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Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

Aging Gracefully With Gratitude

Selling Their Wares By Making Us Feel Ugly

Turn on the computer or the TV, listen to the radio, open a magazine, even see a passing bus, and many carry the same message: “We know you’re embarrassed by the normal signs of aging on your body and face. We’ll sell you a product or service to erase those signs and let you live a happier life.”

It begs the question: Why should my perfectly normal signs of aging make me unhappy? We should be looking on those imperfections; those signs we’ve used our faces, our bodies, our hearts as indications of a life well-lived.

Yet too many people buy into this crap. I have countless friends who, though the weather might hit triple digits and like me, don’t let a little heat keep them from dancing, are miserable in their long pants because they claim to have ugly legs. Most of them, just from what I see inside those hot, confining pants have perfectly nice legs. They’ll say “I’m not like you. You have beautiful legs. Mine are {fill in the blank with: fat, crepe-y, vein-y, cellulose-y, or other body shaming adjective}.”

Good grief! In the first place, it’s a bar so the lighting is low. In the second, if they could see all the flaws I carry proudly and without shame, maybe they’d be kinder to themselves…or maybe they wouldn’t. They’ve conditioned to believe they’re supposed to hide their imperfections.

It makes me sad to see and hear that, but even more when it’s perpetuated by other women (I refer to the self-professed beauty consultant who was quite offended I didn’t take her advice to cover up my own, in her words, awful legs). We should be each others’ best friends and staunchest supporters. Instead we are often the first to put another woman down.

Wearing the Signs of Aging Proudly

Worse still are all the women who are behind these purported miracle creams to erase everything from age spots and unwanted hair to cellulite and crepe-y skin. They should be ashamed of themselves for making their sisters feel bad about themselves in the first place.

Those age spots they want to erase are badges of honor for a life well-lived. Creases in face, neck, hands, and chest celebrate a woman who has ridden the waves of life supporting her family and friends with love and compassion. The gray in her hair is the thousands of hours she sat up waiting for a child to come home, a diagnosis to come in, or simply holding the hand of someone so they would feel less alone and scared. And the crepe-y skin is a woman who had more on her mind and in her heart than remembering to apply moisturizer every 5 minutes. She was too busy seeing to the needs of the people in her life she loved, and continues to love.

We don’t need magic potions or pills to change who we are—what we’ve become with time. If you ask me, we need to wear it all proudly, and be grateful for every minute we get to wear it. Too many are gone long before such imperfections begin to appear.

I continue to applaud the young people I see who let no one tell them they’re too fat or too thin, too short or too tall to wear the clothing of their choice. But more, I give credit to their friends who don’t need to resort to shaming another to feel better about themselves. I’m far less impressed with the ones who walk around with others with similar body shapes, all dressed alike. Sadly, they’re the target market of the future for an industry which wants us to believe our differences are flaws.

Lotions and Potions and Gadgets, Oh My!

I’ve been watching Hallmark movies late into the night more often than I want to admit lately. The commercials get worse and longer late at night when only night owls and sleepless tune in. Maybe they think we’re more susceptible to the gold-plated thingamjig that gently removes hair, or the miracle cream that makes you look younger. I wonder how many of those doohickeys that hold your earrings up higher are sold during the wee hours?

I get it that companies spend massive R & D and marketing budgets creating a need where there wasn’t one. I understand that someone somewhere thought some of these things were actually a problem, even though no one ever noticed until they created a solution and started their marketing campaign.

I also wonder how many products like these were total flops. How many manufactured needs never caught on? How far would they go, not only to insult our perfectly wonderful bodies but our intelligence to make a sale?

One Industry Breaks Us So Another Can Fix Us

Is it any wonder one of the most visible markets these days is the one dealing with giving people back their self-esteem? The advertising industry has normalized insulting and shaming people who don’t match their idea of perfection (usually anything that makes people want to fix the imperfection enough to buy their product). It seems that one industry wreaks havoc, giving rise to another claiming they can repair the damage. Don’t get me wrong. Some who promise to teach self-respect and a positive self-image do deliver on their promises.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest all the money spent to break, then fix women into a fund to teach girls from early childhood that being different is an asset, not a liability? That being their beautiful, wonderful, unique selves is the best thing ever instead of pushing them towards the “next best thing” to fix what was never broken in the first place.

Perfection is a Killer

Too many women of my generation and earlier pushed themselves to be perfect, and suffered greatly from the frustration of setting themselves an impossible goal. My own mother thought she had to be the perfect hostess, the perfect cook, perfectly groomed, the perfect guest…I could go on. Sadly, even if others told her she did something perfectly, in her own mind there were always flaws. She always fell short of her own expectations. To my knowledge, the only thing she found even the slightest joy in was her grandkids, and any imperfections she saw there were clearly my fault. Somehow, I think she’d eventually take that upon herself as well.

As a writer, I’ve seen many get stuck in an endless loop of editing while they’re still trying to get the story out. I’ve seen others who do manage to get the story out, but edit 100’s of times searching for an elusive perfection they’ll never find.

In writing and in life, we need to realize that perfection does not exist, and that being able to accept good enough is perfection in itself. It allows us to move past our stuckness to go on and achieve even greater things.

That would make a wonderful mantra if you ask me.  “I am forever and always good enough.”

