things that happened all the time. Even though I was scared. And sometimes we had to stop playing to hide in the hall, we always had fun distractions from the storm at hand. Sometimes when we get into the day to day of life, we forget to have fun. We forget to have those moments of escape from the storm. It’s important to remember that sometimes we need a distraction or two. We need an adventure, even if it’s in the tent in the living room, to remind us of why we are in the storm to begin with. And to remind us that even in the storms, we can prosper. We can grow stronger. We can find happiness. We can share love. Even when the world outside is spinning and crashing and shaking the door. We can still know that there is something worth surviving for. We can find joy and let it guide us. There can be a rainbow on the other side.
“Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.“ – Louisa May Alcott
This week while I was sitting with my son, who has been sick (we actually leave for a doctor’s appointment soon), I was looking out of the window and it looked like the trees in the yard were glowing. It was really beautiful. And Jack thought it looked like magic. He was genuinely excited about it. I really appreciated how enthusiastic he was. He tends to be that way in general. He’s enthusiastic and encouraging. He makes it a point to enjoy whatever he is doing. He’s really one of the happiest people I know, and I am so happy about that. His enthusiasm reminded me of just how important it is to allow ourselves to be inspired.
While looking at the trees, I was reminded of some that I used to see in the mornings on the way to school when I was in college. It was a mixture of cherry blossoms and some trees I didn’t recognize. But when the light would hit them, they would glow. And it always put me in a better mood. When we let things in and we let them inspire us, even the smallest things like the glowing leaves, it has the capacity to shift our moods. We start focusing on that feeling of inspiration of happiness, and the other frustrations, like that of getting up and going to class!
Sometimes it’s easy to lose track of just how much the little things (or the way we perceive them) in life do affect us. Those things that we take in or that we disregard are the little triggers for our mood. They have the ability make us smile or leave us anxious or upset. We take in so much information a day. It’s coming at us in every form and from every direction. What is it that we choose to focus on and why? When we start looking at the things we do, even down to the smallest things, like what we opt to filter out, we get to a point where we can ask the pivotal question of why? Why do we ignore some things and not others? Why do we focus on some things as opposed to others? Part of the answer is that we have to. We have to focus in one direction and not another. We can’t absorb everything. We would overload. We would have no course of action, because we’d simply spend all of our time trying to sort out what we are taking in with each step. This means that our steps are directed, and they are somewhat directed by the things we’ve chosen to take in. The things we choose to acknowledge. And that means the path that we are going down is dependent upon what we have chosen to give our attention to. When we give our attention to boredom or frustration that’s where our path leads. Yet, if we take the time to shift our attention just briefly and look for something inspiring and let it in, no matter how small, we’ve shifted our path. And even the slightest shifts can make a big difference. Especially if we opt to repeat them. We can change our course if we don’t like what we see doing the tiniest of things, just like this. And when I get into those slumps where things are just overwhelmed and frustrating and I find those moments where I have the chance to be inspired, I try to take them. Because looking for inspiration allows us to find it. And it can help lead us to a brighter path.
(As a sidenote we are back from the doctor, and they think it’s just a virus, but his temp keeps jumping up. It’s 103.5 right now an hour after Tylenol, so any well wishes are appreciated!!)
As another addendum:
I received the Regeneration Award from http://thelastsongiheard.wordpress.com/regenerations/.
I just wanted to say thank you, and if you like music, you should check out his blog, it’s got a unique theme and it’s an interesting read.
And I wanted to say that I nominated http://hometogo232.wordpress.com/ for the award also, because she, too, has a very compelling blog and life’s journey that she shares.
As for the questions asked:
Who are you? I’m Lauren…
Are you happy? Yes, I am!
If you could change just one thing about yourself, right now, to make your life better, what would it be? I just want to keep growing and becoming the person I want to be.
Who, or what, inspires you? This is an ironic question considering my topic for today… so the things I mentioned in the blog and outside of my family and friends I would pick music. Music in general inspires me. I love music. It makes me happy.
