Intentional

I’ve been working on being more intentional in my life. It’s a thing, you know. I’ve felt, lately, like my life is passing me by. I have a lot of goals, but I haven’t done much to achieve those goals. A friend of mine told me to just write the book (he may have inserted a curse word in between). Friends tell me this often. They don’t realize it’s a process, but they have the best intentions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I might have done some things differently years ago. That’s called depression. Or hindsight. To quote George, from Life As A House, “Hindsight. It’s like foresight without a future.” I try to tell myself that often. Because nothing good comes from the what-ifs.

When I graduated from college back in the dark ages, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. This big adventurous part of me wanted to go to Bangladesh and get involved in microfinance. But this homebody, security-seeking part of me, wanted to do what was safe and get a job in the United States settle down, get married, have a kid or three, and just be settled. Back then, I chose safety over risk. And, you know, it worked out for me. I have a wonderful husband who cares about me, three great kids, and we’ve built a very comfortable life where we can travel when we want to, provide for our kids, and are generally pretty happy.

Except. There’s always a “but,” right. Except, there’s this part of me that wants to take a risk. There’s a part of me that wants to make a change. Write the book. Change my life. Feel more fulfilled. And for about a month or two, maybe three, I was letting it get me down. I felt lost. And when I feel lost I tend to push people away and watch Netflix and actually chill (not chilling the way the kids teens/young adults mean).

I think this time it got to me because I was having a creative loll. Everything I wrote felt exactly like everything else I’ve ever written. I wrote about unrequited love. Blah blah. Same old, same old, dealing with issues from the dark ages that will never be dealt with. Let it go already, Lauren. Adultery. Divorce. The South. I was just writing without feeling the creative bug whispering in my ear. I was just writing to try to make myself feel better. So I kept getting bogged down in the middle. I wasn’t giving it my all. I wasn’t being intentional. In fact, for awhile now I guess I hadn’t been living intentionally.

The thing is, sometimes things seem dark, and it can make aspirations feel so far away. And sometimes life can feel so overwhelming that we sort of fold into ourselves. About two weeks ago, I decided to make a habit change. I started cleaning out the kids’ rooms. I started helping more around the house. I started putting down my phone at night, not getting on the computer, and sitting down and doing something productive or fun or just meaningful with my kids. And it didn’t help me feel better at first, but it did make me think about them and how I need to give to them. It made me think about how I have this wonderful family, and how we can support and love one another. And I know it made a difference in how they think about me. And I know that it helped drag me to the surface from just-below—that’s something how taking an action can change an outcome instead of just sitting still and watching it all fly by. And slowly, I started taking that intentionality into my writing again. Very slowly. Still slowly.

I’m writing about 500 words a day plus occasional blogs now. But the next thing I need to do is make a plan for how I’m going to get where I want to with my writing. I can’t do that without taking a risk, even if that risk means failure. I don’t want to look back on my life ten years from now and have regret or hindsight about how I didn’t go for it. And it’s hard and it’s scary to put yourself out there. And I’ve never been great at that. I’ve never been great at expressing no or “I want” or taking the ears by the horn cow by the horns – whatever the eff that metaphor is– and going for it. I mean, some people in my life would say that Lauren’s “I wants” rule the roost, but not in the important ways. I haven’t been assertive in a way that is meaningful to me. I haven’t been able to get from Point A-B. I always seem to get hung up somewhere in the middle, scared or paralyzed, unable to move forward. This might be called perfectionism. But I’m ready to let go of that fear and do something intentional with my life. Happiness comes from the doing.

The thing is, I don’t want to die wondering why I never went for it. I don’t want to keep wondering why I’m not living my life in the way I should be. I just want to live it instead of watching it pass by. And I have to do that by dropping the woe-is-mes and living more intentionally.

intentional

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Identity and Genre in Writing

I recently read Rabbit Redux by John Updike. I read Rabbit, Run before, and I hadn’t been impressed. In fact, I hated Rabbit a little bit. The book stuck with me though. I’d think about it before I went to bed. I let some time pass (and my life settle down a bit), and I picked up Rabbit Redux and loved it. Updike is masterful at creating a flawed character. Rabbit seemed like he could live and breath as he learned the lessons that come with life.

