The Harsh Realities of Life

 

Shit happens.  You know that, right?

You can play by the rules.  You can do everything right.  You can be on time, work hard, be honest, try your best…and some things still do not work as you hoped.  You still have to struggle; you still have to figure out some things.  There are certain circumstances that happen beyond your control.  Sometimes they turn out for the best; sometimes for the worst.  These are some of the harsh realities of life that I discovered the hard way, the painful way.  I am still discovering them.

We could cry; I know I have.  The number of tears that I shed from the stress of this world is countless.  We could curse the world.  We could blame others for our misfortunes.   That will solve nothing and none of that will change our problems.  The bottom line is, we have to own up to our snags and face the facts.  We have to look at ourselves in our mirrors, and know that we tried our best and yet the end result was still disappointing.  That is just the way it is.

Part of the path to success contains some failures.  It will be messy before it gets better.  There will be anxiety, weeping, downfalls, embarrassments, pressure, jealousy and even a loss of some friends.  It will not be easy, and it certainly will not be all cookies and ice cream.  There is a light at the end of it all, however.  There is a point to all the pain and craziness, which will eventually lead to a relief from the vomitorium of hardships that you endure.  Nonetheless, as you travel this road to a brighter future, there are some facts that you must accept.  You do not have to like them or agree with them; just accept them.

  1. DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING TO LUCK—LUCK RUNS OUT.  “Maybe I will get lucky.”  How many times have we told this to ourselves?  And more times than not, luck did not come through at the right time.  It is always good to have faith, to pray and to think positive.  Yet there still needs to be some action.  We make our OWN luck with hustle and the non-stop belief that it will work out in the end.  Unless you catch a leprechaun and he shares his pot of gold and Lucky Charms, get to work.
  2. YOU CAN BE A GOOD PERSON—BUT IT WILL NOT HELP YOU SOMETIMES. I have a big heart.  It is very hard to say anything negative about me.  I can get along with everyone; and that gets me in trouble from time to time and very hurt.  Why?  Because I have wasted my time with the wrong people.  This can happen to anyone; negative people pick up on positive vibes and try to squash them.  Be careful with whom you connect.  Do not try to right the wrong people.  Love yourself enough to walk away.
  3. ADMIT IT—YOU SCREWED UP. We all make mistakes.  We are all human.  We learn from our slipups; at least, we are supposed to learn.  We will keep repeating them…I will keep repeating them…until the lesson is learned.  Once the lesson is realized and understood, OWN up to the screw up.  Afterwards, BOSS up and clean up the mistake.
  4. LOYALTY IS NOT ALWAYS REWARDED—NOT EVERYONE WILL CARE. In many situations, loyalty is considered admirable and often compensated.  In other matters, no one will care how loyal you are and will be dismissed with an “oh, well.”  It is an unfortunate, pure piece of truth.  I lived in the same apartment complex for several years, and there have been some times when I was a few days late with the rent.  I would tell the office in advance that it would be late, and I paid the late fees, and that was the end of the matter.  I always kept my word, and that is what the office considered every time. My word was trusted, as I was never a month or two behind (like some people), and I never, EVER caused any kind of problems.  However, when a new (and too young) property manager came along, the answer was NO.  “I see you’re a good tenant, no problems, but…”  It was basically an “oh, well” reaction.  Loyalty and integrity is not always enough.  Some people will not care.  It is all business and money.  Yet, don’t become a liar to please people. Keep your word, regardless. The right rewards will come soon enough.
  5. ASK FOR HELP—NO MATTER HOW HARD IT IS. I hate asking for help.  It is a “pride” thing.  We are taught to be self-sufficient and independent.  Nevertheless, there will be times when assistance is needed.  It can take the form of money, tutoring, advice, or just moral support.  We cannot get through this life by ourselves.  We humans are meant to connect.  So CONNECT, or at least reach out.  Afterwards, show gratitude and pay it forward when you get the chance.
  6. NEVER GIVE UP—NEVER. Do not surrender.  You will want to give up, give in.  There are times when bad events all seem to happen at once.  Even when the problems seem to pile up, there is no point in giving up.  The most successful people took the most punches and always came back swinging.  It is alright to fall back a little, or take a small break.  It is not alright to quit.  Otherwise, what was the point of you starting in the first place?  You did not come this far just to come this far.  Keep going.

