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Why Bother?

Why Bother?

Well, there’s a question and a half! Every so often I ponder this question, and at the beginning of a new year, it’s extremely appropriate.

Life can seem like such an uphill battle that it’s easy to think, “Why bother?” After all, if whatever you’re doing isn’t getting you where you want to be, maybe you should just quit. I mean seriously. Quit. Or don’t quit. Only you can decide which path is right for you.

In a YouTube video I posted a few months ago, I remarked that I’d watched a video with Pastor Rob Bell and author Elizabeth Gilbert, where Rob commented that perhaps we don’t need to “find” our place in this world, so much as “create” our place in this world. Wow! That really hit home, since I’d spent most of my life trying to figure where I fit in. I’ve come to a conclusion; I don’t need to fit in. I can create my own place and thrive from there.

But what if what I’m doing is hard? Really, really hard. I’ve questioned this chosen path of writing so many times. I’ve cried, I’ve pleaded with God to give me a sign, I’ve meditated, and I’ve demanded. I’m still right where I’m meant to be. I’m still struggling. I’m still learning. I’m still growing – sloooowly. Maybe someday I’ll look back and wonder why I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, or why I even questioned who I am and what I want to do with this life I’ve been given.

Struggles Ahead

Struggles Ahead

In reflection it occurs to me that every struggle I’ve had to go through has brought me to this point in my life. I’ve hated the struggles while I was going through them, and I know I’ll hate the ones that are looming out of sight. After all, what if my choices lead me places I don’t want to go? What if I never reach my goals of making a living from my writing. What if all my family and friends never understand what I’ve been trying to do? What if I fail?

So why bother? I have the free will to change my course and do something entirely different. The next question is; do I really want to? What will I gain if I do? What will I lose? Every choice has pros and cons, and being a reasonably intelligent woman, I have to consider those pros and cons every single day. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, to the moment I close them again at night, I have to choose how I spend my hours. Sitting here writing this blog post, I could be doing something else. But this question has been bugging me, so I’m better off getting it out in the open where I can see it. It’s a big question, and the answers are scary.

Do I have to answer today? Right now? Tomorrow? Next week – or next year? No, I don’t. I could just drift along and let life take me where it will, but knowing me, I won’t like that either. I know I need to feel I have goals and some measure of choice in what I do. I need to be intellectually challenged – Lord knows I’ve had life challenges enough. I don’t need any more “blessing in disguise”. I want them front and center where I can see them, so I know there’s a reason to bother. Of course what I want isn’t necessarily what I get. It isn’t always what any of us get. So, we choose to either bother, or not bother. There are consequences to both.

For me, I choose to continue to work at writing because I feel my most authentic when I do. I feel good at the end of the day when I’ve done the work, sat in front of my computer, slogged at getting the words down on the page of my current WIP. Even when I know it’s not perfect, it’s at least a start. I have that choice. Every day. Now, because I can, I choose to work five days a week at my writing, leaving the weekends for family, friends, errands and household chores. After all these years, I know this is when my brain functions best, so I’ve learned to go with what I know works for me.

Networking works!

But if I’m not making a wonderful living from my writing, why bother? If I’m not a famous author yet – after five, going on six, loooong years – why bother? I guess the answer to my own question is because not writing scares me more than failure. I’m afraid that if I stop, that’s where I’ll feel I’ve failed myself. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know that I love writing stories. I also love interviewing other writers from around the globe and getting to “know” them. Connections matter to me, so if I were to stop, I’d lose that. I also learn so much from other writers like Molly GreenAnne R. Allen, Ruth Harris, Christina Hamlett, Janna Graber, Deb Cooke (aka Claire Delacroix), Jeff and Alicia Rasley, and so many more I’ve come to know and enjoy through my writing and interviews. I think about the connections I haven’t made yet, and I don’t want to give those up either. For me, they are reasons to bother.

When I think about the question “why bother”, as it pertains to anything in life, I guess the answer is to consider what you’d do if you stopped. Are you okay with the consequences? Does stopping fill you with relief, or disquiet? If it would truly be a relief, then perhaps it’s time to try something else. On the other hand, if it fills you with disquiet or upset, then you aren’t done yet. Possible future or past failure doesn’t matter. It becomes a moot point, since that’s no longer why you do it. You do it because you aren’t finished with whatever your “it” is, or “it” isn’t finished with you. Simple. As. That.

