Recently I was told that we cannot change our character. Is that true? Am I stuck? Are you?
Certainly, some aspects of self are hardwired. I have blue eyes. I am five feet tall. I am female. I carry my extra weight around my middle. If I don’t get enough sleep, I struggle with mood and impatience. I have bi-polar. I was raised in the Deep South and that has a lifelong impact. My parents are who they are and they are gone now. And so on.
BUT – and this is a big BUT – not everything about me is unchangeable. My character is MINE to do with what I want. My character is MINE to de-construct and re-construct.
The most important element of any story is the character. There are thousands of resources an author can use to develop three-dimensional characters. I am beginning to work on my third novel. I’m at the stage where the characters are revealing themselves to me. I now know what Abby and Ian look like. I know where they were raised and what their family of origin is. But, more importantly, I’m getting a sense of WHO they are, what they WANT, what they NEED.
As the author, I have to DISCOVER these people and then construct a story that pushes them to ACCEPT their strengths, fears, weaknesses and use that information to CHANGE. I get to decide what situations they face but I don’t get to decide how they react. I have to let the character guide my pen. In order to do that, I have to truly KNOW my characters. Abby and Ian have to be with me at all times – talking, arguing, challenging, laughing, crying.
If I can use character development techniques to understand a fictional character, I can use the same techniques to Discover-Accept -Change MY OWN CHARACTER. Just as I have to sit with fictional Abby and Ian, in order to understand myself, I have to sit in my own mud puddle. I have to delve deep, ask the hard questions, watch myself as I interact with the world. I have to be INTENTIONAL. I have to be CONSISTENT. I have to be ALL IN.
My fictional Abby recently relayed an argument between her and her father. It was painful but it explained so much about her decision-making and her reactions to the world. That one argument revealed a deep NEED in Abby. She hasn’t recognized that need yet – but she will because I will force the issue.
You already know some of your wants and needs. Or do you? In order to discover, we have to uncover the good, the bad, the mediocre. We have to be honest, if only with ourselves. It might be painful but it’s also Background not “Now”ground. “Now”ground is yours to plow. We can turn over the old dirt and plant whatever we want and more importantly, we can cultivate what we NEED. We have to force the issue in our own lives.
We don’t have to do all this plowing overnight. I hate the word ‘process’. But real change is a process. It’s looking at self then hiding from self. It’s being honest and then lying because lies are more comfortable. It’s being critical and then accepting and then being critical again. It’s lonely. It’s hard. It’s worth it.
I refuse to believe I’m unable to change. I am NOT stuck. I can choose where to focus my energy. I can identify and accept those areas that I cannot change. I can identify those areas I can change. I can identify those areas I want to change – those I’m willing to change. I can choose my next best decision rather than let life roll over me.
An author creates scenes that force a character to react and to grow. While I can’t structure every scene in my life, I can use my life scenes to better understand myself. Once I understand self, I can make my next best decision no matter what scene I find myself in. Even better, I can begin to change and choose the scenes in my life. That’s my hope and my goal.
As I learn more about Abby and Ian through character development activities, I will use these exact same activities on myself. I will share what I’m doing and extend the invitation for you to join me. As always, I will be authentic and vulnerable. I will be afraid and excited, embarrassed and proud. I will ACCEPT whatever I discover.
I’ve gathered together some supplies for this journey (I also hate the word ‘journey’). I decided if I had everything organized and ready for me, I’d at least eliminate that excuse. My supply bucket includes:
Discovery-Acceptance-Change is appropriate for every age, every gender, every race and faith. It is appropriate no matter who you are, where you are or what you’re doing. Share this with others. The more we look at self and furrow NowGround, the better the world will be. Your world. Your family’s world. THE world.
We start the “real” work next week. There will be a new “reveal” every week. Some of what I’ll ask you to do will hit painful nerves. Remember, I’m with you all the way. I’ve got my own pain to face. I also promise that some weeks will just be plain ol’ fun!
Until Next Week:
In yesterday's post, I talked about developing a campaign for myself. I listed several potential goals that I want to analyze and consider carefully before I choose to apply "aggressive activities" that direction. With that in mind, I created the following questionnaire for myself and wanted to share it with you. It's a living document and will likely change once I start using it but I think it's a nice beginning. It might seem like a lot of effort just for goal setting but I'm thinking of it more as a road map for my future -- and that deserves all this effort.
Will this goal make my FINAL CAMPAIGN? YES NO
While I won't bore you with all of my analyses, I will share a couple so that you can see how my brain and body are working together to chart a course that helps ACCEPT MYSELF and CHOOSE ABUNDANT LIVING.
“….. he ran a campaign of discipline not impulse.”
Do you campaign for yourself? Before you roll your eyes at the absurdity of such a statement, read one of the definitions:
Campaign: a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purposedictionary.com
Let’s break this definition down.
Do you have specific purposes for your life? Or, like me, does your life often just happen?
