Agree to Disagree – It’s Your Choice

Have you ever read The Four Agreements?  If you haven’t, you should. As I suggested in my previous blog post, I would suggest going in with an open mind, because what he writes might blow your mind. I know it did mine. And it has never been the same since.

I started reading this book at the suggestion of a friend. It was a fairly short read but it wasn’t long before I started thinking about how these agreements relate to me and my life.

The author believes there are only four rules, or agreements, we should live by if we want to be live a life of fulfillment and content. They are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personal.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

He suggests that most people are asleep and it is only when they wake up can they see that what they thought believed, may in fact be someone else’s beliefs.

When we are born, we are at the mercy of our parents. They teach us everything they know about life; how to think, how to behave, our morals and values and what God to believe in. We, in turn, become “domesticated,” a word that Don Miguel uses to describe the process, just as you would domesticate a pet.

We don’t usually question this because when we do, we are “misbehaving” or “rebelling,” which is not tolerated in most households. We learn that there are consequences, and unless we want to be punished, we play the game, obeying, becoming miniatures of our parents (who learned that from their parents, and so on).

By the time we reach adulthood, we assume that what we believed all along was our truth, was in reality, something we never really agreed to.

Many people won’t question their beliefs, because they are loyal to their parents, their families, and to their Gods. Maybe they are afraid to rock the boat, challenge their beliefs, or maybe they are afraid of what they might find.

It is only when we have the courage to explore who we are, and decide what we want our lives to be, that we are truly living the life we are meant to live.

The following is my interpretation of the four agreements, and not necessarily Ruiz’s:

Be impeccable with your word.

I took this to mean that we should not talk bad about ourselves and others. We should say what we mean and be respectful when speaking to someone, even if they don’t always reciprocate. We should be careful with our words. Once they are spoken, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.

Don’t take anything personal.

This is a great reminder, because many people struggle with self-esteem issues that involves taking responsibility for things they shouldn’t. The truth is, the way people treat you is not because of you. It has to do with who they are and their perception of life. For example, if you do something the other person doesn’t like, it’s because they were expecting you to do something, or expected you to be a certain way. But you have a right to be whoever you want. You are not here to please others. You are here to grow. In addition, when we take responsibility for things we shouldn’t, we are stunting others’ growth, as well.

Don’t make assumptions.

Assumptions can kill a relationship faster than anything else. If you want to know the truth about something, ask. Don’t assume you know. Just like the old saying suggest; “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” I know it’s not pretty, but I use it to remind me that assumptions are based on preconceived ideas from my past experiences. It’s me thinking I know what’s going on inside someone else’s head, but there’s no way I could. I am not psychic. It’s better to have all the facts first, before we decide what our next step will be. Making assumptions also indicates that we know all there is to know, and there is no way we couod. Learning is life-long and when we assume we know it all, no one will want to be around us. Stop, listen, and ask questions; and then decide what’s next.

Always do your best.

“Your best is going to change moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”

I love this passage, because I used to beat myself up for not being perfect. I am not sure where I got the idea that I could be perfect. Maybe it’s because when I quit drinking and my head cleared, I felt like I could do anything. The truth is, I can’t. I can do some things well, but I will never be perfect. However, I strive to be better than I was yesterday, even if it is just a little bit, and I think that’s pretty good.

Knowing all I really have to do is my best keeps me from being too hard on myself. I used to think I had to be tough on myself, because I really did want to be perfect. I wanted to be the best at something, anything!  Now that I know that is unrealistic, I am good with striving to always do my best.

Everything Changes

Have I used this title before? I am pretty sure I have. I have written countless blogs over the past 8 or so years, and change is a pretty constant theme of mine.

I have a book by Neale Donald Walsh that sits on my desk downstairs with the sincere intention of reading. I bought it last year during a trip to Barnes and Noble and set it aside until I had more time. Because I am still working (which I have a feeling will change soon), I haven’t had the time, or the patience, I suppose.  There’s always work to do, which takes precedence over leisurly reading.

