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Archive for the ‘lessons’ Category

Lessons Catch Us Unaware

Life: An Endless Chain of Lessons

If you’re doing more with your life than staring at a wall, you’ve likely experienced your share of lessons. Some of them are pretty obvious and come as a result of something you actually set out to accomplish. More often than not, though, the lessons have a way of finding you. This is especially true when it’s a subject you’ve revisited multiple times, yet have yet to quite grasp the concept. One of my personal favorites is patience. (In case it isn’t evident, the last comment was laced with a liberal dose of sarcasm. I, for one could use a sarcasm emoji!)

Since I seem to be uniquely resistant to this particular lesson, the Universe has seen fit to hit me with another opportunity to get it right when I least expect it, and typically, at the worst possible moment. Put me in a store with 3 screaming children when I’m in a hurry, have a blazing headache and haven’t eaten in hours and I guarantee my patience will be tested yet again. Seriously, who could be expected to assimilate the lesson under those conditions. Never let it be said the Universe lacks a sense of humor! I only hope it will avoid taking me into a situation where I learn patience or suffer serious physical harm.

Lessons in Camouflage

As I believe I am both a component of the Universe as well as it’s entirety, I feel it’s in both our best interests to protect my physical self, at least for as long as it is required to learn the lessons I came into this lifetime expecting to learn. That does not, however, preclude increasingly painful lessons along the way. Perhaps that’s part of the plan?

Although I’ve come to the conclusion painful lessons are often the most memorable (after all, who really wants to revisit an experience akin to being smacked in the head with a bat?), I am beginning to wonder if, in some cases, it’s truly about learning the lesson, or if the pain itself is the real lesson? Are we meant to experience a certain amount of struggle and strife in order to make us stronger and more resilient? Is that strength a critical component of our virtual tool box?

My perspective on life lessons is constantly evolving, but this is the biggest breakthrough I’ve had in a long time. To realize that sometimes the experience of the lesson is the real lesson is mind-blowing. So many times, I’ve wracked my brain looking for the lesson in the painful experience, completely missing the fact that the painful experience in and of itself was what I needed to learn. The real lesson, then wasn’t patience, or kindness, or compassion, or some other admirable quality. It was, instead resilience.

Finding the Blessing in Disguise

One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned over the years is that seeming catastrophes are always blessings in disguise. They occur when we’ve become so attached to something, someone, or a situation that we fail to recognize when it’s time to let go of the old so we can evolve. We stifle our own ability to enter the next iteration of our life because we’re holding too tightly to what we know. No matter what our relationship to change is, there’s a time in every life when change has to occur. Most of the time it’s in baby steps, but periodically, we need a 1994 Northridge earthquake- or World Trade Center-size upheaval to shake us right out of our boots and into a new reality.

Even when these upheavals are strictly personal, the effect is the same as those occurring on a national or global scale. We are forced to re-evaluate what we need to keep and what we need to leave behind. These events might be brutal and painful like a nasty divorce or loss of a loved one by suicide or accident. But they can also be dangerously subtle like rising dissatisfaction with a job situation. Dangerous because the longer we ignore the signs, the more likely we’ll have the situation taken out of our hands.

Changing for the Better in Spite of Ourselves

I can honestly say I never left a job which no longer served my best interests at the first sign, or even the 10th. In fact, in most cases, I stuck it out until the situation was taken out of my hands in one way or another. And yet, in hindsight, I left at exactly the right time because the circumstances surrounding the parting of ways was a critical component of the lesson I needed to experience. It was especially scary when I had two young daughters to support, but I can look back now and see that I always managed to pull through. That, too is part of the lesson. I’ve always survived whatever I was dealt.

Granted, I have not been given some of the challenges I see others face: developing a terminal disease, watching parents age, sicken, and ultimately pass on, homelessness, or a multitude of other life-lessons. But those are not the lessons I came here to experience. At least not this time around. But the people who are faced with different challenges than I am simply get a collection that’s unique to them.

Recognizing Our Own Brand of Resiliency

Though family suicide is far more prevalent than even I had come to believe, I am uplifted not only by the stories I’ve been privileged to share, but by how many different ways people demonstrate their own resiliency. In the process, one of my major upheavals broke me off from a group of friends who chose to expend their energy complaining about their lives instead of changing them. Though it left me adrift and alone for a time, the conditions I, myself had put into motion by looking at the world through more positive, grateful eyes ultimately led me to friends who faced their challenges in a healthier manner.

From my newer circle of friends, I’ve learned that life will deal you some seemingly crappy hands just to force you to step up and accept the challenge. I learned I’m not the type to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me no matter how many times I wanted to do just that in the years following my divorce and my mom’s suicide. Somehow, I always found a reason to keep going. I always found a reason to keep trying. I found it in myself to find another way when the old ways no longer worked.

Not only did I find out I was resilient, I found out how to make that resiliency work for me. But most of all, I started learning how to ask for help; how to be vulnerable at times. And guess what? There wasn’t a single time when I actually shattered into a million, irreparable pieces.

Yes, some of life’s lessons can really kick the crap out of you. But getting to the other side with most of your pieces intact is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. And it’s one I give myself over and over again.

From My Eternally Grateful Heart

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my resiliency.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunities I’m given to learn, even the less obvious lessons.
  3. I am grateful for inspiration which gives me not only an endless stream of Facebook Live topics, but an ever-growing list of blogs waiting to be written.
  4. I am grateful for being a constantly evolving being. Stagnation has never been my comfort zone.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, lessons, experiences, opportunities, joy, sorrow, pain, healing, vulnerability, and strength. It is only by experiences both sides of the coin that we become whole.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, 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 Lucie Provencher via Flickr

The Tarot Card pictured is The Tower from the Spiral Tarot

Fear: A Mountain or a Mole Hill?

