Thursday, January 29, 2009

Forming Habits

"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."
                                                               – Carlos Castaneda

When I first looked at this quote awhile back the part that struck me is that people work to make themselves miserable... we all know people like that. We've all been those people at points in our lives when sitting in our misery seemed like an easier task than finding a place to sit that had a better view.

But it is still work to be miserable. You have to wake up every morning and look at the burdens instead of the blessings. You have to decide to be annoyed by your child's laughter waking you instead of the joy of hearing a giggle first thing in the morning. You have to decide to be annoyed by the snow on the roads rather than the sparkle of diamonds that are created when the sun hits it just right. You have to decide to grumble about the burden of work rather than get on your knees in gratitude that you have a job that feeds your family.

It takes a lot of work to be miserable. But for whatever reason, it's an easier habit to form than being chronically happy.


I had a reader ask me in the comment section last week if I have physically been feeling worse... I had written the two posts that were a little more "heavy" about free will and the difference between spiritual and physical gifts... and she wondered if I did more of that kind of pondering because I was struggling with not feeling well and was trying to make sense of it.

I had to think on that a bit. Truthfully, I wrote those posts because one of the readers that has become a friend asked me specific questions that I was trying to answer. They were big questions and I wanted to answer as sincerely as I could... so it really had nothing to do with how I was doing physically.

But the truth is, I have been feeling worse. And I wondered if that showed in my writing without it meaning to. And I tried to notice if that's something I do when trying to cope with not feeling all that great. Here's what I came up with: like the quote, it's work either way... trying to write about serious, meaningful things is hard when I don't feel well because it's a little harder to see the positive.

I take that back, it's not harder to see the positive, it's harder to feel the positive. But I find it to be a good exercise to challenge myself to feel it when it's not easy because the next time it comes more naturally. Like a habit.

On the other hand, writing funny, frivolous posts can be difficult because I have to find enough energy in me while sitting at the keyboard to really express the funny, the joy, the silliness of the moments I want to share. But I find myself drawn to telling silly stories and old memories when I'm sicker because they more easily lift my spirits and help me forget for a moment the state my body is actually in. It's still work... still a habit, but an easier one to achieve.

My point is, I don't want you all to think I just plop my feet on the floor every day and see sunshine and rainbows because I've chosen to live a happy life regardless of circumstance. It takes work to be miserable and it takes work to be joyful... I just figure if I'm going to put in the effort either way I might as well have a pleasant outcome in the end.

Since many of you have so kindly asked repeatedly what you can do to help me, I'm going to ask for you to do me a favor in the comment section. When I'm not feeling well, I always have an urge to write (which is why this blog has been great) but it's often hard for me to think of what to write about. Partly because I never leave the house, so nothing new or remarkable really ever happens on a daily basis, and partly because when you're tired and in pain it's hard to think of anything other than being tired and in pain.

That's why I loved being able to answer that reader's questions last week... it gave me something to focus on, to think about, to feel like I was having a conversation with all of you. So today, or every day if you like, leave me a question or a topic of interest that you'd like to hear about. It can be ridiculous, it can be funny, it can be sincere or deep or nosy or flat-out bizarre. I would just love, on days when I'm feeling empty, to be able to pull up your questions and have the challenge of writing for you.

So here's your chance, peeps... ask away. :)


  1. Please, please, please tell us more about interactions between you and your siblings. I don't want you to be in pain from laughter, so proceed with caution (but please do proceed).

    Thank you for being so real, Sara. I think about you so much. I will try to be nosier in my communications. I'm brainstorming now:

    Does one of your cameras have a video feature?

    Have you ever thought of forming a Microwave S'mores Club? (I just finished asking the non-cooking Tippa if she's in the club, so you might want to think about it). I think Robin should be the VP. She seems to have a serious Micro-S'mores thing going.

    What do you think about letting Riley answer some questions, too, just for fun?

    Could you do instrucciones for your artwork? Even REALLY basic ones, like: let that coat of paint dry before you pick up the canvas. Some of us are THAT needy. Sigh.

