Lego Life Lesson Reminders

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Lego Life Lesson Reminders

Building Lego kits reminds me of life lessons… I thought I’d share that with you today.

2019-04-09 10.20.32My husband bought me a Lego Creator kit for a 1967 Mustang. This kit has over 1,400 bricks and pieces, and the completed model will be 13.5 inches long and 5.5 inches wide. The instruction manual has 195 pages for the basic design and about 20 more pages to the super charger engine. Challenging, right?

Have you ever put together Legos? Kits, I mean, although, there is something rather meditative about building something from your imagination using Lego bricks.

Lego kits come with instructions and all the bricks you need to build whatever is pictured on the box.

Here’s how it works. Each page  in the instruction booklet features:

  1. a diagram of the pieces you need to build the sequence on that page.
  2. step by step diagram of how to put those pieces together.
  3. diagram to show you where to put that bit you just built.

Legos provides step by step instructions, and building a Lego offers you an opportunity to be present. I cannot think of or focus on anything else while I am putting together Legos. I am required to stay in the present moment in order to build the kit properly.

Master Creators create Legos beginning with the end in mind. Actually, I think Legos may come up with the end result IDEA first (“Wouldn’t a Millenium Falcon be a cool Lego kit? I wonder how we could do that?”, said some Master Creator somewhere) and then deconstructs the idea (go backwards and creates a series of steps) so that they – the Master Builders – can create a kit with all the pieces to build something amazing.

I applied this deconstruction (start at the end and go backwards) technique on purpose just recently – even though I’ve been using it unconsciously for most of my life.

In the beginning of this post I mentioned that Legos provides an instruction manual (sometimes with over 200 pages). I also recall hearing again and again over the years about how LIFE does not come with an instruction manual. Nor does parenting (although there are hundreds of books on both subjects these days… but they are pretty general and each of us is pretty unique).

Except that maybe life DOES come with instruction manuals. You probably have a set of instructions you’ve developed for many of your daily activities, although you may not realize it. Everything we do during the day requires a series of steps. Let’s use taking a shower as an example – what goes into that? Well, the water has to be running, right? Shampoo, Conditioner, and soap are typically involved – what order you use those in is up to you. Wash cloth or no wash cloth (some folks use those plastic scrubbies). You’ll need a towel within reach to dry off. Do you take clothes into the bathroom with you to get into after you dry off? Think about your bathing process. That’s a series of steps.

Getting the kids ready for school? You probably repeatedly do the same thing each morning to get from waking up to getting out the door.

Brushing your teeth. Doing the dishes. Making a meal.

Step by step. A series of processes. You have created a bunch of mental instruction manuals.

When the goal or desire is bigger, or you want to achieve something on purpose, that process may seem overwhelming, or unclear. How then could you apply the instruction manual, or deconstruction technique, to the bigger things in life? The things you desire? Better job, bigger house, that European vacation (I assume everyone wants one of those).

I used the deconstruction for a dream of mine: the end result or desire – a bigger house. How do I get there? I broke it down, I started at the end and went backwards – probably just like the Lego Master Builders. To move into a bigger house, I need to move out of this littler house and I’d like to rent this one rather than sell it. This littler house is not ready to be rented as it is, so I need to improve a couple of things – kitchen, driveway. I also need to qualify for a loan for that bigger house, and be able to pay the mortgage. I’ll need money for both of those things – to fix little house, to pay for bigger house. I have a little income, but I’ll need more, so I need a side hustle. Going backwards, and WRITING IT DOWN, helps me to SEE the process to get where I want to go, and to help me stay on track as I head there – because life will present challenges and try to knock me off track. A written plan will keep me moving forward.

I wrote an instruction manual to get a house.

You can do the same thing to get a job, buy a car, improve a relationship, get into better shape, be a better parent, finish college, or what ever it is that you desire. Step by step, you build upon the foundation of your desire until you get to the end. And you can do this over and over again.

That’s what Legos reminded me about today. I can write my own instruction booklet for every desire I have, big and small. And if I follow the steps, I will reach my goals.

