Category Archives: getting your own life

The Drama Triangle (replace your role with your purpose)

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“We all have family dysfunction. It’s why we’re successful, to fill that hole.” Eli Attie

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My husband John and I kept a distance from our families of origin for years, even while one or both parents were alive. It wasn’t an ideal choice, but I didn’t think our marriage would survive otherwise, so I pushed for detachment. We’d leave family get-togethers and I’d exhaust him by scrutinizing how everyone acted. A family member filled me in later about bets they placed on how long our marriage would last. I didn’t have energy to fight John and confront that kind of judgment I suspected was happening.

By the time I heard the story, it was because of the irony of it – we were the only couple in the family still married to our original partner. Maybe I was right about having a better chance of staying together if we detached from family even though I didn’t understand why.

It wasn’t until I attended a daylong workshop for counselors to earn CEUs and do personal work that I heard about the Drama Triangle. I preferred a miracle, but instead I got a lesson. There are plenty of theories about family dynamics, but this one had our families’ names written all over it.

Understanding my role (and theirs) in both families, the one I grew up in and the one I married into, helped me grasp why I detached from them, and it’s helped me get my own life while loving the people in it even if from afar. I hope this explanation of the Drama Triangle helps you also – to identify what’s happening in your family, to identify your role, and to gain momentum toward changing it if necessary so you can get your own life.

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The Drama Triangle
(persecutor, rescuer designated to the top two angles, victim at the bottom)

Dysfunction usually happens when we react instead of intentionally act. Unless we work at relating to each other as adult to adult, we typically react based on whatever role we’re stuck in from our families of origin. Acting as adults is our true role and the goal for when we leave behind the drama of the triangle.

In Psychology Today’s article “The Relationship Triangle,” the author tells how marriage partners run amuck around the triangle and how they trade off their parts although each one has a primary destructive role. The triangle can just as easily exist in a big family, a friendship, a school (I saw it happen at the elementary school where I taught), a small business, or a large corporation.

The Drama Triangle includes a persecutor, a rescuer, and a victim. I’m using the pronoun “he” to keep the portrayals easy to read.

The Persecutor says, “What’s your problem?” He accuses, attacks, and acts out because of his anger and frustration. Sometimes he’s simply pointing out to the family that there is a problem, one they don’t want to talk about, and then becomes the problem himself. The persecutor needs a victim to take out his emotions on and a rescuer to absorb more of his negativity.

The Rescuer says, “I’ll save you.” He controls by doing good works for the victim, which turns out okay as long as the victim follows the rescuer’s instructions and the rescuer doesn’t tire of enabling – doing for the victim what he can and should do for himself. The rescuer needs a victim to save, as well as a persecutor from whom to save the victim.

The Victim says, “Poor me.” He is anxious, hurt, and helpless. He needs a persecutor to keep piling on the pain. That way, a rescuer can continue protecting and taking care of him.

I say, “Get off.” 

I recently read the article “The Three Faces of Victim – An Overview of the Drama Triangle” that stated no matter where you start on the triangle, you end up a victim. A friend pointed out how damaging it is to end up there when she said, “Victims never heal.”

No one gets better on the triangle. This explains why, at the counseling workshop, our lead counselor said, “Get off the triangle even though you’ll likely have to leave as a persecutor. People will condemn you for leaving – for being selfish, for not caring, and for not staying to help the victim. Leave anyway.”

I got off my family of origin’s triangle several times before I stayed off for good. The final time happened the evening a family member confronted me about dropping by my mom’s house to leave her a gift – a dragonfly necklace she had admired. He said, “Why’d you give her the necklace? What are you up to?”

He had a history of accusations, but that one was ridiculous enough that it gave me gumption to get off the triangle and stay off.

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This image reminds me of how hard I tried to fit a square peg (me) into a round hole (my family). It reminds me how often I made my family my god and the Drama Triangle my life. I wanted off the triangle, to get my own life, and for God to shape it.

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Getting off the triangle doesn’t have to mean estrangement from those who are still on it. Getting off could mean getting your own life while loving the people in it.

What shape are you in as far as your family role? Are you reacting to your role on the triangle or acting out your purpose?

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: I did a video the other day on this same topic. I showed the triangle upside down from how it should appear and I didn’t offer clarity about each role. I hope this blog post straightens out some of that.

