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Posts tagged ‘perspective’

Beware the Stories You Tell

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess…

Yes, that is one kind of story. But that is not what I mean by the title of this post.

Stories are everywhere. On television and movie screens, in books and magazines, and told by parents and grandparents to children all over the world. They flow around us as we walk down the street, ride the bus, or sit with friends in coffee shops. Snatches of conversation or bits on the radio that catch our attention, books on a long commute, or amusing anecdotes shared among friends and coworkers.

But stories are much more than amusement, or a way to get our kids to fall asleep each night. They make up the very fabric of our lives. They can spark imagination, connect us with our ancestors and neighbors, teach lessons and values, inform who we are, and have a large part in shaping our identities.  Stories are how we relive memories,  and how we fit ourselves into the context of the world around us.

They are wonderful, awesome, and powerful things.

So, if the stories we tell are so wonderful, why do I say beware? Because we build our truth around them.

If you tell your children bedtime stories each night, would you rather read them books about wonderful adventures with confident heroes, and happy endings, or books about scary monsters who terrify sad, scared, and powerless victims? If you are smart, you’d choose the wonderful adventures! Young children have especially vivid imaginations. Your child is going to picture himself in the hero’s place. He will think about the story, role play with it, and most likely dream about it. With the scary book, he will also think about it, role play with it, and dream about it. But those dreams will come in the form of anxious nightmares, and who needs that? Nobody wants their kid waking up at 2am in tears!

We still operate very much like this as adults. We imagine what things would be like “if…”. We dream and role play. And we internalize the stories that our parents and people close to us have told us all our lives. Those stories could be “you are caring, you are loving, you are intelligent”. Or, they could be “you are so stupid, you never get anything right! How could anybody possibly love you?”.  As a storyteller, you have great power in your hands – to either build people up or break them down. You have the potential to foster kindness and tolerance, or hatred and malice. And you both consciously and unconsciously choose these things continuously on a daily basis. In what you do, what you say, and even what you think.

Yes, you are your own storyteller. The stories you tell yourself are just as important as the ones you tell others. They can work to your benefit, or they can sabotage you. You can tell yourself lies until you believe they are truths, or twist truths so far out of proportion you believe they must be lies.

Beware the stories you tell. Weigh their truth and measure their potential impact. Choose wisely. Your stories have more influence than you realize.

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What’s Going On?

So if you are an American woman in your forties, like I am, you may have seen a recent article called “The New Midlife Crisis” (http://www.oprah.com/sp/new-midlife-crisis.html). Even if you don’t follow Oprah.com, it has been getting shared through Facebook so quickly you can practically see skid marks.

The author, Ada Calhoun, asserts that women in their forties are going through midlife crises – a term that was previously reserved for middle-aged men. She’s got examples and statistics to back it up, too. Ms. Calhoun states that the reasons for this are multi-fold – environmental, societal, psychological, and even medical. But, because of women’s historical need to “keep it together”, the manifestations of the female midlife crisis can be much quieter than a man’s – almost secretive or insidious. So, people around us have no clue what’s going on, or why we are doing things possibly considered erratic or unusual.  The quote I think best sums up the feelings she describes is the following:

“Midlife is when we need to take care of everyone else while we are our most tired, to trust ourselves when we’re most filled with doubt. What makes it worse is that many of our midlife fears are well founded. We may, in fact, die alone. Our marriages may never improve. We may never get the number of kids we hoped for. We may never save enough money to make the retirement calculators stop screaming. We may never do a fraction of what we thought we would do in our career.

At 4 a.m., this is the loop in my head. Then, I remind myself (again) of how insanely lucky I am. It could be so, so much worse.”

The article explains why so many 40-something women I know are making changes in their lives, with varying degrees of risk. Starting new hobbies, traveling to exotic locales, changing careers, starting businesses, freelancing, writing blogs, and so on. It may also explain why people I know who have been together for twenty years or more are splitting up. We are looking for fulfillment on a deeper level, sometimes without even knowing what that means for us, or the far-reaching repercussions it may have.