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I read John Updike’s biography, because I was interested in this man who could create such a life-like character. I have been struggling to write lately, and I needed some motivation from one of the greats. I’ve been focusing on reading, because sometimes when I read a lot the writing falls into place. Updike was a prolific writer. He wrote a book a year. He also didn’t let himself be pigeon-holed into a genre. He wrote the Rabbit series spanning from the 1960’s to the 2000’s, character-based writing like mine, that explored topics such as social norms, race-relations, and sexuality. But he also wrote some sci-fi-like, magical realism, historical fiction, and even prose.

I’ve struggled to find my style. I think all too often these days, publishers are looking for genre-based books. I mean, how many vampire books can we have? Romance? Humans love to classify information. Oh, Lauren Greene, she writes women’s fiction. Or, oh, Lauren Greene, she writes Southern Literature (not even listed as a genre on Amazon.com—what’s up with that?). But why? I write because I love to write. I write to solve my problems, the world’s problems (not likely), and because there’s something inside of me that doesn’t feel fulfilled unless I’m writing. I think Updike got that. I didn’t know him personally (I wish I had met him). It seems to me that he wrote what he felt like writing and his audience followed him. I’d like to be that type of writer. The one who follows her creative whims. But in order to do that, I have to sit down and write again. I have got to make it a priority. I have to decide that as a writer, I write, I seek publication, and I do the hard shit like marketing. Because in the end, I kind of want to be like Updike. I want to lead my life doing what I love, and I want it to show in the beauty of my writing. I want to mold a character into someone who feels real. Someone who my reader can relate to or even hate. Someone who sticks with the reader long afterwards in a familiar, comfortable sort of way. Writers are supposed to make their readers feel. And if I can do that then I’ll feel like maybe I’m doing my job.

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Success

First of all, it’s been months and months since I blogged. I went through a non-creativity period where I was busy and not writing at all. I shirked some of my writing responsibilities, and for that I’m truly sorry. I’ve always been an up and down writer, but in order to be a successful writer I need to learn how to work through those periods of less creativity. Since that apology is out there, I’ll get to the point.

A few days ago, I was sitting in a bored board meeting. One of the many men said, “Successful people usually hang out with other successful people.” This is not news to most people, and it’s true. If you’ve ever tried to get a job it’s all in who you know (despite the fact that the ambiguous they will say it’s not). But it got me thinking, what is success anyway?

The dictionary defines success in the following way:

noun
noun: success; plural noun: successes
  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
    “the president had some success in restoring confidence”
    synonyms: favorable outcome, successfulness, successful result, triumph;

    Hollywood ending
    “the success of the scheme”
    antonyms: failure
    • the attainment of popularity or profit.
      “the success of his play”
      synonyms: prosperityaffluencewealthrichesopulence

      “the trappings of success”
      antonyms: poverty
    • a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.
      “I must make a success of my business”
      synonyms: triumphbestsellerblockbusterselloutMore

      antonyms: failureflopnobody
    • archaic
      the outcome of an undertaking, specified as achieving or failing to achieve its aims.
      “the good or ill success of their maritime enterprises”

    I work an 8-5 job. I come home to spend time with my family. We make enough money to eat, go out to eat, go on wonderful vacations. The world would probably describe what Rob and I have achieved as a successful lifestyle (in large part because of the lottery of being born to the right families). But is what I have success? I’m not so sure.

    Success is personal. The definition of success I most relate to is a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity. Success in writing would be achieving publication, popularity, and being able to live off of my writing. Perhaps if this happened I would feel successful. Certainly, writing The Devil Within made me think of myself as successful, and it also made me think of myself as a writer. However, the dissolution of Booktrope threw a monkey wrench in my plans. This probably affected me more than I let on at the time. The more I think about it though, the more I think that failure often leaves to success. Those who take risks succeed, those who don’t go nowhere.

    The integral part of success seems to be the internalized desire to achieve a certain goal. For a person who is interested in business, that may be becoming a CEO. For someone who is super family-oriented, this may be staying home with their children and raising them to be capable well-adjusted (is that even a thing?) adults. For a writer, that could mean multiple things: writing everyday, becoming a published author, freelancing.

