Is Your Life Out of Control? What Can We Do When Nothing is Going Right?

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

One of the things I’ve strived for with WANA, this blog, my teachings is to offer practical lessons, honesty, tools for growth and change and support. Change is tough, right? I love to serve, to help, but I’m challenged daily to live the life and walk the talk. I have good days and bad days and OH DEAR LORD IS THERE A REWIND days (been having A LOT of those recently).

I believe our character will impact our dreams, our relationships, our well-being. And I would love to tell y’all I’ve got it all together, but I’ve been struggling…a lot. And I have some seriously clever excuses involving alien abduction, but….sigh. Tempting as it is, I won’t go there.

The Infestation

I remember a dream I had in 2008, and it’s been such a guide in cleaning up my behaviors and attitudes. I dreamed I inherited a beautiful cottage-home. From the outside it looked almost perfect. Just needed a little bit of paint…


So in the dream, I begin to paint and notice the wood is loose. I know I can’t paint bad boards, so I pull them back with a pry bar.


Vermin everywhere. I scream, get them cleaned out and prepare to paint. But then I open the cabinets. WTH? OMG! You guessed it. More rats, roaches, termites. I’d just about get it pretty then see another layer and another and another. I couldn’t even DO any of the fun stuff—painting, decorating, picking out cute curtains—because what was “beneath” was infested and rotten.

My subconscious knew me better than I did. Pretty on the outside, but LOTS of problems on the inside.

It sounds strange, but I’m happy I’ve had to earn things the hard way when it comes to being an author. Growing up, I was naturally smart, the person who didn’t study and made As. As much of a blessing as it was, it was really a curse.

I could cruise through “appearing” to have it together, but it created a lot of BAD habits and rotten attitudes and behaviors. I’ve cleaned out a lot of the “infestations” but there are always more. Also, even if we do rid our “homes” of rats, mice, roaches, termites, we have to be in a habit of keeping the place clean so we don’t invite in new unwanted guests.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Living Mindfully

There are dumb things we can do that can have serious consequences. For instance, out at our ranch, one of my relatives forgot a bag of feed corn on the porch. When we got out there, there was CORN EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t open a drawer, a cabinet, a closet that there wasn’t some well-fed family of mice with a lovely stockpile of corn. The mice chewed through wiring and the hoses on the dishwasher…which then spewed water all over the floor.

A momentary lapse of mindfulness created hours of expensive, dirty and dangerous work. Not only that, but guess what LOVES to snack on mice? Rattlesnakes. Snakes that normally would have been quite happy out on the property discovered there was a SWEET buffet at the Lamb Ranch if you hung out on the PORCH.

Hubby and I spent an hour trying to coerce a rattler off the homestead property. I have this hysterical video of Hubby flinging a very annoyed rattler through the air. And yes some people would shoot the snake, but why? We invited him for dinner. Snake was just doing what snakes do.

And there is one brain-damaged snake now wandering our property with head trauma and a grudge.

Which is to say that life is always moving forward. We think life is a static picture like a magazine, but it isn’t. The kitchen will always need cleaning, there will always be more laundry and more bills. We need to shower more than once in a lifetime, and this also applies to our attitudes and habits.

If we slow down (and I am LEARNING) we can be more mindful about where we commit, what we start, or what we need to finish. Give ourselves grace, but be brave enough to address small problems early before they rage out of control.

Name It and Claim It

We can’t change what we won’t face. I have a saying. Name it and claim it. To offer a bit of insight, this has been a rough couple of years. It’s like everyone in my family is getting sick, ill, injured or dying. We’ve lost four family members in just the last year. Five in the last two. FOUR major surgeries, three of them life-threatening. As a person who loves and honors family I chip in to help the best I can.

I’m sure you guys have been through seasons like this. It’s as if life DOG PILES you and just about the time you come up for air, you get hit again.

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

But the thing is this is life. When I became published, no cute forest creatures showed up to style my hair and help me clean.


Times of trial can be crucibles that reveal our weak points. I used to be a MAJOR WHINER. Oh poor me. I just about get going the right direction and SOMETHING happens. I was at the mercy of situations.