Healing With Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my spots, lumps, gray hairs, and all the imperfections that show I’ve lived my life instead of trying to be perfect.
  2. I am grateful for friends to laugh with, cry with, and live life to the fullest with.
  3. I am grateful for dancing. It keeps me young, healthy, and mentally sharp. It gets me out of the house regularly, and among wonderful, heartfelt people.
  4. I am grateful for my quiet house in the morning, and cats who sit on the alarm clock so I sleep later than intended.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, life, friendship, coffee, music, sharing, caring, the energy to enjoy it all, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

When Some of Life’s Dances Have Steps That Elude Us

Holes and Boulders

Meditations in my house are typically a family affair but some days are more communal than others. When Munchkin lays across my shoulder with her head near my ear, purring as if her life depends on it, while Dylan lays on the arm of the sofa, curled in the crook of my elbow, I know the visuals will be more vivid and the messages, more clear.

Such was the scenario for a recent meditation. With my focus more on Munchkin’s soothing purr than the meditation music I grabbed from YouTube, I did a little mental inventory. What I discovered was a bit disturbing.

My heart felt like there was a huge area where nothing penetrated, but nothing came out either—almost a physical void where a piece of my heart was gone, or maybe never really existed. But it wasn’t just my heart. I felt a weight the size of a small boulder in my stomach. And yet, as far as I knew, there was nothing wrong. Never mind the migraine that started shortly after I woke up.

Allowing the Answers to Come as They Will

Since it was a meditation, I gave up any effort I might have made to indulge in self analysis, and simply allowed myself to sink into Munchkin’s purr and let the answers come of their own volition and in their own time. I didn’t have long to wait.

I allowed myself to feel the loneliness and to let the reasons slowly coalesce. I felt the sense, first, of something lost, but soon, I realized it was something I never really had. Like most people, I have my own dream of a perfect life, though since I spent so many years believing myself unworthy, I’d convinced myself at the same time I didn’t deserve the perfect life I envisioned. Of course, reality and expectation came together with uncanny accuracy.

The trouble is, I no longer believe I’m unworthy (OK, at least I don’t most of the time), and though some aspects of that perfection were lost with my youth, I realize on a rational level that, as the saying goes, I ain’t dead yet, and there’s still time to attract aspects of the old and never quite forgotten dreams.

Old Baggage Can Lead Us Astray

But I’m manifesting that belief in potentially unhealthy ways. I realized today I’ve become, on a subconscious level almost desperate to receive the love and cherishing I see so many of my friends enjoying. Perhaps it’s a double-edged sword to now have a social circle of loving, giving people who are in the kind of relationships I will admit I want for myself when I’m not in my favorite home away from home, the State of Denial.

The result is that my sensitivities are like a nest full of baby birds when mom arrives with a freshly chewed worm, but I react, not to food but to a little attention from the male of the species. Somehow, my heart and brain get all tangled up and look for reasons to believe the attention is more than it is, or that I’m getting a little more from the gentleman in question than the plethora of single women in the vicinity.

The Epic Battle Between Heart vs. Head

Needless to say, I have a near-constant internal battle going on. Picture Dr. Doolittle’s Push Me-Pull You as the battle between my heart and head, each one trying to control which direction my entire self goes. If you consider all the times I’ve been oblivious when someone really was more than superficially interested and I failed to give the right signs which would have indicated mutual interest, you can see what a convoluted mess I put myself in. And why my heart feels like half of it is a black hole and my gut feels like I’ve swallowed a brick whole.

The truth is, even if a guy was to show an interest, it would have to be so blatantly obvious, the entire world could see it before it would get through my dysfunctional brain and register a need for me to give some kind of affirmative response. Needless to say, there may or may not be at least a couple who turned their attentions elsewhere because I failed to follow the steps of the one dance I never managed to learn.

Friends Just Want Friends to be Happy

Another down-side to having so many happily coupled friends is they have a tendency to want all of their friends to be as happy and cherished as they are. Too often, my well-meaning friends will try to convince me that someone is more than casually interested. I’ll start paying closer attention to my interactions with said male, only to realize that both I and my friend were seeing something we wanted to see, and not what was really there.

To top it off, I’m beginning to believe despite my observations that men are dating women 20 years their junior, looking 15-20 years younger isn’t the same thing. All too often, I’m feeling like I get written off because someone thinks I’m in my 40’s. Good grief! Can’t ya cut a girl a break? I used to believe my daughter was just being sweet, but lately, others have made the same mistake, with one person telling me I didn’t have the hands of a 60-year-old. (insert huge, heartfelt sigh)

I’ve Been Lonely So Long

I never thought I’d see the day I’d say, much less type these words, but the truth is, I’m tired of always being alone. I’d love to have someone to spend a rainy Friday night with, curled on the sofa talking, or reading, or watching something mindless on TV. I won’t go so far as to say I could handle having someone with me all the time, but a couple of nights a week and someone I could count on for more than the occasional dance would be nice.

Of course, this could be my personal version of a mid-life crisis, typically later than normal as everything I do seems to be. It could be too many Hallmark movies, or too many misconstrued acts of simple kindness. I don’t really know any more. Perhaps it’s something women of a certain age go through when they’ve been alone for too many years.

Using the Energy of Frustration Towards the Greater Good

Whatever the reason, I know I need to find something or someone to fill up that empty place in my heart. I thought my resident felines were enough, but even there, I’ve been deluding myself, and they’ve probably known it all along. I also know the best way to fill the hole is by giving of myself, and that route is far less open to interpretation than areas where my perceptions are more than slightly askew.

