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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: balancing life and writing

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It’s funny how life has this way of pointing out our weaknesses. We have this delusion that we can keep doing things the way we always have and it will work…and that’s when the pressure piles up. I admit it. I am a control freak and a perfectionist.

I grew up in a family of chaos where the rules changed daily and the only thing I could count on was nothing could be counted on. My family was also rather stoic (likely because we are mostly military and medical workers).

I still tease my mom that she had a saying, “Come home with your lunch kit or ON it.”

Growing up, we went through a lot of bad times and crying was highly discouraged. Second place was the first loser. Failure was not an event, it was who you were.

When Life Lands in the Blender

I try to always walk my talk. When I advise getting out of the comfort zone? I mean it, and I do it. Starting WANA International was terrifying for me. What’s interesting was up until that point, life had been pretty uneventful, even awesome. We’d had wonderful, almost stress-free three years and I ran my life and writing with the efficiency of a Swiss watch.

Then it was as if the second I filed the LLC to start my own business? The Gates of Hell opened.

Now? I’m lucky to have my underwear on correctly. A lot has gone right with WANA International, but just as much has gone sideways. I’m learning a lot about just how much I don’t know. Seriously humbling. I also MUST stop comparing how I ran things before life changed. Sure keeping an immaculate house and meeting deadlines was easier when Spawn was in a PLAYPEN.

But just like our novels run our characters through a crucible to (hopefully) change them for the better, life can do the same to us.

While a lot of what’s happened in the past couple years has been HARD (even devastating) it’s amazing what I’ve learned and how it’s forced me to come up higher and grow.

Learning I am NOT ALONE

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff
Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

I began the idea of WANA (We Are Not Alone) because I knew what it was like to have a dream of being a writer and be alone with no support. Deciding to become a writer was probably the first time I stepped out in faith that I could DO something remarkable….and it was a beating.

That trial taught me how much support networks are vital for success. They keep us pressing and give us people we can lean on when we’re about to fall apart. I felt writers needed help beyond social media or craft. Writers are people with a lot of stress and life can make us give up the dream. And WANA was born.

We still need to keep stepping out and doing stuff that scares us. I have always been such a workhorse/caretaker that I forget to ask for help. I know none of you have this problem, but I will cop to it  😉 .

In May, (after six deaths in less than two years and two more pending) it all became too much, so I joined a weekly group at my church designed to help those dealing with grief. My pride had kept me away for too long. It’s been…weird. Stripping away the gallows humor. Learning to feel when I’m in the habit of running an endless list of things to do through my head to avoid feeling.

I remember when my dad suddenly passed away, I showed up for work the next day. My coworkers were horrified. WHY are you HERE?

Um, because I am scheduled to work? *confused* It never occurred to me I should stay home. I had obligations.

Control is an Illusion

SO ME!
SO ME!

Part of what I’ve learned is control is an illusion. Often it will get us sidetracked on things that really don’t matter (um, refer to above image) at the expense of doing things that are meaningful.

Yeah, I was in denial. I made jokes about being OCD or a control freak, but recently it’s hit me how BAD I really was (am). So, again, I made a decision to do things differently. So much energy had been focused on the sick, deceased or dying, I forgot to focus on the living. I began doing a lot more with The Spawn, taking him to the pool or the park and enjoying it, instead of working while he played. I joined martial arts with him so he’d have Mommy as a teammate. I abducted Hubby to learn to play D&D.

The Spawn LOVES "Mommy School"
The Spawn LOVES “Mommy School”

I made friends here locally and have become more comfortable asking for help.

It’s odd how we don’t honestly see ourselves and how that parallels with writing a good protagonist (they really ARE their own worst enemy in the beginning). Last Friday, I was in a rush and my foot met the wrong end of the glass shower door giving me a BAD puncture wound in my foot.

I rinsed it with antiseptic and taped it together and headed out for the church potluck because I promised I’d be there. As I was enjoying the food and the company, my new friend Shannon simply got up and refilled my drink and plate and tended The Spawn…and it stunned me.

People can help…ME?

Weird, I know. But even though I was hobbling around, my nature was to be up refilling and cleaning and helping everyone else. The fact that another person naturally did that for ME?

BIG eye-opener.

Confessions of a Yoga Nazi

Another thing I’ve done differently is I’m back going to yoga. I needed a place to relax mind and body before I imploded from stress. I came from two years of doing Bikram, which is Sparta of Yoga. Very strict.