We are often put to the test.  God throws us a Goliath to find our inner David.  When things do not go as planned, just make a new plan.  Face life; stay strong.

 

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Writer’s Challenge: Accepted

It’s always refreshing to connect with other artists, other writers.  Whether it’s in person, through a workshop, or through social media, writers can learn a lot from each other.  We learn new ideas, how to feed off of each other’s energy, and perhaps see new perspectives that we never dreamt were possible. Since we understand how each others’ minds work, we can offer support and encouragement for each other.

The other night, I complimented a poet on his work.  The poem was rather romantic; his specialty is love and erotic poetry, often telling tales of his own sweet desires and past loves.  He really digs deep, offering up himself and his soul for the whole world to view, cutting himself wide open.  That’s where some of the best creative works come from…that personal place, through an artistic form that otherwise could not be shared.  He appreciated my compliment, and even offered me a challenge: he asked me to “respond” to one of his poems, a piece that he directed towards a woman he wanted to seduce.  I assumed the persona of that woman, and created my own poem on the fly.

Mind you, I’m a better poetry READER than a poet, but I gave it shot and he seemed pleased.  Here’s what I came up with:

That ache, that passion and deep affection

that I felt for him

was hard to place properly into words.

Rather than using my tongue

to show my loving expressions with speech,

I used it for extensive probing of his body,

slowly exploring all the masculine sections of him

that my fingertips missed.

From this exercise and connection, I learned that you never really know what you’re capable of until you try.  You learn new things from the right people every day; and you should never walk away from a challenge.  This is how we grow; and how we may become better writers and artists.

 

Know When to Fold ’em: 5 Signs That -It’s Time to Quit

(Re-post from The Millionaire’s Digest, 12/3/16)

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It’s like being trapped in the movie, “Groundhog Day,” when you relive the same dreary routine over and over again.  You’re waking up early in the morning, making the journey, that trek to a destination to which you don’t wish to travel.  You make this trip every day; day in and day out.  You don’t want to go there, but you feel you have no choice at the moment.  Yet, somehow, deep in your heart and mind, you know you don’t belong there anymore.  You don’t want to go.  You just don’t.  You hate Mondays and you feel completely burnt out.

Your JOB.  You don’t want to go back to that place.  Still, there are several reasons why you force this upon yourself, and continue to return to a job that you despise so much.  Perhaps you don’t have the skills to get another job in your field, or you can’t find the job that you like.  Maybe you can’t find another job at ALL.  Perhaps you don’t want to be known as a “quitter,” and you figure if you hang in there long enough, things will get better.

Guess what?  They won’t.

If your heart and soul are trying to tell you something, and your gut instinct is screaming with a strong inner voice, “Leave and follow your dream,” you should listen.  Don’t sit there at the card table knowing that you have a lousy hand.  You owe it to yourself to know when to fold, and excuse yourself from the game.  Be willing to walk away, especially after you’ve re-shuffled the deck numerous times and continued to be dealt a bad hand.  It will get you nowhere.  You have to leave the comfort zone.

What to do?  Staying in a position you don’t wish to be in, could hurt you in the long run.   Do you know when to leave and turn in your two-week’s notice?  There are many articles about the subject, and most of them generally agree on the same points:

Sign #1:  BAD BOSS.  It’s been said that quite often, people don’t quit their jobs…they quit their BOSSES.  Bad management can not only have a negative effect on an employee’s performance, but on the employee.  An employee can become disgruntled, unhappy about the job and begin to stop caring.  There is the option of reporting the boss’ behavior to your Human Resources Department.  However, it may come down to just getting away.

