Category Archives: inspiration

Losing Control vs. Letting Go

I confess, I like to control my environment. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing is that I can dictate every single aspect of my characters and their lives. If only my children and husband would give me that same power!

Since my 50th birthday this past fall, however, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t actually dominate anything but my own thoughts and actions, and that attempting to extend that reach is exhausting. I finally see the difference between losing control and letting go. I can’t exactly “lose control” over things I never truly governed in the first place, right? Meanwhile, “letting go” means having faith that, even without my interference, things will eventually work out for those I love.

It’s not easy. I’m not always gracious about it, either. It’s hard to bite my tongue. Sometimes things like “Try it this way” slip out. Why? you ask. Well, in my mind, I’m deeply invested in the people I love, and trying to help is one way of showing my love and commitment. But I understand that my habit can be annoying—or worse, insulting—to others. In other words, it has the opposite effect of my intentions. Thus the newfound attempt to “roll with it.”

A potential bonus of my new attitude is that a more flexible approach should also help me remain happy in my career. The publishing industry is in constant flux, which is difficult for someone with my preference for structure. And unlike my former legal career, where you could rely on hard work to achieve certain results, in publishing, you can work extremely hard and still not get to where you are trying to go. Opportunity, luck, and subjectivity play important roles in this profession, none of which are in my control. So, like the beloved Dory advises, I “just keep swimming.”

I assume some of you are like me (controlling) and others are more relaxed. I invite those who fall into the latter category to offer me some advice on how to chill out!

xo-Jamie

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Goodbye, 2016

By most standards, 2016 has been a turbulent, surprising, somewhat devastating year.

We’ve lost some amazing celebrities, the most notable being singers like George Michael, Prince, and David Bowie, actors like Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, and Carrie Fisher, director Gary Marshall, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, journalists Gwen Ifill and Morley Safer, Janet Reno, Justice Scalia, Arnold Palmer, author Harper Lee, songwriter Leonard Cohen, astronaut John Glenn, pop icon Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Fidel Castro.

We’ve lived through the ugliest political campaign I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, and sadly we’re still seeing a rise in populist sentiment (eg., Brexit and other elections across Europe). Cop killers and killings have sparked protests and resentment nationwide. Nearly 91 people per day are dying of opiod overdoses in the U.S. (according to the CDC). Zika is spreading (not only through mosquitoes, but also through sexual contact), and no one knows how long that virus will last in one’s system or how devastating the ultimate consequences will be. On the somewhat lighter side of bad news, Brangelina split! And Kim Kardashian lost millions in a weird jewelry heist.

Scary, sad times, most say. But as we head into 2017, let’s remember some of the positive things that occurred in 2016.

Need examples? Well, the economy has improved. Stock markets have hit new highs, and unemployment is at its lowest rate in nine years. Harriet Tubman will be on new $20 bills. The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in more than a century. And U.S. carbon emissions are at the lowest levels since 1991. Those are just a few examples of good news that seems to get buried beneath the bad.

It’s so very easy to get caught up in negativity when it’s trumpeted on every major media outlet, and on social media. People love to be heard, and for some reason, most like to spread doom and gloom.

If we want a better world, maybe the place to start is with a resolution to look for, share, and celebrate good news (big and small)! If we collectively contribute positive messages and share “feel good” stories and wins, maybe a groundswell of goodwill will slowly erode fear and hate and lay the foundation for change for the better.

That’s my wish (and goal) for 2017. Are you on board?

xo-Jamie

Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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It’s all in how you choose to view it

November didn’t turn out anything like I’d planned. I thought we’d have our first female President–but I was wrong. I thought I’d conquer National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and get 50,000 new words written in my current work in progress–but I was wrong. I thought I’d start a diet and lose at least five pounds–yep, wrong again.

It’s December now. Time to move on and set new goals. To do that, I need to let go of the guilt and frustration about those mistakes and failures in November. The best way I know how to do that is to look for the silver linings.

img_8595For example, maybe our country’s first female President will end up being someone universally admired instead of someone riddled with suspicion and questionable ethics. That’d be better, right? And while I wasn’t able to dedicate myself to NaNoWriMo and the new book, my editor’s notes on my last submission are making that book much stronger. That’s great, too!  Now, admittedly, it’s tough to see the silver lining in my diet failure, except I did totally enjoy the Bethel Bakery cake my mom got for my daughter over the Thanksgiving break! I rarely get that treat now that we’ve moved from Pittsburgh to Connecticut.

When I was younger, I would dwell on things that troubled me, even things beyond my control. Age has taught me what a monumental waste of time that behavior can be. Now I try to make myself look at things with a fresh perspective. Once I’ve found something positive within each of the otherwise upsetting events, they don’t seem so awful. In fact, most of the time, readjusting my attitude about an outcome opens up new and brighter possibilities.

Do you dwell on your mistakes, or do you move onward and upward?

P.S. I will start that diet…after the holidays.

xo-Jamie

 

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude

I think it’s fair to say that November has been a tough month for most of us. Those of us who are upset by the election results are feeling afraid for the future of our nation and many of its people, while those who are celebrating the results are feeling attacked for exercising their rights. Everyone is pointing the finger at each other and spewing ugly, hateful words. I can’t recall a time in my lifetime where the country has seemed more divided and angry. I can’t speak for anyone else, but none of this puts me in the holiday spirit.

So, I’m taking a page out of my mother-in-law’s book. Since I’ve known her, she has engaged in a nighttime ritual designed to support a positive outlook. Once she’s in bed with the lights out, she reflects upon the day and every event that made her smile or feel grateful, then she settles on her favorite moment of the day and replays it in detail.

My mom's Thanksgiving table.

My mom’s Thanksgiving table.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m thinking this is something we might all try to do, even if just for one week. I don’t know that it will help (although my mother in-law is a pretty happy person), but it certainly can’t hurt.

To kick it off, I’m going to list a host of things I’m generally grateful for:

  • My family (the whole messy bunch that brings laughter and tears, as well as challenges and triumphs, into my life). We share an elastic bond of love and history that can’t be broken, no matter how badly it might get stretched at times.
  • My friends and colleagues, who are supportive, thoughtful, and intelligent people that teach me something new every day.
  • My agent and publishing team, who are helping me live out a childhood dream.
  • My “fans,” who read my work and write to me, sharing personal stories and well wishes.
  • My ancestors, who bravely came here from other countries hoping to give their progeny a better life. I hope they know that their sacrifices and courage were well-rewarded.
  • The majority of Americans, who stand together to fight for freedom, justice, and the equality of all, and who are resilient and passionately committed to the betterment of humanity.
  • God, for giving me a healthy mind and body, both of which I try not to waste.

Tonight I will follow my mother-in-law’s lead. I’ll reflect on my day and the specific moments that made me smile. I know waking up to the first snowfall (or dusting) this morning will be one. If the Steelers win today, that might be another. 🙂

I wish you all a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday, and hope that you will be surrounded by family and friends.

XO-Jamie

 

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