Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Giving Relationships a Fighting Chance

How Does a Successful Relationship Begin?

Created with CanvaWhen I was in my 20’s there was a belief many of us shared that said living together before marriage was the best way to determine whether you could survive the perils and pitfalls of life with someone else sharing your space. Like any other belief, it worked for some people and not for others. I’ve seen as many relationships fail after a period of living together (including my own) as I have when there wasn’t. The long and short of it is, there aren’t any guarantees, no matter how you approach merging your life with someone else’s.

Today, I have friends who’ve been married more than 30 years, as well as some who’ve been married multiple times. Some of us pretty much gave up after 1 failure, and others have opted for a committed relationship without the piece of paper. Looking around, I’ve noticed a few things.

  • Commitment is a mindset
  • Making a relationship work takes effort from both parties
  • Desperation does not yield the best of choices
  • Sometimes, alone is better
  • “Want” and “need” are two very different animals
  • Compromise doesn’t mean giving in all the time
  • Without self-love, you can’t have a healthy, long-lasting relationship

People Pleasing Doesn’t Build Self-Esteem

Contrary to popular belief, people who allow themselves to be doormats are Created with Canvaseldom happy. I have several friends who turned themselves inside out to please someone and keep a relationship going, only to see it fall apart anyway. Today, they’re stronger for it, and unwilling to repeat past mistakes. They realize how unhappy and unfulfilled they were while trying to be what they thought someone else wanted them to be. In her song “Miss Me More”, Kelsea Ballerini sings “I thought I’d miss you, but I miss me more”. I think this epitomizes the concept of being true to yourself as well as anything I’ve seen or heard.

Living together could help uncover some potential problems a couple might encounter, but unless the masks come off, all aspects of the living situation are shared, and decisions are made jointly, I’m not convinced it will guarantee success. In some ways, you’d remain in “honeymoon status” because one or both of you are trying to keep the other happy. In truth, neither of you will be happy in the long run because, quite frankly, maintaining that blissful, carefree state is exhausting.

Life gets in the way. Trying to be perpetually cheerful, happy, and willing to please your partner eventually becomes a chore. You want and need “me” time, or to be the one who’s pampered and catered to. Even in a relationship where there’s a lot of give and take, there will be times when one or the other is used up emotionally by job, finances, family, and a host of other issues, and has nothing left to give. Those moments and how you manage them together will only show up if you’re honest and open.

Easy In = Easy Out

Sometimes they are the show-stoppers in a living together arrangement. Since you’ve made no real commitment, it’s easier to decide you’re unwilling to make the effort and walk away. Or to use another old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” though in this case, it isn’t necessarily a good thing. Sure, marriages end too, but I’d like to think most people who’ve made a commitment to each other give breaking the commitment a lot more thought than those who, to use the vernacular, are just “shacking up”.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against living together, or even being in a relationship and maintaining separate homes. I’ve seen that work well too. My point is you have to avoid falling into “honeymoon mode” if you make such a choice. Successful long-term relationships can begin in a multitude of ways, but only last when they’re based on honesty, mutual respect, and a healthy balance of give and take. One person can’t put all their time and energy into trying to make the other happy.

Face it. The only person you can make happy is yourself. If someone isn’t committed to their own happiness, no amount of love and attention from outside is going to bring them happiness. It’s truly an inside job.

Throwing Trust Into the Mix

In my own life, the single factor which has caused every single unsuccessful https://www.flickr.com/photos/philleara/7246573430/in/photolist-c3mzPd-djJiUe-oajKtQ-djJjmv-djJjLR-oapGkZ-djJjb9-djJj5F-cntb2u-7Y2xWm-cntayf-c3mLB3-n329S-7XYhYD-cntbhs-TCrSUz-gg7DZE-gg7XMV-6Ak5ks-9a2C7g-djJjz6-cntb85-rCKS6-cntag1-azBhou-3oXQYc-cnta8q-cntaL7-ocbPjv-oa7hn8-fJm576-baRPgp-7Y2xp7-8ommnm-bA1QHR-cnt9j1-dmywKj-7Y2x7b-4vwAew-aAPJwq-oa7iJB-cnt9xu-2FtNgi-gunWiW-hLgWLK-e4kv6P-2FtPvB-9GPQLh-4vsuDF-baRMyvrelationship to fail, be it employer-employee, co-workers, friends, or lovers has been lack of trust. It took me a long time to recognize the red flags, but after many painful situations and outright failures, I’ve learned to run when I see the signs:

  • Requiring me to prove myself in order to “earn” their trust
  • A tendency to talk more and listen less
  • Disrespect in any form
  • Mention of prior relationships in which their trust was abused
  • Failure to answer direct questions honestly. This may include diversion, humor, or flat out refusal.
  • Narcissism
  • Inattention such as taking a call in the middle of an interview, flirting with the waitress during a date, or any other behavior which implies I’m an afterthought

