A Quickly Chosen Quotation for a Busy Day

June 15, 2011
How often do you repeat something you’ve heard that you wouldn’t want others to know you’ve said?

Like lots of writers, over the years I’ve collected loads of quotations in the expectation that I will need them one of these days. The problem is that I add them to a file without taking time to organize them. The consequence is that when I want to find one, I have to look through a whole bunch. Don’t have time for that today.

Today my assistant is coming to help me plan a major revamping of Support4Change. So I have to get breakfast, clean off my desk so she has a place to put her laptop, and write this post in keeping with my intention — not promise, but an intention — to write three posts a week.

As I sat down at the computer, I wondered what short topic I could squeeze in before she comes. That’s when I remembered my post on Quotations Worth Considering.

This should be quick and easy, I thought. I’ll find a great quotation to share on a busy day. But then my pesky perfectionist tried to make this more complicated than it needed to be. Fortunately, my recovering perfectionist popped up her little head and made a suggestion; pick the quotation blindly.

It was a perfect idea. If I took a lot of time to find the “best” quotation, it may not fit you at all. Picking it “blindly” may not be any worse.

So right now I’m going to open a page of quotations from my quotation folder, close my eyes, scroll up and down for a few seconds, and point my cursor to some place on the page. That’s the quote you’ll get!

Here it is:

How often do you repeat something you’ve heard that you wouldn’t want others to know you’ve said?

Now that I give this quick quote some thought, I can see that I have sometimes been guilty of repeating something I wouldn’t want posted on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. I better take this quotation to heart.

How about you?

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Hiatus for a Perfectionist

May 2, 2011
What do you do when there is more work than time and you don’t want to disappoint people?

Pink Hibiscus budsPeriodically I’ve shared how I get so caught in the pull of feeling I have to do everything well, and of assuming others expect me to do everything well,  that if is hard to simply let life unfold, like these buds will unfold to create exotic flowers — but not until when they are good and ready.

That is the position I am in today. When I think about all the things I want to do this month (including attending the wedding of our oldest grandson), I can’t figure out how I can possibly write as many posts as I think you would like. Yet when I put on my recovering perfectionist hat, I know that I have several choices:

I can force myself to stay awake longer than my body wants me to so that I can meet a standard you may — or may not — have for my blog. (Think I’ll not chose this option.)

I can tell myself that readers are not going to die if they don’t find something new here at least twice a week.

I can write when I am able and as well as I can and let that be well enough.

I can tell myself that the sun will shine tomorrow no matter how many posts I write.

I can suggest that my readers come to the blog about once a week and check to see if I’ve found time to add something new.

I can suggest that my readers use an RSS feed to know when a new post is added.

I can suggest my readers check their emails for a Support4Change Newsletter (that is, for when I have time to organize one) and that the newsletter will tell you what is latest on the blog.

Okay. Have I made myself clear? Actually, I was talking to myself, not to you. I already know that faithful readers will enjoy whatever they find when they come here. Unfaithful (that is, irregular) readers won’t particularly care and will enjoy what they find when they come here.

Anyway, for today’s mini-topic (since I don’t have time for extensive writing), I’d like to share something I wrote today as a comment on the blog of a friend. We’re All Riders on This Bus was David Spero’s recent post on his blog, Reason to Live. Incidentally, he has previously written article for the Support4Change website based on his experience as a nurse with MS, which makes his blog on “Healing Stories and Self-Care Strategies For Chronic Illness, Depression, and Hard Times” based on real, and caring, experience. Here is what I wrote:

Often when we ask someone what they are good at, they will say, “Oh nothing much. I just like to talk to people, or I like to sew, or I like to cook. . . ,” or any of a hundred things that seem so ordinary. But to someone who is extremely sky, talking is a challenge. To people who can’t find the hole in the needle, sewing is extreme art. To someone who can’t boil eggs, cooking is a mystery. For everything we do well without effort, there is someone who would love to change places with us.

If I were to take my advice, I would say that if you are someone who can easily skip writing on your blog without a second thought, I envy you. If you would like to write a blog, even if not every day, perhaps you envy me. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

What gift do you have to give? What gift do I have to give? Perhaps it’s time to realize our lives are very short and we can only live them for as long as we are given. Make the most of it. Don’t regret what you can’t do if you’re having fun doing whatever else you are doing.

