Dancing outside my comfort zone

Posts tagged ‘Lessons’

Are You Committed or Merely Interested?

A Time for Reassessing. Am I Truly Committed?

The last 3 1/2 years have been quite a ride for me. I’ve dabbled in a lot of things, written a few drafts of novels, and several hundred blog posts, but I’ve yet to figure out quite what I want to be when I grow up. No, I take that back. I’ve figured out what I want to be, I just haven’t fully committed to what’s required to get there.

We go through life trying many different things. Some simply interest us, but every so often, one comes along that grabs us by the throat and we have no choice but to commit to it, heart, soul, mind, and body. I thought the writing was it for me, but with each setback, each rejection, each failure to launch, I become less certain.

Step 1: Having a Plan of Action

I know I need a plan, and have come up with several, but have yet to truly stick to anything long-term. Even the plan I typed up and put on my wall hasn’t really come to fruition. I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day writing. I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day reading motivational literature. And worst of all, I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day working on queries or researching companies to send queries to.

Sure, I’m writing a blog post here and there. Yes, I’m doing at least 2 Facebook Lives a week. Yes, I’m still going to the gym most weeks, though the last couple have been challenging, to say the least.

Having a plan is certainly a good place to start. But if you don’t follow the plan, it’s just words on paper, and may as well be in Swahili for all the meaning they bring into our lives. Yet, if you’re truly committed to something, won’t you stick to any plan at all just to be heading in the right direction?

Acknowledging Our Fears and Frustrations

I question myself every day. I ask what I’m afraid of. At first, it was fear of not following through. But if I’m completely honest with myself, I’ve followed through on writing commitments for others again and again. It’s myself I have trouble committing to. But at least that eliminates the excuse that I don’t send out queries because I’m afraid I won’t be able to fulfill the obligation.

I’ve added a number of chapters to Forgotten Victims though I’m far from done. I did pay close attention to a book I’m currently reading in which the writer said that if your purpose in writing is to help other people, you might as wall hang it up. If your purpose is to help yourself, you’re more likely to succeed, at least by finishing what you set out to write. If it helps someone else, great. But the primary goal has to be self-healing. I needed to hear that as I’d gotten off track in writing my memoir.

I’d started posting chapters of Sasha’s Journey to a site of writers who critique each others’ work. But I wasn’t really committed there either. I read and commented on a couple of pieces, then slacked off. And now that they’re changing the rules and want us to post on our own blog sites and link to theirs, I’m not going to waste my time. If I wanted to post it on my site, I’d have already done so.

So the frustration, the backpedaling and the discouragement continues.

And again I ask myself “Am I committed or merely interested?”

Giving My Life Blood for Someone Else’s Dreams

The reality is, I’ve just about used up the time I had to dabble here, and fritter there. I need to get focused on what I truly want to do, what I’m truly passionate about; and throw myself into it wholeheartedly. Because if I don’t, I deserve no more than to work the rest of my life to pad someone else’s retirement fund. At least there, I know what I do not want.

It’s funny how figuring out what you don’t want in life is pretty easy. You just have to take all the things you’ve found uncomfortable or annoying all your life, put them in a pile and light a match. Those are your “don’t wants”.

Being Clear on What You Do Want

Figuring out what you truly do want is another story entirely. I want to write, yet I go for days without writing a word.

I want to be independent. But I go for days without doing a thing to move myself forward.

I want to do good for others, but here I sit, devoting time and energy to just worry about myself. That’s energy I won’t get back and it benefits no one.

I want to be an inspirational speaker, but until recently, was doing little or nothing towards that end. At least now I’ve signed up to volunteer at a summit for speakers in October. I’ve also been reading books like Talk Like Ted to help me understand what makes a truly great speaker. I’ve been incorporating what I’m learning into both my Facebook Lives and my writing. I’m also watching how other people speak, paying close attention to what does and does not work. As  a result, my more recent Facebook Lives have been under 15 minutes. (18 minutes is optimum for a TED talk. I figure a live broadcast should be shorter).

The Best Lessons Come From Watching Others

While watching one live broadcast recently, I realized how important it is to be prepared before you go live, and to have all of the tools you’ll need for the broadcast within reach. Nothing screams “unprofessional” to your viewers like staring at an empty wall while you disappear to find something you needed for your talk.

With all of the setbacks, with all of the failures, I must still be committed in some fashion, because here I sit, writing another post which will support one of my Facebook Live broadcasts. I created an editorial calendar today which will be the home to everything I need to write, both for publication on my own sites and for others.