To Write or Not to Write: Is There Really a Question?

Lately, I’ve found it difficult to convince myself to sit down and write. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one of the 3 articles about the events I’ve attended in the last week, a blog post or one of my many literary projects, I’ve been finding any and every excuse to do anything but write. Knowing it’s simply a matter of discipline doesn’t help. It’s as if I’m suddenly afraid of putting fingers to keyboard for any creative endeavor.

This morning, I took my recalcitrant self in hand and vowed to break the pattern, and hopefully, break it permanently. I found myself looking in the mirror as I put in my contacts, asking What is it you really fear? I nearly fell into the litter box when the answer came back immediately. The only thing you fear is yourself.

Really? I fear meek and mild little me? Is that all? Surely it has to be something larger-than-life which throws me back into old, tired patterns at the slightest provocation. So I asked again. What is it you really fear? The voice came back again, sounding a touch annoyed. The only thing you truly fear is your idiot self! Now go do something about it instead of asking stupid questions!

F.E.A.R. Face Everything and Rise

My inner voice sure has an attitude. But maybe that’s the point. If I want to get past my blocks, both writing and otherwise, I need to take a page out of my inner voice’s book and stop taking crap from myself. In a recent weight loss challenge I’ve been participating in, there’s a particular quote which resonates with me: “No shame, no blame, no guilt.” I could add to that, “and no excuses”.

What I’m getting from this is I have a deeply ingrained fear of putting myself out there, whether it’s socially, in print or anything else. That fear has prevented my success on any number of levels. Just as I’ve built several layers of protective insulation around my body and spend a good deal of time tucked away in my house, I’ve held back on sharing my writing. I’ve gotten too good at starting things and not finishing, procrastinating, or just, plain avoiding.

But recognizing the problem is half the battle. I’ve beaten the one which had me sleeping away the day and not rising until 10 or 11. In fact, even the last couple of nights when I was up past 2 AM, my body still woke at about 8 or 8:30 singing Rise and shine! There are things to be done and stories to be written! I crossed the first hurdle; getting up. Now, this is me, leaping the harder, higher one; writing those stories.

A Lesson in Every Sentence

In the months and years I’ve had the luxury of writing as many hours a day as I like, I have, indeed, typed many a word. I’ve also learned some valuable lessons, the most important of which is to just get the words down and edit afterwards. I used to very diligently insert the HTML code into every paragraph as I typed, but discovered it not only slowed me down, but arrested the flow of thoughts clamoring to reach the page. Now, I just type away, letting the thoughts hit the page in whatever scrambled and only partially sane fashion they might wish. There’s plenty of time afterwards to review what I’ve written and put it into what, for me, is a semblance of sense.

I just heaved a huge sigh of relief, much like the one you let out when you reach the end of a bout of constipation. In my case, my brain was feeling very stuffed, very congested for lack of word flow. Other writers may understand how the mind fills with things to be said and unless those thoughts are released in the only way we know how, writing them down, they’ll just back up the works until the brain shuts down. I was perilously close to complete shut-down when I awoke this morning.

Creatively Mind Dumping

Blogging, I’ve found, is the simplest means for releasing my dammed up words. I don’t have a particular story I’m trying to tell or facts I need to include. It is simply the thoughts and lessons I experience daily. Maybe it’s also those thoughts and lessons which need to come out on the regular basis I used to follow, but have fallen away from lately. In a lot of ways, this is the brain dump I used to use when I couldn’t sleep for the thoughts, plans, lists and frustrations flying around in my head. I have, in fact, been denying myself my own personal mode of therapy, and it’s taken it’s toll.

Putting these words on the page feels very cathartic but the proof is in the pudding. I still have those articles to write, books to edit and complete and more to come. The event schedule I share with my photographer friend is continuing to fill up which means more articles to write. She gives me 2 weeks, but I keep saying that’s too long. Yet I still procrastinate about writing them. My goal is to finish all 3 articles no later than Sunday, but sooner would be better.

I have one last task to complete which will ensure my compliance, and that is to build another healthy salad so meal prep is minimal mid-day. It’s on the agenda for this afternoon, after I return from Physical Therapy (which may not go on much longer as I’ve suddenly taken a huge turn, gaining strength almost daily and leaving most of the pain behind).

As I spend more time out in the real world, I have more material with which to regale and challenge my readers. Hiding out in my hovel with my cats is all well and fine, satisfying my inner hermit, but there’s nothing like a little human contact to augment the material I write about; even if it’s just my own inept efforts to interact like a normal person.

Keeping the Gratitude Flowing

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful that the word famine has ended.
2. I am grateful for the realization that my fears are so easily managed.
3. I am grateful for support groups and people who face much greater challenges than me.
4. I am grateful for the creativity which lies inside me if I just get out of my own way.
5. I am grateful for abundance: creativity, support, inspiration, motivation, commitment, joy, love, health, peace, harmoney, 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, 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!

Another Lesson About Friendship

There Comes a Time When the Only Thing to do is Make Use of the Only Truly Effective Form of Therapy.

