Just Do It

When I first challenged myself to do chin ups, I read up on all I could to find the most effective and efficient way to do them. I read tips on increasing strength, reducing weight, grip styles and technique. In the end, most fitness advice boiled down to one inalienable truth: the best (and only way, it seemed) to do multiple chin ups was to do a chin up. And keep doing them. Of course, I was all:

OKDon’t get me wrong. I understood the principle that the body needed to get stronger, get used to the motion, yaddayaddayadda. But dude. Chin ups are hard. For reals yo. And doing the weight-assisted chin ups were awkward and goofy-feeling. It was like having training wheels on my bike. Or something equally embarrassing.

I mean, I used to do this all the time in the playground…why couldn’t I do this now? All those action movies, people climb and scramble and get away from the Big Bad Thing…I should totally be able to pull. Myself. Up.

Along the way, I realized that instead of “learning” how to do one by actually doing them, I wanted someone to tell me what is clearly the carefully guarded secret of doing chin ups. I wanted to roll into my gym one day and jump up to the bar and just bust out ten in a row. Because that’s how I do.

fabulous

It’s also a beautiful lie I’ve told myself. Because at the end of the day, nothing got me over that bar until I grit my teeth through many, many embarrassingly awkward sessions (complete with flailing leg kicks. I was beyond awesome.). Slowly but surely, the weight assists went away, and I was finally able to do them. They weren’t easy, and at one point I couldn’t believe I was actually doing them, but I was immensely proud of myself.

I pretty much approach writing the same way. There are great books out there for story structure, plotting, writing compelling characters, etc…but none of those books will get the story written. They’re not elves that will labor at my computer at night and leave a beautifully polished manuscript for me to find in the morning. The best (and only way) to get it written is to write it, in whatever process it needs to be written, no matter how awkward, clumsy, or hopeless I feel when writing it.

It’s not easy. Mental obstacles are the worst obstacles to overcome. Believe me, I know. But, I also know that the best thing to do is work the work. Get out of my head and into the mechanical aspect of sitting at my desk and typing away at the computer or more accurately for me, scribbling word vomit across the page. Eventually, there comes that point when my self-consciousness fades away and it’s just me and the story being written.

Today…I’m adding another scene to my first draft of WIP8. What ONE thing will you do today to get you closer to where you want to be?

{Today is The Day is my theme for this year. Basically, I will tackle the ONE thing that I can do Today to impact my life goals. Perhaps you’d like to join me? It’s OK if you don’t. We can still be friends. :) }

Today Is The Day…To Let Go

Letting Go

Letting Go (Photo credit: Liamfm .)

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

Thich Nhat Hanh

I feel the need to do All The Things.

It can’t be helped. The top five themes that make up my strengths are Input, Learner, Intellection, Achiever, Ideation.* What do they all mean? Basically, I am an unyielding devourer of all the knowledge; I get bored easily, so I constantly seek new challenges; and because I’m an Achiever, I have an internal fire that drives me to accomplish whatever tasks are set in front of me. But, with that drive to achieve, I have a hard time letting go once I commit to a goal. To me, it would be admitting that I failed at something. And I would rather grit my teeth and power through and keep working than to admit I failed.

Recently, I came to an important realization that is so embarrassingly obvious in hindsight but took me months to understand: Not all goals were goals that I needed to pursue; not all goals-in-progress needed to be completed. I had equated “this is not the right path for me” with “I am too incompetent or incapable to walk this path.” And, to someone who has a compulsive need to prove something to herself each and every day, this was a hard thought process to untangle.

Goals have a way of looking so shiny and pretty, especially if the goals promise titles, money, security. Some goals seem to be the safe, logical choice, and make perfect sense to pursue. But, if those goals distract you from living the life you’ve envisioned, are they really worthy goals?

Take a moment today to reflect on your big picture goals. Visualize what a typical day would look like. Write it all out, down to the dress code (or lack thereof!), or if you’re more image-oriented, start a vision board on Pinterest.

Now, ask yourself: will my plan today bring me closer to that vision? If yes, fabulous! If not, what are the obstacles in your way, and what one thing can you do today to get you closer to that “typical day” you envisioned?

Since one of my Big Picture goals is a writing career, financial freedom is important to me. For today, my ONE thing will be to evaluate my household budget and see what categories I can trim so I can pay down debts more aggressively while saving more.