The title of the book is, “When Everything Changes, Change Everything,” and I can’t think of a better time to start reading it.

For those who don’t know, Neale Donald Walsch is the author of the “Conversations with God” books. The premise of the series of books is that Walsch sits down at his computer one day, frustrated with his life, and writes a letter to God, demanding to know why bad things were happening to him. Though it is Walsch typing the words, he states they are not his words, but God’s.

I have read most of the series, which I think there are four or five at last count. Walsch has written other books, too. One of his books, on relationships, helped me understand that we enter into them for the wrong reasons. It was only after his words helped me understand that I was looking for someone to save me, that I could see why I was doomed to singlehood. He wrote that I needed to learn to love myself first and then enter into a relationship in which my partner and I helped each other grow. I learned that I had been self-centered and selfish in the way I was thinking, and I needed to look at relationships in a totally different way including how I saw myself in the relationship.

Needless to say, this man’s writings had a profound effect on my motivation for becoming a better person, which is why I value his knowledge so much.  However, an open mind is a prerequisite. Walsch indicates that God is not vengelful, who expects his children to be perfect. Instead, God wants us to experience life to the fullest, to do something with it, to make mistakes so we can learn from them, and be the best human beings we can be.  Walsch also writes that there is no right or wrong, only choices, which also explains his idea that there is no Heaven or Hell, only that which we make for ourselves.

His books are eye-opening, to say the least, but what it did most of all, was to help me understand that there is much more to life than what we allow ourselves to see, and what we choose to believe.

The title of this particular book suggests that when things change, we need to change the way we look at it.  We can embrace change, strive to know more about how we can learn and grow through it. Or, we can fight and resist change, which only frustrates us and makes us feel bad.  Any way you look at it, the result will eventually bring you to the same conclusion: Everything changes, regardless of what we want or don’t want.

Anxiety + Fear = Chaos

The word “chaos” has always intrigued me.  I remember my mom using it when she had to raise her voice a couple of octaves just so she could be heard over the chatter of little children. “This is chaos!” she would exclaim and throw her hands up in the air.

Chaos actually has a few different definitions. Chaos theory is a mathematical theory used to explain things such as the weather, astronomy, and politics. The term chaos is a used to describe “a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order; any confused, disorderly mass,” which I am sure my mom was referring to.

I don’t know much about chaos theory, but I can relate to the latter, through my experience of raising four children, long before co-parenting was cool. As their fathers saw it, the kids lived with me, so they were my responsibility. End of story. (Eye roll)

Chaos. I lived it. My life was “a state of utter confusion.” Every day there was a new problem, or 10, and I worked through them like a champion. No, that’s not quite how it went. It was more like crawled my way into a hole I didn’t want to come out of. It wasn’t pretty. But somehow we lived through it, and my kids turned out to be pretty good adults.

I have dealt with anxiety all of my life. As a kid, I was plagued with neurotic fears that kept me from enjoying my life. I was scared of everything, all the time. There was no escape from my nightmares.

I developed panic attacks when I was 19, which made me isolate and become a hermit, for fear of having an attack in public. All I could think about was how to prevent the attacks from ruining my life. My life became all about damage control.

I self-medicated with alcohol, and although it helped “take the edge off,” it didn’t help me deal with the attacks. Pretty soon, not even that helped. I lived my life constantly on the verge of a breakdown, letting my emotions control me. I lied and made excuses to hide my feelings of helplessness, but I knew the truth. I was afraid of life itself.

But then I did something I never thought possible. I took back control of my life. (I’m not sure “back” is really an appropriate way of wording it, because I am not sure I ever had control of it. I’d like to think I did, but looking back, I seriously doubt it.)

If I make it sound easy, I assure you, it wasn’t. It took the past 15 years of confronting those fears, accepting who I am, letting go of resentments and regrets, and changing my overall attitude about life to bring me to where I am today; a confident and self-assured woman. I thought I finally had a handle on life, but then the pandemic happened, and the fears I thought had been resolved slapped me upside my head.