Sign #2:  AFFECTS HEALTH.  A terrible job can cause an enormous amount of stress, which in turn affects an employee’s health; both mentally and physically.  U.S. News says this could include weight gain, nausea, headaches and insomnia. (http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/slideshows/10-reasons-to-quit-your-job-already)  A job isn’t worth your health.  We only have one body; take care of it.  Walk away from the negativity.

Sign #3: YOU’VE OUTGROWN THE POSITION.  It happens.  People change, people grow.  Some positions and companies do not.  Employees do get bored with their current positions, and there could be no opportunities for advancement.  There’s no longer a challenge, or the company has not invested in you enough to improve your skills and responsibilities.  When that happens, you’re in a “no-win” situation, and the cards you’ve been dealt no longer have the chances of becoming a winning hand.

Sign #4:  YOU’RE OVERWORKED AND UNDERPAID.  This is a big one.  Everyone works for that paper, right?  Money is one of the top priorities when it comes to employment.  With budget cuts and downsizing in small and large businesses, workers find themselves becoming overloaded with extra responsibilities.  If the duties increase but your paycheck doesn’t, then you’re not being paid what you’re worth.  This could also be detrimental to an employee’s performance.  Employees want to enjoy their work, but they also want to GET PAID.  Loyalty is respectable, but loyalty doesn’t pay the bills.  If the equilibrium between the workload and the salary doesn’t balance, it may be time to move on.

Sign #5:  TERRIBLE WORK ENVIRONMENT.  Co-workers are always cranky.  You have to watch what you say.  You don’t feel you have a voice.  Management doesn’t motivate the team.  They don’t reward or recognize employees for their hard work; but they are super-quick to punish mistakes.  There is no laughter or chatter among the employees.  The list goes on and on.  The work environment has a lot to do with an employee’s willingness to continue with the company.  If your co-workers make you as miserable as the job itself, KICK IT.

Some people reach a breaking point, where the company becomes so intolerable that they quit immediately.  If and when you do decide to leave, be sure to have a plan in place (another job, money saved, etc.).  Don’t try to abandon misery by walking into more misery.

Get work that thrills you, that ignites your passion.  Maybe you’d like to go into business for yourself, using the underappreciated skills you’ve accumulated from your current position.  There’s always an answer, a better way, a better chance at the game.  Or, just stick with the cards you’ve held onto all this time.  The choice is yours; but you should NEVER settle.  Escape while you can.

The Procrastinated Vacation: 4 Reasons to Take one

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That word.  It’s new to me, as if I was listening to vocabulary from an international language that’s never before been heard.

That word is strange and seems new to the tongue, like tasting a delicious and exotic fruit that leaves a joyful taste in the mouth.

I use this word for the first time in a very long time, far TOO long.

VACATION.  This week, I’m on…vacation.  Vacation is a word that is so simple, yet very seldom used to refer to myself.   I’ve used it for many other co-workers, particularly those whose work I have to cover:  “Yes, I’m taking care of that while she is on VACATION.”

WHY?  Why has it taken me this long?  Why?  We all know that a vacation is as necessary as working itself.  In my 9-to-5, I am a bit of a workaholic.  Actually, it’s more of an “over-workaholic.”  There’s so much to do, and there’s not really too many people in my company who can perform the tasks that I perform.  In the upside-downside world of media, there are deadlines, gorilla-like competitors and never-ending projects.  Plus, not everyone or everything is cooperative enough to see you through to your finish line.  There’s very little room for error, so that adds to the meticulous amount of time required to get the job done.  As a result, vacation is often put off for a later, more opportune date.  And that date never arrives.

But you know what?  I’m not alone.  Many Americans do not take as much vacation time they should.  Some workers don’t take ANY.  According to 2016 research from Project Time Off:  State of American Vacation (http://www.projecttimeoff.com/news/press-releases/americans-waste-record-setting-658-million-vacation-days), “more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015; that adds up to 658 MILLION unused vacation days.”  Many of these unused vacation days (like mine) do not roll over into the next year, or paid out at the end of the year, or otherwise.  They are gone; use them or lose them.  Unused days not only hurt the employees, but the economy as well.  Project Time Off points out that unused vacations result in billions of dollars forfeited every year.  For myself, after this week is over, I will still have a week’s worth of vacation days left to use.