https://www.flickr.com/photos/svensson/4829867389/in/photolist-6XCAQH-WgXmBb-byu3Nn-6XCCec-F2ovRt-Gn7Ut6-7xLAFR-6XCBk8-8mNkiF-6XGAK9-p3qjVr-24BFZCb-24BG1Vb-poheFW-p8PQeo-F2orHZ-66bJw1-667u2F-F2okjr-GxKsrU-5kBreE-4tZPNF-66bL5y-667tVr-pqhycN-F2owK2-8mRw1h-24E9hKg-23jj36V-f7TE62-24BFXBY-5NnPFa-24BG3po-22t2Y6M-F2ojVR-4pHCNQ-F2osaR-23jj3vH-66bL2U-66bHY9-23AG54S-5dGrPJ-64i5Dg-4zorW-24BFZ1u-4MCNfE-6i2AXJ-5kBpHY-3rLwcC-3rFJXKNeedless to say, I’ve been burned by every one of these, and quite a few more as well. I suspect I’m not alone either. Everyone has a horror story or two to tell about a job, a friendship gone wrong, or a relationship that tanked. Each of us also has perfect hindsight. You know why it went wrong…now. But you allowed it to unfold for longer than it should have even with all your alarm bells clanging and red flags waving.

Knowing How to Lay a Firm Foundation

Photo: David Derong/Iowa State DailyWhen all is said and done, I don’t think how you begin a relationship, be it personal, work, or anything else determines success or failure. It’s about whether the parties to the arrangement are willing to put the effort into making it work. It’s about mindset and owning responsibility for your own happiness. Most of all, you have to decide from the onset whether it’s a passing fling or something you want to last a lifetime.

There are no guarantees. Things happen. People change. Lives end. The world interferes. But you can’t weather the storms if you’re not willing to get soaked now and then.

Gratitude: The Strongest Brick in Your Structure

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the many lessons I’ve learned by failing.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who’ve taught me what I deserve, and the ones who’ve taught me what I don’t.
  3. I’m grateful for peaceful afternoons spent creating. I truly am living the life of my dreams in a lot of ways.
  4. I’m grateful for flexibility; schedules, tasks, friendships. Life throws us curveballs and being able to step out of the way rather than face them all head on means a more peaceful, stress-free life.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; joy, laughter, love, friendship, creativity, inspiration, motivation, opportunities, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help 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 or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

 

Showing Yourself Gratitude: Who Knew?

Start Your Gratitude List With You

There’s a lot of hoopla and hype about gratitude these days, and for good reason. You’re grateful for things that make you happy, so focusing on gratitude means you’re putting your attention on things that make you happy. The more you focus on things that make you happy, the less you notice the ones that don’t.

It follows that as you’re busy focusing on things that make you happy, you begin to see only the ones that make you happy, and pretty soon, you see more of them. You can call it Laws of Attraction, or simply a shift in perspective. Either way, you start hard-wiring yourself for happiness and positivity.

But with all the time and effort you put into gratitude, what do you show appreciation for most of the time? If you’re like me, it’s probably things outside yourself; a beautiful day, a great parking spot, a safe drive to work, beautiful flowers in your garden. How often do you look in the mirror and say “I’m grateful for me?”

Your Are the Most Important Person in Your Life

Yet, who or what is more important and deserving of your gratitude? Why don’t https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrishuggins/4675505957/in/photolist-88ac2F-8LnEVQ-r3ZSnA-rkryn2-dEHqQa-buZGL5-9NXU2Q-uQd4Gi-8HtvkK-brtvSa-mc16EB-zKaXu-mayYKi-LpBQx-24Q2uC3-5fjkkg-eJzqz-di4zr7-di4Cts-9d5Zj3-9SKTfn-FCdjdz-f5wwhN-XjXzMf-9P5vA2-kVMXd9-47aeuC-zNAvV-dZ5cLv-5P5kRq-5z3cp5-7fRw8n-Ad6nP2-fjj4VF-nPSwLg-GUXa92-ERVZat-YW3tj5-sgc13A-xYkggi-SwjMJA-K74gKR-qod9ho-evhnbP-5mpBv5-v38BL4-26QXWnW-nCnBUo-JSkWR-88acaPyou take a deep breath and say “thank you for my lungs”? What stops you from pausing to listen to the steady beat in your chest and say “thank you for the heart keeping a steady rhythm inside me”?

If focusing on things that make you grateful attracts more happiness-inducing stuff, wouldn’t showing appreciation for our health attract more health? How about things like losing weight, or increasing your strength? Wouldn’t those things benefit from a little gratitude and positive energy too?

So many of my friends complain they can’t lose weight. They talk about how they lose a couple of pounds but it always comes back. How about if instead, on the days when the numbers on the scale decrease, you say “thank you for the pound I’ve released”. On the days when it goes the other way, either say nothing, or find some aspect to be grateful for anyway. I, for one am going to give it a try, and will share my progress over the next month or so. What do I have to lose, except those pounds which are slowing me down anyway?

Rerouting the Complain Train

https://www.flickr.com/photos/35661951@N05/3301911347/in/photolist-62MacZ-8Xg8JJ-99EED2-6ukkey-99cpQj-K3PSrh-hFEZv-eevrK7-4ET5Ga-eirkqh-4QxafM-5thv2Z-7D9KW6-77wGJ5-eeonnH-aDN8j3-kbDBEA-8B6bHZ-2GsUh2-5gqAf-cyMRGU-5tUx72-oVs2Rk-9RuAeo-eevDx5-GywZT9-cyMwjW-pmZbM-h3P17c-3cBFP2-eevzuC-q8iZiZ-5TsVGN-aDN3D9-WrrMWj-7x9jR6-j1kqp-gEroQ-cQ6Pt5-4sNRtz-nkKGAk-GywYMb-GywZYj-JCRyYq-9utXaK-7YriHP-6WDWPK-bjM3J7-FFmjJG-2NLBMLet’s not stop there. What else do you typically complain about? Not enough money? Too little work? Too much work? Increasing costs? Unfair treatment? How can you flip those so you’re showing appreciation instead of complaining?