    Think of a meme to host once in a while. Doesn't have to be every Mon. or anything.

    Or give us a writing assignment, and tweak it so that it is funny and silly.

    Give a prize for the best idea and the best question. Send a bookmark made with one of your quotes on it. I can send you some of that thick watercolor paper (or whatever it is) if you don't have any. Alexa has a TON of art supplies. If you want to do a prize for longest doggone comment, I might be in the running.

  2. I would love to hear about books that you enjoy and what you've learnt from them.

  3. Sara, please join in for the month of Feb. every wed....I am hosting a photograph meme.....Love on Wednesdays...I did a post about it yesterday...would love to have your participation...I am sure you have some great "love" pics with you know who!!

  4. I am definitely giving this some serious thought! I will be getting back to you soon!!

    I love Anita's idea of a Microwave S'mores Club! Unfortunately, I am unable to find graham crackers or marshmallows over my S'mores must wait until I get home! :-( So sad!

  5. first - i love you!

    second - questions...

    what do you think riley thinks about?

    if you were a man, what is the first thing you'd do?

    do you like broccoli?

    have you ever thought of moving to oregon??? great climate you know...

    what do you think is the biggest thing you offer to people?

  6. Oh my word!(I was thinking of a stonger word than word, but word will just have to do)
    *1st the quote!!!!! Ahhhhhhhh! This may be my next tattoo. I need that to be engraved on my heart and my mind.
    *2nd meme...had no idea, had to google and still it took me 3 websites to get it.
    3rd You have the best readers on any blog. These comments are full of love and ideas!
    4th I often wonder this, when we write, if we're going through something hard, do we let it show?
    I can only say that when I read a "heart-post" from you that reflects pain or weariness I'm drawn in as much or more than any other kind of post. They say to're not alone. (Not that I have anything to complain about)
    next, what # am I on? 5...I have lots more about you that I want to know...
    *your parents, I pray for them often. I'd like to know how they're doing. They are real precious people who have been hit hard by this economy. (They may not want their lives all over a blog...I understand, nevertheless, I pray for them)
    *Do you ever think of moving close to siblings or parents? (maybe you are close and I've just gotten the wrong idea)
    *Do you ever think of moving to GA, you'd have to do without snow but you'd have warm temps!
    *The art...oh I'd love to see pics of you going through the process of doing your canvases...LOVE IT!
    Honestly Sara, I'm making mysself stop because I ask you questions in my head all the time...what I'll do from now on is come back here and put them in a new comment.
    love love love to you...
    ps...why don't we have an online bookclub? could we? would that be fun or not?

  7. I just looked at my comment...I'm sorry I'm on my 3rd cup of coffee and well, I'm typing and I can't shut up....

  8. It has been a pleasure (yes, and sometimes painful) to get to know you through your blog. I so admire your faith and strength. No questions, just plain, simple "hellogitzhowareyou?mayGodblessyoutoday!"

  9. Have you ever thought of doing a flashback Friday about Wisconsin and cheese signs?? Definitely one of MY fondest college memories. Especially because that is when I feel I really got to know you and Nicole. What a blessing that was!

  10. Thank you for the great quote and thought to go along with it. It becomes such a habit to see the negative side of things sometimes, but your posts always inspire - whether it's with a profound thought, goofy memory or just a simple story. I'm so sorry for your daily pain, but so thankful that you've chosen to use your time the way you have. God bless you!

  11. I'm just gonna use your own words here OH MY COW! This is the best post EVER. I am laughing so hard :) I think I've said this before but seriously, you do have the BEST peeps.

    I'm with Robin, I too ask you questions in my head all the time!!! And when I'm about to burst... well you already know what happens then :)

    I want to know who or what inspires YOU? Where have your spiritual influences come from? What do you do when you are mad? As positive as you are you still have to have those times when you let a few *&^%$# fly...

    And ditto everything Anita cause those are brilliant ideas! Oh and one more.

    Candace Jean? Can I ask the significance of July 16, cuz thats my birthday and I sort of do a doubletake whenever I see that?

    Thats all for now : ) LOVE THIS and YOU!

