June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

I used to believe that God (the Christian God) guided our steps. If we’d just ask, He’d tell us what to do. I never once got an email or postcard from God. And as far as I know there is no “Dear June” from Genesis to Revelation. I’d see other people make a decision and say, “God told me to.” Maybe He did, but I never understood how they knew. Often it seemed to me they were using “God told me to” as a justification for something they were going to do anyway. I freely admit I have used God as an excuse for interesting choices.

Now that I no longer embrace the Christian God in the way I was taught, I’ve wondered how to know or to choose the right path. How does the Godiverse guide us? I firmly believe the energy we send into the world boomerangs back. If I’m a grumpy, negative old lady, the world will give me plenty to be grumpy about. So, if I’m listening to the Godiverse, what am I hearing and how will that help me move forward down the right path?

A Little Woo-Woo

If you know me, you know I’m not into what I call ‘woo-woo’. I respect people – even envy people -- who have a more spiritual connection. While I don’t do woo-woo, I try to leave myself open to people and to messages. Yesterday, a little woo-woo landed in my mailbox.

I had written a blog about when my head and heart don’t agree. It was written as Head Wants vs. Heart Wants. I was trying to work out whether to continue this writing gig. By the time I was done writing the blog, any rational human being would have followed the head and stopped writing for public consumption. I was resolved to give up even if my heart stayed heavy.

Then, woo-woo landed in my mailbox. The very next day a stranger left me this message.

“Your book is such a powerful, relatable and amazingly, another source of healing for me personally. I would not be alive if it were not for deciding to hope for joy to return in my life … appreciate the kindness, encouragement and resources you’ve offered others through your blog.”

Wow! Why do I pour my heart into my blog and my stories? For this reader and all the others who have reached out. Yes, of course, the writing is a type of personal therapy but sharing it is about being available to others. My heart tells me to write-on!

The Boomerang Effect

Two days later, I received an email from my publisher:

“Advertising is barely working. I'm tweaking, adding new targets, trying to focus in on what small movements I've seen....but I'm not sure it has done anything more than increase discoverability. I'm not seeing sales.”

If you read last week’s blog, you’ll know how much money I spend on this “hobby”. Beyond the outlay of money, I put a lot of myself out there. Nothing I write is easy on an emotional level. Kathleen (my protagonist) hurt and I hurt with her. The blogs are written when I’m in pain.

I do NOT expect to become the next Oprah or Reese Witherspoon selection. But “I’m not seeing sales” is hard to swallow. To make that even worse, some of my friends haven’t bothered to obtain or read the book. I know I shouldn’t expect friends to do that – but I do. I would do it for them. Every time. But maybe that’s my “buying friends” problem – a topic for another day.

My head says if no one is willing to invest, then just buy a pretty journal and write for myself. That’s free.

The Godiverse Needs to Make Up Its Mind

Two days ago, I was willing and encouraged to ‘write-on’.

Today, ugh. Head vs. Heart has no clear winner.

Do You Hear from God? I create a unique Journaling Activity for each blog! This one focuses on how YOU make your decisions. Click HERE to download!

There is one good thing about the dentist – nitrous gas! As I lay there this morning a little high with a drill in my mouth, and music in my ears, I was struck by a line in Ashley McBryde’s Andy (I Can’t Live Without You).

You’re the only one who knows -- Me and my heart can’t get along

Or put another way, My Head and My Heart can’t get along.

At the same time I was hearing those lines, a check for $500 was in the mailbox waiting to be sent to my writing coach. Me and my heart are not getting along. Again.

The truth is I will never “make it” as an author. While my books are well-written and on important topics (PTSD recovery), I am not Celeste Ng or Jodi Picoult or Jeanine Cummins. I have talent but not TALENT. You know the difference.

In the past month I’ve sold 22 copies of Journey To Hope (book 2) and a little less of Decide to Hope (book 1). Most of these have been to family and friends. And I can’t even get ALL of my family and friends to invest $4.99.