For now though, I’m going to go work on that Mustang!

The Nuances of Life

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The Nuances of Life

I was about to drift off to sleep and I was thinking – as I’m sure some of you do as you drift off to sleep – thinking about a live event I get to attend on Tuesday, and the person I get to learn from, and his language which is similar to my language. By that I mean, I drop ‘f’ bombs when appropriate (and sometimes when its not so appropriate), and so does he – and he is real, he is authentic. What you see is what you get. (Although I’ll find out Tuesday when I meet him in person.)

And that thought led to a conversation I had the other day with a friend, discussing that she didn’t know how to be – that different situations called for a different representation of herself (this is more cerebral and detailed than the actual conversation was). Something that prompted me to think, “Why can’t you just be YOU regardless of the company?”

And tonight, thinking about Tuesday as I drifted off to sleep, I realized that I am not the same me to everyone I meet. Some people wouldn’t respond to me the same as other people do. Which means – that while I am working toward being an authentic single version of me, I am still holding back, or masking certain aspects of my personality to appease others. I still give a shit what people will think of me long after we part ways. I behave the way I think they will best respond to instead of adhering to a personal set of values that do not waver, and not worrying about what other people think of me.

What other people think of me is out of my hands, out of my control. Spending time and energy attempting to control that subtracts from my mission to be authentic, to be me. The best version of me continues to evolve but ultimately the core values are just that – core.

When I thought about who I am most real with and why, it shed light on who I am not authentic with, and why not.

So as I drift off to sleep tonight, I will go to sleep knowing that tomorrow I will review my core values and I will stick to those when I interact with everyone. And those who align with my core values will seek a relationship with me and those who don’t won’t.

And either way, it’s none of my fucking business. I’ll treat each one with the same level of love, tolerance and respect I’d like to receive.

Maybe you have some thoughts on what authentic means to you, and what core values you live by on a day to day basis. I’d love to hear about them. Comment below, please. Let’s get to know each other a little better.

Until I hear from you, goodnight.

The Little Writer That Could

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The Little Writer That Could

Once upon a time there was this girl. She wanted to write, to share her stories, both real life and imagined.  She didn’t know how to tell a story really well, on purpose. But she had determination and a computer. She started a blog – an intermittent blog (that’s what I could rename this blog – The Intermittent Blog) – with stops and starts, great ideas put down in digital words, and some not so great ideas that folks stopped by to read anyway.

She got likes and comments, and she felt real good about it on the days she had thoughts to share. There were other days though, days when life got busy and no blog-type thoughts visited her mind. Those days were harder, because she wanted to be consistent, and share all kinds of interesting stuff and insight, get lots of followers and share experience and knowledge.

This is one of those times – it’s been days since I posted. And I felt bad – I said I’d post. I guess committing to a post every day is just too much for me to ask myself right now. I mean, even great writers had their off days.

I am taking a couple of online courses – focused education. I am learning more about real estate wholesaling and also about social media marketing. I have great teachers.

I also invest in real estate and that involves a lot of footwork, meeting with homeowners who want to sell their homes and do not want to do any work to the homes or deal with a real estate agent. My husband and I help with that – we find buyers who want to offer cash in exchange for a discount on the property. It’s not for everyone – there are folks out there though who are grateful for our service.

And life, in general, day to day stuff – the expected and the unexpected. (For example, there is a large adult skunk residing somewhere in our yard at the moment. Seriously. I would have taken a photo today, but I also did not want to upset the gentle creature. Made it difficult to leave the house until the sun broke through the clouds. The cat was not happy.)

Anyway, that’s my story and (as my husband loves to say) you’re stuck with it.

Tomorrow is the release of the photo prompt for Fictioneers Friday. Stay tuned.

Friday Fictioneers – New Purpose

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New Purpose (Friday Fictioneers – 100 words limit)

The early 1900s, and I was grand.

Ivories first tickled by a young piano teacher.

An instrument of training for great and future pianists.

My rich sound, inspiration of a thousand students.

The centerpiece to decades of recitals.

A good, long life in service to others.