I’m a solitary person. I’m more likely to withdraw into myself and write my problems out than seek the help or counsel of someone else. Tonight, that meant sitting in the bar where I dance, writing nearly 1000 words in the Notes app of my iPhone.  Ice Cream Therapy

I’m a very direct person. If I don’t like something someone is doing and it’s someone I care about, I’ll usually do my best to communicate my feelings. I limit the proverbial “cold shoulder” to three circumstances: when the other person is so emotionally engaged that anything I say would only escalate the problem, when I’m so angry that I’m likely to just spew venom(in which case I’ll likely address it later when I’ve calmed down enough to at least make an attempt at being reasonable), or if the offending party is someone I don’t care about.

This attitude has come back to bite me on more than one occasion. Sometimes it’s because I expect my friends to be honest with me while they fall back on social niceties and remain silent, but all too often I just misread the relationship and what I thought was a friendship was just an acquaintanceship from their perspective, making me as disposable as the packaging on the Lean Cuisine they had for lunch.

Such seems to be the case yet again. Admittedly, I did behave badly. I’ve apologized and tried to make amends with everyone involved. Things are pretty much back to normal with those I did consider acquaintances but the ones I considered friends are wearing fake smiles and taking pains to keep their distance. I’d like to say it doesn’t hurt and that I don’t care but there’s no point lying to myself. It does serve to remind me why 60 years in this body has taught me to be very sparing about opening my heart, even in friendship. I’m not one who is able to take friendship lightly, nor do I successfully protect my heart on the increasingly rare occasions when I give it.

It just baffles me that people can act like they care until you make a mistake and earn their disapproval.

But the Universe saw me for the overly trusting, heart-breakingly sensitive soul I am and gave me a passion which can be followed without a lot of human interaction. Instead, I can stand on the sidelines watching other people interact, and yes, play those social games I never learned, by my own choice. They become characters in my stories or part of the landscape in the articles I write while I again try not to be fooled into bringing my heart out of the bubble wrap where I’m reminded to keep it every time it gets stomped into a bloody mess.

Hope Springs Eternal

I guess in some ways I’m a romantic. I keep hoping I’ll find friends and maybe even a partner who will care enough to protect and nurture my heart instead of treating it like garbage. But after 6 decades, my hope is waning. Like Tinkerbell, I desperately need a reason to keep believing; keep hoping; keep loving without reservation. But for now, I’ll stuff those hopes down until they smother and focus on living my own, personal, private passion. For that I just need to dream and write. No messy human contact necessary.

And yet as I let the unhappiness fade I remember the choice to be happy is mine alone. I can choose to allow the insensitivity of others affect my mood or I can flip them a mental bird, wish them a nice life and get on with mine. It still means going it alone but I’m in great company. I know for certain that the company I’m keeping would never abuse my heart and wants only a life of joy and fulfillment for me. I guess there are times the Universe dumps sadness into our lives so we can fully appreciate how wonderful, how bountiful our life truly is…and how overrated most people’s idea of friendship is.

The Silver Lining Inside the Latest Cloud

And yet, as I get busier  doing the work I love, it occurs to me that perhaps endings are simply a part of freeing up more of my time. People can be a distraction and I create enough of those without any outside assistance.

And I remember one of the few biblical quotes I really like:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

My personal brand of therapy has led me to conclude this is simply a time for me to be solitary and tend to things which need to be tended.

There Will Always Be Gratitude

What would a blog post from me be without gratitudes. I can always come up with at least a few, and I won’t disappoint you tonight.
1. I am grateful for life’s lessons even if I repeat the painful ones more often than I’d like.
2. I am grateful I’m comfortable in my own skin…and my own company as there are times when it’s the best place for me to be.
3. I am grateful for the people who teach me what friendship is not.
4. I am grateful for my writing. It’s my friend, my solace, my sanity, my therapist and my passion.
5. I am grateful for abundance: lessons, life, limitations, aspirations, motivation, writing, opportunities, stepping outside my comfort zone, peace, harmony, health, joy, 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, 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!

Wallowing in a Pit of Despair? Try Gratitude.

Finding My Way Back Home

For the last 15 years or so, I have made immense progress in turning my life around. I am no longer the angry, defensive creature I had become through long years of tragedies, disappointments and, what I considered at the time to be poor life choices. I’ve learned that everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been had a purpose and came together in making me the person I am today.

But sometimes, pieces of my former self rise insidiously to the surface and if left unchecked, threaten to undo all of the work I’ve done. The trick is recognizing it before it sets me back years.

This morning when I woke with the prospect of cooking a huge pot of chili and spending the afternoon with anywhere from 50 to 100 people, the negative thoughts and the desire to crawl back into my hole and pull it in after me became almost overwhelming. Thankfully, years of training myself to do otherwise proved stronger, and I realized I had all the tools I needed to turn this around.

I looked back over the last couple of weeks and realized I’d become angry over stupid things, reactionary, and downright hateful. And truth to be told, I couldn’t dig a hole deep enough to escape the real problem anyway, so fixing it is a much wiser choice. It would also go a long way towards alleviating the constant, if relatively manageable pain I’ve been in since December, helping lower what has clearly become an upwardly spiraling stress level (thankfully, the every-other-day migraines have eased off!), and the resulting sleep deprivation.

Conquering the Demons Within

The answer to my problems, both real and imagined can be summed up in a single word. Gratitude. Sure, I’ve remembered to give thanks for all of the little synchronicities in my life, and, on what has become the rare occasion I actually sit and write a blog post, list a handful of gratitudes. But I’ve been missing the big picture. I’ve been allowing the “don’t haves” to smother the “haves”. No wonder I’m suffering the consequences. My face is meeting my palm rather violently at the moment.