If I look at my life – how I spend my time, what I worry over, where my money goes – what campaigns do I support? Do I run a campaign of discipline or impulse? Do I run a campaign where I win or lose? Are there energies, resources and efforts I need to shift or refocus?
It’s 2018 and in last week’s post, I promised myself that I’d ACCEPT myself. Acceptance is acknowledging that in this very moment, I am where I am. Acceptance allows me room to choose a new place for my next moment. Acceptance does NOT mean living a life I don’t love. I ACCEPT that I suffer from bi-polar (or whatever juicy label I have today) but I can CHOOSE how to handle this. I ACCEPT that I cannot eat what I want when I want if I want to be healthy. I ACCEPT that I like to lily-pad and I need to structure my life so that I can do this (watch for a future post about lily-padding).
I ACCEPT that if I want to have a life I love, I must set a course.
One of the things I hate most about political campaigns is that most candidates tell us why we should not vote for their opponent rather than why we should vote for him/her. In other words, I want a candidate to tell me what platforms she supports – what are her agenda items, what systematic course is she committed to?
I’ve decided to develop a campaign for myself. If I had to create a political ad, what would I promote, support, fight for? But wait ….
Every candidate, every person, has skeletons in their closet. For me, these skeletons will start to rattle the very second I decide to get serious about my campaign. Past failures will pound on the door. Unkind words will again have volume. My negative side will get louder and louder. Even as I write these words, one corner of my brain is reminding me that I’ve failed so many times. The exact words I’m hearing are:
I ACCEPT that my mind is often my enemy, my opponent. I CHOOSE to fight that. I ACCEPT that I will lose some of those fights and will sink into the abyss from time-to-time. I CHOOSE to keep climbing out.
If I designed a campaign ad, what would be on it? Let’s make a list – don’t justify your list, don’t censor yourself. Just write a list of all the things you’d like to have/do/accomplish/be. Think small. Think huge.
I’m going to do this “real” time – I’m going to write a list for exactly five minutes (setting my clock now):
Time’s up … these are the things that hit me at 8:15am on January 1. Certainly the list is not exhaustive or all inclusive. Because I want my campaign to succeed, I’m going to take the next week to refine my list. Questions I’ll be asking myself:
I can’t believe I’m going to talk about this … it’s so “gooey*”. But, I have come to understand how much my body tells me. As I think of these goals, I get an immediate bodily reaction. For example, when I think of volunteering, my shoulders tighten and I have trouble taking in a deep breath. For me, that’s a warning sign that I need to acknowledge and listen to.
Campaigns don’t start after one day of thought. While it’s January 1 and I’d like to have my campaign poster on my refrigerator today, I’d much rather have a campaign that I can win. In order to accomplish that, I’m going to slow down, do some homework and come back to this next week.
I can’t do it all – maybe you can but I ACCEPT that I have a limited amount of energy, time and resources. I also ACCEPT that my mental health requires dedicated self-care that limits me to some extent. For the first time in my life, I want a campaign that I can fully support and execute completely. I want to win!
My list only took me five minutes. I can’t and shouldn’t finalize my campaign based of a five-minute session. I want the final outcome to be ME – the ME I CHOOSE to be … in order to accomplish that, I need to:
Monday/Tuesday: add to this list – make it as long as I want. I will also go ahead and strike anything I know is a “should” or that my body rejects. I will discuss this with my husband – he knows me better than I do and he also has some goals that I need to incorporate.
Wednesday/Thursday: create categories. For example, many of the goals could be categorized as “physical health” or “mental health” or “career”.
Then I’m going to do the hard work: as I write each goal, I’m going to listen to what my brain starts to say and how my body feels. I’m going to write EVERYTHING down – by doing that I can identify the enemy. There may be some enemies so strong that I don’t want to fight them right now – and that’s okay! I ACCEPT that I only have a limited amount of strength and skills at this moment in time. If I choose battles where the enemy is too strong, I will fail and that will create a domino effect where all of my goals crash. I’m strong enough to admit that to myself and structure my life accordingly. Of course, one of my goals will be to continue to build my mental, emotional and physical strength so that one day I can fight any enemy. But, I’m not there yet and that’s OKAY!
Friday: trim the list and discuss again with my husband. Then, I’ll trim it again. And again.
Saturday: FINALIZE my campaign platform. I’m going to go so far as to design a poster – I’ll post that next week!
Sunday, I’ll begin to develop my list of “aggressive activities” for each goal. This will be the subject of my next post.
I’ve had a very difficult December (see my post from December 31). What I learned during that time is that I need to be intentional in ACCEPTING myself and all my “issues”. The abyss is a hard place to be and even harder to climb out of … I’m going to be more careful about avoiding the abyss and I think that starts with being realistic with myself about what I want and need out of life. It starts with campaigning for myself.
I hope some of you will join me and share your experiences with this LIFETIME project.
*gooey -- I prefer to live in my mind, so when I'm told to listen to my body (somatic experience) or to meditate, I think of those activities as "gooey" or "woo-woo". I used to avoid them. While I still don't like them, I totally recognize their importance in staying grounded and balanced.
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