I'm adding one more position to my ever-growing resume: Motivational Speaker
While working in my Jerome studio this lovely Sunday afternoon, a small group of Canadians wandered in. "What do you do here?" one of them asked. I gave them the four-cent-tour, showing them the featured artist of the month's paintings on display in my gallery, a table full of my photography, my book The Secret Butterfly Trail for sale, autographed of course, and some of my modeling photos. They enjoyed the free coffee and goodies too.
The questions came and I answered them like I usually do - animated, smiling, full of laughs and one-liners, like "I was raised by hippies in the middle of the woods in Connecticut." But once the conversation started, I explained simply and matter-of-factly how I ended up in Jerome, and Sedona, and Michigan, and how I talk to the Universe every day, surrender and live in a constant state of gratitude (with a little humor and sarcasm thrown in). One of the visitors said "You should be a motivational speaker, if you aren't already."
"Oh, no. I'm much too busy with photo workshops and designing websites, drawing floor-plans and arranging First Saturday Art Walks." Seriously, could I add one more thing to my busy schedule? I mean, I'm already in need of a Personal Assistant and probably a couple other helpers. I couldn't possibly be a public speaker too.
"You're famous," said an older man with bright eyes and a big smile. I stared at him for a few seconds, then looked at the rest of the group. They were all looking at me the same way. "Well, I'm not famous. But I have done some public speaking, and I talk to groups just the way I've talked to you here today, like I talk to friends about my life-stories."
We hung out on the comfy couches in my studio, sipping coffee and talking and laughing. The best part: they opened up about their personal lives, sharing their tragically beautiful stories with me. After an hour or so, the sister of the other man said "You've been through more than most people, and look at you - you're doing great. Would you mind talking to my daughter? She's struggling."
I don't know what I'd say to her daughter, except the same sort of things I say to my own, which is pretty basic. "Do a little bit of everything and see what sticks. When something clicks, and you obsess over it and can't wait to try it again, do that for a while and see where it goes. Have a vision and don't wander away from that vision. Keep your vision alive, every single day." That was how I got into photography, and everything else I do with passion. I didn't take a class or study with a master. I picked up a camera and started experimenting and sharing my photos with the photographers I modeled for. Sounds like simple advice, and it is, but you also have to be willing to sacrifice and fail, over and over and over again. I'm a pro at that!
Motivational Speaker - Why not? I'll give it a whirl. Like with everything else I create in my life, I'll jump in feet first and figure it out as I go. Like one of my favorite motivational speakers, Tom Bilyeu, says:
"No one is born a visionary. You cultivate that s**t." - Tom Bilyeu
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I rarely ever share an article that wasn't written by yours truly, but this one by Dinah W. Brin crushes it. As a busy freelancer, these reminders come in handy, and they are how I do what I do. Check it out:
Any small business owner or freelancer bursting with ideas and overwhelmed by projects may need help staying focused and organized. This is especially true for the easily distracted entrepreneur.
Shiny objects - email, Facebook, the phone, the dog — can sidetrack anyone, leaving you foraging for important papers or just trying to figure out how to start your workday.
If you find yourself bouncing from task to task, becoming more frazzled as you struggle to make real progress, consider trying a new tack to minimize distraction and establish some order.
A combination of meditation, planning, written goal-setting, bite-sized work sessions, productivity apps, accountability buddies, exercise and delegation may work for you. Here are a few tips to consider for getting organized and on track in 2018.
Write down your daily goals and steps for getting there — and follow that plan"Storing all of your goals in your head just isn't enough; if you don't already create daily goals, it's time to integrate this into your routine. Every morning, make a short list of milestones for the day," says Hannah Wright, co-founder and CEO of cloud HR software firm HR Partner.
"The act of recording your goals is much more powerful because you are far less likely to forget your tasks, and it also allows you to hold yourself accountable," says Wright.
Licensed clinical social worker Kelsey Torgerson recommends that people set a schedule for the day, figuring out what needs to be done immediately, within the week and within the month. "Stick to a schedule so that you know you'll spend at least an hour on this task before moving onto the next one," she says.
ADHD author David Greenwood batches together similar or smaller tasks to complete in one stretch, which helps him "get in the zone" on projects.
Your daily goals should be part of a larger objective.
"Every business owner should be operating from a strategic plan. This plan should include an overarching vision, a path to achieving that vision and the milestones that need to be hit along the away," says David Scarola, The Alternative Board's chief experience officer.
