Sometimes it takes guts just to get out of bed…

Sometimes it takes guts just to get out of bed…

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.

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2014 wasn’t the best year I ever had. After a series of events which started with my husband, our daughter and I all losing our jobs in early January, lurched through the year to include an ambulance trip and a night in the ER with a suspected heart attack (and no health insurance), the loss of my 14 year old dressage horse to a chronic health issue, a severe concussion which led to several weeks of layup (and a real understanding of the words “brain injury”), the loss of my elderly and dearly beloved Corgi to cancer, a massive oak tree falling on our newly-completed barn, one of my brother’s being diagnosed with a brain tumor (benign, thank God), a week in the hospital with a kidney infection (and still no health insurance); and culminated in my husband being laid off the day after Christmas… yeah, you could say it wasn’t such a stellar year.

While there were many days that required a massive dose of gutsiness just to get out of bed (wondering what disaster was going to befall us next), I somehow just kept going. I think it was more about becoming numb than actually being gutsy.

Numb puts one foot in front of the other. Numb goes through routines. Numb functions.

Gutsy requires more. Gutsy requires some sort of spark, some catalyst. Some autonomous movement. No, 2014 was about plain, numb survival.

The gutsy kicked in during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The gutsy was all about The. Decision.

Yes. The. Decision. A simple, life-changing, indeed life-affirming decision that 2015 is going to be different.

It is amazing how gutsy you need to be to change your beliefs. To change the trajectory of your life by making a simple decision that you’re done being numb. You’ve had it with being steam-rolled by a set of circumstances beyond your control.

I had no control over (at least most of) the circumstances, but I sure as heck had control over how I responded to them. And I decided that my red-headed, rebel-without-a-clue self was done lying down and playing life’s doormat.

This red-head wants to Shine! This rebel-without-a-clue wants to build an amazing business that connects with other women who are looking for a deeper connection with their lives. This former doormat has something to say, something to share, something of value to put out into the world; and The.Decision. is all about leaving 2014 in the rearview mirror and walking forward into this new life.

There is a number on a piece of paper hanging above my desk. That number, which isn’t 6 figures, but is a heck of a lot more than I’ve made in any year before, is my income goal for this year.

Simply imagining that number was possible required an act of gutsiness. Writing it down on a piece of paper, even more. And building my business to the point where that figure is a reality? Yup, that’s going to  require an IV drip of daily gutsiness. And I’m ready.

Will I encounter challenges this year? Guaranteed. Will I stand up to them with more gutsiness than I mustered in 2014? I’d like to think so, but the real power isn’t in what may happen, or how I may handle it. The real power is in the belief. The belief that I Can Do This.

Holding onto that belief will not only move my life into areas only dreamed of, it will probably count among the most gutsy things I’ve ever done in, and for, my life.

Where have you injected a much-needed dose of gutsiness into your life? Let me know in the comments below, or head over to Jessica’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest!

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/52470343@N03/7043620439/”>BrookelGarro</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

Like a Phoenix – Rising from the Ashes of 2014

Year’s end often prompts us to reflect on the old and plan for the new. After a 2014 that left me feeling like a well-used punching bag, I’m more than ready to rise from the ashes.

Below is a review of 2014 and the lessons I’ve gleaned to take me through 2015. I originally shared this in the forum on the Freelance Writers Den.

2014 – The Good

1. Started full time as a freelance writer after losing longterm previous job (memo to self – never again have your whole family’s income depend on a bi-polar millionaire). I came into freelancing totally the wrong way, no safety net, no plan, and 1 bi-monthly writing gig that paid 9 cents a word. But you know what? I’m still here, and things are getting better.

2. Joined American Horse Publications. Since my niche is horses, this was a very good move. Attended the seminar this summer, met with a few fab editors, which led to…

3. Published in 3 of my bucket list national pubs – really the holy trinity of horse magazines for a dressage person: Dressage Today, The Chronicle of the Horse and The United States Dressage Federation’s Connection.

4. Got to guest post on Carol’s Make A Living Writing because of #3 (Still so proud of this – thanks, Carol!!)

5. Took bootcamps, Article Writing Masterclass (which ROCKS – if you’re on the fence about signing up for it – find a way and MAKE it HAPPEN – you won’t regret it), and generally soaked up tons of goodness from the Den. Also worked with Linda Formichelli in her (all too short lived) email mentoring program. Great investment. Also joined Danny Iny’s Audience Business Masterclass. Invested a lot in myself on this one, and it will pay off handsomely (however, see #2 in The Bad and the Downright Ugly).

