Health. Finances. Work. Family. You name the crisis and I’ll tell you a dramatic tale of how it has exploded in my face at least twice in the past 30 days. Everybody needs me right now – my husband, the kiddo, the mortgage company, my boss – and it has all become too much.

But you know who else needs me? Me. Maybe it’s selfish to say it, but I need me too dammit. I need to write. I need to do my thing. But “my thing” keeps getting pushed to the back burner, over and over again.

This blog post, in fact, is the first thing I’ve written in close to a month.

Before this perfect storm of chaos hit, I created a gorgeous lifeplan for myself. I wish you could have seen it – it was ambitious, comprehensive, a masterpiece.

Goal #1 – Lose weight
Goal #2 – Publish my book
Goal #3 – Achieve financial freedom

The above is an abbreviated version of my actual goals which were far more specific with lots of OCD-inspired tasks thrown in for good measure. I won’t bore you with the details (at least not today). The point is, I had created THE PERFECT PLAN.

God saw my perfect plan, and He just laughed. (Please refer to the aforementioned shitstorm of chaos which my life has become.)

Which brings us to today. To this post. To me crawling out from under the deadlines and the overdue bills and the doctor appointments and all the other nonsense that has consumed my time and energy for far too long.

Time to get back to work – back to doing my thing.

My commute really sucks. It’s a 70-mile round trip to and from the day job, five days a week, every week. And thanks to never-ending road construction, stupid drivers, traffic jams, and glorious Midwestern winter weather, I average two to three hours per day on this not-particularly-scenic drive.

My husband once remarked to me, in an effort to be helpful, that at least I have “the solitude of the drive.” He pointed out that I had time to myself, time to meditate, to contemplate, to crank up the radio and rock out to the hair bands of the 80’s (he knows me so well).

Poor guy. He meant well, but his comments were not, shall we say, well-received at the time. I tend to get a little testy after sitting in traffic for a few hours – even with Poison to help pass the time.

The other morning though, I was driving along and contemplating some life issues that I’m currently struggling with – my writing, a minor financial crisis, other bits and pieces. When the thinking got too sticky, I moved as if by reflex, reaching to switch off my brain and switch on my latest audiobook (another one of the sanity savers of my commute). But then I stopped myself and thought, “Wait a minute. You’ve got an hour of quiet time. Use it for Pete’s sake. Think. Plan. Get something done!”

So I pulled out my trusty digital tape recorder (a must-have for my overworked 45-year-old brain to keep everything straight). I roughed out a plan for some financial stuff I need to do, drafted a query letter for the children’s book I’m working on getting published, even outlined this blog. It was one of those magical times we creative types are blessed with every now and then – caught up in the flow, ideas coming so fast that you can hardly write them down or spit them out fast enough.

Perhaps there is a silver lining to be found, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s all in how you look at it – cursed commute or sweet solitude.

At 4:38am, my furry feline kid woke me up to request some extra kibble in her bowl. My original intention had been to get up at 5 and start the day with a workout, a little writing and my morning routine of making lunches, getting ready for work, etc. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass, mostly due to the fact that I had stayed up very late the night before reading. I’d like to tell you that I was all wrapped up in something wonderfully literary like Tolstoy or Keats, but the truth is that I’m halfway through book two of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and for the life of me I can’t put it down.

So on this dark, chilly, late October morning, I simply fed the kitty, started the coffee and went back to bed, good intentions be damned. Of course I did eventually get up, make lunches, shower and head to work. But there was no workout, no writing, no progress on the things that really matter to me.

Which begs the question, how much then do they really matter? Your choices dictate your priorities – it’s as simple as that. Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. So when I stay up until 1am reading the delightfully guilty pleasure that is Fifty Shades, I am saying no to getting up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get a head start on the day before the rest of the world barges in.

Now granted, life is tough. It’s stressful as hell between the day job and the family and the health concerns and the financial woes and all that other nonsense. Occasionally I need to just shut the engines down and take a breather, and that’s what reading a book like that does for me. Same with watching old episodes of House, or goofing around on Facebook.

But at some point you’ve got to stop taking breaks, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and get back to work.

