Distorted Thinking

Okay, so I have sat staring at a blank screen long enough.  It’s time to Just Begin.  I have a lot of thoughts running through my head and I’m struggling to get them from head to print.  It’s an issue that’s been plaguing me for some time.  It got particularly bad right after my surgery this past November.  My guess is that the anesthesia had a role in the brain fog.  But then I got to thinking about how there has been a piece of me missing ever since I had my Stroke of Luck.  It’s nothing drastic, but there has been a barrier that I have felt when trying to have thoughts at a deeper level.  I’m sure there is a word for it, but, ironically, I wouldn’t be able come up with it anyway.  This realization was a secondary reason for me taking a bit of a hiatus on the blog.  I stopped liking what I was putting out, because I wasn’t able to transfer my thought process into sufficient words.  Honestly, I still feel at odds with my writing, but I also feel that itch I get when writing is the only outlet that can scratch it.  So, here I am.

Topics that have been on my mind include: the shame I feel having a mental illness that requires prescription medication, the paradox of motherhood, life on survival mode, humbling myself, making sure I’m making the most out of this time in my life, and my struggle with distorted thinking.  Seeing as how the latter is the easiest matter for me to express, let’s start there.

When I started this blog, at the encouragement of a friend, I was telling her how I wanted to talk about all the things I learned in therapy about my distorted thinking.  She kept saying that the term wasn’t clear enough and therefore needed some tweaking.  So, let me start by sharing what I believe to be the best analogy for distorted thinking.  Imagine you have a kaleidoscope with loads of pretty gems in it.  If you took the kaleidoscope outside on a beautiful day and looked at flowers, it would distort the natural beauty of the flowers.  It would still have its own beauty, since the kaleidoscope was filled with pretty gems, but it’s distorted nonetheless.  Now imagine you have a kaleidoscope with coal and dirt in place of gems.  How do you envision those flowers looking as you gaze through the kaleidoscope of filth?  Now imagine your thought process was continually looking through that same dirt-filled kaleidoscope.  That is what my thought process did, for years, with several aspects of my life.  I still catch myself battling it, but I was taught methods, in therapy, to recognize and squelch that way of thinking when it resurfaces.

Some people think that therapy is a place they go to for a quick fix or, worse, a place where they can figure out who to blame from their childhood for their distorted thinking or lot in life.  I’m not saying that our childhoods don’t have an impact on our lives and who we become, they most certainly do.  However, I find that successful therapy is achieved upon acknowledging things that have happened, moving past them, and working, truly working, on the here and now of the problem.  Even if there was a source from my childhood for my acquired distorted thought process, what good would have come from placing blame?  For me, the solution came in getting to the root of the problem and allowing myself to grow, not hunting down the planter and yelling at them for not planting me in optimal sunlight.  I use the term “planter” loosely, not as an analogy for a parent or any one person, but as a source beyond my control.  The healthiest way to make emotional progress is to be accountable for your actions, and realize there is no quick fix.

At the time when I was sincerely ready to attend therapy, I had to address the fact that some of what I felt jaded about was not really even happening.  For instance, in my mind, any compliment given to me was only out of obligation or a form of manipulation.  Somehow I couldn’t take a compliment as a sincere gesture of someone’s amiable feelings towards me.  How could I feel good about myself when I wouldn’t even accept that there was good in me?  The flip side to this is when, someone really did think less of me, and I automatically took their thoughts as truth.  My worth is not dependent on another’s set of ideals, and yet somehow I still struggle to think of it as such.  It’s this way of distorted thinking that has left me feeling shame for my mental illness and my use of medications for proper treatment.  However, that topic is for a whole other day.

Distorted Thinking

For today, I think the message I want to send out into the world is simply to become aware of distorted thoughts that you may be having, perhaps unknowingly, and try to debunk them so that they do not consume you.  Also, don’t let your worth be dependent on another’s set of ideals.  And, lastly, progress can be made, but First You Must Begin.  This post would not have come to pass, if I hadn’t simply begun and let my thoughts land where they may.