    The more I think about my idea of success the more I think it doesn’t line up with the traditional ideas of success promoted within our capitalist society. As a creative person, I find the hum-drum of a 8-5 job to be draining. Don’t get me wrong: I have a great boss and a great workplace, and hey it pays the bills. So many people would be content or even ecstatic with the life I have built. But to me, success is tied to writing. The more I write, the happier I am. And isn’t that the point of personal success? To be happy, the have a purpose-filled life?

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Begin Again

Self-sabotage. I think that little hyphenated word sums me up and a lot of other writers I know. I get into a funk, or I let busy get in the way, and I stop writing.

About a month ago, I started writing, yet another, novel. I wrote feverishly on it for about two weeks. I ended up with about 20,000 words. It was the most I’d written since Booktrope folded and The Devil Within went out of print. And then I stopped. I let the same old excuses stop me: I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never get published. I’ll never make writing my career. Self-sabotage.

The thing is: I will never be good enough if I don’t try. I have two hang-ups. The muddle in the middle where I think all my stories suck. And the end when I have to revise. I have a hard time revising effectively. It’s hard, in my busy schedule (excuses again) to find hour longs stretches where I can arrange, slash, and rewrite. But I’ve done it before. That should tell me that I have the capability. Still the human mind is completely adept at self-sabotage. I think it’s an innate fear or failure or success that makes me put the brakes on. Which is ridiculous. Fear can be a driver and a defeater. I’m ready to use it as a driver again.

So here I am. I promise I’ll blog at least once a month so you, the people, have something to read. Hopefully you get something out of it again. I’m going to stop defeating myself and start winning again.

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Recommit

This weekend, I started recommitting. I go through up and down periods as I’m sure everyone else does too. I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been editing. I haven’t been running. I decided a week ago I needed to do all of the above.

First, I created an exercise schedule to get my butt in gear to run. I’m signing up for a 5k to run at the end of October. I’m hoping this will help me stick to it again. After the half, I felt burnt out on running. I’m glad I took a break and focused on strength training. My body needed it. But it’s time to begin again. Plus, cooler weather will be coming in the next few months. I love running in the cooler weather much more than hot weather. The timing works out.

As far as writing, I just haven’t had the bug. Ideas haven’t been sticking. I’ve started a few works then dropped them. I’ve written a few shorter pieces. But nothing has seemed inspiring. This weekend, I went to a Creative Writer’s Group. I’d been once before, and it was something I had intended to commit myself to, but it just didn’t happen with our busy schedule. Well not, I’m going to start going. I need the accountability. I need to have a prompt. I need to set goals. Creativity is my purpose. I’m sure of that. Without it I often feel lost. When I’m writing, I’m my happiest. I know this. I’ve said it before. It’s just putting it into action and fitting everything into an already tight schedule.

I’m taking baby steps now.

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Going Ons

Hello Lovelies! I’ve been busy lately, and I’ve neglected my blog again. I’m sorry about that. Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on in my life.

I got a Fitbit HR Charge. It was a present to myself. I’ve been obsessively trying to beat a co-worker in steps each week. He’s short, so I think he must take about five or six strides to my one. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. The Fitbit has been motivating me to exercise more again, which is great because I had fallen off the wagon. Now, I’ve been doing Glide about three times during the week, and running about 2 times. I’m still running short distances and mostly running on the treadmill. I went out for a morning run the other day, and I had forgotten how much I liked the solitude and peace of the outdoors in the morning–not to mention the coolness, as opposed to 90+ degrees days.

My son found an Eastern Fence lizard in my parent’s yard, and he decided he had to have her as a pet. Her name’s Spikey.

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I spent about $100 getting this lizard set up in a cage with a thermometer, sand, water, a fake tree and a rock hiding place. I do hope she lives for a bit. We bought crickets to feed her, and we put them in a little critter keeper. They are the loudest things in the world. As I’m sitting here they are chirping and driving me nuts. At first, I felt bad that we were feeding the crickets to Spikey. But this morning, I woke up and went to get my coffee. I noticed the crickets were low on food, so I put some in their critter creeper. One of the crickets was cannibalizing the other. I had no idea they did that. Plus, the poor victim was still alive even though half his body had been eaten. Gross. I found this article about them, so I’m guessing these guys are really katydids and the lack of food in their cage led them to eat each other.

