everyone, habits, life, observation, universal

Strange Habits We All Have

Ugh…I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted to do this morning because, for some reason, my alarm was set to go off only on Saturdays and Sundays. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how the day goes), I woke up just in time to get ready and not be late for work.

Still, it irked me to no end that I missed out on my morning ritual of getting up, having a cup of coffee, and then taking care of various tasks. Writing this blog is one of them. The other two are: (1) submitting my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real to ten blog sites that accept submissions for reviews and (2) properly formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon.

Out of everything I just wrote in that last paragraph, there is one word that stands out: “ritual.” Routine. Habit. This is what inspired today’s blog because it got me wondering: “What peculiar habits do other people have?” I just revealed a few of mine, although you might not realize it. Let me describe things a little deeper, and you will see what I mean.

Submit to at least 10 book review websites

How is this a peculiar habit? Simple: I have a list of over 600 websites that accept submissions for review. However, I can’t think of the list as a whole. If I did, then it would be too overwhelming for me. (“My God…600 websites to submit my book for review!!! I’ll never finish!”)

Also, aside from having to submit books I already wrote for review, I’m also thinking of ones I want to publish. When I upload them to Amazon, I know the formatting doesn’t translate exactly how I want it when I view it on Kindle. That means having to revise and reformat (more on that shortly).

Last but not least, as of this writing I do this only on weekday mornings. That’s because I have my kids on the weekends. The last thing I want to do is ignore them while I type away on a computer.

Therefore, I had to break down the list to a number that would accomplish three things:

  • It wouldn’t feel so daunting.
  • It would leave me with time to work on other things.
  • It would leave me with a sense of accomplishment by the time I was done on Friday morning.

I settled on the number 10. Multiply that by 5 weekdays, and you get 50. That means in two weeks, I have reached out to 100 sites. At a rate of 100 every two weeks, that means I will have contacted all these sites in approximately 12 weeks/3 months. Then I can give myself two weeks off, and start from the top again.

Formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon

In MS Word, the novel comes to 195 pages. If I do 5 pages per weekday, that means I do 25 per week. 4 weeks would be 100. That means I would finish reformatting in about 8 weeks/2 months. That might seem “long,” but believe me: it takes me a while to slog through those 5 pages because I am very particular about how the writing will look on the Kindle. This means I agonize over those 5 pages. If I tried to do more than that, I’d burn out.

Miscellaneous

Here are some other areas where I have strange habits:

  • When it comes to debts, like a credit card, I plan out how much I am going to pay them by dividing the amount I owe by 10.
  • When I read a book, I count the number of pages and divide that by 10. If there is a remainder, then I read a couple extra pages on the first day. (EXAMPLE: A book is 303 pages long. Divided by 10, that would be 30 days, but there are 3 pages left, so I will read 13 pages on day 1.)
  • Let’s say I come up with a list of CDs, movies, and books that I want to buy. What I will do is look at my calendar for my next few paydays, and I will pick one item from each list to buy on those days.

What quirks/strange habits do YOU have?

