25 Words, and More

 

Here are the results of Liz Strauss’ 25 Words of Work/Life Wisdom Project! Liz put the creations into a beautiful and moving slideshow (which doesn’t seem to want to play on this blog–:-P 😉 ). The inspiration in these words is amazing.

Enjoy!

 

 

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© 2008 Christine Taylor

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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A Good Fit

 

 

I recently created a new home office area. I had exactly six feet by five feet of space to work with. It has to function for both the writing and the artistic sides of my work—and everything has to fit.

Some of the items I had on hand; others, I’ve been collecting for this purpose. I have a new desk, file cabinet, and book case. I’d really like to add more storage containers—maybe even a small craft table, or a folding chair for reading business material. Or a floor lamp.

Truthfully, I can buy as many items as I want. Each may have value. But only a certain number of them are going to fit into that space.

It’s a lot like life.

I have 24 hours in my day. 365.25 days in my year. Maybe a few decades, maybe a few minutes left in my life. I don’t know.

I can make the choice to do whatever I want with my time…but only a certain number of things will fit into my day. There will be many things I wish to do, and many things that are important. But I can not do all of them.

When I take on too many tasks or agree to too many responsibilities, I’m filling my days to the brim. Like my cramped home office space, my days get tight and cluttered. I don’t have creative freedom, I can’t give my best, and I don’t enjoy my activities as much as I could. So…what’s the solution?

Deciding what’s important

For instance, in my home office, there is a monstrously large art table. It needs a lot of my space. I’ve had it for years; it was there when I started my project. But as I began filling the room with all my new acquisitions, this art table seemed to be getting more ungainly. It takes up so much space that I couldn’t fit all the other things I wanted—not unless I made the table inaccessible. As I arranged and rearranged that room, I began to get frustrated and annoyed with the table. I started thinking, “Why does it have to be so difficult? The new cabinet would fit perfectly in this area, if only I didn’t have to work around that table.”

But at one point, I stood back, took a deep breath, and looked at what I had. I realized—I love that table. It belongs to me, has meaning for me. It was one of the first business purchases I made with my own money. I’ve created characters and worlds on that surface. We’ve been through different states and a lot of life experiences together. Yet here I was, ready to push it away just to make room for something else that needed the space.

How many things in my life do I treat the same way?

Perhaps it’s when I cut back on family activities to do extra work, because family “understands and won’t mind.” Maybe it’s that old friend that I don’t call nearly enough, because new occupations take up so much of my time. Maybe it’s my personal renewal that suffers, because I think it’s more important to answer a few extra emails than to shut down my computer and read a book before bed.

What I realized with the office project is that the important things will all fit together, somehow. It may take a while, and require some trial-and-error; I may have to say “no” to other things I don’t really need. But I’ll find a space for each necessity. It will work.

There are set numbers to our days. The numbers aren’t infinite. When you step back and take a look at your life, what’s most important to you?

Are you giving it enough space?

 

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© 2008 Christine Taylor

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm  Comments (7)  
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God Answered

 

 

I was writing at Starbucks for the day. The internet wasn’t free, so I decided not to go online—I thought I would probably get more work done that way. I planned to write blog posts; but I soon found that neither my flash drive nor my laptop contained the drafts I intended to finish. My drafts are backed up in email, but I didn’t think it was worth the time or effort to log on. So, instead, I organized some story files, then decided to go through the blog drafts I did have.

I opened the first file in a series of three that I had jotted down, but never developed—a “Goal Quest” series. I didn’t feel particularly qualified to guide others on their goal quests today, but I opened it anyway.

I was facing a short paragraph that confronted me with an unexpected challenge:

“Get away by yourself to a quiet place, and take a good look at your life. What is your purpose? What do you want to accomplish? Write down everything that comes to mind, and study the list. What is important to you? What do you want to do?”

I had written the words weeks ago, but I never expected myself to be the audience. Shocked, I took in my surroundings. Cool and sunny, peaceful if not silent. Quiet. I had nothing else to work on, so I started writing down the answers to my questions. I finished with this:

~~I want to live independently and freely

~~I want to drive my own transportation; go where I want whenever I want

~~I want to write and create freely in a peaceful, relaxing environment

~~I want to live the most I can live, without limitations of worry, health, or fear

~~I want to be free to be myself

I saved the document, looked out the window for a minute, and wondered—How? I felt the vague notion that I needed action steps for my goals. I thought perhaps taking action steps would prepare me for the time when the goals become reality. So I opened a new note and began typing the first goal that came to mind:

Goal: Buy/Lease a mini SUV

Action steps: Practice driving

I stopped there. It felt aimless. Preparing is good, but how do I achieve what I’m preparing for? Feeling a sense of the ludicrousness of the situation, I opened up the second document in my Goal Quest series. Maybe I had some pointers for myself, I thought.