So, economy aside, what are the benefits of taking vacations?  The reasons should be obvious, yet they still go ignored.  The benefits include, according to ME:

  1. Reduced Stress. There was a certain level of anxiety that I felt as I got up every morning, all these months, with no break.  That created a very dreary feeling that came from having over-disciplined and over-worked nerves and brain cells.  Vacations allow a sense of freedom, from having no plans, no meetings, and no schedules.  It clears the mind and the spirit, creating a free flow of creativity and joy.
  2. More Productivity. Whether returning back to the office or working on my side-hustle (blogging), I noticed that reduced stress makes me feel refreshed and anew, refocused on my creative work and goals.
  3. More Free Time to Reconnect. I’m catching up with friends and family members, thus allowing me to nurture my relationships.  Before taking time off, I was always too busy, too tired or too pissy & cranky.  We all need the connections with other people to get through life.  With time away from the office, I’m able to re-experience some wonderful people, whom I’ve missed.
  4. Negativity Detox. I breathe.  I’m letting go of every negative thought and feeling that’s been building up during all these months of over-work.  Without trying to sound “new age,” these negative vibes just ate away at my mind, blocking many chances of any positivity to seep inside.  This vacation is allowing me to release and forget all the negativity, and to just allow the positivity to stream easily.  I have a mind clear of the clutter and the distractions.

It all boils down to loving yourself enough to take the time to…LOVE YOURSELF.  It’s not selfish; it’s actually a necessity.  We owe it to ourselves, to our lives, to our relationships, to take the time to appreciate ourselves.  Life is far too short and unpredictable to be any other way.  We can’t be so busy making a living that we forget to LIVE.

Awareness of Yourself

2c38c257b975c214f0a436780c0970d7April, 2010, our family doctor called me at work:  “Tina, after a full examination and biopsy, we found some dark spots in your father’s brain…and they appear to be cancerous.”

Just like that.  My father was diagnosed with cancer.  All the symptoms that my father was suffering for weeks until that point was explained with that simple phone call.  And just like that, my life turned downward…for the second time.  You see, just one and a half years before that phone call, my life took a tragic turn when my mother, who suffered long and hard with congestive heart problems, was called home to Heaven.   And it occurred again.  With this phone call.  The cancer started in his lungs; by the time the doctors caught the disease, it had already spread to his brain and his esophagus.  I lost Daddy just four weeks after his diagnosis.  I lost both of my parents within 1 ½ years of each other.  It’s difficult to describe the ache of the loss, the double-whammy that hit my soul at that time.  I managed to survive this, which is something I would never wish on anyone.

I mention this because…I just received a phone call myself, proceeded by a letter, from my medical care provider and doctor, concluding my annual physical:  “Tina, we are pleased to inform you that the results of your recent Mammo Digital Screening Bilateral (mammogram) are negative.”  I literally cried when I received these words, tears of immense relief.  It’s also poetic that this takes place during the month of my birth; a signal of new chances, don’t you think?

As I’m sure everyone is aware, this is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  This is very near and dear to me, as I lost my father to cancer.  It’s a different type of cancer, yes; but in my humble opinion, ALL cancer sucks.  Cancer takes away too many people, too many loved ones, destroys too many lives.  As I described before, it can happen instantly.  Your life can change in a flash; so quickly, like a blink.  You never know what life will bring to you.  Particularly with this silent murderer cancer, breast cancer.

According to Breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.  In 2016 alone, an estimation of over 246,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in this country.  You know what else?  About 2,600 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in MEN in 2016.  No one is safe.

Cancer knows no gender; no race; no economic differences; no politics, no sexual orientation.  My heart goes out to anyone fighting this disease; who survived it; who lost to it; and who lost someone to it.  We all need to come together and show any support in any way you can, whether it’s financially, participating in a charity event or bringing any time of awareness (I’ve done it all).  Starting with ourselves.  We can’t surrender.  We cancervive.

The Re-Design of ME

“Tina, we need to discuss your attire.”

