Seeking Normal – Day 16

Day 16 prompt:

What is your level-set? Why?

The prompt is a long-one this morning so I set the question above and offer the entire prompt here. Admittedly I do not like the way I originally wrote the prompt so I am revising as I rewrite it below. 🙂

  • Everyone’s normal is predicated on their upbringing. There is no “normal”, this is what we all come to realize early in life as we are introduced to people outside of our household. If you come from a wealthy family, your “normal” may already be planned for you, while if you are from a poor family, you may be working to leave that “normal” behind for you and your family.

My answer:

Based on how you were raised, you define your first concept of normal. This quickly becomes what you are used to and when you see examples of normal that our outside of what you “know” you are left with a condition to compare against. These early realizations occur when we are young. I remember realizing that what I knew as “normal” was very different than my friends in the neighborhood and in elementary school. At that point I did not know better from worse, I just knew it was different.

As I have become an adult I have come to realize that what may appear from the outside as a “better normal” is tested as when you look beneath the surface you come to realize that normal is not defined by wealth, health or relationship status. There were many years, especially through my 20’s, that I attempted to hide my “normal” as I felt it made me “less than” those around me. As I continued to evolve as an adult I was fortunate to realize that my childhood experiences served me extremely well in the varying environments I would experience throughout life. I was better equipped than those around me because of the early-experiences in my life.

To answer the specific prompt, “What is your level-set? Why?” My level-set or normal is very different than the way I was raised. This was a normal that was created intentionally as I was determined to live it different. It is hard to change your normal because the very act of changing what is normal in your life requires a path through uncharted territory. I had the courage to do it because I knew that what I experienced early-on was not the life I wanted to live as my “forever”. I knew this because I had the benefit of observing other lives that were more appealing and if I am being honest, less devastating.

I still work on this life that I now consider my normal, daily. It takes a great deal of discipline and sometimes that discipline feels like “force” because it is. I have a great deal of fortitude and summon it often. My weakness is where I am not able to control the environment because I rebel and am hesitant to follow. I revel in controlling my fate, which in itself is an oxymoron because the very definition of “fate” is “the development of events beyond a person’s control“.

This prompt created discord from the moment I read it. I didn’t like the way it was written, I didn’t like what it represented and ultimately it forced me to seriously contemplate. It is when I am pushed into a place that is uncomfortable that I find my reveal. I learn things and ultimately admit things about myself that I may not have readily seen previously. The example of this is in the last paragraph where I actually use the word “rebel” in describing myself. Many years ago when taking a Personality Test it described me as “rebellious” to which I was almost offended. When discussing it with those that had also taken the test I told them that the test was wrong as I was not “rebellious”. They quickly corrected me…ha! Over the years I have also come to realize and own my rebellion.

Rebellious is defined as:

“…showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention.” or “…(of a thing) not easily handled or kept in place.”

Yep…that is me…try to hold me down…but be ready for the fight…rebellious is my level-set/normal.

Life as I have lived it – Miami Gangster

Seeking Normal – Day 11

Day 11 prompt:

How many variations of normal do you have in your life? For example today you may be happy or sad or ill – are they all “normal”?

My answer:

Interesting topic as it may be it about what is YOUR normal and my normal is obsession over diet and exercise and anxiety about things that others don’t even think about. This is MY normal. It is not what I embrace but it is what is true.

My normal makes me crazy as I just want to be free of a mindset that is always counting a calorie and pushing to be more disciplined but I am grateful deep down as it is what keeps me healthy. My normal also overthinks everything all the time. This has its pros and cons. It doesn’t allow for time to relax but it does force change.

I do check for “normal” in other areas of my life as I see conditions recurring I worry that those conditions look, from the outside, to be my normal. In the last year I have had a number of health problems and while I know they are not the norm, I worry that from someone else’s perspective it may appear that I am “not well” as a norm.

