Fail

I hate failure (who doesn’t?). I fear failure.

Yet, I have failed.

You’ve not heard from me because I had nothing to tell. I had plenty to admit, though.

I am an addict. I am addicted to media. I know full well how awful it is to stare at my phone instead of interacting. I know that there is research out there to suggest that the electromagnetic fields around such devices and wifi etc. could be detrimental…especially to the kids, but I cannot stop its use.

Fundamentally, this challenge to lessen my usage significantly was flawed: I took on this challenge at the exact time I was launching more fully into my photography business, relying on social media as my main promotional inroad.

I have not been able to figure out how to do this well. There are nights when I do not bring my phone into my room, I set my analogue clock’s alarm and read myself to sleep. More often than not, that phone sneaks in, though. I binge watch a program late into the night knowing full well the regret I will feel in the morning as I drag my sorry exhausted ass out of bed. Or I read news feed after news feed until my mood is so low I infect those around me with the dark stank of depressed thought and outlook; the opposite of my stated intent to put good vibes out into the world.

I’m not ready for this challenge, and so I need to abort it. It doesn’t mean that I am giving up, I still intend to set that dang phone down and look at my children, spend more time living and less time living through posts and likes. I just don’t think I am in a good position to be sharing any of this, right now, via blog form. We can all take some mess, but this is just too messy, too incoherent.

I’ll let you know, when inspiration strikes, when I figure out how to approach this more fully and with better intent.

Love to all.

S

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A Love Letter

A Love Letter

Dear Me,

(Oh yes, dear me) I know you are sitting here, right now, trying to figure out what and how to write to yourself, but it’s something you need to do. You need to put into words some of the thoughts that run through your head on a continual basis, to make them concrete and visible so that you can start to assess their value. (Like an exercise in KonMari-ing, you gotta get rid of the things that do not spark joy.)

I know that every day you wake up a little bit tired. Today you woke up having not slept through the middle section of the night, not because your kids woke you, but because your husband needed you- he had something in his eye that he needed you to look at. And you love him for seeking your help, gosh knows your connection these days is so thin what with the kids and their needs, it felt good to be needed, it felt good to nurture him. But then of course, when the aid was given, you could no longer sleep, and in fact lost sleep worrying that he was in pain and/or that he would need to go to the hospital in the morning… rendering your one work day alone without kids unworkable. But that was a selfish thought, so you put that right out of your head, read a book until sleep took you at 5 am. And thankfully, in the morning, to his surprise your castor oil eye remedy had worked and he was off to work taking the kids to Nana’s. You sighed a huge sigh of relief.

Now you sit here trying to accomplish all the things on the to-do list, but there really isn’t enough time. You’re panicking. Stop and breathe.

And you’re pissed because you received yet another piece of camera equipment (you so looked forward to it’s arrival- again) that failed to be the right thing and so you spent too long working on the returning and the re-purchasing with additional research time. All of that was not in the plans. You are thinking you wasted an entire hour. Put that out of your mind. It needed to be taken care of, and you did. I said, put it out of your mind.

And there is a stack of laundry you need to do, the hubs is down to his emergency underwear, and you haven’t laid hands on one of those full-to-the-brim hampers yet. You’ll get to it, let it go.

But first, there’s the website work you need to do, the updates to social media, your business accounting (yay, you had business to account for!!), this is what you LOVE, this is what this day is for, DO IT.

I know that at the same time you are aware that you have no plans for dinner and they need to be made…maybe a trip to the store is in order. Or maybe left overs will suffice!

But you still can’t stop thinking, because on the way to helping a friend by watching her kid for an hour or so ( you are overjoyed to be able to help her, by the way, another mama who had the courage to ask for the help she needs. YES!), you need to quickly stop by UPS to return that dang item you mis-ordered. It’s a simple thing, it will be done, LET IT GO.

You’ve already forgotten what was on your list of things to buy if you go to the grocery store….but you don’t have the energy to try to retrieve it from the recesses of your brain, so you are going to hope it comes back to you when you walk through those Safeway doors (though you know, in all reality, it won’t, and instead you will wander aimlessly through the aisles. You know you should make a list, but you won’t. THAT’S OK.).

I want to say to you, Me, that you are not alone. That’s number one, and I know you know it. Many mamas at this very moment are dealing with the same mental burden, are feeling just as insane and garbled and tired. It doesn’t change your reality to know you are not alone, but it feels really good to be part of a tribe. You know the value of other mamas’ work, therefore, your work has value too, AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

Number two, is that your life is blessed. Despite the frustrations and the exhaustion, you’ve got this, and you’ve got the most amazing little people who, even in your worst state, delight you. On a daily basis you stare at them in wonder and want to gobble them up/laugh with joy/squeeze them/ tease them/listen to them/ reprimand them/teach them. You do not want a life without them. Accept it and embrace it. This is an incredible chapter in your life- LIVE EVERY MOMENT! ( but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t).

