Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Archive for the ‘Getting it together’ Category

For Better after Worse

I mentioned recently that I’m reading Liz Gilbert’s Committed. She talks about her first marriage a bit, and the “mere” sadness that ended it. Obviously her sadness was not “mere” at all, or it wouldn’t have ended her marriage. It was grinding and pervasive and permanent and all-consuming.

Or so it seemed at the time.

I know many people who have become that sad – that trapped – by their marriages, and been infinitely happier when they left.

marriage vowHere’s the thing: I’ve been that sad in my marriage. I’ve had those days (weeks … months … years) where I honestly thought the only escape from my matrimonial hell would be divorce – or death.

Crying secretly, so no one finds out.

A hurt so real that it’s a physical pain that drives into your joints without relent.

And absolutely no prospect of light or joy on the horizon ever again.

Someone once told me that can sometimes happen in a marriage. And they told me it would pass.

I’ll admit that when I was buried in that mire, I didn’t let myself hope for a moment that it could possibly ever need, that anything could ever be good or right again with us.

But that dear, wise person was right. It passed. (More than once!)

one of the advantages of marriageRight now, we’re happier than we’ve ever been. And our relationship is deeper and more honest than ever before.

I don’t know if this heartbreaking, gut-wrenching agony is a natural part of marriage. I really hope it isn’t. But when I was there, I felt like I owed it to the love we had once, and the young and optimistic girl I once was, to see if – just maybe – my friend had the right of it and things could get better.

I certainly don’t think people should stay in a situation that is toxic in any way, whether it’s abuse of some kind, or it generates that numbing depression that slowly engulfs you in nothing from the inside out.

For me (for us) it was worth it to stick it out. And if it happens again, I hope I’ll remember the lesson.

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“You’re not professional.”

To provide some context to this next piece, I need to explain something. I work too hard. I always have. My sense of self-worth is inextricably tied to how much people like me is inextricably tied to how much work I deliver and how brilliant AND fast AND affordable it is. People tell me to slow down. People tell me I need boundaries. People tell me to take care of myself.

I ignore them.

Why? Because a good night’s rest bears no weight against a single word of approval. None. Nada. Not-a-sausage. I feel the absence of those positive strokes like a physical ache and it bores through my soul like cancer. Like water in lungs. Sleep be damned.

Yesterday, my mentor said three words and blew my mind. Because he’s a genius. And he changed the way I work and the way I view myself, my work, and my time.


Since I was fourteen, working around the clock and drinking inordinate amounts of black coffee to finish French projects, people have been telling me to guard my time more wisely. They’ve explained about boundaries. They’ve expounded on the necessity of placing a higher value on my work and my time.

No one has every called me unprofessional before.

He did.

It was exactly the wake up call and perspective shift I needed.

Those words have been burning a pathway into the core of my brain and I can feel paradigms shifting all over the place.

Changing the conversation from some ephemeral self-help discussion to a cool, calm assessment of how other people see me was like an ice-cold slap in the face with a wet fish. Not pleasant, but effective. And rejuvenating.

I am in his debt.


Update – 14/09: I should have mentioned that what my mentor referred to as unprofessional was the fact that I have been saying “Yes” to every client request I get, without planning my time or being realistic about what I can actually take on. I thought I had to. When he pointed out that, rather than make me look awesome and helpful, that behaviour was the one thing I did that is actually UNprofessional, it was the wake up call I needed. And I appreciate it. And it’s a good thing. 🙂

Being your own ENOUGH

Some time ago, Goldilocks explained to me how frustrated she was. She was working very hard to be “normal”. Not that she was trying to fit in – nothing like that. She was trying to moderate her responses to life’s stressors. She was trying NOT to get anxious, or talk to Zoomer*, or say unkind and thoughtless things. She was trying to integrate and keep her temper and respond rationally – every single day.

That might not seem like a lot to expect of someone.

But for her, the task was mammoth. Is mammoth, I should say.

It takes all of her energy and all of her emotional reserves, and some days it takes more than she has to give.

And no one notices.

She was getting exhausted and run down, and could hardly see the point in being this person people wanted her to be, since no one realised she was being it.

We had a long chat.

I explained to her that, if no one notices she’s doing it, it means she’s doing it right. If no one understands the cost, it means she’s made it look effortless. If no one praises her efforts, it means her efforts have paid off. She’s succeeded.

And then I reminded her that I see. I know.

And God knows.

And she knows.

I told her to be proud of herself for all that she has achieved – and does achieve every day. I pointed out that she has worked hard and has earned a certain amount of righteous back slapping.

And then I told her one of the hardest truths:
“That may be all the acknowledgement you ever get. You need to learn to let it be enough.”

You need to learn to let it be enough

If you do your job so well that no one even realises a job was done – making it look effortless; keeping the cogs running – day in and day out – no one will thank you. They won’t know that you’ve earned their thanks. Especially not when “the job” you do is “being socially acceptable”.