Instead of rambling on about this or that, or detailing the things I won’t be doing from here on out, I’m dedicating the rest of this post to as many gratitudes as I can conjure, because, really, that’s why this blog has evolved; that’s why it is no longer “Surviving and Beyond”, but “Leaps of Faith”. For the last month or better, I’ve been giving it a great deal of lip service, but failing to follow through in my thoughts and deeds.

Reminding Myself of What the Universe Already Knows

Without further ado, here are some things for which I am grateful in this crazy, beautiful, sometimes insane life I’ve been given this time around:

  1. I am grateful for sunny days.
  2. I am grateful for rainy days.
  3. I am grateful for the fur babies I fall asleep with every night and wake to every morning.
  4. I am grateful that I have already lived nearly a year longer than my mother did.
  5. I am grateful for the people who pointed me towards the path of positivity and offer daily reminders.
  6. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the ones I am still mastering, and those which await me further down the road.
  7. I am grateful for the pains in my body which remind me that I’m being allowed to age and that I need to get up and move more, stretch more and love my body more.
  8. I am grateful that I’ve learned to recognize when I’m wandering away from my true path.
  9. I am grateful for the tools I’ve acquired which help me get back on track.
  10. I am grateful for signs and head slaps from the Universe which remind me to stay positive and hopeful, and get my attention when I start to forget.
  11. I am grateful for all of the wonderful examples I’ve been given: people who have conquered their own demons and retain the kindness and compassion I strive to achieve and embrace as part of my being.
  12. I am grateful for changing my career path to the one which fuels my soul.
  13. I am grateful for remaining positive despite setbacks and challenges which I know are intended to test my commitment.
  14. I am grateful for those setbacks which force me to seek alternatives and remind me that my path will never be straight and smooth. Easy paths don’t offer much in the way of inspiration for writing.
  15. I am grateful for successful completion of my three novels and Frederick the Gentlemouse and for the strength and tenacity to publish and market them.
  16. I am grateful for the stories inside me that are yet to be told.
  17. I am grateful for opportunities to mentor, coach or otherwise support other people.
  18. I am grateful that I’m learning to Stop, Look, and Listen more; not necessarily while crossing the road, but while interacting with other Divine Beings having a Human Experience.
  19. I am grateful to my daughter for encouraging me to start this blog when I got stuck in the middle of writing my first book about family suicide. Not only has writing about it eased my pain and brought more compassion into my life, it has connected me with others who have had similar experiences.
  20. I am grateful for the people who read my blog, my website and even my comments on Social Media. You touch my life and make it a better place. You’ll never know how much that means to me, nor how much it makes me strive to be a better person.

I could go on and on with this, but I’m already feeling better, just for sitting down and doing it. I’ll likely continue the list off-line. Listing my gratitudes has dragged me out of far deeper holes than the one in which I currently find myself. It is probably the single most powerful lesson I’ve learned in the last few years, and one I need to spend more time doing. Maybe that’s why the Universe sat back and watched me slide into a well of negativity for a little while. Like the stretching I now do every day to reduce the physical pain, the physical act of listing my gratitudes turns the inner pain around and shows me how much joy and beauty I have in my life.

Thank you for being a part of my process…my path.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, 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!

Making Lemonade

Whew! What a ride!

I’ve managed to slide into mid-week fairly unscathed despite a few challenges life decided to toss my way. But the week wasn’t without some loveliness as well.

On Monday, I received two new books from one of my favorite Authors, Debbie Macomber which I’d won in an online contest. I spent the better part of a day which didn’t even begin until noon reading Last One Home, a story about a woman who had left her family behind at 18 to marry what she thought was the love of her life. Instead, he was a manipulative abuser who cut her off from family, friends and even acquaintances. The story chronicles her struggles climbing out of the hole he’d buried her in, alone, broke and with a young child to raise. Reaching out to the family she’d left behind forced her to see that the damage her husband had caused went beyond just her and her child.

Sometimes, the Universe Intends for our Choices to go Awry

As women, we make our share of poor choices but it’s how we rectify them which really tests how strong a foundation we had to begin with. Many of us don’t see how strong and capable we are, settling for someone who is far less than we deserve. The lucky ones like me finally hit a point where we realize we truly do deserve better. We do whatever it takes to fix our lives. We know we’ve truly succeeded when we learn to love the person who may have gotten buried under a lot of crap, both of our own making and from those poor choices we allowed into our lives.

Fortunately for me, unlike Cassie in Ms. Macomber’s book, I left my own abusive relationship with a means of supporting myself and my children and no visible bruises or scars. Many women aren’t so lucky. The existence of the many shelters and safe houses for women and their children to escape abusive men is evidence of this. But what about those who either aren’t strong enough or who lack either means or opportunity to leave their own version of hell, or never get the chance? Kudos to Ms. Macomber for highlighting the organizations which not only provide shelter but also moral support for women to escape their abusers and the fear they lived under for so long. But even more for emphasizing how helping others sort out their own lives benefits the giver as much as the receiver.

Always on the Lookout for Ways to Give Back

She also piqued my curiosity about Habitats for Humanity. At one time, my daughter and I considered helping with the construction of a home in our area, but other commitments got in the way. Though I don’t know that I’d be much help these days (it was once pointed out that I paint more with my belly and boobs than with a paintbrush) I’m sure there are other things I can do to help them or another organization in my area. I made an effort awhile back to get involved with neonatal care for a cat rescue, but was met with scheduling conflicts for all of their required training sessions. As I believe things happen for a reason, I can only assume that I was being “saved” for something else.