Break your work into manageable pieces — and take breaks. By unpacking a major goal into smaller steps, you'll see progress and gain momentum and confidence to propel you toward your overall objectives, emotional intelligence coach Harvey Deutschendorf says.
S. Frances Robbins, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with an online therapy practice, recommends establishing time blocks for working on specific tasks, starting with 20 minutes.
"Remove all distractions. If no internet is needed to complete this task, turn off your WiFi," she says. "If you need the Internet, then turn off the notifications and limit your screen to only those areas you need to complete your work."
Take a short break after this dedicated work session, said Robbins, but set a timer, "or your 10-minute break could easily turn into an hour."
Free or low-cost time-tracking apps like TimeCamp and Toggl, project management software like Wrike and Asana, and your trusty computer, paper or cloud-based calendar can help you stay focused, organized and on top of business.
Tech entrepreneur Mike Brummett, founder and CEO of startup Sensory A.I., keeps a Google Keep tab open, using the note-taking service to set reminders for tasks, follow-ups and even prompts to go get some fresh air.
Tend to mind and body. Exercise, meditation and mindful focus on breathing can help keep you centered, calm and on track. Rest and good nutrition are important, too.
"Getting the proper sleep is critical. The brain repairs itself during sleep and it's one of the best ways to ensure you have the ability to focus the next day," says Greenwood, author of Overcoming Distractions: Thriving with Adult ADD/ADHD. "By the same token, exercise needs to be a part of your life. ... I need to get some type of physical activity at least every 48 hours or I have issues with focus."
Twenty minutes to an hour of exercise a day can keep your mind focused, according to Robbins.
Mindfulness, through meditation, focused breathing or other methods, can also be effective.
"Help your brain stay focused by taking breaks for deep breathing, and just build them into your schedule so that you know they're coming," says Torgerson.
Brummett says mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace have "helped on those mornings and afternoons where there are important meetings or personal events that seem to overwhelm my mind."
Physically limit distractions. You may need to close a door, get away from your regular work space or find another way to tangibly block distractions.
"Noise-cancelling headphones are my godsend," Brummett says. "You can shut out the world when you're in the zone and keep up the momentum."
Limit your personal social media accounts and your access to them, perhaps checking only once a day. The same goes for any other internet rabbit holes that tend to steal your time and attention.
If you find that you can't resist Twitter or Facebook, try an extension like Work Mode or StayFocusd that will block them for you during work.
Find an accountability buddy to help you stay committed to achieving your goals. "Clients who struggle the most with getting focused really benefit from weekly accountability check-ins from either a coach, friend, family member or colleague. This looks like someone sending them an email or text to ask them what their three main accomplishments were the previous week, and what their three main priorities are in the coming week," said career coach Rebecca Beaton.
"I personally do this with a friend each week — we both check in with each other," she says, "and I find it helps me to laser focus in on what's important, while avoiding 'shiny object' syndrome."
I thought about starting this blog with, "I've spent years trying to figure this love thing out." And although that sentence is true, I'm so far removed from it that it doesn't even make sense to me anymore. What is there to figure out? Do we ever really figure out love?
Here I am at 52, in a new relationship. Is it great? Sometimes. And other times, not. Hearing someone ask "could he be the one?" irks me to no end. It's like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. "No, there is no one", I tell them.
I was married twice. Well, technically three times, if you count my first husband, whom I married, divorced, married and divorced, again. Let me start over. I was married three times, to two men. (That sounds like I married two men three times, but you get it.)
Marriage, what a concept! What does marriage have to do with love? At my age I should have some answers, but I don't. I'm winging it through this life. You're probably thinking, why should I bother reading the rest of this blog? Hang on, it gets better!
I will tell you this: there is no love better than loving yourself. I know, it sounds cliche. Self-love is plastered all over social media, and that's not such a bad thing. There is overkill, though. But for those who don't know how to love themselves, I'm glad that self-love quotes and images are out there for everyone to see on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like. A simple glance while scrolling through news feeds can spark something, anything that might help someone who really needs to hear it.
I came across how to love myself the hard way, as usual. Nothing ever comes to me easily. Long before social media influences, books on the matter and support groups, I was alone out there in the vast wilderness of self-loathing, clinging to men for validation. "Choose me, love me, don't leave me!" I soon learned I was not alone. The majority of women I knew were in the same boat, and it was headed down the rapids.
