Thursday, August 30, 2012

Oh, No, My Enthusiasm Waned? When Did That Happen? How Did I Miss It?

Sometimes we really don't know what we need until we receive it. Today I had a two hour conversation with an author friend. We talked about the book industry, our work, our personal lives, and the struggle it can be to accept new things.

As we talked I felt encouraged about the plans and goals I set a year ago. I hadn't even realized I'd lost some of my enthusiasm over the past few months, but I had. Life has brought some uncertainty my way, and I haven't been able to do some things I would like to do. Falling behind on the schedule I set for myself started to weigh on me even though the delays have mostly been caused by things beyond my control.
I haven't quit working on my projects or striving to meet my goals, but somewhere in the past few months I began to fall into old habits of allowing self-doubt and self-recriminations to sneak into my thoughts from time to time. I pushed them aside and kept plugging away, but they were there. And, those little negative moments ate away at my enthusiasm.

As we talked about possibilities and new ideas, as we shared experiences and goals, as we discussed marketing and publicity techniques, I began to feel less exhausted and more energized. I began to remember why I chose to take the path I'm currently on. I remembered that I have a whole team of people cheering for my success! When I feel my enthusiasm wane, they will lend me some of theirs until mine is restored!

But, the thing that I still can't quite grasp is how I didn't even realize my enthusiasm had waned. I honestly just thought I was tired and over scheduled, but I guess that is the point, isn't it?

When we become too tired to accomplish our goals, that exhaustion can eat away at our enthusiasm slowly without us even taking notice. That's why it is so important to take care of ourselves, especially when life interrupts our best laid plans!

Taking care of ourselves is more than eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. It is also getting in touch with our attitudes, emotions, and thoughts. It is recognizing that we really can't do it all. It is remembering that what doesn't get done today will be there tomorrow. It is allowing ourselves the same respite we would encourage another to take. It is reaching out to our support system to help us through. It is acknowledging to ourselves that maybe we need someone to remind us what we've forgotten even though we hate to admit we've forgotten it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Surviving Rape is Not a Crime

If you know five women, you know at least one who has been raped. Think about that for a minute. Go ahead. I'll wait...

Okay, are you back now? Ready?

She may never tell you. She may never show it publicly. She may seem like every other woman you know. Yet she may check the locks on her doors obsessively. She may flinch when a man steps toward her in what no one else would perceive as threatening. She may be hyper-vigilant about her surroundings. She may insist on more control over her personal space than seems necessary. She may capitulate way too easily. She may flinch when a co-worker, or even a friend, touches her arm or taps her shoulder. She may not laugh at that joke you find so incredibly funny - you know that one about bondage or rough sex. Or she may laugh at it a little too hard. She may seem like a prude. She may seem like a slut. She may be married. She may be single. She may seem hard to get to know. She may seem to reveal way too much. She may seem to tell you everything and yet you feel you know nothing about her. She may fear being alone at night. She may have nightmares that leave her shaking so violently she feels like her body will rip apart. She may not sleep for days or she may sleep excessively or some bizarre combination of the two. She may be defensive. She may be a pushover. She may be outgoing. She may be shy. She may...

No two rape survivors will react the same. But, some things are consistent. She is forever changed by the violence perpetrated in an act violating the most intimate part or parts of her. The physical violation rips a hole in her soul, heart, and mind that you can't necessarily see, but one that scars in a way that is vulnerable to splitting more easily than makes sense even to her. A touch, a smell, a taste, a sound, a word, an image, a slight, a betrayal can rip through that scar and send her right back into that moment of violation months and even years after she is positive she has completely healed, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Men, think of a woman in your life, make it one you love. Wife, mother, sister, daughter, niece, friend... Imagine a man forces his penis into her against her will. Think about how you feel right now. If the answer is aroused, call a therapist forthwith. If the answer is indifferent, go call that therapist. If you started trying to figure out whether it was really rape, again you need that therapist. If you feel uncomfortable, pissed off, outraged, indignant, protective, and/or sad, congratulations, you are a man, a normal human being.

