New Thoughts for the New Year

There is so much good writing out there, and it seems like everyone was inspired to write at the end of the year. Here are some excerpts from some of the favorite posts I read.

Life Isn’t a Calendar, by Jenna McGuiggan, a writer, editor, and creativity coach. You can find her over at The Word Cellar.

The calendar days are tidy squares lined up in orderly rows, everything numbered to provide a false sense of linearity. It tricks us into thinking life is this way. Choose a word, set an intention, make a goal. Move forward, declare DSC_0044accomplishment. Make another list and tick it off step-by-step. But life is not a calendar or a list or a ladder you can climb rung-by-rung. Life is the ebb and flow of ocean tides, the sunlight and dappled shadow of forest paths, the contrast of white snow on evergreen boughs. Life is the overcast sky of winter that blurs the line between day and night, and the long June days when golden light seeps well into the night. Life is now. It’s the driveway that needs shoveling, the dishes that need washing. It’s the candles you light, the books you read, the tea you drink, the people you kiss. It’s the lists you make and the ones you forget. One step forward, two steps back, and three to the side for good measure.

In three days I’ll turn the page to another year, but I’ll know that this is just one way of keeping time. There are other ways to make sense of things, to pay attention to what matters.

The Art of Letting Go, by Lisa Lorden Myers, an author and fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue sufferer who works passionately to help others cope with chronic illness.

It’s funny how determination and will power can be so difficult to apply to the goal of doing less, instead of doing more.  We may know how to commit ourselves to goals and work to achieve them, but can we have similar determination to rest and to heal?  Can our will power be devoted to “letting go”?  Perhaps the New Year is a time to re-focus ourselves less on doing, and more onbeing.

Healing requires no resolutions—it requires only that we live each day the best way we know how, listening to our bodies, and nurturing our souls.

The Top Ten Resolutions Nobody Will Keep from Toni Bernard, author of How to Be Sick and Psychology Today blogger.

Every year I torture myself by making New Year’s Resolutions that I don’t keep. So, as a public service, in order to save you the trouble of letting yourself down yet again, I offer the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions that Nobody Will Keep:

(she lists 10, so be sure and read the whole article, but my personal favorite is #9)

Number 9: I will maintain a positive attitude.

I learned from another Psychology Today writer that this is known in the therapeutic trade (of which I’m not a member) as “the tyranny of positive thinking.” Hurray! It’s okay not to always be positive. I think I’ll toss this resolution out straight away.

I had the privilege of interviewing Toni last year. You can read it here.

Rilke Always Says It Best, posted on Barbara Storey’s blog, Storeylines: One Person, Many Lives

And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious and great things.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

I hope the first week of 2013 treated you well!

Owning Our Story

These are some notes I jotted down while listening to an interview with Brene´ Brown, which was a part of the Alchemy writing class I took a few months ago. This post has been in my “drafts” waiting to be developed/polished, but I think I’ll just post it as is. #nomoreperfectionism

  • We are hard-wired for story…it is all the way down to a neurological, biological, cellular level.We desire connection to others by telling our stories, but we’re afraid, as well.
  • When you care about telling your true story, you leave yourself vulnerable. But the minute you stop caring about what other people think is the minute you lose your capacity for connection.
  • When Brene´ sits down to write or prepare for a talk, it is still hard for her. The anxiety and fear are still there, but she does it anyway. She says people think she has everything figured out, but she doesn’t.  She still struggles with being vulnerable. She still struggles with perfectionism.
  • She was given the message: don’t share too much about yourself; it’s not professional.
  • When she gives talks about her research, the thing people want to hear are the stories. They don’t care about the statistics or the graphs.
  • Her goal when writing is to tell the truth and walk away feeling proud of what she wrote. She cannot control the outcome. Whether it’s a blog post or a book, she can’t control the comments, the views, the sales, the reactions. You press publish, you put it out there, and you go from there.

Brene´ has a new book coming out, Daring Greatly, and you can preorder it from her website and get special “party favors” along with it. Who doesn’t love party favors?

The Grass Grows Where You Water It

I saw this saying, “The grass grows where you water it,” and it speaks to how I’m feeling today.

It’s May 1st, and I usually would have already had my monthly goals mapped out in my mind (and on paper). But not this month. I’ve been busy living, so that’s a good thing! I’m loving my writing class, and I’ve chosen to spend my extra time soaking up all that goodness. I also went on a blogging binge last week and posted something Monday through Friday. Whew!