Macomber’s Cassie reminded me that the best way to improve your own life is to give of yourself to someone else. She took what she’d learned during her own struggles to help others. I know that writing about my own healing processes has given others something to think about, but I’ve only really covered two traumatic life events, and they were basically related. Maybe it’s time to speak out about how I ended up marrying a man who was as wrong for me as he could get and who I stayed with longer than I should have. Or how it took me years to recognize and embrace the lessons I learned from the experience. Or how I learned to tell my daughters that he did the best he could with what he had as he, himself was broken.

I will never regret the two beautiful daughters he gave me, albeit less than willingly, but I’m grateful that I was finally able to crawl out of the hole of self-loathing which was already in place when we met. It’s unsettling, to say the least, to realize that had I just loved myself more, I would never have even noticed him. I see now that his real purpose in my life was to give me another tool I’d ultimately need to learn to love myself. Funny how that works.

Each Lesson Shortens the Learning Curve for the Next

As I continue the journey I set upon when this lifetime began, I find it takes me less and less time to figure out the lessons which are embedded in the challenges I face. I know now that we never, ever make wrong choices. We do make choices which have less-than-desirable outcomes. However, in truth, we needed to make those choices because we needed the outcomes to teach us a lesson. Without that particular lesson, we might still be fumbling around trying to find our way, all for lack of an essential virtual tool.

If I’ve learned nothing else in the 60 years I’ve been on the planet this time around, it is to be grateful for every challenge and setback I’ve faced. (You’ll notice, I don’t use the word “Failure” here). Each one taught me to look at things from a different angle or to step back and regroup. Sure, there’ve been more than a few face-palming moments but if I’d truly been at the point where I should have known better, I wouldn’t have needed the lesson, now would I?

So the next time you’re chastising yourself for a mistake you think you’ve made, try taking a step back and asking yourself What did I learn from this experience? Was the outcome sufficiently painful that I won’t be likely to repeat this particular act of misdirection? If you can answer the first question honestly and the second question in the affirmative, then the experience was both necessary and valuable. But be warned, if you struggle to answer the first question and waffle on the second, you will have the opportunity to revisit the lesson again…multiple times if necessary…until you see the lesson and internalize it for future reference.

Life doesn’t give us lessons to sour our mood but to quench our thirst when things heat up.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for every mistake I’ve made and every lesson I’ve learned from them.
2. I am grateful for the friends I’ve made and the ones I’ve lost along the way. Some were meant to be here for a season, others for a reason, and a few, even for a lifetime.
3. I am grateful for lights at the end of the tunnel.
4. I am grateful for synchronicity.
5. I am grateful for abundance: life, love, lessons, joy, challenges, successes,dancing, writing, playing, working, 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, 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!

Putting it All in Perspective

Challenge or Opportunity?

A couple of months ago someone came back into my life who had been a brief but painful interlude during a time when I was making a lot of poor choices and spending a lot of time struggling; a time before I learned to think positive thoughts and allow. He showed up at a place where I go to be social, to hang with my friends and follow one of my passions, dancing.

At first, I was polite, but tried to make it clear he was my past and not particularly welcome in my present. Though he seemed to take the hint at first, his efforts to regain my attention were pitifully awkward, much like the man himself. Eventually, when I had resorted to simply ignoring his presence, he went away again, leaving me heaving a sigh of relief.

Yet, the incident has been on my mind. Why am I suddenly being forced to confront a very painful, best-forgotten time in my life? Last night, the answer came when I least expected it, and this morning, more answers came, unprovoked. When I left it to recede to the back of my mind, it seems I allowed the answers to come.

The epiphany last night was both comforting and inspiring because I was reminded that though the times were tough and I did some really stupid things, I got through it, played the cards I was dealt to the best of my ability and became stronger for it. I also found “The Secret” and “Laws of Attraction” not long afterwards and started changing my life for the better.

The second epiphany came this morning and followed a train of thought which began last night. A couple of new men have wandered into Borderline in the last week. One is a little geeky and awkward but adorable in his geeky-awkwardness. He can’t dance a bit, but that doesn’t stop him from trying his best, and I have to applaud him for it. Watching him talk to people and generally interact with the room, he reminds me of a cheerful, clumsy puppy who’s never met a stranger. I look forward to watching him blossom and smooth out some of those klutzy edges.

The second one is more self-confident on the outside, yet he stands on the sidelines drinking his beer and hardly interacting with anyone at all. My initial guess is that he’s in that group of men who are either recently divorced, in the middle of a divorce or recently out of a long-term relationship. In other words, wary and gun-shy, but fair game for those women who are aggressive, needy and don’t take no for an answer. I hope for his sake that one of the confident, self-assured type befriends him before that happens; someone who, like me, is comfortable in their own skin and doesn’t need someone else to validate them, but who, unlike me, can just walk up to a strange guy and start a conversation without being awkward.

Which really leads me to the actual epiphany. Between the 3 completely disconnected men and their entry into my world, albeit from afar, I realized that though my self-confidence and self-esteem have improved greatly, I’m still awkward around strangers, both men and women alike. In that regard, I’m too much like the man from my distant past; pitifully awkward.

One Plus One Equals Ninety-Seven

If I put the two pieces together, I realize that the message is a sort of encouragement. A kind of “You’ve got this, girl” with an added “Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen? And what’s the best?” kind of affair. I’ve even been given the opportunity to start slowly because the geeky awkward one will be an absolute joy to encourage. In the years I’ve been country dancing, I’ve seen my share of guys who started out clumsy and unsure and ended up being great dancers and a lot of fun to boot (pun intended). Call me a sap, but I find a guy who’s not afraid to make a bit of a fool of himself oddly endearing.

