In this Month of Love–Love Yourself

I was in a dark place. My marriage had failed. The separation and divorce tattered my son’s self-esteem. My writing had stalled and I had horrible nightmares. I was the most worthless person I knew (second only to my ex). Self-love was selfish, or so I thought. I wish someone had told child me, “love yourself.”

It took years of therapy and self-examination to learn that self-love isn’t selfish.

I was lucky. I could afford therapy and by the luck of the draw, I found some good therapists. Back then I had one thing going for me, I was determined. Determined to be the best mom I could be for my son, I knew I had to work on me.

In this month of love--love yourself. Learn how.

The Struggle

It was a terrible struggle. Feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, mistrust, and shame filled me with negativity. I hid most of those feelings from the people around me. That good old Puritan work ethic flowed through me. I plowed through the work day, the housework, and the Monday through Friday life stuff. Every other weekend my son went to his father’s house and I crumpled into a tearful, self-loathing mess. I feared I was going crazy. My therapist made a suggestion. Journal your feelings, she said. That was easy, right? I’m a writer. I can do that. And I did.

I poured all that negativity and memories and self-loathing into my journal. I did that for a year or two. Slowly, surely, I got myself back together and reclaimed my weekends. Things were pretty good. Not great, but better.

Nothing Changed

One day I was moving clutter from one place to another and found some old journals. Curiosity overwhelmed me and I sat down to read. I read and I read. I read current journals, too. And I came to the horrifying conclusion that NOTHING had changed. I hadn’t changed. All those negative feelings were there, I’d simply hid them better.

Someone, probably my therapist, suggested I make myself some healing rituals. She suggested I work on one negative trait at a time.  Treat that one thing with a ritual for a couple of months and see what happens. Now, I was a registered nurse at that time and “healing rituals” sounded a little woo-woo to me. But, journaling alone wasn’t the answer. So I decided to give it a try.

In the Month of Love--Love Yourself. One way you can learn

The Ritual

I decided that what I most needed to work on was forgiving myself and learning to trust myself. I wrote the ritual down so I would be able to repeat it word for word.

That original piece of paper has been lost, but I remember the essence of that ritual. First thing in the morning, I lit a scented candle and said, “I light this candle to remember all the mistakes I have made.” I would breathe in the scent for a minute. Then, I would blow out the candle and say, “My past mistakes are as the light of this candle. I put them out. They are behind me.” Next, I had a small pile of sage leaves in an inelegant ashtray leftover from my marriage. I lit that and breathed in the aroma saying, “Sage is burnt honoring my inner wisdom. My heart is wise and I will listen to it.” When the sage burned out, the ritual was over.

Love Yourself

Why do I tell you this? Because over time I stopped needing that ritual. I learned to trust myself more and more and in so doing, I learned to love myself. I learned to love me for all the mistakes I made, for the wisdom I had, and the person I am. And the more I loved myself, the more love entered my world.

If you don’t already love yourself, take this February, this month of love and learn to love yourself. Discover your fears and the lies you tell yourself through journaling. Use affirmations and rituals to rebuild your self-esteem. Love yourself, my friends. It isn’t selfish. It will change your life.

Summer Vacation: Terror in a Tent

When I was kid summer vacations were about getting away from home. I grew up in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio cities. Often childhood family vacations were trips to visit grandparents and aunts and uncles. In my teens, my family chose the adventure of camping. But sometimes the adventure turned into terror in a tent.

Summer Vacation: terror in a tent, or the memories of being a teenaged girl who wasn't meant to go camping
Photo by Paul Hermann on Unsplash

At first, our camping vacations were to area lakes and parks. This time we were going to visit the Rocky Mountains. Now, I was already an insatiable reader. Usually, I spent camping trips reading ensconced in one of those folding chairs with that plastic webbing. I did some fishing, some hiking, and enjoyed cookouts and campfires. But stories were my thing even then. This time, though, I looked forward to the adventure of visiting the Rockies.

Being a female teen I was up for an adventure to the mountains as long as I could wear cool clothes. No, I don’t mean the latest fad. I mean cool. We spent hours and hours in a four-door sedan. My younger brother, my much younger tomboy sister, my infant brother, my parents, my father’s “ancient” mother, and I squeezed into the “comfortable for four” car. Seven people in an unairconditioned car traveling through the central plains in July? I mean, come on! It was HOT. I wore a shirt and shorts (very modest by today’s standards) and strappy sandals.

Our first stop was a barren campground in western Iowa. I only remember two things about that campground. Phase one of terror in a tent began when I stepped out of the car and a snake slithered over my open-toed sandal. I ran to the nearest picnic table, scaled it, and stood there screaming. I refused to return to the campsite my parents had picked. They finally relented and moved camp—to the other side of the campground. (I know, I know—now.) At the time, it mollified me.