Focus on What Is Working Instead of What’s Not

I’m getting back into the habit of writing late at night, even if it’s only 500 words. If I put it in perspective, 500 words a day will give me the 30,000 words or so I still need for my memoir in about 2 months. Considering how long it’s been a work-in-progress, 60 days is nothing!

Like the carpet that still needs to be pulled up in my bedroom, like the garage that needs to be shoveled out (though I have made some progress in recent weeks), like the yard that needs to be weed whacked—everything begins with a single step.

A few weeks ago, I pulled up another section of the carpet. I can do another section now. I just need to get up and do it.

I’ve been consistent with my Facebook Lives. Now I need to be more consistent with the coordinating blog post.

I’ve put the deadlines for client work on my new calendar. I know I’ll meet or beat those deadlines. Can I say the same of deadlines I set for my own work? Someone recently mentioned they’d committed to 3 blog posts a week. There’s not a single reason why I can’t do the same, even if I write them all in one day and schedule them to post throughout the week. I’ve proven time and again that knocking out a 1200-1500 word post is pretty much child’s play for me.

The Big “Why”

Everyone talks about the big “why”. Mine is becoming so clear that I inadvertently picked out a paint color to go with the life I want to live. It was brought home to me yesterday when my daughter and I took a couple of wrong turns and ended up driving along the beach. The water was the exact color I’d chosen for my dining room wall! Thanks to my daughter, it is now a beautiful dark teal, the same color as the ocean yesterday. The rest of the walls are in process of becoming a lighter version of the same color. Every time I walk out into my living room, despite the furniture sitting in the middle of the floor and the fine layer of dust coating everything, I feel both energized and soothed just by looking at that beautiful ocean-colored wall.

I also broke down and bought the resin Adirondack chairs I’d fallen in love with a week or so ago. They, too fit the life and setting I envision for myself.

My big “why” is alive and well. It’s now a matter of committing everything I have, everything I am to making it happen.

Writing has always been my best therapist, and tonight is no different. I began this piece feeling like an utter failure with no real possibility of achieving my dreams. But as I think of the changes I’ve made even in the last couple of weeks, I realize I’m more committed than I give myself credit for. I’m simply moving towards my goals in my usual convoluted fashion. It may seem like I’m aimless and uncommitted, but somehow, in my own weird way, I’m getting where I’m going.

Remembering Always to be Grateful

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful for the supportive people who continue to find their way into my life. My blessings grow daily.
  2. I am grateful for my personal therapist who has a way of turning my frown into a smile no matter how bad I think things are looking.
  3. I am grateful for the opportunities that are literally dropping into my lap lately.
  4. I am grateful for learning how to ask for help, and how to put myself into places where I can find exactly what I need.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; resources, friendship, courage, companionship, progress, improvements, signs, commitment, love, joy, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

You can find the Facebook Live which inspired this post here.

 

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

Time is Valuable No Matter Who You Are

Learning by Observation

You can find the associated Facebook Live here.

I learn a lot by watching other people and especially when what they do inconveniences or outright annoys me. (Before you say it, I am aware that if I’m annoyed, it’s because I allowed myself to be, but hey, I’m still a work in progress too!) One of the things I’m especially conscious of is time. I believe that if we set an expectation to be at a particular place at a specific time, we should do everything in our power to be, if not a few minutes early, at least on time.

I understand that people like doctor’s, hairdressers, and other service people are at the mercy of patients or clients who either arrive late themselves or take up more of their time than expected. But I also appreciate it when their receptionist tells me when I check in that they’re running a few minutes late. Stuff happens, after all.

Your Time is Valuable to Me

Recently, I signed up for a series of free webinars. I knew the purpose was to generate interest in future paid webinars so I’d have thought timeliness would have been a priority. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and even if I had found the program to be something I’d benefit from purchasing, the lack of respect for participants’ time was enough to put me off. Don’t get me wrong. Being a little late on the first one, or really, any one of them wouldn’t have been a big deal. But to be 15 minutes late for every one of them tells me that either the people who had signed up for the free classes were low on her priority list or she was just disorganized as a rule.