I’ve been writing again. Putting my energy into a story that is flowing better than anything I’ve written in awhile. Plus, reading. I read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff over the weekend. I highly recommend this book, and I’m going to write a review about it a little bit later this week.

And my oldest has middle school orientation this week. Where did the time go? I thought he was still just this little baby.

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But no. Here he is, a tween, and looking more and more grown up every day.

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Being a parent is so much about loving, teaching, and learning to let go. I hope I’m giving him the right tools to succeed in life. Parenting is the hardest, and every day I question myself. I used to have so much guilt in everything I did. I felt guilty for leaving him at daycare while I went to work. I felt guilty for disciplining him. I almost felt guilty for breathing. I was driving home from work the other day, and I realized that guilt is gone. Why? Because we, parents, are human and we’re doing the best we can. Because I know I am a good parent to him even on his hardest days. I know he’ll look back at his childhood and know he was loved. And that’s the most important thing, right? I also know, that he’ll blame me for a thousand wrongs. But that’s human nature. Boy–do I love this big kid more and more every day. It’s amazing to see him blossom into a young man, full of his own ideas, and to see him making his way in this amazing world of ours. Love you kiddo!

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Thinking Errors

Blame Game

Every once in a while I start to question my ability as a writer. When this happens, I usually take a break from writing. Or I procrastinate. I put my writing on the backburner as if this will solve the confidence problem I have when it comes to my writing instead of just making my confidence plummet more.

This week, my husband went out of town. He works from home. As such, he also does the majority of making dinner and cleaning the house, and he picks up the kids from camp, etc. He is basically Mr. Mom. I’m not sure what I would do without him, because he LOVES doing that sort of stuff and I don’t. I was lucky, because my niece and nephew were in town so we went over to my parent’s house most nights. Taking care of the kids and making dinner became a collaborative effort. Single parents: I have the utmost respect for you. I could not do it.

But my tween seemed to be having a hard time this week. And he was blaming everyone else besides himself. This is common among kids, tweens, and teens. I was upset by my tween’s behavior. I went to the internet to search why he always deflected blame, and why when I addressed it the whole thing blew up into a huge fight between us, ultimately ending with me feeling guilty. And then I read this great article and realized: It’s a classic thinking error. I found out from reading this article, how to challenge thinking errors when dealing with my tween. His classic thinking error is in thinking the whole world is against him. He has painted himself as the victim, instead of the aggressor. He has done this over and over again, because he has limited problem solving skills, probably because his parents (aka me and his dad) have not modeled correct problem solving skills when faced with certain issues, or we’ve been inconsistent in addressing issues when he’s in the wrong. In his way of thinking, when he hits a kid or gets into a fight it’s the other kid’s fault because that kid was “bothering” him. I challenged him yesterday. And I think it hit home. I’m trying to change the dialogue between us so he can start growing up and realizing that making himself the victim is a thinking error and won’t help him in the long run.

And in thinking about this, I started thinking about my own thinking errors. I have no time to write. I’m not a good writer. If only, I didn’t have a full time job, three kids, and 5,000 activities. I’m laying the blame for my failure to write everywhere else besides in myself.  I’m not taking responsibility for the fact that I’m ceasing to create. I’m making excuses. I’m procrastinating, when in reality I have the ability to change the dialogue. I have the ability to tell myself I can write. And I know this, because I’ve done it before even when I was busy. I made the time. I stopped making excuses.

