June Converse

My Journey from Awareness to Acceptance to Authenticity

My dad died last year. I miss him but he never really went away because I hear his voice – and not in a good way – all the damn time.

Today, I was rewarded with a publisher expressing interest (and sending a contract) for my second novel, The Unexpected Gift. This publisher is also interested in working with me on book 3. Great news! Exciting news! Daunting news!

My first extinct was to write an email to all my friends, my family and all the people in my writing world. I actually composed the email but before I could hit send, my dad joined me at the table with all his words of wisdom and judgment.

“Don’t send it. Every time you do something worth bragging about, you screw it up and embarrass all of us.”

And if that wasn’t bad enough …

“Who do you think you are pretending to be a writer? You send that email and you’ll be humiliated, and people will whisper and laugh. Oh, they will pretend to be happy for you but really they’ll be rolling their eyes and taking you off their friend list.”

And …

“You may have a publisher but once they actually read it, they’ll be tossing that contract in the trash and you’ll have tell everyone you failed. Again.”

And …

“People – especially those in your writing groups – will hate you. They don’t want to hear about success. They’ll talk about how you think you’re all that and then they will love watching you sink.”

My father had some wonderful qualities but his voice and his constant disappointment in me overshadows everything else.

So, as I much as I want to sing from the rafters, I can’t.

Instead I sit here writing this blog, fighting back tears, and expecting the bomb to drop – expecting my Dad’s words to be prophetic.

I hate this. I hate that his voice keeps me from ever believing in myself.

Shit, I wrote two books – that’s 200,000 words. They are for sale and people buy them. People say nice things. And you know what, Dad, I worked my ass off and that should be enough! But, it’s not, is it?

I’m fifty-five years old, my dad is dead, but he will not shut up and I cannot seem to stop listening.

I did eventually send that email, but I played the accomplishment down and sent only to a very few “safe” people. I want to call the email back – to delete it – to keep my damn mouth shut.

I want to be able to share and not care if people whisper or watch for me to fail.

As my dad used to say, “You can want {missing word] all you want but that doesn’t make it so.”

By the way, The Unexpected Gift has been officially optioned by a publisher – contract signed! I have written two books and I am damn proud of them. I plan to write Book 3 and I am proud of that already. Take that, Dad! 

I think it's important to add that my father had lots of good qualities. He was a hard worker and he always provided for the family. He was intelligent and could be funny. He was a master at card games. I do miss him.

“Doubt is the motor for failure.” ~ Professor T available on Amazon Prime

I’ve heard many cutesy quotes about doubt and about failure. But for some reason, this particular quote struck a chord and it keeps rolling in my mind. I decided to look at the ways I doubt and evaluate if these doubts are causing me to be unsuccessful. How are these doubts a motor to failure?

But I don’t want my blogs (or me) to focus only on the negative and the struggle. So, after I look at the struggles, I’m going to look at the successes. And – dammit – I’m going to have more successes than doubts.

Doubt and Failure

  • I doubt I’ll ever be satisfied with my body.
    • Motor:  I haven’t opened the Body Kindness book that more than one therapist has suggested.
  • I doubt I’ll ever be a great, bestselling writer.
    • Motor: I haven’t bothered to research, with any seriousness, publishers or self-published marketing techniques. If I don’t try, I might fail.  Yikes! That’s wrong. I need to think:  If I don’t try, I will definitely fail.
  • I doubt I’ll ever stop compulsive behavior (spending or taking on too much responsibility).
    • Motor: I often tell myself – “Go ahead and do it. You know you’re going to. So quit trying to talk yourself out of it.” – That is a LOUD motor.
  • I doubt people like me for me.
    • Motor: I have a tendency to buy things for people. Kind of a ‘buying their love’ attitude.

Courage and Success

There are many antonyms for doubt. But I think the opposite of doubt is courage. The courage to risk failure and find success. I may have areas where doubt drives failure but I have more where courage drives success.

  • I am courageous when I write and share these blogs.
  • I am courageous when I work on my novel and listen to my writing coach (tammyletherer.com) and work hard to get better.
  • I am courageous when I go the gym and let a trainer push me farther than I could ever push myself.
  • I am courageous when I let @EmilyAborn (emilyaborn.com) manage my social media and allow her to post pictures and problems that make me vulnerable.
  • I am courageous when I keep teaching classes and force myself out of my bubble.
  • I am courageous when I host a party every quarter so that I maintain the new friendships I’ve developed.
  • I am courageous when I don’t pretend to have faith or pretend to have it all together or pretend to be anyone other than who I am.
  • I am courageous when I clean my house but don’t make that more important than my family and friends.  (My mother was more concerned about having a clean house than anything or anyone else and I don’t want to repeat that pattern.)
  • I am courageous when I maintain my boundaries and self-respect even if that means I have to walk away from friends.