What these recent life events have shown me about myself are embarrassing, but I have to face these flaws even though truth stings.

I need to be better at communicating. For some weird reason, I will work myself half to death before I think, “Hey, I could possibly ask for HELP. Whouda thunk?” I’ve come to see that I overcommit. That is a BAD habit. If I give my word, I need to follow through because I want to be a person of integrity. This means I need to strive to be better at saying, “Let me get back to you.”

I’ve also developed this awful habit of cramming my schedule to the point that I can DO everything…so long as everything goes smoothly and the planets perfectly align. They WON’T. We NEED margin. If the Internet goes out, the weather goes nuts, the car breaks down, the business hits a rough spot, the kid gets sick, a spouse loses a job, it will affect everything else.

I’m working diligently to be more honest and realistic. Sure, I want to help people, but if I just flake out, forget, lose stuff, I’m doing more harm than good.

Yes, I need to give myself grace, but I can always seek to come up higher, too.

We NEED a Support System

Stress is a lot like being drunk. Our bodies default to limbic brain. We run on adrenalin. As a survival mechanism, we cannot harness our higher thinking centers. Apparently pondering Nietzsche while running from a bear is BAD. Yet, in modern society, we have the equivalent of bears all the time (and they look a lot like the unfinished WIP, piles of toys, a stack of bills and the IRS 😀 ).

This is why we need the similar equivalent of a Designated Driver. We need people who love us and are honest enough to say, “Go sleep. Say NO. Finish what you promised.”

Jay Donovan is a fantastic friend. Why? He encourages me. He is there for me. But, he’s also unafraid to send me a kind but scathing e-mail when I need my butt kicked correcting. I have a looong list of stuff to finish, but baby steps.

You guys have been an amazing support team and I’m so grateful. When I was up all night with The Spawn in the ER because he knocked out all his front teeth, people on-line were there to keep me calm and offer prayers, love and support. Same with the deaths, etc. You are the voices that make the world more lovely and never lonely.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

But last week I had a major revelation. My husband, The Spawn and I are too isolated. We have family, but no one who lives nearby. I have no one to lean on when I am sick, worn out, overloaded or on the verge of just crying for a month. We’ve lived in this house for almost five years and know none of our neighbors. We don’t have any friends in the local community.

Last week, I stepped out of the comfort zone. I needed more. I NEEDED people close who might let me have a day where I can take a long nap. I can’t run forever on sheer force of will. As much as I love social media, it can’t be our only resource of support.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT resource, just like chainsaws are AWESOME for cutting up trees downed in a storm (but not so great for hanging pictures on the wall). We need to diversify our relationships. I need to as well even though I am an introvert. On-line friends are far less terrifying than talking to…*shivers* neighbors.

But, Suck it up, Buttercup.


We aren’t robots. We live, laugh, love, screw up, start over, do better, blow it, then try again. I do. And there is a blessing to being weak. It offers others the gift of being strong for us. When we allow others to help us, we are giving them a gift. We feel good when we can help others. Why would others be different? So many of you take time to comment, encourage, offer help and you guys make me better each day.

We are not alone ;).

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like renovating your attitudes, habits, behaviors is overwhelming? Do you get discouraged too? Are you bad about overcommitting or not stopping to realize maybe you could kinda-sorta-maybe use some HELP? Are you hesitant to make friends with neighbors? Do you work your schedule off plank time? LOL.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.


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  1. Another great piece. Another reason why this is my favorite blog in my reader. With every post, you make me step back and look at myself. Thank you!

    1. I am having a “KICK KRISTEN SHE SUCKS DAY” so I am working on it, LOL. We all have these struggles, but together it’s a lot easier to brave the storms 😀 .