That’s the way I’m approaching today. If you come back here and see these buds, to remind you that life unfolds like a blossom and you can’t make it open faster by working harder, you’ll know that I’m enjoying myself and will be back as soon as I can.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


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Maintaining Sanity While Preparing for a Trip

March 14, 2011
If you often feel stressed when getting ready for a trip, try this eight-part plan to be calm and collected when you walk out the door.

Suitcase with words stress-free travel preparations on the sideAfter three days of non-stop news from Japan, whatever I might write on the topic is incredibly inconsequential when paired with images of huge waves throwing boats where cars should be and cars where boats should be. While I have some idea of what I want to eventually write on the topic, I need time for the events to settle into my soul and give me perspective.

Instead, for today’s post I’ll tell you what is going on in my life that might give you ideas for how to get ready for a trip if you tend to be a little overwhelmed when you leave, as I have often been.

You see, a week from tomorrow I leave for eight days in the Washington, DC, area and am determined that getting ready for it will be different this time.

Usually, as I am about to leave, I realize that something has been left undone that should have been done. I stay up late the night before to finish packing and run off the last of the handouts. Then I forget to bring some essential piece of information and need to call my husband to search for it.

Even though I enjoy my trips (business and otherwise), it’s the craziness of preparing for them that really gets to me.

I am determined that THIS time it will be different. Really. I swear to it.

So what is different this time? What makes me think that a week from today I will have the packing all done before nightfall and can get a good night’s rest before rising early to catch a plane?

What makes me think that I won’t discover at the last minute that I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, or that what is clean may need mending?

What makes me think I will have all the handouts printed, a book formatted for my publisher, posts finished so visitors will find new comments three times a week, two videos completed, and another video begun?

I have a new plan.

New Plan Part One: Make a shorter to-do list.

I had a good talk with myself and decided the best way to have a calm and pressure-free flight was to simply not attempt to do the things that didn’t have to be done. In other words, I decided not to include on the list more than was absolutely essential.

This is a different approach than my usual attempt to complete six projects in the last week — when a person needing only five hours sleep at night couldn’t get more than three done.

Fortunately, as a recovering perfectionist, I am learning that I can refuse to put all the weight of the world on my shoulders and expect to have the problems solved by the end of the month.

New Plan Part Two: Use old articles, with a new introduction, for blog posts.

I have a list of more than 500 Support4Change articles lying on the desk to my left. When I finish this post, I will choose articles that you may have missed, unless you are a voracious reader of the website. I will give them a short introduction and a link to the article that I (and others)  may have written several years ago, because they are still good. That way I know you will have two posts a week and I don’t have to worry about you coming here and finding nothing new.

New Plan Part Three: Pack early.

I am going to be all packed (except for minor items like the phone charger) on Wednesday. Six days ahead of time! I already have some clothes on the guest bed and this alone is a major plan-shifter.

Usually I do the things that are needed for the business part of the trip first. Since I attempt to do more of those than absolutely necessary, I put off the packing and I’m dead tired when I fall in bed the night before the trip.

New Plan Part Four: Before I go, finish projects with target dates right after I return.

Ordinarily I might decide that I would finish formatting Healing Relationships is an Inside Job after I get back on March 29 because it isn’t due to the publisher until March 31. That would be a bad idea. Having it hang over my head while I am away would only add to the pressure and less sleep when I return. With less on the to-do list, I know I will have time to finish the formatting, which is 90% done, before I leave.

New Plan Part Five: Include time for appointments.

When I try to operate from ambitious tightly-scheduled plans, I tend to disregard time-eaters, like a doctor’s appointment and a hair cut, in the week before a trip. I will go to them, of course, but tend not to consider the time it takes to do them; a half-hour ride here and a half-hour ride home, plus a stop at the store somewhere along the line, and before I know it, the hours are whittled down.

This time I have those kinds of appointments written with dark ink and an explanation point.

New Plan Part Six: Don’t forget exercise and down time.

One of the easiest “jobs” to cut when I have too much on the schedule is exercise and relaxation. With less on the to-do list, I can continue these activities that are essential for balance and that actually help me get more done.

New Plan Part Seven: Watch out for attention grabbers that turn into time grabbers.

An example of this problem happened this morning before I began writing this post. Wanting to get through the email, I read one from a man who wanted to tell me about How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. It was so effusive that I wondered if he was a friend who hoped I would mention it.

When I checked it on Amazon, I was impressed with the author and wanted to read more by this young former Rhodes Scholar who writes for Wired Magazine. Before I knew it, I had not only read a couple of his posts, but also comments from readers who were obviously also intelligent.

