5 Things Financial Struggle Taught Me (Thus Far)

I’m not poor. Low income, I guess. Ever since I met Laura, the single, Mexican mom who was raising her four children on $400 bucks a month, I’ve known I wasn’t poor. I’ve even climbed my way above the Canadian poverty line, now that i’m a pill-maker by trade (the legal kind).

But I’ve struggled lately–partially because I still don’t make a lot of money, and partially because I dream big and publish novels, and partially because I’ve tried to look like I’m not struggling. Well, time to be honest. For the last six to nine months I’ve barely gotten by. Its one of at least four spells of financial hardship I’ve lived through–others included college and unemployment–and now that they’re passed I look back on them with a measure of pride.

Financial struggle is a hard taskmaster, but it does impart valuable lessons. Here are 5:

Never Give Up. I’ve often reminded myself that though things may not be comfortable, I will not starve. I may lose my job, my apartment, or my car, but I will live through it, and I will come through it stronger. One day, this will be a good story, so don’t give up.

Be grateful. Ingratitude will only dig the hole deeper. HECK YES! I dug my financial hole in part because I was materialistic, unsatisfied with the many good things i had. I’ve learned much about gratitude in the last six months, but I have a long way to go.

Being resourceful is like being a hunter, artist, and a mathematician at the same time. Fellow Mennonites may have the same pastime of cruising the grocery store, hunting for those pink ‘30% off’ stickers. This is how I bring home meat for my family. I hunt it!

I love the show Masterchef. In that show, the contestants are often given a ‘mystery box’ full of food items, and told to cook a gourmet meal with it. That’s a bit like shopping on a shoestring. Here are my odd items of meat and (eureka!) 30% off mixed greens. What healthful, tasty dish can I make from it? My meals are sometimes simple, but I’m proud of the healthy lifestyle my sister and I maintain on a tight budget.

It’s like being an urban survivalist, in a way, and it’s something to be proud of.

Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to help myself?” I lost my job in spring 2012 under bad circumstances. My confidence suffered to the point that when I tried to revamp my resume, I cried to my Mom “There’s nothing I’m good at.” And because she’s my Mom, she was able to list things off. Looking for work slammed my wavering self esteem over and over again. But, as my bank account dwindled, I forced myself to do something every day to find a job. Meanwhile, to pay the bills, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for odd jobs. I painted a lot that spring. I mowed grass. I took on casual work as a gardener. Every week I scraped together the money to pay my bills.

In my most recent financial hardship, I drew on this experience when I was low and desperate. I’d ask myself: “What can I do right now to help myself?” This translated to selling things on Varage Sale (any clothes I didn’t need, books I wanted to keep but I knew would sell, and even Christmas presents I didn’t like…sorry!), working overtime, and, once again, doing odd jobs.

Once again, by God’s grace and hard work, the bills are paid.

You can still do great things. Dreaming big can be expensive, but it needn’t be. I published Sons of Earth for about $600 bucks, for instance. I ran my first three 5K races in $80 dollar shoes, and cheap athletic gear.

In my city, Library memberships are free. Thrift stores are packed with cheap books. You can get free podcasts on whatever topic you want. This means you can get an informal, self-directed education for almost nothing. Sure, you don’t get a certificate on your wall, but you can study whatever your passions are and become a better read, better spoken, productive citizen without the approval of so-called experts.

You can give up a couple hours a week to volunteer with a church or organization, babysit your little cousins or neighbour kids, or visit the elderly. In doing so, you can leave a lasting impact on your town.

In the last financial struggle, it was impressed on me that this was a lesson, and I needed to learn. If I didn’t learn, this would keep happening, and happening, and happening. I needed to acknowledge my greed and materialism and swap it for gratitude. I needed to stop taking the easy way out, to work hard, and to be resourceful.

Above all, try not to worry. It’s not helpful.

The Bible says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, New International Version)

Waiting For Aslan to Move

What do you do when you are hopeless, in the deepest of slumps. Help is immanent, but it’s not here yet and you can’t bear it any longer?