And that’s exactly what I need to do. Eat clean and work out. Write my way into a new career. Change my life by changing my priorities, starting now.

Just as soon as I finish this chapter…

Well, here we are again. Another birthday has come and gone. 45. Wow.

It seems like only yesterday I was lamenting turning 40. I had to get my life moving and fast. Time was running out. Had to write that book, make my mark, do something for the love of God.

Then, in the blink of an eye, I was suddenly 43 and not one step closer to my dreams. So I started this blog with every good intention of getting my writing career off the ground once and for all. Over the course of two years and several dozen posts, I have been the grateful recipient of some very kind folks who’ve taken the time to read my words and in some cases even like, comment or follow me. As a writer – and I do now declare loud and proud that I AM A WRITER – I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So now the question is…how do I move forward into my mid-40’s and beyond. Not just move forward but make real, true progress towards the goals I want to achieve. And more importantly, how do I do start living the life I want to live right now, today? Because at this moment I am of two minds – I want to do great things, but I also want to make certain that I enjoy the journey, not just yearn for the destination.

With that in mind, I have cobbled together the following pithy thoughts, my “rules for living” if you will. Some are borrowed, some original…but each and every one is precisely what I need tell myself over and over again.

Rules for Living the Rest of My Life:
1. Aim for completion, not perfection.
2. Do what you say you’re going to do.
3. Don’t complain. Change it or let it go.
4. Write every day.
5. Keep the faith, even in the storm.
6. Find a moment of joy in every day.
7. Change the world, starting with this little corner.
8. Show the ones you love how much you love them every single day.
9. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
10. Nothing is impossible. It’s in the name: I’M POSSIBLE.

Okay, so maybe these aren’t exactly stone tablet material, but they work for me and that’s all that matters. They are just tools, tools to keep me moving forward, to remind me to keep enjoying the journey.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

I want to lose weight.

I want to look good for my husband and my kiddo, and most especially for myself. I want to raise my confidence and self-esteem. I want to be fit and healthy. I want to have the energy and stamina to enjoy my family, take care of them, and get all the things done that I want to accomplish. I want to live a long, happy, healthy, productive, rewarding life.

But…

I also want to eat pop tarts for breakfast and go to McDonalds for lunch. I want to sleep in instead of getting up early to workout, and lie on the couch at the end of a long day just watching TV.

————

I want to quit my job.

I want the freedom to set my own hours and work from the comfort of my home. I want to enjoy more of life now, not wait for some abstract retirement day in 20 years. I want to take long walks with my husband and spur of the moment weekend trips with the family. I want to do the kind of work that means something to me, leave a legacy, not be just another faceless cog in the corporate wheel. I want to enrich my life, not spend my life making someone else rich.

But…

I also want to stay safely inside my comfort zone. I may not be very happy here, but at least it’s familiar territory. I want to shut my brain off when I leave the day job, not roll up my sleeves and start working on “Plan B”. I don’t want to face the fear of risking it all and failing miserably.

————

I want all these wonderful, amazing things, but I also want the sad, silly, guilty pleasures too. I’m having trouble reconciling that, which is why I keep sending myself conflicting messages (see above).

It’s a matter of want versus want. The wants of now versus the wants of later. The wants of instant gratification versus the wants of true satisfaction and fulfillment.

————

Our lives are made up of a million little widgets – relationships, possessions, goals, emotions, people, commitments. I realize now that in order to get from where I am to where I want to be, I have to look at each one and ask myself, “Do I really want this in my life?”

If the answer is no, then I need to get rid of it – whatever “it” is – and fast. Life is too short for the bullshit – the extra pounds, the toxic relationships, the crappy jobs.

If the answer is yes, and if the thing is already full and present in my life – my relationship with my husband and kiddo for example – then I need to cherish it and celebrate it for the blessing that it is.

If, however, there is something that I do truly want in my life but don’t yet have – like the killer bod or the best-selling novel – then I need to do everything in my power to go out and get it.

————

What do I want most of all? To remember the precious gift that this life is and not waste another minute of it on things I don’t really, truly want.

Good morning, this is the front desk with your wake-up call.

You’re fat.
You’re miserable.
You’re out of time.