In my usual convoluted and misdirected fashion, I seem to have hit on the solution to the problems with my heart and gut. My gut still says it isn’t what it wants (funny, as you’d think my heart would weigh in, yet it’s unnaturally silent), but since neither of us has a clue as to where to find help lifting off the brick that seems to have settled in for a long winter’s nap, finding someone or something who could use an extra pair of hands will fill the space for now. I’m open to suggestions, but of course, would prefer it to be something in my geographical area and not affiliated with any religious organization or purpose.

Finding the Rule Book Everyone’s Read, but Nobody Has

Am I truly alone in this? Do others find they just don’t know how to play those interpersonal games? Have others, as I have, failed to learn the rules of the game, or even lack a desire to play games with their heart in the first place? So many times, I wish I had the ingenuousness of a 5-year-old who would simply say: “Hi. I like you. Wanna play?”

Can you imagine how many would run screaming in the other direction if I did that? It would break every rule in the handbook of interpersonal skills that is probably one of the rare books which never made it into my extensive personal library.

Gettin’ By

For now, you can find me at the dance hall a couple of nights a week, the gym, my requisite 3 days, and perhaps feeding the homeless, or filling boxes for our military personnel far away from home. And writing little ditties like this one twice a week, hoping to help someone else feel less alone as they meander through life without an instruction manual or even a map to alert them to upcoming land mines.

One thing I have found as I stumble and fumble is we are not meant to be alone, and though we might not find “the one” right away, or even in this lifetime, there are always people around who love us and care about us. We just have to crawl out of our cocoons once in a while and look around, feel the sunshine on our faces, and spread those beautiful butterfly wings we grew while hiding out for so long.

Remembering My Unlimited Supply of Blessings

And of course, find things large and small to be grateful for:

  1. I am grateful for the people who allow me to touch their lives with my stumbles and fumbles.
  2. I am grateful for my cats who are snuggly, demanding, and sometimes ornery.
  3. I am grateful for my daughter who keeps me connected to the world even when I don’t come outside for days on end. She reminds me there are frustrations, but also causes for joy and amusement.
  4. I am grateful for the writing and the people I get to meet because of it. There’s an entire world of people out there with incredible imaginations, who are caring, accepting, and understanding of some of my struggles.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, inspiration, motivation, health, sanity (at least some of the time), energy, spirit, blessings, prosperity, goals, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghostwriting to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Procrastination and De-Cluttering: Two Sides of the Same Coin

12 Steps to End Procrastination

My name is Sheri and I’m a procrastinator.

There should be a 12-step program for procrastinators, but I’m sure the main reason it doesn’t exist is because we’d put off going to the meetings, or even scheduling them in the first place.

I’ve been putting off starting the re-write of Forgotten Victims since I got back from the writers’ conference over a week ago. Yes, I got the new first chapter written, but diving in and re-writing the rest was as daunting as de-cluttering the house of a hoarder (which I was at once time, though not to the degree of the ones you see on TV). I looked at the overwhelming task of re-writing over 71,000 words and simply froze. I didn’t know where to start! Despite the hours spent creating a timeline of significant events, I couldn’t find my starting point.

I lost sight of the advice I freely give to anyone wanting to clear out a room, a garage, or a house: pick a spot and start.

Finding Help in Unexpected Places

Fortunately, I signed up for a session with someone in one of my Facebook groups. She challenged me to devote 15-20 minutes a day to working on the re-write, and 15-20 minutes to researching publishing options and requirements. So far today, I’ve spent close to 4 hours between them. Why? Because I rarely back down from a reasonable challenge (bungee jumping is not something I consider reasonable, so don’t even ask!), and the truth is, this one is a win-win for me. Also, I’ve learned my problem isn’t following through. It’s getting started in the first place.

This little exercise in getting off my butt reminds me how much I need an accountability partner who will not only kick me into high gear when I need it, but will read the pages I churn out and help me see what I still need to fix.

Learning to Overcome the Costs of Procrastination

Yet procrastination costs so much in the long-run. And bringing procrastination to an end feels so darn good! It’s like going to the gym regularly. I have to push myself to do it, but I’m so glad when I do! Who’d have thought I’d come to appreciate a nag, both internal and external?

Over time, I’ve learned to set myself achievable goals and to stick with them until I form a habit. Yet, even there, I am easily thrown off track. Take my thrice-weekly gym routine which I’d thought was well-cemented last year. It only took a couple of weeks of curve-balls to kill that hard-earned habit. I’m still trying to get it back in place, but oversleeping, or client work I simply need to finish, or excessive wind…you name it, I’ll use it as an excuse to miss another day at the gym. Of course, I then perform the requisite self-flagellation for failing myself yet again. It’s rather a vicious cycle, really.

Procrastination’s Vicious Cycle

Do all procrastinators do as I do? Procrastinate—Let Ourselves Down—Castigate ourselves, repeat as necessary? Or do they procrastinate until the last possible moment, then practically kill themselves to achieve the stated goal? Or are we a combination of the two, depending on the circumstances?