  2. This was just what I needed this morning. I am a part-time author and medical student (in training as a receptionist and there are moments where I get so–bleh and I start wondering whether or not I can really do this–(Ack, I’m rambling). But asking for help People aren’t going to kill you if you ask. Thanks for the encouragement as usual. (^_^)

  3. “Asking for help” is a simple skill I have worked on mastering my entire life. i’m almost 50 and I still suck at it. well said, once more Kristen. thanks

  4. I am learning to say no. Try it! Your life will thank you.

  5. Thank you for posting this, I could relate to the stories you shared and the wisdom within. lately I have been stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. Some with unintended consequences. I will cross my fingers at the end of the month.

  6. Good advice. It’s great to take some time to chill and step back and you’re right, you need to meet real people. I’ve learned, the hard way, to factor in slack. It’s also important, if we don’t succeed the first time, to forgive ourselves for failing. And then get up and start again. If there’s stuff going on in the Real World it will impact on writing, on online life, on everything. It will slow us down. It might even stop us for a while. But that’s OK.



    • Carina Bissett on March 31, 2014 at 12:07 pm
    • Reply

    Your comment on having a support system hit a nerve. I know I need to work on being a part of a community and I am trying, but it’s a difficult thing for me these days. I spent most of the last five years dealing with the backlash of a violent marriage. It doesn’t matter that he is in jail (finally), there are still wounds there. On top of that, I had to disconnect myself from everyone I’ve ever known when I changed my identity. Being 40 and starting over isn’t the easiest thing in the world. However, I have started venturing back out. At least I am going in the right direction. 🙂

    • Lisanne Cooper on March 31, 2014 at 12:07 pm
    • Reply

    I find myself in the same situation (minus the rattlesnake. But we do battle ginormous alligator lizards from time to time). Lived in the same house since 1986 and only know a few of the neighbors on sight, but not by name. Sigh. It’s difficult to put myself out there, but I’ve also been making the effort to connect. Great advice, and a truly inspirational blog, as usual!

    By the way, how did The Spawn knock out all his teeth??

      • shawn m on March 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm
      • Reply

      Fell off a chair..

    1. Was at the ranch and pulled a heavy iron bar stool over on his face. $20,000 of emergency maxo-facial surgery later, he looks like an adorable bat…and I have gray hair, LOL.

        • Lisanne Cooper on March 31, 2014 at 11:06 pm
        • Reply

        Holy macanoli! Poor little baby– and the Spawn, too! I’m surprised your hair didn’t fall out after it went gray. . .

  7. I think I’m ready to get back into blogging because my life WAS out of control too. Too many deaths in my family all at once, a stolen car and a bipolar dad will do that apparently. Yeah, I totally feel for you. Deep breath. Thanks for this post. I really needed it. 😀 Got my first regular post up today after a too long from blogging. I’ve got more lined up too. 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on squeakergrrl and commented:
    She’s like, me. Living somewhere else. Somewhere else with rattlesnakes.

  9. I’m right there with you, Kristen, about not wanting to socialize locally. I’m already thinking of excuses to not go to the neighbor’s Easter gathering. I feel a cold coming on. *cough, cough* Trying to do more naps, say NO, slow down the pace. It feels much better in that zone. Great post, as always!

  10. You are delightfully over-achieving. I feel you. If I agree to bring a single dish to a potluck, I bring a big complicated dish, plus salad plus a pie, you know, just in case someone forgot that other stuff. I always do too much, love too hard and speak too plain. And I have a hard time making friends with strangers. You are not alone, Kristen.

  11. Thank you, Kristen. It feels good to know that I’m not the only one who knows too few neighbors, and knows I should. I laughed while reading about the snake with brain trauma and a grudge.

  12. So needed this today, Kristen! Thanks! I’m an over achiever. This month I decided to release a new book, write an anthology, write two book review articles for a magazine, and edit another book. AGH! What was I thinking? 🙂

    I miss my old neighbors who were great! Having trouble connecting with the new neighbors which is a real shame. Thank goodness my parents live five minutes away!

    I need to learn to pace myself and ‘just say no’. On a positive note, the new cleaning schedule is working great. LOL!

  13. Hardest thing in the world is to ask for help. I still keep it all inside so no one will hear what could become endless whining.

