Follow Me on Twitter

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Success as Change
You know, Stephen Covey has quite a program for personal growth--also known as personal change. All of these self-help people do.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. On one level, all these self-helpers, whatever their subjects may be--happiness, contentment, success, fulfillment--are talking about how to live. They all have these programs for changing yourself.

Maybe you're an outside-in kind of person, so you like Dale Carnegie's "smile and the world smiles with you" approach. Maybe you're more of an analytic navel-gazer, so you like assignments that have you come up with your values (Covey, for example). Maybe you're more spiritual, so you like Deepak Chopra's methods. 

Whichever you prefer, I would like to point out that some changes are much easier to make than others.

Eons ago I attended a parenting talk at the younger daughter's nursery school. The school psychologist addressed the tendency people have to fall back into situations that are "comfortable" for them. Comfortable, in this sense, means "familiar," what you were accustomed to as a child. So if you came from a warm, open, loving, and supportive home, you'll tend to recreate that for yourself later in life. And if you came from a dysfunctional home where perhaps you were ignored or neglected or worse, you'll tend to feel "comfortable" re-creating these things in your adult life. Indeed, if you start feeling too happy, you might be uncomfortable, and screw things up for yourself until you feel "comfortable" again. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Hindrance to Success
Day before yesterday, I read this post by blogger and writer Jeff Goins. He writes tips on getting published. Here he suggests that you publish short pieces in magazines before going for a book proposal. Something I have considered myself. I even have a couple of short pieces in the works, in fact. Helpful and uplifting, right?

But after I read it, I went into a funk. Jeff's plan of action just stopped me. It felt like the most impossible thing in the world.

Remember Harvey, the giant, invisible rabbit friend of Jimmy Stewart in the eponymous film? Well, my, um, friend, is self doubt.  Only instead of being a giant, friendly, invisible rabbit, it's more like a dark, gloomy, amorphous, heavy blob. Chained to my ankles. Or sitting on my head. Or employing any other number of invidious tactics to immobilize me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mission Intuition: Find Your Principle-Centered Life

Did you think I'd forgotten about Stephen Covey and his Habit #2, Begin With the End in Mind?  Did you think I was skirting the mission statement exercise? Avoiding it? Hoping it would blow over?

I had not. I was not.

Okay, I admit it. I was having a problem with the Mission Statement. It really felt too enormous to tackle, especially during the holiday season, in any logical way.

Sometimes, though, my tens of readers, logic isn't the best way to get at a solution.

That's right, you Type A's. Sometimes you need to let a problem set awhile, sippin' a mint julep; sometimes you need to let the pot simmer; sometimes you gotta throw a question out there and trust the unconscious to gnaw on it awhile and eventually spit out an answer. Sometimes you have to mix a lotta metaphors.

(Previous paragraph to be read with a Southern accent.)

That is the way I roll. I'm a believer in letting intuition work on problems. When I write fiction, I often ponder my characters, plot, or themes right before I go to sleep. I may not wake up with a solution ready to write down, but usually something comes up that leads me onward in the story.

Over the last several weeks, while I narrowed my expectations to smaller goals, and tackled a few issues, I had the mission statement in the back of my mind. I was simply letting my brain work on the problem behind the scenes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If You Don't Have This, You'll Never Feel Successful

What is it?
Healthy self-esteem, my tens of readers.  

That's right. Odious subject.

I'm not talking about giving ribbons and trophies to everyone on the soccer team and not keeping score to build self-esteem. I'm talking about--

Well, what the hell AM I talking about?  

Merriam-Webster online defines it as "a confidence and satisfaction in oneself."

Huh? These words are nonsensical and also make no sense to me.

Thank God, my sister the psychoanalyst emailed me. She had this to say: 

As for self-esteem, I guess it's basically how you feel about yourself.  There could be global self-esteem - your overall feelings/ evaluation of yourself, or more domain specific self-esteem (I'm a good musician).  Healthy self-esteem would be positive feelings about oneself that aren't fully dependent upon external feedback or events ....

You see, one day when I was talking to her about success, she had this insidious point: that some people will never feel successful, no matter how much they accomplish, because of their early nurturing.

Because of their early nurturing. SOME people. Faulty nurturing. Well, she IS a psychoanalyst.

Do you think she meant me? (Motherless child. Cinderella identifier.)

But instead of me, let's consider some perfectionists I know who admit to never feeling satisfied with anything they do, except perhaps for a fleeting moment.

Of course, all moments are fleeting. So why complain? At least they have flashes of success-feel. Maybe that's all we get.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

That Darned Mission Statement*

My left eyelid has been twitching intermittently for two days.  Is it the lice?  Is it the husband being on call again?

Following up on my last post, I was going to talk about self esteem, only oh my God is that subject so boring and 1980s and eye-roll provoking. Also, I wanted to ask my sister the psychoanalyst to define it for me. I could just look it up, Google it, even go to the library, but I want to talk to my sister about it  because she's an excellent psychoanalyst and will explain it to me in terms a layperson can understand.

