Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

Category: My Life Lately (page 1 of 4)

Rethinking Your Schedule: Cut Stress and Find Your Path

I’m not sure if I’ve let you in on this before or not, but I love lists. Lists, schedules, file folders…I love to feel like I have everything together.

Lately, I’ve been trying the bullet journal thing, and I have to admit it’s made a huge difference. Keeping all my lists in one place and being able to combine my diary entries and daily planner has been a great move. However, this isn’t really what I want to talk about today. At least, not entirely.

Because of my love of a well-defined routine, I decided to set out my blog schedule for 15 months. The idea was to use the time between books to write a ton of posts and schedule them out, so that I wasn’t trying to juggle both parts of my writing life at once.

This worked well for awhile. At the beginning of the year, I wrote 15 or so posts and scheduled them out. I focused on my next book, and it ran like clockwork. Then I stopped writing posts to add to the queue. Now that my book is ready for release, I decided it was time to get out in front of the blog posts again.  Until I looked at my schedule.

A few of the ideas no longer felt like a good fit, and even more of them seemed too time consuming. I know I’ll get back to the “harder” ones once my brain has made the shift out of “book mode”, but it still highlights a very common struggle in my life: overestimating what I can do.

 

de-stress, get rid of stress, bullet journal, unclutter your mind, overestimate what you can do, relax

 

One of the things my bullet journal forced me to do was shorten my daily to-do lists. I have my progress trackers for long term goals: daily word count, exercise, guitar techniques I’m working on, and so on.  I also have longer lists of various projects I want to tackle and things I must do. This cuts down my daily to-do lists considerably, so that I can focus on two to four things I know need done.

Somehow, I stayed locked into my old blog plan, though, and it seemed to be causing me more grief than necessary.

Today, I was “supposed” to share a short story I’d been working on. Because I’ve been focusing on my impending book release, it obviously didn’t get finished. I still felt that I needed to put something out, so I started this post, hoping I would find something I wanted to say.

And I did.

After thinking about the stress my rigid schedule has caused, I decided to let go of it. Instead, I have a list of possible post ideas that I can pull from. I can still write them in bulk and schedule them out like I have been, but now there’s more room for new ideas. There is also more room to move things around as needed.

The other day, I posted on Facebook that despite the fact that nothing major had happened, I was feeling very blessed. Everything has been humming along rather smoothly lately and I am constantly amazed at how much love fills this house. I can’t help but think that this new shift in my prioritizing has had a big hand in that.

Instead of constantly thinking about all I have to do, I’m focusing on what I can do today. I’m giving myself permission to relax and to let go of the guilt I’ve always felt when I don’t check off every single item on my list. I do what I can and catch up the next day if I need to, which is a big change for me.

 

don't stress, relax, all i can do is all i can do, rethink your schedule

 

I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on getting rid of stress and mental clutter lately, and I have to say, it feels great. I’ve also been trying to focus on using the inevitable stress we all feel to propel me into action, which is tough when you’ve always used it as a reason to avoid something.  Reminding myself that doing something now will cause less stress in the long run has really gone a long way.

And that’s the point I want to get at. Never stop looking for a better way. We weren’t meant to spend our lives stressed out to the max or pushing through things that bring us no joy. Sure, there are times we have to do things we don’t necessarily like (scrubbing toilets, anyone?), but we can always change our perception and focus on the payoff instead. And if there is no payoff? We can change our course.

 

less stress, relax, change your path, quote, thousand wrong roads

 

This journey has been incredibly eye-opening. Each and every day I am working towards building the life I had always dreamed of, and I know each one of you can do the same. The trick is to not get discouraged and keep trying new methods until you land on something that works. Don’t fret over what hasn’t worked, or things that have epically failed, just keep charging forward.

Two years ago, I would have told you my dream was to own my own home, to have a happy family, to write full-time, and have time for my music. Today, all of those things are a reality. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some kinks to work out, and the steps towards those goals started many years before that, but we got here. Now it’s time to focus on the details to bring that picture into focus.