How about:

I’m grateful I have enough money to pay my rent/mortgage.

I’m grateful I have some free time to do things for myself.

I’m grateful I have plenty of work as it makes the day go quickly. I have enough money for a vacation or maybe a massage.

I’m grateful I have options when my cost of living goes up.

I’m grateful for people who show me how I don’t deserve to be treated, and I’m grateful I can walk away from them and towards my friends who treat me right.

How Can You Flip Your Own Life?

These are a few examples, but with a little effort, you can find your own, as long as you focus on your own assets and qualities. When push comes to shove, who is your strongest advocate? Your greatest asset? The one person you can count on no matter what? Yet who is also the last person you think to thank?

Your heart allows you to live, pumping blood through your system to feed all your cells. Your lungs bring air into your lungs, oxygenating your blood and keeping you from suffocating. Your legs lift you from a chair, get you out of bed, help you run, skip, or dance. Your arms let you give and receive hugs.

But if you’re like me, it never occurs to you to thank your body, your mind, or yourself for the qualities and abilities that allow you to enjoy all the outside things making you happy.

Years ago I had a mantra I’d use in the morning to get my day started on the right foot. I’d look in the mirror and say: You’re beautiful, sexy, sassy, and delicious. It always brought a smile to my face which meant, no matter what happened during the day, I at least began with a smile.

Instead of a goofy mantra, let’s start the day with a deeply personal gratitude. I can use things like:

I’m grateful for my brain which never lacks for ideas when I sit down to write.

I’m grateful for my legs which carry me across a dance floor as often as I like.

I’m grateful for my heart. In fact, I LOVE my heart for pumping blood through my body, but also for being the source and repository for love.. 

I’m grateful for my hands with which I type the words my brain sends, but with which I also pet my cats, or touch a friend.

Gratitude Equals Love

To me, gratitude is another way of saying “I love you” I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more love, and though what we get from others is marvelous, what you give to yourself is both limitless and powerful. You can change your mood with gratitude, uplifting when you were despondent. Imagine how much higher you’d fly if the gratitude you expressed was for yourself, your body, your mind, your actions, your—Presence!

So next time you feel compelled to express gratitude, start your list with things you’re grateful for that come from within. And when you’ve done so for a week, a month, maybe more, come back and share how it impacted your life. After all, success stories always inspire others.

Where Do You Need Help?

None of us has to walk our path alone. Where are you struggling to keep it all together? Maybe all you need is a sounding board? Perhaps, just a listening ear? Or would you like to take a task or two off your plate? Is it content creation, or perhaps it’s getting your books in order and creating a budget. If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to streamline your life, ask for help instead of trying to do it all, CONTACT ME and let’s talk!

Showing a Little Gratitude for Me!

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the woman I’ve become from the challenges I’ve overcome and the lessons I’ve learned.
  2. I’m grateful for my motivation which compels me to keep trying even when all indications say I should quit.
  3. I’m grateful for my heart; for the life blood it pumps, and for it’s capacity for love and compassion, not only for others, but for myself.
  4. I’m grateful for positvity. It took awhile to learn, but I’ve come to appreciate how much easier it’s become the more I practice.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, energy, compassion, inspiration, opportunities, health, strength, peace, harmony, connections, support, community, philanthropy, and prosperity for all.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help 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 or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Happy Dates When Our Hearts Lead the Way

Switching My Attention to Happy Dates

It’s a funny thing about January 25th. It’s my ex-husband’s birthday, and also the day I found out I was having twins—31 years ago <gasp!>.

In previous posts I’ve written about how dates bring back memories, but most of the time, I write about the sad ones. In truth, if we put our minds to it, we have far more dates we associate with happy memories than sad ones. The sad ones just have a tendency to leap into our brains faster, maybe because the feelings they elicit are somehow more intense.

It could also mean we aren’t done healing from the trauma, tragedy, or letdown seeing the date on the calendar each year elicits. Like the lessons we need to learn (like patience for me), things we need to heal come back to haunt us over and over until we do the work we need to and release ourselves from pain.

Telling Our Brain to Back Off And Let Our Heart Lead

Admittedly, our brains like pain because it means we stagnate, avoiding change and crawling https://www.flickr.com/photos/jobber1/36197048070/in/photolist-X9BkiG-6zNVTx-9WcJ3G-dSakbx-dSammr-9TBa8u-6ezpVp-4BqdWY-VXtGBZ-rmenXX-qCVBCH-ebSPFY-on6uCz-7jht6-n98ro-VTXW6M-a1XWoX-aEZ3ZC-GAd7om-aETqXe-5YRvvk-dSfWbY-KEWxyD-7N2mv7-s8WVRA-97x2ND-9FZG7n-kv3uih-7dAKBM-Usjf3C-emcpAz-3EXMtA-U3SSPP-gQb96B-6QtXTY-o36uJj-iwvCcv-54dBjc-opbQb3-7NxyBo-7G7U6q-cS6eML-9FXQcH-ojrwjj-SUbPcQ-7MNAUc-Ee2qD-jZRnbY-a355px-cS691Nback into our status quo cave. But when we listen to our ‘fraidy cat brain, I think our gentle heart breaks a little more each time we deny ourselves the pleasure of a little adventure; a little change. Sure, our hearts break when we try new things that don’t work out, but it’s a resilient sort, and knits itself back together each time, especially if we give it something new to focus on.

