January 23, 2015

Combatting the "Why Me" Syndrome: Don't Let Self-Pity Hold You Down

We have all suffered from the "Why me?" syndrome at some time in our lives. It's easy to fall into self-pity by comparing yourself to others. Once you fall into that endless victim hole, it's extremely hard to pull yourself out. No one can convince you your thinking is wrong. All you can see is that you are not as good or as smart or as far along as those around you.

The only way out is to stop digging yourself further into the hole. Stop comparing yourself to others and only compare yourself to the you from yesterday. You can keep digging, but only dig for accomplishments, no matter how small. When you get a shovelful of accomplishments, put it under your feet. Every accomplishment will lift you up and one day you will look around you and say "Wow, I never thought I'd be here!"

Digging yourself out of this hole isn't simple. It's isn't accomplished merely by having a "Can Do" attitude, or reading affirmations, or even forcing yourself to think positively. It's only accomplished by putting on blinders to everything outside of your own journey. Forget that the house next door is bigger or your best friend has a better job or your co-worker has a fancy new car. In fact be happy for them, because they have done exactly what you need to do. Instead of being jealous, watch how they are accomplishing these things and emulate them.

But first, figure out what is really important to you. Do you really need or want a huge house, tons of money and a fancy car, or would you be happier with just being financially secure and being able to provide for you and yours? To reach your own personal "top," you have to define what the top is.

As for me, I don't need much. I'd be happy to be able to pay my bills and have some left over for things I'd like to do. I'd like to travel, but I don't need to. I'd actually like a smaller place to live so I don't have to spend so much to care for or support it, and I'm moving toward that goal. I would like to have a small pickup truck one day, but I don't need a big 4-wheel drive mudder -- just something I can use to haul thrift market finds or curb shopping freebies. In the meantime, I'm fine with using the bus or Zipcar. I'd like to have an emergency fund, and I'm working on that too.

So little by little, I'm putting dirt under my feet to dig myself out of my hole. Once I reach that top and climb out, I'll figure out if I want to build a hill or a mountain to go even higher. I'm not reaching for the sky, simply for solid ground. You can only climb a ladder one rung at a time.

So sit down and figure out what your solid ground is. If you are already there, figure out how much higher you want to go and start building that hill. Don't feel sorry for yourself because someone else already lives on top of that hill. There is no shame in living at the bottom of a mountain if that is where your happiness lies.

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January 20, 2015

Having the Life That Makes You Happy: The Myth of Grand Ambition

I often get aggravated with the "Be More, Do More" crowd. According to this philosophy, if you are not striving for great things, you are deemed stupid or lazy. I'm not stupid, but I admit to being lazy. I have no grand ambitions for my life -- especially not at this age. I never really did. Grand ambition is somewhat of a myth anyway. Sure, some people can come from nothing and achieve great things, but most people just go crazy trying to achieve things they can never achieve -- or that they don't really want to achieve but feel like they have to achieve.

There is also a large group of somewhat hypocritical people who espouse the belief that you should "Be Yourself." What they really mean is "Be the self I think you should be." They are just a thinly disguised version of the "Be More, Do More" crowd, in my humble opinion. I try to avoid these people, but then, I avoid people in general.

I seemingly disappoint a lot of people because I don't want to work 12 hour days and achieve great things. I thought when I moved here that I wanted to get involved in the community, but then I found that it is next to impossible to do so without a car, so I gave up that grand idea and settled for something less. Once I did, I found that I really don't want to do all that stuff anyway. I just thought maybe I should do something with my life before I die. I always thought my life had no purpose, but now I wonder why I need a purpose?  Maybe my purpose is just to be.

My son and I were talking the other day about those people who are always telling you you're not living up to your "potential," and how much we hate that word. How on earth do people know what your potential is, and what business is it of theirs how you life your life? There are plenty of super-intelligent slackers who are perfectly happy living the slacker life. I may well be one of them, and who really should care?

Yes, I "potentially" could achieve great things. I have the brain to do so. The problem is, I don't want to. I want to relax, plant some flowers, read some books, play online, and make just enough money to pay my bills and have a little left over to buy more flowers. I don't really care much about traveling or having a beautiful home or seeing the world, although I would like to visit Cornwall one day and go in search of my pirate ancestor John Cornish, but that's a pipe dream, and it's o.k. if I don't get to do that.

The bottom line is that you should not let people tell you how to live the rest of your life. It's none of their business unless it's affecting them in some detrimental way. If it is, then maybe you should change it, or maybe they should just walk away from you and let you live as you damned well please.

