Book Reviews + Writing + COVID-19: I’m Better – Happiness Between Tails
At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.
This week, I’ve been doing some writing, but not as much as I’d like — for quite a happy reason! My husband and I are getting ready for an extended visit from my brother-in-law.
First, though, regarding the podcast at the start of this post, over the time that’s gone by since I originally published the blog version of it…
Covid: Somehow it can damage the brain, and in my case, how it connects to my senses. I have yet to fully taste and smell things properly. For instance, citrus fruit doesn’t taste like anything and it doesn’t smell “citrusy.” The smell of onions cooking is now horrendous, yet fortunately they’re ok to eat. It’s quite upsetting. If I think about it too much, I want to jump out of my skin, but I wanted you to know in case anyone around you thinks Covid is no big deal.
Books: Last night I finished another fascinating one. Though officially a kids’ book, one of my fave authors, Ann Patchett (who also owns a bookstore), categorizes it more accurately as sui generis, meaning one of a kind/uncategorizable.
My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Imatoulline: “Is this for kids? I don’t have any, so I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s a great book for sensitive thoughtful adults. The kind who know that truly opening one’s heart is to risk getting hurt, yet there’s no better way to live. Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations are as gorgeous and deep as Kate DiCamillo’s writing. Note for those who need to know before reading: this book includes violence.”
Back to why I haven’t written a lot. In addition to the good news above, as of the last post to you, I was sure I was ever so close to finished writing my first novel. I have to remind myself that actually I am, though further than I wish. Every time I send the final handful of chapters in for review, they still need something more… more depth, more smoothness, more, more, more. Argh!!! Not taking criticism personally and buoying myself that I can indeed improve on what I’ve written is not easy.
Better to discuss the cheery part of not writing — making room and cleaning up the house for my husband’s brother is a great excuse to organize our stuff better and to get rid of things we haven’t used in ages. Whatever we didn’t donate to Salvation Army, I listed for sale on Ebay and Craigslist. That involved sorting, cleaning, photographing, measuring, researching similar items, writing copy, and so on.
Did you know Ebay lets you advertise things for pick up only? Moreover, Craiglist lets you run ads in other languages, so I posted listings in Spanish as well as in English. Now we wait to see if anyone wants to buy them…
Working hard on things can get rather grim. As a result, these past couple of mornings we’ve started our days laughing as we eat breakfast! Technically, we’re doing “Laughter Yoga.” Watching others laugh, it’s impossible to not at least smile. The founder is a medical doctor who treks the world teaching the serious need for laughter. Amid his numerous Youtube examples, this is especially rib-tickling…
And now for today’s guest. Miss Bekah runs two blogs from her home in the United States, The Thoughts that Bind and Eight Years In, to help readers find their best selves and to follow a healthy vegan lifestyle. She also has videos on Youtube of her music…
Personal Growth and Change by Rebekah of MissBekah Productions
For ages, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of personal growth and change. And I think a lot of us can relate. Whether it’s that we want to finally get in shape, nix a bad habit, overcome an addiction, face our fears or just become a better person in general, we’re tasked with unraveling this question: how do we spearhead our own personal change?
Now, I have chased bits and pieces of this idea for years. Whether I was engrossed in a self help book or going to therapy many times a week trying to cope and combat the symptoms of an unrested mind, it’s always been (at least) on the back burner. How do I change? How do I create a better life for myself and a better self for my life? And while I got results here and there for specific things, I don’t think I grew to understand the process until quite recently. I did, however, find myself gathering lessons from every turn of the road in order to synthesize this realization.
Act before you’re ready
Although I wanted to improve myself for many years before, I think my first real success at doing so was my foray into addiction recovery, which also coincided with me getting therapy for the first time.
In recovery, I learned that sometimes, you just have to do the things that you’re scared of. Even if you’re not ready. Because as I often say, you probably already know what you need to do in order to live the life you’ve always wanted. In many cases, it’s just a matter of putting it into action.
Only you can do this
And as I was recovering and taking actions I was uncomfortable with at the time in order to start being healthy again, I realized just how alone I was in the responsibility of recovery. I had some incredibly supportive people on my treatment team. Talented individuals with bright ideas and big hearts who all wanted me to succeed. But ultimately, it didn’t matter what they thought or how much help they could give me. It had to be me who took it.
And this whole idea of acting before you’re ready really plays into that, I think. Because if someone gives you a task you’re not ready for, all they can really do is present it to you. They can’t force you to do it, and if they manipulate you into doing it, you grow to resent and mistrust them. So all in all, it really has to be you pushing this engine of growth and change.
Sometimes you need a rest
After the bulk of my recovery, I went into a sort of hibernation mode of sorts. I was uninterested in doing any extra sorts of action to improve myself. And as much as I think that state can be a downer, the more I look back on it, the more I conclude that it is what I needed at the time.