The other will be hard for me to casually approach, though I know I can count on some of my friends to smooth the path if he keeps showing up. There are a couple of women, one of whom I’ve known for over 20 years who simply have a knack for welcoming new people and making them feel comfortable. Once they’ve smoothed the way, I find it easier to be friendly and easy too. And yes, I know I need to get past that before my first book comes out. Getting out into the world and talking to strangers has to be more comfortable for me by then.

Fewer Blog Posts, More Lessons

This has been a week of getting out into the world, learning new things and getting some of the tasks I had handled and off my plate. My writing has suffered some. This is only the second post this week for me, though I wrote 2 for a client. But I’ve met with some people about possible work, gotten up-to-date on client work and even managed to edit a couple of chapters of Sasha’s Journey. And my own journey continues with surprises around a few turns. It keeps life interesting if nothing else.

So How Are You Going to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today?

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for the lessons the Universe sends me and the little prompts it gives me until I see the whole picture.
2. I am grateful for opportunities to step further from that comfort zone I wallowed in for so many years.
3. I am grateful for my friends and the examples they set.
4. I am grateful for dancing as it has helped me breach that comfort zone with a common bond I share with many others.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, music, dancing, money, friendship, joy, lessons, opportunities, challenges, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages at and . Please also drop by my website, 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!

August 31, 2015 Life Between Universal Head Slaps

I believe the Universe is warming up to deliver a humdinger of a head slap. Why do I say that? In the last month or so, it has seen fit to reintroduce people into my life who were last seeing during a very difficult time period when I was making a lot of poor choices and behaving in a very negative and self-defeating fashion. And it isn’t the same time period. As of tonight, I’ve seen three of them.

The first instance was very positive and friendly, showing me that despite my poor behavior, there were some good times, and good memories.

The second was more like a leech seeking to re-attach itself if I wasn’t able to make it clear I was no longer that person. Fortunately, after a month of intermittent encounters and behavior on my part for which I’m not proud, I seem to have sent that particular less-than-stellar portion of my life back into the past where it belongs.

My latest encounter was only from a distance, and given certain circumstances, wasn’t entirely unexpected. The parting of the ways I experienced with this particular individual was instigated by his recently-deceased wife. In this case, I saw no real reason to make contact. I couldn’t say with sincerity that I was sorry for his loss, and maybe that’s the point. His appearance was a reminder that it’s high time I just forgave the woman. We’d both moved on and hadn’t had any contact in at least a dozen years. We moved in different circles and even the smallest of ripples didn’t intersect. Before that head slap comes, I guess I need to work on that forgiveness; both towards her and for myself. I certainly contributed to the situation by being stupid and unnecessarily vulnerable. It also occurred at the end of what I think of now as ‘the years of negativity’. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to “The Secret” and began eliminating negative behavior from myself and negative people from my life.

You Win a Little and you Lose a Little

Looking back on those years, since the Universe insists, I carried around a lot of unnecessary baggage. Through a series of events and some much-needed guidance, I finally realized I had the ability to put things down. I didn’t need to schlep every single bad decision and every single tragic life occurrence around with me forever. I simply needed to take the lesson from each experience and let the rest go. I also found during those years that the Universe didn’t bother giving me head slaps; perhaps because I was beating myself up more than enough without any outside assistance. Instead, I was given a lot of opportunities to learn to love and appreciate myself. Believe me, back then I was a very slow learner, but even the tortoise gets to the finish line eventually.

What I’m trying to say in my usual meandering fashion is that we need to look around at what is coming into our life now and then because oftentimes, it is something we need or a lesson we need to learn. If we’re already indulging in self-flagellation, the Universe won’t give us more of the same, even if it feels like that’s what we’re getting. The Universe knows that we’re going to attract what we put out there so it isn’t even necessary to pile more manure on someone who is attracting manure. It takes little effort to become an expert shit-attractor.

It’s only when we’ve learned from those wrong turns and detours that we start to receive some challenges; not to drive us backward but to make us stronger and more certain of our path, perhaps even to get us to open up to options we’ve discarded because they seemed to be too difficult. Forcing us into a detour means we have to figure out how to make the sub-optimal work instead of just taking the easy road. Step out of that comfort zone and try something that makes us think quickly, maneuver better and even get out of our own way.

So in spite of the frustration at having to field some old manure, I know it is in my best interests and is preparing me for a new and interesting detour which will take me someplace I’d never have gone had the road I was on remained smooth and easy.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for life’s challenges as they give me the opportunity to explore new places.
2. I am grateful for my imperfections as they give me reason to strive to be better.
3. I am grateful to be getting back into the edits of “Sasha’s Journey” and to have set myself a goal to finish before NaNoWriMo. So I have another 292 pages to edit before November 1. I didn’t think I could write 50,000 words in a month either, and now I’ve done it twice!
4. I am grateful for my friends and family who, whether they realize it or not encourage me to go farther, do better and be a kinder, more compassionate person.
5. I am grateful for abundance; love, encouragement, inspiration, motivation, freedom, happiness, charity, peace, harmony, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

I’d appreciate your taking a moment to visit my Facebook pages at and . Please also drop by my website, 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!

June 3, 2015 Letting Go?

Why Do I Even Bother Making Decisions These Days?