Do I wish I had more? Sometimes. Then other times I remember when I had more and how difficult it was to take care of it all, and I know that those days are gone for me. I just want to relax and not be judged. I just want to grow flowers. I don't want to have an urban homestead and can my own food. Been there, done that, failed miserably at it. I don't want to work 12 hour days to pay $300 utility bills so I can be comfortable. I want to live somewhere where I can be comfortable without having to spend that kind of money.

I want to work less and enjoy life more. I used to hate my mother for lying on her bed watching t.v., reading books and eating sweets all day, and I always said I would not turn out like that. Now I see that after a life of working her tail off for an unappreciative alcoholic husband and raising four unappreciative kids, she deserved to live as she damn well pleased. I do too. So do you.

So BE YOURSELF. Truly be yourself. Don't let anyone tell you how to be, or what to do, or how to do it. If you end up in a tent in the woods, so be it. It's your choice and no one else's.

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January 12, 2015

Don't Let Other People Define You

This post is dedicated to my younger son. Once he had a school project to make a personality kite. We worked on it very hard. We pored over magazines and went through pictures and when we found this, we knew it had to be the centerpiece of the kite. We thought we had the best kite ever, so when they didn't choose his kite to go outside on the board, we were surprised and very sad. I asked the teacher why his kite didn't get onto the board, and she said "It didn't look like he had made it himself." I was so angry, and I let it be known that yes, I had done some cutting and pasting of objects on the board. Yes, I helped him cut the poster board into a kite shape, but that he had chosen every single thing that went onto it. I don't think that was the reason at all. I think that it was this centerpiece of the kite that made them not want to admit that they were constantly criticizing and tearing down my son because he wasn't what they wanted him to be, which was quiet and obedient.

My son is amazing. His brother is also amazing. They are handsome and smart and talented and funny and kind and DIFFERENT. That difference is what people cannot accept sometimes, but it's what makes me proud of them.

My younger son can quote this by heart. It has been one of the things that has pushed him to become a scholarship student in one of the most prestigious engineering programs in one of the top 15 colleges in this country. Teach this to your children. Make them memorize it, and every time someone tells them "NO," you tell them "YES.'

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January 11, 2015

On Those Days You Just Can't Be Positive

I try hard to find something to be thankful for every day, and I do succeed at that. Still, some days I just can't be upbeat. This is one of those days.

Five years ago, I had a job, a car and a house. In 2010, my entire world fell apart, and I've been bouncing from pillar to post every since. I'm trying hard to be strong. Everybody tells me I'm strong, but they don't know how I really feel. That's one thing you learn as a young girl growing up in the South -- never tell anyone how you really feel. Put on a smile and pretend everything is o.k.

It's not o.k. I'm trying hard to make it o.k. again, but right now, it really isn't. I was shattered by so many things in my life, and I've managed to put a lot of the pieces back together, but there are still gaping holes and the cracks all still show. Every once in awhile, one of the pieces will fall back out, and I'll have to glue it back in as best I can. They never seem to stay in place for long.

This is one of those days I just can't be upbeat and hopeful. Today, I'm very, very sad and feeling very, very broken and wondering if I will ever be whole again.
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January 06, 2015

Discipline vs. Motivation

I read an article once that explained why people should not wait for motivation, but use discipline to move forward when they are not motivated. I've never had a lot of self-discipline, but I'm working on that. I'm seldom motivated to work very hard, but I like the money when I do. Still, money isn't a good motivator to most people. Happiness is a good motivator, and to be happy, I need money, so I need to discipline myself to get it. Motivation is nothing without discipline.

I've started setting goals -- small goals, but goals nonetheless. I never set goals before. I just sort of wandered through life and handled whatever came up. I made a lot of excuses about what I couldn't do, and never really tried to do much more.

Poverty is a great motivator, and I am nothing if not poor. I have defined myself as "poor" for so long and used it as an excuse for not doing a lot of things. "I can't afford it," has become my mantra. The truth is that if I had disciplined myself to work harder, learn more and do more, I wouldn't be poor and I wouldn't have half the problems I've had. 

Learning discipline is extremely difficult for a lazy person such as myself. I had a plan to set the alarm and get up at 6 a.m. every morning and get to work by 8 a.m., work straight through until 5 p.m. and keep doing that five days a week -- six if I really needed to. Well, here it is six days into the new year, and I haven't done that yet. I did manage to get up at 6:30 this morning, but that was just a fluke, and I haven't done any work yet. 

I obviously need to work harder on this discipline thing. I need a strict schedule and I need to stick to it. Easier said than done, but I'm really going to try, because what I want most is to be able to spend more time with my sons, and I can't do that without money. Nothing else is as important to me. I've spent years saying I could not afford to visit them, when the truth was that it was easier to just stay stuck in my rut. I'm tired of taking the easy way out and missing out on life. It's time to start living, and that starts with discipline.

