Archive for category Happiness

Living Gracefully

IMG_0115Graceful is not a word I’d ever use to describe myself – as a teen, a young woman or someone in the throes of midlife. Never had much style, coordination, or panache – things I once associated with grace. Am I aging gracefully? Am I embracing getting older with any decorum or style? I’m certainly embracing midlife with more authenticity than my early years. Why? I think my definition of grace has changed.

Grace is the space where I’m comfortable in my skin. The past no longer defines me. My mistakes are now experiments expanding my comfort zone. The recovery process (which I’ve mentioned in previous posts was from food addiction, perfectionism, codependency, relationship addiction, & abandonment issues) had released a grand scale of introspection and hindsight – two key elements to living in the grace that allows me to be transparent with those I work with, counsel, and in my writing. Grace is an attitude that allows others to be who they are in my life without impacting my joy and peace and allows forgiveness to be active in my relationships.

Thoughts living gracefully:
1) Know thyself. Work a program that will allow you to discover your motivation, desires, dreams and emotions.

2) Allow yourself to feel. Denying or postponing your emotions is a pathway to poor coping habits that will only hinder you on the path to creating and living a life that you enjoy.

3) Take control of distorted thinking. Understand that your negative or positive self-image is something everyone else sees no matter how hard you try to project another persona. Your self-talk influences all you do.

4) Recognize your values. Trade compromises, people pleasing actions, should haves and have to’s for actions that truly represent your cores values.

5) Take advantage of hindsight. The past remains with us for a reason. It can hold you back or take you past your comfort zone into creative pursuits you may have never imagined.

6) Be unstoppable. Realize that your opinions, your art, your work, your experiences – your voice matters and using that voice will strengthen not only yourself but others exposed to your vulnerability.

7) Be selfish. Don’t compromise on the time you take to discover you. After all, that time will result in the best version of you and everyone benefits – kids, spouses, partners, friends, the workplace.

8) Boycott ‘busy’ and ‘multi-tasking.’ Both behaviors interfere with how present you are for your life which is happening right now. You’ll experience a different quality of life when you engage fully in the person or experience in front of you.

9) Declare yourself. If you’re a writer, say so, a artist, speak it. There’s no more time for “Well, I like to _____’ or ‘I’m sort of good at _____.” At this point you either are or are not so tell the world and pursue it.

10) Risk love. Yup, I know. Take a leap for love and there could be (will be) hurt. There comes a time when you realize that there is no permanent downside to loving others when you’re living gracefully – aware of who you are and what you want in your life.

Need program suggestions? There are thousands like AA, Alnon, CODA, Celebrate Recovery, Who Am I?, Creative Recovery or a good read on the subject is also Turning Pro

How are you living gracefully? Your sharing blesses us all!

Create joyfully today!

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

“Creativity is contagious pass it on” ~ Albert Einstein

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Leaping into Creativity

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

Today is the first day of my new life. Life without a steady job – intentionally pursuing a lifestyle that I find joy in – writing & encouraging other creative people to take risks and share their stories and their art with this chaotic world – a world that is desperately seeking connection and meaning.

Risky? Yes, because as most people have, there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and cars to keep running. Worth it? Absolutely. At this point in my life I’m more aware of how precious time is and I won’t waste a moment more on unfulfilling pursuits. I’m ready to expose myself to the world to make a difference. Fear of failure? Absolutely present, but I rely on the accounts of other artists and innovators (ie. Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison) who have illustrated that what we term as failures are truly the learning process that leads to successes. I also firmly believe in my calling to encourage other women and my need to pursue this full-time.

So let the fun begin! I’m looking forward to the stretching, the growing pains, and the learning – and hope to stir up others along the way.

What are YOU creating today? What motivates you to create?

Create joyfully today!

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

Favorite post of the day:
If you’re a writer, read and share fellow Burlington College alum Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s post – Writers: 7 hardly-mentioned tips for submitting to zines. Kristi is an amazing fiction writer whose horror prose is jaw dropping. I highly recommend reading her book Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole: Tales from Haunted Disney World.