Last and worth mentioning is much like noted above in what my normal looks like from the outside, I like to be held accountable to “my normal” and find that when I share my intention, I create accountability to become my new norm. This is important as you decide to change your life. It takes work and time to make a habit a norm but by representing it as your normal; you have already pushed beyond a “want” as now it appears to be a need and so it is.

What is your norm? Be honest. Look from the inside and define normal but more importantly take the time to look from the outside. What does your normal look like from someone else’s perspective?

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 10

Day 10 prompt:

Is crisis normal for you? Are you creating crisis in your own life? In the lives of others? Are others creating crisis in your life?

How do you begin to change that?

My answer:

Crisis is not normal for me. I am someone that has anxiety without crisis so to feed into it is counterproductive. When crisis hits in my life I find myself swimming deep in it. This is not a negative but more of an aggressive approach to dealing in it. I can handle crisis better than others as I naturally organize and use my resources optimally.

I do not create crisis in my own life nor in the lives of others. I am actually accused of solving for others; before they even know they need a solve. Again I think that is likely because of my fortitude. I have been through more “than the average bear” and have had to find resources to get where I am mentally and physically and therefore I want to pass that on to those that are standing on that START LINE where I have made it through.

On the last question, this is where I have the most to contribute. Yes, others try to create crisis in my life but the difference is that I no longer allow it. I have been tolerant for many reasons for too many years and I have finally gotten to a point in my life that I simply will not allow it. If I don’t want it then I am not going to tolerate it, not for the sake of anyone or anything. It’s a decision; everything is!

This is a great prompt for our days of COVID-19 because it has caused crisis. It is life or death, it is the most legit crisis we have ever known and I hope will ever know. How you deal with it, how you survive it will be your story, the memory of a time gone by that you will recount for years to come.

Imagine – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 9

Day 9 prompt:

People talk about the “new” normal. What was the “old” normal?

Did that label ever fit you?

My answer:

Well once again I could not have known when I wrote this prompt that I would one day be answering it in a world where the “new” normal is a daily condition. My “new” normal is working from home, seeing my grand-babies every single day or better yet as my husband reminded me today, spending more time with my spouse now than in the 24 years we have been married! Ha!

So what was the “old” normal; well the obvious answer would be the world as we knew it. Working weekdays, lounging weekends, socializing with friends and family and sometimes so routine that it felt like a dreadmill that we called “life”. Now I get the benefit of looking back and wishing for that “dreadmill” of “life”. There is something about deprivation that makes you want back what you took for granted so easily before.

If I am being honest with myself the “new” normal has become the “old” normal that I did not like. I always preferred weekdays as I found my life more routine and my habits more disciplined. Weekends lacked structure and a sense of urgency and now my “new” normal is like a never-ending weekend. I mean, it is different, it is more chaotic, it is more, simply put it is “more”. There is no break, because the environment stays the same 24/7. I am less health-conscious which is so ironic because I certainly have the time to do more; exercising is doable, eating right is accessible and yet I am doing neither. Why?

“New” normal, “old” normal; what does it really matter? Well it does because normal is truly defined as, “the usual, average, or typical state or condition” and in this world nothing is usual, nothing is average, nothing is typical and the only state we are in at this point is a state of stillness to the point of stupor. Those that are truly among the disciplined maintain their “normal” despite the environment and that is what I now long for; that is my new goal. Better said, I choose to create a normal that is neither “new” or “old” but expected despite the environment.

Wishful thinking for a “new” normal – L. (HA!)

Seeking Normal – Day 8

Day 8 prompt:

Is wanting control in every single aspect of our life normal? Control over every emotion, person, stressors, etc. that are in my life…

My answer:

I could not have known a year ago when writing this prompt journal that it would be put to the test in a pandemic that has taken our entire idea of normal and turned it upside down. Control is what we do not have right now and it is truly showing the character of a nation. We cannot go outside of our homes, or shouldn’t, and that is where the control in our lives exists. Controlling our exposure to the virus means doing our part to stay isolated.