Please feel free to share them below. I promise: there will be no judgment here!

~~~Steve

abuse, everyone, lesson, life, mental health

Emotional Wounds Don’t Automatically Heal Just Because the “Hitting” Stops

Is this rather long for a blog title? Maybe, but I couldn’t think of a shorter way to sum up today’s topic.

This is somewhat of an extension of Wednesday’s blog, because it relates to my inability to take a compliment about myself. Compliment me on my guitar playing or my writing or martial art skill, and I’m okay. Say I’m a good person, and I freak out. The last blog concluded with me wondering, “Why is that? Is it because I’m afraid someone will come along to knock me off my throne, or am I worried about letting it go to my head and turn me into an arrogant jerk?”

I shared that blog with my cousin Robin, and she said, “You’er too level-headed to let that happen. I wouldn’t worry about that.” That was reassuring, but it still didn’t give me an answer.

Then we got talking about the past and how, after a long time of someone making you feel worthless, you are bound to reject any attempts people make to tell you otherwise. In my case, the “someone” who did this was my stepfather Don. He was in my life from ages seven to seventeen. He was never physically abusive, but what he lacked there was made up in emotional abuse.

Shortly after my Mom kicked him out for good, I tried talking to her about things he had said to me, how it made me feel, etc. All she said was, “Well, he’s gone now.” I’m sure her dismissiveness stemmed from guilt. After all, her decision to marry him was what exposed me to his behavior. However, it didn’t help me to heal.

Imagine breaking your arm and never going to the doctor to get it in a cast. The bone won’t set right, and you’ll have trouble with that arm for the rest of your life. Well, that was me, except it was my mind and self-esteem that were broken. And what is the equivalent of it not setting right? The fact that, while he was gone, I still had this low self-esteem to live with. Over the years, it kept me from achieving a lot of things that, when I look back now, I KNOW I could have accomplished.

Another analogy (and believe me, I know this is an extreme one): think about any city or country that has had the crap bombed out of it during a war. Now imagine the war is over. The city is decimated. Thousands dead. Instead of working on a clean-up and reconstruction effort, the country’s leaders get on TV and say, “Okay, folks…back to business as usual.”

No. It doesn’t work like that. You need to rebuild. To reconstruct. To come to grips with what happened. To HEAL.

Sadly, Mom is not alone in her attitude of, “The abuser is gone, so get over it.” Far too many people believe this. They think just because they came through it and the abuse has ended that they can now move forward, but I’ve found it isn’t so. I had to talk through it with a therapist, had to get that third party opinion that yes, what I went through was very dysfunctional and toxic, that I wasn’t wrong to say I was left holding the emotional baggage.

Think about the movie Good Will Hunting. Will was abused by his father when he was a little kid. Then he is a young man in Sean Maguire’s office, and Sean keeps saying to him, “Will, it wasn’t your fault.” Eventually, Will breaks down in tears and hugs Sean. (Oddly enough, this is the kind of comfort Will SHOULD have received from his father.) All these years after the abuse, Will needed to hear that from someone to help him let the pain go. You’d be hard pressed to find a scene in any movie with more emotional power, and both Matt Damon and Robin Williams act this scene beautifully. However, I have to be honest here: while Matt Damon has shown he has his share of acting chops, you really have to hand this one to Robin Williams. After years of being that crazy, kooky, all over the place, manic, cocaine-fueled type of standup comic, he plays this part with wonderful restraint. We lost a great treasure in that man.

I won’t go down that route right now, because that could be turned into an entire SERIES of blog posts. For now, I will stick to the topic at hand. Simply put, the wounds don’t go away just because the abuse ends. To think otherwise is ignorant.

compliments, everyone, intelligence, lesson, life

Being Able to Take a Compliment

Consider this a bookend of sorts to my last blog about taking criticism. Like I said, I can take criticism…when it is intelligent and has some validity to it. However, there are times when I find it just as difficult to take a compliment.

This isn’t true 100% of the time. For example, if I’m at my martial arts class and I execute a move well, I have no problem taking a compliment if the other people in class express admiration for my technique. Having said that, this wasn’t always true. I used to react with a shrug of the shoulders, a lowering of the eyes to the ground, a blush rising in the cheeks, and a response like, “It was all right, I guess.”

