A Connection Recollection

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

One of my stepdaughters recently got engaged and amid all the excitement, all the talk of dates and venues and guest lists, I felt a compulsion to dig out my old wedding planning binder.

Your guess is probably as good as mine for why I’ve kept it. Like the wedding photos themselves, it could be that it simply serves as a reminder of a precious moment in time. Or it could be that some part of me is convinced that someday someone may find it useful. (I do have a vague recollection of loaning it to a friend of mine.) But more likely, it is just one of those things that, by virtue of nostalgia, never quite makes it into the purge pile.

Regardless of the reason for its continued presence on my storage shelf, as I randomly rifled through its contents, I was hit with fond memories of my own experience with dresses and décor and DJs. There was the contract for the reception hall. There were our song selections for the first few dances. There was a thank you note from the bridal consultant who sold me my wedding gown.

It was that last one that stopped me in my tracks. I took in the woman’s words, realizing that although my memory of that day and her presence in it had become fuzzy, her penmanship and signature had since become familiar. For it was about fifteen years later when the woman who helped me find my dress would become the very same one who, as my life/business coach, helped me to find myself.

I took a picture of the note, sent it to her immediately, and proceeded to ponder the numerous things that had to transpire in order for us to meet again. The conversations, the decisions, the life-altering events. I wondered how many others I might have crossed paths with at some earlier point in time who are now important fixtures in my life. I thought about the purpose and why this happens.

The answers to such questions are, of course, beyond the scope of our human understanding, but it seems we are given these little snippets of knowledge for a reason. Maybe as examples of how big the world is, yet how very, very small. Maybe as evidence of God’s timing. Or perhaps they are simply reminders that we are all connected.

So let’s remember to embrace the gift of these precious connections. Let’s remember that each seemingly random encounter—whether virtual or in person—has the potential to someday become more meaningful, more significant, and more profoundly impactful than we could have ever imagined.

Write Way Wednesday March 25 Recap

Here’s what we discussed during yesterday’s Write Way Wednesday (if you prefer to watch rather than read, head over to my Facebook page to check out the video):

Writing Update

  • Agent news: I received two more rejections from my latest group of submissions, however, their guidelines state that it is ok to query another agent even if one says no, so I’ll likely be submitting to these same agencies again. You might wonder if continuing to query is a pointless venture given the current worldwide situation, but I do follow several agents on Twitter who have said that despite not being able/allowed to go into their offices, they are still working. Many are, in fact, eager to receive new queries. So, if you are a writer and are ready to query right now, I strongly urge you to move forward.
  • Newsletter: First edition went out last week, but you can still head fill out the form on the home page to subscribe.
  • Gratitude practice: Gratitude is important always—it keeps our minds searching for and focused on the positive—but it seems even more crucial right now, so last Tuesday I instated a yearlong gratitude practice. Every day around 9 am, I post a short message of daily gratitude on both Facebook and Twitter and I invite you to join me. Use these posts as reminders to embark on your own gratitude journey.
  • Book #2: What’s going on in the world is both the reason I should be making more progress on my second novel and also the reason that I’m not making much progress. With so many activities cancelled and so many places closed, I am finding myself at home more and with more time to write, but I am also finding myself to be easily distracted and my energy waning. To combat these feelings, I’ve had to return to the basics. To The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP:

Goals/Progress/Growth

  • Acknowledge accountability. There’s no question that a good majority of what is going on around us right now is out of our control, but what is within our control is our own response. We can choose to expend our energy blaming and accusing or we can use it purposefully. We can take care of ourselves and our loved ones. We can be accountable for our health and wellbeing, our time and resources, our focus and our fight.
  • Set boundaries. This is a little tricky as many of us are at home with significant others and children, but boundaries are essential to progress. And sanity. This may take intentionality and ingenuity—like setting timers or turning a car or a closet into a workspace in order to find focus or quiet—but it can be done.
  • Create consistency. This is going to look different for all of us, but because no one knows how long this will last, it’s important to settle into a new normal. So use a calendar or a planner to develop a schedule, build structure, and find those precious moments to keep going on that goal. Even if it’s twenty minutes, heck even if it’s only two minutes a day, own it.
  • Disable distractions. It is so tempting to drown our fear and anxiety in social media or binge-watching all the TV shows. But numbing out not only distracts us from where we want to be, it also creates incredible backslides which we will eventually need to work even harder to recover from. So indulge, yes. Offer grace, absolutely. But try to set some limits and strike a balance.

I realize that no two people are experiencing this in the same way. We might all be in a boat, but it’s definitely not the same one. So, although it feels a little silly to continue talking about goals and growth and progress (and trust me, I have repeatedly pondered the purpose) that is something I can do. And continuing to work toward your goals and growth is something you can do. Our paths might look a little different right now, but we don’t have to lose momentum.

I am fortunate to have already been set up to work from home, and I am grateful to be able to be here with and for you. So talk to me. Tell me how things are going for you. Tell me about your wins. Tell me about your struggles. Post your thoughts and questions in the comments and then meet me on Facebook next week Wednesday at noon so we can discuss them (or watch for the recap to be posted here Thursday morning).

Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and remember progress is always possible, but we must be purposeful in order to make it happen.

Combatting Anxiety Amid Uncertainty

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Holy moly, can you say Anxiety with a capital A?! Raise your hand if you’re feeling some of that right now. Since I can’t actually see you, I will assume you have raised at least one hand. Believe me, both of mine are lifted straight in the air as though I’m waiting for the next big drop in this roller coaster ride.