In the long run, it didn’t matter as I’m not really in a place where I’d benefit from her expertise anyway, but I did come away with a lesson which wasn’t part of her package. When the time comes that I offer webinars, free or otherwise, I will make sure I do a few things beforehand:

  • Check all systems and equipment to be sure they’re functioning properly
  • Have all notes and material ready and reviewed well before the beginning of the event
  • Make sure I’ve set things up so the image people see is frontwards (a typical issue with Facebook Live which is easily resolved)

In the event that the Murphys check in unexpectedly as they so often do, I will do everything in my power to communicate with my viewers and give them an estimate of the delay. In short, I’ll make sure they know I not only appreciate, but respect the time they’re investing in me.

Communicating Without Offending

Over the years, I’ve learned more about what not to do from others than what to do. In all honesty, I suspect others have done the same with me. We’re all human. We make mistakes. Most of us own up to them if we’re aware of them, but often, nobody thinks to make us aware. They simply work around us or worse, get annoyed with us and allow that one-time annoyance to affect our interactions forevermore.

I do try to let people know if they’ve done something that bothered or inconvenienced me. What I lack right now is the proper level of tact, so often, my message simply causes them to take offense. As a result, they tune out anything else I might have to say (again, simple human nature).

As I write this, I realize we all have messages we’d like to impart. Though we believe what we have to say is for the greater good, we’re all a little myopic. We’re not really set up to determine what constitutes the greater good as none of us has a complete world view which encompasses everyone’s wants, needs, or situations. We’re at different stages in our development, whether it’s emotional, social, or intellectual. Thus, what works for us won’t necessarily work for someone else, or even resonate with them, any more than it did for us prior to this point in our own development.

I’m learning that the rule of writing, show, don’t tell, is also applicable to life and the messages we wish to convey. The best way to communicate the lessons we’ve learned and want to share is to be a living example. In other words, we have to walk our walk. This is something I, for one am still working on. I don’t see it as ever being perfect, but if it was, I’d have nothing more to strive for. I keep raising the bar on my expectations of myself, so perfection only means I’m ready for the next level. If you’re anything like me, you raise that bar long before you perfect the place you’re in. That way, you never hit a rut where you feel like you’re making no progress. You never get bored with the place you’re in because there are always new places and things to discover and learn.

Showing Appreciation Subtly

This particular place has taught me that I have things to learn if I want to ensure that my listeners feel appreciated. There are underlying processes and techniques I’m not yet aware of, any more than I was aware of how to pull off a Facebook Live a few short weeks ago. I may not appreciate those who offer me something for free to promote their product if they consistently show up late. But I have come to respect the fact that for me as for them there will be challenges to overcome. I just hope others will be more understanding of my mistakes and judgment errors than I have been of those whose only real mistakes are showing up late and not communicating.

Two of the most valuable lessons I’m learning as I traverse this road called “Life” are compassion and humility. I have a long way to go before I surpass even a novice level in either, but recognizing where we need to improve is always the first step to healing and resolution.

In All Places and Thing, There is Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for examples of all kinds.
  2. I am grateful for my imperfections. They allow me to find newer, better ways to improve.
  3. I am grateful for those who put themselves out there in their own imperfection. It gives me the courage to be visibly imperfect too.
  4. I am grateful for the courage to step outside my comfort zone over and over and over again.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; peace, love, joy, lessons, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, butt-kickers, friends, celebrations, remembrances, offers and acceptances, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

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

Are Self-Limiting Beliefs Undermining Your Sense of Worthiness?

Recognizing Self-Limiting Beliefs

(This post is a follow-up to my May 14th Facebook Live which can be found by clicking the link)

Last year, I bought Neurogym’s Winning the Game of Money program and listened to the 12 weeks worth of audios dutifully not once but three times. Still, I hadn’t really made the progress with my business I’d have liked, nor had I broken through some of the barriers to my success. I finally set the program and all of its bonus materials aside for awhile, and focused on my physical health with much more success.

I’ve learned over the years that if something isn’t working or I’m just not getting it to set it aside and let the ideas percolate for a while. In fact, I’ve found that works for books I can’t, at first get into as well. (Most notable lately was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.) When the time is right, I’ll have an epiphany and be able to resume forward progress (or in the case of books, I might get bonked on the head when what I need to read falls off the shelf in protest for being ignored).

This week, I had one of those epiphanies. My business block had to do with a self-limiting belief about money, or more specifically, people with money. Somehow, I’d gotten it into my head that I wasn’t worthy of associating with people who were, by my perception, rich, or at least very well off. I know it’s silly as people are people regardless of their net worth, but the feeling was there and I needed to find its source and clear it.