**As a footnote, I’d like to add my advice when it comes to attending therapy.  Please don’t assume that if you went once and it was horrible that it will always be that way.  I have sat down in front of six separate psychologists, starting as early as 11-years-old, and only ONE proved fruitful in my healing process.  Three of those six were so terrible that I couldn’t even bear to go back and sit through that kind of misery a second time.  I am a huge advocate of therapy, and I believe each of us can benefit from seeing a psychologist.  It is not a sign of weakness, mental illness, nor anything of the like.  It is a sign of someone desiring to be a better version of themselves.  Don’t be discouraged if you have had bad experiences in therapy.  We meet loads of people in our lives, some become friends, some don’t.  Similarly we are able to connect with people in their chosen professions and within the services they provide.  Recently, I had a dreadful session with a therapist, but I will not let that experience keep me from finding the right fit.  While I was previously given several tools to help me with my distorted thinking, I know that I stand in need of a refresher course.  Too bad that ONE psychologist that provided me with those saving tools resides in Southern California.  WAAAHHHH!!!!**

Personal Rant on Blogging

Since transferring my blog from Blogger to WordPress, I’ve learned a lot more about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  What I’ve learned is that I suck at it.  Successful blogging is harder than it seems.  Blogging is easy enough, but being successful at it is another thing.  Of course, you first need to figure out what type of success you are seeking.  Monetary gain or level of popularity?  Coincidentally, the latter naturally begets the former, assuming you have ads running on your blog.  There was a brief point when I wanted to make my focus monetary, but I quickly learned that I lost my greater purpose when I set my sights on profit.  So, while I admit, I would be quite pleased to contribute in bringing income into our home, that is no longer my goal.  So, does that leave me seeking popularity, as my measurement for success?  I suppose any writer dreams of a large following, do they not?  I imagine those that do not keep their writing confined to a journal.  So, yes popularity plays a part in my idea of a successful blog.  However, I tire of what needs to be done to get people to come to my blog in the first place.  It sometimes feels deceptive.  So, today I present to you my personal rant on blogging…

Images

You gotta have them!  Publishing a post without an image is blogging suicide.  The image isn’t just about making the post look prettier, it’s main purpose is to be the catalyst for getting people to come to your blog.  It’s what you put out there on Pinterest and Facebook and any other social media you’ve become a slave to in the blogging process.  It can’t be any image.  It has to be YOUR image, unless you want to fork over money for a stock photo.  I’m sure the money is worth it if you have income coming in, but that’s not the case in my world.  There are rare instances when a royalty free image will suffice, so I shouldn’t gripe too much.  However, an image really isn’t even enough.  It needs to be a high quality image, potentially staged, with some darling text that says just enough to leave the reader intrigued.  So, now it’s not just about the writing, it’s about the hook.  It’s about becoming a better photographer (or finding a better photographer), then learning editing programs (assuming you have any such programs), and then realizing the image becomes half the work in publishing a simple post.  Worst yet, it rarely turns out as you hope it will.

SEO

Blasted SEO!  I liked it better when I lived in ignorance.  Meta description? Focus Keyword? Flesch Reading Ease? Seriously!?  Why is it that I have to follow this set of guidelines just to get readers to even notice the existence of my site?  I suppose I get it.  SEO is just about giving you the upper hand in the great big world of the Internet, but still.  Writing seemed more fun when I didn’t have to word everything in such a way that Google would deem me approved for a top option when a reader searched keywords.  I enjoyed believing that people were sitting in their homes typing words in the search field and First You Must Begin came up as the answer regardless of the topic they were seeking.

Titles & Taglines

It seems every blog these days offers you “5 Ways to…,” “6 Easy Tricks…,” and “10 Trusted Tips….”  If you want to get people to come to your site, you better have a number in the title!  The worst part is that the number thing works.  I hate that it works.  I hate that if I see “8 Ways to Teach Your Kids About XY&Z,” I’ve gotta click on it, as I must know these 8 ways that this random person believes are essential.  I.  Must.  Know.  I fall for it every time.  The other one that kills me, although this is more video related, is the tagline, “What you see next will leave you in tears….”  Really?!  Will it leave me in tears?  I never know if THIS video will in fact leave me in tears, or leave me shocked, or leave me laughing, or whatever other emotion I will most assuredly feel.  Nine times out of ten, I ignore the video.  But if it comes up in my FB feed via friends more than twice, I succumb to their tagline ploys and then curse myself for doing so.

Post Frequency

The worst way to not have continual traffic is to do what I do – post once a week.  It seems you gotta be pumping out the awesomeness virtually daily to keep people interested.  This is where I admire all of those avid bloggers.  How do they do it?  How do they come up with stuff to write about every single day?  Is it original content at all?  I’m learning that I must not be very original, because new thoughts and ideas are not flooding my brain at the same rate as these other bloggers.  I cut myself a little bit of slack, as I don’t really have a concrete topic I’m putting out there.  It’s not like I’m doing a home, or fashion, or travel blog, that has various how-to’s, products, and destinations to discuss.  I’m trying to share insight, insight that comes merely from my personal experiences, and no Masters degree to prove I may have something worthwhile to share.  Frequency will be my nemesis as long as I blog, or at least as long as I have four children to raise.  I’m left with only enough energy to frequently tend to my family.  Blogging will always take a backseat to that.  Plus, I don’t want readers to feel like I’m constantly showing up in their news feed or Inbox with a lengthy post that will just keep them away from living their lives to the fullest.  Lets just take a moment once a week to catch up and then get back to living that purposeful life I’m always talking about.