My husband and I would like to buy a cabin in the NC mountains. While he won’t retire for nine more years, we could start using the cabin now. We could escape life every weekend. Our family could enjoy the property.

Where is the Disconnect?

I spend a lot – a lot – of money on what should be a hobby and not a career. If I hadn’t spent so much money on writing in the last few years, we would have that cabin. I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not. My brain has done the math and weighed the benefits. There is no argument – I should let writing be a hobbyand not try to find “commercial” success. I should be happy writing more for fun and less for publication. That’s my HEAD.

My HEART is not necessarily in agreement. While I sat there with gas pumping through my veins, I was able to see some of this a little more clearly. I love my writing coach. She and I have become friends, sort of. We talk about our families and since my novels are emotional journeys, she’s learned a lot about me through my stories. But we are not friends. I am her customer and if I quit paying her, she would not contact me at all. Am I paying for a friendship? I’ve gotten caught in the trap of paying for friendships many times.

I imagined taking the check out of the mailbox. What would that feel like (heart)? What would the impact be (head)?

HEART: More truth time – part of the reason I want to send the check is because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. If you know me, you know the fear of “disappointing others” is a trigger for an emotional spiral. If I discontinue this relationship, I could disappoint her. I don’t want the conflict. I want the friendship. Could this be real friendship AND a business relationship?.

HEAD:  That $500 (and all the other $) could be invested in a cabin. Or invested in decorating the cabin. It could be used for travel when COVID ends. I could spend a fraction of that money to create a scrapbook space that allows me to enjoy my hobby. ETC ETC

HEART: I do better when I’m busy. Actually, I do better when I’m too busy. It frightens me to have nothing to do. I know I could fill my time with other things. I could also keep writing. After all, I’ve learned a lot and likely don’t need as much coaching. But I know me – if there is no accountability, I won’t do anything.

HEAD: Probably I should “heal” the part of me that needs outside accountability and the part of me that’s unhappy just sitting still. I could fill my time with my best talent – teaching. I enjoy the adult classes I have at local colleges. I could easily make those a focus for my time.

HEART: These blogs and my books help others. That’s why I do it. Right? Part of me believes that altruism.

HEAD: But I’m not really helping anyone except maybe myself. The only people that read my blog are friends. And these blogs aren’t free (well, the blogs are free but trying to find subscribers is not). This is another expense that could be channeled elsewhere.

HEART: I like writing – mostly. I liked seeing my book on the shelf and on Amazon. I liked people telling me my writing is good.

HEAD: Writing is free. And if/when I finish a project, I can still hire someone (or not) for editing, cover design, etc. I’d spend a lot less $. A lot less. I can find other types of writing projects that pay me instead of my paying others.

HEART: Other people I know are churning out book after book. They are supposedly making money. My books are just as good. I should be making $ too.

HEAD: First, I am not a ‘churner’ so if I tried, I’d be miserable. Second, “making money” is quite subjective. The churners don’t use coaches. The point is, I can write or not write, I can teach or not teach. What I shouldn’t do is pour “good money after bad”. If I quit spending this money, I will effectively give us a significant raise!

What’s Next?

Well, Dave will read this blog because he edits them all. He will tell me to do whatever makes me happy. I want to ask him to tell me I can’t do this anymore. But he and I both know telling me I can’t causes me to dig my heels in. But I must find a way to be happy without employing others (not writing coaches or social media experts or therapists or any other non-friend friends).

After the mental breakdown (2012) and the loss of my career and most friends, I began to really focus on my health -- hiking, nutrition, reading, even cleaning and organizing my house. I was happy then. I think? I was lonely though. And I don’t know how to find “real” friends.

I need to start hiking again. I need to focus on creating good meals. I need to teach (that’s where my energy comes from). I need to write for fun.

All of my contracts (coach and social media) come to an end on December 31. It will be a good time to stop, to save the money, to buy a cabin, to plan a trip to Glacier. Writing will be a hobby that might or might not become something on a shelf.