Uncovering the Source of the Self-Limiting Belief

I didn’t have far to look. My mom was very conscious of money and people who had it. Most of my life she was trying to align herself with wealthy people, but anyone who knew her as well as anyone was allowed could see she wasn’t entirely comfortable around even those she called friends. Admittedly, my mom had more unworthiness issues than anyone else I know, but love and money were her biggest albatrosses.

We inherit many of our traits and beliefs from our parents whether we like it or not. Many just bubble beneath the surface, harming no one. But others, like feelings of unworthiness are diabolical creatures. They undermine our best efforts to follow our dreams; telling us in the most sincere, loving voices that we’d best turn our attention elsewhere. Like a rattlesnake hiding in the grass waiting to bite the unwary, our internal nay-sayer lies in wait for opportunities to chop us down to a size it deems appropriate. Why? Because change is our internal voice’s mortal enemy.

Many times, we don’t even hear the whispered voice telling us we can’t. We simply fail one time too often and give up, often just before the attempt which would have yielded the results we sought. We can silence the voice, but first, we have to recognize its existence and more, its methods.

In my case, that voice was particularly annoyed because I’d recently replaced It’s too hard! with I can! with regard to physical activities. I’ve been pushing my limits at the gym, and more recently, on hiking trails, with spectacular results. That voice was especially determined to knock me down to size, and where better than my dreams of being a successful writer and entrepreneur?

Lessons Are Like Dancing. What Works in One Area of Life Will Likely Work in Another.

But I’d learned a valuable lesson with my physical improvements. If I tell myself I can and keep trying no matter how many times I fail or have to take a step back, I’ll eventually conquer the next milestone and be able to move forward.

I also started looking around at my circle of friends. Most of them, admittedly, are from the dance community, but that makes more sense as I join some of them for hikes or other activities which involve self-improvement. People who engage in an activity like dancing on a regular basis are the last ones you’ll find sitting on a couch at night munching on junk food and drinking beer. In short, the antithesis of the people my ex attracted. I’ve come a long way from that place, though until now, I hadn’t realized just how far.

Surrounding Myself With People Who Embrace Change

People who have already eschewed the pull of the one-eyed monster and couch surfing are the ones who are more likely to challenge themselves in all areas of their lives. They’re the people who retire only to start new businesses or take on large projects. They’re the ones you can count on for help if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, or just need an example to follow to get you past a temporary road block. Often, they’re the same ones who are financially well off, but are also low-key about it.

So when I noticed how many of my friends are traveling at least once a year to Europe or South America or other exotic locales, it hit me. I already do fit in with those who are better off financially than me. And nobody cares! They simply accept that I’m at a different place in my life. I’ve made choices which temporarily put me at a lower point economically, but as that isn’t the basis of our friendship in the first place, it just isn’t an issue.

If it’s not an issue for my friends, why on earth should I make it one in my own head?

Recognizing and Eradicating Self-limiting Beliefs: I Am Enough

When it comes to self-limiting beliefs, the first step is to recognize them. The second is realizing the only one they matter to is ourselves. At that point, we can use whatever method works for us to release the belief. In some cases, it might be writing it on a piece of paper and burning it. In others, perhaps meditating on releasing the baseless and inhibiting belief. Still others might just bulldog their way through, faking it ’til they make it, as it were.

I tend to use a combination of techniques, but have added a new one this time and hired a business coach. We’re only really focusing on one area where I’m stuck and I’ve only purchased three sessions, but it will get me headed in the right direction. And I will also be ready to listen to the Winning the Game of Money audios as well as working through the tasks with more clarity and direction. Two of my biggest road blocks are now out in the open where they can be addressed and released.

I’ve learned already that I truly do have tenacity in far greater quantities than I gave myself credit for. Now I’m learning how I’ve been getting in my own way regarding money and social status.

There will be more discoveries and releasing to do along the way, but these unexpected successes will make it easier to negotiate the mine field of my own mind in the future. I’ll be more inclined to get out of my own way and ignore the voice telling me I’m not good enough or intelligent enough or determined enough…any enoughs at all. Because at the end of the day, what truly matters is that I am enough!

Get in Tune With Your Own Self-Limiting Beliefs

What is holding you back from achieving your dreams? What self-limiting falsehoods is your inner voice feeding you so it can avoid having to change? How are you going to clear those thoughts and replace them with the ones which will propel you in the direction you want to go? There’s never a better time than now to start shutting those who would get in your way down. And the worst of those will always be the ones inside your own mind.