It feels like darn near everything is going the way of the buffalo. That’s extinction, if you haven’t guessed. I feel like a broken record saying this, because it seems slumps are a regular part of my life and I haven’t been silent about this.

Running is bad right now.

Today was another in a series of crap runs. I stopped at about two miles in and cried. I don’t know why. I just did. It’s a girl’s prerogative to cry whenever she darn well pleases.

Money sucks right now.

Due to issues with the tax man, I’ve been waiting on my return for three months now. Government efficiency and all that. Meanwhile, I, the dreamer of big dreams and the lover of new clothes, have run furiously on the treadmill of my finances, living in hope of that big cheque coming in the mail. It’s become a schtick of sorts. I text my sister as soon as she’s home for lunch.

“Did anything come in the mail?”

“Nuthin'”

“Darn them!”

Wednesday night, after the cheque didn’t come and I aborted my 13 mile run at 9 miles due to persistent hip and knee pain, I cried in the shower.

Girl’s prerogative, to cry when she darn well pleases.

Those two big issues seem to drag everything else down too. I’m lost with my writing. I’m not blogging, and I’m not really present on social media. I just don’t want to.

Self-medication, can you help?

But I realized that I couldn’t keep waiting, putting my life and happiness on those two things: a good run, and a government cheque. I had to do something about it. And I was reminded of this story from Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia. God does love to give me examples from fantasy literature. He knows me well. 🙂

The four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are called from England into the land of Narnia as Prince Caspian and his band of faithful Narnians do battle against the usurping king Miraz and his nation of Telmarines. (This is the book we’re talking about, not the slightly sub-par movie–cute Prince Caspian aside). Caspian and his insurgents are besieged in the stronghold of Aslan’s How, at the last of their strength, wits and supplies. Everyone among them has lost blood. And then the four children arrive, late at night, at the How, guided there by Aslan the Lion himself.

But here’s the thing. Aslan doesn’t leap upon the Telmarines and kill them himself. He sends Edmund and Peter into the stronghold to help Caspian. Then he leaves with Susan and Lucy on a tour of the countryside. It doesn’t look like he’s going to help at all.

So Peter proposes a plan. It’s a near hopeless plan. He will personally duel King Miraz, man to man, sword to sword. “Can you beat him?” Edmund asks. “I’m fighting him to find out,” Peter replies. It’s a lousy plan and he knows it, but as he explains, it will take the better part of the day to send messengers back and forth between camps. By the time they set up the duel, Aslan may have done something.

Aslan may have moved.

And he does, by the way. As the duel ends in treachery, and the two armies clash, the trees, which Aslan awakened, sweep down the hill into battle and terrify the Telmarines into submission.

Yes, it is a girl’s prerogative to cry when she wants to, but sometimes you have to dry your eyes and make a plan. Do something, do anything, even if its a lousy plan. Take the first step from your slump, and perhaps by then, Aslan will have moved. Deliverance may be upon you.

So what was my first step, by the way? Yesterday, in anticipation of not receiving the financial deliverance I’m looking for, I made two or three plans of inexpensive things I could do that evening. 1) Use my theatre gift card and see a movie with my sister. 2) Go for a run. 3) Make coconut-lemon icecream out of coconut milk so that my sister (who is dealing with allergies) can have icecream again.

We picked #1.

Today, after my awful run, I decided to pack up my laptop and go get an iced coffee at McD’s. I’m writing this post there. I guess I’d better post it before I don’t feel like it any more.

The Four Rules of Reality

Inspiring thoughts on how accepting reality can combat stress and suffering in our lives. The following is condensed from Should I Fire My Doctor, by Patricia J. Sulak, MD.

dropsStress is inevitable. Suffering is optional. In my pursuit of wellness, I have come across this concept multiple times. I agree. We need to Stifle Stress, and we can then Sever Suffering. How do we decrease the stress in our lives? It does not matter if I am reading the words of Greek philosophers, the Buddha, Confucious, C.S. Lewis, or the New Testament–the answer is the same. We suffer when we argue with reality (or many call it arguing with God).

