Making a Difference

The first time I read each new LYL prompt, I instantly feel nervous and hesitant. These are big questions: what makes you angry, what’s your passion, what are you proud of. For someone who likes to stay in the background and just go with the flow, these are things I tend not to dwell on too much.

But they are important questions. And the fact that I tend not to look too deeply is probably one reason I’m still doing the same thing I’ve always done. How can I figure out what I want to do if I’m unwilling to address these questions?

Today’s question is a biggie: What difference do I want to make? I edit papers that few people other than me ever read. These papers often have things of value to say, but I honestly don’t know who reads them. So even though I help the authors convey their meaning clearly and coherently, am I really making a difference? And does it really matter if I insert a comma or delete a comma or spell out a number or use numerals?

These not-really-existential-ish questions have been plaguing me lately. Effective communication is important, and I’m glad I can help. But it’s not really my passion. (Though don’t get me started on double spaces vs. single spaces after punctuation. That is apparently something I am vehemently passionate about. One. Space. Only!)

But what is my passion? How do I want to make a mark on this world?

There are so many ways. I have no idea how to go about any of these, but here’s what I want.

  • I want to help alleviate conflict and tension on the local level. I want to help all sides see their common ground rather than focusing on all the hatred, anger, and negativity.
  • I want to help families find that time in their busy lives to come together and create good, healthy meals that they can all enjoy … without all the preservatives and fillers and other crap that goes into fast food, prepackaged products, and junk.
  • I want to encourage children to focus on their strengths and find their own passion to help them love learning. Not every child can excel in every subject, and it’s ridiculous that we expect them to. Instead, if we focus on what they love and what they are good at and what they are interested in, we can begin to build a society that works so much better together.
  • I want to work to keep our outdoors clean and pristine for future generations to enjoy–through trail maintenance, raising funds/awareness for open space, using less packaging to keep the trash we put back into the world at a minimum, and on and on.
  • I want to help others learn how to practice meditation, breathing, mindfulness, prayer, or whatever they want to call it or whatever calls to them in order to ease the stress and tension in their lives.

I know I can’t do all these things … or not all of them all the time. But they are what interest me. And they all seem to go back to calming the souls, the minds, the tensions in the world, whether through deep breathing, getting outside, learning more, or just sharing laughter over a hearty bowl of soup.

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Let’s Get Cooking

By trade, I am an editor, proofreader, general publishing person. I’ve been doing this for longer than I care to admit. I’m good at what I do, and most days I enjoy it. But I have certainly been wanting a change lately. Something that will make a difference, if not in the world then at least for individuals.

There’s an idea floating around in the back of my head that is slowly, slowly percolating to the surface. It is not fully formed or thought-out, but that’s where I’m going today.

“So, what do you do?”

I help people learn to prepare healthy, delicious meals with easy-to-find grocery items in a short amount of time. I teach them how to love create delicious meals for and with their families. I show them how with even the craziest schedules, they can find time in their lives to nourish themselves.

Proud Moments

Oh, all this introspection and looking back on my life is tough. I have been wracking my mind for days over what makes me feel proud, in what moments I felt most proud, what accomplishments have made me proud.

And I am drawing a blank.

A big part of the problem is that I equate pride and proudness with bragging and posturing. I’m all about staying low key. I don’t usually like to draw attention to myself or to make ripples. Because then someone might see a flaw or, even worse, expect me to do those proud-producing things all the time. I mean, what if I fail?

But back to the question. What in my life has made me proud?

So, let me just list some little moments:

  • I was proud of getting accepted to Smith College on early decision, especially as my high school guidance counselor advised me against applying there, because she said it was unlikely I would get accepted. (Really?! What kind of guidance counselor was she?!)
  • I was proud of being able to use my high school AP credits and a few extra credit hours each semester in order to graduate a year early, thus saving my overly generous parents another year’s worth of tuition and getting me out into the workforce sooner!
  • I was proud of getting a job in publishing so soon after graduating from Denver University Publishing Institute and then moving up through the ranks from editorial assistant to full-on production editor in such a short time.

But in my mind, I tend to taint each proud moment in my life with some kind of disclaimer.

I half-jokingly tell people the only reason I got into Smith was that I was the only applicant from Alabama.

Even though I graduated early, my grades were lackluster, and since I sort of rushed through it all, I still feel like I didn’t get all I could out of college.