I wrote about dreams awhile back and how important it is to have a clear vision of what you want. I still believe that’s true. You need to know exactly where you want to go so that you can create a roadmap. However, sometimes the only way to figure out what you truly want is to start hacking away at the things you don’t want so that it can reveal itself. You also have to be prepared to take the scenic route and get lost a few times along the way.

Have you figured out where you want to go yet? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Change And The Art Of Letting Go

Sunday morning, I decided to give this blog a face lift.

It wasn’t a decision that came easily. In fact, it took me a few months of hemming and hawing before I finally accepted the fact that something needed to change.

The day before, my husband and I had looked at my website and talked about changing a few things up. He’s about to build his own, and helping me tinker with mine was good practice. At the time, we were focusing on small changes. Safe changes. The next morning I woke up with a renewed vision and did something uncharacteristic and did a massive overhaul.

For some, it might be an easy thing to do. You wake up, decide to change your theme and go forth with confidence. For me, it was a massive turning point.

I’ve never been good with change.  As a kid, I would become upset when my mother or my grandmother decided to rearrange their furniture. I liked the comfort of knowing exactly where everything was at all times. I like stability.

The older I got, the more I hated change. I don’t like it when plans get disrupted, even if it’s only a five minute detour. I don’t like traditions being eschewed in favor of new, exciting routines. I just don’t do well with it, period.

This resistance to change is often rooted in an unwillingness to let go of things, be they mental hang-ups or physical items. This has always been an issue for me as well, as evidenced by the dozens of totes cluttering up my office.

letting go, change, clutter

And this is after a purge!

These containers hold countless artifacts of my life, from early childhood until now.  A lot of these things really don’t serve much purpose, but the idea of letting them slip away is hard to face.

This need to hold onto things is especially strong if I’ve sunk a lot of time and energy into something.

When I started this site, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted. I’d sketched out a logo that I loved and had a friend of mine create it for me. I carefully chose my colors and my theme to fit well with it and created a feel that served me well. I spent a lot of time thinking about the symbolism, and even wrote a blog post explaining it.

brandyn blaze logo

It’s still a pretty great logo.

When I decided to change my theme, I kept trying to force that logo into my design. Over and over, I found that it just didn’t work.  Although I still loved the design, it no longer fit. I needed to do something different.

As you can imagine, it was incredibly cringe-inducing.

However, as I looked at the preview on my screen, the dread was replaced with pride. This is the image I wanted to present. This looked like me.

When I think about all the other changes in my life I have met with resistance, I have to laugh. There was never anything to fear and most of the time they wound up being pretty insignificant. It’s easy to succumb to the momentary discomfort, it’s harder to  appreciate the growth that those changes can bring.

Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, muster up some courage, and let it go, having faith that it will all work out for the best. If you’ve read my novels, you’ll agree this is something Maggie could work on as well!

You only lose what you cling to, letting go, dealing with change

What I’ve learned is that there is a very specific process to this, regardless of how big or small the change you are about to make may be.

Step One: Recognizing what is holding you back.

Maybe it’s a box of old junk in your closet. Perhaps it’s a bad habit or a toxic relationship. It could be a limiting belief about yourself or a past hurt. Whatever it is, get a firm grasp on what exactly is blocking your way forward.

Step Two: Assessing the situation.

Why are you holding onto this? Is it helping you or hurting you?  Are there other issues that are interlinked with this one? What do you need to do to get rid of this blockage?

Step Three: Acknowledging the good (if any) that it brought and the fact that it is no longer serving you.

Allow yourself to think about the purpose it served. Maybe a self limiting belief helped you avoid something that was too difficult to deal with in the past. Maybe this item, like my logo, it did the job at the time but no longer fits with your mission. A person who you’ve shared good memories with may no longer be good for you. That bad habit may have gotten you through some bad times.  It’s okay to admit that  something isn’t entirely awful , while still acknowledging that it is no longer beneficial to you.

Step Four: Focusing on the positive aspects of the change you intend to make. 