Yesterday, I made the decision to stop chasing the almighty buck, but more importantly, to stop worrying about what I do and don’t have. My plan was to focus on the revisions I need to do for my three current projects. Twenty-four hours later, I’m shaking my head in bafflement.

Yes, I got to the gym and did a really good leg workout (yay, me!) and I didn’t spend time searching for jobs to either write or pitch. I did, however, read a couple of blog posts about setting up my author page more effectively so that I’m presenting myself as a writer instead of just some random blogger. Since I have both a website and a blog, this wasn’t as complicated as it might seem…well, except for one thing. I’m still learning WordPress so when the suggestion to put buttons for my social media accounts on all pages of my website piqued my interest (and notice that I spelled it correctly. It irks me that people still think the proper spelling is ‘peeked’ or ‘peaked’. Different words people!) Um. sorry. Grammar police must have slipped past my wards.

As I was saying, when the suggestion to put social media buttons on my site piqued my interest, I went in search of a way to accomplish what should have been a mundane task. Instead, I found that you have to choose your social media button plug-in wisely as each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but also, they don’t all do what I wanted it to do. The first one only offered buttons for Facebook and Twitter unless I wanted to spend $30. The second also had add in buttons…for a price. But my diligence was rewarded as I finally found one which had more than I needed, but all that I wanted. But the trial and error which started with simply trying to change the theme to one which had the buttons took me about four hours. This seems to be the rule any time I want to change something on my website. Just as Target is the $200 store, Costco is the $500 store and Kohl’s is in the $200-300 range, the WordPress website is the four hour time sucker store. I suppose I could read the documentation, but all of that computerese has me wanting to poke my eyes out in a matter of minutes. I just can’t seem to find anything which gives me exactly what I want, simply and in plain English.

Trial and Error Does Have its Advantages

Though I’m convinced that maintaining my sanity is clearly not the objective of computer programmers and their technical writers, having to learn this stuff the hard way means that I really get a feel for how the software works. Being one who came up from the Stone Age where accounting was done in giant ledger books and painstakingly transferred from voluminous journals, I’ve spent a lot of time learning software. I’d like to say that all of the fancy operating systems have made the process easier, but somehow, it has created a lunatic competition among programmers to create software which does everything we could possibly want (and a few things we don’t) but takes a genius to set up. At times I feel as if I’m still reading “See Jack run” while everyone around me is reading:

A controversial quantum theory of consciousness called “Orch OR” (which stands for “orchestrated objective reduction”) recently had a review, and the scientists supporting this idea are claiming the recent discovery of quantum vibrations in “microtubules” inside brain neurons corroborates their beliefs.


(excerpt borrowed from a February 4, 2015 post in the Inquisitr

Nevertheless, I continue to poke and prod at the software before me, determined to somehow force it into the shape I desire. Today, it was Sheri-1, Software-0, but believe me, that’s not always the case. In fact, if I were in a position to pay someone to do the whole thing, I might just do it. And thus, the Universe sets things up so that I learn something valuable in spite of myself. I also get to make discoveries I wouldn’t otherwise make which lead me to changes and improvements I might not have requested in my ignorance. I grudgingly admit that everything is happening just as it is supposed to.

Though I can look at my To Do list and see that I’ve marked off more things than I realize this week, I have yet to do any writing, editing or revising, beyond a couple of blog posts.

But getting back to the point of this post, I let go of my efforts to develop a revenue stream from my writing to re-focus my attention on the projects I already have and wouldn’t you know, as soon as I did, I learn that a friend and potential future client wants to refer me to someone for editing work. I guess it’s a good thing that, despite it all, I’ve been altering my website to better serve me as a place where future clients can find me, see the services I can provide and even find contact information!

Evolution: A Continuing Theme

In the months leading up to my crazy leap of faith whereby I quit my job and started acting like a full-time writer (I’ve become an expert at procrastination!), I was seeing changes in my life, in my attitude and my beliefs. I found myself using the word “evolution” frequently. In that regard, little has changed. I continue to evolve. My life continues to change. There’s been a huge amount of trial and error and no shortage of small victories along the way. The errors lead me to small tweaks. The small tweaks either bring me the desired results or lead to further tweaks. And more often than not, the results I thought I wanted don’t end up being what I receive in the end, and I can honestly say, I’m happy with the altered results and expectations. I’m still not entirely sure what the Universe’s plans are for me, but I have no doubt that I will enjoy, not only the destination, but the journey.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful that I enjoy embracing change.
2. I am grateful for the twists and turns in my path which lead to wonderful new discoveries.
3. I am grateful for the opportunities I’m given to push past my own limitations and expand my personal universe.
4. I am grateful for the safe return of my son-in-law after over nine months of deployment.
5. I am grateful for abundance: change, lessons, discoveries, opportunities, love, joy, happiness, peace, harmony, health, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit my Facebook pages at and . Please also drop by my website, 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!

May 31, 2015 One Door Closes

Sometimes, it Takes a Good, Swift Knock on the Head

It took someone at my crit group’s none-too-subtle, sotto voce comment today to finally make me realize what I’ve been doing wrong. I have been spending far too much time looking at other peoples’ work instead of focusing on my own. So I came to a rather difficult decision, but one I believe is long overdue. For now, I am going to study and write, not necessarily in that order, and leave it to others to offer suggestions to other people. I’ve learned a lot from the group, but I’m talking too much and listening too little so I’m no longer an asset, either to the group or myself.