Not only was I thrown into my own chaos of figuring out how I am going to deal with this new kind of life, but now I have to do my best to soothe my children and grandchildren’s fears that everything is going to be ok.  Because, who knows if it will? The fear of the unknown, the fear of losing something or someone precious to us, are two of the greatest fears plaguing most people today.

As I sat deciding what title I was going to use for this blog, it occurred to me that my anxiety is not helping my situation. I worry too much about things I can’t control. (I blame my overactive imagination.) And for a naturally anxious person like me, adding unfounded fears to the mix just naturally creates an outcome of internal chaos–the belief that we do not have control over our lives.

The truth is, and something we have to continually remind ourselves of, is that we ALL have control over our lives, even while we are forced to stay home to protect ourselves and others from the virus.  We still get to decide whether or not we are going to let ourselves be manipulated by our own neurotic minds, or if we are going to take control of the situation and do something constructive, rather than wallow in self-pity.

There is a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt that I use to remind myself that the anxiety-inspired fears are the result of my imagination: “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

When I start to feel anxious about the things I can’t control and the “what-ifs” start to race through my mind, I take a step back and look at why this is. It usually indicates that it’s time to turn off the news or get off Facebook.  It’s important to stay informed, but if you find yourself reading every single blog that reminds you how bad it is and not balancing it with the good news, of course you are going to get anxious.

Our emotions are not our reality, but it sometimes feels like they are. Our emotions are driven by our thoughts and assumptions. If we change the way we think about something, we can change the way we feel.  That’s why it is so important to focus on something positive.

So, we can sit in our homes and twiddle our thumbs, and be anxious and fearful that something bad is going to happen to us, or we can do something positive with our time and focus our energy in a more positive way. A few ideas:

  • Start a new creative project
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Volunteer to help make masks for the hospitals
  • Deliver groceries to the elderly
  • Learn how to cook new recipes
  • Spend quality time with your kids
  • Take an online course
  • Make cards and take them to the local nursing home
  • Read a book or learn a new language
  • Clean and declutter your house
  • Exercise or take a walk
  • Clean up your yard
  • Write your life story or the next bestseller

The choices are endless!

Keeping busy is what helped me deal with my anxiety in the past, and I have a feeling it’s what is going to help me get through this latest challenge.  But even more than that, I need to remind myself I am in control of the situation, and I can make it a bad experience or a better experience. It’s all about perspective.

Overwhelmed and Underpaid

I am not one to complain … not much anyway.  I only have myself to blame for the pressure I find myself under. Some days I wonder why I do this to myself, and then it hits me–I asked for it. There was a time when I wished for the things I have now. But sometimes I forget to enjoy it.

I can’t remember the last time I felt bored. There is always something to do. But that’s a good thing. When I’m not working, I am creating new recipes for my new-found lifestyle (vegan-ish) and spending time with the grandkids, who seem to jump from being 7 – full of fun and wanting to spend time with Grandma – to 13, when all of a sudden it’s like,  “Grandma who?”

Needless to say, I fill my time wisely, which makes for priceless memories, or a way to satisfy my obsessive nature.

I have been away from my blog for quite a while, but it’s not because I was bored with it. All of my spare time has been spent on building my freelance media business and online newspaper, hiawatha-news.com.  I am also helping the Hiawatha History Commission publish a book for the city’s 70th anniversary next year.

On the side, I do marketing work for Tommy’s Restaurant, and help the City of Hiawatha put together its monthly newsletter. Periodically, I hold self-publishing workshops at the library, lead a monthly writing group, and volunteer with the Friends of the Hiawatha Library, as well as the Hiawatha History Commission. I recently started a new business, Turn the Page Publishing, which specializes in helping people write and publish their life story. And I still work full-time at a local car dealership, because, you know, bills.

I have also been writing my own books. My latest, Mind Games, is in the final stages of editing.

See what I mean?

One thing I lack is a knack for time management. I am constantly working on several projects at once, and if I get distracted, it’s hard to come back to it right away. What happens then is that too much time goes by and I forget where I left off. I like projects with deadlines. Those are the ones that get my undivided attention.