Which isn't me, because I consider myself an honorary psychoanalyst, considering how many books I've read, and how many hours I've spent in therapy.

Okay, never in actual psychoanalysis, but only because I refused to lie down on the couch, and refused for so long that my shrink agreed it was probably better for me to have eye contact with her.

The real reason I want to talk to my sister about this is because I will feel so aware of my deficiencies afterwards. She's smart, and she has a career that pays her money.

And then she can tell me more about my two-and-a-half year old nephew and how he still insists on wearing this one shirt and one pair of shorts every single time he leaves the house, even though it's 2012, winter, January, and this has been going on since at least last April when I visited.

And it's not so then I can try to raise my self esteem by feeling smug because my little children didn't do that craziness when they were my nephew's age. After all, they had their own little crazy happening. The 8th grader, when she was two-and-a-half, responded to every well-intentioned stranger who asked her name that she was "Dudley" (the pig from Richard Scarry), held up her hands and added, "and these are my trotters."  Which scared more than one grocery checkout clerk. The 4th grader, when she was four, wanted me to draw a cat nose and whiskers on her face every morning for months and months.

And I did.

I'm that kind of mom.

And so is my sister.

Which is why after she defines self-esteem for me and we recognize the roots of why I have none and I berate myself for becoming a writer instead of something more defined and lucrative like a psychoanalyst, I will feel relieved that my children are now much more reasonable critters than her little boy.

And then I will remember the lice.

So I hope she calls me back soon.

* And I've really been thinking about Stephen Covey's Habit #2, Start with the End in Mind, and have been pondering my Mission Statement. And eventually I will get there, so hang in with me, my tens of readers. It's just that my head has been so itchy.

Bonus: can you identify the store that shopping bag came from?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Keep Swimming
I'm feeling a little blue today, and it's not just because the 4th grader has lice.

Nor is it because I've cheated on my New Year's resolutions, because I haven't.

Nor is it because I'm fundamentally unhappy. I don't cut myself or take antidepressants or self-medicate in any particular way. (Check out Betsy Lerner or The Bloggess for more on those types of unhappiness. Though they have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers and readers, so why are they kvetching?)

It's certainly not because of my new iPhone4s. I love my iPhone4s. But even the iPhone4s can't keep a person feeling happy and successful. Besides, Siri got confused about which number to text the husband on when she discovered I had our NYC home phone number plugged into the Home slot on my contacts. So I had to delete it. Maybe that's why I'm a little blue. I had that number for 6 years. I didn't want to give it up. Who knows if I'll ever get a 212 area code again.

Okay, it might have something to do with the lice, because lice are a real bummer. If you haven't had to deal with lice, just pray you don't ever have to. Naturally, the 4th grader came to me with her itchy head just moments after the pediatrician's office had closed for the day yesterday. So I was left with my old remedy, the one I used on the 8th grader when she was in 1st grade. When I spent 27 hours picking nits out of her hair.

(Incidentally, if I were living in NYC still, I'd be sitting in the crowded home of the Orthodox Jewish Lice Lady, paying her whatever she asked for to pick the nits out of my child's head. But since I know of no Lice Lady in this area, it was Hellman's and Glad wrap and my Licemeister metal nit picking comb.)

Which meant I spent this morning washing the mayo out of her hair, and then going through it with the Licemeister. The pediatrician told me there's a new prescription lice killing product that "makes the nits basically explode" that I can use if my routine doesn't work. If only the 4th grader had come to me a half hour earlier yesterday, we might have had some interesting fireworks over here. Alas.

Of course this wasn't all bad, because it gave me an excuse to watch (listen) to Finding Nemo, which is a great warning shout about overprotective parenting and the virtues of independence.

But it's not all about the lice.

It's about the pots I'm stirring. Stirring and stirring. And nothing is coming of it all. I mean, maybe something is in the works. But maybe not. My latest effort met with sort-of rejection. Not total rejection, but semi-rejection.

It's time for a win. It doesn't have to be huge. But it does have to be tangible.

I'm tired of stirring the pots. I wonder if--no, actually, I don't wonder, I know--writing is very poor career choice for a person like me.

I have low self-esteem.

Yup. Tiresome as it is for me, and for my nearest and dearest, I just do.

So I take rejection, or partial rejection pretty hard.
I know I have to be all Chumbawumba and Japanese proverb about it.   But it's exhausting.

I collect pep-talking friends and professionals around me who tell me if I keep on stirring, something will come of it. Except maybe it won't.

I'm not sure.

I am unsure.

Oh dear. Spiraling down. Administer gin and 70s pop music.

And remember dear, daffy Dory from the movie: Keep on swimming. And sometimes a short-term memory problem is just the solution. Forget those little bumps.
Hey, Dory was blue, too.