Are you confusing motivation with discipline? Do you use lack of motivation as an excuse not to do something you should discipline yourself to do? What do you plan to do in the future to overcome this?
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January 05, 2015

Can't Never Could

For my whole life, when I would say "I can't....," my father would say "Can't never could."  I have a bad habit of doing that, so I need to change it. When something is difficult, instead of going slowly and trying to master it, I just say "I can't do that," or "I'm not good at that."

I've been wanting to learn technical writing and copywriting. They both pay well, but are not easy to learn. There are free courses online, and I've looked at them, even downloaded a book, but deemed it "too complicated."  This year, I'm going to learn one of them, come hell or high water. I think I'll start with copywriting.

The hardest part of anything you want to learn to do is starting. I'm not a good starter or a good finisher. I tend to give up somewhere in the middle. This is something I truly need to work on this year. I'll start by writing some of those difficult assignments on CrowdSource that someone obviously felt I could do, or I wouldnt' be qualified for them.

When I first started writing, I was horrible. Then I had to learn AP style and I thought of quitting every day. I'm still not perfect at it, and I still get critical edits, but I'm a lot better than I was, and I'm still learning. One day I will actually remember and understand all the number rules -- well, maybe never, but I'm going to try.

When I first started writing, it took me two hours to complete a 400 word article. People kept telling me I would get faster, and I thought I never would. Then one day it took me 90 minutes, then an hour, and my maximum time now to write a well-researched 400 word article is 30 minutes when I know the subject matter well and 45 when I don't. Research used to take me forever, but I started a bookmarking system for sites and topics I knew I would commonly use, and that helps cut my research time to a fraction of what it was before.

The point I'm trying to make is that at one time, I overcame obstacles instead of pushing them aside. I don't know what changed that, but I'm determined to change it back, not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well. It's easy to find or invent excuses not to start and easier to give up once you have started. Overcoming the urge to do that is one of the goals I have set for myself.

I have a bicycle. It's not much of a bicycle, but it works and it was freely given by a friend, so I use it. It has sat here in my living room for months while I bemoaned having to walk back and forth to the grocery store and other places, or pay for bus fare, when I could have easily ridden it. The other day, I put air in the tires and rode my bike. I just rode it around, checking places out, finding my way around, but I rode it. Now that I've started, I'm going to ride it every day that weather permits. I'm getting a rack and baskets put on the back so I can use it to go grocery shopping, or I may just use the little basket I already have and go to the store every day and get just a little bit of stuff and my daily exercise all at once. I noticed while riding it that it felt sort of like flying without wings to be zipping down the road I had previously trudged down grudgingly.

Really, sometimes the solution to your problem is right in front of you and you just refuse to see it, or refuse to do it, or make excuses. What have you procrasinated or not finished lately? Are you going to do it this year? Just pick one thing and finish it. It will make you feel so special!
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January 04, 2015

The Key to Happiness and Your Peace of Mind

This is a very important thing to me. I'm a control freak, and it has caused me and the people I love a lot of pain over my lifetime. I want to have things the way I want them, and sometimes that includes people. One of my biggest challenges to myself for this year is to let go of some control and accept things for what they are.

When I was growing up, I would get all upset over something and my daddy (yes, we still call our fathers this in the South) would say "Can you do anything about it?"  If the answer was no, he would say "Then don't worry about it."  I always thought he was crazy, but now I'm beginning to see the wisdom of those words.

So from now on, my first question when faced with any situation I find untenable will be "Can you do anything about it?"  If I can, I will. If not, I will just accept it as the way things are and try to live with it. This may mean changing my attitude instead of my latitude, or it may mean the opposite.

Take my house, for example. I wanted a house, not an apartment. I wanted a yard I could grow things in. I also couldn't afford the rents in the places I wanted to live, so I ended up, quite literally, in the 'hood. Now I don't mind living around mostly black people, and aside from some early misunderstandings, they have all been nice to me. The downsides are that it's very noisy here and my landlord is a jerk. I like the house fine, and its convenient to everything I need, but I have decided to leave for several reasons.

First, I don't like rap music, and there is always somebody blaring that at all hours of the day and night. I can't really use my front room or sit outside on my nice little patio because of all the noise; not just the music, but the people yelling all the time. Plus, it's depressing to see people living in wrecked houses who just sit around smoking pot all day and don't do anything to try to improve their situation. Then there is the landlord, who made me all sorts of promises but if I really want anything done, I have to threaten not to pay the rent or call the city code enforcement office.