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Breathing Deeply…

 © 2013 Carolyn Moore

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

It’s obvious I’m a Northerner. I crave the sun. The shutters are wide open, inviting the uplifting light to warm the house as well as my soul. My mind envisions sunbathing and my body longs to go running. I don’t want to miss a second of gorgeous daylight. It’s about 20 degrees too cold for the casual walker to be out. For me, anything above thirty at this point in winter is welcome respite. I’m a Jersey girl at heart though, through and through, enduring the winters, loving the spring-summer-fall transitions, needing the city-country connection. Florida humidity just isn’t my cup of tea. Yet.

I’m so happy to experience this much sun and warmth in March! I don’t mind that bursting outdoors will have to wait till I am fully spent creatively. My butt is firmly planted. Mornings are my creative time but I do have to discipline myself daily not to succumb to distraction. I struggle with maintaining a steady output of words because I love research, brainstorming, reading, and encouraging others. I could spend all day just discovering and posting encouraging quotes and articles from others to stir up my friends.

But that wouldn’t serve the words I want to share and after a several decades of life, I do realize what I have to share matters and is worth something. We all do. Our stories are important; evidence that as humans we have so much more in common than we ever could imagine. Each unique personality paints a compelling masterpiece illustrating that we are not alone in our fears, our successes and failures, and our tragedies and triumphs. People connect through story. They heal; they grow bolder; they reach out to others who need stirring up.

All we have to do is show up. Be vulnerable. Try transparency. Risk everything. Serve your calling to create. Look past the possibilities of embarrassment, failure, ridicule. Sure, all that will probably happen occasionally, but those experiences serve the greater purpose – for growth and to serve others. If you’re not committed to a set creative time each day, make a decision to do it without self-imposing restrictions that hinder – just do it (oh, so Nike, but so true!) Creativity is not about being perfect – make a leap!

What stops you from a daily creative practice? Stir up others and share!

For a little extra inspiration, try a dose of Eric Maisel, creativity expert and author of Creative Recovery. An excellent online course at en*theos Academy – Your Best Life in the Arts course, also by Maisel.

Create joyfully today!

– Carol

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

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Life Interrupted

Suitcases Packed Life Interrupted

© 2013 Carolyn Moore

My mother’s life was violently interrupted this month by bacterial meningitis. Of all things that might befall this hardy 71 year-old woman, I suspected a landscaping debacle involving a palm tree, hedge clippers, and a ladder would bring her down. Great genes, great bone density, good BMI, physically activity – health concerns shadowed the recesses of my brain with a taunt of ‘someday when she’s old.’ She had a brief episode of cancer 20 years ago and has never been seriously ill since. But a handful of days and a chance encounter with a carrier landed her in the ICU intubated, sedated, and experiencing renal failure.

A splenectomy, 18 years ago, left her more vulnerable to meningitis than the rest of the population. The fight of her life began after being discovered on the floor of her bedroom by the police. I wept when the police officer described the entry and rescue, but I had no clue of the emotional nightmare to come. As I was pelted by phone calls states away with urgent decisions and approvals, my brother raced to the hospital through seven hours of rain. We quickly began to see how tenuous life the hold on life is and how heartbreaking it can be to make life-saving decisions for a loved one. Sixteen days later all I can recall clearly are the plethora of times my brother and I have said to each other ‘What do we do now?’

I have to admit I barely listened when my mother spoke of her ‘arrangements.’ My brother knew all those details for when she passed and I thought it inconsequential to think so far ahead with her so healthy. I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I was in the moment. I couldn’t ask my mother if she was allergic to penicillin, her blood type, the name of her primary doctor, or tell the police which neighbor was okay to leave her purse and keys with since they’d broken a window and left the house vulnerable. I didn’t know the difference between being on a vent for life support and being intubated or if either of those procedures violate the DNR. I had to learn the difference between EEGs, EKGs, and MRIs quickly so I could keep up. Initially the prognosis appeared optimistic at the weeks start; it became a ping-pong game of stabilize one symptom, create another problem, over and over again.