  12. I'm liking what robinrane said about an online book club! That's a GREAT idea!

    I would like to know more about what you are interested in. Such as, if you saw a group of headlines which one would draw you to read it? What did you study in college? What type of books/magazines do you read? What websites get daily visits from you?

    I think I spilled enough questions on you for one morning! I'll write more on another post.

    I do hope you are feeling better soon Sarah! God is with you and loves you, I say prayers for your comfort daily. Take care, and thank you for sharing your life with us here on Bloggy Land.

  13. I can, and have, pretty much asked you anything I'm wondering about, but there's always something that I wonder (worry) about when we get off the phone. When we talk and I complain about the 'little' things in my life OR, in contrast, when I talk about the wonderful day I may have had, do you get at all irritated - be honest! Because I get off the phone or the computer and think - Oh my goodness, Sara would probably love to have MY problems. OR I think - I just rambled on about all the fun things I did today - why didn't I just keep my mouth shut. I know you 'say' that you want to hear all about my life and my boys and you always say that you live vicariously through me, but I'm always afraid that when I tell you these things I hurt you a little... it's so hard because I want to share EVERYTHING with you - but the last thing I want to do is hurt you. Remember - be honest - I won't be offended. Love ya lots. Suz BTW - loved the blog today... and as far as yesterday's blog - I guess you gave up on me coming over to eat the brownies! :) I don't blame you - you can only have will-power for so long!

  14. I don't have any questions for you I just wanted to comment on the quote you listed..... I love it!! You are spot-on!!

  15. you are beautiful. and i love your heart.

  16. Love, love, love the quote. Well said about choices.

    One thing I've learned in trials in my life is that feelings are not always fact. Maybe the will help on days you don't feel good ... it helps on days I don't.

    Questions ...

    1. Someone already said my first, What are your favorite books and why?
    2. What do you pray for regularly?
    3. What are your favorite t.v. shows/movies and why?
    4. Who inspires you? Why?
    5. What constitutes a perfect day?
    6. What makes you laugh the hardest?
    7. How does Jesus talk to you?
    8. What makes your day bright?
    9. How can others pray for you?

  17. okay, just staying hi.


    don't know why i don't read your blog more. i will now. every time you post. =)


  18. Well, here you go've inspired again. While reading what others are interested in, I was thinking in the background (of my mind) what I might ask... when it struck me... I'll get the "If..." book out. THAT'S when I got the idea to do an "If" question every now and then on my blog. SO thanks for the inspiration! :-)
    Thus, the question I have will be pulled from that little ditty of a book:
    If you could dine alone with anyone from any period of history, which person would it be?

    p.s. In case anyone is interested, the book is called "If... (Questions for the Game of Life)".

  19. Hmm...I'm going to come up with a list (actually, I'm going to go pee, but then, a list). I'll be back with it.

  20. You guys are AWESOME! I'm loving these random questions... it's going to be so helpful!

    and Robin, just so you don't feel bad, I had no idea what a meme was either. And I'm still not sure I totally get it...


  21. Bill didn't get the sprayer hooked up yet so I feel that I can't ask you any questions because you won't listen to me until I speak into the sprayer. I'll let you know my questions when he gets it hooked up:)

  22. I really like Tam's question - "what do you think riley thinks about?" Perhaps you could write some post from his perspective, as if he was doing the writing.

    What things make you laugh the most?

    What is it like to live in Iowa, good points and bad.

  23. Ya know when you get the tickles in your tummy? I just got that when I read The House on Ranchero's comment and pictured you talking into the sprayer...I love giggles out of nowhere. :)
    And you know I won't comment again 'cause it's my bedtime :)

  24. I've only been reading your blog for about a month, so please forgive me if these are topics you've covered...

    1) Is there a song that you completely love and why?

    2) How do you pass your time other than blogging: books, TV?

  25. Favorite non blogroll websites...

    Celebrity crushes (including at least one other than this I'm completely straight girl crush)...

    A picture of your cutest pair of shoes, or favorite earrings...

    If you could have one thing for your house - decorative, not practical - it would be...