I’m now doing gym yoga—hot yoga, which is only an hour and only 98 degrees. It’s a lot faster. But people come in the room talking away. Two days ago, I was in the middle of the workout and a woman next to me texted through the entire class. She had her cell on silent, but it did this weird strobe thing when a text came in, then she’d drop to the mat and text back. (In Bikram they would have booted her from the class.)

*me twitching*

It really took a lot of discipline to just let it go and not let her poor manners ruin my peace.

The hot yoga really is metaphoric for what I’m learning. Yes, structure is great, but true emotional or mental discipline doesn’t come from being told everything to do in a controlled environment. It’s having the ability to maintain the calm despite. It’s ignoring the people talking, laughing or texting inappropriately and still choosing peace. Because LIFE is anything but a controlled environment.

Having a Good Cry

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons
Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

What I REALLY like about this hot yoga, is the teachers will bring in lessons for the day. One hit home with me. It was about crying. When we stuff emotions and refuse to feel them, these emotions GO somewhere. They don’t vanish. She spoke about the benefits of crying.

Crying, in ways, doesn’t make sense. We feel sad or hurt and our eyes leak?

Apparently scientists tested different types of tears. Tears from cutting onions are very different from tears released when watching Bambi’s mother die.

Emotional tears are extremely high in toxins and hormones produced due to stress. It’s our body’s way of releasing the “bad stuff” and it’s why we feel better “after a good cry.” This made me think a lot about our society. Being emotional is discouraged. Crying is often viewed as weakness. Maybe that’s why a lot of us are too close to crazy these days. We are in a non-stop world moving from task to task to task and never stopping to feel or to even —GASP—cry.

Also caregivers are in a weird position. We have to be strong for others. If we aren’t careful we slap on a smile even when we’re crumbling. Often we aren’t even AWARE we are crumbling. I’m learning that it’s okay for me to recharge. I can’t help others if I’m empty.

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I left yoga yesterday and saw two quotes that spoke to me.

Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape. ~Anonymous

What to Take Away

When we step out to do something remarkable, expect disaster. Expect failures.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but like our protagonists face trials and threshold guardians when they accept the adventure, we will too. It might be life testing us to see how badly we want the dream, but it’s more than that. Failures and setbacks are simply logical. We’re doing something different and unknown. We’re learning. Failure is part of that. I like to say, Show me a person who isn’t failing and I’ll show you a person who’s not doing anything interesting.

Quitting is easy. Anyone can do that.

Additionally, life doesn’t PAUSE when we decide to reach for our dreams. We must learn to maintain peace in the storm and to remember storms do eventually pass.

Oh, and another storm will come eventually ;).

Resting doesn’t make us lazy. Asking for help or even crying doesn’t make us weak.

My dishes will always need washing and my e-mail will always be a monster. The Spawn won’t remember that the house was perfectly organized, he WILL remember a day at the pool playing Water Zombies with Mom.

Also, some setbacks or bad events in life are worth having a good cry.

Peace is a decision, not a destination.

I’ve learned that $#!& happens. Me freaking out that the AC overflowed and flooded the attic doesn’t change the hefty bill or the mess to be cleaned up. Besides, most of the crap we fret about 1) never actually happens or 2) does happen and in five years we don’t even remember it.

Never underestimate how important you are. The little things are the biggest of all.

The comments on a blog, the funny pics on a FB timeline are all the small actions that keep a lot of us together. Never buy the lie that your actions don’t matter because they are “too small.”

Remember to rest, to cry, to laugh and to BREATHE. Hey, it’s life. None of us get out of it alive 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Have you been through stressful seasons and realized you were too focused on the problems and not enough on the joys? Do you find yourself holding your breath? Are you a caretaker and feel guilty doing anything for yourself? Do you forget to ask for help? Are you overly critical of yourself and learning to give yourself a BREAK? Can you think of hard times that nearly crushed you, yet when you came out the other side, something in you had changed for the better?

Hey, I am right here with you. We can trade notes 😀 .

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, 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).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help building a platform (HINT: Start as EARY as possible) here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

Announcements:

If you feel you might have the vapors after reading all of this, no worries, I offer classes to HELP.

July 19th is my First Five Pages Class  and use WANA15 for $15 off. If you can’t make the time, no worries, all classes are RECORDED and come with notes for reference. Upgrade to the GOLD level and I will look at your first five pages and give DETAILED analysis. This is NOT simple line-edit. This is a detailed, how to start your story in the right place and in a way that HOOKS analysis.