Deep within yourself you need to find the wellspring of self-approval – those reserves of strength that say, “Well done, Me. Nice job.” You need to shed archaic constructs whispering lies about how this kind of self-congratulation is wicked and prideful. And you need to let go of any need for approval.

You have what it takes to achieve what you need to achieve.

And that’s enough.

*Zoomer is the subject of a story I’m not ready to tell. In fact, it’s not really mine to tell.

The thing about choices …

Let’s chat about making choices.

Just because I choose it, that doesn't make it easy

Just because I choose it, that doesn’t make it easy

And of course, living with the consequences of those choices. Which can be hard.

Really hard.

Suppose I wanted to climb Mount Everest.

That would be my decision – a choice I’d made.

I’d have to do a lot of preparation and – being me – I’d spend months and months online, doing “research”.

My research would cover the gamut of mountaineering, from which boots to wear when facing a Himalayan summer (warm ones, preferably headed to the tropics) – to which tent is best suited to sleeping on the side of an imposing great hulk of rock.

I’d consider the food I’d need to take, the best kind of ruck sack, how to get enough air, and where to find a therapist to help me through my mania and keep here, where things are nice and “normal”, rather than teetering on the side of some distant mountain clearly bent on my personal annihilation.

Now, I love me a good hike. And I am addicted to the imposing majesty of mountain peaks. I’m also a graduate of the “if-you’re-gonna-do-it-be-the-best-at-it” school of over achievement. So if I were to invest serious time and effort into this wannabe hobby, it’s not entirely outside of the realms of possibility that I would consider tackling Everest.

As Terry Pratchett made clear, “This I (might) choose.”

But here’s the thing about choices. Just because you choose something, that doesn’t make it easy. Or fun all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t even turn out to have been particularly pleasant at all.

In some cases, in fact, the choices we make kind of happen by accident. One tiny flap of a butterfly’s wing over here sets off a chain of events whose end e can’t hope to predict or even imagine. It just plays out before us (sometimes without us consciously realising the part we’ve had to play in all this drama). And the next thing we know, there we are. Mired in insurmountable drama.

Not fun.

In the last few weeks I’ve been chatting to a few of my friends (as you do). And we all seem to be facing the consequences of our choices in various aspects of our lives. Maybe it’s a natural by-product of getting older – both living long enough to see the outcomes of the path we’ve headed down (which is a blessing), and having the clarity to recognise the role we’ve played in getting to where we are (which, frankly, is a bit of a mixed bag in the blessing department).

The thing that strikes me every time I chat to these fine folk is a single line they all seem to repeat: “I know I chose this. It’s self-inflicted. I only have myself to blame.”

Well – sure. Okay. Great job on accepting responsibility for where you are in life. Let’s face it: no one can change your life but you.

But just because you chose it, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just because you got yourself to wherever you may be on your personal journey, that doesn’t mean you need to go the rest of the way alone.

We can’t always predict the results of the tiny, seemingly insignificant choices we make along the way until it’s way too late. And while it’s mature – and even healthy – to recognise that we’ve had a part to play in getting to the place we’re at now, that doesn’t mean we’re to blame for it.

Frankly, blame shouldn’t even be a part of the equation.

And it doesn’t mean we don’t deserve compassion, support, and maybe even real, practical help. Many of us face obstacles we need to surmount – our very own Everests. No one can face a mountain alone. We need each other to achieve goals. Often, we need each other just to help us identify the goals in the first place.

And we certainly need help to get to where we’re headed. Because no matter how each of us got to wherever we are now, you can be sure not one of us did it alone.

So if you’re feeling stuck in a morass of guilt, blame – maybe even self-pity – and you feel like you need to pull yourself out of it all by yourself, maybe take a minute to stop being so hard on yourself.

Your experience is no less challenging, painful or – above all – valid just because you chose it. And just because it’s your path, and the result of your choices, that doesn’t mean you have to walk it alone.

Peace

We have peace. It is a gift. If we don’t FEEL it, it’s because we’ve chosen not to use or receive that gift.

Whenever someone gives you something, you have two choices: accept it or reject it.
If you accept it, you have two choices: be gracious, or be ungracious. Be grateful or be ungrateful. It stands to reason that gracious gratitude is ALWAYS the right answer.

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right.

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.
– Henry Ford

If you graciously accept and appreciate the gift, you still have two choices: open it, or don’t. (Obviously, implied in the initial acceptance of a gift in this context, there’s the idea that you KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING. Although even when you know what you’re getting, you don’t know what you’re getting. But anyway…)
If you DON’T open it, there’s not much point in having it. It might look very pretty in its wrapping, but it’s just going to sit there being ornamental, not doing anything.

So, you open it. Now (you guessed it) you have two choices: use it, or don’t use it. Gifts are a bit like well-intentioned advice in that way.

If you don’t use it, all you have is an ornament. And that’s most of us with peace. We HAVE it, but we don’t use it. Why not? Well, maybe we don’t know how. It could be that we haven’t read the instruction manual, or that we read it but it was too confusing to put into practical action.