Now, while it is a relief to know that I am not alone when feeling this way, I wonder… is this a purely American thing? Or is it going on in other countries where economies and lifestyles are similar? Could it be that the freedoms and choices we have really made things worse, and more pressure-filled, instead of better? Are women in cultures with less choices and freedom experiencing midlife crises as well? Furthermore, what can we do about it? Identification and discussion may be the first steps, but without follow-up, it’s hollow and ineffectual.

On the up side, the author does state that these feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction eventually change with age. But do you really want to wait until your 60s or 70s to feel better about your life? That’s an awfully long time to wait it out!

I thought “The New Midlife Crisis” was a fascinating read, and personally it resonated pretty strongly. But do you agree with Ms. Calhoun, or do you think she’s making a mountain out of a molehill? Is this something that women around the world are dealing with today? If you suspect you are going through a midlife crisis, how are you handling it? Let me know what you think.

A Quick Update

Hello, everyone, and a Happy Easter this weekend to those who celebrate!

Since it has been ages (yet again) since I have posted, let me give you a quick rundown of what’s been up. Unfortunately, not much. 2017 ended on a high note, but so far 2018 seems to be a series of minor disappointments thus far.

  • Pottery – There has been none made. My wheel is collecting dust by the inch at this point. It makes me sad to think about.
  • Sewing – I have completed almost half a dozen quilts since my last posting, and actually sold a few. Yay! Also, more commissioned quilts coming in the near future.
  • Life in general 2017 – The high point was that we spent Christmas in Germany (possibly a post on this in more detail later). It was my first trip to Europe, and it was *wonderful*! People were kind, travel was smooth, and the food was outstanding. Our layover on the way there was in Paris, and I have never tasted a better croissant. I cannot wait for another trip! Hopefully, our next one (2019?) will be to Ireland, which has always been on my bucket list.
  • Life in general 2018 – Nothing exciting to report so far. Life goes on, work goes well (thank God!), and I am forever trying to find more time and more motivation to make things. We are gearing up to house hunt in the fall, so hopefully being in a house rather than an apartment will allow for more crafting room. I also have some ideas that have been percolating for a while for a Young Adult novel.

And so, that’s it, in a nutshell. Onward and upward! For those of you in a similar situation as I am, don’t give up! We can do this, right? Rejiggering things so that we have more time, and ample cash flow to pursue our passions can’t be *that* hard, can it? 😉

Stay safe, well, and happy!

Life… and Perspective

After a long battle with dementia, my father-in-law passed peacefully in his sleep very early yesterday morning. He was a wonderful, kind, generous, and loving man. He was the best man at our wedding. That should give you a clue as to his character. After all, how many sons have you known to ask their father to be best man?

We miss him already, and will continue to forever. But we are relieved at the same time because his suffering is over.

Dementia is a long, slow, and painful process. In Dad’s case it dragged on for approximately six years. Most people hear the word “dementia” and know that it robs a person of their memories of friends and family.  What they don’t realize is that you forget acquired skills as well, and later lose your ability to perform basic bodily functions. Dad lost his ability to speak very early on. At first we didn’t know the aphasia was due to dementia – rather, we thought he might have had a stroke. Later, he lost his ability to read. Then came more drastic memory loss. And at the very end, he was having trouble swallowing.

He was a proud man though, and even unconsciously, fought this debilitating illness every step of the way. Had he been cognizant, he would have hated what he became. But now, the shackles are removed, and he is flying free. At peace. We love you Dad, and know you are where you need to be.

So, after a few weeks of going back and forth to hospital and hospice, and watching this all play out, do I care that my firing went awfully? Yes. But not nearly as much as I would have even a month ago.

Running glazes, ugly colors, and pinholes are the least of my worries right now. I will have other chances to get it right. Other opportunities to improve. I am trying again, knowing I get another day to be on this earth, and am thankful for it.

So for now, I will just lose myself in the spinning of the wheel and the feel of wet clay. Because the now is what is important. And creating is what makes my soul happy now.  When my soul is happy, it makes me stronger. That strength makes me a better wife to my husband, a better daughter to my mother and mother-in-law, and a better friend to everyone else.

Hug your loved ones. Make sure they know how you feel about them. Then, do what makes your soul sing. Remember the importance of now, and be strong.