The same holds true of someone complimenting my writing and guitar playing. What I always thought was weird about not being able to accept a compliment about these things is that, whenever I wrote something or played guitar, I would think that it was good IN MY HEAD, but then if someone complimented me, I’d start feeling awkward and shy about it.

These days, I’m okay with accepting compliments about writing, guitar playing, and martial arts. As you may notice, these are compliments about things I can do. However, what I still struggle with are compliments about ME. This could be remarks about my physical OR mental being, or any kind of statement that expresses admiration of me.

EXAMPLE OF THE PHYSICAL: My girlfriend will ask me, “Do you know how cute you are?” My automatic response is, “No.” By that I’m not saying, “No, I don’t know how cute I am to her.” I’m saying, “I don’t think I am.” In my eyes, I’m just plain.

EXAMPLE OF THE MENTAL: Someone tells me how smart they think I am. I can’t handle it, even though I HAVE had my IQ tested by a professional and know for a fact I am no slouch in that department.

EXAMPLE OF ADMIRATION: My son’s school had an open house where we got to meet the teachers. When his homeroom teacher was done with her presentation, we got to walk around the room for a few minutes. They had schoolwork on the wall, which was a questionnaire where the kids had to fill in the blanks. For example, it would say, “On summer breaks, my favorite thing to do is: __________.” One of these fill-ins started out by saying, “My biggest hero is: __________.”

And what was on the line on my son’s sheet?

“My Dad.”

I got choked up. My eyes watered. It felt like I was going to have a full-blown panic attack. The only remedy was to leave the room in a manner that was both quick and yet discreet. On the ride home, I kept thinking back about what I read. I thought to myself, “How can I be his hero? I’m no one to look up to.” That was two school years ago, and I still can’t shake the feeling that sentence gave me. Hell, I’m getting it again even as I write this!

What I can’t understand is WHY I can’t accept it. Why do I react the way I do? What fear do I have of admitting that I am a good person? Am I worried that, if I come off a little too proud, someone might come along and say something to knock me off my throne, so I want to make sure I’m not too high up there to begin with?

In previous blogs, I will start by writing about a problem where I don’t have an answer. However, by the end of it, I come up with a solution. That will not be the case today though, folks.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

break-up, everyone, kids, lesson, life, memories, mental health, relationships, reminiscing

Sometimes the Worst Part of a Break-Up is Missing the Kids

I don’t know what got me heading down this particular memory this morning, but it moved me enough to share it. Now you get to reap the benefits.

Several years ago, I dated a young woman (who shall remain nameless). She had three kids, although the focus of this blog is on one of them. He had a very unique name, so I am going to rename him Pete. He was the middle child. Having had no siblings, I was unaware of this, but middle children are supposed to be the most difficult. This was true of Pete, but not for the reasons usually attributed to them: he just happened to be the one child of hers who exhibited severe mental health issues.

“What kind?” you might wonder. Well, I’m not sure of his official diagnosis. I do know that he could have an explosive, violent tempter. She told me that, when he acted out in elementary school, he would throw desks and chairs around the room. There were also some things that I witnessed first-hand. For example, I remember Pete sitting in the living room, playing a video game, and I walked past him to head upstairs. I didn’t say a word to him and yet, completely unprovoked, he looked at me and said, “What are you doing here? You should be dead already.” This wasn’t him taking a stab at dark humor either; he was SERIOUS.

I imagine most guys who heard that would have two reactions: either they would (1) get aggressive toward Pete, or (2) they would say to his mother, “Um, I gotta go.” As for me, I had a third reaction: I brushed it off. It wasn’t personal.

Anyway, you’re probably thinking back to the title of this blog and wondering, “How could you miss a kid like that?” Well, I’m going to get into that now.

One time, my ex and her kids came over to my place. A friend of mine was also visiting. He saw a piece of martial art equipment that I have, which is called a “wooden dummy.” (If you don’t know what that is or looks like, just Google “Wing Chun wooden dummy.”) He asked how it was used, so I showed him. It wasn’t until much later when Pete’s mom told me, “You know, all while you were doing that, Pete watched you the entire time. He was transfixed.” While I wasn’t sure I wanted a young man like Pete to know how to hurt people more efficiently, it did make me proud that his attention hadn’t waived. It made me feel like I had somehow connected with him.