So, I guess I keep writing. I can add to my repertoire of writing. I can explore new avenues of writing to add to my novel-writing, such as freelancing with articles, more interviews, or non-fiction. I can fall in love with the written word and communicating with others all over again and stop worrying about the what-ifs. What I choose not to do is stop. I choose to bother. Doesn’t mean I’ll never complain again, or worry, or agonize, or cry, or demand, or question. That’s not part of the bargain I have with myself or with God. I’ll just do my absolute best and see how it all turns out. It’s all any of us can do.

What have you chosen to bother, or not bother with for this new year?

 

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Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Who am I? What do I want from life? What do I have to give others? How do I get where I want to be?

 

These are just a few of the questions we all struggle with on a daily basis. There are many others, of course, but right now, for me, these are the key ones. I’ve always been aware that my choices in life are what determine my destiny. That’s not to say I’ve always made the best choices, but I’ve known that they were mine to make. So are my mistakes, and triumphs. I chose to marry my first husband, knowing that there were things that weren’t right from the beginning. After my marriage, at the tender age of 17, I thought I needed to change to become the kind of wife my husband needed. I began hiding my sadness, and for a very long time, wouldn’t admit how unhappy I’d become. I remember one instance where my husband actually claimed that he wanted “the girl I married”. My God, I’d grown up over the years. I couldn’t ever be that 17 year old girl again, nor did I want to! My two children became the reason I stayed. I told myself they needed their father, even if that father wasn’t the kind of man I wanted as a husband. I made excuses for his poor behaviour, and told myself I was being a good wife by standing behind him. In the beginning, I was too young to realize that I shouldn’t be standing behind him, I should be standing beside him.

 

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t change him, and no longer wanted to adapt myself to his model of an ideal wife, like his mother. I realized that nothing I did or said would change him, and nothing he did or said was a good enough reason to change myself. That’s when I decided to leave the marriage. My own parents have a strong, loving relationship, so I’d seen that relationships shouldn’t ask you to be something you’re not. Oh, they had their squabbles, lots of them, but never once did my father ask my mother to be different. This knowledge helped sustain my decision. I couldn’t be other than who I was, and as I began to grow up and into myself, that realization only solidified.

 

Change Ahead

Change Ahead

Leaving was scary though. I was striking out on my own with two young children with no financial support from my ex. The future loomed dark and frightening, but also exciting and brand new. I was finally free to discover who I was; who I wanted to be. The next dozen or so years were more than difficult as I struggled to provide for myself and my children. As a single mother living at the poverty level, you learn to make some very hard choices, and you can’t give your kids all that you wish you could. Early after our separation, my ex chose to absent himself from our lives. That was hard. It was hard to understand how and why a man would walk away from his own flesh and blood, but I knew I couldn’t change him. His choices were his choices. So I continued putting one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily on family who loved and supported me. Slowly I gained confidence and courage. I began to make better choices for myself and for my children. When I began dating again, I knew I was looking for a certain kind of man; a man who would accept me and my children as a package deal. One who wouldn’t want me to change who I was to fit his ideal model. I wanted someone kind and loving, and who shared my vision of what a family looked like.

 

I was seeking a partner, and so I set out on every new date, in every new relationship, looking for the qualities I knew I needed to see. I wasn’t going to try to change someone else to fit my ideal model either. He had to come prepared to meet me half way. It took a long time, but finally I did meet such a man. He came with his own baggage, three teenaged children, and a host of idiosyncrasies, but he also came with a huge heart, a loving embrace, and a willingness to walk with me through the fires ahead. He didn’t want to change me, he accepted me, even encouraged me to chase my dreams. Every time I started a new vocational venture, even when it was tenuous and far from his own experiences, he supported me. Fifteen years later, he still does.

 

Chapter One

Chapter One

By the time I began writing, and made the decision to become a full-time writer, I had gained enough confidence to actually believe I could take on this nebulous, insane business and find a place in it. The more I wrote, the more convinced I became that this is what I was placed on this earth to do; communicate. Still, with little more than a love of words and stories, and a grade 10 education, I knew I had a lot learn. Along the way I’ve shed my share of tears of frustration, of disappointment, and felt the tearing insecurities every writer feels. But I go to bed and rise every morning knowing that this is what I want to do with my life. It is a conscious choice.