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Get Out of the Car

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“Get out from your house, from your cave, from your car. Get out from the place you feel safe, from the place that you are. Get out and go running, go funning, go wild. Get out from your head, get growing, dear child.” Unknown

Last week, I vlogged about our minister getting a nudge from God when he asked what to do next with his life. He “heard” go to a football game, get to know people, and talk about relationships, especially the one with God. It sounded simple enough until he pulled into the stadium parking lot and drove around and around instead of going in. That’s when he heard another message, “Get out of the car.”

The very next day, I blogged about my urge when I’m in pain … to get in my car and drive to California. A friend drove the point home in just a few words when he commented on the post, “Procrastination thrives on pain.” He’s right. It sure does, which means if we plan to do anything except drive in circles or drive to California, we have to get out of the car.

So, what does getting out look like?

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Ever since I wrote a post, “Letting Go … what it looks like,” in response to a friend asking about that topic, I’ve thought how helpful it’d be to do the same with every plan of action. Getting out of the car looks different for each of us, but we typically find common ground that either keeps us in the car or gets us out.

Getting out of the car looks like …

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First, I acknowledge I’m in the driver’s seat. I’m responsible, so I think about the next easiest step I can take. I think “incremental.” I ask what one thing I can do today and I do it. I don’t add it to tomorrow’s list like I’m tempted to do. I don’t do five other things before the one thing. I don’t exhaust myself by procrastinating. Okay, sometimes I do, but this is even more reason to do the next right thing. Distractions are how we tire and frustrate ourselves. If I’m overwhelmed, I ask, “What feels manageable right this second?”

Second, I stop stalling and start doing. I stop talking about getting out of the car and telling others to get out of their cars. I stop reading books about it and watching one more webinar unless it helps with momentum. Wynn Godbold, a friend, speaker, and John Maxwell team member, said, “You don’t need another course. You need to write your book.”

I pay attention to nudges (and shoves) from friends and mentors like Wynn. The simplest first step out of the car can be the hardest, as well as the most significant.

Third, I review my goals every morning like recommended by virtual mentor Michael Hyatt. Before a week was up, I found myself thinking, I remember my goals, so I can move on. However, remembering isn’t the point. Motivation is. Each time I read my goals, I’m more determined to accomplish them. I don’t know why it works, but it does.

Fourth, I mark off one personal goal and one professional goal daily before I check social media. Not really, but it’s a goal toward my goals. The good news is I’m doing it more days than not, which means my Fitbit is working hard and so am I.

Fifth, I rein in reacting. I’ve given little attention to how often I put my goals to one side until noticing I put my blog aside in April and for no good reason. I wasn’t helping anyone, only worrying about them. The same happens when I try to avoid being judged, steer clear of making mistakes, and dodge negative attention – I’m not helping anyone and it’s bothersome to scrap my goals. And notice I said “try to avoid” because, unlike goals, judgment, mistakes, and negative attention have lives of their own and happen anyway. Goals only happen when I risk those things and get out of the car.

Until I wrote down these tips, I’ve been hit-and-miss at following them. From now on, though, I’ll practice intentionally since I know what to look for. Are there one or two that may help you get out of the car?

In This Together,
Kim

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

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“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

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I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

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So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Where Have I Been???

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“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.

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Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.

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 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Create Something Besides Chaos

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“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” Thessalonians 4:11

I took my own advice about being quiet, voting, and being creative until I let people I care about (on and off of Facebook) overturn my week. I meant to watch the results of the election on Tuesday and onward move. Instead, I spent from Sunday until today either in bed or online trying to make sense of how others were acting – not about me, not anything I could control, nothing that was my business.

This is a lifelong habit of some of us humans. Actually, it’s probably original sin at its most obvious. I want to understand (the reason Adam and Eve – let’s blame them – ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the first place), so I can decide whether you need acceptance or straightening out, and whether my feelings should be hurt. I need to understand why you’re being unkind, or at least make you understand why you need to be sorry. If nothing else, certainly we all understand I’m justified in judging you for judging me first.

It’s all beyond our limited understanding, even when we’re worldly, and kindness, humility, and acceptance are challenges when we don’t understand each other. They have their reasons. So do we, and they’re trying to figure it out too. I read an article that actually speculated I voted the way I did because I haven’t traveled more than 200 miles from home this year. Really? I need another apple.