A few days after that, I was at Pete’s house again. He was playing a Batman video game, and there was one tricky part that was getting him very agitated. The more times he tried and failed, the angrier he got. It looked like he was going to act out, so I went up to him, placed my hand gently on his shoulder, and I said, “Hey, Pete, I’ve played this game before, and I beat this part. Would you mind if I got you past it?”

I was braced for him to throw the controller at me, but he didn’t; he held it out for me to take. Then I sat down next to him and got him past the difficult part. Once I did, I handed the controller back to him and said, “There you go, bud.” And that was it.

The next day, I called Pete’s mom when I got home from work. I hadn’t planned on going over because I had some writing to get done, but I wanted to at least hear her voice. While we were talking, I heard Pete ask her something in the background; he was too far away, so I couldn’t decipher what he said.

His mom said, “I don’t know. I’ll ask him.” Then, turning her attention back to me, she said, “Pete wants to know if you’re coming over tonight.”

For a moment, I was too stunned to talk. Eventually I regained the ability to talk, and I said, “I wasn’t planning on it, but I can.” Then, after a moment, I said, “Has he ever asked if a friend or boyfriend was coming over?”

She said, “No.” One word, one syllable, but I could tell she was just as stunned.

Pete’s mom and I were together for a few months after that. She was the one who broke up with me. I’m not sure why, and it doesn’t really matter…not in the grand scheme of things, nor does it contribute to the point of this post, which I am going to reveal here and now. It is the answer to the question, “Why the hell would you miss a kid who got violent and asked why you weren’t dead yet?”

The answer is, “Because I reached him.” And I wanted to reach him more. I could have, but it just wasn’t meant to be. At least I gave SOMETHING to his life.

Many people would have the sam reaction to Pete, which is to want to run away screaming. Not me. You see, in my mind, Pete’s behavioral issues weren’t that big of a deal. Why? Because when you get down to the nitty gritty of it, they were just problems to be solved. What most people don’t realize is that some problems are more difficult than others. For example, calculus is more difficult than algebra. That doesn’t mean people should stop trying to solve calculus problems, does it?

Treating the kid like a monster or a freak doesn’t help anything or anyone. Most importantly, it doesn’t help PETE any.

Sometimes I wonder how he is doing. I have no way to contact his mom and ask because when she broke up with me, my ego couldn’t handle it, so I said some pretty mean-spirited things. I did run into her at an event and apologized about them. She said, “Don’t worry about it. We’re good.” That was wonderful to hear, but I know we aren’t so good that she will unblock me on Facebook. LOL Well, what can you do but live and learn? If you want to remain friends after a break-up, don’t say nasty things. It might be too late for Pete’s mom, but I can avoid that mistake going forward.

As for Pete, I hope he’s doing okay.

 

everyone, inspiration, lesson, life, universal

The Lesson of Job

I’m not a very religious person. I’m not sure I believe in God or an afterlife. I’ve always been drawn more to Eastern philosophies like Taoism, which stems from my martial arts fanaticism. However, the other day I had an epiphany that could be tied to Job from the Bible. For those who don’t know the story, I’ll tell you how it goes, and keep in mind I might be messing up some details or oversimplifying.

God and Lucifer were talking one time, and the Dark One focused on this fellow named Job. He said that the only reason Job sang praises of God was because the man felt his life was blessed. If he suddenly ran across a string of tragedies, his praise would stop. To prove Satan wrong, the Lord heaped a pile of bad times on Job’s life, and yet Job’s praise of the Lord continued, thus proving Satan wrong. Once that happened, God brought good fortune back to Job.

Now we can talk all day about why God would care what Satan thought, but that could be another blog entirely. No, instead I want to focus on how this related to my day.

I went to work on Tuesday, and at first it felt like any other day. My start time is 8AM. I looked at the clock and saw it was only a little after 9AM, and for some reason my heart just sank. I felt anxious, stifled, bored, worried, depressed, etc. I can’t explain the feeling exactly, but I can sum it up by saying I just didn’t want to be there. Normally I don’t mind going to work, but yesterday I couldn’t STAND it.

I am in training for my current title, although I still have to do some tasks related to my OLD title. The daily procedure for me is: get all the “old title” stuff done first, then go see my supervisor and ask what she wants me to do. When I went down to her yesterday, she handed me a report and said, “Here, go over these transactions and make notes on what you think should be done with them.”

I went back to my desk and got to work, and wouldn’t you know it? I felt like I knew what I was doing. Suddenly, my mood lifted, and the day started flying.

Then, when I got up from my desk for break, the thought hit me: “I can’t rely on feeling like I am good at my job. There will be days where I don’t have a clue, but I can’t let that get me down. I can’t let that make time slow to a crawl. I mean, I’m in training right now. It’s to be expected that I won’t always know what I am doing…for now, but a day will come where I am completing the transactions like a champ.”

And then somehow my brain tied this to the story of Job. He faced dark times, but he was patient, hence why you might hear someone say about one of their acquaintances, “That guy has the patience of Job.” He kept the faith that the dark times would pass, and the good grace of God would shine on him again someday.

That is what I need to do. Hell, that is what we ALL need to do.

(Oh and by the way…God? We have to talk about this whole need to prove Satan wrong thing. Why would you care what he thinks???)

everyone, inspiration, life, procrastination, projects

The Path of Least Resistance

Okay, I woke up later than I meant to, so this is going to be short and sweet.

Sometimes in life you might find yourself in a situation where you have countless projects to complete, and a limited window of time in which to do them. For example, every morning I like to:

  • Write a new blog
  • Submit one of my stories to 10 websites for reviews
  • Format at least 5 pages of a poetry collection for Amazon

However, today I don’t have enough time to do all these, so how do I decide which one to do?

That’s easy: whichever comes naturally.

If a project feels like a grind, then I stop doing it. Why? Because if I don’t, then I know I will keep thinking to myself, “Man, this is a drag. I really don’t want to do this right now. There are so many other things I need to get done.” These thoughts will slow me down, not just because of the time I waste thinking them, but they will actually make me take longer to complete the task that I don’t feel like doing.

This isn’t just a writer’s problem. You might have several DIY projects you want to do around the house: put up new shelves, rearrange the living room, organize a closet better, and so on.

My advice still applies. Pick the the project that feels like fun (or the closest thing to it) and do that first.

everyone, inspiration, life, procrastination, scheduling

How Do I Cram It All In?

A lot of people praise me for how much I get done in a day. To me it’s no big feat because, after all, I just do it. However, I feel like maybe I should describe it to give some insight. Let’s say I want to do the following in a day:

  • Format a 30-page poetry collection so it appears to my liking on Amazon
  • Do 30 minutes of martial arts practice
  • Do a 50-minute cardio workout
  • Submit a novel to some book reviewer bloggers
  • Write a new blog on my author site *wink*

Let’s take this one item at a time.

FORMATTING POETRY: 30 pages. The work week is five days. (I base my approach on the work week because my kids come over on weekends, so I don’t even TOUCH this stuff.) Therefore, if I format 6 pages per day, I’d complete that collection by Friday.

MARTIAL ART PRACTICE: Nothing says I HAVE to do it all at once. I fit it into my day whenever I can, making sure to keep track of it in a log so I know I get 30 minutes.

CARDIO WORKOUT: Again, you don’t have to have a solid 50-minute block. I do it on my breaks and lunch at work. Fortunately, I have the kind of job where I can get away with that. I know not everyone has that luxury, but I can’t speak for what kind of job others have; I’m just trying to show how I personally get things done.

SUBMIT A NOVEL FOR REVIEW: I have a list of 630 websites that accept book review submissions. 630 is just too much to think about at once, so you know what I do? I submit to just 10 per day! MUCH easier to handle.

NEW BLOG ON AUTHOR SITE: Okay, I have to be honest that I screwed up on this item today. My usual approach is to write the blog BEFORE engaging in anything else. Today, I did the formatting and submitting first. Oops! Well, no one is perfect.

Now I have exposed my secret: breaking tasks down into manageable chunks.

I hope this serves as inspiration to anyone who struggles with procrastination.

 

~~~Steve