My parents set up the tent while grandma took care of the baby. I don’t remember what I did, but I can guess—chair, shade, book.

The tent wasn’t large enough for all seven of us. There was math involved in getting space for all us to stretch out and yet leave room for mom and grandma to get up in the night. Grandma’s cot ran the length of one side of the tent, the side closest to the door. Mom’s cot was across the back of the tent. The baby slept in a box beside mom’s cot. And Dad’s cot ran the length of the other side of the tent.  My sleeping bag was on the ground. In order to leave a path for Grandma, my lower legs had to go under my father’s cot. It didn’t bother me. I could sleep anywhere. My sister slept next to me and my brother next to her. His feet also were under Dad’s cot. I don’t think her feet reached that far.

We were all exhausted thanks to an early departure and a day with record-breaking heat. We went to bed when the sun went down.

In the middle of the night, two of the legs of my father’s cot collapse. I woke up screaming, certain my feet were crushed. It took Dad a while to untangle himself from the sleeping bag and broken cot. My feet weren’t crushed. Bruised, but I could walk. My brother escaped injury because he’d curled up into a ball. I don’t remember how long the commotion lasted or how long it took my parents to work out a different sleeping arrangement. But Dad slept on the ground after that. I slept on the other side of the tent.

The second terror in a tent should have had me insisting on going home. But I was a good kid. I rolled with the punches or the crushes or—well, you know what I mean. Besides, adventures like this fed my writer’s imagination.

Have you had a vacation or two where things didn’t go smoothly? Those events were scary, but the terror in the tent didn’t start until we reached the Rocky Mountains. I’ll tell you more about that, next time. In the meantime, please share your vacation nightmares memories in the comments below.

Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve embarrassed myself! Sheesh. Sorry folks. Evidently, I didn’t press the right button when I tried to schedule this post to go live on Wednesday, September 5th. And although I was curious as to why the post bombed so badly no one liked or commented on it, I never came to the website to verify that I’d actually posted it. It was only when I was attempting to link it to the second part that I realized it hadn’t posted. *headdesk* Ah well. Since this is a two-parter, this one must be posted first. The second part will be posted next Monday.

Writing Is Easy–Until It’s Hard

Writing looks easy. We all learn to write essays about what I did this summer at an early age. And writing is easy–until it’s hard. The hard work comes when you desire to create a compelling story. This is the story of one way to learn to create a compelling story.

This is much like my first typewriter. On it I learned that writing is easy--until it's hard.

Many people instruct wanna-be-writers to read-read-read and write-write-write. That’s good advice, but it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. One must also study-study-study the craft.

Every writer starts at a different place in their skill levels. So it’s counterproductive to dictate that all writers must start here or there. All the steps are necessary. Only you can decide how deeply you must dive into the learning and in what order you need to learn these skills.

This is the story of how I went about learning to write and publish my book. I share my story in the hopes that someone might find some guidance and inspiration in my story.

As with most writers, I loved to read from the get-go. I don’t know when I started reading. Books and stories were as necessary to me as the air that we breathe.

I wrote stories in a journal. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t journal. Most of those early works are lost. A consequence of moving seventeen times before my freshman year in high school.

I loved literature classes because we studied stories and I ate them up. I didn’t find a single story I didn’t want to devour. Moves meant different schools. They were studying The Great Gatsby in three different schools in successive years. I became an expert at writing essays on that book!

I took drama classes in high school. How could I not? Being an actor was living and breathing stories. It was an exciting and instructive time.

Sadly, I left drama classes and literature classes behind when I graduated high school. Becoming an author was not on my radar at the time. I faced career choices. My career of choice (nursing) consumed most of my time both as a student and later as a worker bee. But I continued to journal and read when I could.

Later, much later, the writing bug bit me again. I asked authors I met (at conferences) how to go about learning and they told me to read. But writing is easy–until it’s hard. I was a reader and I still had no clue how to write a story. So I decided to do it my own way. That began a search for classes and books and mentors. I needed to learn how to organize my thoughts into a story I could write and others would love to read. At 27 years-of-age I had no clue that this would be the journey of a lifetime.

I hope you enjoyed this opening chapter of writing is easy–until it’s hard or how I learned to write fiction. Next week I’ll go into how I began to learn to write stories, what resources I used, and what I learned along the way. Please ask questions, or if you’re a writer, add your story in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

How to Cope With a Life-Crisis

Life spins out of control from time-to-time. For some of us crises happen more often than for others. So when circumstances are beyond your control what do you do? Do you throw up your hands in defeat or do you look for tips on how to cope with a life-crisis?

