Houses of the Broken and Other Stories

Posts tagged “motivation

When the Levee Breaks

When I grow up, and I mean when I have more control over my own destiny and find myself on the other side of the management desk, I intend to turn things around. Tell your friends what we’re like. Tell our competition what we do. If you don’t like something, say it. Don’t leave it a carefully guarded mystery, festering in a cave of fearful doubt.

The world is slammed with non disclosure agreements and expectations. But I want to disclose. Oh, how I want to disclose.

Too many strings make for a heavy burden when you have to keep nearly every aspect of your daily involvements short, sweet and anonymous. No one wants to get bad press, but the more iron clad the agreement, the more you should keep a wary eye to the big, flashy smiles behind them.

Some people *ahem* are good at telling stories. Some people *ahem* love telling stories and some of the best stories aren’t fiction. Does someone need a champion? Someone to blow the chained cubicles wide open? Someone to ask the other minions if they’ve been treated the same? (I hear some people are good at asking all the wrong questions.)

The best way to keep people happy is to keep your promises. Setbacks are reasonable, if not expected. Deception, well, don’t expect that to succeed for long. Ignoring problems also doesn’t tend to make them go away, unless your goal is to alienate and irritate people in to leaving. And those people, aren’t going to recommend you later down the line, even if they are subject to a gag order.

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2014 in Review. AKA – Things I never thought I’d do.

2014 has been a strange year. On paper it doesn’t look so bad, but to many of us it has been a mind numbing, soul crushing sequence of days. For me, this year has seen a lot of unrealized potential. Small flashes in the pan that keep a person spurred on, perhaps. While not much came to fruition, there are a number of things I didn’t realize I even had on my bucket list, that I can now cross off.

The year started with a new job. In the middle of the polar vortex. In a very old building. Nothing like starting a new job and immediately having to notify someone that the plumbing was frozen.

In lighter events, here is a simple list of highlights, there are a million emotional roller coasters that happened as each item played out:

  • Started a new, higher profile job.
  • Pitched a reality TV show.
  • Tried to start a business.
  • Joined roller derby.
  • Auditioned for a different reality TV show.
  • Got a book contract for my first novel.
  • Tried to start a business.
  • Survived a season of roller derby and actually played a bout (at my age!)
  • Covergirl for a photography business.
  • Tried to start a business.
  • Got unintentionally published in a magazine.

This was not a year of travel and adventure for us, it was a year of change and keeping things close to home due to such a shaky job market. Realignment of priorities, establishing some aggressive goals, and keeping ourselves sane. It didn’t always work, and it was never really easy, but we’ve made it so far. I’m still not sure where summer went.

Overall, I wish the word ‘perseverance’ didn’t come up so often, but there’s not much of a choice if you want to change your stars. 2014 started the trend of letting go, and I suspect 2015 will include some of the same. It’s a challenge not to give in and quit when things are hard. I’ve dealt with some new people I hope I don’t ever have to deal with again but I’ve also met some new people I’d like to get to know better.

Pipe dreams were chased and many glass ceilings were revealed. Now all I need is a brick.

All I can say to 2015 is – Bring it on.


Some like a little warrior with their princess.

Some of my girls like conflict, I admit it. We… They … thrive on being able to best an opponent, no matter what gender, age or size. My dames dig damage. The rest of the world doesn’t always agree.

It’s not proper. It’s not ladylike. Don’t let them know that you’re stronger, faster, smarter. They don’t like that. Don’t talk that way. Don’t like those things…. it’s not appropriate.

Things that aren’t lady like are the best kinds of things. It’s no fun being a lady, I’ve had to do it a lot. No one says “Remember that time I knew what the shrimp fork was?” though they might fondly remember “Remember that time I ripped apart that entire chicken* with my bare hands?” Carnage is awesome.

Some of us are drawn to opposition, conflict and the like. Not because we want it, but because we’re not scared. It’s encouraged for boys to be brave. Why shouldn’t we be? Because it’s not ladylike….

I make a horrible damsel, it’s true. My hair isn’t long enough, I don’t wear dresses and I tend not to trip awkwardly when running away from things. IF I bother to run away. If a conflict can’t be neatly sidestepped, I’m more than happy to meet it head on. This tactic has had mixed results over the years but I rarely regret not running away. Bullies don’t know what to do with that, even as adults. It’s not always a matter of physical confrontation, but of self esteem and emotional control. You can’t make me cry. You can’t make me run. Your. Move.