It’s good to have goals. I suppose mine is managing my time a little better. And maybe enjoying life a little more. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Actually, I would say the older I get, the more I realize what I don’t know. But he’s the genius.

There are those who will tell you it’s not good to be a workaholic, but there are worse things. I feel most alive when I am busy, and I feel like I am contributing something to the world. But as good as it is, it can also be overwhelming, and there are times when I need to rest.

I need to remember to slow down and enjoy the ride. The thing about life, “It goes on.”

“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”

~ Robert Frost

 

 

Change Isn’t Always Easy

McDonald’s Restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa

My favorite cartoons growing up were the Looney Tunes; Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all the rest.

The older ones were great; I learned about life from the 3 minute shorts, but what really intrigued me were the cartoons about the future, particularly the one about the House of Tomorrow. It was supposed to be funny but it sent my imagination into overtime, and made me wonder if that’s really what the future held.

Looking back at it, I think the writers from the 1950’s had some insight into what to expect from the 21st Century, though most people just saw it as goofy entertainment.

Though I have been keeping up with the latest technology, I am sometimes take back by how much technology is changing all of our lives. We have an Echo Dot that plays our music whenever we want and of course, my computers, and cell phones, and tablets.

I see people walking down the street or sitting in coffee shops and restaurants, their eyes glued to their devices instead of talking to the person in front of them.  My own adult children have their phones out as I am trying to have a conversation with them. I don’t feel like it’s my lace to say, “Hey, put your phone away.” They aren’t 10 anymore and should know better, right?

But the changes aren’t just socially; they are starting to hurt our livelihood, as well.

I took my grandson, Thomas, home last weekend. He lives in the Des Moines suburb of Johnston. He was hungry, so we stopped at a McDonald’s close to his home. We walked in and I was expecting to see a long line of customers. It was just past 1 on a Sunday afternoon, after all. Instead, just a few people milled around the lobby, looking a little confused, including us. I started toward the counter to order.

“No, Grandma. We order over here,” he told me nonchalantly.  He pointed to a kiosk off to the side with a large sign hung above it that said, “Order Here.” I looked back at the counter (which had shrunk significantly in size from our last visit) and saw a sign above it that said “Pick Up Order Here.”

Wow, I thought. McDonald’s is losing it. Sure, it’s more convenient for the customer, but it’s missing the personal touch. It’s one of our basic needs as human beings. Why even bother going out to eat if you order your food from a kiosk?

It’s happening all over; the lines to the self check-outs at the big discount stores are starting to be longer than the regular check-outs. Jobs are being eliminated, one by one. Who will be next?

Those who are graduating high school may want to think about where the job market is heading and pick a career more suitable to the changes.

Sure we have the technology, but when are we going to realize that maybe crossing that line between convenience, and changing the way we live, is not always a good thing?

 

 

 

Book No. 5

I put the finishing touches on my dad’s book last week and was finally able to submit it to Amazon’s CreateSpace.

CreateSpace is a handy publishing tool for those of us who want their books published, but don’t want to waste our time with rejections by popular publishers.

Maybe someday I will see my dream of being a best-selling author realized, but for now, I am content with marketing my book myself.

CreateSpace is very helpful with online marketing, but it’s up to the author to get out and sell it. Published books are available in digital and paperback forms, though paperbacks are a lot more costly.

For those of you who may not know, I posted stories my dad wrote about his life on a separate blog, “Leaving a Legacy.” I started the blog, so my family would have access to it. One of my uncles asked if I was going to publish it, and though I had thought about it, I wasn’t sure how I should frame it. Should I write it “as is,” or do a little editing so it made sense? Or maybe I should tell the story about how I found it in a box after he died and became closer to my family after reading about his life? Or maybe I should break the stories up and put them in chronological order, adding a forward and introduction to explain the misses pieces in his story.

I chose the latter, and got to work editing. It took a few months to complete putting it in order and making it make sense, and another month to edit, but I finally submitted it to CreateSpace last week.

I have used CreateSpace before, publishing a series of three teen sci-fi books and a recipe book, but it has been a while since I used it.