Are you making this change to free up space in your home? Will this change have a positive affect on your physical or mental health? You’re making this change for a reason, hold on to it. If you’re moving away for a new job, for instance, focus on the new opportunities for growth, rather than dwell on the people and places you’re leaving behind.

Step Five: Say goodbye.

This doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process. Nor do you need to literally talk to the item or idea, however sometimes it is helpful. Let the thought go, throw the item out, burn those papers, whatever you need to do to close it up and move forward.

Sometimes, you may want to hold on to a piece of something. Maybe you take a photograph of an item you are giving up, or save a scrap of an old shirt to work into a quilt or scrapbook. I chose to incorporate the old logo into this post to preserve it (and, of course, I kept the file on my computer).  Maybe you need to write a little something about it.  As a matter of fact, when I have to remove a scene from a book I’m working on, I sometimes save it in a separate file in case it can be rewritten and worked into another story.

Whatever action you need to take to implement this change and ensure a smooth transition, do it.

Step Six: Breathe. That’s it. Take a deep cleansing breath and give yourself a pat on the back. Change takes bravery, no matter how small. This is more true for some of us than others.

Now that the hard part is over, go forward with confidence and enjoy all the benefits that are sure to come from your decision.

What’s something that you have had to let go of? What helped you through it? Share your tips in the comments below!

Appreciating Life’s Cycles: Learning When To Take A Break

I sit at the desk, the radio filling the room with yesterday’s hits via the local classic rock station while my daughter does somersaults just a few feet away. I stare at the computer screen, willing the words to flow.

The first draft has been done for weeks. In reality, it’s more like a very detailed outline. A few completed scenes and chapters held together by brief summaries of actions and situations, shreds of ideas that will move the plot along. The framework is there, now it just needs the drywall. Then I’ll worry about making it pretty.

I have to say, writing the first draft is my favorite part of the process. It’s in that phase that I can really let loose and just have fun with it. I’m not worried about grammar or format or finding just the right words. I’m just getting the ideas down. I know that some of them will be entirely deleted and that many more will be significantly altered, but that’s okay. I’m just gathering the raw materials and molding them into the basic structure.

The next phase, technically speaking, is going in and filling out all those empty spaces and making it flow well. Writing the connecting scenes, reworking the bits that don’t read well, and making sure everything is in the right place.

Realistically, the next phase is this: weeks of avoiding the second draft.

This is where I am now.

If you were to look in my planner, you would see the words “work on book” written at the top of every day’s to-do list. However, you would also find that it has not been crossed off for quite some time. Instead, I’ve focused on cleaning the house, stocking my freezer, getting rid of clutter, and working on the blog.

Procrastination? Maybe. But at least I’ve also been productive!

procrastination by doing something else, life's cycles

It’s during these breaks that I finally get everything in my personal life in order and give myself time to recharge. While I’m scrubbing walls and steam cleaning furniture, my subconscious is working out the kinks in my draft. I’m generating ideas for scenes that should be added or wording that needs to be changed. Somehow the act of putting my physical house in order always translates into putting my mental house in order.

Soon, I will cycle back into the creative zone and plow through that second draft. There will be many early mornings and late nights. There will be entire days where all I do is write from the time I open my eyes, until I cannot physically keep them open. My housework will fall to the wayside, my daughter will watch too much TV, and all our meals will come from the crockpot.

And then, I shall rest again.

almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes including you anne lamott quote relax

In the end, it’s all about balance and learning to work within your own rhythm. It’s about appreciating life’s cycles and maximizing their potential, whether those cycles are contained within a single day or spread out over weeks.

For example, I’m a morning person. I wake up and hit the ground runnin’. By four o’clock, I’m ready to put the finishing touches on my day and start relaxing, so I make use of my morning energy to take care of my most important tasks.

From week to week, and month to month I find my energy level slowly rises and falls, so I try to listen to my body’s cues. I also hit a slump in the winter months, so I focus on less intense goals during that time.