Please understand, your rage doesn't really comfort her and oddly enough your protection may not either, at least not in the long term. What most aids her healing is being heard, being respected, and being given the space and support to regain control of her own life. The more you try to coddle her, the more power she loses. She may give it to you willingly, but in the end she'll resent you for taking it. She needs to feel her own strength and to learn to trust herself again. So, in the end, feeling all those initial feelings are what a man, a normal human being, feels, but a real man also knows he needs to support without weakening, to love without smothering, to protect without controlling, to understand without patronizing.

Every time I see a man come out in support of some law that seeks excuse rapists or blame victims I have to wonder why they condone such an act of violation and violence. What is it in these men that allows them to side with someone who seeks to violate women? What is it in these men that allows them to not understand that it is a betrayal to the women they love - wives, mothers, sisters,daughters, nieces, friends - to support laws that make it harder for victims to report rape and easier for rapists to get away with their crimes? What is it in these men that allows them to believe rape victims are ever at fault for a crime perpetrated on them? What is it in these men that allows them to believe the rape victim should suffer consequences for an act perpetrated on her? What is it in these men that allows them to cavalierly dismiss the reality of the trauma, anguish, and real life consequences of rape? What is it in these men that allows them to not understand that surviving a rape is not a crime?

Surviving a rape is not something of which one should be ashamed. Yet, our society still shames the victim, makes excuses for rapists, and questions the morals the victim. If she dies, then it's such a shame. If she survives, then far too often society, and even those who are supposed to love her, make her investigate her behavior as if she was complicit in a crime committed against her. It's gone on too long. Yet, any rape survivor knows that as soon as people learn she is a rape survivor, she will be treated differently. People may not mean to do it, but they do. And, when they do, they isolate her.

And, that's why of the women you know, the ones who have been raped are likely to never tell you. She probably doesn't want to make you feel uncomfortable, and she doesn't want you to treat her differently. So she will likely hold her head high, go about her business, and fall apart on her own time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Treat Yourself the Way You Want Others to Treat You

We all know the golden rule, right?  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Today, I was in Costco when I came upon a bouquet of red and yellow roses. I stood staring at those roses. The next thing I knew they were in my hand. Now, I don't remember actually picking them up, but I suddenly realized I was standing there with a goofy grin on my face and possibly a tear in my eye because a girl who works there asked me if I needed help. I smiled, blinked back the tear, and said, "No, just made me remember a moment in time." She smiled knowingly and murmured something like "Enjoy." and left me to a private moment.

I wished, in that moment, that someone would buy me flowers - to be more precise the roses I held. I turned to put the roses back on the rack, but instead put them in my cart. I stood there staring into the cart and started trying to talk myself out of buying them. Cut flowers die.... Yeah, but they are beautiful. It's money I shouldn't spend... Your smile is worth the cost of these roses. But, it's silly to buy roses for myself... Why? Don't you love yourself enough to treat yourself to something that brings you joy. But, what if... Stop it, you deserve them. They're beautiful!

Then the lyrics to Luther Vandross's song Buy Me a Rose started to go through my head. I love that song. Okay, I've said that before, but it's still true. "Buy Me a Rose, call me from work/Open a door for me, what it would hurt/Show me you love by the look in your eyes/These are the little things I need the most in my life."

The idea behind Buy Me a Rose is so true. It's the little things in life that matter.

As I was checking out, the cashier, a man, looked at me and smiled over the roses as he inhaled deeply and then commented how wonderful they smelled. He handed them to the man bagging my items, who also smelled them and commented they were beautiful and smelled good. I'm not sure why, but that little moment was refreshing. Neither minded taking a moment to smell the roses, literally, even with a line of customers waiting to check out, and I noticed a couple of other customers smile, too. What a simple moment of pleasure for all of us. I smelled them again and smiled as I pushed the cart away from the checkout.