    Oprah or Ellen...

    Boxers or briefs (on your celebrity crush)...

    Guilty TV pleasure...

  26. If you could only stock on thing in your cabinets/refrigerator what would it be?

    If you could have dinner with anyone dead/alive who would it be?

    If you could have a super power, what would it be?

    If you could solve one mystery in history, what would it be?

    What gives you the most strength?

  27. You could probably take all the random questions just from here to form a meme! Love all these ideas, so I'll just say...ditto!! Love love love this post, I needed this tonight...

  28. Hi sweet Sara. Yep, it was I who asked if you were doing worse physically. I didn't do it to open a bag of worms, or to imply that your writing wasn't what it normally is/ was more a sense of something deeper(because, as always, your gift shines through). It was not your awesome, God glorifying topics that caused me to ask, but your tone. I know, I know, people say you can't hear tone online. I maybe only picked it up b/c my heart feels for you, for all of the incredible beauty that makes you unique, curl girl. How you help us readers to grow in our faith, and love our lives and our God, and hold our families a bit tighter each time we join you in the blog. I will come back with a good question, but the one I have for now goofy. Do you decorate any of your ambulatory aids (a nice way of saying old lady accessories) and have you had an "I've fallen and can't get up" or "Taxi" type episode(the tv show), ya know, where all you can hear is the wheelchair ba-bumping down the stairs? If so, please share. Unlike your sore and fusing bod, our cages need a good shake!

  29. @shannon: when I wrote this I was hoping that you understood I was responding to the question because it was a good one... it made me think. And any question that makes me ponder and think is a good one. I in no way thought you were saying I was doing it "wrong" in your question... it was just a nice point for self-reflection. Thanks for that :)

    FYI ALL: For the record... I LOVE THESE QUESTIONS... feel free to ask away as often as possible. This is a HUGE help :)

  30. Hi Sara,

    My question is about dreams.

    Whenever I'm going through a particularly difficult time or experiencing anxiety about something, like getting on a plane, I usually dream about it. What I mean is, I work through it in my dream. I dream about getting on a plane and feeling the anxiety and then calming myself down and boarding the plane. I don't do this consciously, it just happens..

    I remember you mentioning that you don't sleep well at night so maybe this is not a good question.
    Do you have dreams about your illness or about your life before your diagnosis. I've always been interested in dreams, mine and others. I think they are fascinating. I apologize if this is too personal but wanted to know your thoughts on dreams.

    I wish I could come up with a silly question but can't think of anything right now. Maybe later.

    warm thoughts,

  31. I know you love music...what's some of your favorite stuff? i rely on music suggestions to fill my computer with tunes!

  32. Hey there :) I'm trying to remember if I've commented here before. Sorry, I haven't had my coffee yet (and its afternoon, ow lazy am I?)
    Anyway, I've been reading your blog for about a month or so. I see we follow some of the same other blogs, and I see your cute pup's face in a lot of other's comment sections. :)
    So I just wanted to say that I love your blog; you are a great writer! Love your way with words.

  33. Yep, I knew you didn't mean I was saying you were wrong. I didn't take it that way at all. I just wondered if I was alone in thinking on deeper things when I don't feel up to par, or in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep, the dog is quiet, and nothing good is on DHC. I think you are super, and that was what I was trying to say. I was also trying to figure out how to pray for you. Not in weird, morose way, but that our fantastic Lord continues to work in and through you, allowing you to use these incredible gifts He's given you to bring others closer to Him. And, ya can't do that if you can't move your fingers to type, or if you get too stiff stitting at the keyboard. Another question to blog on? Well, how do you use those PediPaws things that you talked about? I tried it on Tallulah, and can't figure out, for the life of me, how it really shortens her nails. Maybe I'm being too gentle?

  34. Hi! I've just come across your blog from a link over at MckMama's. I'm so glad to have found both your sites. You both inspire me and really make me think. As far as stories for you to tell, I'd love to hear more about Riley. I'm a dog person, too--they can be the best, most delightful, goofiest part of our days. Take care!