Generally speaking, I’m a pretty easy-going person. Cheerful. Helpful. Loyal. I realize these are not “M” words but I’m getting to that. There have been a few incidents in my life that have rocked my easy-going nature to its core. The mere reflection on these incidents has a tendency to take me right back into the thick of it. I call these “mutinous memories.” These are times when I’ve refused to go along with the tyrannical powers that be. As it turns out, I still stand by words and actions even years later.
So, let’s talk about mutiny, shall we? Have you ever had a boss that was so horrible, so terribly condescending and evil, that you wanted to start an all out rebellion at work? Have you ever been part of a service organization run by a dictator? I have! I remember sitting through board meetings, hearing the people around me complaining about all the injustices we were witnessing, only to silently leave the room and let the tyranny continue. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to sit by silently around bullies. (alas, speaking up has gotten me in trouble more than once).
Example: In high school, the girls in my choir were singing a song at our Christmas concert. A few days before the concert, the teacher finally figured out what was bothering her about the piece. Apparently, one girl in our group just wasn’t measuring up on this one song. So the teacher asked her to step away from the rest of the group during that one song. Basically, all the rest of the girls would sing the song while this one girl would stand alone on the sidelines – not singing. What do you think? Sound fair to you? The night of the concert, I decided to stand out too. No reason for me to be part of the group if she couldn’t be, right? Not my most popular decision, but I think it was the right one.
More recent example: I was part of a community service organization where some of the higher-ups had been known to speak ill of several of our members, calling them “strident feminists” because they were outspoken in their violence prevention efforts. One day, the director had a great idea. She suggested that we move our monthly meetings to a restaurant so that we could all enjoy lunch as we met. The catch: the restaurant chosen was a buffet where you had to pay to get in. Coincidentally, this would preclude many of our more outspoken members from being able to attend. When I was elected President of this group, I thought I would be able to make changes to the tyrannical regime, but it became obvious that I wasn’t strong enough to make those changes. Finally, I resigned. But I used my resignation as a platform to address the things that needed to be changed. It’s a lonely job putting yourself out there and watching your “supporters” sit silently by. I’m forever grateful for the people who stood by me. This was one of the hardest, most upsetting things I’ve ever done, but I still think it was the right thing to do.
The bottom line: when I’m feeling mutinous, I have a hard time keeping it to myself. Ever feel that way?
L is the letter of love, both clean and, er…not so much. Lewd, lascivious, lecherous, lusty. See what I mean?
Plato dedicated his Symposium to the discussion of love in all its forms (and it’s a doozy, you should pick it up if you haven’t read it). Thought I’d ponder love a bit today.
First, let me start by saying that feeling “loved” is priceless. The things that make me feel loved are a very strange assortment. When my son tells me enthusiastically of the latest video game he’s absorbed in, I feel loved. When my daughter smooshes her little nose in my face and wants to climb all over me like I’m a playground (despite being too big for such monkey antics), I feel loved. And when my fiance picks out a new watchband for one of the kids or helps them with their homework, I feel loved.
I’m a romantic by nature. I fall in love very easily. I swear, when I turn on Pride & Prejudice with handsome Colin Firth playing the brooding Mr. Darcy, I’m hooked. That’s for me. I feel quite lucky to have found my own handsome brooding man. I like being at the center of my own love story. And I’m absolutely in love with my children. They can be driving me completely up the wall and I can’t help but feel tender toward those sweet little faces.
I finished a book last night that reminded me how subjective love can be, forged through experience and circumstance. Children raised in an abusive home may develop a very skewed vision of what love is and it will likely color every aspect of their lives. So I ask myself, how do we know what love is? What it feels like? We all know that romantic movies tend to set unrealistic expectations, right? What about all the uniqueness in our real lives? Two children can be raised in the same household and have very different experiences with love based on a number of factors including their own personalities. So, what is love? (Yep, the song is going through my head too…my apologies).
There you go, folks. Something to think about for this likable, loveable, lucky, loopy, lazy day.
I was all set to write about fun “K” words like kooky and knightly today, but I think I’d rather focus on kindness. Since we’re talking about feelings, I thought a bit about the difference between feeling kindly and showing kindness. Here’s my question (feel free to chime in). Is it possible to act with kindness when you’re not feeling kindly? I mean, is an action kind in and off itself, or should there be an underlying motivation that also reflects kindness. For example, if you feed a starving child, is the action “kind” even if your motivation is a feeling of guilt?