Also my Antagonist Class is coming up on July 26th and it will help you guys become wicked fast plotters (of GOOD stories). Again, use WANA15 for $15 off. The GOLD level is personal time with me either helping you plot a new book or possibly repairing one that isn’t working. Never met a book I couldn’t help fix. This will save a TON of time in revision and editors are NOT cheap.

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Many of us are running around like a one-legged man at an @$$-kicking contest. Writers juggle a lot of things at the same time—day jobs, family, laundry, dishes, finances, family, sickness, loss, and THEN there is the actual WRITING. I’ve come to understand that most of us writers live in two opposing states of being:

The State of I SO ROCK Narcissism and The State of I Don’t Deserve to LIVE, What the Hell Was I THINKING?

We write a few pages and think: “OMG, this is AWESOME.”

Next Day: I suck *hangs head*. Where is that brochure for dental hygienist school?

We revise and revise trying to make our work perfect. Whether it’s a book, parenting, or doing bills many of us hold ourselves up to impossible standards. We just about get the house clean and then…the family comes home. Just finish the dishes and…time to start dinner. AHHHHGGGGGG!

We wonder if it’s illegal to cryogenically freeze our spouse, kids and pets so we could have JUST ONE DAY that everything stayed CLEAN. Can we stop time and bask in loving what we just wrote? Didn’t we just DO laundry? Is that ketchup stain we ignored in the refrigerator trying to open a portal to a demonic realm? O_o

I just CLEANED THESE!
I just CLEANED THESE!

As a recovering perfectionist, I’m here to “scientifically” prove why we all need to lighten the hell up. How am I going to do this? Using tinfoil, swizzle sticks, glitter and the Three Four? Laws of Thermodynamics. And every reader who is a real scientist can just chillax.

This is “science.” Don’t argue.

(All “actual” laws contributed via Wikipedia)

Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics

If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other. This law helps define the notion of temperature.

Zeroth Law means that temperature/energy will always seek a way to equal out. Two hot bodies (steaming EPIC tamales) placed next to ICE COLD margarita long enough? Margarita will suck heat and cool off tamales….leaving tamales too tired to finish revisions.

Life Application: This is empirical “proof” that yes, we parents were correct. Toddlers do drain energy. This also “proves” that children, as they get bigger, drain even MORE energy. Think how fast a 98 oz. margarita would chill your tamales (being “Tamale Mom” and “Tamale Dad”) and this explains why teenagers drain energy faster…unless the 98 oz margarita  teenager wants to date or wear too much makeup and that will temporarily heat the tamales parents.

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.
The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

Also, the hotter the WIP and the tougher the editor, the more we the writer will want a margarita. Told you! SCIENCE 😀 .

But don’t get too excited, there are three more “laws.”

The First Law of Thermodynamics

Because energy is conserved, the internal energy of a system changes as heat flows in or out of it. Equivalently, machines that violate the first law (perpetual motion machines) are impossible. Heat is the flow of thermal energy from one object to another.

Did you catch that? Okay, so maybe it was the only part of this I understood. Perpetual motion machines are IMPOSSIBLE. Gee, I wish I would have learned this last Thursday. Okay, Thursday of somewhere in 1992. We can’t do it all. Heat is synonymous with energy and as we expend energy, we um—Aw crap, hold on *finds Thesaurus function for another word for “expends”*—oh, there it is. WE LOSE IT. WE LOSE ENERGY and cannot run on Red Bull forever.

spawn2

Life Application: Apparently, despite what the world wants to tell us, we are incapable of doing everything forever. Yes, there are gizmos, gadgets and apps that “promise” us we can have six-pack abs, a refrigerator that doesn’t make us shriek little a little girl when we reach into the vegetable drawer, and write a perfect book in two weeks. But physics proves they are LYING.

Next time someone complains you are taking a nap, tell them physics has proven you need one.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

The entropy of any isolated system cannot decrease. Such systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium — the state of maximum entropy of the system. Equivalently, machines that violate the second law (perpetual motion machines) are impossible.

In English? Everything is hurdling toward chaos. If you have kids, a closet, a heartbeat, you have a lot of experience with entropy. It’s impossible to isolate any system. I’ve tried! Banning the toddler from walking across my freshly mopped floor only attracts a cat to puke on freshly mopped floor.

This means….we need to just suck it up and expect some imperfection.

Life Application: This also goes for our art/craft. It is called a creative PROCESS. Sure, we can write the “perfect book”….if we are stranded on a desert island and somehow found a way to power up our computers using coconuts (Heck, they did that on Gilligan’s Island). The problem is that this perfect book is likely something we want to sell and make a living off of. Which—DANG IT—requires other people part money and time to buy it and read it and love it.