The situation vacillates between overwhelming and humbling with chaotic days plus an uncertain future created by the meningitis, the hospital-supplied MRSA, and erratic levels of care. But I’m not the one laying there fighting for her life. I pray she’s truly not in much pain and that she hears our voices. I pray for peace for her mind and body.

Life is on hold and out-of-state until then.

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Life Unconnected…

Some Facebook friends were reminiscing recently about the pre-personal computer era with some fondness. Most baby boomers are well acquainted with typewriters, mimeos, fax machines – old tech. Frankly, I do not share the nostalgic feeling these relics evoke. I adore cut & paste, spell check, HTML. PHP, research on-line – and the absence of rubber cement, white-out, waxers, rubylith and all the mess design used to entail.

I love my computer and the instant gratification it provides – my designs, in color and live on the web; my writing, in print not just ‘typewritten,’ as well as the benefit of near-instant communication with anyone anywhere. Am I a social media junkie? Not exactly. As a designer, I spend a lot of time with Adobe products. I write, so, therefore, I am an information junkie. Distraction by tweets and posts happen occasionally, but not obsessively.

If I miss anything about the low-tech era, it would be the physical separation from these tools. I rarely have a day that I do not turn on my computer. Whether working or not, email, Facebook, and Twitter feeds at worse, are glanced at. A note is sent, a show watched, a post commented on, a game played perhaps. Not too long ago, technology was left at work or in the home office for ‘work hours.’ My extracurricular tools were pencil and paper or a camera – nothing that connected me to an entirely different realm. Time with technology was scheduled into life, not something my life revolved around.

Having opportunities to be unplugged has shown me how important scheduling computer time into my life is rather than just having that tool available 24/7. Being disconnected –  on a trip to Haiti; during Super Storm Sandy; on a sudden trip to visit a hospitalized relative in another state, for example – showed me another state of being present which I’d lost somewhere along the way. The urgency to read, to post, to connect, slipped away, slowly, but the freedom was refreshing. I was more eager to connect with (real) people. I did not have to share, Google stuff, or keep up with training videos. And best thing – I could still write and draw with some lovely low tech tools.

Now, I have one computer-free day a week. I don’t even have the urge to check my email. If I want to share, I make a phone call, instead of tweeting. Now, I schedule personal social media time, during my work day, time instead of always just being on-line and available. The noise of the web is minimized, controlled, and not as important as it once seemed. My head is clearer and I feel more focused. I’ve even begun to leave my phone at home – much to the amazement of the (much younger) people with whom I work.

It’s true that technology has made life a lot easier, but I lost sight of how important it had become. My tech-free day helps me keep life and relationships in perspective and that’s a good thing for someone who works at home. On a computer. All day.

As I was getting ready click the publish button on this note, I noticed that Lois Alter Mark of StyleSubstanceSoul.com posted a video that expresses the joy of a tech-free life. And I get it, I really do. Could the marketer and writer in me let go this much? Very tempting, as Lois commented. Very tempting.

 

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Emotions, Vulnerability, & Truth vs. White Lies

How often have you asked someone “How ya feeling?” and gotten a reply like. “Well, it’s being going good for me. Work is…” or “Fine. It’s all good!” After nine months in recovery, I cringe every time someone uses phrases like this or any time I’m tempted to reply in a similar manner.

Why are we so afraid of feelings? Is it the exposure or the fleetingness of their existence that stops us from naming the emotion we’re actually feeling the moment we’re asked or perhaps the anticipated reaction? I tend to think it a combo of all three. Say my friend, Josh, another writer who is probably little more than a good acquaintance at this point, phones and says, “Hi, how are ya?” Standard greeting, right? But what if I answered, “Well, I’m feeling pretty depressed this morning about blah, blah, blah.” TMI for poor Josh yet truthful. So maybe for superficial friends, it might be more honest and less traumatic to say, “Eh, so-so today, but working toward awesome.” Less awkward, more truth, peeks at vulnerability, but doesn’t shut down the entire conversation.