But time, and the instructor, passed.

Age took its toll.

No more was I cared for or tuned.

I was shuffled into a corner.

And then to the alley.

Nature’s elements then took their toll.

Years passed, and one day…

A kindly soul, some soil, some flowers.

I gained new purpose.

I serve again.

FF Prompt 2019-03-13 piano-anshu

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

The challenge – write a complete tale in 100 words using the photo prompt as inspiration – and that’s Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rochelle for posting the photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers. Special thanks to Anshu Bhojnagarwala for this thought provoking photograph.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, as I enjoyed writing it.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 

The Soul Hole (Financial Habits, Part Three)

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The Soul Hole (More About Spending)

If you’ve come back for this one, I applaud you. I mean, this is a lot of me sharing my financial journey. I certainly hope that this has been helpful and also interesting so far, but let’s wrap this up so I can return to fiction writing and personal insights few will understand. (also, if you’d like a copy of my personal finances spreadsheets, just let me know.)

AdobeStock_97068486 [Converted]

The Soul Hole. That came to me while I was thinking about how to conclude the tale of getting in and out of debt. I mean, the fact that I continued to return to being in debt WAY over my head might be a topic to delve into, right? Right.

Do you now what it feels like to pay down debt? To make that last payment on a car you bought, or a television? Maybe your debt was a loan from a friend or a family member. I asked for a loan from a family member and I remember being very careful not to mention any money I spent that was NOT going to them and feeling a little awkward when we got together. It was restricting, and uncomfortable, but I needed the loan and they were super generous in helping me out. I made a payment each time I got paid, for the most part, and if I knew I was going to have to defer (skip) a payment, I let them know ahead of time. When I sent that last payment, it was a FANTASTIC feeling. I felt that same feeling when I finished paying off a credit card and closed the account. And when I made the last payment on a vehicle and received the registration with only my name listed, instead of with that hanger on – the lender. Bliss.

Here’s where I have to be honest with you: I have been in and out of financial straits for most of my adult life. Mostly in. One of the things I resonated with in the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki was the idea that when I received a raise in pay or a big tax refund or a check from grandma (she sent those far longer than any adult should receive money from their grandma), I did not invest it, or save some of it. I got bigger and better toys: gaming systems for the kids, clothes, trips to fun places, and more dinners out.

True story: my grandmother chose to give me some inheritance before she died – you can give anyone a gift of money up to a certain amount before Uncle Sam steps in. In three years, she gifted me and my husband enough money to put a down payment on a house, if we had put it in the bank drawing a little interest until we were able to find a house we could afford. We chose instead to take the kids to Disneyland, take a road trip, party too much, upgrade computers in the apartment we rented, pay off some bills and incur a little more debt. I literally had a minivan and payments to show for my lack of financial maturity.

I never had too much extra money and I believed (and I still do) that my Higher Power knew I was too irresponsible to handle too much money. I had a savings account after the ‘inheritance’ years and every time we got just a little bit saved to feel a little bit at ease, something big needed replacing – usually an appliance (refrigerator one year) or an automobile needed work (transmissions are costly). Seriously, I knew something was gonna break if we saved more than $500. I worked hard at my job, I got consistent raises, and I spent pretty much everything I had on what I wanted. My children left, one by one to live with their other parent, until only the child I had with my then husband was left (he was 10). I plugged along. Wrestled debt, kept my head above water (I managed all our finances – he wouldn’t do it. I screwed it up several times – and I guess he didn’t want to be responsible for it. I get it. For the record, when I chose to stop doing mind and mood altering substances, I got better at managing money, and I had more money to manage. But I still had a problem with that hole in my soul.)