Gratitude in the Virtual Tool Box

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for epiphanies.
  2. I’m grateful for the excellent examples my friends and family set for me.
  3. I’m grateful for learning to release self-limiting beliefs.
  4. I’m grateful for the skills and abilities I uncover as I stop letting my change-reluctant brain get in the way.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; energy, strength, inspiration, friendship, joy, success, motivation, encouragement, self-improvement, dream manifestation, health, happiness, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

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

Speaking of Girl Friends

Being a Loner is Never Your Happy Place

long-hairMost of my life, I eschewed the close company of other women because most people of my gender with whom I came in contact tended to be whiny, petty, and catty. It took me a lot of years to realize the women in my world were exactly what I was attracting, much like the unfortunate choices I’d made where men are concerned.

The sad fact is, by the time I reached my 40’s, I could really have used the support of a network of women, but had never learned to develop such a network.

After the Northridge earthquake, I became friends with a woman across the street from me; another single mother with a son a little older than my girls. She taught me a lot about having and being a girl friend in the years we spent hanging out, with kids and without. But as these things often do, we drifted apart when she re-married and subsequently moved away. Though we still keep in touch, we’re definitely not part of each others’ women’s network any more.

Growth Means Opening Up to What You Don’t Know as Much as to What You Do

Fast forward about 15 years and I’m not the woman I was even then, but I find myself wanting and needing that network even more. One thing I’ve learned along the way is in order to be accepted into such a sisterhood, you have to be willing to expose at least some of your vulnerabilities.

The fact is, the women I attract now are all strong, intelligent, self-confident, and empathetic to some degree. The last thing they feel comfortable with is a woman who is all bottled up and trying unsuccessfully to convince everyone she has it all together. Because not one, single, blessed one of us has it ALL under control at any given time. Otherwise, we wouldn’t want or need those networks of women friends.

In fact, the years when I had everyone convinced I was most in control of my life were actually the years when I was a hair’s breadth away from collapsing into a puddle of goo. As I open up to other women, I find I’m not alone in this regard. So many of us became strong because of years spent holding ourselves together with duct tape and baling wire. In other words, life tested our mettle in order to give us the tools we’d need later in life to achieve our dreams.

Learning to Let Go of Worn Out Beliefs

Building a network consists of a couple of main activities. The obvious one is to reach out to other women with whom you feel an affinity. But the one to which I was probably oblivious until recently was recognizing when another woman is reaching out to you, and not just because she needs something! I’m finding that women reach out to me in simple friendship, something I never noticed before. No expectations, no demands, just an offer of their heart. At first, I didn’t know what to do with such a precious gift!

I knew I was oblivious in my younger years when the occasional man showed an interest in me. Who knows? I might still need to be hit over the head with a sledge hammer should someone of the male persuasion want to know me better than the space of a dance or casual conversation between songs.

I had no idea until recently that my oblivion extended to making friends with women as well. Maybe I just needed to learn to appreciate the ones I attract these days first. Then I needed to learn that I was indeed worthy of their friendship.

Hiding the Pain Behind a Wall of Humor

I used to joke about “Ladies who Lunch” or “Girls’ Night Out”. They do say humor hides our true feelings. That the people who spend most of their time making jokes and getting laughs are the ones who are probably hiding serious internal pain. In retrospect, I envied those ladies and girls because they were a tangible representation of the huge hole in my own life.

Those holes can be filled, but how we fill them will dictate whether we heal or wallow. And I know from experience that ignoring them simply gives them room to expand.

My mom tried to fill the holes insider herself with charity work and social events. She sought to immerse herself in doing good for others, but ignored the one person who needed her most; herself. When she needed to take something for herself, those who could have, who should have given to her had already turned their backs after years of mixed signals, masks, and demands we didn’t feel like meeting. By her own actions, we never saw the sad, lonely little girl who wanted to be loved but didn’t know how to go about it.

Vowing to be different from her, I demanded nothing and drew into myself. But that behavior is equally damaging. Telling yourself you don’t need anyone or anything is a lie of the hugest proportions, and that little girl inside us will shout louder and louder until she’s heard: It’s all a lie! You’re lying to your own self and it won’t end well!

Giving Our Inner Child Her Say

My inner child yelled long and loud. I tuned her out for far too long, but she’s finally being heard. She’s grown pretty wise through all of the years she’s been stuffed down inside, observing but not affecting. Now it’s her turn. She’s coming out to play, making new friends, and most of all, having her say.