I think we tend to substitute politeness for honesty especially with different levels of friends and depending on gender. It is never okay to say, “Hey, I’ll give you a call” or “Yeah, we’ll make a plan” if that’s not what you intend to do. Think about it. Who are you saying it for? Not for the person you never intend to see again. It’s all about your ego and how you feel about yourself, but it’s a lie. Denial for you, lie for her/him.

What does this have to do with feelings? Acknowledging our feelings on a level appropriate to the encounter enables us to engage more authentically with that person. I also suspect that we get into a habit of denial with everyone, not just someone we may not care to see again, but even with those we hold dear. Dealing with emotions can be messy.

Scenario #2 – Tom calls. Close friend of many years asks the same question as Josh. Same honest answer. Tom, who was focused on the reason he actually called, recovers quickly and asks a few questions about what I expressed. The point here is not that it’s a good idea to dump on everyone we meet because we’re having a particular ‘feeling’ but to authentically exist in the moment in order to make a connection with that person. It turns out that Tom had been having some similar issues and after a brief discussion, we made the transition back to discussing an upcoming hiking trip. I gave Tom an opportunity to meet me where I was or choose not to be there (like Josh, who had every right to disengage if he was uncomfortable.)

I could have chosen to side-step the entire question of “How are ya?” with a simple “Good” or “Fine, how are you?” but I’m no longer invested in pretending that life is a calm even journey that only affects emotions in me during a crisis. I’ll risk the exposure of my feelings, the embarrassment of feeling something other than ‘fine,’ (which by the way is NOT a feeling) and I’ll take the risk that a ‘Josh’ may say “Ah, ok, gotta run, but I’ll give ya a call sometime.”

I’m also giving up the claim that life is a series of little dramas that toss me around on an emotional roller coaster. Life is an endless bevy of opportunities to connect. Sometimes we will; sometimes we won’t. So if you call, and ask how I am, I will be appropriately truthful, effectively leaving the door open for a deeper conversation, or not, depending on what you’re feeling at the moment. I will be as fearless as I can for the sake of connection.

So how are you feeling today?

©2012 Carolyn Moore

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Riding the Wave of Uncertainty

It dismays me every time I see that I’ve let so much time pass since my last post. No, it doesn’t bother me to admit that because just like everyone else, my forehead is emblazoned with the words “work in progress.” Here’s what has been on my mind (and plate) lately. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of uncertainty and creativity for dual reasons – I’m giving my first seminar on creativity at the end of the month and I’ve been rereading Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields.

I do a lot of encouraging or coaching (as is might be termed by some) and I’ve noticed that handling uncertainty is an ability that a lot of artists do not possess. When faced with doubts or fears, I’ve seen artists push themselves forward to success, or self-sabotage, or choose a path that will ensure them the least amount of pain during the process of creation. In recovery, I’ve learned that this is training we should have had as children – to deal with the uncertainty of outcomes in a healthy manner. Not that I’m suggesting that all artists or writers are recovering from some ‘ism,’ but that’s always a healthy avenue to investigate if you find yourself constantly short-changing your creative process to stop the pain.

What’s this pain; this uncertainty about? Fields asserts (and I agree) that the double nature of uncertainty is the fear of what the outcome will be and how the outcome will be perceived (judged.) Like most artists, I realize the fear signals the foothold of what could be a fantastic idea – an idea worth exploring or an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up because the experience will be invaluable. It’s what we choose to do as the pain creeps into our psyche that will determine the depth of the creative process.