My intention is not to run away forever. I simply need to re-evaluate my priorities and, most importantly, work on writing, editing and revising my own efforts. Even the blogging for others could possibly take a back seat for awhile, partially because I’m feeling discouraged with how long it takes me to write what will be, if anything, an $8 post, and partially because I just haven’t worked up the courage or the confidence to pitch to strangers. I even got turned down when I offered editing/proof reading services free of charge to someone who really needs it! (I subscribe to a newsletter which is always filled with misspellings and incorrect word usage. It has now filtered into the site’s blog posts and social media posts which makes the writer in my cringe.)

Suffice it to say that between the subtle put down which for some stupid reason had me a little teary-eyed once I was alone and the fact that I can’t even seem to give away my services, it’s time for me to crawl back into my hermit hole for awhile. I even went so far as to do some minor revisions on the memoir I had decided to fictionalize. If that’s not spinning my wheels in the wrong direction, I don’t know what is!

Avoiding the Pity Party Train

I am not one to sit and feel sorry for myself. It accomplishes nothing, makes you unpleasant to be around and is the most unproductive life form on the planet. It all comes down to the advice I gave my daughter recently, and myself almost daily: Don’t focus on the things you have not accomplished. Instead, congratulate yourself on the things you have. Even if the only things I’ve managed to do are to get up, make the bed and brush my teeth, at least I didn’t spend the day in bed feeling sorry for myself.

So this is me, pulling myself up by my bootstraps (which is a real trick considering my feet are bare), accepting the constructive criticism, regardless of how it was delivered, altering my routine again, taking the lessons and moving on.

I think it’s fitting that this comes as we are changing months because it’s as if I’m starting the month of June with a bright, clean, white piece of paper in front of me and a handful of colored pens so the picture I paint will be as bright and shiny as I could possible want. Doing so alone means that I don’t have to listen to anyone complaining about me coloring outside the lines or painting my picture in a way which might offend their sensibilities. I promise I will be as courteous about their creations.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for lessons, no matter what kind of package they might come in.
2. I am grateful for beginnings, for hiatuses and even for endings. They all serve their own purpose.
3. I am grateful for failures as they make the successes that much sweeter and teach me what is working and what is not.
4. I am grateful for the successes of my friends and colleagues. They’ve all worked hard and deserve those moments in the spotlight.
5. I am grateful for abundance: lessons, setbacks, challenges, journeys, love, friendship, joy, heart breaks and heart heals, peace, harmony, health, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

April 15, 2015 Living the Vida Loca, aka Living the Writer’s Life

Investing My Blog With All of My Personalities

By now you may have noticed that my blog is even more schizophrenic than usual (which is saying a real mouthful!). It seems I have returned to my corporate accounting days when it was common to juggle multiple projects, each with its own critical deadline. As most of you who’ve ever done office work know, everyone believes their deadline is critical, and invariably, everyone’s projects and deadlines overlap.

You would think that when we are in control of our own schedule, that we would get away from this phenomenon. But I’m here to tell you that is not the case, mostly because we commit to various people or projects which come burdened with a deadline of their own. I even passed on a couple of things as I believed it would overburden me in the month of April. Little did I know…

Do I Blog? Do I Network? Do I Novel? Do I Study My Craft?

All of a sudden, I seem to have truly committed to my life as a writer, and therein lies the problem. Suddenly, I need to spend more time working on the writing class I signed up for in early March. But I also need to work on the Freelance Blogging course I signed up for too. (and which now is encouraging me to find a mentor which will require still more of a time commitment!) Then, of course, there is Camp NaNoWriMo to which I committed completing the novel I started in November. And what about the crit notes I need to get back to? Suddenly, I’m back to that crazy woman who worked long hours so that no project went past its due date.

OK, so the reality is that I’m happier when I have more on my plate. It’s as simple as that. Since I don’t have much in the way of actual paying work commitments right now, I have to create them in one way or another. But in order to create those paying work commitments, I have to hone my craft, right? And that means signing up for classes which will help me do so.

The beauty of it is, when I get stuck or frustrated with the blogging courses, I switch over to the writing courses, and when I don’t want to use my left brain at all, I work on my novel. In the end, everyone is happy. I think.

I did actually submit a post to BlogMutt today. I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of success with Elance, or even much I wanted to bid on, and as there seems to be at least 15 or 20 people bidding on each small dollar job, I wasn’t feeling very warm and fuzzy about putting forth the effort.

Sure, if my post is accepted, I stand to earn a whopping $8 for the post I did on BlogMutt, but even with the research I did for the post, I didn’t put more than a half hour into it, and the post is less than 500 words. (While you’re laughing your tush off at the idea of me writing something that short, give me credit for actually being able to confine myself to something so brief. That was my one impossible thing for the day.)

If nothing else, I’ve already earned the first of many writer’s badges of honor by receiving rejections on Elance. Whether my post is accepted or rejected on BlogMutt, it is simply one more step along the path I’ve chosen (or been chosen) to tread.

The way I see it, some of my writing is for fun and some of it is for profit (or I hope there will be some profit) and all of it is a learning experience. Perhaps some day I’ll have the opportunity to give back by teaching or mentoring someone else. But for now, I’m the student and the one who needs a mentor, if I could just figure out exactly what to ask for!

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful to have reached lesson 28 in the 30 Day Freelance Blogging course.
2. I am grateful to have submitted my first post to a potential buyer.
3. I am grateful for the hours I’ve spent watching videos and reading about writing in the Holly Lisle course.
4. I am grateful for a continuing flow of opportunities opening themselves up to me.
5. I am grateful for abundance: opportunities, lessons, friendship, family, love, joy, harmony, peace, health, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at and my website, 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!

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