6. Continued to be published in every issue of the regional horse magazine that started it all for me a couple of years ago. Pay is low, but I like this magazine, and it’s actually kind of fun calling someone for an interview (or just meeting them at a horse show), and having them recognize my name…

7. Started to look for better paying, non-horse ideas, have 3 queries going out this week. Have also started a spreadsheet with businesses and am sending out 5 LOIs per week (minimum) as well as 3 queries per week (minimum).

8. Got more active on Social Media, have my website up, started blogging more (which I LOVE).

9. Entered Jon Morrow’s Serious Bloggers Only Best Post of 2014 Contest (on a self-dare) and, to my amazement, received Highly Commended (3rd Place) in the Most Personality Category. Who knew? And it was from my NON-horsey blog!! Pretty cool. You can check out the results here.

2014 – The Bad and the Downright Ugly

1. Totally spaced on treating this like a business. Hence, income not exactly something I’m proud of. However, I’ve given myself a good talking to (and a swift kick), and have ACTION items and goals for 2015 broken down into 1 month, 3 month, 6 month and 9 month. I want to be able to keep track and correct course before the whole year is up!

2. Missed opportunities (again, because I wasn’t treating it like a business).After signing up for Danny Iny’s Audience Business Masterclass – which is a totally kick-butt program, I let it sit there. I still am trying to figure out where all the hours of 2014 went, because lots of them weren’t very productive…. The upside of this, I do believe I’ve learned.

3. Attitude. I felt completely steamrollered by circumstances in 2014. There was a lot of bad juju in my life, but I don’t usually let things get me down this much. Despite my attempts to be continually grateful and always look for the positive, I pretty much hit bottom, and felt powerless. I think the situational depression may have had something to do with the lack of productivity (and vice-versa). For 2015, I meditate FIRST every day, not if I feel like it after I look at the bills and try to work out a budget.

2015

It’s all about being a business. Not spammy, sleazy, salesman business, but honest, valuable information and products to customers who are looking for what I have to offer and are willing to compensate me fairly for the benefits and value I add to their lives and businesses.

As a business I will:

1. Have action oriented, controllable goals. (I can’t control which editors accept my queries, but I sure can control how many queries I send out).

2. Keep track. Of my income. My expenses. My actions. What works and what doesn’t.

3. PPRR – Plan, Perform, Review, Repeat

As a business owner, I will:

Always, always, always care for myself – mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

So, it’s kind of long winded, but there you have my wrap up of 2014 and look ahead into what’s going to be a great year in 2015.

2014 – 2.0

2014 – 2.0

I had already decided to change my attitude and try to meet each and every day wrapped in gratitude (see this post for more on this), but I’m taking it a step further and looking for the good that came out of the challenges of 2014.

Here’s my revised review of 2014 — I call it 2014 2.0.

January –  Version 1.0  – James, Sarah and I lost our jobs. Catastrophe. No income, ( as we weren’t eligible for unemployment), middle of winter, 8 horses living at the site of the former job, not a lot of prospects due to constraints of education/experience/age. Lots of fear and anger.

January – Version 2.0 – The loss of my job forced me to look at being responsible for growth in my life. I decided that the part-time freelance writing I had been doing would need to become my main source of income.

I was now no longer able to hide in a job which was so much in my comfort zone that it was like wearing fuzzy slippers and eating mac and cheese all day. Yes, I loved what I was doing, loved the farm, the horses, the cats, donkeys, the eagles which winged overhead regularly, the deer, turkeys, raccoons – it was (much like Coulson’s Tahiti in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), “a magical place”, but had I stayed, I would have continued to stagnate.

Moral – Losing the job meant gaining my life.

February – Version 1.0 – An ambulance ride to the Emergency Department with crushing chest pains I’d been trying to ignore for the previous 12 hours. Despite searching every possibility on WebMD, I could find no other likely cause for the symptoms than a heart attack. I finally bit the bullet, (and an aspirin), and called 911. I spent the night in observation, panicking about how, in my unemployed and uninsured state, I would pay the hospital bill.