Putting aside philosophy for a second, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we treat each other. My daughter came home from school yesterday crying because she and her best friend had a fight. She’s six. I calmed her down, assured her that everything would be OK and she was back to her cheerful self before long. But it made me think of my own childhood, and how unkind kids (and adults) can be to one another. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.
When I was in third grade, one of my best friends had cystic fibrosis. She was scrawny and couldn’t participate in much physical activity. She came from an abusive and neglectful home, and she was teased and bullied at school. But she was a kind person, despite all the things that might have made her otherwise. In her teens, she was finally taken out of her abusive home and placed with a foster family who loved her and she thrived. Kindness helps and heals. When we were both 25, my friend died from complications related to her condition. She left behind a little girl and at times like these, I can’t help but hope that the world is being kind to that little girl who has already lost so much.
A few more stories to get you (and me) thinking about kindness, both the feeling and the state of being. I spend a lot of time on social media, and I think it an be quite useful. It keeps me connected to people I don’t have a chance to see often. It allows me to communicate with my readers and to promote the work I’m doing. Yay! BUT, as we all know, social media can also be a platform for negative and abusive behavior. The things that people say to each other over the Internet are appallingly unkind sometimes. I just watched a conversation go down between a friend and her ex that was so disconcerting that I had to just stop reading. Despites my friend’s attempts to de-escalate the situation, the ex is bound and determined to be nasty. I wonder if he would be so unkind in person? That’s the danger of social media. We don’t have to look at or even hear the person we’re insulting, so we’re detached from their reactions to what we say. How can we expect to be empathetic when we can’t exercise our ability to read body language and social cues?
And then, there’s the custody battle. A very close friend is currently entrenched in the most horrible custody battle I’ve ever seen. Emotions are running so high on both sides, and it’s hard to be kind when you’re being hurt. As a divorced mother, I know what it means to face the reality of not having your kids 100% of the time. As I try to help my friend cope with the situation, I find myself praying for an infusion of kindly feeling so that these two people who’ve loved each other and share a child, can begin to heal and to work together to give her the best possible life.
So, thinking about all of this makes me wonder, what would happen if we all just tried to be a little bit kinder everyday? And not just act with kindness, but actually feel kindly toward other people, even those who annoy or infuriate us. I truly believe this exercise starts and ends with empathy. When we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can understand that person just a little bit more and I think that understanding breeds kindness. What do you think?
J is an excellent feelings letter if you’re feeling jostled, jerked around or even jilted. It’s the perfect feelings letter for someone who writes about relationships, right? There’s also jealous, jumpy, joyless and jinxed. Sort of makes “J” seem like a gloomy feelings word actually, so let’s move on to the positive. Joyous. Jubilant. Jazzed. I like jazzed. I feel that way a lot.
So, right away, jacked-up caught my attention. I don’t think I’ve ever used this phrase. But it reminded me of watching endless hours of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta (my favorite!). You know, the show where the brides get one-on-one service from a whole team of bridal consultants who bring them a seemingly endless supply of wedding dresses to try on. We all get to sit back and watch as the family drama unfolds while drooling over the latest in bridal couture. And just when you think she’ll never find the right dress, she does. And Monte comes along and jacks her up. And suddenly everyone is crying because she’s had her “bridal moment.” Yep. As a bride-to-be, this show is irresistible.
I wouldn’t consider myself a very girly girl. I don’t do make-up or hair much. I buy clothes when I have to. I did have an Imelda Marcos-esque collection of shoes once, but spent most of time in my Target flip flops. The stunning pair of Michael Kors heels in my closet – worn once. Yep. That’s me. I do admit, however, that wedding dresses bring out my inner girl. There’s something magical about a big fluffy princess dress, complete with sparkly jewelry and fancy shoes. I write for a bridal magazine and it’s a surreal process, flipping through hundreds of runway photos to study the latest in bridal fashion.
My wedding is this summer and I had decided to have a very casual wedding with no wedding dress in sight. I almost made it, until I went dress shopping with my cousin. I swear I only tried on those wedding dresses to get an idea of what style of dress I might want!!! And I really can’t be blamed for buying my dress, right? I mean, It’s stunning and perfect!!!
OK folks. What’s got you all jazzed up, jacked-up or jerked around today?
“I” is the category of cheater feelings. Half the list includes two word phrases starting with “in,” and though I acknowledge the validity of those types of complicated multi-word feelings, there are some simpler “I” feelings that I find a whole lot more fun.