I had to create a cover of my own in the right size in PDF form, and then using a template, had to save my interior content in PDF form, as well. Once I walked through the process a few times, it became a no-brainer.

Here is the link to my dad’s book, which is for sale on Amazon: Legacy: An Autobiography.

I have decided that all the proceeds with go to one of my dad’s favorite charities, but because he had so many, I’ll have to give it more thought. My father was a generous man, and I think he would not appreciate the gesture, but he’d be a little proud, too.

Which is Stronger?

My writing prompt for today is, “Which is stronger, love or hate?”

My answer is Love, of course.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I believe love really does conquer all.

The Beatles sang, “All You Need is Love.” And while the concept makes for a catchy tune, it’s also a truth that some people still have a difficult time believing.

We get so caught up in our every day struggles that we forget that other people are going through the same struggles, or worse!

Misunderstandings, different mindsets and worldviews, and lack of communication, along with a variety of personalities and points of view, can fuel the fires for arguments and negativity, which can turn into hate.

And all we really needed to do was to talk to the person we were upset with in the first place.

We are all different. We are all human. We all started at the very same place. And I believe that if we took some time to get to know a person, a culture, a religion, or a nationality, and try to understand why they think what they think, and believe what they believe, there would be a lot less hate in the world.

But what it really comes down to is, who do you want to be? Do you want to look at the world as mostly loving and kind, or do you want to close yourself off and live in your own paranoia? After all, hate is just another word for fear; we fear what we don’t know and disguise it with contempt.

Ask yourself this question; do you want to live a life of love, or hate?

It’s really your choice. But when you choose, choose carefully. It’s difficult to change your course when you’ve been on it too long.

As for me, I want to do my best to live a life of love. I’m a work in progress, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.

Tribute

Weirdest Job I’ve Ever Had

Write about the weirdest job you’ve ever had:

Like other pre-teens, I started working as a babysitter when I was 13 or 14, making 50 cents an hour. It sucked, but I got a few dollars for spending money.

Then there was that summer when i was 14, when I babysat three kids, while their mother went on a business trip. The kids’ sages ranged from 8 to 11, but I was just a kid myself. What the hell was she thinking?

She promised me $250 and only paid me $150 because she said I did a crappy job of keeping the house up, and the kids told her I was smoking pot in the basement. (I was, but that’s another story).

What could I do? I took the money.

My first real job was at McDonald’s on First Avenue NE (Cedar Rapids). It closed years ago, when they opened a McDonald’s down on 15th Street, and is now a gay club.

I lied about my age so I could start working when I was 15. It never occurred to me to get a working permit. I’m just a rebel, I guess.

It wasn’t a bad first job. I was a cashier, and although I came home smelling like old grease and French fries, I made fairly decent money. I used the money to buy a stereo and my first car, a ’72 Mercury Marquis.

After I turned 16, they came up with a law that stated you had to prove your age. So, instead of having my lie uncovered, I got another job.

It would take too long to go through my entire work history, and who really wants to read that, anyway …

I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs, but none I would really consider weird. My first husband and I moved to Colorado briefly, a year after we were married. I thought I would get a job right away, but that didn’t happen. Maybe they saw I was from another state and didn’t want to take a chance on me. But after a few weeks of filling out applications, I finally landed a job selling dishes.

I hated it.

It took me two days to realize I was not cut out for sales. My pitch was my inevitable downfall:

“I know they are a little expensive, but they are durable, and we replace them if they break…”

And then I would demonstrate how strong the cup was by pounding it on the case. The first couple times were fine, but when I put a little strength behind it, (no doubt thinking of how much I hated the job), the cup fell apart.

That wasn’t so bad; they forgave me, and they didn’t make me pay for the cup.

One night, my boss’ girlfriend too me to “Grand Central Station,” a huge bar in Colorado Springs, to hand out cards to try to get leads for demonstrations.

Great idea! Drunk people wouldn’t remember some lame chick signing them up for free demonstrations. “This is what I need to kick-start my career in sales…” I thought.