I’m not making this stuff up. Believe me, I’ve lived both ways, and I much prefer the bumps and bruises I’ve gathered on my adventures to the sad, lonely years I spent huddled in my hidy hole, afraid to venture out for fear of pain, ridicule, or humiliation. In fact, I’ve learned that being my own weird self is actually something people want to see!

Perfection is a Poor Disguise

Nobody out there is perfect, so seeing perfection in others is intimidating and off-putting. I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to relate to someone who appears to have no flaws or weaknesses. The woman who shows up at the office immaculately groomed every day, and wouldn’t even flinch if you squirted ketchup all over her pristine, white blouse is probably a tumultuous mess inside.

That guy who always has the right answer and is organized to a fault probably has panic attacks when something is even a teensy bit out of place. He searches for controllable structure in a world which is unwilling to cooperate, so he spends his life waiting to pounce on the next nonconformity. He hides himself away, studying every possibility so he’ll be ready with an answer before the question is asked while life passes him by.

Taking the Lessons and Leaving the Pain Behind

Many people focus on the unhappy times, revisiting them over and over trying to figure out how they could have changed the outcome. It’s over folks. It happened, and you can’t change the past. Dwelling on it only screws up your future. Letting it go allows you to move forward with a clean slate, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but you’ve learned where some of the perils and pitfalls lurk in the process.

Bruises heal, clothes and bodies wash. So what if we end up rolling in the mud once in awhile. Who knows? You might just like it!

Go Ahead, Live the Adventure

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gcaspers/3674508861/in/photolist-6AGPt4-9XPdGp-9AfZYv-asnfWg-2j1go4-7UukPU-a2XVdU-NqoUQ-dbkFUe-a2XRDb-6nnHrK-9EBf9b-9xemFj-cucYQS-cud1JC-cucV5Q-cucW5f-9GVbUK-9XS6cJ-53kCM9-8dXRc-ctMcPj-crXsXw-cutJfu-a3bJ56-9XS6GA-aspUtj-a3bRmp-rjDGsd-cudgUJ-9xeGYS-ctNGF1-cutroo-crYSB9-a2UPPe-crYbPw-6ZUrTn-cutJYm-jCRHS-cutQqA-csxxsh-sabp4u-aspXws-a3fFX5-cutPDh-dmd5Ze-asnkuX-cykHmj-9xAUFm-cutrGUTo be honest, I’m probably one of the least adventurous of my friends. One man in his 70’s still takes off on his motorcycle every week just for fun. He plans trips to Europe with friends where they ride all over the countryside, and he’s not looking to stop his adventures any time soon.

Another friend moved to North Dakota after her divorce and lived in a trailer without power for a couple of months, alone in the middle of nowhere. She followed Cavalia to Arizona when it’s California run ended. These days, she divides her time between cleaning pools and working with horses, with a little dancing thrown in for good measure. Unlike me, she dates now and then, not afraid to give someone a chance. In contrast, I either go on the defensive or am utterly oblivious; mostly the latter.

What these two have in common is they follow their hearts and don’t think about potential consequences or pitfalls. They’ve fallen and picked themselves up enough times, they don’t worry about it. They take one day at a time, and when life gives them rocks and mudslides, they find their footing and chuck the rocks back. They pile up the happy memories so those come to the forefront rather than the sad ones.

My Pushme-Pullyou Lifestyle

I’ve embraced adventure and taken some leaps of faith in the last few years, though I’m still retreating too often. It takes me a little longer to get up when I fall, yet I always do.

It’s funny, because as I look back on my life, I realize I’ve always lived it believing when things go wrong, it leaves me free for something better. Yet a lot of the wrongness in my life has been because I let someone else dictate the direction. So when they dumped me on my butt, it was a blessing in disguise to stop having to follow their lead. Even so, for years, I continued to put my fate in other peoples’ hands, never leaving until I was shoved, never learning to trust myself instead—until about 5 years ago.

I won’t say my road has been smooth, and I’ve given up a lot of things in the process. But nothing I’ve given up really matters in the general scheme of things, and some needed to go. But until now, I didn’t know how to do without them; didn’t believe I could. Now, I have trouble remembering why some of them were important in the first place except they supported an image that was never really me in the first place, or brought some relief from the stress and strain of turning myself into a pretzel so people would like and accept me.

Fitting In By Being You

You could say the leap of faith that left me intentionally jobless has taught me a lot of the things I did to fit in were never necessary, and were in fact, a waste of my time and effort. The real me, t-shirt and shorts, messy bun, bare feet, natural nails, and no makeup is a happier, healthier version of the woman who turned herself inside out to please the unplease-able, fit in with those who had no intention of accepting her, and worked overtime for those who were never grateful and only expected more.