If we don’t use the gift of peace and it’s not a “couldn’t-understand-the-manual” thing, we’re fooling ourselves when we say we want peace. We don’t. We love the drama. We feed off it. It’s all we really know and understand. It makes us feel whole. it’s familiar, and peace would be strangely unsettling. Perhaps we even fear that it would be dull. I know I’ve done that.

But let’s say we have peace (and we do). We’ve graciously accepted this amazing gift. We’ve OPENED it, and we’ve even read the manual. Now what? How do we put that learning into action?

There’s something about peace that is very important to understand: it passes understanding. In other words, your thoughts can get in the way of your peace if you let them. Don’t believe me? Let’s do an experiment. Try this for the next five days: every morning the minute you wake up, every evening, just before you sail off to the land of nod, and every single time you feel even the faintest flutter of anxiety, panic, anger, fear, stress, worry, sadness, loneliness or concern, repeat these words:

I am serene and at peace.

Say them at least ten times, out loud if you can but in your head is fine, too.

Easy, right?

There’s a catch, though (you knew this was coming) … allow yourself to BELIEVE it. This is just for five days, remember. What have you got to lose? But if you SAY “I am serene and at peace,” but you THINK “as if! I WISH I was serene and at peace but there’s way too much chaos for that EVER to be true!” well, you’ll be right. You won’t have any peace at all.

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.

So, for just five days, CHOOSE to think you CAN.

Let me tell you how this is working out for me. I have a reputation for being highly strung. I’m a control freak, and I have continual little flares of anger and frustration every moment of every day, because nothing in my life seems to conform to my will. In “You Can Heal Your Body” by Louise Hay, she links acne and cysts to continual flares of anger, and playing that old, painful movie over and over in your head. Since I have had a lifelong battle with acne, I decided to give it a go. That was about ten days ago. My skin is almost completely clear, and everyone comments on it. In fact, last week someone told me I had “beautiful ivory skin”, and asked me what my secret was. An unexpected benefit has been that I tic and twitch MUCH less than before. Sometimes I think about that, and think I should be even MORE serene so that I can tic even less, and then I get tense about not being serene, so I tic even more, and so it goes. The main key to remember is that it is a process, and you need to trust the process.

Here’s another affirmation that is really working for me: “Be still, and KNOW that [He] is God.”

Just let that sink in for a bit. Just think about what God means. Good. Infinite. Love. All those things, and He’s on OUR side. How incredible is that. If you just gently, lovingly meditate on that, with no preconceived notions or judgements, for at least five minutes, you’ll be amazed at the serenity that floods your life.

Give it a go. I’m keen to hear your results.

Confessions of a workaholic

I am a workaholic.

I validate my existence with work. Be it home educating the girls, washing the dishes, or earning a living.

If I don’t work, I don’t feel that I have any worth. None at all.

Since I no longer have bosses or a management structure of any kind to confer worth upon the work I do in the form of praise, positive assessments, awards, promotions or bonuses, the only measurement tool I have is money. If I work hard enough, if the work I do is good enough, I will get paid. If I get paid, I have worth.

If not, I don’t.

While my head tells me that, logically, this is folly, the rest of me blunders on.

I need to work.

Work supercedes every other thing I need to do – family, friends, social commitments, health, sleep – everything is secondary to my secret obsession. Except it’s not so secret.

I have no idea how to break the cycle.

Any suggestions?

Bucketlist: eight things to do before I die.

Part of my recent rearrangement of – well, everything – was to decide what things I’d like to achieve EVER in my life. These now form anchor points, goals to work towards, instead of the regular grind of just putting one foot in front of the other, hoping desperately to survive.

I now present to you, in no particular order,

Eight things I want to do before I’m done:

  • Travel to Europe
  • Travel to Australia
  • Travel to New Zealand
  • Travel all around the whole of South Africa
  • Live on a farm for at least a month
  • Learn to dance
  • Learn to fight and do serious damage
  • Talk at TED

There’s an amazing opportunity available which could make it possible to achieve rather a lot of these things, and it’s called Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). The South African chapter allows you to work on local farms (and would let us travelt he country AND live on farms. Presumably we could do something similar in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Although I don’t know what we’d do for actual income to get from one place to another, buy clothes and so forth.

Hmm … perhaps we could trade. I’m doing a lot of thinking, experimenting and researching into the practical workings of a functional barter system, starting with one on my business site. I wonder whether we really need all this filthy old lucre after all.

Let's trade

Let’s trade

What do you think?

Action Steps:

  • Achieve at least three things on my TO DO list (so far, so good).
  • Do something creative with my kids (absolutely no progress here).
  • Spend time in prayer and reading God’s Word (this also needs work).
  • Move my body (nope).
  • Read something meaningful (does Game of Thrones count?)

Verses:

  • Maybe this? Proverbs 20:10 … can you think of any that are more appropriate?

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