February – Version 2.0 – One of the best parts of this “incident” is the wonderful people with whom I interacted. First my husband, James, and daughter, Sarah. Supportive and helpful and suitably worried throughout.

Next, my neighbor, Buck – who just happens to be a paramedic. When I told Sarah that I needed to call 911, she ran next door and retrieved Buck, who came and sat with me, took my pulse and generally comforted me until the arrival (just a few minutes later) of the ambulance.

The two EMTs on the ambulance. Great guys, Friendly, caring, and very reassuring about the hospital having financial aid for people in difficult situations. Between the nitro and the kind words, they offered the physical and mental comfort I needed.

Probably the most “entertaining” part of this whole scenario was the cardio stress test the hospital performed the morning following my admission to the hospital. Lab results had determined that I had not had a heart attack, and the hospital had ordered the least invasive (and least expensive) test available to check my general heart health.

So, off to the treadmill I go. Now, up until early January, Sarah and I had been training to run a half marathon, and doing 6 miles of running/walking was pretty normal. I’d also been managing a horse farm and puIMG_0472tting in about 5 miles a day just in general chores, so I was reasonably fit. And reasonably un-prepared to run on a treadmill. I mean, when I called 911, I wasn’t exactly thinking about putting on my running shoes. So I had on my Dansko “Paint Splatter” clogs. Cute, but on a treadmill? I joked with the techs about the hospital taking care of the broken ankle which was likely to ensue for no charge, and got going.

It took about 12 – 15 minutes and several increases in degree of incline before I reached my target heart rate, but I sure impressed the heck out of the techs that this overweight, middle aged broad was as fit as I appeared to be.

We never did determine the cause of those chest pains (as I remain uninsured – at least until 1/1/15), but my heart appeared relatively healthy, and it was put down to general stress. (Who, me? Stress?? Why would I be stressed?).

Moral (2 for the price of 1)- It’s not always the worst-case scenario, and humor is everywhere you choose to find it.

The middle months – 1.0 The Animal Kingdom Part time return to the job I had lost – working at, instead of managing, the horse farm. I had been offered 10 hours a week and took it so we could eat and pay a few bills. When the two broodmares showed signs of impending birth, Sarah and I moved in to care for them round the clock (despite Sarah not being paid at all and my being paid for 10 hours per week). It was critical to me that they were cared for. This wasn’t about me or the money, this was about doing the right thing. The first mare ended up having stillborn twins. Not a great experience for any of us. The second mare happily produced a healthy filly. I left the job soon after as I experienced such a huge amount of stress returning to the property after having lost the job in January. But I had done what I needed to do.

Those middle months also saw the passing of my “real dressage horse”, Atlas, at age 14. Chronic ringbone left us no choice. We were unable to make him comfortable, and euthanasia was the only humane option. October saw the passing of my beloved Corgi, Mysti from bladder cancer.

The Middle Months  – 2.0 The Animal Kingdom and Beyond While I returned part time to my previous beloved job and then finally left for good, the most important thing about this was that my horses were allowed to continue to live at the lovely place they had come to know as home. When you’re dealing with a 36 year old blind gelding, his 29 year old pasture buddy (and seeing eye horse), as well as the other waifs and strays I had accumulated over the years, having a safe home for them was paramount to me. Ownership was transferred, but I am still able to go and visit them, and I know they are cared for. Not easy for me to give them up, but this wasn’t about me – this was totally about the horses.

Mysti, although we lost her this year, had been diagnosed with bladder cancer in January of 2013 – and given 3 months. The fact that she remained happy, pain free and energetic until October 2014 was a gift. I learned a lot from her when I received her original diagnosis. I cried and felt sad, but Mysti, not knowing about tests, results, cancer and the like, just continued being Mysti. Just live the life you have and don’t project a whole bunch of unnecessary crap.

The good stuff about the middle months were that I was able to move Accolades, the lovely gelding given to me when Atlas injured himself badly in 2013, close to home. He lives at a neighbor’s just a few minutes away from the house. I even went on a hunter pace with him this year – my second ever. For a 25 year old, he proved he’s still got it by jumping me off over a 3′ coop when he left out the last stride and just “went for it” from waaaay back. The ensuing concussion and trip to the Emergency Department led to filing for financial aid from the hospital again, but the ride was wonderful, and I have the 5th place ribbon hanging over my desk. Ironically, if I hadn’t fallen off, we would not have placed because we would have completed the course too fast.