You’re fat.
For years you’ve been on a roller coaster with your weight. Now, in less than a month you and the family are leaving for vacation. You’ve set a goal weight to hit by the time you go, but in order to make it you’ll really have to get your butt in gear. It’ll be nearly impossible. Actually it wouldn’t be impossible for a truly dedicated person, but considering your track record you might as well head to Wal-Mart and invest in some comfy sweatpants.

But if you don’t do it, everyone will be miserable. You will be embarrassed, disappointed, crushed. Your family will be embarrassed and disappointed too.

And what about losing all the rest of that excess weight, not just the initial set of pounds you’re trying to drop before vacation? You are really out of time, sister, no question about it. You’re the fat mom on the block, plain and simple. The fat wife at the holiday party. The fat lady at the office. But it’s not about what other people think and see, it’s how you feel, your view of yourself, and the view sucks.

And it’s not just about looks, or about being self-conscious and embarrassed everywhere you go, your health is on the line too. You’re a middle-aged, overweight mom trying to chase after an incredibly active kid, care for a home and family and work full-time. That family you love so much is depending on you to take care of them and be there for them, now and in the future. If you don’t get fit and healthy – and do it soon – you may not be there for them much longer.

It’s very simple – you have to stop eating and start moving. You already know what to do, you don’t need some big elaborate plan. You just need to put down the fork and get off your ass. You can’t have one more package of Pop-Tarts and start in the morning. You can’t sleep in today and start working out tomorrow. You’re out of time.

You’re miserable.
As for your day job, you’re miserable there. You bitch about it every day. You have no creative freedom. You get no respect. They criticize you, demoralize you – if you were a man you would have been emasculated years ago. It’s been this way forever; you should have gotten out years ago but you didn’t.

And now you see that the political powers are changing, the sands are shifting. Very soon things may get even worse (did you ever dream that was possible?) – you may even find yourself out on the street one day.

Not only are you miserable at the place you spend 40+ waking hours every single week, but to make matters worse, you know exactly what you’d rather be doing. You want to write; you want to follow your passion of helping special needs kids and their families; you want to make a living on your own terms, in a way that gives you the freedom to spend more time with your own family and pursue all the joys that life has to offer.

It’s a million miles away from what you’re doing now – trading your time for money and making someone else rich. And in order to do that you have to do more than bitch, talk, dream, read blogs, write blogs – you have to work your butt off.

You have to get your ecommerce site up and going to start bringing some money in. You’ve got to get your first book written – and shipped! You have to get up at the crack of dawn, and stay up late at night, and sneak away from the office on your lunch hour. If you aren’t working the day job or spending time with your family, then you’d better have a shovel in your hand and be on task, digging the escape tunnel out of Shawshank.

You’re out of time.
This has been your wake-up call. Time is running out. Scratch that, time has run out. Wake up!

The past two months of inactivity on this blog illustrate the swirling mass of chaos that my life has become. Work, health, family, finances – you name it and it has caught fire, come to a head, or dropped a stinky pile of poo at my front door sometime in the last 60 days or so. I’ll spare you the boring details – and those I love the airing of my dirty laundry – but suffice it to say that life ain’t a bowl of cherries right about now.

And of course, with all of these personal issues taking up the lion’s share of my time, attention and energy, there hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot of time left over for the pursuit of MY stuff.

While I have managed to keep from gaining any weight – a small miracle for me with all this stress – I haven’t lost much either, save a few pounds in the past couple of weeks thanks to a late spring bout of the flu. My weight loss goals keep getting set, missed, mourned, and reset once again. I’m an emotional eater, so every day around here is like Mardi Gras to my psychological hunger drive – ice cream, chips and guac, fast food…just make mine a double! And as for sticking to a regular exercise routine, even I know that one is dead at the starting gate.

And then there’s work. My work that is, the side job. I have made a few small strides in getting my e-commerce site up and going. I ordered product for my starter inventory and even did some work on content for the store pages, but the work is slow-going, mostly due to my inconsistent attention to the project. I’ll get in there and mess around with a couple of items on my task list (I do have a kick-ass task list of course, being the all-planning-no-action, hyper-organized person that I am), but it’s 30 minutes one day and 10 minutes a week later – not the disciplined focus that a fledgling business needs to get off the ground.