Have you ever experienced the shit hitting the fan over and over again. Me too – a lot of things happened in pretty rapid succession: In 2011, my grandmother died of Alzheimer’s, two weeks after my mother-in-law died of a very aggressive form of lung cancer. In 2013, I divorced. In 2014, my mother died of ovarian cancer. And in 2015, I received a considerable amount of money. (Lots of really horrible emotional upheaval followed by a means to an end – I would have given all that money back to have my mom here with me – but that’s another story) I used that money left to me as wisely as I could – I paid off both my car and the vehicle of my ex-husband (making his payments was a part of the divorce settlement); I paid all my credit cards off; I paid off a student loan I’d co-signed. At the end of 2015 I had zero debt, I’d quit my job, and I was married again. And I wanted for nothing. I finished college and got my AA. And I spent money, because even though I was sober, I had a hole to fill – the hole in my soul that was left when those three influential women in my life died. I just didn’t know I had a hole or that I was trying to fill it.

To be honest, I’d probably had that hole since I was a kid. I remember stealing money from my dad a few times during my teenage years. I stole from employers. I stole from friends. I bought (and stole) stuff I didn’t need. I didn’t feel loved or important (this is not a ploy for sympathy – this is just my perception of the facts) and I thought if I had enough stuff, I’d be happy. I wasn’t but I was also 15 and I didn’t know any better. Once I discovered a better way to fill the hole I didn’t know I had inside, I was good, relatively speaking.

So almost 25 years later, I had enough money to buy whatever I wanted – and I did. I finally had a pair of jeans for every day of the week, and I took trips, and I bought shit on Amazon that I did not know I’d needed. (It should be said that I invested more than I spent.) The point is, I thought that if I bought enough stuff, I’d finally land on the RIGHT stuff and I’d finally feel better, feel whole. I see that now. I didn’t see that then. At the end of 2016, I received – for the first time I can recall – a statement from each credit card company (Yes, I had more credit cards, which I paid off every month, because I’m a responsible consumer now. Ha.) showing me how much I spent in 2016 and where I spent it. Have you ever gotten one of those? How did that feel? Rather eye-opening. I had two credit cards I used regularly – I got points for using them, so free money, I figured. (Lies I believed which justified spending more). In that year, I’d spent more money than I had made during the last year of my job, and I made good money. I opened that statement, and I read it, and I cried. Keep in mind that I didn’t owe this money – I’d paid it off. Still, I felt this deep shame. I felt that something was really wrong with me. And there was. It wasn’t what I thought it was though.

Over the past year (literally, March 7, 2018 to March 8, 2019) I have done a lot of soul searching, I’ve dug deep on a lot of personal issues, and I’ve come to the realization that I felt not good enough for most of my life, unimportant to those I wanted to be most important to, and to bring relief to that belief – that I was not good enough, that I did not deserve to be here, and that I was unimportant – I did things to escape those feelings. First it was books. As a child I read more than anyone I’ve ever known. As a young adult, I moved on to sex, and drugs. When I got sober, movies became my escape. My final act of escape was to purchase stuff. To buy enough stuff to distract me from myself.

This year I dug in deep to what makes me tick. I faced a lot of hard truths. I wrote and I shared and I got counseling. I even had my brain scanned. I attached emotions to physical discomfort, and dialed in to why I felt the way I felt. And frankly, I had a LOT of limiting beliefs about myself, and about those closest to me. I had to expose those lies I’d told myself, and I had to let those stories go. It took most of the year to get here. It’s taken 15 years to get ready to do this work. And today, I have a different outlook. I may be able to report back next year and tell you that I haven’t had to escape my feelings more than a few times, and in a healthy manner. I’ll set a reminder and let you know.

The hardest person to face was me. The person I lied to the best and for the longest was me. And the person I am kinder and gentler with every day is me. And it ripples out to the rest of my life. I am grateful for the lessons so far. I will never stop learning about who I am and striving to be the best version of me.

Thanks for sticking around. Tomorrow, some fiction. Then we’ll see where life takes us next. Good night.

A Word From Our Sponsors

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A Word From Our Sponsors

Have you ever made a promise, a commitment, and realized you might not be able to honor it? Stuff happens. Circumstances beyond our control.

Well, I need to review Part Three of the Financial Habits piece I am writing. And right not, it’s late and I need to get to bed.

So, I’m writing, like I said I would. It’s just not the piece you might have been expecting.