The first thing on the page was James 1:6-7:

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.”

A beautiful tune began playing in Starbucks then–I could only half-hear it. I caught the words, “Got in her car…”

I looked out window again, watching all the mini SUVs fly past. Two young women, one pushing a stroller, appeared to my right, walking along the sidewalk in front of me. I thought of the future, of having a family. Facing all these goals I had just written, the goals I wanted so much, I reflected that my lack of faith is what’s crippling me. I can’t see how to achieve what I desire most. I feel like I’ll be stuck here forever. I panicked at the helplessness.

I turned to the Lord on a cry of my heart: “How??”

My eyes fell on the young woman who was now at my left. She was pulling her sweatshirt jacket over her shoulders, and suddenly I saw the words printed across the back in big, bold letters:

DO WORK

“Oh, God,” I whispered as tears stung into my eyes. “Oh, God.” I’ve been hearing the word “work” for months, in answer to my pleas. I know the work I need to do, and I’ve been trying to do it. But I still feel frozen by fear and doubt…doubt that it will accomplish anything. Doubt that I can accomplish anything.

I let the feeling soak in–the feeling of hearing God speak. And then my ears caught a few more words from the quiet song in the background:

“You’ll never be alone, no matter what. You’re going to be okay.”

I cried all the more. It’s the answer to all my prayers. The key I need to unlock the future I desire so much. I will work, and God will make magic out of it. Somehow, for the first time, the realization sank in. I believed it.

The future is now.

I left Starbucks, and walked back into my busy life with a new, soul-stirring sense of peace and security. God will make it work.

Pop picked me up, and as he turned the ignition, the car radio came to life in the middle of an advertisement for the new “Chronicles of Narnia” movie, which debuts this weekend. I heard Liam Neeson’s rich voice–as the character of Aslan the Lion, who represents Christ–ask:

“Are you prepared for the wonder that awaits you?”

Yes, Lord. Yes.

 

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Have Confidence in You!

 



Soaring by StacyJMT, originally uploaded by StacyJMT.

 

In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’ character sang a rousing pep-talk to herself in an effort to boost her self-confidence. We can do the same. Taking a cue from the lyrics to “I Have Confidence,” we can follow the character’s example and build our sense of self-worth—proving to ourselves that we are capable of achieving more than we think we can.

“I must dream of the things I am seeking”

How you see yourself goes a long way toward influencing what you become. Imagine the person you want to be—play it over and over in your mind, like a movie. If you have a hard time visualizing, try writing down the qualities you desire. Start each item with “I am…” not “I want to be…” Tell yourself you are, and you will become that.

“And while I show them I’ll show me!”

Action gives birth to confidence. Are you afraid to do something on your goal list? Then do it. The knowledge that you faced your fear will encourage you—and you’ll discover that you can achieve your dreams. That sense of accomplishment will make your confidence soar.

“With each step I am more certain”

The more you realize your progress, the more confident you will feel. Track your progress—have good pictures taken of yourself, and look at them daily. If possible, put examples of your work, thoughts, or projects online, such as in a blog, photo hosting account, or group forum. Seeing your work onscreen and receiving positive feedback from others will do wonders for your sense of self-worth.

When someone gives you encouragement, print it out or write it down, and look at it often. Drive it into your mind that you are good, you are worthy, and you can do whatever you set your mind on.

Think that sounds conceited? It’s not—it’s edification, and it’s essential. You would do it for others—give yourself the same kindness.

“Besides what you see I have confidence in me!”

Look the part. Invest in a good hair cut. Buy clothing, accessories, or cosmetics that make you feel good. Don’t think you can afford it? The truth is, you can’t afford not to spend money on your image. Work it into your budget, if you need to, but do not scrimp in this department.

Spending money on your image is as viable an investment as putting it into office supplies or business cards. If a $40 trip to the stylist makes you feel like a million bucks, that’s a good return on your investment.

“Wake up! It’s healthy!”

A fast way towards feeling confident is to exercise regularly—not only is it good for you, strenuous exercise also causes your body to manufacture endorphins, chemicals which actually produce a pleasurable sense of well-being. According to Wikipedia, they’re released during exercise, excitement—and orgasm. Think that will get you to exercise?

“I have confidence in confidence alone!”

A wise adage urges us to act as if we have already received what we want, even before we receive it. If you act confident, you’ll feel confident.

Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, keep your chin up. That alone gives a sense of stability. Speak firmly. Breathe. Relax. Think of all the steps you have taken to boost your confidence, remember the progress you have already made, and take the next step forward. You can do it.

I have confidence in you.

