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:
You sit listening to the whining for the thousandth time. But the person refuses your or anyone’s advice. Do you want to pull your hair out? Or, better yet, do you want to pull their hair out? My grandmother used to say she would “snatch me bald headed” – I get where she was coming from.
I’m not saying that my advice is always the best. But if you choose not to take the advice – or any advice – then you lose the right to whine, right? For goodness sake, try something!?
I wish I was talking about a friend. But, sadly, I’m talking about me. I’m the one who asks for advice, ignores it and then whines.
For example …
I complain to my trainer that my cardio is not hard enough anymore – he gives me lots of ideas. I do none of them and then complain again!
I know I’m more productive and happier when I get up at 530am. Many people suggested, wisely, that I get up at 530 every morning, seven days a week. Stay consistent so that my internal clock helps me. I have yet to do that and still I complain.
People have suggested that I do all the prep work for meals on Sunday. I know this helps me eat at home and make healthier choices. It’s Monday, I have not done that and later today, I’ll complain about having to chop bell pepper and onion.
I’ve visited several registered dietitians, and each has given me excellent advice. I’ll take their advice for --- um --- 2 days?
The list is endless.
As I write this, I realize I’m whining about whining! UGH!
Sure, I’ve been given bad advice (or bad for me) and that should be ignored. But I’ve also been given excellent advice by people who have my best interests at heart and/or who are experts I trust. What’s my problem?
Do I do this because I don’t really want to change? Too lazy to change? Afraid to change? Afraid I won’t be able to change and don’t want to face failure? Am I afraid of success? Do I like whining?
Over the last several days, I’ve made a mental list of advice given and not taken. I’ve looked at my bookshelf and noted all the books recommended that I bought, read the first chapter, and put back on the shelf. I’ve noted all the supplies I’ve bought and not used (think of the money I could have saved). I’ve made commitments, secured accountability partners. I’ve planned rewards for “good behavior”. And still …
It’s 2020 (yikes!). As most of us do, I’ve thought about what I’d like to do differently or to achieve this year. I don’t resolutions because I know I won’t keep them and then I start the year off in failure. Yet, achievements don’t happen without some conscious effort. Life moves on and we stay on the same trajectory unless we intentionally change that direction!
Here are some things I’d like to do/have/achieve this 2020:
I think this is a very doable list. The first two are already on their way to completion and I have the support to see it through.
Hiking is a back pain and time issue. I’ve already mentioned to my trainers that I need to focus energy on strengthening my lower back. But I whine about the temperature (even though I live in Georgia and have clothes warm enough for an Alaskan winter). I like to say “I’m too busy” but I should say “I’m too lazy”. Even though I live in Atlanta, there are a myriad of hiking trails within a thirty-minute drive. I don’t need advice – I need to get off my ass and hike.
Body image and eating issues are on my list every year. As you can imagine, I’ve asked for and received excellent advice on how to address these body/health related issues. I’ve followed none of these for any consistent length of time.
Why Can I Not Do This?
I can do this! Of course, I can! The question is WHY don’t I do this? I look at my body and hate what I see (even when I’m thin). I have great advice on how to combat some of that. Why do I ignore it?
Those questions would be answered if I took the DAMN ADVICE!
I searched my mental list and my bookshelves. I’ve searched my heart and mind. My mind is willing. My heart is afraid.
A wonderful nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders recommended Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN. Over a year ago, I bought the book. I got all excited, jumped in with both feet. I read to page 27.
This is my pattern – get excited, jump into the deep end and drown. My father must have warned me about this a hundred times. I get bored, or I realize I made a choice that didn’t fit with my personality, or I say yes without thinking. I bail. I feel guilty for bailing. I do this again and again.
I’ve pulled Body Kindness off the shelf. I pulled a little notebook out of a drawer for the activities/journaling. I’ve looked at the book and I think I can do this in bite-size pieces (instead of jumping into the deep end).
Now, how do I make myself do it? I can already feel the resistance – my chest is tight, and I can feel anxiety moving into my limbs.
All I can do is try, right? Read some today and not worry about tomorrow, right?
I can hear my therapist now – “journal about how it makes you feel – keep asking yourself ‘why’” – advice I likely won’t take.
Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results ~ Einstein
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.
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