Number three, STOP STRESSING OUT ABOUT EVERYTHING! You cannot feed your family perfect, pure foods all the time. You cannot come up with the best most stimulating activities every day. You will make wrong decisions about life things, and everyone will still be okay. You may lose your sh*& now and then, but that will not scar them for life (or even for half an hour). You cannot fully engage with them 24/7. You are HUMAN.

You recently started a challenge to turn down media in favor of engagement with real life. You are in the second week of failing miserably at it. Good for you. Let me repeat: you are HUMAN. You are tired, and sometimes depressed, and tired…did I say that already? Sometimes you need to give in to temptation/zoning out, and that is okay. The time will come when motivation again kicks you into high gear.

Good on you for playing your ukulele, getting out there to see friends and chat with strangers. You are wonderful. Now shut the F up monkey mind and let you, Me, do whatever the heck you want to do today, sans stress.

Amen.

Sincerely,

S

PS. Ask for help when you need it. Knowing when you need help is half the battle: You need help, trust me.

 

Successes and Failures

Successes and Failures

So how has it been going, this lessening of media usage?

Well…

Okay, maybe let’s start with the successes: The cell phone is no longer in my room (or, mostly not). I use my alarm clock to wake me on the mornings I want to be up to go to my Dailey Method Studio class. I don’t charge my cell in the room, and I do not scroll through facebook feeds to fall asleep. No, I read a book. Far more effective. I’ve been getting more sleep as a result- yay for me!!

What am I reading, oh…just something light:20170719_111526

Animal Farm was short and sweet and to the point: no matter our best intentions to set up a democratic, fair society that let’s everyone live their best lives, we always fall victim to those who seek power (in this case, the pigs). The characters were all analogous representations of political groups/figures at the time of its writing (yes, some of that went over my head, I’ve never been very good with remembering history lessons).

Now, 1984 is simply terrifying. I’m at this bit where the ruling party is essentially re-writing history over and over so as to control the masses and keep history in-line with their current agenda:

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” p162

The parallels to current affairs here in the States what with “fake news” and the rabid denials of truths and the shutting down of basic human rights by the White House…is terrifying.

But this is not a post about politics…let’s not get me started. Please don’t.

What else…successes…well, I was so good at not checking in with media that I missed writing in this blog last week. Yay?

Joking aside, just stepping out of the stream of constant fb news has lightened my spirits.

The failures are numerous. There have been times that I have said “F it!” and started scrolling my feed. ( Especially since recently my skin, just past the anniversary of having spontaneously resolved itself  last year, has rashes all over it again , mainly my neck and fingers…the itching makes me lose self control in multiples ways.)20170726_085534I regret giving in to checking my media almost instantly as the payoff is nothing but many wasted minutes and a much more agitated mind. I’m learning.

Another kink has been that last week saw demand for my photographic skills go gang-busters, so I was on the computer for long stretches of time, editing, sending out contracts, communicating about locations and times etc. This is not a bad thing, but it does show the challenge I face: I want to be successful with my photography business, and as a result I need to be responsive through media, posting on media and also using my computer for a bulk of my photographic work.

I’ve discovered that having a work day, sans kids, is immensely helpful. I can do most of my work and online networking on this day, including blogging and personal facebook updates for family, so that when my kids are with me I can set the phone aside. This is not perfect, however, as stuff comes up that I need to deal with most days. My only hope is that I am lessening the time spent looking at my screen in their presence. I do, however, at the end of my work day, wish I had about 2 more of them. There’s always more to do. And with the school year starting up again soon, I will lose my precious work day and be back at square one. I need to start thinking strategically and figure out what my next step is in that regard. When one can’t afford childcare…what does one do?

What I know: I’m addicted to media. I’m also addicted to coffee. Both of those things I can hopefully ween myself of…which one first? Lol. Perhaps with all the sleep I’m gaining from reading in bed instead of facebooking, I will be able to lose the coffee. The media might be a longer road.

Cheers.

A New Challenge

FeaturedA New Challenge

I’m back folks. I took a break after my year of shopping detox. And I am happy to say that a lot of what I learned has stuck.  I’ve made a few splurges, but even those have been well thought out and slowly done so as not to fall back into that “impulse buying” thing I tried so hard to shake.

And now I want to go even deeper.

It begins with an alarm clock.