I find that those valleys are the best time to turn inward. Those are the times when you evaluate your goals and your progress and make your plans for the next productive season. In those times where you can’t “be productive”, pick up a book. Do some research that will move you closer to your goals. But most of all, relax and recharge.

I think we all find ourselves guilty of putting too much pressure on ourselves. Sure there are things that have to be done, regardless of how you feel, but do they have to be done to perfection? Or will good enough suffice for now? What things honestly need done right now? Cut out the non-essentials during the low-energy cycles. They’ll still be there when your energy levels climb back up.

Most importantly, use these times of rest without shame. Nobody can run full speed at all times. It’s just not possible. You have to let go of the idea that there’s some magical formula that makes it so. Embrace your rhythm and find the harmony within it.

It all comes back to taking care of yourself. You have to make yourself a priority if you’re going to have the energy to plow through your day and move closer to your goals.

Take a moment to be still and ask yourself what it is you truly need most today, and make it happen!

 

 

 
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Yes, I’m Sensitive. No, I Will Not Apologize.

The day before my 30th birthday, I found out that I had suffered a miscarriage. For someone who has been trying to conceive and who had heard this awful diagnosis 4 times prior, the news was devastating. A few days before I had been giddy with excitement. That little blue line on the home pregnancy test encapsulated so much hope and so much joy, and suddenly it was gone.

I woke up the following morning with a feeling of dread, a feeling that only grew stronger as my husband came home early from work to sit with our daughter while I went in for an ultrasound, just to be sure. I spent the rest of my birthday in a grief-induced fog.

I knew it was “silly”. After all, with my track record, I should have been prepared for a few false-starts. In fact, my husband and I had decided not to tell anyone about the positive test until we were in the “safe zone”.  However, the knowledge that “these things happen” did little to soothe the ache in my heart, and suffering alone made it worse.

After taking a few days to process it all, I confided in a close family member. I told her what had happened, and how I had spent most of my birthday in tears. Her response will forever be etched in my mind, “Well, you know, you cry too easy.”

In my head, I ripped her to shreds. My mind screamed at her and asked how she could be so heartless. I wanted to respond with a sarcastic: “You’re right! I should have been laughing and jumping for joy over a dead baby! I’m so silly!”

Instead, I stared at her for a moment, swallowed my pain, and said, “You’re right, I do.”

I’m proud that there was at least a little bit of bite in my words, although I doubt it was noticed.

The thing is, I do cry easily. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m angry, when I’m scared, when I’m frustrated, when I’m physically hurt. I cry when a loved one dies, even if I never had a chance to meet them outside of my womb. I cry when my friends lose someone dear to them. I cry over sappy movies. I cry whenever I read a news article chronicling a senseless act of violence. I cry when I see someone treated poorly. Sometimes the right song at the right moment brings on the tears.

overly sensitive person, cry

Also, onions. Onions make me cry.

I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes the tears are for nothing in particular. I’ve lived my entire life locked in a nasty battle with depression and anxiety. Sometimes I cry because it all seems like too much to bear. There are times when my brain glitches out and I’m certain I want to die. Those times certainly bring their share of tears as well.

And you know what?

I’m glad I cry.

I’m glad I cry for me. It’s a blessing to have the ability to feel things, and to feel them so deeply. It means that I am still alive, I am still human. It means I don’t run from my feelings. I feel them, no matter how scary, no matter how strong, and I work through them once the tears are dry. It means I know myself.

I’m glad I cry for others. It’s a blessing to have the ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes and feel for them. I’m glad I was raised to my sympathetic, empathetic, and compassionate, for those are the traits of people who care enough to make a difference. It means I am not afraid to share my head space (or heart space, if you will) with all of humanity. It’s the first step in identifying the things that need changed so that we can all live in harmony.

I’m not sure how we got to a point where being sensitive is considered a bad thing. I’ll never understand how it is seen as weakness, when to me it’s always been a source of strength.

What I do know, is that I will continue to be a sensitive person. I will continue to feel what I feel. I will never allow this world to make me hard, cold, or bitter. I will do what I can to spread love, and I will never apologize for my big heart.

 

 

 

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