I’ve learned over time that if the beneficiary of my actions is someone else, I’m more likely to push past my tendency to procrastinate and deliver on time, or, more often, early. But when it comes to myself, I can make excuses forever and a day why I can’t even start working on something which is clearly for my own benefit. Even things like Forgotten Victims which many have assured me will, as I hope, help a lot of other people. Although I will always believe the 9 years it took to write the draft were both right and necessary, I cannot, in this Universe or any other, justify it taking that long, or even more than a couple of months, to re-write it and get it ready for editing and ultimately, publishing.

Getting to the Root of the Matter

It occurs to me that because procrastination is selective, it might behoove me to get to the root of why I procrastinate over one task and not another. Though the beneficiary is certainly one factor, I suspect there are others as well.

Yet, I even find myself procrastinating over getting client work done at times, though it’s always done before the end of the month. Again, once I start, I’ll work steadily for however many hours it takes, or until I hit a point where I need more information before I can go further. But there is a clear deadline, even if it’s just in my mind. My current clients are typically lenient about when they see their monthly reports. I’m the one who insists on providing them on a regular, predictable schedule. Old habits die hard.

Routines, Schedules, and Expectations

I also believe keeping myself on a somewhat regular monthly schedule for them allows space for more. I know when I need to start working on their books each month, and which weeks will be heavier or lighter as a result. Conversely, I know which weeks I can devote to my writing, which turn out to be the weeks my tendency to procrastinate is at its highest. Knowing someone is going to check in with me in a week to see if I’ve followed the schedule she set me for re-writing and researching is turning out to be very helpful.

I’ll admit, last night I was working until about 9:30 because I’d put it off for most of the day. Granted, I was doing client work, and warding off what would have been a debilitating migraine (thank goodness for early warnings) so procrastinating was situational rather than deliberate. Once I did sit down to fulfill those external expectations, I, as usual, got into the task and was hard-pressed to stop. I guess that’s why NaNo works so well for me. Once I start writing and working to achieve the 1600-word-per-day requirement, I’ve been known to write for as long as 5 hours at a stretch, and churning out anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 words.

I also found through experience that setting specific times to do the writing helped, but then, having a day job limited my choices and forced me to get up and moving earlier in the day, even when I was up writing until 2 or 3AM. With my looser schedule, the alarm is either not set at all, or subject to many whacks of the snooze button. Still, my days of sleeping until after 10 are long gone. These days, I’m consistently up between 8 and 9:15, with or without the alarm. Another habit I’ve worked to form.

Learning to Outwit Ourselves

In short, I believe the key to outwitting our natural propensity for procrastination depends on several factors:

  1. Who we are serving.
  2. Accountability.
  3. Outside influences (like migraines or other things which make us unable or unwilling to work).
  4. Perceived importance of the task at hand.
  5. Getting started.

The last is probably the key to the whole package. Putting off getting started has extended the duration of just about every task I’ve set for myself. When I get past that single sticking point, I’m often a bulldog with a bone. I don’t let go, even to eat until I’ve made what I’d consider reasonable progress. I know that last part sounds a bit bizarre, but when I’m in “the zone” it’s all I can do to remember to drink water. In fact, I’ve learned to fill my 40-ounce water bottle and put it on the desk before I start. Otherwise, I get that irritating cotton-mouth feeling in the middle of my best flow of ideas, and there’s no way I’d stop for something as trivial as filling the bottle.

Heading Our Excuses Off at the Pass

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/26362491806/in/photolist-857d63-7jecuc-4EKXjp-d1fXnd-dGxXva-CWZ3qm-pEtDtE-3LiJjP-UaGqaP-U4nkQR-pRhHt6-bGpmxT-cYxRaG-9o9aCf-ebCGqX-5i8fuy-84yuGJ-etwRi8-FFKb5u-4G5gCd-awsadF-9pfapc-hsE8Ey-qQun96-5JpNWp-HP9Nyr-BGZwA9-6Ls9DX-TsKYM9-hxME-SsNQJ8-6tki6x-xyvfhG-GayEmN-ytRii1-s5DRhg-ndkt2wIf you’ve ever been hammered by a migraine, you know dehydration is one of the worst culprits. And nothing pisses me off when I’m in the zone more than to have to stop because my vision is going squirrelly and I’m in danger of being sidelined by a headache that makes labor pains feel like a slight tummy ache. So I keep the bottle full and my body happy, even if it means halting the creative flow for a bit, hoping it won’t come to a screeching, grinding halt in the time it takes me to fill said bottle again.

Looking back at this post, I see I’ve done it yet again. I’ve broken away from my tendency to procrastinate, and written for longer than I’d intended (both time-wise and word count). Now it’s your turn. What makes you procrastinate, and how do you make it stop? What are your triggers, and your releases? Are some tasks easier to put off than others? Do you value your own time and needs as much as you do those of others? (your boss and co-workers, family, friends, strangers) Please share your thoughts in the comments. They will be extremely valuable to your fellow procrastinators who are always looking for ways to outsmart ourselves.

What’s a Post Without Gratitude?

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to be continuing my blog posting schedule, even if some go up later on the designated day than I’d like.
  2. I am grateful for a schedule that is filling up with people, places, and things which take me out of myself-imposed hermit hole.
  3. I am grateful for friends and acquaintances who give me reason to finish what I started, encouragement, and even motivation.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to hyper-focus once I actually start a task. I lose hours at a time while accomplishing so much.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friends, family, opportunities, encouragement, love, joy, my expanding network (thank you, #SCWC), motivation, inspiration, frustration because it kicks me out of the depths of ennui, peace, harmony, and even righteous indignation. For health, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Keeping Hope Alive

Hope Will Always Spring Eternal

This week I was reminded of the power of hope. So many times in my life when things looked bleak, a tiny spark of hope kept me putting one foot in front of the other. So many times, my efforts seemed futile, but a single glimmer, a slim possibility of success kept me soldiering on.