Rules of Reality cause us to suffer if we deal ineffectively with them. I have narrowed them down to four.

Reality Rule #1: Life is unpredictable. Even though we all know this, it doesn’t seem to keep us from stressing out over the unexpected… It may be the traffic jam on the way to an appointment, the unwanted mammogram results, the layoffs at work, or the phone call with bad news about a friend.

Solution to Reality Rule #1: Expect the Unexpected. Rather than each morning waking up hoping that everything will go the way you want, expect the unexpected. Ask yourself, “I wonder what is going to happen today something not on my radar, that I will need to deal with…?” …we can train ourselves to deal with events in a thoughtful fashion with improved outcomes.

Reality Rule #2: Life is Transient. Most of use believe, or say we believe, that there is a better place after death, usually referred to as heaven. Although often described as the ultimate five-star luxury residence–with no demands, dealines, or discomforts–none of use seem in a hurry to reach that destination… Although we know that death is inevitable and happens unexpectedly every day to many, we hope it won’t be a family member, a friend, or us. But, one day it will…

One patient who came for her annual visit announced that her husband had died unexpectedly three months ago. They had been married over 35 years. I asked her how she was doing. She smiled and told me she was not going to live in misery but was going to cherish and honor the time they had together. This was the total opposite of some of the patients, who over ten years after the death of their spouses, “still can’t get over his being gone.”

Solution to Reality Rule #2: Life is Precious. Cherish each moment.

Reality Rule #3: I’m not in control of most of life’s events. While we can decrease adverse and demanding circumstances and manage many aspects of our lives, we are not in control of most daily events. I cannot control the weather or traffic. I cannot control what people say about me. I cannot control what people do to me. I cannot control many things that happen in my life.

Solution to Reality Rule #3: I can choose how I react to life’s events. …No one has stated this better than Victor Frankl, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps. He said, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Reality Rule #4: I am not perfect. This may be the last, but certainly not the least Reality Rule. When I say and do things that hurt others, it’s usually because I was thinking of myself and not being mindful. I was not focusing on where someone was coming from and why she said or did what she did. Or, I was trying to be helpful, but could have chosen different words or actions. I do things that personally don’t serve me well.

Solution to Reality Rule #4: There is room for improvement! I love the saying, “There are no mistakes, only lessons…” For everything I have done that did not serve others and me well, I can learn from the experience and help others and myself…

What about the times I have hurt people? I can use those experiences to improve my own behavior and be more understanding when people do things that hurt others. In fact, now when my husband and I catch ourselves saying something negative about someone, we try to remember to add the phrase “…just like me.”

(end quote)

I thought I’d share these thoughts with you, not because I’ve mastered them but because they’ve challenged me–particularly solution #4. I’d like to remember to add “…just like me” when I’m tempted to judge.

13 Ways to Know You’re Winning (Be proud idealists, be proud)

I offer this up as my gold star for you.

I am a hopeless idealist, an admittance I am both ashamed and proud of in turn. Life has a habit of knocking the stuffing out of me, and sanding off my shine. Yet I do my best to hold up my head and look for the best in myself and others, no matter how much the cynics scoff and complain.

So, to my fellow idealists, here is a quote I’d like to share to remind you that no matter what your scoffers say, you are a winner.

Oh gosh, doesn’t that sound cheesy? Be proud, idealists. Be proud.

Dr. Denis Waitley said:

“The term ‘Winning’ may sound phony to you. Too materialistic. Too full of A’s, or luck, or odds, or muscle-bound athletes.

True Winning, however, is no more than one’s own personal pursuit of individual excellence. You don’t have to get lucky to win at life, nor do you have to knock other people down or gain at the expense of others.

‘Winning’ is taking the talent or potential you were born with, and have since developed, and using it fully toward a goal or purpose that makes you happy.

Winning is becoming that dream of yourself that would fulfill you as a person with high self-esteem.

Winning is giving and getting in an atmosphere of love, cooperation, social concern, and responsibility.

Winning is coming in fourth, exhausted and encouraged–because last time you came in fifth.

Winning is giving yourself to others freely.

Winning is never whining.

