RECOVERY

Flies and Fishhooks

Focus Matters

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

For some reason, the flies are unbearable this year, and I think it’s because the pipe running into the sewer has a leak, and human waste is trickling onto the ground in the backyard. I feel like a little kid from a third world country, swatting at flies that are too lazy or full to even be intimidated enough to fly away.

An overwhelming dampness hangs in the air and settles on my skin. Typical for the South. When they go on about the South rising again, they don’t bring up the stench of human sweat and the clinging humidity-drenched clothes weighing us down, keeping our energy levels too low for us to do more than talk the talk.

We can’t rise up. We can just sit here and pound the letters of our keyboards into oblivion as we set the world straight with a few well-chosen words.

Another day in the pre-summer self-isolationism that’s been forced upon us, against our wills and for our own good.

It’s a strange newness, with approximately half of everyone you run across wearing a mask while the other half looks on with disdain, and vice versa.

We’re such judgmental folks. Of course, each of us has an opinion on what’s best, and the likelihood that all of us are wrong is very high.

When things are tragic, terrifying, or ugly, we can’t stop looking at them. It’s just human nature.

I knew this kid when I was in elementary school.

Billy was fishing with his brother—he couldn’t have been very old—maybe six or seven and maybe even younger. Somehow one of their fishhooks got embedded in Billy’s eye. It didn’t end up pretty. The eye, I mean.

Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

Growing up, any time I saw Billy, my gaze was immediately drawn to that bad eye. I didn’t mean to look. I just couldn’t help it. I could barely take in what he was saying for staring at his eye.

I missed being a real friend to him because my focus was on the wrong thing.

I got lost in how he looked and not who he was.

I’ll never know how amazing things might’ve turned out if I’d have looked past the surface.

It’s odd how you remember things like that.

I’m thinking the world we’re existing in right now has a lot in common with that story. Terrible things have happened. It’s hard to draw our gaze away.

We can’t help but stare at all the bad because it’s right here in our faces. It’s human nature to dwell on the tragedy, rather than search for the triumph.

Not only that, but it’s easy to get lost in looking for someone to blame for things being the way they are. And someone does need to be held accountable. Justice needs to prevail in a lot of situations. No argument with that truth.

I’m just saying that it’s real easy to get overwhelmed if you keep staring at all the things that are wrong. If you do that, you won’t ever have what you really need in life, especially when it comes to relationships. The things that are on the outside can look really bad, and if we focus on them, we’re going to miss the opportunity to have the kind of world we need to live in.

If we’d take our focus off the way things look, and put it instead on who God is, we might find out how amazing things can really be.

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ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL

How to Stop Feeling Mediocre When Nothing You Try Seems to be Working

A conversation about feeling like crap and what to do about it.

Photo by Siavash Ghanbari on Unsplash

Feeling like crap can come on suddenly and leave just as suddenly, or it can be a nagging feeling that hangs around for years on end, reminding you that you’re just not living up to your own expectations. Believing you’re destined for a life of mediocrity and all the negativity that comes with it is a hell of a way to live. My recommendation is: don’t do it.

Of course, just saying, “Don’t feel like crap,” is not the way to keep you from feeling like crap. If you’re like me, you’ve had a lot of big dreams in your life, and there aren’t too many of them you’ve ever seen come true. Maybe the reason they don’t come true is your fault and maybe not. Life has a funny way of kicking us around and knocking us as far away from our goals as it’s possible to get. Contrary to what you’re probably thinking though, that’s not always a bad thing.

First let’s explore some reasons your dreams might not have come true in the first place.

One of the things I tend to do is change my mind (and my dreams) A LOT! I start off in one direction but don’t get too far before I veer off the path to head somewhere else.

It’s hard to reach your destination if the finish line keeps moving. Changing your mind often indicates that you don’t really know what it is that you want.

Not knowing what you want means that you can’t aim at anything. Without a clear direction in mind, we tend to just wander aimlessly, hoping that one of our random dreams will become reality and not knowing if we really want it to or not. That’s no way to live.

