Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z of Lessons Learned in 2014: Motion

Sorry for my absence lately. Right after my last post, a variety of setbacks hit and struck me down, for all intents and purposes. As such, I have absolutely no hope of actually finishing the challenges in time. 

It's important for me to finish the series, though, because writing through all these things are part of my efforts to moving on with my life. 

As such, I've decided to continue with this series until I've finished it. It's going to take me a bit, but I'll get through it eventually. 

In the meantime: I'm on M at the moment. 

The best word I could think of for M is Motion

After 2014 went so spectacularly wrong, there needed to be a time for me to withdraw. To pull back and mourn all the damage that had been done. To come to terms. To just sit still and keep breathing through the pain. 

This is natural. It's good for us. 

Within limits. 

See the thing is that sitting still and coming to terms means that we're stationary. And honestly, it means we're often sitting much too close to the negativity of the things we're mourning. For a while, this isn't bad. But indefinitely, sitting still like this allows negativity and bitterness to take hold. Those two paralyses us until we're basically just drifting along into more negativity and more bitterness. 

I don't know if you'd be okay with that, but I'm not. One day I will tell you why I do this, but I measure my life according to one standard: When I'm at the end of my life and looking back, will I be pleased with the amount of living I did? 

Honestly... I can say it's a good thing I didn't die at the end of last year. Because I would not have been pleased. No, I don't mean this in a "I'm beating myself up because I couldn't do anything about things that were completely out of my control" way. It's more that I got stuck in all this negativity and bitterness all year long until it was okay for me to just survive, but I didn't do nearly enough of anything else. I didn't live. 

Since I'm still alive, though, I'm being a bit more forgiving, but I do realize the importance of getting back into the business of living. It's not always easy, but I'm slowly but surely getting it done. 

In short: There's motion in my life again. Not always fast, and definitely not always forward (as the last week or so demonstrated), but I'm moving on into a better year. I'm learning and moving on, because I can't bear wallowing in a pit of despair any longer.

And I know I'm learning, because even though I indulged in some wallowing last week, I was in a hurry to be done with it again. 

Which in itself is a good thing. 

How are you doing? Is there motion in your life? 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Learning

Sorry for falling behind again. Life got a bit hectic for me two days ago, so I haven't been able to write at all.

One of the big things I'm learning from 2014 and the subsequent fallout this year is... well, to learn from it.

Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I can't really think of a better way to put it.

I mean, yes, I've always learned from my life. There are always mistakes made. Always things to learn.

Usually, though, it takes me a few months to gain the perspective needed for the process to happen automatically.

Waiting for the process to kick in didn't feel quite right this time, though. For one simple reason: I've spent a horrible year. I don't want to take months dwelling on it.

So this time I picked my theme so that I could purposefully look for those lessons and the positive aspects to what I've gone through. That way, I have to look at things from the right perspective.

Any you know what? It's really helping me. Writing about the things I've learned makes the things that have happened seem so much smaller in my mind. Yes, they're big. They had huge implications and ramifications in my life. But once the fallout is completely over (and I'm hoping that will be soon), the implications and ramifications that follow will be completely positive. And that positive effect on my life makes even the terrible year I've had worthwhile. It gives it meaning. A good meaning.That means I might one day look back on a year I would otherwise have written off, smiling.

Do you also sometimes push yourself to learn from your life? 

Monday, April 13, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Kindness

During my very bad 2014, I've been thinking a lot about that saying. You know the one:

Always be kind, because everyone is struggling with something. 

It's really one of those things that really hits home once you get nice and acquainted with struggle. See the thing is, we tend not to talk about our problems. Partly because we (often times correctly) assume that the person we're talking to won't want to hear it. Or sometimes because of pride. Or because it hurts too much. The reasons are endless.

Thus, most people could be struggling with huge, seemingly insurmountable problems and they won't talk about it.

And although we do it ourselves all the time, we forget this is true for other people. So the woman who's working three jobs to put food on the table becomes rude instead of exhausted. The man who's facing financial ruin becomes short-tempered instead of stressed out of his mind.

Then on top of this, the way we react toward such people make them withdraw even more. Just like you do when someone adds hurt on top of the bad stuff you're going through.