Winning is treating animals like people and people like brothers and sisters.

Winning is turning all the cards up in solitaire–without cheating.

Winning is picking up a beer can you didn’t throw on the beach.

Winning is being glad you are you.

Winning is habit forming. (So is Losing.)

Winning is unconditional love.

Winning is a way of thinking–a way of living.

Winning is all in the attitude.

Talent is cheap. You can buy it, and recruit it. It’s everywhere. The world is full of talented alcoholics.

Education is not cheap, but it’s for sale and for hire if you have the time and money. You can get your BS, MBA or PhD. You can panel your den with diplomas. But the world is full of educated derelicts, unable to relate to supportive roles with others.

Not aptitude.. attitude is the criterion for success. But you can’t buy an attitude for a million dollars. Attitudes are not for sale.

Not all individuals are born equal. Some are cursed and some are blessed by their hereditary uniforms. Equality is not Nature’s way. The equal right to become unequal by choice is the natural cycle.

All environments do not breed and nurture the winning spirit. And yet, how often we are witness to living examples of greatness springing out of adversity…

Attitude is the answer.

Your attitude toward your potential is either the key to or the lock on the door of personal fulfillment.”

From The Psychology of Winning.

Her Morning Elegance (She Fights for Her Life)

“And she fights for her life as she puts on her coat, and she fights for her life on the train. She looks at the rain as it pours. And she fights for her life as she goes to the store, where the people are pleasantly strange. Counting her change as she goes. Nobody knows” (“Her Morning Elegance” by Oren Lavie).

I used to sing this song to myself at work a lot, and here, listening to it while on break, I am reminded why. “She fights for her life” resonated with me. Not because I was dealing with illness or mortal danger, but because I saw my everyday existence as a battle–a romantic battle of good and evil.  It’s a romantic notion, but then I am a romantic!

That meat-packing facility, where I worked at the time, was hardly a happy place. Negativity was the norm. “F” was the favourite consonant. Toughness was what it took to make it, day to day–thick skin, humour, and fighting to protect my attitude.

She fights for her life.

I suspect there are many who ‘fight for their life’ day to day, and present such a cheerful exterior that ‘nobody knows.’  I hardly qualify as an example, so I will tell you of one of the best examples I know–my grandmother, whom we affectionately call “Ma.” Ma lives with chronic pain and limited mobility, yet she remains generous and good-natured. She’s learned the secret of enjoying the little things–a scenic drive, a good cup of coffee, the love of her dogs. She does what she can in spite of her limitations. She knits prolifically–toques, mitts and blankets for those who need them.  She is quick to say “I love you” and then, “I love you more.”

She fights for her life.

She is one of those who, in spite of pain, loss, loneliness, and the unfairness of life, are cheerful, productive, generous and loving.  It takes tremendous effort to put on their “morning elegance” and come down the stairs in the morning, but they do it. We cannot discount a good attitude as a natural disposition.  Optimism is rarely an accident.  Happiness is a choice.

“She fights for their life as she goes in the store, with a thought she has caught by a thread. She pays for the bread and she goes. Nobody knows.”

Watch the whimsical stop-motion music video for “Her Morning Elegance” and enjoy the relaxing vibe of the music.

Why Am I Still Up?

Well, that may be it. This week may be a failure. And it’s only half way over. The clock flipped over to Wednesday an hour and sixteen minutes ago.

Despite vitamin D supplements and adequate levels of sleep and yet another episode of Sherlock on my laptop, I’m in a funk I can’t seem to shake. I’m generally good at spinning all the plates that compose my life, but this time they’re wobbling something fierce.

And this is only a 44 hour workweek.

My mental real-estate is taken up by debates and work and my monthly budget, none of which are cheerful subjects, and the writing has fallen by the wayside. That’s why I’m pouring my own depressed little self onto the page. I have nothing interesting to say–unless you’d like to hear about how to exegete John 1:1-2 and if I’m going to be able to make my car payments.

No? Neither do I.

I don’t know what to do with myself.
Perhaps there’s nothing more to do but to watch funny YouTube videos and eat breakfast sandwiches (no matter what time it is).