 

But even this decision is difficult when so many of my closest family and friends don’t really understand what I’m doing. When I try to share my journey, I can see from their expressions, or tone of voice, that they don’t understand. I suspect they don’t believe I have what it takes to “make it”. Some ask when I’m “going back to work”, as if what I do isn’t really work. Others scoff and ask how many writers actually make a living off their craft. They don’t understand. Recently I had a meltdown with my husband, when I broke down and cried and screamed that “They don’t think I can actually make it as a writer!”. I ranted and raved, and cried and shouted.

 

When I was spent, I went to lie down. That’s when I realized that I was looking for validation. I wanted to hear that other people take me and my work seriously; that they believe I have a certain talent, and because of that, I can and should succeed with my writing, and make a decent living doing it. I had chosen a path less followed, and I wanted those I care for most to appreciate what I was trying to do, and believe in me. That’s when I had another ah ha moment. I realized that it didn’t matter whether or not others understood me and my path. They loved me and supported me, for me, not for what I was doing. That had to be good enough. I have to release my expectations of other people, and continue walking my own path. I’m grateful for those who love and support me, and for the few who truly do “get it”, they are the wind beneath my wings. Not because they think I can do something remarkable, but because they will support whatever I do, just because they love me. I believe I know who I want to be in this life, and I now believe I know what I want to do with my life, but what do I have to give?

 

Well, I know I have a great capacity for love. I know I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me. I know I will protect those I love to the best of my ability, and I won’t walk away. During one particularly difficult time in my family’s lives, I needed to do more than stand up to the devil. I needed to kick his sorry ass to the curb. I refused to stand by and let him have those I love. Those were dark, terrible days for us all, but at least I knew I’d done what I needed to, and I’d do it again. Those days taught us all something about ourselves, and for me, it taught me the power and value of love. It also reminded me of my own courage to do what’s right, not just what’s expedient. I’m far from perfect, but this is one of the things I like most about myself.

 

Links in a Chain

Links in a Chain

I often claim I’m a “connector”. I tend to connect to other people, and connect people with other people. I believe we’re all connected, and each person who enters our life has a lesson to teach us, or a purpose. We’re like links in a chain. Sometimes the links remain strong and true and endure throughout a lifetime, while others weaken and drop away, but the value of each link remains vital. I guess that’s why I write. I write as another medium of connection, of communication, of linking, and because it’s another extension of my nature, it feels right. I like that.

 

So, I believe I know who I am, where I want to go, and what I have to offer, but how do I get where I want to be? Honestly, I’m not sure. I have learned though, that following my instincts and my heart have always lead to my best choices. When I make choices based on fear, they inevitably are the wrong ones. I have plenty of fears, plenty of baggage, and loads of insecurities, but I know I can only be me, and I can only walk my own path. I guess I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and believe that I’m headed in the right direction. Along the way, I’ll encounter hills and valleys, and people who will try to help, or hinder me. But I don’t know how else to proceed, except one step at a time. I’ve gotten pretty good at going over, under, around, and through obstacles, and I’m very good at surrounding myself with people who support me, even when they don’t understand me. I’ve also developed a pretty good internal GPS that keeps me moving forward. I guess it’ll have to be good enough. I’m betting my life on it.

My Journey

My Journey

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Indecision

Indecision

If you are a writer, or a reader who has a curiosity about writing, you might understand this dilemma. You see, I’m experiencing a bit of a conundrum in my writing. Having just sent off the draft edits for the sequel to my debut novel, I’m faced with that dreaded, “what next?”.

 

I’m torn between starting a new series based on the two previous books right away, or taking on an entirely new project in the romance genre, but very different than the first two. I already have ideas for both, but wrestle with which to tackle first. I’ve even considered writing the two simultaneously, but I’m not sure my old brain can do that.

 

The truth is, both hold equal appeal, I’m just not sure how or where to start. As a woman who has passed the age of fifty, this type of situation has happened many times before in my life, separate and apart from my writing. So I acknowledge the need to stop for a bit and let my heart lead the way. Unlike my personal life, if I make a wrong start, I can simply put the current work aside and make a new beginning.

 

But wait, isn’t life like that too, to some extent. We’ve all heard of people who’ve made some pretty horrendous mistakes in their lives, and for a variety of reasons, chose to take a different path to find the peace and happiness they seek.

 

Years ago I divorced my first husband and chose to seek my future without him. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’d made up to that point. I was barely thirty-two years old and the mother of two young children. I had no job, and things at home had reached a melting point. I didn’t know what my future would hold as a single parent with very limited financial resources, but I knew I had to make a new start for myself and my children. The relationship wasn’t a healthy one, and rather than stay, I chose to take on a new direction. I made the right choice.