“Princess” culture has never been my thing, despite being raised to know when to be a lady. Even as a kid, I wanted the princess’s horse, screw the girl in glass heels. (They’d hurt terribly anyhow. No wonder damsels trip.) What the modern self proclaimed ‘princesses’ fails to realize, is what the life of a REAL princess would entail. Extensive schooling, extensive training on etiquette, trivia, sewing, philanthropy, dance, strategy, arranged marriages for political gain…. it’s not all tutu’s an bon bon’s.

Keep your tiara, I’d rather have my soul.

I encourage all girls (and women) to add a little ‘warrior’ to their ‘princess’. Test your limits. See how well you can aim. Don’t be afraid of a friendly tussle. We get older and we forget… how we ran and played and bounced off the ground or tree or rock without a second thought. How we physically interacted with our environment beyond a keyboard and a screen.They are useful extensions for thoughts and ideas but they don’t compare to the feel of rough bark sliding under your fingers, or a cold stream shocking you awake as the water permeates the seals on your ‘water resistant’ shoes.

Learn strategy and how to pick your battles. Life shouldn’t be a constant fight nor a constant retreat. There’s no use ‘playing small’, because the more you do, the smaller you feel. You will be invisible if you act invisible. It’s a super power I’ve seen… or not seen… first hand.

Don’t be afraid to make them think. Make them nervous. Make them wonder… Even if you are wearing a skirt and a smile.

*Cooked. I’m no monster.


The Heat is in the Tools

Presently I have two very big influences in my life. One is trying to get my writing persona established and off of the ground, the other is a massive restore-o-vation of the very old farmhouse I live in. Neither are for the faint of heart. It takes a special kind of crazy to face insurmountable odds and go “Eh… what’s the worst that can happen?”

Life evolves. There’s no two ways around it. Things that were important one day, may not be so important the next. Likewise, something you never thought to be a consideration maybe become the burning desire that spurs you to action. Between renovation and writing I have found a few simple truths.

1. Each one is a lot of work.

2. If I don’t do it, no one will.

3. The heat is in the tools.

#3, obviously being the entire point of this exercise, is the important factor here. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly it could mean, in either context. The answer is fairly simple: Activity keeps you sharp (and warm).

When you’re ripping apart a 160 year old house in the dead of winter, you start to appreciate the concept of movement. To stand still is to be cold. There is no progress. There is no warmth. There is an overwhelming urge just to give up. Too hard. Too cold.  Too dark. Your mind becomes your own worst enemy. Before long you have yourself talked into a nice coffee shop and a cup of coco. But the cave remains, haunting your moments of relaxation and warmth. Only when hammer hits wall do you meet true feelings of satisfaction.

That work in progress is the same way. Be it marketing or manuscripts, sitting and staring blankly at things on results in cold frustration. I like to mull things over, but if it goes too long ambition starts to flag. Ideas fall by the wayside. And it’s just plain easier not to. To write is to work. The catch to being a writer is: you have to write. Even the best imagination imagination in the world can’t call themselves a writer if they don’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard.)

It’s hard, but the best thing to do is keep hammering away. Even when you’re tired. Even when you’re bored. Even when you think you don’t have time to spare. (And yes, I am trying to convince myself of this as well!)

It’s the only way to knock those walls down and build something great.


Third Life – Manifesto

Why not try for the long shots? There is nothing to lose. Realize what an enviable position that is. Nothing to lose is the best opportunity. You can take any chance you could possibly want to. There’s no one to answer to but yourself. The worst thing that can happen is someone won’t reply.

So few people have these type of chances… Opportunities. From an early age we get trapped… hemmed in… on a path… on a schedule… before we know who we are or what we really want from our life. Slaves to industry and commerce… SUV’s… big TV’s… stuff stuff stuff. Not many people get a chance to start over; to wipe the slate clean. Sure, it can be scary starting from the bottom… especially when you think you should be so much further head. But sometimes dead ends are what you need to point you in the right direction. At least that way you know where you’re coming from and what you hope to find.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for yourself and your life. It’s a natural drive we all have, but sometimes our head gets in the way of our hearts. “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Fear gets us nowhere. Being afraid to try does not result in happiness. Hesitation makes us weak. Reach out to the instincts that you have, the feelings in your heart that you don’t question. If you feel you’re destined for something better, don’t fight it, embrace it. But don’t sit idly by.

What’s the best that you can arrive at? What is it that you want? A job? A career? A big salary? A modest means and a happy home? How do you want to feel at the end of the day? What do you hope you can do for people and for yourself? DO you want to learn something new each day or do you want to do the same thing over and over, knowing that your task is done and done well? You have to ask yourself these things. Think back on your life and think of things that have made you feel this way. Or, alternately, haven’t. Sometimes starting with the things you don’t want is easier than defining the things you do. It’s unfortunate but true.