When those words first came out, my heart sunk a bit.  It was one of those uncomfortable conversations that are necessary, but tough to endure.  It was if to say, “We appreciate your hard work, but you’re embarrassing yourself with your appearance.”

This exchange was inevitable, I suppose.  I could only put it off for so long; after all, I lost almost 150 pounds over the past two or three years.  Yes, 150 POUNDS.  That’s more than the weight of a two-month old horse (average = 100 pounds).   Technically, I lost a horse and a half.   As the chubbiness melted away from my hips, arms and face, it was natural that the clothes I wore would literally fall off me.  Such as the sagging pants that I had to pull up every time I took two steps, ripping the hem of each pants leg from stepping on them.  My underwear, my blouses, even my shoes were all too big and hid the new, slimmer me that was buried underneath all that ill-fitting material.  This is the kind of success that all dieters dream about, I know.  And I can’t lie to you; it was difficult.  It’s still difficult, as my journey continues until I reach my ultimate goal.  I refused to take the bariatric surgery route.  There were many tears of frustration, changes in lifestyle, drops of sweat and blood, aches of muscles, discoloration of bruises and cuts, and many hours of exercise and sacrifice that brought me to this point.

Yet, there is another side of this kind of weight loss that people seldom discuss…the embrace of certain changes.  I suppose that’s why I was so hesitant to purchase new apparel…the fear of change.  I’ve been queen-sized my entire life. And throughout my life, I tried every diet and weight loss scheme you can imagine.  Nothing ever worked and I eventually gave up with a big “whatever” attitude.  It took a discussion with my doctor (after my parents passed away within 1 ½ years of each other) to make me finally make up my mind and say, “This is IT.”  So the journey began…

I have a powerful, wonderful, support system.  This pertains to everyone from family, my Assassin (my nickname for my personal trainer), my fellow gym “rats,” friends, co-workers, you name it.  My doctor couldn’t be happier.  Now that I’m doing it, I still continued to have trouble embracing the new Tina that was emerging.  Why?

Perhaps I’m trying to maintain my humility.  There have been too many times when I achieved some level of success with this diet dance, only to find myself stumbling and taking two steps back with disappointment.  It was to the point that I wouldn’t allow anyone to take my picture.  Plus, it’s challenging to purchase clothes for queen-sizes.  Most of those clothes are too expensive; and those I can afford, are a bit dowdy and drab.  It’s almost as if fashionistas are only supposed to be supremely-thin waifs that could surf on Graham crackers.  So I kept the same clothes and let them dangle a bit.  Hang.  I hid and disguised myself, until I was ready to emerge into my ideal image of the woman I’ve been working to become during the past two or three years.  I guess that day was sooner than I anticipated.

All of that brought me to that “you need some new clothes now” type of conversation.  You’re not selling yourself, I was told.  You’re worth more than you let the world know.  You only have one chance to make a first impression.  It was hard for me to hear; but I understood and accepted full responsibility for my lack of attention to myself.  I never paid attention to myself.  Yet, since I’m changing so much, it’s time that I did.  Just as I took note of that hard-hitting dialogue with my doctor, I took note of this one.

Within a week, I threw away some clothes, and I actually bought two new outfits.  IN A REGULAR STORE.  Those of you who lost weight know the struggle of going to get clothes in a regular store.  I actually bought myself a pair of pants and a couple of sweaters.  That’s not much for anyone else.  For ME, it’s a giant leap for all of queen-sized kind.  There are many things that I need to do, that I want to do, all to reflect the transformation that I’m going through, both inside and outside.  You have to understand, weight loss such as mine is not just physical change; it’s mental.  Emotional.  It’s a total alteration in lifestyle for which you have to prepare yourself.  It’s more demanding than people realize, unless you’re actually going through a similar situation.

My ultimate goal is to get a complete makeover, if I find the right stylist.  I want to change my hair, my nails, everything.  I will even allow my photograph taken by a professional photographer.  Change is frightening, but essential for success in anything.  I have to accept that…even if it’s in baby steps.