Sometimes the adventure of a lifetime is getting up the nerve to be yourself and damn the consequences. For me, that happened on December 6, 2013 when I left the Corporate world forever. Suddenly, I fit just fine! Is it any wonder I look back less and less every day? What masks and ill-fitting characters have you shed lately? Is it time to do some more house cleaning?

Grateful Every Single Day For Things Large and Small

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I’ve learned to listen more to my heart than my head.
  2. I am grateful for new adventures awaiting me around the next bend.
  3. I am grateful for the people in my life who love me as I am, messy, chaotic, clumsy, or brilliant. It’s all part of the unique individual I’m finally allowing myself to let show.
  4. I am grateful for rainy days and Mondays when I leave the house only to go to the gym, then come home to work with the sound of the rain spattering my window, and the cats going nuts because that’s what they do on those rare occasions when we get real rain around here.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, butt-kickers, cheerleaders, friends, love, joy, compassion, support, wisdom, non-conformity, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help 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 or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Clean Diaper, Full Belly. Finding Our Bliss In Simplicity

When Did We Lose Sight of Simplicity?

Somehow we’ve all gotten caught up, at least to some extent in the myth that happiness is predicated on having more. We’re bombarded, especially this time of year, with entreaties to let our consumeristic selves go wild, and the devil take the credit card bills.

Finding My Bliss by Giving Things Up

As I throw away every ad and delete every email asking me to buy, buy, buy (and only about half of them are from retailers), I feel a certain kind of peace in my decision to keep my holiday purchases to a minimum this year. It takes a lot of the stress out of the holiday season and beyond, and lets me put more focus into accomplishing things I want to see finished by the time the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Here are a few things I won’t miss this year:

  • Endless hours spent wrapping presents
  • Cramming my car to the gills with gifts for my daughter and son-in-law, many of which they probably neither want nor need (pajamas, socks, and books notwithstanding)
  • Hours agonizing over what I can get them they don’t already have anyway
  • Hours spent online or in the stores which would be better spent bringing my clients’ affairs up-to-date and getting my own projects ready for the next steps
  • Credit card bills in January that leave me questioning what I could possibly have been thinking
  • Dragging out and putting back the bins of wrapping paraphernalia
  • The chaos my living room becomes while I’m wrapping those endless piles of gifts
  • Time spent wrapping in front of the television that would be better spent writing, editing, or doing work for clients
Halting the Pursuit of Stress, er, Happiness

Needless to say, I’m already enjoying the minimal stress of this holiday season more than I’ve enjoyed the holidays in a very long time. My shopping is already done and the wrapping won’t take more than a couple of hours including dragging out the paper and boxes and putting them back. Instead of setting up the card table in front of the TV as I’ve done in years past, I’ll just wrap everything on the dining room table so there’s one less thing to put away when I’m done.

There are hidden benefits to keeping our gift-giving to a minimum this year too. My daughter and I have been working on de-cluttering our environments. Adding more stuff means finding places, or re-cluttering areas we’ve worked so hard to clear. Why would we want to get back on that hamster wheel to nowhere?

Steps to Becoming the Ultimate Non-Consumer

I’m making good use of that “unsubscribe” option at the end of most emails these days. I have no problem if someone is offering me information with a link to their site if I want to learn more. But when someone bombards me with daily emails, each containing a poorly veiled sales pitch, there’ll be one less subscriber under their tree come Christmas. But I’m grateful to all who choose to do business this way as it shows me things I should not do when my goal is to develop a tribe who know, like, and trust me.

Many business-people out there believe very strongly in a numbers game. The more people you put yourself in front of, and the more often you do it, the more sales you’ll have. But if you think about it, their success rate is minimal. They send out daily emails to their 5-10,000 subscribers, so they have to take the time to either write those emails or pay someone to do it for them. Of those 5-10,000 daily emails (and don’t get me started on those who send more than one a day!), I’d say, conservatively, 75% are deleted without being read. Another 20% delete them after seeing they’re nothing but another sales pitch.

Generously, 5% or 250-500 people might actually read those emails, but how many of them actually buy? Remember those same people are also being inundated by emails as well as TV and online ads from Target, Kohl’s, Walmart and more encouraging them to buy the latest fashions, toys, and electronics for their oh-so-deserving families. You can bet most of them haven’t seen a gigantic influx of money to feed these voracious and never-satisfied fires of consumerism. I’m guessing most are going to take care of family before signing up for yet another course or e-book.

Happiness is Simplicity

Though this little rant of mine has strayed a bit off-topic, the point is that if we take it back to basics; to a time when the little things made us happy, we might be surprised to find that the little things still make us happy.

Here are a few of mine, just to get you started:

  • Spending time with friends in an environment conducive to relaxation and conversation.
  • Spending time with my daughter and son-in-law being silly and laughing a lot.
  • Snuggling on the couch with my cats, a book, and a cup of tea.
  • Letting my imagination take over as I spew words on the page with no particular reason or direction.
  • Getting outside and walking, preferably with a friend.
  • Daydreaming
  • Cooking up some kind of tasty mess
  • Baking something just to give it away.

We all have our own version of “clean diaper, full belly” if we just clear the crap and the constant compulsion to buy, the invisible cord that drags us into stores so we might buy on impulse rather than thoughtfulness.