She learned a lot about balance by watching me teeter over the edge. She learned a lot about work ethic by watching me juggle side jobs along with my 9 to 5 (or 8 to whenever, if truth be told) in a sometimes vain attempt to give my daughters the life I thought they deserved. And she learned that sometimes you just have to follow your passion, even if there are times when you feel like you’re going to go under for the third time financially while you’re trying to figure out where that passion will lead.

She hasn’t made me fearless, as you won’t find me zip lining or bungee jumping any time soon. But she did help me find the courage to do what makes me happy instead of stressed out. She’s still helping me, and the biggest gift she’s giving me is learning to be part of a network of women. She’s helping me love myself enough to know when it’s time to give help and when it’s time to accept it.

Accepting help doesn’t make me weak or helpless as I once believed. In fact, it makes me stronger because I expand my resources to allow the strengths of others to help me over those humps life tends to give us from time to time, I’d swear, just for the Universe’s amusement.

I’ve been doing good things for my body for the last year or so, and am slowly adding even more to my routine. But now, I’m doing good things for my heart and soul as well. Thanks to girl friends.

Letting My Gratitude Flow Freely

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m thankful for the wisdom of my inner child.
  2. I’m thankful for the women who waited patiently for me to wake up, wise up, and notice they were there to give as well as receive.
  3. I am grateful for expansion. The more I open my mind, the more I see, hear, and feel.
  4. I am grateful for love in all it’s forms. And I look forward to discovering more of those forms in the years yet to come.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, love, new experiences, challenges, lessons, faith, hope, peace, harmony, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

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

1,000 Blessings

My Readers Are My Biggest Blessings

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

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

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

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

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

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

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

A Need for Purpose

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

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

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

Taking that Leap of Faith

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

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

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

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

Following the Twisty, Turny Path to Personal Fulfillment

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

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

Heart Lessons 101

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

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

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

Helping Each Other Fulfill Our True Purposes

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

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

Gratitude Smooths the Way

My gratitudes today are:

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

Blessed Be

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

Faulty Self-Perception

Insides Show Outside

In recent years, I’ve been accused of being “buttoned up” or “uptight”; even “conservative”. All adjectives I’d never have attributed to my tendency to live by my own rules. Sure, I typically wore my hair pulled back from my face and favored loose, baggy clothes to hide (or at least try to) my corpulent self. But that wasn’t being conservative. It was being comfortable, right?

Hair dangling in my face while I work is annoying, and dangling in wet, drippy strands in my face while I dance is disgusting. It never occurred to me that there might be an alternative. Besides, when I was younger, I’d told myself I was using my hair to hide in uncomfortable situations like crowds and places full of strangers.

Small Changes Yield Unexpected Results

In the last couple of weeks, I decided to launch an experiment. I started wearing my hair down, either a just-washed mass of curls or flat-ironed to eliminate the resulting frizz caused by pulling a brush through said curls. For some reason, I also started wearing lipstick regularly, usually a dark burgundy or brown, depending on my clothing.

What I expected was either nothing or maybe a passing comment or two about looking different. What I got was something else entirely; something unexpected and a little overwhelming. If you’d asked me before I began my experiment what I thought the results would be, what I’m seeing now wouldn’t have even made the top 100.

People I barely know are stopping to pay me compliments! People I know are using adjectives I’d never attribute to myself in a million years. The weight I’ve lost so far which, for the most part has gone unnoticed is suddenly visible and being remarked upon regularly. The change I’d made last summer to my hair color is suddenly new. What the heck? Just because I took the clips out of my hair and let it hang loose around my face or curl wildly, untethered and free?

What Does It All Mean?

My analytical side could no longer be contained. It had to step in and try to figure out what caused such an overwhelming flood of positive feedback. And I came to the conclusion that those earlier remarks had merit. Pulling my hair back was simply an outward expression of my need to be in control at all times. It told people I wasn’t allowing myself to just be in the moment, allowing myself to, as we used to say, “go with the flow”.

It seems I’m also more approachable. People strike up conversations with me out of nowhere. They introduce themselves to me and invite me to join in their wild, abandoned fun. I think I’ve shared more hugs in the last couple of weeks than I did in the previous year.

Who knew that letting down my hair literally would unleash so much more beneath the surface?