I believe I came face to face with the reality of my addiction to media…no the need to change it… the moment I clicked on the link to a video of Simon Sinek talking about Millennials. Apparently I am not actually a Millennial, but close enough ( I was born 3 years too early…but no worries, they just came up with a term for us too: Xennials. We sure do love our labels). I mean, I was aware of my over-use of media, and starting to discover my unease with it, but this hit home. Especially his little comment about the excuses we use when defending why we can’t set our phones aside. He states that we should be charging our cell phones in our living rooms, and the excuse that it is used as an alarm clock can easily be remedied by buying an actual one for $8.

I encountered this video months ago, but then after the initial jolt of inspiration/self reflection it gave me, I let it slide. Today, the video was shared again on social media, a handy reminder from the universe to get back on track.

I know I’m addicted to my smart phone and the media it allows me to access because, despite fears that my proximity to cell phones, and thus my little ones’ exposure to it as well, will adversely affect my health is not enough to get me to put it down. The fact that my husband and I find little time together and when we do, space out side-by-side looking at our screens rather than talking, is a problem. I find myself compulsively checking my phone for post acknowledgment, “how many likes did I get? Oooh! An actual comment”.

Now, this break from starting this new blog-documented challenge was initially to help me focus my idea, lay out what I want to achieve before diving in. But then the “break” turned into simply the result of delay tactics. In my defense I can say that I have been very distracted by starting up my photography business- it has definitely been the priority. Along with that, the biggest problem I came up against was: How do I distance myself from media at the exact time I am relying heavily on it to promote my business/keep my family in Canada updated on our lives? How can I step away from it when I need to be attentive to it so that I don’t miss out on customers/ cut family off from seeing their grandkids/nieces grow up?

I actually don’t have the answer to that. But I realize that that should not be the thing that stops me from going ahead. No more excuses. That’s what an addict does, right? Makes excuses? And coming back from that addiction is messy and a learning process, right? I’m going to have to figure things out as I go.

So here I am, I am launching this challenge with no clear path, other than that I know what result I want: Significantly less contact with mindless media and a lot more time spent paying attention to the things that matter: family, personal interests, spiritual growth, and creativity. My girls are in a precious developmental time of their lives. I need to be there with every ounce of my being. I don’t want to be that mom staring at her screen sending that non-verbal yet powerful message that they are not as important as the screen in front of my face. I want my girls to know deeply that they are my everything and nothing else is more captivating and meaningful to me. (I know, I’m hearing some groans: “but you have to have a life, Sharolyn. You love your kids, but they can’t be your everything, take care of you”. I agree, just remember that I’m talking about staring at media for my fix of dopamine rather than uplifting myself through other, more real means ie meditation, presence, interaction. My cell phone is not life, that’s distraction, not to mention a terrible example to the kids on how to deal with tiredness and stress. I still plan on setting the example for my girls of taking time out for me, reading books in their presence and doing creative projects with and without them).

Another point not to overlook, (which is also the true catalyst for all of this) is that when I allow myself to be pulled into social media, I not only get depressed by the barrage of news (which also ultimately freezes me rather than spur me to action which is needed) but I also become impatient and agitated which then spills over onto the girls. This is unacceptable and I mean to change that.

So, what are the first steps?

Well, I’m not kidding, there is a “new-to-me” alarm clock on my dresser (I think I got it for something like $5 at a thrift store). There’s also a stack of books I will now have time to read rather than lose time sucked into the media black hole, right beside my altar of stones and precious objects that help bring me back to a peaceful state. I also downloaded the TED talks app. If I am going to access media, it had better be positive and contribute to my positive mental state (I had forgotten how much I enjoy listening to stories while I work).

I’m going to have to be disciplined. I need to line up the things that are good for me, made readily available, so I don’t cave. The charger is already set up in the living room.

What it is all going to look like, I am not sure. But I hope you will follow along and provide your insights and support (I promise I won’t obsess over how many comments I get!!).

With love, attention and gratitude,

Sharolyn

Week 53: The Cure

Week 53: The Cure

Last week I wrote about my struggle to resist yet another mind-concocted temptation. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to shake. It never is.

First I just stopped looking. That’s step one. Hard when media and Google is at your finger tips. And you know how those ads, the ones targeted specifically to you, tend to show you what you were last looking at? I was seeing Blundstone boots along the border of my Facebook page for days. I averted my eyes.

The next step was to try to get it out of my system via distraction. Maybe, I thought, I just need to shop; window shopping could do the trick. Often, I discover that when I am at the store I lose all interest…the physical reality of things instead of it’s shiny perfect-in-picture-only existence, is sometimes enough to snap me out of it.