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But, there is always good news. One, January is over, and that means there may only be six weeks of winter left (if the groundhog may be trusted). Two, I don’t have to work on Saturday. Three, the world is not my responsibility in the end. And Four, I still have two English muffins.

So fry up an egg. We’re going to make it, you and I.

Maybe in a couple days I’ll have something original to say.

Confession of a User

I just might be a user. Not a drug user–a people user. I’m concerned that I look at people with the attitude of what can they do for me? How can that person be my friend? How can they make me look good? Feel good? Can they help me with this task? How can this conversation aid my social media presence? Is that handsome guy a potential boyfriend?

I used to think I was people oriented, but if I were people oriented, I’d stop walking when someone talks to me instead of throwing a reply over my shoulder while I bee-line to my destination. If I were people oriented I wouldn’t have hidden at the other end of the McDonalds so a certain someone wouldn’t see me and want to talk. I had a blog post to finish, and I had to go to work, and…

So I’m task oriented. Not that task-orientation is a sin. The world needs us taskers, otherwise the factories would stand idle most of the time, the books would never be written, the dinner wouldn’t be done and no one would have clean underwear. But I need balance, and I need to recognize how truly valuable the people I walk past are. They aren’t a means to an end. In many cases, they ARE the end. They’re the patients who will take the antidepressants I made this afternoon and feel better. They’re the ones who will eat my dinner. They’re the ones who read my books and blogs. Now, they don’t wear my clean underwear… but I think you get the point. My tasks are for them, not me.

Two separate, parallel ideas set me on this train of thought. The first came from Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines, a book on marketing through social media. The book is on my kindle and I can’t find the page, so I’ll summarize. She says that writers, in their desperation to market their books, forget to meet people where they are, with what they enjoy and concerns them. We need to see people, not as potential readers, but as people. She talked about how a post on Facebook had caught her eye—a new mom begging for prayer as her baby struggled to survive. Kristen offered support and encouragement, and now that the baby is healthy, continues to connect over baby pictures.

That’s not trying to force a book down someone’s throat. Not by a long shot. That’s genuine care and interest. I was convicted.

The second was in a post about dating from J.S. Park’s blog. He said: “A lot of this random ‘crushing’ is from our culture of ‘what can you do for me?’—which leads to objectification and dehumanization… When you practice the disciplined art of being friends with the opposite gender, you’ll find a love for them that does NOT regard their physical appearance or ‘dating material’ level.”

Oooh, conviction again.

I’m feeling caught in the balance between working hard and valuing the people who are in front of me—my coworkers, my family. Mostly I just work hard. I’ve seen the opposite too—people who stand around visiting at work, never getting things done, wasting their employer’s time and money. But I don’t think there needs to be a dichotomy like that.  And sitting alone in McDonalds, posting to my blog get’s old fast.  I’m doing it right now, and feeling kinda bummed.

I doubt there’s an easy answer or a quick fix. For the moment, I’m thinking of making it a task for myself. To do: slow down and value people.

Too cold?

Read the post by J.S. Parks. “To Love Without Idolizing A Relationship–A Mega Post on Dating and Really Bad Advice”

Why You Might Want to Practice Your Smile in the Mirror

Ah, the smile-grimace.

As a retail clerk, I see it a lot. I greet a customer with a smile and a ‘hello’, and what I get in return is this… how should I call it? Lip curl, twitch, frown thing. I think they think they’re smiling. Well, they ain’t.

Dale Carnegie said, “An insincere grin… doesn’t fool anybody. We know it is mechanical and we resent it.” A genuine smile is an expression of genuine happiness, delight, amusement. It says “I’m glad to see you”, “I like you”, “You make me happy”. The grimace thing says, “I’m acknowledging that you exist, now beat it.”

The expression on your face is one of the first things people see. It is part of your first impression, and we know that a first impression is often all you have. As far as I’m concerned, a pleasant countenance is far more important than what the person is wearing, or what sort of body composition they have. The best beauty tip my Mom ever gave me was “Smile, and you’ll look beautiful.” True that, Mom.