That’s not the only way to miss the boat.

Another way we mess our dreams up is to aim at things that aren’t meant for us. If you decide you want to be a famous singer, but you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, it’s not going to work out very well. The goals we set in life need to be within our reach and fall in line with the gifts and talents that are unique to us.

Sometimes hardships and tragedies prevent us from reaching the goals we set in life. When that happens, it can seem like your life has no purpose or that you aren’t ever going to become what you thought you were meant to be. Believe me, I know what that feels like. I’ve had many setbacks for reasons like this. Life can be a real struggle sometimes and can leave you drowning in a sea of mediocrity.

Don’t let mediocrity overwhelm you to the point where you feel like it’s choking you out. I’m going to give you a few tools to get you out of that deep hole, but first I want to tell you why reaching the goals you set for yourself isn’t always a bad thing.

It’s the journey.

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

What I’ve found on my trek through life is that it isn’t the result that’s most important, but everything you experience on the way to it. There’s so much beauty in the journey. I think about all I would’ve missed if everything would’ve gone right from day one, and I can’t help but realize how blessed I am that my life has been completely jacked up.

Having a jacked-up life doesn’t seem like a good thing if you take it out of context.

It doesn’t hurt to look at things from a different angle.

An old daily devotional called “Streams in the Desert” by Mrs. Chas E Cowman, makes the point (January 8 devotion) that the possibility exists that there wouldn’t be any appreciation of the sunshine if there was never any rain.

So much clarity can be found in the sunshine and rain analogy.

Ask yourself these questions:

Would I appreciate the good things in my life if I didn’t have hardships?

Would I be able to experience joy if I couldn’t experience pain?

I don’t know all the answers, but my suspicion is that we could never appreciate our successes if we didn’t know what it was like to fail.

We do fail, though, and failing (or failing to achieve) can leave us feeling “less than” or mediocre. It feels like the whole world knows something we don’t and like we just don’t measure up. I’ve been there. I know how it feels, and I’ve thought of a few ways to get back on track.

Here are some things you can do to get out of the pits of mediocrity and back on the pathway to success!