Tonight I read a line in a book that illuminated to me how I feel in the world most of the time – I laugh when life gets too serious, and I am too serious when others are in a loose and silly place.  I blurt out phrases and then cover my mouth quickly, wondering why the hell I said that, and hoping only one or two people heard it. I respond inappropriately often, thinking that what I’m going to say will be funny or make a point, and mostly I just confuse people.

I am grateful that when I shared this in a group tonight, I saw smiles and nodding, recognition. I am not alone, I am not the only one, and I am loved by these people, my tribe, for just being me.

In response to that feeling of camaraderie I cried. Hard.

Yeah. Well.

Tomorrow we will return you to your regularly scheduled program. Good night.

 

 

How I learned about Spending Habits (Financial Habits, Part Two)

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How I learned about Spending Habits

How does one learn about spending habits? This is a question that has had a multi-layer answer for me over the years. First of all, I didn’t know what spending habits were, and didn’t know that mine were questionable. In the past post I used the term “creative financing.” What that meant for me, for most of my adult life, was to manipulate my financial affairs. I thought I was being clever, and most of the time (emphasis on ‘most’), I got away with it. See, if I was getting paid on Friday and Tuesday or Wednesday I’d run out of essentials, like milk, cereal, bread, lunch meat – things kids need to make breakfast or lunch, I would write a check at the grocery and hold out hope that the check I wrote would not clear the bank before I could deposit my paycheck. (You see, kids, once upon a time, there was no such thing as direct deposit – you had to wait until your boss handed out checks on Friday morning, and during lunch time, you had to drive to your bank, park the car, walk into the bank, get in line behind all the other folks who got paid, and actually deposit your check at a counter, with a bank employee. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Go ask your mom, or your grandpa.)

I had no idea how I kept running out of money. I didn’t keep track of my expenses. (Although I do vaguely remember my dad once sitting me down and explaining to me about budgets and expenses and stuff like that. I was 17, so it got filed away somewhere under ‘Dad’s Advice’ and I remembered it when I needed to share it with my kids.)

My first lesson in spending habits: Write down every single thing I spent money on – EVERYTHING. Buy a latte at Starbucks? Write it down. Donate two dollars to the lady outside of the grocery? Track it. Every utility, every bottle of water, every vending machine purchase – if you use a debit card, cash out of pocket, or write a check, you write that shit down. For 30 days. Trust me. This one exercise will open your eyes to where all the money goes.

My second lesson in spending habits: Once you realize where it’s all going, only spend as much as you make. Weird, right? Isn’t that what those credit cards are for? (No. The answer is NO. If you don’t have money left over after paying all your expenses each time you get paid, you have no business using a credit card YET.)

“Expenses? Income? What the heck is she talking about?” Okay, income is your pay. The money Coming In. Expenses is the money going out. (Some of you are thinking of leaving now, but trust me, LOTS of people do not know this, cannot grasp this concept. I mean, have you looked at the United States budget?)

I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad when I was 36 or so. Robert Kiyosaki suggested that a person save 10% of their income, give 10% to charity, and invest 10%, leaving 70% of that income for all their expenses. My first thought was, “Ten Percent? He’s kidding, right?” I gave no further thought to this idea at that time. Times have changed.

In 2009, I had to get things under control – my spouse lost his job and would be unemployed for 20 months. I read a book by Suze Orman titled 9 Steps To Financial Freedom. I will add that I read it in secret (so many secrets) to avoid being challenged should I choose to implement some of the suggestions. The first suggestion was Track Your Spending. Sure, tell the kids that chocolate chip cookies are not a necessity.

Remember when I wrote that I had to pay off $11,000 in credit card debt from 2003 to 2006? I truly believed that all that debt came from one poor business decision. Nope, I spent money like people breathe air. I used credit cards and justified their existence with things like, “Do you know how much kids cost to raise?” and “We needed a new car.” I found out later that I made enough money, but I did not live within my means.