One of the best parts of being a writer is that I get to let my overactive imagination loose. And because I am one of the world’s most decorated catastrophizers, it gets pretty colorful around here. It’s an amazing feeling to create characters and stories with nothing but my own creativity to hold me back. And it’s even more fun when the characters take over and begin to write their own stories. It’s like having an exclusive behind-the-scenes pass to a great show long before it opens to the general public.
Which, of course, leads me to impish (which may be the best feeling word ever and certainly is a stand-out in the “I” category). I’m pretty sure I am in a constant state of impishness. I am a plotter. Ask anyone. I’m truly happy when I’m scheming. And being a writer is such a healthy outlet for my plotting. I find myself talking through the elements of my current novel and cackling as I go. Impish. Yep, that’s me all the way.
Anyway, it’s Monday and we’re on “I.” So, let’s talk about inspiration. What inspires you? For the writers out there, where did you find your inspiration for your current WIP? Who in your life inspires you to do more, work harder, live smarter and love?
We had a big discussion about happiness vs. contentment several years back and I was thinking about it this morning. Some people asserted that happiness is fleeting; that contentment is what we should strive for, as if contentment is the more permanent condition. We went back and forth about what happiness really is and I don’t recall ever reaching any kind of resolution. Is that because happiness is unique to each individual? Obviously the things we find entertaining and inspiring may differ wildly from person to person.
Our ideas of what “the pursuit of happiness” involves has changed over time. And I have to tell you, I’ve always found it strange that we have this idea of the pursuit of happiness as something that applies to everyone when society works so hard at times to deny the things that might make some people happy – i.e. marriage and employment equality, voting rights, property ownership rights (of course, these things change over time but there always seems to be one group who’d rather not allow another group to have something they want). Why, when as a society we say that we value this inherent right to pursue happiness, do we present so many obstacles to attaining it?
Another thought. Parents say “I just want my kids to be happy,” but they often have a preconceived notion of what that looks like. Maybe it means, “I want my Susie to marry a good man and give me lots of grandchildren” or possibly “If Tom gets good grades and a good education, he’ll never have to struggle like I have.” So what happens when Susie decides she never wants to get married or have children? If Tom drops out of high school, are his chances for finding happiness ruined? Many parents embrace the lives their children have chosen, even if it takes some time. But many don’t.
I wonder if we (the big WE) really just don’t get what happiness means? What do you think? What’s happiness for you?
For me personally, happiness comes when I follow my heart and take responsibility for my decisions. When I am happy, I am confident, brave, and strong. And though I consider myself a very cheerful person, I wouldn’t say that I am always happy. So I guess I consider happiness to be just like any other feeling, one that comes and goes in reaction to various internal and external factors.
Hope you all enjoy the rest of this philosophical weekend!
I’m feeling so grateful today for all the love and support I’ve gotten from my readers, my family and my friends. Starting a writing career is a tricky business and I’ve had to turn to so many people for help with everything from editing to moral support. It’s humbling, and while I know that my brand of writing is not for everyone, I hope it touches lives. Thank you for all your support. I truly couldn’t do this without you all.
One “G” down. Now, onto another of my favorite “G” feelings – giddiness. Technically speaking, giddiness comes when you get so excited you get disoriented. It has to do with the physical sensations that accompany excitement and happiness. I can honestly say that I feel giddy fairly often. I just assume this has to do with my excitable nature. When I get excited, I get EXCITED! If you’re not in the mood for a bubbly, perky, hyper girl, being around me when I’m in the middle of a project is not a good place to be. Of course, if you ever need a boost, I’m your girl. I get carried away and I carry people away with me when I can.
Feeling a little bit giddy right now. Can’t wait to share all the things I’ve been working on with you!
And before I get my nose back to the grindstone, I want to close off with one last “G” – though it’s not a feeling. I’m working on my monthly newsletter, which goes out on the 15th. As an email subscriber, you get the chance to win a book of your choosing every month in a giveaway that I call “The Big Read.” Promoting reading and literacy are high on my list of priorities so this is one way to help encourage people to pick up new books (not just mine). If you’d like to sign-up for the newsletter, visit the homepage of www.AmyRivers.com.
G is for goals and I’m off to work on achieving mine. What are your goals?
F has some of the best feelings! Are you feeling feeble? Foiled? Feisty? Fainthearted? There’s a little something for everyone on the “F” list.