My favorite people are all smilers. I work with some fantastic smilers and jokers. When I walk into the preshift meeting, I look for them because I know they’ll smile like they’re glad to see me—and I’m glad to see them. They make work a fun place to be. When they’re gone I miss them.

Carnegie quotes Professor James V. McConnell: “People who smile… tend to manage, teach, and sell more effectively and to raise happier children. There’s far more information in a smile than a frown. That’s why encouragement is a much more effective teaching device than punishment.”

So, if you’re convinced, or if you aren’t, I challenge you to go to a mirror, shiny window, or your smartphone camera, and look at your face. Close your eyes, pretend someone just walked up to you, and smile like you always do. Open your eyes. Is that a smile or a grimace? Worse, is it a rictus?

Oh dear. I hope not.

Then consider this. Daniel Pink says:

A genuine smile involves two facial muscles: (1) the zygomatic major muscle, which stretches from the cheekbone and lifts the corners of the mouth; and (2) the outer part of the orbicularis oculi muscle, which orbits the eye, and is involved in ‘pulling down the eyebrows and the skin below the eyebrows, pulling up the skin below the eye, and raising the cheeks.’
Artificial smiles involve only the zygomatic major. The reason: we can control that muscle, but we can’t control the relevant part of the orbicularis oculi muscle. It contracts spontaneously—and only when we’re experiencing enjoyment…
In other words to detect a fake smile, look at the eyes.

Observe. Here is a picture of me faking a smile.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.56 AM #2

And here is a picture of me actually smiling.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.56 AM #3

Now that you know how to detect a fake smile, you’ll see it in yourself and in others. Stop it. Stop faking it. Leadership guru Tim Marks says that he had to practice in front of a mirror, and even practice smiling while driving in order to make a genuine smile a habit.  It mattered that much to him.

I’ve tried to make it a reflex—walk past a person, and smile. Or, if nothing else, try to look pleasant. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded, but I’ve made progress.  And now I work at a place where I have to wear a mask (not the retail job), and the eyes are the only way to tell that I’m smiling, so it better be genuine.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.58 AM #2

Well, am I smiling? Am I?

And no, my profession is not ‘bandito’.

Life is hard, and sometimes we are so tired and beat down that it feels impossible to eke out a smile. In times like those, we need the kindness and the smile of another person. It’s important to realize that others have the same need. If a smile is what it takes to brighten up a day, a room, a conversation, a job then that is not too much to ask. And whatever you do, rid your life of the smile grimace, and you will, at least, offend fewer retail clerks.

Much appreciated.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.59 AM #2

Works referenced:

Carnegie, Dale: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Simon and Schuster, 1936.

Pink, Daniel: A Whole New Mind. The Penguin Group, 2006.

Oh Christmas, Why Did You Have to Go?

They took down Santa’s house this morning–the gaudy snow-covered castle, the plastic reindeer, the picket fence that corralled hopeful parents and fearful toddlers toward good St. Nick. Christmas is over, alas.

Oh Christmas, why did you have to go?

You may understand why I’m feeling a bit down. It’s not that I have a right to complain after twelve days of holidays—the sort of stretch that I haven’t had since I graduated. And after such a long holiday, I was actually looking forward to the structure of a workweek (the structure, anyway). I’m so much better at structure, after all. It’s just that I looked forward to Christmas for so long. I had all these plans—gatherings, parties, hanging out, writing, watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. In my most flustered, most tired times, I would hold out the holidays like a beacon of hope.

And now it’s winter, dead winter. It’s so cold that I wouldn’t put a dog outside. Heck, if there was just an elevator in my building, I’d bring my little car, Strawberry, up and park him between the sofa and the fireplace. I’m positive he’d fit, and this would solve the issue of the windshield frosting up from the inside, and the awful noises the car makes some mornings. Maybe that snow that’s been sitting on the floor mats for weeks would finally melt. Nothing melts in minus thirty, and it’s been minus thirty for a long time, or so it feels.