As someone who leans pretty heavily toward anxiety when life is normal, I am struggling to let go of my need for control and to find a little bit of balance and structure amid the uncertainty and instability. And because no one knows how long we’ll be stuck in this turbulent state, I’ve come to the realization that I need to be proactive in pulling myself out of my own sinking mindset.

If the fear and doubt are also getting to you, here are a few things that I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Limit time watching/reading news and social media. There’s no question that staying informed is important, but constantly looking for updates is distracting and often does little to abate anxiety. Try checking in just once or twice a day and, if possible, avoid those first thing in the morning and last thing at night times.
  • Move your body. Exercise is a huge mood booster. Even if your gym is closed or you don’t have a regular workout regimen, there are all kinds of things you can do at home. Check out some YouTube videos, go for a walk, turn on some music and have a dance party with your kids. Get creative. Your body and your mental health will thank you.
  • Reach out to family and friends. We are fortunate to have so many avenues for staying connected when we aren’t able to meet in person, and now is the perfect time to take advantage of them. So call your parents, send a text to your siblings, set up a video chat with your best friend. By keeping in touch with loved ones and neighbors, we can offer support, as well as be supported when needed.
  • Be intentional with activities that promote tranquility. Whether that’s reading, creating, listening to music, praying, meditating, getting outside, etc. Whatever it is that shifts you into a calm and centered state of mind, make time for it as much as possible. Even a few minutes a day can lift your spirit.
  • Remain hopeful. We have been through trials and challenges of varying degrees before and although normal tends to look a little different on the other side, we do eventually return to an even keel. As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.” It has to. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

What’s helping you right now?

Write Way Wednesday March 18 Recap

Here’s what we discussed during yesterday’s Write Way Wednesday (if you prefer to watch rather than read, head over to my Facebook page to check out the video):

It has always been my intention to keep my blog and Facebook page free from all topics that are even remotely political in nature. I don’t post about news or world headlines or current events. I don’t comment on or share things that incite controversy or malicious exchanges. And my reasoning has nothing to do with a lack of awareness or concern, but rather a purposeful decision to emphasize encouragement and optimism.

If you’ve joined me on previous Wednesdays, you know that I would normally be here with a prepared update regarding what I’ve been writing and working on over the last week. I would have a planned message of encouragement and motivation for those of you with your own goals of growth and progress.

But I know I don’t need to tell you that these last many weeks have been anything but normal. And if there’s one thing we’ve all had to learn, it’s that our plans don’t mean squat right now. What’s going on in the world is big. It’s bigger than my social media focus. It’s bigger than all of us. It’s too big to ignore. So, amid all the uncertainty and uncontrollable circumstances, I’m interrupting today’s regularly scheduled programming to offer two simple reminders:

  1. We’re all in this together. This may be one of the greatest calls for compassion, faith, and hope that most of us have ever seen because we are all affected. We are all struggling with varying degrees of distress, disruption, and disappointment due to closings and cancellations. None of has control over what tomorrow may bring or how long this will last, but we can control our reactions. We can treat each other with respect and kindness. We can remember that life as we know it is a communal effort and righting our upended world is going to depend on each and every one of us to prudently care for ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors.
  2. We’re doing the best we can. We are human and even on our best days we make gargantuan mistakes. But throw in a boatload of fear and insecurity and logic goes out the window leaving emotions to rule our responses. Add to that the constant influx of news and opinions that we are subjected to and the general level of anxiety rises as we feel powerless to affect change. What we CAN do, though, is be conscientious about what we are posting/sharing on social media. We can ask ourselves if it is helpful or harmful. Is it allaying panic or adding to it? Is it placing blame and criticism or offering grace? There’s a lot of nastiness going on out there, but there’s also a lot of love. Let’s choose to spread the love.

In the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

I hope you are all staying well, or recovering well if you have been ill. I hope you are finding ways to cope/adjust to the ever-evolving situation. And I hope you will join me here again next week as I plan to return to the normal Write Way Wednesday format.

Until then, I’ll be praying for safety, peace, and health for us all.

Do What You Can Do

Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

“Only do what you can do . . . if you only do what you can do, you never have to worry that someone else is doing it. It keeps you from competing. It keeps you looking inside for what’s true rather than outside for what’s popular.” – Delia Ephron

I read these words last week Monday afternoon, and after waking up that morning questioning my purpose as a writer in this age of media oversaturation (as I sometimes do), I needed to hear them.

Does that ever happen to you? When you’re plagued with self-doubt and then seemingly out of nowhere these magical words pop up—whether in a social media post, a line in a book or a song, or something a friend says—and it’s like you’ve been given an instant shot of perspective?

It’s possible that these instances are mere coincidence. A case of finding that which we have been already seeking out. Like positivity or negativity, a scientific study that backs up our beliefs, proof of our strengths or weaknesses. Whatever we are focused on is certainly easier to see.

But the funny thing is the book in which I read this quote—Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron—had been on my bookshelf, waiting to be read, for about a half a year. It sat there next to at least a hundred others vying for my time and attention and for some reason, on that day, I chose it. And thirteen pages in, there was the line.

It begs repeating and remembering. “Only do what you can do.” Of course. It’s so simple, yet how often do we complicate it? How much time do we spend comparing and competing? How much of ourselves do we lose trying to imitate and impress?

I’ve been telling myself this every day for a week now and I am convinced that this is one of the surest ways to be true to ourselves. So if you do nothing else today, do what you can do: Be you. Be the you-est you that you can be. And don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.