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Excuses, Excuses

I’ve got a million of em, more or less.  Some are old and some are new.  Some are almost actual reasons even though, really, they are just excuses for not doing what I coulda, woulda, shoulda.

As my moving day gets closer and closer, I waver between thinking and feeling that I am ready, maybe even beyond and more than ready, to just do it already.  This condition is so unusual, weird and different for me, especially since the pandemic and other events overtook any control over or opportunities to do anything completely for or about myself alone, that it is making me uncomfortable.

I am finding more and more lately something helpful to my psyche and my emotions in a whole range of self-help stuff I started quite a while ago but have not done much with until I reached this point, the point of really being able to step back, take a breath and take a look at how far I’ve come over the many many years of my adulthood, before I feel like I’m ready to or have to take the next steps beyond the present and just barely into the very near and barely real future. 

This old stuff that has come up has, at the moment, kind of moved me back to the time before marriage and children.  This was really the last time I had any control over or opportunities to do anything completely for or about myself alone.  As it is now, it made me uncomfortable when I first encountered that feeling.  Looking back, I guess I’m not sure I had totally come to grips with it then, to more than accept it but really to embrace and enjoy it, before my marriage and family.  I think, hope and pray that I am in a better position to do that now, the second time around.

One of my “gurus” in this new or at least improved journey, with better and more modern and more forgiving and flexible pavement, is Jennifer Louden.  I have already referred to Jen as my life/writing coach because for me, at this juncture in my life, those two concepts are almost inextricably linked together. 

First, Jennifer Louden was and is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the concept of self-care with the release in 2000 of her first (or maybe second or third) bestseller with a title, plot and characters that really spoke to me (and the only one I’ve actually read so far): The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life: Create All That You Need with Just What You’ve Got. Since then, she’s written and published a whole lot more on well-being and whole living.  Her work has been profiled or quoted in dozens of magazines; Brené Brown’s books, Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead; and she has appeared on hundreds of TV, radio shows and podcasts—including The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her newest book Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next, was published, pretty appropriately in my opinion, in the long ago early pandemic days of May, 2020.

Jennifer has been teaching workshops and retreats since 1992. When I first discovered her it went along with my desire to participate in one of them she had planned for Asheville, North Carolina, in the even earlier, in fact almost pre-pandemic days, in the fall of 2019.  It had the enticing to me title Get Scary Sh*t Done.  Little did we know how much scarier the sh*t would get soon after that because, unfortunately and coincidentally, that’s when the world and my life began to fall apart at the seams.  Now that, we all hope, anyway, my life and the world may, after 2.5 desolate and lonely and confusing years, finally be getting all our acts together, and taking mine on the road, I’m expecting to put what I’ve learned from her into practice and to keep learning and practicing those lessons in my life and on paper.

The headline of the current rendition of jenniferlouden.com boldly announces her newest professional endeavor.  Create out loud. Make what you want. Make it boldly. Make it the only way you can. I didn’t dig very deeply into what Jennifer Louden had to offer me in pursuit of a new and improved life until last Thanksgiving when, at a weak but at the same time hopeful moment, I took the bold step, spurred on by her free for a month offer, of joining The Oasis.  The gist of this program can be found under the Work With Me tab and I must say that the amount of help, encouragement, guidance and assistance I have received there has brought to the surface for me the value of filtering a lot of the stuff I have endured and suffered and just plain lived through to get to myself here and now.

Here’s what I’ve learned and how I’m trying to incorporate it in my new and improved thought process when I look in the mirror, both literally and figuratively.

Self-talk is NOT reliable. It is us making up a story about how we are feeling. Listen to your self-talk and then see if instead of falling into a story about the feelings/state… dive underneath to what the DESIRE is and go forward from there. Because…..Action changes our self talk, too.

The Oasis and Community Discussion Page some time in April

Self-talk, sometimes just me – you know the devil on your shoulder kind of thing – or sometimes the voice of someone I have known, whispering in my ear or firing off in my brain, has been a big bane of my existence.  What I most often hear is encouraging self-talk before following through by taking action I know will, probably sooner (like almost immediately) rather than later, wind up and kick off the negative self-talk. 

It may or may not be a good thing that recently the negative self-talk has been more delayed.  For example, last night I weighed myself.  I do this way too much and more often than not use to determine many of my immediately following actions.  For most “normal” people, who don’t use body image as a factor in much of their decision-making, food can be a reward for completing an unpleasant or difficult task.  For me yesterday that was packing the last box of stuff, besides clothes, that I will be moving.