“Martha, Martha, there you go again, letting their lives distract you from your own,” from “Choose Well (a distracted Martha in a world that admires merry Mary).” #GettingYourOwnLife

I heard Jesus’ voice this morning like he spoke this out loud, but I went ahead and reasoned how easy it’s been to get sucked into other people’s junk. I justified it because I’m sensitive. I explained it on Facebook – I’ve been kind while hurting for a long time, so why can’t you?

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Thankfully, I have a friend who listens when I complain (using the polite word here). She listens, but she also redirects when she can. Sometimes I’m like a derailed train and I’ll send her six long messages riddled with pronouns (after all, it’s your fault), negativity, and not-so-nice words because the problem is out there. However, her steady compassion, spirituality, and humor remind me I’m sitting with the problem, staring at the problem, being the problem.

It’s difficult to recognize, though, and challenging to admit because I’m so sure it’s you, not me, especially after the way you acted about election results.

By now, it’s Thursday. I’m discouraged and exhausted, but probably not as much as rioters using their energy to destroy instead of create things. Although, looking around, I haven’t created anything except chaos this week either, which is usually when I either nosedive or decide to pull out and do something different.

I’ve been here and “rioting,” like so many times before, when I’ve had no idea what to do with myself. I’ve felt hurt to the point of shaking and lashing out, frustrated enough to physically not be able to sit still, eat, or sleep, and so scared, alone, and misunderstood, I didn’t want to live. I was most afraid of the hole I’d fall into if the darkness kept on, and lots of times, it did. A friend reminded me, “It’s a tunnel, not a hole. Walk through it.” I trusted her, but, too often, it turned into a hole anyway.

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But that hasn’t happened this week because I’ve had more practice walking through dark places and, like my friend who redirects me said this morning, instead of a dark hole, I’m finding my “holy hill” – a place to go where I’m safe and guided and close to God. For me, this place is Creativity.

If you’d like to read another of my blog posts, here is the link to “Holey (holes and tunnels and holiness).”

When I think of being saved by Creativity (and my Creator), I think about what a friend told me when she found out I majored in psychology. She said, “Psychology is fascinating. My mom worked as a counselor for the Radar Institute.” In her next breath, she said, “I used art to navigate my way through my insane family dynamics. Art is an awesome way of communicating.”

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall

My friend’s quote, coupled with Marc Chagall’s, helps me understand myself even when no one else does and even when psychology and well-meaning friends with advice and church fall far short. It shows me the way to my Holy Hill. Get out of my head, into my heart, and Create.

Write it. Paint it. Take a photo of it. Sing it. Sell it. Record it. Dance to it. Build it. Bake it. Organize it. Travel to it. Draw it. Calculate it. Meditate on it. Decorate it. Collect it. Clean it. Teach it. Decoupage it. I used to decoupage everything except my waffle at breakfast.

Create something.

This is big. When we create, we biggie-size our breaths. We make what we do larger than our problems, bigger than what we dwell on, greater than what bothers us. Creativity is healing. It’s living a quiet life, minding my own business, and working with my hands. Sometimes writing, my version of living out loud, seems contradictory to living a quiet life, but it’s not when I stick with heart work instead of messing with the “Tree of Knowledge,” trying to figure it out, and overthinking. When I do it right and leave the apples alone, timely things happen like my art instructor sending a message just now, “I hope you’re playing in the paint every once in a while during our hiatus from class.”

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I’m reminded of Elizabeth Layton, also known as Grandma Layton. The 68-year-old spent much of her life suffering from feelings and coping with depression and bipolar disorder until she signed up for an art class at a local university. It saved her life. Grandma Layton overcame her difficulties when she began drawing contour art in 1977, which the Washington Post said “is good.”

Like God created us, we’re called to create because we were made in his image. When I do, I get caught up in a space far from needing to understand and a long way from judgment. I get caught up in creating, and time stands still and life feels magnetic and restorative and energizing.

Creativity is my Holy Hill. My guess is, it’s everyone’s holy hill. May we find that spot and live there often.

And heal … God, help us heal. 

In This Together,
Kim

The Images:

Rebecca Zdybel, thank you for your painting, your instruction and encouragement, and the image you created that goes along with this blog post.

Joel, I knew I had to use at least one of your photos. You’re photography not only seems like your holy hill, but it provides that same kind of space for others.