But, hey, I don’t have a disclaimer for that first job. I really did get that job on my own merit. And thanks to a fabulous mentor and a super-supportive boss, I was able to learn a great deal in a short time and move up through the ranks, putting me on the road to where I am now. So, hooray for me.

But the point isn’t really to toot my own horn, is it? What deeper meaning can I learn from this little prompt?

Well, obviously, I need to value those proud moments in my life more and stop putting myself down. I did get into a good school, even if I am now the first to (loudly) proclaim that no school is good or bad; it’s what you get out of it that counts. And I did get through that college in three quick years. And my GPA never ever came up in the real world, so who cares if it wasn’t a 4.0. What mattered more is that I learned how to study, get work done, prioritize projects, work with others, make new friends, and deal with difficult situations. All of which come in handy on a regular basis in every day of my life.

So, my task for myself is to look at other moments from my life that I put down and really look at what I have achieved, what I have learned, and how it has all helped me to become who I am and who I will be.

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

It has been an insane day, and I am rapidly falling behind in the daily blog-posting challenge. I believe we are up to our sixth prompt, and I’ve technically only done three. But I am writing today, even if I don’t have time for any real depth.

I have no idea where this blog is going to go. Right now, I am treating it purely as a place to explore … explore my self, my ideas, new directions, my creativity, my life. If no one is really reading it right now, that’s actually fine by me. I’m not writing this to make money or change minds, except perhaps my own mind.

I’ve been on the road to self-improvement, self-discovery, self-love for years now. I jump on and off the main road, take detours, get laid up at greasy roadside fast food joints, find great tourist spots and scenic overlooks. I may not always stick with the map for bettering myself, but I always get back on the road … eventually. And each time I do, it’s more productive miles that I can learn from.

So this is another one of those productive periods. It may lead me into a whole new career, an entirely new outlook on life, a series of new and improved habits for a better life. Or I may take another detour down the line. In any case, I’m excited to see where it all leads.

And just to make myself a little accountable for the coming two weeks: Although we’ll have family in town and holidays and festivities, not to mention squeezing in a bunch of work, I vow to myself and to whoever is reading this that I will find time everyday to write. I will get back to those LYL prompts.

But for now, I’m off to pick up the folks and finally start celebrating my birthday. Better late than never!

Inspiration

I never got an update about the Live Your Legend “assignment” for the day. Not for lack of trying, that’s for sure! It’s ridiculous the number of times I checked my inbox and the Facebook page to see if there was a prompt to follow. Anything to avoid working on my real work!

But, alas, no distractions were delivered; so instead, I persevered and finished the real-work discussion paper with plenty of time to spare. So very unlike Miss Procrastinator Me!

And now, here I am. At least sticking to my plan to write (almost) every day for seven days. (I missed Sunday, though I did create art with girlfriends, so I’m thinking that counts for something.)

When I told my husband of my prompt-less dilemma, he suggested writing about people who inspire me and what it is about them that inspires me. Brilliant!

Unlike yesterday’s post, which proved so difficult for me, I am full of people who inspire me. Yes, there are the usuals, like Gandhi, MLK Jr., etc., etc. But the more personal ones are pretty numerous, which I guess makes me a lucky person. To know and love so many people I admire is definitely something to be grateful for.

Note: This will not be an exhaustive list by any means.

  • My 96.75-year-old grandmother inspires me with her wit, humor, love for family, and plain old stamina. She is by no means perfect (who is?), but she is the most graceful, classy lady I know. If I live to be that age, may I have her spunk and sense of humor (and ridiculously good health)!
  • I love my dad’s love of words and love of learning. (Is that too much love?) All my life he has inspired me to learn and to express myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his perseverance in getting things done or his ability to remember anyone’s name, even after a one-time meeting.
  • My mom’s generosity, sense of humor, and creative spark have inspired me to come into my own and share my own generosity and humor with those I cherish.
  • My sister is one of the best moms I know, raising three beautiful, talented girls while working as a reading specialist and working on her second master’s degree. And her ability to bring a smile to anyone’s face is her super-duper power.
  • And then there’s my husband. Outgoing, intelligent, resourceful, the best guy to have around in an emergency situation, gregarious with a great laugh, but also ready to stay in, hide from the world, and cuddle. Just about everyone likes him instantly; he is definitely my better half. He has inspired me to be the self I want to be, the self he sees me as. Since meeting him, I’ve become less snarky, more compassionate (hard to believe), more confident, a better friend, a better person.