 

Love rules

Love rules

Years later I met my second husband and fell in love. He had three teenaged children and by then my own children were teens. That made five teenagers that we were considering putting together as a family. No, insanity doesn’t run in my family; it seems unique to me. I didn’t know what the future would hold in this proposed new scenario, and I could see the pitfalls ahead. But I was in love with this man, I cared very much about his children, and so I followed my heart. Now, we have five grown children and five incredible, beautiful grandchildren. It certainly hasn’t always been easy, by a long shot, but I’m happier for having my husband and our combined children than I ever was alone. Together, we’ve created a family that bickers, and loves, much as biological families do. I made the right choice.

 

When I was fired from a job as a medical office administrator for standing up for myself against another staff member with more seniority, I came home devastated. I cried, ached and felt such shame for being fired from a job I’d taken pride in. Then my husband asked me if I’d ever wanted to do anything other than work in an office, as I had since I was seventeen. I was stunned. No one had ever asked me that question before. I took it seriously and really thought about it. I was forty-one years old, the kids had mostly grown and gone, and I was in a new space in my life. I’d always wanted to get into real estate, so I told him I wanted to take the required courses, obtain my license, and go with my gut. Keep in mind here that I hadn’t even finished high school, having foolishly quit school two months before graduation in order to marry my first husband. The thought of taking an extensive course and begin the formal learning process again was daunting, for sure. It was also exciting. I completed that course, got my license and thoroughly enjoyed selling residential real estate for the next seven years. I made the right choice.

 

After those seven years, I was tired of long days and nights and little time away from work. I realized I had started missing out on so many family functions and important personal time with my husband due to work requirements. I’d gotten disillusioned with real estate sales and the sometimes cut-throat attitude of so many of the agents I’d encountered. I’d also met some wonderful co-workers and clients whom I truly enjoyed. But I was unhappy, so I wondered again, “what next?”.

 

After serious consideration, and in talking with family and friends I trusted, I made the decision to move into residential mortgage sales. It seemed the ideal fit based on my years in real estate and my basic knowledge of mortgages etc. I still wasn’t sure it’s what I should do, but I went ahead and took the courses to obtain my license and went to work selling mortgages. I should have listened to my gut instinct. I’d grown weary of commissioned sales and had only shifted the focus from real estate to mortgages, with little to no real change in the type of work I was doing. After only three years I was left dissatisfied and unhappy with where my career was going.

 

So it begins

So it begins

I remembered my husband’s question all those years ago about what I wanted to do with my life. I had always wanted to write, but had put it off. It was such an “out there” thing to do, and I was afraid to tackle the commitment I knew it would take. I hummed and hawed. I agonized and chewed it over for weeks. Then one day while I was off for Christmas break, I decided to just go for it. I went upstairs to my computer and sat down and began to write a story I’d been mulling over, along with my indecision. Approximately eight hours later, I came downstairs beaming. I hadn’t written anything stellar, and most of it I would later re-write completely, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, I’d crossed a line. I’d taken hold of an old fear and once again chosen to go with my gut feeling. By the time I came downstairs from my office, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I had my, “what next”.

 

It’s been three more years since then, and during that time I continued to work. Last November, with the release of In The Spirit Of Love, my debut novel, I already knew I’d found my place, so decided to quit my job and write full time. In truth, writing is where I probably should always have been. I’ve learned so much this past year, and the years before it. I’ve learned to trust myself and listen to my instincts. I’ve also learned that, just like in writing, I can choose my path. If it isn’t right, I’ll stop, listen, wait, and go with my gut.

 

I know I still have so much to learn, and I’m still not sure what I’ll do regarding my next project, but that’s okay. What I do know is that I’ll keep writing. In movies I’ve heard characters talk about the possibilities “tomorrow” holds. I think of Gone with the Wind and Scarlet O’Hara, who vowed to go home to Tara and figure out her future. I think of Little Orphan Annie who sang brightly of “Tomorrow”, and I think of all the songs and films and talk shows that encouraged me take chances and dream big. It isn’t even all about “making it big” (although that would certainly be nice). It’s about finding myself and my true passion and letting it lead me to new experiences. I guess what’s next for me, is simply to write.

 

So, what’s next for you? What dreams or aspirations have you followed up on, or wished you had?

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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