  1. Get your priorities straight. Reevaluate where you’re headed. Make sure it’s where you want to go. It’s easy to get drawn into doing things because other people are doing them or because a particular lifestyle looks attractive but be sure what you choose matches both your values and your gifts and abilities. Choose to put your energy into things meant for you, not someone else.
  2. Take stock. Look back at what you’ve accomplished. Not reaching a certain goal doesn’t mean you haven’t done something wonderful and worthy. Did you raise a family? That’s worth more than any other goal you could ever possible achieve! Have you kept the same job for over 10 years? That’s one heck of an accomplishment! Do you paint, build, volunteer, grow food, lead, clean, or serve well? All these things, plus tons of others, are amazing accomplishments and keep our world turning.
  3. Step away for a while. Everybody needs to take a break. Maybe if you step back a bit you will have a new perspective when you go at it again!
  4. Set achievable goals. It’s possible that the reason you’re stuck is because you’re aiming too high! If your goal is a little closer to you,  more likely you are more likely to achieve it. You can set another goal once you meet the first one.
  5. Never quit trying. Don’t give up no matter what. You’re not a quitter. No matter how discouraged you get, don’t settle for less of a life than you deserve. You don’t want to get to the end of it and wish you’d have tried one more time!
  6. Believe in your dream. You might be the only one who can see the possibilities. You know what? That’s okay. That’s why it’s YOUR dream! It was given to YOU to accomplish, and you’re really the only one who has to believe in it. You’ve got this!
  7. Acknowledge your mountain. Recognize the fact that you’ve got things to get over, through, and around. Ignoring the mountain doesn’t mean it’s not there. Tackle the hardest thing first so you have it out of the way. Then you can move on to everything else.
  8. Ask for help. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. We aren’t meant to trudge through this world on our own. Other people may know things that you don’t know. Go ahead and find out. Ask for advice. Ask for prayer. Ask for help.
  9. Pray and seek Spiritual guidance. This should come first, before any other step you take. Getting in touch with God is a whole lot more important than getting in touch with yourself. He has all the answers anyway, and let’s be for real. Nothing you’ve ever done without Him has worked anyway.
  10. Rest. Don’t get so caught up in the pursuit of success that you forget to rest daily. Exhaustion will take over and you’ll never make it if you do.
  11. Go do something fun! All work and no play is boring. You can’t be mediocre playing paintball or wrestling with the kids.
  12. Pivot. Change directions if you need to. I don’t mean be wishy-washy. I mean when you decide that you’re headed the wrong way, don’t waste your time by continuing to go the same way. Find you a new way to go and take off.
  13. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is the most limiting thing you can do. You don’t have to be as good as they are. You can be a whole lot better!
  14. Be different. If you do things like everyone else does, you’ll never get the results intended for you. Do things like YOU do them. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You are good enough. If the rest of the world doesn’t see how cool you are, it’s their loss.
  15. Go back to square one. Sometimes retracing your steps can let you know where you got off track and where you can get back on.
  16. Check out how other people make it. Successful people all have strategies in place, and most of them don’t mind sharing them with you. Just don’t get trapped in a pattern of information overload and continuously soak in knowledge just to never do anything with it. Act on the wisdom they share. Don’t do it to be like them, just benefit from their superior knowledge.
  17. Change your attitude. Is negativity what’s keeping you down? Switch your attitude for one of gratitude and watch your world turn around!!
  18. Get up earlier. It’s been said that successful people start their days much earlier than those who aren’t successful. It matters how much you want something.
  19. On that note, decide if you really do want it or not. After all you’ve learned, you may just need to redefine success. It’s very possible you’ve already achieved it in your life. Look at what’s most important to you and what position that thing (or person) holds in your life.
  20. Believe you can. You can do anything you set your mind to do. No matter how many times you’ve tried and failed before, don’t quit. You can still make it! You don’t know how close to success you are—it might be just around the corner. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you either!

Show the world and show yourself you have what it takes to swim right out of mediocrity into the life you’ve always dreamed of having!

When you’ve done everything on this list, start back at the top and do them again if you need to. Repeat as often as needed. This is how to stop feeling mediocre in a jacked-up life where nothing seems to be working. If you keep trying hard enough, you’ll wake up one day and be so far past your goal that you’ll have to walk backwards to get to it!

ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL

Reasons for Writing

Even though I’m not getting paid

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I was about seven years old when I started writing. Poems were floating around in my head, and one day I realized that I could put them on paper.

For a long time, all I wrote was poetry and song lyrics. I have storage boxes level full of work I’ve done since I was a kid.

It was an emotional outlet. A way of purging when I needed relief and I needed more relief than most.

Kids who have great childhoods can still be depressed.

Believe me, I know it makes no sense.

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy on Unsplash

It must’ve been a chemical thing or a wiring problem in my brain. It may’ve even been God’s way of preparing me for what my life would become. Whatever the reason, my writing became a way to pour out my pain.   

In high school, I used writing to impress other kids. Apparently, it never occurred to me to write for the school newspaper or be on the yearbook staff. Nope, I just did homework for other kids. Their grades improved, and they loved me. It was a win for us all!

College was a little different. I published a few of my poems in books printed by the school. Some were published under a pseudo because I found them too personal. I’ve changed quite a bit since then. All my business is out there now.

Tragedy stole my heart for poetry. The old dream of one day publishing my own book of poems is likely gone forever.  

After some encouragement, I started blogging. It didn’t take me long to realize this kind of writing is what I was born to do.  

Maybe it was the ministry of recovery that I was helping to lead. Maybe it was just time. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of anything but getting my words out of my head again!

Building a website is tough if you’re a newbie.