The middle months also saw my return to Dressage at Devon, where I’m the volunteer coordinator. Sarah was able to come with me and be my assistant this year, so it was even more enjoyable than ever. An exhausting, but incredibly rewarding and fun way to spend 10 days at the end of September.

In September I also attended 2 clinics given by George Williams to get information for an article I wrote for Horse Talk Magazine. Wonderful learning experiences. George is a phenomenal teacher and a genuinely nice individual.

October brought the Virginia Dressage Association’s (VADA) Fall Show, where Sarah once again joined me for volunteering for the duration. Love VADA and the people involved. Even though I hadn’t renewed my membership due to finances in 2014 – I wouldn’t miss volunteering there for anything.

Moral – Animals always leave our lives too soon, so we need to rejoice in the experiences they offer us. Losing them may be hard, but not having them would be inconceivable.

November and December – 1.0 –  The year wrapped up with financial concerns (nothing new there) only exacerbated by my developing a severe kidney infection after having a kidney stone on the way to visit my Mom in CT on December 13. I drove back home to Virginia on the 15th, James drove me straight to the Emergency Department where I was told I’d be admitted overnight due to the high white blood count (18,000 – the normal range is 4,500 to 10,000) and the need for IV antibiotics. A week later, Sunday, December 21, I returned home. The week in the hospital left me tired, relatively weak, and again in need of filling out financial aid forms.

We had a quiet Christmas, and then James was laid off from his job on the 26th. Thinking this was a pretty awful way to end the year and surely things couldn’t get worse, I then put my back out on the 28th, and am heading to my chiropractor this afternoon in hopes he can relieve the low back pain as well as the awful headaches resulting from a neck issue I developed while in the hospital (not used to a week in bed, I guess).

November and December – 2.0 – Tired of ongoing financial issues, I had decided I really needed to ramp up my writing business. I’ve been published pretty regularly this year in some regional magazines, I produce a blog for one of them as well; and I’d been published in Dressage Today, The Chronicle of the Horse and The United States Dressage Federation’s Connection Magazine. All great stuff, but non of them on their own will pay the bills. Marketing has become my new middle name and I’m putting together plans and action items to dramatically increase my income in 2015. Branching out into non-horse markets (which typically pay a bit better) is high on my to-do list. I’ve got three query letters going out next week to non-horse pubs – so wish me luck on that.

In light of getting my writing out there, I entered Jon Morrow’s Serious Bloggers Only Best Post of 2014 Competition, (with this post), and, much to my delight, I earned Highly Commended (3rd place) in the Most Personality Category. This is pretty awesome stuff. I had also been invited to write a guest post for Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing Blog, which I did in September. That was a great confidence builder as well. Nationally recognized blog for writers, and I had been invited to guest post. Maybe it was time to start believing I had what it takes…

During my recuperation from the kidney infection, I’ve been doing some reading, clearing out my inbox, un-subscribing from several email lists, and subscribing to a few new ones – all with a look toward living my life on purpose. Taking control over the things I can control, and developing a grateful and learning attitude toward those things I can’t control.

I can choose. As all of those wonderful wisdom writers tell us, there is a gap between experience and response, in that gap, we get to choose what our response will be. By remembering to be present, we allow ourselves the realization that that gap even exists, therefore making it a whole heck of a lot easier to access our inner wisdom in that one moment. The choice is ours to make – just as the choice to look at 2014 as a terrible series of experiences or simply a series of experiences – neither good nor bad except in my perception.

Moral – Life is what you make it. The choice is always there for us. At times, it may be buried so deep that we doubt its existence at all, but it is there. Change is mandatory, growth is optional — choose wisely.

I’d like to thank my parents …

I feel like I should have an acceptance speech ready, and, quite honestly, “I got nothin”.

 

After my post “Spit out the Mouthguard and Step Away from the Corner” was named “Highly Recommend” in the Personality category in Jon Morrow’s Serious Bloggers Only Best of 2014 Competition, I must admit I’ve been pretty excited.

There are a few reasons for my giddiness; the first being that I almost chickened out and didn’t enter at all. That would have been pretty silly (but sadly not atypical) behavior. Happily, some bold and wild side of me said, “Oh, what the hell”, and entered anyway. Two points for the bold and wild side.