 

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Fear of Success

 



Window perspective, Photoshopped, originally uploaded by ergozoom.

 

I had a dream the other night. In my dream, I was in a busy atmosphere, in a creative location. I don’t know what place it was, but I remember feeling confident, and guiding others in a group project. I had a clear sense of what I needed to do.

At one point in the dream, my task led me to a winding staircase. I began climbing the stairs, without thinking twice—I just knew it was what I was supposed to do. Still feeling that sense of quiet confidence, I continued upward, higher and higher.

The higher I went, the narrower the stairwell became; until suddenly, I rounded a curve and found myself facing a wall. To my horror, the wall began closing in on me. In my dream, I realized that this was due to the machinations of the place—like the gears in a clock tower, the area was supposed to move and change. But now it was going to crush me, and because I was up so high and the stairwell was so narrow, I couldn’t move to escape! Panicked thoughts raced through my brain. I had felt so sure I was on the right path—was I wrong? Had I made a mistake? Would it be the end of me?

Just when I was certain it was all over for me, the wall stopped moving. It took me a moment to realize that I was safe. When I looked at the wall, I realized that it wasn’t as close as I had thought it was. Yes, I was in a tight spot—I could barely move. But something told me the wall was supposed to move, and it wasn’t going to crush me.

I awoke and went about my day. The image of the tight staircase and moving wall was so vivid that it clung to my thoughts, and bothered me. But soon the image clicked, and I realized something.

The Face of Success

There are times when we know what we are doing, feel confident in our abilities, and are certain we’re on the right path. Things go smoothly—for a time. Then suddenly we find ourselves higher than we’ve ever dared to go before, in a place that moves and changes unexpectedly. And the walls begin to close in on us.

The name of the place, I think, is Success.

Fear of failure is a well-known obstacle… but fear of success is equally debilitating. We can spend a great deal of time climbing toward success, preparing for it, dreaming of what it will be like; but when the reality actually arrives, it overwhelms us. We feel as if we have reached a stopping place where the world is closing in, and there is no way either to escape or keep moving upward.

At this point, we need to take a good look at where we are, and recognize the place for what it really is. It’s bigger and stranger than we had ever imagined it could be…and it demands more of our talents, strengths, and abilities than we feel we possess.

But that’s not a reason to give up.

Staring at the massive wall of Success, realizing it will not destroy us, we have two choices: Continue forward, or slide back down the way we came. After working so long and hard to get where we are, is giving up even an option?

Face the fearsomeness of Success, and realize that it will challenge you. But you can conquer it and move forward.

How?

Don’t ask me. I’m still at the top of the stairs facing a wall. But I know it’s not going to crush me…and I’ve started to look around to see what I can do next.

Because I’m not backing down.

Dreams are sweetest when they come true.

 

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Bound to Overcome

I’ve had a lot going on in my life, thoughts, and goals just over the past couple of weeks. Not much would show on the surface—but between my ears and behind my eyes, the world is a different place. Maybe because I’m different inside. I know it’s been building for some months now—like the Lord is putting together the puzzle pieces of my life, one day at a time.

This is something I’ve been hoping for, aiming towards, for most of my life. I had an epiphany at age 17, suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my career and life, and started working towards that. A few years (ahem, be polite, don’t run over to my About page) and several setbacks later, I had not progressed very far past those goals. Make that “visibly.” Between the ears and behind the eyes, the world was quite different. But looking at my life from the outside, at a casual glance, not much of that showed through.

For the majority of my young adult years, I lived most of my life inside my head, between my ears, and within a few walls. I was a homeschooled highschooler (personal choice). When I graduated, I was tested at a college level, so I chose to postpone college and dive into the dreams I couldn’t wait to dig at. I spent the next four years living at home with my family, attending business seminars, reading voraciously, and pursuing an advanced art education through studying others’ works and writings. In other words, I homeschooled myself through college, after all.

In the meantime, I was writing. Writing fiction novels and graphic novel scripts. I was drawing, drawing like crazy throughout my days. Doing character design for my graphic novel series, studying comic book publishers so I would know the one I wanted to plug it to. I had my sights set on the independents, because keeping my rights was important to me–I wasn’t writing for the present, I was building the foundation of a future. So I could wait a little, sacrificing present income opportunities in order to invest in a bigger future. For that “income,” I started my own Amway business and did freelance artwork, to tide me over while I wrote. How did that go? Well, let me just say I’m grateful my family let me live at home.

Some of my lack of success was caused by the fact that I was incredibly shy and introverted, trying to build a career in very extroverted fields. But I had that dream—I thrived on inspiration, and let it fuel me forward, even when the shyness made it almost painful to do so. As I look back now on the person I was then, I wonder if I could have made it work, despite my weaknesses? But at the time, I didn’t get the chance.