At first, my blog was mostly about things relating to business, but one day I made an abrupt pivot.

Photo by Alex Grodkiewicz on Unsplash

Pivoting is sometimes your saving grace.

It’s perfectly okay to change direction when you’re headed the wrong way.

My pivot involved writing about a subject close to my heart, social anxiety. That opened the door to a whole new world of writing for me.

I finally had something of substance to say, so I said it. I haven’t shut up since.

My writing tends to lean toward the recovery niche.

I write about grief, anxiety, depression, addiction, and other things that we need to recover from. I write from my own experiences and tell stories that are true. I pull the words from my heart. I say things that matter to me and hope they matter to other people.

Of course, I can’t help but notice that other people write to make money. I think that’d be a great idea if it would work for me. I have a couple of problems to overcome if I’m going to accomplish that:

  • The idea of profiting off my writing steals my inspiration.
  • No one seems to want to pay me.
  • I have no idea what to do to make money writing.
  • I don’t know how to get exposure or be taken seriously as a writer.

I’ve read several writers who are super good at making money off their words. I’ve benefited significantly from their knowledge!

One of the main takeaways is that you can’t expect to jump in and start making money immediately.

I’m cool with that. In fact, you could say I’ve already aced it! I’ve been writing all my life and haven’t made any money YET!

I learned you can’t hope to write about writing, or be an authority on it, if you’ve only been writing on this platform for a short time.

As I mentioned, I’ve been writing my entire life. I’m not trying to pretend I’m the best in the universe or even the country—maybe not even in my small town!

I do believe I have something to offer. After all, I did a lot of kids’ homework in high school, and they got good grades (that’s a joke, by the way)! But I do concede the point. I can’t write about getting paid for writing because I have no clue.

Tons of articles say the only way to get people to read your work is if you’re clearly solving a problem for them.

That makes sense to me. I thought about all the articles I intentionally read and what made me click on them rather than another.

I can only write with any authority about what I know.

I’m not in the business of trying to fix other people. I’m over here, tapping away at this keyboard because I’m writing about my own life.

But do I think that I can help other people with my words? Yes. Yes, I do!

It’s not my goal in life to FIX broken people, but if I can offer comfort or something relatable and it helps them through a difficult season, I want to do that!

Some of my life experiences have really sucked (no sense in sugarcoating it). I write about them to purge myself emotionally, as a written record, and because maybe someone else is walking through the same darkness. If I can throw a little light their way, why wouldn’t I want to do that?

My words are only words.

This isn’t therapy. I can’t heal anyone. However, I believe words do have POWER and can reach parts of you that would otherwise remain untouched.

Maybe I won’t ever make any significant money with my writing. Sure, I’d love to do that! I know it’s possible, but it’s more important to me that my words are read by someone who needs to read them.

I believe that God gives us good gifts so that we will use them for others.

So as long as I’m able, whether I ever make money or not—I WILL WRITE.

ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

I Want to Bury My Head In Cookie Dough

Not a Roll of Cookie Dough, but One of Those Tubs.

Photo by Pam Menegakis on Unsplash


Or Eat Five Gallons of Chocolate Ice Cream with a Package of Oreos–No, Girl Scout Cookies! I want Thin Mints, and I want them fresh out of the freezer!

Are you wondering why I want a tub of cookie dough, or something else sinfully sweet? In case you are, I will tell you. Because I’m stressed out. When I’m stressed out, all I can think about is taking something sweet and bad for me and shoveling it in my face.

Food is where I go for comfort.

It sure hasn’t failed me yet! Well, it hasn’t failed me in the moment, when the cookie dough is in my mouth and my endorphins are through the roof. I only reach failure status when I step on the scale a month later and I’ve gained 20 lbs. Or I would reach failure status then, if I ever really got on the scale. See, if you don’t acknowledge it’s happening, it’s not happening. Right?