Once you’ve had a big shift in who you are and how you manage your life, you need to be able to sit back and relax, even if it’s just for a little while. You need to rest to repair your resolve. Something that hardly anyone talks about is that even when you see the positive results of your efforts, you still need to sit back and relax for a brief period. You can’t always just keep chugging on momentum and adrenaline—that’s not sustainable.
But I think another reason it’s good to take a period of rest after a big change is because it’s good to acclimate yourself to your new life and way of being. As creatures of habit, these things affect us more than we realize. Not only that, but if you want this change to be sustainable, then you need to learn how to live your life within the confines of it, whatever that may entail.
Learn to guide your thoughts
Following this period of rest, I was wary of this action-oriented approach, for many reasons. For one, I realized that all of the actions that I had taken unconsciously out of my distress lead me down a very destructive path to begin with. And there were many thoughts and feelings and patterns to detangle behind the more obvious-presenting self-destructive habits.
I wanted to understand where these things had come from. So I dove into self-reflection. This was a skill I had been introduced to through therapy, and was learning to replace for my usual rumination. I knew that I couldn’t control the life circumstances that I was given. But I could learn to control my brain, and how I used it. That’s all any of us can do when it comes to altering our mood and mindset.
And so I set out to do just that—I learned about my brain, my patterns, my limiting beliefs. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share that knowledge of well-being with other people that might be able to benefit. And so I started a website called the Thoughts that Bind.
Don’t get wrapped up in perfection
I think some point after starting the Thoughts that Bind, I had this sort of mistaken idea that at some point I would be fully happy and healed and have no more to learn or put on the site. And yet I was also concerned about, well, not being there yet.
But after honing my mindset and perspective for years now, I’m starting to realize that there’s no end in sight. There will always be some new way I can learn and grow, something that I can work on to improve.
It’s possible that the old me who was just starting out on the website would be a little upset to realize that, but for me, that’s a good thing! Never being able to get it done means I never have to be concerned about not completing my own self-actualization. I never have to think “wow I’m behind, I’m not fully healed and a master of my thought, word and deed.” I’ll never be completely there. It’s okay.
It also means that as long as I live, there’s never a reason to be sitting in stagnation. There will always be something new to explore and blossom into, no matter how healed, grown or “expert” I become. I can use my knowledge, wisdom and skills to move to a forward that will always be there in front of me. That’s exciting!
Use your new perspective
I think I stayed that way, mindset oriented, for a long time. I suppose I figured my action-oriented days were done, since I was recovered now, after all. But something was brewing inside me.
I think I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind that you need to take action, sooner or later. I had seen how much it had changed me back in my therapy and recovery days, and the more I looked, the more I saw it in the world.
And so, I dipped my toe back into action and I realized that more than anything, it was the next natural step for me and my personal journey. I started taking my thoughts and realizations one step further and pushed myself. I thought, “this is a good idea. Now, how can I put this into action?” And I began slowly but surely, improving myself once again. I even started another website, Eight Years In, all about the actions we can take to live a more ethical life that leaves a good impact on the world around us.
Most of all, I realized that any new perspective, when it’s a good one, is made better and more concrete when it’s followed by actions to back it up. I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily a full-on hypocrite before this realization. But I definitely didn’t push myself to consistently follow through. It was more like when I remembered, when I felt like it. And when I added that recommitment to action, based on reflection, things really started moving in my life.
It was right around the time of recommitting myself to inspired action that I realized how much of a balance it all is. When it comes to self-improvement, I think there are two camps. The inside-out camp (thoughts oriented) or the outside-in camp (which is action oriented). I thought over the years, mistakenly, that I ought to pick one to agree with and reside in but now I realize that I really can’t and don’t want to.
The recipe to personal development has two ingredients, mental and external. You need the right mindset to guide you in the direction you want to go, but you can’t expect that mindset to take care of it all for you. You need action and commitment to adhere you to the now reality and keep you progressing instead of pontificating.
In the beginning, sometimes the best thing to do is look at what little information you have and just start. You’ll learn along the way what works and what doesn’t, especially if you prioritize the mental and emotional aspects of personal change and growth.
You need action. And you need to change your mental patterns. These two things feed off of each other in a wonderfully symbiotic way. And when you’ve got them in balance, you’re golden.
Do what works for you
And I think the last thing we all need to know about personal development is that it’s just that—personal. What worked for me isn’t going to work for you. And that’s okay! What’s important is getting to know yourself. Once you know yourself and what works for you, start applying those principles instead of what some random person on the internet (or wherever else you’re getting your information) has to say. Because ultimately, only you can know who you are, and what you want to be.
Other people’s ideas are great to use as a jumping off point for you and your life. Hey, you might even use their ways of doing things. But that’s if it works for you. You are an intricate and unique individual, and nobody can perfectly tailor their advice to you and your situation, even if they know you (which many don’t). Learn to respect and embrace your uniqueness, by getting to know yourself and then using that knowledge to strategize your forward movement.
I believe in you. I know you can grow and change. And I’m so excited to see who you become in a week, month, or year’s time. You can do this!
Got something great started?