So what’s the problem?

Everything else that’s going on in my life? Well yes, the merry-go-round of stress that my life has become these past two months certainly presents a challenge. Right now I’m spending most of my time and energy fighting fires, so there’s just not a whole lot left over to pour into “my stuff.”

But on the other hand, I’ve read dozens of success stories about folks who pressed on through just as much crap as I’m dealing with right now (many were faced with far more dire circumstances in fact) and they still made it to the finish line. So that’s not it.

Everyone else in my life? Perhaps, at least in terms of the time- and energy-sucking aspects of my current situation as previously lamented…yes, I could say that some of my friends and family have been a roadblock for me.

But on that damn other hand again, I have a husband who believes in me and my wacky dreams, who offers me advice but never judgment or discouragement, who does whatever he can to clear a path for me to “do my work” as it were. I also have a couple of wonderful friends who support me as well; having their encouragement, their ears to bend, and their shoulders to cry on in the tough times is often a lifesaver for me. So no, that’s not it either.

So what does that leave? What’s the roadblock to my success, the wrench in the works, the great albatross around my neck?

Me. All bullshit aside, it’s me.

At the end of the day, it’s my hand shoveling the Crunch n’ Munch in my mouth. It’s my eyes that clamp shut at 5am when I need to get up and workout. It’s my brain that shuts down, runs away, freezes in fear and anxiety when there is work to be done on the side biz or a blog to write or whatever “me” work needs doing. It’s always me, standing in my own way, whether out of fear or frustration or both.

I am the problem and I am the solution. It’s so simple, yet it’s the toughest thing in the world to do sometimes – get out of my own way and get moving on my dreams.

Time to get moving.

I was thinking in the shower this morning – the place where all my best thinking is done – about my need for focus and the lack thereof. This past week in particular, extra-heavy professional and personal workloads have led to me overeating, skipping workouts and ignoring my side business. In short, I have put my dreams on indefinite hold.

The same thing happens every time I get pulled away from what I really want to do – especially if it happens repeatedly and/or over an extended period of time. Instead of re-focusing on what’s really important to me in the few precious minutes I have to myself, I just goof off in front of the TV, Facebook, or a big bowl of ice cream. Why do I keep repeating this same destructive pattern over and over again? Some of it is frustration, a feeling that things are never going to work out anyway so why even bother trying. Other times I do it out of self pity; I get so caught up in feeling put upon, like I deserve a break, when in reality the best thing I could do for myself is work towards improving the situation for the future.

So, back to the shower. I knew what I really needed to get myself back on track was focus. Laser beam focus. That, of course, made me think of Austin Powers. To paraphrase Dr. Evil, what I need now is a frickin’ shark with a frickin’ laser beam attached to its frickin’ head so I can get my shit done.

See, what I’m thinking is that if I just had a little tank on my desk with a miniature shark swimming around in there, and the little shark had a little laser beam stuck to the top of his head, I could just pull him out anytime I had a tough situation and annihilate the problem instantaneously.

• Gotta design a masthead for my website – FIRE!
• Gotta squeeze in 20 minutes on the treadmill – FIRE!
• Gotta write another blog post – FIRE!

With my indispensible little laser shark by my side, I could rule the world!

Yeah, it’s a nice dream, but not terribly realistic. Let’s face it, even Dr. Evil had to make do with mutant sea bass. For now, I’ll just have to attach a laser beam to my own head – figuratively at least. That’s exactly what I need, a pinpoint beam of mental light that cuts through all the excuses and whining, all the Full House reruns and Pop Tarts, all the fear and bullshit that’s holding me back.

Because when you get right down to it, all that matters is this:
• Eat clean and workout.
• Work my ass off on MY business.
• Be creative.
• Enjoy life.
• Love my family.
• Love my God.

All the rest is secondary, all of it – the day job, the bills, the chores, all the day to day minutia. Yes, some of it is necessary but not as much as my mind tricks me into thinking sometimes – and none of it will add another minute to my life or another ounce of satisfaction. That’s what the laser beam is for: to recognize the difference, cut through the necessary secondary stuff as fast as possible, and get right back to focusing on what matters.