I’ve lived most of my life in just that way. The struggle to maintain a weight that made me feel comfortable with my own body has been life-altering and mind-consuming. I’m a good weight now—just ask any specialist. My BMI is perfect I’m told. “You are a great weight right now. You can continue to lose if you want to tweak it, but that’s just for you.” I thought it was all just for me.

It’s not my body that’s the problem. I don’t know if you know this or not, but it rarely is. It’s the mind that has all the issues. Every single morsel I put in my mouth comes packed with a load of guilt. I’ve written about this before in another blog, https://moodyoops.com/how-you-see-yourself-determines-who-you-are/, and you may want to check that out! It’s a big deal to me.

Think about it like this. If you were an alcoholic, and you quit drinking, you would feel better. You would find other ways to gain comfort and peace—perhaps you would learn to pray more, read, fish, exercise, or do something creative. You would never have to pick up the bottle again if you chose not to, and that’s fantastic! Your addiction may be slightly easier to understand and control when you realize that you can actually live your entire life without one sip of alcohol.

But What If You Are a Food Addict?

You are addicted to food but you stop eating in unhealthy ways, you start exercising, and you start taking better care of your body. That’s a great victory! There’s only three problems that I can think of that might hang you up on a consistent basis: breakfast, dinner, and supper.

Yep, that’s right. You can’t go on for the rest of your life without eating! So even though you’ve beat the unhealthy patterns, it’s harder to let go of the guilt that you have always associated with eating. It comes unbidden the second you start chewing and increases with each bite. By the time you are finished with your meal, you are filled with remorse!

With guilt comes the desire to cover that guilt, and what’s the first reaction your mind has to that desire? It wants to go back to that old comfort that it’s so used to, and put it on again. Guilt is crying, “Cover me,” and food is answering, “I will!”

It Becomes a Pattern.

It happens over and over. Once or twice at the ice cream trough and you’re okay, a week’s worth and it starts to show. It’s a vicious cycle of doubt, guilt, and confusion that runs through your mind like a hamster on a wheel. The more you obsess over what you eat, the more you want to eat it. The more you try to avoid something, the more drawn you are to that very thing!

Ice Cream Neon Sign
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

Are There Any Answers?

So what are some of the things you can do to break the unhealthy cycle of food guilt? Hmmm….I go through times off and on where I think I get this right. Of course, they don’t last as long as they should, but I am going to keep going back there until “off and on” becomes a tendency, and a tendency eventually becomes a habit, and a habit finally becomes a way of life that’s not even considered thought-worthy anymore.

  • I never tell myself that I can’t have something. Why? Because if I tell myself “no,” I think about that food all day long every day and eat everything in sight until I finally break down and just go get what I’m obsessing over! If I want it, I eat it.

  • However, one thing that I will do is tell myself that I can have it “tomorrow.” Sometimes when tomorrow rolls around I don’t even want that whole roll of cookie dough (or tub). Sometimes I do. Either way, I give myself permission to have it. Maybe not the whole thing, but some of it for sure!

  • I try to take responsibility for my own diet. I don’t mean diet as in “I’m on a diet,” I mean diet as in “the food choices that I make for myself.” No matter what plan someone else is on and thinks is better, no matter what they have had success in, no matter what food they put before me, and no matter what anything else you can think of—since I am ultimately responsible, I make it my ultimate responsibility to choose what goes into my mouth and what does not.

  • Even when a health professional pushes an app at me and says, “You need to count calories if you are going to lose weight,” and I know that I lost 65 lbs and didn’t count the first calorie, I’m going to politely say, “That’s not how I do it,” and move on with life. It’s my life, my health, and my body. I’m responsible for its upkeep. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. Counting calories will have me (a) starving, and (b) obsessing. I’m saying NO! to both of those ideas and I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life. Thank you very much.

  • I try to notice how I feel after I eat something. If it makes me feel good physically, I’m good with it. If it makes me nauseated, headachy, sluggish, or any other negative physical outcome, I will probably not want to have that food again real soon.