Fields details an experiment where subjects were asked to choose a ball from one of two urns. Urn #1 is filled with 100 balls – 50 black and 50 white. Urn #2 also contains 100 balls but the percentage of which is black or white is unknown. The subjects had to bet $100 on a color of their choice. Then they had to choose which urn to pick from. Can you guess which most people chose? Even though neither configuration had a mathematical or logical advantage, the majority of the subjects choose the first urn.

Because pain is uncomfortable and our fight or flight instinct usually prompts us to flight, most people will choose the path of ‘constraint.’ They stop exploring, close off options and create rules, look for systems and processes to justify their choices because of their aversion to the unknown and to being judged. At that point the adapting, testing, and experimenting and evolving is over. Continuing in the uncertainty, on the other hand, can lead to heightened creativity and a level of creative options that would otherwise not have been seen.

Sounds logical, right? But as I constantly ask my therapist – what do I do with all these feelings? (now that I’m not stuffing them, eating them, and denying them.) He says – just feel them. As crappy as uncertainty, fear, and anxiety feels – feel them and keep on creating. It’s okay not to know or be able to predict exactly how things will turn out. It’s very uncomfortable at first but it’s a worthwhile pursuit because what we live out in our creative processes, we also live out in our personal lives. What benefits one will benefit the other. Push through, work through the pain, and be amazed at what you produce.

How have you dealt with uncertainty in your life and your creative process lately?

©2012 Carolyn Moore

Food for thought: Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields
& Deciding to Push by Carolyn Moore.

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The Reality of Recovery, Part 2

And finally, here’s the next installment on Recovery…
codependency (the Merriam-Webster definition) – an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction. I would suggest that this definition is no longer as accurate as when coined in the AA realm decades ago. I discovered Melody Beattie’s book ‘Codependent No More’ in the late 80s, before my children were born. My partner and I saw ourselves illustrated in those pages, but due to our failure to hook up with a CODA (Codependents Anonymous) group, we never found a way out of the insanity nor did we understand from where it originated. We also did not see how we were in a codependent relationship when no illness or addictions were present. After two daughters and many personal trials, our 24 year marriage was shattered by the weight of decades of denial and lies.

At the time, I was baffled by my reaction to the breakup. I had decided to end my marriage and yet my emotional reaction to this action was the complete opposite of what one would expect. I was insanely upset that he did not want to save the relationship despite my desire to end it. My emotions were as out of control as my life’s circumstances had become (unemployment plus a bad economy.) After several months of tears and trying to figure out the ‘why,’ a friend suggested that I attend Celebrate Recovery. I did not understand why I would find any answers at CR (which I thought was simply a Christian 12 step program) but I attended until the process began to make some sense.

What I learned in those first few months, working the 12 steps & 8 principles of CR –
1) codependent relationships don’t always present just between partners who are involved in the ‘traditional’ addictions (drugs, sex, alcohol.)
2) that codependency is, in my opinion, a result of the interaction between people who have unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with pain (present & past)
3) some addictions are not as obvious as others, nor thought of as destructive (ie. food, shopping, people pleasing, perfectionism.)

At CR, I heard people from different circumstances and situations talk about their feelings and experiences and I could empathize with those feelings though our experiences were different. It sounds ridiculous on the surface. How could I genuinely relate to a young woman who has been raising several kids for a decade with an alcoholic husband? I realized it wasn’t about where we were now, but about where we had come from and how we were taught to cope. It was not about the content of our stories at all.

Now I was faced with the reality that I did not have to act or react the way I had in the past (similarly, an addict realizes they don’t have to have the drink, but it is a habitual practice of coping with pain.) The disease itself has a root – a beginning – that is about more than becoming addicted. I became addicted to numbing the pain (past) and it was the only way I knew how to cope in my adult relationships (present.) I could simply try to retrain myself to respond differently (to have sobriety,) but there would always be a struggle between me and the addiction. I began to believe that ripping out that root and facing it, developing a new way to cope with pain, would be a more effective path to recovery. And onto the next leg of the journey…

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New Year’s Attitudes & Adjustments