Problem is, readers can’t be sealed away (legally—I know, I checked) and thus tastes, preferences, ideas, passions are ever-shifting.

My advice? Give up on a perfect book and settle for a finished one. Finished books DO exist, perfect ones do NOT.

Also, again, notice the reiteration that a perpetual motion machine is impossible because it violates this Second Law. So take that nap. You’ll thank me later.

Third Law of Thermodynamics

The entropy of any pure substance in thermodynamic equilibrium approaches zero as the temperature approaches zero. The entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically zero, and in all cases is determined only by the number of different ground states it has.

We can never cool anything to the true point of Absolute Zero (no energy), only get close enough for government work.

Life Application: Do NOT freeze your family. I triple-checked and yes, it IS illegal and your house will still be a mess so it isn’t worth the legal bill.

Freeze some ice cream or a daiquiri instead.

Don’t y’all feel smarter already? I really wish I’d paid more attention in high school.

As we all collectively learn to give ourselves a bit of slack, we can know that science has our backs (unless you are Pluto and then you got screwed). Enjoy your family, your writing, your friends and life and just roll with it. Embrace the imperfections and laugh. Laughter increases energy and warms up the “bodies” around you, staving off entropy for at least a little bit 😉 .

Throw a PARTY!

Speaking of a lot of energetic bodies together in ONE space, I am finishing this post out to invite ALL of you to come and celebrate my 40th birthday with me this Sunday (even though my birthday was a week ago, but entropy tried to kill me so the party was moved).

It is a virtual party in one of our WANA International classrooms, and, if the WANACon after-parties are any indication of how fun this will be?

We might very well break the Internet.

But most of the people I love and care about are on-line. Since kidnapping air-fare for people all over the world is more expensive than the legal bills after freezing one’s family, my attorney has advised me that a virtual birthday party is the best option.

THIS SUNDAY, APRIL 6th from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Central Standard Time (or 7-9 NYC time) we are having an 80s themed party. So bring your sky-high bangs, and favorite A-Ha videos. Also, for the moms who have accidentally worn their bra on the outside of their clothes, remember, Madonna did it, so now you are “fashionable.”

To attend this party, go to the WANA International home page at the time of the party (we will open the room 15 minutes early for those who wish to spike the digital punch). Off to the right, you will see the WORDS Big Blue Button. There is a selector. Choose the room named “Birthday Party” and the password is “Big80s”.

What are your thoughts? Feel better now that physics has “proven” you can relax a little? Do you find yourself swinging between GOD-LIKE CONFIDENCE and wondering why you wanted to write?

What are some of your favorite 80s memories? Songs? Fashions? I always wanted a SWATCH, but we were too poor. Favorite 80s movie? Best love songs of the 80s?

Are you an 80s kid and wonder how the heck you SURVIVED? We drank out of hoses, played on playgrounds made of INDUSTRIAL STEEL, and streetlights were our curfew. How any of you are even around to attend my party is frankly…amazing. And if no one shows, I will assume you likely died in a Slip-and-Slide accident when you were eight.

Will announce winner for March next post.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Fear is a funny thing. We all experience it. Fear can be positive. It can keep us out of danger. It can stop us from making a super dumb decision, like getting in a car with a driver who’s been drinking too much. Fear can drive us to change for the better. At the same time, fear can cripple and, in extreme cases, can be deadly (I.e. suicide). Fear kills more dreams than failure ever has.

Fear is something we have to understand and respect. It’s a feeling and feelings do lie. Are feelings useful? Of course. But they can be affected by so many outside influences we are foolish to solely rely on them for guidance. Feelings can be affected by weather, diet, lack of exercise, a flat tire, a pile of unopened mail, stress, and on and on and on. Same thing with fear.

Fear of Heredity—Am I My Father’s Daughter?

Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.
Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.

My father was genius smart. He probably had an IQ off the charts. Yet, when he passed away at the young age of 50, he was working for minimum wage repairing bicycles. Though a fun, kind and generous man, he had no friends and lived a very lonely life. The only thing he left me of value was an antique bed that wasn’t even his. It was my great-grandmother’s.

Shortly after the funeral, we had to clean out his home. It looked like a bad episode of Hoarders. When I opened the front door, I broke down crying. Not just because of my father’s sudden death. The daunting task of sorting through endless piles to see if anything could be saved was enough to make me short-circuit. Almost everything he owned was set out on a curb for the trash.