Overcoming thinking errors is hard, because thinking errors aren’t just mistakes. Thinking errors occur over and over again, because we’ve learned to use them as coping mechanism so we don’t have to face the reality of our actions or the intensity of our emotions. People use thinking errors to try to protect themselves from getting hurt. Thinking errors are justification to ourselves when we’re doing something wrong. They serve a purpose of trying to keep our self esteem intact when our self esteem is plummeting. When we don’t take the blame, we perceive an injustice to us that’s not there. When we procrastinate, we tell ourselves that everything else is more important than what we’re meant to be working on. These are all ways to protect our ego and to protect our identity as we see it. But the problem with thinking errors is that they’re destructive. Do we really want to go through life feeling like we’re a victim of our circumstances? Do we want to make excuses or procrastinate until the opportunity doesn’t exist or we feel so hopeless about our own destiny that we throw up our hands and we cease to create, cease to strive for better? I don’t want to be that person.

I’m rewiring my thinking error about writing today. I’m telling myself that I do have time to write. I have time to blog, even if it is 5 words a day. I’m going to stop using procrastination as an excuse not to face my fears where writing is concerned. I’m going to do what I’m called to do even if I suck at it (which I don’t think I do). When we overcome thinking errors, we become more emotionally aware. We also become more capable of being happy, self-confident, and achieving success.

Do you have a thinking error that’s holding you back from achieving success, establishing friendships, or facing your own demons?

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Weekly Goals June 17-25

Today is June 17th. First of all, I’m going to report on how I did on last week’s goals. Then I’m going to assign new goals. And I’m going to let you know that I’m having a vacation week from June 25th-July 1st, so there won’t be goals that week.

Exercise

  • Run 4 miles on Friday, June 10 — I achieved this. I went to the Y and ran on the treadmill.
  • Run 6 miles on Saturday, June 11th. Try to keep up with my running partner who has suddenly become a speed demon. I ran. But I also walked. I struggled with the heat.
  • Sunday is a day of rest (I think this was duly noted somewhere thousands of years ago) I rested! And swam.
  • Glide on Monday, Yoga Tuesday, Glide Wednesday, Thursday short run, start over Friday — I screwed up in this department. I did Glide Monday, 2 mile run Tuesday, and then Glide on Thursday. I had lots going on this week, so I didn’t get to the gym as much as I wanted, and the heat and the humidity outside was too much for me.

Food , Drink, Weight

  • No alcohol on weekdays.I was doing so well, until last night. I had wine with my childhood girlfriends. It was worth it.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies Done!
  • Less chocolate Done!
  • No chips from my chip-pusher James.James didn’t bring chips! I didn’t eat ANY this week.
  • Strive to lose 1 lb per week until I hit my goal weight (12 lbs to lose) I lost 2.8 lbs this week. 
  • Write every day – I’m done with setting word limits, because sometimes I do less and sometimes I do more, but I find creativity flows better when I write at least a little bit every day. Blogs count too.– Achieved. 

So here are my goals for this week:

Exercise

  • Yoga tomorrow at the lake with my friends! And I may run if I get up early enough. If not, oh well.
  • Sunday-rest and recovery.
  • Monday – Glide
  • Tuesday – run AM – 2-3 miles/Glide Lunch
  • Wednesday – rest
  • Thursday — Glide at lunch or run the treadmill (2-3 miles)
  • Friday – rest

My food, drink, weight goals are the same as last week:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • No alcohol on weekdays
  • Less chocolate
  • No chips on weekdays (I may eat some this weekend, but anything goes then!)

Writing

  • Come up with a plan
  • Finish editing Little Birdhouses or at least work on it SOME.
  • Finish 2nd girl in the Daniel series and start 3rd.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and that you set and achieve some awesome goals in the following week! Let me know your goals for the upcoming week/month/year are!

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Weekly Goals June 10-17

Today is June 9th. Well, you’re reading this on Friday, June 10th, because I wrote this post yesterday. I’m literally speaking to you from the past. This week I have been making excuses. Back a long time ago, on this blog I checked in once a week with goals. I felt this helped me make changes in my life. I know this might be boring for some of you dear readers, but it might also inspire you to make your own goals and live by them.

Back at the end of April, I ran a half-marathon. I think some of you might remember that. And then I lost my exercise mojo. I hated running after that dang half. I didn’t want to take another step. I didn’t want to run another mile or two, but definitely not LONG runs. Thinking about running 8, 9, or 10 miles gave me anxiety. I threw myself back into yoga and Glide, and I went to a few other classes at the Y. Then I started cleaning out my closets. And eating…a lot. And I gained weight. Imagine that. But at first, I lost weight which was weird and confusing. Then I gained 5 lbs this week. In one week. Hopefully that’s water weight, but gees. It takes me so long to get it off that standing on the scale and looking at that number made me want to vomit in my mouth a little a lot.