  • Since I deal with food guilt, I don’t let my emotions dictate to me what I will and won’t eat. At least, I don’t when I’m working on it.

  • I also try to notice the taste the food leaves in my mouth. I know that sounds crazy! But to tell you the truth, that chocolate frozen pie that was so dang good when I ate it left a really bad taste in my mouth! I really didn’t like it as much as I thought I did. I was just so used to liking it that I thought I still did. So the next time I want to take a bite of it, I will remember the taste it left in my mouth. Maybe I will still take a bite of it, and maybe I won’t. It has gone both ways.

  • I don’t always eat every meal, or I just eat during a certain number of hours in the day. They call this intermittent fasting. I probably don’t do this the textbook way or for the textbook reason. What it does for me though, is relieve some of the guilt of overeating because if I’m skipping a meal now and then, I’m not overeating! It’s a pretty simple way to trick your mind into believing the truth.

Now I’m not offering up any of my methods as advice, because I’m not an expert or a health professional of any kind. I’m just saying what works for me. There are studies that say that you can’t skip meals because it lowers your metabolism. What I have learned is that when you get over a certain age, the rules all change. If I hadn’t skipped some meals, I wouldn’t have lost a pound! You have to do what is right for you and your health though. It’s always good to check with a doctor or other health professional before starting any kind of health and wellness program!

I don’t know if anyone can relate to my food struggles, but this is what was on my mind tonight. We all have different areas that we battle every day—this just happens to be one of mine. Feel free to leave a comment if you have been there, and you can also share my blog to your choice of social media if you think it might resonate with others. You can follow the blog and sign up with your email so that you will get a notice every time I post something new!

Here’s a link to this post on Medium!

It's Your Turn to Shine
ENCOURAGEMENT

When You Can’t Find Your Motivation (and How I Don’t Have the Answers)

It's Your Turn to Shine
Get Your Shine On

I absolutely get discouraged. Looking back over this journey we’ve taken over the last year, it would be easy to overlook all of our accomplishments and just focus on the failures. Today has been one of those days when it has been hard to stay on the positive side of things.

Yep, it’s more than discouraging sometimes. Looking back can be downright debilitating. If you focus on your missteps, or what you perceive them to be, you may find yourself motionless–staring at the wall in kind of a blurred-out unresponsive daze. Letting go of where you thought you were going to end up is so hard! Giving over to what is real rather than what you were expecting can break your heart if you let it. I can’t fix any of that.

What I can do, is look at the big picture. I know that each attempt to do something new comes with mistakes, if that’s what you want to call them. What I have learned is that a lot can be gained in finding out what not to do! Somewhere along the way, if you are paying attention, you can get some doses of clarity and start to put together a plan that is different than the original, but not lesser than. You may find that it was the plan you should have had all along!

A lot of the ideas that we had in the beginning were great, and we will save them to use them again later. Some of them will go in the trash can. I am glad to be done with them. Here are some bits and pieces that I have gathered along the way:

I’ve learned that I love taking broken things and showing other people how they are actually beautiful. I realize that I really want to spend time writing my book, designing and promoting my encouragement cards, making random things, painting lighthouses, and helping other people like me figure out exactly what they are meant to do so they can do it too! God gave each one of us a certain set of gifts and talents, and I believe that He gave us a love to do whatever it is we are called to do…..You can tell what your calling is by the way time passes for you. If you are working on something without noticing that 8 hours have gone by, that’s a good indicator that you are on the right track! Constantly watching the clock means that you probably need to find something new to do with your time.

I know that I have a lot to give and teach other people. I’m excited about getting the chance to do that. I’m eager to finish my book, if only for the ones who know about it now and are waiting to see how it all turns out! Oh and the cards are such an amazing blessing! I am so super-excited about having the time to develop and market these! They are turning out so wonderfully and they say things that people so badly need to hear. Things like, “Man, today sucked but we got through it,” and stuff like that. I don’t know about you, but I need to know that other people feel that same way sometimes. Like maybe today.