I looked at the time when that chore was done and realized a lot more time than I’d realized had passed while I took care of that previously daunting task.  This of course is what most people experience when they’re in any kind of a groove.  The preference for any kind of groove like this would be to experience it while doing something productive AND PLEASANT. I have recently found myself there more times than I ever had before and I call that progress.

After all that exertion, the scale told me something I wanted to believe but hadn’t necessarily expected.  As a result, and with nascent though mild hunger pangs, I treated myself to a non-diet (though not too much because I don’t have much food that falls in that category in the house) dinner.  So far, so good, no big deal. Unfortunately, not long after that, the snacking started.  That’s why I stock the house with mostly pre-packaged but processed snacks and limit myself to one small package of each kind per day.  Again, so far, so good.

I’ve never really known why, but bedtime has always been the time when I really start to listen to that little devil on my shoulder.  (I don’t weigh myself anymore before that.  I also consider that progress.)  It could have (and probably does) have a lot to do with how I’ve handled food when I lived in a house with other people.  Anyway, I had been nibbling at an exclusive to Sam’s Club size bag of Hershey’s cookies n’ cream popcorn, over a period of I don’t know how long, maybe a couple of weeks.  These are two of my favorite snacks and, as always, when I bought this yummy thing, I checked the serving size and calories per.

This was yet another time when I consciously chose to challenge the limitations I might really be able to apply to the really bad habit I have of subconsciously, telling myself all the while to stop eating whatever I may be shoving into my mouth throughout, polishing off an entire package of whatever it may be.  Whatever it may be, even if it is relatively low-calorie, is of course NOT that if one eats the entire package.  Even so, of course I never do this with vegetables!  Most often, after a bedtime binge like this, I sleep like a baby after telling myself I will start yet another diet the next morning.  Believe it or not, I consider it progress that recently, over a week or so when I consciously did not binge, I told myself that I could almost understand how someone could be anorexic and have a fear of food.

Anyway, this is a long way of getting to the point I wanted to make about how I am changing my thinking.

I love Jen’s mantra – THIS IS MY LIFE! Right here and now. How do I want to be here? For me my latest way through is to say – Hold on, Pamster, before you fall into a big ole story about this feeling, let’s pause and ask… What do I KNOW about this?

The Oasis Community Discussion Page sometime back in April

See MY answers above, though I have to say this process does not and I don’t think is intended to tell me or anyone else who engages in it, how to use the answers to change MY behavior.

We must let go 
of the life we have planned, 
so as to accept the one 
that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

The concluding thought that stuck with me after the completion of this weeklong Oasis practice:

“I know that this is just a feeling of sadness (for somebody in The Oasis community and I don’t know what for me) moving through my body that probably has NOTHING TO DO WITH THESE THINGS (that both of us know and love).”  My fellow practitioner concluded with LOL.  I am still nowhere near the point of being able to laugh at this enduring personal foible.

At the end of Jen’s Oasis lesson for the week (my own personal nomenclature for the thought-provoking over the weekend event), she got to the biggest point and best part for me at this big personal transition point: 

Desire is the bridge between Awareness and Action. So I’m thinking: “Heart, what do you need this week?” What is one thing I treasure about myself, that I love, that I think is so cool? It’s an acquired skill to move into this type of mindset!  And I am practicing…

Jennifer Louden

Aren’t we all? I know I am.

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Saying Hello Part 2

Because I forgot half the assignment the first time

I forgot to include the part where I look to the future of my blog, so here’s that part.

Why am I blogging publicly instead of keeping a diary?

The easy answer to that question is that I don’t give a darn who might happen to read my “innermost” thoughts here. Anyone who writes a blog is really writing for anybody other than themselves. Come to think of it, isn’t blogging the antithesis of the traditional purpose of a personal diary? 

There’s also a chance I may attempt to publish parts of my “personal story” in some other format. This will include the posts tagged Places of My Life from my first published blog plus some edited and condensed versions of vignettes I drafted in my memoir classes.

What topics will I write about?

I will continue to write my personal life stories.  I hope to split them into two or three or more sections or pages based on what I see as the distinctive phases of my life so far. 

At my current age of 65, I can see a defining line at the denouement of my youthful experiences with my graduation from college. 

Young adulthood will encompass exploration of the big wide wonderful and scary real world when I went out and lived my own life and, to quote a movie that was popular at the time, Urban Cowboy, “all that that entails.”

I’d say I had to become a responsible adult when I found myself “knocked up” at the then very geriatric (for that sort of thing) age of nearly thirty-five.  This is probably the longest uninterrupted and least interesting or enlightening part of my life’s journey.  It might also be the most rewarding from my current perspective since it yielded at its conclusion my two daughters.