I did it! I found more courage than doubt. But that doesn’t change the truth:  I need to fight doubt with every fiber of my being.

Fighting Doubt

Actually, I believe this blog will help me fight because I’ve discovered and admitted these problem areas. Often, we don’t change because we don’t take the time to investigate. I won’t try to work everything because that might set me up to fail and failure will just add fuel to doubt. But I will:  Open that damn Body Kindness book.

Once I’ve done that for a few days (long enough to prove to myself I can handle and benefit from the information and activities), THEN I’ll tiptoe into publishing and book marketing. It’s an overwhelming topic with no clear answers or direction. There are a lot of frauds and bad information and people simply asking for money. It’s hard to navigate … Do you recognize those last few sentences as more doubt fueling more failure?  This one may be a harder nut to crack. I will find a way.

Doubt is the motor for failure.  AND

Courage is the motor for success.

Click HERE to download the Journaling Activity that goes with this blog

Do me a favor – take a few deep breaths, get as calm as you possibly can.  Get a sense of how hard your heart is beating and any other body sensations you can identify.  Got it? 

Now I want you to think about a time you’ve been extremely angry or frightened. Remember the circumstances, the sights, the sounds, the smells.  Close your eyes – picture everything you can about this experience. 

Did your heart rate change?  Are you sweating?  Are your lips pursed?  Fists clenched?  Do you have a desire to escape?  Are there words you’d like to throw around?   If you notice no change during this visualization, can you at least remember what it might have been like during the actual experience? 

I just finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  Here he’s quoting a scientist who studied what happens to us when we are angry or frightened:

“’At 175 [beats per minute], we begin to see an absolute breakdown of cognitive processing …. The forebrain shuts down, and the mid-brain—the part of your brain that is the same as your dog’s …. – reaches up and hijacks the forebrain.  Have you ever tried to have a discussion with an angry or frightened human being?  You can’t do it …. You might as well try to argue with your dog.’”

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (based on a study by Dave Grossman, the author of “On Killing”)

Liberated & Improved

I almost feel like I don’t need to write any more.  This quote, this study, liberated me.  I’m not saying it liberated me to say or react any way the mood strikes.  I am not, after all, my dog.  But I do feel liberated that my reactions and my seeming irrationality are normal – scientifically proven.  (I can’t wait for my husband to read this one.) 

If I begin to pay attention to what my body is telling me – intentionally listen to my own self – then I can immediately put into action strategies to lower the blood pressure or the heart rate.  I can deep breathe, I can leave the environment for a bit, I can pace or take a walk. 

And, if I don’t recognize my body’s messages and therefore react like a dog, then I can forgive myself.  I can acknowledge the truth of the situation – and once calm, I can revisit, revise, repair. 

I can also share this research with the people in my life with whom I’m likely to engage in conflict – my husband, my children, my dearest friends.  We can help each other.

You’re Not the Only Dog In Your House

Just as you pictured yourself angry or frightened, now take a few seconds to picture someone you are close to when they are angry.  Can you see the physical evidence that their forebrain has been hijacked?  Did the face turn red?  Do you see a bit of foam at the mouth?  Nose flaring?

When someone is on the verge of 175 heartbeats per minutes, there is evidence – we can see the person tense or start to sweat or maybe even shake.  My daughter used to say that I turn blue.  She was probably more right than she realized.

As soon as we see those physical responses, we know to back off and help that person strategize ways to calm down (or, at the very least, we know to wait and not try to argue with a dog).  If we’re parents, we can help our children “see” their bodies responses and strategize ways to relax.  I can only imagine how much better my life would have been if I’d learned this lesson earlier!

Another way this has liberated me is that I can be more forgiving.  When someone “attacks” me – I can remind myself that they are in the “dog” brain. 

Bark On!

I highly recommend Blink to anyone – Gladwell distills fascinating information in a way that is accessible to anyone.

All of my novels, at least so far, have an element of mental illness within a character. Decide to Hope is the most autobiographical in that I struggle in many ways exactly as the female protagonist.
- J.C.
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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