Life spins out of control from time-to-time. For some of us crises happen more often than for others. So when circumstances are beyond your control what do you do? Do you throw up your hands in defeat or do you look for ways how to cope with a life-crisis? Her are 7 tips on how to cope with a life-crisis.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice at this. When the first family crisis struck I tossed my career and personal plans out of the window and focused solely on managing the crisis. How did that work out? Not so well. Oh, the family crisis passed, but my needs and goals were set aside for a lengthy period of time. Next crisis, I did a little better. I’m working on improving more. Here are seven tips on how can you learn to handle the chaos that comes as a result of a life-crisis.

1. Be Kind to Yourself

Understand that you’re under a lot of stress. When the stress mounts out bodies go into shock and our brain into overwhelm. This is inevitable. It happens to us all. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself a self-defined period of time to be in shock. Comfort yourself the best that you can and give yourself support as if you are your own best friend.

2. Honor Your Feelings

Give yourself a specific window of time during which you can feel your feelings. Often, in a situation that is out of our control, we stuff or hide our feelings. But doing that is neither healthy nor respectful. Talk with a trusted friend, journal, find a private place to scream or cry. Be angry, frightened, resentful, grief-stricken, frustrated. Whatever they are, your feelings are valid. Your life has been upended by something you didn’t choose.

3.  Care for Yourself

Be sure you are safe. Get enough to eat and drink. Get enough sleep. Take walks or exercise. Find ways to remind yourself that you are stronger than you feel at the moment and that you are able to deal with this crisis. Seek medical or psychological help if you need it.

How do you know if you need help? If you don’t have the expertise to make an informed decision, find an expert. You may lack the resources to manage the crisis. Or you may question your own strength or be overwhelmed with out-of-control feelings. Watch out for unhealthy coping behaviors like sleeping too much, eating too much, or drinking (alcohol) too much. Asking for help is being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself.

4. Change Your Focus

In a crisis, we often focus on the negative. Not that any crisis is a positive thing, but change your focus from the negative to the more positive. If you’re thinking in terms of ‘because of x I can’t . . .” Figure out what your choices are. Rephrase the situation, ‘Given x, I can do this or this.”

5. Unpack Old Baggage

If the situation is repeatedly causing our life to spin out of control, it’s common to rehash previous episodes and pack on the resentment and anger. That does you more harm than good. No one can change the past. Give yourself permission to let it go. If those visits to the past are uncontrollable, you may want to consider talking to a professional.

6. Have a Stress Management Plan

Make time for stress relief. Do at least one thing you enjoy whether that’s yoga, or lunch with friends, or reading, or a hobby. Accept help from a friend or family member so you can step away for a few minutes.

7. Be Present

In a crisis, we tend to get tunnel vision to the point that only the crisis exists. If you project this crisis into the future or you sit with old baggage of past crisis, you won’t have the headspace to deal with the present. Clear your head of those things. Take a deep breath. Be present and deal with what is happening right now. You’ll feel calmer, see more choices, and make better decisions.

Coping with Crisis, Chaos, or Trauma

More than 75% of us have at least one time of chaos, life-crisis, or trauma in our lives. How to cope with a life-crisis is a set of skills we all need. And with the right mindset and skills, you can survive the crisis. Give yourself the gift of these skills. I know they come in handy for me. If you wish to learn more, see my list of resources in the comments. If you have additional skills or tips, please share.

We Interrupt this Blog. . . .

Sometimes Life gets in the way of creation. Life with a capital “L.” I’ve had more of those interruptions in the past ten years than there are flowers in the field. Yes, that’s a slight exaggeration. Unfortunately, it’s only a slight exaggeration. Today, though, the interruption is fun!

Last Sunday we brought a new puppy home. I’d like to introduce you to Neo.

He’s a purebred Yorkshire Terrier, eight weeks old, and a little shy of two pounds in this picture. He’s a bundle of joy and energy. (I’d forgotten how much energy a puppy has and takes!) He’s adapted to his new life and family well.

He slept through his first night (and each one thereafter). He loves to snuggle with the stuffed dog we got him. (The blanket is from Motley Kennels–thank you!) 

Our two older yorkies sleep in the crate next to his. They are adapting, too. They are old enough they don’t appreciate the puppy’s energy and are jealous of the attention he gets. They try to avoid him and at the same time get equal attention from me and hubby. But when they’re sleeping, their buddies. lol

In addition to the new pup, I’ve been working on the final scenes of My Soul to Keep and taking an online class on an update to this website. I can’t wait to reveal to you what I’ve been learning in my class.

Next week we resume the Reader’s Interview series with answers from Cindy.

Stay tuned for a re-designed website coming in November and an announcement about my WIP, My Soul to Keep.