Why write about feelings in this blogging challenge? Two reasons. First, as a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about how my characters are feeling. In order to create complex characters, my understanding of their feelings and emotions has to reach beyond happy, sad, scared and angry. It’s interesting to think about how different people react to different situations based on their personalities and backgrounds. For instance, a person who’s never had their heart broken is going to react differently than someone who’s been through it before. Victims of crime often behave in ways that confuse others or even hurt their credibility. But their feelings are informed by their life experiences and their tolerance for pain, fear, anger, happiness, etc. Every person is unique.
Second, I have a Master’s degree in psychology. I LOVE feelings J Both personally and academically, I’m completely fascinated with how emotion impacts a person’s decisions and how hard it is to heal from psychological trauma. Feelings are just feelings, right? But somehow it’s near impossible for some people to just sit with their feelings. Have you ever seen a person who keeps themselves in a perpetual state of motion to avoid having to deal with their feelings? I have. This person can’t sit down. And when they do, they have to create things to do to fill the void.
Truth is, it can be frightening to face our feelings. Fear of the unknown can be difficult to overcome. People sometimes dismiss our feelings – after all, they’re all in our heads, right? But it’s just not true. Feelings manifest themselves physically. When we’re happy and in love, we might notice that aches and pains disappear. We have more energy and stamina. We are able to accomplish more. When we’re depressed, we feel knots in our stomachs. My anxiety gives me hot flashes. Just try convincing me while I’m sweating profusely and the room is spinning that it’s all in my head, as if I can just stop the crazy with a flick of a switch.
The problem with dismissing a person’s feelings is that it also cripples our own ability to empathize with that person. It allows us to jump to conclusions, to make wrong assumptions and to judge another person’s behavior without truly understanding them.
Be fierce. Embrace your feelings. And acknowledge that every person around you is also full of feelings. Ask yourself the next time someone is rude or does something you don’t understand, “what might they be going through right now.” You’ll find it a whole lot easier to empathize.
Sure, I could have gone with something easy like excited or elated. And they were at the top of my list a little while ago. But then I started feeling at peace with the world, balanced…and wouldn’t you know it? There’s a word for that! Equanimity is a state of psychological stability or composure, undisturbed by external forces (thank you Wikipedia!) Today, I find that my feelings truly are balanced. I feel…well-adjusted. Huh. Who knew?
My personal favorite on the list of “E” feelings words is emotionally bloated. Yes! Now THAT is my usual state of being. Or maybe just emotional “fullness.” (get it?) I like to think that by keeping an open mind and heart, I allow myself to have experiences in life that fill me with emotion – both good and bad. Being an emotional person, and allowing myself to feel even the negative emotions fully, makes me very empathetic, I think. It’s easier to put myself in someone else’s shoes when I just go with the flow. You know?
The world is full of possibilities and I intend, as always, to dive headfirst and see where I land. But for the moment, I’m going to enjoy this feeling of equanimity as I expect it will be short-lived. (I’m easily excitable after all).
How’s your Wednesday going? Feeling excited, elated….maybe a little evil?
I decided to write about determination today since, in my humble opinion, it’s critical for any writer (and also for any parent). As a writer, I can find a million reasons not to sit and write. Too tired. Not motivated. Having a bad day. Can’t think of what to write. Have other things to do (just nine more rounds of Monkey Wrench on my iPhone, right?). No one likes my writing anyway (this thought usually comes on the heels of a rejection). The thing is, if you want to succeed in writing, you have to be determined. And when you feel determined, it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and do the work.
So, determination. A good feeling, eh? As I was contemplating “D” feelings, I scoured a few websites to look at lists of feelings, emotions and traits. This is a rather common activity, actually. These kinds of lists are great brainstorming tools for writers – that and a handy dandy thesaurus. So, as I’m perusing the lists, I realize that “D” has a definite disadvantage (there it is, did you see it?). A lot of negative prefixes start with “D” including –de and –dis. As a result, the majority of “D” feelings tend to be the negative. I can feel dejected, disappointed, despondent, dismissed, disoriented, disrespected…the list goes on and on. I got a little dismayed as I read the “D” list, but it also made me feel defiant! Yes! I would write about determination to transcend negative “D” syndrome. It was a daunting task, and at first I was dubious, but feeling decisive, I plunged forward until I felt delighted by the silliness of the result. OK, you get the picture.
Back to determination. I’m determined to have two complete first drafts done by the end of the year, to enjoy the beautiful weather and to learn a few more words in German before I embark on my honeymoon this summer.
What are you determined to do?
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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