Who do I want my blog to connect with?

This is the modern social media version of the perennial authors’ question: Who is my intended audience? I want this blog, and maybe my possible book, to appeal to non-traditional non-stereotypical women of all ages.  I describe these ladies as superwomen who are able to at least handle if not master the dual practices of having a career (or at least a job) and having a family (or at least a personal life), usually at the same time. 

Coincidentally (or maybe not so much since we are at the beginning of a new year), I just finished, this week, a free online 7-Day Book Writing Challenge.  That course, and this exercise, both reference a manifesto:  a statement of what one believes, written to help others or oneself. 

Wikipedia expands the description of a manifesto by adding that it usually accepts a previously published opinion or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It almost feels like this definition was written with my skillset in mind.  I don’t have many totally original ideas but believe strongly in expounding on and supplementing the ideas of experiences of others with my own thoughts, opinions and IRL events.

What do I hope to accomplish if I successfully blog throughout the next year?

I want a bunch of people to really like me!  But really, I want to like myself as the woman I am now.  Outside of my blog, which will be a look back at things that happened and therefore cannot be changed, I hope to confirm to myself and other women that we do not need men to define us, for good or ill. 

I will share episodes – real things that happened to me, as I remember them with as much specificity as I can muster on my thoughts and emotions at the time.  The time and place and context in which they happened are pivotal, IMO, to understanding my behaviors and reactions then which may or may not be realistic or relatable to the working woman of today.

In return I hope to receive feedback from especially Western women who may have had similar experiences, in the same time period or not, or may have learned from themselves or myself or others, how to thrive as their own authentic selves wherever they may be and at whatever point – past, present, or future – they occupy in the arc of modern life in the 21st century. 

Are we in general and as individuals moving forward or backwards? Or is the net result of movements in both directions just a wash for today’s women, as it may be for me right now?

How many times can I or will I have to or be able to start over to get there, the place I think I want to be now or very soon as I draw closer to the end of my life?  Will this continue to be an open-ended and uncomfortable pursuit, like Scarlett O’Hara’s dream on an overfull angry stomach. Will I ever get there?  Did she?

There may never be a definitive answer but I hope to continue the search, exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, memories and wishes along the way.

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Saying Hello Again – My New First Post

Since I have somehow opened a new blog in just the third (of 3) sections of the very first module of Blogging for Beginners – WordPress.com Courses (wpcourses.com) it seems somehow appropriate that I should, right here on said blog titled Starting Over From Scratch, draft a new introduction for myself and possibly for this new blog as well.

The lesson tells me that performing this exercise will help me focus my own ideas for my blog.  I feel, based on my thoughts so far, along with what I had on my old blog, it may really do that.  This means there may actually be hope for me to become a real live, full-fledged, semiprofessional blogger yet!

Revisiting what I said when I first started blogging

I started my blog “My Self Evident Truths…valid arguments against may be considered” https://hbsuefred.wordpress.com/  to communicate with the world outside of my own successively shrinking (in local metropolitan area size and population) localities.  I started that blog then to communicate with the other parts of world, or so I thought at the time.

Revisiting what I’ve accomplished since I first started blogging

So much and hardly anything at all!  Really, though, I do take some personal pride in many of the things I at least started during this time.  I think much of that is attributable to where I was living for most of it.

Oak Ridge, TN (2014 – 2019

  • ORICL (Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning)
    • A perfect blend of those who love to learn with those who love to teach
    • I spent most of my time here
      • History Curriculum Chair
      • Trip Planning Committee
      • Memoir Writing and Genealogy Classes
  • Explore Oak Ridge – Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • ADFAC (Aid To Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties
    • Affordable Housing Committee
    • Development Committee
  • Board of Housing and Code Appeals
  • Community Mediation Services
  • Tennessee Promise Mentor
  • Heritage and Preservation Association Museum Docent
  • American Museum of Science and Energy
  • City Council Candidate
  • Anderson County Democratic Party
  • League of Women Voters Recording Secretary
  • Friends of ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
  • Friends of Oak Ridge Public Library Volunteer
  • Four or five book clubs

What I’d like to do – So much and hardly anything at all (again)!

  1. Finalize my divorce
  2. Keep up with books for discussions in four or five book clubs
  3. Maintain connections with friends old and new, near and far
  4. Keep my mom safe and sound.
    1. Try not to kill her for however long we cohabit my childhood home
  5. Continue writing and trying to make it look at least semiprofessional
    1. New Blog
    1. Old Memoir