Many have written about the power of hope, and likely just as many have trashed the concept. Yet, how many achievements would not have occurred? How many obstacles would not have been overcome were it not for hope?

It’s interesting to me that both love and hope are often called blind. Yet, what are they but taking gigantic leaps of faith that all will turn out for the best? How often do we enter into either one with no idea of the outcome, and nothing but trust in ourselves, in circumstances, and even in someone else that the end result will be amazing?

Trust is an Action Word

Long ago, I put my trust in the Universe. It’s not that I stand around waiting for everything I want to land in my lap. Instead, I believe I will achieve my heart’s desires, and that in many cases, the results will be wonderful beyond my most outlandish imaginings. But I trust that opportunities to achieve those desires will appear when I’m ready for them, and it’s up to me to not only be alert and recognize them, but to also put in the effort to make the next opportunity manifest.

Some days, it’s difficult to continue to keep that spark of hope alive. Some days, the darkness creeps in and frankly, scares the crap out of me. But every time things are at their darkest, I get a flash of insight, or an image of things to come, reminding me that as long as I keep hope alive in my heart, I will somehow find a way to keep moving forward, to keep my head above the rising water of despair.

Sometimes, You Just Have to Let Go

Over the years, I’ve seen many things come and go; friendships, a marriage, relationships, jobs, lifestyles…but the endings have one thing in common. Every single one left me open to something far better. Granted, some of those better things took years to actually show up, and often I wandered down a lot of dead-end roads on the way there. But the Universe hasn’t let me down. Not once.

These days, I’m really being pressed to keep the hope alive, to remind myself that what I’m experiencing is part of a greater plan. It’s not always easy. I’ve pared my life down until I live more leanly than I have since the days of a handful of cashews and a glass of wine for dinner. Yet I’m more at peace than I ever was.

I’m able to start my day on my own terms, reading, writing, and exercising 3 times a week. My stories are being told, one page at a time. My circle of friends is growing and includes many who are teaching me more about being a patient and compassionate human being. And I have plenty of days when I have only the companionship of my cats which is a good thing. They are my peace when I’ve had too much humanity.

Taking Time to Get to Know Myself

In the 3 years or so that I’ve withdrawn from the day-to-day routine of the working class, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I know that I need a lot of time to decompress from contact with humanity, even when the energy is compatible with mine. I know I’m more effective when some of my life is conducted on a schedule even though I go nuts when I’m always at someone else’s beck and call. I’ve even learned how to put myself on a schedule which works for me and allows time for creativity, physical activity,  and mental clarity but still allows some flexibility when life takes a hard right turn.

However, if I’ve learned one thing about hope, it’s that you need to infuse it with at least a modicum of common sense. If someone says “the house is burning and you have to get out now”, you don’t plant yourself on the floor and hope somehow it’ll burn all around you and leave you unharmed.

The same is true for those pesky interpersonal relationships I’ve been avoiding for so long. When the signs, signals, and even words are telling you it’s not going to happen, you have to trust that too. All too often I’ve turned a deaf ear on the words and ultimately made a fool out of myself. This goes for the red flags too. Ignore them at your peril. My personal favorites are men who are too charming, and those who drink excessively. Call me hypersensitive, but if it takes a guy more than one beer to relax and enjoy dancing with the ladies, he’s someone I’d do well to avoid beyond the superficiality of an occasional dance partner.

Taking a Step Back to See Where Hope is Still Viable

When it comes to life and career, I can honestly say I’m not seeing red flags at this point, nor do I believe I’m ignoring any signs or signals telling me to turn back or get the hell out of this place I’m in. Instead, I’m getting some wonderful insight from many directions, a lot of encouragement to keep scribbling, and the same strong feeling I had 3 years ago that this is the direction my life needs to take. And of course, I’m getting the occasional nudge which leads to posts like this. And no small percentage of posts like this are finding their way in one form or another into Forgotten Victims.

Writing here has become my brain dump, my sounding board and my practice space. I put words together in different ways, eventually finding the combinations which feel most comfortable to me.

Remembering Always to be Grateful

Tonight’s gratitudes are:

  1. I am grateful for this outlet. Brain dumps are being elevated by sending them here.
  2. I am grateful for the choices I’ve made and the ones I’ve yet to make.
  3. I am grateful for the continuing inspiration triggered by diet, exercise, and an ever-expanding circle of friends and acquaintances.
  4. I am grateful for my time alone. It makes me appreciate the time spent with other people.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, love, inspiration, motivation, healthy habits, joy, hope, peace, harmony, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

The Damage We Do

Old Hurts Haunt Us

It recently came to my attention that several decades ago, I attacked a fellow Kindergartner with a block. The incident and its subsequent repercussions is irretrievable in my own memories, but I trust that the victim’s memory of it is true.

Flash forward a couple of years when we shared a classroom. The victim of my apparent kindergarten tantrum is again witness to my arrogance; this time in verbal form. As with the first incident, I have no memory of my declaration, but the source is a trusted one.