  14. I’m having a KICK KELLY SHE SUCKS day too, so let’s hug it out. (((you and me))) Ah, better. Trying desperately to stay on track with my schedule today, so I have to leave you with a hug. Hope it helped. 🙂

    1. It does. THANK YOU *whimpers a little*

  15. Every post you write resonates with me! I definitely have periods in life where it’s just one thing after another, after another. I’m in one now, well, hopefully coming out the other side now, but the last two years have been HELL. I am lucky to get a lot of help and support.

  16. Hi Kristen, thank you for your awesome blog. I think asking family for help is harder than total strangers. Why is that? They are the ones who love us, and want the best for us. Maybe it’s pride and childhood memories. Something I have not thought much of for a long time. Silent

  17. Neighbours scare me!

  18. This is an amazing post. Absolutely what I needed to hear today. Overcommitment gets me every time. I think I might have a superhero complex because I want to help and save everyone. I feel like the world’s biggest selfish jerk when I need to say “no” and so I usually don’t say “no,” regardless of the cost. I’m taking baby steps. For example, if someone asks me to commit to three things, in the past I’d say “Sure, I can do that.” Now I say, “I can’t do all three, but I can help you with this one.” (Far from perfect at this yet, but like I said, baby steps.)

    1. Yeah, I realized when I tripped over my cape and nearly hung myself that I might need to knock it off, LOL.

  19. Your “dream” cottage reminded me of what my Aunt would say about some people. “Uber beglissen, under geschissen” which sounds like what it means — “looks good on the outside, excrement underneath.” And then she’d look at me and say “You can always tell.” But if someone was cleaning out their lives, she was there for them. We can’t do it all. We can’t clean it all at the same time. But we can keep pushing the broom.

  20. I’m terrible at asking for help in my personal life. It’s a pride thing, I guess. To ask for help= being weak. For example, when I got burgled some fifteen months ago, I phoned a friend and said, ‘Sorry to call you so late, but just discovered I’ve been burgled. Could I talk to you while I wait for the cops to get here? I’m alone in the house.’ I hesitated before making that call. I felt like I needed to be stronger that that. Like the day I went to work two hours after I had a car accident. Staying at home just because I was shaken was, well, weak, considering that all I had was some pain in my left arm and leg.

    I’m trying to change this mindset. It’s baby steps all the way though.

    1. I’ve done the same things. My dad died suddenly and I showed up to work the next day. Everyone was like, “What are you DOING HERE?”

  21. oh Kristen, It must be the phase of the moon for writers right now. We’ve got lots of internal and external vermin gnawing away at our energy and writing time in our Wise Women Write Books circle. Yes, I too hate shooting rattlers and appreciate the image of him moving on a bit rattled to leave me to my projects. But as a writer, I know once he’s gone – I’ll have the image to write about! Thanks for the uplifting backstory! – Hugs, Renee

  22. Great post. Yeah, asking for help can be tough but as I realized as a writer, you need a good support system.

  23. Yes to all of the above!! I just blogged about taking a break last week and rushing until life’s no fun this morning. I am all about “We are not alone”, but it’s a lot easier to be there for someone else than to ask for help. Most of the time I don’t even know what questions to ask. Ha! Thanks for showing us we are not alone in all of this craziness as we try to live a life balanced between reality and dreams.

  24. My sister actually called me and told me to read your post today because it’s so relevant to what we’re going through right now. I love how you always manage to connect with your readers! Both my sister and I look forward to your posts and discuss them . . . now you probably think I’m a stalker . . . just kidding, but I am a fan.

    1. I LOVE THAT! Stalk away! ((HUGS))

  25. So, do you know of any courses I could take on how to say no? 🙂

    Thanks for posting. You’re right…you are not alone!

  26. I hear you on this! I have a hard time approaching people initially. Once I know them I’d chat with a neighbor for hours but that initial contact is hard. Online friends are so much easier, lol. I think I have a large introvert streak.

  27. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  28. I get discouraged, more often than I care to admit. I try so hard to be glass half-full but it’s not easy!! I try to trick myself with positive reinforcement but I’m sure my subconscious knows I’m rolling my eyes as I perform my mental programming exercises. But one thing I do know is that I only get discouraged by things that I’m passionate about. If I didn’t care, It wouldn’t resonate with me. So I care! That’s awesome! Now I just have to keep plugging away! Success will eventually follow! (Eye roll. Lol!)