During my teens and early twenties, my family and I spent ten years as caregivers for my grandparents. My grandmother had dementia, and eventually forgot who we were. My grandfather died unexpectedly from a sudden onset of cancer. There were other hard situations we were overcoming as a family then, too. I learned many things, and grew a lot between the ears, behind the eyes, in those years—things that would never show up in my resume or bank account. They delayed my dreams. But they made me stronger, bolder. Partially because, once you’ve been hurt in certain ways, you stop being afraid of certain things. You lose some sense of self-preservation…you kind of don’t care what happens to you. So you get braver, and bolder.

I moved on with my family (my choice, turned down a graphic design job to do it). I looked at life as a new opportunity—I felt set free from the hurts of the past, and felt I could finally begin achieving my goals for the future. But anyone who thinks they can emerge from an emotionally abusive situation and hit the ground running is deluding themselves. It took a month-long bout with pneumonia and a dance with a nervous breakdown to teach me that.

And yet…I came away from those days, and emerged into a patch of brighter light. Suddenly I was free to return to my dream, and I did, with my whole heart. Back to the writing, back to the drawing. Back to the quibbling freelance work to bring in a bit of income while I lived with my patient family, too; but back to filling my days with creativity and excitement, and plans for a big future.

Enter carbon monoxide poisoning.

This was a setback that not only invaded its presence upon my goal plan, and delayed my dreams yet again; this monster literally stripped me of the ability to achieve my dreams. I forgot my stories. I lost my words. My hands forgot their skill and learned a new weakness, a new tremor that would forever mar my drawing. I was one year away from publishing a fiction novel and was beginning to draw the final draft of a graphic novel when I had to stop, and teach myself how to write and draw all over again.

Starting all over, yet again. When obstacles keep blocking your pathway, over and over, and you have to stop, and start, and stop again, you have a tendency to get tired. When you keep falling face-first into the mud, it gets very hard to see the way ahead. Dreams and faith and hope will carry you far, through many hard times…but Discouragement can be a towering monster. It can overshadow everything. When things get so very dark, the light seems to fade away, and you begin to feel that the darkness is all there is, all there ever will be anymore.

Yet the light is still there—the light of dreams, and hope, and faith. It’s just being obscured for the time being. Somehow, someway, you have to climb up out of the mire and walk past that beast of Discouragement. It’s the only way to see light again. Oh, it tries to walk with you, mark my words—does its very best to keep blocking the light. For me, I actually began doubting the dreams I had held for so many years. I began to doubt the worth of what was between my ears, behind my eyes. And that’s a tough situation, because that was all that I had left in me. Without the dreams? To my eyes, if the dreams weren’t real, then I was nothing.

Enter God.

Not that He wasn’t there the whole time. Until I stand before Him at the end of this life, I probably will not understand the whole meaning behind everything that is in my past. I see glimmers, I get a few things; but some of the “whys” escape me. Somehow I’ve managed to cling to faith through it all. But then again I wonder—is it really so hard to cling to One who is gripping you in an embrace that will never let you go? He’s been there with me the whole time. And now, just when I felt like I couldn’t pick my face up out of the mud one more time, and would lie there and drown in darkness…it’s as if He’s saying, “Let’s turn the lights on.”

I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it. Something has changed. Maybe it’s me. Yes, I’ve been working…imagine trying to scale a sheer mountainside by only using your fingernails. Yeah, that’s how I’ve been working the past couple years. So yes, I have all those years of work that must have been building to something. But they never led anywhere, to my thinking.

Until now. Something has changed. Something is different. Between my ears, behind my eyes, it’s been a long journey. It’s been…violating. It doesn’t feel like there’s much of anything left of me inside…just numbness, blankness, tears. Tears that flow easily at times. And fear…the inheritance of so many years of living life in the shadow. Fear that crouches and waits for the merest weakness to show within me…so that it can snatch my new life away from me. And fear upon fear, I am afraid that it has the power to do so.

But then I realize…there are arms around me. Strong, mighty, powerful arms. There is a vengeful love washing over me, shielding me, forgiving me the weaknesses that make me despise myself. Someone is holding me fiercely, saying the He is carrying me on through. Past the mire that threatens to envelop and smother me. Past the dark beast that wants to claim me. Carrying me forward to that beautiful light, which has been there waiting for me all along. He’s taking the emptiness between my ears, behind my eyes, and filling it with glorious things that I never dared to dream of, and can hardly comprehend. The dreams of my future.

And something is telling me that my future, at very long last, is here.

I’m sorry for the long blog post…but I think I’m moving forward on a new journey. And I must have needed to travel light.