Getting off the Stress-Go-Round

The biggest advantage to this year of simplification is that my stress levels have gone down to almost nothing. My calendar is fairly full, but the tasks required to get there are manageable. There’s even time in between for self-care; something most of us shove to a back burner this time of year, only to pay the price come January (in more than those previously mentioned massive credit card bills).

Simon and Garfunkel said it best, a long, long, time ago:

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

If you find your pleasure being a part of the holiday chaos, so be it. As for me, I’ll be talking to lampposts and watching the flowers grow.

My gratitudes today are:

  1.  I am grateful for slow, easy holidays.
  2.  I am grateful for simplicity, and for recognizing it’s an option.
  3.  I am grateful for work that keeps me busy enough, a social calendar that makes me spend a little less time alone, and that both require me to stay on task more.
  4.  I am grateful for the many things I’ve learned and the progress I’ve made this year. Looking back, it’s been a wild ride, but one helluva year for me. I’m looking forward to seeing where the wheels I’ve set in motion take me.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; work, friendship, lessons, love, joy, time, peace, harmony, opportunities already here and yet to come, inspiration, motivation, balance, limitless possibilities, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She 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 special gift lies in 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 or to schedule a free informational call. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

August 2, 2015 Taking Stock

Looking Back on the Last 7 Months

I don’t know whether it’s the lazy, heat-filled days of summer or the nostalgic music of my high school and college days playing in the background, but today I was prompted to look back at all I’ve accomplished this year. I choose only to look at this year and not the entire time I’ve been pursuing a writing career, eschewing the security of a regular paycheck because it wasn’t until this year that I’ve really seen progress.

Certainly, I’ve still found myself wandering off track and trying to pursue the mighty buck instead of being true to my craft, but all in all, this year has been one of forward momentum. The list might not be a long one, but each accomplishment meant hours upon hours of my heart and soul poured out on a page, and more, ruthlessly edited, knowing that it won’t be the first time I cut the children of my imagination to pieces, only to reassemble them again in ways I hope will improve them and make them interesting to someone besides myself. So without further ado, here is what makes me feel that this year has been worthwhile:

  • Completed the first edit of Sasha’s Journey
  • Completed the first draft of A Dubious Gift
  • Completed the second edit of Sasha’s Journey’s first four chapters
  • Started a new short story, The Elemental Tree
  • Completed Gina Horkey’s 30 Day Freelance course.
  • Sold 6 blog posts to BlogMutt
  • Launched my web page on which I continue to make improvements as I learn new things.
  • Got my first blogging client
  • Read numerous books about writing and put some of what I’ve learned into practice (thank you, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. King to name just two).
  • Re-organized my office into a writer’s office instead of an accountant’s office, complete with white board, colored pens, magnets and 5 x 7 index cards.
  • Cleared a shelf for my books on writing.
  • Continue to improve on my daily routines and To Do list.
  • Worked with a local critique group both critiquing and being critiqued (put my children’s story, Frederick the Gentlemouse up for review) where I’ve learned a great deal both from critiquing the work of others and listening to what other members of the group have to say.

Though these things might only mean something to me and maybe another writer, they demonstrate that I’m moving in a positive direction towards my goal of being a writer and published author. Though I have more than my share of moments when I ask myself whether I’ve lost my mind and should really get out and find a real job again, those moments are less and less frequent. I’ve faced a lot of fears this year, allowed some to stop me dead in my tracks for awhile and managed others. I will continue to face down those fears and plenty of others which spring up along the way. But as long as I can take stock like this and see what I have accomplished, I know that everything is going to work out just fine.

Most of all, in one way or another, I write every single day (writers don’t really have weekends. They’re just another day to write). It might only be a blog post, though now, it’s often two; one for me and one for my client. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to write a post then walk away from it for a few hours before actually sending it out into the world. Other times, I’m just the pantser I’m so comfortable being and let the thing fly once I’ve checked for obvious typos and grammatical errors, of course! What I realized today after logging so many accomplishments, in fact, more than I realized when I started this post, is that I love the life I have. I love it when I’m creating like crazy. I love it when I’m editing, now that I’ve figured out the formula to make it work for me. I love it when I’m paying my bills at the beginning of the month. And I even love it through those moments of insecurity and dread. Why? Because it’s real. Because it’s mine. And most of all, because I truly am living the dream I set 5 decades ago.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the opportunity to check in with myself and find that I’m right on schedule.
2. I am grateful for friends and family who continue to believe in what I’ve chosen to do.
3. I am grateful for the healthy meals with which I stock my refrigerator and freezer (tonight’s take out Chinese notwithstanding)
4. I am grateful for the morning stretches my body has forced me to adopt. The 20 or 30 minutes I spend giving my body attention pays off in ways I didn’t even imagine.
5. I am grateful for abundance: accomplishments, joy, love, productivity, imagination, inspiration, friendship, kitty love, health, harmony, peace, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

I’d appreciate your taking a moment to visit my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and https://www.facebook.com/HLWTAccounting . Please also drop by my website, http://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!

July 30, 2015 Where Our Attention Goes: Choice or Happenstance?

Managing Information Overload

At no time has humanity been subjected to larger quantities of information like the present. Even if you are one who eschews television and newspapers, you are not immune. The drive to work gives you hundreds, even thousands of other drivers every day. There are road signs, billboards, even signs on vehicles. If you listen to the radio, there are commercials.