While I remember the people who attacked me both physically and verbally over the years, my memory of attacks I instigated in my early years is decidedly blank.

My point in all this is we remember getting hurt far better than we remember inflicting it. And whether the infliction was intentional or not, it leaves scars on the people to whom we do harm.

Learning as we Grow

As young children, we have no clue of the harm a misplaced word can do, but as we get older, we have our own experiences to draw on. Which leads me to the next encounter.

By coincidence our parents moved us out of the Valley and into an area with a smaller school district. So small, in fact, that there was only one middle school in this unincorporated area between the City of Los Angeles and the Ventura County line. Here I proved I hadn’t learned anything from the many unkind words and deeds hurled in my direction by children as clueless to the feelings of others as I.

I could have looked upon a familiar face from the old neighborhood with kindness and even welcome, but instead, followed the pattern which began with a wooden block, and threw yet another unkind word.

Over the years, I’ve learned many things, one of which is that I can’t undo the awful things I’ve done in the past, be it recent or distant. I can ask forgiveness of those I’ve hurt or offended, but most important, I can forgive myself.

It’s even more important to learn from those mistakes and pause before responding to something in anger. This is something I’m still working on.

Made Hard by Hurts is No Excuse

A few days ago, I re-posted this image as I thought it was a cute way to share my feelings on the onslaught of anger and ugliness to which Facebook has been subjected for the last year or better:

make-facebook-fun

Much to my amazement, the comment stream was soon filled with anger and vitriol, not all of it from others.

By the time the dust had settled, one person was angry enough to unfriend me, causing me to briefly understand the twisted logic of people who accuse the younger generation of being clueless.

Another didn’t understand why I deleted their comment and the stream which followed, though part of the reason for the deletion was my own failure to think before reacting.

We Only See What We Want to See

The uproar was inspired, not by the overall intention of this graphic, but by the one small blue box entreating people to refrain from hurling political bombs on the pages of social media. Some went so far as to accuse me of having my head in the sand because I refuse to be dragged into the hysteria currently making the media more political than social.

What they fail to see is how Social Media is simply a tool to drive the populace to hysteria and blow even the most normal things completely out of proportion to distract us from what’s really happening. In fact, it’s turning people against each other simply for disagreeing on something so mundane as whether or not to share and discuss every outrageous accusation against our new administration.

Certainly, some of what’s happening is both outrageous and unconscionable, but how can we really tell with all the propaganda that’s flying across our screens from any and all factions?

A Spark of Sanity, A Spark of Hope

Finally, one friend posted an article which reflects what I’ve been thinking, albeit from a far more knowledgeable base than mine. The article prompted me to actually subscribe to the Washington Post (which has, by the way, been mentioned as one of the publications which prides itself on reporting accurately. Which isn’t to say it’s unbiased, just that they report facts rather than hysteria).

The foregoing is simply a reminder that we are all in this together. We’re members of only one race, and that’s the Human one. We all came into this world the same way, and we’ll all go out of it in our time. We can either be loving and kind about it or we can be hateful and ugly. The choice is always ours.

As A Divine Being Living a Human Existence, It’s Up to Us to Evolve

As for me, I’m endeavoring to think before I act or speak, knowing my humanity will cause me to fail now and then. I’m willing to accept my imperfections. Most of all, I’ll be asking forgiveness when I do screw up and hurt someone.

Most of all, I’m working on stepping outside my comfort zone, and the first example of it is to reach out to people more often until I learn to do it naturally. It may seem easy to many, but as an introvert, it’s one of the most difficult things I can do.

What Are You Doing to Evolve?

So here’s my challenge to you: choose something that is very difficult for you and start working on doing it. Don’t expect huge successes at first, but instead, give yourself credit for those baby steps. In my opinion, they’re more important than the larger goals because they are the hardest ones to take.

If All Else Fails, Be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for friends with differing opinions, even if we clash now and then as a result.
  2. I am grateful for forgiveness. Without it, we’d just be one angry bunch of humans all the time.
  3. I am grateful for friendships both new and old. Like the song says: “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold”.
  4. I am grateful for the rain. I haven’t seen such green hillsides in ages, and it makes my heart smile.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: peace, love, understanding, forgiveness, friendship, dancing, cats, joy, philanthropy, harmony, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo Courtesy of Get Everwise via Flickr

1,000 Blessings

My Readers Are My Biggest Blessings

In the years I’ve written this blog (and I’m closing in on 8, for those who are wondering), I’ve received my share of feedback, both positive and negative. Thankfully, the negative has been small. The positive, on the other hand has been beyond my wildest expectations and occurs in many forms.

While a few actually leave comments here (and thank you so much for doing so!), more often, I get comments and shares in my social media accounts. But the best of all is when someone walks up to me and says something like “I’ve been reading your blog and it really touched me.”

To understand why this kind of feedback means so much to me, I need to take you back a few years to a time when I had about 20,000 words of Forgotten Victims drafted and, in fact, when the working title was Life After Suicide: Healing and Forgiving.

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

I’d reached a point where the words had stopped flowing and frustration had set in. I’d been writing regular posts in the Notes area of Facebook, but my propensity for long posts had me running out of room time and time again.

My daughter Heather (one of my two biggest champions, cheerleaders and butt kickers) suggested I start a blog, and, in fact, sat down with me at my computer and helped me set it up. After copying all of the Notes into a post, my journey began.