As I drove home something nagged at me. When did I come to the conclusion that it was silly to buy myself roses? I used to buy myself cut flowers all the time until the gesture became so routine it lost its meaning. I convinced myself this tiny thing I enjoyed so much was a waste of money and time. I convinced myself the pleasure I felt was wasteful. I didn't want to be the woman who enjoyed the things that men say only women enjoy. I didn't want to be overly sentimental or accused of being mushy. I didn't want to be "that kind of woman" whatever that kind of woman was.

 The roses lay in the passenger seat as I drove home. I stole glances at them and smiled every time. Their beauty brought me pleasure. Their fragrance brought me joy. Maybe I am that mushy woman, after all... Don't tell anyone, okay?

I came home, arranged them in a vase, and still a thought nagged me. Suddenly, I realized something. We always preach the golden rule I mentioned at the beginning of this post. What we never say is that we should treat OURSELVES the way we want other people to treat us. If I don't treat myself like I deserve pleasure, happiness, laughter, love, success, and all the good things in life, how can anyone else ever give me those things? And, even if they did, would I recognize them? And this goes back to the post I did last week about attracting what I deserve.

Today, I bought myself roses because I knew in my heart I deserved the pleasure they would bring me. I treated myself the way I deserved to be treated. I treated myself like I want others to treat me. I accepted that I am worth two dozen beautiful roses simply because I am me. Wow, how good does that feel?

Ladies, gentlemen too if you so desire, don't wait for someone to buy you the rose. Buy your own rose because you need to treat you like you want other people to treat you, like the special person you are! Say Buy Me a Rose to yourself before you ask it of anyone else!

I dedicate the song Buy Me a Rose to everyone out there in hopes you'll decide to treasure yourself with the little pleasures you deserve! Then, maybe just maybe, someone else will also treasure you with the pleasures you deserve, but if they don't, so what, you know what you deserve! Treat yourself like you want others to treat you. I think that's my new personal philosophy.

I vow right this moment to treat myself the way I want others to treat me...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fighting My Muse... Again. Will I Ever Learn?

Last year I wrote a post about fighting my muse. Apparently, I didn't learn my lesson. Yesterday I got up with a clear idea of what I wanted to write about. The title had already written itself. I was excited, so I typed the title in the little box - something I usually don't do until I'm at least halfway finished writing a post.
I started typing. Did I mention I was excited? Then I looked at the words on the screen. They had absolutely nothing to do with what I planned to write... Huh? Who took over my hands? My thoughts? My brain? So for the next couple of hours I fought with my muse about what to write.

There was a post I wanted to write. Then there was the post I was writing. How did happiness over connecting with the people in my life morph into a post about introverts versus extroverts? Really? Well, it was something I'd wanted to explore for a while, but it wasn't the plan for that post.

I walked away from the post, answered some messages, did a few chores, gave my cats some attention, took a shower, and daydreamed about what I'd planned to write. I sat down ready to rewrite the post and say what I wanted to say, but something stopped my hand above the keyboard. It refused to let go until I gave in and went with the post I'd written. I felt kind of possessed.

I still think I need to write the other post, but I suppose I'll have to wait until my muse gives me permission...

Rereading last year's post about fighting my muse brought an interesting insight. The post about introverts vs. extroverts is much safer that the other post in that it doesn't expose any of my vulnerabilities. Perhaps my muse knew better than I did that I'm not quite ready to commit those other thoughts and feelings to a post to be shared with others.

So, once again, I must recognize my muse usually knows what's best if I take the time to listen and stop being so incredibly stubborn.

Score another one for my muse...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apparently, I Love People, Who Knew?

When I tell people I'm a writer, they almost always, at some point, in our first conversation make a reference of some kind that I must be an introvert. I almost always take offense but smile politely and respond with something to the effect that writing tends to be solitary work but that I enjoy people. I've struggled with this stereotype for a long time. Does the fact that I spend long hours alone with the voices in my head make me an introvert? I really don't think so. The fact that I listen to them, talk to them, and write down what they say may call my sanity into question, but it doesn't make me an introvert.