And if that doesn’t work, does anyone know where I can find a mutant sea bass?

I have a confession to make: I am not a John Steinbeck fan. I know that in some peoples’ eyes that makes me some sort of literary Neanderthal. How can I call myself a modern-day American writer and not love Steinbeck? Look, I totally respect the man’s body of work and his incredible talent; he’s just not my cup of tea.

I did, however, enjoy Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when I first read it back in high school. But what I have always loved more than the novel itself is the inspiration for the book’s title – a poem entitled “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough”, written in 1785 by Scottish poet Robert Burns.

The verse that Steinbeck used to name his book is as follows:
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

Which translated into standard English reads:
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry

For George and Lennie, the farm and the rabbits were just a pipe dream that was never meant to be. Circumstances simply wouldn’t allow it; life got in the way. On the other hand, maybe the problem was that they couldn’t get out of their own way long enough to let the good luck in. Or perhaps it was a little bit of both.

I’m in the same boat right now, except there’s no posse on my tail and no one is holding a gun to my head. For the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling an assortment of major and minor crises in the areas of health, finances, relationships, work – you name it, it’s been screwed up nine ways to Sunday, and the hits just keep coming. Some of these “challenges” are largely the work of outside influences; others are self-inflicted, and I must own that. But regardless of where the fault lies, all of my plans for a better life for me and my family, for losing weight and breaking away from the corporate world seem to be falling apart at the seams and/or frozen in place.

So where do I go from here? I just keep going, I guess. Get up every morning and keep doing the work as best I can. Eat clean as clean as I can every day and workout as much as my body and my schedule will allow. Squeeze in some work on my side business every day, whether it’s two hours or two minutes, just so there’s consistent forward motion towards freedom. Step by step, brick by brick – that’s how you lay your plans, build your nest and make your dreams come true.

I am an organization freak to a fault, or at least I used to be. To-do lists, calendars, outlines, I love ‘em all. But over time, things have taken a turn for the worst. I used to use these organizational tools as just that, tools to keep me on schedule and on track towards the goals I had set for myself. Now, though, I use them as delay tactics – as a way to look and feel busy, in control, as if I am doing something and making progress towards my goals every day when in reality, all I’m really doing is pushing paper.

Take my daily to-do list for example. Every day I make a list of must-do tasks, but then I always end up focusing on the easy stuff and ignoring the tough stuff. I’ll get to all that other junk tomorrow, no question about it. Right?

When I do have one of these sudden revelations that my time-management system is all screwed up, I normally jump into – you guessed it – organization mode. Make a clear list of goals, break them down into specific tasks, blah blah blah. Yeah, I could do that, but this time I’m not going to because I know what will happen. Those intricately crafted lists and schedules will sit in my planner, congealing like a plate of day-old fried eggs. Because once there’s a clear course of action to take, all that’s left to do is take it, and that’s when I get scared shitless.

Why am I scared? That’s a whole other post in itself I suppose – I definitely have fear of failure, of the unknown…probably a fear of success on some level too. When there’s nothing left to do but do the work, I get cold feet. It’s as simple as that. That’s when the procrastination and the perfectionism and the overthinking kick into overdrive.

But not this time. This time I’m going to try an entirely different tactic. I’m going to ignore my fear and plunge into this thing headfirst. In the spirit of keeping it simple, I have just three ground rules.

Rule #1: Stop procrastinating. I will do the work first and take my break when the work is done. That’s why it’s called a break after all, and not an appetizer.

Rule #2: Aim for done, not perfect. Spelling errors, cross-outs on the paper, incomplete thoughts that need to be readdressed later – as much as it kills me I will ignore them and keep plowing through. Only have half the stuff I need right now? I’ll just do as much as I can. Can’t decide whether to turn right or left at the intersection? I’ll just make a decision; I can always double back later. The key is forward motion, always.

Rule #3: Don’t overthink it. I could literally spend forever in paralysis by analysis. It’s high time I stopped pretending that I’m “doing research” or “getting all my ducks in a row” when all I’m doing is stalling. Less thinking, more doing.

1-2-3. That’s it. No fancy schedules, no complicated lists. The time has come, the walrus said, to get your butt in gear.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers