Helping Others Versus Self Preservation

Creating characters in fiction is a fun process. It involves part recall and part imagination. Most characters are based in part on real people, or composites of real people, that the author either knows or has heard of.

In real life, our own personal character develops in a more complex way. Some people believe in karmic destiny, in which we choose or attract the circumstances we are born into based upon actions performed in past lives.

I don’t believe in that exactly. I believe that, like everything else, we attract and are attracted to people and situations that reflect our attitudes, emotions, goals, fears, desires, past experiences, and future hopes. I believe that our parents’ state of mind at the time of conception has a lot to do with what type of child they bring into the world at that time.

This happy (or sad) accident of nature and fate determines a lot about who we will become and what we will experience in life. It’s rarely all good or all bad. Usually it is a generous mix of both.

My mother told me that, at the time of my conception, she had been earnestly praying for a child. Welcomed into the world in a prayerful state, I have always had a religious/spiritual bent. She ate little meat during her pregnancy as well. Perhaps, as a result, I have always had a complicated relationship with meat, giving it up for years at a time at various stages in my life.

But the children we get, and the parents we get, also show up to teach us something. Sometimes these lessons are hard and painful. Sometimes early experiences damage us for a lifetime. But if we observe ourselves carefully, we can figure out what our gift is to the world. If we know what rejection, harsh criticism, and neglect feel like, for example, we can become that much more sensitive to how we treat others. We can gain special insights from less than positive experiences and share those insights with people who may feel stuck in negativity.

But, sadly, there are those who never do learn from their poor upbringings. Rather, they become permanently unable to cope with the rigors of life. They may push away anyone and everyone who tries to help. They may blame others, live in a fantasy world, and fail to ever grow. It’s a sad thing to see a beautiful human being spend an entire lifetime trapped in his or her own negative thoughts, perceptions, and actions, but it does happen.

Helping these people without becoming overwhelmed by negativity is a balancing act. You want to help without enabling. You want to hold them up, but not allow them to sabotage the good in your own life. I have found that using my mind to “think up” the right way to help doesn’t work.

Rather, I have to use mindfulness to feel into the right balance between helping others and practicing healthy self-preservation. In other words, I don’t automatically shun “negative” people and their problems. But, at the same time, I am mindful that a panicked drowning person can inadvertently pull you under for good.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is love certain people from a distance, and cheerfully encourage whatever progress they make. This doesn’t make us cruel. It makes us wise.

May you choose your companions carefully this weekend and have a blessed time.

Peace and love,

Raven

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The Importance of Journaling

Thursdays are normally my clean-up days. I wake up, straighten up for an hour or so, then go into meditation. This week, however, I stumbled across an old journal of mine. I’m generally not interested in the past at all, but I thought it would be fun to scan through what I had written.

I found an entry about an old boyfriend from years ago who wasn’t very nice to me. One of those things where you break up and the next thing you know he’s posting about introducing some woman to his parents. “Hi, I’m getting engaged!” “But, wait, didn’t we break up a couple of seconds ago?”

I care nothing about this now, but it was a bummer then. However, when I read what I had written about him, I realized that it wasn’t even a bummer then. In my mind, I had glossed over the negative because so much time had passed. When I actually went back and read my journal entries, it was obvious that we were in no way right for each other. If his new boo is the right one, I’m happy for him. Truly. Time heals all wounds (if you let it).

But time is also a liar. Had I not stumbled across that journal entry, I might have told myself a story about that situation which was patently untrue. The truth was written in black and white: Our break up had been inevitable. Only the clarity of hindsight made that crystal clear.

As a writer, the truth of any situation is what is most important to me. Memories are unreliable. How we remember something often has nothing to do with what actually occurred. Only by recording things as they happen, can we capture how we really feel in the moment – before time has a chance to come in with its airbrush and make it all pretty.

Our characters are the same way. What they remember in our stories will not be accurate. Show how that happens. And if you’re ever struggling with writer’s block, it can help to have your characters write a few journal entries. It helps us get inside their minds when we allow them to write about their problems freely, from their own perspective. Just open up a new Word doc and call it “So and so’s diary.” You may be amazed at what you come up with.

And if your characters are unhappy, that’s a great thing for drama! Have them write about it and get some juicy details flowing.

Happy writing!

Peace and love,

Raven

Resistance – The Monster Under the Bed

Halloween – my favorite holiday – is coming! Monsters and scary stuff are on my mind. But beyond the make-believe goblins and ghouls, there are real monsters out there. They will steal everything and leave you by the side of the road if you don’t fight them. Resistance is one of these monsters.

Resistance is something that often comes up when talking about writer’s block, but it applies to every aspect of life. Resistance, as I’m using it, is above and beyond the casual use of this word. We normally think of resistance like “sales resistance,” which is good – not giving in to every salesperson who wants to empty your wallet. But the Resistance that seems to crapify people’s lives is that which stands like a bodyguard in front of every great thing you want to do in your life.

Resistance convinces you that meditation is silly or beneath you, even when your life is clearly chaotic and out of control. Resistance stops you from apologizing or being kind to your loved one, even when you want a great relationship. Resistance keeps you from writing or painting or starting a business, even when that’s your heart’s desire. Resistance convinces you to sit on the couch and eat fast food, even though you know your blood pressure is high and your gut is large. Resistance will always keep you running in place, mediocre, and repeating self-destructive habits.

The way out is simple but difficult. You create a set of values for yourself (writing them down is helpful). Then, you behave according to those values – NO MATTER WHAT. Every day, you work towards the things that matter to you, a little bit at a time. In the heat of the moment, when excuse after excuse is marching through your mind like a line of ants, that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you will need a strategy to avoid falling back into the same old traps of laziness, apathy, or self-destruction.

To cure writing Resistance, for example, I set up smartphone alarms for myself. Other activities are now long-standing habits, after a period of time spent forcing myself to do them. Meditation and exercise, for example, are two self-care items I can’t live without. They put me in the right frame of mind to live with thoughtfulness and integrity, even when it’s difficult. Because meditation has allowed me to know myself intimately, I’ve created a strong set of core values. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened eventually. I do what I think is right, even when I don’t feel like it, even when I have every reason not to. It never feels good – at first. But, at the end of the day, I can live with myself – and THAT is the foundation of true self-esteem.

Everyone is different, so you may have to play around and figure out how to overcome your own Resistance. The important thing to remember is that Resistance IS a real thing and it will destroy your life if you let it.

 

Peace and love,

Raven