How did we get this way? Were we raised to be needy with no self-value, unless, of course, a man gave it to us? I could analyze that for hours, but I won't bore you. You know who you are and how you got here. None of that really matters anyway. What does matter is what we did next.
We, the insecure ladies of the world with no self-confidence, battered and beaten by motherhood, careers and marriages, managed to pull ourselves out of the miserable world of waiting - waiting for a man to love us, to give us what we thought we deserved. We woke the fuck up. At least, that's how the scenario went for me.
In my personal experience, a mental breakdown was necessary. I left. I walked away from my home, my kids, my husband, everything. It wasn't a choice. I had given myself away, so much so that there was nothing left to give. I prided myself on being a martyr, the do-gooder, the worrier, the saint, the caretaker. I was everything to everyone. I sacrificed myself. And no one put a gun to my head, I did this all on my own.
It was only when I lost myself, and I mean all of myself, that I hit rock bottom and was ready to build myself back up, for the first time in my life, and I was only 35. I wasn't ready to look at my part, but I was ready to crawl into a therapist's office and whisper my secrets. Even that didn't come easily for me. I'd rather talk about my latest nail color, or redecorating my living room, or my recent trip to the beach in Mexico. You know, the bullshit that we think is real. Over time, and a prescription for Prozac, the words flowed out of me like an uncontrollable river of obscenity, betrayal and infidelity.
Like wading through quicksand I grasped at anything I could to get myself out of the mess that I created. Blaming others was no longer allowed. I was all there was to blame. Through the muck I went, like pulling a hair-clog out of a bathtub drain, full of goop and nastiness, I verbally vomited all over my therapist's office. Thank goodness for her, this angel in my life. For the first time ever, someone allowed me to be me. And even I wasn't sure who I was.
I learned how to love myself, and how to be happy with just me. I didn't take a class or go to a seminar. I got on a bicycle and rode for 28 days through the bike trails of Southwestern Michigan. But that's a story for another day. My point is, I had to be alone and be okay with it. I was alone, and I felt like shit.
It was painful, like I was being reborn. Literally, I felt like I was being pushed out of the womb, gasping for air. It was life or death for me, there was no middle ground. When big changes come my way, they're dramatic, never subtle. Slowly, I began with little things. Self-love, for me, meant taking long hot baths using essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, drinking herbal teas and listening to soothing music. Long walks alone, putting my bare feet on the earth and meditating. Spending long periods of time in quietness, journaling and sleeping were my favorite things to do. Over time I started to feel happiness, and I don't mean constant-happiness. I thought that was the goal. It's not realistic. I learned that I could be happy even in the worst situations. Happiness is a state of being, and certainly not a permanent place of bliss. That's something else entirely.
I learned what happiness was and how to get there, which naturally evolved into self-love. I was in love with me, happy and content. I no longer needed someone else so that I could feel gratification. I was doing that all on my own. I took care of myself, held myself accountable and became responsible. This didn't happen overnight, it took years.
Relationships with men came and went over time, and I learned more about myself through each one of them. Each of them, the one for me, at the time. And that's when an epiphany hit me like a two-by-four to the head. I was ready for a committed, mature relationship. Wow, I never thought those words would come out of my mouth!
Just when I wasn't looking, he appeared. He wasn't a knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse to save me. I wasn't a damsel in distress needing to be rescued. This wasn't a fairytale, it was real life. I was a mess after three solid days of writing, starving and standing at a grocery store deli, waiting for my turn and eyeballing the fried chicken in the deli-case. He was standing nearby, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, attempting to make small-talk with me. I was in no mood for that. Finally, I was served, sat down in the corner of the grocery store cafe and began scarfing down the chicken and coleslaw. He approached me again, and I wrote down my website and handed it to him, not expecting to ever hear from him.
But a couple months later he found me, in of all places on a Facebook advertisement for my latest book. He commented, "Hey, I met you at the deli!" From there, we messaged each other, and I agreed to meeting him the next day to sell him a signed copy of my book. Sure enough, the following day he walked into my work studio, handed me a twenty dollar bill and asked, "Are you hungry?"