Here’s a shot of a budget that I used consistently from 2008 until 2015 (sorry, Spending Plan. A friend who attended Debtors Anonymous taught me that phrase. Apparently, the members of that 12 step group felt that the word ‘budget’ was deceiving, and spending was calling it like it was.):

Spending Plan Example

I made enough to live well and pay all those freaking payments. I learned how to spend responsibly. This took some time to learn. With this spreadsheet (that I created all mby myself) I knew how much was coming in and when, and I knew when every bill was due and how much was due. (Plus, I am an Excel geek) Remember that self-discipline I mentioned? Having control of my finances was THAT important to me. I was tired of having no extra money, having really low credit scores, and always being in debt.

My brother taught me the ‘credit card’ shuffle to pay off the credit cards faster by opening new credit card account and transferring balances from cards with high interest to the new cards that offered incentives like Zero Interest for 18 months just for opening an account. (Only do this if you have learned to practice that self-discipline. Otherwise, you are just transferring a bad habit to a new card.)

I had it under control for a long time – BUT, because I still didn’t understand the connection between the past and my present, and emotions and deprivation, I still had a hard lesson to learn (several, in fact) about WHY I continued to have issues with money.

 

Minimum Balance = Forever (Financial Habits, Part One)

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Minimum Balance = Forever

Have you ever had your debit card declined in the check out line at the grocery? I have. Many years ago, this scenario happened a LOT. It was embarrassing and I felt shame. It was on me and I blamed others. I spread my shame in the form of self righteous anger – at the checker, the bagger, and anyone who looked at me with that “oh, honey” look. Then I’d leave the store, angry, usually swearing, leaving my groceries behind.

I did not manage my money well. I did not manage anything well.

I wanted to live large and I did not want to put any effort into earning the money that the large lifestyle required. Have we discussed unearned entitlement and a lack of effort yet? We will – probably not in this post though.

When I chose to give living sober a try – another story for another time – I was $11,000 in debt. And I’d already filed bankruptcy – so I couldn’t do that again (only because I was still in the window of the last filing – because I would have, if I could have). No, I had to clear my debt the old fashioned way – by paying it back.

$11,000 is a daunting number. Here’s how that happened: I’d tried to start a side business with a reputable company selling weight loss products. I got new credit cards – it was suggested I use other people’s money and pay down the debt with my soon-to-be amazing earnings. Instead – solely because I knew nothing about sales or marketing and too much about creative financing – I dove deep into secret debt. Secret because I did not tell my spouse what I was doing to finance this business venture. It didn’t work out and I had a huge debt.

2003 – newly sober and in serious debt – I needed a way out. Here’s what I did: First, I made a budget – every single thing we spent money on and every bit of income we had. Then, I eliminated every non-necessity from the budget. To help you understand that, these were the necessities: groceries, utilities, gasoline, housing. If it didn’t fit into those categories, it was canceled – cable television is not a necessity.

The next thing I did was to list every credit card (It’s been 15 years since then, but I think there were 5 or 6 credit cards). I listed their minimum payments, their due dates and their interest. Today credit card statements come with a nifty little table showing that if you only pay the minimum required payment each month you will never pay off your credit card (or it takes 35 years, something like that). I decided to pay each credit card by multiplying the interest each month by 2, then adding the minimum monthly payment amount to that, and pay that – for each card. This way I paid off the interest and then some, along with the minimum payment. Oh – and I stopped using the credit cards.

I also paid any extra money I had to the card with the highest interest first. (Think: income tax returns, birthday money, any extra cash) Each time I paid off a credit card, I called the company that had issued the card and canceled that card. They don’t let you cancel the card until you pay it.

It took me three years to pay off those cards. Three years to pay off $11,000. There was a time I believed I lacked self discipline. I realize now that I only lack self-discipline about things that I truly do not care about.

To summarize – because I’ve read this and it seems like this could be helpful –

  • List all the credit cards, highest interest to lowest interest, along with due dates
  • Multiply the interest each month by 2, then add the minimum monthly payment amount – pay that
  • Stop using the cards – cut them up, burn them, whatever it takes; pay cash or don’t buy it
  • Cancel each card as soon as I pay it off
  • Practice patience

I’d love to wrap this up by telling you I never had trouble with credit card debt or any other type of debt again, but that would be a lie.