Grandma Layton’s family, I appreciate you reaching out when I wrote about depression the first time and offering her artwork for use on my blog. The piece I shared here is called Garden of Eden – November 1977. For more about her, check her out @ Grandma Layton. She describes Garden of Eden like this, “Women have had the blame all through the ages for everything. You know that’s not right. Now a woman would not listen to a snake, she’d run, wouldn’t she? This is Adam, he’s got a Band-Aid where his rib came out. This was my first E.R.A. picture. I was just objecting to being blamed for all of the sin of the world.”

The Quotes:

Jenine, there aren’t enough grateful words to describe and thank you for our friendship, your support, and for all things funny and good and sacred we talk about like belts and space and holy hills.

Maria, I appreciate our friendship more and more. It’s been fun getting to know you.

Betty, you’re gone and I miss you terribly, but nothing you ever told me has been forgotten. I remember when I need it most.

 

 

Timing. Wait For It.

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“Practice the pause.” Lori Deschene

Even though I had no idea how to get started, I made a list of writing goals and included ghostwriting. On this day five years ago, one of my writing mentors needed to complete a manuscript within 30 days, so she asked if I’d take over her ghostwriting assignments from an international speaker for a month.

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That’s right, she sent me an email about ghostwriting on Halloween Day. That struck me as funny, and every October 31st since then, I’ve thought about timing.

Around this same time three years ago, my daughter and son-in-law made offers on at least five houses in Upstate South Carolina, only to have every single one fall through. When they slowed their search and he submitted a work application in another town, my son-in-law had the job he wanted within a month and they had a house in an area our daughter had always wanted to live.

A similar thing happened to my son and daughter-in-law. They negotiated for months on a price and a repair list for a house they thought they wanted to buy. After giving up on working with the unreasonable seller, a house came available within walking distance of the college where our daughter-in-law is working on her master’s degree. They now live in a downtown area and just blocks from popular restaurants and quaint shops.

My husband and I have our beach house for sale. During July 4th weekend, we received an offer and accepted it. We were disappointed the buyers never showed back up because we had our eye on a more spacious house with a backyard big enough for a pool. We questioned whether to lower our price so we could sell faster and go ahead with our plan. Since then, we’ve had downpours and a hurricane skirt the coast, which left the backyard of our would-be house with at least two inches of sitting water where we planned to add the pool.

This week, we are looking at a different house (out of the flood zone) that’s more space for less money. It has the pool we hoped to add and a garage that my husband wanted, but almost gave up on. In fact, it has every single thing we want down to a screened in porch and a fireplace.

If any of us could have convinced ourselves that our timing was better than God’s, we would have been all about fast forwarding our plans. We all said the same thing, though, “Something doesn’t feel quite right. “ In hindsight, we figured out it’s not wise to rush #GettingYourOwnLife when all the signs say “no.” We’ve all learned a thing or two about practicing the pause.

What’s been worth “the pause” even when you weren’t sure you were supposed to be waiting?

In This Together,
Kim

One Foot On a Banana Peel, the Other at Kentucky Fried Chicken (a post about answering our calling at the age we are)

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“The days you work are the best days.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Four blog posts ago, I wrote “Choose Well” about sitting still so as not to miss the magic. This week’s post is about working, and for the same reason … so we don’t miss the magic.

A phone conversation gave me the idea for this post when a friend almost half my age said, “I’m afraid I’m going to be in my 40s, look back, and realize I haven’t accomplished my goals.”

I wanted to interrupt, but I didn’t, and say, “And your problem is? You’re not even mid-thirties.”

They finished, “I’ll end up feeling like a failure.”

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Before I gave into lecturing about accomplishments and age and having time on their side, my thoughts jumped to fried chicken. You know, the fowl that was fried up by Harland Sanders, the colonel of chicken and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62 (after he retired and drew his first social security check). He may have something to say about purposely planning not to work and being without purpose at any age.

I wanted to lecture because, like my friend on the phone, I’m afraid of getting too old to accomplish what I want. If I’d started on my spiel, I would have been talking to myself. I’m happy Colonel Sanders stopped me, and even happier he’s a reminder we’re never too old to dream and live it. We’re never too old for magic. 

In the meantime and because I’ve been back and forth on this topic for several years, I met with my financial advisor to review our retirement plan and several options for moving forward with retirement faster. Even though friends who recently retired from teaching said they’d absolutely find something to do besides sit around, I figured my husband and I needed a plan in place for full retirement. I secretly held onto the idea of wanting a lot of time off until I wrote last week’s blog post, “Called to What?,” about finding work we love and working it to the end. We can’t be irresponsible about getting older, but it’ll undoubtedly make our “retirement” plan easier to save for if we don’t plan to retire.