Unless you are one of the rare few who never has to look at a computer during your workday, you have emails, meeting requests, data and, thanks to the internet, more ads. You also have people, those information-filled creatures who cannot be avoided short of living alone on an inaccessible mountain top. That doesn’t even take into account all of the information which flows past you, virtually unseen. Why? Because, for the sake of our sanity, our brains filter what we see and only register a tiny portion it deems important; mostly for our survival, but with training, in other areas as well.

For example, we see thousands of cars, trucks and other vehicles every day, but do you notice much about them? Probably not. But when you buy a new car, suddenly you notice every vehicle on the road that is like yours, especially the ones that are the same color (yet another argument for avoiding white, black and silver). This also holds true for subjects which are important to you personally or professionally. Your brain works much like an email filter which looks for certain words or phrases. When you hear or see one, your attention automatically shifts.

Each of Us Has Our Own, Unique Triggers

This was really brought home to me today when an article about Gary Allen flashed by me. I caught the words “took her life” and immediately clicked on the story. Not only did I read it, I commented, and have, in fact, received comments to my comment. Why? Because losing a family member to suicide is a topic I’ve not only written about at length, but have lived through, not once, but twice. Because I’ve spent so much time reading and writing about the subject, it is a hot button in my brain. At least from where I sit, I believe this happens for a reason.

When my mom first passed, I had a lot going on in my life and it was all I could do to cope with the things I had to. I pushed feelings and unimportant stuff like grieving to the back of my mind, packed up nicely in unmarked, well-sealed boxes. As I got through things like raising kids, a divorce, a couple of layoffs and a company forced into bankruptcy, I took little notice of the strangely distorted box in the back of my mental file cabinet sizzling and twisting itself into frightening distortions of its former shape. When its lid finally yielded to internal pressure and blew off, it spewed all of those poorly contained feelings into every aspect of my life.

With the help of my friends, I survived that first eruption, gathering as much of the effluvia as I could and packing it into what I foolishly believed was a stronger container. This time, I also gathered myself and wrapped a container around me. In the process, I attracted all manner of ill-suited companions, none of whom were likely to stick around when things got rocky. Eventually, the inevitable occurred and I was alone with my kids; probably the absolute worst scenario for my dad to use his own methods to follow my mother’s lead. My own, personal day that will live in infamy is 9/11/03; 1 day before my daughters’ 16th birthday and 2 years after the attack that leveled the World Trade Center and sent America back to war.

We Find Our Strength by Digging Out From the Caverns of Our Minds

Fast-forward 5 1/2 years. I started writing a book about grieving a suicide victim. I had about 26,000 words but found myself falling into a pit of self-pity and blame so I put it aside and started a blog. Surviving and Beyond was the best, most healing thing I could have done for myself. I took the subject of suicide out of the closet where society prefers to keep things like suicide and homosexuality, to name just two. In so doing, over time, I came to understand that my parents’ choices had nothing to do with me, my sister, their families, their friends…they had to do only with themselves and where their lives and led them. I learned compassion for my mother with whom I had, for years, had an antagonistic relationship. I learned to appreciate the gift my father had given my sister and I. He spared us the agony he had suffered watching his mother die of lung cancer.

My little blog wasn’t finished with me though. It introduced me to others who had, for reasons of their own, spoken rarely, if ever, of their own experiences with losing a parent to suicide. I gave them someone who understood and they gave me back the same. Sometimes we just share a hug, sometimes its a thought which passed through our minds over the last week or so, and sometimes it’s the simple realization that in choosing to end their own life, they didn’t do so out of fear or selfishness, but simply because it was time.

‘Surviving and Beyond’ has moved on just as I have. john-lennon-is-being-happy-the-key-to-lifeI’ve renamed it ‘Leaps of Faith’, but not religious faith. It’s about faith in ourselves. It’s about trusting our gut when it says we need to make a big, scary change. It’s about trusting that we will succeed, and by succeed I mean, find our true happiness. Most of all, it’s about following our hearts, our passion, our true path, no matter how ridiculous, how unlikely it might seem.

My little blog has evolved, but I will always notice stories about suicide…and I will always find a way to add my 2 cents in a way that I hope will resonate with others and bring them some kind of comfort, or, if nothing else, someone who understands and will listen if they need to share. I do want to qualify that, though. I am not a wallower and I don’t have a lot of patience for those who want to whine, beat their chests and cry Woe is me!. I do respect those who see every experience as a lesson and who make the choice to figure out what that lesson is and learn from it. Thankfully, I seem to have communicated that effectively as I don’t see many who haven’t chosen to move forward despite the horrifically painful loss they’ve endured…and survived.

May all I touch find a way to go beyond simply surviving and learn to take those leaps of faith which lead them to a life of purpose, meaning and delight.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful that I can, if only in a small way, bring comfort to others through what I’ve learned from my own experiences.
2. I am grateful for another amazing, knee-abusing night of dancing.
3. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the people who have come into my life at just the right time.
4. I am grateful for the blog topics which occur to me just when I think I have nothing to say.
5. I am grateful for abundance: business growth, love, inspiration, productivity, friendship, happiness, health, peace, harmony, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

I’d appreciate your taking a moment to visit my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and https://www.facebook.com/HLWTAccounting . Please also drop by my website, http://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!