I had to learn a lesson about myself and spending money before I could honestly face this poor habit of credit debt. See you tomorrow.

The Unedited Life

The Unedited Life

You have no idea who I am. (Okay, that’s a little dramatic – you might know some of who I am… that’s probably more accurate). That’s been my choice. Present my best self. My edited self. You have no idea how many versions of these writings there are before the one you get to see. The final edit.

Truth is: my life is messy. Complicated. Emotional. (And usually, I’m the cause of my biggest dramas) I’m growing. I’m changing. I’m evolving everyday. I’ve made you promises, reader, and I’ve faltered. I’ve re-read some of the posts from before and there are some things I said I was gonna do that I did not follow through with then. You were not important enough. I did not make you a priority.

There may be typos in this post. Okay. My thoughts might not travel a straight line this time. Okay.

I have a few dreams, desires, wants that I’ve kept to myself for too long. Honestly, until recently, I’d forgotten how to day dream. I use to be real good at back when I was six, and ten, and fifteen. But sometimes life beats you down – I let it beat me down. I did not have the tools – I had some coping mechanisms – but no real tools, or support, or any idea how to survive the shit I’d been given to deal with. And I got serious and guarded and distant. I built walls. I got practical. And I got loaded, frankly, for years. To escape. To seek relief. To cope. I hid my light from you, and from me.

Well, I was given the gift of sobriety a while ago and I’ve done some work during the past 15 years – a lot of fucking work, on me, in me – and recently, I found that light. I’ve been practicing day dreaming. And I have some great dreams. I’m turning some of these into goals. Things I want to do. For me. For you.

To get those things done I have to continue to do my work – that work on me. I’ve been building my deeper self every day, and it’s been speeding up, this work. I have a better vision of who I want to be today, and tomorrow, and ideally. And one thing in my list of Be This is to be true to my word. Integrity. Do what I say I’m gonna do.

I’m gonna write. I’m gonna post something. Every day. Not sure what that’s gonna look like . Could be crap. Could be earth shattering. Could be fun, too.

My dad told me often growing up, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” His challenge was this: how did I plan to step into that day?

Today I plan to go all in. And bring you along. If you want to come.

Day three of a transformation opportunity conference I’m attending here in Phoenix wraps up today. I can’t wait!

Addicted to Activity

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Busy Person Attaching Many Sticky Notes On Large WindowAddicted to Activity

Starting out, I didn’t realize that I had a desire for approval. I knew that when I received accolades and pats on the back for a job well done, that felt good, that I felt good, I felt worthy and accepted. I started saying Yes to extra tasks at in school and then at work more and more. I also had four children and filling my days was easy, and often required. How much I got done in a day was pretty phenomenal looking back. I never connected all that activity to feeding my EGO or AVOIDING feelings and intimacy in relationships. What I knew at the time was that I had a small set of valuable skills and I could organize my day better and better to get more and more done. This was pretty valuable in the work environment and as a mother. This was less valuable when it came to meaningful relationships, personal growth, or intimacy.

I actually had a co-worker tell me to pace myself or I’d burn out. I said what I often said when warned that my behavior could become harmful: “Oh, yeah, I know. I’m keeping an eye on that.” I didn’t know.

In hindsight I can see that the desire for approval and the need to feel valuable lead me to volunteering and saying Yes to additional requests more and more. Look at me, look at how helpful I can be, look at me DOING MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE.

A friend told me once, “You are the hardest working person I know.” I took it as a compliment at the time. I see now that it might have been a veiled warning.

I began to fall into this pattern of overload and burnout. I spread myself so thin that I’d become frustrated and overworked. I caused it but I took my frustrations out on others. I pointed fingers and I blamed. I did not see that I was causing the insanity in my own life. What I saw were open spots on my calendar that I needed to fill. This person wanted to do lunch. That person wanted to visit. Someone else needed a babysitter or their kitchen needed cleaning, etc., etc. I wanted to attend event after event after event – to impress others, to have something to talk about, to make my life appear more exciting that I felt it was. And then my head would explode and my tears of rage would flow and I would honestly, ignorantly wonder how I had let the overbooking of my time happen AGAIN.