But (I know, there shouldn’t always be a but)…I’m having trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time. In February, I did great when I followed Sharon Salzberg’s 28-day meditation challenge. In March, I focused more on my physical health, managing my chronic pain, and have made some significant diet changes (you know, I reluctantly joined the free-range chicken/organic produce/supplement-popping club). In April, I immersed myself in the Alchemy writing class. In the meantime, I’ve let the meditation slide, although I’m managing to keep the dietary changes intact. I’ve found that when I focus my attention, I’m quite capable of making changes in my life. Yet I have trouble maintaining the changes, especially while trying to introduce new things, as well.

photo by Omega Man, Flickr CC

Does anyone know how to keep everything going?  I think I need one of those really long soaker hoses, so I can keep everything watered at once.

Although I don’t have my May goals to share with you, I want to tell you this. I’m being much more self-compassionate.  I sensed it and felt it, but I wanted proof. I retook the self-compassion test and compared it to the results when I began this project (you can find the test here). My scores show I’ve made significant strides in each of the areas measured. I’m really grateful and excited about that!

I’m not even too worried about not having any formal goals this month. I’ll probably start meditating again, because as Sharon Salzberg says, you can always begin again. I don’t even feel guilty (HUGE change) for not meditating. That’s just the way it’s happened. I’ll keep working on my health and exploring ways to manage my pain. I’ll definitely keep writing. And a huge thank you to everyone who keeps reading The Self-Compassion Project. Happy May Day!

photo by Greg Markway

There’s Always More to Say

I highly recommend this course!

I’m taking an online writing class called Alchemy: The Art and Craft of Writing. The course is full of juicy stuff, but today I’m going to share what I wrote in response to a “writing prompt” (you write anything in response to a phrase provided by the teacher). The best part comes at the end with my teacher’s comments.

The prompt:What I want to say…

What I want to say is that I’m sad for myself how I turn something that was supposed to be “for me” (this writing class) into something that’s not fun (Oh yeah, why am I surprised? I’m the person who skipped the chapter on fun in The Happiness Project…) As I was reading part of the lesson this afternoon, I began to cry. (Again, why does this surprise me? I seem to have no shortage of tears.) My thoughts go like this: Why am I even taking this class? There is already so much great writing out there. The world doesn’t need another blog, or even another book. We’re already on information overload. Everything I might say has probably been said before.  I can argue with myself as I’m writing this, but the fact is, my initial reaction to many things is one of pessimism, of defeat. It’s always one of why I shouldn’t be doing something. I shouldn’t be taking this class because it’s frivolous. I shouldn’t be typing at the computer when it increases my pain level. I should be making dinner for my husband who works full-time and provides us health insurance. I should be getting more out of the class. I’m not putting enough into it. I should be commenting on other people’s writing more. This is B.S. (I don’t really cuss, but maybe I’ll start someday). I don’t really think these things are true. It’s just so automatic to go down this path. The grooves in my brain are deep. In a second I go from a cheery, “Oh, I’ll look at the computer to see what’s going on with my writing course today” to a tearful “I’m no good. I’m in pain. I shouldn’t be doing this right now.” No wonder the last therapist I saw asked me in the first ten minutes why I wasn’t on a mood stabilizer! Interesting how this week is on Using Your Voice and I’m trying to silence mine. I’m going to post this now without editing or looking back, but I think (No, I know) there’s more to be said.

My teacher, Jenna McGuiggan, wrote this in response: 

Barb, well I do cuss, so let me help you out for a minute: BULL SHIT to those naysayer gremlins in your head! (I’m really truly hoping you laugh here and are not offended.)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings here. I understand so very well the feeling of defeat that there’s nothing new under the sun. (Even the author of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible was bemoaning that fact!) And yet… there is only one of me. And only one of you. And no one sees the world like I do, or like you do. People don’t stop reading books or essays or blog posts, even if it’s all been said before in one way or another. And we shouldn’t stop writing, because until we write it, it hasn’t been said by us, in our unique way. Besides, writing is for you as much as for other people. I want people to read what I write, and I hope that they like it or are touched by it in some way, but I’ll always write, even if no one reads it. I write because it’s how I make sense of the world. I write because it makes me feel whole and more solid. I write because there is pleasure in having written.

May you acknowledge your pain and fear and doubt, and may you find a way to move alongside it, through it, and past it. I know you can.