    1. It will. Just helps to know that there are great days and tough days and all create LIFE 😀 .

  29. Oh, yeah, renovating those habits can definitely feel overwhelming. I’ve totally been realizing how bad I am at communicating. And I never realized it until now. I’ve spent years closing myself in and not speaking my truth, because I thought that made me a nice person. Wow–not very smart. Now, I’ve got to figure out how to start speaking up and trying to mend some things I’ve broken. Thanks for this post, Kristen.

    1. Funny how WRITERS can confess to being bad communicators, LOL. You are most welcome and we are here for immoral support 😀

  30. There are days when I feel like I’m wearing too many hats. My husband has been wonderful about making me see that it’s okay to say no sometimes — that it’s actually good to turn down some opportunities. Because while I believe a woman can have it all, she probably can’t have it ALL AT THE SAME TIME. That’s just too overwhelming.

    Wish I could rid myself of a bit of stress shooting stuff on the Lamb Ranch. I promise I wouldn’t hit the injured rattlesnake…assuming I’d be able to hit anything. But a nice weekend with pals sounds lovely. Hope you can get some time off soon!

  31. I’m wearing too many hats. I’ve been told it’s just a season of life, but boy what a season it is. OT work (extra money, yay! travel to Whitehorse – yay?), manuscript writing and halfway through my first pregnancy. So I’m learning to cut myself some slack. Because I can’t physically do it all. Thanks for this post.

  32. This was amazing!! Thank you for sharing.

  33. I laughed at the idea of getting to know neighbors. I usually hide behind the door hoping they’ll go away so I can get back to my REAL friends in my novels. I’ve noticed lately that my life has been one long obsession with novel-making for the last year and with that has come a lack of peace and gratitude for what I already have and also a lack of showers, food and friendship. 🙂 It’s been fun but I think I need a little step back. Thanks for making me laugh.

  34. Thank you for sharing this post. I can at least say I’ve already talked to more of my neighbors in my new home than I did at the old place in the two years I was there (I’ve been here six weeks). For too long I was someone who didn’t do as much as she was capable of doing. Then I changed my ways, gained confidence, and proceeded to grab more hats than I knew what to do with. Time, though, is helping and I’m learning to manage those hats better. Whew, just in time.

  35. Simply stated, I LOVE YOU FOR YOUR AMAZING, SOUL-BEARING HONESTY!!!!! You are all of us. Someone’s gotta say it…and you do! Thank you thank you thank you for being so brave, honest, real and a superb human being!!!!!!!! You give me courage to be ever more real (scary to others perhaps but real…:)

    1. Awww, thanks. It’s kinda liberating getting over myself, LOL. I think it helps me for sure and I so hope it helps you guys.

      1. It does!!! We ARE all in this thing called life, together. Brave ones like you give us courage! Thanks again!!

  36. “Do you feel like renovating your attitudes, habits, behaviors is overwhelming? Do you get discouraged too? Are you bad about overcommitting or not stopping to realize maybe you could kinda-sorta-maybe use some HELP? Are you hesitant to make friends with neighbors? Do you work your schedule off plank time?” YES, YES, YES, YES, And it’s 10:35, so YES. Thank you, Kristen. I’m going to bed now.

  37. I’m an introvert too, and yes it is difficult to knock on the neighbor’s door and introduce myself. I identify very much with all that you wrote, and I applaud you for sharing your vulnerabilities in your writing. I’ve been trying to do that much more lately, and guess what? People love it. We all want confirmation that others are like us, and that’s what good writing gives us.

  38. Thank you for sharing your story. I grabbed bits and pieces of your story on Twitter yesterday before I had a chance to read your blog post.
    You have been through a lot. You have to give yourself credit for that at least. You seem to have figured out how to deal with the recent unfortunate life events. You reach out for support. You find community. You take what the universe gives you one day at a time.
    My wife and I and our three kids were in southern California for my job completely away from family. We had our share of problems being there on our own. We were reaching out to the community, slowly, but with our three young children we realized we needed family nearby.
    So, when the opportunity came up we moved back near family.
    Point being that in times of stress we need support. “It takes a village” is not just a saying.