I will have to find a way to spend my energy.

HEAD: I have to learn to tell myself “no”. I have to determine why that’s so difficult.

HEART: I’m not sure I can do that. Not having anything structured is scary. This blog has taken me two hours. If I’m not doing writing, how would I spend those two hours?

The Final Decision?

HEAD: I got the check out of the mailbox and tore it up.

HEART: It’s easy to write another one.

If you still see me on this blog in January, you’ll know my heart won. If you see me hiking the Appalachian Trail, you’ll know my head won.

Surely my heart and my head can get along.

PS

My husband edits all of my blogs. I expected -- hoped -- he'd say, "Follow you're heart, honey." He didn't. He said, "This has been my favorite post so far." Hmmmm

FROM A BILLBOARD NEAR ME: Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you're stupid and make bad decisions.

Imagine you have been offered a new job and you want to do a pros and cons analysis. Would it look something like this?

PROS

  • More money
  • Better insurance
  • Corner Office

CONS

  • Commute (from 30 minutes to 75)
  • Big team to manage
  • Travel about 40% of the time

Those are GREAT things to consider. As a matter of fact, those things must be considered. Those considerations, however, are FACT based. They make the rational brain happy. What about the EMOTIONAL brain? Facts also carry an emotional component. In other words, we have an emotion around truth.

Remember that a WISE MIND* considers both the rational and emotional. We cannot ignore our emotional side of decision-making and expect to be satisfied with our choices. It’s very important we settle down and complete a different type of pros/cons analysis. Let me demonstrate for a scenario I am personally struggling to decide.

UNDER CONSIDERATION:

I’d like to start a “school” for writers. I’m envisioning on-line classes, video classes, a video critique group, one-on-one editing and critique services for all aspects of the writing process.

Rational Pros and Cons

My RATIONAL brain is spitting out pros and cons in rapid-fire fashion. I won’t bother you with the entire list but I will share enough so you can get a feel for how to find WISE MIND.

Pros

  • You are already doing this, it’s just a different adaptation
  • You could make some $
  • You have most of the resources already
  • Might get me an audience for my own book
  • Like teaching – energizes me (that might be my emotional mind weighing in)
  • I’d learn a lot of different skills

Cons

  • It would take an influx of $ to get started (“how much?” the rational brain asks)
  • You would have to learn to do several “technical” things and that would take time from your own writing (huge learning curve)
  • Requires a commitment and you enjoy your current flexibility
  • You’d have to learn a lot of different skills that don’t excite you

I could add – and will add to this – but let’s allow the emotional mind to have her say:

Emotional Pros & Cons

Every decision you make causes distress. Thankfully, most are so minor that you just push on or barely notice. For example, you might be planning to change toothpaste. On a scale of 1-10, that’s a distress level of 1.

But, changing jobs, having a kid, choosing a school, considering marriage or divorce, filing bankruptcy – these cause a level 10 distress! Right? The higher the distress, the more critical it is for you to sit down and feel AND think before acting.

I’m applying an 8 to my distress level regarding starting a writer’s school.

The DBT Pros & Cons is more about the consequences of potential choices on an emotional level. Let me just jump to it because that will likely demonstrate it best.

OPTION 1: Move Forward and Pursue the Idea with Gusto

“TOLERATING THE DISTRESS OF OPENING A SCHOOL”

Pros

  • I’d be very satisfied with this career. This career would not only feed my teaching gift, it would keep me writing and learning.
  • I’d be proud that I faced the fears associated with such a project
  • You’ve written a book, published it, currently writing a second one – this is easier – (that’s not a pro, it’s more an affirmation but I’m trying to share what’s coming up for me)
  • You’re already doing it – you’re being a ding-dong (that’s my name-calling side rearing her beautiful head) – just do it already