Thank You

Today’s assignment from Live Your Legend’s blog challenge is proving to be difficult.

“What do people thank you for?”

I asked my husband what people thank me for. His response: “Our dog thanks you for rescuing her from the pound and giving her a better life.” Not quite what I was looking for, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

Beyond this, all I could come up with was people thanking me for cooking food for them or clients thanking me for doing a good job. Both are valid. I love cooking healthy, tasty meals for myself and others. It is probably where I am most creative in life. I also enjoy helping authors get the most meaning out of their words. After all these years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

But what else?

Then I remembered a situation a few years back, when I spoke up during an increasingly uncomfortable conversation between my aunt, mother, uncle, and grandmother. I often don’t speak up with extended family … at least not when they are discussing serious topics. I’m usually the lighthearted conversationalist who flits in for a week, shares stories from adventures in far-off Boise, and then flits away home. But this time, after listening to everyone express their fears and frustrations and realizing that tensions were mounting, I decided to speak up.

I didn’t have anything deep or insightful to say, but I did have the advantage of being detached enough to see all sides. I could see that my grandmother just wanted the freedom to live on her own. I could see that my mom and uncle were petrified that if she were left on her own, she would eventually get hurt or possibly die. (She is 94, after all.) My aunt just wanted my grandmother to go on the way she always has, independent but also dependent.

I didn’t resolve the situation, but I did help them see different sides to the arguments and discussions. Doing so de-escalated the tension and got them moving toward a calmer discussion and eventual resolution.

Later, my uncle and my aunt both thanked me for my comments and for helping them all to take a breath, take a step backward, and approach the situation from a slightly different angle.

 

It’s All I Have

I wrote yesterday, not knowing anything about what had happened in Paris. Since hearing about it and seeing all the outpourings on Facebook and Instagram, I have been struggling with and ruminating about what I would write if I were to write¬† about the latest round of terrorist attacks. So, here I am, writing about it. And I still don’t know where I am going to go with this.

My heart truly does go out to all those who were hurt, injured, affected by the cowardly actions of a few horrible people. But I also feel these feelings when I wake up each morning to the weirdly soothing voices of NPR discussing the latest atrocities around the globe.

These aren’t the actions of only those higher-ups and muckety-mucks who keep us under their thumbs with fear and rhetoric. There is truly evil out there in the world, happening everyday in every country. The thousands of people who die by gun violence in the U.S. … or the kidnapping and worse of young girls in Nigeria … or the unsolved murders of 43 students in Mexico–each is just a small, disgusting taste of the hatred swirling around this world.

I know it is nothing new; humankind has been visiting atrocities upon itself since the beginning of our history. It’s enough to make me feel completely frustrated and useless.

But I also know that all of these actions are being perpetrated but such a minority of this world’s population. They are not us. And we do not have to be them.

We must strive to be wise, to be caring and open to others who may not believe what we believe, to help others see that there is more than one side (and usually many more than two sides) to every story, to be compassionate even in our fear, to learn from past mistakes, to open doors rather than construct barriers when faced with such terrifying situations.

I do not and never will condone the acts of fanatic zealots. But I am fascinated by what drives them to do what they do. It is such a foreign concept to me … I can’t fathom whether it’s an utter lack of hope, a true belief that what they do will achieve something noble for their “cause,” a total disconnect with the human race. But if we could ever learn what it was, would there ever be a way to “fight” it more efficiently? Or is this just naive hope?

So what can I do if not hope?

I can vote for people who I think will make a difference. But unfortunately, I’m cynical enough to know that the political juggernaut of each country has more clout than any single leader or politician; so I don’t hold out much hope there.

I can send out my love and prayers via social media. It does give us all a sense of camaraderie and not quite feeling so alone, but does it really do anything? Does it spread love even in the face of daily hate? If so, then I hope it helps.

Can I continue to study the history behind it all so maybe through understanding we might one day find a solution? Perhaps.

Can I talk with the ones I love to spread the idea that just as humankind has such hostility and hate, it also has the vast capacity to love and cherish? Can I help others start to tear down their walls of fear and loathing? Absolutely. It’s not much, but right now, it’s all I have.