Actual Content

Once you’ve duped the reader into clicking on to your website, then you have to make sure you deliver on your promise.  I don’t know whether or not I provide the reader what they’re seeking.  That’s for the reader to decide.  What I do know is that this is the part of blogging that I enjoy.  The writing.  Scratch that, not just writing.  The writing of things I believe in, feelings I have, experiences that have helped me to grow, that’s the part I love.  That is my purpose, as it were.  That is what I want more than monetary gain or popularity.  I want to send a piece of me off into the Internet abyss and hope that it will somehow help someone who maybe feels insecure, lonely, lost, hopeless, or discouraged.  And if, by chance, the reader is as confident and happy as ever, my prayer is that one of my blog posts will help them to recognize the opportunity they have to be something more than who they were yesterday.  That is my cause.

Work for a Cause

I don’t need the applause, but it seems as though without a significant amount of applause or techniques to become a top viewed site, my cause might not make it to the reader that needs it.  I suppose though that I do not need to reach many, I just need to reach one.  I recently read that a journalist once questioned Mother Teresa about her hopeless task of rescuing all those in need and her rebuttal was that her work was about love, not statistics.  I stand to learn a lot from that ideal.  I want my writing to be about love, not statistics.  I suppose I’ll have to decide what level of cooperation I’m willing to do with images, SEO, titles & taglines, and post frequency in my effort to spread the love, but not lose sight of my cause.  I can only hope that when a reader finally finds their way to my site that the actual content will be worth the wait.

Achieve the Impossible

A while back, I was watching The Pirates! Band Of Misfitswith my kiddos.  Towards the end of the movie, as things are looking bleak for the protagonist, The Pirate Captain, his response to the naysayers is, “It’s only impossible if you stop and think about it.”  It’s such a quick line that I almost missed it.  I found the line enlightening.  Certainly, I am not suggesting we forego thinking things through, but I don’t imagine it does anyone any good to think things to death and risk lost possibilities.
I did that very thing for years with writing.  I came up with all the reasons why it would be pointless to even pursue writing.  I believed it impossible that anyone would enjoy anything I had to write.  I thought about it so much that I never did it.  I’m learning that the action of writing in itself is fulfilling the desires of my heart.  The perks of positive feedback is really more than I could have dreamed of for myself.
But even on a smaller scale, as I sit here with no Christmas presents wrapped, my shopping incomplete, a grocery store trip still on the horizon, and bathrooms that need cleaning, I feel overwhelmed trying to process how it will all get done in time.  The best thing I can do for myself and my family is just keep moving.  Sitting here dwelling on what needs to get done will get me no further along.
If a task is feeling daunting to you or a dream is feeling unattainable, may I suggest that the only thinking you do on the matter be to believe it possible and figure out the first step that needs to happen to make it so.  My husband knows I can get easily overwhelmed by an over-flowing sink of dishes or a laundry list of to-do’s and he reminds me of the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  So, pick up one toy, wash one load, write one post, decline one cookie, create one water color, put one foot in front of the other and make your goals and desires happen!  Don’t let over thinking it stop you from achieving it!
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Beginning

My fingers have felt paralyzed in this task of starting a blog that lays out all my insecurities, revelations, desires, disappointments, and triumphs as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman.  A culmination of fear and excitement builds inside me.  My hope is that such a blog may be of service to someone else who has, perhaps, felt similar feelings of discouragement and longed to break free from the weight of such a burden.  But then, where do I start?

I recently heard a broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, which is the oldest continuous nationwide network broadcast in America.  The program is just as the title states.  It is a thirty-minute program comprised of music and an inspirational message.

The broadcast on April 7, 2013 had a message that seemed to scold me and encourage me simultaneously.  A portion of that message is as follows:

We’ve all had similar experiences when a problem, a project, or a challenge felt almost impossible, too large and difficult for our limited time, resources, and capacity. We may have felt frozen by fear, paralyzed by indecision—by not knowing where or how to proceed. And then we discovered the only way to proceed was simply to begin. Just begin! It has been said that the deed is half done once we have made a beginning. So we do what we can, no matter how small it seems.

You can find the entire message on the Music and the Spoken Word website.

So, here I am, beginning.  I don’t know exactly where I’m heading, but I need to begin in sharing this part of me.  This vulnerable part that longs to overcome my distorted thoughts and fulfill the measure of my potential.

That being said, let’s do this!

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