Then I told myself to Stop! I reasoned, that unless the Internet was overtaken by a monstrous bug, his writings will be there for me when I return.

Unfortunately, the danger of the Internet and all this fast-moving technology is that we can get caught in a whirlpool of reading more and more (the image comes to mind of the boats caught in tsunami whirlpools) unable to stop and go where we need to go.

New Plan Part Eight: Expect the unexpected.

I am getting smarter about creating holes in my schedule. In the past, I would put too many unnecessary activities at the beginning of the week or so before a trip. Then when something happened — which it always did! — I would be left with important projects breathing down my neck. This time I have the more important things, like writing the blog and formatting the book, scheduled well before the last days. For example, I don’t plan to work on the videos, which are important but not essential to be done before I leave, before this weekend. So if something comes up, I will have the more important jobs finished.

What is your plan? How do you get ready for a trip with ease and comfort? How do you remember all the things you have to bring? What do you do to leave in serenity and return renewed?

Illustration credit: Wikimedia Commons, words added to graphic
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A Clear Yes or No to Holiday Requests

December 4, 2010
It doesn’t pay to be wishy-washy when asked to do something you may not really want to do, especially over the holidays.

What Part of No Don't You Understand?Stress-free Suggestion Number Two

If you haven’t read the introduction to this series of suggestions for a guilt-free, stress-free holiday, read Talking Back to the Voice of Unhealthy Guilt.

Then write the following on a paper and put it where you can see it throughout the day:

I will say a clear “yes” to those things that bring pleasure to my life and a clear “no” to those who would dictate how my holiday unfolds.

If you put this affirmation into practice, how would that affect your relationships?

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Talking Back to the Voice of Unhealthy Guilt

November 29, 2010
What can you say to the voice whispering in your ear that you aren’t doing enough this holiday season?

Woman soaking feet after long day of shopping for giftsLast Monday I wrote a piece called Perfectionists Feel the Pressure of the Holiday Season. After I uploaded the post, I again looked over that article and decided it gave me material for a number of posts in December. That allows me to feel I’ll not be neglecting the blog in a busy season, and it allows you to know you will be getting suggestions with which you can approach the holidays with less stress, especially if you are a perfectionist.

The main focus of the guilt-free article was to encourage you to say, “I am enough,” whenever you begin to feel as though you need to be someone you aren’t — you know, the one who manages to do everything well before it’s due and to remember every detail without referring to a list.

To set the stage for most of the other blog posts in December, here are a couple paragraphs from the article:

Once you talk back to the unreasonable voice of unhealthy guilt, you will discover something wonderful. By accepting yourself just as you are — even though Martha Stewart might be able to create a more stunning holiday centerpiece — you will be amazed to discover that it’s a whole lot more fun liking yourself and enjoying what YOU want to do. When you love yourself, your inner beauty will shine. When you let go of unhealthy guilt, you will have sources of energy that you previously expended in trying to be someone else, an effort which is not only energy depleting — it’s impossible.

Most of all, with a new and more positive perspective, you’ll be a lot more relaxed . . . which will make you more fun to be around . . . which will put other people at ease . . . which will help them enjoy themselves . . . which means they’ll like you a whole lot, ’cause everyone likes people who help them have a good time. Very soon, your family and friends will notice that what you have to offer them is the gift of being the best you that you can be, which is the greatest gift you can give anyone.

Future posts this month will briefly refer you to this page and then suggest that in addition to repeating the statement “I am enough” every day, that you say another statement to guide your efforts to reduce the pressure to do more than you can reasonably accomplish.

Write the words on a piece of paper (a sticky note will do) and put them on the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator or anywhere you can be reminded to affirm your intention to experience this holiday with simple joy and acceptance of yourself and others just as you are.

Don’t take down the statement you last put up. If your refrigerator gets “cluttered” with them, be grateful for supporting yourself in this season when so much is asked of us.

Right now, before you get caught up in the busy-ness of the day, get out a paper and write:

My best is good enough because that is all I can do.

The suggestions you’ll find in the December posts reflect the reality that you are in charge of most of your life, even when it doesn’t feel that way. After all, no one is holding a gun to your head and demanding you try to accomplish more than you have time to do, even though others have benefited from your efforts in the past.

If you don’t want to stand over the stove and stir a quadruple batch of caramels for an hour, no matter how much your family may enjoy them, you can’t be forced to do it against your will. (Completing a report for the boss is a different matter for a different kind of post. Here I’m talking about the activities you set for yourself outside work.)

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