I don’t know if “wanting control” is normal but it creates comfort because when you are “in control” you are not a victim of other environments. Having the choice is a pivotal characteristic of control. When you can choose, you have control. It is where we don’t have choice that we find ourselves victimized. I don’t want to be anyone’s victim and that has as much to do with how I react to those things that I do not have control over as having control. I guess it is fair then to say that having or wanting control over all things is “normal” because ultimately no one can take away your control.

Ironically outside of this time in our lives where everything is about the virus that is holding us prisoner as a nation you always ultimately have control. Taking control is about responsibility. Where do you assume responsibility? Where do you surrender? Ultimately you decide and that is control regardless of environment.

Life as I control it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 6

Day 6 prompt:

Contentment is a state of being but how does it relate to normal? Is “normal” having routines or is it simply being satisfied with our state of being at that moment? Is it wrong to long for contentment beyond this moment? Is this where lacking gratitude begins?

My answer:

This is a heck of a prompt as the more I have researched the more I realize that contentment is more about gratitude for what you have and who you are in life in general. Normal is the routine or what is commonplace for you and a shared commonality for the masses. I think as it is written the prompt confuses the two.

Where I think the two can merge is to create the “normal” or routines in your life that creates contentment. If I am working daily to become more content then one begets the other.

As I often do I researched and found the following as a great guide to pass on to be content:

  1. Practice Gratitude
  2. Take control of your attitude
  3. Break the buying habit
  4. Stop comparing yourself to others
  5. Help others
  6. Be content with what you have, never with what you are

#6 got my attention as it seemed counter intuitive however as it was described it noted, “Contentment is not the same as complacency. As soon as you stop growing, you start dying.” The idea is that there is always room for improvement.

Funny as it may seem I also researched a list to offer on “how to be normal” and actually found something to share:

  1. Become more open-minded.
  2. Surround yourself with people you like.
  3. Love unconditionally.
  4. Do what you love.
  5. Realize that bad things happen to everyone.
  6. Learn how to forgive yourself.

Interesting lists as they are great to remind us how to create contentment and normal in your own life. I guess the prompt might have been better stated, “Is it normal to feel content” and the easy answer is not right or wrong it is more of an evaluation of where you are in the moment that you are answering that question.

I hope that this exploration of “seeking normal” is helping you to understand where you are today and where you wish to be in the future. The way you spend the time today will define your normal and ultimately if you will ever find contentment in the future.

Life as I seek it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 1

Last year we published a prompt journal called “Seeking Normal” after a journal entry I had written about my journey to get back to normal after losing my Mom. It was in that journey that I began to understand that this “normal” I was searching for likely never existed. My original post can be found by clicking on the book cover below. It is raw because it was through that unconscious writing session that it occurred to me that what I was searching for what will NEVER be again.

It was after that day that I began to “accept” that normal is a state of being but is not “real”. Normal is what you make it, what you believe it to be. There is a process in finding normal or identifying it as it is exists in your mind versus your reality.

There is NO time like the present to pull this journal out and explore this NEW normal that we all find ourselves in. For this is normal as it exists now and the sooner we realize it the sooner the angst that is driving us to want to break-out will resolve.

My offering TODAY is to launch a 90-day online journal series where we will explore the daily prompts online. I will post that day’s journal prompt and answer within the post.

So let’s get started…

Day 1 prompt:

So, we know what the dictionary says (about “normal”).

How do you define “normal”? How does that fit with how you feel the world defines it?”

My answer:

I define normal as a routine that reoccurs over a series of days, weeks…any amount of time. I have routines that I prefer and want as my “normal” however that does not make it so. My normal right now is waking up early, as I always have, writing, working out, getting ready for work and then walking to the dining room table where I will work. My commute is much less as it is a walk through the kitchen to get to that dining room table versus the hour in the car that I used to spend to drive the 50 miles to my office. This is what the start of a normal day now looks like, better or worse is irrelevant as it is what it is and for now this is my new normal. In my mind, it is important to label “normal” so I am not longing for something that is not possible.