One Successful Experiment Leads to Another…and Another…and Another

The results of my experiment have raised a lot more questions. What else am I communicating by my actions and appearance? How else am I inhibiting myself and my progress, not only on a personal level but on a creative, professional one?

At one time or another, we all struggle with things like self-sabotage, negative self-talk and so many things which keep us from living life to the fullest. We might not be able to figure out what we’re doing wrong, and yet, I’m finding we need only look to our own outward behavior to find clues. How we present ourselves to the world is simply an expression of how we feel about ourselves inside.

I’ve learned there are many ways of hiding in a crowd. Certainly, letting a curtain of hair shield us from others is one way, but avoiding participating in conversations, sticking an electronic device in our face (all too common these days), or shielding so thoroughly that we are essentially invisible are all effective. Despite my propensity for relative minimalism (body type considered) in my dance attire, I’m finding it’s still possible to be relatively unnoticed in the crowd. Wrap that personal bubble of energy around yourself, and the illusion of anonymity is complete.

Clearing our Reality of Misconceptions

Funny, this all started with conversations about how I only got asked to dance by the men who already know me. Other women I spoke with who experience the same thing agreed that we just didn’t fit the “type” men who relied entirely on visuals were looking for, even as a dance partner.

Yet since I’ve let my hair down, the invitations have increased. Not an onslaught, certainly, but one here, and one there. So I’ve concluded that it isn’t as much about whether you’re tall or short, fat or thin, blonde, brunette, or redhead, or any other exterior factor. It has more to do with whether you’re approachable. Which leads me to conclude that men aren’t as simple as women want to believe (not all of them anyway). It isn’t just about what you look like. It’s also about how you make them feel about walking up and asking you to dance or just saying hello.

Learning a Lesson Gives Us Tools for the Next One

What I haven’t gotten down yet is being able to strike up a conversation after that initial dance, and unfortunately, that’s what leads to more invitations.

My natural tendency would be to retreat again and beat myself up for not being able to accomplish the whole package in one fell swoop, but I’ve learned in the last few years that most things are accomplished with baby steps. So the hair will stay down, the lipstick will stick and I’ll watch some of my friends and acquaintances who are good at striking up conversations. I’m good at watching people. It’s time to put that skill to use as a learning tool instead of just a place to find characters for my stories.

With Each Lesson Comes Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for experiments which yield unexpected but highly motivating results.
  2. I am grateful I’m learning how to accept compliments instead of just giving them.
  3. I am grateful for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast, even if the guest list is a bit larger than we’d planned. Feeding people is always such a joyous thing, and overflowing my house will put lots of love in my walls for awhile.
  4. I am grateful for reconnecting with my family and the members who’ve been added in the 20 years I’ve been away.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friends, family, health, harmony, peace, connections, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, 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, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of Mitya Ku via Flickr

Gazpacho Therapy

When Life Gets Too Serious, Go Chop Some Vegetables

For the last few days, I’ve been alternating between researching sites to pitch my family suicide stories and revising chapters of Life After Suicide: Healing and Forgiving for the serialization I’ve been doing on my website. To say the least, I’ve found my mood walking the narrow line between melancholy and downright sad.

It doesn’t help that I’ve had music from my high school days playing in the background. For anyone who really listens, the music of the 60’s and early 70’s runs the gamut of angry to joyful to disgusted to downright silly to protesting the world’s wrongs to celebrating the mere fact you’re alive. In short, a manic-depressive’s worst nightmare.

While I have had no indication that I inherited my family’s propensity towards actual mental illness (aka the Kozlowski crazy gene), I have been known to see my moods swing widely from one extreme to another on rare occasions. Granted, those occasions usually involved some sort of trigger which could justify such upheaval, and when they were over, I returned to my own version of normal.

Changing it Up For Mental Health…and a Week’s Worth of Healthy Meals

Fortunately, one of the items on today’s agenda was making another vat of gazpacho. A change of venue (away from the computer), a change of tunes (Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Chicago) and three hours of chopping veggies with a little spontaneous dancing are my cure for almost any ill. Laughing at myself for miscalculating and running out of bowl before I could add the last ingredient also went a long way to breaking me out of my melancholia.

Grief Doesn’t Die, it Simply Evolves

I know it has a lot to do with the amount of time I’ve been spending with the topic of family suicide and my own experiences in particular. Yesterday, I started editing Chapter 6 in preparation for scheduling the chapter for next week. It seemed to be taking a long time, and the words I’d written several years ago were causing memories to well to the surface like my over filled gazpacho bowl when I tried to seal the lid.