I've never considered myself either an introvert or an extrovert. I've even argued the point with friends. I love a good party. I love to be around people. I love to engage with other people in stimulating debates and interesting conversation. Sometimes I love sitting in a crowd and absorbing the energy around me. I love hearing people's stories and sharing my own. I will happily strike up a conversation with the stranger in the grocery store, sitting next to me on a plane, or at the next table in a restaurant. Yet, I can just as happily turn around and spend a day or a week in virtual solitude when I'm deep in my writing projects. Even then I'm never completely cut off from the world. I need the connection with people even if it's only through social media, texting, telephone, or whatever. If I don't have social contact on at least a semi-regular basis, I get more than a little grumpy. Same goes if I don't get my solitude to write...

I need a balance of socializing and solitude to function at my best. Personally, I think this is healthy.

People who know me well know I have an aversion to labels, so I hate it when people call me an introvert or an extrovert or anything else for that matter. I believe as soon as we seek to label ourselves or anyone else, we limit our ability to reach our full potential.

Too often we embrace a label and behave to fit that label because it's what's expected. If we look beyond labels, we may find possibilities open to us we wouldn't have even considered before. When we get the time to know ourselves without external labels, we set ourselves on a path to higher enlightenment.

I refuse your label. You can keep it. I'd rather soar into my full potential on wings built of both socializing with others and solitude perfectly balanced while defying any labels that seek to contain me.

So yes, I love both people and solitude... And, that's perfectly fine...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Attracting What I Deserve aka Deserving What I Attract

I've been thinking a lot about what I deserve in life.

Someone recently made me feel like I expect more out of life than I deserve. It wasn't intentional, but the conversation hit a nerve I thought long dead. Over the next few days, my thoughts returned to the idea more often than I'm happy admitting.

I've been willing to settle for less than I deserve for much of my life because I thought I didn't deserve the good I really deserved. It's not that I didn't fight for what I projected I thought I deserved. The problem was I didn't really think I deserved what I demanded other people give me, so I never expected to actually receive it. When I did receive it, I questioned it, doubted it, and sometimes even, subconsciously, rejected it.

I remember a short time during my high school/college years when I genuinely believed, at least to some degree, I deserved the best out of life and life would bring it my way if I just worked hard enough and stayed focused. Perhaps it was a kind of blind faith, but I didn't view failure as failure, per se. Of course, my idea of failure wasn't exactly "failure" since receiving anything less than a "B" was a failure to me. Even a "B" was cause for concern. Instead I viewed any failure, large or small, as life's way of redirecting my energy. I would beat myself up plenty for not being perfect, but then I'd reassess the situation and move on to something else. I didn't realize I viewed failure that way until years later after much work on my problems with perfectionism.

Growing up I was taught to expect the worst so I'd be surprised when good things happened. Somewhere along the line the idea that I didn't deserve the best also became a part of the message. A part of me combated it during my early life. Deep inside I knew life would work out my way if I just endured whatever trials came my way. Yet, I still didn't believe I deserved the best life had to offer.

As time progressed I began to believe I deserved the bad things that happened in my life. I began to believe I didn't deserve for good things to come my way. I began to believe I didn't deserve to be successful or happy or loved. I even began to believe I didn't deserve good relationships of any kind. I wanted those things, but I didn't believe I deserved them. At first the belief was subconscious. Outwardly, I said I believed I deserved the best. Perhaps I even acted like I deserved the best out of life, but my internal voice whispered constantly in my ear that I didn't deserve the good things in my life. I tended to sabotage the good in my life like the universe had made some colossal mistake. I embraced the bad in my life like an earned punishment for my existence.

I'm a strong believer in gratitude and the power of gratitude to improve one's life, so it's hard for me to say what I need to say now. In some senses, I became too grateful for whatever good found its way through my defenses and landed in my life. I felt like I didn't deserve those things, so I became desperate to keep them while simultaneously pushing them away. I gushed over the good in my life because I feared fate would realize I didn't deserve whatever good was in my life and yank it away before I was finished enjoying it. I smothered whatever good came into my life until it struck back with something bad. I sank at the feet of the good in my life and screamed "I'm not worthy." until it agreed and left.