On the upside, I get more of a workout in this weather because I wear a twenty-pound parka everywhere, and winter boots. The boots are like ankle weights and, when I’m indoors, the coat serves as one of those sauna suits that fitness wackos wear. I need all the help I can get because today I stepped on one of the big floor scales at work, and I seem to have gained back the weight I’d lost before Christmas. Two weeks of doing nothing but watching movies and eating will do that to a body.

Perhaps the passing of Christmas is actually a good thing.

Well, it can’t be helped anyway. I just need to come up with a new ‘carrot’ to dangle in front of my nose. I’ve told you a bit about my goals for the year, and this morning I wrote up my goals for the month. I’m actually kind of pumped about them. After a good holiday, my brain is ready for new challenges.

Perhaps what I’m most excited about (and nervous) is sending my second draft novel to three beta readers for review. In the meantime, I will be doing some beta reading in trade, and cracking out my NaNoWriMo novel. I haven’t read it since November.

I’m also pretty excited about how this blog has been picking up steam since my article “For Trade: One Head” was Freshly Pressed. I sure am looking forward to another year of spilling my guts to you, interacting, and reading what y’all have to say.

So, Happy New Year. Stay warm, and may you find new things to look forward to.

For Trade: One Head

I’m getting a little sick of this brain of mine. Actually, I’m thinking of trading it in. My thoughts and my troubles are getting tiresome, and if I could just swap my head for another one I could get a little relief. Besides, I’ve noticed that other people seem a little sick of their heads too. Perhaps they’d like to trade.

Would you like this head?

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Let me tell you about it.

Processing speed runs at average to slightly above average, with excellent information retention capacity through the audio and visual receptors. Expect to learn concepts quickly, and memorize easily. Short-term memory is a little shabby, but this can be counteracted with the use of lists and calendars.

You will inherit a highly active imagination, as well as some ability to translate this into written stories. This comes with the added benefit of never being alone, as the head is generally occupied by anywhere from two to several thousand tenants, all vying for attention and occasionally doing and saying rather nasty things. These characters are likely to get out of hand, so keep the gates well monitored, but there are one or two in there that I call my friends. I trust you will enjoy their company.

The brain comes fitted with a musical ear. Unfortunately, this musical ear is stuck ‘on’ right now, and the files must be corrupted as it keeps playing the same songs over and over again. But, if you get tired of those ones, the musical ear comes with a ‘mix’ function that can add harmonies and countermelodies.

Because of a compulsion to gain more and more knowledge, the brain is rather cluttered. If this becomes bothersome, simply take the brain off its steady diet of books, articles and audios, and it should soon become empty. It works for me every time.

You may enjoy my many wonderful memories of my family and friends, though you are unlikely to see them much as you will be far too busy. When you do meet them, they probably won’t know you that well any more. Make sure to unload on them about how your week was. That will catch them right up.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that you would be required to work as a retail clerk part time as well as in the role of a pharmaceutical manufacturing operator full time. Fortunately for you, this brain actually likes these jobs and is quite passable at them. You will also be expected to peg off the remaining things on my to-do list for the month and maintain this blog.

Mechanical difficulties may include: spinning mind, overload, fatigue, negativity, depression, and chronic overthinking. I should also mention that the brain is rather disillusioned with its church and volunteer work right now. It might be a drag, but keep it up anyway. A little more sleep, and much more worship and meditation will help.

Do what you can to maintain some semblance of order in the financial and fitness departments. The brain is equipped with a rather limited capacity for each, and no athletic ability whatsoever. Perhaps on your body it will perform better.  See photo for physical attributes of said head.

Interested? Feel free to post adds for the head you’re looking to get rid of in the comment section, and if I see anything of interest I’ll contact you.

Seriously, though, I tend to think that my life and my troubles are the worst, and that no one understands (and I know others think this as well). If we would listen to each other, I bet we’d find that “everybody’s got a story that would break your heart” (Amanda Marshall). And what we want is someone to listen, empathize, and tell us it’s going to be okay. Please do post ‘adds’ for your head below. I promise to listen.

I bet, though, that I’ll go running back to my old, familiar, messed up head.