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All that said … 

We’re rethinking everything. We want one week off a month for the rest of our lives, and, once in a while, two so we can travel. We want something to do, and we want to love it daily. We want purpose. We want to spend time with kids and grandkids, but not end up poster parents for codependency. We want to tap into creativity and maybe tap dance. Wait, I meant line dance. We want to continue most of what we’re doing now. I want to write. John wants to work on our houses.

A friend’s comment on last week’s blog post confirmed what we’d already envisioned for our lives (minus having a baby), but we started changing it up the more often clerks gave us senior discounts and the more often we thought about retirement looming. Sybil wrote, “The Bible does not use the word retire. Moses was 80 going strong. Sarah was 100, giving birth. Watch out world, there is a generation of great people wanting to fill their passions.”

Her comment reminded me of one of the quotes I shared last week. It’s by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The world needs us to come alive before we retire and die. Once we’ve come alive, there’ll be no time to retire. 

Writer Richard Feloni put together an article about “People Who Became Successful After Age 40.” I thought it’d be fun and inspiring to share some of the personalities he wrote about.

Fun & Inspiring 

Jack Weil founded a popular cowboy brand, Rockmount Ranch Wear, and stayed its CEO until he died at age 107.

Rodney Dangerfield’s break as a comedian didn’t happen until he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show at age 46.

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook that launched her career as a celebrity chef when she was 50.

Ray Kroc was a milkshake device salesman before buying McDonald’s at age 52 and making it into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

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Vera Wang didn’t get started as a designer until she was 40. Gary Heavin was the same age when he opened the first Curves fitness center. Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T. My two favorites on the list are Laura Ingalls Wilder who published the first of her Little House books at age 65 and Grandma Moses who started her painting career at 78. Who is your favorite?

#GettingYourOwnLife can happen at any age, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy career like Vera Wang’s or a moneymaker like McDonald’s. It just needs to be work that gives us purpose. We can’t afford to get tired and retire before we figure it out, before we find our magic.

Where are you headed besides retirement?

In This Together,
Kim

I’m not sure it’s accurate about Colonel Sanders receiving his social security check, but I included it just in case it is since it makes a great story.

Thanks for the pics, Pixabay.com.

Called to What?

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Today’s writing is more a blog list than a post. With every click, another piece of inspiration showed up that I wanted to share. I couldn’t narrow “our calling” down to a story, so I decided to include it all –  quotes, links, and insights, especially since working our calling is the essence of what I blog about. It’s our way of getting our own lives. (#GettingYourOwnLife)

Compelling Quotes about Our Calling

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

“Live bravely enough to follow the calling in your heart.” Melanie Moushigian Koulouris

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” Bishop T. D. Jakes

“God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.” Unknown

“The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.” Fabienne Fredrickson

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Work Put Into Perspective

Here’s what Michael Hyatt says about saying “no” to retirement in his blog post, “Why Retirement Is A Dirty Word.”

“In fact, the more I think about the purpose and meaning of work, the more I’m convinced that nothing destroys our sense of purpose and health more than the modern notion of retirement. It’s detrimental to us individually and collectively,” said Hyatt.

In the same blog post and under his subtitle “How To Murder Your Heart,” Hyatt wrote, “The effect (of retirement) is that we’ve now raised a few generations to look for fulfillment in the pasture, not their work. Satisfaction is a future thing, not a present possibility. Joy is for later. Meaning and significance comes from checking out down the road.”

He winds down the article with a story about Duke Ellington. When Ellington was asked why he didn’t retire since he was obviously financially secure, Ellington said, “Retire to what?”

Hyatt said about Ellington’s answer, “It wasn’t that home was so empty. It was that his work was so full. He lived his art. Retiring would have been like turning off his own soul.”

“If you’re doing meaningful work you enjoy, why would you ever want to quit?” said Hyatt.

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The Significance of Our Calling

 No surprise that Sunday’s sermon was on the topic of our calling since I’ve been inundated with it. The message was delivered by Dr. Allen C. Hughes who said, “We were wired from the beginning to do meaningful work whether it’s preaching, construction, or landscaping, and we will never be content until we get clarity on what that is and do it.”

He said when people tell him what they plan to do later on or during retirement, things that include working their passion, he asks, “Why not do it now?”