One of my favorite places to shop is the thrift store. Because of this year long challenge, though, I’ve been staying away as best I can. Going to thrift stores is a sure way of accumulating unnecessary items. And though they may sell way below retail, a lot of money can go towards impulse bought thrift items too.

That said, I scored a couple of solo hours while my mum-in-law watched the kids, and I headed out for the cure at my local Salvation Army.

My intention was to buy nothing.

I decided to walk aimlessly through the aisles and just see what there was. True to my usual pattern, as soon as I was there, going through the racks of clothes, my desire for clothing vanished. All the fashions seem…boring. All of it has been done, or I keep getting drawn to the same old thing. Each item always has something about it I don’t like. So, it was all working out splendidly: no temptation=no need to decide whether or not to spend. Perhaps this would be the cure I was looking for, a nice dose of reality.

Just as I was about to call it a success and walk out, I overheard a conversation between two middle aged ladies who had just met in the aisle. One was a former model and fashion consultant, the other a woman just trying to get some new-to-her clothes. Well, what happened was just awesome. The former model and fashion consultant started pulling clothes out for her, describing why it worked for her body type and telling her to put away the choices she’d already made and to think outside the box. “You don’t need Macy’s” she said, ” all you need is right here”. The other woman would exclaim “wow! I looked at that but didn’t think I could pull it off” etc. etc. Long story short, that former model was a fashion whiz. She’d take all of two seconds to find exactly what she was looking for for this other gal. She took her to the changing room and had her try it all on and put the outfits together. In under 20 minutes the woman had a new wardrobe and all her choices except one were exactly right. The lady for whom all this was given was just gushing “Oh my! You are amazing! This is amazing! Wow! Oh my gosh!” When I left their vicinity, the fashion whiz was taking her to the other part of the store where she’d help her accessorize.

Somehow, that woman’s positive shopping mojo spread to me. I took a second look at a jacket I had passed and realized it was worth a try on. I scanned the racks and found a dress that had all the right elements with nothing to disqualify it. I even scanned the shoes thinking of my Blundstones…and found a pair of Clark’s boots, barely used.

In the changing room I thought, this is where I can find something wrong and I won’t have to buy these. But all three items fit perfectly.

So folks, it was a cure, but it did cost a bit. I got a barely used made in England Barbour waxed cotton rain jacket (retails for $399) for $9.99, an Olive&Oak dress for $11.48, and Clark’s suede leather boots for $7.

Getting a few items for me felt good and I was, for lack of a better word, sated.

 

And now, for a pearl of wisdom that I accidentally gave myself:

My two girls were fighting over the same *insert toy of any kind here* again. I stopped them and said, “girls, it is silly to fight over the same toy. In a minute, when one of you tires of that toy, the other can have it, but I bet, when your sister loses interest you will too. We always want what we don’t have. The trick is to learn how to make what we do have special, and in that way we will never be dissatisfied. Until we learn to make what we do have special, we will always want what the other has instead.”

I realized immediately, that I need to follow that exact advice. Words to live by.

 

S

Week 52: The Struggle

Week 52: The Struggle

What will it take to rise above temptation? Honestly, I’m exhausted. What has this year taught me?: That we are so brain washed by consumerism that it is almost part of our DNA.

Literally, before opening this tab to write ( a tactic to shift gears out of temptation), I was, once again, looking at Blundstone boots. I WANT a pair of Blundstone boots. I don’t know what sparked this want, I don’t know , I don’t know…but I do. I am having such a hard time shaking it.

I can definitely create reasons for wanting a pair: they are well made and will last a long time (though from reading a few reviews I’ve seen that their quality standards may have slipped). They are great for the winter and spring weather here and can go from work ( I want something to slog in when I go on photo shoots. Read: my old cracked rain boots aren’t good enough though they actually do the job…I just don’t like how they look) to a night out, to hiking. And they pull on! What else could a busy mom ask for?

They are also: totally inappropriate for the upcoming hot weather(if I were to buy them now, I’d only get to wear them a short time before the season changes). They are expensive. I already have a pair of similar boots that are a bit dressier and have heels, but essentially a similar look. No one sells them at a physical store, so they must be ordered on-line which will be a little bit of a rigmarole if I don’t get the fit just right ( Aussie sizing is a bit different).

How much? $175 on average.

If it’s gonna last years, it could be considered reasonable. But then, consider my already full shoe closet. Yes, I KonMaried that closet quite well not too long ago, but it is still far from minimalist. I have shoes for most every occasion, and not many occasions to use many of those shoes.