So thanks again!
We all have gifts and talents, things that just flow for us. We all have a tendency towards some of these things more than others. We have strengths that we can use to further where we are to go in life. When we use the gifts that we have, it creates a relief and a reinforcement of positive worth within us. In most cases we like the gifts that we have, whether they are playing sports or instruments, organizing, writing, painting, managing, planning, or interacting with others. We tend to have a number of these different talents, and when we figure out ways to utilize them both in our work and in our free time, we have a tendency to enjoy our time much more.
It is commonly reported that people who report the lowest amount of stress and highest amount of enjoyment out of their jobs are people who work in helping professions. When we use our gifts to help others, we feel good about ourselves and about what we do. When we use our talents to inspire others, we make a difference in their lives. Many times we overlook the power that we have simply by being here and doing our best. When we see each other trying, working hard, going out on a limb following our dreams and using our talents, then we are able to find hope that the same possibility lies within us.
It doesn’t necessarily feel like we are doing something worthwhile just by doing the things we love to do, but when we work on our talents and grow them people take note. We look at the people we admire and wish we had the courage to do what they do. We want to believe that we are worthy of the opportunity and that we are worthy and capable of taking it. It’s so easy to gloss over using what we love in our lives. By teaching a child to play basketball, by making up creative stories with him, by sharing artwork we’ve created with others, by sewing an outfit for a child or a friend, by teaching someone how to cook, by teaching organizational skills and patience, we are contributing to the well-being of others. We are helping in a meaningful, one of the most meaningful ways that we can.
It doesn’t always feel like it, especially if we are just going through the motions, but when we work through those issues we find that we really are spending our time doing something worthwhile. We are using our gifts to help others. We are using our talents to inspire. We are engaging in what we were put here to do. We spread creativity and love by helping others using the gifts we’ve been given. We aren’t being someone else. We are being who we are at our core.
When we realize the impact we have on an everyday basis, we can put ourselves in a position to use what we have within us to enhance the lives of those around us. When we see that something we did makes even the smallest impact, our self-worth starts to grow. We feel good about ourselves, even though sometimes we turn right around and write it all off. But no matter how much we try, we cannot take away the fact that we did the right thing. We did something good. And we were worthy of doing it. And if we are willing to let it, that impact that we have both on ourselves and others can help initiate change towards the positive side of self-worth. We can choose love again, and let it grow. Once we do we begin to expand ourselves and walk a little bit closer to the person we want to be.
Today has been incredibly hectic, with lots of news (good and bad). So I almost forgot to write. And then I started thinking about “being silent” on my blog today, and I decided that was what I would post about: silence.
My friends find it funny, because I will happily sit in silence when I don’t know what to say. I’m not a space filler. I think that’s part of what worked for me whenever people came to me for help. I was able to sit and listen. And when they thought they were done, I’d sit in silence, and they’d find more to say.
When we have to fill the silence in our lives it can get a bit difficult. Silence has a way of being therapeutic I find. It is an emptiness that allows us to fill it. We can breathe in it if we step back and look. Instead of being scared or uncomfortable in it, simply because there is someone else around, we can treat it the way we treat it when we are alone. Most people find that they can’t think well, unless there is silence. I know sometimes we need the noise. Sometimes silence is way too loud. But it’s in those good moments, where there is just you, you can connect and be at peace. So I decided what I would say tonight, was to remember the importance of silence. The many ways (far beyond the ones I am posting here) that it can be used. Find time for that comfort, and see what finds you.
As an addendum, I also wanted to thank Patti Clark and Diane for nominating me for these awards. I am going to say that even though I tried to copy and paste them as the instructions said (I have tried for a few days now), but technology hates me, and it did not work. That being said, I do love their blogs, and you should check them out. They both have wonderful stories.
Patti Clark: http://patticlark.wordpress.com
Thank you again, ladies for being so thoughtful! J