November 15, 2014 A day in the life…with ADD #shericonaway

Considering a change? No problem! Let ADD help!

Getting ready for bed at around 2AM after exceeding my NaNoWriMo goal and writing a less than optimal blog post, I realized that I needed to make another change or three. Then I thought about what I would write about today in my blog. I promised myself I’d remember the topic and didn’t bother to write it down before tumbling myself into the warmth of a soft bed and snuggly cats.

This morning as I was going through my usual morning stuff and putting in my contacts, the blog topic from last night, of course, evaded me. But then I noticed that one of the cats had managed to pee outside of the potty pad I’d begun putting underneath the sand box when Patches, my old girl, started expressing her displeasure at the addition of two rowdy kittens by doing her deed over the edge of the box.

Contacts in, I started the necessary cleanup only to find that she’d managed to saturate the floor under the sand box! OK, points for creativity here! Keep in mind that in human years, this cat is about 102!

Deciding this was a job for the mop, I retrieved said implement from the garage, cleaned up the mess, and realized that the basket where I usually toss the used mop pads was still full of linens which one of my rat catching cats had found to be an even better bed than the comforter on the garage floor.

I looked at the basket and said to myself “Self, there’s no time like the present!” So saying, I took the basket into the house and proceeded to cram the contents into my overflowing linen closet where the thought occurred to me that I need to pull out all of the twin sized linens and offer them up on Freecycle. (thankfully, I didn’t act on that idea immediately!)

Returning the basket to the garage, I put the mop pad inside and chanced to glance at the dryer which still contained part of the load of clothes I’d washed earlier in the week. That darned little devil named “No time like the present” was still sitting on my shoulder, so that load, too, was pulled out, folded up and put away.

By now, my coffee was cold and my yogurt was warm, but now I remembered what I wanted to talk about today.

Change: Be careful what you wish for.

Working on my latest novel tends to wind me up even more than dancing. Picture a sugar rush that just keeps giving and giving and giving. Unfortunately, that rush does not let me settle down to write a blog post for hours! So it occurred to me that, at least while I’m working on the latest novel, and maybe on into perpetuity, I need to rethink the timing of my blog posts; that is, I need to change up my routine.

To many of you out there, the idea of revamping your tried and true (for some reason, my fingers wanted to type “tired” instead of “tried”. Want to weigh in, Mr. Freud?) routine can be nothing short of terrifying. But my ADD thrives on messing up the status quo. It’s the same routine, day after day, week after week which will drive me into the doldrums. So in the spirit of mixing things up, I’ve realized that I need to do my blog post earlier in the day instead of late at night.

I also realized why writing late at night works best for me. My mind is a little tired and is less likely to interfere with the creative process. When subconscious mind jumps in and says (quite rudely, I might add) “Move over, you anal retentive twit! It’s my turn to run the show now!” it encounters little resistance from the part of my brain that has spent most of the day solving problems or taking care of chores.

At any rate, the blog must go on, so the writing will be done when normal people are up and moving, leaving the hours between 9PM and 3AM for the creation of something wonderful and entertaining (we must keep our mind positive). One of these works of sweat and blood will be the one to launch that new career of mine which has been clamoring for attention for most of my life. Ignoring it became unbearable about a year ago, so here I sit, writing whatever comes into my head, day after day.

So what was the topic again? Oh, yes. Change. I needed to make a few again. It seems like this comes up every 2-3 months, and after I shake things up a bit, life gets better. Recent changes like a better gym routine and weekly produce boxes have resulted in more energy, feeling healthier and increased confidence. (not to mention, a freezer full of heat and eat meals)

Don’t ask “what price, change?”. Instead, ask “what profit, change?”

So many people ask what making a change will cost them in terms of time, comfort, money, well-being, or what have you. I think that’s why it’s so scary for many. To me, change means that I’m making my life better: More time, less stress, better health, more good habits, more time in the healing energy of my cats and more time to visit my daughter and grand furries. If I could offer people one piece of advice, I’d say “Change often. Look at it as an opportunity to further enhance your life. Look at the possibilities and downplay or ignore the costs.” Ok, that was a whole bunch of pieces tied together, but you get what I mean, I hope. But lest I haven’t made myself clear Change is good for you! Change makes you stronger, healthier, happier, sexier. Change eliminates boredom!

I walk through the gym where my friend Barb has made me aware of the fact that the majority of the occupants are male, and I walk proudly, head up, shoulders back, stomach tightening from all of the crunches and Pilates I’ve been doing, and I feel nothing short of amazing. All this from making a few changes.

What’s stopping you? Don’t be afraid of rapidly increasing happiness. If you find you have too much, just spread it around. Smile at everyone you see!

Happiness is a miracle drug and change is the catalyst.

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for my love of change.
2. I am grateful that I remembered my idea for today’s blog topic.
3. I am grateful for the opportunity to spread happiness.
4. I am grateful to my friends for keeping my eyes open and my spirit alert.
5. I am grateful for abundance: joy, happiness, change, energy, health, love, friendship, inspiration, motivation and prosperity.

Namaste

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. I’ve created this page as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” it or leave a comment! Thank you!

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