How the world defines it? Well my impression is that normal is something that is standard. Dinner table fellowship, going to work, playing with friends on the weekends…yes that is what we are taught is “normal” but ultimately that is NOT normal but quite the exception at this time in our lives. It is why we see so many people going out of their homes despite the order to STAY HOME! When you are “seeking” you cannot find contentment.

This is my Day 1 entry and I invite you to note your response in the comments section to continue this conversation. Let’s unite and find understanding by sharing our common condition. We are human, we are one trying to find “normal” together. You sharing how you are exploring this new journey will help someone else…please share. – L.

Get your copy today – https://www.amazon.com/Seeking-Normal-Prompt-Journal-provoking/dp/1690835680/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=JG6R4RCJG1PVX7CCSEHY

Who are you…really?

This moment in our lives when everything we thought “was” “is” we are faced with many questions about life and who we are. We walk around in this world in “roles” as defined:

the function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation

When that assumed function or part is no longer relevant because the situation no longer exists who are you? The situational roles cannot “define” you as they are only relevant in those situations however those roles that are truly defined are who we are regardless of situation. Mom is a role we play regardless of situation, if you are a Mom you are and will always be a Mom. “Director of ______” is a title that becomes a role you play in a situation. That “title” does not have relevance in all situations.

Why do I go into all of this? Well because I think it is easy to identify with these titles that truly cannot define us however when we lack definition of who we are we claim these titles as identity. The issue in a time like this when we are stripped of those titles, roles or fantasies of who we tell ourselves we are or better who others think we are, is that we are forced to face what is left…who are you? Who are you…really???

This is the time to look inward, reflect, revisit your plan and start over again. As Swizz Beatz, an American hip hop recording artist, DJ and record producer said, “everyone should have a 2.0 version of their game-plan. If you don’t use this time you never will. How many times have you heard people say, “only if I had time to do…”. This is the TIME.”

He is right, the time is now to define who you REALLY are and then decide who you want to be and make the game-plan.

I want to offer you an exercise to try-out as you are exploring “what’s next” in this journey, building your 2.0 version of who you and who you want to be. This was offered by Tim Ferris in a 2015 TED Talk and can be very revealing if you just give it the time, the idea is not goal-setting but FEAR-setting…let’s explore.

  • Fear-Setting – 
    • Ask yourself the following “What if I…?” and then do the work to “Define”, “Prevent” and “Repair”.
      • Define – write all of the worst things that will happen if you take that step. Write at least 10 things that you fear will happen.
      • Prevent – write down the answer to prevent each of these from happening or decrease the likelihood. 
      • Repair – what can you do to repair the damage if the worst thing happens.
    • What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success in your “What if I…” scenario?
      • You could build confidence and/or develop skills and ultimately everything is a learning experience. 
    • What is the cost of inaction (emotionally, physically, financially, etc.) in 6 mos, 1 yr or 3 yrs? 
      • If I avoid this action or decision what might my life look like?

I like this exercise because it forces us to face the reasons why we don’t act on those things we say we want. It is more revealing than goal-setting because goals can at times become ethereal and allowing a sort of “hall-pass” if we don’t reach them. Fear-setting requires you to face IT, reveal IT and solve IT.

Who is it that you WANT to BE, what is it that you WANT to DO, what is IT? We are all at a proverbial START LINE, we are ALL starting over at some place and now is the time. If not now, when? Are you staying where you are because _______________ (fill in the blank)? How does that serve you today and how will it motivate you tomorrow?

Who you really are is here and now. You are no longer the titles that are bestowed upon you but are faced with who you are in “real” life. You are Mom, you are sister, you are friend or you are not. Only you know what you and who you really are and ultimately how much it matters to you to be that person or want for something more or different.