His talk reminded me of Marsha Sinetar’s book, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood. It was published in 1989, which is around the time I read it, only to return to my unfulfilling job. However, I couldn’t unread her words, hence the search for my calling began a long, long, long time ago.

“Our Call to Work,” an article that appeared on the site of U.S. News & World Report, opened with this quote, “Producing and innovating is doing God’s work.”

The writer, Nicholas Leone, stated statistics from a recent Gallup poll that showed 55 percent of Americans derive identity from their work, yet 70 percent of them are disconnected from that same work. Amy Wrzesniewski, professor at Yale University School of Management, believes work orientation has something to do with it. “According to her research, job orientated individuals view their work as a means to an end. Career oriented individuals focus on success. Individuals with a calling view their work as part of their identity and are happier,” said Leone.

Another interesting point from the article, “The word for work in the scriptures is translated as both work and worship. Our work and worship are one and the same.”

Distraction From Our Calling

Also from Sunday’s sermon, Dr. Hughes listed three things that distract us from working our calling.

  1. Believing work is a bad thing, therefore we try to get out of it in lieu of doing what we were put here to do. We end up lazy and miserable instead of productive and gratified.
  2. Doing the wrong work. We decide we’ll seek out our right livelihood later, after we’ve made enough money, worked a job with benefits, or sacrificed enough to possibly retire early.
  3. Busying ourselves with too much work in an attempt to be important, successful, or fulfilled. The truth is, “right work” is the only thing that satisfies.

How to Search For or Stumble Onto Our Calling

Forbes.com published an article titled “20 Ways to Find Your Calling.” The writer’s advice is spot on when it comes to finding the work we love or having it find us, like my writing found me. My personal favorites from her list include spend time before money and find a problem to solve. My problem’s been #GettingYourOwnLife #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt.

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I would add …

  • Dedicate attention and time to what you love. If you want to turn your passion into a career, figure out how to make money doing it. I believe there’s always a way.
  • Listen to people, to music, to quotes, to movies, to life. You never know what may point you towards your calling.
  • Listen to God and to yourself. His guidance and your heart are key places to go for direction.
  • Ask questions like …

What are people saying I’m good at?
What job would I work for free?
What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

Stay tuned next week for more about our calling unless I’m on overload and running away from mine. Please add your two cents. It’s worth a million dollars to me and our readers.

In This Together,
Kim

Family is Not My Calling

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“Sometimes we have to figure out what our calling is not in order to find out what it is.” s. kim henson

No doubt there are moms and dads called to full-time parenting, grandparents called to full-time grandparenting, and wives, daughters, and sisters called to helping their families around the clock, but I’m not one them. Not now, anyway. It was a weird day when I thought, Maybe family’s not my calling.

Even though I’ve been restless for a while about getting my own life, I wasn’t comfortable with the message. After all, family’s been my life even as a child. I remember being compliant when mom walked me to school even though the other kids on the Air Force base walked alone. As a teen, I accommodated my parents instead of friends. When I was a young adult and with a family of my own, I continued to cater to what I thought my parents wanted. I carried on this same sense of care and responsibility into marriage and parenting, and maybe a little too far as my children grew up.

While journaling one day, I wrote several pages about my calling not being family, “God, could this be your way of prompting me to focus more on my purpose and less on what I think they expect?”

“They” included my husband, my two grown children, and their growing families. I answered my own question. God wants more attention, of course, even though I can’t imagine he’s displeased with the attention I’ve given my family. For more than four decades, my parents, my husband, and my two children have been the reasons I’ve gotten out of bed every morning. My daughter and I got excited about the idea I came up with not long ago, “What if, instead of writing, being a grandmother is my calling?”

We laughed because we both knew this wasn’t the case, even if I’d prefer it. After all, I’m good at being Mammy.

I’ve had to come to terms with why letting go of my family’s been hard, and I’m not the only one who’s figuring it out. While researching parenting as a calling, I stumbled on a book I added to my reading list. It’s by Christian author and mom of six grown children, Lesley Leyland Fields. The title is “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.

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My guess is, there are a lot of women like me who feel a pull to do something in life besides family, but family is a strong force to contend with. There are also women who don’t want to move on past family, but it’s good for us and for them when we get our own lives. They need us to let go and move on so they can too.

Mostly it’s hard to let go of family because my husband and children are where my devotion lies. There’s nothing I’ve wanted more than to be a wife and mother. To this day, I can’t think of anything more fulfilling, although I have dreams gaining momentum.