That was the sum of his life.

Though he was a prolific and talented writer, I never managed to find any of his writing in all the days sorting through mounds of clothes, gadgets, books, papers, and trash. The only work I have of his are the ones I memorized and a handful of notebooks with unfinished stories or poems.

In the case of my father’s passing, fear became a double-edged sword. Fear I’d end up like him was stronger than fear of failure or being mocked by others to pursue being a writer. It saddened me that someone of so much talent left nothing. He never focused, never finished, never believed in the dream enough to take it seriously. Bluntly, he did more whining than working.

This fear drove me to examine where he went wrong and make corrections in my character. I was a lot like him both in good ways and in bad.

The good? He was intelligent, generous, kind, loved to read and he was the most fun person anyone could know. Neighborhood kids who friend me on Facebook tell stories of my father dropping everything to fix their bikes because their families were to poor to replace the shot gears or the trashed tires. Thirty years later these kids (now adults) still remember my father fondly.

My dad’s passion for reading and writing was passed to me at a VERY young age. While other kids were reading Judy Blume, I was reading Tolkien. I was published the first time at age eight in a popular children’s magazine.

My father was also very humble and fun and rarely serious. It was NOT uncommon for me to come home from college only to be attacked from the bushes with a long-range high-powered water gun. Here’s this 49 year-old man who was goofy enough to ambush his daughter with a toy.

Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.
Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.

The bad?

My father wanted to please his family more than he wanted to be a writer. He wilted in the face of any criticism. In wanting to please everyone, he pleased no one, including himself and the consequences were steep. He feared failure so much he never tried, thus sealing he would fail anyway.

I was doing the same thing. I was in a job I hated because “it paid great money” and had lots of perks and made my family Oh so proud. Let’s just ignore that I had to pull over to puke on the side of the road every day because of the stress, because I hated my job with every fiber of my being. It was a fabulous job…for someone else.

I was paralyzed by the fear of failure to the point I was willing to work a job the world believed was “acceptable.” I crumbled at any hint of criticism. I lived my life by committee and was a wreck because of it.

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons
Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The fear of ending up like my dad served its purpose for a time. It helped me stand up to family when I decided to leave the corporate world to become an author. I studied my father’s missteps then did the opposite. Where he retreated, I plunged ahead. My father was all about escape—music, books, books, books, TV. Ignore the real world and get lost in a fantasy. He neglected his writing, his home, his dog, his life to be…elsewhere. Like the grasshopper and all play no work.

This drove me to become self-directed, self-motivated, disciplined…and neurotic.

While it’s good to examine what we fear, we risk going to the other extreme. Fear, in many ways, is like a family dog. Trained properly it can defend us and keep us from harm. Yet, if we don’t keep it leashed and make it “heel,” it will chew on our souls and pee on our dreams.

Fear of Ourselves

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons
Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

When I examined my father’s strengths and weaknesses I witnessed my own. Yes, I was blessed with a sharp mind and talent. But, I let others have too much sway in my life. Why? The only one who’d face the consequences was ME. It’s hard to share this, but I was lazy. I believed more in luck and opportunity than hard work. My locus of focus was external. I blamed people and circumstances for where I was or wasn’t.

If I had a computer then I could write.

If I didn’t have to work a day job then I could finish the novel.

If others would take me seriously, then I’d be more “inspired.”

I relied too much on inspiration and underestimated the power of perspiration. I wanted the “Seal of Approval” from the outside world before I could do anything.

Lately, I have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. I’ve realized that fear has chewed through its leash and gutted my couch self-esteem. I can accomplish a hundred things in a day, yet have come to see I’m only noticing the ten I missed. Self-examination has shifted to self-deprecation.

And this will happen. It’s natural. But why I’m blogging about this is I want you (and even me) to be alert. Watch for the read flags that good fear has turned on us.

My family had the Autumn from Hell in 2013. Two family members with MAJOR surgeries. My mom had a hernia so bad they almost thought they couldn’t repair it. My sister-in-law nearly went blind and had to undergo one of the most horrific and painful surgeries anyone could endure to repair her detached retinas. My grandmother passed away. I’d just about come up for air and then something else would knock me to my knees.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

At the beginning of the year, we thought we’d be able to recuperate. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. The big trucks where my husband works all went down at the same time. No trucks? The company goes under and the company has only one mechanic.