So I decided today was the day to make goals. And I will do this every Friday for the upcoming week. Friday seems like a good day, because it’s the day I weigh myself and actually believe the scale (I weigh myself almost daily, because it helps with maintenance but Friday is the day of truth). Also, it allows me to set my goals for the week ahead and not fall off the wagon if I play around a little bit on the weekends. I was originally taking part in a weekly blog post on Fridays, but I lost that motivation too. Ugh—motivation can be a hard thing to grasp.

Here are my goals this week (and they are weight loss, lifestyle, and writing goals by the way).

Exercise

  • Run 4 miles on Friday, June 10th
  • Run 6 miles on Saturday, June 11th. Try to keep up with my running partner who has suddenly become a speed demon.
  • Sunday is a day of rest (I think this was duly noted somewhere thousands of years ago)
  • Glide on Monday, Yoga Tuesday, Glide Wednesday, Thursday short run, start over Friday

Food , Drink, Weight

  • No alcohol on weekdays.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies
  • Less chocolate
  • No chips from my chip-pusher James.
  • Strive to lose 1 lb per week until I hit my goal weight (12 lbs to lose)

Writing

  • Write every day – I’m done with setting word limits, because sometimes I do less and sometimes I do more, but I find creativity flows better when I write at least a little bit every day. Blogs count too.

Those are my goals for the upcoming week. What are yours?

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Letting Go

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By Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE – Colours, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19871961

A few years ago, a movie came out. If you have little girls, you certainly saw it. My own little girl was still really little, and we didn’t go to the movies. Instead, we waited patiently for Santa Claus to deliver the little case with Frozen inside. And we sang and listened to the song a million times: Let It Go. It’s good advice, and if you listen to the song it’s about letting go of fears, expectations, and the past.

As I said in my blog last week, I’m reading The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Kondo writes about how purging and cleaning out allows you to let go of the past and live in the present. Being someone who has suffered from depression for most of my adult life, I have problems with living in the past. I go through times where my past seems to haunt me, almost a present-being within my life, absorbing and sucking all the joys from today. I think we have a lot to learn from the past, but I also think some people, including me get stuck trying to relive the moments that made us happy.

I cleaned out clothes this past week. And I must have had 8 or 9 bags full. I threw out American University t-shirts I hadn’t worn in years. When I held them in my hands, I felt the memories sitting in them taking up space in my life where new memories could be made. I hesitated, and then tossed them. This was a milestone because for me, I have a hard time letting go. When people leave me or move on, and as life moves on, I mourn the past joys, excessively. Recently, I read that happiness is a moment. Those glimmers of sunshine where you know a memory will stick. Humans have a want to hold onto those moments and try to make them permanent when really the beauty in them is their impermanence.

I look at happiness as an action. Happiness has to be created. One has to stop living in the past or the future and focus on finding happiness every day. This can be done by influencing your happiness. Surround yourself by people you love, exercise, smile, laugh, find a sense of humor, be accepting and loving and giving. These are all ways to make yourself happy through action.

I haven’t gotten to the hard part of cleaning out: mementos. Last time I went through all of my writing and letters from the past, I ended up severely depressed. I’m thinking of scanning the letters this time and throwing out the originals. I have letters from my grandparents at camp when I was a kid. I have letters from ex-boyfriends and ex-wannabe-boyfriends. I have letters from friends who are no longer friends. Perhaps the funniest thing I kept was a fax from my mother when I ran out of funds in Spain asking me if I had drank all of my money away (I had). Boy, she knew me!

Since I started purging, my creativity has blossomed again. I don’t think it’s coincidental. I think the act of purging is redefining my desire to be a full time writer. I know writing makes me happy and defines who I am, and in purging I’ve realized the more I run away from that thought the unhappier I am.

How do you focus on the present? What are some tricks you have for letting go? What’s your dream in life?

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