"I'm starving," I said, and off we went to The Asylum, which for those of you who are not familiar with Jerome, Arizona, The Asylum is one of the best restaurants in town, my favorite. That was three months ago and we've been together pretty much most of the time since. It wasn't love at first sight. It was something much more meaningful than that. It was friendship, which grew into compassion and understanding, which evolved effortlessly into a deep loving relationship.
If you got anything out of this blog, I hope that it is this:
Be happy with who you are, and then fall in love. Fall in love with yourself first. Don't go looking for someone to love you. If it happens, let it happen naturally. Stay away from fairytales, they'll only let you down. And when the one drifts into your world, open up and let him in.
I took a Digital Detox from all social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all of it - and email, texting and Messenger for 30 days, and boy was it rough. The first 10 days were the worst. I had withdrawals, literally, like an addict. First was the obsessive habit of grabbing my phone, then the migraines started and eventually feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Why would I put myself through this torture? My idea was simple: find out who I really was; stop comparing myself to those around me and just be satisfied with my life - not the life that appears online, but my real life; and be present in each moment of every day with those I loved.
It's too easy to get caught up in society's drama and disillusion, and become part of its problem instead of a solution. Not that I view much of what's going on with the world, but still there's the close proximity to my surroundings and environment that appear like a constant barrage of never-ending propaganda and bullshit. And it's all online for me to see, 24/7. If I don't like what's going on in my Facebook News Feed, I can always switch over to Instagram or Pinterest - pretty pictures of art and photography, landscapes and buildings, fashion and places, things that I choose to look at but it's just another mind-numbing distraction. I'm not a Twitter person, but I was reminded that my 5-year Twitter anniversary came and went while I was on hiatus. Social Media platforms are great at sucking us back in with memories, anniversaries and birthday reminders. Google+, now there's something I never use.
My phone was my addiction, grabbing it from the nightstand next to my bed, checking in with the world before my morning coffee, before the sun even came up. During my digital detox I left my phone charging on the kitchen counter.
I made an announcement the day before I went offline, on Social Media, of course, about shutting down for 30 days. I explained that I would not be receiving notifications on my phone, I would not be responding to texts or messages, and I would only be checking my emails once per day. I went one step further, unsubscribing to all the email that I've been getting for years - literally years - without ever purchasing or pursuing anything from them. No more yoga clothing lines, Pottery Barn, Wayfair, charities and newsletters from organizations I've never read. No more clutter in my inbox. If someone wanted to talk to me, they could call me and arrange a face-to-face at a coffee shop or a hiking trail. Sounded like a good plan, so it began.
The nightly kitchen counter phone charger worked, but in the mornings as I made breakfast, I wanted to look at my phone for no apparent reason. Instead, I threw it in my purse. I took it along with me in my car to listen to my favorite music while I drove. When I got to my destinations, I left my phone in my car. My days felt like there was something missing, like I was forgetting to do something important. It was uncomfortable. Then it became natural. But that didn't happen right away.
I read somewhere, some time ago, that it takes 10 days to break a habit. Seriously, only 10 days, or maybe it's 21, who knows for sure. For me, after 10 days of practicing something different, I felt a whole lot better. This thing that became an appendage, a permanent part of my daily life, was no longer necessary. That is, until I was in a line at a Starbucks. I relied on my Starbucks App to pay for my coffee and gain points, important points to get free drinks. I scrambled through the bottom of my purse, searching for my phone in the Starbucks line, frantic that I'd lose something valuable if I paid with cash. I paid with cash anyway, and guess what? The world didn't end, I didn't die, and that free drink I might have gotten? It went to someone else, and that made me smile.
I missed a B-12 shot appointment because my calendar no longer sent appointment reminders. Oh my, I had to remember things on my own! Imagine that? It wasn't difficult to do. It did, however, make me realize how lazy I'd become, or how overly-busy I'd become, that I couldn't even remember a simple weekly appointment.
Checking my bank balance, my PayPal account, setting an alarm, making appointments, taking photographs, googling something and looking at the weather forecast were all done manually now, if they needed to be done at all.
I noticed that I was becoming less and less patient, and even a bit resentful toward people around me who starred at their phones all day long. I saw them in the cafes, in the coffee shops, in the grocery stores and even on the hiking trails. How is that even possible? "Get the fuck off your phone!" I wanted to yell. I started to feel sorry for people who depended on their phones for instant gratification - the occasional like or comment on a post, or an email, text or message. They were having an unrealistic intimate relationship with whatever was on the receiving end of an infinite web of online crap. I knew how they felt, I was one of them once.