Now, nearly 8 years later, 3 blogging platforms, and well over 1,000 posts, I find encouragement and inspiration every day to keep writing what comes to mind from living my life with an open heart and a curious mind.

A Need for Purpose

The one thing I told myself back then was that if I touched a single life, gave one person a reason to think and to know they weren’t alone, I’d fulfilled my purpose which I did by baring my soul and sharing difficult experiences.

You, my readers, continue to ensure that I’ll keep writing, sharing, and baring with your constant reminders that I am, indeed bringing useful and needed information to you. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for the gifts you’ve given me.

Some might call this a need for validation, but to be honest, without the feedback, I’d still find a reason to write. Your comments are to me, more of a confirmation of my purpose; a reminder that despite the side trips, the worries and concerns, the uncertainty about my destination, I am going in the right direction.

Taking that Leap of Faith

The road we travel through life is never a straight shot. There are always detours along the way. In some cases, it’s merely sight-seeing,  in others, a time for us to learn something which will be useful further down the road.

Too often, we’re afraid to follow the unbroken path because it isn’t a sure bet. There are no guarantees it will bring us happiness and prosperity. We’re afraid to deviate from the “shoulds”.

That was me for many years. I went from one dead-end job to another, learning new skills along the way and exposing myself to situations which, all too often, were painful or uncomfortable. Even so, they were necessary. If nothing else, I learned that following a path drenched in responsibility was all well and fine when I was raising my daughters, but continuing to follow it once they were grown was killing me slowly from the inside out.

I knew I was meant for more, but was afraid to take the leap until the ladies in my healing class made me think long and hard about what I really wanted to be doing.

Following the Twisty, Turny Path to Personal Fulfillment

In the three years since I left the rat race, have I achieved the level of success I’d hoped for? No. Can I honestly say I’ve completed anything towards that dream? Again, I have to answer no, though I have several works in progress. But am I happier for it? Have I found success in the lives I’m touching, the purpose I’m fulfilling and the lessons I’m learning? Absolutely.

These days, nearly every day is a lesson. I’m watching and listening more and talking less. I’m studying whatever interests me or is affecting my life so I can both make positive changes in my life and share what I learn. I’ve been part of a critique group with many amazing people and writers who have taught me so much about writing in general and mine in particular.

Heart Lessons 101

Best of all, I’ve learned to let down my hair, both literally and figuratively. I’ve accepted that some people will dislike me on sight for reasons known only to themselves. Or they may come to dislike me after a few interactions. But I no longer let it bother me because I’ve learned it isn’t about me at all.

I myself may feel put off by someone on sight, and more often than not, it has something to do with an experience from my past. I’m having to learn to look carefully at why I’m put off by someone to see whether it’s them or me or a very real red flag I need to heed.

Life isn’t a popularity contest. She with the most “likes” doesn’t necessarily win (though I’m told it does help when you’re trying to establish yourself as an author). I believe we all have the capacity to do something meaningful, and frankly, size does not matter. Whether what you bring to the world is large or small, the important thing is that you bring it.

Helping Each Other Fulfill Our True Purposes

You’ve shown me I’m bringing something meaningful to at least a few people. You can do the same. What are you passionate about? What makes your heart sing? How can you use that to make a difference somehow? It could be art, science, technology, or simple human kindness. They’re all important. They’ll all foster positive changes.

Let me help you find your purpose as you’ve helped me find mine.

Gratitude Smooths the Way

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my readers and those who’ve taken the time to let me know who they are.
  2. I am grateful for the leap of faith I took 3 years ago, even if the results are not yet what I’d hoped for.
  3. I am grateful for the people who have encouraged me along the way; some with kindness and others with a boot to my stubborn butt. Whatever works!
  4. I am grateful for cold, rainy days. They turn the grass green and make the air smell sweet.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; readers, inspiration, motivation, aggravation, cheerleaders, butt kickers, random thoughts which become blog posts, love, friendship, people who love me, people who hate me, people who are ambivalent, sharing, caring, compassion, kindness, examples set by others, dreams, hopes, peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Could Inflammatory Foods Be Causing Your Joint Pain?

Pain: The Most Effective Universal Head Slap.

My post-Thanksgiving eating binges affected me in ways I should have foreseen, but didn’t. Sure, the leftover pie, cocoa and cranberry sauce put a few of the pounds I thought I’d left behind forever back on, but that was the least of my problems.

The knees which had been so cooperative in recent months; coincidentally since I cut out processed foods and sugar, started swelling painfully. When they also began to show signs of weakness, I knew it was time to get serious about my eating habits and cut out the inflammatory foods. The first to go was the sugar.

Since my memory isn’t what it used to be, I felt I needed some reminders about what other foods are inflammatory so I could limit or eliminate them as well. Sadly, the black forest ham I’ve been nibbling on or pairing with Swiss or pepper jack cheese had to go or be severely limited as well. As did the cheese.

Though my knees are still crying bitter tears by the time I climb into bed at night, they’re far happier than they were a few days ago.

How Do I Know What to Eat and What to Avoid?

Since I know I’m not alone in suffering the consequences of my less-than-perfect food choices, here’s a short list of foods to avoid if you suffer any symptoms of inflammation. These can be obvious like sore knees or tender sinuses, or a rash, or less obvious like some sort of unexplained internal discomfort or sluggishness.