A close friend and mentor of mine called me the other night and as we were reminiscing over 21 years of friendship she reminded me of who I was when she first met me. She recounted, “You had no confidence and doubted yourself because of an education that at the time you did not have…” but in her eyes an education I did not need. She went on to recall that she could never understand why I thought so little of myself and thought so much of college/education as the person she saw before her already had the knowledge. You see it was not enough what someone else thought of me if I could not see it myself. I had to do the work, I had to define it and decide on it. She was right, I put so much weight in education that not having it discounted everything I DID know, everything I WAS. Three college degrees later I AM confident, I AM educated however I know now that I always WAS. It took time working on me, believing and proving it to myself because it was important to ME despite it not having relevance to anyone else.

I tell you this story because it is imperative that you decide for YOURSELF as you define yourself. Not as others see you, not as you are titled in the outside world, not based on your reputation. Who are you…really?

John Wooden, famous UCLA basketball coach, says, “Your reputation is what you are perceived to be and your character is who you really are”…I leave you with this thought, this exercise and best off I offer all of this to you in a time that I KNOW you have the time to do something about it. Whether you do or you don’t, well that is yours to decide because ultimately it always comes back to that simple point of control…decision or indecision…ultimately you always DECIDE.

Who are you…really? Me? I am still working on it, every day…Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up – L.

Validation…an autobiography

Today’s dose is about the concept of validation. The definition revolves around; checking, proving or affirming a persons truth. In this day and age of social media there is much to be said about the public validation that we seek when we post on social media. We post to share but we also post to validate; this is why we look back to see how many “Likes” or comments we received on any given post. It validates us.

Many of my friends have decided to quit social media because of the way it was affecting them. Self-esteem and self-worth are easily taken to “task” when we are seeking “approval” or worse comparing our lives to those in the posts of our “friends”. “Friends” who we likely do not connect with face-to-face, “friends” who we have only connected with because of past relationships aka high school, previous jobs or long-lost family members.

I like to say that I make social media work for me and that I don’t work for social media; I belong to groups that feed me the intel I need and that inspire me. However I, like many, do look to see what the “reaction” is that I am getting from my posts. It makes me feel good when I post something that gets a lot of attention despite the reality that many of the people “liking” those posts are not those involved in my daily life. It doesn’t matter it validates that I am doing, saying or showing something that others “like”. We all have a human need to be liked after all.

Validation is “recognition and acceptance” from others and ourselves. That recognition and acceptance come in the form of “likes”, however internally that same recognition and acceptance of OURSELVES comes in the form of self-confidence. That is where the work needs to occur; within our selves.

Validate yourself by setting your intention and following through and then find satisfaction in your effort. Validate your actions because they are yours and yours alone. Do you accept where you are? Do you “like” what you are doing? This is the place where validation MUST live. A million “likes” on social media will never replace the self-validation you seek because ultimately YOU know the truth.

#Word – L.

I keep a record of the wreckage in my life…

Nightmare by Halsey

Publishing what I like to call an OVERDOSE to “THE DAILY DOSE” of my Facebook page, “Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up”. This was a very raw moment but so honest and having slept on it for over a week I am ready to hit publish. Relish in the honesty…

Sitting on the back porch wondering why or better HOW I was in this situation…again.

I don’t owe you a goddamn thing!!!

Forgiving is a lie…moving on is elemental but forgetting is impossible. Even moving on is elusive as you never really move completely from that place. A little piece of you is always left as proof that you have been there.

Own your shit, bury the shame because it’s all just a game. Whatever exists you can’t change it and whether you wanted to or not you are changed by it. Get over it, move on WITH it and navigate around it. Be better not bitter but don’t allow yourself to be victimized by the victim of your stories.

This is what makes your mess your message as long as you don’t continue to wallow in the mess. If you continue to allow ppl to treat you in a manner you don’t support or more importantly advocate then you are not rising from the mess. Stand up, wash off and get the hell out of the hole.

Life as I live it – L.