  39. You covered so much ground in this post. It’s really quite amazing. Like you, I don’t have a support system close by. Relying on Hubby really isn’t an option for me. We’re one of those couples where it’s been a case of opposites attract. He haven’t a clue as to what I would need from him as far as moral support goes even though he does trying hard. I have found support online despite the hundreds of miles between the two of us. However, we don’t use social media sites and are using email instead. If she wanted me to try Skype, I think I’d be willing to give it a shot with her.

  40. Thanks for a great post… really makes me sit back and … think about things.

  41. I have no rattlesnakes, but everything else sounds about right. Every day I sit in my fortress of isolation for two hours. This after working a paying job all day, squeezing in a workout, and shoveling a bit of nutrition in my face. This is not normal! I may never earn a penny from writing. Surely a part time job at Wal Mart is a better use of my time. Or maybe watching TV (I’m not sure how to turn it on anymore). Okay, vent over. Thanks for sharing your pain.

    1. Depends on what you want. Money or happiness. You might never make money from your writing, but it can outlive you and give you joy. I doubt being a greeter at Walmart would be so rewarding, LOL. Thanks for the comment and fabulous to meet you!

  42. As a writer, it’s so easy to cordon ourselves off from the outside world. Before you know it all your friends have disappeared because you don’t have time for them, chosing to hang out with your imaginary characters more. When you’ve done that for a while it’s difficult to stretch yourself and find new people to hang out with. Even harder to remember to take time to cultivate those relationships so they done end up like your last ones. Personally, I’m pretty horrible about reaching out. Even worse about asking for help.

  43. Not only did you have me hooting, and feeling sympathy for that poor rattler, you got me to take a good luck at what I’ve plunged into, and inspired a blog post and a new acceptance that I don’t need to blow these challenges I’ve signed up for out of the water to succeed.

    I will now proceed with a bit more sanity (or what passes for that, with me). And that’s useful, when the weather is finally beautiful, and there are guinea pig obstacle course…you know, important stuff.

    Offering you many deep breaths, and a chance or two to put your superhero feet up, once in a while, and let someone else do the heavy lifting.

  44. Thanks Kristen, you are great at revealing what lessons we learn from hard times. Lately my husband suffered 9 months of severe depression and anxiety, both our fathers got prostate cancer at the same time, and we took a big cut in salary. Through this I learned that:

    * We were taking on way too much as a couple and needed to learn to say no.
    * We were not having enough fun (my New Year’s resolution was 3 words long: Have More Fun!
    * We needed to reach out to others and not rely on each other for everything.
    * The insight I gained from a tough old time are writing gold – as I wrote in my blog post:

  45. I’m happy to find other people who recognize that rattlesnakes don’t just show up to bite us, but that we attract them, and also that seeing them isn’t an automatic death sentence. We have lots of cats on our ranch and don’t have problems with snakes or mice, at least near the house.

    I also recently had a dream about my house being in sad shape, although I don’t remember it as vividly as you did yours. I am now making a conscious effort to get my life shaped up in certain places that need it. Thanks for the encouragement.

  46. I’m afraid, I might be a little “different” in that way… It seems to me compared to others who try everything to get their life controlled within a certain “frame”, getting more and more routine, I am easily bored by the very same.
    I do try to frame my life as well… but as soon as there’s “too much” routine and control in my life, I do try to change it.
    I’m peacefully walking on a path of routine now – and still, there’s one adventure on my road, I’ll leave the path and jump into, head first….
    Am I normal? *sigh*

  47. Great article! It is hard to remember that we cannot control everything, but that is the truth.

  1. […] Kristen Lamb talked about this in her post today, and it struck a chord with me. […]

  2. […] Author Kristen Lamb addresses this topic with a cool perspective in Is Your Life Out of Control? […]

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