So, what ONE thing will you do today to get you closer to where you want to be?

{Today is The Day is my theme for this year. Basically, I will tackle the ONE thing that I can do Today to impact my life goals. Perhaps you’d like to join me? It’s OK if you don’t. We can still be friends. :) }

*These themes come from StrengthsFinder 2.0

**For your listening pleasure, Let Go by Frou Frou

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13WAhlE02ew

Today Is The Day

Sunrise

Sunrise (Photo credit: mathstop)

As it always is when I see the very real possibilities of death come into focus, I have become even more aware of my time. Things that seemed so important and crushing no longer matter. My goals, which I’ve always imagined would wait for me, I’m now pursuing with a near-desperation.

It’s sad that my renewed motivation came from someone else’s bad news, but I refuse to squander this drive that my new awareness has given me. I will be giving myself an assessment and re-evaluating my goals and the path I need to take to get there, and I’ll be making changes to impact those goals sooner rather than later.

TODAY IS THE DAY will be my theme for this next year (my new year starts in September, because that’s when new years start of course). Essentially, I’ll be focusing on the ONE thing that I can do that day to make an impact on my life goals. I’ll be working on creating actionable plans before I get into it full force, but I’m already feeling more empowered and optimistic. Perhaps you’d like to join me? It’s OK if you don’t. We can still be friends. :)

For today, my One Thing will be a crushing leg work out that I’ve been too afraid to do, but I know would be a huge return on investment once I get it into my normal routine.

So, what ONE thing will you do today to get you closer to where you want to be?

When Life Kicks You in the Neck

I know a couple people who have borne their fair share of bad news recently. And, not just some short-term stressful issue because of some random work deadline or whatever. But I mean, flaming-kicks-to-your-neck bad news.

Flaming kick to the neck. Yup, that about sums up life at the moment.Since I’m awkward when it comes to expressing myself, I don’t really know how to deal with bad news. I don’t know if what I’m saying is trite or condescending or what, so I tend to sit there silent and gaping with the invariable, “man, that sucks.” (Because, I figure, when life kicks you in the neck, it generally sucks.)

And then I feel the need to act. You know, because I’m not so good with The Talking. And then I feel even more awkward because no matter how many cards/care packages I make, or how much money I donate, or how many people I can inform to support these individuals, at the end of the day, I’m not the one that life is kicking in the neck. And I feel all the more helpless.

I mean, honestly: what do you say? What do you do? (I really want to know!)

Where I Retreat to Some Quiet Place to Recover From Reading ‘Some Quiet Place,’ by Kelsey Sutton

Everything about this book is compelling.

The cover art:

some quiet place

The premise…

“Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions…she sees them in human form.”

Heck, the first sentence…

“Fear is coming.”

Dude, if that doesn’t make you want to read on, you’re dead inside.

(I’m only kind of kidding.)

I started reading this book simply because I wanted to see how Kelsey Sutton would be able to pull off this feat; how she’d be able to create a story around a character that supposedly can’t feel emotions, and make me sympathize with her. It was almost like a dare: surely, a story featuring an emotionless main character can’t be a compelling read. And then silly me, I proceeded to open the pages (again, I was powerless in the face of that cover!), and a sleepless night later, I am left with heart ache and a whole lot of wistful sighing.

Honestly, I should have hated this book. There are so many themes and motifs about it that should have made me want to put the book down. I usually prefer action-packed, high concept adventures with twisty plots. Some Quiet Place was decidedly not one of those kinds of stories.

I don’t know what it was that resonated so well with me. Perhaps the evocative language that served to balance a purposefully emotionless narrator? Maybe it was the mystery surrounding Elizabeth Caldwell, which made me want to know her origins, and drink in all the words, and forget about silly things like eating or sleeping? Or maybe I could relate to her in part because I’m extremely introverted and often times feel like I’m pretending to fit into a specific, extraverted-shaped mold.

Or, perhaps this was one of those stories that came to me at just the right time, and that’s why the quiet way in which the story unfolded resonated with me while it whispered deep truths about our flawed humanity and how we deal with our own personal tragedies.