Cons

  • I’d have to discuss with Dave and I’m afraid he’ll reject it and cause conflict, hurt feelings … (If I’m brave enough to bring this up, then I’ll want him to get on board)
  • The learning curve scares me – what if I can’t do it – that ‘crushed feeling’ could send me backwards mentally
  • What if it fails …. You’d be a failure …. You’d put your family in jeopardy AGAIN
  • Where does the $ come from – how much are we talking about anyway?
  • FEAR FEAR FEAR
  • Having to face that overwhelmed feeling! Can you do that? Is it worth it?
  • Who are you to think you could do this – and charge for it? – (admittedly, that’s not a con but it does demonstrate Distress Tolerance. This comment is swirling and swirling and beating me down)
  • You’d have to start slow – and that’s not a strength

OPTION 2: GIVE UP THE IDEA

“NOT TOLERATING THE DISTRESS OF OPENING A SCHOOL”

Pros

  • Sweet relief – I could sleep at night – stop running the idea around and around in our heads
  • More time to write, hobbies, etc.
  • Never have to tell Dave and hear his worries (hmmm – this worry may indicate a problem area that I should address at another time)
  • Never have to face the fear
  • No financial impact – (can you see how this is both a rational and emotional idea?)
  • You wouldn’t have to put structure around the idea

Cons

  • You’ll always think about it – wonder if you could have succeeded. The idea will continue to germinate.
  • You like teaching so much – and you’re good at it – do you walk away because of fear that can be worked through?
  • No positive financial aspect – (can you see how this is both a rational and emotional idea?)
  • Working through the fear is good for you on many levels

I could go on and on here too. I’m hoping you see that there are many things to consider. The higher for potential distress, the more I must analyze both areas (rational and emotional).

Combining

Did you notice how some considerations were both rational and emotional? I think when you take the time to do these analyses, the rational and emotional brains start to talk to each other. I’d have an emotional con and my rational brain would agree or challenge. Kind of cool!

What Does the WISE MIND Say

My Wise Mind thinks it’s a good idea on two levels: 1) The idea is just a good one. 2) Having to keep pushing myself through fears and obstacles is only going to benefit my mental health. 3) Discussing this with Dave in a calm manner would continue to strengthen our relationship and build my confidence in conflict management.

Wise Mind is telling me to present the idea to Dave. He’s an excellent source of balance and his ability to see things I haven’t is unparalleled. He’s a resource that has my best interest at heart!

BUT ….

My fear/anxiety about even discussing it is super-high. Imagine how that will grow if I move forward! Worth it?!?

A Weird Observation

Did you notice how sometimes my comments were first person (‘I, me’), then second person (‘you’) and even plural (‘we’). I need to evaluate what that means – was I trying to distance myself, trying to share the angst?

The Decision/Next Step

I’m not sure yet. My next strategy is to bring this up in therapy and try to move “fear” to the back burner and then I’ll be able to look at this more clearly.

And, I will discuss this with Dave (hopefully before he edits this). If I can’t face that fear, I should forget it! But, I need to go to him armed with a plan. Part of that plan is this analysis.

Success

Regardless of what I decide to do, I am PROUD OF MYSELF because I didn’t jump in or run away. I’m sitting in my feelings and letting it all simmer so that I can make a WISE decision. I’m getting better!

*If WISE MIND is a new concept for you, read last week’s blog for an introduction.

Resources:

I did not follow the DBT model exactly as it is typically presented. Still, my adaption follows the methodology pretty well. Here’s more for you to read:

https://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/pros_and_cons.html

https://peerguideddbtlessons.weebly.com/dt-procon.html

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ

I am not a therapist. I have no relevant diploma. I have no fancy letters behind my name. I am a sufferer with years of therapy. I am an expert only in the sense that I am enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks. But hard knocks are an excellent teacher. If you suffer, I highly recommend you find a professional to help you and develop a personalized treatment plan. This blog is MY experience and while I pray it’s helpful, I am not qualified to diagnose or treat anyone for anything. (Well, I am a great math teacher—especially fractions!).

June Converse with purple hair
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....
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