It doesn’t matter what you ‘feel like’ you should have… What matters is what you truly want. For example, do you envy people with smiling children because you want smiling children for yourself, or because you just feel like you should… because that’s what people do… that’s how people show progress and stability. Is it the symbolism or the true yearning? Never feel obligated to live your life like everyone else. Life isn’t a kit of parts. It doesn’t make you magically happy when you have what the person next to you has. And chances are, the people that look so happy, really aren’t. It’s easier to fake being happy than deal with the truth and the pain in your heart. I’d rather be around someone who is miserable but honest, any day of the week.

Maybe the sky isn’t the limit, but we must resist the tendency to sell ourselves short. To play it safe out of fear and panic. To convince ourselves that the known evil is better than the unknown trap possibly lurking around the bend.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

I try to go in to life and new situations assuming that I can do something until proven otherwise. I can learn. I want to learn. I might not know how to do something…yet. But the knowledge will come. It’s no harder to assume that you can do something than it is to assume that you can’t.

Maybe sometimes the learning curve doesn’t align with the demand, but the knowledge will come. It always does. Sometimes you have to dust yourself off… it’s a rare thing to be perfect. And who would want to be? Insecurity is your worst enemy.  The fear of looking foolish, of failing, of falling flat on your face. Of stepping on the ice and falling right through. There are lumps and bumps and bruises to be taken to be sure. Trials and tribulations exist for a reason… and everyone goes through them, despite the glossy facades they put on.

Don’t let yourself be your own worst enemy. Do not count yourself out before you even try. Do not judge yourself as a lesser person, just so you can beat someone else to the punch. Hurting yourself before someone else can hurt you gets you nowhere. Likewise, hurting someone else before they can hurt you does not make you better than them.

Maybe we don’t all have the divine calling we felt in our youth… or maybe they aren’t meant to culminate the way we imagined and planned. But if you feel it in your heart, it’s there, and it’s real. Hiding it… ignoring it… avoiding it… it doesn’t work. Fighting your own nature only causes conflict and pain. Learning to harness our gifts is a lifelong process. Sometimes there are sparks of insight, moments of clear and perfect intuition. Sometimes the skies are cloudy and gray for a long, long time… but they never stay that way. hold on to the sparks, and the flickers and the beams of light. Keep them close and keep them true.

And with that… my well has run dry…


Every day we run out of another tomorrow.

Use your time wisely.


Discipline.

First of all, for all those brought here looking for leathers and feathers, this is not about you. Sorry, that’s a whole other post. I’m talking about good old, self controlled, nose to the grindstone discipline. The kind that motivates you to do what you do, to make yourself better, to hone your skills and to get into a good habit.

Habit’s are hard. It’s hard to kick bad ones and even harder to start good ones. That New Year’s resolution you made to eat better, exercise more, be nicer to you coworkers? How’s that going right about now? No matter how good your intentions, it’s often tough to carve out time to sit down, focus and commune with your inner Muse. Muse’s are fickle beasts, but you have to feed them often or else they’re hell to lure back off of the sofa from their piles of bacon and duck based reality TV. They need action, and so do you!

Less talk, more action.

Call it what you want, but I like that as an inspirational slogan. I find myself sometimes caught in what one friend refers to as: analysis paralysis. It happens when I’m picking out a new computer, it happens when I’m looking for the perfect pair of black boots, and it happens when I’m trying to put a story together in my head. A million variations of ‘If this, then that…’ drone on in my brain, driving me to the point of fatigue. Two hours later I look up, no resolution has been made, and I’m ready for bed.

It’s easy to over think things or to over discuss things. Sometimes this is a good trait, if you can thoroughly go through your options but… and this is a BUT…. you need to know when to stop and make a decision. Nothing creative will ever truly be ‘finished.’ There is always more that could be done, tweaked, moved, streamlined, polished… sometimes you just have to accept your idea and act on it.

The difference between a writer and a wanna-be writer? Writers write. It’s just that simple.

Maybe it’s notes on the back of a receipt, maybe it’s a text to yourself on the phone, maybe it’s a whole day of pouring your soul out into a blank journal, any way you cut it, it’s progress. Don’t assume you’ll just remember things later… as confident as we are in our memory skills, there’s always something ready and willing to pop up like a weed in the place of the masterful idea you once had while in yoga, but never bothered to jot down.

So get off your ass, sit your ass down and put the thoughts into corporeal form. Don’t make me have to crack that whip.

It’s Mz. Alton, if you’re nasty.