My husband is trained in diesel engines. He’s worked 60-70 hours a week for the past month with one day off, meaning I’ve had one day off. Since Hubby’s gone most of the time, I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping on top of running a business and writing…with virtually NO break from The Spawn.

To add a new layer of difficulty the washer died. Hubby can repair it, but he doesn’t have time. This has left me lugging loads and loads of laundry to a nearby laundromat. Also, a few days ago, my other grandmother was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening and unknown infection. The stress has been crushing (part of why I added in vigorous exercise).

I’ve been working my tail off. Any time I sit down for five minutes, I hear the voices. You’re just not trying hard enough. That ten minutes you sat down? You could have been cleaning, working, writing, coming up with a cure for cancer.

I recognize that one of my early character flaws was laziness. But in the past couple days, I’ve come to recognize that I’m teetering on the other extreme. It’s great to be a hard worker, to be disciplined. But rest and play are vital to maintain balance, mental health and joy.

Fear Will Drag Us To Extremes If We Permit It

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Fear is a riptide. Swim with it or allow it to drag us under. I can be so afraid of being lazy I become a workaholic. So afraid of being irresponsible I become over-responsible and even controlling. Fear can drive kids of obese parents to eating disorders, children of abusive parents to being far too permissive, offspring of broke parents to be obsessed with accumulation of money and on and on.

The trick is to face what we fear and see it for what it IS. Almost all of us fear failure, but failure is the tuition we pay for success. We can fear criticism, but criticism is a fact of life. Fear of criticism can lead to perfectionism or passivity. Conversely, criticism can help us toughen up or even become stronger, better or more resolved.

What’s the answer? First, be self-aware. Many of us bee-bop through life going through the motions without inspecting the why behind our choices. This is dangerous. Fear is both good and bad. What changes the nature of fear is how we are using it. Are we using fear to be proactive or are we being reactive? When we’re proactive, we’re acknowledging fear and taking positive steps. We hold the leash. When we are reactive? Fear has a leash on us.

Fear is a feeling, which means it can lie. F.E.A.R. can be False Evidence Appearing Real. Evidence requires examination. Do we hold onto it or dismiss it? I feared ending up like my dad. That I would value pleasing others so much I’d live an empty life.

We cannot live the dreams of others and be fulfilled. This was positive fear. The evidence of my father’s choices showed me the truth of what happens to someone too afraid to fail. That evidence was real and worth holding onto. I also had to examine what he did right and grab hold.

WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.
WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.

Unexamined fear can become The Hamster Wheel of Doom. The HWOD tells me I suck because I’m not a fitness model with an immaculate Martha-Stewart-decorated-home, twenty best-selling books, a mansion and I’ve failed to travel to Africa twice a year to feed the starving children.

That’s false fear. 

"Meet Spiffy the Hamster." He's DEAD. Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons
“Meet Spiffy the Hamster.” He’s DEAD.
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

If I asked any of you right now to take out a piece of paper and write down all that’s wrong with you, I’d wager most would have twenty pages. But what if I asked what’s right with you? Bet you’re stumped, too.

We all struggle. Struggle can be good. Resistance is what makes us grow. But if we only focus on what’s wrong with us, we’ll just get more. We are what we focus on.

In racing, part of how they train drivers to win is teaching the driver to acknowledge the wall, but never look at it. The car goes where the driver looks. Look at the wall and you’ll hit the wall. Focus on the finish line.

All of us have our “wall.” Mine is laziness, people-pleasing, blind loyalty, procrastination, and I could list even more. I recognize them. I respect them. But I must focus on the positive. I am also disciplined, kind, generous and passionate and these qualities deserve my attention. If we focus enough on developing the positive, it will eventually crowd out the negative.

We also must learn to focus on the realistic. I am human. It’s okay to take a nap, play some video games, or read a book. There will always be more laundry, more dishes. But at the end of my days will I remember the clean dishes or the hour I spent running through the house with The Spawn with NERF guns “hunting zombies”? I can focus on the negative legacy my father left, but that might cost me the positive legacy he gave me.

I will never be too old to enjoy a bounce house.

I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a "serious" business after all.
I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a “serious” business after all.

What are your thoughts? Who has the leash? You or your fears? Do you find yourself being reactive? Too hard on yourself? Do you struggle to list what’s good about who you are? Is it hard to have fun? Do you feel guilty for rest? Is it tough to cut yourself slack? Do you find yourself maybe going to extremes because you fear being like a parent or other adult influence? Or maybe you’ve made positive changes and you’re afraid if you take one day off you’ll slip back into what you worked so hard to change?

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 novelor 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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