I don’t know how much time passed as I worked on the chapter, but I finally looked back at what I’d done and realized it was a lot of pages and I had several more to go before reaching the end of the chapter! After discovering the chapter was well over 7000 words long, I realized it had some natural breaks. Thus, Chapter 6 is now Chapters 6, 7 and 8.

As if reading my own thoughts wasn’t enough of a stroll down memory lane, my coach convinced me to start pitching psychology sites and publications with my story. Heaven knows I can approach it in a zillion different ways! But talking about it, studying it and pitching it takes its toll.

My Turn to Amuse the Universe

Oh, and did I mention there was another suicide in my extended family in the last couple of weeks? It’s been all I could do to not stop and shake my fist at the Universe. That delightful soul has been driving the point home with a sledgehammer for the last couple of weeks. I’m not over my parents’ deaths by suicide, nor will I ever really be. I get it.

I’ve learned a lot, processed more and gained insight, but I certainly don’t have all the answers, nor will I ever have them. There are just some things I’m not meant to know or understand, and that’s OK. There are still pockets of grief inside me. The difference is, they aren’t right on the surface any more, but take a particular trigger to wake them up. Each time they do come around, I’m able to release a little more. I’m able to forgive myself for another guilt capsule I swallowed whole.

Accepting, Forgiving, and Understanding

I believe this is how it is for anyone who loses a loved one. You never really stop missing them or thinking about them. Or grieving. Your grief just takes on different forms as your heart and mind deal with different aspects of the loss.

Will I ever stop regretting the fact that I didn’t see my mom’s pain? Will I forgive myself for not spending as much time with my dad when he became so negative? Will there ever come a day when I only feel love and no longer feel guilt when my parents come to mind? Probably not. But the volume and magnitude of the guilt is waning.

Is There a Gene for Insanity?

I happened upon an article about Mariel Hemingway today and how she’s lost 7 family members to suicide including her famous grandfather, Ernest. As I read the story, I learned her family has a long history of addiction and mental illness which forced her to take on adult responsibilities at a very young age. She, herself has battled depression.

My first thought was how normal my family is by comparison and how lucky I am that I am disinclined towards leaving this mortal coil any time soon. And yet…

The stories my mother would tell about my grandmother would make your hair stand on end. One of my cousins was forced to take responsibility for her siblings at a young age when her mother lost her ability to do so for a time. My parents were heavy drinkers and though it was always treated like a social activity, I can’t recall the passing of a single day when alcohol wasn’t applied liberally after a long day of work.

Granted, my dad’s life ending decision was the result of physical rather than mental issues, but then, his side of the family seemed, at least from my perspective to be better equipped to cope with the world unmedicated. That being said, I wasn’t even aware that my father had serious health problems, so maybe his relatives had just learned to hide things better. Once again, I’ll never really know.

Releasing What I Cannot Control to Protect My Health

At any rate, I know now that I need to make sure I give myself plenty of breaks between activities involving what my coach calls “Raw Sheri”. Whether I work on my fiction, make another mess in the kitchen, go to the gym or dance. I need to allow the breaks to just futz or bury myself in a book just for the pleasure of traveling to another place. Life is about balance, and clearly I’d been listing too far to starboard. I’m just glad I can figure it out and adjust accordingly.

Staying Mentally Healthy with Hefty Doses of Gratitude

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for my personal forms of therapy (which have saved me thousands of dollars, I might add). Most often, I write, but when that isn’t working or I just don’t have the patience, I can get up and move, clean, cook, dance, exercise…whatever I think will work.
2. I am grateful for my cats who are always nearby. Whether I’m cooking and dancing around the kitchen, giving them cause to keep their distance and look at me like I’ve lost a few marbles, or they’re joining me for a meditation, supervising my writing or snuggling at bedtime. Their love washes over me and makes me feel like part of their pride.
3. I am grateful for the huge vat of gazpacho in my refrigerator, even if I have to take it out tomorrow, pour it in a bigger bowl and mix in the broth.
4. I am grateful for friends who get where I’m coming from. I’m slowly getting used to not having them close by to meet for lunch or a movie, but instead, must reach out via phone or computer. But I know they’re there for me and I for them, however we have to make it work.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, clients, inspiration, motivation, support, lessons, challenges, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy and prsoperity.

Blessed Be

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