I actually had friends I’d contact, asking them if I could talk over new opportunities with them before I said Yes to new tasks and invitations. I stuck to that for a while, and then I let it slide. I had this. I didn’t need to check in with my friends EVERY time. And it happened AGAIN – repeated behavior and frustration in the wake of my chaos.

Last summer I wanted my grand-kids to visit. In the beginning, we discussed inviting the two oldest grand-kids. We (Okay, I) planned for them to stay a week in July, after Independence Day. 7 days, no biggie (except for the tiny house we live in – what followed that was my crazy-making of booking an apartment with AirBNB just down the street from our own small home, and trying to coordinate food, daily events and entertaining the kids, plus caring for our cat at home, and then deciding after trying to control everything that we’d just stay at our house and make it work. It was my husband’s suggestion, by the way, to just stay home and make it work. It took me a couple of days to come around) And then, I had this BRIGHT idea that it would be great to see our other two grandchildren, too! They came the following week, for five days, with their mom (our daughter). They stayed at a hotel near Disneyland. We spent three days at Disneyland and one day at our home. Wait, wait, there’s more – my oldest son was being transferred from one base to another following my daughter’s visit, and we’d (I’d) offered to collect his car from Los Angeles and bring it back to our house (during that first grand-kid visit) so when he and his wife arrived, he’d have his car (which had been shipped ahead of time). AND, I wanted to take THEM to Disneyland; his wife had never been. And yes, all of this activity took place in a matter of about three and a half weeks. Was I exhausted when it was over? Yes. Could I tell you why? Only partly.

The most recent overbooking, and the shift: I was looking at my calendar at two events I’d planned to attend in Phoenix, Arizona. Looking at the calendar week by week I hadn’t seen what I’d done. For whatever reason, I zoomed out to the month view and I saw it then. I had booked two intense multi-day training’s back to back. There was a two-day opening between. A total of 12 days away from home during a time when we are rehabilitating a house. My mind spun… How had I done that again? I’d been so careful (although I really hadn’t).

And a huge internal shift began to take place. After I berated myself, and cried, and eventually surrendered, I saw that something HAD to change. I had to change. But how? Right then I made a choice. A choice to LOOK at my behavior regarding activity and over-planning more deeply than I’d ever looked before. I had to ask myself WHY it was that I planned so many activities all the time, and WHY I’d never ask myself Why before.

Here are the things I wrote down when I asked myself WHY I continue to overbook my life:

“Look at what I GET from doing stuff (activities)” – EGO-FEED. Value. False Pride. Achievement. Noticed. AVOIDANCE. Avoid self and feelings. Avoid deepening relationships with others.  (“I don’t have time. Can’t you see how busy I am?”)

And the oldest thought, an old truth, buried deep down: I am worthy and I am good enough ONLY IF I can DO MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE. All the time.

Damn.

So this time, as I realized I’d done it again, overbooked again, for the first time I asked myself why I do that. And I answered honestly. And I can SEE now. And I can choose differently. This is the beginning of my recovery, from doing too much.

My life, at least for the next little while, is going to be purposefully simple. Using activity to avoid feeling and engaging is an addiction. I do not know when it became my addiction, but I have recovered from other mind and mood-altering substances and I have the tools to address this one. One day at a time.

This week I canceled two big events I signed up for, and I did not replace them. I gave thought to an invitation and then declined. I chose to paint a creation today. I have stopped a few times to get back to being in the present moment.

I will still have things to do. I mean, it IS life after all. There are some commitments I wish to honor. Going forward, I will be discerning in the events I consider attending. I will talk to others about my plans and ask for input. I may even limit myself to certain days or a total number of days in the month that I will schedule major and minor events. I will journal daily and stay honest with myself about the kind of person I want to be and what that looks like today. These ideas may seem extreme to some, but this is addiction recovery. And I never considered activity as something that could become an addiction.