Done beats perfect every time

I tend to overplan just about everything. Family vacations, work presentations, important conversations. You name it, I obsess over it.

My overplanning, or procrastination if you prefer, is really nothing more than an elaborate cover-up for my fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of falling short of the perfection I seek.

But as my friend and former coworker used to say, in an effort to save me (and him) from my perfectionist tendencies, “Done beats perfect every time.”

Now that doesn’t mean I should post a crappy blog entry, just phone it in and check it off the list. But it does serve to remind me that one decent published post beats the hell out of a thousand drafts that no one will ever see.

So here goes…

There’s a lot going on in my life right now, some things on the family front that are really good and positive, other stuff on the financial side that’s pretty darn stressful. Right now I’m clinging hard to the “faith” leg of the FLC triad as I’m working like mad every day to get the job done, make things happen, and keep the family’s collective head above water.

I keep reminding myself that God does have a plan; that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and although right now I really, REALLY don’t see any sign of it, I’m just going to have to trust that it’s there. Sometimes when I’m facing tough times like this, I’m still able to make out that spark of hope in the midst of the chaos. But now? No, right now I’m running on pure faith.

So that’s what I do, I keep running on faith. Keep my head down and do whatever work is placed in front of me each day. Keep believing that my family and I will get through this, one step at a time.

Well, there you have it, a few random thoughts gathered and (roughly) organized for your enjoyment. It’s not perfect, but it’s done.

If you’re facing your own challenge right now, I wish you strength and wisdom and luck. The only way through it is through it; then it’s on to the next great adventure.

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Back to the basics – faith, love, caffeine

I posted my first FLC blog on November 11, 2011. That year marked my 43rd birthday and my 20th anniversary at the day job, and I found myself struggling with a growing restlessness. “A nagging angst” I called it, “about the books I’m not writing, the career of true calling I’m not pursuing, the size 4 jeans I’m not wearing.”

FLC was my bold first step into a brave new world. A world of literary success, financial freedom, and size 4 jeans. Paradise. My journey had begun.

Then I hit a series of speed bumps. Some of which I can and will speak freely, as they illustrate my own fallibility. Others must remain vague for the privacy of those who do not choose to share their lives in the blogosphere. But to summarize in no particular order:

  • Money worries
  • My mother’s death
  • Chronic illness in the family
  • Parenting issues
  • Job-related stress
  • Failed creative endeavors

With all that chaos and stress, writing took a backseat to keeping the ship afloat. So did losing weight. The years flew by (when they didn’t drag by in painful mediocrity) and now it’s suddenly 2017. I’m about to turn 49 and just passed the 26-year mark at the day job. I’m still not a full-time writer (scarcely what you could call a part-time writer) and I’m certainly not a size 4 (not even close).

But I never gave up the dream. I still believe all these things will happen one day. Rather, that I will make these things happen, even if I have to crawl there, inch by painfully slow inch. As I often tell my husband, if I stopped believing that, what would be the point in going on?

Time to get focused and get going. To stop agonizing over what I didn’t get done in the past six years and focus on what I can get done in the next six days. To get back to the basics – my faith in God, my love for my family, and whole lotta strong black coffee.

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In which I explain my extraordinarily long absence

Well, so much for prolific blogging…

As you can see by the time-stamp, my last entry here was waaaaay back in March of 2014. That’s right, well over 2 years ago. But I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for my perfectly unreasonable absence – several in fact.

I’ve been working. I’m a wife and mom (job #1) who works full-time at the official daytime gig (job #2) while struggling to get that elusive writing career up and going (job #3). Remembering which hat to wear and when keeps a girl hopping, that’s for sure.

I’ve been grieving. My beloved mother passed away in September of 2014 at the tragically young age of 66. Her death was quite unexpected and it devastated me, plain and simple. Now, after nearly two years of love, therapy, and a whole lot of tears, I am finding a way to live with her gone from my life and yet a constant presence, beside me every day.

I’ve been writing. Yes, I really have been writing, although you haven’t seen the fruits of my labors here at FLC. I finally finished my children’s book and have been desperately seeking representation ever since. I’ve also done some guest blogging here and there around the World Wide Web.

I’ve been plotting. I’m currently plotting my next WIP, and this time it’s a novel for the grown-ups. It’s the story of a woman dealing with the emotional toll her mother’s death has taken on her. I know, I know, this sounds like some sort of autobiography or memoire but I swear it’s not. It’s purely a work of fiction that is slowly evolving into a wonderful old-fashioned romance – the sort of books that my mother and I always loved to read together.

Going forward, I promise (pinky swear!) to blog more and procrastinate less, starting…NOW!

 

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My life has been such a whirlwind since I posted

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.

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Solitude of the drive

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.

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Sorry kid, break time’s over

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…

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Rules for Living the Rest of My Life

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.

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Standing in my own way

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.

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Laser Sharks

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?

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The best-laid schemes

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.

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