So yeah, I've come to realize just how important it is to be kind. If for no other reason, because I've been in a situation where even a tiny amount of true kindness means so much.

Have you ever been in a tough place, and the people around you made it just a bit worse? 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Journey

Sometimes, I'm tempted to look back on this past year and wonder why any of it had happened. I mean, why go to the heights of excitement only to have the rug yanked out from under your feet more often than not?

That's a question I still don't really have an answer to. Yes, for some of it, I was stupid. Other times, I'd been careful. Life still went awry more often than not.

I do believe, though, that it's all part of the journey. No road is just a smooth, endless straight line to some destination. There will be ups and downs. And if I look up from those ups and downs and look around, I might actually see some beautiful scenery.

Like the way me and my family stood together through the harshest of times. And how we're continuing to do so while facing the fall-out.

Like those blessings I'd mentioned on the 2nd.

There is beauty all around, even in the darkest moments.

I have to look up from the road to see it, though.

Which is part of the reason why I'm continuing to write these posts even though some of them are very hard to do. There's beauty in learning too. And I'm hoping that these lessons are all part of preparing for the next leg of my journey.

A way to smooth the road just a little more.


Friday, April 10, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Intuition

I have, for as long as I can imagine, had a very sharp intuition about people. I guess it's part of the reason why I'm very good at characterization when writing. It's also part of the reason why I'm actually much more cynical than people realize. 

I do, however, make an effort at seeing the good along with the bad, because I realized that not doing so would probably turn me into a hermit. Really. I have no intention of being a hermit. Although, in December, I'd relished moving to a farm veeeeeeeery far from everything. Sadly, just not far enough from everyone

The point is. In the process of looking for the bright side, I've let my family talk me into ignoring my gut instinct time and again. 

And those ones are the ones I always regretted. 

I mean, no one's perfect, but some people just send alarm bells ringing. But since I know my alarm system is highly sensitive, I've been ignoring when the alarm gets triggered. 

And last year, to say the least, showed me why that's really a bad idea. 

So now, I'm reviewing my system. No. I'm not going to refuse to trust people. Because that just give those people who hurt me actually got to hurt me even more. 

I am, however, going to pay much closer attention to the alarms next time. 

Anyone else ignore their intuitions to your own detriment? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Humor

As I mentioned before, 2014 was bad, but the fallout of it only really hit between January and March 2015 and I'm still dealing with it even now while I'm writing this. I really wish that it wasn't so, because I'd really hoped that by the end of 2014, everything would have been dealt with and I could go on to (much) better things.

That said, things are going better now than it had been in February (which was the decided low point). Mostly, I'm trying to get through all this by looking for the positive rather than the negatives. It does help.

One aspect to this is by laughing. A lot. It means finding the funny side to things, because laughing about them means that I can realize there's more to life than the bad. And even the bad parts aren't all that big if looked at from the right perspective.

It makes me think of probably my favorite book opening of any books I've ever read.

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." 
(Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini) 

The world is mad and some people living in it are mad. Sometimes, things seem to happen for no reason, or if there is a reason, that reason is often driven by someone's selfishness, greed, small mindedness... and on and on.

Our being dour and not enjoying our lives won't make that go away. So really, we might as well laugh, and find ways to deal with the serious stuff as best we can.

Want to tell us your favorite joke? 

A to Z Challenge: Grief

Yesterday, I'd mentioned that my natural go to when someone hurts me is anger. This isn't always a bad thing. It means that I very rarely go through life feeling like I'm being bullied. If someone tries it, my temper goes and I cut the bully tactic off beneath the knees.

The thing is, sometimes, ending something (even if I come out winning in some way) doesn't make the anger leave. It festers inside me, and then when something else happens to make me even angrier, the festering gets a little bit worse.

Last year, this happened so many times that my anger took on physical manifestations like nausea, migraines and such. This got me thinking about it a lot, and I realized that I unconsciously use my anger as a shield. If my anger engages first, I often don't feel the emotional impact of what has happened to me.

That does not, however, mean that there's no emotional impact. In fact, I think the opposite is true. I think the emotions and hurt I might not be consciously feeling, is the thing that makes my anger become this consuming poison that ends up controlling my life much more than I should.

I think about it this way. If my anger is a shield that comes up at the first sign of damage (because I'd be a very angry person to keep the shield up all the time), it probably won't go away until I've actually handled to pain it knows is there. The pain that'll keep eating away at me even while I don't really realize how bad it is.

And then it literally makes me sick.

So getting rid of this manifestation required a two pronged approach. I needed to forgive so the anger could go away. And I needed to get rid of the pain inside me so that the anger wouldn't come back.

There's only one way to get rid of the pain itself. Grieving. 

In other words, actually feeling the emotions I'm going through and admitting that people who didn't deserve any involvement in my life had a huge impact on it. To actually sit down in a little heap and cry instead of holding a grudge.

I'm lucky (and grateful) that I already had tools and knowledge at my disposal that helped me to do this. (Long story as to how I got there, so I won't go into it.) But, I realize that sometimes, the weight of our grief becomes so heavy that we can't always deal on our own. That's when we need help, not so much to grieve, but to get through the process.

Because grieving shouldn't be indefinite either. 

It's not pleasant, but it's necessary. The point is to one day come to a place where you can think about what had happened without anger and without bitterness, but while wanting to move on.

Thankfully, I can say I'm at this stage now, and even when I speak of how I've been hurt, mostly I'm okay. In fact, I'm able to go back to the year I'd been grieving so that I can pick over the remains and see what I've learned. This is what I'm doing now.

I'll keep those lessons moving forward. But once I'm done with this Challenge, I'm tossing 2014 away and moving on.

How do you move on? Do you move on?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Forgive

My Internet connection is still kicking my behind, so I'm still not caught up. Oh well. I'm just going to keep going as best I can.

When it comes to lessons I learned in 2014, I don't think there's any one of them that I learned (or am still learning) than forgiveness.

It's a hard lesson. Especially given the amount of damage the people who betrayed me had done. My natural inclination is to fight back. Which means that if I can't fight back more than I already have, my natural inclination is to cling to my anger.

It's a bit of a defense mechanism too, I think. When I'm furious, I don't feel much beside the fury. Which means that I don't really experience the pain like I should. (More on this later, if the Internet holds.)

The thing is, while anger is a valid response, clinging to it is bad. I'm figuring any Christian knows that we're supposed to forgive. If for no other reason, then because we've been forgiven by God. I'm not focusing on this, though. This doesn't mean I see this fact as any less true. Instead, it's just because I've known this truth for most of my life.

Last year, though, when my anger took on physical manifestations like nausea, migraines, body aches and exhaustion, I realized that there's a reason why the Bible tells us not to let the sun set on our anger.

Simply put, it's just not good for us.

Last year, right in the midst of my situation with my publisher (which was pretty much the first step in a long line of crap events in the year.) I happened to see this quote on Twitter:

Holding on to anger is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die. 

Luckily it stuck, because as soon as I felt that poison working, I knew to purge it as fast as I could. The first thing I did was to find a way to get my anger out as fast as possible. (Writing is very effective at that.) Then, I've started focusing on forgiving the people who'd hurt me.

Not going to say it's easy. But at least now, I can write about all this without instantly feeling bitter about it. Which is saying a lot, because the temptation was certainly there.

Of course, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it alone. But God has a way of giving me supernatural strength of will when it's good for me. Which is another thing I learned. Praying for help in forgiving someone is probably the best way to get it done.

What about you? Have you gone about forgiving someone for hurting you? 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Empathy

Sigh. My Internet failed me yet again, so I'll be posting twice today to catch up. Hopefully, I'll be around to visit everyone who's stopped by too. (If my connection holds.)

Since I'm posting twice today, I'm just going to jump right in with another thing I've learned in my tough times starting in 2014.


I have, in this past year, seen people acting with absolutely no regard for the people around them. And I've seen how people can say they're putting themselves in my shoes, then turn around and prove that they simply don't care about my situation any more than to see in which way it will benefit them.

To those sorts of people, I can honestly say: "Get out of my shoes. You're soiling them and you're contaminating my life."


I don't think so. Honestly, I've been thinking about empathy for a while now, and I've realized that saying: "I put myself in your shoes" is nothing more than empty lip-service.

In fact, coming from the people I mentioned above, I realized that it can be down-right demeaning. Because have you ever noticed how people who are so proud of putting themselves in other's shoes, never really see the problem? Oh, they are so proud of seeing the problem. Of understanding why someone is hurt, or upset, or struggling.

But they never do. 

And insinuating that you can see my point of view simply by pretending to be me for a few moments... That's insulting.

The thing is, I've also done this. I think everyone does. It's this way our human culture has of trying to bridge the gap between people. But because of my last year, I'm working hard not to look at people from their shoes.

I don't fit in their shoes.
I can't wear their shoes. 
I can only wear  my own, look at the people around me and say:
I don't understand. 
Is there any way I can help? 

Because that, rather than passing judgement (good or bad), is empathy.

Have you ever been frustrated when someone acts like they understand you when they obviously don't? 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Doing What I Can With What I Have

I didn't forget that I was supposed to post yesterday. Nor did I decide to just not post. Nor did I give up.

The truth is, I spent pretty much all day yesterday trying to get into blogger so that I can write my posts (yeah, I write them on the day). But alas, I was stuck without an internet connection until about an hour ago. 

So here I am, hoping that my connection doesn't fail me again before I get to post. 

It's fitting, though, because it corresponds with D-Day's lesson that I've learned from 2014.

As 2014 went on and more things kept going wrong, it was almost too easy to focus on what I didn't have than what I did have or was capable of doing. 

Luckily for me, though, I remembered this one thing that I've always believed in. 

No matter what, there's always something that we can do. No, the circumstances might not be ideal or there might be about a million things that might be beyond my reach. 

But there's always something within my reach and I can use that to the best of my ability. 

So when things were absolutely bleak and I had almost nothing else left, I turned back to my writing after almost a year of writing very little. You'd think that in those circumstances, I'd get very little writing done. 

You'd be wrong. 

I wrote 60k words in December alone. And I've been averaging 25k per month ever since. (Even though my return to internet and business means I have less writing time.) 

But that, my friends, is amateurish stuff. This guy's a master: 

Needless to say, yesterday, I was tempted to be annoyed when my internet connection went. But you know what? I'm blessed to have it on whichever days I do have it working. On other days, I'm just going to mess around with my shiny new ideas and add some words to my older ones. Because that I can do without being connected to the internet.

Do you have a fall-back when everything else goes wrong? Want to tell us about it? 

Friday, April 3, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Credo

Just a heads-up: This is a VERY Christian Faith Related Post, so if you don't want to read on, please feel free to skip over to my writing blog

Today is Easter Friday, which in the Christian faith is arguably the most important day in our religious calendar. Shared only with Easter Sunday. Today, we remember that Jesus Christ died for our sins so we might be saved. On Sunday, we celebrate His resurrection. To me, it's actually a very nice thought that C corresponds with today, because it's just a nice reminder of Christ's sacrifice for us.

Linking this to my theme of Things I've Learned from 2014, we come to the Credo. Credo is actually Latin and can literally be translated into I believe. 

And I do. 

Oh boy I do. 

One would think that the hard times would have shaken my faith. It could have. If it had depended on me alone, I probably wouldn't have been able to withstand all the tests my faith has gone through. 

It's hugely fortunate, then, that I had some supernatural help. As in the Holy Spirit. When I was tired and hopeless, He strengthened me. When hope was so far lost that I didn't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit prayed for me. 

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 

(Romans 8:26-27)

So needless to say, then, that one of the things I'm most grateful for is that God was there, and He helped me and my family. And through His involvement my faith has been strengthened. 

Because it's Easter and because it's a good reminder of what it is that I believe, I'm posting the Credo here. (I picked this particular version because it's the closest one to what I use in my church. The one I actually use being in Afrikaans.) 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again;
He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. 


Have a blessed Easter. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Blessings

As I mentioned yesterday, 2014 was one of those years I'll happily never want to repeat again. It's now April, and my family and I are still dealing with ramifications of what had happened. So, in an effort to come to terms with everything, I'm writing about things I've learned in this period. This way, I at least have something positive to take away from all my experiences.

Just so you know, this post will have a Christian theme to it, so if you'd rather read something religion free, I have a blog about writing here

Let me tell you a simple truth. Watching your whole life sink down a drain without you being able to do anything about it is enough to drive one mad.

Again, I'm left struggling for words. I don't think I can make someone understand what the few months between December and March of this year was like. And that says a lot. I'm a writer. I should be able to make people understand anything.

The year 2014 was the worst year of my life so far, and December to March was when the full impact of everything that had happened hit at the same time. If you've read my pre-2014 posts on this blog, you'll know I'm a go-getter. So the worst of this period is this sense I had. That a damn wall had burst somewhere and flooded my life with so much negativity that I had no power to do anything but to let myself be washed along by the torrent.

This feeling, to say the least, is terrifying.

The powerlessness about it is worse.

Especially when you see your loved ones in the middle of the disaster right there with you.

A few blessings were all that stood between me and despair:

God staying with me and being with me. Even when I screamed at Him in anger and pain. 

Knowing (probably because of God's help) that no matter what had happened, none of it was a physical. Neither me, nor any members of my family, nor our employees or even our pets were seriously ill or passed away during this bleak period between December and March. My losses, although having an impact on my belief in humanity, never truly impacted my person or those of my loved ones.  

Knowing (definitely with God's help) that Romans 8:28 is true: 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (More on this on U-Day)

As long as long as I kept those blessings in front of me, the events swirling around me weren't insurmountable. Because no matter how big those things are, my God is bigger, and I have Him on my side. 

Have you counted your blessings lately? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Anger and Acceptance

2014 was, as far as I can remember, the worst year I have ever experienced. It's so bad that I'm already three months into 2015 and I'm still working on coming to terms with everything that had happened.

Which is why my theme for this year is Lessons I Learned because of 2014. I know that the best way I can deal with this terrible time is to look for the positives. And the positives almost all come in the form of things I've learned.

This is probably the hardest theme I've ever chosen, because it needs for me to step back from everything and gain perspective. Which is also good for me. I just hope I can put it into words in a way that might help other people. (Sorry if the posts go on long! It's hard enough just to say what I'm feeling without trying to limit my words. I'll try to keep to 500 words, though.)

Okay. Let me take a deep breath and start at the beginning.

The truth is, I'm much more cynical than most people like to think. I'm not a pessimist, mind you. I just have this thing where I'm really good at reading people warts and all, which means that I'm prone to see the bad things and focus on them.

This isn't a good thing, so over the years I've taught myself to look for the positive side too and give people the benefit of the doubt. We all have strengths and weaknesses and which one shows is the big battle of each person's existence.

And if I want any chance at actually building relationships with people around me, I have to trust that the good side will win out with every person. This, honestly, isn't easy for me, but in 2013/2014, it was the easiest I've ever experienced.

And then I got betrayed.

Not once. Not twice. Four times. In ways that invariably destroyed at least one aspect to my life. My publishing goals. My business. My home. Twice.

I can't describe the way that feels.

Enraged. I was so furious every time that it made me feel physically sick. Just seeing something that reminded me of those people or hearing their names made me want to throw up.

Maybe it's a good thing that my anger took on such a physical form, because it made me take stock. I realized that feeling this way actually hurt me much more than the betrayal itself. And that got me to thinking...

All these betrayals made me want to do nothing more than to just close myself off from the world and never have anything to do with it again. I didn't want to try trusting people again. I didn't want anything to do with them.

The thing is, changing the way I want my life to be because of the actions of those people destroys any future relationship I might forge. Life-changing relationships. Loving relationships. True ones.

Which means that not only did those traitors destroy my publishing deal, my business, my home. Oh no. It also means I've given them permission to invade my life and destroy my relationships - past, present and future - as well.

My response, instead, has been to work towards accepting what's happened. Not "Oh well, that's too bad."


I accept that people aren't always good.
I accept that some people can and will purposefully hurt me and those I love.
But I also accept that there are still people out there who are good people.
Those are the people for whom I'm risking to trust every time...
Even if it might mean I get hurt again. 

Most of all: 

I accept that while these events did a lot of damage...
They didn't put me down.
And I will rise up from the ashes and be happy despite those people's efforts.
Because what I refuse to accept
Is any further influence from their side on my life. 

What have you learned to accept from 2014?

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