A young person asked me, "What was it like when you were my age, without internet, cellphones, Facebook or GPS?" I thought for a moment and said "It sucked, but it was simple. Life was slower and quieter then." I hated sounding like an old bitch, reminiscing about the good-ole-days. I never wanted to be her. There is something beautifully uncomplicated about being offline, even if it was just for a month.
The time that was freed-up allowed for more reading, walks, eating healthier and going inward. Meditation, visualization and manifesting became my morning routine instead of grabbing my phone. Meeting up with friends, the ones that took time out of their day to see me, meant a lot. Casual conversations about the day, not politics or religion (or anything else that annoyed me) mattered more. My focus and attention toward important things, like spending time with someone new and really listening to them, instead of listening to the chatter going on in my own head, was a new learning experience for me. Daily activities, like making the bed, washing dishes and preparing meals became enjoyable. Taking a drive to a place I've never been and exploring whatever was there, or going to the theater and watching a movie felt like new adventures. I was actively participating and living my life deliberately.
What happened after the 30 days? I went back online, posting new photos of me (with red hair) with a new boyfriend, that I got to know without social media interference, with a newly re-branded image for my business. How did that make me feel? Better about myself and more disciplined with how I use social media. I revamped my website and all of my platforms, giving them a face-lift, and now I get online once or twice a day to market and promote my business. I still don't look at the weather forecast or calendar, I haven't used GPS or checked my bank balance, but I am taking photos and texting them to friends far away. I've taken a more responsible approach to my phone and all the apps and gadgets that are on it. I'm feeling clearer than I have in years, happier and more content with my life and I have fallen in love with a man. How impressive is that? There is no online site, app or phone that can take the place of a life fully lived.
I thought about whether or not to write this today, thinking it might be too cynical to be honest during the one time of the year when most people feel the most cheerful. Then I thought, "screw it, go ahead!" Not all of us come from perfect families and wonderful childhoods. We aren't all happy during the holidays.
I don't know why our culture crams joyfulness down our throats during the darkest time of the year. Seriously, I'm not making it up. It's a scientific fact that on December 21st, the sun reaches its farthest southward point. At winter solstice, the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and longest night of the year, thus darkness.
I'd rather hibernate than decorate a tree or shop for presents. The holiday season gives me two things: anxiety and stress. I don't think I'm alone on this. The more I try to be like everyone else - playing Christmas music, rushing around from store to store, decorating my place with lights, garland and ornaments and mailing out Christmas cards - the more depressed I become. (God forbid I should forget to send a card to that person - who was it again?)
Holidays can bring out the worst in people. It's not fun for me to remember past Christmases. Now, not all of them were horrible. Some were downright pleasant, like my kids' first Christmases, or that one where I got exactly what I wanted when I was a little kid. Or that year that my husband and I decided to stay home and spend Christmas day with the kids, go to the park and throw a football around with them, eat a meal we prepared together and watch movies all night long.
But the pressure of keeping up with society's idea of what Christmastime should be, pushes me further and further into frustration and exhaustion. I'm not a consumer. I don't shop at malls or big box-stores. I'm not one of those people who joins the hordes at the Walmart doors just before midnight on Thanksgiving night to get the best deals on the latest and greatest junk that no one really cares about.
I remember the last Christmas I spent with my dad, just weeks before he committed suicide. I remember the first Christmas after my divorce, and how I couldn't afford much for my kids. I remember harsh words from alcoholic family members, and feeling less-than, not good enough and crawling back into bed to sleep all day. I remember shopping till I couldn't move anymore, wrapping gifts into the wee hours of Christmas Eve night and attempting to cook the perfect homemade meal, only to be criticized and judged.
For those who are like me - the misfits of dysfunctionality - fear not! We don't have to fall into the false belief that the holidays will make us feel better, bond families and cure all. (If they do for you, hallelujah!) It is totally okay to not feel jolly. Here's what I do (and maybe it'll work for you):
I take care of me first. What does that mean?
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate and survive the holidays. Peace to you during this, the darkest time of the year.
Monday, November 27th, 2017
I am living the dream, one day at a time, and sharing my experiences with you.
If you liked what you read today, you may make a contribution and support my writing. Much gratitude!
© 2016 ZUSHKA BIROS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.