As I found my way back to believing I deserved good, my gratitude became less desperate and more heartfelt. Gratitude stopped feeling like begging the universe to let me have things to be grateful for and more like embracing the good life brought me.

The more genuinely grateful I felt, the happier I felt. The happier I felt, the more grateful I felt. Interspersed with the happiness and gratitude, my confidence returned. As my confidence grew, I began to realize that I deserved all the good things in my life, and the bad things in my life were only lessons on how to live the life I wanted to live. And, this all lead to more gratitude which lead to greater recognition of the idea that I deserve the best. The greater recognition lead to acceptance. Acceptance to greater confidence. Greater confidence to more gratitude. And, soon, I realized I had surrounded myself with a positive outlook that was no longer willing to accept being treated less than the best or offered less than I deserve in any given situation or relationship.

I'm no longer afraid to say without equivocation "I deserve the very best life has to offer. I want the best in my life. And, I will accept nothing less than the best life has to offer."

For the first time in my life, I realize the best doesn't mean perfection. It doesn't mean setting unrealistic expectations. "The best" is simply that which aids me in becoming my best self. And, while it may sound strange, that little bit of knowledge allows me to feel a sense of happiness even when I hurt because it means whatever this moment brings is preparing me for "the best" that is coming my way...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tricks of Memory

Memory can be a tricky thing. Two people go through the same experience together, but their stories will differ slightly when they recall what happened. Sometimes a person's mood even affects how they remember an event. The memory may be a little different one day than it is another day, not in the big moments but in the little nuances. We tend to forget the things that don't support our point of view, especially if it challenges our view of ourselves.

Other events can also taint our memory of one event because our brains make connections between events even if only in our memories. Those connections help us identify patterns in our lives, but they can also mislead us into believing two events are related when in fact they may not be. Of course, since they are memories that are part of our lives, how can two events that happen to one person not have some connection however remote?

Sometimes other people's recollection of an event makes us doubt our own memories. What we forget is we bring our own perspective and experiences to each event in our lives and to every memory as does the other person. Often our perception of an event is too clouded to even hear another person's intention or understand another person's reaction to an event. The taint that stains a memory can often make it impossible to heal the hurt or ever see the issue clearly, especially when two people see the whole event incredibly differently. Just because we don't understand someone else's perception or memory of an event doesn't make them crazy. Sadly, at times our points of view are so jaded, we can't relate to the other person.

As a writer, much of my work relies on memory, so I tend to commit things to memory and sometimes to put too much emphasis on my memories. It's not that I live in memory, but when I need to draw on life to write what I need to write it often requires me to delve into memories, good and bad, to give my writing more depth. At times as I delve into memory I discover hidden emotions and denied truths in the depths of my heart that I regret not recognizing before. Sometimes I find myself in tears over missed opportunities because I let fear of vulnerability stand in the way of me expressing a truth. Sometimes I chide myself for not taking a risk, for risking too much, or for being gullible. Sometimes, I can't help but play "what if" scenarios as I remember decisions made and options chosen.

The memories in my heart and mind are only one side of the story - my side. When I express those or use those to add layers to my work, I must always remember there are others who may be affected or who may remember things a little differently. It is my right to use my memories as I see fit, but it is my responsibility to use those memories in a way that doesn't misrepresent another person.

When my memory meets someone else's memory, the result may give us a foundation to grow closer or it may create a chasm that drives us away from one another.

Memory sure is tricky.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Memory in Silhouette Kindle Edition Free for Limited Time

Memory in Silhouette: Poems Kindle edition is free through midnight on August 2, 2012! Download now! Enjoy!

If you enjoy the book please come back to "like" it! Reviews are also encouraged as a way to let people know what you think!