I have gone through all sorts of mental contortions, from ‘just turn off the computer and stop looking…stop looking!’ to ‘ Well, if I earn them by booking two one hour photography sessions…and/or sell a few items on that Facebook sell page…”

The thing that stops me from pushing that ‘Buy’ button is when I think about how much work it would take me to earn that $175. Or how much in groceries that $175 would get for the family.

Today, with everything being so high cost, $100 is nothing. You spend more in one grocery run, half of that filling a tank of gas. That on a few items of clothing.

But for this mama who only really spends on necessities ie food and gas, who buys clothing rarely and then usually at a thrift store, and who doesn’t earn money regularly if at all…$100 is a lot. Yes that $100 will definitely and unavoidably be spent, but on what? There are so many true needs.

In the long run, are boots and the temporary satisfaction of that new/pretty item more important than my family’s nutritional intake? No. Are they more important than being able to power our car? No. More important than our  gas or electricity bill? No.

I could survive bare foot if I had to. I can survive being un-stylish if that’s the fear.

Heck, it would even be more worthwhile to set that money aside to save for my future “better” camera when I’ve earned my stripes as a legit professional photographer (when my earnings exceed my investment in equipment) and am ready to upgrade.

And yet the Consumer mind is strong. I have no doubt I will be doing some late night drooling over a glowing screen staring at reviews for Blundstones on Zappos...”Free shipping…order in the next 4 hours and 48 minutes to receive them by April 12!! “…Finger hovering over the “Buy” button, fighting the good fight.

S

 

 

Week 51: False Generosity

Week 51: False Generosity

When I think back on this week, really all that stands out is embarrassment at one incident where I didn’t act with personal integrity. Not that you could see it from the outside, but I knew it on the inside.

The story is this ( and it’s a short one): I was unloading my kids from the van in a shopping court parking lot. We were there to get some lunch since it had a been a packed morning and I hadn’t managed to pack a picnic. As I hauled my Littles, stepping up on the curb, a big Armenian-looking man walked straight up to us ( a little intimidating as he was tall and broad and very direct) and said “Hi, Do you have any money so I can get some lunch?” He looked a little rough around the edges, like his story could be legit, so I said, “let me see” and dug into my wallet all while balancing my littlest in one arm against my hip and keeping my eye on my three year old nearby. He attempted gruffly to ask how I was and I absently/guardedly said “good, thank you” and then paused not knowing how to ask that in return of someone obviously down on their luck. He didn’t meet my eyes anyway. I really needed to get my kids to lunch as they were already whining about hunger. I opened my wallet knowing I had some small bills…there were two ones and a five…a reasonable amount to give. At the last moment I skipped past those bills, pulled out a ten and handed it to him. Without a word, he turned and walked straight into the nearby Starbucks.

As I walked then, with my girls, to the fast food Chinese restaurant directly across from the Starbucks (where you can get a good sized bowl of food for under $10) I mused that I had just given away our lunch money to a man who chose lattes over real food, or (to give him the benefit of the doubt) real food at a steep price and small portions.

As I sat there with my kids I realized I was kinda pissed. And then I stopped myself. I know that, if you are going to give, you need to give without conditions and let go of the outcome. I managed to let it go…for all of a minute and then realized that I kept returning to irritation.

I was conflicted, would be the word.

Recently I had arrived at the conclusion that I want to be more generous. I feel, often that I am too self centered, selfish and hoarding of my stuff. I really believe that in order to experience abundance one must also let things go. I want to live by that standard, embody my beliefs. I find that I am better and better about being generous with friends, and I never regret that. However, with giving to a stranger, I realized that I have attachments. Part of me was peeved that he didn’t even say thank you. But while that is a nice thing to receive, gratitude, it shouldn’t be a requirement. To give without attachment is to expect nothing in return. By my reaction I realized how much my ego was involved. At the moment of choosing what to give, I gave more, not just because it felt right, but because on some level I wanted to see his surprise and gratitude. Talk about instant karmic lesson.

I am humbled.

And because I am in the process of trying to restrict spending, part of me felt that, because I had let that small portion of my money go, I should pair back what we then spent on our own lunch. And then I felt resentful. How crazy is the monkey mind.

The moral or conclusion of this story? Act with integrity or don’t do it.

I should feel fully empowered to say no, if I know that I will not be able to give without attachment. I want to be generous, but I can take baby steps where strangers are concerned.

My take away: the act of giving should hold no strings. If by my giving I will create a tangled ball of monkey-mind thoughts, I should take a pass on it and look to other ways to be generous. I can always return to that mode of giving, once I have mastered my inner world a bit more fully.