These are some of the most common foods which are rated over -100 on the IF scale I’ve included below:

  • Processed sugar, as I mentioned before
  • Dairy including cheese, milk and yogurt
  • White Flour (so that means bread, pasta, cereals, and all of the other starchy delights made with white flour). Whole wheat flour is a little better, though still -89 for 1/3 of a cup.
  • Dried fruit
  • Meat (though to my surprise both ground beef and turkey rated fairly low on the inflammatory scale, -2 and -7 respectively)
  • Plantains

Researchers have even developed an inflammation factor rating chart for the foods we eat with a positive number representing anti-inflammatory foods and a negative one representing inflammatory foods. The higher the number in either direction, the stronger the food is for the applicable factor. The following chart from http://www.inflammationfactor.com shows how the numbers shake out.

200 or higher Strongly anti-inflammatory
101 to 200 Moderately anti-inflammatory
0 to 100 Mildly anti-inflammatory
-1 to -100 Mildly inflammatory
-101 to 200 Moderately inflammatory
-201 or lower Strongly inflammatory
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sides of Food Choices

Checking foods on their rating chart will give you the inflammation factor, but be aware that the ratings, just like calories or anything else, are based on a particular portion size.

For example, 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli has an IF rating of +60 which is mildly anti-inflammatory while 1/4 cup of dried apricots has a rating of -56, or mildly inflammatory. But there are a few surprises.

A double cheeseburger from Burger King has an IF rating of -171, just a little higher than a cup of cooked, long-grain white rice (-153).

On the other end of the spectrum, many types of fish are strongly anti-inflammatory with Sable fish leading the pack with a whopping 703 for 3 ounces! Salmon and tuna are a bit lower but still in high enough to be highly beneficial. It’s no surprise to me to also find ginger and turmeric in the top 10.

Though there are surprisingly few foods which actually tip the scale at more than -100, I caution you to pay attention to the serving sizes. The food that may be only -50 or -60 for a small portion, say 1/2 cup of baked potato, will climb rapidly, the more you eat. And the more inflammatory foods you consume, the greater risk of harming your body.

What the Chart Won’t Show You But Labels Will

With all of the pre-made foods available these days, it can be more difficult to regulate the quality of what you’re eating. I thought I was doing well by limiting my packaged foods to those available at places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but even there, you have to read the labels. For me, I’ve found it’s just better to avoid them altogether. But I also enjoy cooking up huge batches of soup, stir-fry, chili and more and freezing them in single serving containers. Not everyone has the time or inclination to do the same.

When all else fails, I recommend reading the labels. One of the biggest surprises I got recently was comparing organic tomato sauce to good old Hunts. The ingredients on the organic sauce were sugar, tomatoes, and water. On the Hunt’s, tomatoes and water. You can guess which one I bought. A little label scanning also forced me to give up buying cases of Kirkland’s version for the same reason I passed on the organic variety in the market.

What doesn’t show up on the IF table is all of the preservatives and additives found in prepared and packaged foods today. I’ve learned that our bodies know exactly what to do with organic compounds like fruits, vegetables, and even meat, but give it something with a whole lot of letters and it says the same thing we do when we try to pronounce them. “Huh? What is this stuff and what am I supposed to do with it anyway?”

All I Have to Do to Be Healthy is Manage My Food Choices, Right?

So now that you have a handle on the foods you eat, the foods you limit, and the foods (if some of them can even be called that) to avoid at all costs, you should be feeling great, right?

Do you remember the arthritis ad which says “a body in motion stays in motion”? Well, take it from me. No matter how perfect your diet might be, if you sit on your butt all day, those joints and organs you’re working so hard to feed well are still going to suffer. We need to change positions frequently. Our muscles thrive on being subjected to varying degrees of stress from pushing, pulling, standing, sitting, lifting, stretching and anything else you can think to do with this miraculous thing we call a body.

Raising Your Own Bar

You know your own limits. Why not push them just a little? You’d be surprised how quickly those limits expand.

I remember when I first started regaining my dancing routine. I wore out quickly and had to rest pretty frequently. Now, I can dance an entire two-step set (depending on the partner. Some of them kick my sorry butt, but not as easily as they used to!) and follow it up with a killer line dance set. Unless the DJ tosses in Skiffle Time, I’m usually good to go for the next set of two-steps as well. If I get to the gym regularly, I find my stamina and strength climb more rapidly and I even sweat less (which is especially helpful with those back to back two-steps!)

In conclusion, I have learned, though I tend to need reminders, that I need to feed and move my body consciously. When I wing it, eat whatever sounds good, or worse, is easiest, and spend an inordinate amount of time in front of my computer or watching Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel or Lifetime, I pay the price in both lack of mobility and pain. As I don’t enjoy either one, it typically takes only a few twinges of pain to remind me to get my lazy self back in gear. For me, it’s dancing, walking or hiking. What works for you?

Above All, Tell
Yourself How Grateful You Are for the Positive Changes

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my body’s little reminders to take better care of myself.
  2. I am grateful for the resources available to help me make better choices.
  3. I am grateful for the love of cooking which makes it easier to keep healthy, easy options in the house.
  4. I am grateful for my dancing and my new hiking buddy which both help keep my body healthy, agile and aging much more slowly than people who spend a lot of time sitting.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; health, happiness, joy, love, friendship, good food, opportunities, challenges, lessons, success, rejection, writing, peace, hope, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of FoodFacts PM via Flickr

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