On a lazier and less loving note, family is an easier choice than my dreams. I’ve kept my life intermingled with theirs because my role as mom is a familiar one. I know how to do it and I pretty much know the results it will reap.

And, like Lesley mentions in her book title, there’s the worry and guilt that make it hard to let go. I get afraid sometimes when I see them go through tough times and I think I can do more than I can to help. I haven’t shaken the “shoulds.”

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Getting my own life, which to me means answering God’s calling, also means I’m venturing into unknown territory and, to tell you the truth, I’m not all that adventuresome. I say this, but something stirs inside of me when I hear the word “adventure,” and when I step into that adventure by making videos, contemplating public speaking, and dabbling in watercolor.

Writing all of this is strange for me because I’m sure I’ll be misunderstood. It sounds like I’m jumping ship on my family or saying they don’t matter or even that they’re not as important as all the things I want to do, but that’s not it. Writing this is more about trying to convince myself and other women that it’s time to reprioritize our motivation (why we get out of bed), our mission, and our minutes, and I think God’s all for it. After all, I would have never thought this up on my own, Maybe family’s not my calling.

I believe by living our lives, we help our families to better live theirs.

Next week, I’ll write more about our callings. For now, I’m getting comfortable with what my calling is not. I’d love to hear from you about family and your calling or anything you’d like to share.

In This Together,
Kim

Change Only Me

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“If we had God’s power, we would change everything. If we had God’s wisdom, we’d change nothing.” Scott Richardson

If you’re a parent, especially a mother, you likely know the feeling when family gathers all together after not seeing each other for a while. Sometimes our hearts are full because of conversation and laughter, meals at favorite restaurants, and activities that keep everyone entertained and happy. These visits end with either my husband John or I saying, “I’m grateful and so proud of each one of them.”

Other times, togetherness worries a mom. When we’re up close, we notice if things don’t seem quite right like tense moments and edgy remarks, frustration, and comments about problems at work and home. I’m no less grateful and proud, I’m just no longer focused on those things. I’m fixated on what needs fixing and changing. It’s a mom thing even if not a God thing.

When our family recently gathered, John and I looked for things to do since we’re better when we’re busy, but hotel checkout and flight times, a get-together with friends, mealtimes, and naps conflicted with almost every idea. The grandkids were waterlogged and worn out after a week’s vacation in pools and beachside before arriving at our house. All six adults sat on looming deadlines whether it was my writing, our daughter getting her daughter ready to start school, or her husband beginning a business startup.

Nothing seemed particularly wrong, but neither did our time together feel right. I tried to justify it with all these reasons.

I preoccupied myself the evening they left with vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and washing sheets, so I held off the emotional hangover until the next morning when I skipped my shower, the gym, and writing. That afternoon, I skipped lunch because John and I argued instead of eating, and not because of anything that happened between the two of us during the weekend.

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“Get your own life” (the topic I blog about most often) came to mind two or three times, but it was easier to give into louder voices in my head that said things like, “What if something’s wrong and you don’t help fix or change it?” “What if you discuss your concerns and make things worse?” “What if you don’t converse and drift apart?”

This kind of thinking convinced me I needed to write and talk to others, so I started blogging again in January. I figured I wasn’t the only wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend who needed to be talked off the ledge for caretaking, enabling, and people pleasing and surely I wasn’t a loner when it came to being overly responsible for others. All this doing for others feeds our attitude of “fix and change everything” when the real difference (the real fix and change) happens when we get our own lives.

This doesn’t mean we have no obligations to our families because we do. I doubt it means we’ll ever completely stop worrying about them either. It does, however, explain why the quote at the beginning of this blog post is significant. Life changing, really.

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Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because God wouldn’t change anything freed me to stop replaying the weekend. I could get back to my own life and my routine.

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because God wouldn’t change it either staved off feelings of having to do something. It reminded me to accept what is and to acknowledge things happen as they should.

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because I didn’t know what to change anyway freed me to have family conversations last week – conversations with real people instead of conversations in my head. By the end of each one, I figured out I had nothing to change except myself. Imagine that.

“Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Max Ehrmann (writer of Desiderata)

I used to sign off my blog posts “write where I’m supposed to be,” so we may as well make where we’re supposed to be gratifying by getting our own lives. What do you think?

#GettingYourOwnLife #ChangeOnlyMe

In This Together,
Kim

Photo credit to Pixabay.com.
Thanks for passing along the quote, Iain Boyd.