But I was wrong.

I could deal with the polite ‘no thank-yous;’ I couldn’t deal with people’s haughty rejections. They made me feel like I was a beggar.

It probably doesn’t sound so weird to someone who sells things for a living, but I should have known I wasn’t a natural fit. I can’t sell anything to anyone unless I truly believe in the product. And i can’t make people buy things they can’t afford. No matter how good it is.

Tribute

Learning to Say ‘No’ is Lesson in Itself

I opened my Writing Prompts book and read this:

“Write about a time you said ‘No.'”

I almost looked for another prompt, probably because the subject sounded boring, but the real reason is, I am afraid of it. I’m not good at saying no, but I can honestly say I am aware of my problem. As the saying goes, you have to pick your battles.

I, like everyone else, am a work in progress. No one is perfect, but we learn from our mistakes to become better versions of ourselves.

With that being said, I can tell you, I don’t say no very often. It’s not that I can’t, I just really want to help people when I can. And when I can’t, I find a way to gently tell them no.

There was a time when I couldn’t say no because I felt powerless; I was afraid of making people mad, afraid they wouldn’t accept me as I was, afraid they would reject me. I wanted to be liked so much, I became a doormat, and did things I didn’t want to do just to please that person.

I became a people-pleaser. Like the term co-dependent, I hate the term people-pleaser, because it’s a label, and doesn’t do much to help the person in these situations. All it does is undermine your self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence. I should know. People have been labeling me my whole life.

“You’re a pest, you’re accident prone, you break everything you touch…”

I am a nice person. I am generous. I love to help people. This is the way God made me.

I have a hard time saying no because I want to change the world, but it doesn’t mean I don’t say no. Which bring us to my prompt for today:

As a parent, we tell our kids ‘no’ all the time. As an employee, we try not to say no too much or the boss will think we’re a slacker. So when was a time I said no, because I didn’t want to do something I didn’t want to do?

My daughter recently asked me to drive my grandson back to Des Moines and I didn’t want to.

I know I shouldn’t need an excuse, but I really didn’t have the time.

Does that count?

She might have been disappointed, but she didn’t say or show it. However, I told her I could help out when I had more time, a promise she took me up on.

Maybe the reason I don’t like to say no is because I hate to disappoint people I care about. I know how it feels. And disappointment sucks.

I know I’m not responsible for people’s feelings; it’s another mindset I am in the process of changing. But if I have the chance to bring a little sunshine to someone’s gloomy day, I’m going to try hard as hell to make it happen.

It’s a fine-line: I want to help people, but I don’t want to feel like a doormat ever again. Some people take advantage of kindness, and others see it as a weakness.

I’m not going to stop being kind. But I am learning to say no those who don’t appreciate it.

Tribute

Passion Outweighs Moderation

Today’s writing prompt:

What area of your life do you tend to enjoy in excess instead of moderation?

Obsession and passion are the same thing, just different perspectives. So I suppose I could say the things I enjoy in excess are simply passions in disguise.

I write. A lot.

I get up in the morning and work on my website, tributecr.com, and create the day’s inspiring message and update the upcoming events and news. Then, it’s off to my day job as a Benefits Specialist for a local car dealership.

I might work out at the gym during my lunch hour, where I take notes about the things I want to write about when I get home, or I might interview someone for a news story. Sometimes I even take my laptop to work and use my hour to write.

Finally, it’s 5 o’clock, and I hurry home to get back on my computer, and either blog, work on my stories, or write news articles.

In a few short hours, its time for bed, and I set the clock for 5:30 am, so I can do it all again.

At first glance, one might think my excess lies in writing, but who can put a limit on creativity? Besides, who would want to?

However, I think we are being asked to focus more on the things we enjoy in excess that aren’t particularly good for us, like sweets or potato chips. I also drink too much coffee and pop. And though I love to bake, it means I have to eat it too, so I suppose the answer to the above question is: I enjoy eating, though excessively is a bit strong.

But who am I  kidding … I’ve never been able to do anything in moderation.