While I find the idea of resolutions pretty silly, I love goal setting. The act of committing to achieving or acquiring something I desire, plotting out a course of action, and attaching a significant emotional quotient to back up my commitment is heady. Particularly when I’m hopeful about what a new year will bring. So much begins to happen when I actually believe amazing things are possible and not just something that may happen someday if…

This fall my personal circumstances were altered in such a way that a radical course change in my thought process had to occur. If I did not choose a more positive, character-driven direction, I would be faced with choices that were not anything that I actually desired. I had succumbed to a bit of martyr complex as if circumstances were determining how I lived my life instead of those decisions being within my control.

I began to question what I believed God had in mind for my life based on what I saw around me. My faith took a critical hit because I believed I saw failure in following the course to which I had committed.  My attitude and my actions swerved off onto different paths causing dissonance and dissatisfaction which led me to rock bottom anticipating a life change I did not want.

As always, coming around again to reassess what God has planned, after a long hike about a mountain of despair and regret, I’m firmly recommitted, attitude and action once again reunited, to my ministry of encouraging others through my business (which has now been redefined and diversified) and personal pursuits (including the 10K and the beach at Christmas!) I’m grateful for the Lord’s persistence and my sisters’ faithful prayers. I prefer God’s path regardless of the obvious payoff. He has shown me His steadfastness this past year and I’m learning the depths of steadfast faith. Let the faith building exercises begin and the blessings fall. Happy New Year!

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Musing over crossroads…

Sitting at my desk, as the Northeastern autumn dump melted around me, sipping orange spice, I thought about what really makes me happy. The last few weeks have been filled with a blur of new information and potential. I spent last weekend with 450 women searching for revelation about their lives; a pathway to peace; an opportunity to hear what God is longing to share with them about their destinies –a venue to in which to grow. Earlier this week I spoke with several potential colleagues about an interesting job opportunity – unexpected, yes, but the timing is impeccable. This weekend overflowed with fellowship – nothing is quite like extended time with friends who know how to encourage you and speak the absolute truth when you really need it.

So what does this all have to do with happiness? A new friend recently wrote a thoughtful piece about the crossroads in life and how he had come to one, or rather, another one, in his life. He commented that he envied people who seemed to make life-changing choices by instinct rather than struggling to let go and make a choice to move on or stay. Considering this, I reflected on the past year and the painful choices I’d had to make. It was difficult to let go of a dream, of expectations, of promises, but the hesitation to ‘move’ or make a decision is often about the discomfort there is in change rather than the inability to decide. In my life, I find that when I’m stuck in that holding pattern, so to speak, eventually a catalyst of some sort will present itself and then I am forced to make the decision I wanted to make all along.

Once I moved, so many possibilities presented themselves it was almost overwhelming. That said, choosing a path does not solve all the problems or answer all questions. Nothing is ever that straightforward and choosing is just the beginning of the work. Through the hard work – answering the uncomfortable questions about how our lives are lived and who we are, choosing the healing over sickness – flows the happiness, the peace, and the genuine connection with inner selves and others.

Reflection does have its pitfalls. Chatting with a close friend on the subject, he questioned how I would be handling this new crossroad in my life. Really, I thought, what on earth was he talking about? Things were progressing swimmingly. I had never been happier in my life! I’d survived an unpleasant divorce, a career change, and a severe financial crisis this year. He was obliged to point out several looming issues that needed attention and I begrudgingly agreed with his assessment. I guess there will be more work after all. The crossroads were starting to look more like navigating the rapids of class IV river.

So what really makes me happy? That is where I began after all.  Possibilities, potential, not living on auto-pilot between the ‘crossroads’ but living intentionally and doing the hard work, being honest about what makes me happy and the values that make me who I am. It’s not the easy way to go, but embracing the crossroads – stretching emotionally – will offer an opportunity for greater peace and happiness.

For another view on the crossroads in life @ www.prestonehrler.com, “Letting Go, To Move On.”

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