Whatever the reason, Some Quiet Place entranced me with the beauty of its writing; be aware of this as you read it, as this is a clever ploy for you to put your guard down until it’s too late and the story will reach into your chest and squeeze your heart to pieces.

(You’ve been warned.)

(Read it anyway. What’s Life without a little Fear?*)

*grins at inside joke*

{Please Note: Some Quiet Place will be available July 8, 2013 wherever books are sold.}

Violence and Silence: Lessons in Leadership

I stumbled upon this Ted Talk while procrastinating on Twitter researching for my WIP. It’s roughly 20 minutes long, but it’s worth the watch.

For those who don’t have time to watch the video now, Katz challenges the current dialogue around violence, stating that most of the discourse centers around the victim (oftentimes, turning the conversation into one of victim-blaming) rather than the perpetrator of violence.

In a linguistic example that morphed the line “John beat Mary” into “Mary was beaten by John” to “Mary is a battered woman,” we see how even these cognitive structures are set up to be passive against the attacker and focused on the victim.

The victim then gets the spotlight, while the perpetrator is left unexamined.

In cases of domestic or sexual violence, for instance, we seem to ask:

“Why didn’t she just leave him? What was she thinking being with him/wearing that outfit/going to that party?”

versus

“Why did he hit her? Why did he rape her?”

Or, an even better question, “What are we doing in this society that would allow or influence these decisions?”

Jackson Katz makes many, many great points, but the one that resonated the most with me is one of Leadership. It’s not enough to talk about the problems in our society, or who is at fault, or why. The point is that true Leaders will act not only in response to an immediate need but will also act to avoid perpetuating the cycle of violence; as a bystander to the perpetrator and victim, how would you respond?

This Ted Talk found its way to me right after I read a great article from The Art of Manliness.* In it, McKay recounts two incidents that happened in New York, both nearly identical life-or-death circumstances. In the first incident, bystanders looked on while someone was killed and in the second, the bystanders interceded and saved a life.

McKay goes on to ask: Why do some men freeze up and react passively in a crisis, while others take action? Why do some run away from danger and others run toward it?

Why are some men sheep and other men sheepdogs?

And which one are you?

Needless to say, I have a lot of reflecting to do about what action I would take as a bystander.

{*I highly suggest you subscribe to The Art of Manliness if you don’t already.}

Clarity

“All things are difficult before they are easy.”

April was hands down the most challenging month I’ve experienced in recent memory (and that includes the craycray of this past holiday season). There were days that I refused to go to sleep because that meant that Today had ended, and Tomorrow would come. I did not want Tomorrow to come. Tomorrow meant yet another Obligation to face down, another Necessary Evil to endure, another Reality Check that I needed to accept. Tomorrow was heavy, and I was tired of shouldering that burden day after day.

On top of that, there was the never ending winter weather that melted into apocalyptic April showers, and pretty soon, I believed that this heaviness was my new normal, with no end in sight. It’s like every facet of my life decided to challenge me at the same time. To quote dear Bilbo Baggins, I felt “stretched…like butter scraped over too much bread.” I seriously considered just withdrawing from the world, and living on my own little island.

That is, until the internal and external challenges I faced came to a head and I was more or less forced to stop All The Doing and Busyness, take a step back, and evaluate my situation from a more objective place.

What did I find? I found that I had a problem with perfection that I NEVER thought I had inside me. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the heaviness I experienced was the constant disappointment I felt against myself because I didn’t know All The Things and I didn’t execute Things perfectly on my first try. I mean, that need for perfection tainted my view on everything recently, including feeling betrayed by my body when I caught my first cold in seven years.

Once I did recognize it, I was able to correct my mindset and began to find peace. I allowed myself to accept my fumbles and missteps. I let myself be OK with uncertainty. And, I found myself being grateful for this much needed experience just so I can look back and remember how I can be better next time. More importantly, I now have this reminder that I faced seemingly big challenges, and I was able to stretch, scrape, and push myself past them. If I could do it once, I can surely do it again.

I’m not going to lie: it’s hard to face your own incompetence day after day. I know. I live it. But man, when that moment of clarity dawns on you, when the fog in your mind disappears and you suddenly see the solution to the problem you’ve been staring at for-freaking-ever, you almost feel like the god of your own universe. That moment, in and of itself, far outweighs the price of all the struggle.

manager photo[Edited to include photo]