The next reason I’m so happy is that I’ve been wondering if I’ve “got what it takes” to start querying articles outside of my beloved but poorly paid niche of horse magazines. I’ve also been wondering if I could actually bring anything to the table in terms of voice. I mean, I know I’ve got one, I just wasn’t sure anyone wanted to listen to it…

So, if you’ve made your way to this blog because of the SBO Competition, thanks for the visit and please feel free to visit my horse related blog site,             TheHorseyLife or my writer’s website, www.TheHorseWriter.com (apologies for the lack of a link, my phone is refusing to play nice).

Being given this honor has been even more appreciated because I’ve been in the hospital since Monday with a kidney infection (hence the lack of laptop).

I hope you enjoy my words. Please feel free to leave comments. My reply time is likely to be somewhat erratic for the next couple of days until I go home, but be patient (no pun intended), and I’ll get back to you.

I hope you have a peaceful and joyous remainder of the year and that 2015 is your best year ever.

 

Spit out the Mouthguard and Step Away from the Corner

Spit out the Mouthguard and Step Away from the Corner

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Photo Credit: ElMarto via Compfight cc

It’s been a tough year. To be more precise, it’s been a tough 11 months and 1 week. With any luck, once the first week of December rolls around, I’ll have this abysmal 12 month period behind me and be on to bigger, or at least better, things.

I won’t bore you, or ruin your perfectly nice day with the details, but it’s been rough. I’m normally a sunny, optimistic sort – and this year had me wondering how I could survive one more blow. And then when the next one hit – wondering the same thing again. I guess I’m a lot more resilient than even I realized… who knew?

Truth is, I’m sick and tired of being resilient. Trust me, I know, – it beats the crap out of the alternative. And really, it’s not that I’m tired of being resilient. Being resilient really is a good thing. I’m just sick and tired of *having* to be resilient. I’m tired of having taken enough body blows to send a prize fighter back into his corner spitting out his mouth guard and considering his second career choice of being a human cannonball.

I want things to go right. I want there to be enough water in the well to wash a load of laundry and take a shower on the same day. I want to sit down and pay my *all* of bills once a week and not play checkbook roulette, wondering if I will have enough to pay at least the critical things. I want to experience less pain on a *normal* day. I want my friends and family who have experienced rough times to have peace and healing and all good things. I want an end to strife, and pain and misunderstanding – at least for a little while. I just want a chance to take a breath and get ready for the next round.

So I came up with a plan. I decided to call a truce. With life. I planned to officially wave my white flag and offer to sit down and work on a peace accord. And then I came up with a snag in my seemingly perfect plan. Concessions.

No, not who sells popcorn at the peace talks – concessions as in “what am I going to give life in exchange for life no longer using me as a personal punching bag”.

Yes, things have been difficult this year — I’ve been in a lot of pain, but am I willing to give up my (mainly) good health in exchange for a shoulder that works or the end to the fibro issues?

I’ve had awful financial issues — but am I willing to lose my house in order to get away from the ridiculous interest rates on my mortgage?

I’ve lost animals this year — but am I willing to experience a life without any animals to spare myself from the pain of losing another one?

When I looked at this closely, I decided to call off the peace talks and re-define my relationship with life. Maybe we needn’t be adversaries. Perhaps we could work together. Maybe I’ll be a bit more grateful for all of the wonder and wealth in my life. And maybe life, in return, can take it just a bit easy and let me catch my breath before the start of the next round.

And maybe, just maybe, the root of my problem lies in that last sentence, “…the start of the next round”. Perhaps if I stop dressing for battle each morning and instead greet each day wrapped in gratitude, I’ll see a different life than the one I’ve gotten to know over the past year.

I have no control over many of the situations in my life (and I don’t mean this to sound like victim-speak – simply a statement of fact). What I do have control over is my response to those situations. I can choose to be the injured party, the warrior, the tilter of windmills. Or I can choose peace, acceptance and gratitude. I can choose to understand that we make our life by our responses to situations. The situations themselves are simply that – situations. It is what I make of them that makes my life.

So, just for today, I’m going to choose to spit out the mouthguard, lay down the gloves, drink a cup of tea and say a little prayer of gratitude.

Will 2015 bring an easier or more pleasant set of circumstances to my life? I have no idea. But if I go into it with an “attitude of gratitude”, I guarantee that, no matter what the circumstances, life will be more pleasant. And that’s a good place to start.