I still can't afford to rent a house in the neighborhood I want to live in unless I get a roommate, and I don't want a roommate, so I will have to give up having a yard, most likely. Life sucks for me without a yard, so I'm thinking of changing my latitude and going back to SW Florida. I have 7 months to make up my mind, and it really depends on how much money I can save and if I can even find a suitable place to live where I want to go down there. Still, I can't stay here and maintain my peace of mind, and I CAN change the situation, so that's what I'm going to do.

This means I have to work harder and longer to save enough money -- money that I could be spending on furniture and such to fix up this house and yard. After this move, I will have moved three times in 2 years at the cost of thousands of dollars I could have spent on other things, but it's the cost of my peace of mind. 

How much is your happiness and peace of mind worth to you? Do you need to change your attitude or your latitude? It's up to you just what cost you would pay to be truly happy.
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January 03, 2015

The Turning Point

So what was your turning point? I've had about a thousand. I've waked up many a morning and decided to change how I think, feel and do. Then I went ahead and did the same things all over again. I don't know what the answer is to that. They say you can't change until you are unhappy enough, but I've been unhappy enough, and I still haven't changed a lot. 

From now on I'm going to stop looking for that "turning point" and just be the imperfect person I am. I'm going to learn to love myself and be happy with what I have, because what is success actually, except that?

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January 01, 2015

Welcome to 2015 - My Way or No Way

Happy New Year!  

I know that the title of this sounds selfish and a bit arrogant, but it's intended to. I've spent a good many years doing everything the wrong way, if you are to judge by what I've accomplished. I feel like the problem is that I've been doing things everyone else's way, and it doesn't work for me, so now I'm going to do it my way and see if that works any better.

These are a few of the things I'm going to do my way this year:

1) Ignore Politics and Religion - It's very simple. These things annoy me, make me angry and destroy my peace of mind. I pretty much ignored them both for most of my life and was much happier doing so. Since the entire world has gone mad both politically and religiously, I've decided just to concentrate on my little corner of the world and not worry about things half a world away that I have no control over. I'm not going to change crazy people's minds, because, well -- they are crazy. Best to just leave them to their craziness unless it directly affects me.

2) Work On My Blogs Every Day - My poor, neglected blogs are my greatest shame. I started out to be a blogger, then got tied up in the business of making money. This year, my blogs are going to come first, since I am in a position where I don't really need to make as much money to survive. I will be posting in one or the other of them every day, and working on getting them all linked together on Simply Deb so you'll have an easy way to find everything for the week. I'll be sharing every post on my Simply Deb groups on Facebook and G+ and may actually get back into Twitter, because if nobody knows you're there, they can't very well follow you, can they?

3) Be Positive - This sounds relatively simple, but it sometimes isn't. Looking for silver linings when there are only dark clouds can be a daunting task, but I feel like there is always something to be thankful for. Maybe I'll start writing a gratitude journal again. I tried that once, but it was difficult to find five different things to be grateful for every day. This year, I'm going to just find one thing each day, so I won't get discouraged and quit. Surely, even when I'm having one of my worst days, I can find something to be grateful for. If I can't, I probably need serious psychological help.

4) Not Care What People Think of Me - Those of you who know me will think "Has she ever?"  Well, actually I have. I'm a strange sort of person with a strange way of looking at things. I'm an INFJ personality with a touch of ADHD and a loner to boot. Put all that together and I have a hard time keeping friends. So this year, I'm not going to worry about that. I'm going to be my own best friend and be happy and good to everyone I meet and not worry at all about impressing anyone.

5) Stop Sabotaging Myself Financially - In the past, I haven't worked as hard as I should have. I have bemoaned my fate too much when doing too little to change it. That stops this year. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get out of the financial hole I've dug myself and at least get back to standing on solid ground. I blame depression on my lack of success, but the fact is, I'm depressed because I'm not successful. I really feel like I should go by the old adage "The harder your work, the happier you get." Money can't buy happiness, but a sense of accomplishment certainly can, and money is certainly one of the signs of accomplishment.

6) Start Taking Better Care of Myself - Notice I did not say "lose weight" or "start exercising" or any of those other insane things people always resolve to do on New Year's Day. Taking care of myself is so much more complicated than that. I've been lazy about doing things that will make me not only feel better physically but feel better about myself. This year I'll start coloring my hair again, wearing makeup when I go out somewhere, and I'll buy some new clothes that look good on me. I'll spend whatever money I need to toward these purposes, although you know how cheap I am, so I'm probably not going to go hog wild. Still, I'll put myself first, because in order to accomplish the preceding 5 things, I will have to be my best and feel good about myself. 

O.K., so that's a lot, and the picture above says I can't do everything. I'm not really trying to do everything, only the things that really matter. Figuring out what those are has taken me a long time, but this year, doing what matters most to me is what it's all about. Selfish? Maybe. Do I care if people think I'm selfish? Not this year.

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